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It’s time to play the music

Can you recommend a book or a course that will help me learn about storytelling?  I get asked this a lot. So often in fact that I've decided to write this post which will henceforth be my go-to reference for all future questions related to the art and...

Go Cubs Go

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs who finally broke their World Series hoodoo and reclaimed their spot on the top of the baseball pile earlier this week.  108 years is a long time to wait for anything and that issue got me thinking.  The numbers of...

Fury Road

It's not hard to spot a tourist in LA.  There are the usual giveaways of course but there is one dead sure sign. The convertible Mustang.  It is one of the most popular rental cars in the US and given the number I've seen here in the last two months it...

Thug life

Type the words "thug life tattoo" into Google images and you'll get a sense of how influential the rapper and actor Tupac Shakur continues to be. Some of the images are very recent, even though the owner of the ink job on which they are based has been dead...

F.I.S.T.

Hello from Los Angeles where, as you may recall, we have relocated for the remainder of the year.  As things stand we will be shooting the latest inkjockey productions short film in two weeks. This weekend's extended break for Labor Day is a welcome one...

Fear and loathing

“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.” From Hunter S....

Blade Runner

Four years ago Oscar Pistorius was about to compete against able-bodied athletes at the Olympic Games in London. He was the first amputee runner ever to do so.  He carried his nation’s flag at the closing ceremony and he returned to the stadium several...

The land of fire and ice

The land of fire and ice. Yes, that’s what I thought…a great title for a Game of Thrones novel. I’ve no idea if George R.R. Martin came across this description of Iceland when writing his books but it is the first thing that leapt to mind earlier this year...

The Red Death

The build up to the Greatest Show on Earth is always fraught with problems. Games organisers never stick to the original budget and there are always last minute construction problems and political wranglings over things like Olympic legacy.  In a few weeks...

Not now Cato you fool!

You know you are doing well when the public identifies you as a character you have portrayed rather than the real person behind the character.  Will Smith has acknowledged that he’ll always be known as the Fresh Prince and similarly Anna Chancellor will...

Happy Feet

And so to the south of France for the 69th Festival de Cannes.  After last year’s #highheelgate furore expect to see a fair few bare feet on the red carpet during this year’s outing. I had always intended to write about Cannes for today’s post but a quick...

Game of Thrones

This week saw a global celebration as fans from all over the world rejoiced. Their favourite characters were once again front and centre where they belong. Fans settled down to watch rape, pillage, murder, incest and plenty more played out for their...

The Run of His Life

Two weeks ago the final episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story aired.  In the US at least. Viewers in the UK have a few more days before they get to find out what happens to O.J. Simpson. That’s assuming that they don’t already know,...

I pity the fool

The Blair Witch Project (1999) is often used as an example of how clever marketing can really sell a film.  It has been widely argued that the filmmakers’ extraordinary efforts to build hype around the film were nothing short of revolutionary.  There are...

Get off my plane

As Nancy Reagan was laid to rest this week alongside her late husband I got to thinking about dramatic representations of the President on screen.  Today I wanted to explore the best and the worst of how the most powerful person in the world has been...

and George Kennedy

It is customary during awards season to reflect and remember those who have sadly left us in the previous 12 months.  Giants of the stage and screen leave us every year and the world feels a little bit emptier whenever this happens.  Inevitably the last 12...

Carmen Sandiego

For 20 minutes, once a week I was hooked. It is my earliest memory of old fashioned storytelling.  Stories told in frustratingly short bite-size pieces, with each bite woefully inadequate and incapable of sating my appetite.  Throughout the early 1980s I...

Barbara Millicent Roberts

Barbara Millicent Roberts was born in March 1959.  She grew up to be a fashion icon. On her 50th birthday in 2009 she was given her own runway fashion show in New York.  She was dressed by Christian Louboutin, Calvin Klein, Vera Wang and…drum roll…Diane...

Forensics for dummies

There are some crimes that capture the public imagination. We are not necessarily supporters of crime, but every so often one comes along that seems so implausible it captures the headlines. This month one of the most incredible crimes in English history...

Run Logan Run

George Clayton Johnson passed away over the festive season.  He died on Christmas Day at the age of 86.  I hope the joy he gave to millions through his work was some source of comfort for his family.  His first writing break came in 1959 when he wrote the...

Private enterprise for private profit

This month Sky Atlantic premiered a new European crime drama called The Last Panthers. It is about a gang of jewel thieves and it opens with a daring heist sequence.  The gang is based on the notorious Pink Panthers named, allegedly after the Inspector...

