Sunday Salon: Russian about

Oh dear Lord, has it come to this? A title whose punnish credentials might see it employed by Jasper Fforde? Too late to correct it, though! For, my friends, this is nothing less than a Sunday Saloon post, and is meant to be produced on the hoof, off the cuff and reeking of first draftiness. The Salon is about (or so it seems to me) things what one is reading. Today, then, I have been mostly reading Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith. It features a Russian militia detective call Arkady Renko and we follow him around Moscow as he attempts to solve the riddle of three bodies – shot, mutilated – dumped in Gorky Park. I’m about 25% of the way through and I’m actually staggered by the quality of the writing. This guy can write. I keep coming across fantastic snippets of prose, after which I tell myself: OK, he’s hit the high water mark with that one – it’ll be downhill from here. And then Smith tops it. All the while, the story is incredibly gripping. If I was on a beach, I’d burn through this is in a day. But I’m not; I’m at home marking essays, so I’ll have to restrict myself to smaller doses. …And, yes, I feel that there’s no point trying to write a beautiful thriller. Smith – the git – has done it. And since it was published almost thirty years ago, he seemed to achieve this height without Wikipedia. What gives?

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

8 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Russian about”

  1. I bumped into him a couple of times at a science fiction convention some years back, and he seemed like a lovely fella, but I’m afraid I just can’t get on with his books. Don’t like them one little bit.

  2. Have only ever seen the film of ‘Gorky Park’ and never given the book a thought. If the writing’s that good I must see if I can get hold of a copy.

  3. I read the first J. Fforde and quite liked it, but not enough to want to read any more- – bit of a one-note piece in my opinion, once you had admired the clever idea, there wasn’t much more in it for me.

    I am glad you are enjoying Gorky Park — I read it years ago and liked it. Enough, in fact, to read the next two in the series, which are nothing like as good (though I remember Polar Star which was not all that bad — the third, forget it). MCS has just written another Arkady book — which the reviewers seem to think is a return to form. Trouble is, it is such ages ago that I read the earlier volumes that I can’t remember them sufficiently distinctly. I’d therefore probably have to go back and read them again before embarking on the latest, sigh.
    Oh well, nice review, Ian, so glad you are in the Sunday Salon chapter of the Debrblogosphere — she will be running the whole internet before long and it will be a better place for it.

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