Two Books about Trump

I can’t seem to get enough of the total car crash that is the Trump presidency. Early in 2018 I reviewed Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff (read about it here) which was possibly the first mainstream best seller to have a real insight into the White House under Trump. Later in 2018 I read Fear by Bob Woodward (read about it here) which was a much more balanced account of Trump’s first term in office. Neither book portrays Trump in a favourable light.

I have now finished two more books about Trump, both very different.


First up we have A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig. The authors are journalists for the Washington Post and are multiple winners of the Pulitzer Prize. This book isn’t a hack job. It begins with Trump announcing his candidacy and ends with the infamous phone call to the Ukrainian President, the one where Trump asked for a Quid Pro Quo.

A lot of what is in the book has been reported  and written before, especially in the newspapers, and as with any book it isn’t up to date missing out on the whitewash that was his impeachment. There are interviews with former staff, and many current staff, most often anonymously. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the Russian investigation by Robert Mueller,and how scared Trump’s team of lawyers were about him having to give evidence in person. Everyone knows that Trumps lies, and lies so constantly he doesn’t distinguish truth from lies, a complete sociopath. The book concludes that Mueller had Trump, but for whatever reason, let him off the hook. My only hope is that Trump loses the 2020 election and criminal charges are brought against him. If he wins then the statue of limitations will have passed and he will be the teflon don, again.

I’m with Stephen Hawking who said that anyone who needs to say how intelligent they are, isn’t.

Next up a more upbeat book, Commander in Cheat by Rick Reilly. This is a book about golf, specifically golf and Trump. The idea being that you can much about the character of a person by the way that they play golf. Trump cheats at golf. Trump’s caddies cheat at golf for Trump, even the secret service agents tasked with protecting Trump, cheat at golf for Trump.

I’m not a big fan of golf and a lot of the terminology went over my head, but this book looks at the whole history of Trump and golf, from when he first started playing to the huge number of days he has spent golfing while in the White House. Remember that time he tweeted about Obama playing too much golf, or when he said that he would be too busy to ever play golf. Turns out he has played more golf in three years than Obama playing in eight. Trump also plays exclusively at his own courses, lining his own pockets, while Obama played mainly on military courses.

The book tries to explain Trumps presidency through golf. For example to Muslin ban didn’t apply to those countries where Trump has a golf course, the UAE and Singapore. The book also describes the four day gold tournament that Trump attended where he allegedly slept with Stormy Daniels, while his wife Melania was in New York with their four month old son. Trump had also brought his mistress with him to the tournament, doubling up the douchery.

Most shocking is that Trump is just a playground bully. He tries to stiff everyone who works for him, large and small businesses alike. It is a wonder that anyone ever agrees to take on a project with him. He has been sued over 3,500 times, and he loses or settles most of them. Just how many more thousands of law suits would have occurred if people hadn’t been put off by Trump’s army of lawyers.

Trump also like to ‘improve’ golf courses, often by simply adding length and a large fake waterfall. That’s not to say he hasn’t had success. The Turnberry course in Scotland is apparently one of the best courses in the world, hugely improved since Trump took over, and if it wasn’t for the fact that the Trump name is so toxic in Scotland the course would have been awarded the Scottish open ages ago. Additionally, people who play with Trump always say how much fun it was, even if they have no idea who won or what the scores were.

Finally, if any of you do play golf, Trump drive his golf cart onto the greens.

Currently reading Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen and American Gods (extended version) by Neil Gaiman.

Running along the Lancaster Canal – Part II

The other week the three of us (me, my amazing wife and our silly old pointer) went for a run along the Lancaster canal (read about it here). Last Sunday we decided to run a bit more of the canal, starting just north of Holme at the exact spot where we finished our previous run.

Heading north again, with Nelly rushing on ahead, we took it nice and steady. Less than a mile the canal goes under the M6, so the path takes a small detour through a large field, which Nelly had to explore all of, before there is a short section on the road. We rejoined the canal path, letting Nelly off the lead once again, and continued north, enjoying the peace and quiet, and the scenery. Off to the right was the hefty fell of Farleton, towering  over the motorway (took a photo of Helen and Nelly instead of the fell).


