Sunday 29 November 2009


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

Friday 27 November 2009

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

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

Wednesday 25 November 2009


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

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


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

Friday 20 November 2009

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

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

Wednesday 18 November 2009


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

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

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


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

Sunday 15 November 2009


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

Friday 13 November 2009

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

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

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

Wednesday 11 November 2009


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

Sunday 8 November 2009

The Best Of British: War Movies: DUNKIRK

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

Friday 6 November 2009

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

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

Thursday 5 November 2009


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