Category Archives: Radio

TV & Radio Crime Log: Driver, Julie

The DriverJust the one new drama for you to get stuck into, telly-wise. The Driver stars David Morrissey as a bloke who accepts a job offer from a local gangster called The Horse. Nagged him into it, probably.

The blurb doesn’t stop for red lights:

Taxi driver Vince McKee finds his life taking an unexpected turn when he accepts an offer to drive for a criminal gang. It’s been engineered by his old friend Colin), who has resurfaced after a six-year stretch in prison.

The Driver is the story of an ordinary man who – out of frustration with his job and his life – makes a terrible decision. Ever since their son Tim cut ties with the family, Vince and his wife Ros have drifted apart. They blame themselves for his departure and have become accustomed to living separate lives.

The offer of becoming a driver for gang leader The Horse at first seems like an exciting proposition to Vince, but as the gang prepare for a major job he soon starts to wish he could have his old life back.

There’s a great cast in there – David Morrissey, Ian Hart and Colm Meaney – and a muscular, if familiar, title. I imagine this drama, written by Danny Brocklehurst, is more Drive, by way of Jimmy McGovern, than Fast And Furious.

The first of The Driver’s first three episodes is on at 9pm tomorrow night – Tuesday – on BBC1.

There’s more drama, of the audio variety in Julie, the Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4 at 2.15pm on Friday.

It’s based on the true story of Operation Julie, the biggest drugs bust in British history.

The blurb never leaves home without an Alsation:

In the 1970s a large proportion of the world’s LSD supply was coming from the wilds of West Wales. Based on true events, this is the story of how one idealistic chemist – Richard Kemp – sought to change the world. And how one determined detective – Dick Lee – set out to stop him.

In 1977 the Operation Julie police team retrieved 18 million microdots of LSD from one small cottage in Tregaron, West Wales. The street value of the haul was more than £65 million. But this was no ordinary drugs ring. – it grew out of the exploits of a handful of idealistic hippies, motivated by a genuine desire to open people’s minds.

Julie is written by Enders and Casualty stalwart Rob Gittins.

That, as they say, is your lot.

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TV & Radio Crime Log: Banshee, Blood, Farran

Come with me into the lower depths of your EPG. Follow me. We’re looking for crimey morsels. Keep pressing that down button and you’ll find…

BansheeBanshee starts its second season tonight on Sky Atlantic.

Banshee, you say, never heard of it!

Well, that’s what we’re here for, you see. It’s a quirky little small town noir in which a thief takes on the identity of a Pennsylvanian town’s Sheriff. Lucas Hood is on the run from the ruthless Ukrainian gangster he stole from many years back. There he bumps into an old flame and makes lots of new enemies. Cue lots of gleeful fisticuffs and bone-crunching violence.

It’s a bugnuts show which is – yes – in its second series. It has some expertly choreographed fight scenes – which can apparently take a whole day to film – and, as long as you let your braincells glow at a lower wattage than the little red light on your remote, it’s a lot of fun.

The first episode of the new season begins at the pointedly awkward time of 10.10pm tonight.

True BloodBanshee – it’s the name of the town if you’re scratching your head – is executive produced by Alan Ball, who was the showrunner of the early seasons of True Blood.

A few years ago True Blood’s steamy combination of nudge nudge horror and ladies in Daisy Dukes – and little else – was quite the thing, but I think it’s safe to say that the show’s best days are long behind it. The completists among you may decide that there’s little point in bailing after all these years. I understand that the first episode features the apparent death of a major character, for those of you who are tempted.

True Blood is on tonight on Fox at 9pm.

If you find the thought of all that nudity and violence inappropriate, and television somewhat beneath you, you may prefer perhaps to listen to the radio. I’m guessing BBC Radio 4 is your thing, madam, rather than Talksport. Let’s see what we can find for you there.

