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The John Dickson Carr Companion
The John Dickson Carr Companion
by James E. Keirans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine tribute to a classic detective story author, 1 Jun. 2015
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This large and lovingly crafted tome is devoted to one of my favourite Golden Age Mystery writers, John Dickson Carr (1906-1977), truly the master of the locked room mystery and one of the greatest of Golden Age mystery authors, generated hundreds of short stories and radio plays as well as over 70 novels, many appearing under his transparent ‘Carter Dickson’ pseudonym. He was highly prolific (at his height in the 1930s he produced some 4 novels a year) and also helped establish the historical mystery genre and introduced fantasy elements too. Kierans has provided a dedicated alphabetical guide to his assorted works well as the people and places in them. And much more besides …

Inevitably, despite its impressive size, material has had to be left out, though one does also have to get used to its conventions to find what you are looking for. Indeed, I was instantly aware of this as the first thing I decided to look up, the ‘Murder Club’ from He Who Whispers, wasn’t apparently listed – or rather not under ‘M’ but I later found it, very satisfyingly, appearing instead under ‘L’ for ‘London’s Gentleman’s Clubs.’ Indeed, it appears with hundreds of other places as a dozen pages are devoted to London locations!

However, and let’s get this out of the way, there are also a few factual errors – but then, in a book this size, there were bound to be. Kierans provides a useful if slightly scrappy guide to international film and TV adaptations from Carr but admits he hasn’t actually seen most of them. This explains why he claims that the 1950 film, The Man in Black, was adapted from one of Carr’s scripts from Appointment with Fear as it definitely isn’t; while the Italian title for Julien Duvivier’s 1962 adaptation of The Burning Court is I peccatori della foresta nera, not ‘peddatori’ (a typo rather than a factual error). But really, this is merely nitpicking – who can resist a book delivered on such a great topic with such enthusiasm and attention to minute detail? One in which the section devoted to ‘Carrian methods of committing murder’ runs to 9 pages and is broken down into as many subsections? Just fabulous.

Packed full of info, this guide comes in at over 400 pages, 50 of which are given over just to the index (which, incidentally, was compiled with the help of Francis M. Nevins and Gavin L. O’Keefe). One of the delights is that along with details on his various works, we also get plenty of info on articles and essays on and by Carr, which I found to be incredibly helpful. And the 10-page section devoted to Latin phrases and proverbs was a real eye-opener! Thanks Mr Kierans, we loved your book and you made us very happy indeed.

You can get the book from all good booksellers (and Amazon too) as well as directly from the publishers, Ramble House. Let’s hope that for 2017, for the 50th anniversary of Carr’s death, they can be persuaded to bring together a collection of essays on the great man’s work, perhaps reprinting many of the tantalising essays listed in this one – that would make for a perfect adjunct to this highly entertaining compendium, which I recommend to all Carr fans without the least hesitation.


Callan Uncovered Volume 2
Callan Uncovered Volume 2
by James Mitchell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Callan returns for 17 superb tales, 1 Jun. 2015
Following on from the success of the first CALLAN UNCOVERED collection of James Mitchell's long-thought lost short stories about his classic Cold War secret agent David Callan, here's comes a very welcome and unexpected surprise - a sequel! The diffident protagonist was created for television, thriving in the shape of the late Edward Woodward, but eventually also moved into the cinema and in print. Editor Mike Ripley thought he had collected all of the extant stories, but has subsequently found another 15 missing 'files,' which he has brought together with a pair of scripts by Mitchell for episodes that are currently missing believed wiped.

Like the stories contained in the previous volume, they were all written for the Sunday Express and first appeared in three batches of five between September 1970 and May 1972, predating those in the previous volume. They are tight, taut and short, especially the first five from 1970. These, being the briefest, feel much more like concentrated vignettes. The ten stories from 1971 and 1972 are noticeably longer and all the better for it, allowing for more character development and more elaborate plots. None the less they all feel genuine, thanks to Mitchell's memorable dialogue, especially in the exchanges between Callan and his smelly friend, Lonely, and a great ability to ring the changes in the espionage formula even in just a few thousand words. All of these stories could have been adapted for the TV show, which I think is a true testament to Mitchell's professionalism and invention.

Hats off to Mr Ripley for this superb collection, rescuing these stories from oblivion and also for bringing us two terrific scripts which are of a very high calibre (the one from the first season is incredibly cynical). These two UNCOVERED collections are superb and a real treat. It seems unlikely now, but all I can say is, I hope there are more!


