200 years of the Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.
Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.

Mary Shelley was just 18 years old when she began writing the English language’s most successful gothic horror tale, Frankenstein, which was first published  200 years ago. So after all these years what do we know about her, the story, and the circumstances that led to the creation of Frank Jnr.?

  • She did indeed write the story when she was 18, although it was not published until she was 21.
  • It was written as the result of a challenge laid down by Lord Byron (romantic poet extraodinaire), who along with young Mary, her husband Percy, and Byron’s “personal physician” John Polidori was staying in a spooky country house. On a stormy night telling ghost stories to each other, Byron thought it would be a good challenge for the group to see who could write the best ghost/horror story!
  • That session also led to Polidori writing the story ‘Vampyre’ which was influential on Bram Stoker for his work, ‘Dracula’.
  • ‘Frankenstein’ was first published anonymously on a short run of 500 using extremely budget materials by publisher Lackington’s, who are still operating today
  • In 1910 Thomas Edison created a 15min film based on the story – I love the music accompaniment on it!
  • The monster has no name but is referred to in the book by the names in my first sentence. For many years I believed the monster’s name was Adam, but I must’ve dreamed that!
  • The story was initially published anonymously with many readers assuming the author to be Mary’s husband Percy. Even after it’s reprinting in 1831 with Mary’s name on it many still thought Percy’s hand was involved. In truth it is now believed that Percy contributed a measly 6% of the text (4,000 of 72,000 words) with many readers considering that his contributions only detracted from the story, were over complicated and over described, making the whole thing harder to digest.
  • During her life Mary also wrote, seven novels, three books for kids, over a dozen short stories, and numerous biographies, articles, and poems.

The story of Frankenstein is now so embedded into our popular culture that there have been countless depictions and references all through the history of film and television; think Hermann Munster, the film Young Frankenstein, British tele series The Frankenstein Chronicles, and even with the fantastic kids film Tim Burton, Frankenweenie ,we see that this story of horror has even entered into the realms of children’s literature and culture.

But have we stayed true to Mary’s idea?? Does the monster still serve the same purpose as she intended; a lesson in mortality, human desire for control and intolerance for the different, perhaps even describing the perils of parental abandonment…? This series of charts from the Guardian suggests there have been some major deviation.

So how will you celebrate the outstanding achievement of Mary Shelley? Perhaps by reading some classic gothic/horror/monster literature, there’s plenty out there and I’ve created a short list of titles for you, all available through the Christchurch City Libraries catalogue and across many formats; books, audiobooks, ebooks, and graphic novels…

Classic Gothic/Horror/Monster stories

List created by DevilStateDan

Some spooky, dark, and unnerving tales, classic titles from famous names…

View Full List

Happy and spooky reading to you….

A fiction lover’s mid-year review

2018 is screaming past at quite a rate and I have had the pleasure of filling this time with some quality reading!

I’ve made a list of the novels that I have enjoyed so far in 2018 and made comments on each so you can better decide whether they might be for you – my guess is that they’re so good you’ll want to read all of them!

There’s a decent representation of my favourite authors here too – the universe smiled upon us this year for new books from amazing authors. I was particularly excited to get a hold of First Person, the latest from the great Tasmanian Richard Flanagan. He’s a Booker Prize winner for his 2013 novel Narrow Road to the Deep North, and could go again with First Person, it’s very VERY good!

And another great Australian author Tim Winton; I was eagerly awaiting the chance to read The Shepherd’s Hut, another triumph for the doyen of Australian literary fiction.

And then there was The Free by Willy Vlautin. His economy and direct use of language, and his ability to accurately depict the struggles of everyday rural and poor America makes him one of the most exciting American authors working today, in my humble opinion, and he’s producing consistently outstanding work.

And most recently I’ve finally gotten my hands on Macbeth by Jo Nesbo! Hogarth Shakespeare have really nailed it by engaging Nesbo to do Macbeth and it’s definitely one of my highlights for the year – that and Flanagan’s First Person will be hard to top!

I’ve also included some modern sci-fi, some new Scandi-Noir, some historical fiction from NZ, and a classic from Kurt Vonnegut – and I’ll let you read about them yourself 🙂 (Please note that a number of these titles are also available in eBook or eAudiobook formats, so you’ve got plenty of options!)

2018 – The Best of Fiction…. so far!

List created by DevilStateDan

The highlights of my explorations through the fiction collection of Christchurch City Libraries for the first half of 2018. Some titles are new, some have been out for decades, all of them are great!

Cover of First person by Richard FlanaganFirst Person – A struggling writer gets an opportunity to ghost-write the memoir of a notorious con man in 1990s Australia but the road is a slippery one and lines become blurred as our man becomes ever deeper involved.

This is arguably Richard Flanagan’s greatest work to date, and he’s definitely entrenched himself at the top of the heap of contemporary authors.

