I’ve mentioned my talented filmmaker brother, Jason Croxall on this site a few times now, but I’ve never actually showcased any of his excellent short films! All of my factual videos are shot and directed by Jason, but below is one of his drama pieces, Retrograde. The film is about a young man struggling with retrograde amnesia, and was released earlier this year. Have a watch and see what you think.
October 19, 2014Leave a comment
We’ve all heard a fisherman’s tale before; those far-fetched stories concerning ‘the one that got away’ shared in the corner of dimly lit pubs. Well, oddly enough, it turns out some of them were true.
Of course, zoologist and extreme angler Jeremy Wade has known this for a long time. For the past twenty-five years, he’s been travelling the world collecting the stories of ferocious freshwater attacks previously written off as folklore by the masses. From tales of sharks attacking horses at river crossings (yes, sharks in rivers!), to spiked fish lodging themselves inside gentlemen’s nether regions, it really is incredible how many of the myths Wade investigates in River Monsters turn out to have a basis in fact.
From the opening sentence, it’s clear Wade can write (he’s previously been employed as a copywriter and reporter) and he works intrigue and imagery into his prose with a skilled hand. It’s a good job he’s able to as well, because River Monsters is far, far more than just a transcript of Animal Planet’s television series of the same name. It’s the story of Wade himself, of a man who wandered through his early adult life lost, until his passion for adventure and the natural world was reignited, and, with it, his sense of direction and purpose.
And what a passion he has. You can feel it coursing through every sentence, and, when he’s stalking creatures such as the goliath tigerfish, the alligator garr or the Illiamna lake monster, it’s easy to get caught up in Wade’s enthusiasm. His knowledge of the creatures he’s hunting and the history of locations he hunts them in is impressive; a particular highlight is Wade’s comparison of his exploits to those of past explorers, including none other than Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt’s (after an election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt left America in order to explore a perilous tributary of the Amazon River).
Naturally, the question that comes to mind with a book like this is, what’s here for non-anglers? Well, the emphasis is on the fauna and the exotic locations, not on bait rigs or tackle selection, and most readers will much prefer it that way. But the passages on local peoples (tribal and otherwise) and the personal accounts of Wade’s experiences with them are the book’s surprise strength – they’re just as fascinating as the river monsters themselves.
October 12, 2014Leave a comment
Steve Backshall is undoubtedly one of television’s best known wildlife presenters. Working for the BBC’s Natural History Unit, he’s fronted numerous television programmes including Deadly 60, a hugely successful children’s series that sees the adventurer coming face to face with some of the world’s most dangerous creatures.
Whilst Tiger Wars isn’t Backshall’s first book (he’s released a string of factual titles and television tie-ins) it does represent his first foray into young-adult fiction. The novel follows Sinter as she flees from an arranged marriage to a much older man, and Saker, as he is hunted by The Clan, a shadowy sect which provides young renegades for hire. Most recently, to a Chinese overlord who specialises in tiger poaching.
Backshall’s writing is fast-paced and crisp. There are no overly verbose descriptions of the exotic Indian and Chinese settings (something you could be forgiven for expecting from a naturalist), and, when the time comes for an injection of science or the green message, facts are woven into the narrative with an impressive subtlety. The story arc is well crafted, too, with Saker and Sinter’s plots intertwining seamlessly before heading towards the book’s satisfying conclusion.
Tiger Wars isn’t perfect, however. Whilst structurally effective, Saker’s amnesia storyline is somewhat clichéd and may prevent readers from losing themselves in the otherwise immersive prose. The villains are also a tad generic, but Saker and (particularly) Sinter are wonderful characters; they more than make up for any shortcomings.
It’s also important to note that the book doesn’t shy away from difficult scenes, treating its target audience with enough respect to expose them to the grim realities of illegal tiger slaughter from the off. It’s a good move, with popular authors such as Patrick Ness voicing concerns over censorship, younger readers have perhaps never been more wary of books that steer them away from sensitive issues.
September 25, 2014Leave a comment