Hollywood producers and executives treated the screenwriter as an indentured servant until a hirsute Hungarian started making a whole lot of Chicken Mole for Hollywood. As described in Hollywood Animal, Joe Eszterhas changed the dynamic of the relationship between producer and screenwriter.
Henning Mankell, that giant of Swedish, indeed European, crime fiction writing, has sadly passed away at the age of 67. He had been suffering from cancer. Though not exclusively a crime writer, his Kurt Wallander (pronounced vahl lahń’ der) crime series are known the world over and are must-reads for all fans of the crime fiction genre. The Wallander TV series has also proved a big success, viewers in this country may have been lucky enough to view the series on BBC 4.Mankell is a wonderful storyteller, his writing faultless. Though now passed, I shall continue to think of him in the present tense as he will live on in his books and in his characters.The main character in Mankell's crime novels, Inspector Kurt Wallander, lives and works in Ystad in southern Sweden where he solves crimes with his team of detectives. His daughter Linda follows him into the police force and her uneasy relationship with her dad, and the fact that she works with him on some of the cases, makes for added interest. Central to the series also is Swedish society, and I for one love to see a society and culture portrayed and commented upon through the characters and storyline by native writers in particular. Kurt is a bit of a loner, separated from his wife, with a dad who disapproves of his career choice, and he likes his tipple while listening to classical music. Kurt is a troubled man, his years dealing with crimes having taken its toll on him.There are twelve titles in the Wallander series, and whereas there is some difference in the publishing (in English) order and the chronological order (events timeline), my advice to you is to read them in the following order: Faceless Killers The Dogs of Riga The White Lioness The Man Who Smiled Sidetracked The Fifth Woman One Step Behind Firewall The Pyramid Before the Frost An Event in Autumn The Troubled Man'The Pyramid' is a series of short stories, 'An Event in Autumn' is a novella, while' Before the Frost' in fact features his daughter Linda in the lead role.In terms of Wallander on TV, there were three separate series done, two by Swedish TV and one by the BBC. The first Swedish series stars Rolf Lassgård, while the second stars Krister Henriksson: whereas all the Lassgård episodes are based on the books, most of the Henriksson ones were written for TV. The BBC series stars Kenneth Branagh and consists of six episodes. All three play the character differently, which makes for interesting comparisons if you are a Wallander aficionado. I have to say I loved in particular the Swedish series, I had a little difficulty with the strong English accents in the Swedish countryside in the British production. Though I would watch them again, that be said!Check out the availability of the Wallander DVDs in our online catalogue (yes, you can borrow!).Read also:Henning Mankell Obituary (The Guardian)Henning Mankell, writer - obituary (The Telegraph)Henning Mankell, Writer Whose Wallander Patrolled a Gritty Sweden, Dies at 67 (New York Times)
Ok, I stole that heading, but in a blog about piracy, a bit of thieving is only to be expected. Of course, the romance of piracy is very different from the reality, which usually meant an outlaw life of hardship and brutality – and still does; nevertheless the romantic view lives on, and is especially celebrated every year on September 19: International Talk Like A Pirate Day. This is a convention that’s been going on for a good few years now, and has a substantial following, replete with costumes, grog, and pretty much every cliché going. Say arr. Treasure Island by Robert Louis StevensonThe original and best pirate story, and the source of most of the clichés we have today: peglegs, parrots, and yo-ho-ho. Jim Hawkings finds himself aboard the Hispaniola with a crew of murderous pirates bound for an island holding buried treasure. Adventure abounds, and Jim finds himself amidst cut-throats in a quest for treasure, learning quite a few lessons along the way about greed, entitlement, and lust for life. Irish Pirates and Privateers by Michael J. Carroll looks at Irish pirate activity from the Spanish Main to Bantry Bay. Activity in Irish waters flourished for a time between around 1603 to 1625, aided and abetted by the English Admiralty which was supposed to repress it, but actually benefitted from the trade because it kept 50% of every seizure. Eventually the trade moved to the more profitable Caribbean waters, and the Irishmen went with it. This book includes little biographies on the many Irishmen – and a surprising number of women – in the records, such as the Cullen Brothers from Cork, ‘Redlegs’, and Darby Mullins. Granuaile: The Life of Grace O'Malley. Granuaile lived in radically changing times, and stood on the cusp of two worlds: the old Gaelic life of tribalism was dying out, and Ireland was being forced to catch up with England and with renaissance Europe. Granuaile took full advantage of the flux , taking the law into her own hands, and seizing for herself a life of adventure and chaos. While it has to be said that this