Ah, yes. Thursday’s Afternoon Drama is Farran At Bay – written by Hugh Costello – which is a thriller based upon a scandal that blighted the final days of Britain’s 30-year control of the Holy Land.

Here’s the blurb:

Jerusalem 1947. A Jewish teenager is spotted handing out anti-British propaganda. Witnesses report him being bundled into a car by armed men speaking English. He is never seen again.

Within hours, a senior British police officer, a decorated war hero and SAS pioneer have stolen a car and driven across the Syrian frontier. The disappearance of Alexander Rubowitz and the flight of Major Roy Farran is soon being reported in the Jewish and American press. Britain’s precarious post-war control of Palestine depends upon Inspector Bellamy’s investigation into the case. But how can he achieve justice for young Alexander without threatening the Empire?

That’s on Thursday at 2.15pm. I return you to your life, with my very best wishes.

Radio Crime Log: Missing, Simenon

BBC Radio 4Not much on the box this week. However, those of you who own a radio  – and I sincerely hope that means all of you – should be alerted to a couple of crimey things with dramatic potential.

Missing In Action is BBC Radio 4’s Afternoon Drama, on Thursday at 2.15pm. Sadly, it’s not an adaptation of Chuck Norris’s action franchise – my god, I’d listen to that – but a drama about a woman who believes she sees her lost soldier husband in a supermarket.

The blurb will now tell you much the same thing, but using more words:

Natalie’s husband was listed in Helmand as Missing In Action. Then one day, she spots him in a supermarket. But is this man really him? Her belief is so overpowering, that the man himself begins to wonder if she might be right. Or perhaps he wants her to be?

It’s Clare Lizzimore’s first play for radio.

Not so long ago I believe we mentioned the superhuman writing output of Georges Simenon. To find out how many novels the Maigret author unleashed on the world – and I know you have an insatiable curiosity about these things – you just have to click here.

On Friday, at 2.15pm, Radio 4 begins the first of three adaptations of some of his psychological thrillers under the banner of The Other Simenon. 

The blurb doesn’t know when to stop:

In A New Lease Of Life, Maurice Dudon, a reclusive bachelor who works as an accountant with no emotional or private life except for furtive and ritualistic visits to a prostitute every Friday, finds his life changing after he is seriously injured in a car accident. In a private nursing home he forms a growing relationship with a nurse, but is it all fate or is his life being manipulated?

The Chuck Norris for Radio 4 Campaign starts here. Who’s with me?

Radio & Event Crime Log: Hove, Payment

Hove Book Festival

That Saharan sand is blowing across the country right now, making itself very unwelcome inside your lungs. One way to ensure you get some fresh air is to get yourself to the seaside.

It just so happens that the good people of Hove have started their own own book festival, which takes place this weekend. As part of the festival – which features talks on how to get published and write for TV, and all sorts – they’ve invited Elly Griffiths to discuss how to write bestselling crime series.

If you’re hanging around this blog, it sounds like something you’d possibly like to know. Elly is, of course, the creator of a series of bestelling books about crime-fighting archaeologist Ruth Galloway, so she knows what she’s talking about.

Elly Griffiths

Photo: Jerry Bauer

The latest Ruth Galloway book, the sixth, is called The Outcast Dead. It’s about Ruth’s investigation of a Victorian murderer, and offers another piece in the jigsaw of the complex leading character. Elly’s Ruth Galloway series of book is currently in development with the BBC. And I do believe we’ll be reviewing The Outcast Dead here soon.

So, anyway, Elly will be discussing how she created the character of Ruth Galloway and subsequently developed the books — and about how you can do the same.

The How To Write A Bestselling Series With Elly Griffiths session starts at 1pm on Saturday at the Hove Centre. The £4 ticket sounds a right bargain.

And if, by any chance, you see that miserable wretch George Harvey Bone aimlessly wandering the landscape, do send him home. His cat is very lonely.

I understand that the overwhelming majority of you, living hither and thither, will possibly not be able to make that event on the south coast. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It just so happens that BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting a new series that afternoon that may be of some interest to you.

