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Mr Neville (Edgware)

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From Blue to Brown (The Blue Trilogy Book 3)
From Blue to Brown (The Blue Trilogy Book 3)
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble, 7 Oct. 2014
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The third and seemingly final instalment in the turbulent journey of 'Nostrils', a complex and troubled man but ultimately decency personified.

This instalment is darker than its predecessors, being less about straight policing and more concerned with chasing shadows and corruption.

I found the real life history spoken through fictional characters fascinating, the pre Thatcher era low pay and the corruption that resulted from it. It seems that police were seen as being on the same level of importance to the state as road sweepers e.g. essential but not worth much money:

"it was so bad that if you didn't do any overtime and just took home your basic wage and you had two or more kids, you qualified for supplementary benefit".

Then came the Operation Countryman clean up operation, as seen in 'Our Friends in the North'. Once the Augean stables had been cleaned out the pay went up to ensure the dirt never returned. Thatcher recognised that society had changed and that it was no good expecting officers on the street in the hostile new climate to work for peanuts. Today's PM hasn't learned from this and is now cutting pay, apparently seeing the police as gamekeepers who should be grateful for the job.

I digress, without giving away the plot I found the book to be the most melancholy with a surprisingly bleak ending but that makes it realistic. These books were never meant to be a rose tinted view of policing. The final showdown in Bangkok made me read the book again so I could see the clues building up, it seemed so transparent the second time round.

The book has its humour too, particularly when Nostrils works with his dishevelled boozy Scottish opposite number. There was also a laugh out loud moment when Nostrils has his revenge on a moronic pub landlord who leaves him to be beaten by a gang of marauding thugs.

Finally, I recommend this trilogy to anyone interested in an insiders view of 80's policing. Bearing in mind Nostrils joined in 1983 and this book reaches 1987 I see the potential for 26 more years of his career to be chronicled.

From Black to Blue (The Blue Trilogy)
From Black to Blue (The Blue Trilogy)
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Episode II: The Quagmire Strikes Back, 11 Sept. 2014
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An excellent sequel and darker than the first with a theme of weakness and redemption. I was surprised and disappointed to see good guy Nostrils succumb to temptation and enter the quagmire of corruption that inevitably eats away at him as time goes on. Like Ted Kennedy after Chappaquiddick he yearns to redeem himself with good deeds but the stain is there and hard to shift.

He then becomes involved in a seedy affair that results in his looking down the barrel of a gun again. On the street he is sucked into the maelstrom of race politics when he discovers a car with no registered keeper blasting out music.

There are other strong characters in the book, Andy of course who's tragedy is very well written, Dawn's mum and his next love interest, Sarah with whom the complications ebb and flow.

The most notable character to me was Kitty, every workplace has a Kitty, a non team player who refuses to recognise the social mores of their environment. I remember walking into a new workplace and a manager holding up a golfing tee in order to make me say the word. I inevitably ended up at the kettle. Tea is the lubricant of the British workplace and this character was annoyingly true to life. Nostrils reaction to her many moans was a laugh out loud moment, "so making the tea, enclosed spaces and dogs? Well let's hope you don't get trapped in a small café with a great Dane"

Another comedy moment involves a golf course, a Golf GTI and a thug named Hardman who doesn't appreciate Nostrils taking his car. As another reviewer said, these books would make great TV.

A flowing and easy read and I look forward to the third instalment.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 12, 2014 7:34 PM BST

Discovering More Behind the Blue Lamp: Policing Central, North and South West London
Discovering More Behind the Blue Lamp: Policing Central, North and South West London
by Peter Kennison
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A labour of love and it shows, 30 Aug. 2014
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An excellent book, thoroughly researched with many photographs showing progress through the decades. The history of West End Central could inspire a book of its own and featured in the outstanding 'Our Friends in the North' BBC drama. I was interested to find that Southall police station was opened in 1976 with a ceremony including leading representatives of local religious communities showing that respect for diversity existed during the 'Life on Mars' era.

As well as the facts behind the stations there are many fascinating accounts of individual officers and their lives. The tragic tale of a PC shot dead in the street after confronting an armed IRA member in 1975 being one of them. Another standout tale is the life of Sergeant Harry Mallin, a dedicated officer and inspiring athlete despite a war damaged leg that was later amputated.

