Wednesday 30 March 2011


H E F Keating, author of the Inspector Ghote series, died this Sunday at the age of 84. The first in his Inspector Ghote series is to be republished as a Penguin Modern Classic next month. Below is the obituary from The Telegraph

He also wrote many non-Ghote crime stories, several general novels — including two with Victorian backgrounds (The Strong Man and The Underside) — and other works under the pen-name of Evelyn Harvey. But it is his little Indian detective, with his gentle, ironic persona and manners far removed from Western 20th-century culture, for which Keating will be remembered.

What, of course, adds to his artistic achievement in begetting Ghote was the fact that he had never set foot in India when Ghote, who was based in Bombay (Mumbai), first appeared in The Perfect Murder in 1964. Keating’s only Indian accomplishment in those days was his ability, taught by a cousin when young, to count up to five in Hindustani. It was to be another 10 years and a good few Ghote books later before Keating made his first visit to the India that he had described from his imagination, bolstered by astute reading and research.
For 15 years he was crime fiction critic for The Times, and from 1985 to 2001 was president of the Detection Club, following in the footsteps of figures such as Chesterton, EC Bentley and Agatha Christie.
He edited a number of books on crime fiction, including Whodunit? A Guide to Mystery, Suspense and Crime Fiction (1982), and chose his 100 best crime stories in Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books (1987). The latter has an admiring foreword by the American author Patricia Highsmith, creator of the Ripley novels. Although very different writers and characters, Keating and Highsmith became firm friends after they met through one of his neighbours, who was Highsmith’s editor in Britain.

On one occasion she agreed to read one of Keating books, which he had set in the United States, to check that he had correctly captured the American idiom. She advised him that the term to “knock up” — which Keating used to indicate waking someone in the early hours — had a rather different meaning in America.
Henry Reymond Fitzwalter Keating, always known as Harry, was born on October 31 1926. His father, who came of Anglo-Irish stock and was a bit of a writer manqué, ran a prep school. Harry was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School, but left at 16 as his father was attracted to the “University of Life” theory of higher education and also had no particular desire to pay the bills for a conventional further education.

In wartime England the young Keating became an engineer at the BBC, and on the day that the war ended he was conscripted into the Army. He bashed a lot of parade grounds, peeled a lot of spuds, made a mess of repairing a good few radio sets and failed to gain a commission. With his two-and-a-half year stint with the Colours completed he found that he was entitled to an ex-serviceman’s grant to go up to university.

He went to Trinity College, Dublin, where he read Modern Languages, played a full part in literary life and other intellectual activities of the university and, after four “dizzy” years, came down with a First.
He then entered journalism, first in Swindon, Wiltshire, where he learned the fundamentals of the trade, graduating to The Daily Telegraph in the late Fifties. Keating must have been the only home sub-editor in the history of the Telegraph to be interviewed in French when he applied for the job. The then editor, Sir Colin Coote, fancied himself as a French speaker and could not let the opportunity slip when he learned that Keating had read French at Trinity.

As a home sub-editor with both The Daily and, later (part-time), The Sunday Telegraph, Keating had a reputation as much for his coolness under pressure as for his cutting and copy-tasting skills. He also worked for some years as a sub-editor on The Times, and liked to remind his friends that Graham Greene, one of his heroes, had worked in the same capacity at his, or an adjoining, desk. Throughout his sub-editorial years on national newspapers, Keating wrote little or nothing for them, but in his spare time he was penning his secret words. In fact, he had written from an early age and always nourished the ambition to be an author.

But it was his wife, the actress Sheila Mitchell, who encouraged him to write a detective story . The pattern of his future life was laid, and eventually the journalism that brought in a regular income could be discarded. He was to become a full-time author with additional and pleasant chores, such as reviewing crime novels for The Times.

Keating’s first detective novel, Death and the Visiting Fireman, was published by Gollancz in 1959. Others followed, but it was not until 1964 that Inspector Ghote (originally he was to be called “Ghosh”) made his first appearance in The Perfect Murder and a new type of detective entered the literary world. The book won the Gold Dagger of the Crime Writers’ Association in Britain and a special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

In all there would be 26 Ghote novels, a Ghote film and Ghote radio plays. Keating intended Ghote’s final appearance to be in the novel Breaking and Entering (2000), but he brought back the character in Inspector Ghote’s First Case (2008) and A Small Case for Inspector Ghote? (2009).

In 1999 Keating published a verse novel, Jack, the Lady Killer, and in 2000 he embarked on a new series of seven crime novels featuring Detective Chief Inspector Harriet Martens, a policewoman who adopts a tough image to survive in the masculine world of British policing.

There were many other books too, and Keating would also edit various crime-writing selections and anthologies. Another Gold Dagger came with a non-Ghote novel set in India, The Murder of the Maharajah, published in 1980.

In appearance — certainly in his later years, when he sported a large, bushy beard — Keating bore a strong resemblance to Orde Wingate, the Chindit leader. But, unlike Wingate, he was not (on his own admission) built for heroics or histrionic gestures. He was genuinely modest, disliked violence and liked a quiet, ordered life . There was something in his joke about himself in his Who’s Who entry that his recreation was “popping round to the post”.

His reserve could at first be taken for indifference, but this soon dissolved as the warmth of his character came through. There was, however, a small part of his artistic self that he kept private.
Keating received the George N Dove Award in 1995 and the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime literature in 1996. On his eightieth birthday in 2006 members of the Detection Club honoured him with an anthology, Verdict of Us All. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1990.

HRF Keating married Sheila Mitchell in 1953. They had three sons and a daughter.

James Bond 23 to start shooting in November

The Sunday Express, this weekend, reported that the new Bond movie, which may be called Red Sky at Night will start shooting this November - the news came out in an interview with Judi Dench who will reprise her role as M. The newspaper also claims that Sam Mendes will be directing though recent reports have suggested otherwise.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Origin by J A Konrath: Book Review

I bought this book out of curiosity - author, Joe Konrath is one of the rising stars in the independent eBook publishing game. For some time now the possibilities of self publishing to eBook have interested me and I felt that looking at Konrath's work may be worthwhile. He is a very visible author - his name keeps cropping up in articles, with much being made of the way he markets his books and his use of social networks to push his product.

