Saturday 31 March 2018

British Superheroes

I was a voracious comic book reader as a kid and the British comics were always my favourite but I could never understand why it was only the American comics that had the costumed superheroes and why British comics were more grounded. Well in a comic book reality kind of way - the action was over the top but it came from heroics rather than superheroics. I remember Billy the Cat but that's all really. And while Judge Dredd could, at a stretch, qualify as a costumed superhero he doesn't really since he has no super powers other than a squarer jaw than Ben Grimm.

The superhero was an American obsession or at least that was what I thought until I read an interesting article in issue 4 of Future Publishing's Comic Heroes. Apparently British comics had its share of costumed crime-fighters with super powers. The article by comics expert Lew Stringer lists several UK superheroes and although most of them were before my time it is an illuminating article.

The Dandy comic featured a character called The Amazing Mr X in the 1940's. The character was named Len Manners and he wore a curious costume and could summon incredible strength at will. There was also a character called Powerman who apparantly gained his powers from the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. There was also a rather attractive fellow called Captain Magnet, as well as Maskman and Electro Girl.

One character I do have vague memories of was The Steel Claw but then only from reading old strips in copies of The Valiant that I've picked up over the years. The Spider is another character I remember and his adventures were still running when I was a kid, but he was more a super-villain than a superhero.
 By and large though British comics tended to focus on adventure strips - war stories, western adventures, sports stories and secret agents were always successful. Humour was also very popular in British comics and titles like The Beano, Dandy and Whizzer and Chips were dominated by humour strips.

 British superheroes just couldn't be taken as seriously as their American counterparts. Where they had Batman, we had Fishboy (Buster 1968) who was abandoned on a desert island and learned to breath underwater and grow webbed feet. Some other unlikely Brit heroes - Birdman from Baratoga (Smash 1970), Kangeroo Kid (Scorcher 1970) and Kid Chameleon (Cor 1970).

King Cobra featured in Hotspur comic and I do remember this character from my childhood but when Marvel UK launched in the UK in the early 1970's it was a massive success and the British superheroes seemed tame in comparison to all the new American characters that were cropping up. Of course most of the better known American strips such as Batman, The Fantastic Four, Spiderman and some others were already known on these shores and there had been British titles that had run the strips, but we now had entire titles dominated by the costumed heroes from across the pond. From then on UK comic publishers gave up on creating original superheroes and tended to concentrated on their strengths with titles such as Warlord and Battle Picture Weekly.

It was from this period onwards that I became aware of all the comics out there and whilst I would pick up titles like Planet of the Apes, Dracula Lives and Spiderman from time to time, my true allegiance was with the British comics such as Warlord and Battle which I absolutely adored and would never miss a single issue. It was not until 1976 when 2000AD came about that British comics were able to create characters that could compete with the likes of the Americans - characters like Judge Dredd were more than able to stand alongside the American heroes in terms of creating their own mythology.

The first truly successful British superheroes were created by the Americans - Marvel's Captain Britain made a stir with British comic book readers in the UK.

"The character was created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Herb Trimpe and originally appeared in Captain Britain Weekly, a British anthology comic that also included reprinted material featuring other Marvel Comics characters (such as Nick Fury and the Fantastic Four). The first few issues of the comic were also promoted with free gifts, including a cardboard Captain Britain mask and a Captain Britain boomerang - free gifts in the first three issues of a title were a tradition with UK comics. Chris Claremont left the series after just ten issues, midway through the 'Doctor Synne' storyline, and has since stated that this was because his view of the character and series was very different to that of the editor.Up to this point, the character had appeared exclusively in Marvel's UK comics - although some established Marvel characters such as Captain America and the Black Knight appeared, Marvel's American comics had not referenced these stories or acknowledged that Captain Britain was part of the same shared Marvel Universe.In 1978, though, Chris Claremont revisited the character and introduced him to an international audience, fully integrating him into the Marvel Universe via a story that starred Captain Britain and Spider-Man. Initially published as a black & white story in the UK's Super Spider-Man & Captain Britain comic, this was then coloured and reprinted in an American title, Marvel's long-running Marvel Team-Up series." FROM THE WIKI ENTRY

These days the American heroes are still being published in the UK by the likes of Panini and Titan, but there are still the odd British superhero popping up in titles like Judge Dredd Megazine and the long running 2000AD. These days it is the traditional war, sport and adventure strips that are no longer being produced and you know, I miss them.

A Man's nest friend: Old West Style

General George Armstrong Custer, famed for his defeat at The Little Bighorn was something of a dog lover and his passion for hunting with his staghounds, actually Scottish deerhounds, named Blucher and Maida are well documented. Other famous westerners with a passion for the dogs was Teddy Roosevelt.

Custer loved his dogs and as well as hunting he would take the hounds into battle with him - in fact Blucher would be killed at the Battle of Washita River, which saddened Custer more than the loss of 21 of his soldiers. Maida was later killed by friendly fire during another Indian skirmish.

Custer would often use the hounds to hunt buffalo and he wrote of one instance where his two beloved hounds brought down a young bull. The dogs had the bull but the beast refused to fall and put up a tenacious fight. Custer had to run to the aid of his two dogs and slit the bulls throat.

