A(nother) Review: Diary of a Somebody by Brian Bilston

The chances are – if you’re on Twitter – then you’ve stumbled across Brian Bilston and his poetry on at least one occasion. Often dubbed the unofficial poet laureate of twitter, it is perhaps unsurprising that he found himself offered a book deal.

Diary of a Somebodystarts out promisingly enough with diary entries each headed with a short poem. It’s not a gimmick though, the fictional Brian Bilston is an aspiring poet and is planning to spend his year writing a poem a day.

The diary entries are split into two – poetry and prose. However, like all good resolutions, Brian starts to falter, finding lack of inspiration or lack of time.

Brian’s year goes as well as his poetry, his ex-wife is moving on, he’s fast losing interest in his job and his rival’s poetry career is going from strength to strength. Even his twitter followers have stalled at a measly forty.

Things start to look up a little when a new woman – Liz – joins their poetry group and Brian starts to develop a crush, which appears to be reciprocated.

I was excited for this book when I first got it – I’d seen some of Bilston’s poetry online and I’d enjoyed it, plus any differentiation from the normal structure of a novel is like catnip to me. 

Did it work? I’m going to go with yes, but I struggled a bit. The story was good, but the pacing was slow – and the poems slowed it down somewhat. 

The blurb of the book teased a potential murder, but when that doesn’t happen until somewhere near the end of August in a diary that starts in January, it does feel like you’re spending a lot of time waiting for the plot to start.

Perhaps that’s an issue with the marketing of the book, perhaps the ‘murder’ shouldn’t be mentioned at all, but I think without that mention, I’d be wondering where it was going. 

The plot sort of meanders along, a bit like in EastEnders when something dramatic happens in June, and then they have the characters tread water until they can do a big Christmas Day reveal.

Looking back on it now, as I write this review, I realise that’s my biggest problem with it, the plot being stretched out over the course of a year. It could have all taken place in the space of a few months and rattled along nicely. 

The poems however were great, they fed the theme of each chapter, and although they didn’t necessarily advance the plot, they were quite amusing at times.

In summary, a nice idea for the structure, but it doesn’t quite work for me. It’s funny, though, and dark in places if you like that sort of thing (I do) – and the diary entry structure does at least make it a nice to book to dip in and out of. 

You can quickly read an entry or two while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, so would be perfect for people who don’t have a lot of time to read.

Diary of a Somebody will be published by Picador in June

A(nother) Review: The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

Let’s talk about chapters.

 

I know that’s not exactly the sexiest way to start a blog, but just be thankful I’m not spending a thousand words asking you to consider the oxford comma.

 

I’ve often wondered what the point of a chapter break is, and eventually I came to the conclusion that they’re almost exclusively used to help pace a novel.

 

Different books use them in differing lengths. Thrillers tend to use them every other page or so, which A) helps the more casual ready to pick them up and read one or two chapters in a sitting and B) psychologically helps invoke the feeling of a fast paced, page turning thrilling book.

 

The thriller in front of me on my desk is 522 pages long, a big chunky novel on first glance, but there are 127 chapters in it. With each chapter comes a page break typically between half a page and a full page long – that means there’s around a hundred pages worth of blank space in this particular book.

 

 The Feed by Nick Clark Window takes the opposite route and uses chapter breaks sparingly.

 

The story concerns Tom and Kate who start off the book in a world where everybody’s brain is connected to a feed – imagine twitter embedded into your mind – and one night, they daringly go off feed to have a romantic dinner where they actually talk to each other.

 

While off grid, the assassination of a major politician causes the government to shut down the feed for everyone, and massive panic ensues as a whole society is plunged cold turkey into a rehab they didn’t ask for.

 

The Feed doesn’t then quite go where you think it’s going to go, but it lets you glimpse a world that feels strangely familiar, a world where we are all addicted to social media, where our heads are always somewhere other than our bodies, where we take data in at a million miles an hour.

 

The desolate world that we arrive in following the removal of the feed feels like something straight out of The Walking Dead – a disparate group of survivors trying to build a new community only to run the risk that members of their new society might be taken over in their sleep by some other consciousness, one that arrives there through the now defunct feed.

 

The sparing use of chapter breaks frustrated me at first – I use them as natural stopping points, I can read sixty or so pages of text in a one hour sitting, but always like to stop at a natural resting point. With the first of only two chapter breaks coming in at page 114, I had to stop in the middle of the action on a few occasions.

 

On the other hand, the lack of breaks allowed me to live with these characters, take in their world at the same pace they were, which helped with the overall feel of the novel.

 

On reflection, there is just one moment where I would have liked a chapter break, a particularly dramatic moment which was slightly let down by not forcing the reader to take a breath and take it all in.

 

It made me think of the old omnibus episodes of EastEnders where the whole week was stitched together into one big episode. The mid-week cliffhangers always fell kind of flat, because they then rumbled on straight into the next scene.

 

The Feed is one of those rare things, in that while there are components that feel familiar, it is a wholly unique story that shows us a whole new world without getting too bogged down in extraneous detail. Nick Clark Windo is one to watch, and will be one of the more exciting debuts of 2018.

 

The Feed will be published by Headline in January 2018.

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

In the acknowledgements for All the Old Knives Steinhauer reveals that the seed for this story was planted by the desire to see if it was possible to write a spy novel that takes place entirely around a restaurant table.

He admits that he doesn’t quite succeed, most of the novel actually takes place in flashback form tales told by the two people sitting around the table, and the beginning of the novel has Henry travelling to the restaurant, but it’s an interesting concept.

It’s a format that television drama does quite well and has done so for many years. Off the top of my head I can think of one or two examples from Star Trek: Deep Space 9 where shared histories, but differing viewpoints are discussed between two characters over the course of forty minutes.

