Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Mystery of Silver Falls in paperback

My 2015 Black Horse Western in now available as a large print paperback.


I find this cover very entertaining. It's so uncompromisingly dull that I can't help but love it. Even better, this is my 27th Linford Western, and that's something of a landmark for a deeply sad git like me. I've enjoyed watching the list of titles on my 'By the same author' page grow steadily over the last fifteen years or so and the last book filled the page making me wonder what would happen for the next one.

And now I know. I got a second page!

The whole town turns out to watch the first train journey when the bridge at Silver Falls is completed, but the day turns sour when Kane Cresswell and his gang arrive. They raid the train and, in the ensuing chaos, $50,000 falls into the river, seemingly lost forever. Wyndham Shelford is determined to find the missing money, but when bodies start washing up, unconventional lawman Lloyd Drake arrives. He is convinced the train raid wasn't everything it seemed...

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

The Secret of Devil's Canyon now available on Kindle

 
The Secret of Devil's Canyon is now available on Kindle. This was my 21st Black Horse Western and the 5th Nat McBain yarn.

 

This tale follows on directly from The Gallows Gang, in which Nat McBain and Shackleton Frost agree to work together to take prisoners to jail. It also has a sub-plot about bone-hunter Jim Dragon and his eternal conflict with Pierre Dulaine. I enjoyed this sub-plot so much that Jim returned in Incident at Pegasus Heights.

I've only just realized that like Bleached Bones in the Dust a key moment in the plot revolves around finding bones that have been buried out there somewhere....

When Mayor Maxwell and his daughter are brutally murdered, feelings in Bear Creek run high. Even when the killer is caught and sentenced to life in prison, the townsfolk demand a lynching. So Sheriff Bryce calls in Nathaniel McBain to spirit the killer away through Devil’s Canyon to Beaver Ridge jail.
 
At first, Nathaniel manages to stay one step ahead of the pursuing mob; but as he loses ground, he realizes he faces an even bigger problem: his prisoner could be innocent after all. . .
 
A dark secret about what really happened is buried in Devil’s Canyon. Will Nathaniel be able to uncover the truth before the mob reaches him?

It's now available from all good amazon stores.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Paperback version of Calloway's Crossing now available



When Trip Kincaid saved Milton Calloway’s life, Milton was so grateful he gave him his saloon at Calloway’s Crossing. But when Trip arrived to claim his property, the saloon wasn’t what he expected – it had in fact collapsed into a bubbling pool of mud!

Undeterred, Trip rebuilt the saloon. Within hours of opening, Ryan Trimble’s protection gang muscled in on him and his only compensation was the distraction his bartender, the beguiling Grace Theroux, provided.

Trip needed help to defeat Ryan and it arrived in the form of a mysterious gunslinger – but at what price? Before long, Trip faced the fight of his life to save not only the saloon but also himself and Grace.
 
  Available as a paperback and a download from all Amazon stores.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

All Must Die in paperback

My 2015 Black Horse Western in now available as a large print paperback.


It would have been nice to get a more dramatic cover than this, but . . . only joking. This one goes right near the top of my favourite covers. In fact I like the cover a lot more than the one on this book:



On the other hand it's about as good as this one:


Although, on balance, it's perhaps not quite as good as this one:

 
 
Anyhow, this is my 26th Linford Western.

Ten years ago, a spree of murders shocked the townsfolk of Monotony. The victims were shot and dumped, with words scrawled on the ground beside them. When Sykes Caine was arrested for a bank raid, the killings stopped... Now Sheriff Cassidy Yates must deal with a perplexing case. A man is shot to death - and words are scratched into the ground by the corpse. With Sykes now released from jail and back in town, the finger of suspicion is pointed squarely at him...


Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Gunfight in the Red Eye Saloon now available on Kindle.

Gunfight in the Red Eye Saloon is now available on Kindle.



I started writing this story with the intention of it being my next Black Horse Western, but it ended up being about 10% short of the required length for the series. I put it aside for a while and then came back to try to bulk it out, but I only ended up shortening it some more.

After several more failed attempts I decided to just leave the tale well alone and publish this as a Kindle title. This is the 6th Cassidy Yates's yarn, in which he rubs up against a fellow lawman he doesn't trust. . . .