This whole section of canal is very well looked after, with signs and benches, along with a restored small old building which would have been used to monitor the barges and possibly to collect tolls. There is a great deal of work required if this section is to be opened for leisure boating, but it isn’t until you are almost at the village of Stainton that the canal no longer contains any water.

We continued to gently plod along, occasionally stopping to say hello to any horses. Apparently I have agreed to go pony trekking near here. The last time (only time) that I was on a horse was almost 30 years ago in Monument Valley with Navajo Native Americans. It was so long ago that they were still referred to as Indians.


We ran a pleasant five miles out, and then ran the same route back, with Nelly being a little monkey for the short road sections where she  grumbled about being back on the lead. Once again she explored the whole field as we jogged the last mile back to the car. I am always amazed at how fit she is, considering she is 9 and a half, and all the scrapes she had when she was younger. Barbed wire fences are her bete noire.

Another great little run with my amazing family. 10 miles, nice and steady, although Nelly must have done 15. Back home and she went straight to bed, only surfacing at tea-time. There is a small car park near to where we turned around, so at some point soon we will definitely look at running the last section into Kendal. The last part is a little more tricky as the canal has mostly been completely filled in and covered over, so we will be relying on signposts and a map. Shouldn’t be too difficult.

Book Review: The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By, Georges Simenon

At the end of last year my mother suffered a stroke and spent a couple of months in Salisbury hospital. She recovered amazingly well and I’m looking forward to being able to go an see her for a long weekend. We have tried not to play fast with the rules, unlike Dominic Cummings, but as soon as the Covid rules are relaxed I’m on my way. In the stroke ward of the hospital a small room had been set aside for friends and families, with a coffee machine, a comfy sofa and a couple of large shelves stacked with books. Most of the books didn’t grab my attention, but this one did, and six months later I’ve finally finished it.


It was not what I was expecting, on many levels. I expected a gentle story, maybe set in Norfolk. Instead it was set in war torn 1930’s Paris. The book was first published in 1934 and sometimes the history behind an author is more interesting. Georges Simenon moved from Leige to Paris at 19 to become a novelist. He was fairly prolific writing over 400 novels, including 75 Inspector Maigret books, which was turned into a TV series on ITV staring Rowan Atkinson. I’m sorry but I never saw it or even heard of it. Half Man Half Biscuit famously said that in the kingdom of the bland it’s 9pm on ITV.

Anyway, back to the book, and the main character, Kees Popinga catches a train to Paris after his boss admits that the company he works for is bankrupt, financially and morally, handing Kees a large sum of cash. His boss then fakes his own suicide. On his way to Paris he meets a woman of easy virtue and possibly murders her, but possibly he doesn’t. Here begins his gradual descent into madness, as a local Police Inspector tracks him down. Kees believes himself to be intellectually superior to the inspector, sending letters to the police and the press, unconsciously wanting to be caught. The glimpses of 1930s Paris is also highly entertaining. The book vaguely reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye, but with a much older character. An unexpected and interesting little book, although I doubt if I will read anything else by this astonishingly prolific author.

Currently I’m reading The Commander In Cheat by Rick Reilly and American Gods (the director’s cut) by Neil Gaiman.

8 Year Strava Anniversary Ride

The first ride I ever uploaded to Strava was on 26th May 2012. Today I decided to cycle the exact same route. Well, almost the exact same route as I’ve moved house since then. It was a nice little route, 73km, 1000m of climbing and sunny weather. Flat roads to Garstang and up Butt Hill Lane towards Chipping. Great views of hills either side, before the flatter road towards Whitewell, keeping left to avoid Hall Hill, one of the toughest climbs in the area, and into Dunsop Bridge, only leaving the tough side of the Trough and the easy side of Jubilee Tower before rolling home. 8 years ago was the first time that I had cycled up the steep side of the Trough and it is still my second fastest time, even though today was my 28th occasion up that hill.


8 years ago I managed the route in 2 hours and 37 minutes, however I was on my best bike, which unfortunately is waiting for a new bottom bracket. Today I was 15 minutes slower, but I wasn’t pushing it as the weather was so nice.

To give you an idea of how Strava has changed in those 8 years, I managed two top ten places. Today and I’m not in the top 300 in either of those leader boards. It was also approximately the 10 millionth Strava uploaded activity. Today’s ride was over 3 and a half billion.

Strava has definitely changed the world of training and racing, mostly for the better.

