What I’ve been reading… Tampa & more

Cover of Tampa, by Alissa Nutting
Tampa’s controversial, and so is the cover!


Ahhhh! This book! An easy prediction for the most talked about novel of the year, Tampa is a slice cut from the life of one Celeste Price, beautiful blond middle-school teacher and sexual predator with a predilection for 14 year old boys. Horrifying, hilarious, sickening and slapstick; and absolutely shut-out-the-world gripping. Every one of us here who have read Tampa (and find ourselves now endlessly discussing it in random office locations such as over the bathroom sink and at the stationery cupboard) could not stop reading until we’d finished. You will be confronted but you will never be bored.

Finally out in shops, well, some of them.

Thomas Quick: The making of a serial killer

Imagine you are a psychotherapist, enjoying a steady but not especially celebrated career. One of your patients begins making suggestions that he has done some ‘very bad things’; your interest is piqued. You begin spending more time with your patient (previously dismissed as not in need of psychotherapy). You prescribe him whatever drugs he asks for. In return, he starts confessing to murders. Congratulations! You have your country’s first ever known serial killer, in your hospital!

The tale of Thomas Quick verges on the unbelievable. Remember Dr Frederick Chilton, the ambitious and idiotic head of the hospital where Hannibal Lecter resides in Silence of the Lambs? Well, pretty much everyone in charge of this case is basically him. Journalist Hannes Rastam has put together an exhaustive account of the lack of any evidence linking Quick to any of the murders for which he had been convicted. Doctors, police, prosecutor and Quick’s own defence counsel (and let’s not forget, for many years, Quick himself) are all implicated:  if it wasn’t out and out conspiracy, it was certainly criminal ineptitude.

Absolutely amazing, this is a stone cold, true crime classic.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
A bling cover for a bling book

Crazy Rich Asians

That’s as in ‘wow, he is CRAZY rich!’ But then again, some of the behaviour of the billionaires and their offspring in this insanely entertaining novel do verge on mental illness…

This is essentially a delightful hybrid of comedy of manners and the classic blockbuster. It’s for fans of Julian Fellowes’ Snobs, but set in the heady and exotic world of Asian (mostly Singaporean) uber-wealth. The son of the grandest dynasty is coming home for a friend’s wedding and he is bringing his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend with him. The shock! The horror! What does it mean?? There are schemes! Plots! Secrets! Sex! Betrayal! Consumerism! Where to get the best beef satay! She spent how many millions on the bridal shower?

Relentlessly fun. A perfect holiday book, it’ll be out in September.

World War Z

This was a re-read in preparation for the movie (and which in my humble opinion could never do justice to the book, but I appreciate their attempt. I like to think that it means Brad Pitt likes the book. And I like the book. So therefore…)

Anyway, if this book wasn’t about a war with zombies, it would have won awards. It is perfectly pitched, perfectly constructed – an oral history recounted by survivors, it is a mosaic of experience not unlike an Impressionist painting: each story alone is a personal, unrelated stroke on the canvas – but pull back a bit, and you see the full depth of the grim picture. This second time around, I actually cried a couple of times. If someone like HBO were to adapt the book for a television series, it could be SO amazing.

In short: don’t be put off by zombies! You can always pretend to your snobby literary friends that you’re just reading it to try and parse the general cultural obsession with the undead. Before you know it, you will find yourself using terms like ‘RTK’ in everyday life.

*RTK: resource-to-kill ratio. Obviously.

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