Thursday, 17 November 2016

Monday, 14 November 2016

OCTOBER 2016 - READING LIST AND PICK OF THE MONTH

October's reading in summary. 

I kind of struggled in the month to concentrate on my reading which might explain why I watched so many films instead. A break towards the end of October with a few days away with my wife, saw me spending more time loitering in book shops and the book sections of charity shops than actually reading. Hopefully November sees an improvement.

Nick Triplow - Frank's Wild Years - best book in the month!

A bit of a stretch considering the length of some of these, but hey hoh - my blog, my rules - 11 books read in the month.

They were....

Andrew Nette - Gunshine State (2016) (4.5)

Nick Triplow - Frank's Wild Years (2012) (5)

Stephen Puleston - The Devil's Kitchen (2016) (3)

Aidan Thorn - Criminal Thoughts (2013) (4)

Eric Beetner - The Year I Died Seven Times Book 1 (2014) (4)

Garnett Elliott - The Drifter Detective: Volume 1 (2013) (4)

William Marshall - Yellowthread Street (1975) (4)

Martin Stanley - The Curious Case of the Missing Moolah (A Stanton Brothers thriller) (2014) (4.5)

K. A. LaityHard Boiled Witch: Toil & Trouble (Hard-Boiled Witch Book 2) (2014) (4)

K. A. Laity - Hard Boiled Witch: Charms O'erthrown (Hard-Boiled Witch Book 3) (2014) (4)

Adam Maxwell - The Defective Detective: Murder on the Links (2011) (3.5)

Book of the month - Nick Triplow - Frank's Wild Years - October's only 5 star read. 

2 x 4.5 stars - Andrew Nette and Martin Stanley. 
6 x 4 star ratings,
1 x 3.5 and 1 x 3 stars - another month where they all entertained me and nothing was a struggle to enjoy.

A bit more trivia or data........

10 different authors.

5 of the 10 were new-to-me authors........  Stephen Puleston, Aidan Thorn, Garnett Elliott, William Marshall, and Martin Stanley - I have more from all of them in the library.

5 authors have been read before - Andrew Nette and Nick Triplow have been read one time previously,  Eric Beetner has half a book credit to his name - I read Over Their Heads - a novel he co-authored with J.B. Kohl earlier this year. Third go for Adam Maxwell and fourth and fifth time around the block with K.A. Laity.

Gender analysis - no surprises here - 9 dudes, 1 lady - up on September! The lady was read twice.
Could do better Mr Keane.

3 authors hail from the US, 3 from England, 2 from Australia, 1 from Wales, 1 British (Welsh, Scottish or English but unconfirmed.)

All 11 reads were fiction.

1 was a paperback read, 10 were Kindle books.

10 from this decade - with 2 from this year. 1 book from the 1970s.

10 of the 11 books were pre-owned!
Though at a glance a few of them would have been Amazon Freebies when bought.

1 was received from the publisher 280 Steps via an early reviewing website - Edelweiss.

Favourite cover? Gunshine State - Andrew Nette




Garnett Elliott's The Drifter Detective is probably my second favourite cover.










My reads were this long 306 - 216 - 70 - 61 - 41 - 106 - 128 - 106 - 27 - 27 - 27
Total page count =  1115 (1789 in September)



4 < 50,
2 between 51 < 100,
3 between 101 < 200,
1 between 201 < 300,
1 between 301 < 400,
0 > 400 pages

Andrew Nette's Gunshine State was the longest @ 306.







Sunday, 13 November 2016

GARNETT ELLIOTT - THE DRIFTER DETECTIVE: VOLUME 1 (2013)


Synopsis/blurb......

A DRIFTER DETECTIVE LONG SHORT STORY. #1. (Paperback and eBook include the bonus short story “Fighting Chance.” Paperback also contains a preview of Hell Up in Houston, the second book in the Drifter Detective series.) -- Jack Laramie, grandson of the legendary U.S. Marshal Cash Laramie, is a tough-as-nails WWII vet roaming the modern West. He lives out of a horse trailer hitched to the back of a DeSoto, searching out P.I. gigs to keep him afloat. With his car limping along, Jack barely makes it to the sleepy town of Clyde, Texas, where he stops at a garage. While waiting for repairs, he accepts a job from the sheriff, pulling surveillance on a local oilman allegedly running liquor to Indian reservations in Oklahoma. When Jack runs afoul of several locals and becomes dangerously close to the oilman’s hot-to-trot wife, he wonders if the money is worth his life.

