Wednesday 30 June 2010


Sadism for the family.

I quite often think this is the best of the James Bond movies - and in the sense of capturing Fleming's writing it is. Faster paced than Dr No and with a far more assured and stylish performance by Sean Connery. From Russia with Love was the natural choice to follow Dr No - it had an exotic location, several great set pieces and the previous year President Kennedy had listed the book amongst his favourites.

Connery seems far more comfortable in the role and for the most part he retained the hard edge of the earlier film - the scene when he slaps Tatina about is electrifying and caused great controversy at the time and it still effective today. And the fight between Bond and Red Grant (Daniel Craig lookalike Robert Shaw) has, to my mind, never been bettered in any of the Bond movies. You actually think Bond could lose this one, which he very nearly does. The helicopter chase - Bond on foot - towards the end of the film is also thrilling and has the feel of the crop dusting scene from North by Northwest. We also see Q for the first time and the film introduces the use of gadgets. Though the gadgets here were actually in Fleming's novel and are not overused as would be the case in later movies. The film also featured the first real teaser sequence in a Bond movie.

When the film was released the professional critics were then, as now, out of touch with popular taste and the notices were mostly hostile.

'James Bond is not fun. He's just sick.' Nina Hibbin, The Daily Worker.

'Quasi-pornography.' Phillip Oakes, Sunday Telegraph.

The movie also introduced another hallmark of the series - the colourful villainous sidekick. Rosa Klebb here can be found in the DNA of Odd-Job, Jaws, Wint and Kidd and all of the odd baddies throughout the movies.

The currently available DVD, part of the Ultimate Collection series is, as are all in the series, quite excellent. The picture and sound are incredible for a movie of this age and as always the discs are bursting with extra features, including a commentary from director, Terence Young and the cast and crew. There are several documentaries with personal favourites being a CBC interview with Fleming and a look at the relationship between Fleming and Raymond Chandler. There is also the full recording of Ian Fleming on Radio Four's, Desert Island Discs. The Ultimate Collection DVD is a fan's dream.

From Russia with Love then may be the best of the entire series - I often think it is. But without a doubt it is an important entry in the series and was a step towards cementing the formula that would make the series such a success. The film was a massive worldwide hit and would pave the way for the next film which would be an even bigger hit. James Bond would return in Goldfinger.

TRIVIA: The film has more than one connection to President Kennedy who, as stated in the text above, listed the book as a favourite but it was also discovered that Lee Harvey Oswald was also a fan.

Bondian Lines - Bond while looking through a periscope at Tatiana's legs remarks - 'Things are shaping up nicely.'


Man, I like that western award.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — An unseemly sentence that compares a kiss to the union of a thirsty gerbil and a giant water bottle has won the top prize in an annual bad writing contest.

San Jose State University said Tuesday that Molly Ringle of Seattle was the grand prize winner of the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which the university has sponsored since 1982.

In her winning entry, Ringle wrote: "For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss — a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil."

The literary competition honors the memory of 19th English century writer Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, who famously opened his 1830 novel "Paul Clifford," with the much-quoted, "It was a dark and stormy night."

Entrants are asked to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels, with winners chosen in several categories.

Steve Lynch of San Marcos, Calif., won the detective category: "She walked into my office wearing a body that would make a man write bad checks, but in this paperless age you would first have to obtain her ABA Routing Transit Number and Account Number and then disable your own Overdraft Protection in order to do so."

Linda Boatright of Omaha won the Western category: "He walked into the bar and bristled when all eyes fell upon him — perhaps because his build was so short and so wide, or maybe it was the odor that lingered about him from so many days and nights spent in the wilds, but it may just have been because no one had ever seen a porcupine in a bar before."

Johnny Depp is Dr Who - we think

Rumors are circulating that Johnny Depp has been cast as the Doctor in a big screen adaptation of the long running series, Doctor Who. Russell T. Davies, the former lead writer for the show, is supposedly penning the movie version.

"Bringing the Who franchise to the theaters is a regeneration for the character beyond the usual one. A theatrical release has a greater range and can reach millions of more people than just the fans," said Davies.

"There will be brand new concepts and the film will be just as adventurous, scary and humorous as the television programme. But none of us working the film will forget what makes the character great and interesting and the long-time fans will not be disappointed because yes, the Daleks make an appearance."

Don't miss

There's another great entry in Meridian Bridge's personal west series, this time from Evan Lewis


HMV Group has described the 2009/10 performance of Waterstone's as "disappointing" as profits slumped by more than 70% to £2.8m.

HMV Group primarily blamed the slump in profit in a "disappointing sales performance", led by an offer that focused too much on promotions, in addition to the exceptional costs. It said: "The sales performance was particularly disappointing through the autumn and the key Christmas season, as the delayed implementation of supply chain changes through the book hub reduced stock availability and weakened our store proposition."

Market share declined by 1% during the year, during which time the book market itself fell 2.6%.

However, HMV Group said there was a "marked" improvement in the bookseller's performance in the final quarter of the financial year (when like-for-like sales declined by 4.8%), as it launched its turnaround plan, handing greater buying control over to its stores and focused on range bookselling

The retailer is now aiming for non-book sales, including e-books and stationery, to account for 10% of its mix by 2013, up from 6% for the 09/10 financial year.

In the chairman's statement, Robert Swannell said: "Waterstone's disappointing performance issues are being tackled through a clear plan for the turnaround of this business."

He added: "It is clear that the implementation of our new centralised distribution centre for books also adversely impacted performance last year by disrupting our core strength as a range bookseller.

"However, we are clear that this remains the correct supply chain for our national store network, and the fact that this is now in place and working effectively provides Waterstone's with a platform from which it can rebuild profitability."

