Monday, 31 March 2014

Darwyn Cooke's Book Cover Design for Donald E. Westlake Non-Fiction Miscellany The Getaway Car: Exclusive First Look

NB: A version of this post also appears at The Violent World of Parker.

Here's a nice exclusive – well, semi-exclusive; I'm cross-posting it at The Violent World of Parker – for my thousand-and-first post:

Darwyn Cooke's handsome cover design for The Getaway Car, the Donald E. Westlake non-fiction anthology put together by Levi Stahl of The University of Chicago Press and due to be published by UCP in September. Levi himself broke the news about Darwyn illustrating and designing the book's cover on his own blog earlier this month, but this is the first time said cover has been seen online (thank you to Levi for allowing me the opportunity to unveil it here and at The Violent World of Parker). It's also, I believe, the first time that Darwyn's work has adorned a Westlake project outside of the Richard Stark/Parker sphere – but not, I fervently hope, the last. Head to the UCP website for more about the book.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

1000th Post: 20 Secondhand Books Which to My Mind Have Come to Define This Ridiculous Book Collecting Blog

NB: Linked in this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

I've done my research here – i.e. I've googled "1000th blog post" and glanced at the first two pages of results – and it seems the form with one's one thousandth post is to begin with an exclamation of surprise and disbelief – something along the lines of, "Crikey, 1000th post, eh? Who'd have thunk it, only seems like yesterday etc., etc." – before banging on at length about one's blogging "journey" and then, in many cases, fatally undermining the notion of marking such a milestone in the first place by pointing out that in fact it's only the 1000th post on this particular blog and there were many blogs, and therefore many blog posts, before this one (which is as true of Existential Ennui as any other blog: I, like, many bloggers, have former, long-since-discarded-and-sometimes-deleted blogs in my past – one of them even called Existential Ennui). Which is all well and good, and perfectly acceptable for most blogs reaching their thousandth post, I'm sure; but I'd rather mark the occasion of Existential Ennui's thousandth post with something a little less myopic, a little more meaty – indeed something more pertaining to the reasons why Existential Ennui has reached 1000 posts. Which is to say, books and book collecting.

You see, the collecting of old books – '50s and '60s and '70s crime and spy novels and first editions and the like – has, in large part, driven Existential Ennui (after an initial dalliance with comics blogging), and the collecting of old books has brought me to this juncture: if I hadn't discovered a hitherto unrealised passion for book collecting somewhere around 2008/2009 I sincerely doubt this blog would have troubled the hundred post mark, let alone the thousand. And there are, to my mind, certain books in my collection which define Existential Ennui (whatever Existential Ennui is, or rather, has become: repository of bibliographic esoterica, elaborate excuse for me to carry on buying old books – take your pick). They're some of my favourite books, sure, but they're also more than that: each one is, I think, in some way emblematic of an aspect of Existential Ennui – of how the blog has developed; of its – and therefore my – preoccupations and predilections over the past five years (I don't really count the first two years of this incarnation of Existential Ennui, as it was little more than a placeholder until July 2009).

There are twenty of them in total. They aren't by any means all of my favourite books – that list would also include the likes of Stephen King's The Stand, Patricia Highsmith's The Tremor of Forgery, Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News, Evelyn Waugh's Scoop, Jeffrey Bernard's Low Life and Alan Clark's Diaries, all of which I have written about on Existential Ennui – but rather the ones that mean the most in the context of Existential Ennui, both as physical objects and in terms of the words within them. In a vague and ill-defined sense – one which I strongly suspect won't actually make any sense to anyone other than me – these books are Existential Ennui (although Google Images, if you search for "Existential Ennui", only partially concurs). And they are, in roughly the order in which I bought and/or blogged about them:

Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1974)
The 1974 Heinemann edition of Patricia Highsmith's third Tom Ripley novel is, if not the first first edition I ever bought (as a first edition, i.e. consciously buying an old book in first, as opposed to buying a new book that just happened to be a first), then at least one of the first; I picked it up in a secondhand bookshop (no longer extant) on one of my first visits to London's Cecil Court (and that's quite a lot of "firsts" in one sentence, for which I apologise). I'd read and fallen for the Ripliad a number of years beforehand and love them just as much, if not more, today: witness the 2012/2013 Great Tom Ripley Reread from 2012 (a series of posts of which I'm uncharacteristically proud). Ripley's Game remains my favourite instalment in the five-book Ripliad, and this copy of the Heinemann first remains one of my most treasured books, even though I own other more valuable and arguably more collectable Highsmith books (Deep Water and This Sweet Sickness in first; a unique signed and inscribed copy of the Heinemann edition of Little Tales of Misogyny; a signed Ripley novel, which I'll come to shortly). Partly it's that thing about never forgetting your first love, but more than that, the Heinemann first of Ripley's Game was, I think, the book that made me a book collector.

