Almost 50 years after Callan hit the small screen fans of the series really are being spoilt by Ostara who give us a second collection of James MitcheAlmost 50 years after Callan hit the small screen fans of the series really are being spoilt by Ostara who give us a second collection of James Mitchell's Callan short stories; crisp and sharp tales of violence, deception, regret, and ruin. The briefness of the stories mean most characters remain very plainly drawn, and in these early stories, which were originally published before those in Volume 1, it is only when Lonely appears that the writing comes to life with the character's humorous and colourful turn of phrase.
Similarly very little background is on display in the short stories apart from a poignant detail we get from Lonely's childhood experience as an evacuee. Callan himself remains a blunt instrument in the short tales; sure he's the narrative engine, but for the most part the plots remain focused on the jobs at hand.
It in the other content that we see more of Callan's background and psychology; Get Callan, a collection of biographical from his Section file fill in a few details and occasionally Mitchell brings the text to life voices of the characters 'writing' the reports comes through, such as the cautious and clinical comments from the psychologist Snell, and a more colourful character sketch from the Armourer.
The two scripts presented here are the key documents in the collection and to the overall career of Callan, highlighting the tragedy that the original productions would appear to have been lost to viewers due to either poor archive management or the financial necessity of re-using video tape back in the late 60s and early 70s. This loss is mostly structural in the case of Goodness Burns Too Bright with the plot helping explain the transition between the end of the pilot episode Magnum for Schneider, which saw Callan seemingly burning his bridges with the section and ending up in a red file, and the surviving episodes of series one where Callan appears as a full member of the section. This episode sports a bolder villain than most in the series with Bauer driven to revenge and losing sight of the mission in stark contrast to the more contained Callan.
The second episode here, Blackmailers should be Discouraged from series two, is a more full blooded episode shoot through with the moral decay of the Section with a cast of flawed characters immersed in betrayal, greed, and self deception. Their suffering at the hands of the righteous has a strong emotional impact, and the script is a prime example of Mitchell's interest in espionage as a pressure cooker for character studies, not just an arena for spycraft and violence.
This anthology is a cracking good read for those looking for short and sharp tales of espionage, and as with Volume 1 it is an essential volume for any fan of the series who wants all the Callan that can be had. Fingers crossed for a Volume 3.......more
The real trick with a detective story is giving the reader enough information to have a few prime suspects so we don't feel cheated when the writer fiThe real trick with a detective story is giving the reader enough information to have a few prime suspects so we don't feel cheated when the writer finally reveals the true villain, and James Mitchell certainly plays the reader fair in this enjoyable transatlantic tale of love, betrayal and politics. There are lots of characters who might have done it, and they all come to life as rounded characters.
The detective Ron Hogget is a clever without ever being aloof. He's used to violence but isn't actually that good at it, that's where his mate Dave comes in, with his military training at hand to help out when called upon. As usual with Mitchell's writing any violence that occurs is brief but visceral, keeping things grounded and believable. Mitchell balances Hogget's day job with an affectionate domestic life that feels very much lived in.
The plot is well constructed as Hogget jets off around the world interviewing friends and associates, searching for clues and enjoying the service on Concord. Mitchell brings all the locations to life with brief but vivid descriptive paragraphs and the occasional aside which give readers a feeling for the essence of the place with little details that come across as personal observations which suggest Mitchell was well travelled chap. The section set in New York took me straight into the world Nero Wolf, though Hogget isn't quite as much of a smart-alec character as Archie Goodwin. Mitchell also conjures up an interesting survey of political goings on in Europe at the time, with a red brigade and fascist league appearing in supporting roles.
Less successful is Mitchell approach when dealing with some of his gay and black characters; or more accurately how the narrator relates to them. It's not that the characters themselves are stereotypes. Mitchell's pretty much incapable of falling into stock characterisations so he was making them visible, vital human beings, but the narration occasionally throws up curiously jarring turns of phrase when talking about them which are odds with his essentially humane approach to characterization. I'm also not a big fan of the cover for this edition; the pink text on that shade of green makes my eyeballs bleed.
This is an engaging whodunit told on an international stage. Mitchell is a very economical writer, using a few judicious words to create atmosphere without slowing down the plot. The denouement of the murderer is satisfying while the novel offers more to the reader than just a neat solution to a crime; certainly recommend. ...more
Ideas and characters are at the heart of these short stories, with Asimov leaving surfaces up to the reader's imagination. While showing their age onIdeas and characters are at the heart of these short stories, with Asimov leaving surfaces up to the reader's imagination. While showing their age on a few pages they are very engaging and a pleasure to read. ...more
Kanon establishes a very believable setting and the mystery plot my grabbed attention. I enjoyed the speculation about the community of scientists andKanon establishes a very believable setting and the mystery plot my grabbed attention. I enjoyed the speculation about the community of scientists and their motivations for being involved in the Manhattan project.
I did find the central characters ability to talk people into things stretched the credibility of the plot, there were just too many people in authority who were willing to go along with his schemes for the sake of the storyline.
In all a satisfying noir murder mystery with tinges hints of the cold war espionage that would soon follow the events depicted. ...more