Thursday 30 April 2009


Nature of nurture - that's a question asked these days by those trying to understand the motivation of criminals. Can a person be born bad? Or is the seed of their destruction sown in their formative years? Johnny Ringo, famed after his confrontations with the Earps certainly had a rough time of it as a youngster.

John was born on May 3rd 1850 in Wayne County, Indiana. In 1864 the young boy was excited at the first real adventure of his life when his parents Martin and Mary Ringo decided that the family's future lay in California. They packed up their five children John, Martin, Fanny,Mary and Mattie and set off on the trip West.

They set out on the Fort Leavenworth Military Road with 68 other wagons and headed for Fort Kearny.

The trip was to be full of hardships. On June 7th the fourteen year old John was involved in an accident when a wagon rolled over his foot, severely injuring it. And then that same day he witnessed another young boy fall under a wagon which killed him. They say troubles come in threes and they certainly did that day, for later a wagon master accidentally shot one of his teamsters through the head, killing him outright.

John witnessed both accidents and his mother Mary (pictured) recorded it in her journal. The following day John, still hobbling due to his broken foot, went along with several men on a buffalo hunt and participated in killing several of the creatures.

On June 13th, the Ringos picked up the Great Platte River Road. The next day Mary wrote that John had a chill and was severely ill throughout the night and for the next few days. But he recovered by the time they reached The Cottonwood Springs military post. Here soldiers stopped the wagon train and searched for horses containing the US brand but none were found and so the wagons continued on their journey.

June 25th saw the wagons halt on The South Platte Crossing where they were forced to stay for two weeks while hard rains and strong winds struck them. Mary wrote that during the stay several Indians came into camp and that one carried a sabre that he said he's taken from a soldier he'd killed. Independence Day passed without celebration and it was July 9th before it was deemed safe to cross the river which led them onwards to the North Platte.

On July 16th several of the cattle in the wagon train became sick from the alkali in the water they had been drinking and died. And later two of the oxen also died from the sickness. By now there was a very real threat of hostile Indians and soon the wagon train came across the scalped corpse of a white man who had been half eaten by vultures.

On July 30th John's father, Martin was standing on one of the wagons, looking for Indians when he accidentally set off his shotgun, sending the load into his own head. John and fellow traveller William Davenport witnessed the grisly event.

"At the report of the gun, I saw his hat blown up 20 feet in the air and his brains were scattered every which way." Davenport wrote.

John helped dig a grave and his father was buried and left at the wayside. Mary's journal contain details of this fateful day and she recorded that her own heart was bleeding as the wagon train rolled on, leaving the grave behind them.

On August 1st the wagon train arrived in Platte Bridge Station but further misfortune was to strike the Ringo clan when the eldest girl Fanny suffered an attack of what Mary called, "cholremorbus." The term cholera morbus was used in the 19th and early 20th centuries to describe both non-epidemic cholera and other gastrointestinal diseases.

On October 7th the Ringo clan were in Austin, Nevada and Mary gave birth to a stillborn son with a deformed face. It was said that the shock of her husband's death had traumatised her and caused both the deformity and the still birth. John looked onto the dead baby's hideous face and turned away in disgust.

On the last day of October the family reached the Sacramento Valley just ahead of the first snows and stayed with relatives for some time. A year later Mary moved her family into a house on Second Street in San Jose. The youngest Ringo - Martin died in 1873 of tuberculosis, he was only 19. Fanny and Mattie grew up and were married. Mary the younger became a schoolteacher and mother Mary died in 1876.

It was been said that John Ringo was forever affected by seeing his father blow his own brains out and that the sight of his deformed stillborn brother pushed him over the edge. He began drinking heavily when he was 15 and ran off to Texas and eventually ended up in Arizona Territory where he fell in with the Clanton faction and became the infamous Johnny Ringo.

He was murdered, as we all know, in July 1882.

First edition June issue line-up

Issue 4 of First Edition Magazine,cover dated June 2009, the UK's new fiction magazine, will be hitting bookshops and newsagents May 7th and the contents list has just been announced on their website. Good to see Jack Martin's A Man Called Masters listed there. I wonder how long it's been since we've had a western short story at UK newsagents?

"Published monthly, this high-quality 'coffee-break' magazine gives a wide range of exclusive writing talent from many different genres. There is no other magazine available in the market that is solely dedicated to unpublished and unsigned authors."

