Friday 30 August 2013

Black Horse Extra News

Black Horse Extra, the online magazine devoted to all things western and presided by Keith (Chap O'Keefe) Chapman's always been the place to go to for information on the state of play regarding western fiction. The free online magazine was started way back in 2006 and for six years it came out on a quarterly basis, and although the Archive is saddened to report that there will be no new issues we can see the sense in this.

This week the following message appeared on the Black Horse Extra website:

Black Horse Extra appeared as a quarterly online magazine for six years from March 2006. It promoted the western genre and the work of authors published by Robert Hale Ltd in the Black Horse Western series of hardback novels sold mainly to the UK public lending libraries. Today, most of the active authors run personal blogs and websites. Links to some can be found lower in the column to the right, while past editions of Black Horse Extra can be accessed using the links to the left.
Lately, the number of hardback books published monthly has been reduced and readers have been offered more modestly priced ebooks online. BHW titles are now widely available in digital format from Robert Hale and several other companies, including Piccadilly Publishing, Western Trail Blazer, Western Fictioneers Library, and Black Horse Extra Books. Excerpts can be read (and the books conveniently downloaded) at Amazon and other ebook retailers.

The website though will remain as will the excellent archive of back issues so it's not all bad news. Head over there, via the link  CLICK

Wednesday 28 August 2013


Mostly Cracking

In a second-hand store I recently came across a DVD box set containing the entire run of Cracker - that's the Jimmy Mcgovern created crime drama that starred Robbie Coltrane and was the inspiration for the short lived US TV series, which was known as  Fitz when shown over here in the UK. The series started in 1993 and ran until 1995 with a special in 1996 and then another a decade later in 2006.

Although the initial run was three series the stories here are all edited together as TV movies, and I must say I prefer them in this format. Many of the stories are over three hours long and when viewed as complete stories they seem to have much more punch.

In some ways Cracker follows the template set by shows such as Columbo - in that in most of the stories we witness the main crime, knowing who the killer is so that the standard whodunnit is foresaken, and instead we watch the police collecting the clues that will lead them to the conclusion. However where in Columbo things would be tied up nicely in Cracker this was not always the case.  The show was originally written with actor Robert Lindsay in mind for the title role but when he declined Coltrane was brought in to play the chain smoking, heavy drinking and gambling addicted criminal psychologist. It was inspired casting and it is difficult to imagine anyone playing the role as well as Coltrane. Jimmy McGovern who created the show wrote the first four stories - the mad woman in the attic, to say I love you, One Day a Lemming will Fly and To be a Somebody and all are excellent with To Be a Somebody which featured a young Robert Carlyle being a particular stand out. But all of the McGovern penned episodes, with the exception of the 2006 special were exceptional. In fact two stories, To Say I Love You and Brotherly Love, received Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America.

 "I drink too much, I smoke too much, I gamble too much. I am too much." Fitz in Brotherly Love

The fifth story, The Big Crunch was written by Ted Whitehead and feels more Inspector Morse than Cracker but the following story, Men Should Weep saw McGovern back as writer and this storyline was one of the most hard hitting ever seen on prime time TV. In this episode the much loved character  DS Jane Penhaligon was raped and it would eventually be revealed that she was raped by DS Jimmy Beck who was also a regular part of the team.

 "Good TV writing has narrative simplicity and emotional complexity," Jimmy McGovern

This was followed by Brotherly Love which was again written by McGovern and saw the rape storyline tied up in spectacular fashion. This was the last story written by McGovern before the weak and rather preachy 2006 comeback special, A New Terror. Best Boys followed this story and written by Paul Abbot it was basically a rewrite of the earlier story, To Say I love You and then Abbot again contributed a Fatal Attraction type story entitled, True Romance. The following year saw a special episode  again written by Paul Abbot entitled, White Ghost. This was set in Hong Kong and featured only Coltrane and Ricky Tomlinson from the regular cast.

After this Coltrane decided not to return as Fitz unless McGovern would write further episodes, but McGovern felt he had said all he had to say about the character. It seemed that was the end until 2006 when McGovern did return to pen a special comeback episode entitled, A New Terror. It was an interesting premise but  the story seemed to be an excuse for criticising the US foreign policy following the 9/11 attacks. It was ultimately a disappointment and although it did seem, on times, anti-American the New York Times didn't think so and gave the story a good review.

