Saturday, 31 July 2010
EDGE: THE REBIRTH APPROACHES
Future volumes will actually contain two Edge novels in the one book, offering superb value for money. And we will also correct a mistake made by the original publishers, New English Library who published books 17 and 18 the wrong way around.
Keep coming back to the Archive for all the Edge news - we're on the cutting edge of the western revival.
Kindle - huge price drop hits the UK
The all-new Amazon Kindle is now available for pre-order in the UK.
The new Kindle has an electronic-ink screen with 50% better contrast, and offers 20 percent faster page turns, up to one month of battery life, a twofold storage increase to 3,500 books, built-in Wi-Fi, a new graphite colour and more - all for only GBP 149, and still with free 3G wireless - no monthly bills or annual contracts.
Friday, 30 July 2010
THE COMPLETE LITERARY 007 - DR NO
"No stopping power, sir. But it' easy to operate. A bit fancy looking too. Appeals to the ladies."
The armourer is talking about Bond's beloved Beretta which is taken away from him, to be replaced by the now iconic Walther PPK and a Smith and Wesson. Bond is not happy with this but M points out that it is not debatable and so Bond is kitted out with the new equipment for what is seen as an easy mission, a bit of a rest. Of course in the world of James Bond there is no such thing as an easy misson.
Bond is ordered to investigate the disappearance of Strangways - and so Bond finds himself in Jamaica where he picks up on the trail that will eventually lead him to Dr Julius No - the novel is far more action orientated than From Russia with Love and the plot is also far more fantastical, almost science fiction. The book can also boast one of the most successful female leads in Honey Rider.
From Russia with Love's plot was relatively serious but Doctor No is the complete opposite with a plot foresakes credibility and goes all out for thrills and worries not about realism. However Fleming's talents had progressed by this period and for the time spent between the covers, Dr No seems very real indeed. The violence is also cranked up considerably and the author manages to create a true sensation of fear and revulsion in the reader. Quarrel's death for instance is especially nasty and described in nauseating detail. And later in the book we follow Bond through an obstacle course that is truly thrilling with each blow 007 sustains felt by the reader.
To many fans this is the best of all the Bond books and whilst I'm not of that opinion, it is most definitely a good place to start if you're new to the literary Bond. You may miss much of the continuity from the earlier books but, like From Russia with Love, the character of Bond is recognisable to the 007 of the early movies.
Bond stood and waited for his unspeakable end. He looked into the blue jaws of death and saw the glowing red filament of the firer deep inside the big tube. He thought of Quarrel's body - there was no time to think of Quarrel - and imagined the blackened, smoking figure laying in the melted sand. Soon he, too, would flame like a torch.
Dr No is a very effective thriller - M is at his most tyrannical in the book and Bond is much more fatalistic and reflects on his own mortality at several key points in the narrative. The last quarter of the book is pure, "Boy's Own" and the reader is compelled to turn the pages. I re-read this book for this article and I must have read it at least half a dozen times previously but it still thrills with each and every page - a truly great entry in the Bond canon and a superb thriller in itself.
Thursday, 29 July 2010
Amazon predicts eBook sales to top paperbacks next year
The most stunning statement of Jeff Bezos is: "I predict we will surpass paperback sales sometime in the next nine to 12 months. Sometime after that, we'll surpass the combination of paperback and hardcover. It stuns me. People forget that Kindle is only 33 months old."
Chap O'Keefe Extract
I've just loaded a new excerpt to the chapokeefe site. It's here, http://chapokeefe.webs.com/bhehel/ , and it's taken from Shootout at Hellyer's Creek, which was the first Joshua Dillard novel, written in 1992 and published originally as a BHW with one of my favourite covers by Salvador Faba. I've re-used that cover to head the excerpt and a new cover, by Gordon Crabb, as a tailpiece.
