Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Wonders Of Halloween

All alone on the beach it was.....
Where had it come from? What had it seen? Had it bobbed alone on the waves to end up here.... on the tide-flattened sand?

Meanwhile, over on Syb & Me .... Mrs D is being traumatised by her dead mother.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Old Man Eats Crumpets

The other day I do practise making crumpets. Because... I like crumpets. The Old Man did have points of criticism to make of course, but did eat quite a few. Next day he plomps a few more on his plate whilst still passing comments on their consistency, structure, and so on.
"Well, warm them up!" I say in outrage, "They be all cold and flabby."
At which point The Old Man do look at his crumpet, pause, huff on it like he be polishing the silver and do stuff it into his mouth.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Old Man's Hair Do Grow Long

 The Old Man do not like getting his hair cut. He complains that he cannot find anyone to cut it well more than once. (Pause for thought.) His favourite cutting man did give it all up in favour of martial arts and I can understand how this could come about.

When ... the other day... The Old Man is at the local farm shop, our abrasive host asked him if he is going to get his "winter" haircut any time soon. This do annoy The Old Man who recounted our friendly farmer's remark when he came home. I did suggest he might like to tie his locks in a bow a la Yorkshire Terrier ... for the purpose of shopping trips.

Such are the thought processes of The Old Man, he do seem to think this a good idea.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Thrillers - Talking To Dead People

So it's not just Mrs D that sits and chats with dead people (see previous post)...
The Old Man very obligingly joined me in watching the first episode of "River" on BBC ONE this week. (13th October).. in which DI John River, played (.... a bit inexplicably...) by the very excellent Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, chats to murder victims much to the alarm of his colleagues. Hang on, in some ways this sounds like a plausible plot for a slightly cheesy American cop show, but let me tell you they did this first episode really well.Original, convincingly uneasy, emotive and nicely photographed/filmed. If this continues I shall most certainly be watching the whole six episodes. (BBC do not let me down.) And... The Old Man survived this episode even though I thought he would be challenged... not by the concept... but by knowing when he was seeing "dead" people. It's complicated... but The Old Man doesn't always understand certain transitions and his hopeless-facial-recognition thing don't help.

Tonight there will be more dead people taking to live people on the telly. I look forward eagerly to sitting in front of the second series of French "undead" drama: The Returned on More Four (Fri 16th Oct) at 9 pm. The Old Man is more unsure of this one but I was hooked by the first series... dead child victims of a coach crash, one by one return to their families in a French Alpine village... followed by other people who died some years earlier. Far from being a horror-fest, the series explored the psychological impact of their return... but eventually, of course, things got a bit spookier. It's taken some time for The Returned to "Return" but now it has. Good.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Mrs D And Me

It's very hard when a Doll has to review her career future. I wanted a taste of being a film star, a life in films... And Mrs D was supposed to give me that. Then The Old Man muscled in. Never one to dodge the limelight, that one. And now here I am... a would-be film star of a certain age. You know that there are no decent parts written for older women, don't you. OK, so I have lost my head and hands occasionally and things don't bend the way they should. (Mrs D is a slave-driver when it come to animating... a cruel and brutal director I must tell you.) I suppose I have to accept the fact that Mrs D is spending a lot of time elsewhere ... on a new project... a new website... a new life... Well, hardly.
It's all right for some.

Mrs D claims to be "devoting this new space to animating" ... but I have taken a quick look and I don't see much filming going on. I'm not bitter. If Madam prefers playing with plasticine at the moment I suspect it is probably a reversion to childhood. You will find her (frankly weird) site at "Syb & Me" .... and if you pop over there now, you will also find that she is bickering with her dead mother over a cup of tea. How long can this go on?

Look on the bright side... I know you will.... Me and The Old Man are still here. That will be a great comfort to you I am sure.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Henning Mankell: 1948-2015

I am a determined fan of crime fiction.... of crime fiction in translation and... of course... of Scandinavian crime fiction. It is therefore a great sadness that Henning Mankell, creator of Swedish detective Kurt Wallander, has died at the age of 67.

Mankell, the reluctant crime writer, was my introduction to Scandinavian crime fiction. (Although to be strictly accurate, the first Nordic crime story I read... and it did knock me off my feet... was MISS SMILLA'S FEELING FOR SNOW by Danish writer Peter Hoeg. But Hoeg is not a crime writer, his books roam across a range of potential fiction genres.)

Mankell also wrote a wide range of books (fiction, plays, children's books) and stated that he only turned to crime so to speak as a means of writing about social issues. And I think this makes him one of the formative Scandinavian crime writers.... a school of crime fiction often marked by its strong roots in social and psychological issues rather than guns, shootin' and cliff-hanging suspense. Though, come to think of it, many Scandinavian crime writers do manage  the guns and suspense bit to good effect.

