Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dexter

I'm an impatient viewer: sometimes it takes me less than 5 minutes to make up my mind that I don't want to watch a particular movie or TV series. Most of the time, I'm right. With Dexter, I was wrong.

My tolerance for violence and disturbing topics (be it on the screen, in newspapers or in books) is rather low, so as soon as I saw flashbacks of teenage victims, I made up my mind it's not a program for me. Months later, having heard so many good things about the series, I decided to close my eyes during the flashbacks and to give Dexter another chance.

Glad I did. I love the intelligence with which the script's been written, the unpredictability and the quirky humour. The dialogues are good, the acting's good, the plot's brilliant. I can't understand how the writer did it, but - unbelievable as it may seem - she made me care about Dexter.

I still close my eyes and my mind during the gory bits.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

If you like Harlan Coben and Terry Pratchett....

I have a problem: a tall to-read pile and nothing to read. Perhaps it's the mood I'm in (and have been in for the last year or so). Perhaps I've grown tired of fiction. Perhaps as a novelist I now know the craft so well I read over-critically.

Whatever the cause, the result is: I'm desparate for something to read.

Google is no help. All the "if you like Terry Pratchett books, you will also like" sites assume I like fantasy. All the "if you like Harlan Coben books, you will also like" sites assume I like thrillers. And yet what I like the Coben books is the human nature aspect, the moral dilemmas, the pacing. (I also like the sexy Win, but I'm prepared to read books without him as a character.)

I want good prose, characters I care about, a clever plot and issues to think about long after I finish reading. Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Calling All Lee Child Fans! Who should play Jack Reacher?

Unbelievable as it may seem at first to those who know Lee Child's work, Tom Cruise is in talks to play the six-foot-five protagonist, Jack Reacher. And yet, The Guardian reports that Child himself has expressed eagerness for Cruise to take the part. "Reacher's size in the books is a metaphor for an unstoppable force, which Cruise portrays in his own way," said Child, in answer to fans who felt Cruise might be too diminutive for the role.


Personally, I think this could work. Tom Cruise is more than a pretty face (which, incidentally, is nowadays lined with character), he's also a pretty damned good actor. Anybody who doesn't know it yet, should watch the arty drama Magnolia (1999) in which Cruise plays a bad-ass bad ass. And Rainman (1988), for which he should have got an Oscar. And Born On The 4th Of July, for which he got an Oscar nomination as well as the Golden Globe Award.

Jack Reacher is a complex character. He's a Batman-style vigilante, a logical strategist, a champion shooter, a loner, a compassionate man, a cold-blooded killer. Now I ask you this: who can portray all that on the silver screen, without looking like all brawn and no brain, without appearing a wimp or a killing machine or an action hero?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

An ace up your sleeve

I've just read the article "The Unfair Advantage" by Graham McGregor (not to be confused with Ewan). Graham is a marketing consultant and his advice is good solid lateral thinking stuff. It's about going the extra mile for your customer, and in doing so, exploring niches that your competitors failed to spot.

To his list of ideas, I'd like to add a few of my own.

Turning "fail" into "sale"
The other week, dissatisfied with the quality, I returned a pair of children's shoes to Pumpkin Patch. After a summer of wear (perhaps 30 times all in all, and for a few hours at a time), the soles had developed holes and had separated from the upper shoe. Some shops might have tried to argue "wear and tear", but Pumpkin Patch simply gave me my money back. I didn't even have the receipt - they just relied on the fact that the shoe line was less than a year old and was only sold through them. Did they manage to retain me as a customer? Did I spend more money at Pumpkin Patch that day than they refunded for the shoes? You bet. And, you bet.

Go below your quote
My local panelbeater, Trevor Hanson of the Trevor Hanson Collision Centre, deserves all the customers he can cope with. Not only did he honour a quote that was more than 6 months old (what can I say, I'm slow to care for my car), he also managed to complete the job for about 25% less than agreed.

Give free advice
This happened to me more times than I can recall, so I'll just quote one example. An insulation expert told me exactly how to insulate the front door, where to get the materials and how to glue them on. The result? Satisfied that he knew exactly what he was talking about, I paid him to do the job.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Books we love

Of course, there can be no consensus. Not ever. My father had a saying to illustrate the fact that people's taste vary: "Some men," he'd say, "prefer blondes; others prefer whisky."

With that in mind, I almost hesitate to write a post about books we love. We did a quick poll in my book club group, and we discovered that, no matter which book we mentioned, for every two members who enjoyed it, another member would hate it. I guess two to one are not such bad odds... if everybody on the planet bought my books and only 33.3% disliked them, I'd be very happy (not to mention fabulously rich).

Still. The books in which I personally found magic enough to keep them on my shelves, include:
  • everything by Joshilyn Jackson, because of their quirkiness and the beauty of language
  • "Gone with the wind", because I admire the heroine
  • "I don't know how she does it", because I identify with the heroine
  • "We need to talk about Kevin", because I dislike the heroine
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld, because of the ideas and humour
  • Harlan Coben's thrillers, because I love his voice
  • Nick Hornby's fiction, because it speaks to me
By the same logic, some books I put away unfishined, even though they are humorous and I like the heroine. No matter how beautiful the language, I refuse to read about sad things (the Kevin book excluded), which automatically crosses almost all award-winning fiction off my bedside table. In that, I suspect, I'm a majority, though you wouldn't know it judging by the number of tear-jerking, twisted, desolate literature that gets published year after year.

Oh well. Eclectic tastes are not always a blessing.

Incidentally, I'm not a man and I prefer whisky. Single malt.