Callan Uncovered
Callan Uncovered
by James Mitchell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Callan in back!, 22 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Callan Uncovered (Paperback)
David Callan, the government eliminator with a conscience, was a character that exploded on television but eventually migrated to print - and then, briefly, back again. In this regard this volume offers a substantial trove of new and unexpected riches, with short stories and scripts that will delight all devotees of the tough, downbeat British spy created by James Mitchell. The character first appeared in the 1967 television play "A Magnum for Schneider", portrayed then (and forever more) by the late, great Edward Woodward. The TV company saw the potential right away for a show that fell somewhere in between the cynical despair of le Carré, the hardboiled wisecracks of Deighton and the glossy Bond fantasies of the cinema.

The stories from the 1970s were all written for newspaper publication, so none of them is particularly long - usually about 10 pages each - but with their plot reversals, cynical double-dealing and sardonic dialogue, they could all have been used as the basis for episodes of the show and always feel authentic. From the alliterative title template used for all the stories, their basic structure is admittedly a little formulaic: we usually begin with Hunter giving Callan a job, who then invariably uses Lonely to follow a person or break into a room to search for incriminating evidence or plant a bug, with Meres called in occasionally for (grudging) support. But they all work extremely well for all that, told with Mitchell's trademark verve and craftsmanship.

The inclusion of the unfilmed screenplay 'Goodbye Mary Lee' (initially titled 'The Senator's Daughter') is especially valuable for fans given that several of the episodes Mitchell wrote for the series were wiped and have not been recovered (though of course one lives in hope). It was almost certainly intended to open the second season as it refers to Callan's boss as 'Colonel Hunter' - which became just 'Hunter' from the second season onwards - and because it features a Callan still in disfavour with the Section and out in the cold, as he was at the end of season 1. Why wasn't it filmed? Perhaps for its references to the war in Vietnam or maybe because it hinges on a rather improbable coincidence - but despite this, the script still reads extremely well, with Mitchell's pungent dialogue and undercurrent of anti-establishment rancour coming through as well as ever, while the ironic finale is very neatly worked out.

A superb anthology.


Lights, Camera, Angel (Fitzroy Maclean Angel Series Book 10)
Lights, Camera, Angel (Fitzroy Maclean Angel Series Book 10)
Price: £3.53

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars “So you’re designing the costumes for a cowboy-vampire movie being shot in Buckinghamshire?”, 2 Nov. 2014
Fitzroy Maclean Angel is the driver of a de-licensed taxi who doubles as an unofficial private eye and triples as an occasional musician. Which is to say that he does a bit of this and a bit of that, surviving on his ability to see a little bit further than the end of the next person’s nose. Now married to Amy, a hard-as-nails fashion designer, he gets involved with the making of a new movie at Pinewood Studios when she is asked to work on some of the costumes. He is brought in to ferry the movie’s star, Ross Pirie, to the studio and back when his usual driver has a very weird accident.

Pirie has his usual entourage, including a camp hairdresser, who turns out not to be gay, and a very butch personal trainer, who is very closeted indeed. The scariest person on the crew though is probably Ross’ personal assistant, Lin, and it’s when she stops turning up for work that Angel starts investigating in earnest (or his laid back equivalent). His mission is to discover what is behind a variety of small but escalating problems: why did Ross’ driver plough his car into a brick wall at the Studios when he wasn’t even supposed to be there? Who is Lin’s exceptionally violent boyfriend? Why are two coppers – calling themselves Regan and Carter – passing themselves off as insurance men? And who is leaking secret production info to a fan site?

I love movies and crime fiction and this, the tenth entry in Mike Ripley’s series of comic mysteries, is a real treat for movie buffs, set in the early years of the Internet when it was still a bit of an exotic beast. There are plenty of in-jokes (Angel is a movie buff, trading dialogue quotes will all and sundry) but the plot is ever-busy and never left behind for long. Angel is also a very likeable guy for a layabout who can’t even tame his scary pet cat Springsteen – hell, he even likes to stay right to the end of the credits for a movie, what a guy! If you liked MINDER and LOVEJOY on TV, you'll love this.


