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Sunday, 31 August 2008

GREAT WESTERN FICTION HAS FOLDED


Bad news indeed. The magazine had already bought two stories from me, the first -The Devil's Right Hand was due for the very next issue. But besides that it's a real tragedy - this was one of the few markets for western short fiction.

It was a great little magazine and the fact that it only did the two issues was down to the lack of market interest rather than a lack of quality in the mag.

Catching up with the past master


Stephen King
Cell
Hodder
£7.99


I stated in an earlier post that I used to be a voracious reader of Stephen King but gave up after failing to finish the Dark Half. But after reading his excellent, On Writing I thought I'd get back and discover what he's been up to while I was away.

The book starts off with Clayton Riddell, a young comic book artist, travelling from a meeting with his publisher. He notices several people answering their mobile phone and then all hell breaks loose. One guy bites the ear off the dog he is walking, a woman slams herself against a post repeatedly, a young girl attacks her friend, people start killing each other and quite often themselves. It soon becomes apparent that everyone answering their mobile phones were somehow turned into crazed zombies.

Nothing original there then - though King's use of technology to spark off a wave of zombies is at least a slight twist on the old theme. The aftermath of the apocalyptic event will be familiar to anyone who has seen a zombie movie, as survivors join up and try to survive in this not so brave new world while they figure out just what has happened.

I've read a lot of critics saying King is a bad writer but that's bullshit. Where King excels is in the sheer brilliance of his prose and the ability to create such likeable characters. I was genuinely moved during one scene where a major character died and the scene LITERALLY tugged at the heart. Also the fact that the zombie/phone people seem to be flocking together is creepy and there are some ingenious twists that keep those pages turning.

To sum up - The Cell may owe a lot to the zombie genre (King dedicates the book to George Romero and Richard Matherson so he's playing fair and saying this is a kind of homage) and it may be padded in several places, could have done with losing a scene or two, but it's still a work that anyone would be proud to have produced.

I guess I still love Mr King.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

What a great purchase


TEN GREAT WESTERNS BOX SET
Penguin/ST. Martins
Various authors
RRP £69.90

Purchased from E bay for £10 plus £10 postage


What a bargain seeing as how the set is still sealed and in "as new" condition. Ten Western paperbacks. And although I've got a large westerns collection I only already own one of these books - The Chisholm Trail by Ralph Compton- So I'll thrown that back on E bay and make a little back.

But what a great bargain for a Western nut!!!


Also purchased was five Hank Janson pulps - incredibly the Janson name would see over 9 million books worldwide in the hey day of pulp but is now mostly forgotten.









Infor on the Author -QUOTE " Ah, Hank Janson ...
'Brings back memories to me of well-thumbed paperbacks passed eagerly but surreptitiously hand to hand in UK barracks-rooms long ago ... Hank Janson [Stephen D. Francis] was a British writer of pulp paperbacks that were simply soft-porn tales under the guise of gangster novels. He wrote a couple of dozen of them, in a ludicrous "American" style that was even then seen as hilariously off-key. (Jansen shared this laughable ineptitude with American accents and slang as did James Hadley Chase [Rene Raymond] another British wannbe-Yank author of the time.] In his hey-day - 1946-1956 - Janson enjoyed large sales in the UK despite his corn-ball writing style, entirely because of their lipsmacking descriptions of female bodies and sex scenes that went as far as a British writer dared to in those days of strict censorship. Finally, Jansen just managed to avoid criminal prosecution on pornography charges, by skipping off to live in Spain. I think his publisher did serve a couple of years in jail on similar charges. It was amusing to me to see Jansen's name pop up again half a century after I last read one his paperbacks. It'll be interesting to see how reprints of his books sell now. What was considered pretty raunchy in the '40s would seem tame today compared with the almost obligatory obscenity in most books nowadays, regardless of genre. Here's a website about Hank Jansen:" unquote


FOR MORE ON THE AUTHOR CLICK HERE

Friday, 29 August 2008

007 CELEBRATION


Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley are to host a star-studded tribute to James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

The Story Of James Bond - A Tribute To Ian Fleming will be held at the London Palladium Theatre on Sunday October 5, arranged for the family by Ian's niece, Lucy Fleming, to mark the final event in the Ian Fleming Centenary year.

Joanna appeared with George Lazenby in the 1969 Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. She also used to drive my teenage hormones nuts as Purdey in the New Avengers TV series. She had the best legs in the business.

The evening will star Roger Moore(whom I actually met when I was about six months old. But that's another story.), Jeremy Irons, Samantha Bond, Christopher Cazenove, Judi Dench (I worked with the great lady about a year ago on The Cranford Chronicles) , Sebastian Faulks, David Gilmour, Charlie Higson, Lemar, Lee Mead, Mica Paris, Rosamund Pike, Joely Richardson, Ruby Turner, Toby Stephens, Patrick Stewart (live long and propser) , David Suchet and Harriet Walter, with more Bond girls, villains and musical acts to be revealed.

A 60-piece orchestra will accompany the performers and there will be a sneak preview clip of the new Bond film Quantum Of Solace starring Daniel Craig.

Click here!

The evening is being held in aid of the British Heart Foundation.

THE CASE OF THE BLACK STAR CRIME MYSTERY



MILLS AND BOONS received a lot of publicity for the launch of their Black Star Crime imprint which they state, in their press release, is the first time they have published anything other than romance books. And after reporting this on this blog it has been brought to my attention that the company used to publish the Keyhole Crime series.

Is this an oversight, a re-writing of history, or do the young turks in the publicity department not know their companies history?

THREE PIECES OF EVIDENCE.







