Thursday, 4 March 2021

Book Review : Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

"The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning."

On the 13th of April 1953 the world changed forever. One of the most important characters in fiction arrived in the world's bookshops, that secret agent? Bond. James Bond.
Doubtless you all know what the plot of Casino Royale is but if by some miracle you don't know here's a synopsis that amazon wrote earlier 
Le Chiffre is a businessman with expensive tastes, and SMERSH's chief operative in France. But as his dissolute lifestyle threatens to ruin him, his only hope is to risk his paymasters' money at the card table.

James Bond, the finest gambler in the service, has a deadly new mission: to outplay Le Chiffre and shatter his Soviet cell.

Amidst the opulence of Casino Royale, the two men face each other for a game with the highest stakes of all.

Ian Fleming had long harboured an a desire to write a spy thriller, his experiences during World War 2 and his amazing imagination gave him ample material to work with. The card game which forms the main event of the book is based on something that happened to Fleming during the war. 
Fleming wrote Casino Royale with two aims in mind, firstly to take his mind off his forthcoming marriage and secondly to create what he called " the spy thriller to end all spy thrillers". 
It goes without saying that he managed it. In its near 70 years of existence Bond has not only spawned the greatest film franchise of all time but also comic books, continuation novels and radio dramas and just about anything you can fit a 007 logo onto. 
Did Fleming know Bond would thrive for so long when he sat down and wrote that icoic first line? I think he did, for a first time author he exuded confidence and that's what makes readers even after nearly 70 years want to come along for the ride. 
 Apart from some slightly dodgy language by today's standard's (don't write in saying I didn't warn you) there isn't much wrong with Casino  Royale, at 250 or so pages it's not very long but it also feels like it's exactly the right length.  You can easily blow through it in a day or two like I did.

Casino Royale is an absolute riot, I still have little idea of how any card game that isn't 21 works but Fleming explains everything so well even an idiot can't help but plough through the casino sequences. 

Like the film though the most memorable, and if you're a bloke, nightmare inducing part of the book is the torture sequence. I'm actually breaking into a cold sweat thinking about it. If anything the film toned it down but it still ends the same way, Bond's life being saved by the organisation that would go on to be his long term enemy. SMERSH. 
Not so memorable however is the love story between Bond and  double agent  Vesper Lynd, its OK but its nothing like as absorbing or heartbreaking as what Bond later goes through in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. That's one aspect where the film gets one over on the book. Maybe it's something to do with that amazing Venice stunt, by comparison Vesper swallowing a bottle of pills and leaving Bond a note is a bit anticlimactic. 

In the same way that Harry Potter defines my generation Bond defines the 50's and 60's, after Casino Royale the bookshops were awash with authors trying to capture the magic of Ian Fleming. A few managed it  Of course  but nearly all of them are lost to history and yet Bond is still with us. If you've yet to read the bond books I can't recommend it highly enough, why not do something useful in lockdown and scratch the itch? 
Casino Royale really does transcend my ratings system. I don't have a ranking higher than "Cracker" so that'll have to do.
Verdict : Cracker 

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Book review : The Sentinel by Lee and Andrew Child


Book Review : The Sentinel By Lee And Andrew Child

Taking the mantle of one of the biggest brands in fiction can’t be easy, a bit like a contemporary author taking over the bond books. Some times it's a disaster, sometimes it works brilliantly. 

Happily however Andrew Grant (now Child) is a successful author in his own right with some fab detective series under his belt , and you no doubt already know , he’s Lee Child’s younger brother . They’ve co-written the 25th Reacher adventure together and will team up for a few more before Andrew flies solo.  

The Sentinel is the 25th Reacher adventure  and for those of you who cant be bothered to go on amazon the plot’s below

Jack Reacher gets off the bus in a sleepy no-name town outside Nashville, Tennessee. He plans to grab a cup of coffee and move right along.
Not going to happen.

The town has been shut down by a cyber attack. At the center of it all, whether
he likes it or not, is Rusty Rutherford. He's an average IT guy, but he knows more than he thinks.
As the bad guys move in on Rusty, Reacher moves in on them . . .
And now Rusty knows he's protected, he's never going to leave the big man's side.