Looking ahead, HMV Group said it was confident profits could be rebuilt at Waterstone's, despite the "significant challenges" in retail. However, it said it had seen some sales disruption by the World Cup.

Like for like sales at HMV fell 2.4% during the year, with total sales up 7.6% to £1.24bn. Profits increased by 37.5% to £73.8m. HMV Group's operating profit increased by 14.2% to £80.4m with total sales up 3.1% to £2.02bn. Like for like sales across the group fell 4.2%.

Tuesday 29 June 2010


As a companion to our complete literary 007, we start this series which will do the same thing only for the movies. Dr No, of course was the sixth book in Fleming's series but it was the first title to be filmed. A wise choice by the producers since Fleming's story was very cinematic and allowed for several set pieces which helped to define the entire series.

Sean Connery was excellent in the role, many still maintain that he was the definitive 007, but the screen Bond was not exactly the literary Bond - there were aspects of the literary Bond that the producers were wise to leave out in order to make a straightforward thriller.

Dr No was very nearly not the first Bond film.

Saltzman and Broccoli had already commissioned Richard Maibaum to adapt Thunderball as the first film in the deal they had made with United Artists. And the script was actually finished when it was decided Dr No would be the debut Bond pic.

"Those who have read the book will be disappointed," an horrified Ian Fleming said, after seeing the movie. "But those who haven't will find it exciting. Audiences laugh in all the correct places."

Fleming was not initially impressed with Connery but he did over time warm to the actor but maybe his opinion of Dr No was rather harsh - the film did set the template for all that followed, featuring many of the series essential elements - Bond/M scene, jet to an exotic locale, three girls (one bad, two good), Monypenny flirtation, a megalomaniac villain with a secret lair.

Connery as Bond was excellent, despite what the author's opinion was - films and books are two different mediums and a truly faithful adaptation of any book is an impossibility. But in the sense of capturing the essence of the excellent books, Dr No is faultless. The scene where Bond shoots Professor Dent in cold blood sums up the man with a licence to kill. Bond doesn't enjoy the deed but does it in a cold detached way, the way of a professional killer which is just what Bond is. After the man is dead Bond puts a superfluous bullet into the man's back and then calmly removes his silencer.

If there is a problem with Dr No it is that it feels disjointed - the first half plays out like an hardboiled but exotic detective story while the second section seems more like a sci-fi adventure. But that's a minor quibble against what truly is a classic piece of cinema.

The film though was not that well received by much of the press - "A fascist film uncorrupted by morals," said Richard Whitehall in an article that completely rubbished the film. Another critic was horrified and likened the film as the modern equivalent to feeding the Christians to the lions.

The film however was a massive success in the UK upon release in October 1962 and made it's budget back easily. However the producers were a little uneasy about all the negative press and didn't release the movie in America until the following May - they had no need to worry as the film was an even bigger success with US audiences. It was clear James Bond was going to be around for a very long time.

THE ULTIMATE EDITION DVD - available on both standard disc and blu-ray - it's a great transfer of the movie itself which has been restored to the highest possible standard and presented with a booming 5.1 soundtrack. There is a commentary from Terence Young and assorted members of the cast and crew and a second disc comes packed with special features including the detailed documentary Inside 007 as well as TV spots, the original trailer, a couple of vintage presentations and footage of the premieres of the James Bond series. All of the Ultimate Collection DVD's offer a rounded product that provides much more than just the film.

Watching the film prior to writing this piece (I don't know how many times I've seen it, maybe a dozen or more times) I enjoyed it fully even if I did know everything that was coming. It is perhaps the toughest of all the Bond movies, and is slower paced. The latter point is no criticism - it's great to see the characterisation being built, particularly in a Bond movie - the series quite often shuns characterisation for an explosion or two or three.

Dr No then, in terms of the movie Bond, is where it all started and the entire series still feels its influence. Daniel Craig's first Bond movie, Casino Royale played with the scene of Ursula Andress emerging from the sea, only this time it was Bond we were supposed to ogle - think maybe the producers got a bit confused there. And Halle Berry had an almost identical scene,even down to the bikini, in Die Another Day. Bond's introduction - the name's Bond, James Bond - has been replicated in mostly every film that followed.

1984 NEXT

I wanted to repost this article from Carter Lyles because it is one of the best arguements I've seen for the government to back off. This is written from an American perspective but it applies anywhere the draconian Smoking laws are in force - which is pretty much everywhere.

There is something very unsettling in the way modern society is beginning to parallel the fictional worlds presented by writers such as Orwell, Huxley and Rand. From the disturbing similarities between contemporary texting language and Orwell’s Newspeak to the health care battles that still continue to rage in Congress, it is undeniable that, at some point in the last 50 years, the line between fact and fiction began to blur.

These novelists’ prophetic visions continue to frighten and enthrall us for more than just the apocalyptic drama they paint within their pages – much of what was written is indeed coming true, possibly by our own unconscious need to indulge in self-fulfilling prophecies.

It is a well-known fact that we, as a society, are extremely susceptible to the lures of mob psychology. From the xenophobic tendencies we exhibit toward the influx of immigrants to the more recent green movement that seems to has swept through not only college campuses but through the very heart of Suburbia, we are unable, when together, to exhibit anything other than the traits of the timeless adage “Monkey see, monkey do.”

From the time we are children until adulthood, we want to be part of the group, to be liked, to be popular. But the question, of course, behind the innate drive to seek this popularity is: Am I doing what is right, and if so, at what cost?

On July 1, the statewide properties of UF, including its home base right here in Gainesville, will be banning the use of any and all tobacco products on campus.

In the policy made available on the university’s website, “’tobacco use’ means the personal use of any tobacco product, whether intended to be lit or not, which shall include smoking ... as well as the use of an electronic cigarette or any other device intended to simulate smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco, including snuff; chewing tobacco; smokeless pouches; any other form of loose-leaf, smokeless tobacco; and the use of unlit cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco.”

