Monday, March 8, 2010

Cat O'Nine Tales

I'm a little late getting this post up; I actually completed the last short story in Jeffrey Archer's Cat O'Nine Tales: And Other Stories back on Saturday.  But I've been very busy working around the house as well as working on transitioning to my next phase of life after retirement from the US Air Force.  Not as much time on the weekends as I hope for, but then there never has been.

I won't go into details of the stories in this collection because I've blurbed about them as I've completed them.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I like to read one short story between each novel.  This particular collection is by Jeffrey Archer, an author that is almost always a big hit for me and only occasionally misses, although it seems like his later works are suffering somewhat.  He is an interesting character in his own right, having been elected to English Parliament at the young age of 29.  He lost his first fortune as a victim of a fradulent investment scheme, and for a time was the owner of an art gallery.  In 1999 he ran for mayor of London but ultimately withdrew when it came to light that he was facing a charge of perjury from a case in 1987.  He was sentenced to four years in prison and it was from this time that he developed this book of short stories.  All of the stories pertain to real people who got into trouble with the law (or managed to avoid it) in one form or another.  Nine of the twelve stories were actually told to him by fellow prisoners while he was incarcerated and although Mr Archer clearly states that he embellished most of them somewhat, they are substantially true circumstances.

Mr Archer can flat-out tell a story.  He obviously uses events in his own rather colorful life to come up with ideas; he has written many stories concerning political intrigue, art collecting, etc.  A major theme of his, captured best in one of my favorite novels by any author, Kane and Able, deals with two people growing up in opposite worlds (rich-poor, famous-forgotten, etc) and how they come to interact.  Many times it's about how ordinary people rise to extraordinary positions, many times only to fall again.  Very often, his characters build elaborate schemes to foil the authorities.  It's fascinating to me to read stories written by Mr Archer even before the very same thing happened to him.  While he may haven fallen from grace in political circles, he continues to write extraordinary fiction, and always in a pleasant story-telling manner.  He is one of the few authors I've read who can consistently pull off a twist ending without making the reader feel like a fool.  I highly recommend you try his novels, especially Kane and Able, The President's Daughter, and As the Crow Flies.  And, of course, any of his short story collections are wonderful.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire