Sunday 26 July 2015

Gary M. Dobbs

The Man is out there

My current western - available now

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 20 Jul - 26 Jul 2015


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Unique Visits8552709466575948369
First Time Visits8345708961575245765
Returning Visits2705507264

Comanche Moon by Larry Mcmurtry Book Review

This was the last book published in the Lonesome Dove series but in chronological terms is actually the second book, concentrating on the years between Dead Man's Walk and Lonesome Dove. It's also the most bitter sweet novel in the series and this time Gus and Woodrow are mere supporting characters in a richly layered myth busting story of the Old West - the first section of the book is dominated by Captain Inish Scull, a brilliantly eccentric creation, while the latter chapters mourn the passing of the time of the Comanche and bring the story of the legendary warrior, Buffalo Hump to a close.

 It is in the late chapters that the author seems to lose the way and the story feels rushed as we are brought towards the events detailed in Lonesome Dove - the civil war comes and goes, Maggie gives birth to Newt, the son Woodrow won't acknowledge, Long Bill does for himself and we learn that Matty - the Great Western -  that whore with a mean line in snapping turtles is running a whore house in Denver but is herself dying. Gus has also been married twice, both of his wives were fat women, and both went and died  and left Gus alone. Gus of course is still mooning over Clara but she has gone off and married a dumb horse trader.

The book opens with the rangers being led by Harvard educated, Captain Inish Scull as they pursue the legendary Comanche horse thief, Kicking Horse. However the Indian is too wily for them and after a time he manages to turn the tables and starts following the rangers with a view to stealing Scull's own horse, the large beast the Indians call Buffalo Horse. Kicking Horse does indeed steal Scull's horse, sneaking into camp one night while the rangers sleep and then vanishing again with the bulky horse and all without a sound. When the theft is discovered Scull orders the rangers back to Austin while he goes on alone, on foot with the Indian scout, Famous Shoes.

'Kicking Wolf-why the rascal!' Scull exclaimed. A few days ago I was following him. Why would the man we were chasing want to follow us?'

No sooner do the rangers return to town but they are once again sent out, this time with a mission to bring the foolhardy Scull back. During their time away Buffalo Hump forms a large band of warriors and starts raiding along the frontier - this includes a bloodthirsty strike on Austin itself - many of the towns people are killed (including Clara's parents) and Long Bill's wife is brutally raped by eight Comanches.

As soon as they hear of the raid the rangers give up their search for Scull and head back to Austin - Call is terrified that Maggie has been killed but is relieved to discover this wasn't the case, though he in his usual fashion doesn't display any real affection to Maggie. Gus is also relieve that Clara wasn't killed but it is scant relief since the only reason she wasn't killed is that she'd gone off to marry that dumb horse trader. Long Bill though is devastated to discover that his wife was violated by Comanche, while will eventually lead to him taking his own life.

Scull meanwhile has been captured by the sadistic bandit, Ahumado and this is one of the most interesting and captivating sections of the book - Scull is first hung in a cage over a canyon, forced to survive on passing pigeons that he manages to catch, and when that doesn't break the man he is brought back to ground while one of Ahumado's henchmen ( a man who likes to skin people alive) removes his eyelids. Scull is now effectively blinded during the sunlight hours and is then placed in a pit to die. This section of the book is astounding and the reader finds himself rooting for Scull and feeling each and every deprivation the man faces at the hands of the cruel bandit.

A nice touch is that we are introduced to the fledgling town of Lonesome Dove - it ain't really a town at this point but nothing more than a saloon without a roof.