TITLE:
A Dangerous Funeral (Keyhole Crime No 1)
by Mary McMullen
ISBN: 0263-73517-6
ISBN 13: 978-0263-73517-8
Publisher: Harlequin Mills & Boon
Publish Date: 1981-05-08


























TALES FROM DEADWOOD 1 - MIKE JAMESON

I must say I enjoyed this novel - maybe more so because I've recently watched all three seasons of the brilliant TV series on DVD.

This novel centres on Dan Ryan, formally of Custer's 7th Cavalry and his misadventures in the outlaw town of Deadwood - all the historical characters are here Calamity Jane, Al Swearengen, Wild Bill Hickok.

It's a good easy read that entertains from start to finish.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Riders of the purple sage by Zane Grey


OBTAINED AS A FREE AUDIOBOOK FROM THE WONDERFUL LIBRIVOX PROJECT.

The book is expertly read by Laurie Ann Walden. The audio quality and speaker are up to the quality of any of the audio books on sale in bookshops.

The project uses volunteers to record books that are now in the public domain and then offers them online as audio books. I've always got one or two on my Ipod and recently downloaded several Charles Dickens books as well as this western classic by the great Zane Grey.

Visit the website using the link above and download some classics or even volunteer to help in the project and record something for the archive.

A brilliant web-site that deserves support.

THE BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF


BBC Classic drama DVD

This was probably the best British TV drama produced during the 80's - the decade of Thatcher and massive unemployment. This drama follows the lives of several characters who work as tarmac layers (the blackstuff) and we see their lives falling apart as they try to cope with a changing Britain in which their skills are not needed any more. We follow the characters search for non-existent work and their dealings with a soul destroying social security system.


The DVD contains the entire gritty series as well as the original PLAY FOR TODAY presentation from which the series was spawned.

I've not seen this series since it first aired and I remember how hard hitting and realistic it was at the time. This was the BBC really sticking it to the government of the day. The world it relects was all too real - I left school during the year this production was made and a job for life in the coal industry soon turned into a bitter strike and several years on the dole.

This was always superbly acted, well written and hard hitting TV drama and it's still that - but these days it's also an accurate and historical record of bitter times in the UK working class enviroment....

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

westerns:the classic collection


This magazine may be of interest to readers of this blog. It's another of those part work that come with a DVD each issue. This time the theme is classic westerns and issue one which is at a special price of £2.99 includes The Magnificent Seven.

I'm annoyed with this collection as I already have all the titles featured in the first ten issues - ahh well, I suppose many western buffs will. But for anyone wanting to build a western movie collection this is a great option - not only will you get the film but a great magazine to go with each title.
The magazine which comes with the film is pretty slim but filled with interesting information and some good rare photographs.

I'll probably end up collecting it just for the magazine and then flog the films on Ebay.




videoeach issue features several sections related to the movie in each particular section. These include behind the scenes info, actor and director profiles, historical perspectives.

WILD WEST MAGAZINE OCT 2008 AND WYATT EARP COMIC DEC 1961

The current issue, cover dated October 2008, boasts a striking cover image of Oglala Sioux He Dog (1840-1936). And the main theme this time out is the Indian Wars.

Several articles look at the subject in the magazine's usual in depth style and there are some interesting maps detailing the various conflicts.

The lead article is by historian Robert M. Utley and he looks at how the strained relations between the white men and the indians were caused.

As well as the Indian Wars centric stuff the magazine contains the usual blend of wild west information. There is a very entertaining article that compares the real Gunfight at the OK Corral with the various film versions. But each page will be of interest to the wild west buff.


Thank God for Borders and its American Import stock is all I can say.


WYATT EARP
DEC 1961
DELL COMICS
UK COPY
COVER PRICE 9D

(From Ebay - paid £3)

This comic book from 1961 features comic strip stories about frontier Marshall Wyatt Earp, or rather TV's then Wyatt,Hugh Obrian.

I was pleased to find this old comic and it now takes pride of place in the archives.

The images show how the style of comics have changed over the years - this is a million miles away from DC's sadistic Jonah Hex.





BOOK COVER ART


A recent post commented on duplicate covers on several books. It was noted that Chap O'keefe's Sons and Gunslicks shared a cover with Louis L'amour's Killkenny.

Following this I interviewed the author and a internet friendship has sprung up. He's a writer I enjoy and respect and for a writer just starting out, waiting on the publication of my first one, ten months and counting, it's great to have him at the end of an email.

Today he alerted of the cover art for his latest Lillian Goodnight adventure, Misfit Lil Cleans Up. He's pleased with the image chosen and I must admit it has a classy old school look about it.


For information on the book check out the author's own article here -CLICK CLICK CLICK


And while there take a browse around the free online black horse western magazine. The article " CAN A BLACK HORSE WESTERN BE NOIR?" is especially interesting

Monday, 25 August 2008

ESSENTIAL TALES OF THE ZOMBIE

I spotted this in the clearance bin of my local Borders and I had to have it - incredibly I got it for £2.99. The published price is £10.99.


I bought it along with Essential Monster of Frankenstein volume one.


I couldn't resist these as I used to read them as a kid and nostalgia is a wonderful thing.






It's billed as a graphic novel but it's not really since a true graphic novel is a strip written for that relatively new format, but it is rather a collection of magazines in the one place. This book collects strips from Dracula Lives 1 - 2 and Tales of the Zombie 1-10. All in an impressive soft back cover with high quality binding and good reproduction of the original strips.

The stories come largely from Roy Thomas and Stan lee but there are many more artists and writers who would become household names in the comics industry. Big names like John Buscema, Gene Colan and Stevie Gerber. The black and white artwork is very 70's and suits the morbid tales. And there has never been a comic book hero like the walking Zombie, Simon Garth who is controlled by whoever holds the amulet of Damballah.

