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Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Book Review: King Arthur - Dragon Child by M K Hume



 "Perhaps my love for the legends was because my husband shares a name with the venerable hero. Perhaps, I was just so upset because the story had become so bastardised over the years that I decided to put my own mark on it. And perhaps I wanted to honour human courage rather than magic. Whatever the reason, I am certain that there are so many stories in the great sweep of history that are so vivid, compelling and riveting that I will never lack for subject matter." M K Hume, talking of the Arthurian legends.

I came across this book by happy accident - it was mistakenly placed among a pile of old western paperbacks that I picked up from a musty old secondhand book shop - as well all know musty old shops are the best kind of secondhand book shops. I started reading the book and before I knew it I was fifty or so pages in and hooked - the book tell of Arthur's (Artor as he's called in the book) early life and of his rise to the position of King of the Britons. The Arthur legends are of course just that - legends and no-one knows if he really existed at all.He first  appeared in print in the writings of Welsh historian, Nennius who gave a list of 12 battled in which the fabled king fought. In the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the first life story of Arthur and it is here that Caliburn, the magical sword commonly called Excalibur first appears. So did Arthur exist? Who knows but someone certainly kept the invading Saxons at bay for a great many years. In fact all that can be said with even  the least degree of certainty is that sometime in the fifth and sixth centuries, someone called Arthur or Arturus led a band of warriors who fought a resistance against the invading Saxons,Jutes and others from the north of Europe.


M K Hume

M. K. Hume's epic tale uses the voice of historical fiction rather than fantasy, and the Celtic world is vividly brought to believable life - magic doesn't play a part in this story and indeed the wizard, Merlin is here a master strategist, which makes the book all the more believable and fits in with the convincing historical context. As does the author's take on the sword in the stone legend, and immediately upon finishing this book I  took a trip up the Amazon and downloaded, Warrior of the West, which is the second book in the Arthur trilogy. I'm currently reading that book on my all new Kindle Paperwhite (expect a review of the newest Paperwhite soon) and this book is even better than the first so there'll be a review of the second part, and no doubt the third, appearing on these tainted pages very soon.



Quite excellent storytelling.


Was King Arthur a real person? Find an interesting article by John Mathews HERE




Monday, 14 January 2019

Granny Smith: Double the Trouble - The world unfolds before your ears

The Granny Smith series has proven very popular, especially on the Kindle with sales of the back-list remaining strong. There are three full length novels, and one short story in the series and later this year Granny will return in an all new adventure.

Amazon bill the books as cozy crimes, and to some extent they are just this but they are a lot more earthy than the standard cozy crime - the language is often far more fruity than is the norm for the genre, and the situations the senior detective finds herself in would shock anyone expecting nice polite murders in the library, a highly polished dagger between the shoulder blades, the newly created corpse shedding little blood and falling in an orderly position onto the plushly carpeted floor. Nope, that's not really Granny Smith - as the tagline states, It's Miss Marple on steroids.

Last month a new audio-book that collects together the short story, The Welsh Connection and the novel, Murder Plot was published by those nice people at Audible under the title, Double the Trouble. The book is performed by Fiona Thraille, the same voice who has brought the other Granny Smith titles to life with her wonderful interpretation of Granny's world.  Fionna really brings the stories to life and listening to her performance is always a joy.


I knew from the first few minutes that I was going to enjoy this audiobook and I was right. The dry (yet sassy) humour was spot on and the narration was perfectly matched to the tone of the story. Highly recommended! *****

The narrator really brought the characters to life. Great performance, fun and engaging murder mystery. *****

If I won the lottery I would attempt to hire Fiona Thraille to read books to me on a regular basis! I love the non stereotypical characters in this amusing adventure, but Fiona's range of voices and accents brings each character to life, making this audiobook a real pleasure. If I didn't know better I'd believe Ms Thraille grew up in the Welsh valleys! I will definitely be looking out for more books narrated by this talented actor. *****



Audible members can buy the audio now, as well as the other titles in the series. If you're not a member of Audible then you can get any of the Granny Smith titles for free when you sign up for their NO RISK trial. The audio-books can be listened to on computers, tablets, MP3 players, smart phones or on those personal assistant thingies such as Alexa, Google Home and other smart speakers.

How to describe the world of Granny Smith?

Well, imagine Agatha Christie liked to hang out at dogging sites and nine months after a particularly inventive orgy involving Tom Sharpe, Terry Pratchett and an industrial strength tube of Vaseline, a love child was born - that love child would be Granny Smith.

