Monday, October 31, 2011

Hitchcockian humour, anyone?

Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense who held audiences in prolonged suspended animation with his psychological thrillers, also had a wry, and often whacky, sense of humour. Did you know that? I discovered it quite by accident, while I was looking up quotable quotes on "meditation" and "redemption" for a spiritual newsletter I bring out every month. Things have a strange way of popping up when least expected.

I read Hitchcock's mystery series long before I watched his films. The first 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' book I read, in school, was The Mystery of the Green Ghost. It was a welcome substitute for Math. At the time, I remember thinking to myself that The Three Investigators series, created by Robert Arthur Jr, was better than Enid Blyton, Richmal Crompton and Hardy Boys. There was no comparison.

I see shades of American humourist S.J. Perelman in Hitchcockian wit: both were contemporaries and both had a knack for drop-dead humour. I guess it might
have had something to do with the tumultuous period they lived in.

So here are the ten best one-liners from Alfred Hitchcock:

"The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder."

"Always make the audience suffer as much as possible."

"Television has brought murder back into the home — where it belongs."

"Seeing a murder on television...can help work off one's antagonisms. And if you haven't any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some."

"Some of our most exquisite murders have been domestic, performed with tenderness in simple, homey places like the kitchen table."

"The best way to do it is with scissors."

"There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it."

"This paperback is very interesting, but I find it will never replace a hardcover book — it makes a very poor doorstop."

"Give them pleasure. The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare."

"There is nothing so good as a burial at sea. It is simple, tidy, and not very incriminating."

And a whacky quote to end it...

"These are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the manmade sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Circle of Life: Lessons from The Lion King

© Walt Disney Feature Animation

There are a number of reasons why movies touch a chord with audiences. The triumph of good over evil is the foremost and most common one. It's safe, productive and time-tested. Viewers relate easily to films that take the moral high ground. That is because people everywhere are intrinsically good. Human relationship is another widely accepted theme that audiences take to quite effortlessly. Films that depict bonding between people are, naturally, popular, especially with families, because families are all about bonding which knows no boundaries across world cinema. Then again, the fight against evil and the human-emotion quotient are inter-connected which is why we often see them together in most films. But for these twin concepts there might not have been credible film stories. 

The Lion King, Disney's classic blockbuster released in 1994, showcases these virtuous themes as perfectly as we'll ever see in any film. 

As the story goes, on one hand, we have the young Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) who learns the lesson of life from his father, the noble King Mufasa (James Earl Jones), and, on the other, we have the adult Simba (Mathew Broderick) who returns from a self-imposed exile, all grown up and looking majestic, to reclaim his father's kingdom from his evil uncle, Scar (Jeremy Irons) and the hyenas. 

Simba uses the very lesson his father taught him as a cub one starry night to avenge Mufasa’s death at the hands of Scar and become the King of Pride Rock. As years pass, he has a son and the Circle of Life is complete. 

But it is the wisdom that King Mufasa imparts to young Simba which makes The Lion King a lionhearted film. Sitting on the grasslands one night, father and son of the animal world have a frank and heartfelt conversation, the kind of talk that fathers and sons of our world have long 
before the sons grow up to be fathers themselves. 

Young Simba: Dad?
Mufasa: Hmm?
Young Simba: We're pals, right?
Mufasa: Right.
Young Simba: And we'll always be together, right?
Mufasa: Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars.
Young Simba: Really?
Mufasa: Yes. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.

The Mufasa-Simba bonding is what endears many to films like The Lion King, directed so well by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, because it's how we see relationships in our own families. 

Now this bonding goes beyond families, to friends, and even foes turned friends, as evident from that touching little scene in Ice Age (2002) where Manfred the mammoth (Ray Romano) saves the life of Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary). Now Diego is supposed to lead Manfred and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and their ward, a human child, into a trap but Diego has a change of heart after Manfred saves his life. Here's what happens...

Diego: Why did you do that? You could've died trying to save me.
Manfred: That's what you do in a herd: you look out for each other.
Diego: Well... thanks.

