Friday 31 December 2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood

Recently I reviewed an animated Batman movie (Public Enemies) and when I remarked how much I enjoyed that movie, several people recommended this particular title to me.

This one is even better than Public Enemies - the script is just perfect and the plot could have been used in one of the live action Batman movies. It's that good. However animation allows for much more manoeuvrability with the battles and there are several that are stunningly executed.

The pay off - when we discover who is under the red hood - was totally unexpected for me. I'm not sure if this would be the case with someone who follows the Batman comics but I haven't read a Batman title since the graphic novel, Year One. And so this all seemed fresh to me - it's also one of the most violent Batman adventures I've ever seen but the violence is certainly not gratuitous and flows out of what is a dark and sombre story.

After this one I'll certainly be checking out more of these animated movie because if they're only half as good as this they are most certainly worth watching.

An impressive animated movie.

Welcome 2011

As I write the chimes of Big Ben have just announced the turning of the year - let's hope 2011 is a good and prosperous year for everyone.

Mark this Monday - 3rd Jan 2011 in your diaries folks - it's Wild West eMonday!!!!!

Those costumed capers

2011 in movie terms may well be seen as the year of the superhero - the first month of the year will see The Green Hornet and in May we should see Marvel's Thor as well as X Men: First Class and before the summer is out we will also see The Green Lantern kicking arse on the big screen. Captain America is due in July and whilst not a superhero in the strictest sense, the new Conan movie kicks off in August.

Both Marvel and DC comics have several superhero projects on the go with film companies and the long awaited The Avengers is due to follow Captain America and Thor to the big screen.

CONAN 2 - Dark Horse preview

Those nice guys at Dark Horse have sent us another preview of their new and ongoing Conan title, Road of Kings. CONAN: ROAD OF KINGS #2
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Mike Hawthorne
Inker: John Lucas
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Doug Wheatley
Being a warrior on the road of kings will only get you so far; youll also need plenty of gold to keep you going. Luckily, Conan is skilled at separating the wealthy from their spare treasure! But when he discovers a pit of gold, he may have met his match in the form of a tentacled horror intent on killing any intruders!
* Written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Mike Hawthorne and John Lucas, part 2 of Conan: Road of Kings is a thrill ride Conan fans won't want to miss!
* Roy Thomas' return to the Conan monthly!
Conan: Road of Kings is the lead title in Dark Horses ongoing Robert E. Howard campaign.

Publication Date: January 19, 2011
Format: FC, 32 pages
Price: $3.50

The Kindle was Britain's bestselling gadget this year and the Kindle 3 is Amazon's best selling gadget ever

Source: The Daily Mail

Just as the iPod killed the CD, so the eBook and Amazon's electronic reader, the Kindle, threaten to do away with the paperback.The Kindle was Amazon's best-selling product this year, shifting an estimated eight million in the US and Britain.

The appeal of the iPod was the idea that it could capture and carry around an entire jukebox of music, thousands of tracks, within a tiny package.Many people doubted the same could be done with a book, where half the enjoyment is leafing through the pages, feeling its weight in your hands, even its smell.However, the Kindle and rival devices have tapped into a desire for convenience and speed.Sony has also enjoyed success with its own eReader, while Apple's new iPad also offers electronic book applications and downloads. Though the iPad seems to have fallen out of favour as an eBook reader because of screen glare, it doesn't use eInk you see, and is now marketed as more of a general purpose device.

The latest design Kindle 3, which cost £149, can carry around an entire library of up to 3,500 books in a slim package that weighs just 247g, which is less than a paperback.
With an internet connection via either wi-fi or the 3G mobile phone network, it is a simple matter of downloading a book within 60 seconds.
Amazon says that its Kindle 3 ebook reader has become the site's best-selling product ever.
The Kindle's sales will have been helped by an endorsement from Which?, which identified it as one of the 'must-have' gadgets of the year.
One of the concerns about electronic book readers has been the idea that the bright light of the screen can tire the eyes, making reading a chore.
However, the Kindle includes breakthrough technology featuring E Ink, which produces clear text and sharp images. The firm claim is it reads like real paper, with no glare, and can even be used in bright sunlight.

