Monday 30 April 2012

Why girls are no good in a tight spot

Click on images for a larger version

There's a clown in the sky

Hancock's Last Half Hour.

The title tells all. Barricaded in his Sydney hotel bedroom with plentiful stocks of vodka, the lad from East Cheam casts a bleary eye over his wrecked career and marriages before swallowing the last handful of pills. 

Richard Briars plays the doomed comedian in the BBC Radio adaptation of Heathcote Williams'  one man play. A play that takes us into the soul of the troubled genius who was Tony Hancock.

The play is basically a one act monologue with the audience placed as a fly on the wall in Tony Hancock's room on that fateful day in 1968 when the comedian followed up a few bottles of vodka with that last handful of pills. It's powerful stuff and Briars, known for his light comedy roles, is a revelation in this powerful role. The actors voice is so well known to British ears and yet as soon as he speaks he becomes the lad himself, Tony Hancock. 

a clown is essentially a solitary man

  It's a tragic story with very little light and slowly we enter a world of madness as a drunken and drugged Hancock babbles on at random, every now and then offering up insightful nuggets of comedy. He's become a pathetic figure, bitter at an audience he feels failed to allow him to grow creatively. 

i laugh to hide my sadness

The play is available for the next seven days at the Radio Four Extra website HERE and if, like me, you are a fan of Hancock then this will delight you, and ultimately break your heart...powerful stuff indeed.

Hancock committed suicide, by overdose, in Sydney, on 24 June 1968. He was found dead in his Bellevue Hill apartment with an empty vodka bottle by his right hand and amphetamines by his left. In one of his suicide notes he wrote: "Things just seemed to go too wrong too many times"

Q and A with Jack Martin creator of Arkansas Smith

Today Arkansas Smith finally goes on sale in the new fangled eFormat, which means that the hardcover bestseller is available for Kindle and other eReaders, or of course it can be read on your computer screen, phone, tablet...whatever. I'm pleased to see the book made available on eBook at such a great price - I've always believed this book deserves a wide audience - you see the book was originally published in a handsome hardcover edition from those wonderful people at Robert Hale, but the fact is that the books are primarily intended for the public library and are made to be durable to survive multiple readings. This is great but the hardcovers are expensive.

Now to step back through the years a moment - when I first started reading westerns, and that was a heck of a long time ago, you could find western paperbacks in most bookshops, but these days it's hard enough finding a bookshop let alone a westerns. And so by making the book available electronically we can replicate the days of cheap mass market westerns. eBooks never need go out of print and so the sales potential is without boundaries, and I do hope a great many of you will shell out just a couple of pounds for Arkansas Smith - I think I can guarantee a good read and a few hours of pleasure.

Check out the reviews below and click on the image of the eBook cover and you'll be taken to Amazon where you can read a sample before buying. You really can't go wrong.

And don't forget to read on for the Q & A with Jack Martin.

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.

So I do hope the reviews make you yearn some western adventure and that you take my hand and let me lead you into the Old West.

Now, I suppose, all writer are a little schizophrenic and so the following interview was conducted by myself and with myself - Gary Dobbs talks to alter ego, Jack Martin.

Q&A With Jack Martin

Q -Why does a Welshman write westerns

A- I've always been passionate about the genre, ever since being introduced to it as a very young child by my grandfather. His name was Jack Martin by the way and when I started writing westerns it seemed natural to adopt his name. It's a kind of tribute to a man who meant so much to me  and a man whom I still miss.

Q- You've long championed eBooks. Why?

A: Well it is like I say - one time westerns were available everywhere but these days it's hard to find any in British bookshops, and I don't believe the situation is any better in the US. And not just westerns but a whole selection of genre fiction has all but vanished. I've always believed that when eReaders went mainstream  the type of books we used to read will come back and indeed have started to come back. I think the Kindle is the single most important development in popular reading since the invention of the paperback.

Q - So who is Arkansas Smith?

A - Ha ha - I'm not sure if I know, but readers will be able to explore the character now that the eBook is available and hopefully by the end of the book many of their questions will be answered, but also there should be enough left to bring them back again.

Q- So update us on all that's happening in Jack Martin World.

A - Well I'm still hoping that the film version of my novel, Tarnished Star will get off the ground. The project is currently with talented director, Neil Jones of Burnhand Films and although things are a little bit uncertain in the film business at the moment, I firmly believe this project will lift off soon. The film will be called LawMaster and I know Neil will deliver a great western. On the fiction front, my fourth hardcover will come out from Robert Hale this October. It's called Wild Bill Williams and I really don't believe there's ever been a hero like Bill Williams in all western fiction. I've got a few other projects on the go and  have also got to put on my Vincent Stark hat and give my attention to a few projects that have stalled due to a massively increased workload this year.

Arkansas Smith is out there now
Wild Bill Williams in print this October

There was nary a frown when Wild Bill Williams was in town. He had a way about his manner that enabled most folks to forget all their troubles and become positively festive. It was said that Bill could start off a dance at a funeral and carve a grin out of the most granite of faces. 

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 23 Apr - 29 Apr 2012


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits1991761691701661391571,176168
First Time Visits1821661581601561301531,105158
Returning Visits1710111010947110

Sunday 29 April 2012


As I write there are only thirty three minutes before the eBook version of my hardcover bestseller, Arkansas Smith becomes available for download to Kindles and other eReaders everywhere. The hardcover edition is certainly handsome but it was produced mainly for the public library system and can prove expensive. Westerns are, to my mind, better suited to the mass market as cheap editions, much as the old western paperbacks used to be. Now I'm pleased that the eBook version brings back those days of cheap paperbacks, at least in terms of price. So even if you don't usually read westerns give it a try and I'm sure you'll be  surprised. I think that Arkansas Smith is a story of mystery and great classic western style action. I hope you'll fall in love with the character of Arkansas Smith - I know I did.

