Tag Archives: NCIS

Threats and promises

Surely the least you should be able to expect is that someone will die?

If the blurb on the cover of a book says that people will die, then that’s what will happen. If ‘not everyone will be alive,’ I expect this to cover the good guys in the book. If it was only the case that a bad character snuffs it, then we are hard-hearted enough not to mind too much.

I mean, it’s obviously great if none of your beloved regular characters die in the course of the book, because you prefer them alive and kicking. And a little threat on the cover is not necessarily a bad thing; it makes you definitely* want to read the book, and you will be a little afraid, and then you will heave a sigh of relief when it turned out that they twisted the truth.

But should they lie?

You can write things in such an ambiguous way that the reader can’t be certain. They will think it’ll be all right, and they will hope. But they won’t know. When I write reviews I try and hint that you can’t be totally sure all will be well. But I work on staying truthful, and on there being no spoilers.

The thing is, if it’s a book not intended purely for adults, then most likely the characters you care about will live. There are unspoken rules.**

*I remember when the Retired Children’s Librarian told me she stopped watching NCIS halfway through season three. In fact, she switched off partway through an episode, because when the knives came out, she simply grew too frightened. To be helpful, I pointed out that they were unlikely to kill a main character just like that. The knives were a threat intended to worry you a little, and make you wonder how they were going to get out of this situation. Not if.

** I know. What about Lupin and Dumbledore, Fred Weasley, Dobby, or even Snape?

Lowering the tone

I was struck by how civil everyone was. At the weekend there was a social media discussion about a celebrity who writes children’s books. There wasn’t much said that was positive, but people were discussing the topic like the adults they are.

The only reason I was a little surprised was because a week earlier I had taken part in another online chat about a fairly new, and therefore pretty unknown, YA author. In fact, I only contributed my bit on the grounds that I felt someone had to behave. The author had a couple of friends who spoke up on her behalf, and a couple of strangers who also seemed quite level headed, but apart from them it became pretty vile. And these were also adults, and I found it hard to believe so many would say so much that was so unpleasant. But they were mostly not my friends.

You may be aware I’m a long standing fan of NCIS. So far this year I have been dreadfully disappointed with the way the show is going, and the episode two weeks ago reached an all time low. For that reason I was glad to find last week’s episode pretty decent, and I even went to the Facebook page to see if people agreed with me. Unfortunately the consensus appeared to be that if they were going to be muslim friendly, then they would stop watching.

I’m sure people have always had opinions such as these, but have not been so quick to voice them publicly. Just as the YA author discussion went beyond what would have seemed decent until fairly recently.

On the morning of November 9th, I turned to Facebook as I turned off my mobile phone alarm clock, hoping for the best but knowing I’d not find it. Two friends had posted; one a relative who was now very worried about her recent – prestigious – job offer in California. The other, a friend from school, and a brand new US citizen, who was ecstatic over the result of the election.

I’m sure you can guess who overstepped the mark? Yes, the latter. She was so buoyed up by success that she started posting so many offensive comments on Facebook, insulting everyone from people like me to President Obama, that I did that modern thing and unfriended her. I was pleased for her that she was pleased, but didn’t feel it gave her the right to say what she said.

The relative? I understand she’ll head off for her new job, and I hope both she and the job will be safe. There was one thing I’d not considered before that morning. I’ve known her since she was one year old, but I’d never noticed her skin colour before.

As for the celebrity, I will leave him alone. And the YA author is someone whose acquaintance I hope to make soon. At first I thought it might have happened by now, as she took part in Book Week Scotland, at a venue within reach of Bookwitch Towers. But we decided to wait for a less frantic time.

And all this is why I enjoyed the discussion at the weekend. It showed me I know lots of people who are witty and intelligent, and they can be somewhat rude, while still spelling all the words they use correctly.


We have a talking telephone at home. By that I mean it tells us who is calling, which is why I never answer the phone when you call… And until the Resident IT Consultant reprogrammes the phone, we will keep being told that it is Aunt Scarborough calling, when in fact it is Aunt Ochiltree. (Not only did she move into her flat, but she kept the phone number.)

A couple of weeks ago, just as Gibbs was going to hug DiNozzo (the Resident IT Consultant was out, so I was watching the last episode of NCIS a second time) the phone rang. It was ‘unavailable’ who called.

Now, usually that means it’s a nuisance call, but occasionally it’s one of our own, proper foreigners, so I tend to answer. There was a hesitant ‘hello’ at the other end, and I waited for whoever it was to say more. He didn’t sound like the usual call centre sales person/swindler.

He went on to say where he was calling from, at which point I told him who he was calling, because he didn’t actually know.