Monologues, things like Alan Bennett – or even the episode of EastEnders that solely focused on Dot Branning – are other examples that show you can tell fascinating stories with a simple set-up.

But those all work in a visual format with a (hopefully) talented actor bringing them to life. Does the same work in a book?

To be honest, once I got to the acknowledgements and discovered that this was what he was trying to do, the novel made more sense.

The chapters are all told in the first person, so although the parts that aren’t around the restaurant table are technically Henry or Celia’s retelling of certain events, they don’t feel it. They feel like a novel told in the first person.

Any book from the first person viewpoint could be said to take place in the one location, the one time, an old man in front of a fire (yes I’m thinking of John Hurt in the Storyteller) delving into the past to tell a tale. What I’m trying to say is that the ‘flashbacks’ don’t make feel like I’m on the other side of the table to Henry listening to him telling me something. They just feel like any other book.

Perhaps it would have worked slightly better if the ‘present day’ sections around the table were told in the third person, so that the shift from third to first did feel more like a dialogue, however, it still doesn’t get past the fact that the flashbacks feel like the reader is being transported away from the conversation around the table.

I’m being picky, because I actually liked the story, however, one other constraint of the format is that in a tale of two protagonists at a table, one of them investigating the possibility of a spy amongst their ranks, there isn’t going to be much of a twist. One of them has to be the good guy, the other has to be the bad guy.

 

If All the Old Knives was a rollercoaster, it would be like one of the rickety wooden ones at the Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Still exciting, still fun, lots of ups and downs, but no twists – just a rather large turn at the end.

Speaking of the end… it felt to me fairly signposted, from around the time the waitress brings the two characters their main course.

It could be that the reason for this is because I’ve been on so many rollercoasters, I’ve become a bit of an expert in their rhythms and surprises.

There will be people who read this and don’t see what’s coming, but if you’re a seasoned veteran of thrillers, this will be just something to pass the time while you wait for the queue at the Big Dipper to die down.

Losing my Star Wars Virginity – Part 1 (or Part 4)

I am a Star Wars virgin.

I think I might have seen one of them once, years ago as part of a school trip to the cinema, but I can’t be sure.

With the seventh live action film in the series coming out this winter, and with many of my close friends being big fans, it’s time to change the situation.

Needless to say, this post is going to contain spoilers, so if, like me, you’ve never seen the film before, step away now.

I know much of the obvious stuff, I know what a lightsaber is, I know about Princess Leia – including that she nearly gets off with her brother, and that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s dad.

I’m intrigued by ‘the force’ and wish to know exactly how one goes about feeling it.

That’s about all I know, so here goes, a blow-by-blow account of my first experience of watching Star Wars

00:00 – The 70’s version of 20th Century Fox starts to play. I’m dismayed to discover the film is two hours long. It’s already 10:30pm as I sit down to watch it!

00:25 – A long time ago in a galaxy far away… – the text appears on screen rather plain and boring. This isn’t what I was expecting.

00:39 – This is more like it, the text is now scrolling up at an angle, much more in keeping with expectations. Did it really say Episode IV at the beginning though, back when the film was first produced? I’m assuming not

02:01 – Thee planets come into view and two ships appear and start fighting. The big one unfairly seems to have the upper hand

02:35 – The robots have appeared. The gold one is flapping his arms around. The little one on wheels is squeaking. I’ll remember their names as soon as they mention it. Is one of them R2D2?

03:45 – White versions of Darth Vader have appeared. They’re all shooting rather unconvincing red lasers at each other. The robots don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to get out of the way. Maybe they need bigger wheels.

04:40 – Darth Vader has appeared!

greencrosscode1

05:00 – The gold one has just called the little one R2D2! He spotted Carrie Fisher slipping a little disc into the little one. The gold one seems a bit of a fusspot.

06:02 – Vader has just killed someone. He’s using James Earl Jones’ voice.

06:33 – Princess Leia has just been shot. She didn’t last very long.

07:05 – The gold one and R2D2 have just escaped. They’re going to crash land on a planet.

07:30 – Ah! She’s alive, but she’s a prisoner. Although, she appears to be miming her part. In fact, they all seem to be miming their parts. The soundtrack could be better synced. Was it like this in ‘77? Or is this part of the George Lucas edits?

09:04 – The robots are in a desert. The gold one is still fussing about. He’s gay, right? Makes Kryten look positively butch.

Kryten

10:20 – They’ve had a bit of a tiff, and are now going off in opposite directions. Suspect the gold one’s going to regret it.

11:00 – Oh, he is regretting it. And he’s blaming the little one. Shady bitch.

11:52 – There’s something hiding in the quarry. It appears to be the same quarry that Star Trek always used to use. Some things never change.

Quarry

12:21 – Oh, the little one’s been shot. Turns out the gold one was right, that was the wrong way!

12:53 – These little monk creatures sound like a cross between Donald Duck and the aliens from Toy Story.

DuckAliens

14:04 – More robots? Are all the characters made out of tin? Princess Leia’s the only real one we’ve seen so far. Apart from the bloke that the Green Cross Code man killed.

14:59 – Ah, so they both went the wrong way. The gold one and the little one have both been picked up.

15:17 – Some of the graphics have clearly been updated. It jars a little, because some of them haven’t.

16:05 – “We’re doomed!” The gold one channeling a bit of Dad’s Army there.

Doomed

16:59 –Did anyone else have a black robot at school they had to program called Pip? I’m pretty sure the monks have him now.

17:20 – Luke Skywalker’s turned up! He lives with his aunt and uncle and appears to be a bit of a surly teenager.

