Thursday 22 December 2016

Hooked on Trapped

I've just binge watched another slice of Nordic Noir - ten episodes consumed over five days makes for an intense experience. This time out it is Trapped, an Icelandic drama, that has all the dark chilly beauty of shows like The Killing, but adds a claustrophobic kick ass blow

Andri (Óladfur Darri Ólaffson), a hulking bear of  a man,  is the police chief of Seyðisfjörður - a bleak little place at the end of a fjord in the east of Iceland. In winter, it’s dark, it's freezing and the aftershocks of the 2008 financial crisis are still being felt. If that wasn't enough darkness Andri also has to contend with his marriage falling apart before his eyes - his wife returns to town with her new boyfriend and just when it couldn't possibly get any more miserable for Andri the killings start and are then followed by a storm which cuts Seyðisfjörður off from the rest of the world.

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who shot the Hollywood thriller Everest, the camera lingers on thick grey seas, horizontal snow and huddled houses, which creates a real feel for the remoteness of the setting. The plot is clever and expertly served up across the ten episodes so that when the final twists are served the viewer is left exhilarated. A action packed final ten minutes are the perfect ending to what is another compelling piece of crime drama from the Nordic genre-masters.

Fine more info on Nordic Noir HERE

I'm hooked on Scandi dramas and over recent months have binge watched The Killing, The Bridge, Borgen and now my latest obsession, Trapped. It is clear that the Danes and Swedes have much to teach about TV craft. The Killing took 20 episodes to solve one murder – a series length, and slow rate of progress, that would have been unthinkable for a UK production. Both Borgen and The Bridge are visually stunning, with as much attention paid to the production design as to the plot, and the actors who fill the roles in these series are believable and seem real - we don't so much  see the actors, but the characters they create for us. And even when the plot is barking mad, as is the case with The Bridge, there is a level of realism that gives the shows an air of authenticity.

That's not to say we Brits can't do grit when we want to - Happy Valley, Broadchurch and The Fall are three homegrown shows that are as good as the Nordic dramas, but would any of these have followed the blueprint for grimy realism had not The Killing been such a hit worldwide? I think not for The Killing showed that a serialised narrative, when done right, could keep viewers gripped for an entire run. It allows for the characters to be slowly shaped across a large canvas and quite simply is responsible for some absolutely brilliant TV drama.

'The countries that the Nordic writers call home are prosperous and organized, a “soft society”  But the protection offered by a cradle-to-grave welfare system hides a dark underside.' Nowegian crime writer, Jo Nesbo.

 There is an interesting article HERE that looks at the obsession with Nordic Noir

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Magazine Watch: Classic Rock Magazine Folds

The digital world has many benefits but there is also a downside and for years now the publishing industry have struggled to find their place in this new world  -  The news-stand magazine business is a case in point. It has not been healthy in recent years but all the same the news that Team Rock, publishers of such well known titles as Classic Rock and Metal Hammer have gone to the wall, came as a shock. Publications from this company were common in UK shops and have an army of loyal fans - it seems that in today's market having a loyal readership doesn't count for much -  Reports are that 73 jobs have been lost within the once powerful publishing company.

It had been reported in 2015 that the company was £11.7 million in debt, a figure which is sure to have increased by now.


Thomas Campbell MacLennan, Alexander Iain Fraser and Jason Daniel Baker of FRP Advisory LLP were appointed as Joint Administrators of Team Rock Limited (“the Company”) on 19 December 2016. The affairs, business and property of the Company are being managed by the Joint Administrators, who act as agents of the Company and without personal liability. The Company is being managed on a care and maintenance basis only whilst a buyer for the assets is sought. Accordingly, the TeamRock website will be unavailable for the foreseeable future. The administrators are assessing the position regarding publication of magazines. If you are a subscriber to the Company’s publications the administrators can be contacted via email at

Orange Goblin frontman Ben Ward has launched a Crowdfunding campaign to help those who have lost their jobs.

“Today, 73 members of the Team Rock staff were told that the company is going into liquidation and that they are being made redundant with immediate effect with ZERO pay,” he said in a statement. “These are good, hard-working, committed people that through Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Prog Rock, TeamRock Radio and more, have supported the rock and heavy metal scene in this country for decades and now we, the rock community, need to pull together to help give something back.”


Wednesday 14 December 2016

More than a century of murder.


Looking Good Dead - Peter James book review.

Looking Good Dead is the second in Peter James' Roy Grace series and after enjoying the first book, Dead Simple I jumped straight into this novel. The plot this time around is high concept - snuff movies. It all kicks off when Tom Bryce finds someone had left a CD on the train and when he later puts it into his own computer he finds himself watching a brutal murder. Shortly afterwards some virus hidden amongst the coding of the snuff movie wipes Tom's hard drive clean but not before warning him against going to the police. However Tom is persuaded by his wife to report the movie and when he does all hell breaks loose - this culminates in Tom and his wife being kidnapped in order to be the lead actors in a forthcoming snuff movie.

The author uses the same TICKING CLOCK device to create tension in this novel as he used so memorably in the previous book in the series. In the earlier novel a character was buried alive in a coffin and the suspense was driven by the fact that he had to be found before he died. And this time around the author  has two characters kidnapped - the clock is ticking for these characters with the reader aware that they are soon to be killed as part of a snuff movie. Will the police find them in time? It's all very effective and marks this book out as a crime thriller rather than a traditional whodunnit. The reader know what is happening all along, but the police of course are clueless and simply blunder around while the story plays itself out.

I enjoyed the previous book, see my review HERE and this second book in the series improves on that book with the central character of Detective Roy Grace now fully formed and becoming something of a tragic man - there's a sadness, a desperation about him.

 I'm certainly going to read more books in this series - Dead good, that was.

Thursday 8 December 2016

The Bridge season 2

After being blown away by the first season of The Bridge, I turned to the American re-make but lasted for only six episodes. It was OK but it had a lot to live up to and I couldn't accept anyone other than Sofia Helin in the lead role. I did like the American/Mexican storyline and had I seen the show before the original Swedish/Danish series I might have liked it a lot more, but once you've seen Sofia Helin in those leather trousers then everything else pales to insignificance. I so I went straight to the second season of the Swedish/Danish original.

