Category Archives: Film

Euro Noir

Wouldn’t it be nice to be an expert at lots of things? Except you can’t. There is a limit to how much you can delve into different areas of interest. And that’s when it’s good to have someone who does it for you.

Barry Forshaw knows a lot about crime (in the right sort of way). He is a Nordic crime specialist, but reads a wider diet than that. Here he is with his new Euro Noir, briefly outlining crime fiction and films in a number of European countries. I’m ashamed to admit I’d never considered whether there are Polish crime novels.

He wondered what I would make of the Nordic section, which is only right, since I know almost nothing about Romania or Greece when it comes to crime, or any fiction, now that I think of it. But if I did want to read something so drastically new, I now know where I would begin. With this book. And then one of the ones mentioned in here.

Barry Forshaw, Euro Noir

Barry is right to ponder how he can cover Nordic crime yet again and so briefly, but he has succeeded. There is a good selection of authors from a long time ago as well as now. And he does the same for the other Nordic countries. You might know a lot of it already, but I bet there will be something new for everyone.

And once you’ve covered the north, there is all the rest of Europe. If I were to tackle French crime I’d have to go to Fred Vargas. Barry very sensibly asked various specialists to write a page on what they like best, and my colleague Karen Meek likes Fred Vargas. That’s good enough for me.

There is a wide coverage of films, including some pretty ancient ones, and obviously the recent euro crime we’ve seen on television during the last few years. Again, you might know it all, but that doesn’t prevent this from being interesting to read.

Euro Noir is a short book, which will quickly tell you what you need to know.

Bloody Scotland 2014 programme

Am I allowed to have a favourite? OK, in that case I must admit I am really looking forward to hearing Sophie Hannah talk about ‘becoming’ Agatha Christie, writing the new Poirot.

The programme for this year’s Bloody Scotland – on my own home ground – is out and ready for your perusal, and for buying tickets. It’s another good one. Perhaps not filled with the best selling best sellers, but then that’s not what I feel Bloody Scotland should be about. It should be Scottish crime, and perhaps a little something else on the side. Like Sophie Hannah.

They are rolling out Ian Rankin again. Can’t have him every year – although, why not? – but I’m glad he’s back. My new ‘neighbour’ Craig Robertson is obviously doing his bit, and so is sheep farmer James Oswald, who debuted so well last year by pretending to be Eoin Colfer. He will have had his fourth McLean novel published by the time September arrives. (Slow down!) James will appear with Alexandra Sokoloff and Gordon Brown. Probably not that Gordon Brown, but the other one.

Well, you can read for yourself. You don’t need me to list the whole weekend. They have a new hotel venue in the Hotel Colessio, which isn’t even open yet (and I’d not heard of it). Otherwise they are mostly in the Albert Halls, and at the  Stirling Highland Hotel, when they’re not making crime writers play football against each other. I mean, honestly! (Scotland will win.)

There will be a surprise cinema event at the Old Town Jail (don’t go, whatever you do! They get up to funny stuff in that jail…), as well as the traditional dinner where you eat with people who live off crime.

Sounds like an OK kind of weekend, actually.

Bookwitch bites #120

Bah, rubbish! And I mean google and unresponsive websites. I went looking for the link to Peter Dickinson’s essay A Defence of Rubbish and found nothing. I understand the origin is a talk from 1970, but I read about it not long ago. Unfortunately, as this rubbish stands, I can offer no link.* Sorry.

I was reminded of this when I came across another – not quite so old – piece on reading rubbish, by Clémentine Beauvais on ABBA. I don’t know how I missed it, seeing as it stirred lots of feathers, and quite rightly so. Clémentine is against, but a lot of people believe in rubbish.

So do I, although there is good rubbish and bad rubbish. I’m probably most in favour of the better stuff.

John Connolly Edgar award by David Brown

Not rubbish at all is what I can say about John Connolly’s recent Edgar Award for Best Short Story for The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository. (I’ve not read it, but I very much doubt he’d win anything if it was bad. Or that John would write bad stuff.) The photo of John and Edgar is pretty appalling, however. Could almost have been taken by me, but wasn’t.

More Irish excellence with the news that Eoin Colfer is the new Laureate na nOg, which I believe means he’s their Malorie Blackman. Congratulations to Eoin, and here’s to the great work he’s bound to do, for books and reading!

Someone who definitely gets young people reading is Liz Kessler, who recently reported that there is now a fantastic screenplay of her Emily Windsnap, written by a Hollywood-based producer and an amazing scriptwriter. As Liz points out, that’s still a long way from it becoming a film, but it’s a start. We’ll be waiting!

You don’t have to wait quite as long, and there’s more certainty, for the Borders Book Festival. The programme is out now, and the festival itself will happen in five weeks’ time. Who knows, I might even make it there this year. Bring on the famous Scottish sunshine!

