Monday 28 February 2011

I never win anything...

Maybe my luck's about to change - Check this out, HERE

Well that's a surprise

Back in the day, this would have been called, "an happening." The hype surrounding the new band to rise out of the ashes of Oasis has been such that this has been the most eagerly awaited album in years. Mind you this band is basically Oasis minus Noel.

I was expecting a car crash of an album as I think  were a lot of people  - would Liam mess up without Noel's guiding hand?

The truth is quite the opposite and whilst the album doesn't contain a track like, 'Don't Look Back In Anger,' or 'Wonderwall,,' There are no such  anthems as those that got the world singing, but it is far better than the last few Oasis albums.

At times it sounds like The Who, at others like The Beatles and surprisingly The Monkees. Liam's vocal on Millionaire sounds as if John Lennon was doing a Davy Jones impression. Yep, Liam Gallagher may be a fucking idiot but he's our fucking idiot - the lyrics may make no sense but there are some good tunes here - Morning Sun stood out for me. I think the one thing that stops the listener taking the album seriously, is that Liam still tends to put himself across like the teenage rebel in his lyrics, and yet when away from the recording studio he's pushing a clothing line and taking the kids to school.

And what about Noel?
Liam recently spoke to Uncut magazine on that very subject and said,

"It's all very hush-hush 'round his camp. I put up with 18 years of that fucker so I'm arsed what he's doing. I'm sure it will be all very civilised and grown-up. One of those gigs you can really stroke your chin at. With four rent-a-Scousers wearing shell-suits. This is the whole fucking myth, mate. Me and him never really spent any time with each other. He did the soundcheck. I walked onstage, had it, went backstage, had a drink. He'd go to his room... fuck knows what he'd get up to there, probably putting women's clothes on."

Still it's Noel's solo album we are really waiting for...


The Jack the Ripper mystery was never solved and to this day remains the object of fascination to many.

The mystery of those few months in 1888 when a killer stalked the streets of London have been endlessly debated, and still we are no closer to the truth.

Or are we?

(click on image to go direct to the Kindle Store. The eBooks is also available on all other eFormats.)

Inspector Frank Parade carries out his daily duties in the Welsh industrial town of Pontypridd, duties complicated by the unprecedented presence of 500 members of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show encamped outside the town, not to mention the thousands attending the show every day. A series of depraved murders quickly makes things even more complicated. Buffalo Bill stands squarely in his path when Parade tries to investigate the likely possibility that one of the hundreds of show members is involved. And soon enough Parade’s own superiors are blocking his inquires, too. Still more deaths occur as Parade sifts through the thin evidence available and finds a trail that may lead to the perpetrator of the most heinous crime of the 19th Century—London’s “Ripper” murders.

Shocking revelations come thick and fast.

The greatest criminal mystery in history is about to be solved by a Welsh copper and an American Legend.


"It was no surprise that I would like this book. The author had previously entertained me with two fine westerns(as Jack Martin).

Inspector Frank Parade of the Welsh town of Pontypridd heads a two man police force that is busy enough. When Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show arrives with it's five hundred performers and eight hundred livestock, never mind the thousands attending the shows, things get a lot worse.

Then the murders start up, involving a sixteen year old series of unexplained deaths. Throw in a thief, once arrested by Parade, who had threatened his life and had escaped prison by murdering a guard, a number of home break-ins, and superiors who want a fast, easy solution, and you have a fast moving novel that doesn't let up until the end.

And what an end.

The author uses Parade and Buffalo Bill to offer his own unique solution to the greatest unsolved serial killer mystery in history."   Randy Johnson


"Gary Dobbs (AKA Jack Martin) continues his string of fast paced books with "A Policeman's Lot." Not a western per se, as are his Jack Martin books, "Policeman's Lot" still has some of that western sensibility and it even features Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West show on a visit to England, Wales in particular.

The story takes place a number of years after the Whitechapel murders but ties back to those murders in a most interesting way. I won't give more away because the twist at the end is original and took me well by surprise. Yet, it made perfect sense within the storyline of the book. "    Charles Gramlich


"This tightly plotted and cleverly conceived crime fiction novel is set in the Welsh town of Pontypridd in 1904. Our central character is police inspector Frank Parade, who on a normal day has his hands more than full. Parade's job gets even more complicated when Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show comes to town. There is Bill Cody, larger than life, and not all that cooperative, especially as one of his employees turns up with his throat slit. And thus begins a murder investigation that generates a slag heap of difficulties for Inspector Parade and produces a string of corpses.

Dobbs has done his research and packs a lot into his novel. We become immersed in a time and place on the cusp of the twentieth century. Old methods of law enforcement are yielding with the introduction of new technologies. Economic changes create new problems and social pressures.

And there's the entertaining collision of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show with turn of the last century, coal-mining Wales. Cowboys and Indians wander through some of the scenes, and Bill Cody himself figures into the plot at key points. Well drawn, he is a self-important presence used to being regarded as a living legend. Meanwhile, Inspector Parade is a thoroughly enjoyable creation. Happy he is when he's on duty, which is nearly all the time. Such is a policeman's lot." Ronald Scheer

"The colour of the setting, the atmosphere and the characterization are all top-class. The story starts rather low-key, but once you get to the killings, everything steps up a notch and grabs you by the throat. A "historical police procedural" is the most effective way I can describe it. The storyline's multiple, concurrent strands reminded me a bit of the J. J. Marric (John Creasey) Gideon books, as did the well-observed "common people" characters. The difference here is the way they're thrown into greater relief by their contrast with the celebrated Buffalo Bill and his show people. Your choice of this background for your first Pontypridd novel was a stroke of genius."   Chap O'Keefe

The digital future

The following piece was originally published on the Archive a millon years ago in late 2008 - were we ahead of the curve on eBooks? At the time of writing the eBook industry was only just starting to flex its muscles, and many people thought eBooks were a novelty that would vanish in a few short months. And yet here we are in 2011 and much of what is written in the article, has come to on and see what you think.

E-Books - is this the way forward for the humble old book?

Will digital downloads ever replace the traditional book? Will bytes do away with paper? Will pixels replace ink?

