Saturday, 19 March 2011

More Movies - Favourite Suspense/ Thrillers

This was a hard category to pick for; what exactly is a suspense/ thriller movie? I looked through various lists, such as AFI, BFI and others and they all seem to vary. I decided for my purposes, that I'd try to limit my picks to mysteries and spy-type adventures. So with that, and probably even stretching that definition a bit, here go my top ten favourites.


In the main, the movies I've picked are movies I've watched many times and in each case have enjoyed the movie as much as the first time. However, my first pick is one I've only seen once. Basically, that's because it's the newest movie on the list. However, having enjoyed it so much, I'm sure both Jo and I will watch it many more times as it becomes more available.
Inception could possibly fall under the Sci Fi category because it is a very futuristic movie. But, there is so much more to the movie, the intricate plot that the characters, lead by Leonardo DiCaprio, must follow to succeed in completing the perfect heist, that it makes a wonderful 'buddy' crime/ suspense film.
The movie was directed by Christopher Nolan, who also gave us such great movies as Memento, The Prestige and the Dark Knight movies. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio (who I don't normally care for), the wonderful Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to name just a few of the excellent cast.
The movie has fantastic special effects, the plot is intricate and detailed and leaves you on the end of your seat and ultimately, it is a satisfying, thrill ride through the mind.


Brian de Palma brought us The Untouchables in 1987. It's a movie that both the wife and I have seen in part or completely 10 or 12 times. It never stops being entertaining. Starring Kevin Costner as the noted Federal Agent, Elliot Ness, the movie revolves around his efforts to bring notorious crime lord Al Capone, played suitably by Robert de Niro, to justice.
With a hand - picked team of uncorrupted cops, his Untouchables, played with verve and energy by Sean Connery, Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith, he has to fight not only a corrupt Chicago police force, but also Capone`s henchmen.
This is a thrilling, exciting movie. Brian de Palma has some iconic moments as he does in most of his movies. Take for example the scene at the train station with the baby in the buggy (I won't say any more in case you haven't seen it). Robert de Niro is his over the top best as Capone and has a few great moments; e.g. a scene with a baseball bat. Kevin Costner is perfectly suited as Elliot Ness, a bit holier than though, but with a steely determination. Sean Connery is at his best as the crusty Irish-American policeman and even the supporting cast of the Untouchables, Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith are excellent.
This is a great, fun-filled suspense thriller. You've got to watch it!


Tony Scott has directed and produced some great movies; Top Gun, Man on Fire and The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 to name a few. In 1998, he teamed up with Will Smith to direct a high tech thriller that is one of my favourites, Enemy of the State.
The basic story involves a murder of a US politician by the head of a super secret government agency, and this murder is accidentally caught on film by a local wild life advocate.
This causes a chain of events that pulls lawyer, Will Smith, into one of the great chase movies you'll ever watch. Tracked by Jon Voigt's team of NSA agents, utilizing every type of high tech gadget known to man, Will Smith must enlist the aid of a disgruntled, ex - CIA operative, Gene Hackman, to bring his life back under control and also bring Voigt to justice.
The movie is high-paced and full of special effects, but Will Smith and his family bring a nice touch of humour to the film to help lighten the tension when necessary. Gene Hackman is also excellent as his companion, bringing his crusty nature and his own brand of gadgets into the fray against the NSA group.
The movie will keep you on the edge of your seats and waiting for the next bit of action that's just around the corner. Enjoy!


This is one of the two movies I have from 1995, both intense suspense thrillers. The movie was directed by David Fincher, who already had and continues to have some excellent action movies to his credit; Alien 3, Panic Room and Zodiac. The movie starred Brad Pitt as a young cop , a rookie to the Force and Morgan Freeman, an older cop who is counting the days to retirement.
Both are assigned to a case that will change their lives. The murders are based on the 7 Deadly Sins and each is filmed in dark, gloomy back drops, adding to the sense of mystery and tension.
As the case develops, the two cops become friends and feed off each other. I won't go into the murders in any detail nor mention who the murderer is. Needless to say, I found parts of the film very surprising and even though I felt that I had a clear picture of the final scenes, they were still surprising and well done.
Both Pitt and Freeman are excellent actors and I think this movie is one of their best pieces of work. Even though a small part, Gwynneth Paltrow is also lovely and adds some innocence to what is a dark, very moody suspense thriller.


