Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ridley Rated

This is an updated version of an earlier post...updated to include my rating of The Martian which wasn't half bad. If only Scott's next project wasn't a sequel to the terrible Prometheus...
I like Ridley Scott. He's got a great work ethic for a 78 year old and he's a blunt Geordie (very entertaining interview with Scott here.) Although I dont consider myself a Scott fanboy somehow I have managed to see all of his films. British critics especially consider him to be an auteur but he clearly isn't a genius all the time as there have been some real stinkers along the way. A visual poet certainly but story often lets him down. These are my ratings in the standard A,B,C,D,F format:

1977 The Duellists A
1979 Alien A
1982 Blade Runner A
1985 Legend F
1987 Someone to Watch Over Me D
1989 Black Rain C
1991 Thelma & Louise C
1992 1492: Conquest of Paradise D
1996 White Squall D
1997 G.I. Jane C
2000 Gladiator B
2001 Hannibal D
2002 Black Hawk Down A
2003 Matchstick Men C
2005 Kingdom of Heaven C
2006 A Good Year F
2007 American Gangster C
2008 Body of Lies D
2010 Robin Hood F
2012 Prometheus D
2013 The Counselor C
2014 Exodus F
2015 The Martian B
2016 Alien Paradise Lost (Prometheus 2)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Allez Les Verts: Why All Irishmen and Women Should Support Northern Ireland FC

a sort of recapitulation of an old post in light of recent events...
On Thursday night in Belfast the football gods smiled. The day had begun well with Jurgen Klopp being appointed as Liverpool's manager and things just got better. Northern Ireland beat Greece 3:1 to qualify for their first tournament of any kind in 30 years: the 2016 European Championships in France. They will be joining Wales, England and probably the Republic of Ireland too who - incredibly - beat the world champions Germany in Dublin also on Thursday night. Northern Ireland are top of Group F and have qualified for Euro16 against impossible odds and when every pundit and bookie in the business said they would likely be fifth in the group below the European football power houses of Finland, Romania, Hungary and Greece. Now, if you live outside of Ulster you won't be hearing much about Northern Ireland's incredible achievement. Why is this? The answer is because everybody hates Northern Ireland. The meta-narrative of the Northern Ireland football team is seemingly not a good one because it is connected to Northern Ireland the state. This meta-narrative runs like this: when Ireland became gloriously independent in 1922 a tiny rump of six counties decided to stay with Britain. These largely Protestant fanatics ran Northern Ireland as a kind of Boer South Africa until 1968 when the whole statelet erupted into civil war. A civil war that did not abate until the 1990's with thousands dead. The name Northern Ireland therefore is stained with the legacy of sectarianism, racism, colonialism & war. The Republic of Ireland football team by contrast is Ireland's real football team that every Irishman and woman and every Irish exile should support. This is the meta-narrative and its why Northern Ireland seldom gets positive coverage in the press anywhere in the world outside Belfast. N. Ireland is something of an embarrassment. Of course a lot of this is true and it doesn't help that Northern Ireland's home games are played at Windsor Park the home of Linfield which has been described as the Glasgow Rangers of Ulster. Not exactly a welcoming place for Catholic supporters. And in the 1980s it was a pretty terrifying environment especially in the old kop stand where you could get roughed up by skin-heads (this happened to me) and where racist invective was all too prevalent. To shoot itself further in the foot these "fans" would sometimes barrack Catholic players and so some Catholic players decided reasonably enough that they wouldn't play for Northern Ireland at all and preferred to play for the Republic. So this is a pretty easy meta-narrative to embrace if you live outside of NI (or if you're a nationalist living inside Northern Ireland) - if you want to cheer for an Irish football team cheer for the Republic. 
Unfortunately for a world that wd prefer the N Ireland football team to just go way, the team is actually pretty damn good. In fact in terms of per capita population its one of the best teams in the world. Northern Ireland has qualified for three world cups. 133 countries have never qualified for a world cup and Northern Ireland has qualified three times. What's also very weird is that when they get to the world cup Northern Ireland always does very well. In fact some people have argued that in terms of per capita Northern Ireland is the most successful country ever in the world cup finals. You heard me right. Poor, benighted, ignored, loathed Northern Ireland always seems to shine on the big stage. And now we're doing it again. We were in Group F in the European Championships against 4 teams that when the qualifying process began had higher FIFA world rankings than us. We were expected to end up second from the bottom in this group. But it didnt happen. While all the media types were talking about England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland very quietly, off screen as usual, just kept winning and drawing against superior opposition gradually moving up the table. 
There's another problem with the meta narrative of a wicked Northern Ireland team and a cheerful plucky Republic of Ireland team that represents true Irishmen and women everywhere and its this: Northern Ireland is, in fact, the true Irish football team and it always has been and it's the Republic of Ireland & FIFA who divided soccer on the island of Ireland. In rugby, boxing, hockey, pretty much every sport you can think of there is only 1 Irish team but not soccer. Why? The answer is this: The IFA, the Irish Football Association was founded in Belfast in 1880. This was the period of the Gaelic Revival in Ireland and soccer was considered to be a foreign game by the intellectuals down in Dublin so they didn't care about it. It was only after the partition of Ireland in 1923 that the Free State authorities rebelled against the idea of having such a popular game as football controlled from a "foreign land", so they set up a rival organisation called the FAI and applied to FIFA for membership. It was the Irish Republic, the FAI, who divided football in Ireland. Sensibly the IFA in Belfast ignored this usurper organisation and continued to select players from all over Ireland for its team. It wasn't until the 1950s when that pernicious and corrupt organisation FIFA noticed that some players were playing for both the FAI team and the IFA team that they decided they had to put a stop to it. They insisted the IFA call its team Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland call its team the Republic of Ireland. The IFA didn't want to do this but FIFA makes the rules. So since the 1950s the IFA has only been allowed by FIFA to select players from the six counties of Northern Ireland. The FAI selects from the 26 counties down South (and anyone who has an Irish grandparent anywhere else in the world). The IFA reluctantly accepted this six county rule but didn't actually change the badge that Northern Ireland players played under until the 1980's when the worlds "Northern Ireland" where added to the IFA logo, again after FIFA pressure. But historically the IFA which is still headquartered in Belfast is the true Irish football team and until FIFA's meddling was the Irish football team from 1880 - 1954. But for FIFA's corrupt shenanigans the IFA wd still represent all of Ireland. De jure if not de facto we still do. We have been robbed of our birthright. We are princes in exile. We are kings over the water. Take a look at this George Best #11 replica shirt from the 1970s NI team that I own. The only thing it says on the shirt are the words: Irish Football Association.
This is the underdog story that no one but me will ever tell you about. Northern Ireland always ranks number 1 or 2 in the FIFA top 50 rankings per head of population. We always do well in the world cups. We always beat teams that are consistently ranked above us. But you'll never see a movie about the plucky NI team because the prevailing meta narrative is too strong. That's not our only burden. FIFA despises us, the Republic of Ireland is indifferent or hostile to us, Windsor Park is not a nice place to play football, Belfast is not a beautiful city, much of the Catholic population of Northern Ireland prefers to root for the Republic team. But that, however, is changing. A jubilant Rory McIlroy and many other Catholics were there on Thursday night to support a religiously and ethnically diverse NI squad. And even the Guardian think this team just might be able to bring both sides of Belfast together.
Still Manicheans  (those who simplify the world into good and evil) hate nuance and to support Northern Ireland you need to be able to embrace nuance. The Northern Ireland football team is too much associated with the toxic legacy of sectarianism and the Troubles for most people. It's so easy (too easy in fact) to be an England supporter or a Scotland supporter or a Brazil supporter or a supporter of team USA where nationalism for these nations is easily consumed, packaged, boring and simple. But to be a Northern Ireland supporter you need to have a heterogeneous mind able to do Scott Fitzgerald's trick: the bifurcation of your consciousness into opposing ideas. You need to be able to appreciate Ireland's complex past, you need to be able to ignore the rump idiocy of sectarian supporters on the terraces and cheer for a plucky bunch of 2nd rate players who somehow manage to raise their game on the international stage again and again and again.
Northern Ireland, Wales, England and probably the Republic of Ireland too will all be playing in European Championships next summer. If you're an Irish exile I don't mind a bit if you cheer for RofI, but spare a thought, a prayer and a cheer for the original Irish football team who will be playing there too. I'll be there. Allez les verts. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Catch Me Daddy

