All posts by KR Slade

The Most Terrifying Exorcism In British History

I watched “When The Lights Went Out” the other night. Written and directed by Pat Holden (“Awaydays”, “The Long Weekend”) this is a paranormal horror film that was released back in 2012 but somehow slipped under my radar until recently.

Kate Ashfield & Steven Waddington

Set in 1974, and following an eerie opening involving footsteps and a swinging light fighting, the film sees married couple Len (Steven Waddington – “Bridgend”, “The Imitation Game”) and Jenny (Kate Ashfield – “Shaun Of The Dead”, “7 Lives”) moving to a new council house in Yorkshire, together with their reluctant thirteen year old daughter Sally (Tasha Connor – “The Incident”, “X+Y”).

Tasha Connor

The family settle in to their new home, with help from their friends Brian (Craig Parkinson – “Control”, “Four Lions”) and Rita (Andrea Lowe – “Route Irish”, “DCI Banks”) and Sally soon makes friends with schoolmate Lucy (Hannah Clifford).

Craig Parkinson & Steven Waddington

 

When they discover that Sally has started taking to what they assume to be an imaginary friend, Len and Jenny aren’t too concerned. However, this soon progresses into something far more scary when they and their friends begin to witness things that happen and move without any explanation and the couple realise that their dream home is, in fact, haunted by a ghost that seems to have made Sally its prime target…

Andrea Lowe

The film is loosely based on the story of “The Black Monk Of Pontefract”, believed to be a 16th century monk who was hung for the rape and murder of a girl during the reign of Henry VIII. Holden’s mother Rene was apparently a bit of a psychic who became interested in the Pontefract house during the writer / director’s childhood.

Hannah Clifford

Even without the “based on a true story” aspect of this film I would have to say that it’s a very well done piece of scariness. There’s nothing too explicit in terms of visible horror but the underlying tension is palpable.

Martin Compston

Note should also be made of the set design and costumes that vividly evoke the early 1970s era perfectly. That, together with strong performances from the main cast, which includes Martin Compston (“Filth”, “The Dissapearnce Of Alice Creed”) as Sally’s school teacher Mr. Price, and a great story make for a really good film that’s well worth a viewing…

Best Friends For Life, And For Death…

“A killer that the police are calling ‘Billy Dead Mates’ is murdering pairs of best friends, one by one.

Before they die, each victim is given a small white book…

For months, detectives have failed to catch Billy, or work out what the white books mean. And then a woman, scared by what she’s seen on the news, comes forward.

Stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck has one of Billy’s peculiar little books. A stranger gave it to her at a gig she did a year ago. Was he Billy, and does he want to kill her? Kim has no friends and trusts no one, so how – and why – could she possibly be Billy Dead Mates’ next target?…”

OK, where to start with this one? This is the tenth full novel in Sophie Hannah‘s “Culver Valley” series featuring police detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse and follows on from 2014’s ninth entry to the series, the excellent “The Telling Error”.

In the meantime, Zailer and Waterhouse appeared in Hannah’s Quick Reads novella “Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen” during 2015.

Published back in 2016, “The Narrow Bed” finds us back in full novel-length territory as we catch up with the two police officers, their colleagues and their caseload.

Sophie Hannah

This particular tale is told from a variety of angles. There are those of both Zailer and Waterhouse and they make their investigations – in Charlie’s case it’s largely to do with finding out what’s going on with her sister Liv and her supposed ex Gibbs, whilst Simon is involved with the “Billy Dead Mates” case. In addition, there are chapters told from the perspective of Kim Tribbeck who may be a target for the killer, extracts from Kim’s to-be-published autobiography which looks back at the case, and various blog posts, emails and letters from other characters. Whilst this may seem, on the surface, to be confusing the author has done a very good job of making the tale easy to keep up with, without giving away any more clues than she wants to.

There is a quote from one of the book’s characters where they say “books are everywhere in this investigation” and that is very true. Whether it be the small white books given to the murder victims, Waterhouse’s dog-eared but beloved copy of “Moby Dick” or Tribbeck’s own book there are indeed plenty of books littered throughout the story, and they play a part in the motivation of the mysterious killer too. And that latter point is perhaps where I felt this book fell down slightly, as the rationale for the baddie to be killing the pairs of friends etc. just didn’t come across as convincing or likely – even allowing for some mental instability. That said, however, there is certainly some food for thought in terms of the advantages / disadvantages that come with the never-ending march of technological progress.

