Monday 27 February 2012

Black Horse charts

Charts supplied by Black Horse Express

Bestsellers on - 27 February

1. The Tombstone Vendetta by Ralph Hayes (Apr 1, 2010)
From $4.25

2. Dead Man's Range by Paul Durst (Oct 31, 2011) - Kindle eBook
Auto-delivered wirelessly $4.33

3. Arizona Pay-Off by Duke Patterson (Oct 31, 2011) - Kindle eBook
Auto-delivered wirelessly $4.33

4. No Coward by Lee Clinton (Jan 31, 2012)
From $17.14

5. Gun Law of Phoenix Cline by Terrell L Bowers (Dec 30, 2011)
From $17.14

6. Showdown at Snakebite Creek by Thomas McNulty (Jul 29, 2011)
From $22.78

7. Doc Dryden, Gunslinger by Ted Rushgrove (Jul 1, 2010)
From $13.75

8. The Gallows Gang by I.J Parnham (Dec 30, 2011) - Kindle eBook
Auto-delivered wirelessly $4.52

9. Wind Rider by Thomas McNulty (May 6, 2010)
From $1.73

10. Arkansas Smith by Jack Martin (Apr 13, 2010)
From $1.03

Sunday 26 February 2012

Oh Man, not Jack the Ripper again!

My novel,  A Policeman's Lot is available as both a eBook and in print. I've written about many aspects of the novel in previous posts and so I thought I'd tell you all a little about Police Inspector Frank Parade's town of Pontypridd.

"Unusual and intriguing perspective on a cold case. A good cross genre story with amusement as well as gore"

Parade's beat is the Welsh town of Pontypridd - "Pontypridd was a vibrant cosmopolitan town and had all the attendant problems that went with such prosperity. Alongside the great wealth there existed extreme poverty and the streets were often lawless – river traders, gypsies, pickpockets, drifters, even escaped convicts ranging from petty thieves to crazed killers would come up the canals and make for the alehouses and taverns of which there were plenty. There they would mingle and lose themselves among the sea of faces. Though it had not always been so and the town, once a rural backwater, had been born out of the industrialisation of the surrounding areas and had benefited from its close proximity to the Glamorganshire Canal, which allowed access from Merthyr’s coalfields to the docks in Cardiff and from there the world beyond."

One area of Pontypridd featured heavily in the book is The Tumble - the modern day Tumble is pictured left and the pic above is the same area as it was in Parade's day. Note the trams that ran the length of the town during the days that Frank Parade walked the cobbled streets.
Today the Tumble is made up of a busy main road but sadly the town is no longer the thriving attraction it once was. The main building in the picture is today known as The Soul Suite but in Parade's day it was The White Hart and behind that is the River Taff and the beautiful Ponty Park.

"The colour of the setting, the atmosphere and the characterization are all top-class."

I have tried to remain accurate with Ponty's georgraphy in A Policeman's Lot although I have taken some artistic licence in the name of telling a story. For instance in the novel the fictional alehouse, The Butcher's Arms is situated opposite the White Hart and it is here that much of the action takes place. The landlord is one Eli Jenkins, a small wiry man who is always on the lookout to make money, legal or otherwise.

"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."
"Eventually the Taff Vale railway had linked Pontypridd to the Rhondda creating a fast and efficient artery into the coal scarred hills. Each year would see over 57 million tons of steam coal shipped down from The Black Klondike, as the valleys were
now known. The coal would then be transported down to Cardiff and Barry and once again sent around the world. Fires, the industrialised world over burned bright with Rhondda coal."
A Policeman's Lot is available from all the usual book outlets as well as from publisher, Solstice's own website.


Weekly Stats Report: 20 Feb - 26 Feb 2012


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits6155515435265595355033,832547
First Time Visits5915315205025395054833,671524
Returning Visits2420232420302016123

The Hound of the Baskervilles - BBC Radio Four version - REVIEW

"Learn now my sons the tale of the coming of the hound of the Baskervilles"

So begins this audio dramatization that runs for almost two hours and was part of BBC Radio 4's program to record the entire Conan Doyle/Holmes canon. They did it too and this recording was, I believe, the last of the original canon to be recorded - BBC Radio 4 made history here as the only broadcaster to record the entire canon with the same pairing of Holmes and Watson. Chief writer on the project was Bert Coules and he was the man responsible for dramatising Holmes' most famous adventure as presented here on these discs.

Clive Merrison plays Holmes and Michael Williams is Watson but the supporting cast are equally impressive - we have Donald Sinden as Charles Baskerville and Oscar Winner Judi Dench (she was married to Michael Williams until his tragic death from cancer in 2001) is Mrs Hudson. As this is an audio presentation the voices are all important and the rest of the cast are all experienced voice actors and provide excellent support to the chief players.

Holmes and Watson
The audio drama works well and is a real movie for the ears - it's even structured something like a movie with flashbacks cutting into the early scenes, which outline the legend of the hound. These flashbacks presented in the fashion of a reading by Charles Baskerville work well and at no point is the listener confused as to what is happening. One moment we are at 221B with Holmes and Watson discussing the walking stick a client left behind and the next we are firmly in the 17th century witnessing the crimes carried out by Hugo Baskerville, described as a cruel and Godless man.The latter are played out in a violent opening scene that drips with atmosphere and reminded me of the Hammer Films' version of the tale. Of course we are seeing the production on a true 3D screen, a mental screen which displays the desolate massiveness of Dartmoor far more effectively than even IMAX can - the blood positively gushes when the hound tears out Hugo Baskerville's throat.

The play is available for download as well as on a double CD, and it was the CD which I listened to having found it for the bargain price of £3.99 in a local bookstore. In this age of digital downloads it is becoming more and more common to find such bargains in the CD format - I guess no one wants the inconvenience of lugging around the heavy digital discs.  Personally I'm old school and I'd rather have the physical product even if I do rip it to my hard drive and then file the discs away.

