The Queen of Crime Drama?

My latest visit to the public library netted me the 2 books I have already blogged about recently (both of them in the Zombie genre), plus Lynda La Plante’s Widows – written almost 40 years ago.

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I haven’t read any of La Plante’s work before and probably wouldn’t have chosen this book at all (since there isn’t a single Zombie in it – I say only half jokingly), had it not been for bumping into an old work colleague in the library who enthusiastically recommended it. Funnily enough, he had never been much of a reader himself, until the Covid lockdowns started…..and now he’s a book addict. Thank goodness something positive has come out of this whole Covid mess.

Anyhow, back to the book. The cover proclaims La Plante as the “Queen of Crime Drama”. Frankly I had my doubts, but having just finished the book, for a story that is now a little dated, having been written in the early 1980’s, it is rather good.

I won’t be rushing out in search of another of her books straight away, but I will probably read another one or two at some point down the line.

The story has been made into a TV series on British TV back in the 80’s and remade as a feature film in 2018. I remember watching the original series but couldn’t recall the various twists and turns of the story in detail until reading the book this week.

It’s a good story with strong female characters but somewhat stereotypical male crime gang members and the usual hard working but under appreciated London copper (police detective) out to prove his bosses and fellow officers wrong.

The general outline of the story is that 3 women are widowed when a security van robbery goes terribly wrong and their husbands – the would be robbers – are blown up and burned badly in the botched heist. One of the would be robbers is gangland boss Harry Rawlins. After having to identify what’s left of his burned body – his distraught wife Dolly identifies him based on his very expensive gold watch that he never takes off – she then discovers Harry’s bank deposit box containing a gun, money, business (that’s crime business) ledgers which names names and gives details of some very shady crime-land business, and detailed plans for the botched robbery.

Dolly has several options available to her. She could hand Harry’s ledgers to the police, in the form of under appreciated and rather slovenly looking D.I. Resnick and shut down half of the crime gangs in London; she could sell them to the underworld thugs who are eager to take over Harry’s turf; or she could bring in the other widows, of the failed raid, into the fold and form her own gang to finish the job that their husbands had failed to do.

It’s no real surprise and therefore not really a spoiler to tell you that Dolly decides on the last option and pulls together her gang of misfit widows to attempt to pull off a physically demanding robbery that their well built, criminally hardened and street wise husbands had failed to do. What could possibly go wrong?

Part way through their planning to replicate the robbery – less, of course, the explosion and fire carnage – they realise that the original plan that Harry devised would need 4 men, not 3……so who was the 4th man and where is he now? AND who should they draft in as the 4th woman for their team?

La Plante writes a very good story. I’m happy to report that she doesn’t spare the splattering of blood along the way either. Let’s face it gangland crime stories demand their ample share of blood and gore. There are several bone crunching, blood splattering moments strewn liberally throughout the story. We also experience the full spectrum of emotions felt by the widows as they firstly cope with the loss of their husbands and then deal with the stomach churning angst and thrills of plotting the robbery of a security van….involving stolen vehicles, disguises, shotguns, chainsaws and sledge hammers….and a gas mask. We are taken along for the ride and see the women slowly coming together as a team, even if personal differences will mean that it’s unlikely that they will ever be friends….or will they?

La Plante asks many questions of the plot and characters and gives us all the answers, including a couple of rather unexpected ones that I won’t mention here. But what we want to know as avid readers is…….Will they be successful where their menfolk failed? If they do pull off the robbery, will they get away from both the police and the underworld criminal fraternity? Who will they choose as their 4th team member? Will we find out who the 4th man in Harry’s team is? And will he be detrimental to the widows plans? I’ll say no more for fear of slipping up and giving a big spoiler away. Needless to say that not everything is as it seems to be.

All in all it’s a bloody good story – and I mean that both literally and figuratively speaking. Definitely worth a read. So, is Lynda La Plante the Queen of Crime Drama? Actually….she could well be.

As usual, many thanks for reading this blog. Comments, likes and shares are always appreciated.

V for Vendetta (2005) a mirror into tomorrow perhaps?

A couple of evenings ago I finally watched the 2005 dystopian political action movie V for Vendetta on Netflix and in this election time (this month in New Zealand and next month in the USA) found it a timely reminder for us all.

The movie, filmed in 2005 and set in 2020 – would you believe – contains some very pertinent scenes and quotes, a few of which I’ll be putting your way very shortly. But first a little background about its origins.

