Thursday 25 February 2010

Friday's Forgotten Book: THE SENTINEL STARS by Louis Charbonneau

The Sentinel Stars was published back in 1963.

Thomas Robert Hendley (aka TRH-247 because The Organisation prefers numbers to names) wakes up one morning and decides to go on strike.
East and West have merged and peace has broken out so our hero should be well and truly happy. After all he wears the blue uniform of a 3-day man working off his tax debt with a good job as an architect. He only has to work 3 days a week and everything he needs are right at hand. The Organisation supplies everything even down to his Assigned - a woman that the computers say is ideal for him. There is no intamacy as they live apart but are allowed one hour a week in a Public Intercourse Booth.
There is a target. The day that his tax debt is cleared he will be transferred to a Freeman Camp.
As he wanders around town he meets a young and beautiful red uniformed 5-day girl - they are attracted even though both know that they are transgressing the rules. As an architect he had worked on the design of The Museum where they meet up later in the day. Hendly takes Ann (ABC-331)to the forbidden zone where the sun is shining. He shows her what cannot be seen in the underground city. Agreeing to meet the next day they go their separate ways.
On his way home Hendley stops off for a meal only to discover that his ID tag does not work. As he arrives back at his apartment he is arrested and taken to the Morale Investigation centre. Here he is questioned by a fatherly Investigator about his failure to attend his workplace. When, under hypno-serum, he repeats what he has already said the Investigator gives Hendley a twenty-four hour pass to a Freeman Camp. Not as a reward but as a carrot to urge him on in his work for the organisation and to see just what it is that he has to look forward to.
On the flight to the Freeman camp he is subjected to prejudice for what he is and, though he understands their frustration, he cannot admit that he is one of them.
The Freeman camp is a wonder to Hendley but he soon learns that in this place there is just one rule - there are no rules.
He joins a game of water-polo where a team member is left to drown - winning is far more important. Nobody cares.
Then he meets Nik who befriends him and takes him to the Recreation Hall where there is a 'show' on. Hendley finds himself watching Ann performing an erotic dance. After the show there is a lottery where the winners with the selected ticket numbers get one of the girls. Nik fixes it so that Hendley gets to be with Ann, but his elation is short lived as he is drugged and his identity stolen.
Computers, he is told, do not make mistakes. The records show that Hendley had left the camp on time and that he must remain in the camp with Nik's identity. Escape comes in the form of another like himself. But his return lands him in Court with Ann on the charges of impersonation and rebellion. They are sentenced to permanent exile and released into the desert where they must survive.

It would be easy to say that this book could be compared to or influenced by novels like Huxley's 'Brave New World' or Orwell's '1984' and, maybe, justified. However, I think that this novel set in 2200 can stand alone. The use of uniforms creating a class system; Nik's need to escape the prison camp for Freemen - Nik was born free and berates Hendley about how lucky he was to have a purpose with a job whereas Nik had nothing to get up in the morning for; the lawlessness of the Freeman camp - is it the real alternative? Like, the cliche, is the grass really greener on the other side?
This is a book with a lot more depth than first appears.

While Louis Charbonneau wrote many sci-fi and general novels between 1960 and 1988 he wrote around 20 westerns under the name Carter Travis Young.

Wednesday 24 February 2010


Way back in '63 anyone who went to the movies in the UK to see 'The Day Of The Triffids' sat through a Stewart Granger B-movie called 'The Legions Last Patrol'.
This was a German/Italy/Spain co-production that was noticeable for just one thing - the theme tune.
In Italy it was a hit for Nini Rosso under the title Concerto Disperato which was written by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino.
In the UK it was the surprise chart for Ken Thorne and His Orchestra - with an emotional solo trumpet played by Ray Davies.
One thing that never appeared in the UK charts back in the early sixties were film themes but 'The Legions Last Patrol' reached No.4. A phenominal success then - but rather forgotten these days.
Except that I can still hear every note and whistle the theme - just as I did way back when I walked out of the cinema.
With all the compilations of film music around today it is just surprising that this theme has never been included.
If you have never heard this theme then it can be heard on You Tube and is now available to download on MP3.

