THE CAPED AVENGER. THE WORLD IS MINE by William Blake. (New York, 1938; London, 1939) eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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A modern re-telling of Dumas’s epic tale of suffering and retribution. The rivetting melodrama of a latter-day anarchist Count of Monte Cristo, Cristóbal Pinzón, a young Andalucian boy whose childhood is coloured by his father’s ruin and his family’s immiseration by three unscrupulous Englishmen and a Welshman (no Scotsmen, thankfully!). A lively page-turning but well-paced yarn of fraud, financial jiggery-pokery, revenge, radicalisation— and an illuminating romp through forty-odd years of Spanish and European culture and history from the fin de siècle to the opening shots of the Spanish Civil War. It is also about one man’s determination to bring about the social revolution by destroying capitalism from within — practically single-handedly! It was, after all, he, Cristóbal, who triggered the stock-market crash of 1929! A worthy comrade and contemporary of Farquhar McHarg!

I know nothing about the earlier or subsequent literary career of William Blake, but if THE WORLD IS MINE is anything to go by he was a fascinating character with a profound empathy and understanding of anarchist ideas and principles, at least as expressed through the actions and dialogue of his cultured, idealistic-yet-worldly Byronic protagonist, Cristóbal Pinzón, a cosmopolitan libertarian caped crusader given to deep philosophising, speaking in polysyllables, crisp ironic sentences, and plotting social revolution. Cristóbal’s fiscal high-jinks and complex schemes of spectacularly appropriate vengeance are remarkably plausible in detail; it is also a scathing indictment of Western civilisation, part of the story behind the Spanish Civil War and a handy vade mecum to capitalism and high culture. A rare classic, hard to put down; I wonder if Jeffrey Archer has discovered it yet?! — SC (Read Inside)

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BASTARDS DIE HARD (Les Salauds ont la vie dure) by André Héléna. Translated by Paul Sharkey. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

BastardsBASTARDS DIE HARD (Les Salauds ont la vie dure) by André Héléna. Translated by Paul Sharkey.

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In his 2011 book ‘The Pleasures of Crime: Reading Modern French Crime Fiction’ Professor David Platten, a lecturer in French literature and culture at the University of Leeds, looked at, among other French noir writers, André Héléna’s ‘Occupation’ novels from which we have taken the following extracts relating to Les Salauds ont la vie dure, which we have translated as ‘Bastards Die Hard

“… In Héléna’s Les Salauds ont la vie dure, written shortly after the Liberation, the reader can still feel the heat of oppression and conflict as the main character literally blazes a trail across the country. Héléna’s peripatetic writing existence — he moved frequently from Narbonne to Paris to Leucate, and back again — is reflected in the adventures of Maurice Delbar, hero of Les Salauds ont la vie dure is an outlaw and miscreant with very achy feet. What we read about the Occupation in these novels is funnelled through the perspective, not of a detective, but of a young, mid-ranking gangster from Pigalle, the traditional red-light district of Paris adjoining Montmartre, which is known locally as La Butte, traditional home not only of the French chanson but also of the Parisian gangster.

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