Magic Hoffman by Jakob Arjouni Reviewed by Steve Rudd
'We were young then, as if getting older were some kind of illness for which there was no cure.'
Magic Hoffman, the novel, is translated from the German original and follows
the captivating story of Fred and his best friends Nickel and Annette.
Following a botched bank heist, Fred serves 4 years' porridge and - as any friend would do - refrains from dobbing his mates in. Anyway, he's still got the money they nicked to look forward to and the promise of a new life as far removed from 90s Berlin as possible in Canada, a country all three friends are dead set on emigrating to where they'd be free to their own devices.
The sad thing for Fred is that his two friends have moved on in the intervening four years and so he's at a loose end, given Nickel is now a dull family man and Annette - who Fred always has had and always will have a crush on - has a whole new, wild circle of film-making buddies.
Author Arjouni paints a depressingly oppressive picture of Berlin,
post-Wall-shakedown... and there's no wonder mainman-in-the-story Fred dreams of escape.
What's worse, the cops are soon onto him again after a bust-up in a bar, and it's no fun
having to lie low... until that is he meets Moni, a sweet girly who lives in the flat above him.
So, while there is no so-called action in the story (none of it is set in the prison, or in the bank before it), the magic herein instead focuses on Fred's much-changed relationships with his friends and the one he trustingly forges with the new love in his life.
Fred is a good bad guy in that he'd never hurt anyone (apart from near the end of the novel when he's in a ridiculously desperate situation on a train and he can't help let swing with a Nazi gang-member's baseball bat!...) and always has good intentions, and Magic Hoffman (his nickname) dramatizes the way things have panned out with precise style.
Fred is the most likeable guy in Eastern Europe, and just when everything seems to have worked out come the final few pages of this 220-pager once he's got both the money and the girl in his hand and by his side, it's a tragedy that tragedy indeed strikes and poor Fred is left once again with nothing to show for his life... other than hardcore experience of shit, shit and then some.
As much as I want to rave about the brilliant, penultimate scene in the train station,
I won't give the game away. All I'll say is that it genuinely is fucking heartbreaking,
and proof that here in Jacob Arjouni is an incredibly talented and emotion-provoking writer.
Reviews, Films - An American Haunting (15) By Margaret Ryan
Possession? On rental, probably.
Call yourself a horror movie fan? Perhaps you'll get something from this.
Not particularly focused on horror movies? Then you may still enjoy it.
Imagine The Exorcist set in 1800s God-fearing America over the period of several weeks.
The premises for this film look awesome on paper.
Taking into account you've watched the trailer,
Reviews, Books - Stuart MacBride - Dying Light (HarperCollins) Published 2nd May 2006 Reviewed By Nick Quantrill
Dying Light is the eagerly anticipated second novel from new crime-fiction hotshot,
and follows sharply on the heels of last year's critically acclaimed debut, Cold Granite.
Once again following the story of Detective Sergeant Logan 'Lazarus' McRae, Dying Light opens
with him set to cement his position as the rising star of Aberdeen's CID.
Reviews, Films - The Dark (15) By Margaret Ryan
Clever psychological horror, perhaps too clever?
This clever psychological horror film perhaps lets itself down by being too clever? If you enjoy the blurred boundaries of the supernatural/subconscious, however, this is a well-paced, atmospheric film about a couple losing their daughter, only to believe they can bring her back from the dead.
There are criticisms, however, that
Reviews, Books - The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster Reviewed by Steve Rudd
One should never underestimate the power of books.
New York-obsessed Paul Auster is back, and he's clearly writing better than ever in light of this astounding novel of epic and forever-surprising proportions.
Paul was born back in 1947, and since 1974 he's rightfully become a widely acclaimed writer of novels, screenplays and poetry ... amongst other things.
Reviews, Films - The Road to Guantanamo, Channel 4, Thursday 9th March 06 By Patrick Henry
Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross's work is hardly like anything else ever shown on television, which makes it remarkable and welcome, though not to The New Statesman's reviewer who complains of its deficiencies, TV-wise, and that it fails to inform about the political attitudes of the protagonists or the real nature of Camp X-Ray and as a road movie lacks amusement.
Reviews, Books - Mission Flats by William Landay Reviewed by Steve Rudd
Crime-thrillers come no better than this edge-of-the-seat masterwork from American
writer William Landay, who here delivers a truly superb debut novel that attacks the senses and ultimately leaves you reeling from the brilliantly-staged shock ending.
It's amazing how some Crime writers make their stories sound so authentic courtesy of the detailed lengths that they go to in order
Reviews, Theatre - Friday 17th February - The Hull Blokes Present Love - A Night Of Comedy, Drama And Passion at Northern Theatre By Jane Foster
The Hull Blokes are a talented bunch of 13 local, er, blokes! who I have
had the pleasure of seeing twice before in their relatively short life.
So I thought it was high time to do them justice and write a review.
The Blokes have been lucky enough to secure themselves a home in the new
Northern Theatre building, which in my opinion is more welcoming and
Reviews, Books - The Loop by Nicholas Evans Reviewed by Steve Rudd
This is the second breathtaking novel from Nicholas, the first having being
the international best-selling weepy, The Horse Whisperer which shot
the English-based writer to fame.
