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    This is the third and last book on the three book series following the life and times of Cicero in ancient Rome. The story is told through the eyes and fictional writings of a particularly interesting character called Tiro.

        He starts out as one of Cicero’s slaves but through their long association he rises to become a valued assistant, secretary, confidant, and finally a close friend, and ultimately a free man.

        Tiro is a credited with inventing an early form of shorthand and one can believe that too, as Cicero is constantly throwing out rapid fire comments as they criss-cross the Roman world, words that he demands Tiro immediately takes down, sometimes incredibly witty, other times cutting and biting, and words that one day might come back to haunt him.

        But always at the back if it all is Cicero’s desire to protect the freedoms that the citizens of the republic enjoy. Much of Cicero’s thoughts and writings included here are attributable to the man himself through Robert Harris’s amazing research and dedication.

       This book was twelve years in the making and I can believe that too. It’s a whopping 520 pages of a rollicking good read as Cicero ducks and dives around the machinating Caesar, Pompey, Crassus, Brutus, Cato, Marc Antony, Octavian, and all the rest.

       It was a dangerous time to be alive, especially if you dared to become involved in politics and statesmanship. So many of the big names of the day were to experience early and violent deaths, facts that are certain to keep the story boiling and running.

       If you have any interest in ancient Rome then this is a must read for you. In many ways it’s a Godfather gangster book from two millennia ago, when the world was both so very different, but also so incredibly similar to today. Of course I enjoyed it, that goes without saying, and I am sorry that Mister Harris’s Roman chronicles appear to be over.

       And here's some video of the man himsef talking about "Dictator".       


  2. There are four kids close to finishing law school, and in the process of doing so, they have built up a backlog of tuition fees close to $200,000 each, I kid you not. The idea is that once they land a super law job those fees will soon be repaid through their sky-high salaries. The only problem is that there are very few such jobs, and many of them pay poorly.

    One of the four, Gordy starts investigating the whole sad and sorry business. He’s in love with another of the four, Zola, a tall and striking African American, even though he’s engaged to someone else at the time, and he has mental issues to boot, and is off his meds.

    The other two guys are white and becoming interested in Gordy’s crazy ideas, and I can’t remember their names for two reasons, one they seem fairly faceless unremarkable characters, and two, because they keep changing their blessed names throughout the book.

    So begins John Grisham’s “The Rooster Bar”. As much as anything this is a dig at the whole idea of tuition fees, and that’s no bad thing. It’s as big a problem in the UK as it is in the USA. Many of the young people who are saddled with such huge ongoing debts are jealous and angry of their parents and grandparents who went to university, if they were lucky enough to gain a place back then, and paid little or nothing toward their education.

    Some opportunistic politicians are now offering to sweep away those fees in exchange for votes, though few of them choose to say how they will pay for that, but no one is surprised that many kids quite like the idea.

    Needless to say, the four rebels come up with some interesting ideas as to how they will deal with their personal debt mountain, and therein lies the main story of this book. I’ll say no more about that here, but it keeps the plot going and the reader relatively happy.

    If you like and enjoy John Grisham books you will no doubt enjoy this one too. As always, it’s easy to get into, and easy to read. Is it one of Mr Grisham’s best works? No, it isn’t, but it isn’t one of his worst ones either.

    It seems to me that John Grisham could write a book like this in his sleep, maybe he did, always assuming that he did write it himself, and I have no reason to suspect otherwise, but with so many blockbusting writers establishing mini and not so mini publishing empires around themselves through adopting cooperative writing programs with other lesser known writers, one can never be so sure these days.

    Either way, it would seem that Mr Grisham likes the idea of being the most successful fiction writer on the planet, and shows no sign of slowing down. This is his thirty-eighth book and there is no reason to suspect it might be his last. He will be missed when he stops, that’s for sure, though he wouldn’t be the first writer to keep the juggernaut motoring on long after he’d conked out.

    Did I enjoy it? Yes. Will I buy his next one? Probably. At the end of the day, I admire the man, and I make no bones about that. Successful hardworking writers deserve all the kudos they get.       


    And here's some video of the man himself talking about this book.





    Yes, the blessed CONTACT ME form has not been working, nor has the response form at the foot of blog posts.

    This was caused by some kind of SPAM filter blocking posts, and NOT my SPAM filter. It has now been corrected.

    Don't you just love computers sometimes!!! They can drive us mad.

    My sincere apologies if you sent a recent message and did not receive a response.

    Please send your message through to me again and I will respond immediately.


