Saturday 31 December 2011

Archive's Sunday Comics - 2012: Battle stations

The comic book industry is a fraction of the size it was when I was a kid, at least it is in the UK - I was always a voracious reader of comic books and at the prime comic book reading age - say, 10-15- I had a dazzling variety of titles to choose from.

Each week I had Battle, 2000AD and Tiger on standing order from my newsagents and when I could afford it there were many other titles waiting to claim my money - the Beano and Dandy, Bullet,  Hotspur, the new Eagle, Action..the list goes on. Of course those were British titles.

My local newsagent didn't stock the American imports, but every now and then I would take a bus ride to nearby Porth and pick up a few of the American titles. Though in all honesty I preferred the more realistic UK anthology comics as most of the US titles I came across were superhero related, and whilst I enjoyed Batman, Superman and Spider-man I wasn't a massive fan of US titles. They were glossier than the UK titles, and often in full colour but UK titles reflected a working class society I understood. That society has now vanished and most of the comics have gone with it.

A visit to a newsagents in 2012  is a depressing experience for a comic book reader - 2000AD is still there but none of the other action titles are being published today and most comic books seem to be  aimed at the younger market with the cover mounted gifts being more  important than the story inside. The Beano and Dandy  still go on but these titles are unlike the versions I read as a kid - Dennis has been de-menaced and Desperate Dan is now politically correct.

Things have certainly changed. The US titles still seem to be going strong, though from what I understand with not a fraction of the sales they once boasted.  Titan and Panini between them are publishing high quality UK titles made up of American reprints and these are very popular, but the Brit stuff with the exception of titles like 2000AD and Clint have vanished. Of course the Commando Comics are still there but these are unique in that they are self contained stories and far removed from the anthology weekly comics that were once so prevalent. Early in 2011 a promising new title was announced called, Strip but it didn't seem to materialise - least I've never seen a copy. Apparently it's now on issue three but distribution can't be very good as I've yet to see a copy anywhere.

Kids these days don't know what they're missing and I'm glad I grew up during a time when comics were still a big part of every childhood...

And so all this leads us to our strip this week - an episode from the gritty war drama Hellman which was written by  Gerry Finley-Day and appeared appeared in Action Comic and later survived when the title merged into Battle.  And as a bonus we also have a couple of random pages from another UK comic, Warlord.

And remember click on any of the images for a larger readable version.


Happy New Year

Here’s wishing all my readers a happy and prosperous new year.
Have a great 2012


Friday 30 December 2011

real life hauntings - Ghostly chavs run riot in Peterborough

I kid you not but apparently ghostly yobs are running riot in  Peterborough

Police in Peterborough have been called on to act as ghost busters by victims who feel they may have been targeted by thieves and yobs from beyond the grave.
Findings released by Cambridgeshire Police following a Freedom of Information request by The Evening Telegraph, show Peterborough police have been alerted on six occasions in the last three years to deal with ghostly apparitions.

And in an eerie twist, three of these sightings occurred on the same date – 9th September – in consecutive years.
Two sightings also happened on the same day – 21st February this year – in central Peterborough.
Police said that all reports featuring the word ‘ghost’ in the last three years had occurred within the county’s Northern Division which covers the whole of Peterborough.
The full list of ghostly sightings reported to police includes:
- On 9 September 2009: police were called to a report of a burglary in the PE1 post code area.
The caller told officers it was believed there was a ghost in their house but no trace was ever found.
- On 21 November 2009: a disturbance in a field adjoining a house in Thorney was reported.
Officers were told by locals that this may have been caused by the ghost of a child.
- On 9 September 2010: police were called to a home in Stanground one week after an attempted burglary.
Officers reported that a child had woken at night and believed that a ghost was trying to enter through a window.
- On 21 February 2011: officers stopped a “confused woman” in Peterborough city centre.
They noted that she appeared to be “talking to ghosts”.
- On the same date in the PE1 area, police received a call from a person who claimed to be hearing “ghost noises” as well as seeing hands coming over the top of a door.
The caller also reported a group of three males outside the property, one of whom was a white male.
- On 9 September 2011: a driver on the A47 in central Peterborough reported a person walking down a slip road onto the carriageway against the flow of traffic.
The driver was described to be in such a state of shock that it felt like they “had seen a ghost”.
In all cases police say that no further action was taken by officers.
A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Police said: “Reports like these are extremely rare but where people have genuine concerns they or their property is at risk we will investigate if appropriate.”
However, the sightings have come as little surprise to Stuart Orme, who works at the supposedly-haunted Peterborough Museum and organises popular ghost walks through the city centre.
Mr Orme said: “Peterborough is an ancient city with a lot of history and tales get built up over time.
“We have an historic cathedral and other old buildings with links to hundreds of people from the past.
“There have been lots of ghost stories in the city over the years and we go through these on our walks.
“I would say that around 80 per cent of ghost stories can be explained with a rational answer.
“But it’s the remaining 20 per cent that no matter how hard you try to think of one, no logical answer exists.”
Among the places which are said to be haunted are the Queensgate Shopping Centre and the city’s museum.
The museum is said to be stalked by the ghost of a First World War Australian Soldier Sergeant Thomas Hunter, who was taken there in 1916 after being wounded.
Back then the museum was a hospital and Sergeant Hunter died there.
Since then staff have regularly reported furniture being mysteriously moved about.
Peterborough Cathedral is also said to be haunted by three ghosts.
The apparition of a little girl who was apparently murdered there in the 1860s is said to have appeared in a window in one of the building’s precincts.
The ghosts of a monk and a stone mason who also supposedly died there have been spotted as well.
The city’s Cowgate area is believed to be haunted following an incident of body snatching back in the 1820s.
Mr Orme added: “Although the museum is currently closed to the public we still have staff working here and some of those have heard mysterious footsteps when nobody else was around.
“There have been several ghost sightings at the Queensgate Shopping Centre over the past 30 years.
“The centre is built on an old residential area which used to contain shops and homes so people say the ghosts could be former residents there.”
So why are people so fascinated by ghost sightings and what should they do if they experience one?
Mr Orme said: “Ghost sightings capture people’s imaginations because they are linked to our fascination about what happens after death.
“I have met people who claim to have seen ghosts and some of them are the most down-to-earth rational men and women you could ever meet.
“But when they start telling you about the ghost they saw their belief is completely rigid and no amount of reasoning can change their minds.
“At the end of the day people are suckers for a good ghost story – even those who don’t believe in ghosts – and that’s never going to change.”
Have you experienced a ghost sighting in Peterborough recently? Contact our newsdesk on 01733 588728.
The grim activities of the body snatchers
At the end of Cowgate, there used to stand a graveyard, which was removed when the Queensgate Shopping Centre was built.
Eerily, it was one of the last places in the UK to be raided by grisly body snatchers who dug up freshly buried corpses and sold them to doctors for medical practice.
One evening in 1828 a cart was seen outside the cemetery with two men loading suspicious sacks onto it.
The alarm was raised and the men fled, with a cart chase ending near Norman Cross on the edge of the city. Here the men abandoned their getaway cart and fled over the fields.
But do their victims still wander Cowgate, eternally trapped and angry at their sad fate?

