Monday, September 22, 2014

The Mavericks by Rob Steen (Mainstream Publishing 1994)




Three days later, Rodney was still floating when he took the roadshow back to Loftus Road to face Bournemouth, scoring twice in a 4-0 romp: "It was the only time in my life I've ever played drunk.' If Stock was aware of his condition, it evidently didn't bother him. 'He played so-oo well that night. I sat on the touchline and at one point I asked the referee to keep the game going for another half an hour, just to see what the big fella could do. After the game, the Bournemouth chairman, who also happened to be an FA councillor, comes up to me and says, "That Marsh, he ain't half a lucky player." "That's funny," I said, "but he's just scored his 39th goal of the season and that's more than your lot have scored this season." People can be very bitchy in football. If someone has a good player we are inclined to say "he's not very good but we could do something with him if we had him".'

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Friend Maigret by Georges Simenon (Penguin Classics 1949)




When the detectives had passed the yacht, Mr Pyke spoke again, slowly, with his habitual precision.

'He's the sort of son good families hate to have. Actually you can't have many specimens in France.'

Maigret was quite taken aback, for it was the first time, since he had known him, that his colleague had expressed general ideas. Mr Pyke seemed a little embarrassed himself, as though overcome with shame.

'What makes you think we have hardly any in France?'

'I mean not of that type, exactly.'

He picked his words with great care, standing still at the end of the jetty, facing the mountains which could be seen on the mainland.

'I rather think that in your country, a boy from a good family can commit some bêtises, as you say, so as to have a good time, to enjoy himself with women or cars, or to gamble in the casino. Do your bad boys play chess? I doubt it. Do they read Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard? It's unlikely, isn't it? They only want to live their life without waiting for their inheritance.'

They leant against the wall which ran along one side of the jetty, and the calm surface of the water was occasionally troubled by a fish jumping.

'De Greef does not belong to that category of bad characters, I don't think he even wants to have money. He's almost a pure anarchist. He has revolted against everything he has known, against everything he's been taught, against his magistrate of a father and his bourgeois mother, against his home town, against the customs of his own country.'

He broke off, half-blushing.

'I beg your pardon . . . '

'Go on, please.'

'We only exchanged a few words, the two of us, but I think I have understood him, because there are a lot of young people like that in my country, in all countries, probably, where morals are very strict. That's why I said just now that one probably doesn't come across a vast number of that type in France. Here there isn't any hypocrisy. Perhaps there isn't enough.'

Was he alluding to the surroundings, the world the two of them had been plunged in since their arrival, to the Monsieur Émiles, the Charlots, the Ginettes, who lived among the others without being singled out for opprobrium?

Maigret felt a little anxious, a little piqued. Without being attacked, he was sung by an urge to defend himself.


A shopping basket of rogue prices

On this day of days, if you spot a 500ml bottle of Irn Bru in a supermarket in Manhattan you just have to buy it . . . even if it was at the eye-popping rip off price off $2.49 (plus tax).

And it wasn't even cold.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Iron Staircase by Georges Simenon (A Helen & Kurt Wolff Book 1953)




The first note was written in pencil, on a sheet of writing paper the size of a postcard. He did not think it necessary to put the date in full.

"Tuesday: Attack at 2:50. Duration, 35 minutes. Colic. Ate mashed potatoes at lunch."

After the word "lunch," he drew a minus sign and circled it. This meant that his wife had not eaten any of the mashed potatoes. For years she had avoided starch, for fear of putting on weight.



Friday, August 22, 2014

On Leave by Daniel Anselme (Faber and Faber Inc 1957)





"Well?" Jean Valette asked in a drawl. "Well, so when's it going to happen, then, the end of the war? When will it come?"

"Soon," Luc Giraud said slowly. "A war like this can't last long."

"Why not?" Jean Valette asked.

"Because five hundred thousand young men," Luc Giraud said, syllable by syllable, "five hundred thousand . . . well, that gets about in the country. Because half a million young men over there means a whole mass of French families are affected by the war. Ask your sister."

"Yes," Colette chipped in. "Five hundred thousand young men over there means hundreds of thousands of mothers and wives and sisters and girlfriends fearing for their sons, husbands, brothers, and lovers. And that gets around in the country."

"Well then," Jean Valette said, "you mean that the more we are over there, the more it gets around over here?"

"In one sense you are right," Luc Giraud said. "It's dialectical. The more the war affects the masses, the nearer we are to peace."

"So tell me, then," Jean Valette said in a louder voice, "how many million soldiers do we need over there to make the masses move?"

"Jean!" Madame Valette said.

"No," Luc Giraud responded calmly, "that is not what I said."

"He's doing it on purpose," Colette said.

"What am I supposed to be doing on purpose?"

"Contradicting. Contradicting just for the sake of it."

"I'm just asking a question."

"An anti-Party question!"

"Colette, cool down," Luc Giraud ordered. "Let him speak for himself."

There was a pause, and then Jean Valette asked in an uncharacteristically tentative voice, "Luc, explain what you meant . . . You have to explain . . . you have to . . . "

You could feel he was trying hard to hold something back, but you couldn't tell, as his face was hidden by shadow, if he was on the brink of tears or of an angry outburst.

Another pause. For the first time Luc Giraud seemed uncertain.

"It's for you to explain yourself," he said at last, gravely, almost solemnly.

"I think what Jean meant to say . . . " M. Valette broke in softly.

"No," Luc Giraud cut him off. "It's for him to speak, if he wants to."

Jean Valette said nothing. He had his head in his hands and was looking down.

"But what is this all about?" Lachaume asked eventually. He did not understand what was going on.

Luc Giraud, to whom the question was addressed, raised his hand as if calling a meeting to order. Then, after allowing Jean Valette another moment for his last chance, he shrugged his arms as if to say, "I give up," and smiled at Lachaume. In fact, he looked relieved, and Lachaume guessed he had as much to do with Giraud's relief as did tongue-tied Jean Valette. In his mind all these little puzzles were somehow connected to the "proposal" that Luc Giraud was going to make to him. Lachaume was still thinking, seeing and listening to everything exclusively in the light of that "proposal." All through the long and frequent pauses in that tense and awkward conversation, and when nothing had caught his eye through the window, the thought of the coming "proposal" had made his heart beat faster.