Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Spike Lee's movie has opened to shockingly low box office takings. Earlier in the year the outspoken director knocked Clint Eastwood for not including black actors in his back to back war movies,Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jimo - All EASTWOOD could do was stand back and quote the historical facts.
To my mind accusing Eastwood of racism was nothing but a publicity stunt and one in bad taste at that. Anyone who has followed Eastwood will know he is not, in anyway, racist.
Clint Eastwood is movie royalty and it's a fair bet that the war of words has affected Spike Lee's movie which had an opening weekend of just over three million
QUOTE - You have to wonder whether silver screen legend Clint Eastwood has a smile on his face this morning.
You have to wonder whether silver screen legend Clint Eastwood has a smile on his face this morning.Last year, Lee verbally tussled with Oscar-winning director for his lack of portrayals of black officers in other World War II epics, like “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “Flags of Our Fathers.”
Looking at the opening numbers for “St. Anna,” it’s clear Lee made a mistake challenging Dirty Harry to a directorial duel.
You cannot get into higher Hollywood royalty than Clint Eastwood. And burning that bridge can’t be good for Lee or any studio that wants to employ his services.
After this weekend’s poor showing, there’s only one question for Lee, “Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya – PUNK!”
Here is the rest of this weekend’s Top 10 list:
1. "Eagle Eye," $29.2 million.
2. "Nights in Rodanthe," $13.6 million.
3. "Lakeview Terrace," $7 million.
4. "Fireproof," $6.5 million.
5. "Burn After Reading," $6.2 million.
6. "Igor," $5.5 million.
7. "Righteous Kill," $3.803 million.
8. "My Best Friend's Girl," $3.8 million.
9. "Miracle at St. Anna," $3.5 million.
10. "Tyler Perry's The Family that Preys," $3.2 million.
[Seattle Post Intelligencer, Associated Press via CNN.com]
Now I'd like to reopen this argument and complain that Lee's film about an all black military unit during World War II doesn't feature any white soldiers.
SONS OF TEXAS
I loved this book but then I've yet to come across an Elmer Kelton western that I haven't enjoyed.
The author has a talent for creating credible and likeable characters and his historic detail is always spot on but doesn't stand out in the narrative as happens too often with heavily researched periods. Instead the author mixes the facts seamlessly into the story and by the end of the first page the reader is hooked.
Mordecai Lewis and his sons Michael and Andrew ride into Texas to hunt wild horses. While there Mordecai is killed by Spanish soldiers and the boys have to flee back to American territory.
Years later when the Spanish rulers allow 300 Americans to settle in Texas Michael sees a way to return to Texas and finish the job they finished all those years ago and exact revenge on the sadistic Spanish officer who had blown his father's brains out.
Above all this is a character story but it also serves as a history of the early days of Texan history. I've yet to read any of the other books in this series as I've not seen them anywhere here in the western starved UK but they are available from Amazon and I guess I'll have to order the rest as I enjoyed this book without reservation and am eager to follow the saga of Michael Lewis.
BOOK BLOGGER WEEK
This is an exciting idea for all folks who write blogs containing book reviews. Follow the link above and I'm sure you'll be glad this was brought to your attention. Don't worry about the date as this is when the annual event will be held, including the blog awards, but registrations are still open.
DEATH RIDES A HORSE
DIRECTED BY GIULIO PETRONI 1967
This western released in 1967 is just one of the many unofficial remakes of Leone's seminal For A Few Dollars MOre - this films was even scripted by Luciano Vincenzoni who also wrote the Leone classic.
The cadaverous Lee Van Cleef plays a middle aged gunslinger teamed up with a younger man (the Eastwood type role) played by John Phillip Law. The latter is best remembered as the intergalactic angel in Barbarella. British actor Anthony Dawson, best know for his role as the killer in Dial M for Murder and for a couple of small roles in the early Bond films (he played the voice of Blofeld in From Russia with Love and was memorably shot by Connery after using his six bullets in Dr No) plays the main villains in this all action western.
Whilst the film looks exactly like a Leone western it is great fun and is far more violent than any of the Dollars films - the opening sequence is an exercise in operatic sadism but it's all carried out in a comic book stylised OTT style of the sub-genre. Van Cleef is excellent and even if Law is no Eastwood this is one of the better spaghetti westerns and still makes excellent viewing.