Never - no way - emphatically no way. There's some magical link between author and reader when you hold a book, the smell of the thing, the feel of it in your hand. When you buy an E-Book you don't even get anything physical, anything real. No real paper books are here to stay!!!!

However look at it this way.

When the MP3 revolution started people scoffed that these digital downloads could ever threaten physically owing a CD and yet these day CD's are all but obsolete, or at least quickly becoming so. The charts are now compiled largely from downloads. I'm a huge music fan - I've thousands of CD's as well as a decent vinyl collection. And yet these days I've always got my 80G Ipod Classic with me - it stores a few thousand albums and when I link it up to the car stereo I have bags of choice, not to mention the podcasts it includes as well as video. I still have my CD's but I rarely play them now. MP3's when recorded at the highest rate sound just as good as discs and I've even bought a few albums off Itunes in MP3 format.

If MP3's can win me across then they can win anyone.

The younger generation have no problems with downloaded music - so maybe digital books are the way we've all been looking for to encourage the younger element to start reading again. I've seen the Borders own E-books reader in action and it's superb - weighs next to nothing and it looks so cool. It can also store a couple of hundred books in its memory. Sony also have a reader on the market (pictured) and Amazon are championing the Kindle.

The fact is that these E-book readers are not only limited to digital books but can deliver your daily newspaper, blogs and anything else you care to throw at it. They are, in fact, super cool gadgets and no doubt we are only around the corner from mobile phones (a favourite with kids) being used to read digital books. Imagine it - kids will be able to buy an entire package digitally - the movie, the tie-in novel and the computer game and use them all on the one gadget.

Yep, the writing's on the wall. As much as we book lovers are horrified with the thought of real books vanishing, it is inevitable that digital books will eventually rule the roost. Real books will be around for some time but take an imaginative leap forward say ten years. Will paper books be looked upon as a primitive, not to mention wasteful way to deliver information?

The advantages of digital books are that nothing ever needs to be out of print - course the pricing needs to drop somewhat before market dominance is achieved. And there's no reason for it not too - after all the production costs with digital books are minuscule in comparison to real books. Books will also be easier to sell in different countries, no shipping costs and waiting around for the thing to arrive. Just click "BUY" and in seconds the book is on your PC, reader or phone. There will be a new phenomenon in books then - that of piracy which is an issue affecting both the movie and music industry. But the answer to this is to price the product fairly because the book industry would be ill equipped to survive widespread piracy.

There are so many ramifications to consider but it's no use burying heads in sand - the day of the E-Book is coming. What that means to myself as a writer, I'm unsure but at the same time I'd rather look to the positives. Being able to get my books to readers all over the world at the click of a button sounds good but not having shelves full of books is not so.

Real books will be here for some time yet and digital will probably find a comfortable co-existence but, like it or not, the days of digital books being the main medium are not that far distant. We can either embrace the technology or get swept aside.

Bestselling Black Horse western Amazon

Charts supplied by Black Horse Express

1. The Black Horse Westerns: Collection No. 1 by Abe Dancer, Dean Edwards, Tyler Hatch and Scott Connor (Kindle Edition - 1 Jan 2011) - Kindle eBook
From £7.99

2. Twin Rivers by John D. Nesbitt (Hardcover - 30 Nov 2010)
From £8.82

3. Arkansas Smith by Jack Martin (Hardcover - 31 Mar 2010)
From £6.63

4. Brevet Ridge by Abe Dancer (Hardcover - 28 Feb 2007)
From £0.01

5. The Devil's Left Hand by J.D. Kincaid (Hardcover - 31 Aug 2006)
From £0.01

6. The Secret of Devil Canyon by I. J. Parnham (Hardcover - 28 Feb 2011)
from £12.99

7. Coyote Falls by Colin Bainbridge (Hardcover - 28 Feb 2011)
From £11.93

8. Pack Rat by Colin Bainbridge (Hardcover - 29 Oct 2010)
From £8.25

9. The Ballad of Delta Rose by Jack Martin (Hardcover - 29 Jul 2011)
From £13.25

10. Limos Outlaws by Ron Watkins (Hardcover - 31 May 2005)
From £0.90

Vending Books

Machines delivering books - it's all so 21st century. Think again.

I'd never heard of these things but an article in Rap Sheet pointed me over to this interesting piece at our friend, Bill Crider's place - HERE


Weekly Stats Report: 21 Feb - 27 Feb 2011

Unique Visitors6786706307947187037364,929704
First Time Visitors6336205847346626616914,585655
Returning Visitors4550466056424534449

Sunday 27 February 2011

Altman's The Long Goodbye

Neo noir, as Chandler's world is updated to a contemporary setting, but retains something of the feel of the golden age, the soundtrack especially harkens back to another time with its minimalist jazz influenced score composed by John Williams.

Elliot Gould's Marlowe is very much a man out of time and he finds himself in some bizarre situations in a LA populated by bizzare people. Marlowe for all his seediness seemed the less tarnished of all the characters as he walks the mean streets, chain smoking and despairing of the entire human race.

There's a great cameo early in the movie from David Carradine as a jailbird named Dave - he's only on screen for a few minutes, but his performance perfectly sets up the tone for the picture that is to follow.

The Long Goodbye was one of Chandler's most complicated novels with a large supporting cast. Altman slims the entire thing down for his movie and jettisons the less essential characters in order to streamline the film, and it's told in the director's rambling style. Hell not only are many characters chucked but on times Chandler is also thrown out of the window.

Gould is excellent as a world weary Marlowe and it is perhaps because of his performance that the film is so watchable - Gould really creates a unique persona with the way he walks, talks, wise-cracks and operates. He becomes a believable person - which is why the uncharacteristic ending is so impacting.

I've never liked Altman's almost art-house style of film but I do enjoy  this film and its clever updating of Chandler's world. The shock ending though seems totally anti-Chandler and I'm not sure exactly what the movie is trying to say here but it sure does take the viewer, especially if you know Chandler and Marlowe, by complete surprise. I guess this is a movie that will disappoint if the viewer is looking for a hard-boiled crime thriller but if you just sit back and let it wash over you as a piece of cinema then there is much to enjoy. The impression I got is that director, Altman was no big fan of Chandler's tarnished knight and set out to destroy the myth with this revision - maybe that's what that ending was all about!

