Christmas Christie: Controversy Is A New Tradition

BBC Agatha Christie Adaptation

As we edge swiftly towards the New Year, I am proud to present my thoughts on the Christmas Agatha Christie adaptation and the controversy surrounding the changes that the writers made to the plot and the protagonist’s backstory. Apologies for the lack of posts over the past week, I’ve been off celebrating the holidays. I hope you had a lovely Christmas and I’m very pleased to be back writing after my awesome trip back to Dorset!

During my stay with my family we were all united in wanting to watch this year’s BBC adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, which is unusual as normally we only agree to watch children’s films together (not because we’re weird, but because children’s films are favoured by both my parents. My father, who is in his late fifties, adores Toy Story and got over excited when Monster’s University came on, but can’t stand any of my ‘grizzly nonsense’).

Agreed on something for a change, we all settled down happily to watch The ABC Murders, the first of the BBC’s adaptations to feature one of Christie’s established and renowned detectives, in this case her beloved Belgium sleuth, Hercule Poirot. However, it quickly transpired that, unlike the twee gentility of the novel, this show was to have a grimy, dark undertone, with deceit and dastardly dealings at its heart.

Personally, I have long advocated that Poirot is becoming a little overdone in the modern literary and cinematic spaces, and should be left in peace; this opinion was overridden this year, however, by my adoration of the Christmas Christies, which bring the chance to check out one of my favourite author’s works in a new light. In the end, I rather liked Sarah Phelps’ adaptation of this Christie classic, and found it an enjoyable and memorable addition to the various adaptations that the corporation has produced during the Christmas period.

Thanks to their quality and exceptional source material, over the years watching an Agatha Christie adaptation has become a festive tradition over recent years, and if a BBC option is not available there is usually something, such as the excellent Crooked House we were treated to last year. I have come to view as a necessity at Christmas, rather like receiving a Terry’s Chocolate Orange or having a fight with pieces of wrapping paper!

My favourite by far was the utterly stupendous And Then There Were None in 2015, which was shown on the BBC and featured Charles Dance in what was, undoubtedly, the best performance of the entirety of his illustrious career. This adaptation was not without its detractors, and many believed it to be too dark, with the key issue many critics took was its deviation from its source material.

This is the case this year, and also in previous years. Although it missed the Christmas slot thanks to Ed Westwick’s sexual assault allegations, Ordeal by Innocence was another adaptation which proved divisive when the BBC aired it at the beginning of the year because the ending was completely changing from the original novel. In the case of The ABC Murders, the changes to the source text were less obvious and overriding, however they involved key elements of Poirot’s backstory, such as the idea that, instead of being a former policeman as he is in the novels, he is instead portrayed as a Priest, who fled to England when German soldiers burnt his church, in which a number of children were hiding, to the ground.

Despite this fundamental change, I personally feel that this is in no way disrespectful to the author, and it enhances rather than detracts from her legacy. These adaptations are allowing a whole new generation to experience Christie’s work, and although her novels were often twee and genteel, at their heart was the human experience and the cruel, vile side to humanity that lurks within even the most respectable and revered members of any community. Embracing this darker side to Christie’s work does not detract from it, and going a little off-piste to make your own mark on a book is nothing to be ashamed of, at least not in my book.

After all, the changes did not make the adaptation any less watchable, and John Malkovich’s performance as an ageing, withered Poirot was as mesmerizing as we all knew it was going to be the moment his casting was announced. Nursing a pain he keeps secret from even his closet friend, this version of the character is multi-dimensional and truly fascinating. Whilst he is not entirely canonical, he is certainly more so than many, such as Kenneth Branagh’s unique yet ultimately un-Poirotish portrayal, which sees the actor strutting about like a peacock rather than actually doing any thinking.

That being said, I am hopeful that Malkovich will resist the urge to return as Poirot. Let it remain in our memories as an excellent performance, as opposed to dragging it out until we hate it. Also, I rather like seeing new actors perform Christie each year, and whilst Malkovich and Rupert Grint, who starred as his reluctant link to officialdom as Inspector Crome, were both truly brilliant, it would be great to see someone new take on a role in 2019.

At the end of the day, if you’re a Christie fan that hasn’t already checked out the BBC’s version of The ABC Murders then please don’t let the negative reviews and publicity about the changes to the source material put you off. This is a magnificent reimagining of a classic Poirot story, and although it is not an exact replica of the novel, that’s for the best. The world would be awfully boring if filmmakers and TV producers were made to replicate novels word-for-word with no creative input of their own, and this version enhances the book and the Christie cannon far better than some imitations of other works, such as the latest Sherlock Holmes film, which has literally had viewers walking out of the cinema. Bring on next year’s BBC Christie is all I have to say!

