I’m now well into the habit of updating my reading progress on Goodreads because as I read virtually everything on my Kindle, it does it automatically. In December 2022 Goodreads told me that I had read only 21 books which is quite a lot fewer than in 2021. I thought a couple of books took a long time to get through as they seemed much longer but on a Kindle you don’t get as much of a feel for volume or mass as you do on paper books.
Of these, only one was a paper book: David Gibson’s The Street Photographer’s Manual, a book I saw and browsed before buying at the Leica Store in Sydney when considering a new lens for my SL2 that should be less obtrusive on the street. The remainder all look to be e-books that I read on my Kindle. Once again it looks like I stuck with authors that I enjoyed reading, so I read five books by Alex Gerlis, four by Andrew Turpin, three by Ben Macintyre and two each from Arnaldur Indriõason and Mick Herron. The other noticeable trend in my reading is that nearly all of it seems to be about espionage, the Second World War and murder mysteries.
The exceptions were obviously that photography book mentioned above and Tomasz Jedrowski’s beautiful gay romance Swimming In The Dark about youth in a repressive regime. Like all the other books I read in 2022, I rated this 4/5 on Goodreads, but I’d like to have added a half star as I really enjoyed this book and found so much that I could relate to, emotionally.
I started the year off with another book by Peter May: The Critic. I enjoyed this read and was intending to read more of his books, but I was distracted by a new-ish Steve Parker book in the ‘Detective Ray Paterson’ series His Mother’s Bones and I could not resist it. I think the Kindle store may have recommended Andrew Turpin’s The Last Nazi. This was his first novel in the ‘Joe Johnson’ series and I ended up reading three more from it: The Old Bridge, Bandit Country and Stalin’s Final Sting.
I was side-tracked briefly by my book-club’s monthly pick: Arnaldur Indriõason’s Jar City, a rather brutally graphic murder mystery set in Reykjavik. It is also the third in the author’s ‘Inspector Erlendur’ series. I liked it so went on to the fourth book in that series Silence of the Grave. I will probably read more of his books.
Before I finished the ‘Joe Johnson’ series, I must have been recommended Alex Gerlis as an author on the Kindle store as I soon departed well and truly down the ‘Richard Prince’ series of books at full speed. First there was Prince of Spies and I soon followed with Sea of Spies, Ring of Spies and End of Spies, all of which were set in the Second World War. After that I also made a start on his ‘The Wolf Pack Spies’ series with Agent in Berlin. Some of these fictional novels overlapped with two of the the three Ben Macintyre non-fiction books that I read: Agent Zigzag: A true Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal and Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies. Both are amazing but true stories and they’re very well told as is his The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, which was recommended by a close friend. All of these books by both of these authors had me on the edge of my seat throughout.
Karin Slaughter is another author I like (a lot), so I just had to read Pieces of Her before watching the series on Netflix. I did enjoy both, but the series has some major differences from the book. Only one book by KS this year.
Finally, once again on the recommendation of a friend I started the ‘Slough House’ series of books by Mick Herron. I had watched the first series on Apple TV+ (courtesy of a new iPhone purchase), but thoroughly enjoyed the first book Slow Horses, then devoured Dead Lions and I’ve just started Real Tigers. Le Carré’s George Smiley has long been a hero of mine along with Len Deighton’s Bernard Samson and Ronnie Craven and Darius Jedburgh from Edge of Darkness (the TV series, not the film), but I now think I’ll have to add at least Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb and possibly River Cartwright from the fantastic ‘Slough House’ series. There is no doubt that I’ll finish this series of books.
That’s all from me for 2022. Happy reading in 2023!
Firstly, I think I should let you know that I’m now using the Overcast app on my iPhone. It is the best client for podcasts that I’ve used and it leaves the default iPhone app for dead. It takes a little getting used to, but once you become familiar it is great.
I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts so below I am only listing and briefly reviewing those that made an impression this year. I’ll try to let you know how often I listened to them, what they cover and how I’d rate them for content and sound. Yes, sound quality is a biggie for me as some podcasters still don’t seem to have figured out why it is so important in this medium.