Not her strongest novel, then, but as always Hannah’s writing is clever, witty and insightful and her characters get plenty of room to develop. Whilst Waterhouse is always one step – at least – ahead of his wife and colleagues in determining what’s going on, most readers don’t have his unnatural abilities and so the secrets are kept back until the author wants us to uncover them, making this a jolly good read…

In The Heart Of God’s Country An Evil Lurks

Released in the UK around a year ago, “She Who Must Burn” is a drama horror film from director Larry Kent (“The Hamster Cage”, “The Slavers”). Kent also co-wrote the movie with one of its lead actors Shane Twerdun.

James Wilson

The film opens with a scene where a doctor is shot dead in his practice by an anti-abortion protester Abraham Baarker (James Wilson – “Sweet Amerika”, “Waydowntown”) who promptly falls to his knees and begins to sing “Amazing Grace”.

Sarah Smyth

We then get to gradually meet the main characters for the rest of the film. Central to events is Angela (Sarah Smyth – “White Raven”, “50/50”). Angela works as a counsellor who has just discovered that the state funding to her workplace has been cut off. Together with her husband, policeman Mac (Andrew Moxham – “Black Mountainside”, “Assault On Wall Street”), Angela decides against leaving their small rural town, believing that there are people in the town that still need her help, and sets up a clinic in their home.

Andrew Moxham

Abraham’s son, local preacher Jeremiah Baarker (Shane Twerdun – “White Raven”, “Black Mountainside”), takes a very old-fashioned view to the place of his wife Margaret (Jewel Staite – “The Killing”, “Stargate : Atlantis”) in the home, imposing his will on her with ruthlessness.

Shane Twerdun

When Margaret turns to Angela for help, and Angela arranges for her to flee from her abusive husband it’s not long before Jeremiah comes calling at the clinic, along with a number of other anti-abortion protesters including his sister Rebecca (Missy Cross – “Exley”, “White Raven” and her downtrodden husband Caleb (Andrew Dunbar – “Bad City”, “Leprechaun : Origins”).

Jewel Staite

Mac’s boss, the town Sheriff (Jim Francis – “We Don’t Live Here Anymore”, “Exley”), meanwhile, is clearly reluctant to go up against the religious fundamentalists, even when they go beyond the law.

Missy Cross

Events take a turn for the worse when the Baarkers misunderstand – deliberately or otherwise – the reason for a town resident crossing state lines with her teenage daughter and take matters into their own hands. Very soon Angela finds herself very much the subject of their attentions…

Andrew Dunbar

There is also a sub-plot about infant mortality as a result of the water supply being contaminated by the town mining business, and this is interpreted as divine judgement by the Baarker clan and followers.

Jim Francis

At heart, though, this is a simple enough and rather effective tale – sometimes brutally so – about the dangers of religious fundamentalism and extremism. Granted some of the characters are somewhat stereotypical but they are no less effective for that, particularly those portrayed by Cross and Twerdun.

Some Of The Baarkers’ Fellow Protesters

The final act is perhaps a bit of a let down and at odds with the realism on display for the rest of the film, but does show an element of poetic justice perhaps?

Terrible deeds being done in the name of religion isn’t exactly new, in fact I’d say it’s as old as religion itself, but with the troubles in the Middle East and the rise of the right around the globe the themes here are as relevant – and horrifically real – as ever. A well acted and shot low-budget film that’s definitely disturbing but also well worth a viewing…

Everything That’s Yours Was Once Hers

“Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

EMMA
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

JANE
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before…”

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Finished reading the psychological thriller “The Girl Before” this week. The book was written by JP Delaney, which seems to be a pseudonym for Ugandan-born author and advertising man Tony Strong. Whether more books will see the light under this nom de plume remains to be seen, but this one has reportedly been picked up for filming with Ron Howard in the director’s chair…

Tony Strong

The story is told from two separate perspectives – from that of Emma Matthews in chapters subtitled “Then” and from the point of view of Jane Cavendish, whose chapters are subtitled “Now”. Thus we have a story that unfolds through a mixture of past and present narrative from the two women.

What ties them together is that, at the time of each’s testimony, they are tenants of architect Edward Monkford’s austere and hi-tech property at One Folgate Street in London. Despite being in an expensive part of the capital city the rent is more affordable than many properties nearby due to the highly restrictive nature of the tenancy agreement. Not simply a case of you can’t put nails in the wall or similar, there are over two hundred specific restrictions for the home!

