Fascinating and confusing in equal measure. Quite how Robert Evans managed to remain "poor" throughout his career took some doing. If he hadn't been s...moreFascinating and confusing in equal measure. Quite how Robert Evans managed to remain "poor" throughout his career took some doing. If he hadn't been such a gambler he'd never have achieved anything. A safe bet would have have left him a discontented multi-millionaire and there would be little of interest to the reader. As things, are we can enjoy the Hollywood lifestyle vicariously. Apparently the audio book is the best version to have; Evans has the great voice and acting ability to make this a sought-after treasure. I would like to listen to it even after reading the book just to hear him read on page 59.
Zanuck, all five foot three of him, stood - bullhorn in hand. "The kid stays in the picture. And anybody who doesn't like it can quit!"... It was then I learned what a producer was - a Boss. It was then I wanted to be D.Z., not some half-assed actor shitting in his pants, desperate for a nod of approval.
A constant delight. Maybe not quite as consistently funny as the original but still contains enough new words and phrases that we never knew we needed...moreA constant delight. Maybe not quite as consistently funny as the original but still contains enough new words and phrases that we never knew we needed e.g. Scurdie Ness n. Other people's rubbish on a cafe table you have to clear away before you can sit down, and Murroes pl. n. The tramlines made by dragging a fork across mashed potato.(less)
I suppose we are all now such experts on psychological profiling that this might seem a bit old hat but it still manages to be quite shocking, especia...moreI suppose we are all now such experts on psychological profiling that this might seem a bit old hat but it still manages to be quite shocking, especially pulling the same trick that Hitchcock springs on the audience of "Psycho". It certainly shocked me and it took a few dozen pages before I forgave the author for it. Presumably this novel was written well before the Jimmy Savile scandal broke but the parallels are disturbing. A well loved but "damaged" TV presenter praying on teenage girls while fooling the public and establishment alike that he's a national treasure - the third most trusted man in the country who also does a "lotta good work for charidy mate", including haunting the corridors of hospitals in the north east of England and running marathons while also raking off a substantial profit for himself. People will still choose to believe in the image they have of a hero even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are a bad character. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, "The Retribution", which is also available currently for 99p as a download. Does Tony Hill meet his Nemesis? Probably not as the next book in the series is already on the shelves.(less)
Elmore Leonard made two very interesting points in a radio interview. Firstly he said that he tries to avoid description of a character's features so...moreElmore Leonard made two very interesting points in a radio interview. Firstly he said that he tries to avoid description of a character's features so that the reader can decide for themselves about their appearance (hence Jackie Burke, 275lb hunk of prime white American beefcake in his novel Rum Punch becomes a diminutive, black air stewardess in Tarantino's film of the book - possibly; I haven't read Rum Punch) and also that if you introduce a gun into a novel somebody had better shoot with it or best leave it out. His dialogue-heavy but spare prose reads like a screenplay and informs you about the personalities involved even though the title character is taciturn. The guns are utilized satisfactorily (are there any westerns without guns?) and usually with dire consequences for the protagonists. I haven't seen the movie so Paul Newman didn't influence my inward eye. I have an omnibus edition of Leonard's western short stories which is great and Hombre, which is no more than a novella, can be read in the time it takes to watch a film. Well worth it.(less)
Read as a "palate cleanser" following the recently read account of a true life serial killer which still haunts me. This story can be read in a single...moreRead as a "palate cleanser" following the recently read account of a true life serial killer which still haunts me. This story can be read in a single day and involves Miss Marple not only thinking but actually creeping about and spying through windows. The Caribbean setting is superfluous, this is Miss Marple unravelling which of the hotel guests is a previous killer in an attempt to prevent further murders. As usual there is a high body count but nobody who dies would be missed particularly and the killer is unmasked satisfactorily so that life can return to its previous serenity. (less)