A Quick Christmas Message From The Dorset Book Detective

christmas 24

Merry Christmas! This is just to let you know that I will be taking a lovely festive break to return to Dorset and have lovely food, nice company and, of course, great books! I’ll be back in the New Year so don’t worry- there’s much more to come! Have an incredible time yourselves and I hope you all have a well-earned rest!

Give The Gift of Reading This Christmas

 

folio society 2

As part of my first, possibly annual Christmas Gift Guide, featuring a range of quirky, unique gifts for book lovers, I showcased the stunning books on offer from the Folio Society. I also wrote an article on why beautiful books are the best gift this Christmas, which was published by LUXlife Magazine.

folio society

These stunning photographs of one of the society’s offerings, the Maigret Collection, were taken by my friend Patrick Doherty, and give you an insight into how beautiful these books are and how spectacular it would be to receive them this Christmas, or to watch a loved-one open them and see the delight on their face! So if you’re looking for a unique gift that will be truly be treasured, look no further!

Sergiu Lazin Interview: “Ever since I was a kid, all I ever wanted was to tell stories”

Sergiu Lazin MiracleSaga

Up-and-coming Sci-Fi author Sergiu Lazin gives me an insight into his work as his first novel is launched on Amazon Publishing!  

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards science fiction writing?

Ever since I was a kid, all I ever wanted was to tell stories. I still have my very first attempt at “creative writing” from when I was 8 or 9 years old. “The man who saved nature” – the story of an eco-warrior fighting poachers and polluters around the globe (a kind of mix between Captain Planet, Indiana Jones and Chuck Norris). I only managed to write about 10 pages before my older brother discovered it and ridiculed it to pieces (there were scenes of gratuitous killings, but in my defence, this was around the time of the Rambo movies). In any case, his criticism hit really hard and I abandoned the idea of telling stories with words, focusing instead on drawings. I decided that since he was the better writer, I would become the better artist.

Throughout my entire youth, these two creative outlets have taken turns in absorbing my attention. Whenever I would experience something profound in my life, the urge to capture it would always manifest, either in written or in visual form. When it was time to make a career choice, my heart was still oscillating between the two. My two college options were film school where I would study screenwriting and directing and art school where I would study graphic design and advertising.

I chose what I then considered to be the safer option: art-school, which was closer to home and easier to get in to. I still wonder what my life would have been like had I made the bolder choice.

While my head and my hands were learning how to be an artist in the digital age, my heart was longing for new stories to tell. With each new attempt to revive my passion for the written word, the stories were becoming less and less anchored in reality.

When did you really start writing? What really drove you to put your ideas into a story?

In college I started to write a novel vaguely inspired by that lifestyle. The final chapter that I wrote before abandoning it described the protagonists chasing after the ultimate high – a perfect chemical balance that they perceived as building a space ship. Every ingredient in their drug-cocktail was like a new module in the craft that was to transport them beyond their world.

Once complete, the main character enters a dream-like state where he envisions himself at a rave in a giant capsule orbiting around the Earth. The moment is captured and beamed into infinity at the speed of light. And that comes with the absolute certainty that someone, somewhere and sometime will receive the transmission and will know that humans existed and they relished being alive.

This idea that what we do in our lives can reverberate across infinity was so strong that, from that moment on, I knew that if I was ever going to write anything again, it would be science-fiction.

How does it feel to have your first book published online?

I was honestly expecting it to make me feel much more vulnerable. I have quite a few reasons to be nervous about people’s perception of my work. For one thing, English is not my native tongue (as you can probably guess by my name) Then there’s the fact that my education in literature extends only to the high-school curriculum of Romania (where I’m from). And lastly, this is the first body of work that I’ve taken to a level that I feel comfortable enough to showcase in public. All things considered, I prepared myself for the worst when deciding to self-publish. That was, in my perception, the risk of being ridiculed to pieces again (like what happened with my brother in my childhood) but this time at a global scale.

But I quickly realized that receiving overwhelming criticism is not the greatest hardship. The greatest hardship is getting criticism at all. Ever since I have published, all the time that I used to spend writing my story I now spend trying to get people to read my work.

