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Bettie's Books

A Stuga On the Cusp of the Orust Riviera, tucked away next to a hobbit hole in the woods.

The Little Walls by Winston Graham

The Little Walls - Winston Graham
bookshelves: radio-4x, published-1955, play-dramatisation, suicide, holland-amsterdam, mystery-thriller
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from April 07 to 14, 2016



Description: Philip has returned to Europe from America after his brother appeared to commit suicide in Amsterdam. His search for the truth takes him from England to Holland and Italy.

Stars Alex Jennings as Philip Turner, Roger Lloyd Pack as Martin Coxon, Kate Buffery as Leonie Winter, Vivian Pickles as Charlotte Weber and Norman Jones as Captain Sanbergh.

Winston Graham's novel was the first winner of the Crime Writers' Association award for best crime novel of the year in 1955. Dramatised by Juliet Ace.

The Ends of the Earth (The Wide World Trilogy #3) by Robert Goddard

The Ends of the Earth: The Wide World - James Maxted 3 - Robert Goddard


Description: A thrilling climax to Robert Goddard's bestselling adventure trilogy, The Wide World.
July 1919. Ex-flying ace James 'Max' Maxted's attempt to uncover the secret behind the death of his father, Sir Henry Maxted, murdered while serving as an adviser with the British delegation to the Paris peace conference, has seemingly ended in failure -- and his own death.
The trail uncovered by him leads to Japan and a mysterious prisoner held by Sir Henry Maxted's old enemy, Count Tomura. Unaware of Max's fate, the team he has recruited to finish the job are already there, where their paths cross that of former German spymaster, Fritz Lemmer, now rebuilding his spy network in the service of a new, more sinister cause.
In the days and weeks ahead, the quest Max embarked on in Paris will reach its dizzying end at Tomura's castle in the mountains of Honshu -- and the full truth of what occurred thirty years before will finally be laid bare.

Opening: SAM TWENTYMAN WAS A LONG WAY FROM HOME. HE HAD NEVER imagined he might stray so far from his Walthamstow roots. He was not by nature the straying kind. Yet here he was sitting on a bollard smoking a cigarette while people of several races and numerous nationalities swarmed around him on Yokohama pier.

Underwhelmed by this last book in the trilogy, it was a question of having to drive myself through. I did wonder if Goddard himself had tired of it. Baseline 3*

5* In Pale Battalions
3* Into the Blue
5* Past Caring
4* Caught In The Light
4* Long Time Coming
3* Never Go Back
3* Sight Unseen
TR Beyond Recall
3* Borrowed Time
3* Hand in Glove
WL Fault Line
4* Set In Stone
1* Found Wanting
2* Name To A Face
4* Painting The Darkness
1* Dying To Tell
3* Play to the End
3* Out of the Sun
3* Days Without Number
4* Take No Farewell
2* Closed Circle
TR Blood Count
3* Sea Change

3* The Ways of the World (The Wide World Trilogy #1)
4* The Corners of the Globe (The Wide World - James Maxted, #2)
3* The Ends of the Earth (The Wide World Trilogy, #3)

Reykjavik by Jonathan Myerson

bookshelves: radio-4, play-dramatisation, cold-war
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from April 07 to 13, 2016



Description: 11th October 1986: the height of the Cold War, enough missiles to detonate the planet two thousand times over.

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meet at Gorbachev's request for a one-day, informal chat, at the (some say haunted) Hofdi House near Reykjavik. But in the small brown room where they meet, Gorbachev suddenly blindsides the Americans: out of the blue, he offers 50% cuts in all missiles - and he'll sign today. The White House team is catastrophically unprepared for this - no-one predicted it.

But Reagan sees how he can really achieve something.... and within hours they are talking the most colossal cuts in nuclear warheads, aiming to reach zero missiles within ten years. How did this happen? How did it fail?

Drawing on both American and Russian transcripts of every word said between the two leaders, Jonathan Myerson's gripping drama explores the pressures on both sides, moment by moment, as the deal grows bigger and bigger, and the drama shifts from measured words at the negotiating table, to the panic, graft and invention of the two diplomatic teams outside the room.

