Paul Foot

Off the Christmas tree

(December 1986)

From Book Choice, Socialist Worker Review, No.93, December 1986, p.25. (review)
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Quentin Durward by Walter Scott

Shoot Down by Bill Johnson (Chatto Windus £10.95)

Days Like These by Nigel Fountain (Pluto Press £2.50)

I came across some old Walter Scott novels going for next to nothing. I bought them and read Quentin Durward. Scott was a High Tory, deeply hostile to everything represented by the French Revolution through which he lived. He believed in things like chivalry and decency and loving one's neighbour. He also observed, rather to his distaste, that all the High Tories, anti-Jacobins and churchmen around them said they believed in all these things, but behaved entirely differently. Indeed, the higher they were in society, the more cynically and disreputably they trampled on their beliefs. The point of the novel, whose story bumbles along fast and furiously enough to keep you up at night, is to contrast the genuine high-mindedness of the relatively lowly Quentin with the hypocrisy of his masters, expecially the King.

Political duplicity was the theme of my second favourite book this year, Shootdown. This book argues that the Korean airliner KAL 007 was deliberately sent over Russian territory by the loony clique of freaks who advise the President of the United States, who have succeeded ever since in covering up their atrocity. It is beautifully told, and superbly argued. Proof of the importance of Shootdown is the way it was ignored and boycotted when it was published, but it is, I gather, soon to come out in paperback.

My third choice is a thriller by Nigel Fountain, the best-ever letters editor in Socialist Worker's history. It is a good tale and it makes a lot of political points, not all of which are flattering to the Socialist Workers Party. The best thing about the book is its sceptical hero John Raven. He is so much like Nigel Fountain that he is absolutely irresistible.


Last updated on 20.12.2004