Friday 17 February 2023

A whisper of love, a whisper of hate: an unofficial James Bond novel by Gary M. Dobbs


James Bond relaxed as he shifted gear and took the Jaguar XJ through the country lanes. The sun was behind him, a cloudless sky above him and he felt good to be alive. He was now completely recovered from the mission last summer that had left him as close as he’d ever been to dead. His ribs had healed, the reconstruction work on his jaw no longer pained him, and once again he was able to take pleasure from the simple things in life. He reached down to the console and slid one of the cigarettes, made especially for him by Moorland’s and containing a mixture of Balken and Turkish tobaccos, out of the gunmetal cigarette case and lit it with the aged Ronson lighter he habitually carried in his right-hand hip pocket. Bond was a creature of habit, likely the worse thing to be in his profession, but now in the moment he didn’t need to worry about that.

            At the moment, James Bond didn’t feel that he had anything in particular to worry about and it felt good.

            He shifted gear again as he approached the hill, the incredibly powerful 4.2 litre engine, responded immediately and Bond felt himself pushed back in his seat as he built up speed. There was a woman waiting for him at the end of this road and Bond anticipated a pleasant evening ahead. Good food, a few drinks and an early night. Though Bond knew that much of the coming night would be spent enjoying the delights of the woman’s body.

 Elizabeth Lyon possessed a particularly fine body.



Thursday 16 February 2023


It's back for a five issue mini-series from Rebellion Publishing.... Battle Action, 2000AD publisher’s relaunch of the title inspired by two classic British weekly comics, Battle Picture Weekly (aka Battle) and Action, returns as a five-issue miniseries, with writer Garth Ennis playing a principal role in its latest incarnation.

Battle Picture Weekly,  still holds an exalted position in my memory - in fact it is probably my favourite comic book ever. But besides that Battle displayed a stunning use of the medium over its run and of course gave us a genuine comic book masterpiece in Charley's War - but more on that seminal strip later.

Battle was launched in answer to rival D C Thompson's  successful war strip title, Warlord and although born out of imitation Battle did better Warlord and is perhaps one of the, if not THE, most important British comic titles ever.

Battle's answer to Warlord's main character, Lord Peter Flint was Mike Nelson codenamed The Eagle - however readers preferred the more gritty strips in Battle and Mike Nelson, although featuring in several series of adventures, was soon dropped. 

Early stars of Battle Picture Weekly were D-Day Dawson, The Bootneck Boy and the truly exceptional Rat Pack which was based very much on the popular movie, The Dirty Dozen.

So well remebered are The Rat Pack that Titan Books have a trade paperback collection  that collects together many of their most popular stories.

which one is Lee Marvin?
"We were looking to movies like Dirty Harry and the spaghetti westerns for inspiration," writer Pat Mills said in his introduction to the story in Titan's Best of Battle. "And with Rat Pack we got it from the movie, The Dirty Dozen. It's an archetype that will never go away."

Another early strip that was hugely popular was D D Dawson - it told of Sgt. Steve Dawson who took a bullet during the D-Day landings but survived. However the bullet moved closer to his heart with every adventure and he knows that it will inevitably kill him. And so he vows to fight on until his own personal D-Day finally arrives. And arrive it did in the issue dated 22 Jan 1977 when the character finally went down. The next two scans depict D Day Dawson's last adventure - click on the images for a bigger readable version.

                                                                                       The comic merged other titles into it during its long run and the details are:

  • Battle Picture Weekly (8 March 1975 - 16 October 1976)
  • Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant (23 October 1976 - 12 November 1977)
  • Battle Action (19 November 1977 - 20 February 1982)
  • Battle (27 February 1982 - 1 October 1983)
  • Battle Action Force (8 October 1983 - 29 November 1986)
  • Battle (6 December 1986 - 17 January 1987)
  • Battle Storm Force (24 January 1987 - 23 January 1988)
When the Battle itself began to fail it was merged into the new relaunched Eagle but by then the glory days of British boy's comics was long over.

The world of Battle was a non-PC world where the Americans were Yanks, the Japanese were Japs, the Germans were Nazis and the British were Limeys, but it wasn't always as clear cut and one strip in particular, Charley's War  created by Pat Mills with almost photographic artwork from Joe Colquhoun, was an anti-war strip in a boys war comic and today stands as a true masterpiece of British comics. Titan have published several deluxe hardback volumes collecting the stories with still more to come.
True depth in the comic book medium

It's a bleak and terrible story, but despite the overwhelming cynicism and negativity that surrounds the trenches, there's just a grain of faith in the human spirit. Not enough to ever make this remarkably sad tale ever attractive to Hollywood, but there's something genuinely moving in Charley's letters to his parents and the real friendships forged among the men in the front line. Like most of the great comics Pat Mills created during his most vibrant period of, say, 1976-89, the power of humanity is greater than the power of the "authority" which commands it to do terrible things in the name of royalty, nation or planet.