June 2009 - Issue 04

Short Stories
# Martin Issit - Bridge to Nowhere
# MFW Curran - The Favourite
# Marit Meredith - The Mirror Image
# Paul Eccentric - A Better Place
# Keith Large - Beware of the Carrot Nappers
# Sarah Evans - Reaching the top
# Jaimé Henley - Wearing Pants Outside Your Tights
# James Stewart - Escape From Heaven
# Andrew Jones - The Moment
# Mike Deller - The Push
# Howard Pattison - The War Before This
# Sally Jenkins - Last Summer
# Jack Martin - A Man Called Masters
# Joanna Campbell - Benches

Poetry and Prose
# Keith Stevens - Annual Letters
# Fenella Duncan - Coming to Life on the A35
# Wendy Crompton - The Dress
# Paul Dance - Dolores and Rodney
# Judie Gelling - A Loose Leaf
# Martin McCallion - Earthlings Unbound
# Emily Levick - Losing Man's Best Friend
# Josh Nichols - Lady Shalotte
# Aine Wood - A True Friend
# Gary Wilson - Saturday (night) Dramatica
# Carolyn Martin - Cleaning The Bath
# Una E. Hogan - A Kiss
# Richard Hassell - Cut Me Loose
# Mark Baker - Guts for glory
# Lane Mathias - Love Like Moss
# Sally Clarke - Old Photograph

# Bobbie Darbyshire - The Real McCoy part four

# Andy McDermott

MAY the west be with you

May is almost here and with it we have a rooting'. shooting' month of western posts leading up to the next Wild West Monday - there's a stellar line up this time including contributions from several members of the Western Writers of America, a gold rush of posts from writers of the UK's favourite western house, Hale's Black Horse Westerns and enough goodies to cause a stampede. And it's all in aid of the humble western - that now often neglected genre that has provided some of the greatest movies ever made and that's not to mention all the classic literature.

It's not all shooting and cussing you know - though, that can be fun.

I've been up all night proofing Arkansas Smith which will be published March 2o10 from Black Horse Westerns and Tarnished Star is now not that far away. So I'm getting excited and leaping about all over the place. I'll be reviewing Cormac's classic Blood Meridian during the month and anyone who hasn't read it then I urge you to do so now.

Saddle up and ride with us into the sunset but we'll be back for the Westerns new dawn.


Tuesday 28 April 2009


California based, Seth Harwood is a writer who knows how to use the Internet. He has proven the naysayers wrong - people will pay for something they've already been given free.

First of all he gave away his novel, Jack Wakes Up in Podcast form, then he produced a print edition and with the help of the fan base he had gathered with the Internet podcasts he stormed the Amazon charts. The next step was for the major publishers to come knocking and now Jack Wakes Up will be published May 5th by Random House.

I've not read the book myself yet but I have listened to it in podcast form and it's a damn good crime thriller - Tarantino on Speed filtered through hip hop sensibilities. It's garnished praise from the likes of Michael Connelly and will also be featured May 10th in The New York Times Book Review. Despite moving to a major publisher the writer has no plans to abandon the podcast medium any time soon.

Seth's arrived in style.
I asked him if his initial move into podcasting was part of a master plan to get the book into print.

"I wanted to build an audience, get my work out to people. Shopping my book to agents just wasn't a good use of time. It sucked. So I wanted to let readers (listeners) decide. I wanted to put the book on the Internet, but disseminating text on the web seemed less effective than audio, so when I saw people were doing podcasts, I jumped in. I've had commutes where I always listened to books on CD/tape, and so it seemed like a natural fit. Then my plan was to lure agents in by telling them I had a few thousand folks who wanted to buy the book. Turned out they wouldn't listen. I had to team up with Breakneck Books and storm amazon to show them I could sell the book. Once I did that, they wanted to know what I'd done and how they could get involved.

But my goal all along was to get into conventional print and onto bookstore shelves. That's been my goal for about 13 years now. I went to grad school for creative writing at Iowa and graduated in 2002. Before that I was writing novels and stories on my own. It's been a long, long road."

The music industry could take a lesson from Seth and stop running scared of the Internet. Is the electronic medium the future of the printed word?

