Book Review – ANY OTHER NAME (2014) by Craig Johnson

ANY OTHER NAME by CRAIG JOHNSON (2014, Penguin, Paperback, 320pp) ∗∗∗∗½
      Blurb: Sheriff Walt Longmire is sinking into a high-plains winter discontent when his former boss, Lucian Connally, asks him to take on a mercy case outside his jurisdiction. Detective Gerald Holman of neighbouring Campbell County is dead, and Lucian wants to know what drove his old friend, a by-the-book lawman with a wife and daughter, to take his own life. With the clock ticking on the birth of Walt’s first grandchild in Philadelphia, he enlists the help of undersheriff Vic Moretti, Henry Standing Bear, and Gillette policeman Corbin Dougherty and, looking for answers, reopens Holman’s last case. Before his mysterious death, Detective Holman was elbow-deep in a cold case involving three local women who’d gone missing with nothing to connect the disappearances–or so it seemed. The detective’s family and the Campbell County sheriff’s office beg Walt to drop the case. An open-and-shut suicide they say. But there’s a blood trail too hot to ignore, and it’s leading Walt in circles: from a casino in Deadwood, to a mysterious lodge in the snowy Black Hills of South Dakota, to a band of international hit men, to a shady strip club, and back again to the Campbell County sheriff’s office. Digging deeper, Walt will uncover a secret so dark it threatens to claim other lives before the sheriff can serve justice–Wyoming style.

51aXe1Jdy5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)Craig Johnson continues to produce novels of extremely high standard with his Longmire series, of which this is the tenth (eleventh if you count his novella Spirit of the Steamboat). Johnson has such a command of his characters and location that reading a new book in the series transports you immediately back to his Wyoming setting. The books are written in first person through the voice of Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire and his observations are delivered with great wit. The dialogue is priceless with the camaraderie between the leads (Walt’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear, his under-sheriff Victoria Morettl and former boss, the crotchety and highly entertaining Lucian Connolly) beautifully portrayed.

The case here centres around an investigator’s suicide and the link it has to three missing girls. The plot is deftly played out and builds in suspense and excitement through to its race against time climax – including the sub-plot of Walt’s pregnant lawyer daughter, Cady, in a Philadephia hospital and about to give birth demanding his presence. The Longmire books are always a pure joy from start to finish and this is no exception. If you are looking to pick one up start at the beginning with The Cold Dish and work your way through what is one of the most consistently entertaining series of books I’ve ever read.

It’s also worth catching the Longmire TV series based on the books, which use the main characters but follow a different story arc.

The World of Shaft: A Complete Guide to the Novels, Comic Strip, Films and Television Series

51eBIyeiTkLMy book, to be published by McFarland and now titled The World of Shaft: A Complete Guide to the Novels, Comic Strip, Films and Television Series has a provisional publication date of 30 November 2015 and can be pre-ordered from McFarland or through Amazon on both sides of the pond. The book will contain a Foreword by new Shaft author, David F. Walker. Here are the Amazon links…

UK: Amazon.co.uk
USA: Amazon.com

I’m hoping the recent resurgence of interest in the character (David Walker’s comic book series and novella and New Line’s announcement of a new Shaft film) will generate interest in my book.

Comic Book Review – SHAFT #6

SHAFT #6 (20 May 2015, Dynamite Entertainment) ∗∗∗∗∗
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Bilquis Evely
Coloured by Daniela Miwa
Cover A by Bill Sienkiewicz

Shaft #6David Walker’s excellent prequel to Ernest Tidyman’s Shaft comes to an action-packed conclusion as Shaft goes head to head with the killers of his girlfriend, Arletha. Walker has deftly managed the mixture of plot and character development as we see Shaft finally transform into the self-confident and angry man of Tidyman’s novels. He has managed his “origins” tale with skill and created a colourful cast of supporting characters. The artwork by Bilquis Evely has been exquisite and she has captured the spirit of late 1960s Manhattan. The series has been a triumph and a credit to Walker’s determination to re-introduce a beloved cultural icon to a modern audience.

