Friday, 23 February 2018

JANUARY 2018 - FILMS + TV

A few films enjoyed in January, though I had hoped to have watched a bit more - I've still got another half dozen backed up on the black box recorder in the front room - maybe February then?

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

An okay watch, more than a few twists and turns as you'd expect. Tom Cruise does what he does. I enjoyed Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames. Rebecca Ferguson offers a bit of love interest (maybe) and Sean Harris is the bad guy. There's worse ways of spending an hour or two.

From IMDB....

Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate - an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.


Focus (2015)

I do like movies with a con man and this was no exception. I was taken in a few times, especially at the football game, though with hindsight I should I have been a bit more savvy to what was going on. That was probably the highlight for me and the subsequent Buenos Aires twist felt a bit anti-climatic in my opinion. I do like a bit of Will Smith. My daughter raves about Margot Robbie, but I can't recall seeing her in anything before.  As far as confidence movies go - Matchstick Men is still my favourite by a country mile.

From Google....

Nicky (Will Smith), a veteran con artist, takes a novice named Jess (Margot Robbie) under his wing. While Nicky teaches Jess the tricks of the trade, the pair become romantically involved; but, when Jess gets uncomfortably close, Nicky ends their relationship. Three years later, Nicky is in Buenos Aires working a very dangerous scheme when Jess -- now an accomplished femme fatale -- unexpectedly shows up. Her appearance throws Nicky for a loop at a time when he cannot afford to be off his game.


Brick Mansions (2014)

Not the best thing I've ever recorded and watched - Shit Mansions might have been a better title. An okay story, but it kind of seemed like the director wanted to show of David Belle's acrobatic prowess. He's very jumpy and leapy in this thing, which kind of took me out of the story. Paul Walker was okay.

From Google...

In a dystopian Detroit, grand houses that once housed the wealthy are now homes of the city's most-dangerous criminals. Surrounding the area is a giant wall to keep the rest of Detroit safe. For undercover cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker), every day is a battle against corruption as he struggles to bring his father's killer, Tremaine (RZA), to justice. Meanwhile, Damien and an ex-con named Lino (David Belle) work together to save the city from a plot to destroy it.



Takers (2010)
Much more my sort of thing - a gang of crooks and a dogged cop who won't give up. A decent story line and an entertaining cast - I like Matt Dillon and Idris Elba - though he might have got a bit too big for his boots lately. The rest of the cast were very good also.

From Google...

Gordon Jennings (Idris Elba) and his friends enjoy a luxurious lifestyle funded by bank robberies, and they avoid capture by sticking to a strict set of rules. As they celebrate the latest job, a former associate arrives with a daring plan to rob an armored car. The lure of so much cash is too tempting to resist but, unbeknown to Gordon's men, this heist puts them on a collision course with Russian mobsters and a detective (Matt Dillon) who will do anything to capture them.



Now You See Me (2013)
Second time around for this one and still just as enjoyable. Apart from Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher and Morgan Freeman, I couldn't tell you who any of the other illusionists were. Michael Caine also features. I do like Ruffalo, though I've not seen him in too much - Spotlight and Shutter Island.

From IMDB....

An F.B.I. Agent, and an Interpol Detective, track a team of illusionists, who pull off bank heists during their performances, and reward their audiences with the money.


Now You See Me 2 (2016)
More of the same, but still a decent couple of hours viewing.

From IMDB....

The Four Horsemen resurface, and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

MEET THE MILLERS (AND THE MILLARS)

Six more from the estranged library in a warehouse, 5 fiction, 1 non-fiction

Millar's - Peter, Margaret and Sam

Miller's - Wade, James and Geoffrey

Peter Millar - 1989 The Berlin Wall (2009 I think)

It was an event that changed history, bringing the Cold War to a sudden, unexpected end and seeing the collapse not just of Communism but of the Soviet Union itself. Stereotypes disappeared overnight, and the maps of a continent had to be redrawn. Peter Millar was in the middle of it, literally - caught in Checkpoint Charlie between bemused East German border guards and drunk Western revellers prematurely celebrating the end of an era. For over a decade Millar had been living in East Berlin, as well as Warsaw and Moscow, and in this engaging, garrulous, bibulous memoir we follow him on a journey in the heart of Cold War Europe, from the carousing bars of 1970s Fleet Street to the East Berlin corner pub with its eclectic cast of characters who embodied the reality of living on the wrong side of the Wall. We relive the night that it all disintegrated, and its curious domino-like effect on Eastern Europe. We find out how Peter Millar felt when he opened his Stasi file and discovered which of his friends had - or hadn't - been spying on him. A compelling, amazingly insightful and entertaining read, this book swiftly dispatches the mythology of the Fall and brings Peter Millar's characteristic wit and insight to one of the most significant moments in history.


