Thursday, April 16, 2020

I Can't Go For That (No, no, no can do)

By Abir

We all have favourite sub-genres in crime fiction, but do you venture beyond them in your personal (ie. not research) reading? If so, what do you read that’s not necessarily your usual cup of tea, and why?

When it comes to books, there are a few things that I don’t care for. Here is a short list:
·      Romantic fiction;
·      Books about animals;
·      Cosy crime;
·      Psychological crime;
·      Gothic;
·      Horror;
·      Gothic horror;
·      Gothic Horror Romantic fiction with animals ;
·      Science Fiction;
·      Fan fiction;
·      Fiction about the science of fans;
·      Biographies;
·      Autobiographies;
·      Books about sports;
·      Books written before 1900, (start of 20th century, not seven pm.);
·      Self Help books;
·      Get rich quick books; and
·      Anything with ghosts, vampires (both Dracula and Buffy), elves, goblins or ‘Fifty Shades’ in the title.

In terms of what I do like:
·      Crime fiction (except those sub categories mentioned above);
·      Literary fiction (at least the stuff that isn't purely navel gazing);
·      History;
·      Politics (though not the sort of polarizing stuff that seems to be so popular in the USA – what is that all about? – but more the current affairs type stuff);
·      Dystopian fiction; and
·      Anything by Yuval Noah Harari.

Having said that, there are books in most of those categories on the first list which I’ve read and which I’ve genuinely enjoyed. This is surprising because I’ve got to the age where I’ve become grumpy and crotchety (is that a word?) and I like staying in my comfort zone, and yet, when I venture, kicking and screaming outside it, generally on a recommendation from my wife, I’ve found some really wonderful books.

Take ‘cosy crime’ for example – I don’t read much of it, but I’ll make an exception for Alexander McCall Smith, especially his Best Ladies Detective Agency Series, but also for Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh series, set in Mumbai and featuring detective Ashwin Chopra (retired) and a baby elephant called Ganesh that he’s lumbered with on the day of his retirement. These books are heart-warming and witty, but also provide a great insight into life in the modern, bustling Indian metropolis. There’s nothing quite like them out there, and if cosy is your cup of tea, I’d heartily recommend them. (Disclaimer: I know Vaseem. As a friend he is particularly useless, but as a writer, he's fantastic.)

The Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series by Vaseem Khan


I’ve found, in particular that I have a soft spot for the biographies of flawed politicians, men of power brought low by one fatal character defect – often arrogance or hubris. As such I’ve spent many days reading about Nixon in the US, and Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken in the UK, both high-flying cabinet ministers, both caught committing perjury in libel trials they brought against the press. What I find particularly fascinating is how these people react to their respective downfalls. Nixon, of course, never really came to terms with his guilt. Archer served his time, never went back to politics but continued writing bestsellers. The most interesting is Jonathan Aitken, who seems to have had a Damascene conversion and come out of prison a better, more self-aware man, who these days campaigns for prison reform. His writing is also a pleasure to read.

Talking of pleasure, I also have guilty pleasure which I’m a bit reticent to admit. Contrary to what I’ve written above, I do have a soft spot for bit of Star Trek fan fiction. There, I've said it. Now let's move on.

Books it seems can broaden horizons and tastes, and everybody’s individual tastes should be respected. The same, though is not true of music. I can’t believe James Ziskin hates country and western music. The opera thing, I can understand, but this? This is all types of wrong.

James. Please reconsider.

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