Posted in books

Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz

After I have read Goldfinger I would like to read Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz (House of Silk, Moriarty), the latest exhilarating and gripping adventure thriller to feature spy James Bond. It is set in 1957 and begins shortly after James Bond’s (agent 007) showdown with Auric Goldfinger at Fort Knox. By his side is Pussy Galore, who was with him at the end. Meanwhile Unknown to either of them, the USSR and the West are engaged in a deadly struggle for technological superiority caused by the Cold War and the race to the moon.

Meanwhile The villainous Soviet counter-intelligence agency SMERSH (Smiert Spionam) is also planning to sabotage the German Grand Prix race at the Nurburgring Nordshleife the most dangerous track in Europe, so M dispatches Bond to thwart their nefarious plans. At the Nurburgring Bond observes a suspicious meeting between SMERSH’s driver and a sinister Korean millionaire, Jai Seong Sin and Soon Bond finds himself is in the driving seat competing in the actual Race in order to protect a popular British driver from the machinations of SMERSH.

Bond then travels to the US where he finds himself pitched into an entirely different race when he is thrown together with American agent, Jeopardy Lane, and they encounter the sadistic and eccentric Korean supervillain named Jai Seong Sin in a heart stopping climax, and uncover a villainous plot to sabotage a rocket launch which would give America a vital lead in the space race, and could have implications that could change the World.

Posted in books, films & DVD

Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

imageI am currently reading Goldfinger, the seventh novel in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series, first published in the UK on March 1959. Goldfinger originally bore the title The Richest Man in the World and was written in January and February 1958. The story centres on the investigation by MI6 operative James Bond into the gold smuggling activities of Auric Goldfinger, who is also suspected by MI6 of being connected to SMERSH, the Soviet counter-intelligence organisation. As well as establishing the background to the smuggling operation, Bond uncovers a much larger plot, with Goldfinger planning to steal the gold reserves of the United States from Fort Knox. Goldfinger was also the third James Bond feature film of the Eon Productions series, released in 1964 and starring Sean Connery as Bond. Most recently, Goldfinger was adapted for BBC Radio with Toby Stephens as Bond and Sir Ian McKellen as Goldfinger. The novel is split into three sections.

Whilst changing planes in Miami after closing down a Mexican heroin smuggling operation, British Secret Service operative James Bond is asked by Junius Du Pont, a rich American businessman (whom he briefly met and gambled with in Casino Royale), to watch Auric Goldfinger, with whom Du Pont is playing Canasta in order to discover if he is cheating.  Bond blackmails Goldfinger into admitting it and paying back DuPont’s lost money. Back in London, Bond’s superior, M, tasks him with determining how Goldfinger is smuggling gold out of the country: M also suspects Goldfinger of being connected to SMERSH and financing their western networks with his gold.

Bond plays a round of golf with Goldfinger; Goldfinger attempts to win the golf match by cheating, Bond is then invited back to Goldfinger’s mansion near Reculver where he narrowly escapes being caught on camera looking over the house. Goldfinger introduces Bond to his henchman, a Korean named Oddjob. Issued by MI6 with an Aston Martin DB Mark III, Bond trails Goldfinger as he takes his vintage Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (adapted with armour plating and armour-plated glass) via air ferry to Switzerland, driven by Oddjob. Bond traces Goldfinger to a warehouse in Geneva where he finds that the armour of Goldfinger’s car is actually white-gold, cast into panels at his Kent refinery. When the car reaches Goldfinger’s factory in Switzerland (Enterprises Auric AG), he recasts the gold from the armour panels into aircraft seats and fits them to the Mecca Charter Airline, The gold is finally sold in India at a vast profit. Bond foils an assassination attempt on Goldfinger by Jill Masterton’s sister, Tilly, to avenge Jill’s death at Goldfinger’s hands.

Enemy action
Bond is tortured by Oddjob by means of a circular saw after refusing to confess his role in trailing Goldfinger. In a desperate attempt to survive Bond offers to work for Goldfinger, a ruse that Goldfinger initially refuses, but then accepts. Bond and Tilly are subsequently taken to Goldfinger’s operational headquarters in a warehouse in New York City where They  attend a meeting between Goldfinger and several gangsters including the Star Spangled Mob and the Mafia who have been recruited to assist in “Operation Grand Slam” – the stealing of the United States gold reserves from Fort Knox. One of the gang leaders, Helmut Springer, refuses to join the operation and is killed by Oddjob. Learning that the operation includes the killing of the inhabitants of Fort Knox by introducing poison into the water supply, Bond manages to conceal a capsule containing a message into the toilet of Goldfinger’s private plane, where he hopes it will be found and sent to Pinkertons, where his friend and ex-counterpart Felix Leiter now works.