This is the first movie in the Bourne series, based on the books by Robert Ludlum. Each movie is great, full of action and well-acted by Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. I actually have some difficulty picking which is my favourite as each is super. I like Joan Allen in both the Supremacy and Ultimatum, but without the success of this first film, the other two might not have been made.
Released in 2002, the Bourne Identity is the story of a man whose wounded body is discovered by fishermen who nurse him back to health. He can remember nothing and begins to try to rebuild his memory based on clues such as the Swiss bank account, the number of which, is implanted in his hip. He soon realizes that he is being hunted and takes off with Marie on a search to find out who he is and why he is being hunted.
Matt Damon is excellent as the spy who is trying to discover his true identity as he races across Europe chased by CIA hit men. He has been in so many great movies, but he truly makes this series excellent with his abilities to portray an action hero that is three dimensional.
There is also a great supporting cast; with Chris Cooper, Brian Cox and Julia Stiles. The story is exciting, the action is non-stop and so well-choreographed and the plot is tense and suspenseful. After this one, you`ll want to see the rest, because they are sooooo goood!


I started reading Jeffrey Deaver`s books at the same time that this movie came out in 1999. I actually bought the book at the book store as I was on my way to the movie and read the first twenty or thirty pages while I waited for the film to start. Neither disappointed me. The Bone Collector is one of Deaver`s Lincoln Rhymes series of suspense novels. Lincoln Rhymes, played with such style by Denzel Washington in the movie, is a quadriplegic ex-homicide detective who still contracts his work to the New York Police Department. Angelina Jolie plays Amelia Sachs, a uniformed cop, who is the first officer on the scene of the crime that will eventually bring her into contact with Rhymes and begin a partnership that follows the two through many more books, but unfortunately, no more movies.
The movie is a tense thriller that follows Washington and Jolie, accompanied on the ride by Ed O`Neill and Queen Latifah, amongst others, through the sewers and crime zones of New York as they try to solve the case of The Bone Collector.
This is forensic science at its most interesting. The movie offers such an intriguing premise of Washington, confined to his bed as he talks Jolie through crime scenes so she can gather the clues and information necessary to solve the murders being perpetrated. The movie is tense and well presented and the acting team do such a great job of maintaining the suspense and displaying a wonderful sympathy. You`ll be glued to your seats watching this one.


The other movie from 1995 that made my Top Ten list is Copycat, a suspense thriller starring two great actresses, Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter. Directed by Jon Amiel, it is the story of an agoraphobic psychologist, Weaver, and a seasoned police officer, Hunter, who are drawn together to bring down a serial killer who imitates serial killers from the past.
This is one of the great movies, made even better by the talents of Weaver and Hunter. Weaver plays her character, a slightly drunk criminal psychologist who is terrified to leave her apartment because of events in her past perfectly. She is flirty, sexy and intelligent. Hunter, as the Police detective is all business, smarter than her male counterparts, somewhat stiff necked, but knows what she`s about.
The two make an excellent partnership, sometimes volatile, with nice friction, but ultimately, they are the team that will solve this crime, bring down this cruel murderer. Their lives will be endangered as the work through the evidence and there will enough tension to make you chew through a pillow as you watch.
This is a classic of the genre, one that well deserves to be in my top ten list.


Oddly enough, or maybe fittingly, my final three selections are from Alfred Hitchcock`s great library of suspense movies. There are so many to choose from, but these are my personal favourites. North By Northwest was released in 1959 and stars the classy Cary Grant, star of many Hitchcock films, and the lovely Eva Marie Saint, one of Hitchcock`s, lovely blondes.
In the movie, the basic plot is quite simple. It tells the story of a hapless New York advertising executive (Grant) who is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.
Like so many movies that were influenced by Hitchcock`s ideas (see Enemy of the State above for that matter, or Eagle Eye or so many others), this one grabs an innocent and puts him into a situation that will try his wits, risk his life and ultimately, get the bad guys!
Grant is great as always. He is always cool and suave in any situation. He always gets the lady, the lovely Saint. And he finds a way out of any situation. There are so many iconic scenes in this movie; such as the plane attack on the lonely road surrounded by corn fields; the fight on the summit of Mount Washington. And through all this action and this adventure, Grant maintains a cool aplomb and never lets a hair fall out of place. It`s a true suspense thriller and one of my favourites.

