The Curing of a Bibliomaniac Part 18: Exit Music (Ian Rankin, 2007)

Books left: 8. Weeks left: 12
027Part 18 serves as a prime example of why I have resorted to a project like this to pull my book buying, reading and keeping habits into line.

I began Ian Rankin’s series of novels about Scottish detective John Rebus years ago and loved them so much I painstakingly collected a matching set, with the exception of one rogue unmatching cover. When I heard that Rankin would be retiring Rebus and along with him the series I collected the last book, Exit Music, in trade paperback, not wanting to wait until it came out in small format.

But then I got more books… and more… and more… and never ended up reading Rebus’ last hurrah.

With all this in mind I thought it was an obvious candidate for the project. I would read that final part of the series, acknowledge that my love affair with John Rebus had reached a fitting end, then I would consign the complete collection over to the secondhand bookshop for a new reader to fall upon gleefully.

If you love something, let it go.

If you love something, let it go.

So, I read and loved Exit Music. I thought it a perfect end to a series. I took the whole pile to the bookshop.

Here, the bookseller informed me that Rankin had restarted the series a few years back. Rebus was Back. With a dawning sense of something sitting uneasily between delight and horror, I betook myself to the shelves and found the New Series.

Even its cover taunted with me, with its REBUS IS BACK tagline emblazoned upon it.

Get this: Rebus stayed retired, bugger him, for five years, then started working on cold cases.

Exit Music was published in 2007 and soon afterwards I was no longer seeing the new fiction releases, having begun work in a nonfiction bookstore. By the time Rankin published Standing in Another Man’s Grave in 2012 I was working in journalism. He has now published a second title in the new series, Saints of the Shadow Bible, 2013.

Joke’s on me.

The harsh lesson: if you buy a book you don’t have time to read and hang on to it for eight years, you run the risk of the author actually being able to retire a bestselling series, get bored, re-launch the series and put out another two books, putting you hopelessly behind again.

But now I know I have really begun to take the lesson to heart, because I put those new titles back on the shelf and Walked Away from it, not to mention from the rest of the collection.

I don’t have the time right now, especially given this project is yet to run its course.

Now for a brief note on Exit Music, which I waited, as I said, eight years to read.

Hooray! It’s one of those stories in which a crusty old copper has only ten days to go until he retires. Obviously, a big nasty murder lands in his lap. In a surprising twist, old authority-hating Rebus finally sasses a boss so badly that the boss, incensed, suspends him for the remainder of his final days in the job. Again obviously (and I mean obviously in the best kind of way) Rebus ignores that directive as he has only days left and one last chance to put his nemesis, a crime boss who has eluded capture for Rebus’ entire career, away for good.

It’s set in real time, just about, with the book divided into a chapter for each day plus a one-day epilogue, which makes for a ripper of a police procedural and a detailed and political portrait of the seedy Edinburgh underbelly Rankin has always evoked so sharply.

Had it BEEN a swan song, I say bitterly, it would have been a damned good one – it’s full of fuss, blood and mess, to borrow a phrase from Rebus himself, and its bittersweet conclusion gave me a little shock of goosebumps.

Mr Rankin, you have my undying respect. Argh, go on, write another one.

Keep or kill? Already gone, my friends.

Advertisements

The Silkworm (Robert Galbraith, 2014)

The Silkworm: rainy-day fiction.

The Silkworm: rainy-day fiction.

Time off from The Curing of a Bibliomaniac is allowed, because my friend Sturdy lent me this alluring paperback and anything by J. K . Rowling, that is, Robert Galbraith, is essential reading.

 

 

My history as a crime junkie dates back to a time after I finished my uni degree, filled with postmodern literature, ye olde English literature, film theory, poetry, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in film, Australian fiction, Australian fiction in film, etc, etc.

This stuff was wicked, but it bruised my brain so severely that by the time I graduated I shuddered at the very sight of a Thinky Book.

Enter crime. The compulsive nature of crime serials by excellent authors such as Val McDermid, Colin Dexter, Lee Child, Ian Rankin and Frances Fyfield, to name but a few, served as a panacea to my aching soul, serving up quality reading material in a structure I could rely upon to be relatively unchanging.

