Wednesday, 6 June 2012


FAST GIRLS opens up in the UK on the 15th June. The movie deals with a quartet of young girls and their journey towards taking part as the British relay team in the 2012 London Olympics. The movie stars Lenora Crichlow, Lashana Lynch, Dominique Tipper and Hannah Frankson along with Noel Clarke, Rupert Graves and Phil Davis. One of the stars Noel Clarke has come a long way since playing Mickey in Dr.Who and now enjoys a credit list that includes Kidulthood, Adulthood and 4-3-2-1 to name but a few acting/producing and writing credits. And not only does he act in Fast Girls but co-wrote the script. Fast Girls should have been the feelgood movie that highlighted the work that British athletes do in preparation for the Olympic Games - OUR Olympic games. The same Olympic Games that Londoners are paying for via that 'little bit extra' added on to the Council Tax. There are some people out there who think that some of us have forgotten about that. Return to the Olympic theme - halfway through the making a movie that promotes the Olympics - an idiot from the International Olympic Committee said that neither the words 'Olympic' nor '2012' could be used in the movie as these words were copyrighted. Since when? That means that movies like 'Cool Runnings', 'Chariots Of Fire' and '2012' should have been dragged into court for breach of copyright etc. One of the American Presidents said something along the lines that it wasn't about what you could do for your country but what your country could do for you. Well, my country and the London Olympic Committee could have stood up for this movie So now Fast Girls is about a team of athletes traing for the 2011 World Athletics Championship - but for me it will be just as intended a tribute to the young athletes that put their heart and soul into doing their best for their country at the 2012 Olympics.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

THE AFFAIR by Lee Child

The events in Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher novel takes place in March 1997 just six months before the events in 'Killing Floor' (the first Reacher novel). Janice May Chapman's body is found with her throat cut behind a bar in a small Mississippi town - but this is an army town and the question is was the killer a local or a soldier from the barracks.Duncan Munro of the Military Police is already on the base and has shut it down - all leave cancelled. Reacher's job is to go in undercover. However, the local sheriff is a woman, Elizabeth Deveraux, a former Marine and MP - so it takes her all of five minutes to blow Reacher's cover. Nor is it long before we discover that the killer has struck before with the same M.O. only the first two victims were not white. Also, Alpha and Bravo Companies based at Kelham Army base have on-off clandestine ops in Kosovo and that all the murders had taken place after the return of Bravo Company. And that is where I leave the plot summary. Of course, there is a cover-up going on - and the suspects are quickly revealed so that all is needed is a procedural story of how the reader arrives at the conclusion. However, there is, I felt, an unnecessary side story that was intended to throw the reader. For me it didn't work but there you go and that is only my opinion. To be honest having read 'The Enemy' and 'Killing Floor' I enjoyed this book just as much and still look forward to 'A Wanted Man' which will be out in September this year. I read on the Piccadilly Publishing blog and The Tainted Archive that 'One Shot' renamed 'Reacher' is to star Tom Cruise in the title role. The New York Times describes Jack Reacher as "That legend of a tough, cerebral drifter, a latter day 6-foot-5-inch cowboy...." Need i say more?

Monday, 21 May 2012

BODIE by Neil Hunter (e-book)

It was great to see that Neil Hunter's 'Bodie' was about to make a comeback. The original Star paperbacks ran to a series of six - all of them coming out at the wane of what had been a successful era for the western. On the spine the books were called 'Bodie The Stalker' - not a name that was used in the story. This time the series is coming out in e-book format from Piccadilly Publishing. And the brains behind this new publishing venture who hope to bring more series from the group of writers known as the Piccadilly Cowboys are David Whitehead and Mike Stotter. Both men have a long history with the western genre from their childhood in London's East End right through to today where they are western writers in their own right. They have always championed the genre and the writers of such series as 'Herne The Hunter' and 'Hart The Regulator' and many others. Bodie is a bounty hunter and the action of these books take place at a time when bounty hunting was legal. While Bodie is a man of action, he is also a thinker and plans ahead to his own exacting rules and regulations. A man of few words he gets the job done - sometimes fairly as is seen in the opening to 'Trackdown' the first book in the series. Bodie 1: Trackdown is available from all the usual outlets.

Sunday, 20 May 2012


So the Beeb want to sack Jessie J because she thinks that the show is lame. Why? For saying how it is? I would have thought that it would be a good idea for the BBC to rethink their show. Mind you most of the coaches failed to turn around for about 90% of the talented singers and took just a small per centage on. I lost interest way back when Jaz Ellington was asked to sing another song - and the backing band knew exactly what to play. So the word 'rigged' comes to mind - and, of course, this is the guy who is the bookies favourite. Though, I think there is a dark horse in the shape of Bo Bruce - except that she keeps reminding me, in looks, of a mature Alex Parks and sounds like her. I half expect to hear her sing 'Beautiful' at some stage. Can't help but think that way. And, in case, anyone has forgotten Alex Parks well she won the 2005 Fame Academy (an older version of The Voice) on the BBC. She recorded two albums (and, yes, I have them both) and then disappeared. And what was Holly Willoughby doing apologising for a brilliant and raunchy performance by Becky Hill? Now, if Becky Hill or Joelle (who got shown the door last week) came out with albums tomorrow I would buy them. Actually, the whole show is a waste of time and not much different in texture than 'The X Factor' or 'Britains' Got Talentless'. In fact, I'm not sure why I'm even bothering to write about it. Well, I do as I find it difficult to understand why it is the talentless who win these shows - and not those who do. Becky Hill has talent - but will she be able to cope with the pressure that would result. Will Joelle disappear into obscurity - I'd like to think that there is a record producer out there who spotted her. The same goes for the Ruth that is on Tom Jones team. As Tom Jones said, women are able to express themselves much better than their male counterparts. Still all was not lost. At least Chelsea beat Bayern Munich - so my evening viewing ended on a happier note.

Saturday, 19 May 2012


I bought this game more on the strength of Rockstar's previous games 'L.A.Noire' and 'Red Dead Redemption'. That was my first mistake. The second was actually attempting to play the game. The game starts with a long and boring prologue complete with credits as per a movie - so long that I could nip out to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee and a cheese sandwich. Then 'the game' started with yet another long drawn out part of the storyline followed by a bit of player action that was interupted by another cut scene followed by....well, the whole of Chapter One was more lenghthy cutscenes than game. Chapter Two didn't look much better. BUT....that is not the worst aspect of 'Max Payne 3'. The cut scenes and monologues are delivered in a continuous monotone and accompanied by flashing split screens, supposedly important capitalised words from the dialogue, blurred images that double and triple on themselves in such a flashy way that the developers seem not to understand why games contain an 'epilepsy warning'. After a chapter and a half I was suffering max pain - a headache. Not only that but watching a man wallow in self-pity while downing bottles of Jack Daniels gets a little boring and any attempt to skip it is met by a message 'still loading'. I could see that as Max Payne grabbed another bottle. Still what little gameplay there was was pretty good - pity some decisions are taken out of the players hands with slo-mo cutscenes. XBOX World carried one of those boastful articles about getting their hands on this game a couple of months before it came out. Give them their due their 'hands on' as they admitted was a chance to play the multiplayer parts of the game. However they did say that they had played one level of the solo campaign - one would presume from that that there were no cutscenes added to the demo that they played. Still there is an interesting point in their article and that is that, to my mind, the online multiplayer games now outweigh the the solo campaigns. When a player compares games with others it just amazes me that they have scored on-line achievements but no in-game. I'm not a great fan of the Grand Theft Auto series but I would rate them above this mess. Talking of which isn't it about time the British branch of Rockstar came up with a 'Grand Theft Auto: London'? Surely, an update on the old Playstation One game is well overdue.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

THE DEATH OF GRASS by John Christopher (1922 - 2012)

The Summer of 1958 was one long heatwave. The grass on the school playing field had gone from a dazzling green to something resembling a khaki stubble. Even the gardening class were struggling to keep the vegetable plots alive. And, of course, we had been given the freedom of the school fields rather than be restricted to the over heated confines of the school playground. Not only did the boys' have this freedom but so did the girls from the adjoining school. A white line was drawn to indicate that to stray beyond would be a punishable offence. As with a football, so the whole body would have to cross the inch and a half wide barrier. Nothing was said about heads or hands. And so it was that I sat as close to that line as I could so that the fair haired, freckle faced girl who sat on the other could peer over and read the book that I was reading. The book in question was a brand spanking new Penguin edition of 'The Death Of Grass' by John Christopher. It was one of those books that forever marked the where and when I read it. This book was nominated, in 1957, for the International Fantasy Award and ended up as the runner up to Tolkein's 'The Lord Of The Rings'. A quick synopsis of the book is that a virus destroys all types of grass and that includes corn, wheat and barley etc. John Custance and his family watch as anarchy breaks out and decide to make the journey to his brother's farm. The thing that I learned from the Character of John Custance is that heroes are not always the good guys and, sometimes, they have to do somethings that may not seem nice but have to be done in order to survive. Reading the book today there are three things that become apparent. The first is that the virus in the book begins life on the African continent - the same continent that, today, is ravaged with famine. The second is that the society at the time the novel was set was better equipped to deal with survival than modern day society is. The third is just how influential 'The Death Of Grass' became. There are elements of John Wyndham's 'The Day Of The Triffids' and William Golding's 'The Lord Of The Flies' within 'The Death Of Grass' - yet looking beyond to Cormac McCarthy's future vision of 'The Road' and the starkness and barreness of the movie version - then I see John Christopher's novel lurking in the background. It even lies there in the make up of the 'Mad Max' movies. The book was turned into the Cornel Wilde forgetable movie 'No Blade Of Grass' which was the US title. The apocalyptic novel is no longer new but back in the days of Wyndham, Christopher and, later, J G Ballard it was. And, probably, will remain at the top of the list for years to come. So it was sad to hear that John Christopher had died this year at the age of 89. He was born in Lancashire as Samuel Youd and over a long career wrote under several pseudonyms including Stanley Winchester. After school he was conscripted into the Army as a signalman. He wanted to write and on the basis of an unfinished novel he was granted the Atlantic Award from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1947. It opened the door for him to write in several genres under different names. John Christopher may well be remembered for this novel but for a younger generation then it will be 'The Tripod' trilogy and it's prequel. The Death Of Grass has been reissued as a Penguin Classic or, alternatively, there is a Kindle edition.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Scheduled for release on the 25th December 2012 is a new western written and directed by Quentin Tarantino - sounds like a good Christmas pressie to me. Django Unchained features Jamie Foxx as Django a freed slave who goes hunting for his wife who is held by the sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo Di Caprio). Along the way he is assisted by former dentist turned bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christopher Waltz). Good to see Leonardo Di Caprio not only play the baddie but appear in another western. Interesting, also, to note that Franco Nero was rumoured to have been offered the role of Candie.


I was curious as I wondered if there was a console game featuring the American Civil War. So I did what comes naturally and Googled the subject. I can tell you that if you put the title above in the search engine there are a number of unexpected results. It appears that there is a section of the gaming community who are tired of fighting in Vietnam and World War 2 and Iraq/Afghanistan like scenarios. They want something differant - American Civil War or anything with a Wild West feel to it tops the list. However, the line is drawn and there is an anti-War Of Independence lobby. This latter does not bode well for the forthcoming Assasin's Creed 3 which has a Revolutionary background to it. Of all the developers around it would be good if Treyarch/Activision created a Call For Duty style game. If not then the Unreal engine from Epic Games would give a differant take - they could come up with a Caleb Thorn influenced storyline. Caleb Thorn was the hero of five books from L.J.Coburn one of the Piccadilly cowboys. On the one hand that gamers are calling for this type of game sounds good to me - on the other it is another media that would enhance the genre. How would the game look? Well, there is a mock up on You Tube - the link is It looks good.

HELL ON WHEELS - coming soon

If you can't get to see this new western series on TCM - the good news is that the 4 disc dvd of Series 1 of 'Hell On Wheels' will be available to buy for the sum of £26.00 on the 23rd July 2012.


Wednesday, 11 April 2012


I have to admit that I have never played any of these games before - yet this has a massive following. Well, I assume that this is so as it says on the box 'The BEST-SELLING FRANCHISE in XBox 360 HISTORY is back'. Er - hold on I thought that claim was on the back of Call Of Duty: Black Ops.
Back to reality - this is a game for a laugh.

The story opens with Manhatten in the hands of Russian troops and you are a character called Frost attached to Delta Squad.
Part of the starting narrative sees your commander 'Sandman' in conversation. The moment the other says 'Good to have you on board, Sandman.' it sounds like we are in good hands.
Sandman spends all his time hiding in cover telling Frost to take out snipers, blow up towers, take out the enemy, blow up helicopters and gets narky if his orders aren't obeyed straight away.
I got so fed up with him doing nothing that I couldn't resist lobbing a grenade in his direction. I got the message 'Friendly fire will not be tolerated'.
Not like in real life, then.
And how about the rest of the team. Now they have - unlike Frost - unlimited ammunition as they wage war against all kinds of inanimate objects like computers, store shelving and anything else that doesn't move.
In short all the hard graft in this first person shooter is the player. Everyone else involved are a waste of space. So, it beats me when a section is labelled 'Mission failed you have lost contact with your team'. What team? I'm in front of them; all opposition has been wiped out and I'm at the objective.

You know, this could have been a good game.

Graphics - brilliant. Destroyed cities - Manhatten, Paris and Berlin. Yet another depiction of the destruction of the Eiffel Tower.
The storyline of a Russian defector trying to take back Russia and take on the world at the same time is quite gripping. You get to play two characters Frost and Yuri, a Russian defector.
Trouble is good graphics and storyline are not enough. For a good story you need characters that can be related to. The potential is there but not used.

To my mind Gears Of War 3 stands head and shoulders about this Call Of Duty offering because it has characters that can be related to and you can trust them to guard your back.
My suggestion to Activision is that they take this on board.

Now having completed the storyline I turn to the online version. There are enough people around that can be read who find that the online maps are giving nothing new.
It seems all anyone has to do is lie up in cover and use sniper scopes to take out the opposition. Reality is that no one understands the principles of attack or defence.

Next up is 'Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2' - if Modern Warfare 3 is anything to go by well it just isn't a great advert for this.

Friday, 30 March 2012


When I first bought an XBox 360 it came with a game bundle that contained Epic Games Gears Of War 1 and 2. I didn't like the first game as a)the enemy seemed to blend with the scenery and b) my character got killed too quickly despite taking precautions and using cover etc. So I gave them to my sons.
Gears Of War 3 came out in September 2011 and it was suggested that I get hold of a copy. I didn't have to play the game itself, my boys said, but there were some great online games to be played.
Well, that was true the online maps and games were brilliant with excellent graphics.
Then my youngest son suggested that I had a go at the story mode. The memories of the original gameplay made me hum and haw a bit. Anyway, I gave it a go and discovered that I was still playing online with them. This way they got me through the first couple of chapters.
I wound up completing the story mode - most of it solo.
What struck me about Gears Of War 3 were several things.
The first was the interaction of the characters. The constant banter between the Australian sounding Samantha Byrne and technician Daniel Baird. The brashness of devil may care former Thrashball player, The Cole Train compared to the cautious youngest member of Delta Squad, Jace Stratton. And, at their head, Sgt Marcus Fenix with his friend and second in command Dominic Santiago. Of course, no team is complete without a 'love' interest - Lt Anya Stroud the former controller of Delta Squad and now very hands on.
The action begins aboard the helicopter carrier 'Sovereign' which comes under attack by the Locust Horde who are now backed up by a new enemy known as the Lambent. This as the Chairman of the Coalition Of Ordered Governments (COG for short) turns up. He is wounded in the attack and hands Marcus Fenix a disc that contains vital information and reveals that Marcus's father was not dead but very much alive and held prisoner on the island of Azura.
And so the intrepid magnificent seven take on all kinds of 'baddies' and obstacles to reach this island that is protected by a vortex. The only way to acheive this is to go in underwater. To do this they need both fuel and a submarine.
The squad are aided in their quest by Dizzy Wallin - this grey haired, grizzled old man has no love for the COG. He was one of the millions left to die when the Chairman unleashed a powerful weapon to destroy the enemy. With great respect for the members of Delta Squad who helped to rescue him and his family Dizzy takes the role of their combat engineer.
There is a sequence in the Chapter titled 'Ashes To Ashes' that underlines that back story as the Squad enter the city of Char. Bodies and scenery that echo both the destruction of Pompeii and Hiroshima.
Gears Of War 3 is not really the normal kind of third person shooter. The gamer is not alone. The other characters act both independently and as a team. They, like the main character, kill the enemy and, unlike many other games, run out of ammunition and need help.
The most important factor here is that there is a strong story to tell here. Characters are fleshed out so that when one of them sacrifices himself for the team you feel their grief and understand all the factors that make him do it.

