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Review: It’s Only A Movie – Mark Kermode

By Adam Roche

Reviewing a reviewer is certainly an odd position to find yourself in. I’ve been a Mark Kermode fan since his Radio One days, before listeners to that station were saddled with the inane ramblings of James “This new Matthew McConaughey comedy is the funniest movie of all time” King. Still, if I want to hear a Kermodian rant, there’s always the safe haven of Five Live, which plays host to Kermode and Simon Mayo’s film reviews on a Friday afternoon, and also provides the most entertaining movie podcast available.

Despite having followed Kermode’s rants and advice for the past decade or so, I knew relatively little about the man himself. Outside of his reviews, Kermode has done wonders to shed light on various crimes against film that would otherwise now be part of history. He championed a new cut of ‘The Exorcist’ (his favourite movie), which went some way towards the public getting The Version You’ve Never Seen, as well as creating the definitive documentary on the movie itself, ‘The Fear Of God’, available as part of the DVD release.

Closer to my heart, he has campaigned tirelessly for the re-release of Ken Russell’s inflammatory masterpiece ‘The Devils’, the only stumbling block being Warner Brothers’ ignorant refusal to release it on DVD. Kermode even went as far as to restore the most controversial pieces of the film, once thought lost, and to produce a fantastic film about the process of doing so: ‘Hell On Earth’. That Warner Brothers still refuse to let the public see this astonishing classic, despite its having been cleared by British censors years ago remains a source of constant irritation for myself, let alone Kermode. Luckily, the film is available from, shall we say, dubious sources?

And so to Kermode’s newest project, ‘It’s Only A Movie’. To be clear, this is not an autobiography, rather a memoir, a recollection of some of the most bizarre episodes in his life, tied of course to the films that surrounded them. We are given scant insight into his family life, other than that he has an extraordinarily long-suffering wife with whom he is very much in love. He talks briefly of his musical projects, even though his band The Dodge Brothers seem to occupy large amounts of his time nowadays. In short, if you’re looking for the definitive document about the man, from the man, this isn’t it. What it is, is a warm, genuinely funny account of the crazy life of a film critic.

We accompany Kermode as he traverses the wilds of Russia and the Ukraine in order to produce a set report from a low budget multinational horror movie, that results in injury and an encounter with Mr Nyet, the most unfriendly man in the history of history; sit stunned alongside Kermode as he attempts to interview a recently shot Werner Herzog; recoil as he recounts his being handbagged by Helen Mirren in the middle of the BAFTAs. Do we learn anything? Yes. Perhaps that the life of a movie critic isn’t just canapes at Cannes. It can be attempting to sleep on a piss covered mattress, on a train somewhere on the Ukraine border. It can be that the lower the budget of a movie, the nicer the director. It could be that the cup of tea you make for your boss at the magazine, if good enough, might enter his ‘Tea Chart’ at number four if you’re lucky. It could be that just because you’re a famous critic, doesn’t mean you won’t stay in a hotel room where the couple next door like to knock on your wall all night. With their headboard. It could be that ‘Piranha Women In The Avocado Jungle Of Death’ might just be an overlooked masterpiece. And then of course, it might be that Ken Russell is the worst person in the world to interview in front of a live audience. Glamorous it aint.

Told in a frank, conversational style, ‘It’s Only A Movie’ is a joyous recollection of horrors, suffused with Kermode’s dry wit and self-deprecating humour. Here is a man who still can’t quite believe his luck. Quite frankly, after listening to this, Kermode deserves his place as the nation’s most beloved movie critic. He tells of his university days as a Trot, his break into magazine writing, and his early days of radio, as well as the longstanding Odd Couple relationship with Simon Mayo, who, and I have to agree with Kermode on this, is the finest broadcaster this country has.

If there is one fault, it’s that Kermode does tend to believe in the maxim that one plus one equals half. His dialogue regularly reads like a Grisham novel:

‘Are we travelling on that train?’

‘Yes’

‘That train?’

‘Yes’

‘That train there?’

‘That train there’

‘Do you mean to tell me that we are travelling on that train in front of us?’

…and so on. After a while it does grate, but doesn’t really detract from the pace of the book, even though it does feel at times as though he was trying to bump up his word count slightly. The point is almost redundant anyway. At the book’s beginning, Kermode himself apologises for making everyone in the book sound as though they’re talking like him.

