Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

The Final Reckoning

August 21, 2016

The Final Reckoning by Petros Markaris, dramatised for BBC Radio 4.

Set in Athens during the economic crisis, shortly after the 2008 banking crisis and before Syriza come to power, with roots in the dark Fascist past.

Wealthy tax dodgers receive demands for unpaid taxes, when not paid, they are killed with hemlock, their bodies dumped at archaeological sites. Next are corrupt politicians.

Socrates was killed with hemlock. His dying words, the final reckoning, was that his debts and taxes be paid.

The Girl on the Train

September 27, 2015
The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

Travel into Waterloo Station, as you approach London, you will see rows of Victorian houses, their long, narrow gardens stretching to the railway line.

What is true of Waterloo, is also true of Euston.

That is the setting of The Girl on the Train. What is the lives of Jason and Jess, the couple seen by the girl on the train? They seem to be an ideal couple, until one day, Rachel, the girl on the train, sees Jess with a different man.

Having somehow become part of their lives, Rachel decides to alight at the station, the road just happens to be where she once lived.

What happens, she does not know. She has no memory. She finds herself home, covered in bruises, a split lip, a crack on the head. She then learns Megan, as that is her real name, is missing, foul play suspected. So shocked is she at the receipt of this news, she walks out into a road and is hit by a taxi.

The story is told from the viewpoint of three women, Rachel (the girl on the train), Megan (who has gone missing) and Anna (married to ex-husband of Rachel).

The Girl on the Train was serialised on BBC Radio 4. Until some way through, I thought one character, split personality. In the book, it is clearer, though even then, reading, begin to wonder, are all three one and the same?


This is the first novel by Paula Hawkins.

Style is unusual, different voices, very much the style of My Name is Red or The Winner Stands Alone.

Alfred Hitchcock would have turned The Girl on the Train into an excellent psychological thriller.

To Catch a Thief

December 14, 2012
To Catch a Thief

To Catch a Thief

American John Robie is living quietly in the South of France, trying to put his career as a notorious jewel thief behind him. However, when a series of huge jewel thefts begins on the Riviera, targetting rich Americans, the police immediately suspect he’s returned to his old ways. To prove his innocence, and trap the real thief, Robie must resort to subterfuge. But his plans go awry when the daughter of one of the rich American tourists takes rather too close an interest in him – and his past.

John Robie was a cat burglar, who worked for the French Resistance. The French Police are prepared to turn a blind eye to his past activities, so long as he does not return to them.

When a copy-cat cat burglar carries out a series of daring jewel robberies, the French Police naturally think he has turned to his old ways, and he once again becomes a wanted man.

He turns to his old friends in the French Resistance for a fake passport in order that he may leave France. They though have other ideas. The French Police are turning up the heat on their own criminal activities. Yes, they will help, but only if he first helps to catch the jewel thief.

To Catch a Thief by David Dodge (1910-1974), once a Hitchcock thriller, now dramatised for BBC Radio 4.

Although writing crime fiction, David Dodge considered himself a travel writer.

A strange mix of Raymond Chandler and his detective Philip Marlowe and Dorothy L Sayers and amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey (with a bit of Bertie Wooster thrown in for good measure).

BBC once again shoot themselves in the foot, only held on-line for seven days.

Paulo Coelho set The Winner Stands Alone in the same location in the south of France.

Prime Suspect

November 5, 2012

Somewhat dated, written by Lynda La Plante for Granada TV and starring Helen Mirren, first broadcast in 1991, Prime Suspect is an interesting social commentary of the time.

It was an accident it came to be written. Lynda La Plante was in conversation with Granada TV. We are looking for a police drama. Yes, working on one. We are looking for a police drama with a senior female detective. Just what I am working on.

On this basis, Lynda La Plante got the contract. The police drama she was working on was a fiction. There was no police drama.

She then contacted Scotland Yard, what senior female police officers could they offer her? She was hoping for a Detective Chief Inspector. She got a Detective Chief Inspector. They chatted on the phone. The Detective Chief Inspector offered to come over for a chat. To her surprise, the police officer who turned up was a biker clad in black leathers. It was she who filled her in on the culture at the Met, especially the attitude towards women.

The DCI who came to see Lynda La Plante in her biker’s leathers was Jackie Malton. She is now ex-Met, works as a script consultant, but also works with ex-armed robber Graham Godden with young offenders and children to stop them embarking on a career of crime.

Prime Suspect starts with what appears to be the brutal killing of a prostitute. 24 hours into the investigation, the detective leading the investigations dies of a heart attack. Into his shoes steps DCI Jane Tennison (played by Helen Mirren), a move that proves highly unpopular with his team.

Apart from being interesting social commentary, also an excellent drama, that at the end leaves one feeling chilled to the core.

Prime Suspect ran from 1991 to 2006.

Sherlock Holmes has influenced crime fiction up to the present day. In Scandinavia writers have been influenced by the Martin Beck series.

According to Ian Rankin, Prime Suspect has influenced all that has followed.

What is maybe even more surprising, Prime Suspect has been used by the Met for training.

