Archive for June, 2016

Here's one from 1961.

The Nylon Pirates by Nicholas Monsarrat ~ 1960. This edition: Cassell, 1960. 2nd edition. Hardcover. 314 pages.

My rating: 4.75/10

Ex-Royal Navy Commander and British diplomat Nicholas Monsarrat wrote some really decent books in his alternate role as a fiction writer – such as the bestselling war novels The Cruel Sea (1951) and The Kapillan of Malta (1973), to name two of the best-regarded – and some relative stinkers. Guess where I’m placing this one?


B-List, pretty well all the way, from the awkwardly salacious sex scenes hastily set up and then shied away from by an apparently last-minute-squeamish creator, to the gruesome penultimate scene in which ironic justice is visited upon a key character.

Published in 1960, this is a book your father might have had on his shelf, to match the Jacqueline Susann on the distaff side of the twin-bed room. It’s determinedly smutty, though, as I mentioned earlier, it seems that Nicholas Monsarrat couldn’t quite bring himself to go into the detail hinted at by his doggedly sexy set-ups.

Which was a relief, because it was blush-inducing enough as it was, albeit for the awkwardness of the plot and the single-dimension characters rather than for anything really naughty in the way of sex-prose.

Brutal panning of those last few paragraphs aside, I need to back down and fairly admit that Monsarrat is decidedly readable, even at his worst. The Nylon Pirates did have its moments, and I rather enjoyed the quietly omnipotent sea captain overlooking all of the shenanigans on his ocean liner with patient calm; the dialogue among the sailors was a high point of this minor novel.

I’ll just quickly sketch out the plot. It won’t take long.

A career criminal who has made a profession of preying on society comes up with a scheme to part a group of wealthy cruise ship travellers from some of their abundant cash.

Our anti-hero Carl assembles a small team of like-minded predators to make up a loosely connected “family group” all travelling together.

Masquerading as a benevolent uncle is 50-year-old Carl. His “niece” is Diane, a wanton, exotically-talented brunette seductress detailed to reel in the men, as “nephew” Louis, an Italian-American gigolo-type, targets the yearning-for-love older women. The Professor, an aged confidence man whom Carl has teamed up with in past scams, comes along to scout prospects, handle the proceeds and keep the books. Carl’s just-come-of-age mistress, Kathy, is passed off as his stepdaughter. She’s a cooly beautiful blonde, whom much-older Carl seduced as a 16-year-old virgin some five years earlier. The trip is supposed to be something of a maiden voyage for lovely Kathy to break into the sex-for-money/threats-of-blackmail con-game trade, while Carl uses his superior poker skills to fleece the card-playing millionaires on board.

Complications ensue.

A generous number of editions are out there in used book land, with prices varying from dirt cheap to stupidly expensive. My advice: save your serious cash for something less likely to engender the book-fling urge, which this one did with me a number of times, mostly in the first and last chapters. Once committed to the read, the middle bits were the most amusing. A beach-blanket read, perhaps?

A 1960- first edition cover. Downright restrained, this image, comparatively speaking.

A 1960- first edition cover. Downright restrained, this image, comparatively speaking.

My favourite cover, from 1960.

My favourite cover, also from 1960.

A 1962 Pocket Books edition, working hard to entice the reader.

A 1962 Pocket Books edition, working hard to entice the reader.

The back of the '62 Pocket Book.

The back of the ’62 Pocket Book.

A 1963 Pan paperback edition, cover blurb appealing to the readers' prurient curiousity.

A 1963 Pan paperback edition, cover blurb appealing to the reader’s prurient curiousity.





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Well, this has been a rather longer hiatus than I’d ever intended.

What a goofy spring. Weird weather, and an overwhelming continuation of “little things” keeping me from ever feeling quite in control of my very own life.

Sunday, June 19th we had our last plant sale day (we operate a small perennial plant nursery); 48 hours later I was on the operating table undergoing a mite of abdominal surgery, which I’d been supposed to undergo back in April but which I’d postponed till a “better” time – after the spring planting season. Luckily everything held together until now!

All is as well as it could be expected to be. I am rather sore but less so than I could be, and several weeks of “light duty” stretch in front of me. Perhaps an opportunity to take up the blogging habit once again? I do miss it.

So, what have I been reading this strangely subfusc spring? Not a whole lot, I’m sad to say. Too busy and too distracted for anything terribly challenging, though I did recently manage a trio of Gavin Maxwells – Ring of Bright Water, The Rocks Remain, and Raven Seek Thy Brother. (Now there’s a chap with issues!) Maxwell deserves more than I can give him at present, so he’s back on the shelf for now.

Lying on the gurney the other day, waiting for the surgeon, I did manage to immerse myself to a reasonably deep degree in Barbara Pym’s Less Than Angels. “Good book?” asked one of the nurses. “Not particularly,” I replied. And it really isn’t, is it? Not one of her strongest. I insist on reading Pym from time to time, and occasionally sparks are struck, but she’s so darned…I dunno…cynical is too strong a term…not particularly cheering, anyway, to someone in a fragile state of mind.

So it’s been O. Douglas the last few days, as something of a Barbara Pym antidote. Taken by the Hand, and The House That is Our Own. Good old friends, these have become. But I’m ready for something new.

I see that Margaret Kennedy (The Constant Nymph, The Feast, Together and Apart et al) is getting some positive press in book blogger world. Time to order some new-to-me summer reading? But according to CBC News a possible postal strike is looming, so I might want to hold off.

Back to the high shelves here at home it is! (Well, not literally. I’ll send someone else up the stepladder.)

Hope you’ve all been having a lovely spring. Mine has had its magical moments, despite everything. And now it’s truly summer, longest day just past and all. Cheers, book friends!


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