Friday 9 August 2013


'Man's love affair with the West mirrors his love of life itself.'
The opening words written by editor Dennis Winston marked the first edition of the Western Magazine in October, 1980.

The magazine was the brainchild of Dave Whitehead and Mike Stotter - fans of the western from the moment that they were born. Together they had played and made western home movies - they lived the dream in the heart of London's East End.

Between them they had created the George G. Gilman Appreciation Society and knew all the group of writers that were known as the Piccadilly Cowboys. Anyone who has read any of those westerns will know that this pair have turned up as bad guys, inept good guys - you name it they have been there.

Angus Wilson (aka William S Brady amongst many) suggested that Dave and Mike pitch their idea for a magazine to some of the leading publishers. IPC Magazines liked the idea and the magazine became reality.

The front cover of issue 1 shows a photograph of three Texas Rangers against a David McAllister painting.
Over four issues there were new short stories featuring Edge, Adam Steele, Herne The Hunter, Morgan Kane, McAllister, Breed, Bodie The Stalker, Hart The Regulator, and the return of Sudden together with new stories from Louis L'Amour, Will Henry and J. T .Edson.
Articles covered every aspect of the west from the harsh life experienced by 'The Wives' to incidents that involved the likes of Commodore Perry Owens, Tom Horn and many others. The life and times of the American Indians were studied.
No subject was left out as reviews of books, movies and music were reviewed alongside articles about how true life characters like Wild Bill Hickock and Jesse James have been portrayed in movies.

In the back page of Issue 1 there is an interesting article about Ralph Fisher, a rodeo clown who used buzzards to distract bulls away from fallen cowboys. The picture alongside shows Ralph with a buzzard sitting on his head - inspiration for Johnny Depp's Tonto?

Going through the adverts shows how deep we Brits were in to Westerns - guns, hats, gunbelts - all the paraphernalia are there. £16 would buy you a Derringer - but £139 for a Winchester. Nowadays these ads along with the cigarettes would be banned.

Sadly, and despite great support the magazine lasted just four issues.

As for the instigators both David Whitehead and Mike Stotter went on to become western writers both under their own name and a few others.
Even as I write Dave Whitehead has ventured into the world of publishing. Piccadilly Publishing is bringing back the likes of Herne The Hunter, Crow and Bodie alongside new western novels that includes the Iron Eyes series by Rory Black.

Dennis Winston got that opening to his first editorial right - to love the West is to love life.

Monday 5 August 2013

XBOX ONE vs PS4: Part 2: Decision Time

Well, I think I have read everything there is to on the subject of the Xbox One and the PS4. And there has been a rethink by Microsoft and the guy in charge has wandered off to pastures new. Something that should not really unbalance the argument.

The real issue, when it comes down to it, is what a player wants from a console. After all it is the player who holds the controls (in more ways than one) in their hands.
So I write as a gamer and from that point of view.

As a gamer I want something where I can play solo or multiplayer as I choose. What I don't want is a computer telling me who I should play with etc. That is my number one criteria - always has been. Though the add on of an iPlayer and the ability to play Blu-Ray discs is an added bonus.

Another thing that I don't like is that while Microsoft say that the Xbox 360 will not be abandoned Turn 10 will be structuring 'Forza 5' for the Xbox One only. Activision/Treyarch, on the other hand tell the gamer that new maps for 'Call Of Duty: Ghosts' will be prioritised for the Xbox One. Well, nothing new there as it seems that this is the trend for PS3 gamers at present - treated like second class citizens. Seems like bullying to me - if you don't buy this console then you can't play the games.
Fine, I can go without.

To repeat - the console that a gamer buys depends on what the gamer wants.

It is hard to believe that I began gaming thirteen years ago. It began with two games 'Raw Is War' and 'Tomb Raider' on the Playstation One (PS1). At the time it was an aid to help my hand and eye co-ordination after having a stroke. Still have some of the games that I play on the PS2 - outdated by today's standards but still fun.
Evolution came with the choice of the Xbox 360 and PS3. Bad publicity and problems came with the PS3 and when things like that happen mud sticks (as the saying goes). So my son bought an Xbox 360 and the gameplay was okay and, eventually, I bought one too.
One thing led to another and I found myself going online to play 'Gears Of War 3' and 'Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3' (of the two I preferred the latter and still play from time to time). However, then came 'Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2' and what an online mess that proved to be.
In the meantime, I had picked up a Sony PS3.
While the Xbox 360 was adding apps that had little or no interest for me - the Playstation gave me a different platform. No matter what anyone says there is a difference in gameplay - there is a definite smoothness in the transition from button pushing and gameplay response with the PS3.

The main issue that I have had with the Xbox 360 is with the Live aspect. The number of times that I have switched on only to be told that the console cannot connect to Xbox live. Advice is to disconnect the modem - only I can't as the wife is using it for the PC; my son is using his tablet and my grandsons are having the same problem as I am with their Xbox 360.
When we do get online (without switching off the modem) we then face 'Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2' with migrating hosts and server errors and interrupted connections.

This week made the decision for us. In the middle of a split screen online game my son was disconnected from Xbox Live and he got the message that the console could not connect - while I was still playing solo on the same console.

So we toddled off and bought a copy of the same game for the PS3. He spent the weekend enjoying himself playing a game that seldom migrated hosts and had neither the connection interrupted nor a single server error. Unfortunately, being a better player than me my son has has given me a rep I don't deserve. I am 67 of age, my reactions are slower and if I make double figures that is some achievement. My son is forty years younger than me.
Now, the PS3 was put in the same place where the Xbox 360 had been and the link was not disconnected at any time. He had been online for over three hours at a time - with the Xbox Live we would have had several disconnections during that period.
Microsoft call centre was not that supportive - it wasn't their problem and nothing to do with them. Even suggested that I pre-ordered an Xbox One.  Xbox Live seems to have problems because the same problems that I experience exist elsewhere - my son gets disconnected at home and he has an Ethernet connection.

My son went home, sold his Xbox 360, all his games and bought a PS3.
For me, the Xbox 360 can disappear into history.

Therefore, another decision is made. I want a games console that I can rely on. A console where I have the choice whether I play solo or multiplayer.

I guess I should have stuck with what I knew worked so I will be going for the Sony PS4.