Follow by email

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Unfinished discworld as flat as a pancake

It's kind of sad but oh so Terry Pratchett - when the author passed away he left instructions that his computer drives containing his unfinished works be placed in the middle of the road and driven over by a steamroller. The author, it seems, was no fan of other writers continuing the work of dead writers and he didn't want anyone meddling with his work after his own death.


“Pratchett left instructions that whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be taken out along with his computers, to be put in the middle of a road and for a steamroller to steamroll over them all”. Close friend and author, Neil Gaimen

And this is just what happened a couple of months ago when the hard drives where driven over by a vintage steam roller.

The symbolism of the moment, which captured something of Pratchett’s unique sense of humour, was not lost on fans, who responded on Twitter with a wry melancholy, though some people expressed surprise that the author – who had previously discussed churning through computer hardware at a rapid rate – would have stored his unfinished work on an apparently older model of hard drive.
The hard drive will go on display as part of a major exhibition about the author’s life and work, Terry
Pratchett: HisWorld, which opens at the Salisbury museum in September.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Vinyl is now king

I've written here in the past about the surprising comeback of the vinyl medium,but that facts are that far from being a short lived trend driven by hipster culture it seems that the writing is on the wall - this ancient physical form of music delivery is trouncing digital sales. This is happening right across the board and not only with brand new vinyl  but the secondhand market is also booming.


 In 2017 the British Heart Foundation reported that sales of secondhand vinyl record topped sales of half a million pounds.

Earlier this year Anthem Publishing released a monthly magazine devoted to the format - I Love Vinyl is available on the high street, sold alongside the regular music magazines which is further proof, if any was needed, that vinyl is now mainstream. There is even an official vinyl chart compiled by the Charts Company - at the time of writing Nick Deep, the Welsh band from Wrexham, are at No 1 with their album The Peace and the Panic. And whilst there are a lot of reissues in the top 40 there is a healthy chunk of newer stuff too, in fact the first reissue doesn't appear in the charts until no 7,  so vinyl is not only being bought by aging hacks such as myself.  It may have been the older demographic that initially sparked the vinyl revival but this no longer the case, and younger music lovers are falling for the allure of vinyl records.

 According to a new ICM poll, nearly 50% of vinyl buyers are under the age of 35.  Approximately 16% of people buying vinyl records are aged 18-24 and 33% are aged 25-34.

Personally I think it's great - I'm too long in the tooth for all this digital streaming - I come from a generation where there was only two ways to own music and that was on vinyl and cassette - christ, I was in my late teens when CD's first came out.

Long live vinyl.


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Raised eyebrows and well groomed hair: A tribute to Roger Moore

Earlier this year we lost Roger Moore, he died at the age of 89 after a short but courageous battle with cancer, and although I didn't personally know the man I was genuinely hurt. I'd lost someone who mattered to me - he was my hero and I was beset with grief. He'd been a big part of my life -  I'd worshipped him as a child; following his incredibly colourful adventures in The Persuaders and then later discovering the re-runs of The Saint. Later still he became screen royalty when he took over the role of James Bond. This was the man I wanted to be and I bowed down before the brilliance of his Rogesty

Moore filled my formative years with glamour and adventure - I was 8 years old when he first became James Bond, and 20 when he retired his licence to kill. Think of that for a moment -  For much of my life, for my entire teenage years,  Roger Moore was THE ACTION HERO - of course screen heroes were plentiful but Moore was unique in his sartorial elegance, his charm and his wicked, often boyish sense of  humour. Such was my worship of the man that he became a role model to me, and I'd practise raising one eyebrow and then the other until my forehead was left with permanent creases. I kid you not - I still have the creases caused by a young boy gazing up at the silver screen and dreaming of being just like his Rogesty.


In the 2014 paperback reissue of the The Saint in New York, I wrote, It was Roger Moore, you know, who gave me my first experience with that debonair, buccaneering gentleman we know as the Saint. Those TV episodes, although broadcast in black and white, were likely the most colourful thing in my young life...

And I stand by those words - and when series editor, Ian Dickerson offered me the chance to write the foreword to the new edition I jumped at the chance, for I was a lifelong fan of the series but I knew that my foreword would not only praise the incredible works of Leslie Charteris but would be equally an admiration of his Rogesty himself.

Now as I said I'd never met Moore but I did meet his one time wife, the Welsh singer Dorothy Squires. In the 1990's she was living in the Rhondda town of Trebanog, which was just down the road from where I was living at the time - indeed when Squires died in 1998 at the age of 83 it was in Llwynapia hospital, which was actually the hospital where I was born. When I met Squires she was an elderly lady and although her break-up with Moore had been acrimonious she never had a bad word to say about him. And I cherish the memories of the several conversations I had with the singer,who at the time was sadly penniless and living a reclusive life. While she had been largely forgotten, Moore was still a superstar but she wasn't bitter, at least not openly, and when I brought up the subject of Roger Moore I detected a wistful look in her eye.

I have that same wistful look now when I remember Roger Moore - of course he's not dead to me. Only yesterday I watched an old episode of The Saint on television, and whenever the mood takes me I can  watch one or other of his  James Bond movie. People like Roger Moore don't die in the conventional sense, for their work is always there and no doubt will continue to inspire and entertain for years to come.

 And so I raise an eyebrow, as well as a glass, to his Rogesty with thanks for all the entertainment.



Monday, 14 August 2017

The Saint 2017 TV movie

I've just watched the TV movie of the Saint on Netflix, and although I wasn't expecting much (after all this was a pilot that didn't get picked up), I did find it quite entertaining. And new Saint, Adam Rayner was fine in the title role - he looked good in the action scenes and delivered the witty lines with class. It is a pity that the show didn't get picked up for a series.

Ex-Saints Ian Oglivy and Roger Moore also appeared though Moore's part was little more than a cameo, while Oglivy steals every scene he is in and smoulders as the bad guy. Back in the day there was talk that Oglivy would make a great replacement for Roger Moore as James Bond, but that was not to be. Though judging by his performance here he would make a great Bond villian.

The TV movie looks great, with some incredibly stylish location shooting, and although it doesn't really hit boiling point, it is much better than the Val Kilmer Saint Movie.

Entertaining enough but a missed opportunity. Though fear not and watch out for the sign of the Saint for one day he will return.



Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Saddest story ever told - Elvis Presley: 40 years dead and still bringing in the bucks

This week marks 40 years since Elvis Presley died an inglorious death in the admittedly plush toilet of his Graceland home. That the little boy's room within which Elvis drew his last breath may have been the height of lavatorial splendour matters not, for he still died in the bog. What a sad end for a legend that still burns bright (arguably burns brighter then ever) today. Elvis was just 42 years of age.

The official cause of death was heart attack, but it has since become clear that it was a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs that killed the King of Rock and Roll -

 'The painkillers Morphine and Demerol.Chloropheniramine, an antihistamine.
The tranquilizers Placidyl and Valium.Finally, four drugs were found in "significant" quantities: Codeine, an opiate, Ethinamate, largely prescribed at the time as a "sleeping pill," Quaaludes, and a barbituate, or depressant, that has never been identified.




I was 12 years old when Elvis died - I can still remember the report coming over the television, what I was doing at the time. They say everyone can remember where they were when they heard President Kennedy had been assassinated, well the  King was my generation's Kennedy. Everyone remembers what they were doing when the news broke of Elvis Presley's sad and untimely passing. And now 40 years later in 2017, the ripples that young man made back in the mid 1950's, when he visited Sun Records to cut his first disc are still being felt today. These days Elvis fandom sometimes borders on the absurd; there are some people that even worship the man and attend one of the many Churches of Elvis...I kid you not..

When auditors looked into Elvis Presley's finances after his death they were shocked to find that his total worth was less than 10 million dollars -  and yet in his lifetime he'd generated many hundreds of millions. To put this into perspective when John Lennon died he left more than a hundred and fifty million dollars...then again Lennon's finances were being looked after by Yoko Ono, the daughter of a Japanese banker, while Elvis had old carnie Tom Parker in charge of his money. Of course Elvis has made much much more since his death - in 2016, an album of Elvis songs backed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra sold over a million copies. In fact it is estimated that now, 40 years after his death, Elvis pulls in over $50 million a year for his estate.

"There are now at least 85,000 Elvis’s around the world, compared to only 170 in 1977 when Elvis died. At this rate of growth, experts predict that by 2019 Elvis impersonators will make up a third of the world population."

The quote above, although intended humorously does make a good point - Elvis Presley continues to touch people's lives, even today. But amongst all this ridiculous nonsense, the jump suited middle aged men (and women) who claim to channel the spirit of Presley into their performance it is often forgotten just how groundbreaking Elvis truly was. His first album, 1956's Elvis Presley, is still an incredible listen and remains one of the finest rock albums every recorded.

The Elvis Presley industry is kind of distasteful - like a rock and roll Disneyland, and it's all about the money, not the sublime artist who actually drives it. Though in fairness his back catalogue has been given some respect with some great box sets available - every fan needs to own the 50's, 60's and 70's sets that came out from RCA several years back.

For all the heights in the Presley story there are so many missed opportunities - if only he'd given Tom Parker the elbow, if only he'd taken a few years off mid-seventies, if only he'd continued in the vein of his excellent 1968 comeback performance, if only he'd recorded a pure blues album, if he'd made less of those corny movies and actually paid attention to what he was recording in the studio.

You know I'm a fan, always have been and always will be, and whenever I think of the Elvis Presley story I realise that for all the fame, all the riches, it is actually one of the saddest stories ever told.

Rock on Elvis Presley.



Friday, 11 August 2017

Classic Trailers





Maybe it seems a little cheesey these days, but there is no doubting that the modern 007 movies have lost a lot of their distinctive style. This was Roger Moore's first stab at playing Bond and his hold on the character is still taking shape - it would take another two movies before Moore seemed perfectly comfortable in the role, but there is no doubt that he looked very much the part in this classic 1973 Bond movie. However it was not until 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me that Moore's take on the character was firmly established.




RIP Roger Moore...nobody did it better

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Bond 25 and 26 may be shot back to back

EON have offically announced that the 25th Bond movie will hit cinemas in November 2019 - the announcment provoked a flurry of rumours with one newspaper claiming that the new film would be based on Raymond Benson's Bond novel, Never Dream of Dying. However there was no truth in this and author Raymond Benson made the following statement -

'"Some of you may have seen an article published by U.K.'s The Mirror yesterday that claims that the next Bond movie will be based on my novel Never Dream of Dying. I know nothing of this, but as I have not spoken with any Mirror journalists at all, I can only assume that the article is a piece of fabrication. It would, of course, be wonderful if it were true."

Another rumour doing the rounds and one that seems more credible is that Bond 25 and 26 are to be shot back to back, and the release dates staggered so that we have a new Bond movie in 2019 and then 2020 - this would make sense to EON as it means they could keep Daniel Craig in the role for another two movies and reports are that the actor has been paid £150 million to shoot both films. Personally, as a Bond fan, I'd like to see a new actor in the role but the box office seems to like Craig's Bond and EON are desperate to keep the actor in the role.

It seems that the next two Bond movies, if indeed shot back to back, will be heavily based on Fleming's original stories with the second movie expected to be a re-make of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

All that is known for certain though is that Daniel Craig is back despite famously stating that he would rather slash his wrists than play Bond again

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Doctor Who: Gender Swapping Adventures in Time and Space

The hot news this week is nothing to do with Brexit. Nor does it concern Theresa May's futile cling to power. Even the criticism over Ed Sheeran's cameo in Game of Thrones pales into insignificance when placed beside such momentous events. Nope it's none of that - even Donald Trump has been relegated to the back pages by the one story that is burning up both the virtual and physical media - the big news, the world changing revelation, the pivotal  piece of information is .... wait for it....

HERE WE GO - Doctor Who has regenerated and he's become a she. Yep,  without a scalpel or hormone in sight the Gallifreyan penis has vanished and left behind a crack in time.

The BBC made the official announcement last weekend during the Wimbledon final - this Christmas current Doctor Peter Cabaldi will regenerate and become Broadchurch star, Jodie Whittaker.

'How am I going to masturbate to the Daleks now when there's a fucking woman in the way,' One angry fan Tweeted.

'The show is now dead to me.' Complained another.

'The show's pink agenda is now complete,' Tweeted yet another.

