Tag: jazz age

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

Posted May 24, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 2 Comments

Cocaine Blues by Kerry GreenwoodTitle: Cocaine Blues (Goodreads)
Author: Kerry Greenwood
Series: Phryne Fisher Mystery #1
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Published: Poisoned Pen Press, 1989
Pages: 175
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Miss Phryne Fisher is a fantastic character; I first encountered her in the TV show Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I prefer my mystery novels to be dark and hard-boiled but in the effort to be a literary explorer, I decided to pick up the first in the Phryne Fisher novels. What I love about the TV show plays a small part in this cosy crime novel.

Set in 1920’s Melbourne, Cocaine Blues follows Miss Fisher as she tries to hunt down an illegal abortionist who is leaving so much damage that the women are lucky to make it out alive. While cocaine is fast rising as the drug of choice in high society, Phryne Fisher finds herself caught up in web of smuggling, corruption and Turkish baths. Cocaine Blues’ mystery may be basic and the resolution far too convenient but this book sets up Phryne Fisher as a private detective that will solve a mystery with style and grace.

This novel is evidently focusing on the lifestyle of a 1920s socialite; take out the mystery and you are still left with a trendy Jazz age story with a strong heroine. The demographic for this novel is clearly focused towards woman; Kerry Greenwood often takes time to describe every inch of Phryne’s outfit and style. Almost to a point where I got a little angry by it, but this translates well to television as visual element is one of the reasons that make the show so great.

Phryne Fisher is a wealthy flapper with plenty of spare time; she is a strong willed feminist and a sensual being that shocks high society in 1920s Melbourne. She seems to have a wealth of knowledge but I can’t seem to pick her age, I gather she must be middle aged with all her life skills but Kerry Greenwood never mentions her age. She takes the time to go into great detail about everything she is wearing, why not give us an idea of her age.

I might be biased towards the TV show Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries but I think that captured Phyrne’s personality and the essence of what Greenwood was trying to write far better than this novel. It was fun to read and I enjoyed experiencing Phryne Fisher’s personality on the page. However I think the TV adaptation does a far better job with all the other characters, including Dot, Bert and Cec. Unfortunately Jack Robinson only got a look in and I’m finding it hard to remember if Hugh Collins even appeared.

If you are looking for a cosy crime novel with a strong kick-ass female detective then Cocaine Blues might be worth checking out. There are currently twenty books in the Phryne Fisher series. Also, as I mentioned a few times, the TV series is excellent. I don’t know if I will read any more in the series, it really depends if I need any light fillers to read and if I have access to the next book. I doubt I’ll ever run out of books to read but who knows maybe another dip into the world of Miss Fisher might be calling me and I can read the next book in the series, Flying Too High.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Posted May 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldTitle: The Great Gatsby (Goodreads)
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published: Scribner, 1925
Pages: 180
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Nick Carraway moves in next door to the young and mysterious millionaire, Jay Gatsby. Nick is soon following the dramas of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. Often hailed as the “Great American Novel”, F Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus is a portrait of the Jazz Age and the great American dream.

We all know the story, we’ve either been forced to read it in school or we’ve seen the movie, I wanted to reread this in the lead up the terrifying new adaptation by Baz Luhrmann. I remember reading it when I first started become a serious reader and I thought I would look at what I originally wrote and try and dissect and expand on it now that I think I’ve improved in reading critically.

First of all “One of the most interesting aspects of The Great Gatsby is the Point of View”, while this has probably been covered many times by people I will just cover this off again. Carraway tells the story of a group of destructive personalities but first you have to understand Nick before trying to understand the others.

Without going into anything controversial by claiming Nick Carraway was bisexual and in love with Jay Gatsby, let’s just say he idolised him. A Yale graduate, World War I veteran and relatively well off (inherited money), Carraway moves in next door to the charismatic and much talked about Jay Gatsby. But this leads to the question of just what is the relationship between Nick and Gatsby; is Jay using Carraway to get closer to Daisy? I think there friendship was real, Nick envied the person Jay was and he in return grew fond of Carraway.

The book does a decent job at shedding light on the egotistical, desire driven tendencies of human nature.” While this is true I think to expand on this you really need to look at what F Scott Fitzgerald was trying to do with this book, and to do that we must first look at the colour scheme (weird I know). There are two primary colours that play an essential role in this book. Firstly, green, the light over the river on the East Egg dock. The representation of Gatsby’s hopes and dreams, the green light represents the American dream. This would be considered objectification, that Gatsby believes that his American dream is to have Daisy.

The other major colour in this book is Gold or Yellow, the symbol of wealth and beauty. I think Yellow and Gold play as much of a significant role as the green light. This is true American goal; wealth and beauty, to be able to live without a care in the world. This is what I think Fitzgerald was trying to show us; like I said in my original review of this novel, these people are egotistical and desire driven and I think the author wanted us to see that. The problem with a carefree life is the fact that you don’t care about anything other than yourself and you don’t realise just how destructive that can be.

Carraway starts out starry eyed towards high society but slowly becomes more and more uncomfortable with the unrestrained materialism and lack of morality that comes with it.” I think that Carraway found himself sucked into high society and captivated by the presence of Gatsby. While in some respects he remains an outsider, he tries desperately to fit in and pursue the idea of the American Dream. The Great Gatsby tries to highlight the decline of this so called American dream, which originally was about discovery, uniqueness, and the pursuit of happiness but in the 1920s it seemed to decline and represent easy money and a social of leisure.

F. Scott Fitzgerald paints a unique literary picture of the time and life style, with interesting, snooty and slightly annoying characters.” I will admit that I sigh every time I read this sentence. Why was I the type of person that wanted likeable characters? Just because I hate these people, doesn’t mean that the book isn’t great and that they don’t have anything significant to teach. These people are supposed to be unlikeable, Fitzgerald isn’t trying to show us how great high society is; he wants to point out the flaws and what he sees as the decline of the American dream.

Everyone seems so self-absorbed and never think of each other; which helped drive the story beautifully.” We can probably argue if this really is the great American novel or even the great Jazz age novel. I know a lot of people hated this novel but I think there is so much this book can teach us and it’s less than 200 pages. F Scott Fitzgerald did a brilliant job of layering everything on top of each other that I feel the need to read this book again (already) just to see what I might pull out of it this time.

Someday I would like to do a post about motifs because there are so many recurring themes in the book, I think this would be a perfect novel to explore the idea of what a motif is. I read all the reviews from people that hate this book and I feel like I want to use that dreaded saying, “I don’t think you got what this book is trying to do”. But I hope this helps understand what this book really is about; while pointing out what you think I got wrong.

I reread this novel in anticipation of the new adaptation, which I’m scared about; I remember the old movie and think it failed to capture the true essence of this novel. This leads to two questions I want to ask the readers; “Is The Great Gatsby unfilmable?” and “Was Gatsby truly great?”.  I know my answers, so I’ll be interested to see what others think. I’m surprised how much fun I had dissecting my original thoughts and expanding on them.