Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies A short walk from my ergonomic study chair is my Chandler bookshelf. It includes some Philip Marlowe fiction not by Chandler: Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, A Celebration, a story anthology put out by Bloomsbury in 1989, and Robert B. Parker’s hypothetical completion job on an abortive Chandler fragment, its working…

The Hazards Of Good Fortune by Seth Greenland

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies The title of Seth Greenland’s book harks back to William Dean Howells’ 1889 New York novel of business and politics A Hazard of New Fortunes. The fortune of Greenland’s title harnesses both its meanings in a classically American equation, both luck and riches. Jay Goldstone, the novel’s lead character, was born…

Vernon Subutex 2 by Virginie Despentes

Translated by Frank Wynne Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies Almost two decades ago I saw a French movie called Baise-moi. It contained, besides much simulated violence, what Wikipedia fastidiously calls ‘several unsimulated sex scenes’. Yes, actual fucking and sucking, the two principals being played, necessarily, by porn actresses. Filth at the arthouse? Sort of, along with…

House of Beauty by Melba Escobar de Nogales

Translated by Elizabeth Bryer Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies Each time I walk into town from my house I pass at least one nail/beauty salon/spa/bar/studio (the titles variously inflect the appeal). Spread around the town are up to a dozen. Such places are not for elderly geezers, but I do occasionally reflect on the roaring…

The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies At the close of James Joyce’s moving and magisterial story ‘The Dead’ the reader learns that ‘snow was general all over Ireland… falling faintly through the universe … on all the living and the dead’, and the settling, drifting whiteness is given its full emotional force in a tale of imprisoned…

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies    This novel borrows its title from Fritz Lang’s canonical film noir (which is also a teasing, ironic comedy of the repressed returning) and Finn’s first-person narrator, Dr Anna Fox, is a woman with a camera looking out of her window into her neighbour’s. A voyeuse, in short, as if…

A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carré

Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies However deeply the irony may have entered his soul, John le Carré has no reputation as a jester. An element of satire typifies his work, always. But mainly he’s an angry, scornful author, whose anger is played back at him by those who feel he has let the side down…

Return to the Dark Valley by Santiago Gamboa

Translated by Howard Curtis Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies I found a molten quality in this novel (if it is a novel). It burns off the page, as they say. It is very much a demonstration of the melting-down and intermingling of styles, genres, discourses, fact and fiction, dream and distanced analysis etc., that in South…

Testimony by Scott Turow

Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies The ‘international theme’ – Old World/New World – was a foreground concern of Henry James. It typically featured the experience in Europe of an American innocent abroad, tasting the established, superior culture but also confronting the worldlier, more devious mindset of the host nationality. Posh transatlantic marriages could be made…

The Zoo by Christopher Wilson

Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies Christopher Wilson’s new novel takes us back in time while signalling contemporary concerns. It recalls the Cold War epoch, focusing on the ‘court’ of Josef Stalin, iron man of the Soviet Union and bogeyman of the capitalist powers, at a time in the early 1950s when he was ailing and…

Belladonna by Daša Drndić

Translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawksworth Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies There can be no quick digest of this book, marketed as a novel though in fact much more, and no doubt of its relevance. In its sweep of concerns one pronounced focal point is what the author calls, via a fictional proxy, ‘pathological patriotism’…

All the Places I’ve Ever Lived by David Gaffney

Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies David Gaffney has earned himself a distinctive reputation as a writer of ‘flash fictions’ – micro-stories, variable in tone and topic but springing from a gonzo imagination – in the collections Sawn-off Tales and More Sawn-off Tales. Anything can happen in 150 words or so. Some of them playfully unpick language.…