Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Winnefred Ann Frolik

The Eloquence of the Dead – Murder in Victorian Dublin


“Ah but it’s great, to  know that the poor sloggers in the police can take credit for keeping the system going.”

Dublin, 1887; a time of great political unrest in Ireland where new plots by various separatist movements occur almost daily while Land Reforms buy out the old English landlords and give their land to the former tenants. In the shadow of all this political upheaval, pawn broker Ambrose Pollack is found brutally murdered and his spinster sister has disappeared. G-Squad’s Sergeant Joe Swallow, who investigates crimes out of Dublin castle that range from ordinary homicides to potential acts of terrorism, is assigned to the case.

The Eloquence of the Dead is actually author Conor Brady’s second novel starring Joe Swallow. (The first was A June of Ordinary Murders.) Brady was editor of the Irish Times for over sixteen years and has clearly mastered the arts of writing and research. He gives us an engaging mystery with a wonderfully evocative setting; we’ve read a lot about Victorian England before but Victorian Ireland?!?  Not so much. It comes to life here as the story takes us everywhere from bustling Dublin streets to the green countryside. The times are used to great effect as well; Swallow is bemused to meet a dreamy-eyed, superstitious young scholar of Celtic history, and would be poet Yeats. Fingerprint technology is just starting to come into vogue.

Joe Swallow is a great protagonist. A would be doctor whose medical studies were derailed by his fondness for the drink, Swallow is a fiercely intelligent man as well an divided one. Swallow finds himself torn between indignation at the corruption of the political system around him, and resignation to reality. He’s sympathetic to the Fenian cause but he’s sworn to uphold law and order.  And as an Irish Catholic, his career has been stalled for over a decade despite his having one of the best records on the force. When not investigating murders, Swallow takes watercolor lessons and tries to navigate his increasingly complicated relationships with the various women in his life – former landlady and torch Mrs. Walsh, possible new love interest the younger Jewish Ms. Greenberg, and his own sister who exasperates him with her nationalist sympathies and new-fangled views on women’s liberation.  Brady has created a rich new series for any fan of historical detective fiction.

The Eloquence of the Dead
Conor Brady

Hardcore Henry – Bring the Dramamine


This next part might hurt.

When buying the tickets for Hardcore Henry written and directed by Ilya Naishuller, there was a sign proclaiming that the experience of the film could be a problem for people with motion sickness. As it happens I am somewhat prone to motion sickness and I can tell you firsthand they weren’t kidding. I managed to stick it out for the entire 96 minute run time, only occasionally needing to cover my head, but I felt ill afterward and needed to lie down. It doesn’t help that Hardcore Henry is also exceedingly violent as in Tarentino levels of gore. So anyone for whom motion sickness is an issue or is upset by extreme carnage, please do yourselves a favor and stay away.

That being said, many people aren’t prone to motion sickness and are quite cheerful about watching blood and brains spatter on screen and these people will probably love Hardcore Henry. The premise of the film is that we are seeing the whole movie through the eyes of the titular hero. Like him, we wake up in a strange lab with no memory of how we got there only to meet Estelle (Haley Bennett of The Equalizer and The Haunting of Molly Hartley), Henry’s beautiful wife who has brought him back from the dead as a cybernetic killing machine. The lab is soon raided by evil albino, telekinetic, warlord Akan (Danila Kozlowsky from Vampire Academy). Estelle is captured and Henry is left on the run with his only help being the mysterious Jimmy(s) (Sharlto Copley of District 9 and Elysium). We are just as confused by all this as Henry is and we experience the same mad cap fighting sequences with him, bringing new life to the traditional action tropes of fist fights, rappelling down a building, and chase scenes. It’s a bit like a first person shooter video game only far more intense and one where you’re actually getting the hurt thrown on you quite a bit.

Naishuller brings a certain whimsy and humor as well; a sequence in a Russian brothel staffed entirely by platinum blonde Barbie look alikes has “My Girl” playing in the background, and Jimmy(s) get their own musical number that is quite simply magical. It may not be for everyone, but in Hardcore Henry, Naishuller has delivered us something utterly new and original to the movie going experience.

Photo courtesy of STX Entertainment

The Railwayman’s Wife –  Books Provide a Refuge From Pain


There is no beautiful now, no terrible then, just these trails of things going on and on.

