AUDIO BOOK REVIEWS: THE DRIFT by John Ridley

AUDIO BOOK REVIEWS: THE DRIFT by John Ridley- An unfortunate Ridley thriller that has moments of interest, interspersed with protagonists doing plodding, incredibly stupid things to the point of just being an unsatisfying and frustrating listen.

Kudos to the excellence of JD Jackson as the reader that just barely makes worth finishing, a book I would, in book form, have given up on long ago. The ugliness of the language, and the ugliness of the story you wade through… hoping there’s something to all this. But it just leads to more ugliness.

The story just goes on too long, has a tendency toward repetition, and a certain degree of sickening spinning of wheels, that all ends in the moronic and belief defying and unsatisfying. And a twist I’m pretty sure most will see coming. That’s part of the plodding nature of the story, it takes you through a lot of words, to an ending you see coming, and have to endure till the story catches up.

And worst of all it’s just not an entertaining bone in this story’s length. It increasingly feels endless and pathetic. Ridley’s early novels are so strong, that it makes this later work all the more frustrating and disappointing. Grade: D-/F.

WEDNESDAY WORDS: TOP 20 BOOKS OF THE WEEK #1


HEROIC TIMES Top 20 Books list is a new weekly installment that ranks the 20 most interesting/intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.

Feel free to leave feedback comments below, or suggest additions or subtractions.

Open City: A Novel by Teju Cole- A masterful command of narrative voice distinguishes a debut novel that requires patience and rewards it.

THE PRAGUE CEMETERY by Umberto Eco – Publication Date: November 8, 2011- Nineteenth-century Europe, from Turin to Prague to Paris, abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Conspiracies rule history. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian priests are strangled with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate black masses by night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. From the unification of Italy to the Paris Commune to the Dreyfus Affair to the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Europe is in tumult and everyone needs a scapegoat. But what if, behind all of these conspiracies both real and imagined, lay just one man? What if that evil genius created the most infamous document of all?

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins: Girl takes sister’s place in a real world survivor game in a post-apocalyptic U.S.. (P, Scholastic)

THE STREETLETHAL OMNIBUS by Steven Barnes – Rumors alone of a collected omnibus edition containing the entire acclaimed three part STREET LETHAL series (similar to the excellently designed Chester Himes HARLEM CYCLE omnibus), hitting shelves soon is reason enough for this sci-fi/action-adventure classic to make anyone’s list.

THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS by Ian Fleming – James Bond, the world’s most famous secret agent, has thrilled audiences for over fifty years with his globe-trotting adventures. THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS collects eleven of Ian Fleming’s original daily comic strips for the very first time in a mammoth omnibus edition.

DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL by Derrick Ferguson – The author of The Nuclear Suitcase, Joel Jenkins, describes Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell as “James Bond meets Cthulhu” and you’ll want to check out this heady mixture of the spy thriller and horror genres.

THE ARTIST WITHIN by Greg Preston – The culmination of more than fifteen years of photography by renowned photographer Greg Preston, this book is a living history of the men and women who have shaped the imaginations of countless millions of people around the world through their work in the fields of animated cartoons, comic books, comic strips and editorial cartooning. The list of more than two hundred artists includes such luminaries as Frank Miller, Al Hirschfeld, Joe Barbera, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Moebius, Walter and Louise Simonson and many more, all in photographs exclusive and shot expressly for this book.

SAUL BASS by Jennifer Bass, Pat Kirkham – This is the first book to be published on one of the greatest American designers of the 20th Century, who was as famous for his work in film as for his corporate identity and graphic work. With more than 1,400 illustrations, many of them never published before and written by the leading design historian Pat Kirkham, this is the definitive study that design and film enthusiasts have been eagerly anticipating.

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES: A Novel – by Roberto Bolaño In this dazzling novel, the book that established his international reputation, Roberto Bolaño tells the story of two modern-day Quixotes–the last survivors of an underground literary movement, perhaps of literature itself–on a tragicomic quest through a darkening, entropic universe: our own. The Savage Detectives is an exuberant, raunchy, wildly inventive, and ambitious novel from one of the greatest Latin American authors of our age.

ASSUMPTION A NOVEL by Percival Everett – A wild ride to the heart of a baffling mystery, Assumption is a literary thriller like no other.

ATLAS OF HUMAN ANATOMY AND SURGERY by Jean-Marie Le Minor – Anatomically correct We owe a great debt to Jean Baptiste Marc Bourgery (1797?1849) for his Atlas of Anatomy, which was not only a massive event in medical history, but also remains one of the most comprehensive and beautifully illustrated anatomical treatises ever published in any language. In 1830, having received his doctorate in medicine three years prior, Bourgery began work on his magnificent atlas in cooperation with illustrator Nicolas Henri Jacob (1782?1871), a student of the French painter Jacques Louis David. The first volumes were published the following year, but completion of the treatise required nearly two decades of dedication. 15.5 lbs and 19.2″ x 12.6″ x 3.5″.714pgs.

FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King – Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

THE SHADOWS GALLERY by L.R. Giles – You’ve been invited to the opening of a grand exhibition, a show unlike any you’ve ever seen. Inside you might find your greatest joy or your worst fear on display. But be warned, it can be difficult to tell which is which when you’re looking through the shadows… Award-winning author L.R. Giles brings forth a collection of tales that take you to the limits of imagination and beyond.