Tuesday 23 February 2010


Terrell L. Bowers and I have two things in common. We were born in the same year and our first Robert Hale Westerns were published in the same year.

The legend that is Tornado Tess is a dime novel heroine - the invention of writer A.J.Cole. Tess solves mysteries in the wild west, a place that the author has never been.
A letter from a fan asking for help changes all that as Amanda Jane Cole sets out for the outlaw fortress known as Little Babylon in the wastelands of New Mexico.
Also, heading there is Whitney Scott who is hunting down the men who killed his family, burned down the ranch and took the horse herd.
Travelling aboard the same stage Scott agrees to act as Amanda's bodyguard.
Little Babylon is a full blown town run on rigid rules that has it's own law. All presided over by Justin Dante Huntley - a man with a vision.
Although, Scott finds no one he knows in town, someone knows him and there are two attempts on his life.
Amanda goes on a mission to prove the innocence of a man.

This book is that good that to say any more would be like throwing out a fistful of spoilers. The main reason is that this book is so full of characters that the plot lines take a back seat and yet the story tells itself.
Terrell L. Bowers writes good books but 'The Legend Of Tornado Tess' is something else. It is like a combination of the way westerns were told with a dash of pulp and that something new that lifts this book above the norm.
If you only read one Black Horse Western this year, then this should be that book.
It is released at the end of this month.

Sunday 21 February 2010


The other Sunday I was wondering what do while waiting for the latest episode of 'Being Human'. I didn't fancy 'Larkrise To Candleford' mainly because I didn't think that it was up to the standard of the last series. So I flicked through the multitude of channels - as you do - and this little gem was being announced.
At first, I thought, oh, a 'Clueless' clone. But I was wrong.

Basic story is about a blonde fashion major, Elle Woods, who goes to dinner thinking that her boyfriend is about to propose to her. He dumps her and says that she doesn't fit in with his family - and family tree. And he's off to study law at Harvard.
With the intention of getting the boyfriend back she enrols at Harvard with the help of a rather sus resume. Elle soon discovers that Harvard is not like College or High School. Elle is out of her depth for a start and then discovers that the boyfriend is engaged to someone else. They shame her by inviting her to a swish party but tell Elle that it is fancy dress. Enter Elle as a bunny girl. (Not sure but which came first - this movie or Bridget Jones?).
Anyway Elle gets her act together along with a pile of law books and a pink laptop.
And impress she does for she finds herself part of the legal team defending an old school friend on a murder charge.

This is a good movie and, for a change, is funny. Pure escapism.
I felt that this movie turned the usual dumb blonde character right on it's head. There is some clever stuff in there and the Perry Mason like ending worked quite well.

Reese Witherspoon is excellent as Elle turning what could have been a cardboard character into a living, breathing person.
I realised that this was the fourth thing that I had seen her in. She impressed as Oliver Reed's child like wife in 'Return To Lonesome Dove'. Just as she did in 'Cruel Intentions' and 'Sweet Home Alabama' - a very underrated film.

There is a 'Legally Blonde 2' where Elle takes on Washington.

Friday 19 February 2010

Friday's Forgotten Book: MacKinley Kantor's 'ANDERSONVILLE'

This 1955 novel about the Confederate Prison Camp at Andersonville, Georgia won the author, MacKinley Kantor, the 1956 Pulitzer Prize.

This novel is epic in scale on the same sort of level as 'War And Peace' and just that tad difficult to read - yet worth it.

