So Cold The River by Michael Koryta – Thoughts

So Cold The River by Michael Koryta

A man in a bowler hat, a haunting violin and a bottle of curious sulphuric tasting water. Did I mention water? Whatever you do, don’t drink the water. I repeat; don’t drink the water!

I’ve just re-read this classic book and can’t believe it has been seven years since I first read the book – my introduction to Michael Koryta – and it still ranks as one of my best ever reads.

So Cold The River by Michael Koryta is a hypnotic and hauntingly chilly tale following one man’s attempt to chronicle a family’s childhood history in West Baden, Indiana. It’s very hard to categorize into one genre as so many themes are utilized in this 528 huge page turner. Horror, thriller, Crime and supernatural forces are all present in a stunning story of murder, greed and deceit.

Eric Shaw, a has-been cinematographer formerly of Los Angeles and now Chicago, has resorted to making small videos for funerals at the bequest of grieving families. Shaw is approached by Alyssa Bradford at the end of her sister’s funeral and offers him a job to investigate/document her father in law’s (Campbell Bradford) family, long since forgotten.

The video is to be a celebration of his life, one she wants completed before he dies so that the family as a whole can enjoy with him. Shaw accepts not only the $20,000 offer but an ancient blue bottle of Pluto mineral water.

The bottle had never been opened and belongs to Campbell Bradford, the 95 year old multi-millionaire who lies dying in a lonely hospital room. Although hidden away, and until this point had never left Bradford’s side, Alyssa Bradford sensed its importance. The blue bottle sparks a chain of events that would lead to a destructive and devastating conclusion.

Shaw, estranged from his wife Claire, makes his way to the adjoined Midwest towns of West Baden and French Lick armed with a camera and the curious, foul tasting bottle of Pluto Water. Shortly before he embarked on the drive to Indiana Eric gave in to the temptation and opened the bottle and took a sip of the mysterious water. He became violently ill and the die had been cast.

Despite being a monster of a book, the pace is rather interesting. It isn’t a quick read for obvious reasons but I found that as the story developed so did the pace, hand in hand with the water’s stranglehold and intensity. I’m not sure if Koryta meant this to happen but this is how I saw the book evolving. Very clever and the flow is just right, I finished the book in three reasonable sessions.

We meet a number of colourful characters along the way and Josiah Bradford, the only living descendant of the millionaire in Indiana is one of them. An evil brute of a man, he appears to have a chip on his shoulder, a chip that grows rapidly after coming into physical contact with Eric. Koryta tells his story well and whenever Josiah is centre stage it’s as if the book takes on a whole new dark persona.

A story of Yin and Yang, light and shade, good and evil – the book is an engaging, icy page turner in every sense. This is Koryta’s first book to be published in the UK and certainly won’t be his last, not on this form I suspect.

Don’t drink the water! You have been warned!

Gunpowder BBC One – Episode 1 – Thoughts & Cast

Gunpowder’s first episode, shown on BBC One on Saturday 21st October, 2017, leaves nothing to the imagination, nothing at all. In some of the most brutal and graphic scenes I’ve ever witnessed on british television, Gunpowder promises to push the boundaries and promote a high degree of storytelling and drama. Within the first quarter of an hour, not long after the watershed we see a woman stripped naked and crushed to death and a young Priest hung, drawn and quartered in a bloody and yet utterly compelling scene. It’s impossible to look away but the executions only serve to solidify how savage and bloodthirsty 17th Century Britain was.

Tom Cullen as Guy Fawkes

England, 1603. Elizabeth I is dead and King James of Scotland has taken the throne. With the country at war with Catholic Spain, English Catholics are persecuted and priests caught saying Mass are punished with death. Several attempts have already been made on the new King’s life. All so far have failed. But deep in the heart of the Warwickshire countryside a new plot is brewing. A plot that will become legend, and leave a mark on the country that will still be felt over 400 years later.

Harington as Robert Catesby

We learn early on in the episode the terrifying persecution of the Catholics and the lengths of those tasked with hunting down the Catholic sympathisers would stoop. Shaun Dooley, who plays Sir William Wade gives an outstanding role and for me the actor of the episode. Determined to find his pray he is ruthless but it’s his sinister mannerisms and sheer arrogance that come to the fore. He’s not a man to be messed with and although he shows a touching side to his personality at the gallows – albeit briefly – he carries out his duty with a unwavering ruthlessness.

