I don’t know about you, but I have a number of books on the go at any one time. There’s one in the downstairs loo, one in the bathroom, a couple by my armchair in the living-room, and two or three by the bed. But one book has been permanently by my bed since my wife gave it me for Christmas in 2000, and I turn to it more or less every night for the crisp good sense which is guaranteed wherever I open it, and perhaps a laugh as well. Consider this, for instance:
This Leussler is a terrible man. He is a kind-hearted guy and would do anything for you, but he will kill you with talk in the process. We had him here to dinner and by 9.30 he had me so exhausted that I went and put my pyjamas on – a hint that would be considered too broad in the best society (if there is any) but it was just right for Leussler. Anything less pointed would have missed him by a yard and I didn’t quite feel up to holding up a card with large letters on it saying: FOR CHRIST'S SAKE STOP TALKING AND GO HOME!
No doubt some readers will have immediately recognized the ‘compulsively readable’ (Washington Post) writing style of the book I’d take to my desert island: The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Non-Fiction, 1909–1959. Mordant, splenetic, dry, wise, tender, never wordy, never trivial, Chandler’s hundreds of letters never descend to mere gossip. He himself said, ‘If a collection of letters is to mean anything, it shou
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