Incredibly season two was even better than the first season, even if the plot did meander into some pretty far fetched territory - in fact the plot, involving a group of eco terrorists, wouldn't be out of place in a James Bond movie. And its all the better for it - on the surface it looks like a grimy noir with realism triumphing over fancy, but wash away the surface sludge and a pretty fantastical plot is revealed. A plot that is twisty, turny and tantalising. There's not a lot of out and out humour to punctuate the misery (and there is plenty) but instead there is the subtle humour derived from Saga Noren and her interactions with the other characters. Her penchant  to openly talk about sex and the problems it entails is absolutely priceless - the reactions of her main sparring partner, Martin Rhode (Kim Bodnia) are highly nuanced and the pair are simply the best TV COP double-act since Regan and Carter.

That this season ends -BIG FAT SPOILERS AHEAD - with Martin being hauled off to prison, dobbed in by Saga herself, would seem to set up an intriguing premise for the third season. And that was the intentions of the show runners but Kim Bodnia decided he was quitting the show before starting work on the third season, forced their hands. The third season then doesn't feature Martin at all and I wonder if that will change the dynamic of the show. Sega Noren is an absolutely superb character, one of the most interesting in all of crime TV, but she could be somewhat deminished without the heart provided by her co-star.


I'm immediately moving onto the third season now - I just can't get enough of this show. After that I may try the Anglo/French re-make, The Tunnel. OK, so I was dissapointed by the American version of the show but I'm going to give The Tunnel a try but what I'm really waiting for is a fourth season of the Swedish/Danish original. Though I'm getting ahead of myself and so I load up season 3, episode 1 and PLAY.

Monday 28 November 2016

The Bridge (2011) Original Swedish/Danish series

Nordic Noir seems perfectly suited to the darker months. There would be something truly perverse to watch drama so bleak  on a cheery summer evening. Not so when the nights draw in, and the temperature plummets. Outside the wind blows, howls, moans across a landscape of moonlight and skeletal trees .

Capture that image if you can, keep it in mind for it is the perfect backdrop as we lock the doors, close the windows and draw the curtains. There has never been a better time
to  sit before the fire, a single malt in hand and binge on some of the best crime television around. This is just what I did recently when I sat and watched the ten episodes that make up season one of The Bridge. Original language and subtitles, of course.

Saga Noren, played by Sofia Helin, is an excellent creation - she seems to be equal parts Sherlock Homes and Lisbeth Salander, with a dash of Mr Spock thrown in. Her Watson is Dutch police officer, Martin Rhodes (Kim Bodnia) who provides the heart of the story as well as being a useful counterpoint to Saga's lack of emotion.

The story starts with a body left on the Øresund Bridge which connects Sweden to Denmark. The body has been placed along the border between the two countries which means that both the Swedish and Danish police authorities have an interest in the case. Things get complicated when it is discovered that this is actually two bodies - the top half belonging to a Swedish politician while the legs are from a Danish prostitute. It soon become clear that the killer, a man who calls himself the Truth Terrorist, is making a point. That point being - we are not all equal in the eyes of the law. The prostitute was killed many months back, her body kept in deep freeze until it was needed to join the upper half of the politician on the bridge. Her disappearance was briefly investigated and then forgotten.

The killer soon contacts the press and claims he is committing these crimes to highlight some very real social problems. He has other points to make -  which will lead to ever more audacious crimes - poisoning the homeless, abducting corrupt policemen and kidnapping a group of schoolchildren. However as the mismatched cops investigate it soon become clear that the killer may be one of their own and that his motives are actually much more personal and nothing to do with noble ideas of social justice.

It's an intriguing plot that is paced well throughout the entire season and I found myself immediately hooked after the first episode - For a week I found myself watching a couple of episodes a night and I enjoyed every minute. The chemistry between the two loads is pitch perfect and provides for some great character moments. Martin is the warmer character, a man who has no problems with social interactions , whilst Saga is socially awkward and finds it difficult to form real friendships or relationships. She seems to favour casual, unemotional sex and although her lifestyle is odd it is at least well ordered. The same can't be said for Martin who struggles to remain a good father and husband and soon finds everything falling down around him.

Compelling stuff then...I've still got two more seasons to watch and I'm eager to get into the second season. After that I think I'll try the American re-make, also called the Bridge, and if that's not enough I could always enter The Tunnel - which is of course the title of the French/British remake. Somehow though I doubt if any of the others will match the brilliance of Saga Noren as played here by Sofia Helin.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

The Fall: Three Seasons and why Jamie Dornan should be the next James Bond

I've just binged on all three seasons of Allan Cubitt's darker than dark masterpiece, The Fall. Seventeen episodes, played out over three seasons, delivered one of the screen's most terrifying and believable serial killers - In comparison to killer Paul Spector, played by Jamie Dornan, other screen psychopaths just don't cut it. Hannibal Lecter seems a character from a fairy tale when put alongside the nuanced killer who dominated the screen in this multiple award winning TV series.

The most repulsive drama ever broadcast on British TV”   The Daily Mail

And it is the character of Paul Spector that drives this series - writer and creator, Allan Cubitt has created a fully rounded character - a man who is evil personified and yet at the same time one of the most likeable and charismatic fictional creations in all of TV-world. This is quite an achievement, both in the writing and the execution - Spector is humanised because  the viewer often sees him through the eyes of other characters - we feel his daughter's unconditional love for a man who is the most important thing in her world, and like her we struggle to understand how a man such as this could be responsible for a string of truly horrendous killings. Likewise we look on the man through the fixated eyes of Katie Benedetto, the teenage babysitter but most often we see him through the eyes of  Detective Stella Gibson, played by Gillian Anderson in a career best performance.

Other shows are ambiguous with their serial killers - referring to them as monsters and setting them apart from the rest of us. Sure they can often interact with us but there is always something 0FF with them; they are different to the rest of us. This is not so with Paul Spector - he is so ON that it is terrifying - we seen him interacting with friends and family, laughing, crying. We see him lovingly cuddling his daughter in a park while simultaneously stalking his next victim. He is an animal in human form, a feline presence. For the most part he is a caring human being, a credit to his community but beneath all this there dwells a darkness as black as the deepest of coal mines.

