Saturday, March 30, 2013

Murder in the Central Committee by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (Melville International Crime 1981)

'Put them with today's.'

The girl did as Santos said, and Julian Mir returned to his duties as chief steward, casting eyes over the movements of his red-armbanded subordinates.

'We'll have an unpleasant surprise one of these days. I don't like this place.'

Santos met Mir's critical ill-humour with a nod that could have indicated either agreement or disapproval. He had been using the same gesture with Mir ever since the days of the Fifth Regiment. Then, Julian had never liked the evening shadows, which had seemed pregnant with Franco's soldiers, nor the morning light that opened the way to advance parties of Regulares. Later, he had not been fond of the Tarn fruit groves, which seemed to have borne the shape of German patrols ever since the Pleistocene. Later still, he had not liked his missions inside the country, although he carried them out with the haughty assurance of a Western film hero.

'Many problems?'

'Four fascists died of fear,' Mir had invariably replied on his return from a trip to Franco's Spain.

He had always been like that. Probably born that way, thought Santos, and he was suddenly surprised that Julian Mir had once been born: so long ago; too long. The time was now stored in his stiff white hair and his old athlete's musculature that made him look like a chicken spoiling for a fight.

'I don't like this place.'

'Here we go again. Where would you like to hold the central committee?' asked Santos.

'There are too many little offices dotted everywhere. That's what I am complaining about. There should be a fine central headquarters like every proper Communist Party has got. Does it seem right to you? Just yesterday, the Anabaptists from Torrejón de Ardoz held a convention here. Look at what's written on that poster.

'I'd have to put my glasses on.'

'Oh yes! You've been losing your faculties ever since you became a pen-pusher,' Mir said. 'I can read it all right: "The way of the spirit in the path of the body", by Yogi Sundra Bashuarti. That was here yesterday. I can't tell anymore whether this is a central committee meeting or a gathering of fakirs. Communists in a hotel—as if we were tourists or underwear salesmen.'

'You're in a right old mood.'

'And one day they'll sneak in a commando disguised as a tropical orchestra. Sometimes you can even hear the music from the dance-hall.'

'It's quite atmospheric.'

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

True Grit by Charles Portis (The Overlook Press 1968)

I pointed the revolver at his belly and shot him down. The explosion kicked me backwards and caused me to lose my footing and the pistol jumped from my hand. I lost no time in recovering it and getting to my feet. The ball had struck Chaney's side and knocked him into a sitting position against a tree. I heard Rooster or LaBoeuf call out for me. "I am down here!" I replied. There was another shout from the hill above Chaney.

He was holding both hands down on his side. He said, "I did not think you would do it."

I said, "What do you think now?"

He said, "One of my short ribs is broken. It hurts every breath I take." I said, "You killed my father when he was trying to help you. I have one of the gold pieces you took from him. Now give me the other."

"I regret that shooting," said he. "Mr. Ross was decent to me but he ought not to have meddled in my business. I was drinking and I was mad through and through. Nothing has gone right for me."

There was more yelling from the hills.

I said, "No, you are just a piece of trash, that is all. They say you shot a senator in the state of Texas."

"That man threatened my life. I was justified. Everything is against me. Now I am shot by a child."

"Get up on your feet and come across that creek before I shoot you again. My father took you in when you were hungry."

"You will have to help me up."

"No, I will not help you. Get up yourself."

He made a quick move for a chunk of wood and I pulled the trigger and the hammer snapped on a bad percussion cap. I made haste to try another chamber but the hammer snapped dead again. I had not time for a third try. Chaney flung the heavy piece of wood and it caught me in the chest and laid me out backwards.

He came splashing across the creek and he jerked me up by my coat and commenced slapping me and cursing me and my father. That was his cur nature, to change from a whining baby to a vicious bully as circumstances permitted. He stuck my revolver in his belt and pulled me stumbling through the water. The horses were milling about and he managed to catch two of them by their halters while holding me with the other hand.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Monkey Wrench by Liza Cody (The Mysterious Press 1994)

I only wanted a bunch of bananas. I was on my way to the shop to buy them when I saw a bunch of kids circling and yowling like hyenas. They chanted,

Dirty Dawn
Stinks like a prawn.
She lost her bra
In a punter's car
And she doesn't know where her knickers are.

Dawn is trouble.  She's a mess and a waste of space. She's always on the piss. I crossed over to the other side of the road. If she saw me she'd expect me to get rid of the kids and wheel her home in a barrow. I ducked into Hanif's shop instead.

