Thursday, June 30, 2022

Nothing short of thrilling

This week, Beau takes a look at Nothing Short of Dying, from Erik Storey.

Hailed by the bestselling writer William Kent Krueger as “the year’s best thriller debut,” this rollercoaster read features a Jack Reacher-like drifter protagonist with lethal skills whose mission to rescue his abducted sister pits him against a meth kingpin seeking to control all the trade in the Western United States. 
Sixteen years. That’s how long Clyde Barr has been away from Colorado’s thick forests, alpine deserts, and craggy peaks, running from a past filled with haunting memories. But now he’s back, having roamed across three continents as a hunter, adventurer, soldier of fortune, and most recently, unjustly imprisoned convict. And once again, his past is reaching out to claim him.

By the light of a flickering campfire, Clyde received a frantic phone call for help from Jen, the youngest of his three older sisters. Then the line goes dead. Clyde doesn’t know how much time he has. He doesn’t know where Jen is located. He doesn’t even know who has her. All he knows is that nothing short of dying will stop him from saving her.

Tagging along with Clyde on this strange, desperate, against-all-odds rescue mission is a young woman named Allie whose motivations for hurtling into harm’s way are fascinatingly complex. As the duo races against the clock, it is Allie who gets Clyde to see what he has become and what he can be.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Richard Armitage to release debut fiction title as an Audible original

Psychological thriller Geneva coming to Audible in October 2022


Audible has today announced Geneva, the debut fiction title from actor and audiobook narrator Richard Armitagestar of The Hobbit and Netflix thrillers The Stranger and Stay Close.



To be released as an Audible Original on 20th October 2022, Geneva is an intricate and fast-paced psychological thriller which follows Nobel Prize winning scientist Sarah Collier and her husband Daniel as they travel to Switzerland for an important conference. Upon arrival they become entangled in a high stakes game with hidden players. Soon everything they thought they knew about their work, their marriage and even their sanity is called into question.


Aurelie De Troyer, Senior Vice President of International Content at Audible said: “We’re proud to have a longstanding relationship with Richard as one of our most celebrated narrators. We are even prouder to be releasing his authorial debut – a fast-paced character-driven thriller we know will have our listeners hooked.”


Richard Armitage commented: “The process of creating an original story has been an exciting opportunity for me. Crafting a psychological thriller, springing from a fascination with science and technology, and deep love of this genre is a dream come true. I’m honoured that Audible have chosen their platform as a place for my debut as a writer”


World English audio rights for Geneva were acquired from Jim Gill at United Agents. It will be released exclusively in audio only.


Richard Armitage is well-known for his work in film and TV, including his roles in The Hobbit trilogy, Ocean’s 8Spooks, and Robin Hood, and has recently starred in Netflix thrillers The Stranger and Stay Close. In addition to his appearances onscreen, Armitage has lent his voice to animated series Castlevania, and is a listener favourite narrator on Audible, narrating a number of titles including the bestselling Jackman and Evans series by Joy Ellis.


Geneva joins a host of gripping Audible Original crime and thriller titles including: The Evidence by KL Slater; And Your Enemies Closer by Rob Parker, starring Luther’s Warren Brown; and Stolen Girl by Sarah A. Denzil, narrated by Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt and West End star Rosalie Craig.


Geneva will be available exclusively on Audible on 20th October 2022. It will be available free for Audible Plus members, or free to download with Audible’s 30-day trial:

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Review: No Offence, or Crime TV at Its Best


By Claire Booth

No, I didn’t spell offence wrong. No Offence is a British television series streaming on Acorn TV. Airing originally on Britain’s Channel 4, it follows a squad from the Manchester police department as they solve a case per episode while also tracking bigger conspiracies throughout season-long story arcs.

That description makes it sound ordinary. It’s not. It takes familiar cop-show tropes, turns them up to 11, and then gleefully demolishes them with a sledgehammer.

You all know me by now, and you know what I tend to like. And I’ll admit, this show hit all my sweet spots. Dry humor. Superb long-term plotlines. Fully realized characters. Female leads. Multiple female leads. Female leads who are written to be sexy and nerdy and bawdy and overweight and vulgar and sensitive, sometimes all at once. I can’t think of a single American show with that—pardon my male reference—with that kind of balls.  

Look at that photo at the top of the page. Those are the lead characters. In a cop show. See a man anywhere? I know, there are definitely shows with female detectives. But they usually have a male boss. Or male lawyers backing them up. This has Detective Inspector Viv Deering (Joanna Scanlan, who needs to be in every show everywhere forevermore) and her two female seconds-in-command. In the second and third seasons, even Viv’s bosses are women.