2 - THE 39 STEPS

My second Hitchcock selection is a classic from 1935, The 39 Steps, starring Robert Donat. This movie was based on the classic spy thriller by John Buchan and has been remade at least 3 other times, as movies and TV mini series. But, in my mind, no matter how good the others might be, this is the best, the classic.
It tells the story of a man in London who gets involved trying to help a counterespionage agent. When the agent is killed and he stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring trying to steal top secret information.
Robert Donat is much like Cary Grant in North By Northwest, a man caught up in events, who with panache and flair sets about saving himself and in the process, also saving his country.
Besides being a great cross country chase movie, the plot and mystery add to the suspense. We wonder what the 39 steps might be, who is involved and will Donat be able to solve the mystery at the end.
Even though made in the 1930`s, the movie still seems relevant and the tension still works. Hitchcock has a knack for developing tension and action that will keep you waiting for more. A super movie through and through.


Not only my favourite suspense movie, Rear Window also ranks right up there as one of my top ten favourite movies of all-time. It has everything you could want in a movie. Think about it for a minute. The movie takes place in a bedroom, with a man with his legs in a cast, looking out over his back yard. This never changes, and yet, you will find this one of the most suspenseful movies ever. There is no blood and guts, nobody loses body parts (well, not so you see anyway) and there are no car chases or bombs going off.
James Stewart, another Hitchcock favourite, is a news photographer, who is confined to his room because he broke both his legs. He tries to occupy himself by watching the activities from his rear apartment window and entertaining the lovely Grace Kelly (yum).
One night, as he dozes in his chair, he hears a scream and as he looks out his window, thinks he sees a murder in the facing apartment. This starts a chain of events that will ultimately threaten his life as he tries to persuade Kelly, his wonderful nurse, Stella, played with spunk by Thelma Ritter and the doubting cops, represented by Wendell Corey, that Raymond Burr has murdered his wife.
The movie also displays a wonderful cross section of his neighbours as they go through the daily routines; with Stewart watching with interest. But Hitchcock keeps ratcheting up the tension until the great climax. The acting of Stewart, Kelly and Ritter is great. And so much acting they have to do when the set is so limited; everything relies on the reactions and ability to maintain the suspense. They do this so very well.

I hope you enjoy my choices if you`ve never seen any of them before. I`m sure you have your own favourites as well.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Top Ten Favourite Books - Number 3

Nice to have a Friday off and I thought, while the missus was still asleep, that I'd take advantage of some free time and continue my list of all-time favourite books with Number 3. John Wyndham is one of my favourite writers. He was born in England in 1903 and lived until 1969. He specialized in post-apocalyptic science fiction and has written some of my favourite books of that genre. I could have picked one of two of his books for Number 3 on my list, but, in the end, I had to choose The Day of the Triffids. It's such a fantastic story.

Originally written in 1951, the basic premise is outlined as follows -

"The night the sky broke out in mysterious green flashes, all but a few people on Earth were blinded. The world went mad. Ordinary folk became animals, turning on one another in terror and desperation. Bill Masen was one of handful who struggle to make a new - and civilized - start out of the chaos. But blindness and madness soon became the least of Man's problems - the triffids were moving in! Walking plants that fed on the bodies of their human prey, they stalked the survivors, killing anyone in their path. Bill Masen had to find a way to destroy the triffids - before the triffids could take over the world."

I guess when you read the plot summary, the thought of man-eating plants sounds somewhat silly. But when you read the book, it just all makes sense. Mr. Wyndham has a way of presenting the facts that make it believable. There is something about his style, his way of making dealing with these momentous events, that draws you in to the story. This is a story of the possibility of the end of mankind, but the people dealing with it try to maintain the rationality, their sense of selves in their battle for survival. He has a low-key way of presenting their desperation and their struggles, that somehow make it seem like they are just going about their day-to-day lives. Maybe it's a 'Britishness'; sometimes I think that other writers of this genre, such as H.G. Wells and Nevil Shute do the same thing. While the world might be ending, the people still are honourable and dignified.

