Saturday, 18 January 2020

DECEMBER 2019 - FILMS + TV (HOME VIEWING)

A few films were enjoyed over the holidays, one a re-watch from the 90s, one an old film I hadn't seen before, a couple from more recently - one enjoyed, one endured and a Christmas special which the whole family (sans moi) had been anticipating and loved, but which was a bit cringey in my opinion.


The Limehouse Golem (2016) - Film


A bit of Victorian crime with Bill Nighy chasing a serial killer (pre-Jack the Ripper days) in London. Daniel Mays seems to pop up in a lot of things at the minute. I like him. I thought the main actress was Jenna Coleman, but apparently it was Olivia Cooke. Maybe it's just me, but they look very similar.














I quite enjoyed it though I don't think it will live too long in the memory. Quite dark in places, just how I like it. I'm not usually a massive fan of ye olde type dramas, but I watched a couple over the holiday periods - A Christmas Carol - and wasn't bumped out of the story by the setting.


From Google.....

Victorian London is gripped with fear as a serial killer is on the loose and leaving cryptic messages written in the blood of his victims. With few leads and increasing public pressure, Scotland Yard assigns the case to Inspector Kildare, a seasoned detective who has a sneaking suspicion that he's being set up to fail. Faced with a long list of suspects, Kildare must rely on help from a witness to stop the murders and bring the maniac to justice.





Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special (2019) - TV one-off


Much anticipated, the rest of the family loved it. Hmm...at the risk of being perceived as a bah humbug, it was okay. I laughed in a few places, cringed in others - the smoking weed scene in particular. My jury is out on James Corden I think. I watch him occasionally hosting a sports quiz, name escapes me and I think he's a massive tool. I see his car karaoke videos and I think he's an annoying massive tool. I see some of his posts online, most recently about some social issue about something or other (shocking memory, I can't remember what, Grenfell maybe) and I think he's alright.

From IMDB.....

10 years on and the Shipman's and Smithy head to Barry for Christmas. A lot has changed in 10 years but there is still one thing on Nessa's mind.


.
The Dressmaker (2015) - Film

Semi-watched with the head half in a book. Seemed very long (1hr 59min), first three quarters dragged, dragged a bit more, then it got very draggy, the last half hour was ok. I think my main problem was Kate Winslet. I can't help it, I've just never taken to her and as a consequence any film she is in, I automatically feel negative towards it. The Holiday might be the only exception, which is kind of funny, because I don't really like Jude Law either. If it helps, my wife and one of my daughters enjoyed it. The other one was on the same page as me and took herself off to bed after enduring an hour or so.

From Wikipedia.......

The Dressmaker is a 2015 Australian revenge comedy-drama film written and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, based on the 2000 novel of the same name by Rosalie Ham. It stars Kate Winslet as a femme fatale in the title role of the dressmaker, Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage, who returns to a small Australian town to take care of her ailing, mentally unstable mother. The film explores the themes of revenge and creativity and was described by Moorhouse as "Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven with a sewing machine".


Absolute Power (1997) - Film

Spotted on terrestrial TV in December and recorded. I'm a bit of a Clint Eastwood fan, though fair to say I haven't probably seen even half of what he's done. I like Gene Hackman as well - absolutely loved him in Mississippi Burning, something I ought to watch again soon. And I don't mind a bit of Ed Harris either.

I hadn't seen this one before and I enjoyed it. Quite a topical plot in respect of powerful men abusing their positions, always aided and abetted by willing flunkies. Probably not too much of a spoiler to say, good triumphs over evil in the end.

From Google....

Luther Whitney is a professional thief who works occasionally. He is planning to finish off his last job, and everything is going smoothly until he gets framed for a murder.


The Fugitive (1993) - Film

I've seen this before back in the day, but it was long enough ago that I couldn't remember how it all unfolds until the end. Plenty of excitement, thrills and tension throughout. Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones are both pretty good. I'd happily watch it again in another 20 years time. I think I'll have to track down a copy of Presumed Innocent to watch soon.

