3 Books Weekly #1 - America and Essex
09.00, Friday 4 Mar 2016 Link to this post
The following was first posted on the 3 Books Weekly email newsletter and has since been archived here.
If you enjoy these faves, please tell your friends, and look out for edition #2 on Friday next week :)
#1. For Richer, For Poorer: Confessions of a Player, by Victoria Coren
I bought this because I love books about poker and Victoria Coren always strikes me as a good egg when I see her on the telly. This book is so much better than those two facts would lead you to believe. She’s much more than a good egg, she’s a sharp and tender writer who soaks you in poker language (that you don’t quite understand and have to read like poetry) and then pulls you out and shows you the people and their world with clear, precise, ironic wit. You learn about the playing of the game, about the changes ‘the industry’ went through, you learn how poker slotted oddly but completely into her life. I’ve read a lot of books about poker. This is the best.
#2. Cargo Of Eagles, by Margery Allingham
On another day I could easily be recommending a Dorothy L Sayers novel, probably Murder Must Advertise, I love golden age detective fiction novels. But I think what swung it for me is that Campion (Allingham’s hero) started as a parody of Lord Peter Whimsey (Sayers’ hero) and so he’s always a bit lighter and more fantastical - even in the later books where she takes things more seriously. And Campion has the best business card of all time. It reads: “Coups Neatly Executed, Nothing Sordid, Vulgar or Plebeian, Deserving Cases Preferred, Police No Object.” Cargo of Eagles is the latest of the later books, a treasure hunt and a jaunt, bouncing between London and the mysterious, hidden bits of smuggler’s Essex - “London’s back-door”, “the funnel through which secret goods or people were smuggled in or out of East London”.
#3. Blue Highways: A Journey into America, by William Least Heat-Moon
Recommending this book is dangerous. It’s a book I loved when I was 15, it’s hard for me to be objective. It might be like me recommending Jonathan Livingston Seagull or The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. It was written in the late 70s by an English professor who lost his job and went to discover America - it might be the worst kind of hippy nonsense. But I don’t think so, because he sticks to the smallest roads on the map (the Blue Highways) and he visits the towns “that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi.” He drives slowly and he visits diners and talks to the elderly and the odd and the punk-kid in you wants to hate it. But you can’t because it’s lovely. It made me want to drive around America, and it made me glad I did.