Read the Jackson Lamb novels

A birdy tells me you’ve got one of mine in your lock-up.”
“That would be River Cartwright.”
“Yes, but don’t blame me. I think his mother was a hippy.”
“Smoke a lot of dope while he was in the womb, did she? That might explain today’s dipshit behaviour. And I thought he was one of your cleverer boys.”
“Mind like a razor,” Lamb agreed. “Disposable.

Per Warren Ellis’s advice I’ve been working my way through Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb/Slough House novels over the last four months. Here’s Mr Ellis’s summary:

The Security Service, known popularly as MI5, sometimes can’t outright fire people.  Political reasons, operational reasons.  But it would still like to get rid of them. So it puts them in Slough House, a dismal set of offices intended to make those consigned there so miserable that they just quit.  Those people are known as slow horses. Slough House, slow horse.  Slough House is run by Jackson Lamb, himself a slow horse of mysterious provenance, an impressively offensive creature who looks a bit like Timothy Spall if you stuffed Timothy Spall with old pork fat and left him out in the rain for six weeks.

I liken the novels to Len Deighton’s Bernard Samson novels but brought into the Brexit age and with a bit of The Office thrown in. They are enormously enjoyable; funny and smart and, occasionally, shocking.

I’ve actually been listening to the novels via Audible. All so far have been narrated by Seán Barrett, who lends something almost like a sense of authenticity to the story. Each passage of the book is written from someone’s point of view and Barrett is easily able to capture the differences in tone and perspective. And his Jackson Lamb is perfect.

I have two novels to go out of the six currently in print. There hasn’t been a stinker yet. Highly recommended.

Cuba Libre by Elmore Leonard

I went to the local second-hand bookshop looking for an Elmore Leonard novel, any Elmore Leonard novel. I was looking for the kind of dialogue that Quentin Tarantino looks up to. I was looking for a character like Raylan Givens in Justified

Cuba Libre has a lot going for it: set in Cuba when America invades. Corrupt local soldiers. Honest local cops. A cowboy with a fast draw that gets him into trouble. A beautiful and smart blonde a long way from home. A soldier unjustifiably detained. A greedy plantation owner and the old fixer that works for him. A dumb henchman. A cold-heart-ed killer.

Unfortunately the book is only just the sum of its parts. I’ve followed Ryan Holiday’s advice and given it a few weeks to settle in and I like the book much less than I did when I finished it. The flaws have become more obvious: Some characters and plot points are superfluous. The dialog is exposition heavy rather than snappy. I didn’t buy the romantic storyline at all.

Look, the story is fine. It would be a decent holiday read. But this probably isn’t the Elmore Leonard I was looking for. 

This post is syndicated to GoodReads.