Month: December 2014

OT: To Close The Last Day of the Year

Two different versions of a nostalgic but beautiful song

My Favourite Reads In 2014

Here are my favourite reads in 2014.  I’ve read a total of 67 crime fiction books this year, a number that’s pretty consistent with my reading average for the last five years. I’ve split them in two groups, contemporary and classic. (All titles in no particular order)

In the first group:

  1. Rubbernecker(Bantam Press, 2013) by Belinda Bauer. Bauer’s narrative style is unparalleled, and the plot is nicely structured. Everything seems real and I’ve found fascinating Patrick’s character. The first chapters may seem to be simple writing exercises but superbly worked out. The reader may question at an early stage if it all will make any sense. But as in a jigsaw, each individual piece has a role to play and, in this novel, every detail, no matter how small, has its significance. Contrary to what it may seem the scenes that take place in the dissecting room and in the special care unit, don’t turn out to be disgusting. Mainly because they’re written with good taste and  Bauer doesn’t delight in unpleasant details. More irritating is the behaviour of certain characters and their attitude towards those clearly disadvantaged. In short, a very original novel, intelligently written and which I’ve have very much enjoyed. An excellent read to start the year. Highly recommended. A writer which is very worth to be followed.
  2. The City of Shadows (Avon, 2012) by Michael Russell. The City of Shadows is quite simply a brilliant crime novel and, for my taste, also works extremely well at all levels. The story is very well thought-out and it is nicely written, consequently it serves efficiently to an exciting plot. It is also quite attractive and very well documented. The complexity of the plot and of the subplots do not undermine the clarity of the narrative, quite contrary, it is easy to read and awfully enjoyable. Besides the story has a great sense of place, the characters are beautifully drawn and the author accomplishes to recreate with success the atmosphere of those times. I strongly recommend this book and I look forward to The City of Strangers.
  3. Graveland (Faber & Faber, 2013) by Alan Glynn. Graveland is the third novel in a loose trilogy by Alan Glynn. You can find my reviews of the two previous instalments, Winterland and Bloodland, clicking on the book titles. Some of the characters that have appeared before, will return again in Graveland. It doesn’t seem to me necessary to have read the two previous books for a complete appreciation of this one. However it’s highly recommended; the only reason is that they are all excellent readings. For my taste this has been one of the best Alan Glynn novels I’ve read to date. A very sound story that provides a superb portrait of our times and has also an excellent character development. A highly enjoyable financial thriller.
  4. Saints of the Shadow Bible (Orion Books, 2013) by Ian Rankin. For my taste Ian Rankin dazzles us again with what is probably one of his best novels in the series. I loved it and I have spent great moments in its company. In addition Rankin offers us some magnificent dialogues, his house mark. The Rebus character, far from boring me, I find it fascinating. Don’t miss it!
  5. How’s the Pain? (Gallic Books, 2012) Translated from the French by Emily Boyce, originally published as Comment va la douleur? (Zulma, 2006) by Pascal Garnier. Pascal Garnier has been a real discovery for me this year. I very much enjoyed the previous book I read, The Panda Theory (see my review here). But I can say I have found this one is even better. It’s certainly a bleak and gloomy story, a really noir fiction tale, but it does have a fair amount of humour that is not usually found in another authors. And even if I have read it translated, it certainly seems to me that it’s extremely well written; what turns its reading into a genuine pleasure. A luxury.

And among the ones I consider classics:

  1. The Pledge (University of Chicago Press, 2006). Translated by Joel Agee. Originally published as Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman, 1958, by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. I cannot but recommend this novella not only to all crime fiction readers but to everyone in general. A small gem in my view. Given its length, it will only take but a few hours of your precious time, but it’s worth it. It took me two or three sittings even if I’m not a fast reader. It is paradoxical to write a detective novel, to announce the requiem for the detective novels, but the answer can be found reading this remarkable story. A masterpiece.
  2. Strange Loyalties (Canongate Books Ltd, 2013. First published in Great Britain in 1991, by William McIlvanney. After reading the first two books in the trilogy, little I can add here that have not already been said elsewhere. Suffice it to say that Strange Loyalties is on par with the previous instalments. Perhaps I could highlight the audacity of McIlvanney to explore uncharted territories. Specifically this story is about the feelings of guilt and loss. And it’s a pleasure to read it. A superb ending to a magnificent trilogy by a first class writer. Do not miss it.
  3. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Penguin Classics, 2010) Originally punlished in 1963 by John Le Carré. A superb novel whose reading I have thoroughly enjoyed. Despite its dark and gloomy tone, the story is narrated with great skill and the result is brilliant. The dialogues are excellent and the characters are indeed astounding. The central theme revolves around the consequences of our actions and exposes the unorthodox methods, if I may put it in this way, that are used even by the secret services of countries that consider themselves an example of democracy and transparency. Today a modern classic, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold marked an  important milestone not only in its genre, but also in literature with capital letters.
  4. The Long Goodbye (Penguin, 2010) First published in 1953 by Raymond Chandler. The Long Goodbye is the sixth instalment in the series featuring Philip Marlowe and, for my taste, is Raymond Chandler’s masterpiece. The most personal of all his novels, in which the author introduces some autobiographical elements scattered among several characters. The plot is character-driven and, of all his books, is the one that contains more elements of social criticism. Definitely a book that will find a place in the list of my all time favourites. A must read.
  5. The Widow (New York Review Books, 2008) Translated from the French by John Petrie. Original title La Veuve Couderc, 1942 by Georges Simenon. This is an extremely difficult book to classify. In a way it resists to any such classification. And quite difficult to review in my case, maybe due to my lack of qualification and education. All I can say is that it’s an extraordinary book, even when it takes me out of my comfort zone, as sometimes happens. It’s a harsh story, sad and terrible but it becomes unbelievably real. The portrait of the two main characters is absolutely fabulous. And, as in a Greek tragedy, Tati and Jean inevitably head towards a destination of which they can’t escape. A terrible and gloomy novel though it’s certainly a true masterpiece. Honestly, I do regret not being able to read French fluently, to fully enjoy this novel. And even if I don’t have any competence in this ground, I must highlight I’ve very much enjoyed from a marvellous translation in my view.

Other books that deserve a special mention were: Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda; The Song Dog by James McClure; Crónica de una muerte anunciada by Gabriel García Márquez. English title: Chronicle of a Death Foretold; El detective moribundo de Leif G.W. Persson. English title: The Dying Detective;  The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler; Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler; The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson; The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler; El ruido de las cosas al caer (English title: The sound of things falling) de Juan Gabriel Vásquez; Maigret y el Liberty Bar by Georges Simenon (English title: Maigret on the Riviera) and The Hunting Dogs by Jørn Lier Horst (my review will be coming up soon).

Coming Soon To Spanish Theatres

Besides Leviathan, two other films to be released on January 1st have called my attention:

The Imitation Game (Descifrando Enigma) is a 2014 historical thriller film about British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and is directed by Morten Tyldum with a screenplay by Graham Moore, based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

Cold in July (Frío en Julio) is a 2014 American crime drama film directed by Jim Mickle, written by Mickle and Nick Damici, and starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, and Nick Damici. It is based on the novel of the same name by author Joe R. Lansdale.

OT: Viña Herminia Excelsus 2011

Viña Herminia Excelsus 2011

I was unable to resist mentioning some of the wines I’m testing during this holidays. But don’t forget to drink in moderation, it’s your responsibility.

  • Winery: Bodegas Viña Herminia S.L. Camino de los Agudos, 1 – 26559, Aldeanueva de Ebro – La Rioja (ESPAÑA). The winery is located in Aldeanueva de Ebro, just below Calahorra, at the south-eastern end of the Rioja Baja. Vineyards surround the winery, and extend up the slopes of nearby Monte Yerga to altitudes of 700m. This is unusually high for the Rioja Baja.
  • Phone: +34 941 142 305
  • Winemaker: David Bastida Caro
  • Website: www.viñaherminia.es//index.php/en
  • Brand: Viña Herminia Excelsus 2011
  • DO: Denominacion de Origen Cualificada Rioja Subzone: Rioja Baja.
  • Type: 14% Young red wine aged for 8 months in new 225 litre French oak casks. Matured a minimum of 6 months in bottle. As a new wave Rioja this wine is classified as “Vino de Autor”.
  • Grapes Variety: 50% Tempranillo 50% Garnacha
  • Vineyards: Viña Herminia has its own 4 hectare vineyard in front of the winery, but otherwise sources its grapes from the Viñedos de Aldeanueva cooperative, which happens to be the biggest vineyard owner in the whole of Rioja. The winemaking team select only the best lots to ensure the superior quality of Viña Herminia wines.
  • Soil: Calcareous chalk on the hillside slopes
  • Bottle Size: 75.0 cl.
  • Price: It was a gift but my understanding is that it can be available below 10,00 € 
  • My wine rating: 9.3/10

Located in the Rioja Baja, at the southeastern end of the Rioja, Viña Herminia belongs to the Luis Caballero group of companies, also owners of Emilio Lustau S.A. in Jerez. Viña Herminia offers a full range of Rioja wines, from vineyards on the slopes of Monte Yerga and Monte Argudo, up to an altitude of 700m, complemented with grapes from the best communes of the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. Expert vinification and blending ensures rich, generous, fruity wines, with great natural freshness and appeal. Best of all, the Viña Herminia range is very reasonably priced. Over the last couple of years, a number of top UK and US commentators, including both Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker, have highlighted Viña Herminia as one of the premier addresses in Rioja for high quality and real value. The Australian winemaker David Morrison begun his collaboration with this winery in 2001.

