Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Paperback version of More Six-shooter Tales now available

Six western short stories featuring familiar characters in unfamiliar situations: A Leap of Faith (Nat McBain), Truth is the Final Victim (Sheriff Cassidy Yates), Lucky Tooth (Jim Dragon), Don’t Look Back (Ethan Craig), Devine’s Justice (US Marshal Jake T. Devine), A Taste of Your Own Medicine (Fergal O’Brien).

Available as a paperback and download from amazon.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Paperback version of Six-shooter-Tales now available

Six western short stories with a sting in the tail: Once Upon a Time in Mirage, Last Throw of the Bones, Return to Purgatory, Five Hundred Dollars for a Dead Man, The Finest Deputy in the West & The Man Who Shot Garfield Delany.

Available as a paperback and a download from Amazon.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

My annual moan about Sherlock

I reckon that I always have a moan here about the TV series Sherlock whenever it returns and I am feeling an urge to whinge again, but this year I’ll cut it a bit of slack. After another episode featuring the usual mixture of clever dialogue, flashy direction and only vague hints of a story, I’ve come to the conclusion that the show hasn’t lost its way, after all. It’s just the same as it’s always been; it’s just that everything else on television has got a whole lot better.

When the show first started it was a breath of fresh air. TV detective shows were still trying to find the new Inspector Morse with their glum heroes battling inner demons and drink while listening to opera and solving routine mystery plots that went from A to B to C. I still enjoy those sorts of shows, but Sherlock showed that there was a different way with its story arcs and good yarns told in a fun way. As a result it created some must-see TV.

But that was seven years ago and now the viewer is spoilt for choice when it comes to the detective / thriller / mystery genre. Every show now has ambition to become the latest Internet chatroom sensation with eight part series constructed with compelling plots and all the narrative tricks to keep you tuning in to find out what the heck is going on.

In the last year shows like Marcella, which at the time I thought could well be the worst thing I’d ever watched, kept me interested to the end because the story was well-constructed, and I’ll probably watch series 2 while still wondering why. Even Paranoid, which probably was the worst thing I’ve ever seen, still kept me watching for several episodes before I had to admit I was wasting my time. The most recent DCI Banks, one of the few old-fashioned detective shows, even managed a compelling six episode arc story, and these are probably at the bottom of the pile as regards what’s now available.

Over the holiday period I binge-watched The Missing, Line of Duty and Happy Valley, and frankly they all far surpass Sherlock in every single aspect of story-telling.

Sherlock may pride itself on its clever hints of what’s to come, with details like Toby Jones’s face appearing on a poster, but plot points likes this, that once were great to spot, just don’t wash it any more. When compared to how The Missing deals with foreshadowing where a character will be happily pottering around their shop before a jump cut to the future reveals that they’ve had all their teeth knocked out. From then on every time that person is on the screen the tension is gut-wrenching as you wait to find out what hideous calamity will befall them. A face appearing on a poster just isn’t in the same league as regards building suspense.

Then there’s the matter of constructing a whole episode around killing off a main character, which in the old, pre-Sherlock days was always a big deal, except these days other shows do it so much better. Sherlock really can’t compete with Line of Duty for shocking plot twists where characters can get killed off no matter how important they are, and they stay dead. Jumping in front of a bullet is an uninspired and lazy cliché when compared to Tony Gates stepping in front of a lorry after his epic redemption, or DC Trotman getting thrown out of a window, or Lindsay Denton defiantly proclaiming her own murder scene as a forensic ground zero for the Big Bad and then cracking the case with her last dying finger twitch.

And then there's the clever dialogue in Sherlock that zings along so fast you miss more great lines than you hear, but which for all the craft just can’t compare with Happy Valley. In that show people talk and act like real people do and that draws you in to care about them as people so that when the hideous stuff happens you’re worried about them, rather than just sitting back and admiring the acting and writing talent on display but never once feeling that any of it matters.

