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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

9 Books on Writing and Reading

I came across this article HERE which will be of interest to Archive readers.

Hardly anything does one’s mental, spiritual, and creative health more good than resolving to read more and write better. Today’s reading list addresses these parallel aspirations. And since the number of books written about reading and writing likely far exceeds the reading capacity of a single human lifetime, this omnibus couldn’t be — shouldn’t be — an exhaustive list. It is, instead, a collection of timeless texts bound to radically improve your relationship with the written word, from whichever side of the equation you approach it.

Fine the full article and list of books HERE

The Godfather Saga

Over the last few evenings I revisited the Godfather saga and watched all three films. This is only the second time I've seen the much maligned third installment, and to be honest it's a far better film than I remember. I recall hating it when I first saw it, but perhaps I was expecting a more straightforward mobster movie as delivered in parts 1 and 2, but I've come to the conclusion that whilst part three is not as good as one or two, it is still a great film and a fitting end to the trilogy.

Of course the movies are all superb and Marlon Brando's performance in Part 1 is nothing short of excellent, as is that of his son Michael, played of course by Al Pacino, who reluctantly takes over the family business and becomes  more of a monster than his father ever was. The second part shows Michael building up the empire, settling old scores and facing a senate committee into organized crime. Alongside this Robert De'Niro becomes a younger Marlon Brando for the flashback storyline which sees the original Godfather rising to power. The third is then set some years later and tells of Michael's attempts to legitamise the family business while his nephew Vincent played by Andy Garcia takes over the family business.

Many years ago I remember seeing the Godfather edited into a TV mini-series , and it was recut into chronological order so we started off with the young Vito (De'Niro) and then went onwards to old Vito (Brando) and onto Michael becoming the new head of the family. Watching the movies like this showed how seamlessly De'Niro had stepped into the boots of Marlon Brando. The third movie hadn't been made when this cut was made but I recall that this TV edit was unbelievably even better than the movie versions. Now I love these movies and wouldn't be without my movie cuts but I do wish the edited version of parts 1 and 2 were available on DVD. I believe the edited version was called The Godfather Saga but can find scant information online about the edit. The  WIKI states it was made for NBC Television but doesn't state of the edited -film ever had a DVD release.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Savage Blood by James Reasoner

Savage Blood
Author: James Reasoner

This book's been sitting on my Kindle for a few months, but until now I'd not got around to reading it . I was at a loss for something to read and fancying a short western I decided to give this book a try.

It' a short book. I don't like to call it a novella -I don't really like that term - and it's too long to call it a short story. So I'm going to stick with the good old fashioned term and call the book a novel.  Fitting really given that Savage Blood is a good old fashioned, action packed western.

Brodie is a one armed veteran of the Civil War. As well as his arm the war took his beloved Eva from him - well she actually fell into the two arms of another man but only after believing Brodie dead. However when Brodie receives a summons for help from Eva who is being driven out of her business by a ruthless town boss called Flannery, he has every right to ignore her. That's not the way it goes though and Brodie soon finds himself teamed up with the ex-wife's current man,Martin Caney and together they are heading for a showdown with Flannery.

At the root of this excellent story is a standard western plot of big business pushing around the common man, a plot I've used myself, but Reasoner's cast of three dimensional characters give the story a gravitas common to all of the best western fiction. The conflict between Caney and Brodie is handled well and never seems anything less than fully believable. You can imagine that this is how men in such a situation would interact, and this plot strand is used to create tension throughout the book.

An excellent western, skilfully told with an appealing lead character. The reader is immediately rootING for him. He's a cripple in a cruel world, where no allowances will be made for his handicap but even one armed Brodie is a match for most men.

Highly recommended and available at a low price for Kindle and other eReaders.

Tainted stats

Weekly Stats Report: 7 Apr - 13 Apr 2014


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits100113138110114127105807115
First Time Visits95105124102112125101764109
Returning Visits58148224436

Sunday, 13 April 2014

John Wayne For President

In the late 1960's 'John Wayne for President' bumper stickers starting appearing on cars across America. This of course never happened, ( Ronnie Raygun was the screen cowboy who made his home in the White House) and one can only wonder what President John Wayne's America would have looked like. Of course the thought will horrify left wingers who take great delight in knocking Wayne's politics but fuck them, for no matter what Wayne thought politically there is no taking away the fact that he remains a bonifide screen legend, arguably the biggest screen legend of them all. When Wayne was told he had the Big C (interestingly this was a term that Wayne himself coined) he  was quoted as saying, 'I sat there trying to be John Wayne.'

