At Last… The Bexhill Book Countdown

The De La Warr Pavilion – a fascinating building in an otherwise tedious town.


Regular readers of this blog (all seven of you) will know that I have been working through a small pile of books purchased in a rather good second-hand bookshop in the somewhat grim, slightly spooky, unnervingly religious but generally dull seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea last year.  Many (although not all) of the books became the source material for rather better-known films.  Just where my head was at that day, I guess.

I have now got to the bottom of the pile and can rank the books in reverse order of merit (which I know, is what you’ve all been waiting for).  So, without further ado:


6.  Odd Man Out by F.L. Green

Automatically last due to the fact I couldn’t finish it (a failure that still haunts me to this day).  Fascinating concept of an IRA man on the run, but the story is ineptly told in a dead style that has lost all power to communicate.  This turd was polished until it shined like gold by the great director Carol Reed.


5.  Zazie in the Metro by Raymond Quneau. 

Mainstream bestseller by the experimental author about a feisty girl let loose in Paris.  Its humour depends on a style of punning wordplay beloved of the French for which there is no direct English equivalent.  Like the lyrics of Serge Gainsbourg, it’s essentially untranslatable.  Unfortunately, that didn’t stop someone from having a go anyway.  Every sentence caused me pain.


4. The Graduate by Charles Webb

An unexceptional novel in many ways.  But how many authors ever come up with a single character as iconic as Mrs. Robinson, or a concept so powerful as this one?  Most writers are lucky if they manage something like: ‘There’s this bloke, and his family has a secret and he finds it out, and they live by a lake, and someone throws something in the lake, or they find something in the lake, or something…’


3.  Weymouth Sands by John Cowper Powys

Portrait of the inhabitants of the eponymous seaside town, by visionary eccentric (second division).  Stimulating, engrossing, frustrating and boring.  Often on the same page.


2.  Vertigo by Boileau and Narcejac

Original French source material for classic Hitchcock film.  A taut suspense tale in its own right, with interesting cultural differences that distance it from its Hollywood make-over.  The writing team were also responsible for the story that would become Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques, which is just as intricate and inspired.  Most of their books have been out-of-print in the UK for years, or never even been translated.  Maybe an enterprising publisher should buy up the rights and kick-start a Boileau-Narcejac cult.


And the winner is…

1.  The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien.

Bicycle-centred tale of startling weirdness that helped inspire TV show Lost.  Goes to show that to do ‘odd’ properly, an author needs to be in complete control of their material.


After all that, I’m feeling a bit fictioned-out, so have got some non-fiction books on fairly random subjects out of the library.  Don’t think I’ll talk about them here because I don’t feel like it.  

Alright, I admit it, they’re all from the ‘Mind Body Spirit’ section and are about spotting angels in clouds above A&E wards.  Books on this subject are, of course, beyond criticism.


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