"I think in fact, I'm following the music industry with this podcasting model. Bands have been doing similar things and giving their music away for a few years now. It's time for publishing and writers to catch up--we need to realize that giving something away is free advertising: it may not bring in money in the immediate, but you're not spending anything to advertise yourself. The publishing industry seems too intent on finding ways to spend money on an ever-shrinking advertising market. The Internet really is about free. If the mp3 doesn't cost anything to make, why should it cost money to hear it?

I see this all as a way to let readers/listeners/book buyers know who I am as a writer. That's never going to hurt me.
In terms of books, I'm not sure what the future will bring. Kindle still has a lot of drawbacks that make it harder to adopt than the iPod ever was--you can't put the books you have already onto it, for instance. Amazon would be wise to give away some free eBooks, at least the books you've already bought through them, but I'm not holding my breath. Truth is, the future of books is going to be Kindle, iPhones, books, Trade Paper, Hardcover, all of it. As writers we need to work on getting our work onto as many platforms as possible. Ultimately, it'll be the readers who decide how they want to read; I just want to be sure my book will be an option to them on the platform they choose!"

Another successful podcast that Seth set up is Crimewav which has featured works from many top writers in the crime field. What does Seth look for in selecting works for the podcast?

"With CrimeWAV, my main goal is to introduce the podcast listening audience to some of the great contemporary crime writers that I've come to know in the past few years. I also really want to show those writers how easy it is to make a podcast and read to a large audience without leaving the house. When I first started approaching people about podcasts, it scared off a lot of writers, now I want them to see they can do it too, without much difficulty.

We're looking for good, hard-edge stories that run about 3,000-5,000 words. But we've already put out a lot of stories that aren't those things. We're looking for good work. Good crime fiction."

The Tainted Archive wishes Seth's every success with the Random House Edition of Jack Wakes Up and looks forward to many years of podcasts from the one man production line. Below Seth talks about how he got involved in podcasting. And below the video is a series of useful links relating to Jack Wakes Up and Seth himself. Check it all out folks - this guy's gonna' be huge.


Seth appearance details HERE
First Three Chapters HERE
Buy signed books HERE
Crimewav HERE


Many of the BHW writers will be guest blogging on The Archive for the month long series of posts leading up to Wild West Monday III. We are delighted to announce that BHW head honcho, Mr. John Hale will also be talking to the Archive.

Leaders at the Wind River Reservation have started a language immersion school to teach pre-kindergarten pupils Arapaho. It is hoped The Arapaho Language Lodge will reverse a steady decline in the native language.

UK readers who fancy a wild west day out this coming bank holiday - sun and mon - can visit Margam Park near Port Talbot, Wales where the Wyoming Wild Bunch will be staging a series of western reconstructions. High on the bill is the GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL.




This is another of the classic noirs I'd never actually seen until I sat down yesterday evening to watch the MGM DVD release - it's seldom shown on UK television and although I was obviously aware of how important it's considered to be in the pantheon of American cinema I'd never actually seen it.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Davies Grub and loosely based on real life serial killer Harry Powers, the films sees Mitchum's character, the sleepy eyed preacher/serial killer in pursuit of two children who know the secret of the $10,000 dollars their father stole in a robbery before being hung for his crimes. Mitchum's character Harry Powell shared a cell with the convicted man and learned of the money after hearing the man talking in his sleep.

In the guise of the pious preacher Mitchum marries the children's mother (Shelley Winters) but when she discovers him trying to scare the children into revealing the whereabouts of the stolen cash, he kills her. And dumps her body in the river.

Soon afterwards he confronts the children again and now with no one to protect them things take an all together more dangerous turn. The children manage to trick Mitchum in the cellar and flee and make their escape downriver in a small rowing boat.

The Preacher then roam depression engulfed country in search of the two children, finally finding them seeking shelter with a kindly old woman played wonderfully by Lillian Gish where the showdown is acted out in dramatic style.

I've read that many people consider this Mitchum's best performance and he certainly convinces as the psychotic preacher with love and hate tattooed across his hands - Hate on the left hand and Love on the right. Every time someone notices his hands he goes into a biblical story about the right hand representing love and overcoming the left hand which does the devil's work.

Apparently the film was not popular on its original release - firstly it was shot in gloomy black and white when colour was very much in vogue and it was also presented in a standard screen size when the wide screen format was king in the cinemas. And Mitchum's portrayal of the dark, perverted, paedophile character was too much for audiences of the time.

