2 + 2 = Variety

Two books plus two films, a diversity of genres and forms, with little in common: all in a weekend’s “work”.

caedmonOn Saturday I finished the last 30 or 40 pages of Peter Robinson’s Caedmon’s Song.
Kirsten is making her way home after celebrating the completion of her studies at a northern university. She wakes in hospital after suffering a horrific attack.
As the months pass, during her slow recovery, several young students are murdered, presumably by the same attacker.
There is pressure to break through the suppression of her memories of her own attack, in the hope of identifying the man and bring his killing to an end.

Alongside Kirsten’s story the book also follows Martha Browne, visiting the northern coastal town of Whitby, claiming to be researching a book, but keen to keep to herself as she plans for some kind of mission aided by her “spirit guides”.

Robinson said that the book was partly inspired by the case of the Yorkshire Ripper, and the question of how a surviving victim of a serial killer might respond to their survival and recovery.

lady Later on Saturday I started reading Lady in Waiting another book that alternates between two stories. In the present day Jane Lindsay is struggling with the seeming breakdown of her marriage, when her husband takes a job in a another city.
In the past there is the story of Lucy Day, a young seamstress working for Lady Jane Grey.

The two stories are brought together by the discovery of a ring hidden in the spine of a centuries old prayer book bought as stock for Jane’s antique shop.
The title “Lady in Waiting”, could be applied to Jane Lindsay, waiting for her husband’s return to the marriage; to Lucy Day, waiting on her Lady Jane; or to Lady Jane herself, waiting to find out the future planned for her by her family.

I’ve had a five decade interest in Lady Jane Grey since I read or heard about her as a pre-teen in the late 1960s. She is the forgotten first Queen of England, whose reign lasted just over a week.
She was the chosen successor of the Protestant Edward VI who wanted to deny his Roman Catholic sister Mary from taking the throne after his death. Jane, Edward’s cousin, was an educated and devout Christian in regular correspondence with leading protestant theologians in Europe.

Mary’s military support made Jane’s position untenable and Jane was executed on Mary’s orders early the following year, at the age of 16.

Swallows_and_Amazons_(2016_film)Swallows and Amazons is a classic children’s book that I’ve never had the opportunity to read.
A year or two ago I started to watch an old film version of the story, but lost interest only half an hour in.

On Saturday Gloria bought this new version on DVD, A wonderful film in which the Walker children face dangers, imagined and real, during a holiday in the Lake District of northern England.
They sail their boat “Swallow” to a an island to camp out for the night, but find the island has already been claimed by the “Amazons”, a group of locals.

As the rivalry between the Swallows and the Amazons intensifies, they find themselves being drawn to work together to face a more serious, common enemy.

Set in the 1930s, it s story that wouldn’t translate to a present day setting, where children would be discouraged from pursuing risky outdoor adventure, even if they could be torn away from the digital adventures pursued in the comfort and safety of their own homes.

 

downsizingDownsizing is another film Gloria found on Saturday morning.
I wasn’t really interested in seeing it, and almost halfway into the film I was wondering why I’d bothered.

As the human population increases the harm it does to the planet, scientists discover a way to “downsize” people and animals – basically shrink them to a fraction of their natural size.
This is seen as a potential life-saver for the planet. Reduce the population in size and reduce the consumption of resources as well as reduce the resulting waste footprint.

The major enticement to encourage potential recruits for the project is the promise of more affluent lives in custom made small communities. Current basic finances convert to the equivalent of millions of dollars in a community where a few metres of land are the equivalent of several acres when the scale difference is taken into account and the “downsized” people can live in mansions that would previously been the size of a doll house.

The first part of the film concentrates on the wonders associated with the downsizing opportunities, using some interesting special effects to show the interaction between people of vastly different scales. Downsizing is presented as a favourable option with no down-side; apart from one or two hints that its outcome may not fully be what it is presented to be.

There are occasional hints of political unrest – with questions being raised about the legal rights of downsized people. They consume so little, and therefore contribute so much less to a consumer driven society, so should they have equal voting rights?
And it becomes clear that downsizing can be misused and abused by Governments as well as by less than honourable corporate groups.

Matt Damon plays Paul Safranek, who, along with his wife, choose to downsize. Safranek soon finds that he may have made a mistake in making that irreversible choice.

As I said, after half of the film I was wondering about the point of it all, but then the film took a significant turn. That change came about with the introduction of a Vietnamese character, Ngoc Lan Tran, played by Hong Chau.
She gives the film a spark it was lacking and brings it to life, a Jesus worshipping woman devoted to serving the less fortunate.
Through her Safranek starts to see another side to the downsizing programme. Alongside the advertised affluence, there is a hidden world of poverty, making their new world no different to the one they’d chosen to leave behind, where affluence is enjoyed at the expense of many who are usually unnoticed.

