Three books on the go.

I had six books on the go, now I only have three. Admittedly one was “only” a comic book, one was a volume of railway photographs with minimal text, and one was Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.”

“A Christmas Carol” then, yes, after decades of watching various versions of it on the telly I’ve read the book for the first time and in spite of the “spoilers” that I’ve been exposed to over the years I enjoyed the book and, even though my favourite screen version is The Muppet Christmas Carol (surely one of Michael Cain’s finest acting parts) I did find myself hearing Alastair Sim’s voice in my head as I read Ebeneezer’s dialogue.

The volume of railway photographs is Book 1 of “New York Central Color Photography of Ed Nowak.” In the 1940’s and 50’s Ed Nowak was official company photographer for the New York Central System, an American railroad in the northeast of the US, and the book is filled with examples of his photographs each with a few lines of explanatory text.

The comic or should I say graphic novel (a long-form, fictional work of sequential art, according to Wikipedia and they should know…) is a hardback edition of “Superman ’78” which was originally published as a series of comic books in 2021 as a sequel to the first two Superman films starring Christopher Reeve released in 1978 and 1980 respectively. The basic premise for publishing the comics was that the Superman 3 and Superman 4 films were quite pants, and they were, and us fans deserved a better story.

Oh yes, us fans (as in we the fans not United States fans) for fan of Superman I am and have been since the 1960’s when each week I would spend a chunk of my 2/6d pocket money on Superman comics.

The three books still in progress, and if you read the previous post, you probably already know this or have at least worked it out, are “Raven Black” by Ann Cleeves, “Barnes Wallis A Biography” by J. E. Morpurgo and, “Poems of Leigh Hunt” selected and edited by Reginald Brimley Johnson.

Raven Black because of the TV series “Shetland”. I and my partner had both enjoyed watching the adventures of Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez as indeed we had with the series “Vera” and as I’d already read one of Ann Cleeves’ Vera books and I have to say enjoyed it, although Vera doesn’t actually turn up, not properly until about a third of the way in, I thought I’d give one of the Shetland series books a go. So far, it is also enjoyable, and DI Jimmy Perez makes a much earlier entrance than DCI Vera Stanhope did Maybe that’s the privilege of rank, you don’t have to put in so much of a day.

Barnes Wallis: what can I say about that man that doesn’t involve bouncing bombs? Not a whole lot it seems so I thought I’d better read up a bit about the chap. Like I suspect a lot of young chaps were and maybe a few chapesses, I was enthralled by the World War Two story of 617 Squadron and the bouncing bombs used to breach certain German dams and thus disrupt the Nazi war effort. The bouncing bomb was of course designed by Barnes Wallis. Yes, I said “of course” because it’s common knowledge, isn’t it? Well, maybe not so much these days but it’s certainly a name that I’ve known since childhood.

In the film “The Dam Busters” there’s a small scene which is almost entirely made up for dramatic effect, but Wallis has gone to the Air Ministry to ask if he can borrow a Wellington Bomber to use for drop tests of his new bomb.

Ministry Official:
“You say you need a Wellington Bomber for test drops. They’re worth their weight in gold. Do you really think the authorities will lend you one? What possible argument could I put forward to get you a Wellington?”

“Well, if you told them I designed it, do you think that might help?”

It makes me smile every time. Wallis though didn’t design the Wellington, not all of it at any rate but he did devise the geodetic structure of the airframe that gave it such strength. It makes me smile every time, but war is no laughing matter really, is it. Just look at what’s going on in Ukraine.

In the Dams Raid, of the 133-aircrew involved 53 were killed and when Wallis heard of this, he declared that he’s never have pressed his ideas for the raid if he’d have known so many wouldn’t be coming back. War is no laughing matter, but Wallis wasn’t only about bombs, he designed airships in the earlier part of the 20th century and towards the middle of that century he was working on designs for supersonic airliners.

And the third book, c’mon, lets lift our spirits here a bit, shall we? The third book is a volume of poems and other writings by Leigh Hunt, selected and edited, as I wrote above, by one Reginald Brimley Johnson. I’ve written about this book before, here: On the deckle edges of life, so I won’t go over it again in too much detail except to say that it’s a lovely little book, the date on the frontispiece is 1891, some thirty-two years after Hunt died.

Up until recently I didn’t know much about Hunt at all, except that he’d written a poem (“Rondeau”) that I really like. Now I feel that I’m getting to know him a bit better. In his day he knocked about with the likes of Keats, Shelley, Browning, and Tennyson not to mention Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, Walter Savage Landor, and some bloke called Charles Dickens.

One of his works, Coronation Soliloquy of His Majesty King George the Fourth, is rather splendid and hunt doesn’t mince his words, well, rather he does in a poetical way, but he leaves the reader in no doubt of his attitude towards the King.

Here’s verse 1, there are 10 more…

Rego, regis,
Good God, what’s this?
What, only half my Peeries!
Regas, regat,
Good God, what’s that?
The voice is like my deary’s!
Oh, no more there;
Shut the door there;
Harum, scarum, strife O!
Bags, Bags, Sherry Derry, periwigs, and fat lads,
Save us from our wife O!

I love it! Anyway, that’s where I am with regards to books right now.

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