Thursday 29 December 2011

W H Smith's eBooks fiasco

From eBook Magazine

In the past few days, WHSmith ebook customers have seen further changes to the retailer’s ebook operation.
In October WHSmith announced plans to move its ebook service to the Canadian-based Kobo platform.
Shortly afterwards, sales via the firm’s website were redirected to Kobo’s site.

At the time customers were promised details of how their existing books would be transferred to the new service.

Last week affected shoppers were sent an email asking that they click a link to confirm they wanted their WHSmith purchases transferring to Kobo.

However that email also warned that: “We have been unable to make all your eBooks purchased from available in a Kobo account. This is may be because the titles are no longer available or Kobo have not yet established a relationship with the publisher.”

This means some customers may find some books are lost as part of the transfer. In addition, any eAudiobooks purchased will also be unavailable via Kobo and users are urged to download them before the end of December 28th.

Separately, customers who purchased books via the Samsung E60/E65 eReader and WHS iPad apps have been contacted by Mobcast which is taking over responsibility for those platforms.
Co-founded by author Andy McNab, Mobcast powered the WHSmith ebook app store.
In an email sent last week, McNab revealed that the service would be rebranded Uncuva and promised “a whole range of improved features and services, including an Uncuva desktop site to make browsing, buying and managing your books a lot easier.”

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

They say this is the best of all the Stark Trek movies, and although it's never been my favourite it was the first one I slipped into the DVD player from the handsome box set I received for Christmas - thank you very much. I've always liked Star Trek and of course I've seen all the movies, even the boring ones, and my favourite's always been The Search for Spock, with The Voyage Home coming a close second because it's fun and it's the Star Trek movie most easily enjoyed by non Star Trek fans.

Inspired by the "Space Seed" episode of the original TV series, Wrath of Khan  reunites newly promoted Admiral Kirk with his nemesis from the earlier episode--the genetically superior Khan (a sweaty and buff Ricardo Montalban)--who is now seeking revenge upon Kirk for having been imprisoned on a desolated planet. Their battle ensues over control of the Genesis device, a top-secret Starfleet project enabling entire planets to be transformed into life-supporting worlds, pioneered by the mother (Bibi Besch) of Kirk's estranged and now-adult son. While Mr. Spock mentors the young Vulcan Lt. Saavik (then-newcomer Kirstie Alley), Kirk must battle Khan to the bitter end, through a climactic starship chase and an unexpected crisis that will cost the life of Kirk's closest friend.

Wrath of Khan, to me, it's always felt small, more suited to a TV episode than the big screen, but of course in terms of story it holds up well and the acting is of a high quality. Maybe it's a fan fave because it uses the character of Khan first seen in the season one episode, The Space Seed - there is a goof here which was apparently explained in a Star Trek Novel - Khan says to Chekov, "Ahh, yes... Chekov, I remember". Although Chekov was not a bridge officer in the TV show that first featured Khan, it should be remembered that when Khan first took over Enterprise, he started with the engineering deck. Chekov was engineering ensign at the time, according to the movie's novelization.

Still away with all the geekery - This is a good, fast paced movie, full of action and surprisingly dark for a Stark Trek movie and of course the death of Spock at the climax is done with just the right amount of emotion. But a problem I have with Khan is that Kirk and Khan never actually meet face to face for the big show down at the climax, which really does feel like a let down, but this sentiment is not shared as Wrath of Khan is universally celebrated as the best of all the Trek movies.

"Of all the souls I've encountered in my travels, his was the most ... human" Kirk on the death of Spock.

Wrath of Khan is that it started off a story arc that would follow over the next two movies, and I enjoy the entire trilogy, though to my tastes Khan is still the weakest of the three - the next movie would feature some exciting scenes with the Klingons and the follow up would find the crew in modern day America trying to steal some Humpbacked Whales.

Wrath of Khan is a great movie with the original (and real) Star Trek crew, but I still don't think it's the best of all the Star Trek movies.