The 'herd' is the family and that's pretty much what we do  look out for each other, don't we? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

© Random House

What I read yesterday

1. The Keys of Hell by Jack Higgins
2. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 

by Agatha Christie

What I'm reading today

1. The World According to Garp
by John Irving (revisit)
2. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

What I'm going to read tomorrow

1. Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith
2. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own.
- William Hazlit

© Black Swan

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Thomas Hardy in Jude the Obscure

Perhaps if he prayed, the wish to see Christminster might be forwarded. People said that, if you prayed, things sometimes came to you, even though they sometimes did not. He had read in a tract that a man who had begun to build a church, and had no money to finish it, knelt down and prayed, and the money came in by the next post. Another man tried the same experiment, and the money did not come... This was not discouraging, and turning on the ladder Jude knelt on the third rung, where, resting against those above it, he prayed that the mist might rise.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkin

How often have you muttered this line to yourself or said it aloud as a conversational piece? Forget the circumstances, but this is the song you think of and listen to every time you get nostalgic about the past, the good ol' days, and wonder to yourself, "What the hell happened?" Gene Raskin wrote the English lyrics for Those Were The Days, originally a Russian song Dorogoi dlinnoyu (By the long road), and it was sung by Welsh folk singer Mary Hopkin in 1968. Over the years there have been many versions including one with Robin Williams rapping.

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I'd see you in the tavern
We'd smile at one another and we'd say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me

 Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

Friday, October 21, 2011

© Universal Studios

God and Bruce Nolan 
in Bruce Almighty (2003)

If you can ignore his on-screen fidgetiness and facial and body contortions, you'll find Jim Carrey highly entertaining. From his formidable repertoire of films, especially comedy, the 49-year old actor is particularly funny in Bruce Almighty  directed by Tom Shadyac in 2003. In this movie Bruce Nolan, his character, has everything — a job as a successful and popular television reporter and a girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) who loves him to no end    yet he is unhappy with his life. He frets and grumbles and blames God for everything that's going wrong in his life. Nothing is going wrong, of course; Nolan is just being selfish, like nearly every one of us. So God (Morgan Freeman) decides to do something about it. He summons Nolan to a starched-white top floor of a sprawling and unoccupied building and offers him every mortal's living dream - all his divine powers. The engaging conversation between God and Nolan is the pièce de résistance of this film. Here's a sampling...

God (Morgan Freeman) recalling Bruce Nolan's many rages against him: "The gloves are off, God." "God has taken my bird and my bush." "God is a mean kid with a magnifying glass." "Smite me, O Mighty Smiter." Now, I'm not big on blasphemy, but that last one made me laugh.

Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey): Who are you? 
God: I'm the one. The Divine Being. Alpha and Omega.
Bruce Nolan: Oh, I see where this is going.
God: Bruce...I'm God.
Bruce Nolan: Bingo! Yahtzee! Is that your final answer? Our survey says... God! Bing bing bing bing bing! Well, it was nice to meet you, God. Thank you for the Grand Canyon, and good
luck with the Apocalypse. Oh, and by the way, you SUCK!


God: I did the same thing to Gandhi, he didn't eat for three weeks! (Referring to the seven fingers on Nolan's right hand. Nolan subjects the Almighty to a divine test to find out if he really is God and makes him guess the fingers behind his back. The shocked expression on Nolan's face is out of this world.)

Bruce Nolan: How do you make so many people love you without affecting free will? 
God: Heh, welcome to my world, son. If you come up with an answer to that one, let me know. 

God: Parting your soup is not a miracle Bruce, it's a magic trick. A single mom who's working two jobs, and still finds time to take her son to soccer practice, that's a miracle. A teenager who says "no" to drugs and "yes" to an education, that's a miracle. People want me to do everything for them. What they don't realise is they have the power. You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle.

God: You have all my powers. Use them any way you like. There are just two things you can't do: You can't tell anyone you're God. Believe me, you don't want that kind of attention. 
Bruce Nolan: And the other?
God: You can't mess with free will.
Bruce Nolan: Can I ask why?
God: Yes, you can! That's the beauty of it!

God: No matter how filthy something gets, you can always clean it right up.

Bruce Almighty is pure fun if you leave out the philosophy behind it. You know what I mean...the be-happy-with-what-you-have-and-what-you-are sort of thing. Just enjoy the film. It's not meant to be taken seriously unless you want to play God.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

© Scribner
#1 Ode to Death

Nor dread nor hope attend

A dying animal;
A man awaits his end
Dreading and hoping all;
Many times he died,
Many times rose again.
A great man in his pride
Confronting murderous men
Casts derision upon
Supersession of breath;
He knows death to the bone
Man has created death.

Stamp of an Actor: 
Bette Davis

"We movie stars all end up by ourselves. Who knows? Maybe we want to."