Anyway, it's a fascinating story, one I've read again and again and never tired of. There have been various attempts in movies and television dramas to present John Wyndham's story. The 1962 with Howard Keel based the idea on the fact that the Triffids were space invaders and, while it was a B-type movie, it still was pretty darn fun.

My personal favourite was the 1981 BBC TV mini series starring John Duttine as Bill Masen. I've watched a few times now and I highly recommend. It's quite faithful to the feel of the book and the story and is very respectful of John Wyndham's style.

There was a 2009 two part mini series as well and this was also produced by BBC. It had a much higher profile cast, with Dougray Scott playing Masen and it also starred Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson and Eddie Izzard amongst others. However, I was very disappointed with this version and could only watch part of the first chapter. I just felt that they sensationalized it too much and tried to turn it into an action movie. That is not John Wyndham's style at all. Maybe I'll try it again sometime, but it was very disappointing. I do recommend the 1981 version though.

At the beginning, I mentioned that I could have put either of two of John Wyndham's stories as Number 3 on my Top Ten List. He has written some excellent stories, but my next favourite was written in 1955, The Chrysalids. The plot outline summarizes the story as simply as -

"A world paralyzed by genetic mutation. John Wyndham takes the reader into the anguished heart of a community where the chances of breeding true are less than fifty per cent and where deviations are rooted out and destroyed as offences and abominations."

The story focuses on a group of children living in an agrarian community in Labrador in the future; a future that takes place after some man-made disaster. The community strives to drive out any form of mutation, whether plants, animals or humans. The children have a form of mutation that can be hidden as it involves telepathy. However at one point they are discovered. Now I won't go into the plot anymore that but will say that it is an excellent story; heart rending at times, tense and emotional. It's not typical of Wyndham's other post apocalyptic stories, but as good as any of them.

Interestingly as I was reading up on the story, I found out that one of Jefferson Airplane's songs was based on this book and that John Wyndham gave them permission to use some of the quotes. It turns out that I was familiar with the song, which made it that much more interesting. The song is Crown of Creation.

Others of John Wyndham's stories that I have enjoyed include The Midwich Cuckoos. It may be more familiar to some as The Village of the Damned.

"Cuckoos lay eggs in other bird's nests. The clutch that was fathered on the quiet little village of Midwich, one night in September, proved to possess a monstrous will of its own. It promised to make the human race look as dated as a dinosaur."

Written in 1957, it tells the story of the British town of Midwich. Something happens one night in September, rendering the villagers unconscious. Something also happens to the town women and in nine months, the results of this are born.

Once again a story of children, but strange, powerful children with the potential to destroy mankind. Scary, interesting and a page turner. This story was also made into a movie, well, in fact it was twice made into a movie. If you are ever tempted to watch it, ensure you see the original 1960 version of Village of the Damned starring George Sanders. It is quite faithful to the novel and has the same intensity. George Sanders stars as the doctor who tries to teach the children humanity. The later version, with Kirstie Alley and Christopher Reeve was OK, but definitely not as good as the original.

Another John Wyndham favourite is The Kraken Wakes, written in 1953, preceding The Chrysalids.

"This is the story of the awakening and rise to power of intelligible forces beneath the surface of the sea. The almost imperceptible beginnings and the cruelly terrifying consequences of this new threat to the world are seen through the eyes of a radio scriptwriter and his wife."

The story focuses on Michael Watson, a radio script writer and his wife Phyllis, two of the first people on Earth to be exposed to the undersea creatures that will form the basis of this story and change the way mankind deals with its oceans, if it wants to survive.

This is one of the more humorous Wyndham novels; or at the very least, Mr Watson has a dry way of looking at the events on which he is reporting and analyzing. It is another unique effort from Wyndham, dealing with a unique situation for its time; how would mankind travel from continent to continent if the waterways were unnavigable. There are other underlying themes in this story; alien invasion, the Cold War, the end of the British Empire. It is another of Wyndham's fascinating efforts, well worth the read.

