“Tales of Muffled Oars,” by Magnus Mills

Novel, 2020 Familiar Mills territory, with groups of men meeting in pubs. In this book, they’re following history, with seemingly and mysteriously time travelling Macauley, Hogarth and Swift delivering talks in which England at peace is discussed, to the exclusion of any conflict or murder. This simple idea is backed with clear, simple writing, all of which covers and discusses some hefty questions about the … Continue reading “Tales of Muffled Oars,” by Magnus Mills

The Hypnotist, directed by Montgomery Tully

Movie, 1957 Fairly effective, though fairly forgettable story about an experimental jet pilot, suffering psychologically, after a test flight goes badly wrong and he’s forced to bail out. His referral to a hypnotist has dramatic and unintended consequences, as characters and situations are pulled in and conspire to frame a story of murder and mayhem. Thrills and spills are scattered along the way, and show … Continue reading The Hypnotist, directed by Montgomery Tully

“The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox,” by Maggie O’Farrell

Novel, 2006 Story of two sisters, and principally, the titular Esme, whose life is grabbed away from her when she’s committed to a mental asylum in the 1930s. In a book whose narrative slips between the two sister’s and Esme’s niece’s points of view, the overlap and interplay of very different views of the same story can be a little confusing, especially early on, although … Continue reading “The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox,” by Maggie O’Farrell

‘Love of the Game,’ by Ricky Hill

Non-fiction, 2021 Account of professional footballer and coach Ricky Hill, and how his success at battling racism as a black player taking his first steps in the professional game in the mid 1970s hasn’t translated into appointments in the British managerial and coaching side of the game. While Hill is eloquent and the issues he raises have more than a feeling of truth about them, … Continue reading ‘Love of the Game,’ by Ricky Hill

“Chinese Roulette,” directed by Rainer Werner Fassbender

Movie, 1976 Perverse, enthralling film about the psychotic relationships within and involving a married couple and their disabled child. Most of the action, which is built around infidelity and a set of cracked, often spooky characters, takes place at the family’s country lodging. This setting, the crisis ensuing after the husband and wife’s affairs are unmasked, and the various quips, asides and actions build a … Continue reading “Chinese Roulette,” directed by Rainer Werner Fassbender

“Went The Day Well,” directed by Alberto Cavalcanti

Movie, 1942 Ealing film about the effects on and efforts of a plucky set of English villagers in their attempts to repel a German occupation in the Second World War. The usual nose thumbing and triumphant underdog which works so well in the studio’s comedies just about translates, but it’s a strain which – without a few decent performances – could have been in real … Continue reading “Went The Day Well,” directed by Alberto Cavalcanti

‘The Cry of the Owl,’ by Patricia Highsmith

Novel, 1962 Terrific psychological thriller, in which a deranged cast of characters get involved and wound up with each other’s affairs. Every one of them ends up in a much worse place than when they started. A terrific piece of storytelling, in which tragic and almost comedically escalating situations involving stalking, ex-wives and vengeful lovers are played out against a backdrop of respectable small town … Continue reading ‘The Cry of the Owl,’ by Patricia Highsmith

‘The Windup Girl,’ by Paolo Bacigalupi

Novel, 2009 Science-fiction dystopia, with some great ideas and scenes set around the precarious management and incipient crash of ecosystems and food chains, but one whose cast of characters, intrigues, adventures and interventions immediately dazzle, then quickly confuse the reader. This may be a book suited to the hardwired genre reader adept to retaining a good deal of information about myriad characters and situations, but … Continue reading ‘The Windup Girl,’ by Paolo Bacigalupi

‘Hampstead,’ directed by Joel Hopkins

Movie, 2017 A film whose premise doesn’t promise much, but which in a charming, uncomplicated way, delivers. Yes, this is a film about class and mannered societal behaviour, whose nuances are hard to find and which could be accused of being a little patronising. The film also has a backs to the wall, stick up for the underdog and – very politely – stick it … Continue reading ‘Hampstead,’ directed by Joel Hopkins

‘Run,’ directed by Aneesh Chaganty

Movie, 2020 Pretty solid, fairly standard psychological thriller, featuring a dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship. While there’s a degree of knowing what’s coming next, and genre tropes are dutifully ticked off, this is nonetheless well done and watchable. A new moments, perhaps, of unintended humour here and there, but a good watch for genre fans. The two main actresses are excellent throughout and rinse as much tension … Continue reading ‘Run,’ directed by Aneesh Chaganty