In lieu of quoting statistics, as is often done with the controversial issue of smoking and the effects of secondhand smoke, it is more important to focus on the ban’s sociological effects.

Ever since the statewide smoking bans in enclosed workplaces were enacted seven years ago, those Floridians who choose to smoke have been ostracized and demonized by contemporary society. Deemed modern-day lepers, smokers have slowly been cast into the role of cancer’s errand boy, with tobacco farmers and those who work for tobacco companies as drug smugglers and harbingers of death.

Indeed, advertising and the media have convinced us of the effects of secondhand smoke. By standing within 10 feet of anyone who is smoking we will surely and quickly bring about our own demise.

UF is no different. This ban is poised to create a division between smokers and non-smokers and draw the proverbial line in the sand.

Soon enough, it will no longer be considered wrong for a campus guard to stop a student and demand to investigate the contents of his or her bag under the pretense of suspicion.

Soon enough, random raids of the dormitories by the university staff in order to discover illicit contraband will be considered necessary. And soon enough, the entire city of Gainesville may fall under the influence of the almighty UF, with designated “cessation centers” cropping up all across town in order to “re-educate” those naughty smokers and illuminate the errors of their ways.

And if you think, “Oh well, it’s bad for people anyway, why should anyone complain?” Remember, these are the first steps that lead to second steps, and those second steps may just be the ones that encroach on something you feel personally about. And if those second steps do not, then surely the third ones will.

Such is the way our own innate need to adhere to the unconscious desire for self-fulfilling prophecies continues to beguile us.

Carter Lyles is a third-year journalism/psychology major.


It would seem so given that Moonstone Books latest press release contains the following information alongside a lovely looking stick man.

Title: Mystery
Headline: part con man, part detective

The Robin Hood of modern crime...

more details soon!


The Archive Hack - all the writer's news

This summer will see the launch of a new magazine aimed at the historical short story - Snapshots of History, stories from the past will be a quarterly magazine and a 12 month subscription will be £5.

TV Book Club which returned to TV channel, More 4 yesterday is this year dominated by big publishers. All eight slots have been filled with titles from Penguin, Hodder,Orion, Bloomsbury,Macmillan and Random House. The show which is presented by Jo Brand and Dave Spikey has been criticised for ignoring smaller independent publishers.

The National Trust have jumped into bed with Mills and Boons for the publication of a novel set in Ham House, one of the trust's historic sites. This is intended to be the first in a series of novels set in historic houses owned by the National Trust.

The current fierce spending cuts being implemented by the new UK government will harm writers - it has been announced that the rate of PLR, monies paid to writers for books hired from libraries, is to be cut.

Authors receive just over six pence per loan, up to a cap of £6,600, through the Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme, something many describe as a "lifeline". Along with all bodies funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the scheme's budget is being reduced this year by 3%, to £7.45m, and authors are desperately concerned that further reductions will be forthcoming in the autumn, when the government's next spending review is published.

Jim Parker, PLR registrar, said the organisation would be able "to absorb some but not all" of the 3% cut, and was concerned about the impact this could have on authors. "It will be very difficult to sustain last year's rate per loan because of the cut in funding," he said.

Monday 28 June 2010

Jack the Ripper mystery gains praise

There's a great review that left me beaming over at "Buddies in the Saddle."

"Parade works manfully against the odds, and in Gary Dobbs’ skillful hands, the odds keep getting longer. He’s nearly killed trying to apprehend a burglar, and his job gets turned over to his nemesis, a self-promoting fellow officer. Then a journey into London has him visiting the scenes and considering the circumstances of a series of unsolved murders sixteen years before."

From Buddies in the Saddle review of A Policeman's Lot, read the full review HERE

And if you fancy the eBook itself and a really good price go:


Trekfest XXV, held in Riverside drew in 153 people in Star Trek costumes, breaking the world record for most people dressed as Star Trek characters gathered in one place.

At present, the record is 99 people in London in February. An event in Bonn, Germany, on May 1 claimed to have 507 people in “Star Trek” costumes, but that number has yet to be confirmed.

McCracken said a video of the Riverside event has to be analyzed before the record is confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records.

“It’s not something they take lightly,” he said.

Christine Miles, one of the Trekfest goers, said she has been a “Trek” fan since she was little.

“My dad was really into sci-fi,” she said. “Now I’m just a pretty big sci-fi nerd.”

The University of Iowa junior, dressed in standard red Starfleet garb, attended the costume contest as what she jokingly called, “the illegitimate daughter of Capt. Picard and Dr. Crusher” of the Next Generation series.


Total 1,767 1,249 1,015 234
Average 221 156 127 29
DayDatePage LoadsUnique VisitorsFirst Time VisitorsReturning Visitors
Monday 28th June 2010 205 159 138 21
Sunday 27th June 2010 197 158 133 25
Saturday 26th June 2010 236 161 143 18
Friday 25th June 2010 194 140 110 30
Thursday 24th June 2010 201 146 112 34
Wednesday 23rd June 2010 230 150 114 36
Tuesday 22nd June 2010 284 177 137 40
Monday 21st June 2010 220 158 128

A Policeman's Lot

Another review for A Policeman's Lot HERE

Sunday 27 June 2010

England - Going home (no wonder)

England have gone out of the World Cup -

Here's a message for the team courtesy of Madness



Start reading A Policeman's Lot on your Kindle in under a minute.

Product Description

Think you know the Jack the Ripper story?
Think again!