THE MORNING AFTER by David Drebin(English, German, French, Italian and Spanish Edition) – A talented photographer without equal, David Drebin is above all a storyteller. His brooding and glamorous works tell tales of lust and voyeurism–as well as seduction and escape. Not afraid to be daring, Drebin also tantalizes us with subtle allusions. His sweeping cinematic images feature the majestic backdrops of such world cities as Berlin, Paris and Rio de Janeiro. These photographs pulse with a charged sensuality, using color and light to maximum effect. Dangerous seductresses play a central role in Drebin’s work. Bursts of saturated Technicolor explode against stone and gray cement. In this, he hints at Hitchcock at his finest. We’re left with a tinge of regret amid the sensual excess.

Use Once, Then DestroyUSE ONCE, THEN DESTROY by Conrad Williams- In this spellbinding collection of his best stories from the last ten years, award-winning writer Conrad Williams offers the kind of horrors that move subtly into you, like pain, or love, or regret. They are stories that explore the scarred outposts of desperation and desire, sickness and death, sex and decay. Within these pages you will also find the acclaimed novella Nearly People.

SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE Vol III – The Baker Street Sleuth returns in five new original mysteries told in the classic style of Arthur Conan Doyle. Here are tales by Aaron Smith, Ian Watson, Joshua Reynolds and Andrew Smith guaranteed entertain any mystery fan. Throw on your deerstalker cap and load your pistols, there’s murder and mayhem about and the game is afoot once more.

RADIOACTIVE:MARIE & PIERRE CURIE: A TALE OF LOVE AND FALLOUT – In the century since the Curies began their work, we’ve struggled with nuclear weapons proliferation, debated the role of radiation in medical treatment, and pondered nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. In Radioactive, Lauren Redniss links these contentious questions to a love story in 19th Century Paris…Whether young or old, scientific novice or expert, no one will fail to be moved by Lauren Redniss’s eerie and wondrous evocation of one of history’s most intriguing figures.


EXILES FROM A FUTURE TIME: TRINITY OF PASSION: THE FORGING OF THE MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY LITERARY LEFT
– With this book, Alan Wald launches a bold and passionate account of the U.S. Literary Left from the 1920s through the 1960s. Exiles from a Future Time, the first volume of a trilogy, focuses on the forging of a Communist-led literary tradition in the 1930s. Exploring writers’ intimate lives and heartfelt political commitments, Wald draws on original research in scores of archives and personal collections of papers; correspondence and interviews with hundreds of writers and their friends and families; and a treasure trove of unpublished memoirs, fiction, and poetry… Focusing on the formation of the tradition and the organization of the Cultural Left, Wald investigates the “elective affinity” of its avant-garde poets, the “Afro-cosmopolitanism” of its Black radical literary movement, and the uneasy negotiation between feminist concerns and class identity among its women writers.

DREAMSCAPES 2010: CONTEMPORARY IMAGINARY REALISM – Publication Date: April 28, 2011 | ISBN-10: 9490668028 | ISBN-13: 978-9490668020 The greatest practitioners of imaginary realism are presented in this lavish overview of dreamy, surreal and beguiling paintings and sculptures! This large-scale, beautifully produced book features artwork by modern favorites like Michael Parkes, Daniel Merriam, Kinuko Y. Craft and many others. Vibrant paintings feature psychedelic dreamscapes populated by fairies, nymphs, gods and golems. Loaded with symbolism and often jarringly original, this showcases the best fantasy artists working today.Buy Direct from Publisher Here.

Well gals and guys hope you enjoyed that.

The WEDNESDAY WORDS column is a brand new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list! And if you see items you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links. Your helpful purchases through the links generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!

Today’s recommended Writer: John Ridley Pt 1 of 2

John Ridley is one of the most versatile of writers, starting out doing writing for such shows as MARTIN and FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR he would follow that up with some of the most accomplished novels, screenplays, and films of the waning days of the 20th and new days of the 21st century.

For me his loose HARD LUCK pulp trilogy of STRAY DOGS, LOVE IS A RACKET and EVERYBODY SMOKES IN HELL are the books that made me a John Ridley fan. They are a series of exhilarating mystery novels, that share only a thematic sensibility but a successful one, of a hard luck or down on their luck protagonist, trying to navigate a world completely out of his control.

Stray Dogs

Love Is a Racket

Everybody Smokes in Hell

These would spawn two equally excellent films, Namely U-TURN based on STRAY DOGS and directed by Oliver Stone and starring Sean Penn and Jennifer Lopez, and COLD AROUND THE HEART written and directed by Ridley and starring David Caruso, Kelly Lynch and Stacey Dash, both excellent, intimate, dark noirs/neo-noirs in the vein of films such as BLOOD SIMPLE and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE.

Unfortunately both films were released in 1997, the year of Blockbusters such as TITANIC, GOOD WILL HUNTING, FIFTH ELEMENT, MEN IN BLACK, as well as the year of the crime film/neo noir JACKIE BROWN, LA CONFIDENTIAL, LOST HIGHWAY, THE GAME. It was just a case of bad timing, and these great movies getting squeezed out at the box office.

Unfortunately I think what the financial under-performance of the films, specifically COLD AROUND THE HEART robbed us of most, was more work from John Ridley as director. I think in any less big-budget heavy year, his COLD AROUND THE HEART would have done for him what ONE FALSE MOVE did for the career of Carl Franklin, or the aforementioned BLOOD SIMPLE did for the Coen Brothers.