I took my time behind the shelves. If I stayed there long enough Dawn would pull herself together and shamble off without my help. Helping people always ends in tears. And helping drunks is a total waste of time. They're never grateful, they don't pay their debts and they've got rotten memories. What's the point in being nice to someone who can't remember how nice you've been? Tell me that. The only point in doing someone a favour is if they remember and do you a favour back.

Besides, angry wasps are better-natured than the kids in this part of London. Take a tip from me - if you like a quiet life don't ever get yourself outnumbered by kids. I was a kid once myself so I know how evil they can be once they get into a pack. Normal rules don't apply to a pack, and a little kid who wouldn't do hokey-cokey on his own becomes Conan the Barbarian in a bunch. Come to think of it, that's true of grown-ups as well.

I know about crowds. I should, I'm a wrestler.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bucket Nut by Liza Cody (Double Day 1992)

There was a little bloke in the aisle screaming his head off. Quite sweet he looked in his grey mackintosh and muffler. His flat cap fell down over one eye.

'Bucket Nut!' he yelled.

I could hear him clearly over the screams and yells. The things they think of to say.

'Shut yer face!' I gave him the finger.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the Blonde Bombshell stagger to her feet. I turned my back.

There was a little old lady in the second row bouncing up and down with rage.

'You big ugly bully,' she screamed. 'Big ugly . . . trollop!'

'Trollop yerself,' I shouted.

The Blonde Bombshell hit me in the back and I fell against the ropes. The front row came alive, bashing me with shoes, programmes and handbags. I rolled away to the middle of the ring.

The Blonde Bombshell crashed on top and twisted my arm behind my back.

The front row went wild.

'Kill 'er,' they howled. 'Have her rotten arm off.'

The Blonde Bombshell grabbed a handful of hair and pulled my head up off the canvas. She is such a wanker.

'Watchit,' I said. 'Mind me teeth.'

She knew I had the toothache. But she bashed my face into the floor. Silly cow.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hazell and the Menacing Jester by P.B. Yuill (Penguin Crime 1976)

While Adolf was pouring them he told us another rib-tickler. The bar was a few yards from the table but he had a good carrying voice. 'Why did the Arab have the oilfield and the Irishman have the potato field? Because the Irishman got first choice!' He laughed. Any sensitive Micks present must have been in a truce mood. Ted H. hadn't laughed so much since beer went dear. Beevers brought back the drinks. He gave me a weary little grimace, telling me we understood the problems of life unlike all these dumbos.

'You're wondering why I use a dump like this,' he said. 'I knew Ted in the army, it's handy for my office - anywhere else we'd only have been interrupted by people in my business, I must know hundreds. Where was I? Oh yes, last Wednesday things took a new turn. We had two minicabs we didn't order turning up just after midnight - at the same time! You know these minicab cowboys are like. I had to threaten them with the polizei before they'd piss off. Then came what decided me I had to take steps. Tuesday night, this week, bloke in a homburg hat turns up downstairs at the desk - we live in a big block - he says he's cometo see the deceased and make arrangements for the funeral! Some bastard had phoned these undertakers in Camden Town saying he was me  - my wife was supposed to have snuffed it. That was just too bloody much. Paul Shirriff is an old mate - I asked him for professional advice and here we are.'

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Late for Maloney

It only took me seven years to get around to viewing discovering this wonderful Celtic goal from Shaun Maloney:

Anyone would think I'm a fair weather fan.

Kill Your Friends by John Niven (Harper Perennial 2008)

What do I think? Honestly? I think I would like to see you and the rest of your band die screaming in agony from something like testicular cancer. I think that last week I spent a hundred and eighty pounds on a necktie and lost it a few hours later, drunk in Soho. I think about telling these hopeless, penniless cunts this. But instead, pointlessly, I say, 'Great guitar sound.'

'Yeah,' the manager says, and he starts crapping on about how Doug - or whoever - has been playing guitar since he was a fucking foetus or something. Doug looks up from the floor and smiles bashfully. It's about all I can do not to punch his stupid, talentless face in. To stand up, run the length of the room, and boot him full-force in his pasty, pimply, stinking indie chops. But - ever reasonable - I just nod and listen and say things like 'yeah?' and 'yeah' and 'great' and 'really?' for a long time.

