Tuesday 30 June 2009


As Hollywood began to draw rein on the Western so it's place was taken by a mass of spaghetti westerns.
The first western to be shot in Almeira, Spain was 'The Savage Guns' which starred Richard Basehart as Steve Fallon, a wounded gunfighter who is taken in by former Confederate soldier, Mike Summers and his wife Fanchea (Don Taylor and Paquita Rico) who own a small ranch. While Fallon is convalescing up turns bad guy Danny Pose (Alex Nichol) who works for the local land grabbing rancher, Ortega, (Jose Nieto). After a shootout Pose runs away and Ortega takes over things. But when he hears a rumour that Fallon has been killed comes back and shoots Ortega and takes charge. What has actually happened is that Fallon's hands have been crushed under a wagon wheel (shades of Django there) and the final shoot out commences.
'The Savage Guns' is believed to be the first spaghetti western with it's use of location and levels of violence.
OK - hold that thought because I will return to this movie later.
Remember 'Captain Apache' (1971) the spaghetti western where Lee Van Cleef sings? Or for the fact that one of the few Native Americans serving in the American Army gets to bed Carroll Baker before going off to find out who killed the commisioner and what lay behind the dying man's words 'April Morning'.
Another spaghetti western with a cult following is 'A Town Called Bastard' (or Hell, if you want). This had Robert Shaw as The Priest and Telly Savalas as Don Carlos and Stella Stevens promising to pay bounty on the man who killed an old priest.
Just three movies classed as 'spaghetti westerns' but they are not Italian.
So, back to 'The Savage Guns', the trendsetter for the spaghetti western.
First off it was made by Capricorn Productions - a company formed by the film's director Michael Carreras and the film's producer Jimmy Sangster both formerly of Hammer Films. So, in reality, the first spaghetti western was British. So, too, were Captain Apache and a Town Called....whatever the Hell you want to call it.
When people think of British westerns they think of the Kenneth More film 'The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw' or, can't believe I'm going to mention this, 'Carry On Cowboy'. But the British have made more westerns than a lot of people think.
Two of the Louis L'Amour books to make the screen 'A Man Called Noon' and 'Catlow' were British movies and 'Eagles Wing' was another.
'Chato's Land' which figures in various good western charts was directed by Michael Winner and another British western.
And who else but the British could come up with the idea of having Raquel Welch become some iconic figure strutting her stuff in nothing more than a blanket with a hole in it in 'Hannie Caulder'.
British westerns could be violent affairs as in 'The Hunting Party' where the sympathy lies more with bandit leader Oliver Reed than with richman hunter Gene Hackman who is prepared to kill anything and anyone with his long range rifle - including his wife Candice Bergan.
While the British may not make western movies anymore it should be remembered that it was British money that helped to finance two Kevin Costner movies 'Dances With Wolves' and 'Open Range' the latter having British actor Michael Gambon as the despotic rancher.
So there you have it a glance at a fistul of British Westerns - some good, some bad and some downright ugly but that depends on an individual point of view. Whichever way you look at it the British had a go and that has to mean something.
And if a British film maker passes by this blog and thinks it might be a good idea to make another Brit Western then there are a hell of a lot of Black Horse Westerns to choose from.

Monday 29 June 2009


We all know that Philip Glenisher is Gene Hunt - Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes - but not as a writer.
This book is absolutely fascinating as Gene Hunt - sorry, Philip Glenister takes us back to his childhood in the 70s and 80s and makes comparisons with life back then and now.
It is really weird because Philip Glenister's book sounds like Gene Hunt talking.
Here we discover the wonderful world of the Curly Wurly. Has it got smaller? Well, according to the book they got hold of the original wrapper into which they got three of today's Curly Wurlys. Still Cadbury's still insist that it is the same size.
But it is the trivia of real life that makes this book so appealing and it is humourous as he poses the important question of why can't gravy be called gravy? Why does it have to be called jus? When I read that bit I thought that jus was a toilet cleaner.
He recalls a time when footballers had real nicknames like 'Chopper' Harris, the Anvil Iron, the Axe not JT, Becks and Lamps. When they wore thick leather boots and didn't fall over every other week with a broken metatasal because they were wearing ballet shoes.
This is a great little book that not only gives the reader a glimpse of Philip Glenister's youth but opens a window of the world behind 'Life On Mars' and 'Ashes To Ashes'.
And I only got it this morning.

