We have just returned from two weeks’ walking in the Austrian Tyrol. Most days offered about an hour or two’s reading time before dinner plus however much could be squeezed in at the day’s end before the eyelids finally came down (I regularly wake up with a book open before me and my bedside light still on, and sometimes am urged to redress this state of affairs by stern words or a sharp prod in the ribs from ‘She who must be obeyed’).
I love holiday reading because there is generally far more time for this shared favourite pastime and the books are always chosen most carefully. This year I took with me Excursion to Tindari by Andrea Camilleri, The Wolf and the Buffalo by Elmer Kelton and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (on Kindle). I did avail myself too of a couple of books from the hotel’s own bookshelves by writers who had great reviews and interesting blurb, but after giving them a try and finding myself up to my neck in ad(verb) nauseam, they were subsequently abandoned.
I read Andrea Camilleri’s Excursion to Tindari first and thoroughly enjoyed it. I discovered that it was actually the fifth in the Inspector Montalbano series, but to be honest, although I intend to read the books in order from now on, I don’t think it made a whole lot of difference to either my understanding or appreciation. Whilst ostensibly part of a police procedural series, it boasts a richly comic cast of regular characters. The writing is very witty and manages to conjure up before the reader the sights, smells, tastes and quirkiness of Sicilian life. The plot, obviously an essential part of any crime thriller, was satisfying too and wasn’t sacrificed for the sake of the book’s humorous tendencies. I chuckled a lot as I read this and if you’re in the market for a police thriller series, light but well-written, I can highly recommend it.
I came across The Wolf and the Buffalo by Elmer Kelton in The Giant Book of the Western which is an anthology of Western stories compiled by Jon E Lewis. In the collection it was renamed Desert Command and relates just one episode from the novel. It certainly whet my appetite, and I subsequently received a copy of The Wolf and the Buffalo for my birthday. I believe the book is out of print but Judith managed to find a secondhand copy from the US. The book is set in the years following the American Civil War and tells the story of ex-slave, Gideon Ledbetter, who together with his friend Jimbo, suddenly discovering themselves homeless and jobless, join the US Cavalry and are sent to serve in a black regiment (Buffalo Soldiers) at a frontier fort. As men born into slavery and who have known nothing other than obedience and servitude they find clear decision-making very hard indeed. Kelton manages to communicate this dilemma to the reader very well; he shows us too that ‘freedom’ didn’t mean equality or an end to racism.
The book also tells the story of Gray Horse, a Comanche warrior who is determined to drive the white settlers from the lands of his ancestors and believes that they will be destroyed and their wanton destruction of the seemingly limitless herds of buffalo will be restored once the spirits of his people are appeased. Kelton manages to portray the Comanche as they truly were without ever imposing upon them any kind of New Age soppiness. So much of their culture seems brutal to a modern reader, yet I was deeply touched by their loyalty and compassion to members of their tribe. Elmer Kelton is obviously very knowledgeable and skilfully gives us an insight into their thought processes. We know all too well the tragedies that befell the Plains Indians - the (probably) inevitable outcome when a stone-age culture is overwhelmed and all but swept away by the determination of post-Industrial Revolution settlers. This book makes good reading and I can highly recommend it.
I am still only about a quarter way through The Moonstone, so more about this later perhaps. I need to hurry up though, as on 1 September I’m ‘buddy reading’ Norwood by Charles Portis with some chums I’ve met through Twitter. Anyone is welcome to join us by the way - just pick up a copy and start reading on 1 September, then post a review somewhere and let me (us) know where to find it. It’s fun.
Finally, I’ve extended the offer on my own books until the end of August. This means that Niedermayer & Hart and Roadrage are still available at half price when you add the following coupon code at the Smashwords checkout.
Niedermayer & Hart - LZ65A
Roadrage - UE79V
Happy reading time!
P.S. if you want to read reviews for both books take a look on Goodreads