As it is both films are available on DVD (unfortunately Director’s Commentary versions aren’t yet out there) and can be appreciated for the stylish and compelling films they are.

And they led into the next phase of John Ridley’s career.

U Turn: Price your copy here

Cold Around the Heart: Price your copy here

-End of Part I-

Rudolph Fisher, Len Zinberg, Ed Lacy’s Toussaint Moore and ‘credible’ Black Detectives

Ed Lacy was the pseudonym for Leonard S. Zinberg, a writer with a prolific career from the 1930s through to the 1960s. His moniker of Ed Lacy was picked up in the wake of his return from World War II, and most mentions of this writer take into account only his post 1950s ‘Ed Lacy’ titled work, ignoring quite an abundant career under his own and at least one other pseudonym.

For the sake of this article we’ll use the names Lacy/Zinberg interchangeably to discuss all his work. Because the same thread of conscience and passions are in his work throughout his career, and throughout his pseudonyms.

What separates Leonard (Len) Zinberg’s pulp fiction is his social conscience. A lifelong jazz lover, humanist, activist, and socialist, in addition to just thrilling fiction he also wrote on the social injustices of the day, even decades prior to donning the Ed Lacy moniker. His explosion on the pulp/mystery scene was an outgrowth of returning from the war to an America and a world, forever changed by atrocities human and atomic, and his need to support his family.

Being in a mixed marriage, a lover of Harlem night life, and a fixture of the music, literary and boxing scenes there, Zinberg’s mystery novels had an authenticity that many lacked. Like Chester Himes, he could speak on more than the tropes of the private eye medium, but use the medium to touch on larger insightful and incisive examinations of America.

In addition Leonard’s work was respected by some of the standout writers of the day, including voices as august as Ralph Ellison, who saw in Leonard’s writing someone with keen insight into the conditions and quality of Black life in America.

This is what Ralph Ellison had to say in 1940 about Leonard’s first novel WALK HARD, TALK LOUD-

“For several years Len Zinberg, a young white writer, has been producing short stories that reveals an acute and sympathetic interest in the Negro’s problems. In his first novel, WALK HARD, TALK LOUD Mr. Zinberg tells the story of a Negro Prize fighter. The writer is far more successful than most writers who approach Negro life from the outside, even those who command more art (Ernest Hemingway, for example, from whom Zinberg has learned much)…WALK HARD, TALK LOUD is an exciting first novel with plenty of action and suspense. Len Zinberg indicates how far a writer, whose approach to Negro life is uncolored by condescension, stereotyped ideas, and other faults growing out of race prejudice, is able to go with a Marxist understanding of the economic basis of Negro personality. That plus a Marxist sense of humanity, carries the writer a long way in a task considered extremely difficult: for a white writer to successfully depict Negro character.”
—Ralph Ellison, New Masses 17 Dec 1940

A prolific writer Leonard wrote numerous novels and hundreds of articles and short stories, however Zinberg is one of many writers whose work has all but been scratched from history, due in part to his socialist ties. A victim of the age of the red scare, his work has been little adapted, and has been largely out of print for decades. Though the rise of Ebooks are allowing this author and his body of work to start to reach a new generation, in an affordable manner.

Indeed to illustrate his new visibility, it’s become commonplace on the Internet to credit Ed Lacy with writing the ‘first credible Black PI’ for his Toussaint M. Moore character that appeared in 1957s ROOM TO SWING.

The only problem with that assertion is… it’s incorrect.

People online simply parroting an uninformed comment posted first, seemingly, on the MysteryFile website, and picked up by those who are perhaps a bit too lazy or too unprofessional to do due diligence to verify their borrowed ‘truths’.

Here’s the thing ‘First credible Black PI’? What exactly is that supposed to mean? Lacy/Zinberg didn’t create the first Black PI, credible or otherwise. Credible, seemingly code for ‘it was created by a White person’.

Being a bit facetious there, but the point is there were quite a few Black PI characters, by Black writers prior to Zinberg’s addition to the field..

Most notably Rudolph Fisher’s character of Dr. John Archer appearing in 1932s THE CONJURE MAN DIES:A MYSTERY TALE OF DARK HARLEM, which given Leonard’s interests he was probably very familiar with, and a fan of, before embarking on his own writing career.(no doubt not ‘credible’ because Archer in addition to solving crimes in his off time, is a Doctor? Hate to break it to you… you being the ‘credible’ crowd, but the Black gentleman who wrote the character of Dr. Archer was in addition to being a writer, also a Radiologist, and a Musician. He was if anything, more extraordinary than his fictions)

Rudolph Fisher, who’ll I’ll be doing an upcoming post on, was a true renaissance man, in his short life. The 1920s seeing the blooming of many a brilliant man of color, and Rudolph Fisher, a guiding light of the Harlem Renaissance, was certainly one of the pivotal figures of the 20s and early 30s.

So I just wanted to clear up that ‘credible PI’ comment. Which is really just denigrating double-speak for, ‘we’re going to give you (Zinberg- a socialist we don’t like anyhow) a backhanded compliment, and at the same time disparage Black writers who came before you because, they are Black and we don’t think anything they write is credible”, it’s just a staggeringly brain-dead comment, that insults Zinberg and writers as varied and acclaimed as Rudolph Fisher.