However at the end of the day all that would fall flat if the end product wasn't up to standard.

The author's biography tells us that he collected nearly five hundred rejections, before being taken up by Hyperion Publishers for his twelfth book Whiskey Sour. These days though he is one of the top sellers in the Amazon Kindle store and an advocate of self promotion - he runs the popular blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing which is often filled with helpful advice as well as the author's own controversial opinions on ePublishing V traditional publishing.

Origin, which I purchased from the author's own website for my Sony eReader, is a damn fine book and easily matches  most of the other books I've read in the genre. It's billed as a technothriller, but to my mind sits firmly in the horror genre. It's very well written and the pacing is absolutely spot on - it really does grab the reader and drag them from page to page. The fact that Konrath couldn't sell this to a publishing house and decided to self publish the work speaks volumes about the failings of traditional publishing. There are many horror novels that have been traditionally published and hyped, that can't hold a candle to this work of terror. It does what it says on the tin - delivers a no nonsense read with compelling characters and some genuine chills. True, it does seem to get cluttered in both mythology and theology from time to time, and I found the first half of the story much more interesting than the denouncement, and Bub, the demon is an excellent creation. There were one or two shifts in point of view which I found confusing and had to reread some sections not to lose the thread, but I've certainly read worse horror novels than this.

At such a  low price the book offers superb value for money and displays why Konrath is one of the bigger names in eBook publishing. It also proves that just because a book is self published it doesn't mean it's inferior to a product from a named publisher.

I, for one, will certainly be checking out more of Konrath's work.

Now they're sexing up Agatha Christie

Disney are to produce a new version of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, featuring a younger, more streetwise version of the character. Jennifer Garner will take on the role of Miss Jane Marple in what Disney are hoping will be a franchise in the style of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes.

The female sleuth, who has always been portrayed by older actresses as a mystery-solving spinster, was expected to be revived as a younger character after Disney made a deal to bring back the franchise.
Christie wrote 12 mystery novels starring Miss Marple, beginning in 1930. The character inspired several motion pictures and a long-running BBC series.
 Instead of the elderly spinster who lives in the English village of St. Mary Mead and solves mysteries as a hobby, the new configuration is for Mark Frost to script a version where Marple is in her 30s or 40s.

Kindle to get page numbering

It's a software update that is bound to please the hordes of Kindle users - The Amazon Kindle is the best-selling eReader in history, and for good reason. The reading experience is far and away the best seen on any portable or permanent tablet, laptop, desktop, mobile phone or eReader. The Pearl E-ink technology offers a reading clarity and contrast that is 50% better than what was already the best out there. The lighter, thinner Kindle 3 eReader even looks more like a book, and has a list of features that are intuitive and sensible, like an in-book dictionary and note-taking capability, and it is widely regarded as the best eReader on the market. So how can they get better? They have responded positively to customers’ demand for page numbers, and they will start to show up soon.

You know you have a good product when the biggest complaint is that your eReader doesn’t have page numbers, and this is the case for all the Kindle models. When a software update hits the king of the eBook reading landscape in April, Kindle lovers will have to nit-pick something else. While this may not seem like a big deal, it shows once again Amazon’s commitment to honor and copycat physical books in form and functionality. This will also make the erstwhile eReader customer feel a little more comfortable when deciding on an eBook reader.
Amazon did not say how they would handle the font and text size changing feature in relationship to the page numbering, however. In all Kindles you have several font and text size options, so you could have either 250 or 50 pages in an eBook, depending on the format you employ. But having page numbers added in any format is definitely a good move.

Monday 28 March 2011

Bestselling Black Horse western Amazon

Charts courtesy of Black Horse Express:

Bestsellers on Amazon - 28 March

1. Satan's Gun by Bill Williams (Hardcover - 30 Mar 2007)
From £0.01

2. 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

3. Last Reckoning for the Presidio Kid by Emmett Stone (Hardcover - 31 Mar 2011)
From £11.69

4. Revenge by Fire by Bill Williams (Hardcover - 30 Nov 2009)
From £1.83

5. Iron Eyes Makes War by Rory Black (Hardcover - 30 Oct 2009)
From £1.83

6. Scar County Showdown by Elliot Long (Hardcover - 28 Feb 2011)
From £8.86

7. Gun Law by Lee Walker (Hardcover - 31 Dec 2009)
From £1.83

8. Coyote Falls by Colin Bainbridge (Hardcover - 28 Feb 2011)
From £9.12

9. The Tarnished Star by Jack Martin (Hardcover - 30 Jun 2009)
From £5.00

10. Ambush at Lakota Crossing by Terrell L. Bowers (Hardcover - 31 Jan 2011)
From £8.64

eBook Millionaire - Amanda Hocking

eBooks downunder

Chris Zappone - Sydney Morning Herald

Consumer interest in e-books has jumped since Borders and Angus & Robertson slipped into voluntary administration, according to industry insiders, suggesting a swift pace of growth in the sector this year.
The Australian arm of Canada-based e-books company Kobo estimates there has been at least a 30 per cent increase in traffic to its sites, generating “good” sales, since REDgroup Retail slipped into voluntary administration in February.

"The mere fact that there is all this speculation whether e-books had pushed REDgroup into administration drove a lot of people to look at e-books,” said Kobo’s Australian head Malcolm Neil. “We actually saw a huge sales spike in the couple weeks afterwards.”
REDgroup, which owns 260 bookstores in Australia and New Zealand, succumbed to slow growth, internet competition and the emerging threat from e-books in February, when owners Pacific Equity Partners called in administrators Ferrier Hodgson.
Although none of the e-books companies interviewed for this article provided revenue totals, data from web traffic tracking company Experian Hitwise backs up claims of a recent rise in e-book interest.
The share of searches on e-books rose nearly 5 percentage points for Amazon from mid-January to March 19, and 29 per cent since Borders and Angus & Robertson fell into voluntary administration.

For Kobo, in the No. 2 spot after Amazon, the share of web traffic searching on the term e-book rose about 3 percentage points, or as much as 46 per cent.