AVAILABILITY ON DVD - The film can be found as a standalone DVD but it is also part of THE GUNSLINGERS BOX SET ALONGSIDE Boot Hill, God's Gun and Beyond the Law. The box set is available from Brentwood Home Video and is well worth the meagre asking price for the four movies - three of which are great.
Monday, 29 September 2008
doing a three for two promotion on all crime fiction and as it's one of my favourite genres I've been taking full advantage and have bought probably in excess of twenty books since the offer started.
Today I came away with
Die a little by Megan Abbot (I loved the cover and the blurb sounds like my kind of book. In fact this is the best cover I've seen in a long time.)
Gone fishing by Walter Mosley (the first Easy Rawlins thriller. I've read a few of the later books but this one is new to me.)
Sudden Mischief by Robert B. Parker (another in the brilliant Spenser series)
These will be reviewed, in the fullness of time on this blog. I'm currently rediscovering Chandler and re-reading all the Marlowe books for the first time since I was a teenager. It'll be strange to review the Chandler stuff as it's so well known and reams and reams have been written about it. But I think it would be interesting to try and ignore the weight of history and talk about it as if it was a new book by a new writer you just discovered.
Anyway got to go and do some reading now.
For through these mean pages a man must flick. A man who is himself not mean but enjoys a damn good story....
FAVOURITE CHANDLER LINE EVER - She gave me a smile that I could feel in my hip pocket.
What a bargain - The UNTOUCHABLES first season was originally released on two DVD box sets numbered logically volume 1 and 2.
However this box set, costing £20 from W H Smith collects both collections as well as some great special features. The jewel among the special features is an episode of I Love Lucy entitled Lucy the gun moll and the movie version of the two part pilot that did good business on cinema screens in the UK in the days before the TV series crossed the pond and started running on British screens.
The first season was the best and remains a realistically violent example of TV crime drama.
Though certainly tame by The Shield standards, the inaugural 28 episodes from The Untouchables' first season are still as potent as a shot of Capone's bootleg liquor. Dames get slapped around. Mugs are mowed down in a hail of machine gun fire. Upstanding citizens are brutally terrorized by thugs. Incorruptible Feds are brazenly rubbed out. Sometimes, criminals have the last laugh. It has the visceral kick of watching one of those pre-code Hollywood movies produced before the Hays Office stepped in to sanitize objectionable content. This set opens with the theatrically released version of the two-part pilot episode that set the noir qualities of the series.
Robert Stack stars as Elliot Ness, a Federal agent who forms a special squad of "reliable, courageous, dedicated and honest" men who initially take on Al Capone's corrupt criminal empire in 1929 Chicago. Ness is "a man's man, a tough no nonsense policeman determind to get the job done whatever the cost.
The show was always controversial, Italian Americans picketed the studio to complain that they were being stereotyped as cheap hoods, and was considerably toned down in later seasons but for any crime/TV buff this first season is essential viewing.
Finally got around to watching the 1988 HBO produced movie of Chandler's last novel which was completed long after the author's death by Spenser scribe, Robert B. Parker. And to be honest I really enjoyed it and although no-one can compare to Bogart's version of Phillip Marlowe, James Caan does a great job of playing the ageing private eye.
The plot is typical Chandler and gets more and more complicated with each minute of screen time but it is all explained away in the final reel and thankfully we find out who killed each victim. No who shot the chauffeur questions to trouble the viewer left dangling here
It's nowhere near the film that Howard Hawks' 1946 Bogart/Bacall Big Sleep but then nothing ever will be. No Marlowe has ever been as good as Bogart's version. However Poodle Springs is one of the better Chandler adaptations and Caan does seem like the character Bogart created only much later in life.
The publicity blurb brought a smile to my lips in the way it references Caan's best movie role - Phillip Marlowe is the godfather of private eyes.
Saturday, 27 September 2008
The subject matter of blogs is as wide ranging as human nature itself - some are merely personal diaries, others centre on interests and hobbies - movies, books, comics, music. There are blogs that deal with sex, gay issues, terminal ilness, political issues, and pretty much everything under the sun...and more besides.
I'm forever browsing blogs and okay I come across a lot of trash but there are vast amounts of well written, interesting blogs out there.
Take a look at the side box titled BLOGS AND OTHER SITES OF INTEREST on this blog. Every blog listed there is well worth reading and are all particular favourites of mine. Of course these blogs are tailored to my own interests but you'll find anything at all out there in the blogosphere.
