I won't rehash the plot, others have done a fine job of that. My problem with the book is that Henning Mankell was astonishingly lazy with his plottinI won't rehash the plot, others have done a fine job of that. My problem with the book is that Henning Mankell was astonishingly lazy with his plotting. He seems to have made up the plot as he went along, with no clear idea of where he was going or what the solution would be. There's a stunningly inane, unbelievable, and contrived coincidence a third of the way through the book that ultimately ends up being totally unnecessary. I can't understand why Mankell didn't cut it, because it asks for such a massive suspension of disbelief that it ruins the novel. There are other plotting problems, ones you'd expect from a novice rather than an accomplished pro like Mankell. Whenever Wallander has a gap in his knowledge, rather than come up with a clever and interesting way for the detective to find out what he needs to know, Mankell creates instant expository characters to conveniently give Wallander answers and then leave the stage, never to be seen again in the novel (ie, Wallander knows nothing about East Germany, so he creates an East German defector Wallander once knew that can give him a detailed lecture on the specific area of Wallanders interest. Or, in another example, Wallander knows nothing about Swedish naval history, so Mankell creates a childhood friend Wallander has lot touch with who just happens to be an expert on everything that has ever happened to any naval officer or their family members in the history of Sweden, including the details of their day-to-day calendars). As a mystery, this book is a big, and often frustrating, disappointment that comes to a very unsatisfying, clumsy conclusion. But the novel does work as a melancholy look into the life of Kurt Wallander, a lonely and sad policeman who feels his age and is losing his grasp on his memory. ...more
I read Elmore Leonard's Raylan in one sitting and it was a pure pleasure, his best book in years. The book is very episodic, basically a series of thiI read Elmore Leonard's Raylan in one sitting and it was a pure pleasure, his best book in years. The book is very episodic, basically a series of thinly connected vignettes that the writers of Justified, the kick-ass TV show based on an earlier Raylan Givens short story, have stripped for parts over the last two seasons, using just about every character, scene, action beat, and line dialogue. Even so, that familiarity didn't detract from my enjoyment, certainly no more so than reading any novel after you've seen the movie version. The prose is lean and fast-moving, the plotting relaxed and loose, and the dialogue sharp and witty. All in all, the perfect way to spend a Saturday in the sun. I hope Leonard writes another Raylan Givens book real soon. ...more
Although I've spent a lot of years as TV writer/producer, I'm still a TV nut who buys just about any behind-the-scenes book written about an individuaAlthough I've spent a lot of years as TV writer/producer, I'm still a TV nut who buys just about any behind-the-scenes book written about an individual series or about a network or studio. So I was eager to read Top of The Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV, NBC entertainment president Warren Littlefield's memoir of his days building the network's iconic 1990s Thursday night schedule, which included hits like Seinfeld, Frasier, and ER. Unfortunately, the book was a disappointment.
The book isn't so much written as it is transcribed... a collection of raw excerpts, snippets really, from interviews conducted with the key actors, writers, producers, agents, schedulers, lawyers, of NBC's 1990s hits... and, of course, quotes from Littlefield himself. He and co-author T.R. Pearson are going for the feel of an oral history, but it comes off as disjointed and scattershot.
There are some interesting facts and anecdotes revealed along the way, but much of the book felt like an excuse for Littlefield to settle a couple of old scores. Way too much of the book involves Littlefield and his former subordinates trashing Kelsey Grammer (described as a difficult actor with bad judgment and a substance abuse problem) and NBC president Don Ohlmeyer (depicting him as a boorish drunk with no creative instincts who contributed nothing to the success of the network's schedule) and touting his creative brilliance. It may all be true, but it still felt like sour grapes and became very tiresome.
All in all, it's worth reading if you're student of TV history, but it's not a very good book... not nearly as fascinating, revealing or well written as Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of the WB and UPN, Susanne Daniels' recent memoir of programming the WB, which later merged with its rival UPN to create the CW, a book I highly recommend....more
Ace Atkin has pulled off a miracle. With LULLABY, he has managed not only to pitch-perfectly capture Robert B. Parker's voice and narrative pace, butAce Atkin has pulled off a miracle. With LULLABY, he has managed not only to pitch-perfectly capture Robert B. Parker's voice and narrative pace, but also his story-telling structure, without once slipping into pastiche or parody. LULLABY rings absolutely true to Parker, and you only have to look at the first few pages of Michael Brandman's excreble Jesse Stone novel to see just how hard that is to pull off.
Moreover, LULLABY is even better than the last few of Parker's own Spenser novels. While LULLABY isn't as good as the early Spensers, it certainly fits right in with the mid-stream stuff, the period roughly between STARDUST and POTSHOT, which still makes it a wonderfully entertaining and satisfying read. It's as if Parker, not far from the top of his game, is still with us. It makes me wish Atkins would take on Jesse Stone, too....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 iconography."
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. ...more
Too many of my good friends contributed to In Pursuit of Spenser, a collection of essays about Robert B. Parker and his writing, for me to be unbiasedToo many of my good friends contributed to In Pursuit of Spenser, a collection of essays about Robert B. Parker and his writing, for me to be unbiased or, conversely, too critical in my review.
The line-up of authors that editor Otto Penzler assembled for the book includes Loren D. Estleman, Parnell Hall, Brendan DuBois, Gary Phillips, Lawrence Block, Dennis Lehane, Max Allan Collins, SJ Rozan, Jeremiah Healy, Ed Gorman, Reed Farrel Coleman, and Spenser's new author, Ace Atkins.