Spector is played by Jamie Dornan, currently making mega money in the Fifty Shades movies, and he gives a performance that positively screams, 'you are looking at the next James Bond.' He is athletic, brutal and can play both light and dark with equal conviction. He's got real acting chops too - witness the facial ticks just before he explodes into shockingly impressive violence in his final episode. He also looks impressive in a tux.

I digress though and although the role of 007 could fit the actor well, the character wouldn't provide him with as much to get his teeth into as he is given in all seventeen episodes of The Fall. The makers of the show claim that The Fall will continue, but given that the character of Paul Spector is the reason for the shows success it is doubtful that future series would be able to match the masterpiece that are the three seasons made thus far.

The Fall is not a mystery, we know who the killer is from the start, and the show takes us into the very heart of darkness itself. We are repulsed by the character of Paul Spector but at the same time we empathise with him, and we come to realise that he is as much a victim as the poor women who fell prey to his perverted sexual desires. Though in truth desires is perhaps the wrong word for what drives Spector to kill - compulsions maybe closer to the mark. It is especially disturbing that once he has killed he then treats his victims with great love and care - bathing them, dressing them, posing them. He touches them with true tenderness, all the while the expressions on the actor's face taking the viewer far too close to the madness at the heart of his blackened soul. True enough it is a soul without redemption but at the same time we ultimately come to realise that the true monster is not Paul Spector, but actually Father Peter Jensen, a paedophile who abused scores of boys, Spector included, when he was in charge of a care home.

 The fact that Spector is so handsome is unsettling to the viewer.  His muscular allure belies the assumption that sexual predators act as they do because they’re ugly and stupid; that they attack women because women won’t give them a second glance. We expect murderers and perverts to be repulsive weirdos and not seemingly ordinary family men. Why would someone who looks like Spector behave like this? This aspect of the show gave the media much anguish and garnished a lot of criticism but think Ted Bundy - The Fall simply holds up a mirror to a dark truth in our society - not all monsters have hunched backs,

 'The Fall doesn't challenge evil: it wallows in it. This series is an invitation to share the extended rape fantasy.' The Daily Mail

Over the three seasons we saw Spector planning and carrying out his crimes, we saw him arrested, hospitalised and then we sat uncomfortably in a room while he was assessed for mental competence to stand trial for his murders. The incredible finale in which Spector ultimately escaped justice by taking his own life was a hour of jaw dropping television. Mind you my jaw was scraping the floor for entire the three season run.

 Simply excellent

Saturday 19 November 2016

Dead Simple = dead good. Peter James book review.

Dead Simple (2005) is the first in the hugely popular DS Roy Grace series from Peter James - when I picked up this book earlier this week I was coming to the series fresh. I had read Peter James before, I even interviewed the author for Samhain Magazine but that was back in the day when the author was known for his horror/supernatural novels.

Dead Simple then is the author's first crime novel though he doesn't leave his supernatural roots behind entirely, and there is some malarkey in this novel involving a psychic who Roy Grace consults in order to locate dead bodies, missing persons and his car keys. His acceptance in the supernatural often gets him into trouble with his superiors, the judiciary and the media. To be brutally honest I did find this element of the story to be slightly ridiculous but that's a small gripe given how genuinely gripping this book is.

Dead Simple which has been adapted into a stage play, and is being mooted for possible TV adaptation, is structured more like a thriller than a standard crime novel. It doesn't take the whodunnit route since the reader is drip fed information throughout the story and is always one step ahead of the police. Though the author  manages at several key moments to twist the story in ways totally unexpected, which leaves the reader squirming in glorious anticipation of what happens next.

The plot goes: A  stag night prank of burying the groom in a coffin by his mates. If this seems a pretty extreme prank, (I mean what's wrong with stripping the groom naked and tying him to a lamppost in the town centre? Or shaving his bollocks and tattooing a smiley face on his manhood?) then it all makes sense when James explains the history that leads to this event. The macabre prank becomes plausible enough to stick with it.  However the first of many twists comes when  the perpetrators are killed in an horrific traffic accident  - this leaves our man trapped in the coffin. We soon learn that one person knows of the coffin prank but it seems he has a lot to gain by leaving the man there.  This is where the twists start but the plot does remain credible within the confines of the world here. And speaking of confines, some of the coffin scenes really are genuinely claustrophobic to read.

It's a page turner, folks and although it often strays dangerously close to B-movie shenanigans it does manage to keep itself on track for an excellent climax. If there was a problem with the story it was the author's decision to suddenly pull a key character out of nowhere towards the end of the book- a character who largely drives the book towards the breathtaking climax involving a car chase that could put Bullitt (a movie actually referenced by a film buff cop in the plot) to shame. The author is a skilled storyteller and skills learned when he was a scriptwriter serves him well in keeping the incredibly impressive pace of the narrative.

Peter James arrested for dealing in highly addictive fiction
The book did leave some questions hanging for me - Why don't the police ever check emails? At least five  of the characters would have sent or received emails containing the exact details of where the coffin was. Why don't the police make any real effort to work out where the coffin could be? Such as, maybe, an empty plot of land owned by the main characters, a plot of land that's right by one of the pubs they went to. These questions were racing through my mind but the plotting is so incredibly well done, the pacing so exciting, that the story hooked me entirely and I couldn't put the damn book down.

Of course a crime series such as this is largely dependent on creating an interesting main character - for it is this character who will carry the series from one book to another. So what of Roy Grace? Well Peter James gives as a cop who is not as dour as John Rebus, nor as earthy as Tom Thorne. There is a sadness surrounding Roy Grace, who comes across as a likeable and ordinary man who finds himself in extraordinary situations. The reader learns that his wife went missing some years back, no one knows what has happened to her and no doubt this element of Roy Grace's past will become important as the series progresses. The disappearance of his wife (their marriage is portrayed as having been idyllic) haunts the policeman and is largely responsible for his penchant to turn to psychics in order to help in solving crimes

I will be reading more in this series - in fact I'm going to start the second book,  Looking Good Dead, today - I will be interested in seeing where the character goes and if psychic malarkey continues throughout the series.

All in all Dead Simple was an excellent, tighly plotted crime thriller....I bloody enjoyed that. Dead good, it was.

