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.