THE LIGHT AND THE DARK —
And what a month it has been, says Ralph McAllister —
‘Fun filled thrillers by two of my favourite writers,a new novel by Nobel prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, and a first novel by a black writer who is already being compared to the great James Baldwin.
First the light.
Belinda Bauer in her latest ,EXIT, introduces us to the Exiteers, an aging group of do-gooders who assist people to die.
All above board of course, nothing illegal, as all they do is sit with the dying person, keep them company, and tidy up the paperwork and bits and pieces after the deceased is deceased.
Unfortunately in the latest case a mistake is made when the wrong man is “helped” and murder accusations surface in Bideford, a quiet North Devon town .
( I spent some time years ago there and I suspect little has changed .
I do remember the pubs.)
There are lots of laughs but also mystery addicts will be challenged as the complexities take over .
A departure from Bauer’s earlier work but well worth a visit.
SLOUGH HOUSE by Mick Herron almost defies belief.
This is his seventh in the series, hilarious and serious ,again featuring a bunch of retired ,hopeless spies who push paper around in their sleazy office ,Slough House ,as successive governments have no idea what to do with them.
Jackson Lamb is their chain smoking, whisky ridden ,farting boss who has a wickedly cruel sense of humour, always directed at his tribe.
But they are his tribe and beware if you try to harm them ,as a group of Russians find out much to their chagrin .
The best news is Gary Oldman has been cast as Lamb for television.
I cannot wait to see what light he brings to this revoltingly loveable character.
KlARA AND THE SUN
Moving subtly into more light, Ishiguro’s latest, KLARA AND THE SUN, is another piece of brilliance from the author of THE REMAINS OF THE DAY and NEVER LET ME GO.
This time we are introduced to Klara who is a robot, AF to you ,who has been created ,to become a companion for some wealthy youngster.
Josie and her mother go shopping ,choose Klara from the department store window and take her home.
If,like me,you tend to avoid futuristic novels,do not avoid this masterpiece.
Ishiguro uses the Artificial Friend to examine the values and loves and loyalties we yearn for in our own lives.
Karla puzzles,as we do,about the habits of the world she has entered.
She is extremely intelligent but in her programmed existence she has her limitations.
The author carries us into a totally believable world where language is shimmering and never didactic.
No preaching ,just novel writing at its best.
Finally ,THE PROPHETS by Robert Jones Jnr which is transcendental in its story of two gay slaves in a plantation in Mississippi.
Samuel and Isiah survived the transport horrors from Africa and are offered some understanding from other slaves as they look after the animals and each other in a barn on the estate.
Paul,their owner,wants them to breed,which is only the beginning of the problems the boys face.
There are scenes of horrific violence juxtaposed with those of utter tenderness.
Ancestors are present throughout the story,powerful voices from the past.
Religion is used to cause conflict ,slave against slave.
Paul’s wife Ruth and closet son Tim complicate matters with the boys and yet throughout there is an abundance of love and goodness ,almost but not quite omnipresent.
Many years ago I read all of James Baldwin’s work.
GIOVANNI’S ROOM,ANOTHER COUNTRY,THE FIRE NEXT TIME and many others became classics of modern black literature.
Jones, who has a website called SON OF BALDWIN ,follows in the footsteps of his hero ,but also pushes against the barriers which Baldwin met all his life.
THE PROPHETS is shot through with pride and compassion and will surely gain enormous recognition for this first time novelist.
Let there be light!
Editor’s note: All the titles above are available at Coastlands Paper Plus