What I’m Reading In December 2
The rest of my bedside table stack comprises;
‘Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide’ by the ever-dependable Barry Forshaw. From anyone else a book that’s essentially a collection of suggestions for crime readers might not pass muster, but in Mr Forshaw’s hands it becomes an expert’s check-list of essential must-reads.
‘Operation Mincemeat’ by Ben Macintyre delves into an old wartime story with fresh information. WWII’s most legendary act of deception involved dropping a corpse into the sea with military secrets in his jacket, but how did Churchill’s saboteurs get the Germans to believe? The answer, eccentric and fantastical, plays out like a mad farce (and indeed, is now the subject of a musical, I kid you not). This is how a war can be diverted by a handful of unpublished novelists and creative oddballs, for the grand sum of £200.
Éric Vuillard’s award-winning short novel ‘The Order of the Day’ was hated by the Spectator, always a good sign, and is a blackly comic rage against greedy, bumbling captains of German industry and weak Austrian politicians who allowed themselves to be swallowed by an apparently unstoppable Nazi machine, at a time when Hitler’s fortunes were far more threadbare than they first appeared. Wide-ranging in tone and subject, it packs a lot into a small page-count, casting glances at the folly of history rather than tackling it head-on, which may prove the best approach yet to the past.
‘This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War against Reality’ by Peter Pomerantsev, is about disinformation, unicorns and snowflakes and dictators and MAGA, about the gullible desperately wanting to believe and those ready to sell them snake oil. It’s a terrific read but deeply demoralising. If you want to truly understand how the world has come to elect liars and imbeciles, you need to read this book.
‘Invisible Blood’ is edited by national treasure Maxim Jacubowski and contains a cool new Jack Reacher story along with tales from Cathi Unsworth, Denise Mina, Bill Beverly and me. I was lured out of short story retirement after Maxim blackmailed me into participation, and I’m very glad I did it. Seventeen new stories, sinister, strange and oddly life-affirming, it’s a nicely varied collection.
Finally, did you ever want to know more about ‘1984’? I did, partly because I became obsessed with the book when I was a teenager. Dorian Lynskey is an excellent guide to the totalitarian masterwork, jam-packed with fresh information on Orwell’s cultural influences, and the legacy that reaches down to our time of fake news. Perfect for that Christmas Day lull after Morecambe & Wise.