I hate indie music. Until a couple of years ago you didn't really have to think about it. It was just a couple of hundred losers fucking around in Camden. Then a pair of Mancunian losers rock up clutching a Beatles songbook and suddenly you've got to listen to all this shite and take all these meetings in case you miss the next one. It's a fucking nightmare.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Backhand by Liza Cody (Doubleday 1991)

At home, north of Holland Park, Anna walked into a domestic row of gigantic proportions. All the lights in the house blazed. The television was on in the Prices' flat but the shouting came from upstairs in Anna's front room. Bea and Selwyn stood nose to nose in the middle of the Turkish carpet.

'You selfish, opinionated, destructive bastard,' Bea was yelling as Anna opened her door. She had a rolled-up copy of the Kensington Chronicle in her hand, and at every adjective she whacked Selwyn on the arm. His arm was protecting his left ear.

' . . . Bourgeois, small -minded . . . sneaking behind my back . . .  and undermining my position . . .' Selwyn thundered at the same time.

' . . . in the bloody papers, the bloody newspaper.' Whack. 'I've never had my name dragged into the press.' Whack. 'This is the last straw.'

In the background was the unlikely sight of a huge man trying to look inconspicuous: Quex sat in the corner of the sofa pretending to read.

'Home sweet home,' Anna said, but nobody noticed.

'You've no right.' Whack. 'To draw on that account.' Whack. 'That's the house account.' Whack. 'And I'll need every penny . . . '

'I'm not moving to a poky bloody hole in Potters Bar. You're trying to castrate me, woman . . . '

'Bleeding shut up!' Anna shouted.

'I'm stopping the cheque!' Bea screamed. 'I'm warning you!' Whack.

'You're on your own!' bellowed Selwyn. 'What you want is a pet poodle with a pay packet.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Graduate by Charles Webb (The New American Library 1963)

"Come on in the living room a minute," Mr. Braddock said. "You'll get to bed right after a little food."

Benjamin slid back down the stairs, stood and followed his father slowly into the living room. He dropped down onto the sofa.

"Well now," Mr. Braddock said. "Let's have the report."

Benjamin's head fell back and he closed his eyes again.

"What about the money. Did you cash my check?"


"Well what happened. Did you get some work?"


"What kind of work was it."


"Come on, Ben," he said. "I'm interested in this."

Benjamin took a deep breath. "I fought a fire," he said.

"That big fire up there?" his father said. "You fought it?"

"That's right."

"Well that's right up there by Shasta. You must have been right up there in the Shasta country. That's beautiful country."

Benjamin nodded.

"How much did they pay you on a deal like that," his father said.

"Five an hour."

"Five dollars an hour?"

"That's right."

"They give you the equipment and you go in and try to put out the flames."

Benjamin nodded.

"Well what about the Indians. I was reading they transported some Indians up there from a tribe in Arizona. Professional fire fighters. Did you see some of them?"

"I saw some Indians. Yes."

Mr. Braddock shook his head. "That is real exciting," he said. "What else happened."

Benjamin didn't answer.

"You didn't have any trouble getting rides."


"Well tell me where you stayed."


Mr. Braddock nodded. "Maybe this trip wasn't such a bad idea after all," he said. "Did you have any other jobs besides the fire?"


"Well what were they."

"Dad, I washed dishes. I cleaned along the road. Now I am so tired I am going to be sick."

"Talk to a lot of interesting people, did you?"


"You didn't?"

"Dad, I talked to a lot of people. None of them were particularly interesting."

"Oh," his father said. "Did you talk to some of the Indians?"

"Yes Dad."

"They speak English, do they?"

"They try."

"Well what else did you-"

"Dad, the trip was a waste of time and I'd rather not talk about it."

"Oh?" his father said. "Why do you say that."

"It was a bore."

"Well it doesn't sound too boring if you were up there throwing water on that fire."

"It was a boring fire."

It was quiet for a few moments. "Can't you tell me a little more about it?"


"Let's hear about some of the people you bumped into."

"You want to?"

"Sure," his father said. "What kind of people stopped to give you rides."



"Queers usually stopped," he said. "I averaged about five queers a day. One queer I had to slug in the face and jump out of his car."


"Have you ever seen a queer Indian, Dad?"


"Have you ever had a queer Indian approach you while you're trying to keep your clothes from burning up?"

Mr. Braddock sat frowning at him from the chair. "Did that happen?" he said.

"Dad, for what it was worth I did the whole tour. I talked to farmers, I talked to-"

"What would you talk to them about."

"The farmers?"


"Their crops. What else do they know how to talk about."