Tuesday 22 November 2016


As Black Friday approaches it seems an appropriate time to mention The Division a computer/console game from Ubisoft Massive. This game was released in March 2016

This is a third person online only shooter set against the background of a sealed off Manhatten ruled by four factions. The hero/heroine that the player creates is a sleeper agent who is activated by the crisis to take and secure control of the city.

The story opens with Black Friday underway, Scientist and eco-terrorist Gordon Amherst has impregnated dollar bills with a deadly virus that becomes known as 'green poison' or 'the dollar flu'. As the virus takes control the island of Manhatten goes into lockdown.
In Brooklyn the Division agents gather and have to take down a gang of rioters who are attempting to take advantage of the situation. After this intro you join one of the senior officers, Faye Lau, to transfer to Manhatten. However, the transport helicopter is destroyed and Lau is badly injured in the explosion.
After arriving at the base at Hudson Yards the agent is tasked with joining the Joint Task Force ( a kind of home guard) to take the Post Office to establish a base of operations. The place is a mess but as the agent finds various personnel like a doctor who is held prisoner in a sports stadium or a security chief trying to protect the Lincoln Tunnel from being flooded the place becomes habitable.
Step by step the agent becomes aware of the bigger picture as to the origins of the virus. Against the agent are gangs of rioters; cleaners who are armed with flame throwers who believe that burning people will eradicate the disease; Rikers - escapees from Riker's Island prison and the LMB (Last Man Battalion) ex-soldiers who feel dis-enfranchised who have taken over the United Nations building.

As a game it is all very straight forward - it can be played solo or in a group.

Despite a number of patches that are supposed to improve gameplay they have done nothing to rectify how scenery moves like a transparent shield that protects the bad guys but leaves the player vulnerable.

Personally, I found some of the set pieces a touch questionable.
For example a city without infrastructure the lights are still on. Everywhere the Christmas lights are ablaze but there is no one manning the power station.
The first mission sees the agent rescue a doctor who is being held prisoner with her staff in a sports stadium restaurant. At street level the JTF wait to escort them over the road to the Post Office and that is the direction said doctor goes. But no sooner has the agent rescued the doc than the order comes through to clear the roof so that a helicopter can land and carry the doctor over the road. Logic fails and I can't help wonder----why? Doesn't make sense.
In another task the agent is called upon to restore power in Times Square to switch the billboards on. Times Square is all lit up - as are the billboards so that when the quest is completed there is no change.
When the storyline is completed I found myself wondering 'what happened next?'. The bad guy disappears so the storyline is not done. There is no sign of him in the new game add-on 'Underground' but there are still two game additions to come.

Despite my gripes about the storyline there is very little wrong with the gameplay.

The game is available for PC and Xbox One and PS4 consoles.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

SAMUEL ANDREWS 1836 - 1904

Samuel Andrews was a candle maker born in Oaksey, Wiltshire but he was a technical genius who was set to change the face of America's oil production.

He arrived in America prior to the Civil War and settled in Cleveland, Ohio where he married Mary Cole in Cuyahoga County in 1859.

While working with shale oil production in the newly discovered oil fields of western Pennsylvania in 1862 he came up with a way to separate the different components of crude oil. This became known as fractional distillation.

Looking for investment for his ideas Samuel Andrews approached a local businessman, John D. Rockefeller, who saw a lot of potential in them. With investment Samuel Andrews designed and built a small refinery in Cleveland.

So was born Standard Oil which was destined to make Samuel Andrews a fortune. To show off his new found wealth he built a mansion on Euclid Avenue aka Millionaires Row but it was over ambitious and unmanageable that it was left empty and derelict for 25 years before the bulldozers moved in. All that remains is a photo.

However, not all went well between Andrews and Rockefeller. Rockefeller took the credit for marketing that capitalised on Andrews' ideas but Samuel was not comfortable with the aggressive way that the company was growing. Finally, Samuel Andrews sold out his share of Standard Oil in 1874.