The show aired from 2015-2018. It was the creation of Paul Abbott, who’s created multiple crime and family dramas, including the original Shameless, from which the American Shameless with William H. Macy was adapted. He said in 2019 he was mulling ideas for a fourth season, but later word came out that no more episodes would be made.

While I sit here and hope he reconsiders, you should start watching immediately. You can find it on Acorn, or on PlutoTV. 


Saturday, June 25, 2022

All the Feels or All the Logic?

Scott D. Parker

Why do you consume a story?

I use the word ‘consume’ because you could watch a movie or TV show, read a book, or listen to an audiobook or podcast.

My wife watches quite a bit of the true crime shows on TV and various streaming services. She likes to learn the intricate details of how the investigators discovered the culprit and, in most cases, land the perp in jail. She’s way more logical than I am and these shows give her a sense of order and justice. That drive for order is a large reason why she and I both enjoy BBC TV shows and other crime and mystery programs as well as books and movies.

But when it comes to established stories that have more than a twinge of nostalgia, I really enjoy the feels. How does the story make me feel?

I ran across this twice this week. The smaller version is my re-watch of the 1996 Mission: Impossible movie. My twenty-year-old son hadn’t seen it so we all watched it together. The way the movie is constructed—with its descriptions of how they’re going to break into various places and the spy stuff—is something I really dig. In fact, I found myself grinning like a goofball throughout the entire movie. Well, except for the vault sequence. Watching it again, I was in rapt silence.

By the end, I was buoyed by the story and ready to, I don’t know, hang by a wire from the ceiling. The story works, but the feels are fantastic.

The same is true for the Obi-Wan Kenobi finale this week. And spoilers are coming.

I’ve said it before but I think my favorite time of being a Star Wars fan is that initial era from 1977-1980. In those years, the galaxy was wide open and not some family drama. And I associate that feeling most with the first half of Star Wars, while the action centered on Tatooine. As such, I really enjoyed the Obi-Wan show.

From a logical point of view, the writers delicately threaded  this series through established canon and I think they did a great job. It’s a testament to how much I enjoyed the show that even though I knew who lived, I found myself constantly on the edge of my seat. Will young Leia survive? Will Obi-Wan be killed by Vader?

But the finale proved to be one of my favorite Star Wars things. We got an epic lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan and Vader, complete with Hayden Christensen looking out from a seared-open Vader mask. We go a neat and tidy button on Obi-Wan’s infamous phrase to Luke: Vader betrayed and murdered your father.

And we got some fantastic character moments, a feat especially impressive considering the action. In fact, it was the character beats in the final ten minutes that really struck me and brought the tears. Oh, and the inclusion of Princess Leia’s theme from Star Wars? Icing on the cake. That piece of music ranks as one of my all-time favorite themes in the entire franchise and it was used so well.

That last shot? [won’t spoil this one] Perfection.

So, with Obi-Wan, in my mind, I got the logic of the storytelling but I also got the feels. That’s what often sends a story over the top for me. It’s why I enjoyed Jurassic World: Dominion so much. It’s why I dig La La Land, Toy Story 3, any random episode of New Amsterdam, and John Scalzi’s book, Redshirts.

I want the feels, and any story that delivers is a winner in my book.

How about you? Do you want the feels or is logic more your speed?

P.S. I wrote this piece late afternoon on Friday. Last night, I watched the new Baz Luhrmann "Elvis" movie. Add one more to the feels list. Except this one was tragic. My wife and I just sat there for a few minutes while the main credits rolled. I had teared up at the end. So we just sat and listened and thought about the creative spirit of Elvis Presley. 

I don't know about you, but when I take in a story in which a creative person is tamped down or abused or taken advantage of, I feel my own creative spirit wanting to burst out and soar.

P.P.S. Since I watch every new episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on Saturday morning while enjoying my weekly do-nuts, I only saw the latest episode, The Elysian Kingdom, less than an hour ago. Adding this one to the Feels List. Oh my, did the feels wash over me. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Just the right light


This week, the light is just right for Beau to get a good look at some stories from William R. Soldan.