Over time it has become considered a classic and its dream like visions still work today. At times the film seems overly theatrical, for instance when Mitchum chases the children from the cellar with his hands out like Frankenstein's monster, but it all adds to the intentional dreamy quality the director was trying to achieve. To present the film as if it were the children's nightmare.

The DVD release is a vanilla disc which is a pity since I'd like to learn more about the films history and a commentary from a film historian would have been most welcome. All we get here is the original theatrical trailer. But on the strength of the film itself and its budget price its well worth adding to any film collection.

Monday 27 April 2009


Wild West Monday III will be the 1st June 2009 and starting May 1st The Tainted Archive will start a month of western based posts to get folks in the mood. So come on folks get involved, join the fight for this action packed, romance filled genre.

The Archive will be bringing you interviews, features, reviews and our popular Wild West Monday roundup sections.

So saddle up - it starts HERE soon.



I'm posting another video this week - I made this several years ago and it's been viewed loads on You Tube. The song is the Welsh national anthem and the photographs were taken by myself. Anyway I hope you enjoy.

For more MTM posts go HERE


Sunday 26 April 2009


Weekly Stats Report: 20 Apr - 26 Apr 2009

Unique Visitors140119107124104123150867124
First Time Visitors105888190739610063390
Returning Visitors3531263431275023433


WARLORD was the boys comic published by D C Thomson that was the main rival to Fleetway's Battle. Indeed it was the success of Warlord that led to Battle being launched in the first place.

It ran from 1974 - 1986 and notched up 627 issues. The main character was Lord Peter Flint, Codenamed Warlord who was a world war II James Bond - indeed the physical look of the character seemed to be based on Roger Moore who was the screen's current 007.

In 1978 the comic had Bullet, another Boys title that had started strongly but was now experiencing falling sales, merged into it but the only story that remained for any length of time was Fireball about a character who was Lord Peter Flint's nephew.

Another long running story was Union Jack Jackson who was a limey soldier fighting with the Americans in the Pacific theater.

I was never a regular reader as a kid, much preferring Battle but I did pick it up from time to time and joined the Warlord Fan Club for which I paid 20p and got a wallet, a badge and a secret code breaker that allowed me to read coded messages in the comics themselves. This was something DC Thompson did across a few of their titles and I remember also being a member of the Dennis the Menace fan club also.


Course these days I'm a pro (Oh yeah!) and I don't get starstruck but when I first appeared in Doctor Who I had the remnants of fanboy leanings. And so I found this article that I wrote a few years back for a Doctor Who site and I thought I'd like to share it with you.

So here goes - Third soldier from the left

Third soldier from the left.
Gary M. Dobbs

It’s a little after six on a freezing cold January morning and I’m driving, with the utmost care I add, through the Welsh countryside – my destination RAF St. Athens’ for a days work as a background artist on the new Doctor Who. There’s an unreal feeling in the bottom of my stomach. After all, I'd been a fan of the show ever since as a seven year old I watched Jon Pertwee fighting hordes of massive spiders and then falling to his death only to regenerate into the rather gormless Tom Baker. I’d collected all the figures cut from the back of a Weetabix box and staged my own adventures on my bedroom floor, I’d attended several Dr Who exhibitions and had once had posters of Sarah Jane Smith, The Doctor and assorted monsters covering my school books. In fact I once had a cane from the headmaster (Yeah, they actually did this a long time ago during the distant days of childhood when the world was black and white. Anthony Head’s sinister headmaster from School Reunion was nothing compared to our brutal teachers.) for passing a poster around the classroom of the lovely Katy Manning draped naked around a Dalek. Ahh, those were the days!
It was strange how I got the gig. A friend had casually mentioned a friend of theirs who was getting a lot of television extra work and I asked them to find out who his agents were. They returned with a couple of telephone numbers and I promptly set about getting myself on their books.
The result – a phone call in January asking me if I was available for a days filming starting at 7:30 the following morning. It was short notice and I had other work to do but as soon as I heard the show was Doctor Who I knew I’d move mountains, shift continents or at the very least arrange a day’s cover from my regular job. I’d be there. Details were given and I tried to contain my excitement and not appear too fannish. Act professional, I kept telling myself but my blood was racing through my body and I felt like this was all a dream and any moment the bubble would burst. I would be playing a soldier and so this meant I needed to get my shoulder length hair cut. Thankfully, another friend offered the use of his own shavers and he set about giving me something called a number one – apparently this was a style much favoured by World War II POW’s, and 1970’s football hooligans; I decided there and then that I had far too many friends.
And so, looking like a cross between an aged Leeds fan and a threadbare broom, freezing my butt off and avoiding the icy patches on the roads, I neared my destination with the LOCATION signs directing me the last mile or so towards destiny.
I was gonna’ be on Doctor Who!
My imagination was racing, what would I have to do? Which monsters would I see? Would the Doctor be there? Sod that, would Rose be there? I had delusions; that the delectable Ms. Piper would not be able to resist my smouldering charms.