Thursday 25 June 2009

DON COLDSMITH - 1926 -2009

I heard that western writer Don Coldsmith died today from a possible stroke.
Don Coldsmith is better known as the writer of 'The Spanish Bit Saga'.
He is a writer who will be sadly missed.

Best Of British: COSH BOY - 1952

Directed by Lewis Gilbert who co-wrote the screenplay with Vernon Harris

James Kenney as Roy Walsh
Joan Collins as Renee
Betty Ann Davies as Elsie Walsh
Robert Ayres as Bob Stevens

This movie has the distinction of being the first British movie to be given the new X Certificate.

Roy Walsh is a sixteen year old boy living with his mother, Elsie, and his grandmother in a basement flat in Battersea. His father had been killed in the Second World War and his mother struggles with single parenthood. However, Elsie has been going steady with the manager of the local dancehall, Bob Stevens, who has asked her to marry him.
Roy is not looking forward to this because he is quite happy as he is running his gang of juvenile delinquents. He has already been up to the magistrates and been given probation with his mum giving him a character witness by explaining that it was all someone else's fault and that her Roy was a good boy.
To make it look good Roy joins the local youth club and uses it to plan the next criminal caper. While at the club he meets Renee who is not 'that kind of girl' but soon is - she gets pregnant and attempts suicide when Roy reveals his true character.
Meanwhile, back home Elsie is getting ready to marry Bob Stevens. Now he's no fool and is aware of what Roy is like and what he, Bob, is taking on. He is a man strong on discipline which he believes that Roy needs.
To get back at Bob, Roy decides to hold up the local dancehall on wrestling night and snatch the takings. And he's got a gun so when the robbery goes wrong someone gets shot. When he runs away he is convinced that no one saw him - but Bob Stevens, who had just married Elsie, arrives unseen by Roy.
Cornered at home by Bob his new step-son shows all the bravado of a coward. Oh, yes he can - Bob takes off his belt and promises Roy that life is going to get that tough.
The police arrive to arrest Roy but see Bob with the belt. With a nod to Bob they decide that it would be better if they came back later.
This is a film about single parenthood, juvenile delinquency and mugging - this is 1952 not 2009 but the issues are just the same.
There is an early performance in this film by Johnny Briggs an actor better known in the UK for his part in 'Coronation Street' as Mike Baldwin.
This is not on DVD and, in my opinion, is not likely to be. Though it was shown on Channel 4 one lunchtime in the last 10 years. When it was first shown on the BBC back in the fifties it came with the warning that it was not suitable for children so I was sent to bed. Hah -you reckon - not me I came back down, sat on the stairs and watched it through the crack in the front room door.
Whatever else I got the message from that film - so when it popped up on TV I taped it.
The acting is not up to much but the story is good and sound. Some scenes are on You Tube but whether the film can be found online to view I don't know.


A new western website at http://stormwolf2.webs.com/
The site is well worth a visit and the openers and a short story for a new 'spaghetti/piccadilly cowboy' style hero called 'Angelo'. Also an opener for 'Django' series of novels.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Best Of British: HELL DRIVERS - 1957