The final book of John Wyndham's that I wanted to mention was one that I found just recently and was unaware that he had written. I had thought that I was familiar with all of his works, but I found this in my local book store, The Laughing Oyster and had to buy it.
As stated on the back jacket, Plan for Chaos, was written at the same time as The Day of the Triffids. The completed manuscript was seen by only a handful of people before Wyndham abandoned it, unpublished and overshadowed by its companion's sudden and phenomenal success. it has remained unpublished for some forty years since his death.

The story outline is as follows -

"In a city much like New York, a series of identical women are found dead in suspicious circumstances. Magazine photographer Johnny Farthing, who is reporting on the suspected murders, is chilled to discover that his fiancée looks identical to the victims too - and then she disappears. As his investigations spiral beyond his control, he finds himself at the heart of a sinister plot that uses cloning to revive the Nazi vision of a world-powerful master race....."

I haven't read this latest discover yet, but it sounds like it might be as interesting as Wyndham's others.

I hope my few thoughts on John Wyndham's works will entice you to go out to your local book store or library and check him out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

New Books/ Currently Reading

It's been awhile since I've written in this Blog, surprising how quickly time passes some days. If I haven't forgotten how to write in this, I thought I'd take this opportunity to update on what I'm currently reading and on some new books the missus and I bought in the past little while..

Current Books

Back in my university days, that would be '74 - 78 time frame, I took this book in one of my classes; possibly a classic fiction course that also included James Joyce's Ulysses, D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers and many others. For my young brain, I think I found many of these books a bit overwhelming; much preferring my Science Fiction novel and Canadian Fiction courses. I had read Greene's Our Man in Havana (in fact have reread recently) and quite enjoyed, but I just wasn't able to get into his other readings.

My loss, it turns out. From the first page of Brighton Rock, I've been drawn in. It's a fascinating, well-written story. The characters are interesting, there is a underlying menace throughout the story. The contrast between Pinkie and Ida and the potential conflict that is brewing makes me want to keep reading to see how it finally ends up.

I've never seen the original movie from 1947, with Richard Attenborough as Pinkie but will now keep checking on TCM to see if they show it. I do hope that the 2010 version comes to town as I'd love to see how Helen Mirren portrays Ida.

I'm now about 3/4 through the story and can't wait for the ending. Totally recommend to anyone.

The other book I'm currently working my way through is another classic, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. The book itself is a 1945 printing, lovingly cared for and in excellent condition.

The book was originally published in 1890 and tells the story of a young man named Dorian Gray who is the subject of a painting by a close friend. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, he expresses the desire that the painting rather than his own youth will fade.

I won't get into the plot anymore; well, I really can't anyway, as though I have ideas where the book will lead me, I have never read before and have never seen the movie.

I have found the style takes a bit of getting used to and did find getting into the story a bit of a chore. But now that I've read a bit, I do find the plot opening up and am looking forward to continuing my journey with Dorian Gray to see where it leads him.

New Purchases

A couple of weeks ago, the missus let me know that an antique / collectible book store in Victoria, BC was having an online sale. At her suggestion, I scrolled through the list of books available at the store, Bellefair Books and found a few of interest.

Parkinson's Lore is a biography of one of her favourite radio/ TV presenters from the UK, Michael Parkinson.

The story includes Michael Parkinson's reminiscences about his childhood in Yorkshire, a county which has remained one of his greatest passions in life, together with cricket and football. In this book, he recalls the hours spent in the local cinema, enthralled with Cyd Charisse and Hedy Lamarre, his introduction to cricket, recollections of times spent at Barnsley Football Club, etc.

The missus has fondly told me many stories of interviews that he has conducted, of his personality and ability to draw out guests on his show.

I have glanced through a few pages of the book already and I'm sure it's one I'll read as well, as just a quick sampling demonstrated a humorous, witty style that I think I'll find appealing.

