McCLOUD #3: THE KILLING by DAVID WILSON (1974, Award, 156pp) ***
Blurb: The killing started with a heist. Five men, masked as marauders from the past, knocked off an armoured car. They left no trace, save for a single silver spur. The plot was fiendishly clever, conceived by a money-hungry genius, executed by a brutal gang of desperate thieves. McCloud tracked down the band of robbers. But to stop them he had to keep them from committing another murder – his own!
Having re-watched many of the McCloud TV movies from the 1970s I bought the six paperback novelisations that were published between 1973 and 1975 by Award books. Having seen four of the six stories on screen, I picked this novelisation of Glen A. Larson’s script for “Butch Cassidy Rides Again” as the start point. This is one of four of the six to be attributed to author “David Wilson” – reported to be a pseudonym for at least one writer – maybe more judging by the stylistic differences between the books.
Reading the blurb you would think this was a dark, tense and violent thriller. It is not. What we have is a fairly straight-forward adaptation of Larson’s light script full of his trademark ironic humour. Larson (who worked as producer on the series) knows his main characters well, so all Wilson has to do is to let their witty dialogue tell the story and it flows through the book with little need for long descriptive passages. As such the book is a fast easy read and enjoyable, if more than a little far-fetched.
CAREER OF EVIL by ROBERT GALBRAITH (2017, Sphere, 584pp) ****
Blurb: When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
In her acknowledgements, J.K. Rowling (here again writing under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith) stated that she “can’t ever remember enjoying writing a novel more”. That is saying a lot given her success with the Harry Potter fantasy series. Her statement is evident in her writing of Career of Evil, the third book in her Cormoran Strike series of detective novels, which is fluid and showing a writer at the top of her game. Rowling is very much at home with her lead characters of Strike and his female partner Robin Ellacott. The plot here follows a serial killer with a grudge against Strike, who goes about dismembering his victims. It is a grisly tale, which is inter-cut with the growing professional relationship between Strike and Robin. However, this relationship is put to the test as the killer targets Robin, who’s determination to stay with the case strains her relationship with both fiancee, Matthew and with Strike himself.
Where this book, like the previous ones and many of todays’ crime novels, would benefit is from tighter editing. The need by publishers to bloat volumes beyond 500 pages in order to fill up the book shelves means the day of the tight, efficient crime thriller told in half the page count seems to be over. It’s as if publishers are vying for some literary recognition through sheer quantity of the product. Whilst Rowling has more to say about her characters than others in the genre – giving them credible back stories and ongoing domestic lives – there is a seeming desire to fill the required page count. That said this is still a very enjoyable read and one that leaves you wanting more from this likeable detective duo.
Give My Regrets to Broadway (TV) (1972; USA; Technicolor; 75m) **½ d. Lou Antonio; w. Peter Allan Fields; ph. Harry L. Wolf; m. Billy Goldenberg. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Milton Berle, Barbara Rush, Janette Lane Bradbury, Diana Muldaur, Terry Carter, Eric Christmas, Vic Tayback. An explosion kills an officer filling in for McCloud. The plot here is routine in this McCloud series entry and there is plenty of filler with a musical number for Weaver and also Bradbury. Berle has a guest role as a Broadway producer. [PG]
Sharks! (TV) (1975; USA; Technicolor; 98m) **½ d. E.W. Swackhamer; w. Lou Shaw, Stephen Lord; ph. Ben Colman; m. Stu Phillips. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Terry Carter, Christopher George, Lynda Day George, A Martinez, Dick Haymes, Herb Jefferson, Jr., Pat Hingle. McCloud disobeys a lieutenant to investigate a loan shark he suspects of murder. Good use of NYC locations in this McCloud entry. Story runs out of steam in its final act with protracted plane chase, but Weaver’s easy-going charm and a strong cast make the most of the routine situations. [PG]