Find Peter James HERE

Friday 4 November 2016

Writer's Snippets, writer's news

Amazon India have purchased WESTLAND publishing - "Our acquisition of Westland continues our commitment to India -- enabling Amazon to bring Westland's highly talented authors and their books to even more customers in India and around the world," said Amit Agarwal, vice-president and country manager at Amazon India.

And sticking with Amazon - the company recently released it Amazon Rapids APP which delivers serialised snippets of stories to children's devices - Find out more HERE 

The 2016 Futurebook Conference will take place on  2nd December in London - details HERE

 The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article claiming that audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in the book business today. Sales in the U.S. and Canada jumped 21% in 2015 from the previous year, according to the Audio Publishers Association.

Audibooks the facts

  • Smart Phones have helped with the rise in audiobook usage as they are now VERY portable.
  • Technology and the size reduction of files has made listening to audio books in cars and at the gym much more convenient.
  • The cost of producing an audio is now (on average) $3,3000 as opposed to $6,500 in 2012.
  • owns both AUDIBLE and BRILLIANCE AUDIO. This means, their ACX platform has a huge lead in distribution to this fast-growing market.
  • If you fancy trying an audiobook then I suggest Audible - oh why not get Granny Smith Investigates by G M Dobbs (plug,plug) as your first download.

Monday 31 October 2016

Granny Smith FREE BOOK promotion starting 1st November

Granny Smith: Murder Plot, the latest and fourth book in my successful Granny Smith series is free for download from Amazon for the next five days. That's free - not costing a single penny, cent or Euro - now that's got to be a good thing. So please take advantage of this offer and grab yourself a few hours of great entertainment in the company of that heavy metal loving senile delinquent, Granny Smith - all I ask if that you leave a review on Amazon - please, please do that. And maybe, just maybe you'll buy one of the other books in the series. Hey, us writers have got to pay the bills too.

What the reviews say:

Brilliant! This Author has the ability make you you believe you are in the story actually visualizing what is going on! I simply love the character Granny Smith and her family ,
The setting is just right! I have bought all of Mr Dobbs books and can not put them down always thrilling and humorous at the same time.When is the next one out can't wait!!!!! Mr Dobbs has written some really exciting books keep them coming. 

I loved this book, it made me laugh out loud a few times. The characters are believable. Anyone who likes funny, light hearted murder mysteries should read this. I can't wait for the next one, I hope there are more to come.

She's back! I have a soft spot for this pipe smoking granny. The police don't like her, murderers don't like her but the public and media
love her. Back in the spotlight Granny swings into action to solve the body in the water butt. 'Murder Plot' is a hugely entertaining read with Author Gary M Dobbs really getting to grips with his creation. In places I laughed out loud. Full of character and the odd famous name I thoroughly recommend this book. She's back!

I downloaded this book and couldn't put it down its brilliant granny smith is a no nonsense lady that has a way of getting to the truth which is sheer brilliance she really is miss marple on steroids cant wait for the next book in the series 


Imagine Miss Marple pumped full of steroids and you pretty much have Granny Smith. This pipe smoking, heavy metal loving pensioner sleuth certainly doesn't fit in with the stereotypical amateur detective - she's got more in common with Mike Hammer than she does with Jessica Fletcher. Granny is very much a product of her time...she came of age during the Sixties and her attitudes were forged during that decade of freedom. She claims to have once slept with Keef Richards and insists that Paul McCartney was thinking of her when he wrote the song, Famous Groupies.

On the Origins of Granny Smith

Of course Granny Smith’s real name wasn’t Granny but everyone called her Granny. It wasn’t because she was a grandmother, though she was three times over, but rather because as a child she had loved apples, would take one to school for her lunch each and every day. It seemed that wherever she went an apple went with her and so associated with the fruit had she become that eventually some bright spark had nicknamed her Granny Smith after that popular Australian variety of apple.
She was seventy one years old and her given name was Mary Alice Davies, which meant she had the rather unfortunate initials - M A D, but she had never let that bother her and besides, she had often reasoned; when I marry I will have a totally different surname.  Eventually she had married a local man who went by the name of Arthur Smith, Smith of course, like Davies, being a common enough name, and she did indeed get a new surname, in fact her nickname became her surname. However because most people knew her by the nickname, Granny Smith, no one seemed to notice when she became a Smith for real, and, if truth be told, to many people she would remain forever mad.

The first Granny Smith book was very popular, scoring steady sales and even entering Amazon's top ten for cozy mysteries during the week of publication - the three books that have followed in the series have also scored strong sales and many many glowing reviews. People seem to like Granny.

Granny Smith Investigates is also available as an audiobook from Audible with other books in the series to follow soon. TO GET THE AUDIOBOOK SIMPLY VISIT AUDIBLE AND DO A SEARCH FOR, 'GRANNY SMITH INVETIGATES

The latest book in the series is Murder Plot and from 1st November 2016 the book will be free to download from Amazon worldwide - why not grab a free book and I hope this prompts you to buy the other three books in the series. There'll be another full length, Granny Smith adventure next Spring and this Christmas will see a festive Granny Smith short story available as a Kindle Single.

So some on folks - what are you waiting for? Head on up the Amazon and grab a slice of Granny'll be glad you did.

And remember please support the series by leaving a review on Amazon - nothing shifts books like good reviews. Also share this blog post with all your friends and tell them all about Granny Smith....she's Miss Marple on Steroids, Batman with dentures and a whole lot of fun.

Thursday 27 October 2016

Fox's Lethal Weapon

Generally small screen crime dramas are far more cerebral than their ancestors from the 1970's heyday of TV crime shows - that's not the case with Fox's Lethal Weapon which owes as much to TV's Starskey and Hutch as it does to the movie franchise from which it takes its name and central characters. That's not such a bad thing and the show offers a welcome antidote to the grim and gritty milieu which has become the norm with the genre. The likes of True Detective, the first season at least, may have offered compelling viewing with its mix of great writing and understated acting but sometimes it is nice to put your brain in neutral and watch TV for the sheer spectacle itself.

