Tuesday 11 October 2011


Recently new blogs from here have had to be published via a roundabout route.
The Wowzio thing has disappeared - hasn't been seen for some time.
People leave comments - but I can't reply.
I read other peoples' blogs - David Cranmer, Patti Abbott, James Reasoner, Gary Dobbs et al - just can't leave a comment.
Everywhere I go I'm told to sign in - and arrive back at the dashboard where I'm already signed in.
Tried with this computer.
Tried with my laptop.
Tried with the library computer.
Tried with my son's blackberry thingy.
My daughters, granddaughters and sons have tried via their computers and discovered that the problem exists no matter what they do.

For a while I thought that this was just happening to me. Until someone else e-mailed me to say that I wasn't alone and that they had heard from someone else that their blog had gone the same way.

So what has Blogger.com got to say about that? Dunno, as soon as you hit the 'contact us' button you get 'You have to be signed in to do that' kind of message.

Maybe, I shouldn't have tried the updated Blogger interface.

It seems that every year Broken Trails has been hit. Last year it was wrong security certificates - spam - etc. Now it has reached the stage where I'm thinking three strikes and I'm out of here.
I'll continue to read blogs but won't be able to comment.

Sunday 25 September 2011


Take a good look at this picture. The customisation to this bike involved the likes of old stainless steel bread bins. It was built as a tribute to Captain America - the comic book hero.
We can do this.
I recall that even back in the sixties that many of the old Rockers or bikers made spare parts for our bikes. Even back then manufacturers' parts were pretty expensive.
So, from simple beginnings the customisation of bikes has grown.
Rat bikes, streetfighters, custom bikes and trikes are all around us now. Love them or hate them - you have to admire the workmanship; the artistic design - poetry in motion.
So, why change something that doesn't need fixing?
Yes, the EU wants to bring in regulations that effectively ends the customisation of bikes. Trikes would cease to exist unless they came from a manufacturer.
And - because they don't have a brain between them - this government will rubber stamp a regulation that, effectively, outlaws individuality.

So, if you are out and about today and your journey is delayed it is because there is a MAG demonstration.
From 1 pm you will find bikes and trikes in the slow lane for about 20mins. And while this may be a touch disruptive I hope that some of the car drivers join in.

Love or hate bikers - your car will be next. No more custom cars or hotrods.
Any EU Regulation takes away OUR individuality - takes away who WE are.

Demos will take place on M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, M8, M9, M20, M25,M40, M42 and M62. Also, A1, A12, A14, A34, A38, A55 and A90 - and those are just for starters.

For once, forget any prejudices - your individuality could be next.

Friday 23 September 2011


Sadly, I have to write and report that the author John Burke died on the 20th September 2011 after a long illness.

John Burke was an inspirational writer and he will be missed.
My condolences go to his family and my thanks to Bronwen Burke who left a comment to advise of his death.

Some more about the life and work of John Burke can be found earlier on this site.

Sunday 18 September 2011

DEAD ISLAND by Mark Morris

In the beginning there was the trailer that millions tuned into. Dead Island looked to be the must have game of the year. Both the game and the novel were released on the 9th September and sold out on the day. Telephoned 'Game' and was told by that the game had not been released.
Seven days on and without anymore copies of the game to be found in stores or on-line I began to think that the hype was in full swing. I could imagine that the distributors were sitting around laughing as they made gamers hungry for the game.

Fortunately, Bantam have issued the novelisation of the game by Mark Morris. And a good job too for, having now read the book, I don't really need the game.

So four heroes and heroines are off on their hols (well, three are) on the paradise island of Banoi. One hit wonder Sam B is ready to make a comeback; ex-NFL footballer Logan is on holiday and Sydney cop, Purna, is taking time out after she has killed off a child abuser. The hotel receptionist, Xian Mai makes up the fourth. The thing they have in common is an immunity to the virus that is about to turn the population of Banoi into zombies.
It is a gory fight for survival as each character tries to deal with an unreal scenario. Zombies only exist in games - right? Each of the four have to come to terms with a very real enemy - and it turns out that zombies are just a minor problem.
I loved the moment where they come across a book rack that has Nevil Shute and Harold Robbins novels.

Mark Morris has produced one of the best game novelisations to date. He lives in Yorkshire. His first novel 'Toady' was published in 1989. Since then he has written sixteen books including four for the 'Dr Who' series. He is now working on the novelisation of a 1970s Hammer film 'Vampire Circus'.


My reading, just lately, seems to have developed a theme. First there was assisted suicide (Ruth Dugdall's 'The Sacrificial Man'); next came child abuse ('The Kid' by Kevin Lewis) and now something different that has a connection.
On the face of it Lizzie and Evie are two 13 year old girls who not only are the best of friends but live next door to each other. They share everything and know each other very well.
Megan Abbott's 'The End Of Everything' is a lot deeper than it first appears.
Told in the first person by Lizzie the reader learns that there are more to certain relationships than meet the eye. Some of it is innocent, though even that depends on how it is interpreted.
Evie disappears.
Has she been abducted?
Lizzie has clues and theories to offer - some presented as a lie yet are true in meaning.
The novel, set in the 1980s, is complex which makes it difficult to review.
What I really loved was a prose that could have come from Jack Kerouac (notably 'Visions Of Cody') and a story that evoked the atmosphere of Erskine Caldwell.
Highly recommended.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

THE KID by Kevin Lewis

Ever since Dave Pelzer came out with 'A Child Called It' books with various abused themes seem to have filled the bookshelves.
So Kevin Lewis's 'The Kid' wouldn't have normally caught my attention. What set it apart from other books (at first) was that it was set in King Henry's Drive in the New Addington area of Croydon (South London). This was right on my doorstep.
Kevin Lewis suffered a childhood that was punctuated with violent assaults on him by his mother while his father hid in the kitchen listening to Elvis and drinking himself into oblivion.
Little wonder, then, that Kevin wet himself - and got beaten for it. Not just by his mother but by the school bullies. Still Kevin's mother was clever for she never marked his face and if anyone asked about the bruises on other parts of his body she had the ready explanation that Kevin was a clumsy kid who was always falling over.
Still the day came when Kevin had his head split open and then, and only then, did Social Services act.
For two years Kevin found peace in a children's home. The bed wetting stopped and he began to live a normal life. Guess what - Social Services sent him back home to live with his parents. Of course, Kevin's life returned to one of daily beatings. Social Services were still monitoring the situation but Kevin's mother knew, in advance, when they were coming which gave her time to allow Kevin's bruises to fade.
I could go on more in the same vein but Kevin, eventually, fights back. He has big ideas and finds himself placed with a family who encouraged him in his dreams. Unfortunately, his new family (who do show him love and affection) do not know how far he will go to realise his dreams. Not all of it is honest but after all he has gone through who can really blame him.
Then he meets his future wife, Jackie, who has to be a strong influence in his life. In fact this book was written for her so that she would understand him.