Rust Belt, USA, where steel is dead, hope is scarce, and hardship is a way of life. Miles Junction is but one of many Northeastern Ohio towns long forgotten and left behind, its residents living on the cusp of financial, emotional, even spiritual destitution. An old trapper becomes the scapegoat for a boy's brutal murder. An out-of-work diesel mechanic resorts to crime in order to provide for his wife and son. A teenage girl braves a brutal winter storm to protect a tragic secret. A recovering drug addict wrestles with temptation and bears the weight of an uncertain future. These and the other working-class characters that populate this collection know struggle intimately and understand that desperate times often call for desperate measures. Their lives are linked by a ruined yet starkly beautiful post-industrial landscape--a desolate vestige of our fractured American dream. Taking place during the last few decades of the twentieth century and those following the new millennium, In Just the Right Light is a glimpse at one region's bleak inheritance and the precarious lives of those who remain to rummage through the fallout of its past.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Like a Sister

This isn't a review, because I'm still reading the book, but I wanted to give my space this week to shout about how goddamn great Kellye Garrett's Like A Sister is. 

If you don't know, here's the cover copy: 

I found out my sister was back in New York from Instagram. I found out she’d died from the New York Daily News.”

When the body of disgraced reality TV star Desiree Pierce is found on a playground in the Bronx the morning after her 25th birthday party, the police and the media are quick to declare her death an overdose. It’s a tragedy, certainly, but not a crime.

But Desiree’s half-sister Lena Scott knows that can’t be the case. A graduate student at Columbia, Lena has spent the past decade forging her own path far from the spotlight, but some facts about Desiree just couldn’t have changed since their childhood. And Desiree would never travel above 125th Street. So why is no one listening to her?

Despite the bitter truth that the two haven’t spoken in two years, torn apart by Desiree’s partying and by their father, Mel, a wealthy and influential hip-hop mogul, Lena becomes determined to find justice for her sister, even if it means untangling her family’s darkest secrets—or ending up dead herself.

If you know what I write, or what I frequently post about reading, this might seem like a bit of a departure from my usual comforts, and, to be honest, I can see how you'd make that assumption. The prose is light, the chapters structured like scenes between commercial breaks, and the book doesn't go for the full-bore darkness I usually gravitate towards. At least, it seems that way. But if you thought that, you'd be wrong. 

I'm not here to say that this is a secretly super gritty book, but rather to say it is a shockingly human book. 

Giving too much away would be a spoiler, and no one wants that, but I'd like to illustrate something. 

From the first sentence of Like a Sister, we know that Lena's sister, Desiree is dead. By the end of the second paragraph, we know exactly the kind of woman Desiree was. 

Or, we think we do, anyway.

But then, within the first ten pages, Garrett starts dropping in these little subchapters -  descriptions of Desiree's Instagram feed, presented in a present tense, with clinical prose that feels both bare and also menacing because of it's bareness - and we see Desiree, already dead, alive through these sections. We see her through our eyes, through her eyes, and through Lena's eyes. 

Like a Sister takes a murder victim and gives them space in the narrative for us to see them as a person. No longer is this a body. A macguffin. A headline in a paper. It's a life, captured and preserved in what is somehow one of the most joyous and also insidious applications all our phones have. It's a life we know is going to end soon. Violently. And though we know the outcome of that life, that we get to glimpse the aching humanity behind it? 

Holy shit, the dread that comes from those scenes. 

I'm about halfway through the book right now, and loving it. If you think this sounds good, I can't recommend it enough. And if you still think it's not up your alley? I'd ask you to reconsider. 

You can get Like a Sister here. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched

Today of course is the day of the summer solstice, and since I saw it recently, this seems as good a day as any to give a shout-out to the 2020 documentary WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR, written, produced, and directed by Kier-La Janisse. It's a fascinating doc on the history of cinematic folk horror, with loads of clips and interviews, and if you haven't seen it and like this sort of thing, I couldn't recommend it enough. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Jurassic World: Dominion: A Wonderful Summer Blockbuster


Scott D. Parker

I’m not sure what movie some folks watched but it sure wasn’t the one I saw.

When it comes to movies, I make it point not to read any reviews ahead of seeing a movie I want to see. If the trailer hasn’t grabbed my attention and compelled me to watch—or the pedigree of the actors, writers, and director—then I don’t seek out the Rotten Tomato score to sway me. This is not the same with books in which I will happily read and take into consideration the opinions of dozens of fellow writers when they recommend books.

