Book Review – The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney

27 11 2013

The Spook's Apprentice

Title: The Spook’s Apprentice

Author: Joseph Delaney

Publisher: Red Fox

ISBN: 1862308535

Fantasy Books take many different forms, shapes and sizes. There are ones which involve a group of heroes or a solo hero going on an adventure, some which have the hero or heroes going into battle with malevolent villains and some which revolve around a real life location such as a school and then adapting it. However one area that appears to be relatively untouched is that of the world of work. Set in a fantasy location where the young hero must begin to learn his trade just so he can make a living.

Written in 2004 by Joseph Delaney and published by Red Fox, The Spook’s Apprentice (The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch in America) is the first book in The Spook’s Series also known as The Wardstone Chronicles. The book follows the story of young Thomas Ward who is the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. His family agrees to have their son trained to be a Spook. The Spook is an old man who initially appears to be a bit grumpy and it is his job to take care of the things that go bump in the night such as Boggarts, Ghosts and Witches. He takes on Tom as his new apprentice and immediately starts to train him. Although initially tough, Tom continues along this career path, but it is not really the best time for him as the malevolent Witch Mother Malkin has returned, the most dangerous with in existence and the Spook now needs to train his new apprentice a lot quicker to be able to deal with this ancient threat.

I first heard about this book about just over a year ago. I was in Waterstones in Preston when I saw a sign indicating both the release of, Spook’s: Slither’s Tale and the announcement that the author was going to do a book signing. While I was looking for a different book, I asked about the series and what the first book was, thinking that I would give it a go. Much like GONE, it did take me some time to get into it. Eventually I started to read it on the train on my way into University and that is when I really got into it. I pretty much could not stop reading it, and when I finally finished it, I immediately went to Waterstones in Lancaster to pick up the next two books in the series.

The author has also drawn a lot of inspiration from the myths and legends as well as folklore of his surroundings. Joseph Delaney lives and works in my home county of Lancashire, which has a wide variety of folklore surrounding it. But it is not just the folklore of his surroundings, but also its views and its places. As you read the book and see what is being said you grab the identity of where all this is taking place with the use of the original/old-fashioned names for the places in the county used instead of what they are known as today.

It’s not just the county that he draws from but also his early life. While he was not trained to hunt for Witches, he was trained to be an apprentice engineer and it is through this experience which shows how he can relate to the work and characters he is writing because he has been in a similar position to his work and the characters he is writing. But unlike other fantasy setting which are made from the ground up, Delaney has taken the essence of his home county and put it all into writing for the enjoyment of others.

The book is told in the first person view with the character of Tom narrating his experiences as well as the people and things he encounters along the way. The other characters that tom speaks to are kept in context and speak but only from the point of view of Tom writing down what has happened in his Diary.

The Spook, while initially appearing to be a grumpy person is actually a very caring person and his grumpy nature which is initially shown, grows into more of a caring nature and very much cares for his Apprentice. Which with the position he holds is one of the few upsides. The people of the county appear to not like the Spook all that much as he is believed to have some connection with Dark Powers. This is something that gets attached to his new apprentice rather quickly. The Spook however does not appear to mind all that much as his age shows that of someone who knows better and from his own experience he can tell if someone is potentially good or bad, and one particular way he teaches this to Tom is to not trust girls with Pointy Shoes. Enter Alice, a mysterious girl with a dark upbringing who initially tricks tom into doing what she wants, however as the book develops it is clear that Alice’s apparent intentions are not quite as they appear to be.

The training and career path that is represented in this book also show the careful attention that the author has put into the book. The Spook tells Tom everything he knows, he shows him how to keep his note writing, how to identify and categorise each creature they encounter as well as the best ways to deal with the more dangerous species. The Spook also teaches Tom how to deal with people as well including how to interact with them. But the author keeps all this in nice, simplistic terms so that the young reader base does not get too confused.

