Archive for January, 2017

The Broker: John Grisham

Posted: January 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

I bought this 2005 book in a second hand book shop for 99p so I wasn’t too concerned that it turned out to be not Grisham’s best novel by a long distance. I admit to be interested by the first sentence: 

In the waning hours of a presidency that was destined to arouse less interest from historians than any other than any since that of William Henry Harrison [thirty one days from inauguration to death], Arthur Morgan huddled in the Oval Office with his last remaining friend and pondered his final decisions.

Not quite accurate as the 1840 election of William Henry Harrison still interests political historians as it was one of the first modern style campaigns. A great slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” [Harrison was the victor over the Shawnee at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, and Tyler was his Vice President] and a campaign logo of a Log Cabin, suggesting the untamed frontier, when in fact both Harrison and Tyler lived in Greek revival mansions. Enough history.

Arthur Morgan in his last moves pardons Joel Backman, serving 20 years in a Federal Penitentiary. Backman pleaded guilty to various charges involving the attempted sale of a computer program that can control a secret satellite system. When his business associate and the three young Pakistani scientists, who created the program are murdered, he feels he is safer in prison. The head of the CIA gets him pardoned and sent to Italy, when his location will be leaked and the CIA will observe who kills him the Chinese, Russians, Saudis or Israelis. Then the Americans will have an idea who created the satellite system.

Much of the book reads like an Italian lesson and travel guide to Bologna, but with not enough details about the food. It seems bizarre that so much time is devoted to teaching Joel aka Marco Italian when he is going to be set up to be murdered. But he has to be introduced to the beautiful enigmatic Francesca, who provides a platonic romantic  interest while she waits for her ailing husband to die.

Joel was a lobbyist and fixer and as such is more of an anti hero than a character I could have liked. 

The Broker is an easy to read, apart from the Italian lessons, airport thriller but I do prefer Grisham when he is writing about legal procedures in the USA . I also found it a bit unbelievable that Backman could outsmart the CIA, FBI, Chinese secret service, Russian intelligence and Mossad all at the same time, and get back to the USA unharmed with his computer disks. 


Favourite Discovery of 2016

Posted: January 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

You can read about my favourite discovery of 2016 at Eurocrime the Vera DVD boxed set. 

I see that Ann Cleeves has been awarded the Diamond Dagger. I did not have any inside information, but that award made my selection seem rather timely.

Well the day has almost arrived the Republican Party, the party of Presidents Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan, the party of such distinguished African Americans as Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condi Rice is now lead by Donald Trump. We certainly live in interesting times. 

But we Britons can’t scoff because the Labour party that was once lead by politicians such as Clem Attlee, Hugh Gaitskell, Jim Callaghan, Michael Foot, John Smith and Tony Blair [whatever happened to him] is now lead by Jeremy Corbyn.

American History has always fascinated me, one of my pleasant memories was when at Gettysburg National Park the official guide complemented me on my knowledge. That was nearly a quarter of a century ago and I have lost a few million brain cells since then, but I thought I would compose a short mini quiz for those of my American friends who don’t want to watch the ceremony. This might keep them occupied for a few minutes. No prizes, try and do it without google, good luck and send your answers to

1] Which Presidents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery? 

2] Which Governor of two different states was also a President?

3] Which President was called “a majestic figure who stood like a rock of consistency” and it was said “May God ever give to our country leaders as faithful, as wise, as noble in spirit, as the one we now mourn.”

4] What did Presidents 17, 21, 26, and 36 have in common?

5] What did Presidents 6, 17, 22, and 27 have in common?




It was by complete chance that the first book I read this year was The Zimmerman Telegram by Pulitzer Prize winning author Barbara Tuchman. My son had bought me a copy and although I had read it about forty years ago I thought it was appropriate to re-read it again. 

Today is the hundredth anniversary of the day the coded telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman to the Imperial Ambassador to the USA Count von Bernstoff arrived at Room 40 in Whitehall. 

This superb non fiction book reads like a modern spy novel, and many of the themes seem curiously similar to modern developing situations.  An American President struggling to deal with Mexico, the British Secret Service sending documents to the Americans some of whom believed them to be forged, “fake news”.

In this case actually Zimmerman acknowledged the telegram was genuine and the words: we make Mexico a proposal of an alliance on the following basis: make war together; make peace together, generous financial support, and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to conquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona……

This telegram was instrumental along with the introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare in bringing the USA into the Great War on the side of the Allies. As with a good novel this book has a cast of fascinating characters, among whom were, Woodrow Wilson, a President determined to confer democracy on Mexicans ready or not; von Bernstoff the Ambassador who struggled to keep the Americans out of the war, a man who had the good sense to leave Germany the moment Hitler came to power, the shrewd Franz von Papen, who served the monarchy, the Weimar Republic and the Nazis and managed to survive into old age; Mexicans President Carranza and his opponents Emiliano Zapata, and Pancho Villa, as well as the charismatic Admiral Sir William Reginald Hall, the Director of British Naval Intelligence, and many more. 

Two hundred pages full of history, intrigue and perhaps some lessons for our current leaders, a highly recommended book.




The Return of Crimescraps

Posted: January 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

It has been many months since I last blogged [May 2016] because of serious health problems, and although I never fell off the Reichenbach Falls it has at times felt like it.

But now after my brilliant surgeon and his team performed a robot assisted operation, I am enjoying every day as a bonus, even when the weather is as dismal as it is today. I feel obliged to try to live a few more years in view of the enormous amount of time and money the National Health Service, and the wonderful people who work at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital have devoted to my care. Never has a hospital and its staff been more deserving of the title “Royal”.  My energy and concentration levels are still very low so my blogs will be briefer and less frequent, but I am going to try to make a bit of a come back.

 My choices of my best reads of 2016, can be viewed at Karen’s Eurocrime. Karen was kind enough to include me among her reviewers even though I haven’t contributed anything for a long time.