The words above are not mine - they come from a review and made me chuckle. And I'm sure you'll enjoy Granny's adventures too - so why not go get the new Audio-book, Granny Smith: Double the Trouble - not only will you be entertained but you'll also discover the answers to many profound questions. Such as:


Do all dicks tastes like Chicken?
Who was the better lover - Keef Richards or Shakin Stevens?


Discover the answers to these questions and many more in Granny Smith: Double the Trouble - available now at Audible, Apple Books, Amazon and anywhere else that audio-books are sold.

All titles are also available as eBooks and paperbacks.


Friday, 14 December 2018

Jack Martin rides The Tumbleweed Trail

To celebrate the forthcoming release of my new western, The Tumbleweed Trail - to be published this January  by Black Horse Westerns and available for pre-order CLICK HERE, I thought I'd post a little something about the man who gave me my pen name.

And so I present the real Jack Martin

Jack Martin. The man whom I looked up to as a kid, he seemed ten feet tall, and the man whose name I use for my western fiction. 

Jack Martin was a coal miner in the South Wales coal fields - indeed it was the dust from this environment that eventually killed him - pneumoconiosis, black lung disease,was common among a certain age group in the village I was raised in and the sound of chesty coughs often accompanied the dawn chorus.

The original
 Coal mining with the then primitive conditions was a  arduous job and in those days there was only basic safety equipment. Lives were often lost in explosions and one time the level where my grandfather was working flooded and over 20 men were drowned. That was all before and I learned much of this from my grandmother and Gramps never really talked about it.

I was born in 1965 and Gramps had retired by the time I was five so I can't really remember him working. He was a tall man, always dressed immaculately, even when doing the garden he wore a shirt and tie, as people of his generation did. He grew the best tomatoes around and my first ever paid job was collecting horse manure from the mountain for his garden. I think he gave me something like 10p a bucket which was good money in those far off days when the world was black and white and the sun always shone.

My Grandmother often referred to him as Father Christmas and although they would argue as people did in those days, about anything really - leaving the door open, not wiping your feet and trampling garden over the mat, their relationship was a strong and loving one. They both spoiled me rotten and I always got the latest comics and would go on the annual British Legion day trip to Porthcawl with them. Though often only me and my nan went. Gramps stayed home and probably went for a sneaky pint down the legion. He did so like a sneaky pint or two.

Hey, sorry about the ancient history but I feel almost old enough to remember black and white radio.
Gramps loved the westerns and was always reading a western novel. When there was a western on TV I would watch it with him and he would tell me stories of when he was in the wild west (completely invented, of course. The furthest West he ever went was Tonypandy) and in these stories he would be teamed up with John Wayne or Gary Cooper but never Clint Eastwood - he never really liked him and would refer to him as an unshaven hooligan. As a young boy I believed every word of these wild stories.


Jack Martin MK 2
Gramps was a natural storyteller.

Jack Martin - it was his  love of westerns was passed onto me and apart from the fact that Eastwood is my all time fave, our tastes are very much the same - John Wayne is still the ultimate man's man, and the cowboy creed is  a design for life.

When I published my first western novel, Tarnished Star with Robert Hale LTD I was proud that it contained the byline - by Jack Martin. When trying to decide on a pen name to keep my western fiction separate from my other stuff it was only natural to use Gramp's name.

He's been gone now for close on forty years and I still miss him but I guess he's still here, inside me - his ideals, his ways, his humour and when Tarnished Star by Jack Martin finally sees print it is as much his work as mine. For without him I would never have developed my interest and love for the American West.

So saddle up and check out Jack Martin's western page HERE

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Available now


Book Review: The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

I've read several Cornwell books over the years, but the historical fiction genre is something that I only dip into from time to time - in fact, I think the last book I read by this author was Stonehenge which I remember really enjoying and so looking for a change of pace I picked up The Last Kingdom from my TBR pile.

I knew nothing of the BBC TV series when I picked up the book (though I this last few weeks binged watched all three seasons) and I'm kind of glad since the story came to me fresh - or at least as fresh as a story so heavily based on actual historic events can be. After all, we learned all about Alfred the Great and the Saxons at school, so I had a basic knowledge of the period and the established facts. However after reading the book you have the sense of having been there, for whilst you travel between the covers you are indeed transported to Wessex, Mercia and beyond.