The Anti-Death League by Kingsley Amis (Gollancz, 1966)
In 2008 I moved to the East Sussex town of Lewes, with its sundry secondhand bookshops and antique shops and charity shops; shortly after that my interest in book collecting was kindled, and shortly after that I bought a cheap first edition of Kingsley Amis's The Riverside Villas Murder (Cape, 1973) in the Lewes Antique Centre. It was my first exposure to Amis's work, but not my last: I've since read and admired a further dozen or so Amis books, the best of which being the wonderfully humane espionage novel The Anti-Death League. But it's not just his fiction which has shaped Existential Ennui: Amis's critical writing, especially that in the 1970 collection What Became of Jane Austen?, has also informed my thinking about fiction and thus much of my writing on Existential Ennui; he also formed the basis of a fine guest post by Michael Barber in 2011. Fittingly, very first post about my then-blossoming interest in book collecting on Existential Ennui, in September 2009, made mention of just one author: Kingsley Amis.

The Man with Getaway Face (alias The Steel Hit) by Richard Stark (Pocket Books, 1963; Coronet, 1971; Allison & Busby, 1984)
Butcher's Moon by Richard Stark (Random House, 1974; Coronet, 1977)
If there's one series of books that defined Existential Ennui in its early days as a books blog, it's Donald "Richard Stark" Westlake's Parker novels. My quest to collect all of the Allison & Busby hardback editions of the Parkers drove much of my blogging for a good few years – said quest only drawing to a conclusion in 2013 – while the wider quest to own every Parker in hardcover still isn't done (I'm looking at you, Deadly Edge). Even so, it felt like something of a milestone when I acquired an American first edition of Butcher's Moon – copies of which even a couple of years ago were in short supply – and though, with the novel back in print and readily available again, that achievement doesn't mean quite what it once did, it's still a totemic book in my collection. The Man with the Getaway Face, on the other hand, is simply one my favourite Parker novels (I reread it recently); for me it's the archetypal Parker thriller (as opposed to The Hunter, which I'd suggest is the prototypical Parker thriller), the deadened, stripped-back prose sometimes equalled in the later books but never bettered. It also boasts the best title of the series – and its Coronet retitle ain't bad either.

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (Chatto & Windus, 1939; Penguin, 1949)
Rogue Male made quite an impact on me when I first read it in 2010. It sparked an interest in Geoffrey Household's wider canon, for sure, but more than that it opened my eyes to the possibilities of really good thriller writing – of how a well-written thriller can be so much more than the sum of its parts. I own the novel in two editions – a 1939 Chatto first edition/third impression, with its wartime Enid Marx-designed Services Library wrapper, and a 1949 Penguin paperback edition – and I'm not sure which I prize more.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré (Hodder, 1974)
The work by which all other serious espionage fiction should be judged: rich, layered, elegiac, quietly devastating. Le Carré's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) is often cited as the best spy novel ever, but for my money Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy beats it hands down – plus it has two fine sequels in the shape of The Honourable Schoolboy (1977) and Smiley's People (1979). The Hodder first edition/first impression of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (it went through multiple printings) has become quite pricey in the wake of the 2011 film adaptation; ridiculously, I own two copies of it.

The Alamut Ambush by Anthony Price (Gollancz, 1971)
The Alamut Ambush, the second in Anthony Price's David Audley series of spy novels, is certainly my favourite Audley novel (bearing in mind I'm not even halfway through the nineteen-book series) – not least because it's set in part in Firle, just down the road from Lewes – but my copy of the Gollancz first is especially dear to me because Mr. Price signed and inscribed it to me when I interviewed him in 2011. (He also inscribed my Gollancz first of the debut Audley novel, The Labyrinth Makers, and inscribed his US edition of Our Man in Camelot and gave me that too.) As such, it's the only signed first of The Alamut Ambush that I know of (as is my first of The Labyrinth Makers), but even more gratifyingly my two-part interview has since become a key text for anyone interested in Price's work.