A PI novella here with a difference. Instead of the gloomy office with the desk and the obligatory bottle in the bottom drawer, we have a travelling PI, Jack Laramie. Laramie is driving through Texas, trying to eke out a living picking up cases town to town. Our setting is post-WWII.

Arriving in Clyde, he lays up while his car receives some necessary repairs. A trip to the saloon, a drink with the sheriff and he has a new case. He's hired to keep watch on the comings and goings at an out-of-town ranch owned by a rancher turned oilman Thomas McFaull. The sheriff suspects McFaull of running illegal booze to an Indian reservation. A few days in and Laramie thinks he's been sold a pup.

An interesting story; we have a small town with the gossiping inhabitants, each with a whisper in the stranger's ear about the sheriff, there's obvious friction between him and his deputy which Laramie finds himself in the middle of. A couple of dames adding to the mix. Laramie is rooming at the boarding house run by the lonely widow woman, where a few night-time shenanigans occur,  and McFaull has an attractive buxom wife, one who is quite generous with her favours to a couple of the locals.

Great sense of time and place and a decent twist at the end. Elliott has created an intriguing character in Jack Laramie and drops just enough snippets about his history to make me want to read the next Drifter Detective tale and discover a bit more.

At the back of this 106 page e-book there's a great bonus story - Fighting Chance. A boxer gets slipped a mickey while celebrating his acquittal in a court case. He wakes up in the ring, where he has to fight for his life literally, his mob boss displeased at recent events.


Excellent reading fare - 4 from 5

Garnett Elliott has penned a few more Jack Laramie tales, some of which I have on the kindle. There's eight in the series so far with three of them penned by other authors. BEAT TO A PULP is the publisher.

I can't find an author website, but he's on Twitter@TonyAmtrak


Read in October, 2016.
Bought a year or two ago for Kindle.
106 pages









Saturday, 12 November 2016

ADAM MAXWELL - THE DEFECTIVE DETECTIVE: MURDER ON THE LINKS (2011)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Clint had woken up in some strange places in his time. Narcolepsy is like that. But even he had never woken up on a golf course next to a dead body. Until today.

When one of his friends reveals himself to be a detective Clint jumps at the chance to tag along. But his friend is an idiot. And the police are beginning to suspect that he was involved. The identity of the killer seems obvious but can Clint get to the bottom of the mystery and save his own skin before the stag party catches him?

Murder. Intrigue. Alcohol. Detectives. Clues. Golf. Laxatives. What else do you need?

Another short story/book to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Best story ever? No but I do like Adam Maxwell's entertaining writing style.

We have our man Clint, a narcoleptic plotting revenge on a group of friends on a stag do - a bit of schoolboy humour and a prank with some strong laxatives. All goes to plan, but fast forward and Clint wakes up in a bunker on the golf course next to a corpse.

The police fancy him for the murder, but with some questioning of the witnesses in the vicinity, some applied logic and a bit of luck Clint can clear himself........always assuming he can stay awake long enough.

A couple of lines I really liked.....

Waking up in public with subtlety is something that's difficult to achieve.

It's amazing how much information you can glean from an idiot with a personality bypass.

3.5 from 5

I've read Adam Maxwell previously - Dial M for Monkey (short stories) and his novel The Dali Deception.

Adam has his website here. He's on Twitter - @LostBookshop


Read in October, 2016
Copy received from author after a sign-up on his blog/website
Kindle read - 27 pages.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

K. A. LAITY - HARD-BOILED WITCH: TOIL AND TROUBLE (BOOK 2) (2014)


Synopsis/blurb......

Hecate Sidlaw finds herself caught between a wannabe witch and one of the oldest hereditary powers in the land. When she and her familiar Henry end up as seconds in a magical duel, will anyone be left standing at the end of the shootout? Enter the dark streets and weird magic of HARD-BOILED WITCH and your life will never be quite the same. This is the second episode in the short story series.

In truth, not a book that will live long in the memory but you know what - it was short, (27 pages), it was seasonal - I read it around Halloween, it had witches and it was a lot shorter than Rowling's HP offerings.


Hecate's working away, her new neighbours turn up and introduce themselves. They're interrupted by the arrival of a young woman done up in her best Stevie Nicks clobber. A young witch is being harassed - drum roll please - Hecate Sidlaw and her cat Henry to the rescue.

Spells turning cobwebs into intruder alarms, pin-sticking magic in beeswax figurines, protection charms and a silent toad called Elvis, we climax with some duelling witches and a granny riding to the rescue.

An enjoyable half-hour or so's reading. A few cultural references, a bit of history and a bit of humour interjected into a narrative fuelled by an over-active imagination.