Later this week I'll have some news for you regarding the character of Arkansas Smith but for now go read the book

Go get it. HERE

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this western, the second by Mr. Martin/Dobbs, the first being The Tarnished Star, and would recommend it without a second thoughtIt carries you right along, and before you know it,  you've read the the whole thing and want more.

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.


This was THE show when I was a kid, the one that had to be watched by all - it was massive, absolutely gigantic and for awhile it seemed to be the only subject we talked about in the schoolyard. Everything about it seemed so cool - And man, what spin offs the show produced -  the 12" action figure was brilliant. You could roll up the skin of his arm and legs to see the bionics and also look through the bionic eye. I remember getting one for Christmas and for a few weeks I don't think I played with anything else. I also remember having three stitches in my left hand from Dr Moody after I foolishly fell off a bridge while playing at The Six Million Dollar man. Unlike Steve Austin I didn't get replacement bionic parts but only three painful stitches, and a clip across the ear from my old man.

For a few years the show seemed to be everywhere - the show's logo could be found on lunch boxes, belt buckles and T-shirts, the character showed up in a Look In comic  - strip based on the show, and was the subject of posters on bedroom walls everywhere. Yep Steve Austin was the coolest cucumber since Kevin Keegan and his amazing perm. Interestingly that perm was also created in a top secret laboratory, though not on Universal's back lot but  somewhere in darkest Liverpool.

I have very fond memories of this show and now that the entire run has been released on a massive box set which includes all five seasons, the original TV movies and the reunion movies, a box set you'll need bionic strength to carry, I can wallow in 1970's TV nostalgia.

I am able to look at the show again, only this time through adult eyes.

Steve Austin, astronaut: a man barely alive
Gentlemen we can rebuild him
We have the technology
We have the capability to make the worlds first bionic man
Steve Austin will be that man
Better than he was before 


How does it hold up? Well the special effects may look primitive now that we're spoiled with the flawless CGI of current fantasy television, and some of the dialog is so cheesy you could spread it on a cracker. but all the same the program holds a timeless charm. One of the episodes I remembered from watching as a child was when Steve Austin went up against that fearsome big foot creature, and watching those episodes now I laughed at the obvious man in the suit, but just the same I was soon sucked into the storyline. And when you get in the right frame of mind that Bigfoot is just as terrifying as ever.


It certainly stands up better than all those other shows from my youth - The A Team, Knight Rider and so on. If you're not a fan then it's unlikely you'll shell out for this box set, but if, like me, you were a huge fan as a kid you just might appreciate having it in your collection. I know I do.

There's an interview with western writer, Matthew P. Mayo over on Western Fiction Review that is well worth checking out.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Book Review - Agatha Raisin and The Haunted House

This is actually the tenth book in the series from Hamish McBeth creator, M C Beaton, though the first I've read. I'd discovered the character via the excellent Radio 4 series based on the books, so I knew much of the back story. Mind you I'll have to find out how Agatha came to marry James Lacey and then separate - the last I'd heard on the radio series James and Agatha were reeling after Agatha's long thought dead husband turned up on what was to be their wedding day.

Reading through the above sounds like I've fallen for the delights of chick lit, but the Agatha Raisin series are best summed up as cozy crimes. They are devilishly clever and all end with a Scooby Doo moment when the killer/thief/knicker snatcher is caught and quickly reveals all in a, "drat you've caught me" type speech. Though it's not all butter scones, cups of tea and village gossip and the book does contains it's fair share of insightful looks at the state of play in modern Britain.

Agatha is a great character - a brash, chain smoking ex PR guru who has relocated to the Cotswolds and become something of a amateur detective of excellence.

One of the stand out characters in the radio series is Agatha's camp gay friend, Roy but in this book his characterization seems different, not exactly weaker... though perhaps not as fully rounded. Still Roy had a minor part in this one and so I'm not sure if he will be more flushed out in other books in the series. I'll soon find out, though because as soon as I'd finished this book I visited my local W H Smiths and bought three more books in the series, and so in summing up how good this book is I will let those actions speak louder than words.

Friday 27 April 2012

Western Writer Weekly

Edited by Matthew Pizzolato, The Western Writer Weekly is an online newspaper cum magazine for western readers and writers. I've only just discovered this site and I think it will be of massive interest to Archive readers HERE

Tor Publishing turns back on DRM

Good news for eBook readers and yet another nail in the coffin of the unpopular DRM coding added to some eBooks -

Tor, the world's biggest science fiction publisher and home to authors including Orson Scott Card, China Miéville and Cory Doctorow, has shaken publishing with the news that its entire list of ebooks is to be made digital rights management-free.Tor, whose parent company Macmillan is currently fighting a lawsuit over accusations of ebook price fixing, is the first major publisher to drop digital rights management (DRM) from its ebooks, and the move prompted predictions that others would soon follow suit. JK Rowling's recently launched ebooks, sold exclusively from her site Pottermore, are already DRM-free.
DRM is the way publishers currently protect their ebooks from piracy; it limits the sharing of titles between electronic devices.

The decision will cover Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape and Tor Teen ebooks from July 2012, the publisher said, as well as Tor UK titles. "Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time," said president and publisher Tom Doherty. "They're a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased ebooks in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of ereader to another."