An interesting bit of trivia - the role of the Hemingwayeque writer, played wonderfully by Sterling Hayden, was originally intended for Bonanza's Dan Blocker but the actor died before filming began.

The sound of Chandler continues

BBC Radio Four have just broadcast their latest in the series of plays based on the works of Raymond Chandler - Playback can be listened to for the next seven days HERE

  • Marlowe is hired to tail the mysterious Betty Mayfield all the way to the seaside town of Esmerelda, without knowing why or the identity of his employer. It's not long before he realises that he's not the only one on the trail, and that he too is being watched. Toby Stephens plays Philip Marlowe in a landmark series bringing all of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels to Radio 4.
    Philip Marlowe . . . . . Toby Stephens Betty Mayfield . . . . . Sarah Goldberg Larry Mitchell . . . . . Iain Batchelor Clyde Umney . . . . . Sean Baker Clark Brandon . . . . . John Guerrasio Goble . . . . . Sam Dale Lucille . . . . . Claire Harry
    Directed by Sasha Yevtushenko Produced by Claire Grove
    Stephen Wyatt (dramatist) is a Sony Award Winning Playwright. Recent work for R4 includes dramatising three of the Complete Ripley series including The Talented Mr Ripley for Saturday Afternoon, The Yellow Plush Papers for 11.30am and Tom Jones for Classic Serial. His original play Memorials for the Missing won a Sony Award in 2008.
  • Coming up later in the year: The Long Goodbye, The High Window, The Little Sister, and Poodle Springs.

Bonanza: The complete episode guide part 3- season 1, eps 11-15

Episode 11, The Truckee Strip, is a great episode even if it does repeat an earlier theme of Little Joe falling in love. This time though it's Romeo and Juliet out west. The episode starts with the Cartwrights in a spin because Luther Jessup (a young James Coburn) has chopped a tree down on the Truckee Strip, a beautiful piece of land whose ownership has long been the subject of a feud between the Cartwrights and the Bishops.That we have never seen the Bishops in Bonanza before, doesn't matter and the history of the fued is told within this episode - apparently years previously a judge had ruled in the Cartwrights favour. The problem is that things get even more complicated when Little Joe falls for Bishops daughter, Amy. It's an all action western with a great climax and James Coburn is excellent as the scheming Pete Jessup.

The following episode - The Hanging Posse must rate as among the top episodes of the first season . It starts with the killing of a rancher's wife by a trio of drifters. The rancher Flint Johnson comes into Virginnia City with his dead wife and immediately a posse is formed to track the men down. The Cartwrights are in town and there' some nice comedy when Hoss buys a dimes worth of jelly beans, these brightly coloured sweets had become very popular following the Civil War and it's nice to see authentic little details like this, which help to colour things out. Fearing that the posse will become a lynch party, Little Joe and Adam decide to go along to keep things legal.

Away from the Ponderosa, the story opens out and this is a brilliant example of western television at its best.

The Vendetta episode came next and followed a string of strong episodes, but this retelling of High Noon, with Hoss in the Gary Cooper role trumps them all. Little Joe and Adam have departed from Sacramento to buy some cattle and Hoss and his father, Ben are in town to conduct some business. They become involved in a bank robbery by the feared  Morgan gang, and together the two men stop the attempted hold up. Hoss draws and shoots Billy Morgan but Ben has been wounded too. The Morgans grab their own wounded man and ride off.

Ben is patched up by the town doctor but it is decided he is not fit enough to travel back to the Ponderosa and he has to rest in a room in the town hotel until he is able to ride. Billy Morgan later dies of his wounds and the Morgans swear revenge. Then the posse who had gone out after the Morgans all return, dead, slung over their horses -the tension now builds as Hoss finds nobody in town is willing to help in the coming fight with the Morgans. Ben, still recovering, is unable to help his son but as far as he knows the town is behind them.

A truly excellent episode

The Sisters (episode 14) is less successful. It starts off with Adam fighting an old style duel to protect the honour of a lady who has been insulted. Adam wins but doesn't kill the other man, one John Henry but tells him that if he ever again says one wrong word to Sue Ellen Terry, he will kill him. Ben Cartwright is furious at his son for, what he sees, as a foolish and risky fight. Buddy Ebsen guest stars as a sheriff in this episode and whilst it doesn't live up to the quality of the previous three, it is nevertheless fine entertainment.
It is worth pointing out that this episode is considered a fan favourite, especially by those who favour Adam Cartwright.

The Last Hunt (episode 15) may be light on action but it is nevertheless an excellent story -Little Joe and Hoss are away on an hunting trip when they come across a highly pregnant squaw who is trying to escape her tribe. The woman may be due to give birth at any time and the Cartwrights know they can't leave her alone, nor though can they take her back to the Ponderosa as she is far too delicate for the trip.

The problem is that the snows are due to start and if the trio are still on the mountain when the storm starts, then all ways off will be blocked until the spring. However because of the squaw's condition they have no option but to remain on the mountain until she gives birth and is fit enough to travel. There is some great comedy in this episode as Joe and Hoss attempt to make the girl comfortable and survive off the land.


Dan Blocker could have been a professional boxer - he won several amatuer fights but decided against turning professional. His trainer stated that he had all the skills needed except one - the killer instinct. He was just too soft hearted. Given his size, he was six foot before he was sixteen pro football seemed an option for the hulking boy, but Blocker turned his back on sport and decided to concentrate more on academic subjects. He served in the Korean war and saw action when his squad was pinned down.

"I tasted real mortal fear, "Blocker later told a friend.

After the army Blocker had to decide between acting and teaching. With a young family to support, teaching seemed more stable but acting could be more lucrative. The young actor found himself cast in episodes of Cheyanne and Wagon Train, but he always seemed to play the heavy. Blocker was cast in The Restless Gun by future Bonanza creator, David Dortort but after Blocker played the part of Tiny in Cimmaron City he decided to give up acting and return to Texas and a teaching post. Dortrot then offered him the part in Bonanza and the rest is history.