Theodore Roosevelt also used staghounds during his Dakota Territory ranching days in the 1880's and the future president was rarely seen without his hounds.

There is much debate over the actual breed of Custer's dogs - he himself called them staghounds but many have suggested that they could have been lurchers. However Custer's dogs were undoubtedly Scottish Deerhounds - originally bred to hunt red deer or stags in Scotland and the breed were one of the earliest European breeds to arrive in the New World.

There were many differing breeds of dog in the Old West and because of the way of life the dogs would often run wild and breed as nature intended, so bloodlines became diluted and the majority of animals running around during this period were of mixed breeds.

Custer himself owned a kennel of over forty dogs of various breeds. Some of these were Walker Hounds (American Foxhounds) but most were sight hounds which included Greyhounds, Scottish Deerhounds and Russian Wolfhounds. The Greyhound was one of the earliest breeds known to man and it is thought the dogs first came to America with the Spanish adventurers in the 1500's.

George Washington actually owned a huge greyhound called Azore.

"The true way to kill wolves is to hunt them with greyhounds on the great plains. Nothing more exciting than this sport can be imagined." Teddy Roosevelt.

The staghound remains a popular breed to this day but, although well bred, the breed is not recognised as a pureblood. They are a tough breed and the typical life span of the dog is between 12 and fourteen years.

Friday 30 March 2018

The eReader buyers guide: The Top Three Devices

More and more people are using their smartphone or tablet to read books.

However, there are still plenty of reasons why investing in a dedicated eReader is a good idea. They're a lot cheaper than an iPad, for example, and they’re simply a better tool for the task in hand, which is after all reading. They can also be lighter than a book, yet store thousands of books, so you can read your way through a fortnight-long holiday just by taking your eReader along.

Most eReaders have a 6in screen. It looks much like paper and is easier on the eyes than the colour LCD screen of a phone or tablet, and it won't stop you going to sleep like the blue light emitted from an LCD screen can, so eReaders are better for late-night reading.

This type of screen excels in bright sunlight, which can cause reflections on the glossy screens of other mobile devices. They are also an ideal size and weight to comfortably cradle for prolonged periods. Most modern eReaders have a touchscreen and weigh around 200g or less, so will happily slip into your bag or an oversized pocket for reading on the road.

Battery life is also much better on dedicated eReaders than tablets and smartphones, here measured in page turns rather than hours. So while your tablet could conk out halfway home, creating a genuine cliffhanger at the most inopportune point within your novel, an eReader could keep going for weeks or even months without needing a recharge.

So here is the Archive's guide to the top three eReaders currently available.

1 - In first place comes the Kindle Paperwhite - yes, I know that both the Kindle Voyage and Kindle Oasis are technically better devices but there is such a price difference that the Paperwhite is simply better value. The display is crystal clear and page turning, executed by a swipe of the screen becomes second nature after a little bit of use. The Paperwhite is the King of eReaders.

2 - Is the Kindle Oasis - this device has a bigger screen than the Paperwhite, is waterproof and allows audiobooks to be listened to via bluetooth, but it's a pricey device and given that eReaders are designed for reading books then it does not warrent the extra expense over the Paperwhite, which gives a flawless reading experience. If I was ranking these devices by their technical qualities then the Oasis would hold the top spot; it's likely the best eReader in the world today but I just think the Paperwhite does everything a reader needs and is almost half the price of the Oasis, so for that reason the Paperwhite wins out.

Amazon rule the roost when it comes to eReaders but Kobo's Aura One is good enough to take third place - it has a backlight, just like the Paperwhite and Oasis but loses out because it doesn't have access to Amazon's massive Kindle Books store. the Kobo store is lightyears behind Amazon's Kindle store, in terms of curation if not size, and you miss out on some of the Kindle features that make library management easier, such as free 3G and wide cross-device syncing.

Paranormal Encounters on British Roads

I once saw a pothole on the A470 being filled in by the council only for it to magically reappear a week later - apparently that doesn't count as a paranormal road encounter, but fear not because author Peter A. McCue has a new book coming out that details even spookier events than reappearing pot holes.

Retired clinical psychologist Peter, from Glasgow, talks about sightings of freaky figures, ghosts, and even UFOs in his latest paranormal book, which is published next month.

Peter,, said: “There are lots and lots of reports of people having strange experiences while driving."

Read more at the Scottish Sun

Shock footage shows ghostly woman terrorising a man on a motorcycle

We do like our weird news on the Archive so I wanted to share this story that recently appeared in the Daily Star newspaper -  The clip published on the newspaper's website and linked to below  shows a man riding down a country road on his own, when something ghastly appears in front of him.
The figure, which appears to have no lower half, floats in the middle of the road before disappearing altogether.

Apparantly the event was captured by a CCTV camera - thought why a CCTV camera should be mounted in a country lane is beyond me so I shout, 'fake'

 Check out the Videos HERE

RIP Anita Shreve

Bestselling romance novelist Anita Shreve has died at the age of 71 - the author was battling cancer.

The New York Times has the full story

Not banned by Amazon...well, not yet

Available in print and eBook

The eBook version can be read on eReaders, Tablets, Laptops, Smart Phones

Why I love my Kindle

Click HERE

Amazon and the Prudish Algorithm: Amazon Erotica Book Ban

Amazon have placed a shadow ban on erotica titles including the best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey series. This means that although the titles are still available in the Kindle stores they will be all but invisible. Basically they may as well not be in the store at all.

