Archive for April 2017

Songs from the Vault – at the movies (part 3)

Avid fans will be aware that two previous posts featured some of my favourite tunes from the movies.  This third and final post on this subject just about takes me to the end of the list that I originally drew up (and kept adding to!).

For the first tune I return to Once upon a time in the West; one of my favourite films and featuring one of the greatest themes ever by the one and only Ennio Morricone.  It’s an epic tune for an epic movie.

We jump from 1968 to 2011 and the movie Drive.  A cult movie if ever there was one, Drive, based on the noirish/pulp novel of the same name by James Sallis, featured one of the best soundtracks in recent times.  The standout track is A Real Hero by College and Electric Youth.

Tom Ford’s beautiful film, A Single Man (2009), based on the 1964 short novel by Christopher Isherwood (which like Drive is worth reading), features an equally elegant soundtrack.  The original music is composed mainly by Abel Korzeniowski, who composed the music for the series Penny Dreadful and the recent thriller Nocturnal Animals.  My favourite track is Becoming George, the George of the title played by a perfectly cast Colin Firth.  When I get round to it I’ll have to learn this on the piano.

Staying in an elegant vein we move to Alberto Iglesias’s Me voy a morir de amor, from the Spanish film Lucia y el sexo (Sex and Lucia).  Google translate tells me that the former means, ‘I’m going to die of so much love’ (see what kind of stuff you can learn here!).  I’ve not seen the movie (‘yeah right’, I hear you cry!).  I first heard the tune during season three of Mad Men (whose production team worked on A Single Man) and it’s one of my go to chill out tunes.

The penultimate tune is from Brian De Palma’s classic movie Carlito’s Way (1993).  Joe Cocker’s You are so beautiful features a couple of times in the movie so it must be good!

I’m going to cheat with my final choice.  It’s the theme to the 1973 television series The Water Margin by Masaru Sato.  Sato composed the music to some of Akira Kurosawa’s greatest movies, including Yojimbo and Throne of Blood and you can hear why he was employed to do the music for the Water Margin.

When compiling these lists it’s always difficult deciding what’s in and what’s out.  Honourable mentions go to Lalo Schifrin – Dirty Harry, Bullitt, and Enter the Dragon; Herbie Hancock – Death Wish; John Powell – the Bourne movies; and Johns Barry and Williams.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my selections.

Book review – Spies!

I’m a big fan of spy novels and have recently enjoyed Charles Cumming’s series of novels featuring Thomas Kell, one of which I reviewed last year.  I wanted to have a break from Thomas Kell and was pointed in the direction of Mick Herron and his Jackson Lamb books.  There are four Jackson Lamb books (and one novella) and I recently read a couple of them back to back:  Slow Horses and Dead Lions.


The books are also know as the Slough House series, named after the book’s fictitious building housing the MI5 agents, led by Jackson Lamb.  Slough House is where dead beat MI5 agents are put out to pasture, having screwed up at some point in the career.  The inhabitants of Slough House are dubbed ‘Slow Horses’ by their MI5 HQ counterparts (you’d hope for a better pun, wouldn’t you!).  As you might expect, the books follow some kind of formula: the slow horses end up having to contend with an incident, overcoming their dislike of one another and their perceived incompetence to win against all the odds!  The first book focusses on a beheading to be beamed over the internet.  As is often the case, there’s more to this than meets the eye!  It’s hard to say what the second is about without giving anything away, so I won’t.

The Jackson Lamb vs. Slough House thing is interesting.  Jackson Lamb is by far the most interesting character.  An out of shape, burnt out cold warrior who we learn has seen action over the east side of the Berlin Wall.  I read Dead Lions hoping that it ventured into Lamb’s past.  It did, but not enough to my liking.  Both are well written, and don’t take themselves too seriously, getting bogged down in detail, which is where I think John Le Carre’s books suffer.  I’d recommend both and plan on reading the others at some point.  But if I had to recommend Charles Cumming or Mick Herron, I’d have to go with Cumming.

I’ve read a few Robert Harris books: Fatherland, Imperium (reviewed last year) and The Ghost.  I’d recommend all of them and was expecting great things of An Officer and a Spy (2014).  The book is based on a true story, taking place at the turn of the twentieth century.  A man, Dreyfus, has been convicted of treason only for a rising star of the army, Picquart, just appointed to run the intelligence section, to question the decision.  Picquart’s one-man crusade to determine and prove Dreyfus’s innocence sets Picquart against the army’s top brass and politicians.  While well written, the book takes a while to get going and it wasn’t until way after the half-way mark that it felt like the plot was gathering momentum.  Moreover, I didn’t really care for any of the characters, especially Picquart, who appeared particularly two dimensional.

Regrettably, I wouldn’t recommend this book.  It hasn’t however put me off Harris and I look forward to reading Lustrum, the follow-up to Cicero.