The new cover, which I also like, will be on the Dales Western trade paperback edition that Magna Large Print Books will be publishing in about a month's time. I'll also be writing about the Joshua Dillard series in the next Black Horse Extra, which is now only two or three weeks away. The big news for that, of course, is Matt Mayo's breakthrough into the Leisure Books mass market. With the immediacy of the Net, and an ever-increasing number of western blogs and websites, most people will already have seen the main details but Matt has kindly sent me a few more.
Hellyer's Creek is one of those BHWs you sometimes see offered for silly prices by dealers on Amazon Marketplace and similar. As Joshua's exploits multiply, it seems to become more sought-after. I hope the Dales edition will allow more people to read it, perhaps putting in orders now at their local libraries.
Hope you enjoy the excerpt. FIND IT HERE
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
BOOK REVIEW - THE WHITE WOLF BY MAX BRAND
Less western and more wildlife adventure - it's closer in theme and spirit to Watership Down than Shane, but that's not a criticism - I loved the book. Though if I was looking for a western as the book suggests I would have been disappointed but as it was after a chapter or so I found myself sucked into this great story.
It is the story of Tucker Crosden who is determined to breed the perfect bull terrier - he decides to take his prize bitch into the mountain to give birth because he figures that if the pups spend their initial weeks in the wilds it will make them better dogs. One day he goes hunting but a wolf sneaks into camp and after a bitter fight with the terrier bitch proceeds to kill the puppies. However one of the pups does manage to escape and finds shelter amongst a litter of wolf cubs and is then raised as wolf - the dog becomes known to other wolves as The White Wolf.
The animals talk to each other in this story, they speak with the full range of human language and this is the story of White Wolf and his struggles to become accepted by his adopted species. It's a great yarn - heart warming on times and also thrilling as the young dog struggles to survive in the brutal world created by Mother Nature. White Wolf, comes from a species long domesticated by man but now the rules of civilisation are alien to the environment in which he finds himself.
"Do you hear?" growled the black wolf, licking the great scar on its foreleg. "Is that the voice of one of our kind."
La Sombra reached out a tentative paw and turned the puppy on its back; then she sniffed it from head to toe.
"It is strange," she said, hesitantly.
"It is not half the size of the others, for one thing," remarked the father.
It's a great read, hugely entertaining but it's most certainly not a western.
US AUTHOR'S GUILD BLAME PUBLISHERS FOR EXCLUSIVE E-BOOK DEALS
Last Thursday's announcement that Wylie's Odyssey Editions would bypass publishers to sell the first-ever eBooks of modern classics, from Midnight's Children and London Fields to Lolita, exclusively via Amazon's Kindle store prompted immediate and aggressive reactions from publishers. Random House said it would not enter into any new English-language business agreements with the Wylie Agency.
With most of the titles being Random House titles, the publisher's response was swift to Wylie, saying that it would not do business with Wylie for English-language works "until this situation is resolved."
The Guild's statement warns against exclusivity contracts between any publisher or agency and retail outlet, feeling that this will flout anti-trust laws as well as condone business practices that could create more harm than good for consumers and authors.
"Regardless of the exclusivity issues, any direct agreement between a literary agency and Amazon is troubling. Amazon has, time and again, wielded its clout in the industry ruthlessly, with little apparent regard for its relationships with authors or publishers or, for that matter, antitrust rules. Any agency working directly with Amazon may find its behavior constrained in unpleasant and unpredictable ways. Agencies should proceed with extreme care."
The Guild also stated that, "To a large extent, publishers have brought this on themselves. This storm has long been gathering. Literary agencies have refused to sign e-rights deals for countless backlist books with traditional publishers, even though they and their clients, no doubt, see real benefits in having a single publisher handle the print and electronic rights to a book. Knowledgeable authors and agents, however, are well aware that e-book royalty rates of 25% of net proceeds are exceedingly low and contrary to the long-standing practice of authors and publishers to, effectively, split evenly the net proceeds of book sales. "
The Guild also warns against agencies acting as publishers, fearing that it could also raise conflicts of interest between their clients and themselves.