The author doesn't romanticise the West and there is no flaming guns resolution to come out of all this, and instead the characters remains true to themselves and the book hold tight right up until Call and Gus bring the quite insane Scull back to Austin. At times Scull can function as usual but there are periods when he is prone to bouts of insane hopping and thinking himself to be a flea. It is at this point that things weaken a little for me and the author seems to thrown too much into the resolution of the book so that it seems nothing in handled in any depth, chapters often jump months, seemingly years. The death of Maggie, surely a momentous moment in Call's life, is done without any real depth of feeling. And Gus ambles from chapter to chapter, drunk, lost, as he comes to terms with the way his life has played out. In fact it would be nice if there were more books in the Lonesome Dove saga - there are at least ten years missing between the end of Dead Man's Walk and the start of this book. I for one would love to spend more time with the rangers.

The book gets back on track for its final section with Call and Gus and a small troop in pursuit of Blue Duck, the son of Buffalo Hump, who is causing chaos with settlers in the region. The author handles his Comanche characters with respect and the death of Buffalo Hump is handled with sensitivity. The author makes everything so real that the reader could be sitting there besides Buffalo Hump as he sings his death song.

And that folks takes us to Lonesome Dove. the Pulitizer Prize winning book that actually started the series. Lonesome Dove is the only book in the series that I've read before and will be re-reading for this series of reviews.

Comanche Moon mini-series - The TV mini series of the book and like the book is just a little weaker than Dead Man's Walk, but still essential veiwing for any fan of the western genre.  The casting is excellent - Val Kilmer is brilliant as the eccentric Scull and Steve Zahn really does capture something of Robert Duvall in his portrayal of Gus. Duvall of course was the actor who first brought Gus to life in the Lonesome Dove mini-series.

Comanche Moon then is another must read - simmers in places  but quite excellent.

Monday 20 July 2015

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 13 Jul - 19 Jul 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits16970688465376255579
First Time Visits15858638162355951674
Returning Visits111253323396

Monday 13 July 2015

Dead Man's Walk by Larry McMurtry Book review

I've have decided to read the entire Lonesome Dove saga in chronological order which means I kick off with Dead Man's Walk which was actually the third book published following Lonesome Dove (chronologically the third book) and Streets of Laredo (a direct sequel to Lonesome Dove and chronologically the fourth and final book in the series) . I'd previously read the Pulitzer Prize winning, Lonesome Dove but the rest of the series were new to me, though I had seen all the TV movies based on the book. And to be honest now that I've read Dead Man's Walk I can say that the TV mini-series was pretty damn faithful with only a few cosmetic changes.

To clear things up the order of publication for the series:
Lonesome Dove  (1985)
Streets of Laredo  (1993)
Dead Man's Walk  (1995)
Comanche Moon  (1997)

Though in chronological order the series goes:
Dead Man' walk
Comanche Moon
Lonesome Dove
Streets of Laredo

Dead Man's Walk then gives us the very early years of Gus McCrea and Woodrow Call and depicts how the boys first became friends and of how they joined the Texas Rangers. The book starts with Gus and Woodrow signed on as rangers with a road scouting expedition led by the inept  Major Chevallier. During the expedition they are repeatedly attacked by Indians led by a deformed Comanche called Buffalo Hump.

 During this early section of the book we get to know the important characters, especially Gus and Woodrow - their personalities are sketched out over a number of brilliantly written set pieces, usually involving the war chief, Buffalo Hump. Gus is the talkative, whore-loving, easy to get along with type, which his best friend, Woodrow is solid, dependable, serious minded and not all together likable. When Gus visits a whore he is in love with her and treats her with genuine affection, while when Woodrow visits he gets his business done and then gets out of there without a wasted word. The two men are polar opposites but they live and breath  as real people on the page and the chemistry between them is excellent.

There are several other secondary characters who are equally well drawn - Matty, known as the Great Western, is the whore who throws snapping turtles at the men and generally allows them a poke till pay day, Bigfoot Wallace is a mountain man with a fine line in storytelling, Shadrach is another mountain man, an aged character in the final years of his life. And then we have Long Bill Coleman and Johnny Carthage, two everyman types who provide one or two moments of comic relief as well as several truly poignant scenes.

