I can't resist buying books about the making of TV shows, even series I never watched or don't care for much, because I always learn something from itI can't resist buying books about the making of TV shows, even series I never watched or don't care for much, because I always learn something from it. Bear Manor is a small, niche publisher that churns out a lot of these books. The quality of the writing and research on the books is very hit-and-miss, but Bear Manor deserves a lot of credit for even bothering to print them. They're just about the only publisher out there turning out books on obscure, or vintage, TV series at an affordable price (one piece of advice, though, never buy a book about a TV series by James Rosin, you can always count on them to be awful).
I particularly enjoyed Riverboat: The Evolution of a Television Series 1959-1961 by S.L. Kotar and J.E. Gessler, which chronicles the development and very short life span of the western, which starred Darren McGavin (at the same time he was starring in Mike Hammer) and Burt Reynolds. McGavin played the captain of the Enterprise...no, not the starship, but the riverboat...and Reynolds was his pilot. The two characters didn't get along and, as it turned out, neither did the actors. Reynolds was forced out after the first season.
Most books of this sort are written by diehard fans and read like the slobbering labors of love that they are. But this one is different. The authors are diehard McGavin fans, and did all this research as part of their website devoted to the actor, and while they admire him, they aren't so wild about the show. They take a very, very critical eye. The show never found its footing conceptually, and an unusually high turn-over of writer-producers seemed to doom it from the start...
The writing, too, was a mixed bag of (over)experienced and novice writers. Most of the episodes were little more than standard Wagon Train plots transported to a riverboat setting. Few particularly stood out as rising above the rest, and as a whole, they failed miserably to create any significant characterization for [McGavin's character] or the crew. [...]nothing rose head-and-shoulders over routine TV fare. Considering the premise, and Darren McGavin, this was disappointing to say the least.
And that's the nicest thing they have to say about the series. So you might be asking yourself -- if the show was so mediocre, why write a book about it? And why should I read it? Well, if you are a student of TV as I am (even after writing and producing many TV series myself), it's always fascinating to read about the development, production, and fate of a show. And the authors don't skimp on details. The episodes are analyzed in depth and the authors add interesting asides about production. The book is also chock full of rare, never-before-published production stills. If you are a Riverboat or McGavin fan, you're going to love it....more
I loved Tom Franklin's HELL AT THE BREECH...but couldn't get into SMONK. But I am glad to report that CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER is terrific, wellI loved Tom Franklin's HELL AT THE BREECH...but couldn't get into SMONK. But I am glad to report that CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER is terrific, well-deserving of all the acclaim and award nominations it has been receiving. It's about a long-ago incident that involved two teenagers of different race...and a missing girl...and how they are haunted by the consequences well into adulthood. There lots of references to Stephen King in this book, and for good reason,..it's more than a little reminiscent of STAND BY ME...crossed with shades of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (not so much in plot, but in the racial themes and the depiction of a rural community). It a powerful, entertaining, and thought-provoking book. ...more
I bought TV NOIR: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Ray Starman based on a rave review by my friends over at Bookgasm... and because I'm a sucker for TV books.I bought TV NOIR: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Ray Starman based on a rave review by my friends over at Bookgasm... and because I'm a sucker for TV books. But TV NOIR was a huge disappointment on just about every level, from the actual printing itself to the thin, badly edited, content.
Even by self-published/print-on-demand standards, the print quality is awful. The photographs look like reproductions of xeroxes. The copyediting and proofreading are atrocious (missing and inconsistent punctuation, show titles with and without quotation marks, etc). It does not look or read like a professionally published work.
But all of that would be tolerable if the content was worthwhile. Sadly, it's not. There are some compelling ideas here, but you have to slog through some truly awkward, rambling sentences to get to them. Sentences like these:
"Stack was able to overcome his 'tennis anyone' roles and an academy award nomination for the melodramatic "Written on the Wind" ('57) to perfect his underplayed and superior to the later Clint Eastwood's monotone style to gain status as a subtle and ironic characterization that was unique.'"
Huh? That's crisp, lean, clear prose compared to this sentence:
"Add to the list the controversial but I think brilliant 'Blade Runner' ('82) complete with Harrison Ford's tough guy voice-over reminiscent of Bogart in anything and William Holden's commentary in the noir-ish 'Sunset Boulevard' ('50) and you have future noir served on a platter existing in a dark futuristic society where Harrison Ford, as a 21st century ex-cop is recruited to find alien androids settling among humans."