The Silver Locusts by Ray Bradbury (Hart-Davis, 1951)
There are many books I could have chosen to represent the Existential Ennui Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s gallery – the most popular page or post on the blog, with hits in the tens of thousands – but I've picked Roy Sanford's wrapper for the 1951 Rupert Hart-Davis edition of Ray Bradbury's The Silver Locusts, partly because it is indeed beautiful, but mostly because I've loved The Martian Chronicles – the title by which Bradbury's collection of stories is rather better known – ever since I was a teenager.

Chinaman's Chance by Ross Thomas (Hamish Hamilton/Simon & Schuster, 1978)
For a while there around 2010/2011 I became mildly obsessed by the book cover work of glamour photographer Beverley le Barrow, the jacket of the Hamilton edition of Ross Thomas's Chinaman's Chance being a prime example thereof. But it's also the best Thomas novel that I've read thus far (although The Fools in Town Are On Our Side runs it a close second); indeed, so impressed by the book was I that I ended up getting a signed US first edition as well.

Undertow by Desmond Cory (Muller, 1962)
Undertow isn't the scarcest Desmond Cory book I own – that would be the 1951 Muller edition of Secret Ministry, the debut Johnny Fedora spy thriller, my copy of which is only physical copy of the book I've ever seen (although it is available as an e-book) – but it's still extremely uncommon in first, and not only is it the best Johnny Fedora outing but an exquisite novel in its own right.

Game Without Rules by Michael Gilbert (Hodder, 1968)
I reread some of the tales in Michael Gilbert's first collection of Calder and Behrens short spy stories (a second collection, Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens, followed in 1982) earlier this year, and it was a timely reminder of just how terrific they are. Physical copies of Game Without Rules remain in as short supply as they were when I wrote about the book two years ago – especially the Hodder & Stoughon edition – but since then it's at least been made available as an e-book. I have read better espionage short stories than the ones in this collection – by W. Somerset Maugham; see further down this post – but these are almost as good.

Towards the End of the Morning by Michael Frayn (Collins, 1967)
I try not to put too much stock in the fact that in many cases, my reviews of the books assembled in this post appear on the first page of results when you google their titles/authors. After all, I sincerely doubt that the search engines are taking note of my incisive criticism and sparkling prose; merely that they judge that the posts in question are somehow relevant or popular or, god forbid, authoritative. Even so, to google "Towards the End of the Morning" and find my review nestling just below articles by Christopher Hitchens and Hugh Barnes affords a minor frisson: the web can be a great leveller. Hitchens, incidentally, reserves special praise for Frayn's earlier novel about journalism, his debut, The Tin Men (1965), which I haven't read yet but which I possess a first edition of; I guess it's conceivable it could end up supplanting Towards the End of the Morning in my affections, but it really will have to be extraordinary in order to do so.

The Mercenaries by Donald E. Westlake (Boardman, 1961)
361 by Donald E. Westlake (Boardman, 1962)
The Mercenaries and 361 appear here for a variety of reasons. The former is Donald Westlake's debut novel proper (following a bunch of sleaze novels); the latter is probably the best non-Parker Westlake I've read, and is also important because midway through writing it Westlake stopped and knocked out the first Parker novel, The Hunter (with which it shares certain sensibilities). Moreover, both are the British T.V. Boardman editions of the novels, with their striking and memorable dust jackets designed by Boardman's art director, Denis McLoughlin; jacketed Boardman editions of Westlake's early novels are notably scarce, and these two especially so. And on top of all that, my copy of the Boardman edition of The Mercenaries is signed – one of only a handful of copies of the novel in any edition to bear Westlake's signature – and inscribed, to author and pioneer in gay and lesbian studies Byrne Fone (who also signed it), making it a fabulous association copy.

