The Island Where Time Stands Still

Frank Linmarsh
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The Island Where Time Stands Still

Postby Frank Linmarsh » Mon 9 Oct, 2006 12:20:54

Not really a critique or a review but just a comment on how much I'm enjoying this book at present. Gloomy Sundae recently handed me a copy. My only DW books are the Black Magic novels - although I did manage to fight my way through Uncharted Seas not too long ago, but wasn't moved enough to write anything - enjoyable though it was. However, TIWTSS is great fun. Gregory Sallust is a jolly good hero (his streak of cynicism does him well) - tough, resourceful and very entertaining- 'His favourite weapon was an empty bottle of champagne - or failing that, a heavy marlinspike.' So that's where Toby Jugg got it from! When I've finished I'll try and put a review up. Suffice to say, not only is this a very good read, but there's a heck of a lot of Chinese history in here that's very enlightening. Top notch!
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Bob Rothwell
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Postby Bob Rothwell » Mon 9 Oct, 2006 21:44:04

Frank, good to hear from you again and thrilled you're finding interest in DW's other titles. Definitely looking forward to your review.

However, I am starting to get a bit worried about you... ... :?. They do say a dog owner begins to resemble his/her pet and I'm sure the same must apply to a writer and his favourite character. First it's that delightful character Gregory Pendennis and now the addition of certain archaic phrases in your normal conversation (see above). Do I detect a hint of Frank Kafta? 8-[

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Postby Frank Linmarsh » Tue 10 Oct, 2006 15:09:34

Archaic? Gadzooks! It's Dennis I tell you! The old rogue even has the gall to poke fun at various thriller writers including Dame Agatha. It really has been a corker, and I will have to read more Sallust (who obviously gave his first name to that Pendennis bounder). Also have a copy of Strange Conflict tugging at my smoking jacket sleeve begging to be perused. So many books - so little time!
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Postby Frank Linmarsh » Tue 10 Oct, 2006 20:37:08

Blimey! Sir Pellinore Gwaine-Cust's yacht sails into a storm three nights out of Tahiti. The passengers assemble in the lounge - the ladies with light furs over shoulders left bare by evening dresses, the men in DJs. A submerged coral reef is struck and everything goes pear shaped. Gregory is hurled overboard and lost in the storm and raging seas. Fortunately he had time to don a life jacket, and, unconcious, is swept into a shallow pool on the barrier reef as the storm abates - apparently the sole survivor. Retrieved by lobster fishermen and transported to a certain Island, suffering from two broken ribs, a fractured skull and severe bruising, Gregory eventually comes round to find himself being looked after by some Chinese in a spartan but pleasant hut. One of his visitors, Dr. Ping, tells him he is now resident on Leper Settlement Number Six. Gregory's hut is part of a block, and the whole area is surrounded by an 8 foot high wire fence - which is electrified. Other 'visitors' to the island are allegedly shipped to San Francisco - every 4 or 5 months. As Gregory recuperates, he witnesses a contretemps in the harbour - visible from his prison. Gregory gets better and tells Dr Ping he wouldn't mind seeing some more of the island and meeting some of the other inhabitants. The Doc's answer is to bring in 3 heavies as extra guards. What have the islanders to hide? A man of Mr Sallust's ingenuity won't take this lying down, and he soon devises a method of escaping his internment. Enjoying a moonlight stroll he is delighted to discover a beautiful landscaped garden, more upmarket houses. A couple of warehouse/factories seem an enigma, but Gregory soon susses that the Islanders have a rather dubious method of raising funds. While moseying around, he spies a light in one of the houses, and climbs a tree to investigate. Perusing a woman in the house, he notices a man outside 'obviously up to no good.' The man breaks into the house and abducts the woman.
I have to quote DW - 'Gregory dropped from his perch in the tree. As he did so he used an unprintable and peculiarly blasphemous Italian oath. Few prospects could have annoyed him more than that of becoming involved in a fight with a hulking coolie over a woman totally unknown to him. In his youth he had more than once slapped other men's faces for making rude remarks about girls whom he knew perfectly well were no better than they should be; but that sort of thing had long gone out of fashion and he had since learned to adopt a less quixotic attitude where questions of chivalry were concerned. Now, willy-nilly, he felt he had no option. It was just one of those things which however dangerous and unpleasant could not be shirked. Having instantly made up his mind to that, had he been St. George in person he could not have gone more swiftly to the rescue of this, possibly hideous, damsel in distress.' As soon as I read that paragraph (on p. 41) I knew that this was a book for me. Gregory is then plunged into an incredible web of intrigue. Seven wealthy Chinese mandarins fled their native country in 1913, as China became a communist republic. They leased the leper colony from the Portugese and set up a mini-Old China. But there is skullduggery afoot and Gregory Sallust through the whim of fate is faced with great peril as the story takes him from the Island, to the USA, and then into the closed world of China itself. An amazing amount of people pop their clogs during the tale, some even of natural causes. Is Gregory the target of an assassin - or is someone trying to bump off everyone around him? Falling crates of bananas, poisoned cocktails, snakes in beds - when naked girls have knives thrown at them you can believe the Daily Telegraph hyperbole 'A thrill lurks around every corner - and that means every page.' DW - 'The prince of thriller writers' shouted the Times Lit. Supp. no less - and they're not wrong. Dennis doesn't put a foot wrong - soapboxing at a minimum ( he doesn't even really condemn the communists - so yah boo sucks to anyone who paints him as a reactionary), fascinating glimpses of China past and present which in no way hamper the narrative, and a twisting, turning plot that confounds Gregory and the reader at almost every turn. I loved it!
Last edited by Frank Linmarsh on Wed 11 Oct, 2006 11:51:20, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Bob Rothwell » Tue 10 Oct, 2006 23:20:12

Blimey! an impressive review and not too many spoilers either (must refrain from using VOE slang here!)! Many thanks Frank.

Now when are BBC FOUR going to do Sallust? [-o<

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Postby Garry Holmes » Sat 14 Oct, 2006 08:26:07

I really enjoyed this book! Giddy mixture of realistic fantasy, thriller, quest, adventure story and whodunnit. 10/10.

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Postby Jim » Mon 16 Oct, 2006 13:38:43

Oddly enough, I just finished this one myself, having not read a DW novel in a long time (and having left Gregory at the end of WW II).

Compared to say, Sax Rohmer, DW is quite politically correct here: all the Mandarin characters, though often small in stature, are handsome and athletic (and of course they speak English--a sure sign of their superiority), and the lower classes are "happy children." Nevertheless, as Frank says, the soapboxing is at a minimum, and the packaged history lessons really do tie in with the story, and drive the intricate plot.

Unlike the Duke, who seems to know everything, Gregory often depends on luck or the assistance of others to get out of some of his scrapes. It makes some of the more outlandish escapades more believable.

I missed the last-page snapper that DW often plants, but the earlier Big Reveal, while perfectly fair and well prepared, caught me by surprise.

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Postby Toohey » Thu 4 Oct, 2007 12:19:14

After reading the reviews here will deffo give this one a go. I'll swap it at the library when I return my copy of Uncharted Seas :(


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