Friday 31 July 2009

Women of the West

The WOMEN OF THE WEST series over at Not Coming to a Theatre Near you is coming on apace and moving like a stampede - I loved the feature on Destry Rides Again written by Evan Kindley. When you check it out look in the right hand sidebar for other posts in the series.


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ARCHIVE BOOK BIZ NEWS - UK Kindle on the way

A UK version of Amazon's Kindle is expected this autumn - publishers recently announced that they were expecting a October release for the gadget which has been a huge success in the US market. Last week Amazon announced that they had secured a UK manufacturing deal for the device. One of the biggest problems to the digital market is pricing of e-books which the current US system hardly being fair to the consumer. The average price for a new release in the US is about $9.99 which is not that much lower than a regular printed edition.

Random House digs in over e-book rights - the company have come under fire from agents for offering royalties on e-books at a far lower rate than other publishers. Random House had provoked anger of both writers and agents by offering royalties of 25% for major authors but much less for writers with small sales.

Two Ravens Press are going against the trend by offering e-books at half the price of the printed editions - the books will also be DRM free which seems the way to go as DRM places unfair restrictions on the end user. Two Ravens are also to be applauded for their fair pricing on e-books.

Harver Secker Publishing have bought Henning Mankell's first new Wallander novel in ten years. The Troubled Man will be released in hardback in Feb 2011.

THE BIG SLEEP - Raymond Chandler

March 1939
This facsimile edition 2009

It was about ten thirty in the evening, Late July, with the night overcast and the rain obscuring the hills of the valleys. I was wearing my striped jim jam bottoms, with a black T-shirt, Simpsons slippers and pastel blue boxers with little puppy dogs on them. I was scruffy, tired and didn't care who knew it. I was everything the lazy reader ought to be. I was going to read The Big Sleep for the first time. And before I knew it half the book had gone and the night was pushing towards a damp miserable dawn.

Firstly this isn't a review as such - how could it be? How could I offer anything constructive apropos to this widely acknowledged masterpiece? But even though I knew the story backwards, had listened to it as both an audio play and a audio book and had seen the film many times, I had never read the original book. Indeed until now the only Chandler novels I had read were The Lady in the Lake and Poodle Springs. But these facsimile first UK editions from Hamish Hamilton/Pan were enough to provoke me into buying the entire set. There are five in this set, released to celebrate the seventy years that Hamish Hamilton have been publishing Chandler. That's The Big Sleep, Farewell my Lovely, The Lady in the Lake, The Little Sister and The Long Goodbye. All of which are direct copies of the original UK editions.

They're lovely looking book and complete replicas of the original UK first edition - everything is as it was then. Even the back cover features a listing of other thrillers released that month in 1939, none of which have survived the test of time in the way The Big Sleep has. What can I say about reading the book as a new reader today? Well obviously the style reminded me of the Robert Parker books as well as most of the other private dick novels I have read but Chandler was there first, his was the blueprint was both the brevity of style and the lone PI character himself. It reminds me of listening to the radio in 1995 when The Beatles reworked an old Lennon demo into the all new Beatle song, Free as a Bird. Anyway this young kid was being interviewed as part of a radio road show and the Beatles song played to him. The kid said they sounded OK but were copying Oasis's style. Same thing with Chandler - reading him now the uninformed would say this guy is too much like other PI writers which is testament to the importance of Chandler and Marlowe and of how they set the benchmark for others to follow.

One thing I especially liked about these books is that the covers are printed with the odd blemish and scratch so that they actually look aged - though of the quality that would be defined as very fine or whatever the category they use for very very good condition.

And back to The Big Sleep - well I'm not qualified to give any major insight but I am perfectly enabled in saying - that it reads as well today as it would have ever done. It's pacey, not dated in the slightest and the character of Marlowe is as contemporary as tomorrow's headlines. I can't read Marlowe without seeing Bogart's mug in my mind and that's not a bad thing - that ugly, handsome face fits the pivotal private eye like a glove

Thursday 30 July 2009

Been a quiet Archive day

Mainly because I've been on set all day - waltzing can you believe for an episode of the BBC's Larkrise to Candleford. Fans will love this third series - some of the story lines they've cooked up are going to please viewers no end. And so for today I'd like to direct you back to the previous post and tell you that the latest Black Horse Extra is now live. It's another great issue of the webzine for lovers of western fiction and contains news of the new BHE paperback western range - scroll down to the previous link for details.

Wednesday 29 July 2009


The latest issue of Black Horse Extra - dated September to November is almost ready to go and will be made live soon HERE.

The issue is another packed feast of Black Horse and western related information - I have seen the new issue and I can tell you it's as good as ever, essential reading for any western fan. There's an interview with Steve Hayes who was also recently featured on The Archive and big news about Chap O'Keefe's latest venture - putting affordable paperback westerns back into the public consciousness. The first title from BHE Books is Misfit Lil cheats the hangrope and you'll get full details in Mr O'Keefe's article in the latest Black Horse Extra webzine. Keith also tells me that there is a 10% discount that will expire on the 5th August - so go to LULU to buy the book and enter the coupon code (all CAPS) KHCHAPMANATCLEARDOTNETDOTNZPTZO to benefit for this saving which is, strictly speaking, for friends of the author but Keith maintains that all Archive readers and Western fans are friends. The book is also available on Amazon, Book Depository etc so compare prices before purchase - remember the special coupon code is redeemable only at LULU.

