Thursday 31 December 2009


It has been a good year for the Black Horse Western with many of the writers appearing in the various best seller charts. What with Jack Martin's debut novel hogging the No 1 spot for weeks on end like The Beatles did some years back. Lance Howard had one week with seven slots out of ten. And two other debut novels by Terry James and Thomas McNulty took the No 1 spot as well.
More importantly it is good to see that more and more people are reading Black Horse Westerns.
2009 saw the return of Terry Murphy after a long absence and 2010 will see long awaited new novels from Chuck Tyrell and Derek Rutherford.
A couple of BHW writers, while still riding for the brand, have branched out to publish their new novels. Notably, Chap O'Keefe with his paperback editions under the BHE label and Neil Hunter who has self published the latest Jason Brand novel 'Devil's Gold'.
My own personal favourites of the year were Terry James 'Long Shadows'. I have to admit to a bit of a bias here as Terry James deals, in part, with memory loss (something that I know about). Other western writers like Louis L'Amour have touched on the subject as in 'A Man Called Noon' but Terry James took the idea further.
Another that engrossed me was Ross Morton's 'The $300 Man'. Not only was his hero Corbin Molina disbled by the loss of his hand but Ross Morton through his character made the reader realise that Molina was en-abled. Top class writing.
David Whitehead is one of those writers who you would think was born in the saddle and a Colt .45 strapped to his waist and not London's East End. This year he collaborated with Alfred Wallon to produce 'All Guns Blazing' under the name of Doug Thorne.
It is good to see that some of David Whitehead's earlier books are to be reprinted.
Finally, Rory Black, an alias for writer Michael D.George,keeps his Iron Eyes series alive. The character is not your usual brand of hero - he is scarred and flawed - but the delivery is of the kind that says - well, to me - can't wait for the next one.
Reviews of books and authors mentioned here can be found at Western Fiction Review ( along with many other Black Horse Westerns released during 2009.
Well, that's my look at Black Horse Westerns for 2009.

Wednesday 30 December 2009


Respected western writer Jim Griffin is the author of Part 22 of this exciting adventure. It can be found at The Culbin Trail (
Parts 1-16 and 17-21 can be found at this site as well.

Tuesday 29 December 2009


Arnold Schwarzenegger is the iconic Terminator.
At least that is what I thought until I watched both seasons of 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles'.
It is not easy to top the original Terminator but Summer Glau as Cameron does do just that. I don't think that I have seen anyone of late who has that magical screen presence that Summer Glau brings to the role. Her actions are controlled and her face expressionless yet manages to convey so much that she commands attention and dominates her scenes even when she is just standing in the background.

Summer Glau was born in San Antonio, Texas back in 1981 and trained to be a ballerina until an accident ended that career. So she took to acting by appearing in an episode of 'Angel' as - a ballerina. As an actor she appeared in several episodes of 'The Unit' and 'The 4400' as well as playing River Tam in the series 'Firefly' and the movie follow up 'Serenity'. None of which I've seen.

As the Terminator, Cameron, Summer Glau has made the role her own and I hope that she gets the opportunity to reprise the role in a movie version.
Yet, Summer Glau, does have an ambition. With '3:10 To Yuma' as one of her favourite western movies she would love to play a role in a western movie. Hope she gets her wish.

Thursday 24 December 2009


Season's Greetings to everyone who passes by this way.

If you want some good festive reading may I suggest:
INN TIME a Seasonal Short Story to be found at
A bit of festive - he says with a chuckle - fare at

Wednesday 23 December 2009


Back in 1859 when Charles Dickens took over the magazine 'All The Year Round' he followed a formula that had been used in 'Household Words'. In 'All The Year Round' he wrote the first chapter for a story called 'The Haunted Mansion' and Wilkie Collins, Mrs. (Elizabeth) Gaskell, Adelaide Proctor, George Sala and Hesba Stretton followed on with a chapter each.
140 years on and a bunch of western writers and enthusiasts are following on with that tradition with 'The Story With No Name'.
The Story With No Name continues with part 21 from Black Horse Western writer, Jack Martin, over at The Tainted Archive ( where you can find connections to the previous 20 parts.
Jack Martin made his Black Horse Western debut this year with the publication of 'The Tarnished Star' and, already at the top of the best seller charts, 'Arkansas Smith' to be published next March.
Jack Martin, also, has a short story 'The Gimp' in the forthcoming Express Westerns Anthology 'A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS' where there are stories by other contributors to 'The Story With No Name' like I.J.Parnham, Jack Giles, Chuck Tyrell and Peter Averillo.
AND don't forget there is a chance for you to get your hands on a copy before the publication date of 31st Janauary 2010.
For the USA check out
For the UK and the Rest Of The World go to

Thursday 17 December 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books - THE EDGE OF THE SWORD by Anthony Farrer-Hockley

Well, this is the final Friday's Forgotten Book of 2009.
Next year will be the 70th anniversaries of various events of World War 2.
Also it will be the 60th Anniversary of that 'forgotten' war known as The Korean War.
That is what 'THE EDGE OF THE SWORD' is about. Although, the story in this book is fact, Anthony Farrer-Hockley writes this book in such a way that it is like reading a rivetting novel.
The opening part of the book involves the role played by the 1st Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment - known as the Glorious Glosters.
It follows the battle that took place between 22nd April 1951 to the 25th April 1951 leading up to the Glosters' last stand on Hill 235 while defending the eastern crossing of the Imjin River. The battle itself was epic in scale. By the time orders came through to pull back Hill 235 was surrounded by the Chinese army.
This last stand not only ensured that the Belgian and American forces fell back on a prepared UN line but that the road to Seoul was firmly shut against the advancing Chinese Army.
Eventually, the hill fell to the Chinese and the survivors of the Glosters were taken prisoner. From here on Anthony Farrer-Hockley tells of the dreadful conditions; the interrogations in the Pyongyang Political Prison where he underwent
with other, pyschological treatment aimed at capturing the mind and spirit as well as the body. Also life with the Chinese both in the camp and outside of it. For Farrer-Hockley made several amazing and gripping escape attempts.
The Battle Of The Imjin River earned the Glorious Glosters two Victoria Crosses, a George Cross and several D.S.Os. And a Unit Citatation from the US Army.
From a quiet opening, the lull before the hectic scenes of battle to the tension of the escape attempts this book, rarely, lets the reader take a pause.
One of the best books about the Korean War.


'Achtung Spitfeuer!'
It is 1940 and Britain stands alone against the German might. Spitfires, Hurricanes, Defiants and antiquated Gloster Gladiators and Fairey Battles are the only aircraft that can stop Hitler from crossing the English Channel.
To mark the 70th Anniversary of The Battle Of Britain Commando Comics have released a new anthology of 10 stories that feature tales of the air war.
These stories range through that of a Czech pilot who has to become a fighter ace because his name is Richtofen. The sons of two World War One aces find themselves in confrontation. Then there are the stories of revenge.
The magic of Commando Comics is not just in the stories but in the black and white illustrations. In this collection they are 25% larger than the originals so that the details stand out. Not only that but it is handy for those of us with aging eyes.
This volume comes with an introduction by former Commando editor, George Low, and a forward by Calum Laird, the current editor.
Good Christmas gift. Like the logo says 'Commando for action and adventure'.

Wednesday 16 December 2009


Western writer Evan Lewis is the author of part 20 of this exciting western adventure and can be found at Laurie Powers Wild West (

If you haven't read the story before then you can find parts 1 through 16 at The Culbin Trail (
Part 17 by Peter Averillo is at Open Range (
Part 18 by Robert S. Napier is at The Cap'n's Blog (
Part 19 by Richard Prosch at Meridian Bridge (

Part 21 is destined to come from Jack 'The Gimp' Martin and will be found next week on The Tainted Archive. Jack Martin is the author of the chart topping 'The Tarnished Star' and the forthcoming 'Arkansas Smith'.

Many of the authors who have contributed to The Story With No Name are western writers - some write for Robert Hale's Black Horse Western brand.
They have banded together under the Express Western banner to produce a new anthology of western short stories under the title 'A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS'. While many of the contributors are old hands, others are new to the genre.
Don't forget there is a good deal going here. The book will be published on the 31st January 2010 but if you want a copy in advance and with FREE shipping check out the details at:
For the USA - Davy Crockett's Almanack (
For the UK and the Rest Of The World - The Culbin Trail.

