Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dad's Army: The Movie

I’ve finally just got round to seeing the film version of the eternally popular 70s sitcom Dad’s Army. The mixed reviews it received meant I wasn’t enthused about seeing it, but in the end it was slightly better than I expected.

The thing I found most interesting was seeing the acting choices that each member of the ensemble cast took, which came down to either trying to play the character or trying to play the actor who originally played the character. The results were a mixed bag.

Of those who tried playing the character, I reckon Captain Mainwaring and Corporal Jones both failed to work. I had thought that Toby Jones would be a good Mainwaring, a man who’s a pompous idiot with an inferiority complex, but who, for all the slapstick, is prepared to lead from the front and die for his men and country. I didn’t get any of that, with Mainwaring just being a fat bald bloke who’s in charge. This was doubly irritating as in the BBC’s Dad’s Army biopic John Sessions was a perfect Arthur Lowe in both looks and mannerisms.

Corporal Jones was even worse bearing in mind that Tom Courtenay is one of the UK’s best actors, but his Jones was just an annoying bloke who couldn’t be bothered to say most of his numerous catchphrases. I think the mistake in casting was that Clive Dunn was a young man playing an old man, so Jones was an amusing caricature who could do all the slapstick nonsense, but getting an old actor to play an old character just falls flat.

On better ground was Bill Nighy, who made no effort to be either Sergeant Wilson or John Le Mesurier, which was the right thing to do as only one man could ever master Wilson’s affable ennui, and instead he did what he does in every film role I’ve ever seen him in and was just Bill Nighy wandering around in a daze. Personally I think they missed a trick, though, in not getting Ian Lavender to play Wilson, which would have cemented one of the original sitcom’s best running jokes. Bill Paterson was also acceptable as Private Frazer, although he had little to do, playing a dour Scotsman rather than attempting to be John Laurie although, again, I reckon Ralph Riach in the BBC biopic was a better Laurie.

The actors who decided to play the original actors feared much better. Michael Gambon pretty much stole the show as Private Godfrey with all the best lines and a perfect mimic of Arnold Ridley’s mannerisms and way of moving. Daniel Mays was a fine James Beck, both looking and sounding like Private Walker, and I was most surprised by whoever they got to be Private Pike. I don’t who that actor was, but I quickly started to think of him as being Ian Lavender.

Having got together such a large ensemble cast, with most of the cast being acceptable enough to make the reboot work, the strange thing was the decision to ignore them for lengthy sections and instead waste time on telling a story. The sitcom always worked perfectly when it was just the platoon standing in the church hall listening to Mainwaring explain a perfectly simple mission to find German parachutists disguised as nuns, while Wilson yawns and questions whether Mainwaring is being wise, Godfrey gets told off for being awkward and asks to be excused, Frazer pours scorn on Godfrey for being senile, Jones tells a rambling story about the Sudan while waving his bayonet and getting slapped down for going off in the realms of fantasy, Stupid boy Pike says his mum won’t let him stay out late, and Walker offers to get his hands on some nuns’ habits cheaply.

Frankly, ninety minutes of that would have kept me amused because that’s what the show is: a group of blokes coping with the boredom of waiting for something bad to happen by irritating each other, but being always ready to go into battle or at least extract Jones out of a combine harvester. Instead too much time was taken up with the war, spies, romance, and other uninteresting nonsense, which often made me think I was watching a comedy war film instead of Dad’s Army, which is a character comedy set during the war.

On the other hand the decision to spend more time with the usually underused female characters worked well. Giving Mrs Fox and Godfrey’s sisters something to do was fun, even though I was irritated to see Godfrey lived in town, and Mavis having a role other than being Pike’s mum was entertaining. Strangest of all was the decision to have Mainwaring’s wife on screen, which at first felt like sacrilege, but is a good example of when it’s best to ignore canon. Maintaining the running joke that we never see her wouldn’t work well in a one-off film, so it was better to make her into a female version of Mainwaring.

I'd guess the inspiration for the story came from one of the sitcom's best episodes Mum's Army, in which Mainwaring decides to use the womenfolk to help out, which leads to him falling for one of the recruits. In half-an-hour that episode managed more laughs than the film managed, and the romance plot was more believable. Despite that, on the whole, the film was a decent revival that works best if you’re in a good mood, although I’d have still liked a few more jokes and a few more scenes where the cast are standing together in the church hall trading catchphrases and rambling on pointlessly.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Incident at Pegasus Heights now published

My 36th Black Horse Western is now available.