Preserve us from moronic catchphrases taken up by parrots; I’m reminded of the catchphrase ‘refugees’ that was on every newscasters teleprompter during Katrina. It just shows that we are perhaps more a propaganda nation, in line with Germany of the 30s, then we choose to recognize or admit. The bane and death of a free society, being a compromised mass media.

Okay, having taken umbrage with that comment and shot it in the heart, as it so richly deserves, let’s get back to Zinberg proper. By all means read the works of Leonard Zinberg/Ed Lacy and enjoy them, there is much to enjoy and he deserves to be rediscovered. But he deserves discovery not for the bs reasons the lazy and bigoted try to coin, but for the real reasons of he was a gifted writer, with a real social conscience, and something to say about folly and fools.

And surviving them.

Here’s an excerpt from his 1957 Edgar Award Winning novel ROOM TO SWING:

1
I BROKE par in Bingston. It’s a little town of a couple of thousand in southern Ohio and you can take in the entire town in about three minutes. It took me less than a minute to learn all I wanted to know—that I’d made a mistake coming here.

The main drag looks bigger than it should because they get a lot of trade from nearby farms. I parked my car in front of the largest store—a drugstore—and went in. The few people passing stared at me like I’d stepped out of a flying saucer. Okay, even though my Jaguar is an eight-year-old job I picked up for six hundred bucks, any foreign heap attracts attention. A fact which was worrying me nuts at the moment; attention was the last thing I needed.

I was a positive sensation inside the store—everything stopped dead still. The fat soda jerk stared at me with disbelief, a guy having breakfast at the counter spun around, toast in mouth, and made big eyes, the druggist was getting some mail from an old Negro postman and they both looked startled. It was a well-stocked place, more like a general store. I saw the phone booths and walked over. The Bingston phone book is about the size and thickness of a Broadway theater program. There wasn’t any May Russell listed.

Figuring there had to be more to the phone book than this booklet, I started toward the soda jerk to ask. He reacted like a ham actor, his round face showing horror, then a fat grin of relief as he glanced at the door. I turned to see a cop coming at me, coming fast. Some small-town cops sport musical-comedy uniforms. This one was a stocky, middle-aged joker in high-polished black boots, gray breeches with a wide purple stripe down the sides, leather wind-breaker with the largest badge I ever saw, and a kind of cowboy hat. There wasn’t any doubt as to why he was coming; his gun was loose in its holster and he was actually holding a billy in his right hand. I didn’t see how they could be looking for me so soon, but my stomach began turning somersaults. I got set; if I could flatten this cop and make the door I was safe.

The mailman was suddenly in my way, both hands on my right fist as he whispered, “Relax, son.”
“Get out of my face!” I said, pulling my hand away. The cop was on top of us. The mailman nodded at him and said, “Hello, Mr. Williams.”

“Hello, Sam. Anything for me?”
“I left a few letters at your office,” the postman said, still blocking me.
The cop asked me, “Stranger in town, boy?”
“Yeah.” I’d been called boy more times in the last half a dozen hours than in my whole life.
“That’s what I thought. I’d better explain a few things to you.”

“What things?” I said, my eyes on his billy hand. I pushed the mailman out of the way but the damn fool stepped right back in front of me.

“What you doing here, boy?”

“Looking in the phone book. That against the law?”

“Nope. I thought maybe you was thinking of eating in here. Being new, maybe you don’t know it ain’t the custom for colored to eat in here.”

I got a little mad and I relaxed, almost sagged with relief. I was still in the clear. The crazy thing that stuck in my mind was that this cop had a kind face, and if anything, he was talking very gently —with the billy ready for action. I told him, “I wasn’t planning on eating the phone book.”

— ROOM TO SWING by Len Zinberg (witing as Ed Lacy) 1957
Room To Swing: Only a Few Copies left in stock. Price your copy here!

It’s a good place to start, but definitely don’t neglect Zinberg’s other work, including his pre-war time stories and novel.

THE BEST PODCASTS OF 2011!!

“I felt kinda silly, the way you do when you find a hole in your sock at the shoe store.”
– from JOHNNY MADERO, PIER 23

Hilarious. JOHNNY MADERO is a poor man’s PAT NOVAK. A rival network’s attempt to replicate the popularity of the PAT NOVAK radio show. But MADERO’s saving grace was it was also performed by the great Jack Webb, it’s not as good as PAT NOVAK, but boy does it have its moments.

Only two episodes are known to exist, and both are available via Archive.Org.

Okay a while back I did a post that was ominously titled… ‘THE END OF PODCASTS?’, and at the end of that post I promised that I would follow up with the other side of the coin, reasons to be hopeful and overjoyed about podcasts.

In other words, a post praising the people still out there kicking out constantly great podcasts.

Without further ado they are:

MOVIES
B-MOVIE CAST
HORROR ETC

COMICS
COMIC GEEK SPEAK

MUSIC
BLUE PLATE SPECIAL
ELEVATOR CLUB
VINYL, LIVE AND LOCAL

DRAMA / OTR
BOXCARS711- Bob C’s site is a staggering, and authoritative labor of love to one of my favorite mediums, radio drama. Specifically he covers OTR, Old Time Radio.

