Books

I’ve been re-reading quite a bit of Raymond Chandler’s work lately, though I did read a book collection of his short stories recently, all of which were new to me. I’m enjoying it and finding that there are few, if any, of his novels that I have not yet read, though when I was looking his books up at the library I didn’t recognise about half of the titles. The short stories were good, though some were a lot rougher at the edges than his novels and many of the plots were familiar as he used and combined elements from the short stories to lay the foundations of his novels. Most of the last handful or so were very strange stories that were very different from the rest. A couple were rather more depressing than his usual fare and a couple had fantastical elements more associated with Weird Tales than with straight detective stories, but they were well written for the most part. There was even a Marlowe short story which I hadn’t read before and had been written after most of the novels if not after all of them and which, as a result, had a completely original plot. I quite enjoyed the book. I should warn anyone interested that if you’re a slow reader, budget time for this because it’s nearly 1300 pages long.

By contrast, CS Lewis’ The Abolition of Man is quite short and could be read by anyone rather quickly. It’s barely 100 pages and the book’s dimensions are small in other regards as well. It starts out as a condemnation of the tendency of educators to include moral judgments in lessons where they do not belong, such as the teaching of English, and moves from there (and this is the bulk of the book) to a defense of traditional moral precepts based on arguments from logic and natural law. At least, that was how I understood the book. I’m always nervous when I comment on a book with a philosophical bent that someone else who has read the book will reply that I have not understood the thrust of the author at all and I will be worsted in the exchange because I have not been able to comprehend the author’s meaning.

Most recently I have finished reading the last of Ngaio Marsh’s mystery novels that I had not read before. I have now read all of her 30-odd book canon of Inspector Alleyn stories (most of them last year) and jolly good most of them were too. This book in particular was Overture to Death which was pretty creative and interesting though, since it was an earlier story, it includes the abominable Nigel Bathgate in the role of incompetent Watson to Alleyn’s Holmes. The murder method in this book was rather fanciful, but it was made about as plausible as it could be and the author did play fair with the clues leaving them all out in the open for the reader and reserving only the detective’s conclusions. And while I have not retreated from my initial impression of Marsh as somewhat of a Sayers wannabe, I do think they are good enough that I will be looking for them in second-hand stores and at library sales with a view to collecting them all.

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