Sunday 28 February 2010


Book lover Phil Breidenbach is taking part in an experiment that may shape how patrons use the Shaler North Hills Library and perhaps other local libraries.

The Shaler library is letting Breidenbach, 54, of Glenshaw and a handful of other patrons experiment with an Amazon Kindle, a hand-held device for reading online books. Shaler will be the first local library to lend such gadgets to the general public when it introduces them during National Library Week in mid-April.

"If books move to a format that doesn't take up space, that will free up libraries to do other things," said Marilyn Jenkins, executive director of the Allegheny County Library Association, a group of suburban libraries, including Shaler.

The digital collection shared by city and suburban libraries has been mushrooming since 2005. Starting with nearly 250 titles, it has grown to 18,000 eBooks, downloadable audio books, downloadable video and streaming music titles plus eight databases with nearly a million tracks of music. During that period, the number of users has mushroomed from 82 to 4,500.

Some material can be used on personal computers and laptops while others can be used on handheld computers or portable digital music players. The suburban and city libraries spend $50,000 a year on downloadable video and audio content. FULL STORY


Weekly Stats Report: 22 Feb - 28 Feb 2010

Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Pageloads 256 249 216 226 170 188 165 1,470 210
Unique Visitors 201 189 173 159 138 143 126 1,129 161
First Time Visitors 171 165 153 138 116 127 112 982 140
Returning Visitors 30 24 20 21 22 16 14 147 21

Who is Arkansas Smith ?

Arkansas Smith is the titular character from my new Black Horse Western, which will be published 31st March 2010 and is available now for order from all the usual outlets. Arkansas Smith is a character I intend to build a series of books around.

There's an interview with yours truly and a feature on Arkansas HERE, there is also an early review of the book HERE

The character was born on a battlefield, in the middle of an Indian attack - a nod to Robert E. Howard there. In fact the Conan adventures were at the forefront of my mind when sketching out initial details of Arkansas. On the surface they are widely contrasting characters but I wanted to recreate that feeling of legend with Arkansas. Other series provided inspiration, maybe not directly but inspiration all the same in my desire to create a series character. George Gilman's Edge also contributed much of the flesh on Arkansas Smith's bones. And although Arkansas is not as much of a bastard as Edge, there are those that would argue he was.

At the moment I am working on a third western for Black Horse, a standalone this time, and when I finish that I intend to start on the second Arkansas book which already exists in outline. Realistically the next Arkansas should see print sometime during 2011. And hopefully readers will enjoy the first adventure next month and be eagerly waiting to discover what happens next to this western legend.

Below is a short extract from the novel:

‘Savages.’ Walter Smith spat and took a look at the carnage around him.

He felt for his rifle on the floor and, with a smile to his wife, placed it on the wagon seat besides them. He could see the concern in Edith’s face and he placed an arm around her shoulder, pulling her tighter to him. ‘They’re long gone. We’re in no danger.’

‘It’s terrible.’ Edith said. ‘Why do they do this?’

‘Don’t look.’ The old man jumped down from the wagon. He gave his wife one of his handguns and took the rifle with him. ‘Just to be on the safe side.’

‘What are you doing?’ Edith asked, fear very much evident in her voice. She was visibly upset which was to be expected since they had just come across a body-strewn battlefield. Not something a woman should see. Not something anyone should see. ‘Come back here.

‘I’ll have to take a look around.’ The old man said with a frown. ‘I won’t be far. Anything happens you holler and I’ll come running.’

Before Edith could protest further her husband started off across the field, stepping around hideously mutilated bodies. There were several burnt out wagons scattered around, a few of them were still smouldering and the smell of smoke and burning flesh hung heavy in the air. There was such an atmosphere that it seemed as if the screams of the dead could still be heard in the air as ghostly echoes of what had happened here.

Walter shuddered and held the rifle tightly to his chest. At his feet there was a dead girl, a child really, no more than ten or eleven. Her head had been split down the middle by a heavy axe. The gory gash parted her head and her eyes were so many inches apart they could have belonged to two different people.

He said a silent prayer and stepped over her.

Everywhere he looked there were dead bodies, many of them with arrows protruding from their bodies, some mutilated, scalped, others with no obvious wounds. Many of them were naked and a good number of them had been burnt, charred clothing sticking to blackened flesh. Ahead of him there were a pile of bodies, maybe ten to twelve people, all stacked up one atop the other. Into this gruesome heap the Indians had shot arrow after arrow and then set it alight only the flames hadn’t taken and it was a ghastly sight.

It looked like some bizarre human totem pole.

Other than the gentle flapping of the canvas on his wagon behind him, there was nothing to be heard, and standing there Walter felt a chill run the length of his spine. The place became eerie in its silence and Walter decided to get out of here and report this at the nearest army post.

Didn’t look like he could do anything for these folks, in any case. The only one who could help them now was the Almighty himself. And it seemed as if he had forsaken this place, relinquished the land rights to the Devil. He looked up into a clear sky and saw several buzzards circling, waiting for him to move on so they could claim the flesh that now belonged to them.

‘I’m coming, Edith.’ He turned and waved to his wife on the wagon. Though she had said nothing and simply sat on the wagon, her face visibly sickened even from Walt’s position. He guessed there were over a hundred people dead here and only a small fraction were Indians.