“As is turned out she was there and was more than capable of resistance. “

I pulled up and went to the checkpoint and gave my name to the security man. He checked his list, me peering over his shoulder and noticing the names of both David Tennant and Billy Piper. He then informed me I wasn’t listed. I would not be allowed entry to the set. Panic followed but a quick telephone call to my agent soon sorted things out. The location manager had forgotten to supply a list of the required background artists and I was allowed through and onto the set of a real live Doctor Who shoot.
There were a dozen or so other extras and we were all led to costume where we were each given a military uniform bearing the Torchwood insignia. As I was slipping into my fatigues I glanced out of the window and happened to catch sight of an actor wearing the bottom half of a Cyberman costume and my heart skipped a beat. Not only was I going to work on an episode of Doctor Who but it would contain one of the most iconic monsters in the show’s history. Damn, the Cybermen were second only to the Daleks.
It couldn’t get much better than this.
It was about to get a whole lot better.
We were then served a wonderful breakfast – all of us extras, cast, crew all crammed into a double decked bus that had been decked out with the type of tables you see in caravans. I was seated directly facing the stars of the show and I tried to appear casual as I tackled my bacon and listened to David Tennent and Billy Piper discuss Rula Lenska’s antics on Celebrity Big Brother which was currently airing on ITV1.
This was all absurd. A long time fan of the show, only a couple of years earlier I, like most other fans, had been watching the old episodes on DVD and wondering if the show would ever return and then after hearing the wonderful news that Russel Davies was finally bringing it back and sitting through thirteen wonderful episodes and one Christmas special, I was now becoming a part of this national institution. A small part granted but a part nonetheless.
Breakfast over and it was time to go to work.
It was almost like a real military parade as all us extras were led across the tarmac towards the aircraft hanger that housed the set. Once inside we were each given a futuristic looking machine gun, a side arm and a badge, which identified us as members of the Torchwood force. How cool was this!
With all the props and the uniform I was starting to feel my character and there before me stood a familiar looking blue police box. Funny I’d managed breakfast with Billy and David, taking it in my stride but I was completely star struck by the sight of the TARDIS. And I knew that as soon as it was possible I was going to sneak a look inside. Would it be bigger on the inside? Was it really only a small box? Course I knew it must have been- it was television magic that made it bigger on the inside. All the same the child inside me thought that maybe, just maybe…
We were then given directions by the stage manager. We were to be involved in a huge fight between the humans, Cybermen and Daleks.
‘Excuse me,’ I lifted a hand. ‘Did you just say Daleks?’ I asked the bemused looking stage manager.
‘I did.’ Came the stoic reply.
Oh my God – not only was I in Doctor Who, not only was I in an episode with the Cybermen but also with the Daleks. It would be the first time the two species had ever appeared on screen together. I was to be a part of something truly historic and the relevance was not lost on me. In fact, I’m sure this scenario had once been acted out on my bedroom floor with the Weetabix figures.
Moments later and we find ourselves standing before a green screen, surrounded by Daleks and Cybermen. We’re directed through events by Graham Harper, a man who seemed to be coping with carrying all this upon his shoulders, and then the action begins.
For the first take I find myself running through a laboratory shooting every which way as the Daleks and Cybermen also fire in all directions. It’s like Die Hard on steroids as SCI-FI bullets whiz above our heads. A few of the extras fall down dead but I make it to a point of cover behind a large table and once again start shooting.
We’re all keeping in position, waiting for the director to be ready for the next shot when the Dalek next to me loses control of his eyestalk and whips me on the side of the face.
‘Sorry mate.’ Comes a voice from within the pepper pot.
‘No problem.’ I said, unaware of the absurdity of the situation, and turned my attention back to the director who was talking us through the next shot. Though I think this particular Dalek must have been carrying a grudge since he would exterminate me later in the scene.
We went through this countless times and I became aware of the sheer amount of work everyone from the crew, to the actors, to the extras, to the make up department put into bringing the spectacle to the screen. Everything had to be perfect and if it wasn’t it would be repeated again and again until it was.
Between takes Dalek head pieces would open up and the human operators would appear, all wearing dark woollen hats, Cybermen would remove their masks and dance about and the director and his crew would frantically brainstorm. And while all this was going on there was another shoot taking place at the other side of the massive hanger with Billy Piper, Shaun Digwell and David Tennent shooting scenes involving crane work for episode six. I and a couple of other extras would wander over from time to time and watch and I found myself again feeling like a fan, captivated by the display of talent as the professionals went about their work. This scene would eventually appear on the screen with the Doctor, Rose and her alternative father climbing the rope ladder towards a Zeppelin with the Cyberleader in hot pursuit. It gave me a kick while watching it, later on screen, to think that while all this was going on I was standing underneath, staring up at childhood icons reinvented for the modern age.
The day ended all too soon. We finished by shooting a final scene in our regular clothes – walking through a corridor, wearing flashing earpieces as cyber controlled people being led to our doom in that shredding machine.
And so we were thanked for our hard work, reminded to sign out and hand over our props and led away as the set was wrapped up. I hung behind for a moment though and took a furtive look around. I had to look in the TARDIS and, feeling like the eleventh Doctor, I walked towards it and experienced a tiny tingle of anticipation as I reached for the door.
I pulled it open and……

