Thursday, November 27, 2014

RIP P.D. James

Well, mystery fiction has one less writer and it's probably all the lesser for it. I'm not going to BS and expound on how great of a writer P.D. James was because honestly, I only ever read one of her books. I hadn't even heard of her until I saw Children of Men in the theaters and later read the novel it based on. Both were pretty enjoyable, but boy were they different as night and day. Aside from that, I've never gotten around to reading her other books, but seeing as how I'm getting into mystery, it's inevitable that I will read her works and if The Children of Men was any indication, it certainly won't be time wasted.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Killing Ground is a pretty intense episode of Adam-12

(via Wikipedia)
Never saw this episode before tonight, but damn, it was one hell of an episode. The episode starts with Reed and Malloy making a stop on a camper truck parked on the street. The driver claims that he's run out of gas and lures them to the back of the camper and that's when the ambush is sprung. The driver yanks the door to the camper open and his partner is waiting with a gun. Shots are fired and the gunman takes a bullet to the shoulder...but Reed is wounded in the leg and Malloy gets decked by the driver. After that, they're both handcuffed and loaded into the camper.

It turns out that the two criminals  (Steve Deal and Norm Landon) are on the lam from a failed robbery that left their third partner dead. Ironically, the police dispatcher was giving details on the robbery when Reed and Malloy rolled up on the camper truck, but they had ignored it. In fact, they were a bit annoyed by the dispatch because it was keeping them from running the license plate or giving their location. That last part didn't stop them from telling their kidnappers the exact opposite and tricking the criminals into thinking that the LAPD was now looking for their camper.

The two criminals are joined by the sister (Susan Danhart) of their dead partner, who is led to believe that Reed and Malloy were the ones who killed her brother. Let's talk about the Norm and Steve for a second. The Norm, the leader, was fairly reasonable and obviously didn't want to cross the line and murder the two cops, knowing what the consequences would be. He's also accused of cowardice by the second man, who also claims that it caused the death of the woman's brother.  Then there's Steve. Now there's a guy who's two scoops of fucking nuts. Unlike Norm, he's pretty intent on murdering the two hostages, especially Malloy, who shot him in the shoulder. As the episode progresses, Steve becomes less and less stable to the point of holding Norm at gunpoint when it looks like he's going to pop Reed.

Honestly though, my favorite part of the episode and this really showcases how unhinged Steve was becoming is when Norm sends him off to steal a new getaway vehicle (believing Malloy that the camper is on the LAPD's radar) and the man comes back with a goddamn school bus. I cannot make this up!

But then, things get real. When the group arrives at the farm of  Joy's father (to escape to Mexico in his plane), Steve takes Malloy to kill him and for an episode of a TV aired in 1973, this scene is intense. He forces Malloy to his knees like he's going to kill him execution-style, but fortunately, Reed is there to save the day. You see, during the scene where they were ditching the camper, Jim was left alone with Susan and he planted the seed of doubt in her head that him and Pete killed her brother. Steve deep-sixed the lie during an outburst on the bus and Susan snuck Reed the key to his cuffs when the two criminals were leaving the bus with Pete. So anyways, Jim  and Pete manage to take Steve down and escape into a nearby field, but are slowed down by Jim's leg wound. Add the lack of a gun to defend themselves and they have to act clever and they do. Malloy has Reed act as a decoy so that he can sneak up on the duo and they both take them out. The episode ends with them driving the bus back to the Susan's father's house as a police car speeds towards them. Jim and Pete share a look, like "What a fucking shift."

Martin Milner: Pete Malloy
Kent McCord: Jim Reed
Michael Richardson: Norm Landon
John Chandler: Steve Deal
Joy Bang: Susan Danhart

Writer: Stephen J. Cannell
Director: Lawrence Doheny

My take: Killing Ground was a pretty good episode that manages to convey a sense of dread and fear by not only having the two main characters of Adam-12 kidnapped, but putting two police officers as the victims and in mortal danger. This isn't an uncommon trope in cop shows, but this managed to make you worry for the lives of Pete and Jim, even though you knew that they were never in danger of being killed off. My only complaint is that Jim's leg wound didn't really play into the plot until the end. I mean, he takes a bullet and spends most of the episode with it untreated and you don't see him in pain at all.

What's interesting about this episode though is that it may have been based on a real life incident in 1963 where two plainclothes LAPD officers were kidnapped by two criminals during a traffic stop and later taken to an onion field where one of the officers was murdered while the other managed to escape. A book about the incident by Joseph Wambaugh named The Onion Field was released in 1973, the same year Killing Ground aired. The episode aired months before the book's release, but given Jack Webb's relationship with the LAPD, it's not a stretch that Webb would want to do an episode based on such an infamous incident.

Rating: 9/10.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Currently reading: Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising,

(via Penguin)
With that shrill cry, three Muslim terrorists blow up a key Soviet oil complex, creating a critical oil shortage that threatens the stability of the USSR.
To offset the effects of this disaster, members of the Politburo and the KGB devise a brilliant plan of diplomatic trickery - a sequence of events designed to pit the NATO allies against each other - a distraction calculated to enable the Soviets to seize all the oil in the Persian Gulf. 
But as this spellbinding story of international intrigue and global politics nears its climax, the Soviets are faced with another prospect, one they hadn't planned on: a full-scale conflict in which nobody can win.
Red Storm Rising, published in 1986 by Tom Clancy is an excellent book if military thrillers are your thing and just a good thriller in general. As the above blurb indicates, the plot centers around a non-nuclear World War III between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. It's more than a little outrageous that the Soviets would start such a conflict just so they can make a grab for oil in the Middle East, but it makes for some exciting action and drama.

The thing that originally caught my attention about Red Storm Rising and led to me buy this book a decade ago was that this book was required reading at the Naval War College, which is interesting. Unfortunately, it took me about a decade - after several false starts - to finally dig into the book, given that my interests rested with scifi and fantasy fiction. So far, I'm realizing how much of a mistake not reading this sooner was.

Friday, November 21, 2014

"I'll give you a left turn, bitch!" - Let's Play GTA V - Crazy Taxi

This was one hilarious LP. This is one of those Team Lads vs. Team Gents videos and the idea is that one of them plays a taxi driver and has to try and pick up and drop off the other two members of their team (one at a time) while the other team tries to kill the driver. Just to make things interesting, only one member on the opposing team can use a pistol; the others are restricted to flying a helicopter and driving a police car. It looks like they were trying to keep points, but that was ditched pretty quickly, since neither team was declared the winner. I have to wonder why anybody gets into a helicopter in this game when Gavin is the pilot, because you know he's going to crash that thing some point soon.

That limo at the end took everything - a helicopter crashing into it, rammings by a police car, being shot repeatedly - and survived it all until the...well, you gotta watch the video to find out.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mind the dust - blog overhaul in process

The jiggering is getting rejiggered and the polarity is getting inverted! It's like how they redid all the cutscenes in Halo 2, but not as creepy.