Writer Bert Coules and the BBC have done an excellent job in bringing the story to life - the production values are of the highest quality as is to be expected from Radio Four, and the sound-scape really brings the story to life.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Star Trek 2 New Pic

Is that Khan battling with Spock? Whatever it seems to add proof to the rumours that Sherlock actor, Benedict Cumberbatch will be playing the lead bad guy in the new movie.

The age of reason

All of the Sherlock Holmes material on the Archive lately has left me pondering on how much of the appeal of Holmes comes from his Victorian era. It wouldn't seem that important to the character since there have been many versions set in the present day that have been successful - the latest being the BBC's excellent Sherlock, but no matter how good the various incarnations of Holmes have been his true haunts are the Victorian mean streets... or are they?

The first Holmes story came out in 1887 but Doyle would continue writing about the character well into the Edwardian age. And in many ways it was this period in which the modern age started - the 1890's saw great scientific and cultural changes and Holmes was there, riding on the wave of the new fangled age. By the 1890's Queen Victoria was a recluse and it was the Prince of Wales and his Princess who were the public face of the Royals - bustles were out and having a good time with frivolity was in. That was if you had the money  and at the other end of the spectrum the working classes were facing great upheaval and change themselves. The Labour party started in 1893 and for the first time the working man had a political voice, it's a pity the Labour Party of today don't hold the same values. It was also during 1893 that Ghandi started his first civil disobedience protests in India and women were given the vote in New Zealand.

The original Sherlock Holmes, that is Doyle's Holmes lived in a fast changing world - in 1892 Thomas Edison produced his two way telegraph and during the previous year he had started showing moving pictures and in 1893 he would open his first movie studio in New Jersey. 1891 also saw the invention  of the diesel engine and the first escalator was installed at Coney Island. Coca Cola was first sold in bottles in 1894.  In 1890 Francis Galton published his book Finger Prints which was undoubtedly of interest to Conan Doyle and the world's first fingerprint bureau was established during this decade.

By the time Doyle wrote his last Sherlock Holmes story in 1927 we were firmly in the modern world, striving to put a world war behind us and still thinking of it as, the war to end all wars. How wrong we were. Holmes however continues to thrive and it doesn't matter where he is placed, what era for when done well he still retains the elements that made Doyle such a genius of populist entertainment.

Long live Sherlock Holmes

Western Icons - Trigger and Roy

Ain't no luv like that a man holds for his horse - er, OK. But seriously check out this video from another age. I've not cried so much since I heard the remastered Old Shep.

Friday 24 February 2012

Sherlock Holmes and The Voice of Terror (1943)

DVD really does justice to old black and white movies and Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, available both as a single disc and as part of a box set, has been remastered to provide crystal clear black and white images and punchy sound. This was the third time that Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce had been paired as Holmes and Watson but was actually the first in the Universal Pictures Holmes series. The previous two movies had been made by Fox and were set in the late Victorian era, while the Universal series brought Holmes into the current day in order to fight the Nazi menace as well as provide a moral boosting speech during the close of the movie, which had movie audiences of the day applauding from their seats.

"Germany broadcasting. Germany broadcasting. People of Britain, greetings from the Third Reich. This is the voice you have learned to fear. This is the Voice of Terror. Again, we bring you disaster: crushing, humiliating disaster. It is folly to stand against the mighty wrath of the Fuhrer... "

Much of the criticism of this Holmes series centres on the fact that Nigel Bruce played Watson as a bumbling fool, but in all fairness Bruce's portrayal is the perfect counterpoint to Rathbone's intense Sherlock Holmes. The chemistry between the two is remarkable and each manages to compliment the other. True there are moments when Watson's only purpose seems to be to provide comic relief but all the same the pairing of Rathbone and Bruce is one of cinema's great double acts. For many people Rathbone and Bruce are Holmes and Watson.

The movie made during the early days of the second world war involves a Lord Haw Haw like traitor who is broadcasting from Germany to the UK, who is working with a group of saboteurs who are striking deep in the British mainland. Holmes is brought into the case by the British government and right away we are aware there is a traitor within the war department, but we are fed a red herring meal so that the character we thought was the traitor is completely innocent, and it is he we least expect who turns out to actually be the fifth column.

I'm far from a Sherlock Holmes expert but I have read all of the canon, and it was Rathbone and Bruce who first got me interested in the characters. When I was growing up the movies were regularly shown on BBC2 early in the evening and watching these led me to seek out the original stories, so I was always have a place in my heart for this particular Holmes and Watson.

Voice of Terror is a great film and even although it was produced in the fashion of a B movie it looks superb with effective photography and an almost noirish atmosphere. And despite the changes to the Watson character, Rathbone and Bruce rank among the truly great celluloid  versions of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.

Thursday 23 February 2012

Sherlock WHO?

Over the years many actors have played the part of Sherlock Holmes worldwide, some of them have been brilliant and some of them dire. Below is a list of some well known actors you may have missed in the role.

Alec Baldwin - played Holmes on stage of Stephen Lawson's adaption of, A Study in Scarlet 1987

Michael Caine - played Holmes as a drunken actor in the excellent Without a Clue. Though to be precise he was playing an actor hired to be Sherlock Holmes but that's splitting hairs.

John Cleese - The Python giant was Holmes twice,once in 1973 and then again in 1977

Peter Cook - was Holmes in the dreadful comedy spoof, The Hound

Francis Ford - brother of director John Ford played the part in a 1914 version of A Study in Scarlet for Gold Seal( Universal) Films.

Stewert Granger - in Universal's 1972 TV movie of The HOund of the Baskervilles

Larry Hagman - JR himself in a 1976 Universal TVpilot, The World's Greatest Detecive. A proposed series never came about.

Charlton Heston - on stage in the Crucifer of Blood in 1980. Jeremy Brett, perhaps the screens's greatest Holmes was Watson to old Chuck's Holmes.