The variety and quality of the photographs is outstanding, the best of which is found on p132 showing one of the first car simulators e.g. a stationary car with a film screen in front of it. I was surprised to see such technology used in the 1930's.

An apparent improvement on the book's predecessor volumes are the inclusion of a few Borough Commander photos including Ealing's popular Andy Rowell.

The only thing it lacks in my opinion are the tales of station hauntings. Such things are not strictly factual but they add colour to a station's history, Greenford for example has a long history of reports that can be found online.

All three volumes in this series of unique social history are worth buying.

Strange Tales 2: More mysterious places and odd people
Strange Tales 2: More mysterious places and odd people
Price: £1.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A second dose of witty analysis of the strange, 10 Aug. 2014
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The first Strange Tales was excellent, this was almost, but not quite as good.

The Cherry Sisters tale made me laugh out loud, the first time a book on the supernatural/weirdness has done so, the line concerning the judge was priceless. The Hapgood wit strikes again. On the subject of wit, the account of the nuclear bunker was strangely compelling and reminded me of the brilliant 'Threads' BBC drama from 1984.

The rest of the output is of the previous high quality with two exceptions. Firstly, the lead masks case. This is one of the strangest mysteries I've ever read about and had come across it in several other publications prior to reading about it here. I was hoping that it would conclude with some theory or at least wit but it's just a retelling of the tale. Come on! Let's hear a take on it please.

Secondly the Mr Shaver section was pointless. An A1 fruit loop of a man, why waste time repeating his ridiculous stories? There's nothing strange there, just the ramblings of a weirdo and simply not worth including, in my humble opinion.

Having said that Strange Tales 2 is more than worth the asking price and I hope we see number 3 soon.

Strange Tales: an A-Z of mysterious places and odd people
Strange Tales: an A-Z of mysterious places and odd people
Price: £2.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A witty and insightful look at the strange side of life, 6 Aug. 2014
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I didn't expect much from this, I read the reviews and expected lightweight bedtime reading. I'm glad I was wrong.

Having read about phenomena for thirty years this book worked on two levels. Firstly it introduced me to strange tales I'd not come across such as the Hungarian wives, the aristocrat torturer of women and the revolting New Orleans tale. Secondly it refreshed me on the well known tales such as Borley and Loch Ness with updates and best of all, the authors witty observations and withering put downs of fakes and idiots drawn to the supernatural e.g. those who turned up at Borley while she was there.

I discovered this via reading about Clapham Wood, having been interested in the place since reading about it in 'The Unexplained' series of magazines 20 years ago. The authors incredulity and analysis mirrored my own.

In short, the backbone of the book is the personal style of the author. I've read hundreds of dry descriptive books on the strange side of life but none where the author gives you witty and dry asides, a good contrast with the earnest style of the usual.

I've ordered the second, please keep them coming.

From Green to Blue (The Blue Trilogy Book 1)
From Green to Blue (The Blue Trilogy Book 1)
Price: £0.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "two sugars", 19 April 2014
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There are so many books on the police written by outsiders, I was looking for one written by someone who had been there. I was particularly interested in one who had worked in London through the Thatcher years and this didn't disappoint. 1983 was the year of 'Woodentop', the drama that became The Bill. Just like the brilliant Woodentop, which is referenced, we see the problems of a naive young constable being 'puppy walked'. I loved it and have started on the sequel, I hope the entire 30 years are covered, there's definitely a market for these quasi memoirs.

Both hilarious and revealing, this is no story of a heroic natural but someone thrown into the strange world of the inner city with all its rituals and mind games. It's also the story of a bygone era, seedy pubs like The Elephant's Head don't exist anymore, at least not in numbers, they've all been gentrified and gastrofied.

I don't want to give away the story but the highlight for me was the outrageous behavior of Dean, particularly his way of ordering kebabs and the casual method of approaching premises where an alarm is going off. The contemptuous treatment of the new probationer was very realistic, specifically tricks used to procure tea and the unrealistic expectations. I recommend this to anyone interested in the simpler era of the tunic, 'earthy' wit and the Rover SD1.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 19, 2014 10:58 PM BST

The Bill - Volume 7 [DVD]
The Bill - Volume 7 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Eric Richard
Price: £21.75

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best batch yet, 2 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: The Bill - Volume 7 [DVD] (DVD)
First the negative. The discs appear, in most cases to have been copied from videotapes, complete with drop out lines here and there. Remember the white horizontal lines that would pop up on VHS tapes? I don't expect anything less than a direct transfer from the master tape. Annoyingly, the last episode on the discs, the dullest Bill episode ever is crystal clear quality. Fancy that.

