Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Friday, 19 December 2008
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Saturday, 13 December 2008
It is strange to think that this year marked his Seventieth birthday and that he has spent fifty of those years twangin' that old guitar.
Duane was born in 1938 in Corning, New York and moved, in the fifties, to Pheonix, Arizona.
There are various versions of his influences that range from gospel and blues to a love of the guitar playing of Gene Autry and Django Reinhardt. Whichever way you look at it all those influences flavour his music.
In the mid-fifties he met up with DJ Lee Hazlewood with whom he began writing music which Hazlewood began to produce. Duane was signed up to Jaime Records (released under the London label in the UK) and, in 1958, released the first track 'Movin' and Groovin'' that proved a modest success and established that 'twang' sound. This sound came from the bass strings of the guitar.
'Rebel Rouser' was the big breakthrough record and it was this that made me aware of rock n roll.
Duane Eddy holds the record for the shortest disc to make the top 40 with 'Some Kind-a Earthquake' that plays in at 1 minute 17 seconds.
In 1960 a recording of 'Ghost Riders In The Sky' by The Ramrods was thought to be by Duane Eddy for the legendary twang and the calls and whistles that were the hallmark of Duane Eddy and The Rebels (his backing group). In fact The Ramrods were a Connecticut group consisting of Claire Lane (drums), her brother Richard (sax) with Vincent Bell Lee and Eugene Moore (guitars). They had the sound down to a T so it is understandable that there was some confusion at the time.
Though it is said that Duane Eddy never varied his sound time has proved that he could be innovative. The album 'Songs Of Our Heritage' shows another side of Duane Eddy's work as this is probably the first 'unplugged' type of album by any artiste. Also there is 'Twangy Guitar And Silky Strings' that combines Duane Eddy's sound with a string orchestra. When Duane signed to Sinatra's Reprise label he produced two big band style albums - 'The Biggest Twang Of Them All' and 'The Roaring Twangies'.
Duane Eddy made several films: 'Because They're Young', the 1968 Biker movie 'The Savage Seven' and 'Kona Coast' with Richard Boone.
His first appearance was as a guitar plucking cavalry trooper in 'A Thunder Of Drums' with Richard Boone, George Hamilton, Richard Chamberlain and Charles Bronson. He followed this with another Western 'The Wild Westerners' - a B movie where he was billed in third place - ahead of singer/actor Guy Mitchell. He wrote the film score and the main title theme was the B-side of 'Ballad Of Palladin' which was the theme from the Richard Boone series 'Have Gun-Will Travel'. Duane Eddy guest starred in two episodes of this series.
In 1994 the Grammy Award winning Duane Eddy was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame.
Over the years Duane Eddy's guitar playing has influenced many other artists ranging from Paul McCartney and George Harrison to Bruce Springsteen.
Duane Eddy plays the end titles to the John Travolta movie 'Broken Arrow' and those twangy guitar plucks to announce the villain are his fingers at work. Hans Zimmer, who wrote the score, is quoted as saying: "I always thought that Duane's style was being ripped off by the spaghetti westerns. But this time I got the real thing."
I can see his point. There have been times when I have thought that - the score to 'A Professional Gun' with Franco Nero sounds as though it was something that came from Duane Eddy.
That's the thing with influence - the sound is always there.
To use the title of one of his tracks I guess Duane Eddy will always be 'The Man With The Golden Guitar'.
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
As each of us have individual traits we all have our ways of settling in.
For me this means the strategic placing of my bookcase and putting all my westerns onto the shelves. Once that is done I can turn around and say that I am home.
The wife, Sandy, on the other hand must unpack the kettle and make a cup of tea.
However, the newest member of our family, namely our teenage granddaughter Chantel has astounded us.
We moved into our new home on Friday and, by the time we went to bed, we still had boxes to unpack and other things to do. But Chantel single handed put up her bed and made it; put up her curtains; connected DVD player, Freeview Box, Playstation and TV together; set up her music player and hung her clothes in the wardrobe.
While we were slogging away she was phoning and texting friends and letting them know that the move had been a success.
This was not a selfish act. Chantel did offer to help but we refused it for the obvious reasons. At least, for her, normal service had been resumed.
I have to admit that I was unsure about down-sizing.
It had to be done as neither Sandy nor myself were able to cope with a large garden. Now everything is on one floor and it is someone else's job to take care of the gardening.
The peculiar thing is that now everything is in it's place we seem to have more space.
My thanks go to my two sons, Jack and Scott, who took the brunt of the heavier loads and my daughter-in-law, Nicola, who drove the van.
And to my two small grandsons Luke and Ryan who recognised their grandfather's priority by piling books onto the bookshelf. Eventually, I will teach them things like alphabetical order and that it is not necessary to put as many books as possible onto one shelf - but it is the thought that counts.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Thursday, 27 November 2008
Sunday, 23 November 2008
Saturday, 15 November 2008
Published June 2004 by Black Horse Westerns (Robert Hale Limited)
In November 2003 the writer known as Tex Larrigan died.
Tex Larrigan was the nom-de-plume of a white haired lady who wore large framed glasses who's name was Irene Ord.
Irene was born in Darlington, Lancashire in 1920 the daughter of a draper. She married and had five children. It was those children who would set her on the writing path for she told them bedtime stories that she would write down as her children would want to hear those stories again.
From this Irene began to write a column for The Northern Despatch newspaper .
Her first novel, DESERT ROMANCE, was published in 1977 and went on to write about 30 novels under the names of Emily Wynn and Kate Fairfax. When her publishers decided not to publish anymore of her historical bodyrippers she found guidence from Albert Hill (better known as Black Horse Western writer Elliot Conway) who suggested that she write a western.
Both Albert Hill and Irene Ord had been founder members of the Darlington Writers Circle.
In 1989 her first western 'BUCKMASTER' was published under the name of Tex Larrigan by Hale's Black Horse Western brand.
This was a story where Buckmaster, riding the Oregon Trail, comes to the aid of a woman who is looking for revenge against her ex-lover who has seduced her daughter. Told in the first person it is one of those times when the reader becomes convinced that it could have only have been written by a man and for some years I have been under that illusion until I discovered her identity in The Directory Of Twentieth Century Western Writers.
It is said that Irene could turn out a book in four weeks. Ideas just kept coming to her so that in the period 1977 to 1986 she had 28 published books to her name.
Irene had never been to America. All her books were a combination of good research and a fertile imagination. In 1998, with Albert Hill, she went to Wyoming for a BBC tv programme. Here she walked in the footsteps of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, visited the site of Custer's Last Stand, fired a gun and rode horses. She came back with enough material for several books.
Eventually, her output was reduced to about two books a year and, on her death, left two or three manuscripts that were published after her death.
Besides writing as Tex Larrigan, Irene also wrote western novels under the names of Curt Longbow, James O. Lowes and Newton Ketton.
Tex Larrigan writes a good page turner with well drawn characters that, for me, makes these books very collectable and there are many on my bookshelf. Irene, known as 'Tex' her nickname, is a talent that has to be read.
Friday, 14 November 2008
Monday, 10 November 2008
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Sunday, 2 November 2008
SURVIVORS was a 1970s BBC series. It was created by Terry Nation - better known for his 'Dr Who' series.
At Christmas, a couple of years ago, my wife bought me Series One and Two. This came as a bit of surprise as I hadn't a clue why she bought it. As it turned out it was one of those programmes where I would not miss an episode.
Survivors is set in the UK and deals with a world wide flu-like virus that wipes out all but a handful of survivors who, gradually, come together in order to survive.
Although dated - it is reflective of the time. One 'brilliant' moment was when a band of looters steal TVs from a shop - at a time when there is no electricity - why?
Apart from that the series did have a serious message. If you were a survivor what would you do? In one episode there is a good performance by George Baker as an ex-MP who is starting up a dictatorship with his own ideas on ethnic cleansing - dispose of anybody who disagrees with him.
As the series progresses the survivors begin to learn new skills and take up farming - this leads to trading with other communities. And yet none of these groups appear to want to join each other which is something that I could not quite fathom. Maybe, the answers are in Series 3 which I'm hoping Father Christmas will put in my stocking.
By the end of series two contact is made with survivors from Europe.
Now, the BBC have re-made this series and airs later this year. Written by Adrian Hodges who is, also, a executive producer with Susan Hogg (Larkrise To Candleford)
Julie Graham will take over the Abby Grant role and Freema Agyeman (better known for her roles in Dr Who and Torchwood) takes on the role of Jenny. These were the main leads in the original series one. Another Dr Who actor - Shaun Dingwall has a part to play along with Max Beezley (brilliant in the adaptation of Tom Jones and Hotel Babylon) as Tom Price.
From the trailer I am in two minds - a hospital scene that looks a bit '28 Days Later' and a man playing football with a kid on an empty road doesn't seem real to me. At least, the original had abandoned vehicles around - and a hint that people had died while still on the road - and the remains of a multiple pile-up on a motorway.
Still, I will watch the opening episodes - give it a chance to impress. Until then - well I'm sticking with the original.
Saturday, 1 November 2008
Friday, 31 October 2008
He was President of the Western Writers Of America (1959-1960).
HORN SILVER was the first adult western that I borrowed from the library and it left a lasting impression.
The story is quite simple - the hero, MacGruder rides into the town of Horn Silver to find the runaway daughter of a friend. He rides into a town that is living in fear and not just by the threatened closure of the Rattlesnake Mine - but by, possibly, one of the most evil lawmen that I have encountered in western fiction.
Marshall Huggard has one rule either work or get out of town - he won't stand for loafers in his town. Also, he has a quick answer to those who don't do as he tells them - he arrests them and then he, and his deputies, gun the culprit down 'while trying to escape'.
In the mix is Rosy Parnell who owns the Frisco Bar. He is a likeable character but a chancer as well who has his fingers in too many pies. The Svedin family who are fighting to keep the mine running against the odds - safety has been put to one side for the sake of greed.
With the various characters, including MacGruder, playing their own parts in the story Frank C. Robertson shows that these people are real and that there is good and bad in all of them. But Huggard, alone, is the only character without a redeeming quality.
Having re-read this book my childhood opinion is unchanged - it is as good today as when I first read it.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
We have to concentrate on where we are going so that we can remember how to do that journey again.
Then, again, we also have to concentrate on what we say. This was something that I don't think that I realised until the stroke. I could only hold a conversation for a few minutes and the words that I uttered came out slow and slurred to the point that I would sound drunk.
At first, I could not watch TV or read a book - the slightest distraction would throw me.
The one thing that I always feared was losing my sight and never be able to read a book or watch a movie again. The loss of concentration never occurred to me - not until it happened.
Concentration and memory are linked. What was the point of reading something if I could not remember what I had read?
Rehab taught me to write things down as I read - just brief notes so that I could pick up a book and continue reading from where I left off. It was a long process but reading proved to be the best therapy. That and a Playstation.
I was a bit stunned when the therapist suggested that I tried a Playstation game to improve my concentration. Also, it proved a good aid for hand and eye co-ordination.
I spent a lot of time crashing, getting beaten and killed - because I had to do two things. One I had to remember which button did what and had to do that while concentrating on what was happening on the screen. By Christmas time I had just about got the hang of it and Jack gave me a game called 'Resident Evil' as a Christmas present.
'Resident Evil' is not just about shooting zombies and monsters. There is a storyline and problems that need to be solved - and it did play a part in the improvement in both concentration and memory.
Around the same time I was able to read a full chapter of a book and recall some of the salient points. Still had to make notes - but they were growing less and less.
Another thing the therapist did was to put me in front of a keyboard and a computer screen. It was like being at school and learning to write all over again. Hand, eye and concentration co-ordination.
At first I hated it for I was all over the place and half a simple sentence would turn out as a load of gobblygook. Despite all this there was a rebelious kid inside of me that was not going to be defeated.
As the last sessions came up the therapist just left me with a keyboard and a blank screen and nothing to copy. I wondered what she wanted me to do and she said that I could write whatever I wanted to write.
She shrugged and said that I talk about my past so why not do a short piece about a favourite memory. And then she left me alone in the office.
I stared at the blank screen. I did this for several minutes.
Then I wrote - ROCK 'N' ROLL REQUIEM
'We lived for the moment then
We lived our rock'n'roll dreams
Black leather and denim
White silk banners in the wind
Jukebox tunes through expresso steam
Talking love and death of those unseen
Fighter pilots on 650cc steeds
The dream ton and those who died
No thoughts of twisted wreckage
Nor blood streaked scorchmarks.
Their names never adorned a memorial
Nor any roll of honour
Lives no less tragic than those of heroes
Of Buddy, Eddie and James Dean.
We were children of the war back then
Our spirits just as high
Our patriotism was to ourselves
And just as young - we died.'
I do not know where that came from but the title did not come until I wrote it. I had never written poetry - read poetry but never attempted it myself.
The therapist liked what I had written and I told her about the book that I had written when I was younger. She asked the obvious question to which I gave a negative response.
A couple of months into the new year and I ventured, as mentioned into the last post, into the library. I picked up a couple of westerns both Black Horse Westerns and I can even remember the titles: Elliot Long 'Marshall Of Gunsight' and Chap O'Keefe: 'Shootout At Hellyer's Creek' and David Whitehead: 'Law Of The Gun'. I had no idea who these writers were but they were all good reads - and since then have read all three books again in different circumstances. Of the three I had to renew one as it taken almost a month just to read the first two.
Now, nine years on from that stroke my concentration levels are higher and the average book will take two or three days to read. Writing takes a while and comes in short shifts - anything from one to three shifts a day though sometimes I will miss a day. It is all a matter of mind and whether I can concentrate.
What I do know is that I have regained control of my life - it has taken time and could not be acheived without the support of my wife and family, the people at the Rehab centre and countless writers and others who don't know how that they helped me over the years.
Along the way I discovered that I had become a writer but took the view that as I had acheived that goal - it was job done. That was until I came across a review of one of my books by Steve M on the Black Horse Express site which set a ball rolling to the point where I wrote my first Jack Giles short story 'A Time To Live' that was included in the anthology 'Where Legends Ride'. A story that led to the novel 'Lawmen'.
If someone told me, at the beginning of 2007, that I would have started writing again for real I would have dismissed it.
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
Waking up to an unfamiliar world is bad enough - but, though it took time, I adjusted to it and learned how to use these things. These are just material things.
The real stuff though, with memory loss, are those things that I can never experience again.
I was present when my first daughter was born; I was there when she spoke and took her first steps. Those are the things that are lost forever. A whole life that was lived in thirty years - it is as though it has never been lived.
How do you tell your wife and children and grandchildren that you don't know who they are?
I chose to keep quiet and grunt in the right places.
Except that it does not always work.
I felt confident when the doctor asked me if I knew what year it was - it was 1999 I had seen the date on a newspaper.
Any history of strokes in the family?
I was about to say no when my wife mentioned that my dad had died of a stroke. Just the sort of thing I didn't want to hear while lying on a hospital bed. So, I discovered later, had my grandfather - and I could not just ask who else in the family were dead.
Later, I would discover that most of the family that had been a part of my childhood had gone. Both sets of grandparents and many of my uncles and aunts. My mother was still alive and living in Australia where my sister and brother-in-law had emigrated to.
Sooner or later I would have to own up - but I was content to build on what I had.
About a month after the stroke I had to attend Rehab. There I had to do simple physical things like balance co-ordination that entailed being able to lift my left arm and right leg together and balance on my right arm and left leg. Sounds simple but the number of times I raised my left arm and left leg and fell flat on my face were quite a few. Got the hang of it in the end though.
The one person I remember was Heather the psychotherapist. She was very attractive and the 24 year old me opened up to her - though the 54 year old me had to keep on reminding me of my age.
Pretty soon she cottoned on that I could talk openly about my past (childhood and teenage years) and present but faltered and was vague about the thirty years in the middle. In the end I confessed and she talked to me about ways to talk to my wife. As she said I wasn't the first that this had happened to nor would I be the last.
It wasn't easy and, though Sandy understood, she found it difficult to accept. There were a number of reactions from the kids but time heals and now no one mentions the fact. Having said that one of the boys might say 'Do you remember....?' and I still grunt and they laugh and tell the story anyway.
Memory loss is no joke.
There are those who have lost a complete life and for others memory loss continues to the point that a person could walk to the shops and forget their way home. It has happened.
I know how that feels.
The first time I went into town on my own I went into a shop and came out a different door to the one I entered. I stood there in a panic before retracing my steps and finding the other door.
My wife used to take me into town until she felt sure that I would be able to find my own way around. She had to show me how to use money and how to price things. We had gone from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency. So many adjustments - my numeracy had gone to pot and I couldn't remember a simple thing like a PIN number. After explaining my difficulty to the bank we managed to devise a number that I could remember.
There were other things that I had to learn like I could no longer smoke on the top deck of a bus.
Also, on a visit to the library, that time had moved on and the popular writers of the past were no longer on the shelves. Thank goodness for westerns. There were shelves of these but all the writers were unfamiliar but I selected a couple and took them home. They were the best therapy for me.
But that's another part of the story.
Monday, 27 October 2008
Sunday, 26 October 2008
On the other hand there is me - if I have enjoyed a book I keep it.
Every so often I will have a cull - cut out the dead wood as it were - though it's very rare that a western hits the dust.
So the result is that I have bookcases full of books that stand the test of time. Books from the forties through to around the mid-seventies.