Those are some that I recommend. I’ll add more next time, including links. But Easy way to find them yourself is go to http://www.scroogle.org and use that search engine. (just say no to google :))


—To Be continued

Today’s Recommended Old Time Radio Show: the DRAGNET episode BIG GIRL!

“The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Oct 1949- You are a detective sergeant You’re assigned to robbery detail. 16 persons have been robbed and beaten senseless. The victims describe the assailant as a tall, beautiful woman. Your job… stop her.”
— from the DRAGNET episode BIG GIRL

Jack Webb is the force behind some of my favorite Old Time radio shows, among them PAT NOVAK and PETE KELLY’S BLUES, but DRAGNET was clearly his most successful show. A favorite of law enforcement officers, and with the full backing of law enforcement agencies throughout the US, it’s easy to see why its no-nonsense format compelled.

Six Decades later and the show still compels. Listen to BIG GIRL for yourself HERE!

DVD FACEOFF Review: Idris Elba’s LUTHER vs 55 DEGREES NORTH

I just watched the 1st season of the BBC show LUTHER, and I have to admit to addictively enjoying it for the great majority of its run.

It is very unusual for me to review a series and go into specifics, because I avoid such reviews myself. I don’t like spoilers, I like to go into something fresh. All I need to know is if you liked something or not, and general reasons why, I don’t need a play by play.

Unfortunately LUTHER is one of those rare shows that requires more detail, than I typically like to give when reviewing a show. This detail necessary in order to relate accurately my feelings on the show’s 1st season.

I will attempt to be as general as possible, but there are spoilers below. So for those looking to avoid all spoilers and just get the gist of my feel on this show, just jump to the last paragraph.

The first thing that has to be said is, I think with a lesser actor in the lead role the show would have sunk under its weight of…excess. Its extremes pushing it dangerously close toward parody and the farcical. Like one actor states when describing the show, ‘it’s not realism, it’s arched to the point of theatrics’, and needs especially capable actors to ground this.

And they pull that off spectacularly for most of the episodes that make up season 1 of LUTHER.

The high point of course being the lead. Idris Elba is one of the best and most commanding actors of his generation, and none of those gifts are wasted in this series, about a London Inspector Detective, a monster hunter at a cross-roads. He brings a nuanced strength and believability to a role, that as stated pivots wildly between the understated and the monstrous.

The episodes ramping up till # 5 which is the most outrageous episode of the run, an amazing hour of television, packing more delirious ups and downs then in a typical season of most shows, or in most 2 hour movies for that matter.

Part of the jaw dropping nature of it, is the irrational actions of a main character, who to cover up a minor crime, compounds it with a blood bath that makes no sense. So part of the strength of that episode is its nonsensical nature, the audience can’t keep up because it is irrational.

Episode 5 is clearly influenced by the 1st season of 24, so those holding this up as British television’s originality over American television, would be incorrect. But while not original, the twist and turns of LUTHER are unexpected and for the most part well done.

However it doesn’t work quite as well here as in 24, because that betrayal, that Greek tragedy reveal comes out of nowhere here, and is not really supported in anything covered in the brief season of LUTHER. So everything rests on the final episode to give some perspective to the lunacy of episode 5, and that simply does not happen.

The last episode, episode 6, the season conclusion, instead leaves a taste of ashes in my mouth. The show LUTHER perhaps being more appropriately named after a different historical and Literary figure, Job. Since the trials of Job are what they put Idris Elba’s character through.

If anything the season ender is too steeped in such broad melodrama and theatrics, and strains suspension of disbelief too far. I’m willing to meet a show half way, but this episode went off the rails in terms of poor justifications and even poorer character actions/decisions.

This final episode steeped in what can be called, I think accurately, moronic actions from all involved, including Luther, especially the supposed brilliant Luther. As one character states “you’re not acting in a reasonable way’ and that’s the mantra for the last two episodes of LUTHER for all the characters. They are all written as caricatures of people, rather than real 3 dimensional personalities, their actions coming off as inane and contrived, to steamroll viewers to the series protracted and unsatisfying conclusion.

For a show that prides itself on being innovative, the finale is largely a very idiotic and moronic episode,that does not do justice to what has come before. The plotting is unlikely and haphazard at best, and the cliffhanger denouement… lacking.

It is insultingly stupid to be blunt. Here we have a character supposedly one of the best detectives and his female ally, one of the most brilliant sociopaths, and the best plan they could come up with, to trap the end game villain, is arranging a meeting in full view of snipers, and just hoping on absolute luck to escape without being shot or taken into custody by police!?. Really? That’s your master plan? It is moronic.

And the purpose of this suicide mission? To allow a civilian, someone who has no interest in believing the protagonist’s protestations of innocence to help save the day? And the civilian not only buys it but agrees to commit a felony. Agrees to walk into police headquarters, sneak unnoticed into the police locker room, break into a locker and find diamonds (Diamonds that somehow Luther magically guesses the location of. Guessing exactly where the villain is keeping them. Really??? Talk about plot contrivance), and get out without being noticed or stopped.

Really?

I do respect Neil Cross for creating this series/character, but I just think he wrote himself into a brick wall, and just couldn’t write himself out of it and ended up with a very, very flawed and contrived final episode.

I mean it is absolute dreck, if you take half a second to consider it. It is an incoherent muddied mess. And this is followed up by the third ludicrousness, plot idiocy/contrivance, of telling the bad guy about the theft before you know it has been pulled off.