Ronald Reagan Kerry Shale
Mikhail Gorbachev Zubin Varla
George Shultz Colin Stinton
Eduard Shevardnadze Michael Bertenshaw
John Poindexter Matthew Marsh
Georgy Arbatov Matthew Marsh
Paul Nitze Nathan Osgood
Ed Rowny Ian Conningham
Roz Ridgway Elaine Claxton
Sergei Akhromeyev David Acton

A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment by John Preston

A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment - John M. Preston


Penguin Books (UK) Viking

Description: In 1979, Jeremy Thorpe, the rising star of the Liberal Party, stood trial for conspiracy to murder. It was the first time that a leading British politician had stood trial on a murder charge. It was the first time that a murder plot had been hatched in the House of Commons. And it was the first time that a prominent public figure had been exposed as a philandering homosexual. With all the pace and drama of a thriller, A Very English Scandal is an extraordinary story of hypocrisy, deceit and betrayal at the heart of the British Establishment.

Opening: PART I: A Dinner at the House of Commons: One evening in February 1965, a man with a fondness for mohair suits, an unusaually wrinkled face and a faint resemblance to Humphrey Bogart walked into the member's dining room at the House of Commons. His name was Peter Bessell and he was the Liberal MP for Bodmin in Cornwall.

Take one callous homosexual rapist with eyes on Number 10 Downing Street, and you end up with this train wreck. If you could envisage the non-payment of NI employer contributions as the horse's nail:
“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”
Preston's biography of Thorpe also brushes up against the Profumo Affair, and we also come smack bang up against the paedophile Liberal MP from Rochdale, Cyril Smith.

On page 173, just when I thought the sleaze and hypocrisy could not become any worse we are treated to this eye-opening encounter:

Thorpe decided to use some of MacKay's money on a new party political broadcast. He was keen that the party should engage with younger voters, and he cast around for a suitable format in which to put across his message. It's unclear who suggested that he should appear in front of an invited audience with the disc jockey Jimmy Savile, but it was an idea Thorpe eagerly embraced. [..] At one point a member of the audience asked if it was ever permissible to break the law in this country. Both men vigorously shook their heads. "I believe this country is a democracy where ther is no need to break the law," said Thorpe. "There are sufficient democratic outlets without having to do so." Savile nodded his agreement.

And on page 186, Johnny Savile:

Jimmy Savile wasn't the only member of his family with close Liberal connections: his older brother Johnny was standing as the Liberal candidate in Battersea North. Fifteen years after his death in 1998, Johnny Savile was accused of sexually assaulting mentally ill patients at the hospital in Tooting, where he worked as a recreation officer.

Jeremy Thorpe with Cyril Smith. Liberal party, police and MI5 concealed MP Cyril Smith's industrial-scale child abuse

Leo Abse - a white hat in a flouncy shirt who pushed for pro homosexual legislation

Clement Freud

David Steel - please note, Mr Steel was nowt but a good guy. His picture here is because of how white he turned when he heard Mr Norman Scott tell his tale.

You have heard me regale at length before about the writing getting in the way of the story: Preston tells the story without curlicues to distract from the hideously breathtaking events; jounalism at its best. 'Just the facts ma'am' is what I crave and what was delivered. It seems entirely natural that this is the first read after the Panama Papers where I have to employ a money laundering shelf. Now I need to give my brain a scrub to rid myself of these corrupters of the common good.

13.05.2015: Jeremy Thorpe: Inquiry into claims police altered evidence

Police to investigate 'suppressed evidence' from Jeremy Thorpe trial

James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room

Brecht at Night (Baltic Literature) by Mati Unt

Brecht at Night (Baltic Literature) - Mati Unt


Description: This "documentary novel," the latest of Estonian author Mati Unt's deadpan and playful works to be translated into English, is about a little-known period in the life of the great Bertolt Brecht, when the writer—having fled Nazi Germany— became stuck in Finland awaiting the visa that would allow him to leave Europe for the United States. As BB, the avowed communist, continues enjoying the bourgeois pleasures of pre-war life with his wife and tubercular mistress, the Soviet Union is not-so-quietly annexing Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia; and the gulf between Brecht's preferred lifestyle and his inflammatory polemics grows larger and larger. Both affectionate and irreverent, this portrait of one of the twentieth century's great authors mixes together a variety of comic styles, excerpts from contemporaneous documents, and Unt's trademark digressions, producing a kind of historical novel as interested in interrogating the past as simply recreating it.