'The Kid' is not an easy read. Through a touch of luck Kevin Lewis did not go the way of Baby P or Victoria Colombierre. If Kevin was neglected by his parents then he was, also, neglected by Social Services.
At the end of 'The Kid Moves On' he says that he thinks that Social Services should be given a chance. Sorry, Social Services is not fit for purpose. They can go into court, say what they like and the Judge believes what they say. There are more kids in care today that need not be there while those that are in real need of the Social Services care are neglected.
More often than not Social Services, just as they did with Kevin Lewis, ask the abused child if they want to stay with their family in front of their abuser. What else is the child going to say? Kevin Lewis knew that if he asked to be taken away his mother would have beaten him up.

'The Kid' has been made into a movie and filmed in various locations around Croydon.
Although a good movie that sticks to the basics of the abuse it becomes apparent that the second half of the story veers away from the original.

Still the one thing that I noticed is that Croydon Social Services as depicted in the book is no different today.

Monday 15 August 2011

JURY RIGGED (a short story)


Juries – twelve good men and true, except these days the female sex are added to the mix.
Juries are never wrong – right? Even if they are wrong they are right.
Tell that to the likes of Timothy Evans or Derek Bentley. Or Ruth Ellis, the last woman to hang, who fed up with domestic abuse killed her abuser and Sally Clark who, after serving four years of her sentence, was found to have not killed any of her children. Winning an appeal did not mend the wound and as a victim of depression she committed suicide.
Tell that to the victims of the rapists, the paedophiles and drug dealers given their freedom.
Give juries their due though. Sometimes it comes down to the prosecution’s witnesses – sure, they swear on the good book to tell the truth but, believe me, it is their version of the truth; the truth as they see it. And, yes, the same goes for the defence. So an impasse and the decision goes to the one who makes the best case.
Jenny Summers was seventeen years old.
Her battered, bruised, naked body was found lying on the rotten remains of a cardboard box at the back of a disused railway station. Nobody cared – not really. She was just another junkie prostitute who had picked up the wrong punter. Forensics did their thing. Detectives sort of detected and made some notes.
Jenny Summers was a nobody – a loser.
At the age of fifteen Jenny had got herself pregnant and gave birth to a little girl. As she was under age the Child Protection team got involved. She found herself surrounded by professionals who heard what she said – but they had already made their minds up. The Social Worker said that Jenny was violent and used that as grounds to remove the child. Truth was that Jenny was guilty of arguing her case. The court believed the Social Worker and the child was removed.
The pain hurt.
Heroin dulled the pain.
Prostitution paid for the pain relief.
The man who was her pimp and the supplier of her drugs was Sam Elder.
Jenny Summers is one of many.
Sam Elder, too, is one of many.
Sam Elder does not see himself as a killer. He sees himself as a kind of Samaritan – and a businessman. Where there is demand he has the supply.
What good is prison to the likes of Sam Elder? Take away his assets – but he has that covered. From prison he can still make deals and profit from his trade.

Well, the jury found Sam Elder not guilty of drug dealing and he walked free.
He stood outside the court with a cocky attitude, a thick cigar between his stubby, gold ringed fingers being congratulated by friends and family. Only when the cops appeared did he take a pause to look at the two head bowed men. Sam Elder laughed at their discomfort.

However, British justice is not always what it seems.
Sam Elder knew he was going to walk free.
He knew because everybody has something to hide.
There are those who have debts. Others who have a bit on the side. Cash that they would rather their partner knew nothing about. Out of a jury of twelve there is the potential for twelve little secrets.
That’s my job. Find their secrets and put the pressure on – just enough to ensure that my ‘client’ walks free.
It’s a living. I enjoy my work – I wouldn’t do it otherwise - doesn’t mean that I like my clients. Fact is I don’t like people full stop.
So there you go I fixed the jury so that Sam Elder walked free.
No regrets. No remorse.
Job done.
My mobile bleeps. I check my messages – it’s confirmation that the balance of my fee has been paid. I walk over to Sam Elder. He grins as I slap him on the arm. My hand stays there as we exchange words of congratulations. He’s not sure who I am – we have never met face to face – but he’s convinced I’m a friend.
I hate his kind.
These anonymous killers.
Sam Elder collapsed just minutes later. He was dead by the time he reached hospital. Diagnosis – he had died of an overdose of tainted heroin. The same drug that had been sold to and killed Jenny Summers.
An autopsy report will show that a puncture wound has been found in his upper arm.
A police officer strolls over to me. He can’t believe what has happened.
I tell him that it looks like justice was done. What I don’t tell him is that Sam Elder wasn’t the first nor would he be the last.
He grins – back to the station, Sarge?
I nod.

The above was written for the local writer's group that I have just joined.

Friday 12 August 2011


My daughter is a single parent with two children.
The pictures show the buildings on fire at the junction of London Road, Croydon with St.James Road and Sumner Road. The whole terrace of shops and flats were gutted in the riots.
At first, we were not aware of the problems along London Road as the news footage concentrated on the blaze of the furniture store at Reeves Corner. The store had been trading there for 150 years and, I suppose, a symbol of Croydon with a tram stop being named for it.
For a moment there was a snippet of another building on fire. It looked like the jewellers on the corner of our daughter's road. In fact, it was just that because a few minutes later our granddaughter was on the phone to tell us that everything was on fire. There were people running down the road but they could not see any police.
Despite the fires raging in London Road there was no attempt to evacuate the residential houses that backed on to it. In fact, the residents were told to stay in their homes.
Knowing how vulnerable my daughter was (she has tourettes and her daughter is autistic) my son attempted to go and get her away to safety but was turned back by the police.
The following day he did manage to slip through the cordon and get my daughter and her children to safety.
Luckily, the fires did not reach them and their home is ok. But the psychological scars still remain - it was an experience that they don't want to go through again.

Some time back - I think it may have been on James Reasoner's blog about the movie 'Harry Brown' - I said that the events at the end of the film hadn't yet happened but the time was very close. Seems, in some ways, to be prophetic words as last Sunday those rioting scenes became reality. For a while the streets of Croydon and the rest of London became no-go areas where rioters were allowed to loot.

As my kids say Croydon is not the same anymore.


I found this poster on a visit to Woodbridge, Suffolk. Needless to say I didn't get to visit the show. But it was good to see the advert on, of all days, Wild West Monday.

Back in 1915 W.Somerset Maugham published a novel called 'Of Human Bondage'. In Chapter 2 the young hero, Philip Carey, was in a drawing room where he had taken three large cushions from the sofa and one each from the armchairs with which he had built a cave where he was hiding from the Red Indians lurking behind the curtains. By placing his ear against the floor he could feel the thunder of buffalo hooves pounding across the prairie.
Within a couple of short paragraphs it reminded me just how far back children played at cowboys and indians.