The scale of the internet is like the scale of the Galaxy. Picture someone starring at the night sky on a clear night with no light pollution around, gazing through a telescope at The Milky Way in full, glorious display. They have to choose one celestial body to study and observe closer while the conditions are favourable. And you are one of the billions of stars within the spiral’s arm (and that’s if you’re lucky and you have star ratings on your book, otherwise you’re basically a piece of moonrock adrift in interstellar space, impossible to detect in this metaphor) That’s what it feels like to have your first book published online.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

Because this is my work of passion, I am not bound by the need to complete the work within a certain timeframe in order to generate revenue from it. This basically allows me to take my time. I actually had the first idea for this series over 5 years ago and have started writing it in one form or another several times. It was only 2 years ago that I decided to really put an effort into finishing a project for once. During this entire time, I have developed the story arc in great detail. So I know precisely what needs to be written next. The first Volume of my story will have three parts out of which the first part is completed and published online. What’s really exciting for me is knowing that the interesting parts are coming next. The first part is more about outlining the universe of the story, introducing the characters and setting up intriguing plot lines for each of them. I genuinely cannot wait to write what will happen next.

That being said, I still very much struggle with tone, phrasing and voice. I consider my writing style to be very lyrical and full-bodied (not a light Sunday read) so I often find myself wrestling to put down even the most basic of sentences. Whenever I sit down to write, I immediately know if I am in the mood for it or not. And if I’m not, I never try to force it. This would have to change if my first novel would become successful and people would want to read more. But if that were the case, I’m convinced that people’s enthusiasm towards my story would clear up any blockage for me.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Unfortunately, I’m very much not a team player. Even in my professional life as a graphic designer, when I used to work in advertising agencies and was part of a creative team, in every brain-storming meeting I would keep quiet and let everyone else talk, and then work on my own ideas alone. This formula has worked well for me in my profession. But, as always, when doing client work, you have to make compromises and ultimately change your work to suit your client’s fancy.

This is something I do not want to do in my writing. I want to tell the story of Miracle Saga alone and in my own way. I’m not interested in writing anything else or with anyone else. That being said, it’s impossible not to recognize the influence of writers and books that I cherish (or worship) in my own writing. Here are some of the books that I know have crept up into my novel, despite my best efforts: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, The Pandora Sequence by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom, Diary: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk (perhaps my favourite book of all time) and Solenoid by Mircea Cartarescu (sadly not yet translated from Romanian but an absolute treasure of a novel). To even stand in the turbulence of any of these forces of creation would make me crumble in reverence.

What’s next for your writing? Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Parts 2 and 3 of Miracle Saga – Volume 0 are going to be an incredible writing journey for me and as I am typing these words, I feel my fingers tingling with the anticipation of getting back to my story and my beloved characters.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

Between my day job, home-schooling my kid, trying to complete my own creative journey and struggling to promote my already published work, sadly I have little to no time left for reading. I’m also trying to keep my style as free from influence as I can, so right now I’m on a reading strike 😊

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Well, I guess in the end there’s only one thing left to say. I would be humbled and grateful to anyone willing to discover the first part of my saga – how it all began. I truly believe that my novel is unlike anything people have ever read before and that’s what I wanted to do since I was 8 or 9 years old. To tell a story that’s never been told before. Thank you.

It’s been a real pleasure finding out about a fascinating new author, so thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

 

 

 

Now’s A Great Time To Catch Up On The Best Books Published In 2018

many old books

Look, I know that 2018’s not been the best for most things, what with Trump still in power (how?!) and Brexit still a farce, but there is one upside- lot’s of awesome books were published this year!

So as the year draws to a close, now has never been a better time to seek out all of those brilliant books published over the past 12 months and have a good read. After all, most people will have some time off over the festive period, and so you’ll have plenty of time to really get stuck in and catch up before 2019 rolls around and there are even more new books to check out.

Many of the books published earlier this year will already either be on your shelf waiting, or else in charity shops or discount bookshops such as the Works, so you can pick them up cheaper than before and se what all the fuss was about. The past year has been a great one for readers, with top-class authors such as Stephen King, Lee Childs and Peter James all releasing one or more new tomes to keep you entertained.

There were also some exciting new surprises, such as the acclaimed This Is Going To Hurt, a former Junior Doctor’s perspective on the NHS, which is as funny as it is heart-breaking, and which I would thoroughly recommend you read if you haven’t already.

Among the other awesome releases earlier this year were Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, Stephen Hawking’s final offering Brief Answers to Big Questions and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and all of them deserve you’re attention as the year quickly reaches its conclusion.

So what are you waiting for? Fill your online shopping cart, run to the bookshop or just steal off your friends- whatever you do read some 2018 treasures before the New Year brings you new books to add to your TBR pile.

