I’m supposed to have my midterm grades together by Tuesday, and I’m already in pretty good shape. I’m sufficiently caught up on grading, so that’s just data entry for a few more weeks. In the meantime…
I spent the last Saturday of spring break in Real City, getting a haircut and supplies at the local Skids O’ Stuff. But That meant that I had time and some access to the local used media emporium. I picked up Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Con in hardback, and a new trade edition of Mick Herron’s Slow Horses, the first in the Slough House series. The Robinson is a worthy member of its series, although it relies more on heartstrings than the screwball shenanigans and wordplay of the collections that started the whole business. The series loses a key character at the book’s end, and the author encourages readers to work against a disease with which he is, unfortunately, far too familiar. I don’t read nearly as many SF stories as I once did, but whenever I run across a new (to me) Callahan’s book, I know I’m good for an evening’s read. This was no exception.
Apparently there has been a television version of Herron’s series, but I figured I’d start with the novels, which several folks have recommended to me. The series takes place in the realm of MI-5, the U.K.’s internal intelligence and security agency. It’s somewhere between what we here in the States would see as the police and the CIA — maybe one of the less well known wings of the FBI. But while it would be nice to think of its agents as the best and brightest, such is not always the case.
That brings us to the setting of the novel: an office building unofficially called “Slough House,” where secret agents who no longer really make the grade — through drinking, burnout, or lack of competence — are exiled to make-work jobs until they retire, unless they quit first. The chances of returning to genuine, active duty are infinitesimal on a good day, but it’s still something the misfits of Slough House — themselves punningly called the “Slow Horses” — desperately seek. And when they actually stumble into a domestic terrorist operation, they find themselves in a struggle both with the thugs and even worse, the administrative bureaucracy, which has its own agenda. The result is a Bad News Bears of clandestine operation, John LeCarre after a couple of hits of nitrous oxide, or Ross Thomas sitting in with John Cleese.
I figured out a couple of the twists ahead of the game, but the interplay between the Slow Horses is entertaining, and if you like your humor on the astringent side, you’ll have a very good time. Part police procedural, part political satire, part spy thriller, Slow Horses made for an entertaining afternoon. So that’s another series I’ll need to follow.
Speaking of books, if you’ve been waiting for your Subterranean Press copy of Playing Games, patience will be your friend. I got in touch with the publisher, who told me that the ever-popular supply chain and warehousing issues have slowed them down. Look for those copies to come your way in the next six weeks or so. In the meantime, of course, you can pick up paperback or e-reader versions here, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
And don’t forget that in a couple of weeks, the new issue of Dark Yonder will be out, including my story “Bear Hunt” inspired by my father’s painting Twins. Check here for news on availability.
For today’s musical closer, we visit sunny Santa Barbara, home of mid-60s garage-folkies the Dovers. They cut four singles in the career, and this wistful little (less than two minutes!) number was the A-side of the last one. From 1966, this is “She’s Not Just Anybody.”
See you soon!