Thoroughly recommend The Taste Of War for the history buffs - very unusual take on WWII in that it focuses entirely on food and food policy of every combatant, including often-neglected places like China, Britain's African colonies, India, the Pacific Islands, and internal Japanese policy. Really novel, interesting perspective on a time period that's been done to death, and a pretty interesting insight into the economic rather than military aspects of the war.
Way to turn it into yet another pun thread.
If he had it as an audio-book, you could say it speaks volumes.


That speaks for itself.


I picked up a book called Poor, Poor Ophelia from BookBub by a woman called Carolyn Weston (never heard of). Book is a police procedural written in the late 60s about a crusty detective sergeant and his bright young offsider, set in Santa Monica, and turned out to be a ripper. Santa Monica is at the western edge of LA and the end of Route 66. The movie Falling Down, with Michael Douglas, climaxed on Santa Monica Pier.

I found in the footnotes that The Streets of San Francisco, the long-running police series with a young Michael Douglas and Karl Malden, was based on this pair, and that she was involved in writing 120 episodes. She grew up in the depression and did all sorts of jobs before writing these. The pilot episode for SOSF was a movie from this novel.

Reminded me of Charles Willeford, who said his best days were as an army rifleman in the Korean War before writing crime novels. He finally got to a series that looking like being a winner with a detective Hoke Moseley. They filmed one, Miami Blues, with Fred Ward as Hoke but had the criminal, played by Alec Baldwin, as the star. Fred Ward was listed down the cast. Also starred a young Jennifer Jason Leigh. Tragically Willeford died shortly after attaining success and the Hoke Moseley series only had 3 or 4 books. There were a lot of lesser-known hard-boiled detective novels written in the 50s and 60s.

Only 3 books in the Weston series though.

Strangely, the only Wikipedia page for her is in French…who do love their noir detective novels. IMO they do it better than anyone else.


Haha, so we ploughed through the Hobbit and he absolutely loved it. He even dressed up as Bilbo for Book Week at his school this week (my daughter went as Sophie from the BFG). Despite my earlier statement, we’ve started on Lord of the Rings, although we’re currently bogged down in Tom Bombadil’s pointless story-arc at the moment. He’s enjoying it though.


All read Bomber by Bomba. Best footy book I have ever read.


Recently read a fabulous book called Days without End by Sebastian Barry. Set in southern parts of America during the time of the war on Indians and then through the civil war. It tells the story of a teenage immigrant boy from Ireland who finds himself drawn into the conflict - just trying to survive. Such a beautifully written book despite the often gruesome story.


I just got up to date (ie read all 8 books plus a prequel) by an Australian woman named Sulari Gentill. All the books are set in 1930s NSW (and Europe) around the youngest son of a Yass pastoralist family, who’s quite a talented painter. He lives in Woolahra, near Bondi, with any number of other artists - 2 communists and a gorgeous bohemian sculptress with the prosaic name of Edna Higgins.

His elder brother is a bastion of the Country Party and strongly opposed to the New Guard led by Eric Campbell. Remember that Captain de Groot who cut the ribbon at the opening of the Harbour Bridge was a member of the New Guard, who were very much of the Fascist persuasion. The brother very much looks askance at his artistic friends and their leftish views.

The books so far run from about 1931 to early 1935. I’m anticipating that the two communists will be heading to Spain in the next few books.

The main protagonists are fictional but the satellite characters are all real figures from the 30s. Wikipedia was my friend while reading. For example, in a very minor interlude, the hero meets an Austrian philosopher heading to lecture at Cambridge. Said philosopher was the man who turned the Cambridge Five (spies who fled to Russia). Please note: this is not a spoiler. It’s a minor incident.

I was never aware of the battles between the right and left here in Victoria until the Industrial Groups and the Split, but apparently the battle was real in NSW. It sort of shows how different each of the states were, up to about the 1960s. I suspect the advent of coaxial cable between Melbourne and Sydney in particular made everything closer, as before then, so much of our TV was different. You still find a lot of Sydney identities (eg John Laws and Alan Jones) are not thought of down here.

Anyway an easy read…and informative.


I’ve done a bit of reading since Christmas.