10-33 Assist PC Review: A Thrilling Realistic Police Procedural

1033CoverProofFlat

Written by a real police detective, Desmond P. Ryan, who I previously interviewed, 10-33 Assist PC offers a unique realism, allowing readers the chance to bond with a tough, determined detective and his team as they race against time to stop a human trafficking ring.

The first in the Mike O’Shea detective series, 10-33 Assist PC draws on Ryan’s experience as a detective to show Mike works to crack a prostitution ring. He is on the verge of getting them when an undercover from another unit burns him. With only days left before their pimps shuttle the girls out of the country, Mike pushes his team into overdrive.

Then disaster strikes, and Mike has a personal fight on his hands. He and his team work tirelessly as they race against time to catch the criminals before they leave the country and the team’s efforts are completely scuppered.

Readers will be able to clearly see that the book is written by someone with experience in the police; from the dialogue down to the description of the police station, there is attention to detail that cannot be fudged here. However, unlike some more realistic novels, Ryan has skillfully avoided overburdening the reader with too much detail and tedium. We are all aware of the bureaucracy and general bullshit that goes on in any office environment- we don’t need to read about it, and Ryan avoids this well, ensuring that readers remain gripped and the action is perfectly tempered with just the right amount of detail and realism.

Incorporating undercover officers, the grizzly realities of shift work and the drudgery that comes before the real chase, the novel gives an honest account of the day-to-day work of police officers. The second book in the series is out shortly, and if you haven’t already, I’d strongly urge you to check it and its predecessor out- they’re definitely worth a read!

 

Christmas Gifts For The Bibliophile In Your Life That Aren’t (All) Books!

rare birds books

Christmas is a time for giving, and so I decided to check out an array of gifts for book lovers that aren’t just adding to their collection.

Among these gifts is an innovative book subscription service called The Rare Birds Book Club. Designed for those who want to broaden their literary horizons. Focused on contemporary women’s fiction, the club sends out one book per month which offers readers scintillating stories, courageous heroines and fulfilling endings.

Those subscribed to the book club will receive a surprise book at the start of every month along with a personal introduction to the book from Founder and Avid Reader Rachel Wood, as well as an explanation as to why she thinks it’s special. After completing the book, they can then log on to the Rare Birds digital book club where they can chat about the book with others as well as access members-only bonus content.

british library

For those who fancy giving something a bit more interactive, and which gives back to the wider community, then membership to the British Library could be the answer you’ve been looking for. For just £80 a year members get unlimited access to the library, as well as a range of additional perks such as free entry to exhibitions, listing guests, 20% the library’s restaurants, cafes and shops, as well as entry to the Knowledge Centre Bar and daytime Member’s Room.

Supporting a non-profit like the British Library also means that you are helping to advance and develop as the world’s largest document delivery service, providing millions of items a yea to customers all over the world. It’s always great to give gifts that are more than just indulgences at Christmas, and this is a great one as the receiver gets something too!

maigret three volumes

If you really must give books, at least give your loved ones beautiful ones! The Folio Society produces stunning illustrated versions of classics. There’s something for everyone, and they’re all beautifully crafted, making them a gift that your loved ones will truly cherish.

As a crime fiction fan, my top tip is always going to be the beautiful set of illustrated Maigret novels, with a sumptuous three-volume set introduced by Julian Barnes and illustrated by Harry Brockway. Beautiful woodcut illustrations show the Parisian detective with his trademark pipe, hat and overcoat, set against a grey backdrop to elude to the seedier side of the French capital that Simenon portrays in his dark and insightful novels. The three offered here Maigret and the Calame Report, Maigret and the Saturday Caller and Maigret and the Wine Merchant, are all classic examples of this exceptional writer, and make for great reading.

If you’re not sure of the genre to go for and fancy giving a classic gift, then there are a selection of fine books to choose from exclusively available from the society. For example, there is the beautiful Middlemarch, illustrated by Pierre Mornet. George Eliot’s rich realist work telling the tale of a manufacturing town and the lives of its inhabitants is bought to live in this colourful edition which showcases the true beauty of this evocative story.

Modern fiction loves will be entranced by Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which features an afterword and note by the author as well as colourful illustrations by Jesus Cisneros. An intoxicating and deeply powerful story of humanity, love and spirituality, this beautiful edition of Coelho’s classic will brighten any booklover’s shelves.

With such a selection of treats, I wouldn’t be surprised if you ending up picking out a book or a membership for yourself too- don’t worry, I won’t tell! Happy Shopping!