Cover of Macbeth by Jo NesboMacbeth – This is obviously a retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and what a brilliant treatment and with Jo Nesbo as an inspired choice for author. It’s so obvious to me now that Macbeth was MADE for the Scandi-Noir genre treatment. It’s gritty, dark, violent. Full of power, betrayal, and characters walking the fine line between sanity and madness. For this story Macbeth is head of SWAT in a dangerous and corrupt town and together with his mistress, Lady, the rags-to-riches casino entrepreneur, they embark on a powerplay to seize control of the city. But Macbeth has a sketchy past full of drug abuse and violence and as he relapses things get out of control, people get killed, lines get blurred…

Cover of The shepherd's hut by Tim WintonThe Shepherd’s Hut – The doyen of Australian literary fiction has done it again with this book. It’s the very real account of a young man forced by circumstance to take to the roads and outback of rural Western Australia. Such brilliant descriptive writing will have you smelling the eucalypt in the air, and hearing the crispy arid saltlands crunching underfoot. Jaxie is running and he’s got a vague destination in mind – north. And he’s got to survive the perils of rural Australia, criminals, and the very land that seems to want to kill him from heat, thirst or animal attack. An outstanding book from a great Australian author and written in vernacular language too!

Cover of Machine learning by Hugh Howey

Machine Learning – A set of short sci-fi stories from the author of the super popular ‘Silo’ Series. Hugh Howey is one of the best contemporary science fiction authors working today and these stories are thought provoking, dark, ominous, and challenging. He features some stories from the world of ‘Silo’ as well as stories of AI, Aliens, Virtual Worlds, and some Fantasy too. Beaut writer, beaut stories!

Cover The free by Willy VlautinThe Free – Another winner from one of my favourite authors writing today. It’s a snapshot of everyday life in middle America amongst a group of individuals all experiencing life differently. The solo man keeping two jobs to stay afloat, the nurse who has seen too much and has a strained relationship with her mentally ill father, and there’s Leroy, an injured soldier who drifts between consciousness and another place. The characters all struggle in their way to navigate life and retain their dignity and sense of self, and the authors minimalist writing style is stark and very effective at conveying they way in which real people communicate with each other. If you like the human experience warts-and-all then give this a go!

Cover of The melody by Jim CraceThe Melody – This story centres around an ageing singer/performer who was once a celebrated entertainer commanding full houses of societys elite. Nowadays he shuffles around suffering from the recent death of his loving wife, but then thing take a sinister turn when he’s attacked in his own home by a creature of unknown origin. His world is challenged as he negotiates his way around the incident and who he once was, who he is now, and what his future holds. Supremely well written with great use of language.

Medusa – An outstanding addition to the world of Scandi-Noir and one of the best I’ve read. Solid character building, quick paced action, and interwoven plot of suspicion and intrigue, and a series of grisly crimes in rural Norway – everything you could want in a crime novel! Medusa

Cover of One way by Simon MordenOne Way – What do you do when you want to colonise another planet, say Mars for instance?!? Well you could take a leaf from the book of British colonialism and send convicts to do the hard yards before the rich and elite arrive – and that’s just what America has done in this new sci-fi adventure. A small team of “dangerous” felons are recruited to build the first habitation on the red planet, what could go wrong…? A murder perhaps, and with nowhere to run it’s a spacey-whodunnit! Good writing and full of wit, if you like ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir or his follow up ‘Artemis’ then you’ll get a kick out of ‘One Way’!

Cover of Only killers and thieves by Paul HowarthOnly Killers and Thieves – A great debut from a new author that really captures the Australian Gothic story. It’s the story of two young men, not boys but barely men, after a traumatic family event that sees them on a journey not of their choosing. The book describes the brutality of life in colonial Australia, the treatment of the indigenous population, and the rigourous adherence to the ‘old ways’ in this vastly alien and seemingly lawless world. If you like your reading to be vivid, violent, confronting, and troublesome then you’ll sure like this one!

Cover of The sons by Anton SvenssonThe Sons – On its initial appearance it seems like another addition to the massive genre of Scandinavian crime novels, but it’s much more and can stand alone as a piece of literary fiction deserving of high praise. Three young men have just served sentences for aggravated armed robbery. They are brothers, raised by the petty criminal and domestic abuser father that they committed their last crime with. On the final sons release we follow what happens next as they try to recreate some kind of normality – whatever “normality” means for each of them though is very different. Starting out I was worried that because I didn’t really like any the characters my attention may sway, but that fear allayed pretty early on by the authors great descriptive writing which bares all to scene of a family torn apart by the criminal inclinations of a small representation of their larger sum. This is part 2 in the ‘Made in Sweden’ series, the first book being ‘The Father’. Can’t wait for the next one!

For more view the full list

^DevilStateDan

Film and television – a mid-year review

Seen anything good on the tele lately…?!?!

Me neither. That’s why I borrow films and tele series’ from the library! It’s a much better way of being in control of what you’re actually watching during screen time, and you can tailor your viewing to perfectly suit your taste and your timetable, WIN-WIN and, no more infomercials!!