western short from Scott D. Parker

Scott D. Parker, a friend from the blogosphere, has his first short story published over on Beat to a Pulp.

The Archive is delighted to see it's a western


82 minutes
Available on DVD/Blue-ray

The fact that this version doesn't star Tom Cruise must be a point in its favour. And of course it was made during the 50's when science fiction was obsessed with the possibilities of invaders from other planets.

Some of the acting is a little wooden on times but the films brief running time means that it doesn't outstay its welcome and the special effects still stand up well today. Changing the Martian ships to a sinister Stingray type design rather than H. G. Wells' original tripod design also works cinematically and the reveal of the humanoid/octopoid creature is convincing. The model work particularly the villages the Martians destroy also looks good on the screen.
The film was updated from Wells' 1890 London to modern day California which was perhaps the wisest way to go. And even if on times the wires are visible working the Martian ships the effects were regarded good enough to take the Academy Award for Special Effects. The films was also nominated for the best musical score and best film editing.

The film is still fun to watch in the effects laden world of 2009 and stands up well because it refuses to take itself too seriously and concentrates on telling a damn good story.

Maybe it's my age but I much prefer this version to the Speilberg/Cruise version and I would rate this as the definitive movie adaption of Wells' book- at least until someone comes along and makes it in its original Victoian London setting, that is. It's also one of only a few 1950's SCI-FI movies not to be full of cold war paranoia which has helped to keep it fresh and watchable all these years later.

Nuns with guns

Ian Parnham has an interesting post on the writing process as it applies to his westerns over on his blog, The Culbin Trail - HERE

Saturday 25 April 2009

Blood on Thunder by Hampton Sides

Blood on Thunder
Hampton Sides
Abacus £9.99

As a western writer I have a large collection of non fiction works on the period known as The Old West - in fact I've pretty much got the entire early history of the country covered from the first Spanish exploration of the WEST, to the Lewis and Clark explorations after the Louisiana purchase from the French, to the Old West of Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid and Jessie James, to the dawning of the modern age in the early 20th century. America may still be an infant country in comparison to other, much older countries, but its' history is none the less interesting.

The 11th President of the United States, James Polk, rarely merits a mention in the history of his country.He rose to power by defeating Henry Clay in the election of 1844. Polk had made a campaign promise that he would serve only for four years and he was true to his word. Yet what occurred during his time in office was arguably as significant as anything experienced during the administrations of any president before or since.

The America that Polk presided over was a confident nation. Independence from Britain had been secured just over half a century earlier and the Louisiana Purchase from the French in 1803 revealed a country growing in stature and territory.

Blood and Thunder traces the path that US forces trod to fulfill this yearning. The West would not be secured without conflict with the Mexicans, who also had designs on the adjoining territories, and the native Indians, who had lived there for several hundred years and would see their ancient way of life destroyed forever by the Westward expansion which was the manifest destiny of the United States.