But wait there's more - The latest Black Horse Extra also features the regular news section, Hoofprints and a rare interview with Paul Lederer who writes Black Horse Westerns under the name of Owen G. Irons as well as Logan Winters. The issue is rounded off with an article by Greg Mitchell that will prove as useful to writers as it is to readers.

All in all another great issue that will go live any day now.

Women of the West part two

Cullen Gallagher's excellent series, Women of the West continues with a look at 1918's The Gun Woman - once this series is complete it's going to be an excellent reference as Cullen's gone right back to the dawn of cinema for this series which could prove to be the definitive study of babes on the frontier. GO HERE


OK - this week myself and the other authors (links at bottom of post) are posting extracts from pretty much whatever we want. The previous three weeks themes have been set but this time head honcho, Joanne Walpole has left it up to the writers involved to select whatever extract they want to post.

So far I've given you a bit of Tarnished Star as well as my forthcoming hardback, Arkansas Smith. However this time I'm going to take a leap forward and post a snippet from High Noon Boyo - my current work in progress which is not a western but a historical crime. It's set in South Wales in 1903 and concerns events that happen around the visit of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Circus. The book is three quarters complete in first draft form and I like it because I am able to play around with western conventions in a non western setting. The research into William Cody's actual visit has been great fun and has led me to meet a man who is a descendant of one of the Native Americans who remained behind in Wales when the circus moved on. And so I dedicate this snippet to Lone Wolf Evans.

The scene here is the aftermath of a cattle stampede in the industrial Welsh town.

‘Like in the cowboy books.’ Davies said. This was just too much for the young constable and in his eyes Cody seemed to have a golden aura surrounding him, like a god walking amongst them.

Cody brought his magnificent white horse up alongside the policeman and he removed his sombrero and waved it about above his head in a theatrical gesture. The Indian rolled his eyes and rode past keeping the cattle moving forward.

‘Where do you want these walking steaks?’ Cody asked.

Dumbfounded, speechless, Parade pointed towards the stockyard entrance.

‘It is my great pleasure.’ Cody said and spurred his horse forward. The creature circled the cattle for a moment and then came to a perfect stop and stood facing the cattle, the horse held its head high and then reared up on its hind legs before trotting on its master’s command towards the cattle.

‘Get them in, Chief.’ Cody shouted to the Indian who nodded his understanding and drove the cattle in through the gates and past the two drovers who were pushed back against the wall, eyes full of awe as they stared up at the red man on horseback. With the sun behind him the Indian’s eyes seemed to glow like those of a cat in the shadows of his face.

Cody watched the last of the cattle go into the yard and then he dismounted and walked his horse back to the two policemen.

‘The livestock are secure.’ Cody said and bowed to the two policemen. He looked around and smiled with satisfaction when he noticed the crowd that had gathered to watch the rather unusual event. No doubt he was thinking of the increased ticket sales that this incident would inevitably provoke. This had been better than any publicity stunt he could have dreamed up and for a brief moment the Wild West had come to the grey environs of industrial South Wales.

For other Wild Bunch antics go here.

Terry James

Jack Giles

Lance Howard

Ian Parnham

Tonight on the Archive we have the scoop on the new Black Horse Extra as well as some news on the new Misfit Lil Paperback.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

SAPS AT SEA (1940)

Directed by Gordon Douglas

I've seen reviews of this film that don't usually rank it among the duo's masterpieces, but I don't agree with that assessment at all and I found this film in the top flight of L&H slapstick comedies.

The film starts off with Oliver suffering a nervous breakdown at work - the pair work in a horn factory and the constant beeping has driven Ollie over the edge. Following a piece of automobile lunacy where Stan, after getting the horn stuck on bashes the engine with a hammer only for it to fall onto the road. This provokes much mirth from a crowd of onlookers and the attention of a patrolling policeman. Stan simply picks the engine up, tosses it onto the back seats and the car runs as good as new.

Later Ollie is diagnosed by his doctor (James Finlayson in his last appearance with the duo) with hornophobia and a nice sea cruise, and plenty of goat milk is subscribed. Ollie though doesn't fancy going out on the ocean but Stan figures they can rent a boat and remain in the harbour and still get all the sea air they would get out on the deep blue. However when the pair are asleep the goat ears through the mooring rope, sending the boat adrift on the ocean. To add to the matter an escaped killer is stowed away on the boat and is being taken out to sea with our intrepid duo.

Think of any comedy duo and the blueprint can be found here with Laurel and Hardy, arguably the best comedy double act there has ever been. They are certainly the most well known worldwide and over the years there have been many L&H spin offs and the industry built around these two still thrives to this day.