And that, I think, is  Cornwell's biggest talent - he holds an  immense skill in creating readable stories, and pushing his  research and knowledge into the background so that the action drags the reader into this world. Before  you know it you are completely enthralled in the world of the books and it's as if you are there in Wessex, experiencing the day to day life of the characters. So faithfully does the author transport you to a time and place that the reader might as well have been issued with a passport - that 9th Century England stamp will sure stand out between the stamps for two weeks in Ibiza, during which I dined that fat bird while the warm sea breeze blew through our hair three years ago,  and next year's trip to the States when I, no doubt will entertain an equally voluptuous bird or two. Hey, I'm nothing if not an optimist.

'I am Ulthred son of Ulthred.'

The book starts in the year 866 with Ulthred, then still called Osbert. He is, at this point nine-years-old and it is his older brother who took his father's name. During the day the elder brother is killed by Danes and so Osbert becomes Ulthred. The story then moves forward until almost a year later when Ulthred is almost ten years old and find himself going to war for for the first time.


'That was the year 867, and it was the first time I went to war. And I have never ceased,'

Young Ulthred expects to fight in the shield wall but he is told by his father that he will not, he is told that he will watch and he will learn, and throughout the book the shield wall becomes something of a metaphor for the journey to manhood. For although Ulthred faces and overcomes considerable dangers throughout the story it is not until he finally fights in a shield wall in the closing sections of the book that he truly considers himself a warrior. But it is during his first experience of war that his father and their fyrd are completely wiped out, and he is taken away by the Danes.

Ulthred is at first treated like just another slave but soon he gains a new father in the Dane, Ragnar who treats his well and as the years pass, the young grows towards adulthood and begins to consider himself more Dane than Saxon. However Ulthred will soon follow his destiny and end up serving King Alfred in his many battles against the Danes as the visionary Saxon King sets about the long task of achieving a unified England.

The author uses many of the events depicted in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles to give his series a sense of reality, buy he is constantly aware of the need to tell a good yarn, to keep the reader turning the pages and he does this so well - as a writer myself, I'm envious of the author's talent in delivering a house-brick of a book that doesn't outstay its welcome, and indeed leaves the reader eager for more.

Apparently this series of books has only recently been re-named the Last Kingdom series because of the success of the TV series - they were originally published under the collective: The Warrior series, and as soon as I closed the covers on The Last Kingdom, I immediately turned the first page of the second book in the series, The Pale Horseman so expect a review soon.



Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Heroes of Comedy: Benny Hill

Political Correctness is actually cultural oppression and I despise it and all those who spout the nonsense - Benny Hill, the British comedian who remains hugely popular across the world, was a martyr in the fight against political correctness. The Benny Hill Show was broadcast from 1955 until 1991, when he was pulled from the air following a decade in which a new wave of British comedians kicked against the working class comedy that Hill did so well. One of his best known detractors was Ben Elton who famously said Hill's comedy was responsible for rape - Elton later said his comments were misunderstood but what he should have said was that Hill was far funnier that any of Elton's so called Marxist comedians.

Hill lived for his work, and following his axing he grew depressed, became something of a hermit and was found dead in his flat in 1992. In his unopened mail was a contract for a new television show.

It's a sad end to a man who gave joy to so many with his harmless brands of saucy seaside humour and slapstick. I recently picked up an old LP record of Hill's comedy songs and I was reminded of just how good he was. Yeah, his jokes are corny but they raise a smile and some of the songs on this album are absolutely wonderful.









Thursday, 8 November 2018

Armistice

Available now in both print and digital editions.


Looks at the Cardiff Pals and other local regiments who fought in the Great War and how the experience of war impacted on the area, from the initial enthusiasm for sorting out the German Kaiser in time for Christmas 1914, to the gradual realization of the enormity of human sacrifice the families of Cardiff were committed to as the war stretched out over the next four years. An important place for Coal export this book looks at how the balance between working and fighting was achieved by the Dockyard workers

The Great War affected everyone. At home there were wounded soldiers in military hospitals, refugees from Belgium and later on German prisoners of war. There were food and fuel shortages and disruption to schooling. The role of women changed dramatically and they undertook a variety of work undreamed of in peacetime. Meanwhile, men serving in the armed forces were scattered far and wide. Extracts from contemporary letters reveal their heroism and give insights into what it was like under battle conditions.



Amazon, Pen and Sword Books, Waterstones and anywhere books are sold.....