Sam Millar - Bloodstorm (2008)

Gritty and gripping, Bloodstorm is the beginning of a chilling series.Karl Kane is a private investigator with a dark past. As a child, he witnessed the brutal rape and murder of his mother. The same man sexually molested Karl, leaving him for dead with horrific knife wounds covering his body. Years later, Karl has a chance to avenge his mother's murder by killing the man responsible. The opportunity arises on one unforgettable Good Friday night. For reasons he later regards as cowardice, Karl allows the opportunity to slip through his hands, only to be shattered when, two days later, two young girls are sexually molested and then brutally murdered by the killer on Easter Sunday morning. Karl now holds himself responsible for their deaths.


Margaret Millar - Beast in View (1955)

At thirty, Helen Clarvoe is only: her only visitors are the staff at the hotel where she lives, and her only phone calls come from a stranger. A stranger whose quiet, compelling voice lures the aloof and financially secure Miss Clarvoe into a world of extortion, pornography, vengeance, madness and murder...

Wade Miller - Branded Woman (1952)

International jewelry smuggling may be a man's business, but beautiful Cay Morgan can hold her own with the best. Until a rival known only as The Trader has her scarred for life as a warning to stay out of his way. Now Cay's on her way to Mazatlan, where one of The Trader's men has been spotted. There's a big deal going down but she's not there to make a score. Just to settle one.


James Miller - Sunshine State (2011)

Mark Burrows is an 'invisible man', a British secret agent adept at moving undetected through the most hostile environments. Summoned for one last mission, he must make contact with Charlie Ashe, his fearsome former colleague and brother-in-law. Ashe has reappeared with a new name and a terrifying new agenda in the Storm Zone, a mysterious region racked by devastating hurricanes and inhabited by cults, criminal gangs and insurgent armies.

The mission will force Burrows to question his loyalties and to understand that the greatest danger lies not with his target, but with the forces that seek to control the world around him.


Geoffrey Miller - The Black Glove (1981)
NOMINATED FOR THE EDGAR AWARD

Terry Traven is an L. A. private eye who modeled himself after Philip Marlowe and thrived in the 1960s, becoming a minor celebrity for his hardboiled style and his skill at tracking down runaways. But now it’s the 1980s, his minor fame has completely faded, and he’s barely making a living. So he jumps at the opportunity to find a wealthy, born-again industrialist’s missing son who has been dabbling in drugs and punk rock. It’s not just a chance to save the kid… but himself. Traven’s search leads him into a bizarre, cocaine-drizzled world populated by kidnappers, drug dealers, talent agents, greedy entrepreneurs, religious zealots and desperate killers.

“Miller pretty much equals the masters — Hammett and Chandler — of the hardboiled detective story,” Houston Post



Wednesday, 21 February 2018

JANUARY 2018 - READING LIST AND PICK OF THE MONTH


A cracking start to a new year of reading - 19 books read in the month, though only half of them would weigh in at over 100 pages long.

Nothing sucked  only 1 - 3 STAR read, conversely a lot of them were very good but only 1 - 5 STAR read.

Pick of the month - Lawrence Block's Keller in Des Moines - another episode in my favourite hitman's life and a story with no resolution as such - just an urgent invite to read the longer novel where our tale concludes.

The month could in some ways be regarded as a Lawrence Block tribute month - I read one old lost and recently found book from him - Sinner Man - and seven of his Kindle singles with Keller, a few of which had been enjoyed before as they also form part of the longer work Hitman.

The full list with links...

Paul Heatley - The Boy (2015) (4.5)

Lawrence Block - Keller in Dallas (2009) (4.5)

Christopher Davis - Walking to Babylon (2017) (4)

Lawrence Block - Keller's Adjustment (2005) (4)

William E. WallaceHangman's Dozen (2016) (4.5)

G. B. Williams - Locked Up (2017) (3)

Lawrence Block - Keller on the Spot (1998) (4.5)

Lawrence Block - Keller's Horoscope (2001) (4)

David Putnam - The Innocents (2018) (4.5)

Lawrence Block - Sinner Man (1968/2016) (4.5)

Kevin Berg - Indifference (2016) (4.5)

Joe R. Lansdale - Briar Patch Boogie (2016) (4.5)

Lawrence Block - Keller's Therapy (2013) (4)

Nick Kolakowski - A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps (2017) (4.5)

Lesley Welsh - In the Blood (2018) (4.5)

Jeffrey Archer - The Man Who Robbed His Own Post Office (2007) (4)

Graham Smith - Past Echoes (2018) (4)

Lawrence Block - Keller in Des Moines (2016) (5)

Lawrence Block - Keller the Dogkiller (2016) (4.5)

Dissecting the month to the nth degree.....