Not THAT proud of my matching Colin Dexter collection, jeez.

Not THAT proud of my matching Colin Dexter collection, jeez.

 

Like a fool, I kept buying all kinds of books as well as these, hence large, slightly bibliomaniacal (is this a word?) collection of the unread. And the need for a cure. Hehehe. Searching for a cure for the unread. Get it?

 

 

But I digress. Suffice it to say that when a friend delivers a succulent new morsel such as this, I drop everything and snuggle down and say goodbye to society for a couple of days.

Silkworm did not disappoint – Galbraith’s writing is so deft and perceptive you can’t help but break into delighted smiles as you read, nodding in recognition, and sometimes even a giggle at some particularly incisive phrase.

The evocation of London is such that it makes you long to see it in front of you as Strike (central character, ex-soldier-turned private detective) does. Well, at least it was raining in Perth.

This is the second novel in the series, the first being The Cuckoo’s Calling, and as Sturdy says, there is some excellent character development in this instalment, with the promise of more to come.

The same thing struck me about Silkworm as The Cuckoo’s Calling: Galbraith inhabits diverse worlds with remarkable comfort, moving from poverty to riches, and detailing industries from fashion to publishing as though born to them.

This is a joy to read, a traditional, engrossing detective novel with everything it needs to be among the best in the genre: depth of character, tight plot, mood and style, with some deliciously shivery moments. It deserves to have real money spent on a physical book that takes up real space in your house.

If you’ll indulge me in a cringey metaphor, it’s more satisfying than a good meal, because generally after good food you feel a bit overfull and regretful, whereas this is a perfect portion that leaves you wanting more.

After continuing with How to Cure a Bibliomaniac, of course.

Red (2010)

John Malkovich reportedly said somewhere he wanted to make an action movie for himself. I hope the idea of this excites you as much as it did me.

What Malkovich apparently wanted was pure adrenaline and fun, and Red has this in spades.

It’s a promising premise for a film – a bunch of retired secret agents join up for one last escapade – and it’s executed masterfully. The best comedy comes from Malkovich’s ultra-paranoid, twitchy and irrational character, but he’s perfectly complemented by the rest of his ‘old’ friends and the plot continues to generate and build on its own momentum and you find yourself genuinely emotionally engaged – when misfortune that seems insurmountable catches up with a certain character, you really, truly care!

Well, I did. The movie has heart, as well as brains, balls, bawdiness and funnies (I couldn’t be bothered thesaurusing till I found a humour-related b-word) and there’s never a boring moment.

It’s got a killer cast – Helen Mirren is dynamite, and her hapless Russian love interest provides her with the ideal comic foil. I’ve never found a sixty-something year old lady hot before, but there’s a first time for everything.

Mary-Louise Parker does some beautiful rubberfaced comedy and manages not to annoy me even once even as a helplesss female character.

Bruce Willis is as tough and cool as always (I sure hope he plans on being cryogenically frozen, because I don’t think I can stand to live in a world without Bruce Willis making action movies).

John Malkovich is worryingly good at being an LSD-addled, compulsively murderous conspiracy theorist.

Morgan Freeman as good as ever, and, somewhat worryingly, is wonderfully convincing as an infirm 84-year-old.

Love the cameo-type role of underground records officer played by Ernest Borgnine, who really should be cast as Mr Toad in a Wind in the Willows adaptation without delay.

The movie has great action sequences with stylish fighting – but the fighting remains visceral and not TOO stylish (If you don’t know what I mean by too stylish, think Angelina Jolie-type-action). To illustrate, Bruce Willis channels John McCain in a memorable running exit from a speeding car, emerging upright and shooting in an impossible stunt – but at no point does the movie sell itself short by relying on clever tricks like this. They add to the sense of pace and style but are used judiciously enough not to detract from the film’s main strengths, namely, characterisation and humour.

I hate describing things as ‘romps’ but this, if any movie does, deserves the old cliche. There is a sense of pure enjoyment and energy about it that is charming, but it keeps its edge with the perfectly choreographed action and acting clout that its veteran cast brings to the table.