Her Majesty’s pleasure

This week’s news that Britain is to build nine new prisons to replace its hopelessly outdated and overcrowded Victorian jails made me realise how much the topic of incarceration has been neglected in these pages.  The UK government’s initiative is designed...

Rope

In 1924 Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb committed the crime of the century. Or at least they tried.  They were students at the University of Chicago and they kidnapped and killed a 14 year old boy called Bobby Franks in an attempt to carry off the perfect...

Plata o plomo

Last time we looked at the shadow cast by Kenneth Noye and the Brinks-MAT bullion robbery.  It got me thinking of other notorious crimes and those responsible for carrying them out.  As big as the Brinks-MAT robbery was, and as hardened a criminal as...

Fool’s Gold

In 1996 Kenneth Noye stabbed Stephen Cameron to death in a brutal road rage attack. He fled to Spain but was apprehended two years later.  In 2000 he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a stipulation that he must serve no less than 16 years.  His...

The Executioner’s Song

Earlier this year the State of Utah put plans in place to reintroduce the use of firing squads for death row executions. This step was taken by the Utah State Senate in March 2015 as a precautionary back up in case the drugs used during lethal injections...

The Leech Woman

Doris Bernice Jensen was born in Nebraska in 1922.  In the mid 1940s she moved to Hollywood, signed a contract with 20th Century Fox and changed her name to Coleen Gray.  She acted opposite some of the most famous leading men in silver screen history....

Zebra Three

The very best cop shows become synonymous with their era. They portray society as it was and not always perhaps as it wished to be remembered.  They shine a light on crime and corruption and aren’t afraid to point out that these exist at all levels of...

MTV Cops

Given the response from our look at Hawaiian noir I’d like to turn the inkjockey® summer spotlight on to another seemingly idyllic playground.  It’s a location synonymous with palm trees and sunshine and in keeping with our theme of looking at the dark...

Hell’s Half Acre

This week’s news that CBS is holding an open casting call for Hawaii Five-O put me in the mood for Aloha shirts, cocktails and Morton Stevens’ legendary theme tune. Conscious that the inkjockey posts of late have all followed a rather serious theme and in...

LAPD ’53

It’s a perfect marriage of words and pictures, but above all it is a love letter to the city of his birth. LA, says Ellroy, ‘is the town that made me and that I must return to, again and again.’ As must we. The Tatler Magazine review of LAPD ’53,  a...

Catch me if you Cannes

As one festival closes another one opens. Over the weekend the door slammed shut on the 68th Cannes Film Festival which had opened in style with a heartfelt tribute to Ingrid Bergman (see the photo left). Overlapping slightly with the opening of the...

The dame, the saint and the whore

We all have them. Most of us celebrate them with a small group of family and friends. The passage of time is inexorable and whilst the majority of birthdays come and go in the blink of an eye, all are worthy of pause and reflection.  There are some...

Prince of Shadows

It you want to study a particular genre of film then typically there will be a selection of different works, by different directors that will give you a good sense of what the genre is about.  If you want to study film noir you just need to watch Robert...

Murder, They Wrote

Earlier this week the awards spotlight lavished its annual attention on London’s theatreland in the form of the prestigious Olivier Awards. Kevin Spacey got one.  After just over a decade at the helm of the Old Vic he leaves the once bankrupt theatre in a...

Truth is the daughter of time

Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no relation to the Wicked Uncle of history. This sentence is taken from the blurb to The Daughter Of Time, a...

The Perils of Penelope Pitstop

If you are a certain age or disposition then the character Penelope Pitstop will be familiar to you.  She was the only female character in the Hanna Barbera cartoon Wacky Races which first ran on CBS in the late 1960s.  She wore white go-go boots, drove a car called...

Female sleuths: rise and The Fall

Last year at a screenwriters festival I had the good fortune to meet Lynda La Plante, the multi-award-winning writer and creator of the iconic crime television series Prime Suspect. We spoke about the central character in that drama,  DCI Jane Tennison and about Helen...

Crime Scene Live

Our fascination with the human body knows few boundaries.  It is 20 years since Dutch scientist Gunther von Hagens launched his phenomenally successful Body Worlds exhibition in Toyko and since then it has travelled the world, been seen by millions of people and...

Serial

Over the last two years, we have looked at a number of works of crime fiction that began their literary journey in serial form.  In the last post we looked briefly at Notting Hill Mystery which was published in Once A Week magazine in 1862, and today I'd like to...

Mystery In White

The Christmas bestseller lists are always an interesting source of facts, fads, trends and the occasional delight. This Christmas was no different, and it threw up a fascinating set of insights into things that never go out of fashion. The race to the top of the...

