Saturday, March 29, 2008


I try to avoid reading any reviews of a book prior to writing a review for Euro Crime, or giving an opinion here on Crime Scraps.

It is encouraging afterwards to discover that other bloggers agreed with my opinions.

But sometimes I completely disagree with other peoples opinions and wonder if they have actually read the book or seen the same film. For instance Michael Haneke's award winning film Hidden [Cache] was probably the most boring film I have ever seen.
On the afternoon I watched it the audience were virtually comatose until one moment of horrific violence woke them up for about thirty seconds. They then dozed off again until the end when they all walked out into the sunlight like zombies.

Have you ever seriously disagreed with the critics' assessment of a book or a film?

Is there a prize winner that you did not rate, or a work that was slated that you thought was very good?

Next week I will post the next Quirky Quiz, the Spring Edition with some fairly testing questions and the chance to win a book which the winner can choose from a selection of great crime fiction.
A gentle reminder the clocks spring forward an hour here in the UK tonight.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to know to which study that NYT headline belongs, but I have long learnt never to trust media headlines, as they misrepresent scientific studies, much of the time.
At that time of that headline you show, there was considerable worry about "nuclear winter" if you remember -- caused by clouds from weapon fallout.
It is true that the main scientific consensus on climate change has changed since 1975, but that's inevitable, given vastly improved measurement systems and modelling tools, as well as the setting up of the IPCC.
Climate change is such a political issue particularly in the USA, and the media don't help -- please don't blame the scientists, who just do their best to describe the natural world, and in this case, to the best of their ability predict what might happen to it within statistical parameters based on what is known.

As to the film - thanks for the tip! Will take it off my Amazon rent list, where it has lurked at about no. 50 for some considerable time, usually getting overtaken by Hanna Montana, St Trinians, Scrubs and the like.

3:41 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Maxine I was just trying to use that as an amusing example of how opinions can differ over time.

I am sorry if you thought I was blaming the scientists. It is the way the information is sometimes used by the media that is at fault.

4:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I walked out of Gone with the Wind when I was a teenager: thoroughly bored!

When I lived in Toronto for a while, locals walked out of Damage, but I thought it was great. Miranda Richardson had been nominated for an Oscar, so I wanted to see it.

Ooh, the quirky quiz. I'm already shaking in anticipation.

And thanks for the heads up on the clocks. A friend reminded me last week, but I'd forgotten. Not that it is paramount at chez crimefic as I woke up this morning to beeping. There seems to be a lot of short electricity power cuts here at the mo. Will have to check with my neighbours later if they are experiencing the same thing. Otherwise what can it be? Nevermind, as long as I have light to read, I'm happy.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Maxine, in the film Hidden there is supposed to be some clue in the last scene so perhaps watching it on rented DVD you might find the solution.
But the danger of the film is that nothing much happens for so long that when there is horrific violence it comes as a shock. I don't know what effect that would have on teenagers, but on an afternoon with an audience of slumbering retirees it was a bit dangerous with some screaming out in shock, and others including me waking up.
We usually agree on most books so I would be interested in your views if you do watch it.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

cfr I can well understand you walking out on Gone With The Wind as a teenager. I have always thought it is an overlong film, and loses its way after a fantastic beginning.
I find it fascinating that in those days so many of the stars were English, while today today we have foreign film stars playing the most English of parts.

This time the quirky quiz will consist of ten questions, some of which will require multiple answers.
It should keep people busy for a few weeks and I hope will provide some mild amusement and some head scratching.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder if data exist for enough climate cycles for us to assess accurately patterns of climate change. Perhaps living through a few more Ice Ages will impose upon us a bit of humility.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry if my comments on scientists were oversensitive -- we get a bit bruised to say the least about this climate topic. And I'm sorry to see so much ignorance and malice in the blogosphere on the subject. Of course not here! I didn't mean to over-react, so apologies for that - you are right, opinions change with time sometimes by 180 degrees -- but at least with scientists, views changed based on changing the main...not based on politics/fashion (one hopes).
Slumbering retirees -- sounds very appealing to me: bring it on. I think I'll go for that instead of being shocked at the end of a boring film! After all, there is always 24 if one wants to stay awake-- something exciting every 30 secs for 24 hours (minus ad breaks) --- too much really -- but it keeps you going!

2:02 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Definitely no apologies necessary Maxine.
Over the last week I have had to deal with a large number of emails and phone calls regarding the deteriorating situation at Blackerton, and therefore my attempt at humour was not up to my usual brilliant standard. ;O)

2:20 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter, living on the English Riviera I don't think an Ice Age would reach us.

