Thursday 30 September 2010

Gene Hackman goes solo

After the success of the westerns actor Gene Hackman co-wrote with Daniel Lenihan, the retired actor has decided that his next book will be a solo project, written entirely by himself from his own idea.
"The Western territory's rich history inspired me to write this tale of proper justice." Hackman said.

160x120 Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman announced that his forthcoming first solo book will be a Western titled Jubal's Bounty.

A press release by Pocket Books - an imprint of Simon & Schuster - confirmed that the novel will be published in July 2011. It is set in late nineteenth century New Mexico and "follows a brave young hero who is forced to take the law into his own hands after the murder of his family".

Reality TV redux

As a writer I have been trying to dream up a project that will make me instant money - and I think reality TV may be the way. The concept I have is for a show called, Let's hunt down and kill the Spawn of Satan. It's a simple concept, but then the best ideas always are, and what we do is select twenty people with anger management issues and send them on three weeks intense training with the SAS, during the training we will weed out the weakest until we are left with six contestants. And then we arm these contestants with the latest and most deadly weapons and send them out to hunt down and kill Simon Cowell.

Cowell has already given the idea the thumbs down but undaunted I shall offer the show to Channel Four


PD James, President of the Society of Authors, wrote to Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, in early September, informing him about the petition against the proposed cuts in the PLR allowance and giving reasons why PLR ought to be maintained at its present level or thereabouts in the forthcoming spending review.

A copy of the response that PD James has received from Jeremy Hunt is posted below:
ear Baroness James
Thank you for your letter of 8 September about the Public Lending Right (PLR) enclosing a statement to which a number of authors have added their names.
I fully recognize the tremendous cultural, artistic and economic impact of writers in the UK and the Department understands the importance of the PLR to writers in this country.
As you know the Department must contribute to Government savings in order to address the financial deficit, and the wider cultural sector has a role towards this difficult end.  Wherever possible we will find savings through administrative efficiencies, which is the best way to minimise the direct impact upon practitioners such as writers who deliver culture on the frontline.
However, Government will not be able to make announcements about the Department's funding for the PLR until the outcome of the spending review is announced in the autumn.
With best wishes



Here it is - the trailer for the long awaited re-make of the John Wayne classic, True Grit

It's getting bloody exciting - can't wait for this one

Clint rides again

Clint issue 2 is now on the news-stands and now even W H Smith are stocking the title. Overall this second issue is stronger than the launch issue but still lacks a letters page which I do hope they adopt for future issues - the readers letters pages are always a blast in publications like this.

The comic strips are continued from the previous issue - Kick Arse 2, Jonathan Woss's Turf, the bizarre Rex Royd from Frankie Boyle and this issue also contains the first part of American Jesus by Mark Miller which was previously published stateside but I believe is making it's UK debut here. Space Oddities is an amusing one off tale and Mark Miller's Nemesis is also continued.

The humour is of the FHM/Nuts variety and the poster of sexy chavs is hilarious, though I think I prefer the over-dressed porn concept. There are interviews with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as well as Charlie Booker. There's an article looking at famous dwarfs from which I learned that the smallest man in the world is barely the length of a Giraffe's tongue.

I really do hope this title is a success - it'll be nice to see more comics on sale on the UK stands - check out the trailer for issue 1 below and then visit the official website HERE

Wednesday 29 September 2010

James Bland in limbo again

MGM have now rejected

Indian conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar's bid to prop up the ailing studio and take control of valuable film franchises like James Bond and The Hobbit. This is another blow for the 007 series which was expected to go back into production early next year and makes it more unlikely than ever that Daniel Craig will return as James Bond. This is also a blow for defunct car makers Reliant who were expected to supply the vehicles for the new working man's James Bond.

Last Stand at Sabre River

I really enjoyed this 1997 TV movie which was based on the novel by Elmore Leonard - the movie is also notable for featuring a wealth of western icons in supporting roles - both David and Keith Carradine and Harry Carey Jnr.

Selleck plays Cable, fresh home from the war he is horrified after driving his family to Arizona, he finds that squatters have taken over his ranch. He, together with his fiesty wife kick the men off, killing two of them in the process and sparking off the fued with the Kidston brothers.

It's an exciting movie, excellently done and Selleck is superb as the iron willed Paul Cable.The actor was rewarded with a Western Heritage Award for his work on this movie.

In fact it's top knotch performances all around, especially for Keith Carradine. Suzy Amis is also excellent as Cable's wife, a woman just as deadly with a scatter gun as her husband is with his six shooters. The final shoot out is truly thrilling and there's no sickly sweet ending.

Another excellent Selleck western

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Gene Hackman: Western Writer

From Galleycat - Actor Gene Hackman has sealed a deal to publish his next novel with Pocket Books. Entitled Jubal's Bounty, the new Western takes place in 19th century of New Mexico--recounting the adventures of "a brave young hero who is forced to take the law into his own hands after the murder of his family."
Deputy publisher Anthony Ziccardi acquired the worldwide rights to the book, and the deal was negotiated by Noah Lukeman of Lukeman Literary Management. The book will be published in July 2011.
Here's more about Hackman's literary career, from the release: "Prior to Jubal's Bounty, Hackman co-authored three novels, Wake of the Perdido Star (1999), Justice for None (2004), and Escape from Andersonville (2008) and received critical acclaim for his historically accurate, elegant writing."


THE COMPLETE LITERARY 007 - From a view to a kill

Being the first story in the short story collection entitled, For Your Eyes Only.