Monday 26 December 2011

The rotten apple - eBook price fixing

For book publishers, Christmas will come twice this year. After the festive trade in hardback tomes, the celebrations will begin again on Boxing Day, as the millions who got Kindles from Santa go online to stock them with reading material.

Amazon already sell more eBooks than paperbacks, but regulators, both in Europe and the United States, are worried that shoppers may be overpaying. This month, both the European commission and the US department of justice have announced investigations into ebook sales. They are to lift the lid on a power struggle between the publishing industry and Amazon that could determine the shape of the book trade for years to come.
The European commission will probe the "agency" deals signed between Apple and five of the biggest publishers: Hachette Livre, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Macmillan.

The trouble began in early 2010. Worried about declining physical book sales, publishers feared Amazon's eye-catching discounts would devalue their electronic product. So they agreed to a business model proposed by Apple just before the release of the first iPad. It was a move intended to force the world's largest bookseller to relinquish control over pricing.

The agency deals apply only to digital books. Publishers set the retail prices and bookshops take a 30% cut on each copy sold. The model was designed by Apple, but subsequently forced on Amazon, and has been adopted mainly in the UK and US, by Waterstones, Canadian group Kobo and Barnes & Noble.
"The whole point of the agency model is to prevent the emergence of monopolists like Amazon," says Benedict Evans, a digital media expert at Enders Analysis. "What the publishers have done is stopped Amazon from crushing the independent eBook retail sector."

Amazon has lobbied furiously against the agency model. European regulators fear consumers may be paying too high a price to keep the American retail superpower at bay. "The commission has concerns the publishers may have colluded to raise the price of ebooks and that Apple may have facilitated this," says the commission's competition spokeswoman, Amelia Torres.

Agency deals will also come under scrutiny in US courts. Law firm Hagens Berman is bringing a class action suit in California against Apple and the big five publishers on behalf of book buyers. Founding partner Steve Berman says: "In the US, we believe that the publishers and Apple got together and agreed to fix the prices, and you are not allowed to do that. As a result, prices of e-books have exploded, jumping as much as 50%."

Publishers are reluctant to speak publicly but deny any collusion, saying they met Apple individually, rather than as a group. The agency model, often used for reselling insurance or software, is a well-established system enshrined in European law. But prices have risen since it was applied to ebooks.

Amazon no longer charges its old flat rate of $9.99 for new titles in the US; bestsellers now average $15. Berman says shoppers are paying between 30% and 50% more.

Toby Stephens is James Bond

James Bond is back - and it's Toby Stephens in the title role, and whilst he may have played one of the silliest Bond villains on the big screen, he certainly makes a good 007. Goldfinger was broadcast this Christmas Eve as the Saturday Play on BBC Radio 4 and it's still available to be listened to online HERE

Ian Fleming's 1959 novel faithfully dramatised by Archie Scottney and directed by Martin Jarvis. Toby Stephens returns as 007, and a glittering cast is led by Ian McKellen in the title role. With cameo roles by top actors - all delighted to contribute to this remarkable Fleming adventure. Rosamund Pike plays wacky gang-boss Pussy Galore and Lisa Dillon is the vengeful Tilly Masterton. John Standing returns as 'M'. Tom Hollander, Tim Pigott-Smith and American star Hector Elizondo as New York City mobsters. Bond and Goldfinger are joined in the famous golf game by Alistair McGowan as the caddie, Hawker. Henry Goodman, Ian Ogilvy and Lloyd Owen contribute to the excitement. And Jon David Yu throws his bowler-hat with deadly effect as 'Oddjob'.

Auric Goldfinger is not only a cheat at canasta and golf, he's also an international criminal on a massive scale. His obsession: gold. James Bond is charged by the Bank of England and MI5 to discover what Goldfinger is actually doing with his vast hoards of gold. Is he somehow connected with SMERSH - the feared soviet spy-killing organisation? When 007 becomes an undercover member of Goldfinger's team he soon learns that the madman's plans are more grandiose than even 'M' could possibly have imagined. Amazingly, robbing Fort Knox is on the agenda - and mass murder...

Sunday 25 December 2011

What a difference a eYear makes

I originally posted this article during January 2011 and now, almost a year on, the eBook industry is bigger then ever - updates in bold.

"I have witnessed and participated in the transition of the newspaper industry from letterpress (hot type), to offset (cold type), to computer pagination (no type)." Says John Hayden in an interesting post looking at the future of publishing in a digital landscape. HERE  Can there now be any doubt that eBooks are the future?

There is a handy complete beginners guide to eBook HERE

Books are gradually beginning to lose their magical hold over people. Although at first this might seem like an extremely sweeping and highly improbable statement, with every new Kindle purchased or every batch of ebooks either downloaded or uploaded, it gains an additional bit of weight. A article looking at the phyiscal V digital debate HERE More and more people have now grown used to reading on a screen and are realizing that when engrossed in a good book it is the fictional world you see and not the device.

Last year was the year that firmly placed ebooks in the public mind and yet surprisingly it was the Romance segment that was the fastest growing of all genres within this market – at least according to research done by Bowker (as reported by the NYtimes). As an example of this, Barnes & Noble, the popular American retailer, was previously considered a non-entity in the romance market, yet they have recently taken 25% of the segment for ebooks. Quite impressive. The Romance genre was the biggest growing sector of eBook publishing last year. Full story The current hot genre is YA Fiction.