With books by British writers these books were written before political correctness created a stranglehold on the written word. The characters in these books use the same words that the man on the street uses today - but a language that modern writers cannot re-create in their books. I wonder what would happen if someone, today, tried to write a book on the lines of Colin McInnes 'Absolute Beginners' or David Storey's 'This Sporting Life' today. The author would have to make changes - that is what would happen. It happened to one of the above books. I picked up a copy of a modern imprint of 'This Sporting Life' - just curious - and found that 'offensive' words had been deleted.
But I have the original and that works fine for me.
There is another reason for holding on to these old books - because it is by re-reading them over the years I have, somehow, gained something new. Something that may have been missed by a fifteen year old but picked up by an older me.
Very often I find myself thinking 'I don't remember that bit' and there are times when I think that a book is important. Take life in the Raleigh Cycle factory in 1950s Nottingham, or the plight of a single pregnant girl in 1960s London or back street abortions during the same period.
Alan Sillitoe, Lynn Reid Banks and Nell Dunn wrote about things that we 'knew' about but in re-reading those books I feel that there is a history there that most fifteen year olds have never heard of.
Detective fiction has changed. Erle Stanley Gardner, Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane and others had central characters who solved crime. Nowadays, it seems that every detective book is about the 'hero' having drink problem, marital breakdown or simply sleeping around (very often all three at once) and takes up more reading space than the actual detection of a crime.
And, I'm aware that Steve Carella had a wife and others had girlfriends etc but the books were shorter and family life did not intrude too deeply into a book to the point that it took over from the crime being solved.
Sci-fi and fantasy hasn't really changed. David Gemmell was able to put more action and keep the interest going in 325 pages than a modern detective novel of the same length.
Another modern author who can do that is Martina Cole - but apart from a couple - they're not exactly detective novels. Certainly, a writer who's two books I have kept will be worth a re-visit in a couple of years time.
I'm always in favour of re-reading books. Maybe, it's a comfort zone that I can relate to - or maybe, it's just that books don't get written the way they used to be written.
Thursday, 23 October 2008
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
I woke up that morning with the mother of all hangovers. It was obvious that I had got paralytic because I just could not move.
I just sat there with my back against the settee and my legs stretched out in front of me.
The sun shone through the window and I knew, immediately, that I had woken up in unfamiliar surroundings.
At first, I thought that Tony had got lucky the night before and we had wound up at some girl's house.
My second thought was that there was something not quite right about this room.
Looking around with my right eye - I had to do it this way as my left eye seemed reluctant to open - I took a good look at my surroundings.
Along the opposite wall close to the front window was a sideboard. On top of this was a shiny, black plastic box with a load of dials on it. Next to this was an open fireplace and then a cabinet thing with a small black television on top. On a shelf underneath was another black box that displayed green numbers that changed every so often. Sitting on top of this was a small white box from which a lead ran to a half-moon looking pad with a couple of dials on it.
To the right of the settee was another table with a white TV perched on it.
This made me wonder why anyone needed two televisions in the same room.
This was silly, I thought.
This is just a dream.
I don't get drunk.
I closed my eye and dozed off again. I was pretty certain that when I woke up in the real world everything would be all right.
Only, it didn't work out like that.
I was woken up by a sound. My eye snapped open and there was this fourteen year old kid standing there dressed only in a pair of shorts with a small, silver disc on his finger. He stabbed at the black box on the sideboard and a drawer came out. He slid the disc into into the drawer which closed. After a few seconds the most godawful noise burst around the room as someone began to tell me that they were taking their daughter to the slaughter.
Just what I needed.
I tried to shout out and tell him to turn it down - only I couldn't get the words out.
Maybe, it was telepathy but he spun around, did a double take and turned the sound down.
'Hi, dad,' he said. 'Didn't know you were here.' he pointed at the black box. 'Do you want me to turn the stereo off?'
Stereograms I knew about. Big wooden boxes with a speaker at each end that played stereo and mono vinyl discs. Discs that were black and between 7 and 12 inches. Not small black plastic boxes and small shiny silver discs.
This was way over my head.
'You alright?' he asked.
I shook my head. Let's face it I was shaking all over and I knew that I had to do something about it. Somehow those three weeks that I spent in The St. John's Ambulance, when I was a kid, was telling me that I was going into shock.
The boy came closer and I breathed instructions into his face. I couldn't speak and it was the only way that I could do it. He got the message and was soon back with a black mug full of hot, sweet tea.
This kid, obviously, had a sense of humour for when I took a closer look at the mug it had the picture of a man in black with a wide brimed hat and underneath was the logo 'The Undertaker'.
While I was drinking the tea the boy turned off the 'stereo' and asked if I wanted the TV on. I shrugged, he took it as a 'yes'.
I had to blink.
This wasn't happening.
What happened next - was going to throw me completely.
He took what looked like a book from the shelf above the TV and shoved it into the box with the green numbers on it. Suddenly, the screen was filled with a wrestling match. All I could see was a man in black approaching the ring who looked like the guy on the mug.
Right then I felt like the hero from H.G.Wells 'The Sleeper Awakes'.
Books that you put in a machine and the words came alive?
I passed out.
Concious again and the boy was dressed now and he was still in front of the TV watching a cartoon of a girl jumping and climbing over some ruins. Well, it looked normal until the girl made another leap and his body jerked as though he was jumping with her. That was when I saw that black half-moon pad in his hands.
It was too much.
'What are you doing?' I croaked, a sound that brought a smile to half my face.
'You okay, dad?' he asked, with concern.
'No, man,' I grunted back. 'Can't move.'
'Want me to call mum?' he asked.
I shook my head: 'Don't disturb her.'
He just shrugged: 'I'll text her anyway.'
Too much information and I just couldn't handle it - and I needed the toilet.
Only I couldn't just get up and walk - just couldn't get up. My left side had no intentions of doing what my brain told it to do. And I couldn't ask the boy to help -partly, because pride got in the way and partly - well the boy had disappeared.
Labouriously, I crawled or dragged my body up the room and got out into the hall. Through the door opposite I caught sight of a bath. Thank goodness for that - a downstairs loo. But by the time I got there and dragged myself up onto the edge of the bath I was too late.
That was where the boy found me. He said nothing but went off and got some clean clothes and helped me dress and undress.
Just as we finished the telephone rang and he told me to stay where I was.
I heard him say: 'Hi, mum. Yes, it's me - Jack. Dad's in a bad way. He can't walk properly and his face is all lopsided...............OK, mum, see you when you get back.'
When he came back he looked very serious: 'Mum and Scott will be back tomorrow. Mum thinks you've had a stroke. You want me to call an ambulance?'
I shook my head.
I didn't want to go to hospital - it was the logical thing to do - but something inside me made me resist it.
Maybe, it was just that I couldn't leave my son home alone.
There were other horrors that I would face that day - like seeing a lopsided, old man's face in a mirror seen through the eyes of someone who was convinced that they were still 24.
Only that morning I had believed that it was 1969 - but by the time that I went to sleep that night I knew that it was the 9th August 1999.
I had somehow managed to lose thirty years of my life.
Devastating as that was - I had to look at the plus side - I may have had a son that I don't recall growing up but that kid was a man that day. He stood by me. His was the shoulder that I leaned on.
His name is Jack Foster and I am proud of him.
Monday, 20 October 2008
I'd known Rosie for years. She'd been in and out of nick so many times that she was like a regular down the pub.
I knew her. Like I actually knew her. Talked to her. Told her to get out of 'the game' and Rosie'd just give that weak smile and I knew that she wouldn't.
Rosie had two kids - one of each and about a year between them. She didn't know who the fathers were but, then, she didn't care.
Give the girl her due she tried to get a job but not even the local supermarket would let her stack the shelves. No, all she had were her benefit cheques and child allowance and that had to pay for the gas and electric and the food etc.
The family lived in a small two-bedroom council flat. When she had the boy she went to the Council and asked for a three bedroom place. 'So what' they said. 'Be grateful with what you've got. There are others who are a priority.'
What no one knew was that those kids were Rosie's life. She wanted them to have better than her. She wanted them to have good clothes and toys just like other kids - and she wanted them to have an education.
'It's important," she told me. 'I messed up with school and look where it's got me.'
So, for the sake of her kids she went on the game - and to keep awake at nights she resorted to drugs. Rosie's life was on a downward spiral.
It didn't surprise me when I was called to a crime scene and found Rosie's body lying half-hidden beneath a tarpaulin at the back of a rundown warehouse.
Now she has just become another case to be investigated just the same as if that corpse had been the respectable Mrs Brown found dead in her front room.
What is it about our perceptions? Rosie was just another prostitute - right?
Just that we don't call no woman respectable until she's dead.
Not in the case of girls like Rosie.
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Same would happen if I had a journalist covering the battles of the Ameican Civil War with a portable typewriter on his back - or that The St. Valentine's Day Massacre was carried out by gangsters armed with Uzzi machine guns.