The 13th Doctor
Though does it really matter if the character of Doctor Who is male or female? Time Lords can of course regenerate when their current body is injured or grows too old for galactic adventuring. And since the show began way back in the black and white world of the 1960's, the character has changed time and time again...though each time the masculine gene has dominated. So does it really matter if a character who has throughout its fifty years plus history been a man suddently changes gender? Will the dynamic of the show change? I suppose the dynamic is bound to alter but will this be to the detriment of the show? There is always the possibility that this major change could actually freshen things up? In principle I've no objection to the Doctor being a woman, but I do worry that this will alter the show in such a way that it will no longer be the Doctor Who we know and love.

At the moment the show is not at its strongest point in any case, and it has already lost many of its classic era fans, as well as many who only found the show when RTD brought it back to the screen.  Personally I'm not against the idea of a female playing the lead, but I am dubious...it seems like too much of a gimmick, it seems desperate and I think it is too drastic a change and will fall flat on its feminine face. The casting of a female doctor was inevitable in the long run, but maybe now is not the time and the odds are that the show will turn into a kind of Buffy in space. Though honestly that's just my opinion and it's not sexist, nor is it misogynistic

The thing about the Doctor is that he's kind of Sherlock Holmes in space, he's  a cold fish and would a woman work as such an emotionless character? I guess only time will tell, and whilst I am no longer a part of the show's core audience I have grown up with the show, and for me Jon Pertwee will always be the Doctor, but I would like the show to continue and captivate children in the same way it once captivated my generation. And you know what, maybe a doctor with boobs could work.






Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Roger Moore - why he remains the best James Bond

Today I heard the saw news that Roger Moore, the screen's best Bond, has died at the age of 89 after a battle with cancer. I've been a fan of Roger Moore since I was a little kid, glued to the screen watching repeats of The Saint, and later The Persuaders. Then later still Moore took over the role of 007 and to my mind his Bond movies really were an all time high. I genuinely feel as if I've lost someone close to me, because in a way, even though I've never met Moore, he has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I'll be writing a full tribute soon but for now I repost this article from some years back in memory of the great man. RIP, SIR.

Why Roger Moore is the best Bond


It is Sean Connery who usually wins  polls to name the best James Bond, but it should be remembered that Connery was the first big screen Bond and he was making his films during a period of true Bondmania - the books had been red hot since President Kennedy named From Russia with Love as one of his favourite novels and when the Connery movies were showing in the cinemas, the UK was enjoying its status as the pop cultural capital of the world. London was swinging, The Beatles were sound-tracking the times and it also helped that there was little else being made that could compete with the glamour of the Bond movies anywhere in the world.

Connery was a superb James Bond but the longevity of the franchise and its ability to even survive the terrible miss-casting of Daniel Craig was down to Roger Moore. And Craig is indeed miss-cast - Fleming had enough trouble accepting Connery in the role but in comparison to Craig's Bond for our insurgent times, Connery's Bond seems the very definition of sophistication. What Fleming would make of Daniel Craig one can only guess but it is a safe bet his judgement would be expletive ridden.

At the time Connery's Bond movies were truly groundbreaking and whilst no one would say that he wasn't excellent in the role, he didn't have the ardous task Moore had when he stepped into the 007 shoes. Before Moore there was already one other actor who had tried to take over from Connery in the shape of George Lazenby and whilst these days his one stab at the role is fondly remembered, often considered something of a classic for the series, it was a flop at the time - fans didn't by large like him in the role. Maybe he would have improved and gone onto become one of the best Bonds - who knows? But it was not to be and Connery was brought back for Diamonds Are Forever.


Now Diamonds are Forever is an interesting film and is often called the first Roger Moore Bond film, even if it was Connery in the role. And there is some sense in this - the style of the film was far more comedic than previously, even more larger than life, so when people say that Moore brought too much comedy to the franchise they are clearly forgetting Connery's Diamonds are Forever which actually ushered in this style of Bond movie.

When Moore stepped into the role - the franchise had lost its original sheen and many people considered the series to be over - Diamonds, whilst financially successful, was not such a critical success and the thinking was that James Bond was a thing of the past, a glorious memory of Britain's final days as a super-power on the world stage. James Bond was in fact old fashioned and couldn't compete with the new wave of action cinema with stars like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen. James Bond was a hanger on from the British Empire and dreadfully unhip in this brave new world.


 Roger Moore proved that there was still life in the old dog and indeed his Bond movies were amongst the most successful ever made - time after time I have argued with people who have called Moore a terrible Bond and his films nonsense for this is clearly wrong and I would maintain that Moore was closer than anyone else to Fleming's original creation. And for me Moore will always be the definitive James Bond.

I thought Timothy Dalton was excellent too, as was Pierce Brosnan and George Lazenby was OK if a little amateurish at times. Daniel Craig, I think, is a great and very talented actor but I just don't think he's right for James Bond and I feel that both his Bond movies were lacking the essential ingredients that make Bond stand out from all the other action movies out there. It would be interesting to find out how many of the people who think Craig's Bond is the Bond of the books have actually read Fleming's original novels. Not many, I think.

But I digress - back to Moore.

When you analyse Moore's Bond, there's a lot of similarities between the way he and Connery played Bond - Connery also, at least from Goldfinger onwards, presented Bond as a larger than life, devil may care character and both actors were fond of the corny one liners. Of course Moore's tenure as Bond happened to coincide with a period where the comedy was becoming more important to the series, and it also helped that Moore was superb, far better than Connery, at playing for laughs.

If Moore's Bond had failed then we would never have had Dalton, Brosnan or Craig and Connery wouldn't have returned for Never Say Never Again. It was Moore that kept James Bond at the top of the box office for more than a decade and for that reason alone he deserves the accolade of the best ever James Bond.


Yep it's trendy to dismiss Roger Moore's Bond and claim that Daniel Craig is the closest to Fleming's vision but that's just bollocks. Fleming's bond was a professional killer but he killed out of choice, it was his profession and he was never the cold blooded thug as the latest films have seen fit to present him. Bond was a snob, a misogynist, and Moore brought out out all of these characterisations with the minimum of effort.