An essential read for Kermode fans, and a wonderfully warm read for anyone with an interest in movies, ‘It’s Only A Movie’ is light fare, but hugely enjoyable. Here’s hoping the BBC do the smart thing and give him the Film 2010 job.

Oh, and hello to Jason Isaacs.

It’s Only A Movie is out now, and is published by Random House

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The Electro Candy Book Club No. 1 – R J Ellory’s ‘The Anniversary Man’

No. 1 – The Anniversary Man – R J Ellory

Thanks to an idea from regular contributor, Daniel Lipscombe aka @strybe, Electro-candy are pleased to announce the formation of the Electro-Candy bookgroup. Over the next 12 months we will be putting up a book a month and then will invite you via the comments option to discuss the book. It doesnt matter if it is hard copy, electronic or audio.

Our first book, I am pleased to announce is :- Anniversary Man by R J Ellory . Roger has agreed to look at the comments and respond.

So get reading and lets get a discussion going.

Electro Candy reviews ‘The Anniversary Man’

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Legend of a Suicide by David Vann Penguin 2009

By Neil McCormick

I am not sure if I am alone in doing this, but I have a top three books, that over the years, I will return to and in doing so, it feels like I am catching up with old friends. After reading this book, I now have a fourth book to add to the list.

From reading the first letter to the final full stop, Legend of a Suicide by David Vann, has been a delight. I implore, that if you only read one more book in 2009, you make it this book.

I am not alone with this view:-

“Oh my god, Legend of a Suicide just bowled me over completely. It is such a tender, heartbreaking, breathtaking, horrifying and insanely compelling read that when I finished it I went straight back to the beginning and round again. I implore anyone with functioning eyes to read this book”

(Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine )

As the title suggests, the book tackles one of society’s greatest taboo’s : Suicide. Whilst it is an emotive subject, perhaps what sets this tale apart, is the fact that the author’s own father committed suicide. I hope in writing this book the author has been able to resolve any issues he may have had with his father’s passing.

Legend of a Suicide consists of 5 short stories and 1 novella, initially printed separately, but now brought together in one book. Whist initially, one might have expected the story arc to appear disjointed by doing this – the stories really do work together. By linking the separate storys into this one volume, Vann reflects in different ways on the effects of suicide, whilst the character names remain constant in each tale, the approach each time is slightly different. Perhaps this is hinted at by the very title of the book “Legend of a suicide”. For legend means a tale (or collection of related tales) popularly regarded as true but usually containing a mixture of fact and fiction. From the outset, you can deduce that the book will be a piece of fiction all be it with an element of truth, lurking within.

My favourite was the novella Sukkwan Island. This was Vann at the top of his game, the prose crackled, and one could almost taste the cold salty Alaskan air. It was also, this novella, in which i read one of the most shocking scenes ever produced in a book. I am not going to spoil it for you by revealing too much on the subject. All I will say, is, you think Vann is heading in one direction and expect an event to occur, it does happen but not the way you expected. I literally had to stop, learn to breath again, pick myself up from off the floor and re read what had just happened. Sukkwann Island really consists of two tales, the first half deals with events from the perspective of Roy and the latter half from his fathers perspective.

It is Vann’s talents as a wordsmith, describing the wilderness, and the constant weight of burden that the harsh weather is placing on the two characters that is worthy of praise. You can feel that whilst the characters are lone in the wilderness, they feel suffocated by all the elements. One thing that does come across is how Roy’s father is verging on going over the edge, from the lack of preparation for the trip, to the inability to deal with problems that occur.

It was terrifying trying to place onself in Roy’s position, how would I deal with a father that by day portrays himself as being totally in control but would at night crumble into a depressed state, weeping and despairing of his situation. But come the next day there would be no mention of the previous night. Jim should be held to account for his actions, it felt so many times throughout the tale that he was placing too big a burden on his son. When Roy asks to leave, Jim uses emotional blackmail to persuade Roy to stay. Yet , Vann still manages to make the reader pity rather than despise Jim.

This has been a great read, the other tales in the book, are not as harsh and contain an element of humour that is missing from Sukkwan Island. All I will say, is a child psychologist would have a field day if they got to assess Roy in the first story “Ichthyology”. He describes how his father would task him with preventing the fish from escaping the boat.