"I'm the nicest goddamn dame that ever lived."

"From the moment I was six I felt sexy. And let me tell you it was hell, sheer hell, waiting to do something about it."

"Good actors I've worked with all started out making faces in a mirror, and you keep making faces all your life."

"Hollywood always wanted me to be pretty, but I fought for realism."

"I don't take the movies seriously, and anyone who does is in for a headache."

"It's better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you're not. It's a sign of your worth sometimes, if you're hated by the right people."

"Men become much more attractive when they start looking older. But it doesn't do much for women, though we do have an advantage: make-up."

"To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy."

"At 50, I thought proudly, 'Here we are, half century!' Being 60 was fairly frightening. You want to know how I spent my 70th birthday? I put on a completely black face, a fuzzy black afro wig, wore black clothes, and hung a black wreath on my door."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book haunts: Going, going…not yet gone

The new Title Waves bookstore at Bandra

The friendly neighbourhood circulating libraries—our childhood book haunts—were first to go in the 1980s because of dwindling readers and declining readership.

The libraries were followed by the indispensible roadside book vendors who high-handed officials of the Bombay Municipal Corporation—in a fit of misplaced civic sense—threw out in the 1990s. These two dozen-odd booksellers used to occupy the pavement from Churchgate Station, the first and last destination on the suburban rail network, to Flora Fountain (now Hutatma Chowk) less than a kilometre away, in the central business district of Bombay.

In the mornings you dragged your feet past hundreds and thousands of books and ever so often stooped to pick up a prized title or two missing from your collection. It was the same story on the way back to the station in the evenings: you bought a book before you boarded a train, and read it on your way home. 
They are gone now. 

It was, then, the turn of new and used bookstores which began to close down in the decade of 2000—a frightening trend that continues to this day. The most recent casualty was the century-old New & Secondhand Book Shop in the trading hub of Kalbadevi in South Bombay. You can now buy Bata shoes in there instead.

Not far away, however, another very old bookshop called Smoker's Corner has survived the technology onslaught and continues to operate from the foyer of a four-storey building. The bookstall's highly knowledgeable owner, Suleiman Botawala
, passed away a couple of years ago and his son, Zubair, is now running the show. Smoker's Corner, named after a shop that once sold tobacco at the entrance of the building, imparted a personal touch to both new and used books on sale and those who walked in to buy them. The book stall has been a journalist's haunt for several decades though over the past few years the quality of books has gone down appreciably, which the bespectacled owner once attributed to a lack of discerning readers. Nearly a half of my book collection has come from Smoker's Corner which sells rare paperbacks and hardbounds and comic books at throwaway prices.

Smoker's Corner at the end of Sir P.M. Road in South Bombay.

In the second decade of this century, the new menace (a welcome one in many ways) to the traditional and reliable bookshop is online shopping which has redefined book discounts and home deliveries—and has taken the fun out of browsing and buying books in a bookstore.

Fortunately, there are people who still swear by books as we know them, like the advertising-cum-music duo of Sharon and Elvis Dias who were inspired enough to set up a new bookstore at Bandra, an upmarket suburb. The bookstore is called Title Waves and is spread across a 9,000 sq. ft area. In what is no doubt a smart move, the bookstore has replaced the conventional helpdesk (and ignorant sales staff) with touch-screen computers that enable book lovers to check up on their wish-list of books. May their tribe increase.

You can read all about the new swanky bookstore at and

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

‘Blogging comes straight from the lizard brain’

P.J. O'Rourke on Blogging, Facebook and Twitter

“Very little that gets blogged is of very much worth.” Hey, don’t look at me, I didn't say it. P.J. O'Rourke, the well-known American satirist, journalist and author said it in an entertaining interview to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in July 2010, the month that Facebook announced that its users had reached 500 million. I only happened to stumble across his interview 14 months later.

On Facebook touching 500 million: Had you told me that 500 million people last week wrote their name on the bathroom wall with a magic marker I would be equally impressed by the number, but I don't think that I would be favourably impressed. 

On Twitter: There's small talk, and then there's very, very small talk, and then there's Twitter. I don't see the need or the benefit.

On Blogging: I don't care much for blogging because it is undigested thinking, because it comes straight from the heart, or the lizard brain, or the mouth without due consideration. Very little that gets blogged is of very much worth. Almost everything should be thought over. Don't we all know it from things that we've said to our spouses? That you should think twice before you say anything.

