Tag Archives: Crime

What I watched while I was sick

What I thought was just bad allergies on Friday turned into a full-blown head-cold throughout the weekend and even into Monday. Yay, 3-day weekend spent barely being able to move off the couch. Woohoo!

Seriously, there needs to be a sarcasm font.

I’m a comfort food kind of a guy when it comes to sick TV. For me that’s episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Buffy (with some Angel and an odd 30 Rock and Excel Saga thrown in for flavor).

You can tell I was sick by the fact that my TNG watching mainly focused on Season 1 and 2 episodes, which my wife mistook for TOS episodes from the other room. No blame there. Also, there’s really no justified time to be watching Excel Saga even in small doses.

I don’t tend to consume new things when sick, but I did pick one off the back-burner to try, and it was by the far the best way to distract myself from being miserable: BBC’s Luther staring Idris Elba.

luther-season-3-poster

Pros:

  • Morally ambiguous main character. “Does dirty things but isn’t a dirty cop.”
  • Opening theme by Massive Attack, title sequence kind of reminds me of Jessica Jones.
  • Female foil equal parts antagonist and ally.
  • Crime procedural focused more on psychological elements rather than CSI’ing everything. We’re not trying to figure out who did the crime (we’re usually shown this pretty early). We’re waiting for our characters to find the baddie and figure out how they’ll ultimately take them down.
  • Wonderfully shot from the first scene. Mixes old and modern London.
  • Series long arcs particularly in the first series with great payoff and confrontations.
  • Characters experience some growth and change between series, particularly DS Ripley.

Cons:

  • Seriously! Only 16 episodes for 4 series! We’ve watched 12 of the 14 on Netflix and will probably buy the remaining two from Amazon. Pay Idris whatever he wants and make more!
  • Not really a con, but I do think I liked the six separate case structure of the first series as opposed to the two 2-part episodes in Series 2 and 3. Might feel different if there were 6 episodes (three stories) in series 2-3 (more in the Inspector Lewis model).

One other thing we noticed is that the show doesn’t always have the positive outcomes that American shows always do. In America, if we see both the abduction and later scenes with the character still alive in captivity, we know the detective is going to get to them in time. Don’t assume the same thing for Luther. The show doesn’t operate in a fantasy world, even though some fantastical things happen.

I know this has been out there for a while, but if you have a Netflix account and have never seen it, you really should try it out. We were hooked by the first few episodes.

Here’s to getting through the day then collapsing back on the couch.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Things I’ve Learned In The Last Year

And it’s not even over.

It’s been a busy year with serial novellas, final revisions, book reviews, and myriads of project ideas. Writing is about experimentation, about learning new things, and about remembering the old things we should already know. Here are a few of mine:

Perspective Jumps: For a serialized book like The Sky Below this can be a little tricky to follow (hopefully better once I have the full book complete). But perspective jumps can be a nice way to inject fresh viewpoints, and to give the reader information other characters might not have. It can certainly be frustrating if you really want to find out what happened to one character, but are forced to read another (though one author has a novel solution to this). My current project will probably jump between 2-3 perspectives at fairly regular intervals. This used to be something I did all the time (in my first novel) but got away from because I needed focus, or it was too difficult to follow. And maybe I needed time before I got the hang of it, but I’m loving jumps now.

Research: Want to never get a good night’s sleep again? Check out crime stats for your neighborhood. You’d be surprised what goes on. There was an (attempted?) robbery at a Huntington Bank down the street from me earlier this month. I used to do the old trick of [insert specific term here] or [write description of area there] so I could move on in drafts, but it’s amazing how even a little cursory internet searching can spur ideas for plot threads. Specificity is key to both reader engagement, and writer enthusiasm. I used to try to fumble my way through descriptions assuming my vocabulary was vast and always accurate. My wife will tell you, it is not.