The Naked City [Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD]
The Naked City [Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD]
Dvd ~ Barry Fitzgerald
Price: £15.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it boasts beautiful cinematography by William Daniels with a great cast - ..., 29 Oct. 2014
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Anyone interested in 1940s Film Noir, or the development of the modern police procedural, has to get this superbly produced set that includes both a Blu-ray and DVD of the classic 1948 thriller inspired by the photos of Weegee and based on a real-life case. A romantic ode to The Big Apple and a riveting manhunt, it boasts beautiful cinematography by William Daniels with a great cast - and was that really Shelley Winters playing the blonde model in the opening sequence?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 14, 2014 1:55 AM GMT


Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage: A Mystery with Hoverbots, Bristle Bots, and Other Robots You Can Build Yourself
Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage: A Mystery with Hoverbots, Bristle Bots, and Other Robots You Can Build Yourself
by Science Bob Pflugfelder
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 2 Aug. 2014
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My nieces loved this - I hope the series goes on and on.


The Outfit (1973) - Region Free PAL, plays in English without subtitles
The Outfit (1973) - Region Free PAL, plays in English without subtitles
Dvd ~ robert duvall
Offered by GREAT4DVD
Price: £13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars The anamorphic video transfer is actually pretty decent, with that slightly earth-tone colour scheme we ..., 2 Aug. 2014
The anamorphic video transfer is actually pretty decent, with that slightly earth-tone colour scheme we associate with 70s cinema and a print that is mostly free of blemishes. Unfortunately, about 58 minutes in the English audio does go slightly out of sync for the next half hour, playing just ahead of the image, which of course is really distracting. Better to get the Region 1 release, even if it is an on-demand DVD-R as the print quality is said to be comparable.


Margery Allingham's Mr Campion's Farewell: the Return of Albert Campion Completed by Mike Ripley
Margery Allingham's Mr Campion's Farewell: the Return of Albert Campion Completed by Mike Ripley
by Mike Ripley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Campion returns - hurrah!, 2 May 2014
Mike Ripley has done a superb job in capturing the lively and engaging tone of the later Allingham and Carter books but brings his own love of archeology, folklore (and the brewing industry) to bear on the proceedings. It is now 1969 and Campion is as old as the century but still hale and hearty and gets mixed up with a secret society obsessed with the number nine, a group that paradoxically everybody in the little Suffolk village of Lindsey Carfax seems to knows about. There are shootings and fisticuffs and journeys to Montecarlo as well as appearances by many series regulars before Campion, literally and figuratively, gets to the bottom of things in a strong climax set in the village catacombs. Another sequel has been announced and I can't wait to read it.


Acqua Alla Gola
Acqua Alla Gola
Dvd ~ Anne Baxter
Offered by VECOSELL
Price: £6.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent transfer, great movie, 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Acqua Alla Gola (DVD)
This great little mystery movie, released in the UK as CHASE A CROOKED SHADOW, has been released in Italy in what looks like widescreen but is in fact just a case of the wrong setting being flagged on the DVD. Even at the 'open matte' ratio of 4:3 we get an excellent idea of the look originally created by director Michael Anderson and his regular cinematographer Erwin Hillier (their other joint credits include THE DAM BUSTERS, THE NAKED EDGE and THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM). Anne Baxter is the heiress driven to the edge of madness when Richard Todd turns up claiming to be her brother, a man she says died a year before. Herbert Lom is the understandably confused police inspector - a perfect little British mystery, albeit set in Barcelona, with a great twist ending. The image quality is great and the movie can be played either in English or dubbed in Italian (with no forced subtitles)


Passion [DVD]
Passion [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rachel McAdams
Price: £7.50

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic for De Palma fans, 19 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Passion [DVD] (DVD)
Written and Directed by Brian De Palma (adapted from the French film "Love Crimes"), Passion stars Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams and is a murder mystery set in the world of advertising. It begins slowly with a series of boardroom betrayals as McAdams' ad exec befriends and then humiliates Rapace, stealing both her ideas and her boyfriend. As McAdams continues to cut a swathe through the agency and making enemies everywhere she goes, her progress to the top ultimately culminates in a murder sequence combining a performance of Jerome Robbins' staging of Debussy's sublime 'Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune' with a split-screen stalking that is breathtaking in its audacity and visual accomplishment. This extended sequence alone is worth the price of admission (though one suspects that most will not be seeing it on video rather than in the theatre, more's the pity) in which the killer's identity is literally masked - though De Palma has, it turns out, been performing some exceptionally fancy footwork to cover his tracks. But there is much more besides, not least a great performance from Karoline Hefurth, who is due for a great career in the movies if there is any justice. The DVD offers virtually no extras but at least presents the film in excellent condition.


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