The title of this story was used for the 1985 James Bond movie, but other than sharing a title there are no similarities between the both. Fleming's sweeping style is very much evident here and the author works well with the brevity of a short story - From A view to a kill, opens with a dispatch rider burning up the road on his BSA M20, but all is not what it seems with the rider, for although he is dressed in the uniform of  The Royal Corps of Signals he has a Lugar strapped to his fuel tank. He approaches another dispatch rider and coldly guns his down and then vanished but not before stealing the dead man's wallet in order to make this look like a robbery.

When we first come upon Bond he is in Paris, torturing himself with alcohol and dark thoughts after a failed mission in Hungry - we learn that he doesn't like to think of his childhood and dislikes Pernod because its liquorice taste reminds him of those days.

"It had been a question of getting a certain Hungarian out. Bond had been sent by London specifically to direct the operation over the head of Station V. This had been unpopular with the Vienna Station. There had been misunderstandings - wilful ones."

Bond doesn't like failure and he intends on getting drunk and finding himself a girl - however this is not to be when Bond is called back to duty to investigate the death of the dispatch rider.

From a view to a kill is more a novella than a short story and it is structured much the same as the full length novels. And zings along at great speed - can be read in one sitting and leaves the reader satisfied. And this is, I suppose, what it is intended to do.

The Shadow Riders

Unlike the previous two Selleck/TNT westerns reviewed here, The Shadow Riders does feel and look like a TV movie. And an 80's TV movie at that - it's almost Magnum in a stetson.

That's not to say it's a bad movie - it isn't but it is definitely aimed at the family audience and it lacks the substance of Monty Walsh or the suspense of The Crossfire Trail. Directed by Andrew V Mclaglen who was also responsible for several of John Wayne's more comedic westerns and written by Louis Lamour specifically for the talents of Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot,as brothers who fought on opposite sides during the Civil War,  the movie aims from the get go to present safe family viewing. It's a pity because the interesting premise of the brothers from opposite sides is wasted.

A group of women are kidnapped by Rebels who plan to sell them in order to raise money to continue fighting a war that is officially over. Katherine Ross is among the women and she does her best with a thin script - the problem here is that none of the women ever seem to be in real danger and as such there is little suspense to be felt.

Selleck and Sam Elliot are the brothers who wore the blue and the grey respectively. Together with a third brother and their scoundrel of an uncle they are in pursuit of the stolen women. Two of them being their sisters and Katherine Ross is Sam Elliot's sweetheart.

Clint Eastwood regular Geoffrey Lewis plays a renegade major but his character comes across as cartoonist rather than sinister. And when the bullets start to fly there is of course little blood. Those hit throw their hands up, utter a short scream and die rather nicely. When a bad guy is punched he falls unconscious immediately and a single stick of dynamite can take out all the bad guys. It's your old fashioned good guys in white hats and bad guys in black. The fact that Lamour wrote the story for a TV movie may explain why it is so light-hearted. Though the style seems to be more in line with the director's previous work and it is just possible Lamour intended this to be a serious all action western. Wall to wall clich├ęs are evident - the good guys run across the roof of a train while the bad guys shoot up through the ceiling. Another problem with the movie is that most of the locations look like California.

The film is fun, though and worth watching  - the stand out turn comes from Ben Johnson as Uncle Jack who is an endearing devil may care character. Despite his advanced years he's wanted by the law, not only for shooting people and robbing things (yep, it's that black and white)  but also for having an  affair with the sheriff's wife.

The Shadow Riders then is not a bad movie - it's light hearted and is a disappointment after the excellence of both Monte Walsh and The Crossfire Trail, but then it's a different type of western. And is something to be watched with the children.

And I guess there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Next up Last Stand at Sabre River...


After watching Tom Selleck's Monty Walsh, I was eager to see what he would make of this Louis L'amour novel which is far more of a traditional western.

Like Walsh this TV-movie was made for the TNT network which can make it difficult to see in the UK, but thanks to an American friend who sent me over five of Selleck's TNT movies on DVD. It was directed by the excellent Simon Wincer who understands that to make a western believable character is all important. Gunfights, horse chases and saloon brawls are pretty much a given but without that all important character development they are just trimmings - Selleck excels in the kind of role once favoured by the likes of John Wayne.

John Wayne of course played Hondo in another Louis L'amour adaptation and there is more than a touch of Hondo Lane to Selleck's Rafe Covington - in fact this is the kind of movie that would have very much suited mid-period Wayne.

I recently read the novel upon which this movie is based, and found the film to be fairly faithful to its source material - it starts off on a clipper at sea with Rafe nursing a dying friend named Charles Rodney  and promising he will look after both the man's ranch and wife. After that Rafe beats the captain and then flees the ship with his two companions - the Irish man Rock Mullaney and young cowboy, J T Langston. They are joined by grizzled old timer Joe Gill. Soon the four men go up against Bruce Barkow played with relish by Mark Harmon who knows there is oil on the Rodney ranch and wants it all for himself. There is also the matter of Rodney's widow who is desired by both Rafe and Barkow.

The movie's full of action and tick all the correct boxes - the final shoot out, maybe ten minutes or so in length, that takes place in the town is excellently done as the four men face off against superior numbers but ultimately triumph, though not without some losses. I very much enjoyed this movie - it's the kind of western that could have been made during the genre's golden age and Selleck clearly has a love for the genre. In fact after watching a couple of his westerns I no longer think of Magnum PI every time his name is mentioned - for me Selleck has become one of the great screen cowboys.