As a novelist, CS Forester is famous for the Horatio Hornblower series, his rumbustious novels of naval conflict. But early in his career, Cecil Scott wrote three psychological crime novels that were quietly ground-breaking.

We mentioned George Harvey Bone earlier. Forester’s crime novels, known as his London Noir trilogy, were similar to Patrick Hamilton’s work in that they focused on submerged suburban lives in which small, weak people commit desperate acts.

Now BBC Radio 4 is dramatising the three of them on subsequent Saturday afternoons. The first, Payment Deferred, is this week at 2.30pm on BBC Radio 4.

Originally published in 1926, it’s about a bank clerk living in south London with his wife and two children, who’s desperately worried about money and is in grave danger of losing his house and job. An unexpected visit by a young relative with an inheritance tempts him to commit a heinous crime.

Payment Deferred is followed by Plain Murder, written in 1930, and The Pursued. That last book was written in 1935, but then the manuscript was lost for over 70 years!

TV & Radio Crime Log: Detective, Lady

UnknownA lot of shows this year have promised plenty but conspicuously failed to deliver – yes, I’m looking at you, Mob City – but hopefully True Detective will live up to the critical acclaim that follows it to these shores.

It’s an anthology show – along the lines of American Horror Story – which is intended to tell a different story each season, using completely different characters.

The first season stars the ubiquitous Matthew McConaughey, and the ubiquitous Woody Harrelson, and it’s being trailed very heavily indeed, perhaps because of those stellar reviews in the States.

Here’s the blurb y’all:

Martin Hart and “Rust” Cohle are two detectives and former partners who worked in Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division in the mid-1990s. In 2012, for reasons not immediately revealed, the two are interviewed separately by investigators about their most notorious case: the macabre 1995 murder of a prostitute by a possible serial killer with disturbing occult leanings. As they look back on the case, Hart and Cohle’s personal backstories and often-strained relationship come to the fore.

Hart, an outgoing native Louisianan and family man whose marriage is being frayed by work stress and infidelity, is (at least on the surface) the polar opposite of Cohle, a lone-wolf pessimist and former narcotics detective from Texas. But their shared obsession to hunt down the ritual killer reveals the mercurial nature of Hart and Cohle’s relationship and personalities, and how they affect each other as detectives, friends, and men.

True Detective is kinda slow, apparently, and big on atmosphere, perhaps because it’s the brainchild of a novelist, Nic Pizzolatto. It’s unusual for a writer with no former television experience to write every episode and act as showrunner on a HBO series, so it’ll be interesting to discover what it is that’s got everybody raving.

You can find out for yourself what the fuss is about by watching the first episode on Sky Atlantic on Saturday night, at 9pm.

There’s more hard boiled detective fayre on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday afternoon. Radio 4 is dramatizing every single one of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels, including the little-regarded final book, Poodle Springs – I would imagine every saxophonist in London got a little frisson of anticipation when they heard the news. We’ve already missed The Big Sleep – sorry about that – but the second, The Lady In The Lake, starts at 2.30pm.

Toby Stephens stars – he’s good, isn’t he, and he has the right jaw for Marlowe. There’s no photo, I’m afraid. I was hoping BBC Picture Publicity might put Stephens in a trenchcoat and a fedora – as is often the way – and take him out the emergency exit to snap him looking charming by some bins and a drainpipe, but sadly it wasn’t to be.

However, if Marlowe and Chandler are your thing you may want to take a gander here to get you in the mood.

Crime News: Horror, Polish, Dagger

Ask anyone to name a British horror production company and they’re going to say Hammer, right? But for nearly 20 years there was another company on the block, Amicus. Whereas Hammer excelled in its period horror, Amicus specialised in producing contemporary portmanteau movies, short scary stories bundled onto the same film reel, mainly because they were cheaper.

