“Echoes From The Past”, buried, but not deep enough

On special, now only $0.99 for the next few weeks.


What happens when your past finally catches up with you?

Christmas is just around the corner, a time to be with family. For Will Mason, an orphan since he was fourteen, it is a time for reflection on what his life could have been, and what it could be.

Until a chance encounter brings back to life the reasons for his twenty years of self-imposed exile from a life only normal people could have. From that moment Will’s life slowly starts to unravel and it’s obvious to him it’s time to move on.

This time, however, there is more at stake.

Will has broken his number one rule, don’t get involved.

With his nemesis, Eddie Jamieson, suddenly within reach, and a blossoming relationship with an office colleague, Maria, about to change everything, Will has to make a choice. Quietly leave, or finally, make a stand.

But as Will soon discovers, when other people are involved there is going to be terrible consequences no matter what choice he makes.

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The first case of PI Walthenson – “A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers”

This case has everything, red herrings, jealous brothers, femme fatales, and at the heart of it all, greed.

See below for an excerpt from the book…

Coming soon!

PIWalthJones1

An excerpt from the book:

When Harry took the time to consider his position, a rather uncomfortable position at that, he concluded that he was somehow involved in another case that meant very little to him.

Not that it wasn’t important in some way he was yet to determine, it was just that his curiosity had got the better of him, and it had led to this: sitting in a chair, securely bound, waiting for someone one of his captors had called Doug.

It was not the name that worried him so much, it was the evil laugh that had come after the name was spoken.

Doug what? Doug the ‘destroyer’, Doug the ‘dangerous’, Doug the ‘deadly’; there was any number of sinister connotations, and perhaps that was the point of the laugh, to make it more frightening than it was.

But there was no doubt about one thing in his mind right then: he’d made a mistake. A very big. and costly, mistake. Just how big the cost, no doubt he would soon find out.

His mother, and his grandmother, the wisest person he had ever known, had once told him never to eavesdrop.

At the time he couldn’t help himself and instead of minding his own business, listening to a one-sided conversation which ended with a time and a place. The very nature of the person receiving the call was, at the very least, sinister, and, because of the cryptic conversation, there appeared to be, or at least to Harry, criminal activity involved.

For several days he had wrestled with the thought of whether he should go. Stay on the fringe, keep out of sight, observe and report to the police if it was a crime. Instead, he had willingly gone down the rabbit hole.

Now, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, several heat lamps hanging over his head, he was perspiring, and if perspiration could be used as a measure of fear, then Harry’s fear was at the highest level.

Another runnel of sweat rolled into his left eye, and, having his hands tied, literally, it made it impossible to clear it. The burning sensation momentarily took his mind off his predicament. He cursed and then shook his head trying to prevent a re-occurrence. It was to no avail.

Let the stinging sensation be a reminder of what was right and what was wrong.

It was obvious that it was the right place and the right time, but in considering his current perilous situation, it definitely was the wrong place to be, at the worst possible time.

It was meant to be his escape, an escape from the generations of lawyers, what were to Harry, dry, dusty men who had been in business since George Washington said to the first Walthenson to step foot on American soil, ‘Why don’t you become a lawyer?” when asked what he could do for the great man.

Or so it was handed down as lore, though Harry didn’t think Washington meant it literally, the Walthenson’s, then as now, were not shy of taking advice.

Except, of course, when it came to Harry.

He was, Harry’s father was prone to saying, the exception to every rule. Harry guessed his father was referring to the fact his son wanted to be a Private Detective rather than a dry, dusty lawyer. Just the clothes were enough to turn Harry off the profession.

So, with a little of the money Harry inherited from one of his aunts, he leased an office in Gramercy Park and had it renovated to look like the Sam Spade detective agency, you know the one, Spade and Archer, and The Maltese Falcon.

There’s a movie and a book by Dashiell Hammett if you’re interested.

So, there it was, painted on the opaque glass inset of the front door, ‘Harold Walthenson, Private Detective’.