Saturday 16 July 2011


Delta Rose and his partner, Etta James, built up a small ranch together but the urge of wanderlust and the lure of making quick money to give them a life of luxury drew Delta away.
Twenty years later and he returns. The ranch is now prosperous and foreman Steve Carter is firmly in a precarious driving seat. He has high hopes for something to happen between him and Etta but Delta's arrival seems to be about to dash his hopes.
But not all is as it seems. Delta has a problem, a bullet lodged close to his heart put there by an English gambler who accused him of cheating.
Delta is coming home to say sorry and to die.
But he has a son he knows nothing about. Matt James is a bit of a chip off the old block and is on the run for a killing that he didn't do and a robbery that he did. After him is Maxwell King, a powerful rancher, whose money he stole and Sheriff Jake Masters with a posse.
Once again Jack Martin takes his ingredients and turns them into a tasty treat. Incident piles upon incident that gathers speed until justice is seen to be done.
If you haven't read Jack Martin then you have missed a treat.

And there is more from Jack Martin at the Pattinase blog - a link to which can be found in the side panel.

The Ballad of Delta Rose is a Black Horse Western that, officially, comes out at the end of July but can be purchased through the usual outlets.

Monday 11 July 2011


Every western had an annual and 'Rawhide' was no exception.
They ran from 1959 to 1964 or 5. The one pictured is 1960 and I, also, have the 1961 annual.
Published by Dean & Sons Ltd the stories were written by Bill Pembury with illustrations by Leo Rawlings. These were black and white with either red, orange, green or blue colouring.
The stories reflect the tv series in a way that they could have made for another season in their own right.
The first story 'The Brogan Brothers' has Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates riding into the town of Pittsville to find three drovers to replace a trio of men who have become sick. They are directed, amidst a load of laughter, to a shack at the end of town where three Irish Brogan brothers, Paddy, Pat and Patrick, live. They hire on but are found to be on the idle side except when they want to enjoy a fight.
Determined to make men out of this disruptive trio he makes them ride right swing through the spooky Quanton's Canyon - a place where movement sets up weird echoes that can spook the cattle.
Enough to say that Gil Favor's ploy pays off.

But the annuals did not just tell stories. There were factual stops along the way with practical pieces about the flora and fauna to be found; the difficulties as well as the fun to be had along the trail and (in the 1961 annual) the use of sign language.

Who Bill Pembury was - I don't know except that he did the 'Tenderfoot' (Sugarfoot in the US) annuals.

Thursday 30 June 2011


'Man seeks beautiful woman for the journey of a life-time: I will lift mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help. Will you help me to die?'
Alice Mariani reads this on-line advert and begins a chain of events that has ended with her conviction for assisting a suicide.

Cate Austin is the probation officer assigned to the case. Her role is to determine, for the judge, a recommended sentence.

Alice insists that her story is one of misinterpreted love. Cate is, also, faced with the moral dilemma of the loophole between murder and euthenasia.

If only it was simple as that.

The book is not straightforward for as soon as the reader thinks that they know where it is leading, Ruth Dugdall throws a curve to keep you guessing.

Alice Mariani tells her story from the first person point of view while Cate's is in the third person. The flow of the narrative knits it all together. And then there is 'Smith' the man who placed the advert has a moment with his diary. Yet all the 'voices' are distinguishable and individual.

It has been a long time since I have read a book that has left a lasting impression on me. And I am impressed and I liked the touch where the reader finds out a little more about the fate of Rose Wilks who appeared in Ruth Dugdall's previous novel 'The Woman Before Me'.

Although this book is set in the English county of Suffolk, the story and the issues that it raises are universal. The characters are real and three dimensional - they walk among us.

'The Sacrificial Man' is a must read novel.

For a short time only this book, published by Legend Press, is available from Amazon for £4 - grab it while you can.

Monday 20 June 2011

SLAP BOOKLEATHER: A Western Site Worth A Visit

Just discovered this interesting site.
Western orientated with reviews of books, comics and movies as well as nostalgia on the age of TV westerns.

There is a link in the side panel or go to http://slapbookleather.blogspot.com

Friday 17 June 2011


This 2009 western movie was written by singer/songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard and director Tiller Russell.
It boasts quite a cast list with Kris Kristofferson, Lizzie Caplan, Dwight Yoakham, Cote de Pablo and Scott Speedman.

The story is a good one. Juliette Flowers (Caplan) decides to bring her lover's, Ranson Pride (Speedman)body back to bury him at his mother's side. A thought that does not sit well with his shady father, Reverend Pride (Yoakham). Old friend Kris Kristofferson sends a couple of hired guns to stop Juliette who has enlisted the help of Ransom's brother Champ (Jon Foster).
Ransom's body is held for - er - ransom by a witch, Bruja (Cote de Pablo)who sends out her own minions to stop Juliette.
Along the way Juliette and Champ forge a relationship. They meet an array of characters who come to their aid. A dwarf weilding a pair of sawn down shotguns, Siamese twins and a portly, army sergeant.

With a good, strong cast and a storyline that should have put a good western into the mainstream, I should be rooting for it.
The constant flash one frame replays of the key gunfights, fast forward motion from day to night, and the jerky opening credits - all in all should contain a health warning for anyone likely to experience an epileptic fit. Much of the 78 minute running time is unwatchable. And there are other things like Ransom Pride's modern gun, the army sergeants motorcycle and sidecar, and the Reverend's motor car (ok, this I can take as steam cars existed back then but still looked out of place).

In one breath this movie goes from good to bad and made ugly by the cinematography.

Wednesday 15 June 2011


The last article 'Into The Void' was about the impersonal world of the e-book. No first editions. No more having to attend book signings. In fact no face to face interaction with the reading public.
In response BHW writer Chap O'Keefe, who has just released a new e-book version of 'The Sheriff And The Widow', had the following to say:

Your post "A Kind of Void" last Sunday covered the aesthetic side of the ebooks v. print books debate perfectly for me. The commercial side, of course, is something else. Ebooks will be available for ever; no more going out of print ... or so we are told. And no longer will publishers' employees be "gatekeepers", determining what should or should not be read. Authors/would-be authors can easily put their books before the public, who will become their own gatekeepers. But how will the public find what it wants, and what it collectively considers worth buying, when the choice already runs into tens of thousands of titles? The answer so far seems to be that they will be led like sheep through the Internet fields of social networking by authors who spend as much time on marketing as they do on writing books. Some ebook authors have no talent or liking for such promotion. Others are very good at it, and it appears to ensure their by no means exceptional books top various sales charts. Will writing genre fiction return to mild profitability? Perhaps, for the few successful self-promoters. The experts in blogging, twittering and facebooking will lead their followers like pied pipers to the right places in the ebook retailers' ever-lengthening lists. For authors who choose to rely on a professional publisher, I'm not so sure. The other day I was approached with an invitation by a UK publisher planning a new Western line (ebook and print). Their offer was 25% of the 70% or 50% of the download price that they would receive from a retailer (e.g. Amazon). Authors can, of course, collect the full 70% for themselves alone, if they self-publish. But to do this effectively, they have to provide their own covers, formatting and promotion. It doesn't follow that someone who writes a good book can do all these things well, or vice versa. For an author, the ultimate question to a publisher launching into what has quickly become the fiercely competitive ebook scene is: "Does your company have the ability to sell four times more downloads than an author working on his own?" At this stage of the game, publishers can only answer that one speculatively. Can I add a brief plug to this? A couple of weeks ago I prepared a new cover and reissued my 1994 Black Horse western The Sheriff and the Widow as a 99c (69p) Kindle ebook. Two other O'Keefe titles are also available, all languishing somewhere up the Amazon where only typing the right enquiry into a search box will allow a reader to come across them.

