Journalist, Raoul Duke heads to Las Vegas with his attorney Dr Gonzo in order to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. After experimenting with some recJournalist, Raoul Duke heads to Las Vegas with his attorney Dr Gonzo in order to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. After experimenting with some recreational drugs, LSD, ether, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol, their assignment was quickly abandoned. What follows is a series of hallucinogenic trips that end in disaster from trashed hotel rooms, car wrecks and much more. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is a roman à clef, with autobiographical elements in which Hunter S. Thompson writes a retrospective of the 1960s countercultural movement.
Hunter S. Thompson was a journalist, but he was best known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While working in Journalism he coined the term Gonzo journalism which is a writing style he adopted for his first person narratives. The style is a combination of fact and fiction that allows Thompson a more personal approach to his articles. Combining elements of sarcasm, humour, exaggeration and profanity it allowed a first person look into social criticism. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a result of Gonzo journalism and was originally published as a two part series in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971.
When thinking about the life of Hunter S. Thompson, I find it hard to imagine him as someone who critiques the 1960s counterculture. I think of him saying things like “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” Thompson has often stated that this novel was an exploration into the death of the American Dream but his views on counterculture are so fascinating. Drawing inspiration from his two favourite novels The Great Gatsby and On The Road, Thompson combines ideas of travelogue and the American Dream and goes on to show the reason why drug use was not the answer to social problems.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a pretty confronting novel; the descriptions of drug-induced hazes and lurid hallucinogenic trips are very vivid and confronting. I am pretty sure I have read this book in the past but I had not marked it as read on Goodreads, LibraryThing or even the spreadsheet I keep. However going into the novel everything felt so familiar and I cannot tell if it was due to the movie adaptation or if I have actually read the book before.
The experience of reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is enhanced by the illustrations done by Ralph Steadman. My edition of the book stated in the introduction that Hunter S. Thompson requested the art to be done by Steadman because he believed this illustrator really understood the concept of Gonzo journalism. The novel is an interesting book and well worth exploring, and I was interested to see the satirical side and surprised at the way Thompson criticised his own lifestyle in this autobiographical novel.
Detective Inspector James Quill is a member of the Shadow Police, a squad dedicated to solving supernatural crimes. When an invisible murderer kills aDetective Inspector James Quill is a member of the Shadow Police, a squad dedicated to solving supernatural crimes. When an invisible murderer kills a high profile cabinet minister in an unusual way, the Shadow Police are called to solve it. Things take a turn when the lead detective from the squad goes missing. Things start to fall apart; can Quill solve this mystery and bring the team back together?
I was really enjoying the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch lately and I thought I would look for more urban fantasy novels that centred around a detective, when I remembered London Falling. I loved this book which was the first in the Shadow Police series; it was dark gritty and blended police procedural with urban fantasy really well. I read it a while ago and thought it was time to try book two, The Severed Streets. Unfortunately this book did not hold up and suffered the same fate as Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams (book two in the Bobby Dollar series).
While London Falling went for a dark and gritty, noir feel to it, The Severed Streets seemed to go in a different direction. It felt too gimmicky and I felt like Paul Cornell was offered a book deal based on this series but had already run out of ideas. First of all, the book is set in London, so it obviously had to reference the 1800s Whitechapel murders. Jack the Ripper has been done to death, especially in urban fantasy; I was immediately reminded of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. Also this book has Neil Gaiman as a character and I never enjoy it when they use living people as characters. It is a little hit and miss when a book includes a famous person who is deceased but when it comes to living people, it is normally always a miss.
I feel so angry about this book but mainly because I went in thinking it would be like London Falling. I would have been better off not reading this book and just letting the first novel remain a standalone. Take out Jack the Ripper and Neil Gaiman or replace these characters, and it might have been a decent book. However, for me, it was just a gimmick that did not work. I will not be continuing with the Shadow Police and I have to start my search for a new dark, gritty urban fantasy series to enjoy.
Go Tell It on the Mountain is the first major release by James Baldwin and is a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Harlem. James BaldwinGo Tell It on the Mountain is the first major release by James Baldwin and is a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Harlem. James Baldwin never knew his biological father and his stepfather was a strict Baptist minister. Go Tell It on the Mountain mainly follows the character John Grimes (who is the autobiographical character in the novel) but really shifts focus to other characters, to allow the exploration of John’s immediate family.
It took James Baldwin ten years to write Go Tell It on the Mountain and he has often stated that it was not a book he wanted to write but a book he felt he had to get out of his system before he would write anything else. This is a semi-autobiographical novel that focuses mainly of the hypocrisy within the community. James Baldwin’s stepfather was a minister and the way he acted in church was vastly different than when he was at home. He was a strict and abusive parent and this hypocrisy was evident within this novel.
However, there is so much more to this novel than just exploring how different people act when at church. Baldwin has a lot to say about the community and, while racism plays a big part within this debut novel, it was some of the other themes that interested me the most. The struggle between life and faith is a topic that I am fascinated in and while it is not the same as found in the memoir The Dark Path, this is explored in an interesting way within this novel. John Grimes had a spiritual awakening as a teenager and went onto become a preacher, however the hypocrisy he found within the church disheartened him and eventually he walked away from that life.
