Wednesday 19 December 2012

The Devil's Marshal

Robert Hale have accepted my latest novel The Devil's Marshal for their Black Horse Western series. I assume it'll be published around December 2013 and it'll be my 28th western with them.

This novel was one of those stories where the title came first. The phrase Devil's Marshal popped into my mind and I just had to write a story to go with it. Unfortunately when I'd finished the first draft I came across a review for a novel called The Devil's Marshal and in one of those Doh! moments I realized I'd read this book years ago and that's probably where the title came from. So I changed the title to Spectre of a Forgotten Lawman and carried on writing.

As it turned out, although the publisher liked the book, the title was too long for them and they requested that it be changed. They suggested The Devil's Marshal would be a good title. So I reckoned that this one was just meant to be!

Here's my draft blurb:

When bounty hunter Brodie Latimer hears that his sister has been accused of murder, he heads to Hamilton for the trial. But before the proceedings start, the only witness who planned to speak up for her is killed and, although Lucinda's innocence is clear to Brodie, in a travesty of justice she is found guilty.

Brodie vows to find the real killer and, as more of Hamilton's leading figures are killed in mysterious circumstances, the clues lead him to suspect Derrick Shelby, a man known as the devil's marshal. The only trouble is, Derrick was killed a year ago. How can Brodie clear his sister's name and bring the guilty to justice when the killer appears to be the spectre of a long dead lawman?

The stunning image above came from here

Saturday 15 December 2012

Review of Miss Dempsey's School for Gunslingers

Like the previous two books in this excellent series this story is extremely fast moving and includes many how-are-they-going-to-get-out-of-that situations. There are plenty of laughs to be had too...

Read more at Western Fiction Review

Tuesday 11 December 2012

The Flying Wagon now available on Kindle

The fourth book in my Fergal O'Brien series is now available on Kindle.

As with all the Fergal stories, it's a standalone book and it isn't essential to have read the others. This one lives up to its billing and features a wagon that flies, although you'll have to read it to find out whether or not Fergal gets airborne. The book is now available for around £2.55 from the uk site and $4.11 from the us site.

The showman Fergal O’Brien and his assistant Randolph McDougal come to the aid of a damsel in distress who has been attacked by the bandit Van Romalli. She repays their kindness by riding off with their display of authentic historical memorabilia.

Now Fergal must find a new way to earn a living. An opportunity arrives when Jim Broughton sells him an attraction called the Treasure of Saint Woody. But all is not as it seems. Jim is really a US Marshal and the only patron he wants Fergal to attract is Van Romalli. Blissfully unaware he is being used as bait; Fergal is starting to rebuild his fortune when Ezekiel T. Montgomery rides into town to promote the wondrous maiden voyage of his flying wagon—a Conestoga dirigible.

Faced with a seemingly unbeatable competitor, Fergal tries to solve all his problems with a reckless wager, which leaves him facing his greatest challenge ever. He has twenty-four hours to learn how to fly or he’ll lose everything.

Buy from and

Sunday 9 December 2012

RIP - Sir Patrick Moore

I'd just like to add my thoughts at the passing of Sir Patrick.

The only reason I can identify stars and constellations, and take pleasure in noting the steady movements throughout the year of the planets is down to him. It was his enthusiasm and lively, eccentric manner that got me interested in science as a kid and even now, if I ever feel a need to check on such matters as the names of the main stars in Orion, I don’t look it up on the Net. Instead I'll get out one of Patrick's old dog-eared textbooks some of which were written back in the 50s or before.

In truth, his declining condition in recent years has meant this sad news was inevitable. This week on The Sky at Night I got the distinct impression this was the last time we'd see him. He was clearly in very poor health, but even then he presided over the monthly program, which has been an important fixture during my entire life, with his usual commitment to science and avoidance of dumbing down. Even when the likes of Brian 'I like loud music instead of content' Cox appeared on his show, the content would still be the same mixture of complex science about distant galaxies combined with basic help in identifying the pole star. As a man who made serious science accessible and fun, he was the simply the best.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Cover for Night of the Gunslinger

I've just had a first sighting of the cover for my 2013 title Night of the Gunslinger and I'm very pleased with it. I always enjoy covers that complement the title and this one has a night scene and it has a gunslinger in it, so I couldn't really ask for anything more!

The title will be published in April and my draft blurb was as follows:

With the town marshal laid up with a broken leg, Deputy Rick Cody must stand alone to protect New Town during a night of mayhem. At sunup Edison Dent will stand trial for Ogden Reed's murder. Although Rick suspects that Edison is innocent, he also reckons his own sister knows more than she's prepared to reveal.

With Rick having only one night to uncover the truth, his task is made harder when the outlaw Hedley Beecher plots to free the prisoner while Ogden's brother Logan vows to kill Edison and anyone who stands in his way. Within an hour of sundown four men are dead, and so begins the longest and bloodiest night of Rick's life.

Monday 22 October 2012

The Secret of Devil's Canyon in Large Print

I've just received my copies of the Large Print version of The Secret of Devil's Canyon. This is my 16th Linford Western and I'm delighted with it.

I used to be mildly irritated that Ulverscroft chose generic western imagery for their covers with little or no attempt to match cover to story. Outdoor stories would get a saloon picture while town stories would get scenery, man alone stories would get lots of folk and large outlaw gangs would get a solitary man etc. But recently that appears to have changed. Last year's Railroad to Redemption got a picture of rail tracks and now a story about a lynch mob gets, well, a lynching. Even the typeface is a bit wobbly conjuring up the feeling that it's a tale involving a mystery.

Long may whoever is in charge of picking the covers keep up the good work!

ISBN: 9781444812763
Large Print (Soft Cover) - 240 Pages
Published - 01-10-2012
Genre - Western
Price - £ 8.99

When Mayor Maxwell and his daughter are brutally murdered, feelings in Bear Creek run high. And 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. Nathaniel, just one step ahead of the pursuing mob, loses ground, then realizes that he's facing an even bigger problem: his prisoner may be innocent after all...

