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David Gee (Sussex, UK)

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Some Like It Hot [DVD] [1959]
Some Like It Hot [DVD] [1959]
Dvd ~ Tony Curtis
Price: £8.28

4.0 out of 5 stars Movie perfection., 28 Feb. 2015
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What I can say that hasn't said before? Every few years they publish a new list of the Best Films of All Time. SOME LIKE IT HOT is always in the Top Ten. It always has been - and always will be, I'm sure - Number One in my personal list. Movie perfection.


Red Dragon [DVD] [2002]
Red Dragon [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Anthony Hopkins
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Better than MANHUNTER? I don't think so., 28 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Red Dragon [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
Second and third viewings of this movie underline my feeling that it's not really an improvement on MANHUNTER, the first version of this story directed by Michael Mann, with Brian Cox in chilling form as everyone's favourite cannibal. The extension of the ending, as in the novel, is gratifying, and I like the dinner party at the beginning, which I don't think was part of the novel. As in HANNIBAL, Anthony Hopkins slightly camps up his performance as Hannibal Lecter, making him almost a pantomime villain. The 'Tooth Fairy; is an even more unsettling killer than 'Buffalo Bill' in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, but Tom Noonan in MANHUNTER was creepier than Ralph Fiennes. LAMBS is still the best of the movies, although HANNIBAL is my personal favourite oif Thomas Harris's books - Gothic on an epic scale!


Unconditional Love [DVD] [2002]
Unconditional Love [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Kathy Bates
Price: £4.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Daft but fun, 28 Feb. 2015
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Sligjhtly daft movie, but very appealing.


Roberta Flack - Live [2000] [DVD]
Roberta Flack - Live [2000] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Roberta Flack
Price: £4.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Obe of the true greats, 28 Feb. 2015
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A lovely reminder of one of the great voices of the last century.


The Best Of Jonas Kaufmann
The Best Of Jonas Kaufmann
Price: £10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Star of stars, 28 Feb. 2015
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A fabulous album showcasing the very best of the current splendid crop of leading tenors.


The Passage
The Passage
by Justin Cronin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Horror epic. Epic horror. Needs an editor, 7 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Passage (Paperback)
After 300 seriously thrilling pages, when the story jumps a hundred years to the colony in the California hills, THE PASSAGE comes unstuck. The new cast of characters are not as involving as Amy and her protectors in Colorado and, despite the regular 'viral' incursions, the pace is leaden. Even the return of Amy, who has aged only a few years in a century, takes a while to crank up the action. But when a small group start to trek back with Any to Colorado, the book becomes a real page-turner again. The end is a bit low-key, paving the way for not one but two sequels. Not sure I've got the strength to carry on! However engrossing, some sagas are simply too long.

What starts out as a worthy rival to Stephen King's early apocalypse epic THE STAND doesn't entirely live up to its promise. But on the basis of the first and last 300 pages it's quite possible Justin Cronin might become the next King of Horror - he shares Stephen's god-given gift for bringing all his characters to living-breathing life. What he badly needs to be gifted with a really tough Editor!

[Reviewer is the author of THE BEXHILL MISSILE CRISIS]


The English Girl (Gabriel Allon 13)
The English Girl (Gabriel Allon 13)
by Daniel Silva
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars The Prime Minister's squeeze, 28 Dec. 2014
Israeli superspy Gabriel Allon is on loan to the British Prime Minister to discreetly hndle negotiations with the mystery man who has kidnapped a parliamentary assistant on holiday in Corsica. The kidnapper knows - and has a video to prove it - that Madeline Hart is the PM's mistress. A career, as well as a life, is being ransomed for ten million euros.

Daniel Silva's spy stories always have a cracking pace. This one moves from Tel Aviv to Corsica and Provence, with several visits to Downing Street. The fictitious prime minister doesn't particularly resemble any recent resident of Number Ten, although his Machiavellian chief-of-staff, fond of junketing on Russian oligarchs' yachts, has a faintly familiar ring.

After the dramatic resolution of the ransom handover, Gabriel sets out to hunt down the mysterious kidnapper, helped only by an ex-SAS soldier whose retirement consists of doing dirty work for an ancient Corsican Mafia Don. The second half of the book moves more slowly and reads like a John Le Carre, with diplomatic manoeuvres and covert intelligence operations being employed to locate the man behind the kidnapping. Allon meets an old ally from the East and also an old enemy. The final game-play involves a pleasing if somewhat implausible "sting". And the ending produces a nice surprise.

Gabriel's previous missions have involved tracking down Bin Laden-league Arabic terrorists. THE ENGLISH GIRL has a slightly low-key feel to it, and I'm probably not the only reader to wonder why Facial Recognition software was not used to identify the kidnapper much earlier. Stylistically speaking Daniel Silva is arguably the best thriller writer since Peter O'Donnell (creator of Modesty Blaise), who I always thought was at least one notch above Ian Fleming. With vividly evoked locations and colourful characters - a Gabriel Allon thriller always delivers the goods.

[Reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]


Brooklyn
Brooklyn
by Colm Tóibín
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars A Literary read - not too literary, 11 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Brooklyn (Paperback)
This award-winning novel from an acclaimed Irish author comes with an array of plaudits from the critics. Several made it their Book of the Year in 2009 (yes, I'm a bit behind the times - again!). Set in the 1950s, it's the story of an Irish girl who emigrates to New York in search of work. Eilis is not especially gifted or beautiful or naughty. A Brooklyn priest finds her a job in a department store and a room in a lodging house run by a tyrannical landlady. Eilis goes to church, to night school and to dances. She meets a nice handsome Italian boy who courts her very properly; he introduces her to his family and to the mysteries of baseball. When a death in the family calls her back to Ireland, Eilis is torn between the attractions of her new life and the insistent loyalties of her homeland.