It gave him the creeps and he tasted bile in the back of his throat.

He started back to the wagon, carefully picking his footing so as not to step on any of the dead when he suddenly heard a movement and froze. He lifted his rifle and turned from side to side on his feet, searching for the source of the sound. But a perfect silence greeted him

You’re getting easily spooked, he told himself. Must be getting old, too soft for this life. But there it was again, a faint sound and he stood perfectly still, listening. It was a whimper and he realised his wife had heard it too. She was standing up in the wagon and pointing over to a burnt out wagon, the skeletal frame looking so fragile that it would blow to dust if the wind picked up some.

Walt started to walk quicker; towards the remains of the wagon and when he got there the sight that greeted him almost stopped his heart. He was a big man and had seen much cruelty in his time but this was like nothing he had ever experienced before and felt a shudder run the length of his spine.

‘Woman,’ he shouted to his wife. ‘Get over here. Bring a blanket and that whiskey I keep under the seat.’

He stood there, silently while he waited.

There on the ground was a woman, she looked unmarked, but was most definitely dead. Between her legs, naked on the ground, was a baby. It was still attached to her by the umbilical cord but where the mother had departed this world the baby, a boy, was still alive but only just. She couldn’t have given birth too long ago and when Walt knelt and touched her she was still slightly warm but there was no pulse, no heartbeat. The woman stared back at him with empty eyes and he closed the lids with fingers.

Left weakened and with no one to tend to her, she must have died giving birth.

The baby though, by some miracle, had made it thus far.

There was at least one survivor of the massacre.

‘My dear God.’ Edith said and stood next to her husband. She held a thick blanket and the half drunk bottle of whiskey. She smiled weakly at her husband. ‘The poor little thing.’

Walt took the whiskey from her, mouthed a long slug and then pulled his Bowie from his waistband. He poured some of the whiskey over the blade, catching the drips under his free hand. He then licked the sodden hand and knelt and held the umbilical chord in one hand and took his knife to it, slicing it clean, close to the baby’s body. There was a quick spurt of blood and the child let out a weak and pathetic cry.

The old man picked the baby up and handed it to his wife and the warmth of the blanket.

The poor mite had felt spindly and weak.

‘Born on a battlefield.’ Walt said.

Had a child ever had a worse start to life?

Edith looked at her husband and her eyes filled with tears. She held the baby close to her, warming its clammy skin. They both knew the child had virtually no chance of survival but they had to try. .

There was a slim chance that they could save the child.

‘Arkansas,’ Walt said. ‘Call him Arkansas. Since that’s where we is.’

‘Arkansas Smith.’ Edith said and smiled when the baby gripped one of her fingers in a tiny fist. He seemed to approve of the name. ‘I think he likes it.’

In truth they had yet to cross the Missouri border and Arkansas was still some miles off. The old man had never been the best of navigators and by the time they reached Fort Comanche and learnt their mistake the name had stuck. Arkansas it would remain. Good job I didn’t think we were in Dung City, the old man had often joked.



PUBLISHED 31st March 2010





Saturday 27 February 2010


"In fact, it has been remarked by some that Hobbits real passion is for food...a rather unfair observation as we have also developed a keen interest in the brewing of ales and the smoking of pipe-weed...." (Concerning Hobbit)

olkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy has been called into question by UK based health campaigners because of the smoking habits of the hobbits. Speaking from their lair on Mount Doom, the organisation are hoping to launch a legal case to have the book categorised as, For Adults Only and for it be to outlawed for the book to be sold to those under the age of 21.

This doesn't surprise me given the powers of the hysterical anti-smoking brigade. Will Sherlock Holmes be next? And how long before they attack old films that depict characters smoking? I'm going to have a pipe of Kentucky Nougat while I contemplate that.

Reading is cool, kids

In a welcome move video games giant. Nintendo have announced that the next generation of their popular DS gaming system will also be an eBook reader - a gap in the market perhaps for novels based around gaming characters like Mario and that spikey blue guy.

Reporting on the US launch plans, Bloomberg said that the first eBook will be a cartridge containing 100 public domain books, including classics such as Twain and Shakespeare. This means Nintendo is opting for its traditional, cartridge-oriented approach versus launching an online bookstore.

Alas, poor Mario, for he plumbed the depths of great despair and did witness purpley spangley things and golden coins so bright.

The new DS device, is about the size of a paperback. All of which could make it an attractive platform for reading .

Nintendo has sold roughly 130 million DS consoles so far (including DSi and DS Lite), and the global popularity of the DS platform might make Nintendo a serious e-book competitor. But Cammie Dunaway, the executive vice president of sales for North America told Bloomberg that’s not the immediate goal. “It’s just one more way to enjoy your device.”

The DSi XL, which has been available in Japan for months now, will launch in the U.S. on March 28

THE ARCHIVE SAYS - There is little chance that the eBook titles will be as popular as the video games themselves, but the fact that kids will have the ability to read books on the device is exciting and bodes well for the future.

Friday 26 February 2010

Good news

I have just signed the contract - my first crime/mystery novel will be published by Hearts On Fire Books in both print and eBook format.