Keeping the flow going: You might be tempted to take a writing break. And sometimes this is needed. But less often than you think I’d wager. Often the grind of getting back into a groove is not worth the recharge period. I finished revising book one on Monday, celebrated by watching The Maltese Falcon and eating some delicious enchiladas, then started writing book two on Tuesday. Granted, I’m kind of a nut. A day or two is certainly okay. Just don’t make it a month.

Read, Read, Read: Articles, blogposts, comic books, books, anything you can get your hands on. Both for ideas and technique. It feels like you’ll never have time, and indeed I’ve had to come up with creative solutions to reading (including my Kindle that reads to me in the car), but the time is always well spent.

Environment: I’m kind of a restless person. I was always looking for the perfect writing spot, which often happened to be the coffee shop closest to a Half Price Books or favorite bad food place. But for the last month and a half I’ve worked exclusively at home in my basement. Sometimes the dogs bug me. Sometimes I get the itch to go out. But it’s kind of nice just working in the same place every day. I try to keep the distractions to a minimum, especially multi-tasking (burns or file sorting, plus miscellaneous internet tooling around). And it helps to have both coffee maker and beer fridge in easy reach.

What have you learned in the last year?

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

Friday Reviews: Noir Mash Notes

Every Friday I review two books from NetGalley (usually graphic novels). This week we’ve got two stories of dangerous women, some who kill for love, and others for adventure.

Murder Me Dead

Writer and Artist – David Lapham

IDIG025518_1‘ll be upfront, I’m not a fan of David Lapham’s work, at least what I’ve read of it. He’s good at the gritty crime drama, that much is certain, but he has a little too much love of the grime for my taste. The series he’s most known for, Stray Bullets, is a crime anthology that seems to contain little of redeeming human value, despite being critically acclaimed (and Eisner winning). But I tried to come at this book fresh, looking for a different David Lapham. After all, giving writers another chance can sometimes work out. The Luna brothers might write some terrible comics like Girls, but still be able to produce interesting works like Alex + Ada.

Murder Me Dead is a noir tale through and through. A cheating husband comes home to find his wife has apparently killed herself by hanging from their ceiling fan. Her rich family blames him for her death. In the middle of this, an old friend from high-school reminds him of a girl he once loved from a simpler time. But upon reuniting with her, he finds that she is involved in a very tangled web of lies and bad people. Soon he finds himself doing just about anything for this woman, even though she probably isn’t worth it.

There’s a lot of twists and turns and betrayals to this plot. You’re not really rooting for anybody because everybody is terrible in one way or another. The best person in the story is probably the husband’s first mistress, who tries to get him to see the destructive path this other woman is leading him toward and leaves her husband not for him, but for herself. Lapham does a good job at drawing slimy characters, but doesn’t do a lot of justice to women. The man’s desire for this woman is irrational and completely ignores some pretty obvious red flags, which fits the noir world view of women. Lapham accomplishes his genre piece well, but I don’t feel like he injects a whole lot new into it other than a continuing succession of twists and turns. The ending sequence is interesting and provides a satisfying conclusion, but there’s a lot in the middle where you just want to take these characters by the shoulders and knock some sense into them.

In short, this piece feels like a throwback but doesn’t match up to the work done by the greats of that genre from that time. I guess if you’re a fan of Lapham’s you’ll be glad to see this back in print.

(2 stars | Definitely not for me, but maybe for you).

Noir Volume 1

Writer – Victor Gischler, Artist – Andrea Multti

DIG025417_1To be honest with you, aside from everyone being dressed in black, I don’t really know why this was called Noir. It’d be more accurate to just call it Pulp. Femme fatale and thief The Black Sparrow enlists The Shadow’s help in retrieving an artifact she stole from a museum. It becomes evident that the mysterious Moon stone is just one piece in a larger puzzle that may lead to a hidden knight’s Templar treasure. The Sparrow encounters and teams up with Miss Fury, another masked dark heroine who seeks adventure more than profit.