A Thirsty Evil by P. M. Hubbard (Macmillan/Atheneum, 1974)
It was an earlier Hubbard novel, A Hive of Glass (recommended to me by Book Glutton), which for me brought home what a brilliantly idiosyncratic storyteller P. M. Hubbard was, but A Thirsty Evil is just as idiosyncratic a novel, and in its own way just as brilliant. Moreover, I own two association copies of the novel which are themselves unique: an American first edition, signed by Hubbard (one of only two signed copies of the author's books I've come across) and accompanied by a handwritten letter to fellow suspense author Alan Kennington, and a British first edition accompanied by an internal Macmillan note signed by the chairman of the company – and former British prime minister – Harold Macmillan.

Commander-1 by Peter George (Heinemann, 1965)
Dr. Strangelove writer Peter George's final novel – published the year before he took his own life – is a powerful piece of fiction, one which I own in signed first, but I'm including it here not so much because it's a fine (and unjustly overlooked) book and I possess a collectible copy of it – all of which is true – but rather because of what I wrote about it. I researched the bejeezus out of my post on George and Commander-1, and was rewarded for my efforts when George's son, David, emailed me to let me know that he had read the post and was impressed by it. David's email also gave me the opportunity to correct some misinformation (still present on George's Wikipedia page, unfortunately) about there being a final unfinished and unpublished Peter George novel; there isn't: Nucleus of Survivors (or Nuclear Survivors as Wikipedia has it) was merely the original title of Commander-1. All of which goes to show what Existential Ennui is capable of when I put my mind to it.

Ripley Under Water by Patricia Highsmith (London Limited Editions/Bloomsbury, 1991)
As outlined further up this post, my love for Patricia Highsmith's Ripliad knows no bounds, and the first – and other – editions of the Tom Ripley novels I've collected may well be the books I most often gaze at and remove from the shelf and fondle lovingly (it's no accident that they and my other Highsmith books are shelved downstairs while the rest of my collection is upstairs). Sadly a first edition of the first book in the series, The Talented Mr. Ripley, will probably forever be beyond my slender means, but I own the other four Ripleys in first, and last year, after an earlier abortive attempt, I finally got my hands on a signed copy of a Ripley novel – the London Limited Edition of the final book in the series, Ripley Under Water, of which only 150 copies were produced. The acquisition of it was a splendid way to end the Great Tom Ripley Reread, and it's a splendid book to have on my shelves (and gaze at, and fondle lovingly, etc., etc.).

Unknown Man No. 89 by Elmore Leonard (Secker & Warburg, 1977)
The Hunted by Elmore Leonard (Secker & Warburg, 1978)
There are many, many Elmore Leonard books from my collection I could have chosen here: my signed British first editions of 1980s classics Stick and LaBrava (the latter an association copy); my signed British first of 1990s classic Pronto (the debut of Raylan Givens of Justified fame); my British first of Get Shorty, which for a long time was my favourite Leonard novel; my US paperback originals of The Big Bounce and Mr. Majestyk. But in the end I settled on Unknown Man No. 89 and The Hunted – the former because I've come to believe it's Leonard's best book (of those that I've read) and I own a signed British first of it; the latter because it's one of the scarcest editions of a Leonard novel I own, and its relevant post is as neat an illustration of the madness of book collecting as you'll find on Existential Ennui – plus it was in part the inspiration for the Existential Ennui British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s page.

Ashenden, or, The British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham (Heinemann Collected Edition, 1934)
And finally there's Ashenden, a book I only encountered this year – in a roundabout fashion; I initially read bits of it in two spy fiction anthologies, Alfred Hitchcock's Sinister Spies and Eric Ambler's To Catch a Spy – but which is easily one of the two best pieces of espionage fiction I've ever come across (the other being John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). Originally published by Heinemann in 1928, the copy seen here is the first appearance of Ashenden in the Heinemann Collected Works of W. Somerset Maugham, and thus the first time the book carried a preface by Maugham. The preface was later expanded for the 1941 US Doubleday edition, a copy of which I also own, but it's the highly scarce Heinemann edition which I prize most.