With total book retailing worth $1.4 billion in Australia last year, Mr Neil who is also the former chief executive of the Australian Booksellers Association, estimated e-books retail sales represented somewhere between $42 million to $52 million, or 3 to 4 per cent of the total. Mr Neil is also the former communications manager for REDgroup.

As e-book offerings increase, ease of access and awareness grows - thanks in part to REDgroup’s troubles - industry experts are expecting a swifter take-up of the platforms, despite weaker sales in traditional retail.
University of Melbourne publishing and communications lecturer Emmett Stinson said e-books were likely to generate around 7 to 8 per cent of all book sales by the end of the year, but might even come close to 10 per cent.

Mr Stinson said his guess was "based on Australia's adoption of other new media: ... slow at first, but quick to catch up".

Mr Neil, Mr Stinson and others interviewed for this article disputed Australians’ reputation as early adopters of technology, but said once local consumers adopted a technology it was embraced more deeply and more broadly than in other markets.

Starting in 2008, e-books sales accounted for just 2 per cent of the US book retail market but rose steeply to about 10 per cent last year, said Mark Tanner, Google eBooks representative in Australia, who like Mr Neil and others, is forging links between his company and local publishers.
He expects a similar curve in Australia, once selling begins in earnest.

“We take a little time to get into it, but once we make up our minds, there is very rapid adoption,” said Mr Tanner.

Although a US court rejected Google’s plan to create a huge digital library of scanned books last week, the search giant’s planned e-book launch later this year in Australia is expected to generate yet more attention to the format.

Dominant player Amazon with its popular Kindle reader is expected to be well represented, too.
“We now offer over 590,000 books to customers in Australia as well as over one million of free, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books that are available to read on Kindle,” said Amazon senior media manager Stephanie Mantello.

Despite the growth perspectives for e-books, the outlook for the overall book retailing sector is far from certain.

"The question is whether the take-up of e-books will be enough to offset the likely losses in print sales due to bookstore closures," said Mr Stinson. "No-one knows the answer to that."

Sunday 27 March 2011


Welsh Folk - The Catrin O'Neill Band

I've got wide ranging musical tastes - I listen to all sorts, with perhaps the blues and bluegrass being my favourites, but for some reason I've never really listened to folk music. Don't know why - I think I had the wrong impression of the genre and took it to be bands that boasted  the Deliverance cast on Banjo, and singers who indulged in too much cider, wore dung encrusted Wellington boots and smoked roll-ups. However these days I'm listening to more and more folk and now bands such as The Unthanks, Bon Ivor and The Cave Singers have joined the long haired rockers on my iPod.

My introduction to the genre came via a personal friend - Ms. Catrin Oneill and her album, Nain's Kitchen which I bought from her a couple of years ago because...well, how could I resist the lovely young lady telling me her album was out there. I've always been a sucker for a pretty face and I like to support creative friends. I mean I always appreciate it when a friend buys one of my books. It's not easy trying to make a living in any field of the creative arts, you know. Now for weeks the CD sat unheard on the dashboard of my car, but then one day, realising I had left my Todd Snyder CD at home, I slipped the CD into the player - well, all I can say is I shouldn't have been so close minded to the genre.

Welsh folk - watch the video above and then pop over to Amazon and check out samples of each song on her excellent album, Nain's Kitchen and prepare to make room between David Coverdale and Seasick Steve on the old iPod.

Saturday 26 March 2011


For a little over a year now I've been working on a novel titled, Forever - it's outside of my usual genre and I suppose would be categorised as horror, dark fantasy or even (the new buzz phrase) YA Fiction. It's nearing completion now and the dilemma I have is should I tout it around to publishers and agents, or go it alone and self publish to eBook? Self publishing has its enticement but I know there would be a lot of extra work needed to create a professional product. I'd have to employ a cover artist and a bloody good editor. On the other hand if I managed to place the book with a traditional publisher I'd be able to leave all that to them, but on the downside I'd lose some control over the work.

Ahhh - what to do?

A Dark Romance by Gary Dobbs

Amy was dreaming and she knew what would happen next.
The same thing that always happened; it wasn’t going to be any different, not this time, not any time.
It never changed and never would.
How could it?
What was done was done and the best will in the world couldn’t do anything about it. This was all going to end the same way it always ended, and there was nothing whatsoever Amy could do.
            It was a summer day – strange how in the dream the weather was fine, the sun bright and the wind non-existent. It hadn’t been like that in reality, least the way Amy remembered it. Her memories of the day were vague, splintered, and yet she recalled it had been overcast, evil looking grey clouds in the sky. And it had been raining heavily, which was what had made the road so slippery, but here in her dreams there was not a cloud in an overly saturated sky.
Strange how her dreams altered the weather but did nothing to remedy the tragedy that followed.
            Dear God no! It’s going to happen again. Make it stop…please make it stop.
            Amy knew she was dreamed and willed herself to wake, but it was no good and the dream, nightmare, was steadfast and refused to let go until it had fully played out.
Once again it was taking her all the way.          
Johnny shouldn’t have been driving, not really. For one thing it wasn’t his car and for another he was only seventeen and had no licence. But he’d never let a little thing like that stop him and when he’d found the spare keys to his mother’s car, what with her being away for the weekend with the latest in a long line of uncles, the temptation was too great for him to even put up a token resistance. Amy had been reluctant and tried to talk him out of it, but when Johnny had an idea there was no reasoning with him.
 Johnny was a force of nature.
‘Come on,’ Johnny had coaxed, grabbing Amy’s hands in his own and smiling. ‘Don’t be so sad. It’ll be fun.’
‘Not if we get caught.’
‘How will we get caught?’
‘We could get caught.’
‘No we won’t,’ Johnny kissed her gently. ‘My mother won’t be back till Sunday evening. No one will ever know.’
‘But you can’t drive.’
‘Sure I can.  I’ve driven plenty of times.’
‘You have?’
‘Sure. Now come on. Let’s go for a drive.’
‘I don’t know, Johnny.’
‘Come on.’
It had gone on like that for some time. A verbal ping-pong game in which he coaxed and she refused, but with each refusal her resolve had weakened. And eventually she had found herself seated beside Johnny while they tore around the village in the vintage Mini.
‘You know,’ Johnny had said and took a sharp right, which put them onto the B-road that went across country towards the old Cardiff road. ‘One day I’ll get myself my own car and by then I’ll have some money in my pocket. We can just drive and stay at different hotels every night, even sleep in the car if we wish. Just us. Do what we want with nobody to tell us what to do.’
Amy liked the idea of that and she felt herself relaxing. The tension deep it the pit of her stomach had ebbed slightly, replaced with the great love she felt for this boy. ‘Just the two of us.’ She had said, dreamily.
‘Yeah. Just the two of us.’
‘Forever.’ Johnny echoed.
And he kept his promise but forever was not the impossibly distant entity it seemed to be, something so intangible that it was almost an abstract thought.
In fact forever lurked just around the next blind bend.
‘Look out.’ Amy screamed.