This is the horrifically fascinating account of the painstaking gathering of evidence and successful prosecution of Wales' most wanted serial killer a...moreThis is the horrifically fascinating account of the painstaking gathering of evidence and successful prosecution of Wales' most wanted serial killer and rapist John Cooper, who, fortunately for us all, will never see the outside of a gaol again. Not for the faint of heart. The graphic forensic detail supplied by DCS Steve Wilkins ensures that there can be no doubt of the evil perpetrated by this loathsome man who had a penchant for breaking into isolated cottages and terrorising lone females before making off with small amounts of money and jewellery that he would sell to feed his gambling habit. His reign of terror was thrust into the public gaze in late 1985 when he shot and killed brother and sister, Richard and Helen Thomas at Scoveston Manor which he then set ablaze in order to try and cover his tracks. I have vivid recollection of this night because I was the accident and emergency officer at the hospital where Mr Thomas's partially incinerated body was brought for examination. I certified him dead (not difficult) and the detective present pointed out a sinister hole in the only uncharred part of the body down in the pallid lower abdomen. He asked me if I thought it was a bullet hole and we agreed that an X-ray would be useful. That was the end of my involvement and I went back to bed. If I'd known that this was the beginning of the career of a serial killer I don't think that I would have been able to get back to sleep. Four years later Cooper struck again robbing, assaulting and murdering a middle aged couple, the Dixons, on the Pembrokeshire Coast path. Typically with the arrogance of a psychopathic killer, the same day he calmly sold Mr Dixon's wedding ring and used his cash card. Further robberies and a disgusting rape later Cooper was jailed, but only for the series of robberies. He was a prime suspect for the rape and the four murders but evidence was circumstantial as forensic science was not quite as advanced then. Fortunately the serious case review team decided that it was worth putting in several years' effort in order to secure Coopers' conviction before he could strike again - he was due for release from prison and indeed did spend some time free and back in Pembrokeshire (and seemingly preparing to strike again) before the case against him was considered foolproof. If the definition of genius is "an infinite capacity for taking pains" then the Dyfed Powys police force "Ottawa" team are worthy of that epithet. The seemingly overwhelming evidence of Copper's guilt was sifted and reviewed so thoroughly that the defence team were left totally exposed. Cooper was revealed as an evil monster whose family lived in terror of his violence even when he was behind bars. His sickening habit of keeping souvenirs from his victims, keys and clothing in particular thankfully led to his undoing.(less)
Listened to the audio book version which had me hooked for a week while running and driving. I hadn't read any Dick Francis for years and was always a...moreListened to the audio book version which had me hooked for a week while running and driving. I hadn't read any Dick Francis for years and was always a little sceptical of likelihood of former jockeys turning detective. When an injured former jockey and financial adviser Nick Foxton's work colleague is shot dead next to him at The Grand National race meeting, a series of events follow that ensure that Nick becomes the next target of the assassin. While sometimes straying into absurdity and containing any number of excruciating female characters the excitement rarely lets up. It might have been a better book without any of the stereotypical women in it at all or they should at least remain silent! Perhaps they read better than they sound. Foxton is occasionally inspired but daft enough to continually ignore THE obvious clue which might hold the key to the mystery and is very careful to make sure the bad people know exactly where he is so that they can come and shoot at him. Felix Francis is a worthy successor to his father.(less)
Another almost effortlessly stupendous book from Britain's favourite American import. Bryson manages to weave the improbable highlights and lowlife's...moreAnother almost effortlessly stupendous book from Britain's favourite American import. Bryson manages to weave the improbable highlights and lowlife's of 1927 America into a gripping drama. America is beginning to flex its considerable financial and entrepreneurial muscle, the springboard to self-belief and top-nationhood being the improbably taciturn Everyman Jimmy Stewart Charles Lindbergh who quietly went about flying the Atlantic solo on a shoestring budget and in an aeroplane from which he couldn't see where he was going without turning sideways and peering out of the window. Lindbergh was a good example of one of Malcolm Gladwell's genius Outliers with his 10,000 hours of practice delivering the mail before popping across to France - his greatest obstacle apparently being the telegraph wires at the end of his take-off runway. Whereas Lindbergh lacked any character the book is filled with outrageous personalities including hero, Babe Ruth, workaholic, Herbert Hoover, tennis genius and gay icon, Bill Tilden, maniac idiot and possibly the stupidest man ever to become a household name, Henry Ford as well as the coolest President ever to be called Calvin.
Coolidge kept an exceedingly light hand on the tiller of state. He presided over an administration that was, in the words of one observer, 'dedicated to inactivity'.
