Saturday, September 26, 2020

Glitch TV Show - An Unexpected Delight


Scott D. Parker

“Just watch the first episode and let me know what you think.”

That was the request my wife made about Glitch, a TV show out of Australia now streaming all three seasons on Netflix. What was it about? Dead people crawling out of their graves.


The show has a solid cast of characters, but the anchor is James (Patrick Brammall), a local policeman in the fictional town of Yoorana in southern Australia. He is called to a local cemetery in the middle of the night for a rather unusual reason: people have crawled out of their graves, in perfect health, but with no memories of their past lives. James enlists the aid of a town doctor (Genevieve O'Reilly) who conducts tests on The Risen. The stinger? One of them is James's wife, Kate (Emma Booth). We know her backstory a bit: she died of cancer and now James has married Kate's BFF, Sarah (Emily Barclay) who is now pregnant. 

The other formerly dead folks include Paddy Fitzgerald (Ned Dennehy), a man who died almost two centuries ago, Charlie (Sean Keenan), a World War I veteran with a statue modeled after himself, Kirstie (Hannah Monson), a young woman with a tragic past, Maria (Daniela Farinacci), an Italian wife who died in a car crash with her child, and Carlo, a man who early on sets the rules for The Risen: as he passes a certain point over a bridge, he disintegrates.

The Science? 

One of the best things about Glitch is it never loses focus on what really matters: the characters. What would it be like to have died of breast cancer and return healthy (and with breasts)? What would it be like to be the victim of a murder and come back, barely remembering who your assailant was? What would it be like to be a gay man in a world in which that was not only a crime but something to keep hidden. 

The creators of Glitch, Tony Ayres and Louise Fox, know that the foundation of a good show is characters we care about, and the wife and I instantly were drawn into the complicated life of James. Here is a married man with a pregnant about to give birth who not only has to figure out why and how dead people have come back to life but one of them is his dead wife whom he stil loves. Patrick Brammall excels in his role as James, often showing his emotion only by facial expressions. The anguish is clear on his expressions and his actions. Even when he makes choices we don't agree with, we felt for him. 

But my wife and I also felt for the other characters, some more than others. Another standout is Chris (John Leary), James's fellow policeman and the single character who remains unaltered by the science of the show. Leary shows Chris coming to terms with what his eyes show him (Kate alive? Other dead people alive?) and the sometime duplicitous actions by James. As the show went on, he became the one character I sincerely wanted to survive. Leary's performance, like Brammall's, are all in his actions, some you expect, and others you don't see coming. Chris has to live with the choices he makes. I shan't tell you, one way or another, what is his fate. You'll have to watch to find out.

By having multiple generations of people awakened, you get to see how, say, Paddy, deals with the 21st Century (he of the 19th). Ditto Charles, the veteran of the Great War. Kirstie and Kate have less of a learning curve, but their backstories still prove compelling.

Back to the science (or magic?) of how these people returned to life, the show does give an explanation, and it is enough of one to pass muster. But there's not a lot of focus paid on it. All attention is given to the characters, the ones who have come back and the ones who, somehow, are also "altered" and who seem to be out to kill the Risen.  

Who are they and why are they trying to kill The Risen? The show keeps their origins vague for the most part--better to propel the mystery of the show--but some characters change during the course of the 18-episode, 3-season show. 

The Ending

I've read a few articles about the show and fans were notified that season 3 was going to be it for the show. But, the showrunners promised, while the show was cancelled, a satisfying conclusion was to be delivered.

And they delivered. In spades. And tears. 

Not to give away the ending, but the wife and I were simultaneously satisfied and wiping away tears. It was an excellent ending, well earned, and wholly predictable when you look back on it. But even if you guessed how the show needed to end, it doesn't take away from the emotion of the moment. Any show that brings tears to my eyes is a good show. That Glitch, a show with a very unusual beginning, did so, makes it a wonderful 18 hours of television, and one of the best things we've seen on TV in 2020.

Highly recommended

Thursday, September 24, 2020

No Getting Away from Joe Clifford


This week Beau looks at The One That Got Away by Joe Clifford.

“A great book! I devoured it. Taut, pacey and with a powerful sense of place, Joe Clifford’s The One That Got Away is an intelligent and astutely observed piece of American small town noir.” —Paula Hawkins, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water

“Joe Clifford is a gifted storyteller with a knack for crafting characters who are entirely human. The One That Got Away is dark and unforgiving, a chilling crime novel with the perfect touch of tenderness that will keep readers turning the pages with haste. This is one book you won’t be able to put down. —Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl and Every Last Lie

“The mystery of The One That Got Away sucked me in, but it was the emotional punch of Alex Salerno’s return home that broke my heart. With its sharply observed characters and setting and crime-thriller pace, its tough exterior belies a vast, unexpected tenderness. I cannot not quit thinking about this book.” —Emily Carpenter, author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls and The Weight of Lies

“It’s not often that I read a top-notch thriller with layers of emotion buried within each page. On the surface, Joe Clifford’s story of a young woman who survived a kidnapping and returns to her hometown to investigate a seemingly similar disappearance is compulsively readable, but when you dig a little deeper, you discover there’s so much more to unpack. The On That Got Away is by far Clifford’s best and most fully realized novel to date, and might well be the most rewarding thriller I’ve read this year.” —Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Stories and People: Overlook the Flaws?