This film is available on the excellent DVD series containing all of the Hal Roach L&H comedies. It is disc number 11 in the set and also contains Below Zero and You're Darn Tooting. The later is one of the duo's best silent comedies and features the famous mass trouser ripping at the climax. The entire set can be bought as a box set of 21 discs. The discs are also available separately which is much more affordable. They are very well priced on Amazon and I recently purchased the final three discs to complete my set for less than £3 each. Each disc has been remastered from the best prints and they are, with very few exceptions, crystal clear.


A very good mucker of mine, my American connection, Laurie Powers sent me the link to an interesting article from the New Yorker which looks at the Kindle and the future of electronic publishing.

I ordered a Kindle 2 from Amazon. How could I not? There were banner ads for it all over the Web. Whenever I went to the Amazon Web site, I was urged to buy one. “Say Hello to Kindle 2,” it said, in tall letters on the main page. If I looked up a particular writer on Amazon—Mary Higgins Clark, say—and then GO HERE FOR THE REST OF THE ARTICLE


Maybe I've been too affluent in recent years, well at least until this credit crunch reared its head. In the past whenever I've wanted a book I've gone out and bought one - it's scary to think how much I've spent on books in say the last ten years. But frugal times are here and so I decided to get myself a library card. I haven't visited the local library in years and years. And so I went in and asked to renew my card - I was dismayed to find I had outstanding fines of £16.90 but, I can't really complain, since they were for a book returned very late in 1987. Maybe I was skint at the time.

Anyway I paid the fine and became the proud owner of a new library card.

These days the library is more than a collection of books - they offer Internet access, CD's, DVD'S, they have a newspaper and magazine room and of course rows and rows of books. I was pleased to see they stocked The Tarnished Star, as well as loads and loads from my good friends in the Black Horse Range, and I talked the librarian into supporting the next Wild West Monday, 2nd November, by having a local author (me) along to give a chat on the importance of escapist fiction and specifically the western.

I ain't going to let my library card lapse again - I'll buy just as many books as ever - books are my passion, well books and donuts - but it's great to visit the library, to walk among rows and rows of books. If you listen carefully you can hear the books talking to you, enticing you with the delights that lay hidden between the boards.

Yep, the library has certainly improved since my last visit. The service is superb and the head librarian's a decent looking bird with a nice smile - years ago it was this fierce looking woman with a wart on her nose and a permanent scowl on her face. These days the library even has a coffee shop in the back that sells these locally made donuts.

The books, of course, are the main thing and always will be but it's nice to see, in these days of local authority cut backs, that the library is not only thriving but a cool place to hang out and be, "Shhhshed" by a temptress among the tomes.

How about it folks? Let's all make an effort to join the local library - even if we only use it on rare occasions it's nice to show your support and carry a valid library card. It's free, being paid for by your taxes, and it's the best way to try out new authors. And even if the head librarian at your local's got a wart on the snout and looks as if she may have had a house dropped on her in a classic family film, there are always the books.

Monday 27 July 2009



Promo video below


Dick Barton was British radio's first ever super hero - the original idea came from Norman Collins, then head of light entertainment with the BBC, when in 1946 he sent a memo to all departments asking for ideas to develop a kind of daily cloak and dagger soap opera. The idea quickly progressed and soon a series called, Bill Barton was being worked on. However the name was later changed to Dick Barton.

The first series of ten episodes was began on 7 October 1946 and, typically of the BBC at the time, the episodes were wiped soon afterwards. However in 1972, as part of the BBC's Golden Jubilee Celebrations the original team returned to the studio and re-recorded the original run of ten episodes. Incredibly the BBC once again didn't archive the series and the current CD Audiobook of the show came from fan recorded tapes. The entire show is in the public domain and the first series of ten episodes can be listened to in the player above.

There is also a double CD available as part of the BBC Radio Crimes series of audio dramas. It's great to listen to now and some of the lines are humorous when listened to with modern ears.

'I like my women out of dangers way. At home in the kitchen.' Says Barton at one point.

In its heyday the show was attracting 15 million listeners daily and was spun off into books, movies, comics, a short lived TV series and even a stage play that toured to great acclaim. It was considered too thrilling for young children and the Times newspaper famously ran an headline that read, 'Dick Barton too exciting for girls? Headmistress says, yes"

It's great nostalgic listening and still thrilling when you get into the story. Expertly voice acted, brilliantly directed and with incredible sound quality - I listened to the CD version while on a long car journey and I enjoyed every minute of it. The Radio Crimes series of CD's are well worth buying - other shows are Farewell my Lovely, The Maltese Falcon, Monk's Hood, A series of murders and Father Paolo Baldi. But if you want some immediate thrilling adventures then who not listen to the entire ten episode run of Dick Barton Special Agent in the embedded player above.


This is going to become a must read series, written by the highly respected Cullen Gallagher and posted on the brilliant Not Coming to a Cinema Near you, the series is looking at the western from a woman's perspective. The first entry is live now and looks at 49-17 which I must confess I'd never heard of. It's a silent western from 1917 which was directed by Ruth Ann Baldwin. As always Cullen's article is very detailed and highly enjoyable. Head over there now - HERE

And while you're there leave a comment and show Cullen's editors how much we want to read this series.