Monday 27 September 2010

The Telegraph Trail

The Daily Telegraph newspaper starts today printing tokens that readers can send off to recive a John Wayne movie on DVD - there's a new film each day this week and follows on from this past  weekend when the newspaper gave away The Shootist on Saturday and The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance with the Sunday Telegraph.

Today's movie is Angel and the Badman.

The line up:
Tuesday - Winds of the Wasteland
Wed - Hell Town
Thurs-The Star Packer
Friday - The Desert Trail

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 20 Sep - 26 Sep 2010

Unique Visitors1851751692212202031861,359194
First Time Visitors1661571441891871781601,181169
Returning Visitors1918253233252617825

Monte Walsh (2003)

This was not the first version of Jack Schaefer's hymn to a way of life that was fast vanishing - there was a big screen version in 1970 starring  legends Lee Marvin and Jack Palance, but this version starring Tom Selleck and made for broadcast on the TNT network is actually the most faithful to its source material. It is also, to my mind, the better movie.

In recent years the made for TV movie has become the home for quality westerns- starting with Lonesome Dove perhaps, the small screen has seen a constant stream of quality western entertainment. And this movie is no exception - Tom Selleck seems to hold a genuine love for the genre and he gives an outstanding performance as the man who has lived far too long and is at odds with the new modern world.

First and foremost this is an affectionate look at the American cowboy and of how the wheels of progress made him an anachronism in his own time. There are some beautiful landscape shots but all are tinged with sadness as the camera constantly pulls to the barbed wire that is rapidly closing down the open range.

As in the novel both film versions offer up the Mustang as the ultimate symbol of the freedoms of the Old West - throughout the movie there is one unbreakable horse and this creature comes to represent everything that the coming corporate culture seeks to replace. There's a great sequence towards the end of the movie where Monte rides the mustang, holding on while the horse breaks free of the corral and continues to buck and kick around the town, even crashing through Monte's friends hardware store and back out again. When the ride is finally over and the horse broken there is no feeling of triumph, only an empty sensation. The time of the true cowboy is over.

There is humour in the movie - it opens with an expertly paced sequence in which Monte plays a practical joke on an attorney who has been nasty to some kids - he seems to be playing his joke not so much to avenge the kids but to hit back at the lawyer who represents the modern age that Monte is so busy running from. There is also a great bunk-house punch up that descends into laughter when the men forget what it was they were fighting about, but over all it is a film tinged with sadness, longing and ultimately the realisation that times are a changing.

The film's careful attention to maintain a consistent vision, a glum dirge to the vanishing cowboy way of life, make it a wonderful experience for the viewer. It ticks all the boxes and tugs at the heart strings as well as raising the excitement level in several action sequences.

A brilliant western and maybe Selleck's finest moment.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Some Banned Books

Banned in some British libraries because of homosexual subtext
To illustrate the often idiotic reasons for banning books here are a few banned books.

"James" was banned for obscenity and violence, while "The Witches" was banned for sexism and devaluing the life of a child.
Banned because of the word, "nigger", which whilst not acceptable today was of its period.
The most absurd of all - Both the Merriam Webster and the American Heritage Dictionaries have been banned in various schools. The Merriam Webster was banned in a California elementary school in January 2010 for its definition of oral sex. "It's just not age appropriate," a district representative said.

James Bond goes Dutch

Ian Fleming's James Bond had Dutch origins claims a new book -
The celebrated film spy James Bond (codename 007), initially created by writer Ian Fleming in 1953, was based on Dutch resistance hero Peter Tazelaar. The claim is made in a book out this week, MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949, by British historian Keith Jeffery.
Mr Tazelaar was serving with the British intelligence service MI6 in 1941. In one operation, a boat delivered him to a point in the sea off the Dutch coast near the resort of Scheveningen. He swam to the shore, removed his dry suit to reveal fashionable clothing beneath, and walked straight to his appointment in the chic Kurhuis hotel. The scene was later replicated by the Bond character in the film Goldfinger starring Sean Connery.
Operations worthy of Bond
Mr Tazelaar was involved in other Second World War operations worthy of James Bond. In 1944, he was awarded the highest Dutch military honour (the Military Order of William) for bravery.
In the Netherlands, he is best known because of the film Soldaat van Oranje (Soldier of Orange). The movie is based on his wartime exploits and also those of the even more celebrated Dutch resistance hero, Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema.
Mr Tazelaar was, like the Bond character, an infamous ladies’ man. A biography of him by Dutch historian Victor Laurentius, which was published last year, also said the Bond character was partially based on him. He died in 1993 aged 73.
Prince Bernhard
Ian Fleming, who wrote the original James Bond books, was himself an intelligence officer in World War II. There have been claims that his 007 character was based on Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (Queen Beatrix's father). Fleming never revealed who inspired his elegant hero. What is definite is that Prince Bernhard, whose family name was Von Lippe-Biesterfeld, does appear in one of his books as the aristocratic dandy, Count Lippe.

Banned Books Week

It's that time of year again and although the Banned Books Week is largely a US initiative the sentiments behind it apply equally to the UK and indeed anywhere else where freedom's are considered important -
Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.
Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.  BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.
The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings.  Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections.  Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Stephen King - I ain't afriad of no eBook

Bestselling writer, Stephen King was this week interviewed by CNN Money and asked if the eBook will kill the publishing industry much as MP3 did for the music industry. In a refreshing turn King looks to be embracing the digital future and he replied,

"Well, I'm not sure that it won't," King said. "The book is not the important part. The book is the delivery system. The important part is the story."

