Wednesday 30 January 2013


Walking along the beach at Felixstowe today and despite the stiff breeze and the rushing waves it is difficult to believe that 60 years ago it was a completely different pictures.
On the 31st January 1953 the combination of hurricane force winds from the north and a high spring tide produced an 18 foot storm surge that swept down the east coast of England at a high cost to life.

Of course, I was an eight year old kid when this happened and I lived miles away in North London totaly unaware of this tragedy. That was until my dad took me to see 'The Snows Of Kilimanjaro' at the local Odeon.

Normally, there would have been a 'B' movie but, instead, was a black and white newsreel that showed the devastation that this storm had brought to places like Hunstanton, Felixstowe and Canvey Island. The opening words: "We are sorry that you were woken in the early hours of the morning...." somehow have stuck with me over the years.

In Felixstowe alone 41 people died and thirteen of those were children. Not all of them were drowned, some died in their parents' arms trapped in the freezing cold weather shivering inside their pyjamas as they huddled together on the roofs of their homes.

Most of the homes were of the pre-fab design that were destroyed by the floodwaters and when you walk along Langer Road today you can only imagine what happened there.

But it was the suddeness of the storm - a policeman knocked on one door and told the occupants that they should get out but within seconds of waking their daughter they were fighting the floodwaters to escape their home and climb to the roof.

I can only imagine that it was as sudden as the tsunami that hit Thailand - but even so after 60 years I can recall the images that I saw in the cinema.

Today a memorial (pictured above) stands at the junction of Langer Road and Beach Station Road - the blue line at the top of the wall shows the height of the floodwaters.

Although there are walls and new sea defences there now I doubt that they could halt another eighteen foot surge. On the other hand there appears to be an early warning system in place to evacuate the area if needs be.

The sea is a force that can never be underestimated.

Monday 28 January 2013

DEVINE by I.J.Parnham

Lieutenant Governor Maddox Kingsley intends to clean up the county so hires Pinkerton detective Nimrod Dunn to infiltrate Cornelius Lee's gang and bring them to justice. Just as it seems that the job is done so the detective's cover is blown.

Marshall Jake T. Devine is sent in to bring the gang to justice - but Devine is a law unto himself.

Devine is a man who acts as Judge, Jury and Executioner who is totally committed to the law. Against him is Nimrod Dunn who is anxious to regain his reputation yet proves to be the perfect foil for the Marshall. And as long as the Pinkerton man does his job then he is the one walking around with a target on his back.

Bounty hunters, hired guns, crooked politicians all are subject to Devine's law - and life changing moments do occur.

If you read the original 'Devine's Law' then this book will not disappoint. Devine makes Edge seem saintly - a great character and a towering prescence.

Publisher: Black Horse Westerns (Robert Hale Ltd)

Friday 25 January 2013

CHATO'S LAND - 1972 - dvd

The late Michael Winner directed Charles Bronson in this 1972 western.
At the time of release the film was panned by critics and, in my opinion, if I took them at their word would have missed out on a pretty good story.
Charles Bronson plays Pardon Chato, an Apache half-breed, who walks into a saloon to have a quiet drink. Sheriff Eli Saunders follows him in and orders Chato out. Much to the amusement of the saloon's only other customer and the bartender, Saunders takes up station behind the half-breed and draws his gun ready to backshoot Chato. Only Chato is ready and the Sheriff winds up as the corpse.

As Chato rides out of town, so the sole saloon customer rushes off to report what has happened to the harness and saddle maker, Quincey Whitmore (Jack Palance).  Whitmore, a former Confederate Captain takes command and rounds up a posse that includes Richard Basehart, Simon Oakland, Ralph Waite, Richard Jordan, William Watson and James Whitmore.
At first, Chato plays with the persuers by running off their horses and cutting their water bags while, all the time, leading them deeper into hostile territory.
Instead of being put off, the merry band of hunters push doggedly on until they come across Chato's home and rape his wife.
After he rescues his wife the tone of the story changes as the hunters now become, well and truly, the hunted.

While Bronson's Chato is more of a bit part who makes his prescence felt. Some of the later camera angles have the viewer searching the ridges for this elusive half-breed. It is the posse that holds the centre stage with Quincey Whitmore and Jubal Hooker (Simon Oakland) fighting for control.
Jack Palance's character has a depth that I doubt if anyone would have picked up in 1972 and it is when he talks about Chickamauga and still able to hear the screams of the wounded and dying that I realised that he was suffering from what we call 'post traumatic stress syndrome' - just something that is not associated with the western genre.

