The Adventures of Tintin.

Maybe it is s a little weird, a sixty-three year old reading and commenting on the Tintin series of books, but hey – why not? These books take me back to my childhood and there is a lovely innocence about them.

I actually bought the full twenty-three book box set a few months ago and am gradually working my way through them. (I know – more money than sense, probably.) Interestingly, with present day PC / ‘woke’ attitudes, to complete the full set of books, I had to purchase ‘Tintin In The Congo’ as a separate edition, the producers of the box set probably not keen on reproducing stereo-typical images and language from less informed times.

The first book in the series, though, is ‘In The Land Of The Soviets.’ from 1929 and appeared initially in the children’s section of the Belgian newspaper, Le Vingtieme Siecle. Tintin author Herge, had just been employed as an artist for the paper, and although he had not been to Russia himself, he was inspired by a book he had read the previous year to write the story line highlighting the Soviet propaganda machine,

The artwork is monochrome and pretty basic, with no more than six image panels to a page, resulting in this book being longer, certainly as far as pages go (141) than any of those subsequent.

Of course, the language is very ‘stiff upper lip’ quaint and pours ridicule and scorn on the Soviet Union and all it stood for. Ironically, in doing so, the book could stand accused of pushing propaganda on behalf of ‘the West.’ It’s all jolly good fun though.

The second Tintin book is the one mentioned earlier – ‘Tintin In The Congo.’ It does not even merit a mention in the box set of paperbacks. The copy I have is a ‘Collector’s Edition’ hardback that ‘completes the series of twenty four Tintin adventures by Herge.’ It is published by Casterman, as opposed to Egmont who ran with the rest.

The story once again appeared in serialised newspaper form, in 1931, then published as a book a short time after. The book’s foreward states the following:
‘In his portrayal of the Belgian Congo, the young Herge reflects on the colonial attitudes of the time. he himself admitted that he depicted the African people according to the bourgeois, paternalistic stereotypes of the period – an interpretation that some of today’s readers may find offensive. The same could be said of his treatment of big game hunting.’

Yeah – I can see why some may consider the book to be inappropriate nowadays. Personally, I’m certain the author had no intention of causing offense, but it was a good idea to withdraw this adventure from the box set and not ‘force’ it upon buyers keen to read all the other stories. This way the curious and ‘completists’ like myself can still access the book, and in the prior knowledge that it could be upsetting.

In some respects, those put off by the attitudes evidenced in the ‘Congo’ book could also find offence in some of the depictions in the third book, ‘Tintin In America,’ originally published in 1932.

This adventure sees Tintin confront danger at the hands of ‘the mob’ and also native Indians. Already, the storylines have a good deal familiarity with those already read, but (forgetting they were written for children) they are still good fun!

Cigars Of The Pharaoh‘ sees the introduction of the Thomson Twins – two bowler hatted, policemen who have the knack of messing things up. At this point, we know of them only as the police numbers, X33 and X33A and it is a few tales down the line before we we are made aware of their surname. I believe they appear in all but one of the following storylines.

From the title and cover artwork, I fully expected this adventure to be centred around Egypt, but as it happens, most of the action I would say takes place in India, which i did find a little strange. No ‘spoilers’ here, but I was interested to read about a present day world problem being an issue back in the times of this tale too..

Well – that’s four down, twenty to go! I have to say, I’m actually enjoying these books. I don’t remember owning any of these as a kid, but have vivid and fond memories of reading them / borrowing them from my local library.

This box set I now have, comprise the larger, glossy, paperback versions. They are bold and colourful, produced on good quality paper. At £89 (at time I bought) from Amazon, it’s not a cheap purchase. Broken down though into an average book cost of £3.87, then that changes the perspective totally, and in my opinion, well worth the outlay.

(From time to time, I will post further brief comments on the others in the series.)

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‘Jack’s Game’ by Andrew Chapman

(*****Five out of Five Stars)

I’d seen this mentioned on social media and though Horror books are not my normal reading material, I thought i’d give it a go.

Firstly, if ‘gaming’ floats your boat, then you’re off to a great start with ‘Jack’s Game,’ as the story revolves around the development of a Nineties computer game. Don’t worry though, there’s not so much geek talk as to put the philistine reader (like me) off. But I can imagine some who are into this scene will be purring and sighing at the nostalgia.

This is a read that’s ‘easy on the eye.’ Good use is made of conversation to paint the picture and there are some genuinely spine chilling moments. I also liked the way the author brought the tale to a conclusion … I will say no more.

For some reason, it took me a while to get it into my head this story was not set in USA, but UK. I guess that’s the power of movies, an how they influence your subconscious..

But yeah – and enjoyable read and well portrayed, I’d say.

‘Back Next Year!: The Story of Following Stockport County and the 20/21 season’ by Stewart Taylor

(***** Five out of Five Stars)

The book opens with the author attending Edgeley Park for the first time on returning to live in the country, and looking for something different to his Grandfather instilled Man United allegiance. Coincidentally, it was only a few months after this I attended my first County match, having moved down to the area from Scotland.

I can completely identify with the way the Club grabs the fan! I didn’t get to as many games as I’d have liked – Friday nights in those Yuppie years were for staff socialising in the Manchester bars – but I fell in love with the club, standing mainly Pop Side in crowds of @ 1500

I don’t get to see the team live much now I’ve moved back North, but retained my support, and the one ‘good’ thing about Lockdown in 2020 was the fact that all the County matches were streamed.

