The Ebb-Tide by Robert Louis Stevenson (1894)

This is a blisteringly fierce novel, an intensely bitter and realistic depiction of the low-life criminality, desperate psychology and violence of white trash in the South Seas of the 1890s, which is also charged with a peculiarly epic and symbolic feel. A relatively short novel in just 12 chapters, The Ebb-Tide is the third of Stevenson’s […]

The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson (1892)

The auctioneer was surrounded by perhaps a score of lookers-on, big fellows, for the most part, of the true Western build, long in the leg, broad in the shoulder, and adorned (to a plain man’s taste) with needless finery. A jaunty, ostentatious comradeship prevailed. Bets were flying, and nicknames. The boys (as they would have called themselves) were very boyish; and […]

The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson (1889)

If the Nonesuch foundered, she would carry down with her into the deeps of that unsounded sea the creature whom we all so feared and hated; there would be no more Master of Ballantrae, the fish would sport among his ribs; his schemes all brought to nothing, his harmless enemies at peace. At first, I […]

The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1888)

This is unashamedly a children’s book. It was published as a monthly serial in Young Folks; A Boys’ and Girls’ Paper of Instructive and Entertaining Literature from June to October 1883 under the pseudonym ‘Captain George North’ (the same pen name Stevenson used for Treasure Island). Still, I am reading and experiencing it as an adult. The […]

The Man With The Golden Gun by Ian Fleming (1965)

Now the grey-blue eyes looked back at him from the tanned face with the brilliant glint of suppressed excitement and accurate focus of the old days. He smiled ironically back at the introspective scrutiny that so many people make of themselves before a race, a contest of wits, a trial of some sort. He had […]

The Striker Portfolio by Adam Hall (1969)

The gun smashed upwards into his face and didn’t go off because the blow was directly on the wrist-nerve to paralyse the fingers before the index could contract, but there was risk attached and I had to sweat it out until the gun hit the ground with a negative thud and didn’t blow our legs […]

A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene (1960)

‘At the end you find you haven’t even got a self to express. I have no interest in anything any more , Doctor.’… ‘When a man comes here too late the disease has to burn itself out.’ (p.46) ‘Querry may be also a burnt-out case,’ the doctor said… [Burnt-out cases are] the lepers who lose […]

The 9th Directive by Adam Hall (1966)

To respond to the threat of a grenade-burst the sub-conscious has to evaluate a mass of data: the angle of the thrower’s arm, which governs the time-period from the beginning to the end of the throw; the size (and thus the weight) of the grenade – data which affects the time taken to throw it […]

To Catch A Spy edited by Eric Ambler (1964)

Seven short stories about spies, selected and with a genial introduction by Eric Ambler, who gives a useful summary of the spy genre from the turn of the century up to the early 1960s: the late-19th century background of Sherlock Holmes/Rider Haggard popular adventure yarns then suddenly the first classic spy novel, The Riddle of […]

The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables by Robert Louis Stevenson (1887)

The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables (1887) is a collection of memorably dark and haunting short stories by Robert Louis Stevenson, comprising: The Merry Men (1882) Will O’ the Mill (1878) Markheim (1885) Thrawn Janet (1881) Olalla (1885) The Treasure of Franchard (1883) It is significantly darker and deeper than his previous collection, […]