What in one case could be considered as a lucky find also turns out to be one of the best books I have read most recently. With fantasy elements such as Ghosts and Witches as well as the real life connections such as the authors time as an apprentice and the area he lives in. While the book is written more for young children, it has been carefully constructed so that older reader can enjoy reading it too. With a film adaptation due for release next year it will be interesting to see how it compares to this, but whether or not the film is good or bad, it can’t take away the great magical feeling from this book.


Top 5 Doctors

18 11 2013


I love Doctor Who (Yes I know (it is me after all) that I have not been too kind on Doctor Who of late, but hey that’s what you get when something goes bad) and with the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who this Week, I thought I would show you who I think are the top 5 actors to play the world-famous and prestigious part of the worlds most loved time traveller (Main actors, so unfortunately Richard E Grant, Peter Cushing, Rowan Atkinson and Joanna Lumley will not be mention). So get ready to go back in time in a literature and a literal sense moulded together to make some gigantic but hopefully not grotesque creature as we look upon 5 legends of time and space (Apologies to anyone who came to this site thinking they would find a list of Reliable GP’s).

Ninth Doctor

5: Christopher Eccleston – I don’t think Christopher Eccleston gets as much credit as he rightfully deserves for his brief appearance as the Doctor. When Doctor who had been off air from about 1996 when Paul McGann took over, the series continued to thrive in book format causing Paul McGann’s doctor to become the most prolific. However, in around 2003/2004 when it was announced that after years of people wanting it to, Doctor Who was going to return, it sparked ideas of who would become the New Doctor. When I found out it was going to be Eccleston, my first thought was (No pun intended), “WHO?” I found a picture of the bloke, but still had no idea. It was not until the first trailer came out and then the eventual release of the first episode that we all got to see this new chap. Christopher Eccleston as the doctor was brilliant, he was fast, funny, intelligent but not boring. As an introductory casting for both a new series and new generation, he was as perfect as William Hartnell was 50 years ago. While he sadly did not continue for another series, Eccleston in no way should be a forgotten incarnation (Also is from the North (Like The Doctor) which is an added bonus).

Sylvester McCoy

4: Sylvester McCoy – What could be thought of as the final Doctor of the original series, Sylvester McCoy should not be looked at in that way however. Originally starting off as being somewhat of a clown, he became a much darker character almost playing his own game with people. He also used is Scottish Accent as part of his character (unlike David Tennant except for that one episode in Scotland, you know the one, don’t pretend like you don’t). But while he did have that darker side, part of him was also both caring but also light and funny in other areas. He was also very informative and had great ingenuity. While the show did come to an end during his time on the show, it was great to have a great doctor playing the part instead of ending on someone generally bad, something of which McCoy was not. Also, interestingly enough, he was the Doctor during the 25th Anniversary of the show in the story Silver Nemesis (The Best Cybermen Story).

Tom Baker

3: Tom Baker – The Longest serving Doctor (in a continuous television series) at seven years. Tom Baker as the Doctor is possibly the most funniest. His style of trying to be quick as he does things were often let down by his size and his clothing. A very interesting persona with a large degree of knowledge but in many a sense was not able to keep the viewer entwined unless it was knowledge they actually wanted to know. One of his funnier traits was that of how he introduced himself by offering people a Jelly Baby, even if that someone was giant robot intent on killing him. His clothing as the doctor is one of the most recognizable looks in Television history particularly with that scarf, when, if stretched to its limit it could probably go round the world 10000 times, (but still not completely fill up the Tardis). With an entire film cast of Companions over the years and adventures which have been regarded by many as some of the best (Including my Favourite Story – The Robots of Death), Tom Baker is definitely one of the Best.

