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Showing posts from January, 2018

The Bucket Shop

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by Keith Waterhouse - it's been a gap of many years since I last read one of his books, and it took a very long time, and the invention of the internet, for me to track down The Bucket Shop. It was his fourth novel, dating from maybe not long after he left Leeds and fetched up in London. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but it's a very used paperback, and not only features stains on many pages, but on one, what looks like a deeply embedded insect wing.

I was misled by the title. I thought a 'bucket shop' - a phrase from another age - meant one of those cheap travel agencies. No, here, it's simply a junk shop. William, the central character, wanted to be an antique dealer, but doesn't know his trade, and is clueless about business basics. So, his shop sells odds and ends, mostly at a loss. His only regular 'customer' appears to be a photographer we know only as Pringle, who owes him quite a sum, for items he's rented as props for h…

Keith Waterhouse

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I wouldn't have felt the need to introduce Keith Waterhouse in my student days. Back then, he could scarcely have been more omnipresent, as a writer. His scriptwriting, with Willis Hall and others, was all over London's West End theatre land, as well as television. In fact, only 3/4 years ago I enjoyed a production of one of his best known plays, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, by a rep company locally. He was a giant of journalism, as a columnist for the Daily Mirror and later the Daily Mail. Though not listed below, there are half a dozen published collections of his newspaper pieces. And he wrote 17 novels (I'm including the two Pooter books in this regard). But when he died in 2009, while he received many respectful tributes, it didn't make the waves it would have done even only a few years previously. His books were already hard to find, even in one of the larger Waterstones. I suspect he's been branded a man of his time, meaning the Sixties, as far as novels are c…

A Question of Integrity

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A Question of Integrity by Susan Howatch tells the story of Alice, a young woman who has experienced only disappointment and reached a very low point, who finds kindness and then hope in a Christian community centred on a London church and healing centre. It's led by a charismatic preacher with some special gifts; Alice fixates on him and develops an unhealthy obsession which she finds it hard to come to terms with, until the end of the novel. Nicholas the preacher is a problematic character, both as a type, and as the crux of the story. His gifts, which are described variously in terms of magnetism, healing and hypnosis, have a dark side, and it is his use of those gifts which raise the question of integrity in the book's title.

A Question of Integrity is very different indeed from the genres I usually read. It was a personal gift, and that entered into my attitude to the book. Perhaps I'm implying that I might otherwise have left it alone, or given it up. I don't know…