My Reading in 2022
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!
Some podcast recommendations …
OK, so I’ve not done much blogging for a while, but now in isolation I feel the need to share some thanks to, and recommendations for, the podcasters that are helping to keep me sane.
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.
Done Disappeared A great send up of Up and Vanished, this is really hilarious, but perhaps you should try a bit of U&V first?
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!
Rectify S4, Undisclosed S2 and Serial S1: Parallels
I’ve been watching the beautiful TV series Rectify for four seasons now. In Australia it has been programmed late at night on our Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). SBS seems to have extraordinarily good taste in selecting foreign drama series, but they’re not promoted or scheduled that well so many people seem to have no idea about the late-night gems they are missing on this free-to-air service. Fortunately, many such series can also be viewed via SBS On Demand, their wonderful free streaming service.
I’ve really enjoyed Rectify. It progresses at a gentle pace that is very well supported by a strong cast, great acting and writing, brave direction and superb music. The pacing allows us to see the multiple dimensions of the impact of criminal convictions and to see how so many things can change with time. The lack of special effects makes it very very different from most US TV series. I’m not, however, trying to present a review of the series here. Instead I want to just list a series of observations that dawned on me during the wonderful finale to Series 4.
While watching this episode I kept thinking of the many parallels between Rectify and at least two of the crime podcasts I posted about here True Crime Podcasts: Serial S1 (about Adnan Syed and the murder of Hae Min Lee) and Undisclosed S2 (about Joey Watkins and the killing of Isaac Dawkins). Through its key character Daniel and his family, I think that Rectify effectively tells many of the stories about the convictions of both Adnan and Joey that have been covered in so much detail in these podcasts. So here are the parallels that I’ve observed:
- The many people who become “victims” in these cases and how their own lives are changed (adversely).
- The sheer incompetence and bias of so many legal authorities and office holders.
- The fact that “beliefs” can actually change over time as truths are revealed. People can also forgive.
- The conspiracies of the guilty and the lying of so-called “witnesses”.
- The eventual acceptance of their fate (if not their guilt) by the convicted and sometimes by their families. In Rectify, Daniel portrays superbly what I’ve gleaned of both Adnan’s and Joey’s attitude from the two podcasts.
- The patience and determination of the convicted, their families and their legal support teams. The pace of real justice and legal change (like retrials) is very slow.
- The loyalty and belief in innocence of the families of the convicted and some of their friends.
- The bitterness of those wedded to their lies or twisted by their own guilt. Is there actually some Karma in this world?
- The cautious approach to hope by the convicted and their families.
Finally, I would like to add my hope that if Adnan and Joey are innocent, their convictions can be overturned as soon as possible.