It difficult to see what Amazon are doing here, but it certainly seems a strange move for the company who did more than most to popularise eBooks and self publishing.  Maybe the reason is, as I suspect, they have been affected by the bizarre new  US FOSTA bill becoming law. This bill is ostensibly intended to fight sex trafficking, but it has already had unexpected and quite crazy effects such as Micrsoft enacting a strict PG content policy in Office 365, Skype, and Xbox Live. Reddit has also removed several forums, and Craigslist has removed its entire personals section.

Craigslist recently made a statement that went - 

 Fosta seeks “to subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully”. If any sex work happens on their site, Craigslist itself could be sued.

We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking Craigslist personals offline,” the ever simple internet billboard wrote. “Hopefully we can bring them back some day. To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through Craigslist, we wish you every happiness!

There have been have been numerous reports on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere that Amazon has adopted a new policy where some romance titles, most notably those titles that Amazon has identified as erotica, have been removed from the Kindle Store best-seller list.In other words, the eBooks are still being sold, they are just not showing up in rankings and have lost the algorithmic benefit of their previous sales rank.

Amazon who apparently can't tell the Bronte sisters apart, have decided to ban (or remove the visibility) of books it decides contain erotica. Apparently thousands of books, mainly those categorized as Gay & Lesbian and Erotica, were suddenly hidden, - their sales ranks were unavailable. Within hours of this, Bloggers were in a frenzy, Amazon was dealing with hundreds of angry eMails, and petitions against Amazon started showing up on the web. 

Some people are furious and one Twitter user called Amazon, Nazis with their book ban. Amazon are no strangers to tackling erotica and back in 2015 the company made the bizarre decision to ban dinosaur porn. 

Matthew Prince, CEO of cloud services provider CloudFlare, commented in 2015 that his concerns around internet censorship were shaped by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' decision to ban dinosaur erotica from the platform. 'I worry about Jeff Bezos' bizarre obsession with dinosaur sex,' Prince told ZDNet.   'You can make a rational argument that if you're writing books fantasizing about having sex with animals or children, maybe that promotes a certain kind of deviant behaviour. But there's no risk of someone abusing a dinosaur.'

At the time the Dino Porn ban worried the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron who has a well known fetish for making whoopy with farmyard pigs, that his favourite title 'Five Pigs and a Jar of Lube'  would be banned.

However this move worries many - at the moment Amazon are targeting sex content but will violence be next? Could we see the end of novels that contain violence and sex, being sold on Amazon?  If so the Kindle bookstore is going to be pretty sanitised.

At one time Amazon sought to empower authors, but with this they seem to setting themselves up as moral judges of what should and should not be available....A bad move for the company.

There is an interesting article on the Amazon/Erotica ban at Digital Reader

Thursday 29 March 2018

Woman tries to get it on with Easter Bunny

Some weird news for Easter - Police say an Ohio woman has been arrested for making lewd comments to an Easter Bunny.

Authorities say they were called to Richland Carrousel Park in Mansfield on Saturday after the woman made the comments while taking a picture with the Easter Bunny. Police report she began to ride the carousel after making the comments.

Arriving officers reported the 54-year-old appeared to be intoxicated, with slurred speech and unsteadiness on her feet.

The woman was arrested for drunkenness and transported to the county jail in Mansfield, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Columbus. Authorities say she was issued a summons to appear in court and has since been released from jail.

The woman names as Donna Hughett, 54, queued up to have a souvenir picture taken with the Bunny, a park worker dressed up in a mascot style costume.

But outraged parents called police to the Richland Carrousel Park in Mansfield, Ohio, after watching her straddle and grope the unsuspecting Bunny.

Hughett was also said to have made explicit comments.

In a video posted online, Hughett can be seen pretending to kiss the Bunny and posing suggestively.
Assistant Chief Keith Porch told Fox8: "So, we received an unusual report from a citizen that an intoxicated female was doing some lewd acts on the Easter Bunny."


Sex in the West or Fifty Shades of Frontier Grey

In 1939 the western saw something of a revival - with war brewing in Europe, Hollywood's thoughts turned to America's own heroic past and the nature of Americanism itself. Europe was dominated by dictators and Americans began to distrust the continent which it felt would eventually drag them into a war. Far better to celebrate America itself with its unique brand of self reliance, democracy and heaving bosoms.

Warner Brothers, the home of the swashbuckler placed Errol Flynn into a series of lavish and expensive westerns following the success of 1939's Dodge City. Warners also placed two of its biggest stars James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart (miscasting if ever there was any) in the oater, The Oklahoma Kid. During the early war years the western did well at the box office and when Howard Hughes cast Jane Russel in the dire but successful, The Outlaw (1943) it heralded the arrival of sex in the western. And this was continued in 1946 with Duel in the Sun, a film so infused with sweaty eroticism that one critic dubbed it, "Lust in the dust."

