And now its time to pick my 13 favourites reads in 2013, and the reasons thereof. Why? A great author and man – while making a list of the dozen most favourite stories of his immortal creation – the greatest detective of all times – remarked it was proverbially wrong for a judge to analyze his decisions, but like he went ahead, so will I.
So here goes – and oh yes, the list is in no particular order and does not denote either a ranking or chronological order the book was read.
The Pyrates: A Swashbuckling Comic Novel by the Creator of Flashman and The Reavers – George MacDonald Fraser.
There was no way I was going to leave out my favourite author out, especially when I read two of his most funniest books, his last autobiographical book and the one remaining episode of the Flashman series. It was a tough decision between this and The Reavers, and strict justice demanded I include only of them. But I cannot claim to the ability to set one above the other and have therefore without any ado, named both of them. Not only are both of these absolutely spiffy fun reads, but both well display that rare quality – the author having as fun writing the novel as you had reading it. The first encompasses every pirate stereotype seen or read, and second does the same for the Elizabethan era and sundry nefarious activities then extant, both absolutely eschew political correctness – like the Flashman series – and every line sends you into paroxysms of helpless, irresistible laughter, so perhaps you shouldn’t read either of them in public.
Dreadnought – Robert K. Massie
A wonderfully engrossing account of high international politics and the arms race in the late 19th century and how the Great War came about. Brings a long-gone era and its notable personalities to vivid light.
Where Three Roads Meet – Salley Vickers
A brilliant re-telling of a seminal myth and the last days of an exemplary mind.
The Mamur Zapt and The Return of the Carpet (Mamur Zapt, #1) – Michael Pearce
Another sparkling gem I came across this year. The Mamur Zapt series are sparkling narratives of Egypt in a forgotten – but for me a greatly-missed – era, and the imperial attitudes extant therein. An engrossing mystery and denouement are ably played out by a host of unforgettable characters (particularly Z. whom I wouldn’t mind knowing…or perhaps I do), while the witty and spirited dialogue is marvellous. It is difficult to pick one out of the 10-odd I have so far read so I will just keep the first of them.
Inventing the Victorians – Matthew Sweet
Debunks most of the myths about Victorians, and shows how much they resembled – and shaped – the modern age, and how
we – you all (since I am of that epoch only) can still learn from them – personal knowledge and manners for one, I would venture to say.
Bulldog Drummond: The Carl Peterson Quartet – Sapper
A rousing set of adventures with a cast of unforgettable characters, headed by a larger-than-life character, who do what they have to do in an uncertain age. Wonderfully atmospheric – and I don’t believe any of the criticism how it is all so dated, politically incorrect, jingoistic, chauvanistic and the rest of that bunkum….
Thinking Of Answers: Questions In The Philosophy Of Everyday Life – A.C. Grayling
A host of questions for today’s uncertain age answered with a rare insight.
The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown with the KGB - Milton Bearden
Fact can be more engrossing than fiction proves this gripping account of the shadow manoeuvrings of the Cold War.
Casebook of Sexton Blake – David Stuart Davies (editor)
Another Golden Age hero, who has received less than his due in our day and age.
Journey Through Britain – John Hillaby
A magnificently idiosyncratic ramble through Britain.
Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era – James M McPherson
With my new-found fascination for the American Civil War, this one-volume comprehensive account was sure to find a place, and is sure to be a harbringer of many more dealing with various facets of the War Between the States.
The Killer Angels – Michael Shaara
A last-minute inclusion but an inspired choice nevertheless. Brings the tragic story of Gettysburg to life through the viewpoints of its principal protagonists. Can’t wait to read the sequel and prequel by the son (Am halfway through the sequel in in which USG and his equally brilliant subordinates figure, even as a I wait for the prequel’s delivery.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my list and I do hope it inspires you to read them – even one. However being what I am, I find the list insufficient and crave indulgence to add a further half-dozen honourable mentions….
The Alienist (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, #1) – Caleb Carr/Silent War - David Fiddimore
The first is a genuinely creepy story, very atmospheric and profiting immensely from featuring a larger-than-life character, the then New York Police Commissioner (and his engaging family who appear in one scene) before he went on to much bigger and greater things… don’t know who it is? Well you’re more to be pitied then censured. The second figures because the way it tells of one of the last Imperial outposts …. and yes the cameo appearance by Brother Gamal clinches the argument.
The Second Tom Holt Omnibus: My Hero/Who’s Afraid of Beowulf? – Tom Holt
Pure inspired, trope-subverting mayhem – the fist one that is.
Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire - Simon Winchester
The name says it all, and the journeys are told with verve and an eye to detail in these forgotten areas of the globe.
A Spy by Nature: A Novel – Charles Cumming
A dark, despairing account of espionage and what it actually entails.
Flaws in the Jewel - Roderick Matthews
A uniquely perceptive account of the reality of the Raj, scoring in bringing the first set of “What-If’ scenarios to the study of India history. I hope it will not be the last.
Billy Boyle – James R Benn
World War II is a topic no man – no real man – can skip. And here is a brash young man making his own contribution to Allied victory. I mention the first of the series since it and the second one are the ones I have read… I anticipate doing the rest in the year to come…