Last Book Read...



  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,277MI6 Agent
    edited January 29

    @Barbel, you're cant' be serious .... or can you?

    BTW, I have Insomnia and The Outsider on my bookshelf and the 11.22.63 hardcover was on sale on Amazon so I ordered that as well. Any recommendations among those three?

  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,349Chief of Staff

    11.22.63 is the only Stephen King novel I’ve ever read…and I didn’t know he’d written it 🫣😳

    So, while I can’t recommend any of his others - I can recommend that one…I absolutely loved it…although I did read it after watching the the tv series based on it…which I thought excellent 🍸

    YNWA 97
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    Just having my little joke. It's not his best IMHO, but it's perhaps his biggest*; unputdownable and unforgettable, I've read it twice and hope to do that again someday.

    The film I think is no more than okay. The cast (including our very own Barry Nelson!) do fine and the story's not been altered beyond recognition but (and I know this is sacrilege) Stanley Kubrick never did much for me as a director here or in other films.

    * not in actual size, he's written longer books, but in fame, sales, public name value, etc.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    I loved that one, too. Haven't seen the TV version.

  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,349Chief of Staff
    YNWA 97
  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,277MI6 Agent

    Thanks for the comments on 11.22.63; might tackle that next but the 1000 page length is a little intimidating.

    @barbel, my cable company recently added the Peacock streaming service to my subscription and I was able to check out Mr. Mercedes. To be honest, I didn't care for what I saw. The story is all there but so much new stuff has been added that it diluted the experience for me. For example Ida, who was a very minor character in the first book, is tuned into Bill's nosy next door neighbor who is always trying to get into his pants, going so far as to show him nude pictures of herself. Bill himself seems quite different from the image I got from the literary version. I got thru four episodes and had to stop. Might give it another go down the road at some point.

  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,349Chief of Staff

    Is that how long the book is? I didn’t think it was that long…but honestly…it FAR too short 🤗

    YNWA 97
  • HarryCanyonHarryCanyon Posts: 123MI6 Agent

    I started the Gray Man series of books the other day. These are by Mark Greaney and essentially cover that whole 'ultra assassin at large' genre of books that is so popular right now. My brother has been begging me to read these so I started them just to shut him up.

    First book, THE GRAY MAN, is pretty fun in a 'turn your brain off' kinda way. It's the perfect book to read while you're killing time on an airplane or in a hotel room. Courtland (Court) Gentry is a freelance assassin who was trained by the CIA and now undertakes missions that meet his own personal moral code. He finishes a mission but then gets thrown under the bus for a prior mission, resulting in a ton of assassins from other countries trying to take him out while he makes his way back to France in order to rescue his handler. Action, action, action, action, action.

    I started the second book, ON TARGET, the other day. More of the same so far.

    There was a Netflix movie called THE GRAY MAN which is essentially the first novel intermixed with elements from several of the other novels. It was ok for what it was but it also exposed the underlying problem with the book series in general: it's really thin in terms of character and plotting. If you just want to see stuff blow up, you'll be fine. If you want anything nuanced, you're flat out out of luck.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    Based on what you say, I'm not sorry to have missed it and I don't think I'll chase it up. Thanks, @TonyDP

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    Both book and television series are absolutely stunners. I think 11.22.63 will go down as the perfect pairing of both mediums in King’s long repertoire.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,198MI6 Agent

    I am currently reading and very much enjoying Quentin Tarantino's recent book on 1970s cinema, Cinema Speculation.

    It's a selection of essays; the films it covers are: Bullitt, Dirty Harry, The Getaway, Deliverance, The Outfit, Daisy Miller, Taxi Driver, Rolling Thunder, Paradise Alley, Escape from Alcatraz, Hardcore and grind house movie The Funhouse.

    There's also a chapter devoted to the New Hollywood of the 70s and the young directors of the time, an appreciation of the LA film critic Kevin Thomas, an essay on what would have happened if Brian de Palma had done Taxi Driver as first offered... the book is bookended by two great essays, the first on what it was like for a 7-year-old kid (Quentin himself) in 1970, seeing lots of movies, and closing with a eulogy to one of his single mom's friends whom he hung out with, a fellow movie fan.

    I tell you this so you can avoid spoilers by avoiding the films you haven't already seen - for some impish reason the author has chapter headings but no Contents, nor are the titles of the chapters at the top of the pages either. Perhaps he is mimicking the style of some cherished book on cinema he has long admired, not bothered if he's making it hard for us. It's the sort of thing he'd do.

    He also dances around all kinds of other movies, namedropping obscurities that make you curious to see them.

