Sunday, December 8, 2019

Yesterday's Papers: A Harry Devlin Mystery by Martin Edwards

I hope you enjoy:
Pahud & Langlamet play Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto

My dad reading Pat McManus to my mother.

For Thanksgiving week I traveled to Florida to visit my parents.  As I said last time, the day I left for Israel, my mother was admitted to the hospital.  My mother is now in a rehab place called The Manor where they are trying to get her to walk and balance.  It was a nice week.  Every day I went and visited her.  

In the mornings we sat in a courtyard at The Manor.  I sat in the cafeteria with her where we met some very interesting people.  The two men there are Vietnam Vets.  Bill (at the table) was an airplane mechanic for the cargo planes.  He was stationed on almost every far Asian country during the war.

The other, Bob, was a boom operator on B-52s and F-4s. He said it took three officers to get him off the ground so he could lie down and pass gas.

My dad, also a career airman (he spent the Vietnam War in Turkey) is just out of sight.

In the afternoon I checked my mother out and we watched the sunset on a beach just down the road from The Manor.

In the evening my father read to my mother in the commons room at the manor while I painted.  I was painting Christmas cards.  A group playing dominoes at a nearby table were listening to my dad read.  They then oohed and aahed over my Christmas Cards so naturally I had to give each one a card, with their name on it.

I could tell you a story about each of those people at the table playing dominoes and maybe I will in a later post.  I had not had so much fun since I was in college, getting to know so many different people.

But on to the review:

Yesterday's Papers (Harry Devlin)Yesterday's Papers by Martin Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Finding this book at an Ollie's store was a happy accident. I got it for a dollar and I could not resist the edition put out by Crime Classics.

Harry Devlin is a lawyer (or solicitor as they say across the pond), but cannot resist a good mystery. A man by the name of Miller approaches him and tells him of a miscarriage of justice that happened back in the sixties. A teenage girl, Carole Jefferies, left her home one night and never returned. Her body was found in a nearby park in the bushes. A neighbor, a socially awkward and anti-social teenage boy by the name of Edwin Smith, confesses to the crime.

Edwin in great detail describes Jefferies on the night of her murder, what she was wearing, what she was strangled with and why he murdered her (she rebuffed his advances in the rudest terms).

Later, however, Edwin recants, but no one, including his lawyer believes him. He is sentenced to be hanged, but tries to kill himself first. By the time he has recovered from his attempted suicide, the death penalty in the U.K. has been outlawed. Nevertheless, Edwin shortly afterward succeeds in killing himself. Case closed.

But now this strange little man, Miller, insists that Edwin Smith was innocent and he was going to find the real murderer. Would Devlin join him?

Devlin does.

Without exaggeration this may be one of the best developed mysteries I've ever read. I love most mysteries I read, but the ending often is a let down. It's more like, "Oh. (shrug) It was that one.

Not in this mystery. There are many positive elements and let me try to list them:

There is no dead time. While this is not a thriller, it's definitely told in a way that the author keeps dropping bread crumbs and the reader keeps following close behind picking them up. Each crumb is significant and leads up to something else later in the story. When we get to the climatic ending, we don't shrug. There are many surprises in store.

Secondly, the entire story takes place in Liverpool, home of the Beatles. The Murder takes place in the sixties, even though the time setting for the story is the nineties, thirty years later. Edwards nicely creates a realistic and interesting backdrop, intertwining the two time periods. It'd make a great movie for that reason alone.

Thirdly, the characters are interesting. And, perhaps even more importantly, the good guys are likeable and realistic- not perfect, but people you'd like to get to know. The bad guys are complex. They are more sad than evil.

With the exception of a couple who were just flat out evil, or maybe I should say, pathologically narcissistic. That also was entirely in the realm of what could happen in real life. No one was so over the top, you couldn't take them seriously.

The development of the story was neatly done, all the pieces coming together in a satisfying way.

Are there any negatives? Just one, for me. Here and there spattered throughout the story, the author chose to use some foul language.

It was strange, because it was infrequent, almost as though his publishing contract said he had to have so many f-words included. They didn't seem natural and were jarring.

Well, maybe one other. I felt he harped a little too much on the fact that the sixties were when homosexuality was repealed as a crime. I mean, did this law change anyone's lifestyles? No. It's like fornication (when it was illegal), it's an unenforceable law. Too much is made out of it.