                           Battle truly was an exceptional comic book and it's great that the legacy is still remembered and felt even today. It may have started off as a typical gung ho style comic book but the skill of the creators soon led it into avenues previously unexplored in the comic book medium. It was incredible reading for a young kid to be presented with war in a realistic fashion in strips such as Charley's War and Johnny Red. to be presented with the unglamorous truth and to discover that bullets really did hurt and that the glory of fighting for one's country soon becomes secondary to surviving when the reality of war is felt.

Oh you are awful but I do like you!
             On a lighter note Battle had the popular Airfix Modellers Club page which was presented by British comedian, Dick Emery. And the letter's page was supposedly edited by Captain Hurricane that hangover from the days of Valient Comic.

To fully cover the importance of Battle would take more than one, two or even several blog articles - indeed a full scale book would be called for, but the article here is merely a taster of a time when British Comics really were a formidable creative force.

Now bring on the new version

Sunday 12 February 2023

Retro Comics feature - MACH 1

 The acronym stands for Man Activated by Computer Hyper

puncture - the strip ran in boy's comic 2000AD and ran for 64 issues. The strip was created by Pat Mills and was initially the most popular strip in the comic - bigger even than Judge Dredd during the early years of the comic.

The strip was heavily influenced by TV's The Six Million Dollar man which was huge at the time - the character of M.A.C.H 1, agent John Probe even looked like Steve Austin as played by Lee Majors. In the introduction to the Extreme M.A.C.H 1 magazine, editor Alan Barnes said John Probe was not so much Steve Austin as an Austin Allegro and he confirms that during the comic's early days the character was more popular than Dan Dare and Judge Dredd combined.

The earliest strips saw John Probe battling terrorists, enemy agents and killers but as 2000ad found its legs and became more subversive, Probe found himself battling against his own government.

 Probe's boss Sharpe was revealed to have insisted a piece of code be written into the computer inside Probe that would self destruct, killing the agent if he disobeyed orders. This added much depth to the character and made Probe less Steve Austin and more a tortured man forced to work for a shadowy government organisation.

The first truly epic story for the character was M.A.C.H 0 in which Probe discovered that he wasn't the first man to be turned into a secret agent (again a plot that had been used in The Six Million Dollar Man) but this earlier experiment had gone wrong. 

Of course Probe saved the day. In the final strips of M.A.C.H 1 we saw John Probe turn on his boss and kill him . He then sacrificed his own life to save the world from alien invasion. This was a massive shock to the readership. This was not Marvel or DC and when a character was killed he usually remained dead.

M.A.C.H Zero would return to the comic for his own short lived series, but this was more Frankenstein retold than anything else.

Stories from M.A.C.H 1 have been reprinted in several versions - Reprinted? 2000 AD Extreme Edition #6 (12/04) reprinted 9 of the first 10 episodes (all but #3), along with "Airship," "The Planet Killers," "Everest" and "MACH Woman." 19 episodes in one handy package, with a great cover by John Burns. A second batch of 20 episodes were reprinted in Extreme Edition #9 (6/05). These included "UFO" and the final 16 instalments. Many other episodes had previously been collected by Quality Comics in a series that ran nine issues.

The character was so fondly remembered that a spoof, entitled B.L.A.I.R. 1, a satire on Tony Blair appeared in 2000 AD in the late 1990s, and gained considerable media attention at the time. The story was not popular with readers, however, and was soon killed off.


 The first episode of my new You Tube series...a life in books

Saturday 11 February 2023

Those deadly Cooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If this brief article has prompted anyone to want to learn more about The Cook gang then I suggest getting hold of Black, Red and Deadly by Art Burton, or then again you can check out this video which was made by Samantha Ponce and tells the story using her children's toys. Or click HERE

Full Length Western


Tuesday 7 February 2023

The Rise, fall and rise of Hollywood

 1946 was a bumper year for Hollywood - demobbed soldiers were eager for films to entertain them and their dates . after the uncertain war years. That year American cinemas sold more than 4000 million tickets and produced a total box office take of just under $1700 million. That figure would not be matched until 1974 when cine

mas sold only a quarter of the number of tickets but inflation made things look better than they truly were.