From Wikipedia...

The Fugitive is a 1993 American action thriller film based on the 1960s television series of the same name created by Roy Huggins. It was directed by Andrew Davis and stars Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, with supporting roles by Sela Ward, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas, and Jeroen Krabbé. After being wrongfully convicted for the murder of his wife and unjustly sentenced to death, Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford) escapes from custody (after a bus-train wreck) and sets out to find his wife's killer, catch him, and clear his name, while being pursued by a team of U.S. Marshals led by Deputy Samuel Gerard (Jones). The screenplay was written by David Twohy and Jeb Stuart, from a story by Twohy.

Friday, 17 January 2020

DECEMBER 2019 - FILMS (CINEMA)

Less cinema trips in the month than previously, but still enough to get value from the ongoing Odeon sign-up ..... four in total. It would have been five, only we had to bail on Motherless Brooklyn after booking it, due to a pet emergency - when two dogs become one. The film I'm guessing wasn't a massive hit in these parts as it only showed for a week.


What I did see....... an Agatha Christie homage apparently, a UK gang related romance, the latest (last? hopefully) Star Wars film and Little Women



Blue Story (2019)
A lot of negative publicity surrounded this film on its release...... pulled from cinemas, amid audience punch ups, scared punters, blah blah blah  - the sort of headlines that have Daily Mail editors salivating. Nothing of the sort occurred when we went to see it.

Friendships, separation, rivalry, family, love, gang membership, violence.... quite sad really. Enjoyable and thought provoking. Great soundtrack though don't ask me what any of the tracks used were.

From Wikipedia....  

Blue Story is a 2019 British drama film written, directed, and narrated by Rapman (Andrew Onwubolu) through the medium of rap. The film is Rapman's feature directorial debut and is based on his 2014 YouTube series of the same name.

The film was released in the UK on 22 November 2019.

Premise
Blue Story is the tragic tale of best friends Marco and Timmy who, from different areas of London (Peckham and Deptford), find themselves becoming enemies in a violent and insidious postcode war. Blue Story is based around events of Rapman's own personal experiences growing up in Deptford, in the London Borough of Lewisham, and being sent to school in Camberwell, in the London Borough of Southwark, thereby crossing gang-affiliated borders.


BBC Films say the film "powerfully depicts the futility of gang violence".



Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Well I enjoyed it more than I expected to. I'm not a massive fan of the series, though I have probably seen most of them more than once. Is there anyone who hasn't?

Kept me entertained and I avoided looking at my watch constantly, which is a massive positive when compared to Avengers films watched recently. (2 hours 22 mins long, so it wasn't mega long) Don't buy me the DVD though.

From Google.....

When it's discovered that the evil Emperor Palpatine did not die at the hands of Darth Vader, the rebels must race against the clock to find out his whereabouts. Finn and Poe lead the Resistance to put a stop to the First Order's plans to form a new Empire, while Rey anticipates her inevitable confrontation with Kylo Ren.



Knives Out (2019)
Stellar cast and great fun. I love Michael Shannon, Toni Collette and Jamie Lee Curtis. Daniel Craig and Don Johnson don't irritate me. A who-dunnit in the tradition of Agatha Christie. Wouldn't necessarily have wanted to sit through it all over again as soon as it ended, but I did enjoy it. Did I guess the perpetrator? Not sure I was trying to to be honest.

From Google...

When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey dies just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc arrives at his estate to investigate. From Harlan's dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Thrombey's untimely demise.



Little Women (2019)
I kind of expected to hate this or at best be indifferent, and when arriving in the cinema - reclining seats and foot rests - thought I'd endure a massive bollocking for dozing off about 20 minutes after it started. Fear ye not. I really liked it. Not sure I want to read to book by Louisa May Alcott, but I happily watch this one again in a year or two's time.

From Google.....

In the years after the Civil War, Jo March lives in New York and makes her living as a writer, while her sister Amy studies painting in Paris. Amy has a chance encounter with Theodore, a childhood crush who proposed to Jo but was ultimately rejected. Their oldest sibling, Meg, is married to a schoolteacher, while shy sister Beth develops a devastating illness that brings the family back together.