Roger Moore - In the dire Sherlock Holmes in New York, 20th Century Fox1976

Leonard Nimoy -on stage in a 1974 US tour. Also in the educational TV programme, The Interior Motive which had Holmes explaining the formation of the Earth.

Sherlock Red

Anyone interested in watching the acclaimed Russian series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson can do so HERE - Each episode is presented with English subtitles, and athough I've only watched The Deadly Fight, based on the Final Problem I can say that it is a great series. I will be catching up with all the episodes online.

Between 1979 and 1986, Soviet television produced a series of five films at the Lenfilm movie studio, split into eleven episodes, starring Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Dr. Watson. Later, a cinematic adaptation was made based on the 1986 episodes. This film was called The Twentieth Century Approaches.

Once more the game is afoot

Sherlock, Bert and Litopia

I used to take part in the Sunday evening online radio show, Litopia every week but due to work I have missed the show since Christmas. However the show is issued as a Podcast and this week I caught up with a few of the episodes I've missed. Of course the best way to experience Litopia is to enter the chat room while the show is being broadcast live as this gives a great interactive element to the show. I urge anyone interested in the art of writing to check the show out.

However as I say the show is available as a podcast and one recent episode that will interest Archive readers is available HERE and features as a guest Bert Coules who is the only man to have dramatized the entire Conan Doyle canon of Sherlock Holmes stories for radio production. Bert also of course was responsible for the excellent The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which featured all new stories.

"A triumphant continuation of one
of Radio 4's great achievements"
(The Sunday Times)  

Check out the Sherlock/Coules series website HERE

The show runs for more than a hour and Bert gives out much interesting information and, as expected, there is a general discussion on the Holmes phenomenon, though panelist Dave Bartram really should read the stories before leveling criticism at the canon which it does not deserve - old Dave, I'm more of a SF man really, seems to think that all the Holmes stories rely on a megalomaniac bent on world domination -no that's only the Downey movies, darling.

Monday 20 February 2012

Bestselling Black Horse titles on Amazon

Charts as always from Black Horse Express

1. Gun Law of Phoenix Cline by Terrell L. Bowers (30 Dec 2011)
From £9.12

2. Sheriff of Vengeance by Rob Hill (31 Jan 2012)
From £9.12

3. The Gallows Gang by I.J Parnham (30 Dec 2011) - Kindle eBoook
Available for download £2.86

4. Ace High in Wilderness by Rob Hill (30 Jun 2011)
From £8.54

5. Hope's Last Chance by Rob Hill (31 Jan 2011)
From £8.93

6. The Ballad of Delta Rose by Jack Martin (29 Jul 2011)
From £8.46

7. Dragonfire Trail by Hank J. Kirby (31 Aug 2009)
From £1.83

8. Cannon for Hire by Doug Thorne (29 Apr 2011)
From £8.22

9. Drive to Redemption by Mike Deane (31 May 2011)
From £7.92

10. The Killing Time by Logan Winters (30 Sep 2011)
From £9.12

Two for one

Found this offer in the latest issue of Black Horse Extra HERE - and I thought I'd repost it. If you like the sound of the offer and I see no reason why you should not then click the link above to visit the offer page.

You have a winning hand! Play your cards right to receive absolutely free of charge one of the five Chap O'Keefe ebooks shown above and to the left of this announcement.

(1) Click to your or Kindle store and buy any Chap O'Keefe western except The Sheriff and the Widow which is already available at a discount price.

(2) Email a request with the subject header "Second Book" to In the body of the email, name the O'Keefe ebook you next want to read, and state the order number you were sent by Amazon for the ebook you have already purchased.

(3) Stand by to receive by email a PDF file of the ebook you have chosen.

(4) Put the file on your Kindle. (You'll find some tips here on how to do that if you're unsure. But as they say, it's not rocket science!)

(5) Read.

"It's a great deal. Jump on it!"
Randy Johnson at Not the Baseball Pitcher  

Sunday 19 February 2012

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 13 Feb - 19 Feb 2012


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits6033786165775825875623,905558
First Time Visits5793655955575585675443,765538
Returning Visits2413212024201814020

Arkansas Smith riding onto the digital range.

Robert Hale LTD have just confirmed that Arkansas Smith will be available in eBook format this April, making it the first of the Jack Martin Black Horse titles to become available digitally. And my new hardcover, Wild Bill Williams will now be published this October.

Reviews of Arkansas Smith:

From Joanne Walpole/ Terry James - This is by far one of the most entertaining books I have read this year. Jack Martin (aka Gary Dobbs) brings together stereotypical Old West characters, scenes and backdrops and infuses them with a life of their own. His descriptions give you enough information to form a picture without going into overload, his dialogue is obtuse (a good thing, in my opinion, and rare), his fight scenes are precise and clear. I also enjoyed Jack's turn of phrase and the humour peppered throughout the pages. It left me with a satisfied smile on my face.

From western fiction review - writing is confident and moves at pace, the story building up nicely to its final shoot-out. Smith is not the only memorable character, Rycot being one of my favourites. And for those in the know, Gary also tips his hat to a few other Black Horse Western writers by having characters named after their pseudonyms - he even mentions himself - which I felt was a fun touch.

The book is easy to read and difficult to put down, and left me eager for more tales about Arkansas Smith.

From Laurie Powers Wild West - There is a sadness about Arkansas Smith that I found unsettling and yet compelling. He has a "void deep inside himself that felt on times like a cavity in his soul. It was a need for identity that would always be there and would never be fulfilled." He's a man of few words and when he smiles, it's a grim smile that hints at a lot of tragedies played out in the past. He is an enigma who keeps his personal history to himself and who doesn't offer up too many explanations. While we are caught up in the dilemma at hand, we are never allowed to forget that we are dealing with a mysterious man here who has a few bones to pick with the world. In the post-modern world, he would be diagnosed as clinically depressed. In the 19th century western, though, he's simply trying to deal with the hand that's been dealt him.