The blogosphere - the final frontier of literature
If you're hobby is making love to chickens while covered in olive oil - there'll be a blog out there covering that particular vibe.
TEN WAYS TO GET MORE INTEREST IN YOUR OWN BLOG: (Reproduced from problogger)
10 Ways to Increase Comment Numbers on Your Blog
1. Invite Comments - I notice that when I specifically invite comments that people leave them in higher numbers than when I don’t. To some degree this confuses me as most of my readers know that they can leave comments on any post - but I guess inviting a comment triggers a response to some extent. Also keep in mind that new readers that are unfamiliar with blogging don’t always know about comments or how to use them - invitations to participate in well laid out and easy to use comments systems are good for helping them participate.
2. Ask Questions - Including specific questions in posts definitely helps get higher numbers of comments. I find that when I include questions in my headings that it is a particularly effective way of getting a response from readers as you set a question in their mind from the first moments of your post.
3. Be Open Ended - If you say everything there is to say on a topic you’re less likely to get others adding their opinions because you’ll have covered what they might have added. While you don’t want to purposely leave too many things unsaid there is an art to writing open ended posts that leaves room for your readers to be experts also.
4. Interact with comments left - If you’re not willing to use your own comments section why would your readers? If someone leaves a comment interact with them. This gets harder as your blog grows but it’s particularly important in the early days of your blog as it shows your readers that their comments are valued, it creates a culture of interactivity and gives the impression to other readers that your comments section is an active place that you as the blogger value. As the activity in your comments section grows you may find you need to be slightly less active in it as readers will start to take over on answering questions and creating community - however don’t completely ignore your comment threads.
5. Set Boundaries - I noticed that shortly after I set the rules for my comments section (with a comments policy) that my comment numbers jumped up a little. I’m not sure if it was just a coincidence or whether readers responded to knowing what was and wasn’t acceptable. It’s just a theory but I think a well managed and moderated comments section that is free of spam and that deals with well with people stepping out of line is an attractive thing to readers. I personally don’t mind people expressing different opinions to one another in comments but when I sense things are getting a little out of hand and too personal I often step in to attempt to bring some order to the situation (I rarely delete non spam comments). I find that people have responded to this and that comment threads generally stay constructive as a result.
6. Be humble - I find that readers respond very well to posts that show your own weaknesses, failings and the gaps in your own knowledge rather than those posts where you come across as knowing everything there is to know on a topic. People are attracted to humility and are more likely to respond to it than a post written in a tone of someone who might harshly respond to their comments.
7. Be gracious - Related to humility is grace. There are times where you as the blogger will get something wrong in your posts. It might be spelling or grammar, it could be the crux of your argument or some other aspect of your blogging. When a someone leaves a comment that shows your failing it’s very easy to respond harshly in a defensive manner. We’ve all seen the flaming that can ensue. While it’s not easy - a graceful approach to comments where you admit where you are wrong and others is right can bring out the lurkers and make them feel a little safer in leaving comments.
8. Be controversial? - I put a question mark after this one because it doesn’t always work (and I personally avoid it as much as I can these days) - but there’s nothing like controversy to get people commenting on your blog. Of course with controversy comes other consequences - one of which is the risk of putting off less vocal members of your readership.
9. ‘Reward’ Comments - There are many ways of acknowledging and ‘rewarding’ good comments that range from simply including a ‘good comment’ remark through to highlighting them in other posts that you write. Drawing attention to your readers who use comments well affirms them but also draws attention of other readers to good use of your comments section.
10. Make it Easy to Comment - I leave a lot of comments on a lot of blogs each week - but there is one situation where I rarely leave a comment - even if the post deserves it - blogs that require me to login before making a comment. Maybe I’m lazy (actually there’s no maybe about it) or maybe there’s something inside me that worries about giving out my personal details - but when I see a comments section that requires registration I almost always (95% or more of the time) leave the blog without leaving the comment that I want to make. While I totally understand the temptation to require registration for comments (combatting spam in most cases) something inside me resists participating in such comments sections. Registration is a hurdle you put in front of your readers that some will be willing to leap but that others will balk at (the same is often said about other comments section requirements that go beyond the basics). Keep your comments section as simple and as easy to use as possible.
UPDATE: This article had been reproduced with kind permission:
The blogosphere is continuing to grow, with a weblog created every second, according to blog trackers Technorati.
In its latest State of the Blogosphere report, it said the number of blogs it was tracking now stood at more than 14.2m blogs, up from 7.8m in March.
