Books: Lee Child “61 Hours”

July 17, 2010

I really do like Lee Child‘s work and this is his fourteenth book all of which feature the Jack Reacher character.  I’ve always liked the writing style which moves the story along at a good pace with few asides or distractions, and short chapters always seem to end in a small cliff-hanger, twist or surprise.

This story starts with Reacher being caught in a bus accident that leaves him in the snowed in town of Bolton, South Dakota.  For a small town in the middle of a blizzard with temperatures at record lows the rather large police department seem to be on high alert and it doesn’t take long for them to start looking into the large rough looking lower who has appeared in town.  This time, however, the police check out his record – 13 years of Army service as a military police investigator mustered out with the rank of Major in 1997.  In fact, Jack Reacher is just what this Police department needs in their current crisis.

There has been a bit of a dip in the quality of the Reacher series lately, some of the plots have been too far fetched and the introduction of side-kicks has been hit and miss.  61 Hours is a full recovery of style and perhaps even the best Reacher novel yet.  The most outstanding ending to any of Lee Child’s novels I’ve read and it leaves me desperate to get my hands on the next book – can’t wait.

theatre review: Valhalla at The Tron

July 10, 2010

It was after one of those “what do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” conversations that I started googling for what was on at the Theatres on the off chance, and saw something called Valhalla at The Tron (a theater I’ve never been to).  All the info we had to go on was…

“As camp as Carry On, as outrageously funny as Cooking with Elvis, as historically accurate as Blackadder, the Tron Theatre Company invites you to enter the glittering halls of Valhalla this summer. Cast includes Johnny McKnight and Joyce Falconer”

Not much to go on, but the tickets weren’t too much, so worth a punt.  Also since we had an hour and a half to get there just time to squeeze in a pre-theatre meal if only I could get parked in the busy Merchant City area.  I got parked right outside Maggie Mays, we had a fabulious (quick) meal there and crossed Argyle Street to The Tron, all very handy.

Valhalla, has a difficult to describe plot which follows two different characters Ludwig, prince of 19th century Bavaria and James Avery a cowboy in 1940’s Texas. It follows them growing up, discovering their sexuality (sort of) until the camp prince becomes a camp King and James and his friend get called up for world war II.  As the 19th century king grows in his obsession with Wagnerian opera and a love for building fairytale castles, the two soldiers parachute into Europe and eventually discover the greatest folly that the king built centuries before – Valhalla.

However, none of the actual plot really matters much because of the pace at which the one liners and visual jokes take place the show doesn’t give you a chance to think about actual plot too much.  Just before going in we saw a warning about the language, content and ‘some nudity’ but by then it was too late to find out more so we went for it (and I’m glad we did).  The content that people may be offended by is very brief full frontal male nudity and the homosexual storyline.  However you may also be offended by hump-backed princesses, southern Baptist preachers, opera or sea-men jokes.

The production is very good with a stage extending into the audience, ‘stage hands’ stumbling into view, very clever usage of set and lighting to switch between the time periods and locations where the action was taking place.  But ultimately this show is all about the laughs which were so fast flowing I felt I was constantly laughing through the whole show.  If anything detracted from the overall experience I though the climax was a little weak, but hey I’ve got to pick something not to praise.

Valhalla is playing at The Tron till 24 July 2010.

If you haven’t got anything to say

July 10, 2010

The official music video for Luke Leighfield’s ‘If You Haven’t Got Anything To Say’ (no I hadn’t heard of him or it either but I like the video:

Military Personnel at Wimbledon

July 7, 2010

I’ve often wondered why you kept seeing military personnel around the court at Wimbledon.  Last year I posted a question about it, I’ve hunted around the web and even sent some emails to Wimbledon and BBC trying to find out.

It seems that it is a tradition going back (at least) to the second world war.  Military personnel are used as stewards around the site.  Over 300 personnel from all three Services are recruited to be stewards each year.

“Their responsibilities include helping the public get from their queue positions outside the courts to their seats, ensuring that members of the public abide by Wimbledon rules such as turning off mobile phones during play, and making sure that members of the audience are comfortable and well-hydrated.

As over half of those who are chosen must have done the job before, the competition is fierce for the hundreds of personnel who apply to work at Wimbledon, so for those who are chosen success is so much sweeter.”

Defence News 2 June 2010 (nice article, go read!)

wimbledon_scoreboardAccording to the above article members of the London Fire Brigade make up the other half of the stewards required by Wimbledon.

I also found a forum post from the recruiting officer looking for army personnel to apply as volunteers in 2008.  The official line is that the time they use comes from their personal leave time and they will be paid a daily allowance, so as one reply put it:  “its two weeks getting chatted up by posh totty, being paid £100+ in our nations capital, at a major sporting event. What’s not to like?!!”

I think it is fantastic to have traditions like this and to give military personnel these ‘perks’.  It is great to keep them in the public eye and to know that these soldiers who we see here and on ceremonial occasions are the same people who serve in real war zones.

book: Alex Gray “A Small Weeping”

July 6, 2010

This is the second Alex Gray murder mystery set in Glasgow following the investigations of DCI Lorimer aided by criminal profiler Dr Brightman.

This is a fairly by-the-numbers plot with no great surprises but still a good read.  The strength of this book however is the descriptions of the areas where the action takes place.  Obviously living in Glasgow I can connect to the settings used but I do think that even someone unfamiliar with the city would enjoy these sections of the book.

I particularly enjoyed that the plot led the two main characters on a visit to Harris and Lewis, again visiting places I was familiar with and it was interesting to hear about it through the characters eyes who had never been to these islands before.

However, when it comes to the crunch this is only a run of the mill book, fairly interesting characters, nothing special about the mystery or investigation which plods along to it’s (for me) obvious conclusion, with a little sub plot about the DCI’s home life which doesn’t really go anywhere.

I will read at least one more Alex Gray novel (because I’ve already bought it) but I do hope they get better.