Saturday 13 October 2012

Fergal O'Brien now available on Kindle

After AmazonEncore took over Avalon's western backlist, it would appear that my Fergal O'Brien series is now starting to become available on Kindle, and they've started with the sixth book in the series The Miracle of Santa Maria.

Thankfully knowledge of the earlier books in the series isn't essential and this book contains the usual mixture of light-hearted fun and adventure, with the added benefit this time round of plenty of sarsaparilla, shakespeare and sword-fighting. The book is now available for £2.55 from the uk site and $4.11 from the us site.

The Mission Santa Maria catered to Sundown's needs until bandits murdered their nuns. The young Maria is the only survivor, yet the massacre she witnessed sends her into an endless sleep. For two years she lies unconscious in the mission, gradually becoming weaker, before Bishop Finnegan notices. Unsympathetically, he decides to close the mission, which is sure to speed her demise.

With her outlook quickly becoming bleak, the devious snake-oil seller Fergal O'Brien rides into town. Although Fergal is typically interested in making a quick dollar, Maria's plight touches him. He attempts to wake her with what he claims is his universal remedy. Not surprisingly, though, his tonic fails.

An undaunted Fergal vows to help her by persuading Finnegan to keep the mission open. The bishop, however, decides that the lawless Sundown is too dangerous for a mission. The only options are to hope for a miracle or clean up Sundown with fearless gun-toting skills. Unfortunately for Fergal, though, he has never used a gun in his life.  

Buy from and

Thursday 20 September 2012

Cover for Devine

The cover for my next Black Horse Western is now available and it's certainly action-packed and blood-soaked. It doesn't actually depict any scene from the novel, but it's a vivid and lively picture and so I'm very happy with it. Devine will be published in December and it will be available from all the usual sources and libraries.

Pinkerton detective Nimrod Dunn is hired by Lieutenant Governor Maddox Kingsley to infiltrate an outlaw gang, but when Nimrod's cover is blown an innocent life is lost in the raging gun battle. With Nimrod's detective career in tatters, the fearsome US Marshal Jake T. Devine sets about bringing the outlaw Cornelius to justice. Devine always gets his man, but his methods are as brutal as those whom he pursues.

So with Devine's blood-soaked trail making a mockery of the Governor's promise to clean up the county, Maddox calls on Nimrod's services once more. And, to resurrect his career, Nimrod must carry out the most dangerous mission yet: to kill Marshal Devine.


My wise Black Horse friends have pointed out that some inspiration for this picture may have been derived from the Kevin Costner film Open Range (see below). Although I'm no fan of Costner's westerns and tend to the view that the only drawback to the recent revival of western films is the increased danger that Costner will make another one, this only makes me love the cover all the more!

Saturday 15 September 2012

Sheriff Without a Star goes to Large Print

I've just received the welcome news that my December 2011 title Sheriff Without a Star will be going to Large Print. It should appear as a Linford Western paperback around September 2013. It will be my 18th Linford Western.

Despite his four years of distinguished service Sheriff Cassidy Yates lost the confidence of Monotony's townsfolk because his error of judgement has led to the death of Leland Matlock's son. But when the star Cassidy had worn with pride was removed from his chest, Leland claimed he knew something that would shed new light on the sheriff's downfall.

Before Leland could reveal what he knew he was shot, but Cassidy still had the instincts of a lawman. He believed Leland's shooting was connected to the death of his son and that if he could uncover the link it would restore the townsfolk's confidence in him. So Cassidy embarked on his greatest ever challenge: to get the star pinned back on his chest where it belonged.

Monday 27 August 2012

Review of Beyond Redemption

As a child Jeff Dale witnessed the terrible aftermath of an atrocity. Elmer Drake killed three members of a family and when the surviving girl Cynthia went missing, Jeff vowed that one day he’d find her, no matter how long it took....

Read more at Western Fiction Review

Wednesday 15 August 2012

R.I.P. Harry Harrison

I was saddened to hear the news of the death of one of the great SF authors at the age of 87. Harry was still producing entertaining novels right up until the end and as I've read nearly all of them, I'd guess I might have read more of his books than any other author.

His novels were nearly always short, they never outstayed their welcome, and they were always a lot of fun, even the serious ones. His best creation was the Stainless Steel Rat, a brilliant anti-hero comic creation, along with Bill, the Galactic Hero. His most famous novel was perhaps Make Room, Make Room, which stands up as being one of the best dystopian futures even if the film version Soylent Green was a fairly tepid version of the story.

My personal favourite was Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers, a send-up of the EE Doc Smith style of space opera and I've just remembered I queued up once back in the 70s to get a signed copy of one his books. I remember he was smiling a lot while he signed, and I did too while reading his books.

Wednesday 25 July 2012 discounting the Fergal O'Brien series

I was pleased to see that after Amazon took over Avalon last month, they have started discounting Avalon's backlist of hardbacks, including my own Fergal O'Brien series of six novels. Previously they retailed at $23.95. The hardbacks are a nice product with colourful covers and dust jackets, but that price was prohibitive.

Thankfully new books are now available at a more reasonable price of $14.37, and if you don't mind reading secondhand books, many ex-library editions can be bought at the fairly reasonable price of $0.01.

Check them out at here

Tuesday 5 June 2012

So long Avalon and thanks for all the fish…

Well, after a year of speculation about what the future holds for the US publishing imprint Avalon Books, the press release is now out and basically Amazon now own Avalon:

Avalon publish my Fergal O'Brien western series, which currently runs to six books, while the prospective seventh has sat in their slush pile for the last year during this time of transition and uncertainty. I'm not sure yet what to make of the news. On the face of it, it's an exciting development as it sounds as if the Fergal series could be made available in its entirety for Kindle, although what it means for my chances of continuing the series or placing more books with them, I don’t know yet. I'll post more details as they become available.