Around the world in 80 sleuths

Around the world in 80 Sleuths - this article that appeared in the Independent Newspaper will be of interest to all crime fiction buffs.

Holmes and Watson would be proud. Crime fiction is booming as never before - and with dozens of new titles translated into English for the first time, there’s a detective for every holiday destination. Jonathan Gibbs tracks down 80 of the best sleuths to escape with this summer....

1. Greenland
The murder takes place in Copenhagen, but it is to the unforgiving Greenland coast that Smilla Jaspersen follows the trail. Peter Hoeg's book, with its slow pacing and heightened atmospherics, was surely the one that whetted the international appetite for Scandinavian crime.
'Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow' (Harvill)
2. Reykjavik
If there is a pretender to Henning Mankell's crown, it could well be Arnaldur Indridason. His Inspector Erlendur novels have the bleak setting, social realism and gentle pacing we associate with Scandinavian noir.
Read 'Tainted Blood' (Vintage)
3. Shetland Islands
Ann Cleeves had 18 books under her belt when she won a Gold Dagger for Raven Black, the first in her Shetland Quartet. It's an inspired location, with its bleak landscape and close-knit community for detective Jimmy Perez to unpick.
Read 'Raven Black' (Pan)

Find the full article and list HERE

Thursday 26 April 2012

Two days and counting

Arkansas Smith, the bestselling hardcover western, is finally available as a eBook this week.

The Classics - Little Big Man (1979)

It starts off as a lightweight, comic western and then half way through we are shown the massacre of the Cheyanne Indians who have adopted our hero, Jack Crabb. This is the most shocking moment in Arthur Penn's 1979,  revisionist western Little Big Man. Coming after so much character driven comedy it hits the force of a Winchester on steroids.

Jack stands by helplessly while Custer's cavalrymen cut down his family and then have the temerity to claim they have rescued him. Of course Jack Crabb is a fictitious character but many of the events in the movie were based on truth. And the carnage of Crabb's Cheyenne family was based on 1868 campaign to beat the Cheyenne into submission or exterminate the entire tribe. The movie seemed another example of Hollywood trying to atone for its history of collaboration in White America's imperialist savagery towards the red man, but it is more likely that the massacre in Pen's movie was meant to echo the 1968 events at My Lai in Vietnam which was of particular interest to the director who had criticized the Vietnam war. But whatever the reasoning behind the scene which is anomalous to the rest of the movie it is clear that Little Big Man, like several other major westerns, does something toward adjusting the historical  imbalance of most westerns.

"Arthur Penn's most extravagant and ambitious movie, an attempt to capture the essence of the American heritage in the funny, bitter, uproarious adventures of Jack Crabb." Vincent Canby of The New York Times

The movie supposedly told by a 121 year old man who survived the battle of Little Big Horn, is a triumph that gleefully destroys many of the myths created by Hollywood's long love affair with the western. The mythical gunfighter is shown to be ridiculous, the pure fresh faced frontiers-women ends up on a brothel, the noble cavalry suddenly transform into brutal butchers,  and many iconic historical figures such as Custer and Wild Bill Hickok are shown as pretentious clowns. In fact most of the well worn western tropes are destroyed and it is only  the Indians, Human Beings this picture calls them, who are treated with real affection. They are shown to have been brave, spiritual people However the Indians do not entirely escape the sarcastic wand and at one point a gay Indian, Little Horse is brought to life on the screen.

Of course the movie belongs to Dustin Hoffman who is superb as Jack Crabb, convincing as a 121 year old, as well as all other incarnations of our everyman traveling through the western years. It seems that the movie manages to cram in every iconic image the western has ever spewed onto the screen, but throughout it all there is an unmistakable love for the spectacle that only the western can provide - excellent.

Little Big Man is available on both DVD and Blu Ray.

Howard Hopkins fan group formed

2012 didn't exactly start off well for western readers and authors, when writer, Howard Hopkins passed away.

I had a fairly strong online relationship with Howard, we shared a publisher and several online forums. And I know that  many people in the Black Horse writing community interacted just as regularly with Howard.

He was an inspiration to us all with over thirty Black Horse Westerns beneath his belt as well as books in other genres.

I was pleased to join a new Facebook group dedicated to Howard's memory and anyone interested can find it HERE

Archive's Writers' News Roundup

Glossy magazine, The Stylist has joined forces with Faber Publishing to find the hottest new talent in crime writing. The are looking for an unpublished crime novel with a female protagonist and the first prize is publication with an advance payment of £5,000. Bestselling author, Ruth Rendell is among the judges so you'll have to impress. Details HERE

Top SF publisher Angry Robot are having an Open Door reading period between 16-30 April. This means the company who only usually accept subs from agents will now look at work direct from the author. I'm a bit late reporting this news but details are HERE

Piatkus have launched a new eBook line for romantic fiction - Piatkus Entice are operating now and will transfer the most popular eBooks to print.

Classic Cars Magazine are actively looking for writers with a good knowledge of the classic car lifestyle. Find them HERE

Black Lyon Publishing are a new US based publisher who publish their books simultaneously as eBooks and mass market paperbacks. They specialise in romance fiction and you can find details Here Looking for the best in romance and literary love stories? At Black Lyon, we selectively publish novels by some of the most talented multi-published and new authors around. Check back each month for new titles - each available in trade paperback and ebook formats.