Ultimately, this battle is only beginning as the growing industry of digital publishing and ebooks becomes more of a major player in the traditional and non-traditional publishing world.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
EDGE THE E-LONER
The first in George G. Gilman's all time classic western series is now listed on the Solstice Publishing website as coming soon.
It's all systems go now and nothing can stand in the way of the digital comeback for this all time classic western series. The Edge books are like Spaghetti Westerns on steroids. No western series has ever punched harder or with more style. Known as much for their humour as gut churning action, the books represent truly entertaining reading.
The Edge series ran for 61 titles and still has a thriving cult audience today - now with the new digital medium, changing the face of publishing, it is time for the books to return. Back in the day you could go into any bookshop and buys books such as this - well those days are back. It is hoped that we can put all 61 titles back into print as well as the three spin off titles in which Edge met another timeless Gilman creation, Adam Steele. And who knows - if the demand is there then maybe we'll see Steele emerging in a shiny new digital packaging.
Anyone unfamiliar with Edge and wanting to lean more should join the George G. Gilman and the Piccadilly Cowboys forum - it's a great group with an active forum populated by passionate fans of not only the Edge books but the other writers who made up the collective known as The Piccadilly Cowboys - Terry Harknett, Ken Bulmer, Laurence James, John Harvey, Mike Linaker, Fred Nolan and Angus Wells who wrote westerns in the 1970's and 80's under the names of George G Gilman, Charles R Pike, John J McLaglen, James A Muir, William M James, William S Brady, Charles C Garrett, John Harvey, Neil Hunter, Mathew Kirk, L J Coburn, J B Dancer, James W Marvin, J D Sanderson and Frederick H Christian. This forum is dedicated to those writers and their books. 2 of the writers, Terry Harknett and Mike Linaker are members and regular contributors.
I personally urge anyone interested in western fiction to take a look at the group - joining up is simplicity itself and in no time you'll have many knowledgeable fans to chat with. I'm a member myself, naturally, and find it a great resource for information on The Piccadilly Cowboys.
And keep visiting The Archive for all the latest Edge and George G. Gilman news.
Monday, 26 July 2010
The Virtual Campfire: Talking heads with Mathew P. Mayo
HER PERSONAL WEST
|SHERLOCK on nicotine patches|
Sunday, 25 July 2010
THE ARCHIVE STATS
Project: THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
|First Time Visitors||132||144||119||95||101||113||113||817||117|
eBooks the state of play
Some of the benefits of eBook readers are:
- The ability to carry a near unlimited amount of books around
- The sharp E-Ink screen, which reads like a real book (so you don’t get eye fatigue and you can read under any environment)
- The long battery life (most eBook readers can get over 2 weeks of use)
- The ability to purchase books from the device (available on the Kindle, Nook, Bebook Neo for example)
- The ability to load up any pdf, pre purchased eBook, or document into the device for reading later
- The compact form factor
- Prices of readers are starting to drop considerably.
Once eBooks enter the mainstream, if they already haven't, the will allow publishers to bring back long of print books with only a fraction of the investment needed for physical books. This, in theory, should allow mid range genre fiction such as westerns, crime, thrillers, horror and adventure to be once again available in the numbers they once were. One interesting aspect of the eBook revolution is the boom in sales for erotic fiction - maybe readers who were too embarrassed to buy these lewdly covered paperbacks in the shops, enjoy the privacy of pressing the download button and seconds later the book is on their device.
And of course those who think eBooks are new are wrong - eBooks have been around for years but it is only the introduction of eReaders that has made the format truly portable. They can be read on your computer screen but you can't really relax on the beach with a laptop, with eReaders you can and they weigh nothing to carry about in a bag or pocket. It also doesn't take the destruction of trees to make an eBook and the power needed to consume them, particularly on eReaders, is minimal.