Sat upon his horse, head bowed, silhouetted against a sunset of vivid crimson. The wind blows and only a thick fur lined coat and the Stetson, pulled down low over the eyes, protects the man from the elements. He is both strong and tender, brave and caring. He is thoughtful of others and mindful of himself. He's out there now, riding the plains of imagination.

He is the cowboy.

The cowboy - and we're not talking about the root definition of the term but the generic cowboy. In these terms the word cowboy is all encompassing and used to describe anyone, miner, rancher, oulaw, Calvary soldier. In short anyone who strode the landscape of the mythical western.

The popular definition of the cowboy was set out during the early days of cinema - Brush Between Cowboys and Indians, filmed in 1904 by Edison was the first silent western to develop the image that predominates to this day. Whilst it is true that the earlier Great Train Robbery (1903) can in many ways be called a, "Cowboy Movie" this concerns itself chiefly with a group of outlaws and concentrated on a robbery rather than creating a screen persona of characters that would become a template within popular culture.

The fist actor to truly define the screen image of the cowboy was Broncho Billy Anderson who actually played several roles in Porter's 1903 Great Train Robbery. He was credited with creating the good badman image. IN 1908'S Broncho Billy and the Baby he plays an outlaw who discovers an injured child and returns it to its parents. Numerous one reel dramas were made between 1910 and 1916.

If it was Broncho Billy that laid the foundations for the screen cowboy then it was another actor who firmly cemented the image in the public consciousness - Tom Mix was an actual working cowboy who was hired on location as an extra and went on to become a prolific silent western star and director. What was ironic about Mix was that although he was a real life cowboy his screen persona was among the most unrealistic ever to ride the celluloid trails. His costumes were often made up of ten gallon hats, colourful shirts with an abundance of fringes and large silver belt buckles. It was remarked by critics at the time that he was dressed more like a Christmas tree than an ordinary cowboy. William S. Hart in contrast made much more serious westerns but his cowboy shared many traits with Mix and between them they developed a kind of shorthand that could be called the cowboy code.

man is brave and strong
A man is not afraid to go against the law of the land if he considers it right to do so
Freedom is all important
The cowboy is independent, strong and true
A cowboy will not be insulted
Like the wind the cowboy is transient and can enter on a breeze but usually leaves with a storm

Perhaps the greatest embodiment of the screen cowboy is John Wayne. He was around during the early days of sound and starred in countless B-westerns before and after his breakthrough in John Fords's 1939 Stagecoach. In the movie Wayne played the Ringo Kid - a good badman and from his first appearance on screen it is evident we are seeing a star as big as Monument Valley.

Wayne not only stuck to the cowboy code but he set it firmer in the pop culture lexicon. He became such a star they we usually pronounced his name as one word, Johnwayne and the word came to symbolise all that was good and noble about the imaginary West. The man was a tower of strength who never needed to turn to anyone else for help. Those others did often come to his aid he would do what had to be done with or without them.

Wayne's mid period - the 1950's - 1960's was also the Golden age of the western and there were many high profile stars who further added to the mythology of the cowboy but all of them were confirming largely to the blueprint of the screen cowboy as defined in the earliest days of the silent cinema.

Gary Cooper with his slightly haunted looks.
Alan Ladd with his good and wholesome strength.
Henry Fonda was stoic and brutal but at the turn of a hand equally kind.
James Stewart rode the range almost like an avenging spirit.
Randolph Scott with sadness in his eyes and a fast gun on his hip.

It was during the latter half of the Sixties that the revisionists came to the fore - the Peckinpah's, the Eastwood's, the Leone's. The screen cowboy became much more brutal and seemed to care for nothing other than their own self interest. But even these new knights of the range confirmed in some part to conventions that were now an intrinsic part of the genre. In A Fistful of Dollars even Eastwood's mercenary loner puts his life on the line to help out an imprisoned woman. Eastwood's man with no name may have seem revolutionary at the time but at its core he was playing, the good badman. He was walking a path well trodden by the likes of Tom Mix, William Anderson and John Wayne before him.

He's out there now, the cowboy. He's been given a certain reality by the movies, the books and the comics. He's become a historical fact that never truly was.

He's never too far from our collective imagination and can be identified within the DNA of the science fiction hero battling in a futuristic landscape, in the lone cops who keep the celluloid streets clear of killers and thieves and in the little man who stands up against big business and corruption. What was Star Wars if not a western in space? The sand people were the Indians, the Empire the corrupt businessman who wanted to ensnare the land and destroy freedom, our intrepid heroes confirmed to the blueprint of the cowboy. Hell, Han Solo was so much the western good badman that he could have been lifted and plopped into any 1950's western with a seamless join. Watch Indiana Jones and you are viewing a bastard son twice removed of the old Saturday morning cowboy serials.

So even if you've never watched a westerns chances are you have, in a manner of speaking of course.