The episodes themselves are mainly good with several outstanding. The best two in my humble opinion are back to back and cover CID constables Jim and Tosh sailing close to the wind with their careers. Though why the producers put two such similar episodes back to back is a mystery.

In 'A Clean Division' Carver walks back to his broken down car which he's left by the roadside after conducting an observation in a pub. A non regular cast PC then nicks him for being over the limit despite it being pointed out that the car can't be driven and is only fit for towing. Burnside steams in to save him but finds his powers of persuasion don't work at a different nick. The arresting PC is referred to by a colleague as a 'seagull' e.g. he flies in, craps on people then flies off. His style is to laugh at Jim when he's at his lowest ebb.

'Roger and Out' shows good guy Tosh harassed by sniffy little prat Tom Penny who wastes no time in reporting him to their superiors for a foolish breach of rules. This is Penny's nadir and he was already an unpleasant character. Again it's Burnside to the rescue as he squares up to Brownlow in his office to save his friend.

Penny's decline is further demonstrated in this batch when he accepts a cigar from a shopkeeper before telling a PC not to put a ticket on the shopkeepers car. Stamp exposes Penny with a joke written on the toilet mirror causing Penny to go on the warpath and make a prat of himself as usual. He even ignores help from a real sergeant, 'Uncle' Bob Cryer.

The series also sees the further self destruction of PC 'Taff' Edwards who finally slithers off without bothering to attend his own leaving do. Reg does the honours with the stripper instead.

Right, when's the next lot coming out? Preferably in a much larger batch please.
Comment Comments (16) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 27, 2015 10:28 AM BST

The Wild Geese (1978) [Blu-ray]
The Wild Geese (1978) [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Richard Burton
Offered by UK_Media_Offers
Price: £11.37

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seventies British Masterpiece, 22 Oct. 2012
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Watched this for the first time on DVD having had it recommended to me by a friend. He said he loved it but on a 'so bad it's good' basis. I can see what he means. By today's standards the message of the film is clumsy but I believe that by the standards of its time the film is progressive, the manly crew even allow an openly gay medic to join up.

The speech by the President to Kruger's character is basically Mandela's philosophy and maps out Africa's actual future about 12 years early. I didn't expect any real political ideas to come up at all, seeing the plot as merely an excuse for boys own stuff.

The highlight of course is the interplay between the lead actors and the intensity of Burton is as always brilliant. His relationship with Harris's character is well played out and the end of their friendship is touching. I started off expecting some camp cheese but was genuinely moved by Harris's last scene. Nor did the film end as I expected, I thought the President would survive and thrive for an uplifting ending. Unlike Hollywood cheese this film plays out a dark, action packed and ultimately melancholy tragedy.

Dixon of Dock Green [DVD]
Dixon of Dock Green [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jack Warner
Offered by Helen's Goodies
Price: £13.52

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dixon is the man, 24 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Dixon of Dock Green [DVD] (DVD)
Brilliant. Each episode a well crafted think piece and closer to real time than say late episodes of The Bill which were structured more like a Hollywood film.

Harry's back and Firearms were issued are the best episodes, the former about the return of the archetypal 'salt of the earth' cockney cheekie chappie. Behind this of course he's a ruthless villain. All episodes serve as time capsules but this one in particular showing the East End as it was at the start of the seventies with this kind of traditional villain around desperate to be a big fish in the small pond of his manor.

Firearms Were Issued is a very topical examination of the consequences of the use of guns and the quality of the information on which their usage is based. It was fascinating to see armed police of 1973 pre health and safety e.g. a group of PC's in tunics with revolvers and a plain clothes man knocking on the door of the blaggers house. Brilliant.

The final two episodes have much improved picture quality on a par with the Dr Who DVD's from the same period. All the studio scenes on videotape are crystal and could have been filmed yesterday.

Finally there is Dixon himself, a character comparable to The Bill's Tony Stamp, incorruptible, patient and decent, everything a copper should be and still the kind of character the public refer to as a 'real copper'.