He was not a poor man when he died in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1904.

                 *                          *                        *                       *                        *

Normally I would have ended this biography there - but there is a tad more to add.

As stated Samuel Andrews was married to Mary Cole who's brother John married Sarah Howe. Sarah Howe had a sister Hilary who had married Henry Griffiths. Henry Griffiths owned and ran a general store in Elyria, Lorain County, Cleveland. To cut a long story short Henry and Samuel were, for a better word, brothers in law.

As it turns out both John D.Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews had a love of fishing and both would visit Henry Griffiths who had a small fishing lodge.

The reason for this post-script draws a line under an old saying of my grandfather who, on being asked for a loan, would answer 'Who do you think I am? John D. Rockefeller?'

Add to that Henry Griffiths is my three times great uncle and Samuel turned up as past of his history and I am indebted to the Stokes family for that.

Wednesday 2 November 2016


In 1967 Adam Diment was about to rewrite spy fiction.
There had been many contenders for Ian Fleming's and James Bond's throne. 'Boysie' Oakes in John Gardner's 'The Liquidator' (Gardner would take over the Bond franchise) and Doctor Jason Love in 'Passport To Oblivion' (filmed as 'Where The Spies Are'). Add to the list John Sanders with Nicholas Pym, the 'James Bond' of Oliver Cromwell's Secret Service.

So, enter Philip McAlpine. Tall, good looking and a love of fast cars, fast living, pot, sex and all manner of things mod. Truly a sixties child.
Suddenly his creator, Adam Diment, was the 'big thing'. Both he and his creation were hailed as the true successors to Fleming and Bond.

'The Dolly Dolly Spy' is told in the first person and appears to be a slow starter. McAlpine is coerced into working for British Intelligence department 6(NC/NAC) by the head Rupert Quine who is nothing like M. Quine is camp and prone to calling people 'luv' but this is just window dressing for a man who has a nasty, sadistic streak and can resort to blackmail with a smile on his face.
Recruited McAlpine is sent to work for the International Charter Inc a company that British Intelligence are interested in. On the surface the company runs package holidays for tourists to the Mediterranean island of Dathos. Underneath there is gunrunning and other clandestine activities going on. As a perk for this McAlpine is well paid and has the privelege of having his girlfriend, Veronica, live with him.
But the easy living comes to an end when he has to start earning his money and has to kidnap a former member of the Waffen SS. The only trouble is that the Americans want him too and McAlpine is not a subscriber to any 'special relationships'.

What makes 'The Dolly Dolly Spy' stand out from the crowd is Adam Diment's delivery. His hero says exactly what he thinks and that goes all the way to make McAlpine real - like you were reading an autobiography.
There were three more books 'The Great Spy Race', 'The Bang Bang Birds' and 'Think,Inc' the latter in 1971 after a gap of three years. But that was the end as Adam Diment just disappeared from the scene.

There was talk of a movie with David Hemmings but it came to nothing. Though, I do wonder if the McAlpine novels insired Austin Powers though that character does not compare.

If you liked Bond, then you will like McAlpine.

I wrote this piece a while back for a different blog.

Monday 24 October 2016

STEVE DILLON - 1962 to 2016

Sadly one of the most popular comic book artists Steve Dillon died today.

Born in Luton (England) in 1962 Steve Dillon began his career drawing for Marvel UK's Hulk magazine. His best known works, though, are 'Judge Dredd' and 'Rogue Trooper' drawn for the 2000 A.D. comic.

He has also contributed to the Dr Who magazine and 'The Punisher' as well as being the co-creator and artist for the 'Preacher' series.

Steve Dillon died today in New York City aged 54.

Tuesday 18 October 2016


Included in the new Indie Collection anthology Spectacular Tales 111 is a short story titled 'The Quarantine Zone'.