"Just keeping the British end up, sir."
Roger Moore may have made arguably the worse Bond movie in Moonraker,  but at least the film is good natured and fun, and I would rate it far higher than Quantum of Solace which was truly shit. And Moore may have gone on too long in the role, being far too old during A View to a Kill - It  doesn't change the fact that he starred in so many high-points of the series - The Spy Who Loved Me, Live and Let Die and For Your Eyes Only can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best the series has to offer. And no one, not even Connery, could deliver a quip with the style of Roger Moore. Let us not forget that not all of Connery's Bond movies were excellent - Thunderball was plodding and overlong, Diamonds are Forever was uninvolving and You Only Live Twice whilst having its moments suffered from a boring middle section. Connery did at least make three classic flawless Bond movies but then so did Roger Moore.


Roger Moore was an excellent James Bond and best not forget it.


And here we reprint another Moore/Bond based article

If Roger Moore had thought stepping into the shoes of James Bond would be a life of luxury. he was in for a big surprise.

'As the star of the picture I was given a caravan all to myself,' Moore wrote in his autobiography. 'Not a luxury Winnebago but the kind you see in motorway lay-byes selling tea and coffee. I did have a bucket in the rear though in which to relieve myself.'

One day on set an out of control vehicle collided with the caravan and obliterated the back of the caravan and Moore's bucket only moments after the star had done a number one. On screen Moore was expected to face danger with a nonchalant eyebrow, but it was dangerous enough behind the scenes. One afternoon Moore watched as his double was almost eaten by an alligator while performing the famous stepping stones/alligator scene.

'He was wearing my crocodile skin shoes and ruined them.' Moore jokingly grumbled later.

Prior to taking the part of 007 for Live and Let Die, Moore had been considering sign up for a second season of, The Persuaders, but while filming the later episodes of the series Moore had found the Bond team filming Diamonds are Forever at the same studio. Moore met the producers of the story and he had a pretty good idea that the offer of the role was coming his way. TV mogul, Lew Grade was furious when Moore signed for Bond and warned that the move would ruin the actor's career.

How wrong he was.

Lots of criticism has been leveled at Moore because his Bond was so light and more comedic than earlier films, but Connery's last Bond movie, Diamonds are Forever actually set the blueprint for the direction the series was going. In some ways Diamonds can be considered one of the Roger Moore Bond's even if it was Connery  in the role, and in truth Moore's first Bond, Live and Let Die is a far better movie than Diamonds are Forever. And the lightening  of the Bond character had actually started some years before with Goldfinger, often considered the best Bond movie. So to criticise Moore for his lighter Bond is actually nonsensical even if the comedy and outlandish elements were to reach all new highs - not necessarily an all time high.

Moonraker for instance may the worse Bond film of all, though personally I'd give that dubious honour to Quantum of Solace. But at the same time The Spy Who Loved Me is one of the best. Moore made as many good Bonds as Connery and was guilty of only a couple of really dreadful ones. To my mind the two bad Moore/Bonds are Moonraker and A View to a Kill and the failings of both movies are due to more than the leading man.

I'm a big Bond fan and I think that each of the actors who have played Bond have delivered both good and bad -  George Lazenby whose one Bond is now considered a classic managed to be both excellent and terrible in the same film.

It was during the filming of Moonraker that Moore met a young director named Steven Speilberg who was currently a hot property and the director, a huge fan of the series told that actor that he would love to direct a Bond movie. Moore told Cubby Broccoli about this but the producer dismissed it by saying Speilberg would be too expensive. And so Speilberg and Bond never happened and so the director went off and made Raiders of the Lost Ark, James Bond with a whip.

THE POSTERS FOR MOORE'S BONDS WERE AMONG THE BEST

'My contention of playing Bond light is that it's all a big joke. How can he, a secret agent, walk into any bar in the world and be recognised and served his favourite tipple? It's pure fantasy,' Roger Moore


Moonraker had been rushed into production after the success of  Star Wars and all things science fiction. The movie that was supposed to have been in production was to have been For Your Eyes Only. This was a mistake and For You Eyes came after Moonraker and turned out to be one of not only Moore's best Bonds but anyone best Bonds. This was the way to play Bond tough and at the time, after growing used to Moore's light style, it was truly shocking. Awesome, we would have thought had such yelps of delight been in common usage then.

"I am happy to have done it, but I'm sad that it has turned so violent.I would love to be remembered as one of the greatest Lears or Hamlets, but as that's not going to happen, I'm quite happy I did Bond." Roger Moore


Now I've already written about why I think Roger Moore was the best Bond above, but as we await the return of James Bond to our cinema screens, in his all new thuggish  persona, we realise that the series has never truly recovered from the loss of Roger Moore.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Hammer, Duffle Coats, Chocolate Biscuits and the Studio that stole my sleep

Duffle Coat Manor doesn't have that much of a ring to it and yet that was the locally used name of the manor house that Hammer films turned into Bray Studios. The house had been used immediately following the war to store duffle coats -  but the roof leaked and the coats took in so much water, swelled to blob like propotions, that the weight caused the entire inside of the building to collapse, and when Anthony Hinds visited the building it was little more than a shell.  The film company  took over residence of the manor house in 1951 - Initially the building was rented for studio space but a year later it was purchased and became world famous as the home of Hammer Films.The colourful nickname of Duffle Coat Manor has now been largely forgotten, a footnote in the history of this remarkable studio.

When I was growing up - I was ten years old in 1975 and during this period the movies were regularly shown on late night television, usually as a double bill - my parents took their parental responsibility seriously and I was never allowed to stay up to watch the movies. Either they considered the movies too scary, too graphic for my young mind or they didn't want me staying up after they had retired and munching on  all the chocolate biscuits. I don't know what the reason was but this resulted in the movies taking on the status of forbidden fruit. And we all know that forbidden fruit tastes better than any other kind.

BBC2 was the channel on usually on a Saturday night they would start a horror movie double bill - the channel regularly ran a double bill horror season from 1975 until 1981. The show would start somewhere around 11pm and go on until 1am - then we would get the test card as the station closed down for the night. The days of 24 hour TV were still some years away. Often it would be a double bill of the old black and white Universal horrors, and I loved those too, but on times they would select films from studios such as Hammer and Amicus. These two studios produced the films where the blood dripped impossible read and the heaving breasts were bared. I reckon I saw my first pair of tits in a Hammer movie and believe me that leaves a lasting impression - thank you Ingrid Pitt.

