Monday 31 August 2015

Wes Craven RIP

For a period from around the early 80's to the mid 90's director Wes Craven was, at least in horror movie terms, considered one of the best movie makers in the world. As  a teenager I lapped up his output with flicks such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills have Eyes and even The People Under the Stairs. These movies fulfilled a teenage need for celluloid thrills. Craven became a superstar in genre terms and he was always sought after for interviews in film magazines. His best known movie was probably the original Nightmare on Elm Street though ironically his highest grossing was 1996's Scream - that particular movie was a clever post modern parody of the type of movie that made him famous in the first place, and kick-started a franchise to rival the Elm Street series.

On August 30, 2015, Craven died of brain cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 76 years old

Monday 24 August 2015

RIP Melody Patterson - a true Western rose.

Melody Patterson, a well known name to western fans, has died at the age of 66. The California-born actress was best known for her portrayal of the spirited Wrangler Jane in the 1965-67 ABC sitcom F Troop . Her passing was announced by her F Troop co-star Larry Storch, who posted Friday on his Facebook site: “It’s with a heavy heart that we can let you know our beloved Wrangler Jane, Melody Patterson passed away today. Our hearts are sad today. RIP Sweet Melody. We love you.”

F Troop was set at Fort Courage — a fictional United States Army outpost in the Old West—from just at the end of the American Civil War in 1865 to at least 1867. There is a town of the same name adjacent to the fort. Fort Courage was named for fictitious General Sam Courage (portrayed by Cliff Arquette), who has been in the Army for forty years The fort itself is in the stockade style stereo typically found in most American westerns.

Much of the humor of the series derives from the scheming of Captain Parmenter's somewhat crooked but amiable non-commissioned officers, Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke (Forrest Tucker) and Corporal Randolph Agarn (Larry Storch). They, in league with the local (fictitious) American Indian tribe, the Hekawis—led by Chief Wild Eagle (Frank de Kova), are forever seeking to expand and conceal their shady business deals covertly and collectively referred to as "O'Rourke Enterprises". Initially, rations and pay were drawn for 30 men at Fort Courage, even though only 17 are actually accounted for (the other 13, according to O'Rourke, are Indian scouts who only come to the fort at night and leave before dawn). The pay of the fictitious scouts is apparently used to help finance the dealings of O'Rourke Enterprises. Although O'Rourke and Agarn try to take full advantage of Captain Parmenter's innocence and naïveté, they are also very fond of and fiercely protective of him, and woe be to anyone attempting to harm him.

Following her time in F Troop Melody appeared in many other TV series and more recently wrote a regular column for Wildest Westerns Magazine. Her first  marriage was  to JamesMacArthur famed for playing Danno in the original Hawaii Five-O.

Patterson died in a nursing home on August 20, 2015, at age 66. Multiple organ failure was the reported cause.

 RIP sweet lady - below we have embedded a full episode of F Troop

Sunday 23 August 2015

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 17 Aug - 23 Aug 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits7787747695828457582
First Time Visits7583697292808255379
Returning Visits2454322223

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Keep Calm and Read On

Following the success of my book, Cardiff and the Valleys in the Great War , the publishers commissioned a follow up to be entitled Cardiff at War 1939 - 1945. As you can imagine the book requires a lot of careful research and recently while going through news archives I found a newspaper article from January 1940 that I'd like to share here.

It seems that during the early years of the war there was a spike in reading - I'm not sure if this was nationwide but Cardiff library found itself incredibly busy. So much so in fact that the library collected together its data and told the South Wales Echo of its most popular titles.

Black Out Makes Cardiff Read More, the newspaper headlined. which means there must have been a lot of candles burning behind those black out curtains. Though as of yet I've not found an article on the spike in candle sales  - Escapist fiction was understandable extremely popular, as was Richard Llewellyn's beautiful How Green was my Valley - apparently people who saw the hardships of the coal mining industry first hand also enjoyed reading about them. The public were also very keen to educate themselves on the background of the crisis in Europe and books about Germany and Hitler in particular were hired out often. Hitler' s Mein Kampf was eagerly read, as was Hitler Speaks which reproduced a lot of the mad little Charley Chaplin impersonator's speeches.

There was also a revival in classic literature and Wuthering Heights was particularly popular.

As a book lover myself, a constant reader I took great pleasure from reading the article, and it's nice to think of all those people hunched over a book in the dimness of the black out - I wonder what they would have thought of the Kindle Paperwhite?