Operation Grand Slam commences, and it turns out that Leiter has indeed found and acted on Bond’s message. A battle commences, but Goldfinger escapes. Unfortunately Tilly, a lesbian, is killed by Oddjob. Then Goldfinger, Oddjob and the mafia bosses all escape in the melee. Bond is drugged before his flight back to England and wakes to find he has been captured by Goldfinger, who has managed to escape along with Oddjob and Pussy Galore by hijacking a BOAC jetliner and Bond must deal with Goldfinger once and for all.

Posted in music

Ronald C “Pigpen” McKernan (Grateful Dead)

Grateful_Dead_Tapestry_72004DFounding member of the Grateful Dead Ronald C. “Pigpen” McKernan was born September 8, 1945 . His contributions to the band included vocals, organ, harmonica, percussion, and occasionally guitar. In 1994, McKernan was born in San Bruno, California, the son of an R&B and blues disc jockey. He grew up with many African-American friends and felt very strongly connected to black music and culture. As a youth, McKernan taught himself blues piano and developed a bikerimage. In his early teens, McKernan left Palo Alto High School by mutual agreement with the school’s principal. He also began using alcohol in his adolescence.McKernan began spending time around coffeehouses and music stores, where he metJerry Garcia. One night Garcia invited McKernan onstage to play harmonica and sing the blues. Garcia was impressed and McKernan became the blues singer in local jam sessions. A high-school friend named Roger gave him his nickname based on his “funky” approach to life.

However, in an essay included with the Grateful Dead box-set The Golden Road (1965-1973) it is claimed that a girlfriend of McKernan’s gave him the nickname, owing to his similarity to the permanently dirty character in the comic-strip Peanuts. McKernan was a participant in the predecessor groups leading to the formation of the Grateful Dead, beginning with the Zodiacs and Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions.Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann were added and the band evolved into The Warlocks. Around 1965, McKernan urged the rest of the Warlocks to switch to electric instruments. Around this time Phil Lesh joined, and they became the Grateful Dead.McKernan played blues organ as well as harmonica and vocals. While his friends were experimenting with LSD and other psychedelics, McKernan stuck to Thunderbird wine and Southern Comfort. He steadily added more signature tunes to the Dead’s repertoire, including some that lasted for the remainder of their live performance career such as “Turn on Your Lovelight” and “In the Midnight Hour.”

In 1967 and 1968 respectively, Mickey Hart and Tom Constanten joined the Grateful Dead, and the band started playing experimental psychedelia influenced by avant-garde jazz, surrealism, and world music traditions. Constanten often replaced Pigpen on keyboards. In October 1968, McKernan and Weir were nearly fired from the band because of their reluctance to rehearse. Ultimately, the task of firing them was delegated by Garcia to Rock Scully, who said that McKernan “took it hard.” The remaining members did a number of shows under the monikers Mickey and the Hartbeats and Jerry Garrceeah and His Friends, mainly playing Grateful Dead songs without lyrics. Weir asked repeatedly to be let back into the band, promising to step up his playing, and eventually the rest of the band relented. McKernan was more stubborn, missing three Dead shows; he finally vowed not to “be lazy” anymore and rejoined the band. In November 1968, Constanten was hired full-time for the band, having only worked in the studio up to that point. Jon McIntire commented that “Pigpen was relegated to the congas at that point and it was really humiliating and he was really hurt, but he couldn’t show it, couldn’t talk about it.” McKernan achieved a new prominence throughout 1969, with versions of “Turn On Your Lovelight”, now the band’s show-stopping finale, regularly taking fifteen to twenty minutes. When the Grateful Dead appeared at Woodstock, the band’s set (which was marred by technical problems and general chaos) consisted mostly of a 48-minute version of the song.