It suggests, on average, the number of blogs is doubling every five months.
Blogs, the homepages of the 21st Century, are free and easy to set up and use. They are popular with people who want to share thoughts online.
They allow for the instant publication of ideas and for interactive conversations, through comments, with friends or strangers.
Technorati is like a search engine that keeps track of what is happening in the blogosphere, the name given to the universe of weblogs.
It relies on people tagging - giving keywords to - their blogs or blog posts so that its search engine can find them.
Free blogging services such as those provided by MSN Spaces, Blogger, LiveJournal, AOL Journals, WordPress and Movable Type were also growing quickly, said the report.
It also pointed to the growth in moblogs, blogs to which people with camera phones automatically send pictures and text.
Other services, such as the Google toolbar and the Flickr photo sharing website, have implemented "blog this" buttons, which also make it easier for people to post content they like on the web straight to their blogs.
The voices in the blogosphere are also sounding less US-centric, with blog growth spotted in Japan, Korea, China, UK, France, and Brazil.
What is clear is that the blogosphere is highly varied, with blogs coming in many shapes and forms, whether they be professional or for personal use.
Blogs have been used as campaign sites, as personal diaries, as art projects, online magazines and as places for community networking.
Much of their appeal has been boosted because readers can subscribe to them, for free, to stay updated of any new posts automatically.
Blogs have played a part in highlighting issues that journalists have not covered. They have also proved to be a valuable communication channel for journalists in repressed countries who have no other publishing means.
They have recently shown how they can also complement and enhance mainstream press in coverage of events, such as the recent London terror attacks.
The Technorati report did not, however, break down the blogosphere in terms of gender use.
Over the weekend, the BlogHer conference took place in the US, which saw a gathering of almost 300 bloggers talk over blogging issues which are pertinent to women, and to men.
Friday, 26 September 2008
Ken Bruen is an author who is just getting the mainstream attention he deserves and very soon he's going to be huge. He already is in the crime writing community where he has been hailed as Ireland's answer to Ian Rankin.
This was the first time I've read any of his work and The Guards is the first book featuring his Irish PI Jack Taylor. So it's as good a jumping on point as any.
This is the first book in a long time to hit me smack on my arse. This is one harder than hard-boiled series - the Irish streets Jack Taylor operates in make Chandler's mean streets seem like Milton Keynes on a Sunday afternoon. And all the characters, even the best of them, are monstrous caricatures of hopes and failings common to us all. There seems to be a theme of redemption and faith running through the prose but it's clear that there can never be any redemption for Jack Taylor and his first person narrative takes us deep into the darkest recesses of his soul.
"There are no private eyes in Ireland. The Irish wouldn't wear it. The concept brushes perilously close to the hated "informer". You can get away with most anything except telling."
So starts this novel about Galway PI, Jack Taylor a drunken ex policeman whose life is spiralling out of control. He is given a reason to care when a woman asks him to prove her young daughter was murdered and did not commit suicide as was the official conclusion. Soon Taylor is mixed up in the disturbing world of paedophilia and his entire life goes into free-fall around him.
I won't go into any more plot details as there are several major surprises throughout the book and I don't want to give any spoilers. Suffice to say after the first big shock which comes in around a quarter of the way into the book you won't know what to expect from page to page.
The reader will soon realise that they are not reading anything predictable in any way at all. In fact this is not your standard who-dun-it but rather a novel with depth of character and a realism that is razor sharp.
Totally excellent...I have a new favourite crime author and he lives on the Emerald Isle.
I was one of the few people who didn't like Daniel Craig's stab at James Bond - okay it was a good movie but that's all it was - a run of the mill action movie. It could have been anything from Die Hard 5 to Lethal Weapon 26.
It certainly wasn't James Bond - not the character that has evolved through a series of unique movies nor the character Fleming originally created on the printed page. I'm eager for the arrival of the new movie, Quantum of Solace this October but early indications are that they are moving even further away from what makes Bond distinct from other action adventure films.
And once the dust has settled on Daniel Craig's tenure I think it will become clear that this was the biggest casting bollock drop in cinema history. Sure, he's a fine actor but he really isn't James Bond. He plays him as a cross between Grant Mitchell and Vinnie Jones.
