Friday, 24 December 2010


I know I wasn't going to blog again until 2011 - but this has to be seen to be believed.
I bought a book called 'Black Hand Gang' by Pat Kelleher (you'll have to wait for the full review).
The premise is that the 13th Battalion of The Pennine Fusiliers disappeared from the Somme battlefield on 1st November 1916. The preface to the book sounds very convincing and, of course, a total fiction as it tries to show that the story is based on fact.
To cap it all is a splendid way to advertise the book and perpetuate the myth is the No Man's World blog (
Mind you a quick search of the net does throw up someone who believes - well, like they say one born etc.
Personally, I just think that it is an excellent way to publicise a book and pave the way for a sequel.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


It hasn't been a bad year but the last few months have thrown up some surprises with the result that much that I would have liked to have written about never happened.
Amongst the things that should have made an appearance are reviews of the latest Black Horse Westerns by Charles Whipple, I.J.Parnham, Terry James and Derek Rutherford - all excellent writers.
Beat To A Pulp: Round One, an excellent anthology editted by David Cranmer and Elaine Ash was something else that I missed, especially as it contained a fine selection of short stories by people that I have gotten to know.

Movie wise - try and catch the original Swedish movie 'Let The Right One In' before watching the Hollywood re-make 'Let Me In'. It is quite a beautiful film considering that this is a vampire movie based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. The book is also excellent.

Discovered the complete tv series of Stephen King's 'The Stand'. I don't recall seeing this before but I watched it as a whole.

Still to watch - but then I was saving these for the Christmas holidays - 'Rawhide' Season 1 consisting 22 episodes of a series that would catapult Clint Eastwood onto the road to stardom.
And the complete tv series 'Colditz'.

Anyway, Broken Trails will take time out until 2011.
Allow time for the dust to settle and life to get back to some form of normality.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Friday, 17 December 2010


I wonder if anyone remembers a British author Peter Van Greenaway.
During the the sixties, seventies and eighties he was quite a popular author both as a novelist and short story writer.
In 1974 he wrote a novel called 'Take The War To Washington'. The novel concerned a group of Vietnam veterens who feeling sidelined and neglected by the country that sent them to war decide to take that very war to Washington.
Well they set the ball rolling by crashing a passenger plane into the Pentagon before setting out to attack the tallest buildings.
A surprising plotline in a forgotten book by a forgotten author about a forgotten army.

Friday, 3 December 2010


So England won't be hosting the 2018 World Cup. In some ways I'm quite happy that World Cup is going to Russia - the games have never been held there.
But...FIFA's excuse for England not winning the bid is down to the British Media and the BBC Panorama programme for their allegations of corruption within FIFA.
Seems to me, now, that something might just be wrong when people say one thing and do another.

Unlike another guilty party, David Chaytor, the MP who said that he had done nothing wrong in the expenses scandal - at least he has now held his hands and pleaded guilty.

If you do wrong then it all catches up with you in the end.

AND to another topic.
Complaints abound about the lack of salt and grit on the roads. Shortages? There is always one way to get to the truth of the matter - put the Transport Minister on the TV to say that 'there are no shortages'. There is 150,000 tons of the stuff on it's way to us. Reassuring words? No, because whenever a Minister speaks the truth is very often the opposite of what he says.

Still with the snow.
Royal Mail has been unable to deliver our post for the past few days. Until last night this was quite acceptable - I mean we are knee deep in snow.
Then we sat down to watch the BBC's 'The One Show' (2/12/2010) and guess what - there was a BBC film crew and presenter up in my neck of the woods. Right there filming from the corner of my road.
So if the BBC can get here why can't the postman?
Health and Safety is the reply.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

MODS & ROCKERS by Gareth Brown

1964 was a year without much news. Well, there was the Alaskan earthquake; an American warship was attacked by three torpedo boats off the coast of North Vietnam; the price of beef had shot up; Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus was 'shopping' for arms and Kruschev was in the selling business of arms to Egypt.
Only one of these stories would, eventually, erupt into headline news - Vietnam.
But for most of 1964 all these stories would be squeezed aside for the home-grown war between the Mods and Rockers on the beaches of Clacton, Brighton, Margate and Hastings.
And therein lies a bit of irony.
Part of the reason that the Marlon Brando movie 'The Wild One' was banned in the U.K. was because it showed two gangs meeting up in a small American town for a fight.
Therefore, to discourage impressionable teenagers from copying this the powers that be thought it best that we did not see it.
Well, there you go.
'Mods & Rockers: The Origins and Era of a British Scene' by Gareth Brown does a pretty good job of back-tracking this very British phenomenon to the early days of Rock 'n' Roll and the Teds along with the emergence of the teenage culture.
Like the splitting of a single cell the Mods and the Rockers emerged from the Teddy Boy era.
On the whole Gareth Brown's book is an informative excursion into the background of two clashing cultures. However, the book falls into two mythological traps.
The first is the musicality of the era.
Here Gareth Brown cites R & B and the Tamla Motown sound as Mod music and pure Rock 'n' Roll to the Rockers. Music of the period was universal. Martha and The Vandella's 'Dancing In The Street' is one example that got air time in Rocker cafes.
And Rockers would stomp with gusto the The Honeycombs' 'Have I The Right'.
The Beatles, too, played Rock 'n' Roll music.
In 1963 two songwriters, John Lennon and Paul MacCartney, wrote a ballet score that was performed by the Darrell Western Theatre and Ballet Company. It was called 'Mods & Rockers - a take on Romeo and Juliet.
The other trap was that Mods and Rockers simply hated each other.
OK, so Rockers thought that Vespa's and Labretta's were a bit effeminate - hair dryers is the name that we gave them. Yet, the mods had to be admired for the work they put in on them. Mirrors, headlights and the chrome work - they personalised their scooters.
The 'hate' was engineered. Hindsight makes things clearer.
Before Clacton the press made a big deal out of the mods. Their dance moves; how clean they looked and how mods came from the middle-class and worked in offices etc. Whereas, the Rocker was dirty, greasy, lower class and all out villains - if the press were to be believed.
Of course, when everything kicked off, the press painted both sides with the same brush.
While the Rocker tradition lives on it has to be said that the Mod culture died within a year of the battles on the English beaches. Yet without them there would not have been a very British scenario and one that would change everything from attitudes and the very freedoms that we have today. Though there are times when I think that, maybe, we also got some things wrong.
For a good insight into the history of these two cultures then Gareth Brown does a pretty good job. Like The Beatles ballet this piece of English history is overlooked even by the media that created it - guilt perhaps?
The book is published by Independent Music Press at £12.99 - or at HMV for £6.


Today saw the release of the latest 'Need For Speed' game from EA Sports who have joined forces with Criterion Games (creators of the 'Burnout' series).
At first glance this marriage has produced a game that could be called 'Need For Burnout Takedown'. My first impression.
If, as I did, read what the magazines had put across, you would have got the impression that the career mode was either as a racer or a cop. This is not the case as both careers run in tandem. Have to admit that there is more fun in taking out a cop car with spikes than vice versa.
As an added bonus there is a way of competing online with your friends. One problem there is that all my friends have elected to buy 'Call Of Duty: Black Ops' also released today and not on my 'to buy' list.
So, maybe, bad timing for this game's release.
Still this game can be described with a few 'f' words like fast, furious, fun and, at times, frustrating - but only when I don't come in first.

To me the true test of a game - and a player's skill - is taking the whole experience on-line. At last, a game with a level playing field where a 65 year old Brit can beat the younger generation at their own game. Four wins out of five - not a bad score.
This game is worth it just for the on-line experience alone.

The next game in this series - 'Need For Speed: Shift 2' will be coming out in 2011.

Friday, 19 November 2010

SMACKDOWN vs RAW 2011 - Update

Just an observation and not quite sure what happened.
Played a Road To Wrestlemania. On completion went back to Universe mode and found that my character was still involved in a storyline that appeared to connect back to the RTWM story.
OK, I thought, where can I take this.
With some manipulation and imagination the game's weaknesses can be used to give it strength - and the player's storylines can be acted out for real.
I don't think that the game was meant to be played that way but there you go.

