A Second Guilty Pleasure

Longtime Readers may recall that I’ve confessed to a guilty pleasure: reading writer John Sandford’s novels (both the Lucas Davenport- and Virgil Flowers sagas). Well, old Lucas is getting a little long in the tooth (although his latest career move seems to have rejuvenated him), and I’m a little iffy about Virgil Flowers’ character, so subconsciously I’ve been looking for a replacement guilty pleasure — and I think I’ve found it.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Volker Kutscher‘s Inspector Gereon Rath of the Berlin CID’s Homicide Division. Except that whereas Davenport and Flowers are both set in contemporary Minneapolis, Rath is busy solving murders in Depression-era Berlin — to be specific, 1929-1938: one of my all-time favorite periods of history, and my dream setting for a novel*.

I think Rath is one of the best characters in fiction, of any genre, and I am so fortunate to have discovered him. (By the way, I found Babylon Berlin by chance at Foyle’s Books, which makes up for my disappointment at their “modernization” of the venerable establishment.) I read the novel in one night, and went straight back the next day to buy Silent Death.)

And the novels really are terrific: as I said, Babylon Berlin took me just one night to read and Silent Death only a little longer than that, because I didn’t want it to end quickly, so much was I enjoying it. Sadly, only these two (of the half-dozen Rath novels extant) have been translated into English so far, so I won’t be able to binge-read them; but you can be sure I’ll buy the rest as soon as they’re available. (Sadly, my conversational German is adequate, but my literary German is schrecklich, so I’ll just have to be patient.)

Even better, Babylon Berlin has been made into a 16-part TV series for German TV, so if anyone from Netflix is reading this… oh, wait: someone’s on the ball already. I can’t wait.


*I was contemplating writing a companion piece to Vienna Days, to be set in 1928 Berlin, but there’s no need now: Kutscher has relieved me of the responsibility. So: 1900 Budapest it will have to be.

Anything But Shadows

Long before most of us were born, there were The Shadows, probably the greatest “guitar band” ever, judging by the number of #1 hits they had. Yeah, they were also known as Cliff Richard’s backing band, way back in the late 1950s and 60s… and the 70s, and 80s, and 90s, and 00s.

I know, I know: the music is simple by today’s guitar “gods” — and yet, ask any of the modern guitarists worthy of the term, and without doubt almost all — Clapton, Brian May, Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi and others — will speak in respectful tones about Hank Marvin, the Shadows’ lead guitarist, probably one of the great pickers of all time. Other musicians will speak equally as respectfully of Bruce Welch’s rhythm guitar work, the bass lines and Brian Bennett’s drums, which together produced one of the tightest sounds ever.

So hie thee hence and watch the “Shads” in action — or rather, don’t watch them because once again by today’s standards the concert is so understated it’s quite soporific — no clouds of smoke, no strobe lighting, no special effects at all: just the Shadows playing their music — rock, country, jazz, ballads — for over two hours, without a single misplaced note. (Ask any modern rock musician if they can play a two-hour concert without a single mistake, and they’ll give you a rueful look.) There’s something to be said for a fifty-year career playing together…

So don’t watch the whole show; do what I do: watch the first few songs, then carry on with your regular Saturday household activities or Internet surfing, and let the Shadows be your background music for a couple hours. Every so often, you may recognize a tune, and think, “So that’s who did it!” and smile. It’ll happen a lot, especially the smiles.

There’s no need to thank me; it’s all part of the service.

Catching Up

As my life has slowed down to a crawl while I continue my sabbatical Over Here, I’ve rediscovered the joys of reading. (Yes, some of this is because Teh Intarwebz is down a lot of the time, but not all of it.)

Here’s a list of what I’ve read over the past month or so:

  • Sniping In France — Maj. H. Hesketh-Pritchard
  • Battle Tactics of the American Civil War — Paddy Griffith
  • Lost Battlefields Of Wales — Martin Hackett
  • Leadership In Conflict 1914-1918 — Matthew Hughes & Matthew Seligmann
  • The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939-1945 — Max Hastings
  • Europe, 1815-1914 — Gordon A. Craig
  • Nationalism, Industrialization and Democracy 1815-1914 — Thomas G. Barnes & Gerald D. Feldman
  • Ruined City — Nevil Shute
  • The Girl Who Wasn’t There — Ferdinand von Schirarch
  • Holidays In Heck and How The Hell Did This Happen? — P.J. O’Rourke
  • The Savage Empire: Forgotten Wars of the 19th Century — Ian Hernon
  • Flashman On The March — George MacDonald Fraser
  • James Purdey & Sons: Two Hundred Years Of Excellence — Donald Dallas

…and about half a dozen anthologies, humorous books and such, as well as the Daily Telegraph every day, and The Times On Sunday each week.

I’m currently working on:

  • Prisoners Of Geography — Tim Marshall
  • The Year 1000: What life was like at the turn of the millennium — Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger

No, I haven’t done any writing other than this blog. That will come back when I feel the urge again. Right now, I’m topping up the batteries.

 

Day By Day

If you guys haven’t yet given a helping hand to Chris Muir over at Day By Day, please do so. DBD isn’t a hobby for Chris, it’s his livelihood, and other than when his Dad passed away, I don’t think he’s missed a single day in well over a decade of wonderfully-creative cartooning.

Funny, conservative and sexy as all hell: DBD is one of my five daily must-reads, and in fact it’s my first read every morning. Glenn once said about some other old fart that “he’s one of the good guys”. I think Chris is one of the best.

Help the man out, please.

Quote Of The Day

Seen in a unisex toilet stall not far from here:

“If you’re angry because I left the seat up after taking a pee, have a feminist explain to you why you have exactly the same right as a man to touch the filthy thing.”

Sic semper feministae.

Saturday Morning

So Mr. Free Market, The Englishman, Longtime Reader John M. and I went down to the local pub last night for a quiet pint. Here’s an approximate rendering:

Right: time for coffee and a Full English, then off to the range. A full report on both last night’s festivities and the range visit will follow.

It’s a tough life Over Here, but someone has to do it.