The Writing Biz News

* Forward Press have gone into liquidation with debts estimated at £1.6 million. The collapse of the small publisher will see 105 people put out of work and is another blow to the troubled publishing industry.

* Peter James, who used to write effective horror thrillers, but is now better known for his crime work is to take over as Chair of the Crime Writer's Association.

* Julian Assange will publish his autobiography in April - governments the world over are expected to be quaking in their boots.

* Some good retail news for a change - Foyles are one of the few success stories in book retailing and the company are to open a sixth branch, which will be its first store outside of London. The venue is Bristol and the shop will stock over 13,000 books.

ASDA (Part of the Walmart Group) are now selling an eReader for £52 - The Quest Mediabox is the cheapest eReader available in the UK.


Frank Darabont's The Walking Dead was one of the best things about last year's TV season and the second series, to air this autumn, is hotly anticipated. Last weekend an internet rumour started that novelist, Stephen King will write an episode for the second season and within hours the rumour went viral.

The rumour is now fact and Stephen King himself has confirmed that he will indeed be writing at least one episode of the new season. King's episodes will be co-written with the author's son, Joe Hill who is himself an accomplished novelist.

King is no stranger to television. In addition to having several of his prose stories turned into TV series, he’s also written original works such as “Storm of the Century” as well as episodes of “The X-Files” and “Tales From The Dark Side.”

Friday 25 March 2011


Sony's Spider-man reboot hasn't even hit the big screen yet but the studio are already at work on the early stages of Spider-Man 2 - (DEN OF THE GEEK)

Sony has decided that it's in no mood to wait for a potential sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, and has thus ordered work to begin on a sequel. That, in itself, is no strange thing, of course, save for the fact that production is still ongoing with the initial reboot. In fact, Andrew Garfield's maiden outing in the webslinger suit isn't due in cinemas for over a year.

However, just as Warner Bros did, for example, with Sherlock Holmes (and is believed to be doing with The Green Lantern), Sony is hedging its bets. Rather than waiting to see if The Amazing Spider-Man is a success, it wants the script work (the cheapest, but arguably most complex part of the process) to begin now.

Hence, it's hired James Vanderbilt to get cracking on a screenplay, which, if all goes to plan, will lead to a short turnaround between films. You can wager that Sony wants a two year gap between Spidey movies, having left things so long since Spider-Man 3.

RELATED - You know it's great that I can say I know Spider-Man. I worked with Spidey actor, Andrew Garfield several years ago on the Doctor Who two- parter, The Daleks of Manhattan. The still from the story here shows myself second from the front, standing in front of Andy. It was a great two weeks working on these episodes, even if the pig men did push us around somewhat.

Dorchester Publishing - the boycott gathers support

Romance Writers of America have canceled all official Dorchester events at the upcoming RWA conference and Publisher's Weekly have picked up on the story of the Dorchester fiasco. However the publisher are still making statements on their Facebook page, defending their position.

Dorchester's latest statement reads:
A number of allegations have been made recently on this page by customers who mistakenly believe Dorchester is knowingly selling rights to titles they do not own. We applaud your decision to exercise your power as consumers and directly support the authors you know and love. We maintain that all mistakes, whether ours or third parties..., are being rectified. Thank you for taking the time to post.

The British Comic Book Weekend

The weekend was originally scheduled to start tomorrow but as I've been tied up on a film set all week, and have been unable to put the vast amount of material together it has been put back till next weekend. However the wait will have been worth it as the Archive presents two entire days of comic book related posts - so many in fact that it'll make you go, 'Wowser!!!'

Dorchester Publishing - the fury intensifies

Yet another author has joined the boycotting of Dorchester/Leisure Publishing - Mary San Giovanni writes - "Too often, writers’ need to connect with readers — that need to be read, which is nearly as strong as that need to write — clouds judgment. It makes writers settle for pay that is unfairly, often insultingly, low. It makes writers willing to submit to and to publish with markets that conduct poor or unprofessional business practices" READ THE FULL POST HERE

Thursday 24 March 2011

Writers furious at Dorchester/Leisure Publishing

Horror author Brian Keene is asking for support in boycotting Dorchester publishing who, he claims, have treated their authors in a deplorable fashion.

"I had not been paid since late-2009. My marriage had fallen apart, my bills were piling up, and more than half of my annual income was perpetually “coming soon”." Brian writes on his own website HERE.

Brian continues: "Recently, Dorchester’s customers began taking them to task on their Facebook page. These customers weren’t associated with any particular group or entity. There were members of the Hard Case Crime, Romance, and Horror Book Clubs, fans of horror writers, romance writers, and western writers. They complained about the unauthorized ebook sales, the unannounced changes to the book clubs, the continued non-payment of authors, the lack of promised trade paperbacks, and other concerns. Dorchester deleted these posts from their wall, and issued a statement denying any wrongdoing. When their customers responded, Dorchester deleted those posts as well. Then Dorchester emailed me. They asked me to “make a post” stating that this wasn’t their fault and that they are “trying to rectify the situation” because “people have been trolling the Dorchester Facebook page and posting angry notes.” That they view their customers’ legitimate concerns as “trolling” is quite telling."

Anyone who is interested in this dreadful situation should also read the blog post by author Robert Swartwood HERE 

The Archive thanks Chap O'Keefe for bringing this to our attention.