Sunday 12 June 2011

A KIND OF VOID: The Impersonal World Of The e-Book

Two things happened recently that gave me pause for thought.
The first was one of those peculiar twists of fate where I discovered that I lived just seven miles from an old classmate. We had a brilliant reunion going through the school register of our mind and recalling the teachers. As he was leaving he caught sight of one of my bookcases and said the usual 'Oh! My God, I remember that.' Well, yeah it was one of those that went around the class.

The second was just sitting in the high street waiting for the wife. I had a bag of books and I took time out to read the back cover and the potted bio of the author.

On the other hand I had a couple of e-books but apart from a link to the authors themselves. I knew the writers but what about those that I've never met? There is something impersonal there. Holding a book, smelling either a newness or the warm scent of something well read, is missing from the download.

Now there are those who will offer and opposing arguement and this is not an anti arguement. It's just that the pro and anti lobby miss a fundamental point and that is that both print and download can co-exist. I think that it is essential.


I have books in a bookcase because I am a collector (and a hoarder).
Being a collector has an importance in the world of books. Where, then, can I find a first edition of Tony Masero's first novel 'The Riflemen'? In years to come it will be lost in the void - maybe, even forgotten. No one will remember that the author was the man who, as an artist, gave Edge his face or Tupelo Gold her sexuality. I know this but will the generations to come?
In a way electronic publishing is dismissing and disposing of the first edition as though such a thing has no place in the literary world.

Readers, like those who enthuse about music and movies live in a visual world. They need something that touches all the senses. Maybe, that is why kids today tend to turn to the video games where there is a kind of reality that they can identify with.

Without a balance between e-books and real books many authors will just disappear into a digital void.

Wednesday 8 June 2011


In 1949 the BBC made a serious attempt to bring a British western series to radio. This was the brainchild of Charles Chilton was would be instumental in creating 90 episodes spread over six series that ran from 1949 to 1953.
Using actual documents and diaries of the time Charles Chilton created a real world for Jeff Arnold (Paul Carpenter), the old timer Luke (Charles Irwin) and the daughter of the owner of the 6T6 Ranch, Mary,(Corrine Carr)and the dog 'Rustler' to inhabit.
The series covered the opening of the Chisholm Trail and the building of the Atcheson,Topeka and Santa Fe and the Union Pacific Railroads. Real characters turned up like Billy The Kid and Jesse James.
As a jazz musician himself, Charles Chilton knew the value of music and the series contained musical interludes.
In 1950 the Eagle comic approached the BBC for permission to create a comic strip version of 'Riders Of The Range'. Charles Chilton became involved with the stories for the strips and remained with there until the early sixties.
During the years of involvement with this series Charles Chilton became something of an authority on the history of the west. In 1961 he published a book called 'The Book Of The West' that won him the 1963 Western Heritage Award For Juvenile Books.
Unfortunately, none of the radio episodes exist today but I heard most of them when I was a child.
When the radio series of 'Riders Of The Range' ended in September 1953 Charles Chilton already had something new to take its place. He would take us forward to November, 1965 with a new hero, Jet Morgan, who would take us on a 'Journey Into Space'.

Monday 6 June 2011


After shooting his best friend Jesse Tripp is forced to go on the run.
Two years later Jesse escapes from an irate husband and climbs aboard a cattle truck. Events that set him on a reluctant return to his home in Wickett, Texas.
Here he learns that his father is dead and that he has a son by one of the servants. His brother has taken over the ranch which has grown in size and married Jesse's girlfriend Holly.
Jesse has to weigh up whether to find out what lay behind his father's death or just move on. However the law, in the shape of a devious sheriff Turgoose, makes his mind up for him.
Through all the twists and turns of this story where not all is as it seems Jesse Tripp comes close to death before unravelling family secrets.

Caleb Rand has written yet another good page turner full of characters and a plot that keeps the reader hooked.
Buzzard Point is published by Robert Hale's Black Horse Western brand and is due for publication on 30th June.

Sunday 5 June 2011



For many years James Arness thrilled western fans as Marshal Matt Dillon in the series 'Gunsmoke'. Sadly, on the 3rd June at the age of 88.
He will never be forgotten.


Yes, the Genesis singer/drummer is rumoured to be writing about the Battle Of The Alamo. He says that he has a connection to this part of Texas as he has been told that in a former life he was a Texan courier who survived the massacre.
Well, I don't know if that last bit is true but I seem to recall that in the movie the Texan courier was played by a singer - Frankie Avalon.


'Tis the season for Award ceremonies and the latest appears to be the Global e-Book Awards sponsored by Dan Poynter.
Though there seems to be a problem - there is no category for westerns.
Charles Whipple (aka Western writer Chuck Tyrrell) approached one of the men in charge, Joseph Dowdy, who said that no one had thought of a category but that he would go and talk to Dan about it. And, of course, there would have to be a panel of judges.
As long as there are companies committed to bringing the western out in e-book form like George G. Gilman's 'Edge:The Loner' and Chuck Tyrell's 'The Snake Den'; and Robert Hale who have re-published four Black Horse Western titles in e-book form - then there should be support for this category.
So check out http://awardsforebooks.com and help make a case for the western.

Saturday 21 May 2011


If ever there was an arguement for getting a games console then this is a good one.
L.A.Noire is set in Los Angeles in 1947 - and a lot of work has been done to re-create the downtown area of the Los Angeles of the period.