It remains to be seen what next for the character under Dynamite’s stewardship. There is still Walker’s novella, Shaft’s Revenge, serialised to readers of the comic-book via QR code to be released in paperback. There is also the promised re-print of all seven of Tidyman’s original Shaft novels. However, Walker has moved on to DC and a new comic book series featuring Cyborg and continues to pursue his many interests. Time will tell, but with interest in the franchise increasing through Dynamite’s and in particular Walker’s foresight and with John Shaft due to hit the big screen again in New Line’s planned re-launch, the future should be rosy.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.6 – DALEK (2005)

DALEK
1 episode / 46m / 30 April 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗∗½
Writer: Robert Shearman
Director: Joe Ahearne
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Steven Beckingham (Polkowski), Corey Johnson (Henry van Statten), Anna-Louise Plowman (Diana), Bruno Langley (Adam), Nigel Whitmey (Simmons), John Schwab (Bywater), Jana Carpenter (Di Maggio), Joe Montana (Commander), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator), Nicolas Briggs (Dalek Voice).
Plot: Beneath the Salt Plains of Utah, the billionaire collector Henry Van Statten holds the last relic of an alien race. When the Doctor and Rose investigate, they discover that the Doctor’s oldest and most deadly enemy is about to break free. It’s a fight to the death, with Rose caught in the middle.
Comment: The series finally finds the right tone with this excellent episode. Eccleston gets his characterisation spot on as his hatred for the Daleks drives his anger at Van Statten’s keeping the creature alive in his underground museum. This gives Eccleston the opportunity to demonstrate his acting credentials and he delivers in spades. There is also some fun with corporate satire and the exhibits of Van Statten’s collection with various creatures from the Doctor’s past. Piper continues to impress as Rose who shows empathy for the tortured Dalek. Langley’s Adam, however, is not up to the task both as a character and in Langley’s insipid performance. This is the one down-side to what is otherwise the best episode in the revived series to date propelled by Shearman’s sharp script and Ahearne’s breathless direction.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.4 & 1.5 – ALIENS OF LONDON and WORLD WAR THREE (2005)

ALIENS OF LONDON / WORLD WAR THREE
2 episodes / 86m / 16 & 23 April 2005
Rating: ∗∗½
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Keith Boak
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Corey Doabe (Spray Painter), Ceris Jones (Policeman), Jack Tarlton (Reporter), Lachelle Carl (Reporter), Fiesta Mei Ling (Ru), Basil Chung (Bau), Matt Baker (As Himself), Andrew Marr (As Himself), Rupert Vansittart (General Asquith), David Verrey (Joseph Green), Navin Chowdhry (Indra Ganesh), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), Annette Badland (Margaret Blaine), Naoko Mori (Doctor Sato), Eric Potts (Oliver Charles), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Jimmy Vee (Alien), Steven Speirs (Asst Commissioner Strickland), Elizabeth Fost, Paul Kasey, Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen)
Plot: The Doctor takes Rose home, but when a spaceship crash-lands in the Thames, London is closed off and the whole world goes on red alert. While the Doctor investigates the alien survivor, Rose discovers that her home is no longer a safe haven.
Comment: This is the renewed series’ first two-parter and whilst it suffers from inconsistency in tone and, in particular, the overuse of much juvenile humour, there are enough excellent scenes to display the potential of using the strong cast to its strengths. Eccleston again demonstrates a skill for the dramatic or reflective scenes, but a lack of subtlety with the comedic moments. The Slitheen lose any fear factor through the farting noises they emanate. Piper continues to impress as Rose and Coduri and Clarke return from the first episode, as Jackie and Mickey. The revelation of how long Rose had been gone adds some sobriety to the proceedings. There are some heavy-handed references to the Iraq War and international politics, but Wilton maintains dignity as MP Harriet Jones – destined for greater things. Disappointing for those who like their Who more serious and challenging, but fast-paced and entertaining for younger viewers. The tone would settle as the series progressed and as Eccleston grew into the part.

Book Review – THE BONES BENEATH (2014) BY Mark Billingham

THE BONES BENEATH by MARK BILLINGHAM (2014, Sphere, Paperback, 474pp) ∗∗∗½
      Blurb: Tom Thorne is back in charge – but there’s a terrifying price to pay. Stuart Nicklin, the most dangerous psychopath he has ever put behind bars, promises to reveal the whereabouts of a body he buried twenty-five years before. But only if Thorne agrees to escort him. Unable to refuse, Thorne gathers a team and travels to a remote Welsh island, at the mercy of the weather and cut off from the mainland. Thorne is determined to get the job done and return home before Nicklin can outwit them. But Nicklin knows this island well and has had time to plan ahead. Soon, new bodies are added to the old, and Thorne finds himself facing the toughest decision he has ever had to make…

51obJnUpdkL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_This is more of a pyschological thriller than mystery, although there are mysterious elements to the tight tale. Billingham has constructed a magnetic storyline and an unusual location. The rugged and remote Bardsey Island is captured well in Billingham’s descriptive writing and the Thorne/Nicklin needling relationship forms the central theme. Although the book strectches over more than 450 pages, the pace doesn’t really slacken as we are taken inside Nicklin’s psyche.