Those, then, are the twenty books which I think somehow symbolise or perhaps embody Existential Ennui – at least, for right now. Because there are dozens of books on my shelves I've not yet read or blogged about... and there are doubtless hundreds if not thousands of books I've not yet discovered or bought. Accordingly, the chronicle of this particular chronic book collector... continues.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Ashenden, or, The British Agent (1928): W. Somerset Maugham's Preface to the 1934 Heinemann Collected Edition and 1941 Doubleday Edition; Book Review

NB: Linked in this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden, or, The British Agent is for me a fairly recent discovery. Despite my having become interested in spy fiction well over three years ago, and despite Ashenden being arguably the most important work in the field, I only encountered it earlier this year when I read two of the connected stories which make up the book in two different spy fiction anthologies – Alfred Hitchcock's Sinister Spies and the Eric Ambler-compiled To Catch a Spy, both published in the mid-1960s. The story in the former was "The Traitor" (actually comprising two stories from Ashenden: "Gustav" and "The Traitor"); I described it in my review – if I may be so gauche as to quote myself – as "one of the best pieces of spy fiction I've ever come across – almost languorous in pace and yet packing an emotional punch that's uncommon in the field of espionage writing", adding for good measure: "It's a beautifully judged, wonderfully written tale." The story in the latter was "Giulia Lazzari" (again comprising two stories from Ashenden: "A Trip to Paris" and "Giulia Lazzari"); that one I reckoned was "every bit as remarkable" and "at least as affecting as... 'The Traitor'", gushing over "the elegance and clarity of the prose".

Having been bowled over by those two tales, I determined to get my hands on the complete Ashenden, preferably in an interesting and/or scarce edition (I know, I know: I despair of myself sometimes too; why can't I just buy a new paperback off Amazon like everyone else?). A jacketed copy of the Heinemann first edition/first impression, published in March 1928, was beyond my means – those run into the thousands of pounds – but as I researched editions of Ashenden I learned that Maugham had penned a preface for the book, one which wasn't present in the earliest impressions of the Heinemann first. (Eric Ambler alluded to this preface in his introduction to To Catch a Spy when he wrote that "Ashenden was based, as Mr Maugham has told us, on his own experiences as a British agent in Switzerland and Russia during the 1914–18 war.") A true first of Ashenden was out of the question, but perhaps I could obtain the earliest edition to include Maugham's preface.

As it turned out, that wasn't as straightforward a task as I'd hoped, because there are in fact two versions of the preface. The first version appeared here:

In the Heinmann Collected Edition of Ashenden. The copy seen here is the 1934 first appearance of Ashenden in the Collected Edition of the Works of W. Somerset Maugham (it would be reprinted thereafter), which also represented the first reset of the book following various reprints and Cheaper Editions and Popular Editions (and, in the same year as the Collected Edition, a Collins 7D edition).

As such, it's quite a rare book; this was the only copy I could find with a complete dust jacket (and both book and wrapper are in lovely condition too, especially considering they're 80 years old), and even jacketless copies are thin on the ground. Fortunately, interested parties need not go to the lengths I did to read the 1934 version of the preface because it was reprinted in the 2000 Vintage paperback edition of Ashenden, and can even be viewed in large part via Amazon's 'search inside' facility.

The preface is essentially Maugham's thoughts on fact versus fiction and the vogue for fiction – still prevalent – which attempts to replicate the "arbitrary and disconnected" nature of life. He tells us little of his experiences as an agent for the British Intelligence Department during World War I beyond imparting a grim anecdote about a train journey through Russia in 1917; instead he writes of how "[f]act is a poor storyteller" which "starts a story at haphazard" and "rambles on inconsequentially and tails off, leaving loose ends hanging about, without a conclusion", adding that "[t]here is a school of novelists that looks upon this as the proper model for fiction". Evidently Maugham didn't number himself among them: 

There is nothing wrong in a climax, it is a very natural demand of the reader; it is only wrong if it does not follow naturally from the circumstances that have gone before. It is purely an affectation to elude it because in life as a general rule things tail off ineffectively. For it is quite unnecessary to treat as axiomatic the assertion that fiction should imitate life. It is merely a literary theory like another. There is in fact a second theory that is just as plausible, and this is that fiction should use life merely as raw material which it arranges in ingenious patterns.