On May 13, 1972, in Los Angeles, Blocker died suddenly following routine gall bladder surgery, of a pulmonary embolism. The cast and crew of Bonanza were shaken by his death, and the writers took the then-unusual step of referencing a major character's death in the show's storyline that autumn. Bonanza lasted another season, but the final season in which Blocker did not appear is the least-requested in reruns.

Saturday 26 February 2011

THE COMPLETE LITERARY 007 - Licence Renewed by John Gardner

I remember buying this book when the paperback first came out - I was sixteen and a huge Fleming fan, having only discovered the books a few years previously. The paperback edition looked really cool - a blue cover with bullet holes that, if I remembered correctly, revealed parts of the picture underneath and I think that picture was Bond standing by a  SAAB 900 - I can't find this edition in a Google image search.

I recall it was a sunny day and I started reading the book while waiting for a bus home and I think I finished it that evening. I loved it, thought it was a worthy Bond book. These days, though I'm a little more critical.

Firstly Gardner's Bond is not Fleming's Bond, but then I don't think he was intended to be. The Bond of this novel is the cinema Bond as played by Roger Moore - the then current Bond actor. But I suspect that Gardner received strict instructions from Glidrose (the copyright holders) on how the book should be written, and the result is something that seems like a mish mash of the various films, rather than a stab at recreating Fleming. The publishers and copyright holders must have assumed that the readership would be so familiar with the movies, that they wouldn't want Fleming's gritty Bond, and so they opted to give them a carbon copy of the character they were seeing on the big screen.

For one thing Bond operates in a contemporary setting - the flashy but shallow 1980's - and what's more he thinks and acts like a man of that period. There are some nods to Fleming but Bond is no longer a man who relies on his courage and wits to escape danger, but a playboy who relies on his gadgets (double entendre, intended).

The original blurb went - Bond is back and he' better than ever. Bond is drinking noticeably less spirits these days; he's perhaps more diligent about exercise and has a special low tar tobacco blended for his cigarettes at Morelands of Grosvenor Street. But the 1980s have reached the department as well. Political restraints are squeezing in on the Service. The elite Double-O status, for example, conveying its authority to kill, is being abolished. But M takes little notice of these restrictions when it comes to Bond.

John Gardner has brilliantly portrayed the most famous spy in the world as he pits his nerve and cunning against a dangerously deranged opponent - one prepared to sacrifice most of the Western world to prove only he can make it safe from accidental nuclear holocaust. As the seconds tick away on the valued Rolex Oyster Perpetual, the world comes nearer this ironic annihilation and Bond comes nearer to a frightful death.

The biggest problem with the book is that it doesn't even try to take itself seriously and as a result the story seems flat and unbelievable. No matter how outlandish Fleming's books were, the reader felt a truth for the time spent between the covers, and you don't get that here. It as if this is Bond is his, "Fat Elvis" period.

That's not to say it's a bad book - if you think of it as a film tie-in then it reads very well and it is paced wonderfully, even if Bond often seems to jump from one location to the next without logical reason, which is again something that the films often do.

 "James Bond shifted down into third gear, drifted the Saab 900 Turbo into a tight left hand turn, clinging to the grass verge, then put on a fraction more power to bring the car out of the bend."

I think Licence Renewed was a very professionally written book and it's a good enough Bond fix, but anyone expecting Fleming will be disappointed . I do however think Gardner improved and at least two of his Bond books are classics.

Djano - new DVD edition

I'm note sure how many times I've watched this movie, but it never fails to entertain and the new version from Blue Underground is not only the most complete version of the film available but it also features the original Italian soundtrack, in a remastered speaker busting form. The two disc edition also features the short, The Last Pistolero starring Franko Nero.

This cult movie centers on Django(Franco Nero), a stranger without identity, a man with no name, at the beginning he saves a woman (Loredana Nusciak). Later on , he makes his way to a small town, always dragging a coffin behind him.

The little town is located in the US-Mexican border. There he will take on two rivals, an American group and Mexican bunch . The colonel Jackson band, the Americans,  are a type of Ku-Klux-Klan organisation and they all  wear a red foulard. Django befriends the owner of the saloon, in yet another nod to A Fistful of Dollars .  And then the fun really starts...

That the film is basically a retread of, A Fistful of Dollars doesn't really matter, because Django has a style about it that is all of its own. And what goes around comes around and the film has become highly influential itself, it also made Franco Nero a European superstar, and directors like Quentin Tarantino owe it a huge debt.

 Django is a very proficient pistol marksman, his ability to overcome astounding odds (for example killing forty eight men in short order) is aided by his possession of the machine gun. Although frequently named a Gatling Gun, this gun has several unique aspects, and may not be based on an actual weapon at all. It has the following features:
  1. It is fully automatic. Django can be clearly seen not operating any rotating or otherwise cyclical mechanism. This fact goes against its being a Gatling gun, and makes it more likely a Maxim Machine Gun, the first fully automatic machine gun. However, Sir Hiram Maxim did not develop his weapon until a much later time period than that depicted in the film.
  2. It's muzzle has holes in two concentric rings (of thirteen holes and eight, respectively), enclosing a central hole, making a total of twenty one holes. This is clearly visible from the muzzle end. This precludes is being a Maxim type weapon, as that had a single barrel. However, it may be a hybrid Maxim/Gatling weapon. On closer inspection, the muzzle reveals that only in three holes (equidistant from each other in the outermost ring) are there actual barrels, the other holes may be present to aid air circulation. This is further confirmed by watching the firing sequence, as the flash is seen to leave only from those three barrels.
  3. It fires from multiple barrels. In the Gatling gun, each barrel fires when it reaches a particular location in rotation, so that the bullets always appear from the same point in the weapon. However, Django's weapon fires from any barrel. This characteristic is like a mitrailleuse, which is a volley fire weapon rather than a true machine gun. However, the barrels fire in a cyclic counter-clockwise direction looking from the muzzle end. This points towards a Gatling-type mechanism, but one fully automatic.
  4. It is definitely belt-fed. Apart from the fact that belt-fed ammunition had not been developed in the timeframe of the film and is an anachronism, belt-fed ammunition was definitely not used on any traditional mitrailleuse ever.
  5. It is a recoil-less design, as Django can fire it holding it as waist level, rather than mounted on a carriage or tripod.
  6. It is uncertain how the machine gun fires, as in addition to the absence of a cranking mechanism, there is no visible trigger mechanism.
The new DVD edition contains some great extra material, the highlight of which is an new interview with Franco Nero. There's also the usual theatrical trailers and talent bios. The second disc contains an arty short movie, which features Franco Nero, dressed in Django style walking through a modern urban landscape.