The film makers have taken away everything that as made the Bond films such a successful series, the things which set them apart from other action films. Sure they can be corny but we expect them to be and the villains are so much larger than life, the women are physical representations of juvenile male sexual fantasies, the plots are outlandish and the action borders on the improbable but that's how it should be. To my mind Casino Royal equates to rebooting Superman but taking away his power of flight. Oh yeah we've got a gritty realistic Bond but that's not what we want and it's nothing we've ever had before.
You see Superman wears his cape and flies about, taking care of justice and upholding the American Way - that's what defines the character. James Bond wears a tux, is impossibly cool, uses and casts women aside and never has a hair out of place. It is what distinguishes him from Martin Riggs, John McClain and John Rambo.
However, anyone wanting the real James Bond will have to go back to the original Fleming canon. But the film Bond has evolved in such a way that he is distinct from the character as Fleming originally created him. And don't forget the author was not averse to a bit of larger than life mayhem.
(Pictured above - The author lives out his own Bond fantasies)
The new Bond trailer:
To clarify I did enjoy Casino Royale, I found it a great action movie, I felt Daniel Craig added gravity to the film but I didn't feel like I'd seen a James Bond film and Daniel Craig doesn't convince as 007. I'll be first in line to see Quantum when it opens and I'm hope this one will change my mind but I'm dubious to say the least.
The film makers say they have gone back to the Fleming books but have they? Casino Royale the film did, in all fairness, follow the book fairly closely but Craig doesn't come close to the Bond described in the book. He was tough but he wasn't a thug, he was suave rather than causal, and physically the actor and the man on the page are worlds apart. I believe that the movie Casino Royale was such a success because it did seem fresh and in the context of Bond's cinematic world it was like a kick of adrenaline after the poor Die Another Day but the next film will be the test and prove if Daniel Craig has the legs to carry the franchise onwards into the future.
When it became clear that Pierce Brosnon was not returning I'd hoped Clive Owen would have taken over and I think he very nearly did. But something happened and the role went to Daniel Craig.
Clive Owen would have been superb but it'll always be easy to say that. People said the same thing about Lewis Collins and most of the other actors who came close to getting the part but, for one reason or another, didn't quite make it.
However Daniel Craig is a brilliant actor and I hope the next movie lays my fears to rest and that the franchise will continue onwards and upwards. But if Craig is to continue in the role sooner or later they're going to have to bring the humour back as well as the outlandish plots. Not to mention Q and Moneypenny and please let's see Mr Blofeld on the rampage one more time.
James Bond will return.
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Much was made of the Ian Fleming centenary earlier this year but the previous year had also marked an anniversary of the birth of another mystery/thriller writer who had also created an iconic character. No surprise that this was more low key since for some reason the character has been out of fashion for years but, have no doubt, one day, the Saint will return.
Leslie Charteris was born Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin in Singapore on 12 May 1907.
He spent his formative years travelling the world. His father was a successful surgeon and his work would take him to all corners of the world.
The young boy was educated at home by a string of tutors and it was not until 1919 that Dr. Yin decided to send his son to England to finish his education.
From an early age Charteris had a great urge to write and after getting hold of a typewriter and began to produce his own magazine which he then peddled to friends and relatives. Charteris was never much of an artist and he would illustrate his stories with crudely drawn stick men. Years later he would refine this for the famous saint trademark.
In 1923, while still at Rossall prep school Charteris made his first professional sale. The details of the story are lost to history but Charteris later said it was something about a pirate.
After completing his education Chateris threw himself into his ambition to be a professional writer. He changed his name by deed poll to Leslie Charteris Ian and started sending out stories to the pulp magazines that thrived during the era.
The first Saint story Meet the Tiger was published in 1928 and was an immediate hit with readers. The character of Simon Templer was far more popular than any of the writer's other characters and thus a legend was born.
The Saint's life outside of the printed page is equally interesting.
The Saint was first brought to life on the radio in 1940 by Terence De Marney (aka Terrance De Marney) on Radio Athlone. It was then a five-year wait before NBC picked up the option, and featured Edgar Barrier as Simon Templar, alias The Saint. Later in 1945, Brian Aherne took over the role when the show switched over to CBS. Then in 1947, probably the most famous Radio Saint of all-time, Vincent Price, added his golden voice to the role. Vincent Price was once quoted as saying the most difficult thing about the show was coming up with new and unique ways to get conked on the head. After a large number of episodes, Price finally left and his replacement Barry Sullivan only lasted a few episodes before the show was cancelled. It was resurrected due to public demand, with Vincent Price returning to save the day. In 1951, Tom Conway (George Sanders' brother), of The Falcon fame, played The Saint for the last few episodes, with Lawrence Dobkin stepping in for a single episode when Conway was unavailable. Between 1953 and 1957, Tom Meehan starred as The Saint on Springbok Radio in South Africa (in English) with fresh adaptations of the original Charteris stories. It wasn't until 1995 that the Saint returned to radio with new episodes, with Paul Rhys portraying The Saint in three scripts taken directly from the orginal Charteris stories.