Well, the story is the work of English author Karen Traviss who, I suspect, has used her Territorial Army training amongst other things to bring in that feeling of men at women at war.
Karen Traviss has written some of the Star Wars Republican Commando and Clone Wars novels. She has also written four of the Gears Of War novels with a fifth 'The Slab' due out in May 2012.

All in all I have to say that this is one of the best games that I have played in a long time. So, yes, I'm going to take another shot at 1 and 2.
This also comes with downloadable content and I can say that the 'Shadow Of Ramm' is value for money in as much as this is another game.
And no glitches or bugs - well only the bugs you kill.

Monday, 26 March 2012


Once in a while I pick up the odd movie for no particular reason - though, I suppose, a title like 'Machine Gun Preacher' clicks because of Glen Ford's 'Heaven With A Gun'.

Gerard Butler plays the part of Sam Childers who we meet leaving prison for a bit of kerbside sex with his wife, Lynn (Michelle Monaghan). Childers is a drug dealing biker who gets into a bit of a temper when he discovers that his wife has given up cigarettes, drinking and making a meagre living out of stripping. Her reason for all this is that she has found God.
So, Sam goes off and finds friend Donnie and they go out and shoot up (this has several connotations and Sam manages to use all of them).
Eventually, he goes to church with his wife and daughter Paige (Madeline Carroll)and winds up getting baptised. From this point on Sam's life begins to change. He gets a job which he finds that he is good at and this leads to him forming his own construction business.
After building a church that no one wants to preach at - Sam becomes a reluctant preacher who opens the doors to the strippers, the addicts, the prostitutes and those low lifes often ignored by the established churches.
When he hears about a job in Uganda he goes off to take a look around and persuades a rebel soldier Deng (Souleymane Sy Savane) to take him to places that the tourists don't get to see.
What he finds appals him as he is introduced into the world of child soldiers. Now Sam Childers becomes fired up and practices what he preaches. He builds a mission and goes out to rescue these children and give them a place of safety. This does not come easy and is the core of the film. Along the way he discovers that 'Christian charity' does not exist - so he sells his business to finance things.
Meanwhile, Kony leader of the Sudanese LRA puts a price on Sam Childers head. He doesn't like the way that Childers is killing off his soldiers and depleting his army by rescuing the children.

Reading back on what I have written it seems that this may sound like an action, do gooder hero thing. First, Gerard Butler gives flesh and substance to Sam Childers. I had never heard of Childers let alone realise that the movie that I had picked up was based on a true story.
Jason Keller's screenplay is gripping and the movie under Marc Forster's direction rarely flags. If there are any flaws then it has to be simpering strings in the soundtracks and wide eyed looks to underline sentimental moments. They are moments that don't need to be underlined.
Nor is this a movie for the squeamish - there are atrocities here on full display. Want to find out what really happens when someone steps on a landmine?
The other thing about this movie is that despite it's subject matter it doesn't preach at the viewer.
This is a movie about a man who had his life turned around, found something to believe in and was prepared to back it up with a gun - if needs be.