Though the series started several weeks ago, I just started watching Lovecraft Country, and the one episode I watched has me hooked enough to continue watching.  I particularly liked the very first sequence and how it gets right to the heart of how a fiction reader engages with a story they like.

The first scene opens with an African American soldier in a trench in a war battle, fighting among other African-American troops.  The battlefield goes from color to black and white and transforms into a combat zone that involves alien creatures and disc-shaped spaceships on what now appears to be another planet.  There's an odd voiceover talking and somehow Jackie Robinson enters the scene, using a baseball bat to smash his way from inside the body of a tentacled monster.

At this point, the scene cuts and a black man, the one we’ve been watching, wakes up on a bus with a book on his lap.  The bus is driving through the countryside somewhere, and the time setting appears to be the 1950s.

A little later in the sequence, a black woman who was on the same bus as the man asks him what book he's reading.  His answer reveals that it's A Princess of Mars, one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter novels.  So what we've been seeing is a scene where a black reader was reading about white characters, but in his mind, while reading, or while dreaming about the book he's been reading, he made all the characters black.  We've been watching the reading imagination at work, the process by which a person, in this case black, puts themselves into the story they're absorbed by.  This process, of course, is what everyone who likes to read fiction does, each in their own way, but it's unusual to see such a lucid representation of one person literally seeing himself and people like him in fictional characters of a different race. This is all presented quite nonchalantly in the sequence, which is all the better, but it wonderfully captures the sustaining and enhancing quality of fiction.  Stories do give you concrete images to read, but at the same time, you project what you want, and what you emotionally need, onto these images.  Representation is a two-way process, in a sense, made by what the writer has provided but also by what the reader brings to a story.  In about three minutes,  a wonderful succinctness, Lovecraft Country makes this point. 

However, the woman questioning the reader latches onto a point he has made in describing A Princess of Mars to her.  He says that John Carter, who becomes a Martian warlord, was once a captain in the army of Northern Virginia.  

She says, "Hold on.  You said the hero was a Confederate officer."

He says, "Ex-Confederate,"

Her: "He fought for slavery. You don't get to put an 'ex' in front of that."

Him: "Stories are like people.  Love them doesn't make them perfect. You just try and cherish them, overlook their flaws."

Her: "Yeah, but the flaws are still there."

Him: "Yeah, they are."

To which he adds, "But I love pulp stories," and goes on to explain what he loves about them, with all their action and adventures and heroism, and this prompts a smile from the woman who's been probing him.    

Dialectics right off the bat!  And in an exchange about a pulp novel.  There's no simple resolution to this exchange, but yet another point has been quickly made -- about the complexity of engaging with stories and people and the imperfections in both.  Just how far do you go in overlooking flaws?  Does it depend what those flaws are?  The exchange alludes as well to H.P. Lovecraft himself, writer of pulp (as it was seen at that time at least) and man of many peculiar hang-ups, among them his well-known views on race.  It's a relevant subject for discussion, to put it mildly, in a time when the eternal debate over how to value art in relation to the artist, and the artist's actions and views, is raging.

Good start for Lovecraft Country.  Eager to keep watching.



Sunday, September 20, 2020

The World's Biggest Crime Fiction Convention: Coming to a Screen Near You

By Claire Booth

I’ve missed a few Sundays and I thought I’d explain why. For the past four years, I’ve been involved in planning the 2020 edition of Bouchercon, an annual crime fiction convention that draws people from all over the world. The location is different every year, allowing attendees to experience cities throughout the United States (and Canada, too). This year, it was supposed to be in my hometown of Sacramento, California.

And you know what happened …friends moving GIF

So our little organizing committee has had to pivot—from an in-person convention with two hotels, dozens of author panels and book giveaways, a bar with poolside seating that had created a special cocktail just for our group, and a farm-to-fork awards dinner held under the stars—to a completely online format that doesn’t come with food or drinks or hugs with friends.


And you know what? It’s going to be fabulous. A new kind of fabulous, to be sure. But what isn’t new right now?

The Bouchercon Local Organizing Committee hard at work. How many of us were in pajama pants? We'll never tell.

We’re going to have two days of live events, plus multiple taped features that attendees can watch at their leisure. We’re taking advantage of the format; for instance, the Guest of Honor interviews will not only have the standard interviewer-interviewee interaction, but also glimpses into their creative lives that aren’t possible when everything takes place in a hotel convention center. We’ll have live panels full of authors who wouldn’t have been able to attend the in-person convention but can do this virtual one. And audience members will still be able to ask questions (from the comfort of their living rooms!).

Now I’m not going to lie—having to cancel the in-person convention was a gut punch. We all were really looking forward to welcoming the world to our city. But with the new format, one of our hopes is that this virtual convention draws people who haven’t been before. This is a great way to try it out, get to know new-to-you authors, and have some fun.

To register or for more information, go to