Saturday, 20 October 2012

Lost Book Library Reading Round-Up no. 5

Another update on my attempts to actually read these damn things.  Not a bumper crop this time round, unfortunately.

The Fate of Mary Rose by Caroline Blackwood

Status: Completed

Another book that I read before I started the library.  How this book initially pleased, but ultimately failed me has already been documented.

The Girls by John Bowen

Status: Completed

This tale of a lesbian couple who engage in a spot of murder has a number of things in common with The Fate of Mary Rose.  They both are set in a genteel English village.  They both are initially driven by a quiet control that draws the reader in and directs them towards their inexorable conclusion.  And they both dodge their inexorable conclusions at the last minute, and instead deliver piss-poor endings that seem like the author has just given up.  This is a shame, because The Girls was full of nice touches, such as a conversation between the main characters where they debate whether they have been visited by the Greek god Pan or just a bloke on a horse, and a flash-forward where a supporting figure's life after the story's end is documented.  Come on, authors of short, quiet, novels set in genteel English villages written in the mid-eighties with pastel-shaded Modigliani-influenced covers, buck your ideas up!

Prehistoric Germ Warfare by Robin Collyns

Status: Abandoned, p. 40

Author Collyns is convinced that humanity originated in outer space, and absolutely anything appears to him to be proof of this.  What a human hair looks like under a microscope, alleged Bigfoot prints, satsumas, anything.  It all points to his central thesis that we were part of some extraterrestrial genetically-manipulated breeding programme.  I think I read enough to get the gist, and while I could have gone all the way through looking for LULZ, the ultimate point of this blog is not to make fun of bad books (that's what Robin Ince is for), but to dig up good books that have been forgotten.  So I moved on to...

The Searing by John Coyne

Status: Abandoned, p. 59

I was hoping this would turn out to be an enjoyable slice of second division horror, but it wasn't quite good enough to be good, or trashy enough to be trash.  There was a clue that Coyne wasn't exactly pushing the imaginative boat out in the first few pages when an old Indian burial ground makes a menacing appearance.  That and the fact he uses my least favourite phrase in the English language, 'fetal position', over and over again (what's wrong with saying someone's legs are tucked up under their chin?) turned me off.  The story seemed to be firing into all sorts of different directions involving mysterious orgasms and baby killing, none of which interested me greatly, so I bailed.

The Injured Party by Elaine Dundy

Status: Abandoned, p. 122

Dundy hit big with her first novel The Dud Avocado, but this final one is obscure, and in all honesty it's not hard to see why.  It starts off well enough with a screwball comedy feel as two magazine employees attempt to uncover a conspiracy in their own office, but then gets derailed by a bad marriage storyline that feels suspiciously like the author unloading baggage.  By the time I gave up the protagonist was a faux-naive caricature of the person we started off with and it felt like pretty much anything could happen.  Which means, of course, that it didn't matter what did happen.  A case of a good author losing control of their story.

Disappointing, but I have a feeling the next batch will contain some gems, so stay tuned!

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