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Amaryllis goes (even further) West

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I’ve been a bit under the weather this week, so much so on Tuesday that, although Stoic is practically my middle name, I succumbed and went home early. There I snuggled down under a heap of quilts, a cat on either side and watched The Big Country. Regular readers may be surprised to learn that I really enjoy a Western, just one more interesting string in my already fascinating bow… When young, I was an avid viewer of the television series The Virginian which was about two very handsome cowboys; the general consensus seemed to be that the blond Doug McClure was the more handsome – he who later mistakenly thought he could secure his place on the walk of fame by wrestling with dinosaurs in The Land That Time Forgot and who is, himself, now largely forgotten. I may be unable to recall the name of the actor who played the dark, moody eponymous hero but he remains an early example of ideal manhood.

Anyway, my love of Westerns was born and at that time the BBC had some pride in the quality of what it was broadcasting and often showed an old comedy or romance, thriller or western on a weekend afternoon – infinitely more rewarding than the endless abysmal reality/quiz shows of today. I wasn’t too fond of scalpings and torture but there was usually a scene where the hero had to prove his worth with courage and incredible stamina as an arrow was pulled from his bloody shoulder which was riveting! However I am particular about my Westerns – anything starring John Wayne was and is completely out and I’m not too keen on Clint Eastwood… I prefer my cowboys to be either James Stewart or Henry Fonda; Gary Cooper or Alan Ladd, sort of haunted and doomed but with right on their side.

My youth had bypassed The Big Country somehow so I nestled down for a treat and was not disappointed. I recognised the music straightaway, a sweeping symphony for this multi Academy nominated film but not the best thing about this film. Anyway it stars Gregory Peck as the Atticus Finch of the American West negotiating his new life between two rival families and two rival girls. His path is stony but he remains steadfast except he swaps girls towards the end but that is a Jean Simmons inspired victory for brunettes everywhere.

However, my enthusiasm for Westerns doesn’t really extend to books apart from the obvious, Cormac McCarthy, Butcher’s Crossing, The Sister Brothers. I have just read the final book in Jay Mcinerney’s trilogy that began with Brightness Falls. Despite the fact they are set in New York and deal with wealthy art types, I really enjoyed them. But I am most excited to begin reading Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon which we will be discussing in our next Classics book group. I read it ages ago but it is the perfect read for this time of year – sensational plot, scheming heroine and a twist at practically every turn of the page – delicious!

About Amaryllis


Amaryllis is our bookshop blogger.


Her pen name is taken from Alice Thomas Ellis’ Other Side of the Fire, which is unfortunately and scandalously out of print. One of the funniest bits in the book is the bodice-ripper that one of the characters is writing and the female - who slays the men with one toss of her raven locks and one glance from her fiery green eyes as she strides among the glens, faithful wolfhound by her side - is Amaryllis! And the name just seemed to suit so here we are.

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