Career Criminals, Nazi-sympathisers, Racists, White Supremacists, Anarchists, Prohibition sympathisers, The inventor of Electrocution and Murderers are all given their fair share of the limelight. One can almost feel Bryson's joy at turning up so many incredible stories from a single summer slap in the middle of the jazz age. Some of the characters and stories are known but there is fresh information on every page and due recognition is awarded to those unsung heroes without whose inspiration vital things like TV may never have taken off. One can forgive him for the impression that if things weren't happening in New York, Chicago or Washington then there was always something happening in Des Moines, Iowa which seems somehow unduly over-represented as the place to be.(less)
Extraordinarily good; full of marvellously rich characters to root for throughout. The sort of book you want never to finish as you hope for the dispa...moreExtraordinarily good; full of marvellously rich characters to root for throughout. The sort of book you want never to finish as you hope for the disparate story lines to link up in a satisfactory way. "Totally, Dr H." Jackson Brodie (gruff and reliable), DCI Louise (bad wife), Dr Joanna Hunter (perfect mother) and the uncrushable Reggie (scholar and amateur detective) overcome their various life tragedies in order to help each other move on to something better. Not a simple police procedural; more a mystery but with plenty of gore. The style of writing is charming, dropping in reasonably well known literary references makes the reader feel clever so that one is able to forgive a couple of factual errors - I'm not sure it would be possible to go over the top at The Somme (France) and be killed at Passchendaele (Belgium) or that hereditary characteristics can be expressed through mitochondrial DNA. The repetition of various phrases gives the narrative an almost poetic rhythm. Swear to God. Very stylish.(less)
A superior thriller with a cast of the least sympathetic characters imaginable. Simple word of warning: never marry a psychopath. Page-turningly horri...moreA superior thriller with a cast of the least sympathetic characters imaginable. Simple word of warning: never marry a psychopath. Page-turningly horrifying and strangely addictive. You're in safe hands in a thriller when the lawyer starts writing things down on a yellow legal pad. These impossibly glamorous items are indispensable in US novels by John Grisham and his ilk but are not readily available in the UK so I was determined to secure one on a recent trip to New York. Suitably armed with 12 of the little beauties I am now ready to take on the most improbable legal cases. Just need to qualify as a lawyer, or, better still, attorney to uncover the plot holes that must surely be there somewhere.(less)
A fascinating exploration of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, the underlying wonky geology and the social history of victims and heroes of the mo...moreA fascinating exploration of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, the underlying wonky geology and the social history of victims and heroes of the most catastrophic event to hit a major American city. Simon Winchester takes a journey across the North American Plate from its eastern border in central Iceland to the fragile western join against the Pacific Plate against which it is continually grinding. The build up of pressure miles under the earth at the fault line gives suddenly somewhere every few years and the side-slippage in 1906 led to a 21 foot re-alignment in places at the surface. Beautifully written in language the layman can easily understand it becomes all too clear that "The Big One" could happen at any time with consequences likely to dwarf the enormity of 1906 and the more recent Banda Aceh tsunami. Typically:
No greater monument to hubris can be found than in a pretty little town forty miles south of San Francisco, where people have lately made untold millions from their work on designing computers and the vitals that make them work. The town is called Portola Valley...The weather is warm, the fields are green, the trees are noble. There are pleasant little shops selling exquisite and costly goods; Volvos hum quietly along winding country roads; there are bicycle trails and horse paths and golden retrievers, and when runners come out in the evening cool, all of them seem good looking and tanned with that peculiarly honey-coloured skin that will seem so well suited to a Brioni evening at the quiet cocktail parties held underneath the redwood glades and the star-filled skies. But all is in fact nowhere near so well as it looks. The town of Portola Valley, it turns out, has been built exactly astride two of the most active traces of the San Andeas Fault. It is a deeply dangerous place, liable to be destroyed at any moment.
This is as far from a dry-as-dust factual account as it is possible to get; readable, thought-provoking, funny, and terrifying. (less)
A police procedural given an unusual twist by being set in Cardiff, but not the Cardiff with which I am familiar (except the university hospital where...moreA police procedural given an unusual twist by being set in Cardiff, but not the Cardiff with which I am familiar (except the university hospital where I once worked and can confirm it is hard to escape, although I never had to hitch up my skirt and clamber through a window onto the roof of the canteen). Quite how a middle aged male author manages to convey the narrative from the point of view of a psychologically damaged and nervous female detective constable in her early twenties is beyond me but he succeeds brilliantly. The heroine may well be a nightmare to work with owing to her cavalier disregard for regulations and procedure but she makes up for her insubordination by intelligence, intuition and a persistence which is driven by her unusual affinity for the dead.(less)