Before the movie was made both the scriptwriter and director went out to Africa to see Sam Childers at the mission for Angels Of East Africa. They saw from first hand some of the things that Sam Childers had done.

As far as I'm concerned I'm glad I followed my instincts. This is a far better movie than initial critic reviews suggest - but after watching it I guess the movie makers weren't out to make friends. Still, I think that this should have had a cinema release in this country - but, I guess, this went straight to dvd. And for those who ask 'Is this really a true story?' I got two words for you..........

Sam Childers has written a book 'Another Man's War'.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

STRAW DOGS (the re-make)

If there was ever an argument against re-makes then this latest version of 'Straw Dogs' ticks all the boxes.
I picked up the dvd out of curiosity and because I thought that maybe - just maybe - Rod Lurie could bring something new to the original.
Sadly, this was not the case.
James Marsden takes on the Dustin Hoffman role only instead of being a mathematician he is a scriptwriter who met wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) during the making of a TV series. Now he is retiring to the country to write a movie script about the greatest battle of the Second World War - Stalingrad. So our hero is a writer, so you would think that there were some things that he would know - like when the hunting season was. I mean I know when both the fishing season and hunting season begin and end here and I don't have an interest in either of these activities. Whatever, this was a non-engaging character.
This may be a touch detailist but a small point.
Now I never took much to Dustin Hoffman for in the original he was as animated as The Graduate standing at the bottom of the swimming pool. But after this new take Hoffman gets a touch more respect.
Bosworth in the Susan George role lacks a lot. Susan George made Sam Peckinpah's movie in many ways. And, of course, there was that rape scene. Susan George's Amy kicked and fought back - unlike Bosworth who gives in too easily and protests not.
And when the bad boy (Alexander Skarsgard) is done he sits down to watch his mate have a go. Yet the bored look on his face says it all - 'what am I doing in this?'
By the time we get to the toned down violent ending I had lost interest enough that I hoped that the bad guys would win.
Though, one character did bring something new to the movie. James Woods was brilliant as the loud mouthed bullying Coach. Almost on a par with Peter Vaughan's manic role.

To my way of thinking re-makes should bring something new to the story. 'True Grit' does that. So, too, did '3:10 To Yuma' though I didn't like the ending. At least, there were new ways of looking at the story and characters.
'Straw Dogs' was based on the Gordon Williams novel 'The Siege Of Trencher's Farm'. The original is a 'western' set in the English countryside. Gordon Williams distanced himself from the Sam Peckinpah movie and had his names removed from the credits. Yet his original male lead was far more animated than either Hoffman's or Marsden's portrayal.

I guess that there are times when originals should be left alone.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

XBOX 360 - The Future?

Well, I've cancelled my membership to Xbox Live.
I enjoyed the journey with the ability to play with others online.
Then an article in the Xbox 360 Official Magazine made me sit back and think.
Really it was a debate on whether or not an Xbox 720 (which, no doubt, will be unveiled at this years E3) was necessary.
Well, the arguement against was that the writer didn't engage my attention by telling me that he wasn't embedded in the stone age. While the guy who was in favour of the new console said that he liked shiny new things and was thinking about buying a new fridge as the one that he had was over eight years old. Sad to say I never found out if he did or not. Nor did he get around to defining why he was in favour of the Xbox 720.

Anyone who has an Xbox 360 can guess at the future. It is no longer just a games console. There is access to music channels, Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. Sky TV, Netflix and Love Film are there for the asking. And you can play DVDs on them.

The new Kinect system allows you to play hands free games and, with voice control, demand Bing to find you stuff.

Lurking in the background is something new.
First there was 'Arcade' games and then some 'golden oldies' that could be bought and downloaded. Nowadays up to date games can be downloaded straight to the hard drive.

