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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

Love Téléphone

Love Téléphone - Michel Brice Acquired for 2 Swiss Francs yesterday at the flea market. Given the extremely variable quality of the series, I am trying a new approach: I looked for the book whose serial number was closest to one I knew to be good, hoping I'd catch the same author a second time. This one is only five places off the excellent Les Amants de Singapour. I will post in due course and say if it worked.

I think I did get the same author! This was another success, and she is a real sweetie. Given that she's been given the job of writing a tacky, exploitative erotic thriller, I was impressed how she managed to make it interesting, funny, and, dammit all, just plain nice. Well done!

In this one, Brigitte, Mémé's wild-child niece and god-daughter, whom we last met in Le Harem de Marrakesh, has resurfaced in San Francisco. She's working as a telephone sex operator and has acquired a crazed stalker who's just tried to kill her in an extremely unpleasant way. Scared out of her wits, she calls Uncle Mémé and his hunky partner Boris to come and rescue her, and within hours the two knights in shining armor are on the plane. She and Boris were romantically involved in the previous book, and they're only too happy to pick up where they left off.

There were many touches I approved of. The author deals sensitively with the fact that Brigitte has feelings for Boris; she suggests that they get more seriously involved, but Boris just isn't physically capable of fidelity, and he tells her so in a kind and caring manner. Brigitte asks him what he would do if she ever turned up in Paris unexpectedly. "I guess pretty much what we're doing now," he replies, without even thinking. As you can see, a principled polyamorist.

The author is clearly homophobic by nature and finds gays repugnant; but she is well aware that this is wrong, and does her level best to be as positive as she can. Hammer, the crooked SF police officer who's been put on the case, is gay and a regular sleazeball, but he's counterbalanced by Jean-Christophe, a tragic and rather sympathetic figure who's dying of AIDS and ends up sacrificing what's left of his life to try and save Brigitte from the killer. Hackneyed, yes, but the author's heart is in the right place.

My special prize went to the obligatory hard-core porn scene, a graphic double penetration which went on for several pages and was almost totally irrelevant to the plot. With considerable ingenuity, the author situated the action in the rare books section of the college library, with shocked asides about the damage they were causing to the musty volumes on the shelves around them. Kids, don't try this at home! I almost forgot who was doing what to whom, I was so worried about the library's priceless treasures.

Bravo, Mademoiselle Whoever-you-were! I hope your stay with La Brigade Mondaine was pleasant, and that you went on to better things. If only I knew what they were, I'd read your serious books. But meanwhile, I'll look out for further Brigade Mondaine volumes in the early to mid 50s.