2:22 AM  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Disagreement with critics' assessments? I am not fan of movies, but one of the hats I wear is musical, so I was lured by astonishingly (deliberately?) misleading publicity and ignorant reviewers into going to see 'Shine'. I'm still fuming over that one, particularly Gielgud's grotesque misrepresentation of dear Cyril Smith, Helfgott's teacher.

General non-fiction reviews in the best sources I find pretty reliable, academic writings are necessarily left for my own assessment. But, and here comes the crunch, reviewing of crime fiction I think is far too often marked by dereliction. If I had not already read Fred Vargas, I possibly would not have done after reading the review of her latest in the Guardian. On the other hand, I just staggered through J.P. Morrissey's A Weekend at Blenheim because of blurbs and hype, including a bit of a rave from Iain Pears, which astonishes me, because Pears is particularly well-placed to know better, and not just for literary reasons. The book is utterly risible and an exercise in posthumous libel. This is a general problem -- I finished the Morrissey, with a lot of scanning and skipping, but I have recently closed a rash of books after fifty pages or so because they were seriously flawed, and those flaws were either unrecognized or ignored by reviewers. Why is this? The problem in movie reviewing is the very unhealthy relationship a lot of reviewers have with production companies and distributors - a notorious problem in the States. In the reviewing of fiction, and not just crime, I think it is the very problem that came up with the Telegraph reviewers and their 'Greatest Fifty' list. With the odd exception -- Marcel Berlins, e.g. -- reviewers are stringers or staff with a passing interest and without knowledge either wide or deep of the genre, nor of what, in literary terms, constitutes fine writing. And they particularly care -- after all, it's just crime fiction. Today we have no Julian Symons, no Harry Keating, no Jacques Barzun, and that is a very unhappy thing.

3:01 AM  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Whoops. I meant, of course, toward the end of my last comment, "And they do not particularly care."

I also forgot to say how much I am looking forward to the quiz, which is very much indeed.

4:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, Philip, this is an interesting line of thought. Euro Crime and I were recently musing on blurb writers -- Lee Child and Val McDermid in particular are on the blurb of just so many crime novels. How on Earth do they get the time to read these books. Or, does one dare to suggest, do they do the trick as outlined on Euro Crime today, via an article by Kate Muir?

12:02 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

"One of the best crime novelists writing today."
"Perhaps the greatest living American crime writer."
"One of America's finest contemporary writers."
"....novels are among the finest detective books penned in this century."

You have got to admire the people who write these blurbs, especially as they might not have read the books. I might post these and ask people to guess the subjects of these rave reviews.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Maxine, thanks for the Euro Crime tip -- that is a very real possibility indeed. What you say about blurb writers brings to mind another problem. A lot of the pre-publication blurbs do come from writers. You mention Child and McDermid and I mentioned Pears. I have beside my current pile of books from the library, and thereon I see blurbs from Rendell, Natasha Cooper, Michael Connelly, Harley Coben. Further, a lot of reviewers are themselves writers, sometimes published but not well-established, sometimes still aspiring to publication. I see two problems here. First, the well-established being too generous by half to newcomers or cutting lesser writers an awful lot of slack because they know them personally or simply because they are part of the community of crime writers, after all. (The existence of bodies such as the CWA does have its downside.) Second, and this applies particularly, though not necessarily only, to the less well-established or the still aspiring, going easy because the writer of the novel you are now reviewing may well one day be the reviewer of the novel you are now writing. In academe, there have been and are some notable feuds conducted through the medium of mutual book reviews, usually sparked by someone firing a bazooka at the paradigm underlying someone else's labour of a lifetime, and this is rather the obverse of that sort of thing. Something is wrong, I am quite sure of that, and it does not help anyone. The reader is annoyed and probably disinclined to give the writer a second chance, and this is unfortunate because sometimes I can see the possibility of a good novel emerging once the problems are dealt with. Much more importantly, in regard to those for whom there is hope, the writer does not get the feedback that would help him/her iron out the wrinkles. I recently finished, just about, a novel by Mark Billingham. My thought then was that in those pages -- I think there were about 400 of them -- there was a good crime novel about 100 pages shorter. Of course, telling writers that sort of thing is really the job of editors, may they rest in peace. Now they have left us, who will do it other than reviewers?

5:31 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I agree Philip there are very few authors, Jo Nesbo is one, who can carry a story for 400-600 pages but it seems as if they are paid by the page.
The real genius is the writer who can ignore all the sycophantic praise and continue to develop new ideas.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I cite Peter Robinson's citation of a comment by Keating here. Where can I find Keating's crime-fiction criticism?
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

11:54 AM  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Peter, I all unawares included an answer to your question in a comment I sent to your own blog a short time ago: Murder Must Appetize and Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books.

12:55 PM  

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