Therein lies part of the future and the arguement for an Xbox 720 with a larger memory makes sense. With a greater memory new games will be downloadable - watch out for those small words in brackets (there is no refund). In other words games companies will have greater control over their games. No more trade ins to stores like Game, CEX or Gamestation. So, when a game like 'Dead Island' turns up full of glitches you won't be able to take it back to the store and get your money back.

Now I don't blame games companies for taking control of their products. Wish authors could do the same. Like books, cds, dvds etc when a game is bought second hand Electronic Arts, Bethesda, Activision and their like see nothing of that money.

So there is a plus side to the creation of an Xbox 720 that has nothing to do with fridges.

My real bother with both this and the current Xbox 360 is something a little deeper.
Games come with Downloadable Content - DLC - and these cost. Some games have a 'Pass' like a loyalty card that allows you to download for free. If you buy the game second hand you can either buy the DLC or a season pass. Cheaper if you buy the game brand new as, originally, the pass came with it. Not all DLC, these days, are cheap - roughly ten pound a pack. Ergo, ten packs can set the gamer back anything up to £90 or £100 a game. So after an initial outlay of say £40 for the game add on the extras and - that's a tad expensive.
This would vary depending on the game and price of DLC. But the above is for a game called 'Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3'. However, this expenditure can be avoided by subscribing to the Elite edition of the game. So for £34.99 you get the DLC for free - well, not entirely free. This subscription is annual and, although I can't find anything definitive, is supposed to cover all DLC for subsequent Call Of Duty games.

Another downside is that pressure is put on gamers to download content. THQ who produce the wrestling game 'WWE 12' (which has an atrocious download system) prevents people from playing online unless they have downloaded content. Electronic Arts insist that you sign up to them before you can go online with any of their games.
With 'Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit' they bought out a new download online game that was incompatible with the existing one.
Downloads cost money.
I can forsee a time when every game purchased will carry a subscription charge on the same basis as the current 'Call For Duty'.
The fee to go on to Xbox Live currently stands at £34.99 per annum. If you add in the subscription fee for 'Call Of Duty' then the annual bill, so far, stands at close enough to £70. Add in other downloads and you are taking the annual expenditure into the hundreds.
Faced with a choice of a subscription to 'Call Of Duty' or another game - my choice would be a game or something else like a cd, a book or a video.

Personally, I think that the gaming industry is walking a very thin line. We shall see.

Right now, I favour the Xbox 360. I am returning it to what I bought originally - a games console.

What really needs to be done is for developers to produce bug free games. I can wait a bit longer - all it needs is the same care that was taken with the original games for the PS1 and 2. Not wrong with competition - just so long as it is healthy and bug free.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


This album was released at the end of 1967 - but I, along with others, would hear the whole thing live at the Orpington Folk Club before that release date.
This wasn't just a collection of songs but well crafted short stories that could well have been a soundtrack for Colin Wilson's 'Adrift In Soho'.
'Bedsitter Images' may sound depressing yet the storyteller is living a lie. He's gone to London expecting one thing and has found that dreams just do not come true. At the same time he is fooling his friends and himself that things are alright.
'Swiss Cottage Manouvres' takes the listener into the world of the second hand bookshops and chance encounters. 'Pretty Golden Hair' has another tragic tale to tell of a young man who suffers the consequences of his hair.
Yet that is the substance of this album refelections of life as it was at the time the songs were written.
But it is also about the London that I loved. Charing Cross Road and the characters that haunted Old Compton Road and the streets of Soho and Chinatown. Shabby and romantic - but listening to this album it is really a time that was.
During the interval I was fortunate to be able to talk to Al Stewart about the songs and as can be concluded many of them were drawn from life.
We were served by a pretty blonde girl, it was the only time that I had seen her there. A year later I met her again - almost to the day - she became my wife.
So 'Bedsitter Images' has another meaning for me.

'Bedsitter Images' was re-released in 1970 as 'The First Album' with two tracks deleted and replaced by 'Lover Man' and 'Clifton In The Rain'.
I still think that the original was the best.

