Sunday, December 15, 2019

Richard Jewell is a movie to see, but...

The new film directed by Clint Eastwood, “Richard Jewell,” is a story he wanted to tell for years, he said.

Jewell was the security guard who spotted a suspicious bag at an outdoor concert during the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. He rallied police and when the bomb squad examined the backpack they founded it contained explosives.

Before Jewell and others could clear the area, the bomb went off killing one, injuring more than 100. A second person died of a heart attack. Had Jewell not seen the unattended backpack, the bomb could have killed many more.

Hauser directed by Eastwood
Richard Jewell was a national hero for a brief time until tips to the media made him the suspect in the bombing. His life was turned inside out for months until he was cleared.

Paul Walter Hauser gives what may be the best performance of the year as Jewell. Also excellent were Sam Rockwell as his lawyer, Kathy Bates as his mother, Jon Hamm as an FBI investigator and Olivia Wilde as a reporter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who broke the suspicion story.

But the Atlanta paper objects to the way it and its reporter are portrayed and its lawyers sent a letter of complaint to Warner Bros. asking the studio to put a disclaimer on the movie. (Read more about it here.)

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Satan Bug by Alistair MacLean

British scientists working with the military in a lab more secure than Fort Knox, develop germs for biological warfare. One of these strains is far more deadly than all the others. Dubbed “the Satan Bug,” it is capable of spreading rapidly. It cannot be stopped once released. It has no antidote. It could wipe out every living thing on earth. And it has been stolen.

That is the situation in The Satan Bug, a 1962 thriller by Alistair MacLean, who wrote it under the pseudonym Ian Stuart.

To recover the Satan Bug before it can be used, the military calls on Cavell, a private detective in London with a shabby little office and a big attitude. He also has a mysterious past. Cavell, who had a spotty record when he was in the military, was once head of security for the bio lab, but was fired.

Why anyone would trust him is one of the mysteries – along with who stole the Satan Bug  – in this not too mysterious mystery.

MacLean creates suspense and is top notch when it comes to action, but not nearly as good at devising a mystery. Readers will be ahead of him as the clues are not too hard to figure out. The mystery is almost secondary to the thrills he sets up as Cavell tracks down the lethal little bottle and the people who took it.

Alistair MacLean (1922-1987) is said to have published this book under a pen name to prove he could write a best seller without relying on his reputation as the man who wrote The Guns of Navarone.

In 1965, Hollywood turned this page turner into a dull movie. Relocated from the English countryside to the California desert, it starred George Maharis and Anne Francis. Despite a good cast, director John Sturges seems to have filmed a listless rehearsal instead of a taught thriller.

(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)

(Also, check out my crime novel, Lyme Depot. Thanks.)