*Below are two screen caps of parts of what Peter said:

Peter Dickinson, A Defence of Rubbish

Peter Dickinson, A Defence of Rubbish

Films from stories

Moving Stories

Don’t panic. If, like me, you haven’t yet got to the new exhibition on film at Seven Stories, you’ve got a whole year to to it. Which means we will probably all meet there some time just before April 2015, after eleven beautiful months of procrastination. At least that’s how I function; give me loads of time, and what do I do with it?

Exhibition opening 5

Moving_Stories_Damien_Wootten 68

Moving Stories, Children’s Books from Page to Screen, opened last week in Newcastle. It’s been co-curated with the National Media Museum in Bradford.

Moving_Stories_Damien_Wootten 31

Seven Stories is collecting reader’s favourite film adaptations and would like to hear from you. What would your choice be?

Exhibition opening 2

I will need to think about mine.

(Email and be entered into a prize draw to win a family ticket to visit Moving Stories, Children’s Books from Page to Screen.)


Iceland, here they come

We’ll be up early to send the Resident IT Consultant and Daughter out to look for the Northern Lights. I’ve worried for months about whether or not there will be any. Is it the wrong time of the month? (Yes, I understand it is.) Will the weather co-operate? Who knows?

But it seems this is the last good winter for years, and lots of people have had successful trips. And Iceland appears to be ‘in.’ (So it’s not as if they are being terribly original.)

It’s a supposedly educational trip, as well as fun, organised by the University of St Andrews Astronomical Society.

Just in case Daughter needs something to read, I had to find a successor to The Hobbit. It’s actually quite hard to pick a book that will suit. Not too long, but not too short, either. Not too heavy or large. It has to be good; exciting, but not – too – scary, with engaging characters. In other words, it has to be just right. Sort of in the Goldilocks zone of YA fiction. In the end I chose Siege by Sarah Mussi.

And for the group as a whole, you can’t beat a good quiz, so the Christmas quiz book has found itself sharing rather close quarters with a pair of heavy boots.

Should they need more entertainment, they also have Jar City on DVD. Nordic crime is in, and Arnaldur Indridason will hopefully be less well known than some other writers, and I hope no one has seen the film already. I was awfully tempted to send Virus au paradis, but that might have been taking things Icelandic too far. Besides, not everyone will be fluent in French/Swedish subtitles.

I will sign off with Eyjafjallajökull, which is even harder to say than it looks.

The Hobbit

I never read The Lord of the Rings. I just never wanted to. I listened to the BBC dramatisation, which was pretty good. I had trouble telling who was who, apart from Robert Stephens as Aragorn, who was wonderful. I obviously didn’t see the films either. Although, I seem to have seen the end quite a few times, having managed to walk into the room where the DVD was playing, at the same moment every time. It sort of ends happily, I think?

The only Tolkien I’ve read was the first chapter of The Hobbit – to Son at bedtime – many years ago. Luckily something intervened after that, and the Resident IT Consultant continued the reading.

Daughter likes the LOTR films. She liked the first Hobbit film, too, and wants to go and see the second one. Before doing that she decided to actually read the book. She finished it yesterday.

A little bit later she asked if it was all right for her to say something, and once I’d ascertained I’d not be sad or offended by this something, she had my permission to proceed.

‘The Hobbit was boring,’ she said. I replied I wasn’t surprised. There must have been a good reason I never returned to it.

We sort of came to the conclusion the reason it’s possible to make so many films out of the one book, might be that its boringness requires more fun and exciting stuff to be added. Which makes it longer. Rather like the  two-hour films made of Agatha Christie’s short stories. You pad. And then you pad some more.

J R R Tolkien, The Hobbit

(The cover is nice, though.)

Bond matures

That’s not terribly likely, is it? Will James Bond ever mature?

My diary for today has the entry ‘Bond matures’ written in it, and every time I come across my little note I visualise the 007 Bond. Just goes to show how words and names become brands and images in your mind. (Shockingly, to me that is Daniel Craig…)

What it is – obviously – is a little reminder to me to do something about a bond that matures. That’s not going well. Both in that if I can’t read the reminder properly, it will do no good. But also, how on earth can you do anything with even small sums of money that will be better than stuffing the mattress with bank notes?

Next time I need to write a reminder to me I will try to phrase it in a more unambigous way.

And anyone who can tell me how to invest my paltry sum is welcome to offer advice. If you’re some African widowed queen I might not pay attention, though.


30 seconds from home (that’s a lot less than 24 hours from Tulsa) the police caught up with us. It was nothing too serious.

Son’s 21st birthday went almost un-noticed. He spent it having lunch with the Retired Children’s Librarian. As you will have seen from yesterday’s post we spent his sister’s 21st with him (rather than with the birthday girl herself), so I suppose that almost makes up for it?

