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Christmas Books: Wendy Cope … P D James … Rumpole
Festive Fun: Wendy
Cope pens Christmas poems; P.D. James goes Christmas crackers; Rumpole roams
the courts at Christmas.
I do like to read a book with a Christmas theme, at
Christmas. But I don’t want a ‘roast turkey and stuffing, roast potatoes
followed by pudding’ heavy and indigestible sort of book. For me please
something easy that I can dip into and read beside the fairy lights on the
tree, perhaps drifting in and out of a late afternoon nap or two!
Santa’s sleigh is always heavily laden but I have asked him
this year if he might have room for three enjoyable little slim-line paperback
books for me …
Christmas Poems: More delightful poetry from the popular Wendy
Christmas Poems (Faber, 2017) is a newly-released collection
of poetry by the very popular Wendy Cope. The publisher promises us that Christmas
Poems collects together Wendy Cope’s best festive poems, including
anthology favourites such as The
Christmas Life, together with new and previously unpublished work. Wendy
Cope celebrates the joyful aspects of the season but doesn’t overlook the
problems and sadness that it can bring.
Wendy Cope is one of our best-selling and best loved poets. Born in 1945 in Erith, Kent, she lives now
with her husband in Ely, Cambs. She once was voted by BBC Radio 4
listeners as the ‘people’s choice’ to be Poet Laureate, but on the last two
occasions when the post was vacant in 1999 and 2009 she decided not to put her
Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph has praised Wendy
Cope’s artful and skilful poetry: ‘Her subject matter is anchored in personal
experience; poems of deceptive simplicity that seem to be just about ‘little’
things but are actually leading you into bigger subjects such as God, love,
death, families, class, language and ageing.’
The Mistletoe Murder and other stories by P.D. James
Alas there will be no new stories to come from the late P.D.
– 2014) a celebrated doyenne of the crime fiction genre. Fortunately, in
The Mistletoe Murder(Faber, 2016)
readers can be acquainted or reacquainted with four short stories of hers that
were published in 1969, 1979, 1995 and 1996.
I think that literary editors render good service when they find
and republish forgotten or out-of-print works by popular authors. Two of the
four P.D. James stories no doubt were widely read when respectively
commissioned by the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times for Xmas reading more than
twenty years ago, but without this republication by Faber we wouldn’t likely
have remembered them.
Each of the four stories is a legitimate and skilful
‘whodunit’ but delightful little treats pop up here and there to make us
imagine that P.D. James would have smiled with pleasure at sharing a joke or
two or three with her informed readers. For example there are gentle moments of
pastiche of Sherlock Holmes (when we meet a malevolent and creepy butler);
Daphne du Maurier (an isolated mansion encountered at night in a sinister and
brooding landscape); Agatha Christie (a conglomeration of crazy
Christmas-themed clues in the bedroom of a country house where a patriarch has
met a grisly death). And the fictional
barrister Gort Lloyd is surely none other than the legendary real-life Marshall
Hall whose eloquent and tear-jerking soliloquies defied his juries to condemn
his poor innocent clients to death.
As two extra short treats we have a foreword penned by Val
McDermid extolling ‘the keen intelligence … and genuine expertise’ that P.D.
James brought to the crime fiction genre. Then we read a short analysis penned
by P.D. James in 2001 that demonstrates those very virtues.
Rumpole at Christmas: a late hurrah for John Mortimore’s bold-as-brass
My third and last choice of gift parcel for my Christmas
stocking is Rumpole at Christmas
(Viking, 2009). For I have belatedly realised that my treasured indoor
collection of all the Rumpole books lacks the slim and some might say trifling
posthumous issues that came into the bookshops shortly before and after the
death of their venerable author Sir John Mortimer (1923 – 2009).
To collate and publish a collection of five Christmas-themed
Rumpole stories for Xmas 2009 was a fitting though sad tribute to Sir John whose
death had occurred ten months earlier in January. Sir John had continued
penning Rumpole stories to the last, despite his physical illness and
infirmity. Understandably, these late-written stories in collections also
including Rumpole and the Primrose Path
(2002) and Rumpole and the Reign of
Terror (2006) were slender saplings in comparison to the mighty oaks of the
first crop of Rumple stories that ran on ITV’s Thames television in the 1980s. But
you’d have to be as much a curmudgeon, surely, as the irascible Rumpole
himself, not to enjoy the wit and comedy of these light-hearted tales of
courtroom capers at Christmas!
Previous articles by Jerry Dowlen in the Books Monthly Archives include:
Roger Moore as Ivanhoe
Future Rock: Music and Politics in the 1970s
The New Love Poetry and London's 1967 Unforgettable Summer of Love
The author E.M. Forster (1879 – 1970) in books and films.
The novelist R.F.
Delderfield and his heroes who roam from home.
How The Wild West Was Written
Emmeline Pankhurst and Florence Foster Jenkins
Paula Hawkins: The Girl on the Train
H G Wells
In praise of the British Seaside!Girls Just Wanna Have Fun in 1963: Christine Keeler & Nell Dunn
Politicians, Pop Stars and Preachers - John Mortimer's Characters of 1986
Shakespeare's 400th Centenary
Gregory's Girl: Remembering the Hit Film
The Impact and Legacy of Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
A Tribute to Margaret Forster
Remembering Saeed Jaffrey
Old Wine in New Bottles - "new" books by Margery Allingham, Raymond Chandler & Agatha Christie
Remembering Ruth Rendell
Philip Larkin: His Maiden Voyage on The North Ship (1945)
The Catcher in the Rye and Billy Liar
Erle Stanley Gardner
Antony Sher: The History Man
Edmund Crispin, Crime Fiction Author
Computer Chess: The Imitation Game
P G Wodehouse
John Betjeman and Candida Lycett Green
Sherlock Holmes: The Seven Per Cent Solution
Muriel Spark & Jane Gardam
The Story of Edith Nesbit
Anthony Gilbert and Michael Gilbert
Rebels With A Cause
Inspector Winter: Gwendoline Butler's First Detective
The Carlton, The Commodore, and the Embassy - Orpington's Three Cinemas
The Bergerac Police Adventure Series
It's All In The Mind - Margery Allingham and Graham Greene
Berlin: Cold War Spy Thrillers
The Life and Centenary of Barbara Pym
D H Lawrence: The Sniggering Legacy of Lady Chatterley's Lover...
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