Today the cinema is as vibrant as ever(financially if not creatively) but in the years immediately following 1946 movie moguls were convinced they were witnessing the death of cinema. Not only were they selling less and less tickets each year as the new medium of Television worked its way into more and more homes but the industry was altered by new laws which created distrust and paranoia in the creative camps. Between 1946 and 1948 movie attendances dropped by 16.9% but what was worse for the major American studios was the interest the government was showing in the cosy cartels that controlled Hollywood. From the mid-Thirties, the Department of Justice had been trying to break the stranglehold the major studios had over independent cinemas. The aim was to force the majors into selling off their highly lucrative cinema chains. But as the majors made most of their money from distribution they resisted. AS far back as the early Thirties the Department of Justice had brought legal cases against the major studios but these were delayed by the war. However in 1946 the Department of Justice started to strip away the powers of the major studios.

The war years had already seen Hollywood have to make major changes in the films they produced - their foreign markets, with the exception of Britain, had become out of bounds. Attempts had been made to create a larger market in South America with the Carmen Miranda films but this would never replace the loss suffered by the closing of the lucrative French, German and Italian markets. When the war ended and the markets opened back up it would seem Hollywood was once again onto a certain winner but soon the way they did business would be gone forever. Old Hollywood and the so called studio system was about to die, killed by the Department of Justice and their anti-trust laws.

When the world market opened up after the war it was only the US that had an abundance of film stock - in 1946 20 films were made in the Soviet Union, 54 in Italy and 432 in America. Films from the US dominated Europe with most of the profits coming back to the Hollywood studios. In 1948 France would rebel against the system and only allow only $3.6 million of a $14 million take to go back to America. The UK for their part would only allow £17 million to go to the US while $40 million remained tied up under foreign exchange regulations.

The next problem for Hollywood was with their labour. Post war prices meant that wage structures had to be improved. There was a major strike at Warner Brothers in 1946 and now that the unions were being closely scrutinised by the government it made the earlier practice of the studios paying off union bosses impractical. Ronnie Reagan was a union leader during this period.

The movie industry was in a state of turmoil when in the late 40's the House Un-American Activities Committee starting to take an interest in the film industry. The flimsy alliance between the US and Russia broke down after the war and there was paranoia that movies made in America, by American were spreading communist propaganda. At the infamous hearings Jack Warner, eager to explain several pro-Soviet movies made during the war, said that communist writers were poking fun at the US political system and picking on rich men. Blacklists were quickly drawn up of actors, writers and directors suspected of having communist leanings. It was revealed by the committee that Danny Kaye's real name was Daniel Kamirsky and June Havoc was actually June Hovick. This was enough to stop these two performers finding work for a long while and of course there was the jailing of the infamous Hollywood Ten

Communist paranoia entered the American psyche. John Wayne played Big Jim Mclain, an heroic investigator for the committee in 1952. And such was the paranoia felt by the studios that by the time McCarthy arrived on the scene in 1951 Hollywood was politically clean.

At the end of the 50's Television had gained a place as the entertainment of choice for the masses. However more films were made in 1950 than 1946 as a leaner and fitter Hollywood emerged.

Sunday 5 February 2023

Rooster Cogburn - western movie review

 Think The African Queen out west and you've pretty much got this western summed up.

"Any deputy who shoots and kills 64 suspects in eight years is breaking the law not aiding and abetting it." Judge Parker.

"Now let's get this straight, Judge. Only sixty of them died and none was shot but in the line of duty or in the defence of my person." Deputy Marshall Rooster Cogburn.

That line of dialogue leads up to Cogburn's badge being revoked and when Rooster objects the judge tells him that he's gone to seed and that he drinks too much. Rooster then points out, "I ain't had a drink since breakfast." And proceeds to go back to the shack he calls home and drink himself stupid.

The west is changing and the modern world has no place for men like Rooster Cogburn however when an army troop are ambushed and killed Rooster is soon back on the job. Judge Parker has no option but to reinstate Cogburn to go after a gang led by Hawk (Richard Jordan), a one time associate of Cogburns.

Katherine Hepburn plays Eula Goodnight, a missionary whose father is shot down by Hawk's gang and her mission destroyed - that's one of the oddities in the movie - that Hepburn was sixty eight when she made this movie and the actor playing her father, Jon Lormer was actually only a year older at sixty nine. However when Wayne and Hepburn (who, by the way, were both 68) get together their chemistry means that we can overlook this small hitch.

Hepburn's character rides along with Cogburn in pursuit of Hawk's gang and , as with the character she played in The African Queen, is fond of spouting out passages from the Holy scripture at each and every opportunity. Rooster is not one for the Good Book but gradually he mellows towards Hepburn and the story becomes as much a tender love story as action movie. Again, echoes of the African Queen.

