Sunday, June 28, 2015

Murder, a counterfeit eye & courtroom drama in Book #2

Detective novels, good ones, don't just have twists and turns or gruesome, bloody murders on every second page. The backbone of a good detective novel is the protagonist, the hero who is, of course, the detective himself. Christie gave us Hercule Poirot, Chandler created Philip Marlowe, and Doyle gave us the greatest (probably) of all detectives in the form of Sherlock Holmes.

And Erle Stanley Gardner created the legal eagle, Perry Mason.

The first thing different about this murder mystery is that Perry Mason is a lawyer and not a detective. The plot is simple: there is a murder, a number of people are at the scene of the crime which looks like a suicide but isn't, family members come under suspicion, back stories are dug up, another murder happens which the reader didn't see coming, a big court scene, and finally the capture of the fleeing murderer. 

The title of the book is The Case of the Counterfeit eye and the eye (or eyes) pop up whenever murder happens in the book. And it is this title which made for this amazing cover which made it an irresistible buy. Erle Stanley Gardner was also a criminal lawyer. He wrote 82 Perry Mason novels and this one was number six and was published in 1935 (the last one was published in 1973). The Penguin edition that I have is called a Penguin Perry Mason.  All his novels started with 'The Case of......' and have such interesting titles as, The Case of the Singing Skirt,  The Case of the Glamarous Ghost, and The Case of the Negligent Nymph (for a complete list read here). 

This book was a 'just read-don't think' kind. Unlike Marlowe or Holmes, I didn't really warm up to Perry Mason. His character seemed too sure of himself and kind of one dimensional. By the end I was kind of put off by his arrogance. I'd like to see how the character was played out on the television drama Perry Mason. Sometimes an actor can add greater depth to a certain character in a novel (like Anthony Andrews did for the character of Sebastian Flyte in the Brideshead Revisited television series). 

The ending of the novel was in true Urdu digest style with Perry Mason providing us with a little teaser of his next case complete with a title! 

Image: Google

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ramzan and the Game Show Mania

Muzammil and his family had applied for the Ramzan game show a month in advance. They got the confirmation call a week before the first roza. Within hours the news had spread like wildfire among their friends, family and neighbours. 

After the initial excitement ebbed away the first issue was the list of people from the household who will go on the show. After a lot of discussions and many arguments, six  family members (which was the maximum number allowed by the channel) were finalised. This included:

1. Muzammil
2. His grandmother - being the eldest
3. His sister - the youngest in the family
4. His father 
5. His mother
6. His widowed aunt (father's sister) - she lived with them 

The remaining family (three brothers, one sister, a cousin) reconciled with the fact that they'll get some gifts from the show.

A few days later friends, family and neighbours started calling or visiting. While some came to wish the family good luck, others came with requests (and in some cases, demands). 

'If only you can get a laptop from the host'.
'My son could really do with a new mobile phone'.
'My daughter is going to be married a month after Eid. If you win a food processor, can you please give it to me? Consider it a wedding gift'.
'I always wanted a designer kurta for my son. You know he was born after five daughters'.

There were some veterans of previous game shows who overwhelmed the family with advice. 

'Learn some religion trivia. It always helps'.
'Request for a car and you might get a bike'.
'Religious trivia is good but memorize some good shair (poetry)'.
'Colour coordinate the clothes. It might get you a few small gifts'.
'Isn't your youngest going to fast for the first time this year? You should tell the organisers this as soon as you reach. She'll get a separate gift hamper'.
'Compose a song around the brand which is giving the bumper prize. A basic tune, nothing fancy. It can help you gain attention. You have to stand out from the rest'.
'Arrive real early to get a seat in the front'.
'Do take a gift for the host - that tasbeeh phuppi amma got from hajj last year or how about making a small handkerchief with the name of the host embroidered on it?' 'But nobody uses a handkerchief these days'.  ' Think of something else then... how about a small keychain with the name of the host on it? And make sure Dadi gives it. That will really move the host'.
'Don't be shy when the host starts giving away gifts at random. Your aim is to get as much stuff as possible'.
'Also, make sure you keep your possessions safe. Take one or two strong cloth bags with you and as soon as the show finishes put everything in it. Not like Zarina khala last year who lost two mobile phones while she was leaving the studio. Of course, somebody snatched it from her, the poor woman!'

