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Monday, 16 July 2018

Keep Calm and Read On

Following the success of my book, Cardiff and the Valleys in the Great War , the publishers commissioned a follow up to be entitled Cardiff at War 1939 - 1945. As you can imagine the book requires a lot of careful research and recently while going through news archives I found a newspaper article from January 1940 that I'd like to share here.

It seems that during the early years of the war there was a spike in reading - I'm not sure if this was nationwide but Cardiff library found itself incredibly busy. So much so in fact that the library collected together its data and told the South Wales Echo of its most popular titles.

Black Out Makes Cardiff Read More, the newspaper headlined. which means there must have been a lot of candles burning behind those black out curtains. Though as of yet I've not found an article on the spike in candle sales  - Escapist fiction was understandable extremely popular, as was Richard Llewellyn's beautiful How Green was my Valley - apparently people who saw the hardships of the coal mining industry first hand also enjoyed reading about them. The public were also very keen to educate themselves on the background of the crisis in Europe and books about Germany and Hitler in particular were hired out often. Hitler' s Mein Kampf was eagerly read, as was Hitler Speaks which reproduced a lot of the mad little Charley Chaplin impersonator's speeches.

There was also a revival in classic literature and Wuthering Heights was particularly popular.

As a book lover myself, a constant reader I took great pleasure from reading the article, and it's nice to think of all those people hunched over a book in the dimness of the black out - I wonder what they would have thought of the Kindle Paperwhite?

Cardiff and the Valleys in the Great War (Pen and Sword Books) is available now in both print and electronic formats. Check it out by CLICKING HERE

Cardiff at War 1939 - 1945 is scheduled to be published December 2018.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

The Men with the Golden Pens

The recently published Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz (expect a full review soon) is the latest in a long line of novels featuring Ian Fleming's masterspy James Bond. And whilst it is commonplace these days for a long running series to continue after the death of the original author, this wasn't the case back in the early 1960's.

Fleming died in 1964, and although he saw the success of the early Sean Connery movies he missed seeing the global phenomenon that his character became after the release of the third Bond movie, Goldfinger.

After the death of Ian Fleming, Glidrose Productions, later Ian Fleming Publications, began exploring the idea of having new writers create new James Bond novels using the collective pen name of Robert Markham. Geoffrey Jenkins, a friend of Flemings and  a fine thriller writer himself seemed an obvious choice. By 1964, he had four best-sellers to his credit and he already had story ideas that Ian Fleming himself had participated in shaping. However when in  1966, Jenkins submitted his manuscript for PER FINE OUNCE.  Glidrose rejected the book and it is now considered a lost Bond novel. The reasons the work was rejected have never been made clear, nor has the manuscript ever turned up.

In  1968 James Bond did finally return in Colonel Sun by Robert Markham (actually written by Kingsley Amis).  As previously noted the Robert Markham name was intended by  Glidrose,  to be a pen name that would be used by multiple authors to continue Flemings work. However this was not to be and although Colonel Sun was reasonably successful it didn't sell as well as had been hoped and the plans for a new Bond literary series seemed to be dead in the water.

The next Bond novels where actually novelisations of two of the movies - The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, both written by Christopher Wood. The film versions were so different to Fleming's original novels that these books, which follow their respective movie's screenplay, can be considered original novels. Both build on their screenplays and we learn from the books that the Jaws character's real name is Zbigniew Krycsiwiki.

In the 1980's the Bond copyright holders decided to bring Bond back in a new series, and thriller writer John Gardner was selected as the new writer. His first book was 1981's Licence Renewed and in all he wrote 16 Bond novels. Licence Renewed / For Special Services / Icebreaker / Role Of Honour / Nobody Lives For Ever / No Deals, Mr. Bond / Scorpius / Win, Lose Or Die / Licence To Kill / Brokenclaw / The Man From Barbarossa / Death Is Forever / Never Send Flowers / SeaFire / GoldenEye / COLD.

When Gardner tired of the series, American author Raymond Benson took up the golden pen and gave us six new novels, as well as novelisations of the Pierce Brosnan movies, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is not Enough and Die Another Day. The Benson Bond's were: Zero Minus Ten / Tomorrow Never Dies / The Facts Of Death / High Time To Kill / The World Is Not Enough / DoubleShot / Never Dream Of Dying / The Man With The Red Tattoo / Die Another Day.

There wasn't a new Bond novel - ignoring the Young Bond novels and the Moneypenny Diaries - until 2008 when noted author Sabastian Faulks wrote Devil May Care. There was much hype around this novel, which was written as a pastiche of Fleming's style but Faulks declined to write more.

Bestselling crime writer, Jeffrey Deaver next took a stab at 007 with 2011's Carte Blanche, and although the previous Bond had been set in the early 1970's, Deaver took the route used by John Gardner and Raymond Benson and set his adventure in the present day.

William Boyd came next with Solo and this time Bond was back in the 1960's - like the two previous authors, Boyd would only write the one Bond adventure.

All of the Bond novels written since Fleming's death have their strong points, but it wasn't until 2015's Trigger Mortis written by Anthony Horowitz that the novels really captured the true feel of Fleming - perhaps because the author was able to use some unpublished Fleming material in his book. The story took up immediately after the climax of Goldfinger with Pussy Galore featuring in the story, well until she ran off with lesbian racing driver, that is.

The book was so well received that Horowitz was asked back for a second Bond novel, the aforementioned Forever and a Day. Let's hope Horowitz does a third because he seems as near as dammit as one can get to the real Ian Fleming.

Forever and a Day is available now in hardcover, audiobook and eBook.

A spy is dead. A legend is born. This is how it all began. The explosive prequel to Casino Royale, from bestselling author Anthony Horowitz.

M laid down his pipe and stared at it tetchily. 'We have no choice. We’re just going to bring forward this other chap you’ve been preparing. But you didn’t tell me his name.' 

'It’s Bond, sir,' the Chief of Staff replied. 'James Bond.' 

The sea keeps its secrets. But not this time.

One body. Three bullets. 007 floats in the waters of Marseille, killed by an unknown hand.

It’s time for a new agent to step up. Time for a new weapon in the war against organised crime.
It’s time for James Bond to earn his licence to kill. This is the story of the birth of a legend, in the brutal underworld of the French Riviera.


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Did you hear the one about the actor, the comedian and the novelist? Mark Billingham Interview

Billingham dressed to kill Pic by Donna-Lisa Healy.
Did you hear the one about the actor, the comedian and the novelist?

Well, they're all the same man! Boom Boom!!