Really? Come on!

Thus giving the bad guy time to try and stop the theft. And all these mistakes and suicide by cop ideas avoided, the final purpose is to lure the villain to a location so you can catch him confessing on tape??

That’s your brilliant idea???

A confession that is completely inadmissible, as the very show illustrates in episode 5, how audio recordings can be manipulated, and are worthless in and of themselves.

So the whole endgame is a tissue of faulty logic and questionable dumb luck.

And the culmination of this episode’s stupidity, and what really just annoyed me and soured me above everything else, is Luther has the upper hand on the monster that has done all this damage, and ends up talking himself out of that upper-hand and into receiving a butt whupping, that engenders him needing to be saved… again, by his homicidal female ally.

I think Neil Cross progressively writing not only the series as a whole, but his lead character specifically, less convincingly with each episode.,

And to add to the issues, let’s ignore little common sense things that would have made more… well sense, in proving the protagonist’s innocence and the other person’s guilt; cell phone records, and geo-location of cell phone signals just to name one option.

As the show takes pains to point out, this is a monitored, near Orwellian 21st century Britain, where everything is seen, and everything recorded. These are 21st century detectives. So if they couldn’t pull actual recordings of crucial conversations between Luther and the Killer, at least the who, when , where of these calls is something they can pull. Luther’s cell phone was in use miles away at the time of the death he’s accused of . And a triangulation of other cell records would probably prove where the real criminal was at the time of all three unsolved murders of Episode #5. Thus giving the besieged protagonist reasonable doubt if nothing else, to help at least sway his Chief Detective to his side.

Just simple common sense stuff like that is ignored in favor of hysterical and nonsensical plot contrivances. And obviously this didn’t bother some, as the first season was well received, but as I stated… for me the season finale left the taste of ashes in my mouth.

And obsessing on that ending, (Spoilers)Comeon he should have at least shot the villain in the knees to shut him up if nothing else, rather than ending up punked on the wrong end of a knife. I hate these filmic cliches of turning your back on the villain or letting down your guard etc. I don’t find it gripping or good writing, I find it boring and to be cliched, hack writing.

That kind of writing comes off as an insult to my intelligence, and just ended up unduly sullying a show, that for most of the season I was quite behind.

There’s supposedly a 2nd season now available, and I’m lukewarm on investing the time to see it, but I will. Mostly to see if series creator Neil Cross imbues that with less of the lunacy and idiocy that marred for me the culmination of season 1, and can recapture the strengths of series 1.

So all that said I do recommend Season 1 of LUTHER, unsatisfying end acknowledged, the first 5 episodes of season 1 are worth the price of admission.

And to be fair I’m only this disappointed in the ending, because of how impressed I was with the shows buildup, highlighted by great cinematography, excellent soundtrack, impressive montage sequences (I love the opening credit sequence and the theme song), and of course for the most part… stellar performances and direction. Final Grade: B.

*****

And if you like LUTHER I would direct you to a similar, but I feel superior BBC police procedural, the little seen but riveting 55 DEGREES NORTH.

A show that ran for a brief two seasons, it eschews the brutal and tortured extremes of LUTHER, to instead be a lowkey tale, of a small English countryside police force.

Don Gilet and the striking Dervla Kirwan (that’s a lot of woman! :) Please excuse that bit of sexism, but easy on the eyes… she is :) ), headlining a show that is some odd mating of Moonlighting meets Homicide meets Diagnosis Murder, while being quite a unique and original take on a police procedural.

No serial killers here, these are more prosaic crimes, but the show, in an age of grim and gritty, is all the more welcome for that light touch. And the final episode ties everything up with quite an enjoyable ending. 55 DEGRESS NORTH
comes highly recommended. The full show is available on DVD. B+/A-.

MOVIE DVD REVIEW: Brian DePalma’s OBSESSION

Brian DePalma’s OBSESSION- A reworking of Hitchcock’s VERTIGO, which I consider a masterpiece, OBSESSION is actually better than Vertigo. It’s a gorgeous film and taken in context of when it was filmed, 1976, before most reading this were born… quite amazing!

The film sent Hitchcock into a sputtering rage, and he couldn’t see the brilliant, and quite unique film, for what it was. A young filmmaker who idolized him creating something that transcended homage. Hitchcock’s reaction broke Depalma’s heart, and effectively buried the film. Which is a shame, because it is in its own right a unique and influential film.

Go see the film for yourself. Don’t read any reviews, any plot synopsis, just buy the flick, don’t cheat yourself of a beautifully shot, innovative, and quite touching film. It’s leisurely paced, but sumptuous love story, and every camera angle is right, and every performance great.

My suggestion, pick up the DVD, it’s increasingly hard to find, but is worth the hunt and the expense. Amazon has a couple copies, not cheap, available here:

Obsession

Movie Review: THE ELIGIBLE BACHELOR… The best SHERLOCK HOLMES Film?!

This article/review Copyright 2011-2012 Masai Inc.

THE ELIGIBLE BACHELOR was the fifth and last of the feature length Sherlock Holmes’ movies, produced by Granada Television and WGBH Boston, starring the great Jeremy Brett and the talented Edward Hardwicke it is also seen as the capper to the third series of Sherlock Holmes, “The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes” (Not quite correct since the source story is actually part of Doyle’s 1st short story collection, THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES).