18:51 – Gosh, they picked the little one on wheels that looked even cheaper than the R2D2.

19:52 – The gold one is having some sort of bath. He reminds me of Niles Crane.

Niles

20:29 – C3P0! The gold one has a name. I shall never remember these serial codes. I’ll call them Niles and Little Blue

21:12 – Oh, there’s a tiny Princess Leia. Help me Obi Wonky Nobi, you’re my only hope. Luke thinks they’re talking about his neighbour Ben

22:37 – Little Blue sounds like he’s trying to connect to dial-up.

23:58 – Luke’s aunt and uncle seem a bit shifty when he mentions Obi Wonky Nobi. They’re referring to him Obi One, though, so I think I’ve misheard the princess.

25:05 – Luke looks suspiciously like a young Selina Cadell.

Selina

25:45 – One assumes the igloo-like structure is the top of a larger underground residence? There doesn’t look room to swing a penguin in there.

26:33 – Niles has just dropped Little Blue in it. He’s a right snitch.

27:58 – A different set of masked creatures. And one giant thing that looks like the big hairy thing from Sesame Street.

Mr Snuff

28:43 – Selina and Niles have found Little Blue. They’re spying on the sand creatures when one of them appears. Niles actually faints! The big pansy.

29:26 – Little Blue is hiding while this new set of creatures raid their hover board. They’re scared off by a cloaked figure screaming in a high pitched tone. I bet it’s Niles.

30:15 – It’s not Niles. It appears to be Bernard Cribbins.

Bernard

31:00 – Ah! It’s Ben Kernobi. He’s also Obi Won. But is actually Alec Guinness. I’ll just call him Bernard.

32:08 – Selina and Bernard find Niles. His arm has fallen off and he’s being a complete drama queen. I’d just leave him where he was.

33:00 – Bernard is telling Selina about his father. Turns out he was a Jedi. I’ve heard of them.

34:00 – Selina plays with a lightsaber.

34:29 – Ah. Darth Vader killed Selina’s “dad”.

34:44 – The force gets its first mention. It binds the galaxy together, apparently. Suspect the force will end up being love. Or Jesus.

Jesus

35:20 – Princess Leia’s message in full. Bernard thinks about it for a second, then tries to recruit Selina to learn the ways of the force. The dirty old man.

36:24 – Selina can’t fight the Empire, apparently, he’s got work in the morning.

36:40 – “Learn about the force, Luke.” It’s gay sex, isn’t it?

Gay Sex

37:00 – There’s a cockney on this ship. around a Dr Evil type table. And they’re referring to Starfleet. It’s like Austin Powers meets Star Trek meets EastEnders

37:50 – I’m not really listening to this evil plotting. I’m focusing on a guy in the background. I think he was in EastEnders as Melanie Owen’s dad.

Jeff

39:00 – A man who looks a lot like The Demon Headmaster also seems to be there as well. He doesn’t seem that happy, but I’m not sure who he’s pissed off at.

40:03 – Selina’s worried about his aunt and uncle. He jumps in his hovercraft and speeds off., only to find the igloo’s been blown up. Pingu’s been made homeless.

40:42 – Oh, yikes! There are two charred skeletons outside the igloo. That’s a touch graphic!

41:20 – James Earl Jones’s voice doesn’t really seem to fit Vader. It sound silly to say it about JEJ, but it doesn’t sound deep enough?

42:22 – Selina wants to learn the ways of the force. The gays get everyone in the end.

42:53 – CGI rats. They’re clearly a later addition to the film. These extra effects are really quite jarring.

43:46 – Oh, Bernard’s good at this mind-control lark. He’s a bit like Dumbledore crossed with Doctor Who. His full name will now be Bernard DumbleWho.

Dumbledore

45:00 – Even more odd looking creatures in a bit what appears to be a 1920’s Jazz bar. Is this where Selina’s going to feel the force for the first time?

45:40 – The bartender is discriminating against Niles. He doesn’t serve their kind. NOT a gay-friendly bar then. Selina will have to feel the force elsewhere.

46:28 – DumbleWho is talking to a giant hairy beast. Now wondering two things: 1) It MIGHT be a gay bar, 2) Where are the Hendersons?

Harry

46:34 – A chap with a chin that looks like a pair of bollocks has taken offence to Selina so DumbleWho chops off his friend’s arm.

47:32 – Ah, so Harry is actually Chewbacca. I’ve hard of him. Chewbacca and the Hendersons doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

47:56 – And there’s Indiana Jones for the first time. Luke is looking at him like he’s hoping to feel his force.

Indt

48:36 – Indiana’s not really my type, but he’s got a nice smile.

49:20 – Indiana asks for 10,000 unspecifics. Bernard DumbleWho offers him 17,000, I don’t think he’s really got the hang of this negotiating lark.

50:00 – Indiana is now being held up by a green hedgehog. This is a very odd film.

51:00 – Mrs Tiggywinkle is about to shoot Indy, so he blows her up first.

51:30 – It appears the Demon Headmaster is in charge here. I thought Darth was the man in charge?

Demon

51:50 – The white vaders are doing a door-to-door looking for Niles and Little Blue. We get a nice slow version of the Star Wars theme in the background as they do.

52:40 – Bernard and Luke are being followed by Cyril Sneer.

Cyril

53:06 – Indiana is talking to Jabba the Slug. He looks like he’s part of the new CGI too. Have they updated him, or was this how he looked at the time?

54:59 – I took a quick break to Google Jabba the Slug. He’s not even supposed to be in this film, so it appears that this is how the scene first played out. BUT he was a puppet in his original-original appearance.

