Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Dirty Book Club

It seems that Cole and the Chinatown Kittens have taken up reading (among their other interests). When the Tall Lady and I got home this afternoon, we found a number of our tattered, dog-eared paperbacks on the floor of the second bedroom cum office cum library. Here are some of our little scholars' recommendations (or rejections).

Under the Eagle - Simon Scarrow (2000)            AD 42: Claudius has been emperor of Rome for about a year. To celebrate his ascension, or perhaps his survival, he has freed a number of his loyal slaves, one of whom is seventeen year-old Quintus Licinius Cato. Thinking that the army is the just the life for a smart, healthy lad, Claudius ships Cato off to Germany to join the Second Legion under the command of Titus Vespasian. He also sends a letter of reference, suggesting the the clever boy should be commissioned as a centurion. 

Cato is placed in the century (a unit of eighty men) commanded by Lucius Cornelius Macro, a good-natured, fearless, foul-mouthed little soldier who has been in the army for about twenty years (since he was Cato's age), and has just earned the rank of centurion himself. Because no one is willing to trust the new boy with his own command, he is made Macro's optio or second in command, in preference over men who feel they are more deserving of the honour. 

 Macro has a embarassing secret - he can't read - and when Vespasian finds out, it will be back to the ranks for him! Cato, on the other hand, hasn't learned to do much else. So the two come to an arrangement - Cato will teach his centurion how to read, and Macro will teach the boy how to stay alive.

No Smoke - Hugh Collins (2001)   AD 1976: Barney Boone is known to the police. Barney is a sixty-seven year-old, small-time Glasgow confidence man who takes great pride that in all his years in crime and all his years in prison, he's never committed a violent act. Certainly, violence has been done to Barney, often at the hands (and boots) of his local constabulary.  So Barney is also proud of the fact that he's never grassed (informed to the police). He's feeling his age, though, and he's looking for one big score before he retires.
His latest enterprise involves selling a van full of children's plastic raincoats to a pair of young Pakistani entrepreneurs with ridiculously heavy accents.  Now, Barney doesn't own the van, and the van contains no raincoats. To be fair, though, his customers haven't been entirely honest with him either - they've lived in Glasgow most of their lives, and they've just paid him in counterfeit money! Easy-going Barney is arrested later that night passing the bogus loot in his local pub. His young, violent partners escape after slashing the barmaid with a razor, and Barney is incarcerated in the same holding cell as Rashid, one of his victims. When Rashid dies mysteriously in police custody, Barney is released because he could prove to be an inconvenient witness. 

Of course, for Barney's associates, Jake and Skud, there's another obvious conclusion: "the auld yin must hae grassed"

Guernica - Dave Boling (2008)                                 AD 1893 - 1940: When widowed Basque farmer, Pascual Ansotegui, abandons his family basseri, Errotabarri, his thirteen year old son, Justo and his younger brothers, Josepe and Xabier, are left to raise themselves. They manage, like most families, to succeed more or less. By the time they've grown, Josepe has discovered that he doesn't like farming, and he leaves for the coastal town of Lekeitio to learn to be a fisherman. Justo decides that young Xabier is too bright to be a farmer, and convinces him to study for the priesthood.

Years pass, and powerful, ugly Justo meets and falls in love with beautiful, graceful Mariangeles Onati, who, to everyone's surprise but Justo's, accepts his marriage proposal. Josepe is also married, having gone through a not entirely involuntary shotgun ceremony with his patroia's daughter, Felicia Barinaga. Baby brother Xabier has become the admired and respected priest of a nearby town, and is a man who always seems to have the right answers to his parishioner's hardest questions, probably because he has developed his conscience as well as his theology.

In Lekeitio, Josepe's friend and business partner, Jose Maria Navarro, has two boys, Eduardo and Miguel. Dodo is the capable big brother and family firecracker. Miguel will never be a good fisherman, because he spends the greater part of his workday throwing up over the side of the family boat. When Dodo gets involved in a tavern brawl that ends badly for two members of the Guardia Civil, both he and Miguel are forced to leave home. Dodo goes to France, and Miguel Navarro leaves for Josepe Ansotegui's village in the Pays Basque where he will meet Justo and Mariangeles' daughter, Miren. It is 1931, and the village is called Guernica.

 So, what are your cats reading today?


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