However to be fair on The Outlaw,  I've always enjoyed it and still watch it from time to time. The storyline concerning Billy The Kid, Pat Garrett and  Doc Holliday may be  barking mad and the film itself  ponderous , but it is so corny that it's highly watchable. And the advertising posters (as above) greatly exaggerated the amount of cleavage Jane Russel displayed in the picture. In fact the finished film is tamer than a standard Carry On movie. But what The Outlaw did was allow the western to tackle more adult themes than the simple good guys V bad guys motif of earlier oaters.

However the sex content was soon seen as a gimmick as the western in general became much more mature in theme. Without the westerns of the Forties paving the way we would never have seen the introspective classics of the Fifties. Perhaps one of the earliest westerns with any real significance was The Ox Bow Incident (1943) which was a sombre look at the effects of mob law.  It became apparent that audiences were now demanding more depth from their westerns. No longer was it all black and white, as shades of grey colored the celluloid holding our western dreams.

Westerns now displayed an interest in psychology and psychoanalysis - this was demonstrated in 1947's, Pursued,  in which Robert Mitchum played a troubled loner who is dogged by a childhood trauma which is revealed to the viewer in a series of flashbacks. And by the end of the decade westerns heroes could no longer be the perfect square jawed men in white hats. In 1948 Howard Hawks gave us Red River which benefited from John Wayne's best performance to date and Wayne's character, Ted Dunson was something of a blueprint for the western anti-heroes of the next decade.

John Ford, arguably the finest ever American director of westerns, returned from his wartime service to enter one of his richest periods - his cavalry trilogy which ended the decade are amongst the finest westerns ever made. In 1946 he took the OK Corral  legend and gave us a fine and complex movie in, My Darling Clementine. What the film lacked in historical accuracy it made up for with it sheer brilliance in storytelling and acting. The film introduced many of Ford's trademarks - the townsfolk gathering together to hold a square dance in their half built church is just one example of the importance of community that Ford was at pains to point out in all of his films and not just his westerns.  It is an irony with Ford that although his westerns celebrated the freedom of the frontier they preached the importance of civilization. Later Ford would give us his three Calvary movies, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande in 1948, 1949 and 1950 respectively . It is a sense of community and service to one's country that link the three movies and hold them together like glue.

As the Fifties dawned the western was changed forever and the coming years would see some of the best movies ever made -  oaters that could hold themselves alongside the best of any other genre and it was during the Forties that this transition truly started. It may have all started out with a preoccupation with large breasts but it ended up looking much deeper.

Much deeper indeed.

Global eBook Market Report 2018

Find the detailed report by clicking HERE


Book lovers really need to be aware of BookBub -
BookBub is a free service that helps you discover books you'll love through unbeatable deals, handpicked recommendations, and updates from your favorite authors. BookBub doesn't actually sell books. We simply introduce you to books you'll love that are available on retailers like Amazon's Kindle store, Barnes & Noble's Nook store, Apple's iBooks, and others.

Handpicked deals on books you'll love

BookBub notifies you about free and deeply discounted ebook recommendations selected by our expert editorial team, from bestsellers to hidden gems. You choose the types you'd like to get notified about — with categories ranging from mysteries to romance to cookbooks — and we send you great deals in those genres.
BookBub features books ranging from top-tier publishers to critically acclaimed independent authors. Our experts ensure that we're only featuring great deals on quality books you'll love.

Real-time updates from your favorite authors

BookBub also notifies you about discounts, new releases, and preorders from your favorite authors. You choose the authors you want follow, and we'll alert you when they have book news to share.

Recommendations from people you trust

BookBub helps you spend less time searching and more time reading by surfacing recommendations from people you trust. You can browse recommendations from your favorite authors, BookBub editors, and your friends and family to discover books you'll love.

Is the eReader Dead? The state of play in the digital book world.

Print books are doing well in the market at the moment, but then so too are eBooks (now that the days of crazy growth are over) and we live in a world where print and digital books can co-exist in peace. Bigger and better smartphones it seems are, at the moment, driving the eBook market but what of the dedicated eReader? Deadicated eInk readers, like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook are much less widespread than they used to be — and some claim, much less necessary.

Ten years ago, the Kindle was essentially the only game in town for eBooks. But now, it's just as easy to read on your computer, your tablet, your phone — or even all three, thanks to cross-compatible apps. In a world where convenience is king and delayed gratification is a dirty phrase, is there any room for a device that does only one thing and can't do that thing nearly as fast as the supercomputer in your pocket?

eReaders are catering to a diminishing audience. According to figures published by the US Library service more than one-quarter of U.S. adults didn't read a book in 2016; of the 74 percent who did, some read a single book "in part." The average U.S. reader finishes from four to 12 books per year, depending on whether you want to go with the median or the mean. The number of people who read, and the amount that they read, have both been dropping since the early '80s.

A few years ago, eReaders were more than just an exciting new innovation; they were also big business. For a brief period — 2011 to 2014, roughly — there was a real horse race among Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Kobo in the e-reader market. Device sales soared, as did those for e-books. 

Then, something strange happened: eBook sales more or less leveled off, but eReaders took a huge dive - likely down to the fact that tablet devices gained in popularity.  In 2010, Amazon shipped 10.1 million Kindles — and the Kindle accounted for only 63 percent of e-readers shipped worldwide, meaning it had some legitimate competition. In 2011, Kindle shipments rocketed to 23.2 million. However, after a dramatic decline in 2012, and a steady decline ever since, Amazon shipped just 7.1 million Kindles in 2016.