Australian SF magazine, Aurealis have stopped publishing in print and as of issue 45 will become a digital only magazine. The title also has a new submission manager in Crisetta Macleod - she says she is looking for twice as many stories as usual as the magazine plans to increase its output. Find details Here

Wednesday 25 April 2012

So British - Dick Barton

15 million listeners at its peak, Dick Barton was a blockbuster long before the days of blockbusters. The show was created by Norman Collins who in his position as Head of Light Programming was looking for a cliffhanger type show that would bring listeners back time after time. Together with John McMillan he created Dick Barton which had its origins in Vic Samson: Special Investigator which was a show McMillan had created earlier for commercial radio.

Dick Barton was the clean cut hero - he didn't smoke, didn't drink and never carried a gun because he considered guns are for cowards.

Dick Barton was first broadcast in October 1946 and was an immediate success and by the following year the show was constantly ranking in the top ten most popular shows.

After each episode people would gather on the streets, in the pubs and in the schoolyard and talk about what they had just heard - imagination was key and one newspaper review asked - did you see the giant squid?  Amazing to think that no one saw the giant squid, nor the Nazi killer with his Lugar, nor the cad who cut the breaks on Barton's car. It was all created with sound effects and the fertile imagination of the listener.

Barton was an old fashioned man, a traditionalist, who shared many of his adventures with women but didn't really approve of them - 'I like to see a woman with children at her feet and not mixed up in all this adventure.' And whilst this may raise a smile these days it was perfect for 1940's/50's schoolboys who knew the universal truth that girls were useless when it came to adventure. And of course a chap would always have to rescue them from some deadly situation or other that they had stumbled into.

The BBC initially made five series and the final episode went out 30th March 1951. After which many of the production team and cast went to Radio Luxembourg to work on Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future, another clean cut hero who although he originated in comic books he could very much be described as Dick Barton in space.

Now the BBC were notoriously slow to realize the historical importance of their output and very few of the master recordings were kept - something that seems insane now but it was common practice to wipe and reuse tape and not just in radio but in TV too - many episodes of Doctor Who for instance were wiped or destroyed. However many of the shows were recrecorded by a number of foreign radio companies and many of these shows still exist, allowing for CD release. Many of the shows can be listened to at the Internet Archive HERE

Barton of course didn't die with the radio show - in 1948 Hammer made the first of three Dick Barton movies and in 1979 Southern Television made a TV series. Over the years there have been stage plays, novels, comic book and the odd computer game.

The character has taken his rightful place among the ranks of evergreen, iconic characters - he's up there with Sherlock Holmes, The Saint, James Bond, Tarzan, Raffles and others of that ilk, classic characters who although away from our current pop culture will never be forgotten. In fact so ingrained in our collective pop culture consciousness has Barton become that when archive recordings were discover in 2011 it made the national newspapers. The text in bold below comes from The Daily Express

BBC radio’s first daily serial, Dick Barton – Special Agent, is to make a comeback after 338 recordings have been found.
Most episodes of the hit show, broadcast between 1946 and 1951, were thought to have been lost because the BBC archived only three of the 712 original episodes.
The recordings were found in the vaults of the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra, Australia.

They are not original Light Programme broadcasts, but accurate copies made for international distribution between 1948 and 1950.They use the original scripts and music from episodes which went out in the UK– when Dick took on the Nazis, villains and even rats.
AudioGO is to release two CDs of the long-lost episodes in April. Publishing director, Jan Paterson, said: “Listeners had almost given up asking for Dick Barton.”

Audiogo have made several of these recordings available as both downloads and CD's - they have done an especially good job of the CD's with great packaging and interesting inlay notes. I've bought them all as they've hit the shops so you can understand how good I think they are - dashed good, old boy.

All together now - let's take the devil's gallop

Multi Media Murders

The original title was Ten Little Niggers, but the title was changed in the US to Ten Little Indians in 1940  - not because of the racist overtones of the original title, but because the title was derived from antiquated English terminology.  However it was not until many years later that the UK title was changed to, And Then There were None and this was due to the racist overtones. In terms of adaptations in other media the novel stands alongside other Agatha Christie Classics such as The Mousetrap and Death on the Nile.  As a novel it is the author's most successful. It's outsold all other mysteries - more than Conan Doyle, more than Raymond Chandler, more than any other crime novel in history.

It was originally published in November 1939 and  the novel, based on a nursery rhyme, was done as an intellectual challenge for Agatha Christie - the challenge was to kill off ten people on an isolated island without revealing who was the killer until the final few pages.

'It was a difficult book to write. Ten people had to die without it appearing ridiculous or the killer becoming obvious. I was immensely pleased with the finished book. No one but I knew how difficult it was and how much planning it had needed.' Agatha Christie

Christie immediately thought it would make a good stage play but again this was not without difficulty. There was no one left in the story to tell the tale, and so the author realized she would have to change it for the stage. Christie did so by making two of the characters survive the ordeal. However Christie found problems in getting a backer for the play but it was eventually produced by Bertie Mayer and after a short run in Wimbledon, the play opened in the West End of London. It was an immediate success and then went onto have a successful run on Broadway.

Bullet points:
A detective novel without a detective
A genuinely stunning twist in the tale
Characters that are believable
Palpable terror and tension in most scenes
It is Christie's best-selling novel with 100 million sales to date, making it the world's best-selling mystery

I would like to make it clear that although the word, Nigger is definitely racist by today's standards, the novel is most certainly not. The title comes from a nursery rhyme and back in the day the word was perfectly acceptable. It is not used in the book in a racist sense and none of the characters utter any racist words or thoughts.