More Lune Swimming

Last week I blogged about our attempt at open water swimming in the Lune, which was very cold, too shallow in places as well as there being an angler (read about it here). Over the past week a number of people from the local tri club, City of Lancaster Triathlon or COLT for short, have also been for a swim there.

This Friday, my lovely wife Helen, suggested we park up at Woodies and try swimming at the Crook of Lune. There is a small ‘beach’ area which should be easier to get in and out. The car park was packed, but just as we about to give up and leave, a couple climbed into their car and left. We quickly nipped into the space. Helen also noticed that the pay and display machine had been absolutely trashed. We grabbed our gear and walked over the Lune and down to the beach, past a couple of otter sculptures.


Helen was also trying out her new swim buoy and I was trying out my flash new goggles. Unfortunately, once we’d managed to get into our wetsuits, we found that the entry was covered in very slippery rocks, and then once in the water it was too shallow to swim. We swam up and down a bit and found a small area that was deep enough, but there wasn’t enough of it. On the plus side, the water was warmer, my goggles were fantastic and Helen really liked her swim buoy.

The next day I tried further downstream at Halton, while Helen and Nelly very kindly agreed to ‘spot’ for me. Parking was great, seconds from the water and there was a concrete slip way to use to get in.


It was also deep enough for a proper swim. At one point I stopped to check on Helen and found that I couldn’t put my feet down. I swam back towards Helen, and Nelly jumped in to ‘save’ me, but was distracted by a stick. We think that she had forgotten she knows how to swim.


I only stayed in for 15 minutes, but it wasn’t too cold and would like to swim further next time. However, there are some serious drawbacks. The river Lune can be very fast flowing, especially at Halton which is a bottleneck. If you’re going to swim there, don’t go in on your own unless you have a spotter, and if it has been raining, don’t even think about going in. Additionally, this is the section of the Lune used by rowers, so again, be carefull and stay safe. If you’re not too sure, then go to the area near to the Bullbeck car park.

Below, in red, you can see the three places that we tried swimming, with various degrees of success. (Image courtesy of Veloviewer).

Lune swim

Top Three Books – Stephen King

Whenever I read a book that I really like I search out others books by the same author. I doubt if I’m alone in that respect. Obviously over the years some authors have built up a huge body of work. I’m hoping that this blog – Top Three Books – will become an ongoing feature where I list and concisely describe my top three picks from selected authors that I enjoy.

For my first pick I’ve chosen a big hitter. Stephen King is one of the biggest selling authors in the world, having sold over 350 million books. His wife and two of his children are also best selling authors, although I haven’t read any of their books. A quick Google search for the best books by Stephen King listed hundreds of entries. I don’t care; this is my top three, and I would be very surprised if you didn’t disagree with my choice, which is absolutely fine. I’m sure if I look back at this blog in a few years I will disagree with my choices.

First up, and not in any particular order, is The Stand.

the stand

A pandemic rips through the world, but unlike Covid-19, the mortality rate is over 99%. Society falls apart and chaos reigns. Behind all this the survivors start having dreams where they are drawn towards two opposing factions; good and evil for want of a better terminology. The walking dude, who epitomizes evil, draws his follows to Las Vegas, while an old lady represents the good in all of us.

The story is huge, and unlike my oft criticism of King where some of his books go on a bit too long, The Stand needs to be of this length. A few years after the original was released, an extended version was released, a directors cut, if you like. Soon I will go back and re-read the extended version. In short, a long epic end of the world story.

My second choice is The Long Walk, although technically this was written by Richard Bachman, a pseudonym used by Stephen King in his early career. I’ve written about this book before when I blogged about my favourite books about running (read the review here).

the long walk

As the title suggests it’s all about a walk, and a very long walk it is. The premise is that every year 100 boys between 15 and 17 years old walk until they can walk no more. If you drop below a certain pace three times in one hour, you are shot and killed. The ultimate last man standing competition. Each chapter has a quote from a different TV quiz show presenter, and some of them are quite dark. In fact the whole book is quite dark. A dystopian future if ever there was one. I’ve also recently found out that a film version of the book is in production and apparently Stephen King likes the screenplay, which is encouraging, knowing just how many really bad adaptations of his work there are.

Finally, and a more recent book, I have picked Dr Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. This might be slightly contentious considering how iconic both the book and the film of The Shining are. My original review of Dr Sleep can be found here.