Written and Directed by Cy Endfield
Stanley Baker as Tom Yately
Patrick McGoohan as 'Red' Redman
William Hartnell as Cartley
Herbert Lom as Gino
Peggy Cummins as Lucy
Tom Yately has just been released from prison and is looking for work. He turns up at the gates of Hawlett's Trucking Company and is directed to the manager, Cartley. Tom has not got the necessary paperwork but Cartley is not interested in protocol as he needs drivers. Instead he sends Tom out on a test run where he is told to put his foot down and when he questions this and worries about oncoming traffic he is told 'Suppose there isn't. Look on the bright side.'
Although Tom tries to keep his head down it is not long before he falls foul of the head driver, 'Red' Redman. While the other drivers are happy to be cronies with the 'boss' one driver, Gino, sides with Tom. Unaware that Gino fancies Lucy, the trucking company's secretary, Tom begins to build a romantic friendship together.
Between these three they begin to realise that Cartley and Redman are on the fiddle.
This is a high speed movie about the early trucking industry where speed was essential.
Many familiar faces turn up as truckers like Alfie Bass, Gordon Jackson, Sid James and a young Sean Connery. Jill Ireland runs the local cafe and David McCallum puts in an appearance as Jimmy, Tom's younger brother.
This film was made before William Hartnell took on the mantle of the first Dr. Who and makes for a nasty character but is knocked into second place by a bullying, menacing Patrick McGoohan.
Stanley Baker and Cy Endfield combined, later, to produce 'Zulu'.

Monday 22 June 2009

Best Of British: FLAME IN THE STREETS - 1961

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Screenplay by Ted Willis
John Mills as Jacko Palmer
Brenda Di Banzie as Nell Palmer
Sylvia Syms as Kathie Palmer
Earl Cameron as Gabriel Gomez
Johnny Sekka as Peter Lincoln
This movie was the film adaptation of the 1959 'Armchair Theatre' production of the Ted Willis play
'Hot Summer Night'.
Both the film and the play were written and made in the wake of the Notting Hill riots.
The story centres around Jacko Palmer and his family. Jacko is a shop steward in a local factory and the Union, looking to show some equality, would like to see a black man made up to foreman.
This does not go down well with the workforce who 'won't take orders from a spade'. He makes an impassioned speach on behalf of the proposed foreman, Gabriel Gomez, and wins.
However, on the home front it is a different matter.
Jacko's daughter Kathie is seeing 'someone' and for a while her parents' ignorance is bliss but a nosy neighbour spots Kathie with her boyfriend, Peter Lincoln, a West Indian schoolteacher. This starts the inevitable showdown between Kathie and her parents. Her mother blows her top in a way that leaves Jacko stunned. 'Go on,' she yells. 'Go to your nigger.'
As Kathie leaves so a gang of white boys turn up and bonfire night is going to see some action.
The film has an inconclusive ending and for good reason for it is not an issue that could be tied up at the end.
This movie was fresh at the time and the issues raised along with the language may have been about racism in the late 50s and 60s but cannot be regarded as racist. It is a depiction of a way of life as it was back then.
It is available on DVD but only in a set of eight John Mills films.
A clip can be found on You Tube.
Someone with a sense of humour decided that when this film was released in the US it would be the black and white version while the UK got the coloured.

Saturday 20 June 2009

JOHN BURKE - author

After writing about 'The Boys' I recalled several other film tie-ins that I thought had been written by John Burke. Having never Googled this author before it came as a surprise to discover that his latest book 'The Merciless Dead' had been published by Robert Hale in December, 2008.
Looking at the bibliography of this writer's books also made me aware that I had read more of his books than I had first thought for John Burke had written novels under various names: J. F. Burke, Jonathan Burke, Jonathan George, Robert Miall, Martin Sands, Owen Burke, Sara Morris, Roger Rougiere and Joanna Jones.
Not only had he written film tie-ins but thrillers, horror stories and science fiction. Add to that one 1955 western 'Gentle City' under the name of Ross Ames and some gothic romances co-written with his wife Jean under the name of Harriett Esmond.
The Sexton Blake Library published one story 'Corpse To Copenhagen' by Jonathan Burke in 1957.
Although born in Rye, Sussex in 1922 John Frederick Burke was brought up in Liverpool. During the Second World War he served with the RAF and REME and was attached to the Royal Marines during the liberation of Europe. It was during this time that he began writing short stories but his first novel 'Swift Summer' was published after the war in 1949.
He continued writing while working as a secretary to the Production Manager of the publishers, Robert Hale Limited and later became Story Editor for the European branch of 20th Century Fox.
John Burke played clarinet in both classic and jazz styles and was on the first series of 'Mastermind' with the specialist subject on the composer Carl Neillson.
As a writer John Burke has written many short stories and editted three volumes of the 'Tales Of Unease' series and wrote the two 'The Hammer Horror Film Omnibus' collections.
But I remember John Burke for the novelisation of film scripts like 'Look Back In Anger', 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'The Entertainer'. The main reason is that John Burke stamped his own mark on these books by translating the whole film into words so that just by reading his fluid style it was like watching the film inside the head.
Since 1998 all his novels have been published by Robert Hale Limited.

Friday 19 June 2009

LIVE NOW, PAY LATER by Jack Trevor Story

Jack Trevor Story (1917 - 1999) was born in Hertfordshire and began his writing career as the western writer Bret Harding author of the Pinetop Jones westerns and another four westerns under the name of Alex Atwell.
As Jack Trevor Story he also contributed to the Sexton Blake detective series.
LIVE NOW, PAY LATER is probably the book that made him famous but is largely forgotten now. It should not be as it portrays life as it was in the late 50s and early 60s in a dramatic fashion.
In the wake of Harold MacMillan's epic statement 'you never had it so good' and the arrival of so many American programmes that showed the 'good life' of a world where people had washing machines, televisions, fridges and what have you led in turn to the world of hire purchase - or the never-never.
'Live Now, Pay Later' takes the reader into the life of Albert Argyle who is on the top of his game as a tally-man. A tally-man was the man who not only sold dodgy goods but collected the weekly payments.
In Albert Argyle's case sometimes he would defer payment if a lonely housewife was willing. Yes, he's witty and charming with a real gift of the gab to the point that the reader believes in his security. Except as the story unravels so does his own insecurities. There is the matter of a single mum, Treasure, who's son is Albert's. He cannot commit - he fears the commitment as though it is damaging to his reputation.
Then there is Joyce a regular that can never make the repayments but is always ready to give Albert a favour in lieu. And when the bailiffs are sent in Albert feels a twinge of guilt before he shrugs it off.
It is easy to feel that Albert is a heartless villian but it his own insecurity that shows that he is, also, a victim of the 'never-never' world.
'Live Now, Pay Later' is also one of those best of British movies that has not made it on to DVD.
It stars ex-Avenger Ian Hendry, June Ritchie, Liz Frazer and John Gregson playing against type as Albert's sleazy boss.
Like the movie, the book has all but disappeared which, in both cases, is a shame as both depicted a true slice of British life at the time.

Thursday 18 June 2009


Directed by Val Guest who co-wrote the screenplay with Wolf Mankowitz.

Edward Judd as Peter Stenning
Janet Munro as Jeannie Craig
Leo McKern as Bill Maguire

The film opens with Peter Stenning, a Daily Express newspaper reporter arriving at work in a monsoon like downpour. It appears that the weather has changed dramatically and the news editor (played by Bernard Braden in an acting role) sends Stenning down to the Meterological offices to find out what is going on.
There he gets chatting to telephonist Jeannie Craig and a relationship starts.
Piece by piece Stenning discovers concerns over recent sunspot activity that may be the cause of the change in the weather. It is not long before the truth emerges as it is revealed that the USA and Russia have both detonated nuclear tests at the same time and knocked the Earth off it's axis and the new axis is taking the world towards the sun.
As the monsoon conditions are replaced by a heatwave so the gradual decline begins. Water has a price. Anarchy sets in as law and order break down.
The scenes of the dried up River Thames are very effective.
To rectify the situation the Americans and Russians get together to repeat the tests in the hope that the Earth will either return to it's original axis or stabilise things.
This film is a great piece of British sci-fi that is realistic. Also, topical at the time because of the amount of nuclear testing.
The film also has the reporter working for a real national newspaper as well as interiors and exteriors of the Daily Express Building in London's Fleet Street. Arthur Christiansen, the editor of the Daily Express appears in the film playing himself.
Look out for an early appearance by Michael Caine as a policeman directing traffic.
At long last this film is now available on DVD - so guess what I'm getting for Father's Day on Sunday.