Opening: PART I: HE ARRIVES: 1940: BERTOLT BRECHT ONBOARD SHIP AT NIGHT: when Brecht notices that it is growing dark outside over the sea - he can see this through the misty porthole - he goes up on deck for some reason or another.

Interesting rather than enjoyable.

The Collected Macabre Stories by L.P. Hartley,

The Collected Macabre Stories - L.P. Hartley, Mark Valentine
bookshelves: spring-2016, boo-scary, radio-4x, shortstory-shortstories-novellas
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from March 28 to April 08, 2016



1: Night Fears: A nightwatchman takes on a new job, but is he prepared for anyone he might meet? Read by Robert Lang.

2: The Waits: Mr Mariner is looking forward to Christmas Eve when there's an unexpected knock at the door. Read by Robert Lang.

3: W.S.: Novelist Walter Streeter has devoted admirers, but will he be happy to meet a new one in the flesh? Read by Robert Lang.

4: The Price of the Absolute: A man inherits some objects, but will he be able to control the events they set in motion? Read by Robert Lang.

The Chess Girls by Lavinia Greenlaw

bookshelves: spring-2016, chess, radio-4, women, play-dramatisation
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read on April 07, 2016



Description: The emergence of the Polgar sisters in the 1970s and 80s rocked the chess world. In a heavily male dominated game, the three Hungarian girls broke record after record. The youngest, Judit, was talked of as a potential world champion.

The Chess Girls is the story of their parents, Laszlo and Klara Polgar, and how they defied the Communist authorities to conduct a remarkable educational experiment. Laszlo Polgar, convinced that any healthy child can be trained to become a genius, set out to prove his theory with his own children.

This is a drama-documentary with excerpts from an interview with Laszlo and Klara Polgar recorded for the play. The writer, Lavinia Greenlaw, takes their account and re-creates the lives of the young Polgar family in their tiny Budapest flat. The fictional Laszlo is played by Kerry Shale, and Klara by Sally Orrock.

Beethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet by Edward Dusinberre

bookshelves: radio-4, spring-2016, music, nonfiction, published-2016
Read from March 28 to April 08, 2016




Description: Edward Dusinberre is the Tackas Quartet's first violinist and in his illuminating account he takes us inside the daily life of a string quartet and explores his creative, musical and personal relationships with his fellow players. He also looks at the challenges of performing Beethoven's extraordinary quartet music which was composed against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Recordings of the Tackas Quartet playing Beethoven's string quartets will be interwoven into each programme. Tim McMullan is the reader.

1/5 Audition

2/5 The First Season

3/5 Irretrievably Fractured

4/5 Recreation

5/5 Convalescence

Moxon's Master by Ambrose Bierce

bookshelves: spring-2016, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, chess, radio-4x
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from March 28 to April 04, 2016



Description: Can a machine think? And if so, could it be prone to violence like humans? A pioneering story first published in 1893, read by Robert Lang.

She Who Must Be Obeyed by John Mortimer

bookshelves: radio-4, play-dramatisation, fanfic-writeback, published-2016, spring-2016, amusing
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from March 31 to April 01, 2016



Description: Following in the footsteps of several distinguished former Rumpoles - Leo McKern, Maurice Denham, Timothy West and Benedict Cumberbatch - Julian Rhind-Tutt, one of Radio 4's most popular actors and much loved star of TV's Green Wing and The Hour, now dons the wig and white bands of the most erudite, astute, and seldom defeated of barristers in the annals of the Old Bailey.

Rumpole's long-suffering wife Hilda - She Who Must Be Obeyed - narrates a fascinating tale of murder and romance that Horace would prefer to remain untold.

An instructing solicitor, Daniel Newcombe, asks Rumpole to defend a young man, Michael Skelton, who's accused of bludgeoning his father to death with a golf club. Hilda finds Daniel to be everything that Horace is not - well-groomed, charming, sensitive and complimentary.

After being wooed over lunch, she agrees to act as Daniel's 'spy', reporting back on Rumpole's defence preparations. However, when Hilda realises that Daniel is hiding the truth from her, and from everyone involved in the murder case, she's forced to consider whose side she ought to be on.

Hilda narrates the whole story with a refreshing honesty and witty candour that we thought only her husband could manage, and reveals a passionate and frustrated side, as Rumpole catches a glimpse of the true nature of his wife.