Dan Torrance, the young boy from The Shining, has grown up, he’s a drunk and a druggie, and hits rock bottom. In a small town he meets a man who has faith in him and turns him from around. He also starts communicating via writing on a blackboard with a young girl, Abra, who also has ‘the shining’.

In the midst of all this is Rose the Hat and her followers called the True Knot, an unusual bunch who all have different shining abilities. They are not a good bunch as they feed off people who have the shining, known to them as ‘steam’. Children have the best shining, and the more pain inflicted as they are murdered the better the ‘steam’ is. They discover Abra and it’s up to Dan to save her, and hopefully himself in the process.

It has been many years since I read The Shining and I’m always wary of sequels, but this follows on nicely and has just the right amount of intrigue and suspense, while the new characters fit in well.

Now onto the films. I wasn’t a big fan of film version of The Shining, mainly because Dan’s mentor, the chef from the Overlook Hotel, died in the film, but lived in the book. This creates a problem for the film of Doctor Sleep, which they nicely overcome. I won’t give too much away as you might want to watch the film or read the book. Another problem for the film is that Shelley Duvall is such an iconic actress, that whoever has to play her character is never going to look or feel like her. Ewan McGregor however, is absolutely fantastic as a grown up Dan. In the ending of the film Doctor Sleep they bring back Jack Torrance, and again no one can look or act like Jack Nicholson, and it actually feels wrong, as if the director is trying too hard to link back to the original film. In the end, the film did work well, although my beautiful wife left early as there was a particularly nasty scene where the True Knot killed a young boy. The film had a 15 rating, which I’m not sure about. The reviews have also been very mixed.

Here ends my first attempt at a top three books, and moments after I clicked publish I realised that I forgotten about The Dead Zone. Should I have included it instead of The Stand? The film starring Christopher Walken is also very good, although the TV series is worth avoiding. I can see that my top three books is going to be challenging. I would be interested to know what your favourite Stephen King books are.


Book Review: Walking the Woods and the Water by Nick Hunt

In 1933 Patrick Leigh Fermor walked from Holland to Turkey, with a pair of hobnailed boots to charm his way across Europe, ‘like a tramp, a pilgrim or a wandering scholar’. 70 odd years later, Nick Hunt heads out to follow Patrick’s footsteps, across 2,500 miles of a very different Europe.

Nick Hunt

To truly appreciate the world around you, you need to slow down. This is distinctly relevant when it comes to travel, and travel writing (one of my favourite genres). I’ve been on long multi-day walks and many cycle touring adventures, and you miss far too much in a car or on a train. I find walking a bit too slow, and very hard on my aged body when carrying a fully laden rucksack, but cycle touring is just right. Almost 20 years ago I was planning the hike the Appalachian trail in America, made famous by Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods. I had even got as far as applying for an extended six month visa. Work commitments changed and I never went, but in hindsight I don’t think that I would have finished it. However, I have immense respect for anyone who does travel across countries or continents using Shanks’s pony.

Back to the book in question, and Nick sets off from the Hook of Holland, straight off the ferry, which is never easy. Why is it so hard to escape from ferry terminals on foot or a bicycle? He has no maps, no set route, no accommodation lined, only his old copy of Patrick’s original book, relying on the kindness of strangers for food and shelter, camping in the woods on other occasions.

His first impression is how noisy the start of his journey is, with all of the motorways, traffic and industry. Gradually over the months the landscape quietens, especially once he enter the old Soviet communist countries. Another striking facet is how many people warn him of the dangers he will face when he enters the next country, and how lucky he has been not to have been robbed or killed in the last country.

The book took me a while to get into, but I am glad that I persevered because once Nick reached Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and then Transylvania the book comes into its own. Undoubtedly one of the best walking travel books that I’ve read.

Book Review: Nameless by Dean Koontz

Much like yesterday’s blog about James Herbert (read about it here), Dean Koontz is one of my old favourites when it comes to a good horror novel. Phantoms, his second full length book genuinely scared me, but much like Stephen King, Dean Koontz’s books can be a tad on the long side sometimes. However, the Nameless series of books are definitely not too long, if anything I was left breathless and wanting more.