E-books have numerous benefits. Eliminating paper saves resources. E-book readers take up little room in travelers' backpacks and purses, and yet can store the equivalent of a whole bookshelf. You don't have to go anywhere to buy or borrow an e-book title. For the vision-impaired, the ability to adjust font size can mean the difference between being able to read a book and having to hope that the publisher will eventually release an audio version. Some e-book readers double as music players, and some even have a speech capability for reading books aloud.
So maybe it's time to take the plunge - eBooks are here to stay.
Official eBook chart will be with us in months
"We will clearly, as we are in the print book world, be transparent about who is on the panel down the line," he said. "But, for the moment, we have to protect the exposure of the individual panellists."
Nowell said the chart would not be launched "unless it is as comprehensive and robust as we can make it", and stressed the relatively small nature of the e-book market as it is currently. He added: "It is better not to have the information, than have the wrong information."
Nowell declined to comment on what proportion of the sales would have to be represented before a chart could be created, saying the team would be able to identify any issues as testing begins.
He went on to urge publishers to ensure the separate ISBNs were used on digital formats, to ensure they are counted differently to print formats. "Perhaps this is not being taken seriously enough now, but it will be taken seriously if a chart comes out and a major author isn't number one because the publisher hasn't put the right ISBN on the book," he said. "We don't want that to happen."
Nowell added: "Publishers should absolutely be clamouring for an e-book chart – they have a part to play in terms of the ISBNs – and our job is to put out a comprehensive, robust, reliable chart. We will only do that when we are absolutely confident we won't be exposuring any particular retailer's sales, which I think will be a matter of months rather than years."
Publishers have previously called on Nielsen to create a chart for e-books in light of the growing significance of the format, but Nielsen representatives said only that the firm was looking at the possibilities of building one.
AMAZON US DROP PRICE OF THEIR POPULAR KINDLE BY 30%
The most popular Ebook readers, namely the Amazon Kindle has recently taken a dramatic drop in price. Instead of the original $400, Amazon is now making this Digital Ebook reader available for only $189. This price drop allows the Kindle to stand out for anyone wanting to buy an Ebook reader.
You can purchase other E-book readers for cheaper than the Amazon Kindle, such as the Sony Digital Reader Touch Edition, however its features doesn’t come anywhere close to that of the Kindle Ebook Reader.
You can check out the full features of the Kindle on Amazon here >> Amazon Kindle
The Kindle Digital Ebook Reader has a variety of features that set it apart from other digital Ebook readers. We’ve listed some of them below:
- Enhanced readability: The Kindle’s display is remarkably close to the experience of reading a real book. The display is like paper – there’s no back light and no glare. You’ll think you’re actually reading a book!
- 3G Wireless: The built in 3G wireless will let you download books straight to your Ebook reader. Unlike cell phones, you won’t have to sign any contracts to use it, plus you won’t have to worry about hunting for a Wi-Fi spot.
- Book price: Most titles available for this E-book reader cost much less than they do in their physical form, saving you a ton of money.
- Memory: The Kindle can hold up to 1,500 books.
- Battery Life: With the wireless turned on the Kindle can last up to a week on a single charge. If you the wireless is off it can last up to two weeks.
The Kindle really stands out from other Ereaders. If you would like to learn more about its amazing features, take a look at the homepage here >> Amazon Kindle Ebook Readers
Saturday, 24 July 2010
NATIONAL COWBOY DAY
Friday, 23 July 2010
UK follows US eBook trend
Although this is still far off the figures quoted by Amazon, it seems likely the gap between digital and print is closing: in the first quarter of 2010, hardbacks accounted for 20.3% of the UK print market by volume, according to Nielsen.
“As we see in the US, things are changing rapidly,” said Walkley [of Hachette], adding he “certainly” believed e-books would outsell hardbacks in the UK. Much depends on the book and the author and, in some cases, the genre—some authors already have big bestsellers in e-books in the US and it will happen in the UK
A POLICEMAN'S LOT NEWS
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Tough as Steele
George G Gilman
Originally published as a NEL Paperback original
Original cover price 40p
Author, George G. Gilman was not only responsible for the hugely popular Edge series, but several other characters were also created by his pen. Adam Steele was, next to Edge, the most successful and ran for 49 books, as well as three volumes in which the Virginian was teamed up with Edge.
