Wednesday 30 December 2015

2015 and all that

2015 was a busy year for me - as well as penning a new western, Riding the Vengeance Trail (out May 2016), I found myself working on two major non fiction projects Cardiff and the Valleys in the Great War saw publication from Pen and Sword Books during the summer, while Dark Valleys, a look at historical murders that have taken place in and around the South Wales Valleys will see print during 2016.

I'm still writing and polishing the latter title - my deadline looms a month away, and I'm pleased with the way the work is shaping up. The research threw up some interesting avenues of investigation, and I was able to share some new information with the police regarding a cold case from 1993 - but you'll
be able to read about that later in 2016 when the book sees print. Ive also signed another contract for a follow up to my first world war study, -  Cardiff at War 1939-1945 will likely see print during mid 2017, but I'll be starting the work on this title immediately following the delivery of the manuscript for Dark Valleys to my publisher.

During the summer, May to be precise my western, The Man From Jerusalem saw print, and sadly turned out to be my last western for Robert Hale, the publishing house that first put me into print. In Dec 2015 Robert Hale shut up shop after more than 80 years in the publishing business. They had my forthcoming, Riding the Vengeance Trail under contract and to say I was dismayed is an understatement. Still there was a silver lining in the shape of Crowood Publishing who are to continue the Black Horse Western line and my book is to see publication in May as originally scheduled. Still I'm going to miss Robert Hale and owe them a great deal.

Several of my older titles are to be republished by the wonderful Piccadilly Publishing - Tarnished Star and Wild Bill Williams will be the first two - Tarnished Star now goes under a different name, LawMaster in order to tie into a film version, that director Neil Jones is developing.

I'm pleased to be publishing with Piccadilly Publishing and plan to pen a new western for them during the first few month of 2016. And I'm hoping that the company will be able to put me westerns before a new and larger audience.

Piccadilly Publishing is the brainchild of longtime Western fans and Amazon Kindle Number One bestselling Western writers Mike Stotter and David Whitehead (a.k.a. Ben Bridges). Since 2012 the company has been bringing back into 'e-print' some of the most popular and best-loved Western and action-adventure series fiction of the last forty years.

They certainly have a high profile on the Internet and as you can see from the new cover art for, Wild Bill Williams they  mean business. As soon as the new editions are available I'll let you all know.

What have I enjoyed this year? Well there was a new Bond movie, Spectre and although not as strong as Skyfall it was a damn entertaining ride, Quentin Tarantino delivered a great western in The Hateful Eight and there was another bloody Star Wars movie. I didn't visit the big screen as much as usual in 2015 (Im getting tired of superhero movies) but I did follow some great TV - the second season of Fargo was even better than the excellent first, and The Walking Dead returned for a new season and seemed to be back on form. Hell on Wheels also returned to the small screen and so far the first half of the fifth and final season has been aired - I enjoyed it overall but think the show is starting to power down. Still the mid-season climax was exciting stuff and I'm eager for the conclusion early in the new year. There was also a TV pilot, thanks to Amazon, of Edge, the western character created by George G. Gilman. And whilst not brilliant the pilot did show promise so fingers crossed.

What books stick in my mind? Well I very much enjoyed the new Bond novel, Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz. Stupid title aside it was a bloody good read that managed to feel like Fleming was once again pounding the keyboard. This year also saw Stephen King publishing the first two books in the Bill Hodges Trilogy and I think these books are among the best he's ever written - Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers kept me turning the pages. A lot was made of the fact that these were straightforward crime thrillers with no supernatural elements, but to me they felt like vintage King and the characters were as good as ever. End of Watch, the final book in the trilogy will be published this coming summer and I can't wait to finish the story.

I also read a fair few westerns this year - going through the entire Lonesome Dove series in chronological order rather than publication order, and found that I was noticing a lot of continuity errors when read in this way. I also caught up with classic westerns thanks to new eBook editions and have especially enjoyed rediscovering Herne the Hunter. I also  read a lot of crime fiction this year - The Girl in the Spider's Web was a worthy continuation of Stieg Larsson's Millenium series. No one could have expected this book to stand up alongside the original classics but author, David Lagerchrantz seems to have managed it. We lost Ruth Rendell this year and Dark Corners was published as a posthumous work. The author had all but completed the book when she died in May and all that remained was for some polishing. I very much enjoyed this book and was deeply saddened by the death of the author. The world of fiction also lost another of its great voices this year, when Terry Pratchett passed away in March. His final Discworld novel, The Shepard's Crown came out during August and although I picked up a copy on publication day I have yet to read it. It sits in my TBR pile and will be tackled soon.