RELATED: Dorchester Publishing have tonight posted this statement on their Facebook page -
A number of allegations have been made recently on this page by customers who mistakenly believe Dorchester is knowingly selling rights to titles they do not own. We applaud your decision to exercise your power as consumers and directly support the authors you know and love. We maintain that all mistakes, whether ours or third parties...

Bonking on the battlefield: Rogue Male

I really enjoyed this book - it's a different kind of world war II memoir from the papers of Major Geoffrey Gordon Creed. The major was awarded both the DSO and MC (Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross)for his service in the second world war.

It really is a great story of a man who won the Military Cross on his first day in action and went on to participate in some jaw dropping missions. He served with the division that was the forerunner of the feared SAS, and just to add spice to the story he womanised his way across Europe and beyond.

Author, Roger Field was given the task of whipping the short memoir of Major Gordon Creed into some sort of shape, and he's done a great job in creating a readable narrative. He also adds footnotes which directs the reader to various newspaper articles and other books which add credence to the events described.

As soon as the reader gets into the first chapter, the book hooks like the best work of fiction. And the major comes out as a cross between James Bond and Harry Flashman. And the most amazing thing of all is that this is all true. The real strength here is that the Major was frankly honest about himself - admitting that he enjoyed women and was, in his own words, an insufferable cad. He is equally frank about his drinking. There's some fascinating detail on the various campaigns the major was involved in and I found the section detailing his exploits in Greece to be particularly rewarding.

It's tally ho and drop your knickers for this world war II story with a difference.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Bret Maverick: The Lazy Ace

It's a shame that the 1981 TV series, Bret Maverick which saw James Garner reprise the role that originally made him famous, only lasted for the one season. Maybe it was something to do with the revised format - in the original series Maverick was a drifting gambler, but in the new run he had settled down as a saloon owner. He did of course win the saloon in a poker game and the details of the game are played out in this two part pilot episode, which is often shown as a TV movie in an edited version. Another big difference with the new Maverick was that there was only one Maverick present - that of James Garner while the original series alternated lead actors, usually between James Garner and Jack Kelly, though Roger Moore as Beau Maverick and Roger Colbert as Brent Maverick also headed up several episodes.

Jack Kelly did appear briefly in this series and there were plans for him to return for a second season - alas that didn't come to pass.

Bret decides to settle down and enjoy the easy life in Sweetwater, but before he can, he has to head out to the Badlands to hunt down the thieves who stole all his money. As Sheriff Tom Guthrie is a bit preoccupied - trying to save his job - Bret hooks up with the only help he can get - the devious Philo Sandeen, who sells himself by claiming to be General Custer's former chief scout!

The Lucky Ace is an enjoyable story with Garner slipping back into the role as if he had never been away - the supporting cast are also on top form with several recurring characters being set up in the pilot episode. Why the show failed is anyone's guess -  it was made in the early 80's at a time when the westerns popularity as a TV genre had diminished.

Court Rejects Google Books offer

 Carolyn Kellogg L A Times

More than a year after giving it preliminary approval, U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin on Tuesday rejected the Google Books Amendment Settlement Agreement, yet left a door open for the parties to try for a revision. "The motion for final approval of the ASA is denied, without prejudice to renewal in the event the parties negotiate a revised settlement agreement," he wrote.
What's more, in his decision, Chin detailed several possible revisions, providing a roadmap for the parties if they intend to attempt to revise the settlement.
Will they? It looks like they may try.
On Tuesday, one of the parties clearly stated that it was interested in revising the settlement. Speaking on behalf of the publishers that are plaintiffs in the case, Macmillan Chief Executive John Sargent said in a statement, "While the March 22 decision of U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin on the Google Book Settlement Agreement that was filed on November 13, 2009 is not the final approval we were hoping for, it provides clear guidance to all parties as to what modifications are necessary for its approval. The publisher plaintiffs are prepared to enter into a narrower settlement along those lines to take advantage of its groundbreaking opportunities. We hope the other parties will do so as well."
Speaking for another plaintiff, the the Authors Guild, writer Scott Turow said something similar without going quite as far. "Regardless of the outcome of our discussions with publishers and Google, opening up far greater access to out-of-print books through new technologies that create new markets is an idea whose time has come," Turow said in a statement. "Readers want access to these unavailable works, and authors need every market they can get. There has to be a way to make this happen."
In his descision, Chin wrote, "While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far." But he didn't stop there.
"Although I am persuaded that the parties are seeking in good faith to use this class action to create an effective and beneficial marketplace for digital books, I am troubled in several respects," Chin wrote. He brought up several key issues that seemed to point a way toward potential resolution of the agreement, including moving the issue of orphan works and international copyright issues to Congress, privacy concerns and inverting the structure of the ASA so authors interested in participating could opt in, rather than being included by default.
"We've all been waiting for an awfully long time," the Electronic Freedom Foundation's Corynne McSherry told The Times. "It is nice to get some degree of clarity." The foundation was among those that raised concerns about privacy issues not addressed by the settlement, and were mentioned in the judge's decision. "We think it is great that the judge recognized that the privacy concerns are real," McSherry said.
Privacy issues were among the specific objections included in the judge's decision, which McSherry described as "full of anecdotes and examples." Those specifics may provide attorneys for the parties a checklist of issues that should be addressed in a revised settlement.
Chin wrote, "In the end, I conclude that the ASA is not fair, adequate, and reasonable. As the United States Department of Justice and other objectors have noted, many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA were converted from an 'opt-out' settlement to an 'opt-in' settlement." With the current opt-out structure, all authors are covered by the ASA unless they say otherwise; to create an opt-in structure would mean that participation would not be the default, but a voluntary decision to join in. Some had maintained that the opt-out structure turned traditional copyright on its head. Going from opt-out to opt-in sounds easy enough -- but would it be technologically easy to invert the already-built system? And would opt-in satisfy defendant Google, which created a system that was based on all parties being involved unless they said otherwise?
Another aspect the judge addressed was "orphan works" -- those with no clear copyright holder -- which had been the focus of some concern. Under terms of the ASA, they would fall into Google's hands and some revenues would go into a copyright clearance center. "The questions of who should be entrusted with guardianship over orphan books, under what terms, and with what safeguards are matters more appropriately decided by Congress than through an agreement among private, self-interested parties," the judge wrote.
That's a good point. Too bad Congress hasn't proved particularly adept at handling copyright issues.
Chin iterated a number of concerns related to international copyright, which varies by nation. "The fact that other nations object to the ASA, contending that it would violate international principles and treaties, is yet another reason why the matter is best left to Congress."
A significant concern for the judge seemed to be in line with several objections made relating to the way the ASA, while deciding issues within the case, would also affect business going forward. "They contend that the case is about the scanning of books and the display of 'snippets,' while the ASA will release claims regarding the display and sale of entire books." That speaks to the core of the case; will the lawyers involved find a way to address those concerns in a revised settlement agreement?
Another point the judge addressed was privacy. "Certain additional privacy protections could be incorporated, while still accommodating Google's marketing efforts," the judge wrote in his decision. "We think it's great that the judge recognized that privacy concerns are real," said McSherry of the EFF.
In the decision, the judge castigated Google's initial behavior in scanning copywritten works from university libraries, a project it undertook in 2004. "Google did not scan the books to make them available for purchase, and, indeed, Google would have no colorable defense to a claim of infringement based on the unauthorized copying and selling or other exploitation of entire copyrighted books. Yet, the ASA would grant Google the right to sell full access to copyrighted works that it otherwise would have no right to exploit. The ASA would grant Google control over the digital commercialization of millions of books, including orphan books and other unclaimed works. And it would do so even though Google engaged in wholesale, blatant copying, without first obtaining copyright permissions."
What does Google say? The Associated Press reported that Google's managing counsel Hilary Ware called the decision "disappointing" and said the company was considering its options.

"Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the U.S. today," Ware said in a statement. "Regardless of the outcome, we'll continue to work to make more of the world's books discoverable online through Google Books and Google eBooks."
The judge's decision closed with the notice that it would hold a status conference April 25 in New York.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection

It's ironic when you think of it, that given the abilities of the blu-ray format in producing stunning visuals and audio, it is vintage movies that are making the best use of the format. And the new complete Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes collection is a case in point.

The increased disc size is utilised by squeezing fourteen movies across four discs. Not that the movies are greatly compressed and the black and white images are crisp with not a digital artefact to be seen. The soundtrack is also impressive for titles of this vintage. There's a fine selection of bonus material - including commentaries and several featurettes. There is also some rare footage of Conan Doyle himself.

I'll be reviewing these films individually but for now I leave you with a listing of the complete contents.

  • The Hound Of the Baskervilles [1939]
  • The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes [1939]
  • Sherlock Holmes and The Voice Of Terror [1942]
  • Sherlock Holmes and The Secret Weapon [1942]
  • Sherlock Holmes in Washington [1943]
  • Sherlock Holmes Faces Death [1943]
  • The Spider Woman [1944]
  • The Scarlet Claw [1944]
  • The Pearl Of Death [1944]
  • The House Of Fear [1945]
  • The Woman In Green [1945]
  • Pursuit To Algiers [1945]
  • Terror By Night [1946]
  • Dressed To Kill [1946]

Judge Dead

Like Batman and Captain America before him, comic book hero Judge Dredd is to be killed in a forthcoming story from the Megazine. Bleeding Cool has reported that a story titled 'The Death Of Dredd' will appear in issue #309 of the anthology, sparking rumours that the law enforcer will perish. Mind you being dead didn't finish off Batman or Captain America so it seems a safe bet Dredd will return from the grave.

Publisher Rebellion Developments has released teaser artwork for the story, depicting Dredd with blood streaming down his face. It will feature illustations by Ian Sharp, who announced his return to the character late last year.

Judge Dredd was created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra in 1977. As well as going on to become a British comics icon, the character appeared in a Hollywood film and various other media.

Amazon Kindle remove Lendle option

It was an idea as brilliant as it was shortlived: let people swap their eBooks with strangers free of charge using Kindle’s new ‘lending’ feature. And now, after around two months in operation, Amazon has given Lendle the boot.

A little background: earlier this year Amazon gave Kindle a new lending feature that will let you give an ebook you own to a friend for 14 days (Barnes and Noble has offered a similar feature on the Nook since 2009). The feature will only let you lend each book once, and only certain books even support lending in the first place. But it’s still a great feature for bookworms who have grown accustomed to swapping their favorite new reads with friends.

Of course, plenty of books go un-lent, gathering digital dust on our Kindles. Which is where Lendle came in. After signing up, the service prompted users to link their Lendle and Kindle accounts, which built a list of books that each user had available. Next, you’d search for whatever book you were looking for — the service would send a notification to a user that had that book available for loan, and they’d choose whether to give it to you for 14 days.

According to their tweet stream, Lendle was told by Amazon that the service was shut down because it doesn’t “serve the principal purpose of driving sales of products and services on the Amazon site.” It isn’t terribly surprising that Amazon is shutting Lendle down as it could conceivably lead to people buying fewer books, but it’s another reminder of the frustrations associated with DRM-laden content — you may have just paid $10 for a novel, but you don’t really own it.

Lendle fans are up in arms, taking to Twitter to vent their frustrations (Lendle’s official Twitter account is retweeting many of them). Many of these users are actually complaining that Lendle led them to buy more books (or to purchase a Kindle in the first place).

Monday 21 March 2011

Nick Carter - The American James Bond

Today I found myself in Cardiff with an hour to kill before an audition, and so I made my way to the best secondhand bookshop in the city - that's Troutmark Books in the Castle Arcade and if you ever visit Cardiff, I urge you to pop in and browse. It's heaven for paperback collectors like myself. Three floors, of wall to wall books - there's also a pretty neat comic and magazine section tucked away upstairs.

Amongst the titles I picked up today was The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales by Forest Carter which is a sequel to the author's Gone to Texas which was the basis for the Clint Eastwood movie. I've never read this before so I'm quite looking forward to it.