V for Vendetta began life in the 1980’s as a graphic novel penned by Alan Moore, morphed into a series in DC Comics and finally the 2005 movie. The title character V is shrouded in mystery – an anarchist revolutionary who wears a Guy Fawkes mask – who has vowed to bring down the fascist state. The movie is set in the UK after a nuclear war when the government is run by High Chancellor Adam Sutler – played ironically by John Hurt (you may remember him being the downtrodden victim of a totalitarian state in 1984). Here he is the all powerful baddy! He rules with a rod of iron, keeps the citizens in a constant state of fear in order to get their unquestionable obedience and things seem to be going his way until V begins to fight back.

So as not to spoil the plot I am not going to go into the story in any great length, but found some parallels between the movie and real life politics – or should I say rumours about real life politics – some would call them conspiracy theories but “rumour” is defined as – “an unofficial interesting story or piece of news that might be true or invented”. Before I go on, can I ask if anyone else has noticed, particularly over the last few years, how much disastrous news is spewed at us daily via the TV and on-line news media? Climate change, pandemics/viruses, shootings, terrorism, extreme weather events, water shortages, forest fires, the threat of civil war etc. The list gets longer with every news programme. Now watch this clip from the movie where the High Chancellor wants to make sure that the public keep in line….and have a real good look and listen to what is said and what is being shown on the nations TV screens in the movie.

One would have to ask if we as citizens of our countries are all being played by our governments – or the powers behind each nations individual government. WE seem, just like the citizens in the movie, to be kept in a state of constant fear as a result of news reports and rely on our governments to provide the answers and “keep us safe”, even at the cost of certain civil liberties. With that thought in mind I will give you a few quotes from the movie/graphic novel. V for Vendetta.

One would have to ask if we as citizens of our countries are all being played by our governments – or the powers behind each nations individual government. WE seem, just like the citizens in the movie, to be kept in a state of constant fear as a result of news reports and rely on our governments to provide the answers and “keep us safe”, even at the cost of certain civil liberties. With that thought in mind I will give you a few quotes from the movie/graphic novel. V for Vendetta.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

“Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”

“Since mankind’s dawn, a handful of oppressors have accepted the responsibility over our lives that we should have accepted for ourselves. By doing so, they took our power. By doing nothing, we gave it away. We’ve seen where their way leads, through camps and wars, towards the slaughterhouse.”

“They say that life’s a game, & then they take the board away.”

“Our masters have not heard the people’s voice for generations and it is much, much louder than they care to remember.”

“The ending is nearer than you think, and it is already written. All that we have left to choose is the correct moment to begin.”

“There’s no flesh or blood within this cloak to kill. There’s only an idea. Ideas are bulletproof.”

And these last 2 are very much worth thinking about…..“Equality and freedom are not luxuries to lightly cast aside. Without them, order cannot long endure before approaching depths beyond imagining.”

And ….. “Authority, when first detecting chaos at its heels, will entertain the vilest schemes to save its orderly facade.”

A movie to watch for entertainments sake, but also for the message beneath….the bones of which are captured in those last two quotes above. Make what you will of it all, but please cast your vote wisely this election.

Again, many thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Comments – even negative ones – are welcome as are likes, shares and follows. Until next time….

2040 the book and the film – review.

Australian Damon Gameau’s 2015 directorial debut, That Sugar Film became the highest grossing non-Imax Australian documentary in history. He’s back again in 2019 with a new doco-movie titled 2040 – where he looks at the problems associated with “Climate Change” and what we can do to not only stop the man made portion of it in it’s tracks, but help reverse the long term effects. It’s a positive and optimistic look at the technology and methods available today that can help to save tomorrow’s earth, so that in 2040 the problems caused by human action that have helped to create climate change, rising temperatures and rising sea levels, will have been conquered – by making sensible, smart changes now, in 2019 and beyond.

Concerned about what the future would look like for his 4 year old daughter, he set about looking into alternative solutions to today’s industrial problems interviewing a number of innovators – the movers and shakers in eco and alternative methods. The result is a surprisingly optimistic, glass half full view of tomorrow’s world – where 2040 is seen almost as a utopian vision rather than the doom and gloom predicted by today’s climate scientists.