Here we have six interconnected short stories, with the eponymous hero without a name. Currently the books are only available as Amazon exclusives, but they come in at a good price for your Kindle if you buy the whole lot in one go, which is what I did.

The main character, the man without a name, travels the country killing evil and righting wrongs, all paid for by a secret organisation, which could be privately funded or a secret Government black opps. He is sent details of his next mission anonymously, along with money, weapons, car and fake ID. Or is everything in his head. He could be clairvoyant, after all this is a Dean Koontz series of books. Things slowly become more clear as we progress through the books as our hero appears to regain some of his lost memories.

I rolled through this series of books at breakneck pace, thoroughly enjoying them all. Not too dark, definitely not as dark as Dark Rivers of the Heart, and not too much supernatural or horror elements, making these a great starting point for anyone not familiar with Mr Koontz’s very extensive body of work. And if you are a fan, then you have probably already read them.

Book Review: The Rats by James Herbert

This was the very first horror novel I read. If I recall my older sister lent me a copy when I was 13 or 14, too young for a book like this. Older sisters being what they are, she probably wanted me to get nightmares. That is an aside, as this was my gateway book to the horror genre, which I like to dip back into every now and again. The late James Herbert was the foremost horror writer in the UK of his generation, followed by Shaun Hutson, who like to shock rather than build layers of scare. Of course the most inventive UK horror writer is Clive Barker and his Books of Blood still knock spots off anything else out there.


Back to The Rats and it’s a simple tale (tail). Overly large rats infest the east end of London, they obtain a taste for human flesh and carry a disease that kills anyone bitten within 24 hours. What’s not to like. My original copy of the book has long since gone to a charity shop, but my replacement was printed to celebrate the books 40th anniversary, with an excellent foreword written by Neil Gaiman. As Neil writes, it was James’ first book and his writing improved with every subsequent book. The main character is slightly two dimensional and some of the back stories for the minor characters feel overly developed. The book is also quite dated, but not necessarily in a bad way. It took many years for James to find a publisher, and you can tell that it was written in the 1960’s, with derelict waste ground, a result of German bombs during the second world war, becoming breeding grounds for the rats. There is also only one female character, the main character’s partner, who even though she works is still expected to cook a hot breakfast each day for her man, and then cook supper in the evening. There something else in the book which dates it, but I’m not going to mention that here. You would probably guess what I’m talking about if you read the book.

Despite all this the plot moves along in a fast pace all the way through, with a couple of nice twists and turns, and even 35 years after I first read it, re-reading it was hugely enjoyable. The book is also fairly short, especially when compared to some of Stephen King’s tomes, and is all the better for it. The sequels, Lair and Domain make this a great trilogy of rat based horror. Maybe I should did out an old Shaun Hutson book next, or something by the late Richard Laymon. This blog sure is bringing back some memories for me.

Book Review: Just After Sunset by Stephen King

I seem to have recently had a Stephen King revival, with the third book of his in the last few months (review of Doctor Sleep can be found here and The Outsider can be found here).

Just After Sunset is a collection of 13 short stories and the main reason that I purchased it was because of the recommended story ‘The Gingerbread Girl’ which was included in my review of the best running books (read my review here).


I remember reading many years ago, Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, two of Stephen King’s earlier collections of short stories, and loving the mix, from the macabre to the gory, the funny to the sad, but always interesting. Just After Sunset only has 13 stories, far fewer than in earlier collections. Sometimes this can be a good thing, more meat to the story, however sometimes it feels like a story drags a bit. One of my criticisms of Mr King is that many of his later books became over long, almost as if because of his success he can dictate to an editor how a book should be. I always assume that there has to be a good relationship between an author and their editor, so that the best results are published. But, if you’ve sold as many books as Stephen King has, maybe he does know what he’s doing. If he published his shopping list it would probably still top the best seller lists.

Anyway, back to the book in question, and there is a good mix of stories contained within it’s pages, new and old, scary and one that it particularly foul. Another good thing about a collection of short stories is that if one isn’t up your street, the next one might be the best ever, much like listening to John Peel.

There isn’t too much to say about the book really. You will all know who Stephen King is, and if you’re a fan then you’ll like this collection. If you’ve never read any of his books then this one probably isn’t the best place to start.

However, that is a really good question. Which Stephen King book would you recommend for someone who has never read his work, to begin with. My pick would be The Dead Zone.