While I intend to do an overview of the entire venerated and venerable series in an upcoming installment, for this post I wanted to cover this specific episode, that left quite an impression on me, THE ELIGIBLE BACHELOR.

Available either in boxed set containing all the Jeremy Brett episodes, not the cheapest thing on the planet but considering it is the complete collection, over 2500 minutes of (without argument from me) the finest film interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, and comes with commentaries and booklet it is HIGHLY recommended (Make sure you are buying from a reputable seller, as there are low quality copies out there without commentaries or booklet). Or if you just want the ELIGIBLE BACHELOR DVD, there’s a link for that as well.

If you’re going to purchase please click on the respective DVD images below. Your DVD collection will thank you, and this blog can always use the 2 cents (And I only recommend items I personally own, and think are great).

Enough schilling, now onto the review:

At the time of THE ELIGIBLE BACHELOR’s filming, Early 1993 (It would air Feb 1993 in England and a year later, Feb 1994 in the States), Jeremy Brett had been playing, masterfully, the role of Sherlock Holmes for over Nine years. And would produce only 6 more Sherlock Holmes episodes, and two non-Holmes feature films prior to his death a scant two years later on 12 September 1995 at the age of 61.

Cause of death has been listed as iatrogenic congestive cardiac failure, which is a fancy way of saying medical incompetence. The medicine Brett was being given to treat his supposed Bi-polar disorder wreaked havoc with his, from a childhood sickness, already weakened heart. Though to be fair, no doubt Brett’s heavy smoking habit had no small part in his untimely demise.

What is unquestionable is that Brett’s appearance and the state of his health would take a quite noticeable and quite drastic turn for the worse in 1994, and is clearly seen in these last shows he left us. But like the driven, consummate professional he was, he soldiered on, to the last. Bringing, to the very end, a dedication that is only to be admired and marveled at.

But if one must pick an episode of Sherlock Holmes and a performance of Jeremy Brett from this latter period to hold up as great, as perfect denouement for a career and character… it would be the haunting and haunted ELIGIBLE BACHELOR.

This episode is selected for various reasons, the foremost being….

Well, let’s stop there. I think that gives you a pretty good taste of why this is one of the most popular articles on this blog. The Full, huge,jam packed 2800 word!!! review/article is available either in PDF format(great for laptops and desktops) or Epub (perfect for tablets and ereaders) format. Very low cost for this popular article, and your purchase is GREATLY APPRECIATED and helps me keep producing content on this blog.

So ONLY $4.99 for this great reading material/content. Oh you know you want it. :) So Use the paypal button below (it’ll take you to paypal to make payment), once payment is received the full article will be emailed to you (please specify if you want PDF or EPUB). Thanks for looking and supporting and please enjoy! Thanks!

This article/review Copyright 2011-2012 Masai Inc.

The Last Black Samurai: Remembering Marc Olden; an interview with Diane Crafford

22 Feb 2012 Wednesday

There’s some news on the horizon regarding Mark Olden’s seminal series BLACK SAMURAI, as well as other work. I don’t have the thumbs up yet… to break the news, but in the interim I thought it was a great time to re-present this fun and informative interview, to tide you over.

Plus it has been updated with new pics, courtesy of Ms. Crafford. Please Enjoy!

And is it me, or does the new film THE RAVEN bear more than a passing resemblance to Marc Olden’s POE MUST DIE? hmmmm. :) .

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The fact that what you are about to read and hear is a YEAR in the preparation, goes to the absurd vagaries of mi vida loca, my crazy life.

But here finally, before the clock turns over on yet another year is my interview with Diane Crafford, on one of my favorite writers, the late, great and incomparable Marc Olden.

We’ll start with the text portion of the interview, and following that the pretty free flowing audio interview. HUGE, HUGE thanks to Diane for her time, her good humor, her anecdotes, and her extreme patience.

Now without further delay….

1st to set the stage.

Who is Marc Olden?

Marc Olden is a writer I became aware of, oddly enough on an auction site. Being something of a bibliophile I’m always looking to pick up books, and no doubt I was looking for either Warren Murphy’s DESTROYER books, or books by the late great Donald Goines.

And instead I came across this auction of a near complete series of BLACK SAMURAI books by Marc Olden. Being a Blackophile as well as a Bibliophile :) , the title alone, as well as the very impressive 70s art on the paperbacks were enough for me to decide to purchase the books.

So I won the auction got the books, and was… from book one, blown away. This was not the hokey Jim Kelly movie, this was the undiluted source material, and it was pure and gritty, and brilliantly written. I’ve a huge fan of the Warren Murphy DESTROYER books, as well as the James Bonds and the MacK Bolans, but BLACK SAMURAI takes it to another level. BLACK SAMURAI is the BEST of that flooded market that was Men’s Action Adventure Books of the 70s. And the fact that it was so relatively short lived, also makes it a far more accessible body of work, and to my mind, far more prized.

And passion leading to passion, I just became obsessed with collecting all the work, primarily the 70s work, of this somehow inexplicably under the radar writer. Two of the holy grails being the Edgar Nominated POE MUST DIE, and the even more obscure BOOK OF SHADOWS (which I have to thank Diane for really making me aware of).

And reading his books led me to wanting to share with the world more of this, I felt and feel, brilliant, important, and overlooked writer.