Tuesday 15 December 2009


One comic strip that I read religiously was the James Bond strip in the Daily Express. Whenever and wherever we were on holiday I would rush down to the newsagents and pick up a copy just to be able to read the strip before my dad took his time reading the news.
Another advantage was that every new Bond book was serialised in the Sunday Express.
A while back Titan Books brought out the strips in individual volumes. Now, at last, Titan Books have produced the first volume so that many of the strips are now in one place.
The original strips were illustrated by John McLusky to scripts from Anthony Hern, Peter O'Donnell and Henry Gammidge.
In this edition there is a foreward by former Bond, Sir Roger Moore.
Volume 001 contains the likes of 'Casino Royale', 'Live And Let Die' through to 'Thunderball' with two stories from 'A View To A Kill'.

Volume 002 is due out in 2010 and will contain the strips for the remainder of the novels plus more.


When Patti Abbott suggested that the subject for last week's Forgotten Books be subtitled Forgotten Kids Books I was left with a problem.
Sure there were children's books tucked away back in my childhood. Toby Twirl (a pig version of Rupert Bear), Nicholas Thomas, Rupert Bear, The Little Red Engine, Enid Blyton's Famous Five Books, the Jennings series and Biggles.
Good as they were there was a lot more to grab my interest.
Whether it was a curse or a blessing I could read and write before I went to school.
I went through 'Old Lob' and the school reading books like a hot knife through butter. The teachers couldn't keep up.
Although I read comics like the 'Eagle' I much preferred 'Adventure', 'Wizard', 'Rover' and 'Hotspur' - no pictures just words.
Then I bought a book by P.R.Reid called 'The Colditz Story'. An adult book published by Pan in 1954 that cost 2/- (10p in modern money). It would change my reading habits. Edgar Wallace, Peter Cheyney, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle and, a new writer at the time, Ian Flemming. James Bond's adventure 'Live And Let Die' wasn't the standard fare for your normal 10 year old. OK so some of it went over my head then but not so later. My favourite line was just after Felix Leiter got chewed up and someone said that 'He disagreed with something that ate him'.
Mind you my taste in books got me in to trouble. Flemming's 'Diamonds Are Forever' got confiscated by my dad because Tiffany Case was pictured on the cover just wearing a black bra and panties. Though rather tame when compared to some of the book covers of the time. The only other time I had a book confiscated was just as the 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' scandal broke. I had just bought it when the announcement came that this Penguin edition was to be banned. I still have that copy today.
As my school years drew to a close I discovered Nelson Algren's 'Walk On The Wild Side'; Grace Metallious's 'Peyton Place' and Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road'. The shape of the novel seemed to be changing. The dawn of The Angry Young Men was taking shape with the likes of John Osborne, Alan Sillitoe, John Braine and their like and the 'X' rated films of their books. And while kids my age were trying to sneak into the movies I was reading the books.
But these were the books and authors of my childhood and I have no regrets.
Biggles was good but James Salter's 'The Hunters' was better.

Monday 14 December 2009


Following on from the success of the first anthology 'WHERE LEGENDS RIDE' Express Westerns are proud to announce the publication of a new anthology of 21 new western stories under the name 'A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS'.
'A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS' will be avilable to order via or on-line retailers like Amazon from the 31st January 2010.
The 21 Stories are:
Dead Man Talking by Derek Rutherford
Billy by Lance Howard
Lonigan Must Die! by Ben Bridges
The Man Who Shot Garfield Delaney by I.J.Parnham
Half A Pig by Matthew P.Mayo
Bloodhound by C.Courtney Joyner
More Than Meets The Eye by Gillian F.Taylor
Big Enough by Chuck Tyrell
One Day In Liberty by Jack Giles
Shadows On The Horizon by Bobby Nash
On The Run by Alfred Wallon
The Gimp by Jack Martin
Visitors by Ross Morton
The Nighthawk by Michael D.George
The Pride Of The Crocketts by Evan Lewis
Darke Justice by Peter Avarillo
Angelo And The Strongbox by Cody Wells
Crib Girls by Kit Churchill
Man Of Iron by Chuck Tyrell
Cash Laramie And The Masked Devil by Edward A Grainger
Dead Man Walking by Lee Walker

Many of the writers in this new anthology are seasoned hands but there are some who are new comers to the western genre.
'A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS' rides a full range of stories that cover birth, life and death; from soiled doves to daring robberies and dangerous man hunts bringing the story of the west to life.
'A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS' was edited by Nik Morton with sub-editor Charles Whipple with an introduction by respected western writer James Reasoner.

Now for a limited period if anyone can't wait until the 31st January there are some pretty good deals around at the moment. These can be found at either Davy Crockett's Almanack ( for folks in the US. For the UK and the Rest Of The World head on over to The Culbin Trail ( This is an offer not to be missed.

Facebook it. Twitter it. My Space it. Bebo it. Podcast it.
An anthology like 'A FISTFUL OF LEGENDS' needs to be celebrated for all 21 stories are BRAND NEW. Unique in a climate where caution and reprints abound.

Friday 11 December 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books - THE OFFENDERS by R.H.Ward

THE OFFENDERS by R.H.Ward was first published 1960 by Cassell & Co. Ltd and issued in paperback by Pan Books in 1962.

What a difference a distance of close enough 50 years makes.
Way back when the paperback edition was brand new, and made for rivetting reading to a youngster just starting out to learn about commuting, this book stuck in my mind because the hero, Benjamin Shreave, was the same age as me.
Schooldays were still fresh in my mind.
Benjamin Shreave is a 17 year old public school boy attending Elvey College. He is a monitor and lives a just about surviving life as he waits for his final year to end. He has already won a University scholarship.
Into his life walks Floria Colby who is half-Italian and the neice of the school's headmaster. Benjamin starts skipping school to go on walks with Floria through the woods and, eventually, the inevitable happens.
They nearly get caught when they go skinny dipping in the local pond at midnight.
Of course, a scandal erupts but for all the wrong reasons and Benjamin finds himself being sent home.
So for close to 50 years that is the story that I remember.
Coming across this book recently I looked forward to re-reading it.
Although all the story was there that I recalled there was a lot more to the story than met my younger eyes.
The story was set in the 1930s but the elements of this book can be transferred into today's setting.
The title of the book does not just refer to the main characters - each of the other characters in the book 'offend' in their own way.
There is Harker Lingard the housemaster who's own imagination reveals a part of his character that will destroy him.
Charles Clarke, a manipulative bully who is allowed to become too powerful.
Tullia Falder, Harker Lingard's sister, who supports her brother and not her husband, Neil, who is too close to Benjamin but is the voice of reason.
Finally, there is Floria's uncle the Reverend Walter Colby. For in Floria, this religious man, finds memories of a brief affair with her mother.
For 1960 this book touched on many issues that are commonplace today - for then not so much not enough to make an impact on my own 16 year old mind.
The blurb on the back of the book states that this story has 'The candour of 'Young Love' (a Danish novel by Johannes Allen) and the insight of (Sloan Wilson's)'A Summer Place'.
R.H.Ward, who died in 1969, writes with depth and style that gives a novel that three dimensional feel.

Wednesday 9 December 2009


Richard Prosch at Meridian Bridge is the author of part 19 of The Story With No Name.
This can be found at

If you are new to the story then parts 1 to 16 can be read in one go at The Culbin Trail or

Part 18 came courtesy of Peter Averillo at Open Range

Part 19 by Robert Napier at The Cap'n's Blog -

Saturday 5 December 2009

RICHARD TODD 1919 - 2009

On the 3rd December 2009 the iconic British Actor, Richard Todd, died in his sleep at his home in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
During the Second World War the raid on the German dams was planned here and carried out by 617 Squadron known as The Dam Busters who were based at the Lincolnshire airfield at Scampton.
The squadron was led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson - a role that would always be associated with the actor, Richard Todd.
During World War 2, Captain Richard Todd parachuted into France and was one of the first men to step onto French soil at the opening of the Normandy invasion on the 6th June 1944. Capturing the Pegasus Bridge he held the position until the arrival of John Howard's glider borne troops.
In the movie 'The Longest Day' Richard Todd played the part of John Howard and found it weird to meet up with Captain Todd played by another actor.
Richard Todd made his movie debut in the film 'The Hasty Heart' but it is his military roles in such films as 'Danger Within', 'Yangtse Incident' and 'D-Day: The 6th June' that he is remembered. But he was versatile with portrayals in other films such as 'Robin Hood And His Merrie Men', 'Rob Roy'. 'The Boys' and 'The Big Sleep'.
Richard Todd was the first choice to play James Bond in 'Dr. No' but commitments elsewhere gave Sean Connery the part.
A talent that will be sadly missed.

Wednesday 2 December 2009


The Story With No Name - continues with Part 18 over at The Cap'n's Blog (

Parts 1-16 can be read at one sitting at The Culbin Trail (
Part 17 can be found at Open Range (

Also, at The Culbin Trail are details of the publication of this new anthology from Express Westerns. This anthology contains 21 brand new stories from both old hands and those new to the genre.

Sunday 29 November 2009


"If music be the food of love - " as Shakespeare said, then I say 'Bring it on, man.'
Probably, music like books is a big passion with me - like a soundtrack to the story of my life.
Early life it was classical music in the shape of Tchaikovsky and Beethoven until I discovered my Uncle's 78 rpm recordings of Harry James, Artie Shaw and Gene Krupa. Big band jazzy sounds from the war years in the 'Swing Series'.
I had just gone to Secondary School when Bill Haley & The Comets heralded in the rock n roll era. It was around this time that I realised that music was categorised into genres. Just like books, in a way.
But rock n roll, Bill Haley style, was a progression. The more I listened to 'Rock Around The Clock' and 'See You Later Alligator' I began to wonder about all the publicity about how rock n roll was a 'disturbing influence on the young'.
I mean I never heard the same being said of Harry James, Glenn Miller and their kind.
Bill Haley's music sounded as though it had roots in the swing era. 'See You Later Alligator' didn't come across any different to 'Pennsylvania 6-5 thousand'. And the beat of 'Rock Around The Clock' could be compared to, say, 'Traffic Jam'.
And then, I discovered, that Swing had roots in Classical music - Harry James had not only recorded Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Flight Of The Bumble-Bee' but jazzed up 'Carnival In Venice'. Artie Shaw, too, had borrowed from the classics.
Django Reinhardt had teemed up with classical guitarist Stephane Grappelli to produce some of the greatest jazz recordings that embraced both worlds.
With the advent of the Sixties music changed again - but again whether jazz, classical or plain old pop it was still progression. Bands like the Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Kinks produced their own 'sound' and spawned imitators.
Into this mix came Joe Meek with his own sound with the likes of John Leyton's 'Johnny, Remember Me'; The Tornadoes 'Telstar' and The Honeycombs 'Have I The Right' this latter keeping the top names from reaching that No 1 spot.
Like branches on a tree music spread out and by the seventies and eighties came Glam Rock, Punk Rock and The New Romantics.
And what is film music but put together comes across like movements in a symphony.
Heavy Metal reminds me, at times, of sections from Stravinsky's 'Rite Of Spring'.
Music like writing evolves - it's just that the older we get it gets a touch harder to keep up with it.
I love it when a band like 'Hayseed Dixie' turn heavy metal AC/DC bluegrass.
Music is a matter of taste and mine runs through many genre's.

Friday 27 November 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: MRS. DALE'S BEDSIDE BOOK by Jonquil Antony

Today's forgotten book comes via a throwaway comment that I made on Patti Abbott's blog on the subject of men and cooking.
MRS. DALE'S BEDSIDE BOOK was published in 1951 and was written by Jonquil Antony for women.
This book stems from a BBC Radio series, 'Mrs Dale's Diary' that was heard on the Light Programme from 1948 until it's final episode on Radio 2 in 1969.
Mary Dale was a doctor's wife who lived in the fictional north London town of Parkwood Hill.
Jonquil Antony was the creator and main scriptwriter for the series. She had, regularly, written short stories and features for the popular women's magazines of the Forties and Fifties.
What is interesting about the Bedside Book is that it is a blend of fact, fiction and excerpts from books and poems. A real pot-pouri.
It is like a diary - it runs from January to December in one year. Using the fiction device Jonquil Antony not only tells a story but uses conversation to talk about the facts of the time.
For instance, that meat rationing is still in force the conversation turns to how people got by. It is not long before someone mentions something called 'Bow Bells Tripe' from which the reader gets a recipe and cooking instructions.
Reading this book, which I really bought for my wife, it is interesting to find things that I could relate to.
Just take December and the making of the Christmas pudding - I recall my Grandmother waiting for the grandchildren to gather to take their turn at stirring the mix - just the same as in this book.
At Christmas I made fondants and this book has a recipe.
At a time of shortages there are other recipes to be found for things like cold cream and furniture polish.
This book is a really interesting portrait of life in 1950.

Wednesday 25 November 2009


It's that time of the week, folks.
The Story With No Name continues with Part 17 written by Peter Averillo. This can be read at

The first 16 parts have been collected together and the story so far can be read in one go at The Culbin Trail. Link is


King Arthur goes Wild West. Hollywood is taking the story of King Arthur to the 19th Century days of the Wild West with a new movie titled 'Caliber'. That's Excalibur minus the Ex. Bit slow, it took me a while to work that one out.
Again this is based on a comic book.

Friday 20 November 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: THE SCHOOLGIRL MURDER CASE by Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson the author of such books as 'The Outsider', 'The Encyclopedia Of Murder' and 'The Occult' is not, usually, noted for his handfull of novels. But if you have seen the movie 'Lifeforce' then it has a basis in his sole sci-fi novel 'The Mind Parasites'.
1974 saw Colin Wilson step into detective fiction with the creation of Chief Superintendant Gregory Saltwood.
Saltwood is called to a scene of crime where the body of a schoolgirl aged about 14 is found assaulted and strangled in the grounds of an emposing Victorian house in Hampstead (North London).
It is noted that the uniform that the girl is wearing is not that of one of the known local schools. So a search of missing persons is started alongside the murder investigation.
Readers of Colin Wilson's earlier fiction will know that this case is not going to follow the set and staid route of normal crime fiction. For is not long before Saltwood is plunged into a world where the abnormal and bizarre seems normal.
Nor is the schoolgirl as innocent as she seems.
This story goes at a cracking pace even when it goes off at a tangent - but the tangents are relevant.
As with a lot of Colin Wilson's books there are references to other obscure and forgotten books.
Though much of Colin Wilson's fictional works deal with the criminal mind this book and 'The Janus Murder Case' are his only ventures in the crime detection genre.

Wednesday 18 November 2009


As nobody claimed Part 16 and Broken Trails is right behind this story here follows Part 16.
The story is to good to die - so here's the challenge. Walt Arnside's fate lies in someone's hand.
Also, an apology, this episode is uneditted and has come straight from the top of my head.

Parts 1-10 can be read on The Culbin Trail (
Part 11 can be read on Open Range (
Part 12 at Charlie's Tokyo West blog (
Part 13 is here on Broken Trails
Parts 14 and 15 at Davy Crocketts Almanack (

The authors involved in this are I.J.Parnham, Jack Giles, Chuck Tyrell, Jack Martin, Joseph A. West, Robert S. Napier, Richard Prosch, Peter Averillo, Paul Dellinger, Evan Lewis and James J. Griffin.


Walt closed his eyes and lay back. There was a deep throbbing along the right side of his skull. Apache war drums that signalled his demise.
What was the point of trying to escape, anyway? His mind dwelt on the lack of a future. Even if he was free the heat of the desert would still kill him and if that didn't - even if he survived that long - then the deep chill of the desert night would finish the job.
He laughed. A patchy, croak from his parched throat that edged towards insanity.
Just thoughts that invited the vision of a naked man without food and water wandering around in ever decreasing circles until the inevitable end.
Too engrossed in his own problems Walt failed to hear the faint jingle of harness.
When he did open his eyes he found himself looking up into the face of an angel.
"I've died and gone to heaven," Walt sighed.
"You wish," the angel's voice was soft and husky. "Believe me, this is Purgatory."
Pale blue eyes that were almost white held Walt's for a moment. Fine blond hair framed a face that was almost feminine except for the fine bristles that curved over the upper lip and peppered the chin.
The eyes flicked away to glance at the corpse hanging from the cactus. The angel raised a quizzical eyebrow.
"Silas," Walt groaned. "Silas Bartlett."
The angel nodded: "Thought it might be."
He strolled over to inspect the corpse. In doing so he dislodged the mirror but Walt could not be sure if was by accident or design. Whatever, he was grateful for the relief.
Having finished his inspection the angel hunkered down close to Walt's outstretched right arm.
"Where's Roden?" the sharp question made Walt look over the angel's head to where a bunch of riders waited impatiently.
The man who had asked the question looked like the one who had put the lead into Walt's belly.
" I would have thought that was obvious," the angel spoke softly as he pointed in a south westerly direction. "Just follow those tracks, Deuce."
Deuce Harmon, Roden's segundo, stared at the direction indicated before turning his gaze to Walt's prone body.
"He's done for," Deuce stated. "Let's get going."
"You go, Deuce," the angel suggested. "This is as far as I'm going."
"The hell with you, Sawtell," Harmon shouted. "You signed on for the whole shebang."
"Deuce, you just happened to be going in the same direction as me," Sawtell did not move; he just sat there staring down at Walt. "The man who was going to pay me is dead. So no incentive to go any further."
"Leave it, Deuce," one of the other riders suggested.
"Leave it, hell," Deuce sneered.
Walt could only lie and watch and even then could not believe what he had witnessed.
It was like watching a rattlesnake uncurl and strike. That was the speed with which Sawtell moved. A fluid action that saw man and gun as one, the single shot crashing out to leave Deuce Harmon dead in the sand.
Harmon had no chance to draw his gun when his life was plucked away. Nor were any of the others prepared to exact vengeance as, to a man, they rode out into the desert to follow the tracks that would lead them into the arid wastes of the salt flats.
And Sawtell just sat there as though he had not moved.
"Well," Sawtell smiled. "I suppose I had better go."
"Not interested in the gold?" Walt blurted out, fearing that Sawtell would leave him to die.
"Fool's gold," Sawtell shrugged. "The deserts are full of myths and legends. Spanish galleons and fabulous cities. Fool's gold, friend."
"Silas had a map," Walt insisted.
"Of course, he did," Sawtell laughed. "And how many lives has the desert claimed of idiots that had maps that promise nothing?" as he spoke he drew a long bladed knife from a boot sheath. "If I were you I would give up and go home."
"I don't think that's possible, right now," Walt growled.
"This is true," Sawtell laughed, leaning forward to cut Walt's right hand free.
"Now you have an option."
Sawtell straightened and began to walk away.
"Hey, what about the rest?" Walt shouted at the retreating back.
Sawtell paused only to glance over his shoulder: "Gave you a fighting chance, friend. You have a free hand."

Sunday 15 November 2009


In March 2009 Alleyn's School in Dulwich, South London became the home of the Michael Croft Theatre named for a former Head of English who taught there until 1956.
Michael Croft was born in the East End of London in 1922 and taught in three schools before quitting to become the Founder and Director of the National Youth Theatre. Not so much a stage school but a project that would help young people between the ages of 13 and 21 in all aspects of drama.
At first, the National Youth Theatre was male dominated but by 1960 girls were added.
Over the years the theatre has helped the likes of Daniel Craig, Helen Mirren, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Simon Ward, Derek Jacobi and news reporters, Kate Adie and Kurt Barling in the furtherance of their careers. Many taking their first steps on stage under the direction of Michael Croft.
All this stemmed from Michael Croft's own teaching experience.
Back in 1954 two books were published one far better known than the other.
The first was about the experiences of Salvatore Alberto Lombino's 17 days as a teacher at Bronx Vocational High School while the second was based on Michael Croft's
first hand knowledge.
Lombino quit teaching and found success with the publication, as Evan Hunter, of 'The Blackboard Jungle'. But this would have repercussions for Michael Crofts' novel 'Spare The Rod'.
In 1955, 'The Blackboard Jungle' became a massive film hit in America - not only for the subject matter but because of the pounding rock 'n' roll theme song 'Rock Around The Clock' by Bill Haley & The Comets.
When the film was shown in South London's Elephant & Castle the teenage audience went into riot mode - ripping up seats and dancing in the aisles. A pattern that that was repeated where ever it was shown.
To many historians it is this movie that marks the start of the teenage rebellions of the 20th Century.
The movie was banned at the Venice Film Festival.
So, when British film makers, impressed by Michael Croft's novel 'Spare The Rod', wanted to turn it into a film opposition came from many angles. No one in the UK wanted a British 'Blackboard Jungle'. High on the list of objectors were the Education Authorities, the (then) London County Council and the Teaching Unions.
Impressed by the book singer, comedian and actor Max Bygraves invested his life savings into the making of the movie. Even then, in 1960, there was still opposition as the LCC would not allow any of it's schools to be used for location shots for the fictional Worrell Street School.
Despite opposition the film was made and released in 1961.
Most descriptions of the film begin by either saying that it is about juvenile delinquency or as an anti-corporal punishment. The elements are there but it is about a time - and one that I can relate to. The teachers at Worrell Street School are both real and symbollic. Max Bygraves plays Alan Saunders, a man looking for a meaningful job as a teacher following demob from the navy. He wants to do what comes with the job description and teach. In the opposite corner is Arthur Gregory, an authoritorian bully who will use the slightest excuse to ridicule or cane a pupil.
In the middle is the trying to keep everybody happy headmaster, Jenkins, (played by Donald Pleascence).
The class is made up of children who cannot understand why they need an education. As one child says 'What's the point. Me old man don't read or write and he makes 28 quid workin' on the docks. Bet that's more than you earn, sir.' And that was a truism of the time. But Saunders does engage with the class - and when he does use the cane he hates it because he is taking his anger out on those who did not deserve it. Well, one did but that's beside the point.
Many of the points of both 'Spare The Rod' and 'The Blackboard Jungle' both as books and movies parallel each other and it is intriguing to think that two authors miles apart managed to acheive this at the same time.
Of course, when the film version of 'Spare The Rod' was released it was known as the British 'Blackboard Jungle'. Differant education systems and different schools - North Manual Trades High School vs Worrell Street School - oceans apart.
Teenage pupils stealing a van and joyriding; a drawer full of knives confiscated from pupils - 'Spare The Rod' could have been filmed today.
On the other hand 'The Blackboard Jungle' has many imitators - 'Dangerous Minds' or 'Sister Act' come immediately to mind.
The closest thing to 'Spare The Rod' is E.R.Braithwaite's 'To Sir, With Love'. Odd casting in the film version of the latter as it starred Sydney Poitier who appeared in 'The Blackboard Jungle'.
Of the two authors, Evan Hunter went on to be a bestselling author both under his own name and as Ed McBain creator of 87th Precinct and Matthew Hope.
Michael Croft went in a different direction and died of a heart attack in 1986.

Friday 13 November 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: GOD'S LITTLE ACRE by Erskine Caldwell

This Friday's Forgotten Book first appeared on 'Open Range'.
It was not written by me but my granddaughter.

This book is set in a time of the Depression in America.
Ty Ty Walden believes that there is gold on his farm and for the past 15 years has been digging for it. The only thing that grows on his farm is holes.
He has one acre put aside for God with the promise that any profit that piece of land makes will go to God. As long as it is not the fortune in gold that he expects to make. So he keeps shifting the location of that acre.
At first he tries to be all 'scientific' in discovering the whereabouts of the gold. That is until he hears tell that there is a diviner down in the swamps. An albino who can point out where his fortune lay. So Ty Ty along with his sons, Buck and Shaw, head off to the swamps to hunt down and kidnap the albino, Dave Dawson.
While they are doing that Ty Ty sends his daughter, Darling Jill, off to fetch his son-in-law, Will Thompson, to give them a hand.
Helped by the overweight Pluto Swint, who is running for sheriff,
Darling Jill heads over to the mill town where the Thompsons live.
Now poor old Pluto has a thing for Darling Jill and will do anything to be near her but she prefers to be her own woman while, at the same time, shows that she likes a good time. Nor is she fussy.
Out of work Will Thompson turns up drunk and finishes up in bed with Darling Jill. Something that annoys her sister, Rosamund, who is Will's wife.
Will is reluctant to go back to Ty Ty Walden because he would rather go back to work. He wants to re-open the cotton mill, turn on the power and keep the looms going which would put the whole town back to work.
He gives in under pressure. But when they get home Darling Jill walks off with the albino, Dave Dawson. And Ty Ty gets a bit suggestive in his talk of Buck's wife Griselda.
While most of the book to this point is light and humourous at times from this point onwards it is a downhill ride to tragedy. Things heat up when Will Thompson comes to the decision that it is time to stop talking and do what he says. It is at the same time that it is discovered that Griselda doesn't always go shopping either and Ty Ty's lewd remarks have a consequence that leaves him in one of the holes he has dug for himself very much alone.
I was surprised to discover that this book was written in 1933 and that the publisher and author were taken to court for publishing a book with pornographic content. They also tried to have the book banned.
By today's standards it is sort of tame but I think that for the time it was pretty much way out there. The innuendo is very much to the point and as for sexual bits there is enough in the description to let the imagination do the rest.
I enjoyed the book. The style was easy to read and the characters of Ty Ty Walden and Darling Jill with her rebellious, mischievious antics really stood out. And I felt a bit sorry for Pluto Swint who had no one else to blame but himself.

Wednesday 11 November 2009


The Story With No Name reaches the 15th instalment over on Davy Crockett's Almanack (
This episode comes from western author, James J.Griffin and features a death in the desert.
Many western writers have taken part in the telling of this tale. They include I.J. Parnham, Jack Giles, Chuck Tyrell, Evan Lewis, Jack Martin, Richard Prosch, Robert S. Napier, Joseph A. West, James J. Griffin and more.
All the details and links can be found at Davy Crockett's Almanack.
And if you want to take part - then just stake your claim by leaving a comment on this week's episode.

Sunday 8 November 2009

The Best Of British: War Movies: DUNKIRK

This movie, directed by Leslie Norman, was released back in 1958.
It stars John Mills as Corporal 'Tubby' Binns.
Bernard Lee as Charles Foreman
Richard Attenbough as Holden
The film is a combination of Ewan Butler and J.S.Bradford's book 'Dunkirk' and Elleston Trevor's 'The Big Pick-Up'.
The film's subject is the evacuation of the British troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in May, 1940.
Binns and his group are cut off their lines highlighting the confusion of the times. Their officer has been killed and Binns has to decide what to do next. When he asks his best mate, Mike, what they should do he is reminded that he is the one who has the stripes. Binns response is that he didn't want them to which Mike responds that Binns has them and he has to take charge.
As the film progresses Binns comes to terms that he has the rank and takes on the burden of getting his men back to the ever decreasing British lines.
And even a place of safety is not what it seems when they link up with an isolated artillery battery which is bombed by Stukas. Nor is their help needed when they come across refugees cramming a main road and can only stand by and watch as the road is strafed by German fighters.
What is happening in France is not known across the Channel in England. Cynical journalist, Charles Foreman, writes optimistic pieces in his newspaper to prop up morale. Reality strikes when the Navy turn up and commandeer his motorboat. Protesting the Navy allows him to take his boat to Ramsgate where the stark reality of the situation hits him.
Along with him is the village's mechanic, Holden, a timid man who finds himself caught up in the whole thing. He would rather go home to his wife and new born baby.
After several arguements Foreman and Holden along with other boat owners are given permission to take their boats to France and the saga of 'the little ships' begins.
Holden is no hero but is indicative of the kind of people who took huge risks to acheive the evacuation.
Towards the end of the film the two stories merge when Foreman's boat develops a fault. He and Binns meet up on the beaches just before they are bombed during a church service. Holden fixes the fault and takes Binns and his men on board.
'Dunkirk' is possibly one of the best war movies ever made. There are no heroics; no banner waving; no limbs flying off - just a stark realism that tells the story of the evacuation of Dunkirk.
It is a story of men who did what had to be done at the time.

Friday 6 November 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: 'WINGS' DAY by Sydney Smith

For a change and as it is Rememberance Sunday this weekend I have gone with a non-fiction book that was published in 1968.
The book tells the story of Wing Commander Harry Melville Arbuthnot Day better known as 'Wings' Day.
'Wings' Day had just turned forty years of age when war broke out and joined the R.A.F. He flew Blenheim bombers, an aircraft that he was flying when he was shot down.
Captured by the Germans he was imprisoned in Dulag Luft 1
from there he made several escape attempts. During this time he met up with Jimmy Buckley and Roger Bushell with the result that an embryo escape organisation began to take shape.
Without losing track of the story and the various escape attempts 'Wings' Day finally arrived at Stalag Luft 111. Here he planned the most audacious plan of all time to pin down thousands of German troops as they hunted 250 prisoners looking to make a 'home run'.
As everyone knows 75 prisoners escaped from Stalag Luft 111 in the Great Escape - 50 would never return.
'Wings' Day was recaptured and after interrogation by the Gestapo was sent to Sachshausen Concentration Camp where he shared a cell with three fellow escapers. Even the Concentration Camp could not hold him.
Almost home, the Germans caught him and this time they held him in solitary confinement in a death cell in Dachau Concentration camp. Even then his ordeal was not over for with many that were considered valueable were taken to the Tyrol where they were held hostage. Day escaped again and in a stolen Volkswagen he reached the allied lines and told them of the hostage situation.
As a prisoner of war 'Wings' Day had planned the first successful escapers' tunnel; developed elaborate code networks with Britain; gathered an organisation which could make, 'win' or forge anything and pinned down thousands of German troops to security duty.
'Wings' Day was the only Prisoner Of War to be awarded the DSO for services during captivity.
He died in 1977.
The book itself is a great read. What they call a real page turner as the pace never lets up.
But it also serves as a reminder that there were those Prisoners of War both in Germany, Italy and Japan of all nations who did not come home.

Thursday 5 November 2009


Part 14 can be found at Davy Crockett's Almanack (
You will find all the links to the previous episodes there as well.
The story is open to anyone who wants to join in though part 15 is in the hands of western writer Jim Griffin.
One of the contrtibutors to 'The Story With No Name' and the forthcoming anthology 'A Fistful Of Legends' Chuck Tyrell has announced the publication of a long awaited new western novel 'Guns Of Ponderosa' will be released in February, 2010. This will be published by Robert Hale's Black Horse Western range.
Pre-orders can be taken at The Book Depository who delivers free worldwide.
Over on Open Range blog there is a review of the first book in the Caleb Thorn novels.
This short lived series was written by Piccadilly Cowboy writer L.J.Coburn.

Friday 30 October 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: BILLY by G.F.Newman

First published by New English Library in 1971.
This novel comes from the pen of G.F.Newman better known today as the creator of the BBC series 'Judge John Deed'.
'BILLY' is the kind of book that even the faint-hearted should read.
The story opens with neurosurgeon David Bray operating on the brain of a child injured in a car accident. An act that is significant as saving lives has become his top priority since the death of his own child. Work is his way of escape and as much as he loves his wife, Margaret, they are drifting apart.
Their lives are far apart from the squalor of Abbyn Road where 4 year old Billy and his 6 year old sister, Judith, live.
Their father is workshy and only rolls out of bed when the pubs open. And their mother is just as bad as she screams at her husband about the state of the place that she is too lazy to clean up.
Young as she is it falls to Judith to 'mother' Billy by making sure that he is fed even if the only food in the house is a loaf of bread that has been nibbled at by rats.
Billy's young life is spent wandering the streets and playing in the rubble of demolished buildings until Judith comes home from school. It is too traumatic to stay indoors for it is a place of violence.
One night the father returns home drunk as usual. He has got into a fight and lost which puts him in an even worse mood. When he trips over an oil can in the kitchen he knows who is to blame - and who is to blame for all his problems. He storms into the children's room and lashes out at Billy. He picks him up and shakes him and throws Billy back on to the bed.
A concerned nieghbour plucks up the courage to call the police.
An indifferant policeman arrives and enters the children's bedroom. It is at this point that the reader 'sees' the bloody carnage that has taken place and it has an impact. What went before does not prepare the reader for this.
Billy is in a serious condition and it is neurosurgeon David Bray who fights to save his life. The full tension of the operation is there right to the bitter end.
The parents are sent to prison and it would be easy to say that is the end of it - but there are those who do not learn their lesson and they know who to blame for what has happened to them.
Along the way the work of the NSPCC (National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Children) is highlighted. An organisation that, despite the odds against them, made a better job of it than the modern Social Services.
This book is not a good read - not in the accepted sense. Billy's story doesn't make for comfortable reading but it is compelling and very emotive.
A book that shouldn't be forgotten but re-issued.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

WILD BUNCH WEDNESDAY - Story With No Name part 13

The Story With No Name continues.
Parts 1-10 can be found at The Culbin Trail (
Part 11 can be found on Open Range (
Part 12 is at

The continuation of the story is open to anyone who wants to join in. Just leave a comment to claim your spot.

And so Jack Giles returns with Part 13


“Whoa, there,” Zack Roden frowned. “Who made you boss of this outfit?”
“Why don’t you just do as you’ve been asked?” Lola intervened, moving so that she placed her body between Roden and Walt. “Just take a look at them. Neither Walt nor Silas are in a fit state to run away.”
Roden nodded: “Then I’ll take a little insurance. Just hand over the map Walter and I’ll be on my way.”
Walt shook his head: “What happened to trust, Zack?”
“That was then,” Zack admitted, unable to make eye contact with his old friend. “Time changes things – now I don’t trust anyone.” He lifted his head to look directly at Walt. “This time – I will.” He paused, dramatically. “For old times and the fact that you won’t be going anywhere for a while. But, be warned, you betray my trust – I will hunt you down and kill you.”

The days passed into weeks as Walt Arnside healed wounds old and new. When he had become fit enough both he and Lola had sat outside talking over old times to the point that he believed that they had a future together. The more they talked so Walt became convinced that the supposed treasure meant nothing to Lola.
There were times when he could envisage a future where he settled on this tract of land and raised his own herd of cattle. Yet, he knew, that to realise that dream it would take hard cash and that was something that he did not have.
He knew that the answer lay in a share of that gold. All he had to do was convince Lola of his necessity in continuing with the venture.
The only doubt in his mind was Silas who had recovered from his wound. But it had left him aged and ashen skinned. He spent all day sitting by the open grate with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. It was as though the fight had gone out of him.
“Damn hell, how’d I get caught up in all this?” he demanded of the bucket that he was taking towards the pump.
A distant cough had him dropping the bucket as he spun around; his hand reaching for the butt of his pistol. Only to stop and grin at the sight that met his eyes.
Long legged and ungainly the camels looked but it was a sight to behold. It had been many years since he had laid eyes on the beasts and back a few years to the time that he had joined the US Camel Corps. It was a pity that the troop had been disbanded for he had a great love for the gentle creatures. Sure they had a bad side for they spat or bit out at those who did not treat them decently.
The lead camel knelt down close by the corral and Roden looked as though he was about to fall over the long neck. His body tilted at an angle of 45 degrees but the hook of his leg and hold on the saddle pommel kept his balance. With practised ease he dismounted and ambled towards Walt.
“Absolutely marvellous,” Roden grinned by way of greeting. “An experience to savour,"
“You brought company,” Walt observed as he spotted a turbaned head behind one of the camels.
“Oh, Hassan,” Roden replied. “Well, someone has to teach us how to handle those beasts.
Besides he comes strongly recommended by Hi Jolly.”
“What?” Walt gasped, recalling the troop’s lead camel driver, Hadji Ali.
“Didn’t go to Las Vegas, old chap,” Roden said, seriously. “I heard that old Hi Jolly was over in Tucson and I thought it might be better to hear things from the camel’s mouth – as it were. Which was just as well as it turns out. We have a problem – a big problem. There’s a chap called Vic Sawtell hunting camels.”
“Sawtell?” Walt queried. “You sure? The man’s a killer.”
“Exactly,” Roden agreed. “Seems he was waiting for someone in Bannon.”
“Silas,” Walt deduced.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Some News

At 1:20 pm today our 14th grandchild was born.
Our little granddaughter weighed in at 7lb 11oz and she is doing well.
I showed her the laptop and suggested that she make a start on a new western.
She took her time coming but despite it being a long week she has, finally, made it.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Brits Abroad: Holiday Destinations In The Wild West

In the 1800s it was the thing for the British to embark on Grand Tours. More often than not this usually meant a tour of Europe though some would venture further afield to Africa, India and Asia.
For Mrs F. D. Bridges her world tour began in 1878 and included the American west on her agenda of must see places. Upon her arrival at the bustling silver town of Leadville, Colorado she was met by a gun toting hotel tout who loudly yelled: "If any man says the Clarendon ain't a first class house, I'll put a bullet in him."
Mrs Bridges did, indeed, stay at the Clarendon and told her story in 'Journal Of A Lady's Travels Around The World' published in 1883.

However, Mr Colon South had a better experience when he arrived at a small town in Wyoming.
Here, as he reports in his book ' Out West: Or, From London To Salt Lake City And Back' published 1884, that his hotel boasted, amongst other things, 'Baths, gas, hot and cold water, laundry, telegraph, restaurant, fire alarm, bar-room, billiard table, daily papers, coupe, sewing machine, grand piano, a clergyman, and all other modern convenieces in every room.'

This and more can be found in an excellent little book written by Colin Rickard called 'Bowler Hats and Stetsons'. It is interesting as the author recounts those Brits who passed through the American West and those who stayed to make their mark like Ben Thompson, John Tunstall and some who came as a surprise.
Entertaining, interesting and well written and worth hunting down.

Wild Bunch Weednesday; Story With No Name

The weekly serial known as The Story With No Name has the 12th Episode at
This episode comes from the Black Horse Western writer Chuck Tyrell

To read the first ten episodes then is the place to go.
Part11 by Peter Averillo is to be found at

If you would like to be the author of Episode 13 then stake your claim here in the comments section or at Charlies blog.

Monday 19 October 2009

TERRY MURPHY - Western Writer

A Black Horse Western to be published 30th November 2009

With the relentless bounty hunter Durell close behind, the badly wounded outlaw Maury McRae reaches the small town of Gray's Flat. Nursed back from the verge of death by the beautiful Heather Cordell, McRae discovers what could have been. In need of money, his fast gun brings an offer of work from the ruthless rancher Max Nelson. Learning that his new job involves a serious threat to Heather and her brother is a dilemma for McRae. Trapped in a hopeless set of circumstances yet still hoping to start a new life, McRae sees that dream fade away as a highly dangerous situation develops.

It is good to see Black Horse Western writer, Terry Murphy back in the saddle. It has been five years since the last book by an author who first appeared in 1992 with 'The Forgotten Man'.
This is a tale of revenge by Deputy Joe Lynam who is seeking to bring to justice the men who killed the deputy's father figure and Town Marshall,Will Jordan. Lynam is joined in his quest by a mysterious stranger seeking to lay the ghosts of the past at rest. This character, Dan Kersley, is the forgotten man of the title.
In this book as with the others that followed are very strong on character and Terry Murphy's style is easy on the eye - not on the brain, though. This is because of the way that the pace builds up throughout.
Terry Murphy is one of the handfull of female western writers writing for Black Horse Westerns.
Teresa Murphy lives in Dorset and many of her westerns are on my bookshelf.

Sunday 18 October 2009


Sounds like a headline from The Sun but there you go.
What a day for Formula 1 motor racing. A story that would have been the stuff of a Hollywood script or a good novel about the sport - but real life has beaten them to it.
This time last year we were cheering on Lewis Hamilton as he did enough in the Brazilian Grand Prix to secure the Formula 1 Championship.
This year history repeated itself when Jenson Button did exactly the same thing when he finished 5th at the San Paulo racetrack.
Jenson Button became the 10th UK Formula One Champion.
The tenth since Mike Hawthorn won the first back in 1958.
This time last year Brawn GP had a car but no driver. Throughout the winter they built their car up. They found two drivers in Jenson Button and Rubens Barichello and hit the Australian Grand Prix running. Button took the Brawn car to six wins out of seven and himself well into the lead for the Championship.
Jenson Button appeared unbeatable until team Red Bull upped their game with drivers like Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Between them they pushed Button and Barichello to the limit.
It looked like Button and Rubens were going to dominate the driver's championship with Vettel in third place.
At the open to the Brazillian Grand Prix all Vettel had to do was finish first or second to leave the championship open to a decider at the final race of the season at Abu Dhabi. However the atrocious conditions during qualifying dropped Vettel to 15th position on the grid. Despite pleas that they had a grid it was decided to run the second qualifier that made for it's own drama as Button fell back to 14th position but left Rubens Barichello in 8th and better placed for a win on his home circuit and nudge Button out of the championship.
Race day, today, produced dry race conditions and with skillfull overtaking both Button and Vettel worked their way up the field. On the downside it was sad to see Barichello going backwards.
Jenson Button drove an excellent race to secure his Championship.
To complete the magic of the day Brawn GP won the Team Championship.

Saturday 17 October 2009


Gary Dobbs at The Tainted Archive has always thrown his weight behind the revival of the Western. He invented the term Wild West Monday and has made a petition available to be signed at his blog.
Back in the day Broken Trails was always behind this idea.
Gary Dobbs, in the past, has put his money where his mouth is by writing two best-selling westerns under the name of Jack Martin.
The first, 'The Tarnished Star' topped both the pre-order and bestseller western lists for months. His new book 'Arkansas Smith' not due out until March 2010 is already the number 1 in the pre-order charts.
This is itself prooves that things like self-promotion and ideas like Wild West Monday do work.
Broken Trails closed because there was a glitch that would not allow it to continue. The security certificate, according to Microsoft, was not valid for The only way it could be got into was by switching off the security system. But after fidling about for some time some friends found the problem and now the page can be accessed. Obviously.
The sad thing was that all this happened just weeks away from the first anniversary of the beginning of Broken Trails.
The big question is do you, the readers and followers, want Broken Trails back?

Friday 16 October 2009


The Bravados (1958)
Run time: 93 mins
Screenplay by Philip Yordan based on the book by Frank O'Rourke.
Directed by Henry King
Gregory Peck as Jim Douglass
Joan Collins as Josefa Valverde
Stephen Boyd as Bill Zachary
Albert Salmi as Ed Taylor
Henry Silva as Lujan
Lee Van Cleef as Alfonso Parral
Jim Douglass rides into the town of Rio Arriba just to see four men hang. After taking a look at the men who he doesn't really know he meets up with an old flame, Josefina, and they have a meal together. She is looking after her father's ranch but as soon as Jim tells her he has a daughter Josefina seems to lose interest. Later, though, she gets the whole story and she gets interested again.
Enter the hangman who joins Jim for a drink and they while away their time together. When it gets dark and everyone has gone to church the hangman goes into action. He stabs the lawman who shoots him dead but the four men get the keys and escape.
Jim Douglass becomes a part of the posse because he wants the four men dead for the rape and murder of his wife.
One by one he catches up with them and disposes of them until only Lujan is left. But when Jim catches up with him he finds out that everything is not as it had seemed to Jim.
This film has a plodding start but was worth staying with once the men escaped from jail. Most of the revenge killings are hinted at rather than shown. Each time he meets up with an outlaw he shows them a photo of his wife but he doesn't get the message that they have no idea of who she is.
This film may not appeal to everybody but worth, at least, a look.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

WILD BUNCH WEDNESDAY 3: That Pivitol Moment

Most western novels have that pivitol moment where the hero comes into his own. Sometimes it is right there at the beginning of the book and on others later on when he has to make that final decision.
In 'Duggan' (1987) the hero is the town drunk who is give the chance to redeem himself. What I like about this book is the character of Zack Duggan who experiences several pivotal moments that reflect real life in the decisions that he makes.
1987 also saw the publication of 'Coalmine'. In this book the main character is unnamed - just known as 'the hunter'. In his previous life he had been a mining engineer who is injured in a mining disaster and has lost the use of one arm. His girlfriend takes pity on him and gives him a job as a hunter of game for the restaurant attached to her father's hotel.
A telegram arrives out of the blue from an old friend asking him to meet him in the town of Standfast so the hunter goes to meet him.
He arrives too late for his friend, Charles Adams, has been attacked but the hunter manages to shoot down two of the gang. He has just found the dead body of Charles Adams.

"You fool," the hunter cursed. "You've been away too long."
He stood up, the rifle back in his hand as he turned to check the other two corpses before attending to that of Rosemary Adams. Leaning the rifle against the wheel, he bent down to straighten her dress, the skirt of which had rucked up about her knees. Having done this he straightened up to open up the tool-chest built into the side of the wagon and extracted a spade.
Then walked over to a soft patch of ground beneath the spreading branches of an old oak tree. He tested the ground with the blade, then began to dig awkwardly.
The dark earth yielded easily, taking him off balance as the blade sank in. He cursed his useless arm that prevented him from making a more thorough job of his grave-digging. This raised questions of doubt in his mind about any attempt to return to his former trade. The whole thing looked like a waste of time for prospecting and surveying took two hands to acheive.
Damn hell, his mind roared, as he slammed the spade back into the ground. Once he had been good at his job, and to hell with it, he was going to prove it again - one handed as he was. Never before had he felt such a surge of self-confidence well through his body. He had only himself to blame for the self-pitying fool that he had become. Instantly he resented himself for the way he had treated Helga and all the others who had tried to help over that hump, by giving good advice and encouragement. All of that he had taken to being given out of pity, when all the time they had been prodding him in the right direction.
Only now it had taken a double killing and a spate of grave-digging for him to understand the truth of the matter. The mental block had been of his own making. Now that he had driven it away, the rest was up to him.

Copyright Jack Giles 1987 and reproduced by permission of Robert Hale Ltd.

Check out the rest of the wild bunch:
I.J.Parnham at The Culbin Trail -
Terry James at Joanne Walpole -
Lance Howard at Dark Bits -
Jack Martin at The Tainted Archive -

Thursday 16 July 2009

Fridays Forgotten Books: CHOICE OF STRAWS by E.R.Braithwaite

Choice Of Straws was a novel published by The Bodley Head in 1965 and came out in 1968 as a Pan paperback.
It is an intriguing and clever book - the reason I say clever will become apparent later.
The story is told from the first person point of view by Jack Bennett who is the elder of identical twins. He and his brother, David, spend their free time coming down to London from their home in Upminster, Essex to go to the jazz clubs in Soho. Though there are times when they venture further afield for a little 'fun'. They hunt down solitary folk and beat them up - only when the story opens it is clear that this time they meet someone prepared to fight back. David is knocked to the ground and falls on broken glass. Enraged he rises up with a knife in his hand and stabs the victim. Wounded, David goes in search of a hospital and tells Jack to go home.
He is hardly through the front door and told his parents that David is seeing a girl home than the police are knocking on the door to tell them that David has been killed in a car crash and so has the driver who is revealed as a medical doctor, Bill Spencer.
At the inquest Jack meets Bill's sister, Michelle, who Jack finds to be a bit aloof. At first, he wants to knock her off her pedestal but as the story progresses he realises that he is truly attracted to her. This despite the fact that he is having a relationship with Ruth who he had met at a jazz club.
This is a journey of discovery for Jack who comes to terms with life against the background of the police investigation into the death of David and the doctor - and the murder of a black man in Stepney.
So to add some texture to what appears to be a straight forward story. Michelle is coloured but born in England as were her parents. Jack is white and this brings it's own complications.
What makes this book stand out is that there is no bio of the author with the paperback edition but it may be recalled is that E.R.Braithwaite wrote 'To Sir, With Love' recounting his experiences as a black teacher in an East London school.
In a 'Choice Of Straws' the whole story comes from the point of view of a white boy with such accuracy for the period that the bio of the writer is not important.
Just sad to say that while most of E.R.Braithwaite's books are still reprinted this book does not seem to have been republished after the 1968 paperback edition. So not just forgotten but overlooked as E.R.Braithwaite does not use this book to preach but to let the characters play out a naturally told story.
I found a paperback copy on and is a good book to pick up for it brings the youth of 1965 to life.

Wednesday 15 July 2009

WILD BUNCH WEDNESDAY: 2 - The Antagonist

Every protagonist has an antagonist - or a bad guy to bring to justice.
In 'The Man From Labasque' Pad McGhee is after a bunch of bandits who have massacred the inhabitants of a small town.
But in 'Lawmen' there is no antagonist as such despite the fact that they are hunting a rustler and Chris Ford is looking for the killer of his father. The antagonist is found within the environment of each man's story.
'Ten Thousand Dollar Bounty' plays with the idea of protagonist and antagonist and asks the question who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. On the one hand there is Matt Broker the bounty hunter and on the other there is Trade Bronson a notorious outlaw.
Today's excerpt comes from 'Ten Thousand Dollar Bounty'. The Lennoxville Bank has been robbed by Trade Bronson and his gang. Matt Broker and Sheriff Guthrie James have ridden out with a posse but Broker has 'found' tracks that indicate that the gang have doubled back and the posse have gone on the chase - a chase that Matt Broker does not join. Nor has Guthrie James been duped by Broker's ploy
"I'm not letting go," James announced. "I'm with you all the way."
"Sure you are," Broker agreed, swinging into the saddle and leaning forward, his weight resting on hands that cupped the pommel. "But you don't really want me to repeat myself."
"I get your meaning," James sneered, moving towards his own horse. "I'll stay out of your way. All I want to see is Bronson dead and you collect your bounty."
"And then?"
"I'm bringing you back," James stated, calmly, turning to face the hunter. "Two crimes were committed in my town today. One was a robbery. The other was the murder of two citizens - by you."
"Me?" Broker scowled. "I killed in self defence and you know it."
"Wouldn't have happened if you hadn't provoked a fight," James fired back, his eyes holding Broker's face and not his hands - and when he dropped his gaze there was a .45 pointed at him.
"Made it plain enough," Broker grinned at the other man's impotence. "Where I go - I go alone."
James glanced down the trail to the disappearing posse hidden by the dust cloud thrown up by their galloping mounts. He shook his head, then let it hang with despair as he realised that they were too far away to be of any help. And when the killing shot struck his body, they would not hear it.
But he did and he flinched. Then showed surprise when he realised that he had not been hit nor did he want Broker to see how scared he was. Only when he heard the loud slap of flesh on rock behind him did he move, his eyes widening as his gaze settled on the blood oozing hole where his horse's right eye had been.
"You bastard," Guthrie James screamed as the gun bucked in Broker's fist twice more.
This time to shatter the horse's skull, before shifting aim to the canteen which bounced under the impact and leaked precious water.
"See you around," Broker grinned, holstering the Colt. "But wherever, you'll only get there on foot."
"Damn you, Broker!" James screamed. "No horse. No water. You can't leave a man like this."
"I can," Broker stated. "I've left you with your gun and your life. Try an use the one and you'll wind up without the other.

Copyright Jack Giles 1986 and reproduced with the permission of Robert Hale Ltd.
Second hand copies can be found on Amazon.
Please check out the rest of the Wild Bunch at:

Monday 13 July 2009


Revenge At Wolf Mountain
Chuck Tyrell
Black Horse Western
Published 2006

Ex-lawman Garet Havelock and his wife Laura have come to Silver Creek with the intention of settling down and leaving the past behind them.
Leaving Laura to look after the homestead Garet goes off to bring home some horses and while he is away Laura gets a visit from local rancher, Loren Buchard, who tells her that he wants her land.
While in town she meets the daughter of another neighbour Rita Pilar and both she and Laura strike up a close friendship. On her return home she is brutaly raped and scarred - both mentally and physically - and seeks sanctuary with the Pilar family.
When Garet returns home Laura refuses to see him - she no longer feels that she is the woman that Garet married.
Anyone who thinks that this is a book about Garet Havelock going on a revenge trail will discover that this is also a book about the relationship between the ex-lawman and his wife that is the real centre piece for this novel.
Chuck Tyrell was born and bred in the Arizona countryside that embraces above and below the Mogollen Rim - country that he brings to life as the backdrop to this engrossing story.
To date Chuck Tyrell has only written three Black Horse Westerns - the others being 'Vulture City' and 'Trail Of A Hard Man' - but there are two more due for publication and one in the process of being written.

And a reminder that Wild Bunch Wednesday will be back with a look at the bad guys.

Thursday 9 July 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: OF LOVE AND VIOLENCE by Michael Fisher

Michael Fisher

Published: Constable & Co - 1971
New English Library - 1972

Adam Sinclair gives up his job with the UN in New York to escape the battlefield of his marriage. He seeks sanctuary on a Greek island with the idea of writing a book but the accusations, in the back of his mind, that he is incapable of loving dogs his every move.
The book is divided into two parts.
The first part recounts his memories of the past and opens up with a traumatic, for a young Adam, air raid on London. As he seeks the comfort of his mother's arms she sends him into the arms of his young nurse. It is not long before the reader is aware of the distance between mother and son. Likewise, his father expects him to be a man.
When his father, an army officer, is sent to North Africa Adam's mother decides to go with him while Adam is sent to stay, for his safety, with an aunt in South Africa. As the aunt and uncle have no children and, therefore, know nothing of children decide to place the young Adam in a boarding school.
Boarding school leads to University until, finally, he gets the job that he wanted with the UN where he meets Kim who is destined to be his wife.
Along the way there are encounters of the female kind together with the early fumblings and, eventually, the loss of virginity.
The second part is dominated by Kim's arrival on the Greek island. Although this part takes up the final third of the book it is quite a furious ride. At first, it appears that Kim is looking for a reconciliation with Adam but this is two insecure people being polite to each other. Just a bit of sparring before the main event - and this is the violence of the marital battlefield.
In 172 pages Michael Fisher takes the reader in to Adam Sinclair's loveless life and gains sympathy without getting mawkish. Certainly, Adam is polite and does care about the females that enter his life but it is all on the surface. Lust gets mistaken for love. And when he gets let down he hurts but again this is just a surface thing.
With his wife, Kim, he reaches the point where he expects to be let down. He's surprised when she agrees to marry him but has no expectations and immerses himself in his work.
There are a handful of sex scenes in this book but only a couple of explicit scenes. The first grope and the moment that he loses his virginity are used as a device for thereafter sex is only hinted at. In other words the scenes are for effect rather than used gratuitously.
I have not found any reprints of this book since the 1972 paperback - but there are some copies (second hand) on Amazon

Wednesday 8 July 2009


Wild Bunch Wednesday is the brainchild of Black Horse Western writer Terry James (aka Joanne Walpole).
Five writers listed below will be showcasing their work over the next few weeks.
Now the intention is to highlight either the latest book or a future publication.
In my case I have neither. 'Lawmen' was published about a year ago and Jed Midwinter has yet to draw a close on the latest book to go on my machine.
Still this week's subject is the hero.
The pictured books were published back in the 1980s and featured main characters that were flawed.
Poseidon Smith was a preacher with a past but found a faith and God working amongst the Apaches. He became the preacher in a small town but when a catastrophe happens that tests that faith he tries to make himself believe that he is God's instrument in wreaking vengeance.
Van Essen in 'Rebel Run' is different. He is a Confedrate soldier who believes that it is his duty to escape. He,also, has strong principles that no matter what is thrown at him he will not stir away from.
In 'Leatherface' the hero is young, good looking and has an answer to everything but he learns that vanity and vengeance come at a terrible price.
Just three types of hero or main characters that I have written about.
When it came to writing a new book with 'Lawmen' I found myself writing a book with two heroes. Two lawmen who share their time through the book. Sam Ward, the ageing lawman and his younger deputy, Chris Ford who are chasing down a rustler. They arrive in the railroad town of Dennett Junction and have just discovered that there was an ambush set up for them.
Extract from 'LAWMEN':
" And you?" Chris demanded. " Where were you?"
" Right here," The barkeep shrugged. "Got no other place to be. 'Sides, the feller at the window had his gun aimed at me. I wasn't goin' to risk gettin' killed."
" Yeah, right," Chris responded, sarcastically. "So where are they now?"
The barkeep just shrugged: "How'd the hell I know? They just lit out and ain't come back."
"They - they said something about going to - to the livery," the surveyor offered, stumbling over his words.
As he spoke so Sam came through the doors and, like Chris before him, took in his surroundings before bellying up to the bar.
"Two beers," was all he said before turning to Chris. "You going to join me? Or are you going to stand there keeping the cards close to your chest?"
"There's a couple of hopefuls checking us out," Chris told him. "I think we need to deal with that problem before we do anything else."
Sam sighed: "Got a location?"
"Livery - maybe."
Sam shook his head: "If that's where they are they could've taken us both out when we came back from the station."
"Maybe," Chris nodded. "But I think they want to be sure they get us both together."
Sam pushed his duster away from his hip, exposing the holstered pistol. While he was doing that Chris slid his own gun out, checked it and held it against his side. He was no quick-draw artist and preferred his gun to be in his hand for instant use should it prove necessary.
"Ready?" Sam asked, with a slight cock of an eyebrow.
"As I'll ever be," Chris confirmed, taking a step towards the door.
Copyright Jack Giles - 2008 and Robert Hale Limited
Next up will be a look at the bad guys. In the meantime check out these other writers.
Lance Howard at Dark Bits (
Terry James at Joanne Walpole (
I.J.Parnham at The Culbin Trail (
Jack Martin at The Tainted Archive (

Sunday 5 July 2009


BLACK HORSE WESTERN published 2005

For five years Abe Gibson has lived a peaceful life. In the past he had done things that were not exactly downright illegal but he had made enough money to buy the Dead Ringer saloon and settle down. He had made a few friends and was hoping that the owner of the local eatery, Martha, would settle down with him.
However, his peace is shattered when wanted killer, Ethan Grant, walks into his saloon with a couple of pouches of gold. Sheriff Mat Hughes and Deputy Burt Lister arrive on the scene intending to make an arrest but Grant has other ideas and is gunned down.
No sooner is he buried than Laura Hollister turns up claiming to be the dead man's fiance. Burt Lister is quick to take her to the grave where he has no qualms in boasting of his acheivements. Though he's taken by surprise when she promptly shoots herself in the head.
Meanwhile Abe Gibson has taken himself for a ride and finds a semi-concious man who has quite a tale to tell. When he's been checked over by the Doctor the man, Zeke Kincaid, is hired by Abe as the saloon's piano player.
This is the opener to a real page turner of a book that is full of twists and turns that involves the death of a rancher, a gold mine and the town's rich entrepeneur, Grover Wilkins who may or may not be on the side of the angels.
Clay More brings his characters to life that has the reader rooting for the good guys and wondering how the bad guys plans are going to fall apart.
To date Clay More has written a total of five Black Horse Westerns:
Raw Deal At Pasco Springs (2004)
Nemesis For The Judge (2004)
A Rope For Scudder (2006)
Stampede At Rattlesnake Pass (2007)
Just hope that there will be more.

And don't forget that other writers will be riding for the Black Horse Western brand on Wild Bunch Wednesday.

Saturday 4 July 2009

TODAY - 4th July

All the best for the 4th July to all the American readers.

As for me I shall be looking for some American choppers at The Ace Cafe Custom Bike Show this afternoon.

Friday 3 July 2009

IT'S ONLY A RUMOUR but.................

On the rumour mill are hints that Stephen Spielberg and Ron Howard are making a western.
Cowboys and Indians and......aliens. The idea of cowboys and indians joining forces to fight an alien swarm sounds a bit far fetched.
On the other hand if the film is a success and leads to more westerns being made then I guess I won't protest too loudly.


Over the next few weeks a few Black Horse Western writers are going to show the rest of the world what we do.
You can find out more at Howard Hopkins site Dark Bits. He writes under the name of Lance Howard.
Then there is Jo Walpole who writes as Terry James and who's idea this was.
Jack Martin (The Tainted Archive) will be there.
And a couple of others will be along for the ride.
I will be opening up my own books.

The western is beginning to shrug itself out of hibernation but the way I see it is that now that the genre is being noticed we western writers can't just stop there.
The Black Horse Western novels are unique for they are published by the only British publisher of westerns Robert Hale Ltd. So when you ride for a brand you promote it.
And that is what I will do for Wild Bunch Wednesday.