‘G’ is a feast! Lots of titles, and many authors to choose from too. I am going to have to leave out so many good ones! Please play along by choosing any book title, or the surname of an author, as long as it begins with a ‘G’.
American writer Jeff Shaara followed in his father Michael’s footsteps, and wrote two excellent novels about the American Civil War. They became both a prequel and sequel to Michael Shaara’s 1974 book, ‘The Killer Angels’. That told the story of the battle of Gettysburg, in 1863, and Jeff followed this by looking at the events before that, in his 1988 book ‘Gods and Generals’. This trilogy is a must-read for anyone interested in the civil war, and both were made into films too.
Such is the legend surrounding the film ‘The Godfather’, and its sequels, it is easy to overlook the fact that it was adapted from a book of the same name, by Mario Puzo. This substantial book was published in 1969, and more than any other, can lay claim to introducing the outside world into the inner workings of The Mafia, from its Sicilian roots, to the takeover of organised crime in America. In 1984, the sequel ‘The Sicilian’ was published. Both are excellent books, even if you already know the films well.
I don’t often follow characters in a series, but with Arkady Renko, I made an exception. Set in Soviet Russia, the 1981 novel ‘Gorky Park’ by Martin Cruz Smith caught my imagination. Using the very different location of the Soviet Union to set this tale of mystery and murder was a refreshing change, and one that brought success to the author. There are seven books featuring Renko, and later ones are set after the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘Gorky Park’ was also made into a very good film, starring William Hurt as Renko, alongside Lee Marvin.
I could not leave out the excellent writing of John Steinbeck, and his novel from 1939, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. This heartbreaking tale of families affected by the Great Depression in 1930s America affected me profoundly, when I read it as a teenager. Believable characters in a perfectly-described landscape, bringing to mind the haunting photos of Dorothea Lange. This is an important historical work, as well as a compelling novel. It was also adapted into a film, starring Henry Fonda and John Carradine.
My top choice for today is a book from the First World War Trilogy by Pat Barker. As a memorial service for the 1917 battle of Passchendaele takes place on the TV news in the next room, it seems more appropriate than ever. ‘The Ghost Road’ is the final book in her series that started with the wonderful ‘Regeneration’, and continued with ‘The Eye In The Door’. Barker manages to create relationships between her fictional characters and real people (like Seigfried Sassoon) that seem natural, and totally convincing. Following the different characters through the three books is an emotional experience, always overshadowed by the horrors of the war on the Western Front from 1914-1918, and the effect it had on the men who served there. This is writing on the grand scale, and I recommend it unreservedly.
I have left you so many to consider, not least Graham Greene! So, off you go.