Edwards admits as much by portraying characters who belonged to the "swinging lifestyle" then. In fact he makes an interesting point how many homosexuals became gatekeepers to the music world, determining the future of many artists and their acts. (Makes you look at the early David Bowie persona in a different light. Interesting that Bowie shed the "gay" persona when he became famous enough to have autonomy over his own career.)

Which is why I gave an otherwise marvelous mystery four out of five stars. Without the language it would have been my idea of a perfect mystery.

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And before we go a few more photos of Israel:

Here is the city of Capernaum.

What a treasure trove of archaeological digs!

Until next time, have a great week!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro

A favorite piano concerto by a favorite composer.  Notice how he brazenly brings in the orchestra in an entirely different key than the one the piano starts out in?  Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 4

And here are a couple of more photos of my time in Israel.

             Young man relaxing and reading in a parking lot.

Prow of the boat  on which I sailed across the sea of Galilee.  I prayed for my family and friends, especially my mother who has stage four cancer and had been admitted to the hospital the day I left for Israel.  I prayed she wouldn't pass before I got back.

                                      Sea of Galilee

You may have noticed that I have conveniently placed this week's book in front of my larger paintings.  And, exciting news:  I've been accepted in a local art exhibit.  It's called ArtWalk and artists, if accepted, are allowed to exhibit their work in front of cooperating businesses and stores.  I will be in front of Roma's, an Italian restaurant.  I hope I will be strong if no one buys my art. I'm so sensitive. I don't care about getting rich, but it would be nice if I sold enough to pay for my art supplies. Soon I will be adding a page to my blog where people can peruse and maybe buy as well.

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New YorkThe Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is a very long, thorough, exhaustive and phenomenal account of the man who made the public works systems and housing and parks in New York City what they are today. It deservedly won the author the Nobel Prize for literature.

Is Moses a great man?  This book lets you decide.

Robert Moses grew up in a household run by his mother, who had extremely fierce opinions about fighting for the underdog. She raised her children to think like her, at least she expected them to. Robert Moses did, his brother did not, the sister did but wasn't useful. Therefore Robert got every single dime that his passive father made, which was a lot, and his siblings got absolutely nothing.

This arrogance and drive put Moses through Ivy League, Oxford and made him a prominent administrator over New York City's parks, housing and city transportation systems.

Caro's book gives a real insight into how politics and the power mongers who use politics work and think. Moses spent hours and months looking at all the laws and by laws on the books. Found obsolete rulings and used them to basically get himself in an un-elected position of power that had no expiration date.

He used people and developed a gigantic entourage that supported his power, and tirelessly and relentlessly held power over everyone from the governor of the state to the mayor of New York City.

But what really allowed him to become the despot over New York was the press. I found this very interesting. If the press is on your side, it does not matter if you're a saint or a monster, people will take their cues from what the newspapers' slant is. The New York papers always slanted in Moses' favor.

What I also found fascinating is how brutal Moses could be towards anyone who did not allow him what he wanted and how vengeful as well, yet he had loyal followers who genuinely believed that Moses was all he claimed to be, i.e. the "Savior" of New York. These men, or dupes, if you will, kept Moses in power for decades. By the time any of them wised up, they had no power or were useless to Moses and he discarded them.

First Moses ousted the Old Money that owned private property on Long Island and made it public property. He did this forcefully and gracelessly and not legally. And he got away with it for the above mentioned reasons. But his official response was that he was doing it for the common worker who lived in New York and had no beach to go to on the weekends. He used this excuse for the entire time he tore down property, built up parking lots, highways, created car to car traffic congestion and, let us not forget, pricey admission prices to access the beaches that eliminated the average New York middle class worker.

He did the same with bridges and highways. Instead of building them along deserted areas with empty tenement buildings, of which, New York had more than a few, he chose to build them in thriving neighborhoods, effectively ousting tenants and turning the neighborhoods into dangerous ghettos. He did this all over New York. Digging up parks, robbing families of what little resources they had to take their children to play.

Under the guise of "renovating" neighborhoods, Moses created a horrible homeless population and also isolated poor neighborhoods, condemning them to the category of ghettos. Jane Jacobs discusses this in her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. By destroying, self-sustaining, vibrant neighborhoods, Moses was instrumental in creating grey, dead tenement neighborhoods where crime moved in and those who could afford to, moved out.

What's frustrating is how much of it was avoidable if Moses had made his highways and bridges in other unpopulated areas. But Moses marched to his own drum.