Back in my university days, I read Robertson Davies' Deptford trilogy, Fifth Business, The Manticore and World of Wonders. They were quite fascinating, weaving characters skilfully and introducing a magical, fantastical storyline. After finishing World of Wonders, I never got into any other of Davies' stories. (Tastes change, other activities take over, that sort of thing, I imagine.)

Recently, in my hunting through used book stores, I've started acquiring the books of the Cornish Trilogy. I had purchased books 2 and 3, What's Bred in the Bone and The Lyre of Orpheus. I discovered the first book in the series, The Rebel Angels, while searching through Bellefair Books list and jumped at the chance to get it.

The trilogy sounds very interesting, exploring the life of fictional character, Francis Cornish. The first book, The Rebel Angels, tells of the world of a Canadian university, following two characters, Maria Theotoky and Simon Darcourt, as they are drawn into the same dramatic chain of events. A memorable mix of academic jealousy and wild gypsy magic leads to a spectacular murder of stunning sexual impropriety. (Dare I say, woo hoooo!)

The final book purchased from Bellefair's is a John Steinbeck offering, The Moon is Down. This version is a 1942 first edition published by Viking Press.

The book was a propaganda novella sponsored by the OSS and for which Steinbeck received a medal of honour.

The story deals with an occupied country in northern Europe by an army of an unnamed country at war with England and Russia. Steinbeck deliberately refrained from making it literally true to actual events. Although the weapons and ideologies may have been of the present time, they were only vehicles for the theme that a free brave people is unconquerable.

Written with a purpose to motivate the resistance movements in occupied countries, it has appeared in at least 92 editions across the world, proving its popularity.

(Note - Although I didn't get photos of them, we also ordered and received two other books from Bellefair Books. One was a 1942 edition of Jan Struther's Mrs. Miniver. The movie of the same name is one of my wife's favourites and it seemed appropriate to purchase this book, which inspired the movie. The other book is a slightly worn, well-read edition of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sir Nigel which was published in 1906. I had read the precursor to this story, The White Company, about Sir Nigel's adventures as a knight, fighting in France. I found the story quite interesting and have been looking for the sequel. I was quite happy to find it listed at Bellefairs).

While sitting at Winnipeg Air Port waiting for my delayed flight to actually depart, I wandered through one of the airport bookshops and was happy to find, Vikas Swarup's Six Suspects. Swarup is also the author Slumdog Millionaire, or more properly, Q&A. I had been quite surprised by the movie and was interested in reading his work, so I had to snap this up when I saw it.

"Seven years ago, Vivek Rai, the playboy son of the Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh, murdered Ruby Gill at a trendy restaurant in New Delhi simply because she refused to serve him a drink. Now Vicky Rai is dead, killed at his farmhouse at a party he had thrown to celebrate his acquittal. The police cordon off the venue and search each and every guest. Six of them are discovered with guns in their possession and are taken in for questioning. Who are these six suspects? And what were they doing in the farmhouse that night?"

I have enjoyed many stories set in India and I also thoroughly enjoyed his previous work (even if only as a movie) so I am quite looking forward to reading this.

Barbara W. Tuchman's, The Guns of August, is one of my favourite novels. She has a way of presenting history, making it interesting and readable; presenting the personalities and events in such a way that make it enjoyable and educational.

I have since purchased another of her books, The Zimmerman Telegram, which discusses a key incident between Germany and Mexico that helped provoke the USA into World War I.

A Distant Mirror discusses the 14th century, "reflecting two contradictory images: on the one hand a glittering time of crusades and castles, cathedrals and chivalry and the exquisitely decorated Books of Hours; on the other, a time of ferocity and spiritual agony - a world plunged into chaos."

She discusses all aspects of life, what childhood was like, what marriage meant, how money, taxes, and war dominated the lives of serfs, nobles and clergy alike.  If it's as interesting as The Guns of August, I'm sure I'll totally be drawn in.

I found 3 Science Fiction stories at ABC Books a couple of weeks ago; one of the Culture series and two by a new author for me, that seemed different and humorous.

I have totally enjoyed the Iain M. Banks stories I've read so far. I think he has taken Science Fiction in an interesting direction. I have read Matter, from the Culture series and as well, The Algebraist. and both were so interesting. In some ways, they are similar to David Brins' Startide series; both authors explore ideas and cultures that I've found fascinating.

