Thursday, June 01, 2006


Harry Mulisch is Holland's most important postwar writer. Born in 1927 in Haarlem to a Jewish mother whose family died in the concentration camps, and an Austrian father who was jailed after the war for collaborating with the Nazis, Mulisch feels a particularly charged connection with the Second World War and 'The Assault' is his masterpiece on that subject, documenting the horrors experienced by a young boy following the assassination of a collaborator outside his house. Personally I enjoyed 'Last Call' even more and consider it to be one of the greatest novels about the theatre. An aged actor, who believes his life and career to be over, unexpectedly receives an invitation to star in a new play. Strange and extraordinary events ensue. This is a very deep book, full of twists and turns and profound insights, genuinely moving and disturbing. Highly recommended.

For my money, Jake Arnott is one of the best British writers around, on a par with Colin MacInnes in his portrayal of the underworld of London Life. His books are intensely readable evocations of the criminal and cultural underbelly of the city at various times in its modern history. His characters are rounded and believable, the stories strong and well--plotted. Even more impressive is his expert grasp of mood and moment in which there is a never a false step. Best known of his works to date is 'The Long Firm' (made into a tv darama series and set in the period of the Krays and Profumo), followed by 'He Kills Copper, 'True Crime' and now his latest 'Johnny Come Home' which centres on glam rock, the birth of the Gay Liberation Movement and the Angry Brigade. His evocation of the early 70s is superb and the tale he tells genuinely satisfying. No wonder David Bowie is a big fan.

Neil Gaiman is someone I've known from the Sandman comics but this is the first of his novels I've read. Originally published in 2001, this is revised paperback version in which a huge chunk edited out of the first edition has been put back in. A large doorstep of a book 'American Gods' is a gripping phantasmagoria based on the idea all the immigrant groups that came to the US brought their Gods with them but then neglected them, being captivated more by the new Gods of Media, Television and the like. The old Gods, now scattered, forgotten and unemployed are called on to fight one last battle fore their survival. A gripping tale, which might be described as a hybrid between Stephen King and Phillip Pullman, its the product of a muscular imagination that will take your mind into uncharted waters.

Final note: Well worth checking out 'The Fight' by Norman Mailer, his classic account of the Rumble In The Jungle between Ali and George Foreman. This must be one of the greatest books on boxing and is an ideal companion to the stunning documentary 'When We Were Kings.' His blow-by-blow account of the fight itself will have you scurrying back to the DVD.

1 comment:

ML said...

I saw the film of "The Assault" in a cinema in Vancouver in about 1988 with Michael Chechik, a film-maker. At the start of the film the sound (of the eponymous German assault on a Dutch house)was completely deafening, so Michael complained to the projectionist. The projectionist replied that the sound was supposed to be that loud, to emphasise the terror of the moment. It certainly worked on me.