And it’s really just about good old-fashioned storytelling isn’t it!? For me, film and television is a coming-together of multiple artforms that, when it’s done well, has the ability to move you at a level many other artforms might not individually.

So here’s a list of the best films and series’ that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing this year, so far – many more to come!

2018 – The Best of Film and Television

List created by DevilStateDan

These are the best films and television series’ that I have explored throughout the year so far, all available to you through Christchurch City Libraries membership.

The fencer – Post WWII Estonia. The Germans are gone and the Russians are taking control. They’re especially interested in those Estonians that fought for the Germans and are systematically hunting them out. This story is about one such man, a world-class fencer who is concealing himself as a sports teacher for a country college. This is a stunning and heartfelt film about humanity, strength, and love.

Get Out – A gripping story of a young black man heading away for a weekend with his as-yet un-met in-laws… what comes after is a web of dark intrigue and something is definitely not right!

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch – Ever wanted to know more about the mysterious Hieronymus Bosch?!? Then get a load of this – it’s a part of the ‘Exhibition on Screen’ series that takes viewers on a tour of the works and life of some of history’s great artists. This one is all about Hieronymus Bosch and is surprising in its revelations about who he was and where his inspirations were drawn, plus you get up close with some of his most amazing works!

Chasing Trane – The latest telling of the life, love, and music of the great jazz saxophonist, John Coltrane. Rare footage and loads of interviews with music legends that were close to him. He was truly a musical visionary and died at such a young age from liver cancer, it begs the questions of how much more impact could he have had on contemporary music!? A must-watch for all music fans!

Saint Amour – An old man and his adult son go on a wine-tasting road trip around France in order to reconnect. Sounds normal, but this is French comedy and things get strange! Good story.

The Limehouse Golem – I really liked this film – a Victorian Whodunnit! I loved the Victorian era look of it, the clever direction, the story was weaving and uncertain – as it should be for a classic whodunnit! And the acting was solid and dramatic without being over the top. It’s a small shame that I picked the killer in the first 20mins but I still liked the story and enjoyed it to the end!

The Dinner – A family of privileged white Americans meet for a very posh dinner to discuss an incident that involved their children. The details slowly emerge as the film unfolds and explores the issues of parenting, mental health, social navigations etc. Great performances from the four lead actors.

Detectorists – A short series about the engrossing world of metal detecting in rural Britain. Written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (from the Office, and Pirates of the Caribbean), it’s full of pathos and at once hilarious, cringey-embarrassing, and full of heart. It’s about how even small lives are big and important and that everyone deserves to be happy. Highly recommended if you like British comedy.

Rellik – A dark and twisted crime series with an uniusual device; the story is told in reverse. We begin with the outcome of a police investiagtion into a series of acid-burn murders, from there we go back in increments of hours/days as the foundations are explored and new light begins to show on reasons for behaviours evident earlier/later… it’s a little confusing to explain so just watch it, it’s quality crime drama!

Swinging Safari – A gloriously retro look at family life in 1970’s Australia. Try to think of every brand name, in-safe parenting practice, cliché, and add a bit of over-styling and you’ve got it. Loosely wrapped as a coming-of-age story, it centres around 3 Aussie families living, loving, and loafing. Very funny film, especially if you’ve lived through some of these circumstances.

For more view the full list

Library sounds – a mid-year review

I’ve been exploring the CD collection available through Christchurch City Libraries this year and I’ve found some absolute gems!

There’s a mix of styles and eras in this list and quite a representation of New Zealand music – and it just so happens to be New Zealand Music Month.

So sit back and get some sonic stimulation from some quality musicians from around the world of music…

2018 – The Best of Music

List created by DevilStateDan

Music highlights for the year. Some are brand new, some are decades old but new to me, all are great!

Versatile – Van Morrison doing jazz interpretations backed by a very slick big band. It’s really well produced and if you’re new to the American jazz standards then this is a great way in!

Utterance – I love this album! It’s a collaborative effort between three on NZ’s finest musicians; David Long (banjo w/effects), Natalia Mann (harp), and Richard Nunns (taonga puoro). These flavours blend beautifully to create haunting soundscapes that are textural and dynamic – truly beautiful sounds from Aotearoa!

The Jazz Messengers – The first album from the group that went on to be the band that every jazz player wanted to be in. They’ve had some huge names in jazz through their ranks over the years and this is a great way to start their 40+ album recording career!

The Kitchen Table Sessions – Beaut, home-cooked alt-country from NZ’s favourite adopted daughter, Tami Neilson. Great country grooves and a lady with a voice of gold – what’s not to love!?

Preservation – Some more beautiful, lyrical, melodic songwriting from NZ’s Nadia Reid.

Second Nature – This is just how I like the Blues; stripped back, acoustic, you can just imagine it on the porch on a hot summer day… This father and son team recorded this album in single takes with no overdubs whilst they were touring Finland in 1991, and it’s a timeless and solid an blues album as you’ll find.

Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band – Charlie Watts (drummer for the Rolling Stones) gives it his jazz side on this album, featuring the big band of Danish radio. Some great jazz music here particularly the ‘Elvin Suite’ numbers. After that you get the obligatory big band arrangements of some Stones songs, beautifully arranged and executed but nothing terribly exciting musically.

Dog – Stripped back acoustic blues doesn’t get much better than this album of what I like to call “porch music” from Charlie Parr. Solid songwriting and a very real connection with the blues makes this a great addition to the genre.

Don’t Let Them Lock You up – New Zealand music is in good shape these days and I really like the creativity and superb musicianship that is on display on this album. They usually perform as a duo but the recording process has allowed them to expand on their ideas and grooves, implement new harmonies and percussion lines, and get really solid and funky! Great album!

Black Notes From the Deep – A great jazz album from the British multi-instrumentalist jazz legend Courtney Pine. Brilliant small ensemble playing and solid musicianship on display. I really liked the instrumentals – not so much the vocal numbers – but that’s just my preference. It’s good compositions played really nicely without arrogance or naff-ness. Jazz fans should have a listen.

View full list

Recreational non-fiction – a mid year review

I’m a pretty avid reader and mostly I love good fiction, but this year I have made a determined effort to read more non-fiction, but not just any old non-fiction – what I was after was “Recreational Non-Fiction”!

After a great deal of library exploration, and some very, VERY dry encounters with some non-fiction authors and their writing, I soon discovered that I’m particularly drawn towards non-fiction that is;

a) interesting / informative (gotta love what you’re reading about, right?)

b) conversational (this is very important to me!)

c) about an individual’s own explorations on a subject (it’s great to go along for the ride while someone makes discoveries!), and

d) based on the natural sciences (that’s just what floats my boat I guess!)

And I’ve been building a list this year to keep track of the “recreational non-fiction” titles that I have really loved, and here they are along with some notes on each;

2018 – The Best of Recreational Non-Fiction

List created by DevilStateDan

These are my best titles for the year under the banner of “recreational non-fiction”. Most of these titles are new releases, some are from decades ago, all are great! I do have a particular liking for the natural sciences so most of these books will be on this topic…

New Zealand Geographic – I love this magazine for championing and celebrating all the good things in New Zealand’s natural world. Every issue is packed full of interesting scientific projects being undertaken, updates on the status of various endangered species, and how humans are impacting on the environment and what we can do about it as individuals.

Cover of Smith journalSmith Journal – This is a great periodical, full of insight, information, and learning opportunities. Stories about potentially world-changing initiatives mix with current trends in sciences, and the revolution of traditional crafts, all from around the world. Very entertaining read!

The Secret Life of Flies – Do you like chocolate?!?! Then you’re relying on the humble and, misunderstood fly – they are the only pollinator of the cacao tree! Shocking hey!? Flies have so much more to offer the environment than we realise. Have a read of this entertaining and informative book, it may change the way you view these annoying pests for good!

Curious Encounters With the Natural World – This is a masterpiece of recreational non-fiction! Written conversationally (like you sitting with the author at the pub over a couple of pints discussing the natural world!), hugely informative, and hilarious, this book offers a very real access point for those who don’t read non-fiction or find in inaccessible. If you’re interested in the natural world, here’s one for you!

Cover of The truth about animalsThe Unexpected Truth About Animals – Another brilliant book about some of the lesser known creatures of the Earth and their own particular nuances. It’s very easy to read and pretty funny, making the science really attractive and easy to digest. Great dinner party fact fodder!

Blowfish’s Oceanopedia – The story of the seas from the coast to the deep. This book is divided up into quickfire digestible facts on all manner of issues and powers of the most abundant ecosystem on the planet. A great read for lovers of natural science.

Cover of SpinelessSpineless – Juli Berwald really likes jellyfish and this book proves it! Follow her story as she travels the globe learning about the state of jellies in our oceans, how they are coping with climate change, and what’s leading to the huge and unpredictable super-blooms of jellies. There’s so much information in this book about this underrated creature of the seas that it makes you wonder why we know so little about such a successful and abundant animal. A solid, insightful, and entertaining read and I look forward to seeing her future work.

Cover of American WolfAmerican Wolf – Follow the committed souls who observe the wolf packs of Yellowstone National Park. Wolves have only recently been reintroduced to the wild in this region and careful monitoring has led to some quite simply amazing discoveries about the ecological balance of a region. But not everyone is so keen to have the wolves back and as we follow the pack that she-wolf O-Six we learn how hard it is to survive in the wild under diminishing environment and increasing threats. One of my books of the year, this one!

Cover of The soul of an octopusThe Soul of An Octopus – In this book we follow the author as she becomes increasingly enamoured with all things octopus! We get to share the experience of learning SCUBA and see first hand behind the scenes at the New England Aquarium – a facility dedicated to sea life and full of passionate and knowledgeable staff and volunteers. And throughout the narrative we think on the idea of consciousness and emotions in all life – did you know that fish dream?!?

