My Top 10 Favourite Books

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If eternity was your battleground ...how far would the ripples of your decisions reach?

The second installment of 'The Twelfth Odyssey' quadrilogy.

After the stunning losses suffered by both Mitch and Irvette, our two protagonists must dust themselves off in order to continue their respective journeys. Can anybody stop Lambert DuKane's march to dominance? You can read a sample of Book 1: Coda, by clicking here.

Click here to read a sample of Book 2.

Coming Autumn 2018

 

Comic book Cover leads to scorn and abuse in the 'Twittersphere'

'Random thought of the moment. Well not so random. I've been a comic fan since the age of 6 or 7 years old. Growing up in the UK, I started out on your standard fare such as the Dandy and Beano, Whizzer and Chips (for those of you that go back that far), before graduating to Marvel UK titles (the adventures of Captain America and Bucky and the Invaders giving the Nazi's what for as I got to about 10 or so, then Captain Britain) before finally moving over to US versions of Marvel titles which by that time had started arriving on British shores in greater numbers and variety. Marvel, though, is and always has been a product of its times and can't claim to have always been a bastion of inclusion. It's treatment of it's many female characters has improved over the years and there are now major heroes and villains from all backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual orientations. What I'm trying to say, is the Marvel Universe is and always has been an ever-changing and evolving beast. It probably hasn't moved as quickly as some would want, but what the hell — it's trying to stay current and in my eyes you can't say fairer than that.

I mention all of that as a way of illustrating the fact that I've been reading comics (and Marvel comics in particular) for a loooonnngg time. I now have a Marvel Unlimited account. It's a pretty good investment, if you can stand being 6-8 months behind the current crop of storylines and I am just about to embark on the Civil War II storyline that was published last year. As a lead-in to Civil War II, I downloaded Chelsea Cain's truly excellent run on Mockingbird, which I believe is an inspired piece of writing! A stunningly excellent modern feminist take on a female comic book character. Having read issue #3, I found myself confused at the end as to what actually happened to the young mutant girl Rachel Oakley who'd lost control of her powers and ended up dangling four of her classmates in a bubble of energy a hundred feet in the air. Bobbi tells the sniper to "...get her in your sights, and then wait for my signal.", she points a finger at the girl, the sniper shoots, the bubble bursts and the four young girls plummet groundward. Bobbi, jumps off of the roof after them and saves them.

But what actually happened? Did the sniper shoot the bubble? Did he shoot at Rachel and the shock of this caused the bubble to collapse? Did Bobbi determine that the situation was beyond salvage (at that point Rachel had already been responsible for 3 dead and numerous injured) and authorise the sniper to actually shoot Rachel — with the fact that she seemingly survived just down to some other (at that point, unknown) aspect of her mutant power, which protected her from the bullet?

What actually happened???? Help those of us without a PhD in Biology out. What was Bobbi's hypothesis?

Or am I being really dim and missed some something crucial in this 'puzzle-box' story?

Answers on the back of a postcard, please. To PO Box 666 - WTF

Anyway, and finally getting to the point of this whole piece. Subsequent to reading issue #3 and being totally confused by the ending. I decided to have a bit of a poke about on the internet to see if there were any theories out there as to what did actually happened at the end of the story (there are theories for everything on the internet — and some of them are indeed, pretty much 'out there'). I came up empty, but as a by-product of this fruitless search, happened upon the whole furore about Cain & Niemczyk's Mockingbird #7 and in particular it's cover.

How anybody could have been so offened by the statement on Bobbi's shirt above, enough to cause Chelsea Cain to receive the kind of abuse on Twitter that she did (enough to make her close her account) is beyond me! The comicbook world has always been about people trying to do good in a world where that sort of crap didn't matter. I always believed that everybody that read comics was like me and that we were all in it together.

How wrong can one person be! The internet is a wonderful thing and has benefitted humanity, no end. But it has also spawned a few things — which, again — humans being what we are make you wonder how viable as a species we are long term.

fanboy /ˈfanbɔɪ/ - A male fan, especially one who is obsessive about comics, music, movies, or science fiction.

With the coming of the internet and social media on the internet in particular. This particular sub-genus of humanity (the word says it all doesn't it 'boy' - there are 'fangirls' as well, but they don't seem to be anywhere near as hateful as their male counterparts) has become increasingly vociferous. They can hide behind their little screens and have a go at anything or anybody that doesn't meet their very, very narrow interpretation of what is or is not acceptable.