book concentrates more on life ashore than at sea, providing a huge amount of background detail on the customs and lifestyle of Gaelic Ireland, if ever anyone abided by the pirate maxim ‘No prey, no pay’, it was Grace. Pirates of Barbary. This book examines the background of piracy: how James I wanted peace with Spain and so withdrew the sanctions enjoyed in the Elizabethan age, and also reduced the status of the Navy, making it no longer a viable career option. Suddenly sailors were disempowered and disenchanted, and decided to forge their own careers. The Barbary Coast of North Africa was where piracy flourished in the 1600s, as these European sailors clashed with Turkish corsairs, looking to fill a thriving slave market (including a raid on Baltimore). The last great corsair was killed in 1815 by a US ship, spelling the end of an era. The Pirate Hunter. The story of Captain Kidd, ostensibly a pirate hunter, but accused of piracy himself. Was he or wasn’t he? This book says not. Along the way, it debunks a lot of our cherished pirate myths: they were democratic; they never flew the skull and crossbones, but they did often fly a blood-red flag known as the ‘Jolie Rouge’. On the other hand, they did love fancy clothes and wore the most outlandish costumes, thumbing their noses at the Sumptuary Laws which were still in place; they were ‘mostly young, foul-mouthed men on stolen ships on a constant search for liquor, money, and women’. Celtic tiger, anyone? Pirates of the Caribbean (DVD)Johnny Depp channels Captain Blackbeard via Keith Richards. This is the romantic side of piracy with no apologies. Pure escapism and very good fun. Pretty much what ‘National talk like a pirate day’ is all about. Lots of derring-do, ingenious escapes, and the whole ‘live fast, die young’ ethos. Treasure Island - the drama (DVD)A two-part production of Stevenson’s tale. They’re all here: Jim, Silver, Billy Bones, Ben Gunn, and a realistically multi-national crew. It does take the odd liberty with the plot but mostly stays true. It’s rollicking, fast-paced, but not romantic, and it does show what a murderous, dirty world this was – very much a man’s world, which makes you wonder how any of the female pirates could cope in it. Still, makes me want to set sail and head for the Spice Islands. Arrrrr!
DESERT ISLAND PICKSSo. If you were marooned on a desert island, and could have only one book, one film, and one cd with you, what would they be? Frankly I’m doing well to get it down to five of each: choosing just one is incredibly difficult, and, in a couple of months time, I’d probably give completely different answers. It all depends on what mood we’re in, and where we are in our lives. So I’ve simply gone with: which ones do I keep coming back to over time. Feel free to post your own up. BOOKWatership Down by Richard Adams. I was given this as a present when I was 9. I ignored it for a few months, because, despite the picture of the rabbit on the cover, I assumed it was something to do with ships: eventually I read it, and a love affair was born. I still have my original copy, held together with sellotape, and with my name and address written on the edge in marker (the full address, ending in Earth, The Universe). I read it every 3 or 4 years, and I still get completely involved each time, even though I know it backwards.These are no Beatrix Potter bunnies, dressing up in trousers and going off to work in the office. There has to be some element of anthropomorphism, obviously, or there’d be no story, but Adams keeps it to a plausible minimum, and portrays them as authentically as possible within that frame, while giving them distinct, rounded personalities: the visionary Fiver; intelligent Blackberry; macho Bigwig; crazy Woundwort; and peevish Hawkbit, the only rabbit I’ve ever wanted to slap.It can be read as an allegory, I suppose, with Woundwort and Efrafa representing totalitarianism, but that’s turning it into too much work for my liking. I read it as a story – exciting, sad, scary, inspiring, engaging, and very very imaginative. FILMI’m not really much of a film person, I lack the attention span for them, but there are a few that make it through my lack of visual awareness. Harold and Maude turns the idea of love on its head, and manages to be simultaneously dark, light, daft, clever, quirky, and sweet. It covers the big themes – love, fear, death, freedom – in a very low-key and flaky way that’s beautifully humane and life-affirming. Cat Stevens provides the soundtrack that catches the mood perfectly. MUSICGuitar legend Richard Thompson proves his versatility in 1000 years of popular music. Literally what it says on the tin. Alongside Thompson are Judith Owens (Mrs Harry Shearer) on keyboards, and the magnificent Debra Dobkin on drums; and between the three of them they take us through the centuries, beginning with some seriously catchy medieval songs and covering pretty much every genre along the way, including ballads, music hall, honky tonk, a glorious version of The Easybeats’ ‘Friday on my mind’, before delivering a very tongue-in-cheek rendition of Britney’s ‘Oops I did it again’. The box set comes with 2 CDs (perfect for singing along to in the car) and a DVD of the gig, which includes all the between-song banter. Rich, versatile, educational in the best sense of the word.
