TV Review – SHERWOOD (2022)

SHERWOOD (2022, UK, 6 x 60m, 15) ****
Crime, Mystery
dist. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (UK); pr co. House Productions; d. Lewis Arnold, Ben A. Williams w. James Graham; exec pr. Lewis Arnold, James Graham, Juliette Howell, Ben Irving, Tessa Ross, Harriet Spencer; pr. Rebecca Hodgson; ph. Sam Care, Simon Archer (Colour | 2.00:1); m sup. Catherine Grieves; ed. Sacha Szwarc, Sam White; ad. Stephanie Nicolle.
cast: David Morrissey (DCS Ian St Clair), Lesley Manville (Julie Jackson), Robert Glenister (DI Kevin Salisbury), Kevin Doyle (Fred Rowley), Claire Rushbrook (Cathy Rowley), Lorraine Ashbourne (Daphne Sparrow), Terence Maynard (DS Cleaver), Perry Fitzpatrick (Rory Sparrow), Andrea Lowe (DI Taylor), Philip Jackson (Mickey Sparrow), Clare Holman (Helen St Clair), Adam Hugill (Scott Rowley), Adeel Akhtar (Andy Fisher), Bally Gill (Neel Fisher), Nadine Marshall (Jenny Harris), Bill Jones (Ronan Sparrow), Harpal Hayer (PC Arjun Patel), Chloe Harris (PC Kirsty Dove), Safia Oakley-Green (Cinderella Jackson), Don Gilet (Jacob Harris), Mark Addy (Ron St Clair), Alun Armstrong (Gary Jackson), Stephen Tompkinson (Warnock), Lindsay Duncan (Jennifer Hale).
In this moody crime drama, seemingly patterned after the highly popular BROADCHURCH, two shocking murders shatter an already fractured community, leading to one of the largest manhunts in British history while threatening to inflame historic divisions sparked during the Miners’ Strike three decades before. Intercutting the two time periods enables writer Graham to set the character background and the story involves a large cast of highly accomplished actors. The performances of the ensemble cast are uniformly excellent The result is a largely absorbing drama that only wanders through its later episodes as establishing backstory for many of the characters takes precedence. The mystery element switches between the search for the murderer of Armstrong’s former NUM member to that of a police spy who has, unknown to the rest of the community, remained there. There are also personal dramas for most of the lead characters to deal with – notably the antagonism between detectives Morrissey and Glenister. The portrayal of a community divided by ongoing grudges carried over from the miner’s strike of 1984 is painstakingly detailed, but the finale which gathers all those characters together to have their say feels a little staged and manufactured but serves to hammer home the points.

SHAFT AMONG THE JEWS PUBLISHED 50 YEARS AGO TODAY

Dial Hardback (USA)

SHAFT AMONG THE JEWS by Ernest Tidyman was published in hardback in the US by Dial Press on 29 June 1972 and now celebrates its fiftieth anniversary.

In the book, Shaft is hired by a group of Jewish diamond merchants to find out what is causing the destabilisation of their business. Morris Blackburn, an ambitious trader, is in financial difficulties and using his right-hand man, David Alexander, to source his stock illegally and then cut the supply line. Blackburn is visited by Avrim Herzel, an old friend of his father, who claims to have developed a formula for manufacturing synthetic diamonds and wants his formula to be a gift to the world. Blackburn plans for the old man to teach him his methods, then secretly plots to kill him and use the formula for personal profit. But Herzel is also being sought by Ben Fischer and his Israeli Secret Service agents, having left his homeland with the formula. Also looking for Herzel is his daughter, Cara. When Shaft goes undercover at Blackburn’s store and Cara turns up looking for her father the various parties come together explosively.

Inspiration for SHAFT AMONG THE JEWS came from a 1968 New York Times report on the murder of three travelling diamond salesmen over a three-month period. In the report executive secretary Arnold J. Lubin spoke on behalf of New York’s Diamond Dealers Club expressing fear of “Syndicate” involvement.

Tidyman was pleased with his work on the novel and in a letter to James Lynch of the New York Times said, “I think it’s better than the first one but what the hell.”

The UK hardback would be published on 15 February 1973 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Paperback versions of the book would follow in the US through Bantam in June 1973 and in the UK through Corgi on 21 September 1973.