The Steele books were equally violent as the Edge's series, the surreal violence was a trademark of the sub-genre, although Steele himself was not such a violent character and would avoid killing anyone if it was at all possible. Many readers actually prefer Steele to Edge for this reason, finding the character easier to empathise with. It's not my view but there is no doubt that Steele is a far more likeable character than that man alone.
This is the tenth book in the series and starts off with Steele being terrorised by a gang who leave him stranded in the middle of nowhere, and then ride off and commit a brutal rape of the daughter of an important man, her boyfriend is also mutilated and he too has a wealthy and important father. Steele is then hired by both men to go after the gang but Steele is not happy that the men want to see them men dead. He does however enjoy the irony of getting paid to go after men he would have gone after in any case. Steele is one Southern gentleman who it is foolish to cross.
The book is, as are all of Gilman's titles, a great fast, and fun read with the usual one-liners and surreal humour. The early Steele titles had a large print run and copies of this book are relatively easy to track down for a decent price, but with the first Edge book soon returning to digital print as an eBook from Solstice Publishing, it is a possibility that one day we may see Steele popping back up digitally, pistols blazing and teeth bared.
Another excellent western adventure from a time when Brit westerns were breathing new life into the genre.
TAFF WARS - May the taffy be with you
Part two is below and check out the other episodes on the You Tube Taff Wars channel
MAY THE FARCE BE WITH YOU
Batman stole my thunder - Stallone claims
"Back in the 1980s, they were the biggest stars in Hollywood, both in terms of box-office receipts and bicep circumference. But the glory days of the brawny action heroes -- Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, and the like -- eventually faded. In their place, a new breed of '90s star took over: younger, leaner, and nowhere near as macho. By decade's end, Keanu Reeves was a huge action star (shudder to think).
Where did it all go wrong? According to an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Sylvester Stallone puts the blame squarely on the caped shoulders of one comic book hero.
"It was the first 'Batman' movie," Stallone told the Times, in reference to the 1989 movie adaptation starring Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader. He went on to say, "The action movies changed radically when it became possible to Velcro your muscles on," a clear dig at how the trim Keaton was encased in a sculpted Batsuit for the film. Stallone joked, "I wish I had thought of Velcro muscles myself... "I didn't have to go to the gym for all those years."
Stallone adds that the director Tim Burton's stylish take on the superhero story changed what audiences expected from an action flick: "It was the beginning of a new era. The visual took over. The special effects became more important than the single person. That was the beginning of the end."
It's ironic, then, that Stallone will be going to this year's San Diego Comic-Con -- the center for all things geeky -- to promote his upcoming movie, "The Expendables," which is a true throwback to the action hits of the '80s. In the film, Stallone (who also directed) leads a team of mercenaries to overthrow a corrupt South American dictator. It costars Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, and even Stallone's "Rocky IV" nemesis, Dolph Lundgren.
"The Expendables" is also notable for being the first time Stallone has appeared on-screen with fellow '80s icons Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. Stallone told the Times that each of them had their own on-screen persona which made set them apart from one another: "Arnold was king of the one-liners. Bruce was witty and talkative... And I was pretty silent." He added that their differences made it impossible for him to see himself in his friend's signature roles. "Arnold was relentless, like this perfect machine. People asked if I could have played the Terminator. Are you kidding? Not a chance, I never could have played the Terminator."
As it happens, Bruce Willis will be at Comic-Con this weekend promoting his upcoming movie "Red," which also is an action flick about an aging team of experts. It stars Oscar-winners Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren.