The creators are Rockstar, the company behind Grand Theft Auto series and Red Dead Redemption. This time it is the Australian branch, Team Bondi, behind this game that has a true sense of period.
There are excerpts from radio programmes of the day that include Jack Benny at his best. A soundtrack that boasts Lionel Hampton, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington and a 'Pistol Packin' Mama' from Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters - there has to be a sountrack album.
This is the noir of Bogart, Cagney and Robinson with a dash of Greenstreet and Lorre neatly packaged for a modern audience in the same way that they did with 'Red Dead Redemption'.
Storyline is simple - through a graphic back story you get the feeling that Patrolman Cole Phelps has issues resulting from his actions in the Pacific theatre during the Second World War and lies behind his reasons for joining the L.A.P.D.
Starting as a patrolman the idea is that Phelps climbs the ladder until he becomes a fully fledged detective. This is done via police chases and shootouts that are not as groanworthy as you would think. There is, also, the investigative procedure. This is puzzle solving at its best for crimes have to be solved to make progress.

This is by far the longest game that I have encountered - three discs compared to the usually one - such is the complex nature of both the storylines and the side quests.
This is not a game for kids - not those looking to shoot everything in sight or demolish vehicles and pedestrians in their path. This is very much the game for grown ups or for those who can take the time to think things through.
I would like to see this as another success for Rockstar but I do have reservations based more on the modern trend towards violent online gaming.

Friday 20 May 2011

THE WIDOW MAKER by Lance Howard

Published 1997 - Black Horse Western.

This was the second Black Horse Western that I read.
The Widow Maker is Brace Carrigan, a one eyed outlaw who leads a gang of women. The toothless Shale, the big Bertha, Mexican triplets April, May and June with the bookish Calamity Annie with her mousy look and wire framed glasses make up the gang and they all lack a love of men.
And that is what the gang leaves behind - widows. But all this dates back to Carrigan's childhood and a bullying father who killed Brace's mother. Even when his life is threatened by a woman he cannot bring himself to kill her.
And that threat is real.
For, after being wounded in a gold robbery, he kills the doctor who tends to his wound. This leaves his Chinese 'partner', Sarah, alone with her grief.
The gang has become the target of bounty hunter Steve Matthews. This is his last hunt as he intends to find himself some land and marry a girl called Elena.
On the trail he becomes aware of a crow and the half breed hunter wonders if he has a spirit guide. This as he is attacked and wounded by a bunch of renegade Indians.
With approaching delerium and following the spirit guide he reaches Sarah's home. As she tends Steve's wounds he drifts into a spirit world where nothing seems to make sense.
It is only when he recovers that he and Sarah join together to bring an end to the Widow Gang.

Like all good books it is not just figuring that you know the ending but the journey to get there. Lance Howard brings his characters to life. Although there can be some empathy with Brace Carrigan's childhood there is no sympathy for the man he has become.
And Steve coming to terms with strange dreams and their meaning rings true. Though I could not help but think that, maybe, there was a tip of the hat to the comic book hero 'The Crow'.
Even so 'The Widow Maker' is a very good read both for those who want to read their first western and for those looking for a starter by this author.

Lance Howard has written 30 westerns and in the last four months has had another four novels accepted for publication.

Sunday 15 May 2011

OPEN RANGE - The Return

The OPEN RANGE blog is back in business. It has kicked off with Matthew Reilly's 'Scarecrow' and Robin Douglas-Home's 'Hot For Certainties'.

Open Range is where forgotten as well as new books can be found along with music and films.

Broken Trails will remain western rooted

Thursday 5 May 2011


Now I'm not putting myself up as a food critic but I have to admit that The Ship Inn provided my wife and I with a smashing meal at lunchtime today.
We had pan fried rainbow trout with creamy, buttery mashed potato and spinach.
Evidently, the menu changes from time to time but on the evidence anyone who stops off here are in for a treat.
The thatched roofed inn dates back to the 13th Century and has a wonderful warm atmosphere.
The Ship Inn is just outside of Ipswich and off the A1156.

Thursday 28 April 2011


I love the cover to this book as it reminds me of the old pulps and Jeff Arnold and The Riders Of The Range Annuals.

The Secret Of Devil's Canyon has Nathaniel McBain and Shackleton Frost escorting convicted killer Cooper Metcalf to the Bear Creek pen. Of course, the prisoner protests that he is innocent - and maybe he is but Mayor Maxwell is dead and his daughter, Narcissa, is missing believed killed. On the evidence alone it looks as though Metcalf is guilty as hell.
Then there is Deputy Albright (who doesn't live up to his name) and his posse who want to see justice done. He wants the killer to hang but not before he has confessed to what he has done with Narcissa's body.
So...the chase is on through the labyrinth that is Devil's Canyon.
Joining the fray is Jim Dragon, an expert bone collector who is having a private war with bone thief Paul Dulaine (two characters who deserve a book of their own). Also, Emily Seymour who is not exactly on the level but saves Metcalf with a wild ride down a forty five degree canyon wall.
And the secret....it's all in the bones of the story.
I J Parnham delivers another great tale featuring Nathaniel McBain, a recurring character, along with a host of new and interesting characters.
This book is a Black Horse Western from Robert Hale Ltd and is already available from the usual outlets.

Nor is there a long wait for the next book from this author as the next BHW from I J Parnham, 'The Prairie Man' comes out on the 31st August 2011.


Several authors who contributed to the Express Western's anthology 'A Fistful Of Legends' have been talking to Book Life (www.booklifenow.com) about the west. Among the contributors are Matthew P. Mayo, Ross Morton, Charles Whipple, Alfred Wallon, C. Courteney Joyner and me.
This is a 3 part series of articles where everything is so neatly spliced together to produce a whole that is both enlightening and insightful


At long last the Wild West Monday initiative seems to be paying dividends. Black Horse Westerns along with other western titles have their own section in the Waterstones bookshops.
Not just western fiction as their non-fiction has some good titles amongst which was James Reasoner's 'Draw' and Dan Rottenberg's 'Death Of A Gunfighter' - the quest for Jack Slade the west's most elusive legend.
W.H.Smith seem to be dragging their heels but a three novel omnibus by Zane Grey was spotted in their Croydon store.

Chap O'Keefe is letting Misfit Lil loose on the e-book market. This series has a female lead and is worth taking the time out to read.

Thursday 14 April 2011


This comes from a 1942 edition of 'Good Housekeeping'.
It had been the author's job for several months to arrange parcels of books for the officers and men who were being held as p.o.w. The most frequently asked questions were just what kind of books did these men want to read.
"For the men I'd put blood and thunder Westerns first," writes Jean Heal before adding thrillers and light fiction.