Not much of a punchline granted, not even a punchline, but it's the best I could come up with after weeks of footie fatigue; the World Cup being in full swing. And although it might be inane it is fitting to precede our interview with bestselling crime/thriller writer Mark Billingham. 

Billingham, born in Solihull, grew up in Birmingham and spent most of his formative years there. After leaving university, with a degree in drama, he remained in Birmingham and helped set up Bread and Circuses, a socialist theatre company, and after several years of touring shows he left for the bright lights of London to pursue a career as a jobbing actor. It was now the 1980's and Billingham saw himself taking small parts in shows like Dempsey and Makepeace, The Bill and Juliet Bravo. His best known role was as Gary, the dim witted guard employed by the Sheriff of Nottingham in the successful children's series, Maid Marion and her Merry Men.

Billingham though soon grew tired of acting, feeling that the  secret for success was largely based on how an actor looked rather than talent  -' I seemed to be offered bad guy roles such as a soccer hooligan, drug addict, a nasty copper, a racist copper or a bent copper' - and he instead opted to concentrate on stand up comedy. Staring out with 5 - 10 minute unpaid open mic sessions, he soon moved onto 30 minute paid slots, and from there he found himself headlining gigs at the prestigious Comedy Store. 

' Back then it was fairly easy to get into,' Billingham says of his stand up comedy career.  'You'd go to a couple of clubs and do what are called 'Try-outs' which are unpaid spots. You got five minutes, and if you did well that progressed into 10 minutes, and then 20 to 30 minute paid slots. But now it is really big business, and there are big chains of Comedy Clubs. I feel sorry for young comics of 18 or 19 today, as it is so tough now. It's a lot tougher now than it used to be.'

Despite his success as a stand up comedian though, Billingham's first love was writing, something he had been doing since an early age and although his first attempt at a novel, the Birmingham set Mechanic (as yet unpublished), which was a comic crime thriller that he abandoned before completion, the writing bug had bitten.  He loved reading crime novels and so he decided to concentrate on a straight forward crime novel. This would become Sleepyhead - the 2001 novel that all but make him an instant

Sleepyhead is a serial killer thriller with a truly ingenious twist, since if a victim dies the killer considers this a failure. He's not trying to kill his victims but rather to induce a permanent catatonic state through the skillful manipulation of nerves and pressure points - it's called Locked In Syndrome or pseudocoma, a condition in which a patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles except for vertical eye movements and blinking.

The thriller introduced us to hard living, country music loving, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne and readers instantly took to this new cop on the fictional crime landscape. Despite his rather dodgy musical taste, the reading public loved him and this past month saw the publication of The Killing Habit, the fifteenth book in the Tom Thone series.

TAINTED ARCHIVE: So after so many books featuring the same group of characters, I wonder if the author found it difficult to maintain reader interest. Is it actually easier now that the readers are so familiar with Thorne's universe or is it harder to keep them interested?

MARK BILLINGHAM: I suppose it's a little of both. The tricky part is writing a book in the series which honours those readers who have followed the Thorne novels since the start, while not alienating those who may not have read any of them. It's a tough balance to get right. There SHOULD be pressure, because unless you're always trying to write a better book than you did last time, you really should not be bothering. You certainly cannot take reader familiarity for granted...

TA: A particular strength in the Thorne series are the secondary characters - Tanner, Hendricks, Helen etc. In some way there's something of a soap opera vibe to series fiction in the way that the private lives of character that make up the fictional universe come and go. How to do you keep track of everything that is going on with such a large cast of recurring characters? Is there a series bible for instance?

MB: No, there's no such thing as a bible when it comes to my fictional world. It was a choice I made early on, specifically for Thorne, that I would not lay everything out or know everything about him and the same goes for Phil, Helen and the rest. This can cause problems of course, the most obvious one being that I forget stuff. But I think it's the right way to go in the long run, because it means that the characters can stay unpredictable. If they're surprising me then they have more chance of surprising the reader.

TA: to step away from Thorne for a moment - from time to time you write standalone thrillers. Are these a chance to rest from Thorne's world? Do they enable you to tackle subjects that may not work in a Thorne thriller? 

MB: That's absolutely right and it's a lesson I learned from writers like Michael Connelly. I think it's the best way - possibly the ONLY way - to keep a series from getting stale. You need to step away once in a while and do something else. That way, in theory at least, you can return to your series a year later fired up and ready to get back into it. While it's sometimes scary - and you ask yourself why you didn't just play safe and write another series novel - it's enormously liberating to leave your comfort zone. The standalones are among the favourites of all my novels and I'll certainly be doing some more. As you say, sometimes it's a story that simply has no room for a miserable north London copper... 

 TA: You are all over social media - often giving live Facebook broadcasts whilst wearing some pretty loud shirts, hosting the excellent Podcast A Stab in the Dark. How important is social media to the modern writer?

MB: Social media has, of course, become tremendously important, both to writers and publishers. On the down side, it can be a way for some publishers to do marketing and "publicity" on the cheap, but from a writer's point of view it's a fairly easy way to keep in touch with readers and fellow writers. To let people know what you're up to. Increasingly in recent years, writers have needed to sell themselves as much as their books, so a presence on social media has become pretty much compulsory. For those of us who are not averse to showing off, it's great, but it can also be an enormous time-suck, so I look at it as a treat that I need to earn. I get a chapter done, I can treat myself to 10 minutes on Twitter or whatever. the podcast was great fun and I hope we'll be recording some more very soon.

A STAB IN THE DARK PODCAST: I would urge fans of crime thrillers to check out the podcast - it can perhaps boast the finest line of big name guests of any podcast. Sofia Helfin, Mark Gattis, Michael Connelly, Belinda Bauer and Patricia Cornwell are just a few of the luminaries who have appeared recently. Find details HERE

TA: Given your knowledge of the genre, let's touch on other writers. Who do you particularly like? Are there any authors who you read as each book come out?

MB: There are SO many great writers out there at the moment. In terms of those writers whose early copies I scrounge from publishers it's all the usual suspects. Mick Herron is definitely one of those. His books are like crack! Same goes for Belinda Bauer, Martyn Waites, John Connolly, George Pelecanos, Laura Lippman, Michael Connelly, Steve Cavanagh, Susie Steiner, loads more that I've forgotten and, of course, all my band-mates from the Fun Lovin' Crime Writers. I'm only in that band so I can hang out with them.

THE FUN LOVING CRIME WRITERS:  The band, genre fiction's answer to John, Paul, George and Ringo are Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre,  Stuart Neville, Luca Veste and Doug Johnstone, and they regularly appear at festivals and - in their own words: murder songs for fun. 

 This month they will be appearing at the Harrogate Crime Festival and later this year they will be appearing at Bloody Scotland, the highland's own international crime writing festival.


