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Book Review

Forgotten Classics

Movie Review

Book Review: The Stretch

by Lang Reid

Last week, some of Pattaya’s lucky book readers had the opportunity to meet Stephen Leather, a consummate wordsmith and the author of The Stretch, subject of this week’s review. This soft cover book was published at the end of last year and it is another in the suspenseful thriller genre for which Leather is so well known.

This is Leather’s twelfth book and is set in London, a city apparently populated by career criminals, such as one of the principal subjects, Terry Greene. That Leather does his homework is very evident in the rich detail which runs through the whole story. In the front of the book is a brief CV on Leather who was a journalist and previously a biochemist, quarry worker, barman and petrol pump attendant, none of which could have given him the minute details that he uses so explicitly in ‘foreign’ areas to give the realism he produces. For example, as Terry Greene, a convicted murderer, is admitted to prison where he is forced to check in his possessions: “(The prison officer) dropped the watch on the tiled floor and stamped on it. He kept his eyes on Terry as he bent down and picked it up. ‘Rolex Oyster, gold, broken.’ He tossed the watch in the polythene bag.” The stage is set, and you know immediately whose side you are on!

The ‘real life’ situation in the beginning of the book will be one that anyone who has received more bills than the bank account can pay will relate to, and the desperate ways the impecunious will try to avoid the financial disaster. For Terry Greene’s wife, the way was more than desperate - it was cataclysmic.

This book is also notable for all Pattaya folk in that it also features a character called Kim Fletcher. Not THE Kim Fletcher of Shenanigans Irish Pub, but Stephen Leather has admitted that he “stole” the name for one particular character in this thriller. And don’t worry, “Kim Fletcher” gets his just rewards in the end (as well as a BMW to drive around in)!

The pace of the novel is simply breathtaking, with no let-up between one earth shattering event and the next. Intrigue, double-crosses, bent coppers, grassing crims, murders, fire-bombings, sex, drugs, (no rock ‘n roll) coshings, shivvings, muggings, car crashes, the IRA - they’re all there between the covers.

Stephen Leather has the good writer’s knack in being able to twist your attitudes towards the central players in the book. Where you began cheering for one subject, you are jeering before the end. Where you believed in one person’s words implicitly, you, like one of the central characters, will begin to have doubts, become disillusioned and disappointed, but in the end will take revenge. And the revenge is sweet, let me assure you!

Available at Bookazine, corner of Beach Road and Soi Pattayaland 1 for 295 baht, this book represents great value, great fiction and a great read. A wonderfully believable yarn you will not wish to put down (I was forced to read it in one sitting). Get it!

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Forgotten Classics: 

Focus - Focus 3

by Mott the Dog

Star Rating - ***

Focus were certainly the best band to come out of Holland in the Seventies. (Don’t give me Golden Earring, “Radar Love” was a great song, but what else did they have in their biscuit barrel?)

Focus were formed in Amsterdam in 1969 and they became a major concert attraction in Europe, playing extended songs with lots of classical bits thrown in. Over the years their music matured and some would say peaked with 1972’s Focus 3.

Some great guitar, keyboard and flute work disguised the fact that none of them could sing or even speak English. As a substitute there were lots of blood curdling screams, orgasmic groans, triumphant shrieks and choir-like choruses.

Focus 3 starts off with the sprightly jazz tinged “Round Goes The Gossip”. This was followed by six, short, well constructed rock songs including the band’s biggest single success in the riff laden “Sylvia” (the Bizarre Hocus Pocus complete with manic yodelling coming from the previous album “Moving Waves”).

But it’s the second half of this CD where the songs are extended up to 27 minutes and the band members are allowed to come into their own, kick off their clogs and go for the solos.

The interplay between keyboards, flute, guitar and even a rocked out penny whistle is absolutely mesmerizing, with each musician pushing the other to the limit.

The only thing that puts the old tail between the legs a bit is the over long bass and drum solos at the end. This Dog always thinks that drum solos are to allow the rest of the band a break (drummers don’t need them). Therefore, on record they become a little tedious, especially when listening to them for the second or third time round.

For this culpable sin, I deduct 2 stars from the otherwise true Forgotten Classic

Track Listing:

1. Round Goes The Gossip
2. Love Remembered
3. Sylvia
4. Carnival Fugue
5. Focus III
6. Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!
7. Elspeth Of Nottingham
8. Anonymous Two

Line Up:

Thijs Van Leer - Keyboards, Flute, Penny Whistle
Jan Akkerman - Guitars
Bert Ruiter - Bass
Pierre Van Der Linden - Time Keeper & Long Boring Drum Solo’s

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Movie Review: Bridget Jones’ Diary

By Poppy

Bridget Jones’ Diary (from the best-selling novel by Helen Fielding) tracks our title character for one year. She’s 32 years old and has spent most of her life doing menial work and spending too much time drinking, smoking and eating. She is continually depressed at her lack of a meaningful relationship and her weight. Renee Zellweger has clearly and bravely gained the 20 requisite pounds to play the chubby-cheeked Bridget, who repeatedly resolves to get her life in order - and manages to make a complete mess of it every time.

The two men in Bridget’s life are her rakish boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and her childhood friend Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Oddly, while Bridget professes romantic woes, she soon finds herself with the two men to choose from. This then causes the dilemma, and hence the need for a diary.

Hugh Grant’s role as her scoundrel of a boss is quite brilliant, showing us some of his inner rogue that we saw in some of his previous roles. Firth, on the other hand, is meant to be a rather stiff antithesis to Cleaver’s carefree character, making us believe him to be an unlovable, boring character leaving us to wonder what Bridget would ever see in him.

There are some very funny scenes, e.g., she shows up as the only one in a hooker costume at a “tarts and vicars” party and she runs through a snowstorm in leopard-print panties.

A very funny movie but what else could you expect from the people who brought us Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill? Bridget Jones’ Diary was written by Richard Curtis, produced by Tim Bevan, Jonathan Cavendish and Eric Fellner and directed by first-time director Sharon Maguire.

Renee Zellweger plays a brilliant part making you laugh and cry with Bridget, a movie well worth seeing but unsuitable for children.

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