“Between us a kind of understanding developed: if they didn’t flop, I didn’t smash their heads withthe hammer. But sometimes, when the ride was especially wild and we were all thrown again and again into the ai and their blood ans slime were all over me, I gave out a few extra whacks…”

As I mentioned at the start, I really hope that in writing this book, Vann has been able to come to terms with his own father’s passing. As Roy’s mother said at the end of the book in the final story “The Higher Blue” –

“I don’t have to be angry anymore, I can feel sorry for him now”

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Penguin (29 Oct 2009)
ISBN-10: 0141043784
ISBN-13: 978-0141043784

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Portrait of County Down by Simon Brown – Halsgrove 2009

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From the rugged wilderness of the majestic Mourne Mountains to the rolling hills that surround the sheltered waters of Strangford Lough, and from the unspoilt coastline of North Down to the history steeped lands of the low-lying Lecale Peninsula, County Down is positively saturated with areas of interest for the fortunate visitor to savour.
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Join local landscape photographer Simon Brown on a journey around his beloved home county as he reveals the alluring landscapes of Down in all their splendour. Visiting the enchanting harbours, wondrous woodlands, luscious landscapes and mysterious megalithic monuments that make this area such a unique place, Portrait of County Down is a photographic tribute to undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom.

Simon Brown is an up-and-coming landscape photographer from Bangor in County Down. His love for photography first arose while backpacking around the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand in 2001. Since his return he has spent many hours travelling around Northern Ireland striving to build a collection of images showing his homeland at its beautiful best. Simon’s work regularly features in the national photographic press and often represents Northern Ireland on postcards, calendars and in local tourist guides. He has also been short-listed for several international photography awards. Portrait of County Down is his first book.
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The book is priced at £14.99 and is available from most bookstores in Northern Ireland. It is also available on Amazon. However should you have any difficulty you can order a copy directly from the publishers – Halsgrove by telephone 01823 653777

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I would also recommend that you visit Simon’s website – www.myphotographyjourney.com . There you can take in not just his photographs of County Down, but also the rest of Northern Ireland at its finest, as well as photographs from his recent return to New Zealand, the place that inspired him to begin his photography journey.

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The Day Of The Jack Russell: Electro Candy Investigates Bateman

By Adam Roche

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I stared at her. She was evil incarnate.

‘I’m six weeks pregnant,’ she said.

‘So’s your face’


It’s not often you’ll read a mystery novel where the lead character remains unnamed throughout, where the client of said investigator is known as ‘The Cock-Headed Man’, where a character will describe his stroke-afflicted mother thus: “Her diction isn’t great with her face the way it is. Before the stroke she looked like she’d been punched by Sonny Liston; now she sounds like it as well”. It isn’t often, and that’s what makes reading this book such a rare delight.

In his eventful life, Colin Bateman, in his own words, has been journalist, screenwriter, novelist and man of luck. The veteran of eighteen novels and five children’s books, his talents also brought BBC’s ‘Murphy’s Law’ starring James Nesbitt to our television screens, as well as three movies based on his work, ‘Crossmaheart’, ‘Wild About Harry’ and ‘Divorcing Jack’, the novel of which won him the Betty Trask Award. The Telegraph included Bateman in their list of ‘Top 50 Crime Writers To Read Before You Die’, and in 2009, his novel ‘Mystery Man’ was selected by Richard & Judy as part of their Summer Read.

With ‘The Day Of The Jack Russell’ Bateman returns to the characters of ‘Mystery Man’, notably the unnamed, self-obsessed, hypochondriac owner of bookshop No Alibis, who in his part time works as private investigator. ‘The Day Of The Jack Russell’ begins with The Man With No Name being approached by low-cost airline operator Billy Roche, who wants him to track down two anonymous vandals who have filmed themselves climbing a Billy Roche billboard and painting a huge example of male genitalia on it’s forehead, before repeatedly posting it on YouTube where it has become a global sensation.

Soon after discovering their whereabouts, the two men turn up dead, and our narrator finds himself under suspicion of murder. Grudgingly accepting the help of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, he must clear his name by discovering what exactly happened, who the mysterious men in the BMW’s are, and why a stuffed Jack Russell is so important to it all?