TA: Along the same lines - what are your influences?

MB: There are so many influences. When I was a student I read all the classic US authors - Hammett, Chandler, McDonald, and then later those writers who were shaking things up in their wake - Burke, Ellroy. Before I'd written a word I'd read pretty much everything by the likes of Connelly, Pelecanos, McDermid, Rankin and Harvey, and I still do. It tickles me constantly that all those writers are now my friends. I think I was as influenced by TV and film as much as by anything I read.

TA: The crime/thriller genre in itself is in rude health with some great stuff out there. And it is so fluid - I recently listened with great interest in you chat with John Connolly in which he stated that setting does not define a crime novel. He used a hypothetical crime story set in the old west as his example and I think I agree with him. Another case in point is Brookmyre's Places in the Darkness being taken for SF. I guess what I'm trying to ask is are there genre boundaries that can't be crossed without a work transforming into an entirely different genre? Are there firm and hard rules to the crime genre? Your thoughts on this please.

MB: I really enjoyed that chat with John, who is another writer whose stuff I will try and read as early as possible. I agree that the genre is in great shape and I really don't believe it has boundaries. There are certain conventions and I think you'd be foolish to ignore all of them, but there really isn't anywhere you can't go. That said, if you're writing a crime novel that features wizards and dragons, then even though it might still BE a crime novel, it's also fantasy. Maybe mash-ups are the way forward.

TA: Let's get onto your own writing - your work habits?   

MB: I don't really have work habits. I write a book every year, so there are obviously certain things I have to do, but it's not a 9-5 job. If I'm on the road promoting a book that's just come out, I won't be writing the current one. I can't do both things at the same time. I need my office, my desk, my things. When I AM working, it's usually done at night. I TRY to write during the day but I'm easily distracted, so it works best when emails aren't arriving and Twitter has gone quiet. On top of that, I think it suits the kind of stuff I'm writing if I can look out of the window and see only darkness. 

TA: And back to Thorne - what are the chances of him returning to TV?

MB: The notion of bringing Thorne back to TV surfaces every six months or so and there has been plenty of interest, but nothing's going to be happening very soon. Mind you, in television nothing EVER happens very soon. Rush Of Blood is still in development and I'm working on something original for TV, but 99% of all my energy and attention is focused on the books. Oh, and the band of fellow crime-writers I sing and play guitar with. 

 THORNE TV SERIES: The series debuted on Sky 1 in October 2010 with David Morrisey in the title role. Despite considerable success the series has yet to return.

TA: Finally, will be ever see the return of Nicklin? If Thorne is Holmes then he is his Moriarty, and the character is a huge hit with readers. So will our favorite psycho come back?

MB: Ha! I get asked this a lot. Nothing is certain, but the book that will come out in 2020 will be my twentieth novel and will mean 20 years of Thorne. If I WAS going to bring Nicklin back - for one last appearance - that would probably be the time. But I won't do it unless I have an idea that really works...



Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Book Review: The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham

The Killing Habit is the fifteenth book in the hugely popular Tom Thorne series.

The previous Thorne, Love Like Blood was a truly exceptional crime thriller and it must have presented the author with quite a challenge to follow up, but thankfully Billingham was more than up to the task. Again the book uses highly topical issues as its starting point - this time dealing with animal cruelty. Specifically a series of cat killings - this case is based on the real life UK Cat Killings in which someone, still at large, is responsible for the brutal killings of hundreds of cats.

Thorne knows the serial killer archetype and is convinced that someone who kills cats, mutilates them and leaves their bodies on the doorstep for their owners to find them, will progress to killing people, indeed may have already done so. And so Thorne, once again teamed with DI Nicola Tanner begins to investigate. Thankfully the descriptions of the animal torture are mostly kept off scene, and it is not long before the plot moves on and becomes a cat and mouse game (excuse the pun) between Thorne, his team and the demented killer.

There is also a secondary though equally important plot in which Tanner is keeping a man in a safe house while she tries to track down a woman, known as The Duchess who has links to organised crime. As well as all that we also have details of the everyday lives of the main characters, and this soap opera aspect so necessary to long running series is something that Billingham does so well. Thorne is at odds with his partner Helen, feeling that her sister is coming between them and deliberately trying to ruin their relationship, Tanner still mourning the loss of her own partner is flat hunting and the rest of the regular cast put in their obligatory and entertaining appearance. I can never get enough of Hendricks, for example.

Billingham juggles everything with considerable skill and there is a real sense of urgency as the plot unfolds, which leads to a (I didn't see that coming) climax that will have major ramifications as the series progresses.

Later this week the Archive talks to the author in an exclusive interview.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Magazine Watch: Comicscene

Now this looks interesting.

Issue 1 hits stores this August

You can order your copies now or subscribe in print or digital pdf at

Enhanced digital editions can be purchased for £3.99 at from 1st August

Monday, 2 July 2018

The World Cup is on...we've not got time for this

Absolutely  hilarious responses to Cheryl Cole's tweet about her split from that One Direction guy

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Discovering the Detectives: R. D. Wingfield

To most the name R. D . Wingfield will sum up images of Inspector Frost, his best known creation who was brought to screen by David Jason but that's only half the picture. In fact it's not even half the picture, a quarter maybe or even less because R. D. Wingfield was for around twenty years a prolific writer of radio drama for the BBC- in fact even Inspector Frost made his debut in a radio play.

The Inspector Frost novels are truly excellent but it is with the radio plays - most of which can be found easily on You Tube - that the author did his best work.  Between 1972 and 1988, Wingfield produced a steady stream of intelligent mystery plays with a built-in guarantee of enjoyment for the listener . In fact even when Wingfield fell out with the BBC he continued to sell them plays written under pen names including the name Arthur Jefferson, which was actually Stan Laurel's real name.

'I was radio's blue-eyed boy. Everything I wrote they bought. When I'd sold three plays I thought, I'm on to a winner here, and I slung up my job - I was a clerk in an oil company -and started writing radio plays full-time.' R. D. Wingfield.

In various interviews Wingfield stated that he considered himself a dramatist first, and a novelist second and even when the TV series based around Inspector Frost made him an household name, radio remained his first love.

';I don't watch the television Frost. Nothing against David Jason. I could watch him again and again in 'Only Fools and Horses', but he isn't my Frost, and my fear is that if I were to watch him, then my next Frost would become him.' R. D Wingfield talking to the Radio Times in 1996.

Leslie Sands: First Frost

Back when Frost was first being developed for Radio, Wingfield hoped Ronnie Barker would play the part but recording couldn't be worked in around his TV work and so Leslie Sands was cast - this Frost is actually closer to the character in the novels than the TV series and can be listened to HERE.