The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hays, takes place in a small coastal village in Australia in 1948.  Technically the Great War has been over for three years but there are still echoes, whether news of trials for war crimes, PTSD, or the surfeit of widows within the community. Annika Lachlan is not a war widow; her husband Mac’s job with the railway was considered too essential for him to be sent away, but in a bitter irony, that work also results in his sudden horrific death anyway, and Ani is left in sorrow and doubt. Needing to support herself and her daughter she takes a job at the local library where she finds the cathedral-like setting soothing and takes comfort immersing herself in books.

She’s not the only one to do so; at the library she soon befriends dreamy poet Roy McKinnon and the acerbic Dr. Frank Draper. Both men are two of those shell shocked war veterans who now haunt the world.  And soon all three try to heal and forge new connections to the world.

It’s said that the joy of literature isn’t in the endings (be they happy or sad), but in the journey and that’s definitely the case here.  Ashley Hays writes with a beauty and lyricism that’s simply breathtaking to experience. Rather than favoring Big Drama Events, she concentrates on the smaller moments; be it Mac and Ani buying their daughter a kaleidoscope for her birthday, Ani’s first Christmas after her husband’s death, Roy’s walks by the sea, etc.  Things that on the surface seem deceptively light but actually contain the whole of human experience.  Hays always brings a rich, textured, understanding to her characters inner lives which are handled with the utmost sensitivity.

The Railwayman’s Life
Ashley Hay

Eye In the Sky – The Brave New World of Drone Warfare


Never tell a soldier he doesn’t know the cost of war.

Eye in the Sky directed by Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, who also appears on screen in a minor role) opens on an idyllic scene of an adorable little girl, Alia (newcomer Aisha Takow), spinning a hula hoop in her backyard. Since her family lives in a militia-controlled part of Kenya, her parents worry about her playing or reading schoolbooks in front of fanatics. They have no way of knowing their sweet child is about to become the center of a debate about the risks of international warfare.

AlanWhile Alia is going about her daily routine, British military officials – Lt. General Frank Benson (the late, great Alan Rickman) and Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren, who can convey more steely authority with just the set of her shoulders than most performers could with pages of dialogue) – have set up a joint mission with the Americans to capture some of the worst terrorists in East Africa. Powell briefs the drone’s operators, Carrie (played by Phoebe Fox from The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death) and Steve (Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad fame) that the drone is merely to be the “eye in the sky” on what is set to be a capture mission. Inevitably though, things don’t go as expected and when the terrorists turn up in a hostile neighborhood and are seen preparing suicide vests, Powell decides the best thing is to rain down a Hellfire missile instead. Neither Carrie nor Steve has ever actually executed a missile strike before, so they’re both nervous. Then Alia shows up in the Kill Zone to set up a stall selling bread.

What follows is not only a fast-paced and intense thriller in its own right (Hood’s direction is masterful and he’s aided by a brilliant script from Guy Hibbert), but a rigorous debate about the ethics and fallout of warfare in an age where the instigators are generally making decisions from thousands of miles away. The British are in charge of this mission; Powell and Benson are in England, along with Cabinet members Brian Woodale (Jeremy Northam) and James Willett (Iain Glenn). But the Hellfire missiles will be launched by U.S. military personnel located in Las Vegas. Everyone involved tries to shuffle responsibility and potential blame. Only one Angela Northman (Monica Dolan) seems ready to make a firm decision either way; she’s opposed to the strike but it’s not clear whether she fears more for Alia or for the potential propaganda blowback.

Barkhad AbdiPowell might seem the ostensible hero of the piece, but in her determination to get the job done she’s willing to cross more than one boundary. It’s not coincidental, that the most noble figure of all, local Kenyan agent Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi following up his Academy nominated turn in Captain Phillips) is the only one who’s actually on the ground of the attack site and the only one at personal risk. As the characters weigh the potential costs and damage of this one missile, we in the audience have to ask ourselves about the costs of waging war from afar without consequence.

Daredevil Season 2: What Happens When You Take the Law Into Your Own Hands?


You know you’re one bad day away from being me.