A Policeman's Lot by Gary M. Dobbs

: A Policeman’s Lot is not a happy one. This certainly applies to Police Inspector Frank Parade who heads up a skeleton force responsible for policing Pontypridd and the immediate valleys. It’s an hectic enough job at the best of times but the fact that the world famous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Circus is in town only adds to the workload. Soon Parade and his team have to contend with cowboys and Indians as well as a string of murders, the origin of which stretch back sixteen years.

Think you know Jack the Ripper? Think again – it’s 1904, South Wales and the most gruesome murders in history are about to be solved.

The Gunslinger - Stephen King

I've long been fan of Stephen King - there was a time in my twenties when I used to devour his books and although somewhere around The Dark Half, I stopped reading him, I have returned in recent years. I recently enjoyed Cell and I thought Duma Key was a fantastic book. But there was definitely a transition with King's style back in the late Eighties, early Nineties. I remember Needful Things bored me and I found The Tommyknockers predictable, though it did contain some of the King magic. I guess for me I prefer classic King - Pet Semetary, Carrie, It and those early books. I remember reading the extended edition of The Stand in one wonderful week but when he switched straight out horror to suspense he kind of lost me. Mind you, I contradict myself, Misery, which was nothing like his earlier works, thrilled me with every page I turned.

In truth I don't think the issue was a drop in quality in King's work, but rather that he was growing as a novelist and, at the time, I wasn't ready to leave King's Maine with it's 1950's creature feature style horrors. Another interesting point about this period is that, I discovered, from reading King's semi-autobiography, "On Writing", that around this period he was having his most ferocious battles with drink and drug addictions. Did that affect the quality of books like The Tommyknockers? Mind you, and here's another of those little contradictions, King claims to not remember having written Cugo at all and yet that's a great book. And later, when kicking the drink and drugs, going through that personal hell, maybe King's books did take a dip for a short while. I don't know - but the genesis of The Dark Tower series comes from King's early Sgt. Peppers period.

And the Gunslinger often has the feel of early King - reminding me most of the apocalyptic sense that pervades The Stand and the feeling of tainted magic which runs through The Eyes of the Dragon. Maybe that's not surprising since this book was actually started when King was a teenager.

Imagine a Sergio Leone movie shot through a lens that had been smeared with red grease, and you'll get the feel of this book. It's kind of a western set in, what seems to be a post apocalyptic America, but I'm told by people who have read later volumes in this series that this is not the case. Still, I'm looking forward to later books and finding out what the hell is going on here. The Gunslinger is an enjoyable book once into the dreamy pacing of the narrative which, I must admit, I initially found off-putting, I picked up the book at every available moment.

If you come to this expecting a perfectly rounded novel, with all the loose ends tied up for the denouncement then you'll be disappointed, but if you remember that it is only a small part of a much larger work then you should find it riveting. The character of The Gunslinger, apparently based on the Eastwood character from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, reminded me somewhat of Thomas Covenant from Stephen Donaldson's excellent fantasy series. I can't really put my finger on it, on the surface they are widely contrasting creations, but I had the same feeling with each. I think it's the air of doom that surrounds them that is the common factor.

There are some excellent scenes - the mob uprising in the town of (Jethro) Tull and the terrifying sequence in the mountains. God, knows what Mr King had been smoking when he dreamt this one up. The book picks up when The Gunslinger meets up with Jake,a young boy, who offers the reader another view of the generic gunslinger and fleshes out the purposely sketchy character.

The Gunslinger is the first in a seven book series and I'm hooked.

Thursday 25 February 2010


Juno, an imprint of Pocket Books which is itself a division of Simon and Schuster are actively looking for books in the urban fantasy genre. Juno started out in 2006 by publishing seventeen titles in trade paperback format. So successful were they that in 2007 the company switched to mass market paperbacks.

'We publish urban or contemporary fantasy with strong female protagonists. We are currently looking for novels from 80,000 to 100,000 words and completed manuscripts will have an advantage. We currently publish twelve mass market titles a year.' Editor, Paula Guran.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Archive Book biz news

The bestselling British novel of the last decade has been named as Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time which has sold more than two million copies. The book came third in the list of bestsellers of the last decade being beaten only by The DA Vinci Code and Angels and Demons on British sales. Interestingly none of the Harry Potter books came in the top ten.

Ex-Con, Jeffrey Archer has just signed a five book deal and been given a record £18 million advance. Under the terms of the contract he must deliver one book a year, with the first due out in 2011. The five book series will be set in Bristol and called The Clifton Saga.


PBS' "Masterpiece Theater" will co-produce a remake of "Upstairs Downstairs," as well as new series based on Sherlock Holmes and Aurelio Zen novels. In this rendition, Holmes gets a 21-st century spin on the classic 19th-century Conan Doyle detective stories and stars Benedict Cumberbatch ("Atonement,") as Holmes and Martin Freeman (U.K.'s "The Office," "Hot Fuzz") as Dr. Watson.

On a more traditional note, two 90-minute "Upstairs Downstairs" films will air in 2011 and be set in the same house as the original, but in 1936, during the period leading up to World War II. The original "Upstairs Downstairs" won seven Emmys during its run on "Masterpiece Theater" in the 1970s and was set from 1903-1930, Edwardian England through post W.W.I.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

THE DARK TOWER SERIES -An introduction to the quest

I've had the first volume (The Gunslinger) of this epic seven book tale on my shelves for a number of years, but I wanted to get the entire set before I started reading them. And this weekend just gone, I picked up a great first hardcover edition, the volume with all the illustrations and maps, of volume 7 - The Dark Tower from a boot sale for £3. So I thought now may the time to read the series.

