Recently I passed through the small Somerset village of Montacute -
a small village and civil parish in Somerset, England, 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Yeovil. The village has a population of 831 (2011 census). The name Montacute is thought by some to derive from the Latin "Mons Acutus", referring to the small but still quite acute Ham Hill dominating the village to the west.The village is built almost entirely of the local hamstone. From the 15th century until the beginning of the 20th century it formed the heart of the estate of the Phelips family of Montacute House. The village has a fine medieval church, and a former Cluniac priory, the gatehouse of which is now a private house.
- the village also boasts the Montecute TV and Film Museum. Of course as soon as I saw this I had to pay a visit - my childhood was spent during what many consider to have been the golden age of TV and I have always been interested in pop culture and of course nostalgia is a big pull to my mindset.
The museum is housed in one of the beautiful hamstone buildings on South Street and although a relatively small building, the museum is packed to the rafters with interesting exhibits and some cool manequins that I couldn't resist having my photograph taken with. Roger Moore, Kojak, Del and Rodney are just some of the life size models on show. There are also a large selection of vintage TV and Radio sets.
It's a great place to visit.
Entry was £8 for adults and £6 for children - I thought this was reasonable as you can go through as many times as you want and stay as long as you want. I spent ages looking at the old magazines, TV listings magazines and old copies of the Radio Times. Afterwards you can go and sit in the garden and have refreshments alongside a lifesize Elvis.
Sunday, 2 August 2015
Sunday, 26 July 2015
Weekly Stats Report: 20 Jul - 26 Jul 2015
Project: THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
Project: THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
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It is in the late chapters that the author seems to lose the way and the story feels rushed as we are brought towards the events detailed in Lonesome Dove - the civil war comes and goes, Maggie gives birth to Newt, the son Woodrow won't acknowledge, Long Bill does for himself and we learn that Matty - the Great Western - that whore with a mean line in snapping turtles is running a whore house in Denver but is herself dying. Gus has also been married twice, both of his wives were fat women, and both went and died and left Gus alone. Gus of course is still mooning over Clara but she has gone off and married a dumb horse trader.
The book opens with the rangers being led by Harvard educated, Captain Inish Scull as they pursue the legendary Comanche horse thief, Kicking Horse. However the Indian is too wily for them and after a time he manages to turn the tables and starts following the rangers with a view to stealing Scull's own horse, the large beast the Indians call Buffalo Horse. Kicking Horse does indeed steal Scull's horse, sneaking into camp one night while the rangers sleep and then vanishing again with the bulky horse and all without a sound. When the theft is discovered Scull orders the rangers back to Austin while he goes on alone, on foot with the Indian scout, Famous Shoes.
'Kicking Wolf-why the rascal!' Scull exclaimed. A few days ago I was following him. Why would the man we were chasing want to follow us?'
No sooner do the rangers return to town but they are once again sent out, this time with a mission to bring the foolhardy Scull back. During their time away Buffalo Hump forms a large band of warriors and starts raiding along the frontier - this includes a bloodthirsty strike on Austin itself - many of the towns people are killed (including Clara's parents) and Long Bill's wife is brutally raped by eight Comanches.
As soon as they hear of the raid the rangers give up their search for Scull and head back to Austin - Call is terrified that Maggie has been killed but is relieved to discover this wasn't the case, though he in his usual fashion doesn't display any real affection to Maggie. Gus is also relieve that Clara wasn't killed but it is scant relief since the only reason she wasn't killed is that she'd gone off to marry that dumb horse trader. Long Bill though is devastated to discover that his wife was violated by Comanche, while will eventually lead to him taking his own life.
Scull meanwhile has been captured by the sadistic bandit, Ahumado and this is one of the most interesting and captivating sections of the book - Scull is first hung in a cage over a canyon, forced to survive on passing pigeons that he manages to catch, and when that doesn't break the man he is brought back to ground while one of Ahumado's henchmen ( a man who likes to skin people alive) removes his eyelids. Scull is now effectively blinded during the sunlight hours and is then placed in a pit to die. This section of the book is astounding and the reader finds himself rooting for Scull and feeling each and every deprivation the man faces at the hands of the cruel bandit.
A nice touch is that we are introduced to the fledgling town of Lonesome Dove - it ain't really a town at this point but nothing more than a saloon without a roof.