Tales of the Zombie was aimed at the more mature comic book fans at a time when such terms hadn't been invented and the comic holds up well by modern standards. Really good retro comic entertainment and what a bargain.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

STREETWISE BY CHRIS FREEMAN



STREETWISE
CHRIS FREEMAN
BLACK STAR CRIME £3.99

Harlequin Mills and Boons this year celebrate their hundredth anniversary. You never see their titles on the best-seller lists but their romances sell by the truckload.

And now they have launched their first non-romance imprint, Black Star Crime which promises to deliver five short (50,000-60,000 words) crime/thriller novels a month. And with their expertise at identifying the market and getting their titles out there the future could be looking bright for the new imprint.

The first book I picked up was Streetwise by Chris Freeman, a Manc now living in New York, and for a punchy, enjoyable crime novel it doesn't disappoint.

The plot revolves around a seemingly senseless killing of a passenger in a taxi cab. The police think the killer was after the driver and hit the passenger by accident and soon cab driver, Cyrus is arrested after the murder weapon is found in the back of his cab. However ex-cop and now cab driver, Joseph Soyinka is convinced that Cyrus is innocent and he is soon up to his neck in drug dealers and psychotic hard men while he tries to prove his friend's innocence and bring the true killers to justice.

The book runs just short of 250 pages and proves that less is often more. The characters are largely well drawn and the New York scenes seem authentic. Sans filler and padding, the story moves at a breakneck pace much like the novels in the highly regarded Hard Case Crime series which are of a similar length. The stylistic themes of this work also owes a great deal to the pulp/hard-boiled tradition but it is very much a modern day narrative.


I enjoyed this book and also purchased the other four titles out this month. It's the quality of the storytelling that is going to make or break this series and from the first book the signs are very good indeed.

The other four titles are:
Murder Plot - which from the blurb sound like a traditional crime novel with a doctor taking over the investigation. The book is set in 1975.


Runaway Minister - which seems to be a thriller involving an international assassin.

A Narrow Escape - this is billed as a D.I. Hillary Greene. The blurb tells us that she is under investigation for corruption, thanks to the shady dealings of her late husband. And having to investigate a murder that leads to some powerful and dangerous drug pushers.

A Perfect Evil - a republication of the Alex Kava classic.

Friday, 22 August 2008

VIOLENCE IS GOLDEN - The West of Edge

(NOTE - there were several mistakes in this original article which were pointed out to me by the George G Gilman forum. And so thanks to those guys I have corrected two points for this article - One - Gilman only wrote one of the Leone/Eastwood novel spin-off's and the Edge comic book was Italian in origin. Thanks, guys.)


George G. Gilman, real name Terry Harknett, was one of the Piccadilly Cowboys - that posse of British writers who filled the western section of UK bookshops for much of the seventies and eighties. Some of these writers have been forgotten, a few of the characters consigned to the deepest bowels of pulp history but in Edge, Gilman created a character that some consider an iconic part of the western genre.


"Josiah Hedges was thirty years old, stood six feet three inches tall and weighed a solid one hundred and ninety pounds, some of it bone, most of it muscle. Many women considered him handsome, many others thought him ugly: he had that kind of face. Eyes that were light blue and piercing from his Swedish mother, a hawklike nose, high cheekbones and firm jaw line from his Mexican Father."

Thus we get our first view of the character who would drop his given name and simply become Edge after his younger brother is killed by men he rode with during the war. And by the end of the first book in the series, Edge: The Loner (1971) the character has become a cold, unfeeling killing machine.

The violence was extreme for the time but what set the Edge book apart from all the others was the authentic feel of the books and a wry, often corny, sense of humour. The books were perfect for anyone seduced by the outlandish spectacle of the Italian Westerns and wanting a similar mix of blood, guts, sex and mayhem.

Terry Harknett had previously adapted one of the novelizations of Eastwood's dollar films. And so when NEL wanted to create a new western series character then Harknett was the perfect choice.

(Picture left - a issue of the Edge comic book - information of this title is scarce but I have been informed it was an Italian publication. More information and page by page scans of all the comics can be found HERE. )


P
en name adopted because the initials made up GEE GEE GEE - a child's name for an horse, and the series was launched on an unsuspecting public. The books were an immediate success which was largely due to the fact that Harknett was a bloody good writer who understood the mechanics of storytelling, but the fact that Edge was such a entertaining, no-hold barred, character obviously helped.

Gilman created several other characters - Adam Steele and the Undertaker among them and these enjoyed some success but it is Edge that is the jewel in the crown. The series would run until 1989, some 61 books, but in 2001 the author wrote another Edge novel, available only as a free E- Book from http://www.idaryl.com/edge/index.html . This book looks at the character as an older, less violent man and is a great read. Since this book the author has penned further Edge E-books and these can also be found and downloaded from the link above.

Fans of the paperback series will love it.

I used to love these books when I was a kid and would go through them faster than Gordon Brown does a U-turn. The character of Edge appealed to my teenage boy sensibilities. The books were the literary answer to the super violent European Westerns that were sometimes show on BBC 2. In those days there were only three channels so a late night western or horror movie was a treat.

Along with the horror novels by the likes of Stephen King, Guy N. Smith and James Herbert, the Edge books were my reading of choice.

Quite often there was no more graphic violence in a Edge book than Herbert's Rats, Smith's crabs and King's psychotic cars put together.

Graphic violence was the dog's bollocks for teenage boys during the seventies.


"Then the razor slashed into the flesh of Hanson's right cheek: down from beneath the eye almost to the jawbone, a twist of the wrist and across - not pulled free until the lower stroke of the right angle came close to the ear. Not a deep cut, but a bloody one: dark crimson oozing from the lips of the wound to cascade over the flesh and drip to the victim's shirt front."



