Reading Recommendation

Out of pure curiosity, I recently picked up a second-hand copy of J.K.Rowling’s (non-fantasy) novel, The Casual Vacancy.

What a delight.

The story involves an enormous cast of characters getting involved in a fairly mundane matter — the filling of a vacant town council seat — and its profound and often tragic consequences for the people of the town.  It’s not an easy read — Rowling writes in the Russian style, where characters are introduced and never again explained — but it is very well written.

This is also a novel for grownups and not a Harry Potter book.  It’s a searing and bleak sketch of modern British small-town life, and I can recommend it wholeheartedly to any of my Readers (especially of the Brit genus ) who want a decent few hours’ entertainment.

I’m definitely going to read it again, in the not-so distant future.  Thanks, J.K.

Desert Island Authors

Continuing the series on stuff I’d take to a desert island (see here for Guns, and here for Dames), let me remind you first of the island:

And now to the main topic.

Usually, the “Desert Island” series consists of only five items (e.g. 5 songs/discs), but there is no way on Earth that I could survive with only five books.  Recently, I have noted that such questions now allow compendia — e.g. the Sharpe’s Rifles series or the Hornblower series, and so on.

So now I’m broadening the scope, so to speak, to allow myself to take the complete works of five fiction authors onto that desert island.  They are, in no specific order:

  • Ian Fleming
  • William Shakespeare
  • D.H. Lawrence
  • P.G. Wodehouse
  • John Sandford*

*unlike the others, Sandford is still alive and writing, so I’d get at least one new novel every year, to keep things fresh.

I have other favorite authors, of course (Hugo, Dumas, Higgins, Follett and Ruark, for example), but unlike those listed, I don’t like everything they’ve written, whereas the above five are consistently good.

As for the five non-fiction authors, that’s a lot easier:

  • Paul Johnson
  • Victor Davis Hanson
  • John Keegan
  • Jacques Barzun
  • Thomas Sowell

Four historians and an economist.

Your own choices in Comments.

Good Man Down

I see that novelist Wilbur Smith has died aged 88, and I have to mourn one of the world’s great storytellers.

Longtime Readers will recall that when anyone asks me to recommend books about South Africa, I recommend Wilbur Smith’s Courtney trilogy  (When The Lion Feeds, The Sound Of Thunder and A Sparrow Falls ) as the best of the bunch (along with Stuart Cloete’s Rags Of Glory, for the Boer War).

Having read almost all Smith’s Africa novels, I have to say that after a while the stories become somewhat formulaic — but that does not take away from their wonderful pacing, excellent settings and gripping conclusions.  In fact, it says quite a lot that I, knowing all that, still have read and continue to read his books as soon as they appear on the (digital) shelves.  In other words, even though I pretty much know what’s going to happen within the first few chapters, I still continue to read because at all times, I learn stuff about the location(s) of the stories and their characters.

Sooon there’ll be no more Wilbur Smith novels, and I have to say, a little joy has gone out of my reading world.


Oh Yeah, I Almost Forgot

There’s a new Kim du Toit book on sale.


Just be warned:  it’s nothing like my usual fare.

The idea came to me shortly after Connie died, and I wrote most of it while staying at Free Market Towers.

I’m still working on Skeleton Coast;  while it is completed (finally!), I have to reformat it the whole thing to make it work in both print and Kindle, which requires almost a line-by-line edit.  It should all be done by the end of next week.


I have very few novels in hardback on my bookshelves, other than some of the classics (e.g. Les Miserables ).  Of the modern genre, fewer than a dozen.

But the very first novel I bought in hardback — after destroying two paperback copies thereof — was Frederick Forsyth’s The Day Of The Jackal, which is quite possibly the greatest thriller ever written.  (If you’ve never read it, get a copy now;  you’ll thank me later.  My copy is leather-bound, by the way, and I think I’ll read it yet again, because it’s been years.)

The story behind the novel, of which I knew nothing, is equally astonishing.  And no, I’m not jealous of Forsyth’s success;  I’m just in awe.