I had read Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies before Christmas and requested more books by her and got six of them, all of which I’ve read. I like the way she writes. It’s basically Aussie Chick Lit, and they’re all constructed in the same way, but she does it very well. They’re all set in Sydney and the principal characters are all middle-class women (a few men get a very occasional look-in), and each book has two or three principal characters. The story is always told in segments from the point of view of a particular character, and the character from whose point of view the segment is written changes from each segment to the next. Background is given only incidentally and in snippets and Moriarty’s skill is to retain the reader’s interest right through until the whole story has emerged by the end of the book. As I said, I like her stuff and haven’t been disappointed by any of the novels I’ve read. She doesn’t write in clichés and she tells a strong story. And good on her for selling at least one of them to Netflix (where it was a big hit), although why Netflix thought they had to Americanise it (set in California instead of Bondi) is beyond me, and casting Nicole Kidman in it really only added insult to injury.

I’ve also read the new(ish) le Carré, A Legacy of Spies, which harks back not to The Spy who Came in from the Cold, but to the lead-up to it, the back-story as it were. I thought it was far better then a lot of his recent stuff, which seems to me to have been the product of research, whereas this is material with which he’s personally familiar. It’s not one of his very best – at the end, what we knew already from The Spy who Came in from the Cold is simply confirmed – but it’s worth a read.

The last one I read was The Only Story, by Julian Barnes. I find some of his novels quite good but some of them I can’t read. This was in the former category. It’s the story of a relationship between a 19 year old university student and a married woman of 47, set in the early 70s at the beginning and following it through until she is dead and he is old, today. I’m not a huge fan of Julian Barnes. I find him rather precious and self-absorbed, but I was intrigued enough by this book to read it in a single day (it’s only a couple of hundred pages).

Another book I got for Christmas was Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, which won the Booker prize last year. The first thing I did was look up “bardo” in the dictionary and find that it’s from Buddhism, and it’s the state of being of a soul after the body it inhabited has died but before it enters another body and is reincarnated. The book is quite hard going and I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m getting there. Quite honestly, at the moment I don’t know whether it’s worth the effort. Its format is not easy; it’s told in tiny snippets, sometimes only part of a sentence, by a large number of individuals, including some historical sources that actually exist, and reference is made constantly to phenomena (gelatinous blobs floating in the air, for example) that only exist in the spirit-world that is the bardo. The central character is Willie Lincoln, son of Abraham, who died of typhoid in childhood aged about 12 or 13. Of course the reader knows that sometime later his father also died prematurely, but I don’t know yet whether that happens in the book or not. It’s quite intriguing and some parts are very touching, but I’m not sure whether it will all add up to anything much or not.

There’s a new Mick Herron out (another in the Slow Horses series) that my wife has read and assures me is right up there with the others, but I’m not going to read it until I’ve finished Lincoln. I’ve got it on audiobook as well as in print, and I’ll probably end up reading it both ways.


Concur on A Legacy of Spies.

I’d given up on him after one where I just couldn’t follow the narrative at all…you just didn’t know which perspective and which time period was it set in, and it swapped over on change of paragraph.

Don’t know if this is a spoiler or not, but how strange it is that Peter Guillam is heterosexual again, after lifting shirts in the recent Tinker Tailor movie. He wasn’t gay in the original book or TV series with Alec Guinness. Just kowtowing to modern movie-goers, I suppose, but considering that two of the Cambridge Five went that way…


I really didn’t like that Tinker Tailor with Gary Oldman. Not only did they make Guillam gay when in the books he was always lusting after the pretty girl, but was Smiley turned into this tall, strong, imposing action man instead of the short, tubby bookworm that he ought to be. Alec Guinness was far closer to the mark.


I found another Krug and Kellogg novel, this time written by Robyn Burcell who’s previously written a lot of police procedurals, having been a police officer for 25 or so years. This one is set in more contemporary times, and now set in San Francisco, but still pretty readable.

I think I heard that someone else has picked up the Hoke Moseley character and is running with it.

Sue Grafton, who wrote the Kinsey Milhone alphabet private eye novels, A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar etc all the way to Y is for … died around the turn of the year without getting to the end of the alphabet. Missed it by that much! Sorry about that, chief!

Her family and publishers say she had left no largely completed Z is for … novel.


Discworld to get a series.


As already noted Ursula Le Guin has passed on and so, as tends to happen, I got a bit nostalgic and picked out one I never got round to reading, Lathe of Heaven, from the early 70s. I had to check the cover a few times to make sure it wasn’t a PK ■■■■ book and on finishing it I found she fessed up to his influence. Not at all like the books I recall and loved, The Dispossessed, Left Hand or the Earthsea stuff, but a short interesting read nevertheless. A time when you could conceptualize and ruminate without worrying about film rights? Dream on.


