Category Archives: Crime fiction and film from Mexico

My top crime reads of 2012

What’s the end of a year without a best of post?

Recently, I was asked by UK site Crime Fiction Lover to list my top crime reads for 2012. They would only let me pick five, but obviously I’ve read a lot more books worthy of mention than that. Here’s the long list.

He Died with his Eyes Open, Derek Raymond

A police procedural like no other, it starts, like so many other crime novels, with the discovery of a body. The unnamed cop (the story’s narrator) who catches the case is a tough talking sergeant from the Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14, at the Factory police station. There’s no apparent motive and all the cop has to go on are a series of old cassette tapes in the dead man’s property that contain the deeply unhappy ramblings of a deeply unhappy man. Most police procedurals deal with crime from the point of view of the police. What’s unusual about this book is that the cop concerned is more like his victim.

Raymond was the pen name of English writer Robert William Arthur Cook, who eschewed his upper middle class family for a life of odd jobs, bohemian travel and frequent brushes with the law. Although he wrote for years, success eluded until with the publication of He Died with His Eyes Open in 1984, the first of five Factory books.… Read more

Melbourne International Film Festival: progress report

A couple of weeks ago I posted on the crime movies I was going to catch at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Nearly half way through, here’s my progress report.

First, the bad news. Killer Joe, which I checked out last night. I’m very partial to cinematic tales of money, lust and murder set in the underbelly of rural small town life. Throw in a corrupt lawman who moonlights as a pimp/pusher/contract killer, whatever, and as far as I’m concerned you’re on a winning formula. No matter how many turkeys he’s made, I’ve also got a major reserve of goodwill towards the director, William Friedkin for To Live and Die in LA (1985) and The French Connection (1971).

Killer Joes has all the signposts associated with this sort of movie, down at heel locations, sleazy sex and a criminal plot that quickly spirals out of control. But none of this makes up for the poor performances and a scarcely believable story line.

A small town cop cum contract killer (Matthew McConaughey) is hired by a white trash Texan family to murder their mother for the insurance money. The key conspirator, Chis (Emile Hirsch), scarcely has the brains to tie his own shoelaces let alone instigate a murder plot. When he can’t pay his would be assassin up front as expected, Joe takes Chris’s sister, Dottie (Juno Temple) as collateral and seduces her.… Read more

Crime time at the 2012 Melbourne International Film Festival

Last year’s Melbourne International Film Festival was the best I can remember in terms of bringing global crime cinema to Melbourne. And MIFF 2012 looks like it’s going to be every bit as good. I’m particularly pleased to have received media accreditation to this year’s festival (thank you MIFF), which means I’ll be aiming to see more than my usual quota of cinema.

Here’s what I’ll be catching in terms of crime during the Festival.

Foremost on the list is the 2011 Mexican film Miss Bala (that’s Miss Bullet in Spanish), the story of a 23-year old Tijuana woman who decides to enter a beauty contest in the hope of winning much needed money. Instead, she ends up becoming a drug mule and arms trafficker for a cartel boss called Lino.

Miss Bala is supposedly based on a real incident in 2008, in which the then Miss Sinaloa, Laura Zuniga, was arrested with suspected cartel members in a truck filled with munitions. The lead actress in Miss Bala, newcomer Stephanie Sigman, is reported to be excellent in the role.

I’ve been waiting for ages to see Rampart, directed by Oren Moverman who also did The Messenger in 2009, a hard hitting film about two US marines whose job is to deliver death notices to the loved ones of US service men and women killed in action.… Read more