In his new introduction to the first volume, King tells us that he started the story when he was nineteen, and that hobbits were big back then. The genesis of the series that would become The Dark Tower was Kings desire to write something with the epic sweep of Tolkien's classic. And a lot of readers seem to think he achieved this with his epic seven book story.

A good friend of mine recently read the entire series and has been raving about it, and so I've long promised myself that I would read it. However I know that when I start the series it would completely dominate my reading for several months. The first volume is reletively slim but the books get bigger and the final three are of true Kingsian proportions, the final volume is almost The Stand X 2. And the entire series is of such a length as to make The Lord of the Rings trilogy look like a short story. Still, I figure, if the story warrants such scope then it doesn't matter if I'm reading from now until the end of time, which given the current world state will be sometime after teatime next Tuesday.

And so Apocalypse not withstanding I intend to read the entire series and give my thoughts, for what they are worth, book by book here on The Archive.

And so - The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed...


A rare copy of the first comic book featuring Superman sold yesterday for $1 million, smashing the previous record price for a comic book.

A 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1, widely considered the Holy Grail of comic books, was sold from a private seller to a private buyer, neither of whom released their names. The issue's cover features Superman lifting a car and originally cost 10 cents.

Monday 22 February 2010

Guess Who's Back

After the confusing mess that was David Tennent's swan song as the Doctor (Russell T Davies' episodes never make sense), fans are looking forward to the new season which is now only weeks away from the UK showing on BBC1.



Nice to see The Archive's recent interview with author, Peter Robinson being mentioned on the seminal, The Rap Sheet


The tabloids are of reports from a new book that paints PM, Gordon Brown as a bully - not that it should come as a surprise since the Labour Government has in its time in power virtually outlawed free speech (unless it's on subjects they approve of), put surveillance cameras everywhere and made us all that much poorer. They are a party of European law ignoring, expenses claiming, pocket lining , bully boy creeps - far from being a voice for the people, the Labour bunch seem to think the British people are a nuisance best ignored or lied to when they are acknowledged. If it wasn't so sad it would be funny - I mean we've even had the husband of a top minister claiming for porn movies on his spouse's expenses - mind you, at least he's not a banker!

And now this new book

Excerpts of “The End of the Party’’ by Andrew Rawnsley of The Observer, appeared yesterday in the newspaper. Brown and his associates vigorously contested The description.

In one passage, the book describes Brown as furious when a journalist identified similarities between an address he gave at Labor’s 2007 conference and speeches given by Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

Bob Shrum, who worked for both before becoming a speechwriter for Brown, was left shaking by an expletive-laden outburst from the prime minister, according to Rawnsley.

In another passage, the author says Brown yanked a secretary from her chair when she typed too slowly and flew into rages so regularly that a nearby chair was dotted with marks from where he stabbed it with a pen.

“It is simply a lie to say I’ve hit anybody in my life,’’ Gordon Brown commented.


Weekly Stats Report: 15 Feb - 21 Feb 2010

Unique Visitors2211801851671711451741,243178
First Time Visitors1971531651451441211561,081154
Returning Visitors2427202227241816223

Saturday 20 February 2010


Directed by Eastwood directly following High Plains Drifter Breezy was a commercial flop at the time of release - The film's early reviews were unfavorable, which caused the studio to initially shelve it. After a year had passed, Breezy was quietly released, with little marketing fanfare. It was not a commercial success. Eastwood also thought that Universal had decided the film was going to be a failure long before it was released. He has said of the film that "the public stayed away from it because it wasn't promoted enough, and it was sold in an uninteresting fashion."

today the movie remains Eastwood's hidden film.

It's one of
those Lolita type things - ageing but cool businessman, William Holden meets dippy but beautiful hot hippie chick, Breezy played by Kay Lenz. The title character, a disaffected young hippie who hides out on the property of the middle-aged divorcĂ© played by Holden. May-December romances have been a staple of American movies from the start, but they’ve rarely been this subtly drawn. Rather than a titillating diversion, Breezy is a movie about a human exchange between people from different generations, when the gap between them was at its widest. At this point in his career, Holden had achieved a level of eloquence that put him in a class by himself, and this is one of his best performances. Watching the movie you get the impression that Eastwood would have liked to have played the Holden character himself, but at the time he was far too young for the part.

Clint of
ten refers to the film has one of his favourites among the movies he has directed. It certainly shows a softer side to his character and he handles this story of a man learning to love again with great sensitivity and style. Perhaps Eastwood's most personal film - William Holden's character certainly shares some of the weaknesses that would be attributed to Clint himself by several of his biographers. Holden's womanising hides his loneliness, and if the film does have a message it is that true love should be seized in whatever form it appears.

I'm honest I would have to say that I would never watch this kind of movie and that it was only the fact that Eastwood, the man, directed it that made me do so. In fact I think the only other romance movie I've ever watched is Bridges of Madison County and I enjoyed that too. This one, I think, is better. The romance between the gorgeous youthful Breezy and Frank Harman (Holden) doesn't come across as at all tacky and is allowed to develop in a believable way. By the time they share their first kiss the viewer totally believes that two such people, such opposites, could truly be in love.

