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Archive for Monday, March 2, 2009

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The Edge

March 2, 2009

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‘The Renegades’ (books)

The Antelope Valley is a vast stretch of high desert north of Los Angeles, where thousands of affordable homes have been thrown up and where urban gangs are already starting to move in. The sheriff’s department considers it Siberia, but Charlie Hood has asked to be assigned there, preferring to patrol at night and alone.

Just 29 years old, Hood seems much older, both because he is mature beyond his years and because he has been beaten down by the events of last year, when he was introduced as the protagonist of “L.A. Outlaws.” Before that book was over, Hood had fallen in love with a flamboyant woman bandit, grieved when she was gunned down in a robbery and become involved in the dirty business of exposing a crooked cop.

Now, at the start of “The Renegades,” Hood needs time to heal. He’s not going to get it.

“The Renegades,” the 15th crime novel by T. Jefferson Parker, is another stylish, cleverly plotted yarn by one of the most consistent performers in the crime novel genre.

‘Years of Refusal’ (music)

On his new album, “Years of Refusal,” Morrissey continues to relish in self-pity, but this time, he does it with a more stripped-down accompaniment.

Whereas recent Morrissey CDs had elaborate orchestration, for the most part, he relies mainly on guitars to frame his sound this time around, ranging from glam rock to mariachi beats to even The Smiths.

Morrissey kicks the album off powerfully with “Something Is Squeezing My Skull,” his take on anxiety and an overmedicated society, and bookends it with an equally powerful closer, “I’m OK By Myself,” though he does sound a bit paranoid with the lyric: “Then came an arm around my shoulder, well surely the hand holds a revolver?” (Sounds like someone wasn’t taking the medicine mentioned in the first song).

Flashes of brilliance pervade the album’s 12 tracks with a taste of The Smiths and his early solo work. No doubt that period has a superior edge, but this album holds its own, especially when you compare his body of work in the new millennium. Over time, he’s re-emerged as a vital artist.

‘George Gently’ (DVD)

A pair of splendid recent British detective shows otherwise unseen in the United States have been made available on DVD: “George Gently: Series 1” collects three feature-length cases originally broadcast in 2007 and ’08, while “The Last Detective: Complete Collection” gathers all 17 episodes from the show’s four seasons (2003-07).

Though the first show is a drama and the second is three-quarters comedy, each exhibits the best qualities of its kind: well-realized characters; place as a player; and stories rooted in ordinary human failings, which makes them both sadder and funnier than their American counterparts.

Set in 1964, “George Gently” comes from a series of novels written by Alan Hunter.

Driven to retirement by the murder of his wife, Gently (Martin Shaw) follows the case to Northumberland, where he eventually decides to continue working — in part to furnish moral guidance to an ambitious young detective sergeant (Lee Ingleby). Shaw gives the character both heft and delicacy; Gently is no savant but works from a hard-won understanding of human nature, which gives him a world-weariness as well as a certain liberality of mind.

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