Wingfield was an intensely shy and private man, Wingfield lived anonymously at Basildon, Essex, where even his neighbours were unaware of who he was. When ITV bought the television rights to the Frost books in 1992, he continued to live modestly and eschewed the trappings of success; he avoided the hoopla of book launches and publishers' parties, turned down requests for television interviews and was rarely photographed. Nor did he enjoy writing the books, regarding them as a grinding chore and very much a bread-and-butter obligation; radio scripts, on the other hand, were a labour of love, and Wingfield produced a steady stream of some 40 mysteries over a 20-year period until a shrinking radio market and the success of the Frost novels in the early 1990s forced his hand.

These radio plays are all good, many of them are excellent. Check out A TEST TO DESTRUCTION, an early play in which an explosives expert, seemingly caught in a desperate trap, keeps his nerve and thinks ahead. THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY, from 1972, which cleverly resolves an unexplained murder ten years after its commission. Also the serial OUTBREAK OF FEAR (1982), which piles one horrific death onto another in a hair-raising play. And SATURDAY ROSTER from 1974 is the ultimate straight forward police procedural And one I only recently listened to was THE KILLING SEASON, a six part thriller from 1984, which is set during the Christmas period is an absolute classic of crime drama. These are just a few of the excellent Wingfield plays that can be found on You Tube.

The original Frost novels
Below is a list of the Wingfield radio plays together with dates of first broadcast. Source Nigel Deacon's Diversity Website.

As previously stated most of these plays can be found on You Tube - To give you an idea of how highly I regard these plays I'll just tell you that I've ripped them all as MP3 FILES and they have a permanent place on my iPod - they've entertained me on many a long drive.

Compensating Error (45') Aug 68 8.15 R4
Our West Ladyton Branch (60') 13-11-68 8.15 R2
Better never than late (60') Nov 69 2.00 R4
The night they deliver the money (60') 4-4-70 2.00 R4
Double Entry (45') 7-10-70 R4
Test to Destruction (45') 1970 R4
Slow fuse (45') 13-1-71 8.15 R4
Letter of the law (60') 28-4-71 3.05 R4
Cat and mouse game (45') May 71 8.15 R4
Adequate Reasons (45') 21-7-71 8.15 R4
The tenth anniversary (45') 9-2-72 8.15 R4
The Alternative Plan (45') 19-7-72 8.15 R4
A second class risk (45') Jan 73 8.15 R4
Sins of commission (45') 2-5-73 8.15 R4
Cleft stick (45') 19-12-73 8.15 R4
Balance brought forward (45') 27-2-74 8.15 R4
Murder locked out (45') 11-9-74 8.15 R4
Saturday Roster (45') 9-10-74 8.15 R4
Slow Fuse (30' version) May 76 R4
Smiling and beautiful death (45') May 76 3.05 R4
Death of the insured (45') 8-7-76 3.05 R4
Winner takes the Kitty (30') Oct 76 R4
Three days of Frost (90') 12-2-77 8.30 R4
Credit risk (45') 24-2-77 3.05 R4
Daylight robbery (45') 2-6-77 3.05 R4
The last escape (45') 7-7-77 3.05 R4
Blood money (60') 26-8-77 3.05 R4
Post Mortem Shock (45') 2-11-77 R4
Nightmare (15') 16-2-79 1145pm R4
The cellar (15') 7-4-79 1145pm R4
Second sight (60') May 81 3.02 R4
Innocent victim (60') 20-8-81 3.02 R4
A touch of Frost (90') 6-2-82 8.30 R4
Moveable assets (45') Apr 82 3.02 R4
Outbreak of Fear (5 x 30 mins) beginning 29-8-82 R4
The Killing Season (as Arthur Jefferson) (6 x 30 mins) Jan 84 R4
Cover-up (90') 5-1-85 8.30 R4
Hate Mail (as T. Smith) (45') c1985 R4
Deadfall (60') Dec 87 R4. Rebroadcast by ABC, c1995

Rodney David Wingfield, radio scriptwriter and crime novelist, June 6 1928; died July 31 2007

Mark Billingham arrives at the Archive

To celebrate the release of Mark Billingham's new Thorne thriller, The Killing Habit (available now in hardcover and eBook) the Archive will proudly be presenting an interview with the author himself over the coming weeks. And later this week I'll post my review of the new novel - I'm reading this book a little slower than usual.....Hey, it's hard to read with the World Cup in full swing you know...If Mark Billingham will release his books to coincide with the biggest footie tournament of them all then it's his fault. I'm currently half way through and already I can say that the book provides far more thrills than Germany managed in the cup. Yep, you can safely say that Thorne is on top striking form here.

How do you catch a killer who is yet to kill?

We all know the signs. Cruelty, lack of empathy, the killing of animals. Now, pets on suburban London streets are being stalked by a shadow, and it could just be the start.

DI Tom Thorne knows the psychological profile of such offenders all too well, so when he is tasked with catching a notorious killer of domestic cats, he sees the chance to stop a series of homicides before they happen.

Others are less convinced, so once more, Thorne relies on DI Nicola Tanner to help him solve the case, before the culprit starts hunting people. It's a journey that brings them face to face with a killer who will tear their lives apart.

'A new Mark Billingham is always a treat and The Killing Habit hurls the reader straight into the action. Thoroughly enjoyable for being so very real' SUSIE STEINER

'Mark Billingham on superb form. A finely paced and polished procedural, with twists and turns galore and an ending that will chill your soul' CARA HUNTER

'An unconventional literary superstar' MAIL ON SUNDAY

'As ever with Billingham, a rich cast of characters and tense situations are marshalled with panache, leading to a final terrifying encounter' FINANCIAL TIMES
'Thorne is a terrific invention' IRISH INDEPENDENT

Last time we cross THE BRIDGE

The wonderful Saga Noren
Well that was it - this weekend the BBC completed screening the final episode of what is reportedly the end for the wonderful Scandi-crime drama, The Bridge - AND IF YOU'VE NOT SEEN THE END OF THE SERIES YET THEN DON'T READ ON BECAUSE THERE ARE SPOILERS COMING - with a scene that could have been lifted from the climax of Dirty Harry, Saga Noren (Man, how will we live without her) stood on the bridge where it all started and tossed her police badge away.

And everything goes back to the beginning.....

Of course the thing that bothered me about the final episode was the twist where Brian/Kevin was revealed to have been able- bodied all along. It's not that  fact that bothers me so much but rather the way it was discovered, because certain photographs could have only been taken by someone very short - a child perhaps, or someone in a wheelchair. Why the hell didn't Kevin/Brian simply stand to take the photohraphs? Everything else was so meticulously planned so I call bullshit on this.

