Category Archives: Fiction

Smoke Over Malibu by Tim Walker review – hardboiled hilarity

 ‘LA is a secret city’ … Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Photograph: Alamy
‘LA is a secret city’ … Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Photograph: Alamy

He not only works in antiques but, by LA standards, lives in one: a “one-bedroom guest cottage behind a restored jigsaw gothic in Angelino Heights. The big house is as venerable as they come in southern California.” Kluge is a man out of time: he writes cheques and refuses to own a smartphone. When his house clearance partner asks him, “C’mon, you never heard of Bacon Ninja? It was like No 1 in the iTunes store for, like, six months,” Kluge replies: “Raul, I barely even know what that means.” He saves his biggest ire, however, for comic books – which he blames for ruining Hollywood.

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The Blot: A Novel by Jonathan Lethem review – a gambler out of luck

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The ‘slick, fussy’ Raffles in Singapore, one of the hotels frequented by The Blot’s protagonist, Alexander. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Jonathan Lethem runs out of moves in this story of a backgammon hustler facing the surgeon’s knife. This review’s scanning as a pick or a pan will depend on whether you read fiction for the process or the payoff. Jonathan Lethem’s 10th novel, The Blot, is engaging, entertaining and sharp for its first two-thirds. Then it goes to hell.

The Blot was published in the US as A Gambler’s Anatomy. Lethem’s protagonist being a professional backgammon player is a nice twist on a long narrative tradition of gambling stories, which more often prefer poker, roulette or blackjack.

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