I didn’t quite make the same number as Stewart did – I missed two due to my own sporting commitments – but it was great to read about and identify with all those matches again.

Very enjoyable read.

‘The Gospel According to Blindboy’ by Blindboy Boatclub.

(***** Five out of Five Stars)

Just such a surreal book! Hysterically funny in bits, but also enlightening and sad in places when talking of mental illness.
Overall though, it’s the completely darkly bonkers imagination of Blindboy that sets this book apart.

It’s hard to say why I found this book so interesting without giving the game away with spoilers. Suffice to say, if you have a bit of a warped sense of humour and aren’t easily offended – then go get this book … or indeed check out his podcasts.

‘Get Those Sheep Off the Pitch!: A Life in Non-league Football’ by Phil Staley

(***Three out of Five Stars)

As a non-league fan and fan of grassroots football, I was really looking forward to this one. It’s interesting and easy read and on a football front, it gave a good feel for what it must be like working in a sporting environment a million miles away from the Premier league.

I don’t think fans of the ‘big’ clubs can ever appreciate the time and effort that goes into running a club like those mentioned in this book – and for miniscule, if any, financial reward. There are many hilarious moments / situations in which the author finds himself, but regrettably the attempt at humour didn’t always come across in a good light, hence the three stars.
However, I’d still recommend this one for any fan of Non-League football.

‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder’ by Kent Nerburn

(*****Five out of Five Stars)

I’m always wary of books that have been raved about, but this didn’t disappoint. I’m also wary of reviewing this book in a way that Dan would disapprove, neither wishing to patronise nor treat the circumstances with unnecessary sympathy. This book is about neither. It’s about ‘understanding.’

Which maybe makes ‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog’ sound like a heavy read. It’s anything but.

The writing is colourful, and the conversations between Dan and Nerburn are thought provoking.
And though this is about American Indians, the book could also relate to the manner in which other races are perceived, even to this day, by ‘the white man.’

‘Invisible Men: Life in Baseball’s Negro Leagues’ by Donn Rogosin

(*** Three out of Five Stars)

Much as I love baseball (I both played and administered the sport) the fascination for stats can become a little overwhelming. For me, at least.

And this was reflected in the writing style of ‘Invisible Men.’ Numerical stats weren’t the issue, but the sheer amount of names dropped in made it hard to follow for someone trying to learn about the history of the sport.

Still interesting enough, and I’m not sure how it could have been presented differently, but it just didn’t read very well in my opinion.

‘The Hard Way: Adapt, Survive and Win’ by Mark ‘Billy Billingham

(*****Five out of Five Stars)
This was the fourth of the former ‘SAS – Who Dares Wins’ DS autobiographies I have read, and as with those by Jason Fox, Ollie Ollerton and Ant Middleton, this one didn’t disappoint.

I have the utmost respect for these guys and their colleagues and find it fascinating to see what type of person actually wants to put them through the situations they find themselves in. Their backstory is always interesting.

I’m way too old now, and certainly not brave or daft enough to have ever wanted to join up, but I always enjoy the physical challenge of training – just for sport in my case. So to read what these guys do is mind blowing. I would have loved to have been able to give that aspect of being an SAS operative a try.

It’s a little frustrating, but obviously understandable that Billy couldn’t include details of any specific battle situations in which he found himself. But there are some general references, so the reader is left in no doubt as to the stress our soldiers had to deal with.

An excellent and ‘easy’ read

‘Equal Rites’ by Terrry Pratchett

(**** Four out of Five Stars.)


Terry Pratchett books are my favourite! They are always a good read.

This was just the third in Pratchett’s Discworld series, so it’s maybe no real surprise it feels a little rough around the edges. I got the impression it was perhaps written in two parts, with a bit of time passing between them. For two thirds of the tale, I felt the story-line developing and with the scenes changing, it moved at a great pace. However, the last third, when all the ‘magic’ was happening, it felt a bit like it was written while on a psychedelic trip.

All that Demons and Wizards sort of stuff just dragged a little for me, and so unusually, I have awarded only four stars.

I would still highly recommended it though.

…and I’m back in the room – with a publishing agreement!

You’d have thought with all those months of Covid related lockdown, I’d have got myself sorted and completed the long awaited, humorous fantasy I’ve been promising for so many years.

Nope!

I think I have the attention span of a bluebottle.

I spent so much time reconnecting with friends from school I had neither seen nor spoken to for up to forty-five years, that I ended up starting a ’70s themed blog. Together with a pal from Primary school, we founded Once Upon a Time in The ’70s where contributors are invited to recount tales of growing up in the late ’60s and through the ’70s.

It’s doing alright, thank you very much.

Just prior to that, I had begun writing a themed series of short stories, but the ’70s blog somewhat took over through 2021. (Technically, I don’t suppose I can call half a story a ‘series’ anyway, but the intention’s there at least.)

However, the enthusiasm and determination has been given a welcome boost by rather unexpectedly signing a publishing agreement with Victor Publishing. In their words, they are at the moment, still classed by Amazon and one of the ‘little guys,’ but I was pleasantly surprised to see I actually have three of their books on my bookshelf.

Us ‘little guys’ need to stick together, you know!

The immediate result is that my 2015, self-published book, ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee,’ which had just been sitting on Amazon’s virtual shelf gathering virtual dust for the past five years, has been re-published.

The book cover now displays the slightly amended title of: ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee – The life and smells of a Pet Professional’ and is available across all Amazon platforms. The hope is it will also eventually be stocked by certain High Street stores.

That’d be pretty cool!