Enjoying dark comedy or gallows humor (as it was originally referred to) is an acquired taste. It is said that when the condemned man climbed to the top of the gallows, where the noose was placed around his neck, he was asked if he had any last words--he quickly responded: "...Look at all this rotted wood. I don't think it's safe up here..."
Violet & Daisy is a dark comedy. It has been placed in the "Action" genre in the stacks, but this is misleading. Sure, there are a couple of shoot-'em-up scenes; however, they play mostly for comic effect. The gunplay just enhances the absurd world that our two heroines exist in.
Violet is played by Alexis Bledel, who grew up starring in "Gilmore Girls" for 7 years on TV. She is the brains and brawn of a pair of professional hit-men. Daisy is the younger, less experienced partner, who is played by Academy Award-nominated actress, Saoirse Ronan. Together, the two are hired by Danny Trejo to take out sad sack Michael, who has such a strong death wish that he double-downs on his likelihood to die.
Michael is played by James Gandolfini, the actor who died last June at the age of 51. Michael is trying desperately to atone for his bad behavior as a widowed father, and ameliorate his teenage daughter's resentment. His wife, (her mother), passed away years back and Michael failed in his fatherly responsibilities...or at least failed in his daughter's eyes.
Violet & Daisy are motivated by high fashion and a lack of conscience. The contracts they fulfill buy them pretty clothes. The secret to their success seems to be that they never have to have any contact with their victims. Who knows what would happen if they ever had to make eye contact or worse yet, speak to their victims before "poppin'em." Maybe a movie might be made about that!
In 1955 my hero was Davy Crockett. Back then I even thought I knew the words to the Disney TV theme "The Ballad Of Davy Crockett" by Bill Hayes. My version went something like this: "...Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greatest state in the land of the free. Killed him a 'bar' when he was only three. Ran around the woods in his coonskin BVDs!..." Hey, I was only five years old. The days of the coonskin craze have long passed. So, imagine my delight when I found Bob Thompson's new biography Born On A Mountaintop: On The Road With Davy Crockett And The Ghosts Of The Wild Frontier in our Marketplace.
Bob Thompson, former feature writer for the Washington Post, has an easy-going writing style. Thompson explores the many myths and magic of the Davy Crockett lore. Reading this book is like watching a bloodhound tracking a scent...no stone is left unturned.
One chapter outlines why Walt Disney chose Fess Parker to star in his TV studio's project after viewing a scene from the 1954 film "Them." There is discussion about why it took so long for John Wayne to complete his 1960 film "The Alamo." And of course there is the comparison between Wayne's interpretation of Davy Crockett and Billy Bob Thornton's, as viewed in his 2004 release of "The Alamo."
In a lot of ways Davy Crockett helped perpetrate many of the popular myths about his life. One notion that is still controversial today is how he died at the Alamo. If he was alive today, he most likely could add "spin doctor" to his resume.
A few of us were in the AHML Call Center a couple of months ago trying to select trending topics for the Marketplace. World War Z was being released at the theaters that upcoming Friday, so I chose the Zombie genre. Book titles were furiously flying around when Jeremy proposed Zombie, Illinois. It got a big laugh, mostly because we thought he was joking...tossing out a gag title.
Turns out it was no joke. Author Scott Kenemore is carving out a small niche for himself in the ever-growing zombie genre. His two previous books were: Zombie, Ohio: A Tale Of The Undead and Zombies Vs. Nazis : A Lost History Of The Walking Dead. Although this book's entitled Zombie, Illinois, it could have easily instead be called "Zombie, Chicago."