The UN Climate Science paper of 2018 told the leaders of the world that we had very little time left to stop Climate Change becoming irreversible…..and yet almost 18 months later, world governments are still bickering over the fine print and for now it’s still more or less business as usual with the destruction of the rain forest, pollution of the world’s oceans, the belching out of fossil fuel smoke from power plants and transport, and Big AG farming methods – which rely on massive use of fertilizer and petro chemicals, which deplete the life in the soil rather than helping it thrive.

What I find frustrating is that Gameau’s movie shows us clearly that the answers to all our pollution problems are here today, available for use world wide, if only the powers that be would bite the bullet, change their ways and adopt them.

The movie is peppered with interviews with small children, being asked how they would like the future to look…..what they want to see. Of course kids being kids you do get a few asking for clouds that rain chocolate….but I was so impressed with some of their answers. Children today seem far more aware of what’s happening to the planet than I did as a kid. Their honesty and intelligence is quite humbling. They are the guardians of tomorrow’s earth – if only today’s decision makers leave them an earth worth looking after – and the sooner we allow them to take over, the better. We, my generation and those before, have totally fucked things up (pardon the language). For thousands of years we lived in harmony with nature and therefore with the earth…..we were part of the natural cycles. But for the last hundred, maybe hundred and fifty, years we have tried to dominate the earth and in doing so have wiped out millions of species and are gradually pushing ourselves toward extinction.

Link to the movie trailer is below. It’s only a couple of minutes, please take a look.


As I write this post, the Amazon rain forest, which we depend on for providing around 20% of the earths oxygen, is burning out of control. The oceans provide at least 50% of our oxygen. Depending on which set of figures you believe, ocean phytoplankton are responsible for between 50 and 70% of Earth’s oxygen production and yet we continue to pollute the oceans. It’s like we have a death wish as we pursue the god of money.

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The 2040 book is equally impressive and contains all of the information from the movie. There are lots of easy to follow ideas and instructions on what we can do as individuals in our own lives to make small changes in our daily routines that, with the participation of millions of others, can result in big changes and positive effects on the climate change problem. There are lots of colour photos and drawings that go along with the text to make it so easy to understand. The book is littered (pardon the pollution pun) with photos of the young kids who were interviewed along with little quotes from them.

When asked how they would like the future to look, here’s what some of them had to say:-

Stella who says “Well I’d like it to be human instinct to just look after the world and to care for the world”

Caden says “In the future I think people should find other ways to settle their problems instead of forcing each other around with guns”

Charlotte even said “Well, a lot of people text. Maybe we should talk face to face more. I’d probably like to see people less on electronics.”


Raahil points out that we don’t consider the consequences of our actions. “By 2040 I would like if people acknowledge that the factories they build hurt nature sometimes….like the things we produce, it can hurt the wildlife and it’s not good but people just ignore it.”


And finally Scarlett who points out our tardiness on fixing the problems we’ve created. “Well, I would like for the government to have done something on global warming and pollution as now I think they’re not really doing anything about it”.

So, as you can see, the kids know that there’s a problem and that it needs fixing urgently. They can’t understand that we adults are dragging our asses playing for time, when there may not be much time left. The kids see the problem, note that there is a solution to it and their first move would be to stop doing the things that cause pollution and the second thing would be to implement the new technology or methods required that have a positive effect on the earth. Simple. What the kids don’t take into consideration, or share our obsession about, is the economy….money and profits. They care about the earth, nature and human well-being.

The system we have is causing the problems so the sensible thing is to change the system…..OR to make changes within the system that negates the problems it currently creates.


The book also points out the methods that the corporations and big industry employ to create doubt about climate change science. For example in a three year period alone, Exxon spent $8.9 million and the Koch brothers $24 million on the dissemination of climate misinformation. They also set up and funded a range of groups, organisations and companies under different names to give the impression that there were lots of climate denial groups – when in fact they all stemmed from one or two base companies. A power company in New Orleans was caught paying actors with placards pretending to be “concerned citizens” who were supporting a new natural gas plant.

They always argue that Big Ag, (agriculture that produces mono-crops or animals in feed lots), can not change it’s farming methods, as they claim that those methods feed the world. But in fact Big Ag actually produces only about 20% of the worlds food and a lot of that is soy and sugar – particularly high fructose corn syrup that seems to find its way into so many manufactured ‘food like products’. Smaller family run farms with a diverse crop are the people who feed most of the worlds population. All the better if the farms are run on organic and regenerative methods.