Breezy is, then, the girlie film that it's OK for guys to watch. Well worth seeking out - it may have been lensed in 1971 but the film's spirit is very much of the previous decade. And making it must have seemed for Clint, at the time, to be every but as revolutionary as the counter culture the movie celebrates. And the fans reacted pretty much as expected and stayed away in droves. Eastwood doesn't appear on screen, other than in an Hitchcockian camera wipe, and there's no gunfights or horses. Still it's well worth seeking out, if only to see a early example of how refreshingly straight forward a director Eastwood is.

TRIVIA: Sondra Locke auditioned for the part of Breezy but Eastwood rejected her in favour of the equally waif-like Lanz.

Friday 19 February 2010

Digital book piracy - BE AFRAID.

For years, we have been able to combine our taste for music and film with our desire to stick it to the man, and all from the safety of our PCs. Our literary habits, however, have perforce remained largely legal. The closest we could come to the same thrill is by wearing a deep-pocketed coat to WH Smiths – which is such an analogue approach to theft. Soon, however, even the bookish will be able to frustrate Lord Mandelson because, at long last, thanks to the iPad, digital book piracy is almost upon us.

The surest sign of this is that industry figures have started producing dubious statistics to show how endemic it is. In the US, it's just been announced that 10% of books read are now pirate texts. The same report claims that piracy has cost US publishers $3bn. But the source of the statistics was a company named Attributor, who provide online piracy protection for the publishing industry. Like a plumber tutting over the state of your pipes, they have a vested interest in finding problems


Amazon's eBook slice shrinks but the pie grows

According to a research report out this week from Credit Suisse analyst Spencer Wang this week, market leader Amazon (AMZN)’s dominant share of the exploding ebook market is about to go into free-fall.

Wang predicts that Amazon’s current 90 percent market share will plummet to 35 percent over the coming five years, thanks in part to the arrival of Apple’s iPad, plus an e-reader from Google that is apparently closer to launch than most observers thought.

“Near term, we suspect that the iPad and the new eBook agency pricing model, which requires that Amazon increase retail prices to be more consistent with Apple’s pricing, will provide Kindle with the most market share headwind,” wrote Wang. “Going forward, we can envision a scenario where Apple, Amazon, and Google eventually split the market.”

Of course, this kind of forecast needs to be viewed in the context of the rapid growth of the overall market in eBooks, which according to Wang will bring Amazon more than triple the sales from $248 million to $775 million over the same five-year period. FULL STORY

Harry Potter and the plagiarized books case

JK Rowling, the British author of the famed “Harry Potter [website]” series, dismissed claims as “absurd” and “unfounded” that she stole ideas from another author. Lawyers for the estate of late British author Adrian Jacobs filed legal action against Rowling and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC earlier this week. They claim Rowling plagiarized parts of the book “Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire” from one of Jacobs’ books about Willy the Wizard. Rowling, who said she has never heard of Jacobs, or read his book, is applying to the court to have the case dismissed for being without merit.

Wednesday 17 February 2010


Crime writer Peter Robinson is a name to be respected among crime and mystery readers, but for some reason his name has never quite gained the brand recognition afforded the likes of Ian Rankin or Colin Dexter, and yet his tenacious detective, Alan Banks, is every bit the equal of both Rebus and Morse.All that could be about to change with the forthcoming TV adaptation of Aftermath, a mid-period Banks novel.

Barry Forshaw, in his Rough Guide to Crime Fiction said of Peter Robinson - he's one of the most reliable practitioners around,an astringent voice in the field.

The author, born in the Yorkshire he so wonderfully recreates in the Banks novels, resides for the most part in Canada but he is also a regular visitor to his home shores. The Archive cornered Peter for a question answer session.

What I especially like about the Banks novels is that the police are not infallible. In the very powerful Innocent Graves, you paint the police in places as bumbling thugs and Owen's ruin is their fault entirely and yet they never truly answer for it. In fact I literally cried for Owen and very few books have the power to induce real tears, this one did though. Is there any hidden message behind the way you depict the police? Or are the shades of grey intended to create realism?

There is a certain ruthlessness in the way any authoritarian service operates. All you have to do is look at airport security to see what happens when you give someone a uniform and too much power—they’ll even make a four year old boy take his leg braces off! I simply wanted to make it clear that the police are not necessarily in the business of apologies or explanations, unless they are caught either napping or with their fingers in the pie. They follow a theory, right or wrong, eliminate it, and move on, not overly concerned about the misery and ruin they may leave in their wake. That said, it’s a hard job, and Banks at least strives for a degree of humanitarianism, as do most of the serving officers I know. But suspicion taints everyone’s life, and the whiff of doubt never quite goes away.

In the old days it must have been easier to write detective fiction without all the hi-tech methods. These days with DNA fingerprinting it must make the crime writers job that much harder in creating a real mystery for the protagonist. How much of a problem are modern scientific crime solving methods when writing a detective novel?

