Monday 21 May 2012

BODIE by Neil Hunter (e-book)

It was great to see that Neil Hunter's 'Bodie' was about to make a comeback. The original Star paperbacks ran to a series of six - all of them coming out at the wane of what had been a successful era for the western. On the spine the books were called 'Bodie The Stalker' - not a name that was used in the story. This time the series is coming out in e-book format from Piccadilly Publishing. And the brains behind this new publishing venture who hope to bring more series from the group of writers known as the Piccadilly Cowboys are David Whitehead and Mike Stotter. Both men have a long history with the western genre from their childhood in London's East End right through to today where they are western writers in their own right. They have always championed the genre and the writers of such series as 'Herne The Hunter' and 'Hart The Regulator' and many others. Bodie is a bounty hunter and the action of these books take place at a time when bounty hunting was legal. While Bodie is a man of action, he is also a thinker and plans ahead to his own exacting rules and regulations. A man of few words he gets the job done - sometimes fairly as is seen in the opening to 'Trackdown' the first book in the series. Bodie 1: Trackdown is available from all the usual outlets.

Sunday 20 May 2012


So the Beeb want to sack Jessie J because she thinks that the show is lame. Why? For saying how it is? I would have thought that it would be a good idea for the BBC to rethink their show. Mind you most of the coaches failed to turn around for about 90% of the talented singers and took just a small per centage on. I lost interest way back when Jaz Ellington was asked to sing another song - and the backing band knew exactly what to play. So the word 'rigged' comes to mind - and, of course, this is the guy who is the bookies favourite. Though, I think there is a dark horse in the shape of Bo Bruce - except that she keeps reminding me, in looks, of a mature Alex Parks and sounds like her. I half expect to hear her sing 'Beautiful' at some stage. Can't help but think that way. And, in case, anyone has forgotten Alex Parks well she won the 2005 Fame Academy (an older version of The Voice) on the BBC. She recorded two albums (and, yes, I have them both) and then disappeared. And what was Holly Willoughby doing apologising for a brilliant and raunchy performance by Becky Hill? Now, if Becky Hill or Joelle (who got shown the door last week) came out with albums tomorrow I would buy them. Actually, the whole show is a waste of time and not much different in texture than 'The X Factor' or 'Britains' Got Talentless'. In fact, I'm not sure why I'm even bothering to write about it. Well, I do as I find it difficult to understand why it is the talentless who win these shows - and not those who do. Becky Hill has talent - but will she be able to cope with the pressure that would result. Will Joelle disappear into obscurity - I'd like to think that there is a record producer out there who spotted her. The same goes for the Ruth that is on Tom Jones team. As Tom Jones said, women are able to express themselves much better than their male counterparts. Still all was not lost. At least Chelsea beat Bayern Munich - so my evening viewing ended on a happier note.

Saturday 19 May 2012


I bought this game more on the strength of Rockstar's previous games 'L.A.Noire' and 'Red Dead Redemption'. That was my first mistake. The second was actually attempting to play the game. The game starts with a long and boring prologue complete with credits as per a movie - so long that I could nip out to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee and a cheese sandwich. Then 'the game' started with yet another long drawn out part of the storyline followed by a bit of player action that was interupted by another cut scene followed by....well, the whole of Chapter One was more lenghthy cutscenes than game. Chapter Two didn't look much better. BUT....that is not the worst aspect of 'Max Payne 3'. The cut scenes and monologues are delivered in a continuous monotone and accompanied by flashing split screens, supposedly important capitalised words from the dialogue, blurred images that double and triple on themselves in such a flashy way that the developers seem not to understand why games contain an 'epilepsy warning'. After a chapter and a half I was suffering max pain - a headache. Not only that but watching a man wallow in self-pity while downing bottles of Jack Daniels gets a little boring and any attempt to skip it is met by a message 'still loading'. I could see that as Max Payne grabbed another bottle. Still what little gameplay there was was pretty good - pity some decisions are taken out of the players hands with slo-mo cutscenes. XBOX World carried one of those boastful articles about getting their hands on this game a couple of months before it came out. Give them their due their 'hands on' as they admitted was a chance to play the multiplayer parts of the game. However they did say that they had played one level of the solo campaign - one would presume from that that there were no cutscenes added to the demo that they played. Still there is an interesting point in their article and that is that, to my mind, the online multiplayer games now outweigh the the solo campaigns. When a player compares games with others it just amazes me that they have scored on-line achievements but no in-game. I'm not a great fan of the Grand Theft Auto series but I would rate them above this mess. Talking of which isn't it about time the British branch of Rockstar came up with a 'Grand Theft Auto: London'? Surely, an update on the old Playstation One game is well overdue.