Lethal Weapon then is in no way realistic but then it doesn't intend to be and certainly doesn't need to be. With a title like Lethal Weapon viewers are not expecting another True Detective but rather a return to the buddy/buddy genre and all the elaborate explosions, car chases and fist fights that entails. And on this score the Lethal Weapon series certainly delivers.

So far I've seen three episodes of the first season and after a piss poor pilot episode which basically revamped the plot of the first movie but with far less class, the show looks like it is finding its feet. Of course it is haunted by the ghosts of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, not to mention Joe Pesci, but when you get over the fact that this is a new Lethal Weapon with new lead actors then the show starts to make some kind of sense.

The jury is still out on this one and although the show is ridiculous I did enjoy the second episode far more than the pilot and the third episode was pretty solid, if a little daft. There's a genuine chemistry between the two leads which if allowed to develop may even match that displayed by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and the secondary cast provide solid support to the mismatched cops.

How do I rate this show then? Well, it's a little early to say but I will be sticking with it for a few more episodes yet.

NEWS - LETHAL WEAPON marked FOX’s highest fall premiere in two years, with a 3.2/12 Live + 7 rating among Adults 18-49 and 12.4 million viewers across all platforms to date, propelling FOX Wednesday to be premiere week’s highest-rated night of entertainment programming.  It is the No. 3 new drama this season (tied with “Bull”), with a 3.0/11 in Live + 7 among Adults 18-49 and the average multi-platform audience for the show is 11.5 million viewers in Live + 7.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Get ready

Gilfach was a quiet Welsh village set deep within the picturesque valleys – Was, being the operative word since the peacefulness is shattered by a spate of killer clowns and a full scale terrorist hunt.
John Smith is an everyday sort of man with everyday concerns. He spends his time working at the local supermarket, walking his dog and arguing with his domineering wife, Rose.

Soon however John Smith through a series of events completely beyond his control finds himself with the tag of Britain’s most wanted.

John Smith is the reluctant terrorist.

Oscar, BAFTA and now we have the Stiffie

The Erotic Review have announced that they are to introduce an award for writing good sex in fiction. The publishers state that they want to remove the seediness associated with erotic writing and the counter the infamous Bad Sex Award which is held each year by The Literary Review.

Lisa Moylett, publisher, told The Times newspaper: “We are throwing down the gauntlet. No more ‘bad sex’ writing. That is not something we should be celebrating.” The publisher was recently joined by Mariella Frostrup, editor of the recently released Desire: 100 of Literature’s Sexiest Stories,at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival and backed this point up.

Speaking of the award, Toby Lichtig recently wrote in, The Guardian Newspaper - 'In a sense, my question is: what is good sex in fiction as opposed to mere pornography? (Which also leads me to ask: does good fiction suddenly stop becoming good if it's arousing?) I suppose one problem is that sex is so often idealised in books, as it is in films. Earth-moving, transcendental, simultaneously-orgasmic sex is far more common in the history of the world's storytelling than is an awkward, exhausted and querulous quickie between setting the alarm and getting up to calm the baby. But good bad sex (the embarrassment, the mutual misunderstanding) should be honoured in fiction no more nor less than the real fireworks.'

Personally I take all of the points listed above, and I suppose an award for good sex writing is no different to awards for writing in other genres, The Daggers, for instance given for good crime writing but there will always be an element of sniggering where sex is involved. Hey, it's the British way and the award is not really going to be called A STIFFIE you know. Though, I can't help thinking that maybe it should.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Tuesday 6 September 2016

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

In anticipation of the forthcoming re-make of the Magnificent Seven, the Tainted Archive rolls out reviews of the original movie, its sequels and the TV series.

"A pallid, pretentious and over-long reflection of the Japanese original.' New York Times

Given it's iconic status in the western moviescape, it may come as a surprise to hear that John Sturges' 1960 movie, The Magnificent Seven was largely a box office disappointment - during the year of its original release it placed well behind movies such as the Elvis Presley vehicle, G I Blues. But when the film was released in Europe it became a smash hit, being particularly popular in the UK and Germany.

Of course over the years the movie has gained its well deserved classic status, (in fact it remains the second most  played movie on American television) and watching the movie today it feel like what it is - a genuine screen classic which regularly features in top ten lists of the best western movies ever. Opening with Elmer Bernstein's rousing theme tune - a song that could be argued to be THE WESTERN THEME rather than just another western theme. It's a really exciting, rousing piece that once heard can never be forgotten. So iconic did it become that it was used in television adverts for Malboro Cigarettes and also for comedic effect in the James Bond movie, Moonraker.

The film starts proper with Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his bandit army riding into a small Mexican village and pushing the residents about. Eventually the residents decide to fight back but rather than buying guns and fighting themselves they hire Chris (Yul Brynner) to protect them. Soon six other gunmen join Brynner's team and we have the magnificent seven.

The film doesn't really put a foot wrong in the way it is structured - the first part of the film deals with the seven coming together. Next they arrive at the Mexican village and there are some great character moments here, but ironically it is Hortz Buckholz (the actor most forgotten by participants in pub quizzes when asked to name the seven actors) who shines the brightest. He has some great moments, not less his discovery of the women the villagers have hidden from the American gunmen. Steve McQueen also stands out as does James Coburn - between them these two give us the two coolest most laid back characters in the entire movie. The middle section of the film sees the seven training up the villagers and they initially drive off Calvera (Wallach) and his men but the film builds up the tension for the return of Calvera and the final climatic shoot-out.

The real star of the movie though is the lean script - the dialogue is particularly good with few words wasted and virtually every line carries the story forward in some way. Though of course the action scenes, particularly the gunfights are excellently blocked and acted out.

'The old man was right, only the farmers won. We lost.' Chris' (Brynner's) final line as he and McQueen
 ride off into the sunset.

A western then that truly is magnificent.

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

In anticipation of the forthcoming re-make of the Magnificent Seven, the Tainted Archive rolls out reviews of the original movie, its sequels and the TV series.

"A pallid, pretentious and over-long reflection of the Japanese original.' New York Times

Given it's iconic status in the western moviescape, it may come as a surprise to hear that John Sturges' 1960 movie, The Magnificent Seven was largely a box office disappointment - during the year of its original release it placed well behind movies such as the Elvis Presley vehicle, G I Blues. But when the film was released in Europe it became a smash hit, being particularly popular in the UK and Germany.