55:27 – I haven’t been paying enough attention. Niles, Little Blue, DumbleWho, Indiana , Harry and Selina Cadell are escaping the planet in Indy’s ship.

56:43 – One thing occurs to me during this extended technobabble scene (turns out it’s not exclusive to Star Trek) – why has Selina spent the first hour of the film in a dressing gown?

57:22 – Ah, the princess says the Demon Headmaster is holding Vader’s leash. So he’s just a henchman? Also, the Demon Headmaster seems to report into an Emperor? Who’s he?

58:32 – Actually, the Demon Headmaster looks a touch like Charles Dance. He’s blowing up the Princess’s home planet. It all happens rather quickly, considering that’s a whole planet being blown to bits.

59:26 – Bernard felt a great disturbance in the force and nearly fell over with shock. It’s happened to us all, love. Selina meanwhile is playing a lightsaber version of Pong.

01:00 – The robots and Harry are playing monster chess.

01:01 – Indiana Jones doesn’t believe in one all-powerful force controlling everything. So it’s about God, not gay sex.

01:02 – Except now Bernard DumbleWho has put a mask on Selina and told him to stretch out with his feelings. He’s a kinky bastard.

01:02 – Luke tells him he could almost feel something. He may as well have just asked “Is it in yet?” Way to make an old man feel good about himself.

01:03 – The boys have just discovered the destroyed planet. They’ve dropped out of Doctor Who’s time tunnel right into the middle of it.

01:04 – They’re being dragged into the big black ball. Gosh, it’s enormous.

01:06 – I’m quite enjoying this. I should have watched it sooner.

01:07 – Oh! Just got an extreme close up of one of the white vader’s crotch. Nearly felt his force. Niles would have enjoyed that.

01:07 – PS My DVD display can’t handle hours, minutes and seconds, which is why my timings have suddenly become less specific.

01:08 – Those white vaders are really daft. Although the Nazi controllers in the tower seem to be dafter. At least Selina’s finally out of his dressing gown.

01:09 – Little Blue has just penetrated the mainframe. This whole film is about sex, isn’t it?

01:10 – A thought occurs to me. If this was being made now, we’d be watching Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron. I may have just said that so I can include a gratuitous picture of Zac…

Zac

01:11 – Indiana and Selina Cadell are arguing about whether to rescue the princess. Indiana can’t be bothered. He’d rather watch Little Blue penetrate the computer. At least until money is mentioned.

01:11 – Now I’m trying to think who would do the voice of Niles. David Hyde Piece is the obvious choice… but maybe Alan Carr?

01:12 – Charles Dance would play the Demon Headmaster and Darth Vader would almost certainly be Stephen Fry.

Fry

01:12 – Harry’s just roared at a tiny little lego brick on wheels. A black robot has just walked past them. It looks like Niles in bondage.

01:14 – The Nazis seem to have rumbled their disguise. Harry knocks some of them out and a bad laser light fight scene takes place

01:15 – I’ve got to say… these white vader suits actually makes Indiana look quite sexy. That probably says more about me than anything else.

01:16 – Selina Cadell rescues Leia. I can’t help but think he should have kept his dressing gown on, then they’d be a matching pair.

01:17 – The white vader troops on closer inspection seem to be polystyrene stuck to black spandex.

01:18 – Leia’s got some balls to her. She seems infinitely more capable than Selina Cadell

01:19 – Wait – I think I’ve seen this film… do the walls of the garbage store start to squash in on them?

01:20 – Oh, maybe not. Instead Selina Cadell’s been dragged into the water by a tentacle. He’s going to be livid, his hair will lose it’s fluffiness.

01:21 – After a tense few moments, he is spat out by the creature. Probably the taste of the shampoo.

01:21 – Oh! The walls ARE starting to close in on them. Selina Cadell looks better with wet hair. Shame he’s about to be squished.

01:22 – Niles and Little Blue are proper sneaky. Mincing about the ship, everyone just letting them past.

01:23 While Niles is mincing about, Selina, Leia and Indy are worried they’re going to be crushed. I’m not that worried. There’s about a million more films yet for them to die here.

01:24 – At the last moment, Niles thinks to check his messages. Little Blue penetrates another computer, and while it’s distracted by his advances, the crusher stops.

01:25 – Meanwhile, Bernard DumbleWho is just wandering around another part of the ship. The security seems quite lax on this big black ball.

01:26 – Indiana is getting snarky with the princess. The galaxy is a big place, but there’s only enough force for one queen.

01:27 – I’m enjoying the cheesy screen swipes between scenes. These were state of the art back then, weren’t they? They’re all a bit powerpoint now.

01:28 – Selina Cadell is back in his dressing gown now. Still as thick as shit, blowing up the controls to the bridge that is his and Leia’s only escape route.

01:29 – They swing across the bridge Indiana Jones style. Or rather, I guess, Indiana stole the moves from Selina Cadell, since the film was released after this one.

01:30 – A face off between Bernard DumbleWho and Darth. Bernard’s lightsaber expands at the sight of Darth. One assumes he’s feeling the force.

01:31 – Darth tells him the circle is complete. Hakuna matata.

Mufasa

01:31 – This light saber fight is very Dumbledore/Voldemort, isn’t it?

01:32 – The white vaders spot DumbleWho and Darth having a scrap and leave the ship unguarded. They good guys all run toward the ship until Selina Cadell spots the fight.

01:32 – DumbleWho seems to sacrifice himself and collapses under his cloak. You might say he’s submitted to the force. Selina Cadell gets all emotional, but runs onto the ship when DumbleWho’s disembodied voice tells him to.

01:33 – I’m assuming DumbleWho ain’t dead, although they all seem to think he is. There’s still half an hour to go, and nobody else has vaporized at the touch of a lightsaber.