Fucked up people - Henrik and Saga
And of course when his accomplice in all the carnage throughout the season where revealed it was also commonplace given the clever way they had both  operated throughout the season. Suzanne Winter for example was identified by leaving her fingerprints on the steering wheel of a stolen digger – an  elementary schoolgirl error. This was the same woman  who had pulled off the  elaborate, evil, scheme of manipulating gangster, William Ramburg into administering his sick daughter with a lethal injection. Not just any old poison either but neuro-toxins produced by a rare breed of snail. And of course as noted Kevin/Brian was revealed at the last moment by the wheelchair photography thing.

Despite these niggles The Bridge still rocked. Right from the first gruesome scene of the politician being stoned to death, it didn't let up.

This time the relationship between Saga and Henrik seemed more established; and Martin's absence wasn't felt as much as it had been in the previous season. Henrik was really likeable; this time out I actually warmed to him. Too late I suppose because it was all over far too quickly. I guess at the end of the day the characters were far more important than the plot which when examined closely just didn't hold water. Though in fairness the plots have always been elaborate - take for instance the first season in which the storyline came perilously close to a 1970's James Bond plot. It didn't matter because we had such great acting, wonderful characters and in Saga Noren a truly original creation. Her relationship with Martin and later Henrik was what stopped it all falling apart.

'Shall we have sex?'

The definitive teaming - Martin and Saga
I like it that the final scene had Saga answer her phone, no longer in the way that has become iconic throughout the series but with a simple - 'Saga Noren.'

And so after four seasons, 29 episodes The Bridge, one of the best crime dramas broadcast anywhere, came to an end, but you know I've got the entire run on my hard drive so I think I'll go back to the beginning. After all that's where everything goes.

Back to the beginning.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

Set in a parched Australian landscape, Jane Harper's The Dry is a real page turner of a crime novel. Much was made of the fact that this was a debut novel, coming from a writer who worked on the book while taking a creative writing course. It's been a massive success, and has turned heads not only in the land down under, but worldwide - it was a Radio 2 Book Choice, named the CWA Golden Dagger Book of the Year, named the Sunday Times Book of the Year for 2017 and is currently optioned for a major film , with none other than  Reese Witherspoon attached to the project. The latest news is that the movie will start filming early next year. And before all that it won the Victorian Premier Literary Award for An Unpublished Manuscript.

One of the many strengths of the novel is that it so effectively creates a sense of place, which gives it a lot in common with the Nordic noirs which are so popular with readers, though where the abiding image of Nordic thrillers are the  desolate snowscapes, Harper's book operates in the polar opposite. It's Outback noir and the parched desolate landscape of the book goes a long way in creating a sense of dread. The land is dying before our eyes, people are living in a state of poverty and hopelessness so it is no wonder that violence soon flares up.

The novel opens with a swarm of blowflies swarming around the bodies of a mother and son, who were butchered in their own home in a seemingly straight forward murder/suicide. Luke Hadler, driven mad by years of drought seems to have shot both his wife and son before turning the gun on himself.

Melbourne based policeman, Aaron Falk spent his childhood in the town of Kiewarra but he and his father had to leave town after the death of a young girl - actually, they were driven out of town when suspicion regarding the young girl's death fell on Aaron. And now years later Aaron returns to the town for the funeral of Luke and his family and becomes involved in an unofficial investigation into the so called murder/suicide. Why for instance did Luke, assuming he saw a hopeless future for himself and his family not kill his infant daughter before turning the gun on himself? Why just his wife and young son?

Falk teams up with local policeman, Sergeant Raco (as likable a character as you can meet in crime fiction) and together the duo start investigating. At the start of the book there is doubt sown in the reader's mind over the involvement Falk may have played in the death of the young girl all those years ago, and this story in a secondary mystery that runs alongside the main storyline. I've called the book Outback Noir, as to some extent it is but this is basically a crime novel in the classic style with a myriad of twists and turns to throw the reader before the thrilling and logical conclusion plays out.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Reagan: The Movie heading

Reagan: The Movie” has got its star. Years in development, this  film about the B- movie western star and , er 40th president of the United States will feature veteran actor Dennis Quaid in the role of the Gipper, the storyline described by producers as:

 “A journey of a lifetime, the all-American story of the boy from Dixon, Illinois, who grew up to be president and changed a nation and the world.”

