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Gareth Austin

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London's Underworld: Three Centuries of Vice and Crime
London's Underworld: Three Centuries of Vice and Crime
by Fergus Linnane
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A veritable cesspit to wade through, 10 Nov. 2003
This is a fascinating look at crime and punishment in and around London that goes back to the 16-1700’s. Told in short chapters it’s an easy and entertaining read.
All of life’s crimes are here: murder, robbery, smuggling, highwaymen, vice, (police) corruption, protection, drugs, gangs, supergrasses and violence in all its many forms – a veritable cesspit to wade through.
One of my favourite chapters covers the first great train robbery in 1855 which was cunningly planned and a far more impressive achievement than the more famous train robbery that came over a century later.
Also interesting are the characters we come across. Inevitably the likes of the Krays, Richardsons and Mad Frankie turn up, but I found the earlier criminals to be more interesting – perhaps because they’re less well known and not as mythologized. One of the first was Jonathan Wild, perhaps the original Big Boss. As well as controlling most of the crime he had a sideline as a bounty hunter – happily handing his opposition to the authorities and getting rewarded for it! Even more interesting is Jack Sheppard who was a real jack-the-lad and had escapology skills that would have had Houdini applauding. Alas it was his cockiness that finally led to his downfall. These men operated in a London that was a fascinating rabbit warren of hidden passages and secret escape routes.
As well as the crimes and those who committed them the book also looks at the law. The earliest police forces weren’t very successful, being that there were whole areas where they were scared to go and were routinely beaten up or killed by local thugs. Most were thrown out due to their heavy boozing and inevitable corruption.
Punishments are also quite eye opening. People were executed for the smallest offence. There was also transportation and my favourite – the pillory, where criminals were put in the stocks and the public were invited to throw things at them. And they did - stones, muck, dung and dead animals! Not surprisingly many criminals died as a consequence of their treatment.
The author resists the temptation to come over all sociological or preachy and that’s fine. At the same time he doesn’t glorify the subject, which is a fault with many books on true-life crime.
Read and enjoy…or I’ll send the boys round!


Menace: The Autobiography
Menace: The Autobiography
by Dennis Lillee
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lillee reflects, 29 Oct. 2003
The life story of one of the game’s greatest fast bowlers and characters faithfully chronicles Lillee’s ups and downs, but doesn’t dwell on the statistics.
Best parts are the tales of his battles with us Poms, especially the now infamous tale of the 500-1 bet at Headingly in 1981. Lillee wasn’t much impressed with Botham’s 149 that day, but was full of praise for Willis’s 8 second innings wickets. No doubt the fast bowlers union sticking together. One of the more interesting sections is his look at the Packer Affair and his part in it, which was bigger than I was aware of. Inevitably the tastier parts concern conflict and that’s dealt with in the aluminium bat affair and the trouble with Javed Miandad. The risks to his career such as the back injury that nearly finished it before it had really taken off is also interesting reading. We also have the obligatory stories of the goings on behind the scenes such as Rod Marsh’s attempt to break the boozing record during a flight to England and the eccentric ways of Doug Walters. Funnily enough (for an Aussie), Lillee doesn’t seem to be a big drinker.
Lillee doesn’t do a whitewash job though. If he feels something was wrong then he’ll say so, such as his reaction to Trevor Chappell’s underarm ball in a one-day game against New Zealand.
There are also plenty of insights into the Aussie mentality, especially how the Chappell brothers motivated him and others. Since being out of the public eye as a player Lillee has done a lot of work in India coaching fast bowlers and setting up a training system to encourage them.
Overall this is a solid, if not spectacular autobiography. It’s a bit more restrained than I expected and I was expecting it to be a touch more abrasive. There are no old scores being settled between the covers and Lillee comes across as cooler than his fiery image suggests. Maybe that's down to the ghostwriter. It’s entertaining enough and a must for every cricket lovers library.


James Bond Movie Posters: The Official Collection
James Bond Movie Posters: The Official Collection
by Tony Nourmand
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure of posters, 29 Oct. 2003
Here’s a must for any self respecting Bond fan. This is a luscious coffee table book full of colour and having posters for every Bond film including the unofficial ones of ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Never Say Never Again’.
And it’s not just the final release posters that you get here either. There are different versions of the posters that were used in various parts of the world (just try reading the Japanese ones) as well as the pre-release and other promotional posters.
Each film is introduced with about half a page of text and then there’s between 6-10 pages of artwork dedicated to each individual film. It’s interesting to see how they evolved from the rather crude early efforts to the more sophisticated posters of the later Bonds.
You may think that once you’ve looked at the artwork once that’ll be it, but this book draws you back to admire the art of Bond over and over. The book looks lovely, feels lovely and is lovely. As I said at the start, this book is a must for Bond fans and I highly, highly recommend it.