Weekly Stats Report: 20 Jul - 26 Jul 2009

Unique Visitors123134166137151128132971139
First Time Visitors991051339311190104735105
Returning Visitors2429334440382823634

Sunday 26 July 2009


This was yesterday - no one told me. Still I'm having a belated celebration by putting my stetson on, opening a bottle of wine and watching some classic westerns. What could be better - hey come to think of it everyday is national day of the cowboy over here in Wild Wales.

Find out more about the day HERE


If this feels like one of the Stewart/Anthony Mann westerns that's because it almost was - director, Mann pulled out at the eleventh hour after arguments with Stewart about the casting of Audie Murphy and what, he considered, a weak script. In fact Mann actually started the picture and walked off set very early in the production.

This would have been the sixth western collaboration between Stewart and the director but it was not to be and James Neilsen, then known for his TV work, stepped into the director's chair. And whilst the movie is not up there with the five classics Stewart made with Mann it is still a damn good western movie. And there ain 't nothing wrong with Audie Murphy's Utica Kid either. Murphy may never have been the most accomplished actor but he does fine in this role.

Filmed in and around Colarado there is some breathtaking scenery, all expertly photographed. One particular scene where a train snaked around a mountain track reveals a landscape which must be among the finest in the world. These scenes were filmes at the Durango and silverton narrow gauge railway using a K28 class steam locomotive, number 476 which is actually still in use today.

James Stewart plays an accordian slinging troubleshooter for the railroads and the actor performs several songs himself and does a damn good job at it too. It's a mighty fine western and the DVD print available is top notch with crisp clear colours and a suitably booming soundtrack.

At a railroad construction crew outside Junction City, Colorado, Grant McLaine, a former trouble-shooter who was dismissed five years earlier for allowing notorious robber The Utica Kid to escape, earns money by playing his accordion. After his former friend, railroad executive Ben Kimball, asks Grant to come to Junction City to discuss Whitey Harbin, the leader of a gang of outlaws that has been stealing the company payroll, Grant sets out on the trail.

Certain fans claim that this film would have been better had Mann directed but that will always be conjecture and frankly there's nothing wrong with it as it is.

Saturday 25 July 2009


The Prisoner - remake

There's a nine minute preview to view.

Don't think this is going to trouble the original, though.

Movie short I starred in now online

A few months ago I appeared in a student film, directed by the very talented Nathan Allen - done towards their degree - playing the second lead. The entire short movie is now up on You Tube but you can watch it here on The Archive. In the film I play the part of Dennis - anyway the students have done a great job of putting it together so enjoy.

New word of the day - "Dobbsian"

Mister Roy takes a look at the online marketing for The Tarnished Star HERE

"it’s not enough just to have, say, web pages and Facebook presence, you need to work them continuously, like a poacher baiting his traps. This is what Gary has done. The man himself (being typically generous with his time) emailed a comment for this post"

Anyway folks read the article and let me know what you think.


Harold Lloyd's glasses character was the proto-type lovable geek, the boy next door, an everyman with romance in his heart but not too much in his head. Though that's not strictly accurate - the glasses man was far from stupid but he sure enough found himself involved in some dumb situations.

Safety Last is a silent movie that still thrills to this day and it is difficult to think of a big budget modern movie that manages to thrill, scare and delight quite so effectively as Safety Last. The final 20 minutes will literally have the viewer's heart in their mouth as our hero, forced to scale a skyscraper, performs one of the most memorable series of stunts and gags in motion picture history. The climb up the building is pure cinema - with an inventive series of obstacles getting in the way of the intrepid glasses man.

With a climax so intense, so powerful the rest of the film is somewhat overshadowed but there's much to enjoy in the first part of the film where there are many fine quiet moments and scenes of inspired comedy. The problem is that store clerk, Lloyd has told his beloved that he is the managing director of an impressive department store. There are some great visual gag scenes such as Harold using the reflection in a bald man's head to comb his hair and a fair few frantic chases. One of the best is when Harold fearing he will be late for work hijacks a number of vehicles in a frantic dash across town. At one point he even feigns a heart attack to get a ride in an ambulance that is going his way. When he reaches the store he has to sneak in and by disguising himself as a mannequin he manages to get carried in. Though he sneezes and sparks off another hilarious scene as the guy carrying him is terrified out of his mind.

Don't think of this as a silent movie but think of it as pure cinema. It really is sheer brilliance and the current DVD release, the Optimum box set, contains a print of the film which has been remastered to a very high standard - the black and white picture is without blemish and the new musical store is very sympathetic to the images on screen. The romantic ending even managed to get to an old cynic like me.


TRIVIA: Harold Lloyd out-grossed both Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton during the 1920's.

Lloyd actually filmed the daredevil climb first with no clear idea of how they would get to that point. Like Chaplin he was working without a script and hoping inspiration would come. Thankfully it did.


Think of a subject and, no doubt, there is a Rough Guide book covering it - travel, music, films, comics, football, poker, the internet, pregnancy and birth - in short anything and everything.

The books are well produced and designed to withstand a constant battering as they are dragged time after time from the shelf to check a fact or two. I have a large collection myself with The Rough Guide to Westerns being my favourite - however this is not because the book is any better than any of the others but due to the fact that I love westerns.