4 from 5

I read the first in the series of short Hard-Boiled Witch tales - Hocus Pocus You're Dead last year.

K. A Laity has her website here. Catch her on Twitter - @katelaity

An author I'll be reading more from in the future.

Read in October, 2016
Bought on Amazon for Kindle.
27 pages.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

2014/2015/2016 READING CHALLENGE - DOWN UNDER - AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND


Well nearly three years down the road, I've managed to complete an arbitrary sidebar challenge for myself - 12 books from Down Under, though I managed 13 all in all. 

I've neglected and totally ignored New Zealand. Maybe I ought to challenge myself again to read a dozen just from NZ!

And the observant among you will notice I've managed to ignore women totally as well - no female authors in sight!

The 13 were......

William Marshall - Yellowthread Street (1975) (4)

Andrew Nette - Gunshine State (2016) (4.5)

Iain Ryan - Drainland (2016) (4.5)

Dave Warner - City of Light (1995) (4)

Iain Ryan - Four Days (2015) (4.5)

Kenneth Cook - Fear is the Rider (2016) (4.5)

Garry Disher - The Heat (2015) (5)

David Whish-Wilson - Line of Sight (2010) (5)

Peter Temple - Ithaca In My Mind (2012) (4.5)

Brian Stoddart - The Pallampur Predicament (2014) (4)

Brian Stoddart - A Madras Miasma (2014) (5)

Peter Robb (AKA) B. Selkie - No Sweat (AKA Final Cut) (AKA 1/3 of Pig's Blood and Other Fluids) (1995) (3)

or

Peter Robb - Pig's Blood and Other Fluids (Maybe) (1999) (3)

Garry Disher - Two Way Cut (2004) (3)

Re-visiting the original review posts to compile the links for this, I think I've confused myself again over the Peter Robb - B. Selkie - Pig's Blood Other Fluids - No Sweat - Final Cut - Lime Juice saga..oh well. 

Of the batch above - two were set in British Colonial India and one in Hong Kong the rest were all in Australia.

I had hoped to read some Peter Corris, some Robert G. Barrett and a bit of P. M. Newton but they'll all keep for another day. Ditto David Owen and Paul Thomas and Ray Berard.

Rest of the covers below.......













Monday, 7 November 2016

WILLIAM MARSHALL - YELLOWTHREAD STREET (1975)


Synopsis/blurb.....

The first in Marshall's unforgettable, classic series of police procedurals - suspenseful and hilarious in equal measure.

Yellowthread Street is the sort of place that breeds more crime than any cops can handle.

Among the gangsters and the goldsmiths of Hong Bay, Chief Inspector Feiffer and his police department had their hands full . . . tourist troubles, a US sailor turned stick-up artist, and the jealous Chinese who solved his marital difficulties with an axe.

Then the Mongolian with a kukri brought an extra touch of terror to the district . . .

Yellowthread Street brings to vivid life a seamy world where people called Osaka Oniki the Disemboweller, Shotgun Sen and The Chopper feel at home, a world of surreal possibility recorded with unique humour and a poignant sense of humanity.

Praise for the Yellowthread Street series –

“Marshall has the rare gift of juggling scary suspense and wild humor and making them both work.” – Washington Post Book World

“Marshall’s style – blending the hilarious, the surreal, and the poignant – remains inimitable and not easily resisted.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Marshall has few peers as an author who melds the wildest comedy and tragedy in narratives of nonstop action.” – Publishers Weekly

A series opener from Australian born author William Marshall, Yellowthread Street was originally published back in 1975. Set in British controlled Hong Kong it was followed by 15 more books with the last To the End coming out in 1998, the year after the British Handover to the Chinese took place.

At first I found Marshall's writing style quite confusing and had to re-read the first couple of pages several times to see whether I had missed something in respect of our opening crime scene. I soon settled into the book.

It kind of reminded me of an episode of  Hill Street Blues as we have more than one crime occurring and a team of officers dipping in and out of the narrative each following their own particular case.
There are seven or eight police officers in the team at Yellowthread Street police station. In the course of the book we get to know them a bit better, understand their rivalries and get a slight feel for their lives outside the job with a couple of them.

We have a double murder with an axe, a stake-out at a cinema which was previously held up by a US sailor when his ship last docked at the port, a report of a missing American tourist by his wife, the aforementioned missing American tourist getting drunk and out of control at a bar and finding himself arrested for attempted rape and a Mongolian extortionist removing fingers, hands and ears with a ceremonial Nepalese knife. Oh and one of his victims also steals a wheelchair from the hospital where she was treated. Plus the Chinese have turned the water supply off again.