"Some British critics have accused “Cracker: A New Terror,” which has its United States premiere tonight on BBC America, of preachiness, heavy-handedness or both. One review suggested that since everyone in London sits around at dinner parties expressing anti-Americanism all the time, there was no good reason to repeat all those sentiments in a murder mystery.
That sort of thing plays a little differently here. First, there is a sense of relief that characters on television are talking about the events openly and irreverently. Then there is the punch of confirmation that much of the rest of the world may indeed despise the United States for what the Bush administration calls the war on terror. And for local viewers, there is a hint of vindication when the mother of the movie’s first victim tells a Manchester police officer: “My son wasn’t American. Not in that way. He was a New Yorker.” The New York Times...Oct 2006

Overall then Cracker was an excellent TV series and the box set is well worth owning - the first few stories have stood the test of time, and remain exceptional British TV drama.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Bestselling Black Horse titles on Amazon 27th August 2013

My new western The Afterlife of Slim McCord is currently sitting at number one in the bestselling Black Horse titles on Amazon, and that's on pre-orders alone. The book won't be published until this November and readers wanting to ensure a hardcover on publication day should head over to Amazon and pre-order the book now.

Below are the current top five selling Black Horse Westerns on Amazon

1 - The Afterlife of Slim McCord by Jack Martin
2 - The Hughwayman by Owen G. Irons
3- The Commanche Fights Back by D. M. Harrison
4-A Rope for Iron Eyes by Rory Black
5- She Wore a Badge by Steve Hayes

“True friendship continues long after living is gone!”

Ageing not so bad men Blackman and Tanner thought they had seen it all, but nothing could have prepared them for what they would find in the town of Possum Creek.

Once they had ridden with the notorious outlaw Slim McCord and when they came upon his mummified remains in a travelling carny show, they find themselves thrown into an unlikely and dangerous series of events as they, together with their dead leader, head towards a destiny that seems preordained.

Slim McCord, long after his death, is now involved in the most lucrative bank robbery of his outlaw career, as the three men, together again, face all manner of danger and find that, as the bullets fly, it’s just like old times.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 19 Aug - 25 Aug 2013 


Unique Visits1331621351611751411401,047150
First Time Visits123158122151171135136996142
Returning Visits1041310464517

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Leonard is dead

Elmore Leonard, who died his week, published his first novel, The Bounty Hunters, way back in 1953 and went onto become one of America's best known and most respected authors. Many of his books have been turned into successful movies - among the best known being Hombre, Valdez is Coming, Get Shorty and Jackie Brown. The current hit TV series, Justified  is based on characters created by Leonard.

In his much circulated rules of writing he said that narrative should be stripped back to the bone, kept simple. In fact if I wrote this piece by following Leonard's guidelines then it would simply read, 'Elmore Leonard is Dead,' or even more concisely, 'Leonard is dead.'

Apparently Leonard was well advanced in his 46th novel when he died, so maybe we'll get to see this book in the fullness of time, but it seems fitting that his last published work was Raylan which owed so much to the westerns with which he cut his teeth.

He will be greatly missed - below are Leonard's much read 10 rules for writing

1 Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.
Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck'sSweet Thursday, but it's OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks."
Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.
Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" ... he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".
5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.
Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", what do the "Ameri­can and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story.
9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you'reMargaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Monday 19 August 2013

Afterlife Slim McCord - Exclusive extract

The Afterlife of Slim McCord-my newest western is out in hardcover this November from Robert Hale's Black Horse Western imprint and is available for pre-order from Amazon, The Book Depository and Robert Hales own website now. My previous titles have all been quick sellers and pre-ordering is the best way to be sure you'll get a copy on publication day.

It's my most out there western and I'm eager to see what my readers think of it. It's got all the traditional elements that have made my previous westerns so successful, but it's got a twist in that the main character is dead for most of the novel and the narrative doesn't rely on flashback scenes to propel the story.