Yet Go Tell It on the Mountain goes a little deeper in exploring the hypocrisy of the church with subtle references to Baldwin’s sexuality. This is not explored in great detail within this book but it is a major theme in Giovanni’s Room. The way this novel explores the church life is fascinating and he shows great care for his characters; take for example John’s stepfather Gabriel, he may be hypocrite but he still requires some sympathy. He married John’s mother and raised him even if their union would be considered controversial within the church. I love how this novel plays with the religion and the way people differ between their church and home life.
This was my first James Baldwin novel but I have had the opportunity to read some of his short stories in the past. On the surface Go Tell It on the Mountain does sound like it is just focused on the hypocrisy of the church but I love the depth James Baldwin put into this book. The characters are so well crafted that even if you want to hate them you still feel a little compassion towards them. I cannot put my finger on James Baldwin’s writing style; at times it reminds me of dirty realism but all I know is that it makes me want to read more of his novels.
Sean Phillips lives an isolated life since a disfiguring injury that happened when he was seventeen. To past the time in his Southern Californian aparSean Phillips lives an isolated life since a disfiguring injury that happened when he was seventeen. To past the time in his Southern Californian apartment he has created an interactive survival strategy game called Trace Italian, which can be played via mail. Two high school students, Lance and Carrie from Florida, start exploring the world of Trace but manage to take their role playing into the real world. Disaster strikes and Sean is called on to account for his actions and figure out how this could happen.
For those of you that don’t know, John Darnielle is the singer-songwriter for the indie folk rock band The Mountain Goats. While the band is currently a three piece, Darnielle had been the sole member for many years. Wolf in White Van is the first novel by John Darnielle and the man knows how to write. When a musician turns to writing, I feel a little hesitant but Darnielle’s debut blew my expectations out of the water. Wolf in White Van sets itself apart from most debut novels by going for something different and more complex.
Wolf in White Van is an interesting novel to talk about because the structure of the book is told backwards. So the readers are given the beginning of the story and the climax right at the end of the novel. This structure works really well with exploring the character of Sean Phillips, and slowly it is revealed just how he ended up so isolated and lonely. This allows for the exploration of loneliness and the game Trace Italian is an interesting device that allows others, who are also lonely, to interact with Sean Phillips.
I am fascinated by this game Trace Italian. First of all, it is unique in the sense that it is a text based survival game that is played through the mail. People send their next move and based on that Sean Phillips sends them the next part of the game. The goal of the game is to make it to safety in the post-apocalyptic world; while there is a possibility of completing the game, Sean believes that no one will ever do so. There is also the events that happen with Lance and Carrie which, while not really a spoiler, I will not mention it, except to say this event explores the ideas of artist responsibility. There is constantly stories where music, movies or video games are blamed for tragic events and the way John Darnielle explores this issue is very interesting, at least from a creator’s point of view. The idea that this novel is told backwards really plays on the whole idea of playing music backwards may reveal hidden satanic messages.
Wolf in White Van is a brilliant debut, full of unexpected depth. It is a fascinating character study and there is so many interesting themes to explore within this novel. I am extremely impressed with John Darnielle and I hope there are many more novels to come from this brilliant songwriter and author. Wolf in White Van may sound like a it is heavily focused on this role playing game but really it is a character driven novel that just involves a game. Highly recommend this novel for anyone interested in the themes mentioned above.
Rose Tremain is a name I have heard so often but never had the chance to read on of her books; in fact her name is familiar but I couldn’t tell you anRose Tremain is a name I have heard so often but never had the chance to read on of her books; in fact her name is familiar but I couldn’t tell you anything about her books. She has published thirteen novels including The Road Home (which won the Orange Prize in 2008) and Music and Silence (winner of the Whitbread award in 1999). She taught creative writing at the University of East Anglia until she was appointed chancellor in 2013 and she is married to Romantic biographer Richard Holmes (not that her marriage affects her writing, just an interesting fact). She has also written five collections of short stories including her latest The American Lover.
While I sometimes struggle to read and review short story collections, I still wish to talk about them (just so I have a record). I picked up The American Lover because it mentioned a story about a famous Russian writer’s (story was inspired by Tolstoy’s life) final days living in a stationmaster’s cottage outside of Moscow. As most people know, I am a fan of Russian literature and books about Russia itself. When I looked at the author’s name, I was excited even more, it was a chance to finally dip into the writing style of Rose Tremain.
Without going into all the stories within the book, Tremain goes into some very interesting topics from transgressive love, sex, reflections of life and even a very unusual story about Daphne du Maurier. What I found in this collection is that Rose Tremain has a great ability to create characters and express emotions. There are some brilliantly dark and sometimes comical moments the she masterfully crafted into her stories. She has produced a collection centred around so many different emotions and skilfully managed to fit them into such short stories.
I really love the characters and emotions expressed in these stories and really makes me want to experience Rose Tremain’s style in long form. However I am not sure which novel to start with and would love some recommendations. The American Lover was a brilliant way to dip into Tremain’s writing and I am so glad to have finally had a chance to do so. If her writing abilities work just as well in her novels, she may have found a new fan.