Hard Eight

Janet Evanovich
The eighth volume in a highly successful series, which has now reached number 24, I believe. So successful that the publishers have long since given up on covers with sexy girls and guns. See the cover of this one - they're slumming it, aren't they?

It all began with One For The Money, which described how sassy young Stephanie Plum, native of Trenton, New Jersey, fell into the role of bounty hunter, to chaotic and generally entertaining effect. Evanovich quickly set up a regular supporting cast including ex-hooker Lula, pervy boss Cousin Vinnie, her entire mad family, notably eccentric Granny Mazur, and, most importantly, the two men in her life with whom she maintains off-again on-again relationships, one-time bad boy cop Joe Morelli, and dangerously shady ex-military Ranger. They're all there in Hard Eight, which like all the previous volumes has one ongoing big mystery, alongside a couple of Failure To Attend bond cases for her to tackle.

The central st…

2018 Women's Ice Hockey

Or, the frustrations of trying to follow the sport on the BBC
It's the Winter Olympics, and now is that brief window of time, once every four years, in which my favourite sport, women's ice hockey, makes an appearance on British television. You would think that, as technology advances, the provision of sport on BBC media, paid for by a hefty licence fee, would get better and better. Unfortunately, that isn't the case, and this morning has been a perfect case in point.

Right - From the IIHF web site, one of the very few pictures of the game which feature any Finnish players at all. They love the Canadians. Well, so do I, to be fair, but you can see that it's not only the BBC which treats everyone apart from the US and Canada as bit-part players.

No niin (as the Finns say). I love women's ice hockey, and going to see some has been a central preoccupation of visits to Finland for some years. I go to Finnish Saturday School and study the language, and naturally I would …

The Bucket Shop

by Keith Waterhouse - it's been a gap of many years since I last read one of his books, and it took a very long time, and the invention of the internet, for me to track down The Bucket Shop. It was his fourth novel, dating from maybe not long after he left Leeds and fetched up in London. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but it's a very used paperback, and not only features stains on many pages, but on one, what looks like a deeply embedded insect wing.

I was misled by the title. I thought a 'bucket shop' - a phrase from another age - meant one of those cheap travel agencies. No, here, it's simply a junk shop. William, the central character, wanted to be an antique dealer, but doesn't know his trade, and is clueless about business basics. So, his shop sells odds and ends, mostly at a loss. His only regular 'customer' appears to be a photographer we know only as Pringle, who owes him quite a sum, for items he's rented as props for h…

Keith Waterhouse

I wouldn't have felt the need to introduce Keith Waterhouse in my student days. Back then, he could scarcely have been more omnipresent, as a writer. His scriptwriting, with Willis Hall and others, was all over London's West End theatre land, as well as television. In fact, only 3/4 years ago I enjoyed a production of one of his best known plays, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, by a rep company locally. He was a giant of journalism, as a columnist for the Daily Mirror and later the Daily Mail. Though not listed below, there are half a dozen published collections of his newspaper pieces. And he wrote 17 novels (I'm including the two Pooter books in this regard). But when he died in 2009, while he received many respectful tributes, it didn't make the waves it would have done even only a few years previously. His books were already hard to find, even in one of the larger Waterstones. I suspect he's been branded a man of his time, meaning the Sixties, as far as novels are c…

A Question of Integrity

A Question of Integrity by Susan Howatch tells the story of Alice, a young woman who has experienced only disappointment and reached a very low point, who finds kindness and then hope in a Christian community centred on a London church and healing centre. It's led by a charismatic preacher with some special gifts; Alice fixates on him and develops an unhealthy obsession which she finds it hard to come to terms with, until the end of the novel. Nicholas the preacher is a problematic character, both as a type, and as the crux of the story. His gifts, which are described variously in terms of magnetism, healing and hypnosis, have a dark side, and it is his use of those gifts which raise the question of integrity in the book's title.

A Question of Integrity is very different indeed from the genres I usually read. It was a personal gift, and that entered into my attitude to the book. Perhaps I'm implying that I might otherwise have left it alone, or given it up. I don't know…

Some Trivial 2017 Stats

Let's start with cards. Christmas cards.
For information, I make a list each year, and end up giving or sending around 70 cards, to family and various groups of friends from past and present. I keep up with who I'm not hearing from, who I'm still in touch with, that sort of thing. But the stat I want to mention here is one which gives me weird amusement; weird, because it doesn't mean anything.
It's to do with the subjects featured on the Christmas cards, and the apparent trends each year.
As far as figures go, it's almost always Santa that wins, or else it's the Holy Family. In the objects or symbols category, I noticed quite a few wreaths this year. But the big perennial fascination is animals. I have no idea how fashions or trends would work on this one, all I can say is that it doesn't seem to be utterly random. Some years there really is a predominance of eg. reindeers, others, of robins. As a footnote, when I was checking out the Christmas postcar…

Blade Runner 2049 - The Finnish

No, that isn't a spelling mistake. This really is about the Finnish in Blade Runner 2049. There are a few spoilers in this, nothing big, but you may want to check out now.

I went to see the film a second time, primarily to immerse myself again in that world. Despite the intensely pessimistic vision it offers, its design and cinematography are wondrous and absorbing and I wanted it all again, while I could still get it on the big screen. And it was a big screen, a bigger and better one in Manchester. I went with a friend, which enabled some lively discussion afterwards. I'm glad to say she liked it too, and made several good points. The main one was about the 'glaring plot hole' towards the end (ie. how does so-and-so know how to find *cough* in order to effect a rescue): something's been cut out there, maybe only a bit of script, but something which might have explained it. There were other reasons to see it again. Many were to do with particular scenes and conver…