Gus and Woodrow make it back from the first expedition, regarding it a failure but no sooner are they in Austin than they sign up for an expedition to capture and annex Santa Fe. This expedition is led by the pirate and soldier of fortune, Celeb Cobb but unfortunately he proves to be just as useless a leader as Major Chevallier. Before they leave Austin though Gus has finds to meet and fall madly in love with a Clara Forsythe, a young lady who works in her father's general store.
Woodrow and Gus from the TV mini series based on Dead Man's Walk

"Why I believe I have smitten Mr. McCrae," Clara said with a laugh. "I doubt I could smite you though, Mr. Call- not unless I had a club."

Indeed Cal has to remind Gus that he's signed up for the expedition when he announces that he is remaining behind and plans to marry Clara Forsythe.

"Marry her - you ain't got a cent,"  Call said. "Anyway, why would she have you? You ain't known her ten minutes."

"Ten minutes is enough," Gus said. "I want to marry her and I aim to."

It is only the fact that leaving the expedition would be desertion and that he would be shot for the crime, that persuades Gus to go on with the expedition though he vows he will return and marry the young woman.

The storyline truly is epic and the doomed Santa Fe expedition makes for an incredible feat of storytelling in which the author keeps the reader glued to page after page of incredible prose. The period and people are brought vividly to life, and the author doesn't shy away from the cruelty of the times.

There is one scene that had me cringing as I tuned the pages, a scene in which Gus, Woodrow and Bigfoot Wallace savagely stab a buffalo they have already shot a couple of dozen times. The beast just won't die - this scene was altered significantly for the TV version. Strange that I should find this scene so distasteful when there are gruesome scalpings, tortures and shootings which I lapped up. Still the author is right in bringing the scene to such vivid, horrific life and he seems to be using the overkill of this single buffalo to highlight the wanton destruction of the species by the whites during the westward expansion. Much is made of the fact that the white's only seem interested in the liver and testicles of the Buffalo,considering them a luxury but will allow the rest of the beast to go to waste, while when the Indians kill one of the noble creatures nothing is wasted. The buffalo is given almost mythic status within the story and serves as a symbol of a way of life fast vanishing

In all 200 people left on the expedition but gradually they were whittled down until only a handful survive - one incredible scene sees the adventurers having to climb down a cliff to avoid a prairie fire started by the Comanches, but this is only one set piece amongst a string of ever more audacious events.

The author certainly knows how to carry a story and I, as a western writer, found myself amazed at how real the story became as I read. If I could only achieve something half as good in my own writing.

Overall I would say this book is a worthy start to an incredible saga - the author seeks to demythologise the West and show it as it must have really been, but at the same time in Gus and Woodrow he has created two characters who firmly belong in the myth of the western. Poetic, brutal, beautiful and above all compelling - I picked up the book every chance I got and thought nothing of sitting there reading for a couple of hours at a time.

Right's straight into Comanche Moon

Tainted stats

Weekly Stats Report: 6 Jul - 12 Jul 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits10999611801425985735105
First Time Visits10097571751405780706101
Returning Visits9245225294

A tribute to Randy Johnson - rest in peace, sir.

Social Media has changed people's lives and I'm hurting at the moment at the loss of a man I'd never met in person, though knew well thanks to the reach of the Internet. I first became aware of Randy Johnson when he reviewed my first novel, Tarnished Star. He emailed me several times, telling me how much he enjoyed the book and he also followed my blog. He directed me to his own blog, Not the Baseball Pitcher, which I promptly followed. Randy's interests were much along the lines of my own - he loved westerns and classic crime movies and each time I published a new book, Randy was one of the first customers to click that buy button and he didn't fail to review any of my titles.

Randy made a network of friends with similar interests and I myself am honoured to be a part of that community, and I know that there are a lot of people like myself who are hurting by this devastating loss. People who's lives Randy enriched with his prescence.