Monday, 15 November 2010


November 1990.
Twenty years ago.
He came from the shadows of time; from the graveyards of the mind to make an impact in the World Wrestling Federation.
He came dressed in a black coat and a black wide brimmed round crowned hat - a mortician brought from the old west into the modern world of wrestling. Slow and cautious with cold calculating eyes The Undertaker seemed impervious to pain.
Accompanied by Paul Bearer and a magic urn The Undertaker took on an imposing persona.
Over those twenty years he has possibly Tombstoned every Superstar on the rosters. Taken every belt on offer and more (with the exception of the Cruiserweight Belt, obviously).
Until a couple of years back two things had not been acheived at the Royal Rumble. Neither The Undertaker nor anyone who entered at number 30 had won the Royal Rumble.
The Undertaker drew no.30 and defeated Shawn Michaels to win that year's Royal Rumble.
And noted too for various types of matches from the early Body Bag to Buried Alive, Coffin matches, Boiler Room Brawls (remember the deranged Mankind), Concrete Crypt and the notorious Hell In A Cell.
And the classic Inferno Match with his brother Kane.
To sustain a character for twenty years is no mean feat.
To do that a character has to evolve and when I look back I am still surprised at the way that the Undertaker has evolved. Whether as heel or hero, The Undertaker, is still as fascinating to watch.
Nor has The Undertaker been truly defeated. He's been put in the coffin and buried alive and taken the 3 count - but has not rested until the perpetrator has been 'laid to rest'.
And that is a key part to the persona of the man.
Another part is the fact that The Undertaker has appeared at 18 Wrestlemanias and won on each occasion. An impressive tally.
Of course, this has not been a career without injury but each time that he has 'rested' The Undertaker has returned bigger and stronger.
Many critics say that his time as the 'American Bad Ass' biker was a mistake. Maybe, but he was still the Undertaker in human form and his transformation was like someone revealing their true character.
Today, there is a touch of the Ministry era but without the Acolytes.
Of course, over the years there have been others who have come from the Darkside like Papa Shango, Manotor, Damien DiMento, The Boogeyman and the white clad Malachi. All of these were unable to stay the course.
Over the years The Undertaker has dispatched the good, the bad and the ugly of the wrestling world. Giant Gonzales, King Kong Bundy, Bret Hart, Edge, Randy Orton - one hell of a long list of Superstars. Some like Razor Ramon just ran away rather than fight the 'Dead man' or 'The Phenom'.
Outside of the ring The Undertaker has appeared in graphic comics and a couple of novels.
I have heard that there was a poster that was designed similar to a poster for 'A Few Dollars More'. Wonder if that was why Clint posed the way he did on the cover of 'Unforgiven'? An Undertaker pose.
Such is the legacy of The Undertaker that the legend will live on long after he rests in peace.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


It is that time of year again when THQ bring out the latest edition of the long running Smackdown vs Raw games for various game consoles.
Each year the claims grow bigger and bigger - this year it is 'This is your moment'.
Right, ok.
On the positive side the graphics are better and the game play is easier - in fact, too easy.
On the other hand the career mode is now known as 'Universe' and appears to be restricted to the Unified Tag Team Championships, US and Intercontinental Championships and the World Championships. Unlike the previous games the player has to earn the right (as in the real world of WWE wrestling)to compete for those titles.
Along the way other Championships are unlocked but cannot be competed for. For a player who does not have Xbox live the only way to get around this is to make a Championship Scramble match.
Although this game has a lot going for it - it could have been a lot better.
The 'moves' content appears to be restricted with a few superstars repeating the same moves.
In fact there are a lot of moves missing - like Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka's Jumping Axe Handle - from the list.
There is no point in creating Tag Teams as the 'Universe', like the WWE policy, insists on breaking up these teams. Still you can gesture like Stone Cold Steve Austin at the 'Universe' and re-make the team.
As a game to pass the time - yes.
As a game to be taken seriously - no.
Value for money? I wish I had waited for the cheaper Platinum (half price) version.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


Tucked away in this month's XBOX 360 -The Official Xbox Magazine is a very telling statement.
'We're not sure Need For Speed will ever reclaim its old position at the top of the Christmas charts in this era of military shooter dominance.'
The article concerned was about the November 19th release of Need For Speed:Hot Pursuit and took up the space of four paragraphs. To be fair two of those paragraphs did more for the game than four or five pages of hype.

The past few weeks have been full of new games that would appear to have a climax at the end of this month with games like Fable 3, Smackdown vs Raw 2011, Sims 3 and Grey Matter.
But if you read the magazines then there have been pages devoted to the first mentioned game, one page Smackdown vs Raw and Grey Matter and none about Sims 3.
However, for months the likes of Medal Of Honour, Call Of Duty:Black Ops, Halo Reach and Gears of War have been hyped to the degree that I have managed not to be brainwashed into buying them. Try a couple out - yes, and was glad that I had not bothered to buy them. Halo Reach was so dull that I thought that I was playing one of the other shooters.
Visually, they have good graphics - but good visuals are not enough without a story to go with it. Monument Valley is visually stunning but without John Wayne and a stagecoach it is just a landscape.
I'm not knocking those who just want to shoot people and blow things up - each to their own.
Maybe that is because I like games that have a degree of problem solving attached to them. That there is a degree of survival that is linked not with having to shoot everything in sight which is why a game like 'Grey Matter' has a form of appeal. But then I have a lack of detail about the game just a gut instinct.
These games are not cheap - the top games this month alone would cost over £300 in total - and a game that costs £39.99 and lasts a couple of hours just does not feel like value for money. I guess, it comes down to what a gamer gets from a game.
Broken Trails, usually, does review games that look to have the potential to be value for money.

The other thing that is over-hyped is the new Xbox Kinect that comes into being on November 10th.
This way you can dispense with controls and wave your arms in the air, jump around and roll over the floor and your moves will be repeated by an animated character. Yay, leap over furniture and take cover and fire your fingers over the back of the settee at the bad guys. Man, I did all that when I was 6 years old and got told off for doing that.
Our verdict is that if we want to wave our arms in the air and all that jazz we'd invest in a Wii.
Downside is that if the Xbox continues down this road with more and more Kinect games then the console controlled games will disappear.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


Now if you liked 'Red Dead Redemption' you should like this.

Fallout New Vegas takes place about three years after the events in 'Fallout 3' but is not a sequel.
The main character is a courier taking a chip and some documents to the town of Primm but three men ambush him and leave him for dead with a bullet in his skull in a shallow grave. Fortunately, a rescue takes place and the courier wakes up after an operation performed by Doc Mitchell.
The doc asks a few questions which enables the gamer to choose their name, gender and character via a few questions. Then calculates your skills.
After this you toddle off to the saloon to meet Sunny Smiles who gives you some weapon training before going off to clear the town's wells of geckos.
If you have played 'Red Dead Redemption' then all this is familiar territory and is, therefore, a bit of a doddle.
The action takes place in the Mojave Desert (Mojave Wastelands) and Las Vegas.
However, that said, I liked the way that the gamer is able to create their own character and learn skills that help to build it up. You learn how to use plants for healing and for food. Learn how to make ammunition and embrace some gunsmithing skills.
This post-apocalyptic 'western' has very good graphics and soundtrack.
The gamer can either link up with companions or head on out as a loner.
When choosing companions Boone would be best and Rex the dog who, like the dog in 'Fable 2', finds objects for you rather than your character have to do all the rooting about.
Having only completed the first few levels I am finding it interesting and it looks to be a good game.
One slight and very picky problem is the gunsight as it is not quite accurate and needs a slight twitch to the left to hit the target.
Fallout New Vegas was released in the UK today 22nd October 2010.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


I don't usually get political but -
So there was the British Prime Minister David Cameron standing in front of an audience of service personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force attempting to explain why the defence cuts were necessary.
A Harrier pilot wanted to know about his future as the aircraft that he flew was going to be decommissioned.
David Cameron, looking all intense and serious said that it was necessary to save the Typhoon as it was doing a good job in Afghanistan.
Well, to be honest, I wasn't aware that the Hawker Typhoon was still in active service. I mean this is a vintage Second World War aircraft - not a modern jet like the Tornado that does see a lot of action in Afghanistan.
Just so that Mr.Cameron, who must read a lot of Commando comics, knows what a Typhoon looks like I've added a picture.