Now I vividly remember sneaking downstairs one Saturday night after everyone else had gone to bed, and switching on the TV. I kept the volume low and didn't dare turn on the lights and this was my first experience of Christopher Lee as Dracula. Checking back in BBC listings I think this must have been the 14th September 1976, I was two months aways from my 12th birthday, and I think the movie was Dracula: Prince of Darkness. This was the first Hammer movie I'd ever seen and I was transfixed to the screen, which often ran blood red. The reason this sticks so clearly in my mind is because that night I had the most vivid nightmares and my father had to run in when I woke up screaming, pointing, yelling - 'He's behind the door.'  True story that, not a word of a lie and I'm sure my father remembers it. After all he went bat shit crazy the following day when he discovered the dent I'd made in the packet of chocolate biscuits.


Of course today the films have dated, but there's a certain something to a Hammer film that makes them so watchable. Horror films today are far more graphic, the special effects more realistic but give me a Hammer movie over an Exorcist Part 9 any day of the week.



Monday, 15 May 2017

Massacre at Red Rock

Just released in hardcover and eBook from Black Horse Westerns. Massacre at Red Rock is my eigth book written under the pen-name of Jack Martin.

Liberty Jones is tired of war - he fought hard in the Civil War, saw great suffering and endured much himself. Now all he wants is to be left in peace, but trouble has a way of finding him. He rides into the town of Red Rock to escape a marauding tribe of Indians, but any hopes of safety he may have held are soon dispelled. For the town is under military command and facing a gathering of great Indian tribes who are determined to drive the people from the town and reclaim their land. Liberty, along with a rag tag band of townspeople, must face impossible odds and soon blood will run deep in the streets of Red Rock.

The book is available in both hardcover and eBook, and if you are looking for a damn good adventure novel then you won't go wrong...mind you I am biased.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Terry Harknett

I generally drop western legend, Terry Harknett AKA George G. Gilman, writer of among others, the classic Edge series of westerns, an email every so often and usually get a prompt reply. However my last few emails went unanswered and I was dismayed to find that Terry, now 80 years of age, is living in a care home in Dorset. He celebrated his 80th Birthday at the home just before Christmas last. He marked the occasion with a special white chocolate birthday cake, golden balloon and a party which he shared with his friends and staff at the 29 bedroomed, Grade II listed Victorian manor house.

Terry's work, especially his Edge series is still widely read and I am honoured to have been involved in getting the first Edge novel into digital print, before fellow western fan Malcolm Davy took over the digital transition of the ancient texts. Terry and I would pass emails back and forth and Terry often read the Archive, several times sending me private messages on articles that graced these digital pages.

The first time Edge ever saw digital print with an introcution by myself
I, and I'm sure all fans, would like to send their very best wishes to Mr Harknett...a true legend of western literature.

Below I have reposted an interview with the great man which was originally published on the Archive back in 2008 -

The US publisher called the Edge series, "The most violent westerns in the world."

And they were but it was stylised violence, Grand-Guignol violence, written by an author who didn't much like violence but managed to tune into what the western reading public wanted.

"I was worried about the amount of graphic violence I was asked to put in the Gilman books and it was a cold blooded decision (pun intended) by me to counter-balence this with humour. Fortunately my publishers and later the reading public didn't seem to mind even though some of the jokes were very anachronistic that tended to ruin whatever degree of realism I had manged to convey in the narrative."


The humour certainly became a big part of the series. And perhaps that's what made them stand out from the other Oater-Nasties in the bookshops, maybe it was this often surreal humor that makes the series so evergreen. The series ended in 1989 and the books are not in print but there is still an huge demand. At the time of writing there is a copy of Edge no 60 on Ebay and it's currently been bid upto £31. Not bad for a cheap paperback.

Besides the Edge books George G. Gilman, real name Terry Harknett, created Adam Steele (there are 49 books featuring this character) as well as other lesser series characters and was responsible for the Fistful of Dollars novelisation under the name Frank Chandler.


"My first published books were hardback mysteries for Robert Hale featuring a London private eye called Stephen Wayne. And later I wrote several crime novels for a handful of paperback and hardback publishers. But it was Edge that eventually allowed me to become a full time writer."


Terry was born in Essex in 1936 to a working class background. He went to a secondary modern school and was a very practical boy, developing an interest in mechanics.

"After my initial boyhood ambition to become a motor mechanic was dashed by a school career visit to the Ford Motor Company factory in Dagenham - I was born only a few miles away. I decided I wanted to be a mystery writer instead."

Motor mechanics to mystery hack is quite a radical turn around. Can't quite see the connection there somehow but for Terry it made perfect sense. The motor industry's loss is the reading publics gain.


"I was always painfully shy as a kid, still am in many ways. In fact I still have a phobia about being the centre of attention. I wanted to be rich and, as a fifteen year old, it seemed to me that only those born with a silver spoon in their mouths or famous people in the public eye got to be rich. There was once exception - writers, who could beaver away in their lonely studies writing books that would bring them wealth - some of them, anyway. And since my favourite reading matter was American hard boiled crime fiction this was the genre I would make my fortune working in."


Only in life, as I'm sure Edge pointed out somewhere in his laconic drawl, things never quite work out as planned. Terry's first job was as a copy boy with The Reuters News Agency. He stuck at this for nine months and then he went across to Fleet Street and got a post in a features syndicate agency. Here his duties was buying articles, crossword and strip cartoons and then flogging them onto various markets. It was here that Terry started writing short stories and he saw several syndicated via Newspaper Services.

National Service came next and saw Terry serve with the RAF. He chose to be a typist which gave him access to a typewriter and a good amount of free time. He started writing books, actually writing two unpublished novels on RAF headed notepaper. Terry says that these books were basically Raymond Chandler copies but not anywhere near as good as the master who was his favourite author.

After finishing his duty to his country Terry went back to Reuters but soon he left and got a job at the Twentieth Century Fox publicity department. He was based in Soho Square and not Hollywood which rankled somewhat. Eventually Terry went back to work for Newspaper Features again but the company was in trouble and would soon go down the pan. Eventually Terry came into contact with the late Peter Haining when he went up before a board for a job with The National Newsagents Society.

Someone there thought Terry was unsuitable for the job but meeting Peter Haining was the start towards becoming a bestselling writer. By this time Terry was churning out Chandleresque crime novels for Robert Hale, present day publishers of the Black Horse Western series. Terry was a Chandler buff and read everything the great man published but he felt he could never aspire to his greatness. Didn't stop him trying, though.

