Thursday, 26 November 2009

Whose Body?

The current anniversary of 'Murder on the Orient Express' (cue tunnel noise and whistle scream) reminds me that I am occasionally conerned that Agatha Christie (be her merits what they may)'s posthumous reputation (however well-deserved) so loomingly overshadows that of Dorothy L Sayers.

I'm not saying people shouldn't be reading AC, but shouldn't DLS really take priority? I underrstand that in her own life time, a lot of critics found Ms Sayers' work to be far too show-offy, but that was surely just sour grapes. There'll be no shameful spoilers here, but if you haven't read through the lengthy and repeated mediaeval campanological digressions of 'The Nine Tailors' and then slapped yourself in the head at the delightfully fiendish reveal (or smugly congratulated your perspicacity, whichever), then you have not enjoyed one fathom of the depth of literary pleasure that the murder mystery as an art form has to offer.

Dorothy L is Philip K Dick to Agatha C's Isaac Asimov. It would bug me no end if someone were to suggest, in the field of science fiction that readers should ignore 'I, Robot' and just go straight for 'The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch' - what crass snobbishness - but of course, I would absolutely have to agree. I'm not saying don't read Christie, but please, if you must drink lager, be sure to try the occasional Czech Pilsner.

The first of the Peter Wimsey novels "Whose Body?" is available for free download at the indispensible, and doubtless elsewhere at all good public domain ebook freetailers throughout Interwebshire.

Finally, it goes without saying that this website is far too cultured to make such an archaically sexist observation, but careful perusal of Google Images will confirm that the young DLS was somewhat foxy.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Many Dimensions

It was something of a pleasant surprise to hear Ruth Rendell daring to recommend an early work of science fiction, "Many Dimensions" by Charles Williams, on Mariella Frostrup's grand book-off 'Neglected Classics'on Radio 4. An unusual novel, it imagines the consequences if the (then) modern western world were to acquire Solomon's crown and the Tetragrammaton-inscribed stone that gives the bearer almost unlimited power - to move through time, space, heal the sick, replicate the stone itself infinitely, etc. A highly entertaining and deeply thought-provoking read.

Here's an extract, with some thoughts on the merit of encyclopedias, and Hoxton. Incidentally, I find it curious that elsewhere when one character learns of another lord or professor so-and-so, his first instinct is to look the fellow up in a Who's Who, much as one might Google a new name today.

"They are the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, the Divine name," Chloe said, still more nervously. "Yod, He, Vau, He. I found it out this afternoon," she said suddenly to Sir Giles, "in an encyclopedia."

"Some of us write encyclopedia's," Arglay said,"-that's you, Giles; some of us read them - that's you, Miss Burnett; some of us own them - that's me; and some of us despise them - that's you, Reginald."

"Encyclopedias are like slums," Giles said, "the rotten homes of diseased minds. But even Hoxton has to pretend to live, it thinks, and of course it doesn't know it stinks."

You may not have a stone of Solomon to replicate yourself, but the next best thing can be done by downloading "Many Dimensions" free of charge here at

Sunday, 10 May 2009

1. When Super-Apes Attack

Ladies and Gentlemen, the book is dead, now fit only (as ever it truly was) for insulation, furniture support, or as the abode and sustenance of trogium pulsatorium and its ilk. The electronic reading device (be it Kindle, iPhone, or an inverted calculator showing the product of 332,375.5 multiplied by 16) has reduced the medium of pressed wood-pulp to an object of contempt, and anyone who says otherwise is a brass-faced liar with greasy sheep's wool stuffed in their brain pan.

Furthermore, the act of paying labour-coupons in the acquisition of books electronic or paper, is now an anachronism worthy of the ribald contempt of behooded street-urchins and guitar-playing vicars who read the Guardian online, not from a pious sense of social responsibility, but because they find Charlie Brooker to be devilishly amusing.

It has often been remarked that an erstwhile Chancellor of Germany, though perhaps justly maligned, did at least give his nation a reliable railway network. It might also be argued that his pyrotechnical tendencies in regard to printed matter was also not without merit.

Doubtless there will be venerable grey-beards and emaciated shut-ins who would raise a feeble voice of protest against such an ultimate solution. It will be necessary to disregard their mewling complaints, and boldly stride from our neon-lit and funky present into a more neon-lit and even funkier future.

It is entirely right that the bibliophile be shunned and abhorred for his perversion, and yet the electronic reading device provides even those unfortunate misanthropes with scope for redemption and social fitfulness. When his hairy-palmed hand, sweating and clawed, is clutching the sleek black iPhone, rather than a dirty and tattered paperback, even his misshapen features are given a human cast by the screen's gentle glow.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I was once as they. Look on me not with pity or disgust, nor amazement at my transformation, but rather with understanding, compassion, and perhaps even fellowship. Even the lowest amongst us, shunned by his brethren, can see the error of his ways and embrace the glorious, digital present, and so earn your forgiveness and society.

Bibliophilia is a cerebral illness, which like any other such, can be treated by a rigorous course of anti-psychotic medications, or electro-convulsive therapy. Where neither of these superior courses can be affected, perhaps owing to frailty of health or impecuniousness, most brain doctors agree that following the internet-posted reading recommendations of rambling cranks can be most efficacious.

To commence your cure, jack your nervous system into the net, direct your cyber machines to and download WHEN SUPER-APES PLOT, by Wilder Anthony (1919). Soon enough, everything will become clearer, and you will hear the birdsong, see the smiles on the faces of children, and know peace with your god*.

*Disclaimer : actual results may vary considerably, and then some.