I just finished the latest posts in this thread. C+


I missed this when you posted it. You must be one of the few people who’s read New Maps of Hell, which I searched out back in the days when I thought Kingsley Amis was a great writer. It’s a good guide to science fiction of the kind that’s not just goodies v baddies with light sabres and ray guns instead of swords and Colt 45s.

I haven’t read that Frederick Pohl book but I’ve always remembered his short story The Tunnel Under the World, which seems to have the same sort of theme. I read it in one of the Penguin Science Fiction collections, which were pretty much all great. Another story from one of those collections that has stayed in my mind since I was a teenager is Common Time by James Blish. For some reason it’s extremely moving, about a man who makes the first journey at the speed of light to another star, Alpha Centauri, where he encounters a different type of being which exists as a kind of collective whole. You can actually read it on the net for free if you search for it. It doesn’t make much logical sense but it’s magical.


For years “New Maps of Hell” assumed a frustratingly obsessive mythical status for me , regularly referred to but seemingly unavailable anywhere, even second hand. And then it was released in Penguin Modern Classics with a Kindle version earlier this decade. Opinionated and acerbic and informed, as I’m sure you know - I still dip into it regularly and have list of stories to investigate based on his recommendations.
PS Just checked the Kindle and found a glowing New Maps reference to “A Case of Conscience” by Blish. Might try and locate it.


I’m reading Alexei Sayle’s autobiography, Thatcher Stole My Trousers.
As a communist he’s already preoccupied with class, and as a Brit growing up in the 70s…he writes more about that than his career as a comedian, which is what I’m interested in.

It’s odd that I thought the English were pretty much the same as Australians. I don’t know if they’re any closer now, but they very clearly weren’t then.

I don’t know quite how to take to it. There’s a real disconnection between myself and the story.


Well that is available as an audiobook through and I’ve just downloaded it.


On my rapidly expanding list. Don’t know if you’ve seen this but it’s Sayle being interviewed by Stewart Lee, my favorite stand up, about the Thatcher book and various other topics and I remember being impressed at the time.


In my ramble through Australian women crime authors, I just finished Aoife Clifford’s second book, Second Sight. I found it much more satisfying than her debut novel, All Those Perfect Strangers.

This one’s about a 35-odd year old lawyer, Eliza Carmody, who returns to her fictional Australian coastal town, Kinsale, as the lawyer for the electricity company that’s being sued by the townspeople for a massive bushfire two years before. On her first day back in town, she witnesses a massive road rage incident involving an acquaintance from 20 years before and subsequent one-punch killing. The interactions with people she’d been intimately connected with, as the younger daughter of the local police sergeant, and a girl who’d gone missing after a New Year’s Eve party, are quite involved, yet believable, and the interest is sustained.

Back for a couple of Kindle purchases now.


When you say “mythical status”, was that because it was by Kingsley Amis or for some other reason? I used to admire him without restraint, which is why I searched out New Maps. I also managed to find The Egyptologists, which was a very early effort that he wrote jointly with Robert Conquest. Conquest was a Czech by birth and a very active cold warrior, and a friend of Amis. The book was about a group of men who pretended to have formed a society of persons interested in Egyptology, which was really an elaborate cover story that allowed them to get out of their homes (and away from their wives) to pursue extra-marital sex. Not very good actually.


I’ve just finished reading, ie listening to, Winston Churchill’s biography of his ancestor John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough. It’s extremely long (longer than the Bible) and enormously detailed, but I found it fascinating and compelling. Churchill is an excellent writer and passionately interested in his subject and he tells a great story. Marlborough lived at a hugely eventful period of British and European history, and was himself a dominating figure. He was essentially a soldier. He was active from about 1680 to 1715, especially 1700-1710. Throughout that whole period the dominant power was France under Louis XIV, the Sun King. His only Continental challenger was the Austro-Hungarian empire, which was fading and ineffectual. England was preoccupied by internal problems arising from the Civil War in which Cromwell deposed Charles I. The party system was then in its formative stages, with the Whigs being staunch Protestants and the Tories still harbouring many who longed for the return of Catholicism. Marlborough’s concern was to secure Britain’s place at the head of world affairs able to stand up to France. Macaulay, who wrote what was for a long time the definitive history of England, disparaged Marlborough, and one of Churchill’s aims is to rehabilitate him, which I think he does pretty successfully. There is no doubt that from 1700-1710, while Marlborough was the commander in chief not only of the English army but the armies of all the European opponents of France, he won an unbroken series of military victories, as a result of which France was turned from an aggressor continually expanding outside its own borders, to a defender of its own territory. Britain ceased to be an inwardly focussed and isolated entity and became the foremost power.