Eventually Terry ended up with New English Library where Peter Haining was in charge of the paperback division. Terry's first novel for the imprint was The Weekend Game and he followed that up with W.I.T.C.H. The latter book, about militant bra burning feminists, was written under the name Jane Harman which was Terry's wife's maiden name. The title stood for - we intend to create havoc.

Terry took whatever commission he could find (although he did turn down an offer of £1000 a book for writing hard core porn) and this led to him penning the novelisation of the Clint Eastwood movie, A Fistful of Dollars and then several other spaghetti western based novels. He was asked to create a new western series for New English Library - all action, violent in the style of the Italian westerns which were taking so much money at the box office and Edge came from that.



"I had never read a western novel when I did my first and I consider that fact was a cornerstone to the success of George G Gilman.. For Edge had to be an original concept since having no idea what a western book should be like I had to create the series almost out of thin air. Of course I was aware of Hollywood's version of the Western locale and what the stock characters that peopled it looked like since I grew up in an era when the cinema and television were awash with oaters."


Gilman's Edge was a hit - not initially but it gradually gained a large audience which continued to expand, making the Edge series the benchmark by which all other westerns of the period were judged.

In total the series went on for 61 books, spawned a series of Italian comic book adaptions and the pen name George G. Gilman even had his own fan club.

" I think a good western needs a fast moving story, believable characters and some violent action with a seasoning of gallows humour."

The Edge character certainly delivered those ingredients in spades. Edge would always emerge from seemingly desperate situations, often cheat almost certain death. In many ways the character was a superhero - where Batman had his utility belt, Edge had his cut-throat razor. Where Superman had his cape, Edge had his Winchester. The Edge books provided sheer enjoyable escapist fiction, never taking itself too seriously so that although westerns, the books seem to be lodged in a sub-genre of their own.


I wondered if Terry had ever been to the American West.

"Jane (my wife) and I took one of those bus tours of the South-western US many years ago - Los Angeles-Grand Canyon-Las Vegas-San Francisco and many points between. All this really gave me in terms of research for the Gilman books was a sense of "the big sky" and vast distances spread out beneath it. And I must admit the most significant part of the trip for me was walking the streets of downtown Los Angeles where my all-time favourite fictional hero Philip Marlowe plied his trade."

And so I've spoken to a literary hero of mine and I'm as excited as the kid I was when I first read the Edge novels. To my mind the Edge series is the perfect example of the British pulp tradition and the books, although very violent, are never downbeat and the narrative is so slick your eyes slide smoothly from page to page. Pick one up and before you know it your hooked which is part of the reason the books fetch so much on Ebay. Terry though, forever modest, has a theory on that.



"It never ceases to amaze me that that my ancient scribblings continue to interest readers. Although I take little notice of how they come and go on e-bay. For I think most people who acquire them in this area are collectors hopeful of making a bob or two profit in the future, rather than readers seeking to enjoy my deathless prose!"




We'll have to agree to disagree on that point as I know many people who love the Edge series as well as a lot of Terry's other Gilman stuff. Adam Steele is always worth a read but Edge is something special - these are great books that I believe will one day see a resurgence. All it takes is an enterprising publisher to start issuing the classic westerns, much in the way Hard Case Crime are doing for mysteries and a new legion of fans will be found.




Terry's top ten western movies
In no particular order:
Leon's Eastwood Dollar Trilogy
Once upon a time in the west
The Shootist
The Searchers
Soldier Blue
Rio Bravo
High Noon
Terror in a Texas Town

George G. Gilman on the web:

A man called George G. Gilman

Gilman Forum


Known Pen-names
George G Gilman, Adam Hardy (with Kenneth Bulmer), Jane Harmon, Joseph Hedges, William M James (with John Harvey and Laurence James), Charles R Pike (with Kenneth Bulmer and Angus Wells), William Pine, Thomas H Stone, William Terry

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Paperback Heroes: The Executioner

In a new occasional series, The Archive takes a look at the heroes of the various Men's Paperback Adventure series that were so popular in years gone by.

Author Don Pendleton created his all action hero, Mack Bolan AKA The Executioner way back in 1969, and penned the first 38 books in the series. The author sold the rights to the character to Gold Eagle and remained on as a consultant while other authors ran with his character. When the author died in 1995 at the age of 67 the books featuring his character already numbered in the 100's and if the spin off series are included then the books number more than 500 titles, with the series still being added to today. Total worldwide sales are more than two hundred million.

The origins of Mack Bolan are that he was born in  1939 and served in the Vietnam War, was in fact a Green Beret. It was during the conflict that he killed over 90 men as the forces top sniper which earned him the nickname, The Executioner. While Bolan was serving his family back home fell on hard times - his father, Sam Bolan lost his job and turned to a savings and loans company to help the family through a rough patch. However the company was actually a front for the Mafia, and when the repayments are not kept up they start hounding Bolan Snr. Cindy Bolan, Mack's sister is forced into prostitution to help pay her father's debts. However when Bolan Snr discovers this he is so ashamed that he kills his daughter and then himself, leaving his youngest son Johnny in hospital. When Bolan comes home on compassionate leave he decides to take his war to the Mafia, who he hold responsible for the tragic events that befell his family.

Thus started his war on the Mafia which would last for 38 books, before Bolan started working for the government and targeting terrorists and enemies of the state. During Bolan's war on the Mafia  the authorities had occasionally pursued Bolan and sometimes supported him. The US government eventually offered the former soldier an amnesty on condition that he take a job for them. And so given the identity of Colonel John Phoenix, he heads the Stony Man organisation, a super-secret group that tackles the stuff that’s just too tough for the CIA, NSA and FBI. They’re answerable only to the White House. Bolan is just the sort of man that Donald Trump would approve of.

'The Problem, as I see it, is that the rules of warfare are all rigged against the cops. Just knowing the enemy isn't enough. They have to prove he's the enemy, and even then sometimes he slips away from them. What is needed here is a bit of direct action, strategically planned and to hell with the rules.' Mack Bolan, from War With The Mafia

Bolan is unlucky in love and whenever he meets and falls for a women they are invariably knocked off by hoods or kidnapped. He speaks at least five languages and is adept at intelligence gathering.


