Adam Bird


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Monday, 7 September 2009

The Anniversary Man

Book Review

Early autumn is seemingly a great time for hot literature releases, with Roger Ellory's "The Anniversary Man", being followed by Dan Brown's highly anticipated "The Lost Symbol" and the final instalment of Stieg Larssons Millennium Trilogy, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest". I pre-ordered all three a while ago via Amazon and was attempting to save all of them for our week in Turkey next month.

However, this weekend, sandwiched either side of the holy matrimony and alcohol infused celebration that was Carly and Reaso's wedding, I spent some time in a much darker place, New York, in the presence of a man named Ray Irving as he liaised with John Costello, a survived victim of a serial killer known as "The Hammer of God" murderer. A place which I don't think would have been suited to the tranquillity and warmth of an Aegean odyssey.

I have eulogised over the works of Roger Ellory previously within the confines of this blog, and whilst doing so have possibly exhausted my repertoire of superlatives in the process. You would be forgiven for thinking that I have developed a minor fixation about an author who is making waves in the world of literacy and crime fiction in particular. But having spoken to Roger via email on several occasions my championing has been well received and enthusiastically encouraged.

Having received my package containing Ellory's latest novel, "The Anniversary Man" on Friday I settled down with a cup of coffee, Oliver asleep, all the boys were out toasting Reaso on his pending marriage and Stephanie was keeping Carly's thoughts occupied whilst mine were transported into the darkest recesses of a man's imagination, intertwined with the true life facts of some of history's notorious evils.

This isn't a celebratory book glamorising the deeds of those who have committed heinous crimes, instead, it's a homage of the darker elements of human nature and an exploration of those people who have had their life's changed by the wanton acts of a select few.

Although a thriller, containing the correct ingredients tightly packed with the usual twists, turns and edge of your seat excitement that a good thriller needs in order to live up to it's name. The Anniversary Man, as in all Ellory books goes beyond the usual formula by having a protagonist that isn't perfect, that is fundamentally flawed and using a word that Ellory uses frequently, has idiosyncrasies that define his character and sets him apart.

Ray Irving, whom we follow throughout the novel, is a Police Detective that has been assigned a murder case. We meet him as a secondary introduction, after learning the fate of John Costello, a sixteen year old boy whose budding relationship is ruined one night by a serial murderer going by the name of "The Hammer of God" killer. Although attacked and left for dead, Costello survived, but his girlfriend became another haunting statistic, which changed Costello's life irrevocably.

Costello, now a grown man, but not the man that he would have become had fate not played it's card, and Irving, the man in charge of a murder investigation become allies, or do they? All part of the web of intrigue and mystery as the book progresses.

Recalling the real life acts of America's worst, Ted Bundy, The Zodiac, The Sunset Slayers and John Wayne Gacy, it is clear that Ellory has researched fastidiously the details to create a tale that is clever in it's execution (excuse the pun!), as previous serial killings are replicated by a "copycat killer" and the source of Ray Irving and John Costello's plight. But it's in the re-creation of the Amityville Horrors which make for terrifying reading. The front cover contains a quote by Cliver Cussler "The perfect author to read late into the night", but for those of a weak disposition you may want to wait until daylight before reading that particular scene!

Whereas A Quiet Believe in Angels, and to a degree, A Quiet Vendetta are evocative passages through time, with prose that is more akin to poetry and containing a romantic undertone that isn't about love, but about a sense of being and belonging, comparing The Anniversary Man with those wouldn't do either of them any justice, they are different novels completely, even though they fall under the "crime thriller" genre.

It is for that very reason which makes Ellory so special and the reasoning behind my superfandom! Making a crime novel, that is more than a crime novel, exploring the human reaction to the implications of man's actions, whether it be political (A Simple Act of Violence) or in this case psychological. Putting normal people in subnormal situations is Ellory's mantra, and lucky for us readers we get to go along for the ride!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

More than A Reason


Everyone knows how special a wedding day is, and in the past few years Stephanie, Oliver and I have witnessed several of our close friends and family enjoying their own, unique occasions and we have felt privileged to be a part of each and everyone.

This weekend, barely a month since Stephanie was “Maid of Honour” at her sister’s wedding; she resumes the nuptial role once more for her best friend Carly, whom shall marry my fellow Gillingham supporting fanatic Andrew in becoming Mr and Mrs Reason!

Stephanie and Carly have been friends since school and have grown up together, shared those first tentative steps into their teenage years, sharing the growing pains and first experiences that teenage and early adult lives brings, the first boyfriends, the first kisses, the first time drunk and first holidays abroad on their own.

I am guessing, purely from my own imagination, but I can imagine the two of them as young girls sitting in a pink bedroom, with fluffy teddy dolls and pictures of Take That adorning the walls with wedding magazines sitting down and planning the day that they would both become princesses and live happy ever after, riding into the sunset in a pumpkin carriage pulled by white horses.

It was, a much less innocent time that I first met Carly, whom was with Stephanie on a night out in town, when I would frequently bumping into them whilst under the influence, or in more sober moments sat upon my checkout at Safeway whilst the pair of them, always together did their shopping.

It was Carly, who was once again Stephanie’s companion whom witnessed the fateful night in which Stephanie and I took our playful flirting that one step further and subsequently helped Stephanie compose a list of pros and cons against pursuing a relationship with me. The irony is, it was Carly who I felt was the better looking out of the two and a relationship with either wasn’t anything I had envisaged!

Still, I cannot help but wonder, what would the list of pro’s and con’s say were the two of them to write it now, twelve years later?