Bleak, misanthropic, grim, depressing, nihilistic, melancholic, sad. . .these are some of the adjectives that have been used to describe the film Catch Me Daddy released on DVD and itunes last week, which I am going to try to recommend to you despite all of that. A crime drama set in West Yorkshire Catch Me Daddy tells the story of a young couple on the run. The boy is Scottish, the girl a second generation Pakistani Brit and this, of course, is the rub. The girl's father not only wants to find her but he wants to murder her for running off with a non Muslim. Although the words "honour killing" aren't mentioned in the movie this is clearly the motor for the story. Beautiful, stark and minimalistic are three other adjectives I would use for Catch Me Daddy's cinematography and acting. There really isn't much of a plot here but the way the movie is shot and the performances from the largely untrained local cast are naturalistic and superb. There's a depth, honesty and integrity to these performances that the Cumberbatches and Cavills and Hiddlestones of this world will never reach in a million years. Indeed Catch Me Daddy might be the best acted and shot British film since Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank which also features an unknown lead actress and cinematographer Robbie Ryan. (Robbie Ryan has been the cinematographer on 3 of my favourite films of the last 3 years: Catch Me Daddy, Slow West and Fish Tank.) Daniel Wolfe directed Catch Me Daddy, wrote it with this brother and this is his debut feature after making a number of award winning music videos. 

Still this is tough material to watch and it isnt for the faint hearted. Peter Bradshaw writing in the Guardian calls Catch Me Daddy John Ford on the Yorkshire moors. I imagine he's thinking of The Searchers but if you'll recall The Searchers has some fine comic light relief moments from Ken Curtis. There is no such easing of the mood in Catch Me Daddy. This is an England of drugs and poverty and tribal loyalties and violence. This is an England where civilisation is broken and the moral law has failed and everything is going to the dogs. 

The soundtrack features 3 of my favourite songs - 1 mainstream hit and 2 cult classics. Patti's Smith's Horses is the one everyone should know (which plays during a dance sequence) but the other two songs which you might not know are My Name is Carnivale by the great and largely forgotten Jackson C Frank and Exuma's Dambala, which I haven't heard for years and years and which immediately reminded me of the sound of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.  Good music, beautiful imagery, great acting, tough noir story telling. Caveat emptor. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Andy Weir's The Martian or Potato Growing For Beginners

a post from June that I'm reblogging to coincide with the movie release...

Last year The Melbourne Age newspaper asked me (and a whole bunch of other much more interesting people) to pick two books which I had enjoyed recently that I thought deserved a wider audience in Australia. The two books I picked were H Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald and The Martian by Andy Weir. I'm not normally on the cutting edge of things but shortly after I mentioned how much I had enjoyed H Is For Hawk it won the Samuel Johnson Prize for best non fiction work and became a best seller; shortly after I mentioned The Martian the book found a publisher, got optioned by Ridley Scott for development as a movie and it became a best seller too. If only I could apply this voodoo to my own bloody books.
Anyway what I wanted to talk about is potatoes. The Martian is a story about an astronaut, Mark Watney, who gets stranded on Mars, set roughly 20 years from now at around the time of the first manned mission there. Mars tries to kill Watney in a million different ways though mostly by cold, lack of air, lack of water and starvation. The fun of the novel is watching how the self mocking and resourceful astronaut manages to solve a series of engineering problems in an attempt to keep himself alive for a few days longer. And then there's the potatoes. He doesn't have enough food to survive for very long but he remembers the Thanksgiving potatoes that NASA gave them and because he studied botany as a minor at college (there is some good botany humour in the book) he manages to mix enough potting soil, Martian regolith and freeze dried shit to make sufficient earth to grow a supply of potatoes that will save his life. The growing of the potatoes sequence is one of the most fascinating and indeed exciting (I'm not kidding) portions of the book. 
A few months ago I wondered how easy it would be to grow a potato plant on Earth so I took an ordinary small red potato and shoved it in a pot in the back garden. I forgot all about until this morning. Potatoes must clearly like it when you forget all about them. I never watered the plant or did anything else to it at all and this (above) is the result. This is the first thing I've ever grown from a root or tuber. Thank you Andy Weir you've made a horticulture convert out of me in a way that my previous favourite sci-fi botanist, alas, could not. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Never Start A Land War In Asia, Never Go In Against A Sicilian When Death Is On The Line, Never Mess With A Belfast Hipster