Friday 18 May 2012

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

This novel has been on my to be read list since it first came out about seven years ago, but I've only just got round to reading it, and it was worth the wait.

The novel is one of the most old-fashioned pieces of science fiction I've read in ages, reminding me of the books I used to read and love when younger. Most modern sf I've tried recently is either too literate, or too political, or too flashy, or too weird, or very long, or determined to prove that the author knows vast amounts about scientific stuff. The end result is stories that fail to grip and are just too serious to entertain with none of that sense of excitement and wonder that I crave. Thankfully Scalzi's novel is none of these things.

The book starts with an opening line that has been rightly acclaimed as being one of the best:

I did two things on my seventy-fifty birthday: I visited my wife's grave, then I joined the army.

If the main purpose of the opening few words is to make sure you read on, then that works as after that start you have to find out where the tale is going. As it turns out, it's nowhere new as the story is a familiar one of super-soldiers going off to fight a pointless war on a far flung planet. There are several templates for this type of story. There's the Starship Troopers angle of war is great, so let's kick some alien butt with our big guns. Then there's the Forever War angle of war is hell. And there's something in between, which is where Old Man's War places itself. I've never felt even the slightest urge to see Avatar, but I'd guess it used the same story that this novel uses.

The hero gets a new and improved body, learns how to use it, goes to war against some big bad aliens, and gradually learns that there's more going on than he first thought. I gather there's more books that develop and explain the wider story, but I was content with this small-scale vision. Over half the book is taken up with the hero adapting to his new life, but the story never drags as it's told with gentle humour and an eye for interesting scenes. The first person narrative makes the lead character interesting and the story is clever enough to acknowledge the war story clich├ęs it's using without coming over as trite. Best of all for modern science fiction, it's short and it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Friday 11 May 2012


The second series of Episodes starts tonight and I'm intrigued to see if any changes will be made. I enjoyed the first series, which was a promising one, but it was also frustrating as it never quite scaled the heights that it kept threatening to achieve. Although as the people behind the show are tv comedy veterans, I wonder if the show did exactly what it was intended to do, so the second series won't provide more focus on the bits that worked and instead will be pretty much the same as the first. Being contrary to expectations did appear to be the main focus of a show that started by deliberately adopting the worst possible title for Google searching.

The premise behind the show is a good one with plenty of material for humour, if anyone wants to use it. A couple, played by Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig, write a successful British sitcom that gets bought by an American studio that then hires them to write a new pilot in Hollywood. So, producers and writers and focus groups get their claws into the format. Within days Matt LeBlanc is hired to play the aged, overweight school-teacher previously portrayed by Richard Griffiths and bit by bit every single element that made the British sitcom good is removed to leave a program that bears no resemblance to the original.

Obviously this process has happened for real, such as Red Dwarf which generated a female cat, a hunky Rimmer and a non-smeggy version of Lister. Or Men Behaving Badly with Gary and Tony being executives living in a spacious apartment with glamorous girlfriends and who on no account ever behave badly. But the final punchline to this process is that despite a few groan-inducing failures, nine times of out ten the US produce sitcoms that are funnier than UK ones. So a UK / US co-production with this premise can mine plenty of cross Atlantic, culture clash humour about the differing approaches, except strangely it didn't.

Aside from a brief chat about American sitcoms needing to create a premise that'll work for 200 episodes while UK ones only need to cope with about 20 episodes, there's little focus on the actual mechanics of writing. There's a running gag involving a terrible producer doing terrible British accents and making terrible decisions, and quite a bit of time is wasted poking fun at Hollywood excesses, which is a subject that doesn’t travel well. But for the most part the show is a warm drama in which the three leads either bond or argue, and the best comedy comes from Matt either living up to his Joey 'how you doing?' image or playing against it. Taken as light drama with some mildly funny character exchanges played out in awkward situations created by crass and insensitive people, the show works much better than as the sitcom about a sitcom it's billed to be.

Series 2 continues the story after the pilot, against all expectations and justice, has been aceepted for a full run and, with the show already having burnt its bridges (and the stated rules for the sitcom within a sitcom) by resolving the will they / won't they aspect of the story, it'll be interesting to see where they take it.

Monday 7 May 2012

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

The biggest problem I have with Fantasy novels is working out when to read them. Most Epic Fantasy these days runs to about ten volumes and usually takes about twenty years to be written, so if I read the first book in a series as soon as it comes out, many years of waiting lie ahead along with an increasing strain on my memory. A good example of this is George RR Martin's series. I read Game of Thrones when it first came out in the mid-90s, leaving me in a bemused state now that A Song of Ice and Fire has suddenly taken off as I can’t remember enough about the early novels to join in any debates with the new fans. Then there's the fact that the last two books in the series have been so brain-numbingly awful I've lost all the enthusiasm that I had for the characters about 17 years ago.

On the other hand waiting until the series is over could take a lifetime. I read Katherine Kurtz's first Deryni novel in the early 70s and that series is still ongoing. Even the middle line is fraught with danger as after massive acclaim for the first book, later books often come out to derision leaving you wondering if you should bother embarking on a journey that'll eventually fall flat on its face. There is no answer to this conundrum, and so I take every series that interests me on its own merits and Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards series gave me particular angst.

The Lies of Locke Lamora was one of the most promising books I've read in a long time, except when I read it, it was a one-off book and only later did the author announce there would be further books in the series. At the time this delighted me as I reckoned I'd finally found the author of my dreams. Locke featured a fascinating fantasy world in which the author never data dumped an explanation of the rules of the world and instead let us learn about it through the eyes of the hero. It had a twisty plot that to my delight surprised and fooled me every time, and it had bucket loads of action, humour, appealing characters along with brilliantly staged and original scenes. In short it had everything, including plenty of forgivable faults in what was clearly a first novel, leading to the feeling that the series would get even better. If Locke ever gets filmed, I should imagine the pitch would say it's Ocean's 11 meets Lord of the Rings meets Oliver Twist.

