We Didn’t Start the Fire…

It’s taken me nearly a week to chew over this one, so apologies for my slow reactions, dVerse Poets Pub.  

On the 9th of MarchBrian Miller and Gretchen Leary suggested two different types of prompts.  One was to ask someone to give you a few words to incorporate into a poem – but my own family came up with such delightful combinations as ‘poohead’, ‘smosh-smosh’ and ‘supercalifragilistic’, so I soon gave up on that one.  The second was to think of a seminal song from when we were growing up and I instantly thought of Billy Joel’s ‘We didn’t start the fire’.  So, for the past few days I’ve been trying to add a few verses to that song, to bring it up to date.  This has been far more difficult than I thought! [Perhaps I will write another time a post about the difference between hard-working form or imitation versus spontaneous poetic outburst.]  In the end, my rhymes and verbal verve are not quite up to the original, but here goes:

 

One day like this or a few weeks of medal fever, cheering loud,

Being nice, a good sport, no rain falling from our cloud.

Dontcha feel unsisterly vibes at work or when you raise your child?

If you’re poor, endure the jibes, you’re universally reviled!

 

People killed every day at the click of a mouse,

Together we are forced to stay, shore up the value of our house…

Celtic Tiger lost his roar, gulf in Spain is golf no more,

Pension plans are sinking down, bankers screwing everyone.

Gladiator, Amelie, turned all blue in Avatar.

Lucky we can drive away in our silent Prius car.

 

We didn’t start the fire

It was always burning

Since the world’s been turning

US is divided nation, tsunami and radiation,

Greeks protest austerity, nought left for posterity.

I don’t know where to  turn –  is there anything left to burn?

We didn’t start the fire

No we didn’t light it

But we tried to fight it

July Reads and Pick of the Month

I haven’t read only crime fiction this month (although, as usual, it does form the bulk of my reading).  The reason for that is only partly because there were so many interesting books in other genres on my To Read list.  The other reason, of course, is that I am trying to distance myself a little bit from the genre while I am editing my own crime fiction novel.  Otherwise I risk including every clever plot device or brilliant scene from each novel I read into my own piecemeal effort – making it even more of a dog’s dinner than it already is!  (Can you tell I am going through my ‘down’ phase, where I think every sentence is horrible?)

So here are the books I have read this month.  I have included links if I have already reviewed them, here or elsewhere, and I am also linking to Mysteries in Paradise and their Pick of the Month.

1) So far, so French (or Franco-Swiss), at least in terms of setting.

Sylvie Granotier: The Paris Lawyer

Simenon: Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets

Simenon: Maigret et l’inspecteur Malgracieux (I am planning a special on Maigret for September)

Cathy Ace: The Corpse with the Silver Tongue

Estelle Monbrun: Meurtre chez Colette (I really wanted to like this one, because I am a Colette fan, but it was disappointing)

Anita Brookner: Hotel du Lac. Precise, elegant, poignant.  Midlife crisis handled with English poise – heartbreaking.

2) The holiday locations continue with:

Jeffrey Siger: Murder on Mykonos.  Excellent description of the island, of Greek politics and lifestyle in general, good use of suspense, although the ending did feel a bit random.  I especially loved the idea of the local policemen Googling information about serial killers.

Natsuo Kirino: Out (Japan). A shocker – not for the faint-hearted.  I will write a post in late August or early September about contemporary Japanese fiction, as this is one of my favourite topics.

Carlos Zanón: The Barcelona Brothers  (review of this will appear shortly on the Crime Fiction Lover website)

Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Marina (also set in Barcelona). Mix of genres and stories – this is mystery, ghost story, love story, sci-fi, historical romance. Beautiful imagery and recaptures a vanished world of ruined Barcelona mansions. Reminded me of the nostalgia and luscious detail of ‘Le Grand Meaulnes’.

3) Then we have the familiar stomping ground of London or Cambridge:

Stav Sherez: A Dark Redemption

Robin Webster: The Blues Man. Fast pace, intricate plot, some nice references to blues music and an uncompromising look at the seedy underbelly of London’s drug-dealing and prostitution world.  Promised much but under-delivered, I fear.

Alison Bruce: Cambridge Blue.  Loved the setting, loved the young and atypical detective, loved his grandmother (I hope she continues to appear in the next books of the series).

Barbara Pym: Excellent Women.  Not my favourite Pym novel, but her usual wry humour is evident here.

4) And finally, a few American ladies with no criminal tendencies whatsoever:

Alice Sebold: The Lovely Bones

Barbara Ehrenreich: Smile or Die (I believe it’s called ‘Bright-Sided’ in the US) – non-fiction, about the relentless promotion of positive thinking in the United States

Alice Baudat: The Wooden Bowl – a review and interview with the author will appear on this blog in September

And the winner is: Stav Sherez.  You can find a detailed review here and an author interview with him here (neither written by me – because the question I would have asked is: what on earth is Stav short for?).  As far as my own thoughts go, I found this book very atmospheric: the author captures the heat and dust of Africa just as well as the grime and rain of London (particularly its lesser known and sleazier parts). Well written, evocative yet parsimonious use of language. And I like the way the two main detectives have complicated backgrounds, yet manage to steer clear of clichéed representation.  If the first of the series is so good, I can hardly wait to see what the rest of them will be like!

And what, you may well ask, has that picture got to do with my July reading?  Nothing, except that I felt as snug as a cat because I got the chance to read so many books this month (not likely to happen again any time soon).