So what's happening? After all, eBooks are more popular than ever.

Author Erin Kelly recently wrote in the Guardian Newspaper - My novel He Said/She Said, a psychological thriller about a couple who witness a rape, was a Sunday Times bestseller, but three months out of the trap, the hardback began the soft fall in sales that is the norm that period after publication. When the ebook edition began selling for 99p on Kindle for the summer, I’ll admit that I flinched, but – excluding a few days’ concession of my throne to Neil Gaiman – it topped the charts for six weeks and I was able to take my family on an overseas holiday for the first time. (On that trip, I took seven novels in a device that weighed less than a paperback, like something out of Star Trek.) I’d always had a core of loyal readers – but these numbers were something else.

So eBooks  are still hugely popular but the sales of eReaders themselves have slowed somewhat - maybe this is partly due to the fact that eReading devices are so durable, and tend to last. Once you've got an eReader you're not going to buy another if your current device is still serving you well. I for instance am on my third Kindle but I have seen no need to upgrade my paperwhite to the flashier Kindle Voyage of Oasis models. Now  I will upgrade to the new paperwhite when it comes out later this year but only because it will be waterproof, and I tend to read a lot in the bath. I've already ruined one paperwhite by dropping it in the bath. That's how I'm on my fourth Kindle.

My Kindle buying went like this:

1st Kindle I bought was the second generation with the keyboard.
Then I upgraded to the smaller model
Then I went for the Paperwhite because at the time the built in light was innovative.
Then after ruining my Paperwhite by dropping it in the bath, I simply bought another paperwhite.

Again it must be stressed that whilst eReader sales have dipped, it is not the case with eBooks and the graph left shows that eBooks sales have risen in the US market every year since 2008. The same is true in the UK.

Publisher Scott Pack recently said in the Independent  Newspaper - I believe the reader of 2020 or 2030 will have two libraries, print and digital, with different types of books and publications in each.While I have no qualms about trying out a debut author on eBook or loading up some holiday reading on to my Kindle, when it comes to my favourite authors I have to own the print edition, and I remain a sucker for a beautifully designed and printed book.

Likely the next big surge in eReader sales will come when the new Clearink technology becomes widespread - CLEARink is a new form of ePaper that will be released in 2018. It was properly unveiled at SID Display Week Los Angeles and it presents a better alternative to the eInk screen based readers. The prototype that is yet to go into production won the best in show, thus showing immense potential in the low-power, color display segment, unlike Amazon Liquavista. The promising ePaper display is set to be launched in two variants: The ‘video’ version is touted to bring video ability (with a refresh rate of over 30 Hz) to this segment which has never been done in the ePaper display as of yet. There is also the ‘bistable’ platform that will find application in displaying content for marketing and digital advertising (like digital signage etc.) and of course eReaders.the technology looks much better than eInk and actually can be colour rather than black - this will mean that illustrations in eBooks are going to look much better. Unlike eInk, CLEARink can overlay an LCD color layer in order to create images with 4,096 levels of color (that’s known as high color). That means it can do a lot more than just read books. It can also render the screen
animations and icons of an operating system.

So no the eReader is not dead..far from it. The addition of colour capabilities to dedicated eReaders is going to be a game changer.


Clint Eastwood voted 'Coolest Actor' Ever

Cool is his business
Clint Eastwood took top place in a poll thanks to an online poll- yep Ranker been doing what Ranker does best, which is ranking things, and the website has compiled a list of how cool viewers' think various actors from throughout the ages are.

As movie fans, we like to think of our favorite actors as being larger than life. With all of the coverage that these stars get, these cool customers know how to function both on and off the screen. Often times we think of our favorite actors as being fairly close in personality to our favorite characters to whom which they portray. Obviously it's impossible for them to be a lot like their famous portrayals, but that doesn't mean that these guys aren't cool. In fact, most of these guys epitomize what cool is. Beginning with actors like Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant during the Golden Age of Film, the best leading men have had a certain aura about them. James Dean, Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen are other actors who are considered some of the coolest guys ever.  From the RANKER ARTICLE

 Clint took the NO1 spot (there would have been something wrong if he hadn't)  and Tom Hanks came in second with Steve McQueen at third place. Now I'm not so sure about Hanks topping McQueen and even James Dean who is No 5 on the list. Still it's an interesting list - check it out via the link above.

 Ranker seem to like Eastwood and he also took second place in a poll for the best western stars ever - no suprise that John Wayne took the top spot in that poll.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

The Road to Self Publishing is paved with gold


The road to self publishing is paved with gold - yeah, sure!

There's an interesting article HERE on this very subject. It's a refreshing read since all we seem to hear about are the mega sales of folk like Amanda Hocking and J A Konrath, but for every big seller there are thousands of others struggling with low, often non existent, sales. So why is this? Well there's a lot of dross out there, of course.But even well established authors, with a proven track record are finding it difficult to shift units in bulk.

Raymond Benson, a well known  writer, the third official author of the James Bond series, recently wrote about his own difficulties in selling his back list as eBooks and Archive friend, Chap O'Keefe, a very well respected western author, has reported that sales are slow with his own eBook titles.

