Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shooting Star by Peter Temple

Ok, so I've gotten incredibly lazy with keeping up with this blog, I'd even go so far as to say ridiculously lazy. I know, I know, it's the end of the month and this is only my second blog...pretty bad. I'm sure the few of you on here are lost and wondering what to do with all of that extra time you have since I've been gone, well, never fear, I'm back...for the moment anyway.

In my absence I can't say I've been reading a whole lot that would inspire me to write about it, mostly I've been re-reading things as a result of not being interested in reading something new. One of the exceptions would be Peter Temple's Shooting Star. It's been several weeks since I finished it, but I do remember enjoying the book enough to grab my Kindle and download some of his earlier stories, and I have The Broken Shore sitting on one of book shelves also. Back to Shooting Star, according the inside flap, the plot goes something like this:
Her rich family has closed ranks and summoned Frank Calder, ex-soldier and disgraced police hostage negotiator. they want him to deliver the ransom money to the kidnappers. Frank wants them to call in the law, but the family refuses, since police bungling nearly cost the life of another Carson child kidnapped years before.

But are the two kidnappings connected? and is greed the motivation? Revenge? Or could it be something else? To find out, Frank Calder must go beyond his brief.

As Frank feverishly searches for suspects in the web of Carson family businesses and deals, marriages and indiscretions, rivalries and intrigues, he knows that if his instincts are wrong, the girl will surely die.

I can't say I remember a whole lot of what happened or "who done it", but what I do remember is the, dark writing that pulls you in, it's almost poetic feeling at times.
We go down the passage. I feel the old sprung floorboards bounce, feel the rotten stumps move. Dave is ahead of me. At the frond door, I say, 'Open it.'

He opens it, stands, looks back at me. And I am seeing myself from outside, looking into the dim doorway, seeing myself, shirtless, sweat in the hollow of my throat.

'It's OK,' I say. 'It's OK, I'm with you.'

He puts out a hand to me. I sigh and take it and we go out into the verandah together, grown men holding hands.

It is dark, no moon, no lights on in the street. I am straining to see beyond the low hedge and front gate.

At the steps, the spotlight comes on, night sun, impossibly bright light. Dave jumps, startled, lets go of my hand, turns, tries to hug me, bury his head in my shoulder.

I hear the sound and I feel the shot hit him, feel it through his bones, feel it through his arms clinging to me.

'Oh Jesus, no,' I say, holding him, feeling the strength leave his body, having to hold him up, feel his warm blood on my face, taste it on my lips, go to my knees with him.

And I hear myself saying, 'No, Dave, not me, not me.'

Then I am myself, looking into his eyes, seeing the reproach in them, no anger, just hurt and betrayal. 'You knew,' he says and he begins to cough, to cough up blood.
I have also heard good things about Temple's Truth and I believe it won The Miles Franklin award, a pretty nice Australian Literary award as I understand it. If you have read it, let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Two things struck me about Water for Elephants. The first is the entertainingly colloquial style the book is written in. One of my favorites in the beginning of the first chapter...
I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One of the other.

When you're five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties you know how old you are. I'm twenty-three, you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It's a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm - you start confidently, but then you stop. you were going to say thirty-three, but you're not. you're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it.
I'm not much older than thirty and I can certainly relate...unfortunatly.

The other thing that struck me was the explicit sexual crudeness of parts of the story. I can't put an example on here without changing the adult contact settings, but I will say that she could do with a lesson from Jim Thompson on how less can be more. I'll use the example someone once pointed out to me from The Killer Inside Me
"You're not going anywhere, baby," I said, and I hit her again.

And at last she got it.

She jumped up and I jumped with her. I whirled her around gave her a quick one-two, and she shot backwards across the room and bounced and slumped against the wall. She staggered to her feet, weaving, mumbling, and half-fell toward me. I let her have it again.

I backed her against the wall, slugging and it was like pounding a pumpkin. Hard, then everything giving away at once.
That little bit says a lot, and gives you a good enough general picture to get the point across, we didn't need the details.

Regardless however, I admit, I was regaled by the story told by Jacob Jankowski about his life, and how he came to be a veterinarian in a traveling circus. In the early part of the Great Depression, as he was finishing his last year of veterinarian school, Jacob's parents were suddenly killed leaving him to fend for himself without a penny to his name. In a paroxysm of anger and sadness he runs. Just runs. Eventually he stumbles on a train and, on impulse, jumps on not realizing how drastically his life was about to change. Before he knows what has happened, he's put in charge of the animals, falling in love with the wife of a deranged animal trainer and figuring out the puzzle to training the seemingly untrainable elephant that is meant to either save or break the show, and in the end, possibly help him survive.

Overall, I'm not yet sure if it is a story I would recommend, I think I would given a disclaimer, as I did like the author's overall style, but if you are reading the book because you enjoyed the movie, just beware of the "extra content".