Traditionalists will rightly argue that a real book has the advantage that it never runs out of battery.
Amazon says the Kindle 3 can run for up to one month on a single charge with the wireless turned off, while it comes down to ten days with wireless on constantly.Half the fun of going on holiday is rifling through the books in the airport shops to find a trashy read or murder mystery for the beach.

Thursday 30 December 2010

Does Amazon have too much power

Amazon is probably the largest bookseller, dollar-wise, in America and the world. Certainly, it is the largest ebook seller in America. And Amazon has spread its tentacles so that it is not only a bookseller, but it competes with publishers as a publisher.
Amazon has positioned itself so that, with the exception of the big publishing houses like Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Random House, authors and publishers believe their books must be available for sale on Amazon or they will never make it. I have yet to hear of anyone cry, for example, that the failure of Barnes & Noble or Sony ebookstores to carry their ebook is a crisis. But we do hear and feel that panic when it comes to Amazon.
The result of this concentration of power is that Amazon is given the opportunity to censor. I grant that Amazon is free to decide what products it wants to sell or not sell; after all, it is not a governmental agency that must be neutral in the marketplace. But saying that begs the question because by agreeing with that proposition (i.e., Amazon is free to sell or not sell a particular book or genre of books), we are also saying that Amazon is free to dictate what an author writes, a publisher publishes, and a reader reads — at least if you are an author or publisher who believes that not being sold by Amazon is tantamount to writing death or a consumer who believes that the only place to buy a book is from Amazon. FULL STORY

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Superman and Batman: Public Enemies

 DC/Warner Brothers direct to DVD movie.

Guess I'm a born again geek - I'm not really one for animated movies but I sat down to watch this movie with my son and although I wasn't expecting much I found it an enjoyable enough movie and surprisingly engaging. It certainly wasn't overly childish which, to be honest, was what I had expected it to be.

Firstly Lex Luthor's the president of the US - I'm not sure how that's happened but no doubt the storyline's been covered in the comic books. There is a world economic depression going on and Luthor manages to solve that particular problem and soon has the world economy booming again. However there's always a down side to everything and before the world's citizens can celebrate there is the problem of a large meteorite that is all that remains of the planet Krypton heading on a collision course with the Earth.

Luthor sets up a plan to destroy the meteorite with nuclear weapons but before doing so he frames Superman for the murder of Metallo and thus Superman and Batman end up as public enemies - they are on the FBI's Most Wanted and everything. Cue plenty of superhero battles as the heroes loyal to Luthor take on Supes and Bats before realising that Luthor actually has his own plans and doesn't want to destroy the meteorite at all.

Of course it all works out in the end with Supes and Bats saving the day but not before some suspenseful action and a thrilling climax that sees Batman sacrifice his life in order to save mankind - or does he?

I was surprised I enjoyed this movie as much as I did and found that there's plenty of subtle humour aimed at the mature audience as well as plenty for the kids to enjoy. Cartoons certainly weren't like this when I was a kid and this was was as well written and produced as any of those Manga movies which crop up on DVD or at the movies.

I've been told I should try more of these animated movies and next time one crops up I'll certainly be watching with more of an open mind.

Enjoyed that - nuff said.


The forthcoming large print paperback edition of both The Tarnished Star and Arkansas Smith are now available for pre-order in the US from Ulverscroft.

Arkansas Smith
by Jack Martin

ISBN: 9781444806670

Large Print (Soft Cover) - 240 Pages

Published - 05-01-2011

Genre - Western

Price - $ 20.99

'Arkansas Smith: a legendary name. Once he was a Texas Ranger, but now some say he's an outlaw - a killer of men and a fast draw. Others claim he's a special lawman, dispensing frontier justice across the West. Arkansas Smith arrives in Red Rock looking for those who shot and left his friend for dead. And as he vows to bring them to justice, those opposing him face the legendary fast draw that helped tame the West.' 