The full article is included in a book called 'The Home Front: The Best of Good Housekeeping 1939 - 1945'. A book that includes contributions from C.S.Forester, Lloyd George, John Steinbeck and Daphne Du Maurier

Thursday 7 April 2011


Yang (Jang Dong Gun)is a warrior charged with ending a feud with a rival clan. However, the last enemy is just a baby and he refuses to make the killing blow. As a fugitive from the clan, Yang makes his way to the American west - to the town of Lode that is inhabited by circus folk. Here he befriends Lynne (Kate Bosworth)and together they open up a laundry and bring up the baby between them.
The clan are not behind waiting to hear the sound of Yang's singing sword.
Come Christmas and The Colonel (Danny Huston)arrives with his gang. There is history between The Colonel and Lynne for it was she who left him disfigured and he now wears a leather mask.
Yang wades in and the sword begins to sing.
At the same time the town drunk, Ron (Geoffrey Rush) decides to sober up and dig up his rifle. Outlaws and townspeople have to team up as the clans attack in what is a climatic bloodbath. Lynne has her showdown with the Colonel and Yang faces his mentor.
Not a great film but a good marriage of East and West with some brilliant set pieces. A sword practice to 'The Sailor's Hornpipe' is an instance that comes to mind. This is not a film to be taken seriously - it is pure fantasy and fun.

Wednesday 6 April 2011


Back in 1998 four young ladies in Stockholm, Sweden got together to form a punk rock band. By 2004, though, they had found their true calling in the world of heavy metal.
They are Mia 'Coldheart' Karlsson - guitar and lead vocals; Klara 'Force' Ronnqvist Fors - Guitar and Backing Vocals; Ida 'Evileye' Stenbach on Bass and drummer Jannicke 'Nicki Wicked' Lindstrom.
As a vocalist Mia Coldheart can kick ass and knows how to do it soft. Check out songs like Play Me Hard, My Heart Is Black or Bad Hangover on YouTube.
To date there have only been two albums - 'Til Death Do Us Party' and 'In Distortion We Trust'. It was from this latter album that they released their debut single 'Losing The Game' that peaked at no 8 on the Swedish charts.
Though they have, for the most part, toured in Europe and Scandinavia they did a gig with 'Motorhead' down in Folkestone, Kent and, later, recorded 'Killed By Death' on a Motorhead tribute album.
They are, currently, working on their third album.
For those with a liking for Heavy Metal then this all girl group is worth checking out.

Monday 4 April 2011

STARPACKER by David Whitehead

This book is a 1990 edition from the Black Horse Western brand.

Tom Hunter has served just half of a 10 year sentence at Yuma for the theft of silver bullion and the murder of a stage driver and the guard.
As it comes clear Hunter was framed and his arrival in the town of Carver is no accident. They want a town marshall and he sees that as a way to bring the true criminal to justice. Only when the confrontation arrives does Hunter realise how naive he had been.
Trouble is that his adversary, Jason Birchell, not only has an interest in the local paper but is a powerful man around town. A man who will use any means possible to discredit and kill his nemesis.
David Whitehead weaves his web and keeps the reader hooked to the end.
For anyone looking to read their first western then this book would fit the bill.
Look out for the Judge and Dury series and the Heller novels from this writer, too.

Tuesday 29 March 2011


Series 1 of the western tv series that shot Clint Eastwood onto the world stage is already available.

Series 2 will be released on Region 2 on the 4th April 2011

Series 3 will be released 11th July 2011

Saturday 26 March 2011

HOMEFRONT:THE VOICE OF FREEDOM by John Milius and Raymond Benson

Between them John Milius (Apocalypse Now) and Raymond Benson (James Bond novelisations) have created a frightening future.
The main storyline begins in 2025 and concerns a disillussioned journalist, Ben Walker, and a Korean 'sleeper' Yi Dae-Hyan aka Salmusa.
The USA has lost it's way. The recession and the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns have weakened the economy and the standing on the world stage has diminished.
The Middle East is in flames and the cost of oil has become prohibitive.
In Asia, there is a leadership change in Korea. The leader is charismatic enough to engineer a re-unification with South Korea. The Philipines, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam join in to become part of the Greater Korean Republic. Japan doesn't get the choice but that is just a step away from the ultimate plan.
Rich and powerful the GKR has the weakened America in it's sights.
In the US the man who will co-ordinate the invasion works as an electrician in San Francisco - but it is Salmusa who sends out the first wave as the metros in 12 cities are bombed simultaneously.
Ben Walker, the journalist, is tired. He is just a hack who covers celebrity lives. Certainly, not a hero. He knows what the world is like but as long as he can run his BSA motorbike and have a Jack Daniels he is happy.
Then the lights go out....and his journey to become The Voice Of Freedom begins.
Milius and Benson have written a captivating book. The build up is believable and Ben Walker is in the dark as to what is happening. In a world of chaos he meets up with the resistance. Of course, Salmusa is the man given the sole task of gagging the voice of freedom. The climax leaves the reader wanting more.

And this is only the beginning as John Milius has brought many of the characters from the book to a videogame 'Homefront' that is set in 2027.
All this has resulted in some controversy. It is said that the game from THQ and Kaos will not be available in South Korea. The Japanese version has no references to Korea or the leadership.
The premise isn't new I seem to recall back in the sixties that had the Chinese invading Britain. I can't remember the title as it was one of many at the time of similar ilk.
Still....Homefront 2: London is on the cards.

Thursday 17 March 2011


with a pic from the window of our new home.

Tuesday 22 February 2011


As things come together - so the wife and I are going to up sticks and move to healthier climes.
As soon as I stood at the window and saw the sea rushing in I knew that this was the place for me. Being a writer I could have written that sentence a touch better but you get the jist.
The view from the main bedroom window is just as good. So if I get a touch of insomnia then, maybe, the moon on the water will give me a Pink Floyd moment.
Unfortunately, the cost of all this luxury will be the snail like internet connection that comes with it. Seems that fibre-optic cable haven't reached these parts. I have a fibre optic Christmas tree but Virgin Media mentioned that it would not help with my problem.
Mind you Christmas Day looks rather fun as all the locals turn into lemmings and charge headlong into the sea. They do this despite the icy conditions and, somehow, seem to survive.
The best place to fish is from the beach. Good excuse to leave the house and spend time out doors reading a BHW while catching dinner.
Be assured that 'Broken Trails' will return.

Friday 4 February 2011

RON WATKINS - 1930 to 2011

It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of fellow Black Horse Western writer Ron Watkins.

Ron began his writing career with detective novels the first being 'Death Draws The Curtain' in 1973.
Ron was born in 1930 and educated at Leominster Grammer school. He worked as a librarian with Rhondda Borough Council rising to the position of Deputy County Librarian with Mid-Glamorgan County Council. He was also a reader for a London publisher and President of the Bridgend Writers Circle.
His first Black Horse Western 'Lowry's Revenge' was published in 1993 and was the first of his novels that I read. The hero was an actor and began with a scene from Shakespeare's 'King Lear'.
With contributions to 'Writing Magazine' and the production of a play 'Sextet' Ron Watkins was always the versatile writer.

Broken Trails sends condolences to Ron's family. His talent is something that will be missed.

Wednesday 2 February 2011


A while back I thought that the book of the game would be a good idea. Something along the lines of book of the movie sort of thing.
A visit to our local Waterstone's showed shelves lined with novels (not graphic novels though they are around too).
These novelisations are of some of the popular console games around like:
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood plus another couple of titles that precede this.
Gears Of War
Dragon Age
Dead Space

Rumour has it that there are more novelisations in the pipeline.