And he could be vindictive. Someone ticked him off about the Brooklyn Aquarium and Park and he effectively bankrupted them. The reason? Because no one messes with Robert Moses.

This went on for decades. We think of despots running third world politics. It also runs on smaller scales in cities and towns. It's not about money; it's about power.

Moses' downfall finally came in the sixties when Nelson Rockefeller became governor. Rockefeller did not need Moses' money and he was young and arrogant and Moses couldn't push him around. There was a new sheriff in town. Little by little, Rockefeller plucked every piece of development that was under Moses' authority.

He was finally left with running the World's Fair in Queen's and it was a dismal failure. Moses thoughtthe could push around delegates from other countries as he could officials in New York. Hardly anyone from Europe came.

Moses' private life wasn't much better. His wife and daughters were so neglected that they eventually fell from view altogether. His wife became such an embarrassing alcoholic that he stopped bringing her to dinner parties. Instead he brought his mistress, whom he married a few months after his wife finally died.

As hateful as Moses was, and it certainly helps explain the traffic situation in the Northeast, this book was such an eye-opener as to how politics work. It's not the elected officials you have to worry about so much as the ones that get themselves their own little dictatorships.

I would be interested in reading a good book as to what New York has done since the early seventies in an attempt to rectify any of the damage this one man incurred on one of the greatest cities in the world.

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Sorry, I'm keeping this one.  It reminds me of my parents' home in Florida.  We spend a lot of time on the beach when I visit them.

Until next time, toodles!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Amazing Faith of Texas by Roy Spence and a few more photos of Israel

And here is the ridiculously sublime Mahler Adagietto from Symphony no. 5

A few more photos of my trip to Israel.

It was Sukkot the first week I was there.  This is the Feast of the Tabernacles.  It comes five days after Yom Kippur and families live in booths for a week commemorating the miraculous protection God provided the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt.  These tents or booths were everywhere.

Our first day we stayed in Tel Aviv and traveled to the ancient site of Caesarea on the Mediterranean where Herod the Great made a palace, an amphitheater, and a hippodrome.  Below is a remnant of the palace Herod made.  It is the forum where St. Paul presented his case before Felix the Procurator (Acts 25).

Roman Aqueduct

Below is the view on top of Mount Carmel where Elijah challenged the 400 Baal priests. (1 Kings 18)
The valley below is Meggido.  In the book of Revelation, it is prophesied as the pen-ultimate battle in the end times, called "Armageddon."

It is interesting to note that Bill Maher visited this area in his mockumentary "Religulous" where he explained how stupid Christians were for believing that such a peaceful, beautiful valley could possibly be the site of a war.

Our guide explained to us that beneath the ground below are buried fighter jets aimed at Jordan and Syria.  In the mountains the Jordanians and Syrians have hidden missiles aimed at Israel.

Yeah right, Bill.

More photos next week!

The Amazing Faith of Texas: Common Ground on Higher GroundThe Amazing Faith of Texas: Common Ground on Higher Ground by Roy Spence
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I will start off by saying that the photographs are superb. I love architecture and especially architecture of places of worship. Worship is an integral part of a majority of the world's population in some form or other and I think it strange how little attention is paid to it in the public venue. This book is filled with all sorts of worship buildings, mostly Christian, it is, after all Texas: country churches, large city groups...traditional, historical, modern...all of them lovely in their own right.

The book also has testimonies of individuals of different faiths and what their faith means to them. And this is where I complain.

On the one hand, the testimonies are from Christians, with a number of Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, and various other beliefs I would catalog as vaguely "spiritual".

But it would be more accurate to write all the above mentioned religions with quotations marks, because every last one of them failed to define what made their beliefs unique.

I believe the author carefully selected his interviewees so as to have them say more or less the same thing, i.e. "Their faith helps them be a good person and contributes to peace on earth."

It's strange to me how most of them talk about their faith in God or Jesus Christ  primarily as an impersonal force to help them. The central focus is not God and His glory, but mankind's improvement. Every statement was some kind of general "I'm a better person because of my faith", which, on the surface sounds nice, if not a bit treacly, while avoiding the more substantial points of human nature.

I looked up the residences of the people interviewed and it appears the author carefully selected who he interviewed as well. Most of them are from the Austin area, which, if you know Austin as I know Austin, says so much. It's a huge drug, hippy culture that loves to pontificate on happy notions of world peace and "inclusion" and "acceptance", when what they really mean is let's feel good about ourselves and get high.