Django is a classic of western excess and has entered popular culture. The film has been referenced in scores of other movies, computer games, comic books and what have you  - the WIKI has the following list:

  • The ear-severing scene in Reservoir Dogs, directed by Quentin Tarantino has been said to have been inspired from the similar scene in Django.
  • Django is the film being watched by the theater audience in The Harder They Come, which is about a Jamaican outlaw styled after Ivan Rhygin.
  • Lee Perry's second album is titled Return of Django, and he has released tracks called "Django (Ol' Man River)" and "Django shoots first".
  • Episode 17, "Mushroom Samba," of Cowboy Bebop features a character dragging a coffin.
  • The Trigun character Nicholas D. Wolfwood carries an overly large cross which is itself a machine gun.
  • The video game and anime series Gungrave features the main character carrying a coffin full of weapons.
  • In Tenchi Universe, the character Nagi enters the climatic battle while dragging a coffin to a Western-looking city on Venus.
  • Mr. Black, a boss in the video game Red Dead Revolver, carries a coffin with a Gatling gun inside.
  • The coffin-dragging main character in the Boktai video game series is named Django; characters named Ringo and Sabata also appear.
  • The punk band Rancid has a song inspired by the movie, titled "Django", on its album Indestructible.
  • One-man metal band Thrones covers the theme song to Django on the album Sperm Whale.
  • In the Rob Zombie song "Feel So Numb", the opening lyrics to the third verse are "Django drag a coffin nail across your back".
  • The Danzig music video for "Crawl Across Your Killing Floor" features Glenn Danzig dragging a coffin.
  • The post-rock band And So I Watch You From Afar released a song titled 'D is for Django the Bastard' in their 2010 Letters EP.
  • Filipino billiards champion Francisco "Django" Bustamante earned his nickname after having been called "Django" by his friends; he eventually adopted it as his professional name.
  • "Don't Tango with Django" is the name of a track on the 'b' side of Joe Strummer's Gangsterville single, released in 1989.
  • The character Jango Fett from the Star Wars universe is a reference to Django. 
  • The Upsetters - "Return Of Django" song.
  • The 2007 film Sukiyaki Western Django by Japanese director Takashi Miike. The title, settings, ending theme song, and several dialogue lines reference Django. Also, clan members drag a newly-acquired coffin behind their wagon on the way into a battle, containing their prize, a gatling gun.
  • In Terminator 3 , The Terminator carries a coffin full of guns left by Sarah's friends in her grave.

A Horse Opera Renaissance

 From Black Horse Extra issue 21

"Just two issues ago, the Extra featured a Hoofprints item from reader Leigh Alver, of Perth, Australia. It said, in part, "I love a good western, mostly in the gritty style with the imperfect hero who is faced with tough decisions and short odds. I see debate touches on whether the western can rise to (mass) popularity again, and the answer is, who knows? .... I think a good story well told will find a readership that extends beyond its genre. My favourite of all favourite westerns is True Grit, not because it is a western but because it is a great, great story, with wonderfully drawn characters, a super plot (quest) and reads off the page like music to the ear – it is an absolute joy. In fact, I would put it up there with the great classics like Moby Dick and Treasure Island, and they are almost without peer as stories of individual character and adventure...."   Since then, Charles Portis's True Grit has appeared in its second movie version.  GARY DOBBS, aka BHW author JACK MARTIN, often himself on-screen as an actor, brings us some thoughts on the new film's remarkable reception, and the chance it might offer...." FIND THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

Delta Rose does a Tarnished Star

Destiny awaits Delta
Like my earlier western, The Tarnished Star (soon to be filmed as LawMaster), Delta Rose's sold out of its allocated numbers on Amazon on pre-orders alone, as a result Amazon are not taking pre-orders at the moment, but you can sign up to be notified when the book is once again available for pre-order.

I have been told the book will  be available for pre-order in a few days.

Because the Black Horse Westerns are primarily aimed at the library market, they are produced on short prints runs so this means that The Ballad of Delta Rose, has effectively gone into re-print before publication.

The Ballad of Delta Rose, this July, pre-order  (or register for a pre-order notification, as the case is at present) to ensure your copy.

A man's gotta' do what E's gotta' do

I this morning contributed to an interesting thread on the Western Pulps Forum, which is a lively forum in which all things western are discussed.  Any western fan will benefit from joining - My post ended with the following -

"The old paperbacks will always be there and thank the Lord for that. I love trawling through the markets and secondhand book shops. But concentrating solely on the older stuff is not going to help the genre to move forward into the new age. Love it or loathe it, we all need to get on pushing the eBooks and encouraging western readers to buy eBooks, by pointing out how much western stuff is out there. In a few short years, I believe, very few westerns will be published physically - depressing maybe, but there you have it."

I also posted - "Maybe I'm too optimistic but I don't see it as a given that western fiction will never be as popular as it once was. I think it's relative since there are not as many people reading as there once were, but I still think the western will remain popular. These days it's much more transmedia - comic books, computer games, movies as well as the books themselves. Look at the success of computer games, Gun and Red Dead Redemption, and of course that movie, True Grit. Also Jonah Hex continues to be a great comic and the UK's Judge Dredd is always doing western-alike stories set in the comic's own wild west, The Cursed Earth."

Remember him - he's back on the eBook cutting edge!
Which leads me to eBooks once again - I know a lot of traditional readers don't like the electronic devices and I can understand this reticence  - I mean traditional books are a thing of beauty and probably the best designed reading device there is, but at the same time we should take a lesson from those who refused to adapt MP3 - if we want our western genre to survive and prosper, we need to make sure it is available to new readers, those who have never read a western in their life. And the way to do that is to have as many western as possible available on eBook - both older republished stuff and brand new work. It makes sense really, this is a new world - imagine some thirteen year old kid is playing the latest violent computer game set in the wildest of wild wests, the game excites him. So he decides to check out some western fiction or a movie, and with the click of a button he can download both of these to whatever device is the current latest thing.