Stallone will preview "The Expendables" at Comic-Con on Thursday, and the movie will muscle its way into movie theaters on August 13."
eBooks another million eSales
Many of these eBook sales have come through Kindle. USA Today: "Amazon.com, the biggest player in the growing e-book market, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first book in the Millennium trilogy, is the all-time top seller on the eBook reading device the Kindle. Kathryn Stockett's novel The Help is No. 2." Knopf has sold 500,000 eBook versions of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo alone.Interestingly, Knopf backs up the Amazon numbers put out this week claiming that eBook sales have surpassed hardcovers. USA Today reports: "Kindle sales for the most recent Larsson book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, have topped those for the hardcover."
Thursday, 22 July 2010
PUBLISHERS FACE THE PERFECT ESTORM
Now I come into contact with a lot of people involved in the book industry - from writers, to publishers, to journalists and even some of these well informed people don't realise how versatile the eBook truly is. Many think you need an expensive reader to read the books but this is not so - they can be read and enjoyed on the computer screen, on smartphones, iPad's. Go to Amazon and you don't need a Kindle to download eBooks - when you select your book a free AP Kindle for PC will download to your computer within seconds together with your book purchase. Many eBooks also come in PDF or ePub formats which are as close as you can get to a universal format. And reading on the screen is actually better on the eyes than conventional books, especially the eInk technology which is astounding.
Go to Amazon and download one of their many free eBook to test the format and when you see how good the experience is then browse the countless book titles, most of them a great deal cheaper than their conventional book version. And if you're stuck for something to try might I suggest my novel, A Policeman's lot. It's at an amazing price, cheaper than a new paperback and the Kindle AP, if needed, will download along with it.
The story takes place a number of years after the Whitechapel murders but ties back to those murders in a most interesting way. I won't give more away because the twist at the end is original and took me well by surprise. Yet, it made perfect sense within the storyline of the book.
"A Policeman's Lot" is only availble at this time on Kindle or as a PDF file. Fortunately, I have a Kindle and was able to enjoy it.
This tightly plotted and cleverly conceived crime fiction novel is set in the Welsh town of Pontypridd in 1904. Our central character is police inspector Frank Parade, who on a normal day has his hands more than full. Parade's job gets even more complicated when Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show comes to town. There is Bill Cody, larger than life, and not all that cooperative, especially as one of his employees turns up with his throat slit. And thus begins a murder investigation that generates a slag heap of difficulties for Inspector Parade and produces a string of corpses.
Dobbs has done his research and packs a lot into his novel. We become immersed in a time and place on the cusp of the twentieth century. Old methods of law enforcement are yielding with the introduction of new technologies. Economic changes create new problems and social pressures.
And there's the entertaining collision of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show with turn of the last century, coal-mining Wales. Cowboys and Indians wander through some of the scenes, and Bill Cody himself figures into the plot at key points. Well drawn, he is a self-important presence used to being regarded as a living legend. Meanwhile, Inspector Parade is a thoroughly enjoyable creation. Happy he is when he's on duty, which is nearly all the time. Such is a policeman's lot.
It was no surprise that I would like this book. The author had previously entertained me with two fine westerns(as Jack Martin).
Inspector Frank Parade of the Welsh town of Pontypridd heads a two man police force that is busy enough. When Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show arrives with it's five hundred performers and eight hundred livestock, never mind the thousands attending the shows, things get a lot worse.
Then the murders start up, involving a sixteen year old series of unexplained deaths. Throw in a thief, once arrested by Parade, who had threatened his life and had escaped prison by murdering a guard, a number of home break-ins, and superiors who want a fast, easy solution, and you have a fast moving novel that doesn't let up until the end.
And what an end.
The author uses Parade and Buffalo Bill to offer his own unique solution to the greatest unsolved serial killer mystery in history.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
His personal West
BAD TASTE MEMORABILIA
CHICAGO — Instruments used in Elvis Presley's autopsy and embalming are going up for auction in Chicago, including the "John Doe" toe tag used after the original was stolen amid the chaos at the hospital following his death.