Friday 17 February 2012

Star Wars - we're bored now

Thanks to the instance of my young daughters I've just sat through The Phantom Menace in 3D,  and it's no better in 3D, in fact it's worse. The colours are overly saturated and Jar Jar Binks is celluloid toothache. I mean all the character ever does is look up at the sky, ceiling, roof and utter complete drivel, but seeing as he was probably only designed to sell merchandise that isn't really surprising.

 The Phantom Menace is more than a bad movie with one or two good bits, it's a terrible movie with one or two good bits. Okay the pod race, obviously designed with the video game in mind,  is fun and the double light sabres look fantastic, but to get to these parts we have to sit through young Darth Vader yelling, 'Whoopie' a dozen or so times, as well as a plot so convoluted and nonsensical that the viewer is in danger of losing the will to live. It's something to do with tax inspectors - least, I think so.

I mean come on - The Phantom Menace is just a two hour commercial for George Lucas to wring even more bucks out of a stale concept. And releasing the films in 3D in the chronological order - ie the prequels first and then the original movies. Well this is going to destroy the twist at the end of the very best Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back when Vader tells Luke he's his father. OK, we all know that but some kids will come to the series fresh, only discovering the series through the 3D reissues and one of the most powerful scenes in Empire Strikes back will be ruined.

Obviously George hasn't thought the re-release program through properly just as he didn't think the story of The Phantom Menace through before disappointing Star Wars fans everywhere.

There are those that defend The Phantom Menace but that's got to be blind allegiance to the franchise.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not going to watch the Clone Wars TV series until I've seen the Clone Wars movie. I prefer to let George Lucas disappoint me in the order he intended." Sheldon, The Big Bang Theory

I must confess I'm not a huge fan of the Star Wars series and I think that as a whole it's overrated. I went and saw the original Star Wars at least half a dozen times, but then I was twelve at the time and although the film is still watchable it's hardly the intelligent SCI-FI often displayed by the likes of Star Trek, and saying, as many do,  that Star Wars created a mythology as rich as Tolkein's Lord of the Rings saga is, in my opinion, going a bit far.

However the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back is as good a SCI-FI film as any other and I must admit that the original Star Wars is in its own way a classic of cinema, but after that the franchise left me cold. The Ewoks in Return of the Jedi were a transparent attempt at launching a new toy range, and every Star Wars incarnation since has had one eye of the cash register.

Star Wars may have initially been  a great saga but George Lucas has turned it into a pile of crap. And I stick by that statement and   below I present my ten reasons on why Star Wars is crap.

1 - Ewoks - Lucus tries to copyright teddy-bears.

2- Jar Jar Binks - need I say more.

3- Re-issuing The Empire Strikes Back with a dodgty CGI  Jabba tacked on.

4- Caravan of Courage and Battle for Endor - episodes 7 and 8?

5-Using an embarrassing plot device as a religion - pity the force wasn't with George.

6 - Making Vader a cute little kid.

7-Creating a situation where the biggest box office goes to the dumbest movies.

8-Making even Samuel L Jackson look uncool.

9- Not allowing Han to shoot first

10- Jar Jar f***ing  Binks

Wednesday 15 February 2012

The definitive screen Sherlock Holmes

"Holmes is the hardest part I have ever played — harder than Hamlet or Macbeth"

I've been catching up on the first season of Granada's Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett in the title role. Brett is likely the finest screen Sherlock Holmes we've ever seen, at times he is so close to the character created on the written page that he even resembles a Sidney Paget drawing.

"Some actors fear if they play Sherlock Holmes for a very long run the character will steal their soul, leave no corner for the original inhabitant" Jeremy Brett

Brett was at pains to make his Holmes definitive and he succeeded in this but at great personal cost.

 Holmes' obsessive and depressive personality fascinated and frightened Brett. In many ways Holmes' personality resembled the actor's own, with outbursts of passionate energy followed by periods of lethargy. It became difficult for him to let go of Holmes after work. He had always been told that the only way for an actor to stay sane was for him to leave his part behind at the end of the day, but Brett started dreaming about Holmes, and the dreams turned into nightmares. When other actors left the set for lunch Brett would remain behind, reading and re-reading the script, looking for every nuance which resulted in a performance that was truly remarkable. However Brett's increasingly unstable mental state was starting to take a toll on the actor. Brett began to refer to Sherlock Holmes as "You Know Who" or simply "HIM": "Watson describes You Know Who as a mind without a heart, which is hard to play. Hard to become.  Brett invented an imaginary life of Holmes to fill the hollowness of Holmes' "missing heart", his empty emotional life. He imagined: "...

"So what I have done is invent an inner life.I have imagined what You Know Who's nanny looked like. She was covered in starch. I don't think he saw his mother until he was about eight years old...Jeremy Brett

Brett would play Holmes between 1984 and 1994 and is one of the few actors who have played both Holmes and Watson - he appeared as Watson alongside Charlton Heston in the stage play, The Crucifer of Blood which was later turned into a movie but without Brett in the Watson role. In total Brett starred in 36 one hour episodes and five feature length specials, making his run as Holmes  the most faithful screen adaptations of many of the Holmes stories.

The entire run is available in a handsome 16 disc box set which I was able to get from Tescos for an unbelievable £20, but Amazon also have it listed at £22, which is incredible value when you consider the total running time is 2356 minutes.