11 x 4.5 STAR READS...... Lawrence Block x 4, Paul Heatley, Nick Kolakowski, Lesley Welsh, Kevin Berg, Joe R. Lansdale, William E. Wallace, David Putnam

6 x 4 STAR READS.....Lawrence Block x 3, Christopher Davis, Graham Smith and Jeffrey Archer.

1 x 3 STAR READ ..... enjoyable, but not without a few niggles - G.B. Williams and Locked Up

19 reads from 12 different authors, 8 from Lawrence Block

7 of the 12 were new-to-me authors....... Kevin Berg, William E. Wallace, Christopher Davis, Lesley Welsh, Nick Kolakowski, G.B. Williams and Jeffrey Archer - though I may have read Archer about 30 years ago.

I have more on the pile from William E. WallaceChristopher Davis and Nick Kolakowski (well I did, but I've since read his second book - Slaughterhouse Blues.)

5 authors have been read and enjoyed before - Lawrence Block and Joe R. Lansdale - numerous times, David Putnam (4), Graham Smith (2), Paul Heatley (3) and

I have more on the TBR pile from all of them.

Gender analysis -  mostly male authors, 2 females - Lesley Welsh and G.B. Williams....... despite assertions that I'm going to correct the imbalance in my reading, I never do.

I believe of the 12 authors I read, 5 are English, and 7 hail from the US.

All 19 of the reads were fiction - 8 novels and 1 collection of short stories, 10 reads were less than 100 pages long

One of the books - Sinner Man - the re-discovered Lawrence Block originated from the 60s, a couple of the reads were penned in the 90s - Block - Keller episodes.

4 reads were from the 2000s, the other 11 from this decade - including three 2018 books and three from 2017.

10 of the 19 books were accessed via a Kindle Unlimited trial, 2 were review copies made available from the publisher - Bloodhound Books, 2 came from the authors, 4 were pre-owned with the last accessed free through iBooks and finished off via Amazon Freebie purchase.




Favourite cover? Sinner Man - Lawrence Block



Second favourite – Nick Kolakowski's A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps

My reads were this long 85 - 43- 186 - 72 - 155 - 288 - 30 - 47 - 324 - 240 - 308 - 56 - 38 - 134 - 300 - 42 - 348 - 30 -35

Total page count = 2761  (2323 in December)....... a 400 page increase

16 and a half Kindle reads, 1/2 a read on my phone, 1 PDF and 1 trade paperback ARC.

1 < 50,
6 between 51 < 100,
5 between 101 < 200,
2 between 201 < 300,
2 between 301 < 400,
0 > 400 pages

Graham Smith's Past Echoes was the longest read at 348 pages.

A couple of Lawrence Block - Keller's the shortest at 30 pages each - Keller on the Spot and Keller in Des Moines



















Tuesday, 20 February 2018

2 BY JEDIDIAH AYRES



2 from Jedidiah Ayres this week. He's not an author I know a hell of a lot about.


Ayres has his blog here.

I've had these two and his collection - A F*ckload of Shorts on the kindle for four or five years now.

Another acquired taste and I somehow doubt he's going to be challenging Dan Brown and Stephen King at the top of the best-seller charts, but that's not to say he doesn't write the kind of books I want to read. Notwithstanding the fact that I haven't.....yet.



Peckerwood (2013)


Assault, armed robbery, and the occasional blackmail: life is pretty damn good for Terry Hickerson. He's got a dog, a best friend, enough cash to get him drunk, and a teenaged son to carry him home. Sure he's a constant pain in the local law's ass, but Sheriff Jimmy Mondale's got enough to worry about, what with his estranged daughter on a tear, and the District Attorney being onto his partnership with ex-biker, meth kingpin, and tackle shop owner Chowder Thompson. When tragedy hits their small town of Spruce, Missouri, Terry's peckerwood bullshit will push the three of them into a volatile whilrwind complete with bullets, bodies, and broken bones.