There was enough money to hire an assistant, and it took a week before the right person came along, or, more to the point, didn’t just see his business plan as something sinister. Ellen, a tall cool woman in a long black dress, or so the words of a song in his head told him, fitted in perfectly.

She’d seen the movie, but she said with a grin, Harry was no Humphrey Bogart.

Of course not, he said, he didn’t smoke.

Three months on the job, and it had been a few calls, no ‘real’ cases, nothing but missing animals, and other miscellaneous items. What he really wanted was a missing person. Or perhaps a beguiling, sophisticated woman who was as deadly as she was charming, looking for an errant husband, perhaps one that she had already ‘dispatched’.

Or for a tall, dark and handsome foreigner who spoke in riddles and in heavily accented English, a spy, or perhaps an assassin, in town to take out the mayor. The man was such an imbecile Harry had considered doing it himself.

Now, in a back room of a disused warehouse, that wishful thinking might be just about to come to a very abrupt end, with none of the romanticized trappings of the business befalling him. No beguiling women, no sinister criminals, no stupid policemen.

Just a nasty little man whose only concern was how quickly or how slowly Harry’s end was going to be.

© Charles Heath 2019

Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 28

I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.

The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritizing.

But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.

Chasing leads, maybe

 

It was rather an anti-climax to see the cat, Herman, come slinking out of the bedroom, down the passage, and then stop just at the edge of the room to look at the visitors.

He must have been hiding in her room all this time, and when he’d heard the door close, he thought it was safe to come out.

Jan saw him and held out her hand, “Come on, Herman, you’re safe now.”

He didn’t seem to agree and sat down just back of that invisible line in the sand that he wasn’t, yet going to step over.

But he did meow a few times, just to let us know he wasn’t pleased.

“Now that you’ve seen the cat, what were you thinking might be of significance?”

“I don’t know.  The fact he considered the cat his might have been significant in some way.”

Herman was back on his paws and taking tentative steps towards Jan.  Each time he stopped, he looked sideways at me, waiting.  Perhaps he thought I might attack him.  It would be the other way around.

“Doesn’t trust me, does he?”

He took a step back at the sound of my voice.

“Don’t listen to him Herman, you’re safe here with me.”

He looked at her, the same expression on his face he gave me.  Talk about the original poker face.  I doubt anyone could guess what he was thinking.  

A few more steps, then about a yard away he stopped again and sat.  He then spent the next few minutes looking at me.  Was this a test to see who blinked first?  I knew who would win that contest.  Not me.

Jan moved slightly and he jumped, and moved back several steps, looking warily at us both now.

“We’re not going to win him over, are we?”

“Maybe, maybe not.  There are a bowl and some food in the other room.  Put some in the bowl and bring it to me.”

Ah, the way to a cat’s heart is through his stomach.  I think the only thing relevant to that statement was that he was male.  I did as she asked, and handed her the bowl, and resumed my position, far enough away for him not to consider me a threat.

He watched me leave the room and return again, and I think he recognized the bowl, and that we were about to trick him into submission.

She put the bowl down next to her and patted the floor.

“It’s your favorite, Herman.”

Yes, head movements, and was he sniffing to see if he could recognize what was in the bowl?  Maybe he was hungry after being hidden away.  Would starvation overcome a fear of strangers?

A minute later we had the answer.  He was hungry and tentatively came over before smelling what was in the bowl before starting to eat.

Jan patted him.

“Works every time,” she said.

Both of us realized at the same time that Herman had a collar, slightly lost in the fur.  And she had the same idea as I did, that the collar might be significant.

She removed it as gently as she could without startling him, and then looked at it, around the outside, and then on the inside, and a sudden change of expression told me she found something.

“VS P4 L324.  What do you think that means?” she asked?

“Whatever it is, it’s a reminder that’s significant to O’Connell, or it is a message to someone if anything happened to him.  I expect that might mean it was a message to you.  You shared the cat so, clearly, he thought at some point in time you would look.”