McKernan developed a close friendship with Constanten based on their mutual aversion to psychedelics and eventually served as his best man when Constanten wed. After Constanten’s departure in January 1970 over musical and lifestyle differences, McKernan resumed keyboard duties.McKernan had a short relationship and longer friendship with Janis Joplin; a poster from the early 1970s featured them together. Joplin joined McKernan onstage at the Fillmore West in June 1969 with the Grateful Dead to sing his signature “Turn On Your Lovelight,” despite her dislike of the band’s jamming style. The two reprised this duet July 16, 1970 at the Euphoria Ballroom in San Rafael, California.Sadly the excesses of his rock’n’roll lifestyle began to take its toll and In 1970, McKernan began experiencing symptoms of congenital biliary cirrhosis.

After an August 1971 hospitalization, doctors requested that he stop touring indefinitely; pianist Keith Godchaux was subsequently hired and remained a permanent member of the band until 1979. Ever restless, the ailing McKernan rejoined the band in December 1971 to supplement Godchaux on harmonica, percussion, and organ. After their Europe ’72 tour, his health had degenerated to the point where he could no longer continue on the road. He made his final concert appearance on June 17, 1972 at the Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles, California. On March 8, 1973, he was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage at his home in Corte Madera, California. Contrary to the popular belief that he died from cirrhosis caused by excessive alcohol consumption, he in fact succumbed to Crohn’s disease which also claimed the life of his brother Kevin. McKernan is buried at the Alta Mesa Memorial Park in California.Pigpen was inducted into theRock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the other members of the Grateful Dead.

Posted in music

Kelly Groucutt(Electric Light Orchestra)

Elo_logoBest known for being the bassist for the English rockband Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), between 1974 and 1983, Kelly Groucutt was born 8 September 1945. born Michael William Groucutt, in Coseley, West Midlands.Groucutt began his musical career at 15 as Rikki Storm of Rikki Storm and the Falcons. He went on to sing with various outfits during the ’60s, picking up the guitar as he went along.Groucutt was also a member of a band called “Sight and Sound”, and later with a band called “Barefoot”.It was while playing with Barefoot in Birmingham that he was spotted by ELO’s Jeff Lynne; and after Lynne, Bev Bevan and Richard Tandy had watched him play, he was invited to join ELO, to replace Mike de Albuquerque, who had recently left the band.

Upon joining, he was immediately asked to adopt a stage name because ELO had already had several members named Michael, Mike or Mik; he chose Kelly as being a school nickname.ELO then set off on their Eldorado tour.He soon established himself as a fan favourite by taking over lead vocal duties on a few songs as well as gaining a great rapport with live audiences. His distinctive voice can also be best heard on later ELO songs such as “Nightrider” (1975), “Poker” (1975), “Above the Clouds” (1976), “Sweet Is the Night” (1977), “Across the Border” (1977) and “The Diary of Horace Wimp” (1979). While he did not perform the operatic vocals in the studio, Groucutt often displayed his vocal talents by replicating them during live performances of “Rockaria!” (1976).The first Electric Light Orchestra album to feature Kelly on bass guitar and as a backingvocalist was 1975’s Face the Music. He continued contributing on the following albums A New World Record (1976), Out of the Blue (1977), Discovery (1979), Xanadu (1980) andTime (1981).In 1982 he released his self-titled, solo debut album, Kelly. This album featured fellow ELO members Bev Bevan, Richard Tandy, Mik Kaminski and their orchestral co-arranger and conductor Louis Clark.

In 2001 this album was remastered for CD. Groucutt remained with ELO until the onset of the recording sessions for 1983’s Secret Messages album. It was at this juncture that he left the band, unhappy with royalty payments during his tenure, and made the decision to sue management and band leader Jeff Lynne. A settlement for the sum of £300,000 was reached out of court prior to proceedings. He is credited with playing bass on Secret Messages, although it has been stated from an official source that he only played on four songs (“Train of Gold” and “Rock n Roll is King” from the single disc release and “No Way Out” and “Beatles Forever” from the original double album).He took part in some of the many ELO spin-off groups: OrKestra, ELO Part II, and The Orchestra. He toured worldwide with The Orchestra (former members of ELO and ELO Part II) and also took part in tours as part of a local, little known band called Session. Groucutt sadly died on the afternoon of 19 February 2009, following a heart attack suffered the previous night.His widow died on 11 April 2012.