That little synopsis really is the most I can tell you about the sentinel without spoiling it but if you were worried about the changing of the Reacher guard, don’t be.  This is classic Jack Reacher from start to finish. Reacher doesn’t take any shit in the sentinel, he’s calmed down a bit since Blue Moon , there’s only a handful of brutal murders . But he does hang a guy from a bar ceiling , a contender for the funniest Reacher moment ever.

The sentinel is everything a Jack Reacher adventure should be , it’s violent, it’s funny ,the villains are complete bastards and everything gets wrapped up nicely and leaves you eager to tear into the next one. Or in my case dig out the Killing Floor paperback and start from the beginning .  if you’re new to the world of Reacher then, welcome and enjoy catching up.

Verdict : Cracker

Also a big thank you to Transworld for the proof copy

Friday, 27 November 2020

Book Review ; The Darkest Evening By Anne Cleeves

 Lockdown hasn’t had many plus points has it? Like many others reading books and watching telly for hours on end stopped me from going completely insane .  Revisiting old favourites and discovering new characters  and taking a punt on authors I’ve never read before Has been a joy. 

One of those authors is Anne Cleeves creator of the critically acclaimed Shetland books , the Mathew Venn series and of course, the living legend Vera .

The darkest evening is the ninth book in the series and it begins with Vera trying to get home during an epic snowstorm . After spotting an abandoned car at the side of the road and finding a young toddler inside with his mother nowehere to be seen Vera takes him to Broxburn. A run down mansion where her father grew up. When the body of a young woman is found nearby Vera knows she's got rather more than a missing persons case on her hands and along with it all sorts of secrets come tumbling out, some of them involving Vera's family. 

That's about as much as I can tell you without having to issue a spoiler warning, but what I can tell you is that there are definitely traces of Agatha Christie in the darkest evening, every time you think you know where it's going it goes in another direction all together.

 It's great fun if like me you enjoy trying to work out who did it. I almost always get it wrong and I'm pleased to report I got it wrong this time as well. 

 The thing I liked most about the darkest evening is that we get to see Vera interacting with her family, given that she never mentions them much it's nice to see a little glimpse into the private side of Vera. 

Like all good detectives Vera isn't afraid of getting herself into a little danger to help snare a killer  even if it means almost becoming a murder statistic herself. 

This is the ninth book in the series and it seems to be as good a place to start as any of the others. If you've seen the Vera TV show I'll garuntee you'll love the books. Hopefully it won't be too long before we get to see this one on screen.

Verdict : Cracker 

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Q+A with Andrew Child

Author Q+A  Andrew Child. 

Unless  you've  been living under a very large rock or you're a martian in which case, run while you can. You'll have heard that lee child is handing over the keys to the Jack Reacher series to his brother Andrew and to celebrate the new Jack Reacher novel, the sentinel here's an interview with the man entrusted with the biggest thriller series..... In the world. Andrew Child 

It's been a tough year for everyone, how's 2020 been for you?

For me, it’s been mixed. I’ve had a wonderful time working with my brother on The Sentinel, the first of the Jack Reacher thrillers we’re writing together. But due to all the travel restrictions I haven’t been able to visit my daughters in the UK for many months, which has been totally miserable.

Were you nervous about taking over the reacher books  given how well loved they are?

Extremely nervous! But in the end I decided to do it anyway because I’m a Reacher fan too – in fact the oldest Reacher fan – and I just couldn’t stand the idea of there not being any more of the books.

What was your reaction when Lee asked you to take over?

First shocked, that he would trust me with his amazing creation. Then nervous, wondering if I was up to the task. Then excited, thinking about all the stories I’d have the chance to tell.

You and Lee both have your names on the cover, how does the actual writing process work? do you send chapters and forth to each other?

Working together was something we both had to adapt to as neither of us had collaborated with anyone on a full length novel before. We started out hanging out at my place – we live about three miles apart – and kicking ideas around which I’d put down on paper for him to review. Then the pandemic took hold so we shifted more into ‘virtual’ mode, talking and plotting and revising over text and email and zoom. It was an interesting process, and we were both very happy with how everything turned out.

Lee said in an interview recently that you were the first person to read Killing Floor, what was your reaction to it at the time?

