4 Failed, so far

by Malcolm Redfellow

Malcolm, in setting out his Rationale, promised to flagellate himself by noting what and where he failed to engage with a book or a writer.

So here’s the first charge-sheet: —

The attic shelves have a foot or more of similar attempts to explain the inexplicable. Malcolm saw this one, second-hand but immaculate and probably unread in any previous incarnation (like most review copies) and snaffled it for £2.99 — list price £27. Its value, Malcolm suspects, is as a first draft — from 1996 — of Gaddis’s later The Cold War (2006), which it now sits beside.

This is a “dense” book, in the best sense of that word, set in a small type-size, with near 300 pages of text, another 85 of notes and references, twenty-five of bibliography (which amounts to Uncle Tom Cobbley ‘n’ all) and — mercifully — a decent index.

The essential index allows Malcolm to be reassured of Britain’s place in the world: just nineteen citings. Of these, ten concern the US relationship and the Suez adventure, tworefer to Britain as a US missile base — though Holy Loch, the US submarine base on the Clyde, which caused considerable grief in leftist circles, is not mentioned at all. Gaddis discounts the whole nuclear stand-off, the real hall-mark of the whole Cold War period, as not more than a remarkably theatrical effect (his emphasis) which:

required statesmen to become actors: success or failure depended, or so it seemed, not on what one was really doing, but on what one appeared to be doing.

That leads into a reference to Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove (1964). It also implies that actors can be mistaken as “statesmen”, which explains why Ronald Reagan is so celebrated by the political Right.

The most significant British figure, numerically (one fewer than Fidel Castro), is  — it should go without saying — Churchill: many of these references are to his Fulton “Iron Curtain” speech. It is a mark of trans Atlantic bias that Churchill, who held no government post between 1945 and 51 and was ga-ga soon after, gets more attention than Ernie Bevan, who was instrumental in keeping the US on-side in Europe and is a major Cold War warrior. Clem Attlee is ignored completely.

By this stage, Malcolm had read the half-dozen pages on the Berlin blockade of 1948 and the few more on the see-saw events of 1958-61, and recognised this was explicitly an American-centric piece, and shelved it accordingly.

An impulse buy to make up the baker’s dozen of Bateman thriller-novels on Malcolm’s fiction shelves: they’ve missed the cull so far, when G fror Grafton and P for Parker went in the first cut. Well, B for Bateman puts them on the top shelf but one, and out of easy reach. Can this act of mercy continue?

This one a development of the central character Bateman established in Murphy’s Law. Malcolm notes that the “sell” changed considerably between first publication and the new, smaller-profile, mass paperback. Compare and contrast as right. That rebranding extends as far as the author becoming merely “Bateman”.

There seems to be more than speculation that Murphy is in up for a further television outing, providing Jimmy Nesbitt with a purpose in life. If that’s the case,  the transhumance from Belfast to London makes more sense. Even so, Malcolm harks back to the joys of Dan Starkey’s Belfast, in the earlier Bateman series: in which regard, there’s another Starkey novel promised for later in the year. Colin Bateman is nothing if not prolific.

Although Revenge glares prominently from the bedside “guilt pile”, it may yet get a reading. In which case, if — like Shakespeare’s Casca —Malcolm be alive and his mind hold and the dinner worth the eating, it will re-appear more positively in this diary.