Painful stuff. This is a writer in desperate need of an editor and a few lessons on how to use a comma. The book is about noir, but he uses the word so much, that I often wondered if his goal was to stick it in as many times in as many sentences as he possibly could. For instance:
"Although science fiction is not a particularly strong genre for noir analysis, certain key noir elements may still apply it for noir status."
"'City of Angels' is another noir curiosity that only ran from February to August 1976 but deserves inclusion because of its private eye genre, it's noir-ish photography and general 1930-1940s style that lent itself to noir iconograpy."
It's a shame he couldn't have stuck the word noir in there one or two more times. He also spends way too much time sharing with us his own, internal debates about whether shows deserved to be included in his book or not. For instance, in the midst of discussing "Harry O," he starts rambling...
"Much lighter in tone than the very dark 'The Fugitive', it still did not reach the humorous heights of James Garner's 'Rockford Files' or even Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul's inspired comic renderings of 'Starsky and Hutch'. Two worthy programs I have not included in my analysis because their humor prevented them from noir status. A tough decision, but Garner's often-folksy humor and Glaser and Soul's comedy team antics were just too light for noir justifications."
As if we cared. But more importantly, what the heck does any of that have to do with "Harry O?" Nothing.
I love books about TV, particularly those that focus on cop shows. But this book is a mess. And way, way over-priced at $15.95. Skip it.
Let me state at the outset than I am a fan of Timlin's books, so if I had a bias going in, it was a favorable one. That didn't last long.
The pluses aLet me state at the outset than I am a fan of Timlin's books, so if I had a bias going in, it was a favorable one. That didn't last long.
The pluses are that Timlin, a top-notch mystery author himself, is a real fan of the genre and he writes in a casual, easy-going style. As a whole, the book provides a nice overview of a bunch of UK series that are probably obscure and unfamiliar to most U.S. viewers.
The cons, however, far, far outnumber the pluses. Apparently, Timlin's actual knowledge of the shows he's talking about isn't as strong as his admiration for them...and nobody bothered to fact-check the book, so it is filled with cringe-inducing errors and unfortunate omissions.
1) he refers to the lead of THE FUGITIVE as Dr. David Kimble when, of course, everyone knows it's Dr. RICHARD Kimble. 2) He says the iconic IRONSIDE theme was composed by Oliver Nelson when it's actually among Quincy Jones' most famous pieces of music (Nelson supplied some of the episodic scores, but didn't compose the theme). 3) He says that the Quinn Martin shows had a voice over that went "This has been a Quinn Martin Production" when, in fact, each show opened with the narrator announcing the name of the series, followed by the words "A Quinn Martin Production." 4) He says the UK LIFE ON MARS began with DCI Sam Tyler walking down a Manchester street, listening to David Bowie on his iPod, when he's hit by a car. That is, in fact, totally incorrect, making this reader wonder if Timlin actually saw the show he was writing about. 5) When discussing HARRY O, he says the hero was an ex-LA cop. He was actually an ex-San Diego cop.
I could go on and on. Beyond the numerous errors, there's also a lack of detail. For instance, when referring to KOJAK, he mentions the 2005 remake with Ving Rhames but either completely overlooked, or was totally unaware of, the six KOJAK TV movies Savalas did on CBS, and later ABC, a decade after the original series was cancelled. In fact, almost all the entries suffer from a paucity of useful information in favor of irrelevant, personal asides by the author ("Oddly enough, it was 'Hill Street Blues' that got me my first video recorder; back when it started, I was offered a job driving a loser heavy metal band called 720. The show had just started and I took the job o the condition that the manager paid for the hire of a VCR. He agreed. Blimey the thing was the size of a suitcase...") Maybe Timlin is a celebrity in the UK, and the readers there are more interested in his asides than information about TV cop shows, but it doesn't play on this side of the pond.
One other beef...I found Timlin including his own series, SHARMAN, among the best TV Crime Series to be more than a little self-indulgent (although he didn't write the entry, he had someone else do it, which only makes the inclusion feel even more self-serving). If only he'd given all the other series mentioned in the book the same loving attention as he did his own (he gives THE SOPRANOS three tiny paragraphs, but the short-lived SHARMAN gets four pages!).