I was absolutely terrified before I started reading in case it was no good. Lee was out of work and his whole future was on the line. But within a single line I was hooked. The book was magnificent in every way and I remember thinking, long before we learned Reacher’s name, I know this guy…

Which is your favourite Reacher book?

There are two that particularly stand out for me. Killing Floor, because it was the first and I will never forget how I felt after reading the manuscript. The other book I think is particularly special is Make Me. It has all the ingredients that make us love Reacher – the captivating location, the pervading sense of mystery, the fabulous characters, the intriguing (and particularly disturbing) plot, the propulsive prose, the action, the sense of justice done – but I feel that this time out, the language was even more lyrical and aesthetically satisfying.

Reacher hasn't changed much over the years, how important do you think that is to the appeal of the books?

I think the sense of consistency is crucial, particularly now when the times are so uncertain and chaotic and people are looking for stability and security in their lives.

Where did the idea for the sentinel come from?

I was looking for a way to take Reacher – who’s famous for his lack of familiarity with technology – out of his comfort zone, and when I remembered some things I’d read about ransomware I thought it would provide the perfect environment.

What can long time readers expect from the new book?

I hope they will find everything about Reacher books that they’ve always loved, plus perhaps a little extra energy, with slightly more current themes.

What did you make of the movies with Tom Cruise?

If we put the issue of size aside, I thought Tom Cruise actually did a great job of capturing Reacher’s world-weary attitude. There’s a good example in the first movie where Reacher is eating alone in a diner when a woman approaches and sets him up for a fight with a bunch of local thugs. Cruise displays exactly the right sense of not looking to start any trouble, but equally being more than happy to finish any that comes his way. I think the problem with the movies is really that the format is just not very suitable. One of the reasons Lee’s novels are so satisfying to read is that you can ‘think along’ with Reacher as he reasons and deduces his way through several, in-depth steps toward solving each puzzle. There simply isn’t time for this in a ninety minute movie, so the good stuff is inevitably rushed if not lost altogether. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about the switch to TV. I think the upcoming series will be able to do the books much more justice.

There's a Reacher TV series coming, would you like to see The Sentinel on screen at some point?

I would love it! I really hope that happens, one day.

We've all had a lot more time to read this year because of obvious reasons. What were the best books you read in lockdown?

Having extra time to read is the lockdown’s silver lining. A few great books spring to mind, such as Blacktop Wasteland by Shawn Cosby; Agent Sonya by Ben McIntyre; and Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich.

What can you say (if anything) about reacher 26?

We started it on September 1st, in keeping with Lee’s long-standing tradition, and we’re very happy with how it’s going…

Frances Neagley is a firm favourite with Reacher fans, do you think she could feature in a future book?

Absolutely. I love Neagley, and could definitely see her coming back.

What do you think Reacher's brother Joe would be doing if he were still alive?

I think he’d be hunting down financial criminals, often meaning to get in touch with his brother Jack, but never quite making it happen.

Lee's mentioned the idea of Reacher coming across a stray dog and taking it on his adventures with him. Could we ever see that?

It’s an intriguing idea. Never say never…

Big thanks to Andrew for doing this. 

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Film Review :Tenet

Film Review. Tenet 

After being delayed at least 4 times (it might be more, 8 lost count) tenet hit the big screens, in England at least about a week ago. I went to see it with a mate today, I'd have gone sooner but I've been away. Anyhoo let's dive in to the latest  mind fuck from Christopher Nolan 


A secret agent embarks on a dangerous, time-bending mission to prevent the start of World War. That's as much about the plot as I can tell you without unleashing a shit tonne of spoilers. 

Some people have criticised tenet for being too confusing but let's be honest. This is Christopher Nolan we're talking about. He rarely does  simple. I admit it is fairly easy to lose track of what the fuck is going on but I managed to follow it okay. 

I don't want to give too many spoilers away so I'll just run through what I did and didn't like. 

I loved the action stuff. John David Washington and Robert Pattinson kick ass, usually their own because y'know time travel. (don't ask). The scene where they pilot a cargo plane into an aircraft hanger is straight out of the bond manual of ridiculousness but it works. The time inverted fight scenes must have been a complete pain to film but they work so well it's worth it. 

 Kenneth Brannagh is the main bad guy in tenet and boy is he a nasty bastard, an arms dealer holding the world to ransom. He steals every scene he's in and if I were directing the next Bond he'd be my first choice fo the villain. 