Leslie Hindman Auctioneers will hold the auction Aug. 12, four days before the 33rd anniversary of Presley's death.
The auction house said Tuesday that all of the items used in the autopsy and funeral preparations will be available, from rubber gloves and forceps to a comb and eye liner. Even the coffin invoice and the hanger used to hold Presley's burial suit will be sold.
The items were saved by the senior embalmer at the Memphis Funeral Home, which prepared the singer's body.
The items will be auctioned in two sets valued at up to $6,000 and $8,000.
SHERLOCK HOLMES RETURNS (and I'm in it)
from THE INDEPENDENT: Viewers will on Sunday get their first glimpse of BBC1's new Sherlock Holmes – or Sherlock as this three-part updating of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian detective to contemporary Britain is being called, with the sort of familiarity that would no doubt incur a disdainful wrinkle from literature's most famous aquiline nose. The series is being preceded by the sort of big-bang press screening favoured by the Beeb when launching new series of Doctor Who – and this new Sherlock Holmes (with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role and Martin Freeman as Watson) comes with its own Whovian credentials, having been co-written by Doctor Who show-runner Steven Moffat, and Mark Gatiss, who himself has three Time Lord episodes under his belt.
But then the connections back between the Tardis traveller and the pipe-smoking detective are nothing new – big-screen Doctor Who star Peter Cushing played Holmes several times. Basil Rathbone is probably the best-known Holmes, if not the most prolific – that honour goes to silent actor Eille Norwood. Vasily Livanov is considered by Russian speakers to be the world's best Holmes – President Putin led the birthday salute when Livanov turned 75 earlier this month.
In the English-speaking world, the definitive Holmes appeared on ITV in the 1980s – Jeremy Brett so totally identifying with the role that it is thought to have contributed to the bi-polar actor's nervous breakdown. Even if that is not true, and the death of his wife during filming looks a more likely cause, certainly Holmes needs an actor who can skirt with madness (a weakness in the Peter Cushing version – has a Holmes ever seemed more boringly sane?) Nicol Williamson, who played Holmes in the 1976 film The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, certainly had the requisite edginess – his Holmes travelled to Vienna to be treated by Sigmund Freud for his cocaine addiction.
Ah, yes, the cocaine addiction. It seemed to dominate Rupert Everett's 2004 portrayal for the BBC's Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking. This was a pallid Holmes, so languid that you truly believed to he needed a couple of toots in the morning to go and solve a crime. And what a terrific piece of meta-casting to have fiction's most famous abuser of the coca leaf played by Robert Downey Jr in Guy Ritchie's 2009 Sherlock Holmes.
Ritchie's movie was set in the Victorian era, although it might as well have been in present- day Hoxton, which brings us back to the BBC's new version, which really is set in 2010 London. The updating seems a little desperate to me – couldn't we have a female Holmes and Watson while we are at it? It also seems entirely unnecessary. Nearly all modern detective fiction – whether the lead character is called Taggart, Rebus, Luther or Lewis – exists under the influence of Conan Doyle's creation. The genius detective solving crime with the power of deduction, a million miles from the painstaking teamwork of real police investigations, is proving impossible to shake off. Even the mighty CSI franchise is merely a variation on the Holmesian theme – with forensic science in place of the master detective.
The clever crime writers working today tend to use the genre to look at the wider society (Henning Mankell's Wallander being the obvious example), but they still can't jettison the essential template. Both Moffat and Gatiss are innovative TV writers – and I'm sure their Sherlock will be a lot of fun, even if their 60-minute pilot episode, filmed at a cost of £800,000, was binned after the BBC decided to go for three 90-minute features instead. Even so, you don't have to wear a deerstalker and smoke a pipe to detect something awry with the exercise. Writers keep reinventing Sherlock Holmes as if he needed their help to adjust to the modern world, when the reality is that the modern world is still in thrall to Sherlock Holmes.
'Sherlock' begins on Sunday at 9pm on BBC1
The Last of Us
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