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Sam Peckinpah: If They Move…Kill ’em

David Weddle, Faber & Faber £11.99 Pbk.

*****

Published for the first time ever in Britain, Weddle’s tome is a compelling read whether one’s familiar with the movies of Sam Peckinpah (among them The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, The Getaway) or not. Like the man’s uncompromisingly violent movies, this lovingly penned sketch never soft soaps its subject. It’s as strong on roots and early upbringing as on final career years. The latter saw first booze and then (as the drug became increasingly available in Hollywood circles) cocaine addle Peckinpah’s ability to make coherent movies; ironically, the atrocious Convoy turned out his biggest box office hit.

Peckinpah’s numerous battles with the major Studios are documented in detail. Early efforts like Major Dundee is shown as a half-scripted mess that the director liked to cite untruthfully as ruined by the studio, but others like Noon Wine (a now destroyed ABC TV drama), his arguable masterpiece The Wild Bunch and late contender Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid are pulled from the wreckage and intelligently defended as great art. At the same time, Peckinpah’s often unfairly vicious treatment of technicians on the set and friends and family (including three wives) in life leave a nasty taste in the mouth.… Read the rest

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Books

The Mars Trilogy

Blue Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson, VOYAGER £15.99, Hbk.

Red Mars, Green Mars

VOYAGER both £5.99, Pbk.

As Mars is terraformed, its dusty red surface shifts through the green of vegetation to the blue of ocean waves as its north polar ice cap is melted – the three volumes in Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy being named accordingly. Although Blue Mars can be read alone, it not only continues on from where the second book left off (the Terran flood disaster of 2127 and subsequent Martian bid for independence) but contains so many references to what has gone before that one can get far more out of Blue Mars if its read following the two preceding volumes. For instance, the opening crisis as to whether the radical terrorists should or should not destroy the (second) cable elevator link with the asteroid New Clarke relates to a whole prior history, including the destruction of the original cable and the freeing of the first Clarke from orbit, with the spectacular and devastating collapse of miles and miles of cable furnishing the unforgettable finale of Red Mars.

Not that the Mars trilogy is purely for techno-geeks. Principle characters are members of 2027’s original group of settlers, appropriately named the First Hundred even though their number also includes a hidden hundred and first member, a concealed stowaway later nicknamed Coyote.… Read the rest