    The opening chapter is terrific stuff and an eye-opener. Because of the way the ratings work in the US - and some our our American members can vouch for this or dispute it if I've got this wrong - kids can go into see any movie bar an X certificate (and there weren't many of those around) so long as they were accompanied by an adult.

    So a 7-year-old Quentin could get into see films with his tolerant and cool mom such as The French Conneciton, Women In Love, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Vincent Price horror flicks, The Godfather, Deliverance, MASH, The Wild Bunch and Patton.

    In the UK, when I was 7 I had to settle for stuff like The Sound of Music, The Sting and The Spy Who Loved Me.

    This is because of course our ratings were U (Disney and other kids' films), A (later PG) - family films, sometimes cosplaying as grown-up movies (James Bond, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and so on), AA (later 15) - like family films but with a bit of swearing and bare breasts, films your older sibling got to see, and X (later 18) - violent, sexy, sleazy films, really out there.

    Tarantino is dismissive of 1970s Bond films and you can see why frankly, given the smorgasbord on offer for him. If you'd seen the cream of black exploitation flicks, Live and Let Die might not be that big a deal. Golden Gun we generally don't rate anyway - these two movies area almost Disney films with a bit of sex. Spy is good stuff for sure but by then Tarantino's tastes would be more sophisticated and even more by the time of the childish Moonraker - a film I love, incidentally.

    But beyond all that, you get the idea that Quentin is a fan of movies, of cinema. Where the movie is the star, not the leading man, not the director... He is a fan of pure cinema and he doesn't discriminate in favour of big name releases. He likes it wherever he finds it.

    So you can see why Bond isn't a big deal for him, necessarily. In James Bond films, the star isn't the movie. It's not the director (usually they're journeymen, very proficient but not auteurs) and not the leading man (most don't really make their mark away from Bond, I know Connery did but only really once he's physically moved beyond the part of Bond, in the late 1980s). No, the star of the James Bond film is... James Bond. Nothing else.

    In contrast, take a film like Raiders of the Lost Ark. I don't love this movie. I've enjoyed it a bit over the decades and maybe as it's a slice of cinema, I should have seen it once on the big screen, at least. But the star isn't Indiana Jones. It's not Harrison Ford, who mumbles in a monotone and really only comes alive while sparring with Karen Allen or Sean Connery). It's not even Lucas or Spielberg. No ,the star of Raiders of the Lost Ark is.... Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's the movie.

    Same goes with Star Wars. The star isn't Luke Skywalker, or Han Solo, or Princess Leia... Or George Lucas. The star of Star Wars is... Star Wars.

    It may explain why when we have a leading man as Bond we can't get behind it, we can't go along with it. I don't care for Dalton, and his two films fall flat. They have nothing cinematic really going on there imo. Otherwise, I might be okay with them. And the same goes if you can't take to Roger Moore.... the films are about the guy. Without getting behind him, well, it's a dead duck.

    It may also explain why OHMSS - one of the more cinematic films - may be at the expense of the leading man, Lazenby. Another on this board has pointed out how the director doesn't quite set him up as a leading man the way others did with Connery. Maybe to get around the idea that he wasn't Connery, to fudge the issue? It explains why I love the film at the cinema but not on telly. Fans don't love the star, they don't love James Bond in it imo - they love OHMSS! The movie is the star.

    It may even explain why the likes of Raiders or Star Wars didn't have many successfully spin-offs - the magic is hard to replicate. The Bond films' imitators were two a penny, you just got a handsome leading man, put in some action and sex and witty one-liners and bingo! (That said, I guess Jaws had plenty of spin-offs like Piranha and The Deep.)

    Tarantino does praise Connery's Diamonds are Forever, the first Bond he ever saw - saying it had along with Dirty Harry it had the best audience cinema reaction he'd ever seen, albeit on the way to praising a blacksploitation film's response far more. He says he later saw a Bond triple bill - From Russia with Love, Dr No and Goldfinger - he lists them in that order, and says he found the first two boring spy movies, but when the third one dropped, he immediately thought 'This is more like it!' (He doesn't say that's his opinion now.) It shows that a film like DAF, not highly rated among many fans, was a real game changer for its time, the way GoldenEye was in its day, and that the first two movies weren't always regarded as the Holy Grail.

    (It's worth recalling that Tarantino once put himself in the frame to direct Pierce Brosnan in Casino Royale, set after the events of OHMSS, though really how far that got along the line I don't know.)