It’s a tribute to Bateman’s wonderful eye for detail and razor sharp wit, that instead of treading the boards with a po-faced gumshoe voice, we are instead treated to the funniest book of recent years. It’s film noir via Black Books, a cocktail of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Father Ted. Not a page goes by without a laugh out loud moment, whether it’s the LOVE and HAT tattooed on Billy Roche’s knuckles, Mr Narrator’s deliciously awful way of treating his underling Jeff, or his insistence on retaliating to most situations with ‘So’s your face’ when cornered.

The dialogue crackles with such electric wit that you’ll long for it to return during the quieter moments, but conversely you’ll find yourself yearning for the next monologue by the narrator who obliviously continues to describe his desolate hypochondria in the unwavering belief that he is a sick man. (“…selling books, which has more than enough excitement for someone with my blood pressure, and varicose veins, and cholesterol, and brittle bones, and psoriasis, and angina, and rickets, and tinnitus, and the malaria I caught from a single rogue mosquito on a visit to Belfast’s Botanical Gardens”). Tie up this wicked glee with a neat, perfectly shaped mystery that doesn’t pander to the comedy, or vice versa, but remains logical, engaging and mystifying, and characters you’ll lock inside your heart and keep there, despite their horrific flaws. It’s Bateman’s most engaging book yet, and deserves to be hand delivered along with the Yellow Pages to anyone with a love of crime and comedy.

colin_batemanIn preparation for the book’s release on the 12th November, we caught up with Bateman and asked him about holding grudges, awards called Betty, and killing off Richard & Judy:


First off, thank you for ‘So’s your face’. Speaking purely hypothetically, what do you think would be the single greatest situation in which it could be used? I’m thinking something to do with the United Nations.

I have to thank my teenage son for ‘So’s your face’, and probably the greatest situation it can be used in is right back at him. It’s like old women who look very respectable swearing, it’s the unexpected nature of it. Adults shouldn’t be saying it. Although I think a police man saying, ‘You were doing eighty-five in a thirty miles per hour zone,’ followed by ‘So was your face,’ would work quite well.

You’ve been a journalist, a screenwriter, and you’re now primarily a novelist. Honestly, if you could earn millions at any single one of them, which would you choose?

Well you’re never going to earn them as a journalist! I still write a lot of screenplays, but it’s just getting harder to get them made. I really don’t mind where the millions come from. Probably from the screenplay based on the novel, with me starring and singing on the soundtrack.

After the success of ‘Divorcing Jack’ as a film, how ‘Hollywood’ did life get for you?

It didn’t! A trip to Cannes and a fun premiere in Belfast, and then it was back to normal. The British film industry is very different to Hollywood!

You say on your website that the producers took control of ‘Murphy’s Law’ after series two, which seemed to rankle with you, but allowed you the time to concentrate on other pursuits. How do you feel about it now? And what do you think of the direction in which they took it?

I have a tendency to hold grudges, but am content with the knowledge that one day I will have my revenge. So still bitter. And twisted. I just think it was lazy – if you’re going to change a character so much that he’s completely different, then just go and create a different series. Of course, the new version got better reviews, so I’m buggered whatever way you look at it. And so’s your face.

Can you give us a little information on ‘Little Fishes’? Ardal O’Hanlon and Alastair MacGowan sound like a dream team. What’s the premise?

This one has been knocking around for years. It very nearly got made. The head of BBC 1 came to see a staged reading of it, then resigned the next day.   I’m sure the two were connected. It got buried after that. But no bad thing, looking back, it wasn’t great. Currently working with BBC Comedy on a tv version of ‘Mystery Man’. It may or may not get made, you never know with these things.

So if you bring ‘Mystery Man’ and it’s characters to TV, what sort of format would it be? An hour long, six-parter or something? The press release that came with the book says that SMG, the creators of Rebus and Taggart, are currently seeking a high profile cast. Have you got anyone in mind yourself?

SMG had a very early version of the idea, long before the book was written. I’ve now written a script based on the novel, one hour long, with the intention of making six episodes. But it’s very much a long shot, a lot of scripts get written, extremely few made.

Do you have any plans to write another childrens book?

I’ve written five so far, and have just (literally) today finished the sixth, which is the first in a series about a charity which flies to environmental or troubled hotspots around the world rescuing people, animals etc. It’s called, ‘SOS: Icequake!’ and should be out for the summer.

