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.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

The demise of the British Library

February is that time of year when British authors get a welcome payment from those nice PLR people. Every time a book is loaned out of a library in the UK authors get a small credit and those credits mount up nicely, and they also give authors confirmation that somebody out there is actually reading our books, or not . . .

For the first twelve years that I received payments, it was good to see that my total number of loans were rising. This was entirely down to the fact that I was writing more books, but it was still good to see that every year more people were reading my stuff. Then three years ago that all changed. Dodgy Dave needed to pay for all those bankers' bonuses somehow and one of the ways was to destroy the library system. So libraries started closed and that's reflected in the number of loans.

Since that peak three years ago my loans have dropped by 35%, and that's despite more books coming out suggesting I've actually dropped, book for book, by around 50%. Back at the peak I had several books getting borrowed around two thousand times each year, but this time nothing was borrowed more than a thousand times.

Saddest of all was The Outlawed Deputy was loaned out zero times. That book was my first, published in 2001, and even last year it mustered some loans, but now it would no longer seem to be out there. Sob.

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Paperback version of Bunty the Bounty Hunter now available

Fergal O’Brien and Randolph McDougal have suffered bad times before, but when they walk into Paradise they are at their worst. Footsore and hungry, they don’t have a cent to their names, but when Fergal hears about a contest between the old and new parts of town, he sees an opportunity to rebuild their fortunes. The only trouble is, the contest is a cricket match and Fergal has no idea what cricket is. Worse is to follow when Fergal and Randolph are victims of mistaken identity leading to Sheriff Merryweather suspecting they are outlaws. Then the fearsome gunslinger Tex Porter sets out to raid Paradise’s bank, which claims to be unbreakable. If Fergal is going to complete his plan to make a lot of money quickly and then leave town, he’ll have to find a way to appease Sheriff Merryweather, defeat Tex Porter and, hardest of all, learn the laws of cricket.

Available as a paperback and a download from amazon.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Star Trek: Beyond

I’ve just got round to watching Star Trek: Beyond, the latest Trek movie, and I was mildly disappointed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first of the re-boot movies despite the fact that most long-time fans are dismissive of it. And I thought the second one wasn’t that bad even though die-hard fans tend to spit blood and start screaming abuse about magic blood at the mention of the film. But this one had the approval of the fans, so I was expecting to be entertained and yet I wasn’t.

Maybe on repeat viewings I might grow to enjoy it. Heck, I’ve learnt to find the good in the Final Frontier and even the Motion Picture, but right now I’m at a loss to find anything good to say about it. Yes, it was nice that Nimoy’s passing was acknowledged. Yes, there are some scenes with McCoy and Spock bickering. Yes, it was good that a main character was revealed to be gay, even though I thought this supposed taboo was broken by Jadzia Dax and Garak’s interest in Dr. Bashir over 20 years ago. But having more character moments when, for instance, they involve McCoy flying spaceships, doesn’t get to the heart of why these characters worked in the first place.

The main problem, though, is the flaming CGI, which saps the life out of every action scene and even the quieter scenes. A good example is the now obligatory Enterprise crashing scene. When it happened in Into Darkness it was over-the-top, but there was at least some feeling of peril and of it furthering the plot. Either way, it was vastly inferior to the previous time the Enterprise crashed in Nemesis, or the time before that in Generations. And they were all considerably less interesting than the first time the Enterprise crashed in the Search for Spock. Back then, the scene had only a few seconds of special effects and so relied on tension and plot development and great dialogue so that even the access codes are memorable, along with an iconic shot of the crew watching the ship go down. Less is more, every time.

This time round it took what felt like several hours for the ship to go down with the camera swooping around all over the place running along the walls, ceilings and floors before finally standing still for a millisecond to give us a hint of what’s supposed to be happening, and by the time you’ve figured out that something could be happening in engineering involving someone in a uniform and an alien, the camera swoops off to confuse us somewhere else.

Once stuff has stopped swirling around the screen we reached the point in the story that most Trek reaches before the opening title credits have rolled, and the story that followed could have been a good one if we hadn’t have had to wait for an explanation of what that story was until about five minutes from the end. An old MACO soldier from season 3 of Enterprise getting disillusioned with Federation policy and fighting back is a decent premise, but there’s no reason to keep that a mystery until it’s too late to actually deal with the implications.

The thing that makes the story telling in Trek work is that the moral dilemma comes very quickly in the story and the tale then deals with an attempt to find a solution that in bad Trek involves creating a subspace inversion field in the positronic matrix, in good Trek involves everyone agreeing that tolerance and finding common ground between divergent species is the only way forward, and in excellent Trek has Kirk punching a man in a monster suit and showing a green-skinned woman what pressing the lips means.

Beyond didn’t manage any of that because for most of its length there was no moral dilemma other than how do the main characters find their way off a planet, while being repeatedly interrupted by interminable CGI scenes where yet again I hadn’t got a clue what was going on.

For me escaping from a planet isn’t a great hook for a Trek story. Voyager did the very same plot at the end of season 2, except they had a moral dilemma, had redshirts getting chomped by dinosaurs, Ensign Suder’s redemption, Seska’s demise, with plenty of time left over for the Trek message of tolerance and common understanding. In short, when I watch a Trek movie and I start thinking to myself that Voyager did this better, something’s wrong.