Thursday, 10 July 2014

Published 1924

The Spell of the Inland,  by John Armour.

This book was published in 1924, this particular book was a second edition.


The Spell of the Inland,  by John Armour

     After 90 years and no special care, the book is still perfectly readable. Not many more modern paperbacks would still be readable after 90 years.
And if you prefer ebooks?  It was a surprise to me that ebooks that I buy are not really mine according to the provider, but somehow 'leased.'  They cannot be given to anyone else, they are not supposed to be passed on when you die, and if the provider chooses, they can somehow take back the book, though I presume only if you link back to them. I have heard of Amazon removing books from someone after they deemed them violating terms of contract, (I think be returning too many books.) And then there are upgrades to the software, maybe to the hardware. Is your Kindle going to last five years and still be usable?  Who knows? Technology moves so fast these days.
But your good old actual books in your good old actual library - you can pick them up after five years, or twenty years or even ninety years  - and start to read.
 Interesting things I noticed about this older book.
Firstly, a matter of style.  There were far more commas than we are accustomed to seeing these days. Phrases end with commas, especially before an 'and.'  These days, advice to writers is too frequently to reduce the number of commas, often at the expense of clarity.
Swear words were not shown.  d-------d, for instance,  or 'what the h-----'    And absolutely, no words like 'f--- '  or worse.
There was a comment about Aboriginals that would be condemned as racism these days - it was something like 'they knew about work; they knew they didn't like it.'  And yet, throughout the whole book, they were treated with some respect and understanding. It was 1924. They were not educated. It was hardly to be expected that they would be depicted as sophisticates.
As the book progressed, it became more and more moralistic, something that readers avoid these days, though it was once almost obligatory for a book to have a moral.
And lastly, I deemed the writing as frankly poor. Almost every book on the market these days is better written, and I do include the ones that are self-published and without the help of a professional editor. There were no mispellings in this old book, the grammar was impeccable, but the dialogue was slow and measured and so each time, when there was real action, it came as a surprise. The padre was in a fist fight early on, for instance, but there was no change in pace, and therefore no warning. This was a failure on the author's part in my opinion.
I did quite enjoy the book, but it was because of my interest in a very different place in a very different era - Outback Australia in the 1920s.  The story itself?  Mediocre. And yet when I remember that it would have been written probably in longhand and in notebooks - I think anyone who writes a book before the age of Word Processors are close to miracle workers.
It is far, far easier to write  a book these days - when one can scan for spelling mistakes and inconsistencies in spelling, when one can insert sections, and remove other sections, when one can renumber chapters with a quick scan through, when the word count is automatically calculated...
Authors these days have it easy. 


My books: 
'The Frost and the Sunshine'  is the concluding book of the Shuki series. Publication date 17th October, 2014.
Shuki has such a good life now - his new home, his wives and stepchildren, and becoming more important to him every day, young Zahu. It is hard to believe that Zahu could possibly want to stay with him when he is so much older. Surely one day, he will realise that a young woman has to suit him better than a middle-aged man.
And then Meriam comes into their lives - Meriam, his niece, who looks so much like a youthful Shuki. Meriam. She fascinates Zahu; she confuses him, and she tempts him. But she is not Shuki. 
There is scarcely a beauty to match the sight of a heavy frost with sunshine sparkling over it. Shuki puts photographs of the effect on his web-page, like a message - that there are times of bitter sadness, but in time, the ice melts and the sunshine returns. Sunshine on frost - it is a message of hope.

'Lionel's Wedding'  is the fourth of the Penwinnard Stories.' There will be six in all, with Bob's story being wrapped up in Book 6. Publication date 17th October, 2014.
In the third book, Barry is talking to Bob.

"My mates. They live in Newcastle and they’re in trouble. Steven, he’s fourteen and soft as anything. And the girls, Elspeth’s nineteen and has been on the game for years, but she says she never wanted to, and there’s two younger ones. So now the dad’s gone to prison, the mum’s useless, and they want

to do a runner so the pimp doesn’t get the girls, and the boys don’t wind up in gangs like Mike."
"Are these the ones you spoke of just turning up here?"
"Yeah, Steven and Jeremy, the little brothers. Mike’s a friend, though he’s a bit older than me. He can’t come because he has to look after the girls and the mum, and anyway, he’s been busted for selling drugs at least twice. The boss wouldn’t have him."
So what would happen if two brothers just turned up? Steven and Jeremy Vikkers arrive in the night.


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