'Mack Bolan is a classic American hero. Readers like him and I feel very good about that.' Don Pendleton

Over the years Bolan has survived nuclear blasts, several shootings, the odd stabbing and a warehouse roof falling on him.

There have been many attempts to film Bolan's adventures and at one time Clint Eastwood was in line to play the character - Sylvester Stallone was also eyeing up the character at one time and most recently Bradley Cooper's name has been linked with the series.

The series also spawned a successful comic book franchise





Author, Don Pendleton was born in 1927 and died 1995 - as well as the Executioner series he was responsible for several detective series and a number of spiritual books which he co-authored with his wife Linda Pendleton.


The original Executioner book was written because the author was dismayed at the way Vietnam vets were being treated when they returned home from the conflict. Reading the book today I was amazed at how well paced the admittedly simplistic story was - it drags you straight into the action and doesn't let up for a single page. Maybe the obligatory love subplot between Bolan and an American beauty was corny but it worked well within the confines of the story, and not once did Bolan, the one man army, seem ridiculous. The skill of the author is to make it believable, for the time spent between the pages, that one man could take on all the organised might of the Mafia. There are many reasons why the series has been so successful, why it contines to find readers even today, and most of those reason can be found in that first book.

The Executioner series has been said to have invented the Men's Action/Adventure genre, and whilst I'm not too sure about that the series certainly had a lot to do with making those slim paperbacks so popular. I grew up in a world where paperbacks such as these filled shelves everywhere - no wonder this teenage reader was drawn towards these books with their action packed covers and titillating prose....It was books such as these that made me a lifetime reader, and gave me the urge to be a writer myself. Oh, sure I've read far more complex books, better written books even but in terms of sheer excitement and enjoyment nothing has ever topped the action/adventure novels I read as a kid. I don't think nothing ever could.


So raise a glass to Mack Bolan, our first paperback hero.

Foreign Legion: The Light at the end of the Tunnel - ALBUM REVIEW

It's an incredible story - Welsh Punk band, Foreign Legion have been around now for decades and are a much respected part of the independent music scene - as a collective unit the band first drew breath in 1984 and have remained fiercely independent ever since - not for them the interference of a major label....They have their own vision and they stick to it. That's something that deserves  respect.

They continue to gig regularly and over the years have built up an impressive fan base, as well as the odd stalker or two. Vocalist, Marcus Howells told me of one particular fan who inspired the track, Stalker on the Light at the end of the Tunnel album -

'When you've got a bird phoning you a hundred times a day, throwing stones at your window, following you everywhere. Nutcase.'
Marcus Howells - stalkers beware

Stalker, stalker.
She's stalking me.


Over the years the band have gigged around the world, and have shared the stage with some legendary names - Stiff Little Fingers, The Ruts, GBH, Cockney Rejects. They are the only Welsh band to play the legendary CBGB in New York and have given storming shows at many festivals including the likes of Back On The Streets, Punk & Disorderly and the Rebellion Festival. They are also no strangers to the legendary 100 Club, and have torn up the venue many times.


Foreign Legion were formed in 1984 out of the ashes of several other punk projects, and are very much a product of both their environment and times. Hailing from Merthyr in the South Wales Valleys the young band were there; witnesses to the great industrial battles of the 80's - the miners' strike of 1984 obviously colours their world view and it's a view that this writer very much agrees with. I come from the Rhondda Valleys which is now part of the same unitary boundaries as Merthyr and like the band's valleys my own has been forgotten and ignored by politicians. Those same politicians who took all of the wealth out of the valleys - these days the valleys are run down but the people remain strong, defiant and angry...there is, it seems, a light at the end of the tunnel.

'Valleys had no future Maggie no jobs run down etc but the people keep going heads up not down.'
Foreign Legion...fucking angry
Marcus Howells


 The lyrics are typically political and angry...boy, are they angry. But then how could not be? Foreign Legion are the real deal - there's no false posturing here. They mean every word they say, and they are all the better for it.

The album opens with a storming guitar driven track - Jenny. It's a great place to start, a catchy anthem-type song which is followed up by, What A Place to Be. There's a lot of melody amongst the power chords and expertly delivered vocals. Then we have, what is a stand out track for me - the excellent Regenerations (Council List) sticks it to the man in a way that had me punching the air in delight. This song is followed by My Radio which features a stunning bass introduction. This powerful first side ends with Hey Girl followed by George Best. The latter track reminded me of early Clash and I mean that as a compliment.

Onto side 2 - turn over that neat looking green vinyl with the red splatter effect. We're into the aforementioned, Stalker which is a throwaway track but one with substance and a driving beat. Maybe more poppy than anything else on the album, but it's power pop along the lines of Green Day and Blink 182. Next up is Market Trader, which is again a stand out track and speaks of the decline of UK towns. The bass hook on this track is absolutely addictive. Three Years follows and this is an uncompromising track that attacks paedophiles and the light sentences handed down by the law. It's an uncomforable track to listen to but then given the subject matter maybe that's the point. Miners follows - subtitled, The Father's Sacrifice the song plays tribute to the working men who shaped the valleys. Next up is Drunken Heroes - a punk anthem that once again displays the fact that the band are the real thing. The album ends with, Pheonix From The Flame and the song is a statement of intent that firmly places the band as spokesmen for a lost generation.

Light at the end of the Tunnel then is a brilliant album that deserves your support - if you like Indie music then go to the band's Facebook page where you will find links to purchase their music and keep the music alive - https://www.facebook.com/Foreign-Legion-149893361856696/


I'd also recommend the latest album from the band, Always Working Class...support indie music, together we are legion.








 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Great Record Store Day Swindle

It started off as a great idea - Record Store Day started in 2007 in order to get people into physical record stores. Each year the day is celebrated with limited releases, only available on that day, and has been a resounding success. However there is a dark side and recent years have seen people who never visited a record store throughout the year standing outside stores all night, snapping up the limited edition, and then fleecing the fans on online auction sites such as eBay.

This year, yesterday in fact, April 4th, record store day saw a limited amount of 45 singles of penny lane and Strawberry Fields issued - these are already turning up on eBay for upwards of £50.

Way back in 2014 Paul Weller said he would never again be involved in record store day because of the touts and Beatles producer Giles Martin hinted on Twitter that he wants to try and get this year's  RSD release of Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields available for everyone.

It’s such a shame because as you know I am a big supporter of independent record stores but the greedy touts making a fast buck off genuine fans is disgusting and goes against the whole philosophy of RSD. It only takes a few to spoil a wonderful concept for everyone else. Shame on those touts.” Paul Weller

Some stores said their regular customers felt alienated by the prices and the queues and now avoid RSD; some wished that any benefits could be spread across the whole year; others expressed a desire to opt out, but couldn’t afford to lose the sales; another said they had already opted out because they could no longer afford to buy stock in the first place.

This is how Record Store Days works:

Arrive at 4:00 AM on a blustery April morning and still not be the first in line.
  • Incur the wrath of your line mates when you dare take a pee break in the nearest Starbucks or alley.
  • Endure the stench of men who have not showered or likely left their parents’ basement in months.
  • Get pushed around by hired goons and their extended family members who have no interest in talking about music, they have a list of items to buy for their eBay overlords and will kill you to get it.
  • Once the doors open, get herded in like cattle and face the gauntlet of which part of the alphabet you hit first.
  • Strain, hop, grope, beg and fight over access to plum bins.
  • Decide what to spend your money on since there are hundreds of releases — and you already have one mortgage.
  • Wait in line for another hour to pay while blocking every inch of aisle space from actual patrons of the store.
  • Leave feeling exhausted and defeated yet superior to the hopeless schmoes still in line.
  • Check eBay prices throughout the day to see if you are newly rich or a complete sucker.
Fuck record store day so bad man. Cba with cunts waiting in queues for shops they don't enter for another 300+ days. Twitter user

just bought the exclusive strawberry fields forever/penny lane 7" reissue at 4x markup on ebay... fuck record store day Twitter user

There have also been reports on Twitter of record stores holding back on these special items and then selling them on eBay for a fortune...Record Store day has indeed become a disgrace. And fans are threatening to boycott physical record stores over the Record Store Day which is the opposite thing of what RSD was originally intended to do.

How can record store day help record shops when all the profits are made after sale on websites like eBay?


Welcome back old friend - The incredible rebirth of the vinyl format


More than 3.2 million records were sold in 2016, a rise of 53% on the previous year, according to the BPI, which represents the music industry. BBC News


More than 3.2m LPs were sold last year, a rise of 53% on last year and the highest number since 1991 when Simply Red’s Stars was the bestselling album. This was also the first year that spending on vinyl outstripped that spent on digital downloads.  The Independent


In comparison to recent years, vinyl has made a significant surge, clawing back from what seemed like extinction. With a 52 percent increase in vinyl purchase in 2014, hitting the highest number of sales since 1991, it seemed clear that vinyl was poised to make a comeback as a common means of music consumption. Huffington Post

I grew up with vinyl being the main format for music consumption - I think I was around ten years of age when I had a small Dansette type record player for Christmas. I can still remember the three albums I had with it - one was that perennial favourite Elvis Christmas Album, and the other two were tribute albums by artists whose names are long lost to me. One was some guy doing the best known songs of Elvis Presley and the other was some band covering Beatle hits. Back in those days records were expensive and my parents were never the hippest of cats - they would have no doubt figured these albums were super,fab,gear,groovy and like those cheap Hallmark Top of the Pops albums, music covered by non original artists was a thriving industry.

You know what I played each of those records to death, and no doubt that Beatle cover album likely had something to do with the beginnings of my life long obsession for the fabs. And don't even mention those cheap and tacky Top of the Pops albums, usually sold in Woolworths and John Menzies. These days those albums are hugely sought after by collectors.

I though kind of ignored those albums as I got more and more interested in music - during the mid Seventies I fell for the punk explosion in a big way, and all my pocket money was spent in Wendy's Record Shop in Tonyrefail - a shop now long gone. I wonder what  ever happened to Wendy? Come to think of it, 'Whatever Happened to Wendy' would be a cool song title that would fit wonderfully on one of those Top of the Pops albums.

Fast forward to the late 1980's - a time of rampant consumerism, industrial disputes and putting old records in the rubbish bin. Or, even more fun, using them as quite deadly frisbees.

Now during the late 80's/early 90's I, like everyone else, fell for the con that was compact disc - 'they sounded better than vinyl', we were told - 'they were indestructable', we were informed.  And CD quickly became the biggest selling format for music while vinyl was consigned largely to the history books, loved by only a small number of audiophiles who were mocked when they said, 'Wait, CD doesn't sound as good as vinyl'  However these cro-Magnon hipsters were right all along. Vinyl pisses all over digital music, whatever the format.

 It is not CD that has made a comeback in the age of digital downloads and streaming. Nope it's vinyl and in 2017 the format is looking healthier than ever.



A couple of years ago my kids bought me a copy of Sgt Peppers on 180g vinyl - now I already had that album but not on vinyl. And holding the record I felt the years falling away, so yeah nostalgia may be a part of the new found love for vinyl. I couldn't play it, mind. I didn't have a record player. And so I went out and bought a turntable and amp and gradually the vinyl collecting fever overtook me and now fast forward to early 2017 and my vinyl collection numbers a couple of hundred (with more being added weekly) and I've spent far more than I should have on good equipment to play my records. But you know what - I'm actually listening to music again, I mean really listening not just humming along to reconstructed bits and bytes.

There is a tactile quality to vinyl records...They are large, you can hold them.In this day and age where everything has gone digital, people are kind of pushing back against that a little bit. A record seems much more real than a digital file.

Recent figures show that during the first quarter of 2017 vinyl sales have outstripped digital downloads. This is good news for us Vinyl fans.

There is definitely something appealing about holding the album in your hand. The sleeve art really comes into its own with the larger format. Often albums come with gate-fold sleeves containing all manner of information from lyrics to recording information. That in itself is so much nicer than a digital file which, when all is said and done, has no more substance than fresh air.But I firmly believe that the main benefit of vinyl is that the music just sound so much warmer, much more real. With a good system the separation between instruments is much more apparent, the vocals sweeter or rougher depending on the music itself.

Vinyl offers a richer sound than downloadable digital songs, which although hiss-free lack the 'warmth' of vinyl records. There is also the satisfaction of owning a beautifully packaged artifact. And there's a certain coolness in the rejection of the sprawling, multi-tentacled reach of the digital world.

Vinyl is more expensive than digital and takes effort to play - good art deserves a little effort.

Vinyl rocks baby, and don't you forget it.