Archive for November, 2021

Time to Murder and Create

Posted: November 24, 2021 in Book reviews

By Lawrence Block

When small time crook turned big time blackmailer Jacob “Spinner” Jablon turns up dead the cops aren’t much interested in solving the crime, but unlicensed Private Investigator Matt Scudder has already been hired to bring Spinner’s killer to justice, by Spinner himself! Months before Spinner gave Matt a sealed envelope and told him to only open it in the event of his death. Matt opens the envelope to discover his fee, and details on the three people Spinner was blackmailing, along with instructions to figure out which one killed him, and then to let the other two off the hook.

Scudder didn’t much like Spinner, but he has a thing about murder, and his innate sense of honour means he takes Spinner’s case. But who is the killer? The father whose daughter killed someone in a hit and run? The pederast politician? Or the society wife who was once a hooker/porn star?

One thing soon becomes clear, whoever killed Spinner now has Matt Scudder in their crosshairs!

I think I was a teenager when I read my first Matt Scudder novel, borrowed from the library in the late 1980s I think (could have been early nineties I guess which would make me not a teenager!). It was, I think, either When the Sacred Ginmill Closes or Eight Million Ways to Die. What matters is that I loved it and, I think, I’ve read every Scudder novel since, or at least most of them, because I don’t hold onto many books anymore, not like I used to, it’s hard to recall which books you’ve read and which you haven’t. Anyway, I’ve been considering a reread for a while and as luck would have it I found a second hand bookshop with quite a stash. I picked up three, but really should have nabbed the other three they had, but much as I love adding to my never ending reading pile, one must have limits!

Time to Murder and Create is the second Scudder novel, though I think around this time they’re fairly interchangeable. Scudder spends a lot of time thinking about the child he accidentally killed when he was still a cop, he spends a lot of time sitting in churches despite not being religious (even going so far as to tithe ten percent of everything he earns into church poor boxes) and he spends most of his time drinking, no matter the time of day or night. Of course, it could be argued that Scudder becomes really interesting, and shakes off a few hard boiled tropes, once he stops drinking, but that’s a few books away, and there’s still much to enjoy here.

Scudder is no Poirot, he doesn’t do deductive reasoning, what he does is get in people’s faces, ask questions, shake the tree and see what falls, and he’s very good at it, even if his plan to pretend to be taking Spinner’s blackmail operation over yields some tragic consequences.

The plot is slight, but that just makes for a fun, quick read. There’s all you’d expect from this kind of story there’s a vicious killer, a lascivious femme fatale, and all manner of lowlifes and decent people caught in difficult situations, oh and Block’s prose is always a joy, and slips off the page as easily as the booze Scudder drinks slips down his throat.

Always highly recommended.    

By Charlie Kaufman

When Joel Barish discovers that his ex-girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski, has used a radical new process to erase any memory of him from her mind, he employs the company behind it, Lacuna, to perform the same procedure on him, but as his memories are erased Joel begins to realise that he doesn’t want to lose Clementine from his life after all, but trapped in his own head can he somehow keep the memory of the woman he loved safe from Lacuna’s invasive procedure?

It would be fair to say that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my top ten films of all time, a film I’ve adored since the first time I saw it at the cinema way back in 2004. A thoughtful meditation on romance and memory, and in many respects one of the most honest films about love there is. A film that manages to be melancholy and happy, nihilistic, and yet hopeful. It could have failed miserably, it could have been too sappy, or too cynical, but it isn’t, it walks a tightrope between the two which results, for me, in one of the most beautiful films ever made.

Having recently re-watched the film for the first time in many years (and reminding myself not to leave it so long next time!) I wondered if the script was available to buy and was thrilled to see that it was. That the book came complete with a foreword by director Michel Gondry and a Q&A with screenwriter Kaufman, plus on set photos, was the icing on the cake.

It’s always interesting to read a script because you can see how a film changes what’s on the page, and despite this being the shooting script there’s a lot in here that we didn’t see in the film, and I have to say it’s hard to see anything that would have made the film any better, and certain scenes happen in a different order to the finished film. Did we really need to see Joel’s ex, Naomi? No, we didn’t, and many speeches are snipped, which helps the film flow—in particular it appears Mary’s use of Lacuna to erase the memory of her love for Dr. Howard Mierzwiak was originally even more fucked up than in the finished film.

There’s interesting anecdotes as well, like how Kaufman originally intended for there to be a prologue and epilogue set in the far future (which seems like a terrible idea) and the fact that the parade scene was a chance occurrence, the parade went past as they were filming and they decided to film Carrey and Winslet in character watching it. Given the parade features elephants, who of course never forget, this seems like a wonderful example of serendipity.

 A treat not only for fans of the film, but for those interested in the mechanics of screenwriting too given how labyrinthine and non-chronological he plot of the film is, and it’s a salient reminder of the strange alchemy that goes into making a great film, because while on the whole Kaufman’s script is fantastic, there are plenty of moments when what’s on the screen is far superior to what’s on the page, and however good Kaufman’s words are, it took Gondry, Carrey, Winslet and a whole raft of other people to create pure gold.