More bang for your buck

The WIKI definition of western fiction - "Western fiction is a genre of literature set in the American Old West frontier (usually anywhere west of the Mississippi River) and typically set during the late nineteenth century. Well-known writers of Western fiction include Zane Grey from the early 1900s and Louis L'Amour from the mid 20th century. The genre peaked around the early 1960s, largely due to the popularity of televised Westerns such as Bonanza. Readership began to drop off in the mid- to late 1970s and has reached a new low in the 2000s. Most bookstores, outside of a few western states, only carry a small number of Western fiction books."

 I can't argue with that but what the WIKI fails to mention is that there has been a small spike in sales of western fiction over the last five years - myself I firmly believe this is due to the amount of passionate western related stuff on the Internet.

For it's survival the western must embrace the world of the eBook. But just sticking them up on Amazon or any of the other retail site, and hoping for the best is not going to do the trick. Which is why I believe the blogosphere is important - western writers are first and foremost, western fans and we need to show this by continuing to produce interesting western based content on the web, we need to continue to discover new angles for bringing new interest into the genre.

We need to make the western irresistible, cool and trendy - for then and only then will the sun rise in the west.

And so another Wild West eMonday is on the horizon and this time I hope to have a full weekend of posts by various luminaries of the western genre.So anyone reading this who is involved in any way in the western genre, then contact me and let me know you want to take part. And western fans, and a great many visit The Archive daily, let us know what kind of western features would make for an entertaining weekend and provoke you to buy a new western eBook.

....go on, a man's gotta' do what E's gotta' do.....

Friday 25 February 2011

Star Trek 2 script ready and it's amazeballs, says Pegg

News on the new Star Trek movie has been scarce lately but Simon Pegg yesterday tweated some news that has got Trekkies in a frenzy:

For today only

To celebrate George Harrison's birthday today  the complete Concert for George will be streamed on George - HERE

Tarnished Star becomes LawMaster

There were several suggestion kicked around for a title, when it was decided to change the name from The Tarnished Star for the forthcoming movie. LawMaster, written like that, one word with the M capitalised, was my own suggestion and that seems to be the one we're going to use.

I like it - it's modern sounding and the capital M offers some nice design possibilities for the posters and so forth. Of course it's also perfectly logical because the main character's name is Cole Masters.

The state of play at the moment - well director, Neil Jones is shut away working on the script and once that's done, I'll be contributing to that first draft myself so that the version eventually on the screen will be a full collaboration between Neil Jones and Jack Martin. As Neil told me, "I want to collaborate 120%"

It's all very exciting and I hope that we produce a western that is both traditional and ultra modern. Things will probably go quiet for the moment, as Neil works on his new feature film, The Reverend, but we are hoping to start shooting LawMaster in 2012.

In the meantime I leave you with the official trailer from the current release, Risen which was also directed by Neil.

Dredd - first look

Back in the day I had high hopes for the Judge Dredd movie starring Sly Stallone - you see Judge Dredd was like our own hero and it felt as if we had some sort of ownership. Where Batman and Superman belonged to an earlier generation, I was there at the start with Judge Dredd (I was twelve when the 2000AD comic came out) and what's more Dredd, although operating in a future America, was British.

Then the Stallone movie came out and fans everywhere went - "What the fuck?"

Will the new movie, simply titled Dredd make up for the fiasco that was Judge Dredd: The Movie? Pete Travis is directing Karl Urban, Lena Headey and Olivia Thirlby are starring, and we’ve seen a few shots from the set already, as well as a nice image of Urban as the man himself, and this new picture is ripe and ready to be poured over by Dreddheads everywhere.

At least they seem to have the look right this time - the uniform looks modern and yet functional, and those shoulder pieces are not as big as those in the Stallone movie, which although true to the comic book style made Dredd look rather camp up on the big screen. And best not mention that cod piece.

Dredd is expected to hit cinemas this December.

Let's hope they keep the helmet on this time - that helmet is Dredd's face!

Sly Stallone said of his Judge Dredd movie -

Stallone's camp Dredd
"I loved that property when I read it, because it took a genre that I love, what you could term the 'action morality film' and made it a bit more sophisticated. It had political overtones. It showed how if we don't curb the way we run our judicial system, the police may end up running our lives. It dealt with archaic governments; it dealt with cloning and all kinds of things that could happen in the future. It was also bigger than any film I've done in its physical stature and the way it was designed. All the people were dwarfed by the system and the architecture; it shows how insignificant human beings could be in the future. There's a lot of action in the movie and some great acting, too. It just wasn't balls to the wall. But I do look back on Judge Dredd as a real missed opportunity. It seemed that lots of fans had a problem with Dredd removing his helmet, because he never does in the comic books. But for me it is more about wasting such great potential there was in that idea; just think of all the opportunities there were to do interesting stuff with the Cursed Earth scenes. It didn't live up to what it could have been. It probably should have been much more comic, really humorous, and fun. What I learned out of that experience was that we shouldn't have tried to make it Hamlet; it's more Hamlet and Eggs"


(Being reposted and reworked from an earlier article on The Archive) - Where do your ideas come from?

That question is asked of all writers at one time or another, and the answer is never really simple. Ideas come from anywhere and at any time, but with my July hardback, The Ballad of Delta Rose I can trace the genesis of the idea back more than thirty years. I'm not saying I've carried the idea around with me all this time (thought it could have been stewing at the back of my mind, alongside my desires for Angelina Jolie, all that time. Who can say?) but the thing that influenced the most important aspect of the novel was a story in a comic book I used to read as a kid. That story was called D-Day Dawson and it told of a character called Steve Dawson who was injured on the 6th June 1944 during the Normandy Beach Landings.

Dawson survived the injury but was left with a bullet lodged too close to his heart to be removed and, knowing that one day the bullet will kill him, he vows to keep his injury secret and fight on.