The full list of Edge books follow:

(Reprinted from the A Man called George Gilman website)


Edge series
Edge #1: The Loner, New English Library, Feb 1972; New York, Pinnacle, 1972
Edge #2: Ten Thousand Dollars, American, New English Library, Feb 1972; as Ten Grand, New York, Pinnacle, 1972
Edge #3: Apache Death, London, New English Library, May 1972; New York, Pinnacle, 1972
Edge #4: Killer's Breed, London, New English Library, 1972; New York, Pinnacle, 1972

Edge #5: Blood On Silver, London, New English Library, 1972; New York, Pinnacle, 1973
Edge #6: The Blue, The Grey And The R
ed, London, New English Library, Feb 1973; as Red River, New York, Pinnacle, 1973
Edge #7: California Killing, London, New English Library, 1973; as California Kill, New York, Pinnacle, 1973
Edge #8: Seven Out of Hell, London, New English Library, 1973; as Hell's Seven, New York, Pinnacle, 1973
Edge #9: Bloody Summer, London, New English Library, Sep 1973; New York, Pinnacle, 1974
Edge #10: Vengeance is Black, London, New English Library, 1974; as Black Vengeance, New York, Pinnacle, 1974
Edge #11: Sioux Uprising, London, New English Library, 1974; New York, Pinnacle, 1974
Edge #12: The Biggest Bounty, London, New English Library, 1974; as Death's Bounty, New York, Pinnacle, 1974
Edge #13: A Town Called Hate, London, New English Library, 1974; as The Hated, New York, Pinnacle, 1975

Edge #14: The Big Gold, London, New English Library, 1974; as Tiger's Gold, New York, Pinnacle, 1975
Edge #15: Blood Run, London, New English Library, 1975; as Paradise Loses, New York, Pinnacle, 1975
Edge #16: The Final Shot, London, New English Library, 1975; New York, Pinnacle, 1975
Edge #17: Vengeance Valley, London, New English Library, Nov 1975; New York, Pinnacle, 1976
Edge #18: Ten Tombstones to Texas, London, New English Library, 1975; as Ten Tombstones, New York, Pinnacle, 1976
Edge #19: Ashes and Dust, London, New English Library, 1976; New York, Pinnacle, 1976
Edge #20: Sullivan's Law, London, New English Library, 1976; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1976
Edge #21: Rhapsody in Red, London, New English Library, 1976; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1976
Edge #22: Slaughter Road, London, New English Library, 1977; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1977
Edge #23: Echoes of War, London, New English Library, 1977; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1977
Edge #24: The Day Democracy Died, London, New English Library, 1977; as Slaughterday, Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1978
Edge #25: Violence Trail, London, New English Library, 1978; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1978
Edge #26: Savage Dawn, London, New English Library, April 1978; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1978
Edge #27: Death Drive, London, New English Library, 1978; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1978
Edge #28: Eve of Evil, London, New English Library, 1978; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1978
Edge #29: The Living, the Dying and the Dead, London, New English Library, Dec 1978; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1979

Edge #30: Waiting for a Train, London, New English Library, 1979; as Towering Nightmare, Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1979
Edge #31: The Guilty Ones, London, New English Library, 1979; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1979
Edge #32: The Frightened Gun, London, New English Library, June 1979; Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1979
Edge #33: The Hated, London, New English Library, Dec 1979; as Red Fury, New York, Pinnacle, 1980
Edge #34: A Ride in the Sun, London, New English Library, 1980; New York, Pinnacle, 1980
Edge #35: Death Deal, London, New English Library, Sep 1980; New York, Pinnacle, 1980
Edge #36: Town on Trial, London, New English Library, Mar 1981; New York, Pinnacle, 1981
Edge #37: Vengeance at Ventura, London, New English Library, 1981; New York, Pinnacle, 1981
Edge #38: Massacre Mission, London, New English Library, 1981; New York, Pinnacle, 1981
Edge #39: The Prisoners, London, New English Library, Nov 1981; New York, Pinnacle, 1982
Edge #40: Montana Melodrama, London, New English Library, Feb 1982; New York, Pinnacle, 1982
Edge #41: The Killing Claim, London, New English Library, June 1982
Edge #42: Bloody Sunrise, London, New English Library, 1982; New York, Pinnacle, 1983
Edge #43: Arapaho Revenge, London, New English Library, Jan 1983; New York, Pinnacle, 1983
Edge #44: The Blind Side, London, New English Library, 1983; New York, Pinnacle, 1984
Edge #45: House on the Range, London, New English Library, 1983; New York, Pinnacle, 1984
Edge #46: The Godforsaken, London, New
English Library, 1984; New York, Pinnacle, 1984
Edge #47: The Moving Cage, London, New English Library, 1984; New York, Pinnacle, 1984
Edge #48: School for Slaughter, London, New English Library, Feb 1985; New York, Pinnacle, 1985
Edge #49: Revenge Ride, London, New English Library, 1985; New York, Pinnacle, 1985
Edge #50: Shadow of the Gallows, London, New English Library, 1985
Edge #51: A Time for Killing, London, New English Library, Feb 1986
Edge #52: Brutal Border, London, New English Library, June 1986
Edge #53: Hitting Paydirt, London, New English Library, 1986
Edge #54: Backshot, London, New English Library, 1987
Edge #55: Uneasy Riders, London, New English Library, 1987
Edge #56: Doom Town, London, New English Library, 1987
Edge #57: Dying is Forever, London, New English Library, 1987
Edge #58: The Desperadoes, London, New English Library, 1988
Edge #59: Terror Town, London, New English Library, 1988
Edge #60: The Breed Woman, London, New English Library, 1989
Edge #61: The Rifle, London, New English Library, 1989

Edge Meets Adam Steele series
Edge Meets Adam Steele: Two of a Kind, London, New English Library, 1980; New York, Pinnacle, 1980
Edge Meets Adam Steele: Matching Pair, London, New English Library, 1982; New York, Pinnacle, 1982

Edge Meets Steele #3: Double Action, London, New English Library, 1984



The character has inspired a fervent fan base that can be likened to those that spring up around sci-fi shows such as Star Trek. There are internet forums dedicated to the character, spin off comics, fan fiction abounds and the books, particularly the later editions which had a smaller print run, are going for crazy money on Ebay and other auction sites. For instance a copy of novel 56 recently went for £74 at auction. There is even a George G. Gilman appreciation society.