Inspector Frank Parade carries out his daily duties in the Welsh industrial town of Pontypridd, duties complicated by the unprecedented presence of 500 members of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show encamped outside the town, not to mention the thousands attending the show every day. A series of depraved murders quickly makes things even more complicated. Buffalo Bill stands squarely in his path when Parade tries to investigate the likely possibility that one of the hundreds of show members is involved. And soon enough Parade’s own superiors are blocking his inquires, too. Still more deaths occur as Parade sifts through the thin evidence available and finds a trail that may lead to the perpetrator of the most heinous crime of the 19th Century—London’s “Ripper” murders.

Shocking revelations come thick and fast.

The greatest criminal mystery in history is about to be solved by a Welsh copper and an American Legend.

This review is from: A Policeman's Lot (Kindle Edition)
This tightly plotted and cleverly conceived crime fiction novel is set in the Welsh town of Pontypridd in 1904. Our central character is police inspector Frank Parade, who on a normal day has his hands more than full. Parade's job gets even more complicated when Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show comes to town. There is Bill Cody, larger than life, and not all that cooperative, especially as one of his employees turns up with his throat slit. And thus begins a murder investigation that generates a slag heap of difficulties for Inspector Parade and produces a string of corpses.

Dobbs has done his research and packs a lot into his novel. We become immersed in a time and place on the cusp of the twentieth century. Old methods of law enforcement are yielding with the introduction of new technologies. Economic changes create new problems and social pressures.

And there's the entertaining collision of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show with turn of the last century, coal-mining Wales. Cowboys and Indians wander through some of the scenes, and Bill Cody himself figures into the plot at key points. Well drawn, he is a self-important presence used to being regarded as a living legend. Meanwhile, Inspector Parade is a thoroughly enjoyable creation. Happy he is when he's on duty, which is nearly all the time. Such is a policeman's lot.

This review is from: A Policeman's Lot (Kindle Edition)
The colour of the setting, the atmosphere and the characterization are all top-class. The story starts rather low-key, but once you get to the killings, everything steps up a notch and grabs you by the throat. A "historical police procedural" is the most effective way I can describe it. The storyline's multiple, concurrent strands reminded me a bit of the J. J. Marric (John Creasey) Gideon books, as did the well-observed "common people" characters. The difference here is the way they're thrown into greater relief by their contrast with the celebrated Buffalo Bill and his show people. Your choice of this background for this first Pontypridd novel was a stroke of genius.



Paul McCartney Cardiff's Millennium Stadium 26 June 2010.

You've got to hand it to Macca - on stage for over three hours, two encores, a set list of over thirty songs and he looked as if he could have still kept going. At one point Macca ran on stage, carrying a Welsh flag and claimed that Liverpool was the capital of Wales. He even did that little ditty Ram On after a request from the audience -now that couldn't have been rehearsed. There were seventy odd thousand of us there in that massive stadium and yet once the show was under way, it all seemed really intimate, the sign of a great performer.

When we first got into the stadium it seemed as if we were seated some miles from the stage but the time, show openers, Manic Street Preachers had done their first song, we were rocking. And the Manics did a great set, setting the place alight when they did Rock and Roll Music as a tribute to the late Stuart Cable.

Then the roof was closed, it was lights down and McCartney opened with the track Venus and Mars/Rock Show and the place erupted. The audience were made up of all ages - from babies to teenagers, to adults of all ages. And yet those songs, were known by everyone there - even those who had not been born when Wings split, let alone the Beatles.

Macca was on top form, coming onto stage for the first of his encores carrying a Welsh flag and yelling out a splattering of Welsh phrase. When he went off stage again people started to leave but rushed back in when Macca came back out and did Yesterday before once again being joined by his band for Sgt.Peppers/The End.

An excellent show with the set list not being dominated by Beatles numbers but containing a fair few Wings and even later solo stuff. The Fireman tracks went down well but, as always, the highlight of the night was the spirited version of Hey Judge with the entire audience joining in for the well known chorus - "na, na , naa na na na."

f course Macca will always have to perform those timeless Beatles numbers but for long time fans such as myself, it was great to see him perform lesser known classics like - 1985 and Venus and Mars.

The last
time I saw him was in 2002/2003 at Earl's Court and I must admit I found that show a little dissapointing after seeing him previously in Wembley back in 1989. The Earl's Court gig was okay but it didn't seem to have the fire he had in 89 but tonight that fire was back, hotter than ever.

He may have been going through the motions at Earl's Court but tonight the Beatle was on top form.

Yaki da, Paul!

Saturday 26 June 2010


Fleming’s third Bond novel, Moonraker was something of a departure –it’s a much slower, more thoughtful novel than the previous two and it’s nothing at all to do with cool looking laser guns and bad guys in one piece yellow suits. After two largely fantastical novels Fleming brings the series down to earth with Moonraker – the reader learns more about Bond in this novel that they did in the previous books and Fleming takes great care to put meat on the bones and give Bond a reality that had previously been lacking.

Ironic that this most down to earth of the books would become the film that took Bond into outer space – mind you, as we will see, the film and book share nothing but a title and a few character names. In fact Moonraker the film and the book were so different that there was a novelisation of the movie written by Christopher Wood. So there are, in fact, two different Moonraker novels, the same thing would happen with The Spy Who Loved Me, but Fleming’s is where the real Bond hangs out.

We learn much about Bond from the first chapter – we learn his age for one thing and that he has eight years to go before the age of 45 when 00’s are retired to easier and less hazardous duties. We discover he has a flat situated off London’s King’s Road and that his housekeeper is called May. Bond is a reckless character and it is clear that when he goes past his usefulness as a 00 he’d be lost. It seems he would rather fall in the line of duty before that day.

He had a small but comfortable flat off King’s Road, an elderly Scottish housekeeper – a treasure called May – and a 1930 supercharged four and a half litre Bentley, which he expertly tuned so that he could do a hundred when he wanted to.

