The Assassination Bureau (1969 United Kingdom)

‘The Assassination Bureau Ltd.’ was an incomplete novel by Jack London. The 1969 film version was produced by Michael Relph and directed by Basil Dearden. Crusading journalist Sonya Winter (Diana Rigg) uncovers the existence of a secret society of hired assassins operating at the turn of the 19th century. Their founder is cocksure Russian nobleman Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed). He is hired by Sonya to murder…himself. Feeling the Bureau to have become complacent, he accepts the challenge. Sounds like quite an ominous plot!
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Nightmare In Pink (John D MacDonald)

Nightmare in Pink is the second book in John D. MacDonald’s 21- novel Travis McGee series. Although McGee gets involved in mysteries, he is not a police officer or a private investigator. Instead, he is a “salvage consultant” who lives on a houseboat (“The Busted Flush”) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He prefers to be a beach bum, get a tan, reel in some fish, drink some beer, etc and seems a little uncomfortable in the big city. He is also a ladies’ man. [Read more…]

The Butterfly Garden (Dot Hutchison)

This is a psychological/mystery/horror thriller – that won’t be to everyone’s liking; due to the subject matter. (And there’s bound to be a big screen version) It starts off with two FBI agents, Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison, interviewing a young woman, Maya/Inara, who was rescued with other girls that were being held captive by a person only known as ‘The Gardener.’ The garden is a New York–set paradise complete with beautiful trees and flowers, streams and ponds, a cliff and a waterfall. But in reality it is a prison, fully enclosed by walls and glass within a larger garden from which there is no escape. [Read more…]

The Ax ( Donald E Westlake)

Wanted: Middle management for the oversight of an assembly line in an industrial paper factory. College degree and experience a must. Homicidal maniacs welcome to apply. Burke Devore is a typical middle-aged guy with a steady job, a wife and two kids. When he gets laid off he spends 2 years looking for new employment and realizes that there are too many people with more education and experience looking for similar work. Donald Westlake wrote this in 1997, but his publishers missed an opportunity during the last economic bust to reissue this book with great fanfare because it’s even more poignant now. There is not a single dull moment in the entire novel and to top it all off, the ending is even more brilliant.
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All These Condemned (John D MacDonald)

Written in 1954 before environmental issues became big in the public consciousness – this is very different than his later works. If I didn’t know I would never have guessed it was by JDM. In the hands of some lesser writer, the two chapters per character-narrator would have come off as a cheesy gimmick, but not for the MacDonald. In just pages, MacDonald fashions whole biographies, not of these character’s histories, but of who they are in body and soul. I rarely come across a book filled with such depth and such distinctive characters.  [Read more…]

Death Wish (1974 USA)

Few motion pictures have the notoriety of Death Wish: short sharp slabs of repulsive, sadistic violence that linger in the memory along with a theme–if you like the film then you must be an advocate of fascist exploitation cinema, or if you don’t like it then you are a bleeding heart liberal. Critics of the time hated the picture, calling it irresponsible for advocating vigilantism. What the critics of the time failed to see, as the film became a huge commercial success, was that they had the luxury to sit in their comfy secure high rise apartments as the people of the streets lived in fear of stepping outside their homes. At least in large cities like New York. [Read more…]

American Made (2017)

Mr Show Pony himself, Tom Cruise, is here recycling his usual mannerisms – the grin, the hand gestures – even revisiting his own cinematic past as a pilot. Yet this time around his showboating is not meant to be wholly admired. Originally, Cruise was liked by the public, then fell out of the public’s good graces for some reasons…sofa jumping on Oprah, shilling for a cult, suing gay porn star after gay porn star until they were pauperized…but now, due to his skill as an actor, he is conditionally liked again. Director Doug Liman, having directed The Bourne Identity and Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, knows a thing or two about fast pace, intrigue, and the limits of idealism. And American Made really is American made! Amazing. [Read more…]

The Long Goodbye (Raymond Chandler)

The Long Goodbye is widely considered Raymond Chandler’s swan song to arguably literature’s greatest detective. Often cited as the gold standard in crime fiction, this one snapped up the Edgar Award for best novel in 1955, is listed on countless “best of” compilations, and has influenced a generation of mystery and crime writers. It’s been noted that a few of the characters in the novel were used as a way for Chandler to clear his mind. He used them to express his innermost thoughts on the state of society, his frustrations as a writer and his internal struggle with whether or not he should commit suicide. [Read more…]

Pulp Fiction (1994 USA)

PF is sick slop geared towards video store geeks. Why is this flick so bad? Its like asking why is Barbra Streisand so ugly? She just is. Pulp Fiction, similarly, is a byword for cheap, profane nastiness. Watching this causes your brain to shut off for two and a half hours while a man with a God complex strokes his ego. I can understand to some extent why it is so popular. And as for padding Quentin did achieve something remarkable: every awful stretch of dialogue is dragged out as long as it will last, and then some. It’s as if Tarantino said to himself “I think I can cram two more f words and one more line about milkshakes in here”. [Read more…]

The Killers (1964 USA)

Hugely influential classic re-telling of Ernest Hemingway’s short story. This flick has inspired many a wannabe. Not really Film Noir as it was made after the genre had passed and is in colour and features no detectives or private eyes. And not even a “film” as it was originally intended as the very first made-for-television movie. With this version also featuring a murder-by-sniper scene, the recent assassination of John F. Kennedy by sniper ensured The Killers was temporarily on unsafe ground. With Ronald Reagan making his last appearance on film before moving into politics, the ’64 version of The Killers has a bit of history. [Read more…]

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