That’s what Frank Castle (aka the Punisher, in a incredible performance by John Bernthal), tells Daredevil. But as he says it, it seems to be not only a commentary on Matt Murdock’s style of vigilantism but an address to all of us. Who among us when hearing of some new act of horror and injustice hasn’t secretly wished that someone would just kill the person(s) responsible for it?!?  The whole concept of superhero crime fighters after all is that they’re the ones who can deal out the retribution that the regular justice system can’t deliver.  The genius of Netflix’s series Daredevil, now celebrating its second season, is that it’s willing to look at that truth directly – and the darker side to that ethos.

It also serves as the best representation of the Punisher yet to come on screen. In fact it’s arguably Castle’s season as much as Murdock’s. Too often in the past he’s been dismissed as just a random gun toting psycho, (Deadpool without the humor or breaking the 4th Wall), or worse yet celebrated as some emblem of “badassery” we should all emulate. But this version of Frank Castle is both profoundly human and profoundly disturbing, a former war hero and dedicated family man who lost everything in a few moments of random violence.  We can see the humanity still within the man, but we are also witnesses to the carnage he dispels as well; going so far as to hang cartel members on meat hooks, while they’re still alive. Castle of course serves as a dark foil to Matt, but his best scenes are usually with Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) who can’t help but feel some empathy for him despite her belief in his madness.

While Season One was focused on Daredevil’s war to take down Wilson (The Kingpin) Fisk, Season Two doesn’t really have a main villain as such. It feels more like a set-up to later events in presumably Daredevil Season Three and/or the promised Netflix defender series in terms of plot drive. In terms of theme the season functions as the main build-up for Captain America: Civil War by showcasing how and why the public is becoming increasingly fed up with the whole notion of super powered persons who act as though they’re above the law.

Overall as much as Wilson Fisk is to be missed, the series holds up well in the second season. Besides Bernthal we have Elodie Yung who as Femme Fatale Electra is the Girl We Love to Hate, and the return of some other favorites. Not only does Matt’s personal journey continue but Foggy Nelson and Karen Page each have independent story arcs as well, and the season as a whole is much more fast paced than Season One – though again it feels more like it’s setting the stage in the future than as a complete story in and of itself.

Daredevil can be streamed on Netflix.

Beyond Hell’s Kitchen: Where We’ve Seen the Cast of Daredevil Before


As the countdown continues to the eagerly anticipated second season of Netflix’s critically acclaimed streaming series Daredevil, let’s take a moment to appreciate one of the secrets to the show’s success; it’s knockout cast.  Here’s what they’ve done before (and since!) bringing the grittier side of the Marvel Universe to life.

Charlie Cox  Before mesmerizing us as Matt Murdock, Charlie Cox unsuccessfully pursued Lady Mary on Downton Abbey (above), played Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice, got romantic in Casanova, got entangled with gangsters in Boardwalk Empire, and formed a romantic triangle with Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. He’s next scheduled to appear in the vampire action/horror movie Eat Local.  

Vincent D’Onofrio His take on Wilson “The Kingpin Fisk was absolutely revelatory, but of course he’s had a very long and varied career before that. He first really came to public attention as the mentally disturbed Gomer Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. This was followed by memorable turns in such films as Mystic Pizza, JFK, Feeling Minnesota, Men in Black, The Newton Boys, Steal This Movie, The Cell, Thumbsucker, and most recently Jurassic World. Not to mention his many, many years as Bobby Goren on Law and Order: Criminal Intent (above).  He will be seen next in the tv series Emerald City as the Wizard, and has also been cast in Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven.  

Deborah Ann Woll She may be Karen Page on Daredevil, but to many Deborah will always be Jessica the baby vamp sired by Bill on True Blood (above). Deborah also played Paul Dano’s former flame in Ruby Sparks and starred opposite Bruce Willis in Catch .44.

Elden Henson Before he stole our hearts as Matt’s best friend and legal partner Foggy Nelson, Elden was stealing the scenes in the 90’s teen romantic comedy She’s All That as Laney Bogg’s smart, chubby best guy friend.  Elden would later be part of such films as Cast Away with Tom Hank. O with Mekhi Phifer, Julia Stiles, and Josh Hartnett.  Lords of Dogtown with Heath Ledger and Emile Hirsch, and most recently the role of Pollux in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1&2 (above).  