The stories are:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes :
A Scandal In Bohemia
The Dancing Men
The Naval Treaty
The Solitary Cyclist
A Crooked Man
The Speckled Band
The Blue Carbunkle
The Copper Beeches
The Greek Interpreter
The Norwood Builder
The Resident Patient
The Red Headed League
The Final Problem

The Return Of Sherlock Holmes:
The Empty House
The Priory School
The Second Strain
The Musgrove Ritual
The Abbey Grange
The Man with the Twisted Lip
The Six Napoleons
The Sign of Four
The Devil’s Foot
Silver Blaze
Wisteria Lodge
The Bruce Partington Plans
The Hound Of The Baskervilles

The Casebook Of Sherlock Holmes:
The Disappearance Of Lady Frances Carfax
The Problem of Thor Bridge
The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The Illustrious Client
The Creeping Man
The Master Blackmailer
The Last Vampyre
The Eligible Bachelor

The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes:
The Three Gables
The Dying Detective
The Golden Pince-Nez
The Red Circle
The Mazarin Stone
The Cardboard Box

The production values on each episode are faultless and Victorian London is superbly brought to life and as someone who regularly visits modern day, Baker Street, I am amazed at the attention to detail brought to the show. But the thing that holds it all together is Brett's Holmes and no matter how good the BBC's current modern day version of the character is it is Brett who is the real deal.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Black Horse Extra new issue now live

The latest issue of the online magazine, Black Horse Extra is now available HERE

In this issue Nick Morton tells us about his new western, Old Guns - think the young guns with stubble. There's also a detailed obituary of the late Howard Hopkins who was a guiding light in the Black Horse Community and will be much missed.

The magazine is edited by Archive friend and frequent contributor Keith Chapman and is absolutely superb.

You'd expect to pay several pounds for a magazine like this on the newsstands and readers can get it all for free by visiting the website HERE

Bestselling Black Horse westerns 13th feb 2012

Charts supplied by Black Horse Express

1. Sheriff of Vengeance by Rob Hill (31 Jan 2012)
From £8.96

2. The Kansas Fast Gun by Arthur Kent (31 Oct 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £2.86

3. The Black Horse Westerns: Collection No. 1 by Abe Dancer, Dean Edwards, Tyler Hatch and Scott Connor (1 Jan 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £6.86

4. The Gallows Gang by I.J Parnham (30 Dec 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £2.86

5. Ace High in Wilderness by Rob Hill (30 Jun 2011)
From £8.55

6. Gunhawk by John Long (31 Oct 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £2.86

7. Dead Man's Range by Paul Durst (31 Oct 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £2.86

8. Hope's Last Chance by Rob Hill (31 Jan 2011)
From £9.00

9. Dragonfire Trail by Hank J. Kirby (31 Aug 2009)
From £1.83

10. The Ballad of Delta Rose by Jack Martin (29 Jul 2011)
From £8.47

Harry Potter and the goth chick


You know a film like this is working when the audience visually jump and the audience I viewed the film with did indeed jump, several times. Shit, I even spilled my popcorn at one point!

It’s a creepy, old fashioned ghost story and it works well, keeping the viewer enthralled throughout. Based on the novel by Susan Hill, the film offers Daniel Radcliffe his first major role since the Harry Potter franchise wrapped up on the final J K Rowling adventure.

Susan Hill’s ghost story has been adapted for radio and TV, and a stage version has been running for more than 20 years in London’s West End. Like Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, Hill’s story is part of a succession of supernatural yarns planned to be told around the fireside at Christmas, but the narrator considers it too terrifying for the festive season and writes it down to be kept for a more fitting occasion. Jane Goldman’s screen adaptation for the revived Hammer studio has dispensed with this framing device. Instead, the young Edwardian hero, an inexperienced London solicitor, is dispatched right at the start to a flat, swampy coastal area of the Midlands to settle the affairs of a recently deceased widow, Mrs Drablow. For some reason he’s called Arthur Kipps after the draper’s assistant in HG Wells’s Edwardian novel Kipps, and he’s played in a sad, subdued manner by Harry Potter. The movie often feels like classic Hammer with superstitious local refusing to talk to Harry Potter and warning him to return to London as no good can come of him meddling in local affairs. It’s great to see an intelligent horror movie that doesn’t rely on gore or effects to get its scares across. The film is atmospheric and Harry Potter’s performance is pitch perfect – he plays Kipps as a sad man, his facial expression as desolate as the landscape around him.

Monday 13 February 2012

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 6 Feb - 12 Feb 2012


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits5936696735926085346134,282612
First Time Visits5706396455705845225854,115588
Returning Visits2330282224122816724

Saturday 11 February 2012

The Geek Files

From the South Yorkshire Times

As a comic-crazed youngster in the 1950s Mike enjoyed nothing more than spending his pocket money on the latest sci-fi and horror adventures.
Now 60 years on, Mike’s fascination with British comics has culminated in a 500 strong collection.
Mike, of Sprotbrough said: “I was obsessed with horror and sci-fi comics so I started buying them when I was eight-years-old.
“I used to buy them and then run round to all the neighbours houses to see if any of the children had comics they wanted to swap.
“In 1976 I read a book about American comics from the 50s and decided I wanted to build up a collection of British comics.
“Over the years I ended up with a wonderful collection of about 500 comics.
“I used to keep them all in special acid free bags to preserve them and then I decided it would be a good idea to take them to a copy shop and put them together in a book.”
And after spending hours at the photocopiers scanning in his rare collection Mike’s book dream is now a reality.
The Pictorial Guide to British 1950s Sci-Fi and Horror Comic Books is now available to buy and charts rare comics from Mike’s childhood - many of which have been forgotten.
It reproduces covers and pages of comic books including Captain Marvel, Race for the Moon, Adventures into the Unknown and many more.
The former art therapist at Doncaster Royal infirmary said: “At first no one was interested but two years ago I finally found a publisher in Leeds.
“When I saw the finished book I was amazed, I just said wow, I couldn’t believe it was so good.”
Many of the titles were short lived as Mike explains the horror comic genre was dealt a devastating blow after an American psychologist with the backing of the National Union of Teachers tried to put such comics out of business.
“In 1954 a lot of the horror comics were banned, they said they were bad for children.
“So a lot of these comics series were short lived.”
And not content with producing just one book Mike now has plans for a second.
Mike said: “I want to create a book with memorabilia from the 50s, with things like film posters and annuals.
“I just loved the 1950s, everything about it, the Teddy Boy fashion, the films, it was a wonderful time.”
The Pictorial Guide to British 1950s Sci-Fi & Horror Comic Books is available by sending a cheque for £14.95 payable to Blasé Books at: BLASÉ BOOKS, Hazelwood,Birchfield Road, Redditch, B97 6PU
Alternatively, order via the Blasé Books eBay store online.