The Tarnished Star
by Jack Martin

ISBN: 9781444805895

Large Print (Soft Cover) - 256 Pages

Published - 03-01-2011

Genre - Western

Price - $ 20.99

'Sheriff Cole Masters just wants to raise a family with the woman he loves. But upholding the law, when guns rule, is a dangerous business. When Cole arrests a rancher's son for the murder of a saloon girl, the father will do anything to free his son. And soon the lawman is on the run for murder - chased by two gunmen. The rancher wants Masters dead - but blood will run as Cole Masters attempts to reclaim his tarnished star.'
And coming soon for pre-order The Ballad of Delta Rose to be published July 2011 by Robert Hale LTD


The Archive points you in the direction of some great free content to fill up those eReaders - Feedbooks is one of the better websites offering public domain books, not only because of its list of contents but also the excellent job of formatting the site offers. Once a title is selected there are options of receiving the books in ePub, Kindle, PDF or custom PDF.

The western category is packed with books from Max Brand, Clarence Mulford, Mark Twain and Robert E. Howard - all are excellently sourced and formatted.

Find Feedbooks HERE - if you want to purchase any of the paid for titles you will need to register but there is no need for registration to obtain public domain titles. And once you've looked at the westerns, take a look at the other public domain genres. I was especially pleased to find, among classics from the likes of H G Wells, Lovecraft and Jules Verne, several DR Who titles from the likes of Paul Cornell and Mark Gatiss.

Tuesday 28 December 2010


The war in the Pacific is not as well documented on film as the war in Europe - I'm not entirely sure why this is. With the European War and the full details of Hitler's Final Solution there can be no doubt that the cause the allies fought for was good and just, but the war in the Pacific was a much more murky affair which started with Pearl Harbour and ended with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I must admit to not knowing as much about the Pacific theatre as I do the war in Europe and so I was pleased to get this DVD set, a follow up to the excellent Band of Brothers, as a Christmas box.

The mini series is every bit the equal of Band of Brothers though because it doesn't follow the fortunes of a particular infantry as was the case with BOB, but instead focuses on three individual soldiers who didn't serve together, it doesn't allow for the viewer to become involved as easily with the characters, but this is no criticism and in showing the horror of what the American soldiers, and indeed the Japanese, went through it does its job very well. At times it is uncomfortable viewing but then anything that shows war as realistically as this show does, is bound to be a little stomach churning on times.

The extra features on the DVD set are of a mixed bag - the best is a documentary that profiles the real characters depicted in the mini series. It's a very informative documentary and may help appreciation of the mini-series if it is viewed before the series. The rest of the special features are made up of a detailed look at the making of the series and then a brief overview of the actual Pacific conflict.

Overall an excellent slice of dramatised history.

Monday 27 December 2010

Yesterday's Papers - Marvel Comics

Archive reader, John Taftwell sent me a scan of what was effectively the first ever Marvel comic book - it was actually published by Timely Comics which was founded by Martin Goodman in 1939, though the company would later become the Marvel Comics known today.

The comic's first story is The Human Torch though this is a different character to the Human Torch we know today - the character was not Johnny Storm but actually named Jim Hammond. Created by writer-artist Carl Burgos.The "Human" Torch was actually an android made by scientist Phineas Horton. He possessed the ability to surround himself with fire and control flames. In his earliest appearances, he was portrayed as a science fiction monstrosity, but quickly became a hero.

 See the image left and the character even resembles the Human Torch from The Fantastic Four - this first strip is just a retelling of the Frankenstein story. Firstly The Human Torch is treated with suspicion and the authorities try to destroy him, but the Torch manages to fight off all attempts on his life and he flies off, vowing that no one will ever use him for selfish gain or crime.

It was great fun reading this story and realising that from this basic style of storytelling the mighty Marvel empire developed. The second story featured another character familiar to modern comic book readers Namor The Sub Mariner.

The mutant son of a human sea captain and of a princess of the mythical undersea kingdom of Atlantis, Namor possesses the super-strength and aquatic abilities of the "Homo mermanus" race, as well as the mutant ability of flight, along with other superhuman powers. Through the years, he has been alternately portrayed as a good-natured but short-fused superhero, or a hostile invader seeking vengeance for perceived wrongs that misguided surface-dwellers committed against his kingdom.
Modern character