Ben Affleck as Batman. "Oh my god, the world is going to end!"

Idris Elba as Heimdall. "Oh my god, the world is going to end!", "How dare they cast a black man as Heimdall. Heimdall is Asgardian. He's white!"

'YOU IGNORANT ASSHATS!!!'. If Asgard were a real place (it's obviously a real place), I'm pretty certain there'd be lots of different creeds and colours living there. Bravery and honour ARE NOT colour specific.

A funny, intelligent and strong woman wearing a t-shirt with an iconic slogan on the front. "Let's attack, hound and villify the woman who dared to use those words in OUR precious comic books."

So, this sort of stuff does matter to a very small minority out there and what I want to say to those individuals, as the Father of a young girl who I'd like to think will grow up one day to be able to do and say whatever the hell she thinks — and the point of this rather long-winded diatribe is: you need to step the f**k off!

Leave the intelligent discussion to the 'adults' and go back to your little 'troll' caves. We — and by 'we' I mean the majority of us in the Universe — can do well without you!

It's a shame Marvel cancelled the series, it was building into something quite amazing. As is the current run of the Scarlet Witch and the All New Wolverine starring Laura Kinney as X-23. My message to Ms Cain (although it's a little bit late now) would be: 'don't give up on the comic world', there are some idiots out there, but that shouldn't mean the rest of us shoud be deprived of your talent. 

#standWithChelseaCain

My Top 10 Favourite Books


I vividly recall going along to a Christmas Day gathering at one of my aunt's in 1978. All of the children ended up in one of the bedrooms whilst the adults drank rum, vodka, gin and made merry. Not sure how or why, but this book just happened to be in the bedroom and I picked it up and started reading.

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I hunted this book down after seeing the film that was made of the Ostermann Weekend. At the time, there was 'some' talk of making a movie of 'The Bourne Identity' so having liked the Ostermann Weekend film, I thought I'd get a little bit ahead of the curve by reading the book before the film was made. The Matt Damon film takes the book mainly as 'inspiration', I would say.

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All of my favourite stories tend to be ones which stretch to more than one volume. I think it's pretty telling when an author continually returns to the same set of characters and extends their stories by continually throwing them in new adventures which push them farther than they thought they could go.

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The original quadrilogy that first introduced us to the character of Nevyn an immortal Wizard. The four books also included Darkspell Dawnspell (or The Bristling Wood as it was called in the US) and Dragonspell (or the Dragon Revenant as it was called in the US). I found the concept of this story absolutely fascinating.

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I lived and worked in London for the majority of my earlier years and was on the way home from work on the Underground one summer's afternoon and was reading a book (I don't recall which one exactly, but think it was one of the Magician series by Raymond Feist). Anyway, a guy who was sitting a few seats down, got up to leave and said to me in passing: "you should read 'Wizard's First Rule'," and got off the train.

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Another quarilogy. This one set within the world of Magician, but with (for the most part) a completely different set of characters. There are some interactions with some of Feist's main characters (i.e. Pug, Arutha, Jimmy etc), but the new characters take us in entirely different directions and to different parts of the world that Feist has created.

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Tom Clancy is one of those writers who's always worth reading. An absolute master at detail and beyond masterful at plotting. Add to that the 'almost' real world situations and characters and you have an enduring recipe for great stories. Along with 'Patriot Games' this is one of my favourites of all of his books.

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I have only one thing to say about this novel.

WHY HAS IT NOT ALREADY BEEN TURNED INTO A FILM!!!

A decent film, mind you! Not some cheap, schlocky made for telly film. This book deserves it in my humble opinion.

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Again, another trilogy, I really should rename this list shouldn't I? There's more like 26 books here, not ten — doh!

This one takes place in Hamilton's - let's face it, frankly gargantuan - Confederation universe. It's so big, in fact that it has it's own Handbook to help you understand all of the characters, worlds and cultures that's he's created for this series of books. When you find out that the Handbook is the size of most novels on its own at 200pp, you might 'just' begin to grasp the scope and scale of the Night's Dawn Trilogy itself.

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Of all of the books in the Sword of Truth series, this is undoubtedly my favourite. It sees Richard forcibly split apart from not just Kahlan and Cara, but the Sword of Truth itself after finding what they thought to be a little piece of tranquility after all of the hardships that they'd had to endure. It also re-introduces the character of Nicci, one of the Sisters of the Dark who has managed to free herself from Jagang and is on a mission of her own to prove to herself that at heart, Richard's nobility is a facade and that everybody is as compromised, guilty and corrupt as she herself is.