He goes on: 

I have written all this in order to impress upon the reader that this book is a work of fiction, though from my own experience I should say not much more so than several of the books on the same subject that have appeared during the last few years and that purport to be truthful memoirs. The work of an agent in the Intelligence Department is on the whole extremely monotonous. A lot of it is uncommonly useless. The material it offers for stories is scrappy and pointless; the author has himself to make it coherent, dramatic and probable.

That's basically it for insight into Intelligence work in the first version of the preface. However, the second version of the preface boasts an additional three paragraphs, in which Maugham elaborates on the nature of espionage. It first appeared here:

In the 1941 printing of the 1928 US Doubleday edition, issued under a new dust jacket design (uncredited, but rather lovely) in the year America joined the Second World War. I picked this battered copy up on eBay dead cheap simply so I could read those three extra paragraphs, and they are quite revealing in a number of ways. Maugham notes that when World War II broke out, "...thinking that the experience I had might be useful, I was eager to rejoin the Intelligence Department, but I was considered too old to be worth employment". He reflects on how during World War I "the nationals of neutral countries were allowed considerable liberty of movement and it was possible by their means to get much useful information", whereas in 1941 "...the authorities are watchful and it would go ill with any alien who displayed unseasonable curiosity". He continues: 

I take it that the success of such an organization as the Intelligence Department depends much on the character of its chief, and certainly during the last war this position in Britain was held by a man of brilliant ability and resource. I wish I could give a description of him, but I never saw him and knew him only by an initial. I know nothing about him except what I surmise from some of the results he achieved.

This is interesting because in Ashenden, our eponymous novelist-turned-spy lead – whose Christian name, incidentally, is never revealed, although Maugham's 1930 novel Cakes and Ale is narrated by a William Ashenden, also a writer, and in the 1936 Alfred Hitchcock film adaptation Secret Agent he's named as Richard and in the 1991 BBC television adaptation as John – meets his Intelligence boss, the cunning R., a number of times in the book. But then as Maugham states in the opening line of his preface, "This book is founded on my experiences in the Intelligence Department during the last war, but rearranged for the purposes of fiction."

Maugham writes in closing:

But there will always be espionage and there will always be counter-espionage. Though conditions may have altered, though difficulties may be greater, when war is raging, there will always be secrets which one side jealously guards and which the other will use every means to discover; there will always be men who from malice or for money will betray their kith and kin and there will always be men who, from love of adventure or a sense of duty, will risk a shameful death to secure information valuable to their country. Though twenty years have passed since these stories were written I cannot think they are entirely out of date, since till quite recently, I am told, they have been required reading for persons entering the Department; and early in this war Dr Goebbels speaking over the air, taking one of them as a literal statement of recent facts, gave it as an example of British cynicism and brutality.

But it is not for any topical interest they may have, not because they have been used as a sort of textbook, that I now offer to the public a new edition of these stories. They purpose only to offer entertainment, which I still think, impenitently, is the main object of a work of fiction.

Eric Ambler in his introduction to To Catch a Spy called Ashenden "the first fictional work on the subject [espionage] by a writer of stature with first-hand knowledge of what he is writing about", adding, "...there has been no body of work in the field of the same quality written since Ashenden." Ambler wrote those words in 1964, but fifty years on I'd suggest you could still reasonably make the same claim. It's probably a little early in 2014 to be talking about books of the year, but I'll be astonished if I read a better piece of fiction over the remainder of the year. It is an extraordinary novel – for, despite its episodic nature, that is in essence what it is – "The Traitor" and "Giulia Lazzari" matched by the triumvirate of "The Hairless Mexican"/"The Dark Woman"/"The Greek", with its deliciously subversive payoff, and even by the later tales like "His Excellency" and "Love and Russian Literature", which on the surface seemingly have little to do with espionage but deal with the same themes of betrayal and affairs of the heart that inform the earlier tales. Certainly I doubt I'll read a more devastating coda this year than the closing "Mr. Harrington's Washing".

It's fitting, therefore, that Ashenden, and in particular the 1934 Heinemann Collected Edition (my copy of which sports a fetching ex-libris bookplate) should form the basis of this prolix blog post, which is my nine hundred and ninety-ninth. Because in the next post – my thousandth, for those nodding off at the back – I'll be taking a look at the books which (to my fevered mind) have come to define Existential EnnuiAshenden being a late entry onto that list.