It was Mark Twain who said that “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t”. Never has this held true more than in the case of Eddie Chapman, a figure whose story is so impossible, that MI5 stated that his tale was “different. In fiction it would be rejected as improbable”. In Agent Zigzag, Ben Macintyre has woven together the threads of a story which brings an entirely new level to the word ‘unbelievable’. It could be a blockbuster Hollywood spy film, complete with near constant explosions. But it’s not-because it’s all true, Chapman was probably the most successful British double agent in the war, and one of the best in history.
In keeping with last week’s review of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles I this week reviewed another detective novel. One murder with a seemingly obvious criminal, yet deeper examination shows discrepancies. Christie stated in her autobiography that she had had second thoughts about Poirot’s involvement. I enjoyed the book a great deal, and disagree with Christie’s view (though Poirot is absent from most of the story)-there are several suspects, motives for everyone, everyone seems to be trying to throw off the police-just how I like a detective fiction.
Sometimes there’s a novel that you just know is a classic, regardless of reviews or era, the quality of the text, the story, and the development of the plot makes a book an instant hit, either with an individual or a group. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is such a story. One of Doyle’s best, with vivid imagery, tense drama, and lively action, The Hound of the Baskervilles has something for everyone, and as such, is one of the most recognised book titles ever-behind perhaps The Bible in scale.
Everybody knows what the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything” is. Everybody, that is, who has been blessed with reading the gem that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Review of I’m Still Standing (Fabrice Muamba)
Fabrice Muamba united a sport. On 17 March 2012, Muamba died on a football pitch. Within hours, hundreds, thousands of fans from all over the world sent their support, from Barcelona to Bolton. For a few days, football was united over a common cause: praying for Muamba.
Shown here is the immediate reaction to Muamba’s death (though it is quite long), and the immediate unification of both sets of supporters and staff.
I’m Still Standing is Muamba’s account of the experience, from his father being persecuted by the enemies of a previous president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mobutu, to Muamba’s return to White Hart Lane, the scene of his collapse.
The spy thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps’ is a truly ageless book. Never out of print-despite first being published 100 years ago-and subject to numerous adaptations for stage and screen: notably Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 masterpiece, Buchan’s masterpiece has also been adapted into three other films, and a TV series (though most took great liberties with the plot lines). There are very few books which I would be happy to sit and read once, and read several times more because of the sheer fun of the thing.
I recently found this short novel-a ‘Quick Reads’-whilst looking for some books to dispose of (a sad, bad day). Very much a product from its time-eight years ago-it features David Tennant and Billie Piper (as The Doctor and Rose respectively) from the hit TV show Doctor Who in a book (not an adaptation of any particular episode, simply using the characters from the TV show).
This promised to be good-renowned characters with good background and development already there in the TV show. The first indicator of what is to come is the large font size-I know this is designed to help get people reading more, so aimed at young adult-or younger, but size 14 (or larger) seems to be warning me that the author had to fill pages.