Thursday 17 May 2012

THE DEATH OF GRASS by John Christopher (1922 - 2012)

The Summer of 1958 was one long heatwave. The grass on the school playing field had gone from a dazzling green to something resembling a khaki stubble. Even the gardening class were struggling to keep the vegetable plots alive. And, of course, we had been given the freedom of the school fields rather than be restricted to the over heated confines of the school playground. Not only did the boys' have this freedom but so did the girls from the adjoining school. A white line was drawn to indicate that to stray beyond would be a punishable offence. As with a football, so the whole body would have to cross the inch and a half wide barrier. Nothing was said about heads or hands. And so it was that I sat as close to that line as I could so that the fair haired, freckle faced girl who sat on the other could peer over and read the book that I was reading. The book in question was a brand spanking new Penguin edition of 'The Death Of Grass' by John Christopher. It was one of those books that forever marked the where and when I read it. This book was nominated, in 1957, for the International Fantasy Award and ended up as the runner up to Tolkein's 'The Lord Of The Rings'. A quick synopsis of the book is that a virus destroys all types of grass and that includes corn, wheat and barley etc. John Custance and his family watch as anarchy breaks out and decide to make the journey to his brother's farm. The thing that I learned from the Character of John Custance is that heroes are not always the good guys and, sometimes, they have to do somethings that may not seem nice but have to be done in order to survive. Reading the book today there are three things that become apparent. The first is that the virus in the book begins life on the African continent - the same continent that, today, is ravaged with famine. The second is that the society at the time the novel was set was better equipped to deal with survival than modern day society is. The third is just how influential 'The Death Of Grass' became. There are elements of John Wyndham's 'The Day Of The Triffids' and William Golding's 'The Lord Of The Flies' within 'The Death Of Grass' - yet looking beyond to Cormac McCarthy's future vision of 'The Road' and the starkness and barreness of the movie version - then I see John Christopher's novel lurking in the background. It even lies there in the make up of the 'Mad Max' movies. The book was turned into the Cornel Wilde forgetable movie 'No Blade Of Grass' which was the US title. The apocalyptic novel is no longer new but back in the days of Wyndham, Christopher and, later, J G Ballard it was. And, probably, will remain at the top of the list for years to come. So it was sad to hear that John Christopher had died this year at the age of 89. He was born in Lancashire as Samuel Youd and over a long career wrote under several pseudonyms including Stanley Winchester. After school he was conscripted into the Army as a signalman. He wanted to write and on the basis of an unfinished novel he was granted the Atlantic Award from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1947. It opened the door for him to write in several genres under different names. John Christopher may well be remembered for this novel but for a younger generation then it will be 'The Tripod' trilogy and it's prequel. The Death Of Grass has been reissued as a Penguin Classic or, alternatively, there is a Kindle edition.

Wednesday 16 May 2012


Scheduled for release on the 25th December 2012 is a new western written and directed by Quentin Tarantino - sounds like a good Christmas pressie to me. Django Unchained features Jamie Foxx as Django a freed slave who goes hunting for his wife who is held by the sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo Di Caprio). Along the way he is assisted by former dentist turned bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christopher Waltz). Good to see Leonardo Di Caprio not only play the baddie but appear in another western. Interesting, also, to note that Franco Nero was rumoured to have been offered the role of Candie.


I was curious as I wondered if there was a console game featuring the American Civil War. So I did what comes naturally and Googled the subject. I can tell you that if you put the title above in the search engine there are a number of unexpected results. It appears that there is a section of the gaming community who are tired of fighting in Vietnam and World War 2 and Iraq/Afghanistan like scenarios. They want something differant - American Civil War or anything with a Wild West feel to it tops the list. However, the line is drawn and there is an anti-War Of Independence lobby. This latter does not bode well for the forthcoming Assasin's Creed 3 which has a Revolutionary background to it. Of all the developers around it would be good if Treyarch/Activision created a Call For Duty style game. If not then the Unreal engine from Epic Games would give a differant take - they could come up with a Caleb Thorn influenced storyline. Caleb Thorn was the hero of five books from L.J.Coburn one of the Piccadilly cowboys. On the one hand that gamers are calling for this type of game sounds good to me - on the other it is another media that would enhance the genre. How would the game look? Well, there is a mock up on You Tube - the link is It looks good.

HELL ON WHEELS - coming soon

If you can't get to see this new western series on TCM - the good news is that the 4 disc dvd of Series 1 of 'Hell On Wheels' will be available to buy for the sum of £26.00 on the 23rd July 2012.