Posted by: Bruce | November 1, 2014

A bedtime story with oil-top roads and a lousy ending.

Real books by NoNegThis photo is kind of an action selfie. It’s how I finish my day knowing that everything else (usually) has to wait till tomorrow. I look forward to it, my time before twilight zone.

From memory, the book pictured is about a private eye who gets beaten up, loves ‘gals’ and whiskey, smokes a hundred ciggies a day and almost always gets the job done.

Over time I’ve read a few like this, but I guess most books were pretty meaty numbers, with twists, turns and in-depth characters. While I liked quite a few and enjoyed some as an excellent yarn over many nights, I was gradually getting a bit bored, even irritated, with deep and meaningfuls. Even more so, I slowly noticed I was more often than not, cheesed off with the endings. I didn’t want a favourite character flattened by a truck or finishing their written existence in misery. There’s enough of that in real life.

The last deep and meaningful I read was Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence. Hard to believe I read and wrote about this novel in my high school finals. Anyway, I read this again about a year ago and found that I still enjoy it. Certain palpable descriptions of human behaviour reminded me of why I was impressed first time round and, curiously, I realised I still felt the same way despite the recent fading of my boyish good looks.

Now books have to end sometime, I know. Many even have ‘The End’ printed on the last page in case I can’t figure what the following blank page means. But there’s an ending and there’s ‘The end’. The ending doesn’t mean finger down the throat sickly sweet or back slapping pal stuff, but it does have to tie up the loose bits and bind the theme and characters at least a little before I’m told it’s ‘The end’. I don’t want to be left in limbo with a ‘huh?’ when the last words are read; unless that sort of ending is appropriate.

Now, on to the reading fodder that has kept me entertained for the last few years. One day, due to laziness in getting my glasses updated, I grabbed some books off the shelf at our local library. They came from a section labelled ‘large print’ and made for some unusual reading. It’s not that the print can be read from across the room or in the dark, but it is a little easier on my eyes when the candle’s getting low.

Some are real enough books, some read as though they are churned out in a book writing factory. Some are strange science fiction written in the 1930’s (yet describing videophones in homes) and others are, well, anything really. Many private eye books are from the U.S. but a lot of the others are from the U.K., (science fiction, murder mystery). I like to think of them as light entertainment, with little emotional involvement, the dialogue, imagery and pace like old black and white movies; no stuffing around. If people, or countries have to be killed off, well, they are killed off rapidly and then on with the story to whatever ending awaits.

Die Happy by JM GregsonAnd this brings me to the point and title of this post. I recently finished a book and had I known the ending before beginning, I wouldn’t have begun! The story itself was entertaining enough, a retired spy writing memoirs, but the ending totally ignored a major character revelation when it all hit the fan.

I could say I enjoyed the journey, the steady progress, the anticipation and expectation of a satisfying finish. The ending though, I can only describe as a possibly large, satisfying sneeze that just fizzled out as they sometimes do, anticlimactic if you will, leaving me a little confused. Oh well, maybe next time.

From this book I take with me a sneeze that wasn’t and I leave a question.

Most of this novel is set in Texas, USA and mentions real places; I checked some on Google maps. There is a road, called Elbow Bend, kind of between Elgin and Wyldwood and not far from the Colorado River. In the book, Elbow Bend gets more than one mention about all or part of it being or being near an oil-top road. I have a bit of an idea but I’d like to know for sure. Google doesn’t have much on them.

Can someone please tell me, what is an oil-top road? Anyone in Texas?

[April 20,2015…answer from Christie who lives in Irving, Texas. Its used in rural back roads. They mix oil with stone chips and make a cheap asphalt. Not practical on high traffic roads].

Thanks Christie ♦♦♦

Words for today;     The end – not always

More to come;     same blog channel


  1. I really enjoyed your article, Bruce. I agree with you about the deep and meaningfuls. There’s enough of that sort of gut churning stuff I have to consume each morning along with the corn flakes. I want a good yarn and an interesting world to escape into for a while, and all loose ends tied up. As you say, if we want real life, we’re in it.

    I went through a marvellous science fiction phase in my youth, beginning with Isaac Asimov and moving on to people like CM Kornbluth, Alfred Bester, William Tenn, Henry Kuttner, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Frederic Brown. There used to be a second hand bookshop near where I lived and it was owned by a science fiction fan. I thought it was an ideal situation.

    I remember reading a short story once that had people on a train reading wafer thin electronic newspapers. That story is at least 70 years old. Scientists are always admitting they got their inspiration from reading SF.
    PS. . Big print is great when you need it, but it is limiting. Have a check up.


    • Bit of a sci-fi buff Mary? I hardly remember any authors, how’s that for class? The wafer thin electronic newspapers look like a reality now; it’s pretty interesting. I had my check up ages ago Mary, but I’m still hooked on the black and white books and the little surprises they provide. I was almost startled when reading an old story recently. A woman in the story was described as a slut. This was totally out of character for this author and the period of writing. A check of the dictionary describes a slut as a woman of slovenly and unkempt appearance. The word slut has more than one application and, as used in the book, was appropriate for the context. Interesting that the word slut and it’s various meanings only referred to women. It’s good to be a guy. Thanks for reading Mary.


  2. The term slut comes from slattern, Bruce. I like hard cover books best too but you don’t have to dust the electronic kind. 🙂


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