New Addiction

Okay, which one of you bastards mentioned author Mick Herron as a decent replacement for John Sandford in the “guilty reading pleasures” department?

Because I tried the first book of Herron’s Slough House series (Slow Horses), and then blew through the other seven in just over as many days, so much did I enjoy the story.

Just as background:  when agents of Britishland’s MI5 screw up, they aren’t fired, but sent into a backwater office (Slough House) to do horribly mundane jobs (e.g. “find out how many potential terrorists there are in the country based on their book withdrawals of [unspecified] dangerous books from public libraries”), the results of which are sent back to Regent’s Park (MI5 Head Office), and promptly ignored.

One might think that there are similarities to the eminence grise of espionage writers, John le Carré, but one would be wrong.  Compared to George Smiley, the head of Slough House (Jackson Lamb) is an anarchic bombthrower, implacably determined to defeat the country’s enemies (that would be MI5, the Foreign Office and MI6), and does so with a cunning, underhanded skill that would defeat Smiley in a single chapter.

As for the denizens of Slough House, they are a bunch of misfits:  alcoholics, gamblers, incompetents, psychopaths, hackers and malcontents, sometimes several in the same person.  As far as “the Park” is concerned, they could all quit or die tomorrow and the Service would be the better for not having to pay their salaries anymore.  And they would all quit or die, except that their boss (Lamb) looks after them and protects them from their feral attackers (that would be MI5) with a ferocity that would please any lioness with her cubs.

That doesn’t stop him from mercilessly torturing his employees (e.g. offering his recovering alcoholic secretary a glass of Scotch every time she walks into his office), and sending them out (against regulations) to do field operations (jobs) which he knows that they will screw up, and they do, often hilariously.  However, his hapless charges are still highly-trained agents, and they often end up doing the right thing by accident.  And some of them die.  And by the way, they all hate each other.

I’ve just finished the last in the series (Bad Actors), and I’m going to re-read them all after a decent interval (a week or so).  At one point, New Wife asked me why I kept bursting into fits of laughter, and my only response was:  “The dialogue.”

And by the way, the Slough House building is a character all to itself.

It’s seriously good stuff.  Read it at your peril.

Next up for me: the Oxford series, by the same author.

The Kindle Affair – Update

In the end, I decided to forgo the stupid Kindle reader altogether and just download the Kindle app onto my laptop.

Which I did, and discovered that I have whole host of books still in my account (left over from my last foray into Kindleville, in the land of Amazonia).

Also, for those who are new to these pages or weren’t paying attention, may I humbly draw your attention to my previously-published works:

Vienna DaysFamily FortunesCreative LicensePrime TargetSigning New England

I am grinding my way ever so slowly through the sequel to Family Fortunes (which I may just creatively entitle “Family Fortunes Part II” because I can’t think of a decent riff on “Family _____”, mostly because the story takes place during the Boer War and WWI).

Also in the hopper is Skeleton Coast, a nearly-completed story of German South-West Africa in 1910, and Budapest Evenings, a story about a plot to assassinate the Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary in 1900.

Annoyingly, all my creativity in writing the above occurs in my pre-waking hours in the morning, but by the time I’ve woken up, showered, made coffee and read my email, most has tragically disappeared from my creaking brain, leaving only scattered remnants behind.

I shall persevere.  Try to contain your excitement.

RFI: Kindle

Okay, I might have to break down and get me one of them Kindle thangs, because the storage / cost matrix looks like I’m going to be driven out of the actual-book-buying thing.

But seeing as I was last exposed to Kindle at about version 1.0, I need help from y’all to steer me towards the right one in terms of cost / facility / whatever.

The larger, the better, and the one most like a real book, the better still.  Kindle? Paperwhite?  Oasis?  What are the differences / benefits of each?

Fuck me, I just saw the prices.  I’m going to have to have a donations drive to afford one… unless I just get the cheapest for a hundred bucks — but with my luck, it’s going to be the same as my long-discarded v1.0.


Update:  okay, which tablet?

Is this one a good idea?

Idle Thoughts

As one gets along in years, and comes to the realization that one’s time on Earth is not only limited, but foreseeable in terms of its ending, certain idle thoughts come to mind.  In my case, of course, this resolves itself inevitably into a list — in this case, loosely defined as follows:

Assuming that my health would remain more or less as it is, what would be the things I would get now that would last me the rest of my life, and give me pleasure in the use thereof?

For the sake of argument, let me also assume that I’d pare down all the crap I currently possess — sell almost all of it, really — and would have only the things on this list to keep me amused.  Unlike my  normal flights of fantasy, this would not involve a lottery win, so economics will play a part.  It’s a tough question to answer, but I’ll give it a shot, so to speak, and start with the easiest ones.

Car —  almost without question, the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF:

…because it combines fun, performance, fuel economy and reliability in equal measure and compromise.  As for space, the only cargo [sic]  I’d carry would be New Wife, or my guns to the range, or groceries back from the supermarket, and for the latter two, even the Miata’s little trunk would be adequate (long-gun cases could be carried in the front).  The top comes down for the occasional en plein air  experience, and I would be perfectly happy to tour the country in it as well.  Color is irrelevant, although I kinda like the gunmetal blue as pictured, for obvious reasons.  And speaking of gunmetal:

Rifle — it’s a tough one, but to me the Miata of rifles is the Marlin 336 in .30-30 (with a scope because of my shitty eyesight):

Light, handy, reliable, enough punch for most situations, acceptable recoil and the ammo is pretty much ubiquitous in the U.S.A.  Realistically, I’m never going to have to make any long shots, and the lever action works quickly enough for those (shall we say) social  occasions.