All in 128 pages - so it's non-stop busy.
  
Enjoyable without being the best book ever and its definitely a series and a set of characters I'll be interested in returning to, which is probably just as well as I bought the first ten in the series blind.

Plenty of humour in the narrative, especially in the scenes between the cinema owner and the detective working the ticket booth on the stakeout. He gets continually harangued for allowing customers to access dearer seats at cheaper prices. Little touches like that which add to the enjoyment of the book.

Overall 4 from 5.

William Marshall has penned another eight books outside this series. I can't find a website for him, but according to Fantastic Fiction he is still with us. There a Wikipedia page for him here.

Read in October, 2016
Paperback copy bought secondhand a couple of years ago.
Page count - 128.









ERIC BEETNER - THE YEAR I DIED SEVEN TIMES BOOK 1 (2014)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Ridley has finally met the girl of his dreams, only now she has disappeared. The way it's going, love might kill him. No, it will definitely kill him. Seven times. 

Book 1 of 7. The Year I Died Seven Times is a full-length crime novel in seven parts, each released throughout the year in the month the action takes place. Read along with this exciting mystery as the thrills escalate, the mystery deepens, and the deaths keep coming. Next installment: March. 

God Bless Eric Beetner for releasing this one as seven separate books. I get to pad the reading stats and hopefully hit the year end target of 120!

This was my second taste of Eric Beetner with his co-authored novel with J.B. Kohl  - Over Their Heads enjoyed earlier this year. (Note to self - still not posted anything on that one.)

Ridley doesn't have to work - a couch surfer for six years after a construction accident left him with a big settlement and a repeat prescription for Vicodin and medical marijuana. Early on we have a pithy observation on modern life. Ridley's eating cold Chinese leftovers for breakfast....

If you're eating cold Chinese food for breakfast, as I often did, it implies several things. One - the night before you were too lazy or unmotivated to make food for yourself. Two - it implies the morning after you were equally lazy and unmotivated. Three - it also says you were too indifferent to even warm up leftover chicken with snow peas. You just don't care anymore. 

Things are changing though, Ridley has met Japanese girl Miho. Two weeks in and he's fallen heavily. He's off the meds and the weed. he's doing laundry, he's looking for a job.

She pushed me to be a better person, all without asking. I wanted to be the better version of me when I was with her. I wanted to feel worthy.

And now she's tearfully dumped him. No real explanation - she's leaving the States and he's devastated; but our new improved Ridley isn't giving up without a fight.

A trip to Miho's flat and a conversation with unhelpful flatmate. Next a trip to Miho's place of work - a night club catering to Japanese businessmen and Ridley's just embarked on the slippery slope to dying for the first time.  

Security, bouncers, access inside, a sit-down with the owners, intimidation tactics, and a brush-off. A witness to some crowd control Japanese style - a small hammer and two front teeth knocked out of a drunken businessman's head. 

Another conversation with the reluctant flatmate and Ridley has a lead. Miho's being shipped out of the country. Time to hit the port of LA. A bit of watching and waiting, pays dividends, Miho is spotted on a neighbouring dock, but a moment of carelessness gives him away. Ridley's caught and having drawn attention to himself earlier, his checked background as the son of a top FBI man has only served to put a target on his head. Our Yakuza types are up to no good.

Ridley's in the trunk of a car and heading to a watery grave.


Interesting set-up and story. Not sure how the first"death"of Ridley is explained, I suppose I had better read book 2 then.

4 from 5

Eric Beetner has more than a few books on my TBR pile - Westerns, Crime fiction, novels set around the world of boxing. Plenty to enjoy.

His website is here. Catch him on Twitter - @ericbeetner

Read in October, 2016
Bought on Amazon a year or two ago.  

Sunday, 6 November 2016

AIDAN THORN - CRIMINAL THOUGHTS (2013)


Synopsis/blurb.......

Criminal Thoughts is the first collection of short stories from Aidan Thorn. Inside you'll find 11 hard boiled tales of revenge, deceit, extortion and murder. Take a look inside the minds of hit men, gangsters, policemen, prisoners and more as they wade through the underworld.

Aidan's Fiction has been Published in the Near to the Knuckle Anthology: Gloves Off and in the Byker Books Radgepacket series. His work has also appeared online at Near to the Knuckle, Thrillers, Killers N' Chillers and Thrills, Kills, N' Chaos.

A gangster sneers at the cops making a house call....who has the last laugh?