Is it all about promotion?  Take Joe Konrath for instance - he constantly preaches promotion while making claims of massive sales, often selling a truck load of books before dinner time. And yet I've tried to corner him for an interview with the Archive for some time and had no response. John Locke, on the other hand, has talked to the Archive -  he holds the distinction of being the first self published author to sell a million titles. Congratulations John - we're thrilled for you. I could make the outlandish claim that the Archive is responsible for Locke's success, but of course it isn't as the author is a bloody good writer and his work is addictive. He has also worked long and hard at promoting his books but the most important fact is that they are engaging books.  However  in the spirit of outlandish claims I'm gonna' make it anyway - APPEAR ON THE ARCHIVE AND SELL A MILLION!!!!!!!!
It took some time for my popular Granny Smith series to find a readership, but now that it has sales are strong from week to week -. I've promoted the hell out of these books, and I shall continue to promote the series.

Maybe readers are reluctant to buy eBooks by new authors after being stung by some of the badly written, badly edited crap out there, but that doesn't explain why true craftsmen like Chap O'Keefe and Raymond Benson  are struggling to make the eBook model work. At the moment we live in a world where anyone can easily publish a novel to eBook using Amazon, Smashwords or Barnes and Noble, and believe me many do - some it seems bang out something in a matter of days, bung up a cover with Photoshop and then press publish and  their creation is soon available to the world.

I do strongly believe though that true talent will shine through - at the moment the self publishing craze seems to have levelled out, but as time goes on readers will soon discover what is good and what is not. Self publishing platforms like Amazon really do need to introduce some quality control if they are to ensure their eShop contains nothing but quality writing, still I fear this will never happen since money is made from the good as well as the bad, and the bad outnumbers the good by seemingly sixteen squillionwilliontwillion to one.

Though have no fear - writers will continue to write, since that is what they have to do, what they must do.

Sean Penn's debut novel is a mess according to critics

Sean Penn, actor and one time Madonna servicer, has written his first novel entitled, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff with polarizing results. Apparantly the book is about a hitman who works for US Intelligence, and the first reviews are hardly flattering.

The New York Times called  the book - 'a riddle wrapped in an enigma and cloaked in crazy' The reviewer also stated that he had to survive reading the book.

The Huffington Post said of the book - "It's physically impossible to dunk on a novel that is already dunking on itself so hard.

Apparantly the book  switches, without warning, between poetry and prose, while the epilogue contains an entire poem.

The author Salman Rushdie was one of the few to have good things to say about the book when he was quoted as saying, 'It was good fun to read.'

Here are some baffling sections from the book -

“Bob’s boyhood essence set him up for a separation from time, synergy, and social mores, leading him to acts of indelicacy, wounding words, and woeful whimsy that he himself would come to dread.” ― page 12

“Silly questions of cherries saved served to sever any last impression Bob might have had of Spurley as a serious citizen.” ― page 94

“There is pride to be had where the prejudicial is practiced with precision in the trenchant triage of tactile terminations.” ― page 125

“His dream’s desert daylight diffusion dictated disturbances in the void of visual detail.” ― page 142

US Today were undecided on the book and said - This literary debut is a mixed bag of nuts that are hard to crack. But once you dig in, you'll find some good stuff.

Book Review: The Guns of Navarone by Alistair Maclean

Alistar Maclean
First published 1957
The Kindle Edition

Recently watching the Guns of Navarone on television,  I suddenly thought that I'd never read the book on which the quite excellent movie was based - with that thought came the realisation that I'd never read any Alistair Maclean books. Of course I knew of the author; he remains, even now several decades after his death, a household name and I've seen a few of the many films based on his work. But the urge to actually dip into the master thriller writer's work was intense, I figured that he had to be pretty damn special given his reputation and so I promptly bought the eBook edition of the Guns of Navarone - at £1.49 it was hardly going to break the bank.

So first for anyone that doesn't know here is the plot of this wartime adventure -  There are more than a thousand British soldiers trapped on a small island off the Aegean island of Navarone, and the Germans are sending a huge force to smash them.  The British Navy wants to pull them off, but the only route that can be taken goes right past–the guns of Navarone.  Unfortunately neither sea nor air attacks will work on the Navarone fortress due to its unique position, and a mass amphibious assault is too chancy and likely doomed to failure. But a small team of specialists, led by renowned mountain climber, Keith Mallory, might be able to scale the seemingly unclimable cliffs, get past the elite Alpenkorps troops, infiltrate
Various editions of the novel
the impenetrable fortress and blow up the invincible guns

Maclean's style took me a little while to get into - he was a very detailed writer and the book is paced a little slower than the modern thrillers I am used to reading. However once I'd gone a few pages I found myself sucked into the story, and the suspense kept me turning the pages. I also appreciated the fact that the German characters in the book are not presented as one dimensional bad guys, but rather with respect - they are for the most part just soldiers fighting for their country, just like our intrepid heroes themselves. There is one nasty German character, who engages in a little torture at a pivotal part in the book but he is an exception to the rule, and overall the books comes across with a very realistic feel. The rock climbing scenes are brilliantly well done - incredibly described and in this respect the author reminded me somewhat of Ian Fleming; he was another writer who could squeeze excitement out of scenes such as this. When reading the exploits of Mallory and his team as they scale the seemingly impossible cliffs, we can feel the wind in our hair, the ice cold rain washing down out faces and you get a real sense of the danger in which our characters find themselves. I even think I had an attack of vertigo at one or two points in the book.