In 1845, Texas was annexed and a year later, Polk declared war on Mexico. Three years later, with the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico had been halved in size and California, Nevada and Utah, as well as parts of New Mexico and Arizona, added to the USA.

The problems were only beginning. As Hampton Sides explains, the Americans were confronted with the tensions that occupying forces have faced down the ages: 'The longer [they] stayed, the more the people resented them - not only for the central fact of their conquest, but for the thousand little insults and daily humiliations committed by the foreign invaders.

Their predicament was doubly difficult since they not only had to contend with attacks from those over whom they claimed dominion, but also to resolve the bitter hatreds between the Mexicans and the Indians, most notably the Navajo tribe.

The Navajos proved the more difficult to accommodate. It was not that they did not want peace with the invaders - they were curious to meet them. Rather, they had no understanding of the terms that the new arrivals wished to impose. Agreements would be reached, only for the Navajos blithely to revert to stealing horses and cattle from the locals.

The Americans adopted a scorched-earth policy to drive them into reservations, which they judged the best means to control and 'civilize' them. Contact with American soldiers ensured that diseases, such as syphilis, spread quickly.

The lone hero in all this is Christopher "Kit" Carson. A frontiersman who became a myth in his own lifetime, Carson was involved at every key stage in the American advance. His skills as a tracker singled him out first as a guide for the early expeditions through California, second as a messenger and, finally, as a military leader in New Mexico. A reluctant warrior, he lacked his countrymen's instinctive antipathy towards the Mexicans and Indians. His motivation in abetting the US army was to deliver stability to the region.

Romanticism attaches itself to Carson alone. Scalping, lynching, rape and other forms of butchery were practiced by all factions. If his narrative sometimes appears haphazard and messy, it is because the conquest of the West was just that. This was manifest destiny in a brutal and bloody form.

This book offers a truly epic look at the myth and reality surrounding Kit Carson, a man who has become an American icon. The frontiersman may have had sympathy with the indigenous Indian tribes but he could also be a cold blooded killer in the name of patriotism. And the author presents all this matter of factly and doesn't sit in judgment as some books looking at this particularly violent era do; he understands that it was the times that defined the men who moved through the vicious landscape and into the pages of history.


The internet can be a dangerous place - read Col Bury's story on A twist of noir now

Col's story can be found HERE


JOHN DODDS is offering his novel, Bone Machines, originally published in 2007, as a free e-book to download from his website - HERE.

Blurb - They suffer for his art. When a number of women are reported missing in Glasgow, the spectre of a previous spate of unsolved disappearances in the city rears its head. Journalist Ray Bissett is drawn into the case when his daughter joins the ranks of the missing. And ambitious police detective Tom Kendrick won’t let Ray forget a terrible incident form his past which resulted in the death of a young boy. Damaged lives and dark secrets… The streets of Glasgow haunted by the ghosts of the missing… and an artist driven by a deadly inspiration


Oater fans are taking advantage of The Book Depository's FREE WORLDWIDE DELIVERY to order titles from the Black Horse Western range. The current top sellers are as stands below - clicking on any of the titles will take you directly to the Book Depository page for each book.

The Tarnished Star

66 days to go Pre order | £9.19 - Save £3.06 - RRP £12.25

    • By (author): Jack Martin
    • Published: 30 Jun 2009
    • Format: Hardback

· The $300 Man

34 days to go Pre order | £9.19 - Save £3.06 - RRP £12.25

    • By (author): Ross Morton
    • Published: 29 May 2009
    • Format: Hardback

· Nightmare Pass £10.75 - Save £0.50 - RRP £11.25

    • By (author): Lance Howard
    • Published: 01 Dec 2006
    • Format: Hardback

· Last Chance Saloon

Add to basket | £11.75 - Save £0.50 - RRP £12.25

    • By (author): Ross Morton
    • Published: 30 May 2008
    • Format: Hardback

· All Guns Blazing

| RRP £12.25

· Draw Down the Lightning

| £7.42 - Save £3.83 - RRP £11.25

    • By (author): Ben Bridges
    • Published: 30 Apr 2007
    • Format: Hardback

· Death at Bethesda Falls| £11.45 - Save £0.54 - RRP £11.99

    • By (author): Ross Morton
    • Published: 31 Jul 2007
    • Format: Hardback

· Return to Black Rock

| £9.63 - Save £1.62 - RRP £11.25

    • By (author): Scott Connor
    • Published: 29 Dec 2006
    • Format: Hardback

· Silver Galore £9.63 - Save £1.62 - RRP £11.25

By (author): John Dyson

    • Published: 30 Apr 2007
    • Format: Hardback

· Meredith's Gold RRP £10.75

Friday 24 April 2009


Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel of Richard Stark's first Parker novel, The Hunter AKA Point Blank AKA Payback is due to hit stores in July. Fans eager to see the book can find a preview HERE.

