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RICK MACLEAN: Pick a story: Runners, chefs, killers

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Rick MacLean offers ideas for summer reading/listening.

It’s the summer and you deserve a break – from work, from Donald Trump. Here are some books and podcasts to give your mind a break.

•  The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb. They were young, fast and sure they’d win at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Man plans, God laughs.

Roger Bannister, John Landy and Wes Santee flopped, so each set out after a supposedly impossible goal, the four-minute mile.

Hate running? Fine, I never recommend it to my friends. It’s hard. And for these three guys – one from England, one from the U.S. and one from Australia – it was brutal. Just when you think it’s about to happen, it doesn’t.

• Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. The chef with the hit TV show on CNN committed suicide recently, shocking everyone. It prompted me to buy this (audio)book.

Bourdain’s voice and his ability to paint pictures of the characters he worked with are captivating. Here he talks about one group:

“They moved in a pack, with their own dialect – a high-pitched, ultra-femme, affected drawl, salted with terms from eighteenth-century English literature and Marine Corps drill instructor-speak – a lush, intimidating, sardonic secret language, which was much imitated.

“‘You, sir, are a loathsome swine. Too damn ignorant to pour … from a boot! Your odour offends me and my shell-like ear gapeth to hear thy screams of pain. I insist you avert your face and serve me a libation before I smite your sorry … with the tip of my boot – you sniveling little…’”

You get the idea.

• West Cork: Every Countryside Has A Dark Side by Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde. OK, I only downloaded this because Audible.com was giving it away to members, but wow.

In under eight hours and 13 parts the podcast explores the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, murdered just before Christmas in 1996 at her home away from home near the town of Schull in West Cork, Ireland.

Did Ian Bailey do it? He talks – and talks, and talks – to the producers of the show and the more you dislike him, but is he a killer? Riveting.

• All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire by Jonathan Abrams. The TV show The Wire probably should never have been made. And once the first season of the HBO series ran, it should never have made it into season two.

But it did, thank goodness. It ended in 2008, but it still sets the bar for what great TV looks like.

It was the creation of ex-Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon. Frustrated by the direction the paper was going – downhill – he took a buyout.

The Wire hit the air in 2002. Few people watched, yet it made it through five seasons and 60 episodes. Too late, this documentary-like exploration of life in inner city Baltimore was recognized as one of the best series to ever appear on TV.

The book explores how that happened.

My favourite anecdote: A staffer confronted a junkie eating food off the tables set up for the actors working on the set in Baltimore. The ‘junkie’ stared at the man, smiled and explained he wasn’t a junkie, he was an actor playing a junkie.

That’s realism.

Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.

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