Looking at books

For something a bit different from the politics that have been devouring most of my attention, I thought I would look at a couple of books I bought recently. One the newest Dick Francis, the other an older collection of Doonesbury strips.


Dick Francis, along with his son Felix, has put out a new adventure, dealing with crime and the world of English horse racing. It is a nice visit for anyone that is a fan of Dick Francis, with familiar characters and an easy style of writing.

One difference this time is the hero of the story is a lawyer, at least at his day job. Geoffrey Mason, called Perry by the jockeys he rides against, is a barrister, defending or prosecuting accused criminals before the Queen’s Bench. This allows Francis to give some insight into how the English system of justice works, something that I found to be quite interesting. This look inside how parts of the world work is one of the parts of most of his books that I really enjoy.

Mason faces a dilemma that is all too common in real life, someone threatening both his loved ones and himself to force him to keep quiet and throw a trial. And the one doing the threatening is someone he knows will follow through, a former client who has already had success using just those tactics.

He has to figure out why the seemingly unrelated murder of a jockey has caused such a violent reaction, then find a way to save everybody from the threatened retribution. There are some irritants in the way the story is told, with some information that gives a vital clue being withheld from the readers. This would be reason to dislike the book in most mysteries, but in a Dick Francis book, the mystery, when it there is one, tends to take a backseat to the way the hero deals with the protagonist.

All in all, a fun welcome visit with an old friend. Not the best place to start if you aren’t a Francis fan, but well worth reading if you are.

The War Years

This is a hardcover collection of two other Doonesbury books, Peace Out, Dawg! and Got War? Gary Trudeau looks at the Bush years, from just before 9/11 until just before Howard Dean drops from the Democratic primaries in the 2004 elections.

While Trudeau is well known for being less then sympathetic to most conservative values, he has always seemed to me to be just as willing to skewer the liberal side when they deserved it. He has plenty of opportunity to do both, both before and after 9/11. But while he was still willing to hit the Bush administration after the attack, the tone of the strips did change, especially in the immediate aftermath.

Of course, by the time the 2004 elections were looming, he had plenty of things to write about to keep himself busy. I have no doubt that if 9/11 hadn’t happened, Bush and Cheney would have been able to generate lots of outrage on their own. But the wars in Afghanistan and  Iraq allowed them to reach heights of rage inducement seldom seen. And Trudeau did his best to point out as many sources of outrage as he could in a 4 panel strip.

There is nothing really new in this collection. If you are a Doonesbury fan, it is nice to have the 2 earlier collections in one hardback volume. If you are not a fan, the only real use for this book is lots of pages to help start a fire in your fireplace.

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