I’d called my Swedish optician earlier that morning to make an appointment, but got the answer phone, which happens often as he works alone. I was intending to call back later, as you can’t leave a message.

But the poor man had been so excited to find a UK code that he simply had to phone back to see if it might have been me. And it was me. So we had a little chat, and I made my appointment.

And I put it in my diary, which I then didn’t take with me… Reminds me of the time I went to see him and discovered he’d moved shop, and I had no idea where I was supposed to be going.

I need a wife.

300 and counting

It was quite satisfying to stray from the books on Tuesday. I think I’ll do it again.

After all, it’s not every week that not only has your favourite singer turn 80, but your favourite television show clocks up 300 episodes. In other words, I have watched NCIS since well before I became your favourite Bookwitch. And as with Roger Whittaker, I blogged about my love in the Guardian. That time it was because I got furious over the offhand way their television reviewer mentioned the start of, I think, the 4th season. No one seemed to watch it, and it was OK to mock.

Palmer, Gibbs and Vance

Now, NCIS is the most watched show in America. Last week the 300th episode aired, and it was a good one. They were a bit shaky last year, but that’s how it is with ‘family’ and you love them for better and for worse. We’ve had a very good run recently and I’m thinking the show could survive the planned departure of of one of the original characters. Just don’t kill him!

Abby and Ducky

(I wouldn’t read too much into the fact that both photos – © CBS – are from Autopsy…)

A last bath(e)

We went down to the beach for a final swim yesterday. (It wouldn’t surprise me if the Resident IT Consultant pops down this morning as well, but I will be far too busy refuelling the broom and packing my books. And stuff.)

The sea was mirror calm, which is not natural at that time of day. Later, in the evening, yes. But it looked great; smooth, pale grey water meeting pale grey sky.

The water was clear. So clear I could see the tiny plaice scuttling out of my way, hopefully to a safer place. (That’s because I wear glasses, even in the sea. Without them I’d see nothing.)

Which, I suppose, might have been a good thing. I’m used to topless. After all, this is Sweden. Not quite so used to people wearing nothing, like the woman sunbathing a few metres away. But thank god for books! She had a book. A very strategically placed book.

(It made me think of an early episode of NCIS, where a witness mentions her concern over tan lines. Like Agent DiNozzo, I don’t spend much time thinking about tan lines, however.)

I don’t like the word bathe. But if the sea is involved, it is better than bath. One year we went out for a walk immediately on arriving. Met people we knew, who wanted to know if we’d had a bath yet. It took everything I had not to reply that I generally have a shower. Because I knew what they meant; had we been in the sea yet?

As for this year, I’ve had my last bathe, unless a miracle interferes with my plans. Actually, I don’t have time for miracles.

It’s not all the same to me

Why are we not the same? How come a book published in the English language in Ireland (which is practically British, anyway… 😉) needs to be published again in the UK? It seems so wasteful of resources, not to mention slow.

It must be something to do with money. Do more people make more money with a book published in English in ten different countries? I just get impatient with the waiting. And unlike television shows (although the less said about file sharing, the better) you can generally get hold of the physical book from ‘the other’ place.

Sometimes they are let loose on the same day, all over the world. But mostly not, even if it’s just a week’s difference. Harry Potter was released on the dot of whatever midnight was in every nook and cranny of the world. Because they knew if they didn’t, shops would not be able to sell many later copies, as the fans would have got their ‘cousin in London’ to buy and post the book.

Fine. If you need to have a publisher in each country, why not publish all over the world, in one fell swoop? Surely it would even out in the end? Big selling British novel makes money for publisher in London. In return an American publisher hits the jackpot with some other title they have published.

To return to the television angle for a moment. I love NCIS. First it appears gradually over the American continent on the first night’s screening. At a later point they sell the season to a UK channel I don’t have. This channel expects to make money from the commercials shown. Once they are done, one of the ordinary channels acquires the rights. They, too, want money from advertising.

Later on, I can buy the DVD box set. First comes the R1 version. Much later the R2. There will be a reason I can’t just tune in to CBS on the first night. I know. Advertisers in the US don’t reckon I’ll be buying much of what they want me to spend money on. But here’s the thing; I don’t buy much, if anything, brought to me by the UK advertisers, either. (There’s only so many sofas you can buy in one sale.)

So how does this work with books?

I recently reviewed Simmone Howell’s Girl Defective. Simmone sent it to me, because she reckoned it’ll be a while before it’s available in Britain. I could have bought it from that online bookshop we all love to hate. At least, I think I could have. The .com version no longer forces me back to .co.uk, but merely suggests I might prefer it.