On these things he spent all his money and it was his ambition to have as little as possible in the bank when he was killed, as, when he was depressed, he knew he would be before the statutory age of forty-five.”

In the following two chapters there is a superb example of the Fleming Sweep in full gear – there’s no action as such but still the story moves at pace. The second chapter details a lengthy explanation of Drax and his history and of how he has become a hero of the British people, but by putting the words into Bond’s mouth as the agent tells M all he knows about Hugo Drax the story doesn’t slow at all and the reader experiences this huge information dump in short bursts of speech. The following chapter is basically Bond getting ready for the evening at the exclusive Blades club, in which the author goes into great detail on his clothing and the lay out of his flat. The chapter ends with Bond mis-reading a neon road sign and seeing the words, HELL IS HERE projected onto the sky.

By now the reader’s nerves are wound to breaking point, which is, what makes Ian Fleming’s writing so exhilarating. The author goes into extreme detail and yet at the same time his writing displays a sparse, almost hard-boiled style. There is no wonder that he and Raymond Chandler had such a mutual appreciation for each other’s work.

In 1958 Ian Fleming interviewed Raymond Chandler for the BBC’s Third Program and Chandler complimented Fleming on his descriptions of New York and especially Harlem (Live and Let Die), saying that he can’t think of any American writer who had ever brought the area and its people to life so well. The conversation between these two titans is deeply interesting and reveals much of their respective thoughts on what makes a thriller work. Why do you always have a torture scene, Chandler asks Fleming at one point. Fleming considers this for a moment and from his answer it becomes clear that he initially intended Bond to be, in his words, “ a blunt instrument” and not a hero at all, but that Bond developed in a way not initially imagined. THE FULL INTERVIEW IS EMBEDDED AS A VIDEO PRESENTATION AT THE END OF THIS POST.

It was with Moonraker that this character development really began and James Bond started to turn into a classic hero – this novel keeps Bond firmly rooted in the UK and for the lion’s share of the story he is carrying out straightforward detective work as he tries to uncover the mystery of Hugo Drax. The lack of an exotic setting this time out, having Bond on his home turf, gives the novel a different momentum. It’s a very strong entry in the series even if it is arguably the least action orientated.

“Your hero, Philip Marlowe, is a real hero. He behaves in a heroic fashion. I never intended my leading character, James Bond, to be a hero. I intended him to be a sort of blunt instrument wielded by a government department who would get into bizarre and fantastic situations and more or less shoot his way out of them, or get out of them one way or another. But of course he’s always referred to as my hero. I don’t see him as a hero myself. On the whole I think he’s a rather unattractive man . . .” IAN FLEMING IN CONVERSATION WITH RAYMOND CHANDLER.

Hugo Drax comes across as Fleming’s most successful villain thus far – there’s a great deal of mystery in his past which creates a feeling of deep unease in the reader. This man we know so little about seems too good to be true and he’s in charge of a new nuclear missile, The Moonraker, that he claims will bring peace to our times.

Bond initially starts to investigate Drax at M’s request – the man is a national hero but he cheats at cards, - M, thinks this rather odd. Bond discovers Drax’s cheating method and then sits down to beat him at his own game. This is another excellent gambling scene, in which the game of Bridge is turned, by Fleming’s pen, into a heart stopping sequence. It is difficult to think of any other writer who can make such scenes sparkle – Drax’s reaction at losing also tell us more about his character and for the first time we start to see his dark side.

From here on in the book concentrates on suspense rather than full out action and it’s a great book for it – a feeling of impending doom runs through the entire narrative and by the time we discover, along with 007, that Drax actually plans to destroy London with his Moonraker rocket it comes as no surprise.

When the story ends Bond is a more rounded character than ever – he has some almost superhuman qualities, we know he’s the best shot in the service and also the toughest man in the 00 section. He is habitual in his tastes and he enjoys a high level of living. Fleming knew he was dealing with wish fulfilment because Bond was a product of his own dreams, his alter ego, the man he would have liked to have been and, in many ways, thought he was. Both writer and character lived their lives on the edge and took their vices to excess.

“James Bond was Ian’s dream- fantasy of what he would like to be, you know – ruthless and dashing.” Noel Coward

Next – Diamonds are Forever


For the first time in 35 years, this evening will see Paul McCartney perform in Wales when he brings his concert tour to Cardiff's Millenium Stadium.

I'm psyched up for the show and didn't know I was going until this Thursday when a surprise ticket came my way. I've seen Macca twice - in 1989 at Wembley and I think in 2002 at Earl's Court, or was it 2003 - I can't remember. When it was announced he's be appearing at the Millenium Stadium I was all geared up for the show until I found how much the tickets were costing.

Anyway Thursday evening I get a phone call and my Dad informs me that there is a ticket going spare and do I want it? Do I - hell, yeah!

Expect a report on the gig tonight after I've seen a sixty eight year old man turn back the years - it'll be quite thrillington, no doubt.

Friday 25 June 2010


I'm rather pleased with the review of my novel A Policeman's Lot over on Amazon -

"Dobbs has done his research and packs a lot into his novel. We become immersed in a time and place on the cusp of the twentieth century. Old methods of law enforcement are yielding with the introduction of new technologies. Economic changes create new problems and social pressures.

And there's the entertaining collision of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show with turn of the last century, coal-mining Wales. Cowboys and Indians wander through some of the scenes, and Bill Cody himself figures into the plot at key points."

The eBook is available now on whatever format you need, even PDF for reading on your computer screen:


The next film from Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment's celebrated line of full-length animated features is "Batman: Under The Red Hood," and the first clip from the upcoming release hit the 'Net today.

Adapted by writer Judd Winick from a story he wrote in DC's "Batman" series, "Under The Red Hood" chronicles the arrival of a dangerous new character on the streets of Gotham whose loyalties are as mysterious as his identity. Batman must make some tough decisions in order to deal with The Red Hood — decisions that affect his outlook on both his past and future.