And fight on he did, taking more and more outlandish risks to keep the men who fought alongside him safe. Dawson was forever getting dizzy turns or temporary paralysis as the bullet inside him shifted yet closer to the heart, but he always managed to pull himself together in order to save the day. In one story from October 1975 Dawson thinks, "I've had another warning today that I'm not coming out of this war alive." In another story Dawson, convinced that he only has moments to lives, storms a German machine gun nest single handily. He did however live to fight on for another few dozen or so issues.

There was something heroic about  this man who had nothing to lose that appealed to us schoolkids. He was the ultimate soldier since he didn't fear death and was in many ways already dead.

The story was a favourite of mine and it ran originally between March 1975 and May 1976 and then returned for a final series between August 1976 and January 1977. Dawson did eventually die but not from the actual bullet but by an extreme act of self sacrifice that saved his comrades. It was a bleak, downbeat ending to a reader favourite but then Battle Picture Weekly was always unpredicatable.

"He had to die,' said Eric Hebden, the writer who eventually killed Dawson. "It was a chronological story, we couldn't prolong it any further. Once he reached Berlin it had to end."

I remember being upset at the time, as were other Battle readers. In fact one reader,  Derek O'Byrne of Dublin even wrote a poem and had it printed in the Comic's 5th November 1977 issue. And if by some chance a grown up Derek does read this article, there is a scan of your tribute illustrating this article.

At the time schoolkids all across Britain went into mourning, for just as grown men where shocked into mourning when Sherlock Holmes supposedly died after his battle with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls, we too were deeply affected by the loss of our hero.

Now I've a collection of Battle comics that I'd kept since I was a kid and a couple of years back when rereading some of these old issues, I suddenly thought the idea of a man doomed by a bullet lodged close to his heart had some mileage. And thus the idea for my third Black Horse Western, The Ballad of Delta Rose was born.

Like Dawson, Delta Rose has a bullet lodged inside him, one that can't be removed and will eventually kill him, but it is there that all similarity and debt to D Day Dawson ends. I approached fellow western writer, Dr Keith Souter and asked him about the effects a bullet lodged inside a human body, checking if it was feasible and indeed possible. I was told it was and was also given some documented evidence of this actually happening. And the novel grew from there. What's more I think it's the best thing I've ever written - the style is much more hardboiled than anything I've ever done and perhaps because I always had this beloved comic strip at the back of my mind, I managed to create something much larger than life, but at the same time keep it credible and grounded in a kind of fictional reality.

Delta Rose will be published on the 29th of June 2011 by Robert Hale LTD on its Black Horse Western imprint. The Black Horse Titles are primarily intended for the library trade and as such have limited print runs. My past titles have sold out quickly and Delta Rose is currently topping the pre-order western charts at Amazon and also at no 2 in the western charts proper. Pre-ordering means you are guaranteed a copy and no money will be taken from accounts until the book is ready to be shipped in July.

Order it HERE

Below find an exclusive all new extract from The Ballad of Delta Rose

‘Then I’m asking,’ the sheriff’s jaw took on a hard line and his eyes blazed. For all his advanced years he certainly didn’t seem the sort of man to take too much nonsense.’
            ‘Anymore name?’
            ‘Just Delta.’
            ‘You from down South?’
            Delta’s eyes narrowed. ‘I was,’ he said.
            ‘Well, Mr Delta do you want to tell me your business in Hayes?’
            ‘I’ve got no business here. I was just passing through on my way someplace else. It’s been a long ride and I needed to get out of the sun.’
            The sheriff nodded. ‘Then you’ll be moving on?’
            ‘I will.’
Delta didn’t much like the sheriff’s tone but he decided it wasn’t worth kicking up a fuss. He had hoped on maybe taking a bed in town for the night, before moving off in the morning, but all of a sudden that didn’t seem such a good idea. He didn’t have too far to go now, maybe another ten miles or so, and riding out immediately would sure avoid any potential trouble. There was also the possibility that someone in town, one of the old timers, someone who had been here when the town was nothing more than a saloon and a cathouse, would recognise him and that word would reach Etta that he was back.
            ‘Just as soon as I finish with you,’ Delta reached into his shirt and took out the makings. Without asking permission, he rolled a cigarette and stuck it between his lips.
The sheriff struck a match against his desk and held it out for Delta.
            ‘Well,’ the sheriff said, following a short silence while both men smoked. ‘I guess there’s no reason for me to detain you. I won’t pry any further.’
            ‘But I should warn you.’
            ‘Warn me?’
            The sheriff removed the pipe from his mouth and used it to illustrate his point, jabbing it in the air as he spoke. ‘You’re a stranger, you wear you guns tied down low like a gunslinger. I’ve got nothing at all against that but if you sling your guns around, I’d prefer you didn’t do it in Hayes.’
            ‘I’m not a gunfighter, ‘ Delta said, firmly. ‘And I don’t intend slinging my guns here or anyplace else.’
            ‘Good. Then you’re free to leave town, stranger.’
            ‘You running me out of town?’
            ‘Not unless I need to.’
            Delta stood up and looked down at the sheriff. The lawman seemed mighty sure of himself; at the moment he looked perfectly relaxed, but Delta had the feeling the lawman would be able to spring into action in an instant should the need arise. Here was a man he could respect and he certainly didn’t want any trouble with the law. Whilst it was true he hadn’t done anything, had as much right as the next man to go where he damn well pleased in this country, he figured he’d move on in any case.

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd (29 July 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0709091885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0709091882

THE COMPLETE LITERARY 007 - Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis (1968)

"I cannot hope to surprise anybody now that I have sunk to my proper level masquerading as the concocter of crypto-fascist James Bond tec yarns,"  -  Kinglsey Amis wrote in response to criticism printed in The Spectator  of his James Bond novel, Colonel Sun written as by Robert Markham. "I suppose he refers to the single yarn, Colonel Sun, which I published under a pseudonym while letting everybody I know I had written it. I did not masquerade as its concocter, or concoctor: I concocted it."

Kingsley Amis may have seemed an odd choice to continue where Fleming left off - on the face of it the two writers seemed poles apart, but Amis was a massive Bond fan and had already written The James Bond Dossier under the name of Bill Tanner, and, to my mind, the novel he produced, Colonel Sun is the best of all the non-Fleming Bond novels.