Another argument the deniers use is that “the science isn’t settled”… and they wheel out a stream of fake “experts” to denounce climate change. This method almost worked for the tobacco industry saying that smoking and cancer were unrelated.


I don’t want to say too much more about either the movie or the book as it’s important for you guys to see and read for yourselves and to form your own opinions. I enjoyed, and was educated, by the book and the movie equally and would give each one 4 out of 5 stars. Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope it’s been of some help.

Truth and fiction, and Truth IN fiction.

I read all sorts of books, some fiction and some non-fiction. Almost without fail, if I am reading a novel, my wife (who only reads non-fiction) will comment “I don’t know why you bother with novels – what are you going to learn from them?”

My argument is that not only do I read novels as a way to escape from our day to day reality, but quite often there is something to learn from a novel – be it a story of morals or something else. Take the book I am currently reading “Afterlight” by Alex Scarrow.

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It’s a post-apocalyptic story, set in the UK, about the chaos produced by a sudden oil shortage……especially when the shortage turns into a total lack of oil, and the consequences associated with that – no transport so no food deliveries. The power grid unable to take the load demanded once oil powered power stations were no longer on line etc etc. Rioting, looting, disease and depravity took hold – the result being a dramatic reduction in the population. The main story-line begins 10 years after the oil ran out and follows a small band of survivors who have taken up residence on an oil rig in the north sea, off the coast of Norfolk. Every second chapter however, tells the story from when the chaos first started, ten years earlier. The British Government initially declared martial law and set up “safe zones” in sport stadiums with emergency supplies guarded by the police and troops.

So far (about a third into the book) it’s following a very stressed government employee who is in charge of one of the safe zones, but as more time passes a military coup seems inevitable…..as that is what has happened in safe zones in other parts of the UK. As supplies start to dwindle, the soldiers took over and started to kick out non-essential civilians such as the old and sick……eventually raping the remaining women and killing the men as chaos and disorder took over.

There is a page from the book I’d like to share with you where a recent refugee who has been taken in by the community on the oil rig is discussing the “progress” made by the community in that they have now engineered a bio-digester – It feeds on human and animal waste and old food scraps to produce methane which then powers a small generator to give them electricity for lighting and to play a small stereo for 3 hours every evening. Some of the younger people on the rig are hoping similar progress has been made on the mainland and that soon the cities will be up and running again with street lights, video games and TV’s. The older members and the newcomer are less enthusiastic about a return to the status quo of before the oil crisis. This extract from the book is when Valerie (a French speaking male from Belgium) is talking to 2 teenage boys and a young girl about how things were leading up to the oil crisis.

‘You want to live in a big city, full of noises and lights?’
‘Yeah, ‘course,’ replied Nathan.
The man shook his head with incredulity. Both Nathan and Jacob stared at him, bemused.
‘I believe the world was sick then,’ he continued. ‘And people were sick with a disease of the soul. You understand me?’
Neither boy did. Not really.
‘Most people were not happy. Most people were sick in their heart, unhappy lives. We all lived our isolated lives in our little homes and saw the world beyond through a tiny…..digital window. People did not talk to each other. Instead they typed messages to complete strangers on the internet. The more things we had the unhappier we became because there was always people on the TV who had very much more.’
Valerie shook his head and smiled sadly. ‘You do not see how much better your life is now, do you?’
Jacob, Nathan and Hannah continued to stare at him in bewildered silence.
‘I think your mother understands this. It is not things – and all the electricity that makes those things work – that makes a good life. They are just things; distractions, you know? Shiny little amusements made to look so wonderful and fun and the answer to your unhappiness. But you get the shiny things home and unwrap them, you hold them in your hand…..and they are just shiny things, that is all. They mean nothing.’
Valerie looked at the generator. ‘You know what it is that really destroyed the old world?’
They shrugged.
‘It was greed.’
Nathan and Jacob glanced at each other.

‘You know children killed each other for things like training shoes? Or mobile phones?’ Valerie continued. ‘The time just before the crash was mankind at his most evil. There were wars for oil, wars for gas. People killed for things, for power. Killed for oil. It was a world filled with jealousy for all the things we would see others have on the TV. A world of greed. Anger. Hate……..All the bright shiny lights and noises…..video games, the TV, the internet, music, the shopping, the arcades…..these things were made by governments to distract us; to keep our minds full and busy….so we did not realise how unhappy we all were.