    Best wishes,

    David Carter





    There is about as much chance that Jamie Vardy wrote this book as Leicester City have of ever winning the Premier League – Oops – Tee hee! Mud on the face - again!

    Actually, we know he was rubbish at school because the book tells us that very same thing several times, his only good subject being maths, skills honed calculating Darts check-outs.

    Everyone knows that sports stars and celebrities often get someone else to write their “story” and that was done here. You can see that in the title “With” Stuart James, it says, so we know who did the bulk of the writing.

    And well written it is too. The book cracks along at a great pace, and what’s more it is an incredible story. As a kid he was told he was too small to make it as a pro, that happens to many of us, yours truly included, but somehow Jamie Vardy still did make it, and via an extraordinary route at that, through Stockbridge Steel, to Halifax, Fleetwood and ultimately, the aforementioned Leicester, and not forgetting England too. You have to give him huge credit for that. So if you are among the vast ranks of the rejected and dejected you can take great comfort from this book.

    There were one or two things I did not like. Firstly, the reliance on bad language, and then some, it’s everywhere, and call me old fashioned but would you really want your ten year old boy, or girl come to that, to read and repeat such things. Okay, the guy isn’t going to say to refs: “Oh bother, jolly hockey sticks”, but there will be people out there who won’t like it here.

    Secondly, it is truly amazing how much alcohol is still taken among the football fraternity. I rather thought that had to some extent gone out of the game after Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson clamped down on it, but the wonder of it is that the players were ever fit and able to play for Leicester City, never mind capable of bashing up allcomers, not literally, you understand. Mister Vardy hinted toward the end of the book that he had seriously cut back on his consumption, and surely that was for the better.

    But leaving those two gripes aside this is a truly engaging tale. A fairytale even, and one that even had Hollywood sniffing round with the idea of making a movie of his life story. That couldn’t possibly happen too, could it? Talk of that has gone a bit quiet lately, we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

    The book ends with the Premier League win, which is somewhat disappointing for I’m sure the readers would love to hear his side of the story about what happened the following season when the club slumped and the unfortunate Claudio Ranieri was sacked. Maybe there will be a follow up second book with yet more revelations; I’d certainly buy it. 

    The book is easy to read, keeps the reader interested all the way through, and gives an insight into Jamie’s quite complicated life. If you like sports biogs do give this one a twirl. And if I was still playing football today, (chance would be a fine thing!) would I want Jamie Vardy on my side?

    Course I would. He’d be first pick! Absolutely. Though we might have a scrap over who takes the peno’s.    





    Thinking back to bonfire night 1991 I think everyone who had any interest in commerce knew that Robert Maxwell’s businesses were in trouble. It was an open secret. So when I heard he had gone missing from his yacht when I was driving home from Chester that evening I won’t have been alone in wondering if he fell or if he jumped. This book, "The Assassination of Robert Maxwell, Israel’s Superspy", goes a lot further than that, by adding a third option into the equation. Could he have been murdered and thrown off, as it is suggested here. And who would have done such a thing?

    The man had enemies under every stone, and mighty powerful ones at that. During his life he had worked for more than one intelligence agency, and had quite likely annoyed them beyond belief, and several others too.

    FBI, CIA, MOSSAD, MI5, MI6 and the KGB were all interested in him, and in a big way. This book suggests that he was trying to squeeze money out of anyone who would listen, and that would be no surprise, even including intelligence agencies, to prop up his ailing empire, and was murdered because some people simply didn’t want to pay up.

    Whatever you think of the idea, it’s a well-written book (by Gordon Thomas and Martin Dillon) and there is a lot here too, 448 pages and small print too, to cram in more detail. I found most of the info here easily enough on the Internet, though whether those people got it from this book, or the other way around, is a moot point.

    And that brings me to the proofreading, which surely could have been done better, lots of typos and misspellings, and indeed if an indie book was put out in the same manner people would jump on it and moan and groan about indie books letting themselves down again.

    Was I convinced by the premise about Robert Maxwell’s assassination? Not entirely, would be the clear answer to that. Did I enjoy the book? Yes, I did, and I would say that anyone who has an interest in the way corporate business was or is done would find this of interest too, and if you happen to have an interest in newspaper publishing, or security services, or even WWII, then I am sure there would be something here to keep you glued too.

    In places this book reads like a novel, a glossy thriller maybe, though whether the proposed outcome for the ill-fated Mister Maxwell was fact or fiction I would suggest that no one really knows. In any event, I will leave you to decide.   

    When I last looked this book could be bought for one pence; I kid you not, plus p&p, and that is a good deal in anyone’s language, especially as it was originally published at £18.95. Give it a try.