So, why is it that some authors today make that sort of mistake today?
It's a small mistake but the number of times that I have come across it is getting riduculous.
I refer to two small four letter words that begin with 'F' and 'C'.
Now, I'm no prude - any book set in the 1960s to the present day that use those words I do not have a problem with.
But when those two little words turn up in a western or a book that is set in the decades forward to the Sixties - it kind of jars with me.
After all if those two little words were in common usage it would be reasonable to assume that the likes of Mark Twain, Owen Wister, Ernest Hemmingway, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac and Raymond Chandler would have used them in their books.
The thing is that until the publication of D H Lawrence's ' Lady Chatterley's Lover' in the early Sixties those two little words were virtually unknown.
The thing that gets to me that a lot of these books have been researched but, not with the authentic language of the time. In everything that I've read about The Battle Of The Somme I never heard anyone mention '....the mud in the f...ing trenches....' nor, in the 1950s, did Derek Bentley standing on a factory roof say: 'Let 'im f...in' 'ave it.' So, if they didn't say it - why should modern authors say it.
Just keep the books in their place in time - maybe, I'd read more.
Friday, 17 October 2008
In keeping with the theme on The Tainted Archive blog about Black Horse Westerns - see side panel for link.
Victor Joseph Hanson was born in 1920 in West Bromwich up in the Midlands. In the 1950s he moved to Orpington, Kent and, later, to South Croydon, Surrey. He died of a stroke in 2001 at the age of 81.
Vic J Hanson's first western novel 'Lannigan's West' was published in 1949 and his last is pictured left and published in 2001.
By strange coincidence this was the same book and the same year that I discovered the books of Vic J. Hanson.
On a trip to Orpington I found a copy of 'Requiem For Pilgrim' by Jay Hill Potter. Inside it had been signed by the author but there was another message in it that was signed simply 'Vic'. Bells rang - as they do - and I read a few pages and had just a suspicion. Fast forward another few years and I found out that my first impression was the right one - thanks to an article by Steve Holland. The biggest shock though was the discovery that Vic J Hanson (though a lot older than me) and I had lived in the same area.
Vic J. Hanson has written many stand alone books and it is these that I have read. He did write a series of books featuring a lawman named Amos Crowle - but I had not come across any of those books. I do now just having won one on Ebay.
As Jay Hill Potter he wrote the Pilgrim books as well as stand alones.
Hanson's books are superb - the kind of book that I put in my bookcase because I will read them again. The books read as though the writer has a story to tell and from the outset you want to hear it.
It is strange to think that this writer would be there in ways that I never expected. He wrote Sexton Blake stories; he contributed to Western Adventure Library, Cowboy Adventure Library and Combat Picture Library. He wrote stories for the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine (a favourite of my grandfather) and boys annuals - all of which relate to my childhood and youth. He had written detective novels and, when I think about it, his output must have been phenomenal.
His editor at the time was Keith Chapman also known as the Black Horse Western writer Chap O'Keefe.
Vic J Hanson is just one of those Western writers that you have to read - he is certainly one of the best western writers there is and it's just sad that he reached Trail's End.
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Sunday, 12 October 2008
The housing situation following the second world war was desperate and to compensate two big estates were being built at St. Paul's Cray and Ramsden.
When we arrived in Orpington to look for a house we went straight to Ramsden - a huge muddy lot that would one day become a sprawl of private and council houses.
The queue of people hoping to get their feet on the housing rung just stretched and stretched and it took hours of patient waiting to get to the site office - and by then we were too late. All the available plots had been taken up but there was one advantage my dad had as he was a carpenter and therefore one of 'the trade'. He was put in touch with a small builder who was building six new houses up Tubbenden Lane on the site of the old Cooks Farm - of Buff Orpington fame. Dad got a pick of the plots and we went home happy.
The Orpington I lived in looked very much as the picture above.
It was a wrench to leave my friends back in Finchley and I would have loved it if my parents had chosen to go back there.
The move to Orpington was made at a time when London's overspill began to pour into St.Paul's Cray and Ramsden. Public opinion in Orpington was very anti - and I encountered prejudice from both fellow pupils and teachers - I wasn't one of 'them'.
The road that I lived in was unmade and at the bottom of a steep hill - great for sledding down in the winter and the road thick with snow. Even better for riding down on my new Hercules racing bike - until I came off my bike halfway down and slicing my right arm open. I cleaned up the cut but it soon became infected and swollen. My mum applied an 'old wives remedy' poultice to the swelling but it was too hot and in the morning the inside of my right arm from elbow to just above the wrist was blistered. We went to the hospital where the blister was cut away and I watched as I saw a glimpse of bone - that was how deep the scald had burned. For the next 18 months my arm was bound up so stiffly that I could not use it. I was in and out of hospital for all that time having the dressing changed.
