Rapid Reviews: diversionary deaths

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Where did November and December go – a real case of going, going, gone as the last two days of 2015 are all that separate ARTbop and me from 2016. Despite everything that’s happened in these months (including the fabulous Tauranga Arts Festival Community Day) I’ve been able to get my head and nose into a series of books from the Tauranga City Library.

These days our libraries aren’t just the place to get traditional books, magazines and newspapers. They’ve got CD’s, e books, desks spaces for laptops, pay by the minute internet access, workshops and courses and a learning centre. I’ve been fortunate to have a great deal of assistance with ARTbop from the staff at the Tauranga City Library. In November I started my facebook learning experience. Yes just as it’s being established that “the younger generation” is abandoning facebook, I’m going to be learning how to use it to post more information about our ongoing ARTbop content.

When ARTbop first started online we only published at the beginning of each month. Now we publish during the month on an ongoing basis. So a facebook alert is a helpful tool in directing our online readers to new content. I’ve “broken” four lawnmowers over my working lifetime; a fact often raised if and when I’m complaining about the mechanical or technological misadventures of any other family member. And, I need to be walked through the operational instructions of anything more than a wooden spoon. “Didn’t you read the instructions”. So the hour set aside by the Tauranga Library Learning Centre to introduce me to the wonders of facebook may be significantly insufficient. On the other hand….

I managed to get in some murder/crime/detective stuff this month. As usual they range in quality and style.

The Crow Road, Ian Banks Scribners GB, Abacus UK, first published 1993, multiple publications and this edition 2013                      The readability of this book is evidenced by the list of reprints noted at the front. You will ignore all demands to get up and make the lunch once you start reading The Crow Road. Reading is like watching a taneko panel being constructed; each page and each narrative thread adds to the pattern and conclusion.

It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach’s Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach… Prentice McHoan has returned to the bosom of his complex but enduring Scottish family. Full of questions about the McHoan past, present and future he is also deeply preoccupied: mainly with death, sex, drink, God and illegal substances….”

The Ranger Ace Atkins GP Putnam’s Sons, New York 2011                         Ace Atkins is much published. His descriptive writing style as much as the subject matter is why. :”Judge Blanton lived toward the north-east corner of Tibbehah County, right around the hamlet of Carthage, about five miles or so from the Rebel Truck Stop. This part of the country had once been far removed from Jericho and the highway traffic, but now the county road toward his house was clogged with trailer homes filled with Mexican laborers and poor blacks and poorer whites. Junk cars and garbage littered the road Quinn had remembered as pristine when he’d come to ride horses as a kid…” Methamphetamine, prostitution, murder, rural corruption – unfortunately too believable. Another great summer holiday read.

Disciple of the dog Scott Baker Orion Books, Great Britain, 2010         Dedication: I am called a dog because I fawn on those who give, bark at those who refuse, and set my teeth in rascals. Diogenes of Sinope                                      Readable. Weird and bizarre ending. Unfortunately believable.

Broken Harbour Tana French Hodder & Stoughton UK 2012          I used to know Broken Harbour like the back of my hand, when I was a skinny little guy with home-cut hair and mended jeans. Kids nowadays grew up on sun holidays during the boom, two weeks in the Costa del Sol is their bare minimum. But I’m forty-two and our generation has low expectations. A few days by the Irish Sea in a rented caravan put you ahead of the pack … Sometime since then, we started turning feral. Wild got into the air like a virus, and it’s spreading. Watch the packs of kids roaming inner-city estates, mindless and brakeless as baboons, looking for something or someone to wreck. Watch the businessmen shoving past pregnant women for a seat on the train, using their 4x4s to force smaller cars out of their way, purple-faced and outraged when the world dares to contradict them. Watch the teenagers thow screaming stamping tantrums when, for once, they can’t have it the second they want it. Everything that stops us being animals is eroding, washing away like sand, going and gone.”

I’ve amalgamated two paragraphs from different chapters because they exemplify better than anything I could tell you the depth of the writing of this book. Picked up as a crime read it’s far more than that. The complexities of life and a theme of trauma and mental illness run through this like a hot wire. A fabulous and gripping read

The Beggar’s Opera (Introducing Inspector Ramirez) Peggy Blair Penguin Canada, 2012          Havana, Cuba paedophilia and murder and a detective who sees the dead and fears imminent death from an unusual form of dementia. There’s a flavour of Donna Leon and Italian “crime” writers about this novel. And like those authors, through “enjoyment fiction” you are confronted by international social, political and economic issues in an unavoidable manner – probably having a greater impact on issue perception than any lecture or factual newspaper expose. The path to the conclusion is fascinating and again hideously believable. If you appreciate well written crime “fiction” put this on the lying down for Christmas list of readers.

Photo0412Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.

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