After going to the game show and winning a considerable number of prizes, including a bike, Muzammil and his family were the talk and envy of most of their acquaintances. 

Muzammil's excitement about the show fizzled out a few days later when a friend told him that they had won double the gifts Muzammil's family had won. The secret of it all, he said, was to have different family members put in the application on different channels. More shows...more gifts!

Ramzan mubarak!

Note: This is a fiction piece. Just in case you thought otherwise.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Far Cry from Kensington - Book #1

[I finished the first book and the reason there is no post to show for it is because I'm taking too much time on writing it. I always find writing the review of a Spark novel rather daunting so while I am working on that, I thought I'd share some gems from the novel.]

It being Ramzan I thought it'll be a good idea to share some dieting tips followed by the protagonist, Mrs. Hawkins, to lose weight and trust me when I say she had a LOT of it to lose. Here is how she describes herself in the opening chapter:

"I was massive in size, strong-muscles, huge bosomed, with wide hips, hefty long legs, a bulging belly and fat backside; I carried an ample weight with my five-foot-six of height, and was healthy with it."

She continues, "As an aside, I can tell you that if there's nothing wrong with you except fat it is easy to get thin. You eat and drink the same as always, only half. If you are handed a plate of food, leave half; if you have to help yourself, take half". 

How about we all follow this golden rule and so not fill ourselves senseless with fried food and carbonated drinks this Ramzan?

Friday, June 19, 2015

15/15/30 Revisited - The Booklist this Year

Here it is. The reading material for the 15/15/30 Revisited project. It's not actually 15 books yet...still looking for two other reads. Any of your favourites here?





Thursday, June 18, 2015

15/15/30 Revisited

Last year, round about the same time, I decided to undertake a reading challenge. I called it 15/15/30 which stood for 15 books, 15 blogs, 30 days. Ambitious? Hell, yes! Not because of lack of time but probably lack of motivation. Once I stacked the books and posted the picture the reality of the challenge hit me. After two books my reading karma fizzled out and the books went back to their respective shelves (to mostly gather dust). 

This year I've decided to have a go at this challenge...again! Unlike last time, I put some thought into this. Actually it was one thought only, select a book which is under or at 200 pages. Anything that is 250 or above is not a good idea. And yea, include re-reads.

So far, I've made a list of 13 books which I shall unveil tomorrow. Another thing I will unveil is my big summer book giveaway. 

First of Ramazan promises to be very exciting! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Of Travels and Destinations - Dubai (Wrap-up Post)

Conversations with taxi drivers in the Dubai trip provided the much needed insight about the place beyond its glitter. There was one taxi driver who told me how this job had helped his family back home and enabled him to build his house, marry off his sister and send his children to school. Then there was the one who explained, with great detail, how various nationalities behaved towards drivers - with foreigners (read: goras) being the most polite and leaving substantial tips and Arabs being the worst. Pakistanis and Indians were mostly rude, especially the affluent ones who considered taxi drivers as some alien species and not humans.

I like Dubai. Mostly because of my family and friends who live there and who made this trip such a memorable one. And yes, I admit, I like the shopping too. But there are various sides to Dubai and not all of them are glamorous. As tourists we don't get to see the apartment buildings where people share tiny flats and don't have central air-conditioning. Take a ride on the metro and you'll see tired, expressionless faces and glazed eyes as the metro takes them by shiny malls and hotels. They are, however, assured of one thing. No one will stop them on their way home and snatch their belongings at gun point.

Sometimes for peace of mind, you have to pay a price. 


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Down and Out in Karachi

You know that feeling in your throat when it seems all dry and itchy and a little voice in your head whispers that you might be coming down with something and your cook is off on his weekly holiday and you want soup but there isn't anyone to make it and your mom doesn't pick up the phone and the restaurant you go to serves all kinds of fancy soups but not chicken corn soup and you end up having too many throat lozenges and then you remember the homeopathic medicine your grandfather told you about and luckily, you have it in your medicine box and you chug it down hoping that all will be well the next day.

Unless.......