Oh, I am not providing links as everyone uses different hosts and they are all very easy to search for and find if you’re that interested. Here we go then, mind the step …
…These Are Their Stories: The Law & Order Podcast. I’m a regular listener, even though I have rarely watched this show on TV. I like the hosts, the regular features and the guests and there are always some laughs. Sound quality is always great. The content is always entertaining. ****
Bad Women: The Ripper Retold & The Blackout Ripper. I’m a regular listener, but it is starting to get a little annoying. I can’t put my finger on it, but it may have something to do with the host and/or her delivery. I’ve tried a few Pushkin podcasts and they all seem to have a similar “flavour”. Sound quality is good and I think the content sometimes strays a little too far from the main theme. I hate their ads. ***
Bone Valley. Spoilers ahead! This podcast really is outstanding, but so sad. I’d put it in the same class as about a handful of US true crime podcasts that deal with wrongful convictions (e.g. Serial, Undisclosed, Accused and In The Dark). Host Gilbert King and his colleagues do a fantastic job investigating the tragic murder of 18-year-old Michelle Schofield in 1987. Sound quality is great and the content is excellent. *****
The Chaser. I like this podcast. They seem to provide a few short episodes each week and they provide a very amusing, but frankly rare and honest take on politics and the news in general. They are very good at calling out the lazy arseholes, liars, grifters and clowns who pollute politics and make it the sewer it is. They record using professional equipment and sound is great. ****
The Coodabeen Champions. Unfortunately the Coodabeens were dropped by ABC Radio and now we have to put up with the lamest ads from their commercial radio host. I’m a regular listener and have been for years. Sometimes the quality of the songs leaves a bit to be desired and I find the show is ALWAYS better when Simon is on, but there are always a few laughs and some good guests. I do love Sam the Sub and the “Talk-Back” callers. Sound quality is great unless they’re on OB in country Victoria! ****
Crime in Sports. Presented by comedians James Pietragallo and Jimmie Whisman, this podcast has been going for a very long time and still presents episodes that are generally around three hours in length. I am very selective with my listening and most of the time I have no idea who they are talking about, but the stories are always amazing. Sound quality is fine and Jimmie’s reading out of the supporters names each episode is always good for a laugh. A good show to have up your sleeve for long drives? ***+
Crimes of the Centuries. Each crime is covered in one episode and they’re all well chosen bu host Amber Hunt, so I am a regular listener. Sound quality is great and the content is always interesting. ****
Crime Writers On … True Crime Review. I’ve listened to them since they started (… On Serial). Sound quality is always great and the content is still interesting. They can sometimes be a little US-centric and dismissive of others on this planet. ***+
The Effortless Swimming Podcast. I’m an occasional and very picky listener as I think that if you listened to everything Brenton Ford has to say about swimming, you’d just end up a confused mess. I listen when a friend I swim with lets me know there’s been a good episode and when the notification I get from Overcast looks interesting. Sound quality is usually good. ***+
The Generation Why Podcast. I guess I am addicted to true crime stories and Aaron & Justin hhave been covering them since 2012. They break down the crimes, the investigations and convictions and the episodes are generally around 60 mins in length. Maybe they are an acquired taste, but I am a regular listener and the sound quality is always good. ***+
Hawks Insiders. This is aimed at Hawthorn FC supporters in the AFL competition here in Australia, so they have a smallish target audience. They mostly have something of value to add, but as “supporters” I thought they became too publicly critical of our players this year, especially our younger players, when they gave some rather stinging post-match ratings early on in the 2022 season. This seemed to have been moderated, possibly after my complaints to them and others via Twitter, and I was grateful for that. What they did not address, however was having consistently awful sound quality for some or all of their panellists, but especially Ash Browne, who sounds like he has 10 seconds to tell you everything he knows with a mouthful of marbles from inside a tin garbage can. Their off-season interviews with HFC Board candidates cleared nothing up for me as none of those they interviewed actually said what they really think. I skipped a few because boring. And if I hear “The Family Club” again without someone actually defining what this means in football these days I will just scream. Some of their best content this year came from the young son of one of the panellists! I hope to hear some improvement in 2023. **+
Hawk Talk Podcast. Another pod aimed at HFC supporters, but I think Nick and Tizz do a much better job with less resources. Their criticisms of our team are much more objective and never insulting or demeaning for the players (with one or two exceptions!). They also know how to entertain and they capitalise on their personalities. I never miss their episodes and thanks to Nick their sound quality is always excellent. ****
Health Report. This is a regular short (30 mins) ABC radio podcast presented by Dr Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor. It is well produced and presented, but I am selective on the subject matter that I download for listening. ***+