70 years ago today the Allied forces landed on the Normandy beaches, thus beginning the Allied invasion of German-occupied Western Europe (Operation Overlord). The Normandy landings on D-Day, codenamed Operation Neptune, involved the largest seaborne invasion in history. A myriad of books have been written about the war, the events of June and afterwards, and a myriad of documentaries and films have appeared on our TV screens ever since.Utah, Gold, Omaha, Juno, Sword - the names of the Normandy beaches where thousands of landing craft poured ashore. Over 160,000 soldiers crossed the English Channel on D-Day, and many soldiers lost their lives before they even left their landing point. Then too there was the airborne assault, with thousands of planes involved, soldiers landing behind enemy lines in order to secure bridges and other strategic points.There are many truths, and many myths, surrounding D-Day, and to help you get a clearer picture of what actually happened, and to help you understand the true nature and horror of war, we have compiled a list of books and films readily available in or via our branch libraries.One of the best known military history books has to be The Longest Day by Irish-born war correspondent Cornelius Ryan and first published in 1959. This remarkable history sometimes reads like a novel, but is based on the experiences of real people and entailed a huge amount of research. A 1962 film based on the book, and featuring many leading actors of the time, is also called The Longest Day. Unfortunately copies of the book are in short supply and we don't have the film version, but don't let that stop you requesting it and we will see what we can do.Right: Cover of first edition of The Longest Day.Other titles to seek out include:D-Day, the battle for Normandy by Antony BeevorD-Day by Martin GilbertD-day, piercing the Atlantic wall by Robert KershawTwo sides of the beach, the invasion and defence of Europe in 1944 by Edmund BlandfordThe D-Day companion, leading historians explore history's greatest amphibious assault, editor, Jane PenroseSix armies in Normandy, from D-Day to the liberation of Paris, June 6th-August 25th 1944 by John Keegan ...and DVDsThe World at War Box set (11 DVDs, 1343 mins) Episode 17: The development and execution of Operation OverlordBrothers in Arms - The Real Band of Brothers (1 DVD) Useful WebsitesThe Royal British Legion Facts & Figures of D-Day.The D-Day Museum and Overlord Embroidery (Portsmouth).Below: The front page of the Irish Press, 7th June, 1944.You can access the Irish Newspaper Archives online at any branch of Dublin City Public Libraries free of charge.
Lest we should forget our younger borrowers this Christmas (Joking! However could we!!), here are just some of the new books and DVDs we have in our branch libraries in readiness for Christmas. Or anytime in fact!Browse the list of DVD and book titles below, each of which links to its respective catalogue record where you can get further details and check on availability.BooksThe powers, the not-so-super superheroes, Kevin Stevens, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey. (9-12 year olds)Eva and the Hidden Diary, Curtin Judi (9-12 year olds)Russian roulette, Anthony Horowitz.The Boy on the Porch, Sharon Creech.When did you see her last?, Lemony Snicket, art by Seth.Demon Dentist, David Walliams, illustrated by Tony Ross.Diamond, Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt.The River Singers, Tom Moorhouse, illustrated by Simon Mendez. DVDsArthur ChristmasBeethoven's Christmas Adventure.Christmas Night.Christmas with the Kranks.The Elf that Rescued Christmas.Father Christmas.Horrid Henry: Horrid Henry's Christmas Underpants.Mr Men: The Christmas Special - the Christmas Letter.Peppa Pig: A Christmas Compilation.Spongebob Squarepants Christmas.