With the promise that the series would expand to seven books, I therefore put off reading book two until I was reasonably sure that book three wasn't far off, which now appears to be the case. But after the utter joy that was Locke, Red Seas under Red Skies, despite a good start, is one of the most disappointing tales I've ever read. The book picks up where the last one ended, which in itself is a big problem as the first book ends in a conclusive way. But any feeling that a sequel is a bad idea quickly disappears as the story establishes another twisty plot that lands the hero in another impossible dilemma in which his only chance of survival is to complete an impossible task that is sure to get him killed. Except he has a cunning plan to double-cross the bad guys, except the bad guys know he plans to double-cross them, which the hero has worked out and so his bluff is to call their bluff…

A quarter of the way into the book everything is building nicely into another action-packed twist-laden heist story, but then all the plot pieces that have been put in place are suddenly dumped in favour of a far less interesting story that has nothing to do with the set-up. I like tales that wrong-foot me, and Locke did that numerous times, but the misdirection has to integrate into a complete narrative. In Red Skies, there is no misdirection. After a hundred and fifty pages the story just restarts. The hero leaves an interesting town filled with fascinating characters and goes to sea, where he pretends to be a pirate for obscure reasons that I didn’t understand. Then he spends the rest of the novel having a whole heap of unrelated adventures with various friendly and unconvincing pirates. Every time something interesting starts to develop a new danger is dumped on him that has nothing to do with the previous problems and the story lurches off in another direction while the developing conflicts are forgotten about never to be mentioned again.

This structure of a new danger followed by a resolution every chapter drags on until the author appears to realize that the whole point of the novel has been forgotten about for about 400 pages and the last chapter is looming. So a main character is killed off in a seriously underwhelming fashion, seemingly because the author was as bored as I was with all the 'Ha-ha-ha, me hearties' stuff and the hero hurries back to dry land to face all the unresolvable problems where, in a few pages, with a single bound everyone is free and everything is resolved, and the book ends. I'm used to fantasy series going astray after a few books, but I've never come across a series that started so superbly and descended so quickly. Despite that disappointment, I still hope to read later books in the series, but I'll need to read a lot of glowing reviews first before I risk delving into book 3: The Republic of Thieves.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Statistics, damn statistics, and lies.

Blogger recently upgraded their system and one of the improvements was more detailed statistics on who is reading my blog. I doubt anyone but myself is sad enough to be interested in this, but here's some facts gleaned from the information:

Apparently the most popular items I've posted are on here are about :

1. Ashes to Ashes
2. 100 best novel lists
3. The Dumarest Saga
4. ITV Xmas panto series
5. Citizen Smith
6. Death in Paradise
7. The Gor Saga
8. New Tricks

Everything I've ever posted about writing, westerns, my books, or myself doesn’t get a mention! My traffic comes from :

1. US (41%)
2. UK (36%)
3. Australia (7%)
4. Germany (5%)
5. Netherlands (3%)
6. Canada (2%)

Most of my traffic comes from google and other than the items mentioned above, the most popular searches that find me are :

1. Petes dragon crying (?)
2. Still Crazy (Damn fine movie. Watched it again last week.)
3. Jim Dale (An old British movie star who I assume I must have mentioned some time)
4. Mr Pitkin (The much missed Norman Wisdom)
5. Women in chains humiliation (still scratching my head over that one, but hopefully I didn't disappoint too much!)
6. Beatie Edney (Appeared in Dressing for Breakfast and I assume I must have mentioned that once)
7. Western Gunslinger (oh joy, something about westerns)…

And wait for it, bottom of the list of things people tap into google and are then sent here is:

IJ Parnham

Ah, the fame. 0.14% of all my visitors comes from people sticking my name into google. Now, I'll have to see if blogger will give me their names and addresses so I can thank them all personally. It won’t take long!

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Review of The Search for the Lone Star

Ian Parnham expertly captures the readers imagination with his superbly crafted characters and the fact that their true goals aren’t all revealed at once, thus he succeeds in hooking the reader with the need to discover just what they are all really up to, and if any of them will be alive at the end of the book...

Read more of this very welcome review of my latest BHW at Western Fiction Review.

Saturday 21 April 2012

The Search for the Lone Star

Today I received my complimentary copies of The Search for the Lone Star, my 24th Black Horse Western. The story is a convoluted mystery involving the search for hidden treasure in which everyone who knows where it's been buried has been killed, leaving a heap of people who all know a part of the truth fighting to get their hands on it.

Although the finished tale is my usual blend of gunfights, punch-ups and hopefully a few surprises and twists along the way, the story started life as something very different. For no particularly good reason I started writing a story told entirely in diary form. It was intended to be a sort of written version of a found footage film, even though I neither like found footage films or stories written entirely in letters, emails, etc. Sometimes it does you good to go outside your comfort zone and in this case I enjoyed trying to construct a story and a character entirely through that fictional character's writing.

The story involved a barman writing in his diary every night about his customers' antics. I reached short story length without the story going anywhere until a character in the bar told a tall tale about missing treasure. This got the barman's interest, and mine, and very quickly the story expanded into a full length novel. The first draft included the original diary entries, but on reflection I had to admit the interludes didn't work well in an action western, and I couldn't think of a good reason for eking out the diary entries throughout the book to avoid giving away the ending. Bit by bit I deleted the diary extracts until in the end they got so few they no longer had a purpose. So the published book is another one of mine where not even a single word of the story I set out to write made it into the final novel!

Anyhow, the book is now available and here's the blurb:

It had long been rumoured that the fabulous diamond known as the Lone Star had been buried somewhere near the town of Diamond Springs. Many men had died trying to claim it, but when Diamond Springs became a ghost town, the men who went there had many different aims.