The titular guns themselves almost take on a mythical status throughout the narrative - fitting that the book is set on a Greek island since the guns have the air of a Greek Myth - and it is surprising that their actual destruction is dealt with in a couple of pages, but the fun of the book is getting to this point and it really is a pulse pounding journey - very well told with a masterful grip of character. I'll certainly be exploring more of Maclean's work - it took me awhile to get here but this book leaves me well and truly a fan.

An exceptional thriller that deserves its lofty reputation.

Former Cowboy Craig Johnson talks Longmire

 From the beginning, Longmire didn't fit the mold of what most people might envision as a sheriff in a rural, Western county. He was very well-read, he played jazz and classical piano, and he took a job in law enforcement after working as a Marine Corps investigator during his tour of duty in Vietnam. His best friend is Henry Standing Bear, who hails from the Cheyenne Nation, just across the border in Montana.

There's a great interview/feature with Longmire creator Craig Johnson HERE

Vintage Movie Review: The Wrong Man

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring Henry Fonda and Vera Mills

You couldn't imagine this film being made today - or if it was it would likely be a TV movie, rather than a big screen offering.  - then again I suppose if it was a made today for cinema then the Fonda character would likely get hold of an AK47 and go on a CGI gun rampage across the city - As it is Hitchcocks Docudrama is heavy on the melodrama and light on action....and it's all the better for it.

It is based on the true tory of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero ( Manny) who suffered a case of mistaken identity, when several witnesses claimed that he was the man who held up their store, and as a consequence of this his life falls apart. In January 1953, Balestrero went to borrow money from his wife’s life insurance plan. He was taken into custody after two employees at the insurance office identified him as the man who robbed the office of a total of $271 during two robberies the previous year.

As painstakingly recounted in the film, shot on manyof the actual locations, Balestrero was awaiting his second trial (the first had resulted in a miss-trial  after a juror made a remark presuming his guilt in open court) when the actual culprit was apprehended during an attempted deli robbery.

What made the case especially poignant  is what happened to Balestrero’s wife, Rose (played in “The Wrong Man” by Vera Miles). Blaming herself for Manny’s arrest, she suffered a nervous breakdown. The mother of two young sons, she remained institutionalised until September 1955.

'My life did not start over again when I was cleared,” said Balestrero, who moved his family to Florida after his wife’s release. “I figured if we’re going to really get a fresh start, everything’s got to be different. We left our friends, our relatives, our home, our furniture — everything.' Balestero speaking to the New York Post in a 1956 interview.

Hitchcock's movie sticks to the actual events like glue and Henry Fonda gives an amazing performance as the ordinary man caught up in a nightmare - it is hard to think of any other A- list actor, with the possible exception of James Stewart, who could have pulled off a performance such as this. Vera Mills is also exceptional as the wife who slowly spirals towards madness.

I'd seen this movie before, though I'm not sure how long ago but watching the pristine Blu-Ray print I was immediately sucked into the movie. It certainly a somber movie with a downbeat ending, which is likely the reason that it didn't do great Box Office upon its original release. The print itself is a vibrant high-def rendition, in a 1.77 aspect ratio very close to its theatrical presentation. There’s a show of noticeable grain in certain scenes but for the most part the texture is extremely solid; the visuals are striking, compelling.

Whilst the movie may not be as much fun as many of Hitchcock's other movies, and likely the slowest paced narrative he ever tackled it is still a masterpiece, and resonates with the viewer long after the final frame. And thanks to its docu-drama style we get to see what New York looked like in the 1950's

Excellent stuff.

Kindle loses digital weight

Amazon have launched a lite version of their Kindle App for those with slow internet connections - FULL STORY

Thay're at it like Bunnies

Not everyone is laughing about John Oliver’s parody book about Vice President Mike Pence’s bunny. Specifically, independent booksellers are furious that Chronicle Books, the publisher of Oliver’s “A Day In the Life of Marlon Bundo,” cut a deal with Amazon to make the book available only — at least initially — from the online retailer. FULL STORY

Tuesday 27 March 2018

'Holy PC madness they've sacked Joss Whedon now!'

Joss Whedon has been sacked from DC's Batgirl movie - FULL STORY

BBC Reveals new look Doctor Who logo

And it looks rather grand - now that the shock of a female playing the iconic role has had time to settle in, I'm looking forward to what the BBC will do with the show.

The next series is expected to air this winter with an October start looking likely.

News is that the series will be recorded at twice the current volume so it can still be heard over the sound of furious Tweeting by more furious manbabies raging about a Tardis full of bras and sonic screwdrivers being replaced by heliocentric hairgrips.

My own time on Doctor Who HERE

Cillian Murphy looking likely for the James Bond role.

According to the Bookies it is looking likely that Peaky Blinders star, Cillian Murphy may get to step into the 007 shoes when Daniel Craig departs the role. The odds on the actor getting the role have  been slashed, meaning its starting to look increasingly likely.