Ranking
1. Blue Story
2. Knives Out
3. Little Women
4. Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker

Thursday, 16 January 2020

JULIE MORRIGAN - CUTTER'S FIRM (2015)



Synopsis/blurb....

Since taking control of Howard Mackintosh’s criminal empire, the dynamics of Cutter’s firm have changed. Big Liam Bradley, Mac’s former deputy, has firmly established himself as Cutter’s trusted second in command. But Tommy Gunn and Wayne Dobbs, his long-standing partners in crime, are feeling pushed out … and Wayne is determined to do something about it.

Young Jack Armstrong is about to be released from prison after being framed by Cutter and his cronies. Three years ago his family was devastated when their lives collided with Cutter’s criminal dealings – and Jack still doesn’t know what happened to his sister Livvy.

Following the tragic death of a child on the road running past a local caravan park, journalist Millie Redman is taking a potentially dangerous interest in the business enterprises of the park’s owner: shady local entrepreneur Mr Gordon Cutter.

Meanwhile, Cutter has ambitious plans to expand his empire … but can he keep his firm together in the face of betrayal from those closest to him, as well as dangerous outside scrutiny that threatens to expose his deadliest secrets?

‘Cutter’s Firm’ is the second novella in the Cutter trilogy. The story began in ‘Cutter’s Deal’ and is concluded in ‘Cutter’s Fall’.

‘Cutter’s Firm’ contains violence, cruelty and adult language.

Another short novella tackled in December in the hope of jump starting my reading out of a slump. Loved the book, but the slump persisted.

Cutter's Firm almost has an episodic feel. It's the second in Morrigan's Cutter trilogy and concerns Gordon Cutter (obviously). He's a local criminal king-pin with the cops and other assorted dignitaries in his back pocket; aided and assisted by secretly recording the local well-to-dos letting their hair down with some underage sex action at one of his brothels out of town. Cutter is cunning, clever, arrogant and ruthless.

Here he's damping down some fall-out from a hit and run incident resulting in the death of one of his young prostitutes, knocked down when fleeing her captivity. Time to move the business elsewhere.

On the scene we also have Jack Armstrong, freshly released from prison, after Cutter fitted him up. Jack was getting too interested in Cutter;s involvement in the disappearance of his sister. Three years inside and Jack is still  determined to find answers, revenge and some form of justice however it arrives.  His fractured family are still bearing the scars of their girl's disappearance.

Chuck an investigative journalist with a boyfriend on Cutter's payroll into the mix and there's a fairly combustible mix brewing.

Violence, business, human trafficking, prostitution, mutiny in the ranks, journalism, an undercover investigation, an unintended romance, a thug with a conscience, a dilemma or three, grief, bereavement, revenge, cleaning house, influence, connections, some answers and more questions.

A busy book, lots to like. Sets up the climax of the trilogy nicely without feeling like I've been cheated out of some sort of outcome here.

4 from 5

Thoughts on Cutter's Deal here - Cutter's Fall waits.

Read - December, 2019
Published - 2015
Page count - 102
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

MARK NEWMAN - VIOLENCE IN THE BLOOD (2016)


Synopsis/blurb......

Violence in the Blood documents Thompson's rise to power from the backstreets of Glasgow to the industrial heartland of the Midlands.

Malkie Thompson's got ambition and he won't let anything stand in his way in his bid to rise to the top. He's outgrown Glasgow and his boss, McAlister. It's time to step out from the shadow of his mentor and establish his own Firm.

Join the rampage as Malkie and his crew blaze a trail of mayhem and destruction north and south of the border, and witness the birth of the crime syndicate.

A December re-read of a novella I previously enjoyed back in 2017.

Why am I re-reading books when I have a stack of unread ones? Well the book is the first in a short trilogy of three linked novellas and I want to read the third soon, but needed a refresh on the first two.