Invasion of the Elvis impersonators

It's the same every year - the Welsh coastal village of Porthcawl is swamped with Elvis's from all over the world, here to celebrate Europe's biggest Elvis festival - this morning I had to wait at a zebra crossing while an old woman with a small dog and three Elvis Presley's crossed the road. The beach, windswept and looking desolate in the September chill, was full of Elvis's on horseback. It's all quite bizarre and left me , all shook up.

This weekend thousands upon thousands of Elvis fans will fill the hotels and pubs around Porthcawl - it's all great fun though and I'm hoping to catch a few of the shows - there's something entertaining in watching scores of Elvis's compete to be the year's official best Elvis.

The Grand Pavilion will tonight host the Elvies the annual award for the best Elvis impersonator - I kid you not.

Below the Archive presents a video of Rocking Dave Riley at last year's festival.

Friday 24 September 2010

Dirty Harriet

Newspost Online recently ran an article looking at Angelina Jolie's directorial debut and mentioned the praise that Clint Eastwood has heaped on her, however it seems the writer got a bit confused and claimed Jolie played Dirty Harry -  "And here is Clint Eastwood heaping praise on Angelina Jolie and is saying that he is totally confident that the Dirty Harry actress will make a smooth transition from acting to filmmaking, just as he had done at one time."
Mind you Angelina Jolie running about with a Magnum sounds kinda' enticing.

Chandler, Marlowe and all that

The current episode of The Radio Detectives, still available to listen to on the BBC Radio 7 website, HERE 
concentrates on Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe. The program takes a look at most of the radio versions of Chandler's stories and is only available to listen to for one more day. Chadler fans may want to download the free Audacity software and record the show to your hard drive for enjoyment later.

The Ballad of Delta Rose now scheduled for July 2011

My third western for Robert Hale's Black Horse range, The Ballad of Delta Rose is now scheduled to appear July 2011 and will more likely turn up on Amazon for pre-order anytime over the next three months. I this week sent back the corrected proofs and the next time I see the book it should be in its finished form.

There are also large print editions of both Tarnished Star and Arkansas Smith imminent - all in all that Jack Martin guy's a pretty busy fella. And I'm very nearly finished with the sequel to Arkansas Smith which is provisionally titled, Arkansas Smith: The Tumbleweed Trail and is a story of legend and myth in the Old West.

Still available

Tarnished Star by Jack Martin

Arkansas Smith by Jack Martin

A Fistful of Legends edited by Nik Morton and including, along with 20 other stories from today's finest western writers, my short story, The Gimp.

A Policeman's Lot, written under my own name of Gary Dobbs, this is a story of Buffalo Bill, Jack the Ripper and a Welsh copper named Frank Parade. Available now in eBook and Kindle with a POD edition to follow.

Elmer Kelton Texas Rangers series now complete

 By Glenn Dromgoole, San Angelo Times

Before he became ill and died last year, Elmer Kelton completed the final two books in his nine-novel Texas Rangers series.
The first of the two, “Other Men’s Horses,” came out in hardcover last fall and is now available in paperback.
The second, “Texas Standoff” (Forge, $24.99 hardcover) goes on sale Tuesday. This is the last novel by the beloved San Angelo western author, voted the greatest of them all by his fellow western writers.
The series, which focuses on two principal Texas Ranger figures in the period during and after the Civil War — Rusty Shannon and Andy Pickard — kicked off in 1999 with “The Buckskin Line.” That was followed by “Badger Boy” and “The Way of the Coyote.” Those three were then republished together as “Lone Star Rising.”
Then came “Ranger’s Trail,” “Texas Vendetta,” and “Jericho’s Road,” which were then collected into “Ranger’s Law.”
Kelton told me a couple of years before his death that his goal was to complete the Ranger series after the ninth novel. That would give the publisher an opportunity to bring out one more three-novel collection. I don’t know if Forge plans to do that, but I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t. So in another year or so, I expect to see “Hard Trail to Follow” and these last two stories reissued in that format.
In “Texas Standoff,” Texas Ranger Andy Pickard is having second thoughts about continuing his career with the Rangers, especially after he is paired with a new partner that is known to be hot-tempered and generally unpleasant.
Pickard has married and looks forward to settling down on his own ranch when he can save enough money to afford to quit the force. More and more it is harder for him to leave his young wife, Bethel, as he goes off to track down bad guys.
But duty calls, and he and his new partner, Logan Daggett, are sent to Central Texas to try to stop a two-family feud before it becomes any worse. The Teals and the McIntoshes have a long-standing dislike that goes back to their Civil War loyalties. While the younger family members might be inclined to put aside their prejudices, the two family patriarchs carry deep hatred for each other.
Each family suspects the other of stealing their cattle, but neither side can prove anything. Meanwhile, Pickard and Daggett find there might be another side to the story involving a group of masked vigilantes known as the regulators.
As violence escalates, the two Rangers find themselves caught in the middle of a situation they had hoped to prevent.
Once again, Kelton weaves an action-packed story that is true to the history of the period.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Want to write a western?

Solstice Publishing are still actively seeking western novels for their new western list - I, along with several others,  have the honour of serving as editors for the new line - a line we are determined to see grow into a trusted source of quality western fiction. At the end of this brief article I'll tell you how submit your work for consideration, but for now let's talk a little about the western genre!