Monday, 5 March 2012

HELL ON HOOFS by Lance Howard

Hell On Hoofs is the way that the dime novels have dubbed gun for hire John Laramie.
Laramie is a troubled soul who is looking to retire from his way of life and believes that the town of Lancerville might be just the place to lose himself. But Lancerville is a town that is living in fear and the reason why is soon explained to him by a bargal, Bethany Lewis. All this after she has drugged him and tied him to her bed.
It appears that the problem is her half-brother, Drake, who is the problem and all Bethany wants is for Laramie to kill him.
Laramie is a reluctant hero who is battling his own inner demons. So, too, is his antagonist.
However, this is a Lance Howard book and nothing therein is that simple. The characters have depth to them and the reader is in no doubt about their strengths and weaknesses. This in turn takes the storyline to an unexpected conclusion.

Sadly, Lance Howard, died earlier this year at the age of 50.
Reading this book reminded me of the talent that has been lost.
After my stroke the second book that I read was by Lance Howard. When I joined the Black Horse Western group, he was the first to greet me. For me it was a magic moment. Howard, along with the group, encouraged me to write again. I am not alone when I say that he will be missed.

It may be a prophetic title but May sees the publication of a new Black Horse Western by Lance Howard called 'Twilight Trail'.

Sunday, 4 March 2012


Bandidas directed by Espen Sandberg and Joachim Roenning.

Luc Besson is best know for movies like 'Leon' and 'Colombiana' so it was interesting to discover this overlooked western movie.

The pairing of Salma Hayak as the spoilt rich Sara with Penelope Cruz's poor farmer's daughter Maria was a piece of good casting.

The story centres around the New York Bank and Trust buying up land to invest in a railroad. Their representative is a cold-blooded killer, Tyler Jackson (Dwight Yoakam) who has a way with words. When a farmer says that the only way Jackson will get his hands on the land was over the farmer's dead body - Jackson obliges.
Control of the local bank passes to the New York Bank after Jackson kills Sara's father and triggers the union of the banker's and the farmer's daughters.
They engage the services of former bank robber Billy Buck (Sam Shepherd) to teach them how to go about getting revenge on Jackson and the Bank. What they learn is how to bond - then how to rob banks.
It is not long before it comes clear that Tyler Jackson and his gang are looking to line their own pockets and leads to a showdown on a train.
But not before they meet up with New York policeman, Quentin Cooke (Steve Zahn), who brings in something that I cannot recall in a western - forensic science. It is the use of this that Cooke is able to reveal that Sara's father was murdered. He is then seduced by Sara and Maria into helping them.

This film has a good script with enough action, pace and with lacings of comedy that makes for an enjoyable 90 minutes.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


FOREVER CAME TODAY (c Ray Foster 2012)

As he had always done at this time of year Albert Proctor sat in the pew closest to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He always made a point of being here just to see Violet.
Each year she came. At first she, like many others, would place a poppy on the tomb and stand there and speak soft words. He could see her lips shape the words: ‘I love you – forever.’ She would often wipe, self consciously, a tear from her eye and walk away. But nowadays, things had changed. The numbers had withered away like the years as had the poppies. Only Violet had never changed. She had aged yet the tears that she shed and the words that she whispered were just as real.
Although she left a poppy Albert knew that it would be swept away. These days the tomb had to be left unmarked so that dignitaries who knew nothing of war could lay their wreaths.
Albert shifted in the pew.
Something was wrong.
This year Violet had not come.
No poppy fell upon the tomb.
Albert was disturbed.
As darkness fell and the doors closed, Albert shuffled away. Only to stop as he caught the whiff of a familiar scent. Lavender water.
He turned to see her standing there in a beam of moonlight.
She smiled, looking radiant as she took his arm. He smiled back.
“I missed you, darling,” Albert said. “I thought you weren’t going to come.”
She could only stand and stare and think how handsome he looked in his uniform. The uniform that he was so proud to wear the day he marched off to war.
“I haven’t been well, Albert darling,” Violet explained. “But, as you can see, I am much better now – now that you and I are together again.”