A cut with a shank, a cheap price to pay for breaking out of prison... though you might wish you hadn't bothered.

A couple of heavies on a night out......that doesn't end well.

The War that took more........PTSD in the civilian world......He'd lost everything but his memories.

A pub landlord with an interesting sideline.....

A hitman does his job, too well in fact........someone does a number on him. We get to meet wheelchair-bound criminal Rick Thompson for a second time.

Mikey Hayes and Rick Thompson again.....the job that went wrong and cost him his legs, sees some overdue payback.

A Weighty Problem.....an enjoyable piece of flash fiction with a dose of humour.

A pub landlord snaps when the heavies try and collect the protection money early. Blame Simon Cowell!

A jilted wife and her estranged husband. Time to protect what's yours even if you might be taking things a little bit too far.

Detective Simmons (encountered in a few of the stories) tries to save his drug-addicted son from a stint in prison.

An interesting mix of stories, a few repeat characters, some bloody violence - 11 tales of theft, revenge, family, loyalty, loss and more.

A cracking 60-odd page collection.

4 from 5

Aidan Thorn has a website here. Catch him on Twitter - @AidanDFThorn

Read in October, 2016

Bought on Amazon a while ago.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

THE CRIMINAL LIBRARY IS NOW CLOSING, CLOSED...ERR, IS FULL UP!



A simple case of mathematics......

The average life expectancy of a UK male is 81.5 years - a figure gleaned from some survey conducted back in 2012.

I just turned 53 at the weekend, which if I'm Mr Average gives me 28.5 years left to read my library.

My dad was 63 when he passed, my granddad was 84. I may have ten years left, or I might get hit by a bus in an hour's time - who knows?

My current reading aim is 120 books a year or ten a month. As I get older and my sight worsens this figure might reduce, or conversely when I retire might actually increase.

Retirement is not yet on the cards.

So far I've logged 86 tubs of 50 books which is 4300 total. I think maybe 30-40 books are duplicates. I probably have another four or five tubs to log - so figure 4500 physical books.

The kindle device has 785 books and 360 documents (mainly books from sources other than Amazon). Total = 1145.




This figure is corrupted by some duplicate downloads of the same thing and a reluctance to purge books from the device once I have read them.

Assuming maybe 25% have been read/duplicated - so deduct 285 = 860.

860 plus 4500 = 5360.

Add in all the PDF printed copies of downloaded books (Munseys, author copies and other sources), plus online Crime Fiction magazines in the stash and we are headed way back over 5500.

5500 divided by 120 =  45.83 years.

Ok - I'm going to live to be 100 and the problem is solved but only if I turn down all future review requests (over 100 declined this year so far), stop visiting Net Galley and Edelweiss, get myself (reluctantly) removed from some generous publishers advance readers lists, and basically acquire a bit lot of self control and discipline.

Can I do it? YES I CAN

No doubt, I will continue to receive drips of books unsolicited but that should dwindle to nothing, once I explain to people and publishers my predicament.

Should I have let this situation spiral out of control to this mad extent? No, but it's done now.

I've been greedy Veruca Salt's even greedier brother!


As a start I've killed off my wishlist on my blog sidebar and I've killed off my 120-odd long Amazon wishlist.

I've opted out of e-mail subscriptions from a few publishers - removing temptation from my path. I've also knocked my Net Galley e-mails on the head.

I have previously agreed to accept and have been promised a couple of books that are due later this year and sometime next year from a couple of people. If they still offer to send them I'm not going to renege on my word, but if they don't arrive I'm not going to complain or sulk.

In some respects I think I might find it quite liberating as although I still kind of feel obligated to read everything an author, publisher or publicist has ever sent me, they might have to wait their turn as I'm planning on reading one of mine, one of theirs, one of mine, one of theirs.

As for new books - I'll be taking things like a recovering alcoholic - one day at a time.

Yesterday I didn't buy a book. Today I won't buy a book!

Friday, 4 November 2016

OCTOBER 2016 - FILMS AND TV

Probably the best month's viewing since I started this blog, certainly the busiest.

Two TV mini series viewed and completed, 15 full length films watched and an hour's worth of the Steve McQueen classic Bullitt.....I still haven't had a satisfactory explanation why my TV recording box thingy has a tendency to shut off some recording after an hours and 12 minutes, when there is plenty of space left on the device.

