Film for a Friday: Big Gold Dream

Have I used this before for FFF? Possibly. But if you haven’t watched it, watch it now. As always perpetually too few women consulted, but a snapshot of a time when anything seemed possible.

Also if you might just need some Scars right now, I know I do.

Film for a Friday: Memento Mori (1992)

Memento Mori (1992)

Muriel Spark is an endless delight and not nearly enough good films have been based on her books. This film for television has a stellar cast and does a reasonable job of portraying her macabre humour, though it loses the subtlety of her novel (as inevitably movies seem to do) making it a little more homophobic (rather than just some of the characters being so) and spelling out the meaning in case viewers couldn’t put it together themselves. Spark has a delightful time playing with the tropes of drawing room mysteries and putting them to an altogether different aim. Well worth your time and available on YT if no where else.

Review: Worst Laid Plans/Bang Bang You’re Dead

Kicking off the Tête-bêche series from Fahrenheit Press (AKA 69Crime), it’s Aidan Thorn’s Worst Laid Plans and Nick Quantrill’s Bang Bang You’re Dead. While I am published by Fahrenheit, I paid for this book out of my own pocket, because I knew it would be a worthwhile read.

Thorn’s book has a fun premise:

Vinnie Travers, lead singer with The Down & Outs literally doesn’t know what’s hit him when his path crosses with four young lads on a night out in a borrowed Mercedes.

Andy Dickson, home alone while his parents are on holiday, is left trying to figure out how a simple night out with some mates ended with a dead body flung hastily into the backseat of his dad’s car.

But it’s not until the next morning that the fun really begins…

This fast-paced novella has a new twist around every corner. I was laughing out loud with the unexpected changes and the always brutal, black humour. It will keep you  guessing as things go from bad to worse and oh the clever plans that just go wrong. A hoot. I’ve got a soft spot for a heist gone wrong and this one just gets wronger.

Flip it over and you’ve got Quantrill’s gritty realism as a change of pace.

Fresh out of prison, Sam is back home and determined to turn his life around. Be the man his family needs him to be. But it’s not so easy going straight when you’re friends with Jonno. 

Drawn into a drugs deal involving petty local gangs, things quickly take a turn for the worse when he discovers the notorious Nolan brothers are involved. 

With simmering rivalries coming to the fore, Sam has to decide between new and old loyalties. And with old sores over his brother’s death being picked at, it’s not so simple. Especially when you have a gun in your pocket.

Things start off bad and then get worse. He’s got an eye for the downward spiral of a town run by thugs, where every choice lands you in ever hotter water. Just when you think you can’t trust anyone, help may come from an unexpected source.

Check out all the Fahrenistas and get yourself some hot sauce while it lasts.


Limited edition!


Song for a Saturday: Sunny Afternoon – Kinks

It’s been uncharacteristically sunny hereabouts. The suspicion aroused by so much sun on a bank holiday weekend in Scotland cannot entirely undo the pleasure it brings. Shine on.

TOA/V: Tutti Frutti

I had heard of Tutti Frutti for years but figured it was lost to the VHS oblivion, but I happened upon a DVD set in an Oxfam shop that was in pristine condition — down to including John Byrne‘s postcards for the characters. Byrne — playwright, artist, father of Tilda Swinton’s twins — brings a freshness to the well-worn idea, a band on the road by giving it a few twists. Robbie Coltrane plays the original lead singer of a band with some 60s fame and his brother who takes over the role after his death. Emma Thompson plays the love interest with a credible Scottish accent. Richard Wilson plays the dodgy manager (a hoot of course).

It starts out going for the wacky humour but after a while the story gets rather dark between the sadness of the clubs they play on their ‘Jubilee Tour’, vicious and violent exes and the squeamishly awful attempts by their ‘sexy’ guitarist Vincent Diver (Maurice Roëves) to hang on to his youth. There’s an absurdist sensibility that never gets lost though between Coltrane’s running commentary on the increasing disasters (the recording session is hilariously painful) and the final concert triumph that flames out spectacularly.

And Thompson looks unbelievably fabulous as a Teddy Boy.

See the roundup of overlooked A/V over at Todd’s, who will be stunned I actually did one of these.

Auld Lang Syne

D’ye ken all the words?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.


For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne,

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
Frae mornin’ sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.


Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And long, long ago.


And for long, long ago, my dear
For long, long ago,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago

And surely youll buy your pint-jug!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.


We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered manys the weary foot
Since long, long ago.


We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.


And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.


Happy New Year!

Classic Crime: William McIlvanney – Laidlaw

William McIlvanney

From its almost surreal opening McIlvanney’s Laidlaw grips the reader.  That first short chapter follows the frantic movements of a young murderer as he tries to find a place to hide. Told in second person, it offers an intimacy and yet an almost god-like insight into the tumbling thoughts of the killer. It’s breathtaking in its effectiveness, immersing the readers in vivid images but leaving them unable to understand how to connect them.

It comes as a bit of a relief to begin the next chapter in a more typical fashion, returning to the more neutral third person narrative and the now-familiar jaded cop — the beginnings of 70s cynicism. Laidlaw offers the prototype for so many iterations that followed. He’s not just the detective who’s ‘seen too much’; Laidlaw is permanently out of step with the human race.