Huberman Lab. Dr Andrew Huberman deals with a myriad of health and longevity matters that I find sometimes to be very compelling and others not so much. One issue is that each episode is usually 2-3 hours long. And there is quite a bit of scientific detail provided. I only listen to selected episodes on subjects that I find interesting. One complaint I have is his endorsements. They tend to go on and on and they can be very repetitive. Sorry, but Overcast’s 30 sec advance button does come in handy. He needs someone to tell him how to cut his episodes down to 60-90 mins. As a colleague told me once, “If you want to bore [the audience], leave nothing out.” Sound is fine. ***+
Hunting Seasons – A TV Podcast. Brod and Damask do a great job with this podcast as they binge-watch and then deep-dive on full seasons of (mostly) streaming TV series. I listen to selected episodes when they cover a show I might be interested in watching. Mostly, however, our tastes in shows do not coincide, or I do not subscribe to the same streaming service. I do enjoy their Off Topic/Hot Topic episodes, usually with guests, when they all discuss what they’ve been watching. Sound is good. ***+
Inside with Brett Hawke. See my comments on the Effortless Swimming Podcast above. Some episodes are much better and less self-indulgent than others. ***+
Kermode and Mayo’s Take. I can’t figure out whether K&M dropped the BBC or the BBC dropped them. I stayed with them in any case. I think it is a great mix of two very different personalities and friends who put together a weekly show of about 90 mins that is entertaining and sometimes surprising. The guest interviews are usually quite revealing and always interesting. I’m a regular listener/”church member”. Sound quality is usually good. ****
Lanterne Rouge Cycling Podcast. I listen to these guys around the grand tours, monuments and some UCI road championships. They’re always opinionated and informative. I still find them entertaining and they’re a good break from the awful commentators we have on free-to-air cycling programs in Australia. Their daily stage highlights on Youtube are also good. Sound is no problem ****
Le Monstre. From Tenderfoot, this a pretty gruesome tale of the horrible Marc Dutroux and associates who terrorised Belgium in the 80s and 90s. I think it is pretty well made and I was a regular listener. Sound quality is good. ****
Liar, Liar: Melissa Caddick and the Missing Millions. What an awful person she must have been or still is. A complete grifter obsessed with personal greed at the expense of anyone she was related to, friendly with or had just met. I think I wandered around listening to this with my mouth wide open in disbelief most of the time. The there was that time I saw her competing on Ninja Warrior Australia (with both feet), but that’s another story … I liked the presentation from Kate McClymont and her colleague and the sound quality was always good. ****
The MLK Tapes. This podcast presented some really interesting information about the killing of Dr Martin Luther King. I think it is a gripping story that is really well told and I listened to all of it. ****
Over My Dead Body, Season 3: Fox Lake. This one from Wondery tells the story of a small town cop supposedly gunned down in a swamp in 2015. He quickly became a martyr until his dark and bizarre past was brought to light by a determined investigator. Sound is good ***+
The Peter Attia Drive. This is presented by Peter Attia MD and focuses on optimising performance, health and longevity. Again, I am very selective with the episodes as some subjects just do not interest me. Some episodes can run well over three hours, although a lot of that is Peter talking about Peter, so maybe you could skip all of that. Sound is all good. ***+
The Piketon Massacre. We are now on Season 4 and all seasons have been about the same crime. It was the most notorious mass massacre in Ohio’s history in 2016, but boy do they cover it in some detail. In a recent episode, Mountain of Evidence, covering the trial of one of the accused murderers, one of the podcast’s guests has a jab at the prosecutor taking so much time laying out all the evidence of the murders before getting specific about the defendant on trial. I began thinking about pots calling kettles black. Seriously? Another annoying aspect of this podcast are the awfully annoying adverts. They seem to go for 15-20 mins sometimes. I think clocks go slower when they are on. Sound is good and the subject matter, whilst gruesome is usually interesting. In some episodes they seem to be drawing a very long bow in terms of relevance. ***+
Pod Save America. Presented by four very smart former aides to President Obama, this show analyses the week in US political news, so usually I listen only in the run up to significant elections and the wash-up of same. They provide a unique take that is not tarnished by mainstream media its billionaire owners. Like some other successful podcasts they know how to let the personalities of the hosts add to the production without dominating or sidetracking it. I also enjoy the way they present their own ads/endorsements. ****
The Real Science of Sport Podcast. I really like this podcast, but I am selective about the episodes I listen to as some subjects are just of limited interest to me. Having said that I think Professor Ross Tucker and his sports journalist mate Mike Finch are a good mix of presenters and they do a fantastic job on some quite controversial subjects, such as performance enhancing drugs and gender identity in sports. Some of the episodes I’ve listened to have been excellent. ****
Roy & HG – Bludging on the Blindside. I don’t know how they manage to present such hilarious content about football once a week, although there is a lot of material for them to work with, especially from “rugba league” players. I find myself laughing out loud all the time. Professionally recorded sound quality ****+
Small Town Murder. From James and Jimmie who gave us Crime in Sports, this show takes a comedic spin on horrible tragedies. I am very selective with my downloading of episodes but they are usually pretty entertaining (if somewhat longish). Sound is good. ***+