Cardiff and the Valleys in the Great War (Pen and Sword Books) is available now in both print and electronic formats. Check it out by CLICKING HERE

Cardiff at War 1939 - 1945 is scheduled to be published December 2018.

Sunday 9 August 2015

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 3 Aug - 9 Aug 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits78665760657810851273
First Time Visits70644955657610648569
Returning Visits8285022274

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Wild West History - Those Cook Boys

History has not bestowed upon them the notoriety of The James Gang, nor are they as well known as The Daltons but in their day The Cook Gang were every bit as feared as any of the Old West's outlaws.

"They are a stench to the nostril of lawful men." Said one Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) newspaper in 1890. and during the height of their crimes they were pursued by a team of U. S. marshalls, the Army and even The Texas Rangers.

Their leader was William Tuttle Cook but their ranks changed so often that it is impossible to pin down all the names of the actual members.

The first recorded incident of Bill (William) Cook falling foul of the law was in 1892 when the half Cherokee, was charged with selling whisky in Indian Territory. Later Bill worked as a posseman for U.S. Marshall Will Smith. But when his kid brother Jim was charged with larceny and jumped bail in 1894 he moved over to the other side of the law and joined his brother on the lam. It was not too long before the two brothers met and joined up with Crawford Goldsby, an outlaw, better known to history as Cherokee Bill.

Together with other men, drifters mostly, including Jim French, Skeeter Baldwin and The Verdigris Kid (Sam Mcwilliams then only 17 years old), they started stealing horses whilst keeping one step ahead of the law.

In the Spring of 1894 the U.S. Government passed the law that became to be known as, 'Strip Money'. This was $7 million of compensation to be paid to the Cherokee Nation at Tahlequah. Now Cherokee Bill and the two Cook boys were entitled to payment under the scheme but being on the scout, as they called it, they didn't see how they could claim it. They eventually gave written persmission to one Effie Crittendon to collect their shares on their behalf.

When the law learned of this they sent a Cherokee posse out to Effie's home at Fourteen Mile Creek to capture the outlaws. The posse included Effie's husband, Dick Critterdon. There was a shoot out and Sequoyah Houston, a respected member of the Cherokee police, was killed. The two Cook brothers and Cherokee Bill managed to escape. Though Jim Cook was wounded by buckshot.

Following the incident the newspapers were calling the men 'The Cook Gang' and so began a trail of theft, murder and unspeakable violence that would turn The Cook Gang into household names across America.

Yet they are not remembered today in the way other Old West Badmen are -there was nothing romantic about the Cook gang, nothing to really mythologise though some did try - legend says that as Cherokee Bill was finally led to the hangman his last words were - "I came here to die and not make a speech. It is a good day to die." Though in fact documents record that he had no last words.

Bill Cook, leader of the gang, died in prison in 1901. His brother Jim had died the year earlier when he came second place in a gunfight over an argument about a steer.

If this brief article has prompted anyone to want to learn more about The Cook gang then I suggest getting hold of Black, Red and Deadly by Art Burton.

Monday 3 August 2015

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 27 Jul - 2 Aug 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits8264516273627747167
First Time Visits6962455870576742861
Returning Visits132643510436

Sunday 2 August 2015

Montecute Film and TV Museum

Recently I passed through the small Somerset village of Montacute -    
  a small village and civil parish in Somerset, England, 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Yeovil. The village has a population of 831 (2011 census). The name Montacute is thought by some to derive from the Latin "Mons Acutus", referring to the small but still quite acute Ham Hill dominating the village to the west.The village is built almost entirely of the local hamstone. From the 15th century until the beginning of the 20th century it formed the heart of the estate of the Phelips family of Montacute House. The village has a fine medieval church, and a former Cluniac priory, the gatehouse of which is now a private house.

- the village also boasts the Montecute TV and Film Museum. Of course as soon as I saw this I had to pay a visit - my childhood was spent during what many consider to have been the golden age of TV and I have always been interested in pop culture and of course nostalgia is a big pull to my mindset.

The museum is housed in one of the beautiful hamstone buildings on  South Street and although a relatively small building, the museum is packed to the rafters with interesting exhibits and some cool manequins that I couldn't resist having my photograph taken with. Roger Moore, Kojak, Del and Rodney are just some of the life size models on show. There are also a large selection of vintage TV and Radio sets.

It's a great place to visit.

Entry was £8 for adults and £6 for children - I thought this was reasonable as you can go through as many times as you want and stay as long as you want. I spent ages looking at the old magazines, TV listings magazines and old copies of the Radio Times. Afterwards you can go and sit in the garden and have refreshments alongside a lifesize Elvis.


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