“If he was expecting me to decipher it, then he must have seen something in me that I can’t.”

“You would work it out in time.  The point is if he hid that in plain sight, believing that if anyone came, they would take no notice of the car, then what else might he have hidden.  Does the cat have a bed?

“Not at his place, he used to sleep at the end of his bed.  But I put out an old blanket.”

How did she know the cat slept on the end of O’Connell’s bed?  I wasn’t going to ask, but if they were more than just friends, perhaps he had confided some details of what he was doing.

“In your room?”

“In the spare room where you found the food.”

I went back to the room found the blanked tossed in a corner, put there by the person who searched her flat no doubt, because I couldn’t see the cat doing it, not unless he was extremely bad-tempered and had super cat powers to move objects multiple times heavier than he was.

I picked it up and immediately had cat hair on my clothes.  Good thing then I wasn’t allergic to cats.

Then, I had a feeling someone was watching me.  I was right, Herman had come back to see what I was doing.

“Just straightening it out for you,” I said.

The death stare didn’t change.  He just stood there looking at me.  Or was he looking through me at something else, like a ghost?  It was slightly un-nerving.

I felt around the edges and suddenly, in the middle of one side, where the manufacturer’s label was, it felt like something was under it.  On closer examination, I could see the stitching had been removed for several inches in length and then crudely sewn it back together.  Inside what would be a pouch, I could feel something under the material, and with a little more twisting I thought it might be a tag.

I’d seen a pair of scissors in the kitchen and came back to get them.  Jan was busy trying to position the wet part of the towel over her head.  After I’d finished with the blanket, I would fetch her some Panadol.

I gently cut the crude stitches and then wriggled the item out.  It was a card with a number on it, 324.  That was all that was printed on the card.  Not what it was, who it belonged to, or what it represented.  I went back into the room where the cat was now sitting on her leg.

“There was a card sewn into the blanket.  It has the number 324 on it.  That would make it…”

“… a check for a post box, or safety deposit box, or a storage locker.”

Not exactly what I was going to say, but close enough.

Then she said, “It’s the same number on the collar.  L324.  Locker 324.  Somewhere defined by VS and P4.”

“Do you have a computer?”

“Not here.  Do you?”

“No.”

“Then I’ll go into the office and use one of theirs.  I assume you can do the same?”

I could, but I wasn’t quite sure what or who would be waiting for me,, now that I knew I couldn’t trust Nobbin.

“To be honest, I don’t think it’s safe for me.  It’s probably better if I don’t, not until I can find out who is who.”

Either of the two, Nobbin or Severin could be on the wrong side, maybe even both of them.  I was surprised that Severin didn’t drag me off when he came for Maury.  Perhaps I was still useful to him in the field as a second-string to finding the USB.

I helped her to stand.  

“No time like the present.  I’ll let you know what I find if anything.  Are you going to stay here?” she asked.  

“No.  Severin knows about this place and might come back.  We’re done here.  I’ll make sure the cat gets out.  I don’t think you should come back here unless you have to.”

“Then I’ll see you at the hotel.”

© Charles Heath 2020

Just one of many reading lists – part 3

**Please don’t assume that you have to, nor would I ever expect you to,  read any or all of these books.  You don’t.**

Everyone, it seems, will publish what they call the top 100 books that you should read. Some are voted on, some belong to the opinion of the editor of the book review section of a newspaper, and, as you know, there are a lot of newspapers, a lot of editors, and a lot of opinions.

I’m not a newspaper, I’m not an editor, but I have a list, based on personal experience, and many, many years of reading.

It’s in no particular order.

41.  The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as a host of other Sherlock Holmes stories

42.  The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, one of Conrad’s later political novels, set in London in 1886 and deals with anarchism and espionage.  In those days spies were called anarchists.