After it's stage success it was filmed by 20th Century Fox under the direction of Rene Clair. And like the book and play before it the film was a huge hit. Over the years it has enjoyed many successful stage runs, become several successful movies, TV and radio plays and in 2005 it even became a computer game which started a series of PC games based on Christie's works.

The book was set in a modern house on a small island, the absolute last word in luxury - and it was based on the Art Deco Hotel off the South Devon coast which was a favorite haunt of the author.

I recently read the book for the first time - in one mammoth sitting too and all I can say in review is - WOW, no other word in a lexicon of praise can do it justice. In terms of language and style Christie is very straightforward and in terms of pure storytelling she is something I aspire towards.

I have found the original rhyme which Christie based the novel upon hidden away on You Tube and it is embedded below.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Five days and counting

eBook price row continues

It has become clear in the Apple eBook pricing row that the extent of overcharging could be $100 million. A two-year investigation by the suing states found that Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster allegedly conspired with other publishers and Apple to artificially raise prices. 

However an article on CNET quoted various antitrust experts about thoughts on the case. One said the government “"has a far better case against the publishers than Apple.” Another believes the case against the publishers is also weak. When Apple began to enter the eBook market, the states say “publishers and Apple agreed to adopt an agency distribution model as a mechanism to allow them to fix prices. To enforce their price-fixing scheme, the publishers and Apple relied on contract terms that forced all eBook outlets to sell their products at the same price. Because the publishers agreed to use the same prices, retail price competition was eliminated.”

However there are some elements that are good for both consumers and publishers and this whole thing is not a million miles away from the old NET Book agreement, which ensured a level playing field for both small and large publishers. Amazon should not be allowed to discount books to such a level that neither the publishers or authors can survive.

We await the outcome of all this with interest.

Best selling Black Horse Westerns - Amazon

Charts courtesy of Black Horse Express

1. The Kansas Fast Gun (Black Horse Western) by Arthur Kent (31 Oct 2011)

Available for download now £2.74

2. Arkansas Smith (Black Horse Western) by Jack Martin (30 Apr 2012)

Available for pre-order £2.74

3. Range War Hell (Black Horse Western) by Ryan Bodie (31 Aug 2011)

Hardcover  £9.11

4. Loner with a Gun (Black Horse Western) by Ryan Bodie (30 Jul 2010)

Hardcover £2.66

5. A Colt for the Kid (Black Horse Western) by John Saunders (31 Oct 2011)

Available for download now £5.49

6. Gunhawk (Black Horse Western) by John Long (31 Oct 2011)

Available for download now £2.74

7. The Black Horse Westerns by Abe Dancer, Dean Edwards, Tyler Hatch and Scott Connor (1 Jan 2011)

Available for download now £6.86

8. Hour of the Black Wolf (Black Horse Western) by Mark P. Lynch (31 Jul 2012)

Hardcover available for pre-order £13.75

9. Brazos Fugitive (Black Horse Western) by Tyler Hatch (31 Mar 2010)

Hardcover  £1.87

10. Arizona Pay-Off (Black Horse Western) by Duke Patterson (31 Oct 2011)

Monday 23 April 2012

The Magnificent Two

The following reviews of two of my books, The Ballad of Delta Rose and Arkansas Smith were brought to my attention by the excellent newsy roundup blog, Black Horse Express. I wanted the share these with Archive readers particularly as Arkansas Smith becomes available as an eBook next week.

Both review come from Amazon and we start with The Ballad of Delta Rose

Grim stuff, this. After more than 20 years away, Delta returns to the ranch he started with Etta James. He upped and left, itchy to make it rich elsewhere. He always planned on coming back - but it took him over two decades to get around to it. The main reason probably had something to do with the bullet lodged in his chest, working its way towards his heart. Delta was on borrowed time.

When he learns that he has a son by Etta, and the boy's running with the wrong crowd, Delta finds a reason for living. If only for a little while longer - so he can seek redemption and turn the boy away from the road of crime.

Jack Martin's third novel is sombre affair about lost chances. There's some good writing in here, too:

"With death peering over a man's shoulder, its icy breath felt on the back of a man's neck, everything was enhanced. The cobalt sky was saturated and the landscape vividly exaggerated."

Etta has problems, it seems, not only from her wayward son. Despotic Maxwell King owns half the town and now wants to own her. Which isn't too surprising, since Etta's "beauty was more than physical. It came from within, a radiance that positively shone in her eyes."

There's also a humorous cross-reference to the earlier novel, Arkansas Smith.

Delta is a man of few words, but, despite his days being numbered, he won't compromise on right and wrong. He'll fight for what is right. Which makes him a dangerous man - since he has nothing to lose. 

And Arkansas Smith

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  

I'd like to thank both reviewers and direct the rest of you towards the new spangled eBook of Arkansas Smith HERE

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 16 Apr - 22 Apr 2012


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits2031791731671651371651,189170
First Time Visits1861651601501591241591,103158
Returning Visits1714131761368612

Sunday 22 April 2012

Things go rotten for Apple

If Apple didn't have enough on their plate with the US  Department of Justice going for their collective jugular regarding eBook price fixing, further woes will be added after Canada has also decided to go after Apple over eBook price fixing.  Montreal's The Gazette reports that Canada is following the United States and going after Apple and the five book publishers for ebook price fixing.According to The Gazette, the lawsuit was filed in Quebec Superior Court by lawyer Normand Painchaud last February. Like those filed here in the States, his class-action suit claims that Apple colluded with the book publishers to raise ebook prices in order to topple Amazon's dominance. Same story, different territory.

