Monday, 20 September 2021

Movie Review: Cry Macho - The Good, the Bad and the Poultry

 I've seen one or two nasty reviews of the new Clint Eastwood movie, Cry Macho around the web - mostly, these reviews can't get around the fact that the lead man is in his Nineties but there's a good movie here and once you get over the fact that the star often looks frail (well, he would at his age) it pays off. Hell, Eastwood still looks damn fine in a cowboy hat.



Eastwood, plays Mike Milo ,a  former rodeo rider, horse trainer and all round animal lover. He sketches out the character in his usual laid-back style but this perfectly complements the adventurous artist he is behind the camera. Milo is hired to travel to Mexico and bring back a thirteen year old boy so that he can be reunited with his father in Texas and on the way Mike meets up with all manner of dangerous hombres and corrupt police officers.



The movie starts off as a thriller but as soon as Eastwood meets up with the young boy, Rafo and his remarkable rooster named Macho the movie slows right down, becomes much more pastoral. There's  some great character moments and a lot of Eastwood's dry humour. And the slow pace of the movie perfectly compliments the character Eastwood is playing - a run down man whose best years are far behind him but whilst there may be snow on the roof there is very much a fire in the cellar.


Overall I think Cry Macho is on the same level as Eastwood's last starring role, The Mule - the characters he play in both are fairly similar but Mike Milo is much more of a compelling character than Earl Stone - Both are road movies and both show an aging man coming to terms with a life maybe not well lived but certainly with many highlights along the way.


Ignore the critics who have slammed the film - critics are bottom feeders in any case and don't create anything worthwhile but exist to tear down the work of others


I enjoyed Cry Macho - it's a great, heart-warming picture. There's a great shot of Eastwood, the boy and the chicken walking down a road that is kind of magical and as with all of Eastwood's directed movies the scenery photography is nothing short of stunning.


If you go into the cinema expecting Dirty Harry 23 or The Good, the Bad and the Poultry then you'll be disappointed but if you sit back and allow the story to waft over you then a good experience is pretty much guaranteed. The movie will - make your day, punk.


Long live Clint.

Free eBooks


 eBooks are a great way to read  - sure, they can be consumed on phones, tablets, PC screens but it is with a dedicated eInk device that they really come to life - to my mind, eReaders are the only way to read eBooks and I'd never part with my beloved Kindle Oasis.


 Once you've got the hardware it's time to stock it up with loads of shiny new eBooks. You can get an entire library in your pocket and free eBooks are a great way to quickly build up a collection.


However downloading free eBooks from the web is not without risky - malware,trogans and all manner of virus can be lurking so here is a common sense way to get oddles of free eBooks without the risk.


Project Gutenberg is a great resource with stacks of eBooks you can download for free - more than 50,000 in fact. The entire Sherlock Holmes series can be found there - thanks to the work of volunteers who scan old out of copyright classics and convert them into workable files the website has a vast collection for all eReader owners to enjoy. And there's no malware at all.


Joining Amazon Prime is another way to get loads of free eBooks for your device -  Remember, you don't need an actual Kindle device but can download the free Kindle App to your phone or tablet and take advantage of the vast library that way. This is a great place to stock up on free audiobooks, which are a great way to pass the time while commuting. If you are on Amazon Prime then subscribing to Kindle Unlimited is a no-brainer - Kindle Unlimited is kind of the Netflix for books.




Friday, 17 September 2021

The Rise of the Self Publisher

 


Looking back through the archives of this blog, the reader will discover that I've always supported digital publishing. Right at the beginning, when the Kindle was just one of the eReaders fighting for our hearts, minds and money - 


back in 2011 in fact, in an article entitled, The Times they are a'changing, I wrote, 'It's a new phenomenon and many in the publishing industry believe that the lunatics have finally taken over the asylum - only recently there was a stigma against self publishing, which seemed to be lumped under that dreaded term, Vanity Publishing. These days however things are changing - and rapidly. With the advent of eBooks and the ease in which anyone can publish to a platform like Amazon's Kindle, we are seeing newcomers outselling long established names.'


Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.