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My Top 10 Favourite Films


OK. I have to 'fess up here to being a huge Cary Grant fan. I think all of the adjectives that he's been labelled with during his career (suave, witty, urbane, charming...) have stuck for one very good reason. They're all true! Well... I say that. Of course, I never met Cary Grant in real life unfortunately and let's face it, the guy was an actor. So I suspect only those that knew him well, know where the reality of the man parted ways from the persona he portrayed. They say, you should never meet your heroes. I would have loved to have met Cary Grant, I don't think he would have disappointed in at the very least meeting those expectations of the 'consummate all-round good guy' and the 'quintessential English gentleman'...

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Another Howard Hawks film from the around the same period as His Girl Friday, but so completely different in tone and perspective that you would never think these films were only four years apart and directed by the same man. This one was the film that brought 'Bogie' and 'Bacall' together for the first time. They never looked back.

It's has a bit of a complicated plot (moreso, than the Hemingway book upon which the film was based, in my opinion), probably due to the change in locale and the introduction of the pro-German Vichy France elements...

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I wonder how many people realise that North by Northwest isn't actually a proper compass destination. It doesn't really matter does it. North by Northwest just trips off of the tongue doesn't it?

With it's finale on the face of Mount Rushmore and the crop duster chase scene, this is one of Hitchcock's most iconic movies, probably along with Psycho with it's shower scene and Vertigo with that infamous climb up the Mission Tower to ultimate calamity. Who knew so much jeopardy could result from a (albeit less than innocent) case of mistaken identity.

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The third of my Howard Hawks picks. This one a western. Just goes to show the breadth of this man's work. A comedy, a melodrama and a western. He did everything. I believe there're even a few musicals and sci-fi films scattered around and about his resumé. Whether or not it's fair to say his western's are what he is most well known for, films like Rio Bravo are what drew him to my attention. With a name like Howard Winchester Hawks, that could only be said to be quite apt.

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The best Hitchcock film, never made by Hitchcock!

It has so many twists and turns, double and triple-crosses that you don't know whether you are coming or going half of the time. As a writer it was the plotting of this twisty-turny tale that immediately grabbed me. A star-studded cast (of mainly villains — James Coburn, George Kennedy (who makes what has to be one of the best entrances in ANY film, ever), Walther Matthau and the Mr. Sneezy-alike Ned Glass). Hitchcock's direction could never be termed 'slick' in my opinion, but Stanley Donnen's approach to the Hitchcock-ian thriller, definitely is that.

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There's little possibility of selecting one of the three films in this trilogy above any of the other. Even though each of the three is slightly different in tone, they really have to be taken as a whole. Funnily enough, the last of the trio 'The Good, The Bad and the Ugly' (GBU) should really be seen as a prequel to the two films which were released slightly earlier.

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I think with every major conflict, WW1, WW2, Vietnam and the Gulf War(s) there's an initial period of seriousness that surrounds the conflict itself, where no serious film-maker would even conceive of lampooning it or poking fun at the brave men and women who laid down their lives during it. But it seems that lasts for maybe 15-20 years before a 'revisionist' period begins to creep in and we get films like Oh, What a Lovely War, or Kelly's Heroes, M.A.S.H, The Producers or Three Kings even.

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This war film, couldn't be more different to the one that just preceded it. It really is 'just that' a film about the war, or more accurately a very specific battle that was one of many such engagements during that long interminable campaign.

Like it's predecessor, it has an absolutely 'stellar' cast. Other than the actors who were in the afore-mentioned Kelly's Heroes, there are very few major Hollywood stars of the period both English and American who don't have a speaking part in this film.

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Make no bones about it, Star Wars changed how films were made and how we as the public digested them. It affected an entire generation of film makers and cinema-goers. It was the first film that I remember going to see on my own (aged 12). After Star Wars it seemed for a while there that every other film from 1977 onward was a science-fiction film with a large special effects budget. Even James Bond went into space with 1979's Moonraker. Hollywood does love to jump on a 'band-wagon' - the most recent of which is the comic book adaptation.

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For me, this is one of those films that 'shifted' the goal-posts in terms of what you could and couldn't do in cinematic terms. James Cameron is one of those film-makers who, seemingly with every movie he makes is constantly pushing the bar out ahead of everybody else and leaving them scrambling to catch up with him. This film though, had it all. Action, suspense a slight nod to the horror genre, cutting-edge (for the time) special effects and a very cool story. Time travelling robot sent back in time to answer that age old question... 'If I go back in time and kill my Mother, will future me cease to exist?'

