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Christopher Fowler
Our Easyjet flight to Barcelona should have been fully masked, but most Britons simply forgot. After all, Boris de Pfeffel Johnson had failed to mention the pandemic for months. Consequently the Husband caught a bad cold on the flight, then I got it, and our travel plans fell apart. To make up for it, old friends from Madrid and Poland came to visit.  The heatwaves persisted and storms failed to materialise. I felt like a mid-Western preacher praying to clouds; Barcelonans fled, British tourists sat in probably the only sun they would see from now until spring and the elderly Spanish hid in dark-shadowed apartments with fans. My Madrid friends live in an un-airconditioned flat with no outside space. During the pandemic they were limited to one hour of outside exercise a day, provided they didn't stop and sit down anywhere. My brain has been turned to sludge by my cold, the heat and my rogue cells, which have come up with horrible new side effects that limit any kind of future travel. So I read in bed for ten days. What did I read? Books about the global economy, British and European history, some new thrillers that weren't very thrilling, Frankie Boyle's hilarious 'Meantime', which still reads more like a stand-up's act than a crime novel, and tales of detectives from other continents, both books and films. Detective Byomkesh Bakshi is a prime example. Probably India's best-known investigator, he's both an archetype and an oddity. Cool, deadpan, authoritarian, chain-smoking author-detective who takes forever to decipher clues via say, the Bahagavad Gita, is rude to police sergeants, businessmen or anyone he deems inferior. The cases are rudimentary but the companionship is delightful. The Byomkesh film versions are languid. When our detective goes off for a cup of tea and a smoke, he seems less to be cogitating over the case than forgetting he's even supposed to be investigating one. Suspects tend to read newspapers and slowly fall asleep a lot. What a pleasant change. Detective K, Judge Dee and more lawmakers from around the globe are waiting for me with insights into other cultures. Now I go back to the UK, and the barrel-scraping politics that have brought us a new PM nobody voted for or wanted. Who chose her? Not elected MPS representing their constituents but an undisclosed handful of extremists, the card-carrying members of the Tory party. I no longer feel the need to follow the exploits of these polluted charlatans, so I shall be avoiding reality from now on. It's back to books for me!
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Brooke (not verified) Tue, 06/09/2022 - 11:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Poor you...poor Pete.
I love Byomkesh, the celebrated Satyanneshi. Remembe he hates being called a "detective." I have only one collection of stories. Are there stand-alone novels or more story collections available? Must pursue.

Fortunately for you, Judge Dee novels are now available in digital format (but I miss my old post WW2 editions!). Btw, avoid Qiu Xiaolong's revisionist Dee stories--really bad publishing idea.

If you haven't already been introduced, you may want to try James McClure's South African pair, Kramer and Zondi. My favorite is Snake, but the Artuf Egg is well-written indeed.

Granny (not verified) Tue, 06/09/2022 - 11:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

"barrel scraping politics" excellent phrase!
I mean to stop reading The Guardian, aiming to try to lower my despair, but it is like picking at sunburn, I just have to see what abysmal stuff is going on.
Books are a good retreat, re-reading Bryant and May, knitting a doll, watching the latest Star Trek series, all help with a little relief from a sense of imminent doom.
In the evening I play Guild Wars, world versus world, and chat and laugh with like minded people. I am curious about other people's ways of coping, searching for snippets of community action in all this mess.
Sorry to sound so miserable, though l do laugh a lot. Life is a bit rum ...

Joan (not verified) Tue, 06/09/2022 - 13:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I read the Judge Dee books many years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed them. If you haven’t already read Tony Hillerman, I would highly recommend him. He writes about Navaho Police and the Navaho culture, his protagonists Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee bring the Southwest to life. There was a series brought to TV called Dark Winds, which was loosely based on a couple of the books. It was done very well. The series is continued through Hillerman’s daughter Anne, and focuses more on the younger Jim Chee, who is also striving to be a traditional healer. The books are thoughtful and respectful, but don’t shirk the realities of life on the Rez.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 06/09/2022 - 20:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm told I have to stand up and apologize for Britain's new PM (are they trying to have it both ways; elected Tories AND party members voting for the new party chief?) since I live in Burnaby and she attended a Burnaby elementary school for a year while her father was teaching mathematics at Simon Fraser University. She says it changed her whole outlook. Since she started out as a Lib-Dem anti-monarchist I'm not sure what influence we had. I apologize anyway.