Penguin US pull eBooks from Libraries

In what seems like a backward step, Penguin  USA have stopped selling eBooks to libraries -
Penguin announced the cessation of sales to Overdrive Inc, a Cleveland OH based distributor and major supplier of digital books to libraries, citing concerns about sales being affected by lending eBooks. This seems odd though as publishers have never claimed that selling physical books to libraries have harmed sales.OverDrive CEO Steve Potash said that his company was still working with Penguin to come to better terms and potentially continue sales to libraries, but offered no further word on the progress.

Those in the know feel that Amazon's Kindle and its relationshop with libraries may have had a lot to do with Penguin's decision - The following comes from

Since Penguin announced  that it is ending its partnership with OverDrive and will no longer provide e-books or digital audiobooks to libraries, it’s become clear that OverDrive’s relationship with Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) played a part in the decision.
Back in November when Penguin stopped offering new e-books to libraries, it also stopped offering e-books to library patrons using Kindles. A few days later Penguin restored Kindle access, but also noted, “Penguin informed suppliers to libraries that it expected them to abide by existing agreements to offer older digital titles to libraries only if those files were held behind the firewalls of the suppliers.”

if you have a Kindle and check out a library book on it, clicking “Get for Kindle” sends you straight to Amazon’s website instead of having you check out the book from within the library’s site. Kindle borrowing is done over the air, so if you check out a library book on Kindle it will be delivered wirelessly to your device, just like a book you buy from the Kindle Store.

That wasn’t how it was supposed to be. “OverDrive does NOT have permission to first authorize the lending of an ebook to a library end user and then forward the request for actual distribution and tracking of the title to or ANY other retailer,” writes InfoDocket today. “Similarly, in most situations, publishers do not permit retailers to lend e-books directly to end users.”

Libraries that already have Penguin e-books and digital audiobooks will be allowed to keep them and patrons will able to keep borrowing those books. But there’s no more wireless borrowing. InfoDocket reports that OverDrive sent this e-mail to its library partners last night:

Thursday 9 February 2012

The Hammer House

Hammer are to make three new movies a year including a new Dracula -  Don’t get too excited because that information comes from a 1980 press release from the company who had recently bought Hamden House which they intended to convert into another Bray Studios. None of that came to fruition, well apart from the new studios and a TV series, and it was a while longer before Hammer finally got back into feature film production but the golden days of the studio are now long behind us. That proposed new Dracula film would have brought Christopher Lee back to the role and would have been set in contemporary times because Hammer felt that gothic films had had their day. Alas none of this was to be and until the recent revival the last Hammer horror film was 1976′s To the Devil a Daughter which wasn’t really a financial success.

However given the success of Hammer’s The Woman in Black, a new Dracula movie is once again on the cards but it is extremely doubtful that Christopher Lee will take the role of everyone’s favorite vampire, thought he’d make a cool Van Helsing. These days the company is in the hands of Simon Oakes and are going from success to success under his guidance. Not only are they producing new genre films, and having great success with them, but the classic output is being lovingly transferred to new DVD and Blu-ray editions, and they even have an imprint for publishing horror novels, with Hammer Books. And only this week it was announced that Michael Sheen has been offered the leading role in The Quiet Ones,  unveiled to be the next movie from Hammer Films. In addition, Brit actor Damien Lewis is also said to have been offered a part.Based on a earlier script by Rampart/The Messenger writer & director Oren Moverman that has been re-drafted by John Pogue (Ghost Ship, U.S. Marshals), the horror is described as a ‘poltergeist movie’ by Hammer Films CEO Simon Oakes and which will start filming in May in South Africa.

We can’t really tell you much about it but we really are looking at it. I’ve been saying that we’d never remake the films per se, but we would do our own versions of it. Certainly in my time with Hammer we will definitely do a Dracula. We will do a Frankenstein if we can find a route in. It’s about finding a route in that makes it your film.” Simon Oakes

Hammer are healthy again which is a good thing for movie lovers – the studio may have considered its output to be B-movies but they  have become iconic and the very name conjures up images of gothic horror -  This studio may have lost all relevance when it started churning out big screen versions of popular sitcoms like On The Buses and Love Thy Neighbor, but no one really doubted that the studio would one day rise from the dead.

Hammer originally started out in the 1930′s when Will Hammer founded Hammer Productions. He was soon joined by Enrique Carreras and together they formed a distribution company called Exclusive Films. They produced a few comedies during the Thirties as well as a thriller The Mystery of the Mary Celeste which starred Hollywood’s Count Dracula, Bela Lugosi. But by the Forties Hammer were no longer producing films and it wasn’t until the two founder’s sons took control that the Hammer we know and love started to form. Right from the start James Carreras displayed a shrewd business mind and he reckoned that by ensuring none of their films had a budget larger than £20.000 and by making five films a year they could turn over a profit annually of £25,000. Hammer could not afford big name stars and so it was decided to concentrate on the domestic market and produce movie versions of popular radio  shows. They scored some success with versions of PC49 and Dick Barton but it wasn’t until 1955 and The Quatermass Experiment that Hammer really came into its own. And from there it was a hop, skip and jump to 1957′s, The Curse of Frankenstein, which gave Hammer its first real bite out of the lucrative American market. The film also started a cycle of gothic horror films for which the studio have become synonymous.

The Hammer Frankenstein and Dracula cycles went on into the Seventies and ended on a high point for the baron with Frankenstein and the Monster from  Hell and an all time low for Drac with The Satanic Rites of Dracula. However the Dracula movies led to an interesting series of films based loosely on the Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla story – The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil, but by now the boom years had ended and Hammer dwindled into a shadow of its former self. They’re fighting fit now, though.