01:34 – Oh, good a space fight. These are always the most tedious bit about these sort of films for me.

01:35 – Pow, pow, pow!

01:36 – They did it! Good. We can get on with the film. Niles, continuing the bondage theme, seems to have tied himself up in a bunch of wires.

01:37 – Worth noting at this point that Selina’s Cadell hair has returned to it’s natural state.

Farrah

01:37 – He quickly tells Indiana that he and the Princess aren’t suitable. We’re supposed to think that he has feelings for her instead, when actually, he’s clearly hoping to feel Indy’s force

01:39 – Fifteen minutes since his last one, Little Blue penetrates another computer.

01:39 – Harry and Indiana raise eyebrows at each other during a Q style briefing when their instructor says the word penetrate. Kids.

01:40 – Q says the word shaft several times, but we don’t see their reaction to that one.

01:40 – Q wishes the force upon everyone (every good film needs an orgy scene) and his audience – who all seem to be dressed like Oompa Loompas, head out.

01:41 – Indiana is abandoning the Starfleet, presumably, because it’s from the wrong franchise, but he invites Selina Cadell along. He refuses, and Indiana wishes that the force be with him.

01:43 – At the mention of the force Selina suddenly misses DumbleWho, until Leia kisses him and he forgets all about it. I’m sure his mind will certainly be back on the force once he realises he’s fancies his sister.

01:44 – They are siblings, right? I haven’t made that up?

01:44 – Niles says goodbye to Little Blue – he’s off in one of the ships. I think Niles is a little jealous that Little Blue has penetrated everything in sight apart from him at this point.

01:45 – As he’s taking off, Selina hears DumbleWho talking about the force. It’s always at the most inappropriate moments you think about your ex.

01:46 – Have I missed something? Why is Little Blue piloting one of the attack ships? They’ve only got four good pilots in the whole fleet?

01:46 – Oh, good, more space fight. I’m going to take this opportunity to refill my wine glass.

01:47 – Darth is mincing around with his cape billowing behind him. I love a cape.

01:47 – DumbleWho’s voice keeps bouncing around Selina’s head, reminding him of the force. Not the greatest of moments to be thinking about sex.

01:48 – More cape billowing. I’ve just decided on my next Halloween costume.

01:49 – I don’t know what he’s doing, but Little Blue seems to be penetrating the back of the ship now. These characters are all sex-obsessed.

01:49 – Darth has stopped billowing and is now flying an attack ship. I know he’s one of the henchmen, but you would think in a ship that size, he would send out a few more minions first?

01:53 – This space fight is going on too long. Nobody’s talked about the force and nobody’s penetrated anything in ages.

01:54 – Oh! Little Blue’s doing some more penetrating. It seems to be helping.

01:55 – The Demon Headmaster looks worried. I’ve just realised he’s probably got reason to be. Darth’s not on the ship, so the big black ball – along with Charles Dance – will get blown up. Darth gets to return in another film. A bit like the Borg Queen.

01:55 – “Use the force, Luke.” At last. It’s been ages since anyone had a bit of force in them – obviously not including Little Blue.

01:56 – No sooner does Selina start using the force and Indiana turns up. Major power bottom.

01:57 – So he uses the force and his big ball explodes? No comment.

01:58 – Niles offering to be an organ donor for Little Blue. Yeah, we all know which organ he’d like to donate.

01:58 – There appears to be some sort of ceremony. They’ve all got different hair. Even Harry seems to have had at it with a bottle of Loreal.

01:59 – Niles has buffed himself up as well. He’s the robot equivalent of a Muscle Mary now. I think this is his civil partnership with Little Blue

02:00 – They all turn to the camera – I mean, the audience, and grin. Half expecting them to take a bow.

02:00 – The credits roll. My first experience of Star Wars is over. Bit disappointed that DumbleWho didn’t come back to life. And the ending seemed a bit ambiguous. I mean, I know there’s more films – but did the audience back in 1977?

Overall, I quite enjoyed it. Which, I guess is lucky, since I’m committed to watching the other five films. It’s hard for me to imagine watching this and not knowing ANYTHING about it – it’s had such a massive cultural impact, that even though I’d never seen it before, I knew some of – if not all – the main plot points.

Next week – I’ll watch Episode V, I’m looking forward to it.

Who Killed Lucy? EE Live Week – Part 2

Another tense episode done and another classic live duff-duff – BUT FIRST, we need to deal with last night’s cliffhanger…

As predicted (by me) – Abi almost immediately turned round and said “What the Wellard are you on about, dad?”

There is more to explore with Abi – she’s becoming quite sinister – but also with Max, who seems to have spent the last ten months believing his youngest killed Lucy.

I’m going to park Jane and the card to one side for a moment, and just think about a few of the other elements of tonight’s episode.

First up Phil… what on Earth is going on there? What has he discovered that he needs to tell Ian about on his wedding day? For fear of things being thrown at me… are we going to find something out about Kathy?

Could it be that she’s not really dead? I could fill a whole blog post on this, so I’m going to resist, and just ask – what else do Ian and Phil have in common that would be that urgent?

Secondly Stacey and Kat – part of me wants to believe that Jessie Wallace has been taking the method acting too far and isn’t actually supposed to be that drunk.

The production team just said “Well, we’ll have to make Kat drunk for the week – Jessie’ll never get through it otherwise.”

I think I missed a bit, but why is Stacey suddenly gathering the troops – other than to set up the remake of the opening of the very first episode tomorrow?

And Martin’s “I’ve pulled.” – the whiff of Stacey Fowler is getting stronger.