Blogging is very selfish. I mean, if you want a true picture of what somebody's thinking at a moment, kick them and see what they say. You'll get a blog. You'll get a tweet. You'll get a brief expression of how somebody feels at a given moment. But communication is all about the other person. It's not about the person who is communicating. It's about the person who is listening, or receiving, or viewing. And blogging is very self-indulgent. It's all about me. It isn't about the person who is reading the blog.

There’s more of this hilarious stuff at

Me: Is that why they call Facebook — Two-Facedbook; Twitter — Titter; and Blogging — Bogging?

What do you think of P.J. O'Rourke’s take on the social media of the 21st century? No doubt, he has touched a raw nerve or two but he has raised a pertinent issue or two as well.

Whether O'Rourke is really serious or pulling our leg, I can’t say. What I can say is that I don't entirely disagree with him, especially the part where he says blogging is “selfish” and “self-indulgent” — two fine conscience-stinging words in the dictionary. There is some truth in it. I took a self-analytical blog quiz and look what I came up with…

01. Do I lose sleep over blogging, and wake up with a non-drinker’s hangover in the morning?
A: Yes

02. Do I blog when the rest of the family is spending time together, watching television or talking over the day’s events?
A: Occasionally

03. Do I check my blog several times a day, to see if it will win the Best of Blog awards?
A: Yes

04. Do I write a blogpost virtually any time of day or night, in office, at home or wherever?
A: Yes

05. Do I feel that if I don’t post daily my “followers” will lose interest in my blog, and so will I?
A: Yes

06. If it weren’t for blogging would I have spent as much time posting, and wasting my precious little time?
A: No

07. If blogging wasn’t around would I have written fewer but much better pieces, like I used to in the good old days?
A: Yes

08. Do I scroll down to the “comment” link less than an hour after a post, even if the only person who is reading my post is me?
A: Yes

09. Do I keep one eye cocked on the “visitor counter,” like my commission depended upon it?
A: Yes

10. Did I really have to post this, when I could have written a decent piece for my paper instead?
A: No...wait, yes! 

I can’t run a similar quiz on Facebook and Twitter because I subscribe to neither. Now, really, I’m not all that “selfish” and “self-indulgent” as P.J. O'Rourke says. But do you think he’ll read this post? 

Even if he doesn’t I intend to follow him on Facebook at and on Twitter at!

Monday, October 17, 2011


Alvin Toffler in Future Shock

© Pan Books, London
Man has a limited biological capacity for change. When this capacity is overwhelmed, the capacity is in future shock.

To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before. We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves, for all the old roots—religion, nation, community, family, or profession—are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust. It is no longer resources that limit decisions, it is the decision that makes the resources.

The illiterate of the future are not those who can't read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and re-learn.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Writer at Work: 
Charles Dickens

Celebrated English novelist Charles Dickens started his writing career with short stories before he published his first major novel The Pickwick Papers in March 1836 followed by a string of highly acclaimed fiction and non-fiction books, short stories, and plays.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Soft-footing into hardboiled fiction

© Jove Books
© No Exit Press
There are two ways a new book comes into your bibliophilic life—either you discover it on your own, usually by reading about it in the papers or online or picking it up blindfolded in a bookstore; or someone who has read the book and liked it immensely, gushes about it to you—“God, what a book! I read it in one-go. I couldn’t put it down, you know. How can anyone write like this? You must read it! What? You want me to lend it to you? No, I can't do that…mum, dad and sis want to read it too. You know what? You should buy this book. Gasket’s* is selling it at 20% discount. I’ll come with you if you like. What a book!”

There’s a third way—literary blogs written by true book lovers. It’s through this route that I first heard of three crime-noir writers whose books soon found their way on to my bookshelf. Until then I hadn’t even heard of the authors who wrote them. You’ll find the referred blogs in the right-hand margin of this blog and I assure you, you won’t be disappointed. Blogs have a personal touch which websites lack. 

I bought the three hardboiled-noir books from a secondhand bookstore in a northwest suburb of Bombay. They are: The Imposter, #296 of ‘The Gunsmith’ series, by J.R. Roberts, a pseudonym for pulp writer Robert J. Randisi who writes detective and Western fiction; Burglars Can’t Be Choosers by Lawrence Block, a crime writer popular for his long-running series based on P.I. Matthew Scudder, an alcoholic on the mend, and Bernie Rhodenbarr, a gentleman burglar; and Downtown by Ed McBain, a pseudonym for the late Evan Hunter, a noted crime and script writer.