The books take a pattern, least the filmic centric ones. Firstly you get an overview and history of the genre, going right back to its dawn and then there is the meat of the book which list 50 classics - each film is covered by a well written and lengthy essay. Following on from that there is usually a large section looking at icons of the genre and this is followed by an equally detailed look at archetypes of the genre. My Rough Guide to Westerns is well thumbed, as is the guide to Film Noir and Crime Fiction.

The music titles I have are set out in a similar fashion and both the Guides to Blues and Elvis are awesome in the detailed information. I also own the Rough Guide to poker and the slim volume has improved my game no end. The sheer detail of the older forms of the game are also very useful for research when writing western fiction. I used this book a lot during the writing of several key scenes in my forthcoming novel, Arkansas Smith

I've not seen any of the guides to the various countries of the world, well other than a cursory browse in my local book shop (the soon to close Borders) but no doubt they are produced with the same eye for detail and expert contributions. And the medical ones will, I'm sure, contain yucky pictures. So I've no interest there - Man, I'm still traumatised from seeing a vividly coloured picture of an operation to remove an ingrowing toe nail during fifth form Biology in 1981!

Whatever you need to know there will be a Rough Guide covering it. The books are reasonably priced and offer a great overview of almost any subject in the world.

Iconic western location ravaged by wild fires

Almeria, Spanish location of many of the spaghetti westerns, including the Leone/Eastwood trilogy has been ravaged by fires - The Spanish region of Almeria has been blazing from forest fires for two days and on Thursday firefighters successfully tackled the fires and they are now under control. Approximately 500 people had to evacuate their homes.

Wildfires started in the forests and bushlands and Spanish firefighters requested the help of the army to battle the blazes with three planes and five helicopters. A lightening strike has been announced as the most likely culprit for starting the fires but it has not been officially announced yet.

Nearby hotels were inundated with visitors as people had to seek refuge away from the burning flames and although 5000 hectares of land has been affected by the fires, many homes were saved. The worst affected areas are between Turre and Mojacar and the Finca Listonero, a 300 year old former restaurant now villa, has been reported to have suffered badly in the fires.

David Jackson, a local resident in the area wrote on his personal blog on Thursday that things were starting to ‘return to normal’ and the process of clearing up the mess left in the wake of the inferno was about to begin.

Friday 24 July 2009


Apparently I'm a benign virus - Think I like that.

Least I am according to Roy Bayfield's article which will soon appear HERE. I'll give the link when the article,which is about the marketing of The Tarnished Star goes live.

Meantime here's a snippet:

"Of course, the book itself has to be good or else the ‘cloud’ would be nothing more than vapour. It is good, and, importantly from a marketing perspective, has a ‘unique selling point’ that can be summed up in a few words: it is a classic western like the books and films of the 50s and 60s. That simple idea is ideally suited to the meme-fuelled world of online social marketing; when the idea encounters people with a latent desire (ie folks who think ‘hmm yes, it would be nice to read a good old fashioned western’) it latches on to them like a benign virus and hey presto, Gary gets another Amazon sale."

A joke I had to share

A good looking man walked into an agent's office in Hollywood and said 'I want to be a movie star.'

Tall, handsome and with experience on Broadway, he had the right credentials.

The agent asked, 'What's your name?'

The guy said, 'My name is Penis van Lesbian.'

The agent said, 'Sir, I hate to tell you, but in order to get into Hollywood , you are going to have to change your name.'

'I will NOT change my name! The van Lesbian name is centuries old, I will not disrespect my grandfather by changing my name. Not ever.'

The agent said, 'Sir, I have worked in Hollywood for will NEVER go far in Hollywood with a name like Penis van Lesbian! I'm telling you, you will HAVE TO change your name or I will not be able to represent you.'

'So be it! I guess we will not do business together' the guy said and he left the agent's office.

FIVE YEARS LATER... The agent opens an envelope sent to his office.

Inside the envelope is a letter and a check for $50,000. The agent is awe-struck, who would possibly send him $ 50,000? He reads the letter enclosed...

'Dear Sir, Five years ago, I came into your office wanting to become an actor in Hollywood , you told me I needed to change my name. Determined to make it with my God-given birth name, I refused. You told me I would never make it in Hollywood with a name like Penis van Lesbian. After I left your office, I thought about what you said. I decided you were right. I had to change my name. I had too much pride to return to your office, so I signed with another agent. I would never have made it without changing my name, so the enclosed check is a token of my appreciation.

Thank you for your advice.


Dick van Dyke


My interest in silent cinema is a fairly new one - it's developed over the last few years and now I can't get enough of these historical snippets of cinema. I've started to appreciate the skill involved in telling a story with the dimension of sound removed and Chaplin is the all time master of early comedy cinema. He was a driven filmmaker who would shoot miles and miles of film that wouldn't end up being used, a perfectionist and the first star to truly have independence from the studios and allowed free rein. Chaplin also worked without a script and allowed for inspiration to come on the hoof, as they worked. Not something anyone today would attempt.