Laidlaw sat at his desk, feeling a bleakness that wasn’t unfamiliar to him. Intermittently, he found himself doing penance for being him.

He’s not just consumed by his job; it’s a kind of existential ache that permeates every part of his being — and makes his pursuit of criminals unconventional yet very effective.

He was a potentially violent man who hated violence, a believer in fidelity who was unfaithful, an active man who longed for understanding. He was tempted to unlock the drawer in his desk where he kept Kierkegaard, Camus and Unamuno, like caches of alcohol.

His departmental rival, Milligan, reflects everything he hates: certainty, arrogance, and violence. They’re like oil and water and we see a lot of the clashes through the eyes of Harkness, the ambitious young detective who alternates between confusion, admiration and impatience dealing with his new partner.

McIlvanney slips between a variety of characters with ease, showing the world from the point of view of the parents whose daughter is missing, gangsters, and petty criminals. But Laidlaw remains at the center tying together all the disparate threads because he allows himself to see them.

I’ll end with one long quote that really captures the spirit of this excellent book which feels entirely contemporary. It comes after Laidlaw gets yet another dressing down from his boss:

They had these confrontations several times and always Frederick was at least as understanding as you could expect him to be, and always Laidlaw finished up depressed. The pair of them had the art of conjuring hopelessness together. They had managed it again. But at least Laidlaw had the melancholy satisfaction of feeling that he understood why, a little more clearly. Listening to Frederick’s advice, he had thought again of how much he disliked that room, the deodorised furnishings, the uncluttered desk, the smiling photograph, the ashtray never used. It was like a shrine to a God he didn’t believe in. It was the God of categories.

Good stuff: highly recommended.

Bloody Scotland in Dundee

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I was glad to have the chance to catch the Bloody Scotland tour in the Dundee Library last night. As a part of the Dundee Festival of Libraries and Book Week Scotland, it was a great kick off of the week of events. I even made it to the book swap flashmob (though a bit late so more flash than mob) where I picked up a copy of the Treasures anthology and swapped a review book for a signed copy of Jeff Noon’s Automated Alice which looks fun.

I have to say any event that starts off with offering folks a cuppa before they’ve even sat down gets high marks immediately. 🙂

Featured writers included Gordon Brown, Chris Longmuir and Will Jordan, all of whom read a little then answered a few questions. Brown was up first. One of the organisers for the fest, he spoke of the perils of retaining his name, relating an episode where a drunken woman mistook him for the politician and castigated him for selling books when he ought to be sorting out the economy. Having the mistake pointed out, however, she was apologetic and bought three books.

Longmuir read from her Dundee-set novel Missing Believed Dead and spoke about how her years as a social worker helped in her “overnight” success of winning the Dundee prize after years of work. Like many crime writers she bemoaned the administrative changes in the polis and also noted that Dundee keeps changing so fast that it’s hard to set stories in specific places.

Will Jordan admitted it was his first time actually doing a reading but he seemed entirely at ease as he read from his thriller Redemption. He later admitted to writing a lot of his first book while at work, after discovering the super-hard working admin he viewed with awe was actually writing romances (three a year). I suspect during NaNoWriMo the numbers of folks doing that increases.

As usual Waterstones was there to sell their books to the audience. Friday has more crime fiction when James Oswald comes to town. There are all kinds of events this week at the library and at the DCA.

[Pssst, there’s still time to win the Michael Crichton/John Lange books, too.]
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Chris Brookmyre at Dundee Library

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Dundee’s central library hosted “An Evening with Chris Brookmyre” in support of his new novel Flesh Wounds. I ran into Russel D. McLean before the event, part of the Waterstone’s pop up bookstore on hand. He said the good thing about Brookmyre was that he could just hand things over to him and know he’d be entertaining. It was certainly true.

Brookmyre had the crowd laughing at once, even before he kicked off a reading of his one star reviews on Amazon. Curious about how the Scottish ambiance of the stories was getting across to American readers, he sifted through the .com reviews and found people appalled at the language, although more than the “British” nature of it, it was the vocabulary — one reader slammed the book down after the first word (“Jesus”) and thus was spared the second (“fuck”); another immediately removed it from his Kindle as if it would somehow infect the rest of the library.

Brookmyre imagined if genre or writer fans had their own chants like football fans, offering his ideas of what Ian Rankin’s fans chants would be (arrogant and dismissive of other writers’ fans) or Val McDermid’s — or how the scariest chants would be from Patricia Cornwell’s fans (impossible to reproduce but spot on).

He read from the opening chapter — judiciously editing out bits so you couldn’t just skip the first chapter, he explained. It had the audience riveted, which as Brookmyre pointed out was impossible to tell from having the audience bored. Laughter at least suggested a good response; he mentioned Alexei Sayles commenting that book event crowds were so much more friendly and encouraging than comedy crowds.

The Q&A covered a broad swath of topics, from writing (he writes only one book at a time) and editing (good to hear a shout out for the importance of editors and publishers in shaping your career) to Scottish independence (he seemed cagey at first as if reluctant to tip his hand “other people get the privacy of a voting booth” but said he supported it) and even his thoughts on the new Doctor (he doesn’t really watch it, but thinks Capaldi is always good).

A busy man, Brookmyre had just flown up to Dundee from Brighton where he was testing out the video game based on the Bedlam books; the BBC is developing Where the Bodies are Buried for a television series. Good stuff.