Friday, April 25, 2014

The Accidental Prime Minister

The Accidental Prime Minister is a kind of unofficial biography of the greatest Prime Minister that India could have had but for his inherent shyness and introvertedness and the machinations of the Congress party loyalists close to the Family to ensure that no credit goes to the man or to anybody who is not from the Family. It is a strong and damning indictment of the Family, the psychopancy  of the Congress party leaders, the egotism of some of its stalwarts who could not see eye to eye with the PM, the egotripism of some senior bureacrats.  This man with impeccable credentials, distinguished educational background and rich experience could have been the greatest Prime Minister that India ever had because he had the vision for India but he was deliberately downplayed and not allowed freedom to do things his way. The book is absolutely brutal in its treatment of the political establishment especially that of the Ruling party and the Left leaders during the India US nuclear deal. Sanjaya Baru has spoken his heart of the person with whom he was closely associated during his tenure. After reading this book, one get's pure admiration for the man who has led India for the last 10 years. Highly recommended reading. Rating 5/5 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Havana Bay

Martin Cruz Smith is a first timer for me and I did not realise that he had written Gorky Park which was made into a movie a few years ago. Arcady Renko is a humourless Russian investigator sent to Havana to investigate the death of another little known Russian spy in a water accident. The book begins very slowly and takes even more slowness to get into the characters of the plot. There are few police people and a Cuban female investigator Ofelia all of whom don't want to investigate the Russian's death. There is a liberal sprinkling of the mistrust between Cuba and Russia in the book a kind of Cuban hate of Russia for leaving them in a lurch and sort of leaving them as holding the last communist post in the world. The plot gets bogged down repeatedly in the Cuban Russian interplay of emotions which is not dispelled despite a few more murders taking place. Smith has done a good job in slowly unfolding the plot to its conclusion in the Havana Bay but I thought the ending was a bit too abrupt. He should have allowed the emotions between Arcady and Ofelia to be taken to a logical conclusion. This was supposedly Arcady's fourth book in the series, it would be interesting to read his earlier works on Arcady and also his later works. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dangerous Curves

Picked up a book called "Dangerous Curves" by Peter Cheyney on a seconds books sale somewhere in Bombay, either because it was way too cheap or the it looked sorta good to read. Got down to reading it last week and was pleasantly surprised to read it - a riveting fast moving fiction with mystery suspense thrown in galore. Then I researched Peter Cheyney on the internet because i have never heard of this guy, was surprised to learn that he belonged to another era practically born in 1896 and died in 1951, relatively young just like Raymond Chandler another of my favorite. In the first few pages itself I discovered another of my favorite author James Hadley Chase in his writing. Chase who wrote many potboilers and wrote about the underdogs and the underdregs of the society has beautiful flowing narrative to his writing. This book is a Slim Callaghan mystery - that is the name of the investigator who is given the job of investigating the wayward stepson of a vivacious Thorla Riverton who is 30 years younger to her husband and whose husband is dying of complications from old age. Slim Callaghan has obviously a very disruptive style of operating which is not appreciated by Thorla Riverton and sparks fly between the two, she being attractive. Slim Callaghan being the quintessential fictional detective is able to comprehend the hidden facts as well as portend the future shape of things to come. One thing i did not like about Slim Callaghan is his excessive smoking and drinking, but what the hell, this book was written in 1939 when there were more worldly matters to be concerned than the post modern James Bondish type of fit action heroes. From this Wikipeadia entry here it seems Peter Cheyney lived the life of his fictional protagonists and died young having penned 35 novels and 150 short stories. This book is "out of print" and therefore a rare copy. Books such as these are rare to come by. Highly recommended reading for fiction fans. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Fate of a Man and Early Stories

The Fate of a Man by Mikhail Sholokov, the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1965 and six other short stories. All the stories are gut wrenching heart rending tales of sorrow, grieving, loss of family, sufferings due to the turmoil in Soviet Russia in the early part of the last century primarily the fight of the Cossacks against the then newly emerging Red Army. At several times during reading the stories, I had to take a break because it became extremely difficult to continue reading. The love of a father towards the children is the same whether it is in communist society or capitalist society and these were also evident in "Fathers and Sons" by Ivan Turgenev. Sholokov wrote "And Quiet Flows the Don" for which he was given the Nobel Prize. "The Fate of a Man" is another masterpiece from Sholokov. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Going Crazy by Otto Friedrich

"Going Crazy" by Otto Friedrich is a kind of biography or a history of insanity or madness through the ages. Otto does a good job in keeping the narrative flowing throughout the pages with first hand accounts by many patients. Apart from celebrated cases he has also dwelt on the ordinary people's lives disrupted by what he calls as "craziness" - by all accounts all of us are somewhat crazy at some times or other - it only varies by degrees, but while majority are able to keep their thoughts clear there are many who lose control of their minds. He has also written about the cures which in medieval times ranged from cruelty itself like chaining the patients to drugs, therapies etc. It was surprising to read that so many celebrated people had problems in their lives. I would highly recommend this book to those interested in different genres like non-fiction, biographies etc. Rating 5/5

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ultra Marathon Man

Just finished reading “Ultra Marathon Man – Confessions of an All Night Runner” by Dean Karnazes, an absorbing and overwhelming story of his early athletic prowess, the loss of his sister to an accident, his subsequent forays away from running for 15 years, his rediscovery of running, to running marathons, ultra marathons to crazy distances unheard of before and impossible feats like running the south pole marathon, running 199 miles non stop etc. His heroic attempt at running the Western States 100 miler and Badwater Marathon failing the first time, have been poignantly told. A nice inspirational story with dollops of quotable quotes for keeping in one’s mirror or desktop. The paperback edition has given details of his training, nutrition, strategy etc. so that helps for people attempting to run ultra-marathons and crazy distances. A must read for running addicts. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Children of the Thunder

Just got around to finish this book "Children of the Thunder" by John Brunner. It is a science fiction book and John Brunner takes a long time to get around to the story. It is about some kids who commit juvenile crime but of such proportions as to shock even the adult mind, crimes, such as running a prostitution racket, protection racket, murder etc. All these kids are ostensibly born out of surrogacy and there are doubts that all these kids might probably be from one donor. First there is an assumption of mind control in the sense that these kids have some kind of psychic power where they can read people's minds and they are brilliant but in a devious way. In between there are newspaper reports of some kind of catastrophe after another taking place somewhere in the world and there is also mention of a General Thrower who is a probably a menace to the society. Peter Levin is a science fiction writer who makes a living by digging up stories on calamities and Dr. Claudia is a science researcher from US who has developed the instinct that there is something violently wrong with these kids and could there be a connection between. Brunner has attempted to carve out a plausible story but it all ends up in one big disappointment, hence the 1 star.