Sunday, October 26, 2014

Reading matters

48 Hours (City of London, #1)48 Hours by J. Jackson Bentley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When so minded I can cavil with the best of them, nit-pick and chunter like a grumpy old git. It seems that "48 Hours" has attracted the attention of some who have these predilections.

They complain that the proof-reading has not been sufficiently thorough. Surely allowances must be made for the fact that self-publishers are on their own... self-editing one's text for the nth time borders on masochism. And so, yes, a scattering of typos must be reckoned with.

Then there are reviewers who seem to be sorely offended by the kind of ebook formatting oddities which make reading less comfortable than it might otherwise be. But in this respect surely the author is blameless.

It is easy to write off petty criticisms of this nature. It is more tricky when it comes to suggestions that "48 Hours" is fatally flawed by underlying plotting implausibility. The reader is invited to immerse himself or herself in a fictitious world in which protagonists who are 'civilians' enjoy a very close relationship with the forces of law and order. The relationship may not reflect 'real life' accurately, but it makes for gripping and highly entertaining storytelling.

And surely entertainment is what it is about here. Or do we spurn the writings of Ian Fleming because of unrealistic portrayal of the secret agent? Do we avoid the work of Dan Brown because of his frequent 'bloopers'?

"48 Hours" entertains wonderfully. This is a spiffing, almost old-fashioned yarn, the tale of a complex caper pulling the reader from chapter to chapter. It is also rich in contemporaneity... one recalls newspaper headlines and controversial issues when presented with some of the passages which are generous with well-researched information. There are sufficient action-adventure highlights, and yet in no instance are there stomach-churning descriptions of violence or suffering. There is a developing romance, but no cringe-worthy pages of inept description of sexual antics.

It is admittedly demanded of the reader that he or she suspend some measure of disbelief in order to enjoy the overall construct of the author's mischief making. And this goes beyond just the text on our Kindle screens. We are possibly inclined to assume that J Jackson Bentley is a descendant of the cynical American journalist, Jackson Bentley, who wrote for the Chicago Courier.

Then we finally smirk at the realization that this figure was imagined by Robert Bolt, the scriptwriter of "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1962.

A tangled web, indeed, in which this reader will be happy to remain enmeshed.

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