"A masterpiece of dirty, down-low rural noir. Read it and sink a little further into the muck." Scott Phillips, author of RAKE and THE ICE HARVEST

"PECKERWOOD is intensely original and harrowing country noir. Ayres delivers sharp-edged prose that lands like a knife under the ribs." - Dennis Tafoya, author of DOPE THIEF and THE POOR BOY'S GAME

Fierce Bitches (2013)

Across the border lies Politioburg: hell on Earth, home to putas, punks and psychos.

Escape is not in the stars, redemption is not in the cards, but reckoning might just be on the menu.

Stand back. The pit is about to spit something back out.

Monday, 19 February 2018

RAY BANKS - WOLF TICKETS (2013)


Synopsis/blurb....

Sean Farrell - small-time thief, petrol smuggler and all-round scoundrel - just got shafted by the love of his life, Nora. She took his twenty grand, his coke and his favourite leather jacket; she left him with little more than a hangover and a Dido song to remember her by. 

Now Nora's sights are set on the two hundred grand buried somewhere in the Northumberland countryside, and she's enlisted the help of the most dangerous man in Dublin to find it. Farrell hooks up with old Army pal - the shoplifting, rotgut-swilling arsonist Jimmy Cobb - to beat them to the punch. Because nobody gets in the way of Sean Farrell and money.

Probably getting on for ten years since I picked up a Ray Banks book and more fool me I reckon.

Banks doesn't do cozy, Banks offers hard, brutal, world-weary men with little interest in a straight life, but barely enough energy to make a success of whatever criminal activities they may turn their hands to.

Wolf Tickets brings together a couple of ex-army comrades who have gone their separate ways, a parting brought about by a woman, Nora. Farrell wakes one morning to find Nora gone, along with his money and his one of a kind leather jacket. Nora might be in Jimmy Cobb's neck of the woods - Northumberland and Farrell's coming a-calling.

We get some of our twosomes history - tales of scrapes fought on foreign turf, down in London, as well as a violent, alcohol fuelled trip around the North-East trying to recover the missing money and find the gal. Our gal gets found, but no longer breathing.

Farrell and Cobb, trying to stay one step ahead of the law, endeavour to track down an ex-con Frank O'Brien. Farrell, O'Brien and Nora have a tangled history, one he has neglected to inform Cobb about. With a wheelchair-bound dope dealer and his heavies to deal with and the pair dependent on a homeless alcoholic for information, our boys have to go all out - full throttle ballistic to get to their target. They'll be enduring a fair few licks themselves in their quest.

Did I say this was violent? Torture scenes, beatings and injury. Sometimes off-set with comedy - Cobb, our Geordie tough guy, survives a near-death experience at the hands of O'Brien - almost a night of a thousand cuts virtue of a stanley knife. What better way to try and close the wounds than a packet of children's cartoon plasters festooned all over his boat race?

I did get more out of this than just a brutal tale of revenge and an evening up of the score. The dynamics of the relationship between Farrell and Cobb are interesting. Yes they have each other's backs, but there's quite often friction, disappointment and a barely suppressed resentment between the two. Our boys may also be lacking in some social niceties, but their loyalty to each other is commendable.

Fast-paced, enjoyable, entertaining, but probably an acquired taste. I'm hoping to read the second Farrell and Cobb outing - Trouble's Braids later this month.

4.5 from 5

Ray Banks has his website here.

In the pre-blogging days, I've enjoyed The Big Blind, Saturday's Child, Donkey Punch and No More Heroes. I've missed out on five or six from him afterwards.

Read in February, 2018
Published - 2013
Page count - 189
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH DAVID YOUNG
















David Young, author of A Darker State and the two earlier Karin Muller books - Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf answers a few questions on the blog.

A few thoughts on A Darker State appeared earlier today - here.


Is the writing full time? If not, what’s the day job? (Maybe a brief bio?)

Yes it’s full-time. I started an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University in 2012, doing it in the evenings around my day job at the BBC as a news editor. I’d been with the BBC for more than 25 years – too long -- and it was a deliberate attempt to escape. In my final year of the MA, I took voluntary redundancy from the day job, and that cushioned the transition.
 
I believe A Darker State is the third book in your series after Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf, can you tell me a bit about the two earlier books?

All three are set in the 1970s in East Germany and feature my main character Karin Müller and her deputy Werner Tilsner, who both work for the criminal division of the People’s Police. The books are part police procedural, part historical novel, part action thriller – so a bit of a hybrid. But as well as the traditional crime story, the East German secret police – the Stasi – are in the background pulling the strings. Although it’s a series, each is a separate story – so you should be able to dip in at any point in the series, and then go back and read the earlier books.
 