Overall, unless you can get this book at a major discount, I'd skip it. ...more
Call this "Spenser Lite." It's not the worst Spenser book Parker ever wrote, but certainly among the dullest, shortest, and most uninspired. All the SCall this "Spenser Lite." It's not the worst Spenser book Parker ever wrote, but certainly among the dullest, shortest, and most uninspired. All the Spenser cliches are here in an unengaging story without a single twist. Once again, a killer touted as super professional and ultra deadly adversary for our hero turns out to be a total dimwit. I'm a huge Spenser fan, but this book represents a sad end to a great career. He should have stopped writing Spenser books years ago. ...more
Excellent addition to the BUTCHER BOY saga. The book is told in two parallel tracks...the stories of ruthlessly efficient assassin known as The ButcheExcellent addition to the BUTCHER BOY saga. The book is told in two parallel tracks...the stories of ruthlessly efficient assassin known as The Butcher Boy and Justice Dept agent Elizabeth Waring, which converge in several key spots. The book sags in the Waring portions, but the rest just crackles. ...more
I've read a few of Girardi's books (PIRATE'S DAUGHTER is my favorite) and he's something of an acquired taste. He's not writing cookie-cutter plots orI've read a few of Girardi's books (PIRATE'S DAUGHTER is my favorite) and he's something of an acquired taste. He's not writing cookie-cutter plots or characters...he is charting his own way,sometimes straddling several genres at once (romance, adventure epic, literary fiction, ghost story, satire etc). His stories are ambitious in scope and conception, often require a very large suspension of disbelief, and more than a little patience... he sometimes goes over-the-top or loses his grip on a consistent tone. That said, I admire him for aiming high, even if he misses the mark as often as he hits it. His books always entertain, amuse, and transport you away from your troubles, and GORGEOUS EAST is no exception. It aims for grand adventure and comic absurdity in the story of three very different French Foreign Legionnaires...and rarely strikes a comfortable balance between the two. But it's an entertaining, if sometimes frustrating melange of genres that reads as both straight adventure and parody (not unlike Trevanian's spy novels). It's worth the read for his fine prose, sharp humor, vivid descriptions of foreign locals, and his distinctly unique point-of-view....more
You haven't heard of David McAfee, but let me assure you, he's the real deal. 33 AD is terrific. It's well-written, fast-moving, escapist fun. (I partYou haven't heard of David McAfee, but let me assure you, he's the real deal. 33 AD is terrific. It's well-written, fast-moving, escapist fun. (I particularly liked his characters known as The Lost Ones, an inspired and haunting creation, that I won't ruin for you by describing them here). I've over-dosed on vampire tales and all the cliches that come with them, but McAfree manages to come up with an entirely fresh and creative take on the genre. There are some narrative problems, most notably a lot of repetitive passages and an unsatisfying ending that peters out rather than climaxes but, even so, the ride is still well worth it. 33 AD is a kick-ass, violent and highly-imaginative tale that you should be downloading to your Kindle *right now*....more
SATORI, the prequel to Trevanian's SHIBUMI, is a lot of fun, an over-the-top hybrid of a an Indiana Jones-type serial and a Robert Ludlum spy novel. DSATORI, the prequel to Trevanian's SHIBUMI, is a lot of fun, an over-the-top hybrid of a an Indiana Jones-type serial and a Robert Ludlum spy novel. Don Winslow does a fine job channeling Trevanian for the most part -- what he misses is the sly humor, bordering on satire, that characterized both SHIBUMI and, to a greater degree, THE EIGER SANCTION. Winslow takes his Nicholas Hel, and his story, just a bit too seriously...but that doesn't detract from the pleasures of this book (and there are many). Oh, and don't feel you have to read SHIBUMI to enjoy the ride...this book works fine as a standalone. ...more
The books started out great, but once the "apocalypse" happened, and the story jumped forward in time, everything bogged down and became a slog. The bThe books started out great, but once the "apocalypse" happened, and the story jumped forward in time, everything bogged down and became a slog. The big problem, though, is the ending, which is a dud. And instead of being a climax, it's merely a set-up for a sequel that I won't be reading. It's a shame, because I loved the first third of the book....more