43.  The Ipcress File by Len Deighton, introducing us to Harry Palmer, who was personified by Michael Caine and led to Horse Under Water, and Funeral in Berlin.  More of Len Deighton later on in the list

44.  The Remorseful Day by Colin Dexter introducing the somewhat enigmatic detective, Morse, his first name not revealed for a long time but oddly, Endeavour.  John Thaw brought him to life

45.  Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, hard to pronounce and even harder to read, but perhaps worth it in the end.  By the time I read this I was wishing for a Russian writer had could use an economy of words

46.  Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak wasn’t it.  A vast and lengthy dissertation on lost love, I felt very sad for Zhivago in the end.  I saw a stage play of the same name, and I’m sorry, but it’s a few hours of my life I will never get back

47.  Casino Royale, the first of the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming.  I have to say these are among my favorite spy books.  I must say I preferred the new James Bond in Casino Royale, though Sean Connery still rules!

48.  The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsythe, a fascinating story about an assassin

49.  Anything written by John Le Carre, but in particular, the George Smiley collection.  Finally unmasking his nemesis the Russian spymaster made it all so satisfying.

50.  The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlam, inspiring a long series by both Ludlam and Eric Lustbader makes entertaining reading, but the first, the man who did not know who or what he really was, was excellent.  Matt Damon didn’t harm his persona either.

51.  Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers, whose detective is Lord Peter Whimsey, a 1933 mystery novel that’s eighth in the series

52.  Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.  You have to admit that his Russian detective Arkady Renko is up against it when his investigation goes in a direction that uncovers corruption and dishonest in his superiors

53.  The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler, a semi-autobiographical novel written between 1987 and 1884, and published in 1903.  The story of the Pontifex family.

54.  Howards End by E. M. Forster, first published in 1910, is an interesting insight into the behavior of the, and between the classes, with the Schlegels acting as the catalyst.

55.  Washington Square by Henry James, originally published as a serial, and covers the conflict between daughter and father.  I must say I prefer The Ambassadors to Washington Square.

56.  Ulysses by James Joyce, a day in the life of an ordinary man, Leopold Bloom, why could it not be the 7th June rather than the 16th, for obvious reasons

57.  The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley is a view of society at the end of the Victorian period through the eyes of a young boy.  I read this while still at school and had no clue why, but later, when I read it again, I understood the meaning

58.  Atonement by Ian McEwan, I saw the film and then read the book.  Never a good idea.  Basically, a young girl makes a bad mistake and tries to atone for it.

59.  Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell, the War and Peace of Americal novels, and as long by comparison.  The only book written by Mitchell, and the second most read book by Americans.  The film was interesting but awfully long.

60.  The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, with a man with severe burns and the effect he had on three others.  Colin Firth is villain one day and hero the next, this time in the cinematic version, an out and out cad.

More to come…

 

An excerpt from “The Things We Do For Love”

In the distance he could hear the dinner bell ringing and roused himself.  Feeling the dampness of the pillow, and fearing the ravages of pent up emotion, he considered not going down but thought it best not to upset Mrs. Mac, especially after he said he would be dining.

In the event, he wished he had reneged, especially when he discovered he was not the only guest staying at the hotel.

Whilst he’d been reminiscing, another guest, a young lady, had arrived.  He’d heard her and Mrs. Mac coming up the stairs, and then shown to a room on the same floor, perhaps at the other end of the passage.

Henry caught his first glimpse of her when she appeared at the door to the dining room, waiting for Mrs. Mac to show her to a table.

She was about mid-twenties, slim, long brown hair, and the grace and elegance of a woman associated with countless fashion magazines.  She was, he thought, stunningly beautiful with not a hair out of place, and make-up flawlessly applied.  Her clothes were black, simple, elegant, and expensive, the sort an heiress or wife of a millionaire might condescend to wear to a lesser occasion than dinner.

Then there was her expression; cold, forbidding, almost frightening in its intensity.  And her eyes, piercingly blue and yet laced with pain.  Dracula’s daughter was his immediate description of her.

All in all, he considered, the only thing they had in common was, like him, she seemed totally out of place.