The story takes places entirely in Chicago, on the night that zombies literately hit the beach. It is told in alternating first-person narratives from the perspective of its three main characters: Ben Bennington, Pastor Leopold Mack and Maria Ramirez. Ben is a reporter for "Brain's Chicago Business." He's a lonely, outta-shape, middle-age hack that’s always on the hunt for that one big scoop that will launch his stagnant career. Pastor Mack heads the congregation of "The Church of Heaven's God in Christ Lord Jesus." Though the church's name is more than a mouthful, Mack has the undying respect of his flock and some deep-hidden skeletons stashed in his closet. Maria's closet also contains some dark secrets, but what you see is mostly what you get. She is the drummer for a female Chicago-based rock band that is moderately popular. Can she help it that her old man is a former wife-beater and child-abuser who has transformed himself into a prominent city alderman?
The plot is simplistic: Zombies arrive and begin to eat their way through the city while the graveyards expel tons of reinforcements. The corrupt city leaders choose sides and try to use this apocalyptic catastrophe to position themselves into power. Our three reluctant heroes join forces and for selfish reasons try to save themselves and their city.
From chapter to chapter it becomes obvious that Kenemore cannot be a Chicago native. His jaded view of our city seems to rise at times to comic proportions. Poetic license forces one to give him credit where credit may or may not be due, although the many references to Chicago landmarks and neighborhoods, on the most part, remain accurate. The narrative style makes it refreshingly different for a zombie novel. I will not spoil the story by disclosing whether the zombies are fast-moving or operate in slow-motion. Sorry, you'll have to read the book.
This is not only the 3rd installment in the "Joona Linna Mystery" series by the married, Swedish, literary couple, Lars Kepler -- it just might be the best.
Joona Linna is Sweden's version of Sherlock Holmes. He's fiercely independent, caring, headstrong, "never wrong" and always gets his man (or woman). This was evident in their premier novel, The Hypnotist. These characteristics were further supported in the sequel, The Nightmare. Joona is not only a brilliant investigator, he is a formidable martial artist who's trim, tenacious, and tragic.
Almost 20 years ago, Joona sent his wife and young daughter away to protect them from evil-doers that were seeking revenge. Joona has had no contact with either and longs for his lost loves. He has a soft spot when children are involved in his investigations.
The Fire Witness is loaded with soft spots. A double-murder is committed at a home for wayward girls. The prime suspect, Vicki, only a child herself, flees the crime scene and while on the run, is suspected of kidnapping another younger child...a boy who is briefly left unattended in a parked car. It is not Joona's case, since he is on suspension for previous traitorous conduct. Joona is able to position himself as an "observer" where he proceeds to get emotionally involved in the hunt for Vicky.
Joona also proceeds to get into more trouble with his superiors by not following the conditions of his suspension. He enrolls the aid of a local "medium" who thinks she has seen the true killer. Her visions are discounted immediately by the unimaginative police investigators assigned to the homicide/kidnapping, but not by Joona, who never discounts anything.
There are a load of suspects that are not discounted by Joona. In between his continuing search for his wife and daughter and that of Vicky and the boy hostage, Joona juggles his schedule for his suspension hearing and his ongoing romance with a fellow policewoman.
Lars Kepler in reality is Alexander Ahndoril and his wife Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril. They create magic together and have a long, successful career in their future, and one doesn't have to be a seer to know that...just an avid mystery reader.
A bestselling author in Japan, Keigo Higashino, has 13 books in publication. He only has two translated so far into English. His first is, Devotion of Suspect X, which is a very clever murder mystery that pairs two brilliant minds; each trying to out-think the other.
This book has a simple factory worker, Heisuke, who tragically loses his wife in a motor accident. His only daughter, Monami, is also injured in the crash, but survives. Or does she?
When Monami awakes in the hospital after being in a coma, she appears as herself, but her body is inhabited by her mother, Naoko. This is needless to say, very difficult for Heisuke to accept; however, the person lying in the hospital bed knows facts and information that only Naoko could know.
What grows is an outwardly unique relationship between father and daughter that borders on the bizarre between husband and wife.
This book has a film adaptation that is an international block-buster-box-office hit. It is not yet available in the USA. Several of Higashino's books are adapted to TV and film. He is a very visual and versatile writer.