A little under a year ago two brothers, Alan and Gary Keely, from Belfast opened a cafe in Brick Lane in the East End of London. The cafe is called Cereal Killer and sells only cereal, milk, pop tarts and a few other breakfasty treats. The hook is that it has over 100 types of breakfast cereal and dozens of different types of milk. The brothers are hipsters and the patrons are hipsters. A bowl of milk and cereal costs three quid. So far so completely harmless. What a lovely idea everyone thought until a journo at the official opening asked one of the brothers if he thought it was ethical to open a hipster cafe charging three quid for a bowl of cereal in a deprived part of London. That remark got the ball rolling and the Cereal Killer cafe over the last year has become the target of a hate campaign by anti-capitalist protestors, anti-gentrification protesters and by the anarchist group Class War. The paper I read, The Guardian, has largely been pro protester publishing articles from various factions who cannot abide the presence of the Cereal Killer cafe in their midst. The protests have rumbled along in the background for about a year until last weekend when Class War decided to march down Brick Lane and attack the Cereal Killer cafe. The Class War protestors were carrying severed pigs heads and brandishing torches and rather in the manner of Kristallnacht bricks were thrown at the cafe's windows, paint was daubbed on the walls and the patrons were prevented from leaving. The Guardian article on the attack has video from inside the cafe as part of the assault was happening. Children can be heard crying inside the cafe while Gary Keely assures the customers that they will be kept safe. 
Over the next two days the Guardian newspaper published an article from someone who took part in the march where he sort of apologised if children were upset by the incident but insisted that the real criminals were the people who were destroying Brick Lane with their trendy ideas (you should read the comment thread under that one); and a day later they published an interview with the founder of Class War who not only approved of the attack on Cereal Killer but said that it was much more effective to go after an independent cafe rather than the nearby chains of Starbucks, Costa Coffee etc because it got a lot more publicity for the cause and an independent could be much more easily intimidated and driven out. 
Well yes, except that the brothers are from Belfast and people from Belfast don't go to pieces because a bunch of upper middle class chinless wonders carrying torches are trying to intimidate them. The average kid from Belfast is a hell of a lot tougher than the Seumas Milnes and Ian Boneses and Russell Brands of this world. And a beardy twin hipster boy from Belfast would have had to have been very tough indeed not to get the shite knocked out of him walking home from Lavery's come a Saturday night. The whole episode moreover is rife with irony: one of the banners the mob was carrying said "Refugees Welcome" just not, apparently, refugees from Ireland. It should also be remembered that the East End of London used to proudly display signs in shop windows stating "No Blacks, No Irish." The journey from fascist to fervent anti fascist and back again is not the journey of a million miles. 
In a response article in the Guardian last Tuesday Alan Keely said that he and his brother had grown up under the shadow of sectarian gangs in Belfast and the Class War mob didn't scare them. They weren't going to let anyone frighten them out of their cafe and furthermore they would do everything they could to protect their customers. This is a promise I would take seriously if I were one of the Class War social justice warriors commuting back to mummy's home in Hampstead. To add to the list of classic blunders Wallace Shawn talks about in the Princess Bride, let me add never mess with a Belfast hipster when his business is on the line. Posh boy from north London wearing a Dolce & Gabbana hoodie v working class kid from Belfast defending his customers? I know who my money would be on. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Young Lions

My better half & the mother of my children - Leah Garrett - has a new book coming out today with Northwestern University Press. It's called Young Lions and here's the Amazon listing: 

Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel shows how Jews, traditionally castigated as weak and cowardly, for the first time became the popular literary representatives of what it meant to be a soldier and what it meant to be an American. Revisiting best-selling works ranging from Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and uncovering a range of unknown archival material, Leah Garrett shows how Jewish writers used the theme of World War II to reshape the American public’s ideas about war, the Holocaust, and the role of Jews in postwar life. In contrast to most previous war fiction these new “Jewish” war novels were often ironic, funny, and irreverent and sought to teach the reading public broader lessons about liberalism, masculinity, and pluralism.
Leah has gotten a couple of early blurbs for the book. Debra Dash Moore, The New York Times best-selling author of GI Jews said this: "Young Lions persuasively presents a fresh interpretation that illuminates previously hidden aspects of these [novels]. Leah Garrett's lucid study will change how we think about World War II, the Holocaust and American Jews." The Harvard Professor of American and African American studies, Werner Sollers, said this: "theoretically sophisticated and probing,Young Lions is full of insights that are of interest to the literary scholar, the historian, and the student of American ethnic relations." I think its of tremendous interest to the general reader too. It's about the Jewish soliders in the US forces in WW2 (500,000 of them served) what they read on the line and what they wrote about when they came home. American war novels until then were in the mould of Red Badge of Courage or For Whom The Bell Tolls. All that changed with the publication of The Naked and the Dead, Catch 22, The Young Lions, Dangling Man, Battle Cry, The Caine Mutiny etc. and those novels influenced my favourite WW2 novel The Thin Red Line. There's also a good bit about Sergeant Bilko. 
Here's the Northwestern University Press page about the book

Monday, September 28, 2015

What Happened Next?

The still is from BBC 1's quiz Decimate on September 21st. So what happened next? Nik said "the only one I've heard of is Adrian McKinty" (!), picked option B and lost. As I said to someone on twitter - this is exactly what used to happen in primary school. Picking Adrian McKinty invariably invoked disaster for your team...
as some of you may know I'm a fan of both David Peace and Derek Raymond. Here's my review of Peace's Red or Dead from 2013 in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Oxford, David Cameron, Gottfried Von Bismarck, Pigs Heads and Gun Street Girl

the kind of people I steered well clear of at Oxford
If you've read the 4th Sean Duffy novel you're probably aware that fictionalised versions of two real people show up in the Oxford chapters: Gottfried Von Bismarck and a chap who is a bit like Prime Minister David Cameron. Both had left Oxford by the time Duffy visits the city, but both attended parties given by the Bullingdon Club and the Piers Gaveston Society. At one of these parties Olivia Channon, the daughter of a cabinet minister, died of a heroin overdose. And a thinly veiled version of these events is what Duffy comes to investigate. These Oxford parties have become big news this week in the UK and yesterday on the front page (above the fold) of that scurrilous rag, The New York Times. How did this all blow up now 30 years later? In revenge for not giving him a job the Tory billionaire Lord Ashcroft has written a biography of Cameron in which he alleges that the young David attended drunken parties given by the Bullingdon Club and Piers Gaveston which involved heroin, cocaine, cross dressing and, ahem, pigs' heads. The New York Times attempts to spin its coverage of this story as a dissection of the British obsession with class but actually its just old fashioned gossip mongering and its the Daily Mail you should read for the real dirt

