Saturday 31 March 2012


During it's heyday the western was never far from cinema and TV screens, but there was also another home for the western and that was the radio. Back in the day many hundreds, thousands even,  of western based episodes starring such genre luminaries as James Stewart, John Wayne and Alan Ladd were produced and sent out over the networks.

 The westerns with its wide open landscapes and thrilling adventure was perfect for the imaginary words created by sound effects, good acting and the listeners imagination and there are thousands of old shows that can be listened to online - for instance there were 2,956 episodes of The Lone Ranger produced for radio and that's just one show.There are many many more.

“In the early days of the western United States, a masked man and an Indian rode the plains, searching for truth and justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!” Radio intro to The Lone Ranger.

Gunsmoke ran as a radio series for almost ten years and is regularly voted by radio enthusiasts as one of the best shows of its kind. It was, like the television series that it spawned, intended for adults and exploring far more complex themes than the more juvenile fare such as The Lone Ranger. The Six Shooter starring James Stewart only lasted for one season and 39 episodes but what good episodes they were. Frontier Gentleman was a western anthology series that ran for 42 episodes and is as enjoyable today as it ever was.

And this is just a small selection of the many old time radio westerns available to listen to online - just do a search on radio westerns and you'll be surprised at what you find.

Radio Days - A little something for everyone

The first  play written specifically for British radio was called Danger and was set in a coal mine - listeners were encouraged to listen in the dark to aid with atmosphere. It was written by Richard Hughes in 1924 and broadcast that same year. Prior to this writers merely cobbled together stories without really understanding the new medium which led to Val Gielgud, then head of BBC Radio production to make the following statement when writing for listing magazine, RadioTimes back in the late Twenties.

"The development of the radio play depends on three things - intelligent listening, informed criticism and good writing for the microphone. Too many authors fail to realize that a play written correctly for the microphone is so rare that its appearance makes us jump for joy" 

In those days plays were often performed on a stage, with the actors dressed in costumes - this was all done to create the correct atmosphere behind the microphone.Things have certainly moved on since then - and the BBC are masters at producing audio plays in all genres. And nothing helps entertain during a long car journey as well as a well made radio play.

These days it's easy to find out about all the radio drama/comedy out there and below I have placed the links to several interesting websites on the subject.

BBC DRAMA REVIEW ONLINE -  This is a great resource with enthusiasts writing in detail about old classics as well as contemporary productions.

RADIO PLAYS AND RADIO DRAMA - a comprehensive list of the BBC's spoken word output

BIG FINISH PRODUCTIONS - Home to the producers of great original SF adventures featuring iconic characters such as Doctor Who, Judge Dredd and Blakes Seven

RADIOLISTINGS - a truly remarkable radio database

RADIOLOVERS,COM - A great place to listen to steamed old time radio for free.

CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER - A favourite site of mine which contains some great episodes from the CBS archive. You can listen to many for free or buy others on CD for reasonable prices

RADIOFOUREXTRA - the best radio station in the world and anyone who says otherwise is simply wrong.

THE INVISIBLE PLAY BY ALAN BECK - the famous history of the radio play is now available to read online

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Arkansas Smith back on top

My western Arkansas Smith has been very popular in  print and now  it has finally been made available as an eBook by those nice people at Hale and went straight into the Amazon western charts at No1.

Note these are preorders as the book won't be officially available to download until 30th April but it is already sitting at the top spot in the charts. Find it HERE

Why not preorder for your Kindle - no money will be snatched from your accounts until the book is automatically downloaded on publication day.

1. Arkansas Smith by Jack Martin (30 Apr 2012) - Kindle eBook
Available for pre-order £2.74

2. The Black Horse Westerns by Abe Dancer, Dean Edwards, Tyler Hatch and Scott Connor (1 Jan 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £6.86

3. Two-Gun Trouble by Gillian F. Taylor (29 Feb 2012) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £2.74

4. A Colt for the Kid by John Saunders (31 Oct 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £5.49

5. A Man Called Breed by Chuck Tyrell (30 Nov 2011)
From £9.11

6. Dead Man's Range by Paul Durst (31 Oct 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £2.74

7. Gunhawk by John Long (31 Oct 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £2.74

8. The Ghosts of Poynter by Amos Carr (30 Jun 2012)
Available for pre-order £13.75

9. Rogue's Run by Tyler Hatch (29 Feb 2012)
From £9.11

10. The Kansas Fast Gun by Arthur Kent (31 Oct 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download now £2.74

From the reviewers:

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. 

