Saturday, October 25, 2014



Chatting with my ex-wife yesterday evening the subject of Saul Steinberg's legendary New Yorker cover illustration cropped up. It has so often been parodied (as above centre) and we mused on the notion of an app which could parse data from Google Maps or StreetView and generate an image either in the style of Steinberg or of eBoy or SimCity (left and right above respectively. Call the idea far-fetched, but what huge fun it would be if the user could synthesize a 'view' from his or her own residence!

A tissue

During my long years in the Sandlands one of the things that struck me was the ubiquity in offices of boxes of tissues. I learned that their availability to guests had more to do with hospitality customs than any prevalence of the common cold. 

When I came back to Europe I brought with me a decorative dispenser box. It's not quite as elegant as the one illustrated, much more kitsch with scarlet velour and a filigree of plastic pretending to be gold mesh. Having tissues to hand is useful, given that in the evenings I tend to have bouts of sneezing and suffer from a runny nose... probably a sign that my little flat could be better ventilated than it is.

One by one, I pull a tissue from the box. And eventually I have pulled out the last one. Damn it... I have to put tissues back on the shopping list. In this time of impecunity I hate having to add any purchase to the few basics I regularly need to buy. That final tissue in the box takes on a symbolic significance. 

These gloomy thoughts are provoked by the frustration I feel, waiting still for payment for a job I did at the beginning of September. Under-employment sucks!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Further efforts

Another milestone, for what it's worth. A couple of the books listed are, of course, not mine but this will be corrected. I am pleased to have been able to post the video calling attention to my 'work in progress'.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Outed! "Gratuitous nudity"!

The web is generous with surprises. In the process of setting up my page on Author Central, the Amazon self-promotion feature for writers, I was prompted to claim the authorship of works which were properly mine. This was not at first a simple procedure, but the glitch was remedied overnight by a helpful Amazonian! It will soon be the case that my four self-published Kindle editions will be correctly linked and attributed.

But while the system was searching for traces of my creative output I was astonished to find myself correctly credited as co-author of 'Erinnerungen an Bilitis' published in 1977.

True, almost half a lifetime ago I was telling stories, although back then they were not limited to narrative prose. The book in question was an album of photography derived from the movie 'Bilitis'. In those days my storytelling involved pictures, sound and the moving image.

Is this irrelevant to the writing I have been engaged in more recently? Far from it, as I feel now obliged to confess. There are in truth links between then and now. My first Kindle outing was in fact with my novelization of a screenplay I had written earlier. An affronted reviewer of 'Roseate Dawn' complained that "The characters are constantly tossing off their clothing to prance about naked, especially when they smoke copious amounts of pot." Well, in the seventies we indulged in such enjoyable excesses! And, yes, the criticism cited above could apply to most of my stories... there is that recurring sub-text, a leitmotif which I have no intention of abandoning. 

Be reassured, however, for public readings I turn up correctly dressed and completely non-intoxicated.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Here we go again!

I tried to be clever this time, by uploading the novel to the German site ePubli. They then distribute to other ebook stores, including Kindle... where it will probably slumber undiscovered like my previous works. Why take this detour? Because I live in Germany and had the naive hope that ePubli might be a platform with promotional potential to aid discoverablity. But no... they advise me to use social networking... which explains my clumsy attempt (see yesterday's post) to establish a presence on Goodreads.

Ironic that a couple of days ago I got an email from Amazon announcing the forthcoming payment of amounts due to me as an author. I wonder if this time it will cover the cost of buying a pack of cigarettes?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Trying to be social!

The Summer of Long KnivesThe Summer of Long Knives by Jim Snowden
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

17 October... As a Goodreads newbie, I feel Imust explain the few titles I have intially added to my bookshelf. They are all, in one way or another, related to the year 1936 and in particular to developments in Germany. The reason for this focus is the fact that my current work-in-progress as a writer is a story in that setting. And so it has been instructive to read novels which were written during that time. Actually more than instructive... it was a true joy to discover belatedly the work of Dorothy L. Sayers.

I have also read the work of contemporary writers whose narrative is set in that dramatic era. One I started reading yesterday. "The Summer Of Long Knives" by Jim Snowden.

After three chapters there are some observations I feel moved to make.

1) The crisis of conscience of the protagonist, a Munich police Kommissar, is well established from the outset.