Of course over the years the movie has gained its well deserved classic status, (in fact it remains the second most  played movie on American television) and watching the movie today it feel like what it is - a genuine screen classic which regularly features in top ten lists of the best western movies ever. Opening with Elmer Bernstein's rousing theme tune - a song that could be argued to be THE WESTERN THEME rather than just another western theme. It's a really exciting, rousing piece that once heard can never be forgotten. So iconic did it become that it was used in television adverts for Malboro Cigarettes and also for comedic effect in the James Bond movie, Moonraker.

The film starts proper with Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his bandit army riding into a small Mexican village and pushing the residents about. Eventually the residents decide to fight back but rather than buying guns and fighting themselves they hire Chris (Yul Brynner) to protect them. Soon six other gunmen join Brynner's team and we have the magnificent seven.

The film doesn't really put a foot wrong in the way it is structured - the first part of the film deals with the seven coming together. Next they arrive at the Mexican village and there are some great character moments here, but ironically it is Hortz Buckholz (the actor most forgotten by participants in pub quizzes when asked to name the seven actors) who shines the brightest. He has some great moments, not less his discovery of the women the villagers have hidden from the American gunmen. Steve McQueen also stands out as does James Coburn - between them these two give us the two coolest most laid back characters in the entire movie. The middle section of the film sees the seven training up the villagers and they initially drive off Calvera (Wallach) and his men but the film builds up the tension for the return of Calvera and the final climatic shoot-out.

The real star of the movie though is the lean script - the dialogue is particularly good with few words wasted and virtually every line carries the story forward in some way. Though of course the action scenes, particularly the gunfights are excellently blocked and acted out.

'The old man was right, only the farmers won. We lost.' Chris' (Brynner) final line as he and McQueen
 ride off into the sunset.

A western then that truly is magnificent.

Wednesday 31 August 2016

Miss Marple on steroids comes at you at full volume

OK it's that time again - time to push product and try and get some of you out there to browse on over to my title and click buy. Hey we all have to make a living you know and these days writers can't afford to be precious and from time to time we have to put on our sales hat and push, push, push.

Granny Smith Investigates was my first book in the Granny Smith series and it's done pretty well - I'm pleased with the way it has gone down with strong sales and good reviews. The book is now also available as an eBook from those nice people at Audible. Performed by Fiona Thraille you can check out a sample reading by clicking HERE

There's a brutal murder in the small Welsh village of Gilfach. The police are clueless. With no motive and no real suspect, the investigation soon grinds to a halt. Enter Mary Anne Smith, otherwise known as Granny Smith, the 71-years-young, pipe-smoking, heavy metal-loving, chaos-causing amateur sleuth with a difference.
Granny has a talent for mayhem, and soon those talents are put to good use as our intrepid pensioner starts the unravel the case, which finds her provoking Chief Inspector Miskin as she comes up against a full scale police investigation, proving that you're never too old to make a nuisance of yourself and that 71 is actually the new 21.
Murder's never been so much fun. 

If you like crime novels, particularly cozy crimes than this title should be right up your street. Then again I believe the characters are so wide ranging and comedic that anyone who takes the plunge will find much to enjoy in the title. Well I would say that, after all I am the creator of Granny Smith but there have been four books about the character, with several more to come so I must enjoy writing about her, the world she inhabits muse seem real to me. Is Granny my favourite of all my characters? Well I'm going to become all precious now and say that all my characters are equal to me, they are all my babies but then again Granny came kicking and screaming, fully formed from my imagination.

'The eccentric Welsh pensioner gets her teeth (usually gripping a corn-cob pipe) into solving the mysterious murder of a friend in the village. Despite being ignored and warned off by the police, she persists. This delightful story makes great family reading with plenty of humour. I can just imagine a nice TV comedy series from this.' *****

Actress, Fiona Thraille has done a wonderful job in performing the book - note I say performing rather than reading, because Fiona does an incredible job in bringing the characters to  life. The actress will soon start work on the second Granny Smith title so if you enjoy the first one, and I'm confident you will, then you'll have another title to look forward to.

"A delightful story with an unpredictable plot, remarkable characters, zany happenings that combine for an engaging light hearted read. Granny Smith, named after the apple convincingly morphs into "Miss Marple on steroids".*****

If you don't have an Audible account then you can sign up for a trial and get Granny Smith Investigates for free - simply select the title for your free title. Find out how HERE . 

You can, of course, hear a free audio sample before you decide to buy so you've really got nothing to lose by checking out Audible.

'It had been a while since I have read the likes of the character Miss Marple from Agatha Christie works. Now Granny Smith has fulfilled that void in my reading life. Granny Smith is not exactly old to be a Granny by heart but irrespective of that, everyone has been calling her Granny. She is a young at heart woman who has a trait to be curious about everything that is happening around her. So when her friend Sheila gets engaged to Nigel, who is younger than her, Granny Smith gets suspicious. The following murder in the town makes Granny even more curious and on she follows the clues of the murder, much to the chagrin of Detective Inspector Miskins.' *****

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Cowboys and Aliens: Did Aliens visit the Old West?

In late March 1897, around seven years before the Wright Brothers undertook their first controlled flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, airships were in the news after several hundred residents of Missouri, Kansas claimed to witness a strange sight as a huge airship hovered over farms, ranches and small towns in a three state area. Reportedly it swept a huge searchlight along the ground and terrified residents who witnessed this strange event. The story made the local Kansas Newspapers but then went national and then worldwide.

The story would have died a death, many were sceptical but then on 1st April 1897 (April Fools day, don't forget) Alexander Hamilton,a  farmer from LeRoy, Kansas claimed that the air machine had hovered over his farm and one of his cows had been sucked up into the machine. Later cow parts were discovered in a three mile radius.

That same night as many as 10,000 witnesses would give statements to the press about the airship. It was said to have flown over Kansas City, going through a series of erratic manoeuvres. Some witnesses even claimed that the airship was the planet, man told the Kansas City Times that, 'Venus does not dodge around, fly swiftly to the horizon, swoop rapidly towards the ground and then fly away to be lost in the Southern sky.'