Horace Rumpole............... Julian Rhind-Tutt
Hilda Rumpole ................. Jasmine Hyde
Daniel Newcombe ........... Stuart McQuarrie
Claude Erskine-Brown ..... Nigel Anthony
Mr Justice Graves.............. Stephen Critchlow
Mrs Beazley ..................... Cathy Sara

Dead in the Water by Tony McHale

bookshelves: spring-2016, play-dramatisation, published-2014, radio-4, mystery-thriller
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read on April 03, 2016



Description: In a bustling fairground best friends Holly and Nicole are recording sounds for a school science project. Amongst the melee of people, rides and music Holly overhears snippets of a conversation between two men, the words "poison...shooting...dead in the water". Could she have just stumbled on a murder plot? With Nicole's help Holly sets out to investigate and when the girls identify the voices on the recording, they have their first clue. But can they stop the murder in time? As Holly and Nicole try and discover the intended victim before time runs out they begin to realise they might just have stumbled on something even more sinister than they could ever have imagined.

A thriller from Tony McHale starring Yasmin Paige (Submarine, Pramface) as Holly and Lily Lovelace (The Fades, Skins) as Nicole.

Holly Yasmin Paige
Nicole Lily Loveless
Vickers Gary Amers
Joel Jody Latham
Kay Jo Hartley
Maria Kacey Ainsworth
Police Officer Paul Stonehouse
Keely Sinead Michael
Writer Tony McHale
Director Heather Larmour

The Belgian Nurse by Zoë Fairbairns

bookshelves: radio-4, published-2007, spring-2016, play-dramatisation, women
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read on April 02, 2016



Description: The story of a friendship that created one of the 20th century's best-selling novels and films. When American writer Kathryn Hulme meets a Belgian nurse on a UN Relief Programme after the Second World War, she doesn't understand why Marie-Louise Habets is so unwilling to talk about herself. It's only later that Marie-Louise admits she has recently left her convent – a confession that reaches a worldwide audience through the book and then the film of The Nun's Story.

Kathryn Hulme ...... Debora Weston
Marie-Louise Habets ...... Rachel Atkins
Pierre ...... John Moraitis
Fred Zinneman ...... Garrick Hagon
Audrey Hepburn ...... Christine Kavanagh
Mother Benedict ...... Jane Ridley

Of course I was going to be hooked by the Gurdjieff v Roman Catholic discussions. Now Mr Projectionist must find me the film.

This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World

This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World - Jerry Brotton



Description: Professor Jerry Brotton, one of the UK's leading experts on cultural exchange, examines Queen Elizabeth I's fascination with the Orient. He shows that England's relations with the Muslim world were far more extensive, and often more amicable, than we have ever appreciated, and that their influence was felt across the political, commercial and domestic landscape of Elizabethan England.

Derek Jacobi reads the captivating account of how Britain sent ships, treaties and gifts to the royal families of Morocco and Turkey, including a gold carriage and a full-size pipe organ.

1/5: discover the origins of our taste for Oriental imports - including the sugar which rotted the teeth of our sovereign.

2/5: A merchant voyage ends in tragedy when the crew is captured

3/5: the sights and sounds of a royal pageant held in Whitehall in the year 1600 for the Moroccan ambassador.

4/5: Queen Elizabeth I's advisers debate how to satisfy yet again the sultan of Turkey's demands for elaborate royal presents.

5/5: we visit the London stage to discover the Elizabethan fascination with the little-known world of Islam, particularly by Shakespeare and Marlowe.

The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary

The Horse's Mouth - Joyce Cary


Description: The Horse's Mouth, the third and most celebrated volume of Joyce Cary's First Trilogy, is perhaps the finest novel ever written about an artist. Its painter hero, the charming and larcenous Gulley Jimson, has an insatiable genius for creation and a no less remarkable appetite for destruction. Is he a great artist? a has-been? or an exhausted, drunken ne'er-do-well? He is without doubt a visionary, and as he criss-crosses London in search of money and inspiration the world as seen though his eyes appears with a newly outrageous and terrible beauty.

Opening:I was walking by the Thames.

After thumping down to earth with the second in the triptych, namely To Be A Pilgrim, I was put off Cary for a long while. Now I'm back and relishing the thought that this, The Horse's Mouth, is the best of them all. Gully Jimson's father was tentatively based on abstract artist Gerald Wilde. There is a Shepperton Studio film of this book starring Alec Guinness, unfortunately the full film is not available on youtube.