And that sums this book up. If you want to close your eyes and tell yourself "all roads lead to the same goal" while ignoring the fundamental differences of each faith, which is another way of demeaning people's personal beliefs, you'll love the oozy nebulous testimonies in this book

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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Dreadnought by Robert K. Massie

I hope you enjoy Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21, K.467

As you know I spent the last half of October in Israel.  The first stop was New York.  The second stop was Ukraine.  The following photos are of Turkey and Cyprus from the sky as we flew over.  You may or may not know that I was born in Turkey, but left when I was only a year old. I always wanted to return so it was exciting to finally see it in person.



Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great WarDreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War by Robert K. Massie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a superb history of the events and characters surrounding the years leading up to WWI.

Massie starts with Queen Victoria, her childhood, her reign as Queen and her offspring. For a long time I did not realize how the major leaders in Europe were all related to each other, having Queen Victoria for a grandmother.

Massie does an excellent job of describing the English culture vs the German culture and how fiercely nationalistic both countries were, although Germany seems to have taken their identity to extreme heights, which helps explain the Kaiser's ambitions to conquer and colonialize third world nations.

Different chapters are devoted to leaders, Prime Ministers, Naval Ambassadors, Counselors etc... we learn of the famous Bismark, and also some good insight into Winston Churchill's upbringing and his, uh, shall we say, free-wheeling parents and also his neglected childhood, which can be heart-rending to read.

We read about the Boer War and ultimately the events that led to WWI. I had always wondered why the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand caused a world war, but then one sees the machinations behind...Austria wanting to reduce Slovenia back to a vassalage. Slovenia's refusal to return to serfdom, Russia coming to their aid, France coming to Russia's aid, England coming to France's aid and, finally the U.S. coming to everyone's aid.

Why? Because Kaiser Wihelm was determined to become Emperor of Europe and was going to back Austria invading Slovenia as a means to accomplish this.

A long, but informative and enjoyable read.

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And our first stop:  Tel Aviv.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 3, 2019

False Scent by Ngaio Marsh

Listening to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto no. 3 or the "Rock 3" as they referred to it in the movie, "Shine" starring Geoffrey Rush.  This one is performed by Vladimir Horowitz, a personal favorite and the greatest pianist of the 20th century.

As many of you know I have just got back from Israel.  I took a ton of photos so I will impose them on you a little at a time.  Our first stop was New York city where we stayed over night.  Unfortunately it was Columbus Day so all my favorite art museums were closed.

So we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge.  I naively thought it would just be a romantic stroll, just me and my hubby.  No, there were thousands and thousands of people with us. We were practically the only ones crossing into Manhattan.  Most were coming from Manhattan into Brooklyn.  So we were an hour pushing our way through the crowds like Salmon swimming upstream, and often getting pushed into the bicycle lane, which took up half the walkway.

One aggressive cyclist growled at me to move over.  After jumping up like a startled Armadillo getting shot at, I spent a good amount of time on the bridge thinking of all the things I could have said or did to that jerk:  stuck a stick in his wheels, screamed back...instead I had to let it go.  "Let it go, let it go..."

On the Manhattan side we went to see some of my favorite buildings.  The first one is the Flat Iron Building.  I have a large photo book of it's history through the eyes of famous photographers.

Of course the Empire State Building

And also the Chelsea Hotel.

We finished the day off at a Thai Restaurant Josh had learned about on one of the many foodie videos he watches on Youtube: Kum Gang San.

And here's my hubby as we wait for the train back to Brooklyn.  We leave the next morning for the Ukraine and then Israel.  He is holding my purse as I do something I can't remember what.  As you can see he is secure in his manhood.  He said he is going to carry a "murse" (man purse) when we get to Israel.

False Scent (Roderick Alleyn, #21)False Scent by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the first novel I have read of Ngaio Marsh. I hesitated for a while because I had read a short story by her and was not all that impressed. This novel, however, has changed my mind dramatically.

An aging actress is having a birthday party. We meet her and the various people that play roles in her life. I will not say more than that because there are several elements of surprise. You'll have to read the book to find out who is murdered, why anyone would want to murder this person (hint: there are ample reasons, or rather one profound reason many people would be motivated to do away with this individual) and all the clues and details that add up to a well-planned and subtle executing of a crime that no one, including the reader, regrets.