Louis Hayward was the screen's first Saint in 1938's The Saint in New York and the hard hitting movie still remains the best celluloid outing for the hero. George Sanders then took over for several instalments starting with The Saint strikes back in 1938. In 1942 Hugh Sinclair took over for The Saint's Vacation and the original screen saint, Louis Hayward was back for 1954's The Saint's Good Friday but this was not a patch on his first outing.
In 1997 Val Kilmer starred in a big budget movie called, The Saint but it was a mess and not even the biggest Saint fan will defend it.
TV's first Saint was Roger Moore and for many people the actor is still the definitive small screen Saint. The show was a massive success and stayed in production for seven years and made a superstar out of Roger Moore.
Ian Oglivy was cast in The Return of the Saint in 1978. The actor was cast because he held a resemblance to a young Roger Moore but the show was not a success and only ran for the one season.
Simon Dutton was an unusual Saint for a series of Saint TV movies during the 90's and although these were well produced they were not a great success.
James Purfoy has been cast as the character for a number of TV movies that will be produced by Roger Moore but information is scarce at the time of writing.
But whatever happens one thing is certain - WATCH OUT FOR THE SIGN OF THE SAINT.
Borders UK is to close three more of its airport stores when their leases on the building run out. Borders now have four airport branches but overall the company are saying they are strong and healthy.
Random House have won its biggest TV tie-in licence with the licence for TV's Merlin which starts its r un on UK screens next week. The terms of the licence includes fiction, non fiction, annuals and audio adventures.
Orion Publishers have snapped up the rights to the next two Elmore Leonard novels.
TOP 5 UK BOOKS
1 This year it will be different by Maeve Binchy
2 Things I want my daughter to...by Elizabeth Nobel
3 Nation by Terry Pratchett
4 The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen
5 No time for goodbye by Linwood Barclay
data for week ending 13 sept 08
total UK market for the week was worth £31.3 million
This is up one per-cent on the same week last year
(DATA AND FIGURES FROM THE BOOKSELLER)
Harlequin/Mills and Boons new crime imprint Black Star Crime has been a huge successes with many stockists ordering a second batch of the books. This bodes well for the crime/thriller genre with it booming at the moment.
Recently UK TV channel ITV3 have launched its crime season which culminates with a glitzy awards ceremony that will be televised and should become an annual event.
From The Bookseller, in addition to the ITV3 Writer’s Award for Classic TV Drama (shortlist of P.D.James, Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter, Lynda La Plante, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid), the following awards and their shortlists are now announced:
Breakthrough Author Award
Chelsea Cain Heartsick (Pan)
Stuart MacBride Broken Skin (Harper)
Michael Robotham Shatter (Sphere)
Anne Zouroudi The Messenger of Athens (Bloomsbury)
International Author of the Year
Jeffery Deaver The Sleeping Doll (Hodder & Stoughton)
Stieg Larsson The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Quercus)
Karin Slaughter Skin Privilege (Arrow)
PJ Tracy Snow Blind (Penguin)
Author of the Year
Lee Child Bad Luck and Trouble (Bantam)
Robert Harris The Ghost (Hutchinson)
Peter James Not Dead Enough (Pan)
Ian Rankin Exit Music (Orion)
Press pack information here.
I am currently working on a post that looks at the state of the crime/thriller genre and am also raving about author Ken Bruen who is my new favourite crime writer. His PI Jack Taylor is the most unrelenting sleuth since Mike Hammer and the mean streets of modern day Ireland are so well realised you can smell the Guinness.
I'll probably post my review of the first Jack Taylor, The Guards alongside the crime genre post.
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
The publication of my first novel - Tarnished Star by Jack Martin is still some way off but now I've had a firm publication date and a copy of the blub which I reproduce here:
All Sheriff Cole Masters wants is to raise a family with the woman he loves. However upholding the law in an era when gunfire speaks louder than words can be a risky business.