I also picked up one of Robert Jordan's Conan novels - I already own Jordan's anthology titles The Conan Chronicles 1 & 2, each of which contains three of the author's Conan novels, but Conan The Victorious is not included in the collected volumes. Bargain.

To round off I grabbed two Nick Carter paperbacks - I just love these books and am trying to collect the entire set but that's a tall order given that there were over 200 hundred books in the revamped Carter series. The history of Nick Carter is interesting and dates back to the early days of the pulps - The Wiki informs us that Nick Carter first appeared in a dime novel entitled The Old Detective's Pupil; or, The Mysterious Crime of Madison Square on 18 September 1886. This novel was written by John R. Coryell from a story by Ormond G. Smith, the son of one of the founders of Street & Smith.

In 1915, Nick Carter Weekly became Detective Story Magazine. In the 1930s, due to the success of The Shadow and Doc Savage, Street & Smith revised Nick Carter as a hero pulp that ran from 1933 to 1936. Novels featuring Carter continued to appear through the 1950s, by which time there was also a popular radio show, Nick Carter, Master Detective, which aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System network from 1943 to 1955

Following the success of the James Bond series in the 1960s, the character was updated for a long-running series of novels featuring the adventures of secret agent Nick Carter, aka the Killmaster. The first book, Run Spy Run, appeared in 1964 and more than 260 Nick Carter-Killmaster adventures were published up until 1990. The thing with Nick Carter is that the author was never credited and the books were the works of several writers - I believe our own Bill Crider wrote some of the novels. I know Bill scans the Archive from time to time so maybe he can tell us which titles were his in the comments section.

Nick Carter was also dramatised for radio and many of the episodes can be found HERE

The current issue of Paperback Fanatic features a great Nick Carter article written by Andreas Decker. The article goes into great detail on the series and even names some of the authors responsible for the books.

The scan left is taken from Paperback Fanatic - the latest issue is already listed as sold out on the magazine's website, so it's well worth subscribing.


Weekly Stats Report: 14 Mar - 20 Mar 2011

Unique Visitors6706606236465805746274,380626
First Time Visitors6286215756125345445934,107587
Returning Visitors4239483446303427339

Saturday 19 March 2011

British Comic Books

Next weekend sees another of the Archive's popular themed weekends - the theme this time is, British Comic Books and over the weekend we will be bringing readers an insane amount of material.

There'll be guest posts galore, interview with luminaries in the comic book field and countless scans of rare material. The centrepiece of the weekend will be an interview with Britain's answer to Stan Lee - yep, Dez Skinn will be popping into share his vast knowledge of the medium for a major interview.

Believe me you won't want to miss this.

We'll Teach you How to Write

One school of thought insists that you either have it or you don't, that you can not be taught to write by a teacher or textbook. Then there's the other side that claim that the craft can indeed be taught and indeed the teaching of the craft is a big money business. Personally I feel that you can be taught technique, but you do need that spark of creativity inside you and this can not be acquired no matter how arduous your studies.

The fact that teaching people to write, is such a money spinner has always soured me on, "How To Write Books", but at the same time there are some great titles out there in which masters of the craft share their considerable knowledge with the reader. Now, that can only be a good thing, no matter how natural the talent burning inside the would be bestseller.

The fact is though that there are many how to write books out there that are best given a wide berth - written solely to turn over a few quid, and filled with grand promises to mould you into the biggest seller of them all. All you need do to transform yourself into a writing powerhouse is buy all 927 books in this series.

Stephen King's, On Writing is my all time favourite how to write book, and maybe because it is almost an anti-how to write book - this is a short book because most books, King writes, about writing are bullshit. Fiction writers, present company included, don't understand much of what they do - not why it works when it's good, nor why it doesn't when it's bad. I figured the shorter the book, the less the bullshit.

Mind you given ol' Stevie's penchant for page busting paragraphs, On Writing does end up as a rather long, short book. The average length for these type of books is around 300 pages and yet Steve's comes in closer to 400.  That's not a complaint, though - I enjoyed every word in, On Writing. Ironically because it disdains the conventions of how to write books, it tells us much more about the craft and does take us closer to the man that is Stephen King. The author is painfully candid when writing about  his drug and drink addictions.

More conventional in its approach, but another favourite of mine is Writing Crime Fiction by H.R.F. Keating. I first owned a copy of this book when I was in my teens, and being a snobby nosed working class ruffian, the name of the author impressed me greatly. He had three first names, all of them presented in initials that sounded impossible grand to me. I had friends with names like Billy, John, Smithy and here was someone called, H,R.F - I pictured the author as this playboy writer who drove an Aston Martin and drunk bubbly out of the shoes of leggy birds with Russian names.

Ahh well - I've read the book again recently and enjoyed it just as much. The author,the creator of the bestselling Inspector Ghote series, not only outlines what he sees as the mechanics of the craft but delivers an insightful look at the history of that genre and what makes it work. Not only that but I've discovered the writer actually looks more Captain Birdseye than James Bond.

Incidentally the first Ghote book will be reissued soon as a Penguin Modern Classic  expect a review on the Archive soon.

Harpercollins to U-turn on self destructing eBooks.

Harper Collins may be set to rethink their policy in which their eBooks sold to libraries self destruct after 26 loans. The campaign against the publishers is growing and now Canada have got in on the act with libraries in Halifax becoming the first in the country to boycott the publisher.

Debbie LeBel, the manager of acquisitions for Halifax Public Libraries says she is not buying new e-book licenses from HarperCollins even though demand for eBooks has grown steadily in recent years and HarperCollins titles account for about one in every five e-books in the collection of more than 6,000."

Whilst Harpercollins have a point - eBooks, being digital files can last forever, but saying that libraries have to acquire a new licence after 26 hires is absurd - phyiscal books can be hired out much more than that before falling apart. It is expected that the publisher will suggest a much more logical annual licence.

Friday 18 March 2011

Magazine Watch - Clint issue 6

Issue 6 of Clint is on news-stands now and the line up of strips has strengthened considerably. The highlight of this issue for me was the inclusion of a Ian Rankin strip. I didn't know what to expect but I'm a huge fan of Rankin's Rebus books that I'd been aching to read it. Titled, Someone Go To Eddie, Rankin's tale is a brutal hardboiled story, drawn by Stephen -Daly.