And now in 2021 the eBook market has, if not mutured, then at least entered it's troubled teenage years. The Kindle device now dominates the market, although there are other eReaders that have pretty solid user bases. Kobo eReaders for one have a strong following, as does the Nook but for the writer it is the Kindle which is the gold standard. Amazon have the best eBook store out there and for author's hoping to gain an audience it is the Kindle that  offers the best opportunities. Though that is not to say you should ignore the other platforms and it is a good idea when producing your eBook file to create an ePub version alongside the mobi for uploading to marketplaces other than Amazon.


I got into self publishing, though I prefer the term Indie Publishing, back in 2012 when I made the first of the Granny Smith series available to the Kindle and Kobo devices. I'm what you would call a hybrid author - I publish traditionally with Crowood Press and Pen and Sword Books, but I also publish my cozy crime novels under my own own digital publishing house, Red Valley Books.  Sales of the Granny Smith series have been strong with both Granny Smith Investigates and Granny Smith and the Deadly Frogs going top five several times in the Cosy
Crime charts. The first book, Granny Smith Investigates went as high as No 2.

CHECK THEM OUT PEOPLE

Recently I saw the  the publication of the fourth Granny Smith title, Mudrer Plot and in the build up to publication the previous three titles are on offer for the knock down price of 0.99c or equivalent. So now may be a good time for new readers to check out the books.

Now after several years of self publshing - no scrub that and start again - Now after several years of INDIE PUBLISHING I have learned one or two things, and I intend to share these hard learned lessons with readers of the Tainted Archive through a series of articles that goes under the collective  title, Indie Publishing. This article here is an introduction to the series, and I apologise upfront if I mention my Granny Smith series several times in each article...hey, the importance of  self publicity is one of the things you'll learn during this series of articles.

ALSO AVAILABLE The Reluctant Terrorist - Armageddon has never been so much fun



Another newspaper goes digital only

 No doubt this is the shape of things to come but recent news got the digital publishing world in a spin when it was announced that the Chattanooga Times is moving to digital publishing only and will give its subscribers free iPads.



The plan will cease delivery of the print edition of the newspaper by mid-2022.

The newspaper's publisher, Walter E. Hussman Jr., has purchased thousands of Apple iPads to give to subscribers.

The newspaper said starting Monday it will begin converting daily print subscribers to an online version of the daily newspaper available on the tablet. The replica edition looks like the print paper but has some additional features and functionality, the newspaper reported.


“If we didn’t do this, we wouldn’t be able to continue to publish the kind of paper we publish in Chattanooga,” Hussman said. “For us to do this, we can keep our newsroom basically intact. It’s the way for us to maintain good, quality journalism and fulfil our function.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

A proper movie...can't wait

 


Classic Comics - Action

 Action ramains one of the most controversial British comics - It was actually, banned, withdrawn from sale after complaints in the media resulted in questions being asked in Parliament.


The comic was devised in 1976 by Pat Mills, a man who enjoys the status of legend these days. It was intended to reflect the social changes and issues in the UK in the late 1970's and it didn't flinch in it's depiction of violence. Several titles were bandied about for the comic Boots, Dr Martins and Action 76 were all considered until the title Action was decided upon.



Many of the stories in Action were what Mills called "dead cribs", essentially rip-offs of popular films, books, and comic heroes. Rather than being a straight copy, the "cribs" in Action had their own slant on the idea. Hook Jaw, for example, combined the graphic gore and shark anti-hero of Steven Spielberg's 1975 Jaws, whilst Hellman of Hammer Force was a Warlord/Battle-style adventure told from the point of view of a German Panzer commander and very much taking its influence from the hugely popular paperbacks of Sven Hassel.



The first issue was published on 7 February 1976,  The comic was instantly popular, particularly for its gritty tone and graphic gore. Within weeks the media had picked up on the title's violent content. The London Evening Standard  and The Sun  ran major articles on the comic, with the latter  by dubbing Action "the sevenpenny nightmare" (the cover price was 7p). Over the next few months Action was the centre of a campaign led by Mary Whitehouse to censor or ban the comic. IPC eventually started to moderate strips in order to forestall possible boycotts by newsagent chains such as John Menzies and W H Smiths.