One day late, we drove across Fife to eat too much cake. In fact, it was such an excessively cakey day I don’t think I can let on how much we ate.

Anyway, we began by donating our ancient telescope to Daughter’s place of learning, in what can only be described as our version of passing the parcel. The telescope was never un-wanted. Just that little bit too cumbersome. A former toy of the Resident IT Consultant’s grandfather and older siblings, it has been passed back and forth between family members.

The Grandmother and I waited in the Physics department while the donating was being carried out (it was raining, which feels so wrong for Fife). Daughter might have felt we were a slight embarrassment – even though we had come to celebrate with her – but I pointed out that the only Physics graduate present was the Grandmother. Actually.

After the ‘doning’ we had toast, to mop up the first lot of cake. After that we had more cake. There was also a half eaten cake in her kitchen from the day before…


While Daughter toasted, the Resident IT Consultant put the finishing touches to her Ivar, which is much smaller than Son’s and is not a stack of wooden wine cases after all.

Post-cake I read Dragon Loves Penguin to Daughter, despite the fact that she knows how to read. In return she foisted a bag full of books on me to take home. I can understand that. Her Ivar really has very little room left.

Without feeling all that hungry we repaired to our usual eating place, meeting up with Son and Dodo as well as the two AstroSoc dignitaries that the Resident IT Consultant wanted to grill (albeit not for food purposes). We ate some more, and Son ordered all the extra three for twos on the menu. Or so it seemed.


Us oldies finished off by coming along to Daughter’s little gathering at the cinema, where we had crisps and cupcakes to offer. There must have been something wrong with those students. They hardly touched the free ‘food.’

When the time came for the film, they all obeyed as Son announced – loudly – that they should toddle off towards the auditorium, but still they wanted no cake. Or crisps.


So here we are, still un-arrested. Cupcake anyone?

How I Live Now

Just think. I have never been able to review How I Live Now on Bookwitch, despite it being the book that launched this illustrious blog. It was published far too long* ago, but nine years on, the film is here and I went to see it yesterday for its first screening. Little did the cinema know it had HILN’s biggest fan in the auditorium.

How I Live Now

So what did I think? I liked it. In fact, maybe I need to go again. Hmm, that’s a thought. A good one.

What I don’t know is how it comes across to people who have not read the book (AND WHY NOT?), but I can see no reason why it shouldn’t work.

It has been abridged and simplified, which is presumably necessary even for a short book. They have done away with one brother, and the remaining two have changed places (to make the sex more acceptable).

But what is so fantastic is that not only is Saoirse Ronan just right for Daisy, but they have found a house to use that is just as it should be. In the right place, with the right country lanes and everything. Even the McEvoys’ house was right. So many rights.

How I Live Now

This is a 15 film, which is as it should be, considering how much darker it is than the novel. It is probably unavoidable that war and violence look worse on screen than on paper. And what you don’t get, and what I did miss, are Daisy’s comments on all that happens. Her voice makes the book what it is. However Saoirse is great, despite lack of running commentary. She seems to suffer from OCD rather than anorexia, but that’s fine.

How I Live Now makes a beautiful film. I’ll probably see it again. Good idea, witch.

On the way home we drove past Daisy Street. Perhaps it’s always been there, but I never noticed it before.

* I know. Old books can still be reviewed. But that feeling of pure magic when you discover a gem like HILN comes only once.

Bookwitch bites #113

The train will be late. Actually, the whole railway is running late. Perhaps it’s the wrong kind of leaves. If they have leaves in Discworld. I don’t know. Anyway, that perfect publication date (24th October) for Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam has been moved to the 7th of November. But I suppose that will be all right, too.

Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam

To make up for it – or so it seems – the film of How I Live Now has moved in the other direction, and I understand it will be with us on the 4th of October. I just hope I will be ready in time. What am I saying? It’s the film of my favourite book. I’ll be ready. The trailer is looking good. Saoirse Ronan is not a bad Daisy, as far as I can see. (And Edmund has grown older. I suppose he had to.)

Another film on the horizon – although a more distant kind of horizon – is the one about Artemis Fowl. It will be a Disney production, and I hope that doesn’t mean they will make a hash of our favourite juvenile Irish master criminal. Or pick the wrong Butler, or worse still, don’t understand Holly has to be a pixie. A real pixie.

Eoin Colfer is one of the big names coming to the Manchester Literature Festival this October. The programme has just gone public, and I almost had to stop myself from gasping with delight. I obviously didn’t gasp at all, because I am a professional bookwitch, but you know, that’s a pretty good programme.

It’s almost as if you don’t have to go to Edinburgh to see certain authors. I’m supposed to have overseas visitors the weekend before MLF. I’m going to have to get rid of them really swiftly.

Meanwhile I am practising daily on getting the pronunciation of Saoirse right.