During 2015 eBook sales seem to have levelled off but the industry is still strong - of course the year started with the tremors resonating from the Amazon/Hatchette book pricing row but now that the industry has matured somewhat it was inevitable that sales would even off. Though eBooks are still doing the business and look set to continue doing so. All in all though it was a calm year with Amazon upgrading the excellent paperwhite device, and admitting that their prestige Voyage eBook reader failed to find the market. In truth the Paperwhite device is so good that there is no need to try and top it. And whilst the Voyage may be the best eBook reader out there it is simply too expensive and is, let's face it, not that much better than the Paperwhite.

And so we fast forward into 2016 - on a personal note I've got the birth of my first grandchild to look forward to, and I'm hoping to get a couple more books written. As well as the contracted titles, I've set myself a target of writing at least three novels during the coming year. I certainly need to get the fourth Granny Smith novel done and somewhere in the back of my mind I can feel another Jack Martin novel taking shape-still we'll talk about all that at the end of the year.

Monday 28 December 2015


Weekly Stats Report: 21 Dec - 27 Dec 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits1091161179094104109739106
First Time Visits1081121138887101107716102
Returning Visits1442732233

Friday 25 December 2015

Fifty Rashers PART ONE

One - I arrive at Chequers

I knew there was something different about this farm, that it was going to change my life in ways that I could never have imagined; not even in my wildest dreams. When I arrived at the farm I was just like any other pig, no different to the two dozen others who were driven into the pen besides me, but when I left there I was a very different pig. Gone was my innocence -  replaced with a cynicism that no pig should carry around.
            The first day at Chequers Farm was spent mostly meeting the other pigs and talking about the master, a man known as Farmer Giles. I discovered that the farmer didn't actually own the farm himself, but was simply the manager. He lived in the large 12th century farmhouse with his partner, or husband rather, a middle aged man who went by the name of Nigel Deranged. By all accounts they were a lovely couple who treated the livestock on the farm with kindness and respect. I was pleased to hear the latter as my previous farm had been run by a Mr. Murduck, a man with evil looking eyes who was prone to kicking out at any animal as he walked past. I myself had been on the receiving end of several well aimed boots, usually followed by a string of Australian accented curses, that turned my ordinarily pink rump into an angry shade of blue.
            'On a fine night they often sit out on that bench there,' Rasher, an elderly pig, who claimed his family had been connected to Chequers for more two centuries, told me as we rooted about in the dirt by the fence. 'They call it their love seat and when the weather's nice they sit there for hours, holding hands and watching over the farm.'
            I snorted as I chewed on a thick worm that I pulled from the ground. The worm seemed to be made of elastic and it clung to the dirt so that I had to yank it viciously into my mouth.
            'That's nice,' I said, and swallowed the worm. 'I think I'm going to like it here.'
            'You will,' Rasher nodded so fiercely that a fine mist of snot was sent onto the air. '
            I sniffed the air and watched as a car came up the lane approaching the farmyard.
            'That's Dave Hameron,' Rasher said, pointing his snout in the direction of the approaching vehicle. 'He's a friend of the master and a very important man. A politician, I believe.'
            'Politician?' I looked at Rasher. I don't think I'd ever heard the word before.
            'Yes,' Rasher nodded. 'A politician.'
            'What's a politician?'
            Rasher's ancient features wrinkled into a frown. He was silent for several moments, before snorting and looking me directly in the eyes.
            'You may very well ask,' he said.
            'I am asking. What's a politician?'
            'Well, I don't rightly know,' Rasher admitted. 'But one thing I do know is that they are very important.'
            'I see,' I said and watched the car pull up into the farmyard. The car certainly  looked like a vehicle someone very important would drive. I continued watching as a man stepped from the car. He was well dressed, looking comfortable in a smart lightweight suit and open necked shirt. He glanced in the direction of the pig pen and I feel sure that our eyes met. For just the briefest of moments he seemed to be looking directly into my eyes and I felt a warmth deep down in my very soul, my inner goddess had been aroused.