So Hammer is dead, long live Hammer.

Sex out West AKA Is that a six shooter in your pocket or have you been watching The Outlaw again?

In 1939 the western saw something of a revival - with war brewing in Europe, Hollywood's thoughts turned to America's own heroic past and the nature of Americanism itself. Europe was dominated by dictators and Americans began to distrust the continent which it felt would eventually drag them into a war. Far better to celebrate America itself with its unique brand of self reliance, democracy and heaving bosoms.

Warner Brothers, the home of the swashbuckler placed Errol Flynn into a series of lavish and expensive westerns following the success of 1939's Dodge City. Warners also placed another two of its biggest stars James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart (miscasting if ever there was any) in the oater, The Oklahoma Kid. During the early war years the western did well at the box office and when Howard Hughes cast Jane Russel in the dire but successful, The Outlaw (1943) it heralded the arrival of sex in the western. And this was confirmed in 1946 with Duel in the Sun, a film so infused with sweaty eroticism that one critic dubbed it, Lust in the dust.

To be fair on The Outlaw, though I've always enjoyed it. The storyline concerning Billy The Kid, Pat Garrett and  Doc Holliday may be particularly barking and the film itself  ponderous on times, but it is so corny that it's highly watchable. And the advertising posters (as above) greatly exaggerated the amount of cleavage Jane Russel displayed in the picture. In fact the finished film is tamer than a standard Carry On movie. But what The Outlaw did was allow the western to tackle more adult themes than the simple good guys V bad guys motif of earlier oaters.

However the sex content was soon seen as a gimmick as the western in general became much more mature in theme. Without the westerns of the Forties paving the way we would never have seen the introspective classics of the Fifties. Perhaps one of the earliest westerns with any real significance was The Ox Bow Incident (1943) which was a sombre look at the effects of mob law.  It became apparent that audiences were now demanding more depth from their westerns.

Westerns now displayed an interest in psychology and psychoanalysis - this was demonstrated in 1947's, Pursued,  in which Robert Mitchum played a troubled loner who is dogged by a childhood trauma which is revealed to the viewer in a series of flashbacks. And by the end of the decade westerns heroes could no longer be the perfect square jawed men in white hats. In 1948 Howard Hawks gave us Red River which benefited from John Wayne's best performance to date and Wayne's character, Ted Dunson was something of a blueprint for the western heroes of the next decade.

John Ford, arguably the finest ever American director, returned from his wartime service to enter one of his richest periods - his cavalry trilogy which ended the decade are amongst the finest westerns ever made. In 1946 he took the OK Corral  legend and gave us a fine and complex movie in, My Darling Clementine. What the film lacked in historical accuracy it made up for with it sheer brilliance. The film introduced many of Ford's trademarks - the townsfolk gathering together to hold a square dance in their half built church is just one example of the importance of community that Ford was at pains to point out in all of his films and not just his westerns. Then Ford gave us his three Calvary movies, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande in 1948, 1949 and 1950 respectively . It is a sense of community and service to one's country that link the three movies and hold them together like glue.

As the Fifties dawned the western was changed forever and the coming years would see some of the best movies ever made, oaters that could hold themselves besides the best of any other genre and it was during the Forties that this transition truly started. It may have all started out with a preoccupation with large breasts but it ended up looking much deeper.

Much deeper indeed.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

To be continued next week....

To be continued next week...once those words would flash up on movie screens and be greeted with groans of disappointment and anguish as young movie goers realised they had a full seven days before they could find out what happened to Flash Gordon, Superman or Batman. This was serial cinema and in the early days the serials were usually western adventures but in 1936 Universal made cinema history with Flash Gordon - not only was this the first sci-fi serial for the cinema but it was also the most expensive at a cost of $125,000. And although it has made more money over the years than any other serial its producer was never allowed to make another movie again. Buster Crabbe the star of that serial played Flash twice more and became the all American hero with other roles including Tarzan, Buck Rogers and Billy the Kid.

"They entertained a generation of snot-fuelled youngsters in post-war fleapits, and subsequent generations via the medium of summer holiday telly. They were responsible for shaping the landscape of mainstream Hollywood for decades to come. " TV Cream

The serial was based on the comic strip and stuck closely to the source material - Alex Raymond's drawings became a blueprint for the design of the movie which still looks good today. It also stuck the comic's episodic format and each week would end with a cliffhanger. After fifteen episodes the story was over and young fans clamoured for more. The studio gave it to them with two other Flash adventures. In 1938 we saw Flash Gordon's trip to Mars which saw the studio try and lure in a more adult audience to the serials and in 1940 this was followed up by Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. The year previously Buster Crabbe had cemented his idol status by playing Buck Rogers. However the only Sci-Fi hero who presented a real rival was Crash  Corrigan but in the Forties the super hero was brought into the Saturday Morning serials with The Adventures of Captain Marvel in 1941. Batman came in 1943 and in 1944 it was Captain America.

The serials were the perfect home for superheros of all kinds - the comic books were episodic by nature which made them excellent material to be adapted into the exciting shorts.

Below we have embedded an episode of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.

Banned in the USA: Charles Chaplin

It was a Wednesday in 1952, September 17th to be exact when Charles Chaplin, his wife and four of his children left America to sail to the UK for the London premiere of Limelight. Chaplin had only been at sea  for two days when the US Attorney General announced in Washington that an inquiry had been ordered as to whether Chaplin should be allowed to return to the US. it was decided that Chaplin would be held by the immigration authorities should be try to reenter the states until his fate could be decided in a court of law.

On September 30th charges were brought against Chaplin -  'He has been publicly charged with being a member of the Communist party, and with grave moral charges and with making statements that would indicate a sneering, leering attitude towards a country whose hospitality has enriched him.' Attorney General, James McGrannery.