The popularity of these American authors is evident from the number of times they and their works have been written about by fellow-bloggers on the right, many of whom are accomplished writers. They know what they are blogging about.

© Avon Books
Robert J. Randisi, whom Booklist magazine describes as “may be the last of the pulp writers”; Lawrence Block, whose fan mail would be the envy of most writers; and Evan Hunter, whom award-winning American author Ed Gorman described as “one of the two or three best and most influential crime writers of his generation” are masters of their craft—be it crime, mystery, detective or Western. They must be read and savoured.

I am a newcomer to hardboiled-noir fiction. Nonetheless, the objective of this post is to introduce this genre to Indian readers who, like me, are not familiar with it. Between them, Randisi, Block and Hunter have written nearly a thousand books. I already have three books, one by each author. Well, it’s a beginning…

* Gasket’s is not a bookstore anywhere. A gasket is a seal consisting of a ring for packing pistons or sealing a pipe joint.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stamp of a Writer: Edgar Rice Burroughs

"No fiction is worth reading except for entertainment. If it entertains and is clean, it is good literature, or its kind. If it forms the habit of reading, in people who might not read otherwise, it is the best literature." 

"I write to escape, to escape poverty."

"As the body rolled to the ground Tarzan of the Apes placed his foot upon the neck of his lifelong enemy and, raising his eyes to the full moon, threw back his fierce young head and voiced the wild and terrible cry of his people."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Keys of Hell by Jack Higgins

© Berkley Books
Harry Patterson, the British thriller writer, first wrote The Keys of Hell in 1965 under the pseudonym Martin Fallon. In 2001, Patterson brought this novel back into public memory under his most famous pen name, Jack Higgins, and that’s the paperback edition I read last week.

Now The Keys of Hell is not his best work and you’ll probably forget all about it the minute you finish reading it. But if you’re a Jack Higgins fan, and I am one, then you’re apt to like it and, well, remember it too.

The story revolves around expatriate Paul Chavasse, a tough-as-nails undercover agent for British intelligence, who is back from a secret operation in Albania only to be sent back into that communist-infested land for another one. “A little chore” this time, as his Chief tells him calmly. Chavasse must put off his leave, by some three weeks, and go back to Bari, Italy, to kill Enrico Noci before he flees to Albania. Noci is a double agent who’s currying favour with both the British and the Albanians, which was okay till the Chinese decided to milk him as well.

Chavasse, as dutiful as any British intelligence operative, asks, “Do I bring him in?”

“What on earth for?” is the Chief's laconic reply. “Get rid of him; a swimming accident, anything you like. Nothing messy.” Of course not. The British like to keep even their covert operations clean, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Chavasse follows his instructions and kills Noci in cold blood aboard his friend and partner-in-crime Guilo Orsini’s boat Buona Esperanza. Nothing messy, all right. Instead, Chavasse gets into a mess himself when he decides to skip vacation to help the not unattractive Francesca Minetti, a fellow agent and a double-crosser, to retrieve the Madonna of Scutari—a legendary statue of ebony and gold that has protected Albania's faithful for a thousand years.

Once in Albania, Minetti shows her true colours—her allegiance to Tirana's oppressive communist regime led by the real-life Enver Hoxha—and turns the government forces against Chavasse, Orsini, a faithful deckhand, and a native girl, Luri Kupi, who helps them escape. The successful retrieval of the Madonna would mean a resurgence of the Roman Catholic Church within Albania and certain death of the communist government, which is desperate to find and destroy the statue before it destroys the despotic rulers.

The rest of the story is played out in stench-filled marshes between Albania and Italy, as Chavasse and his friends play hide and seek with Hoxha’s forces. They eventually escape but not before killing Minetti and recovering the relic.

Cut to the present. Chavasse closes the detailed file on his Albanian misadventure only to find himself caught between a New York mafia boss, Don Tino Rossi, and his nephew, Mario Volpe, who wants to kill his uncle and take over the mob, and bump off Chavasse too. Can you guess why? No? Chavasse killed his parents—Enrico Noci and Francesca Minetti. Remember them?

In the end Volpe is killed by Chavasse in a firefight and Don Rosi has his way—a renegade nephew out of the way and a secret agent who is important to all his plans. A private jet awaits Paul Chavasse and off he flies to London to run an errand, only this time it’s for the mafia.