When I was at Oxford there were no debauched parties. As a working class kid from Belfast on a full scholarship I could not afford to get rusticated. And I went to Oxford because I was a super geek who was really into philosophy (no, really) and at Oxford you could meet in person and even have tutorials with some of the biggest guns of contemporary political theory (my particular area of interest). In my three years there I met Isaiah Berlin, John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Joseph Raz, Michael Sandel, Terry Eagleton, Stanley Fish, John Gray, Michael Ignatief, Bernard Williams et. al. I used to have gentle tutorials with Gerry Cohen in his rooms at All Souls College (the weirdest of the Oxford colleges), semi confrontational tutorials with John Gray at Jesus and the seminars where Dworkin and Williams discussed "abortion, euthanasia and the meaning of life" were probably the intellectual high points of my life. 

It is true however that Oxford was still full at that time (1991 - 1993) of upper class twits and whenever I would encounter those racist, spoiled, privileged snobs (particularly in the Oxford Union) I would file the encounter away for future use. Even back then everyone knew that there was a good chance you could end up writing a novel yourself or appear as a character in someone else's novel. Inspector Morse was at the height of its popularity and was filming everywhere and before going up to Oxford I read Decline and Fall, Brideshead Revisited, Zuleika Dobson etc. so I knew what to expect. Cambridge was the place to go if you wanted to become a scientist or a traitor, Oxford was where you went if you wanted to become a politician or a writer.

It was reading Gottfried Von Bismarck's obituary in The Daily Telegraph a few years ago, however, that really got me thinking about an Oxford book. The Daily Telegraph is famous for writing the best obits in the business and Von Bismarck's obit is one of the finest achievements in the genre. The Oxford milieu bubbled away in my mind and when I finally got round to writing Sean Duffy #4 I knew that Gottfried von Bismarck and a David Cameron/George Osbourne type figure would have to appear in the book. Duffy goes to Oxford to see if there is a link to his present case (a double murder and suicide in Belfast) and of course there is, though not quite in the way he thinks... 
Incidentally Gun Street Girl also contains a few other celebrity cameos, some of whom I talk about in the Afterword and some of whom I don't talk about for legal reasons. This week a very famous American actor is in the news because he resents the implication that he has beat up multiple wives, lovers and girlfriends. I heard one story about his behaviour on a visit to Ireland that may or may not be in the book too.*
*(Please don't attempt to guess at this actor's name in the comments below as he's proven himself a very litigious chap and to save you and me from a defamation suit I'll have to delete the comment.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

JG Ballard's Great Decade 1973-1983

Hopefully the new film of High Rise by Ben Wheatley is going to refocus some critical attention on JG Ballard's extraordinary burst of creativity from 1973-1983. According to historian Eric Hobsbawm the twentieth century really began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in his car in Sarajevo on June 28th 1914. It was a century dominated by assassinations, cars, aeroplanes, wars, mass production and American pop culture. For me the novelist who perhaps best captured the obsessions and imagery of the twentieth century was the Shanghai-born English novelist J G Ballard. Pigeon holed early as a science fiction writer, for a long time Ballard was not noticed by critics. He had his champions, of course, such as Martin Amis, but in general his books seldom broke through into the popular consciousness until the publication of Empire of the Sun in 1983.

Ballard’s early apocalyptic novels from the 1960's such as The Drowned World and The Crystal World cut against the mainstream science fiction of the time with their concern for the effects of disaster on the protagonists’ psychological states. In 1973 Ballard’s most remarkable period as a novelist began with the publication of Crash, a book famously rejected by one London publisher’s reader with the phrase “This author is beyond psychiatric help - DO NOT PUBLISH.” Crash is the story of Vaughan, a television psychologist who is fixated by the sexual power of the car crash and who wishes to die in an auto-erotic accident with Elizabeth Taylor’s limousine. A damning indictment of, and also a love letter to, American celebrity culture, Crash reads as fresh, subversive and lively today as it did forty years ago. It prefigures the deaths of Princess Diana and Grace Kelly and recapitulates the deaths of Franz Ferdinand, JFK and screen siren Jayne Mansfield who was reputedly (but not really) decapitated in the 1967 crash of her Buick Electra 225.

Ballard’s follow up to Crash was a retelling of the Robinson Crusoe story, Concrete Island (1974), about a man who crashes his car and is trapped in it at the junction of many motorway flyovers and sliproads, living desperately on his concrete island and finally dying unseen by the thousands of commuters passing by on their way to work. High Rise (1975) is a funny, perverse and oddly believable novel about the collapse of civilisation’s norms within an apartment building. Satires on the English sense of decorum seldom get this ribald or excoriating.

For me, though, the climax of this period in Ballard’s evolution is the willfully strange, surrealistic novel The Unlimited Dream Company (1979) about a man who hijacks a small plane and crashes it into the Thames in the sleepy suburb of Shepparton. It’s never clear whether the pilot died in the crash or not but certainly some kind of apotheosis takes place and throughout the novel London is transformed into a seething, primordial, tropical city (similar in many ways to the London of The Drowned World) rich with sexual and avian imagery. The Anglo-Saxon world has generally been uncomfortable with the erotic and surreal in serious fiction but Dream Company is a book which treats both these tropes with the gravity they deserve and it may be Ballard’s finest work. The short story collection Low Flying Aircraft (1976) highlights many of Ballard's obsessions: abandoned swimming pools, crashed planes, urban decay etc. and contains one of my favourite Ballard stories, My Dream Of Flying To Wake Island.

Empire of the Sun (1983/4) is a novelistic retelling of the young Jim Ballard’s imprisonment in a Japanese internment camp from 1942 - 1945. Although the story is told in conventional matter-of-fact prose the book throbs with Ballard’s usual obsessions: war, repressed sexual desire, cruelty, ruined cities, America, cars, flight. As a novel of people in extremis it is a psychological masterpiece as well as being probably the last great novel to come out of the direct experience of World War Two.