Vale Philip Roth.
I first read him as a teenager when an acquaintance lent me his illicit copy of Portnoy’s (Yes we actually banned it), with an aptly triumphant leer. Apparently no previous novel had so openly examined…um…onanism, certainly put me off liver. Despite the notoriety it was clear, even to me, it was a work of serious merit.
Since then I have read just about all of his books and, though the standard varies, the early “Letting Go” was a bit of a trial, his is one of the most impressive, and accessible, oeuvres in modern literature.
My absolute favs? The Ghost Writer, My Life As A Man, Counterlife, American Pastoral, The Human Stain and, of course, Portnoy’s. I even enjoyed the obsessive indulgence of “The Great American Novel”, but I do like baseball.
An undisputed giant of literature, even if the recently tainted Nobel Jury had reputedly stamped his papers.


David Graeber’s “BullShhit jobs” has its flaws, it relies too heavily on intuition and anecdote, but even so it’s one of those rare books which breaks from received wisdom and tells it like it really is. It essentially asks why Keynes’ prediction we would all be working 15 hour weeks by now has gone so horribly wrong. The answer of course is in the title, the powers that be have found other ways to waste our time. The figures are staggering, around 60 plus % of the jobs we have to do are totally pointless or, even worse, harmful. So why make us do it? At the risk of trivialising his work, it’s a combination of factors, religiously driven character building (apparently shuffling papers meaninglessly is character building) and it’s so draining it stops us from realising how stuffed the system really is.
There’s a lot of gobsmacking material in the book, and a bit too much anecdotal whinging, but the bit that really got me was the revelation that all work research survey results have found two things in common, firstly we mostly judge personal worth based on jobs and secondly most of us hate our jobs. I still can’t get my mind around that apparent contradiction but I have to admit it rings true. It was also mind boggling to find that, on average, peasants and slaves etc rarely had to work 40 hours per week.
It’s not up there with his “Debt, the first 5000 Years”, one of the most transformative books I’ve encountered, but it is endlessly thought provoking. Skim through the case studies and get to the second half which is genuinely insightful.
It made me realise the Universal Wage idea has legs.


Just grabbed a crime fiction book by Chris Hammer who wrote a non-fiction book, The River, about the Murray-Darling.

This one is about an SMH journo, veteran of Middle East reporting, who’s sent to a Riverina town a year after the Anglican priest has murdered 5 locals before church, before being shot by the local policeman. He’s there to report on how the town is recovering…in the middle of a great drought.

Very complex, layer upon layer upon layer, at about 450 pages. A great exampleof Strine-noir.

Most of the Oz writers I’ve been reading recently have been women, like Aoife Clifford, Sarah Bailey, Sulari Gentill and Tracey Griffith, with one by Tess Lunney on the table to be read soon.

Tracey Griffith wrote one called Redemption, about a hitman released from jail who’s come to live in Port Fairy. Characters are very one-dimensional IMO.


There’s Jock Serong who’s quite popular these days who lives in Port Fariy too.

As far as I know he hasn’t written about there though.


Madame Shelton brought home a crime novel called Resurrection Day by a woman called Emma Viskic. I thought the name rang a bell.

She taught my younger son clarinet at school.


His Rules of Backyard Cricket is on the table too.


For the first time ever I have read more women than men this year. And it’s not because of crime, where women have always excelled, but because of Rachel Cusk, or more precisely her Outline trilogy. Just finished the final volume “Kudos”. Most blokes wouldn’t like her and apparently plenty of women have lined up to have a go at her as well. Cusk clearly doesn’t give a ■■■■. Her books are short, which I enjoy, and, to pinch a comment from a reviewer, ‘narcotic’. I kept thinking, why I am I reading these books which focus on the minutiae of prosaic life and then reaching for the next one as soon as I finish.
She supposedly writes non-fiction but it’s all fAction for me. So what does she write about? Plane trips, creepy men, relationship problems, precocious kids, renovations, writing festivals, bringing up children when divorced. She is meticulous and enlightened but her alter ego narrator isn’t so much a protagonist as an spectator, which takes a bit of getting used to. A gem of a writer, believe it or not. But not if you demand definitively happy endings.

Read Donna Tartt’s The Secret History which went viral but frankly can’t see why- rich spoiled kids stuff for mine.

Read Rachel Kushner’s Flamethrowers and it’s ■■■■■■ good.

Read 4 of Jennifer Egan’s books and all are good but “Look At Me” is outstanding.

The recently deceased V.S. Naipaul claimed all female authors were second rate. It was the old whinger’s loss, I’m afraid.