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 - http://ijparnham.blogspot.com
Terry James at Joanne Walpole - http://joannewalpole.blogspot.com
Lance Howard at Dark Bits - http://howardhopkins.blogspot.com
Jack Martin at The Tainted Archive - http://tainted-archive.blogspot.com

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 Amazon.co.uk 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 (http://howardhopkins.blogspot.com
Terry James at Joanne Walpole (http://joannewalpole.blogspot.com
I.J.Parnham at The Culbin Trail (http://ijparnham.blogspot.com
Jack Martin at The Tainted Archive (http://tainted-archive.blogspot.com

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.

Thursday 2 July 2009


Extracts from Andy Hayman's memoirs appeared in the newspaper 'The Times' last week.
Today, the Attorney-General ordered the book to be removed from the shelves.
The news came in 10 minutes after I posted the last blog.

The Best Of British: What's it all about?

Once upon a time the British had a film industry. Some might say that it was not up to Hollywood standards - others will disagree.

To me the British film came into it's own in the 1950s and 1960s and I base that on the fact that these are the films that I grew up with.
Many were based on novels or were novelised by good authors.
Of course, for me the first British movies that I saw on a regular basis was the war film. 'The Colditz Story', 'The Dam Busters' and 'The Cruel Sea' and their like.
And then there were the Ealing comedies like 'Passport To Pimlico' and 'The Lavender Hill Mob'. And the 'St. Trinians' movies.
But the late fifties and early sixties took the British movie into a new world of real life social dramas.
Authors like Alan Sillitoe, Stan Barstow and Colin Wilson gave us the working class heroes and with those came a new bunch of actors. The likes of John Mills, Richard Attenborough and Michael Redgrave were joined by Richard Burton, Albert Finney, Alan Bates, Oliver Reed and Michael Crawford. Also, the rise of an acting dynasty with Juliet and Hayley Mills (daughters of John) and Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave featuring in many notable movies.
As the movies moved into explorations of social history so too did the big names.
Richard Attenborough defying Union power in 'The Angry Silence'; John Mills as the patriarch unable to understand his son's (Hywel Bennett) marital problems in 'The Family Way' and Dirk Bogarde outing himself as the homosexual barrister in 'Victim'.
Forty or fifty years on and I still get a lot of pleasure from watching these old movies because on the one side they are slices of British social history and, all the more depressing, is that there are no modern films that can do the same.
They tried with 'Educating Rita' and 'Billy Elliott'. Watching the latter with it's background of the Miners strike there are shades of 'The Angry Silence' tucked away in the body of the film.
And the new 'St. Trinians' movie - now I would have expected the usual smoking and drinking and the possibility of a cannabis farm - in other words follow the good old St. Trinians traditions. But, no, such scenes would only be seen to encourage young people to drink and smoke. So what I got was a diluted version while, and with the same 12 Certificate, 'Wild Child' did what 'St. Trinians' couldn't do.
In today's world the ending to 'Cosh Boy' (reviewed earlier) would not be permissable. Impossible to show a father punishing his child. The police on seeing Bob Stevens with a leather belt in his hands would not say that they would come back later. No, they would be on the phone to Social Services and arrest the father for assault after all the father would be abusing Roy's childrens and human rights.
The nearest that anyone has come to show life back then is a minor movie called 'Anita and Me' in which a young Indian girl, Meena, records life in the late sixties/early seventies. What surprised me was that this 2002 movie mentioned such things as Paki bashing and wogs and the accuracy of many of the things that happened to evoke the feeling of the period.
This in an age where the BBC sacked Carol Thatcher for mentioning the word 'nigger' in private and Prince Harry had to apologise for calling a Pakistani a Paki.
Many of the films and books of the period - Nell Dunn's 'Up The Junction', Bill Naughton's 'Alfie' and Alan Sillitoe's 'Saturday Night And Sunday Morning' all have scenes of attempted back street abortions. These scenes highlighted a problem and, eventually, abortion was legalised. Now in the 21st Century a bunch of very vocal minorities wants abortion to be made a thing of the past - a foetus has rights they say. OK. But if abortion in clinics is made illegal - it's back street abortions again.
To write a book or make a film about real life today - to create some real cutting edge social history drama with a working class hero and the language of the streets - is to invite a visit from the Fahrenheit 451 squad. Or a member of the Ministry Of Love to re-educate the writer.
Writing books and screenplays about real life is not being racist, sexist or any other 'ist' - it is called being realist.
In America they have Constitutional Rights which means something and they are damned proud of them.
Britain has the Magna Carta which means diddly squat. Freedom of speach and freedom of expression is down to what Big Brother says that we are free to say or express. Britain cannot make the films or write the books in the same vein as back in the sixties - someone might be offended. Well, I'm offended but there ain't a damned thing I can do about it.