The film was shot around Oregon and the Rogue River in Southern Oregon was used for several key scenes - the photography is wonderful and the film really comes into its own on a widescreen television - at the moment there is only a standard DVD version available but the transfer is pretty good and the scenery is clearly reproduced but one suspects a blu-ray hi-def print would look absolutely stunning.

That this was Wayne's penultimate movie and that his health was failing at the time makes the film all the more poignant and although I don't feel it's quite as good as True Grit, it is a worthy follow up. Wayne has an even better handle on the character of Cogburn that he did in the Oscar winning original.

Not his best maybe but it's another great movie by the greatest western star of them all and teamed up with Hepburn, another icon of Golden Age Hollywood, means that the film is essential viewing for anyone interested in classic cinema.

You won't see a better western in a lustrum - (in-joke there. Watch the movie and you'll understand.)

They sure don't make em like they used to.

Young Guns - western movie review

 It's been years since I've watched this film, but in the mood for some stylised western mayhem, and a smidgen of Charlie Sheen, I slipped the disc into my DVD player. Remember those! They'll make a comeback one day. Like vinyl the DVD will once again reign supreme.

You know, this is the film where Charlie Sheen is the level headed one and his younger bro is Billy the Kid. These days the tables have been turned, and it is Charlie who is the hellraiser - mind you, I love this guy. As he points out in his Twitter status - born small, now huge...winning.

But, I've gone off on a tangent, so back to the movie - this is the western for those weaned on the big action movies of the 80's and 90's. It's Die Hard with a Stetson, Lethal Weapon on the range, it's set in a west sound-tracked by synthesiser but above all it's bloody good fun, and that final shoot out, can't have a western without a final shoot out, is up there with those classic westerns. Of course most of us already know that the western has always been cool, but coolness oozes out of each and every frame of this movie. It really isn't a bad film - despite what some reviews would have you believe.

Billy the Kid, the dreamscape deperado, rides again.

Firstly the film is not historically accurate but then if we ignored every western that took liberties with historical fact, we'd have only a fistful of movies to watch.

Young Guns was what we used to call, a high concept movie - cast the then popular group of actors known as The Brat Pack in a western and sit back and watch the big bucks roll in. And roll in they did- $44 million on its original cinema release and many times that since. In fact during its opening weekend it was the highest grossing movie and all from a limited budget of $13 million.

The picture belongs to Emlio Estevez with his psychotic reading of Billy the Kid, but Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips are also excellent. The parts given to the rest of the brat pack are mostly supporting and Charlie Sheen does his best with his straight laced character but the character doesn't stand out in comparison to the more interesting roles given out to the other actors.

Old hands Terence Stamp and Jack Palance are on hand to give the film a touch of class, and Palance is especially effective as the sinister Lawrance Murphy. There scenes he shares with Keiffer Sutherland as the lovesick Doc are especially effective with Palance coming across as an almost vampiric figure.

The final scene is a voice over of Doc explaining what happened after the picture, a voice over that was contradicted in Young Guns II. In Doc's explanation, he includes that Alex's widow caused a congressional investigation into the Lincoln County War. Chavez took work at a farm in California; Doc moved east to New York and married Yen Sun, whom he had saved from Murphy; and Billy continued to ride until he was found and shot dead by Pat Garrett, who in this film is shown as barely knowing Billy. Billy was buried next to Charlie Bowdre at Fort Sumner. A stranger went to the grave of Billy the Kid late at night and made a carving into the headstone. The epitaph read only one word: "PALS".

It's got action, laughs and thrills - what more could one want?


 THE TAINTED ARCHIVE IS BACK...and I mean properly back. 

 Back in a way that is truly back!

 It's been awhile since the site, which at one time had more than a million regular readers, posted on a regular basis but it's here now and will see at least four post a week, more often than not even more.Daily, baby...daily!!!

Sixteen years we've been going now - that's 16 bloody years!!!


There's a vast archive of material to chose from so in an attempt to keep to daily posts we will re-post a lot of old articles but maintain our promise that more than 70% of each week's posts will be all new material. Bookmark us and return on a daily basis because I say it again, The Tainted Archive, that most eclectic of blogs, is back in a big way.





So leave a comment...let us know you are here and that you care.

Taff Noir

 Wales; once a medieval principality is proudly a country in its own right and although it shares a land border with England it is very much its own thing. 

It is complicated, though and it wasn't until 2011 that Wales was officially declared a country  when the International Organisation  for Standardisation said so -  though in truth Wales hasn't been a Principality since the 16th Century.