Leading up the features this issue is an interview with Stan Lee which for its brevity covers some interesting ground. Of the other strips Garth Ennis's The Pro, about a hooker with superpowers is bizarrely addictive and the excellent American Jesus enters its penultimate episode. Kick Ass 2, to my mind, has been pretty lame thus far but it does at last seem to warming up. Much more interesting is Mark Miller's new strip, Superior.

Jonathan Woss's Turf's lost my interest. The artwork is beautiful but the writing is over cluttered and after a promising start it's become difficult to follow.

Ian Rankin goes graphic
Clint is shaping up into a great title and it'll be a shame if it doesn't continue - it's suffered already with some distribution issues and seemed to have skipped a month between issues. But issue six arrived in the shops at the right time so maybe the problem is over.

Is it a bird, is it a plane, no It's Stephen King

He's one of the bestselling authors in the world, he's also one of the most visible and now Stephen King becomes a comic book character for the latest in Bluewater's biography comics line.

Orbit co-writer Michael Lent explains: "One story we confirmed concerned a young King witnessing a friend's accident involving a train (long thought to be a source of his macabre inspirations).

"Until now, the story was largely apocryphal and wasn't mentioned in King's autobiography. It's a great feeling when you can resolve something once and for all."
Orbit: Stephen King, scheduled for release in May, follows King's career from his initial struggles and it includes insight on his legacy; his love of the Boston Red Sox; forays into film; drug and alcohol issues; and the accident that nearly cost him his life.
In writing about his near-death in 1999, the authors used King's own account along with police reports that differed from accounts given by some of the media, according to Lent.

Daredevil casting announced

He's mean and moody. Originally created by Marvel as a rival to DC's, Batman, but fans are dismayed at the news that Robert (Twilight) Patterson has been cast for the new Daredevil movie. One irate fan said, "It seems that the hoped for gritty Dark Knight'ish movie will now be aimed at teenage girls. The Twilight demographic."

Daredevil has already been filmed - the 2003 movie had Ben Affleck in the title role, and is not highly regarded by comic book fans.

Who was the Black Stiletto

Soon from James Bond continuation author, Raymond Benson

Become an eInstant expert

The eInstant series of books are new and exclusive to the electronic format - available for Kindle and all other devices, these slim books claim to offer all the information needed to become an instant expert in any given subject - an eInstant expert no less.

The first volume concentrates on that little known band, The Beatles while volumes concentrating on Sherlock Holmes and James Bond will be published this summer.

Check them out HERE - the books retail for £2.85 UK and $4.58 US.

I'm writing the volume on western movies and future volumes will include:

The eInstant James Bond Expert
The eInstant Rolling Stones Expert
The eInstant Elvis Presley Expert
The eInstant Sex Pistols Expert
The eInstant Stephen King Expert
The eInstant Horror Fiction Expert
The eInstant Horror Movie Expert
The eInstant Western Movie Expert
The eInstant Doctor Who Expert
The eInstant Sherlock Holmes Expert

Thursday 17 March 2011

Doctor who: The Abominable Snowman

Doctor Who has a fervent fanbase and the BBC obviously know this - what we have here is a DVD release of a six part Doctor Who story in which only the second episode exists. The other five are missing from the archives and believed to have been junked - Wiping or junking is a colloquial term for action taken by radio and television production and broadcasting companies, in which old audiotapes, videotapes, and telerecordings (kinescopes), are erased, reused, or destroyed after several uses. The practice was prevalent during the 1960s and 1970s, although it is now less common since associated storage costs have decreased, and especially since the advent of domestic audiovisual playback technology (e.g. videocassette and DVD), with broadcasters and production houses realizing both the economic and cultural value of keeping archived material for both rebroadcast and potential profits through release on home video.

What the BBC have done in order to put this DVD onto the market is provide the missing five episodes as soundtracks, with existing stills and an all new narration. The second episode is of course show in a remastered form. It makes for a strange viewing experience and to my mind the BBC are being brazen in releasing it as a full price release, however I suppose it has historical worth particularly to fans of the show and TV historians.

It's a pity that the only surviving episode is one of the less action packed ones, but at the same time it's always great to see Pat Troughton in action - Troughton was a little before my time - Jon Pertwee was the Doctor when I was a kid - but since discovering Troughton via old reruns he has become my favourite. Everything about his scruffy little man with a Beatle-haircut image was great. The yetis do appear in this episode - looking like drunken Wombles they amble about the mountains trying to appear deadly - still, they must have looked awesome to the pre CGI generation with their tiny black and white TV sets.

Tom Baker, Big Finish - the Big Announcement


We’re delighted to announce that Tom Baker will be playing the Fourth Doctor in a number of audio adventures for Big Finish, to be released from the beginning of 2012. Storylines and scripts are already at an advanced stage, and we plan to start recording early in the summer.

The first season of six single-disc releases will begin in January 2012, with a second season of seven single-disc releases to follow at a date to be confirmed. There will also be a five-disc box set entitled Doctor Who: The Lost Stories – The Fourth Doctor Box Set... The producers across the Fourth Doctor adventures are Nicholas Briggs and David Richardson.

“As many of you will know, we've been talking to Tom for a long time,” says Big Finish executive producer Nick Briggs. “David Richardson and I went to visit Tom at his home not long ago to chat about it all. We had a really great time. At that point, I sincerely felt that had we taken a microphone with us, Tom would have started there and then - but, of course, there are always finer details to sort out. Now that our plans are in place, and Tom has enthusiastically told the world that we're going ahead, we thought it best to follow-up with our own announcement. Rest assured that in the coming months we will be releasing news on this as soon as we are able.”

Executive producer Jason Haigh-Ellery says: "I am delighted that Tom will be joining the Big Finish audio adventures of Doctor Who. As a small child, I remember how charismatic and engaging his performance was each Saturday tea time - and we are all looking forward to recreating that era again."

We can confirm that the companions in these productions will be Louise Jameson as Leela and Mary Tamm as Romana, and some familiar monstrous faces from the past will be popping up too.


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