Two – Forbidden desires

It was my third day at the farm before Dave Hameron approached me. He had been walking about the farmyard with the master for some time, deep in conversation. I’d watched him from the pen while several other pigs rooted about in the dirt, looking for the particularly tasty worms that thrived in the soil beneath us. I did like a good worm myself, but when that man was about I could think of nothing else. I knew that mixed species relationships rarely worked and indeed, outside of Wales, weren’t very common but it was no good telling my inner goddess that. She had become a nymphomaniac deity and I lifted my snout into the air, sniffing to catch just the merest whiff of the man.
            ‘What you looking at?’
            The voice came from behind me and startled me. I turned and looked into Rasher’s aged features.
            ‘Nothing,’ I said.
            ‘You are looking at him,’ Rasher accusingly pointed his snout in the direction of the master and the man, I now thought of as, sex on legs. And we both watched as the men entered the farm house.
            ‘No,’ I said. ‘I was just enjoying the sunshine. It’s a lovely day.’
            Rasher snorted with derision, said: ‘I’ve seen that look upon your face before. I’ve seen it on other faces.’
            I shook me head, my ears flapped as I did so.
            ‘Don’t be silly,’ I hated myself when  I stammered over the words. My inner goddess had been discovered, and she was doing cartwheels within my soul. ‘I’m a pig! Why would I be interested in a human?’
            ‘Why indeed,’ Rasher said, rather cryptically I thought.
            I snorted and turned on my feet, burying my snout in the dirt. A moment later I pulled out a particularly juicy worm and swallowed it whole.
            ‘It’s forbidden,’ Rasher said, firmly.
            ‘What is?’ I asked. The worm had helped me regain my composure and I felt better as if my desires for the man were not so obvious.
            Rasher shook his huge head, sadness evident in his eyes. For a moment he too rooted about in the dirt but he soon looked up, looked at me.
            ‘It does happen,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen it happen before, many times before. And it always leads to heartache and madness. Don’t do it.’
            ‘I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about,’ I said and walked away. I didn’t want to talk about it any longer, though deep down I knew Rasher was right. Any relationship between man and pig was doomed from the start. Though still the thoughts persisted – it wasn’t my mind that was leading me, no something much more primal  guided me. My inner goddess had desires, and forbidden or not she was going to act upon them.
            Several hours went by, I spent them rooting about in the dirt but my thoughts constantly went back to Dave Hameron. In my mind’s eye I saw him naked, felt him holding me tight. These thoughts scared me, but at the same time they excited me and no matter how hard I tried to shake them off they returned to taunt me.
 Later that afternoon the master came into the pen, slipped a collar around my neck and led me from the pen.
‘C’mon piggie,’  he said and yanked on the lead.
            I didn’t know where the master was talking me and I was scared. I didn’t think I was big enough for slaughter, but where else but the big house could the master be taking me? The big house, that was the place where many pigs had gone but none ever returned.
            Big house, big house, big house – the words bounced around my mind, creating a panic that took on the physical form of a fever. I sneezed, my head pulling at the leash.
            ‘Bloody pig,’ the master said and pulled me even harder, so hard in fact that I stumbled and he dragged me several feet on my side. We reached a large barn at the far northern point of the farmyard before I regained my feet. And all I could do was stand there shivering as the master released the heavy lock and slid the doors open.
            ‘Get in,’ the master said, giving me a swift boot to my rump as he forced me inside.
            The master closed the door.
            Then there was nothing but darkness.
            I’m not sure how long I sat there terrified before there was a tugging on my lead. I peered into the darkness but I could  see nothing.
            ‘Hello little pig.’
            It had been a kind voice, a warm voice and I felt some of the fear draining from me.
            ‘Come on babe,’ the disembodied voice said and there was another tug of my lead. ‘Come on. Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you.’
            Suddenly I felt a hand upon my back and then another hand. I turned my head and saw him, Dave Hameron, standing behind me. He was naked, his pink sausage like penis standing perfectly erect.
            ‘My desires are unconventional,’ he said, smiled and then pushed his sex into me.
            I squealed, at first with shock but then with pleasure as the man pushed deeper inside. He kissed the back of my neck, nuzzling into my flesh as he pumped in and out of my sex with his pleasure pole.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 7 Dec - 13 Dec 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits114141218154666477834119
First Time Visits96128209149616172776111
Returning Visits181395535588

Magazine Watch - Crime Scene issue 2

Collectable Cover 1
Issue 2 of Crime Scene Magazine is currently available in this shops - this is only the second issue and they are already trying to tempt readers to buy an extra copy by releasing two different covers for this issue - does anyone actually do this? It seems to be quite a common ploy by news-stand magazines - I noticed that this month's Empire magazine is out with a zillion different Star Wars covers, and Classic Rock also did this to celebrate Iron Maiden's new album a few months ago. I guess the theory is that collectors will buy multiple magazines.

Ze capatalist magazine producers...come ze revolution...

Still I don't need marketing gimmicks to buy an extra copy of this magazine - I regard this publication so highly that I buy an issue to read until it is falling apart and another to keep mint in my collection. I did this with issue one and I've just picked up two issues of this second issue, A Nordic Noir themed issue.