Firstly, what is genre?

Colourful adventure is promised by this illustration
Genre is a means by which the reader brings a foreknowledge to a story, a preconceived idea of plots, themes and structure. It is the writer's job to work within the confines of the genre but at the same time create something new from the old conventions. It is no use to ignore the rules of genre all together, for to do so is to cheat the reader who parts with their money in the expectation of experiencing an enjoyable story with all the elements they have come to know and love. Of course even the above rule can be stretched and western fiction can, and often does, contain horror or science fiction elements but for the purpose of this piece I will concentrate on the traditional western.

The western is usually, though not always, set in the time period following the Civil War and up to the early 1890's - however many great westerns are set both before and after this timeline, but as a general rule the western should be set between 1865 and 1900.

The hero or indeed heroine of the story should be someone the reader can identify with and the trials faced by he or she should propel the story forward in a logical and exciting way. Of course the hero doesn't have to be of the clean cut, square jawed variety - think of the anti-hero but even the most despicable of characters must have some redeeming features and an understandable reason to do what he/she does.
All kinds of stories can be told within the western genre - it is fluid enough to carry any kind of tale. Indeed the entire human experience can be explored within the genre. There are murder mysteries set on the plains, tender romances played out in the saloons and mining camps. There are tales of honest men taking on the corruption of big corporations or dishonest men being brought to justice by the courage of individuals.

Anyone wanting to write in the genre must first and foremost read within the genre. Pick up a western and read it firstly for the enjoyment of the story but then flip it back over and read it again, this time paying attention to how it is plotted. Pay particular attention to how the main character is developed throughout the story, Does the writer present big chunks of characterisation? Or is the character developed through actions and events? There is no right or wrong way but the main character must be credible and remain of consistent character throughout.

Farmers, cowboys, cavalrymen, miners, Indian fighters, gamblers, outlaws, railroad builders, frontier women - all have a part to play in the western experience and the very best fiction can tell us a little about ourselves and indeed about our society today.

Some notable westerns that anyone wanting to write western fiction must read:

Lonesome Dove by Larry Mcmurtry - this is truly epic storytelling on a grand scale. Though it is the superbly drawn characters that make this novel live and breathe. It is also worth watching the excellent television mini-series made from the book.

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey - this is in the public domain and can be obtained free from Project Guttenberg. Lassiter, the hero, is a chief strand of the DNA of every western character that has come since.

The Virginian by Owen Wister - Written in 1902 this book, more than any other, defined the western genre. Public Domain copies are also available of this title but the Oxford Library edition contains an essential essay by Robert Shulman that should be read by any would be western writers.

The Searchers by Alan LeMay - I'm including this because I read for the first time recently and as well as being a great story the author provides a master-class in creating the anti-hero with Amos Edwards.

Six Bits a Day by Elmer Kelton - pretty much anything by Kelton is essential but this sequel to The Good Old Boys provides a thrilling look at the cowboy lifestyle.

Hondo by Louis Lamour - as with Kelton, it is worth studying any of Lamour's westerns but this one offers a good example of the mysterious loner. The movie's pretty damn good too.

Edge: The Loner by George G. Gilman - to my mind the best of the adult westerns. Any of the Edge novels are worth studying as examples of the more extreme westerns but The Loner is where it all started and it's currently available as a spanking new eBook from Solstice Publishing.

Shameless self promotion
Arkansas Smith by Jack Martin - OK, I wrote this one but I make no apologies for throwing it into this list. I think it's a damn good western and by tossing it in here I may get another sale.

So if you still think you've got what it takes to take on the genre that truly is too tough to die then get writing and email us your work as a WORD or RTF file Ideal wordage is between 40,000 - 90,000 words but we will consider work that is longer if the story merits such length. Double spacing will make your work easier to read and is most desirable.

Blood Harvest Moon

I'm not usually one for romance - I'm geared more towards sweaty armpits, cold beer and the desolate range of the Old West but writer, Kelly Abell is one of my online friends - she also edited my novel, A Policeman's Lot.
So I'm more than pleased to give Kelly a plug here on the Archive - Her new novel, Blood Harvest Moon is a romance with a paranormal edge -
ISBN:  9780982918630
On Sale:  Ebook & Kindle  9/21/2010
Paperback Release:  12/21/2010

A sacrifice must be made....  
Only a few days from the Blood Harvest Moon a coven of witches must have a sacrifice in order to maintain their immortality. 
A prophesy to fulfill... 
Shaelyn, a beautiful Irish witch believes a prophesy that will bring her love and destiny.  Little did she realize what it would cost her.
A destiny of greatness... 
Derek Panthera, a sexy but mild mannered college student has no idea how an unexpected car accident will change is his life forever.  It not only leads him straight to a coven of witches who need a blood sacrifice, but will enact a change in him he is totally unprepared for.   
As the destiny of Shaelyn and Derek intertwine, a battle is on to save Derek's life from a treacherous and evil curse. As the attraction between the two becomes heated, it's Shaylen who brings out the animal in Derek he didn't know existed.

The sound of Poirot

Roger Ackroyd is found dead in his room, the door locked from the inside - Hercule Poirot is called in to investigate in this enjoyable BBC Radio adaptation that is available on the BBC 7 homepage for the next three days. Christie fans won't want to miss this.

