Archive for london

THE BRIXTON ACADEMY By Simon Parkes with J S Fafaeli – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2018 by stanleyriiks

When Parkes persuades a brewery to sell him the lease to a virtually derelict former-cinema in Brixton for a pound, all he has is his vision and a love of live music…

Despite run-ins with gangsters, music biz legends, threats, thefts, drugs, Parkes manages to create a one of the best music venues in London. From the early days with The Clash and The Smiths, to the nineties raves and then Britpop, Parkes witnessed it all as it came through his venue.

I myself have witnessed some musical magic on that stage, although after Parkes’ departure.

This is a story of the London music scene, the cultural melting pot that is Brixton, and Parkes’ triumphs and survivals through this insane world.

Interesting, entertaining, but perhaps a little simplified and watered-down, this is still a great insight into life on the London Music scene from one of the men who created it.

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THE NECROMANCER By Douglas Clegg – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2017 by stanleyriiks

This book feels very similar to the previous Cemetery Dance book I read by Chet Williamsons, except where The Story of Noichi the Blind, the set-up feels strained and overdone, here it works.

This book is based on the diary of a young man on his journey to becoming the apprentice of The Necromancer of the title. Justin Gravesend is born and brought up in a mining town in Wales in the mid-1800s, believing his father is a murderer who killed his twin brother as a baby, James heads off to London, as much to escape his family and life down the pit as to seek his fortune. At University he becomes friends with some toffs who take him to a brothel, where a man is waiting for him, the owner of the brothel, and the Necromancer.

Will James survive the initiation?

It all ends rather abruptly just as the story starts getting interesting. Perhaps that’s because this is part of a series of books, but I still felt a little cheated. I expect a book to be a whole story, and to a certain extent it is, that of James’ discovery and initiation and maturation into an apprentice, but at that point it ends. The rest of the story is told in Clegg’s other books in this series, which are currently only available on the Kindle (yuk yuk yuk, technology!).

A traditional and well told tale of horror, which ends too quickly. More a prelude than a proper story, but I guess that’s what you give with chapbooks.

PRIVATE LONDON By James Patterson and Mark Pearson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Eight years ago Hannah Shapiro and her mother were abducted in Los Angeles. When Hannah’s father, a multi-billionaire refuses to give the kidnappers their ransom Hannah’s mother is raped and killed, and Hannah is saved by Jack Morgan minutes before she would have been murdered.

Now Hannah is studying in London, and Jack Morgan’s international Private Investigation Agency’s London office, with Dan Carter taking the lead, are heading up the protection. Until Hannah is kidnapped, and Dan Carter’s goddaughter is put in hospital with a smashed skull in the attack.

Also, a series of bodies are turning up with organs missing along with half of their wedding-ring fingers.

This is a fast paced thriller, and great fun. The London setting is well-thought out, and actually adds to the action, the capital’s various transport links used to perfection as part of the story. The secondary plot of the missing-organ bodies seems unrelated, and strangely tacked on. I continued to await a development which would link the two plots, but found nothing to indicate any relationship.

Dan Carter is a hero with a heart, and not your normal tough-guy, he’s a big softy deep down, but also doesn’t pull his punches. Apart from that the Private London crew are a series of clunky non-standard stereotypes barely fleshed out.

This is the second book in the series, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. There is some back story, but it works to flesh out some of the characters.

Good, fast paced action. Nicely entertaining, but nothing of substance, still a great book to read on a plane or a beach, and I’ll certainly be back for some more light reading with Private Games the third in the series. Good middle of the road fun.

DROOD By Dan Simmons – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2011 by stanleyriiks

This is Wilkie Collins’ journal of some of his adventures with Charles Dickens during the last few years of the great writer’s life, including the mysterious encounters with Drood, and Wilkie’s increasing dependency on opium.

The authenticity is the book’s downfall, this reads very much like a mid-nineteenth century novel, it’s over-wordy and over-long, and yet you’re enveloped in a fog-filled London full of opium dens, whores and private policeman.

Drood is either a dangerous criminal mastermind, a mesmerist, or a figment of either Wilkie’s or Dickens’ imagination. At the end of the novel you’re still not sure.

Massively detailed, and perfectly acceptable as an alternative history, the book fits perfectly into the real world of facts we have about both writers. Its entertaining, in its way, but suffers for being so long, and wrapping itself, as well as the reader, in circles of mystery that there is no escape from.