The novel itself is a blend of fact with fictional as well as factual characters. And the book opens before the camp is constructed and see John Winder's survey and eventual construction of the stockade.
Then there is Henry Wirz, the camp commandant. A man who has been wounded and is still healing; unable to deal with the day to day running of the camp. He is also hampered by a Government that has no interest in the Union prisoners (which would top at 45,000). There are no medicines for the prisoners let alone the Confederate troops guarding them. No proper sanitation - just four acres of bog covered with excrement that stank to high heaven.
MacKinley Kantor drew heavily on the memoirs of former prisoners of war like John McElroy who wrote the biased 'Andersonville: A Story Of Rebel Military Prisons' and diarist John Ransom who recorded his capture, imprisonment and, eventual, escape. Both men appear in this book along with Boston Corbett, the man who killed John Wilkes Booth.
As I have said Andersonville lack sanitation and shelter. Open ground where a wild bunch known as the 'Andersonville Raiders' led by the real life William Collins prey on the other prisoners. Eventually, other prisoners fought back and this group called Regulators would hold the Raiders to account. Collins and five others were hanged.
In 1864 the prison camp was enlarged with labour coming from the prisoners themselves.
With Sherman driving down to Atlanta it was decided to evacuate the camp but at the war's end there were still 5,000 prisoners still there.
This is not an easy book to read, some of the scenes are quite harrowing. There are times when you just have to sit back and take stock.

Henry Wirz was put on trial, after the war, for war crimes and hanged in 1865. It served a purpose of encouraging hatred in the North towards those who had supported and served with the Confederacy.
And in the South they got the message - the war was not yet over.

Tuesday 16 February 2010


Five hard men angle their way into Main Street just as the whistle blows for the noonday break at the Comstock sawmill. Amongst these men are the outlaw leader Nate Cahill and his sadistic younger brother, Wynn.
It takes just one look to convince Nate Cahill that there are opportunities in this town that beats robbing trains.
The gang cross the creek into that area of Ponderosa known as Bogtown and settle down in the saloon known as Old Glory. In the time that it takes to pull a gun and trigger a shot the owner and the bartender are dead and Nate Cahill has taken possession. Enter the law who quickly follows the others who have just met the Cahill gang.
As the town has no law, it falls to one of the gang to take up the badge.
When word reaches Fletcher Comstock, the owner of the sawmill, he doesn't like what he is hearing so sends for his old friend, Matt Stryker, to take over as Town Marshal.
Stryker, former lawman turned bounty hunter, doesn't want the job but out of friendship goes to see Comstock as he wants to turn the man down to his face.
Only Cahill is waiting and when Stryker arrives he is so badly beaten up that his face is disfigured. To add insult to injury the gang geld Stryker's Arabian stallion.
But Stryker bounces back and starts to clean up the town. The first target is to get the badge back and pin it on his own shirt.
Believe it hell has come to Ponderosa.
The job doesn't come easily. Although he has the help of deputy Dan Brady and old friend, Tom Hall there are those who do not like his brand of law. Not least of these is the editor of the local paper, Prudence Comstock - sister of Fletcher - who's editorials are a touch vitriolic to say the least.
All in all this story drives forward at quite a pace and was hard to put down. But it does reach and unexpected and fully satisfying ending.

It has been four years since the publication of Chuck Tyrell's last book. And like London buses after a long wait three come along at once. This book - Guns Of Ponderosa - published under Robert Hale's Black Horse Western brand due out at the end of February 2010; 'The Killing Trail' in August 2010 and one other in 2011.
In my opinion Chuck Tyrell delivers - and gives value for money.

Chuck Tyrell now has his own blog The Outlaw Trail (there is a link in the sidebar) where he is currently running a series called 'The Making Of Guns Of Ponderosa'.

Monday 15 February 2010


PRIVILEGE, directed by Peter Watkins and a script by Norman Bogner and Johnny Speight, was heavily criticised for being 'hysterical' when it was first released, briefly, in the UK - however, it went over better in the US.

In 1967 the UK Critics said:
The Guardian: "Watkins has produced not so much a film as a hotchpotch of film and television and it simply does not come off."
The Sun: "The Goverment in Coalition and the slogan 'We Will Conform'. No, we won't and you should know that by now, Mr Watkins"

Over on the other side of the pond in an unexpected moment of unity both 'Playboy' and the 'Christian Monitor' were in accord with their praise of the film.

Modern day critics have written on the IMBD website to underline how relevant 'Privilege' is today's society.
The biggest complaint is that this movie is not on DVD - well, it is now and released by the British Film Institute - who back in 1967 stated that 'with 'Privilege' the result is a mere farce.