If you’ve visited any of the popular eBook forums/blogs over the last year or two you’ve likely seen plenty of debates discussing how eBook Readers will only hit the mainstream once they get down below $100, although in more recent months a $50 number has been bantered around (£50 on our side of the pond). This article questions the possibilities of eReaders ever dropping below the £50 mark. HERE

Most people in the industry seem to think that moving over from print to digital is cheap -
The publishing world is going digital, well, its trying. When we think of the costs involved in this the reaction from many people is, “cool, we’ll save loads of money”, but is this really true? Dominique Raccah from Sourcebooks says not.
Dominique has talk before about how Sourcebooks is finding it very costly to go digital and at this years Frankfurt Book Fair, she is making these comments again. I’m not a publisher myself, and I certainly don’t have experience with print publishing. FULL STORY

ePub is the universal format for eBook and yet Amazon do not allow the format on their Kindle. Over the last 12 months there has been a huge shift in the eBook world with the introduction of a brand new eBook format called EPUB. It is based on open standards, XHTML, XML, CSS and the ZIP archive container. As a result almost every publisher has adopted this format which now means that when the consumer buys an eBook, they can read it on many different devices now and many many more in the future – good news for the consumer. FULL STORY      A firmware update now allows the Kindle to display ePub

The complete celluloid 007 - An all time high

It used to be a tradition to get a Bond film on TV on Christmas night, but the Bond movies, now that they've gone all ultra modern and  thuggish, are hardly festive entertainment. However I wasn't much in the mood for the poor offerings on the idiot box and feeling bloated from too much food and booze, I felt like crashing on the sofa and watching a movie - I'd spent the evening watching the vintage sitcoms that BBC2 were offering up and this left me in the mood for some good harmless entertainment- I fancied a Bond movie but I didn't want anything too intense and my first thought was The Spy Who Loved me but I'd recently re-watched that one, and so I opted for Octopussy which is probably, along with A View to a Kill,   the Moore/Bond I've watched the least times over the years.

However I have, over the years , seen this movie maybe a dozen times and it's still watchable - it's good harmless fun, and refreshing that the violence level is as it should be for a Bond movie. Roger Moore may have been a little too old for the part when he made this entry in the series, but he still comes across head and shoulders above the current holder of the 007 status. There are so many classic moments - the pre-credits light aircraft disguised as an horse's arse is a cracking opening to a movie that knows it  offers absurdest entertainment and does it well. So well in fact that nobody does it better.

Roger Moore proved with this entry in the series that there was still life in the old dog and indeed his Bond movies were amongst the most successful ever made - time after time I have argued with people who have called Moore a terrible Bond  and I would maintain that Moore was closer than anyone else to Fleming's original creation. And for me Moore will always be the definitive James Bond.

I thought Timothy Dalton was excellent too, as was Pierce Brosnan and George Lazenby was OK if a little amateurish at times. Daniel Craig, I think, is a great and very talented actor but I just don't think he's right for James Bond and I feel that both his Bond movies were lacking the essential ingredients that make Bond stand out from all the other action movies out there. It would be interesting to find out how many of the people who think Craig's Bond is the Bond of the books have actually real Fleming's original novels.

Not many, I think.


Weekly Stats Report: 19 Dec - 25 Dec 2011


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits7936215475405164274243,868553
First Time Visits7716035245164994114113,735534
Returning Visits2218232417161313319

Saturday 24 December 2011

Archive's Sunday Comics - Festive Adventure

Christmas comes a day early on the Archive and so this week Sunday Comics is here on a Saturday - ahh well, like the rest of you I'll be too hungover tomorrow to operate a keyboard, let alone see what's on the screen. And so from myself and Keith Chapman, the man largely responsible for most of the Sunday Comics posts we wish you all a great Christmas and a cool new year.

The last balloon in our Sunday comic this week reads, "Wow! This must be the most exciting, merriest Christmas we've ever had!"

Archive readers have confirmed here before that some of the merry-ness of Christmas holidays during their twentieth-century childhoods was created by the sumptuous annuals produced largely by publishers of the juvenile weekly comics. The annuals must also have been a godsend to aunts, uncles and grandparents at a loss to know what to buy for little Johnny's or Jenny's Christmas stocking. The easy solution was check out which comics the children favoured, then call in at the local newsagents or booksellers. They were sure to be stocking the corresponding annuals from around September onwards.

The comic publishers produced annuals specifically for the Christmas trade and advertised and promoted them at no cost in their own weekly papers. They were undeniable moneyspinners.

This week's complete strip, written by Keith Chapman, is an excerpt from Girls' World Annual 1968, published in 1967. We've discussed the topic of UK girls' comics here very recently.  So all that's left to note is that, just as male Archive followers have disclosed they often enjoyed their sisters' comics, many of the boys at Christmas time also sneaked secret peeks into the girls' annuals ... especially when they could find neat little spy thrillers like Christmas Casualty!     

Books for Christmas

This kid is a star and this video, posted by his parents has gone viral on You Tube - check it out

Friday 23 December 2011

Festive Fear

Christmas is a time of fun, frolics and ghosts.

‘My ghostly little tale.’

That was how Charles Dickens referred to A Christmas Carol which was first published in 1843 and has since become arguably Dickens most celebrated work. It has been adapted countless time into all other media – movies, TV, comic books, audio plays, stage plays and is largely responsible for the way we celebrate Christmas today. The Christmas of the book is not so much about religion but the cold winter and the even colder heart of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Over the years the book has become to be known as a Christmas tale, which it of course is, but it is first and foremost a paranormal thriller that terrified the original audience – Dickens had written of supernatural events previously when Gabriel Grub from the Pickwick Papers is visited by goblins, but with A Christmas Carol the author brought the paranormal to the fore.

“A national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness.” William Makepeace Thackery.
Dickens has a social message behind his story, because he felt that the poor, many who had been displaced by the industrial revolution, should be provided for and treated humanly by society and by using ghosts to get his message across, he was picking up on an oral tradition of telling supernatural stories at Christmas.