As for working out which publisher to approach, that is also very tricky. The names are often the same in different countries, but that doesn’t mean they publish the same books. A couple of years ago I had to do some detective work in order to find the correct Indian publisher of a book.

The author has written the book. It has been edited and given a cover. The printers have printed. So why not just spread this one book? OK, that would be as un-green as Kenyan green beans. We don’t want to transport books across the globe. So why not print the same thing, but in each country?

Covers. Yes. We don’t fall for the same style. But we could learn. We like Indian food. Why not like Indian book covers? It might make us more open minded. Just like there is a market for new retro covers for crime novels, we could covet cultural covers.

In short, I know very little. But I don’t want to wait. At the moment I’m wanting Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko. It exists. But it will be a long time coming my way, or so the publisher said, once I’d found out who it was (not the same as for the previous two Al Capones).

It’s one thing to wait for an author to write. We have to put up with this. But after that I will just vent my impatience, and snap.

We’re on track

More or less, anyway. The morning will be spent sorting out desserts (because they matter) and putting vegetables in the oven. The rest was done days ago.

Our other main day for Christmas was yesterday, and it went well, despite – or possibly because of – lack of presents. The Resident IT Consultant went into town to pick up a pair of Cats, free of charge, which rather trumped Son’s 20% off his Clarks. So they count as almost presents. He also treated himself to a remaindered Historical Atlas, and has happily browsed through history.

Daughter went along to watch over the Cats, and managed to find a Quiz book to buy. Because we just didn’t have VERY MANY books in the house before!!

Anyway, her quiz book provided us with our Christmas Eve entertainment as we competed against each other to see who knew the least about whichever topic came up.

To keep us company over the evening grazing, Son found us an Ealing comedy about trains. And then he wanted to watch Due South, and with all of us at different points in its viewing history, we needed a ‘used’ episode. I can thoroughly recommend All the Queen’s Horses, and not just because it’s the craziest episode. It felt pretty Christmassy, what with the snow and the trains and those red Mountie uniforms. The horses. And the singing! ‘Gonna riiiiide, foreeever..!’

The Resident IT Consultant helped to finish the evening in style, as he’d missed last week’s Christmas episode of NCIS, and Son had been too busy to watch, which meant I got to watch it again. It was Santa who did it.


Bookwitch bites #74

Because I can. Rather like the annoying DiNozzo in NCIS, except he does bad things ‘because he can.’ Here I will present you with things I’ve got up to because it was possible, or because I was lucky. And cheeky enough to ask.

I hinted earlier in the week that you’d see more of James Draper’s socks. Here they are, in all their froggy, Kermit-y glory. It’s the power of being able to say to someone ‘show me your socks!’… Any sensible person would say no, whereas Manchester Children’s Book Festival organiser James is just nice. The shoes are nice, too.

Kermit socks

‘Oh crikey you live in Stockport’ comes under the heading ‘favourite subject lines’ in my inbox. I correspond intermittently with one of my wonderful blog readers, and didn’t mind in the least when this reader said something rude about my home town some months ago. But his/her awakening was fun. At least for me. (There was really no need to apologise.) And then came the irregularly addressed Christmas card, as seen below. (I’ll never receive another one after this.)


My most popular interview (hits wise) is the Derek Landy one. And I am still not him. Someone who seemed to realise this, when she read Derek’s guest post in October, still thought it’d be nice if Derek could read her very enthusiastic fan gushings on Bookwitch. So I half offered to ask him. She more than half asked me to actually do so. And the lovely man did, and for a few minutes away from his Skulduggery-ing, Derek wrote her a reply. I can never ask anyone to do so again.

Bookwitch comment

And – this must be an Irish thing – my Cynical reader sent me a message to tell Michael Grant ‘in no uncertain terms’ not to kill Edilio or Dekka, but that he ‘can do what he wants with Astrid.’ Michael took this in the good natured way it was intended (it was, wasn’t it?), and consented to a photographical hello to his Cynical fan.

Michael Grant


It wasn’t my first time. But I suppose my luck could be running out and I need to think of new ways to embarrass people and myself. Before they run away when I turn up. (Actually, many of them already do.)

Young and hot, or perhaps not

Mary Hoffman went on a book tour to America last week, leaving us – her blog readers – with some exciting men to think about. I bet she did that on purpose.

She writes about some very attractive young men in her own books, and I trust Mary has done a lot of research to make our reading experience the best ever. But I am too old for her boys. I simply cannot lust after a teenager. Even setting propriety aside I find I can’t. I need older men.

Like the ones I was too young for when I was a teenager. Except in those days there wasn’t much in the way of teen books, so a girl had to lust after grown older men, or not lust at all. Lord Peter Wimsey is one such example mentioned by Mary. (And don’t tell anyone, but I did like him.)