What is surprising is that reading the books now, as an adult, they are still as good as over. Okay they're over the top and get ever more outlandish as the series goes on but they're all well written pulp style tales.

They're enjoyable, fun to read -and surely that's what's reading's all about.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

THE MALTESE FALCON


1941
Directed by John Huston
Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet


I seem to be on a noir kick at the moment. Maybe it's something to do with the atrocious weather. There's something lush about lying in bed, the rain hammering against the window while old moody black and white images play across the screen.

This film is so well know that I won't go into the plot except to say that it still holds up today.

The film belongs totally to ugly/handsome Humphrey Bogart and that's saying something for his brilliant performance given that the supporting turns from Lorre and Greenstreet are textbook acting.

The DVD Region 2 release is, as expected, short on extras but there is an interesting feature looking at Bogart trailers.


FILM FACTS

The book had been filmed twice already, as Dangerous Lady and Satan met a Lady in 1931 and 1935 respectively. Both versions flopped.

This was Bogart's first real starring role after a string of classic supporting roles.

The falcon prop was sold in 1994 at auction for $398,500

The film had a $81,000 budget and was made in six weeks.

George Raft turned down the role of Sam Spade before it was given to Bogart.

Book and publishing news

ITV's forthcoming crime awards to be broadcast by ITV3 have announced the short-list for the categories that relate to crime writing.

Breakthrough Novel Award:

Heartsick - Chelsea Cain
Broken Skin - Stuart McBride
Shatter - Michael Robinson
Messenger of Athens - Anne Zouroudi


International author of the year:

Jeffrey Deaver
Steig Larsson
Karan Slaughter
P J Tracy


Author of the year
Lee Child
Robert Harris
Peter James
Ian Rankin

My guess is Broken Skin for the breakthrough award and Karan Slaughter and Ian Rankin for the other categories.


THE OFFICIAL UK TOP FIVE BOOKS ARE:
1 No Time For Goodbye -Linwood Barclay
2 Breaking Dawn-Stephenie Meyer
3 The Final Reckoning - Sam Bourne
4 Exit Music - Ian Rankin
5 The Sleeping Doll-Jeffrey Deaver

The number one title is responsible for a massive 328,963 in total UK sales. The book is part of the Richard and Judy Good Summer Read promotion which shows how influential TV's golden couple are for book sales. Mind you it helps that it's a damn good read.


Have finally gotten hold of the five titles that are launching the new crime imprint from romantic fiction giant, Mills and Boons. They all look great with their uniform cover designs and I'm looking forward to reading them and giving an opinion sometime later this week.

Quick punchy thrillers that could be an antidote to all the bloated tomes on the shelves. If I read any more padding I'm going to scream.




Random House US have provoked an almighty row after withdrawing the Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones from its forthcoming book lists. The book, billed as an Islam inspired love story, has been pulled because of fears of a backlash from the extremist Muslim community and the safety of the author.

Random House said - 'This is a difficult decision and one we seldom have to take. And we hope not to have to take such again.'

The publishing house have been branded cowards by UK publisher, Andrew Franklin - 'editorial judgement is very important but free speech is sacred.'

The trouble started when the publishers sent a proof copy to Denise Spellberg, a professor if Islamic history at the University of Texas. The publishers were hoping for a quote to put on the back of the book but the academic called the book - a very ugly, stupid piece of work. She warned that this could cause offence with extremists and may even incite acts of violence by a small extremist segment.

What concerns me about this is that we are now letting Muslim fanatics dictate our media content. I can understand the publishers not wanting to stir up trouble but their decision here is so craven. The book is now free for the author to offer it to another publisher so will the UK PUBLISHER Andrew Franklin, who has been so strong in his public denouncement of Random House US, put his money where his mouth is and publish the book?

If he does, then good on him.


TOP FIVE UK HARDBACK BIOGRAPHIES

1 Pushed to the limit-Katit (JORDON OF THE BIG CHEST) Price
2 My Booky Wooky - Russel (inane overrated comedian) Brand
3 Anything Goes - John Barrowman (and knowing the actor I'd say it's an apt title)
4 On the Edge - Richard Hammond (a true hero)
5 Westlife: our story - Westlife (Teeny bopper boy band memories)


TOP FIVE UK CHILDREN'S BOOKS

1 Breaking Down - Stephanie Meyer
2 Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer
3 Horrid Henry Robs the Bank - Frencesca Simon
4 Angus thongs and perfect snogging - Louise Rennison
5 Twilight - Stephanie Meyer

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

LANCE HOWARD BOOK REVIEW AND INTERVIEW



Ladigan
Lance Howard
Robert Hale LTD
Original cover price £10.75



A mysterious telegram summons John Ladigan, man hunter to the Colorado town of Timmervale. The telegram comes from Ladigan's brother and when the famed bounty hunter arrives he find his brother missing and the town in the fearful grip of the powerful Timm family.

Trouble finds Ladigan as soon as he enters the town when he comes across the sadistic Jack Timm who is beating up on a saloon girl. He saves the girl and humiliates Jack Timm, creating an enemy. Later he discovers that Jack is the son of the brutal town boss, Solomon Timm.

From here on in the author skilfully weaves, action,mystery and romance which keeps the reader turning the pages.

Yet another great traditional western from Black Horse Westerns.




