Saturday, January 17, 2009

Old Filth by Jane Gardam

Old Filth

One of the best uses of flashback that I can remember. Immensely wise, this is the bittersweet story of an old man's life. Gradually Gardam reveals the successes and failures of Eddie Feathers, his astonishing luck and balance amid life's rough seas. We come to respect his judgement, appreciate his wit, and thank him for his humanity. We love him for forgiving the infidelities of his wife, and for his embrace of his arch nemesis. We miss him at the end. One of the great characters of British literature today.

We first see eighty-year-old Feathers in retirement in Dorset, England after a long career at the bar in Hong Kong. Careful reasoning on illustrious cases earns him a reputation at home and abroad and he is known to all by the sobriquet "Old Filth" (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong), a term usually reserved for a group of people. His mind drifts back over chapters in his life that formed and directed him, and we see him reason, and change. A remarkable performance which should earn Jane Gardam well-deserved respect and a large audience.

Interview with Gardam: The Elegant Variation.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

Really enjoyed this colorful and amusing cast of characters introduced by western mystery writer Craig Johnson. Set in Absaroka County, Wyoming the story centers on Sheriff Longmire, his foul-mouthed deputy Vic Moretti from Philadelphia, and Cheyenne friend Henry Standing Bear, among others. Very strong characterizations, with hints at depths that a long series can tease out.

Listened to the Access Utah (public radio) interview with Johnson as he promoted his fourth book in the series and was fascinated to learn his background in playwriting helped him to craft dialogue that relies on action or 'voice' alone to distinguish speakers. Works particularly well here. Very auspicious beginning.

Enter Craig Johnson at the link and listen to his podcast: Utah Public Radio