Thursday 20 January 2011


So I ordered a copy of 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' on Blu-Ray in 3D from HMV. A touch expensive but to have the option of watching the movie in 3D didn't cause a problem.
Well, that was until we all sat down to watch the movie.
The 3D option wasn't available - and the reason why is because I do not have a 3D TV and a 3D Blu-Ray disc player.

There was no prior warning for this. The front celophane wrapper said the 3D glasses were required but not included. That wasn't a problem we had plenty of them from various other movies.
There was a slip of paper buried amongst the junk inside the disc case that did explain about the need for the 3D stuff - should have been on the front with the bit about the glasses.
So I telephoned HMV and Steve explained that it was not their policy to explain that extra equipment was needed. In fact HMV, or so Steve said, assumed that the consumer had the equipment. Never mind the Sale Of Goods Act 1979 which, obviously, does not apply to HMV.
Televisions and DVD players with 3D are expensive and, from what I can see, are just not selling. All this is a ploy to make the consumer pay out for something that they don't need to watch a 3D movie. The movies that have gone before like 'Journey To The Centre Of The Earth' and 'The Final Destination' have played well enough. So why change something that doesn't need changing.
Mind you the 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' disc comes from Sony - don't they make 3D TVs and DVD players?

The moral of the story is don't buy 3D Blu-Ray movies without finding out whether or not they will play on your existing equipment. I should have done that but it doesn't excuse those who should have pointed it out in the first place.

Tuesday 18 January 2011


Yes, well what can I say.
The movie does carry the spirit of the comics and the opening sequences that explain how Hex became disfigured are neatly done.
Anyway, Quentin Turnball (John Malkovich in Cyrus The Virus mode - Con-Air)is the baddie who kills Hex's family and creates the artistry on Jonah's face. Hex (Josh Brolin)becomes a bounty hunter and one who has a bounty on his own head. He has a neat pair of gatling guns on his saddle with which he wipes out a town that has decided not to pay him. Almost a spaghetti western parody.
Anyway to cut an 82 min movie shorter - President Grant offers a pardon to Hex if he can stop a gang from causing mayhem. A gang run by Turnball who had, earlier, faked his own death.
Turnball has a brilliant number two in the shape of a tattooed Irishman called Burke (there is a touch of The Riddler here). Michael Fassbender breathes so much into this character that he stands out.
With the help of the love interest, a prostitute named Lilah (Megan Fox) Hex goes to war in search of a weapon of mass destruction.
As it stands 'Jonah Hex' wasn't disapponting but could have done with some extra scenes just so that characters could really develop. Maybe they will do better with the sequel.


Some of Tyrell L. Bowers novels are available on Kindle.

The Secret Of Snake Canyon (original novel published by Walker Westerns)
Ride Against The Wind (original novel published by Walker Westerns)
Armageddon At Gold Butte (original novel published as a Black Horse Western - and original BHW cover shown).

Also released last Friday: Chuck Tyrell's 'The Snake Den'.

But if you prefer books then Terrell L. Bowers latest BHW 'Ambush At Lakota Crossing' is due for release at the end of this month. However, I expect that it is available right now.

Monday 17 January 2011


Does anyone remember the first western that they read?
In this case I will be recording the first four Black Horse Westerns that I read.

Marshal Of Gunsight
Elliot Long
published 1991 by Robert Hale Ltd
Black Horse Western.

Tom Callan had worked with some of the best lawmen. He was with Wild Bill Hickok in Abilene, then Bat Masterson in Dodge and, finally, the Earps in Tombstone. Now he was just the Town Marshal in a backwater called Gunsight.
For three years he has not had much to do except twiddle his fingers, play poker with the butcher, Charlie Hannam, and the saloon keeper John Byett.
One snowy day the telegraph sends a message - a couple of small time stage hold-up men are heading his way. Callan knows them so it looks like an easy arrest as it has been in the past. Unfortunately, they kill a man on the way and fearing the rope decide to resist arrest.
The shoot-out has an effect on Tom Callan who fears that his nerve has gone - the killing just does not sit easy with him.
Calming his nerves with a glass of whiskey and a hand of poker - another incident lands in his lap. This time it is a kid on the prod but Blue Marson is quickly disarmed and sent packing. Only this kid isn't used to being insulted and turns around for another go and winds up dead.
Trouble is Blue Morson has a pretty powerful daddy, Jerome Morson, who doesn't take kindly to people killing his boy. And when he and his outfit are run out of town by Callen, Morson is a man fit to explode.
Thinking that he has seen the last of Morson, Callan takes time to help out the County Sheriff but on his return finds that his town is in Morson's hands.

Elliot Long writes a well paced book and creates fine characters. Discovering how Callen deals with his problems adds to the suspense.
Probably one of my best selections on visiting the local library.
Certainly a writer to look out for.
His latest BHW 'Scar County Showdown' is due for release at the end of February 2011.

Saturday 15 January 2011

THE MARK by Charles E Israel

Charles E. Israel (b.1920 Indiana, USA - d.1999)
Published by MacMillan in 1958 and Pan Books 1961.

I first read this book when it was a pristine straight off the shelf paperback in 1961. I didn't have a clue as to what the book was about. The blurb on the back just stated "Here is an adult novel that demands to be read.....a masterpiece of suspense that makes every word count."
Not enough for a young teenager to guess at what the book was about.
Still the best way to find out was to start at Chapter 1.
Jim Fuller (the hero) is in a diner. He's a touch nervous as he has to go see a room that he wants to rent and then go on to a job interview. He is nothing special, just an accountant looking to relocate but the blonde waitress hovering around him increases his tension.
By the time he gets to the Cartwright house where he intends to rent a room he is a little more settled. He likes the room but not the 'Blue Boy' painting on the wall - that brings back memories and not all of them good. When he meets Arnold Cartwright, the landlady's husband, Arnold thinks that he recognises Jim from somewhere.
It is not until he gets to his job interview with Mr. Clive of Clive Industries that the reader discovers that Jim Fuller has spent the last five years of his life in the Pen.
As Mr. Clive doesn't ask the important question Jim Fuller does not tell anyone what he was inside for.
But you should have worked it out by the time he meets up with his shrink, McNally, in Chapter six.
This is a dark book that is pieced by rays of hope. Each revelation comes as each layer of the story is uncovered. But just as you reach the point where all looks well for Jim and his relationship with secretary, Ruth Leighton, his world comes crashing down to reality.
There is no escape - or so it seems.
This is a book about abuse - and the victims - but told without sensationalism.
Fifty years on the subject matter is as relevent today as it was when this book was first written.

Stuart Whitman was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Jim Fuller in the movie of the book. The film also starred Maria Schell and Rod Steiger.