And whilst A Christmas Carol is the ghost story most associated with Christmas, it is worth remembering that M R James started writing his ghost stories to be told to friends on Christmas Eve, the frame story in “The Turn of the Screw” has a bunch of friends sitting around the fire on Christmas Eve And the Andy Williams  song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” has the line there’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago. The modern Christmas owes much to the Victorian idea of the holiday and the Victorians loved ghosts stories and each year the popular annuals would feature at least one festive ghost story.
And so remember this Christmas not all spirits come in a bottle and have a scary Christmas and a chilling new year from THE TAINTED ARCHIVE.

But Stark has injected his own elements into the story. A pregnant woman and a plot thread I’ve not seen in a zombie story before. The ending threw a twist in and sets up the next part of the story, coming soon. Zombie stories are not a type I read a lot of, but I’ve come to expect good stuff from Stark/Dobbs/Martin, whatever genre he writes in.”  From the Amazon review by George R Johnson
“Hey, if you love zombies (and who doesn’t) this is a fab read. The author is proving a master at several genres, all his novels are well worth reading.” From the Amazon review by D. Menashy
Available now

Thursday 22 December 2011

Clint goes ape

Every Which Way But Loose (1978) certainly came out of left field for Clint Eastwood but it was a huge success, as was its 1980 sequel Any Which Way You Can. Eastwood was actually advised against making the first movie - it was felt that the public wouldn't accept him in a light comedy role after all the grim westerns and Dirty Harry pics, however the films remain today two of Eastwood's highest grossing vehicles.

They're also great fun, in a leave your brain at the door kind of way. Hey what could be better than watching Clint fist fighting while his pet ape shits in a police car? This is a full out redneck comedy with Clint playing the kind of thick head his critics had always claimed him to be, but then what did the critics know?

The project arrived at Malpaso in a roundabout way - the script was originally called The Coming of Philo Beddoe and was based on a real person - a truck driver with a pet monkey who was a phenomenal fist fighter. Writer Jeremy Kronsberg peppered the script with his own songs - the script was turned down over 50 times before arriving with Clint Eastwood who saw in it a chance to broaden his range.`

In the original script Eastwood's character was aged 29, while the actor was closing in on fifty. Writer Kronsberg joked that he would do some rewriting and make the character 35.

When the first movie was released it's astonishing success took both the studio and Clint by surprise - in fact, allowing for inflation, the movie still stands as Clint's most lucrative movie ever. It cost $4.5 million to make and took an impressive $123.5 million on its initial US release.

The follow up - Any Which Way You Can was far less successful and only took $10 million at the box office, which meant the end for Philo Beddoe and the plans for a series of movies was scrapped. But the follow up is actually a better made movie than the original but it lacked the good nature and the comedy scenes were basically a retread of those in the original movie.

After that Clint shot the monkey.


SPOILERS – Well we finally had a happy ending but only after the last living member of the Harmon family was sent off swinging into the afterlife – of course that’s not to mention a new family terrified into leaving the house. And amongst all this we had the usual mayhem and creepiness that has become a hallmark of this truly bizarre and original series. I, for one, have loved the entire season and I’m not at all let down by the ending – though what happened to the ninety minute episode we were promised. This episode was normal length and it did feel rushed in the way it dealt with gathering all the loose ends together, Ben, for instance, was killed off in the first ten minutes. Then we saw him reunited with his dead family and then it was fast forward to the new family moving in, and the Harmons scaring them out of the home so that they could avoid the inevitable tragedy that would befall them if they remained. This scene ticks all the boxes of the haunted house genre and there are one or two genuinely scary moments.

There was a great scene in which the ghosts were getting the house ready for Christmas and Moira was invited into the Harmon family, even becoming godmother to the baby. The dead one that is since the living spawn of Tate is being brought up by Constance and the episode ended with that demon baby slaughtering his nanny and then grinning at Constance. Credit to AHS for producing an addictive first season, which it capped off, fittingly, with an oddly heartwarming holiday tableau of a dead family and their damned roommates around a Christmas tree, even adding a festive soundtrack.

Let the right one in - book review

I’ve just finished this book, having already seen the two movie versions, the original Swedish and the Hollywood one, but until now the book had sat in my TBR pile waiting its turn. All I can say is I’m going to watch both movies again over the holidays because now that I’ve experienced the real thing I’ve got a hunger to revisit the characters and see just how faithful the movies were . I remember  they were both very good movies but this book is something else, and maybe the best thing I’ve read this year. I’ve been spoilt lately with good reading material coming to this straight off the back of Stephen King’s 11.22.63 and, you know what, I think John Ajvide Lindqvist is going to be as big as King.

I’m loathe to call it a vampire novel, but I guess that’s what it is – only the vampire between these covers is a truly original creation. The story resolves around Oskar, a 12 year old loner who is bullied at school and comes from a broken family, with both his well meaning parents being unable to improve his lot. Oskar keeps himself to himself, even hiding the fact that his urinates himself by making a foam ball, which he calls a piss ball, and putting it down his pants. And it is Oskar who provides the backbone to the book – a fully rounded character who creates empathy with the reader, so much so  that when his frustrations with the bullies from school prompt him  to murderous thoughts, stabbing a carving knife into a tree and pretending it is the lead bully, Johnny, we are truly captured by the story. Into his world comes Eli,a  strange girl of around the same  age as Oskar and a friendship builds up – she’s a whizz with the Rubik’s Cube, doesn’t wear any shoes on the coldest of winter nights and just might be a 200 year old vampire, frozen in an eternal childhood. Now if that all gives ideas of a Twilight comparison then banish it – this is the story that Twilight didn’t have the courage, nor the means to be.