This is a story that has evolved over time - in fact sometime around 2000 to 2005.

Back then I wrote a story called 'The End' where boy meets girl after an unnamed apocalyptic event. Girl loses boy who rides off into the sunset after telling her that he wasn't about to play Adam to her Eve.

As a simple one thousand word piece it did a job of a kind. About three or four years ago I did an edit while I was with the writers group in Felixstowe. This did expand on the original idea but read out loud there was still something lacking.

I was about to delete it from the computer when I was asked if I had anything that could be used in a sci-fi anthology. I should have said 'no' because I didn't think that the story was really fit for purpose but the theme rather saved it.

The boy became a 55 year old man and the girl changed to a 21 year old rebel. They meet up in the same location in the aftermath of a devastating plague in an opening that has a 'western' flavour to it.

As 'Red Moon Rising' it was published in Spectacular Tales 11.

The Quarantine Zone is set in London and introduces three new characters and throws a different light on the plague. This time there is a Polish nurse, a girl shy security guard and a streetwise teenage boy - just three of the survivors trapped inside the fenced off grounds of a hospital.

That story is not 'the end' though for within a couple of days of completing that story I started on a third that would bring another character to life.

Even as I write this a plan is afoot to add some more stories. A bunch of short stories that will all link up to create a whole. An idea very much inspired by Hunter Davies 'I Knew Daisy Smuten'. This was a collection of short stories by various writers with Hunter Davies providing the finale. Add to the mix Howard Hopkins 'The Dark Riders' a western where the hero has to work out how to kill a gang of outlaws who refuse to die.

I have learned that sometimes stories don't work even though the plot idea sounds good. Near enough a decade on and it has taken on a life of it's own. Simple message there is never give up - when the story is ready it will come.

Thursday 6 October 2016

CHANNEL DASH by Terence Robertson

During February 1941 the German battle cruisers 'Scharnhorst' and 'Gneisenau' just disappeared. They had got past the Home Fleet's patrols through the Denmark Strait and into the north Atlantic where over the ensuing months they had sunk around 300,000 tons of Allied shipping.
This caused some disruption as the Home and Mediterranean fleets were depleted to provide escort along the shipping lanes. While, at the same time, trying to hem in both the 'Bismarck' and 'Tirpitz' in their Norwegian bases.

Eventually, by chance the two battle cruisers were found to have reached Brest where they had docked along with the heavy cruiser 'Prinz Eugen'.

Hitler was convinced that Allied forces were getting ready to make a possible invasion into Norway so he looked to Admiral Raeder to find a way to get the ships in Brest up to help with the defence. After much deliberation a plan was hatched - one that was so daring that many dismissed it as impossible.

However improbable a scenario it represented the Allies had long put into action 'Operation Fuller' that would be implemented should the threat become reality.

On the night of 14th February 1942 the R.A.F bombed Brest Harbour twice - on neither occasion were any of the ships hit. After the first raid photographic evidence showed them at anchor.
At 9:45 pm that night the three ships slipped out of the harbour and disappeared into the night.

A British spy tried to make contact but failed. The British submarine 'Sealion' that had been on watch had to dive in order to recharge the batteries and so missed their departure.

So began the hunt for the German warships as they steamed their way up the English Channel right under the Allied noses.

What followed was a series of blunders that would cost the life of Eugene Esmonde (who would be given the Victoria Cross) and his squadron of Fairey Swordfish as they attacked through unrelenting fire in an attempt to destroy their targets. Not so long before Esmonde and his squadron had distinguished themselves against the 'Bismarck'.

As the German fleet approached Dover on the Kent Coast the task of halting the dash fell into the hands of the man behind the successful evacuation of the British Army from the beaches of Dunkirk - Admiral Ramsey.

For the Germans it was a victory - for the Allies it was just a bewildering mass of confusion, bungling, mis-communication and disbelief by some.

It had Churchill demanding: "Why?"

