Monday, September 02, 2013

My Bouchercon 2013 panels: Khrushchev visits a pub

I learned everything I know about pig farming from P.G. Wodehouse, so I was especially tickled by the following exchange between Frederick Troy and his sister Sasha in John Lawton's Old Flames:
"`The Old Spot's turned out to be a beauty. Are you going to have her put to the tup this month?' 
"`I think you only call them tups if they're sheep.' 
"Sasha thought about this as though it were some great revelation, startling to contemplate and worth hours of harmless fun. Troy sat in the driver's seat and reached for the door, but she put her hand across the top of the frame and emerged from reverie. 
"`Oh, well ... are you going to get her fucked by a daddy pig then?' 
"'Goodnight, Sasha.'"
That's a neat, if foul-mouthed nod to a writer Lawton loves, an update of Angela, Lord Emsworth, and the Empress of Blandings for a brave, postwar world.

Troy's mission in this, the second of Lawton's Troy novels, is to guard and spy on Nikita Khrushchev on the Soviet leader's visit to England in 1956. Early on, Troy takes the disguised Khrushchev on a subway and pub crawl through London, and Lawton manages the considerable feat of making the scenes funny but not farcical. Along the way, he does what he's best at: He milks the scenes for pointed observations about English character and habits. My favorite bit among many:
"Khrushchev fished out a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles, in which he usually, Troy had noticed, managed to avoid being photographed. He blinked at Troy through them. Troy weighed him up. Not only did he look English, he reminded Troy of those sturdy Londoners, packed with muscle after a lifetime in the docks, now running gently to seed on a diet of chips and beer."
The man knows how to make historical fiction fun.
John Lawton will be part of my "World War II and Sons" panel at Bouchercon 2013 in Albany, N.Y., on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 4:00 p.m.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

There aren't nearly enough Wodehouse references in spy novel reviews, I always say.

September 02, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lawton and Ruth Dudley Edwards include explicit Wodehouse references and tributes in their books. Andrew Taylor cites Wodehouse as a favorite writer, and of James Ellroy's novels, believe it or not, contains an exchange that reminds me of Bertie and Jeeves.

I'm sure countless other crime writers have rendered similar tributes. Do you know of any?

September 02, 2013  

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