Caught by the River

The Nearest Faraway Place.

23rd October 2007

I’ve just finished reading a book, The Wild Places, by Robert Macfarlane. I really enjoyed it. I found it comforting. It’s basically the journal of a guy, 30, English, who sets about looking for (and sleeping in) wild places in the United Kingdom. Woodlands, mountains, coastlines. Reflective and brilliantly written and his quest is inspirational.

This came after reading Roger Deakin’s Wildwood, a Journey Through Trees, which came after his earlier book Waterlog. Both great reads, especially Waterlog, (a frogs eye view of the country. He swims throughout the land).

Before those books I read England Have My Bones, which is not by Morrissey, but the journal of a country gent, T H White, from 1934. It’s mostly about him having flying lessons. He is very funny, though I.m not sure how intentional that is. At times I was reminded of the country pub sketches in The Fast Show and wondered if Paul Whitehouse had read it.
England Have My Bones, I came to via Chris Yates. For those that don’t know, Chris Yates is an angler. A very good one at that. Good because he really enjoys going fishing and is also very good at expressing why that is, via his books (check Casting At The Sun, Medlar Press) and a, now rather old but never dated, TV series called A Passion For Angling, that is a must have on DVD (see links). I read that this was Chris’s favourite book so I found a copy.

These books referenced other books. I made a note and bought some of them. So, I close The Wild Places and what do I pick up? Is it “Findings” by Kathleen Jamie or is it “Between The Woods and The Water” by Patrick Leigh Fermor? Is it “Beechcombings” by Richard Mabey, a book (more trees) that has just come out to great accolade in the broadsheet press?

All of these promise great things and all no doubt have the power to take me out of the inner city places where I spend the most of my time (i.e. when I’m not fishing or on holiday). Shepherds Bush (home) and Soho (work) claim me. I’ve been in both for a long time now and I love them. But, I need to escape, even if it’s just temporarily, and these books allow that to happen.

But, I feel in need of a change. I want to sense the city.

A mate of mine, John Niven, is about to have his first novel published. It’s out in January. I just got a copy and I read the first chapter the other night, in a cab home after a couple of pints. It’s set in the music business, which is my line of work, and the central character seems to be a metaphor for the evil, self obsessed cliché purported to walk through it’s halls of shame. I’d already had it described to me as making “American Psycho look like kindergarten” and just one chapter in I get that. Shit, it’s brutal. John’s a real good writer. He had a book published earlier this year, a novella I think you’d call it, ‘Music From Big Pink”, a fictional account of a guy hanging around Woodstock with The Band during the making of that great album. Really recommend it. This one, I’m saving. The time just isn’t quite right.

But, the dark side is calling and I’ve just bought “The Devil’s Home On Leave” by Derek Raymond, for me the greatest London Noir writer of all time. No one comes close. It’s the second of the so called “Factory Series”, originally published in 1984 and just reprinted by Serpents Tail.

This is more like where my usual reading matter goes. I love Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford, some James Crumley and on the lighter side, a lot of Elmore Leonard’s books, and if I think I’m gonna need redemption at the end of it my timing is good. I’m fishing my old haunts of the River Trent, this weekend, with family.