John Moffatt is the Belgium sleuth

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Edge rides

Meridian Bridge is all on Edge

eReader review - SONY POCKET PRS300

Out of all the eReaders I've used this is my favourite model - The Sony Pocket PRS300 is currently available for £99.99 making it a great deal - it's also a lovely machine to use and after reading one or two books it becomes second nature and sits comfortably in the hand.

Displaying Spanish PI by Nick Morton

My own machine (pictured) came in a limited edition midnight blue (the standard colours are silver and red) with a free leather case with the Alex Cross logo - there were also two James Patterson novels, featuring Alex Cross,  pre-loaded onto the device. A nice tie-in perhaps but I couldn't get through the books - I gave up on Cross Country after fifty pages - this guy may be one of the biggest sellers in the world but if this book is typical of his output then I'd don't see why. Frankly it was bloody rubbish. Short chapters, no characterisation and too many cliffhangers, seemingly three to a page.

Still it's the eReader I'm here to talk about not poor best sellers - and besides what do I know on that score? Patterson sells over a million and I sell over a dozen.

The five inch eInk display is brilliantly clear and there are three font sizes - small, medium and large. The picture above shows the medium setting. I've been using the machine constantly for a month or so and have had no eye strain whatsoever - it really is like reading text on paper. The highly advanced screen technology is gentle on the eye, with adjustable font sizes to improve readability.The E Ink® Vizplex™ display gives a more natural paper-like reading experience.With no backlight or flicker, you can read for hours in direct sunlight and at virtually any angle.

The main menu is simplicity itself and contains all the usual features - the ability to bookmark pages, delete books, browse by title, author and more. Battery life seems to be endless - I've yet to charge my machine after the initial charge and it's still going strong.

Because this is a basic model there is no Wi-Fi but downloading books to it via your computer is easy enough - however I did find the software that came with the device to be a bit clunky and I prefer to use the awesome open source program, Calibre. But then Calibre is also far better than any of the other eBook software I've seen. It wipes Adobe's Digital Editions off the map - look out for an article on the Calibre software soon.

The first book, after the 50 pages of Patterson of course, that I read on this was Alan LeMay's The Searchers and I enjoyed it as much as I would have if I'd read the physical book. In fact I think the eReader actually provides an easier reading experience than a book when out and about - and I do take the eReader everywhere with me since it's size means it will slip into the average jacket pocket. I'm currently half way through Stephen King's Under the Dome and I'm glad I went for the eBook option. The physical book is huge and carrying it around would have given me a hernia, but not only is it with me on this device but it also shares space with a couple of hundred other books and magazines.
Nice protective cover, shame about the novel
File support on the PRS-300 is good, letting you read EPUB (the mainstay of purchased content), PDF, TXT, RTF, DOC and BBeB formats. Unusually it copes with PDFs rather well, allowing you to resize text in multiple page documents.

Reading feels natural on the PRS-300. The quality of the device in your hand combines with the E Ink screen that just works. It is comfortable reading it in the same situations that you would a book. Some criticise the lack of its own illumination, but that's exactly the same as a real book and that's exactly the point. What you can do is sit next to a window on a train and still read it. No one moans about the lack of illumination on a phyisical book - if you want to read switch on the lamp.

There is no memory extension so your limited to 512 mb onboard but this is enough for more than 300 books - with the Sony Pocket it seems less is definitely more. What Sony have done is taken away all the frills to bring the price down and for a device intended just for reading this is a winner. It does what it says on the tin and it does it well. It is good that they haven't skimped on the unit itself and its feels strong and sturdy in the hand.

Is it a Kindle beater? Well, the Kindle's a fantastic device but then so is this. And maybe the Kindle has more trimmings but they are just trimmings and the fact that this supports ePub makes it, to my mind, preferable to the Kindle. Thought I must be honest I do think the Kindle's screen display looks slightly better but then that's just nitpicking.

PRS300 - I'm most definitely a fan of this compact little reader.

Paperback Fanatic issue 16

Issue 16 of Paperback Fanatic is now on sale -  Their website is located HERE

I like the new smaller format - it fits nicely on a book shelf which is useful because it is the type of magazine you'll want to keep for future reference. This time there is much more internal colour which really makes the reproductions of the classic covers stand out.

Not Politically correct - who cares!
The editor writes in his editorial that he is especially pleased with this issue, feeling that it is the kind of magazine the team have been striving to produce. There's the usual eclectic bunch of articles - I especially enjoyed the feature on the Commander Amanda series because I actually remember reading one or two of these, hidden inside some text book, while in school. For some reason the pictures of the hot bird on the cover excited us schoolboys - chicks with guns, can't be bad!

The letters page or rather pages are great and this time there is a long and entertaining piece from horror legend, Guy N. Smith, fellow pipe smoker and all round nice guy. There is also some interesting feedback on the previous Karl Edward Wagner feature. All in all another great issue - I read it last night cover to cover in one sitting and can't wait for the next issue. The easiest way to ensure your issue is a subscription so visit the link at the start of this review for details.

The sky is the limit

Virgin America - are to start offering eBooks as part of their inflight entertainment along with movies and music  -
Publishers could offer books for free as a way to attract new readers. Unless it’s a really long flight, people probably wouldn’t finish the whole book, and then they would have to buy it. Or they could allow you to browse free excerpts of a variety much like the Kindle store does now.
Virgin's current ascertainment units on the back of the seats is currently showing a Read option as. 'Coming Soon.'