Despite this for their individual reasons both women chose to live in the house and abide my all the rules that come with it. As details of each come to light it becomes clear to the reader, and to Jane, that the two women have lots of similarities in their experience with both the house and Edward Monkford. In addition to these three main players there are a number of other significant characters including Emma’s ex-boyfriend Simon, police officers, a psychologist and various work colleagues of both women.

It’s not clear what happened to Emma, the girl before, however and Jane becomes determined to find out. Will she regret that taking that route?…

One of the main themes, for me, in this book was about control. Whether that be the tenants of the house being controlled by their contract and environment, characters controlling each other by overt or subtle means, or simply characters seeking to control their own lives and destinies. This is where I think the novel really works as it makes the reader think about things and perhaps even question their own behaviours in relation to others.

The plot itself is not overly complicated but has enough smoke and mirrors to keep you engrossed. Whether or not the actions of some of the characters at any given time are necessarily plausible is open to debate and the final chapters did feel like a slight let down to me. These seem to be common points for some reviewers, whilst others found the book to be uniformly excellent.

All that said, some of the detail was clearly inspired by the author’s own experiences and overall the book makes for a really good read, despite the above remarks, so I would say it’s definitely worth picking up…maxresdefault

We Are His Pawns, His Demons On Earth

I watched an interesting movie the other evening with my wife. “The Devil’s Candy” is the new film from writer / director Sean Byrne (“The Loved Ones”).

Pruitt Vince Taylor

The film opens in the dark of night where Ray Smilie (Pruitt Vince Taylor – “Homefront”, “Identity”) resorts to blasting out loud heavy guitar riffs in the family home in order to keep from hearing sinister-sounding voices.

Shiri Appleby & Ethan Embry

Next we’re introduced to the Hellman family – that’s mum Astrid (Shiri Appleby – “Swimfan”, “UnReal”), dad Jesse (Ethan Embry – “Cheap Thrills”, “Eagle Eye”) and teenage daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco – “Maps To The Stars”, “Copper”) – the latter two clearly being definite heavy metal fans. In fact the whole film is soundtracked by various metal artists, including Metallica, Slayer, Cavalera Conspiracy and Sunn O))).

Kiara Glasco & Ethan Embry

The trio move into a new house, which they are able to afford due to its knock-down price, and which just happens to be the former Smilie family home. At this point my wife was convinced that she knew exactly how events would play out.

Ethan Embry

Before you know it artist Jesse, settled into his new home studio, finds his piece on butterflies – a commission from a bank taken on reluctantly in order to help pay the bills – suddenly and inexplicably takes on a much darker tone, seemingly without his conscious involvement, as he begins to hear whispered voices  and see terrible visions. Meanwhile serial killer Ray – still hearing voices of his own – starts to hang around the house and stalk Zooey…

Ethan Embry & Sean Byrne

When we got to the end of the movie my wife commented that things had developed much more subtly and in different ways than she’d expected. There were some excellent performances, particularly from Embry, and some inspired visuals – the juxtaposition between Jesse painting and Ray killing was very effective, for example – which combined to make a very impressive film. The solid soundtrack certainly added to the overall result too.

Perhaps a little short at less than an hour and a half, and perhaps Jesse’s interactions with the art dealer and his somewhat demonic-looking assistant could have been expanded on a bit? Nonetheless Byrne’s script and the actors’ performances mean that the characters come across as more rounded than is often the case, again strengthening the final product. I do like a good horror movie, occult themes and heavy metal and “The Devil’s Candy” contains all three. Recommended viewing!…

Trespasser

“Being on the murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blonde, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?…”

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“The Trespasser” was my first exposure to the writing of Irish author Tana French. It is the sixth in a series based on the work of the detectives in a police murder squad in Dublin, and was very impressive..

Tana French

Unusually, from what I gather, French has written each novel from the point of view of a different investigating officer rather than having the same main character each time. Although I haven’t read any of the others – which doesn’t detract from the standalone tale told here – I would imagine that this gives the series a distinctive freshness and difference in perspective whilst still retaining enough of the familiarity you normally encounter in, for example, Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne novels.

So this story is told through the eyes of detective Antionette Conway. Working with her partner Stephen Moran (star of the previous novel “The Secret Place”), Conway is put onto a murder investigation to try to track down the person responsible for the death of Aislinn Murray.

At first this seems like an easy case when an obvious suspect comes almost immediately to their attention. It all seems a bit too easy though and Conway – convinced that the rest of the murder squad are out to get her off the team – begins to see connections and have suspicions everywhere, whilst constantly doubting her own thought processes. Who is telling the truth? Who can she trust?

