2010. In hindsight.


Not a bad vintage actually.

Work wise I was run off my feet once again and almost literally in December which proved to be extraordinarily challenging due to the shitness of the weather and the fact that I was researching all over the country.  It was a real struggle, very stressful indeed.

Some great clients which include STV, Ampersand, Corporation Pop, 60 Watt, nmp and LA Media from last year.  But added a few too including Gill’s Cruise Centre, Paligap, and The Usability Lab.

My golf stank pretty much from start to finish and I had a poor Arran and a poor St Andrews.  However one highlight was an Eagle 3 on the par 5 second in the club championships first round.  I won that but went out in round two.  However Forty years of failing to Eagle were finally over. (Tom got about 6 last year alone).

Musically it was a big return to form after very poor shows in both 2008 and 2009.

I’ve already posted my tracks of the year elsewhere which will give you an idea of my top ten albums, but for the record, these are they…

I’m New Here by Gil Scott Heron

Band of Joy by Robert Plant

The Courage of Others by Midlake

Queen of Denmark by John Grant

The Suburbs by The Arcade Fire

Sky at Night by I am Kloot

Elektonische Music Experiment – German Rock and Electronic Music 1972 – 1983

Write About Love by Belle and Sebastian

The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green

Seasons of my Soul by Rumer

My blog had a record year, just, with 340,000 hits, up 45,000 on last year and beating 2008 by only 1,000.  As a result I hit the million mark last week and raised over £1,000 for St Columba’s Hospice in the process.  Thanks to all who contributed.

I did two music quizzes (one in Edinburgh and one in Manchester) for NABS and these raised £3,500

The Hibees were a farce from year start to end and our Scottish cup hopes look less plausible than for a very long time.  Looks like we’ll be going at least 110 years before winning it again.

Theatre again played a big part in my year.

My role as a director of The Lyceum developed and I thought Mark Thomson had a vintage year.  Every show was a hit in some form or other and the highlights for me were The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Confessions of a Justified Sinner, The Price and The Importance of Being Earnest.

FCT had another good year, my first at the helm and I’d like to thank the fab committee for their support.  Two great shows in Just So and Guys and Dolls and another ENDA award.  Annie’s next but no decision yet on the festival.  Our away day in October was deemed a great success.

Amy started at Uni and is working hard as she has done all year at Dakota.  She bought a virtually new car herself ( a Toyota Yaris) and I was really proud of her for being so focussed to be able to do this.  Ria is working hard at school and did really well in her standard grades.  Tom isn’t and didn’t.

Tom’s golf continued to improve and his handicap went from 11 to 7.

Sadly Jeana’s blossoming work at Suntrap came to an end when the funding was pulled.  She was devastated and I suspect still is.

We holidayed in California and it was a tram smash of a holiday from start to finish, summed up by this video…

http://www.youtube.com/v/E5lc8c9EsXg?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1

In books I didn’t read much.  I am enjoying Freedom by Jonathon Franzen but the best of the year was the Red Riding Quadrilogy by David Peace.

fantastic series of horrific police brutality .

And my movie of the year? Well, I saw over 20 movies at the flicks this year and a lot of real quality.  But I plump for The Social Network.  A Prophet was great as was Monsters and The Road, but David Fincher surpassed himself with an amazing script by Aoron Sorkin.

TV show of the year? No Question. Mad Men (we’re playing catch up and only nearing end of season two but it’s fabulous).

In reality TV The Apprentice continues to kick ass.

Digital gizmo of the year?  My iPad… but also my Canon 450 D.  An up and down year on the camera front but happy with my lot and looking for a Canon 5D Mk 1 and a new 28mm prime lens to move on a level in 2011.

Idiot of the Year?  Won hands down by Nick Clegg.  Only cos he sold his soul to the devil.  But he was run close by those fools that lead our government.  You know who they are.  Tony Blair continued to make a right fucking dick of himself and the legacy of Kenny Macaskill is not away yet with Magrahi in the rudest of health.

Sadly I lost a number of friends during the year; Myles, Kathy and Jim, I’ll miss you all.  God bless and love to all of your families.

Wife of the year? Jeana Gorman. 21st year running.  How can she bear it?

Put it this way. I couldn’t live with me. Still.

And so to 2011.