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The original Aliens film is a bit of an acquired taste, I think. As a piece of science-fiction it is truly inspired, it's sensibilities are more arthouse and indie than mainstream blockbuster though, which is why it's never really appealed to me. There's also the fact that I've never been a big fan of horror movies, which is why there aren't any out-and-out horror films in my list.

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This is a film that defies expectations at every turn. As an adult male, you just have to hear a title like 'The Princess Bride' and your mind automatically conjures up an idea of what you think the film will be and you're already dismissing it as something that you might even be mildly interested in.

But then, you start watching it and cleverly, it starts subverting those expectations from the first few minutes with the interplay between Peter Falk and Fred Savage who plays his grandson.

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This is another of those films (admittedly, alongside Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon film of the year before) that helped to change the landscape for film-makers and cinemagoers alike. It created (or maybe a more timely word would be 'rebooted') an entire sub-genre, that being the hard-boiled, high-octane, high concept thriller/action film.

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Like the next film on this list The Shawshank Redemption, True Romance is just one of those films you have to see. Whilst I had to be browbeaten into watching Shawshank (I hate the idea of being one of the crowd, and everybody was just raving about the film at the time, so just to be contrary - I avoided it at every turn until several years later a friend whose opinion I trusted told me I 'just had to watch it').

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This film would have passed me by, but for the intervention of a good friend, who 'appalled' that I hadn't seen it, challenged me to watch it and deny it's greatness, righfully deserving of its seven oscar nominations. Never one to back down from a decent challenge, I watched it and had to agree wholeheartedly with him. It's a stunningly great film about hope in adversity that slowly draws you in with it's amazing performances and brilliant characterisation.

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OK, another confession. I do like the odd 'rom-com'. Particularly if they have a bit of an edge to them, like 'Love, Actually' or 'Addicted to Love'. This one doesn't particularly have 'any' kind of edge per se. Well, other than the fact that it has Meg Ryan in it, and she always seems to bring some kind of edge to her performances. I think my love of this film stems from the fact that it was released at a time when things were literally all 'flowers and roses' and it has stayed linked with me and pretty much always evokes that particular time of my life, even 22 years later! Anytime I rewatch this film, I am right back there.

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This must have been one of the first animated CGI film that was targetted more at adults than it was children. Amongst all of the superheroics and comedy, it dealt with some pretty heavy themes. Male, mid-life crisis; sustaining a marriage when one of the partners is going through that; child-rearing; possible marital infidelity (come on, Bob was 'very' tempted wasn't he?).

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I recall speaking to my wife on the way home from watching (I believe), the first Tobey MacGuire Spider-man film and saying to her that I'd heard someone was talking about making an Iron Man movie. After seeing the Spider-Man film, it was almost beginning to seem possible to imagine that someone might be able to do it. Of course, as a died in the wool comic fan, my mind was fixated on Tony Stark's armour which folded away into a briefcase, and my head fairly span at the level of special effects that it would take to make that a reality (the suitcase armour had to wait until Iron Man II, but was still damned cool to see on the big screen).

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Of the 15 films that belong to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to date, this has to be a contender for best film (probably along with the first Iron Man film and the sequel to this one Civil War). There are several set pieces which are absolutely some of the best sequences in any Action film, ever.

The opening sequence aboard the ship shows Cap at his best, tearing along the deck of the ship taking down all of the terrorists pretty much single-handed using only his shield and martial ability.

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The last three Mission Impossibles have all been pretty good. The whole idea of having a different director for each outing has served this franchise well. Since MI3 though, the series seems to have settled into a 'kind' of format. Big Action, Bigger Stunts. That may have something to do with the fact that J.J. Abrams Bad Robot production company has produced MI3, 4, 5 and will be producing 6.

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  1. And So It Goes
  2. Bibliography

My Top 10 Books

  • Splinter of the Mind's Eye

    Splinter of the Mind's Eye

    I vividly recall going along to a Christmas Day gathering at one of my aunt's in 1978. All of the

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My Top 10 Films

  • His Girl Friday

    His Girl Friday

    OK. I have to 'fess up here to being a huge Cary Grant fan. I think all of the adjectives

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My Top 10 Films - Alt

  • His Girl Friday

    His Girl Friday

    OK. I have to 'fess up here to being a huge Cary Grant fan. I think all of the adjectives

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Contact Me

Quote of the Day

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