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The Rock Pool (Cyril Connolly) and The Shot (Philip Kerr)

I am an enthusiast and when I review a book it’s generally  in the hope that it will be read.

However in the above two I have no such aspirations.

I must have read The Rock Pool at least 40 years ago when I had a greater interest in writers of the 1930s.

It struck me as a louche account of degenerates holed up in the South of France in a resort called Trou sur Mer actually Cagnes.

I chose to reread it after several visits to the Riviera and an interest in its writers who lived there (H.G. Wells, Somerset Maugham, Robert Louis Stevenson – to name but three).

In his introduction Cyril Connolly worries that his novel, first published in 1936, would become dated and indeed it has.

These characters no longer exist and the description of the Jewish painter Rastres borders on the antisemitic. After the first  chapter, I gave up.

I have always been a fan of Philip Kerr and  his Bernie Gunther novels.

The Shot was published posthumously.

It’s set in America shortly after John Kennedy wins the 1960 Election. It begins with an assassination attempt on Fidel Castro and ends with one on Kennedy.

Whilst the novel has Kerr’s fine sense of location and knowledge of the times, it has some pretty awful set pieces, notably an anal examination of a corpse and a torture scene in which the victim has to swallow a lighted cigarette.

Added to this offensive racist language and crudity to women and it too seems dated.

Kerr made his name with the Bernie Gunther novels.

Gunther was a decent cop in Nazi Germany when most people were not.

In this novel there is not really one decent character and a few, like the sadistic racist cop Jimmy Nimmo or some low life scum from the Mafia, who are deeply unpleasant.

As with The Rock Pool I struggled with it.

I read it as an audiobook and, though the reader of the text was accomplished with different voices, I did on occasion nod off.


About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts