Saturday, March 21, 2009

Yesterday I finished The Liar by Stephen Fry.

The Liar was Fry's first book, and he later went on to write books like Hippopotamus.

The Liar is about a British public school student who is unusually talented at, and dedicated to, fabricating stories, backgrounds, etc. The first two thirds of the book are set mainly at school, and give us a background. The last third has him getting involved in some international intrigue.

It is an OK book, but I enjoyed Hippopotamus more. In this book, Fry jumps around a lot from time to time and it is often hard to initially figure out when he is writing about at first.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Continuing my foray into legal thrillers, I just finished Reversible Errors by Scott Turow.

Reversible Errors tells the story of the last appeal of a death row convict, split evenly between the lawyer leading the appeal and the prosecutors arguing for the execution to proceed. In the first part of the book it flashes back and forth between the time of the initial crime and prosecution and the period leading up to the execution.

Following on reading Gresham and Martini, Turow is a revelation, and an order of magnitude better than either of the others. The characters in this book are subtle, complex and fully developed people, in stark contrast to the other authors hollow, two dimensional attempts at characters. Not only are they as believable as a real person you might meet, but there actions are as well. This gives the plot a flavour of truth lacking in the other books.

Like Gresham's The Runaway Jury, Reversible Errors is built around a single issue - in this case, the death penalty. But while Gresham gives, at best, a straw man argument on the other side, caricatured villians and uses the entire book to bash tobacco companies, Turow has a complex story to tell that leaves one with an uncomfortable feeling about the death penalty even though the participants on both sides are well meaning, sincere advocates. The book doesn't make one explicit argument about the death penalty, instead leaving it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions.

Overall, an excellent book and highly recommended.

The previous two posts in this series on legal thrillers are here and here.

Last night we did something different and went and saw some heavy metal tribute bands at the Little Fox theater.

The first band was Power Age, and AC/DC tribute band. They were specifically a tribute to the Bon Scott era AC/DC and did a good job. Their lead guitar player was dressed up in shorts and a suit jacket like Angus Young and had a wireless guitar setup that allowed him to run around the crowd. They started off a little ragged (with a missing bass player for the first few songs) but eventually got into the groove and delivered a good set of vintage AC/DC. The singer had Bon Scott's singing down very well.

The second band was Speak of the Devil, a tribute to Ozzy/Black Sabbath. Turns out this is actually Power Age with a different guitarist! The singer came out in full Ozzy girl and did Ozzy schtick for the whole set. They also started off ragged (with a missing guitarist this time, ably subbed in for by the guitarist from the next band). The Ozzy schtick came off more distracting than amusing and the singers imitation of Ozzy's singing was well off for the first few songs. When they segued from Ozzy solo material to Black Sabbath material, they got better and stayed in that groove for the rest of the set. Another strange note - their strongest performance on a Ozzy solo song was on the mostly goofy "Bark at the Moon".

The third band was Damage. Inc, a Metallica tribute. The original headliners were supposed to be an Iron Maiden tribute, but their singer was too sick to perform so this band got called in at the last minute and did a great job. They opened strong with "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and did "Creeping Death", "Fade to Black", "Master of Puppets" and "Enter Sandman" before unexpectedly switching gears to do Guns and Roses songs. My advice would be to stick to the Metallica. The material is a lot stronger, and their performances were spot on. The GnR material didn't work very well.