So, yeah, these days Sherlock does as Sherlock does, but I find it hard to care about the rest of the series or whether it’ll ever come back. This week alone there are five detective shows starting up their new run, and sadly for me Sherlock is in fifth place by a big margin. I’m looking forward to giving No Offence a go even though I doubt it’s my sort of thing, Death in Paradise has better jokes, Endeavour has better characters, and Unforgotten is just light years better in every single capacity.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Paperback version of Clementine now available

When snake-oil seller Fergal O’Brien sells a bottle of his universal remedy to the dying Leland Crawford, Leland makes a miraculous recovery, for several minutes. Then he drops dead. In the few minutes before he dies, Leland bequeaths to Fergal everything he owns. Unfortunately, Leland’s only asset is his beloved Clementine, a 250-foot sidewheeler that once ruled the Big Muddy, until it sank. Worse, Leland is heavily in debt and now the creditors expect Fergal to pay up. With Fergal having no money, minstrel Dayton Hyde offers him a way out, but only if he kills Rivertown’s popular lawman Marshal Swift. To avoid carrying out Dayton’s unwelcome task, Fergal will need to use all his legendary cunning or like as not in this wet weather, he’ll share the fate of Clementine.

Available as a paperback and a download from all Amazon stores

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Sharpshooter McClure now available on Kindle

Sharpshooter McClure is now available on Kindle. Sharpshooter was my 18th Black Horse Western and I approached republishing it with some trepidation as I remember it fondly and I feared I might no longer like what happens to Mike McClure in the story.

With my stories I always try to ensure there’s a big moment at the half-way point in the novel. I also try to get in a good bit at the end of chapter one, chapter three and a third of the way in, but the half-way twist I tend to view as being the most crucial as it’ll hopefully ensure that the reader reads the second half.

I enjoyed the half-way twist in this story probably more than any other I’ve written because it was extreme, it delved into an area I hadn’t visited before, and I had no idea what it would be until I wrote it.

Up until that big moment Mike McClure had been on a roller-coaster of danger with cliff-hangers and his life constantly in peril and so at the half-way point he was again just about to be killed. It was then that I realized I’d written enough words to be at the middle of the adventure. So I wondered what the big moment might be that would turn everything on its head, but nothing obvious would come to mind right up until the moment Mike had a gun pressed to his head and the bad guy was about to pull the trigger. Then, without thinking and before Mike could find a way out of his predicament, I let the baddie shoot and that sent the book in a completely different direction than the one I had expected...

Sharpshooter McClure is now available from all good amazon stores.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Paperback version of The Outlawed Deputy now available

Cassidy Yates was appointed deputy sheriff of Redemption City but such was his knack of attracting trouble that barely twenty-four hours after his appointment he had been slapped in jail! And if that wasn’t bad enough, Brett McBain’s outlaw gang rode into town to bust Nathaniel McBain from jail. Sheriff Wishbone is killed and the townsfolk think Cassidy responsible. Now, having been imprisoned for the murder of his own sheriff, Cassidy must prove his innocence and the only way to do this is to infiltrate Brett’s gang. He must convince Brett he’s an outlaw, and persuade everybody else that he really is an honest lawman. Could he pull off his enormous bluff or would he join Sheriff Wishbone on Boot Hill?

Available as a download and a paperback at Amazon.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

More Six-shooter Tales now available on Kindle

A collection of six short stories, More Six-shooter Tales, is now available on Kindle.


Each story features one of my serial characters. I had the idea for this project when I republished Massacre at Bluff Point. It set me thinking about why I’d never written about Ethan Craig again and when I rummaged around on my hard drive I found a story I’d started called Return to Dirtwood. It was only a few pages long and it fizzled out without getting anywhere so I could see why I’d given up on it.

So I picked it up again to see where the tale would go, and it turned into a brief 10 page story. That got me thinking about other stories I’d started and abandoned, which quickly moved me on to an aborted Nat McBain tale. Nat spent seven years in jail, in both the real and fiction world, between Wanted: McBain and The Secret of Devil’s Canyon and in that time I’d intended to write a jail story, but again that tale fizzled out before it got started.

Again I picked up the idea and again I ended up writing a short story, which got me thinking about producing short tales for more of my other characters. The final result is More Six-shooter Tales.

In each tale the central character faces a challenge they’ve never encountered before. So Ethan Craig finally heads back to his hometown. Nat McBain must face up to the truth of what going to jail will mean. Cassidy Yates is tempted to frame a man he knows is guilty although the court reckons otherwise. Fergal O’Brien has a rare romantic encounter. Marshal Devine must show his gratitude after his life is saved, and Jim Dragon must finally end his feud with Pierre Dulaine to defeat a common enemy.

I had fun writing these tales and they’re now available from all good amazon stores.