Mrs. Mac came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.  She was, she informed him earlier, chef, waitress, hotelier, barmaid, and cleaner all rolled into one.  Coming up to the new arrival she said, “Ah, Miss Andrews, I’m glad you decided to have dinner.  Would you like to sit with Mr. Henshaw, or would you like to have a table of your own?”

Henry could feel her icy stare as she sized up his appeal as a dining companion, making the hair on the back on his neck stand up.  He purposely didn’t look back.  In his estimation, his appeal rating was minus six.  Out of a thousand!

“If Mr. Henshaw doesn’t mind….”  She looked at him, leaving the query in mid-air.

He didn’t mind and said so.  Perhaps he’d underestimated his rating.

“Good.”  Mrs. Mac promptly ushered her over.  Henry stood, made sure she was seated properly and sat.

“Thank you.  You are most kind.”  The way she said it suggested snobbish overtones.

“I try to be when I can.”  It was supposed to nullify her sarcastic tone but made him sound a little silly, and when she gave him another of her icy glares, he regretted it.

Mrs. Mac quickly intervened, asking, “Would you care for the soup?”

They did, and, after writing the order on her pad, she gave them each a look, imperceptibly shook her head, and returned to the kitchen.

Before Michelle spoke to him again, she had another quick look at him, trying to fathom who and what he might be.  There was something about him.

His eyes, they mirrored the same sadness she felt, and, yes, there was something else, that it looked like he had been crying?  There was a tinge of redness.

Perhaps, she thought, he was here for the same reason she was.

No.  That wasn’t possible.

Then she said, without thinking, “Do you have any particular reason for coming here?”  Seconds later she realized she’s spoken it out loud, had hadn’t meant to actually ask, it just came out.

It took him by surprise, obviously not the first question he was expecting her to ask of him.

“No, other than it is as far from civilization, and home, as I could get.”

At least we agree on that, she thought.

It was obvious he was running away from something as well.

Given the isolation of the village and lack of geographic hospitality, it was, from her point of view, ideal.  All she had to do was avoid him, and that wouldn’t be difficult.

After getting through this evening first.

“Yes,” she agreed.  “It is that.”

A few seconds passed, and she thought she could feel his eyes on her and wasn’t going to look up.

Until he asked, “What’s your reason?”

Slight abrupt in manner, perhaps as a result of her question, and the manner in which she asked it.

She looked up.  “Rest.  And have some time to myself.”

She hoped he would notice the emphasis she had placed on the word ‘herself’ and take due note.  No doubt, she thought,  she had completely different ideas of what constituted a holiday than he, not that she had actually said she was here for a holiday.

Mrs. Mac arrived at a fortuitous moment to save them from further conversation.

 

Over the entree, she wondered if she had made a mistake coming to the hotel.  Of course, there had been no possible way she could know than anyone else might have booked the same hotel, but realized it was foolish to think she might end up in it by herself.

Was that what she was expecting?

Not a mistake then, but an unfortunate set of circumstances, which could be overcome by being sensible.

Yet, there he was, and it made her curious, not that he was a man, by himself, in the middle of nowhere, hiding like she was, but for very different reasons.

On discreet observance whilst they ate, she gained the impression his air of light-heartedness was forced and he had no sense of humor.

This feeling was engendered by his looks, unruly dark hair, and permanent frown.  And then there was his abysmal taste in clothes on a tall, lanky frame.  They were quality but totally unsuited to the wearer.

Rebellion was written all over him.

The only other thought crossing her mind, and rather incongruously, was he could do with a decent feed.  In that respect, she knew now from the mountain of food in front of her, he had come to the right place.

“Mr. Henshaw?”

He looked up.  “Henshaw is too formal.  Henry sounds much better,” he said, with a slight hint of gruffness.

“Then my name is Michelle.”

Mrs. Mac came in to take their order for the only main course, gather up the entree dishes, then return to the kitchen.

“Staying long?” she asked.