Peter Davison

2: Peter Davison – Trying to fit into the shoes of someone who has played an Iconic role for almost a decade is no small feat for any Actor, Peter Davison though managed this impeccable task with ease.  Peter Davison could be seen as the first sign of the Time Lord Ageing process of steadily getting younger. Davison played the part on a much younger basis due to his age and it worked magnificently. He was far more approachable as a person especially to younger people as companions than someone with age and wisdom could be. He was a lot quicker than the previous doctors on his feet and this was a good trait to have in an advancing and steadily getting younger generation. This did not stop him though from continuing the more intelligent roles that the doctor had, but he was able to keep the viewer on side as this trait was directed more to their side. But there was always a sense with him like he is trying to hold back, as if he was trying to hold his temper in, and if it came down to it, he would give out small breaths of it for brief periods. While the idea of the character wearing Cricket White’s may put you off, it really shouldn’t. Peter Davison is a one of a kind (as well as having the best intro of any doctor) and if still unsure, check out Resurrection of the Daleks.

Jon Pertwee

1: Jon Pertwee – The Legend, The Greatest, who else was it going to be. Jon Pertwee did and was part of many firsts in the series. He was the first Doctor to be on Colour TV, He was the first Doctor to encounter The Autons, he was the first and I believe the only Doctor to use the Who Mobile and he famously coined the phrase “Reversed the polarity of the neutron flow”. An old-fashioned man for an old-fashioned Doctor. He suited the part from the day of its creation. Considered to be the Dandy Doctor due to his clothing, an idea he may have got from his Grandfather. He also drove an old-fashioned car. But he was a man of action, doing his own stunts, something that was probably hard to do in those clothes, but he succeeded. One help he got in this action role was that a lot of the stories were based around Unit and its head Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (played by the brilliant Nicholas Courtney) who in many a way could be considered (but would probably not admit it) a companion of the doctor and in some case, the doctor’s earthly equal.

The Unit episodes as such were terrific as they were both full of action but pushed the role to be action like. However the Doctor was not contained or suppressed, and would correct you without a hesitant notice. Much like how Davison was seemingly trying to contain it, Pertwee was never afraid to lose his temper, something which he did on several occasions, particularly to his companions. These took the form of the long-lived and possibly underrated in my opinion, Liz Shaw (Caroline John). The loyal and intelligent Jo Grant (Katy Manning), and the now Legendary and definitely the best companion in the show’s history, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). One issue for Pertwee was the technological and scientific side of the character, to which, then show writer Terrance Dicks fixed by introducing the line “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” which Pertwee apparently loved and wanted to use more often. While Pertwee is no longer around to see the glorious 50th anniversary of the show, it is with great happiness and joy that he has left us with absolute Television Gold. If it wasn’t for Jon Pertwee, it would be unlikely that he show would even reach such a glorious milestone.


I Have Been Nominated

14 11 2013


This past Thursday, I was checking through my emails, I logged in to WordPress and it appeared that someone had left a couple of comments. I read through both of them and I was surprised to see that I had been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. This was a lovely surprise, even more so as I had not heard of any blog awards. The rules of the Versatile Blogger Award dictate:

  • Thank      the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include      a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out      how to do it.
  •  Next,      select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow      regularly. (I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate      those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a      link to this site.
  •  Finally,      tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

The person who nominated me was Title Screen, for which I am very thankful, it really made my day, so very happy about it, thank you so much.

Title Screen

Now here are my nominations for the VBA:

So there are my nominations for this award so finally we move on to 7 things about me.

  1. I am a huge Godzilla fan.
  2. I have watched 27 of the current 29 Godzilla films (30 in 2014).
  3. I have over 130 films on DVD and Blu-ray.
  4. I love playing Board Games; my Favourite is Monopoly Here and Now Edition followed by Yedo and Quarriors.
  5. I started writing a novel in 2006 but have not worked on it for about 4-5 years.
  6. I consider 24 as the best TV Drama Series in the world.
  7. I have recently started playing Pokémon again after about 10 years of not playing it.

So once again, thanks to Title Screen for the nomination and thanks as well to the above Blogs for providing amazing content and thanks to everyone who continues to read and support my blog, thank you so very much.


