Terrance Dicks

A spate of drafts covered this one over, so although less topical now than it would have been at the time, it is with great sadness that I write about the recent passing away of one of the icons of Doctor Who literature.

A prolific writer of a plethora of books, for many he was best known for his work on Doctor Who, for which he novelised sixty-seven of the TV scripts. Dicks did more than just write the books, he was script editor of the television show, as well as writing and producing.  His stories and direction added some subtle slants to the series with social and political stories.

For all the memories of the show – and there are many – it is to the books that I fondly remember getting out of the library, repeatedly.  Looking through the Target covers, I picked out Doctor Who and the Daleks, The Three Doctors, and The web of Fear.  Two of which were written by Dicks, as well as Meglos which I picked up in a book sale for the bargain sum of 20p.

Now having amassed a complete (I think) set of the novels, it seems fitting to pick one to read soon.  There is plenty to choose from so I will probably pick a random title and post something in due course.

Friday Night at the Royal Station Hotel

Inspiration failing me of late, instead of writing anything vaguely original here is a poem from Philip Larkin, which I recently came across in his collection, High Windows.

Friday Night At The Royal Station Hotel

Light spreads darkly downwards from the high
Clusters of lights over empty chairs
That face each other, coloured differently.
Through open doors, the dining-room declares
A larger loneliness of knives and glass
And silence laid like carpet. A porter reads
An unsold evening paper. Hours pass,
And all the salesmen have gone back to Leeds,
Leaving full ashtrays in the Conference Room.

 

In shoeless corridors, the lights burn. How
Isolated, like a fort, it is –
The headed paper, made for writing home
(If home existed) letters of exile: Now
Night comes on. Waves fold behind villages.

* Image found on Pixabay

The Return of the Soldier – Rebecca West

Chris Baldry returns from the front to the three women who love him. His wife, Kitty, with her cold, moonlight beauty, and his devoted cousin Jenny wait in their exquisite home on the crest of the Harrow-weald. Margaret Allington, his first and long-forgotten love, is nearby in the dreary suburb of Wealdstone. But Chris is shell-shocked and can only remember the Margaret he loved fifteen years before, when he was a young man and she an inn-keeper’s daughter. His cousin he remembers only as a childhood playmate; his wife he remembers not at all. The women have a choice – to leave him where he wishes to be, or to ‘cure’ him. It is Margaret who reveals a love so great that she can make the final sacrifice

Noticing that nibbled apple on the cover, I gravitated to not only to the Virago logo but more importantly to the author’s name.  Having read some of West’s non-fiction pieces, mainly to do with religion and politics, her fiction promised to be a worthwhile read.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I hoped, although there were some aspects of the work that interested me.  Thankfully being one hundred and thirty-eight pages long (or short depending on your point of view), I was able to finish it before my patience was thoroughly worn out but it did take some effort to get to the end of this one, even with that in mind.

The story is focused on exploring the emotional impact of the three women, none of whom I really connected with.  Margaret is by far the most likeable character, whilst Kitty and Jenny came across as unbelievably snobby and at times ridiculously hysterical.  It was this overly dramatic nature that made me care little, despite appreciating the situation they were in. Continue reading “The Return of the Soldier – Rebecca West”

Checking the Listings

For 30p a time, the library will allow me to order books in, if they have them anywhere in stock.  This has led me to trawl my Amazon wish list for a number of the books  – I couldn’t very well look to claim all 800 or so – that I haven’t been able to source at bookshops.  I am hoping to be able to get some of these within the next few months. It’s cheaper than a second hand bookshop and keeps the service afloat so all is good, and a worthwhile investment.

  • Cubs Ahoy – Stephen Andrews
  • The Blazing World – J.G. Ballard
  • Zugzwang – Ronan Bennett
  • Alone – Richard E. Byrd
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
  • Under Plum Lake – Lionel Davidson
  • A Journey Around my Room – Xavier de Maistre
  • In the Sargasso Sea – Thomas A. Janvier
  • Bevis – Richard Jefferies
  • Zorba the Greek – Nikos Kazantzakis

Continue reading “Checking the Listings”

Sleepy Paws

As the nights stretch out in a seemingly never ending series of baby’s dramas, these times have been made easier thanks to Sleepy Paws.  I’ve recently been taken with this particular story, it’s an enchanting adventure that will grab any listener, adult or child.

This is a lovely, charming journey which will soothe anyone to sleep.  I love the descriptions of this gentle and enticing world .  On a side note, it will also hopefully soothe the dogs when we head back to the Philippines, as it saves us singing to them, which they seem to appreciate.

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?

Whenever critics praise something en masse, I automatically assume the worst, so I was pleasantly surprised when I flew through the first one hundred pages and felt engaged with the story.  I enjoyed the Nigerian section of the book, it was an insight into a culture and country that I knew little about, barring the football.

Americanah attempts to dissect many social problems, and as you would expect race is a big factor, as is class, a nod to how organised religion can fleece the flock, not to mention hair issues, which was something I didn’t expect to become interested in, although the more it was spoken about the less bothered I became.

After the first half of the book, I became increasingly disillusioned, because whilst there is plenty to think about, it’s ultimately a preachy novel and doesn’t bring much new to the table. The conclusion disappointed too, which annoyed me as it wasn’t a satisfying pay off for the grind that the latter half of the book was.

There were things I liked about the book, exploring the attitudes of Africans to each other when abroad, the struggles of fitting in versus retaining one’s own culture, the changes in attitude when returning to Africa. There were times when I considered if I had had any foot in mouth conversations, as its always good to self-examine. Continue reading “Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three – Stephen King

As usual when reviewing any series of books, I won’t include the blurb but will plunge straight into a spoiler free review, so even if you haven’t read the first book, The Gunslinger,  you will hopefully feel enticed to start after reading this.

Having attempted to watch The Dark Tower film recently, I stopped halfway through as it wasn’t grabbing me, this was largely due to the film feeling very rushed, there was no sense of the sprawling journey taking place. The books, unsurprisingly, are a far superior medium to convey the distances and depth of detail in King’s creation.  One positive I took from the film was the reminder to get back to reviewing the books and also to get back to rereading the rest of the series, so it was a worthwhile diversion in the end.

Although I don’t usually judge books by their covers,  this series, or at least these specific covers are really eye-catching.  The Tower grows and the scenery changes to reflect themes as the books progress, it’s a(nother) little detail that gives the sequence that epic feeling of being a true odyssey.

After the scanty size of the first book, each of the net four books significantly improves on the page count of its predecessor. As such The Drawing of the Three feels more standard in terms of its story and presentation, but also its prose style which is a lot less lyrical than The Gunslinger.  In fairness it would have been hard to continue the story in such a way as it does open out but it does take some getting used to. Continue reading “The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three – Stephen King”