My thoughts are very similar to first time around.
An ambitious gangster, Malkie Thompson descends on the Midlands from Scotland and sets about undermining and dismantling local king-pin Vinnie Edwards' criminal empire.

Graphic violence, certainly not for the squeamish as we follow Thompson's takeover, also enjoying his Scottish backstory and his rise from far from smooth rise from foot soldier to feared leader and the reasons behind his venture south.

Unlikable characters inflicting violence on other unsympathetic people, regardless of the consequences to innocents caught in the crossfire. Lots to like for me as I do enjoy in-your-face protagonists.

4 from 5 again.

Read - December, 2019
Published - 2016
Page count - 105
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle


* January 2017, thoughts below (no change really, though the book seems to have grown legs from the first time of reading, or maybe I got some duff information regarding a page count)
-------------------------------------------------------
Synopsis/blurb.....

Malkie Thompson's got ambition. He'll do whatever it takes to get to the top and nothing's gonna stand in his way. Follow Thompson's rise to power from the backstreets of Glasgow to the industrial heartland of the Midlands. Join the rampage as Malkie and his crew blaze a trail of mayhem and destruction north and south of the border.

There will be blood, murder and mayhem. You’ve been warned.

A fast-paced 50-odd page tale of gangsters and criminality. Taut prose, with barely a word wasted. Newman gives us the rise of Malkie Thompson in 1988, moving in on Vinnie Edwards and his turf, much to our soon-to-be-deposed king-pin's chagrin and that of the local police with whom he has a tacit understanding.

Thomson pulls a job under Edwards' nose and causes some grief between Edwards and his pet poodle copper, DI Morrison. A stand-off between the two with guns isn't going to be good for business. One bent copper with embarrassing photographs and pressure from the hierarchy for a result and a return to a more peaceful climate. One annoyed gangster, suspecting that his paid-for-copper has crossed him and has something to do with the 60k job pulled on his patch.

Malkie Thomson's only just getting started. Newman takes us back to Glasgow and Malkie's rise in the Glaswegian underworld, before more grief down south as his business with Vinnie Edwards comes to a climax.

Not many likable characters on display but an enjoyable tale of gangsters, violence, cunning and ambition. Lots to enjoy. Right up my reading alley.

4 from 5

Mark J. Newman has written a few more tales in his Crime Syndicate series, which I hope to read later this year. He has his website here. He's also on Facebook here and catch him on Twitter - @marknewmanwrit1

Read in January, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 51
Source - Amazon FREEBIE purchase
Format - Kindle

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - G IS FOR ..... GALWAY, GUNS, GRAFTON


Seventh instalment of my crime fiction alphabet,

G is for....


Galway..... the setting for Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series of books. And also a place with many fond memories of childhood holidays enjoyed with cousins in Salthill.

For other Galway crime see also Derval McTiernan - The Ruin and David Pearson's The Galway Homicides series






















Bruen is Galway's main man though. It's well regarded Irish noir and a 15 long book series, of which I've only read a couple - the first two many years ago, long before I started recording my half-baked thoughts on books ....... The Guards and The Killing of the Tinkers




Galway Girl is the latest entry and dropped last year. OCD reader that I am, I've a bit of catching up to do.


Jack Taylor has never quite been able get his life together, but now he has truly hit rock bottom. Still reeling from a violent family tragedy, Taylor is busy drowning his grief in Jameson and uppers, as usual, when a high-profile officer in the local Garda is murdered. After another Guard is found dead, and then another, Taylor's old colleagues from the force implore him to take on the case. The plot is one big game, and all of the pieces seem to be moving at the behest of one dangerously mysterious team: a trio of young killers with very different styles, but who are united their common desire to take down Jack Taylor. Their ring leader is Jericho, a psychotic girl from Galway who is grieving the loss of her lover, and who will force Jack to confront some personal trauma from his past.

As sharp and sardonic as it is starkly bleak and violent, Galway Girl shows master raconteur Ken Bruen at his best: lyrical, brutal, and ceaselessly suspenseful.