Dial Press Release (May 1972)

Book Review – BREAD (1974) by Ed McBain

BREAD (1974) ****
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Pan Books, 1976, 191pp
First published in 1974
© Ed McBain, 1974
ISBN: 978-0-3302-4850-2
Blurb: The summer heat is sweltering. Tempers are rising. When the watchman in a warehouse filled with imported wooden figurines dies with a bullet to his head, the cops of the 87th Precinct are called in–but the case doesn’t end there. A fatal hunger for “bread” seems to be spreading throughout the city as a hooker loses her life in the quest for dough. Money is lost in a warehouse fire. Cash is flying in a slum redevelopment deal. And what the cops find behind a tale of fire and money is murder–and lots of it.
Comment: The 29th book in McBain’s 87th Precinct series returns to the single plot/case scenario of the early books and is a highly satisfying read. McBain’s cast of detectives is augmented by the bigoted, but relentless, Ollie Weeks of the 83rd. He is a colourful character and his interaction with Carella and Hawes creates an interesting dynamic. McBain’s authorial flourishes add his own personality to the storytelling. The dialogue flows easily throughout as the detectives doggedly get to the bottom of arson and murder with a shady cast of suspects.

Book Review – HAIL TO THE CHIEF (1973) by Ed McBain

HAIL TO THE CHIEF (1973) **½
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Pan Books, 1975, 140pp
First published in 1973
© Ed McBain, 1973
ISBN: 978-0-3302-4491-4
Blurb: Carella looked in the frozen ditch. Kling fanned his flashlight over the naked bodies. Who was responsible – Death’s Heads, Scarlet Avengers or the Yankee Rebels? A couple of detectives with six corpses on their hands needed all the help they could get. They wouldn’t get it from the gangs, that was for sure. Those guys didn’t fool around. You were either their friends or you were their enemies. All hell was set to break loose…
Comment: Book number 28 in McBain’s 87th Precinct series is another departure from format. This time McBain interweaves the police investigation with the statement of the key perpetrator as Carella and Kling move between the three key gangs whilst trying to solve a multiple murder. The problem here is that we cannot really invest in these gangland characters. This is a similar problem to that encountered in McBain’s earlier attempt to tackle youth gangs in his 1960 novel, See Them Diealthough there he had a better framework with which to add some social commentary and colourful characters. The fact that the mystery element is all but removed from this novel turns it into more of an examination of gang culture as a metaphor for national, international and cultural conflict. That it also feels manufactured shows how much the subject is outside of McBain’s comfort zone. His strengths have always been in plot development, character and dialogue and here these qualities are less evident. As a result, this book is one of his least successful efforts.

Film Review – DIAMONDS (1975)

DIAMONDS (1975, Switzerland/Israel/USA/UK, 108m, PG) **½
Crime, Drama
dist. AVCO Embassy Pictures (USA), Fox-Rank (UK); pr co. AmeriEuro Pictures / Euramat Films; d. Menahem Golan; w. Menahem Golan, David Paulsen; pr. Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan; ph. Adam Greenberg (Eastmancolor | 1.85:1); m. Roy Budd; ed. Dov Hoenig; ad. Kuli Sander.
cast: Robert Shaw (Charles / Earl Hodgson), Richard Roundtree (Archie), Barbara Hershey (Sally (as Barbara Seagull)), Shelley Winters (Zelda Shapiro), Yosef Shiloach (Mustafa), Shaike Ophir (Moshe), Gadi Yagil (Gaby), Yona Elian (Zippi), Yehuda Efroni (Salzburg), Yossi Graber (Rabinowitz), Bomba Tzur (Momo), Aryeh Moskona (Avram), Tali Goldberg (Policewoman), Arik Dichner (Arik), Chen Plotkin (Danny Rabinowitz), Naomi Blumenthal (Ruth Rabinowitz (as Naomi Greenbaum)).
This minor heist movie sees Shaw as a British aristocrat who decides to become a thief as a way of embarrassing his security expert twin brother, who has built the supposedly impregnable Diamond Exchange in Tel Aviv. For the caper, Shaw enlists ex-con Roundtree, a heist expert, and his girlfriend Hershey (here billed as Barbara Seagull) to assist. Golan’s direction and shot setups are haphazard and the pacing is inconsistent as it gets bogged down with the need to add location colour. Shaw is much too good for the material, whilst Budd’s excellent pulsing score helps to add some tension to the heist climax. Winters’ role as an American woman looking for a suitor is superfluous. The theme song over the end credits is sung by The Three Degrees.