Monday, 18 October 2010


Horror is a genre that spans all genres. Western, romance, sci-fi, murder mysteries - you name it someone out there could spin a horror yarn about it.
Fifty years ago Pan Books produced what would become a thirty year (volumes even) of the Pan Book Of Horror stories edited for the most part by Herbert Van Thal and, from volume 26 by Clarence Paget.
The anthology began with a short story by Joan Aitken called 'Jugged Hare' and ended with '...And The Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead' by Jonathan Cruise. Many authors filled in the years some well known like Robert Bloch, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Agatha Christie, Bram Stoker, C.S.Forrester and, in later editions, Stephen King - many were not so well known. Plus an appearance in Volume 6 (1965) of a story by John Lennon called 'No Flies On Frank'.
This story also appears in 'Dark Voices' which is a 30th anniversary edition of the original series. The introduction by F.Paul Wilson is pure Lennonist writing. There are introductions to other tales from the likes of David Cronenberg, James Herbert, Clive Barker and Shaun Hutson.
Back in the 1960s it was these short stories that I read at night - the stuff of nightmares that came just before sleep. And I did sleep easy. Even today there are several volumes of horror short stories in my bedside bookcase.
Though I rarely venture into novels I do like the books by Shaun Hutson and Richard Laymon.
When it comes to horror it seems that bookshelves are filled with vampires, zombies, Frankenstein like monsters, haunted houses and the mummy. Although, Richard Laymon touches upon all these things it is when he makes what appears normal to be a scary place.
For example there are a couple in a car heading towards 'The Lake'. The male is remembering the time that he and his female companion first met at College. Then the author pulls the camera back and find that the female is tied into the passenger seat. The conversation, though still normal, takes on a darker hue.
This scene is almost a short story in itself.
One of the new wave of writers - I say new but he may have been around longer - is a chap called Neil Gaiman. I first came across him in an anthology 'Shadows Over Baker Street'. This is a collection of stories where 'Sherlock Holmes enters the nightmare world of H.P.Lovecraft' - and the Neil Gaimen story 'A Study In Emerald' opens up the proceedings. But Neil Gaimen stories can be found in a lot of new anthologies and ranked, on the covers, higher than Stephen King. What I like about this author is that he is a master of the short horror story.
And it was while I was reading Neil Gaiman's story that I recalled the days of 'The Pan Book Of Horror Stories'. Because I think that writing short stories is a darn sight harder than writing a book.
A skill in its own write.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

THE HORDE (2010)

Die Hard with Zombies - at least that is what the tag line says.
The film opens with a bunch of French cops attending the funeral of a fellow cop and they all vow to get the gang responsible. The gang hang out at the top of a derelict tower block and from the kick-off the cops are outplayed and outsmarted. Outside come sounds of distant explosions and a quick look out of the window shows a lot of folk making tracks towards the tower block.
Realising that they have a problem good guys and bad guys team up to escape - only the way out is blocked by zombies. Fortunately, there is still a resident in one of the flats. An old chap who is a veteren of Dien Bein Phu with quite an arsenal of weaponry.
There is no explanation of how the zombies came into being but this does not totally distract from the storyline. It's a what if...if you get my meaning. And the ending is a bit ambiguous...but the sound effects give the impression that this part of France is going to go the same way as Racoon City (Resident Evil).
The DVD comes with two versions French with English subtitles or dubbed in English.
Interesting to see the French making a zombie movie and although a touch on the violent and gory side, it's a pretty good job.

Friday, 8 October 2010


Luke Billings (Lionel Jeffries) and his family have a problem with the new police sergeant Sam Hargis (Richard Todd) so they take over a small Transvaal town with the attention of drawing Hargis into a showdown.
Hargis tries to get back up from the townsfolk who do not want to know, so is forced to lay low.
As things get out of hand one of the Billings boys takes an interest in the storekeeper's wife, Priss Dobbs (Anne Aubrey). Having had enough her husband, Ernie (Jamie Uys) takes up the gun and heads down the main street alone. An act that prompts Hargis to join him. Slowly, the townsfolk turn up to back them up.

This is a great 'western' set against a South African background.
From the above it would be reasonable to see the plot of 'High Noon' with the Clantons. Fair comment and might explain why it appealed more to American cinemagoers than the British.

James Booth who plays the eldest of the Billings boys, Jubal, is excellent with his soft yet menacing voice. It is interesting that Henry Hook's character and dress style in 'Zulu' owes something to Booth's Jubal.

This film marked the debut of one of Britain's pop idols, Marty Wilde (father of Kim), as John Billings and gives a credible performance.

Unfortunately, this film has not appeared on TV, video or DVD and I think that it is about time that was addressed. The British Film Institute makes a claim that it is concerned with bringing back forgotten movies - well, maybe, as 'The Hellions' was made forty years ago a release on it's 50th Anniversary would be a fitting time to issue the movie on DVD.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


The Camp On Blood Island is one of those movies that has never been released on video and rarely been seen on TV.
Now, at long last, the movie is now out on DVD and is presented in an uncut version.

The Camp On Blood Island was being filmed as 'The Bridge On The River Kwai' was released. And while the 'River Kwai' was a sanitised version concerning P.O.Ws held by the Japanese - 'Blood Island' was based on a true story and had a factual basis. Criticism branded 'The Camp On Blood Island' as over violent and sensational.
Despite this Lord Russell of Liverpool, whose book 'The Knights Of Bushido' about Japanese War Crimes, fully endorsed the movie.

'The Camp On Blood Island' was made by Hammer Films with backing by Columbia Pictures. It stars many of the stalwarts that would make their names with Hammer's horror movies. Andre Morell, Barbara Shelley, Edwin Richfield, Geoffrey Bayldon and Michael Ripper.

The film is set in Malaysia at the end of the war. It opens with a scene of a British soldier digging a grave - his grave. Prisoners of war look on as the Japenese gun him down.
The Commandant vows that should the Japanese ever surrender then every prisoner would be killed.
Attached to the men's camp is the women's camp.
In order to stay alive the prisoners in both camps have to prevent the Japanese from discovering that the war is over.

Both the original posters and the cover of the DVD shows a Japanese soldier with a raised sword. This executioner was played by a professional wrestler Milton Reid.
The Japanese soldiers were waiters from London's Chinatown who were hired as extras.

Today the movie might seem tame and branded politicaly incorrect - in fact, if that term had been in existence back in the late 1950s when the film was made, was the attitude of the film's critics.
However, my opinion is that beneath the drama what happened in those camps was the same as Lord Russell depicted in his book.

'The Camp On Blood Island' was released, uncut, on the 4th October 2010 along with the Stanley Baker movie 'Yesterday's Enemy' and Oliver Reed's 'The Damned'. Two more Hammer movies that have not seen the light of day for many years.

Saturday, 2 October 2010


And so the story continues.
A crowd of over 93,000 saw the Grand Final Replay between St.Kilda and Collingwood.
As with the previous week's drawn game Collingwood came out with all guns blazing and were on the scoresheet within 30 seconds of the bounce off.
The difference between this and last week's game was that Collingwood looked to have returned to form and completely smothered the Saints defence and attack.
Final result:
Collingwood 108
St.Kilda 52

This gives the Magpies their 19th flag and leaves the Saints waiting for their second.

Friday, 1 October 2010


This is the 2010 Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe take on a traditional bit of British folklore.
Actually, it's not.
This version is like a prequel and an alternative history story.

On the plus side this movie is a good old actioner with Robin Longstride choosing to impersonate Robert Loxley in order to return the crown to King John and Loxley's sword to it's rightful owner. In doing so he learns about his own past and gains an identity.

However, this is one movie that demonstrates what happens when a writer does not fully research his subject.
The opening scenes shows the death of Richard The Lionheart years before his actual death.
Robin Longstride plans to jump ship at Gravesend. So it seems that the movie jumps from the 12th Centrury to the 17th without our hero aging. Okay, pendantic - but the village was named as Gravesham in the Domesday Book. Changed to Gravesend because of the plague pits in 1665 - that was the accepted version when I was at school.
Then the French invade England. D-Day all over again as the Norman army leap from landing craft under a barrage of English arrows. If my memory serves me well the Battle Of Hastings pre-dates the action in this movie.
Finally, King John now at the mercy of the Barons decides to burn the document that would form Magna Carta. I would get an angry response if I ever wrote a story that had someone ripping up the American Constitution. But Hollywood has managed to do just that for that American Constitution used Magna Carta as it's framework.

Who cares about Russell Crowe's accent? He made his character come to life but then he has rarely disappointed (personal opinion).
ROBIN HOOD had the potential to be a far better film than it is - it is just the lack of attention to detail that let it down.


Since the release of the Western RED DEAD REDEMPTION this game has topped 6.9 million sales.
A lot of people getting to grips with the western genre - then.

Even better there is now the possibility of the movie with Brad Pitt tipped to play the hero, John Marston.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

AUSTRALIAN RULES FOOTBALL: The Grand Final 2010 - St.Kilda v Collingwood

It's that time of year.
The last Saturday in September marks the Grand Final that ends the Aussie Rules Footie season.
So, in the early hours of an UK morning while the rest of the country was busy sleeping I was sat in front of my TV with beef pie and a good supply of coffee.
The MCG stadium in Melborne, Australia was packed to the rafters with over 100,000 spectators.
And there had to be just as many again watching the game out on the streets.
INXS sang a medley of their hits and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra belted out the teams anthems. The atmosphere was electric.

What was about to happen was a repeat of the 1966 final when the Saints took the pennant from Collingwood Magpies by a single point.