I'll just say that some of the essays are much stronger than others and don't quite jell as a whole. There's a great, indepth book to be written about Parker and his work and this isn't quite it. For the most part, this book just skims the surface, but I get the sense that's exactly what Penzler was going for. Something as breezy and light as Parker's fiction.
At times, the book reads more like an extended memorial, what friends and admirers might have stood up at the podium to say at Parker's service, had they been given the chance. And it's those essays in particular, the more personal ones from Lehane and Block, that are the most entertaining and revealing. Block obviously admired Parker's craftmanship but also didn't pull any punches....more
If you're hoping to learn anything about the history, development, writing, or production of Dr. Kildare in radio and television, or simply want an inIf you're hoping to learn anything about the history, development, writing, or production of Dr. Kildare in radio and television, or simply want an in depth, detailed episode guide, you are going to be sorely disappointed by the DR. KILDARE SCRAPBOOK. This isn't a book. It's barely more than a brochure. At best, it's a lengthy article...and yet it still lacks any substance. This exceedingly thin (100 pages, including the index) paperback is nothing more than a bare bones episode guide...and even on that level, the summaries are so sparse and devoid of details that it's a major failure. It's also very badly written. For example, here's the first line of chapter one:
"As part of its bringing some of its most famous movie series to radio, MGM put the team of Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore from the Dr. Kildare movies back together for a radio series called The Story of Dr. Kildare."
It only gets worse, and less informative, from there.
This "book" might have worked as an appendix to an actual book about Dr. Kildare on radio and television, but as a standalone reference work, it's terrible. I am a huge admirer of Bear Manor Media, the company that published this book...so I am not only surprised that that they took this poorly executed, superficial project on, but that they had the chutzpah to charge $14.95 for it in print and $9.99 for the digital edition. Don't waste your money on this one....more
"Writing the Pilot" is entertaining and jam-packed with useful information. He writes with a casual, humorous, and knowledgeable voice that sets this"Writing the Pilot" is entertaining and jam-packed with useful information. He writes with a casual, humorous, and knowledgeable voice that sets this book far apart from other screenwriting books. It's like having lunch with a good friend. But don't mistake that light touch for a lack of depth or academic value. His detailed analysis of what makes a great pilot...vs what makes a great opening episode for a series...is simply brilliant. And his indepth analysis of the pilots for "Fast Forward," "Life on Mars" and "Fringe" are particularly smart and insightful. He gets personal, too. He deftly uses examples from his own successful TV career to illustrate the thought-process behind developing and writing pilots (and candidly discusses some of mistakes along the way and what he learned from them). Spec TV pilots are all the rage right now and his book couldn't be more timely. If you want to get into the TV biz, or if you are a veteran TV pro struggling with pilot-writing issues, "Writing the Pilot" is a must-read....more
I devoured Jean-Patrick Manchette's FATALE, a deliciously nasty bit of noir about a female killing machine. Better than "Three to Kill," almost as gooI devoured Jean-Patrick Manchette's FATALE, a deliciously nasty bit of noir about a female killing machine. Better than "Three to Kill," almost as good as "Prone Gunman."...more
The book is loaded with details on the development and eight-season run of the classic western series, which was created by Charles Marquis Warren (whThe book is loaded with details on the development and eight-season run of the classic western series, which was created by Charles Marquis Warren (who also brought Gunsmoke to TV from radio and produced the early seasons) and made a star out of Clint Eastwood, who was second-lead behind Eric Fleming.
The author delves deeply into the professional and personal backgrounds of producer Warren and actor Fleming, so that you're able to put their creative clashes into a broader perspective. Naturally, that squabbling had an impact on the show in many ways, and Greenland explores them all.
After Warren left, the show changed hands several times. Greenland closely examines how the show changed creatively, and why, under the subsequent show runners.
I found it fascinating reading, but once the author got into the obligatory actor bios and episode guide, I found myself skimming the rest.
You don't have to be a fan of Rawhide to enjoy this book (I've only seen four or five episodes of the show in my life). It's worth reading to learn how this series was developed and produced and how it evolved...and it's fascinating to see just how little TV series production, at least behind-the-scenes, has changed in fifty ye...more
The Deputy was a 1959 series that starred Fonda, then a major movie star, as U.S. Marshal and was created by Norman Lear and Roland Kibbee, who wouldThe Deputy was a 1959 series that starred Fonda, then a major movie star, as U.S. Marshal and was created by Norman Lear and Roland Kibbee, who would go on to great success themselves. But despite the hoopla surrounding Fonda's decision to do a TV series, it was something of a bait-and-switch. He only appeared as the lead in six of the first season's 39 episodes and did cameos in the others. Most of the screen time was filled by Allen Case as his deputy. But viewers weren't tuning in to see Case and felt cheated...and rightly so. Fonda upped his participation to twelve episodes in the second season, but it was too late (though the network was supposedly willing to go for one more season).
The book has some good information, but it's barely more than a magazine article padded out into book-length with actor biographies (which repeat lots of information already conveyed) and a very thin episode guide. If you're a big fan of The Deputy, you'll be disappointed by the lack of substance to this book. And if you've never heard of the show, there isn't anything here to really make it worthwhile to learn more. ...more