The controversy centres on the so-called "agency model" of pricing, which allows publishers to dictate the charge for each ebook as long as the retailer gets 30pc of the profits. Publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Group, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan all signed up to the scheme with Apple, before it was adopted by other retailers.
However, the arrangement has sparked controversy and legal battles on both sides of the Atlantic. Last December, the European Union opened an investigation into anti-competitive behaviour. In America, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has launched legal action against Apple and the publishers for alleged collusion.
The technology company was initially tight-lipped about the US case but last week broke its silence to declare itself innocent and paint itself as a hero for breaking Amazon's "monopolistic grip". It said the iPad's bookstore "fostered innovation and competition".
However, it has taken an altogether different approach in Brussels. Joaquín Almunia, the European Union competition commissioner, said he has received settlement offers from Apple and all the publishers other than Penguin.

Archive's Sunday Comics - Child's Play

Terry Vance was a longtime backup character in MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS. He was a genius inventor and a schoolboy detective, who owed much to Sherlock Holmes -  his sidekick was a monkey named Doctor Watson. The strip is best remembered for featuring the formative artwork of Bob Oksner, a name that would become very familiar in comic book circles. The artist would later become renowned for his work with D C Comics especially on the Supergirl strip. The character's adventures ran from 1940 to 1944and in the latter strips he was often thwarting the evil exploits of Axis agents operating in America.

He had an attic laboratory in which he conducted  experiments related to his investigtions, s. Among his inventions were a "large gas model airplane with radio control," his ultraviolet flashlight, and his "detectoscope," a "sensitive microphone connected to earphones and operating by two batteries" that can listen through solid stone walls. A regular Miss Marple with acne, he monitored police broadcasts on his radio, and when a case attracted his interest, he swung into action, accompanied by his "able assistant," the monkey "Dr. Watson." Terry was often helped by his older friend, the ace reporter Deadline Dawson. 

We present a complete strip from January 1941 - note we consider these old comic strips to be important works of art as well as historical douments. They are intended as a tribute to the talented individuals who have worked in the comic book medium over the years - we are not trying to infringe on copyright and where possible have tried to obtain permission to use the strips. Strips will be removed if requested by the copyright owners but it is hoped these articles will be enjoyed and appreciated in the spirit behind them.

Marvel Mystery Comics (first issue titled simply Marvel Comics) is an American comic book series published during the 1930s-1940s period known to fans and historians as the Golden Age of Comic Books. It was the first publication of Marvel Comics' predecessor, Timely Comics, a division of Timely Publications.

Friday 20 April 2012

Amazon and Apple - who are the bad guys?

"Our goal is to force Amazon to return to acceptable sales prices."

 I'm not sure if I understand the complexities of the current situation regarding eBook pricing but the ramifications are truly frightening and analysts seem to be warning of a future where Amazon are the only player in the eBook market and that traditional publishers will cease to exist. It seems that Apple have decided to fight the US Justice Department in their eBook price fixing case and although most experts are predicting that Apple can't win they are determined to fight their side.

While Apple has responded to the US Department of Justice's antitrust charges filed against it and book publishers accused of ebook price-fixing, claiming the iBookstore fosters competition, and broke Amazon's monopolistic grip on publishing, a former Federal Trade Commission policy director has said that Apple should have settled.David Balto claimed the DOJ's evidence against Apple, which includes records of emails and phone calls that allegedly show executives, including Apple's late-CEO Steve Jobs, conspiring to increase the price of ebooks, is the kind that prosecutors "fantasize about."According to an Information Week report, Balto said the evidence in the DOJ's case against Apple is so strong that Apple, Penguin and MacMillan would be foolish not to settle. IBN LIVE

On the surface it does seem that Apple deserve a ruling against them, but consider the fact that Amazon's tactics of setting prices low does not serve the publisher nor the writer. I must admit to hypocrisy here because I am a huge fan of Amazon's service - the Kindle is the best eReader on the market and it is so easy to but eBooks from Amazon, but I certainly don't want to see the day when the only place to buy books is from Amazon.

"You set the price, and we get our 30 percent, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that's what you want anyway."

Anyone can read any Kindle book on any iPad, but you can’t read iBooks on a Kindle, at least not without complicated fiddling and loss of features.
In fact all eBook formats are supported on the iPad, most with free apps.
That’s why Apple’s clause that publishers can’t undercut iBook prices elsewhere is necessary.
Consider: If a book is $9.99 from Amazon and $12.99 on iBooks and you have an iPad, you’ll buy the Amazon version and read it on your iPad because it’s cheaper.
If a book is $12.99 on Amazon and $9.99 on iBooks and you have a Kindle, you’ll also buy the Amazon version because Amazon doesn’t support the iBooks version.
The only way for Apple or any other tablet platform to sell eBooks given Amazon’s price dumping is for the publishers to set the price and sell at the same price on all platforms.
Obama’s DOJ is trying to eliminate the agency model in publishing, the last hope of the publishing industry from an Amazon take-over.Anti-trust action by the Department of Justice is supposed to protect consumers. Protecting the monopoly player’s ability to sell at a loss until all competitors have been eliminated is not protecting consumers.
Worst of all, this isn’t just about a product. It’s about democracy, freedom of thought and censorship.
For the government of a democracy to side with a book monopoly to help them burn publishing to the ground is something no citizen should stand for. Cult of Mac

The Department of Justice's case can be read HERE

If everything in the report is true then Apple are truly fighting a losing battle, but how will it all affect us - The book Buyer?