42nd Street Cavalry, The (TV) (1974; USA; Technicolor; 96m) *** d. Jerry Jameson; w. Michael Gleason; ph. Ben Colman, Sol Negrin; m. Stu Phillips. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Terry Carter, Julie Sommars, Peter Mark Richman, Rafael Campos, Victor Campos, Michael Parks. The mounted patrol, McCloud and a sergeant probe a weapons robbery and death. Neatly packaged entry in the McCloud series mixing action and humour alongside Weaver’s laconic charm. Transition from location to studio footage sometimes jars, but the cast work hard. Richman played McCloud’s boss, Chief Clifford, in the original pilot before Cannon took the role for the series. [PG]
This Must Be the Alamo (TV) (1974; USA; Technicolor; 96m) ***½ d. Bruce Kessler; w. Glen A. Larson; ph. Alric Edens; m. Stu Phillips. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Terry Carter, Van Johnson, Laraine Stephens, Ray Danton, Eugene Roche, Della Reese, Jack Kelly, Gregory Sierra, Ken Lynch, Teri Garr, Sidney Klute. A football gambling operation begins eliminating witnesses and clues, leading to an attack on police headquarters. One of the best entries in the McCloud series with a witty script and a strong ensemble cast. The formula would be repeated in RETURN TO THE ALAMO the following year. [PG]
Disposal Man, The (TV) (1971; USA; Technicolor; 76m) **½ d. Boris Sagal; w. Mel Arrighi, Dean Hargrove; ph. William Margulies; m. Billy Goldenberg. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Patrick O’Neal, James Olson, Jack Carter, Arthur O’Connell, Nita Talbot, Diana Muldaur, James McEachin. McCloud protects an executive who refuses to believe he is in danger from a killer. This entry in the McCloud series is drawn out and lacks the edge of the series at its best. Olson is a distinctive hit-man, but the plot lacks tension. [PG]
Colorado Cattle Caper, The (TV) (1974; USA; Technicolor; 75m) *** d. Robert Day; w. Michael Gleason; ph. Alric Edens; m. Frank De Vol. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Terry Carter, Claude Akins, Patrick Wayne, John Denver, Ed Ames, Robert Sampson, Farrah Fawcett, Vic Tayback, Austin Stoker. In Colorado to pick up a suspect, McCloud helps a local sheriff catch cattle rustlers. Enjoyable entry in the McCloud series reverses the concept of the series by having NYC cops Cannon and Carter ship out west. A deft blend of action and humour with a strong support cast including an early role for Fawcett as well as Denver as a singing deputy. [PG]
New Mexican Connection, The (TV) (1972; USA; Technicolor; 75m) *** d. Russ Mayberry, Hy Averback; w. Glen A. Larson; ph. William Cronjager; m. John Andrew Tartaglia. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Ricky Nelson, Gilbert Roland, Jackie Cooper, Murray Hamilton, Diana Muldaur, Terry Carter, Ray Danton, Ken Lynch, Sharon Gless. A TV reporter decrying police brutality criticizes McCloud’s reaction to kidnapping threats. Entertaining entry in the McCloud series with Weaver making maximum use of some good dialogue. The plot is perfunctory, but the character interaction and a strong guest cast take this up a notch. [PG]
Strike: The Silkworm (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 2x60m) ***½ pr. Jackie Larkin; d. Kieron Hawkes; w. Tom Edge; ph. Gary Shaw; m. Adrian Johnston. Cast: Tom Burke, Holliday Grainger, Kerr Logan, Monica Dolan, Sarah Gordy, Dominic Mafham, Peter Sullivan, Tim McInnerny, Lia Williams, Sargon Yelda, Caitlin Innes Edwards, Ian Attard, Joey Batey, Natasha O’Keeffe, Jeremy Swift. Strike is approached by Leonora Quine with a plea to locate her husband, the notorious writer Owen Quine, who has disappeared without a trace. The plot, dealing with literature used as a sadistic weapon for revenge was never going to be easy to adapt for TV and whilst the first book stretched to a 3-hour adaptation, here Robert Galbraith’s (J.K. Rowling) second Cormoran Strike novel is condensed into 2 hours. Whilst this creates some necessary tightening of the plot, it does make for demanding viewing in trying to keep up with its intricacies. Those who do so will be rewarded with a strong variation on the traditional whodunit. Burke and Grainger again excel in their lead roles and the support acting all round is strong. The series will return in 2018 with an adaptation of the third novel in the series, “Career of Evil”.