Cole makes an arrest for the brutal murder of a saloon girl but the killer is the son of a wealthy rancher and it is clear the old man will do anything to see his son set free. Soon the peace of the small town is shattered with deadly force and Cole finds himself a lawman on the run for murder.
The rancher wants Masters dead and the two deadly gunmen on his tail are sure they can do it. Soon blood will run as Cole Masters attempts to reclaim his tarnished star.
186 x 123 160 pp Rights: World 978-0-7090-8761-8 £12.25 30th June 2009 h/b Bic Code: FJW
Soon I should have a copy of the cover artwork and as soon as I do I'll post it here.
Put the 30th June 2009 in your diary, folks.
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Growing up during the Seventies in the UK you couldn't help but be a fan of the glitzy spy shows that often showed on our screens. Most of them were repeats from the Sixties and they were a welcome departure for youngsters in the UK. These exciting glitzy shows with impossibly cool characters were a far cry from most of the drab shows on British Television.
ITC, run by Lew Grade, was responsible for the lion's share of these cult classics and they were often Anglo American productions but there were one or two produced by other companies.
Characters like Napoleon Solo, The Man From Uncle, had such style and grace that the women fell head over heels for him and he was always surviving almost certain death with a sartorial elegance that Dixon of Dock Green could only dream about. He also had the most versatile eyebrow since Roger Moore.
I think it was the ITV that showed Uncle and I remember being a big fan. Another show that was hot was The Avengers but oddly I didn't really like this as a kid and have only become a huge fan later in life. Perhaps the surreal wit and pop culture references were beyond me as a kid ...I think The Prisoner suffered the same fate because as a youngster the show bored me silly. I rediscovered it in my twenties and now it is one of my all time favourite shows.
Danger Man, AKA Secret Agent was a different matter and this show was much more to my tastes. Many think that the character of John Drake was also Number Six in The Prisoner. Sometimes I believe that theory and other times I don't. Danger Man had all the wit and intelligence of The Prisoner but it also had the action and glamour that I so craved as a kid growing up in the drab environs of 1970's Britain. The world these all action men populated did not have regular power cuts and mothers who insisted on watching Coronation Street no matter what was on the other sides. There were only three channels in those days - HTV and BBC 1 and 2.
And the VCR was still a thing of SCI-FI. You could make audio recordings of your favourite shows (which I often did) with tape recorders and listen in bed at night. You could imagine the action in the mind eye - trouble was those tapes always had mum going to make a cup of tea and endless, "Shhhh's".
The Champions was another of ITC's surreal espionage cum science Fiction classics.
The three main characters in the Champions were secret agents with a difference - they had been given super human powers after surviving a plane crash.
Roger Moore had made a big hit with me as The Saint, which still ran at odd times during the 70's, and he was an even bigger hit as Lord Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders. Here he wasn't really a secret agent but a playboy who had been teamed with brash American Tony Curtis and was sent on missions by the mysterious Judge. The show was a huge hit but expensive and Moore was signed as JAMES BOND before a second season could be signed.
The show went but was repeated constantly and still runs today on cable and satellite channels. It also did remarkable business on its DVD release a few years back.
You know, looking back, maybe things weren't all that bad. The BBC was still running original Doctor Who and the original Star Trek was being screened at prime time. Thrilling westerns like Bonanza and The High Chaperal were on most Sunday afternoons and I always slept through Sunday morning and The Waltons...thankfully!
Monday, 22 September 2008
Sunday, 21 September 2008
I've been working on the second Jack Martin novel - Arkansas Smith and am now nearing the finish line on the first draft. It's been harder than usual this time and I put this down to the fact that I stopped working on the book for two weeks this month because I had so many other things happening around me. Larkrise to Candleford is taking up a big chunk of my time and I've been finding that the hour or so I get on the keyboard is taken up with my blogging and social networking.
The Internet is probably the most important research tool for writers but it can also be a curse. Extreme self discipline is needed if one is to avoid hours spent googling when one should be working. And don't get me started on the evils of You Tube.
Now when I did force myself back to the book I found it awkward maintaining the pace set earlier and the story escaped me - for an awful few days I feared the story had left me and that this work would have to be cast aside, treated as a miss-start, but thankfully I've picked it up again. I don't know how it is for other writers but when I'm working on something of novel length I have to work on it every day. Even if I only do a dozen words. It doesn't matter because I'm still entering the story world, the fictional landscape that must be real to the writer. When I cast it aside for days at a time and then come back to it, I don't feel a part of it and it can be torture trying to connect with the characters again. Their inner lives, once so intimate, become opaque to me and it takes the virtual scrumpling of hundreds of virtual pages before I'm back on track.