Hazel Jackson (not verified) Tue, 06/09/2022 - 21:55

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I second the comment about the Tony Hillerman books. We read them on a motoring holiday in New Mexico and Arizona a few years back. There is a new series of the Dark Wind on a US cabl channel currently. Hopefully it will be available over here soon.

If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can pay to subscribe to other minority cable channels. I recommend Acorn TV, an Australian TV channel which has some interesting and well made fictional crime shows filmed in various European locations including the Chelsea Detective in London and Madame Volpe ( starring Emilia Fox), in Italy.

SteveB (not verified) Wed, 07/09/2022 - 08:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

There was a TV series of Judge Dee back in the 60s which I remember enjoying. Never released on dvd though I believe it exists in the archives.

SteveB (not verified) Wed, 07/09/2022 - 08:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I think Acorn TV has The Brokenwood Mysteries, which is basically Midsomer Murders in New Zealand, but I really enjoy it as comfort viewing. A difference with Midsomer is that characters who appear as suspects in one story will come back in subsequent epis, so you‘ve got this steadily increasing cast of offbeat characters which for me is great fun.

William (not verified) Wed, 07/09/2022 - 12:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

C’mon now. Are all members of the Labour party and Lib Dems extremists?
You mean they hold different opinions to yourself?
Diversity is a good thing and who the hell knows Liz Truss may rise to the occasion. The alternatives are rather lightweight.
The furlough payments were a noble thing so I thank Boris for that.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Wed, 07/09/2022 - 16:41

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

We had the Brokenwood series here, a very pleasant viewing. The way local characters turned up regularly was fun, especially the elderly lady who seemed to have a connection with everyone and told the detective how to run his cases and Frodo, the odd young man who was trying to make a living with his coffee truck - or whatever it was selling this week. Even the non-denominational minister who got stuck with weird funerals and had the elderly lady as his organist. I thought it could have gone at least another season, especially if the young Maori vintner was included.

Peter T (not verified) Thu, 08/09/2022 - 09:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Broken wood is on Drama in the UK and Giallo in Italy (both subscription free). I agree on the great characters. Some of them could be friends of Arthur Bryant.

Brooke (not verified) Thu, 08/09/2022 - 09:19

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Helen. Eton, Balliol, Trinity, etc. haven't apologized. Why should you!

Ed DesCamp (not verified) Fri, 09/09/2022 - 02:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

One most enjoyable aspect of re-reading Mr. Fowler’s books is that of finding a nugget which was missed the first time.
For example, from Burning Man, the following exchange between Arthur and John:
‘It’s hard to learn (English grammar),’ said May. ‘English is the only language I can think of where two negatives can mean a positive, and yet conversely there are no two positives that can mean a negative.’
‘Yeah, right.’
Thanks for that!

E Bush (not verified) Fri, 09/09/2022 - 02:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Another vote for Tony Hillerman's novels. I haven't seen the Dark Wind series, as I don't watch much TV. Mostly books. I will have to look up the Judge Dee .

I don't blame you for checking out on current political wrangling. Such a lost cause. Enjoy your books, movies, etc.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Sun, 11/09/2022 - 04:42

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm currently reading Shadowland by Peter Straub, excellent tale of coming of age and magic with a very dark edge. When it came out it was seen as more in the horror side of fiction, now I guess it would fly under the fantasy banner. A reminder genres are just labels used by publishers and bookseller to shift merch (as it's now called by the young.)

When I was in Portugal, a wedding and then to my mother-in-laws I was hoping to track down some Portuguese writers but books here are expensive, even though book sales are recovering in Portugal. One thing I did note, when I was there in April everyone had a mask, I was even reminded to put on my mask when going into a super market, by August it was rare to see a mask, it was quite a shock. In case you were wondering, covid deaths went over 200,000 around the end of July in the UK, currently death rate is about 500/week down from about 900 from the end of July, the rate keeps going up and down even though testing at home is well down. In Truss were trussed.