Giving as good as you get…

angelfaceThere’s a wonderfully dark little tale in this week’s Radio Times, about the background to filming the classic noir movie Angel Face.

Apparently during one particular (somewhat notorious) scene, director Otto Preminger insisted that Robert Mitchum slap star Jean Simmons across the face over and over again, in the interests of ‘authenticity’ and getting the footage right.

Simmons was probably getting upset (I know I would) and the story goes that Mitchum snapped, turned round and whacked Preminger with exactly the same amount of force. The director promptly fled, and later tried to insist that Mitchum should be sacked. Luckily saner voices prevailed, Mitchum stayed, and the film is, of course, brilliant.

Even the experts at the Radio Times don’t know if the tale is apocryphal or not. But it makes a nice point about being prepared to take what you give out, as well as giving us some eye-opening behind-the-scenes details of the process of creating a classic movie.


Crime Novel of the Year

The Radio Times has recently added a book page to its ‘Your RT’ section (at the back of the magazine).  I don’t always have time to browse it, but this week’s caught my eye because it’s looking at the six books shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award.

In case you haven’t seen the list, it comprises ‘The Facts of Life and Death’ by Belinda Bauer; ‘The Axeman’s Jazz’ by Ray Celestin; ‘The Outcast Dead’ by Elly Griffiths; ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ by Sarah Hilary; ‘The Devil in the Marshalsea’ by Antonia Hodgson; and Peter May’s ‘Entry Island’.  The books range from psychological noir to historical crime via slightly more standard whodunnits and police procedurals.  There’s a mini-review of each, and all sound thoroughly intriguing – although unusually for me, the one that stood out was Hodgson’s ‘Marshalsea’.  I don’t read a lot of historical crime but anything that involves a ‘charming layabout’ and an ‘enigmatic cellmate… known as ‘The Devil” certainly piques my interest!

This article doesn’t seem to be available online so if you’re interested in reading all the reviews, get hold of the 4-10th July issue and turn to page 138.  And if you’d like to vote for your favourite book, you apparently can, by visiting any time up to 15th July.

Which new tv detectives?

There’s a fun article in next week’s (5-11 July) issue of Radio Times, in which Alison Graham takes the shortlist for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award and wonders which would translate best to television.

The shortlist is as follows:

‘Dying Fall’ by Elly Griffiths (about forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, who sounds rather like a Vera Stanhope clone);

‘The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter’ by Malcolm Mackay (hardboiled novel about a gangland hit);

‘The Red Road’ by Denise Mina (Glasgow-set tale of murder and child abuse);

‘Eleven Days’ by Stav Sherez (chalk-and-cheese cops solve a murder in a convent);

‘The Chessmen’ by Peter May (the third in his Isle of Lewis based crime series); and

‘Rubbernecker’ by Belinda Bauer (psychological thriller involving Asperger’s syndrome medical student).

Ms Graham’s vote for the best translation to Sunday night telly is for either May’s Fin Macleod or Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway. My own favourite would also be Peter May, both because the first book in the series was an absolute cracker, and because the Isle of Lewis would be an amazing place to film a tv series. Think Ann Cleeves’ Shetland only bleaker!

As for the books, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read any of them, but I hope to put that right during the year.

So that’s what I write

The other day I was leafing through a recent copy of Radio Times magazine, and in particular their film reviews. The classic (and quite brilliant) Ealing comedy ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’, which was showing again on one of the cable channels, was featured, and the reviewer described it as ‘comédie noir’.

This immediately rang bells for me, because it’s a perfect description for what I write. I’ve never quite known how to classify my stories before: ‘noir’ is a little too dark; ‘humour’ too, well, funny. But that wonderful French phrase sums it up to a ‘t’, and it’s something I’ll be using to tag my work with future potential publishers. So thank you, Radio Times.

On a side note, I really must catch ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ again. It’s years since I last watched it and I was too young to really appreciate the blackest of black humour it contains. I can still remember with glee the wonderful (and increasingly eccentric) performances by Alec Guinness as all the members of the aristocratic family. And as for that last line, “My memoirs!”, it has to be one of the best last lines of any noir film.