Posts from 6th March 2009

Mar 09

Crime Writers: Ed McBain

The Brown Wedge3 comments • 298 views

McBain, writing under that name and Evan Hunter (which he changed his name to in 1952, from Salvatore Lombino), is the only writer by whom I have read over a hundred books, and that is likely to remain true for a long time, maybe permanently. And I’ve not read any by five of his other pseudonyms, nor any of his poetry, plays, autobiographies, children’s books or screenplays (I have seen a few, notably The Birds). He was crazily productive: 25 books and some stories from 1956-1959 was his peak.

He’s best known for his 87th Precinct stories, 57 books spanning almost 50 years, though Detective Steve Carella and his fellow detectives in an analogue of NYC don’t age at that pace. These defined the police procedural, and are the model for most modern police TV shows, to one degree or another. They are short on heroics and car chases and genius detectives, long on professional cops doing their jobs, interviewing and following up leads. They are elevated well above the routine by his superb use of and descriptions of weather, and crackling and convincing dialogue, vital in the long interviews. He also reproduces documentation regularly.


THE JAM – “A Town Called Malice”/”Precious”

FT + Popular57 comments • 7,357 views

#495, 13th February 1982

Almost everyone agrees that 60s Motown is good, but Motown-esque records are far from a stylistic sure thing. This is only partly because most bands don’t have the Funk Brothers as a rhythm section: despite the directness of their formula, Motown songs often come at you obliquely. They cover a hefty emotional punch in gloves of charm, sweetness, melodic nuance or wit. The elemental force of the mighty mid-60s Four Tops hits was so effective because it was an exception, a glimpse of the storm beneath the skin.


Quite a Lot of Static…

Do You See + FT5 comments • 216 views

FM (Wednesdays, ITV2, yes ITV2) is a very odd little concept, but kind of works, I think?

So you get 20 minutes of him off the IT crowd and her off of teachers doing pretty standard “embarrassment and swearing” comedy set in a thinly-veiled Xfm clone and it kind of works cos chris o’dowd is good at that sort of thing, and the script is a bit obvious but has some decent set-ups and one-liners and visually it’s pretty decent, not unlike Nathan Barley but without the vicious, crippling evil that made NB so wonderful.

But then, because he’s an indie DJ at an indie radio station you get five minutes of the guillemots or the wombats playing a song “in session” in the studio whilst the characters occasionally talk over the top of it. It’s really weird. Really really weird. It’s not like in, eg The Young Ones where a band would suddenly appear for no reason, clearly the production company has thought about this and sold these slots (and it appears future bands include Ladyhawke and The Subways) as a way of increasing their income stream. And, they’ve even monetarised the playlists of the music in the show, with handy click-throughs to 7digital so you can buy what you’ve heard…

Which is more broken: music criticism or metacritic?

FT15 comments • 1,286 views

Here’s a post from Hitsville raising an interesting point about Metacritic scores. The case looks pretty clear-cut: movie critics are harsher and more discerning than music ones.

Harsher, yes. More discerning? Well. Allow me to get all research wonkish for a minute (or don’t, and scroll down to the section headed “WHY?”). If you look at the lists of current movies and music on Metacritic, it’s true that the average ratings are much higher for music, and it’s also true that the movie reviews “use” a wider range of scores. But not that much wider. The music reviews use a 53-point range: just over half the scale. The movie ones use a 67-point range: two thirds of the scale. That’s still a lot of scale going unused!