What I like about Jack Higgins novels is their clarity in every department—writing style, characters and plot, description of places, and narration. The stories are straightforward and entertaining and entirely believable. The Keys of Hell? Yes, it’s worth a read.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Almost Paradise by Ann Wilson and Mike Reno

Almost Paradise, the love theme from Footloose sung by Mike Reno (the lead singer of rock band Loverboy) and Ann Wilson (a vocalist for the band Heart), has been one of my all-time favourite love songs. I have been listening to this popular number since Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer, hit the theatres in 1984. I was in college then and I used to watch the musical video on state-run channels on our black-and-white television set. If you and your girlfriend (or boyfriend) are on a patch-up then this beautiful song is just for you. It will inspire you to run right across the street and re-proclaim your undying love for the woman (or man) of your dreams. That's a little mushy, I know, but go ahead, listen to it...

I thought that dreams belonged to other men
'Cuz each time I got close
They'd fall apart again

I feared my heart would beat in secrecy
I faced the nights alone
Oh, how could I have known
That all my life I only needed you


We're knocking on heaven's door
How could we ask for more?
I swear that I can see forever in your eyes

It seems like perfect love's so hard to find
I'd almost given up
You must've read my mind
And all these dreams I saved for a rainy day
They're finally comin' true
I'll share them all with you
'Now we hold the future in our hands


And in your arms salvation's not so far away
We're getting closer, closer every day


Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

© United Artists

Blondie, the Good (Clint Eastwood) to Tuco, the Ugly (Eli Wallach): You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Agatha Christie in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 

'The essence of a detective story,' I said, 'is to have a rare poison—if possible something from South America, that nobody has ever heard of—something that one obscure tribe of savages use to poison their arrows with. Death is instantaneous, and Western science is powerless to detect it. Is that the kind of thing you mean?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Stamp of a Writer: Arthur Conan Doyle

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know. 

                                                                                   Courtesy: Guernsey Post

Monday, October 03, 2011

Best-sellers Indians love to read 

Indians are fond of popular fiction which used to include potboilers like Harold Robbins and Irving Wallace. If you ask the average reader in India what books he or she has read or enjoys reading, you're most likely to hear a list that’s as predictable as can be.

Jeffrey Archer is a particular favourite and gets a rousing welcome every time he comes to India where his books are sold in no time.

On his last trip in March 2010, the British author visited a bookstore in Chennai, the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, to release his latest five-book series Only Time Will Tell and was moved by the large crowd waiting for him. "I am often asked why I keep returning to India. This is the answer," he smiled. By the time Archer left, the bookstore had sold nearly 1,500 copies. His publisher, I’m sure, was ecstatic. 

The chief reason why best-selling fiction flies off the shelves in Indian bookstores is because they are easy to read and quick to finish, which makes sense, for the urban reader spends more time commuting, be it day or night, and has little time for such luxuries as sitting down in a quiet place and reading a good book. The last thing he or she needs is a “heavy book” and a headache. 

So what would a predictable list of, say, Top 12 best-selling authors and their most popular novels in India read like? Here it is...

01. Jack Higgins: The Eagle Has Landed, The Savage Day and The Last Place God Made

02. Sidney Sheldon: The Other Side of Midnight, Bloodline and Rage of Angels 

03. Robert Ludlum: The Bourne Trilogy

04. Jeffrey Archer: Kane and Abel and everything else by him

05. Alistair MacLean: The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra, Where Eagles Dare and Force 10 From Navarone

06. Robin Cook: Coma, Fever and Outbreak

07. Arthur Hailey: Airport, Wheels and Hotel

08. Mario Puzo: The Godfather and The Sicilian

09. Frederick Forsyth: The Day of the Jackal, The Dogs of War and The Fourth Protocol

10. Ken Follett: Eye of the Needle and The Key of Rebecca

11. John Grisham: The Firm, A Time to Kill, The Pelican Brief, The Client and The Chamber

12. Dan Brown: The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons

I've read a few books by all twelve authors but my favourite thriller writer from the list is Jack Higgins.

Jeffrey Archer photo:

Sunday, October 02, 2011


If I Had A Hammer by Trini Lopez

If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between
My brothers and my sisters ah-aaah
All over this land

If I had a bell
I'd ring it in the morning
I'd ring it in the evening
All over this land
I'd ring out danger
I'd ring out a warning
I'd ring out love between
My brothers and my sisters ah-aaah
All over this land...