Sheriff Cassidy Yates reckoned he’d foiled a bank raid in Monotony, but then he discovered that a safe deposit box had been broken into. Nobody knew what had gone missing, but Cassidy suspected that the robbery was connected to the infamous gunfight that had erupted in the Red Eye saloon two years earlier, an incident in which five men died.

Severin Lorde never paid for the crime he committed that day, but in a twist of fate he was appointed as the sheriff of Carmon. Cassidy was determined to prove that Severin had a murderous past, but to bring a fellow lawman to justice he will have to risk not only his life, but his faith in the law he has sworn an oath to uphold.

It's now available from all good amazon stores.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Babylon 5

It was the dawn of the third age of mankind. . . .
 

This week sees the end of Pick TV's rerun of the SF series Babylon 5, this being the show's first airing in the UK since its only appearance around 20 years ago on Channel 4. I watched and enjoyed that original run, but this time round I ended up recording about 80 episodes before I watched the first one as I feared that cold reality would ruin my nostalgic memories.

That trepidation is probably warranted. When first shown B5 was popular, although not massively so leading to it being axed and then resurrected at least once and being seemingly on the verge of cancellation the rest of the time. Then there was the alleged nerd war between B5 and Star Trek: Deep Space 9 fans, who both claimed that their series had been ripped off by the other. As I liked both series I didn't have much interest in the debate, although I tended to think that any two shows set on a space station were likely to have similarities.

Once the show ended, B5's fortunes plummeted rapidly. A lot of the main cast died, and all way before their time. The spin-off series Crusade was cancelled before it aired, the six movies weren't all that good, and the subsequent attempts to make more spin-offs or reboots failed. All this, along with a mixture of studio apathy and production mistakes such as losing the special effects files, led to B5 quietly disappearing.

Other SF franchises have grown ever larger or at least remained in the public consciousness, but aside from Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory deeming that B5 'fails as drama, science fiction and is hopelessly derivative', its largely been absent from popular culture. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, its reputation amongst devotees remains. Many rate it as the greatest ever SF series, while others view it as a flawed masterpiece that was ahead of its time. My opinion was the other popular view that it was greater than the sum of its parts.

It was that rare thing of being an SF series that actually contained some SF. It avoided the approach most other shows used that as long as it was set in space and had some robots in it, it could be called SF. Instead, it appeared to have been made by people who had read Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and Bester. Even better, it was the first SF show, and arguably the first of any kind of TV series, to do something that is common these days of devoting its whole 5-year run to a single, pre-planned serialized story arc.

Unlike every show that came after it, though, B5 was almost entirely the work of one writer, J. Michael Straczynski, to the extent that aside from Neil Gaiman's episode, JMS wrote every episode from the midpoint of season 2 to the end of season 5. This singular vision enabled an extreme level of foreshadowing, plot development and continuity that made the show deeply involving (and impenetrable if you happened upon it in mid-run). So, for example, it's revealed in the very first episode how a main character will die and it takes the whole 5 year run for the full, tragic context to play out. Heck, you have to wait until season 4 to find out why the narration over the opening title credits mentions the third age of mankind.

 
I guess if the show was being made today the first ten minutes of every episode would be taken up with a 'Previously on. . . .' sequence to help you recall the main plot threads, but B5, aside from a few flashbacks and chunks of exposition, never spoon-fed the viewer. So, with its heady mix of clever storytelling, interweaving plots, complex characters, great twists, memorable incidental music, improbable hairstyles, unexpected deaths and most important, consequences, I ought to have been excited about getting a chance to revisit the show, but I wasn't. That's because of the other stuff, the stuff that got in the way of the greatness.

There's season 1 with the goofy stories in which every week a new alien arrives and for no good reason tries to take over the station armed only with dodgy special effects, but is defeated during a massive punch-up. There's those unconvincing muppet aliens (quite simply the worst idea anyone has ever had). And there's Sinclair. When I first saw B5 I reckoned Sinclair had to be the worst actor ever to appear on screen and his ponderous delivery sapped the life out of every scene he was in, which was a problem as he's the main character.

