Cold Shot, Dani Pettrey

cold shotA Christian friend brought this author to my attention.
After frequently expressing concern about me reading “crime fiction”, he told me about Dani Pettrey’s books: crime fiction by a Christian author.

Cold Shot was my personal introduction to her work, and I don’t think I’ll be following up with any more of it.

She seems to have a strong following (no author would have published more than ten books without a devoted readership) but based on this book I won’t be joining that readership.

On the positive side, the story kept me reading, wanting to find out how it would be resolved. It was also refreshing to have prayer included as an ongoing feature.

Not so positive, was finding the characters and their dialogue unconvincing. To me they didn’t ring true. One case in point concerns the murder of a co-worker of a major character – something that seems to have no emotional impact at all on that major character who discovered the body.

To this non-American reader, there was also the issue of guns. While it was understandable that a murder by shooting was at the centre of the book, there was a disturbing reliance upon guns by (Christian) law-enforcement personnel, with a number of shooting deaths at the hands of those “good guys” before the case is finally resolved.

And also on the issue of guns and gunmen – it is established quite early that the killer being pursued is a sniper. One hurdle to finding him is the fact that snipers are apparently numerous within that community and they need to determine which one of them is guilty of the crime.

I suppose for an American crime story the prominence of guns should be expected – one only needs to have seen a few American police dramas to be aware of that.


Fritz Lang’s Metropolis

While I was on leave over the Christmas break I watched a brilliant film: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

metropolis (2)I used to have it on video back in my university days. It was part of a film course I did.

But the version I saw a week or two ago was “reconstructed and restored” to its original two and a half hours. From memory the previous version I’d seen was about half of that and therefore seemed disjointed and hard to follow.

The story of Metropolis (Reconstructed & Restored) flowed very well and was easy to understand. It also included the original orchestral score written for the film.

My previous version had the typical jangly piano attached to a lot of silent films.

Of course being a “silent” film the acting wasn’t subtle – but I started to see it like a dance performance and that approach worked for me.

Even Gloria watched the whole lot – and usually that kind of film would NOT be her “cup of tea”.

The story was powerful and very topical, about the oppression of the poor workers by the rich elites.

There was also a strong current of biblical allusion throughout, something that increased its appeal to me.

I was aware of the film long before I saw the shorter version at university. It has been proclaimed as a classic, early science fiction film. As well as its futurist cityscapes and portrayal of oppressive industrialisation, it also features one of (if not the) first on-screen robot, credited with inspiring many that followed in later decades, such as Star Wars’ C3PO.

Previously, whenever anyone has asked me to name my favourite film I never had an answer – I think for now I could say Metropolis.


Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Re-blogged from my Onesimus Files blog. Please click on “view original post” to access complete article.

Onesimus Files

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is the testimony of former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi.

I’d come across Qureshi several times over the past year or two, mainly seeing that he had some YouTube videos. For some reason I didn’t pay any attention to him or his videos when I was looking for testimonies of Muslims turning the Jesus.

seeking findingThe book is excellent. It covers his early life growing up as a Muslim, his attempts to prove the truth of Islam to a Christian friend, and then how his own studies led him to consider the truth of Jesus.

He faced a difficult struggle before he could finally turn away from his life-long religion to embrace and accept the gospel, but God was patient and revealed Himself to Qureshi, over time.

I don’t think I’ve come across anyone else’s testimony in which they spent years of diligently searching and studying everything they could to…

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The Man x 2

Two books about “the man”.

think i knowThe Man I Think I Know is a novel by one of my most reliable, favourite authors. Mike Gayle always guarantees me a good, page turning read.
His books aren’t suspenseful thrillers, they are set in real life, everyday situations with strong relatable characters. This must be around his sixteenth book, and I’ve enjoyed them all.

Danny has no desire to work, but after losing his unemployment benefits he takes a job as a carer in a “residential care home”.

James was a successful, wealthy business man, just starting out on a political career when “the incident” undermined everything and left him completely dependent on his parents.

The two men meet when James enters the care home to give his parents a short break. Despite Danny’s denial, James is sure he knows him from their school years.

A growing friendship between the two leads each of them to come to terms with the tragic events that shaped the direction of their lives.


golden touchThe Man With the Golden Touch by Sinclair McKay is a critical study of the James Bond films. McKay compares them to the Ian Fleming books upon which they were loosely based, as well as looking at the cultural context within which the films were created.

He not only writes about every Bond film released up to the time of publication, he compares/contrasts them with other spy fiction and films, some of which were a clear exploitative response to the success of Bond.

As someone who had read all of the Bond books by the time I reached my teens, I enjoyed reading someone else’s views on the character.

McKay’s initial Bond experiences were mostly through the films, where mine were through the books. By the time I’d read all of Fleming’s books and another, Colonel Sun, that Kingsley Amis wrote under the pseudonym Robert Markham, I’d only seen three of the films.

Dr No and From Russia With Love were the first, screened as a double feature at  a local cinema when I was 10 or 11 years old.  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the other, seen a year or two later. I didn’t see any others until Live and Let Die on its first cinema release when I was in my mid teens. Those first three named are perhaps the closest adaptations of Fleming’s stories and they are the films I always liked best from the series.

Most of the other films merely used the book titles and had no resemblance to the original stories. McKay looks at the reasons for that, explaining the wisdom of it. The success of the films not only depended on those changes, but also ensured the ongoing viability of keeping the Fleming books in print.

As someone who grew up with Bond, this book had a significant nostalgic appeal, but also I enjoyed its wider journey into the spy fiction and films  that inspired and was inspired by the success of Bond.

Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson

red marsI borrowed Red Mars from the library maybe twenty years ago. I don’t recall much, but I must have enjoyed it because during the next few years I bought the two sequels, Green Mars and Blue Mars in hardcover when I found them being sold cheaply, but for some reason didn’t get around to reading them.

I kept looking for a hard cover edition of Red Mars to complete the set, but didn’t hold out much hope.

While visiting the Galaxy Bookshop, a science fiction specialist in Sydney, I saw on their noticeboard a wanted ad, in which someone was trying to get a hardcover copy. Many years later I saw one in a second hand book shop in Narrandera, NSW. It was an American first edition and from memory cost around $300.

Earlier this year I finally found an affordable copy for myself, a British first edition at a small fraction of the cost of that US book – basically it was less than the price of a new release and didn’t reflect it’s apparent rarity.

In addition to copies of each volume of the trilogy, I also have book of short stories, The Martians, using the same characters

It’s not surprising that Robinson won some of the top science fiction awards for this series of novels. He creates a complex near-future society in the process of colonising Mars, looking at the technical, political and sociological challenges faced. I think he pulls it all together magnificently, with exceptions that I mention later.

A major theme is the conflict arising within a new colony when the colonists interests begin to clash with the interests of the colonial powers who sent them. Should the new colony on Mars exist to be exploited by the home planet? Or should they start to make their own way, free of the engrained mistakes of earth’s history and politics?

We have been sent here by our governments and all of our governments are flawed, most of them disastrously. It’s why history is such a bloody mess. Now we are on our own, and I for one have no intention of repeating all of Earth’s mistakes just because of conventional thinking. We are the first Martian colonists! We are scientists! It is our job to think things new, to make them new.

Part of the appeal of books like this – and I found Robinson did it well throughout Red Mars – is conveying a sense of awe, of the majestic, an encompassing experience of the unimaginable scale of a journey through space and the arrival at another planet.

And then experiencing the alien landscape of that planet, with features of a size far exceeding anything on earth.

* Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system, 25kms high with a footprint that would cover the majority of France.

* Valles Marineris, a system of canyons  stretching for nearly a quarter of the planet’s circumference, 4,000 kms long, 200 kms wide and as deep as 7 kms, dwarfing the Grand Canyon in the USA.

And then there’s the technology required to get there – and to ensure survival upon and after arrival.
It takes significant skill to convincingly describe all of that, as well as imagine the kind of  social structures that would emerge to make it work, considering the options of maintaining or challenging the expectations of a parent society on a planet far removed by both distance and experience.

But to me the timeline of the book is a minor let-down.

In Red Mars, The first colonists head for Mars in 2026 six years after John Boone was the first man to set foot on the planet. The timetable for such achievements was even ambitious for the year the book was published in 1992, so specifying the years for those things to happen perhaps wasn’t Robinson’s wisest writing decision. So far I’ve seen no reason why specified dates (especially those not so far into the future) were necessary.

I also found that the progress of development on mars seemed to happen far too quickly. Within a couple of decades, several cities and industrial complexes have been built, connected by a variety of transport options: trains, airborne dirigibles, and road traffic; and there are constant and regular arrivals from earth to the new colony, exacerbating unease among earlier colonists who see the society they had hoped to establish being corrupted by the greed of their former planet.

I recall watching that first moon landing in 1969, and hearing commentators predicting the first manned mission to mars by the mid 1970s. Instead, the progress made in the Apollo moon missions was abandoned, and only in recent years has anyone started to seriously speculate again about the possibility of a mars mission.
With that kind of history, the outlook of a 1990s book speculating about a 2020s Mars landing and almost immediate colonisation seems excessively and unrealistically optimistic.

“Song” 23 of my “31 Songs”.

Royal by Robert Lacey

royalI recently saw the TV series The Crown, a fictionalised, behind the scenes view of the British royal family based on real historical events.

I’ve had Robert Lacey’s Royal for over ten years but hadn’t read it until now, when I wanted to see how close the TV series came to depicting real events.

The book was written not long after the death of Princess Dianna, so it’s now about 20 years out of date.

While mostly focusing on the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, Lacey places her story within the context of royal celebrity originating in Victorian times.

The author’s respect for the current Queen is clear, but it doesn’t extend so much to those involved in the Charles-Diana soap opera that drove the monarchy into crisis. While Lacey doesn’t portray Prince Charles in a favourable light, he also bursts the bubble of sainthood created around Diana.

Lacey reveals quite  a few interesting insights into modern royal history, such as the fact that Alice Keppel, Camilla Parker Bowles’ great grandmother, was also mistress to the Prince of Wales of her time (later Edward VII). But unlike her descendant, Keppel didn’t have her relationship with the monarch-to-be legitimized through marriage.  [Charles and Camilla’s marriage was still a future event when the book was written].

Overall it was a fascinating book, an enjoyable insight into the privileged but difficult experience of the world’s most well-known monarch. While there is an inevitable distance created between the royal family and their “subjects” – Lacey is able to show a much warmer side of the Queen than would have been shown of earlier generations of her family.




Dying to Sin by Stephen Booth

dying to sinRenovation work on a derelict farm uncovers a woman’s body, buried near the house.

She had been buried several years before.
So, who was she, and why has no one missed her?

In this book DS Diane Fry’s future with the Edendale police seems to be a little tenuous when bureaucratic changes are made.

That threat to the security of her current position ought to provide a pathway to the change she’s wanted,  and a return to city policing rather than the rural setting in which she’s never felt at home. So why does she seem so unnerved about it?

Stephen Booth again blends a modern day mystery with local folklore and sets it within the harsh winter landscape of the Derbyshire peak district.