Tex Callahan had been paid to complete a mission, Rafferty Horn wanted to put right a past mistake, George Milligan thought he knew what had happened to the diamond, and Elias Sutherland wanted revenge. All were united by their hatred of Creswell Washington, a man who had cast a dark shadow over all their lives during his search for the diamond. Only after violent retribution will the truth be finally revealed about the Lone Star.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Cover for Beyond Redemption

I see that amazon are now showing the cover for Beyond Redemption, my 25th Black Horse Western. It's a fairly generic western image, but as it's one of those stories that involves gun-toting blokes hiding behind boulders a lot, I reckon it's nicely appropriate. On the other hand, I don't think any cover would completely satisfy as Terrell L. Bowers' recent novel had the perfect cover for this book.

This cover by co-incidence depicts a scene from Beyond Redemption, and it was not only an important scene, but it was the first part of the story that I wrote. I'd originally intended to start the story with a literal cliff-hanger, but as I moved on I became more interested in finding out why this situation had arisen and so I kept going back and back until in the end the situation comes at the halfway way point. The standing bloke is even a perfect depiction of how I'd imagined Elmer Drake to look.

Anyhow the book is out in August and here's the blurb:

As a child Jeff Dale witnessed the terrible aftermath of an atrocity. Elmer Drake killed three members of a family and when the surviving girl Cynthia went missing, Jeff vowed that one day he'd find her, no matter how long it took.

Ten years later, after finding a clue about Cynthia's fate, Jeff becomes a bounty hunter and follows the trail to the frontier town of Redemption. And in Redemption stalks a gunslinger who carries a gun in one hand and a cross in the other. A man with a rope-burn around his neck, called Elmer Drake...

Saturday 31 March 2012

Bleached Bones in the Dust available in Large Print

The Linford Western paperback version of Bleached Bones in the Dust is now available. I have mixed feelings about photo-realistic covers. I much prefer traditional artwork, but I guess in this case the bloke in the picture looks tough enough.

ISBN: 9781444810240
Large Print (Soft Cover) - 232 Pages
Published - 01-03-2012
Genre - Western
Price - £ 8.99

For twenty years, bounty hunter Montgomery Drake searched for Lomax Rhinehart, to make him pay for an atrocity he committed during the war. When Drake's friend, Wallace Sheckley, tells him he's found Rhinehart, he follows him to Sunrise. But Arnold Hays and his gunslingers have the town in the grip of fear. Then Sheckley goes missing and Rhinehart cannot be found. Hays is key to discovering what has happened to both men. But will Drake's gun get the answers?

Monday 26 March 2012

Review of Riders of the Barren Plains

I was delighted to see the following review on Tom McNulty's fine blog:

When it comes to westerns I. J. Parnham should be at the top of everyone’s reading list. He’s not only prolific but he’s a damn good writer. Riders of the Barren Plains is one of his more recent books for Robert Hale’s Black Horse Western series and it’s a fine entertainment...

Read more at Dispatches from the Last Outlaw.

Saturday 24 March 2012

Dirk Gently: Gentle comedy, but perhaps too gentle

Following on from 2011's pilot episode from BBC4, the first series of three episodes detailing the adventures of the holistic detective was entertaining, although not as entertaining as it could have been.

The problem that many Douglas Adams fans focussed on is that the show had little to do with the books. Apart from mentioning character names and minor plotting points from the two and a quarter completed novels, there's little in the series that actually comes from the novels. I didn't view that as an issue as a BBC4 show doesn’t have the budget to tackle the stories properly. More importantly, the format's premise is that Dirk Gently is a detective who solves crimes based on the fundamental interconnectedness of everything. So to my mind even if the tv stories have nothing to do with the novels, they will still, in some way that may not be apparent yet, be connected!

For me the main problem is that the show is unsure what it wants to be, which is sad as it seems obvious that it ought to pitch itself somewhere between Dr Who and Sherlock. Viewers who find Dr Who's fantasy too fantastic can take solace in Gently's grounded fantasy while those who find Sherlock not fantastic enough can enjoy a show that can incorporate science fiction ideas. Two of the four episodes took that approach (the pilot and the middle episode of series 1) and they worked excellently, while the other two were less successful and came over as a very low budget Sherlock featuring ideas that were too whimsical for that series. In fact even the theme tune sounds like something composed and then rejected for Sherlock.

The pilot featured missing cats and time-travel, which was in the spirit of the novels, while the middle episode concerned robots, artificial intelligence, and body-swapping. The resulting stories were exactly what the show should be, namely a comic, science fiction detective series in which the solution to the murder plot involves an element that a reality-based detective series could never use. Sadly the other two stories prove this point as they could have been told in any other detective show as they centred on such disparate elements as hired guns from the Pentagon, nefarious cleaners, horoscopes and stalkers.

Despite that, all the episodes feature good running jokes (along with plenty of actual running when the story needs padding) concerning Dirk's money troubles, his amoral attitude, his downtrodden side-kick, his downtrodden secretary, and his downtrodden office. Better still, the science fiction episodes have better acting with Helen Baxendale appearing as Dirk's sidekick's girlfriend, and in the middle episode there's some genuine character development and emotion with Dirk enjoying a touching love interest.

I hope the show gets commissioned for a second series as the first series shows a lot of promise. But I hope the makers realize that the unique quality the show can provide for the tv detective genre lies with the fantastic and not with the mundane.

Monday 5 March 2012

Night of the Gunslinger

I've received the news that Hale will publish my western Night of the Gunslinger. I expect it'll see print around May 2013 and it'll be my 27th Black Horse Western.

This novel was one of those itches I had to scratch and I've been trying to reach that itchy spot for a few years. The basic idea was to write a story in real time and, when this proved to be too tricky, to write a novel detailing the events in a single day. So about ten years ago I started Bad Day in Dirtwood with this intention. Rapidly the discipline of keeping all the events within a 24-hour period proved wrong for the story and so I abandoned the constraint with the intention of trying again later.