Meanwhile, Moran is coming up with gangster theories and other officers seem very eager for her to put the case to bed as quickly as possible. The truth of both Aislinn and her killer takes some digging for and when the detective duo eventually get there it’s very far from what they anticipated…

I really enjoyed this book. The dialogue was written such that I felt the Irishness coming through(!) and there was some fabulous wit on display too throughout. The characters are all brilliantly described as well, so that we can really imagine them in lifelike terms.

Ultimately this was a cracking tale with enough twists and turns to keep the reader involved without giving too much away so that we (or at least I) definitely aren’t expecting the guilty party that is eventually unmasked. Great stuff – I shall certainly be looking out for future entries to the series…9781444755626

I’m A Freak, Baby…

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Just over a year ago I discovered the rather super folk music compilation “Dust On The Nettles : A Journey Through The British Underground Folk Scene 1967-72”, a three-disc set from the Grapefruit label. That, I subsequently discovered, was the second release in a series that started with 2013’s triple-disc “Love, Poetry And Revolution : A Journey Through The British Psychedelic And Underground Scenes 1966-1972”.

Deep Purple

Now I have stumbled across Grapefruit’s latest “a journey through” offering, released during the summer of 2016, is “I’m A Freak, Baby… : A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych And Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-72”. Now, granted the use of the word “underground” doesn’t apply to all the music contained in this latest triple set, any more than it really did with the prior two, as there are a number of very well-known acts featured in each. However, I do think that the majority of the material presented for us to immerse ourselves in is likely to be unfamiliar to many, if not most, listeners.

Uriah Heep

First, though, let’s look at the more familiar fare. Disc one brings us “Do It” by The Pink Fairies and “Cherry Red” by The Groundhogs, the second disc contains Deep Purple’s “Fireball” along with tracks from the Edgar Broughton Band and the Move, whilst the final disc bears “Gypsy” from Uriah Heep, Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown)” as well as tracks from Taste and The Yardbirds. All great tracks and, to be honest, the easy recognition of these numbers helps to balance against the unknown songs spread across the rest of the three discs.

Stray

Amongst the acts that are less well-known are a number that can already be found nestled within my music library. These include the opening nine-plus minute “All In Your Mind” by Stray, which was covered by heavy metal legends Iron Maiden on the b-side of their 1990 hit “Holy Smoke”. Others I was already at least partly familiar with include Chicken Shack’s “Going Down”, “Heart Without A Home” by Blonde On Blonde, The Gun’s “Race With The Devil” and “Escalator” from Sam Gopal featuring future Motörhead leader Lemmy on vocals and guitar.

Skid Row

Moving on to the new-to-me artists, I particularly enjoyed the offerings from The Iron Maiden (“Falling”) (not to be confused with the above-mentioned metal band, Dark (“Zero Time”), The Kult (“Occult”), Jerusalem (“Primitive Man”), Barnabus (“Apocalypse”), Egor (“Street”), Cycle (“Father Of Time”) and Irish band Skid Row (“Go, I’m Never Gonna Let You)”) – the latter being the late guitar ace Gary Moore’s first professional band.

Hawkwind

I should also make mention of “Sweet Mistress Of Pain”, a track credited to Hawkwind Zoo. Also known under the alternate title of “Kiss Of The Velvet Whip”, this was recorded in late 1969 by the newly-formed band just prior to their name change, dropping the “Zoo” to become simply Hawkwind – a band synonymous with psychedelic music if ever there was one.

Sam Gopal

Oddly, although I would consider myself more of a rock fan than folk fan, I think on balance that I’ll likely listen to the “Dust On The Nettles” set more often than this one.

Fleetwood Mac

As with the folk anthology the sound quality varies a little, but this is a small price to pay for having some real rarities present. Whilst the former set included a massive sixty-three songs, “I’m A Freak…” contains just forty-eight. However, with a running time of just a few minutes shy of four hours there’s not much to complain about. Well worth digging into…

“I’m A Freak, Baby… : A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych And Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-72” tracklist:

Disc One:

1. All In Your Mind / 2. Cast A Spell / 3. Hot Smoke And Sassafras / 4. My Son’s Alive / 5. Going Down / 6. Father Of Time / 7. I’m Coming Home / 8. Do It / 9. Time Machine / 10. Cherry Red / 11. I’m A Freak / 12. Rock My Soul / 13. Sweet Mistress Of Pain / 14. Nightmare / 15. Falling / 16. Apocalypse