Lance Howard, a pen name adopted by horror/mystery writer Howard Hopkins, has built up an impressive list of oaters that include:

  • Blood on the Saddle
  • The Comanche's Ghost
  • Blood Pass
  • The West Witch
  • Wanted
  • The Gallows Ghost
  • The Widow Maker
  • Guns of the Past
  • Palomita
  • The Last Draw
  • The Deadly Doves
  • The Devil's Peacemaker
  • The West Wolf
  • The Phantom Marshal
  • Bandolero
  • Pirate Pass
  • The Silver-Mine Spook
  • Ladigan
  • Johnny Dead
  • Nightmare Pass
LINK TO AUTHOR'S WEB SITE

(Click on the link above for the full list from the author's own website)
















(Photo - Looks like Dean Martin in this illustration for Silver-Mine Spook.)


The author is also responsible for a series of horror novels under his own name Howard Hopkins. But it is with his thoughts on the western that we are interested.

Q-What elements do you think make up the perfect western?


A- don't think there is any such critter. What is perfect in a Western for one reader is different for another. Some prefer the old style shoot 'em up, while others enjoy heavy characterization or precise historical and setting details. That's the beauty of the Western--it has such a wide corral it has something for every reader. My own westerns tend toward mixing genres and an emphasis on the people who populate them. I view the scenery as more a backdrop in a stage play than some writers, while focusing on the characters and situations modern readers can relate to, as well as old time Western fans.



Q- What advice would you give to aspiring writers?


A-Check the job ads? Seriously, sit yourself in a chair and write, write, write. Perfect your craft and don't give up. And read everything, not just westerns. Learn from all genres. Always reach deeper into yourself and, as they say, "bleed all over the page". Then hone every word, every phrase, every sentence. A writer NEVER stops learning and growing. Oh, and kill your adverbs.



Q- How much planning do you do before sitting down to write?

A- I work from a very loose outline, usually a one sentence per scene structure. The characters have an annoying tendency to go where they choose, so I try not to rein anything in too tightly. Last year I experimented with working totally without any outline, in a weekly supernatural serial called The Chloe Files (www.howardhopkins.com for more info on that). That meant coming up with one chapter every week, working without a net. It was an experience I probably don't care to repeat, but neither would I want to write a 30-page detailed outline, because that would kill the story for me and the boredom I had writing it would show in the prose.



Q-Favourite Western movie?


A- I don't really have one, sorry to say. I tended to lean more towards Western TV shows--the Wild Wild West, Brisco County, Jr., Lancer, The Young Riders, and of course The Lone Ranger.



Q-Favourite western novel and or writer?


A-Richard Wheeler wrote my absolute favorite Western, Montana Hitch. I read a lot of Matt Braun, too. And a number of the Black Horse Western books, when I can afford them!


Q-What do you think of the current state of the genre?


A-Unlike many, I think it's actually healthier with the grass roots than people think. Publishers tend to bemoan the genre, but I think that's more a marketing moan than an actual measure of folks out there who enjoy a good Western. Western comic books have certainly been doing well--Dynamite's The Lone Ranger and Zorro are both hits, DC's Jonah Hex continues successfully and there are more coming from numerous houses. Moonstone books put out a number of Western comics and has an upcoming Zorro anthology. I think a lot more people need to be exposed to the western, especially children and YAs and shown that it's still "cool". And of course Robert Hale is the stalwart coach navigating the trail, still offering great western fiction at the rate of six per month. There are numerous blogs on the web and western presences, my own Western page at http://www.howardhopkins.com/western-books.htm (where anyone interested can join up on the Black Horse Western yahoogroup) and Black Horse Express at http://www.blackhorsewesterns.org Recent figures by the Western Writers of America in an issue of Roundup showed an increase in Western sales over the past years. So I like to focus on the positive, though, of course, things can always improve greatly.




Q- Where do you see the future of the western?


A- see a Western expansion eventually, but I think it will be writers who push the boundaries, more cross genre westerns and more mainstreaming and infiltration of the younger readers, if we can pry them away from video games. I do not think it is headed towards Boot Hill. We have some great organizations trying to promote of proliferate the genre. The Western isn't quite ready to ride off into the sunset just yet...


And so there we have it - the thoughts of another in the wild bunch of storytellers keeping the beloved genre alive. I'd like to thank Howard for taking the time to answer my questions and hope that you, dear blog reader, found this post entertaining and informative. Who knows - it may even inspire you to check out one of the books - most are available on Amazon or can be ordered through most good bookshops. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET


Directed by Samuel Fuller
77 minutes
optimum DVD release
1953 black and white

Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritta.

This is one of those films I know by reputation, having read reams of info on it, but never having actually seen. In Noir circles the movie is rightly hailed as a classic.

Thus I was pleased to see this DVD on the shelf of my local filling station. I've had some nice movies from the garage and all for less than a fiver. They tend to stock a lot of old movies at cut down prices and as old movies are my passion I'm in seventh heaven.


And so last night - rain hammering down on the window, the August wind shaking the trees and casting shadows into the bedroom, I'm tucked up in bed watching the Black and White images on windscreen.


Richard Widmark gives a brilliant performance as a low life pick pocket who strikes lucky (or unlucky depending on your point of view) when he grifts a young woman, Jean Peters, on a train. It seems the woman is being used by communist agents and is carrying some microfilm containing stolen US government secrets.

In typical noir style the film uses shadows to create atmosphere and the dialogue is typically hard boiled.

Candy: Honest, I really like you.

Skip: Everybody likes everybody when they're kissing.


Candy: I've kissed a lot of guys and I've never felt like this.



Skip: You're talking like you've got a fever.