Even when the alien of the week, the muppets and Sinclair left in season 2 the bad acting continued with guest actors either phoning in their performance or hamming it up like pantomime villains. Even the great Season 3 had Grey 17 is Missing, an episode that was so bad the writer apologized before it was transmitted. Then there's the rushed season 4 with the galactic war that took seventy episodes of rising tension before it finally broke out, only for it to be fought and won between commercial breaks.

And there's season 5 when two popular characters had left and way too much time was devoted to the war of the long-haired, soppy telepaths, which some die-hard fans reckon is so unwatchable they refuse to acknowledge it exists. Even the show's main claim to fame works against it with so many characters making cryptic predictions and having prophetic dreams that by the time you get a resolution, often around four years later, it's hard to remember or care any longer.

With all that in mind I wondered whether to delve back in, but to my relief I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. As it turned out, B5 is a show that was designed for binge watching decades before the term became popular. Having a seer opine that 'to avoid your fate you must save the eye that does not see' works better when you find out in a week what it means rather than having to wait a year.

 


In addition, season 1 wasn't as bad as I remembered. I don't think it was down to now knowing about the personal problems the actor who played Sinclair was having, but this time round I enjoyed his stiff-backed approach. The other acting also wasn't as bad as I feared, with the scenery chewing performances being fun along with seeing actors I hadn't remembered were in it such as Bishop Brennan from Father Ted and Citizen Smith's dad. In fact there was a strange overuse of English actors, who all had that odd English accent that's only ever used on US TV shows. Even the weak stories were watchable as they usually had a decent B-plot, or a memorable scene, or something that advanced the arc story.
 
I'd also forgotten how funny the show is. Amidst all the angst, pain, suffering, self-sacrifice, unrequited love and the epic battle between order and chaos for the control of the universe for all eternity, there were plenty of good jokes. The docking guard stating that nothing ever surprises him any more only for Elvis to walk past, Ivanova somehow keeping a straight face during her boom-shaba-laba dance, the usually verbose G'Kar working on a swearing-in oath for days and coming up with: 'Do you want to be President?' My favourite joke was one that livened up an all-too-familiar scene in which Garibaldi has to get past a guard to break Sheridan out of a cell. Garibaldi tries the novel approach of telling the guard he's been on TV, only to get the deadpan response of: 'I don't watch TV. It's a cultural wasteland filled with inappropriate metaphors and an unrealistic portrayal of life created by the liberal media elite.'

Season 5 was also more entertaining than I'd expected. Although Byron's hair, the singing and the dopey telepaths were far, far worse than I remember. What I did like is that it gave the characters a long goodbye. Most shows cram a resolution to the story along with tearful goodbyes into the final few minutes of the final episode, but B5 devoted several episodes to letting everyone depart in their own good time. The fact that many of the characters' fates were tragic made them all the better.

Just about the only drawback was that the main storyline no longer feels plausible, as it features the follicly-challenged President Clark ascending to power with help from secretive outside forces and then instigating a Make Earth Great Again policy that involves promoting extreme patriotism, starting wars and victimizing alien immigrants. Then he diverts attention away from his fascist agenda by stirring up race hate and social divisions, and sacking anyone who disagrees with him. After which he imposes increasingly dictatorial policies while using state controlled media to support his alternative facts and to dismiss all opposition as fake news. This sort of stuff is just too fanciful and could never actually happen, but then again I suppose it is SF.
 

Anyhow, I'll stop banging on and leave the final word to G'Kar with his closing speech from season 3, another one of those epic moments I'd forgotten about that got the show its reputation as being the best ever SF TV series:

'There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos. . .  and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born. . . in pain.'

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Paperback version of Yates's Dilemma now available

 

When Wendell Moon hightailed it out of Monotony, he left in his wake a murdered lawman and a mob braying for his blood. Fifteen years later the word is out – Wendell Moon is back! But, for Sheriff Cassidy Yates, Wendell’s unwelcome return rekindles old vendettas and ignites three days of raging gun battles.
Now the sheriff has the impossible duty of keeping the peace, but as if that isn’t enough Wendell also claims he never killed the lawman!
If Cassidy doesn’t unearth the truth quickly, Wendell’s trigger-happy enemies will deliver their own form of gun-toting justice. Real trouble lies ahead!

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