As my right arm was unuseable I had to become left-handed and had my knuckles rapped for not writing fast or completing schoolwork. What with all the prejudice and this problem with my right arm I began to withdraw into myself and escaped into books and movies. During those eighteen months I made no friends apart from an older boy, who like me, had come from north London.
The prejudice would dog my tail into secondary school - but there I would meet up with a gang of older boys - a mixture of gypsies, East and North Londoners. From the moment I arrived I was warned to stay away from that gang but it was they who approached me. I had befriended one of the gang at Primary school so I was 'in'.
There was one master who taught history who bragged about his experiences in Malaya - to the extent that it could be assumed that he 'won' that theatre of war. But when the Suez crisis blew up I saw another side to him when he began to fear that he would be called up again.
His favourite punishment was the slipper - the slightest excuse and he would use it. One day I was so fed up with this form of punishment that I hid it on the rafter above his desk. What I did forget is that size 11 plimpsolls came in pairs. He did, eventually, find his original slipper - or rather it found him. During a violent thunderstorm the slipper was dislodged from the rafter and hit him on the head.
I was once slippered by him for correcting him. He was teaching us about the English Civil War and talking about firearms ' .....not like in the American Civil War when they had repeating rifles...' So, I corrected him, got the slipper and a reputation for being argumentative.
The third year was good and so, life improved from thereon.
Mr Bethell taught English and would read stories from various authors like O.Henry and Sherlock Holmes stories by Conan-Doyle. The Holmes' story 'Silver Blaze' stuck in my mind.
From then on every composition I had to write had to be a story. For example write something about a drawing pin became a mystery thriller in which the description of a drawing pin is wrapped around the disappearence of a micro-dot.
Of course, my school report claimed that I allowed my 'imagination to get out of hand'.
And my reading went in other directions as I picked up books by D.H.Lawrence (I still have a pre-trial 1960 Penguin book of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'.)
This book would in turn lead to an interesting discussion when I, as a butcher boy, delivered meat to a certain Margaret Thatcher. She thought that I had just read the 'dirty bits'. My response was that that would be pointless - the whole book would have to be read to appreciate it.
In the fourth year I was taught English by Mr. Keeble. He liked my short stories to the extent that he thought that I should get them published. I thanked him but said I wouldn't bother - authors were all older and more experienced than me. But he did say-'one day you will be a writer'.
But, I had eyes on another idea. I had picked up a book called ' Criminal Law In A Nutshell'. A fascinating book that led me to borrowing more law books that I read tucked behind the Bible during Religious Instruction lessons. The Law of England had more to interest me than the Law of God.
When the careers oficer came around and I had my interview with him and he asked me what I wanted to do - I told him straight that I wanted to go into the legal profession. After my interview I was summonsed to the headmaster's office where the careers officer was telling him about our interview. The headmaster looked at me sternly and told me to be serious and that he, personally, would see to it that I took up an apprenticeship in some factory.
I just shrugged.
He could do what he liked - I was the one who knew what I wanted.
I left school and went to work as a junior clerk in the Parks Department of a local council. Where I got into trouble for a) giving a chap an allotment without putting him on a non-existant waiting list and b) going over the Department head to get a job in the Council's legal department. After 6 months I was given the sack.
A week later I was working as an outdoor clerk for a firm of solicitors.
This job would give me a funny aftermath.
My headmaster was, also, a Justice of the Peace. I was attending the local county court when he walked in. On seeing me he said ' Ah, Foster, I thought you'd end up in front of me.' 'Yes sir, I'm here representing the Plaintiff - told you I was going into the legal profession'. His face dropped -but I had not intended my comment as a jibe - just a statement of fact.
On the whole school was good. There was plenty of school playground trade going on. War comic or comics in general were swapped around. My own choice were for books - traded for comics or rare bubble gum wrappers.
After school I went to night school - to improve on my goals I needed to improve on my education. I continued to write short stories that went into the bin after a while - I just liked to write but I don't think that I had found a voice or a reason to be serious about writing. What kid didn't think about writing THE novel - a bestseller that became a movie etc.
What I didn't know, as 1962 dawned, was that events were going to occur that would change a lot of lives. For the good or the bad I still don't know.