Thirdly, Jo Joyner. Poor Jo Joyner. Meme’s going round the internet already of the moment she realised she said Adam and not Ian. Bless, her, she is a touch out of practice – especially as she only seems to be appearing in the live scenes.

Which leads to my new theory that the only reason for the live episodes in the first place was because Jo Joyner couldn’t commit to the weeks spent filming it and insisted they did live episodes. (And quite right too, she did miss out on the last live episode).

Fourthly (I don’t know how high these numbers are going to get) – It seems that while Jo Joyner is merrily messing up lines, the production team didn’t trust Eliot Carrington (Bobby Beale) or June Brown (Dot Branning) to go live, with all of their scenes being pre-recorded.

And while we’re on Dot – and partly to save going up another number – why is she telling everyone she killed Nick? Not exactly, she didn’t ring an ambulance, and instead let Jesus choose. Jesus killed Nick – now there’s a storyline that’s never been done in a soap before.

If insurance companies can use ‘act of god’ in a legal context, why can’t Dot?

And lastly (unless I think of anything else) – that cliffhanger. Peter accusing Ian and Jane – completely forgetting that Jane wasn’t living in the house at the time.

Let’s explore Jane’s actions. They can be interpreted one of two ways – either she thinks Ian did it and she wants to escape, or she’s scared of being rumbled and wants to escape.

Either way, Jane wants to escape – and with Bobby.

Once she got to the altar, the first thing she said to Ian was “Where’s Peter?” – This fits in with my theory that Peter did it and she’s covering for him. It also fits in with Jane wanting to talk to Peter to tell him what his dad did.

She then gets cold feet mid-way during her vows – gets a bit of water – and then continues on and looked genuinely ecstatic that she’d married him. If she thought he murdered Lucy, but was stalling for time, she wouldn’t look that happy.

No, I’m ruling Jane suspecting Ian out.

Jane scarpers the Vic during the speeches – the lights on the train flicker in the same way they did the last time we saw Lucy alive – and Dot’s wonderful monologue on murder begins.

Dot talks about two things – one a wicked thing does not a wicked person make, and two, if someone we love does something wicked what do we do? If Jane had discovered Peter had done something, what would she do?

Jane spirits Bobby away with Masood’s help, and gets him to get his stuff. He’s going to Masood’s. Why would they go to Masood’s if she’s running away from a murderer? Why not leave town completely?

Are they going to stay there for a night before fleeing – or is she just sending Bobby, because she fears that she might be taken somewhere else? Walked away in cuffs? Or, perhaps, is she covering… for Bobby, and wants to get him out of harm’s way?

Then there’s that last scene – Peter drags Cindy over to the house just as Jane is about to tell Ian something.

So… it wasn’t Peter. Or at least if it was him, he’s not aware that it was his actions that caused Lucy’s death (my original theory).

Tomorrow’s episode will begin with a lot of flustering and dithering while they all try to work out what’s going on – then there’ll be the distraction of the discovery of Nick’s body.

We’ll get even more distractions, it will be one of the most agonizing hours of television before finally at the end of the episode we – and Ian – learn the truth.

The truth being that Peter or Cindy or Bobby killed Lucy and that Jane OR Denise – don’t forget she was living there at the time – covered it up.

I still believe that Peter inadvertently caused her death, that Jane has covered it up for him, and that Peter will elope with Lauren, none the wiser of Ian and Jane’s decision to protect him.

A full hour and a half of it tomorrow – but at least you won’t have to put up with any more wild speculation from me.

Oh, and one final thing “Everywhere I go is Pooh.” Brilliant.

Who Killed Lucy? EE Live Week – Part 1

EastEnders’ live week kicked off with Sharon tottering down Bridge Street, and frankly the fact that she didn’t fall over was one of the most impressive bits of the episode – and that’s saying something!

The episode rocketed along, with most of the audience just waiting for the next live scene (cue lots of explaining on Twitter to the uninitiated that it wasn’t all live)

I did think our second live scene had come when Peggy burst into Dot’s, but no, that’s just Barbara Windsor’s normal acting style.

After 25 minutes of pre-recorded material, we got two more live scenes. Jane discovering the card that Lauren wrote. And Max telling Abi that Lauren knows that Abi killed Lucy.

Although, Jake Wood mumbled slightly so it almost could have been anyone he was putting in the frame – but no, subtitles say that his last line was ‘That you killed Lucy.’

So did she?

This is a big week for EastEnders – there’s five episodes and six hours worth of material to get through, this is just the bread roll to get us interested before the main meal, they ain’t going to have shot their load this early in the week.

(That’s a disturbing mix of metaphors)

No, I think this is an early red herring, designed to get anyone who wasn’t watching interested enough to tune in tomorrow night.

What we do know is that Max is under the impression that Abi killed Lucy. Why does he think that? Did he see her attack her? Did someone else tell him? Did he check out the latest odds at William Hill?

More importantly – did Max know that Lucy was dead before Ian found out?

That I’m unsure of – but I do think we’re in for an “I’m Spartacus kind of a week” with various false endings before we really find out who – and why.

Other things to note:

Lauren’s card revealed to Jane (not to Ian and Jane) that she knows Lucy died at home. Why just tell Jane that and nothing more? If she’s revealing what happened, then she’s only some of it. It feels more like a threat. So why did Lauren run?

Jane looked confused at first, then as if she’d realised something when she read the card. Might I have been wrong, and it’s actually Jane who rumbled the whole damn thing? I still don’t think Ian did it…

Phil is back to confess something to Ian – but what? There’s something he needs to know. Is this to do with Lucy – or is it something else? And just what was Phil ransacking the house looking for? His passport, presumably. Is he scapering the country with Peggy – and will they take Dot with them?