One thing I found interesting was that Churchill tried valiantly to present Marlborough’s marriage as a model of domestic bliss. However despite his efforts, Marlborough’s wife Sarah comes across as a complete ■■■■■ who managed to alienate everyone she came in contact with including the Queen (who had been a childhood friend) and her own daughters.

It’s also fascinating for what it shows of a crucial period in constitutional history, when the boundaries between the powers of the Crown (Executive) and the people (Parliament) were still fluid.

I was amazed by the depth of Churchill’s research. The breadth of his reading is extraordinary. He is evidently fascinated by the strategy and tactics of the warring nations and his admiration for Marlborough’s military prowess is complete. The book is well worth reading if you have any interest.


There was a Churchill doco on recently, where his biography of the Duke of Marlborough played a very significant part…maybe even more than his WWII exploits.

It was either four or six parts.


Where was that on? I hope it was better than the recent film.


My immediate feeling was SBS, but equally could have been ABC or History.

It was a genuine proper, extensive doco…probably last 9 months but may have been a repeat.


I found a four part Churchill doco on imdb that was made in 1992. It’s available in full on YouTube. Lots of talking heads and a voice over narration. I watched about 15 minutes and it seemed excellent.


Got a link?


If you search Churchill Documentary 1992 Renegade and Turncoat on YouTube you will find the first part and you can go on from there


Nice one!


Does it spend a lot of time on his Marlborough biog?


It mentioned that he made a lot of money from it but didn’t discuss it at all.

I was absolutely amazed at the amount of work that had gone into it. It’s the sort of thing that an academic historian would spend a decade working on full time. Churchill published it between 1933 and 1938, during which time he was immersed in political life and warning about the need to prepare for war. It’s not perfect — he doesn’t give much consideration for Marlborough’s political opponents whose primary desire was peace after years of Continental warring — but it’s still masterly. Easy going too. Churchill is not boring.


I’ve just finished listening to Patrick White’s first novel, Happy Valley. Not very well read, which doesn’t help, but I don’t think a better reader would have led me to like it any more. It’s the only Patrick White novel available on, and it was out of print for a long time. It was published in 1939.

I’ve never been able to read Patrick White. Or to be more precise, in my questing youth I attempted several White novels and got no more than a chapter into any of them before giving up in despair. I did read a short story called The Night The Prowler about a woman who was sort of raped by a prowler, after which she used to dress in black leather and go out at night with a knife. It was compelling but I have no idea what it was supposed to mean. I got about two pages into The Tree of Man. (Any novel with a title like that has to have it’s hand on it.)

Happy Valley is set in a fictional NSW country town of that name. It is essentially a series of semi-stream of consciousness narratives by the main characters. There’s the town doctor, Dr Halliday, who falls in love with the lonely spinster, Alys Brown. There’s the local “squire”, Mr Furlough, and his spoilt daughter Sydney, who is sexually attracted to her father’s foreman, Clem Hagan. Hagan picks up and discards women, including Vic(toria) Moriarty, wife of the schoolteacher Ernest Moriarty. Ernest one day breaks and kills his wife Vic, then himself dies of a heart attack. Hagan is suspected of murdering Moriarty’s wife, as he was seen in the vicinity of the Moriartys’ house that night and had in fact been there screwing Mrs Moriarty although he didn’t kill her. He is given an alibi by Sydney Furlough, who says that he had been in her room that night, screwing her.

None of it makes a lot of sense and the only characters who elicit any sympathy are the doctor’s son, Rodney Halliday, and his friend at school, a half-Chinese girl called Alice Kwong.

I wouldn’t bother.


Just finished Melbourne writer Sarah Bailey’s second book, Into the Night . I much preferred it to her first book. Her main flawed character, Gemma Woodstock, has left her hometown from the first book and come to work in Melbourne, leaving her significant other and her son behind.

This covers two cases, the murder of a homeless man and the murder of a movie star on a film set of a zombie movie being filmed in Spring St. Of course, everyone is in heavy costume so difficult to identify. Well constructed book with less of her personal life, but then again, her personal history was integral to the plot of the first book.

I’ve come to the conclusion that @Shelton10 is wrong about the detectives having their personal lives detailed. Otherwise you just get sterile problem solvers like Poirot and Miss Marple.