The Loop has nothing to do with horses whatsoever, and instead focuses
on the trials of a wild pack of wolves that is terrorising a farming community in Montana.
A 29-year old wolf expert called Helen is
Reviews, Books - Rising To Obscurity and How To Remain Anonymous by AAA Aarbon (Bitterne Books) Reviewed By Nick Quantrill
Published by Hull-based Bitterne Books, the first two titles in this humorous series
offer a different take on the modern world that we live in.
Part satire, part social comment, they follow the story of AAA Aarbon, a self-confessed
seeker of anonymity.
AAA Aarbon is described by his editor as being best forgotten for many reasons.Rising To Obscurity charts the absurd
Reviews, Books - Notes From a Small Island By Bill Bryson Reviewed by Steve Rudd
Good old Bill is a natural comedian and never holds back when it comes to being honest. He's one of the world's best-loved and most famous travel writers, and this volume of 'notes' is exclusively concerned with a number of weeks that Bill spent investing in the art of travelling around Britain back in the mid 90's.
His travel writing talents first came to prominence when he released
Reviews, Books - Flashback By Jenny Siler Reviewed by Steve Rudd
The past is a puzzle for everyone, a tattered collection of memory and desire. Even those people we most long to understand remain no more than a sum of those static moments we've chosen to hold them in.
This is a must-read novel for any discerning fan of high-octane,
Steve Hamilton-esque thrillers, as the drama-drenched action flits the
length and breadth of the
Reviews, Books - Book Recommendations by Steve Rudd
Here are some short and sweet book recommendations in place of the usual fully-fledged
reviews, quite simply because I haven't had time to write up these reviews in more detail.
The fact is that there are too many great books, and far too little time to read
them - let alone write about them in gushing retrospect.
Anyway, here's some mention of some of the books I've recently been
Reviews, Films - Films Kong By Michelle Dee
Visually stunning. Terrific pace. Jackson winds up the tension to breaking point
and never lets you go till the final frame.
This is what you would expect from a Christmas Blockbuster, but this reworking of the
original King Kong film, has so much more than the usual thrills and spills.
Naomi Watts is very striking to say the least and the ill-fated love
Reviews, Books - Complicity by Nick Quantrill Reviewed by Steve Rudd
The rain refused to ease as Coleman made his way through Queens Gardens
and on towards King Edward Street. He pulled his collar up and hurried his pace...
This is a staggeringly enthralling showcase for Hull-based writer Nick Quantrill's
unmistakable talent for writing fiction - and crime fiction, to be more precise.
He has written a fair few short stories that revolve around crime
Reviews, Books - Ian Newton - The Night Shift Reviewed By Kevin Maguire
The guy in a sharp business suit glowered as if I was mad for laughing out loud
while waiting for a flight in Washington Dulles International Airport.
No exhibitionist, I rarely laugh out loud. Indeed, I rarely read anything worth
laughing about, let alone out loud. But the story about two on-the-run robbers
holding a group of Hull factory workers hostage after a fish
Reviews, Books - East Of The Mountains By David Guterson Reviewed by Steve Rudd
Alright, so you might not have heard of the author before, but you might
actually be already familiar with some of his 'work,' as his debut novel
was called Snow Falling On Cedars... a staggering bestseller that came
to be made into a Hollywood movie starring Ethan Hawke.
Such a debut made it apparent that Guterson is one hell
of a story teller who goes to great
Reviews, Books - Scott Phillips - The Walkaway Reviewed by Steve Rudd
It is imperative that you keep your wits about when reading this novel more than with almost
any other mighty slab of fiction ever published. If you've never read Phillips' awesome debut
novel The Ice Harvest, then there's actually little point whatsoever you even making a
beeline for The Walkaway, for this mesmerisingly cool epic crime-drama is the incredible
Reviews, Books - Robert Adams - Antman (Bitterne Books) Reviewed By Nick Quantrill
Antman is the latest crime novel from prolific Hull-based author Robert Adams.
It is his interest in ant behaviour that forms the heart of this book, and one
that allows him to craft a dark narrative that absorbs and terrifies in equal measure.
The novel starts with the discovery of a dead pig at a remote location in the Hull area.
Forensic investigation reveals that the animal was reduced
Reviews, Books - The Two-Bear Mambo By Joe R. Lansdale Reviewed by Steve Rudd
Lansdale certainly is one hell of a prolific author, and this is something
like the tenth novel of his that I have had the pleasure of reading.
The vast majority of his novels follow two buddies, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, as they manage - without fail - to get into all kinds of violent predicaments through being often overly stubborn and too-proud-by-half men.
Reviews, Books - Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keillor Reviewed by Steve Rudd
I have a responsible job and pay my taxes and keep my lawn mowed, but because I dare to be
an individual, people whisper about me behind my back. Why is life like this?
This epic novel is an absolute masterpiece that is drama-driven and hugely poignant, as it
follows a man called John Tollefson as he bumbles through his life over a pronounced period
of time, with the