There aren't really any bad performances in Tenet, everyone in the film brings their A game and then some. However, Michael Caine is unforgivably under used. On screen for literally 2 minutes. 

For me though the biggest surprise of the movie has to be Robert Pattinson, he's certainly going to be one to watch when it comes to action movies. 

 Some people have complained that they couldn't hear some of the dialogue and that is true, I didn't struggle as much as some did but if you can get to a showing that has subtitles I'd recommend it. The musi is so loud in places you can't hear what the fuck they're saying. 

Despite my reservations Tenet was a lovely surprise, well acted, well directed and less confusing than Inception. It's a mind fuck, don't get me wrong but you won't leave the cinema with a headache. Most importantly though its given me the confidence to get back to the movies. 


Verdict: Good but not as good as Dunkirk. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Q+A with............... ME

OK, Carl – game on! Here are your questions!

What have you been up to during lockdown?

Trying to catch up on the huge pile of unwatched dvd’s and unread books I’ve got lying around the place but I keep buying more so it’s a losing battle. I’m  in the middle of doing a roundup of everything I’ve watched and read over the last 9 ( is it  week 9 now?) weeks so that’s coming soon . I’ve got  a couple of book reviews to finish off and I’m also going to be reviewing some more movies since they seem to go down quite well.

You’re a huge fan of James Bond, so which Bond actor is your favourite and why?

 I absolutely love all the Bond’s but…. It’s Pierce , I just love the how he can go from being charming and sophisticated to being a cold hearted assassin . So he’s slap bang in the middle between Moore and Connery. Probabaly best to pretend Die Another Day never happened.
There’s a graph somewhere online that charts every Bond’s kill count and Pierce came out on top ,  If you look at him that way he’s the best Bond we’ve ever had so I’d like the next fella to be more like Pierce than Daniel Craig.

And favourite Bond film to date?

Goldeneye. Everything just seemed to fall perfectly into place with that film. From the direction , to the cast to the stunts . its one of the few that can’t be faulted

If you could, which Bond car would you buy?  I wouldn’t say no to any of them apart from the 2CV but Purely because of the noise it makes, the DBS from Quantum Of Solace

Where did your fascination of collecting watches come from, and which one in your collection has the most fascinating history?

I like mechanical stuff and I like taking them apart to fit new batteries and straps , which incidently is pretty much the only skill I’ve acquired during lockdown.

My Grandad has a gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual which I fell in love with at an early age . So that’s probably where it comes from.  I buy and sell a lot of watches so I tend to forget what I’ve owned but old seiko’s are good fun.
As to which one has the best history, probably my Casio F91-W digital, everybody’s had one of those.  I’ve got a Tissot Courtourier but that’s away at the moment, it was sent off for a new battery the day before the lockdown DOH! . My favourites probably an old Accurist I bought when I was 14. I’ve got one of the limited editon 007 swatch watches on order as well ,they’re going for silly money but I found one for a good price.

Can you share a photo of your dog, so everyone can see how cute Pip is?


Where can we find you?

(e.g. blog, social media)



From the books you've read to date in 2020, what are your top five recommendations? (And they don't have to include mine!!)

Die Alone by Simon Kernick

Only Fools And Stories By David Jason

On Her Majestys Secret Service by Ian Fleming

The Wrong side of goodbye by Michael Connelly

False Witness By Andrew Grant

How Not To Be A Professional Racing Driver by Jason Plato. ( worth buying for the JCB story alone)

Q+A Rachel Amphlett

Q+A with one of my favourite authors. Rachel Amphlett . 

How's lockdown going? 

Put it this way, there has been a LOT of writing going on!

You've got a new series out featuring Mark Turpin, can you give us the essence of it? 

The Detective Mark Turpin series is set in the Vale of the White Horse, a picturesque corner of the Berkshire/Oxfordshire border that is steeped in history from Bronze Age settlements through to Second World War airfields and more.

The locations and settings are as much a character as the people in these stories, and they have a slightly different feel to them from the Kay Hunter series.

When we first meet Mark, he’s emerged from a turbulent time with Wiltshire Police and has moved to the Vale in order to try to make some sense of his life and ease back into work. His sabbatical ends abruptly with the vicious murder of a parish priest.