The scenes between Widmark's character, Skip and the police are electrifying. The pace of the film would put most modern thrillers to shame. And every single scene shifts the movie forward





Thelma Ritter steals every scene as the aging stool pigeon. Mo. She provides much comedy as she hustles both the cops and crooks, selling each not only information but the cheap neck ties she uses as a front for her nefarious activities. But her character comes across as pitiful and evokes genuine sympathy in the viewer. We sense that she has been beaten down by life and is tired of the daily grind-her only ambition is to save enough money so that she is not buried in a pauper's grave.

A bit of research on the film came up with the fact that the film was dismissed during its initial release as a McCarthyist tract. It certainly seems black and white in its theme, without any hint of grey - the Americans are the good guys and the Commies are the bad. But there is a lot of subtext if the viewer looks deep enough and Fuller seems to be asking who is worse - the pickpocket, the communists, the American government or the brutal police. In a key scene Widmark says - 'Don't give me any of that patriotic eyewash.' This seems to hint that patriotism can be used to blind us to the evil and dangers of those in power that claim to represent us.

I loved the movie and am glad to have finally watched it.

It's quite perfect for late night viewing.

STEPHEN KING ON WRITING


On writing
Stephen King
NEL £8.99


I used to love Stephen King and read each new book avidly but I remember getting bored around the time of Tommyknockers and then failed to finish The Dark Half. I pretty much stopped reading him after that. I think it was my age and suddenly girls were becoming far more important than cranky horror novels. My literary tastes changed and I started reading more crime and thrillers and thought myself too mature for things that go bump in the night.

However I've always considered him a master craftsman and a truly brilliant storyteller. If I had an ounce of his wonderful talent I'd be quids in. I still love Misery with a passion and Pet Sematary remains the only book that literally stole sleep from me. That book absolutely terrified me and the nervous feeling it gave me stuck around for ages after I'd read the book. Several of his early novels remain among my all time favourite books. For instance I'd rate The Stand as a truly great American novel.

I recently decided to rediscover the writer, find out where his muse has taken him since those early horror classics. And so I belatedly bought this Stephen King on Writing to see what the master had to say.


King was always contrary - just when you felt you knew what to expect he'd pull the rug from under you. And he's still like that - far from being another text book that attempts to tell you how to write (the author admits that he feels HOW TO WRITE books are largely bullshit in his introduction) this is part autobiography and part collection of tips. The writing is so immediate that the book reads as easily as a novel and I especially enjoyed the section dealing with the author's formative years.

It's a great read and not just for would-be writers but also for King fans and anyone wanting to know more about the world's best-selling author. Yeah J.K. Rowling maybe outselling everyone but King still rules the roost in overall sales.

And so I now have to a journey to take - to read King from Gerald's Game to the present day. I've got a lot of catching up to do and maybe I will find that as I have matured then so too have my tastes and I am now able to enjoy the latter King as much as I, as a teenager, loved his early horror/Sci-Fi classics.

Monday, 18 August 2008

NEW CRIME IMPRINT - BLACKSTAR IS UP AND RUNNING

A brutal killing in a New York taxi.
A close friend arrested for the murder.
Old instincts die hard for ex-cop Joseph Soyinka.


Joseph made many enemies fighting corruption but refused to be intimidated – until his wife was killed and his life destroyed. Now he lives with his young son in the anonymous safety of New York City. By day he drives a yellow cab. By night he tries to forget about the past.

Joseph knows his friend Cyrus is not a murderer, but he is involved in something – and he’s in way over his head. The only way to find the real killer is to take Cyrus’s place in a deadly game."

Runaway Minister

Nick Curtis

978-1-848-45000-4

15/08/2008

£3.99

Situation: Code Red

The Assassin: If all goes to plan, Hazbi Dunja will die slowly, in agony, away from the world. His pretty female aide will be an added bonus – and revenge will have been worth waiting for.

The Assignment: Charlie Paddon and his straight-talking partner, Alex Chappell are the Diplomatic Protection Unit's best. They must escort Dunja – the Croatian foreign minister – safely to London.
Only the moment his plane touches on British soil, the minister vanishes.

The race is on – and the clock is ticking…

A Narrow Escape

Faith Martin

978-1-848-45002-8

15/08/2008

£3.99

A career on the rocks, a reputation on the line

Under internal investigation for corruption - thanks to her late husband - Oxfordshire DI Hillary Greene is fighting to save her career. When a body is found in the canal, she knows she’s only been given the case as it’s a straightforward matter of accidental death. Something to keep her quiet.

But when her investigation points to murder – and involves the local drug lord – she realises this is much bigger than anyone expected. And DI Greene’s not about to let anyone stop her from nailing the killer.

Murder Plot

Lance Elliot

978-1-848-45003-5

15/08/2008

£3.99

Murder is in the air

It’s 1975. Lord Lucan has been named as the murderer of Sandra Rivett. And in a quietly anonymous London suburb, it seems that murder is most certainly in the air...

Retired hard-man Charlie Daniels dies on his allotment. Verdict: death by natural causes. But Dr Lance Elliot isn’t so sure. Especially when more local residents start dying…

With the caustic Inspector Masson looking over his shoulder, he is soon uncovering the murky secrets of the Thornton Heath Horticulture and Allotment Association in his hunt for the killer. And even Lance himself will discover that the past has a nasty habit of not staying buried forever…


CHAP O'KEEFE BOOK REVIEW AND AUTHOR INTERVIEW


A GUNFIGHT TOO MANY
CHAP O'KEEFE
BLACK HORSE WESTERNS
£12.25


Sheriff Sam Hammond is nearing fifty and starting to feel tired of wearing a gun and considers retirement. However his plans are ruined when Loraine Delrose turns up in his office demanding he do something about a team of rustlers that have been working her ranch. Sam is taken with the woman, a one time opera singer now ranch owner, and realises that he has little choice than to investigate the rustling.

Leaving his deputy, Clint Freeman, in charge he goes off to keep an eye on the ranch but trouble isn't far away and by the end of the first couple of chapters the bullets have started to fly and both Sam and his deputy are left injured.