Peggy and Mick in the pub was delicious self-indulgent. A good job that scene wasn’t live or else Danny Dyer may have just cracked up laughing it.

CGI was used in the episode twice – the production team are really going all out.

A couple of new storylines starting to appear as well:

Richard Blackwood has turned up, looking for Ronnie. He knows Phil, but not Billy. What’s going on there?

Martin Fowler and Stacey Branning had an interesting, brief scene. Watch this space.

One final thought: I quite liked Peggy being back. I ADORED Christian being back.

Someone call the waiter, I’m ready for the main meal now.

Who Killed Lucy? My final theory

Lauren knows what happened to Lucy.

Well, catch up love, I’ve known for weeks. I worked it out here and here.

But have we worked out the same thing?

I reckon it was Peter, covered up by Jane – for reasons explored in more depth in the previous posts. Or at least I did. Do I still reckon that?

It appears that a phone number is enough to help Lauren work out what Emma knew – assuming that is, that Lauren has worked out the same thing.

But was it just a phone number? As well as a series of numbers, there was also a slightly unclear scribble. Was is SOC? 80C? SOO? 800?

My money is on S.O.C – scene of crime, and the phone number? It was a London landline number, a Walford landline number if you take a careful look at some of the numbers dotted around the Square (on the Arches for example)

Does this suggest a the scene of the crime was a Walford based location? I’d say it would have to be, I can’t see one of the most iconic deaths in the show not happening on the Square.

But it was also a number that Lauren recognized, almost immediately.

In the world of mobile phones, how many landline numbers do you know off the top of your head? I know mine. I know my mum’s. I know my granddad’s. I know my work number. I know two local taxi numbers.

So, I think we can narrow it down to the Branning’s, Beale’s the restaurant where Lauren works, and probably the Beale house, where her husband-to-be and best friend Lucy both lived.

That doesn’t really change much. I’d kind of figured it out was a Branning or a Beale.

Has Lauren given us any clues? Let’s assume that Jacqueline Jossa didn’t know who killed Lucy during the filming of this week’s episodes. We know that they were filmed before Christmas and we know that none of the cast found out until January.

So we can rule out any shifty eye movements and tense shuffling from Lauren as clues. We need to look at the writing, and not necessarily the words, but the actions behind them. Daran Little the writer of Friday’s episode has stated he doesn’t know who killed Lucy, so Lauren’s choice of words (ie, Daran’s) are another red herring.

But Lauren telling Peter she can’t marry him, and writing ‘I know what happened to Lucy’ in Ian and Jane’s wedding card were actions that would have been story lined to happen by the people who DO know who killed Lucy.

Telling Peter she can’t marry him is probably not indicative of Peter’s guilt, but more that if Lauren knows who killed Lucy, can she live with the secret and marry him? Unlikely.

But writing in Ian and Jane’s wedding card… is that a message to Ian to finally let him know… or is it a threat to either Ian or Jane?

Lauren’s got form of revealing things indirectly. She found out about Max and Stacey and played a video. She found out about Stacey murdering Archie and recorded the confession, ready to hand it over.

So I’m convinced she’s threatening either Ian or Jane, revealing that she knows what they did.

I refuse to believe that Ian Beale will be revealed to be a murderer, partly because it potentially could ruin the character irreparably, and because I don’t think he can have lasted the last ten months lying like that (Ian’s a bad liar). Also, Ian’s a man on the edge of a nervous breakdown, this would have pushed him into La-La land.

So it must be Jane, then. Lauren thinks Jane did it.

And that means that I’m at the same point I was when I thought that Emma thought that Jane did it.

Everything points to Jane, and I think the anniversary episode on the 19th February will end with the audience believing it to be Jane. Then the flashback episode will reveal she’s been covering for someone.

And who would she cover for? Peter or Bobby. Maybe at a push Cindy.

The show will want the biggest dramatic impact possible in it’s biggest episode yet. That has to mean it’s the two people either side of Ian at the altar who are implicated.

Jane is covering for Peter.

This Is Not About EastEnders

I get very easily distracted.

This isn’t new information, I’ve told you it before. Books, TV, computer games, alcohol, all of these stop me from writing.

Even now, it’s taken over fifteen minutes just to write these opening few sentences, and that’s because I’ve been watching Back to The Future (Part 2)

However, just because I’ve been distracted, doesn’t mean I haven’t done anything since the last time I updated you on my writing. I am making the assumption here that you care. If you don’t care, you’re likely not reading this blog anyway.

So what have I been doing?

For a while, actually not much. Work for me goes pretty crazy in the few months prior to Christmas, and this year has been no exception, especially with the lack of an assistant (something which is still causing me problems).

But I returned and blogged with a vengeance at the beginning of January with a post about the Lucy Beale murder mystery in EastEnders. That post went crazy with over a hundred visitors in one day.

In the course of January this year, my blog achieved fifty percent of the traffic is had achieved in the whole of 2014. It seems that people like to read about EastEnders almost as much as I enjoy writing about it.

I’m going to do a few more blog posts about pop culture where and when I can – it’s a great traffic driver and watching those stats go up certainly boosts your self confidence.

I also enjoyed writing the post and it helped me get my narrative juices back.

You may recall I sent out my novel – I sent it to six different agents last summer, and three people responded – all with no.

Then one of the negative responders came back asking to see more. Rather excited, I sent them the rest of the novel – and then came back with no.

So I’m officially putting the novel on rest again, but Memories of a Murder will live on in screenplay form, as I’m currently adapting it for submission to the Writers Room on the BBC website.

BUT… within the last week or so, an idea that has been bubbling under in my head for the better part of a year now, finally clicked into place and I worked out exactly what I was going to do.