    Quentin's films are it occurs to me, eulogies to cinema. As with eulogies at a funeral, it's easy to overwrite and hard to edit them down - you're saying goodbye. What should you leave out? You can't. You have to settle more for getting the tone right. This may explain why his films are so long - he doesn't like to say goodbye. It's sometimes at the expense of the overall tone. It may explain why his films don't get much of a way of spin-offs - they are for films they just don't make anymore.

    Double bills he mentions have you salivating... that may also explain why his films are so long. he wants to replicate that sense of being at the movies for an entire afternoon. He did it with Grindhouse of course, which is never shown on telly nor even at the Prince Charles in London.

    There's another reason why the director may be at odds a bit with Bond films - the point of cinema is that it can tip into amorality very easily. The action goes where the camera wants, to excite, to get a reaction. It's visceral. Many of these films don't have a hero. There's no guiding moral principles. The director hated the 1950s movies, and most of the 1980s films too, he says because everything was strait-laced and goody two shoes. Of course, with Bond, everything has to turn out alright in the end, and it usually does. It does perhaps point to a growing amorality in Tarantino's films I can't dig - they seem to go off on a tangent too, as if a different movie altogether. There is sometimes what feels like a lack of heart... I love Pulp Fiction but you don't feel that Samuel L Jackson's religious conversion is keenly felt by him or the director, rather it's a gag to have him and Travolta spa off each other.

    I'v got this book out on loan from Surrey libraries and I thoroughly recommend it. The writing is great fun - read it before you go to bed and it's like drinking an espresso. For all that, one does get the sense that the films he espouses are a bit corrupting.... on the other hand he reasons that the big thrill of a horror like Halloween - lost on the critics - is seeing them in contact, with a packed cinema of teens hollering and cat-calling, reacting to it so it's like a participation event, a communal event.

    Anne Billson gave this a snippy write-up in the Times in November 2022 - she - or the sub-editor - describes it as 'opinionated' which is a word you use when you don't agree with the opinions. I guess it's gamekeeper turned poacher territory as Tarantino is assuming the role of a critic in this book, though really it's clear he's a fan, an enthusiast, and I found his enthusiasm very catching.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent

    I got that book too, and I also sort of stalled because I havent seen half the films he's discussing. I might read those chapters anyway, because I the ones I did read he's talking about the backgrounds of the creative team, and other related issues, as much as the actual film, so its sort of a nonlinear random film history from his own warped perspective.

    That first chapter is incredible! my mom didnt take me to see any of those films either. I think I need to see Joe now, if only to better understand Tarantino.

    on youtube somewhere is Tarantino reviewing Moonraker, which he assumed he was going to trash before watching it fresh, then goes on to praise all the Ken Adams stuff and the stunts.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,198MI6 Agent

    Re how Tarantino's films seem to be eulogies to cinema - they don't imo always stand up in their own right, but are referencing other films - it does seem the same comment can be directed at the Bond films since GoldenEye. They all seem to be referencing other Bond movies quite knowingly, as if saying goodbye to the series, a kind of valedictory.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent

    It could also be that, as well as nostalgia, they've ran out of new ideas and are following trends rather than setting them. It's not a great place to be creatively, to be honest.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,623MI6 Agent

    Even though I agree the references speak of a lack of new ideas, I have to remind you that the most controversial parts of NTTD are new ideas: Matilde, all of SPECTRE getting killed, M making a horrible mistake, Bond dying. Like them or not, they are new ideas.

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent

    That's true, though I was referring more to the constant looking back to the Aston Martin DB5, the reimagining of Blofeld and Spectre etc. You are right in asserting that NTTD had many original ideas that hadn't been used before and that's to be welcomed. However, the idea of all of SPECTRE getting killed was from an old TSWLM draft script by Richard Maibaum from about 1976 so even that idea wasn't new either.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,277MI6 Agent
    edited February 12

    11/22/63 by Stephen King

    Jake Epping finds a bubble in time in the storeroom of a diner belonging to his friend Al Templeton. It allows him to travel back to a specific point in time - September 30, 1958 - and, though he can freely change things, every visit to the past resets the timeline. At the urging of Templeton, who was using the time portal himself and is now dying of cancer, Jake plans to go back in time and try to change the future by preventing the assassination of John F. Kenned, hoping it will alter subsequent events like the death of Martin Luther King and the Vietnam war, thus ushering in a better future where all the tragedies of the following decades might be averted. Along the way Jake takes on the identity of George Amberson, using his knowledge of the future to aid him in his mission. He also meets and falls in love with Sadie Dunhill, a librarian with a troubled past. But the past is obdurate and does not want to be changed; it fights Jake at every turn and even if he succeeds, will the future he envisions come to pass? Will he be able to remain with Sadie? Or will he be the unwitting instrument of doom for the very future he is trying to save?

