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 This is how a war can be diverted by a handful of unpublished novelists and creative oddballs, for the grand sum of £200.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.

11 comments on “What I’m Reading In December 2”

  1. Ken Mann says:

    Morecambe and Wise get a small mention in Operation Mincemeat.

  2. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I reread 1984 recently, and was reminded of you asking a while ago whether fiction should be updated to remove things which are now seen as offensive or politically incorrect.
    I was pretty sure that it wasn’t a good idea. Now I am certain.
    How can we learn from the past if we edit it?

  3. Brooke says:

    Amazed… all B&M recent works, 2 formats, now available in U.S. via AMZN! No waiting for a year or bribing friends in UK to buy/send. Writing vile letters to publisher paid off…or perhaps it was the vodoun chants?

  4. admin says:

    Possibly not the vile letters…it seems the books are getting a little US traction – and today, TODAY! ‘The Lonely Hour’ is out in America, and ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ is available as an ebook!

  5. Debra Matheney says:

    Glad to hear my fellow Americans are catching on. I am already deeply demoralized on an almost daily basis so will pass on a book designed to further deepen my depression regarding the state of our union. It feels we have learned nothing from George Orwell or Watergate or history. Snake oil has always been popular here.

  6. Jay Mackie says:

    Chris have you managed to secure a publisher for your complete short stories yet??? Just wondering if you had any news on when this might happen

  7. Brooke says:

    And “England’s Finest” is already available in audio format: AMZN promises to ship hard cover format on 9th.

  8. Brooke says:

    @Debra M. This too will pass. In some ways, it’s a real hoot–Mueller report is out in graphic novel/video format!

  9. Helen Martin says:

    @Brooke – does this mean it’s available for those who can’t cope with long sentences or big words? Our son sent us a copy of the real thing and I’m not sure I can hack my way through it.
    Snake oil appears to work here, too, although we have one truly independent member of the Commons who would upset the whole system if we gave her a bit more power. I’m hoping for the bit more power soon.

  10. David says:

    Not to put you off the book, but there has long been speculation that the actual body used in Operation Mincemeat, far from being the welshman Glyndwr Michael, was in fact a much younger and fitter Scottish seaman, John Melville, killed in the HMS Dasher catastrophe on the River Clyde. If this is the case it would explain how the Spanish and German doctors were able to accept the body as being that of an authentic military officer. So maybe The Man Who Never Was, not content with being a agent, was in fact a double agent. The reason successive governments have ducked the identity issue is reputedly that they have no record of what happened to Glyndwr’s body and fear being sued by his descendants.

    In addition to the musical they are also making a second film of the book, with Colin Firth as the star, I wonder if he will play the dashing hero, Ewen Montage, or poor Glyndwr’s corpse. I think I would put money on the musical giving a more authentic account of the affair than the film.

  11. Brooke says:

    @Helen. Read only 1st page of graphic version; not bad as a synopsis. Google Washington Post, Mueller Report Illustrated. There are six chapters on-line. Caveat emptor –this is toxic stuff, as Debra can attest.

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