Four years on from the first broadcast, the first female chief constable was appointed. There are over 50 police forces in England and Wales. In 2012 there were half a dozen women chief constables.

A decade on from the first broadcast of Prime Suspect, following the killing of Stephen Lawrence, the Met was accused of being Institutionally Racist.

The series explored racism (Prime Suspect 2), sex trade (Prime Suspect 3). By the end of the series, Jane Tennison, now promoted, was one of the lads, a burnt out cynical alcoholic.

Foreign Bodies, investigates European crime fiction, but BBC true to form, keeps this excellent series on-line for only 7 days.

Scandinavian fiction

April 11, 2012

I read the Millennium trilogy a year or so ago, mainly following a recommendation from Paulo Coelho, as it was a series, a writer, I had not heard of.

I thoroughly enjoyed. I read one after the other. Having been in Sweden, knowing some of the places made it all very real. I felt Steig Larssen was writing about real issues, maybe he was.

What Stieg Larsson showed was that writing a thriller, does not have to be bad writing.

Once you have read the Millennium trilogy, it is difficult to read any other crime or political thriller.

Jo Nesbo was compared on book covers as ‘the next Stieg Larsson’. What a load of bollocks, but to be fair to Jo Nesbo, that was the cretinous publisher, not he.

No, Jo Nesbo is not the next Stieg Larsson, and if you read with that as the expectation, then you are in a for a grave disappointment.

That is not to say Jo Nesbo is not good, he is, but he is not Stieg Larsson.

The problem is the publishing industry, or at least that which can be termed fast publishing, always on the look out for the next blockbuster, the next best-seller, the next me-too copy cat of whatever was he last blockbuster best-seller.

With the success of The Da Vinci Code, the market, and that sadly is what it has become, a market with books reduced to a commodity, the market was flooded with me too Da Vinci Code books.

The same has happened with the success of Stieg Larsson, every Scandinavia writer has been promoted as the next Stieg Larsson.

Both Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo expose the dark undercurrents of Scandinavian society. Both have extreme violence, sexual depravity, but it is not a glorification of, not gratuitous violence, it is to shock.

I remember when Olof Palme was shot on the streets, the sense of shock. A killing that has never been solved.

There is a sense of darkness.

Last year we saw the massacre of young people at an island lake in Norway by a crazed gunman.

I was in Stockholm in the summer, before the country was mired and bogged down with the problems caused by mass immigration. It was warm, it was light, people were out on the streets.

I do not think I would do well in the cold, long, dark winters.

Alice and the Red Queen

February 1, 2011
Alice and the queen

Alice and the queen

In Lewis Carroll’s famous masterpiece “Alice through the Looking Glass,” there is a dialogue between the main character and the Queen, who has just told something quite extraordinary.

– I can’t believe it – says Alice.

– Can’t believe it? – the Queen repeats with a sad look on her face. – Try again: take a deep breath, close your eyes, and believe.

Alice laughs:

– It’s no good trying. Only fools believe that impossible things can happen.

– I think what you need is a little training – answers the Queen. – When I was your age I would practice at least half an hour a day, right after breakfast, I tried very hard to imagine five or six unbelievable things that could cross my path, and today I see that most of the things I imagined have turned real, I even became a Queen because of that.

Life constantly asks us: “believe!” Believing that a miracle can happen at any moment is necessary not only for our happiness but also for our protection, or to justify our existence. In today’s world, many people think it is impossible to put an end to misery, to build a fair society, and to alleviate the religious tension that seems to grow worse every day.

Most people avoid the struggle for a whole variety of reasons: conformism, maturity, the sense of the ridiculous, the feeling of impotence. We see injustice being done to our neighbor and remain silent. “I’m not getting involved in fights for nothing” is the explanation.

This is a cowardly attitude. Whoever travels down a spiritual path carries an honor code to be fulfilled; the voice that is raised against what is wrong is always heard by God.

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog.

Lewis Carroll is one of my favourite writers. He lived in Guildford with his sisters. A cross provided by his sisters can be found in St Mary’s Church in Guildford, a church in which the Rev Charles Dodgson occasionally preached.

Last summer I treated my lovely friend Sian to a special Alice day out in Guildford.

We had a wonderful day out.

We went to an enactment of the courtroom scene, we visited spots associated with Lewis Carroll including his house, we visited a special exhibition on Lewis Carroll and Alice and his links with Guildford, we had lovely afternoon tea at the back of Guildford House, we sat by the river where I read to Sian passages from Alice, much as Alice’s sister had read to Alice and I gave Sian a beautiful illustrated copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Synchronicity: As I sat down to write, I found I had received a request asking me was the house Lewis Carroll shared with his sister open to the public. Sadly not, it is a private house, though I believe they occasionally acceded to special requests.

For my lovely friend Sian.

Note: Alice met two Queens on her travels. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland she meets the Queen of Hearts infamous for ‘Off with her head!’ In Alice Through the Looking Glass she meets the Red Queen with who she has this conversation. The first Queen is a playing card, the second a chess piece. The illustration is of the Queen of Hearts. In the conversation Alice is talking to the Red Queen. The two are often confused, or worse, merged into one.

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