Here’s a round-up of some of the books the FM has discovered recently.
Orde Wingate: Irregular Soldier by Trevor Royle
The deal … A biography of probably the most mysterious soldier of World War 2. Wingate led guerilla wars in Ethiopia and Burma. Brave, insubordinate and often cruel towards his own men, he was admired and loathed in equal measure. His death in 1944 in an aircraft crash in the jungle of Burma contributed to his mystique.
Read this if you like … a book that’s thorough in its research and told with admirable dispassion.
Dead Lions by Mick Herron
The deal … The writing in Herron’s first work, Slow Horses, was slow too, but once you get to know the author’s bizarre characters (dropouts from MI5 who operate in a place called Slough House, hence the first book’s title) you begin to catch the jokes. The pace quickens in Dead Lions, and the book is an improvement on Slow Horses.
Read this if you like … your spy stories with a touch of the ridiculous, told by a writer with a sense of humour.
Steal a Few Cents by Rupert Smith
The deal … A whodunnit set on a coal mine near Middelburg in Mpumalanga. It’s written by a former coal industry lawyer. He gets a lot of the detail right and the plot is a good one, but the book could have done with a brutal edit.
Read this if you like … crime stories that are close to home and in which you can identify the scenes of the crimes.
The Lost Boys of Bird Island by Mark Minnie and Chris Steyn
The deal … Having worked on the Cape Times when Steyn tried to get the story published (with flimsy evidence at the time), I expected to be disappointed. And I was.
The theory of a paedophile ring run by apartheid mandarins is full of holes with no evidence that would stand up in court.
Read this if you like … conspiracy theories, and don’t mind if there is little real proof.
These Things Really Do Happen to Me by Khaya Dlanga
The deal … Marketing man, gent about town and one of social media’s most loved sons, Dlanga has put together this book of short stories (his third, by the way). It’s a collection of tales and observations from his life. They deal with everything from race to friendship, envy and love – and even falling asleep next to former president Thabo Mbeki. Dlanga is funny as well as thoughtful and honest.
Read this if you like … people, human nature, SA society and a good yarn.
Transcription by Kate Atkinson
The deal … I’d been counting the days to the release of this, the newest novel by international fiction goddess Atkinson. Much like her previous two award winners, Life After Life and A God in Ruins, this story of espionage and intrigue springboards from World War 2 England.
As always with Atkinson, this is a creation that lures you in and keeps you riveted.
Read this if you like … fiction that is beautifully written and compelling, wartime stories and anything Atkinson puts down on paper.
Jack’s Wife Freda by Dean and Maya Jankelowitz
The deal … Eclectic Jewish comfort food at its best — this is the official recipe book from the famed New York eatery of the same name. I have eaten there thrice and daydream of it often. Jack and Freda were immigrants to SA from Lithuania. They’re also the grandparents behind the bistro’s quirky name. Their grandson Dean Jankelowitz owns the Soho and West Village spots with his wife, Maya. The book has some nice local touches: Durban mussels and Prego rolls. It’s really just a sumptuous delivery of the restaurant’s most famous dishes.
Read this if you like … food — eating it, cooking it or salivating over it.
Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket by Stephen Fay and David Kynaston
The deal … The biographies of two of cricket’s most famous commentators, Arlott and Swanton. It’s not just a fascinating history about two men from different classes but also the social history of English cricket at a time of much controversy, not least the D’Oliveira affair and the question of whether apartheid SA should be excluded from the world game.
Read this if you like … sports books that are not hagiographies and go beyond the playing field.