Monday 26 March 2012

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 19 Mar - 25 Mar 2012


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits3463263273393132773092,237320
First Time Visits3253163173283032692972,155308
Returning Visits21101011108128212

Monday 19 March 2012

Radio Days - and now on Radio Four

BBC Radio Four was born in September 1967, the 30th to be precise, and was just one of a number of stations the BBC launched that day - of course the biggest noise was made about the launch of Radio One, billed as Onederful One where the new gear pop/rock music has a home. But alongside the launch of Radio One and Two, we had Radio Four (Radio Three was already broadcasting, you see) and this channel is arguably the best radio station in the world. It's schedule is made up of news, drama, comedy, current affairs, history, magazine programs and even soap operas. It truly is a rarity in broadcasting and provides some of the best drama and comedy being produced today. It may be the BBC TV channels that get all the attention but it is on the radio where the real deal is to be found.

Back when Radio Four was launched it was a different world - MP3's were something of the far future and no one had heard of a compact disc. If you were lucky you may have managed to get hold of one of those new fangled cassette recorders, but there were no Walkmans and the chances are you would listen to the radio on one of those massive RADIOGRAMS which were as much a part of the furniture as a radio. TV's were black and white, and usually large rectangular things on a stand and painted in lurid colours like red, yellow and orange - a coloured TV rather than colour TV.

"The radio station that is still the single best reason for living in Britain." Stephen Fry
I've always been a fan of Radio Four and it's still my favorite station. I remember getting one of those pocket size transistor radios for my birthday when I was about twelve. In those days we called them trannies but that was before the chicks with dicks stole that particular word.  And it was then that I discovered the station - cuddled in under my blankets I held the radio to my ear, so as not to disturb my brothers or parents and it was then that I listened to my first radio play - it was an episode of Fear on Four hosted by The Man in Black and although I can't remember the full details of the episode I do remember the sheer power with which the story held me in a vice like grip. I was terrified and it was all because of those pictures. A few sound effects, a voice spoken into a microphone and the imagination of the listener provides the images. It's a powerful medium and often superior to film and television.

Of course these days we also have the DAB station Radio Four Extra which is almost entirely made up of drama and comedy. It is a channel where you can catch vintage gems like episodes of The Man in Black or Hancock, and even  catch up on modern day classics such as the excellent Agatha Raisin series with Penelope Keith in the title role.

Anyone wanting to discover the history of this wonderful (not onederful) radio station should check out And Now On Radio Four by Simon Elmes which is published by  Arrow Books and available as a standard book as well as an audio book read by the author.

So go on and do yourself a favour  - retune that dial, stop listening to all that X Factor sanctioned manufactured pap music and tune into Radio Four - in no time at all you'll be hooked.

 It's er...fourderful!

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 12 Mar - 18 Mar 2012


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits4704704523932723163702,743392
First Time Visits4584594363852643003502,652379
Returning Visits1211168816209113

Saturday 17 March 2012

Weird Tales
The first issue of  Weird Tales  to be published by new bosses , Nth Dimension media,is out there,. It’s edited by Ann VanderMeer, has art direction by Stephen H. Segal, and is quite beautiful. Here’s the cover. I urge anyone interested in this truly iconic magazine to visit the website HERE . And keep an eye out for a story from yours truly in a future issue

Friday 16 March 2012

Radio Days - The pictures are better

Our hero is strapped to a chair, a blade swings on a pendulum, getting ever closer.
How will he escape?
 Is escape possible?

 It was terrifying - at least to a young boy and those cliffhangers were often unbearable while we waited for the next episode to discover just how our intrepid hero would escape  certain death. And all this was created with sound - no flashy visuals except those created by the imagination of the listener which meant of course that the pictures were better. And that's the power of radio - a medium that was and remains capable of great things, of transporting the listener to strange alien landscapes, to war torn battlefields, to any point in history or into the far flung future. The humble old radio is capable of conjuring up scenes that would strain the most expensive Hollywood CGI wizards and all for a fraction of the cost.

With a few sound effects you can be anywhere, witness anything.

This coming week the Archive celebrates all that is great about radio with features on old time radio as well as a look at the current state of the medium. In a series of articles we will look at everything from Dick Barton to Radio Four's Afternoon Play. We'll be taking a Journey into Space and visiting the mean streets of Victorian London.

We will also be going off on a tangent and looking at the popular Big Finish range of audio drama made especially for release on CD or as MP3 downloads. And those of you who think that radio drama/comedy is a thing of the past are in for a big surprise - the BBC'S radio spoken word output is as strong and varied as ever - there's even a station in Radio 4 Extra that is dedicated to nothing but the best in spoken word entertainment.

So don't touch that dial and be here for the Archive's short series on the power of the radio

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