Once the most loved man in America Chaplin now found himself an exile, detested by the American public in a time of widespread paranoia and bigotry fueled by the red under the bed warnings that were pumped out from Washington. The New York Times ran an article that read, 'No one can deny that he (Chaplin) is a good actor, but that doesn't give him the right to go against our customs, to abhor everything we stand for and throw our hospitality back in our faces. Good riddance to bad company.'

Chaplin a Red(?)    
Chaplin had become a superstar at the age of 25 and the handsome young actor found himself desired by women and by his own admission his sex drive was immense. A string of scandals dogged the actor over the years - indeed in 1944 Chaplin had been indicted under the Mann Act for allegedly transporting young girls over the state border for sexual purposes. Chaplin was said to have transported 25 year old Joan Barry from LA to New York. The Mann Act had originally been set up to stop the transportation of women to work as prostitutes and Chaplin was eventually found not guilty of all charges. However Chaplin's image would take more dents when Barry's mother filed a paternity suit in support of her daughter, whom she alleged was carrying Chaplin's child. However when the child was born blood tests proved that Chaplin was not the father. The damage was done though and when Chaplin was latter accused of being a communist he found little support amongst the American public.

The Barry family then brought another law suit against Chaplin, claiming that the validity of the blood tests could not be trusted and in 1944 a jury found Chaplin guilty of fathering the child that the scientific tests had proved otherwise. And it was after this trial that Chaplin's political ideals started to be debated - films like Modern Times seemed to point to Chaplin's socialist views. The fact that Chaplin had appeared at a benefit for Russian War Relief in San Fransisco during the Second World War and had addressed those present as, Comrades was thought proof positive that the little tramp was a communist. And the fact that Chaplin had never adopted American citizenship despite being eligible was held against him.

'I am a citizen of the world,' Chaplin protested.

With his faith in the American Justice system shaken by the Joan Barry affair Chaplin decided not to re-enter the USA and took up residence in Switzerland in April 1953. It was not until 1972 that Chaplin, now a frail old man, returned to America. This was to collect an honorary Oscar at the Academy Awards. Chaplin felt that this was a guilt ridden attempt to make amends by his friends in the film business, who had decided not to stand besides him during the years of McCarthyism. Chaplin wrote that he was touched by the gesture but found it deeply ironic.

Charlie Chaplin was without a doubt one of the early geniuses of cinema and even today there is much to admire in his films. Was he a Communist? Most certainly not but  he held leftwing, progressive, liberal and egalitarian political views and during the period these were enough to damn him.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

World War Two Timeline in Movies - It's was a funny old war

In reality Hitler was far from funny, but that didn't stop film-makers on both sides of the Atlantic from poking fun at the dictator - blowing raspberries had been outlawed by the Hays Code in 1932 when Charles Laughton caused controversy by blowing one in 1932's If I had a Million, but the censors had to look the other way when the Donald Duck cartoon, Der Fuehrer's Face used a pop song about blowing raspberry's at Hitler as a title song. The song won an Academy Award and propelled the obscure pop group, Spike Jones and his City Slickers to stardom. The cartoon is embedded below.

Gasbags (1940) starred the Crazy Gang and saw them crossing Europe on a barrage balloon and ending up in a concentration camp in Germany. Here they came across a battalion of doubles for Hitler who were being trained to impersonate their leader. The gang eventually escape by stealing a secret weapon, the burrowing submarine. And in that same year Charlie Chaplin made his famous, The Great Dictator which was so effective in lampooning Hitler that the great comedian found himself on Hitler's death list. And in 1942 the original,To be or not to be took great delight in reducing Hitler to an absurd comic figure.

In 1942 Hal Roach produced the short, Hitler with the Devil which saw the lord of darkness outdone in the evil stakes by Adolf Hitler and countless movies followed suite, but perhaps the most successful comedy set during the dark days of the second world war came not from the big screen but television. The British sitcom, Dad's Army is superb and is arguable the greatest British sitcom ever produced. Telling the story of a team of home guard volunteers, the show ran for nine seasons and also produced a spin off big screen movie, as well as a radio series and several stage plays.

Originally intended to be called The Fighting Tigers, Dad’s Army was based partly on co-writer and creator Jimmy Perry’s real-life experiences in the  Home Guard. Perry had been 17 years old when he joined the 10th Hertfordshire Battalion and with a mother who did not like him being out at night and fearing he might catch cold, he bore more than a passing resemblance to the character of Frank Pike. An elderly lance corporal in the outfit often referred to fighting under Kitchener against the "Fuzzy Wuzzies"  and proved to be a perfect model for Jones as played by the wonderful Clive Dunn. Other influences were the film Whisky Galore!, and the work of comedians such as Will Hay whose film Oh, Mr Porter! featured a pompous ass, an old man and a young man which gave him Mainwaring, Godfrey and Pike.

So popular was the series that in June 2010, a statue (pictured) of Captain George Mainwaring was erected in the Norfolk town of Thetford where most of the TV series  was filmed. The statue features Captain Mainwaring sitting to attention on a simple bench in Home Guard uniform, with his swagger stick across his knees. The statue is mounted at the end of winding brick pathway with a Union Flag patterned arrow head to reflect the opening credits of the TV series, and the sculpture has been designed so that members of the public can sit alongside Captain Mainwaring for the purpose of having their photo taken.

It certainly was a funny old war.

Check out Herr Donald Duck below

The new download laws are proving controversial - the fact that a person will possibly face a long prison term for repeated downloads has gotten many people in a spin. It is absurd though when you think a person can face ten years for downloading a Michael Jackson album which is more than the doctor got for killing him.

Monday 6 February 2012

Tainted stats

Weekly Stats Report: 30 Jan - 5 Feb 2012


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits7276006755946105786814,465638
First Time Visits7075716555685915586574,307615
Returning Visits2029202619202415823

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...