    11/22/63 is not your typical Stephen King novel. It's rooted squarely in a classic science fiction trope, while also sprinkling in more than a dash of horror and a few callbacks to another classic King novel. It's also very much a love story; a man out of time finding love and a sense of belonging he'd never felt before in the most unexpected of places and the profound effect that has on him and his mission.

    The story makes use of many classic time travel tropes and if I were to offer any criticism of the book, it's that in the end King respects those tropes a little too much. I thought I saw the ending coming pretty early in the book and was disappointed that I got it so right. It would have been more daring and maybe even more satisfying if King thew expectations out the window and really pulled the rug out from under the reader at the end. Instead, I think he plays it a little too safe. Amusingly, my brother and I recently saw The Flash and while the characters in play were different I was kind of stunned at how similar the overall plot and even the resolution were to 11/22/63.

    In spite of these reservations, I enjoyed my time with 11/22/63. King's writing is at top form here and despite it's length the book is an engaging read, sagging only a little bit during the middle passages when Jake is following Lee Harvey Oswald's movements in order to be 100% certain that he acted alone. The inevitable confrontation at the book repository in Dealey Plaza is riveting and heart-wrenching and those final pages will wring every emotion out of the reader. Really glad I decided to take it on.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    UNTOUCHABLE – Mulk Raj Anand (1935)

    An effective realist observation from acclaimed Indian author Mulk Raj Anand which concentrates on a day in the life of Bakha, a young man of the lowest caste in Hindu society who begins, through a series of encounters, to appreciate the fundamental flaws in the traditional cultural system. Phenomenally well described, Bakha’s story resonates because he is both intelligent, inquisitive and sympathetic. A strong and good looking man, he is fated to spend his days cleaning streets and toilets and begging for food from wealthy households. People do not associate with him or his family and they are blamed even when innocent as they have no place to argue back. His situation is one of permanency – questioning his fate leads him to an encounter with Mahatma Ghandi and a peaceful vision of a utopian future.

    Politically and societally, the novel remains relevant as so much simply hasn’t altered, even if the ‘untouchables’ of the title are outlawed. It is flawed in its simplistic ideals, but has emotional and intellectual impact thanks to the embittered prose of the author, who shares in his character’s pain and also the moments of extreme pleasure. As injustice piles on injustice, you sense the order needs to change, but the solutions are never as clear cut as the rhetoric. If anything, Anand overdoes the intellectual sections – towards the end a debate between two poets feels entirely superfluous – as the story has greater success reflecting on the physical and mental strains of Bakha’s working day, how the slightest fault, often not even personally erroneous, can prove a disaster for his family. Strong on detail, the novel reflects an approaching time of change for India, exemplified in its dignified central personality who makes peace with the world while resolving to reform the lot of the sweeper through industrial progress. Anand may be suggesting that civilisation hasn’t yet touched Indian society, which would be debateable, but he clearly believes cultural change is afoot and it is being led by the underclasses who stood most to gain from Ghandi’s political popularity.    

  • LoeffelholzLoeffelholz The United States, With LovePosts: 8,985Quartermasters
    edited February 19

    I recently had the opportunity to listen to unabridged audiobook versions of the first two Richard Hannay novels by the long-late Scotsman John Buchan: The 39 Steps (1915) and Greenmantle (1916). The former, as most film buffs will know, was loosely adapted into a film made by Alfred Hitchcock in the earlier (UK era) part of his career. Apparently, the latter was a BBC-TV film in the early 2000s? (🤷‍♂️) ...but that's apparently impossible for a Yank to put his eyes on.

    I will definitely be reading the rest of the Hannay books. They are cracking good old-school espionage/adventure stories - the first set in the run-up to WWI; the second one climaxing in the heat of the action on the Turkish front. Granted, Buchan takes full advantage of happenstance, coincidence, contrivance and serendipity as these stories unfold - stuff one can't get away with when writing these days! - but they are so much fun that it's very difficult to throw stones at them. There is no doubt in my mind that Fleming read these books in his youth. Highly recommended. Cheers! 🍸️

    Check out my Amazon author page! Mark Loeffelholz
    "I am not an entrant in the Shakespeare Stakes." - Ian Fleming
    "Screw 'em." - Daniel Craig, The Best James Bond EverTM
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,198MI6 Agent