From descriptions given to the newspapers the aircraft seemed to be - shaped like an Indian canoe with a basket some 25 to 30 feet in length. Four light wings extended from the basket and these wings were triangular with a giant bag, thought to be a gas balloon, above the basket. The craft had powerful lights that lit up the night sky  it was said that these lights were as bright as those of a locomotive.

This started the world's first UFO scare and in the weeks following the aircraft was reported all over the United States. When it was spotted in Michigan, observers claimed to have heard human voices coming from the machine. On April 6th it was spotted over Omaha and more than six hundred people made statements to the press. The craft was also spotted in Iowa where a farmer claimed a drag rope had come from the craft, hooked his trousers and carried him several hundred feet before dropping him to the ground. Speculation in the press became widespread - one theory being that the craft was a new invention, piloted by American astronauts who were testing the commercial validity of the machine. Cattle rustling was, of course, denied.

There were yet more sightings of the strange craft - The Kansas City Free Press reported that, 'the airship is not of this world, but it is likely operated by a party of scientists from the planet, Mars who are out on a tour of the universe for scientific study.'

Whatever the truth of the story it remains one of the most enduring mysteries of the Old West.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

THE GUNS THAT WON THE WEST: The gun that shoots today and kills tomorrow

The Sharps buffalo gun, known as the Big 50 but often nicknamed,' the gun that shoots today and kills tomorrow.' The .50-90 Sharps rifle cartridge is a black-powder cartridge that was introduced by Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company in 1872 as a buffalo hunting round. Like other large black-powder rounds, it incorporates a heavy bullet and a large powder volume, leading to high muzzle energies.

In the hide-hunting years of the 1870s, the heavy Sharps rifle was the of choice with many mountain men. While they made most of their shots at around 200 yards or less, the savvy buffalo hunters realized that when hunting in Indian country, they should keep about 10 cartridges set aside for self-defence. With these few rounds, they were able to keep hostile tribesmen at a safe distance until they made it back to camp.

Once such event happened in 1874 in the Texas pan-handle in which sharpshooter Billy Dixon shot and killed a Comanche brave who was seated upon his horse more than a mile away. Now that single shot reportedly scared the Indians off and brought what could have been a costly battle to an end.

'There was never a more splendidly barbaric sight. In after years I was glad that I had seen it. Hundreds of warriors, the flower of the fighting men of the southwestern Plains tribes, mounted upon their finest horses, armed with guns and lances, and carrying heavy shields of thick buffalo hide, were coming like the wind. Over all was splashed the rich colors of red, vermillion and ochre, on the bodies of the men, on the bodies of the running horses. Scalps dangled from bridles, gorgeous war-bonnets fluttered their plumes, bright feathers dangled from the tails and manes of the horses, and the bronzed, halfnaked bodies of the riders glittered with ornaments of silver and brass. Behind this headlong charging host stretched the Plains, on whose horizon the rising sun was lifting its morning fires. The warriors seemed to emerge from this glowing background' Billy Dixon. 

Dixon's famous shot took place on the third day of the second Siege of Adobe Wells in which an Indian force, some 700 strong attacked Adobe Wells in which some 28 men, including a 20 year old Bat Masterton and Billy Dixon were present. It was on the third day after the initial attack that Dixon took his famous shot. Fifteen Indian warriors rode out on a bluff nearly a mile away to survey the situation. At the behest of one of the hunters, William "Billy" Dixon, already renowned as a crack shot, took aim with a "Big Fifty" Sharps  that he had borrowed from another man, and cleanly dropped a warrior from atop his horse. "I was admittedly a good marksman, yet this was what might be called a 'scratch' shot." This shot apparently so discouraged the Indians that they decamped and gave up the fight. 
Billy Dixon

William "Billy" Dixon (September 25, 1850 – March 9, 1913) was an American scout and buffalo hunter active in the Texas Panhandle. He helped found Adobe Walls, fired a legendary buffalo rifle shot at the Second Battle of Adobe Walls, and for his actions at the "Buffalo Wallow Fight" became one of eight civilians ever to receive the U.S. Medal of Honor. 

Now these days many people debunk Dixon's famous shout, claiming that he couldn't have made it as such a length but a group of ballistics experts and forensics scientists have recreated the shot and discovered that it was indeed possible.

Phil Spangenberger wrote in True West Magazine -  Among modern-day nonbelievers was a forensic scientist who claimed a .50-90 Sharps could not throw a bullet out that far. In response to this technician’s curiosity and disbelief, in the fall of 1992, fellow gun writer and long-time amigo Mike Venturino was invited, along with the folks from Shiloh Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company, to travel to the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, to use some then-newly declassified radar devices to test the performance of several types of ammunition.
Using a machine rest modified from a gun carrier from a Russian T-72 tank, they started firing away. For the first Sharps shot, with the gun carriage elevated to 35 degrees, a 675-grain bullet, pushed by 90 grains of FFg black powder, and with a muzzle velocity (mv) of only 1,216 feet per second (fps) launched the bullet over 3,600 yards distant. That’s 10,800 feet—over two miles! The scientists couldn’t believe it, so a second round was touched off. This time the lead projectile weighed 650 grains with a mv of 1,301 fps. Using the same 35-degree elevation, the bullet landed 3,245 yards away. When one of the mathematicians calculated some data he suggested they reduce the elevation to about 4½ to 5 degrees to duplicate Billy Dixon’s shot. When this was done using the same load, the lead slug landed 1,517 yards downrange—almost the exact range of Dixon’s controversial shot. A five-degree muzzle elevation can easily be achieved with only the rear barrel sight on a Shiloh Sharps. This writer has made similar long-range shots with his own .50-90 Shiloh Sharps, using 90 grains of FFg black powder and a 515-grain bullet, while testing firearms for Guns & Ammo magazine.

According to Venturino, with 35 degrees elevation, the bullet gained a maximum height just short of 4,000 feet and was airborne a full 30 seconds. In my own experimentation with my Big Fifty Shiloh Sharps at similar distances, I found that with the slight muzzle elevation of around five degrees, I counted three full seconds between firing the shot and seeing the bullet kick up dirt in the target area. So the next time some modern gun “expert” wagers that you can’t put a bullet a mile out with a Sharps buffalo gun—take the bet!