A brilliant DVD examining a different era and I hope there are more to come.

You Can't Say That: Memoirs
You Can't Say That: Memoirs
by Ken Livingstone
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.25

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detail over sensation, 28 Nov. 2011
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Having read Carvel and Hosken's biographies and followed Ken's career over the years I looked forward to this book and wasn't disappointed. So much has been written about Ken that understanding him requires reading his account from the eye of the storm. The book is a big myth buster. Mud sticks but the sewage thrown at Ken, particularly in recent years by the pre takeover Evening Standard gets the treatment. The book is an explanation of how he stayed relevant over the decades while the rest of the left has faded into insignificance. Ken applies left wing principles in the real world without dogma so has survived and thrived while those left wingers of his generation who were once political giants are now forgotten relics. The fact he also incurred the wrath of the left as well as the right shows he's been on the right track over the decades.

The recurring theme throughout the book apart from his love of London is the importance of experience and the mastery of detail. He points out how David Miliband was dominated by his civil service advisers after a short period of 'persuasion'. Miliband of course being another example of the Oxbridge Politics, Philosophy and Economics degree to policy wonk to MP to leadership route. No council experience, no job in the real world, a mass of knowledge and a dearth of experience. Ken points out that Miliband at 41 hadn't learnt the lesson he did at 26 when advisers on Lambeth council manipulated him. I found this quite disturbing, the failure to realise the Sir Humphreys know they'll always be around and see politicians as simply less competent people passing through. John Major's autobiography said the same, he followed the same route into politics as Ken and bemoaned the rise of the inexperienced professional politicians. Ken points out how Boris the grand sweeping statement politician is totally unsuitable for running a complex machine like the London mayoralty. On detail he gives examples of how Boris was repeatedly stumped by questions but would brush it off with a joke and that was it. People moan about politicians but Boris is the perfect example of the people getting the politicians they deserve. I remember in the 2008 election stressing to work colleagues still renting that Boris was dropping the commitment to affordable housing, their response was along the lines of "but he'll be funny".

His account of the Evening Standard's vendetta against him during his second term reignited my disgust. Ken's demolition job on the paper as it then was is one of the most fascinating parts. Inevitably his most withering criticism is reserved for the then ES team as you would expect considering their hatred for him. It seems odd how damaging the ES seemed then considering its editor, Veronica Wadley reduced it from a Rolls Royce paper into a rag worth a quid. Its destruction of Lee Jasper's career and reputation was unbelievable considering the multi angled investigations including that by the police that found no evidence of corruption whatsoever. But it's the oldest political trick in the book, run someone into the ground in the run up to an election. Who cares if it all turns out to be gossip once the election is over? It only matters on election day. This book rehabilitates Jaspers reputation based on facts, not impressions.

Throughout the book I mentally nodded at the plain common sense on offer and would say Kens views mirror my own for the most part. There are some areas where I can't agree. He points out that contrary to the hysterical types like Melanie Phillips Muslims didn't come to Britain to 'turn it into Saudi Arabia with rain'. This is true but I can't agree when he says Muslims come to Britain to be English. He also expresses disgust at Cameron saying that those who want Sharia law should go to another country. To me that's a reasonable suggestion, not frothing right wing territory. However his critique of the west's disastrous approach to the middle east is spot on as is his critique of Blair as a control freak who sucked the life out of the Labour Party and brainwashed himself into believing the 7/7 attacks had nothing to do with it. Blair's clueless talk of the Grunwick strike quoted in here also made me cringe.

Dimwitted Frank Dobson is covered with Ken concluding that the day after he had won the mayoral election he was going to give Dobson a job in the administration. However seeing Dobson on TV still saying Ken would be a disaster he thought "sod it" and left him to fade into well deserved obscurity.

His economics views are presented here in depth and in short could be summed up as Britain should have invested far more like Germany. I always wondered how they seemed to be massive exporters long after conventional 'wisdom' said western countries couldn't do it because labour costs were too high. It's covered here.

His cutting wit is present throughout the book and his finest slap is reserved for Cameron: "From his background of Eton, Oxford and his millionaires enclave at Chipping Norton it may appear as though Cameron feels that multiculturalism forces us to live apart".

The book is too wide in scope to easily dissect in a review and those are the areas that struck me most. Love him or loathe him, if you're interested in Kens career this book will answer many of your questions.

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