For some writers they’re actually a boon. Alas, I wasn’t particularly good at science at school, which is why I leaned towards the arts, and now I find myself having to understand things like DNA and ballistics. It’s difficult, but expert help is usually available, and sometimes the science can provide an interesting diversion or a useful clue. You learn one odd fact that not many people know and use it to spring a surprise on readers. On the whole, though, I try to emphasise the human aspect and keep the forensics to a minimum.

Are there any subjects you wouldn't tackle in a crime novel?

Not that I know of, unless they were boring. I might find, though, if I started something, that I couldn’t go on—but it hasn’t happened yet.

Great news about the Banks TV adaptation. Are there plans for a series of TV movies? And I believe they are starting with Aftermath - who decided on that particular book and why?

Obviously they want to start with a bang, and Aftermath is probably the darkest book in the series. It also has a lot of real crime connections, and the whole mystery of a killer couple. I don’t know who made the decision—certainly not me. I find these things out very late in the game. Anyway, Stephen Tompkinson is thrilled about playing Banks, and I think he’ll be great in the role. They start filming in April to broadcast later this year. We all hope, of course, that this is just the beginning of a long-running series. There are plenty of books to adapt!

How much input do you have into the TV show?

None. I’d be lucky if they let me on the set. Interestingly enough, though, Stephen values the writer’s role and we’ve already had lunch and talked about Banks. I’ve also read the screenplay and think it’s excellent. There are a few changes, but that’s to be expected. TV, after all, is a different medium, and they only have two one-hour episodes in which to tell a complicated story.

When originally creating Banks did you use any other fictional detective as a blueprint? Banks for instance has (like seemingly all fictional plod) a penchant for music.

The only other fictional detectives I really knew of at the time were Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, Van der Valk, Maigret and Martin Beck, so you work that one out!

Tell us a little about your latest novel?

Bad Boy is coming out in August, and much of it deals with Banks’s search for his daughter after she has disappeared with the dubious character of the title. In some ways its more of a thriller than a detective novel, though the usual cast is present, and there’s a great playlist. The publishers on both sides of the Atlantic a very excited about it, and I hope it exceeds even their expectations.

Going back to the first Bank novel - how much of his character did you have when you started writing him? And how has he changed over the series of books?

That’s the subject of a book length work! I knew very little at first, and I haven’t reread those earlier books in years. Banks has always been a work in progress and probably always will be. I’m sure that when he’s finished, I probably won’t want to write about him any more.

You live for the most part in Canada. Does writing Banks with his Yorkshire setting cure any homesickness? You make the area familiar to the reader - how important do you think the setting is to the tone of the books?

Yes, I started the series when I had been in Canada for only a short while, studying for my PhD at York University, in Toronto, and I was going through a period of nostalgia, feeling more like a tourist every time I went back. I was writing a lot of poetry at the time, and it centred on the sense of place, as did my PhD dissertation. Writing the series was a way of keeping grip, staying in touch. I think that sense of homesickness permeates the earlier books especially and gives them an unusual perspective. Someone who lives there all the time probably wouldn’t dwell on describing the landscape in such living detail; they would be more likely to take it for granted and get on with the story! The setting has always been important to me, and now I spend a bit more time back in Yorkshire, I’m finding more real places making their mark, but I still try to render the landscape in some detail. I haven’t really cut back on the descriptive elements, just linked them more to real places. The area I write about has always been real to me, and I still continue to “move” places I visit and like into Swainsdale.

For years your work has been highly regarded but you don't seem to have scaled the heights of say Ian Rankin in public awareness, (personally I prefer Banks to Rebus) but all that may change now with the TV series and a run of excellent novels. Do you see yourself continuing Banks for many years? Are you planning on doing a Conan Doyle and tossing him over a waterfall?

I don’t think I’m finished with Banks yet. There are definite post Bad Boy issues to address. But I am working on a standalone at the moment, then I’ll go back to Banks. I suppose TV may increase public awareness. It would certainly be nice if more people knew about my books so that they could at least try them and see if they liked them. Hodder do a great job with promotion—tours, posters, bookshop promotions, newspaper and TV ads, the lot. I just don’t seem to get much media coverage in the UK, so you don’t see my face on the telly, or reviews of my books in the quality papers. They seem to ignore me completely. It’s partly the stigma of being a genre writer, of course, that literary snobbishness, but perhaps there’s a bit more to it than that. After all, other crime writers seem to get plenty of exposure. It’s probably my own fault in some ways because I am rather retiring, believe it or not, and would far rather sit at home and write than sit in a TV studio and pontificate about writing.

Recently I bought a Banks novel for £1 in ASDA. Does the author make anything from these amazing deals? Surely these offers can not be beneficial to the industry. Do you, as author, have any control over these crazy supermarket deals?

No, of course not. This side of the business is completely beyond me. They might as well give them away in every packet of Cornflakes as sell them for £1. And then there’s the whole issue of electronic books and the Google “settlement” but we won’t even go there. It’s becoming a much more complicated world for publishers, and sometimes they have to cut difficult deals to remain competitive. I suppose it’s better to be on sale for £1 at ASDA than not to be on sale at all.