The King in Yellow

A month ago I touched on the notion of Gothic horror and its links to crime fiction. Today I'd like to examine two extraordinary writers and showcase the different ways they have linked an existing genre to their own work, each to stunning effect, and each in...

The Girl Next Door

The writing of a single story, in any form, is an accomplishment. The development of a novel is a writ that is beyond most. To have that novel published is a seminal moment in a life. I wonder therefore what it must be like to have this experience occur over and over...

A dark and stormy night

Gothic is everywhere.  This autumn the BBC and the British Library are celebrating all things gothic, and there is much to celebrate.  Rather than it actually being a dark and stormy night, last week London basked in the mildest Halloween since records began.  The...

Dial M for Murder

There are certain words and phrases which, when used, immediately date you. People of my generation know that the default way to let parents know you have got home safely is to give three rings. We also know that when ringing from a phonebox the sound of the pips...

The Dark Page

There is a tome on my desk.  The Dark Page: Books That Inspired American Film Noir, 1940-1949.  It was published in 2007 and was written by Kevin Johnson with a foreword from screenwriter Paul Schrader.  It is beautiful and its pages drip with film and literary...

The Falcon

In the 1940s every major Hollywood studio had a fictional private detective on its payroll, in addition, I'm sure to a good many real ones. Detective fiction dominated the literary landscape and Hollywood, which knows a good thing when it sees it, plundered the genre....

The Big Sleep

You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and..blow. This line from the 1944 film To Have And Have Not, directed by Howard Hawks, is spoken by Marie "Slim" Browning, to Harry "Steve" Morgan. Browning was played by an unknown and Morgan...

Leave Her To Heaven

This week and next I want, briefly, to examine two individuals who are undisputedly "A-list", back even when that actually meant something. I'd like to honour their contribution to film noir, and to our collective understanding of star quality.  Seventy years ago next...

You talkin’ to me?

I was in New York last week, enjoying the traditional end of summer weekend.  Labor Day heralds the start of a new season and even though the temperatures are still sky-high and city slickers swelter summer, it seems, is in the past.  Whilst I was there I reflected on...

Take two

The recent release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) got me thinking about long-running franchises and today I'd like to look at crime fiction franchises, series, reboots and remakes. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not a crime fiction film, even I would...

Krimi

George Bernard Shaw once said that Germans had no talent for revolutions and crime fiction novels.  Don't believe a word of it.  Well, at least not the bit about crime fiction. Worthy winners of the 2014 World Cup I wanted to end, as promised, with a look at crime...

Tango for a Torturer

A few weeks ago I promised I would return to a country which, in these pages at least, has been sadly under-represented.  As we approach the end of our round-up of the best crime fiction from World Cup-winning nations and sit on the cusp of a footballing feast between...

Nine Queens

Following on from last week's look at a Brazilian film classic, I wanted to stick with film for a while longer as we continue our exploration of the very best crime fiction stories from World Cup-winning nations. Today I would like to look at a film which is one of my...

City of God

In 1960 the Guanabara State government in Brazil created a favela in the west of Rio de Janeiro. Its intention was to move favelas from the centre of the city to the outskirts. Known locally as CDD, the neighbourhood of Cidade de Deus (City of God) is...

Adiós muchachos

In last week’s post, I set myself the challenge of writing about the very best of crime fiction from the eight countries to have won the World Cup.  To that end, I thought I would begin by looking at a series of writers and novels that should grace the shelves of any...

Dead Cert

In 1988 Brazilian football legend Pelé co-wrote, with Herbert Resnicow, The World Cup Murder.  A rare copy featured in the Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction exhibition at The British Library in 2013.  Last night Brazil played its first home World Cup game...

Wrestling with Mimi

In 1934 the publisher Alfred A. Knopf released Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man.  It was Hammett's fifth work of real substance in as many years and it topped the charts almost instantly.  Whilst Hammett would continue to write, this was actually his last published...

The Panther Woman

To celebrate the all-too-short Hollywood Babylon: Early Talkies Before the Censors season at the British Film Institute, today's post takes a look at a brief rebellious period in film history.  When William Hays’ Motion Picture Production Code, was introduced in 1930,...

Tequila Mockingbird

For me, as for many others, the reading of detective stories is an addiction like tobacco or alcohol. The words of W. H. Auden from his essay The Guilty Vicarage which was published in Harper's magazine in May 1948.  Its sub-heading is Notes on the detective story, by...

