I finished a Sue Grafton book this morn. Plotting wasn’t too bad, the ‘private investigator’ Kinsey Millhone is a dislikable neurotic and there’s some really silly details in there – she drives a 1970 Mustang 429, f’rinstance, an extremely rare and temperamental beast – but what really bugged me was the excessive wordiness of the book. She doesn’t write “I parked the car, grabbed my bag and walked in the front door”, no, she describes where she parked, how she parked, an assessment of her car-parking skills, the items she took from the car and so forth, on and on and on. It was around 480 pages and could have made for a neat 350 pager.

 

I’ve done a bit of proofreading and editing in my time, stripping articles and reports down to two-thirds of the original length without losing a shred of meaning and intent. Gimme ‘W for Wasted’ in digital form and I could delete sentences that would sharpen it up plenty, before I even thought about phrases and words.

 

But Sue has nothing on JK Rowling when it comes to excessive wordiness. I started reading that ‘private eye’ novel she published under a pseudonym, laboured through forty or so pages that could easily have been condensed into fifteen before I threw it aside.

 

It’s preposterous on every level. The ‘star’ PI has a ridiculous name and habits. Early on, he changes his shirt in his office, ripping off the old one, “buttons pinging against the walls” or something like that.

 

I’ve known a lot of drunks, drugfucks and general ne-er-do-wells and I’ve never known of habits like that. Perhaps when you’re JKR and the last twenty years of your life have been spent writing books about teenage wizards and counting the zeroes on your bank statement, you might think that tough guys are like that.

 

She could have put aside a few days to read some of Dashiell Hammett’s lean, spare prose or Raymond Chandler’s dark, troubled hero or John D Macdonald’s humour and colour. But she’s JKR and doesn’t feel the need for stylistic research or an editor.

 

A friend of mine, a professional writer and editor, said that bigname writers never get edited and JKR is about as big a name, saleswise, as there is. I’m not bothered personally. Millions of people have enjoyed her books and I wouldn’t deny them that pleasure. But, by the gods, read some Hemingway and learn some economy.

It’s been a good weekend for automobile action on the teev. I was up late reading Frinite and starting to think about going to bed when I checked the EPG. ‘Fear Is The Key’, 1972. I’m a bit of a sucker for obscure movies from around that time, so I flicked over to it. Stars Barry Newman, that’s a good sign. Overall, pretty good, tho the plot seemed to go outside for a walk and get lost for a while in the middle. About 10 minutes in Barry grabs a girl, steals a red ’72 Torino and leads the cops on a merry chase for at least another 15 minutes. Great stunts, great driving and reasonably believable as these things go.

 

Yep, there’s a good dash of ‘Vanishing Point’ in this movie, the moodiness of John Talbot, (Barry’s character) and the motivations hinted at and the car chase looks similar, probably ‘cos the stunt co-ordinator was Cary Loftin, who had the same job in VP.

 

Being a nut for a good car chase, the rest of the movie didn’t hold my attention so much, I was still reading, too, by the gods, am I a multitasker or what?, but all in all, it was a special treat to find such an rare nugget on network teev.

 

Saturday, I watched a truly great football match (Sydney v Footscray, the ‘Scray won a close one) then glanced at the guide and, lo and behold, ‘Grand Prix’ is on!

 

This is probably the best motor-racing movie made, partly because it just is but also because it captures the last of an era. The filmmakers received an incredible amount of access to and co-operation from the drivers and teams and toured the GP circuit with them for several weeks in summer ’65. This was shortly before the GP circus was reorganised to maximise telecast revenue, leading to sponsorship decals being plastered all over the cars and a more intense level of competition and professionalism.

 

The on-track photography is unmatched, panavision cameras mounted on race cars at 130mph, in-race footage from helicopters. And the tracks! Spa, Brands Hatch, Monza, Monaco, shot in rich colour.

 

Later on, after another football match, we watched ‘Monty Python’s Holy Grail’, which we hadn’t seen for several years. By odd chance, another channel showed ‘Excalibur’ later that night, which was really much too silly by then.

April ’07 or so, I was riding Boadicea, Suzuki SV650S K2, a lot. 250 mile daytrips, 700 mile long weekends and commuting to work every day. I started early, there was little traffic and the morning run became a race against myself. If I get this corner just right, it’ll set me up for the next few curves and I might knock a few seconds off my previous best time.

 

I got to thinking that I oughta get a decent set of leathers. I had a old Dainese jacket that a mate had given me when he wrecked the matching pants at a race meeting but was riding around in kevlar jeans, which have no impact protection. It was on my mind, I talked about it to a few people. I was in the old Shakespeare Hotel on King St drinking with a few mates when Laura hobbled in on crutches.

 

“What happened to you?” tho I knew the answer.

 

“Dropped my bike. Is the Moto GP on in this pub?”

 

Couple weeks later, the motorcycle supermarket near work had a sale, it’s useless for repairs or even new tyres, but good for cheap gear and I picked up a pair of quality black leather trews for $250, half the retail.

 

Two or three days later I was riding home from lunch at my parents, wearing my new trews so I could break them in a bit, I braked approaching a speed hump, Boadicea left a geometrically perfect squiggly line in the trail of dumped oil and I was lying on the road with a young hippy couple staring at me with some concern. He helped me pick her up and I left her at a nearby friend’s house.

 

Four months later I’d move in there and Maya, a lovely woman and one of my new flatmates, would turn out to be the likely culprit. She owned a car that dumped oil, a lot of it. No big deal, really, I should’ve been riding in the wheel tracks, not the centre of the lane. I learnt the value of proper leathers and the incompetence of the shop that, by the demands of the insurance company, did the repairs.

 

Credit instinct for bugging me about the trews, they are still in fine fettle today and saved me from a smashed knee in ’07.

I set up this blog years ago, then life and death intervened and I mostly forgot about it but I figure now that it might be useful. I’ll try to write something every day. Not a lot but enough to get an idea across and it’ll be good practice at writing. The more I do, the better I get, eh?

 

I talk a lot, I think about things, I daydream, sometimes my brain runs away with itself when I’m supposed to be doing something else. That’s one of the reasons why I’m a self-employed gardener. My mind has space.

 

When I’m pushing a lawnmower or trimming a hedge, I slip into an almost meditative state. I like the physicality, feeling my muscles stetch and my joints move. I’m outside and alone and the only thing I need think about it is getting the job done right.

 

I guess I do, cos people have me back. I like the responsibility of working for myself. I’ve had some well-paid govt jobs that I hated, because I was bound by ingrained habits and couldn’t just get in and get it done. Now I can.

 

Do the job – and daydream and think and talk to other gardeners and tradesmen and sometimes chew their ear off, because that’s what I’m like.

A world where Greg Dulli (four time winner of ‘Best Songwriter’) presents another Grammy to Hives for ‘Best Live Rock and Roll Act’.

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