Henning Mankell gave me the luxury of a consistent series to follow and be rarely disappointed with when I discovered his books featuring a determined, middle-aged, policeman with less than winning ways.... Kurt Wallander. And not just me, judging by the evergreen success of the several film and television series based on a combination of this character and Mankell's plots. Wallander entered the heart of so many readers that quite a few found the final book of the series THE TROUBLED MAN hard to take.

I was writing a review of a "Wallander" novella, AN EVENT IN AUTUMN (Vintage, 2015), when the news broke that Mankell had died. Originally written for Dutch publication in 2004, the English translation has only just been published in paperback (hardback - last year). In it Mankell gives us a late-middle-aged Wallander, tired, looking back on his career but looking forward in his life... a house in the country and the company of a dog.... Of course the house he is thinking of buying turns out to have a surprise buried in the garden, a bony surprise. And so Wallander has another case to investigate. It's a short book but a beautifully written one and it comes with a final chapter in the form of an essay by Mankell on how Kurt Wallander came to be and his relationship with the character. For those left bereft by the loss of Kurt (with THE TROUBLED MAN) and of course by the death of Henning Mankell himself, I really recommend you search out this last short novella for a gentler good-bye.
You can read my full review of AN EVENT IN AUTUMN on the Euro Crime blog here.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Grey Doll's Criminal Reading Takes Her To Miloszewski's Warsaw

I won three crime novels a while back .... and the first one I chose to read was "Entanglement" by Polish writer Zygmunt Miloszewski. [Bitter Lemon Press, 2010]. Nice timing for me because, according to Bitter Lemon Press, BBC Radio Four is broadcasting a two-part dramatisation of the book - at 3pm on Sundays October 11 and 18th - as part of its "Reading Europe" season. There should also be a BBC Radio 4's "Front Row" interview with its author, former journalist and editor Miloszewski, at 7.15pm on October 9th.

"Entanglement" is Miloszewski's first crime novel featuring State Prosecutor Teodor Szacki and is set in Warsaw in 2005, during the political reign of the KaczyƄski twins. It opens with the discovery of a body (naturally). The body is that of printing-business manager Henryk Telak, a participant in a tough, weekend-long, role-playing, psychotherapy workshop taking place in the rented rooms of a Warsaw monastery. The dead Henryk is found on the floor of one of these rooms with a skewer in his eye ... and the case lands on the desk of be-suited, prematurely white-haired, Prosecutor Szacki who, roused from his Sunday-morning bed by his seven-year old daughter, gives a bleary-eyed wave to his equally bleary-eyed wife in her faded "Disco Fun" t-shirt and makes his way to the crime scene. Szacki wonders how to play the interviews with the workshop participants. The Lieutenant Columbo method, let them stew? But he tells Police Inspector Oleg Kuzniecow to interview them now – as witnesses – careful questions, take good notes, soften them up for Szacki to get back to them a few times. Kuzniecow  bristles at the precise instructions but agrees to meet for coffee next morning to summarise progress and to work out a strategy. You're buying, says Kuzniecow. Can't afford to, replies Szacki....

The book that follows is in some ways a conventional police procedural in which Szacki is partnered by the ironically (we hope) savage police detective Oleg Kuzniecow as they interview workshop-participants, therapist, witnesses and other interested parties. But alongside this structured plot Miloszewski gives us subtle reminders of the changes undergone by Polish society during the late twentieth century and paints a detailed evocation of Warsaw's streets and buildings(Us non-Polish readers must chose whether to master a mental pronunciation act or blast through the names and places with reckless speed in this smooth and convincing translation by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.) The plot deepens as clues lead back to another murder whilst Szacki's frustrations at marking time in his career and marriage push him towards the distractions of a young, attractive journalist.
Miloszewski creates his characters with an objective yet empathic eye and I love his dialogue. With psychotherapy, suspense, wit and the tensions of Poland's political history...  this is a book I greatly enjoyed.

I shall definitely be putting the second in the Prosecutor Szacki series - "A Grain of Truth" - on my Christmas List ... ready for The Old Man's wallet.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Four Wheels On Our Wagon ... we have another car and have been lurching around the autumnal lanes of Cornwall whilst The Old Man do get used to driving petrol again after years of diesel. It will get better we tell ourselves ... as he do make the umpteenth attempt to get out of our impossible parking space in this new wagon... or do try the key in the door and set off the alarm.
All this is good timing... for next week we do sample the heady delights of Penzance for a live broadcast of "The Marriage of Figaro" at the cinema and I do not believe the local buses would be obliging enough to be operating still by the time we emerge, definitely staggering, from the performance.
But the week have taken its toll ... and we stare at another barrage of medical appointments amidst our nervous and financial exhaustion. All together now....
"It will get better."