In the 1990's and early 2000's Ballard wrote more volumes of memoir and interesting novels about the growth of advertisement speak, business parks, motorways, urbanisation and the spread of pop culture into all walks of life. In 2009 Ballard died of prostate cancer and the British obituaries were respectful but somewhat restrained in their praise. Ballard had been hard to categorise and he was never completely embraced by the British establishment even after his success in Hollywood. It’s a shame because many of Ballard’s contemporaries have dated rather badly and their books read like peculiar period pieces, but Ballard has hardly dated at all. Like Philip K Dick his voice is that of the clear sighted Cassandra warning us of the perils and strange joys ahead. Ballard agreed with the poet Horace who famously said that “they change their skies but not their souls, those who run across the sea,” which is true even when the seas are black with pollution and the sky is a radioactive hell.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review This Book

If you're an Amazon.com user and haven't had a chance to review Gun Street Girl I'd appreciate it if you cd stick your oar in this week. I only need 3 more reviews to reach 100 for the book, which will give me some immunity against troll attacks. Dont know what any of that means? I didnt either until I got some troll attacks....Anyway I'd appreciate a review if you get the opportunity. No big deal if you dont want to. I'm not the type to hold it against you.
You can review the book or any of the Duffy books here: adrian mckinty's amazon page. Thank you!
Tuesday afternoon updateWow. 13 brand new reviews! Many thanks to everyone who jumped on over there and left me a review. I really appreciate it. I've talked to some authors who dont think customer reviews make any difference to sales. I totally disagree and I think they are deluding themselves. This is the age we live in. The gate-keepers have lost a lot of their power (personally I think this a good thing as gate keepers like The New York Times have never reviewed me) and the power has been passed over to the customers, geeks and fans. Again, thank you!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Top 10 Movies That Are Better Than The Book

There are a couple of lists like this floating around the internet but they're all written by kids who have no idea what they're talking about because they haven't A) seen any films or B) read any books. Also you have to scroll through many screens to get their ridiculously uninformed opinions, whereas to get my ridiculously overinformed opinions you need only look below. You can pretty much stop reading any of those other lists at the point where they claim that Clueless is better than Pride and Prejudice. Ahem. Ok my top 10 or 11 if you want to be technical about it. 

10. Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban. Pretty feeble source material and a time travelling ending that ruins the logic of the series is turned into a good little film by Mexican auteur Alfonso Cuaron. 
9. The Shawshank Redemption. Even though, technically, there is no actual "redemption" (because Andy was innocent (wd have been a much better film if he'd been guilty)) and despite the fact that Morgan Freeman's VO gets very annoying by the end, this is still much better than the thin on the ground source material by Stephen King. 
8. The 39 Steps. The book is ok, the Hitchcock film is breezy, sexy and fun. It's got a girl, Mr Memory, a police helicopter (in 1935!)* none of which are in the book. Jorge Luis Borges says in one of his essays that was the first film he'd ever seen that transcended the source material and he is right. Hitchcock didn't get this breezy again until North By Northwest (a kind of remake) 24 years later.
7. The Shining. Pretty good book. Excellent film. Stephen King was never happy with Kubrick's version so he made his own TV version in the 1990s which is, predictably, a crashing bore. 
6. The Silence of The Lambs. I know not everyone will agree with me on this but I found the book to be gruesome, campy and overbearing, whereas the film is...oh wait a minute...
5. Jaws. Every single person you ever met on public transport in the 1970s was reading this book which isn't actually that great. But those, apparently, were the good old days, now everybody on public transport is playing video games and texting and checking their bloody Facebook likes on their bloody phones. I was on a packed 'supertram' yesterday and there wasn't a single other person on there reading a book. God help us all. Lost my train of...what was I talking...Oh yes, Jaws: strange, clunky, slightly cheesy book with bizarre mafia subplot, 70s style affairs and then some old sea dog prose, but a lean, clever, subtle film (except, obviously, for the scene where Chief Brody gets slapped).
4. Barry Lyndon. Insufferable, long, meandering, silly, anti-Irish book, but somehow Kubrick made a minor masterpiece out of it. He does that a lot does Kubrick. Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket and 2001 could have been on this list too. The duel scenes alone are worth the price of admission...
3. The Graduate. This is a short book that you will still struggle to finish. How anyone thought there was a movie in this material is beyond me. I guess Mike Nichols is a genius or something. 
=2. The Godfather. Have you read the novel? Wow: schlocky, tacky and very much of its time. Written rapidly in the style of Harold Robbins the words kind of assault you with their clumsiness...Puzo, however, carefully rewrote the screenplay with Coppolla, they cast it well, they filmed it well and produced a masterpiece. 
=2 Goodfellas: Henry Hill's memoir has its moments but the film is probably Scorsese's best (and that's saying something). The Copacabana steadicam scene and the editing in the final 10 minutes are among the cinematic high points of the twentieth century. 
1. Last of the Mohicans. This book is so bad that Mark Twain made hay out of mocking it 150 years ago and it has not aged particularly well since then. The Michael Mann film however, is a classic especially that 8 minute long - almost silent - final sequence.
*ok technically its an autogyro