Monday 10 January 2011


Something with an odd twist to it. Alexander FLEMING House in London's Elephant & Castle area was designed by an architect named GOLDFINGER.

Chiswick Auctions, London: A Frederick Remmington bronze 'Comin' Thru The Rye' sold for £230.
It was admired by actor Brian Murphy (of 'George & Mildred' fame) who is very enthusiastic about westerns. He has the ambition still to appear in a western - maybe, 'The Tarnished Star'?

Tuesday 4 January 2011


Well, what a day over at The Tainted Archive blog where, once again, the emphasis was on the awareness of the western genre in general and to promote the ebook - even encouraged to buy one or take up the offer of a freebie by Joanne Walpole 'Raven Dove'.
I did buy some westerns yesterday notably Herne The Hunter 22: Wild Blood so that I now have the complete set. Not an ebook, though, as this series has yet to be included.
Still I enjoyed the day that had a piece by several Black Horse Western writers like Chap O'Keefe. Charles Whipple (aka Chuck Tyrell) on how ancestry, childhood and a town can influence a writer. An interview with Chris Scott Wilson and Edge creator George G. Gilman.
But the highlight for me had to be Edward A. Grainger's short story 'Melanie'. This was a tight taut story about child abuse and featured Cash Laramie (who made his debut in the Express Westerns anthology 'A Fistful Of Legends'). It is a story that could be told today and underlines just how much nothing has changed over the centuries. I very much hope that this story will appear in the proposed Cash Laramie anthology.

In some respects I think that ebook readers are a gadget too many. On the other hand if it gets people back into the habit of reading it has to be a good thing. As Chris Scott Wilson says in his interview at least this way an author's book will never go out of print.
I have downloaded some books - the last six Edge books that are only available this way. But I do find that this way of reading a book a touch impersonal. Nor, having read a book, can I toss it over to my wife or one of my children.
I have another objection to ebooks. There is a certain book out there that I would like to read but it doesn't matter where I go I can either buy a Kindle version or get the message 'Download now'. That sounds like a dictatorship to me - I can only read a book if I download it. If that is the sound of the future then there are a lot of people who may well miss out on a good book. Surely, unless I am missing something, there should be a paperback book option.

Still Wild West eMonday has weaved the magic again and flown the flag for the western. And that is all that matters.

Monday 3 January 2011

ARROWHEAD by Paul Kane

Arrowhead by Paul Kane was first published by Abaddon Books in 2008.

As part of the Afterblight Chronicles this is another story where the world has been wiped out by a virus with the exception of those with O Neg blood.

The book opens with the torture of Thomas Hinckerman who has arrived in Calais with two friends Gary and Dan via the Channel Tunnel. Here they meet a bunch of mercenaries led by the power hungry and sadistic De Falaise. Upon discovering the situation in Britain the Frenchman sees a way to seize power.
Meanwhile, across the Channel ex-policeman Robert Stokes is watching his wife and son die of the virus. This contains some very harrowing descriptive writing. As Robert Stokes waits to die he becomes a hermit in the woods near Nottingham (where he lives).
But slowly he comes to realise that the virus has passed him by and he begins to live off the land. He makes his own bow and arrow with which he practises until he can hunt for his food.
While all this is happening De Falaise is creating an army who, on hearing of a certain myth and legend decides to set up camp in Nottingham Castle and declare himself as the new High Sheriff of Nottingham.
Ah, thinks 'Survivors' meets Robin Hood.
Yes, that's what I thought - but there is more to this tale than just that. Sure there is the Reverend Tate (Friar Tuck), Jack 'The Hammer' Finlayson (Little John) and Mary Louise (Maid Marion) who bursts onto the scene with a pair of replica Peacemakers.
This take was one of the best that I've read in a long time and has the kind of pace that keeps the reader in touch with the characters through all the twists and turns.
There are two sequels in this series - 'Broken Arrow' and the just released 'Arrowland'.

One thing did leave me a little bemused and it must be a coincidence - De Falaise picks up some of his army in FINCHLEY, Mary Louise's surname is FOSTER and she has a pair of PEACEMAKERS (westerns). See where I'm coming from?

Sunday 2 January 2011

BLACK HAND GANG by Pat Kelleher

'Black Hand Gang' is the first novel in a series created by Pat Kelleher under the collective name of 'No Man's World'.

It is The Somme, France 1916 and the men of the 13th Battalion of The Pennine Fusiliers are preparing for an assault on the German lines at Harcourt Wood. The assault is destined to take place on the 1st November but when they go over the top the world has changed.
The muddy expanse of their lines and the cratered no man's land is there but is a blot on an otherwise perfect landscape.
How did they get there?
Well, nobody knows but as the story unfolds there are dark occult forces at work. It is one of their own who is looking for the same thing as Aleister Crowley - to become The Great Snake. Although this character makes fleeting appearances Lieutenant Jefferies makes his presence felt.
Still the gallant troops have other things to contend with like a pack of giant hyenas and meat eating worms that have no respect for trench defences.
Along with the Pennines are three nurses, a Sopwith bi-plane and pilot, and an ironclad.
A patrol is sent out and discover a human tribe called Urmans who, in turn, introduce our heroes to the insect rulers of this world the Khungarrii.

Pat Kelleher gives a good account of trench life and the reader feels the shock and awe as the Pennines face the new world and it's perils. And the main character of Tommy Atkins is finely drawn as an almost reluctant hero.
The blurb on the back has a final description that suggests that this is like the old pulp science fiction adventures and it does have that feel to it.

The next book in the series 'Ironclad Prophesy' is out during July, 2011.

'Black Hand Gang' is published by Abaddon Books at £7.99 (available in the US at $9.99)

Saturday 1 January 2011


Back in 2000 Rebellion took over the comic 2000AD.
Seeing an opportunity to expand they opened up an independant book imprint with 2000AD's graphic novels editor, Jonathan Oliver, taking the reins.
The first novel appeared in 2006 and over the last few years have published a fistful of titles. Amongst which are 'The Afterblight Chronicles' that includes a trilogy of novels by Scott Andrews (previously reviewed) and another from Paul Kane.
There is sword and sorcery tales under the collective title of 'Twilight Of Kerebos':
steampunk tales under the title 'Pax Brittania' and the gory zombie stomping world of 'Tomes Of The Dead'.
And now Pat Kelleher's 'No Man's World' series that kicks off with 'Black Hand Gang'.
Despite being around since 2006 it is only in recent months that these books have found their way onto the shelves of a book shop near me.
To me these books have that connection to the old days of 2000AD - in that they could so easily come in graphic form. But it is 2000AD for adults.
Well, Broken Trails will be reviewing Pat Kelleher's 'Black Hand Gang' and Paul Kane's 'Arrowhead' shortly.
If you want to know more about the books, authors and e-books go to www.abaddonbooks.com