The original version of If I Had A Hammer was part of Trini Lopez's debut album Trini Lopez Live which was released in 1963. This hit single was top of the charts in nearly 40 countries and sold over a million copies worldwide. If you are listening to this song, remember, Lopez expects you to sing with him.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Vanishing books: Bloomsbury finds them for you

Few things excite an avid reader more than laying his or her hands on books long unavailable or out of print. Aware of the growing hunger for titles that are out of sight but not out of mind, publishing houses are rushing to fill our literary void, and their cash registers, by reviving or relaunching many rare books in ebook format—and even print if you want.

Last week, London's Bloomsbury Publishing announced the launch of a new digital global publisher, Bloomsbury Reader, which incorporates "an expansive and growing selection of titles in ebook (and print on demand) for the first time: many titles, previously unavailable in print for some years, are now being made available to a new generation of readers through this digital initiative."

Hey, the old generation of readers is still reading these books!

It’s very thoughtful of Bloomsbury, isn’t it? To bring the works of Monica Dickens, Edith Sitwell, H.R.F. Keating, Graham Masterton, V.S. Pritchett and many others back into our alphabet lives. Now these books can once again sit proudly on our bookshelves or lie flat in our palmtop Readers. At least we have a choice.

New works by leading contemporary writers will also receive digital publication through Bloomsbury Reader.

In the interest of the reading public, at large or wherever, I am reproducing below the rest of the happy announcement by Bloomsbury Publishing:

Authors whose works have been out-of-print and are now being revived include Charles Dickens’ great granddaughter Monica Dickens, politicians Alan Clark and Ted Heath, poet Edith Sitwell (and her younger brother Sacheverell Sitwell), HRF Keating and V.S. Pritchett.

Contemporary writers include Ministry of Sound founder and entrepreneur James Palumbo, who is releasing his second novel Tancredi with Bloomsbury Reader, as well as digitising his first book, Tomas.  

The list includes a selection of authors and estates represented by The Rights House and other literary agencies. The digital imprint will be run out of London and New York, and will publish books currently unavailable in print where all English-language rights have already reverted to the author or the author’s Estate and where there is no edition currently in print. Bloomsbury Reader actively welcomes approaches from other Estates keen to see an author’s work returned to circulation.

Stephanie Duncan, Digital Media Director Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, and Publisher of   Bloomsbury Reader, commented: “I’m delighted to be reconnecting this extraordinary selection of authors and books with their original fans, and bringing them into the lives of a new generation of readers. This is a significant time for digital publishing, and the Bloomsbury Reader initiative introduces a new dimension to its development.”

Bloomsbury Reader’s authors whose works are being made available from September 2011:

Other authors whose works are being transported into the 21st Century by Bloomsbury Reader include: Ruby Ayres; travel and fiction writer Hilaire Belloc; British writers E.M. Delafield, Rose Macaulay, Matt Chisholm (real name Peter Watts), L.A.G. Strong, Margaret Potter, Edward Crankshaw, John Moore, Eric Linklater, Margaret Irwin, Bernice Rubens, Phyllis Bentley, Maggie Makepeace, Storm Jameson, Angela Lambert; Chaim Bermant; Liam O'Flaherty; purveyors of supernatural fiction Gerald Bullet, and Anthony Masters.

Politician Fitzroy MacLean; biographers Roy Jenkins, Ronald Clark, and Frances Donaldson; writer and one of the men behind the creation of ITV, Norman Collins; and novelist, Ivy Compton-Burnett.

British  officer and writer David Fraser; elder  brother of Evelyn, Alec Waugh; actor Dirk Bogarde; poet Cecil Day-Lewis; crime and espionage writers Edmund Crispin, Adrian Alington, Gavin Lyall, Rupert Croft-Cooke, HRF Keating, Margery Allingham, Nicholas Freeling, Harry Carmichael and Hartley Howard (both pen names for Leo Ognall). Non-fiction writers Prof. F.W.J. Hemmings, Guy Chapman, Arthur Marwick, Russell Miller, and children’s fiction writer Bill Naughton.

Other authors include fiction writers Martin Armstrong, Pamela Haines, David Lytton, Dion Henderson, Graham Masterton, Angela Huth, Ann Bridge; novelist, journalist, and screenwriter Ray Connolly; and biographer Russell Miller.

If you want to read more, go to

Postscript: One of these days I’m going to have to go looking for the original editions of some of these books. It will be fun competing with Bloomsbury.