Although the strands that are hanging through the book come together in the finale, though there are elements that remain unresolved. Despite the familiarity of some of the plot elements, the unusual setting and strong characters make this book is another entertaining read from one of Britain’s best series writers.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.3 – THE UNQUIET DEAD (2005)

THE UNQUIET DEAD
1 episode / 45m / 9 April 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Euros Lyn
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Alan David (Gabriel Sneed), Huw Rhys (Redpath), Jennifer Hill (Mrs Peace), Eve Myles (Gwyneth), Simon Callow (Charles Dickens), Wayne Cater (Stage Manager), Meic Povey (Driver), Zoe Thorne (The Gelth).
Plot: The Doctor takes Rose back through time to 1869. But in Victorian Cardiff, the dead are walking, and creatures made of gas are on the loose. The time-travellers team up with Charles Dickens to investigate Mr Sneed, the local Undertaker. Can they halt the plans of the ethereal Gelth?The Unquiet Dead
Comment: The series kicks into gear with this episode, which delves into history and literature. The atmosphere is perfectly pitched by director Lyn with strong turns from his cast. Callow, a Dickens fan himself, is excellent as the renowned author as are David as the grim welsh undertaker and Myles as his housemaid, who has second sight. Eccleston and Piper have already built a strong rapport and there is plenty of opportunity for Eccleston’s Doctor to be commanding. The scene where the Doctor realises he has been tricked by the Gelth, who have used Myles as their passageway is wonderfully played by both actors. The only downside is some of the comedy early in the episode is again a little forced, but that doesn’t prevent this from being the best episode of the series to date by far.

Phil Collins back catalogue to be remastered by Warner

PhilCollins-neuIt has been announced that Warner Music Group has bought Phil Collins’ back catalogue and will release long-awaited remasters of all eight of the Genesis singer/drummer’s solo albums starting at the end of the is year.

The package is also set to include material from Collins’ archive – although full details of what will be released are not yet available. Collins’ debut solo album, Face Value (1981), and his fifth, Both Sides (1993), will be the first albums re-released in remastered format.

This is great news for fans of Genesis who also recently learned of a similar venture for Tony Banks.

Comic Book Review – SHAFT #5 (2015)

SHAFT #5 (15 April 2015, Dynamite Entertainment) ∗∗∗∗∗
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Bilquis Evely
Coloured by Daniela Miwa
Cover A by Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz and Ivan Nunes

Shaft #5 CowanShaft has tracked down Marisol DuPree and gets enough information from her to trace the package Arletha has hidden away. He discovers the package is some photos of DuPree, who had fallen into prostitution, with various businessmen including an official from the Port Authority. Shaft realises he has been caught in the middle of a blackmail plot and politics around the finalised location of the World Trade Center, originally planned for Harlem. Shaft is now looking to play two factions off against each other as he seeks revenge for Arletha’s death.

The Shaft comic book series maintains its high standard with another great read with both the script and artwork in tune with the late 1960s period NYC setting. This edition sets things up nicely for the finale (Shaft #6 is due out imminently). Walker has brought the plot strands together nicely and the character of Shaft has been evolving to that we see in Ernest Tidyman’s original novel. This prequel has been a great ride and the pay-off promises to be a satisfying one.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.2 – THE END OF THE WORLD (2005)

THE END OF THE WORLD
1 episode / 45m / 2 April 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗½
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Euros Lyn
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Simon Day (Steward), Yasmin Bannerman (Jabe), Jimmy Vee (Moxx of Balhoon), Zoë Wanamaker (Cassandra), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Beccy Armory (Raffalo), Sara Stewart (Computer Voice), Silas Carson (Alien Voices).
Plot: The Doctor takes Rose on her first voyage through time, to the year Five Billion. The Sun is about to expand, and swallow the Earth. But amongst the alien races gathering to watch on Platform One, a murderer is at work. Who is controlling the mysterious and deadly Spiders?
The End of the WorldComment: This story moves into the far future and gets the chance to show off the excellent CGI visual effects from The Mill. Having introduced Rose in the first episode the focus here moves to the Doctor and we discover his race has been destroyed in a great war and he is the last Time Lord. We are introduced to an array of wealthy species who have paid to come to witness Earth’s destruction to an expanding sun from an orbiting space station. Cassandra (wonderfully voiced by Wanamaker) is the last human whose vanity has reduced to all vestiges of humanity being removes and what’s left is skin stretched tightly across a frame. The Face of Boe is also introduced and we will find out more about him/her as the series progresses. A special note for Lyn’s direction, which is a significant improvement over Boak’s for ROSE. Here, the humour is better managed and the tension builds nicely through the tightly edited finale as the station’s shields are sabotaged. Eccleston balances his performance between humour and gravitas, clumsy at the former but excelling at the latter and Piper continues to impress as Rose.