Collectable Cover 2
It's a glossy magazine and in layout resembles publications like Total Film but this magazine is dedicated to the crime genre and is written by journalists that understand and love the genre. This second issue features interviews with Idris Elba, Martina Cole, Sofia Heflin and others, and the Nordic centrepiece features an unpublished interview with the late, Henning Mankell. There are detailed set reports from the forthcoming Sherlock Christmas Special as well as  the second season of Fargo. On the true crime front there is an interview with Brooke Magnanti,a  forensic scientist, who talks about the realities of forensic investigations.

The history of the genre is also taken care with an article on the first detective, Poe's  Auguste Dupin. The story Murders in the Rue Morgue, published in 1841 is often called the first detective fiction.

I really do like this magazine - its excellently written and the first issue introduced me to the documentaries The Jinx and The Staircase which I have poured through this past month. And WOW! they made for compelling viewing.

The features are rounded out with  book, film and TV reviews and while reading these I found myself making a wish list. At £7.99  the magazine is a little on the expensive side but at 130 pages it is well worth the expense.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Cole Masters rides back

My debut western, Tarnished Star remains Robert Hale's fastest selling western and it will soon see an all new edition under the title of LawMaster. The new title ties in with the movie which is now in early development.

Monday 7 December 2015

10 Reasons why Star Wars is Shit

I swore I wouldn't, but I have. I've become sucked up into the hype surrounding the new Star Wars movie. Fucking addictive space operatics.

To prepare for the new film, and in a mood of extreme masochism, I decided to revisit the previous six movies and watch them in chronological order.

Well  I've just sat through The Phantom Menace in 3D,  and it's no better in 3D, in fact it's worse. The colours are overly saturated and Jar Jar Binks is celluloid toothache. I mean all the character ever does is look up at the sky, ceiling, roof and utter complete drivel - dialogue which sounds vaguely racist, almost like the crows in Dumbo .  Jar Jar Binks was so obviously designed to make a cute cuddly toy that I was half expecting him to have a barcode woven into his costume.

 The Phantom Menace is more than a bad movie with one or two good bits - it's a terrible movie with one or two good bits. Okay the pod race, obviously designed with the video game in mind,  is fun and the double light sabres look fantastic, but to get to these parts we have to sit through young Darth Vader yelling, 'Whoopie' a dozen or so times, as well as a plot so convoluted and nonsensical that the viewer is in danger of losing the will to live. It's something to do with tax inspectors - least, I think so.

"Jar Jar Binks was so obviously designed to make a cute cuddly toy that I was half expecting him to have a barcode woven into his costume."

I mean come on - The Phantom Menace is just a two hour commercial for George Lucas to wring even more bucks out of a stale concept. 

Obviously George hasn't thought the re-release program through properly just as he didn't think the story of The Phantom Menace through before disappointing Star Wars fans everywhere.

There are those that defend The Phantom Menace but that's got to be blind allegiance to the franchise.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not going to watch the Clone Wars TV series until I've seen the Clone Wars movie. I prefer to let George Lucas disappoint me in the order he intended." Sheldon, The Big Bang Theory

I must confess I'm not a huge fan of the Star Wars series and I think that as a whole it's overrated. I went and saw the original Star Wars at least half a dozen times, but then I was twelve at the time and although the film is still watchable it's hardly the intelligent SCI-FI often displayed by the likes of Star Trek, and saying, as many do,  that Star Wars created a mythology as rich as Tolkein's Lord of the Rings saga is, in my opinion, going a bit far.

However the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back is as good a SCI-FI film as any other and I must admit that the original Star Wars is in its own way a classic of cinema, but after that the franchise left me cold. The Ewoks in Return of the Jedi were a transparent attempt at launching a new toy range, and every Star Wars incarnation since has had one eye on the cash register. If Gordon Gekko made movies this is what they would look like.

Star Wars may have initially been  a great saga but George Lucas has turned it into a pile of crap. And I stick by that statement.

Below I present ten reasons why I think Star Wars is crap.

1 - Ewoks - Lucus tries to copyright teddy-bears.

2- Jar Jar Binks - need I say more.

3- Re-issuing The Empire Strikes Back with a dodgty CGI  Jabba tacked on.

4- Caravan of Courage and Battle for Endor - The real episodes 7 and 8!

5-Using an embarrassing plot device as a religion - pity the force wasn't with George.

6 - Making Vader a cute little kid and then having him shout, 'Noooooooo, as an angst ridden teenager.

7-Creating a situation where the biggest box office goes to the dumbest movies.

8-Making even Samuel L Jackson look uncool.

9- Not allowing Han to shoot first.