That’s life. Nothing is ever right.

So, in those days I liked the Scarlet Pimpernel (even without Leslie Howard), and I adored Steven Howard in MM Kaye’s Death in Cyprus and Richard Byron in Mary Stewart’s Madam Will You Talk. Various Alistair MacLean heroes, and Carl Zlinter from Nevil Shute’s The Far Country. (Go on, ridicule me!)

If there were any boys, I have forgotten them, which means they can’t have been all that special.

More recently I have liked Margery Allingham’s Campion, Mr Knightley, and Robert Stephens’s voice as Aragorn in the radio version of Lord of the Rings. There aren’t all that many attractive men in modern children’s or YA books, but there is Lupin. And from an old classic we have Daddy Longlegs.

If I absolutely have to find young men in current fiction they won’t be vampires. Not even faeries (sorry, Seth McGregor). I liked Wes in Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever, and Sanchez in Ribblestrop by Andy Mulligan is quite a boy. And now that I think about it, the Cathys (Cassidy and Hopkins) do lovely young ones.

Abby and Ducky

Men on the screen, however, have got easier with age. The ten-year-old me knew it was wrong to be in love with Ilya Kuryakin, 23 years my senior. But he was so cute! And this being a lasting kind of passion, it was David McCallum who got me started on NCIS. He is still very good looking for a man approaching 80. And it was at NCIS I found Very Special Agent Gibbs, a man of the right age. At last. I reckon he is a modern Mr Knightley.


So, for me it is No Thanks to ‘hot young men.’ I need them to be grey these days.

(Link here to an older post about pretty boys. I seem to have grown out of them.)

Incentive to read

You might end up with square eyes from watching too much television, or whatever it was they tried to say to scare us off the box. Although in my distant – very distant –  childhood there was sufficiently little on television to make the eyes all that square, to be honest.

But I’ve only recently realised that there is one very strong incentive to learn to read in countries where English is not the main language, and which are small enough that hardly any dubbing of films or television takes place. And that is the dreaded box.

Not starting school until seven (six now) made for some uncomfortable years when there was far too much need for reading skills, but not having them. Just about the only things that do get dubbed are programmes and films for the very young, and presumably only because their audiences can’t read. Not because foreign languages are an abomination.

Hence Disney is dubbed and it took me years to accept the American voice of Baloo when I’d only ever heard Beppe Wolgers.

Unfortunately you can’t really force little British or American children to early reading in the same way, as most of their entertainment comes in English. But it’d be worth considering if there is anything at all which is so desirable and cool that children would strive to learn a new skill in order to consume more.

For speakers of small languages there is also the influence of music, and these days all of the internet. If you want to, you will work hard at overcoming problems with reading and with that foreign language, too.

It took me years as an immigrant to grasp that the natives didn’t like subtitles. To me they’d always been second nature. If needed, they were there.

Johanna Sällström and Krister Henriksson

So the new Nordic noir crime wave on television is proving useful for more than entertainment and making some people very rich. While watching the Swedish Wallander Daughter kept getting annoyed at herself for not being able to ignore the subtitles, and that’s always been the case. You see them and read despite not needing them. Although I have very nearly got to the stage where I can avoid the lower part of the screen.

Lisbeth Salander

With me being the impatient sort, we have the full set of Stieg Larsson DVDs, and having to switch on the hard-of-hearing Swedish subtitles for the Resident IT Consultant to aid him in this foreign jungle. (He does have an O-level in Swedish, but that doesn’t get you far.) That means the rest of us have more subtitles to try and ignore.

Casualties 1

I also happen to own a DVD, some peculiar Polish version of an (obscure-ish) American film, which comes with subtitles in four Nordic languages. And when I say that I mean that you can’t switch them off. You can choose which language you want to be annoyed by, but it has to be there. All I can say to the translator is that that was no vinegar the woman sprayed over the baddie’s face. We eat vinegar. This was far worse, considering what his face looked like afterwards.


Back to Daughter and her subtitles. They work for her, too, seeing as how she can only watch the Danish crime series Rejseholdet by reading the Swedish subtitles. How she does it I don’t know, but you wouldn’t watch over thirty episodes if you didn’t get (most of) it.

Sarah Lund's jumper - black

And now it’s the equally Danish Forbrydelsen which has the whole country, or so it seems, by the seat of their pants every Saturday. Soon people will watch foreign programmes without noticing they are doing it.

But at least we don’t have dubbing forced on us the way the Germans do. There is no way I’d watch NCIS with those silly dubbed voices. With regard to Baloo you know that Disney cared and made sure the voice chosen was a good one.