The fact is that although this book is a novel, the breakdown of society, of law, of morals – brought about by a severe shortage of oil – could easily happen. We are so dependent on transportation, on shipping and air freight, on imported goods, to provide us with everything we need. Fiction often mirrors fact. There are lessons to be learned from this book about how once civilised people treat one another after as little as three days without food. How important a true sense of community is – take the time to talk to and get to know your neighbours. How important it is to have personal plans in place in case of emergency, rather than depending on the government to take care of you. And of alternate ways of living other than the consumer driven, oil dependent lifestyle we currently cling to. The consumer/capitalist/growth economy model is destroying the world that we depend on. All that disposable crap that we can’t live without – and yet we end up throwing it into the landfill or into our oceans – will be the death of us….and we’re taking thousands of other species with us.

None of the above is news to me, but it would be to some people. The ones who are easily distracted by the shiny baubles of life. The duplicity of governments and high ranking government officials, who are basically in the pockets of the corporate businessmen, is not a surprise….. but it is a reminder to me not to become sucked in to the world of corporate smoke and mirrors. To be seduced by the lies, damn lies and statistics produced to back up any argument. The so called ‘war on terror’ – pushed on the western world by the Bush Administration was no more than a political smokescreen to justify the invasion of oil rich, non-white, non-Christian countries. The sad thing is that it’s been carried on by subsequent governments and they are still playing the sleight of hand game with the civilian population even today (who are too busy playing with their shiny toys to notice or even care) – justifying invading other sovereign nations and stealing their natural resources due to some fictitious crime that they are meant to have committed. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction – that never actually existed – justified the invasion of Iraq. Both America’s Bush and Britain’s Blair swore that they had “undeniable evidence” that these weapons existed. The world believed them and a nation was destroyed – in order to get at their oil supplies. Then the invading countries tell the world that – Whoops our mistake, no weapons of mass destruction, (but he was a nasty guy with a bad moustashe anyway) and it’s OK that we’ve bombed the hell out of Iraq and destroyed their infrastructure and murdered thousands, possibly millions, of civilians (collateral damage), because we are now investing millions of dollars in the country to get them back on their feet again. What they don’t say is that the money invested is being spent mainly on setting up their own refineries and oil wells, pipelines and railways and roads to link the refineries to the ports and harbours, for American and allied tankers to come into and fill up with plundered oil. Meantime the Iraqis are still living among the rubble. And the action of the western powerful and power hungry nations in destroying these oil rich countries is creating more terrorists out of what were peaceful people. This increase in people angry at the west and what has been done to their home lands and their economy then justifies the War on Terror and perpetuates it. The only way to defeat terror is to not take part in terror. But the powerful governments know that as long as there is a perceived terror threat, its people will willingly give away their rights and freedoms in exchange for perceived safety and security. It’s a sick world alright!

I think one of the biggest things wrong with the world today is that we have given away our right to think for ourselves. The government have been given too much power, too much control over how we live our lives. The media are controlled by big business so we only see on TV what they want us to see. “Good evening and here is the news that we want you to know about and here is how we want you to perceive that news.” There are too many rules and regulations that restrict our lifestyle choices, where we can live, what we can build, what we can teach our children, whether we have the choice to vaccinate our kids or refuse vaccinations, what we can grow in our gardens…..our movement from one place to another. We have become dependent on government to provide for us rather than being responsible for our own lives. We have given away so much of our freedom in exchange for baubles and shiny toys and they have buried us under a mountain of unnecessary legislation and taxation. We’ve been tricked into living on credit…credit cards and easy loans…which keeps us deeply in debt and therefore slaves to the system. If we’re going to survive, we need to turn this on it’s head and have a return to community reliance where small communities are self governing, have minimal rules and where the individual can have control over their own lives. Unfortunately many of us will be too busy messaging strangers on the net, searching for the latest shiny distraction to buy or streaming the next series of mind numbing, so called, reality TV, to care.

Please give serious thought to how you live your life. If you are concerned about how we’re damaging the environment on which we depend use your purchasing power positively and be wise about what you buy. Vote with your wallet. Try to move toward renewable energy sources, avoid plastics and look toward using only renewable materials to make the things that we need, and protect the planet. I don’t want to sound patronising or cliche, but we do need to be the change that we want to see in the world.

My earlier post about Anarchists nicely dove-tails into this discussion.