10- Jar Jar f***ing  Binks

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 30 Nov - 6 Dec 2015


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits15211414918511395110918131
First Time Visits149991371849992106866124
Returning Visits3151211434527

Thursday 3 December 2015

Robert Hale: The Loss of a British institution

From the Bookseller

Independent publisher Robert Hale Ltd is to “withdraw from publishing” after nearly 80 years, with 10 people from the business made redundant. However, Robert Hale's lists and imprints - NAG Press, J A Allen and Buried River Press - have been acquired by fellow independent publisher The Crowood Press in Wiltshire.

Robert Hale Ltd ceased trading as a publisher on Tuesday (1st December), but will remain in business for the "immediate future" as it begins the process of calculating royalties and closing the company, it said. The company’s chairman, John Hale, said he intends to retire and realise the family’s assets next spring. The decision has resulted in 10 redundancies so far and when the entire company is "formally wound up" next spring, there will be four more people made redundant.
Gill Jackson, managing director of Robert Hale, told The Bookseller: “It is a sad time, but we are delighted that our lists, including our forthcoming titles… have been acquired by The Crowood Press. It is hoped that our authors will be as happy with Crowood as we like to feel they were with us. Certainly we have enjoyed the pleasure and privilege of being associated with so many wonderful writers.”

Founded in 1936 by Robert Hale, the company, based in Clerkenwell Green in London, published fiction and non-fiction and specialised in general hardback fiction, mind, body and spirit, biography and practical reference titles. Robert Hale's J A Allen imprint published books about horse riding and equestrianism and its NAG Press imprint published books about jewellery, precious metals, horology and gemmology.

Robert Hale published authors including Berthold Brecht, Robert Goddard, Harold Robins, Robert Block, Wendy Perriam, E.V. Thompson and Jean Plaidy.

Author Gary Martin Dobbs, whose Jack Martin western novels were published by Robert Hale, said in a blog post: "Hale had been in the book business since 1936 and are the only UK print publisher with a Western line... The UK's government's austerity policies have seen a large number of public libraries closing in recent years. Hale's Western line was largely aimed at the library market so this was a bitter blow. Add to this the upheaval  to traditional publishing caused by the digital revolution, and it is a difficult market within which to do business."

Robert Hale's Design and Production Manager, Catherine
Williams, told The Bookseller: "It is sad indeed that Robert Hale has ceased trading. I've had seven very happy years working for the company and will always be grateful for the opportunities to develop my design and production skills across a wide range of titles. I wish every success to The Crowood Press in continuing the imprints."

John Dennis, chairman of Crowood, said that he was "honoured" to have the Robert Hale imprints on the Crowood list. He added that distribution would pass to Grantham Book Services from 1st December 2015 and all orders thereafter should be transmitted to them.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Robert Hale Rides into the sunset

This is a sad post to write - the news that Robert Hale, publishers are to cease operating as publishers is terrible. Hale had been in the book business since 1936 and are the only UK print publisher with a western line. It's sad when any publisher closes doors but it's personal for me since Robert Hale are the publishers of my Jack Martin western novels - indeed, a new western, Riding the Vengeance Trail is due to be published next summer.

The UK's government's austerity policies have seen a large number of public libraries closing in recent years. Hale's western line was largely aimed at the library market so this was a bitter blow. Add to this the upheaval  to traditional publishing caused by the digital revolution, and it is a difficult market within which to do business.

Hale made the announcement to it's author's via email.

Having been publishers since 1936 the Hale family has to announce that from 1 December 2015 the Company will no longer be trading as a publisher. We will though continue to remain in business in the immediate future. 

However, we are delighted that our publishing assets including contracts and stock, both physical and ebook, and forthcoming titles of the imprints Robert Hale, J A Allen, NAG Press, Buried River Press and Black Horse Westerns, have been acquired by the independent publisher, The Crowood Press of Ramsbury in Wiltshire to whom queries about your titles already in print and forthcoming should be directed. 

At the moment every-thing's up in the air but I have been told that my forthcoming western will indeed see publication through Crowood Press. This is indeed a positive but I'm deeply saddened to see Hale go and will always have a deep love and respect for the publishing house. They were the first publisher to put me into print, and although these days I have other irons in the fire, my western writing persona of Jack Martin is still very much in the saddle.

I thank Robert Hale for being a publisher who truly supported writers, and I feel they have left a legacy of which they can be proud, but I shed very real tears at their passing.

It has been of immense pleasure to all of us at Robert Hale to have had the privilege of being associated with your books and we hope you will find as comfortable a home at Crowood as you have had with us. We wish you well in the future.

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...