The novel is set in a depressed working class suburb and populated by real working class problems – no on, it seems, is truly happy but they tolerate and accept their situations and make the best of a bad lot. There is a lot of humour, sadness and love among them  and these ancillary characters are just as well realised as the major characters, which is something that only the very best writers manage – “All these pathetic lonely people in a world without beauty.

The title comes from accepted vampire lore where a vampire has to be invited into a room  to be able to enter, though a literal translation of the original Swedish would be Let Me In, and  many more aspects of vampire lore but there’s so much new mythology created in the story that it turns our head on what a vampire actually is. And there are so many layers to the story – we see Oskar, with Eli’s encouragement,learning to deal with the bully problem, even putting an end to it, we see an old man’s love for Eli and the path he is willing to take to be next to her/him/it. One of the most horrific character is Haken, a pedophile but it is to the authors credit that he manages to create several sequences where this character comes across as almost sympathetic – we are horrified by his actions, his thoughts and yet no cartoon character is he, no blacker than blacker than black monster in human skin, but a real person who lives on the page – he also ends up, after pouring acid over himself,  looking like the monster he is. There’ s an horrific scene that actually had this reader squirming – a monster with a hard on. But all this grim squalor is punctuated with scenes of genuine humour that comes from the characters. And there are moments when you almost cry for them and the plight they face.

In short it is a vampire novel but it’s a different kind of vampire novel that you’ve ever read,and it is these touches of true originality and realism, rare in the novel like this, that makes it so compelling. It is bleak, it is grim but it is also uplifting and even if there are no fairy tale endings for characters that have become very real during the reading it does show that the human spirit is a thing of great strength.
Excellent – a truly remarkable book that is destined for classic status.

But Stark has injected his own elements into the story. A pregnant woman and a plot thread I’ve not seen in a zombie story before. The ending threw a twist in and sets up the next part of the story, coming soon. Zombie stories are not a type I read a lot of, but I’ve come to expect good stuff from Stark/Dobbs/Martin, whatever genre he writes in.”  From the Amazon review by George R Johnson
Available now

Wednesday 21 December 2011

The Lost Cowboy

It's great to get praise and when Archive reader Davyboy told me I had rekindled a lifelong interest in westerns for him, I was over the moon. Anyway Davieboy's written a song and posted it onto YouTube  and I thought it was great so here it is for Archive readers to enjoy.

NOTE - make sure you watch the very end to see what that street sign says.

Take it away Davyboy


Available now - HERE

Tuesday 20 December 2011


Introducing Vincent Stark

Vincent Stark is a reclusive writer, who shuns all contact with the outside world. He has not been seen in public since 1979. Although, from time to time, there have been rumours of sightings of the author lurking in the shadows of the cemetery behind his dilapidated mansion house deep in the Rhondda Valley countryside.
It is said that he is suffering from a skin condition which is aggravated by sunlight and is thus forced into his twilight existence. There is much debate over his well known skill with, the Stylophone and his penchant for playing jazz phrases on his own podcast, Scary Motherfucker. Indeed Stark seems to have picked up this skill overnight and there is one urban legend of him visiting the crossroads one evening and selling his soul to the devil in exchange for his ability on the stylophone.

The devil has all the best tunes
This week saw  the publication of a new novel, The Dead Walked and the author, showing the first signs of clawing his way back into the public consciousness now has a Facebook page – please support the ageing author by clicking like on his page, HERE

However for now Vincent Stark remains hidden away, his groceries delivered by a string of crucifix wearing delivery men and his bills paid by automatic withdrawal from the blood bank.

The Dead Walked by Vincent Stark

Can we have your attention please....

AVAILABLE NOW: Book one in The Dead Walked trilogy
Written by Vincent Stark – check out Vinnie’s Amazon page HERE
The Dead Walked – a new kind of zombie thriller
Click on image
 And coming March 2012

Drum roll please...the dead are now walking

My novella, The Dead Walked: Outbreak is NOW available for purchase from Amazon  as a KDP exclusive before becoming available on all other eFormats early next year. The Amazon deal means that the eBook is also available to prime customers for loan from Amazon's lending library.

The novella is my debut in the horror genre, following on from a string of bestselling westerns written under the name, Jack Martin and published by Robert Hale's Black Horse Westerns line.

For my work in the horror genre I adopted the name Vincent Stark as a nod to that flamboyant horror star, Vincent Price and the surname came from the fact that I'd been reading a lot of Richard Stark. The Dead Walked though is not the first sale for the Vincent Stark name - an upcoming issue of the iconic, Weird Tales will feature the short story, Back then our Monsters were Real which was also comes from Vincent's pen, .

Vincent Stark's sibling, Jack Martin

The Dead Walked: Outbreak
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 168 KB
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Gary Dobbs; 1 edition (18 Dec 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language English
  • ASIN: B006O0T89Y

Some said it was viral.
Others claimed it was an act of God.
Either way the result was the same and the dead walked.

September was her favourite time of the year, and late September, when the autumn was just preparing to hand over to winter, when there was still a residue of the late summer warmth in the air, as well as the crisp promise of the iciness to come, had always been, as far as Missy was concerned, the finest chunk of that particular month.
Not for her was the spectacle of high summer, nor the morose beauty of mid winter. Of course they both had their fineries but these paled next to the season when the leaves glittered with reflected sunlight. It was the autumn, with September being the highlight of that season, which she loved – a time when nature put on its finest display as the lush summer growth was magically transformed.
The sky itself seemed to glow at this time of year.
September was a time of promise.
A time of rebirth.
Not this September, though.
This September, Missy would remember as, the time the dead walked.

