‘The Postman Always Rings Twice,’ by James M. Cain

Novel, 1934 A gritty, earthy and all-in-all brutal novel telling the story of a drifting jailbird and his mistress, and their attempts to plot out and away into a new life. This is a hard boiled fiction told from the perspective of the villain, and while there’s the occasional revelation of stark humanity, the gnarly dialogue and the values, opportunism and fallibility in the characters … Continue reading ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice,’ by James M. Cain

‘Destroyer,’ directed by Karyn Kusama

Movie, 2018 A pretty effective crime film, with a cop with a past, hellbent on one last redemptive mission. There are some interesting ideas and characters in the mix, and a pretty good pace to the movie as a whole. The brave portrayal of the main character does, however, dominate, and Nicole Kidman’s style takes a little getting used to. One of the mumbling set, … Continue reading ‘Destroyer,’ directed by Karyn Kusama

‘The Unforgivable,’ directed by Nora Fingscheidt

Movie, 2021 Story of a convicted cop-killer released from prison and trying to track down her sister, who she’s not seem for twenty years. For much of the film, the mood is gritty and grim, though there are moments and scenes which lift the mood. The set piece at the film’s climax is especially well done, so that the viewer isn’t piled with too much … Continue reading ‘The Unforgivable,’ directed by Nora Fingscheidt

‘Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper,’ by Donald Henderson

Novel, 1943 Part charming, part disarming and quite chilling character study of a serial killer, whose modus operandi seems to be brute strength and the desire to be caught and brought to justice. The charm of the book is largely driven through the domestic feel and a London in the throes of the Second World War, and while the boarding houses and social clubs should … Continue reading ‘Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper,’ by Donald Henderson

‘In The Miso Soup,’ by Ryu Murakami

Novel, 1997 Intense, brutal and disarming novel about an American tourist and Tokyo’s seedier nightlife. On the one hand, the tension builds and there’s a momentum which gives this book a thrilling, almost voyeuristic page-turning quality; on the other, both the chances of Kenji and particularly Frank, and the situations they operate in, feel lonely and hostile and so lend the book an almost meditative … Continue reading ‘In The Miso Soup,’ by Ryu Murakami

‘Sexy Beast,’ directed by Johnathan Glazer

Movie, 2000 Over-the-top ‘one last job’ gangster film, in which thoroughly horrible characters swear, threaten and sweat their way through a gloriously sweltering Spain, and a more dreary looking London. In terms of entertainment, the film has a good deal going for it, and has a nice balance of humour and a level of menace and threat which come over despite the lack of excessive … Continue reading ‘Sexy Beast,’ directed by Johnathan Glazer

‘The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty,’ directed by Wim Wenders

Movie, 1972 Film following the wanderings of a professional footballer, as he drifts from one place to another and one woman to another, murdering a cinema cashier on the way, and keep tabs on the news and police investigations while he’s at it. I suspect this is a film which can carry and support a number of interpretations, with some of the actions pretty brutal … Continue reading ‘The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty,’ directed by Wim Wenders

“Lift to the Scaffold,” directed by Louis Malle

Movie, 1958 Hugely atmospheric thriller, in which a murder goes wrong and things spiral out of control for two couples as a result. The dreamy sequences, Miles Davis’ improvised soundtrack and some wonderful performances all give the film a detached, dreamy feeling. The escapades of the younger couple – a flower girl and juvenile delinquent – are set in opposition to the main action, set … Continue reading “Lift to the Scaffold,” directed by Louis Malle

‘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

“Red Harvest”, by Dashiell Hammett

Novel, 1929 A novel which racks up incidents, gangster teams, weapons, fights, narcotics and shoot-ups steadily at first, before building, by the end of the book, a frenetic pace. This is a novel where characters are sketched then slaughtered in short order, as the plot and almost everything else about the book is chewed up in an extraordinary tide of corruption and destruction. Everything is … Continue reading “Red Harvest”, by Dashiell Hammett