Like previous DC Animated films, "Batman: Under The Red Hood" is rated PG-13. It arrives on shelves July 27, and features a voice cast that includes Bruce Greenwood ("John from Cincinnati") as Batman, John DiMaggio (who voices Bender in "Futurama") as the Joker, Jensen Ackles ("Supernatural") as Red Hood, and Neil Patrick Harris ("Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog") as Nightwing.


DC Comics--home to pop culture icons Batman and Superman--announced Wednesday that it would be distributing its comics digitally in a deal that resembles those of its competitors, but with some unique twists.

The publisher has partnered with ComiXology and the PlayStation Network to digitally distribute its comic books on Apple iOS devices and on all PlayStation Portable devices. ComiXology has now locked down distribution deals with more than 30 comics publishers, including the "big two" of Marvel Comics and DC, as well as Boom Studios, Image Comics, and Slave La

Thursday 24 June 2010


I placed this on pre-order from Amazon a few months ago, as soon as I learned it was being released on CD for the first time, and it turned up today. Now I didn't buy this for the quality of the music (thankfully) but because I'm a huge Eastwood fan.

It's a really cool looking CD - Excellently packaged with the original cover notes on the back and a new essay inside from James Ritz.

This music is okay but Clint's no singer, though there is a certain charm to the songs and he manages to pull off one or two with style - but it's quite bizarre to hear Dirty Harry crooning about a bouquet of roses and even more surreal to hear The Man with No Voice pleading not to be fenced in.

So how does Clint sound? Well imagine Kenny Rogers after having his throat ripped out by a big ol grizz, and you'll have some idea.

Track List:
Bouquet of Roses
Along the Santa Fe Trail
The Last Round up
Sierra Nevada
Mexicali Rose
Searching for Somewhere
I'll love you more
Tumbling Tumbleweeds
Twilight on the Trail
San Antonio Rose
Don't Fence me In
Cowboy Wedding Song

I guess the appeal of this CD is in the nostalgia rather than the quality of the music.


I've been on a film set all day - doing a new TV show set in the 1970's and my scene involved me going into a newsagents and asking for a packet of cigarettes, while the star of the show came in with a shotgun, intending to rob the place. Anyway, as always, the set was perfect for the era - all the little details were correct and the stock was all of the era. And in a corner was one of those spinning racks full of paperbacks.

I was in heaven - it was like stepping back in time. I got told off for spinning the rack, looking at the titles but I'm no fool I knew how it had looked when I started and I quickly spun it back into the correct order for the scene. Anyway as soon as I got another chance I started browsing again - there were three Bond books, the panther editions with the girls on plain white covers, a load of Agatha Christies, a copy of The Executioner 28: Savage Fire (I remember that series), about a dozen of the Conan paperbacks and a large number of westerns, Edge, Adam Steele, Blade, The Gunsmith, Louis L'amour, J.T.Edson. And of course all these books were in mint condition and appeared brand new. They were however actual vintage copies - I checked.

Man I wanted that spinner - the buggers wouldn't let me have it, though.

Nor the contents for that matter.


Ebook readers are still in their infancy but are spreading fast. Lightweight and durable, they are capable of storing thousands of books for instant access.

The market leader is the Kindle, Amazon’s slender, hardback-sized reader. But several other devices could challenge the Kindle as the ebook market exands. In the US, Barnes & Noble, the book retailer, sells a reader called the Nook, while Google, the search engine, and Verizon, the telecommunications group, have teamed up to develop their own ebook reader for release this year.

The Kindle’s real competition, however, comes from Apple’s iPad. Dispensing with a keyboard entirely, the iPad is a halfway point between a smartphone and a laptop computer. With book downloads available via its iBook application, and a wider range of possible uses, the iPad is likely to make the cheaper Kindle – which costs just more than £200 ($295), compared to the iPad’s £400-plus – look short on features.

But while ebook readers are convenient and compact, can they ever compete with the emotional attachment people have for paper books? You would not, after all, line a room with shelves full of Kindles to impress visitors with your cultural breadth. You could not use an iPad to prop up a rickety table, or throw a Nook at the television. The idea of their demise seems unlikely – but then the future is something we are all bad at predicting.

For what it's worth I don't see paper books ever vanishing, least not until we chop down the very last tree, but I do see eBooks as the saviour of what we used to call mid range fiction - those cheap and cheerful paperbacks that used to sell by the ton. With eBooks these out of print backlist titles could be made available again at very little cost to the publishers. A case in point - for years there has been fan activity to persuade the publishers to bring John Gardner's James Bond novels back into print, but all to no avail. However recent news is that the entire Gardner/Bond series is soon to be available on eBook. The same could be done for other favourite series - George Gilman's Edge books would be very popular in the eFormat. Anything ever published could be brought back in electronic form - now that would be cool.

eBooks - the revolution continues apace

Kindles, iPads and electronic books: for once the hyperbole surrounding the massive structural shift in the book trade rings true. “This is the biggest upheaval since Gutenberg [invented the printing press],” says Tom Holland, writer and chairman of the Society of Authors.

The genteel world of publishing rarely lends itself to such rash statements, but the excitement and fear is almost unprecedented since the beginning of the book printing industry. As Jamie Byng, the founder of Canongate Books, publisher of Booker Prize-winner Life of Pi, puts it: “It’s like the bloody Wild West at the moment.”

The cause of the turbulence is the move towards publishing books for online download.

So far, sales of electronic books – or ebooks – in the UK have not even scraped 1 per cent of market share, while even in the forward-thinking US they have reached only 5-6 per cent. Yet as digital publishing is almost universally acknowledged as the future of the book, the publishing industry is braced for a massive upheaval.