Next up is Tarzan-alike, Kazar The Great - the character was actually created for the pulp magazine of the 1930's and was adapted for Timely Comics. Born in South Africa in 1918, three-year-old David Rand accompanied his British parents John and Constance on a flight to Cairo to visit his grandfather. Unfortunately, their plane crashed in the jungles of Congo. Constance died in the crash and John was driven mad. Living in the jungle with his father, isolated from the local tribes, David grew under the jungle’s hardships into an unusually powerful youth and developed strong empathy with wildlife, notably rescuing Zar the Lion from quicksand. When a criminal named Paul de Kraft discovered emeralds in Congo, John died opposing him only for Zar to scare Paul de Kraft off. With the support of Zar, David became the jungle's leading warrior within a few years challenging different animals like Bardak the Ape and N'Jaga the Leopard. Considered to be "god-like" by the natives, David Rand ended up named Ka-Zar (native for "Brother of Zar"). When Paul de Kraft returned to seize the emerald deposits, Ka-Zar killed him thus avenging his father.

Next up is the western story, The Masked Raider - it is the story of Jim Gardley who rides a horse called Lightening. And rights wrong wherever he finds them - something of The Lone Ranger there. Indeed The Lone Ranger was a popular radio series at the time of this comic so it seems obvious that this was where the writers took their influence from.

It was great reading this comic - as a kid I grew up reading British comics and although it was the homegrown titles I preferred I did from time to time get titles like The Mighty World of Marvel which featured reprint material from the American comics in the British format - that's how I came to know characters like Spiderman and the Hulk, but most of this early stuff was new to me. And it's good to have what is effectively the first ever Marvel comic even if it is a digital version and not some extremely valuable ancient comic book.

Reprint comics like this introduced many British kids to American superheroes.

Festive Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 20 Dec - 26 Dec 2010

Unique Visitors4313894434323612924342,782397
First Time Visitors3873493963973282773992,533362
Returning Visitors4440473533153524936

Sunday 26 December 2010

Wild West eMonday

Monday the third of January 2011 will see the next Wild West  Monday - and this time the message is the same but the method a little different - THIS TIME IT'S WILD WEST E-MONDAY.

The day will see the Archive bursting with western related content and we'll be encouraging readers to buy a western eBook on that day - spike up sales the world over and show the great demand for the genre in these electronic times.

The Archive will be offering enough western content on the day to fill the great plains - there'll be a free eBook offer for all visitors to the Archive, as well as the d├ębut of a new Cash Laramie western short by Edward A Grainger - yep, the tale's called Melanie and it will be posted right here on The Archive. And if that wasn't enough we'll have guest posts from, among others, the likes of Chap O'Keefe and  Charles Whipple. And then you'll have barely enough time to down a little redeye before we present a great interview with author Chris Scott Wilson. We'll also be looking at the  new Black Horse Western eBook bundle in depth which will be on sale from the 1st January 2011. And biggest news of all is the plans for a big screen version of my novel, The Tarnished Star - I'll be letting you all in on the developments in the project this coming Wild West eMonday.

And there'll be much more.

There's never been a better time to be a western fan - no longer are the books only available to a select few with the funds and means to trawl bookshop after bookshop. The western is well represented in the eBook market and with one click of a mouse you can be reading your choice on your eReader, Phone, iPad, even the humble old computer screen. Buy them once and read them on any device. And there's such a lot of great western content out there so let the Archive guide you along the digital trails.

I was originally scheduled to fly to South Africa today but, as is often the case with these things, it's all changed and I now fly Tuesday 18th January - no great shakes it just means I'll have more time to devote to this Wild West eMonday. After that I'll be away until April 18th but I'll still be updating The Archive, though perhaps not as regularly as usual, from the dark continent.

As always it's all go on The Archive - prepare for Wild West eMonday.

Friday 24 December 2010


From The Tainted

The blog with the Google tattoo

Dearly beloved we are gathered here today....

The blog is's official - Blogging is  so 2004.

"Writing a weblog today isn't the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge." Wired 2008

"One trend that bloggers don’t want to talk about? A number of my blogging friends have seen their traffic go down lately. They assume that their readers are off in social networks. I think they are absolutely right." Copyblogger 2007

The blog is dead and has been for sometime now - as a marketing tool it has been overtaken by the social network sites like Facebook and Twitter and the punky attitude of the early days has been replaced by corporate blogging.