According to OddsChecker, about 72 percent of all Bond bets have been placed on the Peaky Blinders star, which has meant bookies have had to respond. While his odds were a huge 125/1 just three months ago, they've now dropped to 12/1.

Others in the running are Tom Hardy, James Norton and Idris Elba.

Forget all this nonsense about the next Bond being played by a woman - because that's just nonsense. The character is male and should stay male - to suddenly change sex would be a step too far. They may get away with it in Doctor Who (though that remains to be seen), but the character of Doctor Who and Bond are too very different characters, two widely different concepts. 

I think I'd like Murphy in the role, but I'm also rooting for Idris Elba, who I think would be exceptionally good.

Ah well, watch this space.

The West is still Wild

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my love of the western genre - it's a passion that may of you share and so I'd like to direct you to this article by author, Paul Bishop that looks at modern day HERE

Pulp Fiction Art

 This first illustration is by Giorgio De Gaspari who worked from Italy for a number of British publishers.This cover was for a Second World War story called Above Suspision.

The image below is by Ian Robertson for the novel Murder in Moscow

The third painting comes from Tony Masero and is just an example of some of the wonderful work he did for the western paperbacks during the 70's/80's - this is from George Gilman's Adam Steele series.

ON MY eReader with Ben Bridges AKA David Whitehead

This is the first in a regular section in which the Archive quizzes writers about the contents of their eReaders. First up we have David Whitehead -

David Whitehead is a prolific English writer and arguably (hey, there's no argument about it) one of the most influential British western writers of the past thirty years. Born in London in 1958, he sold his first book, THE SILVER TRAIL, in 1984. It marked not only the first appearance of his popular continuing character, freelance fighting man Carter O'Brien, but also the first time he used his best-known pseudonym, Ben Bridges. Since then David has written more than seventy books; westerns as Ben Bridges, Glenn Lockwood, Matt Logan, Doug Thorne, Carter West and ten under his own name. In addition to this he writes romantic fiction as Janet Whitehead and has co-authored nine thrillers with Hollywood screenwriter Steve Hayes. David's entire back-catalogue is now available on Kindle, where all of his westerns are now being reissued under the Ben Bridges byline. For more details about David's work, please go to

Of course David is no stranger to the digital format and he is one of the men responsible for the wonderful Piccadilly Publishing House, a digital publisher that has for several years been bringing new and classic adventure fiction into digital print. Find them HERE but be warned, take a few pennies because while you are there you will buy.

OK so - So Drum Roll please.
and it's over to David Whitehead:

Last night I finished reading WAR CLOUD’S BRIDE by Sundown McCabe, whose real name is Roger Norris-Green. I’ve always been a sucker for Australia’s Cleveland westerns and now that they’ve finally started appearing in digital form, I’ve started getting enthusiastic about them all over again.

WAR CLOUD’S BRIDE tells the story of a drifter named Steve Brand, who gets involved in a manhunt – or more accurately a woman-hunt – when rancher’s daughter Alison Carter is abducted by a Cheyenne war party. But there’s more to the story than just that, of course. Long-buried secrets come to light as the pursuit unfolds, and the plot climaxes with a thrilling river-chase and of course, the obligatory final reckoning with the bad guys.

Overall, this is a fast-moving western, and certainly among the best Cleveland westerns I’ve read in a while (my favourite still remains BELFREY JUAREZ by Clint McCall – check it out if you can find a copy). Characterisation is sketchy but adequate and the author builds a neat sense of location. I doubt the wisdom of naming one character Brand and another one the very similar Brandy, but that’s only a minor technical quibble. WAR CLOUD’S BRIDE is well worth reading and I’m glad to see more Sundown McCabe titles finding a new readership in digital print. 

The World's first eReader

If you thought it was Amazon's kindle that gave the world the eReader, then you need to think again.

In 1949, Ángela Ruiz Robles, a innovative educator and writer from Galicia, came up with a way to expand her students’ knowledge and lighten their satchels at the same time. She came up with the world's first electronic reading device.

Her mechanical encyclopaedia – Spanish patent number 190,698 – was the pastel-green metal box pictured above.

It was a mechanical, electric and air-pressure driven method for reading books, and featured audio, interchangeable reels on different subjects, a magnifying glass screen and a light so it could be read in the dark. Basically, the Kindle Paperwhite of its day

Ruiz Robles’s aim was simple – to make teaching easier; to get maximum knowledge with minimum effort  – and her work went on to win prizes and acclaim.

Unfortunately the mechanical encyclopaedia failed to attract the necessary funding and today her prototype is on show at the national museum of science and technology in the Galician city of La Coruña.

 Ruiz Robles passed away in 1975 but her work has gradually gained posthumous recognition.

Recently Madrid city council approved the naming of a street in the Spanish capital to celebrate her contribution to education and innovation.The move is part of a wider project to recognise the overlooked, marginalised or forgotten work of many pioneering Spanish women.

Keeping alive the memory of those people who have advanced culture or science is fundamental to any society,” said Rita Maestre, a spokeswoman for the Madrid government.


 Last night I watched the new cleaned up version of the Beatles Let it Be documovie - it was great to finally see it cleaned up, thanks to P...