Wednesday 23 June 2010


The first thing I will say about Live and Let Die (1954) is how cool that title is. Live and Let Die – hasn’t that got to be the best title for a thriller ever! It oozes excitement, - with a title like that the reader expects a power packed read which is just what you’re gonna’ get when you pick up this book.

The book is structured almost identically to Casino Royale – it starts with the reader dropped into the start of the mission and then we have a flashback scene, which fills in the background of Bond’s mission. It’s an effective way to fill in all the details while keeping the story moving at a pace – that famous Fleming sweep again.

Live and Let Die is the most problematic of the novels for the modern reader. I’ve heard people complain that it is racist, largely because of the frequent use of the words, “Nigger”, (one chapter is titled: Nigger Heaven) and, “Negro,” but such charges are ludicrous. Neither word was considered a slur at the time the novel was written and that is the key. The novel is of its time and as such reflects that time. Yes it may read xenophobic by today’s standards but then so would most fiction of this time period.

“It had been a smart and decisive bit of driving, but what had startled Bond was that it had been a negress at the wheel, a fine looking negress in a chauffeur’s uniform.”

The book is set (and was written) in the early 50’s – a time when there was still segregation, particularly in the United States where the novel is set. So charging Fleming with racism is absurd – he was writing fiction set in a contemporary world – his contemporary world and as such he reflects the attitudes and realities of the time.

Nuff said, - on the racism issue, I think.

We discover Bond is still driving the Bentley convertible, the grey 1933 four and a half litre with the Amherst-Villiers supercharger – such an expensive car would have been out of the reach of most readers and it is details like this that add to Bond’s appeal. He lives a life unattainable to mere mortals but one that we would all like to live if we only had the chance. Bond’s cars are just that little bit larger than life, as are his women, his clothes and his thrilling adventures.

Fleming ties up the loose ends left over from the previous novel in this early section – we learn that Bond has had new skin grafted over the scar on his hand, the mark of a spy, carved there by a SMERSH assassin at the climax of the previous book.

“Morning 007. Let’s have a look at that hand. Not a bad job.”

The meeting between Bond and M doesn’t really flush out M’s character or the relationship between the two men and as in Casino Royale M’s brief appearance is merely to outline the bones of the plot. Though there is a feeling running between the lines that M holds Bond in high regard but the overall impression of the chief of the service is that he is a cold, aloof and very stern. He holds the utmost authority as suggested when it is revealed Bond wouldn’t dream of smoking in M’s presence unless invited to do so.

Fleming didn’t really describe Bond physically in Casino Royale (a conscious decision to let the reader slip into Bond’s shoes more easily). Other than that comma of hair and those piercing blue-grey eyes we knew very little about 007’s appearance, but this time out the author starts to flesh the character out. For the first time Bond’s face is fully described.

“Bond’s eyes narrowed as he gazed into the murk of Regent’s Park and his face in the faint dashlight was cruel and hard.”

There is also a lot more humour in the writing – one early section takes some good-humoured swipes at the American use of the English language. One section where Bond is being advised on his cover as an American is particularly good.

“He was reminded to ask for the check rather than the bill, to say cab rather than taxi and (this from Leiter) to avoid words of more than two syllables. (You can get through any American conversation, advised Leiter, with yeah, nope and sure.) The English word to be avoided at all costs was, Ectually. Bond assured him it was not in his vocabulary.”

If Fleming impressed with his descriptive powers in Casino Royale, then he astounds with Live and Let Die. By the fourth chapter he has given us a potted history of both Voodoo and piracy on the high seas, he has described in great detail Bond’s clothing and his breakfast menu, and yet the story zings along, not once does it slow down, not even when explaining the background of chief villain, Mr Big – the Fleming sweep is cranked up to full gear and runs like a well oiled machine.

The plot is suitably, “Boy’s Own”, - Gold coins, believed to be from a seventeenth century pirate horde, have been turning up on the market. The source is thought to be a treasure hidden in Jamaica by the English pirate, Bloody Morgan (although Henry Morgan was in reality Welsh). M believed the gold is being used to finance SMERSH operations on American soil and that Mr Big, the man behind the smuggling, is an agent of the Soviet terror organisation. Bond’s initial investigation takes place in New York where he is re-teamed with Felix Leiter, the CIA operative who had been such a help in Casino Royale, before moving onto Florida, where Felix is mutilated by a shark (a scene used in the movie, Licence to Kill). From there Bond travels onto Jamaica where Fleming pulls off an extraordinary piece of writing – his description of the underwater world in the chapter entitled, Valley of Shadows is so effective that the reader has to come up for air.

“There were no big fish about, but many lobsters were out of their holes looking huge and prehistoric in the magnifying lens of the water. Their stalk like eyes glared redly at him and their foot long spined antennae asked him for the passport.”

Later Bond and heroine, Solitaire are tied together and dragged behind a boat (a scene used in the movie, For Your Eyes Only). It is an effective scene and by the time the story ends the reader is left exhausted. Bond too it seems – he is given compassionate leave which he, understandably spends with the lovely Solitaire.

Where sex was only touched on briefly in Casino Royale with Live and Let Die, Fleming is firmly in wish fulfilment territory again (who was it that said, Bond is the man every man would want to be and every women would want to be with? It was Fleming himself, I believe.) and the entire text is dripping with sexuality.

“Opposite him, leaning forward with concern on her pretty face, was a sexy little negress with a touch of white blood in her. Her jet-black hair, as sleek as the best permanent wave, framed a sweet almond shaped face with rather slanted eyes under perfectly drawn eyebrows. The deep purple of her parted, sensual lips was thrilling against the bronze skin.”