1. Stray / 2. The Open Mind / 3. The Moochie / 4. Crushed Butler / 5. Chicken Shack / 6. Cycle / 7. The Deviants / 8. The Pink Fairies / 9. Factory / 10. The Groundhogs / 11. Wicked Lady / 12. Charge / 13. Hawkwind Zoo / 14. Stonehouse / 15. The Iron Maiden / 16. Barnabus

Disc Two:

1. Bogeyman / 2. Fireball / 3. Primitive Man / 4. Love In The Rain / 5. Trust / 6. Rhubarb! / 7. Dream / 8. Skullcrusher / 9. Zero Time / 10. Jehovah / 11. Brontosaurus / 12. Bring It To Jerome / 13. Mr. Make Believe / 14. Flash / 15. Street Walking Woman / 16. Go, I’m Never Gonna Let You

1. Writing On The Wall / 2. Deep Purple / 3. Jerusalem / 4. Edgar Broughton Band / 5. Hellmet / 6. Second Hand / 7. Little Free Rock / 8. Iron Claw / 9. Dark / 10. The Velvet Frogs / 11. The Move / 12. Stack Waddy / 13. Samuel Prody / 14. Bare Sole / 15. The Phoenix / 16. Skid Row

Disc Three:

1. Race With The Devil / 2. Heart Without A Home / 3. Ascension Day / 4. Street / 5. Escalator / 6. Gypsy / 7. Garden Of My Mind / 8. Think About It / 9. Trying To Find My Way Back Home / 10. Yellow Cave Woman / 11. Too Old / 12. The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown) / 13. Twisted Trip Woman / 14. Occult / 15. Born On The Wrong Side Of Time / 16. Hollis Brown

1. The Gun / 2. Blonde On Blonde / 3. Third World War / 4. Egor / 5. Sam Gopal / 6. Uriah Heep / 7. The Mickey Finn / 8. The Yardbirds / 9. Morning After / 10. Velvett Fogg / 11. Andromeda / 12. Fleetwood Mac / 13. Sweet Slag / 14. The Kult / 15. Taste / 16. Fusion Farm

One Day Changes Everything

Today I watched a movie described as a horror drama film. Written and directed by Phillip Escott and Craig Newman “Cruel Summer” is their feature-length debut.From the opening frames you know that things aren’t going to end well as a bloodied young man runs through the woods. Having a good idea that events are going to get bloody doesn’t however detract from the bulk of the remaining film will lead to that point.

Richard Pawulski

We meet Danny (Richard Pawulski – “All In The Valley”), a young man suffering with autism who is preparing to head off to a local lake for a night camping solo for his Duke of Edinburgh Award.

The scene then switches to an exterior shot of a typical house from which we can hear a muffled but clearly angry argument taking place, resulting in Nicholas (Danny Miller – “Scott & Bailey”, “Emmerdale”) being thrown out.

Danny Miller

Nicholas, who appears to be a very angry young man, then shows up in the home of his female friend Julia (Natalie Martins – “Kill Or Be Killed”, “The Better Man”), where we discover that he’s just been dumped by his girlfriend. Julia wastes no time in sticking the knife in regarding Nicholas’s now-ex. She obviously has designs on Nicholas though he appears oblivious to the fact, and so she claims that his ex had slept with others before him, unconvincingly naming Danny as one.

Natalie Martins

Knowing of Danny’s affliction, Nicholas is outraged to think of his ex sleeping with him and vows to make him pay. Dragging a reluctant but submissive Julia along with him, the pair head for Danny’s house – picking up new boy Calvin (Reece Douglas – “The Knife That Killed Me”, “Waterloo Road”) en route. By now the lie has become embellished and Nicholas insists that Danny is a paedophile who needs sorting out before he attacks more young girls.

Reece Douglas

Calvin isn’t keen on the idea but as he has a younger sister he succumbs to pressure from his peers to join them on their quest.

Initially the day consists of arcade games, smoking weed and drinking copious amounts of alcohol, but eventually and inevitably the trio find their quarry and the peer pressure exercised by Nicholas becomes ever greater. What follows is horrific in its utter believability. Without resorting to too much graphic violence or gore the filmmakers succeed in making the viewer feel very unsettled and disturbed.

I felt that this was made even more uncomfortable by the way that the three treat Danny and his autism, which is echoed with other minor characters’ dealings with him too. Because he has a disability Danny appears to be regarded as unfavourably in comparison to “normal” people. Living with people who have disabilities I know very well that it’s all to easy for people to either “not see” the disability or to treat the disabled person as somehow weird, and so the way that characters interact with Danny rings very true indeed.