Kit Harington and Liv Tyler share the execution scene as horrified bystanders

Some have questioned if the drama is too gory for British television but for me, the BBC got it spot on. In Gunpowder they have given us a violent yet classy drama, a true reflection of the times and believe you me, there’s more to come in episodes two and three!

Gunpowder – all three episodes – is now available to watch on the iPlayer.

Gunpowder Cast – Episode 1

Robert Catesby Kit Harington
Father Henry Garnet Peter Mullan
Anne Vaux Liv Tyler
Lord Robert Cecil Mark Gatiss
Sir William Wade Shaun Dooley
Thomas Wintour Edward Holcroft
Guy Fawkes Tom Cullen
Father John Gerard Robert Emms
Thomas Percy Daniel West
Jack Wright Luke Neal
Thomas Bates Luke Broughton
Digby Philip Hill-Pearson
Slater Richard Glover
King James I Derek Riddell
Sir Philip Herbert Hugh Alexander
Lord Northumberland David Bamber
Lord Howard Simon Kunz
Constable of Castille Pedro Casablanc
De Tassis Andy Lucas
Lady Dorothy Sian Webber
Father Daniel Thom Ashley
Young Robert Tom Sweet
Lady Dorothy’s Servant Eleanor Inglis
Captain William Turner Fergus O’Donnell
George Farwell Josh Moran
Jailer #1 Murray Taylor
Jailer #2 William Fox
Sir William Stanley Robert Gwilym
Wade’s Underling Scott Berry
Elizabeth Catesby Beatrice Comins
Susan Whinniard Kate Wood
Kennan Ewart James Walters
Monteagle Sean Rigby
Alford Andrew Jarvis
Bald Drinker Karl Haynes
Hawksworth Kevin Eldon
Anne Hudson Shelley Draper
Strangled Madrid Woman Yolanda Calzado Gill
Football Dad Sean Croke
Mary Sparrow Vivienne Sloan
Court Clerk Richard Hand
Merchant Peter Rylands
Protestant Priest Gordon Mounsey
Executive Producer Ollie Madden
Executive Producer Ronan Bennett
Executive Producer Daniel West
Executive Producer Kit Harington
Writer Ronan Bennett
Producer Laurie Borg
Director J Blakeson
Production Company Kudos Film & Television Company

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo – Book and Movie tie in.

The Snowman by Jo NesboI can promise you one thing; my days of making snowmen are over. No more! Winter isn’t far away and if one of my neighbours decides to build a snowman in our quiet, secluded street, I’m booking the first flight to Barbados and running! I’m not kidding; this is one hell of a creepy crime thriller! – They don’t have snow in Barbados do they?

Psychologically it scared me to death; I guess it had the desired effect!

“We’re going to die” a young lad proclaims in the back of his mother’s car.

Jo Nesbo’s “The Snowman” is without doubt one the best books I’ve ever read, it has everything. A tight storyline; electrifying pace and imaginative prose; all morphing together to produce a magnificent on the edge of your seat Norwegian thriller. You won’t know who to trust!

I read The Snowman a few years ago and thought I’d revisit the book now that Tomas Alfredson’s movie of the same name has hit our screens. Starring Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson I had great expectations.

The Snowman Movie 2017

Soon the first snow will come. And then he will appear again. The Snowman. And when the snow has gone, he will have taken someone else. What you should ask yourself is this; “Who made the snowman”? Who makes snowmen? Who gave birth to the Murris? For the Snowman doesn’t know.

Jonas wakes to a house filled with silence. His father left the night before to catch an overnight flight and when he went to bed he only had his mother and a snowman in the garden for company – A creepy snowman he hadn’t built. He cries out for his mother but when no one answers he walks out into the garden; the snowman is there and so is the pink scarf he gave his mother for Christmas. His mother is missing.

Comparing the book and movie is difficult but think chalk and cheese – they don’t go. The movie is such a disappointment, it went nowhere, lacked any direction or tension. There were no scary points in the film, it didn’t make me jump and even the death scenes lacked any punch. Universal Pictures who distributed the film definitely missed a trick here. They had every chance of building a terrific Harry Hole franchise but with this, arguably the strongest – for me at least – Jo Nesbo book, there’s nowhere to go. Only time will tell if they produce another.

The book on the other hand is magnificent and filled from cover to cover with explosive tension.

My Final Thoughts

Buy the book but leave the movie, it’s not even worth a rental unless you want to see some breathtaking Norwegian landscape and scenery – now that was magnificent!