I think it fair to say that the Nordic countries have not got it all to themselves after all! What might I be referring to, you may ask? The market in crime fiction of course. But maybe some of you never thought they had to to begin with - after all we have always had a wealth of crime fiction emanating from the United States and from Britain, and you could add to that several others including the Italians and in recent times the Irish too. I have to say it IS great to see Irish crime fiction writing blossoming in recent years, a subject I really must blog about soon.But there is another jurisdiction we must visit and pay tribute to also, and that is France. Crime fiction is hugely popular in France; I have read where it says one in five books sold there is a crime novel. As a bit of an aside, I recall many years ago seeing Diva (1981), that wonderful french film about a Parisian mail courier (Jules) in possession of two highly sought-after tapes: the first containing a rare recording of an American opera singer with whom he has fallen in love; the second is a tape slipped into his bag by a young woman just before she is murdered. The unwitting Jules finds himself being pursued by a gang of drug-dealers who will do anything to get their hands on the cassettes. A marvellous film, do borrow the DVD from the library when you get the chance (and sitting on the shelf in Pearse Street Library as I write!).While that was probably my introduction to French noir, in more recent times you may have seen or heard of two famed french crime dramas, Spiral (4 series) and Braquo (2 series) (both links to Amazon). Having seen some episodes of these, it seems to me that the French go for a grittier and darker crime story, where the forces of law and order often seem not so squeaky clean, though in thinking that, I can't say that about the crime novels of one of my favourite authors, Parisienne Fred Vargas. I have written here before about Vargas, and to my mind she is one of the best crime authors writing today. Vargas's stories are always a little quirky, her style distinct and often infused with humour. While there is invariably an element of the supernatural, the surreal, in her stories, it is never such that they stretch incredulity. Her series starring Commissaire Adamsberg you will find a joy to read; do check the catalogue for books by Fred Vargas asap.The seventh and most recent in the Commissaire Adamsberg series is The Ghost Riders of Ordebec . In this Adamsberg travels to Normandy following a visit from an old woman, intrigued by her tale of ghostly horsemen who, since medieval times, have returned time and again to inflict gruesome punishments on some of society's more unsavoury characters. And who now again seem to be wreaking a certain havoc on the village of Ordebec. But while the supernatural often serves to enrich and add intrigue to her stories, real world happenings invariably lie at the centre of events. In parallel, the death of a Parisian businessman, burnt to death in his car, occupies Adamsberg and his team's attention.An author new to me is Pierre Lemaitre, and what an exciting discovery he has been! Alex is the first novel in English translation by Lemaitre, and an excellent one it is. Not an easy book to put down this, it is easy to see why Lemaitre is held in such high regard in his native country. If you can see past the rather gruesome elements, you will see a well crafted, intricate plotline and a novel well worth your attention. There is suspense, there is tension; plus it can be dark and unsettling at times. To boot the characters, each and all, are well developed and of interest for different reasons, but none more so than the tough, resourceful and compelling heroine Alex and the diminutive, brilliant and driven Commandant Camille.The story starts with a kidnapping and a race against time to locate and free the kidnapped woman. But as the story develops it twists and you begin to realise that efforts to predict its path and its outcome will be a waste of time. Your sympathies may be challenged, and you will be kept guessing 'til the end. To say anymore would be to reveal too much. This is a gripping read, quite different from most everything else I have read. I can highly recommend it, it gets top marks from me. Not a Frenchman but...While not a Frenchman, British-born author Peter Mayle has been writing books about France for some time and is probably best known for his books about life in Provence. So it was with a certain curiosity that I picked up and started reading Mayle's 'The Marseille Caper' , in the hope of it taking me to a setting that would enthral me and a story that would absorb me. Unfortunately, it did not quite live up to my hopes and expectations. As a crime novel it lacked suspense, furthermore I thought the dialogue weak, the