Terence Robertson's book attempts to answer the question but it does boil down to a plan that was made for a contingency that no one really believed would happen. The drama of those twenty four hours comes vividly to life in this book - and for those who don't know about this episode from the second world war then this book is a good place to start.

Monday 3 October 2016


After entertaining the folk of the silver mining town of Conejos Blancos the travelling Mexican circus moves on.
Yet while the audience had watched the death defying skills of the knife and trapeze artists, so Roger Hart is assembling a small army to take over the town and steal the silver in a well thought out plan of action.
No sooner has the circus left than Hart's gang ride in. The sheriff is killed and the townspeople are taken hostage. Still the best laid plans do not take into account the ingenuity of children two of whom escape the outlaws net to fetch help.
It is the circus performers that they turn to; people with the skills to bring the outlaws down.

Armed with a strong cast of characters the story flows with lightening speed that takes it into 'unputdownable' territory.

Ross Morton is a writer who entertains and knows his craft (check out Nik Morton's book "Write A Western In 30 Days"). There will be those who will think of a certain movie and there is a tip of the hat to it but this is not the major element as events encompass more 'heroes' than the title suggests.

Thursday 22 September 2016


High Valley Manhunt is the first book featuring B.S.Dunn's hero Laramie Davis.

Gunfighter Laramie Davis rides into the town of Rock Springs looking for a drink, a meal and a place to sleep. The hospitality he receives at the saloon soon puts him at ease with a free beer and a juicy steak in front of him. His moment of tranquility is interrupted by the local Deputy Sheriff who wants to buy Laramie's horse. This is someone who doesn't take 'no' as an answer for he is a member of the Coltrain family - and what a Coltrain wants so a Coltrain gets. As the deputy discovers when Laramie says his horse isn't for sale then stealing it isn't an option - and the confrontation ends with a shoot out that has Laramie on the run.

Chased by Jeb and Zeb Coltrain, the sheriff and judge and the deputy's brother Laramie finds himself involved with outlaws, Blackfoot indians and a mountain man. Alliances are formed and broken in a bloody manhunt that leads to a final showdown.

This is the first book that I have read by B.S.Dunn and was quite impressed by the strong characterisation and the way that the story played like a word/movie.

There are three more Laramie Davis available in this series - all available on Kindle or paperback

Wednesday 21 September 2016

VICE RAID - 1959

It was a recollection of a film poster that I had seen in a cinema foyer. I think it may have been in the Odeon, North Finchley. That poster had a pink background and a swim suited Mamie Van Doren in black and white.

Back then this film carried an X Certificate (adults only) so I never got to see it - until yesterday. Curiosity led me to a copy on You Tube and I quite enjoyed the 70 minute movie.

The movie was written by Charles Ellis and directed Edward L. Cahn for Imperial.

The story evolves around Sergeant Whitey Brandon's (Richard Coogan) attempt to bring down the vice empire of Vince Malone (Brad Dexter). Malone, however. has a plan to get rid of his adversary by employing an out of town model Carol Hudson (Mamie Van Doren) to frame the detective. The plan works and Brandon gets kicked off the force.

Brandon isn't done as he sets up business in opposition to Malone - in the process tries to enlist the aid of Carol Hudson but she's not interested as her younger sister Louise (Carol Nugent) has arrived for a visit.

Events take an ugly turn when Malone's lieutenant rapes and beats up Louise - which leads to the alliance of Carol with the cops.

Though the cast were largely unknown - except for Brad Dexter who was about to become part of the cast of an iconic western 'The Magnificent Seven' - this was quite an enjoyable, though predictable, movie.

Mamie Van Doren, I discovered, made up one third of what was known as Hollywood's 'Three Ms' - Marilyn Monroe. Jayne Mansfield and Mamie. Yet they never appeared in a movie together though Mamie Van Doren and Jayne Mansfield did.

Today, Mamie Van Doren is 82.