So....what is the movie about.
Steven Shorter (played by ex-Manfred Mann front man, Paul Jones) is a successful rock singer who appeals to all from pre-teens to grandparents. His public image is perfect with no bad habits or drug abuse. Just the kind of guy that the Government sees who could bring the country to heel. At first he is used to promote the healthy eating of apples to boost an ailing industry. With this venture hailed as a success he is manipulated into selling God and Country.
Look out for the rock version of 'Onward Christian Soldiers' with rocking monks and a bit of candle waving - in good modern day stadium style.
Then he meets artist, Vanessa Ritchie (played by none other than The Shrimp - fashion model and 60s icon Jean Shrimpton) through who's eyes Steven sees what he has become.

The story is set in 1970 but the relevance to today is far more apparent. For example The Beatles selling Nike; Janis Joplin selling Mercedes-Benz - get the picture.

The director, Peter Watkins, began his directorial career in television and introduced the docudrama style of film with 'Culloden' and the controversial 'The War Game'. 'The War Game' was commissioned for the BBC's 'The Wednesday Play' but was banned as it's depicts of the aftermath of a nuclear war and wasn't deemed suitable. However, it did receive a cinema release and it was not until 1985 that it appeared on the BBC.

Writer Johnny Speight was the man behind Alf Garnett of 'Til Death Us Do Part' fame.

Being one of the lucky ones to see this when it was in London back in 1967 my own thoughts were that it was a great bit of 'sci-fi' future cinema. It couldn't possibly happen - could it? Fast forward to today - and, yes, it did.

Friday 12 February 2010

Friday's Forgotten Book: RAWHIDE by Frank C. Robertson

"Weeks of hard work had gone into the collecting of those three thousand head of Texas longhorns behind the rails of John Nuttall's Bar N pasture. In the morning, if nothing happened, that herd would be hitting the trail for Sedalia, Missouri, more than a thousand miles distant. But things could happen and Gil Favor, the trail boss, made a final ride around the fence only too well aware that if anything stampeded these long horned, narrow hipped brutes they would go through that fence like sourdough from a broken jug."

So opens 'Rawhide' by Frank C. Robertson, a novel that first appeared in the UK in hardback in 1963.
All the characters that we knew from the TV series are there - Gil Favor, Rowdy Yates and Wishbone.

This time Gil Favor has a problem before he even gets on the trail. John Nuttall has made a bet with an old friend, Tim Worthen, for $5000 that Gil Favor will get the herd to Sedalia ahead of Worthen's. Just to make matters worse Rowdy Yates arrives with the news that Worthen's crew is already on the move.
The rival trail boss is Clay Whipple, Worthen's nephew and it is clear that this is a man who will stop at nothing to win. To make matters worse part of his crew is made up of the outlaw band of Lafe Tipton.
No sooner is Favor on the move with a herd of 3000 cattle covering a mile and a half of road than the crew are hit by a bout of food poisoning. One of Tipton's men is discovered with a bag of saltpetre that he has mixed with the salt supplies.
Frank C. Robertson avoids the usual TV series spin-off type novel with this book. There is action, shoot outs and the odd hanging but mixed into this is a story about the real life on the trail drive. There is tension and tragedy amongst the thirty odd drovers that echoes the real life trail drives.

Most people remember the series but this book does give a lot more and gives both Gil Favor a depth of character that was not present on screen. But, then, this was one of Frank C. Robertson's traits. He is a writer that does not figure in the usual lists of well-known western writers and yet he started writing before many of them and should be better known today.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