Easy Street (1917) is an easy film to watch, even for viewers who have never seen a silent movie, and serves as a good introduction to the brilliance of the genre. Get a good print and it immediately sucks you in and the years fall away as the film somehow becomes contemporary.

It sees Chaplin's tramp joining the police force and being given the job of cleaning up the crime ridden Easy Street. It's basically one elongated chase after another but Chaplin handles the romance between the tramp and his then favourite squeeze, Edna Purveyance with a restraint that makes it all the more touching.

The chase between the tramp and the thug (Eric Campbell), several times his size, was actually filmed in one take which is incredible - it ends with the iconic scene of the tramp knocking the thug out with the gas from a street lamp. The thug in a display of strength has bent the lamp in half - Charley climbs on his back and slips the hood over his head, turning the gas on full as he does so.

The film contains much pathos - which is what people often attack Chaplin for, saying he's too much sentimental - and it was these ideals that would form much of the basis for his problems with the Unamerican committee, but it works well and anyone who knows Chaplin will know that the tramp was always human. And the social commentary was drawn from the star's own hardships suffered during the extreme poverty of his own youth. Chaplin suffered more than most - at 15 years of age he had to take his mother to the local asylum which was only the start of years of mental problems for his beloved mother. And more than once the entire family ended up in the workhouse.

Easy Street is a classic short piece of cinema - Chaplin would go on to make some all time classics at feature length - The Kid, Modern Times, Gold Rush, City Lights but this short is one of his most well realised shorts. If you've never paid attention to the silents before then check this one out - far from being outdated these films will still be watched when the CGI, big budget movies of today have long faded from memory.


The scars on the Jonah Hex character in the movie poster certainly look better than the set pictures we posted - in those pics Josh Brolin looked like he had a minor skin rash but in the poster the level of facial trauma does actually mirror the comic book character. If this doesn't carry over to the screen I, and many other no doubt, will feel deeply cheated.

It has been announced that the movie Resident Evil 4 (is anyone waiting for this one?) will be in 3D - Expect tag lines like, 'A new dimension in fear'

Also due in 2010 is the revamp of old Freddy Krueger, originally played by Robert Englund but now with Jackie Elan wearing the fedora. The Teaser poster (shown here) doesn't reveal much of Krueger's face, no doubt to build anticipation for the eagerly awaited splatterfest.

Another supernatural western goes into production - Ghost Town. Filmmaker James Moll, who is behind the story of a haunted theme park said, "It's the perfect setting for a big, spooky, family adventure with all the elements of a classic Western: cowboys, showgirls, gunfights, chases through creepy mines... all with a supernatural twist, "

It seems supernatural oaters may be the next stage in the western's continued journey back into the mainstream of public consciousness. Oh, I said that last bit.

Thursday 23 July 2009


The E-book reader market as opened up with Barnes and Noble offering a free reader for PC, IPHONE, BLACKBERRY AND OTHER FORMATS.

This is from PC PRO magazine

"Barnes & Noble is taking a different approach from Amazon and its pricey standalone e-book reader, the Kindle. The big brick-and-mortar bookseller's e-book solution lets you read titles on devices you already own: your PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or iPhone. A more direct Kindle competitor for reading Barnes & Noble titles, the Plastic Logic eReader, is also in the works, but in meanwhile, I tried out the PC reader and gave the iPhone and Mac versions each a quick look. I found the PC version adequate, the iPhone one first-rate, and the Mac incarnation the poor sister of the lot."


"I always wanted to wear the black hat." - Marcus Galloway interview

Nebraska based Marcus Galloway has the western imprinted deep within his genes - he is currently wowing western fans with his Man from Boot Hill series and he is also responsible for several works published under the Ralph Compton name. The Archive shared a virtual camp fire with the writer and, as expected, all thoughts turned West.

TA: How would you describe your work to new readers?

MG: I would say my westerns are for fans of Clint Eastwood movies. While a lot of traditional elements are present, I lean more toward the grittier end of the spectrum. My heroes tend to be shady, even when they’re doing the right thing. That’s just the way I’ve always written and those are the kinds of stories I like. I try to write characters that are just a bit off center from your typical sheriff or rancher. I also like outlaws. Even as a kid, I wanted to wear the black hat when playing cowboys and Indians.

TA: So what d
oes the western mean to you?

For me, “western” conjures images of freedom that we don’t have now, such as being able to pack up your bedroll and take off to a new town so the grass doesn’t grow under your feet. It means living freely and dangerously. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the 1800’s or even on earth. Star Wars is a perfect example of a western in space. All the classic figures were there. The gunfighter, the bounty hunter, the evil sheriff. The gunfighter rode against the rival gang, shot it out with them and rode away to fight again. A western is a wild, exciting adventure where strong characters are making their way in a tough environment. There’s a hard edge to every element of the story. James Bond may have plenty of shootouts and romance, but when you say “western shootouts and romance” it’s a whole different animal.

TA: Where do you see then genre heading in the future?