How many books have you got planned featuring Mark? 

It’ll be an ongoing series – book 2, HER FINAL HOUR is out in November, book three is already written and ready to be published in 2021, and I’ll start work on book 4 in the New Year.

I visited Abingdon – where Mark is based – in October last year and had a wander around, and from that I’ve already got 2-3 new ideas lined up for Mark and his team that I want to explore.

What gave you the idea for this new series?

I had some ideas going around in my head for detective stories that wouldn’t fit in the Kay Hunter world simply due to the locations and settings.

I lived in the area where the series is set while I was playing guitar in bands in my 20s and my Dad grew up there, so what with all that and visits to grandparents when I was growing up, I’m very familiar with all the landmarks and locations.

Originally, the Kay Hunter series was going to be set there – or so I thought. Kay Hunter had other ideas, and that series moved to Maidstone…

How can we expect Mark's character to evolve over the course of the series? 

He’s still finding his feet in his new role in Oxfordshire, and readers will see how he’s struggling with that in book 2, HER FINAL HOUR but his working relationship with his colleague DC Jan West is the anchor that holds him steady. I’m having a lot of fun writing about the two of them – they’re chalk and cheese.

The Kay Hunter books are still going strong, what does the future hold for her? 

We’ve got TURN TO DUST coming out on July 13, and I’ve just started writing book 10 in the series so she and the team are still going strong – I have a lot of fun writing this series, too so as long as you enjoy reading them, I’ll keep writing them. I’ve also got some surprises lined up for readers later this year so I’d recommend signing up to my Reader Group for first dibs on that news :)

Would you write another standalone like The Friend Who Lied? 

Absolutely – the standalone novels are a great way to capture stories that don’t fit in one of my series and gives me a chance to try new writing skills so I’m always learning.

Would you ever be tempted to write a continuation novel for another series e.g. Bond or Sherlock Holmes? 

I wouldn’t rule it out completely but it’d have to be for the right reasons and at the right time, simply because I’ve got so many of my own ideas lined up to write over the next 2-3 years – and of course, by the time I get to the end of next year I’ll already be planning ahead for the next few years!

Which author have you discovered in the last 12 months that’s really surprised you?

I don’t know why I hadn’t read Cara Hunter’s series before now – time, probably! – but I discovered her first book Close to Home last year and quickly smashed through the read of the series in no time at all. I can’t wait for the next one.

Which movie or TV show have you watched during lockdown that's really surprised you? 

We’ve just binged seasons 1-3 of Travelers on Netflix and now I’m bereft because there’s no season 4. It’s another show that we missed the first time around while we were living in Australia but I got very invested in the characters. Clever ending, too. It surprised me because I don’t read sci-fi but I do like a lot of the TV shows – my other half’s favourite genre is sci-fi so through him I’ve discovered The Expanse and Picard as well.

What new releases are you most looking forward to? 

Michael Connelly’s Fair Warning, out on May 26 – I’ve already got my copy pre-ordered, and please don’t expect any writing to happen until I’ve finished reading it. Which will probably be between 24-36 hours – I love Connelly’s writing and will have to force myself to slow down while I’m reading it!

You always seem to have new projects on the go, how do you keep track of them all? 

I use an Excel spreadsheet set out a bit like a Gantt chart – I used to work as a project administrator in Australia and studied project management. All projects use one to keep track of their design and production schedule. My version is a slimmed-down version of that. I use it to note down when a book is due to be finished, when it’s got to be sent to the copy editor, proof reader, audio studio if we’re doing that format, and what the publication date is. Of course, by the time a book goes to the copy editor I’m already working on the next one.

What’s next for you?

I’m scheduled to finish the next Kay Hunter book by the end of July and then I plan to use August to write some short stories and learn some new skills before starting the next book on 1 September.

The second book in the Detective Mark Turpin series, HER FINAL HOUR will be out on November 9 and I’ve got a couple of surprises up my sleeve for later in the year as well to share with readers.

Links and things:

Instagram/Twitter: @RachelAmphlett

and now for something i've never done before. asked an author to pose ME some questions. keep an eye put for the next post to see that.

Book Review : Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

"The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning." On the 13th of April 1953 the world changed fo...