View Full List

I’ll continue to add to this list as the year progresses and I have a feeling that this is only just the start of a beautiful relationship between myself and recreational non-fiction!

The Crime Scene – The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

There’s a new crime fiction author at work!

I’ve recently had the opportunity to read the debut novel from a new Irish-Australian author by the name of Dervla McTiernan. She’s from County Cork originally, but she’s a West Australian nowadays and has produced her first book. The Ruin is set in Galway and sits nicely in the noir crime genre.

It’s a great read! Entitled The Ruin, we see a Dublin city detective Cormac Reilly returning to his rural home town to take up a post in the local Galway Gardaí. He’s got some emotional baggage (of course, this is noir crime!) and is drawn back into a case from when he was first on the force – the death of an alcoholic drug addicted mother, and the institutionalisation of her two young children. It shifts to 2013 and the now-adult son has been found dead in the city river, but there are suspicions around what exactly happened. His sister (who has been working in the Australian outback) has returned to Ireland and slowly builds a case that the gardai refuse to engage with. With the help of her brother’s recently pregnant girlfriend and Detective Reilly searching from the other end of the investigation, they seek the truth, uncovering scandal, corruption, and small town parochial mindsets.

McTiernan writes with good pace, interesting character development, and a very strong sense of place – you may find yourself shivering as she describes the sideways sleeting of winter Galway! It’s a good blend between a police procedural and a whodunnit, all the ingredients are there, and she delivers a good read.

CoverThe Rúin sees a new addition to the noir crime genre, a genre that is ever-expanding and increasing in its quality as it incorporates new cultures and inspirations. It contains all the ingredients for good crime fiction; an unsteady detective, darkness and winter, a who-can-you-trust sense of uncertainty, and an intricate plot of twists and turns – everyone is under suspicion! And it got me thinking about countries outside of Scandinavia who are producing quality noir crime literature. We know the depth of Scandi Crime and there seems to be an endless source of sinister criminal imagination coming out of that region, but what about the rest of the world?

So if you like books like the ones listed, there’s a big chance you’ll like this new author and will soon be awaiting her next… and her next… and her next book!

CoverThere’s Scotland’s Ian Rankin; his Rebus novels have grown to unimaginable heights for crime fiction. They’re dark and disturbed, and feature a flawed detective barely holding on to his own sense of worth. A twisting plot line and some harrowing criminal acts

CoverAustralia has the recently deceased Peter Temple; The Jack Irish books (and films!) are first class crime fiction, offering a look at the dark underbelly of Melbourne, Australia. His use of language in particular make his characters very deep and believable, and his plots are twisting and his characters are never quite out of danger – exciting and full of regional levity. As the blurb says; “Melbourne in winter. Rain. Wind. Pubs. Beer. Sex. Corruption. Murder.” What’s not to love about that sentence!?

CoverHow about our own Paul Cleave? Who knew Christchurch could be such a hotbed for underworld sinister occurrences! His police procedural novels featuring detective Theodore Tate are gripping, dark, and give the reader a look into the fictionalised seedy side of Christchurch, New Zealand. He has written other stand-alone novels too and continues to produce dark and sinister stories to revel in from the comfort of your armchair.

There’s plenty of dark mystery set in and around our own region and for a first book The Ruin is a solid start, and should create a great foundation for the author to build on. I’m looking forward to more from her! Give it a go…

Slāinte!

The Ruin
by Dervla McTiernan
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781460754214

An Easter music egg-stravaganza!

Easter approaches and you find yourself with some extra time for contemplation, relaxation, and resetting your spiritual clock.

How best to do this?

Personally I find music the best avenue for transcendental experiences so I have created a list of different options to share, for your ears, eyes, and souls!

And here it is…

An Easter playlist

List created by DevilStateDan

Some Easter-y music to enjoy on the long weekend… We have a wide range of traditional and not-so-traditional music here on this list, so happy listening to you – there may even be an “easter-egg” to discover somewhere in this list!

Let’s begin on a lighter and fun note with Jimmy Wakely singing “Peter Cottontail”. This 1950 Song Reached #7 on Country Music Charts in America and is sure to get your foot tapping while you ready yourself for the Easter season.

Cover of St Matthew Passion, J. S. BachSt. Matthew Passion – The masterpiece of baroque music, first performed on Good Friday 1727 in Leipzig Germany. It’s the story of the crucifixion – as according to the bible – and features beautiful baroque choral singing and stunning solo arias. Make Good Friday a good Friday with this piece!

St. Matthew Passion – And if you’ve got some musical skills and can pull a group of singers and instrumentalists together, why not give the piece a go yourself! This score is for soloists (SATTBB), two mixed choruses (SATBSATB), and two orchestras. Christchurch City Libraries has a large print music selection available for you to borrow!