The second eBook, Dead Days will be published March 2012 and I'm pleased to be able to give you a look at the cover art for the second volume. The man responsible for the cover is once again Tony Masero, and he's managed to fully capture the mayhem and er, boobs of the zombie apocalypse.

And so take a look at the stunning artwork for the forthcoming second volume and go out and buy THE DEAD WALKED BY VINCENT STARK


Monday 19 December 2011

Visceral Images

The Dead Walked Book One: Outbreak will be available exclusively from Amazon for 90 days and should be on sale from Amazon’s Kindle store tomorrow, and will also be available from the Kindle lending library.

Early next year the book will also be available in all other eFormats.

The novella is the first in The Dead Walked Trilogy.
The cover art was done by Tony Masero, an artist whose works has graced the covers of many a book – I came to know Tony from his work on the Edge western series but he has over the years done many horror novels including books by James Herbert and Dean Koontz.

Check out Tony’s work HERE

And below is look at what went into the creation of the cover art for The Dead Walked, and what’s more later this week I will reveal Tony’s cover art for The Dead Walked Book Two which will see print next March.

The Digital Dead

I’m not really any good at  video games, never have been and couldn’t get around more than a couple of levels of Pacman and at Space Invaders  I was terrible – those alien gits always managed to destroy my houses and reach the bottom of the screen – GAME OVER. However from time to time I do like to pick up the X-Box  for a little slice of zombie splattering. And the range of zombie themed games is immense, for just as the walking dead have occupied our movie theaters for decades then so too have the digital dead claimed their place in the video gaming world. They’ve been here for a long time and have developed since the first zombie video game, Zombie Zombie which was released for the ZX Spectrum back in 1984.
The Wiki lists many dozens of zombie themed video games and I’ve never even seen most of them, let alone played them,  but below are just a few of the zombie games I have played  and would recommend to anyone who is in the mood for some not so gentle zombie bashing.

Resident Evil – Racoon City, population 100,000, was  a small mid-western town that thanks to the Umbrella Corporation has become overrun by the walking dead. This was, and still is, a great shoot em up game with just the right amount of puzzled. Progress is relatively easy and it always seems as if you are moving forward and of course there are hordes of undead to shoot, bash and splatter.
Red Dead Redemption, Undead Nightmare – this game takes two cool genres – the western and the zombie blaster – and sticks them in a pot, gives them a good stir and sets them free. An excellent game but the  original Red Dead Redemption was addictive enough, and now with zombies on the horizon the game is even more compelling.
Dead Rising is another addictive zombie game with some great gory sequences. The action takes place in Romero style in a shopping mall and for that fact alone I like it. There’s a lot of humour in this one and the range of objects you can use as weapons is bizarre - fancy bashing a zombie with a frying pan!

Call of Duty World at War: Nazi zombies – you can’t really escape the Call of Duty series at the moment and the zombie nazi mode in Call of Duty is great fun, particularly in multi-player. It’s basically a frantic shoot em up as you hide in a bunker and face off against wave after wave of nazi zombies.

Ghosts and Goblins – OK now this is one game that I did master and that was way back in the days of the Commodore 64. It’s a sideways scrolling shoot em up, jump over em. It may look old fashioned these days but it’s still compelling and it was great fun back in the day. Those zombies at the start of the game looked cute rather than scary but man this was fun and still provides retro gaming thrills.

My novella , The Dead Walked Book One: Outbreak is officially published early next year, but in an exclusive deal with Amazon will be available as a Kindle only title for 90 days.
The book will be available to purchase later this week.

Some said it was viral.
Others claimed it was an act of God
Either way, it mattered not, for the dead shall walk.

September was her favourite time of the year, and late September, when the autumn was just preparing to hand over to winter, when there was still a residue of the late summer warmth in the air, as well as the crisp promise of the iciness to come, had always been, as far as Missy was concerned, the finest chunk of that particular month.
Not for her was the spectacle of high summer, nor the morose beauty of mid winter. Of course they both had their fineries but these paled next to the season when the leaves glittered with reflected sunlight. It was the autumn, with September being the highlight of that season, which she loved – a time when nature put on its finest display as the lush summer growth was magically transformed.
The sky itself seemed to glow at this time of year.
September was a time of promise.
A time of rebirth.
Not this September, though.
This September, Missy would remember as, the time the dead walked.

Black Horse western charts

Charts courtesy of Black Horse Express

1. Arizona Pay-Off by Duke Patterson (Kindle Edition - 31 Oct 2011)
Buy: £3.19

2. The Kansas Fast Gun by Arthur Kent (Kindle Edition - 31 Oct 2011)
Buy: £3.19

3. Gunhawk by John Long (Kindle Edition - 31 Oct 2011)
Buy: £3.19

4. Trail of the Burned Manby Thomas McNulty (Hardcover - 30 Nov 2009)
From £0.50

5. The Black Horse Westerns: Collection No. 1 by Abe Dancer, Dean Edwards, Tyler Hatch and Scott Connor (Kindle Edition - 1 Jan 2011)
Buy: £6.86

6. Dead Man's Range by Paul Durst (Kindle Edition - 31 Oct 2011)
Buy: £3.19

7. The Snake River Bounty by Bill Shields (Hardcover - 28 Feb 2011)
From £8.24

8. Hideout at Mender's Crossing by John Glasby (Hardcover - 30 Jul 2010)
From £7.43

9. The Way Station by Owen G. Irons (Hardcover - 30 Sep 2011)
From £8.93

10. Comanchero Trail by Jack Dakota (Hardcover - 30 Sep 2011)
From £9.00

Sunday 18 December 2011

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 12 Dec - 18 Dec 2011


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits5434955385456495867644,120589
First Time Visits5224775195246355687343,979568
Returning Visits2118192114183014120

The Saint is Back

BBC Radio 4 Extra (previously Radio 7) have just finished a series of three 60 minute dramatizations of the adventures of The Saint - the three full cast dramas are The Saint Overboard, The Saint Plays with Fire and The Saint closes the Case and all are based on the original stories by Leslie Charteris. Paul Rhys is Simon Templer and other cast members include Patsy Kensit, Fiona Thomas and Fiona Fullerton.

