Friday, March 25, 2005

And amazingly

I've just read the PERFECT novel, Peter Temple's Shooting Star. (The link's to Amazon UK; in a cruel and incomprehensible twist, the only version available on Amazon US is an unabridged audiobook.) I read Temple's Identity Theory this fall and loved it. And wrote about it here. And then I got a most exciting package at the office this afternoon (fully expecting it to be a long dissertation chapter that I'd need to read amidst the million other academic things awaiting), and it was a lovely note from Peter Temple with 2 books. I was very responsible and restrained myself and read a lot of this until after midnight. (Actually I am horrified to see that the list price of this facsimile reprint of William Smellie's late 18th-century translation of Buffon's Natural History is $1,115.00. No, that's not a typo. I was sort of contemplating trying to get hold of my own copy but that pretty much rules it out--seems like it would be cheaper to buy a real 18th-century one, come to think of it.) And then I seized upon Shooting Star and sucked it down. It is criminal that this book isn't available in the US. Seriously, beg, borrow or steal in order to get this book and read it. It's superb.

I have always had this not-so-secret obsession with the novels of Dick Francis. I will admit that the ones from the last 20 years are not much good but the best of the ones from the 70s are very good indeed, and there's nothing else quite like them. But this book gave me the Dick Francis fix and is also much, much darker and smarter and better-written. (A sample line, from near the opening. The ex-soldier/ex-cop/ex-hostage negotiator drives his Alfa into the compound housing the ultra-rich Australian family that has hired him to deliver the ransom for a kidnapped child: "Three Mercedes, one small and two big, were parked in front of the landing-strip terrace that preceded the huge neo-Georgian structure. I parked the shabbier but sexier member of the Axis Powers in front of them." And the hyphen is possibly my favorite punctuation mark, too.) The first-person narration is wonderfully well-written, it's a real voice, and all the emotional content is completely persuasive. And the plot's well-worked-out as well. Seriously, I can't believe how much this is my perfect book. Of course there are seven or eight different kinds of perfect book as far as I'm concerned, some quite different from this (cf. Philip Pullman, Robin McKinley), but this is high up there... Can't wait to read the other one... Too bad it's after 3am already...


  1. Margaret, I have a strong feeling that we have extreme overlap on book tastes! I've enjoyed looking in on your blog too--isn't Philip Pullman amazing? The other trilogy he wrote is very good too, though not so magically amazing as the His Dark Materials one.

  2. thanks for the comments about Shooting Star. i actually like the jack irish trilogy best; and the latest, to the US, The Broken Shore. but agreed, an enjoyable author.

    not the same in subject matter, but i think in tone is the UK author John Lawton.

    tom rusch
    la, ca