In September 1976 John Sanders appeared on the television programme Nationwide , where he tried to defend the comic from a vigorous attack by interviewer. Although Action remained popular, its days were numbered. Pressure within IPC's higher management, and alleged worries that the two major newsagent chains would refuse to stock not just Action, but all of IPC's line, led to the 23 October issue being pulped.


The title returned on 27 November (cover date 4 December), but the violence was toned down, replaced by a safer, blander feel. Stories like Hook Jaw were no longer drenched in blood and gore, but instead were full of safer and more reliable heroes, and traditional villains. Sales dropped drastically, and the last issue before merging with Battle was published on 5 November 1977 - dated 11 November. Battle became Battle Action until 1982, at which point the Action name was dropped entirely.








The use of vivid-red blood shocked moral guardians



















The war strips had a gritty feel.

















Even the letters page had a subversive edge. Readers were encouraged to insult the editor.















Lefty replaced Hook Jaw for the colour centre pages

Classic Comics

the revamped Dan Dare as he first appeared in the pages of 2000AD - double page spread taken from the first issue of 2000AD.




Bosch wraps but it's not the end.....

 Justed binged the final season of Bosch on Amazon Prime - it's been a great show and now whenever I read a Bosch thriller I see Titus Welliver in my head and that's no bad thing.



“Ideas come to me in dreams and wake me up,”  Michael Connelly.


Bosch has been Amazon's longest running show, with seven excellent seasons available on the platform for those late to the party to catch up on.


The bestselling Bosch books by Michael Connelly have been popular for decades, and continue to remain so. For the first eight Bosch novels Harry Bosch carried a badge for the LAPD but then after quitting the force he became a PI and the series continued. Later on Bosch officially retired but was reluctantly brought back as an investigator for his half brother Mickey Haller.


Bosch will appear in a new novel, The Dark Hours to be published this November and Amazon have announced that there will be a Bosch spin off which will follow the detective through his PI period.


More Bosch...yes please, bring it on.


Below we have embedded the first shot from the currently in production Bosch spin off series.








From Michael Connelly's website:   IMDb TV, Amazon’s premium free streaming service, announced it has picked up a new spinoff series of Bosch. The new series will begin filming later this year with stars Titus Welliver, Mimi Rogers and Madison Lintz reprising their roles.

The new IMDb TV Original will follow Harry Bosch as he embarks on the next chapter of his career and finds himself working with his one-time enemy and top-notch attorney Honey “Money” Chandler. With a deep and complicated history between this unlikely pair, they must work together to do what they can agree on – finding justice.

“I am beyond excited by this and I think the fans that have called for more Bosch will be as well. To continue the Harry Bosch story and see him team up with ‘Money’ Chandler will be more than I could have ever wished for. And to continue our relationship with Amazon and be part of the IMDb TV line up will insure our commitment to providing viewers with a high-quality, creative and relevant show. I can’t wait to get started.”- Michael Connelly

IMDb TV is free. No paid subscription is necessary. IMDb TV is available as an app on Fire TV and Roku devices. It is a free Channel within the Amazon Prime Video and IMDb apps, and is available on the IMDb website.

 You can watch seasons 1-7 now on Prime Video.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

New Kindle update gets users in a spin

 We recently reported on the updates that Amazon were rolling out for their entire Kindle eReader range and now that Update   5.13.7,  has been rolled out users are starting to see a difference in the UI (user interface) on their Kindles. Many don't like the changes.




Amazon have had a spate of complaints about how the new update rearranges things and that the home-screen forces you to look at recommendations Amazon say that the layout is going to change again soon so these complaints may be premature.


Amazon will continue rolling out the new updates but Kindle users have been left bemused that there has been no official mention of a colour eInk reader as of yet. The Kindle has always led the field with eInk readers but it may start to fall behind if it doesn't get a move on with colour particularly as some companies are now selling colour eInk readers.

Below I have embedded a video from the GoodeReader which compares colour eInk to Kindle's popular Paperwhite.



Monday, 13 September 2021

Clint is on his way back

 The legendary Clint Eastwood returns to the silver screen as director and star of #CryMacho, in theaters and streaming exclusively on HBO Max September 17. Watch the new trailer now.