Danny Miller, Natalie Martins & Reece Douglas

The film is said to be based on true events, although no specific story is mentioned that I can find reference too. That said, all too often we hear stories of seemingly motiveless attacks, people being attacked as a result of mistaken identity or misinformation, so I imagine that a number of such stories planted the seed for “Cruel Summer”.

This is not your standard horror film with some almost superhuman baddie that never dies etc. This is very real horror showing that the real evil in our world lives in the other folk living around us. The darkness that can be found in the most unassuming and “normal” people is a truly scary thing.

Filmed in South Wales the cinematography is great and the acting from the four main characters is really top-notch. I would hope that few will be able to watch such a film without feeling emotionally affected by it, so strong is the tale. Disturbing and very thought-provoking stuff…

You Have One Chance. Run

“You wake. Confused. Disorientated. A noose is round your neck. You are bound, standing on a chair. All you can focus on is the man in the mask tightening the rope. You are about to die.

John Wallace has no idea why he has been targeted. No idea who his attacker is. No idea how he will prevent the inevitable.

Then the pendulum of fate swings in his favour. He has one chance to escape, find the truth and halt his destruction. The momentum is in his favour for now. But with a killer on his tail, everything can change with one swing of this deadly pendulum…

You have one chance. Run…”

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It’s been a while since I posted last. Life’s been busy. Not least because we’ve been involved in our second house move inside a year (we’re now in our fifth home since moving to the Forest of Dean in 2011!). The ability to move more regularly is one of the benefits of renting rather than buying, but of the course the uncertainty is equally one of the negatives and that was born out by our last house move last summer when our then-landlords decided to sell the house that we were living in. Hopefully, all being well, this latest move will turn out to be a long-term home – it certainly suits us more as a family, with plenty of space for all concerned (including the horses, chickens, etc.) and is in a fabulous countryside location so fingers crossed!…

Anyway, during the past few weeks I have been making my way through British author Adam Hamdy‘s latest crime thriller novel “Pendulum”, and what a great read it turned out to be.

Some reviewers have said that they felt that the book was too long and rather unrealistic. I must admit that the book did seem to take a long time to read, but given that I’ve not managed to find much time to sit and read for very long I assumed that was the reason that it seemed so. As for unrealistic – well, yes, Wallace’s knack of evading death at the hands of his killer numerous times, whilst the killer ruthlessly and expertly dispatches dozens of other characters, does stretch credibility somewhat.

Despite that, I thought this was a strong story with an intriguing and inventive plotline. Wallace thought that he was perhaps being targeted as a consequence of his time photographing British soldiers – and their crimes – in conflicts in the Middle East, but what then linked him to other potential victims? I certainly didn’t figure it out, or have any idea of the killer’s identity, until the writer wanted me to.

Adam Hamdy
Adam Hamdy

There were plenty of strands to the story to gradually bring together and, again, Hamdy achieves that really well.

Now, I don’t usually get too much into the plot of novels, especially the latter stages of them, when writing about them here. However, I’m going to make a rare exception here, so…

Spoiler alert!…

The root cause of the crimes depicted in “Pendulum” is connected with the internet, and specifically the social media side of things. A couple of passages from when the killer reveals their motivation really stood out for me as being so true with regard to the negative side of the world wide web that I’m quoting them, as follows… “…pornography in every bedroom. Gambling in every home. Children watching people being decapitated. Watching other kids being abused or killed. Murdering friends to please a Slender Man. Secret markets for drugs, weapons, body parts…” and then a little further on “…human existence has changed beyond all recognition. The internet exposes every single one of us to the entire world. All the good. All the evil. None of us were prepared for it… we can’t cope. A young teenage girl alone in her bedroom, vulnerable, searching for a place in the world… bombarded by a Twitter feed full of vacuous nonsense, by narcissistic Facebook friends timelining the illusion of their perfect lives… There’s a mental health epidemic devouring people, making them vulnerable. And when… desperate to fit in, that young girl exposes herself to the world looking for approval, she’s hit by a barrage of hateful abuse…” Sadly, we see the results of such thoughtless and nasty abuse all the time in the news these days, and witness kids struggle with cyber bullying etc. all too often. I don’t know what the answer is, and I think it’s made all the more difficult for parents today as we didn’t have all these pressures when we ourselves were growing up.

Back to the review…

As I said, with a little leeway for the less believable moments this was a jolly good read, with plenty of research evident in the detail. There was one character left unresolved at the end of the book, so perhaps Mr. Hamdy is planning a sequel or two? For now, though, I’ll finish by saying that despite the aforementioned slight misgivings “Pendulum” is a well recommended read…btm

Rick Parfitt 1948 – 2016

rick_parfitt_of_status_quo_forced_to_abandon_european_tour_music_scene_irelandA week ago today I was enjoying a Christmas Eve meal with the in-laws when the awful news came through – Status Quo man Rick Parfitt had died. More than any high-profile musician to pass away in the previous twelve months – whether it be Lemmy, David Bowie, Prince, etc. etc. this one affected me.

Francis Rossi & Rick Parfitt On Stage In 2015
Francis Rossi & Rick Parfitt On Stage In 2015

I knew I was going to have to make some comment on his passing – but what to say to begin to do the justice to man and his contribution to music? There were some lovely words on various news sites etc. following Rick’s death but he was quickly replaced there when George Michael passed away the very next day.

Rick Parfitt
Rick Parfitt

No disrespect to George Michael, who was a great singer, but for me the amount of coverage that he was given vs. Rick seemed to suggest that he was by far the more significant and iconic figure. And maybe to many he was, whilst perhaps it was also reflective of how often Quo have been derided in the press as three chord wonders etc.

Anyway, I suspect that my family may have grown a little tired of the sound of Quo blasting from my speakers over the past week as I’ve paid tribute to Rick and the boys through the stereo and reacquainted myself with much of their music that had slipped from the kind of regular rotation that it used to enjoy.

Status Quo Live In 1981
Status Quo Live In 1981

Quo were my first love as a band, way back in 1981, and have been right up there ever since. Having received the brand new “Never Too Late” album as an Easter present that year, I obtained their entire album back catalogue as quickly as I was able to and have followed the band through all the highs and lows ever since.

Status Quo Live In 1984
Status Quo Live In 1984

In the summer of 1984 I went to see the band live for the first time on their “End Of The Road” tour. At the time I thought it would be my one and only opportunity to witness them play, as the tour was billed as a farewell to the road. And contrary to the jibes aimed at the band, until this year’s “Last Night Of The Electrics” final electric tour before a switch to acoustic touring, that has been their one and only “farewell” tour!. Luckily for me, and many thousands of others, a re-grouping in 1986 meant the return of the band on record and on stage.

Rick Parfitt On Stage In 2007
Rick Parfitt On Stage In 2007

Since then I’ve enjoyed a further fourteen Quo shows, including my wife’s first ever rock concert on the “In Search Of The Fourth Chord” tour. Nothing compared to a great many regular gig goers I’m sure, and I have to confess that my enthusiasm waned at times for their concerts as the set list remained pretty static for long periods of time. Nonetheless, every single show that I went to was well worth the time and money as the band never failed to give anything but a top-class performance.

Roy Lynes, Alan Lancaster, John Coghlan, Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi In Late 1960s
Roy Lynes, Alan Lancaster, John Coghlan, Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi In Late 1960s

Having been an ever-present since joining in the late 60s, it was with great sadness that I learnt of Rick’s decision not to return to the band following his latest heart attack this summer. I could completely understand that though, given the need to protect his health and also his desire that if he was going to make further music it needed to “rock” – which sadly the band’s recent studio output and future touring plans do not accommodate.

Francis Rossi On Stage
Francis Rossi On Stage

Francis Rossi has been on the receiving end of an awful lot of stick from so-called Quo fans who seem to take great delight in slagging off everything that the band have done since the “frantic four” ceased to be in 1982. Whilst I realise that Francis has been for a long time the leader of the band I think that this abuse is very unfair. There is an argument that if he’s had his way then Quo would have been doing acoustic and country-style music for decades and that he resented playing the old hits all the time. There may be some truth to this. Certainly he is more inclined to go down the acoustic and lighter Quo route than Rick was, and many a musician who’s been performing for a long time is surely going to tire of some of the material that really has to be played to satisfy both the hardcore and casual concert goer?

Francis Rossi & Rick Parfitt
Francis Rossi & Rick Parfitt

What is beyond doubt to me, though, is that Francis and Rick have been the public face of Quo for many years now. With Rick gone many have called the band the Francis Rossi Band or Francis Rossi’s Quo.

The Frantic Four
The Frantic Four – John Coghlan, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster & Francis Rossi

Let’s look at the facts. Whilst Rossi, Parfitt, Lancaster and Coghlan were all band members between 1967 and 1981, the “frantic four” itself only lasted from 1970 (following the departure of keyboardist Roy Lynes) to late 1976 (when Andrew Bown became an official member). So, depending on your point of view either fifteen or just seven years. Plus a handful of reunion gigs in 2013 and 2014 of course. In that time they produced eleven (or six!) studio albums.