Randy was blogging to the end, posting  right up to the day he passed on. And this week the following was posted on Randy's blog -

By the time you read this, I will be gone. My health is not what it should be these days, the result of a lifetime of doing all the wrong things.

I just want to take the time to say good-bye to those of you out there I’ve come to know in the internet land. I’ve never met any of you and never expected to, but I consider you friends and hope you do the same. The same likes and interests brought us together.

It made my life better to a degree to follow your blogs each day, to laugh or cry at the things you posted on, to participate in discussions on various subjects. My disability kept me confined to the house for the most part. I can go in my car on a limited basis to any place where I didn’t have to get out(kind of limits destinations though). Mostly it is just trips to doctors. 

I live alone. Family members or friends call or come by every day to help out(I don’t know how I’d have made it without them), but I’m alone most of the day. So mostly my world consisted of books, my computer, and television in that order.

One thing I’ve missed the last few years is going to the brick and mortar book stores. My little town had a Waldenbooks, but it closed a few years back, and there are no others, not even a used store. The nearest city with bookstores is thirty-eight miles away. It has the usual chains and a couple of independents as well, though bookstores in general are slowly starting to disappear.

The internet and Amazon made it possible for me to get books delivered here. That was only good for things I knew about though. That stumbling across the occasional little gem was a thing of the past except for all you folks’ blogs. Especially Patti Abbott’s Forgotten Books on Fridays. That brought a wealth of new finds for me(I wish I could have afforded all of them). But I found recommendations from all of you that I might never have tried otherwise.

Thank You!
It’s been a lot of fun. I’m saving this post and will have a family member post the particulars when the time comes.
Good Bye to all!

Thank you, sir. It's been an honour knowing you and I appreciate all the support you gave regarding my writing and the friendship you offered. I knew the vague details of your illness but you were a brave man and your blog seldom mentioned your ills. You remained cheerful, despite all you were going through, and supported many writers with your  insightful reviews. I have just submitted a new western to my publishers and have promptly sent off an email so that the dedication reads: In memory of Randy Johnson, fan and friend. It's a small gesture I know but one, I think, Randy would have liked.

 You were and remain a truly wonderful person.

You will not be forgotten.

Sunday 12 July 2015

Let's all be grateful the Hateful are on the way

Quentin Tarantino assembled his “The Hateful Eight” team for a panel at Comic-Con in San Diego on Saturday.

During the panel, Tarantino announced that legendary film composer Ennio Morricone will write the score for “Hateful Eight,” marking his first Western score in 40 years. Morricone is best known for his innovative music for the Spaghetti Westerns, particularly “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

The director was joined by the main cast members who make up the titular “Eight,” minus Samuel L. Jackson, who provided the voiceover for one of the videos presented during the panel. Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth and Bruce Dern were among those from the cast attending the discussion.

“Quentin has greatest attention to detail as any director who ever lived,” Dern said. “If he had a rival it would only be Luchino Visconti.”

Tarantino went into a rant against digital cinema  - “That’s not the movie industry I signed up for,” Tarantino said. “I am not a fan of digital projection…we’ve already ceded too much ground to the barbarians.” Digital cinema, he said, is “like HBO in public. So maybe I’ll move into TV.”

Monday 6 July 2015

A TV hit in their Gunsights

Western fans will rejoice at the news that AMC, home of Hell on Wheels  are to bring Elmore Leonard's 1979 novel, Gunsights to the small screen.

The plan is for a pilot movie to be made which will go to a series to replace AMC's Hell on Wheels which is soon to start its fifth and final season.

Published in 1979, Gunsights follows Army officer Brendan Early and scout Dana Moon, who used to work together for the 10th Cavalry. Now the former friend and allies find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict between a mining company and a group of settlers. Brendan works for said mining company, which wants to rid an Arizona mountainside of settlers, including Mexicans, Apaches, and former 10th Cavalry soldiers. Dana is one of those settlers, an Indian agent defending the land against these mining company thugs.