"So there are plenty of reasons to be depressed about the blogosphere. It hasn't quite lived up to its early promise of a place where new voices would be heard, where reasoned argument would take place - a kind of Athenian ideal of democracy. Like just about everything else that has emerged from the web in the last couple of decades it's messy, chaotic and imperfect. But then, so is democracy - and nobody has come up with anything better than that either. " THE VIRTUAL REVOLUTION

In a sense I think I agree that the blog is dead, at least the form that blogs took in their original incarnation, but like everything the blog has developed over the years and now comes in many shapes and sizes - I'm never really thought of the Tainted Archive as a blog, not really. I mean it is a blog - it must be since it's hosted by blogger but I've always looked at it as a magazine...a blogozine if you like. To me it is the natural progression to the fanzines we used to buy.

And whilst some of The Archive's content may be genuine shit and of interest to only a select few, I am proud of much of the Archive's content - I've tended to come at it from a different angle to traditional blogs - I couldn't give a toss about generating revenue from the Archive, I really couldn't. Of course I use it to market my own books but if you look at it as a whole it is a very small percentage of the blog's swollen archives that push my own books. I update several times a day and since the Archive went live in 2008,  the number of days when I haven't posted anything can be counted on one hand.

"I blog more than some tweeting twats twitter" Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin

And yet the news media still claim the blog is dead -Organisations and individuals are having to find new ways to get their message heard, and are turning to services such as Twitter and Facebook in their droves. That's all very well but f**k Twitter - we still need to write whole sentences otherwise one day our messages will be trimmed down to mere bytes. And besides I've not really got a message to get across - and it is a fact that the great majority of tweets link to a blog post.

I maintain the Archive because I enjoy it and, in some small way, I suppose it is an addiction...but a very benign addiction. And besides where else but a blog would you find an article like this illustrated by a cat wearing a watermelon? Now surely that makes it special!!!

So I don't care if the blog is dead - in fact I'll dance on its grave.

Thursday 23 December 2010


Sources close to Amazon have revealed that Amazon are very close to having sold an incredible eight million Kindle devices in 2010.
If the figures are confirmed, then it will be proof that the iPad,which sold more than 7.5 million units since it launched back in April, did not necessarily impede sales of the Kindle.
Last year, more than 2.4 million Kindles were sold and Amazon was keen to encourage adoption of the ebook reader even more by cutting the price of the device to £109 (for the non 3G model) and invest in a massive marketing drive.
Although other ebook readers have appeared on the market, Amazon still has the lead thanks to its first-mover advantage and the fact that its Kindle platform is still a proprietary one.

RELATED - E-books go mainstream. Look around you – how many people you know are reading digital books? Maybe it's your wife, child, mother-in-law. Maybe they have a Kindle or a Nook or an i-something-or-other. Last year, you'd have had a hard time finding anyone who'd read an e-book other than a few early adopters. This year, e-readers are the hot holiday gift. By this time next year, e-books will no longer be a novelty, they'll just – be

Publishing is changing, and just one sign of it is that both of 2010's big fiction prizes were won not by books from Random House or Penguin Group, but by books from small presses. In April, Paul Harding's Tinkers won the Pulitzer Prize for tiny Bellevue Literary Press, a nonprofit publisher affiliated with New York University's School of Medicine. Then, in November, the National Book Award for fiction went to Jaimy Gordon's Lord of Misrule from equa

Wednesday 22 December 2010

We've joined the 200,000 club

Earlier today, 123 hits ago to be precise The Archive hit the milestone of 200,000 hits. I'd like to make a bigger fuss about it but I've taken to my bed with the flu. Still I thank all the Archive readers and will strive to keep things as varied and interesting as possible.

More later but for now here's the fireworks

Savage Sword of Conan preview

It's out there now

Story by
Marc Andreyko, Mark Finn, Roy Thomas, Paul Tobin

Fear itself

Marvel Comics go all social commentry for, what it is calling a seven issue mega event -

"In these tough times of record unemployment, terror alerts, oil spills, mortgage foreclosures and partisan politics that have torn a rent down the middle of this country, Americans have good reason to be living in fear."

"The climate in the world today was certainly the inspiration for this as we started to think about the bigger stories for the Marvel Universe," Marvel editor in chief Joe Quesada said at a press conference at Midtown Comics in Manhattan. "You will absolutely see the real world inject itself into this story because it's undeniable that there's a certain something in the air right now…we tend to tap into that whether consciously or unconsciously and it effects all our stories."

