Saturday, October 17, 2020

Typecast

 ‘That’s Queen Victoria?’

‘Yes.’ The director squinted into a camera eyepiece.

‘But she’s black.’

‘And?’

‘Queen Victoria was white.’

‘To you maybe.’

‘It’s not a matter of opinion.’

‘And what about Cleopatra?’

‘Sorry?’

‘Was she as white as an English rose? Was Jesus as pale as a Scot?’

‘What?’

‘Everyone living in Palestine and Egypt were baby pink?’

‘John …’

‘Shall we daub her with white makeup like a minstrel?’

‘We need to recast.’

‘It’s what she says and does that matters not her skin colour.’

‘That’s not …’

‘So, white folks can play black characters but not vice versa?’


A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Review of Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall (2014, Titan Books)

The body of a 17 year old black girl is found in an under-construction development. Homicide detective Elouise Norton and her new partner are assigned to the case. For Lou there are strong echoes with the disappearance on her sister, Tori, thirty years previously; not least the age and race of the victim and that the development is owned by Napoleon Crase, who owned the stored Tori was last seen hanging around. As they investigate, Lou tries to stay impartial but there are too many similarities between the two cases. She has never given up hope of discovering what happened to her sister, but that baggage might jeopardise the current investigation into an active killer.

Land of Shadows is the first book in the Detective Elouise Norton series set in Los Angeles. Lou grew up in a poor black neighbourhood and has worked her way out into a new life, though she is deeply scarred by the disappearance of her elder sister when she was a teenager. Her new investigation has echoes of Tori’s case involving the death of a young black girl and the chief suspect from thirty years ago. Along with her new white partner, Lou starts to follow leads, though she’s convinced she knows who the perpetrator is. To add to her stress, her husband is away in Japan on business and is conducting an affair. The tale then is a police procedural that is thoroughly personal to the detective. At one level this adds spice and tension, and on another feels like one massive coincidental plot device for that purpose. Consequently, while it’s an engaging read with an interesting lead character, there were some odd quirks that rang hollow – for example, it was a mystery to me as to why she’s allowed to investigate it at all, why there was a suggestion of suicide in Monie’s death, and why the original investigation into Tori’s death was so lackadaisical. While it builds to a tense denouement, the reveal felt a bit too contrived. Other than that, there’s a decent sense of place, it’s nicely paced becoming somewhat of a page-turner.  



Saturday, October 10, 2020

The way home?

 Alicia stepped through the door and into a warehouse. Pallet racking towered above her.

Startled, she turned heels and barged through the fire escape.

The pub was half-empty; a Beatles song playing on the jukebox.

Alicia imagined the speech bubble over her head. ‘What the …’

She wandered to the front door and stared out at a car park.

‘You alright, love?’ The barman asked.

Ignoring him, she exited onto a theatre stage and into the glare of a spotlight.

Alicia raised a hand to her eyes. Every door opened to a new space.

But none seemed to lead home.


A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words

Friday, October 9, 2020

Review of A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly (2017, Hodder & Stoughton)

Charlie Parker is spending a lot of time talking to his lawyer. Rachel his ex-partner wants to restrict access to his daughter. Ross, a federal agent, has persuaded him to sign a contract to undertake work for the government. The first case is to track down Jaycob Eklund who has disappeared. Eklund was a private investigator obsessed with the paranormal, and in particular, The Brethren, a group of ghosts whose ancestors maintain their sect. The trail leads Parker, and his two friends Angel and Louis, to ‘Mother’, the custodian of a criminal empire, and her disturbed son, Philip, who also want Eklund found. As Parker follows the trail, his own ghost, The Collector, is also seeking out The Brethren. What evolves is a complex game of ghosts. 

Connolly spins a multi-layered story. The plot is fairly complex, and is heavily contextualised by previous instalments of the series that might make it a tricky read if read as a standalone. But that is also its strength, in that it builds on and ties off some of threads of the longer arc of the series. As usual, the prose and storytelling is engaging, the plot is compelling and entertaining with a strong sense of mystery and tension throughout, and Parker is put through the usual wringer with respect to both his personal and professional life. A chilling, page-turning read.



Monday, October 5, 2020

September reviews

A very good month of reading, but Neuromancer was my read of the month.

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha ****.5
Neuromancer by William Gibson *****
East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman ****
Austral by Paul McAuley ****.5
A Capital Crime by Laura Wilson *****

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Betrayal

Mark stopped typing.

‘I was wondering when you would appear,’ he said without turning.

Sarah didn’t reply, unable to speak.

The gun started to tremble in her hand.

‘What are you waiting for?’

‘You … you betrayed us.’

‘To save you.’

‘Karl is dead.’

‘The three of us would have …’

‘And the others?’

‘They would have died regardless. We were all …’

‘In the fight! But you betrayed them. The cause.’

‘We’ll rebuild. Start again.’

‘No. I …’

‘Sarah.’ Mark turned in his chair. ‘I have always loved you.’

‘Yet you never understood me. Us.’

Sarah pulled the trigger.



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.