I did a little research on time line and like a lot of comic book characters there’s quite a bit of cross-pollination. The Shadow is reminiscent of The Batman who appeared a year or two later, and Miss Fury followed the debut of Catwoman wearing a costume that looks like a cross between Batman’s early ears and Catwoman’s costume.

Dialogue is a little pained at points and the writer didn’t seem to consistently decide The Sparrow was Latina until a couple of issues in. Personally, I like the domino mask depicted on the cover as opposed to the more pointed mask in the issues. It distinguishes her better from Miss Fury in terms of attitude. I was kind of expecting The Shadow to have more of a role in this story (at least coming back in the end), but his part is limited to just the first issue. There’s a couple of villains hepped on some kind of steroid drugs that do a decent job of being our Nazi stand-ins and otherwise we have kind of a female Indiana Jones story.

This got better as it went along, though the conclusion isn’t much of a surprise given the way these stories often go. Some of the back and forth between the two women is genuinely amusing, even though half the time they seem to be there just to strike sexy action poses. All in all a decent revival of a classic comic book property, and a fun story that while not particularly memorable is at least entertaining.

(3 Stars | Needs more Shadow)

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Friday Reviews: Detectives in Space

As part of our new format for 2015, I’ll be posting reviews of two books (usually graphic novels or manga) every Friday. Today’s two titles are each crime dramas, the first a police procedural that dips into political intrigue, and the second a noir-thriller also with political overtones. But the kicker to both is that they take place … in space!

——————

The Fuse Vol. 1: The Russia Shift

Writer – Antony Johnston | Artist – Justin Greenwood

TheFuseCover

Just moments after stepping onto the Fuse, an orbiting energy platform more than five miles long, new detective Ralph “Marlene” Dietrich is swept up into the murder of two cablers. Cablers live in the station’s service ducts and are often mentally handicapped or just poor and homeless, and as such few people on the station are interested in what happens to them. His partner, veteran detective Klem Ristovych, is surprised that Deitrich volunteered for this assignment, and is unimpressed with his 3 years on the force in Munich. Together they must work to find out how these cablers are connected to the mayor’s office and why one of them was carrying an expensive phone card and locker in the shuttleport.

This a gritty police procedural involving the clash between the upper and poorer classes, and the secrets that both are hiding. Humor abounds throughout, as the two partners get to know each other better and dive deeper into the case. The language can get a bit salty at times, though never in an obtrusive way, and it lends authenticity to the interactions of an undermanned, underfunded police force.

The Fuse itself is an interesting setting, similar in some ways to the space station on Babylon 5, and offering all sorts of locales from stunning orbital views of the earth, to the deeper dark tunnels where the cablers live. Greenwood’s art is angular and expressive, and gives you a sense of the tight confines of this city in space, with more than half a million people living and dying inside it. As such, there are many more stories that can be told here, as well as diving deeper into Dietrich’s past and motivations for leaving Earth.

Fast paced, suspenseful and surprising, the Fuse will draw you in and keep you there until the climactic finish. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was adapted into a crime drama for television some time in the near future.

(5 stars | Recommended)

——————

Red City Vol. 1

Writer – Daniel Corey | Artists – Mark Dos Santos and Anthony Diecidue

RedCityCoverFormer investigator Cal Talmadge has been brought out of forced retirement to help the NSS (New Solar System) military find a missing Mercurian ambassador’s daughter, on the eve of peace negotiations held on Mars between Mercury and Venus. A number of players from the Neptunians, to the gangs and government on Mars, don’t want to see an alliance and will risk going to war to prevent it. In the midst of all this Talmadge must work with contacts old and new to find the ambassador’s daughter, and get to the heart of who is trying to break up the treaty.

Red City is told in a very noir style, complete with a knowing narrator giving humorous asides and foreshadowing throughout. While Corey tries to weave a taught kidnapping mystery in with intra-stellar intrigue, there almost seems to be too much back-story. A number of past historical events, and complex geo-political relationships are mentioned but not fully explained one right after the other. This makes the story feel more like setup and less like plot. While a number of action pieces happen throughout their relationship to advancing the plot is not always clear.