It is unclear if the airline's built in eBook readers will offer complete books, sample chapters, newspapers or magazine or even a combination of them all which is my best guess. I telephoned Virgin UK and their press office confirmed that eBooks would soon be offered as in flight entertainment but as yet there were no more details.

The Archive thinks this is a great idea.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

eBook interview - Michael Serbinis

CBC, Canada's news service recently interviewed  KOBO's cheif executive Michael Serbinis regarding the rise of eBooks - below we are able to repost the interview in full: Check out CBC for all the  news HERE

CBC News: Early this year, you predicted e-readers would get down to $100 by the end of the year. With the Kobo now $129 US in the U.S., we're almost there. Is it happening faster than you thought?
Michael Serbinis: It's on schedule. There are already e-readers that are kissing the $99 point or already there. We're getting there.
CBC News: Many have predicted that multi-use devices such as the iPad will make single-use e-ink readers obsolete. That's not the case when the price gets that low, right?
Serbinis: Right, and when you're focused on reading, having CNBC ping at me or having some other notification happen in the background doesn't exactly make for a relaxing environment. There are a lot of customers who prefer to have a dedicated reading experience, not only for price point but because it's dedicated and they can relax and escape by getting into a good read.
CBC News: Is it also similar to a video game console, where the manufacturer can afford to take a loss on the hardware because it's the software that makes the money?
Serbinis: Yeah, and if you look at what's happened in this space this year, in January at the Consumer Electronics Show there were a ton of guys in the e-reader or e-book category. Where are they now? A lot of them that didn't have a comprehensive solution of content, apps and their own device, they're not in business. So there is that possibility where if you have both, you can subsidize, but I don't think anyone is really doing it to any significant degree.
CBC News: E-book sales are ramping up, but where do you see them going?
Serbinis: When we started this as a pilot project at Indigo, we talked about numbers like two to three per cent [market share of all books] in five years. I think everyone is astonished at where we're at today, let alone five years from now. At the end of the first quarter this year, some of the top-tier publishers talked about being around nine per cent, so what does that mean at the end of the fourth quarter? Fifteen, 13, 12, who knows? It's happening faster than anyone expected.
CBC News: What do you attribute the fast growth to?
Serbinis: Number 1 is the availability of great content. E-books have been around for a long time, for 10 years, but 10 years ago you couldn't get John Grisham or bestsellers. You could get some romance and some science fiction, but that was about it. Today you can get a ton of great content, and also today you have this range of different devices that are connected. You have these great screens that are like paper. Those contribute to the fact that consumers are ready to consume books in digital form. A lot of consumers, certainly in [the under] 45 category, have been asking the question, 'Well why can't I get my books this way? I can get all my music this way.' The consumer is ready.
CBC News: How much is the competition between device makers and e-book stores playing a part?
Serbinis: It's different than the early days of digital music. The first iPod from an electronics standpoint wasn't radically different but it was easy to use, and the iTunes software and store rounded out the experience. The very first e-reader guys, like digital music guys, just cranked out devices. What has happened is that many guys who were just doing one piece of the puzzle have gone away. It's very competitive and there are already winners and losers, and we're definitely gaining on everyone fast. We only became Kobo eight months ago and 120 days ago we launched the Kobo reader. We're coming out of the gates screaming and we started this price war. Everyone was at $350 and $299 and $249 and we came out $100 less. Subsequently prices have come down and new devices have come out and we have to do the same to stay in the game. It's very competitive and we're the only pure play, the only start-up. We're David among a few Goliaths, but we're confident about our prospects.
CBC News: Most of the e-book stores are offering would-be authors the ability to easily self-publish their own books. How much will this change the book business?
Serbinis: If you look at the economics, there's all kinds of blogs about this, analyzing just how much a freshman author can make based on their take on physical print run. If you compare that to digital, there are many scenarios where it just looks better to self-publish and go digital. However, you still have to market your book and that is the biggest dollar sign in terms of costs out of your pocket and it's also the biggest question mark — can you do a better job than the publisher? If the publisher spends no time or energy and doesn't view you as a priority, you're probably going to do a better job. On the flip side, if they do have some interest in you and are going to put some energy behind you, then odds are you're not a better marketer based on their scale, experience and infrastructure. That's the big question. The digital tools we have today make it easier to turn out a digital book but at the end of the day, how do you market it and sell it?
Will we see more people self-publish? Absolutely. Will we see publishers go to digital first instead of print first? Absolutely. There's nothing more disappointing than spending a million bucks on an author, then having 50 per cent of the books returned from retailers because they didn't sell. Is it better to put out a digital run first to test it and see if it gets any pickup, then do a print run? Yeah, for some authors it does.
Kobo started a price war in e-readers, CEO Michael Serbinis says. Kobo started a price war in e-readers, CEO Michael Serbinis says. (Courtesy Kobo)CBC News: There have been some anecdotes about people doing that on Amazon — that they self-publish a book and it ends up selling, then they get picked up by a publisher. Do you see that sort of thing increasing?
Serbinis: Absolutely. There are other macro factors like the entire value chain in publishing. I have to believe that based on digital growing and margins [on them] being smaller than physical books there's going to be less money cascading down through the system. So how does that work? Does it mean there are less publishers, do you take more costs out of the publishing system, is there more costs out of the retail system, does the author get less? It's got to come from somewhere. I've got to believe that everyone is looking for ways to leverage digital tools and technology to take costs out of the system, otherwise there just won't be as many people in the system.
CBC News: Going back to what you said about priority and non-priority authors — if publishers have low-priority authors and don't market them, those writers don't seem to have any reason to stay. Won't they just leave and self-publish?
Serbinis: Or they'll go somewhere else. Don't assume that there won't be a set of purely digital publishers. Today we have a group of companies that we call self-publishing houses and they make money on helping [authors self-publish], but what if there were publishers that were 100-per-cent digital? Open Road is sort of an example, but what if there were a 'United Artists of Digital Publishing?' I think you have a whole different model around authors who want to go straight to digital and then print as an afterthought. I can't help think that the whole publishing structure is going to change in some ways that are predictable, and some ways that aren't. Will there be as many publishers? Probably not as many big ones as we have today.
CBC News: In music, it's pretty clear the record labels were caught unawares by the digital revolution. It seems like the e-book revolution is happening faster than music, so how ready are publishers?
Serbinis: Good question. When we cut our first publishing deal with a top publisher, it tooks six months, and it was pretty painful. But I'm sure the six months of pain we experienced is nowhere near what the first music deal took. Deals today tend to take six days — there's exceptions to that, but they're happening way faster. My own read is that among book publishers today, there are a lot of bright lights that saw what happened to music. A lot of book publishers are owned by media conglomerates that have music labels, TV studios, radio stations. What happens anecdotally at the end of every quarter is that the CEO of the book-publishing arm, the CEO of the music arm, they all get together. The book CEO had years of experience watching his music guy get punched in the stomach every quarter and thought, 'I don't want to be that guy. What mistakes did they make?'
CBC News: Going back to Kobo, you mentioned price is important for competing devices. What about the e-books themselves — how do you plan to compete with the likes of Amazon or Apple?
Serbinis: Number 1, we have to provide choice. Clearly Amazon wants to provide great selection and great pricing. Pricing as a factor is being neutralized by the publishers. Amazon can try to have the biggest library in the world that's closed, so you buy from them [and] you can only ever keep your book with them. Apple doesn't have anywhere near Amazon's selection or our selection, [it's] far less of a focus for them. But they have an app and no doubt they'll continue to use it to highlight the capabilities of the iPad. A key area for us is being open and providing the most choice. We also enable you to go to libraries. We were stunned by just how many people bought a Kobo reader so that they could use books from the Toronto Public Library or the Michigan Public Library. If you want to take your books with you and go to Sony or the next company, you can have them independent of whether we're around. That's a key element.
That's where we are today, but the question is: what makes us differentiated tomorrow? A lot of what we're doing with Samsung and being the e-book store on really the only contender to the iPad that I know [the Galaxy Tab] … there will be more of those announcements as we get closer to the holiday season of tier-one brands being pre-loaded with Kobo. We want to provide you with the most choice on the most number of devices. Making the experience more fun and engaging is [also] a key focus for us in the next little while.