Phil Spangenberger has written for Guns & Ammo, appears on the History Channel and other documentary networks, produces Wild West shows, is a Hollywood gun coach and character actor, and is True West’s Firearms Editor.


Saturday 13 August 2016

The Best True Crime Podcasts

Now it goes without saying that Serial is a must listen for anyone interested in true crime, but here are several other true crime podcasts that I consider must listens. The heading of this article, is The Best True Crime Podcasts. Of course the term, THE BEST, is subjective but the following shows are in my opinion among the very best that the genre has to offer.
Crime Writers on Serial was initially a podcast about a podcast. Hosted by husband and wife writing team, Rebecca Lavoie and Kevin Flynn the show sprung up to analyse each episode of Serial. However the show soon realised the limitations of its concept and branched out to look at other true crime stories and pop culture in general as it relates to the genre of crime. The crime writing couple  hold a pop-culture roundtable with noir novelist Toby Ball and journalist-turned-investigator Lara Bricker. The panel chats not only about the podcast ‘Serial,’ but journalism, storytelling, TV shows and films.The show had become a firm favourite and is currently going strong, having found its own voice and becoming every bit as essential as the show it sought to analyse.
Sword and Scale is another podcast that I have on subscription – hosted by Mike Boudet the show has been going since 2014 and unlike Serial the show doesn’t concentrate on whodunnit, but rather looks at solved and often unfathomable cases. Most episodes use  original tapes — interviews, trial snippets, 911 calls. with Boudet interjecting to shape the narrative with facts and questions, or to underline key points. Some instalments include criminal experts, authors or people related to the case. The result is an often fascinating exploration into extraordinary events. Again this Podcast is one I never miss.

Phoebe Judge is the main voice behind the podcast, Criminal and this show is another in the essential list. Judge is the host of Criminal and a host at WUNC North Carolina Public Radio. She was a producer and on-air contributor for The Story with Dick Gordon, and before that she reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe’s work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards.
Each week Criminal looks at a different true crime case and is never less than captivating. It can also be disturbing and doesn’ shy away from the salacious details of the cases it examines.
Generation Why is the most wide – ranging of all the True Crime podcasts currently available. Created by hosts Aaron and Justin, a duo based out of Kansas City, Mo. the show looks at unsolved mysteries, bizarre conspiracy theories and  closed cases. A strong point of the podcast  is the hosts’ propensity to play devil’s advocate against each other, and to bring in the occasional guest to add yet another varying perspective. All in all, it’s refreshing to hear each and every case approached with at least a couple of differing angles, instead of adhering to one singular narrative.
Cold cases are a speciality of Thinking Sideways and hosts Devin, Steve and Joe are experts at thinking outside the box as they look at ages old cases. However this show also builds episodes around quirky subjects and, I kid you not, one episode even attempted to get to the bottom of who or what was Frosty the Snowman.

Friday 5 August 2016

The real Jack Martin

To celebrate the forthcoming release of my  western Wild Bill Williams in digital format - published this November from Piccadilly Publishing  and available for pre-order NOW, I thought I'd post a little something about the man who gave me my pen name.

And so I present the real Jack Martin

Jack Martin. The man whom I looked up to as a kid, he seemed ten feet tall, and the man whose name I use for my western fiction.

Jack Martin was a coal miner in the South Wales coal fields - indeed it was the dust from this environment that eventually killed him - pneumoconiosis, black lung disease,was common among a certain age group in the village I was raised in. The  sound of chesty coughs would accompany the dawn chorus across the village and sticky mementoes of the coal mines would fill handkerchiefs held in the scarred hands of the old colliers.

The original
 Coal mining, given the then primitive conditions was a  arduous job, and in those days there was only basic safety equipment. Lives were often lost in explosions and one time the level where my grandfather was working flooded and over 20 men were drowned. That was all before I was born. I learned much of this from my grandmother and Gramp never really talked about it.

I was born in 1965 and Gramps had retired by the time I was five so I can't really remember him working, though he was never idle and his garden gave us the best tomatoes around . He was a tall man, always dressed immaculately, even when doing the garden he wore a shirt and tie, as people of his generation did. He grew incredible tasty vegtables  and my first ever paid job was collecting horse manure from the mountain for his garden. I think he gave me something like 10p a bucket which was good money in those far off days when the world was black and white and the sun always shone.

My Grandmother often referred to him as Father Christmas and although they would argue as people did in those days, about anything really - leaving the door open, not wiping your feet and trampling garden over the mat, their relationship was a strong and loving one. They both spoiled me rotten and I always got the latest comics and would go on the annual British Legion day trip to Porthcawl with them. Though often only me and my nan went. Gramps stayed home and probably went for a sneaky pint down the legion. He did so like a sneaky pint or two.

Hey, sorry about the ancient history but I feel almost old enough to remember black and white radio.
My nan and grandfather, possibly the 1930's

Gramps loved the westerns and was always reading a western novel. When there was a western on TV I would watch it with him and he would tell me stories of when he was in the wild west (completely invented, of course. The furthest West he ever went was Tonypandy) and in these stories he would be teamed up with John Wayne or Gary Cooper but never Clint Eastwood - he never really liked him and would refer to him as an unshaven hooligan. As a young boy I believed every word of these wild stories:

That he had been a one legged fighter pilot in the war, that
he had been there when Custer arm-wrestled Wyatt Earp for the price of a drink, that he had smoked the peace pipe with both Geronimo and Sitting Bull.

Jack Martin MK 2
Gramps was a natural storyteller.

Jack Martin - it was his  love of westerns that was passed onto me and apart from the fact that Eastwood is my all time fave, our tastes are very much the same - John Wayne is still the ultimate man's man, and the cowboy creed is a  design for life.

When I published my first western novel, Tarnished Star with Robert Hale LTD (now available as LawMaster)  I was proud that it contained the byline - by Jack Martin. When trying to decide on a pen name to keep my western fiction separate from my other stuff it was only natural to use Gramp's name.

He's been gone now for longer than I care to remember,  and I still miss him but I guess he's still here, inside me - his ideals, his ways, his humour and every one of my westerns that has seen print  is as much his work as mine. For without him I would never have developed my interest and love for the American West.

So saddle up and check out Jack Martin's western page HERE


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