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Sean Wilson-blake (Mauchline, Scotland)

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The Big Nowhere
The Big Nowhere
Price: £3.95

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest crime novels you're likely to come across, 27 May 2013
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This review is from: The Big Nowhere (Kindle Edition)
Having read James Ellroy's masterpiece 'The Black Dahlia', I decided to try his next in his LA Quartet. The Big Nowhere is brilliant historical fiction featuring a plot most hard-boiled noir novelists would only dream of doing. Ellroy, like he did with Dahlia, pretty much brings 1950's Los Angeles back to life with obsessively detailed characters, locations and dialogue. It is an epic crime story that feels so real. He blends fact and fiction so well, you don't know which one is which.

The main characters are: Danny Upshaw, a young and determined cop investigating a series of grisly murders. Mal Considine, a lieutenant of the LA District Attorney's Criminal Investigation Bureau, hired to have a look into the Communist influence in Hollywood movies. And Turner 'Buzz' Meeks, a former cop-turned enforcer for gangster Mickey Cohen and pimp for Howard Hughes also investigating the Communist influence in the movies but really only doing it for the money. As the story progresses, these three men cross paths which ultimately reveal their darkest secrets and motives.

It's not your typical police procedural/mystery book and it's not your typical noir novel either. Themes of political corruption, the dark side of Hollywood and sexual fetishism add more layers to the novel. This story contains so much more than The Black Dahlia and Ellroy doesn't shy away from the more extreme sides of humanity. The disturbing descriptions of violence only adds more realism to Ellroy's hyper realistic world.

Like many reviewers have already stated: If you like Raymond Chandler or Dashiel Hammett then this novel is for you. That's true, but if you want a more daring and darker plot still set in the noir drenched world of crooked cops, atmospheric Los Angeles, quick fire dialogue and a rich plot with more corruption than your government then this surely is for you. Probably the greatest serious crime novel ever (... maybe alongside The Black Dahlia and The Long Goodbye).

Bitches Brew
Bitches Brew
Price: £21.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music masterpiece, 9 Feb 2013
This review is from: Bitches Brew (Audio CD)
Bitches Brew was released around the time rock music was getting taken seriously. Psychedelic bands such as Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Iron Butterfly, Quicksilver Messenger Service etc were incorporating blues, classical, folk, jazz-influenced psychedelic music and written compositions well over the standard time of mainstream rock music. Compositions such as 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' (Pink Floyd) and 'Voodoo Chile' (Jimi Hendrix Experience, and not to be confused with the much more popular Voodoo Child [Slight Return]) ran up to 15 minutes long.

Miles Davis being in the music scene for over 20 years when this artistic musical explosion occurred, it was quite amazing to see him adapt to different styles and produce highly original and powerfully inventive jazz fusion.

All compositions are outstanding and timeless. It might take a while to get used to as it is music you will of most likely never heard in your life. Such an impressive blend of jazz, psychedelic rock and tightly structured jamming.

Now don't get me wrong, none of the rock compositions I mentioned are similar to the Bitches Brew album. I was merely just stating that rock music had become a lot more artistic and avant-garde and it is clear that Miles Davis was a fan of some (if only a few) and respected the works of these artists.

So if you liked the avant-garde jazz masterpiece that is 'A Love Supreme' by John Coltrane, Davis previous classic 'In A Silent Way' or if you're into the more experimental rock works of Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, The Jimi Hendrix Experience then give this album a go. Words just cannot describe how intense, powerful and just simply damn good this album is.

Wish You Were Here Experience Edition (2011 - Remaster)
Wish You Were Here Experience Edition (2011 - Remaster)
Price: £12.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect. Timeless., 17 Nov 2012
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Following the critically and commercially successful 'The Dark Side Of The Moon (2011 - Remaster)' Pink Floyd gave us 'Wish You Were Here', a loose concept album focusing on the greedy music industry and Floyd founder Syd Barrett.

Syd wrote almost all of Floyd's debut album 'The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn [Discovery Edition]' and also contributed to their darker psychedelic album 'A Saucerful Of Secrets (2011 - Remaster)' but due to an LSD-infused lifestyle Barrett became increasingly erratic and unpredictable so the band let him go. David Gilmour joined PF a few months before so he became the lead guitarist there after. Syd's influence is seen through pretty much every Pink Floyd album and 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' and 'Wish You Were Here' are in memory of Barrett. Also, PF targeted the music industry. More relevant today than it was in 1975, Floyd describe the music industry as greedy, money-obsessed businessmen with no interest in music and more interest in the green stuff. The song 'Welcome To The Machine', an atmospheric and haunting piece describes this perfectly while 'Have A Cigar' is poking fun at it with satirical lyrics and funky guitar work.

A perfect bonus is the live recordings of some of Pink Floyd's most amazing compositions being played in Wembley 1974. The 20 minute early version of 'Shine On' is more raw and features insane drumming from Nick Mason, something you don't get to hear on it's studio counterpart. This then moves onto 'Raving and Drooling', a 12 minute psychedelic masterpiece featuring some of Richard Wright's darkest keyboard playing ever and very memorable and funky bass riffs from Roger Waters. This composition turned into the slightly modified 'Sheep' on their 1977 album 'Animals'. Finally, 'You've Got To Be Crazy', music written by David Gilmour with lyrics by Waters. An 18 minute epic, dreamy, bluesy and powerful rendition of what would become 'Dogs' on 'Animals'.