Symphony no. 2 – What can you say about Mahler No.2 ‘Resurrection’ Symphony other than it’s moody as heck, excites conductors to a frenzied end, includes the most magnificent ‘musical death shriek’, and is an eternal piece of brilliant composition. Listen and you’ll agree, but is it an Easter piece…? You decide!

Cover of Mahler documentary on Access VideoMahler (Documentary) – Want to know more about the crazy musical genius oddball Bohemian, Gustav Mahler? Try this documentary available to stream for free through your Christchurch City Libraries membership.

Le lamentazioni del profeta geremia per il mercoledi santo – Thomas Tallis is super-important in early music history and is celebrated as one of Britain’s greatest ever composers. He straddled the times of change as HenryVIII was revamping the church in the early 1500’s Tallis proved quite adept at pleasing both sides of the believers (catholic and protestant) both stylistically and exaltedly! Have a listen to his magnificent choral arrangements!

Eight Classic Albums – And here’s a surprise inclusion but I couldn’t resist – an Easter-Egg if you will! On one of these eight classic albums the great Gerry Mulligan meets the great Ben Webster – a coming together of jazz saxophone to play the tune; ’18 Carrots for Rabbit’. Happy Easter!

Handel’s Messiah – And to finish off lets watch a live performance of Handel’s Messiah – the mightiest of all Easter pieces!

^DevilStateDan

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Vale, Peter Temple (& Jack Irish)

It’s always a sad day when you hear of the death of someone whose work you have appreciated over the years. For me, this time, it’s Peter Temple; Australian crime author who died from cancer at his home in Ballarat on the 8th of March, 2018 at the age of 71.

Peter Temple was born in South Africa but immigrated in 1977 due to his anti-apartheid political stance. He moved to Germany at first and then two years later he arrived in Australia and began on his journey to becoming one of Australia’s great writers – and it was lucky for Australia!

CoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCover

He’s most famous for his books featuring Jack Irish; the loveable, roguish lawyer/drinker/debt-collector who likes a flutter on the nags and to prop up the bar at his local Fitzroy watering hole. The character of Jack Irish and the excellent use of language to convey the very matter-of-fact communications of the Australian working class male made these books a tremendous success and highly influential in the Australian crime writing genre. The books are entwined with plot twists and intrigue, corruption and politics, are very well paced, and perfectly capture the social nuances of Australian life. As do the television series that they have been turned into, featuring a who’s who of Australian acting and Guy Pearce as the main man Jack Irish. The producers really nailed the casting, the style, feel, and sense of place and the books really were celebrated in this particular telly treatment!

There are four books in the Jack Irish series, all worth reading but begin with Bad Debts. The tv series is available on DVD and to stream on Lightbox.

Peter Temple’s other books also saw critical acclaim. In 2010 he landed Australia’s most prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin Award, for his novel Truth – sequel to The Broken Shore. For a crime writer to win the Miles Franklin was quite a coup and his acceptance speech was trademark self-deprecation and wry humour, inviting the judging panel to “…take the flack for giving the Miles Franklin to a crime writer”. His third book in this new series has not been presented to his editor as yet, but perhaps sometime on the future another Australian literary great will take the final steps and finish the story and we will see the results. Possibly a posthumous award to go with his Miles Franklin, his five Ned Kelly Awards, and his Duncan Lawrie Dagger!?

For now I suggest we kick back, appreciate the fact that our region has produced another great writer, and for fans I suggest a nostalgic re-read.

Or if you’ve never tried his books before, get stuck in, mate!

Vale, Peter Temple.

What were we listening to in 1988? – A musical nostalgia trip!

Nothing is as quite as good as music for transporting you back to past times of love, loss, and the gaining of life’s experiences. I know that most of my childhood can be most effectively measured musically!

I was suitably shocked to learn that ‘Simply Irresistible’ by Robert Palmer featured prominently in the New Zealand charts waaaaayyyyy back in 1988! I still remember vividly that steady rock beat, the simple, punchy, and catchy tune, the stabby brass section, and those almost-very-nearly-identical dancing/band girls – an astonishing coming-together of style and substance built to last (complete with that awesomely syncopated drum fill that inspired the young drummer in myself!) – it’s in your head right now isn’t it!?

And that got me to thinking, “I wonder how many other standout classic tunes that, just like me, are maybe getting on a bit?” and “I wonder what other songs were around at the same time as ‘Simply Irresistible'”? Turns out that 1988 was a bumper year for iconic music!

So I made a list to share with you all – I’m referring to it among my colleagues as “A Musical Nostalgia Trip” to avoid having to feel too old myself! This is by no means an exhaustive list of the quality of music back in 1988, merely a list of tunes to hopefully trigger some nostalgic thoughts and memories, and maybe even prompt you into some nostalgic musical discoveries of your own!

There’s some big hitting songs in here so if you remember them from 1988, maybe go easy and have regular cups o’tea…

Enjoy:

What we were listening to in 1988!