So I reached out to the person who was keeping the late Mr. Olden’s web presence alive, the gracious Diane Crafford, and she was both kind and crazy enough to consent to the following free flowing and I believe informative and engaging interview/conversation.

The early part of our interview… the audio does not capture Diane’s, bubbly, fun, immersive personality, so I’m going to transcribe that from notes, and memory as best I can (I have a tendency toward the romantic, so anything that sounds like bs I take the blame for) bullet points mainly, and then we’ll kick into the audio.

HT: Hi Diane, thanks in advance for your time. We’re here to discuss Marc Olden one of my, and I assume your, favorite writers. Now most of this I got from your site as well as my research: He’s done over 40 books. His first work of fiction NARC a series of nine novels. He also produced the eight book BLACK SAMURAI series, made into a bad movie with Jim Kelly. And POE MUST DIE a stunning immersive novel drenched in period detail.

DC: You do your homework.

HT: I try. Now I’m detecting a bit of an accent, and your name Crafford, Londoner?

DC: Welsh, actually.

HT: Ahh, missed it by that much. Now tell me a little about Marc Olden behind the books

DC: Well he was born in Baltimore and was a press agent before he gave it up to become a writer. And once he chose that road, he embraced it completely. He had a strong work ethic, he wrote every day. His Black Samurai series was written at the same time he wrote the Narc series. It was while writing Narc he got to know guys in Law Enforcement. With advanced degree black belts in Japanese Karate and Aikido, he coached and mentored many members of the NYPD in Aikido.

HT: So his writing was an extension of the man.

DC: Yes. Like every good writer he wrote what he knew, of his passions. And after the NARC, BLACK SAMURAI books, he went into stand-alone novels such as INFORMANT. It did well but was not a best seller.

HT: Going back to BLACK SAMURAI series for a second, what did he think of the film?

DC: He had no input into the film. And resigned himself to it being something distinct from his work.

HT: Well let’s backup a bit, and tell us bit about you and how you met Marc.

DC: -I met him here at New York. He was a press agent for a restaurant, and I was working in film. We hit it off immediately. He had a way of carrying himself. –Later I was in London working for a film Producer, Sidney Dujer. The film was THE TWELVE CHAIRS starring Frank Lagella.

It’s amazing the little decisions that make all the difference. Marc went from Press Agent to writer, writing magazine articles. And then was approached to write a book on Angela Davis. And at that time I was looking for work, and became his transcriptionist. He had a head full of stories, he loved to tell them. And at the center of them was his belief in Justice.

HT: Now how did one of his earliest books, and what I consider not just one of his best books, but one of THE best books, POE MUST DIE come about? It seems a very ecletic work and ahead of its time work, mixing historical fiction and figures, mystery, horror, action, and adventure.

DC: He loved Edgar Allen Poe and he loved Charles Dickens. And POE MUST DIE at its heart is his love letter to those influences, but done as only he could do it. Dicken’s Christmas Carol, all about redemption, at the heart of this elaborately researched and gothic murder mystery,

HT: I can definitely see that. The book is so full of period detail, and authenticity, it puts you there in that place and in that time, of a wilder and younger England and America. What were some of his other inspirations?

DC: He thought Raymond Chandler was the best American writer. He was inspired by Eastern Philosophy through his mother and father (his father was George Olden, an art director). This filtered down to the type of man he was. Very calm, very contained, very brave and strong. I once asked him, “What is it that makes you so together?” and he said, “Good looks and the power of prayer.”And while he said it with a smile, that was sincere, it was how he lived his life. In balance.

“It was a different breed of man who sat in the cherrywood chair, his legs crossed under a cashmere robe, a thin volume on his lap. His graying hair, immaculately groomed, seemed to highlight a strong-lined, somber face… An aura of greatness and elegance seemed to permeate his being, as if his presence lent dignity to the book-lined walls. He seemed like what men should be, but never were.“
….THE DESTROYER: CREATED, THE DESTROYER by Warren Murphy.

HT: You can see that balance in his work. It’s very measured and… sincere. Which is an odd thing to say about fiction, but he wrote fiction with Authenticity.

DC: Yes. All his work was an extension of his interests. Take BOOK OF SHADOWS, he got the idea for that on one of our annual trips to England. He loved history and was a real Anglophile. He became intrigued by the canals that snaked through England, and that was the impetus for BOOK OF SHADOWS about vacationing American’s who stumble across things best left undisturbed.

***********************************

Okay that brings our text portion to an end. Onto the audio. You’re going to hear a lot of paper shuffling, that’s me jotting down notes, and flipping back and forth in my book, to consult my notes. I don’t think it distracts too much, Diane does a great job. So please enjoy! And bottom line, if you haven’t read anything by Marc Olden, go to Diane’s site and get acquainted. I would also suggest purchasing through her site.

Diane’s great site on Marc Olden

For more on Marc Olden, and particularly BLACK SAMURAI also see the following sites:

Great overview of the 8 Book BLACK SAMURAI series
More great Marc Olden/Black Samurai coverage

The below audio is a little over 33 minutes,, and the audio has been noise reduced to minimize the sound (my frantic note taking) as much as possible. Not great audio, but definitely listenable, and DEFINITELY informative.

Okay! You can listen to it HERE!

Copyright 2000-2012 Masai Inc and other specified writers. Images copyright their respective owners.