Sports Bizarre. This is a relatively new offering, from Titus O’Reilly and Mick Molloy. Initially I thought they’d just cover the same material as Crime in Sports, but they have managed to carve out a unique subject area. Titus I suspect does all of the research and 90% of the presenting, so Mick is really just in a foil role and has little of any value to offer. Sound is good. I’m not yet totally convinced but it filled a post-AFL season gap in y listening habits. ***
Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s. Presented by journalist Connie Walker, I thought this podcast was excellent, but very disturbing. Connie is one of a handful of people who could make me listen to any podcast they make. It tells a story familiar to most Australians of stolen generations of indigenous children (in Canada) who were forcibly subjected to abuse and torment by nuns and priests. Just as in Australia, the abusers all seem to have been able to avoid criminal prosecution. Connie’s late father was one of these children, although she does reveal how he did exact a little revenge. ****+
Tony Martin’s SIZZLETOWN. I thank the podcast gods that content like this is still free. This is a wonderful late-night call-in podcast and it is so well produced. I tell everyone I know with a functioning brain about it. I LOVE the Pikelet Man and I am allergic to 99% of cats. Sound quality is excellent of course with Matt Dower on the Pots n Pans. I laugh so much that I find myself stopping and rewinding all the time so that I don’t miss anything. Thank you, thank you, thank you! ****+
True Crime Obsessed. From what is now the Obsessed Network, Patrick Hinds and Gillian Pensavalle have not lost their unique take on true crime stories after over 270 episodes. They’re still funny together and each show is entertaining, even if sometimes I cannot tell you what the subject matter is. Sound is always great. ****
Will Be Wild. This pod is named for something the big orange baby who used to be the President of the US said when he incited a revolt on the US Capitol in that January 6 insurrection in 2021. The hosts maintain that January 6 was just the beginning of ongoing efforts to damage democracy in the US and they manage to tell it from the perspectives of ALL who were involved. I had no issues with the sound quality. ****
I should add that I did listen to some update episodes of Serial and Undisclosed this year to mark the release from prison of Adnan Syed in September. I also caught up with the trial and verdict of Ryan Duke with Up and Vanished in May.
Recently, Goodreads told me that I’d read 31 books in the last year. So I decided to check that for double counting as if anyone had asked me I suppose I would have said, “I don’t know, 12-15?”. I read most books these days on my Kindle and sometimes I purchase multiple editions by one author, e.g. Steve Parker’s ‘The Complete Paterson & Clocks Box Set (1-5)’. Goodreads registers all five books when completed, but sometimes I purchase another single edition or two before finding the cheaper box set. My audit confirmed that I had completed the reading for 32 books. I reckon I have Kindle to thank for all that reading because pre-Kindle me used to buy heaps of paper books and start many of them, but rarely finish any in recent years.
What follows is my quick review of what I read in 2021. That Goodreads link above gives you a quick summary if you don’t want to TL;DR edition …
I’ll use two codes: eB for ebook and pB for paper book.
First, a confession of sorts: two books were not actual ‘reads’ Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways (pB, 4/5) and Bruce Weber’s Bear Pond (pB, 5/5). Both are beautiful books, but I would not classify them as reads. I recorded them as ‘read’ this year as I’ve looked through TAoLS many times over the last decade trying to find various quotes or inspiration and I just felt that I should record it as complete on Goodreads. Similarly, I’ve looked at all the beautiful photos in Bear Pond quite a lot. It is a First Edition, published in 1990 to benefit the AIDS Resource Centre in NYC. I literally lusted after this book for many years before purchasing a pre-loved edition online. It is one of my most cherished possessions.
The other 30 books were actual reads and all but one were read on my Kindle. I guess I should start with the the only other book that I rated 5/5: Holden Sheppard’s Invisible Boys (eB). I actually wrote a review for this book on Goodreads, so I won’t repeat all that here. I guess it was the one book I could really identify with and it made me feel something.
Only three of the remaining books were non-fiction. Of these, I think Mark Johnston’s An Australian Band of Brothers: Don Company, Second 43rd Battalion, 9th Division (eB) was my favourite. I would’ve given it 4.5/5 if possible. I loved Stephen E. Ambrose’s Band of Brothers and the mini-series from about 20 years ago. Mark Johnston’s Australian history compares very well and is just as horrific. It is very well researched and even after working at the Australian War Memorial for many years, I was amazed at what these men and their families endured during and after the Second World War. Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: love and terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin (eB, 4/5) is a frightening story of the coming war in the years immediately before 1939 in Berlin itself. I’m obsessed with Berlin and have read a few historical and many spy novels as well as histories of this fantastic city, so I really enjoyed this book and at times you almost cannot believe what you are reading. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Secret Organisation that Changed the Course of the Second World War by Giles Milton (eB, 4/5) is another wonderful history, but I think it tries to put too many extraordinary stories into one volume and some deserved more details.
We are now down to 26 books, but for these there are only six authors. We should probably start with one of my favourite authors of all time, John le Carré. His second last book was Agent Running in the Field (eB, 4/5). I think I’ve read all the books he published before this one, but I’m yet to buy his last book Silverview. ARitF isn’t his best book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless as he was a truly gifted story-teller. le Carré also points you to the genre(s?) of fiction stories that I enjoy most: espionage/mystery/thrillers.
Like le Carré, I’ve read multiple books by each of the remaining five authors. In 2021 I only read the one novel by Karin Slaughter: The Silent Wife (eB, 4/5), but this is #10 in the ‘Will Trent’ series and I’ve read all of the others. Similarly, this year I read #5 & #6 in Gregg Hurwitz‘s ‘Orphan X’ series: Into the Fire and Prodigal Son (both eB and 4/5). I do love getting to know characters like le Carré’s George Smiley, Slaughter’s Will Trent and Hurwitz’s Orphan X. I was also a huge fan of Len Deighton’s Bernard Samson back in the day. See also Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole and Camilla Läckberg’s Patrik Hedström, but now we are way off the 2021 track.
A new author for me in 2021 was Steve Parker of ‘Paterson & Clocks‘ fame. I read #1-5 in the box set and then #6: Child Behind the Wall as soon as I saw it because I really like his use of the English language, particularly the many laugh-out-loud sayings of Detective Clocks. All were eB and 4/5.
Mark Dawson is another author who has given me some new favourite heroes: John Milton and Beatrix Rose. I was surprised to learn that this year I read #16-20 in the ‘John Milton’ series (yes, I’m addicted) and #1-3 in the Beatrix Rose series. Once again, all were eB and 4/5. I’ll eagerly read more when they’re available. I also read and enjoyed Mark Dawson’s The Vault, a stand alone espionage novel, early in 2021 (eB, 4/5).
I read seven books by the final author, Peter May. The first six were the ‘China Thrillers’ #1-6 featuring Beijing Detective Li Yan and his partner and lover, the US forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell (all eB, 4/5). These were good, but I think I enjoyed his ‘The Lewis Trilogy’ more some years ago. In early December I finished reading Peter May’s Extraordinary People (pB, 4/5), a book that I purchased some years ago. It is the first of his ‘Enzo [Macleod] Files’ and I’m already committed to continuing with that series.
That’s all for 2021. I hope I can live up to this standard in 2022!
So before you read any further a word of warning … I walk a lot listening to podcasts and I also listen to them while in the gym or the kitchen at home. The list below is quite long and some of the podcasts are not currently “live”, but I include them because their back catalogue is well worth a listen. So here we go then, mind the step.
The Peter Attia Drive Great podcast for health and medical advice recommended by a doctor friend of mine. Good coverage of COVID-19, but some excellent episodes on the importance of sleep, drugs in sport, that marathon record, new running shoes and recovery.
7am Great for up-to-the-minute independent reporting and analysis of current affairs and politics.
Hunting Seasons Explores a season of TV in each episode. Quite long episodes. I only listen to them if interested in the series.
Crime Writers On … These guys started by reviewing early episodes of the famous Serial podcast (see below), but now review other (mostly) crime-related podcasts and pop culture. I never miss an episode.
The Beetoota Advocate For the best analysis of Australian politics and current affairs (and a good belly laugh).
Crime in Sports Perhaps an acquired taste and another long podcast, but these two comedians give a great analysis of what seems like an endless list of true(!) professional sports crimes. Almost unbelievable.
True Crime Obsessed Another true crime comedy podcast (yes, I’m addicted). I love these guys. Always funny.
Conversations This is Richard Fidler’s and Sarah Kanowski’s ABC radio show podcast. I listen when interested in the person they are talking to.
The Male Gayz From New Zealand. I love these guys, but again it may not be for you. I really love their theme music! Typically down-to-earth Kiwis, but both have the talent to keep you listening while they just talk about rubbish.
Health Report From the ABC with Dr Norman Swan. Almost required listening these days. I’ve been listening on and off for years.
This American Life From US National Public Radio and hosted and produced by Ira Glass who is probably the foremost expert on podcast storytelling and one of the brains behind Serial. I listen to selected episodes when they appeal to me. Each week they choose a different theme and story.
Extreme Vetting with The Chaser Great for a ROFL moment, this podcast puts selected comedians, writers and politicians through the ringer. Maybe start with the Tony Martin ep from 23 March 2020.
Nordic True Crime This one is a bit dark, but as I’m also obsessed with Scandinavia Noir TV series, movies and books, I love it. Sometimes covers truly horrific crimes, so don’t say you’ve not been warned.
The Gays Are Revolting These guys usually release their eps on a weekly basis and cover contemporary issues and events that are relevant to the queer community. The usually have guests in for interviews. They’re trying to continue while some have been stood down from their jobs
Coodabeens Footy Show Another show that I never miss, but it is only on during (AFL) footy season. Now on ABC radio and in their 40th year on the air. May be a little hard to understand unless you’ve lived in Melbourne or are a keen AFL fan. I love the songs, talk back characters, the general banter and Sam the Sub’s regular segment. Two hours well spent each week.
Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review From the BBC. I’m only a relatively recent listener and I’d probably not yet qualify as a “member of the church”, but this is another one I never miss now and I’m slowly working my way through their available back catalogue. Fantastic! They regularly review big stars of the screen(s) and they’re persevering from home while in isolation in England.
Espionage I guess this is another acquired taste, but the stories are usually well worth listening to.
... These Are Their Stories: The Law & Order Podcast Hosted by Kevin and Rebecca from Crime Writers On, each episode concentrates on reviewing one episode of the TV shows Law & Order, SVU or Criminal Intent with a special guest. Very funny!
Hawk Talk Podcast OK, I’m a Hawthorn FC fan and club member. I’m totally devoted to Nick and Tizz, two die-hard Hawks fans who produce a great weekly podcast during footy season.
Bring a Plate Well there hasn’t been a lot since April 2019, but Peter and Bec are both very funny writers and I find them great listening. But wait! There’s more. A new episode was released on 7 April!
*** LATE NEWS! They’re back!!! Roy & HG: Bludging on the Blindside Yes, Roy & HG are back on the ABC again. All is right with the world, or at least it soon will be.***
Not currently “Live” podcasts (some have completed their run):
Accused Host Amber Hunt does a simply brilliant job on this podcast. The third series just wrapped at the end of January 2020. I’ve listened to them all. One of the top three true crime investigative podcasts ever. Beautifully made and presented. Not to be missed.
74 Seconds This podcast received a Peabody Award in 2017 and tells the tragic story of the first police shooting to go on trial in Minnesota. Really well made.
Bear Brook Another great true crime podcast from the US. A really engaging presentation. and great storytelling.
Bowraville Dan Box from The Australian (newspaper) did a great job on this, exposing an unsolved killing in Bowraville, NSW. Another tragic true story.
Breakdown Now with seven seasons online, this comes from Atlanta, US and the latest season covers a police shooting of unarmed veteran Anthony Hill who was struggling with bi-polar disorder. I found it pretty interesting and very tragic.
Crimetown Currently in their second season, Marc and Zac have attracted a big following with this podcast and deservedly so. Start with Season One about Providence, Rhode Island and the corrupt public figure Buddy Cianci.
Hunting Warhead Well this one isn’t what the title sounds like. It is an investigative podcast about hunting down online child abusers. Pretty gruesome content.
In the Dark I found both Season 1 about young Jacob Wetterling’s abduction and Season 2 about Curtis Flower’s probable wrongful conviction riveting. Right up there with Accused and 74 Seconds, this podcast is not to be missed. Madeleine Baran, Samara Freemark and their team do an outstanding job with this podcast.
OFFSHORE They’re now working on their fourth season, but until that drops there are three great seasons online. I feel like Hawaii is almost my second home, so really enjoyed the first two seasons about a killing in Waikiki and the sacred mountain Mauna Kea. With any podcast the host is particularly important and Jessica Terrell does a wonderful job on OFFSFORE.
Open Mike This show features interviews between AFL journalist Mike Sheahan and some of the AFL greats. Some are funny and others very moving (like the recent ep with Brian Lake). I’ve not listened to them all.
Phoebe’s Fall A very good Australian investigative podcast from The Age newsroom in Melbourne about the tragic death of Phoebe Handsjuk.
Serial There have been three full seasons of this famous and game-changing podcast. Best to start with Season 1, which at the time was the podcast equivalent of Game of Thrones in terms of popular interest. It put podcasts right up there with mainstream TV series. The first season investigated the murder of Hae Min Lee, a high school senior from Baltimore. Was Adnan Syed guilty or not? In the second season host Sarah Koenig continues, but this time the story is about Bowe Bergdahl as US soldier who had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years before his release in May 2014. I really enjoyed both seasons.
SBS True Stories I subscribed for Season 3, a five-part 2015 investigation into Adelaide’s gay-hate murders by journalist Mark Whittaker. More horror and tragedy. Sorry.
The Ballad of Billy Balls This one is quite unusual. iO Tillett Wright (host & producer) presents this tale of the 1977 death of Billy Balls, whose girlfriend Rebecca is iO’s mother. It is very well presented and like nothing else you’ve ever heard.
The Eleventh Yet another great ABC podcast that recently concluded. Journalist Alex Mann delves into the sacking of the Whitlam government in 1975, interviewing several people who were involved in some way at that time.
They Came to Play Yet another AFL footy podcast presented during footy season. Nothing since their post-Grand Final ep in late September 2019, but I hope they continue when the footy starts again (gotta be optimistic!). The best thing about this show is that one of the hosts, Lehmo is a Hawks supporter. I never miss it during footy season, especially if the Hawks won and both Footscray and Richmond lost.
The Sporting Probe with Roy & HG This one finished at the end of 2018, but if you like Roy & HG’s humour you can catch up on all 88 episodes.
Tony Martin’s SIZZLETOWN I really miss this one and hope they start it up again. Absolutely hilarious. They even have merch.
Trace A great investigative podcast about the unsolved murder of a Melbourne mother in a suburban bookshop. Great work by the ABC’s Rachel Brown.
Uncivil This podcast is another Peabody winner from 2017. It presents the stories left out of the official and accepted version of the history of the US Civil War. I studied the US Civil War at undergraduate level and I learnt something new each episode. A shame it ended in late 2018.
Uncover I just finished season 6 of this Canadian investigative podcast, so there’s a great deal of listening here for you. I’ve enjoyed Season 3 on the Toronto serial homicides and other unsolved deaths and the history of the LGBTQ community in Toronto and Season 6 on the 1980s panic about Satanic cults in Martensville, SK.
Undisclosed This podcast requires a bit of commitment as it goes into so much detail. Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller and Susan Simpson investigate wrongful convictions and the US civil justice system. There are 17 seasons! Those I’ve gotten into include the stories of Adnan Syed (of Serial fame, two seasons), Joey Watkins, Jamar Huggins, Freddie Gray, Dennis Perry and Keith Davis Jr.
Unravel This podcast has had four great seasons: 1. Blood on the Tracks about a suspicious death outside of Tamworth in 1988; 2. Barrenjoey Road about the disappearance of Trudie Adams in 1978; 3. Last Seen Katoomba on the disappearance of young Blue Mountains mother Belinda Peisley; and 4. Snowball, the amazing story of how the swindler Lezlie Manukian stole more than a million dollars from host Ollie Ward’s family in New Zealand. Gripping.
Wrong Skin This is a really illuminating and beautifully presented podcast from The Age. It is about a relationship banned under traditional (indigenous) law. Two young lovers disappear and almost a year later only one body is found. Not to be missed.
So that’s about it. Yes, there are others in my podcast library, but those above are the podcasts I’d regularly download and would recommend to others. Enjoy!
And finally, my sincere thanks to all those who have brought us the podcasts above. I love your work!
In The Fade is a modern thriller set mostly in Germany, around Berlin I think. It is well worth seeing if you like this kind of thing. Diane Kruger plays a mother and wife who has her life torn apart when her husband and son are brutally murdered in a bomb attack. We witness her grief, the emotional ordeal of sitting through the trial of the suspected bombers, and her hunt for revenge following their acquittal.
I think Diane Kruger is brilliant. I’ve seen and enjoyed her performances in several other things, but she is again completely different in this: almost unrecognisable and convincingly German to my eyes and ears.
The story is well told and paced, but along the way we do see the director, Fatih Akin’s exploration of many things that are wrong with contemporary society: in particular the violence of radicalisation, the irrational fear of those who are different and the innocent lives lost as a result. We also observe a mother’s tragic unconditional love for her lost family. Entertaining with a strong message. 4/5
Pulse was billed as an intriguing mix of sci-fi, teen angst, queer drama and some body swap action thrown in for good measure (from Australia). It was on at Dendy Newtown and that is just a short walk away for me so I selected this film without another thought.
It turned out to be one of the best films that I saw at the Festival this year. It stars the amazing Daniel Monks as our hero. He also wrote the film, edited and co-produced it with the other key driving force Stevie Cruz-Martin who was also the film’s director and cinematographer. The crowd-funded budget for the film was less than $60,000 I think! The film very skilfully and frankly deals with some major issues in contemporary society: developing sexuality, identity and same-sex attraction; discrimination; dealing with a physical disability; and ultimately, learning what really matters in friendships and relationships.
Daniel’s character Olly is in love with his straight best friend at high school Luke (played by Scott Lee), but ultimately he realises that this cannot work out well. Olly eventually opts for a body swap into a girl of the same age which would have the potential to kill two birds with the one stone: his physical disability and his inability to be sexually attractive to Luke. After the body swap Olly’s character in the film becomes the sexually liberated Olivia (played Jaimee Peasley), but Olly’s conscience is still played by Daniel Monk. Putting all of this together without confusing the audience is quite simply a masterpiece in film editing. Is young Daniel the next star of the Australia film industry?
I should also commend Stevie Cruz-Martin’s wonderful and innovative cinematography which gave the film a very contemporary and personal feel.
The only disappointing aspect of this showing was that it was somewhat marginalised in one of the smaller strands of Sydney Film Festival – “Screenability”. Good on them for featuring it in this way, but really, it deserved a much bigger screening at one of the major venues. I saw quite a few big-budget foreign films at sold-out major venues that were nowhere near as good as this film. I hope that Pulse gains more exposure and attracts more attention at future festivals. A beautiful film that is thoroughly enjoyable. 4.5/5
Game of Death – well, no film festival can be complete without a decent splatterfest. This was pure escapism for me.
It was sandwiched between two serious films dealing with very real issues (civil rights and rape) and unfortunately it was not really up to the competition. It started well and showed early promise both from a comic and blood-and-gore perspective, but then it lost momentum and imagination and it was all downhill from there. I had a couple of laughs. Forgettable. 2/5
I Am Not Your Negro – is a documentary on the US civil rights movement told through the elegant words of the writer and activist James Baldwin. It is a story that focuses on the tragic murders of his friends Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers in the 1960s. The forces that drove those men and many others to their deaths many years ago still plague contemporary US society and I saw many parallels to racial fears, discrimination and xenophobia in our own society in Australia . Baldwin’s words are mostly voiced powerfully by Samuel L. Jackson, but there is also some footage shown of Baldwin at his elegant and eloquent best addressing TV hosts and a UK university crowd with such passion and his great facility with the English language.
What constantly came over to me from this film was a theme of willing or even wilful ignorance (of the plight of black Americans) in US society. This message isn’t brutally delivered but it is shocking and deeply disturbing nonetheless.
The original news footage, archival images and even Hollywood movie clips are selected and edited together beautifully. They greatly illustrate James Baldwin’s words and maintain the momentum and chronology of his message.
This is a most important documentary in the age of Trump and in a world that is dominated by media and politician fuelled fears of anyone different from the “norm”. I am really glad that I selected and saw this brilliant film. Stunning. 4.5/5
God’s Own Country is a wonderful film from the UK. It is reviewed and promoted as a British version of Brokeback Mountain, but it is actually much better than that film. I loved everything about this film right from the start: the setting in Yorkshire; the stoic nature of the locals; the cast and their acting; the cinematography; the story-telling; the tenderness of the developing romantic relationship between the two guys; the presentation and direction of the film itself; the weaving in of archival imagery; and the realness of such a situation.
I can see the resemblance to Brokeback Mountain, but I found this film to be far more believable and I empathised a great deal more with the leading characters. I thought they were much less wooden in this film. The performances by Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu are amazingly good and starkly different. I hope we see a lot more from both of them. One of the best gay-themed movies I’ve ever seen. Beautiful. 4.5/5
Una is a powerful drama from the UK. It seemed interesting to me and was adapted from a very successful play. The storyline is about child sexual abuse and revenge so it isn’t a pleasant experience that everyone will enjoy. It is, however, handled very delicately and we don’t really have to delve into a great deal of the ugliness. There are a number of tense scenes in the move and they do not always end predictably. Maybe that ambiguousness in its story-telling technique is what makes us think more deeply about blame, revenge, guilt and redemption. Is redemption from some offence like this even possible?
I found the acting from the two leads Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn to be very believable and they are well supported. Rooney’s character seems a bit confused and is sometimes less convincing in her purpose, but perhaps that too is how it might really be in this kind of situation.
I’m not going to put a spoiler on it, but I did talk to some friends who saw it on the same night and we came away with very different takes on the message left to us at the end of the movie. Is that based on our own life experience or the deliberate intent of the director Benedict Andrews? Good film making. 3.5/5