Collingwood came out on fire. It took them just 24 seconds from the opening bounce off to score the first goal. They looked as though they had come out with that hunger to win.
In fact, their season form - after an initial defeat by St.Kilda - seemed, not only to mark themselves as finalist contenders, to indicate that this would be their year.
They had last lifted the cup back in 1990 - a feat that they appeared to achieve every twenty years.
By half time it could be reasonably assumed that they were heading towards victory.
St.Kilda, on the other hand, is one team that should not be written off. Just as it looks as though they are going down - they stage a comeback.
If the first half was all one way traffic then the second half was a lively demonstartion of St.Kilda's character.
Final quarter and it looked as though history was going to repeat itself.
St.Kilda 61 - Collingwood 60.
Just the one point in it.
Collingwood wasn't done.
They hit back with a goal and two behinds.
St.Kilda pulled the score back to one point.
Then in the dying seconds absolute drama as St.Kilda's captain kicked towards the open goal. Victory was in their grasp.
Nick Maxwell, Collingwood's capatain, chased the bouncing ball reaching out to just touch it with his fingertips.
Unbelievable - the six point goal had just been reduced to one point.
Final score at the klaxon - St.Kilda 68 Collingwood 68.
The first grand final draw since 1977.

So..........both teams have to do it all again next Saturday.

Monday, 6 September 2010

SCOTT ANDREWS - The Afterblight Chronicles

Why does this happen?
I found a pretty good book 'Children's Crusade' by Scott Andrews in the local Waterstone's and sat down on the floor - well, they don't supply chairs - opened the book and started reading. Great opening chapter that set the scene and made me think a bit. It dawned on me that there was something that should come before and, sure enough, I was reading the third book of a trilogy. Had I looked at the back of the book I might have caught on sooner.
I just saw the title and thought that the book looked interesting.
Typical, books one and two were not on the shelves but the strength of that one opening chapter had me trawling the net for the other two books - 'School's Out' and 'Operation Motherland' - so, now I have the complete set.
Basics - There has been a plague that has swept the world and left those with O neg blood left alive (a play on Dave Wallis's 'Only Lovers Left Alive' there). I only make that allusion because in 'Only Lovers Left Alive' it was a teacher who committed suicide by throwing himself out of the classroom window and in 'School's Out' the headmaster commits suicide with a fistful of pills.
But there the similarity ends.
'School's Out' contains violence but while Dave Wallis's book gave the reader hope at the end - Scott Andrews shows us the hint that things could get worse before they get better.
In 'School's Out' the hero is 15 year old Lee Keegan and introduces the reader to the matron of the school, Jane Crowther. These two characters have a tandem role to play in 'Operation Motherland'. Lee celebrates his sixteenth birthday by crashing a plane, fighting for his life and facing execution - again. This time in Iraq as he searches for his father. Meanwhile, Jane fights to save the children in her school.
And Jane is still doing just that by the time I reach 'Children's Crusade'.
These post-apocalytic tales boast a strong story-line, real people in that they are not heroic - they break under pressure and torture - nor is any character there to make up the numbers.
All I know is that the author, Scott Andrews, was born in the London area back in 1971 - though I have a suspicion that he might live in my neck of the woods. He has written a guide to 'Farscape' and worked on Doctor Who and Highlander audio stories.
Also, he likes 'The Magnificent Seven'.
The Afterblight Chronicles are published by Abaddon Books and include the Scott Andrews novels and books by Paul Kane 'Arrowhead' and 'Broken Arrow' - and being ahead this time - 'Arrowland' due out later this year. 'Broken Arrow' contains a short story by Scott Andrews.
But the Paul Kane books will be reviewed at a later date - but if you fancy reading about Robin Hood taking on tanks and helicopter gunships then there is no need to wait.

Friday, 20 August 2010


A review of my short story 'ONE DAY IN LIBERTY' written under the name Jack Giles is now at Davy Crockett's Almanack.
It is just one of twenty one stories in 'A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS.

So here is a reprise of the background to the story:

Tuesday the 13th February 1866 was a cold overcast day. A blustery wind had picked up that carried a hint of snow. This did not deter the ten men who drifted into the town of Liberty, Missouri in twos and threes and who met up outside the Clay County Savings Association Bank.
Nobody took much notice after all it was not unusual to see groups of men meet up and hang around outside the bank.
Nor did it cause the bank cashier, Greenup Bird or his son, the teller, William much concern when, at 2 pm that day, two men entered the bank. One paused by the stove to warm his hands while the other approached William Bird with the request that he change up a $10 dollar bill.
So began what was to become the biggest bank robbery in the annals of the west.
What made this robbery different from any other was that it was the first bank robbery to be carried out in broad daylight.
Both the vault and the tills were cleaned out though the amount taken varies to different accounts. James Love, the bank president, claimed that only $50,000 in cash, gold and bonds were taken whereas contempory accounts put the figure as high as $75,000. The only consistent figure is that part of the haul amounted to between $40 -$45,000 in bearer bonds.
The robbery would have gone unnoticed had the robbers thought to have locked the vault where they had imprisoned both Greenup Bird and his son. The Birds escaped to raise the alarm and that was when the shooting started - fire was exchanged between robbers and citizens during which 19 year old William Jewell College student, George Wymore, was killed. His killing was laid at the robbers feet.
James Love posted a reward of $5000 for the capture of the robbers and return of the money - it was never claimed.
So who were the robbers?
Whoever robbed the Clay County Savings Association Bank knew the two Birds for when locking them up one of the robbers was heard to say: "All Birds should be caged." And, I rather imagine that Greenup Bird was well aware of who was pointing a gun at him.
Also of note is that at the outbreak of the American Civil War the State of Missouri declared for the Union while a vast majority of the people backed the Confederacy. Most of the inhabitants of Clay County alone were from Tennessee and Virginia and had brought their slaves with them and had hemp and tobacco plantations.
The Clay County Savings Association Bank was a pro-Union bank - therefore, a prime target for returning disgrunted Confederate soldiers some of whom would have not been happy with the state of their farms and greedy banks calling in loans etc.
Months later suggestions of names were put forward suggesting people who had ridden with Frank and Jesse James who lived 10 miles to the north at Kearney, Missouri. Feasible as the robbers rode north out of Liberty followed by a posse who lost the trail when a blizzard struck wiping out the trail.
The reward flyer put out by James Love states that the gang operated out of Sibley in Jackson County - which is to the south of Clay County.
One problem that I see with the James boys being involved is that at the time of the robbery Jesse was at home recovering from a chest wound.
Nor do any accounts of the James-Younger gang reveal that they were responsible for the first daylight bank robbery - then again, they didn't deny it.
Of one thing that is certain is that the robbery was carried out by people who were local to Liberty or residents of Clay County.
After reading many accounts of this robbery there are two things that stand out.
The first is that one of the robbers mentioned the Birds by name and I suspect that the elder Bird knew who at least one of the robbers was. Also, accounts say that when the Birds were placed in the vault the robbers forgot to lock the door. I do not think that the robbers forgot - they never intended to lock the door. This was not an oversight but carried out by someone who knew that it might be some time before they were discovered and released - by which time the Birds could have suffocated and died.
I believe that it was expected that the Birds would be too scared to try the door and thus give the robbers the chance to escape undetected.
The second thing that strikes me is the matter of the bearer bonds. There is no paper trail - though it was just about two and a half years after the robbery that the last bond was cashed.
To my mind this was a robbery that was planned down to the last detail and may have been a one off.
One other thought that occurs is that many of the investors were also Union supporters who were hit by the robbery. The bank trading was suspended and they were paid out at 60 cents to the dollar - damaging enough to put some people out of business.
Of course, all those involved in the events of that one day in Liberty are long dead and the truth may never be known. The identity of those who committed the first and largest daylight bank robbery will remain a mystery.