Well I'm now cutting this preamble to even more time wasted and getting back to chapter thirteen (I hate stopping on any 13,word 13, paragraph 13, page 13, chapter 13) before the muse leaves me. I've got to follow Arkansas through an Indian attack.
THE TARNISHED STAR
BY JACK MARTIN
ROBERT HALE LTD/BLACK HORSE WESTERNS
*Tentative publication date. Join the Friends of Jack Martin Facebook group for up to date information on all things Jack Martin.
Columbo: the first episode
1971 - 72 mins 59sec
Directed by Stephen Speilberg
Following on from a couple of pilot movies, this was the first episode from the first season and was directed by a young Stephen Speilberg.
James Ferris and Ken Franklin are a bestselling mystery writing team but when Ferris decides he want to write alone and concentrate on more serious work, his partner feels that the golden goose is about to be killed.
Franklin, who has not written much of their series in years, preferring to live the high life, decides to kill his partner and pass it off as the work of professionals but the downbeat cop, Columbo is not convinced.
They really don't make shows like this any more which is a pity because for all the gritty quality of today's better shows, it's nice to have a bit of simple escapism once in a while. What struck me watching this episode is how similar the character of Columbo is to the cop in the movie, the exorcist.
Saturday, 20 September 2008
PULP THE VILLAINS
This is a collection of pulp stories mostly culled from the pages of The Black Mask Mystery Magazine with stories from Chandler, Leslie Charteris, Cornell Woolrich and other past masters of the genre.
I don't tend to read that much short fiction, preferring the meat of a novel, but I intend to dip into this volume from time to time to familiarise myself with the foundations of the crime/hardboiled genres.
I couldn't find any credit of the cover artist in the book - only that it was designed by Two Associates so I'm not sure if it's an original illustration or a reprint from one of the old pulp classics. Still it's an handsomely produced book and should find a place on the shelf of any self respecting hardboiled/pulp fan.
The Cat Woman Earle Stanley Gardner
The Dilemma of the dead lady by Cornell Wollrich
The house of ka by Richard B. Sale
The invisible millionaire by Leslie Charteris
Faith by Dashell Hammet
Pastorale by James M. Cain
The sad serbian by Frank Gruber
You'll always remember me by Steve Fisher
Finger Man by Raymond Chandler
You'll die laughing by Norbert Davies
About Kid Deth by Raoul Whitfield
The Sinister Sphere by Fredrick Davies
Pigeon Blood by Paul Cain
The perfect Crime by C s Montanye
The Monkey murder by Earle Stanley Gardner
Crimes of Richmond by Frenderick Nebel
Friday, 19 September 2008
ROBERT B PARKER
(American import copy - £6.99)
Although I've read a number of the author's westerns, I've never read any of the Spenser series prior to this book and this is the twenty first book to feature the wise guy PI. I'd always intended to check out these books as I'd read many good things about both the writer and the character. But for no particular reason I'd never taken the plunge until now.
And after reading this book I'm cursing the fact that I've such a lot of catching up to do - Spenser really is an addictive read.
The first person narrative is both light hearted and somehow deadly serious at the same time. There a lot of sexual sparring between the PI and voracious female cast and this makes for great reading.
The character of Spenser was new to me and coming in on book 21 didn't spoil my enjoyment but I'm going to try and read the series in the correct order from now on, not that the books can't be read as stand alones but I'd like to see the development of the character over the series of books.
Parker's been called a modern day Chandler and there is a hint of the great master, as well as a splodge of Hammett here but Parker creates an original voice from the sum of its parts.
For anyone, like me, just discovering the series the full list of Spenser books are reproduced below. And please check the seminal Bullet and Beer website for an encyclopaedia's worth of Spenser centric information.
|Title||Year of Publication|
|The Godwulf Manuscript||1973|
|God Save the Child||1974|
|The Judas Goat||1978|
|Looking for Rachel Wallace||1979|
|A Savage Place||1981|
|The Widening Gyre||1983|
|A Catskill Eagle||1985|
|Taming a Sea Horse||1986|
|Pale Kings and Princes||1987|
|Hush Money|| |
|Hugger Mugger|| |
|Now and Then||2007 |
The author runs his own blog and is well worth reading for information on his life as a writer and some interesting observations.