New Kindle updates around the corner

 Amazon are to roll out new updates to their eReader devices over the next few weeks, that the company claim will improve on an already great reading experience - Amazon is introducing a new interface for the Kindle devices which the brand claims will offer a more intuitive and easier Kindle reading experience. The new interface is expected to come with software updates that are expected to start rolling out next week. As per a report by PCMag, Amazon is set to roll out the new interface in two major updates.

The first update is expected to bring a smartphone-like navigation bar to the Amazon Kindle e-book readers. The navigation bar will make moving through the interface much easier. The readers are also set to get quick toggles when users swipe down from the top. These toggles will feature controls for changing the brightness and toggling Airplane Mode.



The second update will reportedly focus on improving the eBook pages themselves. A minor update to Home will bring readers up to 20 recently opened books at a time, but the Library tab is set to get new filters, a new collections view and a scrollbar. These features will make finding the right book quicker and easier.


The release notes for Kindle software upgrades usually don’t include much detail. Since the updates roll out gradually, it can take a while to see new features on your device. Recent updates have included bug fixes and performance improvements that made starting a new book much faster. Users with ad-free devices got a new lockscreen that displays a book cover. 

The Good old days of comic books

 Growing up comic books were of vital importance - They mattered to a young boy. There were just another of the essentials needed for any kind of  life. As every young boy knew the true necessities for a happy life were food, water, shelter, assorted candy and comic books.


It wasn't like today where kids can grab a DVD
from a shelf, switch on a computer or fire up a video game. This was pre-home computer, pre cable television, (WTF is streaming) even VHS video tapes were still some time in the future.

 We had three TV channels - two from the Beeb and one commercial station - entertainment, particularly for an imaginative young boy was thin on the ground. Sure we had our cartoons but they only played at certain times of the day, the rest of the time the small screen seemed obsessed with soap operas, game shows and current affairs. Hardly the material designed to stimulate young minds.

All in all you'd think we were starved of exciting adventure stories designed to stir the blood, but there was one avenue open to us. 

There was a medium offering wildly entertaining stories whenever the fancy took us.

 That medium was the comic book - the newsagents shelves were stuffed full of books with titles like Tiger, Warlord, Battle, Victor, Action - they cost pennies (I think the average price of a comic book when I started buying on a regular basis was around 5p) and yet provided entertainment worth many times that paltry sum.

In the far off United States (a country that seemed so exciting to any British kid) the comic book industry was dominated by colourful stories of super heroes, but in the UK super heroes, with very few exceptions, failed to take off.

 If Superman's capsule had crashed down in Clacton instead of the Mid-West, then Kal-Ell would have been grounded from the off. 


It wasn't that British comic books were any less fantastic, but  by and large the settings for our tales were far more grounded in reality. Of course we had our science fiction strips, Dan Dare and so forth but for pulse pounding adventure it was the war comics to which we turned.

War comics were always popular in the UK - And for decades after the guns of the second world war fell silent, British kids celebrated our victory over the Nazis in wonderfully drawn, black and white comic books. Characters like Lord Peter Flint kept a stiff upper lip while besting evil Nazi spies, Union Jack Jackson fought alongside the Americans and usually got them out of some tough spots, and the Rat Pack were too good at Hun killing to leave rotting in a high security prison. In skilfully drawn pages, scores of humble Tommies stood up to the might of the enemy and gained victories against incredible odds.

By the time I started reading comics in the early 1970's there was already a rich history of boy's adventure comics - Victor, Valiant, Lion were the hot titles but these belonged to the previous generation and it was newer titles like Warlord from DC Thomson and Battle Picture Weekly from IPC that caught my imagination.

Warlord first hit the stands in 1974 and was far grittier than the usual war comics for sale during that period - so successful was it that rival publisher, IPC launched Battle Picture Weekly in order to snare some of the readers eager for this new kind of comic book reader.

Warlord was the first UK title to be dedicated solely to war stories, other comics usually contained several genres. And right from the start it set the bar very high in terms of artwork and storytelling.


Below there is a video presentation in which I look through the first issue of Battle Picture Weekly.



Battle Picture Weekly, first published in 1975, was launched directly as a result of the success that rival publisher, D C Thomson were scoring with Warlord, and to my mind became far the superior title. With a creative team that included Pat Mills and John Wagner how could it not be! This was the comic that would one day feature a truly ground-breaking first world war strip by Pat Mills, called Charley's War which remains arguably the best war strip ever produced.