I know what he meant by that statement, for John Wayne was tough and virtually immortal and cancer or the Big C was no match for the man who had  won the West. John Wayne, the man behind the screen persona may be long dead, but John Wayne, the screen icon, lives on and the Big C can just go and take a running jump.

Simon and Schuster have just published an interesting book about Wayne - John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman promises to shed new light on the legend. I've not read the book yet but there was a great article in the Times yesterday that looked at the book. From the article I learned that Wayne, at a stage when his screen persona was stamped in the mind of the world, was asked by Mel Brooks to star in his spoof western, Blazing Saddles.

'Not on your life,' Wayne told Brooks but did promise to be first in line to see the movie.

Wayne never claimed to be anything but a journeyman actor, merely playing himself over and over but even that assessment is flawed and Wayne displayed real acting chops in several movies - The Searchers, Red River and The Shootist to name but three. And in his book Eyman argues that Wayne's lasting achievement was injecting an authenticity into an art form which is, in essence, totally phony.

Wayne cultivated a macho image that his detractors take great delight in shooting down by stating that Wayne was actually a draft dodger. Whilst it is true that Wayne avoided serving in the Second World War, the official reason given was a ear problem, the reason for this was intense lobbying from the studio bosses who didn't want to see their top star sent off to fight overseas.

By modern standards Wayne may have been a bigot, but his attitudes were of his times and he shouldn't be criticized for that. He once commented about gay actor Rock Hudson - 'What a waste of a face on a queer. You know what I could have done with that face.'

Wayne was a hard living man - he would order six eggs for breakfast, he smoked six packs of cigarettes a day, even after beating his first bout of cancer, and drank tequila by the bottle. He was a man's man and there are precious few of them in today's inane Hollywood. Wayne was of the old school and although his politics may often seem to have been to the right of the extreme right, he was certainly far more complex than most people believe.

 Wayne for instance was extremely cultured - he played Chess to tournament level, was a lover of Tolkein's Middle Earth stories, knew most of Shakespeare's works inside out  and could quote Milton off the cuff.

As Wayne once told an interviewer, 'I could say isn't as well as ain't.'

Wayne's most complex role, that of the racist, misanthropic and violent Ethan Edwards in The Searchers, arguably the greatest western ever made and one of the greatest movies in any genre, took the Wayne image apart and anyone who says, 'Wayne always played himself,' should be made to watch this movie and then punched in the jaw for uttering such an inane cliche.

John Wayne you were loved and continue to be loved by a great many of us - God bless you, sir.

John Wayne  the Life and Legend by Scott Eyman is available now
Simon and Schuster print and eBook

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Buffalo Bill dead

I've been going through old newspaper articles recently collecting material for a forthcoming book that looks at Cardiff during the Great War of 1914 - 1918, and I came across this article from a January 1917 issue of the South Wales Echo that reports on the death of Buffalo Bill AKA William Cody.

Cody died of liver failure on Jan 10th 1917, just a few months before his beloved America would enter the First World War.

As a writer of western novels I found the article particularly interesting and I know many readers of this blog are also interested in the western in both fact and fiction. And so I've scanned the image and posted it here - click on the image for a larger and easier to read article.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Major Easy: Heart of Stone (Titan Books hardcover collection of strips from Battle Picture Weekly)

Titan Books are doing the classic strips from Battle Picture Weekly proud with their handsome hardcover editions of collected strips. Heart of Stone bundles together the first run of strips featuring Major Easy, a character created by writer Alan Hebden and artist, Carlos Ezquerra. The character became a popular addition to Battle and was soon a reader favorite - So populart,and so fondly remembered in fact, that the character has been updated and reinvented for modern day 2000AD as Cursed Earth Koburn.

Back when I was a kid Easy was one of my favorite characters but reading these strips as an adult I realize that the strip doesn't contain as much nuance as say Charley's War or H.M.S. Knightshade both of which can be put up against the very best war novels,  but that doesn't make it any less entertaining. The Easy strips were standalone tales with only the slimmest of continuity between strips, and Easy is in reality a cartoon character - he is able to survive any attack and his bullets never miss their target. and the enemies he faces are cartoon versions of the stereotypes that served British war comics well for a great many years. The Germans are all vile Nazis, the Italians are cowards and the Americans are loud mouth and foolish, but none of that matters since it always comes down to Major Easy, the hard-arsed Brit who can defeat any enemy and always find time for forty winks amongst the chaos and carnage of total war.

Production wise the book is every bit as good as Titan's Charley's War collection. The strips are printed on high quality paper and bound between rigid boards. The books are a must for any serious collector of British comics as well as those wanting a trip down memory lane.