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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Big Sleep, Long Embrace

It took some good old fashioned detective work worthy of a Philip Marlowe novel to finally fulfill the wishes of the late author, Raymond Chandler. This is a fascinating story that I knew nothing about until I stumbled across an episode of the podcast, Criminal.

Chandler was devoted to his wife Cissy and when she died in 1954, Chandler was left a broken man and it is well documented that he attempted suicide barely two months after losing his wife. Chandler had initially met his future wife shortly after the first world war - she was the stepmother of his army buddy, Gordon Pascal, a woman who was 18 years his senior but the two soon fell head over heels in love. Cissy was a free spirit, she never admitted her true age and would clean the house in the nude.

Chandler and Cissy were married for thirty years and during the final years of Cissy's life Chandler was devoted to her and when she died the author fell apart.

'For thirty years, ten months and four days,' Chandler wrote shortly after his wife's death. 'She was the light of my life, my whole ambition.'

Chandler would die himself in 1959 and because it was believed Chandler left no burial instructions the author was buried at Mountain Hope Cemetery. Many years later in 2010 Chandler fan Loren Latker was researching the author and he discovered papers that revealed Chandler had wanted to be buried alongside Cissy's ashes and he, feeling that Chandler's wishes should be carried out, contacted Cyprus View mausoleum to ensure that these wishes were finally carried out.

Loren and his wife at the service to reunite Chandler and Cissy
The problem was that Cissy's ashes had gone missing and when Latker and his wife, also a devoted Chandler fan pushed the matter they were told that no one could find Cissy's ashes. 

Latker kept onto the mausoleum until the ashes were discovered. The next step was to hire a lawyer, Aissa Wayne (daughter of legendary actor John Wayne). Eventually the case was taken to court and thanks to the determination of the superfan, Chandler's grave was opened and Cissy's ashes were placed alongside the author. The service was held on Valentine's day in 2011, fifty years after Chandler's death and the two were finally reunited thanks to Loren Latker, a superfan indeed. The event was more a celebration than a funeral, with Cissy's ashes arriving in a procession of vintage cars, a band playing "As the Saints Go Marching In", and readings from Chandler's novels.

Loren Latker runs the Chandler website, Shamus Town.


Monday, 2 March 2015

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 23 Feb - 1 Mar 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits8282876610012911566194
First Time Visits817686649512510863591
Returning Visits1612547264

Monday, 2 February 2015

Gunsmoke: The Radio Series

I guess some people are always going to look back - and I'm one of those people. Give me the hi-tech marvels of the world wide web and what do I do? I'm discovering entertainments that were popular before I was even born. I've always enjoyed radio , listening to comedies and plays on BBC Radio Four but thanks to the Internet I can explore shows from a time when radio was the main form of entertainment for millions and Television was a medium yet to take over.

Being a western fan it was natural for me to check out as many of the old radio western dramas as I could find, and believe me there are many, but out of them all Gunsmoke has become a firm favourite. I started off listening to shows on websites such as the excellent Old Time Radio Archive and from there started buying DVD's off ebay which contained MP3's of complete runs, where the episodes survive, of radio shows. The recordings are in the public domain and enterprising fans are able to make a little money by making their collections available to anyone interested.

Gunsmoke of course made the transistion to televsion and I was familiar with some of the TV episodes but the radio show was first, and also featured a different actor in the lead role of Matt Dillon. William (Canon) Conrad was Marshall Matt Dillon for the entire run of the radio series, 1952-1961 and there are some great episodes in existence just waiting to be discovered or rediscovered by western fans and radio drama enthusiasts. I've got 400 plus episodes on both my hard drive and iPod and I'm pretty much addicted.

Gunsmoke was originally pitched as being the first truly adult western and it certainly delivered on the promise - some of the episodes were solemn in tone, and Marshall Matt Dillon was played as a lonely man who believed in the law above all else, and showed great courage in standing up against everything thrown against him. John Dunning, the noted author and old time radio expert wrote,' "Gunsmoke is routinely placed among the best shows of any kind and any time.'

I have embedded an entire episode above,in which Marshall Dillion meets up with an old flame. I selected this episode because it  shows the loneliness of the US Marshall, effectively portrayed by William Conrad and a great supporting cast.

Other episodes can be found online at the various Old Time Radio websites across the web or do an eBay search on old time radio. I recently bought 430 episodes for £2 - now that's incredible value. And once you've tried Gunsmoke I've no doubt you'll want to explore other radio westerns available - Six Shooter for instance stars James Stewart, while other shows feature a list of Hollywood luminaries as long as your arm. There are all sorts of radio westerns available - from the pulpy adventure of The Long Ranger, to the historically accurate shows like Gunsmoke and Hawk Durango.

Check out this page HERE which features several episodes from a variety of shows.

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 26 Jan - 1 Feb 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits849812510811589142761109
First Time Visits839712210511386139745106
Returning Visits1133233162

Monday, 26 January 2015

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 19 Jan - 25 Jan 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits1291189195232155132952136
First Time Visits1271178186229151128919131
Returning Visits21109344335

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Man From Jerusalem

 My next hardcover for Black Horse will be published May 29th and the cover image is shown here. I'm not sure what that hand gesture from the cowboy in the background means, but it looks rather odd, not to mention obscene. Of course there is always that possibility that he's a literary critic sending me some sort of message.

The Blurb:

There are times when it seems that even the Good Lord above might have something personal against the town of Jerusalem - day after day the sun does its utmost to roast the very land upon which the dilapidated town sits. Johnny Jerusalem is returning home to the town that gave him his name. He'd left many years previously in search of a fortune he didn't find, but no sooner is he home than the little money he has is stolen from him during a bank robbery. Johnny sets out with a young gunslinger to find the culprits who have wronged him. There's a posse behind them, bandits ahead of them and soon bullets fly as Johnny and his young companion realize that death comes from all directions.

The Man From Jerusalem
Jack Martin
Black Horse Westerns
May 2015

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Agatha Raisin The Quiche of Death TV Movie Review.

I've just caught up with the TV movie of the first Agatha Raisin novel,. The Quiche of Death which was shown on Sky over the Christmas period, and to be honest I think Sky made a botch job of the movie.

As a fan of the books the biggest problem with the TV movie was the casting -  I just can't get over  the casting of Agatha Raisin herself, actress Ashley Jensen is far too young and glamorous for the role of  the nosey old battleaxe that is Agatha Raisin. And the neighbour, love interest, described in the book as being a distinguished looking man in his mid fifties is also far wide of the mark - Sky have cast Jamie Glover, a man more James Bond than James Lacey.

I'd been looking forward to this TV movie and I did give it a chance but it just didn't seem right to me. There was nothing wrong with Ashley Jensen's performance but she seemed ridiculously young - we are supposed to believe that she is a successful businesswomen who decides to retire and move to the Cotswold for a life of peace and quiet. but this just doesn't ring true. And no sooner did I settle into the show than they introduced James Lacey and I realized that Sky's production was Agatha Raisin in name only.

The BBC adapted the novels into radio dramas several years ago with Penelope Keith in the role of Agatha Raisin and these were uniformly excellent, and remained faithful to the original novels It's a pity that Sky took a different route with their version of Agatha Raisin.

I think I'll stick with the original novels and the BBC Radio series - that's where you'll find the real Agatha Raisin.