Ahh well, only time will tell.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Billy the Kid - He only killed four men!!! ONLY!!

"He came directly towards me. Before he reached the bed, I whispered: 'Who is it, Pete?' but received no reply for a moment. It struck me that it might be Pete's brother-in-law, Manuel Abreu, who had seen Poe and McKinney, and wanted to know their business. The intruder came close to me, leaned both hands on the bed, his right hand almost touching my knee, and asked, in a low tone: -'Who are they Pete?' -at the same instant Maxwell whispered to me. 'That's him!' Simultaneously the Kid must have seen, or felt, the presence of a third person at the head of the bed. He raised quickly his pistol, a self-cocker, within a foot of my breast. Retreating rapidly across the room he cried: 'Quien es? Quien es?' 'Who's that? Who's that?') All this occurred in a moment. Quickly as possible I drew my revolver and fired, threw my body aside, and fired again. The second shot was useless; the Kid fell dead. He never spoke. A struggle or two, a little strangling sound as he gasped for breath, and the Kid was with his many victims." Pat Garrett's testimony.

THE TAINTED ARCHIVE IN CONVERSATION WITH FRED NOLAN. - note this interview has been previously posted on this blog in 2009.

Fred Nolan is considered one of the world's foremost Billy the Kid experts. His book The West of Billy The Kid is conisdered one of the best studies of the legend ever published.As a novelist he has penned many westerns, as well as working successfully in other genres. He added five instalments to the Sudden series, a western character originally created by Oliver Strange. Among his thrillers is The Oshawa Project which was filmed by MGM and starring Sophia Loren and Robert Vaughn. In all the author is responsible for over 70 books.

However when The Archive cornered the writer it was with the legend of Billy The Kid that we were concerned.

What is the continuing fascination with Billy the KID?
"The answer would depend upon how deeply you want to get into the mechanics of wishful thinking, the place of our hero in history and reality, the implicit challenge and simultaneous impossibility of solving an insoluble historical riddle, of ever properly establishing who he was, where he was born, who his father was, where he spent the first ten years or so of his life … but I think there are also wider issues, which have to do with our need for heroes and myth (and strangely enough, hope), with preconceptions shaped by where we grew up and who we did it with, what we read and what we saw on TV or at the movies when we were at an impressionable age. Billy truly is a young man for all seasons; that short and violent life, that transformation from homeless kid to deathless myth reshaping itself anew for every succeeding generation"

In your opinion have any of the film versions of The Kid come close to reality?
"The short answer is no. I think perhaps if Jack Beutel, who played the Kid in The Outlaw, could have played the Kris Kristofferson part in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, we might—we might—have had the definitive image."

Was Billy psychoctic?
"I am fairly confident that he was not “suffering from a mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality”(OED). But he knew how to stay alive in a world and a time that you and I might find ourselves unable to cope with. If you want a taste of it, read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian."

There is only one authenticated picture of Billy the Kid but many others claiming to be the outlaw. Do you think any of these other photographs are genuine?
"More wishful thinking—surely there must be another photo of him out there somewhere, something that doesn’t make him look like (as Burton Rascoe put it) “a nondescript, adenoidal, weasel-eyed, narrow-chested, stoop-shouldered repulsive-looking creature with all the outward appearance of a cretin”? Of course, I’ve seen quite a few photos that could very well be the Kid, but they all lack that one vital factor – a provenance, proof that they’re the real thing. "

The nickname "THE KID" was a generic term in the Old West and often given to any young man who fell into trouble with the law. Obviously there were many killings attributed to Billy that he did not, could not, in fact have done. How many men, in your opinion, did he kill?
"As far as we know he one-to-one killed only four men: Frank Cahill, James Bell, Bob Olinger and Red Grant. He was involved, to what exact extent we cannot be sure, in a number of others, essentially gang killings: Morton, Baker, McCloskey, Brady, Hindman, Roberts, Bernstein etc. It is unlikely at this late juncture that evidence will ever surface linking him with others we know not of. And there is, after all, quite a lot of irony in the phrase “he killed only four men” … only????"

What is your opinion on Brushy Bill who claimed to be Billy the Kid and still causes much debate over his true identity?
"Oliver P. “Brushy Bill” Roberts was just a sad, simple old man who got involved in something whose ramifications were way beyond his mental capacity; and the strain of doing it probably killed him. His family’s Bible shows he was born in 1879, which means he would have been two when Billy the Kid was killed. He had previously claimed to be a member of the Jesse James gang. He was just a nobody who wanted so badly to be a somebody, but that hasn’t stopped the wishful thinkers from wishful thinking."

Why then are the authorities loathe to allow Billy's grave to be dug up for DNA testing to solve the mystery once and for all?
"The authorities (and a lot of historians, me among them) were not so much against the idea of DNA samples being taken, as for the proposition that since (a) accurately locating the precise spot where the Kid is buried is not possible and (b) there is no way of being certain sure that even if the gravesite were excavated, the remains—if there were any there—would be the Kid, or Bowdre, or Folliard, or just someone else who had been buried there before they were. And (c) what was the DNA to be compared with? The Kid’s mother in her Silver City grave? But precisely the same problems exist there—no certainty about the siting of the grave, or that she is in it or only nearby. So (d) what would be the point?"

