Thursday 27 November 2008


Due for publication on the 30th November 2008 by Black Horse Westerns (Robert Hale Ltd)
Cal Hennessy was on his way to meet up with old friend Billy Dixon at Adobe Walls. The plan was to catch up on each other's news over a beer or three. But before he got there he ran into two dead men and a bunch of blood-hungry Commanches. Trouble was brewing on the staked plains of Texas and Hennessy, who was no stranger to it, quickly found himself in the middle of a full scale Indian war. But gun swift though he was, would even he survive the killing to come?
This new novel comes from the writing talents of Black Horse Western writer Dave Whitehead and German western writer Alfred Wallon.
So, how did this collaboration come about?
Dave Whitehead wrote to me and said: ' Alfred and I had been planning to collaborate for a while. We're both great admirers of Ben Haas who wrote westerns under the names of John Benteen, Richard Meade and Thorne Douglas. In fact that's where we got our pseudonym Doug Thorne.
The plan, initially, was to write something similar to Haas's JOHN CUTLER stories about a professional animal hunter. But then Alfred remembered that he had an old manuscript entitled 'The Trap Was Called Adobe Walls' that had been translated into 'German-English'. I offered to smarten up the translation for him but, by the time I finished, we had a book that was down to only 80 manuscript pages long. I suggested that Alfred write some additional material, but he countered that with a suggestion of his own - that I write the extra material and incorporate it into the story thus making it a true collaboration. I did exactly that.'
Alfred Wallon also wrote to me about this collaboration and said: ' When I started to correspond with David we soon found out that we had something in common in our love for the same western authors. It was not only Ben Haas but Matt Chisholm and George G. Gilman. Even our way of telling a story seems to be similar. So that was a good starting point for anything further.
I always prefer stories based on historical facts - with a lot of realistic details. The American author Terry C. Johnston is one of those that I admire - I have all his books.
If two authors share the same interests - a collaboration is always something good - especially when they both believe in what they are doing.
David did a very nice job in doing the detailed research about Adobe Walls and he brought that period to life. When you read about what happened around the old Spanish fort you see everything before your eyes.'
In Alfred's opinion ALL GUNS BLAZING is evidence of good collaboration.
Alfred Wallon was born in a small village in Germany in 1957. He had learned to read before he went to school and was soon into westerns. He watched TV series like 'Bonanza' and 'High Chaparral'.
He is the writer of the German western series 'RIO CONCHOS' and writes with a visual style that, he hopes, will encourage younger readers to the western genre. He quotes fellow German western writer G.F.Unger who says that the western is not much different to the sci-fi and fantasy books that the younger generation read - it's only the weapons that are different.
As Alfred says: ' You only have to show them what you are seeing - the landscape, the killing of the buffalo, the plight of the Indian tribes and the struggle for survival at Adobe Walls.'
So will there be any more collaborations between Dave Whitehead and Alfred Wallon?
Dave Whitehead says: ' Our second, ALASKA HELL, is about half completed at the moment and, with a bit of luck, there will be more to come.
It's an interesting collaboration - a German western writer and a British western writer writing together in what is, basically, an American art form.'
A final word from Alfred Wallon: ' The American writer, William W Johnstone, summed up his view of the western in a forward to a book - "The west lives on. And as long as I live, it always will.....". Need I say more.'

Sunday 23 November 2008

Elliot Conway - Western Writer

Published 2006 by Black Horse Westerns (Robert Hale Ltd)
And one of my favourite Elliot Conway novels.
Elliot Conway is a writer who is now in his eighties and is still writing western novels. His 44th book 'THE DEATH SHADOW RIDERS' is due for release in July 2009.
Elliot Conway is the pen name of Albert Hill, from Darlington, who left school with hardly any qualifications and earned a living as a bill poster.
During the Second World War served in tanks and once wrote a book about his experiences in Burma. Unfortunately publishers, at the time, thought that it would not do well.
Despite this Albert Hill still wrote the odd article for the company magazine and the local paper.
Albert Hill's western writing career did not start until he was in his sixties. He had seen an advert in 'The Northern Echo' regarding creative writing and responded to the invitation by attending a meeting held at Crombie's Cafe in Darlington. The second meeting did not go well for the journalist that was heading the course was posted to London. However, with thirty people all wanting to write and gathered under one roof they took matters into their own hands and the Darlington Writers Circle was born. Albert Hill is, today, the Chairman of that Writer's Circle.
So for my first ever interview I had a long talk with Albert Hill about his work and influences.
Influences: From childhood he had liked westerns - both film and books and lists Charles O. Locke and Alan Le May as favourite writers - writers that he wished that he could emulate. He spoke about one of Alan Le May's forgotten books 'The Unforgiven' which was made into the film starring Burt Lancaster and how it reverses the story told in 'The Searchers'.
The first book? Was the third book that I wrote. I sent two books to Robert Hale and I was not sure which one to send - so I sent him two.
The first 'THE MAN FROM SHILOH' was published in 1987 when Albert was aged 65.
Do you have a favourite Elliot Conway novel? He names 'THE CHICKAMAUGO COVENANT' amongst his favourites for he was able to relate parts of the American Civil War into the story.
Also, he named 'THE GREENHORN' and 'THE COMPADRES' as amongst his favourites as he was able to bring in more real characters like Geronimo and General Crook into the storyline.
How did the trip to the USA influence you? 'The original BBC concept was to take us out to The Alamo but that was changed to Wyoming instead. Irene (Ord - also known as Tex Larrigan) and I had a great time visiting Butch Cassidy's cabin, the Big Horn where Custer's Last Stand took place. We stayed in Cody named for Buffalo Bill. We watched a cattle round-up run by a chap from Arizona - Bob the cowboy - it was all very breath-taking. Irene came back with a book inside her head and ready to write. It takes me a little longer.'
Albert writes in longhand and then types it up on an old electric typewriter - he does not own a computer.
Is there anything else that you would like to write about? 'I would like to write a novel set around the Pontiac Wars. '
Well, I for one, would look forward to that.
Pontiacs Rebellion occurred in 1763 when the North American tribes united under the Ottawa chief Pontiac. Dissatisfied with British policies around the Great Lakes Region after the victory in the French Indian War (1754-1763) the warriors joined forces to drive the British soldiers and settelers from the region.
Albert Hill is a man who does not keep his writing skills to himself. He takes his writing skills into school where he teaches creative writing. He also does one to one reading with children and is very encouraging.
I would like to say thank you to Albert Hill for his time and all the information that he gave me. It was really appreciated. I have read many Elliot Conway books and enjoyed talking to him about them.
One of my favourite Elliot Conway novels is 'THE PANHANDLE SHOOT-OUT'. Not only does this story concern Marshall Lund's accidental killing of his deputy and how he comes to terms with it but there is an interesting story within that story concerning Big Ellie Braddock - and she's not called Big Ellie for nothing. What Big Ellie does have is a warmth of character that very few male writers have acheived. This is one book that should be read.
I hope that this article will encourage others to write - for, as seen here, there is no age limit.

Saturday 15 November 2008

Tex Larrigan - Western Writer

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

Forgotten Books: Passion Flower Hotel by Rosalind Erskine

Published by Pan Books - 1962.
Sarah Callender is a bright but naive 15 year old, who attends Bryant House Boarding School, and has just finished reading a book on the sociology of prostitution.
Having read about this her mind turns to the needs of the local boys' school. Sarah and her four friends form a syndicate to investigate the possibility of selling their services to the boys.
They convert the area beneath the school stage into their 'bordello' and advertise their wares under three categories - Vision Only; Touch and Nothing Barred.
Thus, the scene for The Passion Flower Hotel is set.
It doesn't happen without problems. Demands for certain types of girls means that Sarah and her syndicate have to expand by roping in other girls into their secret world. Eventually, things get out of hand and discovery looms.
Through it all Sarah, being the brains, manages to remain aloof which makes the others suspicious.
This is a wonderful well-written rites of passage book and the writing is witty, clever and very observant.
The look into the mind of a fifteen year old girl was so striking that many believed (and the book was marketed this way) that Rosalind Erskine was a young schoolgirl herself. That is believable for it was so modern and up to date that it did seem impossible for anyone older to have got into that sort of mindset.
Some years later it was revealed that the author was not only twice the age but, also, a man.
His name was Roger Erskine Longrigg (1929 -2000).
There were two sequals: Passion Flowers In Italy and Passion Flowers In Business - but the first book is the best in this trilogy.

