Sunday, July 22, 2018

It Is Written - In Dead Wax

One thing led to another last week and I picked up the book The Vinyl Detective - Written in Dead Wax. Writer Andrew Cartmel is a name I learned from my interest in television writing: he was the script editor for Doctor Who during the Sylvester McCoy years -- 1987 to 1989. While I had long before those dates stopped watching the British science fiction television program, and television in general, I was familiar with McCoy's "Doctor". That era of DW was fraught with problems: a reduced budget (actually, "static budget", nibbled by constant inflation); disinterest in the program from the BBC's sixth floor; and the passing of many years since DW's first era. (To put things in perspective, and to call out the Beeb on its then disregard for a show that was once a British Institution, my British mother told me when I was a child that whenever Doctor Who was on, the streets were barren of children.)

Andrew Cartmel survived those years with some grace and style and decided eventually to pen a 'personal' novel. He's interested in coffee, cats, collecting records, and a few other things. His mate, and peer, and former collaborator on Who, Ben Aaronovitch, encouraged him to take his interests and put them to good use (paper).

From the publisher, Titan Books:

He is a record collector — a connoisseur of vinyl, hunting out rare and elusive LPs. His business card describes him as the “Vinyl Detective” and some people take this more literally than others. Like the beautiful, mysterious woman who wants to pay him a large sum of money to find a priceless lost recording — on behalf of an extremely wealthy (and rather sinister) shadowy client. Given that he’s just about to run out of cat biscuits, this gets our hero’s full attention. So begins a painful and dangerous odyssey in search of the rarest jazz record of them all…

Enjoyable reading. I too love cats, coffee, and a few other things. I don't collect anything in particular, not in the traditional sense, but I appreciate those who do. And I like most things music: Cartmel laces his book with not only intrigue, but names: Gil Mellé, Russell Garcia, Bernard Herrmann, and a few of special note and more familiar to the average reader.

What I also responded to was the humour ("I suppose the fifteen thousand albums of show tunes he owned might have been a clue"), not "writers' room" one-liners affixed to any character just to get a laugh, but jokes from within and around. The story plotting carries some serious and dramatic weight, and the humour, as in most good humour, flicks from a few unfunny situations. However, there are those interpersonal barbs which we can all appreciate. A portion of Vinyl's comedy comes from the protagonist's two cats, Turk and Fanny. It's obvious the author knows and understands the beast. (Cats: those mini mirrors of our big oaf selves.)

I just blew through the book. The Vinyl Detective - Written in Dead Wax is recommended, certainly to those readers who like cats, coffee, and collecting things. And a well thought out and entertaining story. A nice blend.

"The next morning I made real coffee. I'd discovered the trick for enjoying this every day. On waking you have a cup of instant to give yourself the energy to embark on the ordeal of making the real stuff."

I'm sitting in my local coffee shop: now for my second cup....


Adele Menegon said...

"And Friend" - Great picture! Lovely lady!

Re: Wasps - There are still plenty around. My husband used to golf and would complain about the wasps on the golf course being particularly aggressive in the fall. He tried to stay away from trees on the course because he got stung and had to get to a hospital for an antihistamine shot when his throat started to close up and he had trouble breathing.

DonaldAR said...

I am a semi-pro-crastinator, and I approve this blog post. Missed it the first time around. I will have to scrounge a copy.
That is; if I ever finish the Tolstoy-sized third tome (of a proposed 10!) in Brandon Sanderson's "The Stormlight Archive," series, which The Daughter insists I read. The writin' is... mediocre. It's somewhere between LOTR & the Silmarillion, albeit with more dimensional characters. Perhaps a little too dimensional. But I digress.
P.S. Is there some subtext in The Vinyl Detective about wasps that I'm not getting?

Simon St. Laurent said...

Re: The Stormlight Archive

Interesting. Thanks for the notes!

Wasps... oh, the lady forgot how to post to a specific posting after she had read several of them.