Plinker Rifle — this is an even tougher choice, but I’d choose the Ruger 10-22:

I don’t think I need to explain or justify this choice, do I?

Now on to the handguns:

Self-defense — no choice;  my Springfield 1911 in .45 ACP:

Once again, no explanation is necessary.

Revolver — this is a little more difficult, but I think I’d pick the (new) Colt Python 6″ in .357 Mag:

Why the new one?  Why not?  It’s new, it’s a Python, and every gunsmith I’ve spoken to on the topic says the action is far better than the old one’s, and will likely be more reliable.  Of course, I’d prefer it in Colt’s original Royal Blue, but them’s the breaks.

Plinker Handgun — easy enough choice, here: the Browning Buckmark:

Best trigger of any .22 handgun (possibly of any handgun, period), and very reliable.  I’ve owned several, and never had a bad experience with any of them.  We’re talking hours and hours of plinking fun.

Finally on guns, a shotgun, mostly for clays — I’m going to go with something a little more indulgent, i.e. the Chapuis Chasseur Classic in 20ga:

It’s different enough — not part of the Beretta / Browning / Remington / Winchester matrix, and not insanely priced like the premiums — and of course the side-by-side barrels are mandatory.  (I have a 20ga SxS already, but I keep it at Free Market Towers, for obvious reasons.  The Chapuis would be my domestic  gun.)

That’s enough guns.  On to other stuff.

Camera — I’ve done the large SLR thing, and I don’t need that anymore.  My current criteria, based on years of travel, are that the camera be small enough to fit into a coat pocket, and must take AA batteries.  Hence, the Canon Powershot SX100 IS:

I’ve owned this little sucker for well over a decade, and have no quibbles — except that when shooting in low-light situations, you absolutely have to pop it onto a tripod because its lens stabilization is not that great.  Fortunately, I have a mini tripod which travels with the Canon, and fits into the other coat pocket.  (My backup camera — a Nikon Coolpix 4300 — is much better in this regard, but it only takes Nikon’s rechargeable battery which means you have to be close to a power source to recharge it — the reason I replaced it with the Canon.  Like .30-30 and .22 LR, AA batteries are ubiquitous.)

Books — I couldn’t trim my library down any more than I already have, and it’s creeping up again (to the consternation of New Wife, who reminds me constantly that we barely have enough room extant).  Still, I intend to read and re-read several non-classic books for the rest of my life, most notably John Sandford’s Prey and Virgil Flowers novels, as well as any derivatives thereof.  Also P.G. Wodehouse, of whose works I have many, and various Ken Follett novels as well.  It’s all about the style when it comes to novels, and I love all the above in equal measure.  Of non-fiction — history — books we shall not speak.

Binoculars — I don’t use them often, but I always travel with a pair, this being my Steiner AX830 (8×30):

…and while these do okay, especially for their size, I really need something a little more powerful (10x or more, with a tripod mount if necessary, because size is not really a problem).  All suggestions are welcome.

Watch — for me, the thought of having only one watch is akin to having only one gun:  almost a fate worse than death, but if I’m going to have a couple of watches to see out my shift, they’re not going to be automatic, nor need batteries.  Hence, the Longines Master and the Tissot Heritage (depending on whether I need a black- or white face):

Nice big numbers to accommodate my (did I already say?) crappy eyes.  The Longines is twice the price of the Tissot, but still under the magic $1,000 mark.  Both are wonderfully rugged and acceptably accurate.

Music — forget about it.  My music library is quite adequate, not to say extensive, and unless I were forced to sell all of it, I could see my days out with the collected works of Valentina Lisitsa and Genesis (and maybe my Beatles boxed set).

I’m trying to think of what else qualifies under the question at the top, but other than perhaps knives (of which I have many, and just can’t think of any I’d even think of buying today), none come to mind.

As with all exercises of this genre, feel free to participate in Comments.  I look forward to your thoughts, as always.

Now THIS Means War

Okay, now it’s time for the pikes to be sharpened:

The light-hearted escapades of Jeeves and Wooster have become the latest victims of the seemingly relentless march of literature’s word police. 
PG Wodehouse’s books on the pair’s aristocratic misadventures have been identified as having what the publishers describe as ‘unacceptable’ prose. 
The comic novels have had passages cut or reworked for new editions by Penguin Random House, as well as trigger warnings added to warn readers of ‘outdated’ themes.

If any body of literature can be classified as “completely harmless”, that would be the collected works of P.G. Wodehouse, quite possibly the world’s greatest-ever humorist.

In fact, the only group of people who could lay claim to being offended by Wodehouse’s writings would be the British aristocracy, whom P.G. universally skewers on the point of his razor-sharp wit.  And they wouldn’t, because as one toff reportedly said, “Every single character in Wodehouse resembles a member of my family”.

But let us not giggle, because there is serious work to be done…


One Or The Other

If it’s not Gummint fucking us over, it’s Gummint Lite ( and its suppliers:

Owners of Roald Dahl ebooks are having their libraries automatically updated with the new censored versions containing hundreds of changes to language related to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race. Readers who bought electronic versions of the writer’s books, such as Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, before the controversial updates have discovered their copies have now been changed.

Puffin Books, the company which publishes Dahl novels, updated the electronic novels, in which Augustus Gloop is no longer described as fat or Mrs Twit as fearfully ugly, on devices such as the Amazon Kindle.

Dahl’s biographer Matthew Dennison last night accused the publisher of “strong-arming readers into accepting a new orthodoxy in which Dahl himself has played no part.”

I think it’s the “automatically” part that gets to me — even though I don’t have Kindle or any ebooks.

Thanks but no thanks. Paper, Dead Tree, whatever you want to call it, are mine, all mine. As for Kindle: turning them into “kindling” would be my suggestion.