Netflix UK July 2018

The following shows/movies will drop on Netflix in July

1st July
Monty Python: Before the Flying Circus
Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean: Mr Bean Live Action: Season 1
Parrot Sketch Not Included: Twenty Years of Monty Python
2 Fast 2 Furious
81005453_Montage Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran
81005454_Montage Beyond the Clouds
Adult Beginners
American Fable
Barbie Dolphin Magic
Bo Burnham: what.
China Moon
Dream Big: Engineering Our World
Duck Butter
Fast & Furious
Fast Five
I'll See You in My Dreams
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Lee Daniels' The Butler
Loving Annabelle
Miracle Mile
Monty Python: Live at Aspen
Monty Python: Live at The Hollywood Bowl
Murder Mountain (Working Title): Season 1
Ninja Vengeance
NOVA: 15 Years of Terror
NOVA: CyberWar Threat
NOVA: Inside Einstein's Mind
NOVA: Life's Rocky Start
NOVA: Memory Hackers
NOVA: Rise of the Robots
NOVA: School of the Future
NOVA: Search for the Super Battery
NOVA: Why Trains Crash
Oklahoma's Deadliest Tornadoes
Scary Movie 5
Sweet Virginia
Teen Wolf: Season 6
The Boyfriend School
The Fast and the Furious
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
The Feels
The Giver
The Hateful Eight
The Heavenly Kid
The Mummy
The Mummy Returns
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
The Redeemed and the Dominant: Fittest on Earth
The Stanford Prison Experiment
We the Marines
What We Started
Wind River
What a Wonderful Family!
Casino Tycoon
Casino Tycoon 2
Disciples Of The 36th Chamber
Doubles Cause Troubles
Finding Mr. Right
Justice, My Foot!
Little Dragon Maiden
Look Out, Officer
Love on Delivery
Loving You
Martial Arts of Shaolin
Mr. Virgin
Opium and the Kung Fu Master
Painted Faces
Prince Charming
Shark Busters
Temporary Family
The Bare-Footed Kid
The Bodyguard
The Golden Era
The Mad Monk
The Young Vagabond
Adventures of Omanakuttan
Angamaly Diaries
Anjaan: Special Crimes Unit: Season 1
Anthony Kaun Hai?
Chicken Kokkachi
Deewana Main Deewana
Gabru: Hip Hop Revolution: Season 1
I Am Kalam
Kaviyude Osyath
Khan: No. 1 Crime Hunter: Season 1
Ma Chu Ka
Mere Papa Hero Hiralal: Season 1
My Birthday Song
Namastey London
Paathi: The Half
Pareeth Pandaari
Paulettante Veedu
Paying Guests
Queens of Comedy: Season 2
Sarvopari Palakkaran
Socha Na Tha
Solo (Malayalam version)
Swami Baba Ramdev: The Untold Story: Season 1
The Great Father
The Wedding Detective: Season 1
Tum Milo Toh Sahi
Viswasapoorvam Mansoor
Fate/Grand Order -First Order-
The Asterisk War: Season 1
Soul Robbers
Beautiful Gong Shim: Season 1
Doctors: Season 1
Jackpot: Season 1
Jealousy Incarnate: Season 1
Remember: Season 1
Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim: Season 1
수상한 파트너: Season 1
Bang Ra Jan 2 : Reunion Of Paladins
Bangkok Hell
Holy Man
Holy Man 2
Holy Man 3
My True Friend
Oh My Ghost
Oh My Ghost 2
Oh My Ghost 3
Oh My Ghost 4
Pahuyut Fighting Beat
The Iron Ladies
The Iron Ladies 2
The Unborn Child
Train Of The Dead
2nd July
Good Witch: Season 4
Power: Season 5
Bridal Mask: Season 1
King of Peking
Dance Academy: The Comeback
3rd July
47 Ronin
Men on a Mission: 2018
The Comedy Lineup
Good Girls
4th July
Queen of the Desert
5th July
Colony: Season 2
From Prada to Nada
Pete's Dragon
The Best Man Holiday
Hyori's Bed & Breakfast: Season 2
6th July
Gnomeo and Juliet
Green Street Hooligans
Dark Net: Season 2
Need for Speed
Peter Pan
Pitch Black
Robin Hood
The Family
The Impossible
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Tale of Despereaux
Warm Bodies
100 Days Of Solitude
Anne With An E: Season 2
Sacred Games
The Legacy Of A Whitetail Deer Hunter
The Skin Of The Wolf
Luciano Mellera: Infantiloide
First Team: Juventus: Part B
Inside The World's Toughest Prisons: Season 2
Somebody Feed Phil: The Second Course
Free Rein: Season 2
7th July
A Ghost Story
Mr. Sunshine
White Fang
8th July
A Fond Kiss
American Assassin
9th July
Lockup: Extended Stay: Collection 1
10th July
Home Again
The Wolf of Wall Street
Men on a Mission: 2018
All the Queen's Horses
Drug Lords: Season 2
11th July
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Mossad 101: Season 2
13th July
Blood & Treasures: Season 1
Fatal Destiny: Season 1
Sugar Rush
How It Ends
Jim Jefferies: This Is Me Now
The Epic Tales Of Captain Underpants
15th July
Gavin & Stacey: Season 1
Sherlock: Series 4
Hollywood Weapons: Fact or Fiction?: Season 2
The Trap
Lucha. Jugando con lo imposible
Temporada de Caza
Going for Gold
3096 Tage
21 Sarfarosh: Saragarhi 1897: Season 1
Bonusfamiljen: Season 2
16th July
Big: Season 1
Hi! School - Love On: Season 1
Moorim School: Season 1
17th July
Men on a Mission: 2018
18th July
Camarón Revolution: Season 1
Camarón: The Film
19th July
Cabin Fever
The Stranger
El club de los buenos infieles
20th July
Live from the BBC: Season 2
Nothing to Lose
conjuring spirit
Amazing Interiors
Jimmy: The True Story Of A True Idiot
Final Space
Father Of The Year
Dark Tourist
Last Chance U: EMCC & Life After
Last Chance U: INDY: Part 1
Home: Adventures With Tip & Oh: Season 4
Luna Petunia: Return To Amazia: Season 2
21st July
49 Days
All In: Season 1
Birth of a Beauty: Season 1
Doctor Stranger: Season 1
I Hear Your Voice: Season 1
Lie to Me
Lovers in Paris: Season 1
My Girl: Season 1
My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho
Pinocchio: Season 1
Rooftop Prince
Secret Garden
Shining Inheritance
The Girl Who Sees Scents: Season 1
The Master's Sun: Season 1
Tree With Deep Roots: Season 1
What Happened in Bali: Season 1
Yong Pal: Season 1
You Are Beautiful
23rd July
Reggie Yates Outside Man: Volume 2
The Devil and Father Amorth
Five Elements Ninjas
Flying Guillotine 2
Legendary Weapons of China
Mahjong Heroes
My Schoolmate, the Barbarian
On the Wrong Track
Return To The 36th Chamber
Sword Masters: Two Champions of Shaolin
The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin
The Bund
The Five Venoms
The Flying Guillotine
44 Pages
24th July
Floogals: Season 1
Happy End
Men on a Mission: 2018
El Aviso
Iliza Shlesinger: Elder Millennial
25th July
Falsify: Season 1
27th July
Smoking: Season 1
Orange Is The New Black: Season 6
Roman Empire: Reign Of Blood: Master Of Rome
Inside The Criminal Mind
Welcome To The Family
Coco y Raulito: Carrusel de ternura
The Bleeding Edge
Cupcake & Dino - General Services
28th July
Gorky Park
29th July
Law Abiding Citizen
The Glass Castle
30th July
Trot Lovers: Season 1
A Very Secret Service: Season 2
31st July
Danger Mouse: Season 2
Bhavesh Joshi
Men on a Mission: 2018
Project S The Series; Side by Side
Project S The Series; SOS: S.O.S.
Project S The Series: Spike!
Reality of Dream: Season 1
Revenge: Season 1
Project S The Series; Shoot! I Love You
Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 3

Friday, 22 June 2018

Book Review: Snap by Belinda Bauer

I think this is my book of the year - yes I know we're just nudging towards the end of June, but I really can't see another book coming along that touches me in the way this one did. It's absolutely heart breaking in places, but despite the darkness of its subject matter it is full of humour. The main character Jack, a young boy who carries truly Dickensian misery upon his shoulders is a wonderful creation and it would be a very cold reader who didn't develop a strong affection for him; empathise with the incredible burden he carries around.

They say we should never judge a book by its cover, though to some extent we all do. One look at the seemingly bland cover for this book suggest that the publisher must have some confidence in the story between the covers. There's no moody artwork, no mysterious font, instead we get an almost abstract cover with the title set at an odd angle.