Monday 15 June 2009

The Best Of British: THE BOYS 1962

directed by Sidney J. Furie
screenplay by Stuart Douglass

Richard Todd as Victor Webster (for the prosecution)
Robert Morley as Montgomery (for the defence)
Jess Conrad as Barney Lee
Dudley Sutton as Stan Coulter
Ronald Lacey as Billy Herne
Tony Garnett as Ginger Thompson
Felix Aylmer as The Judge
along with a host of familiar British actors and actresses like Wilfred Bramble and Carol White.

When I was writing about 'Two Left Feet' it dawned on me that there were a number of British movies from the 60s and the kitchen sink era that hardly get a mention these days - nor do they come out on DVD either.
THE BOYS is one of those movies that should be available to a wider audience and the reason why is contained in the storyline.
Four boys - Lee, Coulter, Herne and Thompson are all friends who live on the same London housing estate. It is Friday and pay day so they go up town for a night out and a bit of fun. Result they wind up appearing at the Old Bailey charged with the murder of a night watchmen during a robbery at a garage.
Did they do it?
Well, if you listen to the prosecution's witnesses - then, yes, they did. But after hearing the evidence of the boys themselves then doubts set in.
Most of the film is played out in flashbacks so that you see the story unfold and that is where the tension mounts and the viewer finds themself in the position of a juror.
There are several underlying themes contained in this film.
There is the growth of the generation gap whereby the principal prosecution witnesses, although truthful, cannot help but see the four boys as uncontrolable yobs - a frequent word in this film.
But are they?
As a continuation of this theme is the rise in teenage gangs and juvenile delinquentsy in this pre-Beatle era.
Add to the mix the question of hanging as a punishment for juveniles - an arguement that had been raging in real life after the unjust hanging of Derek Bentley a few years earlier.
In my humble opinion 'The Boys' was a milestone movie and should be better known. So it was a good job that John Burke wrote the novelisation of the movie and kept, faithfully, to the script.
The film may be not available on DVD but it can be seen online.
Look out for an unexpected and uncreditted appearance by a certain Ian Fleming - yes, the James Bond creator.
And the film score is written and played by The Shadows.

LIVING IN THE PAST and other things

This may come across as a bit weird - so a friend of mine asked 'out of interest' why I always seemed to write about the past. My quick answer was that it was the only one I've got.
As the conversation went on it dawned on me that it is that past that makes me who I am.
First off I realised that our role models were so much different then. In most cases it was our grandparents and parents who were at the top. Then came men who acheived things and, of course, because the second world war had just finished most of the 'heroes' of the day were just that. And sporting heroes like Roger Bannister who broke the four minute mile and Stanley Matthews the footballer who played for the love of the game rather than the multi-million transfer fee today. Add to that John Hunt and Edmund Hillary who conquered Everest while, in today's world, Sir Ranulph Fiennes is just a name.
So standards were set and the role models were far different than they are today - but whichever way you look at it they all played a part in my make up.

Change of subject. Just visited Joe Lansdale's blog and was surprised to see an ad for 'Assassin's Creed II' which made me wonder. Haven't played number one - yet.
Just discovered that I can take my Xbox 360 online and had some fun playing 'Smackdown vs Raw 2009' with kids around the world. Win some and lose some but there you go. The interesting part of this interactive world is that you can talk to people. The first reaction is 'what the hell is a sixty odd year old doing in our world?' Exactly - and it is a fun way to introduce the young to the western genre. I'll do that by any means possible - even if it sounds daft.

Interesting to note that 'The Tainted Archive' is almost a year old. Cannot believe that Gary has kept us entertained for so long. Come to think of it Steve M's 'Western Fiction Review' has to be around it's first birthday too.

