Monday, November 14, 2011

Sometimes one finds a paragraph ...

While being a great admirer of Ruth Dudley Edwards, the journalist and non-fiction writer I am less than completely fond of her detective stories. They are very wittily written, full of fascinating characters and deliver wonderfully sharp attacks at the British Establishment, including and especially its left-wing variety. What they are not is detective stories. Crimes happen, investigation goes on and suddenly, hey presto, we get a solution for no apparent reason. Her last venture into the field, Murdering Americans, was barely readable, despite the sharp barbs. This is what I wrote about it at the time and I stand by all of that except that I have found out what happened to Superintendent Milton and his wife Ann. It is explained in the latest book I read, Publish and Be Murdered.

This novel takes us back to the early days of the Blair government when the entire main-stream media went dulalee over the bright new dawn of something or other. At the centre of the book is a staunchly conservative and brilliant weekly The Wrangler, which manages to stand up to this mass hysteria until the dishonest and venal editor decides to change tack.

While the author makes it explicitly clear that her hilariously funny description of the journal does not apply to The Economist about which she has written a learned book, such demurs are unnecessary: The Economist did not stand up to Blair and the surrounding media hysteria. The Wrangler is pure invention and a lot of fun it is, too.

One of the book's themes is whether it is possible to pursue the right path (in every sense of the word) and to comply with noblesse oblige in the modern world or whether economic considerations have to come first. How well one knows this dilemma. In the book a compromise is reached but this is rarely possible in real life.

The dilemma lies between Lord Papworth, known to all as Charlie, who is very old and who believes in doing his duty even if it means keeping a highly regarded but old-fashioned journal going, though he does get in a manager to sort out the finances and bring the publication a bit more up to date, and his son, whose notion of duty does not extend beyond his ancestral home and who thinks The Wrangler is nothing but a drain on resources and should be sold.

Questioned by Chief Inspector Milton after a murder and a suspicious death he explains quite frankly that he just wants to get rid of the rag. Reminded that his father did not agree with his point of view, he explodes:
Sodding easy for him too. He's a great man for the pro bono publico shit. Spent most of his life slogging away in the Lords defending tradition and decency in public life. And where does that get him and the others like him? Despised and mocked and threatened with extinction by these miserable gits that we've got ruling us now.
This was certainly true with the ghastly Blairites who were in government in 1998 when the book was first published but it is true now with the Cameroonies in there. Was it really worth voting for this lot?

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