Further problems come when it turns out the man who shot and injured Clint is a vicious bounty hunter, or as he likes to call himself a detective, who is in town looking for the bandit the press have dubbed Dick Slick.


"In 1873 the Supreme Court had defined the rights
of bounty hunters as agents of bail bondsmen, authorized
to deliver up miscreants who’d skipped. They
could pursue the subject into another state or territory
and enforce the original imprisonment. They
could arrest the wanted man on the Sabbath. If
necessary, they had the right to break and enter a
house."


Soon the Sheriff finds problems heaped upon deadly problem and the author keeps the reader both puzzled and thrilled until the final shocking denouncement.


With the western virtually invisible in the book shops it is good that high quality writing is still being produced. Chap O'Keefe is a western veteran and he delivers the goods here in this all action western. The prose is straight to the point with little preamble and the brevity of these novels make a refreshing change from all the bloated tomes in the bookshops. (Surely not every book needs to be the size of a house brick?)With a novel of this size it takes skilful plotting and deft character control - O'Keefe is a master of both.


CHAP O'KEEFE INTERVIEW

Chap O'keefe is a writer with a large body of western fiction behind him. His full list of novels are:

Gunsmoke Night
Shootout at Hellyer’s Creek
The Sheriff and the Widow
The Outlaw and the Lady
The Gunman and the Actress
The Sandhills Shootings
Doomsday Mesa
Frontier Brides
The Rebel and the Heiress
Ride the Wild Country
The Lawman and the Songbird
Ghost Town Belles
Misfit Lil Rides In
Misfit Lil Gets Even
Sons and Gunslicks
Misfit Lil Fights Back
Peace at Any Price
Misfit Lil Hides Out

Q - As a writer of so many westerns what do you think makes the perfect western?

A-"Perfect westerns" today -- if there are such things -- provide everything that's expected by the genre's dedicated readers, then supply something extra, either by way of content or treatment. The extra element must confound the detractors who wrongly assume even the best western writer is incapable of moving beyond hidebound repetition.

Q- What advise would you give people wanting to write for a living?

A- Sit yourself firmly down at the keyboard and work and work. Your main enemy isn't a "stupid" publisher or a "rival" writer -- it's "real life" and the poor monetary rewards from fiction which make the distractions hard to keep at bay. No one else pays your bills, feeds you and family, looks after your responsibilities, while you're at the keyboard. If the decks are far from clear, put the ambition on hold.


Q - How much of your books are planned out before actually writing?

A- A hell of a lot. I explained this in the course of the Plot or Not debate (www.blackhorsewesterns.com/bhe10 ). I also said why, for me, it's necessary. It boils down to circumstances and past history going back to the early '60s. I wouldn't say there aren't better ways. Today I've completed my twenty-second novel aimed at the BHW market, and it's also the sixth Misfit Lil story. Lil is going great guns, but the writing of this book, for one reason or another, has taken longer than ever. Although my acceptance score with Hale so far is 21 out of 21, I find myself having to adjust scenes ever more frequently for an allegedly timorous library market (see www.blackhorsewesterns.com/bhe11 )


Q-Favourite western movie?

A- A heap of what might have been "favourites" when I was younger haven't survived, or at least haven't been resurrected on DVD. And only memories of bits and pieces occasionally surface. Out of the recognized classics, I still have time for High Noon. I can't claim to have been a lifelong fan of the genre -- movies or books. I don't care for John Wayne across the board, but like Stagecoach, Rio Bravo and a few others. I've watched Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven more than once. Recently, I enjoyed TV's Broken Trail movie and was fascinated to hear Stephen Foster's Beautiful Dreamer in it, because I'd put that song, quoting several verses, in my next Dillard novel, Blast to Oblivion.

Before I began writing the O'Keefe books in 1992, I wouldn't have qualified as a western follower. My interest ran first to crime and detective stories and films, then horror, fantasy and science fiction. When writing comic-book scripts and short stories early in my career, I covered the field: young children's (like Mickey Mouse for a Scandinavian publisher), sport, detective (the Saint), romantic "confessions" (Loving magazine), ghost (Charlton Comics group), war and westerns. Probably others I've forgotten.

Q-Favourite western novel and or writer?

A-I have a list of favourites but I usually avoid mentioning the living ones for fear of offending anyone not on it! Of the older writers, preferences run to Lewis B. Patten and Les Savage Jr, plus some relative unknowns in the field, like John Hunter who wrote the Lannagan stories for the '50s British Amalgamated Press Western Library, a text series that also reprinted the likes of Ernest Haycox, who is another old favourite.

Q-What are your thoughts on the current state of the genre?

A-I just hate even thinking about the current state of the genre! That says it all really. Some fine talents are doing their very best, but publishers' marketing people come back time and again with the dispiriting report that the public doesn't want to know. I'm not sure this is true, but what can we do about it? I spend many hours running the online Black Horse Extra, simply because hard-pressed publishers just don't seem to have a budget for any western promotion whatsoever. That or they've chosen to throw in the towel.

Q-Finally, as a writer, what is it that draws you to the genre?

It has resolved into the challenge. Genre fiction had always appealed from a very young age. When I gave up full-time journalism work, I looked around for markets. At the time, there wasn't a lot left in the shape of thriving, recognizable and established series, other than Mills & Boon in romance. I finally picked on the Australian Cleveland Publishing Company, whose pocket westerns had been circulating in what was now my part of the world since I'd arrived in it in 1967. They had a full inventory of stories waiting to be published, so I eventually sent off my first effort in '92 to Hale in London. They snapped it up, asking only for a change of title. Thus I renamed Lawless Valley (a dreadful title, which Hale said they'd already used) as Gunsmoke Night . . . and the rest is history.