A few years later I returned to the idea with Dead by Sundown, which constrained the idea further by making it a story that would start at sunup and end at sundown. Again the constraint proved too much for the story. A couple of years later I tried again with Bad Moon over Devil's Ridge, this time detailing events over a single night. This story had two points of view rather than the one I'd used for the previous attempts and so I thought it might work this time, but again I had to relax the time constraint leaving me wondering whether I'd ever make it work without cheating by using flashbacks or extensive exposition etc.

As it turned out, I solved the problem by ignoring it. I started writing Night of the Gunslinger with the intention of writing a story about a law office siege in the days leading up to a notorious outlaw's trial. Except I got further and further into the story detailing the events leading up to the siege with no sign of the siege starting until one day I realized that I probably didn't need the siege at all. At that point I also realized that I was halfway through the story and everything so far had happened during a single night...

Whether the story works or not, I'm glad I finally got rid of that itch! Here's my suggested blurb:

With the town marshal laid up with a broken leg, Deputy Rick Cody must stand alone to protect New Town during a night of mayhem. At sunup Edison Dent will stand trial for Ogden Reed's murder. Although Rick suspects that Edison is innocent, he also reckons his own sister knows more than she's prepared to reveal.

With Rick having only one night to uncover the truth, his task is made harder when the outlaw Hedley Beecher plots to free the prisoner while Ogden's brother Logan vows to kill Edison and anyone who stands in his way. Within an hour of sundown four men are dead, and so begins the longest and bloodiest night of Rick's life.

Monday 27 February 2012

The Prairie Man to be published in Large Print

I've received the welcome news that my August 2011 title The Prairie Man will be published as a Large Print paperback in 2013.

Tales about the spectre of the night known as the Prairie Man were told to frighten children, but one day those tales nearly led to a tragic accident for Temple Kennedy. His friend Hank Pierce saved his life, Temple vowed that one day he would return the favour.

Fifteen years later the two friends grew up to lead different lives: Hank is a respected citizen while Temple is an outlaw. But, when Hank is wrongly accused of murder, Temple is given a chance for redemption. He vows to save Hank or die in the attempt.

However, in seeking to unmask the real culprit his investigation leads to a man who isn't even supposed to exist: the Prairie Man.

Monday 20 February 2012

Railroad to Redemption available in Large Print

My August 2010 title Railroad to Redemption is now available in Large Print. As I've often reported here the one thing that I love to see on my covers is an image that is relevant to the story. Ulverscroft rarely provide that and instead they usually produce generic western imagery of men with guns looking mean and moody. So I was delighted to find that this time they've provided a perfect match of title and cover!

ISBN: 9781444809169
Large Print (Soft Cover) - 221 Pages
Published - 01-12-2011
Genre - Western
Price - £ 8.99

The influx of railroad men looking to build a new track to Redemption brings trouble for Sheriff Cassidy Yates. But when Dayton Fisher arrives, looking for work, things seem to be looking up. And his bravery persuades Luther to hire him as a bodyguard. However, when he also takes on gunslingers to cause mayhem about town, Luther is killed and suddenly Dayton is pitted against his friend Cassidy. Can the two men be reconciled and defeat the gunslingers?

Saturday 11 February 2012

Dead by Sundown available on Kindle

My Black Horse Western Dead by Sundown is now available for pre-order from Amazon. The book will be released at the end of the month.

There's good news and bad news about the cover in that the original cover, shown below, was my favourite Black Horse picture. It perfectly tied in with the title as well as being a great picture. But it seems that Hale are now re-issuing all their western e-books with a standard cover of a rider silhouetted against a setting sun. As it turns out this is great news for me as it accidentally ties in perfectly with the title too!

Anyhow the book is now available at and It's the only western story I've written that does the revenge story, although in this case it picks up the tale five years after the hero embarked on his quest for revenge at a time when he's starting to question why he's still bothering...

When Galen Benitez killed Mike Donohue’s wife, Mike vowed to get his revenge that very day. But it took five long years before he tracked the outlaw down to the inhospitable region known as the Cauldron. Here, Mike meets the beguiling Lucy Reynolds who is searching for the legendary lost city of Entoro, a place rumoured to have its streets paved with gold. As Mike suspects that Galen might also be searching for the treasure, he decides to help her.

With Galen still at large, and now Lucy’s jealous admirer determined to kill him, Mike will need his trusty six-shooter to ensure that he isn’t the one who is dead by sundown.

Sunday 22 January 2012

A bit of praise for Endeavour

Inspector Endeavour Morse is one of favourite tv detectives. So I had mixed feelings when I heard the news that a prequel film was to be made to try out a new series of Morse adventures for when Lewis is pensioned off. I need not have worried as the care and attention devoted to detailing Morse's early years were as near perfect as this sort of show can be.

From the first moments when the kind of incidental music a young Morse should have starts up, the film did nothing wrong. We first meet Morse as a young and disillusioned man on the verge of giving up on being a copper, but a case involving all the traditional Morse themes of unattainable women, art and serial killing university dons keep him in the force and in Oxford. The premise lives or dies on the issue of whether the new actor is believable in a role that is nearly impossible to play. Shaun Evans has to be a young Morse, a young John Thaw, and be himself too. Somehow the actor achieved all that, despite looking nothing like John Thaw. There was just something about the intensity in his eyes as he watches everything and everyone while appearing both vulnerable and in control that made it work. The scene where he makes a terrible and embarrassing pass at a woman who he admires for her artistic ability was a painfully perfect depiction of everything that Morse, the person and Morse, the show is about.

This time round the young Morse is the sidekick to his boss and the choice of boss Fred Thursday is an excellent one. Roger Allam has appeared in Morse before, but this time he essentially gives his Supermac performance from series two of Ashes to Ashes. I liked him in that series and I was irritated he got killed off quickly, so I was pleased to see him again as he makes a perfect sixties copper, treading that difficult line between community policing and what would now be viewed as corruption. He got the tone right with his lecturing speech pattern and he even got to do some good old-fashioned policing with his fists. I was also amused by the fact that in Ashes to Ashes Roger Allam and Shaun Evans both played corrupt coppers and Roger had Shaun bumped off.

Also in the mix is a young Max, the pathologist, who is played perfectly by someone who is believable as a young Max. These links to the later series work well and in fact the whole episode was littered with references, including witty repeating of titles of Morse episodes. There's also hints at how Morse first becomes interested in his famous car, his first pint of beer, and the usual cameo from Colin Dexter. The only bum note for me, although I gather this was popular with viewers, was John Thaw passing on the gauntlet to his younger self. This felt unnecessary as John Thaw's daughter had already passed on the gauntlet in a perfect bit of fourth wall breaking dialogue with her moving line that she and Morse had probably met in another life.

That aside, the sixties were excellently depicted without any undue nostalgia or lingering tracking shots to show us the expensive sets. The story itself evoked the sixties nicely with links to a famous scandal of the day and amusingly one of the actors looked like, sounded like and dressed like Michael Caine playing Harry Palmer. The pace of developments was perfect with escalating tension and one of the best dramatic endings to any Morse episode. By the time Morse had become Thursday's bagman and the old Morse theme tune played over the closing title credits, I'd already started hoping that a series gets commissioned.

Saturday 21 January 2012

A bit of a whinge about Sherlock: series 2

Over the New Year period I was looking forward to only two tv programs: the return of Sherlock with excitement and the arrival of Endeavour with dread. As it turned out, the former disappointed and the latter exceeded my expectations. I'll talk about the Inspector Morse prequel tomorrow, but today I'll have a whinge about Sherlock: series two.

Sherlock is the most universally acclaimed popular drama the BBC has made in decades. It's hard to find any criticism, which makes me wonder what I was missing as although I enjoyed the latest episodes, I preferred the first series. I've concluded that I'm at fault in failing to accept it's become a fantasy romp rather than being the detective yarn I want it to be. It's the tv equivalent of the blockbuster movie where you're supposed to sit back with a beer in hand and accept that nothing will make sense, but don’t worry because it's not meant to.

My problem is that it didn’t start that way. I'm not a big Sherlock Holmes fan, although I've read many of the stories and watched plenty of adaptations. My favourite version is Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, so I was prepared for liberties to be taken and, as it turned out, the pilot episode was one of the best I've ever seen. I accepted Watson in minutes and Sherlock in seconds. The story featured a perfect escapist detective yarn in which Sherlock solves a complex crime using brilliant deduction. At the end of the pilot I'd decided I'd found my new favourite tv series and although the next two episodes weren't as good, they were still entertaining. The middle episode was criticised for being weakly plotted, which wasn't deserved, and the third episode built nicely until Moriarty's audience splitting arrival.

I was in the camp that thought Moriarty didn't work, but the cliffhanger was fun and I eagerly awaited series two. Sadly, the new series got off on the wrong foot with a poor solution to the cliffhanger. If Sherlock is so clever, he should have resolved his dilemma rather than relying on the copout of the villain giving up because it's not the end of the story yet. With an eighteen-month gap between series, viewers deserve better than a feeble joke solution.

That start set the tone for the rest of an episode that featured lots of running around, quick-fire dialogue and a nonsense story. There certainly wasn't an interesting crime for Sherlock to solve and he wasn't interested in the macguffin of stolen compromising pictures. Arch-enemy Irene Adler was supposed to provide Sherlock with a worthy adversary, except she came over as an ordinary femme fatale. The nude scene came over as being put in to make Daily Mail readers froth at the mouth, which it did when the paper provided full-page pictures. But frankly a brilliant detective who can work out your dog's name from the shape of your shirt buttons should have gathered information from Adler's skin. Worse, that set up the rule that the sight of skin fools Sherlock. That made me spend the rest of the series noting every time Sherlock picked up a clue from someone's skin and add further weight to the theory that Adler was a weak male fantasy figure and not a strong independent woman.

I hated the ending that stole Adler's independence meaning that a story built around the chemistry between Sherlock and Adler didn't work for me as they didn’t have any. In fact the scenes with Sherlock and pathologist Molly were more believable and interesting. The actress who plays Molly delivers adoration and hurt, strength and disappointment without uttering a word while Sherlock with his posture alone both acknowledges that he knows what he means to her while also denying it. If there is a will they / won’t they element in future Sherlock stories, it'll work better with Molly than with Adler as it involves a situation we can all relate to. And while I'm on the chemistry subject, I grew bored of the Sherlock and Watson being a gay couple joke in the pilot episode and it's now become annoying.

I hoped for better things from the second tale concerning a certain hound, which like most people is my favourite Sherlock tale. The writer's recent excellent documentary series on horror films showed he has the same tastes and opinions as I have about film horror and so I expected an interesting take on the tale. But I struggled to watch the episode all the way through. I welcomed the slower pace that let the story breathe, but the tale was pure hokum until the even more hokum solution involving bad CGI and hammy acting. And there were too many filler scenes. There was a tedious trip around a military unit put in to justify the expense of the big set. There was wandering around in the dark being scared, which was less interesting than most scenes involving people wandering around in the dark being scared. And the scene where Watson hides in a cage while Sherlock enjoys watching him be frightened ruined the sense of their growing friendship.

The worst padding came when the story ignored the rules the show had set for Sherlock so that it could avoid him fingering a culprit who was so obvious he might as well have 'I did it' written on his forehead. One moment Sherlock's proving he's in control by working out that someone missed their train this morning from the number of sugars they put in their tea, and the next moment he can't find out where someone keeps the sugar in their kitchen, something everybody can do. And I particularly hated Sherlock's mind palace where he waves his arms around. The pilot episode superbly depicted how Sherlock's deductive mind works with graphics and clever direction, but every subsequent episode has depicted a different technique, none of which work as well. Oh and the less said about Russell Tovey's acting and accent the better.

