“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Abzorba Da Greek

Not long before he died, Kingsley Amis was asked in an interview what he’d do differently if he could live his life over again. He thought for a while and said, “Well, I wouldn’t read THE MAGUS again.”
  I love THE MAGUS. I know it’s not fashionable anymore, and that no one seems to read John Fowles these days, but I’ve read THE MAGUS three times (maybe four, I’ve started leaving out the last bit), and I’m gearing up to read it again. Which is a bit of a commitment, it being a re-read of 656 pages (554 if you stop where I generally stop: I was marooned; wingless and leaden, as if I had been momentarily surrounded, then abandoned, by a flock of strange winged creatures; emancipated, mysterious, departing, as singing birds pass on overhead; leaving a silence spent with voices. Which seems to me to be an excellent way to end a novel, and the experience of reading a novel, and writing one). Anyway, THE MAGUS is set on a Greek island, and Greek islands are the literary equivalent of cat-nip for yours truly.
  I’m also partial to a good private eye, and fine writing, and Paul Johnston combines all three in A DEEPER SHADE OF BLUE, which features Alex Mavros. Quoth Mr & Mrs Kirkus:
Famous for his Quintilian Dalrymple series based in 2020s Edinburgh, the first of which won the John Creasy Memorial Dagger in 1997, Johnston changes location for this thriller, set on a Greek island. Trigono is breathtakingly beautiful and seemingly peaceful. But is there an evil hidden beneath its paradisiacal exterior? Rosa Ozal, a young Turkish-American beauty, has gone missing and the clue to her last known whereabouts is a postcard from Trigono. Alex Mavros is the private detective hired to find her. But when he reaches the island he discovers a community intent on hiding its secrets, and the task of finding any information regarding Rosa is not an easy one. The sudden deaths of a young island couple, found naked in a fishing boat with terror on their faces, make the atmosphere even more sombre. And is there a connection with the dreadful events that took place on Trigono during the Second World War? The plot moves on apace and soon Alex is confronted with a terrifying murderer. This is a high-class thriller, tautly written with the contrast between the idyllic surroundings and the shadow of violent danger adding to the charged atmosphere. Johnston's plotting and characterization are just as adept as they are in his Dalrymple books, and this is a novel to be enjoyed by anyone who loves thrilling prose and action-packed storylines.
  Nice. The good news is that the Mavros trilogy is (are?) being republished in April, with A DEEPER SHADE OF BLUE renamed CRYING BLUE MURDER. I prefer the original title, but there you go. THE LAST RED DEATH and THE GOLDEN SILENCE complete the triptych, but neither of them are set on Greek islands (the Peloponnese and Athens, respectively), which is a total bummer.
  Anyone got any suggestions for Greek island novels? The last one I read was the very fine SONGS OF BLUE AND GOLD, and I need my fix.

5 comments:

maxine said...

I have read all of John Fowles, including The Magus but only once, and visited his museum and other landmarks in Lyme Regis.
Greek island novels, though? I have an idea that one of your compatriots, Maeve Binchy, wrote one, but I have not read that particular title (I've read, and enjoyed, others by her).
Mary Renault, surely, must have written GI books?

Declan Burke said...

I was in Lyme Regis last summer, Maxine, although I didn't go to the museum. Went for a stroll on the pier, though. The French Lieutenant's Woman is a great novel.

You're right, Maeve Binchy has written a Greek island novel. Haven't read it, though. I read a Mary Renault recently, The Bull from the Sea, and she definitely qualifies. Greek islands and Classical Age stories and / or mythology is good to go. Although I got badly bogged down in Robert Graves' The Golden Fleece last week ... tough sledding. I'll give it another whirl in a few weeks time.

Cheers, Dec

crimeficreader said...

Faber has the new Stav Sherez novel - The Black Monastery - coming out on April 2nd. It's set on the Greek island of Palassos. I've not read it yet, but will do soon. Faber's PR doc concludes "The Black Monastery is a blistering portrait of paradise gone wrong".

Ray Banks said...

Fuck fashion. The Collector is a fantastic book.

Declan Burke said...

The Collector is a pretty creepy novel, squire, no doubt. Left me feeling kind of dirty. A terrific quality to be able to convey.