“The Project” is under way, and best of all, at the end of it, I don’t need an agent, I don’t need a publisher, or a TV producer. It just needs a lot of hard work from me, and for me to be happy with the end result.

And then I’ll drop it like a Beyonce album, when you’re all least expecting it.

I have index cards, some new pens, blu tack, and a ball of string, and I’m ready to go.

And that’s all I’m telling you about it. For now at least. In the meantime, watch this space.

Or watch EastEnders.

Who Killed Lucy? I’m still on the case.

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed all the clues in the Lucy Beale case and worked out that Peter Beale lashed out at Lucy causing a fatal injury that he hitherto is unaware of. Jane Beale witnessed it and covered it up. You can read that here

But now we’ve had another clue…

Tonight at the National Television Awards the last thing Lucy heard – it was her own music box.

And suddenly things are very sinister. The music box was put under the tree for Beth at Christmas – but who by? And why? Either somebody knows who it is and is taunting them, or it was an innocent present.

Who reacted? And how did they react? Most of them spooked, including Jane.

But she said nothing until she had a heart to heart with Lauren, giving herself an alibi at the same time.

Forget it being unwrapped, though. Think about Lucy hearing it. Who would possibly have access to the music box, for it to have been the last thing she heard? And why?

And how did it get back in the house? Remember Ian took it to the charity shop after she died. Either someone took it from the house, killed her, and then took it back again… or she died at home.

That means it’s Ian, Peter, Bobby, Cindy or Denise. At a stretch Jane would also have access to the house. We know that Lauren was also close to the house.

Jane didn’t see Lauren from the Masood’s house – it isn’t possible because of the location of the houses. Jane’s car also wasn’t outside where it was previously parked.

So, none of them really have an alibi. Cindy did go and look for Ian at the restaurant but didn’t find him. Ian was with Rainie but we don’t know what time he got back. Denise was with Libby, but again we don’t know what time she got back, and we don’t know what time Lucy died.

Jane, Bobby, Lauren and Peter don’t have alibis at all.

The Reveal

I still think part of the key to figuring out whodunit is working out how it will be revealed and who to.

Either someone finds out, or someone confesses.

Lauren seems to be the only one (apart from me) on the case at the moment. This both lends and removes support to it being a Branning. If we’re seeing it through the eyes of Lauren, then it makes perfect sense to be a Branning, but if it doesn’t involve the Beale’s then the reveal will feel a little lackluster.

So if someone finds out who did it, then I think they have to reveal it to the Beales and I don’t think Lauren would dob Max or Abi in it, without first demanding an explanation.

So if someone confesses instead… who would that be? Surely, it can only be Jane at the altar? It makes perfect dramatic sense, surely?

Or maybe. Lauren does find out who it is… and she finds out it’s Jane?

Jane is definitely involved. I don’t want her to have done it, but I can’t for a second believe she’s not involved.

I’m still putting money on Peter with Jane covering it up.

Three Queens and a Dame (And JK Rowling of course)

The idea of who you would invite round for your dream dinner party is not a new one, so today’s blog post is not going to revolutionise the bloggersphere, however like a university student spending a night in A&E there are rites of passage that we must all go through.

So, here’s mine.

 

The Food

Arguably the most important part of any dinner party. My only suggestion would be, keep it simple.

The chances are you’re going to have a fairly mixed crowd, so you’ve more chance of people being happy by picking something basic.

But basic doesn’t have to mean nasty or bland. It just means something you enjoy and know that you can make really, really well and easily.

For starters, Leek and Potato soup with bacon lard-ons (love that word), then my specialty – it has to be bangers and mash. Seriously, I could eat it all day.

For pudding, I’m not sure. I’m not great at puddings, so I think I might just steal my sister’s recipe for cheesecake.

 

The Entertainment

Really? There has to be entertainment?

This is what’s always bothered me about Come Dine With Me. If the food is right and the guests are right and the wine is flowing, there is no need for any planned activity.

The entertainment will come from the conversation. It may end up in an impromptu display of line dancing, or a game of strip poker. But you don’t need to structure fun.

 

The Guests

Well, here’s the biggie.

I think I’d probably have to have a few different dinner parties in order to entertain everyone I’d like to.

I’m gonna take four guests here. The first one would be Dame Julie Andrews. I’ve got a bit of a thing about her at the moment as she’s over here doing a bit of publicity for her ‘Evening with…’ tour.

She’s a fascinating woman who starred in what is probably the best film ever made. But ultimately, I don’t care what she has to say, as long as she’s saying it. Her speaking voice is beautiful.

Having seen Will Young on Question Time previously, he’s very educated, and eloquent man. He’s also a beautiful singer (perhaps he could be the entertainment?) as well as a beautiful man. If the party gets out of hand and we all get a bit raucous and drunk and Will wants to stay over for the night, well then, that’s fine too.

The next one is a bit of an obvious one if you’ve read my blog before – JK Rowling. I love her. I think she’s a brilliant writer and a real inspiration to me. I just want to ask her and talk to her about everything about the writing process.

Queen Elizabeth II.

I mean, how amazing would that be, right? She’s such a familiar face, but we know next to nothing about her.

I’d love the opportunity to interview her and hear candidly just what exactly makes her tick. What she likes and what she doesn’t.

 

So, that’s it. That’s my dinner party. A singer, a writer, an actress and a monarch. A fascinating (to me) mix, and now I’m a bit disappointed that it’s not actually going to happen.

 

I’m also surprised that I didn’t pick anyone from EastEnders. Is Pam St Clement free?

 

Prompt: Channel 4 invite you to do Come Dine With Me. Who’s invited and what’s your entertainment?