Powerful music that still feels so new- almost futuristic with Pink Floyd showing us that music can take us to places where no man has gone before. Like many people say, if intelligent extraterrestrials visited Earth we should show them some Pink Floyd. I get the feeling they would be very impressed.

The Division Bell [2011 - Remaster] (2011 - Remaster)
The Division Bell [2011 - Remaster] (2011 - Remaster)
Price: £7.49

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Has aged well, great music, 7 April 2012
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Yes, without Waters, the Gilmour-led Pink Floyd were surely bound to struggle and I personally think they did with their horribly produced late eighties album 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason' (although 'Sorrow' was a strong composition) but come 1994 they release 'The Division Bell' and it is more positive. In my opinion, TDB contains some of the best Pink Floyd compositions since their 1977 album 'Animals'.

It is obvious that they are trying to replicate the early 70's Floyd and they do with spacey compositions and excellent musicianship. For instance, 'Cluster One' is gentle, slow moving, atmospheric... the kind of Floyd of the 70's. And Gilmour's guitar work really shines in tracks 'High Hopes', 'Coming Back To Life', 'Marooned' and 'Poles Apart'. Wright's keyboard playing is up to his usual standards and even sings lead vocals on 'Wearing The Inside Out' which is a jazz-influenced piece featuring saxophonist Dick Parry. Nick Mason keeps the beat going with gorgeous drumming. Every shot he hits sounds heavenly. Yes his drumming isn't as complex as his earlier days (especially his live drumming) but his playing is very consistent and sounds amazing.

However the lyrics aren't up to Roger Waters' standards. They may be better if you are wanting to just relax in the fantastic, dreamy, softer progressive rock music but if you're wanting a concept album about whatever/whoever's issues then it really isn't the best lyrics wise. Roger's angry, politically driven lyrics from 'Animals' is nowhere to be heard or his philosophical ideas heard in 'Dark Side of the Moon' aren't heard either. It seems to me that the lyrics in TDB are more reflective and about the past days.

So it's nothing as important as Waters' lyrical poetry but Gilmour never seemed to bother with lyrics. The man cares more about the music, and Pink Floyd's 'The Division Bell' delivers some amazing music. It is softer and less angry than the earlier stuff but the men were in their late 40's/early 50's when this was released so it's understandable. But it's still dreamy and incredible music.

L.A. Noire (PS3)
L.A. Noire (PS3)
Offered by Game Dealz
Price: £8.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe more for film noir fans than video gamers, 20 Nov 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: L.A. Noire (PS3) (Video Game)
L.A Noire is a crime story set in late 40's Los Angeles. You play as Officer Cole Phelps, a young and determined cop living in the City of Dreams. With plenty of help from Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy, we get a strong look at the dark and disturbed city of L.A.

Less action-oriented than the GTA and Red Dead Redemption games and relying more on atmosphere and clue finding, L.A Noire is a breathtaking crime thriller with unique animation technology showing more realism and cinematic intrigue than more recent games.

Like the film noirs of the 40's and 50's, the story is gritty and unrelenting. Set during Hollywood's Golden Age, references to Hollywood stars, films, TV shows are present. Aside from crimes in the Homicide Division etc, we are thrown into sleazy actors, directors, producers in Hollywood. The lighting is dark, atmospheric and the characters are similar to 40's police officers seen in the movies.

Also referenced is the Black Dahlia aka Elizabeth Short: the troubled Hollywood starlet who was sadly found cut in half and tortured in Los Angeles. In fact, a healthy dose of Homicide is strictly focused on finding the killer of Elizabeth Short. Obviously it is a fictional character who is the murderer as Short's killer has never been found. Interesting nonetheless.

With great acting, a dark story and plenty of clues to find, L.A Noire would probably appeal more to film noir fans than just strictly video game fans. Very cinematic and exciting. In fact, L.A Noire lies with my film collection rather than my games collection, it's that damn cinematic. Great game.

Punisher Max Volume 5: The Slavers TPB: Slavers v. 5 (Graphic Novel Pb)
Punisher Max Volume 5: The Slavers TPB: Slavers v. 5 (Graphic Novel Pb)
by Garth Ennis
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story in which you truly wish Frank Castle existed, 29 Aug 2011
Taking on two highly controversial topics that are human trafficking and sexual slavery, we are almost asking for a man like Frank Castle to exist and deal with the horrors of both topics. But Garth Ennis also has written a fantastic thriller graphic novel that shows us the true darkness in some human beings. Such detail in the characters, you would of thought they really existed. And some characters you will really despise.

Dark, violent, noirish, nightmarish, disturbing, gut-wrenching... all of these would probably be close to describing the story. With the freedom to write whatever he wants (MAX comics), Garth Ennis takes us on a realistic journey into New York and also into the blackness of the world. Showing us the ugly side of human nature and why it should be stopped.