1998 - Pregnant Eileen Bright leaves her three children in stifling heat - Jack, Joy and baby Merry - in a broken down car to phone for help, only she is never seen alive again - shades of the real life M50 killing which occurred in 1988 and to this day remains unsolved. This event starts the book and the early section of the story bounces back and forth between this horrendous event and the present day (the present day in the novel of course). Three years have passed since the crime and in that time Eileen Bright's husband has suffered a complete breakdown and walked out on his three children. Jack, the eldest. is determined to keep his family together and he takes to a life of crime in order to feed and clothe his two young sisters. The three child characters - Jack, Joy and Merry are particularly strongly drawn - so well realised are they that the reader's emotions are expertly manipulated each time they tale centre stage.  The book also contains Inspector John Marvel, who is  a recurring character in several of the author's books - I've never really liked him before but in this book he really comes alive and there is a strong chemistry between him and the ever so likeable Jack. The two character become one of the most original double acts in all of crime fiction. When these two share the page the book becomes so much more than a tightly plotted crime thriller - it takes off and leaves no doubt that Belinda Bauer must now be considered among the very best writers working today, whatever the genre.

This is one of those rare books that I didn't want to end, and I'll likely read it again before too long. Absolutely wonderful - a dark psychological crime thriller that ultimately leaves the reader smiling. Now that takes some doing.

Picard Boldy on his way back

The executive producer behind CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery has renewed his overall deal with CBS Television Studios, signing a massive five-year extension with the studio behind the latest entry in the long-running sci-fi franchise. The new agreement keeps Kurtzman, whose pact was up this year, with the studio through 2023. Sources say the deal is estimated at $5 million per year as Kurtzman receives a sizable backend on his programming.

Under the new pact, Kurtzman will serve as the Star Trek: Discovery's lone showrunner after taking over from Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg, who were recently fired from the series. Kurtzman will also expand the Star Trek franchise for the small screen, developing new series, miniseries and other content, including animation.

The new deal comes as rumblings about another Star Trek series, featuring Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Star Trek: The Next Generation's Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, have been getting louder. Sources say Kurtzman and Akiva Goldsman, who left Discovery after season one, are attached to the Stewart-led reboot. CBS TV Studios declined to confirm the Stewart project as sources say a deal is far from completed and may not happen, despite the fact that the actor recently teased his potential return to the franchise.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Book Review: The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer

This  is the fourth book I've read by this author, after discovering her with the CWA award winning, Rubbernecker, and it most certainly won't be the last. She's actually got a new hardcover, Snap out at the moment and the book was one of my Father's Day gifts so I guess that goes onto my TBR pile. However let's go back to The Beautiful Dead which is available in both paperback and eBook.

The plot of the book is that Eve Singer, a TV crime reporter suddenly find herself gaining the attention of a twisted serial killer who wants her to tell his story. The killer claims that he and Eve have much in common; after all they both make their living from death. Eve as a crime reporter and the killer as a man who is convinced that it is only killing that keeps his own weak heart beating. When the killer first makes contact, Eve sees a chance to stay ahead of the competition in reporting of the latest killing spree across London, but gradually she begins to doubt herself and when a young girl is killed in front of her at a tube station Eve decides to go to the police. There now follows a pacey cat and mouse game between killer and reluctant reporter.

The killer is somewhat of a cliche as far as serial killers go, but the author displays great skill in making him at least believable, but the true beating heart of the novel is in Eve's relationship with her elderly father, Duncan who is suffering from Dementia. The book is set during the lead up to Christmas, and indeed ends on the big day itself. Is it a happy ending? Well, that would be telling but all I will say is that it is a suitably satisfying climax. And one that would not be out of place in a big budget blockbuster - Bauer is a very visual writer and one can imagine this making a very good movie or Television mini-series.

Another fantastic crime novel that may not take the genre into new territory, but uses all the tools of the genre to construct a fully enjoyable reader experience. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Ewan McGregor Shines on

Ewan McGregor is to play the grown up Danny Torrance in the movie version of Stephen King's Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep.

The book picks up with Torrance in middle age, still haunted by demons both real and internal. He works as a hospice nurse, using his psychic powers to ease the transition for dying patients, but he’s also fighting for sobriety, the same addiction that made his dad so vulnerable to the evil forces lingering around the Overlook Hotel decades before.

The movie is being directed by Hush and Oculus filmmaker Mike Flanagan, whose previous thriller Gerald’s Game was also an adaptation of a King novel.

The question is though will this be a sequal to King's Shining or Kubrick's Shining - as King explains - 'One of the things — and I’m not sure if this is going to be a problem for readers or not — is that Doctor Sleep is a sequel to the novel. It’s not a sequel to the Kubrick film. At the end of the Kubrick film, the Overlook is still there. It just kind of freezes. But at the end of the book, it burns down.'

Wild West Town For Sale

Well if I win the lottery this weekend I know what I'll be buying.

a historic ghost town in Lone Pine, California, is for sale for just under $1 million.

A 19th-century mining town, Cerro Gordo boasts more than 300 acres of land and 22 buildings, many of which are being restored — and maybe a ghost or two, considering the town's violent history dating back to the 19th century.

Established in 1865, Cerro Gordo was once the largest producer of silver and lead in California and helped spur economic growth in Los Angeles. The abandoned settlement is basically a history lover's dream.
"For those looking to acquire a piece of American West, Cerro Gordo is for you," reads the real estate listing, held by Jake Rasmuson of  Bishop Real Estate

Let's hope lady luck shines on me and those numbers come in, because I'd be moving in like shot.

Avengers 4: Forever Heroes????

Marvel movies have become such a big deal that even waiting for a film's title to be released has turned into a social media event...Well, judging from something Stan Lee recently said and the fact that the title of the Fourth Avengers movie has been teased as being Avengers: F .... H...., the Archive is putting its bets on the title being Avengers: Forever Heroes.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Ben Affleck out of the Bat suit

It now looks certain that Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman  won’t star Ben Affleck. Such rumours have been frequent over the last year, but the latest official word is that the script Reeves handed in over Memorial Day weekend focuses on a younger Dark Knight, which would seemingly exclude Affleck from returning to the part. Whether he continues to wear the cowl in any future Justice League films is yet to be seen, but it would seem unlikely given that DC/Warners are desperate to restart the DC Universe.

The first production to go forward now looks to be the Joker origin film starring Joaquin Phoenix. With Todd Phillips (The Hangover franchise) directing from a script he wrote with 8 Mile scribe Scott Silver, the movie is set to go in front of cameras this fall, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Martin Scorsese serves as executive producer and the budget is reportedly $55 million, relatively low for a comic book blockbuster .