Your Choice 5: Current Results

12 11 2013

Your Choice 5

With less than 2 months to go until the end of the final film poll for a long time. I though I would put up a quick look at the current progress. . In the classics poll, 3 films currently hold first place with 20% each. They are Jaws, Jurassic Park and The Hidden Fortress with Zulu and Easy Rider not far behind. PoRe1

Meanwhile in the Future Classics Poll, 13 Assassins and Sherlock Holmes are in front sharing half the entire vote with District 9 and Welcome To The Punch holding second.


You may be wondering why only 5 films show in the above poll, well that is because 2 films have not got any votes yet. If you want to see those films reviewed, get voting for them now.


With only a few weeks left in the vote I thought I would add some Jeopardy to it. Firstly the vote for 3 films rule has been reduced down to 2. So you can only choose 2 films when you vote. Secondly, I am thinking that come December 1st, I will delete from the polls, the bottom 2 films on each poll reducing the vote down to 5 films each. Which ones will it be, who knows. So, please keep voting for the films you want to win, thank you.


High Speed Car Chase……….In A Cement Truck – Beverly Hills Cop II

6 11 2013

Beverly Hills Cop II (Paramount Pictures - 1987)

The idea of the traveller from an arcane land is not used as heavily as it has been done in cinema in the past. Many films, particularly during the 1980’s used to do it a lot mainly in the form of someone from the east (in a stereotypical china man with a long beard) such as The Karate Kid. However it is good to see when someone uses this traveller from an arcane land in a different sense which is more to the real world such as Beverley Hills Cop II which is by far in many ways one of the funniest and best cop and comedy films to date.


The film is the follow-up to Beverley Hills Cop and relies a lot on the ground already set up in the first film including main characters Detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy), Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), Detective Sergeant John Taggart (John Ashton), Inspector Douglas Todd (Gil Hill) and Captain Andrew Bogomil (Ronny Cox). In Beverley Hills a bunch of robberies named the Alphabet crimes take place. Captain Bogomil, Detective Rosewood and Detective Sergeant Taggart try to get to the root of the problem but are hindered by incompetent Police Chief Harold Lutz (Allen Garfield) who suspends Bogomil. On his way home Bogomil gets shot and becomes the latest victim of the Alphabet Crimes. Meanwhile in Detroit Detective Foley is trying to catch a group of Credit Card scammers when he hears about the shooting. After covering for his absence with Inspector Todd, he then travels to Beverley Hills and sees Bogomil in Hospital with his daughter Janice (Alice Adair) by his side. Axel requisitions a house for him to live in and then goes to the police station have a look at the notes from the Alphabet Crime only to be disturbed by Lutz and disguises himself as a psychic by the name of Johnny Wishbone. It is here that Foley, Rosewood and Taggart agree to work together to work on the case.


The trio head to a gun club to check out a bullet, here Foley meets a six-foot tall woman named Karla (Brigitte Nielsen) and gun club owner Charles Cain (Dean Stockwell), both of whom work for Maxwell Dent (Jürgen Prochnow), the man behind the alphabet crimes. Rosewood and Taggart meet Axel at his house and Taggart changes his clothes (after falling into the swimming pool), they then go to a strip club where Axel tells everyone that Taggart is former president Gerald Ford. When they leave the club, a drive by sent by Dent to kill them goes wrong. Lutz arrives and finds out about Axel’s true identity. The trio head to Billy’s place and using a street cop trick, they get a finger print for Cain and then break into the gun club to get information.


They head to a bank where the next crime is taking place and Axel and Billy end up chasing the getaway truck in a cement truck. The trail eventually leads to a party at the Playboy Mansion thrown by Hugh Hefner. Axel is told to leave Beverley Hills by Lutz but stays to solve the case. The trio goes to Dent’s accountant Sidney Bernstein (Gilbert Gottfried) and trick him into finding out that Dent is planning on leaving the country, this combined with information from Janice stating that all his businesses no longer have insurance except for his race track means that they have evidence of where the next crime is to take place. They are however too late to stop the crime taking place.