“About three weeks.  Yourself?”

“About the same.”

The conversation dried up.

Neither looked at the other, rather at the walls, out the window, towards the kitchen, anywhere.  It was, she thought, almost unbearably awkward.

 

Mrs. Mac returned with a large tray with dishes on it, setting it down on the table next to theirs.

“Not as good as the usual cook,” she said, serving up the dinner expertly, “but it comes a good second, even if I do say so myself.  Care for some wine?”

Henry looked at Michelle.  “What do you think?”

“I’m used to my dining companions making the decision.”

You would, he thought.  He couldn’t help but notice the cutting edge of her tone.  Then, to Mrs. Mac, he named a particular White Burgundy he liked and she bustled off.

“I hope you like it,” he said, acknowledging her previous comment with a smile that had nothing to do with humor.

“Yes, so do I.”

Both made a start on the main course, a concoction of chicken and vegetables that were delicious, Henry thought, when compared to the bland food he received at home and sometimes aboard my ship.

It was five minutes before Mrs. Mac returned with the bottle and two glasses.  After opening it and pouring the drinks, she left them alone again.

Henry resumed the conversation.  “How did you arrive?  I came by train.”

“By car.”

“Did you drive yourself?”

And he thought, a few seconds later, that was a silly question, otherwise she would not be alone, and certainly not sitting at this table. With him.

“After a fashion.”

He could see that she was formulating a retort in her mind, then changed it, instead, smiling for the first time, and it served to lighten the atmosphere.

And in doing so, it showed him she had another more pleasant side despite the fact she was trying not to look happy.

“My father reckons I’m just another of ‘those’ women drivers,” she added.

“Whatever for?”

“The first and only time he came with me I had an accident.  I ran up the back of another car.  Of course, it didn’t matter to him the other driver was driving like a startled rabbit.”

“It doesn’t help,” he agreed.

“Do you drive?”

“Mostly people up the wall.”  His attempt at humor failed.  “Actually,” he added quickly, “I’ve got a very old Morris that manages to get me where I’m going.”

The apple pie and cream for dessert came and went and the rapport between them improved as the wine disappeared and the coffee came.  Both had found, after getting to know each other better, their first impressions were not necessarily correct.

“Enjoy the food?” Mrs. Mac asked, suddenly reappearing.

“Beautifully cooked and delicious to eat,” Michelle said, and Henry endorsed her remarks.

“Ah, it does my heart good to hear such genuine compliments,” she said, smiling.  She collected the last of the dishes and disappeared yet again.

“What do you do for a living,” Michelle asked in an off-hand manner.

He had a feeling she was not particularly interested and it was just making conversation.

“I’m a purser.”

“A what?”

“A purser.  I work on a ship doing the paperwork, that sort of thing.”

“I see.”

“And you?”

“I was a model.”

“Was?”

“Until I had an accident, a rather bad one.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

So that explained the odd feeling he had about her.

As the evening had worn on, he began to think there might be something wrong, seriously wrong with her because she didn’t look too well.  Even the carefully applied makeup, from close up, didn’t hide the very pale, and tired look, or the sunken, dark ringed eyes.

“I try not to think about it, but it doesn’t necessarily work.  I’ve come here for peace and quiet, away from doctors and parents.”

“Then you will not have to worry about me annoying you.  I’m one of those fall-asleep-reading-a-book types.”

Perhaps it would be like ships passing in the night and then smiled to himself about the analogy.

Dinner now over, they separated.

Henry went back to the lounge to read a few pages of his book before going to bed, and Michelle went up to her room to retire for the night.

But try as he might, he was unable to read, his mind dwelling on the unusual, yet the compellingly mysterious person he would be sharing the hotel with.

Overlaying that original blurred image of her standing in the doorway was another of her haunting expressions that had, he finally conceded, taken his breath away, and a look that had sent more than one tingle down his spine.

She may not have thought much of him, but she had certainly made an impression on him.