Pat (Mills)  and John ( Wagner) wrote the initial Battle episodes and then farmed them out to other writers. GFD ( Gerry Finley Day) was the author of D-Day Dawson. Lofty’s One-Man Luftwaffe – 

'That was John and Pat. Their brief was not only to create a new title but bring new talent into the industry. We’d worked with a bed-rock of people. When you launched a new title, you rang up Tom Tully, he would do four of the new strips, Ted Cowan – people of that era – Ken Mennall. A lot of the people in Battle #1 were new to me."  Original Battle Staff Editor, Dave Hunt.

Perhaps the main difference between Warlord and Battle were rooted in the British class system. Battle felt working class, while Warlord seemed to be establishment. No better is this illustrated than in the original flagship characters in each title. Warlord had Lord Peter Flint, a wartime secret agent who when not away saving the country, was living the life of a wealthy aristocrat, his pleasures no doubt funded by the tax payer. But Battle's answer to the character was Mike Nelson, a working class bruiser who was billed as Britain's deadliest secret agent. And where Lord Peter Flint believed in giving the enemy a fair shake, Mike Nelson had no such morals - in the very first frame of his first appearance in Battle he shoots a German soldier in the back.

The original Major Easy
Now back in the day I read both Warlord and Battle, but Battle soon became my publication of choice. Where Warlord's heroes would dispose of the enemy with ease and then return home for tea and cakes, Battle's heroes seemed to bleed. The Mike Nelson character would become less important to Battle as the title found its true identity. The first adventure would run until May 1975, and although the character returned from time to time, it was the other strips that became reader favourites. Strips like Rat Pack, about a group of convict soldiers, was a huge success with readers, as was D- Day Dawson and in 1976 Battle introduced a character that became so iconic that he has been re-invented as Cursed Earth Koburn in the pages of Judge Dredd Magazine. This character was Major Easy, created by Alan Hebden and Carlos Ezquerra, a laid back James Coburn lookalike who usually fought the war from a horizontal position.

MAJOR EASY LIVES ON AS CURSED EARTH COBURN





It was in 1979 that Battle finally came of age, with the strip Charley's War which was written by Pat Mills and drawn initially by Joe Colquhoun. Debuting in the landmark 200th issue, this was a different kind of war story. For one thing it was set in the First World War, when most adventure strips tended to favour the second world conflict, and for another it was an anti-war strip. 

YEP, AN ANTI WAR STRIP IN A WAR COMIC!!!!

'I did not want Battle to glorify war, and Charley's War is an anti-war story," said Mills. "I think that in the 1970s and 80s it was legitimate, more so than it is today, to describe the Great War as a tragedy, a mistake and criticise the incompetence of generals. In 2014, revisionists have been trying to improve the image of the generals." 



Charley's War is a true work of literature - a harrowing, intricately drawn look at the Great War as seen through the eyes of working class, semi-literate Charley Bourne. Pat Mills took the inspired method of telling much of the story through young Charley's diary. The strip was truly ground-breaking, featuring not gung-ho adventure but a look at the war as it truly must have been.



'A combination of well-researched and heartfelt scriptwriting, Pat’s work is the antithesis of the ‘war is hell’ gung-ho Sergeant Rock-style story. While never doubting for a second the heroism of the brave men in the trenches, The Great War is shown to be the tragedy it was, a meat-grinder that took the lives of millions of soldiers and set the stage for the even greater horrors of World War Two.

The artwork for Charley’s War was provided by Joe Colquhoun, one of comics’ great unsung heroes. The Gustave Doré of British comics, Colquhoun created beautiful expressive storytelling week-in week-out. Both Joe and Pat put their hearts into Charley’s War, and readers of all ages were drawn to the care evident in their work.

'We often imagine that Armageddon is a horror that awaits us sometime in the future. But Armageddon has already happened. It was World War One." Pat Mills




Charley's War are available as a series of handsome graphic novels from Titan Books.