Rick Parfitt, Francis Rossi & John "Rhino" Edwards On Stage In 1988
Rick Parfitt, Francis Rossi & John “Rhino” Edwards On Stage In 1988

John “Rhino” Edwards has been playing bass for Quo since 1986. By my reckoning – and leaving drummers aside as there have now been four since Coghlan left – that means the core of Rossi, Parfitt, Bown and Edwards were together for thirty years, at least double that of the fabled “frantic four”, and produced sixteen studio albums. Surely, then, those band members have every right to keep calling themselves Status Quo – even after Rick’s departure and death?

Status Quo Backstage In 1991
Status Quo Backstage In 1991

Yes, the bulk of the live set is still taken from the pre-1982 albums but, again, isn’t that the curse of so many “heritage” acts who are compelled to play the old stuff live in preference over their newer material? Bottom line, for me, is that “Quo-light” is as essential overall as the “classic” band and that, frankly, we should be grateful to Francis, Rick and co. for all the great music and performances that they’ve given us since 1986.

Andrew Bown & Richie Malone On Stage In 2016
Andrew Bown & Richie Malone On Stage In 2016

Following his enforced retirement from the band, Richie Malone has come in as stand-in for Rick on the band’s recent tour dates and done a great job by most accounts. However, at this point, who knows what – if any – future the band has?

Rick Parfitt - Bad Hair Day!
Rick Parfitt – Bad Hair Day!

I digress. Back to the late Mr. Parfitt. When I was young it was Rick who I aspired to be. Sure sometimes I had to pretend to be Francis (with my shirt collar turned under to imitate his grandad shirt!) so that I could sing the lead vocals while miming away to the records, but it was Rick, the golden-maned rock god (let’s ignore some of the naff haircuts he had occasionally!), for the heads down riffing and some of the best songs too.

Rick Parfitt In 1978
Rick Parfitt In 1978

Over the years Rick composed many of the great Quo classics. Not often as sole writer (this applies equally to Francis) but his early co-writes with Francis, then with Alan Lancaster and later with Andrew Bown, John “Rhino” Edwards and recently Wayne Morris have produced some of the best songs on each of the band’s albums – the sole exception being 1994’s “Thirsty Work” which is also the least Quo-sounding album, which is surely no random coincidence.

Rick Parfitt On Stage
Rick Parfitt On Stage

I could list all his writing credits, but if you’re really interested head over to From The Makers Of… which has a comprehensive list. Selected highlights, however, include the following: “Forty Five Hundred Times”, “Rain”, “Don’t Drive My Car” and “Mystery Song” would all easily be in my all-time Quo top ten songs and the likes of “Softer Ride”, “Belavista Man”, “Mystery Song”, “Little Lady” and “The Power Of Rock” wouldn’t be far behind. Many of Rick’s songs feature his distinctive lead vocals too.

Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi In 1970s
Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi In 1970s

On record, then, Rick had an invaluable input into the band’s superb legacy. Onstage, is there any better sound than all those instantly recognisable riffs being hammered out on his battered white Telecaster, or the perfection of Rick and Francis as they lock into the groove? Yes, age and health issues took their toll on his singing voice but he was still superb when I last saw the band at Lechlade last year.

There was talk of an autobiography and solo album for 2017. Neither will presumably see the light as they surely can’t have had much work done to them. There was a solo record named “Recorded Delivery” cut around 1985 so hopefully that my now finally get an official release.

Lyndsay Whitburn & Rick Parfitt
Rick Parfitt With Third Wife Lyndsay Whitburn

Rick may have had faults as a human being – too much indulgence in drink and drugs through the years and something of a weakness for the ladies perhaps – but whenever I saw him perform or appear on TV etc. there was a down to earth natural humour that shone though and he was the perfect foil to Francis.

Whatever happens now with Status Quo – and I hope the band do carry on (though I’d still rather they plugged back in and rock a bit!) – things can never quite be the same without Rick.  We’re moving house in a week, and I really should be packing stuff, so I’d better get on… Despite my best efforts, I don’t think I’ve come close to doing Rick justice. Suffice it to say he was a huge inspiration to me and many others, and is simply a massive loss. Rest in peace…

Rick Parfitt 1948 - 2016
Rick Parfitt 1948 – 2016