"Men of few words are the best men." - William Shakespeare, King Henry V, Act III, Scene II

Monday, October 18, 2010

QMBC VII: The Cobra


The Cobra
Frederick Forsyth

This has debacle written all over it”
 – Anonymous and unanimous


October 18th was the day aptly chosen for QMBC VII to discuss the international narcotics smuggling novel “The Cobra” by Frederick Forsyth, it being the 150th anniversary of the day the second opium war ( between China and Britain) ended, also the 196th anniversary of the great London beer flood and finally the 71st birthday of Lee Harvey Oswald.

The venue was chosen as Kobra Bar on Leeson Street by Xavier Paddington. However, upon the arrival at said venue by William Clay, it was quickly established that the venue was not open on this particular day. Disaster was only avoided by the quick thinking of Clay by suggesting moving the venue from the steps outside Kobra Bar to "The Pembroke” of Lower Pembroke street. This was quickly agreed to and all set off at once towards the new venue.

The Pembroke

As a venue, The Pembroke had many qualities that suited our clandestine meetings. For one, it was open. Secondly it had an open fire and provided us a nice window alcove, where we could all easily fit in comfort and with plenty of privacy. In fact it was a little too private, as we were pretty much the only customers of the establishment on this wet and dark October evening.

Arrivals and Attendance

Clay and Webb were the first to arrive. Followed by Tiger McGavin and Xavier Paddington himself. Xavier then insisted on collecting Whitby Syme from work, but inexplicably, did not tell Syme of this plan, who then arrived in his own time and way before the poor show bell. Carl Jameson arrived before Syme and Atticus McCarthy was last to arrive. Although, Atticus arrived before Xavier managed to re-arrive for the second time. It is worth noting again that Atticus made it on time after again forecasting his non-appearance.

New Business

The website www.qmbc-online.com had gone live since the last meeting and it was agreed by all that this was a welcome addition to the QMBC balance sheet. Mr. Clay purchased a fantastic press, capable of branding QMBC books for eternity with a witty QMBC phrase, known only to those in possession of such a rare book. (Note to reader: Check Ebay in rare book collection for possible stock of such branded books.)

The gentlemen present debated whether all books should be stamped or only those read. In the end, it was decided that all QMBC library books were eligible. It was also decided that spine stamps were classier.

Clay handed out the new QMBC cards to all members and were greedily taken by all members apart from Jameson, as the superior quality of the cards was too similar to his own professional cards and he did not wish to confuse the cards and thus suffer a financial missed opportunity

Paddington brought out toffees in a vain attempt to avoid a poor show. ‘I’ve done reasonably well to bring toffees to a meeting.’ he claimed with a straight face. Atticus picked up on his intentions and accused Paddington outright of campaigning for a good show. It was then discussed whether a good show and a poor show cancel each other out. A resounding no was bellowed fiercely!

Clay once again told his Toffifee anecdote and Jameson asked what age he was when he did this assuming he must have been a child to write such a letter to such a prominent confectionary manufacturer. Alas not.

McGavin tabled a motion to force Paddington to stand for the evening in punishment for the Kobra bar misadventure. The motion was passed. It was thought to be a harsh but fair punishment. However, the gentlemanly souls of the QMBC allowed a merciful suspension of the punishment on the grounds that such a misadventure should never befall a meeting again. Here here , replied all, with a solemn and knowing nod.

Memorable Quotes

Jameson – “Chilean miners were in the belly of the whale”, a nod to THWATF , the last QMBC book.
Webb – ‘I bet those boys got their shit pushed in ‘

Honours and Demerits

A good show merit was awarded to one Whitby Syme for his prodigious work on the QMBC-online website. A poor show was awarded to Xavier Paddington for his lax reconnaissance on the Kobra Bar.

Discussion: Preparation

Having read some of his books before, both Clay and Paddington were disappointed by this book. Jameson sensed that old Freddy Forsyth no longer had the hunger of a younger author (or even Xavier for that matter). Webb broadly agreed and added that he had the impression that Forsyth was living vicariously through his characters, all of whom were retired elderly gentlemen.

McGavin expressed his annoyance at the book and stated that this was possibly one of the worst books he had ever read - a clear attempt by McGavin to show his undoubted elitist taste in literature, a taste very palatable to such an elitist literary club.

Clay thought the book was corny and reeked of an old man talking with a techie and after gleaming all the jargon, the old man had decided to write a book. He offered as evidence that whilst all the latest state-of-the-art technology was employed to jam the signals of the smugglers' planes and boats, the modus apparatus of the death from the skies was an old Blackburn Buccaneer aircraft (Pictured below). 