I'm more than looking forward to this one myself, having only recently discovered the Parker books and reading The Hunter for the most part with my mouth hanging open in amazement.

The books really are wonderful and the graphic novel looks to be shaping up nicely - go and check out the preview and look at the first few pages.


Beat to a Pulp is now featuring the second part of its double bill HERE

FRIDAY'S FORGOTTEN BOOKS - Battle Picture Weekly

Not strictly a forgotten book but with a little bending of the rules, I'm looking at a British comic book - Battle Picture Weekly was a high point of my younger days. I never missed an issue but my mum threw my vast collection out many year ago. However with the help of Ebay I've been able to build up a decent collection (pictured) for when I want to revisit those days - the amazing thing is the comic reads just as well today as an adult as it ever did.

The comic was first published in 1975 and went on all the way upto 1988 - it merged other titles into it from time to time and was known as Battle/Valiant, Battle/Action and even at a low point Battle/Action Force. It was eventually merged itself into Eagle and eventually disappeared from the shelves.

Most of the comics stories were World War II based though there were some notable exceptions such as Pat Mills' excellent Charley's War which was set during the first world war and is often called the best comic strip in history.

An early classic was D-Day Dawson - which featured a sergeant who took a bullet during the D-Day landings. He survived but the bullet was too close to his heart to be removed and would eventually kill him. He fought on with reckless abandon until he eventually fell. The last story is pictured below (click on image for readable version).

Other early faves were Panzer G-Man and what was unusual for a UK Comic of the time was that it looked at the war from the German POV. The comic would later repeat this with the excellent Hellman of Hammer Force.

Titan Books have a graphic novel planned Best of Battle for June 2009 but this title has been put back several times so I won't get too excited until I actually see it in the shops.

The thing that was different about Battle was that it was less "gung ho" than other titles of the period and often showed warfare with a grim and gritty realism. Charley's War was especially known for this and often showed men being shot for being cowards when these days they would be treated for trauma.

Rat Pack, based very heavily on the movie The Dirty Dozen was another early favourite. You guessed it - it featured a pack of convict soldiers who had no choice but to fight the Germans in order to save themselves from prison or the firing squad.

So that's it Battle Picture Weekly.

Thursday 23 April 2009


Supermarket giant Sainsbury's has set an ambitious growth target of a 50% increase in book sales across the chain over the next twelve months. The company claims sales will come from increasing the space set aside for books in its stores.

Buying manager, Richard Crampton told industry journalists that they are not performing as they should in the book sector and are determined to match the incredible book sales by rivals Tesco and Asda.

Amazon's's director of book supply, Kes Nielsen is to end a 15 year career in bookselling. He is moving to take charge of the company's clothing and sporting goods departments.

Sales of hardbacks are continuing to fall, retailers are claiming. Figures from Nielsen Bookscan, volume sales of the top 5,000 hardbacks have fallen by 14.3% during the first quarter of 2009. However during the first quarter there has been a lack of runaway bestsellers in comparison to the same period last year.

Lord Lucan: My Story will be published by Legend Press on 31st May 2009. Lucan went missing in 1974 following the murder of his children's nanny and the mystery of where he is or if indeed he is alive has never been solved. The book, supposedly written from Lucan's point of view is actually the work of writer, William Coles. The publisher took legal advice before agreeing to publish the book which will be billed as faction.

Young Sherlock Holmes - it's been done with JAMES BOND and now the estate of Conan Doyle have sanctioned a series of books by Andrew Lane looking at the early life of the fictional detective. The books are aimed at children and have no connection to the 1985 movie/TV series of the same name.

Chick-lit bestseller Belinda Jones has left Random House and signed with Hodder. The author signed a four book deal for an undisclosed sum.

Book sales are outperforming the wider economy, according to the latest data from Neilsen BookScan.

A survey carried out by World Book Day has found that two thirds of people have claimed to have read a book they haven't in order to impress someone!


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