A complete report about Rioja wines, The Wines of Rioja—A New Look, is available in this pdf here.

Film Notes: Gone Baby Gone (2007) directed by Ben Affleck

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

USA / 114 minutes / Color / Miramax Films Dir: Ben Affleck Pro: Sean Bailey, Alan Ladd, Jr., Danton Rissner Scr: Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard Story: based on Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane Cine: John Toll Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams Cast: Casey Affleck (Patrick Kenzie), Michelle Monaghan (Angie Gennaro), Morgan Freeman (Captain Jack Doyle), Ed Harris (Detective Sergeant Remy Bressant), John Ashton (Detective Nick Poole), Amy Ryan (Helene McCready), Madeline O’Brien (Amanda McCready), Amy Madigan (Beatrice “Bea” McCready), Titus Welliver (Lionel McCready), Slaine (Bubba Rogowski), Edi Gathegi (Cheese), Mark Margolis (Leon Trett), Michael K. Williams (Devin), Jill Quigg (Dottie) Release date: 31 October 2007 (Spain)

Summary Plot: When 4 year old Amanda McCready disappears from her home and the police make little headway in solving the case, the girl’s aunt, Beatrice McCready hires two private detectives, Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. The detectives freely admit that they have little experience with this type of case, but the family wants them for two reasons – they’re not cops and they know the tough neighborhood in which they all live. As the case progresses, Kenzie and Gennaro face drug dealers, gangs and pedophiles. When they are about to solve the case, they are faced with a moral dilemma that tears them apart. (Official site)

Gone Baby Gone is Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, based on the novel from the author of Mystic River. Its British release date was postponed due to its similarities to the Madeline McCann kidnapping case.

The plot is complicated and loaded with twists, but the writers do a fine job of keeping the action lucid. The script boasts a good deal of mordant humor, along with an underlying mood of melancholy. Perhaps what is most impressive is the complex moral vision that permeates the script. When Patrick gives vent to anger and disgust and shoots a pedophile, the cops applaud him, but he is tormented by the killing. That’s a sign that the film isn’t going to rely on pat moral judgments. “Gone” also contains a rich gallery of vivid characters, brought to life by an excellent cast. (Read full review at The Hollywood Reporter)

I’d heard many good things about this film and finally Begoña and I did get the chance of seeing it yesterday on DVD. The film lived up to our expectations.

Notas de cine: Adiós pequeña, adiós (2007) dirigida por Ben Affleck

Argumento: A dos detectives privados de Boston, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) y Angela Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), los contrata una familia para que encuentren a una niña de cuatro años, hija de una drogadicta (Amy Ryan), que ha sido secuestrada en uno de los barrios más sórdidos de la ciudad. (Film Affinity)

Adiós pequeña, adiós es el debut como director de Ben Affleck, basada en la novela homónima del autor de Mystic River. Su fecha de lanzamiento en el Reino Unido se aplazó debido a sus similitudes con el caso del secuestro de Madeline McCann.

‘Adiós Pequeña Adiós’ es un thriller en la mejor tradición del género. Tenemos un caso en apariencia sencillo, pero sobre el que se ocultan más cosas, tenemos la pareja de detectives, y tenemos un barrio de Boston, lleno de todo tipo de personajes, algunos de la peor calaña posible. En esa descripción de personajes es donde Affleck acierta por completo en el inicio de su película, la cual emplea su primera media hora en presentarnos a las gentes del barrio, unas gentes que parece que el director conoce muy bien desde su infancia, transmitiendo muy bien cierta sensación de familiaridad. Sorprende así pues, que el realizador se haya parado tanto a describir con bastante acierto una galería de personajes que se encuentran desde luego entre lo mejor del film. …. Una película correcta, bastante entretenida y que se sigue con interés, despertando en el cinéfilo el desear que Ben Affleck haga gran cine próximamente. Desde luego apunta maneras, y apuesto a que lo conseguirá. (Ver reseña completa en Blog de cine)

Había oído muchas cosas buenas sobre esta película y finalmente Begoña y yo tuvimos la oportunidad de verla ayer en DVD. La película estuvo a la altura de nuestras expectativas.