Saturday 13 June 2009


Sheriff Cole Masters knows that a showdown is coming. Locked away in a cell is Sam Bowden - a man who has killed a whore. A man who thinks that he can do what he likes because his father is Clem Bowden who holds the town in the palm of his hands.
With only an old timer, Em Tanner, and his schoolmistress fiance to back him Cole Masters knows that the odds are against him.
Clem Bowden comes into the town of Squaw with a bunch of men and Sheriff Cole Masters finds himself humiliated and out of a job.
What follows is Cole Masters attempt to regain his honour and his badge.
Up to now we have only known author Jack Martin through his short stories under that name and as Gary Dobbs. So how does he stand up with his first novel.
First off he creates a believable character in Cole Masters and makes the reader feel his humiliation to the point that I wanted this character to come through. Sam Bowden is bad but his father Clem is cut from a different cloth and I would be spoiling this character study by relating the how and why.
Add to this two minor characters Quill and Boyd who's brief passage through the story is quite effective.
For a first novel - it reads like Gary has been doing this all his life and can only get better.

Friday 12 June 2009


Yep, I am going to write something about a Japanese western. I could blame Bill Crider for this after all he did post the trailer on his blog - but I won't because the trailer just does not do this 2007 movie justice.
Takashi Miike directed this movie in English with Japanese actors and, also, co-wrote the screenplay with Masa Nakamura.
The movie takes a fistful of Sergio Leone, adds a dash of Sergio Corbucci, a tip of the hat to 'Hannie Caulder' and The Bride from 'Kill Bill'.
And not forgetting William Shakespeare's 'King Henry the Sixth', War of the Roses and 'Romeo and Juliet'.
To the film a stranger with no name rides into a Nevada town and finds that there are two factions - The Reds and The Whites - and with him in the middle. With that you know the rest of the story - that is if you have already seen either 'Yojimbo' or 'A Fistful Of Dollars' or both.
But then again - it is fun to see bits and pieces from other films being played out by the 'wrong' characters. Like the leader of the white faction unrolling the bag of guns as Lee Van Cleef does in 'For A Few Dollars More' or the coffin with a Gatling gun in it being dragged down a muddy road from the back of a wagon and captured by the red faction - the leader of whom wears steel armour beneath his clothes.
A quick backflash scene shows Quentin Tarrantino in the role of Ringo who can't see the point of teaching a woman, Ruriko, how to handle a gun if she's rubbish at cooking a straight Japanese meal.
Ruriko is played by Kaori Momoi who has a couple of good 'Kill Bill' moments as a flying female gunfighter.
Into the final moments and only the man with no name or the Gunman (played by Hideaki Ito) and the leader of the white faction remain alive - only a Japanese Samurai would take a sword to a gunfight - and it starts to snow and thoughts of 'The Great Silence' come to mind.
The film runs for 94 minutes and has a soundtrack that sounds like a quirky mix of Ennio Morricone done Japanese style.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film but purists of westerns - or spaghetti westerns come to that - might not see it that way.

Thursday 11 June 2009

A Bit of Four Play

Here I go picking up the hand grenade tossed at me by David Cranmer.

Four Movies that I can see over and over.
1. The Magnificent Seven
2. Saturday Night And Sunday Morning
3. Dunkirk
4. The Colditz Story

Four Places I have lived.
1. North Finchley, North London
2. Orpington, Kent
3. Rainham, Kent
4. Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Four TV shows that I love to watch.
1. Survivors
2. Dr. Who
3. WWE Wrestling Shows
4. Have I Got News For You

Four places where I have gone on vacation.
1. Bognor Regis, Sussex
2. Looe, Cornwall
3. The Lake District, Cumbria
4. Canberra, Australia

Four favourite foods.
1. Black sausage
2. Steak and Kidney Pie
3. Full English Breakfast
4. Sunday roast.

Four websites I visit daily
1. The Tainted Archive
2. The Education of a Pulp Writer
3. Joanne Walpole
4. Rough Edges

Four Places I would rather be.
1. Melbourne, Australia
2. Monument Valley
3. Rome
4. New Zealand

Four things that I would like to do before I die.
1. Ride a Harley Davidson Trike down Route 66
2. Appear in a western
3. Ride the road train from Darwin to Adelaide, Australia
4. Live my life to the end

Four novels I wish that I was reading for the first time.
1. Jack Kerouac - On The Road
2. Alan Sillitoe - Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
3. Frank C. Robertson - Horn Silver
4. Hammond Innes - Wreckers Must Breathe