We all know that the Punisher will deal with these disturbing men. But what we don't know is how he will kill them, and just why he is doing this vigilante stuff because it will never stop. Evil will always be among us, and Frank Castle thrives to eliminate it.

But be prepared for a terrifying journey into the darkest hearts ever: One of them is Frank Castle, who is a disturbed man with a little bit of light left in him and then there's the Slavers... the most disturbing villains you will ever read in a Punisher comic... or any comic. Be prepared.

No Beast So Fierce
No Beast So Fierce
by Edward Bunker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest crime novels out there, 31 July 2011
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This review is from: No Beast So Fierce (Paperback)
Just over 300 pages but drenched in vivid detail, you will forget you are reading a work of fiction. We follow a man called Max Dembo who has just been released from jail on parole. Max wants to rid himself of his former criminal life and go straight. But tensions between Max and his parole officer cause him to over the edge and abandon a 'normal life' and returns to his former life of crime.

Set in Los Angeles, we follow Max's new life which is an intense ride into L.A's seedy side that avoids clichés and tells it like it is. Actions have serious consequences and we have to go through the darkness in order to see the light. Max is such an interesting character. A man we are supposed to hate because of his bleak look on life, his violent actions and crimes turns out to be an almost likeable character. He sees life differently than most criminals seen in books. He despises society, he frequently tells us about the point on living knowing fine well our day will come to an abrupt end, he transcends life. Ed Bunker has made one of the most compelling characters I've ever read.

Not only just a violent crime book, it is also a serious character study and a very realistic one. Like I said earlier, one would think we are actually reading a true story. Because of Bunker's experience (he was a criminal before turning to writing) we are basically shown the ins and outs of how a criminal works, thinks and lives. Along with his pinpoint accuracy of Los Angeles, we are given a highly realistic thriller.

A disturbing, emotionally charged, noir driven novel, No Beast So Fierce deserves to be read by everyone at least once in their lifetime. A true masterpiece of crime fiction.

by Brian Azzarello
Edition: Hardcover

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noir, Gotham City and a madman, 31 July 2011
This review is from: Joker¹ (Hardcover)
Abandoning the usual clown-like gimmicks and superhero storytelling, Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo take us on a nightmarish journey into the Joker's life outside Arkham Asylum.

The Joker isn't a supervillain who toys with Batman here, he is a very violent and disturbed man who lives on sex, drugs and murder. He is really just a coked up gangster but his unpredictable actions and unreliability are still classic Joker, but just a lot darker.

About 130 pages long, it is a reasonably quick read as the story flows well and the artwork is just outstanding. My only qualm is that it could of been longer. But I'm not too bothered with that as the novel is gripping from start to finish.

Another great thing is the addition of noir blended in with these "super" villains. We have a dirty private eye, a realistic looking Gotham City, troubled characters, detailed violence and an overall very dark atmosphere. It's like James Ellroy mixed with superhero fiction.

It's one of the greatest graphic novels I've ever read but its' strictly an adults only comic. Containing disturbing bloody violence, plenty of bad language, sex, drug use and just darkness, this certainly isn't a kids read. This is the way the Joker is meant to be. A disgusting human being with his morbid look on life. Life is about death to him, and darkness all over.

Farewell, My Lovely
Farewell, My Lovely
by Raymond Chandler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough, gritty detective book, 25 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Farewell, My Lovely (Paperback)
Raymond Chandler has written one of the greatest noir novels ever. A dark mystery story with so many intriguing characters.

Phillip Marlowe is the penultimate Private Investigator. His take-no-prisoners attitude along with his witty humour make him an instanty likeable character. Written in first person narrative, we follow Marlowe's investigation through a dark Los Angeles. Chandler's detail to the character Phillip Marlowe and The City Of Angels is very impressive. Full of wild characters such as a violent ex-con, a deadly femme fatale, tough cops, a violent Indian and relaxed gangsters, this isn't a story for everyone. Containing plenty of swearing and detailed violence, it is an intense read and some racist language that was pretty much the norm back in the 40's

Believe me, it will be a fast 250 pages as this is an intricate and outstanding detective story with plenty of twists and turns. Awesome stuff.

The Black Dahlia
The Black Dahlia
by James Ellroy
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Los Angeles, 19 Oct 2010
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This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
James Ellroy's stunning "Black Dahlia" creates a sense of insecurity, darkness and deep psychological problems. Set in Los Angeles, we rarely get to see the bright lights, movie stars and glamorous buildings. Instead we are thrown into a gritty crime story with very believable and amazing characters. The way Ellroy talks about Betty Short will always haunt me. The main character Dwight "Bucky" Bleichart is a troubled but ambitious and interesting cop who takes you on a trip through Tinseltown.

The book has an uneasy and unsettling atmosphere with tension continuously building up. And the ending is so beautiful and touching. After finding out that this book is also based, in part, to Ellroy's mother it brings more spirit to the book.

Similar to Raymond Chandler, the book is full of surprises, dark characters and locations, profanity, detailed violence and a police case like no other. The Black Dahlia is a masterpiece of the noir and crime fiction. You'll never feel the real 40's Los Angeles until you read this.

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