A View to a Kill
A View to a Kill
Price: £5.99

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Barry on autopilot, 29 Oct. 2003
This review is from: A View to a Kill (Audio CD)
Much as I love John Barry’s work and his Bond music, I have to say that this score is rather tired sounding and I get the impression that Barry was running on automatic pilot when he composed it. Mind, the film as a whole had a wearying feel to it, so perhaps this isn’t surprising.
By and large the music is traditional Barry tension stuff – slow build up to climax, but it lacks the inspiration of what he composed for his earlier Bond scores. The best of these cues is ‘Airship To Silicon Valley’. Despite what I’ve just said about lack of inspiration, the action music is actually quite good and is one of Barry’s punchier compositions, sometimes compared to the action music from OHMSS. It appears in three cues: ‘Snow Job’, ‘He’s Dangerous’ and ‘Golden Gate Fight’. The complaint I’d have about it is that it’s repeated in these cues with little or no variation, which is a bit of a let down. Disappointingly the good old James Bond Theme makes only one appearance at the end of ‘May Day Jumps’.
The main theme is a good one and is used in two cues as a love theme ('Bond Meets Stacey' & 'Wine With Stacey'), but doesn’t make any other appearance within the score, which for John Barry is quite unusual. Personally, I think it would have made a good action cue if beefed up a little.
Overall, while this is OK to listen to, it’s not a score that encourages repeated listening. It’s not the weakest Bond score of all, but it is Barry’s weakest. Disappointing.


Outland: Music From The Motion Picture;JERRY GOLDSMITH
Outland: Music From The Motion Picture;JERRY GOLDSMITH
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: £44.57

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not an easy listen, 29 Oct. 2003
Not one of Goldsmith’s most melodic or easy on the ear scores, but it’s still quite an interesting one to listen to. However it’s a score you have to grow to love.
There is a main theme that runs through it, but most of the score is deep, moody, growling brass and strings with occasional frantic outbursts. It also moves at a sedate pace. There are only a couple of breaks from the air of menace created by the score – ‘Rec Room’ is a synth cue, Goldsmith’s idea of lounge music of the future. It’s quite quirky and helps to break up the heaviness of the music around it. ‘Final Message’ has the one piece of light melody which springs out of nowhere, at odds with the rest of the score.
The music suits the sinister, claustrophobic feel of the film, but divorced from the images it’s not an easy listen.
Not recommended for newcomers to Goldsmith’s work, it’s one for the experienced listener.


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical Bond score, 6 Oct. 2003
This is not your typical Bond score. There's not much in the way of the orchestral score here and most of the disc is made up of calypso/jazz music and several of the cues are repeated in different versions i.e. male/female vocal and instrumental. The two main offenders in this respect are 'Kingston Calypso' (which is the Three Blind Mice song from the start of the movie) and 'Under The Mango Tree'. This all helps to pad out the disc.
The famous James Bond Theme is here in all its glory, but it makes just the one appearance. There's another cue called 'The James Bond Theme', but this bears no resemblence to the original. Best of the songs is 'Under The Mango Tree' sung in the female version. 'Jump Up' and 'Twisting With James' are catchy little numbers as well. Best of what few dramatic cues there are on the disc is 'The Island Speaks'.
This isn't a bad disc to listen to if you like the jazzy/calypso sound and there are plenty of foot tapping moments to be enjoyed, but those familiar with the later Bond sound created by John Barry and others will be very disapointed.
It's a pity there was no new material added to this disc as there had been with the other early Bond scores, but with the film being 40 years old the Master Tapes were either unavailable or unusable.
An OK listen, but not typical Bond by a long way. However as this was the first there was no template for Monty Norman to go on.


Phil Bennett: The Autobiography
Phil Bennett: The Autobiography
by Phil Bennett
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bennett lifts the lid on Welsh woes., 1 Oct. 2003
This is labelled as an autobiograpy and about one third of the book is just that. However the bulk of the book is actually looking at rugby with the inevitable emphasis on Welsh rugby and all that has gone wrong with it since the great days of the
seventies.
Bennett's life story is an interesting one, but by the standards of some rugby characters he wasn't one of the game's great hellraisers. The two most interesting parts for me were his telling of how he refused the payments on offer from the rugby league teams (it was a true patriot who could turn down what was very good money for the day, especially given the penny pinching ways of the WRU) and his brush with death in a car crash, which I hadn't been aware of. The rest of the autobiographical stuff is pretty much par for the course in a sports book.
But where Bennett is most interesting is in his views of the game today with the move to professionalism and more especially his tales of the ways of the Welsh Rugby Union. As a Welshman who is embarrassed by the decline of the Welsh national team I found these parts especially enlightening and somewhat depressing. It made for scary reading as he told of the arrogance, incompetence, pettiness and Them and Us attitude the WRU had towards their most precious resource- the players. Bennett tells how they how they incompetently threw away the possible coaching talents that that Golden Generation could have passed on thanks to their stick-to-the-letter-of-the-law attitude to amateurism and their penny pinching ways, which makes any rugby player's decision to turn down the offers of Rugby League even more laudable.
He reflects on how that attitude and how even today the petty rivalries and jealousies within Welsh rugby is still working to the detriment of the mational team and indeed the game as a whole in the Principality.
This is a very good read, though to a Welshman it will be a rather depressing read. The style is entertaining and as Bennett doesn't pull his punches it can be quite a sparky read at times. As I said at the start it's more a reflection on rugby than a full out autobigraphy, but I think it's a far better book because of that. I rather feel a plain and simple telling of Bennett's life story alone wouldn't really have gripped all that much.
Well worth a read - but if you're a Welsh rugby fan don't read it late at night. It'll give you nightmares!


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