Four people to tag.
1. Joanne Walpole
2. Ian Parnham
3. Paul D Brazill
4. Howard Hopkins


Once I mentioned Air Ace Picture Library I knew that something else would turn up.
11th June 2009 sees the publication of 10 top Air Ace comics from 1961 in one anthology edited by Steve Holland.
The included stories are:
1. Flash Point
2. Fighter, Fighter
3. No Survivors
4. War Smoke
5. Dive Bomber
6. Target Tirpitz
7. Whirlwind In The Sky
8. Steel Bats
9. Teeth Of Battle
10. Blast Bomb
I can recall 'Target Tirpitz' and 'No Survivors' as one of my sons has the originals.
For more information this can be found on Steve Holland's excellent site at 'Bear Alley'. The link can be found in the side panel.

Wednesday 10 June 2009


DC Comics have come up trumps and discovered that the 'oldies' are goodies.
Wing Commander Robert Hereward 'Battler' Britton first appeared in 1956 in the 'Sun' comic before transferring to 'Knockout' in 1960.
'Battler' Britton was the creation of writer Mike Butterworth and artist Geoff Campion and the exploits of England's fighting ace of land, sea and air went on to be recorded in Air Ace Picture Library and Battle Picture Library.
Now the Wildstorm imprint of DC Comics is to bring 'Battler' Britton back to life with a five part mini-series written by Greg Ennis and artist Colin Wilson.
The series will see 'Battler' Britton in the North Africa campaign where he is transferred to an American airstrip for a joint assault against Hitler's war machine prior to Alamein.
The writers state that 'Battler' Britton will have to put up with the threats and assaults - and that's from the Yanks.
This sounds like old times - all I can say is bring it on.
The first issue is out on 9th July 2009 and I can't wait for the return of an old hero.


The series 'V For Vengeance' first appeared in the Wizard comic back in 1942 and reappeared in the 50s and 60s. The final series was called 'Red Vengeance' and was published in 1961.
"The big blue saloon slowed as it passed the entrance to the Tuileries Gardens in Paris. Even though it was two o'clock in the morning , and the car carried Otto Leben, Chief of the Gestapo in Paris, the German chauffeur obeyed the red warning of the traffic lights.
Not for more than a few seconds was the car held up, then the light changed to green, and it glided forward, yet during those few seconds the door of the off-side had opened softly and a huddled figure jumped out into the road, rolled over then rose quickly and silently.
This figure slipped swiftly through the entrance to the gardens, so grey and indistinct, with a shabby grey suit, grey felt hat, and grey-masked face. There were grey gloves on his hands, and on his feet grey rubber shoes. He merged into the shadows beneath the archway and vanished."
So begins the first story to feature 'the Deathless Men' with their trade mark limp.
Otto Leben, the Butcher of Paris is dead and it is down to Himmler's right hand man Colonel Von Reich to catch the killer.
'The Deathless Man' proves to be a former inmate of Buchenwald Concentration Camp who is recorded as having died nine months earlier. With the death of this character the Gestapo believe that the threat is over - but when one Deathless Man dies there is another to take his place each one called Jack followed by a number. Another man to leave a note pinned to a body with 'V For Vengeance' written on it with a list of names that includes those of Hitler, Goebbels and Goering but with the name of the deceased crossed out.
As each weekly part came out the story never flagged for the suspense came not just with the ways that the Deathless Men killed their target but whether they would live or die.
In one story one of the Deathless Men assasinates Adolph Hitler only to discover that the target is a double.
The identity of Jack One is disclosed in the very first story and this is a British Secret Service Agent named Aylmer Gregson who had infiltrated the Nazi party before the start of the Second World War and risen in the ranks of the Gestapo to become Heinrich Himmler's right hand man - known as Colonel Von Reich.
This revelation early on might seem a bit odd to some but he was set to have adventures of his own and when he aids the escape of one of his men from a tight corner it appears to be the fault of a junior officer.
The entire first story can be read in 'The Golden Years Of Adventure Stories' that I blogged about in the previous post. I bought this book for one of my sons last Christmas - but the 'V For Vengeance' brought back snippets of memories of these stories. I would love to see them all re-issued in one book in their original text form.
There is a knock-on to this story for I thought that these stories had been turned into a book when I spotted 'V For Vengeance' by Dennis Wheatley. I was only a comic reading kid at the time and had never heard of Dennis Wheatley and, although the book had nothing to do with 'the Deathless Men', I was hooked on the Gregory Sallust novels.
But then that is the way things worked back then one thing led to another. Maybe, there is a case for text comics like the Wizard and Adventure to make a return.