 

© Charles Heath 2015-2020

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“The Devil You Don’t”, be careful what you wish for

Now only $0.99 for a short time at https://amzn.to/2Xyh1ow

John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums. Looking for new opportunities, prevaricating about getting married, the only joy on the horizon was an upcoming visit to his grandmother in Sorrento, Italy.

Suddenly he is left at the check-in counter with a message on his phone telling him the marriage is off, and the relationship is over.

If only he hadn’t promised a friend he would do a favor for him in Rome.

At the first stop, Geneva, he has a chance encounter with Zoe, an intriguing woman who captures his imagination from the moment she boards the Savoire, and his life ventures into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

That ‘favor’ for his friend suddenly becomes a life-changing event, and when Zoe, the woman who he knows is too good to be true, reappears, danger and death follow.

Shot at, lied to, seduced, and drawn into a world where nothing is what it seems, John is dragged into an adrenaline-charged undertaking, where he may have been wiser to stay with the ‘devil you know’ rather than opt for the ‘devil you don’t’.

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Just one of many reading lists – part 2

**Please don’t assume that you have to, nor would I ever expect you to,  read any or all of these books.  You don’t.**

Everyone, it seems, will publish what they call the top 100 books that you should read.  Some are voted on, some belong to the opinion of the editor of the book review section of a newspaper, and, as you know, there are a lot of newspapers, a lot of editors, and a lot of opinions.

I’m not a newspaper, I’m not an editor, but I have a list, based on personal experience, and many, many years of reading.

It’s in no particular order.

21.  Passage of Arms by Eric Ambler, I have to say I have read most of his novels and they are very good

22.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, a very powerful story of a courageous, independent woman

23.  The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers, a 1903 secret service story, and a good example of an early espionage novel

24.  The Father Brown stories by G. K. Chesterton, which features a Roman Catholic priest who is also an amateur detective

25.  The Grantchester Mysteries by James Runcie, similar to the above, but featuring an Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers and set in the 1950s.  Recently brought to life on television.

26.  The High Commissioner by Jon Cleary, an Australian author, this novel introduces Sargeant Scobie Malone, in the first of many adventures

27.  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the first Dickens book I read, possibly because it was one of the shortest, and paved the way to reading all of his books.  Who could forget Madame Defarge

28.  Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, another of those delightful but depressing stories of the 20s through to the 40s, perhaps for some, the golden age.  What could be said, in the end, about the Flytes?

29.  The Godfather by Mario Puzo, is the story of the Corleone mafia family, and for me, the most interesting part was that of the horse’s head, and of course, the death and mayhem

30.  The Shipping News by Annie Prouix, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a story about a man, Quoyle, who against all odds puts his life slowly back together

31.  Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer, noted mostly for her Regency romances, she also wrote a series of detective novels.  This was her last detective novel published in 1953

32.  Poldark by Winston Graham, a series of stories about the Poldarks and Cornwall, and his arch-nemesis, George Warleggan

33.  Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene, one of many very interesting novels, this the first I read, followed by the Quiet American and Travels With My Aunt.  Seeing movies of some didn’t enhance the reading experience.

34.  The Mayor Of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, another of his interesting but sometimes hard to read novels of rural England.  This led to Jude the Obscure and others in the ‘series’.  It all started with Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

35.  A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, set during the Italian campaign of World War 1.  He also wrote The Old Man of the Sea

36.  Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, I don’t think he was all that lucky

37.  Whiskey Galore by Compton MacKenzie, the story of the ‘resue’ of several hundred cases of whiskey and the locals’ efforts to hide it.  Also famous for writing Monarch of the Glen, later a television series

38.  The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett, a collection of satirical observations of English life in the 1700s in spa towns and seaside resorts

39.  Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope, part of the series known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire and features the unpopular Bishop Proudie and Mrs. Proudie

40. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, Christie’s first book published in 1920, and introduced Poirot, Arthur Hastings, and Inspector Japp.  Who knew so many books would follow

The list continues