I was wondering what period of movie history you’re most drawn to? ‘The Day Of The Jack Russell’ reminded me so much of the Bogart and Bacall movies, which also begs the question, which writers inspire you? I’m guessing Hammett and Chandler are in there?

Well I’ve always been a big movie buff, so I’m inspired by all periods. But I do like good, fast, snappy dialogue. You don’t get that much of it these days.  I often think when I see the huge blockbusters, why didn’t they hire someone to do some decent dialogue and they could have added another $50 million at the box office for the sake of a few thousand? Hammett and Chandler yes, although I haven’t read them in 30 years.

Do you think it’s more valuable to be inspired by reading or watching something wonderful, or by watching something terrible and knowing you can better it?

Both! It may be a Northern Irish thing, but I’ve always had the attitude when I see a movie or read a book, ‘I can be as crap as that.’ i.e. give me a chance and let’s see what happens. It’s really all about getting your first break. I’ve been very lucky.

How much planning do you do for a novel? How do you form a structure, or are you the kind of writer who prefers to sit down each day with a blank page and a simple idea of what’s to come?

I don’t really plan at all. I usually start with a title, and then a vague idea for an opening scene. The new one starts with graffiti being drawn on an advertising hoarding, and that came to me while I was swimming up and down a pool while on holiday, and by the time I climbed out I had the first two or three chapters done in my head, and then it was a scramble to get it down on paper before I forgot it all. One I had the grafitti it’s a matter of getting the characters talking – who did, why would they do it, how do we track them down, what would happen to them next, and before you know it you’re half way through the book.

On average, how many drafts of a novel do you write?

One. I re-write and edit as I go.

And how do you feel about e-books?

All for it, whatever way you can get your stuff out there. Looking into releasing some of my own out of print books privately as downloads.

What can being on the Richard and Judy list do for a writer? From conversations with other writers that have had their books chosen, it seems as though it’s perceived in the industry as the golden ticket. What changed for you?

I am the kiss of death for most things! Day after I got on the list, the Richard and Judy Show got cancelled! Seriously, over the years they’ve had at least a hundred writers. A very few go on to million selling status, most just see a decent improvement in sales. That’s where I am. Really it’s about getting into places where you don’t normally sell – like Tescos and Asda. Then hopefully it has a knock on effect with the following books.

Seeing as you’re the kiss of death for most things, will you do me a favour and think about appearing on Strictly Come Dancing?

Yes.

You’ve been included in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Top 50 Crime Writers To Read Before You Die’ and you won the Betty Trask award. Is it hard to fit these accolades on your business cards, or do you casually drop them in after telling people your name?

Winning an award with ‘Betty’ in the title has never helped anyone’s career. It was quite nice to be in the Daily Telegraph thing, especially as most of the others were dead. But I do think they just pull names out of the ether a bit – oh, we must have a Northern Irish one. From memory the Telegraph list talking about my Dan Starkey book, ‘Wild About Harry’, when it doesn’t feature him at all.


Casanova, Liberace, Cher, Madonna and now Bateman. In your own words, your christian name is “gone but not forgotten”. What does your wife call you?

You  f****** little  s****, get back in your room before I kick the f****** b******* off you, you r******* f****** a******.    She’s from Newtownards.

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To celebrate the release of ‘The Day Of The Jack Russell’, Electro Candy is giving away five copies of the book courtesy of Headline publishing. To enter simply follow Electro Candy on Twitter (@electro_candy) and retweet the prize entry message you will find there. Winners will be drawn on November 15th and notified via Twitter.

Electro Candy would like to give special thanks to Samantha Eades from Headline

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An Invitation To RJ Ellory’s Official Launch Event For ‘The Anniversary Man’

By Adam Roche

RJ Ellory at LBF 2009-2

You all know we thought RJ Ellory’s latest masterpiece, ‘The Anniversary Man’ was a bonafide classic. You can read our review and interview with Mr Ellory here. To  launch this wonderful book, RJ Ellory is throwing an official launch event, and would like to invite all his fans along for the evening. It’s at the Birmingham Library Theatre, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham (City Centre), Wednesday 28th October at 7.30pm.

There will be wine and nibbles, a reading or two from the man himself, a question and answer session, and a signing opportunity to follow, so make sure you take all your Ellory titles along with you. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with RJ Ellory, and we here at Electro Candy urge you to go along if you can. You won’t be disappointed. Ellory is a sensational raconteur and a thoroughly lovely man to boot.