But once I’ve seen a movie, I am curious to know the general consensus and see if it lines up with my experience. When I saw the 2.5 hours of Jurassic World: Dominion (AKA Jurassic World 3 AKA Jurassic Park 6), I was enthralled, entertained, and emitted more than a few utterances of “Yeah!” and “Cool!” It ended the 6-movie franchise quite well, introducing the original Park actors with the new World actors in a way that felt organic. The music was nicely used throughout, including the elegant main theme from John Williams—both the orchestral as well as the softer piano version. There were dino-on-dino fights, a kick-ass motorcycle/dinosaur chase through a European city, and a dino/airplane chase. There were dinos in the water, dinos in caves, and dinos in snow. All things we’ve not seen before.

Well, I’m pretty sure we haven’t. I’ve pretty much got the first movie memorized. The Lost World and Jurassic Park III, a little. Jurassic World I remember decently and I all but forgot World 2: Fallen Kingdom.

But I remember the closing show of Fallen Kingdom well, accompanied by Jeff Goldblum’s voiceover. Dinosaurs now live among humans and we’re going to have to learn to co-exist as best as possible. And that’s how Dominion starts. It shows us a world like that. Granted, it’s not one I’d prefer to live in—don’t need the possibility of my plane flight being overtaken by a pterodactyl—but it is one original author Michael Crichton envisioned and that Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm keeps talking about in every movie he’s in. So in that respect, Dominion gets it correct.

So imagine my surprise when I hop on over to Rotten Tomatoes on Monday night—after eagerly relating all the fun and cool stuff in the movie to my wife who didn’t go—that the critical consensus was so poor. Again, what movie did these folks watch?

Okay, the plot. There are two threads. The World Plot has Owen and Claire trying to protect Maisie from the rest of the world because she’s a clone. Blue the velociraptor lives nearby and has unexpectedly produced a young raptor called Beta. (It shouldn’t be unexpected because “Life always finds a way.”) Bad guys kidnap both younglings and Owen and Claire follow.

The Park Plot involves our three original cast members and boils down to Laura Dern’s Ellie Sadler researching why formerly extinct massive locusts are eating some crops but not others. If they’re not stopped, there will be a global famine, yet the locusts don’t seem to be eating crops grown from seeds provided by Biosyn, the new bad-guy company a la InGen from the Park movies. She makes the assumption—with an assist from Malcolm—that Biosyn is behind both the seeds and the locusts. She enlists the help of Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and they set off in search of proof at Biosyn’s giant lab/breeding ground/dinosaur habitat in Europe.

Which is exactly where the kidnappers are taking Maisie and Beta. Naturally, the World characters and the Park characters will meet—the selling point of the film—and they’ll battle enemies both dino and human. Along the way, there are wonderful set pieces that are the definition of a summer blockbuster. In fact, as Owen is racing through the streets on his motorcycle, trained raptors on his tail, you see the aforementioned plane start to warm up. I leaned over to my son and said, “I bet he jumps into the open plane in midair.” Viola! That’s exactly what happened.

Yes, that entire sequence felt like an espionage film (Bond, Bourne, Mission Impossible) but who cares? It was thrilling. There were lots of other thrilling moments as our heroes fight to stay alive, but not without some humor along the way.

But there are also some great character moments. Goldblum is having a field day as Malcolm, just chewing scenery left and right and I loved every second of it. The quiet moments are also good, like when it’s just Ellie and Alan seeing each other for the first time in decades, subtly lamenting lost time. Yes, their story line got a little bumbly as they tried to escape from the locust lair but it was minor.

I also liked how certain scenes were set up so that you *think* you know what’s going to happen but then your expectations are subverted. Case in point: Goldblum’s Malcolm is stuck holding a flaming piece of a spear-like metal pole and there’s a dino looking at him. In Park 1, he doesn’t know to throw the light source and freeze. Well, I said to my son, I bet he’s learned now. Nope. Not what happens. But it’s way cooler.

Scott Campbell, as the bad guy, plays Lewis Dodgson oddly. He is all bad at one moment and then weirdly like an absent-minded professor the next. I liked that they used him as a character although in the movie, it isn’t explicitly stated that he was the character in the original Jurassic Park who pays Wayne Knight’s Dennis Nedry to steal embryos in the Barbasol shaving cream can. But said can is a trinket in Dodgson’s office as he tries to escape. And I won’t even tell you what happens to him, but if you’ve seen Park 1, you have an idea.

Speaking of that, I like the little subtle Easter eggs like when Ellie takes off her sunglasses in a manner almost identically to Alan from Park 1. Nice touch.