If you want to get that scholarship and go to Oxford and get into the Civil Service and be a great man and have two thousand pounds a year and a nice clean wife with hot and cold and a kid with real eyes that open and close and a garage for two cars and a savings book, you'll have to work your dinner time.

Well, I thought, here's another of the Jill's in the box. But no woman really gets old inside until she's dead or takes to bridge. Scratch the grandmother and you find the grandbaby giggling behind the nursery door at nothing at all. Nothing a man would understand.

4* Herself Surprised
2* To Be A Pilgrim
4* The Horse's Mouth

4* Mister Johnson

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

Hot Milk - Deborah Levy
bookshelves: spring-2016, published-2016, radio-4, medical-eew, women, those-autumn-years, mental-health, glbt, spain
Read from March 18 to April 01, 2016



Description: Hot Milk is the latest novel by Man Booker shortlisted author Deborah Levy. Set it Southern Spain it explores female rage and sexuality and the stubborn primal bond that exists between a hypochondriac mother and her daughter.

Sophia, a young anthropologist, has 'been sleuthing her mother's symptoms' for as long as she can remember as Rose, the older woman, is suffering from a form of paralysis that might or might not be imagined. Driven to find a cure beyond the realms of conventional medicine, they have come to Almeria in Southern Spain to visit the clinic of Dr Gomez. His methods appear to have little to do with physical medicine and he prompts both women to confront the true nature of their relationship. Why is Sophia unable to escape her mother's constant complaints? Are Rose's symptoms psychosomatic?

The oppressive desert heat pushes both to examine the root of Rose's illness and the cause of Sofia's fractured identity. And Sofia discovers the sting of desire, and the need to be vital and alive.

1/10 : Dr Gomez welcomes Rose to the unconventional methods of his clinic.

2/10: Sofia vows to release a German shepherd and receives a persistent late night caller.

3/10: Dr Gomez takes Rose and Sofia out for lunch and graffiti is spray-painted onto the walls of the clinic.

4/10: Ingrid Bauer proves to be deft with both an arrow and a needle, and Sofia endures more Medusa stings.

5/10: Rose insists on buying a watch of fake diamonds and Sofia guesses the identity of the graffiti artist.

6/10: Dr Gomez insists that Rose gives up all her medication and Sofia and Ingrid become lovers.

7/10: Sofia has flown to Athens to meet her Greek father for the first time in eleven years.

8/10: Sofia returns from Athens to Spain feeling liberated from her father, but increasingly drawn to Ingrid who is waiting for her in Almeria.

9/10: Rose files a complaint about Dr Gomez' clinic (Go-METH) and his clinic becomes the subject of an investigation.

10/10: Sofia at last feels she can live her own life, but her relationship with her mother Rose has to endure one final test.

The reader is Indira Varma and Hot Milk is abridged by Sally Marmion.
The producer is Julian Wilkinson.

Wolf Willow: A History, a Story & a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier by Wallace Stegner

Wolf Willow: A History, a Story & a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier - Wallace Stegner


Description: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner's boyhood was spent on the beautiful and remote frontier of the Cypress Hills in southern Saskatchewan, where his family homesteaded from 1914 to 1920. In a recollection of his years there, Stegner applies childhood remembrance and adult reflection to the history of the region to create this wise and enduring portrait of a pioneer community existing on the verge of a modern world.

The geologist who surveyed southern Saskatchewan in the 1870s called it one of the most desolate and forbidding regions on earth.

My town used to be as bare as a picked bone, with no tree anywhere around it larger than a ten-foot willow or alder. Now it is a grove.

The axles were unpeeled poplar o cottonwood logs, and the wheels could not be greased because grease would have collected dust and frozen the hubs to the axles. The shriek of a single Red River cart was enough to set tenderfoot visitors writing home: it was an experience of an excruciating kind.
Speed on, speed on, good Master!
The camp lies far away;
We must cross the haunted valley
Before the close of day.
Canadian Boat Song by Tom Moore and sung by Cosán

Lots here to like and will appeal to those who know the area in real life, and those who delight in Stegner's prose. Recommended.

4* The Spectator Bird
4* Wolf Willow
4* Angle of Repose