This film, in many ways, is far better today than it was back when first released - and, therefore, worth another look.

Tuesday 22 January 2013


BBC News at One - 21st January 2013.

Now it is official and out there for everyone to see.
That image that everyone has of teenagers armed with games controllers glued to their TV sets has been proved to be a myth.
It is us - the older generation that have control and the games industry are waking up to that fact.
Hilda Knott is 86 years old next birthday and plays GTA on her PS3 - in fact she has been playing computer games for over 40 years and still plays regularly with her 96 year old aunt.
And when she's not playing on the console then she has an iPad.

Well, I've never considered myself too old to rock n roll - and it is nice when you meet a youngster online who shows respect when they discover the age of this opponent.

Friday 18 January 2013


The Judge Dredd tale The Cursed Earth was, for its time, the most ambitious comic strip that lasted 25 issues of the 2000 A.D. comic from May to October 1978. The premise was simple the 2T(FRU)T virus was flooding Mega-City Two situated on the west coast of America. An attempt to get an antidote, that had been developed in Mega-City One, had failed due to the airports in Mega-City Two being overrun by violent plague victims. So a bunch of Judges led by Judge Dredd set out in a Land Raider across the treacherous wastes of the cursed earth. If anyone finds this story vaguely familiar then think Roger Zelanzny's novel 'Damnation Alley' transformed into a Judge Dredd adventure. Although the storyline has a continous thread it is also a series of short stories where such 'baddies' as The Lawgiver, Brotherhood Of Darkness and the Alien Finder General discover that when Judge Dredd says 'I am the law' he means it. Of course, it wasn't all plain sailing as the publishers encountered some enraged fast food moguls who objected to the way Ronald MacDonald and Burger King were portrayed in the two part story 'Burger Wars'. Eating the wrong burger or spilling a milkshake could lead to a bloody execution. I don't think I could stomach a 180lb Judge Burger. Five issues later and the intrepid Judge found himself in a kind of Dr.Moreau world with a green giant and Mr.Cube (as in Tate & Lyle's mascot) but the green giant was not so jolly when, once again, the publishers found themselves back in court over the story 'Soul Food'. Even Judge Dredd couldn't get them out of the mess and an apology was issued and a promise made that the offending parts 11 & 12 and 17 & 18 would never be republished. This was, of course, in the days before the internet where these stories can now be found intact. But the best 'baddie' has to be Satanus, a tyrannosaur from the Dinosaur Theme Park. This was 12 years before the movie 'Jurrasic Park'. And the conceived world of Las Vegas where the Hall of Justice Casino was run by mafia style Judges who believed that it was foretold that there would be a Second Coming and that a God Judge would rule over their world. Dredd declined the offer - after all there was still a vaccine to get to Mega-City Two. With all this macho stuff going on the most sympathetic character has to be Tweak - a sort of kangaroo with pincers - who reveals that he can speak. Rescued by Dredd from the Alien Finder General Tweak repays his rescuer by becoming a pivotal character towards the end of the story. The writers Pat Mills and John Wagner between them, with the help of illustrators Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland, have created one of the iconic stories in comic history. Maybe, it is because I'm that bit older but I can see some hidden stuff like racism, a swipe at the history of slavery, DNA and genetic engineering - and was 'Burger Wars' just about trademark violations? Maybe, maybe not - and maybe, it is just my imagination. The Cursed Earth forms part of Volume 02 of The Complete Case Files (or should that read 'Incomplete' as four parts are missing).

Wednesday 16 January 2013

BLOCKBUSTER - Another Casualty

My wife and I had never been to a midnight release of anything. Harry Potter books; a new movie or game was something that we had never done.
So, on the night of 12th November armed with a thermos of coffee we arrived at the local branch of Blockbuster. The shop was crowded out and we stood around talking to people who were waiting for the midnight release. Everyone there were local - people who had passed in the street were now engaged on common ground.
Some may dismiss the idea of going to a midnight launch but, at least, we had been there and done it.