The company had great sales success three years ago with its "Civil War" series, which similarly mined real world events to tell the story of a division in the ranks of super heroes in the battle between personal liberties and security.

That storyline ended in the death of Captain America -- as first reported by the New York Daily News – which many conservative commentators interpreted as a political shot aimed at the Bush Administration.

A cowboy's best friend

General George Armstrong Custer, famed for his defeat at The Little Bighorn was something of a dog lover and his passion for hunting with his staghounds, actually Scottish deerhounds, named Blucher and Maida are well documented. Other famous westerners with a passion for the dogs was Teddy Roosevelt.

Custer loved his dogs and as well as hunting he would take the hounds into battle with him - in fact Blucher would be killed at the Battle of Washita River, which saddened Custer more than the loss of 21 of his soldiers. Maida was later killed by friendly fire during another Indian skirmish.

Custer would often use the hounds to hunt buffalo and he wrote of one instance where his two beloved hounds brought down a young bull. The dogs had the bull but the beast refused to fall and put up a tenacious fight. Custer had to run to the aid of his two dogs and slit the bulls throat.

Theodore Roosevelt also used staghounds during his Dakota Territory ranching days in the 1880's and the future president was rarely seen without his hounds.

There is much debate over the actual breed of Custer's dogs - he himself called them staghounds but many have suggested that they could have been lurchers. However Custer's dogs were undoubtedly Scottish Deerhounds - originally bred to hunt red deer or stags in Scotland and the breed were one of the earliest European breeds to arrive in the New World.

There were many differing breeds of dog in the Old West and because of the way of life the dogs would often run wild and breed as nature intended, so bloodlines became diluted and the majority of animals running around during this period were of mixed breeds.

Custer himself owned a kennel of over forty dogs of various breeds. Some of these were Walker Hounds (American Foxhounds) but most were sight hounds which included Greyhounds, Scottish Deerhounds and Russian Wolfhounds. The Greyhound was one of the earliest breeds known to man and it is thought the dogs first came to America with the Spanish adventurers in the 1500's.

George Washington actually owned a huge greyhound called Azore.

"The true way to kill wolves is to hunt them with greyhounds on the great plains. Nothing more exciting than this sport can be imagined." Teddy Roosevelt.

The staghound remains a popular breed to this day but, although well bred, the breed is not recognised as a pureblood. They are a tough breed and the typical life span of the dog is between 12 and fourteen years.


Ain't it Cool News are a reliable source for film reviews so it's big news indeed that they are calling the new True Grit - One of the best westerns ever made. The films is out in the US today but we Brits have to wait a little longer - it's not fair.

The UK release is the 14th Jan 2011 which makes no sense and really pisses me off - I can't wait that long. Why should the UK wait that long? Film producers and distributors moan about illegal copies of films cropping up on the Internet and yet staggered release dates like this will only encourage file sharing. I'll be in the cinema for the release but I can't say I'll be able to resist the temptation to watch a dodgy copy before that date.

Check out Ain't it Cool's review HERE

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Best of the West 2010

Firstly a little explanation - this is not a list of books published in 2010, nor is it a list of what I think are the best westerns out there. Rather it is a list of westerns I have read in the past year and enjoyed enough to place them in my top selections - I have two lists, on for fiction and the other non-fiction and I can guarantee that each title is superb value for money and will both inform and entertain.

First to paraphrase Olivia Newton John, "Let's get all fictional, fictional, wanna get fictional. Let's get into fictional."

The Hart Brand
Johnny D Boggs
Leisure eBook also published as a paperback

Recently I mentioned how rare a first person narrative is in western fiction and yet two of the five books in my fiction selection use the first person device. The narrator is young Caleb Hart who is packed off from his home in St. Louis to work for his father's brother Franklin J. Hart in the rugged New Mexico Territory. It's a great story with some excellent characters, particularly the grizzled cowboy with a girl's name Kim Harrigan and action that comes thick and fast. But above all the book shines with the author's understanding of the Old West and the cowboy way of life.