Bullitt (1968)

Steve McQueen
from the late 60s. I was really enjoying this until it shut off. Steve's a cop charged with protecting a witness. Inevitably the witness gets murdered. Robert Vaughn is the suitably oily and smarmy politician, who may or may not be behind it. A young good looking Vaughn might be my man-crush. I'll have to track down a copy of the DVD because I don't want to leave this one unfinished
Bullitt is a 1968 American dramatic thriller film directed by Peter Yates and produced by Philip D'Antoni. It stars Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, and Jacqueline Bisset. The screenplay by Alan R. Trustman and Harry Kleiner was based on the 1963 novel, Mute Witness, by Robert L. Fish, writing under the pseudonym Robert L. Pike. Lalo Schifrin wrote the original jazz-inspired score, arranged for brass and percussion. Robert Duvall has a small part as a cab driver who provides information to McQueen.

The Fighter (2010)


Confession, I do like boxing films - Stallone and Rocky and more recently Million Dollar Baby with Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood. This one is excellent and is true. It's a bio-pic of boxer Micky Ward and his half-brother Dicky Eklund. I really enjoyed this one and am turning into a massive fan of Mark Wahlberg who is excellent. Christian Bale and Amy Adams are very good also.

For Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), boxing is a family affair. His tough-as-nails mother is his manager. His half-brother, Dicky (Christian Bale), once a promising boxer himself, is his very unreliable trainer. Despite Micky's hard work, he is losing and, when the latest fight nearly kills him, he follows his girlfriend's advice and splits from the family. Then Micky becomes a contender for the world title and he -- and his family -- earns a shot at redemption.

Winter's Bone (2010)

I watched this one at the cinema back when it came out a few year's book, so was happy to watch it again when it showed up on TV. Really enjoyable second time around, though it didn't quite have the same impact as the first time I watched it. Jennifer Lawrence is excellent. It's based on a book of the same name from Daniel Woodrell, something I still haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Faced with an unresponsive mother and a criminal father, Ozark teenager Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) does what she can to manage the household and take care of her two younger siblings. Informed by the sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) that their father put their home up for bond and then disappeared, Ree sets out on a dangerous quest to find him. Her entire family's fate now in her hands, Ree challenges her outlaw kin's code of silence and risks her life to learn her father's fate.

Contraband (2012)

BOOM! My mate Mark Wahlberg again. Wahlberg's a former smuggler who has gone straight for the sake of his family. His idiot brother-in-law drags him down and he's forced back to crime to carry out one more job. A bit of a cliched story line, but hey I really liked it.
 Ex-smuggler Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) gave up his criminal ways long ago. But, he's forced back into the game after his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), botches a drug deal for a crime lord (Giovanni Ribisi), leaving Chris to settle the debt. With the help of his best friend (Ben Foster), Chris assembles a team to run to Panama to retrieve a fortune in counterfeit bills. When things go awry, Chris must call on his rusty skills to complete the task before his family pays the price.


Stranger Things (2016 TV series)
Series one completed and totally absorbing. I think we watched five or six episodes over two days to see it through to the end. Loved the characters especially the sheriff, David Harbour. Winona Ryder is excellent as were pretty much everyone else. Loved the children. A weird mash up off all things 70/80s - The Goonies, ET, and loads more.

This thrilling Netflix-original drama stars award-winning actress Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, who lives in a small Indiana town in 1983 -- inspired by a time when tales of science fiction captivated audiences. When Joyce's 12-year-old son, Will, goes missing, she launches a terrifying investigation into his disappearance with local authorities. As they search for answers, they unravel a series of extraordinary mysteries involving secret government experiments, unnerving supernatural forces, and a very unusual little girl.

Top Gun (1986)

I doubt anyone over 50 in the Western World hasn't seen this one. My daughter fancied a night of cheese, so we had Top Gun followed by Cocktail. I do like Tom Cruise (doesn't he look young?) and not having seen it for 30 years it was a blast from the past. Val Kilmer is Mr Cool and steals it in my opinion.

The Top Gun Naval Fighter Weapons School is where the best of the best train to refine their elite flying skills. When hotshot fighter pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) is sent to the school, his reckless attitude and cocky demeanor put him at odds with the other pilots, especially the cool and collected Iceman (Val Kilmer). But Maverick isn't only competing to be the top fighter pilot, he's also fighting for the attention of his beautiful flight instructor, Charlotte Blackwood (Kelly McGillis).

Cocktail (1988)

That was a good year -  I got married. I watched this one at the cinema first time around and it wasn't especially memorable. It wasn't much better this time either, but okay. Bryan Brown is larger than life and pretty good. Tom is Tom.

 Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise) wants a high-paying marketing job, but needs a business degree first. Working as a bartender to pay for college, Flanagan is mentored by his veteran boss, Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown). Together, their showy tricks and charisma command large crowds and tip payments -- until Flanagan and the cynical Coughlin have a falling out. Flanagan moves to Jamaica to raise enough money to open his own bar, where he falls in love with artist Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue).

New Blood (2016 BBC TV Series)
Eventually finished this one off. I think there were 6 episodes total and they aired back in June/July time. 3 x 2 story line episodes. (7 actually - go figure!) A lot to like here, especially the banter and bouncing off each other between our two young leads. Coming back for a second series apparently. Yippee! Still love Mark Addy. A bit far-fetched and plenty of plot holes, but who cares.

From wiki....
New Blood is a British television drama series created by Anthony Horowitz and produced by Eleventh Hour Films for BBC One. The first three episodes of the programme were made available on BBC iPlayer on 2 June 2016, ahead of the BBC One premiere on 9 June, it received over 4 million viewers.

Synopsis
Stefan Kowolski and Arash Sayyad are junior investigators; both are second-generation immigrants. Initially thrown together by chance and common sporting interests, they later discover that they are working two different angles of the same case. Stefan is also attracted to Arash's sister.

Kowolski is a junior investigator with the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office, while Sayyad is a uniformed constable in London's police service, with ambitions of becoming a detective. In the first case, he secures a second posting as a Trainee Detective Constable (T/DC), having obtained poor reviews in an earlier attempt.


The Debt (2010)

An interesting film concerning 3 Israeli agents sent to Berlin in the 60s to abduct a Nazi doctor, so he can go on trial back in Israel. Things don't go to plan. Interesting back and forth timeline between today and the events in the 60s. Today - the doctor they supposedly killed in the botched operation has shown up in the Ukraine, which threatens to unravel their story and expose their true actions. Very good - tense, gripping and some excellent performances. I do like Helen Mirren.

In 1965, young Mossad agent Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) and two comrades (Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas) are involved in a secret mission to capture a Nazi war criminal known as the Surgeon of Birkenau (Jesper Christensen). The mission ends with the man's death on the streets of East Berlin. Thirty years later, a man claiming to be the doctor has appeared, and Rachel (Helen Mirren), haunted by memories of past events, must return to Eastern Europe to uncover the truth.

Parker (2013)

Hands up - who doesn't love Jason Statham? No-one that's who. Based on one of the later novels in Richard Stark/Donald Westlake's Parker series of books, I can't believe I didn't catch this one sooner.  Plenty of action, a reasonable plot, great scenes of sassy dialogue. I like the fact that Statham never seems to take himself too seriously. Gotta love the man. Jennifer Lopez delivers a strong performance too. Is it sexist to say she looks pretty amazing also?

Daring, ruthless and meticulous, Parker (Jason Statham) is one of the most successful thieves in the business. But when his latest robbery turns deadly because of a careless crew member, he declines to join crime boss Melander (Michael Chiklis) and his gang for another heist. The crooks turn on Parker and leave him for dead. Parker survives and vows vengeance, tracing the gang to Palm Beach. There, he joins forces with an unlikely ally (Jennifer Lopez) to hijack the gang's next big score.


Devil's Knot (2013)

Enjoyable is probably the wrong word, especially as this film is based on some real life events from the 90s. Gripping then. Firth and Witherspoon are good as ever.

Troubling questions spring to mind about the American judicial system and the competence of a lot of police forces. Results over justice? Kind of reminded me of Making a Murderer.

Devil's Knot is a 2013 American biographical crime film directed by Atom Egoyan. The film is based on a true story as told in Mara Leveritt's 2002 book of the same name, concerning three teenagers known as the West Memphis Three, who were convicted of killing three young boys during the Satanic ritual abuse panic. They were subsequently sentenced to death (Echols) and life imprisonment (Baldwin and Misskelley). Produced by Elizabeth Fowler, Richard Saperstein, Clark Peterson, Christopher Woodrow, and Paul Harris Boardman, the film stars Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Mireille Enos, Dane DeHaan, Kevin Durand, Bruce Greenwood, Stephen Moyer, Elias Koteas, Amy Ryan, and Alessandro Nivola.

Hanna (2011)

A bit of a weird one here. It seemed to go on for a bit. Girl raised by ex-agent father in the wilderness having gone off the grid. When he resurfaces, his old handler comes looking. I do like Eric Bana. Seen a lot better, suffered through a lot worse.

Raised by her father (Eric Bana) in the Finnish wilderness, teenage Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has trained all her life to be the perfect assassin. Her father sends her on a mission, and she stealthily makes her way across Europe while evading agents sent after her by a ruthless operative named Marissa (Cate Blanchett), who once worked with Hanna's father. As she draws closer to her target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and begins to question her humanity.