My hopes?

Hibees win the Scottish Cup.  (That’s just stupid.  Ed.)

Tom gets down to a 4 handicap.

I win something, anything, at Golf.

The kids do well at school and uni.

I am healthy throughout. (And lose rather a lot of weight.)

Both Cath and Jean stay healthy too

The credit crunch doesn’t get worse again.

The Red Riding Quadrilogy by David Peace


AKA The Red Riding Quadrilogy

It’s a long time since I wrote about books here and that’s because I’ve been a long time reading this remarkable bunch of books.

Collectively they amount to around 1,200 paperback pages and each of the four novels has an overlapping but always quite different pool of characters.

Over the piece there are probably in excess of 100 significant characters that one needs to come to terms with in following the plot.

It’s challenging.

Then there’s David Peace’s style.

These are crime novels and one would expect them to crack along at a pace and that the only really issue for the reader would be to unravel the clues and spot the killer.

Not here.

David Peace is one of Granta’s most highly regarded writers, regardless of genre, and that’s because he writes with style and elan.  Part of the pleasure of this massive book (Let’s call it one book for convenience sake)  is working his writing out.

Each book is individually structured.

Each structure is a clue in itself.

Each chapter in each book has a different (anti) hero.

And then there’s the subject.

The lighter side deals with the Yorkshire Ripper murders, the heavier with child murders.

The real issue though is the polis.

Jeez.

The British Police PR department presumably do not have any of these novels on their reading lists. Because the police come across as double crossing, conceited, evil scum.  And yet many of the main protagonosts are the polis.

That’s why his writing is nothing short of challenging.  Visceral, gut wrenching, brutal, shocking, calous, taboo-less.

Unputdownable.

There.  That’s seven uncompromising (that’s eight now. Ed) words to describe his way.

Sympathy is not a word that readily springs to mind in David Peace’s world.  Did you sympathise with Cloughie in his big seller, The Damned United?

No, this a world of damnation, wolfs, swans, angels, demons, rats, dragons…underground terror.

It’s a book about the underworld.  Full stop.

It’s a book of genius.

I can’t even confess to have fully got the plot (maybe I’ve actually lost it having invested six months of my reading life into Peace’s mind)  never mind the meaning but it has been a six month reading exercise that has enthralled, terrified and utterly engaged me from start to finish.

This book (in its totality) is an epic and quite remarkable literary achievement.

Few reading experiences have or will (since reading Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as a 17 year old) affect me quite so powerfully.

Now for something lighter.

Phil Adams recommended the Death Machine to me.  I’m started on it.

1977 by David Peace


Two down. Two to go.

I have written often about David Peace in this blog.  About 1984 here.  About 1974 here. And about The Damned United here.

The fact is he is a really great writer.

I’ve just put down 1977, the second in the Red Riding Quadrilogy which is centred on a fictional backdrop of The Yorkshire Ripper killings in and around 1977 (but to be continued in the next in the series; 1980).

Although The Ripper enquiry is essentially the main plot device it’s really about police corruption which provides the main narrative flow.  It’s about guilt.  It’s about god.  Does he exist?  Can he forgive us our tresspasses (if we do not forgive others).  Reeking with religious symbolism it is a horrific read with murder, rape and brutality leaping out of almost every page.

But it is mesmeric in its structure and his quite unique use of language.

This is way beyond the ambitions of most crime novels.

This is art.

Recent reading


peace

You will now presumably be aware of David Peace’s rapidly growing repuation (The Damned Utd, The Red Riding Trilogy).

I am pleased (smug? Ed.) to say I’ve been ahead of the curve on all this as previous posts will testify and one of his books that hasn’t hit the big screen is the subject of my latest bibliographic indulgence.

GB 84 is an epic piece of writing.  Coming in at well over 400 pages it does not set out to make life easy for the reader and it succeeds in holding that to the end.

In parts it’s quite staggeringly brilliant but mostly it’s rather turgid and verging on the contrived.  David Peace is a very clever writer, the trouble is that in this book he seems to want to prove the point and actually ends up just annoying the fuck out of you.

It’s a true life act of fiction set around the 1984 miner’s strike with a cast of real life characters, Scargill – The President – and Thatcher chief of all, but is surrounded by characters that are clearly based on real life people, ‘The Jew’ for instance, is an odious spin doctor.

