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Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

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Set in Snow Hill, London, in 1936, this books tells the story of newspaper reporter Johnny Steadman, who gets an anonymous tip-off that a policeman at Snow Hill Station has been killed. However, when he asks other police officers about it – including his best friend PC Matt Turner – nobody will corroborate the story, and Johnny is told to leave well alone.

Wanting to get to the truth of the matter, he keeps digging and the discovery of a gruesome murder scene makes him only more determined. But soon it becomes apparent that there is a web of corruption being spun to cover up a number of horrific violations, and Johnny ends up fighting not only for his own life, but also to save the lives of those closest to him…

My thoughts

This book was certainly not what I was expecting. What I had thought it would be was a psychological thriller with a scrappy but good-hearted protagonist. I was half-right…Johnny did make for a fairly likeable main character. He is certainly the most well drawn character of the plot – the rest are drawn with fairly broad strokes and more than a little stereotyping.

The story itself was considerably more gruesome than I had expected. The murder scene which Johnny stumbles upon as described above, was particularly unpleasant, and the plot revolves heavily around male sexual assault and violation (no spoilers here; this part is made apparent fairly early on) and subsequent cover-up.

However, for all that the story flowed pretty well and I found myself reading large chunks at a time.

Overall, I would have liked a bit more characterisation – I never felt that we got to know Matt’s wife Lizzie, or Johnny’s colleague Bill as well as we could have done and it might have drawn me in a bit more if I had been able to invest more in the characters. Nonetheless, based on this book I would probably try more by this author.

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After reading ‘Hatchet Job’ by Mark Kermode last year and thoroughly enjoying it, I was really looking forward to reading his other books, starting with ‘It’s Only a Movie’ which is his sort-of biography (in reality more of a collection of stories from his career; Kermode describes the book as “inspired by real events” and tells the stories as though they are part of a movie of his life – with Jason Isaacs playing the man himself).

For anyone who doesn’t know who Mark Kermode is, he is a well known and popular British film critic, and half of Kermode and (Simon) Mayo’s Film Review programme on BBC Radio 5 Live, and this book relates the story of how he got there, starting off as an enthusiastic journalist for various regional magazines – amongst other things, he describes being humiliated by Helen Mirren, a wholly unenjoyable and ultimate fruitless journey to Russia to do an on-set report about the film Dark Waters, and how celebrated director Werner Herzog was shot at mid-interview!

If anything I enjoyed this book even more than I enjoyed Hatchet Job. Kermode is a self-deprecating and often very funny narrator, with a tendency to veer off at tangents halfway through any given story, but he always comes back to the point he is making, and always in a very entertaining fashion. His passion for films – in particular splattery gory horror movies – is clear to see, and even if I didn’t always agree with his opinions on certain films, I certainly enjoyed reading them.

It’s an entertaining and easy read, and I would definitely recommend it, particularly to film fans.

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Caitlin Moran writes a regular column for The Times newspaper, and this book is a collection of those columns (almost 80 of them in fact).  They cover a very wide array of subjects – Moran’s childhood in Wolverhampton, late night conversations with her husband, the Eurozone crisis, the welfare state, Ghostbusters, and celebrity weight loss, to name just a few.  There are also some longer columns where she reviews/discusses some of her favourite TV shows, including Sherlock and Doctor Who, or where she describes a day spent with stars such as Lady Gaga, Keith Richards and Paul McCartney.

Just as the subjects of her columns vary widely, so does her tone – some of the columns have an air of melancholy, some are humorous, and some are angry.  Obviously, people’s enjoyment probably depends on their level of interest in whatever subject is being written about, so there were a few columns which I found, if not exactly unenjoyable, not particularly memorable or engaging (sorry, but I’m not interested in Moran’s holidays, not because the places she writes about aren’t interesting or beautiful, but because she focuses so much on how they affect her personally).  Occasionally she comes off as trying a bit too hard to be funny or quirky, but for the most part -and especially with the lighter hearted columns – her writing makes for enjoyable reading. I wish she didn’t write about so much about politics – it is a fascinating subject and I enjoy reading about it, but not in this kind of three-page-essay format.

So there were a few things about the book that didn’t grab me, but with a collection of columns on a wide variety of subjects, that is almost bound to happen.  If I sound negative, I should point out that many of the columns really did make me laugh out loud, and on a personal note, I did enjoy her mentions of Wolverhampton, because it is also the town where I grew up.  Moran is clearly a clever and witty writer, and quite frank about her own life (including her past drug taking, and her weight issues).  I’d like to read more by her, but I would prefer a book which stuck to just one or two main themes, as this one felt rather scattered, but that made it a good book for dipping in and out.

 

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