Locke (2013)

Pretty amazing, especially as the whole film takes place with Locke in his car on a journey, conducting a series of frantic phone calls......family - wife, kids, work - underling, boss, hospital - medical staff and a woman he got pregnant in a one-night stand. He also has a few angry one-way conversations with his absent father - an absence Locke still has major issues with. Watch his life and career unravel. Tom Hardy is superb.

Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his carefully cultivated existence.

Duel (1971)

I can remember watching this in my youth, probably sometime in the 80s and I've always remembered it (or after re-watching mis-remembered it). Still quite powerful and disturbing, especially when our motorist Dennis Weaver is checking out the guys at the counter in the roadside diner......boots, talking heads, chewing mouths, boots, glances over the shoulder, muttered conversations, boots. Happy it showed up again on TV.
Duel is a 1971 television (and later full-length theatrical) thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg in his full-length film directing debut and written by Richard Matheson, based on Matheson's short story of the same name. It stars Dennis Weaver as a terrified motorist stalked on a remote and lonely road by the mostly unseen driver of a mysterious tanker truck.


Never Go Back (2016)

I wasn't planning on watching this until it showed up on TV in a couple of years time, but I was away for a break with my wife and we thought - cinema - why not? Options being some kind of comic book thing with Benjamin Lumberhead, The Girl on the Train or this. Having liked the first Reacher film - an easy choice. Best film ever? No but we liked it, and felt it was worth the cost of the admission. Plenty of fights and a reasonable plot.
Investigator Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) springs into action after the arrest of Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), an Army major accused of treason. Suspecting foul play, Jack embarks on a mission to prove that the head of his old unit is innocent. After crossing paths with the law, Reacher must now go on the lam to uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy that involves the death of U.S. soldiers.



Killing Them Softly (2012)

Another interesting and enjoyable film which I caught on TV in the month. Decent cast and my kind of film. I quite like Brad Pitt but don't rush to catch all his films. Ray Liotta always has a presence on screen. A card game gets robbed, for the second time and a hitman is despatched to town to right the wrong. Really enjoyable and only when I read the credits did I realise it was based on a book by George V. Higgins - Cogan's Trade. A book I have but haven't yet read.
When rival crook Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) hatches a plan to rob a card game run by mob lackey Markie (Ray Liotta), he picks a low-rent thug named Frankie (Scoot McNairy) to do the job. Frankie picks a less-than-ideal partner (Ben Mendelsohn) to help him, but despite their combined incompetence, they manage to make off with the mob's money. In retaliation, Markie's bosses hire Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a mob enforcer, to eradicate those responsible.


The Devil's Rejects (2005)

Probably more horror than crime. Bloody, brutal, gruesome and sadistic which made for some uncomfortable viewing in places. Wouldn't rush to see anything else Rob Zombie has churned out if I'm honest. It did have its moments. Old Pa when he's made up with his clown's face looks positively demented and in the end the cop pursuing the deranged family was just as bad as them. Our family of nut-jobs seemed a bit too much like a Charles Manson tribute act. 
After a raid on the rural home of the psychopathic Firefly family, two members of the clan, Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), manage to flee the scene. Heading to a remote desert motel, the killers reunite with Baby's father, Capt. Spaulding (Sid Haig), who is equally demented and intent on maintaining their murder spree. While the trio continues to torment and kill various victims, the vengeful Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) slowly closes in on them.


The Magdalene Sisters (2003)

Another uncomfortable film turning a necessary spotlight on one of the most shameful episodes in Ireland's history - the Magdalene laundries. Director Peter Mullan puts the Catholic church to the sword with his withering portrayal of the abuse these "fallen" women and children suffered at the hands of a sadistic cabal of nuns. The God they served and how they served him, is not one I care to recognise.  The number of abused victims runs into the tens of thousands over a 70 year period. Who spoke for these victims? No-one. How many powerful figures of authority were complicit in this systematic abuse?  Absolutely shameful.  

Read more about them here Magdalene Laundries in Ireland - including details of a mass grave uncovered in 1993 with 133 bodies. Pol Pot would be proud.
In 1964, three teenage Irish girls are sent to a Magdalene asylum, an archaic home for "fallen women," though their crimes aren't criminal. Rose (Dorothy Duffy) is pregnant out of wedlock, Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone) has been caught flirting with a boy at school, and Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff) is sentenced for having been raped by a family member. There, the girls perform hard labor supervised by cruel nuns, led by the sneering Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan) -- and dream of escape.