This is the second book to feature fossil-hunter Jim Dragon, except this time he's the main character. As with last month's Devine's Mission this book previously appeared as a Kindle title, which is still available.

This time Jim gets a sidekick in Elmina Fay, and I enjoyed writing her scenes so much I reckon she might just appear with Jim again one day . . .

When fossil-hunter Jim Dragon is on his way to Bear Creek to sell his latest discovery, he goes to the aid of a woman in distress, Elmina Fay. Unfortunately, Pierre Dulaine takes advantage of the situation and steals his fossils. Jim vows to reclaim his property and Elmina offers to help him, but only if he'll do something for her. She has heard a tale about the bones of a winged horse being found nearby and she wants Jim to find Pegasus' remains for her. At first, Jim is sceptical about embarking on such a mission, but before long he discovers that the truth behind the tale is even stranger than he could ever have imagined.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Paperback version of The Last Rider from Hell now available




Staked out under the baking heat of the desert sun by Frank Chapel’s riders from hell is no way for any man to die. Only someone as resilient as Matt Travis had the courage to endure the heat and the vultures and survive. When finally he manages to escape a gruesome death only one thing is on his mind – revenge.
But his memory has been blasted to oblivion and he is even unsure of his own name. All he knows is that everyone wants him dead!
Justice must be done and Matt will be judge, jury and hangman. First, though, he must face up to the truth of his past and, that accomplished, lead begins to fly.

Available as a paperback and a download from all Amazon stores

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Return of Elmer Drake

It always amuses me when characters that have appeared in the cover art of one of my books make a guest appearance on the cover of someone else's novel, so I was pleased to see the return of Elmer Drake in the latest batch of Black Horse Westerns.

Elmer appeared in the Linford Western version of Beyond Redemption, and I was delighted with that picture as Elmer is a religious nutjob and the cover had him lurking in bottom left hand corner appropriately brandishing both a gun and a cross.


Now he's appeared in Sam Clancy's Valley of Thunder where he's got a star pinned on his chest, presumably because he's given up on the cross and got hold of another gun.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Paperback version of The Ten Per Cent Gang now available






Sheriff Wes Creed has suffered yet another disastrous day. Earlier, Clayton Bell’s bandit gang raided a cash shipment bound for Lincoln’s bank. And while Creed fruitlessly pursued the bandits, the vigilante organization, the Ten Per Cent gang, calmly tracked and reclaimed the stolen cash. And for their trouble, the vigilantes retained their usual fee – ten per cent of the cash.
With the Ten Per Cent gang now threatening to enforce all justice in Lincoln, Creed realizes he has to slap them in jail, even if it means riding roughshod over every law in the land.
So Creed has no choice but to forge an alliance with the only man who hates the Ten Per Cent gang as much as he does – Clayton Bell.

Available as a paperback and a download from all Amazon stores

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Devine's Mission now published.

My 35th Black Horse Western is now available.



This book is the third to feature Marshal Jake T. Devine as the central character, and he's still using his traditional approach to law-enforcement of killing anyone who makes the mistake of threatening him.

I'd previously published this book as a Kindle title and it's still available now that the book has gone to hardback.

When Lachlan McKinley raided Fairmount Town's bank, the four-thousand dollar bounty that was posted on his head attracted plenty of manhunters, but everyone that went after him ended up dead. Bounty hunter Jonathon Lynch reckoned he could do better. Lachlan was Jonathon's step-brother and his mission was personal, but when he joined the hunt he soon discovered that all was not as it seemed and Lachlan may, in fact, be innocent. Worse, U.S. Marshal Jake Devine was also after Lachlan. Devine is more likely to destroy the peace than to keep it, and so can Jonathon bring the guilty to justice before Devine does his worst?

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Paperback version of Death or Bounty now available

 
 
Spenser O'Connor's luck has finally run out. After years of riding with Kirk Morton's outlaw gang, he's been caught and slammed in Beaver Ridge jail. The noose beckons. Then two bounty hunters, Nat McBain and Clifford Trantor, offer him a choice – die at dawn or help them track down Kirk Morton. Not surprisingly, Spenser chooses to help them. But this unlikely team soon discovers that Kirk is an ornery and ruthless quarry. Worse, they're not the only ones after him and the other bounty hunters will stop at nothing to capture Kirk. When the bullets start flying from all directions, it isn't long before Spenser wonders if the noose might have been the better choice.

Available as a paperback and download from all good Amazon stores.