characters uninteresting and the plot weak. It does have a beautiful setting and you do get fair mention of the local cuisine if you like that sort of thing (which I can do), but all the while I felt as though I was reading a travel writer rather than a true crime writer. Yes, this book might just be the thing to entertain you while lying on a beach in Cannes if you just want a light, relaxing and untaxing read, but I would still prefer to take a Vargas (or a Camilleri or a Leon for that matter) with me. The story itself is of Hollywood lawyer Sam who travels to Marseille with his partner Elena to champion a property tycoon's bid for a seafront development over two rival entries, and the shenanigans that thereafter unfold. But while danger beckons, you do know in your bones that this is going to be a happy ending sort of story. This is a follow up to the 'The Vintage Caper', but it does not seem necessary to have read one before the other. But I do hope you get more from it than I did, should you read it!Other SuggestionsOther French crime writers that I have not yet read but may be worth checking out are Julia Kristeva and Dominique Manotti. One of my favourite crime blogs is Eurocrime, and it has a list of French crime novels, many of which it will have reviews of. The websites Crime Fiction Lover and crimetime.co.uk also have some suggestions.
Film adaptations of books can be divisive. Often it depends on which one you came across first, but in my case, it’s pretty nearly always the book first; and at this stage I’m wary of checking out film adaptations that can potentially ruin a favourite book (Lolita, anyone?). I just prefer my own imagination. That said, some films manage to avoid the pitfalls of plastic actors, dodgy accents, weird lighting effects, and blatant changes, and let you see the story from a new angle. And some even knock the socks off the book. Here’s a roundup of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Life of Pi Yann Martel's book is full of layers, is written with humour and,it has to be said, a certain amount of cruelty, and explores the big themes: hope, despair, purpose, spirituality. It’s a book that bears repeated reading. The Life of Pi film, on the other hand, (Ang Lee, 2013) concentrates mostly on the visual aspects of the story, and the novelty of portraying a boy stuck on a boat with a Bengal tiger. The special effects take precedence over the ideas in the book. Book 1 - Film 0. To kill a mockingbird Harper Lee’s novel is one of my all-time favourite books. The sense of menace disguised behind the leisurely southern pace is spot-on. I avoided watching the film of this for a long time, as I couldn’t imagine them getting it right , but To kill a Mockingbird, the film (1962, b/w), starring Mary Badham and Gregory Peck, does the book complete justice. Not a trace of sentimentality, earnestness, or heartstring-tugging in sight. Book 1 – Film 1. Lord of the flies William Golding’s book gives the old desert island plot an original twist, exploring mob mentality, authority, self-restraint, and our innate primitiveness through the eyes of a group of stranded schoolboys. Peter Brook’s film adaptation (1963, b/w) takes nothing away from the story, but doesn’t really add anything either; it just puts faces to the names. Book 1 – Film 0. Walkabout James Vance Marshall’s novelette was written as a children’s book, and it’s ok as far it goes. Nice enough. But Walkabout the film (Nicolas Roeg, 2000) is one of my favourites: very little dialogue, deceptively simple and visually stunning. Book 0 – Film 1. The Commitments Roddy Doyle is a great writer, and The Commitments is a great book – the joy of seeing ‘I’m scarleh’ in print as a teenager will stay with me forever. That said, Alan Parker’s 1991 film takes the story to another level: Parker stays true to the spirit of Doyle’s writing, keeping authenticity and empathy intact, while adding inspired casting and a stonking good soundtrack. Say it loud! Book 1 – Film 1. Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas Drama and poetry are meant to be read aloud and to be heard, so the written version of this is pretty dull when read as a text. The 1972 film adaptation (Richard Burton, Liz Taylor) is a bit of a horror too – maybe with different actors it would have worked. Where it comes into its own is with the Under Milk Wood animated film, narrated by Burton, who’s not quite as hammy when it’s just his voice on show; and the animation brings across the earthiness, mundanity, and poetry of this Welsh community. Book 0 – Film 1. Out of Africa The book, written by Karen Blixen / Isak Dinesen is a gem. Nobody writes like her. Hugely evocative, it’s a vivid and lyrical love letter from Blixen to Africa. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the film. Book 1 – Film 0.