Toby Leonard Moore Chilling as Fisk’s right hand man Wesley, Moore’s played bad guys before such as Russian thug Victor in John Wick.  He can currently be seen on the Showtime series Billions as point man to crusading D.A. Chuck Rhodes (above, right, with Paul Giamatti).

Eyelet Zurer Israeli actress Ayelet made quite an impression as beautiful gallery owner Vanessa who becomes Wilson Fisk’s love interest. Before she stealing D’Onofrio’s heart though, she played wife to Mossad agent Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana) in Munich, a terrorist in Vantage Point, love interest to Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons, and biological mother to Superman in Man of Steel.  She’s set to play the role of Naomi in the latest remake of Ben Hur (above) alongside Jack Huston in the title role and Toby Kebbel as Massala.

Vondie Curtis-Hall  It was Vondie’s performance that made us feel the pain of Ben Urich’s loss. Not surprising considering the career he’s had that began with a cameo in Coming to America. He starred as Dr. Dennis Hancock on Chicago Hope and was featured in such films as Eve’s Bayou, Romeo + Juliet, Heaven’s Prisoners, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and Cymbeline. He also wrote, directed, and performed in the cult black comedy-drama Gridlock’d. His most recent work includes a guest appearance on Rosewood, and the upcoming Breaking Brooklyn (above).

Rosario Dawson The stunning Rosario has now appeared on two Netflix streaming series (Daredevil and Jessica Jones) as Claire Temple nurse to superheroes but the actress/singer has been a leading lady of Hollywood for a long, long time. She made her debut in the controversial indie film Kids and went on to do He Got Game, Sidewalks of New York, 25th Hour, Sin City, Unstoppable, Trance, and Gimme Shelter. She’s currently filming the thriller Unforgettable (above) alongside Kathryn Heigl and Cheryl Ladd.

Bob Gunston Wilson’s slimeball lawyer Leland Owsly has one of the longest resumes in Hollywood with credits going back to 1981.  He’s best known for his work playing the corrupt warden in The Shawshank Redemption, General Harker in Glory, and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in Argo (above).

And now to look at some new names who will be appearing in Season 2…

Jon Bernthal Currently best known for playing Shane on The Walking Dead, Bernthal will be joining the cast of Daredevil as Frank Castle aka The Punisher.  He’s also been in The Wolf of Wall Street and Sicario. Bernthal will be appearing in the upcoming Ben Affleck thriller The Accountant.

Elodie Yung French-Cambodian actress Elodie will be playing Matt’s infamous Greek assassin love interest Electra ( above, who was hinted at in Season 1.)  While she’s been a star in her native France for many years, her first major role in a English language film was Lisbeth Salander’s love interest Miriam Wu in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  She then went on to play ninja Jinx in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and goddess Hathor in Gods of Egypt.

Stephen Rider is set to play crusading D.A Blake Tower in the second season. Notable work in the past includes The Great Debaters, Safe House, and The Butler (above).

Daredevil’s Season 2 is available March 18, 2016, on Netflix.

Top photo: Bigstock

The Women of Irish Literature


Ireland has long been rightly renowned as a country of storytellers that has birthed such legendary authors as Johnathon Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce. But with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner and this being the year of Hillary Clinton’s historic candidacy it seems appropriate to consider some of Ireland’s leading female authors. Many of the books by these authors are out of print, but a handful have been reissued for succeeding generations to enjoy. Click on a book’s cover to learn more and order on Amazon.

Anne Burke (1780-1805) Anne has once worked as a governess and after finding herself widowed with a son to support she took up writing. She specialized in Gothic novels and was one of the earliest women writers in the genre.

Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921) Also known as Lady Gilbert, Rose was a novelist, poet, and playwright. She originally wanted to be a painter but received encouragement in her literary aspirations from Charles Dickens! Dickens greatly admired her work and encouraged her to continue. Her first novel Dumana was published in 1864 under the pen name Ruth Murray.

Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Martin (1862-1915) These two ladies were cousins who wrote under the pseudonym of Somerville and Ross. Together they published a total of fourteen novels and collections of stories until Violet’s death in 1915.  Whereupon Edith continued to publish works under “Somerville and Ross,” claiming that she and Violet continued to collaborate via spiritualist séances.