Fascinating, but ultimately too much like hard work, for those willing to sacrifice the weeks needed to read all seven hundred pages you will feel faintly rewarded. Not one of Simmons best book, his Hyperion quartet is amazingly brilliant, and this suffers, like Ilium, from being over-written.

A brilliant writer again not at his best.

DISTURBIA By Christopher Fowler – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2010 by stanleyriiks

This starts off magnificently, Fowler’s richly styled first chapter promises much only to fall away and concentrate on the story. A story that reminds me of a cheap version of The Da Vinci Code, despite being written fourteen years ago.

Vincent Reynolds (working class writer) meets up with Sebastian Wells (son of Lord, never worked in his life) to research a piece he’s writing on the class struggle in London. He soon becomes involved in a race for his life, as he delves too deep into the secret society of the Prometheus Club, a group of power-hungry rich aristos. Vince must follow the clues, enlisting a strange group to help him discover the truth, otherwise he will be killed, as he plays a deadly game set by the Club.

This starts off well, but then the style and the violence fall by the wayside to be replaced by the chase. And although the tension remains high throughout, that’s not enough. Vince is well drawn, and Fowler obviously knows his city, exploring it with skill, but I’m afraid it’s just not enough after the great start. This feels like a poor-man’s The Da Vinci Code, with sprinklings of China Mieville’s socialist slant.

Not a failure, this is more a missed opportunity. The clues aren’t as exciting or as solvable as The Da Vinci Code, and you end up witnessing the bizarre clues rather than following along and solving them yourself.

Could have been so much better. Promised much but ultimately failing to deliver, still not bad, but Fowler has done better.

FIREFIGHT By Chris Ryan – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2010 by stanleyriiks

A kind of grown-up boy’s own adventure. A gritty, urban, modern James Bond, without the sexy women, the hot gadgets, or Fleming’s style. In fact without the panache, without the fast cars, and the big bad villain. Without any of the accessories that make Bond such a great character. So what do we have?

Former SAS Captain Will Jackson is a drunk, having left the regiment two years ago after the brutal murder of his wife and child in a terrorist attack. But Jackson is called in by MI5 for one last mission, to seek out Faisal Ahmed, a former CIA operative who has gone rogue and intends to target London in a massive terror attack. Jackson must put together a crack team to follow the only lead they have, to Afghanistan to attempt to save Ahmed’s sister from the Taliban in the hope that she will lead them to him.

Ryan’s writing style is basic, and even a little clumpy in areas. His characters are cardboard, his plots are weak and predictable. What he does bring to the table is authenticity, and he does that by the bucket load. Despite the failures of many parts of the book, it still manages to hold up (just), because of the small details that make you think, yes, that’s right.

There are better thrillers, there are better books, better characters, better plots, but you won’t get authenticity much better than this. For purists and fans only, the bloke is a true hero, but he’s not a novelist.

Credit Crunch: A Survivor’s Guide – Shopping Intelligently: False Economy, it’s not cheaper!

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Don’t buy smaller than you can use.

A small tub of butter/spread is more expensive than a large one in terms of weight (per gram the smaller tub is more expensive). If you’re going to use a kilo tub before it goes off, which is fairly likely, then you are better off buying the larger one.  Buying the smaller one because it’s cheaper (although more expensive per gram, and therefore worse value) is false economy.

This works for almost all products, and supermarkets are now being quite helpful by giving the price of items and the grams, rolls, sheets, litres, cost.

Buy sixteen or eighteen rolls of toilet paper rather than four. (Can save £2.00 a month on average)

Buy a five-litre bottle of mineral water, or a six-pack instead of individual bottles. If you need to use smaller bottles for work or ease of use, buy a big one and a funnel and pour it in. Ok, so it’s slightly more work, but it’s less money. The average family can save over £100.00 a year by giving their kids small bottles filled with water from larger bottles. (Of course investing in a water filter jug and several filters will be even cheaper, it costs about 2p a litre. If you live in London and have to drink the hideously cloudy and foul-tasting recycled liquid, it may take a while to get used to it after Evian [trust me!]).

This also uses less packaging, which is good for the environment. Good for the environment can be good for you!

Use this technique for everything that doesn’t have a short shelf life, soft drinks, bottled water, toilet rolls, butter/spread, tinned goods, frozen goods. Doesn’t work so well for short-life products like milk, but work it out. If you can use a six pint bottle then it’s still better value than a four and a two pint, or three two pints.

You can save hundreds of pounds shopping this way.