List created by DevilStateDan

All of these songs listed here could be considered classics and, in some cases, so can the albums that featured them. And as always with music there are so many ways to experience the world of sound, so in this list I offer you CDs, artists’ biographies, live shows on DVD, music press articles, and printed music so you can play them yourself! Get borrowing and set off singing along your own musical nostalgia trip!

Bad – Yep, we were groovin’ to ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ 30 years ago this year. In fact, the first week of 1988 saw the great song at #6 on the NZ charts! Great tune, so cool, and still so good after three decades!

Cover of Michael Jackson The Making of Thriller : 4 Days/1983Michael Jackson – MJ sure did release some amazing music. This book looks behind the scenes during the making of ‘Thriller’, with exclusive photographs and insights.

The Very Best – INXS were big in Australia and New Zealand. ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ was, and still is, a massive hit, reaching #11 in Aus and #30 in NZ and still one of their very best – hard to believe it was 30 years ago though….

Cover of Best of INXSBest of INXS – Why not celebrate the 30th birthday of ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by learning to play some of INXS’ other hits! This is music in P/V/G – that’s to say it has music for piano/vocals/guitar to play the tunes listed – get playing!

Rattle and Hum Songbook – We’re getting all kinds of opportunities to learn to play these songs that we were rockin’ to 30 years ago this year, including ‘Desire’ by U2! Hey, if the Edge can do it then so can you…

U2 – The latest telling of the U2 story, they gotta mention ‘Desire’ in there somewhere, right?!?

Faith – Has there ever been a more widely celebrated breakout solo album than ‘Faith’ by George Michael…!?!? The title track was the first #1 of NZ’s 1988 calendar year! Give it a spin to mark the occasion, and listen without prejudice!

Cover of George Michael: The lifeGeorge Michael – The most recent account of the life of the iconic singer/songwriter penned by a writer who has all the skills in producing engaging biographies.

George Michael: The Lone Star State. By Adrian Deevoy, Q, Jun 1988. Part of Rock’s Backpages.

Access All Areas – Big hair, slow-mo dancing, oversized and off-the-shoulder cardies…and Belinda Carlisle – it must be 1988! ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ turns 30 in 2018.

Belinda Carlisle – Heaven Is A Place On Earth. Official video. Released in 1987, taken from Belinda’s album ‘Heaven On Earth’.

Cover of Guns n' Roses FAQGuns N’ Roses – What a debut album Appetite for Destruction was for the band Guns n’ Roses and the standout commercial track on that album was definitely ‘Sweet Child of Mine’! That iconic guitar riff, the snake-like dance moves of Axl Rose – all that hit up to #7 in the NZ charts, 30yrs ago!

Guns N’ Roses: Dancing with Mr Brownstone. By Paul Elliott, Sounds, 4 Nov 1989. From Rock’s Backpages.

Guns N’ Roses FAQ – Think you know everything there is to know about these rock legends and the music that hit the world rock n’ roll scene like a speeding night train?!? Try this new book out and see how much you missed!

Cover of The best of Bobby McFerrinThe Best Of Bobby McFerrin – This one is such a classic that I still hear folks whistling the tune to ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ at the shops or in the library! This guy is a huge talent so if ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ is the only tune you know of his then follow the link and stream some more! And YES, he’s still alive – there was never anything to the rumours of the 1990’s…

Bobby McFerrin. By Tim Page, Newsday, 30 Jul 1995. Part of Rock’s Backpages, The ultimate library of rock music writing and journalism.

Cover of Bon Jovi chord songbook collectionChord Songbook Collection – Learn to play ‘Bad Medicine’ to celebrate it’s 30th birthday this year! It got to #2 on the NZ charts and is there a bigger rock anthem..!?!?

Bon Jovi – The story of the rockers from Jersey. Get some background and context for their penning of ‘Bad Medicine’, 30yrs ago this year.

Def Leppard – Working class boys from northern England make it big with one of the biggest albums in rock history, but right now we’re talking about that iconic smash that entered the NZ charts mid-March, topped out at #40, then disappeared. We’re talking about ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ a song that had us rockin’ out in 1988! – wrecking ball at the ready!

Def Leppard: Loadsamoney!!. By Mat Snow, Q, May 1988. Part of Rock’s Backpages.

Cover of Easy acoustic songsEasy Acoustic Songs – ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman is one of those songs that instantly transport you back to where you were when you first heard it – what a beaut song! Give it a go on Piano, Vocal, Guitar in this easy acoustics songbook, where it’s jammed in with loads of other tunes you’ll want to try too!

She’s Gotta Ticket: Tracy Chapman. By Lucy O’Brien, City Limits, 5 May 1988. Part of Rock’s Backpages.

Pet Sounds – Has there ever been a song so divisive amongst its artists devout followers as was ‘Kokomo’…?!?! It got at least up to #11 in the NZ charts! Still not sure how I feel about it even after 30 years! Why don’t we have a listen to their best album instead…

The Very Best of – Gee these boys hit us hard in the late nineties, non bigger than their iconic hit ‘I’m Gonna Be’ which is still shouted as loud as a roaring soccer crowd at any Celtic-themed pub around the world today! It made it all the way to #3 on the NZ charts in 1988 but ran home to #1 in January of 1989, not 500 miles from our featured year by any extent! ….it’s stuck in your head now isn’t it. Go on, sing it!

Sunshine on Leith – The Proclaimers songs are so iconic that a musical movie was built around them a few years back. If you’re a fan of the music and you missed this film then you’re in luck as we have it in our collection!

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A guide to European political thrillers

Political thrillers are great. They’re most often a mix of brain and brawn and they give us a chance to get behind the scenes of a part of society many of us are never privy to first-hand. We also get to ride along with an individual who might know just as little as us about navigating the worlds of poli-speech, discovering where the true powers lay in the scheme of things, and who is really working for whom… It’s a good recipe for intrigue and action!

And it makes sense that America would be a hot-bed for political thriller writers – think Michael Connelly, Jeffrey Archer, Vince Flynn… the list goes on and on, and little wonder when the state of politics in the good ol’ US of A seems a swirling miasmic minefield of betrayals, press control, and hidden agendas… what a source of inspiration for willing authors!

But what about Europe?!? European political thrillers have often been the poor cousins of the big budget American titles, but I’d like to speak out for the Euro-Political-Thriller and encourage you all to try some out.

Not only do we encounter the world of politics but with the Euro versions we also get conflicting cultures trying to outwit each other, the language barriers of neighbouring countries, and recent history – don’t forget that there are wars ongoing in places like Turkey, Ukraine, and the ever-present threat of Russia – a heady mix to spark the creative juices of European thriller writers

So here’s a list of ten recent Euro-Political-Thrillers that were released last year (2017) for your enjoyment. There are some excellent ingredients here including (of course) the MI6, people-smuggling, an ever meddling Russia, and a whole lot more troubles of our times – just remember as you read, trust no one!

A Guide to Euro Political Thrillers

List created by DevilStateDan

Not all political thrillers are written by American authors, and here’s a slice out of the European side of things.

Cover of The 7th function of languageThe 7th Function of Language – A murder conspiracy neck-deep in the world of literature. Seeking a lost manuscript, and the truth of what happened to the murder victim – a high brow literary critic – our detective, Jacques Bayard, delves into a secret alternate history of the French intelligence agency. Action packed and at times humourous, if you liked the Da Vinci Code then give this one a go!

You Don’t Know Me – The defendant has sacked his lawyer and is now taking up his own defence. We, the reader, are essentially jury members as he takes us through each piece of evidence. There’s gang violence, cover-ups and conspiracy. Wait until the end, and you be the judge…did he do it?!?

Cover of KompromatKompromat – A story to echo our times… Easily written and at times seriously close to the mark, this story (by a former politician) outlines Britain’s split from the EU, a meddling Russia, a farcical US election, and all the underhand machinations that occur under the table. Truly a satire of our current political world.

A Damned Serious Business – The cold war still rages but this time it’s computer hackers in addition to bombs! Our central character sets out on a near-impossible mission that will see many lives inperiled. It’s a classic race for survival with a great sense of pace.

Cover of The Susan effectThe Susan Effect – Susan has a strange an unique gift and some very powerful people want to use her for their own purposes and gain information about the Future Commission – an underground political movement. The story unfolds in two timelines and is complex, full of sub-plot, a little dystopian, and completely thrilling.

A Divided Spy – A cat and mouse spy thriller about an ex-MI6 agent tasked with locating and recruiting a Russian spy to the English side. Lines are blurred between the sides as the plot unfolds and the Russian agent’s secrets become clear. If you like John Le Carre then you’ll love this!

Cover of I am pilgrimI Am Pilgrim – A terrorist has something seriously big planned for the North America and it’s down to one man to stop him. A modern day spy vs. spy story in the same vein as the Bond or Bourne stories.

A Dying Breed – War journalism is not for the faint of heart but our protagonist, William Carver, is out for the truth about a bombing in Kabul. A younger journalist is sent to manage Carver but the plot goes deeper than first thought, way back to the corridors of Whitehall it seems. Another one for fans of John Le Carre.

Cover of NomadNomad – Inside the MI6 Marc Dane is a pencil pusher, always on the safe side of the action. But that’s about to change! A brutal attack and a conspiracy running all the way through the secret service means Marc Dane is now an active agent.

Die Last – The fourth book to feature detective Max Wolfe and this one, with it’s tag-line “twelve dead girls, thirteen passports” delves into the morally corrupt world of people smuggling and the modern day slave trade. It’s lots of action, a sympathetic detective and loads of twists and turns. If you like Rankin’s Rebus then have a go at Parson’s Wolfe!

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