M.E. Francis (1859-1930) M.E. Francis was the pen name of Mary Elizabeth Brundell an astonishingly prolific novelist who published dozens of works, she was described as being the best known female novelist of her time.

Jesse Louisa Rickard (1876-1963) Though she didn’t publish her first novel Young Mr. Gibbs (1912) until she was 36, Jesse was an extremely prolific writer who published over forty novels ranging from light comedy to crime novels.  She was a founding member of the Detective Writers Club along with Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and Agatha Christie.

Kate O’Brien (1897-1974) Kate was an novelist and playwright whose books dealt with themes of female agency and sexuality. At the time this was quite controversial, in fact it was so controversial that her 1936 novel Mary Lavelle was banned in Ireland and Spain while her 1941 novel The Land of Spices was banned in Ireland on publication.

Deirdre Purcell (born 1945) Dierdre is a former stage actress as well as having done tv and press journalism. She has published twelve critically acclaimed novels all of which have been best sellers in Ireland.

Anne Enright (born 1962)  While Anne had won the 1991 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the 2001 Encore award she was still relatively obscure until her 2007 novel The Gathering won the 2007 Man Booker Prize-a decision that was made unanimously by the jury. Since then she has written two more novel The Forgotten Waltz (2011) which was short-listed for the Orange Prize and won the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and The Green Road (2015) which won the award for Irish Novel of the Year.

Tana French (born 1973) Tana is a theatrical actress and novelist whose debut novel Into the Woods (2007) won the Edgar and Anthony awards for best first novel.  She is referred to as the First Lady of Irish Crime and she has another novel The Trespasser scheduled for release this August.

Eimear McBride (born 1976) Eimear wrote her debut novel A Girl is a Half Formed Thing in just six months but it took nine years to get it published. The book then went on to win numerous awards including the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction and Desmond Elliott Prize for debut novelists.

Where to Invade Next: Look Out World – Here Comes Michael Moore


I wouldn’t live in America if you paid me.

We all know the problems with Michael Moore and his movies. He’s rude, he’s didactic, he sometimes draws conclusions that just aren’t fair, he was a jerk at the Oscars, he ends up preaching to the choir, his megalomania too often overpowers his messages, and so forth. All true and valid reasons for criticism, but it doesn’t change the fact that Michael Moore has also made some of the most thought-provoking and entertaining documentaries out there and he’s done it again with Where to Invade Next.

The conceit for Where to Invade is Michael Moore ‘invading’ other countries to ‘steal’ their best ideas and bring them back to America.  While Moore is, of course, the main interviewer, he actually puts himself mostly in the background, letting his subjects and the facts speak for themselves and the movie is all the better for it. Along the way we learn some interesting lessons. It Italy you can get up to eight weeks paid vacation and moreover company owners like the president of Ducati (who lets Moore interview him on the factory work floor!) don’t even begrudge it. Plus, workers get two hours paid lunch and new mothers automatically get five months maternity leave.  Perhaps not coincidentally, Italians live four years longer than Americans. In France school lunches are four course gourmet meals planned ahead of time with the local mayor and a dietician. Slovenia’s free higher education system has actually attracted more than one American student to the University of Ljubljana. And Finland’s schools are considered the best in the world – but they don’t even assign homework!

It’s not just a story of how Europe offers such a better quality social welfare system. Germany is applauded not only for being union friendly, but also for coming to terms with the Holocaust while, as Moore notes, there was never a museum of American slavery until 2015. One of the more surprising and infuriating things we learn is that Tunisia, a North African, Muslim country, has free reproductive care for women (including abortion) and, in fact, included an Equal Rights Amendment in their constitution something the U.S.A still doesn’t have. Moore even interviews the former Head of the Conservative Moslem faction in Tunisia’s parliament who voluntarily stepped down, after realizing he was out of touch with the majority despite not having to do so. The guy agrees to the separation of church and state and on the topic of homosexuals declares it a private matter. In one of the more emotional points of the film when covering Norway’s much more lenient penal system, Moore interviews the father of a victim of a mass shooter who knows his son’s killer will only serve 21 years and the man’s refusal to give in to blind vengeance shocks Moore himself. Americans live in a great country, possibly the greatest there ever was, but as Where to Invade Next, makes clear we can still stand to learn from others, and remarkably the final moments of the film strike a hopeful chord for positive change.

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