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Trigger Mortis

My review of the new James Bond novel in last Sunday's Weekend Australian. Not a whole heartedly ringing endorsement...
In the summer of 2014, Anthony Horowitz was approached by the Ian Fleming estate to write the new James Bond novel. As the English writer explains in his afterword to Trigger Mortis, he leapt at the opportunity because he was a lifelong Bond fan, and because the estate showed him some unpublished Ian Fleming material that he would be allowed, if he so wished, to incorporate into his book.
Horowitz is known as a television writer (Midsomer MurdersFoyle’s War), and as a writer of young adult novels (the Alex Rider series) plus the odd Sherlock Holmes pastiche. He is able to dabble in many genres and I found his attempt to duplicate Fleming’s themes, subject matter and style completely convincing. Set just a few weeks after the events ofGoldfinger in the late 1950s Trigger Mortis begins with a great little noirish prologue starring Thomas Keller, a disaffected German rocket scientist working for the Americans who accepts a bribe from SMERSH to sabotage the latest American rocket. He nervously takes the payoff and drives triumphantly home to his young wife, who promptly bumps him off and burns their house down to cover up the evidence.
no prizes for guessing where they got
the cover idea for Trigger Mortis...
Meanwhile Bond is ensconced with Pussy Galore in his opulent Chelsea flat. But there is trouble looming in paradise as Pussy outdrinks Bond at breakfast and flirts with just as many women. Work at the Secret Service is a welcome distraction. M tells Bond about a SMERSH plot to kill a British racing driver at the notorious Nurburgring and orders Bond to get in training to enter the race.
Bond meets the beautiful Logan Fairfax, who shows him how to be a Grand Prix driver in a surprisingly short amount of time. Back in Chelsea, vengeful allies of Auric Goldfinger kidnap Pussy Galore and prepare to murder her with gold paint (something the MythBusters proved was impossible) but Bond and Logan save her in dramatic fashion.
After all the excitement Bond doesn’t get the girl but, a few scenes later, Pussy Galore does, neatly disposing of Bond’s two love interests and leaving him free to meet the real romantic lead of the book, Jeopardy Lane, a US Treasury agent posing as a journalist at the Grand Prix.
Bond heads to the big race in Germany. Mercifully there is little Jeremy Clarkson-style pontificating about cylinders and engines, and Fleming’s original material (about 500 words) on the Nurburgring is incorporated with ease.
At a post-race party at Korean millionaire Sin Jai-seong’s medieval castle, Bond encounters Jeopardy rummaging through Sin’s private papers. She finds several photographs of secret American rocket launching sites before the alarm trips and Bond and Jeopardy have to flee for their lives. Sin, it turns out, is a psychopath who hates America because of the Korean War. He has allied with SMERSH to hatch a typically nutty plan to set back the American space program by sabotaging a US rocket in midflight and making it look as if the debris fell on New York by blowing up fake rocket remains under the Empire State Building.
With these elements in place, the second half of the novel deals with Bond's attempts to thwart Sin’s scheme in a series of dramatic escapes, fights and chases. Horowitz does well to mimic the structure of a Fleming novel and I smiled at his clever use of ‘‘Easter eggs’’ to pay homage to other books and characters in Fleming’s world. Some of Fleming’s ticks have been left in: luxury brand worship and name-dropping; others have been sensibly cut: Bond doesn’t drone on about ‘‘pansies’’ ruining the empire, as he sometimes does in the Fleming books.
I do wonder, though, at Horowitz choosing a sadistic Korean to be the centrepiece villain, given the strange anti-Korean rhetoric running throughout Goldfinger , which infamously includes this unpleasant little paragraph: “Bond intended to stay alive on his own terms. Those terms included putting Odd-Job or any other Korean firmly in his place [who] in Bond’s view were lower than apes in the mammalian hierarchy.’’
Later in the same novel Bond calls Odd-Job an ape-man, we learn that Koreans love raping white women and Goldfinger gives his delighted Korean henchman a cat to eat for dinner. A villain from another country would perhaps have been a shrewder choice for Trigger Mortis.
A Bond novel is only as good as the girl, the car and the baddie, and although Jeopardy is a great foil and the car is a Maserati 250F, Sin is too much of a chilly, one-dimensional sadist to be interesting.
Bond too isn’t as charismatic as he could be. Horowitz has chosen to model his lead closely on the Bond of the novels, not the Bond of the films, and the former can be a dull old stick at times. Sean Connery in particular added the charm and humour to the role that most people now associate with the character.
Horowitz’s prose style is workmanlike and steady, which is fine if all you want is to turn the pages, and do so quickly. Trigger Mortis is the least challenging of the four James Bond novels the estate has published since 2008. Sebastian Faulks brought an intellectual panache and a more introspective approach to Devil May Care, Jeffery Deaver delivered a certain muscularity to Carte Blanche and William Boyd’s Solo had political nous and a sharp satirical edge.
There is nonetheless much to like in Trigger Mortis and it is a serviceable addition to the revamped Bond canon. Fervent fans and completists will likely not be disappointed, but I found myself wanting more. Horowitz is an intelligent and thoughtful man, and if he had taken a longer time to think about his subject matter and stretched the boundaries of his commission, he could have turned in something a bit more interesting and adventurous.
Adrian McKinty’s most recent novel is Gun Street Girl.
Trigger Mortis
By Anthony Horowitz
Orion, 320pp, $29.99

Sunday, September 13, 2015


I did one of those Q&A things for a blog recently and I thought it might be interesting to share it with you here. These things are always a snapshot of your current thinking and not necessarily what you'll say tomorrow or indeed a year from now.

Favourite Writer: Jane Austen
Favourite Book: The Brothers Karamazov
Favourite Poem: Aubade (Larkin)
Favourite Film: Blade Runner
Favourite Crime Novel: The Cold Six Thousand
Favourite Play: The Importance of Being Earnest
Favourite Contemporary Play: Jerusalem (Butterworth)
Favourite Song: Venus In Furs
Favourite Irish Novel: The Third Policeman
Favourite Contemporary Irish Novel: Eureka Street
Favourite Audiobook: The Wine Dark Sea/Longbourn (tie)
Favourite Thriller: Blood Meridian
Favourite Non Fiction: The Worst Journey in the World
Favourite Funny Novel: Decline and Fall
Favourite TV show (all time): Cosmos
Favourite TV show (now): The Detectorists

insert some of your own favourites here:

Favourite Rock Album: OK Computer
Favourite Blues Album: Billie Holiday's Greatest Hits
Favourite Classical Recording: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis 
Favourite Jazz Album: Ellington at Newport
Favourite Punk Album: The Undertones
Favourite Contemporary Classical Album: LA Symphony (Pärt)
Favourite Minimalist Album: Music for 18 Musicians
Favourite Rock Minimalist Album: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
Favourite Rap Minimalist Album: Ghost Dog Soundtrack Japanese Import
Favourite Transportation Themed Minimalist Album: Music For Airports
Favourite Minimalist Comedy Album: 41st Best Stand Up Ever (Stewart Lee)

Favourite Minimalist Mathematical Formula: Euler's Identity
Favourite Minimalist Law of Nature: The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Monday, September 7, 2015

Pride & Prejudice, Pride & Prejudice, Pride & Prejudice

Pride And Prejudice (1940). Journeyman director Robert Z Leonard turns in a creditable movie version of the book in this big budget 1940 studio production. The screenplay was partly written by Aldous Huxley (one of an amazing six writers they needed to translate this material to the screen) and is notable for the interesting spin on the character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh towards the end. The parts in the film are well played: Edward Ashley is a suitably villainous Mr Wickham, Greer Garson is a lively Elizabeth Bennet and Maureen O'Sullivan is a radiant Jane Bennet. Greer Garson's look of hatred towards Miss Bingley after she has dissed her family is some of the finest screen acting you'll ever see, but everyone in the cast is playing second fiddle to Laurence Olivier who is an extraordinary Mr Darcy. This is one of Olivier's best early screen roles: he radiates perfect quantities of menace, intelligent and diffidence. I should also mention Edmund Gwenn as a drole Mr Bennet. The movie is let down a little by the costumes by the famous Adrian Greenburg (who et al. in a brilliant career designed Dorothy's shoes for the Wizard of Oz) which are beyond ridiculous and not remotely Regency.

Pride and Prejudice (1995). For an entire generation of people in the UK this BBC mini series is the definitive version of P&P. With a lot more room to breathe (six hours) the characters are fully fleshed and many of the more diverting but easily cuttable bits of the book are left in. Colin Firth is a stolid Mr Darcy and Jennifer Ehle is a charming Elizabeth Bennet. The BBC lavished a lot of money on carriages, country houses and authentic Regency outfits. And nobody puts a foot wrong. And yet. . .Well call it heresy if you want but I don't find Firth all that interesting as Mr D, Adrian Lukis is a timid and unthreatening Mr Wickham and Jennifer's Ehle's Lizzy lacks bite. You cannot complain about Alison Steadman's Mrs B or Andrew Davis's faithful screenplay. 

Pride and Prejudice (2005). Keira Knightley is a spirited, beautiful Elizabeth Bennet with lank hair and dirty boots. Rosamund Pike is a lovely Jane Bennet. Carey Mulligan shines as Kitty Bennet and Jenna Malone and Talulah Riley are great as Lydia and Mary. Simon Woods is an outstanding Mr Bingley playing him as a bit of a nineteenth century Bertie Wooster. Matthew Macfayden is an appropriately dour, broody Mr Darcy almost as good as Olivier's version. Rupert Friend is sinister and scary as Mr Wickham. This is by far the best directed of the three versions I'm reviewing here. There's a tracking shot at the Bingley ball (the second ball in the book if you'll recall) where the camera swings through the action taking in a sad Mr Collins, a humiliated Lizzy, Mary being consoled by her kind father (Donald Sutherland), an ethereal Jane and a happily toasted Mrs Bennet (the superb Brenda Blethyn). The screenplay was written by Debborah Moggach with script doctoring by Emma Thompson (who won an Oscar for her script for Sense and Sensibility). At two hours this is the right length for the story and the humour of the book is excised & reattached with ease. The scene where Mr Collins (Tom Hollander) proposes to Lizzy is one of the funniest you'll ever see. There's also a little more room given to the servants than any of the other versions, which when you read Jo Baker's Longbourn and watch the upcoming BBC version of that superb book you will appreciate. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Roots Of Donald Trump's Nativism

Like Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit Donald Trump is a cartoon villain railing against foreigners, the Federal Government and elites. He is wildly popular (for the moment) among a certain segment of the Republican party for championing protectionism, God and guns. You may not remember this but in 2007 and 2008 Hillary Clinton championed the same demographic in her attempt to wrest the Democratic Party nomination from Barack Obama. It didn't work for Hillary and it's probably not got to work for Trump either. But that's not what interests me (politics ain't my bag). What interests me is who these Trump supporters are. This segment of outsiders who hate elites, foreigners and Washington and who love guns and the Good Book are of course what used to be called Reagan Democrats or yellow dog Democrats. People from middle America and the middle South and Appalachia. These are the people known as the Ulster Scots or 'Scotch-Irish'. As I said in a previous blogpost: 

Too few people realise that the history of the Irish in America does not begin with the potato famine but goes back a century earlier to the 1740 migration of Presbyterians from Ulster. The best book about this hidden history is the brilliant Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer, but Senator Jim Webb has written an entertaining primer called Born Fighting, both of which are well worth a read. Part of Jim Webb's premise is that the Ulster Scots' fighting and a feuding ways meant that they were predisposed for military service and that Scots-Irish officers were the backbone of Washington's Army, the Union and Confederate Armies in the Civil War, the Doughboys of WW1, the GIs of WW2 and Vietnam.

Now as Hackett Fischer points out in Albion's Seed these Borderlanders from Ulster loved liberty, read the Bible, were fiercely independent, loved to fight, hated central government, were suspicious of outsiders and foreigners and they really loved to go to revival meetings to hear a preacher talk. These revival meetings are vividly described by Hackett Fischer with the travelling charismatic preacher cajoling, enraging, joking with and entertaining his audience. Sound like someone we know? 

But where did Trump learn this trick? He's not a McCoy from Kentucky, he's a rich kid from New York, the son of a well off German immigrant, who, furthermore, eschewed fighting in Vietnam by dodging the draft several times (unlike Jim Webb, John McCain and his cohort). The answer is to look at Trump's Scottish Presbyterian mother, Mary Anne MacLeod. Mary MacLeod came from Stornaway on the island of Lewis-Harris in the Outer Hebrides. If you've seen the movie Highlander you already know about the Clan MacLeod (of which Trump and his mother are members) if you haven't you can find out about them here. Lewis-Harris is one of the weirdest places in Britain, indeed in all of Europe. Rainy, stark, beautiful, its the only place in the British Isles where church attendance is actually going up. There are at least six different Presbyterian dominations on Lewis-Harris all at war with one another but who all insist on strict Sabbath observance, thrift, hard work and Bible study. In some of the churches the Presbyterian practice of Psalmody is carried out in an ancient Scots gaelic which to my ears is extraordinarily beautiful. 

I grew up a Presbyterian too but we went to the Presbyterian Church of Ireland which is a dour, sensible, Calvinist, unshowy, deliberately boring faith. There were no charismatic preachers in my church and none wd be tolerated by the Elders. But there was another Presbyterian Church in Ulster at that time: the Free Presbyterian Church which was run by Ian Paisley. Ian Paisley you'll recall was a loud mouthed demagogue who was suspicious of foreigners (especially Europeans), who was Evangelical and who was bizarrely obsessed by the Pope (in Paisley's eschatology Pope John Paul was the Anti-Christ).

Trump comes from or at least is channeling this tradition. Exactly like Paisley Trump loves Israel, loves Scotland, worships guns, says his favourite book is the Bible (although he is unable to recall a single verse or book*) is determinedly Nativist and he says he thinks the central government is selling out the country...Trump though seems to have dropped the anti-Catholicism (at least I think he has, I wonder if his lambasting of Mexicans is at least partly because of their religion). 

