The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, October 16

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I was idly glancing at the pigeon racing results in the Lynn News recently, as one does, and I noticed that one competition had been won by the Manning brothers and son, although I guess in truth, the pigeons also played a small part in the victory. Many years ago I was on the domino team at the Hob in the Well, when Marie Qualters was the landlady and many of my teammates were called Manning. Indeed, I recollect one match, in Downham, I think where five of the six ties were Manning against Rust, and so it would not surprise me if the pigeon owners are from the same Manning family. I do hope so, as the second place in the race was taken by Her Majesty the Queen. There is something quite satisfying about thinking that even though she is the longest reigning monarch the country has ever had, the Queen can’t beat a bunch of North Lynn boys in a pigeon race. Perhaps there ought to be a rematch at dominoes. The Mannings versus the Windsors, probably not at the Hob, which has changed a bit since those days, but Amner Social Club was very welcoming when they hosted a CAMRA meeting a few months ago, and I reckon that even conceding home advantage, the old team could still take them on. I might even come out of retirement for that one.

It’s not only pigeon racing results I peruse. Indeed I consider myself to be reasonable well-read and last month I caught up with Alison Bruce’s Cambridge based Gary Goodhew crime novels, polishing off the most recent three books of the series. Sometimes the plots baffle me (Who did thump Gary in the car park of the Carlton Arms? Will it happen to me if I go for a pint there?), but one great attraction is the rooting of the action in the real world, especially the pubs in Cambridge. The Flying Pigs, St Radegund and even the Cambridge Beer Festival join the Carlton Arms to play their part in the shady goings on, but if the legendary King Street Run is always as eventful as described, I think I will give it a miss.

One author I have never really taken to is Terry Pratchett, and it seems that I am not alone. The Guardian arts correspondent, Jonathan Jones recently published a piece explaining why he did not enjoy Pratchett’s books. I agreed with much of what he said until I came across an evaluation of Pratchett’s ‘Small Gods’. ‘This sexless romp is a real ale novel, honing its opinions over a pint and a roll up and exuding a benign rationalism’. I know that a picture of Terry would not look out of place on a Hobgoblin Tee shirt, but to damn an author’s prose as poor by comparing it to real ale is a bit too strong for me. I find real ale has an infinite variety and is complex and satisfying, and would be 
well pleased if the books I read are in some way 
similar. Jones’ idea of great writing is Philip Roth, an 
author I am not familiar with, though I suppose I could find a bottle of fine claret and cigar to accompany his work.

Still, given the chance, I would rather read Robert Rankin. I haven’t gone as far as joining The Order of the Golden Sprout, but I have had a few pints in the Crown and Magpie, his local in Brentford and would encourage Pratchett lovers to try, for example ‘The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse’.