I’M reading Inferno, Dan Brown’s fourth novel to feature Harvard professor of religious iconology and symbology, Robert Langdon - it’s my guilty pleasure.
‘Pot boiler.’ ‘Thriller.’ ‘Not very good.’ Inferno has been called all of these things. Unfairly in my opinion.
Brown writes for cinema. That’s good.His descriptive style leaves little to the imagination and, ironically, by doing so, paints tantalisingly vivid pictures in your mind - it’s easy to picture Langdon and his latest unwitting accomplice on the big screen, hareing through the squares, museums and galleries of Florence as they attempt to unravel a series of mysterious happenings and save the world from the spread of a deadly plague.
Woven around concepts borrowed from Dante’s Inferno, Brown’s “mixing of high art with low thrills”, as one critic saw it, challenges the snobbery of the so called broadsheet ‘literati’, who are always quick to condemn more populist works. But then I’m sure that Brown would be first to admit he doesn’t write for them.
Like Harry Potter and James Bond before, Brown’s books attract a readership from all walks of life, often folk who would not normally be found reading a novel. That can only be a good thing.
I remember chatting with the late Anthony Buckeridge, shortly before he died at the grand old age of 92, in 2004.
Buckeridge was the author of the Jennings novels. A series of 25 books that ran from 1950 to 1995, being adapted for both radio and TV along the way - think Harry Potter without the magic.
A teacher by profession, he reflected during our meeting that while many of the books capturing the imagination of adults and youngsters alike at that time were not particularly well written, the simple fact that they were attracting new readers and encouraging some kids to pick up their first book, was justification enough for their publication.
Dan Brown’s serve a similar purpose, and while Inferno may not be a literary masterpiece in the eyes of many, there is no denying that it is a lot of fun.
Hokum maybe, but hokum that falls into two of the most coveted categories in the publishing world - best seller and page turner.
Long may Robert Langdon continue his outrageous adventures, a sentiment no doubt shared by the 200 million-plus who have already bought his books.