Have you had anything else published to date?


About 15 years ago I self-published a crime thriller set on the Isle of Wight under a pseudonym. I enjoyed the process, and sold the entire print run of 1,000 copies. But it was exhausting, and impossible to continue with alongside a day job.

How long from conception to completion and publication did A Darker State take?

That’s a difficult one to answer. I had the germ of the idea at the time we sold Stasi Child, but didn’t really start developing it until a couple of years later. Once I’d planned it out, writing the first draft was fairly rapid, as that’s the way I prefer to work. At one stage, I wrote 45,000 words – so half the novel – in just five days. The re-writing and fine-tuning took a lot longer!

Did the end result resemble the book you envisaged when you set out? Were there many bumps in the road along the way?

It was pretty much what I planned, but my original editor left soon after reading the first draft (not because of it, as far as I know!) so the change to a new editor slowed the process. But the advantage was I got two lots of input and expertise.

What’s your typical writing schedule?

I tend to write my first drafts quite quickly, so I don’t really have a typical schedule. When I’m in the zone, I can write up to 10,000 words a day – and on those days I’ll work 16-hour days. But I spend other times of the year editing, researching and promoting. So it varies with the seasons.

Was your latest book, an easier book to write than your first novel?

It’s possibly slightly easier once you’re into a series in that you don’t have to recreate the world, you’re just fine-tuning it. But at the same time, you’re trying to improve with each book. That’s a difficult target.

Do you have a connection with the divided Germany of the 70s? I’m interested to know what the spark that was that set you off writing in this time period and setting. 

Not really, other than a reporting trip to cover one of the big NATO exercises of the 1980s in West Germany for an evening newspaper in South Wales I was working for at the time. The spark was slightly weird. To let off steam from the day job, I started a little indiepop band, and we blagged a tour to Germany in 2008. Most of the venues that booked us were in the former East – that’s where the idea came from. That and reading Anna Funder’s Stasiland between gigs.

Did you have to do an inordinate amount of research prior to embarking on the writing of this series?

I do a lot of research, but really enjoy that part of a writer’s life. For each novel, I’ll tend to do at least two research trips to Germany, plus countless hours on the internet. I’ve also been learning German as when I started out I could hardly speak any, and I’m not much better even now.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

I’ve the follow-up to the self-published Isle of Wight novel, but I very much doubt it will ever see the light of day.

Is there a current work in progress? How’s it going? Any hints as to what it’s all about?

I’m just about to embark on a rewrite of Book 4 in the series. It’s a fictional extrapolation of a real-life WW2 massacre and how it impinges on the present day of my East German world – ie the mid-to-late 70s. The first-person voice is through the eyes of an inmate at the Mittelbau-Dora labour camp – where V1 and V2 rockets were made. That narrative is very harrowing – but is totally based on real-life accounts. Hopefully that hasn’t given too much away, or put too many people off!

I think I read somewhere you have five titles planned in the series, will that be a definitive end point or is there scope for further adventures with Karin Muller?

As with any series, its future depends on readers buying the books. I’d like it to run and run. There’s no shortage of inspiration from real-life East German tales. Ideally, I’d like to see the series through to 1989 or 1990 to see how Karin fares when the Wall is torn down. But so far, I’m contracted for the five books.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Researching and then creating the world in your first draft.

The worst?

For me, editing and rewriting. I know it’s vital, but I don’t enjoy it.
 
What are the last five books you’ve read?


My Little Eye by Stephanie Marland (highly recommended), The History of the Dora Camp by André Sellier, Death Marches by Daniel Blatman, Solitaire by Jane Thynne, and Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein.

Who do you read and enjoy?

I don’t read as much as I should and don’t confine myself to crime fiction. In the crime genre, my favourite author is probably William Ryan for his Korolev series.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.


Favourite activity when not working or writing?

Supporting Hull City but recently it’s become less and less enjoyable because of the club’s owners and their disregard for the fanbase.








What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

Bridge of Spies.



TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Young household? 

Addict. Spiral/Engrenages – the French crime series – is my favourite.

In a couple of years’ time…

My aim is to have a couple of series on the go, one under a pseudonym. But perhaps a lesser ambition would be to simply still earn a living from fiction writing – and I suspect that will become more and more difficult. Bloggers like yourself and your readers are vitally important in supporting authors so thanks very much for this interview




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Many thanks to David for his time and Emily Burns - formerly of publisher, Bonnier Zaffre for connecting us.

David Young's website http://stasichild.blogspot.co.uk/p/about_27.html
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