Tickets are £5, £3.75 on concession.

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Review: The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson – Part 2: The Girl Who Played With Fire

By Adam Roche

This week, we continue our retrospective of the Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. For the first part, please click here.

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After the horrific events and tumultuous revelations on the island of the Vanger family, Mikael Blomkvist has returned not only to Stockholm, but to Millenium magazine. His reputation restored and his celebrity assured, Blomkvist has gone back to what he does best, namely digging the dirt. After being approached by a crusading journalist, Svenson, who wants to expose Sweden’s sordid sex trade business, Blomkvist agrees to publish a book naming and shaming it’s illustrious clientele.

Lisbeth Salander, however, cannot be found. She has broken contact with Blomkvist, having had her heart singed by his hedonistic views on love, and so has absconded from Sweden to travel the world with the three billion Krone she invisibly embezzled at the close of Part One.

It seems, however, that old habits die hard. After hacking into Blomkvist’s computer, she discovers the manuscript of the book Blomkvist plans to publish, and within it’s pages, the name ‘Zala’, an elusive shadow whose influence stretches high into the sex trade hierarchy. For Salander, however, the name means a whole lot more…

Resolving to find out more, she visits Svenson and his girlfriend Mia, to discover everything they know of Zala. Later that night, however, Svenson and Mia are found shot in their apartment, and every clue points to Salander.1107446_The_Girl_Who_Played_With_Fire

Firmly trusting her innocence, Blomkvist begins to investigate the events of the evening, delving ever deeper into a spiralling abyss of murder, brutality and betrayal. Soon he is caught up so inextricably in its web that the only way to escape is to expose the black secret he has uncovered.

Salander, meanwhile, has begun an investigation of her own. One that will bring her face to face with her horrific past…

Larsson obviously planned for his ‘Millenium’ books to form a trilogy. Events hinted at in Part One are revisited here, along with the further fleshing out of characters you may have supposed to be incidental. Crucially, he fills in the gaps of Salander’s past, and again, it is she who brings this book to life. Blomkvist, as clever and nosey as he is, is not as magnetic as Salander. The problem though, is that she is absent for long stretches, most notably after the double murder that starts the engine of the book.

It’s necessary of course, as preliminary investigations into the victims and Salander commence, along with a media frenzy into Salander’s personal life that escalates to hysterical proportions. As details emerge, her absence causes us, the reader, to evaluate our knowledge of her, and decide for ourselves if she could be capable of such violence. The troubling conclusion is that, of course, she is.

The plot itself is well thought out. The Zala conspiracy has far reaching connotations and consequences involving some extremely well connected people who aren’t about to sit back and let a reporter and a damaged goth tarnish their names. The problem lies in Larsson’s insistence on introducing new characters at every turn, each with something at stake. No one, it seems, is unimportant. Valuable page space is given to Erika Berger and her decision to leave Millenium magazine for a better job. Ronald Nieminen, a marvelous new character who stands seven feet tall, is impervious to pain, and who speaks with a squeaky high-pitched voice, is given two unnecessarily drawn out scenes where he is stalked by a forest troll that doesn’t exist. The scenes bring nothing to the story and are never fully explained. They’re simply too diverting to be interesting, and end up as confusing.

And then we come to the main problem with the book. I have no idea what the arrangement between Larsson’s estate and the editor of his manuscripts is or was, but I get the feeling that the threat of death by stinging nettle was hanging over the editor if he so much as removed a word from Larsson’s original text.

08090bookssteig_330Never before have I read such a bloated work of fiction. Here you will find Blomkvist telling himself that Salander must be innocent. She must be. He felt it. It was good enough for him. She had saved his life. That mattered to him. It was this thought that made him think she was innocent. She must be. She wouldn’t have saved his life and then taken another. And what reason would she have for doing it? There was none. She must be innocent. He believed that she was. He was a good judge of character. Besides, he knew Salander. True she didn’t want to see him anymore, but it didn’t matter. He believed her, and he had to trust his feelings. She was innocent alright. And he would prove it. He didn’t know how, but he would. She had saved his life, now he would save hers. He owed it to her.