While at the race track they find evidence which leads the trio to Dent’s oil fields. There they find a weapon stash of weapons which Dent is planning on selling. This leads to a shootout on the site where most of the men surrender while Dent and Karla get shot. Lutz arrives on scene only to get fired by the Mayor of Beverley Hills. Bogomil is made new Chief of Police and Todd finds out what has been going on and orders Axel to return to Detroit. Axel says goodbye to everyone at the house only for its real owner to suddenly arrive.


Beverley Hills Cop II’s supporting cast is a brilliant bunch. Bogomil, while incapacitated for most of the film is the real connection to the previous film, and that friendship is much apparent. Sidney Bernstein is incredibly funny during his brief moment while Janice has that rookie sidekick idea about her who while only appearing very briefly is a great character. For my money however, I really do like the character of Inspector Todd, because while very funny in the way he talks and acts is one of the anchors to this film to keep the serious note going through, thus preventing the film from going into a cheap comedy.

Gil Hill, Alice Adair, Ronny Cox and Gilbert Gottfried

The films main characters though are where the real enjoyment exists. Eddie Murphy uses the combination of serious acting along with his well-known comedy routines to make this film funny in any way he can but does not do that all the time, meaning that the film can be enjoyed by those who may not necessarily like a comedy film. His character is well constructed and while he is a joker, he is also a very caring person and cares very much for those around him, like a true friend. Another one of his great attributes is that due to him being from a different police culture, his street wise antics are a real blessing to those in Beverley Hills who rely pretty much on a combination of Computer Technology and Politics to get the job done.


Judge Reinhold’s character meanwhile is the perfect sidekick to Axel Foley. He is a man who very much wants to rise to the top but is generally quite shy and only really comfortable with those around him. He is a great admirer of Rambo and in many a way wishes that police work was a lot like that compared to the strict going Beverley Hills way of policing, in some sense making him want to be more like Axel or at least work in a similar climate. John Ashton is the film’s real anchor. He is not a funny man, he does not make jokes but he uses comedy very differently in the form of mostly being annoyed as to what is going on around him and very much not only cares for those around him, but also his job and worries that he may end up eventually losing it. He is very much held back by the political side of the job but seemingly does not care that much about it.


The soundtrack is a nice blend of 1980’s American pop as well as a soundtrack made specifically for the film. You have scenes of the police nature such as dark night scenes or when a crime is going down or being investigated, such as the scene at the oilfields towards the end where you are really into the whole scene, it sounds very low cover but then it would pick up the pace for the action bits. Then there would be scenes where the famous theme music would be used but then you would get scenes such as the opening themeend theme or the cement truck chase where it has this great upbeat vide about it. It may sound silly in those places, but the song is well made and gets used amazingly well, making it a nice change from the hard gripping soundtrack.

The film is very cleverly written. While in essence it is a silly comedy film, it has good background seriousness to it. The whole crime case and everything attached to it is kept serious throughout and all the comedy comes from its characters. It’s not like some films produced these days where the film is made for both quick cash and a cheap laugh, Beverley Hills cop is made to entertain those who watch it. I mean if you take the comedy out of it, Beverley Hills Cop II is a very dark police thriller.


Beverley Hills Cop 2 is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. It is one of that rare breed of comedy films where the comedy is almost a second thought. It uses great characters, music and story to produce both a dark and suspenseful story while also using those previous comments to inject some comedy. While there have been other comedy films like this that have been produced and in many a case are as funny if not more a lot more funny such as Tropic Thunder, DodgeBall and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, Beverley Hills Cop II is by far in many ways one of the best and funniest films to date, and that is something that is going to be hard to beat.


%d bloggers like this: