Sunday 31 May 2009


Today someone hacked into Broken Trails and commented on just about everything in gibberish.
I've had to put a comment moderator on - something that I did not want to do as I wanted people to feel free to comment as they liked. Not sit at my computer and censor comments. Gives people the impression that if they say something that I don't agree with that I won't publish it.
Broken Trails wasn't built that way.
Broken Trails - in my wife's words - is like a magazine. That was the original intention - to write about all sorts of things and, sometimes, use a theme or a trail if you like.
At the moment I am not sure whether to continue with this blog - I don't know what damage this hacker has done - or whether to start afresh or what.
For the time being there will be no more posts until I have thought things through.
In the meantime - Thank You to everyone who has followed or read my blogs.

Thursday 28 May 2009


Go to the link at The Tainted Archive and sign the online petition - momentum is growing towards Wild West Monday on the 1st June. Be part of it and sign the petition and e-mail publishers.


This is the real Jack Sheppard (1702 - 1724)
WHERE'S JACK? the 1969 movie is a good mix of fact and fiction that stars Tommy Steele as Jack Sheppard and Stanley Baker as Jonathan Wild.
Set in the London of the 1720s the movie, directed by James Clavell, tells the story of an apprentice locksmith who takes up housebreaking to prevent his brother, Tom, from hanging.
Against him is Jonathan Wild, the thief taker and a man who's testimony can prevent Tom Sheppard from the gallows.
It soon becomes clear that Wild is not all on the side of law and order but as big a thief as anyone he turns in. It is not long before Wild realises that Jack Sheppard is not only a rival but a threat to his position.
Jack Sheppard is arrested and locked up in Newgate Prison - but not for long as he escapes. Jack Sheppard becomes the reason for a wager amongst the aristocracy that results in The Lord Chancellor losing his sumptious London home to Lady Darlington. Once again, Jack Sheppard winds up in chains in Newgate Prison - and escapes.
King George the First now wagers that Jack Sheppard could steal his Lord Chancellor's chain of office. Jack Sheppard takes up the challenge but falls into a trap laid by Jonathan Wild. Back to Newgate but no chance to escape this time except by the hangman's noose.
The final scenes are reminiscent of George Cruikshanks' illustrations to the novel 'Jack Sheppard' by William Harrison Ainsworth.
Tommy Steele gives an excellent performance as Jack Sheppard. With his cockney accent and the humour in both his face and lines he really does bring Jack Sheppard to life. As an antagonist Stanley Baker makes Jonathan Wild a fearsome character.
I have a feeling that this film never made it to VHS and there is not a DVD available.
The background to this story began in 1720 with the bursting of The South Sea Bubble which brought about a financial meltdown. The banks made heavy losses, firms went out of business, unemployment rose sharply and the Government of the time was found to be full of corrupt politicians. (Does this scenario sound familiar? History repeating itself).
Thieving became the main occupation and something had to be done about it.
Enter Jonathan Wild who had been born in Wolverhampton in 1683. He had done time in the Debtor's Prison and re-paid his debts by dubious means and was an expert thief. Who better to 'police' London? Jonathan Wild set himself up as the Thief Taker General of London and was paid £40 a head for every thief that he brought to justice. This bounty eventually rose to £140 a head mainly at his instigation - a good price to pay seeing as Wild was making a name for himself and taking the attention away from the current Government problems.
Wild was a thief - he bought from thieves and returned stolen goods to their owners for reward.
Jonathan Wild was the most feared man in London.
The real Jack Sheppard was born in 1702 in Spitalfields in London's East End. Son of a carpenter, he was apprenticed to be one too. London even in the best times was a hard place to live and it was not long before he was making easy money by thieving. He also found himself a 'wife' Elizabeth Lyon known as Edgworth Bess and a partner in Joseph 'Blueskin' Blake.
Yet Jack Sheppard did not make his name as a thief but for his exploits. When first captured he was imprisoned in St. Giles from where he escaped. When he was recaptured both he and Edgworth Bess were imprisoned and, because they were husband and wife, shared the same cell from which they escaped. This had to have taken some doing for Jack Sheppard was only 5'4" and slim build while his wife made two of him and taller. A few more robberies later and Jack was in Newgate and out again to commit further crimes that put him back into Newgate and out again to go on a holiday with Bess.
Quiet days in the country were not for Jack Sheppard for within a couple of weeks he was back causing havoc.
The thing is that Jack Sheppard was becoming something of a legend that was not doing much good for the feared theif taker, Jonathan Wild's, reputation. Jack's antics were an embarassment to Wild.
Jack Sheppard was taken back to Newgate and placed in an open cell and chained with a 24 hour watch. The next time he left Newgate, Jack Sheppard went straight to Tyburn and hanged. He hung for 15 minutes before he was cut down. Hanging in those days was a straight slow strangulation - not the kind where the knot was strategicly placed so that the neck snapped causing almost instant death.
When Sheppard was cut down the crowd took control of the body intending to save him and passing the body to where it was hoped that surgeons would revive him. A riot broke out as troops tried to move the crowd. When the streets cleared all that were left were the unrecognisable, mutilated remains of Jack Sheppard who's body was buried at St. Martin's in the Field. Or was it?
Is the end of the film 'Where's Jack?' fact - or fantasy.
In 1725 Jonathan Wild was hanged for theft and the evidence against him came from two men that he had hanged. One was Joseph 'Blueskin' Blake and the other - Jack Sheppard.
The life of Jack Sheppard was chronicled in The Newgate Calendar and books by Daniel Defoe and William Harrison Ainsworth - the latter, when serialised, upset Charles Dickens who saw interest in his serialised 'Oliver Twist' wane as readers sought out the adventures of Jack Sheppard.
Defoe also wrote about Jonathan Wild as did Henry Fielding author of 'Tom Jones'.
Jack Sheppard even gets a mention in Bram Stroker's 'Dracula'.
Tom Sheppard, Jack's brother, was sent for transportation to Virginia in the USA.
It is interesting that when the outlaws Frank and Jesse James wrote to the 'Kansas City newspaper they signed their letters 'Jack Sheppard'. While two of the original members of the James-Younger gang were George and Oliver Sheppard.
Sandra and I went to St. Martin's In The Fields to see if we could find Jack Sheppard's last resting place only to be told 'it is not his remains that were buried here.'
So - where's Jack?

Wednesday 27 May 2009

WILD WEST MONDAY 3 - Penguin Books part 2

Just so that everybody knows - this is the e-mail that I sent to Penguin Books today - if anyone else wants to follow suit address your e-mail to Customer Services as it seems that Penguin Books have a typo error in their FAQs for International Sales.
So in support of Wild West Monday or just for the sake of putting westerns out there on to bookstore and supermarket shelves let us inundate Customer Services at Penguin Books. Let us make sure that this problem does not go away.


Wed, May 27, 2009 11:09 am

So I'm standing on Exeter station just like Alan Lane back in 1935 - I
want something to read on my way home to London.
I fancy a piece of 'pure escapism...the best that the genre has to
offer' (your publicity).
OK I fancy a western - maybe, Mike Jameson or Lyle Brandt. Or Peter
Brandvold or one of Jon Sharpe's 'The Trailsman' series.
Well I should be able to find one of these books on the shelves because
they are published by Penguin books and they publish 'pure escapism
...the best that the genre has to offer'.
Well, maybe, if I was standing on the station at Exeter, New Hamphire, USA
I would find what I was looking for - but not Exeter, Devon, UK. In fact
not anywhere in the UK.
Well, I could buy on line for books that 'there are no demand for'.
That wouldn't have been much good to Alan Lane in 1935 anymore than it
is to me in 2009. Not when you are standing on Exeter station looking
for something to read on the train to London.
Now, by my reckoning, Penguin Books publish a large volume of western
output. The list comprises of a number of well known names and include
Jon Sharpe's 'The Trailsman' series; the 'Longarm' series; 'The
Gunsmith' series and Jake Logan's 'Slocum' series - along with authors
like Marcus Galloway, Peter Brandvold well you know that this list goes
on - authors and series that are collected by western readers in the UK
- but at a price.
All these books cost about the price 'of a packet of cigarettes' -
unless you buy on line then you are looking at the price of two packets
of cigarettes and deny the proposed purchaser the opportunity to
So my proposal is simple - you follow the same principles that Alan Lane
saw back in 1935. You put the Westerns into supermarkets and bookstores.
That way I and many like me can browse and buy - you in turn make lots of
money and everybody is happy. Simple economics.
Ray Foster

Tuesday 26 May 2009

WILD WEST MONDAY 3 - Penguin Books

Has anyone read the 'mission statement' by Penguin Books?
In a nutshell it begins: " He just wanted a decent book to read . . . " Alan Lane a director of Bodley Head publishers was standing on Exeter station back in 1935 looking for something to read on his journey back to London but there was nothing there - just magazines and poor-quality paperbacks.
But Alan Lane knew that there was a vast reading public who could not afford hardbacks so he staked everything on a new company - Penguin Books.
Alan Lane's vision was that paperbacks should be just not sold in bookshops but chainstores and tobacconists and cost no more than the price of a packet of cigarettes.
Times have changed both the price of cigarettes and paperback books have gone up.
"So wherever you see the little bird (Penguin) - whether it is on a piece of prize winning literary fiction or a celebrity autobiography, political tour-de-force or historical masterpiece, a serial killer thriller, reference book, world classic or a piece of pure escapism - you can bet that it represents the very best that the genre has to offer."

That final quote is from the Penguin piece of publicity.
However, Penguin Books do not publish all their pieces of pure escapism in the UK. Penguin books publish Westerns in the USA but NOT the UK. They might say that Westerns can be bought on-line but that is not the point. If Alan Lane was around today, standing on Exeter station he would find his choice limited, especially if he fancied a western, he would not be able to stand there and browse - which is what most people want to do. He could not indulge in a piece of pure Western escapism that represented the best that the genre has to offer.
Penguin Books publish: Jon Sharpe's 'The Trailsman' series - Tabor Evans 'Longarm' series - Jake Logan's 'Slocum' series - J.R.Roberts 'The Gunsmith' series.
Other western authors include: J. Lee Butts, Lyle Brandt, Peter Brandvold, Robert B. Parker,
Dusty Richards, Mike Jameson, Gary Franklin, Jory Sherman, Marcus Galloway, Luke Cypher, Frank Roderus, Johnny D. Boggs, Charles G. West, Wolf McKenna, Jack Ballas and Ralph Compton.
Some of these authors I have heard of - some I haven't for the simple reason that Penguin have not put these books on the UK bookshelves. I, like many others, have not had the opportunity to browse through these books.
And to quote from 'the Dominic Fox scene' blog: " If those books are only published in America what about the American authors? I mean if their books aren't sold in the UK then they are losing out on royalties - aren't they? Maybe they should be asking their publishers why (they aren't sold in the UK) as well" The bit in brackets was added by me.
So - how can westerns get into the stores and be put on bookshelves when the paperback publishers are not making those books available in the first place?

Monday 25 May 2009


This week all my blogs will rotate around Tommy Steele.
He was born as Thomas William Hicks in 1936 in South London's Bermondsey.
Tommy Steele rose to fame in the rock 'n' roll era and played from time to time with Wally Whyton's skiffle group The Vipers.
While serving in the merchant navy he stopped over in America and heard the rock music that was growing over there with the likes of Buddy Holly.
Fronting a group Tommy Steele and The Steelmen he charted in the 1956 UK charts with 'Rock With The Cavemen' but it was his number one 'Singin' The Blues' that made his name. The previous week Guy Mitchell had reached the same position with the same song - but it is Tommy Steele's version that is remembered.
Tommy Steele showed his versitality by becoming an actor - playing himself in 'The Tommy Steele Story' and then such movies as 'The Duke Wore Jeans', 'Tommy The Toreador' and the musical 'Half a Sixpence'.
Songs from these films are included on the above CD along with some of the humourous songs like 'What A Mouth (What A North And South).
Singing is how most people remember Tommy Steele but this was a man who could turn his hand to anything. In the 1980s he wrote a novel called 'The Final Run' about the events leading up to Dunkirk. In Liverpool there is a sculpture of Eleanor Rigby - the sculptor was Tommy Steele.
He seems to have done a lot in his, currently, 72 years of life.
Coming up this week: A look at his movie 'Where's Jack?' and his autobiography 'Bermondsey Boy'.


Tee up to the latest short story at Beat To A Pulp by David Cranmer 'Vengeance At The 18th'.

Saturday 23 May 2009

IN MY SOLITUDE by David Stuart Leslie

In My Solitude by David Stuart Leslie was published in 1960 and, later, in 1963 published by Pan Books as 'Two Left Feet' as a tie-in to the Michael Crawford movie.
Both the book and the author David Stuart Leslie should be better known for this novel is full of observational description of the period - the very early sixties.
The story is about nineteen year old Alan Crabbe who lives in the North London area known as Camden Town.
The story opens in the local cafe known as Joe's although the owner's name is Horace and despite the sign outside that says 'Regent Refreshment Rooms'.
A place of steamy windows, drab curtains like a funeral parlour and the kind of tables and chairs that get broken in saloon bar fights in cowboy films.
Into the cafe comes a new waitress, Eileen, who looked 'a bit like Ava Gardner at a quick glance, only younger, but with the same long dark hair'.
Eventually, they get together and Alan introduces her to his small circle and invokes scenes of teenage angst when one of his mates, Ronnie, takes a shine to her.
Into the mix comes Beth Crowley. Though sentimental, she is also tough in her approach to life - characteristics that Alan Crabbe lacks. But this story has a dark undercurrent that sees her father arrested for something that is hinted at - and like the hero it is left to the reader to draw their own conclusions.
Both relationships with Eileen and Beth are fated but leaves Alan with a different philosophy to life.
'In My Solitude' does not have just a good story to tell but is also character driven and it is observations of life at the time that makes this book worth reading.
What puts it amongst my favourites is the part where 'he'd write it all down......and it would look like a story'. Then 'Reading over what I'd written, it's made me realise how things changed......Elvis is swinging his pelvis in khaki and Raymond Chandler is dead. Everything changes so quickly it makes you wonder if it was worth all that sweat, learning the latest jive or the latest hit song when, suddenly, it's old fashioned and no one wants to know.'
Life goes on.
The movie was okay and if it came out on DVD I would get it - well, there are some performances by the Trad Jazz band Bob Wallis and his Storyville Jazzmen for starters.
My copy is old and tatty and well read and I still agree with the Daily Express comment 'Fings as they are. . . Fresh observation, no self pity, no phony sociology, rough and squalid, yet redeemed often by sardonic Cockney humour. A story as convincing as it is readable'.
Who could ask for more?

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Lee Walker - Western Writer

A new blog on westerns and the writing process comes from Lee Walker. His first Black Horse Western 'Gun Law' will be published in December 2009. Go to his site to read an except.
He can be found in the panel to the left or go to

Tuesday 19 May 2009


This week's forgotten or obscure spaghetti western is the 1971 movie 'The Price Of Death' which was written and directed by Lorenzo Gicca Palli.
The local saloon come gambling den is robbed by three masked men two of whom are killed by the leader.
Suspicion falls on the unlikeable Chester Conway (Klaus Kinski) who is found in possession of a fistful of bloodstained dollars. Conway claims to have an alibi but refuses to say where he was and with whom.
Fortunately, Conway's lawyer believes him and, so too, does the manager of the saloon who puts up the money for the lawyer to hire a private investigator.
Enter Mr Silver (Gianni Garko) who does the sort of things that private eyes do. He investigates and uncovers a nest of hypocasy while all around him the body count begins to rise.
Garko carries some of the Sartana character into his portrayal of Mr Silver while Klaus Kinski does most of his acting from behind bars.
What seems to have caused this western to 'disappear' is because of various purists - it didn't appeal to followers of the western and had none for those who liked private eye movies. Nor can I say that this movie was western noir but the mix made for an interesting movie.

Monday 18 May 2009


Edwin Pearce Christy (pictured right) was born in Philadelphia in 1815 and began his musical life in Buffalo, New York in 1842 where he formed a troupe of musical performers called The Christy Minstrels. These blacked up minstrels sang folk and negro spirituals to audiences at such New York venues as Palmo's Opera House and Mechanics Hall.
In 1847 they performed a benefit for Stephen Foster in Cincinatti, Ohio who was so impressed that he sold the song 'Old Folks At Home' to Christy for his exclusive use.
Edwin Christy retired from the group in 1855 but remained their manager. He opened up and managed several theatres in various cities that were known as 'Christy's Opera Houses' but the advent of the American Civil War made him fear that there would be financial problems ahead. As a result he committed suicide in 1862.
The Christy Minstrels did survive and continued to perform until 1921. The Minstrels provided a platform for the careers of some like Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson who played Christy in the 1939 movie 'Swanee River'.
Fast forward to the 1960s and the vision of Randy Sparks. Folk music was going through a come back with groups like The Kingston Trio and Brothers Four so it was natural to Randy Sparks to bring new life to this type of music. He formed the fresh faced The New Christy Minstrels around 1961 by combining his trio with that of the Inn Group with whom he cut an album 'Presenting The New Christy Minstrels: Exciting New Folk Chorus'. The album did well spending almost two years in the Billboard Chart and for which they won a Grammy.
Despite this success the Inn Group left the Minstrels and Randy Sparks went on the hunt for new performers. Amongst the new comers were Barry McGuire and Gayle Caldwell the addition of which would change the voice of the Minstrels.
Live shows were foot stamping, hand clapping affairs for the music was upbeat and when they appeared on stage, in 1965, at 'Sunday Night At The London Palladium' they gained a new audience from the UK.
By 1966 the group began to break up and new blood was brought in. Although they still played the old songs the Minstrels were moving in a different direction.
Like the original Minstrels so The New Christy Minstrels would provide a springboard to fame for some of it's members. Barry McGuire with a number one with 'Eve Of Destruction'. Gene Clark with The Byrds, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition and Kim Carnes of 'Bette Davis Eyes' fame. One singer, Karen Black, did not continue with this career but found fame in the movies 'The Exorcist' and 'Five Easy Pieces'.
The New Christy Minstrels though are best remembered for that period of the 60s when they produced songs like 'This Land Is Your Land', 'Green Green' and the comic 'Three Wheels On My Wagon'. And the folk songs about another time with 'Ramblin'' and 'The Drinking Gourd' a road map for slaves escaping from the South to the North.
The featured CD gives the listener a taste of The New Christy Minstrels but other CDs are around that are a bit more definative.

Sunday 17 May 2009


This week's offering comes from John Weagly. Certainly a story to get your teeth into with 'Oral Eruptions'. And I liked the tweak on an old Shangri-La's hit.

Friday 15 May 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book - Gun Feud by Frank Arnside

Frank Arnside
Black Horse Western
Published 2001
So why a Black Horse Western as Friday's forgotten book? Mainly, because there are some good titles and authors out there who are worth a visit.
Also, we are in the middle of the build up towards the June Wild West Monday.
Between the covers of 'Gun Feud' is a book that was originally published back in 1956 by J.S.Marlowe and copyrighted to A A Glynn. It is, also, good to see these old titles get a 'fresh' outing.
'Gun Feud' rang bells with me as soon as I started reading it and I am pretty certain that I read the book in my younger years.
Will Callender rides out of Arizona looking to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of Cy Tambaugh a greedy landowning cattleman. Tambaugh has surrounded himself with hired guns and other hardcases with orders to remove Callender. But Callender has a secret and for as long as he has it Tambaugh has no choice but to keep him alive.
Both protagonist and antagonist are well drawn to the point that the reader gets drawn in to this well constructed novel. Interest is never lost in this action packed page turner.

Wednesday 13 May 2009


The spaghetti western maintained several series characters like The Man With No Name trilogy, the Sabata trilogy, Django and Trinity.
Probably the least remembered of these were the five Sartana films.
Gianfranco Parolini had liked the name Sartana who had been played by Gianni Garko in a film called 'Blood At Sundown'. But the Sartana movies have no connection to that one.
Parolini was a great James Bond fan and his vision for the character of Sartana was in the role as a kind of James Bond of the west.
Sartana (played in the first four movies by Gianni Garko) dresses in black and is a suave frequenter of the gambling tables. He is armed with a derringer with amazing stopping power, a watch and chain that are made of lead, a long range rifle, a Colt Peacemaker, cigars that are sticks of dynamite and a set of sharp edged playing cards that can be used Shuriken-style. Other 'gimmicks' crop up during the movies.
Parolini was only involved with the first movie and it impressed the producer Alberto Grimaldi who asked Parolini to direct the Sabata trilogy.
Direction for the remaining Sartana movies passed to Guiliano Carnimeo (aka Anthony Asquith) and George Hilton took over the role of Sartana in the final story in the series.
Sartana is not a character out for revenge or reward but for justice. He only kills those that he believes deserve to die. Despite this the movies boast a high body count.
Like Django, Sartana spawned several imitations that saw Sartana paired with Django.
The official series are:
If You Meet Sartana Pray For Your Death (1968)
I Am Sartana Your Angel Of Death (1969)
Have A Good Funeral My Friend - Sartana Will Pay (1970)
Sartana's Here - Trade Your Pistol For A Coffin (1970)
Light The Fuse - Sartana Is Coming. (1971)
The first movie was released as Sartana and the character has a cult following in Europe.
This series is out on DVD.

Monday 11 May 2009

Western Film Themes

One important element in a film is the music. It sets the scene, heightens the tension and plays with our expectations.
Sometimes it is the music that is remembered rather than the film as in the case of 'Unchained Melody'. Or that piece of music that accompanies the London Marathon - Ron Goodwin's 'The Trap' - the main title theme to a film with Oliver Reed and Rita Tushingham.
The album featured - Western Film Themes: The Essential Album - is a good blend of film themes with some tracks appearing for the first time as far as I know. None of the tracks come from the original soundtracks but performed by the City Of Prague Philharmonic and The Philharmonia Orchestras and, in most cases, sound as though they came from the film.
Some of the titles are predictable like 'The Big Country' and 'The Magnificent Seven' and some not so like the theme to John Wayne's 'Stagecoach' and 'She Wore A Yellow Ribbon'.
Most composers are represented like Elmer Bernstein, Jerome Moross, Jerry Fielding, John Barry and Ennio Morricone.
If this album has a failing then it is in the reproduction of Morricone's music especially 'The Good, The Bad And The Ugly'.
Unlike other film music compilations this one has a few of the old TV themes 'The High Chaparral', 'Wagon Train', 'The Wild Wild West' and 'The Lone Ranger'. Modern TV themes are there with 'Lonesome Dove' and 'Monte Walsh'.
Over all this is a pleasent little 2CD album and for a fiver it's good background music - or just for sitting there and listening to.

Sunday 10 May 2009

Guns For San Sebastian

GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTIAN was a 'spaghetti' western made in 1968. It starred Anthony Quinn, Charles Bronson and Anjanette Comer.
Directed by Henri Verneuil to a script written by Serge Gance.
What made this movie different from other 'spaghetti' westerns is that it was filmed in Durango, Mexico rather than the usual Spanish locations.
The story is simple and set in the mid-1700s.
The outlaw Leon Alastray has escaped capture by the Mexican army and is given sanctuary by a priest (played by Sam Jaffe). When the priest is killed the villagers of San Sebastian, who are hiding in the hills, believe that Alastray is their new priest which Alastray strongly denies. Then a 'miracle' occurs and Alastray finds himself in a role that he does not want.
The village itself is under constant raids by a bunch of Yacqui indians led by Golden Lance and in an attempt to make peace Leon Alastray makes a gift to the Yacqui chief of a white stallion. Yet, all the while he is instilling in the villagers a belief in themselves.
Against Alastray is a half-breed known as Teclo. At first, his motives seem unclear but it soon emerges that he's all out for himself and persuades Golden Lance to return the stallion - and battle commences.
Anthony Quinn as Leon Alastray and Charles Bronson as Teclo give a good account of their roles. While Anjanette Comer takes the role of Kinita, Alastray's love interest who knows that Alastray is not a priest.
The strength of the film lies in the fact that the essence of the book 'A Wall For San Sebastian' remains within the film - maybe, that was why the author did not object too loudly at the changes - though the character of Teclo does not appear in that book but was added into the script.
Leon Alastray is a 'free spirit', an outlaw, a womaniser and likes his drink yet he is drawn into a world that reveals another side to his character and his role as spiritual adviser does not come easy.
'Guns For San Sebastian' has one of the finest Ennio Morricone scores that captures the atmosphere of the film.
Yet this movie has a cult following of its own and there is a small but growing demand for a DVD release. It gets regular showings on TCM though and, in my opinion, worth checking out.

Nik Morton at BEAT TO A PULP

A real treat in store at BEAT TO A PULP where Black Horse Western writer Nik Morton tells a chilling tale of a new kind of legal loan sharks. In 'Spend It Now, Pay Later' Nik gives us tomorrow's headlines today.
Also, check out his new Black Horse Western to be published on the 29th May - 'THE $300 MAN' by Ross Morton.

Friday 8 May 2009

Fridays Forgotten Book - A Wall For San Sebastian by William Barby Faherty

William Barby Faherty is a Jesuit priest who is also a historian. He has written many non-fiction works to do with the Catholic Church and its history.
As far as I know 'A Wall For San Sebastian' is his only fiction work.
Published in 1962 the book tells the story of a soldier who has become a Jesuit friar who's first post is that of the church of a small Mexican village.
When he arrives the villagers are in hiding and the village itself shows the signs of devastation that has followed in the wake of a Commanche attack.
The immediate needs are to repair the mission and prepare the village against further Commanche attacks. This he approaches as a soldier rather than as a man of God. As tension mounts so does the conflict within his own soul.
A very good character study without any sermonising about what is right - more to do with human nature.
The book was filmed as 'Guns For San Sebastian' about which I shall write next week. Although William Barby Flaherty did visit the set he was not happy with some of the changes that were made to the book but .......well, you'll have to wait for part two.

Thursday 7 May 2009

Deaf Smith And Johnny Ears

This movie was made in 1973 and directed by Paolo Cavara.
With the mass of spaghetti westerns that flooded the market in the 1960s and 70s some got lost and forgotten never to re-appear.
'Deaf Smith And Johnny Ears' is one of a few that I would like to see come out on DVD.
This movie sees Anthony Quinn in the role of Deaf Smith who is teamed up with Johnny Ears played by Franco Nero.
The setting is Texas in 1836 - The Alamo has fallen, the Battle of San Jacinto has been fought and Texas is thinking about joining the Union. But there are those with different ideas and the Texan President, Sam Houston, sends Smith and Johnny to find out what is going on.
When they are on scene Quinn and Nero work very well together for it is for Johnny Ears to cover up that Deaf Smith is a deaf mute.
The idea of Anthony Quinn playing a deaf mute seems a bit far fetched but watch him in action for I have never seen an actor pull off the role like he does in this film. No matter what his mood - happy, sad, worried - he conveys it all with his facial expressions.
The plot of the film is simple enough - find and stop General Morton from going to war against the legitimate Texas government. In good western tradition this is what Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears do with the aid of a Gatling gun - yes, a Gatling gun but who cares that it hadn't been invented after sitting through this western romp.
Franco Nero brings a lot to his character - sort of Django crossed with Terence Hill - with humour and good stunts. He lusts after Susie, the local prostitute (played by Pamela Tiffin) with romantic lust that causes a difference with his partner.
The two leads hold this movie together and the music of Daniele Patucchi is effective. Coupled with this is the brilliant technicolour photography by Torino Delli Colli who had worked with the likes of Fellini, Bertolucci and Pasolini and on Sergio Leone's 'Once Upon A Time In The West'.
Amongst the scriptwriters were Harry Essex ('The Creature From The Black Lagoon') and the man who had adapted 'A Streetcar Named Desire' for the screen, Oscar Saul.
This movie turns up on TCM from time to time.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Ennio Morricone and Edda Dell'Orso

Ennio Morricone was born in Rome, Italy in 1928.
Influenced by his jazz trumpeter father, Mario Morricone, Ennio Morricone studied the trumpet, at the age of 9, at the National Academy of St. Cecilia where he went on to study composition and choral arrangements.
Morricone played trumpet in a jazz band and arranged songs for the Italian radio station RAI. Later he joined RCA where he was the music arranger for such artists as Rita Pavone and Mario Lanza. One success at this time was his composition 'Se telefonado' which has been covered several times - notably by Francoise Hardy.
In the 1960s he began to write film scores for some long forgotten movies like 'A Pistol For Ringo'.
These soundtracks though impressed a former schoolfriend, Sergio Leone, who asked Ennio Morricone if he would score the music for 'A Fistfull Of Dollars'. Budget restrictions meant that to augment the orchestration Morricone had to add sound effects like gunshots and whip cracks.
This score would lead to a collaboration with another childhood friend Alessandro Alessandroni who supplied the whistles and twanging electric guitar and Edda Dell'Orso.
Edda Dell'Orso was born in Genoa, Italy in 1935 and by the time she met Morricone she was at the height of her powers. It is her soprano voice that sings the wordless songs through tracks like 'Once Upon A Time In The West' and the haunting tracks on the Anthony Quinn movie ' Guns Of San Sebastian' and Deborah's Theme from 'Once Upon A Time In America'. Not all her songs are wordless 'Run, Man, Run' from 'The Big Gundown' is an example.
In most cases it is usual for the film score to be written after the movie has been made but with 'Once Upon A Time In The West' the movie was written to the film score.
Ennio Morricone is associated more with the western as with 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' and 'A Professional Gun' and 'My Name Is Nobody' but there are many other movies that bear his hallmark. This has ranged from the horror movie 'The Thing'; the fantasy 'Red Sonja'; the historical 'The Mission' and the prohibition era movie 'The Untouchables'.
Even the console computer games have not escaped his attention for 'Sacco and Vanzetti' forms part of the score for 'Metal Gear Solid' and he wrote the theme for Rockstar's 'Red Dead Revolver'.
In the passage of his career it is estimated that he has written in excess of 500 film and TV scores with 'Moses' amongst the latter. Also, he has inspired the music of other composers of the soundtracks to other spaghetti westerns.
In addition to his film music he has, since 1948, and still does write classical compositions. He has also conducted several orchestras including that of the National Academy of St. Cecilia.
Although nominated several times for an Oscar it was not until 2007 that Ennio Morricone won an Honory Academy Award that was presented to him by Clint Eastwood. BAFTA has awarded him the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music on five ocassions.
In 2008 the French President bestowed Knight in the Order of the Legion of Honour on Ennio Morricone.
It is interesting to note that both Independant pro-wrester Eddie Kingston and heavy metal group Metallica have used 'The Ectasy Of Gold' from 'The Good The Bad and The Ugly' as their entrance music.
An interesting CD is 'We All Love Ennio Morricone' which contains Celine Dion singing a vocal version of 'Deborah's Theme'; Bruce Springsteen with 'Once Upon A Time In The West' and the Metallica 'Ectasy of Gold' as well as other artists like Quincy Jones and Andrea Bocelli paying their tribute to his influences.

Sunday 3 May 2009

Gary Dobbs - Short Story Writer

With the encouragement that I received from the last time I highlighted a short story writer I thought that I might make it a monthly event.
So, as we are all heading for another Wild West Monday I decided that Gary Dobbs' short stories that have been published on the net should be highlighted.
Gary has the knack of making the Valleys of South Wales sound like a very dangerous place.
In 'Loose Ends' published on Twist Of Noir he shows that even friendship can be a dangerous thing. Two friends that once shoplifted together are faced with a situation where one witnesses a killing by the other. Can you trust in friendship? Not in a Gary Dobbs story.
The thing that I like with Gary's shorts is that they are character driven like the hitman who kills to his own soundtrack in 'Happiness Is A Warm Gun' to be found at Thieves Jargon.
Alternatively, there is the palpable fear of the hero in 'Rhondda Lives' (published at Twist Of Noir and Thieves Jargon) who discovers that he has teamed up with the wrong people.
Gary is not only at home with the crime element for he combines this with a touch of dark humour and horror as he ventures into 'The Way To A Man's Heart' (also at Twist Of Noir).
Writing under his alias as Jack Martin, Gary wrote a splendid western short 'A Man Called Masters' that appeared in Beat To A Pulp and will be in print via the June edition of the 'First Edition' short story magazine (on sale May 7th).
June also sees the publication of his debut Black Horse Western novel 'The Tarnished Star'.
I feel certain that there will be a lot more to come from both Gary Dobbs and Jack Martin - he is one of those writers who keep you interested.


This week's short story is by Jay Stringer and comes with shades of 'Hustle' and a comment on modern American wrestling (one that I agree with). 'The Hard Sell' is a light and humourous take on the con-man's world and is a real treat. Don't miss it.

Saturday 2 May 2009


stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman
directed by Baz Luhrmann
out now on DVD
I have been looking forward to seeing this movie and sat down and watched it tonight. But then I like Baz Luhrmann's movies - 'Strictly Ballroom', 'Romeo + Juliet' and 'Moulin Rouge'.
With 'Australia' you get everything - a cattle drive, romance, humour that makes you laugh, and a war film.
The story concerns Lady Sarah Ashley who arrives in Australia to find her husband murdered and the cattle ranch under threat from the local cattle baron King Carney. The manager of the ranch turns out to be in Carney's pay and is sacked.
To save the ranch she hires a man called Drover to drive 1500 head of cattle to Darwin to complete an Army contract. Carney's men do everything they can to prevent the cattle reaching this destination by first causing a stampede and then poisoning the water.
Against this background is the story of an aboriginal half-caste boy, Nullah, who the authorities want to make the boy 'white'. (This was the subject of 'Rabbit Proof Fence').
Against the odds the cattle reach Darwin and Carney blames his foreman, Fletcher, for this. Fletcher gets his revenge on Carney and takes over the cattle company determined to wipe Sarah Ashley's ranch from the face of the earth - and makes sure that Nullah is taken into care to put the pressure on.
Sarah returns to Darwin to help the war effort and on the day that she is allowed to visit Nullah the Japanese bomb Darwin. Believing Sarah to be dead Drover goes in search of Nullah who is trapped on Mission Island as the Japanese land there.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie that kept me interested to the point that I didn't notice that it was just over 150 minutes long. Nicole Kidman does well with her role the begins with her being spoilt to her naivety of the ways of the outback to becoming a fully fledged cattlewoman.
Certainly worth watching.