Book Review – THE DEVIL’S EDGE (2011) by Stephen Booth

THE DEVIL’S EDGE by STEPHEN BOOTH (2011, Little, Brown Book Group / Sphere, Paperback, 440pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Blurb: A series of brutal home invasions is terrorizing the Peak District. Until now the burglars haven’t left a clue. This time they’ve left a corpse. But as the death toll rises, two intrepid cops begin to suspect that the robberies – and the murders – are not what they seem.

The Devil's Edge (Stephen Booth) 2011This is the eleventh book in Booth’s Cooper and Fry series, but the first one I have read. Booth obviously has story arcs running through the series to retain continuity and a loyal reader base, but it is not essential to have read earlier books in the series. However, those having done so may have been drawn more quickly into the story.

I found the first part of the book a little slow, with long passages describing the setting (the Peak Districts and the village of Riddings) and little progression in the investigation. There was some detail around DS Ben Cooper’s engagement to Liz, a member of the SOCO team. Also we follow his partner, DS Diane Fry, who is attending a course on Implementing Strategic Change and resisting the advances of a randy colleague.

Meanwhile one of Riddings’ rich residents has been hospitalised in the latest in a spate of home invasions. Local wisdom points to a gang known as The Savages. Cooper has other ideas and as the plot unfolds we meet a wide array of village characters who could have strayed from an Agatha Christie or Midsomer Murders story.

As the tale progresses we are also introduced to a new DC in Carol Villiers, who has served in the military police in Afghanistan. She gives a potential future romantic triangle with Cooper and Liz as we are made aware they are old school friends.

The story may lack the harder of edge of many modern mysteries, but is an entertaining, if unsurprising read and should please fans of old-school mystery writing. Booth stays within the confines of his well-defined setting and overcomes the familiarity of his characters with a sturdy plot, which is helped by some late twists.

Author’s website: www.stephen-booth.com

James Garner (1928 – 2014)

James Garner

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of James Garner (on 19 July 2014 aged 86). I grew up watching Garner’s charismatic and charming performance as private eye Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files (1974-80). Garner was one of those actors who got by on the mere presence of his personality – although he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in 1985’s Murphy’s Romance. He had been a regular on the big screen through the 1950s and 1960s with his best known credits including Darby’s Rangers (1958),The Great Escape (1963), Grand Prix (1966), Hour of the Gun (1967) and Marlowe (1969).

Despite this he will be best remembered for his small screen starring roles in Maverick(1957-62) and the aforementioned The Rockford Files. During the 1970s he would have increasing problems with his knees, requiring surgery on a number of occasions. Finally he had to quit The Rockford Files when the demands of filming became too much.

His later career saw him resurrect his signature roles of Bret Maverick in the TV seriesBret Maverick (1981-2) and the film Maverick (1994) as well as Jim Rockford in a series of eight TV movies between 1994 and 1999. He also starred in the TV mini-series Streets of Laredo (1995) taking on the role of Woodrow Call from Tommy Lee Jones who portrayed Call in 1989’s Lonesome Dove. In 2000 he appeared with Jones alongside Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland in Space Cowboys.

Garner’s self-deprecating humour is summed up in this quote about his performance as Bret Maverick: “I’m playing me. Bret Maverick is lazy: I’m lazy. And I like being lazy.”

An actor from an increasingly distant generation, the likeable Garner will be sadly missed, but his legacy lives on through his work, which is widely available on DVD.

Biography: The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner and Jon Winokur (2011, Simon & Schuster)
Web: The Official James Garner Fan Page

Film Review – SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977)

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977, Paramount Pictures, USA, 118 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Dolby Stereo, Cert: 18, Drama) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: John Travolta (Tony Manero), Karen Lynn Gorney (Stephanie Mangano), Barry Miller (Bobby C.), Joseph Cali (Joey), Paul Pape (Double J.), Bruce Ornstein (Gus), Donna Pescow (Annette), Val Bisoglio (Frank Manero, Sr.), Julie Bovasso (Flo Manero), Martin Shakar (Frank Manero, Jr.), Nina Hansen (Grandmother), Lisa Peluso (Linda Manero), Sam J. Coppola (Dan Fusco), Lisa Peluso (Linda), Denny Dillon (Doreen), Bert Michaels (Pete).
      Producer: Robert Stigwood; Director: John Badham; Writer: Norman Wexler (based on the article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” by Nik Cohn); Director of Photography: Ralf D. Bode (Movielab); Music: Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb, David Shire; Film Editor: David Rawlins; Production Designer: Charles Bailey; Costume Designer: Patrizia Von Brandenstein.

Saturday Night FeverRobert Stigwood purchased the rights to a magazine article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” by Nik Cohn published in New York Magazine on 7 Jun 1976 and the resultant movie became a smash hit by tapping into the then current disco fever and through the magnetic performance of its new star, John Travolta. Cohn was initially involved in the screenplay before Wexler was brought in to produce the shooting script. Initially John Avildsen was to direct, but conceptual disagreements with producer Stigwood led to him being replaced by Badham.

Travolta plays Tony Manero, a 19 year-old Brooklyn resident in a dead-end job and with a family on struggling financially following his father being layed off from the construction company he worked for all his life. The family are much prouder of the elder son (Shakar) who has left and become a priest. In order to escape his family Travolta cruises the disco clubs with his pals and is a hot dancer admired by all around him – particularly the girls. He hooks up with another dancer he admires (Gorney) to enter a competition. In the meantime the gang get into trouble with another gang resulting in one of them being hospitalised. The junior member of the gang has got his girlfriend pregnant and is at a loss what to do. The story unfolds around these plot threads and shows Travolta’s transition from teenage boy to man.

The musical backdrop provided by The Bee Gees and other disco acts of the time gives the film an added energy, but it is Travolta who drives the story forward in a career making performance. His dancing is fluid and his acting impressively natural. He gets good support from a talented cast – notably Bisoglio and Bovasso as his bickering parents. Bode’s photography of the New York locations captures the economic problems the city had at the time and Badham convincingly captures the spirit of youngsters in the city.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is a highly influential movie, but also is a period piece in that it captures its moment in time so well. An inferior sequel, STAYING ALIVE, followed in 1983.