Writing about a true historical event is not easy. In fact the story was not even in my mind when the proposals for the anthology were first mooted. It took a cold and a day in bed for me to discover the threads of the story.
I was reading the December 1980 issue of the short lived Western Magazine where there was an article by Jeff Burton called 'Daylight Robbery At Liberty' in which he asked the question: Who were the dirty dozen who got away with point-blank murder?
After reading this a different type of germ began to take shape.
The first thing that I noticed when surfing the net was that there were a bunch of people out there who believed that the robbery was carried out by the James-Younger gang.
On the other side of the coin were another bunch of people who offered other ideas like the one where it was one of Quantrell's lieutenants who robbed the bank.
Yet not one account answered a simple question - why?
Because it was there? I don't think so.
My main concentration went to looking for a reason why. The first was easy the robbery at Liberty was the first daylight robbery - so it had to be planned. The second was the $40,000 in bonds - they were disposed off without leaving a trail.
There had to be a middle man in there somewhere.
All the time the germ of an idea was turning into a story.
There aren't many post-Civil War stories around. In fact I can only remember a scene from a John Payne movie (yes Payne, not a typing error)and another with John Chandler Davies that dealt with the Reconstruction era.
Without a word on the page the character of Nathan Clarke was forming. His fears for the future; the hanging of the Andersonville Commandant, Henry Wirz and the collapse of communities as the land grabbers moved in. I could feel his anger and frustration not only with the situation but with the prejudice against those who had fought for or supported the 'wrong' side.
He became the kind of man who would rob the bank in Liberty in daylight - a tactical surprise.
For the robbery itself I stuck to both the description and dialogue as reported.
As there are several accounts of the robbers escape and the chase I did condense several accounts into one.
I don't buy the story that the nineteen year old boy, George Wymore, was gunned down by the robbers. Again there are several accounts which place him in the locale but in different places ranging from raising the alarm himself to crossing the road further up from the bank. He could just as easily been a victim of 'friendly fire' as to being gunned down by a bunch of men trying to make their escape or a ricochet.

Like all the other authors in the anthology 'A Fistful Of Legends' we had an excellent editor in the shape of Nik Morton. He asked a few questions and made a couple of suggestions and the result is what you read.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

EDGE: A Welcome Return

George G Gilman's creation Edge is set to return via e-books and print on demand paperbacks by Solstice Publishing.

Back in 1972 Edge was depicted as a new kind of western hero - or anti-hero.
A violent man in a violent world. A man who survived by being far more brutal than those who came against him.
The kind of man who could sit back and watch a woman being raped because it was none of his business. Sooner or later it was the actions of others that would make it his business.

The character of Edge spans the traditional with the spaghetti western and over the course of 61 books he both evolves and ages. It is this point that is generally missed. Edge can be chauvinistic but could he ever be capable of any emotion? Gilman's skill in creating a moment when Edge marries Beth only to have her die shows that Edge has more depth than is suspected.
The series of books were not only influential in the seventies but their appeal continues in today's world. The US saw only 49 Edge books published by Pinnacle and the remaining books are highly sought after.

And now I get personal.
Without Edge there may never have been a Jack Giles.
The paperback series started me on a trail with Poseidon Smith and Pad Maghee as two possible series. They went to all the trade paperbacks and the response was highly encouraging but no one was taking on new western writers. I had arrived just a tad too late and the series western was coming to an end.
So I wrote to George G. Gilman aka Terry Harknett and asked for advice. He gave me a suggestion and the rest is history. Poseidon Smith was published by Robert Hale in 1984 and the Pad Maghee story 'The Man From Labasque' was my fourth published book.
Terry Harknett wrote to me to congratulate me and hoped that one day our books would be on the same shelf. My wife tells me that it happened on the shelves at Bromley Library.

Edge now gets a second run and I wish Terry all the success and hope that Edge will influence and inspire new writers to turn to the west.

Thursday, 5 August 2010


Who Do You Think You Are? is a tv programme that tells the family stories of celebrities who have all sorts of researchers popping up to tell the celebs all about their history. Even when they type in a name on an Ancestry search site they get a result.
In real life the amatuer researcher doesn't always get that lucky.
The programme itself is designed to get people interested in geneology.

Geneology was something that I was into long before the tv series began and there certainly no experts popping out of the woodwork to say that they had found out something about my relatives.
My mother's side was relatively easy - I knew enough that to get to the 1700s family in Ponypridd, Wales took less time than I expected.
My father's side not so easy.

While my mother's family were happy to talk about their history my father's were very tight lipped except my great-grandfather who often spun tales about a mythical great aunt Sarah and The Saracen's Head near St. Paul's. She became almost legendary and the truth was, I discovered later, that Sarah was a formidable person. On reading the London Illustrated News for 1868 - the year that my great-grandfather was born - most of what he had told me was there. Though there was other stuff that I knew and not all of it in the public domain. To find them you have to read her will and old trials at the Old Bailey.
He was so proud of great aunt Sarah yet never knew the truth that he wasn't related to her - not by blood.
Certainly, Richard the man who became his father may have been related for my great grandfather and his brother were born before Richard married their mother.
Even then I have my doubts for there are no records of his birth except that he was an inmate of the Bermondsey Workhouse - but he did have a brother who was christened there and his father was certainly related.
But therein lies echoes of my great-grandfather's life for he was placed in an Industrial School after his father left the family. His mother remarried but he never knew what happened next.
Today we have access to numerous records and, to a degree, I do know what happened next and it is sad to note that there was another brother that he never knew about.

Geneology can be fun but the human side can be found.
If someone was to say that I come from a long line of bastards - they wouldn't be wrong for there are three generations of them and link two brothers from the 1700s who form a circle to my dad's paternal grandfather.

In many ways it is like writing a book. As each piece slots into place it builds into a family saga.
Death at sea during the Seven Years War; Ecclesiastical lawyers; fairground gypsies; marriners and shipbuilders; cigarette factory workers; bricklayers; carpenters; carters.
All with their triumphs and tragedies - christenings that are followed days later by a buriel are amongst the realities that life was harsher then than it is now.

When it is all said and done who we are is who we are - but it is good to know where the roots lie.
Be quite fun if one of my off spring became a celeb in a hundred years time and some researcher came up and says: 'I've just discovered this blog that your great-great grandfather did.'

In the labels section are a load of names just in case there are those out there who think they may have a link.

Saturday, 24 July 2010


They don't turn up very often and when they do then they are classed as Basque gypsies. Films like the 1959 western 'Thunder In The Sun' and 'Broken Trail'. In books it is the same though in Matthew P. Mayo's western 'Winter's War' there is a very brilliant and accurate description of a vardo - a vardo is a horse drawn wagon and is a word that covers caravan.

It is interesting that three Portugese gypsies were with Columbus when he discovered America.

As far as I can work out is that the first British Romanies set foot on American soil curtesy of the British transportation system. The charges ranged from gry choring to ker poggring (horse stealing to housebreaking).

Before you start thinking that my rokkering the jib (speaking the language) is me showing off it is more to emphasise that the language of the Romany was quite important.

If asked 'Can you chin the cost?' the average person wouldn't be able to answer the question but another Romany could.

Language is all about communication. The Romany language has been described as a 'secret language' whereas it is their language as much as English is to a certain extent of the world or German to the Germans and so on.

And my answer to the question above would be 'No, I don't know how to make clothespegs.'

But it was the language that transported Romany's used to 'discover' others of their own kind.

Over the years many settled in Kentucky,Tennessee and South Carolina.

1850 saw the influx of more Romany families who quickly seized the opportunity to do what they did best - horse trading. After the Civil War many moved westward bringing their skills with them.

But the west was a suspicious place. These mustangers, bronco-busters and horse traders had the looks of Native Americans. Whether Romany or the half breed didikoi in the heat their skin darkened and with their dark hair mistakes were made and their history becomes blurred.

So blurred that today families, even if they suspect the truth, will tell their children that their dark looks come from a distant 'Native American' rather than own up. While there are those who do admit the truth.

The days of the travelling tinkers, the peg makers and other Romany trades have largely disappeared as has the language itself.

To me the language was a few scattered words that I learned as a child and strong denials that our family had gypsy connections. Today I know different - geneology has proved that.

There are people around today called Arnold, Ayres, Bowers, Scamp, Sharp, Williams and one that has famous connections - Eastwood - that may have Romany origins. Certainly, these were the names of many Romany families.
Some familiar names with Romany connections: Yul Brynner, Charlie Chaplin, Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins and The King himself - Elvis Presley. As did Sir Henry Wood the founder of the Promenade Concerts that we still enjoy today.
What is not in doubt is that the Romany Gypsy from across the world should be recognised for the part that they played in the building of America.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


