Watching. Reading. Listening. W/C 8th August 2016

Howdy,

I’m going to update my blog with a series of weekly/monthly posts called WATCHING. READING. LISTENING. The idea is to share what I’m watching on TV, Netflix, DVD, etc., the books and/or articles I’m reading and the music and podcasts I’m listening to.

Hopefully you guys will chip in with suggestions and comments and we’ll get a ‘sharing is caring’ thing going on between us. (Aren’t we sweet?)

Watching

Better Call Saul – Season Two

and

Stranger Things – Season One

These two shows highlight every reason why critics and fans alike are raging about the ‘golden age of TV’ we’re currently living in. Stranger Things looked like a fun 80s homage, but turned out to be an emotionally-riveting sci-fi tale that reminded me of classic Spielberg mixed with John Carpenter (my all-time favourite filmmaker). It also had my ultimate teenage crush (WINONA!!) in it, and the greatest child actor ensemble since Super 8. Hell, let’s stay with the 80s theme and say The Monster Squad.

Better Call Saul continues to surprise me. When it was announced, I expected a one-case-per-episode format with twists, turns and a high body count, with Bob Odenkirk one-linering the shit out of it.

Don’t get me wrong, that would’ve been awesome, but then we wouldn’t have the Saul that we have now: a grown-up drama with laughs, pathos and an attention to detail that is up there with The Wire. I’ve never seen a show that takes its time like this, and I love it.

I’m on episode five of season two right now, and I want Jimmy to go out on his own so bad it hurts. And although I know Mike lives to appear in Breaking Bad, I’m still fearful for him. That’s great writing, and a superb turn from Jonathan Banks.

Reading

Bret Easton Ellis’ Generation Wuss article for Vanity Fair fascinated me. It’s the best journalistic piece I’ve read so far this year. Half of that was because it wasn’t about Brexit or how much of a twat Farage is/was, but the other half was because I have never read anything so honest, scathing and sympathetic about this generation. It inspired me to write a response. You can read that here.

Elsewhere, I’ve been reading crime books, in preparation for writing my latest novel, University of Life.

I loved Shane Black’s 70s noir-comedy The Nice Guys so much that I bought the novelisation, which is written like an old school detective novel rather than a standard script-to-novel translation. This intrigued me, because two of my novels, Walking up a Slide and Somerflip, started out as scripts before I turned them into novels.

I keep reading the opening paragraphs of all Elmore Leonard’s crime books. Nobody opens a novel as good as him, and it’s been a huge influence on my latest.

I’m about to start Point Blank (AKA The Hunter), the first Parker novel by Richard Stark (a pseudonym for Donald E. Westlake). I loved the 1967 film with Lee Marvin, and I’m a huge fan of the criminally (pun intended) underrated 1999 film Payback, with Mel Gibson. There’s a device in my latest novel which is more or less ripped straight from the latter film, so it’ll be interesting to see if it appears in the novel. And if I get sued.

Elmore Leonard covers

Listening

Not a great deal of music is gripping me right now. Probably because I’m so obsessed with podcasts. I download around eight hours or more a week, and I love it.

Here’s a list of the podcasts I’d recommend:

  • The Empire Podcast – Film related fun with the editors and writers of Empire magazine. Geeky and informative in equal measure, film fans are treated to movie news, reviews and lots of random shit. I download it every week, unless it’s Star Trek related.
  • The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith – The first podcast I ever downloaded was the Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast back in 2007. Jeff was the host, and he had a great knack of being able to coax great stories and advice from writers such as Jonathan Nolan, Martin McDonagh, Aaron Sorkin and hundreds more. He’s a solo artist now, but he still gets some great guests. He also records events, such as the San Diego Comic-con Q&A for the 30th Anniversary of Aliens. Unbelievable, just like the film.
  • Ringside Toe 2 Toe – I’m a huge boxing fan, so I could listen to a boxing podcast all day long. Sky Sports host this insightful and fun podcast every week, and it has interviews, guests and a colourful co-presenter in Spencer Fearon, who has forgotten more about boxing in the last five minutes than most of us will learn in a lifetime. Superb stuff.

A few honourable mentions:

  • Nerdist
  • The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast
  • The Writers Panel
  • KCRW The Treatment
  • Meet The Filmmakers (iTunes)
  • You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes

So there you go, a rundown of what I’m watching, reading and listening to. Let me know your opinions and recommendations below…

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