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Friday, May 04, 2018

Comic Cuts - May the 4th be with you!

I've had a week of writing that's best described as "fiddly". I've had two weeks of fairly steady output, so maybe it's not surprising that I was bound to come to a grinding halt at some point.

I'm keeping to my 1,000 words a day target, but have been writing up a subject that I've never really delved into before. I mentioned last week that I'd discovered the background of author W. N. Willis in the pages of a book called Wild Men of Sydney by Cyril Pearl, but what I didn't mention – or quite realise this time last week – was how much was left unsaid in Pearl's book. The further into the Willis story I got, the more complicated it became. Willis was a politician, so I need to cover at least a little of that; he was a newspaper publisher, so that, too, needs to be covered; he was a businessman, which meant he made and lost a few fortunes over his lifetime, which all need to be covered; then there are the endless fights and court cases, investigations, escapes from the law, battles over extradition, commissions to take evidence, and a ton of other legal battles.

I found myself on Tuesday writing about five overlapping court cases involving the same few central characters (Willis, politician "Paddy" Crick, Willis's partners/clerks George McNair and Bernard Hoskins) plus a cast of others. This is where I ground to a halt because I was getting lost over who was involved in which case since newspaper reports appeared patchily all over Australia, sometimes weeks after the event. And if I was getting confused, it was likely that I wasn't setting down the facts clearly.

Reviewing what I had revealed a patchwork of different storylines dotted around the article. I've unstitched a few of them and started moving them around so that the story flows a little better and it will be easier to follow, even if it's not in strict chronological order. There are still going to be problems as I'm dealing with a lot of legal cases and they require a certain amount of precision of language. So while I might say someone forged a signature – which is nice and clear and we all know what it means – the legal term on the charge was that he "uttered a false signature". I've tried to keep this sort of thing to a minimum, but when you're dealing with governments, commissions, boards and legal representatives all mixed up in a dozen court cases, I'm going to have to let the odd clunky phrase slip through.

When I've been able to break free of the dizzying whirl of court cases this guy was involved in, I've manged to reach the end of The Terror, which lived up to the promise of the first three episodes. I found it utterly compelling.

Since then I've started on another couple of shows: The Tunnel: Vengeance and Homeland. I was prompted to watch the third (and I believe last) season of Sky's The Tunnel as we have the fourth season of the Danish/Swedish crime drama The Bridge starting on BBC Two next Friday. If memory serves, this was the second of the "Scandi-noir" shows (after The Killing) to make its way to BBC Four. An interesting premise – a body found exactly on the line delineating the border between Sweden and Denmark – has meant that the show has been remade elsewhere – in the UK as The Tunnel, with the Eurotunnel playing host to a body; and a US remake set on the US/Mexican border with a body found on the Bridge of the Americas.

The original series stood out thanks to Sodia Helin, playing Swedish detective Saga Norén, a brilliant detective utterly oblivious to social norms – it is hinted, but not stated, that she has Asperger's syndrome. She's the reason why there are so many troubled detectives in British TV drama these days.

Unfortunately, The Tunnel: Vengeance might be the series where the show has jumped the shark as I'm two episodes in and wondering whether I'm wasting my time on this nonsense about a gas-mask-wearing criminal who thinks he's the Pied Piper of Hamlin when he's not hacking computers. And the police have one of those really good zoom functions on their computer. Poor Clémence Poésy and Stephen Dillane... they really haven't got much to work with in this one. Oh, well. Only four more episodes.

Homeland, on the other hand, is still gripping. Again, I'm only two episodes in, but the writers of the show seem to have a crystal ball that makes their script from a year ago relevant to everyone watching today. We have a President who seems to have her own agenda, powerful forces stirring discontent in the South and a lunatic conspiracy nutjob broadcasting hate to his listeners. Claire Danes hasn't cried yet (I think it's written into her contract that she has to cry in every film or TV show she appears in), but I'm pleased to see her sidekick Max, when faced by a laptop that has been encrypted with ransomware didn't just go tap, tap, tap and delete the evil programme. He actually admits that he can't fix the problem and Carrie has to solve the problem another way.

You cannot imagine how pleased I was that this happened. I think it's because I've been watching the CW DC shows (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow) where you can find anyone or anything, hack any computer, retask any satellite, reprogramme any weapon or zoom into any grainy image to see/read anything you want, even if it's written on a grain of rice, in almost no time at all. Just tap, tap, tap.

So, thumbs up for Homeland so far, thumbs down for The Tunnel: Vengeance.

Some random scans – I actually managed to find some time to clean up a few covers. This week, in honour of Homeland returning to our screens, the theme is "Home".

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