You know those little angels/ devils we pretend sit on our shoulders sometime? The ones we pretend lead us astray? Well this week they battled it out and the force of good won.
In the good corner on Thursday, we had champion of good service and independent, local retail businesses, Mary Portas. On the other shoulder, cast as the villan, a bank manager waving his (cartoon bank managers are always men, it’s the law) finger, adjusting his bowler hat, reminding me that I don’t actually need what I’m buying. Technically that’s true, of course, but if my brain is to shrug off its ‘can’t even read Jilly Cooper’ stupor, it may need something else.
Yes, indeed, chaps, there’s no fooling you; I bought some books at the local, independent book shop. Shine up that halo. Mr Bank Manager wouldn’t mind so much if it wasn’t for the ‘full price’ nature of the experience. No 3 for 2 offers, 2 for £8, or used books for a penny. This is where we pay the price- the Recommended Retail Price. The price to ensure that we can actually have a local, independent book shop. Happily for me it specialises in crime fiction. The ‘to be read’ pile gets ever larger…
The Rising, Brian McGilloway. I’ve read others in the Inspector Devlin series, set on the Donegal border. I’ve enjoyed a detective character who goes home to a wife and children; it looks like this story deals with more of this personal aspect of Devlin’s life. The opening line caught me, and reeled me in as I stood ‘I should have kissed Debbie and the kids goodbye before I left the house.’
American Skin, Ken Bruen. Ken Bruen has written many books, but I’m only familiar with the Jack Taylor novels, set in Galway. They’re harsh, bloody and gripping. This seems to be set in the US and, at first glance, references The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, George Bernard Shaw, Neil Young, Norman Mailer and Sigmund Freud. It has to be worth reading, if only to see how all these folk fit in.
American Gods, Neil Gaiman. This is the one I’m most apprehensive about. I’ve always steered clear of Gaiman because I’m not that comfortable with fantasy/ sci-fi. I’m being brave because I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with John Connolly and the possibly supernatural characters he has, but I’ve loved the few of his that I’ve read. Goodness knows, I might branch out into the vampires yet.
W9 & other lives, Carlo Gébler. I recently came across a few ‘comment’ type columns by Gébler in a local paper, and wondered that I’d never read anything else by him. He seems to have been hovering at the edge of my consciousness for years, without making much of an impact. This collection of short stories from 1996 is probably as good a place to start as any. The blurb on the back tells me ‘The characters depicted in the stories are lonely, rootless and quite often uncertain about what they want or how they would get what they want if only they knew what it was… Yet the collection also celebrates how people endure, begin again, and refuse to be crushed by chance and circumstance.’ Promising.
My shopping trip also reminded me about the Belfast Book festival coming up. More exploring to do.
Of course, I will be good…