ABE DANCER & CALEB RAND - The Complete Package

"It was late autumn, and Ben Finch was hunting for meat along the uninhabited snowline of the eastern Ozarks. He was checking his trapline, alert for a deer. His eyes were relaxed as they scanned the fresh, lightly drifting snow, then suddenly sharp,when a figure appeared stark against the drift of pure whiteness."
So opens Abe Dancer's first Black Horse Western 'IRONHEAD' first published in 2001.
Not his first western though for the writer Carl Bernard first appeared with 'GLASS LAW' by Caleb Rand.
Both Abe Dancer and Caleb Rand are anagrams of Carl Bernard.
The western novels by this author stand out for the stunning covers that he supplies. They have the look of watercolour sketches and are, probably, the work of his illustrator wife Raphilena. Therefore, the covers fit the books.
Both writers have an easy style of writing that keeps the reader interested - and those styles bear a lot of similarity but that is not a detraction. I say that because the cover pictures are easy on the eye and the words seem to reflect that.
Whichever way you look at Abe Dancer and Caleb Rand deliver a complete package.
Descriptively, these books give a good sense of time and place.
The first book that I read was 'BLOOD LEGS' by Caleb Rand (2004) who introduced me to Dan and Will Glass who first appeared in 'Glass Law' 'Blood Legs' was a simple story of two men riding into town after a long trail drive who get caught up in a gunfight and wind up in the cells after being mistaken for members of the notorious Blood Legs gang. How they get away and clear their names was quite involving but enough for me to buy the book and many more besides.
The book pictured is 'WILD MEDDOW' by Caleb Rand and will be published by Robert Hale Ltd's Black Horse Western banner at the end of February.
Grab a copy if you can.

Monday 8 February 2010


OK - no jokes about the badge.
If I have a sporting passion then it is Aussie Rules Football.
In particular 'The Saints'.
The good thing about Aussie Rules is that there are no rules - well, some but not many.
The game is played on an oval with two goal posts at each end. The goal is made up of four poles. If the ball passes between the outside pairs of post the player scores a point. And six points if the ball goes through the middle posts.
So if the scoreboard reads 2.2.14 it means 2 points plus 12 points = total of 14 points.
That's the game in simple terms and all you really need to know.

St. Kilda Football Club, as such was not formed until 1876 and became one of the founding teams of the Victoria Football Association in 1877. They played at a ground known as 'Alpaca Paddock' near what is now the St.Kilda Bowling Club and St.Kilda railway station.
When they were formed many of the players came from the South Yarra Football Club that had disbanded the year before. Later they amalgamated with Prahan. Their early years were frought with problems both internally and on the pitch. It was a downhill slide to 1879 when they failed to turn up for a game against Essendon. They were relegated to the junior leagues.
But you can't keep a good team down and they returned to the Seniors in 1886.
There were rumblings amongst the powers that be that the VFA was overcrowded with teams which upset some of the top teams. So a breakaway league was formed in 1896 and St.Kilda became the eighth team in the Victoria Football League. Their opening match was against Collingwood.
Team results were good to middling and it would not be until 1913 that they reached their first Grand Final only to be beaten by Fitroy - a team that the Saints had already beaten twice.
They would have to wait until 1966 for their first Premier.
St.Kilda have always been up and down but fair dues more up but just been pipped at the post.
In 1964 they moved from the Junction Oval to Moorabin Oval a good move for the following year they topped the league - a Minor Premiership where the team finishes top after the home and away rounds. They repeated this in 1997 and 2009.
Nor are they short of the silver by winning the 1996 Ansett Australia Cup; 2004 Wizard Home Loans Cup and the 2008 National Australia Bank Cup - all played for in pre-season matches.
The biggest win was back in 2005 when they beat Brisbane Bears by 139 points.
One of the best kickers of the ball was Tony Lockett who played for St.Kilda between 1983 and 1994. In total he scored 898 goals of which he scored 132 in 1992. Of that 132 he scored 15 in one match against Sydney Swans a team that he would later join.
Today he still holds those club records.
Probably the best goal scorer next to Geelong's Gary Ablett.

In 1990 the VFL became the Australian Football League and over the years have added teams from all the Australian states like Fremantle, Adelaide and West Coast Eagles.
West Coast became the first team from outside Victoria to win the Premier.
And there are plenty of teams out there like Hawthorn and Essendon - and the Essendon Bombers had a great player in Michael Long.
But for me The Saints go marching on and despite the ups and downs of the game give value for money.