Recent winner in the mystery/thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes for his novel '11.22.63', Stephen King is a name so well known that little introduction is needed; think The Shining, Carrie, It, Misery, Christine, Pet Sematary, Salem's Lot, Insomnia, to name just a few. I think it interesting that he has won this award insofar as I have seen it said that in the past critics have not viewed him as a serious writer. But whatever the views of the critics past or present, such a view if it is held has never detracted from his popularity with the reader.As an aside, also nominated in this category was Irish author Eoin Colfer for his book, 'Plugged', and the subject of a previous post here on our blog.'11.22.63' is the story of a time traveller from 2011, a young teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, who gets the chance to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald. Author of more than fifty titles, King may be best known as a horror writer, but several of his writings cross over into other genres such as fantasy, western and suspense. Case in point would be 'The Dark Tower' series, volume eight ('The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole') of which has just been published (April 2012), and which I know is on its way to several of our branches (just not showing in the catalogue quite yet). Of course many of his stories have been turned to film, and if I should mention one it would have to be a favourite film of so many, including myself, namely 'The Shawshank Redemption', which in fact is an adaptation of King's novella 'Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption', which is in his collection 'Different Seasons'.King has also written under the pen name Richard Bachman, supposedly so that he could write more than one book per year, a limit imposed in order to avoid market saturation. He wrote eight books under this name, the last being 'Blaze' in 2007. Given that I have introduced King here as a recent award winner, let me add that he has also been a winner of the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers' Association! Visit the Stephen King Official Website.
Although the Dublin: One City, One Book choice for April this year is James Joyce's 'Dubliners', it is timely to remember that the choice for April 2009 was 'Dracula' by Dublin-born writer Bram Stoker; timely because April 20th this year marks the 100th anniversary of Stoker's death (20th April, 1912).About Bram StokerBram Stoker was born in Dublin's Marino Crescent on November 8th, 1847. After an early life plagued by illness, he went on to graduate from Trinity in 1868 with a Masters Degree in mathematics. His early work life was as a civil servant in Dublin Castle, while he was at the same time a freelance journalist and theatre critic.Stoker first met the actor Henry Irving in 1878, soon after his marriage to Florence Balcombe (who had spurned Oscar Wilde in his favour), and he left Dublin to become Irving’s theatrical agent and business manager in London. He afterwards became manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theatre, a position he held until Irving's death in 1905.Continuing the tradition of gothic fiction already established in Dublin by writers such as Charles Maturin and Sheridan le Fanu, Stoker's most famous novel, 'Dracula', was published in 1897. Bram Stoker produced several other writings with a supernatural theme, but none to rival 'Dracula' and its enduring popularity. Dracula - the BookI read 'Dracula' back in April 2009 when it was the Dublin: One City, One Book choice, and I found it a book I did not want to put down. And I did not find it at all hard to read; to the contrary, I found the diary style a refreshing change from the norm, and the language, while obviously reflecting the period in which it was written, to be beautiful, poetic and descriptive. It gets a definite thumbs up from me.Also available to borrow is an audio (CD) version, plus a number of film (DVD) versions; an old favourite being the 1931 version starring Bela Lugosi.The Bram Stoker CollectionDublin City Public Libraries houses the Leslie Shepard Bram Stoker Collection, and this valuable donation of books by and about Bram Stoker, gathered over a lifetime of interest by the late Leslie Shepard, is a treasure-trove for researchers and enthusiasts. The collection comprises in excess of 230 books and pamphlets relating to Bram Stoker and his creation, Dracula. The collection can be found at Marino Library and at the Dublin City Library and Archive, Pearse Street.