The local Blockbuster in Felixstowe is not just a store that rents and sells dvds and games but a place where you actually meet people. And when you think about it this branch of Blockbuster is the only place that sells the latest dvds and games in town. The alternative is to trek 17 miles into Ipswich and visit HMV and Game. Except even their fate appears to be sealed along with that of Blockbuster who went into liquidation today.
Listen to the BBC interviews and nobody seems to be bothered - all citing, streaming and downloading as their preference. Still, I wonder what they will do when all the stores have gone and they can only buy online on laptops and computers that are out of date and cannot be replaced because a) there are no stores to buy replacements from and b) they cannot access the online stores.
Indifference can be so self-defeating.
Not everybody has a computer - let alone know how to use one.

I don't know the solution to this one but I can see the end of the High Street as we know it. Instead it will be Supermarkets laughing all the way to the bank while you eat horsemeat burgers.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

HMV - The End Of A Era?

It has been a weird day. The country appears to be covered in snow with difficult driving conditions. But I was able to travel to Ipswich, Suffolk with no problems and little sign of snow. While I was in Ipswich I went to HMV (it is the nearest store to where I live) traded in a voucher and bought some CDs and DVDs. When I got home at about 2pm two things happened at once. The first was that it began to snow - the second was the news that HMV had gone into administration. Sadly, it seems, my purchases had done nothing to save this business.

HMV has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It was a notable record label and a big store in London's Oxford Street that I visited, often, as a child. In my teenage years and twenties it was the place to go for the simple reason that if a recording existed then it would be found in HMV.  HMV was to music what Foyles were to books in those days.

Time moved on and HMV expanded but, like any business, times change and the reason given is that HMV failed to move with the times and couldn't handle the competition from the supermarkets. Sounds the pseudo-intellectual man on the street who dismissed the whole thing with the words:"No one buys CDs these days." Like the e-reader lobby who claim that nobody buys books (there are exceptions to that rule). Or those literary folk who claim that the western is dead. Problem is say it enough times and people begin to believe it.

The death of HMV is not down to people downloading music or movies; nor is it a failure to tackle the supermarkets. 'Dredd' in HMV today was cheaper than that in Morrisons and Sainsbury's but 'Lawless' was more expensive.

Then there is online purchasing - both HMV and GAME have online stores and the CDs, DVDs and Games on offer are cheaper than in-store. Game may not be out of the woods but with both these companies competing against their own high street stores - then the high streets are going to empty.

The second reason that I can see is that most of the HMV stores that I have gone to I walk into what looks like a jumble sale. This is meant to display offers etc but is far more confusing than than regulated displays.  More often than not the latest films and CDs are not available - big sellers and blockbusters yes - but where is say 'The Man Who Never Was' either the limited edition or the Blu-Ray version that was released just before Christmas.
This leads to - staff. A little basic knowledge about music and films would come in handy. Kristina Train is a female singer - not a three man group called 'Train'.

Online, HMV, is not a lot better. 'Pre-order now' seems to be handy. At least, that is a problem out of the way. Then there is an e-mail from HMV advising me that the item I had ordered is out of stock. So telephone them and say that item ordered is a pre-order. Response is that the item is out of stock. But, I point out, don't you have to be in stock before you can be out of stock? Re-instate order, then? No, sir, you will have to re-order the item.
OK, no I'll wait until it comes out or maybe go to
Then there is a similar e-mail from HMV - I telephone and say that this has to be an error. No,sir, we are out of stock. Me: Not according to your website.

Nor am I alone there.

So, reality is that HMV have no one else to blame for going into administration.

I download music but I, also, buy CDs. I love music but I don't want to be tied to earphones all day long. And my iPod holds only a fistful of favourite tracks. Nor do I want to watch a movie on a mini-screen (on a coach or train journey it's ok) not when I have a big screen.

So, I do hope that someone does buy up HMV who can operate it as a proper business. Yeah, I can dream.

Saturday 12 January 2013


Dead Medium - for one day only free to download on 13th January 2013.

DEAD MEDIUM by Peter John

May Elizabeth Trump disliked the company of others and death did little to warm her spirit. With a dead cat her only companion, she roamed the living world trying to come to terms with her new condition. Her path crossed with that of another of the newly departed. Penny Saunders needed May's help and May was in a unique position to offer it. For she was a dead medium, a ghost with the power to speak with the living and her services were to become in great demand. Spirits with long awaiting messages were not the only ones to take an interest in May's activities. Something dark was lurking in the shadows, stalking her. Even the dead are not left to rest in peace. Highly addictive and readable with moments of deadpan humour. £6.99 paperback or Kindle version @ £3.20 via Amazon