Monday 20 September 2010

Mark Twain, The Paiute's and Little Joe in love

I remember Bonanza as a twee western, kind of The Waltons out West, but I was impressed with the second disc in Deagostini's Bonanza collection - these are episodes 4, 5 and 6 of the first season. And during this period the show was anything but twee.

The Paiute War is a great story which is also presented well - the indian battles are above the standard of most B-western movies of the period, as the Cartwrights try and prevent a full scale Indian war. There are several surprisingly gruesome battle scenes - men are torn from their horses and driven through with lances, cowering miners are shot at point blank range and stunt men leap about every which way.

The second episodes sees Mark Twain come to Virginia City and take up a job with the local newspaper. Of course he hadn't adopted the Twain name by this point and signs his byline as Josh. It doesn't take long before Josh angers corrupt politicians and the Cartwrights have to come to his aid. The episode end with an old style western shoot-em-up which is still genuinely exciting.

The third episode is one of those family driven dramas that the series would become famous for. This time Little Joe, looking more like Elvis than ever, falls for a beautiful older woman who reminds him of his mother - make what you will of that one. This sets son off against father and to my mind it was the weakest episode in this selection. That's not to say it's bad mind, only that the previous two episodes were absolutely excellent.

The Disc comes with issue 2 of The Bonanza DVD collection part-work, and the magazine contains episode guides and a profile of Pernell Roberts. There is also a brief article on silver mining in Nevada that looks at the primitive methods used by miners in the Old West,. The magazine also comes with a bonus disc that contains episodes 7, 8 and 9 of the first season, making it a steal at only £7.99

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 13 Sep - 19 Sep 2010

Unique Visitors2741922131872531751661,460209
First Time Visitors2321691771592141521561,259180
Returning Visitors4223362839231020129

Saturday 18 September 2010

Planning that novel

"The best time for
planning a book
is while you're doing
the dishes."

- Agatha Christie
(Sept. 15,1890 - Jan. 12, 1976)

The quote above  gave me food for thought -  I know what Christie means and whenever I'm struggling with plot, dialogue or indeed any aspect of a project I know that taking in some fresh air, walking the dog over the mountains, gives me the boost I need. I work out most of my plot details while rambling over the Welsh countryside. There's something about the open air that clears my befuddled mind and new possibilities spring to me. For instance only this week I was bogged down with the second Arkansas Smith novel and I just didn't know how to proceed. The problem was that I'd gotten the characters into a situation from which I could see no remedy. And so it's on with the coat, out with the leash and onto the mountains. A few hours later I returned home with not only the answer to the current situation but also a far clearer idea of how the book will end.

Maybe Christie had similar moments of epiphany while scrubbing the tea and crumpet from her best china.

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