A relic of air warfare,of a similar vintage to the Spruce goose (and Forsyth), although not made of wood ,and also not a cargo plane. But it’s a fair point to say that if you can go to the trouble of acquiring un-manned drones to jam signals, surely an F-15 could have been rustled up from somewhere on a such a vast budget.

(This photo is in black and white as color photo were not possible when this plane was flying…..)

Mycroft thought whilst Forsyth was no Barbara Cartland, he was also no JD Salinger. No one really got this reference and it was felt for a literary society such as ours, the references should only be made to literary figures and not previous first ladies.

Operation Action

Clay thought the action sequence in which the avenger escaped from the hotel room via a helicopter ladder pick-up was about as Hank Scorpio as it gets. This was held true by all attendees, however no one dared voiced an opinion as to whether this was a good or bad thing.

The Gang war that ensued after the product dried up was felt to be a little inconsistent. Whilst it was obvious that the Jamaican and Nigerian drug gangs would surely link up in a drugs war, what with them being so similar and all. The overall body count was deemed to be too low at 500. Atticus reminded everyone that at least 10-15 people are killed in limerick alone every year due to drugs without there being any shortage in product. Webb cheekily commented that if that many were killed in limerick, a parade should be held to celebrate.

Mycroft did not like the way great care was taken to taken to capture all the seamen alive and yet when it came to the poor souls in the planes, no mercy was shown as they were indiscriminately blasted from the skies.  Clay felt the comments that no RAF man would shoot down planes in such a fashion was accurate and that only pilots from Brazil would do it . . . because their Nuts.

Mr. Webb thought there was a little sexual tension in the air between the female British Pilot and Péle (Joao Mendoza) on the Training Island. It was felt that members were let down that this did not lead to sexiness further on in the novel.

Character Assassinations

There were lots of characters in the Cobra , however it was perceived by the ever perceptive attendees that most of the characters were one dimensional. In particular, the Cobra himself and the Avenger. 

The Cobra was a single old man who, it was clearly stated, was not a gay and he had had many many offers of marriage by willing ladies. The Avenger was a man out for revenge against the bad types of this world, in particular against gangsters, pimps and the most evil of their offspring, gangster pimps, who had savagely murdered his daughter.

The only character that Webb cared about was the Roberto Cardenas and he thought the part of the book dealing with Roberto and his daughter was the best part of the book. McGavin hoped the arrival of the daughter was destined to lead to some much needed sexiness, particularly when it looked like she was going to prison. Alas, it did not.

McGavin also thought that perhaps the author played a trick on readers from the start by naming the main character the “Cobra”. Was Forsyth trying to give us a clue as to the evilness of the character, since the Cobra were the baddies in G.I. Joe? McGavin thought so. However, Webb postulated that he was in fact called The Cobra as he sat in a hole and did nothing.

After this, Atticus commented that he would like a toy of the ship, with the helicopter inside, Starcom style, explaining Starcom were the triangular spaceships with men who had magnets on their feet. Whitby remembered and liked them. Then followed a lively discussion of the differences between Starcom, Mask and Action force.

The Devil in the Detail

William Clay thought the loss of half a year's product should not have been enough to cause such chaos in the cartel as we were lead to believe the cartel was worth many billions. 

Whitby Syme pondered “Why didn’t the cartel do anything smarter?” No smarter suggestions were offered that were viable and so they were not recorded in the minutes.

Jameson liked the report with the cost of productions etc included in it that was sent to the President, whose wife we were told was “descended from slaves” in a rather bizarre opening scene. McGavin felt the report had too much opinion and not enough fact and that no one would send a report like that to their boss. Everyone laughed at the idea of McGavin taking care when writing reports and this was followed by many many anecdotes of Mr. McGavin’s writings that could flatteringly be described as below par.

The meeting ended with Webb suggesting the ending was a tad “Deus ex Machina” and that Messrs Clay and Jameson agreed. McGavin queried what it meant and thus began a riveting discussion about the phrase and its origins. Then Carl Jameson’s ex girlfriend’s father walks past the window.

The Cobra: One Sentence Summaries

Whitby Syme:
“A book about the preparation for excitement.”

Xavier Paddington:
“A bit disappointing.”

Tiger McGavin:
This Cobra had no sting in its tail!”

Carl Jameson:
“Singularly unimpressive.”

Mycroft Webb:
“Mildly enjoyable but ultimately unsatisfying. The literary equivalent of a lazy wank.”

William Clay:
“Good idea, poor story; Frederick should have had the Forsyth to plan it out better.”

Atticus McCarthy:
“A literary Poptart.