Hypothetical - Garrett didn't kill the Kid - what happened next? "Okay, let’s unfetter our imaginations and pursue your hypothesis. Garrett kills someone in Pete Maxwell’s bedroom. He/they claim it was the Kid and hurriedly put him into a coffin which is sealed so no one can see the body and then hastily buried next day. Now everyone has to take Garrett’s and Maxwell’s word that it was the Kid, and none of the families living in Fort Sumner, or any of their descendants in the next hundred and twenty-odd years, will ever question it or ever tell anyone that this was what they were told/agreed to do. Hard to believe, right? (We’re disregarding for a moment that none of this is what Garrett and Poe said happened, or that a coroner’s jury viewed the body and certified it was the Kid). The same has got to be true of the proposition that someone else--a “Billy Barlow,” say-- was buried and Billy the Kid got away. In 1881 Fort Sumner was a pretty small community, say maximum a hundred people. Even so, there is no way known to man that you could silence all of them and all their kin (then and in the future) so completely that no one, not a single one, ever told or even hinted at the secret. I once made a list of the families who were on the record as having known Billy and whose kin and descendants would have had to maintain this vow of silence and it would by now have involved well over a thousand people. You know the rule: two people can keep a secret as long as one of them is dead."

Legend states that when Garrett killed The Kid he was only 21 but the general opinion these days seems to think he was around 26. What is your opinion?

"I’d always thought Billy was younger, not older than 21, basing that proposition on our inability to find a record of his birth—or even his existence—in census and other records. Latterly, I have been wondering whether that theory should be abandoned. The Kid was in Fort Sumner in 1881 when the census was taken and at that time he said he was 22 and born in Missouri. Why should that not be true – because we don’t like it? There are Bonney families in Missouri records he might have fitted into, and there is at least one McCarty family there that might have been his mother’s. But like everything else connected to Billy, it cannot be proven and it’s hardly likely it ever will."
Will the mystery of The Kid ever be cleared up?
"Which mystery did you have in mind? The mystery of his birth? The mystery of his father’s identity? The mystery of where he grew up? The mystery of what he really looked like? The mystery of why he was killed? (Hypothetical question: Garrett had two armed deputies standing behind Billy and he had the drop – why didn’t he just arrest him?). The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind …"

FIND FRED HERE And for more Billy related info visit WESTERN FICTION REVIEW where Steve M. has posted a review of THE STONE GARDEN. Also there is an earlier Kid article on The Archive HERE 

Ten days and counting...

Western Greats - Rio Bravo

"Well made but awfully familiar," were the words of The New York Times, and Time magazine declared that, "It is as long and tedious as five TV westerns laid end to end."

It might surprise you to know that the movie they are talking about is the Howard Hawks classic, Rio Bravo. And whilst it may be true that the 1959 movie may not be anything new, the fact is that  in the hands of Howard Hawks and star John Wayne the movie becomes greater than the sum of its parts - there is excitement, tension, the pleasure of the western landscapes and that old chestnut of good triumphing over evil. Hawks of course was so pleased with the film that he loosely remade it in 1966 and El Dorado and then again in 1970 with Rio Lobo.

Rio Brave came after Hawks had taken a break from directing following the failure of his 1955 movie, Land of the Pharaohs, a movie that almost ended his career and Hawks thouight it was a safe bet for his comeback to be a western starring the biggest western star of them all. Alongside John Wayne Hawks cast Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson. The movie was shot between May and July 1958 with Old Tuscon, Arizona as the main location. The director was inspired by Gary Cooper's High Noon in which a sheriff stood alone against a group of desperadoes.

'Cooper ran around trying to get help and no one would give him any. And that's a kind of silly thing to do because in the end he could do the job himself. And so I decided to take a different viewpoint.' Howard Hawks.

Wayne famously hated High Noon and claimed that Cooper's character was went against the very creed of the true westerner - a man who could stand alone and face whatever was thrown at him. High Noon was, Wayne said, un-American. The actor would also state that he did not regret helping run the High Noon writer, Carl Foreman, out of the country during the Un-American activity hearings.

However it wasn't only High Noon that influenced the movie and the central situation of a lawman holding a prisoner under siege had been done in 1957's excellent 3-10 to Yuma.

Howard Hawks deliberately emphasized character over plot in Rio Bravo - perhaps he realized that TV westerns had by this period played out all the plots there were, and this is the biggest strength of the movie. John Wayne is well, John Wayne but he's excellent at it and Dean Martin's haunted gunman maybe one of the best roles he has ever played. Ricky Nelson does okay but he was only cast as a heartthrob to get the youngsters into the cinemas. And as with every film he appears in Walter Brennen steals the show. Hawks deliberately chose to not develop the characters of the bad men which made the western stand out since the bad men in most westerns of the period were well developed and often stole the show - think Jack Palance is Shane (1953). In most Fifties westerns the bad guys were more colorful and extravagant that the good guys but not with this movie and right from the start it is with our three heroes that the focus remains.

Despite the critics Rio Bravo was a success - it revitalized Howard Hawks' career and it ended the year just outside of the top ten money makers on the North American market. And it has since gone onto become an undisputed classic of the genre - The film achieved additional notoriety in the 90s when Quentin Tarantino revealed that he uses it as a litmus test for prospective girlfriends.

The film is available in DVD in several different versions but it it the special edition which is the most interesting  - There's a great  commentary by John Carpenter and Richard Schickel, renowned director Carpenter and film critic Schickel explore how this legendary Western was an extension of Hawks' own personality and why it's considered such an influential classic toda. It also contains several documentaries, most interesting of which is a 1973 show looking at Howard Hawks and his legacy.

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...