    Let’s face it, Neville Chamberlain gets something of a bad press, all that hopeful waving of a slice of paper in the wind at Heston Aerodrome, and an appeasing speech was never going to look good, and maybe one of his colleagues should have realised that and warned him about it.

    Fact is, that if we had gone to war at that time, a year earlier in 1938 than when it actually broke out in the autumn of 1939, we’d probably have been trounced five nil, what with one serviceable squadron of modern planes, complete with trained pilots and spares. That vital year gave us enough time to get (almost) up to speed, and in the end that made the difference. Just!

    This book, Robert Harris’s latest novel “Munich”, centres on the hastily arranged conference in 1938 featuring our Nev of course, plus a bad-tempered Adolf, (was he ever anything else?) in need of a good wash by all accounts, if the story is to be believed - is that fact or fiction? Plus Musso and Deladier in supporting roles. That all happened sure enough, there is no denying that.

    The poor Czechs were invited too but the Gestapo made sure they never left their hotel rooms. How could they possibly be included in the actual talks when it was their country that was being carved up?

    One always has to be very careful when reading fiction/faction books for after a while it’s all too easy to pick up facts that are nothing more than the writer’s imagination.

    Robert Harris crosses over into pure fiction by creating two twenty-somethings from pre-war Oxford Uni, Hugh Legat and Paul Hartmann, bosom pals, lover of the same girl, aren’t they always, brilliant language students the both of them, who, hey ho, turn up at the conference as civil servants/translator bods. Paul has info he desperately wants Hugh to have, though the papers and info he possesses never really comes across here as that important or earth shattering.

    Robert Harris is rightly famous for his painstaking research, but there were a couple of things here that didn’t quite ring true to me. Firstly, was that really a mention of British Airways I read? Didn’t BA start in 1974, that one puzzled me, and secondly, did Neville Chamberlain really receive more raucous applause from the German public in Munich in 1938 than our (c)old mate Adolf? Really? I somehow doubt that too. Pardon me if I am being picky here.

    Robert Harris is a fantastic writer, and as someone else commented, even when he is only 60% of his best he is still way better than so many of his contemporaries.

    Someone else mentioned too that this is or was a sequel or prequel to “Fatherland” – it is nothing of the kind, but if you like, or are fascinated by this period of history, as so many people are, you will get something out of this book.

    It’s well-written, as you would expect, has sold the customary shed loads, but there are no great surprises, and in the end it left the reader feeling kind of flat, as if there was so much more to come, but I guess you can only fiddle with history so much or you risk losing the history buffs altogether.

    The writer clearly harbours some sympathy for Mr Chamberlain, and maybe he does deserve better than he gets, and as time passes by people’s perception changes. Coincidentally, this afternoon I saw a photo of Mr Chamberlain walking seemingly carefree in a London park with his wife Anne, two days before the actual outbreak of war. If only one could go up to him and say: Penny for your thoughts, Neville, penny for your thoughts?

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book, read it quickly too, and as ever, I am now eagerly looking forward to the next one. Bonaparte maybe, Churchill even, or something more radical, like Mosley? There must be plenty of black stories still to come out of that rich seam, which reminds me, my dad was at the Cable Street riots in 1936, and most definitely he was not wearing black, though hopefully he didn’t have his RN uniform on at the time. 


    EXTRA – And A Correction:

    Well, I should have known better than to doubt Mr Robert Harris’s research and accuracy. So let me put that straight right now. The prime minister did indeed travel by “British Airways” to and from Munich in 1938. I didn’t know it was a resurrected name when it was reintroduced so much later. Happy to set things right.  



    Whobeda's Guide to Basic Astrology by Marcha Fox - Book Review



    I have always had a slightly weird interest in astrology, or maybe it’s the characters I write about who really have that interest, and I am always needing and looking for additional expertise, but whichever it is, when the opportunity arose to buy Marcha Fox’s Ebook “Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology” for just 99 pence I was never going to miss out on that.


    This book is well written, packed with interesting content, and is an easy read too. I loved the quotes about young children giving their take on what love is.


    Here’s Karl’s thoughts, (aged 5)


    “Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Could be!


    And for the doubters out there about the whole idea, here is another quote from the book - “The reason that astrology has endured for literally thousands of years is because it works.”


    If you have any interest at all in Astrology this would be a useful addition to your library. You don’t have to read it all at once; you can dip in and out whenever you want, use it a textbook if you prefer. I enjoyed the book, there is so much in it, and I am sure to refer to it again many times in the future.


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