Affleck himself since he is keeping plenty busy lately. He’s currently filming Triple Frontier for writer-director J.C. Chandor alongside co-stars Charlie HunnamOscar IsaacGarrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal at Netflix. He’s also on board to direct and star in Christopher Keyser‘s adaptation of Agatha Christie‘s crime/mystery novel Witness for the Prosecution, and will likely return for a sequel to the crime-drama The Accountant. Affleck was also just reported to be reteaming with The Accountant director Gavin O’Connor for the sports drama, The Has-Been

Lara Prescott’s debut novel We Were Never Here nets a £1.5 million book deal with her story of how governments once believed books could change the world.

Last month, Lara Prescott was preparing to graduate from her three-year creative writing fellowship at the University of Texas. Two weeks later, she is sitting on book deals worth at least $2m (£1.5m), after publishers on both sides of the Atlantic battled to get their hands on her first novel.

Prescott’s We Were Never Here tells the story of how the CIA smuggled copies of Boris Pasternak’s classic novel Doctor Zhivago into Russia during the cold war in an attempt to seed unrest. Drawing from the voices of Pasternak’s mistress and muse Olga, as well the women of the CIA typing pool involved in the mission, the novel provoked a fierce bidding war when it was submitted by Prescott’s agent last month.

In the UK, 12 publishers fought for the novel, with Penguin Random House publisher Selina Walker winning the bid with a “high six-figure” offer. In the US, Knopf is reported to have paid a seven-figure sum, beating 13 other publishers to the debut. According to Publishers Weekly, this was not the highest bid, but Knopf’s history as the original publisher of Doctor Zhivago helped clinch the deal.

Prescott began writing the novel in 2015 after reading newly declassified documents about the CIA’s clandestine involvement in the Russian publication and dissemination of Doctor Zhivago. The documents, with redacted names and blacked-out details, inspired her to fill in the blanks with fiction”

“Zhivago’s plot revolves around a love story between Lara Antipova and Yuri Zhivago. But its depictions of the October revolution and the Russian civil war, as well as its themes emphasising the importance of individual freedom in the face of the USSR’s enforced collectivism resulted in the novel being deemed subversive by the state. But to me, Zhivago is more about life and love than politics. It’s about individuals who think and laugh and love for themselves,” the author said.

One of the declassified documents revealed that the head of the CIA’s Soviet-Russia division argued in 1958: “Pasternak’s humanistic message – that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state – poses a fundamental challenge to the Soviet ethic of sacrifice of the individual to the communist system.” Another document states: “We have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what is wrong with their government when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.”

Custer's Scalp

A US auction house has sold a snip of Custer's famous flowing locks.

On Saturday, a Heritage Auctions spokesperson declared that a lock of hair belonging to Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer has been sold for $12,500. The auctions house refused to disclose the buyer’s name.

The lock of hair has quite an interesting study. According to the spokesperson, the item was bestowed by Glen Swanson, a Texan who spent the last three decades collecting memorabilia from the Battle of Little Bighorn.

The Swanson collection also included a rifle that the auction house said was used during the battle and other weapons.It also featured photographs and American Indian art.

Swanson says that he came across the perfectly preserved lock of hair while examining Custer’s war-time correspondence.

According to Swanson, throughout the American Civil War and, later, during the American-Indian Wars, the lieutenant-colonel frequently wrote to Elizabeth ‘Libbie’ Bacon Custer, his wife about the situation on the front.

Apparently, before the Battle of Little Bighorn, Custer visited the regiment’s barber to get a haircut. Instead of disposing of the hair, Custer took a blonde lock, sealed it inside an envelope and sent it to Libbie. Swanson said that Libbie wanted her husband hair for her wig. The last owner of the lock of hair said there were about 50 pieces of hair in the envelope.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Summer Slump in Book Sales

It's summer time and the living is......

You know the way it goes -

Whilst  there are many pleasures to the summer months, there is no better way to relax than crashing on a beach, or lounging in your garden with a good book. And yet  apparently book sales drop during the summer  - Historically, the book publishing industry has 3 seasons: winter, spring, and autumn (fall), and in 2015 a survey in the New Yorker Magazine stated that more people have a summer streaming list than a summer reading list.

And if that depresses you then join the club - the thing is you get more from reading than viewing. Reading is active, while viewing is passive.

Esquire's Beach Reads 2018

Time Magazine summer reads 2018

Harper's Bazaar 2018 Summer reads

And from the Archive' own summer reading list

Stephen King The Outsider
Belinda Bauer Snap
Anthony Horowitz  Forever and a Day
Mark Billingham The Killing Habit

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Book Review: Domain by James Herbert

The long-dreaded nuclear conflict. The city torn apart, shattered, its people destroyed or mutilated beyond hope. For just a few, survival is possible only beneath the wrecked streets – if there is time to avoid the slow-descending poisonous ashes. But below, the rats, demonic offspring of their irradiated forebears, are waiting. They know that Man is weakened, become frail. Has become their prey...

I've recently re-read James Herbert's trilogy of novels featuring the giant mutated rats that first made his name, and I must say that I think Domain is the best of the three. This time the action takes place during the aftermath of a Nuclear War. And it is this aspect that, for me, made this the most satisfying read of the three - the rats are almost second fiddle to the horrors our small group of survivors have to face.

I remember reading this book when it first came out and I didn't enjoy it as much as the previous two, perhaps because the Rats were not the greatest threat faced by the characters, and yet now that I'm older it is precisely this aspect that made the book stand out for me. The horrors of the nuclear war are chillingly created on the page  and alongside this the Rats seem a minor threat.

The main protagonist is Steven Culver, a pilot who, after the bombs start to drop, finds himself in a secret underground bunker, after he aids Government man Alex Dealey. The initial section of the book covers different points of view  as the missiles fall. This is incredibly powerful writing - during the period the book was written the threat of nuclear war was a very real concern for people, and in the world we live in today the threat seems to have returned, making Doman a particularly chilling entry in the series.

 For instance as I type this review the Doomsday Clock is set at 2 minutes to midnight - The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future is lamentable—but that failure can be reversed. It is two minutes to midnight, but the Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse. The warning the Science and Security Board now sends is clear, the danger obvious and imminent. The opportunity to reduce the danger is equally clear. The world has seen the threat posed by the misuse of information technology and witnessed the vulnerability of democracies to disinformation. But there is a flip side to the abuse of social media. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so, and citizens around the world can use the power of the internet to improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world. See the full statement from the Science and Security Board on the 2018 time of the Doomsday Clock.