2) There are passages of scene-setting which surprise with quite lyrical eloquence.

3) In an important sequence Snowden risks peopling his storytelling with real-life characters who happen to be the most high-profile leaders of the Nazi regime. He manages to handle this challenge amazingly well, given that such a construct could easily result in disaster.

However my reading enjoyment was spoiled on almost every page by Snowden's use of language which clashes crassly with the era he describes. Turns of phrase which would be unthinkable in dialogue exchanged between people talking in the 1930s have a jarring effect. Okay, in reality they would have been talking in German. But surely the English should not include terms and references which are glaringly anachronistic. The most offensive instance came close to the end of Chapter Three. There was a description of refuse left behind after a Nazi party rally on Königsplatz in Munich... the detritus included 'gum wrappers'! As if chewing gum was widely enjoyed in Germany in the thirties!

I hope the story will keep me sufficiently enthralled to be able to ignore the language problem.

18 October... I have now reached a point one-third through the book, having finished Chapter Eleven. Although I find the storytelling more and more compelling I am still cringing every now and then when American usages intervene and there are assumptions made about life in Germany in 1936 which I find implausible. The Kommissar has a radio in his office (which I find odd) and he switches on "his favourite music station"... Sorry, but the term 'music station' is quite out of keeping for the thirties when no such genre/format broadcasters existed. Snowden's research is in some areas admirable, in others however sadly deficient.

19 October... I have now finished Chapter Sixteen and the progress bar tells me that I have read 61% of the book.

During my third reading session the Kommissar's use of radio in his automobile struck me as a probable anachronism. Even in 1937, wireless communication with police cars in England meant employing Morse code for messages and two-way radio was introduced only in the post-war years.

Apart from that I noted that when Snowden makes excursions into realms scatological, his language is colourfully contemporary, but such passages are few and can be skipped by the fastidious.

Otherwise as the plot thickens the story gallops ahead nicely.

20 October... A final reading session took me to the end of the book. I find myself in agreement with others who were well pleased by the intricate, dynamic and and finally most satisfactory plotting of the story.

And so why have I been so complaining about the Transatlantic tone adopted by the author? For many readers it might be quite acceptable, particularly those whose preferred thrillers are set in America. It is, after all, probably a question of individual taste.

I think that the several historical inaccuracies are another matter, however. My sensitivity in this respect probably owes something to my background in film and television. 'Continuity errors' in movies are an embarrassment and 'bloopers' are the cause of life-long shame. The story of the Roman gladiator in "Spartacus" wearing a Rolex wristwatch may be apocryphal but lists of movie gaffes are long.

Novelists can also err. When in London Dan Brown's protagonist seeks to take a tube train to get to King's College he makes for Temple Station. But in fact that is the station which is closest of all to King's and boarding a train there would only take him away from his destination. All in all, Jim Snowden's 'gum wrappers' and such can probably be forgiven!

My underlying point remains a simple one: the aim of an author is to immerse the reader in a world he describes, a world with its own integrity and authenticity. Any glaring improbability or crass anachronism jolts the reader out of this immersion and... in my view... spoils the fun of a good read.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Building site progress

I continue to monitor the visible signs of refurbishing at Kurf√ľrstenplatz where Brasserie Schwabing is beginning now to take shape. The gaping arches in the walls now have glazed windows. I welcome the fact that they have decided to locate the entrance to the premises on the axis of the gable (the red line above). Before one gained access through the narrower and lower opening two to the right. However the sketch is misleading, since now all of the arches (with the exception of the one on the extreme far right) are now as wide and tall as the dominant middle three.

The window and door frames have a very business-like contemporary look and I wonder if the designers have opted to avoid any 'faux French' flourishes inside. In a way that would be a shame... however much I value honesty and authenticity, I think there is a place for fantasy and escapism as part of the restaurant experience.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


I spent a while researching the significance of 26... which was an attempt to have something to say about Jessica reaching that age today. A mention of bosonic string theory seemed preferable to an outpouring of sentiment from Auld Da who remembers so well the day twenty-six years ago when my life changed for ever!

Aye, happy birthday, lassie!. 

It is reported that the birthday girl had a lovely breakfast with the obligatory candles on a little cake, and that she was able to take advantage of the unseasonably pleasant weather with a pleasant stroll  in Bethnal Green's delightful Victoria Park.  

Okay, Papi 'shooped the photo!