Penny Dreadful

The latest big-budget TV show to hit our screens is Penny Dreadful, a luxurious velvet-coated look at the Victorian supernatural genre.  It airs this month courtesy of a co-production by Showtime and Sky Atlantic and it has a cast list stuffed with big names, and a...

Gab of the grift

This week an English newspaper published an article that you see every once in a while.  It published its view of the 20 best crime novels of all time.  You can read it here.  I love articles like this, not just because I love crime fiction and hearing what people...

Crime raita

Try the veal. The words of Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo from Mario Puzo's The Godfather (1969). In Francis Ford Coppolla's 1972 film adaptation these words are spoken during one of the most iconic gangster film scenes of all time. The scene takes place in Louis...

Exorcist noir

Throughout this blog, we've looked at a wide spectrum of crime fiction.  We've seen offshoots that relate to specific communities (e.g. Chinatown), offshoots dealing with animals, serial killers, and even cartoons and comic books. Today I'd like us to try something a...

Super-sonic sonar radar

It's not hard to imagine Porky Pig stuttering the iconic Warner Bros. Looney Tunes post-cartoon catchphrase.  Given it was first used in the 1930s the odds are that you've seen or heard it on many occasions, and not necessarily via a talking pig.  For many of us this...

Cocaine Blues

I have a theory that kitchens, once they reach a certain level of complexity, attract new gadgets into their orbit, like planets. Only this can account for the fact that I own two melon ballers. The words of Phryne Fisher from Cocaine Blues (1989) by Kerry Greenwood....

Tommy and Tuppence

Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. I don't often quote from The Old Testament but this passage, from The Book of Joel, seems appropriate.  Jehoshaphat was the fourth king of...

Lamb to the Slaughter

Could I commit the perfect murder? Well, yes, my dear, since you ask, I think that, very possibly, I could. The words of P.D. James.  These words have, in fact, been the inspiration for this site for over a year.  My search for the perfect murder is actually an...

The Hooded Claw

To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. The voice of John Watson and the opening sentences of A Scandal in Bohemia (1891) by Arthur Conan...

Last Tango in Aberystwyth

In my opinion the one thing that unites the majority of crime fiction, apart from murder most foul, is comedy.  Whether it be through the throw away one-liners that characterise the hardboiled detective era, the double act interplay of Holmes and Watson, or the elite...

CSI: Baker Street

My interest in pathology probably began when I heard about a Death Row inmate being beaten to death by fellow prisoners when I was on a night shift in 1980. I remember phoning up a nurse and asking about the victim's injuries...the morgue became a place of fascination...

Outsider in Amsterdam

Same sort of face, whiskers and all. I never knew I looked like a porcupine. The words of the character Mr McTosh from the book Hugh Pine (1980) by Dutch writer Janwillem van de Wetering, the subject of today's post.  Hugh Pine is a porcupine who befriends humans in...

First You Dream, Then You Die

The subject of today's post was born in New York in 1903.  On September 25th 1968 he was found dead in his apartment at the Sheraton Russell Hotel in New York City. A diabetic, an alcoholic, a closet homosexual, and confined to a wheelchair following the amputation of...

87th Precinct

The city in these pages is imaginary. The people, the places are all fictitious. Only the police routine is based on established investigatory technique. The opening of every single one of the 87th Precinct crime fiction novels by Ed McBain, the pseudonym used by Evan...

Introducing the Toff

How many words a day do I write? Between six and seven thousand. And how many hours does that take? Three on a good day, as high as thirteen on a bad one. The subject of today's post and the man responsible for that quote is a genuine crime fiction, and literary,...

Year of the Horse

This film does not intend to demean or to ignore the many positive features of Asian Americans and specifically Chinese American communities. Any similarity between the depiction in this film and any association, organization, individual or Chinatown that exists in...

No Country For Old Men

What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss? The words of the character Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men (2005) by Cormac McCarthy.  The film adaptation, by Joel and Ethan Coen, won four Academy Awards in 2008, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best...

The French Connection

What I wanted to do was a modern version of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. The words of William Friedkin speaking about his film The French Connection which won five Academy Awards in 1972, including Best Picture, and Best Director for Friedkin.  The film is...

‘They call me Mister Tibbs’

The 2014 Academy Award nominations are announced next week so awards fever will be bubbling nicely in a few days.  A perfect time then to consider the second of our award-winning stories to bring a little winter cheer.  That story is In the Heat of the Night by John...

‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…’

January... A month greeted with mixed emotions by many.  For those in colder climes, the end of the festive season is hard to deal with.  Months of bitterly cold weather lie ahead, with little to provide cheer, except perhaps a flash of red lanterns for Chinese New...