A while back I went through a box of old cassettes and came across three albums by a group called Transvision Vamp. So I put them through the cassette player and found myself quite mesmerised.
Tranvision Vamp comprised Nick Christian Sayer, Dave Parsons, Tex Axile, Pol Burton and, as lead singer, Wendy James.
The sound post punk/rock and Wendy James had the right punk, rebellious voice that their music needed - yet could gentle down to the ballad like songs 'Sister Moon'.
Wendy James just had this voice that made people sit up and listen.
The group signed to MCA in 1986 and released a debut single 'Revolution Baby' in 1987. But 1988 saw the group break into the charts with 'I Want Your Love'. However, they would have to wait until 1989 for things to really hot up with hits like 'Baby, I Don't Care', 'The Only One' and 'Landslide Of Love'.
While single success seemed more of a swings and roundabout affairs the Tranvision Vamp albums fared better with 'Pop Art' peaking at No.3 and twenty odd weeks in the charts while the far more successful 'Velveteen' went in straight at the top spot and spent thirty odd weeks in the chart.
Unfortunately, MCA were not keen on the third album 'Little Magnets vs The Bubble Of Babble'
and delayed the release and by the time it hit the shops in 1991 Transvision Vamp had disbanded.
Despite this Wendy James stayed signed to MCA and had a solo album 'Now Ain't The Time For Tears' from which the singles 'The Nameless One', ' London's Brilliant' and 'Do You Know What I'm Saying?' were released with disappointing results.
A shame as Wendy James was trying to make her own way - sure there were shades of Transvision Vamp there but a hint of a new direction. Something that is illustrated by the Transvision Vamp albums as though they knew the difference between what is commercial (ie the chart hits) and goes to show that sometimes record companies don't - 'Sister Moon' being an example - and the beauty of 'Velveteen' that, in my opinion, made the album a success.
Reading between the lines Wendy James knew what she wanted - she wasn't 'Born To Be Sold' but determined to write her own history.
In 2004 she attempted a comeback with a band called 'Racine' which came to a halt.
In my view Wendy James did write her piece into music history with Transvision Vamp.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


Once upon a time most books could expect a paperback deal to follow. These days it is not so much the case.
So, when Matthew P. Mayo announced that a paperback deal had been made with Dorchester/Leisure books I was quite thrilled and can only congratulate him on this acheivement.
I think that Matthew P. Mayo is the first Black Horse Western writer to have his novels reprinted in paperback.
The first novel in print will be 'Winters' War' which will be available in May, 2011.
'Wrong Town' and 'Hot Lead, Cold Heart' will follow a few months after.
The word is that Dorchester/Leisure are looking for authors who would like to see their books reprinted.
I hope that some of the Black Horse Western writers will seize the day and take advantage of the opportunity.

Monday, 12 July 2010

RED DEAD REDEMPTION: Is Seth played by.....

Sorry, Gary but I just could not resist this one.
To take a serious view of RED DEAD REDEMPTION I have noticed more and more of the younger generation attracted to the western dvds at our local HMV. Whether that is down to the game or not I haven't a clue - might just be coincidence.
At the moment my son is playing the game and his view is that if he is getting the vibe that others could well be finding their way towards the genre.
Anyone who asks then we are directing them towards Gary's Tainted Archive who is running a book by book review of George G. Gilman's 'Edge' series and Steve M's Western Fiction Review.

Sunday, 4 July 2010


Fight Evil.....With Evil

Writer/Director Michael J Bassett has produced quite a good movie featuring an almost forgotten character created by Robert E. Howard.
Howard is better known for the stories that chronicled the life of Conan who is the subject of a new movie.

Solomon Kane is a privateer/mercenary waging war on the North African coast in 1600. It is here that Kane encounters the Devil's Reaper who has come to claim Kane's soul.
"I'm not ready for Hell - yet." Kane tells him as Kane makes his escape.
Kane takes refuge in an Abbey where he begins his journey towards redemption. But that road is long and has many routes - some of them painful.
As he journeys towards his West Country home he is given food and shelter by a Puritan patriarch (Pete Postlethwaite) and his family. Kane finds himself drawn towards the daughter Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood)
The West Country of 1601 is plagued by an evil band of Raiders and ruled over by a man called Malachi. It is not long before the group of travellers are attacked by the Raiders resulting in the deaths of the males and the abduction of Meredith.
Kane goes after them to rescue Meredith.
To go further would mean a whole bunch of spoilers but Solomon Kane's journey to redemption does draw the viewer in.
James Purefoy gives a faultless performance as Kane.
One other performance comes down the combination of costumier and Samuel Roakin's acting as the leader of the Raiders - a pure evil presence on screen.
The rumour mill has this film as the first of a trilogy.


A great new group of western writers has started up to promote the western genre.
Check out the new site at where an intro has been written by Frank Roderus.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


Franklin Robert Adams was a career soldier born in 1933 and died in 1990.
He is considered to be one of the earliest writers to depict a post-nuclear holocaust world.
The Horseclans saga comprises 18 novels published between 1975 and 1988.
There is a mix of sci-fi and Arthurian romance. The setting is that part of America to the west of the Mississippi and stretches from Canada to Texas.
Heroes come in Undying form and characters like Bili Morghun (aka Bili The Axe) are, at least, a century old yet never show signs of age. They are also telepathic through which they are able to communicate with their allies a pack of sabre tooth tigers.
The art work for the Orbit paperbacks (an example shown) has that heroic vibe to it.
Robert Adams was a good storyteller and his descriptive passages were first class. Added to that was his knowledge of weaponry that gave an authentic feel.
All the books about the Horseclans inter-connect so, although each book has an ending, there is not really a novel that can be classed as the usual stand alone.
Tribal classes and weird, suspicious relgions turn up many illustrative of a point that the author feels that he has to make - like a mask covering his own thoughts.
The books in the series are:
1. The Coming Of The Horseclans
2. Swords Of The Horseclans
3. Revenge Of The Horseclans
4. Cat Of A Silvery Hue
5. The Savage Mountain
6. The Patrimony
7. Horseclans Odyssey
8. The Death Of A Legend
9. The Witch Goddess
10. Bili The Axe
11. Champion Of The Last Battle
12. A Woman Of The Horseclans
13. Horses Of The North
14. A Man Called Milo Morai
15. The Memories of Milo Morai
16. Trumpets Of War
17. Madman's Army
18. Clan Of The Cats
There are two anthologies of Horseclans related short stories simply called Friends Of The Horseclans 1 and 2.
I picked up 'The Coming Of The Horseclans' quite by chance but Googling has not really brought up anything much except for brief biographies of the author and a list of his works. Nor had I come across this series.
Some of the books are, it appears, available for download.
The first three books certainly have the feel of a trilogy about them and I have ordered the next three from Amazon.

POST No. 250

Believe it or not but this is the 250th post.
And I don't have a clue about how to celebrate the moment.
So 250 posts on and what stories have attracted attention?

Surprisingly, to me, the piece that I did on 'Peyton Place' and the author Grace Metalious has been the biggest single article to be read. As is Alan Sillitoe's short story 'Uncle Ernest'.

In the comic world both 'V For Vengeance' and 'The Legend Of Lord Snooty' have attracted a lot of attention.

While on the music front the attention has been on Skillet's 'Awake' album, the new Meatloaf album, The New Christy Minstrels and The Ronettes.

As was expected the 'Red Dead Redemption' console game has been a minor hit.

There is no preconceived concept with Broken Trails - it just ambles along, breaks off and re-appears further down the line. And it has more to do with things that interest me and the kids. And while some things aren't everybody's cup of tea - and it would be a dull old world if they were - I just hope that there is something for everybody.

Here's to the next 250.

Monday, 28 June 2010


The average Black Horse Western runs between 130,000 and 145,000 words and Chuck Tyrell is one of those writers who do not waste a single word.
Whether Chuck Tyrell is writing about character, location or objects it is done in a seemless way that it is like a painting taking shape. Word pictures.
The centre of this story is Nat Dylan who is on the vengeance trail.
On minute fifteen year old Nat is having a crush on the 19 year old schoolmistress, Rebecca Shoemeister, - the next he is struggling with the news that his three older brothers have been killed by a man named Jared Carter. Picking up his brother's Remington he vows to see Carter dead.
Five years on and Dylan and Carter find themselves in the same place at the same time which means that things have to come to a conclusion.
There are a fistful of threads to this story that carries it above the usual revenge tale. Nat Dylan grows in stature and character as the story builds towards the conclusion. Then there is the question of honour and, as the reader discovers, there is more than one kind of honour here.
'The Killing Trail' by Chuck Tyrell is a June release from Robert Hale Ltd's Black Horse Western range.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


"We were looking for inspiration from movies like 'Dirty Harry' and the spaghetti westerns: in the case of 'RAT PACK' we got it with 'The Dirty Dozen'."
And there certainly are influences at work in these stories.
Robert Shaw from 'Battle Of The Bulge' with a touch of Red Grant is the inspiration for 'Hellman Of Hammer Force.'
A Clint Eastwood/James Coburn 'Cross Of Iron' character has to be behind Major Eazy.
'Battle' Comic ran from the early 70s to the 80s but I have no recollection of this so reading the extracts from the various series has certainly been an eye opener.
Movies, obviously, played a part towards the inspiration but the idea of comic featuring stories that had Germans as heroes or anti-heroes must have some links to the books of the likes of Sven Hassel.
One grouse - 'HOLD HILL 109' ran for six weeks, according to the intro so I feel a little cheated that the book gives just four of the episodes.
Still I enjoyed the rest of this compilation from Titan Books that featured the likes of 'D-Day Dawson', 'Johnny Red', 'Charley's War' amongst the 18 featured stories.
'Darkie's Mob' and 'Johnny Red' have been issued in all new reprint editions with 'Rat Pack' and 'Major Eazy'. Also, in 6 volumes has been the complete reprint of 'Charley's War'.
There were some articles on 'Charley's War' at

Sunday, 20 June 2010


They are ranked about 78th in the world - but today New Zealand held Italy to a 1-1 draw.
This has to be one of the memorable matches to date.
New Zealand was one of those teams that expected nothing from their World Cup appearance but it goes to show that with imagination a team can acheive anything.
Now go beat Paraguay - go Kiwis.