True Grit
Charles Portis
Bloomsbury paperback edition

I only read this book in the last week - spurred on by the forthcoming film version by Charles Portis. I had been warned that the book was totally unlike John Wayne's 1969 film version and that after reading the book I would dislike the Wayne movie, but that was not the case. The book is excellent and Wayne's film is surprisingly faithful regardless of what others may have you believe.

The Searchers
Alan Lemay
Leisure eBook - also available in paperback
The Searchers is another book that became a John Wayne movie and whilst I think the movie is the best western ever made, the book is not far behind it. I thought this book was absolutely stunning and you can find my full review HERE. It also holds the distinction of being the first western I read on my excellent Sony eReader.

Edge: The Loner
George G Gilman
Solstice eBooks - also soon available in paperback

I had to include this book here - I'm a lifelong fan of the series and I was heavily involved with bringing the book back into print as an eBook. It's a revenge story that introduced the world to the ultimate western anti-hero - think The Man with No Name on steroids. The new eBook edition actually contains an introduction from myself but regardless of that I am first and foremost a fan of these wonderfully surreal and  violent westerns.

I read the book again whilst preparing the original text for digital publication and I loved it just as much as I did all those years ago.

Collected westerns of Robert E. Howard
Halycon Classics eBook - also available in trade paperback

Robert E. Howard is of course best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian and this collection of western short stories which were originally published in the pulps, show that he had a great voice for the Old West. Out of all the stories here The Scalp Hunter and Riot at Cougar Paw were particularly good but every tale is more than readable. Some of them may be a little old fashioned but that's to be expected from stories that are well over sixty years old. Anyone who loves the old pulp magazines will love this book and western fans will find much to enjoy.


Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West
James Reasoner
Berkley trade paperback - also available as an eBook

Whilst there are many books on the market that collect together stories of iconic western persons, where James Reasoner's book stands out is that he doesn't only include the usual suspects but more obscure personages too. That's not to say that the likes of Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid and John Wesley Hardin are not included but the history behind lesser known characters make this books a must have.

Meticulously researched the book can be read from cover to cover in a single sitting,and once picked up it's hard to put down, or browsed through whenever the mood takes you.

Cowboys, Mountainmen and Grizzley Bears
Mathew P. Mayo
Twodot Books trade paperback - also available as eBook

This book takes on a similar style to the previous title but its scope is set wider. It contains fifty stories set in the Old West ranging from tales of doomed wagon trains to cattle stampedes, from men who survived shootings and scalpings to mass hangings. Again it's a book that can be dipped into from time to time or devoured in one sitting.

Stagecoach to Tombstone
Howard Hughes
Tauris trade paperback

Subtitled, The filmgoers guide to the great westerns this is an excellent title for any western fan to have on their shelves. Author, Howard Hughes clearly knows and understands the genre and his choice of films are representative of anyone's best of list. Each film listed is the subject of a detailed essay and I found myself agreeing with many of the author's conclusions. Though on times I disagreed but then that's the fun of a book like this. There is some great detail given to behind the scenes information on each film and some of this must have been a task of Herculean proportions to research given that many of the films covered are so old. And although the book starts with Stagecoach, a film the author clearly regards as the birth of the modern western there is a detailed introduction that looks at silent westerns.

All in all pretty much every film that matters from the golden age of the western is covered, though I did find it odd that the western selected for 1969 is Support your Local Sheriff rather than True Grit. Though I suppose it could be argued that SYLG is more representative of where the western was during this period of its evolution. The essay on The Searchers alone makes the book worth its weight in gold.

The Colonel and Little Missie
Larry Mcmurtry
Simon and Schuster Paperbacks

This book was my main source of research while working on my novel, A Policeman's Lot. The Pulitzer Prize winning author looks at the legends of Buffalo Bill with the emphasis on his Wild West Circus. He makes an effective case for the Buffalo Bill story representing the beginnings of superstardom in America. It's a unique angle in which to present Cody's story and the book is absolutely fascinating.

Of course it helps that the author has such an understanding of narrative and he brings all his skills as a fiction author to this work and both Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley step as real people from the page and into the imagination of the reader.

The above represents only a fraction of the Old West./Western material I've read in the past year and the one thing they all have in common is that they stick in the mind long after the covers are closed.

That's the list for 2010 then...see you for another in a year's time.


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