    I had been thinking about Greenmantle when I read this post, for me it was an oddball book, sort of thrilling and also total nonsense, he makes his way across Europe and just happens to run into a certain guy he knows at the same time, then again not unlike Bond and Nomi arriving in Cuba at the same time. Another odd thing was a reference to 'that circus at Loos' or some such thing - that's the Battle of Loos in WWI, scene of usual butchery, brushed off in clipped English fashion. Then the showdown, a Flashman-style battle on horseback if I recall, where the character opines that it's those who have never really lived who are lily livered when it comes to battle, it's remarkably unsympathetic but those were the times. Finally, the hero lets slip that he's never had any experience with women so is easily spooked by a femme fatale, I don't know, you get the sense Holmes never did much either but unlike The 39 Steps it does drive it home these are different times with different values. You can't see Donat doing this as a sequel esp with Hitchcock helming because in Greenmantle he's very much a State agent whereas in the first he's seen as an Enemy of the State and it has those hallmarks, not only that but he did cop off with Madeleine Carroll in the film, one of those few old-style actresses who have contemporary hotness (tbf there are a few, Veronica Lake for instance).

    Robert Powell of The Thirty-Nine Steps - the sort of Timothy Dalton of the films - did reappear in a Richard Hannay series some years later, not sure how based on the books it was.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,198MI6 Agent
    edited March 2

    Anyway, I came to write about Jeeves and the Leap of Faith by Ben Schott, a follow-up to Jeeves and the King of Clubs, which came out a few years ago during the Brexit kerfuffle. This one came out in 2020. Both are, of course, continuation novels carrying on from PG Wodehouse.

    JATKOC is a comic masterpiece that I highly recommend. I kept meaning to do a review of it but never did and it went back to the library. What Schott is very good is those witty turns of phrase at which Wodehouse excelled, they are hilariously funny. The book is not short stories however, but it's a novel so the dynamic is different and Jeeves doesn't quite make an appearance for long stretches whereas in the short stories he must appear frequently to bail out our hero, Bertie Wooster.

    Eventually the book even touches on a kind of freemasonry - in a way it is highly accurate in its depiction of how the State works, namely that some collaborators are knowingly corrupt, others are on the fence and see what way the wind is blowing, and a third can be described as 'useful idiots' who serve the State unquestionably and don't know the higher purpose. It is testimony to the book's charm that it describes this in a way that one gets behind it unquestionably; you are on their side, having been let in on it. The enemy in this is a far-right buffoon called Spode who is a send-up of Mosely and the Black Shirts. This does seem a spoof on Brexit, in particular the obsession with Union flags, which makes it odd that Daily Mail scribe Quentin Letts recommended this book.

    Anyway, King of Clubs is killingly funny and I wish the Bond continuation novels were as good, I thought they didn't write them like this any more? That said, Bertie Wooster fans are not so thrilled because, to be fair and this occurred to me too, the Bertie Wooster here is not that of Wodehouse, he is too smart. Wodehouse's knack was to depict a chump as a central character yet still imbue him with these witty turns of phrase that would be beyond a bloke like him, but of course not that of the author. I guess the 'man child' over privileged world of Wodehouse's Wooster is not so charming these days, particular to women. The Wooster depicted here might be more a Boris Johnson type (Gove would be a typical Wooster 'pal' of dubious integrity), or David Cameron or Tony Blair, posh boys who can get outside their comfort zone but not thick at all, he could almost be played by Roger Moore in Brett Sinclair mode. He dabbles in a flirtation with a highly estimable young lady/spy who is on the level and is even recruited by the State for high-end espionage - the original Bertie never would have, but there you go, the hapless fools of the Will Hay era we don't see quite so much these days.

    This follow-up is okay but a bit watered down. It's inessential. Some phrases are there - re a sticky situation in his mind, Wooster says he 'just couldn't find the cool side of the pillow' and when asking for a beverage he requests 'a whisky and soda, and let the whisky win' - there are funnier lines than that but it feels wrong to go back and look for them, they fly off the page. I began this maybe two years ago and then put it down and lost it, I found it again in a clear out recently and finished it - suffice to say it's not unputdownable by any means. I am really not sure what the plot was - in my second stint 100 pages went by and I'm not sure it was mentioned or back referenced, something about Wooster having to pretend to be a vicar at Oxford for some reason. The characters were thinly drawn compared to the first one. Once again, the slightly prominent role of Jeeves as the hidden hand behind events some might find off-putting. I should have bought King of Clubs and got this one out of the library instead. But I finished it, it had its moments but comnpared to the hilarious set-pieces of the first, including a taxi chase across London where our hero takes refuge in his gentleman's club from an apoplectic Spode - it's the best kind of public school humour - or the detailed definition of the different kinds of gentleman's valet, which rather called to mind PM assistants like Alistair Campbell or Dominic Cummings - this is a wafer thin mint.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
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