Saturday, 19 June 2010


Oh! What a circus - oh! what a show.
Wayne Rooney blaming the fans and the pundits along with the media blame the manager.
Truth is come the day there are eleven English players on the pitch and the onus to play to win is on them and no one else.
They play like a bunch of old men - but then they are. For some this is their third or fourth World Cup when really the team that is on the field should be young and fired with enthusiasm. A team that has the ability to face all comers on an equal footing.
There seems no point in the current team turning up to face Slovenia.
The way I see it even if England were to win it would only prolong the agony as there is a good chance that they will face a German team that will send England home.
It is time to shelve the likes of Terry, Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney - a team does not consist of 'I's. And headlines that claim that it is Rooney's World Cup do not help - if anything it is should read England's World Cup.
Until England has a team that has pride in itself England will not get their hands on either the European or World Cups.
There are teams in this World Cup who are going to go out in these early rounds. Some of them are facing teams that are way above their league but they are fighting for every inch of ground.
Algeria were that good that they looked as though they would have ended England's misery.
So in the aftermath what really worries England - ah! yes - security. A fan managed to breach security to tell England just what he thought of them. The message I'm getting from that is that the fans mean nothing and that we should not criticise the England team.
Yeah, well - where's the nearest recycling bin?

And what is it about Australia?
Play Germany and they get a man red carded.
Play Ghana and guess what - yep, another red card and down to 10 men.
Should they bother to field a full team against Serbia?
Or is this some kind of conspiracy by England who, should they top their group, would play Australia had they come second in their group.

Friday, 18 June 2010


17th June 2010 - Jon Monk who was killed in Afghanistan returned home along with Lance Corporal Andrew Breeze who had also died as a result of a roadside bomb.
They landed at R.A.F. Lyneham, Wiltshire where a short ceremony took place for the families.
Later the cortege passed through Wootton Bassett where family and friends lined the route. The coffins were en route to John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford for the final official post mortem.
ITV covered the return on their programme 'London Tonight' where friends Richard Hammond, Ben Satchell and Jack Foster paid tribute to Jon.
It is expected that Jon's funeral will take place in approximately two weeks time at Croydon Crematorium.

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Anyone who saw the front page of today's Daily Mail should have been disgusted.
In the wake of the Bloody Sunday report the headline screamed about 'the face of the British soldier'. Pictured were two soldiers who had been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. So, they served in Northern Ireland - what, then, was the Daily Mail implying?
Both the pictured soldiers had not been a part of 'Bloody Sunday' - they had not even been born.
It begs the question just what kind of point the Daily Mail was trying to make?
And as I knew one of the soldiers I know that the reporter on this story tried to get the parents to make comments about 'Bloody Sunday'. They wouldn't - they couldn't do that. It had nothing to do with the death of their son.
I think that the Daily Mail owes an apology to all the relatives of those who lost their lives in Afghanistan. The innuendo contained in your article seems to just cheapen the sacrifice that our soldiers make.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


At 10 am this morning one of the people in this photo died fighting the war in Afghanistan.

Jon Monk and my son, Jack, were inseparable from the word go. A pair of jokers who did everything together. School, working as fishmongers, Army Cadets - they did it all. The best of friends who were going to join the Army together.
Except that Jack got married and Jon went into the Army. He served for his allotted time and was posted to Northern Ireland and then to the Iraq conflict.
Life in civvy street did not enthuse Jon and he re-enlisted in the army and was sent out to Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
Last night Jack and Jon were conversing on Facebook and making arrangements for a night out at the end of this month - but the Taliban made sure that will not happen.
Rest In Peace - Jon. You will be missed.
And we send all our love, sympathy and condolences to Jon's family.

Jon is on the left or the front - and that is the way we will remember him.

Further reading regarding Jon's death can be found at

Saturday, 29 May 2010


What links:
a) console games like 'Damnation', B.Sokal's 'Syberia' and 'Reasonance Of Fate'.
b) 'The Wild, Wild West' - both the tv series and the movie.
c) Writers like Jules Verne, H.G.Wells and Mary Shelley.

The easy answer is the possibility that without the influences of the writers none of those above would have existed.
Extraordinary worlds where flying dreadnoughts and T.A.R.D.I.S like submarines are totally acceptable and have influenced other writers like Michael Moorcock and Orson Scott Card.
It is like a sub-genre that embraces science fiction, fantasy and alternative histories set against the dark, industrial days of Victorian and Edwardian England. Even the wild west can be incorporated into this world - an alternative weird west. Maybe, even a 'Wild, Wild West'.
In the 1980's/1990's this type of fiction was given a name - steampunk - as most stories were set in the age of steam.
Nor is that far fetched as in 1923 a percentage of cars owned in the US were either steam driven or powered by electricty. In fact both types of car existed long before petrol driven vehicles came into being.
Steampunk has a wider leeway than most fiction - and a following amongst gamers.

In the current issue of Black Horse Extra (there is a link in the side panel) there is and article by Black Horse Western writer David Whitehead about the need to change the way of the west to appeal to new readers. Everything that he says sounds right and I cannot argue with him on that.

In a curious way the western is a kind of steampunk. Sounds daft - but steam trains and the ironclads of the American Civil War can be found in that sub-genre.

To some extent I do believe that if writers do want to catch the imagination of the young then the books that they want to read have to be written. Whether that is the book of the game or a brave new world - whether it is to give a new slant to sci-fi or the western - writers can change the game.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


What a week for games - 'Alan Wake' last Friday followed a week later by 'Red Dead Redemption', 'Split Second Velocity' and the latest instalment of 'Prince Of Persia' brought forward to tie in with the movies release.

Gaming was something that I came to via therapy to aid hand and eye co-ordination as well as to help me build up concentration. At the time we had a Play Station 1 and the selection of games left a lot to be desired. Wrestling games and shoot 'em ups - the type that didn't need a brain to operate. But, then I discovered 'Tomb Raider', 'Resident Evil' and 'Silent Hill' - games that did not rely on the gun but were loaded with puzzles that needed solving. Somehow, this became my home turf and by playing I found that I could read longer and watch tv programmes near enough almost all the way through.

The PS1 was replaced by the PS2 but I did not go to the PS3 because of all the delays in release and negative publicity. So it was the XBox 360 that replaced the PS2 as the main console.
The biggest criticism that I have is that with greater memory and storage space the game has deteriorated.
The last two entries into the 'Resident Evil' series have disappointed - the puzzle and story element have been sacrificed for a higher body count. Maybe, that is just the way of the world.
Fortunately, the formats for 'Tomb Raider' and 'Silent Hill' have a continuity. So, when games like 'Red Dead Redemption' or 'Alan Wake' come along I'm only too happy to add them to my collection - which is not very large.

Most games have an on-line link. The XBox 360 comes complete with a headset so that you can talk to other gamers all around the globe.

In a world where the movie industry has cottoned on to the fact that there is an audience out there many games have been made into films. 'Grand Theft Auto', 'Bloodrayne', 'Far Cry' Resident Evil', 'Silent Hill' , 'Tomb Raider' and the latest blockbuster 'Prince Of Persia'.
But where, some gamers ask, is the book of the game?

As I said there is a point to these posts and the next piece, I hope, will make it.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


BROKEN TRAILS is about to go off on a tangent with some stuff about gaming and I know that it is a subject that doesn't appeal to everybody - but there is a point and all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

Racing games were not my thing. I couldn't handle them at all despite all the hand and eye co ordination therapy. They were too fast for me.
That was until a couple of years ago when I attempted a game called 'Burnout Takedown'. Just one race on this game showed just how much my own concentration as well as hand and eye responses had grown over time. But more about that in another post.