Peter's website HERE

Tuesday 16 February 2010




Arkansas Smith: the name was legend. Once he had been a Texas Ranger, but now he was something else entirely. Some said he was an outlaw, a killer of men and a fast draw. Others claimed he was a kind of special lawman, dispensing frontier justice across the West and bringing law to the lawless. Arkansas Smith arrives in Red Rock looking for those who shot and left his friend for dead. He vows to leave no stone unturned in his quest to bring the gunmen to justice and, soon, those who go against him must face the legendary fast draw that helped tame the West.

James Patterson goes graphic

One man publishing industry, James Patterson has an eye on enlarging his audience by moving into graphic novels.

"Comics could reach a much larger audience than they do right now," says Patterson, who often works with co-authors and whose thrillers are frequently at or near the top of USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list. "With all of the quality work and talent that's out there, this industry could be so much bigger." James Patterson.

Patterson who already has a controversial working method -as well as writing himself he also sets out detailed synopsis of his plots, outlining every twist and turn and then employing other writers to produce the book. It is no surprise that he will be employing writing partners for his comic books.

First up for release will be a five-part comic series based on the writer's best-selling young-adult novel Witch & Wizard. The new series, subtitled Shadowland, will be written by Dara Naraghi, with Patterson heavily involved in the story direction. (He is not involved with the artwork.)

The Wizard series launch will be followed in June by a four-issue comic adaptation of Patterson's 2009 book The Murder of King Tut. Alexander Irvine will do the heavy lifting in terms of writing duties.

Patterson says he is excited at the prospect of translating King Tut— a "non-fiction thriller" that investigates the mysterious death of the Egyptian pharaoh — into a comic-book format. "We saw the potential there and worked with IDW to expand on it. It's going to be a very interesting series."

Under the agreement, Patterson will also write original comic-book stories. "We're doing an all-new series called Beer Belly and the Fat Boy. I can't get into the details, but it's a lot of fun."


Here's Charles Ardai, editor of Hard Case Crime with the low down:

In six weeks, we're going to publish Donald E. Westlake's unpublished novel, MEMORY.

Both Publishers Weekly and Booklist have given it starred reviews, calling it "a significant final work from a master" and "absolutely a must-read." MEMORY is one of the most important books we've ever had the privilege to publish.

Other news: We've added another forthcoming title to our Web site, QUARRY'S EX by Max Allan Collins -- you can see the cover art by Greg Manchess at This will be our fourth novel about the enigmatic hitman and we're thrilled to bring him back.

On the "high adventure" side of the house, we're bringing two-fisted adventurer Gabriel Hunt back as well, for three more adventures, and the first of these -- HUNT BEYOND THE FROZEN FIRE, co-written by Christa Faust (author of the Edgar-nominated MONEY SHOT) -- will arrive in stores on the same day as MEMORY. In this one, Gabriel assembles a crack team to go down to Antarctica and bring back a scientist who's gone missing near the South Pole. Only what they find when they get there isn't nearly what they expect... For more info (and a glimpse at Glen Orbik's delicious cover painting), visit

And as long as we're mixing genres, here's one more reading suggestion, and it's not even a book we published. When you're next in your favorite local bookstore, why not pick up a copy of WARRIORS, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois? It's a hefty collection featuring new novellas by 20 major authors, ranging from crime stories to epic fantasy to science fiction, all on the theme of warfare, broadly defined. The authors include Hard Case Crime's own Lawrence Block, as well as hardboiled masters Joe Lansdale and David Morrell. But my personal favorite author of the bunch is Naomi Novik, who is not only the New York Times-bestselling author of the TEMERAIRE series but wife. The story she wrote for the book is a heart-stopping account of warfare on a distant planet, between a technologically advanced invading force and the desperate natives who use their connection to the biological world around them to fight back. If this premise sounds a wee bit familiar, I can only assure you that the story was written well over a year ago, before she (or I) had ever heard of AVATAR, never mind seen it. And having seen AVATAR since...I can also tell you that her story's better. (Yes, I'm biased.)

One last tidbit of news before I vanish for another month: We just bought our first title for 2011, and though I can't tell you the title yet, I can tell you this: it's by Christa Faust, it stars Angel Dare.

And if you don't know who Angel Dare is, all I can say is: Why haven't you read MONEY SHOT yet?

Monday 15 February 2010

Rock with Christopher Lee

As unlikely as it sounds acting legend, Christopher Lee has become a Heavy Metal star.

Charlemagne: by the sword and the cross - billed as a symphonic metal concept album features the actor both narrating and singing.

"An epic story needs epic music. I realised there was a parallel between my acting style and heavy metal music. Working on this album was too good an opportunity to miss and I thoroughly enjoyed myself." Christopher Lee

Check out the album HERE


Sin City (2005), directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. This is one of the most effective and stylish comic book movies ever filmed - it looks eye popping with actors filmed against a computer generated backdrop. It's all monochrome with a charcoal tint to the images, but every now and then there's a splash of vivid colour - blood, lipstick, the yellow skin of a rapist. Using Miller's film noir influenced graphic novels as a reference point and sticking close to the comic books uber-violence the film doesn't put a foot wrong.

Uncompromising, extreme, intelligent and brilliant.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) Okay the film is juvenile and predictable, but then the comic book from which it drew its inspiration was always one of Marvel's younger reader friendly publications. So one can hardly condemn it for being too comic bookish.