This is not a book packed with action and incident. As a tale of a working-class girl trying to make a life for herself, it's close to Catharine Cookson territory, although coming from the eminent Mr Toibin it has attached literary aspirations. It's not too literary, not as dense as James Joyce or as lyrical as Edna O'Brien. It's probably in the same general area as, say, Ian McEwan: lucid unpretentious prose featuring characters to whom no more than one or two out-of-the-ordinary things happen. A complication enters Eilis's life in the final chapters which lead to the kind of ending which leaves you wishing there was more to her story (too many novels leave me wishing there was less!). I finally understood why BROOKLYN was so highly praised. Eilis Lacey really gets under your skin; I shall be writing the continuation of her life in my head for quite some time.

[Reviewer is the author of THE BEXHILL MISSILE CRISIS]


I Am Pilgrim
I Am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A new Ludlum, not quite a new Forsyth, 22 Nov. 2014
This review is from: I Am Pilgrim (Paperback)
At almost 900 pages this book redefines the blockbuster thriller. 'Pilgrim' is the codename for a mysterious agent, formerly employed by an ultra-secret government hit squad, now working as a freelance. The grisly murder of a young woman in New York sets him down a trail of hideous crimes across the world linked to a new Saudi terrorist known as the Saracen.

The back-story to the Saracen takes up much of the book's first 300 pages. His father was publicly executed by the Saudi regime, although it is on America that the son's thirst for vengeance soon focuses. He witnesses - and causes - atrocities in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. His travels also take him to Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria and, eventually, Europe. He plans an outrage that - more even than 9/11 - will show America the full extent of Islamic terror.

Luckily for us, one tiny piece of evidence sets US Intelligence - and Pilgrim - in pursuit.

This kind of thriller - lone-wolf operative versus fiendish terrorist or terror group - is the stuff of thrillers good and not-so-good. Dan Brown is clearly the Main Man of recent times although, for my money, Frederick Forsyth is the greatest exponent of this type of story with THE FOURTH PROTOCOL probably his most audacious plot. I AM PILGRIM is good, even very good, but the sheer length of the book makes this an ultimately exhausting read. Shorten it and it might have been one of the all-time greats. The Saracen is up there with the great villains of fiction (Hannibal Lector, the Jackal, Blofeld) - charismatic, plausible, almost pleasingly evil. The Arabian and Afghan scenes are total page-turners, but the first segment set in Bodrum, although not actually boring,
does see the pace slowing. Bodrum is a down-market location, Turkey's answer to Margate or Benidorm, but Hayes takes some liberties with the topography to make it appear spooky rather than tacky.. There's a daft boat-dock scene that belongs in a Bond movie from the Roger Moore era and the climax, in Bodrum's Roman ruins, is also disappointingly ludicrous.

The writing is unpretentious and fluid with some choice phrasing here and there. UN HQ beside Lake Geneva is "brilliantly floodlit, totally useless." Terry Hayes could prove to be the heir to Robert Ludlum's throne (Freddie Forsyth's is safe, and Dan Brown has gone off the boil). Ludlum had some great plots but many of his books also suffered from over-writing and loss of pace.

Hayes may well be happy to be seen as the next Ludlum, but I think he could set his sights even higher.

{REviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]


Giovanni's Room (Vintage International)
Giovanni's Room (Vintage International)
by James Baldwin
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars (Slightly) Gay Paree in the 1950s, 27 Oct. 2014
In the beginning was the word, and the word came from Gore Vidal: THE CITY AND THE PILLAR (1948). In 1953 the word came from Mary Renault: THE CHARIOTEER. Then in 1956 came Baldwin's GIOVANNI'S ROOM, recently given a new edition in the UK and the USA. These three are the 'pivotal' gay novels of the mid-20th-century, and I've now re-read two of them, with Mary Renault still to be revisited.

David, a blond all-American WASP with a mainly heterosexual past, falls in love with a gorgeous Italian barman. Their affair is brief and intense, doomed by David's inability to commit to a homosexual relationship. We know from the beginning that Giovanni is facing the guillotine but we don't know until nearer the end what crime he has been driven to and how much responsibility David bears for driving him to it.

This, because of its time, is a very 'respectable' read with no explicit sex scenes, but it resonates with a powerful emotional intensity. Visibly influenced by the great French writers - Proust, Gide, Genet - the writing is always elegant and occasionally a bit precious: "I felt myself flow towards him, as a river rushes when the ice breaks up." In the last chapter, as the story moves from gay romance into melodrama, there are even a few faint echoes of Hemingway.

1950s Paris - "this old whore", Giovanni calls the city - is vividly evoked: her riverside promenades, her louche bars, her Bohemian artists, her sensation-seeking visitors. Beyond his major works which played a key role in the civil rights movement, Baldwin made a significant contribution to the 'canon' of expatriate life and gay fiction. GIOVANNI'S ROOM may seem dated to the modern reader, but it remains a major milestone in the history of gay liberation.

[Reviewer is the author of THE BEXHILL MISSILE CRISIS]


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