An incredibly lively discussion was enjoyed by all but the general feeling was one of great disappointment that The Cobra did not live up to its promise and that a good idea was not properly capitalised upon by Forsyth and this came through in members’ scores.
Whitby Syme: 37 / 83
Characters: 5 / 20
Plot: 13 / 20
Execution: 9 / 20
Food for Thought: 5 /10
Extra Points: 5 /13

William Clay: 48 / 83
Interestingness: 7 / 15
Quincey Morrisness: 10 / 16
Well Written: 8 / 15
Unputdownableness: 15 /22
Action: 8 / 15

Carl Jameson: 24 / 83
(No breakdown provided)

Atticus McCarthy: 26.5 / 83
Interestingness: 10 / 20
Quincey Morrisness: 7 / 15
Unputdownableness: 6 / 10
           Action: 3 / 10, Execution: 5 / 20
Discussability: 1.5 / 8
Forgetableness: -6 / 0

Xavier Paddington: 46 / 83
Interestingness: 16 / 20
Quincey Morrisness: 8 / 15
Action: 6 / 10
Execution 7 /20
Unputdownableness: 5 /10
Discussableness: 4 / 8

Mycroft Webb: 45 / 83
Quincey Morrisness: 10 / 16
Action: 11 /15
Well Written: 6 /15
Interestingness: 6 /15
Unputdownableness: 12 / 22

Tiger McGavin: 33 / 83
Quincey Morrisness: 5 / 14
Action: 2 /13
Well Written: 5 / 13
Interestingness: 10 /15
Unputdownableness: 9 / 20
Sexiness: 2 / 8

The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth earned a QMBC rating of: 37.07/83

The Nominations for QMBC VIII

Carl Jameson:
A Clockwork Orange by Antony Burgess
War by Sebastian Junger

Xavier Paddington:
The Prince by Machiavelli
Shogun by James Clavell

Tiger McGavin:
Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant
All Quiet on the Western front by Erich Maria Remarque

Whitby Syme:
The City & The City by China Miéville
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Atticus McCarthy:
The Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Mycroft Webb:
Lights Out in Wonderland by D.B.C Pierre

William Clay:
Brothers by Yu Hua

The Voting

The City & The City
100, 300
Lights Out in Wonderland
Salem’s Lot

For the second time in QMBC history, there was a deadlock in the voting and the obligatory head-to-head between the two deadlocked books resulted in Lights Out in Wonderland winning with a 5 to 2 majority –perhaps reflecting its highest number of first preference votes.

Next: Lights Out in Wonderland by D.B.C Pierre

Very Nearly: War by Sebastian Junger

Appendix - Click to enlarge pictures

Some commentators doubted whether the QMBC would ever make it to their 7th book given its membership consists of some of the most irritable, cantankerous and choleric men ever breached. Therefore, the members of the QMBC should be rightly proud of this achievement and your minute taker would like to mark this juncture in QMBC history with a quote from the Bible (I think) -“7's the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens  7 Dwarves…. 7, man, that's the number. 7 chipmunks twirlin' on a branch eatin' lots of Sunflowers on my uncle's ranch. You know that old children's tale from the sea. It's like you're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office. Why? Cause you\are fuckin’ fired!” 

Amen to that Brother.  As usual, a health warning is issued with regard to the drawing of conclusions from small samples but apparently sample size does not matter as much as men think it does, so we will set about the analytical task in hand with the workman like vigour of a prison-rapist. 

Figure 1 - Statistical Analysis of Historic QMBC Ratings

Figure 2 - Graph of Historic QMBC Ratings

Figure 3 - Linear correlation coefficients between QMBC members’ ratings

The QMBC correlation matrix is a fecund temptress, she is apt to inform and confuse in equal measure. That being said, the features on which the QMBC have come to rely on are present as ever. Syme/Clay (-58%) continue to disagree on everything except the importance of Die Hard 1 in providing role models for the youth of today and Jameson & McCarthy (+90%) are practically finishing each others’ sentences they are so highly correlated. However, although an innocent bystander might think that Webb and Paddington (+86%) possess nothing in common except the heartiest of appetites, they do seem to agree more, than not, on matters literary. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Whitby Syme on The Cobra

The following was recorded by Whitby Syme only minutes after finishing the selection for QMBC VII: The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth.

The recording was made on Syme's personal phonograph while promenading at Lago di Garda, Italia.

The content will most likely be of little interest to listeners unfamiliar with the book, but those who have read it may be shaken to their very core by the revelations herein.

Whitby Syme on The Cobra from QMBC TV.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Suggest a Book for QMBC VII

Do you know of a book you feel deserves inclusion in the QMBC library? Use the comments section below to suggest it and your selection may be sponsored by a member of the QMBC in the nomination phase of QMBC VII.

Be warned however, we are not easily swayed. Make best use of whatever wiles and tricks of rhetoric are available to you.

(Suggestions should be made by Monday 18th October 2010.)