At 11.30am on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday – tomorrow – film historian Matthew Sweet presents one of his terrific screen documentaries, Houses of Horror, which looks at the creative rivalry between the two film companies during the Sixties and Seventies.

It’s curious how the blurb never appears in daylight:

It’s almost a given that the story of British horror movies belongs to Hammer films. The studio, with its lurid combination of sex and death, lashings of blood and gore, has given it a special stake in British hearts. It made over 200 films, such as Dracula and Curse Of Frankenstein with a recurring, legendary cast, including Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and its 2007 revival drew heavily on past mystique.

Hammer was the most successful British film company of all time but, throughout its heyday in the 60s and 70s, it did battle with a much smaller, poorer, creative, upstart rival – Amicus films. Amicus was a small British horror studio that pioneered the much loved ‘portmanteau’ picture, such as Tales Of The Crypt and Vault Of Horror – each movie a composite of four or five short stories, whose connection is revealed at the end.

Matthew explores the productive rivalry between the two contenders for the heart and soul of British horror, in a blood-curdling tale of low-budget, gore-spattered one-upmanship that’s full of chilling atmosphere and fun.

If you’re down London way on Thursday – yes, tomorrow – there’s a Polish Crime Night at Belgravia Books. Novelists William Brodrick, Mariusz Czubaj, Anya Lipska, and Joanna Jodełka will chat energetically about Polish crime fiction, which is becoming an increasingly popular territory for readers looking for the next big thing in the genre.

The session is chaired by journalist Rosie Goldsmith at Belgravia Books in Ebury Street, Victoria. The event at 7pm is free, but you have to rsvp, so remember to let them know you’re coming.

Some of you may not be able to attend that fine event because you’ll be busy making some last minute adjustments to your Debut Dagger entry. Every year the Crime Writers’ Association encourages unpublished authors with the award, the winner of which is announced at it annual awards dinner in the spring.

The deadline for this year’s competition is this Friday, the 31st. that’s one, no, two days away! Submissions must include the first 3,000 words – or fewer – of your novel, and a synopsis of the rest. The entry fee is £25. All the shortlisted authors will receive a professional assessment of their entries. You can get all the details right here. If your manuscript is sitting in front of you, waiting to transmit its awesomeness to the world, I bid you good luck.

TV & Radio Crime Log: Following, Demon

UnknownThe adventures of hapless FBI agent Ryan Hardy and his efforts to being to justice serial killer Joe Carroll and his bickering cult of bloodthirsty followers proved one of the most diverting telly series of last year.

True, it was mad as a bagful of pills from the Silly Shop, but The Following always delivered bloodthirsty hijinks. Week after week, Carroll would run rings around Hardy, played with grim earnestness by Kevin Bacon. As portrayed by whispering Brit James Purefoy, Carroll was that most dangerous of creatures – a failed novelist. You really do no cross people like that.

Every drop of melodrama was twisted from the central, admittedly uneasy conceit in the first series –- and I for one will be back for more, with the second series due to start. Carroll is apparently dead. Everybody thinks so, but Hardy is not so sure. I’m with Hardy on that one.

You can watch Hardy get his arse kicked for another fifteen episodes – if his heart pacemaker holds out, of course – on Sky Atlantic, starting tomorrow night at 9pm.

Creepy twins always provide fertile material for writers, particularly when they swap lives – which is just wrong. Matthew Broughton’s BBC Radio 4 drama Demon Brother is told in two parts,  on Wednesday at 2.15pm and on Thursday, each episode told from the point of view of each brother.

It’s uncanny how the blurb has the same haircut as you:

When Jasper finds his father dead, a dark mystery begins to unfold. His dad kept a secret – Jasper has a twin brother, Eddie, whom he’s never met. After the funeral, the two brothers decide to swap lives. As Jasper escapes the confines of his faltering marriage and attempts to track down his father’s killer, he soon discovers that with his new found freedom comes the threat of extreme danger.

There you go, TV and radio entertainment for you. One for the eyes, one for the ears.