Fleming was of course inventing the Bond formula as he went along and with this book many of the trademarks of the series were developing – exotic locations, bizarre villains, beautiful women, fast cars, good living, thrilling danger, are all present and correct. Bond is also humanised – no longer the blunt instrument of the previous book and it seems like snobbery is an inherent character trait. Though with Bond it comes across as charmingly eccentric rather than boorish.

Live and Let die is a fast and fun read. It’s more violent than most of the other books in the series, but there are many light moments and the suspense level is cranked up high in several sections. There is also something of a supernatural feel to the voodoo scenes, which conjure up a feeling of genuine unease in the reader.

It’s no fluke that James Bond is the massive franchise he is today. Sure the success of the movies is most to do with the enduring appeal, but it all started with Fleming’s pen. Those exotic images and fantastic plots that have made the movies so successful come from the imagination of Ian Fleming and there is only one place to find the real James Bond and that’s in these books.

Live and Let Die is a perfect thriller that set the blueprint for much of what would follow – Next Moonraker.

Lennon Naked

Christopher Eccleston did an astounding job depicting John Lennon in the hard hitting drama, John Lennon: Naked. Made as part of the BBC's Father's Day themed week of programs the drama looked at Lennon's role as a father as well as his relationship with his own wayward father.

Eccleston was excellent - for a moment during the early black and white scenes with Beatle Lennon I thought they were using old news footage until I realised this was actually Eccleston. He wears the role like a second skin. Now I'm a Beatle nut myself and I know my John Lennon and what I have just seen must be the most perfect interpretation ever.

The rest of the Beatles were okay with Ringo seeming particularly well realised - the involvement of the three Beatles though, is minor as the narrative drive of the drama is very much with Lennon. This is not a Beatles story but rather the story of the anti-Beatle.

Eccleston's performance is bound to gather mixed opinions - there are hordes of Beatle fans out there who will, no doubt, think it was all over the top, but to my mind the actor nailed Lennon perfectly and the supporting cast, especially Naoka Mori as Yoko are equally excellent.

Well known incidents in the Beatle story - Lennon smashing McCartney's windows, George's snide remarks to Yoko, the launch and fall of Apple are played out in the background with the main focus being Lennon's anger at his own father for abandoning him and his guilt for failing as a father himself.

It did seem curious though that the drama ended with Lennon and Yoko leaving the UK for America in 1971 and not with Lennon's later house husband days when the singer seemed to have found some contentment. This would have seemed logical given the theme of the drama but as it is the ending seems to suggest that once again Lennon is running from the past, a troubled man carrying the burden of genius.

Excellent - I'm going to watch that again. iPlayer here I come.


This fan made movies cost $27.000 to make and you've got to hand it to them it looks mighty fine."The City of Scars," a "fan movie," although it tests the definition of that term with its $27,000 budget and a 21-day shoot. It was produced by Aaron Schoenke and Sean Schoenke, a dynamic duo that has produced television commercials.



Near-bankrupt Hollywood studio MGM looks like it will be sold to Spyglass Entertainment.

MGM has been up for sale for the best part of a year. The studio was bought out by its current management for $2.85bn in 2005, but that crippled MGM with heavy debt repayments that it could never get to grips with. MGM is perhaps most famous for its James Bond franchise - indeed Bond 23, due to have been in production by now, has been held up while MGM looks for new owners.

Other would-be bidders for the studio’s assets include Summit Entertainment, but it is Spyglass – best known as producers of the Star Trek movies – which is now seen as the front-runner.

In other Bond related news, Sean Connery was recently pictured emerging from an all night swingers party. Sir Connery wearing a PVC red fetish number and knee length boots was unavailable for comment but a spokesman said that at Connery's age the last thing one wants to do after swinging the night away is chat to a reporter. Mr Connery was reported to be sleeping soundly after several pain killers, a vitamin shot and some tea and toast.

The Hack Report - all the writing news

Author Victoria Hislop has turned down an offer of £300,000 from an American film studio for the rights to adapt her debut novel, The Island into a major movie. The book about a leper colony off Crete is making waves and the author has accepted a much smaller fee from a Greek television network to turn the book into a TV mini-series. The author said she was worried the Hollywood machine would ruin her story.

Now is the time to pitch winter based ideas for stories/articles to magazines - to allow for magazine lead in times it is always best to pitch ideas three or four months in advance so now is the time to be thinking of Halloween, Christmas, Bonfire Night, Winter and so on.

China Mieville has won the British Science Fiction Association's Arthur C Clarke Award for best novel with The City and the City. This is a record breaker as it's the third time the author has won the award.

eBooks now represent five per cent of total book sales in the UK - Figures released by The Publishers' Association report a 27% increase in digital book sales since 2007. Some £150m of eBooks were sold last year alone.

PARK AND READ - Norwich Council are turning some of their park and ride buses into mobile libraries. People who use the park-and-ride service will find a range of books available on the buses for borrowing while you travel into the city centre. Park and Read, indeed.

The Irish Writers' Centre are delighted to announce that they have received a new grant from the Arts Council Ireland under their Touring and Dissemination scheme. The grant of €27,000 will enable a programme of readings.

Tuesday 22 June 2010


This is the first PIC the studio has released for the new Conan film (due out next year), and judging by the long hair, biceps, and steel-cold face, I think Momoa fits the part quite nicely.

A message, Mr Bond

Raymond Benson, the third author to officially take over Ian Fleming's pen took the time to write to me, saying he thought the Archive's complete literary Bond series looked promising - I quote while beaming with pride: "This looks like an excellent series of coverages on the novels, and I look forward to reading them."

Check out the first in the series Here

And Raymond's website is Here

Australia empowers Big Tobacco with its new draconian and simply barking mad vape restrictions

 From July 1st 2024 it will be illegal to own or buy any vaping device other than from pharmacies, and flavours will be limited to mint, men...