Below is an exclusive extract7

‘Shot in the back,’ the barker yelled. ‘Ain’t no lawman who could have taken Mad Slim McCord face on.’
‘You sure got that right,’ Clay Blackman offered a nickel but the barker held up his hands, palms forward.
‘No, no, old timer’ he shook his head vigorously. ‘Not me, give it to him.’
‘Sure,’ the barker smiled. ‘Put it in his mouth. He’s the one you’re paying to see and it’s only right he takes your money.’
‘In his mouth?’
‘Sure, he’ll gobble it right up.’
Blackman frowned. It seemed a particularly gruesome thing to do but nevertheless he pushed the coin between his dead friend’s lips. He winced as his fingers brushed the dry, almost abrasive tongue.
Strange but McCord didn’t even look dead, propped up as he was against a wooden frame, more like he was sleeping on his feet. The preservation was incredible, and the dead man’s skin, although cold and leathery, seemed to glow with vigour. His eyes of course were glass; Blackman knew that because Slim’s eyes had been a pale grey, rather than the vibrant blue that now stared sightlessly into an unfocused distance. One of the eyes had also been placed at an irregular angle, which gave Slim something of a cock-eyed appearance.
‘How’d he end up like this?’ Blackman wasn’t aware that he had given the thought a voice.
‘Well now,’ the barker rubbed his chin, as though considering his reply rather than going into a well-practised sales pitch. ‘Was a time Mad Slim McCord was one of the most feared man in the West. He terrorised the badlands and sent many a lawman to an early grave.’
Blackman smiled at that. As far as he knew Slim had never been much of a killer, he hadn’t liked killing, and would avoid doing so whenever it was possible. He tended to scare folks with a dazzling combination of skilful gunplay, which was often all it took. One time, Blackman remembered, Slim had shot a sheriff’s hat clean off his head and then plugged it twice more as it spun through the air. After that the lawman hadn’t been any trouble to them and they had been free to go about their unlawful business.
‘The fact that he lived as long as he did is testament to how successful a bandit he was,’ the barker continued. ‘But McCord’s luck ran out one day down in Santino when a lawman recognised him from an old wanted poster and shot him in the back. Just like that. No warning and a bullet in the back.’
‘Long way from Santino to here,’ Blackman said.  ‘How’d he end up here?’
‘You see no one claimed the body,’ the barker said. ‘And so the undertaker, figuring he could profit from such an infamous outlaw, decided to embalm the body in preserving solution made of arsenic and strong spirits.’
‘And you bought him?’ Blackman looked the barker directly in the eyes.
The barker nodded, proudly.
‘He’s been dead close on seven years now and looks as if he could have been shot this very morning,’ the barker said. ‘The undertaker had to remove a lot of his innards you know, stuff him back up with sawdust and the like, but that’s a darn fine preservation job, darn fine.  American craftsmanship at its best.’
‘You bought the body to turn a profit?’ Blackman found that the most tasteless thing he had ever heard.
‘Sure did,’ the barker said. ‘And I charge a nickel a view. That’s what’s called the entrepreneurial spirit operating in a free market. God bless America.’
‘Guess he sure ain’t gonna’ choke on that nickel,’ Blackman said.
‘We only here one week in Possum Creek,’ the barker said with a broad smile. ‘Be sure to tell all your friends.’
Immediately another man entered, holding his nickel out between a thumb and forefinger. There was a queue of at least fifty people outside the tent waiting for a chance to see the dead outlaw. Slim had never been that successful an outlaw, Blackman recalled and guessed that he was making more money dead than he ever had alive.
‘I hear he’s been preserved with a paint made of strong whisky,’ someone in the crowd said as Blackman pushed through and made his way to the saloon.

The story continues in The Afterlife of Slim McCord by Jack Martin available for pre-order now. 

Friday 16 August 2013

The black dog

I closed the Archive back in May and until a couple of weeks ago hadn't written a bloody word - you see, I've not been myself and after getting some bad news from the quack, a blackness came over me. I don't usually do depression but this was a bitch and I was unable to shake it off.

Until now that is After all things could be worse...much worse.

You see back in early May I decided to visit the docs because of a wound on my forehead that just didn't
want to heal - I wasn't sure how I got the wound, only that I'd discovered it around last Christmas. At first I thought I'd banged my head, or possibly even cut myself with a fingernail since it was only a tiny cut on my forehead. Still every time the cut healed it would open up again a week or so later, and each time it returned it was slightly bigger than before. Eventually I went to the docs and after tests it was confirmed as skin cancer - and that's what really fucked me up. That dreaded C word. As soon as you hear that word you feel your insides twist and its natural to fear the worse.

There's no such thing as a good cancer, my doctor told me. But if there was then my particular variety would be it.

You see my  form of cancer is Basal Cell Cancer - Basal-cell carcinoma (BCC), a skin cancer, is the most common cancer. It rarely metastasizes or kills. However, because it can cause significant destruction and disfigurement by invading surrounding tissues, it is still considered malignant.

I'm waiting for my date for surgery and I'm told that the success rate is really high, and I guess I'm starting to feel myself again, and  that means it is time to bring the Archive back and start pimping my books again.

Monday 12 August 2013

The Afterlife and return of the Archive

The Afterlife of Slim McCord
Now available for pre-order from Amazon with the famous price pledge guarantee
Order Now

And be ready for the return of the Archive...

“True friendship continues long after living is gone!”

Ageing not so bad men Blackman and Tanner thought they had seen it all, but nothing could have prepared them for what they would find in the town of Possum Creek.

Once they had ridden with the notorious outlaw Slim McCord and when they come upon his mummified remains in a travelling carny show, they find themselves thrown into an unlikely and dangerous series of events as they, together with their dead leader, head towards a destiny that seems preordained.

Slim McCord, long after his death, is now involved in the most lucrative bank robbery of his outlaw career, as the three men, together again, face all manner of danger and find that, as the bullets fly, it’s just like old times.

"Those days were gone though and Blackman knew it. It was written in his face and he had a wrinkle for every fence that had been thrown up around previously open range. He could dream though, and in his dreams there were no fences, and enough pretty ladies to warm the coldest of nights."


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