G is for .....

Guns

Ed McBain's 1976 book Guns was enjoyed a few years ago..... thoughts here





Colley Donato loved guns. Even more than his women. He was sixteen when he first shot a guy – with an Astra Firecat pistol.

Brought up in Harlem, he lived amongst the hookers, pimps and junkies. A gun wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity. Folks either liked you or killed you.

For the liquor store job he used his .38 Detective’s Special. Killed a cop in the process and wished he hadn’t.

Being on the run, even for a pro like Colley, Cops everywhere. Sure, ex-stripper Jeanine helped him as did his old friend Benny, a pimp from the Bronx.

But in the end, it was all down to him. And he knew it……

McBain is better known for his long running 87th Precinct series of books, but to date all I've read from him are few standalone novels and one entry in his Matthew Hope lawyer series.
Maybe 2020 I'll see what I've been missing.

Ray Banks' Gun still sits on the kindle patiently waiting its turn



It's a simple enough job for a very dangerous man - go to the Leam Lane estate, pick up a converted air pistol from a guy called Florida Al, bring it back in one piece. But Richie - fresh out of the YOI and about to be a dad - has just lost the gun to a bunch of young thugs. And Goose isn't the kind of bloke who gives second chances ...

Hat tip to Paul D. Brazill's Guns of Brixton!


G is for......

Sue Grafton. Grafton, sadly passed a year or two ago. She was steadily working her way through her own crime fiction alphabet in the company of her series character Kinsey Millhone.
Y is for Yesterday is where the series ended.

To date I've enjoyed A is for Alibi 

I ought to dust off B is for Burglar soon.




Wise-cracking, female private investigator, Kinsey Millhone, is hired to find a missing sister. However, when the trail leads to Florida, Kinsey finds herself caught up in a dangerous case involving fire-raising, burglary and murder.


Previous entries

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - A IS FOR.... AX, ABBOTT, ABERDEEN

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - B IS FOR ....... BOSTON, BIRD, BONES

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - C IS FOR.........CAPE TOWN, CONFIDENCE MEN, CROSS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - D IS FOR ....... DETROIT, DISHER, DEAD

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - E IS FOR ....... EDINBURGH, EXCESS, ELLIS

CRIME FICTION ALPHABET - F IS FOR ....... FLORIDA, FRANCIS, FLOATERS

Sunday, 12 January 2020

2 BY JONATHAN MOORE

A couple from Jonathan Moore, another author I have yet to read, but one which was recommended to me by author Dave Putnam.






















Moore has had six novels published since 2013, all of them stand-alone books. Fantastic Fiction labels him as an author of dark thrillers in the mystery and horror genres.



I think I would probably have passed these by if they hadn't been recommended to me, because the covers don't especially inspire me to pick the books up. Not exactly eye-catching are they?

The Poison Artist (2016)

"An electrifying read . . . I haven't read anything so terrifying since Red Dragon." - Stephen King

Caleb Maddox is a San Francisco toxicologist studying the chemical effects of pain. He's out drinking after a bad breakup when a hauntingly seductive woman sits down at his side. He talks to Emmeline over absinthe, but their encounter is fleeting. She brushes her lips on his ear and disappears. He must find her. As Caleb scours the city, he begins helping the city's medical examiner with a serial-murder investigation. Soon the search for the killer entwines with Caleb's hunt for Emmeline, and the closer he gets to each, the more dangerous his world becomes. "A wicked mix of Poe, The Silence of the Lambs, and Vertigo,"* The Poison Artist spins a thrilling tale of obsession, damage, a man unmoored by an unspeakable past, and a woman who offers the ultimate escape.