I thought Marsh's writing style was outstanding. Her characters all have strong voices and convincing personalities. I relished her dialogue and narration. The mystery was fine as mysteries go and Marsh certainly deserves her place in the Golden Era of Detective Author's Hall of Fame, but it was that beautiful writing, the descriptions that packed force, but never overly described that sell this book.

Her method of allowing us to see everyone's emotions and thoughts and motives was eloquent as well as effective in moving the storyline forward.

I hope to read many more of Marsh's books.

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Expect more Ngaio Marsh reviews.  My husband, who loves me, won a bid on eBay acquiring all but three of her books for 25 bucks.

A postcard I sent.  A work by Joan Miro.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Midnight in Peking by Paul French

This will be my last post for the month of October.  Josh and I are flying to Israel tomorrow morning and won't be back until November 1.  I promise lots of photos, however.

You must listen to this beautiful rendition of 

Scriabin: 24 Preludes, Op.11 (Lettberg, Stanev)

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old ChinaMidnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul   French
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of the most riveting non fiction stories I have read this year. Please note that I will be spoiling the ending, because I otherwise could not give an adequate review. This is a real life story about the murder of a young British girl in China.

The story takes place in 1937 and China and the world are balanced on the edge of a knife. Hitler is gathering his forces in Europe and Japan has already invaded China and encroaching ever closer to Peking (the author chooses to use the old names of Chinese cities and places. Therefore Beijing is Peking; Tiananmen Square is Chengtianmen and so on.) Pressure is on the old government and colonial Britain is about to find its place in history's past.

Just outside the Western quarter of Peking where the foreigners reside, is an edifice called the Fox Tower. I have recently read an anthology of Chinese ghost stories, so I appreciate the significance of the name. Foxes were once believed to be spirits or demons. They often were spirits of the dead and they would appear in human form to people in order to deceive, hurt or some times even fall in love with humans.

One morning a man walking his bird past the Fox Tower comes across a horrific sight. The mutilated body of a young woman is found lying in the gutter. Her face and body has been cut so severely that she is unrecognizable. Furthermore, her internal organs have been removed. Only by her clothes, though ripped in shreds, and a diamond watch she wears, her father is able to identify her.

Thus begins an investigation through Chinese and English channels that takes us into the dark underworld of a city on the edge of collapse.

French also gives us an excellent history of the different people who were living in Peking at the time and why. Many White Russian refugees fled there. Destitute, many of them set up brothels and bars. Others, from America, England, Italy, other Asian countries, people running away from their past, set up shop there as well.

But also highly respectable people. The murdered girl's father is an English scholar of Chinese culture and literature. Not only is he fluent in Mandarin, he speaks more dialects than his house hold staff. His daughter, Pamela, also speaks Mandarin fluently.

Detective Inspector Dennis and Detective Han piece together the history of Pamela and her father and the days before her disappearance and tragic reappearance to uncover who the criminals could be.

This is where I am going to spoil the story for you so do not continue if you plan on reading this book. Because this is a true story it does not end tidily like an Agatha Christie novel with Hercule Poirot congregating all the suspects and pointing out the guilty party.

Pamela's murderer or murderers go unpunished. The case goes cold and while there are several plausible theories as to what happened, no one this side of the Jordan will ever really know who committed this heinous crime and why.

Part of this reason, at least as the facts are presented by the author, is because the British Consulate was more concerned with saving British face than bringing possible western murderers to justice. Can't look bad to the local squabble, hip, hip.

The other reason, which the author shows, perhaps unintentionally, was, frankly, people had other problems, like the Japanese taking over. Pamela's father refused to leave until he found out who killed his daughter and ends up spending the war years in a POW camp.

So does the man that he believes is the murderer of his daughter. In fact, they stay inside the same prisoner camp for the duration of the war. French gives a good argument as to why this particular upstanding Western foreigner working in Peking with a "good" reputation, would be capable of such a crime and why he was never brought to justice.

Interestingly, both men survived their internment and returned to live in Peking.

I won't tell you who that man is or why there is good reason to consider him the guilty party, along with an insidious organization he belonged to. For that you'll have to read the book.

I will say this much. French's reconstruction of Pamela's final hours are entirely speculation and they don't satisfy questions I have as to why her body was mutilated in what looks to me like a Satanic or Occultic ritualistic way. Even if he is correct in his surmise of who did it and why they did it, he does not adequately explain why they cut her body up in such a strange and gruesome way.