The nostalgic part of me would have liked one last shot of all the Park characters together. Sadly we don’t get that, but we do get some resolution for everyone. And character growth. And bad guys getting what’s coming to them. And dinosaurs. Lots of dinosaurs.

Again, I’m just not understanding why the dislike for the film. The audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is 79% so clearly it’s resonating with folks. It resonated with me quite well and I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The Perfectly Timed Gunshots

I've been doing some reading on the old Hollywood director William Wellman in preparation for the first of the film talks I'll be hosting this year for the Reel Talks series I'm part of every year in New York City.  That talk will be about Wellman's westerns, in particular the great 1943 film The Ox-Bow Incident.  But on casually reading up about his career and his 1939 movie called The Light That Failed, adapted from a Rudyard Kipling novel, I came across a peculiar murder story connected to this film, a story I'd never heard of before.  It's a murder story that sounds like something out of an old Columbo episode.  You can just see Columbo on a case like this, investigating in the movie theater where the crime occurred, watching the film to study the exact moment when, in the theater and as the film played, the killing took place.

But let me explain:

On May 29, 1946, in Bristol England, during a showing of Wellman's film at the Bristol Odean, the manager of the theater was shot in his office there.  About 2,000 people were watching the movie at the time, but nobody in attendance did a thing in reaction to the gunshots -- there were two -- and continued to watch the movie as though nothing had happened.  The reason for their apparent nonchalance about the gunshots: nobody heard them because they had been timed to coincide with gunshots fired onscreen.  The film started at 6:25pm that evening, and the gunshots in the movie occur early, shots that blind the story's main character.  It was just then, according to the story, that the real-life murderer struck. The theater manager was Robert Parrington Jackson, father of a four-year-old son.  The theater's cafe supervisor walked into Parrington Jackson's office between 6:40pm and 6:45 pm and found him lying on the floor, bleeding from a head wound and moaning.  Alerted by the cafe supervisor, detectives from a nearby station rushed over to the theater on foot, and though they began right away to investigate, with two uniformed officers guarding the office, the screening continued without interruption.  I don't think Alamo cinemas of today, with their stated devotion to creating an undisturbed viewing experience for their patrons, would go so far in film viewing dedication.  Reports from the time do say, however, that a message flashed up on the screen asking whether a doctor was in the house. 

That's the Columbo part, though unlike in the tv series, there's no person in the story who clearly, from the get-go, is the culprit.

There are theories as to who killed Parrington Jackson, of course.  One at the time said he'd been shot by a man who thought the theater manager had been flirting with his girlfriend.  Another said that Parrington Jackson had gotten an usherette pregnant and that the usherette's boyfriend did it.  Year later, in 1989, a small-time Welsh crook on his deathbed confessed to the crime, telling his son, who relayed his story to the police.  The claim here was that the crook, with an accomplice, had gone to the theater to rob its office safe, but that the pair of thieves had panicked and shot Parrington Jackson when he walked in on them. In fact, just before he was shot, Parrington Jackson had put the night's take away in the safe and it was a substantial amount.  But the keys to the safe were found in his pocket and the money he'd locked away was untouched.  Whoever shot him, Parrington Jackson died a short time afterward at the nearby hospital.  

Police kept poking around and they interviewed a number of suspects, but their inquiries led nowhere.  They found the murder weapon a few months later, in a water-tank left over from World War II and then used by firefighters, but no new leads came from this either.  Eventually, the police shut down their investigation, and despite the death bed confession just mentioned, they consider the case still unsolved.  They did, not too long ago, reopen the investigation as part of a review looking at a number of unsolved cases dating back decades. They have not given up looking into who killed Robert Parrington Jackson.  But so far, the killing in the Bristol movie theater, where the gunshots, either on purpose or inadvertently, were timed to the exact moment gunshots were fired in the film showing in that theater, remains the coldest of cold cases.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

It Is (Not) A Gas

By Claire Booth 

We’ve been over five bucks a gallon for a while now here in California. Then the other day I pulled into a gas station for this.

A few thoughts flitted through my head as I inhaled the fumes and emptied my bank account.

- Insane.

- Exorbitant.

- Am I going to be able to get out of here for under a hundred bucks?

- Dear God, I’m old enough to remember paying 99 cents a gallon. (It was decades ago during college in the much cheaper Midwest, but still …)

- I’m now nostalgic for five dollars a gallon. There’s a sentence I never imagined I’d say.

- And, just to make myself feel better—it's still not as high as in L.A.

How much is it where you are?