Good Thriller, Not Such A Hot Gumshoe Story

I started hearing the rumbles about the “don’t-miss” new Netflix series, Altered Carbon, almost as soon as it dropped on Netflix, and checked it out with some degree of curiosity because everyone was raving about how it was Blade Runner meets Sam Spade.

Yeah…not so much.

I was intrigued by the first episode which set up a neat little murder mystery, complete with femme fatales and dodgy characters galore, set in a grimly advanced future.  The hero even had a personal stake in solving the murder.

So far, so good.

I’m only a couple of episodes from the end of the first season (I believe there are two more seasons in the making), and can say with a fair amount of confidence about the season overall that:

1.  It’s a brilliant thriller.

The layered and complex future setting doesn’t overtake the story.  There are some great characters mixing it up in unexpected ways, and the hero is constantly barely a step ahead of murderous trouble.

The series is certainly compelling.


2.  It forgot it was a hard-boiled murder mystery.

The hard-boiled characters are still there, because it is a dystopian setting, so they get to come along for the ride.

Unfortunately, the massive back story the series must go through to explain the present day story overwhelms the mystery.  (The book the series is based upon is over 500 pages, and it shows.) There has been very little movement on the mystery itself for a few episodes.

If you don’t mind pure thrills and chills, then you may enjoy this futuristic thriller.   It’s damn fine viewing, within that perspective.

Just don’t hold your breath waiting for a mystery to unravel.

The Perfect Place for A Spy Thriller

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned in any of my posts yet that I’m in the process of writing my first spy thriller series.

I would have mentioned it on the about page, and there’s already a yawningly empty book page for the said books to show up when they’re done.  I just don’t think I’ve actively talked about the series in posts, yet.

Mostly what I talk about in posts are items I come across through my research and reading.

But yes, I’m writing a spy thriller series.  To be exact, I’m still plotting it, although that’s an improvement on where I was when I started this blog.  I didn’t even have a concept worked out, then.

Now I’m actually plotting and the details are coming together very nicely.  The books and the characters are taking shape and starting to talk back, which is always a great place to reach when building a new story.

It’s taking more time than I’m used to because I’m writing it in my spare time.  That means there’s a lot of “think” time in between plotting sessions, which helps the boys in the basement offer up some peripheral and quite interesting lateral suggestions.

I’m not quite ready to share anything yet, except to say that the first book will open in Morocco, which is a slight and deliberate tip of the hat to Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise series of books, which are still among my favourites.

Morocoo is a fascinating country.   Here’s one of the odd contrasts that demonstrates the country’s bipolar character:  There are great surfing beaches up and down the coast, while people go snow skiing in the High Atlas Mountains just to the east.  At the foot of those mountains, the Sahara desert begins.

Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

That Morocco in a nutshell.


A Plot That Would Have Worked.

On this day in 1606 (411 years ago, to save your fingers), Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were executed for plotting to blow up the House of Lords.

Condemned to be hung, drawn and quartered, Fawkes managed to throw himself from the platform and break his own neck, avoiding the remainder of his sentence.

The Gunpowder Plot is commemorated these day, by Bonfire Night, when effigies of Guy Fawkes are burned and fireworks set off…at least, in countries where ordinary citizens can let off fireworks.

Interestingly, the ITV Network in the UK produced a show, The Gunpowder Plot: Exploding The Legend in 2005, which featured a fully recreated Houses of Parliament (as they were in 1606), and set up a trial explosion using the equivalent in modern explosives that Guy Fawkes was found guarding.

The resulting explosion demonstrated that the plot, if it had been successful, would have completely destroyed the Houses of Parliament and everyone in the building.

Which isn’t too shabby for the 17th century, when you consider the ineptitude of some of today’s terrorists.

Who Got There Before Gagarin?

From  “The Haunting Mystery Of The USSR’s Lost Cosmonauts“:

In 1961, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. However, some conspiracy theorists speculate that the Soviets reached the cosmos on an earlier mission but covered it up because they lost cosmonauts.

Although, in the grand scheme of things, the USA has lost as many astronauts as Russia.

Russia, though, is the only country to lose astronauts out in space.

A Middle-of-the-Road look at the Cambridge Five

From The Guardian, in review of The Enemies Within, by Trevor Louden:

In Davenport-Hines’s conclusion, the security services were neither “silly asses nor obtuse reactionaries” but decent public servants: “generally subtle, patient, responsive and astute, though never superhuman or infallible”. After a hundred years of spy writing not much has changed: those who step between the reflecting mirrors of British and Soviet intelligence generally have their heads turned.

If the needle has swung back to the middle, is there anything else to be said about the five?

Never Was A Death So Deserved

On this day in 47AD, the Roman Emperor Caligula, a despotic sadist of unmeasured proportions, was assassinated by his own guards.

He reigned for three years and 10 months and in that time, the fear and paranoia he engendered was fueled, in part, by a system of household spies he put in place.  He used slaves and guards, and members of his own family to learn of plots against him.

He also listened to bodiless voices, who proclaimed him a god, too.

No one’s perfect, I guess.