"A totally new take on the mystery-thriller genre . . . Fresh and unpredictable. The writing is top-notch . . . Grade: A." - Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Genuinely scary, in the very best way, and nastily twisty, also in the very best way . . . Hypnotic." - Guardian

* William Landay

The Dark Room (2017)

"If you like Michael Connelly's novels, you will gobble up Jonathan Moore's The Dark Room."
- James Patterson

"Channels the moody intensity of Raymond Chandler's crime fiction." - Washington Post

Gavin Cain, an SFPD homicide inspector, is at an exhumation when his phone rings. The mayor is being blackmailed and has ordered Cain back to the city; a helicopter is on its way. The casket, and Cain's cold-case investigation, must wait.

At City Hall, the mayor shows Cain four photographs he's received: the first, an unforgettable blonde; the second, pills and handcuffs on a nightstand; the third, the woman drinking from a flask; and last, the woman naked, unconscious, and shackled to a bed. The accompanying letter is straightforward: worse revelations will come unless the mayor takes his own life first.

An "electrifying noir thriller,"* The Dark Room tracks Cain as he hunts for the blackmailer, pitching him into the web of destruction and devotion the mayor casts in his shadow.

"With an Edgar Allan Poe feel to it, this book leaves an uncomfortable, indelible impression . . . San Francisco has never been so menacing." - Kirkus, starred review

*Booklist, starred review


Thursday, 9 January 2020

GERALD PETIEVICH - MONEY MEN (1983)


Synopsis/blurb....

"GRITTY! REALISTIC! PETIEVICH'S TOUGH, LEAN PROSE RACES WITH ACTION... THE DIALOGUE SNAPS AND CRACKLES." - Washington Post

Charlie Carr is Petievich's first hero, a relentless, hard-boiled T-man who brings to mind the no-nonsense detectives of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. In this riveting novel, Carr is a man with a grim mission. When a young agent gets violently gunned down during an undercover operation, Carr is determined to hunt down the counterfeiter who pulled the trigger. The chase leads him down a sordid crime-infested trail of ex-cons and desperate women. From the seamy Sunset Strip to Chinatown's shadowy underworld, from a daring plot to steal counterfeit money from counterfeiters themselves to facing brutal blood-drenched confrontations, Charlie Carr will stop at nothing to crack the depraved scheme that took his young friend's life.

"AN IMPRESSIVE ACHIEVEMENT! A SURE HAND, A FINE EAR FOR DIALOGUE, AND A CANNY FEEL FOR PLOTTING!" - New York Times 

An 80s novel, enjoyed before in the long distant past and plucked from the shelves in the hope of jump starting my stalled reading mojo in December. I can dimly remember this or one of Petievich's other novels - Earth Angels maybe - blowing my socks off when I read it back in the day.

Second time around, I wasn't quite so crazy about it, but I'd still rate it a 4 from 5.

An undercover treasury agent gets blown away while trying to take down a counterfeiter, our main man Charlie Carr hears the whole thing from a nearby hotel room. Our short book focuses on Carr's attempts to track down the killer, before getting transferred away from the front line by his bosses.

I enjoyed this one; the frequent encounters between Carr and his partner, Jack Kelly with various miscreants; the tactics for their investigation - the angles worked, the pressure applied, the progress of the investigation and the joining up of the dots from leads and then the focus on a result, walking a very narrow tightrope between remaining lawful and crossing the line into breaking the law to get the required outcome, with Carr definitely transgressing at the end.

I enjoyed time with Carr, the on off relationship with the girlfriend, apparently going nowhere; the friendships he enjoyed - mostly job related, the loyalty he displays to a disgraced former colleague and the over-riding obsession with getting his man and the juggling act performed to do so.

Plenty of action, violence, dialogue, interrogations, stakeouts, an LA setting
and some interesting titbits on the world of counterfeiting, something I guess Petievich knows from his time in law enforcement.

Money Men is the first of three Carr novels. Petievich also wrote another half dozen standalone novels, mostly published in the 80s when he was running a hot streak. I've probably read half of his output, though the titles of the ones I devoured escape me. There are way worse ways of spending time than settling down to an afternoon or more in the company of one of Gerald Petievich's books.

4 from 5

Read - December, 2019
Published - 1983
Page count - 224
Source - purchased copy (probably Murder One)
Format - paperback