I therefore put all my hopes into the final episode and, in the sections where Moriarty wasn't around, it worked well, but every time he appeared all credibility went with him. I usually like to see actors try something different, but that performance was too different. I never once believed in Moriarty, as I didn't know if he was deranged, or a man pretending to be deranged, so the concept that he was what Sherlock could become if he turned to the dark side was lost. And the idea of the most dangerous man in the world wandering around in full view doesn’t work. If he was that dangerous, the secret services would have made him disappear a long time ago.

As a result the ending fell flat, although I was pleased that Net pundits worked out how Sherlock could cheat death before the credits rolled. Of course, based on the resolution to series one, the actual answer will be sillier, and I have no great hope that next time Sherlock will be set in the real world. It's probably just me but I'd like him to solve interesting crimes that have defied resolution while the coppers look on in amazement and his brother acts amusingly in the background, as happened in the first series. Instead we have power games where nothing matters because nothing is real and Sherlock might as well admit he owns a sonic screwdriver while Moriarty should admit he's a barking mad regeneration of the Master.

On a more mundane level the series suffers from a classic middle act problem. This problem often affects shows featuring a genius, as writers struggle to make plots work with characters who are ten steps ahead of their adversaries. The result is that each episode since the pilot has been half an hour too long. Trimmed down to an hour, each episode would have been better. Sherlock can solve ten unsolvable cases before breakfast while completing today's Times crossword using only clues from yesterday's crossword, so it's hard to rack up the tension in the middle act. So the stories either forget he's brilliant, or wander off track, or add in yet another story, or add in yet another layer that contradicts everything that went before.

This final point also creates an odd tone. In the first series my only main criticism was that the tales didn’t connect well so that the middle episode didn't feel as if it followed the first. This is more striking this time round where the tales link together in only superficial ways and therefore miss opportunities. For example the groundwork for the final episode premise that the police begin to distrust Sherlock could have been laid throughout the series, but instead it happens for reasons that weren't any more valid than the numerous other occasions when they could have doubted him.

Anyhow, now that I've got that off my chest I'll stop whinging and say again that I enjoyed the series, even if it doesn't sound like it. I wish more programs like Sherlock were made, with care and intelligence and which are good enough to be worth criticising. The series features superb set pieces, fun exchanges of dialogue, the production values are glossy, and the leads are perfect. I love the banter between Sherlock and Watson, and between the other regulars, while the moments when Sherlock works out how many children someone has from the colour of their bootlaces are always brilliant. But somehow the sum of the many good parts is less than it ought to be and I wish I'd enjoyed it even more.

Sunday 15 January 2012

The Gallows Gang now available on Kindle

I'm pleased to announce that my Black Horse Western The Gallows Gang (published 2008) is now available on Kindle. The book has been republished by Hale as part of their plan to make Black Horse Westerns available for download.

I reckon this book is a decent one to read if you fancy plenty of fast-paced action. I seem to remember that my previous book had gathered the editorial comment that it had been light on action and so I decided to rectify matters with this one by cramming in as many action set-pieces as I could while still telling a story and having some surprises and twists along the way.

With this one, there were three things I enjoyed writing. Firstly, the main character Nathaniel McBain had appeared in my first novel and I'd intended him to be a recurring hero, but to my surprise after being a good guy in several books, he turned to the dark side. He finally got what he deserved in Wanted: McBain and he was sent to jail for a seven-year stretch, but I'd always thought that one day I'd find out what he did next. I had several false starts with a prison hardship novel, a dirty dozen type tale and the inevitable prison breakout story, but my heart wasn't in any of those tales and they fizzled out. But then I had an idea for a story that starts with his last day in jail...

I also like doing literal cliff-hangers; that being scenes ending with the hero dangling by his fingertips from a cliff. Riders of the Barren Plains had one and the forthcoming Beyond Redemption has another, but I think this one has the best of the three. Nathaniel is manacled to the bars of a cage that's teetering on the edge of a cliff. The only person who can help him is a raving psychopath, who is also manacled to the bars, and for good measure a stick of fizzing dynamite is rocking back and forth in the swaying cage just out of his reach... I loved writing that one!

The other thing I enjoyed writing was the character of the Preacher. My characters usually have valid motivations for doing either good or bad, but I hadn't done a completely enigmatic character before. The Preacher was that man, someone who is a raving, serial-killing religious fanatic who either knows the answer to everything, or who then again might know nothing. Nathaniel spends a chunk of the story chained to him and I loved writing their dialogue as the Preacher speaks only using Biblical quotations. Finding appropriate lines for him to say was a lot of fun.

Anyhow the book is now available on and

After escaping en route to their appointment with the gallows, eight condemned men led by Javier Rodriguez blazed a trail of destruction. Wherever they went, the Gallows Gang left behind swinging bodies as a reminder of the fate they had avoided.

Four men set out to bring them to justice, but the prison guard Shackleton Frost and Marshal Kurt McLynn both blamed the other for the prisoners having escaped. All they could agree on is that they didn't trust Nathaniel McBain. Wrongly condemned himself, the Gallows Gang held the key to proving Nathaniel's innocence. None of them knew what demons drove the enigmatic man known only as The Preacher.

Can this mismatched group put aside their personal feuds for long enough to end the Gallows Gang's reign of terror?

Saturday 14 January 2012

Reginald Hill

I've just heard the sad news that the author Reginald Hill has died at the age of 75. He is mainly known for the creation of Andy Dalziel, who is comfortably my favourite fictional copper and who featured in dozens of novels written over a 40 year period since 1970. His books showed how it was possible to write formula fiction without ever resorting to being formulaic.