Monday 10 November 2008

The Legend Of Lord Snooty

Marmaduke, the young Lord of Bunkerton was better known to comic readers as Lord Snooty.
Despite his upper-class description he liked nothing better than mixing with the kids from Ash-Can Alley.
These were Rosie, Hairpin Huggins, Skinny Lizzie, Scrapper Smith, Happy Hutton and Gertie The Goat.
Lord Snooty and his gang made their debut in the 'Beano' on the 30th June 1938 - so were there from Issue no: 1.
The Beano was a rival to the Dandy that had first appeared in December 1939.
Lord Snooty was drawn by Dudley Dexter Watkins, the creator of Desperate Dan who appeared in the Dandy. Watkins would make 'guest' appearances in the Lord Snooty strip.
During the war years Lord Snooty and his gang would take on Nazi Germany. In one classic strip they dress up as Hitler and Goering to help capture the crew of a U-boat. In another, the Germans attempt to bomb Bunkerton Castle - only the ramparts are manned by a bunch of trained seals who toss the bombs back across the channel to where Hitler and Goering are sitting. As the bombs fly towards them Hitler asks: 'M-mine goodness, Goering, what are these?' Goering responds: 'These are bombs, Adolph! What do you think they are? Sparrows in steel helmets?'
In 1949 Lord Snooty took a break but returned in late 1950 - it was last appearance of the Ash-Can Alley gang though Scrapper Smith would remain along with the twins Snitch and Snatch. Joining Lord were Big Fat Joe, Doubting Thomas and Swanky Lanky Liz who had 'starred' in their own strips.
In 1958 Albert Holroyd, Robert Nixon and Ken Harrison joined the drawing team.
The book contains some great historical detail including both Lord Snooty's first and last appearance in the Beano.
It was an experience to read some of the Lord Snooty stories that I had not read before and catch up with those that I had.
For £5.75 this is a good buy.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Chap O'Keefe - Western Writer

MISFIT LIL CLEANS UP - published October 2008 by Robert Hale Ltd under the Black Horse Western imprint.
Keith Chapman, who writes under the name of Chap O'Keefe, was born in Enfield in North London in 1943.
Writing was in his blood from an early age - his first written words appeared on 'Smiler's Page' in the 'Adventure' comic in 1955 - and he got paid for it.
Keith went into the world of publishing and going on to edit such things as the 'Sexton Blake Library'.
In the 1960s he was in Mitcham, Surrey where he was the editor of various British pocket comics like Western Adventure Library and Cowboy Adventure Library.
One of the difficulties that he encountered was matching covers with stories - an easy way around this was to send the cover to friends - like Vic J Hanson - to write a story to fit the picture.
I was an avid reader of these comics and the Sexton Blake stories.
Eventually, Keith took up the pen himself and began to write western novels for Robert Hale.
The first Chap O'Keefe novel that I read was 'SHOOTOUT AT HELLYER'S CREEK' the first of the Joshua Dillard novels. Dillard is an intriguing character for he is an ex-Pinkerton man who becomes a hired gun/detective. All the Joshua Dillard novels have that mystery element but Dillard, for all his hard work, never seems to profit from his skill.
Apart from the Joshua Dillard novels Chap O'Keefe has created a western heroine in the shape of Misfit Lil.
Chap O'Keefe has written a number of stand alone books amongst which is 'GHOST TOWN BELLES' which has to be one of my favourites. There is a hint of the deep south novels of Erskine Caldwell in the make-up of Mad Dan Dungaree and his daughters (the belles of the title).
The hero is not one of those quick draw artists but a gentle, out of work cow hand who is drawn into the story as he attempts to 'rescue' the belles.
Another book 'THE OUTLAW AND THE LADY' was recently reviewed on the blog Western Fiction Review (see side panel for the link).
Chap O'Keefe is an interesting and solid writer who almost saw the above book become a film. Pity that did not happened for his descriptive style is very visual.

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

Soundtrack To A Life: Trad Jazz

My grandparents decided to get a new TV so they let me have their old one. Now this is 1959/1960 and kids did not have TVs in their bedroom - well, I did.
Good old black and white with a clear picture from an indoor aerial. Had to shift my room around so that I could stretch out and watch the telly at the bottom of my bed.
At 9 p.m I could watch Rupert Davies in the BBC series 'Maigret' which was followed by Jazz Club. The Trad Jazz of the time was infectious and it wasn't long before my friends - and dad - were up there in my bedroom enjoying the likes of Barber, Bilk and Ball.
The L.P.s that came out following the success of the TV show tended to dwell on the music of Chris Barber, Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball - sometimes combining all three on one disc.
TRAD PARTY - is a 3 CD set that I picked up for £3.00 from HMV (something that hasn't been repeated). Throughout this compilation is the reminder that Trad Jazz was not confined to the three Bs. Alex Walsh, Monty Sunshine, Terry Lightfoot and Bob Wallis all featured on the Jazz Club programme.
Standout tracks for me are: Sweet Lorraine by Mick Mulligan's Magnolia Jazz Band with a young George Melly. Then there is Ace In The Hole by The Clyde Valley Stompers with vocals by Lonnie Donegan and Beale Street Blues with Ottilie Paterson and the Chris Barber Jazz Band.
Just three out of 66 great tracks - but then this blog would go on forever.
There was something about Trad Jazz - maybe it was the sychopation - that harked back to the swing music of Harry James and Artie Shaw and the jazz guitarist Django Rheinhardt.
Also, it brings back memories about how a group of us took Trad Jazz records up to our local youth club - good background music while we were playing snooker - and, for a while, it replaced rock'n'roll music.