When Carly and Stephanie were sat crossed legged on the bed with their magazines, describing their dream men, would the images of me and Andrew, fondly known by all as Reaso have been drifting around in their heads?

Reaso, tall, dark, but I wouldn’t say handsome, but quite possibly fits all the identikit boxes that Carly would have dreamt of all those years ago. If I was to write a list of pros and cons, the pros would significantly outweigh those going against him.

Reaso and I have a shared passion, and through our devotion, love and downright dedication to the cause it is any wonder either of us have found two women in which we shall share out our days. For both of them, remarkably enough are happy to accept second place in our lives, runners up to Gillingham Football Club. Together we have shared the joys of promotions, glorious cup runs and the heartbreak of relegation, behind all of which have been two women putting up with our polarised feelings of jubilation and dejection.

It was because of our mutual love for the Gills that I was invited to spend Reaso’s 21st birthday with him and his family in Las Vegas back in 2002. Along with Mark, the third component of a trio of devotee’s that travel far and wide, including a midweek trip to Sunderland in which we flew to Newcastle, staying overnight at a hotel at the airport before travelling back early the next morning in readiness for work, all in the name of dedication to a mutual love.

It was a huge honour to have been part of Reaso’s 21st birthday celebrations and fondly recall an unforgettable week’s stay. My abiding memory will always be the returning state of Reaso after his very first experience of “Adult Entertainment”.

Having with me a guide book listing what’s hot, what’s not of Las Vegas, what to do and what to steer clear of. We frequently read the section entitled “Strip Clubs”. As we were in Las Vegas, it was only right and proper that we did what Vegas does. However, for three impressionable young 21 year olds finding a club that was befitting of our experience, i.e. none, proved to be quite daunting. Come the final night, after an incredible celebratory meal held within the elegant confines of the Venetian hotel we set out to break our own unofficial taboo and headed towards Cheetahs, a club which our bible guide declared as being perfect for first time tourists.

Discreetly as possible, we informed the bellhop that we would indeed like a taxicab to take us to Cheetahs which we whispered and tried to pass off as a cough. The bellhop, not one of the quietest men in the world exclaimed, embarrassingly loud for our liking “Cheetahs dudes, ROCK ON!”. So much for discreet!

Now Reaso, is a very smartly attired chap, often found wearing a shirt and shoes to football whilst the rest of us wear shorts and t-shirt. I think that this has more to do with his aversion to the sun. Being whiter than white, a mere glance at the sun often involves second or third degree burns. Now, on this particularly evening, with the meal and all, Reaso was wearing his best shirt, neatly pressed, tucked into his best pressed trousers looking typically polished. This was indeed the case as he disappeared with a young lady, whom took him off to a place in which a little dancing performance occurs, nothing too saucy or anything in which we could possibly get into any trouble. So it was with some surprise when Reaso returned rather dishevelled. Sweating profusely, lipstick marks upon his cheek, his nicely pressed shirt was untucked and undone, his rather white face was a similar color to the label upon my Budweiser bottle and it was impossible to get a word out of him for at least another hour. Just a random shake of the head was all we got from him until it was replaced by a beaming smile which lasted the best part of three months.

It would take forever to write about all the shared memories, in Steph and Carly’s case, more than half a lifetime. Reaso nearly getting arrested in Crete on our first night after serenading a stolen mop down the main street, or his frequent releases of gas accompanied by a pirouette, which is a site to behold and probably his one and only entry onto the con’s side of the list!

Having a blog and writing these recollections before our friends get married has been a blessing and a little way in thanking people for friendship and wishing them the best in a way that is slightly unique. It also gives me a way in looking at hindsight and getting older, looking back at things that happened and accepting my role in things and being able to put things into a more mature context.

In the words of an old work colleague of mine who has since gone self employed and works partly as a life coach. He has a blog in which one of his earlier posts also reflected upon life, albeit in a more professional capacity. He talks about the people you meet and how they are classified within the greater context of one’s life, which I have copied below:

"A reason, a season, or a lifetime. Whoever you are with in your life, they will be one of those three. Making the most of a relationship is about understanding and accepting which one you and they are.

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person. When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty or through a time of rapid growth; to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like exactly the right person at exactly the right time – and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrong doing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. Perhaps you will feel that the relationship is no longer working and it is time to end it. What you must realise is that your need has been met, your desire fulfilled, their work is done. You were in each other’s lives to fulfil some reason and, now that’s done, it is time to move on. When people come into your life for a season, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. You bring to each other tremendous experiences. You may teach each other something new, or open your eyes to new experiences. you can give each other lots of happiness and contentment. It is real, it is right, but it is only for a season. There will come a time when you are no longer growing together, when both of you need to move on. A lifetime relationship is the one that builds on the foundation of all the other relationships and it usually comes into your life when you have been enriched by reason and season relationships. There will be both joyous times and hard times, and there is still lots to learn and share: because lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons."

I read this a little while ago, and it resonated with me and I couldn’t help but think about how if I had read this earlier in life, it would have given me a better sense of perspective, a greater barometer of reality.

Ultimately, two special people who have played a massive role in mine and Stephanie’s lives, indeed, firing cupid’s arrow arguably defined mine and Stephanie’s lives together, have given us “once in a lifetime” opportunities, laughs and memories aplenty and are now sharing in with Oliver’s life as role models and offer support that goes beyond friendship. For that we can but only thank them, and most likely won’t ever be able to repay them.

Two people finding each other, not for just a reason, for more than a season and certainly more than a lifetime.
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