Please play along by adding your own favourite books that begin with a ‘C’, or the surname of an author with the same letter.
Most people know by now that I am no Royalist. This lifelong tendency led me to a great interest in the English Civil War, and to the Parliamentarian general Oliver Cromwell, who later became Lord Protector.
The definitive biography of this man was written by Antonia Fraser in 1973, and titled ‘Cromwell: Our Chief of Men’. It is a door-stop of a book, more than 1,000 pages, so not intended to be a comfortable holiday read by any means. This complete history of this often maligned historical character, has no equal. I say this, despite the fact that Lady Antonia Fraser, daughter of an Earl, is an aristocrat by birth, and her Royalist sympathies are allowed to surface frequently in this book. If you can overlook this, and I did, then you are still left with a fascinating and detailed account of the life of one of the great figures in English history.
‘The Catcher In The Rye’ by J.D. Salinger was published in 1951, a few months before I was born. The main character, Holden Caulfield, relates a coming of age experience that is instantly recognisable to any teenager in western society. Despite the differences in background between myself and Holden, I identified with his frustration and rebellion immediately. I don’t know how old Salinger was when he wrote the book, but the style, and expression of thought, is just perfect.
Ex-Police officer Joseph Wambaugh published his novel ‘The Choirboys’ in 1975. His inside knowledge of police procedures, allied to his no-holds barred attitude to their bad behaviour on occasion, produced a sparkling book that raised many controversial issues at the time. After reading his tales of depressed, suicidal, and alcoholic police officers in Los Angeles, you are unlikely to ever view the police in the same light, that’s for sure. The characters are so richly described, that after a few pages, you begin to think you know them. They offer a view of policing far removed from many worthy memoirs, and allow you to discover that behind those blue uniforms lurk all the same issues and fears that plague the rest of us. It was later made into a film, starring Charles Durning, Louis Gosset Jnr, and James Woods.
In 2002, I read an amazing book, set in 19th century London. I could identify with so many locations, and also felt instantly drawn into the lives of the characters. ‘The Crimson Petal, and the White’ by Michael Faber, is flawless historical fiction. Victorian prostitution, wealthy industrial magnates, and a consummate retelling of the life of the times. This all adds up to something you really want to read, characters you believe in, and a descriptive wonderland of a lost London. It was later shown as a TV mini-series, and beautifully done too. It doesn’t get much better than this.
My top pick for ‘C’ is a novel I have read twice, and never tire of. Set during the American Civil War, ‘Cold Mountain’ by Charles Frazier was published in 1997. It was his first novel, and became a huge international success, selling over three million copies. And if you read it, you will see why. The story of the Confederate deserter Inman, and his quest to return home to his wife and farm in Cold Mountain, is contrasted by the struggles of his wife Ada to manage during the harsh wartime conditions. This book is a descriptive marvel, and the characters come to life in your mind. It is a never to be forgotten read, with a simply amazing ending. One of the best books I have read in later life, without doubt. It was also made into a faithful film, starring Jude Law, and Nicole Kidman. Read the book, then watch the film. Magical stuff, believe me.
I have left you a lot of ‘C’ titles and authors, so off you go!