AMC, home of the successful Walking Dead, are tuning out some quality TV series and this bodes well for Gunsights. After all AMC's Hell on Wheels is a pretty fine western series so I eagerly await the arrival of Gunsights.

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 29 Jun - 5 Jul 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits4952526872556241059
First Time Visits4246506271506138255
Returning Visits7626151284

Thursday 2 July 2015

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Stephen King is on a roll with his Bill Hodges trilogy and this the second and middle book, following on directly from Mr Mercedes is another nail biter - I've gone through both books in a couple of weeks and to use the reviewer's cliche, I couldn't put the books down. This second volume, billed as another story about a fan obsessed with a writer claims to have shades of the author's earlier Misery, but the novel is a totally different beast to King's earlier novel. Where Misery was a tightly contained masterclass in suspense, Finders Keepers is a more sprawling work with far more threads to be tied into the whole. I loved Misery; it's one of my favourite King novels and I don't think it is helpful to compare the two novels as they are world's apart. In fact the only common factor they share is that they are both totally compelling works.

Finders Keeps is structured for the first act in two time frames - 1978 and the present day. Back in the Sensational Seventies we are introduced to petty criminal Morris Bellamy who just so happens to be a huge fan of reclusive writer, John Rothstein, who seems to be based somewhat on J. D. Salinger. Bellamy is furious at Rothstein for allowing his most famous character, Jimmy Gold (a symbol for teenage America) to sell out in the last book of his acclaimed Runner trilogy.

"Shit don't mean shit."

After the publication of the third Runner novel, Rothstein gave up public life and as far as his public knew he was no longer writing. However there have long been rumours that Rothstein is in fact writing but will not publish his work, and keeps it hidden away together with strict instructions that it be destroyed when he dies.

 So popular is the character of Jimmy Gold that his catchphrase, 'shit don't mean shit' sells millions of T-shirts.

“You created one of the greatest characters in American literature, then shit on him... A man who could do that doesn’t deserve to live,”

The above line comes from Morris Bellamy and is part of a blackly comical exchange between himself and the reclusive writer after he breaks into the writer's secluded home. Bellamy has two other men with him and after finding a considerable amount of cash, and better still a pile of notebooks containing everything Rothstein had written since retiring from publishing, Bellamy shoots the writer in the head. Afterwards he kills his two accomplaces and flees into the night....he's not interested in the money but looks forward to reading all the unpublished fiction, who knows, he figures, there may even be a new Runner novel amongst all the moleskin  notebooks he's stolen.

Morris buries the notebooks and cash in an old suitcase while he waits for the heat to die down, but unfortunately one drunken night leads to him being arrested for assualt and rape and being sentanced to life in prison. Thirty years later the suitcase is discovered by young Peter Saubers who uses the money to help his family - his dad was injured during the mercedes massacre which was the plotline of the previous book Mr Mercedes.

Of course these two story threads come together when Morris Bellamy is released from prison, still batshit crazy and looking forward to reading the stolen Rothstein notebooks. Cue the entrance of Bill Hodges, the wonderfully drawn, Holly and Jerome. The team who solved the Mr Mercedes case are back!

Finders Keeps, at 400 pages, is short by King's doorstopper standards and all the better for it - expertly plotted the book hurtles towards another thrilling conclusion. I especially liked the way we see the Mr Mercedes massacre again,-  this time from a different character's POV and after several years of avoiding Mr King I think I am firmly back in the King is the King camp. The third book (rumoured to be called The Suicide Prince or End of Watch)  will obviously feature the return of Brady Hartfield (the killer from Mr Mercedes) who appears several times in this book and seems to have developed some sort of supernatural power.

Both Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers have been straightforward crime thrillers and I do hope King doesn't go down the supernatural route for his next novel in the series. Whatever happens....I can't wait for the third novel and pray King doesn't go down the Rothstein route and lock the manuscript away unpublished.....because shit don't mean shit until I get the next book.


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