Sunday, May 19, 2013

Recent Reading

  • In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith - Yet another wistful visit to the Botswana of Mma Precious Ramotswe, proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies Detrctive Agency, and her new husband, Mr JLB Matekoni of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. The story told here continues the arc of the lives of the above-mentioned, with interesting, if non-sinister, twists, such as the usurpation of Mr JLB Matekoni's old home as a speakeasy.
  • Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding - A young publicist, spurned by her 'Famous Club" lover, devotes four years of her life to running a refugee camp in a war-torn region of sub-Saharan Africa. An impending crisis magnified by bungled NGO bureaucracies causes her to return to London to ask the celebrities she once for their assistance. At once a piercing indictment of charity "events" and convincing plea for recognition of the troubled political situation that leads again and again to mass starvation in this part of the world.
  • Eleven Days by Donald Harstad - Solid police procedural about a gruesome murder spree with Satanic overtones in a sleepy Iowa backwater. Ex-cop's first novel may have some trite elements, but his believable characters--on both sides of the law--suggest this is a name to watch the publisher's lists for.
  • Bangkok Bob and the Missing Mormon by Stephen Leather - Bob Turtledove is an ex-pat who runs an antique shop in the City of Angels--aka, Krung Thep or Bangkok. Some time ago, he set up a website for his shop with a Q&A section; some requests are easy, some are hard. A Mormon youth has gone missing, around the time of a disastrous bar fire in a seedy district of Bangkok, and the boy's parents plead with Bangkok Bob to find their son. Regular visitors to Thailand will recognize many of the names, places and environments described in the story, and probably decide never to become an English teacher there. Fair enough.
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  • Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? by Thomas Kohnstamm - I never think of a tourist guidebook as a Bible--but if I had, I certainly wouldn't do so after reading this NON-FICTION account of Mr Kohnstamm's sixty-two day stint writing/updating the LP guide for the Brazilian hinterland. A story of drinking, drugs and deceptions, it throws into doubt any single fact you may read in any guidebook ever (except perhaps Arthur Frommer's rather staid tomes). As to the title question, 'Do travel writers go to hell?', I think the answer is that they probably should, but they're so hung over they miss the bus.

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