As an elegy to the strike, the great strike one has to say, it is quite breathtaking.  It is so detailed, so harrowing that at times you have to look away – the scenes of violence involving police versus flying picket, with the dice so clearly laden in the former’s favour, take your breath away at times  But it just goes on and on and.  Like the strike itself I guess.

And it has more sub plots than a year’s worth of Coronation Street and in the end that’s all too much.  Corruption is the key subplot, but you’ve got loyalty (scabbing), deception (infidelity), espionage, murder, brutality and love (sort of) too to deal with.

Frankly it’s all a bit of a mess, and a long winded one at that.

Could I recommend it?

Sadly, no.

Is it well written?

Well, technically, yes.

Am I glad it’s over?

Oh yes.

Has it put me off David Peace?

No way.

Red Riding


andrew_garfield_1360972c

I love David Peace.

There.  I’ve said it.

He is, in my experience, the best writer in Britain, out of a very good lot.

I enjoyed 1974 to the point of gushingness.  And when Jeana said she wanted “A right good, proper crime book to read that wasn’t a load of old shite.” recently I recommended it.

She loved it – perhaps even more than I did.

And now it’s a Channel 4 TV movie.

Me?  I thought it was exceptional, although it strayed from the book’s plot quite considerably.  Most fundamentally in that it made Dunford’s character mainly sympathetic when, in the book, he’s just a twat.  It’s a classic example of a (near) brilliant adaptation of a brilliant book that falls short of the book but finds enough quality to make it brilliant nevertheless.

The acting, cinematography (let’s face it, it WAS a movie) and soundtrack (beautifully understated and not period at all) were all A list.  Some of it actually took your breath away.  It has BAFTA written all over it.  But, and it’s only a but, to us readers, it fell away really badly, plot-wise, compared to the book in the final act.  In fact, Jeana dismissed it, and I agree with her because it turned a grizzly, uncompromising book into a cop-out conclusion.  I was disappointed in that, but it wasn’t enough to spoil the overall effect.

By the bloody way, they were heavy bloody smokers in Yorkshire in the 70’s or what?  Fook me.  It made “the man who wasn’t there” look restrained.  In fact, I’m away to wash my clothes.

As an aside I do want to bring your attention to Peace’s masterpiece, if I haven’t already.  The Damned Utd starring Martin Sheen is soon to hit our screens.

In my opinion it’s likely to be a classic example of a movie that won’t be as good as the book because it can’t be.

We’ll see though.

Fook me though.  I hope I’m wrong likers.

1974 by David Peace


peace_nineteenseventyfour.jpg

The talent of David Peace is pretty well documented, but not in the mainstream. Which is a shame because in some ways he is a mainstream writer. Well, he writes crime novels and has written one about football. (Incidentally, the best sports book I have ever read as I documented here.)

damned.jpg

This is firmly in the crime camp. But it’s not Rebus.

David Peace is a unique writer. His style is more aggressive than Mike Tyson on the downturn.

Short.

Sharp.

One sentence para’s.

And grizzly, basic, twisted, evil, some might say sick, uncompromising but utteerly compelling situations.

A plot more convoluted than the current US Democratic Primaries.

1974 is the first in a quartet of books, now known as the Yorkshire series. It’s set in Leeds, Wakefield, Huddersfield and other cities in the grim north. It is not inconsistent with the grim north America of Silence of The Lambs.

Centring around the story of rookie crime reporter Edward Dunford and the murder of a child (part of a serial killer series we are led to believe) it soon escalates into a full-blown corruption case.

Dunford, the masogynistic beer, whisky fag and sex overindulger soon finds himself way out of his depth in a world of property developers, rugby league stars, mediums and worst of all bent cops.

Rather than painting Dunford as the hero Peace makes him a hateful scumbag, and yet still maintains his heroic stance throughout the book.

I cannot think of a central character, of late, that so deflects your sympathy, and yet in at least small amounts, garners it. I can think of few writers that are so visceral and don’t, frankly, give a fuck.

This is a great book. But if you are in any way sensitive…avoid.

But for me, the best thing is I still have three books to read in the quartet , and this is apparently the safe one.

It’s a thrilling prospect.