THAT KIND OF GIRL was a 1963 black and white movie directed by Gerry O'Hara that was made over a period of three weeks and cost just £23,000 to make.
Just released on to DVD by the British Film Institute.

The story is quite simple with Margaret-Rose Keil playing the part of an Austrian au pair Eva who is a Brigette Bardot look a like - all blonde beehive and a figure. She lives with a middle class family who find her delightful but fear that men will be after her for only one thing.
Librarian, Max meets Eva while handing out leaflets for a CND Ban The Bomb march. They meet up again at a jazz club where Eva tries to teach him how to twist. All this is watched by a predator, Elliot, who is old enough to be her father. Elliot gets to her first by getting her drunk and taking her to a strip club.
Despite her dalliance with Elliot she joins Max on the Ban The Bomb march and they share a kiss and cuddle at a stop off at the village hall - but that's all.
However, Eva - who is not dressed for a long march - decides to go home and misses the bus. Not to worry though as University student Keith comes along in his sports car and gives her a lift.
Keith is having problems with his girlfriend, Janet. Her parents have ruled out any chance of them getting married. So he takes time out with Eva who gives him a little comfort and joy.
Seeing the two of them together, Elliot, gets all uptight and jealous. On her way home she is attacked by Elliot who runs away when the local bobby on the beat (this is an old film remember) disturbs him. Taken to the local police station Eva is too shocked and scared to name her assailant to the sensitive WPC - who suggests that she gets a medical check up. Eva is sent to a 'Special Clinic'.
Meanwhile, a guilty Keith confesses all to girlfriend Janet who, determined to keep her man, decides that it is time to give him what he wants. Not the easiest of scenes as it is quite tense and cold.
Whoops! In no time at all she discovers that she is pregnant - but....
Meanwhile, jealous Elliot is maintaining a barrage of indecent and threatening calls at Eva who finally tells the police all. They tap the phone and Elliot is caught red handed (those were the days).
Back to the but....
This was a B-movie that was shown in the cinemas back in the early sixties but it contained a 'public information' message. This was about promiscurity and VD (venereal disease) or STDs in today's language.
Eva gets it from Elliot and possibly passes it on to Max by kissing and Keith through sex. In turn there was the possibility that it could be passed on by touching like it was contagious and could affect Janet's baby.
Cue one scene at the 'Special Clinic' where the statistics and what could happen to you are explained at great length.
It was meant to shock - but it jars against the storyline as there was enough in the film as Max and Keith are brought in to the clinic. Talk about sledgehammers cracking nuts.
Certainly, 'That Kind Of Girl' is one of the better examples of that kind of film. Of one thing that I was certain about was that Eva was not that kind of a girl.

You might want to back track to my take on 'The Yellow Teddy Bears'. A cautionary tale of similar ilk.

Saturday 6 February 2010

OPEN RANGE: A New Short Story

The Open Range blog ( features an interesting short story titled 'A Hard Day's Night'.

Friday 5 February 2010

Friday's Forgotten Book: YOUNG LOVE by Johannes Allen.

"Today I am nineteen, and the story I am going to tell began two years ago.....Were there any excuses for my behaviour, or am I just plain bad?"

That is the question posed by the young heroine, Helen, of this Danish novel.
Written in 1958 and published by the Hogarth Press and released as a paperback by Pan Books in 1960 this novel went through at least 16 printings in paperback alone.
Although, set in Denmark the action and the themes of this novel could take place in any country and at any time. All the themes are there - coming of age, teenage angst, sexual encounters all set against the disintegrating family life. A holiday romance that goes sour when Helen's boyfriend takes up with her friend. The next encounter is with a boy with ambitions for his band only his plans do not include Helen.
Each encounter knocks her esteem and each time she blames herself and her parents just do not want to know. The only true confident she has is her parent's maid, Nelly, who tries to keep Helen positive.
This novel is written, according to Helen, in the style of those stars who have written their biographies in their sixties. A comment that made me smile because in today's world it would be 'celebrity biographies'.