"The Culture is a fictional interstellar anarchic, socialist, and Utopian society" that features in 8 of his novels.

Look to Windward is the sixth in the series, coming out just before Matter.

"It was one of the less glorious incidents of a long-ago war. It led to the destruction of two suns and the billions of lives they supported. Now, eight hundred years later, the light from the first of those ancient mistakes has reached the Culture Orbital, Masaq. The light from the second may not."

If this is as good as the other Banks stories, it'll be great.

I will readily admit I bought the next two stories for their titles as they were definitely out there. How could you resist a story called, The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse.

"Once upon a time Jack set out to seek his fortune in the big city - but when Jack finally gets there, it is Toy City, formerly known as Toy Town. And there is a serial killer loose on the streets.

One by one, the old, rich nursery rhyme characters are being brutally slaughtered. The Toy City police are getting nowhere; Bill Winkie, Private Eye, has also mysteriously vanished, leaving only his sidekick, Eddie Bear, to take care of business.

But Eddie's ready, and when he teams up with jack, the two set out on an epic adventure. Not to mention a lot of heavy drinking, bad behaviour, fast car chases, gratuitous sex and violence, bizarre toy fetishism and all-round grossness. Of a type not normally associated with Toy Town".

The other Robert Rankin story I picked up was the sequel to the previously described, The Toyminator. It seems to follow the continuing adventures of Eddie and Jack.

"Things are not going well in Toy City. There have been outbreaks of STC - Spontaneous Toy Combustion - and strange signs and portents in the Heavens. Many believe the End Times, a Toy City Apocalypse, will soon come to pass. But can this possibly be true, or is there a simpler explanation - alien invasion, for instance?

With the body count rising and the forces of law and order baffled, Toy City needs heroes - Eddie Bear, Toy City PI and his loyal sidekick, Jack.

But their adventure, fraught with thrills, spills, danger, excitement and rather too much alcohol, will take them far from Toy City into a world beyond even their wildest imaginings. This world."

Sounds like fun, eh?

The final two books are another new author to me. I have enjoyed various Scandinavian mystery writers; Karin Alvtegen and Hakan Nesser, to name a couple. I was in The Laughing Oyster bookstore on Saturday and picked up a book by an author Jo Nesbo, who I'd not heard of before. He is a Norwegian writer and The Redbreast is the third in his Harry Hole series. The clerk at the counter told me that the stories are great, similar to the Wallender books.

In The Redbreast, "Detective Harry Hole is having a rough time. Reassigned, having caused a high-profile embarrassment, he finds himself lumbered with surveillance duties. But working alone is just the way Hole likes it and it's not long before he discovers that a rare, high-calibre rifle, a type favoured by assassins, has been smuggled into the country.
When a former WW2 Nazi sympathiser is found with his throat slit, Harry suspects a connection. As his investigation unfolds and the bodies mount up, it becomes clear that the killer is hell-bent on serving his own justice. but who is he? And what is the link to events that took place over 50 years ago?" Just reading the back storyline also made me think of Ian Rankin's Rebus books; maybe a similar sort of police detective.

As things often happen, when I went next door to my used book store, I found another Jo Nesbo story, Nemesis, so I had to have that too. It also seemed very interesting. I think I may have another new series on my hands. :0)

"Grainy CCTV footage shows a man walking into a bank and putting a gun to the cashier's head. He tells her to count to twenty-five. When he doesn't get his money in time, she is executed.
Detective Harry Hole, still mourning the death of his police partner, is assigned to the case. While his girlfriend is away in Russia, an old flame gets in touch, but after he goes to dinner at her house he wakes up at home with no memory of the past twelve hours. That same morning, the girl is found shot dead in her bed. Shortly after, Harry begins to receive threatening e-mails - is someone trying to frame him for this unexplained death? As he fights to clear his name, the bank robberies continue with unparalleled savagery."

Well, there you have it, up-to-date on my reading habits. Now that I've posted something, maybe I can get back to more of a routine. Next Blog, Number 3 on my Top Ten list?? Time will tell..
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