Some of the reviews on Amazon claim the book was too slow or gave too much information. I disagree. It is one of the fastest paced, exciting and enthralling stories I've ever read, with the added boon of providing a good history of China, just prior to WWII and Mao Tse Tung's (archaic spelling on purpose) communist take over.

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Postcard of west Texas I sent.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Clockmaker by Georges Simenon

I'm not a huge Jazz fan, but I do like Bill Evans' solo work.  I find it meditative and poignant.  Here he is playing Alone.

The ClockmakerThe Clockmaker by Georges Simenon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A Clockmaker, Dave Galloway, has a simple life, stuck to its routine. He works in his shop, fixing watches, goes to his apartment, which is above his shop, has dinner, once a week goes to see his friend, Musak, and plays backgammon with him or watches the game.

Dave has a son, Ben, whom he loves and cares about, almost to the point of hovering. He feels protective and yearns to be closer to him. Both he and his son were deserted by Ben's mother when Ben was a baby. Dave has done his best to be both mother and father to his son.

Dave recalls his son as he grew up. In grade school, he was bullied, in secondary school, he becomes increasingly distant to his father. Dave finds this troubling but he feels helpless to do anything.

One night he comes home to discover that Ben has run off with the girl next door. She's fifteen and Ben is sixteen. They have taken Dave's car and stolen thirty dollars from the girl's mother.

Again, Dave feels helpless. Why should he call the police? If they want to marry, let them marry.

If it were only so simple. Coming home from work the next day, Dave is met by police. His car has been deserted by the side of the road, another car has been stolen and the owner murdered and left on the side of the road.

We see the story transpiring through the eyes of Dave and he is not an interesting narrator. He is about as clueless a person as can exist. We learn why he married Ben's mother (he doesn't know) and we hear him pondering as to why his son might have become a killer. He has no idea, but most of the book is Dave trying to put the fragments of his life together to try and make sense as how he and his son arrived at this place and time.

Dave seems too numb to feel anything. But he rather seemed like that before.

When his son is finally apprehended Dave flies out to see him. With interest, but without emotion, Dave notices that his son and his now wife, are not ashamed or exhibit any remorse. If anything, Ben acts proud of his "accomplishment". He admits his guilt and sees no reason to deny it.

When Ben sees his father in the crowd, he shows contempt and refuses to talk with him. Even when they fly on the same plane back home, Ben with his wife, surrounded by police officers, Dave in another seat in the back, Ben never looks at or acknowledges his dad.

This bewilders Dave. He doesn't understand how his son could be so arrogant.

The story concludes with Dave deciding that it was about rebelling against forces that overpower a person.

His mother was domineering and pushed his father around. His father was a timid man who spent his life going from bank to bank to get loans to make a living. He dropped dead at a bank while waiting to see someone about a loan.

Once, his father had an affair. His one time rebellion against his wife, Dave's mother. In his turn, Dave married a woman he knew was immoral and would never be faithful. He knew she would eventually desert him, which she did and their baby, Ben. Neither of them ever saw her again. But to him, it was his rebellion. Now his son.

He murdered a man. That was his rebellion.

To take something so philosophically and stoically does not make sense. I get the feeling that Simenon, while nodding to the need for law enforcement, really sees nothing wrong with murder anymore than he considers adultery wrong. It's simply a route some people take.

His attitude reflects the nihilistic, existentialist culture that had risen out of the writings of Camus and Sartre. I suppose he was simply going with the popular flow.

The problem is that, while that angle makes sense in Simenon's novels that take place in France, it seems unnatural in an American setting.

The Clockmaker takes place in New York and a few midwestern states. I had to keep reminding me that the characters were American, because Simenon's writing is so entrenched in his French nationality, I had a hard time not imagining Dave standing around, lighting a cigarette and shrugging philosophically at the strange workings of fate, but, c'est la vie.

The only slice of light in the whole novel is when Dave's friend Musak rises to the occasion and rescues his friend from complete spiritual catatonia by making him supper and breakfast, making him go to sleep, waking him up and driving him to the airport to see his son.

I have to conclude the Georges Simenon wrote of something he had no personal experience with. The entire story comes across as theoretical, as though he had an idea about a father and son, what if the son turns out to be a murderer? How would the father react? It comes across as guesswork.

And Simenon guessed wrong.

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