Book Review – LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE DEAF MAN (1973) by Ed McBain

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE DEAF MAN (1973) ***½
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Pan Books, 1976, 160pp
First published in 1973
© Ed McBain, 1973
ISBN: 978-0-3302-4307-1
Blurb: “You’ll have to speak a little louder,” the voice said. “I m a little hard of hearing.” Between a highly successful cat burglar and a hippie crucifixion, the 87th Precinct definitely doesn’t need the Deaf Man showing up again especially since his two previous appearances resulted in blackmail, murder, and general havoc. But at least they have him now…unless he had them first. The Deaf Man can hardly contain his glee. Detective Steve Carella is about to inadvertently help him rob a bank. Each day, he mails Carella a picture to keep the game going. The first two are pictures of J. Edgar Hoover, while the next ones involve George Washington. All are clues, obviously. But how do they add up? And will the 87th Precinct find out before the Deaf Man has the last laugh?
Comment: The Deaf Man, last seen in 1968’s Fuzz, returns for this the 27th book in McBain’s prolific 87th Precinct series. It would appear that McBain was looking to cash in on the movie adaptation of Fuzz, released the previous year. This time the Deaf Man’s scheme returns to his roots from 1960’s The Heckler, by his attempts to tease and wrongfoot the detectives, and in particular Carella, whilst planning a bank heist. As was becoming a regular approach, McBain weaves in two other unrelated plots: the first concerning apartment burglaries, where the perpetrator leaves a kitten as a calling card; the second featuring a murder in the form of crucifixion. McBain’s strengths in dialogue and plotting remain evident throughout, but the Deaf Man’s scheme feels a little boiled over by repeating that seen in his 1960 debut. This book takes a straighter approach than that seen in Fuzz, and the squad are presented as more competent. On the domestic front, we get to meet Kling’s new love in model Augusta Blair. Their romance feels a little rushed as it competes with the trio of plots. Nevertheless, this is another enjoyable read.

Film Review – NARROW MARGIN (1990)

NARROW MARGIN (1990, USA, 97m, 15) ***
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. TriStar Pictures (USA), Guild Film Distribution (UK); pr co. Carolco Pictures; d. Peter Hyams; w. Peter Hyams (based on the screenplay by Earl Felton and the story by Martin Goldsmith & Jack Leonard); pr. Jonathan A. Zimbert; ph. Peter Hyams (Technicolor | 2.39:1, 2.20:1 (70mm prints)); m. Bruce Broughton; ed. James Mitchell; pd. Joel Schiller; ad. David Willson.
cast: Gene Hackman (Robert Caulfield), Anne Archer (Hunnicut), James Sikking (Nelson), Harris Yulin (Leo Watts), J.T. Walsh (Michael Tarlow), M. Emmet Walsh (Sgt. Dominick Benti), Susan Hogan (Kathryn Weller), Nigel Bennett (Jack Wootton), J.A. Preston (Martin Larner), B.A. ‘Smitty’ Smith (Keller), Codie Lucas Wilbee (Nicholas), Barbara Russell (Nicholas’ Mother), Antony Holland (Elderly Man), Doreen Ramos (Elderly Woman), Kevin McNulty (James Dahlbeck), Andrew Rhodes (Nigro), Lon Katzman (Loughlin), Dana Still (Bellman With Message), Lesley Ewen (Larner’s Secretary), Barney O’Sullivan (Ticket Agent).
This remake of Richard Fleischer’s well-regarded 1952 film noir sees Archer witness a brutal murder by mobsters. She hides out in a remote cabin in the Canadian tundra. Hackman is the Deputy DA who journeys into the wilderness to convince Archer to testify in court. When mob assassins shoot at the cabin in a helicopter, Hackman and Archer make a mad dash through the wilderness to escape the mob only to be trapped on a train with the villains on their tail. It lacks the dark intensity of the original but benefits from Hackman’s witty performance. The script is generally weak and lacks plausibility, but there are occasional flourishes of humour – notably in the exchanges between Hackman and Sikking. Great stunt work is in evidence too as the story is punctuated with violent action sequences. Archer, however, is given little to do other than look scared and Hyams seems undecided on tone throughout. The Canadian scenery is breathtaking and wonderfully captured by Hyams. Broughton provides a suitably brooding score. The result is a flawed but often highly entertaining thriller worth it for Hackman alone.

Film Review – THE SAINT AND THE BRAVE GOOSE (1979)

