Better Than SkyFall

Monday, January 28, 2013

John Waddington-Feather appeals to me more and more. I have just read MOORLAND MYSTERY, better than the three others in his Inspector Hartley series that I  read and reviewed. This author must be better known than I realized, because a couple of ideas in this book might have been ripped off by researchers for the current James Bond flick.

 “The last rat standing” and the burning manor house are two that immediately come to mind. But what differences there are between good storytelling and mind-addling fantasias of digital stunts!

Blake Hartley, policeman and priest, hunts down perpetrators by talking to the homeless and hapless who camp in his church cemetery. He can be found sitting in a pub, visiting suspects in Victorian brick rowhouses, or strolling over the quiet moorlands, observing the hue of heather. Poor James Bond has to wrestle his evil-doers on the tops of train cars, ducking down as the train inevitably enters tunnels. He accidentally wrecks cars with a steam shovel. He tiptoes behind tinted plate glass in a Shanghai skyscraper, watching a shadowy figure assemble one of those assault weapons we are seeing too many of these days. To add interest, the killer and the theater audience are distracted by neon signs in carnival colors, twisting and turning on the building’s exterior. Blast! Crash! Blood burst! Bare shoulders on mixed-race, goddess prostitutes. Etcetera.

I could believe that Q is 21 (if he is QVI). I am convinced the London tube walls and floors are dangerously thin. I know why priest holes were built into English castles and country homes in the 16th century. The website Planetizen and also Harrods real estate department have convinced me exotic places like those shown in SKYFALL exist, but I did not realize that most of those in the movie were concocted out of places in England. A lot of fakery here, but it was the noise, the spiraling number of dead bodies, the rat-a-tat-vroom-vroom, and Bond’s nemesis’s maniacal grin that lead me to give SKYFALL 10 thumbs down!

There are prostitutes in Waddington-Feathers’ works, too, but Hartley doesn’t have to use them personally to make the point that it is a nasty trade. Hartley also has awareness of modern mobility, and cross-fertilization of cultures. His Sergeant is Ibrahim Khan, Oxford-educated, superb golfer, and able to penetrate communities where an Anglican priest might not be welcome.

The author’s prejudices show, but they are nice ones, allowing that an influx of “Asians” adds interest to a  town that already has absorbed Germans, Poles, Pakistanis and Indians. The enemies in MOORLANDS MYSTERY are from Eastern Europe. I don’t know how W-F stands on allowing them into the Eurozone, but he is pretty much up to snuff on immigration politics and global greed. He uses Hartley to express a wish that things could be better for his flock, many of whom are drug-addicted. He assigns Hartley to answer to Superintendent Donaldson, an-unworldly snob, but his character’s words are few and well-chosen.

John Waddington-Feather is approximately 80 years old. Like his hero, he has been a non-stipendiary Anglican priest; he ministered to prisoners for over 30 years. In addition to his detective series set in West Yorkshire (with a few spots still noticeably rural), he has written a series of children’s books meant to be protests against pollution and urbanization.

Blessings from Arizona

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