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Film Wallanders

Did you know that Kenneth Branagh isn’t the only a Wallander?  Both Rolf Lassgård and Krister Henriksson played the character in two Swedish versions.  None of them may match the reader’s mental image as they read Henning Mankell’s books.  I just saw the Krister Henriksson TV series in Swedish with English sub-titles (available on DVD).  His portrayal seems deeper, more sympathetic than Branaugh’s and the minor characters–all wonderfully acted–play a larger role.  And there are 26 episodes.  How did they get 26 stories from 10 novels and 5 stories?   Mankell worked closely with Yellow Bird Films, the Swedish production company.  Apparently he hand-picked Henriksson for the lead and suggested additional story lines.

Rolf Lassgård starred as Wallander in nine movies made between 1994 and 2007 by SVC, another Swedish film producer.  I haven’t caught up with them yet.  Only the first three are available (Swedish with English sub-titles) on Amazon.

–posted 9/23/2013

Posted September/29/2013

Marshal Guarnaccia is back

Marshal Salva Guarnaccia is a member of the Carabinieri, the Italian police force, assigned to the Palazzo Pitti area of Florence.  Guarnaccia, a Sicilian, is a quiet, unassuming fellow who tends to be looked down upon by his superiors, but he is a tenacious detective who always gets to the bottom of each case.  The mysteries are well plotted, with interesting characters, but the details of life in Florence and the surrounding countryside are what sets them apart. Nabb does for Florence what Donna Leon does for Venice in her Guido Brunetti series. The first of Nabb’s fourteen Marshal Guarnaccia series, Death of an Englishman, was published in 1982 and may be long-gone from most library shelves. Fortunately Soho Press has decided to re-issue the series. Magdalen Nabb (1947-2007) was born in Lancashire, England, but made Florence her home for over 30 years. She has also written the Josie Smith series for children.

–posted 9/24/2013

Posted September/24/2013

Cleopatra Jones

Cleopatra Jones is an accountant who doubles as a sleuth when her nearest and dearest are accused of crimes. She is the divorced mother of two girls, Carla and Lexy. She and the girls and a very pregnant Saint Bernard named Madonna live with her mother Delilah Sampson in Maryland. Toussaint’s genial cozies are peopled with the usual small town characters: Cleo’s golf partner Jonette, friendly policeman Brett Radcliff and Erica Hodges, the overbearing woman who runs the Ladies Outreach Committee. Author Maggie Toussaint has sharpened her deft pen by writing a slew of romances. This is her only series, so far. Dime if I Know (Five Star, 9/2013) is the third book in the series.

–posted 9/16/2013

Posted September/16/2013

The White Queen

white queen1The new ten-part Starz/BBC1 miniseries titled “The White Queen” is based on Philippa Gregory’s “Cousins’ War” series.  It brings alive the characters and conflicts of the Wars of the Roses (1455–85) –30 years of violent conflict during which the houses of York (white rose) and Lancaster (red rose) struggled for the English throne. The series and the novels focus on the women at the center of the conflict:  Elizabeth Woodville, the beauty who became the queen of King Edward IV;  Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Elizabeth’s mother;  Margaret Beaufort, mother of the first Tudor king Henry VII; and Anne Neville wife of Richard of Gloucester who became King Richard III.  In an interview, Scriptwriter Emma Frost concedes that it was difficult to narrow her focus at times: the first half of Gregory’s novel, The Red Queen is whittled down to a flashback.  Dramatizing 30 years of turbulent history into 10 episodes is not for the faint-hearted–just imagine all the costumes.  Breathless viewers may feel the need to resort to Gregory’s series–now five books in length.  The latest, The White Princess just published this year by Touchstone, tells the story of  Elizabeth of York who marries King Henry VII.  The series has not been written chronologically: The Lady of the River is a prequel to The White Queen and the beginning of The Red Queen takes place before the action in The White Queen.  The reason is that Gregory’s books are narrations each told by a different woman.   Readers who know the organizing principle, can decide for themselves which book to read first.

Note:  Amazon Instant Video is offering all ten episodes of The White Queen

–post revised 12/2014

Posted September/12/2013

Hook Runyon, “Yard dog”

Hook Runyon, a one-armed “yard dog” (railroad security agent) lives in a caboose, collects rare books, and drinks “busthead” liquor. Set this unusual character in Oklahoma at the closing months of WW II and you have the makings of a strikingly original series. Hook must do a lot more than just run off hobos and arrest pickpockets; murder, Nazi prisoners of war and the criminally insane feature in his cases. Minor characters come and go, but there always seems to be a love-interest lurking. Sheldon Russell, professor emeritus at the University of Central Oklahoma, injects solid history, railroad lore and interesting period detail into his narratives. In the fifth book in the series, The Hanging of Samuel Ash (Minotaur, 2013), Hook finds a dead man hanging from a defective signal. Russell has written standalone novels as well as the Hook Runyon series.

–posted 9/8/2013

Posted September/8/2013

New Simon Brett

Simon Brett’s Charles Paris amateur detective series has been popular since its beginning in 1976.  Charles is a middle-aged, underemployed London actor whose predilection for the ladies and drink have estranged him from his long-suffering wife Frances.  Charles’s foibles and his satirical insider’s view of England’s theatrical and television world give added appeal to Brett’s solid plotting.  After a fifteen-year absence, Charles Paris has returned to the fray with A Decent Interval (Creme de la Crime, 7/2013), the 18th book in the series.  Charles is delighted to get steady work in a new, offbeat production of Hamlet, featuring reality-show stars Jared Root and Katrina Selsey as Hamlet and Ophelia–and a set inside a gigantic model of Hamlet’s skull.  Root’s lack of acting talent and his and Selsey’s efforts to out-diva each other threaten to scuttle the production.   However, before long, an “accident” and a murder allow Charles to play sleuth again. Author Brett writes from firsthand knowledge, having been an amateur actor and a producer for BBC.  To explain Charles Paris’ long hiaitus, Brett said, in an interview with Connie Fletcher in the May 25, 2013 issue of Booklist Online, that when he became a full-time writer, he lost close touch with the theater world.  But recently he has been involved in more theatrical projects and his wife’s work at the Chichester Festival Theater has opened up a new “source of backstage information”.   He also admits that he “missed writing about Charles”.

–posted  9/5/2013

Posted September/5/2013

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