Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Q2 review: more books, fewer stories

I'm still in the thick of "closing" the special edition of my newspaper, which I mentioned in my last post. It'll have dozens of specially commissioned views and interviews of experts in the field of infrastructure in India. It is in the context of the new political dispensation in New Delhi, the result of a nine-phase general election held in April-May—the world's largest electoral exercise by the world's largest democracy. Hope has replaced despair, for now. While the articles are informative and analytical, they are obviously not as stimulating as fiction and fantasy. There are more exciting things outside of a job.

A slight respite from all the editing and pagemaking allowed for this post, a summary of books and short stories I read during the second quarter, April-June.

In the first quarter I read nine books and twenty short stories. In the second quarter I read eleven books and only seven short stories.

First, the books...

My pick of the quarter.
Crime: Public Murders by Bill Granger, 1980

War: The Legion of the Damned by Sven Hassel, 1957

Espionage: Stallion Gate by Martin Cruz Smith, 1986

Western: The Hell Raisers (originally Saddle Pals) by Lee Floren, 1988

Quasi Western: Carved in Sand by Erle Stanley Gardner, 1933

General (academia): The Common Room by K.B. Rao, 2014

General (media): The Bread Line: A Story of a Paper by Albert Bigelow Paine, 1899

General (media): The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, 2010

Thriller: The Last Place God Made by Jack Higgins, 1971

Thriller: The Savage Day by Jack Higgins 1972

Classic: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, 1859

The last three books were re-reads.

And the short stories…

The Fifth String, The Conspirators, and Experiences of a Bandmaster by John Philip Sousa

Anne by Fanny Stevenson, 1899

The Intruders by Evan Hunter, 1954

Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl, 1953

Love Story by Irving E. Cox, 1956

I could swear I read more shorts. Then again, maybe I did not.

If I were to do a SWOT analysis of my less than average reading during the past three months, it'd be something like this.

Strengths: Quick to start
Weaknesses: Slow to finish
Opportunities: Plenty of books, plenty of time
Threats: Other distractions, mainly movies, chess, and Scrabble

Talking about movies, I recently saw (again) Raid on Entebbe (1977) directed by Irvin Kershner (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, RoboCop 2, Never Say Never Again, Eyes of Laura Mars).

Based on a true story, as any film or book about Israel seems to be, this one too has many well-known stars like Peter Finch, Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, John Saxon, Horst Buchholz, Jack Warden, Sylvia Sidney, Robert Loggia, and James Woods. A plane with as many as hundred Jewish passengers is hijacked by militants loyal to the Palestine movement and flown to Entebbe, Uganda. Since Israel does not negotiate with terrorists, it sends commandos to Entebbe, located more than 2,000 miles away, to flush out the hijackers and rescue its citizens. The rescue op is realistic. The highlight of the film is Yaphet Kotto as President Idi Amin.

Next up is The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) made by Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen) based on a novel by Elleston Trevor (born Trevor Dudley Smith). I haven’t seen this one before. In between, I’ll be reading some books.


  1. RAID TO ENTEBBE was chilling. Loved the Rachman book.

    1. Absolutely, Patti. When I think of Israeli law enforcement, in all its avatars, the word that comes to mind is precision. I'm also thinking MUNICH.

  2. I tend to read a lot more books than stories these days, although I go through periods. Sometimes I really just crave some great short stories.

    1. Charles, I've fallen back on reading short stories partly because I forgot all about them. I usually read them across genres. I also like to read short stories by famous writers.

  3. Granger I bought on your recommendation and I must try and find some Jack Higgins at some point. They aren't over long which works well in their favour.

    1. Col, I read just the one book by Bill Granger and I found it absolutely gritty. I've a feeling you'll like PUBLIC MURDERS. It is a tightly written story. I agree, you can read a Jack Higgins in two hours, in my case probably half a day.

  4. You definitely hit some high spots there. I'm feeling myself drawn to short stories again. The pile-up of novels in my kindle is daunting.

    1. Ron, thank you. I read fewer short stories during the last three months but I hope to make up in the coming weeks. I, too, have a pile of unread novels on Kindle and Aldiko. Thankfully, I've got only four half-read novels which I intend to finish reading soon.

  5. I would like to see Raid On Entebbe. I haven't gotten any books by Bill Granger yet, but want to try some of his spy novels. I will check him out at the book sale.

    1. Tracy, RAID ON ENTEBBE is a terrific movie. You won't regret watching it. As Patti says, it is "chilling" as much for the scary plight of the hijacked passengers, especially the Jews, as for what one country can do in another, in this case a secret operation in a country located thousands of miles away. Most of the main characters are named after people who were actually involved in the operation.

  6. Nice spread of books there Prashant. I almost never read short stories, unless it's an author I love and there's nothing else... I'm always intrigued by the people who love them. Perhaps you can do a post on the attraction of short stories?

    1. Moira, thank you. I read fewer books and short stories, April-June, to justify this quarterly post. I enjoy reading short stories which infused my love for reading fiction back in school. While I'm not an expert on short stories, I think I could offer my views on what attracts me to reading them. Mel, at The Reading Life (, does a fabulous job of reviewing short stories from all over the world, and with such dedication too.