The name Robert Markham was originally to have been used by a number of writers to continue the adventures of 007 but this never came to pass - perhaps, using such a high profile literary writer to pen the first of the continuation novels was a mistake, as it wasn't very long before the cat was out of the bag - Kingsley Amis was Robert Markham.

Discounting Christopher Wood's two screenplay novelisations, and the novel James Bond: The Authorised Biography of 007 (1973), by John Pearson, Colonel Sun was the last, new novel in the Fleming canon's original Cold War time (the 1950s and the 1960s), until Licence Renewed (1981), by John Gardner, who, like Raymond Benson, updated the character to the 1980s and to the post–Cold War 21st century respectively, until publication of Devil May Care (2008), by Sebastian Faulks, which occurs in the late 1960s.

How though does Colonel Sun stand up to Fleming, and does it deserve its place in the Bond canon? The answers to these questions are, "very well", and "certainly."

The book starts off in gentle fashion, with Bond reflecting on his life while he plays a round of golf with Bill Tanner - we discover that the story takes place the year after the events in, The Man with the Golden Gun. Bond has fully recovered from the bullet Scaramanga put into his abdomen.

However this quiet reflective period is simply the lull before the story because no sooner is this section over than we are at Quarterdeck, where we witness the kidnapping of M - a terrific sequence in which Bond narrowly escapes with his life.

"I wrote this book, sidestepping out of my career as a straight novelist for the occasion, because I was asked to do so and because I found the project irresistible. When Ian Fleming died before his time in 1964, it was felt that James Bond was too popular a figure to be allowed to follow him."   -   Kingsley Amis from the introduction to the 1988 Coronet paperback edition of Colonel Sun

When Secret Service chief, M, is violently kidnapped from his house, James Bond follows the clues to Vrakonisi, a Greek Aegean island, where he, and Ariadne Alexandrou, a Greek Communist agent, plan to rescue M. Meanwhile they must thwart the complex military-political plans of People's Liberation Army Colonel Sun. Sun is sent to sabotage a Middle East d├ętente conference (of which the Soviets are hosts) and blame Great Britain.

Colonel Sun manages to retain the spirit of Fleming throughout, though the book does tend to sag a little in the middle, which is the result of an overcomplicated plot, but the Bond here does seem to be Fleming's Bond (which is more than can be said for many of the continuation novels), and all the elements that made the original novels so thrilling are present and correct.

"Why do you always include a torture scene?" Raymond Chandler asked Ian Fleming in a famous BBC discussion program.

"Do I, always?' Fleming asked, surprised at the question.

Yes Ian, you mostly did and Colonel Sun follows this tradition, but the torture scene in this book is cranked up several degrees higher than anything Fleming ever wrote. It's nasty, positively sadistic.

"You must understand that I am not in the least bit interested in studying resistance to pain or any such pseudo scientific crap. I just want to torture people."

 And torture Bond he does - in the most methodological manner possible. - the fingernails, the genitals, the knee joints.

"Just one more thing, James. This cellar is well on the way to being sound proof, down here in the rock. And blankets and rugs have been laid on the floor overhead to seal it even further. Our tests show that nothing can be heard at more than a hundred yards. So scream all you want."

Far more violent than Fleming ever was, Colonel Sun deserves its place in the canon. It's a brilliantly paced story, even if the middle does suffer from being over complicated. The character of James Bond rings true, and the book very much recreates Fleming's rather surreal world.

RELATED - There was another James Bond novel written under the Robert Markham name - Per Fine Ounce, was actually penned by Geoffrey Jenkins before Amis had written Colonel Sun and it was expected to be the first of the continuation novels.  The work was championed by Harry Saltzman to become one of the 007 movies, but the Bond copyright owners, Glidrose pulled the plug on the project.

Despite such promising-sounding material, and the fact that Jenkins was a best-selling thriller writer in the Fleming mould, had been a friend and colleague of Fleming's and had apparently had his blessing and input for the project, Glidrose rejected Jenkins' submitted manuscripts.

a page of Per Fine Ounce
A full copy of the manuscript is rumoured to exist in the archives of Ian Fleming Publications (renamed from Glidrose in 1998) - however, Peter Janson-Smith has said that he doesn't believe Ian Fleming Publications still holds a copy and that the most likely scenario is that the manuscript was returned for legal reasons (so as to not be sued in the future for plagiarism if a book with a similar plot is used). Jenkins' contract with Glidrose gave him a licence to re-use the material in the novel in the event of its rejection, with the proviso that he could not use any of Fleming's characters. Jenkins may have done this: his 1973 novel A Cleft Of Stars, while not containing any rogue British secret agents, is set in almost precisely the same area of South Africa, involves diamonds and gold, and the hero temporarily hides himself in a baobab tree.

And in another bizarre twist - 18 pages of the manuscript for Jenkins's Bond novel did actually turn up in Perkins papers, and two of these page were published on the MI6 website giving fans a brief glimpse of what might have been.

AND ALSO - You know I once wrote a Bond novel - A Whisper of Love, a Whisper of Hate but when I tried to approach the Fleming copyright owners with a view to them considering it, I met with closed doors and deaf ears. It sits unloved, by all but me, on my hard-drive. You never know, one of these days  I'll maybe give it over to one of the fan fiction websites.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Clint Eastwood's movie after next already scheduled

The secret to a long life is to keep busy, or so the old adage goes and Clint Eastwood certainly believes this and directly after his Edgar Hoover movie he will lens a remake of, A Star is Born - pop princess Beyonce and Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood are currently in negotiations to team up on a third remake of A Star Is Born.
Warner Bros have confirmed that the pair are in talks for a green-lit fourth version of the classic film, slated for release in 2012.

The Single Ladies hitmaker will take on the role previously held by Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland in the 1976 and 1954 adaptations, and Janet Gaynor in the 1937 original.
She will play up and coming starlet Esther Blodgett, later Vicki Lester, who falls for a has-been rockstar.

Australia empowers Big Tobacco with its new draconian and simply barking mad vape restrictions

 From July 1st 2024 it will be illegal to own or buy any vaping device other than from pharmacies, and flavours will be limited to mint, men...