 So why did the ISO step in, when there was no real need since the Welsh have long considered Wales to be its own country? It started when the ISO defined Wales as a Principality in a newsletter, which prompted the Welsh politician, Leanne Wood to start a campaign to have its status changed. Yes, Welsh politicians, just like those all over the world chose their fights on the basis of it creating good press rather than what really matters.

Though it gets even more complicated - in the Thirteenth century the Princes of Gwynedd ruled most of North and West Wales. They were called Princes of Wales and had to swear an oath of allegiance to the King of England. In 1216, at the council of Aberdyfi, the Welsh princes declared Llywelyn the Great to be their main leader, and this prompted the King of England to agree that Llywelyn's heirs would be known as the Prince of Wales. 

Then the Welsh had a level of independence from England but this ended in 1283 when Edward 1 conquered the principality, and after that Wales was split into two separate Principalities - Gwynedd in the North and Cardigan in the South and these were ruled by the English King. The rest of Wales was then ruled by the Marcher Lords.

It was the Act of Union in 1536 that actually made Wales a country again - though until September 1997, Wales was governed from Westminster by the UK government. It was a vote for devolution that sparked the creation of the Welsh Assembly, but Wales still has a Prince of Wales (that Charley blokey with the big ears)  and that title is given to the eldest son of the reigning English monarch. It is this last fact that creates the confusion with many still claiming that Wales is a Principality rather than a country. It still causes problems from time to time and in 2017 the English rugby coach, Eddie Jones sparked controversy by calling Wales a Principality.

 “They’re countries where rugby is the main sport and the support is absolutely fever pitch. And the results affect the country, in South Africa’s case, and in Wales’ case, the Principality.” Eddie Jones

Now that's all out of the way (sort of) let's get on with the real thrust of this article and that is the Welsh crime fiction movement. For a country of little more than three million people, Wales has a vibrant crime fiction movement. We've had Nordic noir and Tartan noir - so it the next big thing Taff noir? I'd like to lay claim to that phrase, Taff Noir - you heard it here first. So, is Taff Noir to be the next big thing? I do hope so, since I'm very much a part of the movement myself. Quick plug for my valleys set crime thriller, Down Among the Dead - available now. Listen to the Wind,  a second book featuring Chief Inspector Frank Parade will be published next year.

Wales - 870'ish miles of stunning coastline, from the industrial scars of the valleys to the breath-taking beauty of rural Wales the country has a plethora of fictional crime, and always has - Agatha Christie set her 1934 novel in the fictional Welsh town of Marchbolt. 

Though these days the real Wales features in a range of crime fiction, taff noir if you like. Take Henry Bingham for instance, who has penned a truly amazing series of crime thrillers  featuring the character of Detective Fiona Griffiths. Or there's the great Belinda Bauer  whose novel Rubbernecker used the A470 (The Welsh answer to Route 66), 180 odd miles of Welsh road to set up the premise of what is a truly stunning thriller. In fact all of Belinda's books are brilliant.

"Honestly, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be writing crime fiction in Wales. Author, Beverly Jones

The first Welsh International Crime Festival ( Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival ) is to kick off in 2022, and then hopefully we will see Taff Noir (that phrase again) become a thing in the crime fiction world. Though, those who keep their ears to the corpse strewn ground have always known that Taff Noir is a thing - it's just never been as well publicised as say Tartan Noir or Nordic Noir. Let's hope all that is about to change.

The entire spread of Wales is covered by crime fiction - Dylan H Jones (Anglesey),  Rose Claverton (Cardiff), Gary M Dobbs (The South Wales Valleys), Simon McCleave (Snowdonia), John Williams (Cardiff), Alis Hawkins (the Teifi Valley) and the list goes on and on with many great writers and well realised locations to discover.

Ever since Hinterland appeared on TV, people have been getting more interested in looking for Welsh crime, and not just on their TVs,  Gail Williams, CWA

Wales had produced a lot of great crime writing and continues to do so -  and apologies for the many many writers not mentioned here, but the list of all of the excellent writers working in Taff Noir would  end up reading like one of those telephone directories that used to sit in everyone's hallway.

Suffice to say Wales is an amazingly picturesque country, with landscapes steeped in ancient myth, with valleys that still hold the scars of the industrial might that once held sway, with clear lakes that hide secrets a'murky beneath their pristine surface and inner city mean streets that even Chandler would think twice about sending his tarnished knight a'walking down.

Australia empowers Big Tobacco with its new draconian and simply barking mad vape restrictions

 From July 1st 2024 it will be illegal to own or buy any vaping device other than from pharmacies, and flavours will be limited to mint, men...