This is probably the best motor racing game around at the moment. Even XBox 360 magazines rave about it with scores of 9 and 9.4 out of ten. But 'the best racing game ever'? Certainly, addictive for the first couple of seasons but then becomes repetitive.
The downside is the Leaderboards. If you want to find out how well you've done - don't bother. For example if the race is for the Lambourghini Murcielago LP 640 only why is the top ten either an Audi, Rossion Q1 or Porsche 997RS none of which are eligable for that race? A quibble, I know, but even the magazines can't answer that question.
Despite that the game is reasonably good.

NFS:Shift is Forza 3 with aggression. Win the race by any means possible - just smack the opposition out of the way.
After the disaster zone that was 'Pro-Street' I was wary about Need For Speed's shift to the racetrack.
Need For Speed had built up a rep with games like 'Carbon', 'Most Wanted' and 'Undercover' that were full of street racing as in the movie series 'The Fast And The Furious'.
Surprisingly, 'Shift' works and the gamer gets to do all those things that they would like to do on 'Forza 3'.

This is a game that goes extreme and coming from Disney Productions I could easily see a movie emerge.
Now this is billed for 7+ - I don't think so. Some of the tracks would be quite hard. Trying to race a track while a helicopter is firing missiles at your car - just one example.
Reviewer, Mike Channell of XBox 360 (the official XBox magazine) descibes the game as a combination of 'The Running Man' and BBC's 'Total Wipeout' - except that I don't recall four red balls; just the one big yellow wrecking ball.
I can see where Mike is coming from though I would have combined 'The Running Man' with Jason Statham's 'Death Race'.
Again quite addictive but the point of the game like winning cars and opening new tracks is lost when you realise that for 520 credits you can download the cars and tracks and unlock the lot. And this within hours of the launch of the game (21st May 2010).

All these games are available to play on-line.
Forza 3 seems to have a time zone problem - thankfully, I'm not the only one to notice this.
However, Split Second Velocity has a level playing field. So, spending 520 credits on the top cars is not going to help you win races. Being in front doesn't mean that that gamer is going to win. Nor does having the fastest car mean a win because you can still win if you have a lesser car. It all comes down to the game and how the gamer plays it.
Perhaps, this is where 'Split Second Velocity' comes into it's own - the unpredictability of other gamers. Real people rather than computer drawn cars where you know how the animated object is going to react.

Coming up: My introduction to gaming and the online community - and some interesting comments.

Saturday, 22 May 2010


If anyone thought that Red Dead Redemption was going to be Grand Theft Auto with horses then they were way, way out.
Nor have the developers at Rockstar repeated the formula used with the original 'Red Dead Revolver'.
When I first saw the early stills and trailer I thought that the CGI cut scenes looked good. And cut scenes always come across that way and gameplay tends towards the cartoonish. With Red Dead Redemption this is not the case - the gameplay and the CGI work together producing great graphics.
Nor is this game of the usual shoot 'em up variety. No, the beauty lies in the detail. Simple things that add reality like hitching and un-hitching your horse. Sometimes you have to saddle the horse instead of just jumping on it as in other games. You have to draw the gun or rifle before you can use it and take time out to reload.
The story itself is in traditional mode.
When federal agents threaten his family, former outlaw John Marston is forced to pick up his guns again and hunt down his former friends.
Not so easy as John Marston confronts his former friend and gang leader Bill Williamson. Marston tries to reason but Williamson guns him down. However, he is rescued by local rancher Bonnie McFarlane who helps him to regain his strength. Bonnie has her own problems as her ranch has been targetted by rustlers.
Now play on......
The game came out today and some of the on-liners that I know have given the game the thumbs up.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


Hollywood scriptwriter and director Kilian Kerwin wrote a short story called 'Hang Cool Teddy Bear' set against the background of the war in Afghanistan. The hero of the story is badly wounded and the only hope of rescue is if he can reach a nearby ridge. Somehow he summons up both the courage and the strength to do it but on reaching the goal has no strength to cry out. After firing a shot in the air he collapses and, in episodic form, his life with a girl called Jenny flashes through his mind.
Taking this story as a basis Meatloaf has made an impressive musical interpretation.
From the moment that the explosive pounding percussion opens the first track 'Peace On Earth' you get caught up in the futility of war and a soldier's wish to just go home.
On this album Meatloaf is joined by a host of stars - Justin Hawkins (The Darkness) who, also, co-wrote two of the songs; Steve Vai and Brian May. Jack Black duets on 'Like A Rose' and there is also a welcome re-union with Patti Russo. The biggest surprise comes with Meatloaf's duet with Kara Dioguardi on 'If I Can't Have You' where the pianist is the actor Hugh Laurie.
All in all I found this album up there with 'Bat Out Of Hell' and I can see this as a great concept for a live show.
While the album can stand on it's own two feet it was good to read the source material which can be found on line.
An album to 'hang cool' with.

Monday, 17 May 2010


In an age where war is real some would say that that there is no place for war stories in comics. So, it was good to find a book that put the history of the war story in comics into context.
The story goes back to 1855 with 'The Boy's Own Paper' and 'The Boys Of England' launched eleven years later. However, in 1879, Lord Shaftesbury was moved to comment that many of the stories in these and the penny dreadfuls of the time encouraged the growing street crime. The stories that emerged following those comments encouraged a turn towards the acts of heroism in war - most of the stories taking place on land and sea during the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars. Acts of derring do that encouraged young readers to join the Army and Navy of the time.
Many of the big names were to write these tales and included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, R.M.Ballantyne and G.A.Henty who was to edit 'The Union Jack' (1880).
With the advent of the Boer War more and more comics began to appear all with stirring tales.
For many years the comic stories came in prose form and the die had been set.
An interesting reproduction of a story from 'Chum' in 1913 carried a curious warning:
'NOTICE. - This story is not intended to stir up race hatred, but is written as a true picture of what would happen if a great Continental nation attacked our country." The story by Captain Frank Shaw titled 'The Swoop Of The Eagle' saw England at war with Germany almost a year before it became reality.
This book covers the history through to the demise of the comics in the 1990s with the death of 'Victor' and 'Eagle'.
But it brings back the heroes of our time. Biggles, Battler Britton, Rockfist Rogan, Braddock V.C., Paddy Payne, Sergeant Rayker, 'Sniper' Dennison and many, many more.
And the Deathless men of 'V For Vengeance'.
The adventures of 'Sniper' Dennison was one of my favourites. The writing was somewhat darker and the descriptions of combat very vivid. Through this book I discovered that the writer, Alan Hemus, actually trained as a sniper during the second world war.
The evolution from prose to picture stories are covered to the evolution to the 70s comics Warlord, Battle and Action comics.
Adam Riches with Tim Parker and Robert Frankland have put together a very informative book well illustrated with comic covers, with sections from both strips and prose.
The final chapter is a comic in itself with the complete reconstruction of a comic that covers the history of war comics - including a piece with the controversial Hellman.
For comic fans this is a must have.

Friday, 14 May 2010


14th May 2010 - a day that will live in - well, something or other.
But it has been one hell of a long wait for this console game to hit the - well, the console.
I seem to recall this title going around back to about 2005. It never materialised.
Even the promised 2010 release seemed to be going backwards. First it was going to be April and then back to the 21st May but, my guess, is that with the release of 'Red Dead Redemption' on the same day it was rushed to a week earlier.
So was all the hype worth the wait?
I do believe so.
It looks good and feels good - and a good game for writers.
That's the plotline - a writer wakes up in a lonely cabin in the woods only to find that he is a character from one of his own books that he has yet to write.
Confused? Well, there is a lot of time-shifting that the player has to keep up with but there you go.
Billed as a psychological thriller this has undertones of Stephen King. Yes, there are hints of 'Bag Of Bones' (the opening is a clue) and 'The Dark Half'.
One does go along with the media's idea that this is one of those 'must have' games and will, no doubt, top the charts for weeks to come.
Apart from the standard edition there is a Limited Edition that comes with a host of goodies. A Bonus disc that shows how the game was made. A CD Soundtrack and a dashboard piece of wallpaper. Also, the book of the game that makes for interesting reading.
All this inside a book cover.
As you can guess I have the Limited Edition and I think that with all the extras it proved value for money.
Available only on the XBox 360.

One thing to add. Many games have good soundtracks - 'Silent Hill' and 'Red Dead Revolver' come to mind. A soundtrack album issued with the game would be a good idea.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


Well the good news is that the good ole western is back on the shelves of a British store.
So there I was in our local branch of Waterstones when I just stopped dead in my tracks. Right there in front of me was a display of westerns. Not the greatest display but a display just the same.
After checking out the shelves I found more titles tucked away including Pete Dexter's 'Deadwood'.
So, let us give Waterstone's a great big hand.
Now, we just have to give W.H.Smith a wake up call.
And, yes, it goes to show that the Tainted Archive's Wild West Monday initiative does work.