THE SAINT AND THE BRAVE GOOSE (1979, UK, 94m, PG) **½
Action, Crime, Mystery
pr co. ITC Entertainment; d. Cyril Frankel; w. John Kruse (based on the character created by Leslie Charteris); exec pr. Robert S. Baker; ph. Frank Watts (Colour | 1.33:1); m. John Scott; ed. Bert Rule; pd. John Stoll.
cast: Ian Ogilvy (Simon Templar), Gayle Hunnicutt (Annabel West), Stratford Johns (George Duchamps), Derren Nesbitt (Insp. Lebec), Joe Lynch (Capt. Finnigan), Michelle Newell (Genevieve), Edward Brayshaw (Oscar West), Peggy Thorpe-Bates (Mrs. Cloonan), John Hallam (Bernadotti), Leon Lissek (Pancho), Michael Robbins (Beeky), Prentis Hancock (Vic), Wensley Pithey (Franklyn), Cyril Luckham (Coroner).
Originally broadcast as “Collision Course” a two-part episode of Return of the Saint (1978-9), this was compiled into a feature film for the home video market as well as receiving a limited theatrical release. Hunnicutt’s husband is killed when his power boat blows up during a race and sets off for the French Riviera to collect ‘The Brave Goose’, a luxury yacht he has left her. She is followed by associates of her husband, who believe she knows the whereabouts of the spoils of a gold bullion robbery, whilst the Saint (Ogilvy) is also on her trail. Although shot on location in France, the film struggles to escape the limitations of its TV budget and whilst the story is passable it rarely catches fire. Ogilvy lacks the charisma Roger Moore brought to the role a decade earlier and Frankel’s direction is a little flat. Some good underwater footage during the finale adds much-needed suspense to an otherwise overly familiar tale.

Book Review – SADIE WHEN SHE DIED (1972) by Ed McBain

SADIE WHEN SHE DIED (1972) ****
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Pan Books, 1974, 160pp
First published in 1972
© Ed McBain, 1972
ISBN: 978-0-3302-4012-9
Blurb: Christmas is coming. But erudite attorney Gerry Fletcher got his present early: his wife’s body with a knife buried in it. Though he shamelessly cops to being happy she’s dead, his alibi is airtight and all signs point to a burglary gone bad. But even when detectives Steve Carella and Bert Kling follow the clues to a junky punk and get a full confession, Carella can’t quit thinking there’s something about the case that’s as phoney as a sidewalk Santa’s beard. Maybe it’s because the victim’s husband wants to pal around with the suspicious cop on a cryptic pub crawl through the urban jungle. Or maybe it’s the dead woman’s double identity and little black book full of secret lovers. Whether she was Sarah the shrewish wife or Sadie the sex-crazy swinger, there’s more to her murder than just a bad case of wrong place, wrong time. And Carella won’t rest till his cuffs are on the killer.
Comment: The 26th book in the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain is one of the strongest. McBain skillfully navigates us through Carella’s dogged investigation of Fletcher by creating a relationship between the two similar to the formula used in the Columbo TV series (for which McBain would later adapt a couple of his novels). This is again another experiment in format for McBain, but here he is much more successful. A subplot involves Kling and his relationship with the mysterious Nora Simonov, which lands him in more trouble than he has bargained for. As would become an increasingly used formula, the two plots have no link, merely show McBain’s broader cast of characters in their ongoing domestic and work lives. As Carella closes in on Fletcher, the attorney becomes increasingly paranoid and the plot is neatly brought to a satisfying conclusion as Carella’s stakeout unearths the secrets of Fletcher’s marriage.

Book Review – HAIL, HAIL THE GANG’S ALL HERE! (1971) by Ed McBain

HAIL, HAIL THE GANG’S ALL HERE! (1971) ***
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Coronet Books, 1995, 190pp
First published in 1971
© Ed McBain, 1971
ISBN: 978-0-3405-9330-1
Blurb: There are 186 patrolmen and a handful of detectives in the 87th Precinct, but it’s never quite enough. Because between petty crimes and major felonies, between crimes of hate and crimes of passion, the city never sleeps — and for these cops, a day never ends… The night shift has a murdered go-go dancer, a firebombed black church, a house full of ghosts, and a mother trying to get her twenty-two year-old to come home. The day shift: a naked hippie lying smashed on the concrete, two murderous armed robbers in Halloween masks, and a man beaten senseless by four guys using sawed-off broom handles. Altogether, it’s a day in the life. But for a certain cop in the 87th Precinct, it could just be his last…
Comment: In the 25th book in the 87th Precinct series McBain again looks to try something new in an attempt to freshen up the series. This time he presents a day’s caseload for the detectives of the 87th squad, each of which could have been a short story in its own right. The book is not structured in traditional chapters, and is instead divided into two sections – “nightshade” and “Daywatch”.  These sections deal with the detective’s night and day shifts and follow the teams as they investigate a number of contrasting crimes. As the book’s title suggests, McBain gives space to all the detectives on the squad, allowing each to have a moment in the sun, This means we get to meet some of the squad who have been rarely featured previously, as well as all the regulars. The result is a disjointed novel, that perhaps represents the realistic caseload handling of a detective squad, but lacks a central hook that threads through the cases together. The dialogue is as strong as ever and the broader character spectrum provides additional interest. An interesting experiment, albeit one that lacks cohesion.