It is a clear film of two halves. The second part turned it from something self-indulgently forgettable into something thought provokingly memorable. It’s something that has stayed with me since I saw it on Saturday evening.

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Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Belinda-Bauer-300x482

Blacklands was Belinda Bauer’s first book, through which she became an accidental crime writer. *

In the Author’s Note at the end of the book she writes:

Blacklands was never intended to be a crime novel. I thought it was going to be a very small story about a boy and his grandmother.

12 year old Steven Lamb’s life is dominated by his uncle Billy, even though the two never met. Billy didn’t live to enter his teens. He fell victim to a paedophile serial killer long before Steven was born.

Steven’s small family lives with his grandmother who regularly stands at the window, looking through it as if still waiting for her son Billy to come home.

Steven reasons that the dysfunction within his family, the lack of expressed love and warmth, has been caused not only by grief over Billy’s murder, but because his body was never discovered.

Steven is determined to put things to right by finding his uncle’s remains. He sets out with map and spade onto the nearby Exmoor, but it’s a project hampered by scale, having no clue where it would be best to dig.

That’s something only one person knows for sure, Arnold Avery, the man guilty of Billy’s murder.

Steven starts a surreptitious correspondence with Avery, trying to learn the secret of Billy’s grave, instigating a disturbing interaction between the two.

Bauer tells the story from the points of view of Steven and Avery. Each of them have far different reasons for continuing the correspondence, but the shared focus on Billy’s murder and burial has consequences Steven couldn’t have imagined.

One piece of writing advice that I picked up from somewhere regarding the construction of a short story, was that if you include a description of a gun early in the story, that gun has to be used before the end of it. In other words, particularly in short form writing, don’t clutter the story with unnecessary detail – make everything is pertinent.

Blacklands is not a short story, but Bauer seems to follow that advice throughout the book. There are so many colourul little details introduced that could have been  legitiamtely put aside after they’ve added dimension to a character, but instead they become vital, active elements later .

I didn’t need to find yet another author to follow, but this book has made me add Bauer’s work to my growing list of books to read.

Her most recent novel Snap has been longlisted for this year’s Man-Booker Prize.

 

____________________________________

*

It wasn’t until a lunch to sign a contract with her publisher, Transworld, that Bauer learned she was all set for a career as a crime novelist. “We were sitting in this posh restaurant with a contract between us and [her editor] hands me a pen and says: ‘Just tell us what your second book is going to be about.’ I said: ‘It’s going to be about these two children in a spaceship,’ and she took the contract away, whoop, like that tablecloth trick. And she said: ‘No, it has to be a crime novel.’ I was floored – I had no idea how publishing worked, because I’d always done such diverse scripts as a screenwriter. I literally had to make it up there at the table,” says Bauer.

So, having “never read anything that was actually marketed as a crime book”, she started out as a crime writer on “possibly a different footing to someone who was immersed in the genre”.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/aug/10/belinda-bauer-interview-man-booker-prize-longlist-snap

Catching a Serial Killer interview

When Detective Steve Fulcher arrested Christopher Halliwell for a murder, the taxi driver said there was another body. In an effort to build trust and find the second victim, Fulcher failed to caution him a second time. Christopher Halliwell is now in jail for two murders, and there are potentially more bodies to find. But the man who caught him has been drummed out of the force.

from: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/how-to-catch-a-serial-killer/9236808

Musical Tastes of Fictional Characters (2)

In a previous post about the music enjoyed by fictional characters I mentioned a Waterboys reference in Stephen Booth’s  first book Black Dog. The reference is in fact in his second book, Dancing With the Virgins.

 

‘That was the river, this is the sea’

Ben Cooper turned up the volume on his stereo and opened the cover of his Waterboys CD. He was amazed to find it dated from 1985. In fact, most of the music he possessed was the stuff he had liked twelve or fifteen years ago as a teenager.

 

 

Slow reading, slow blogging.

I see it’s been over three months since I posted anything here. It’s also been a while since I updated my “Books Read” list.

The latter is because my reading progress has been very slow recently and I’ve been struggling through some books of non-fiction, that while interesting, don’t have that page-turner nature.

Today I’m starting four week’s leave, so won’t have the opportunity to post anymore until I get back in mid January. However, I have been posting quite a lot on my “Onesimus Files” blog, where I’ve also set up several posts to be published over the next couple of weeks. See that blog here for writings about spirituality, politics, art – and other things that pique my interest:

https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/

Note that any comments submitted to this site during my absence will have to wait for my return before passing through moderation.

 

300!!!

Since I started my “books read” list in November 2009, I’ve read 298 books (as of today).

That means I’m only 2 books away from the triple century milestone and have read an average of 40+ books per year for the past 6-7 years.

Now, what do I do?

Just continue reading and ignore the “significance” of my 300th book? Or do I make sure I hit that target with a book of significance? But what would be a suitably significant book to read as my 300th?

I don’t have much time to make the choice. I’ll be starting book 299 today.

 

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