Bored yet? Well strap those matchsticks onto those eyelids because you’ll find monologues like this aplenty. Blomkvist has this same conversation with himself several times throughout the course of the book. And not just him. Listen as Berger waffles on repeatedly about how she and Blomkvist get it on at all opportunities. Her husband knows about it. He approved. He was not the jealous type. Blomkvist gave her something that he could not. With her husband she had warmth, love. With Blomkvist she had sweaty porno sex. Her husband knew. And so on.

And what of the ridiculous fixation with detail that bogged down Part One so miserably? Well, it’s back. I refer you to page 73. Hang on to your Prozac kiddies, Salander’s going to Ikea!

“She bought two Karlanda sofas with sand-coloured upholstery, five Poang armchairs, two round side tables of clear-lacquered birch, a Svansbo coffee table and several Lack occasional tables. From the storage department she ordered two Ivar combination storage units and two Bonde bookshelves, a TV stand and a Magiker unit with doors. She settled on a Pax Nexus three-door wardrobe and two small Malm bureaus.

She spent a long time selecting a bed, and decided on a Hemnes bed frame with mattress and bedside tables. To be on the safe side, she also bought a Lillehammer bed to put in the spare room. She did not plan to have anyone to stay, but since she had a spare bedroom she might as well furnish it”

Unbelievably, three more paragraphs of items follow, and then we get to the exciting stuff:

“She made her way through the entire warehouse and bought a good supply of sheets, pillowcases, hand towels, duvets, blankets, pillows, a starter pack of stainless steel cutlery, some crockery, pots and pans, cutting boards, three big rugs, several work lamps, and a huge quantity of office supplies – folders, box files, waste-paper baskets, storage boxes, and the like”

Now let me try: “Salander went to Ikea and bought all the things she’d need to furnish her apartment”

Telling me that Salander bought two Karlanda sofas and a Svansbo coffee table conjures no image whatsoever in my mind. What the hell do either of these objects look like? Am I supposed to use an Ikea catalogue in conjunction with this book? And if so, why wasn’t one included?

But hey, if you really want to feel a part of what’s going on, take this excerpt, where Salander fights a giant biker:

“The toe of her boot shot up with full force and was transformed into kinetic energy in his crotch with a pressure of about 120 kilos per square centimetre”

Now, I knew Salander was a genius, but to perform a mental calculation of that intricacy in the heat of combat is really something else. But where does it leave us? Well I have relatively little experience with kilos per square centimetre, but I assume it to be bloody heavy, or fast, or hard or something. Kinetic energy in my crotch is something I’ve experienced, though I’d rather not say where or when.

And you will be astonished, nay dumbfounded with Blomkvist’s supernatural ability to enter an apartment and spookily know straight away it’s floor size in square metres. Nary an area doth pass our dear Blomkvist without him commenting on it’s 300 square metre floor area, or it’s 33 square metre floor area. And this is before he’s even looked the place over. At least his future as an estate agent is safe if the mag business suddenly turns to pulp.

The first part of the book contains a hopelessly unrelated section where Salander spies on a couple on holiday and comes to believe something sinister is going down. Tense, yes, but absolutely pointless. Oh, to have been an editor on this book. I truly do believe that had Larsson lived to see his books published, he would have overseen the editing and translating of his work with a little more care. As it is, ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ is a 569 page tome that could quite easily be cut down to 300 pages without losing any of it’s tension. Maybe one day, we’ll get an ‘Editor’s Cut’

So it’s overlong, packed with horrible translation and unnecessary detail, and overstays its welcome by 200 pages or so, but for all it’s faults, ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ does a good job of stealing your breath now and then. There are revelations in this book that will surprise and perhaps even disgust you (Dr Teleborian, I’m looking at you, sick man that you are)

Read the book though, by all means. You’ll have to if you want to discover the true soul of Salander, who it has to be said, is worth stalking. She remains this book’s greatest creation, and it’s lone salvation. You’ll find yourself cheering with delight and relief when she re-enters the story at various points. However, be prepared for long bouts of loss. She does like to hide herself away.la-ragazza-che-giocava-con-il-fuoco

The quote on the front of the book is from Joan Smith of the Sunday Times, who says “This novel will leave readers on the edge of their seats”. The problem is that unless they’re fuelled with coffee, they may find themselves slumping to the floor.

Selected pictures taken from the upcoming film ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire’ from Yellow Bird Films

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