On its opening weekend, the film was the highest-grossing movie at the U.S. box office, reaching approximately $58 million which was a full 2million more than the previous movie. Sure it's dumb-arse but it's very good natured and effectively recreates the bickering relationship between Johnny Storm and The Thing. The CGI Surfer looks incredibly cool and although the film copped out by not showing us enough of Galacticus, it never fails to entertains. Well there are some shaky sequences mid-movie that border on slapstick bit it's still good fun. Everything, in fact, a comic book movie should be...hey, no one was expecting Citizen Kane.

The Hulk (2003) - Although the complete opposite of the previous film, this one treats the superhero genre seriously, it is just as underrated. Marvel obviously had high hopes for this one and employed art-house director Ang Lee to give it gravitas. Upon release the film recieved mixed reviews and for the most part the fans didn't think there was enough Hulk in the movie. With a running time over 2 hours it is one of the longer super hero movies - it's an epic tale and its presented in an epic style. Marvel themselves were not happy and rebooted the series in 2008 with The Incredible Hulk, recasting Edward Norton as the doomed Banner. It is generally regarded that the 2008 version is the better film but for my money it is Ang Lee's Hulk which is superior.While there may be more action-packed pictures to be found on this list, there are none as centered on characters as Hulk, so check it out if you like your blockbuster a little smarter – or if you happen to like watching giant green men bash the living crap out of a tank.

Batman Begins - it was a tough choice between this and its sequel, The Dark Knight, but this one just pipped it at the post. True both films are excellent but this one is a much more rounded movie. The thing about this movie is that it was the film Batman fans had always been waiting for - It has a crossover appeal that works for the geeks, the laymen and even for the ladies. It's a truly terrific achievement and a promising start for the series to follow. The Dark Knight followed but where that film lags in the always difficult middle section, this one has no such weakness.

Hellboy II (2008) - Not that this a better film than the 2004 Hellboy. Both are directed by Del Toro and feature Ron Perlman (inspired casting) as the demonic hero from the Dark Horse comic series. For this one the director updated the classic Frankenstein storyline.

Hellboy II opened on July 11, 2008 in 3,204 theaters in the United States and Canada. The film ranked first at the box office, grossing an estimated $35.9 million over the weekend, outperforming the opening of its predecessor, which had opened with $23.2 million.The opening was the biggest of Guillermo del Toro's directing career.

Perhaps the first truly great comic book movie, Superman (1978) still holds up well when pitted against the CGI blockbusters that fill the cinema screens today. You'l believe a man can fly, ran the tagline and for once there was no exaggeration. Chris Reeve made bot a perfect Clark Kent and Superman. Whilst Marlon Brando's over-paid and over-hyped contribution adds little to the movie.

In fact Superman may still stand as the best comic book movie ever made. And for generations Christopher Reeve will always be Superman. Superman opened on December 15, 1978 in America, grossing $134.22 million in North America and $166 million in foreign countries, totaling $300.22 million worldwide. The film was declared a financial success since it beat its $55 million budget. Superman was the sixth-highest grossing film at the time of its release.

There are many other comic book movies worth watching - Spiderman, Watchmen, X-Men - and this list is not intended as a best of. But rather to highlight the movies that someone who has never read a comic book can enjoy equally with the most fervent geek. For instance I've not included Watchmen which is a minor masterpiece, but if you're not familiar with the source material it can be a bit slow. That's not the case with the films here which need no prior knowledge to fully enjoy the material.

All together - biff, bash, wallop


Dick Francis, the author who all but invented the horse mystery sub-genre, and remains today at the forefront in the racing mystery stakes has died - He passed away at his Caribbean home in Grand Cayman, according to a short statement released through his publicist.

During the latter part of his life Francis became best known as one of the most popular British thriller writers, penning 42 novels based on the horse racing industry, as well as an autobiography, The Sport of Queens, and a biography of Lester Piggott.

But those achievements stemmed from a successful earlier career as a National Hunt jockey, winning over 350 races and being honoured as Champion Jockey for the 1953/4 season.

He rode eight times in the Grand National, including for the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 1956.

British Library join the eBook revolution

The British Library has announced that users of Amazon's Kindle e-reader will be able to download more than 65,000 19th century classics for free this coming spring in a special format that will have the look of a genuine first edition. Works from famous authors like Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen will be reproduced using the original typeface and illustrations to add an antique feel to the e-reader technology.

According to Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library: "Making 19th century fiction available for free through the Kindle e-book reader opens up a new global readership for forgotten literary gems. Kindle users will be able to download, free of charge, 25 million pages of digitized books, from noteworthy editions of well known authors like Dickens, Conan Doyle and Thomas Hardy to rare early 19th century fiction and even the UK’s best collection of ‘penny dreadfulls’."

The British Library has worked with Microsoft over the past three years to digitally record text and images from the out-of-copyright works. Microsoft also helped develop the "Turning the Pages" software that allows users to interact with otherwise off-limits, rare books and manuscripts from the likes of Handel, Leonardo da Vinci, Lewis Carroll and Mozart. As well as seeing a visual representation of a turning page, users can zoom right up close to a page, change orientation and much more.

The news represents the latest step of an ongoing digitization project which recently made available more than two million pages from 19th century British newspapers and aims to capture 50 million items by 2020. Work will now begin on the scanning of out-of-copyright books from the early 20th century.


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