31 March 2016
During the drought season of new releases at the beginning of the calendar year I am revisiting a number of best-selling books that I had read many years ago. ABSOLUTE POWER is the first book that David Baldacci released in 1996 which immediately became a best-seller. It is still a pretty good and somewhat different thriller.
Luther Whitney has had a long-term career as a successful jewel thief and only burgles houses of the rich who can afford the loss. For some time, he has carefully planned a break-in to the house of a mega-rich man who has given his much younger beautiful trophy wife a lot of very expensive jewellery. Luther knows that the owners plan to be away. The break-in goes well and he quickly overcomes the hi-tech security system. In the main bedroom, he stumbles on a walk-in safe with a mirror door which stores the wife's jewellery. Suddenly he hears several cars arriving and quickly hides in the cupboard which is big enough to have an easy chair. Imagine his surprise when he finds that the mirror is transparent and he can see everything happening in the bedroom but they can't see him.
Luther then sees the beautiful wife about to make love to an older, and familiar looking man. Their lovemaking gets violent and the man gets angry and tries to strangle the woman. In self-preservation, she stabs the man with a letter opener. His security detail rush into the room and shoot and kill her. The man passes out with too much alcohol. A woman comes into the room and takes charge as the security men clean up the room of any clues to the killer - fingerprints, vacuuming carpets and even digging out one of the bullets from the wall.
No one is aware that Luther has seen all of the action. He is scared stiff because he recognised that the man is the US President, the second woman his Chief of Staff and the security men are Secret Service. The story kicks along when Luther decides that he needs to tell someone about what actually happened, but at the same time protect himself from danger.
Baldacci has written a very different fictional thriller about the US President and the corruption of power. The plot has many twists and turns, some of the in the unbelievable category, but overall it was a compelling and entertaining piece of fiction.
07 March 2016
It was with great sadness that I learnt of the passing of Pat Conroy, who I considered was America's Prince of Authors.
What always impressed me was Conroy's love for the scenic marshlands of coastal South Carolina. As an Aussie I have never been to SC but Conroy made sure that it is top of my list of places to visit. Conroy lived in Beaufort, SC because 'it's too beautiful to leave'.
Some people considered Conroy's prose too flowery but I loved its lyrical and almost poetic style.
To describe our growing up in the low country of South Carolina, I would have to take you to the marsh on a spring day, flush the great blue heron from its silent occupation, scatter marsh hens as we sink to our knees in mud, open an oyster with a pocketknife and feed it to you from the shell and say, 'There. That taste. That's the taste of my childhood.'
Pat Conroy had a tortured family life which was an unending source of inspiration for his fiction, notably the novels “The Great Santini,” “The Lords of Discipline” and “The Prince of Tides”. He said:
One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family.
Recently I revisited Prince of Tides as an Audiobook narrated brilliantly by the late Frank Muller. In his introduction to the audiobook, Pat Conroy said that Muller "gave me ... a work of art". I strongly recommend that narration which turned a really great book into a minor masterpiece.
Another Conroy quote that I will always remember was:
Without music, life is a journey through a desert.
Conroy died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 70. I hope that he will be able to enjoy Beach Music wherever he is.