The hobo code

In November 2010 a man named Adan Abobaker took off his clothes and plunged into the freezing waters of the River Thames to save the life of a drowning woman.  He held her head above water until they were rescued by a passing vessel.  When he got back to shore he...

Somebody’s husband, somebody’s son

I was in Tokyo earlier this month and I couldn't stop thinking about Lucie Blackman.  Lucie had worked as a flight stewardess for British Airways before moving to Japan to work as a hostess in a nightclub in the Roppongi district of Tokyo.  It was here that she met...

In Cold Blood

Dill's eyes flickered at Jem, and Jem looked at the floor.  Then he rose and broke the remaining code of our childhood.  He went out of the room and down the hall.  "Atticus." his voice was distant, "can you come here a minute, sir?" A quote from To Kill a Mockingbird...

The Stratemeyer Syndicate

The recent release of the second film in The Hunger Games trilogy, adapted from the staggeringly successful novels by Suzanne Collins, provides the inspiration for today's post. Whilst the books, and perhaps more so the films, will find favour with a...

‘You can’t handle the truth.’

JUDGE'S VOICE: ...and that concludes the court's explanation of the legal aspects of this case. And now, gentlemen of the jury, I come to my final instruction to you...However you decide, your verdict must be unanimous. In the event you find the accused guilty, the...

The grassy knoll

There's always more to it. This is what history consists of. It is the sum total of the things they aren't telling us. I've thought a lot about this quote recently. It is from Libra (1988) by Don DeLillo, a speculative account of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man...

‘Just one more thing’

He took the knob in his left hand, and his right moved automatically to the gun in his pocket. He felt like a machine, beyond danger and invulnerable. He had been here many, many times before, had killed him many times before, and this was only one of the times. A...

Novela negra

An infinite city, one of the biggest in the world, a fascinating blanket of lights for those arriving on planes..A city gone crazy with pollution, rain, traffic; an economic crisis that’s been going on for twenty-five years. A city famously notable for the strangest...

The curious incident

Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?" Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time." Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time." Holmes: "That was the curious incident." An exchange from Silver Blaze...

Who killed Madame Butterfly?

Both of those performances were iconic, and I am not trying to emulate them. The words of Mads Mikkelson, talking about Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins who both portrayed the character Hannibal Lecter.  Today I'd like to discuss the portrayal of famous fictional...

The Godfather

Not for the first time, I reflected that a hundred and twenty a day wasn't a good rate for getting dead, but there was no point in upping the fees. A thousand a day is still a poor deal. The words of fictional detective Cliff Hardy, created by Australian author Peter...

Does crime pay?

In the early 1950s Joseph Damiani, a French criminal, was on death row for his role in an extortion racket which had led to several deaths.  Damiani was not however, a murderer and his sentence was later commuted to hard labour before he was released long before his...

Anonymous Rex

In the film Chupacabra vs. The Alamo (2013) a town is plagued by a pack of Chupacabras (the legendary "goatsucker" that is believed to stalk parts of the Americas).  In Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico (2004) the residents of Veracruz are also stalked by the...

Le plus grand Belge

For my part, I know of no better way to pass the time on a plane from Nice to Athens or, say, from Rangoon to Singapore, than to read one of Simenon’s novels. Somerset Maugham, commenting on the work of the Belgian writer George Simenon (1903-1989).  Simenon was an...

Genre killer (part two)

Detective stories help reassure us in the belief that the universe, underneath it all, is rational.  They're small celebrations of reason in an increasingly disordered world. The words of P.D. James who believes that the detective story, rather than glorifying crime,...

Genre killer (part one)

The social construct of 1920s England was markedly different from the pre-war Edwardian era which is perhaps best portrayed in E.M. Forster's Howards End (1910).  The Great War changed the fabric of English society forever.  Once great estates were now crippled by the...

Was Humpty Dumpty pushed?

Did Humpty Dumpty fall or was he pushed?The innocent musings of a curious child.  Except that the child in this instance was Phyllis Dorothy James and she grew up to be one of our greatest crime fiction novelists.  P.D. James has told the Humpty...

Rififi

...cordially invites you to a champagne reception to view our new fine jewellery collection and celebrate the relaunch of this iconic British brand. So reads the invitation on my desk.  I am thrilled to be asked, not because I shop regularly, or at all, for fine...

‘Ready when you are, Sergeant Pembrey.’

Last week I briefly examined a genre-changing novel.  Today I would like to do the same for a genre-changing character.  A character so memorable, so well crafted that we are incapable of letting him slip into the annals of literary history.  A character that didn't...

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