The novel was written by Johannes Allen (1916-1973) who, the fifties and sixties, wrote and directed many Danish movies. He also wrote several short stories and novels.
'Young Love' is a very insightful novel and given the age of Helen and that Johannes Allen was a 42 year old man at the time this was written it is an incredible piece of writing.

Considered a 'classic' at the time it is a shame that it is hardly recalled today. The themes along with the writing are ageless.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

IRON EYES by Rory Black

Iron Eyes is not your usual western hero.
"The man had a haunting face that hid beneath long, limp, black hair. He wore a battered, weather-proof coat favoured by long riders and road agents which almost reached his spurs. With each stride the sound of bullets clinking together in his deep pockets filled the room.
This was no normal man. This was an evil spirit who had yet to die and seek refuge in Hell."
This is the legendary bounty hunter known simply as Iron Eyes.
I asked Black Horse Western author Michael D.George, who writes as Rory Black, how he created the character of Iron Eyes. There was this blood spattered saloon and suddenly Iron Eyes was there.
And when you read that opening chapter you get that feeling that no one else but Iron Eyes could have wreaked all that havoc.
Iron Eyes made his first appearance back in 1999 and 10 years on is still plying his trade as a bounty hunter in the 12th book 'Iron Eyes Makes War'.
A journey that has involved Iron Eyes in the events at the OK Corral and taken on Mexican bandits all within his stride. A character that has grown along the way.
I'm not sure why this spectral character with his scarred up face and emaciated figure proves to be so fascinating. It would be easy to say that there is something there that harks back to the days of The Piccadilly Cowboys but then there are elements of the 'traditional' western there as well. And another ingredient that I just can't put my finger on - just that something that says that there is a new 'Iron Eyes' book and I've got to get it.
Rory Black's Iron Eyes novels are published by Robert Hale Ltd's Black Horse Western brand.
"As Iron Eyes spurred his mount, the long black hair beat up and down upon his collar.
It was like the flapping of bat's wings."

Reviews of the third and twelfth books in the series -'Spurs Of The Spectre' and 'Iron Eyes Makes War' - can be found on the blog Western Fiction Review (there is a link on the side panel).

Tuesday 2 February 2010


In 1960 this film killed the career of respected film director, Michael Powell. It was described as 'sick' and 'nasty'. Yet just over a decade later and through the efforts of Martin Scorcese the film has become a work of 'genius' and receiving the critical acclaim that it should have done in the first place.
'Peeping Tom' has been described as the British 'Psycho' and comparisons made.

What makes 'Peeping Tom' different to other movies is that the protagonist is a serial killer. Everything that you see is through his eyes and the lens of his camera. In turn that makes the audience to this film - the voyeur (another term for peeping tom).

Mark Lewis, played by Carl Boehm, is a solitary man. He lives in his late father's house and pretends that he is a tenant like the downstairs tenant Helen (Anna Massey) and her ailing mother. Helen builds a close relationship with Mark who shows her home movies that his father had taken. These movies are not of the happy family variety but of Mark's father abusing him by striking fear into him. Dr Lewis is investigating the psychology of fear on his own son.
Dr Lewis and the young Mark are played by the uncreditted Michael Powell and his own son Columba.
As an adult Mark is part of a film crew and has ambitions to become a film maker in his own right. He is never without a camera and explains, to anyone who asks, that he is making a documentary.
Then one of the actresses on the film he is working on is murdered and the police get involved.
But the scene for the whole movie is set right at the beginning. Tension mounts as Mark, carrying a concealed camera, meets a prostitute and the camera follows her into her house where she is murdered. The opening credits roll as he sits back and watches his new home movie.

Carl Boehm is excellent as Mark Lewis, a role that makes Hannibal Lecter seem docile.
Get a copy of the DVD to see what I mean.
Cinema in the Sixties were moving in all sorts of directions and somehow Leo Marks' script managed to combine 'kitchen sink' with the thriller and horror genres. Yet the movie virtually disappeared after it received bad reviews. However, due to the efforts of Martin Scorcese 'Peeping Tom' reached a wider audience in the US but not in Britain where the film was made.