MG: At the moment, the genre is going through a rough patch. That’s got nothing to do with the writers in the field, but publishers wanting to stick with safe choices. It’s hard to get anything new going because publishers don’t want to take a risk. There will always be westerns, however, because that brand of storytelling is rooted in so many of us. As with anything else, this genre is cyclical. Pretty soon, after they hear readers demand more quality work, publishers will widen their scope to something beyond the same stuff that’s been out there for 50 years or more. As for the future, my money is on a new trend in the western writing style. It will be something subtle like a shift in dialogue to reflect more modern speech or possibly a shift in setting from New Mexico, Arizona and those sorts of places to settings that you don’t see that often. There’s got to be something to draw a new audience. Something like the dialogue shift may not be historically accurate, but it makes it easier for a new audience to relate to the characters. It doesn’t have to be snarky or anything like that, but just something to shake it up a little. Maybe a shift into something more like the pulp adventure novels would be good. Just something else to add some variety to the western section in a books store. Without variety, the future of any genre isn’t too good.

TA: What advice would you give to hopeful writers?

MG: First and foremost, they should write! Too many times, new writers say they’ve got a great idea but don’t know where to start. Or they’ve got a great book they’ll write someday. Step one is to write it. Don’t be afraid of messing up. Don’t be afraid of editing. Start in on it and you’ve set the entire process in motion. Also, write something you would want to read. Don’t try to write for a particular audience, because there will always be people who like or dislike a book. If you write something you enjoy, it shows. If you’re just writing to cash in on a trend, that shows too. Have fun with it and be persistent. Pluck away at it on a schedule. If you want to be a writer, that’s what you’re going to have to do.

TA: So what would be your own writing routine?

I start off with an idea of a character first. I try to think of an interesting person and then flesh him out. As I’m doing that, a storyline comes into focus. Every day, I write anywhere from 12-20 pages no matter what. Usually, I write 2-3 pages and take a little break. Another 2-3 pages and then walk the dog. Keep that up and don’t go to bed until I’ve hit my mark. With editing, I run through the first time by polishing 20 pages a day. If I hit a snag, I’ll edit more the next day so my average comes out to 20 pages per day. The next go-around, I’ll edit 30 pages a day, then 50 a day and then send it in. After that, I’ve got to work with the in-house editors and it all starts over. I need to keep it on a schedule so I can gauge when to start and hit my deadlines.

TA: Tell us a little about your influences.

y mom is my #1 influence. She’s supported me since I first started writing as a little kid. Even when I was typing little stories and coloring pictures to go along with them, she told me I could be a writer. Since she’s had plenty of experience writing her own poetry, short stories and novels, she is still a huge influence beyond just support. Also, my wife is behind me 100%. Bob Randisi is a great friend of mine and he’s taught me a lot about writing and surviving as a full-time professional in this industry.

TA: What future projects can we look forward to?

MG: I’ve got another western series making the rounds to several different publishers. I’m just about to start in on another book in the Ralph Compton series. Those are always fun. I’m writing a horror series under a different name about werewolf hunters. That’s a great example of how westerns have influenced me. I got the idea from buffalo hunters who used every piece of their kill and applied it to werewolves. I wanted it to be more of a western and set in the 1800’s, but shifted it to a modern timeframe. Even so, it has that western sort of feel that I described earlier.

TA: How important in relation to your work is reasearch?

MG: That depends on what sort of project I’m doing. Nick Graves from the Man From Boot Hill series is a gravedigger and Mourner, so I researched that. I also researched vigilante activity throughout Montana. For that series, I wouldn’t have Nick encounter historical figures simply because it wasn’t part of that story. I did have him get involved in a labor riot that actually tore apart an entire town because he was in that area at that time. The Accomplice is totally different. I researched Doc Holliday intensely to make sure he was where he should have been when he should have been there. When he was in Fort Griffin at a particular time and there were accounts of a shooting, I had that shooting take place. I wanted Doc to be Doc Holliday and not just some smart-mouthed gambler. The other character, Caleb, was completely fictional but even he was the sort of person Doc would have worked with. I’m writing entertainment, not textbooks. Any writer should be given some slack to tell their story. Referring to a certain kind of spur may be inaccurate, but usually doesn’t change the story. If you’re referring to the type of spurs a specific person wore, then that’s more important and should be accurate.

TA: You've written a number of titles under the Ralph Compton name. How different is it when writing under a house name?

The big difference is in the style I use. When writing under my own name, I’ll write characters and action that’s a bit grittier or darker than normal. If it’s a series, I know where it’s going and can also change it drastically if I decide to do so. When writing under a house name, I do my best to maintain the same style as that particular brand. Since it’s not my series and I may not do the following book, I can’t do anything that may carry over from one book to another. They’re clean, standalone stories. As much as I like to play in continuing series, standalones are a refreshing change.

TA: Desert island western - film and book?

Film – Unforgiven

Book – The Ghost with Blue Eyes – Robert Randisi

TA: Cool choices. OK - Clint versus The Duke, who wins?

MG: You probably already know the answer to this one by now. Clint all the way.

The Archive thanks Marcus for his time. Visit his website HERE

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