Trump's blue collar supporters seem to believe that this billionaire prep school graduate who dodged the draft and got rich by exploiting the bankruptcy laws is still somehow one of them. But, of course, he is. He was born into the Clan MacLeod and as Hackett Fischer points out Scottish and Ulster clan solidarity is a folkway that is still a very important - if almost unknown - current in contemporary American life. If any other American had attacked John McCain's war record he wd have been finished but not Trump. Why? I think to the Ulster Scots it wasnt a big deal because Clan McCain and Clan MacLeod have been fighting each other for 600 years... 


 If you're interested in this stuff you can buy Albion's Seed, here. The great Jonathan Meades's, wonderful, eccentric visit to Lewis-Harris is worth watching from part 3 onwards, here. Jim Webb, it should be said, is also running for President...you can visit his campaign page, here. 
*I don't know if Trump went to Sunday School but his lack of Biblical knowledge wouldn't have passed muster in my church where huge chunks of the King James Bible were studied and analysed in the church itself, in Sunday School and at our Boys Brigade Bible study class. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Interview With Vision Australia

I did an interview with Vision Australia a couple of weeks ago that they have now published online, below. Vision Australia provide audiobooks for blind and vision impaired Australians. The interview touches on class, travel, my feelings about Nordic Noir, the Forsythe trilogy, the Duffy books, more of my crackpot theories, what I've been reading recently, etc.  It's an audio interview only so if you've no patience for that or you've heard me blather about all that shite before dont click the play button. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Girl Who Cashed All The Checks

Although it has been heavily embargoed and no preview copies have been sent out I was able to
acquire an early manuscript copy of the controversial new Stieg Larsson novel that his estate has commissioned. I present here the first two pages of The Girl In The Spiders Web. Hopefully the publishers wont make me take this down. I can cheerfully report that although the book was written by a hack Swedish novelist it is up to the high standards of the previous Larsson books. See for yourself:

The Girl In The Spiders Web

Mikael Blomkvist, the ruggedly handsome editor of Millennium magazine woke to the sound of laughter. He opened his eyes and looked around the spare but tastefully decorated bedroom. It was empty. He peered through the window of his apartment on Hantverkargatan Street but no one was on the balcony with an axe or lying flat on his skylight ready to jump through it and murder him. That kind of thing hadn’t happened in months. 
             Not since his last case - a nasty one where a greedy father and brother had ripped off a journalist's widow leaving her with nothing.
            The laughter was coming from the living room. Blomkvist pulled on his Nukes Out T shirt and Cuban Army camo pants and stopped at the mirror on the wall. Yes he still looked ruggedly handsome, he thought and walked into the living room where Helen Hagen was sprawled on the sofa wearing one of his shirts and watching television.
            Hagen was a beautiful 28 year conservative American who had been debating with him the previous evening at a packed event at Stockholm University. The debate had been entitled “American Foreign Policy Is a Force For Good”, she had been for the motion, he had been against. Not only had Blomkvist won the debate, turning the hostile crowd in his favour but he had also won over Hagen and had bedded her after showing her that Noam Chomsky’s denials of the Cambodian genocide were perfectly understandable in the context of the American perfidy and lies that prevailed in the Western media in the post Watergate era.
            He sat down beside her on the sofa.
            “What are you laughing at?” he asked.
            “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It’s an old episode,” she said in that annoying American twang of hers.
            He watched the show for a few minutes. It was a fake dialectic, the sort of thing Marcuse had predicted in 1968, where the population is offered the illusion of choice and dissent, the better to control them.
            Blomkvist said nothing and went to make some Eritrean Popular Front fair trade coffee.
            “You got a phone call,” Hagen said.
            “From whom? The Zionist capitalists who control the media?!” he asked with alarm.
            “Someone called Lisbeth Salendar. She didn’t leave a message but she sounded like she was in trouble.”
            “I must go!” Blomkvist said pulling on a fair trade sweater, fair trade shoes and a raincoat given him by Olaf Palme for being such a great guy. He ran out of the apartment. 
            It was early morning in Stockholm but already the streets were filled with people: bourgeois businessmen on their way to brothels filled with underage trafficked Russian girls, fat American tourists with their noses stuffed in McDonalds wrappers, complacent young people with their faces in iPhones built by slave labour in far off China.
            When he arrived at Salendar’s apartment she had already left but Salander’s girlfriend, a cool punk rock singer called Bug was waiting for him. Bug was a musician and in the public eye a lot but she was a positive role model for young women, rejecting the patriarchy, the capitalist record companies and the corporate shills. She was a confirmed lesbian with a mohawk and a completely appropriate body fat ratio for her height. In fact she may even have been a little overweight. Not that being underweight or overweight would have mattered to her because she was confident in who she was and unconcerned by contingent western standards of beauty. That’s how cool she was. Yes, a little bit overweight, Blomkvist decided, damning his eyes for objectifying the young woman. Plump even. Ok chubby. But in a good way.
            “Lisbeth isn’t here,” Bug said.
            “I like big butts and I cannot lie,” Blomkvist said.
            Bug stared at him.
            “I, I, don’t know why I said that,” Blomkvist stuttered, horrified.
            “Was that Sir Mixalot?” Bug asked.
“I don’t know. I appreciate the culture of African American musical artists but at the same time I loathe the sexism of much of the hip hop community.”
            Bug looked him up and down. “Well aren’t you a tall drink of water,” she said admiringly.
            “What trouble is Lisbeth in this time?” Blomkvist asked quickly. He knew he was irresistible but he just didn’t have the time or energy to convert yet another lesbian thirty years his junior.  
            “Lisbeth made a surveillance tape of a man who tortures women,” Bug said.
            “All men torture women,” Blomkvist said solemnly.
            “Don’t go all Andrea Dworkin on me,” Bug said. “Just stay focused and watch the tape.”
            Blomkvist and Bug watched the tape. The violence inflicted on the women was shocking. Blomkvist called up the owner of Millennium magazine.
            “A famous rich Swedish industrialist has been kidnapping and torturing young women,” he said.
            “Who is this? What time is it?” a sleepy voice replied.
“Let me take twenty minutes out of your morning to explain exactly how these young women were violated and tortured in graphic, lurid detail,” Blomkvist said.
“Wait, who is this?”
“First he would tie them up, then—"
      "I think you have the wrong number, I'm not--
      "Then he would bring out the chains and dildoes."
      "I'm hanging up, weirdo."
      Click. Dialtone. "My God. They are already closing in," Blomkvist said his eyes wide with terror.