Tuesday 9 June 2009


This is a book to take the reader back to the time when comics like Adventure, Rover, Wizard and Hotspur were prose comics rather then strips.
Along with 'Lion' and 'Eagle' comics these were the 'must haves' at Secondary School.
Adventure, Rover and Wizard all began life back in the 1920s while Hotspur and Skipper came along in the 1930s.
Popularity for these comics never waned but the paper shortages caused by the Second World War saw the demise of Skipper.
These comics covered every subject under the sun from athletics with Alf Tupper - The Tough Of The Track in the Rover and Wilson - a mysterious man in black in the Wizard and heroes in football and cricket to westerns with Killer Slade, sci-fi, schooldays adventures and, in the aftermath of the Second World War, war stories featuring the likes of Braddock V.C., The Khaki Tiger, Sniper Dennison and the grey clad 'Deathless Men'.
In the 1960s many of these heroes turned up in strip form in such comics as Hornet, Victor, Valiant and Warlord.
Some of the stories in this book show the transition from prose to strip like Alf Tupper and Braddock V.C.
Of course every comic had an annual but by the 1960s individual stories made it into a paperback series known as the Red Lion Library with such titles as 'Killer Slade Of The Pony Express' by Matt Carson and George Bourne's 'Braddock and the Flying Tigers'.
The Golden Years Of Adventure Stories features the full length first 'Warlord' story called Codename: Warlord.
This book is, to me, a little gem even if it doesn't cover all my favourite stories from back then. But with a history of British comics I guess it would be a difficult task to cover everything.
To drop a hint to those who compile comic compilations I would love to see a complete collection of the prose versions of 'V For Vengeance' one of the best series produced.

Friday 5 June 2009

BERMONDSEY BOY by Tommy Steele

To complete this thread I come to Tommy Steele's 2006 autobiography, Bermondsey Boy which is subtitled as Memories Of A Forgotten World.
Tommy Steele was born in 1936 close to the Thameside docks in Bermondsey and this book covers the first 20 odd years of his life.
His father had been a bookie, tic tac man and double for Sir Winston Churchill during the Second World War.
Tommy Steele's childhood was like many others of the period except that he got involved with the racing game at a very young age. Otherwise it was Saturday morning cinema where he enjoyed westerns along with Robin Hood.
Even in anecdotal mode he uses phrases like ' we had to circle the wagons'.
However, he tells from first hand knowledge what it was like to live through London's Blitz and of the tragedies that befell his family at that time. And though he takes us through it he makes the reader feel the emotions of the joys and sadness.
After the war and school he becomes a steward on the Cunard ship RMS Scythia that ran between Southampton and New York. Promoted he joins another ship and recounts his adventures on the cruises from New York to the West Indies.
Though it is in New York that his life direction changes course when he sees Buddy Holly. He learns to play guitar and links up with Lionel Bart and Mike Pratt (the same Mike Pratt who played Randall in the original Randall and Hopkirk, Deceased) a song writing team. Tommy Steele played the 2 Is Cafe that was the springboard for his singing career.
Tommy Steele writes with a cockney accent and, at times, a chuckle in his tone as he recalls instances from his youth.
I found it a pleasent read.

Monday 1 June 2009


Thanks for all the comments. I thought that it was a hacker but I don't know the difference between a hacker and a spammer - or rather I do now that it has been explained.
In the meantime I did a piece for Wild West Monday for 'the Dominic Fox scene' blog who has also reviewed one of my books.
In the meantime I am going to take a week off and will post something at the weekend.