The adventures are still available for the next few days HERE

The broadcast is well worth catching because only two of the adventures are currently available on CD

"Back in 1995 I put up to the BBC the idea of dramatising some of the Saint novels. We agreed on three titles, but the commissioning editor suggested that I dramatise two of them (“Saint Overboard” and “The Saint Plays With Fire”) while the third be given to Roger Danes to dramatise (“The Saint Closes the Case”). The director of all three was to be Matthew Walters, and he cast Paul Rhys as Simon Templar. The three 60-minute plays went on air at the end of August and the beginning of September 1995, and got pretty extensive, and complimentary, coverage on Radio Times and by the national radio critics. Even so, and despite intensive efforts, I have found it impossible to persuade the powers-that-be at the Beeb to accept any further Saint material. The good news is that BBC Radio 7 accepted the three plays onto their schedules quite early on, and listeners have had several chances over the years to hear them again. Now, with my two dramatisations issued by BBC Worldwide as part of their Radio Collection, those two at least are now freely available" Producer Neville Telle

Johnny Ringo - old west badman

Nature of nurture - that's a question asked these days by those trying to understand the motivation of criminals. Can a person be born bad? Or is the seed of their destruction sown in their formative years? Johnny Ringo, famed after his confrontations with the Earps certainly had a rough time of it as a youngster.
John was born on May 3rd 1850 in Wayne County, Indiana. In 1864 the young boy was excited at the first real adventure of his life when his parents Martin and Mary Ringo decided that the family's future lay in California. They packed up their five children John, Martin, Fanny,Mary and Mattie and set off on the trip West.

They set out on the Fort Leavenworth Military Road with 68 other wagons and headed for Fort Kearny.
The trip was to be full of hardships. On June 7th the fourteen year old John was involved in an accident when a wagon rolled over his foot, severely injuring it. And then that same day he witnessed another young boy fall under a wagon which killed him. They say troubles come in threes and they certainly did that day, for later a wagon master accidentally shot one of his teamsters through the head, killing him outright.John witnessed both accidents .

The following day John, still hobbling due to his broken foot, went along with several men on a buffalo hunt and participated in killing several of the creatures.

One of the many movie Ringos
On June 13th, the Ringos picked up the Great Platte River Road. The next day his mother, Mary wrote in her journal that John had a chill and was severely ill throughout the night and for the next few days. But he recovered by the time they reached The Cottonwood Springs military post. Here soldiers stopped the wagon train and searched for horses containing the US brand but none were found and so the wagons continued on their journey.
June 25th saw the wagons halt on The South Platte Crossing where they were forced to stay for two weeks while hard rains and strong winds struck them. Mary wrote that during the stay several Indians came into camp and that one carried a sabre that he said he'd taken from a soldier he'd killed. Independence Day passed without celebration and it was July 9th before it was deemed safe to cross the river which led them onwards to the North Platte.

On July 16th several of the cattle in the wagon train became sick from the alkali in the water they had been drinking and died. And later two of the oxen also died from the sickness. By now there was a very real threat of hostile Indians and soon the wagon train came across the scalped corpse of a white man who had been half eaten by vultures.

On July 30th John's father, Martin was standing on one of the wagons, looking for Indians when he accidentally set off his shotgun, sending the load into his own head. John and fellow traveler William Davenport witnessed the grisly event.

"At the report of the gun, I saw his hat blown up 20 feet in the air and his brains were scattered every which way." Davenport wrote.

John helped dig a grave and his father was buried and left at the wayside. Mary's journal contain details of this fateful day and she recorded that her own heart was bleeding as the wagon train rolled on, leaving the grave behind them.

On August 1st the wagon train arrived in Platte Bridge Station but further misfortune was to strike the Ringo clan when the eldest girl Fanny suffered an attack of what Mary called, "cholremorbus." The term cholera morbus was used in the 19th and early 20th centuries to describe both non-epidemic cholera and other gastrointestinal diseases.

On October 7th the Ringo clan were in Austin, Nevada and Mary gave birth to a stillborn son with a deformed face. It was said that the shock of her husband's death had traumatized her and caused both the deformity and the still birth. John looked onto the dead baby's hideous face and turned away in disgust.
On the last day of October the family reached the Sacramento Valley just ahead of the first snows and stayed with relatives for some time. A year later Mary moved her family into a house on Second Street in San Jose. The youngest Ringo - Martin died in 1873 of tuberculosis, he was only 19. Fanny and Mattie grew up and were married. Mary the younger became a schoolteacher and mother Mary died in 1876.
It was been said that John Ringo was forever affected by seeing his father blow his own brains out and that the sight of his deformed stillborn brother pushed him over the edge. He began drinking heavily when he was 15 and ran off to Texas and eventually ended up in Arizona Territory where he fell in with the Clanton faction and became the infamous Johnny Ringo.
He was murdered, as we all know, in July 1882.

Article Source: by Gary Dobbs

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