Dos Santos art style is imaginative and detailed, making Diecidue’s seem messy and scrawly by comparison. The lack of a consistent look in a four issue arc takes away from the narrative and makes it harder to distinguish established characters and races. This is especially evident in the scenes from the first issue that are flash-forwards to scenes in the last issues. Most aliens seem distinguished by a slightly different color and a few bumps (and occasionally sharp teeth). Mars itself is barely distinguished from Earth and the chase scenes involving driving a sports car into the sewer way under a bridge seem unnecessary homages to B-movies the author has seen. In short, except for a few introductory and exit scenes, Mars doesn’t look very Martian.

Maybe future arcs will fill in some of the gaps left in this story, but while I’d happily buy more issues of The Fuse, Red City will need to work a little harder.

(3 stars | Toss-Up)

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Five Reasons It’s Good The Internet Knows Everything About You

A technology company is developing texts that will self destruct after you read them (delete themselves after a fixed amount of time from 5 seconds to 6 days). It’s part of an effort to make the web impermanent  In other words they are trying to keep the internet from logging every text/picture/post/tweet you make.

Normally I would argue about why this is good, but you’ve read that post. Actually, you probably have read dozens of them. So instead I’m going to argue for why it’s good the internet knows everything about you.

1. You buy stuff and we want to sell it to you: Like it or not every purchase and every “like” on Facebook is being stored and analyzed to determine what you might want to buy next. Your e-mails are trolled and tailor made text ads are served up for you (including many delightful spam recipes . Amazon tracks your recently viewed products and serves up things people bought after looking at that item, as well as trying to predict from your wish lists, your previous purchases, and your data everywhere else what you’ve really got your heart set on. This seems creepy but it’s not. Buying is still a discretionary choice. You can ignore ads, you can skip over recommendations, but there might be times you won’t want to. If the algorithms are good enough, maybe Amazon knows about something you don’t. You might buy more than you need, but that’s not the internet’s fault.

2. You might be a criminal: Even if you’re not right now you may become one someday. Don’t you want the police to know where your favorite hangouts are and be able to gather evidence about you swiftly so you can get through the fuss of a trial and start paying back your debt to society? Okay, maybe not you, but there are plenty of criminals out there who are caught because of what they leave on the net. There are YouTube videos showing people’s real faces bragging about a robbery they just pulled off. The head of the CIA was felled by e-mail. The internet is a valuable crime fighting resource.

3. You haven’t changed that much: Yes, you might be embarrassed that 14 year old you liked N’Sync. But let’s face it, Justin if anything has gotten more awesome (from SNL appearances to wearing NPR shirts). And a good algorithm will know your current tastes probably inform your choices more than the ancient past. Actually the internet might want to clear your taste preferences older than 7 years, but on the other hand all of us get nostalgic from time to time.

4. The more you put out there, the harder you are to know: This runs a little afoul of my previous points but data glut can actually serve to defend you. You are currently reading a guy who likes soapy K-Dramas, Star Trek, The West Wing and was actually a little sad Partners was canceled. I collect Star Trek comic books, Bone, Sandman, Batman Graphic Novels and Manga (of huge variety from Oh My Goddess to Rurouni Kenshin). I play games from Raving Rabbids to Max Payne. So what do you know about me? Well, he likes Star Trek, but otherwise it might be a little hard to draw general conclusions besides “he’s a man of eclectic tastes”. He’ll watch Love Actually but not Hope Floats.

5. Without you I wouldn’t have a job: Seriously folks. Data and I are a thing. No data-centers without data. No monitoring without data-centers. Just sayin’.

Have a pleasant day. Let me know how it’s going in blog comments, facebook posts and tweets.

Leave a comment

Filed under Trube On Tech