These days the British comic industry seems to consist of 2000AD and a plethora of licenced titles with the free cover gift more important than the stories between the covers, and the days of true variety in British comics is a distant memory - The Spectator bemoaned the lack of a British comic book industry in this article HERE

Pat Mills can be found here

For a history of Warlord
For a history of Battle

Saturday, 11 September 2021

The Return of the Saint

 Originally broadcast 10th September 1978

Episode written by Morris Farhi
Directed by Jeremy Summers

Opening with our fresh new Saint clinging precariously to the side of a mountain that really doesn't look that daunting - we are then given a voice over from Mr Templar in which he mentions how important it is to choose your climbing partner carefully. Though he may have to eat his words when his particular partner betrays him by sabotaging the climbing rope - however we soon discover that this is a test by MI6 to see how Templar reacts. They are hoping to recruit Templar in order to send him out to rescue British secret agent, Selma Morell (played by the lovely Judy Geeson).

It's all good ITC type fun - these are the guys and gals who brought us the original Saint TV series as well as shows such as Dangerman, The Persuaders, The Protectors. In fact ITC's list of   fondly remember cult classics is endless - Joe 90, Stingray, Man in a Suitcase.

I vividly remember getting excited when the show was set to air. I was twelve years old at the time and had grown up with re-runs of the previous version of the Saint starring the always wonderful Roger Moore. There was a publicity frenzy for the new version, with features in not only the TV Times but Look In magazine and no doubt given the preponderance of beautiful ladies in the show, the Sun Newspaper would have made a big deal of the rebirth of the action hero. Look-In magazine was a comic book with strips built around whatever TV series were popular at the time - anyone of my age will remember the magazine which seemed to be on sale everywhere. These were the days when children still read comics, rather than buying them for the free gift attached to the cover.

Look-in was a children's magazine centred on ITV's television programmes in the United Kingdom, and subtitled "The Junior TVTimes". It ran from 9 January 1971 to 12 March 1994Look-in had interviews, crosswords and competitions, and it had pictures and pin-ups of TV stars and pop idols of the time. Its main feature however was the many comic strips of the favourite children's television programmes, all of which were being shown on the ITV network at the time.

When the magazine began publication, it was edited by Alan Fennell and the strips were written by Angus Allan. Fennell left in 1975, and the art editor, Colin Shelborn, took over as editor. The covers in the 1970s were paintings by Arnaldo Putzu, an Italian working in London who had created many cinema posters in the 1960s, including designs for the Carry On films. His Look-in covers were mostly painted using acrylics. Wikipedia


Ian Ogilvy was perfect casting for the show - not only was he a fresh face but he was a fresh face who resembled a young Roger Moore - indeed had Moore quit the role of James Bond when he originally said he would that Ogilvy would have likely followed into Moore's shoes once again and took on the role of 007. Alas, that was not to be but although Return of the Saint is sometimes considered a flop given that a second season was not commissioned this is far from the truth. The show was sold all over the world and remains hugely popular today, even if it is overshadowed by the Moore version of the character.

"What a disappointment the first episode of this much-publicised new series turned out to be." The Sun newspaper.

Now re-watching this first episode as part of the superbly packed Network DVD box set, I was surprised to see how violent the show actually was. Before ten minutes have passed several people are machine gunned to death at point blank, but it is presented as comic book violence - there is no blood and people fall neatly, without trauma when shot. In the age of shows like The Sweeney, this was perhaps not a wise move but this fact doesn't take away the superb quality of the series when taken as a whole. And the first episode is not as bad as the Sun newspaper made out - Ogilvy perfectly embodies the character and the climax is incredibly exciting with Templar punching, chopping and blasting anything that moves.

I'm looking forward to going through the entire series. The Return of the Saint is not as familiar to me as the Moore version, and I've likely only seen most of the episodes the one time and that was way back during the original broadcast. So in some ways this show is fresh to me.

 The extra features on the DVD box set are superb - we get a documentary written and directed by foremost Saint expert Ian Dickerson, which features recorded segments from both Roger Moore and Ian Ogilvy as well as many other Saint luminaries. There is a wealth of PDF material which includes original scripts and magazine interviews from the time of the original show.

Now is the perfect time to Return to the Saint - the box set is currently available from Amazon and anywhere else DVD's are sold.