The author doesn't romanticise the West and there is no flaming guns resolution to come out of all this, and instead the characters remains true to themselves and the book hold tight right up until Call and Gus bring the quite insane Scull back to Austin. At times Scull can function as usual but there are periods when he is prone to bouts of insane hopping and thinking himself to be a flea. It is at this point that things weaken a little for me and the author seems to thrown too much into the resolution of the book so that it seems nothing in handled in any depth, chapters often jump months, seemingly years. The death of Maggie, surely a momentous moment in Call's life, is done without any real depth of feeling. And Gus ambles from chapter to chapter, drunk, lost, as he comes to terms with the way his life has played out. In fact it would be nice if there were more books in the Lonesome Dove saga - there are at least ten years missing between the end of Dead Man's Walk and the start of this book. I for one would love to spend more time with the rangers.
The book gets back on track for its final section with Call and Gus and a small troop in pursuit of Blue Duck, the son of Buffalo Hump, who is causing chaos with settlers in the region. The author handles his Comanche characters with respect and the death of Buffalo Hump is handled with sensitivity. The author makes everything so real that the reader could be sitting there besides Buffalo Hump as he sings his death song.
Comanche Moon mini-series - The TV mini series of the book and like the book is just a little weaker than Dead Man's Walk, but still essential veiwing for any fan of the western genre. The casting is excellent - Val Kilmer is brilliant as the eccentric Scull and Steve Zahn really does capture something of Robert Duvall in his portrayal of Gus. Duvall of course was the actor who first brought Gus to life in the Lonesome Dove mini-series.
Comanche Moon then is another must read - simmers in places but quite excellent.
Monday, 20 July 2015
Weekly Stats Report: 13 Jul - 19 Jul 2015
Project: THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
Project: THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
|First Time Visits||158||58||63||81||62||35||59||516||74|
Monday, 13 July 2015
To clear things up the order of publication for the series:
Lonesome Dove (1985)
Streets of Laredo (1993)
Dead Man's Walk (1995)
Comanche Moon (1997)
Though in chronological order the series goes:
Dead Man' walk
Streets of Laredo
During this early section of the book we get to know the important characters, especially Gus and Woodrow - their personalities are sketched out over a number of brilliantly written set pieces, usually involving the war chief, Buffalo Hump. Gus is the talkative, whore-loving, easy to get along with type, which his best friend, Woodrow is solid, dependable, serious minded and not all together likable. When Gus visits a whore he is in love with her and treats her with genuine affection, while when Woodrow visits he gets his business done and then gets out of there without a wasted word. The two men are polar opposites but they live and breath as real people on the page and the chemistry between them is excellent.
There are several other secondary characters who are equally well drawn - Matty, known as the Great Western, is the whore who throws snapping turtles at the men and generally allows them a poke till pay day, Bigfoot Wallace is a mountain man with a fine line in storytelling, Shadrach is another mountain man, an aged character in the final years of his life. And then we have Long Bill Coleman and Johnny Carthage, two everyman types who provide one or two moments of comic relief as well as several truly poignant scenes.
Gus and Woodrow make it back from the first expedition, regarding it a failure but no sooner are they in Austin than they sign up for an expedition to capture and annex Santa Fe. This expedition is led by the pirate and soldier of fortune, Celeb Cobb but unfortunately he proves to be just as useless a leader as Major Chevallier. Before they leave Austin though Gus has finds to meet and fall madly in love with a Clara Forsythe, a young lady who works in her father's general store.
|Woodrow and Gus from the TV mini series based on Dead Man's Walk|
"Why I believe I have smitten Mr. McCrae," Clara said with a laugh. "I doubt I could smite you though, Mr. Call- not unless I had a club."
Indeed Cal has to remind Gus that he's signed up for the expedition when he announces that he is remaining behind and plans to marry Clara Forsythe.
"Marry her - you ain't got a cent," Call said. "Anyway, why would she have you? You ain't known her ten minutes."
"Ten minutes is enough," Gus said. "I want to marry her and I aim to."
It is only the fact that leaving the expedition would be desertion and that he would be shot for the crime, that persuades Gus to go on with the expedition though he vows he will return and marry the young woman.
There is one scene that had me cringing as I tuned the pages, a scene in which Gus, Woodrow and Bigfoot Wallace savagely stab a buffalo they have already shot a couple of dozen times. The beast just won't die - this scene was altered significantly for the TV version. Strange that I should find this scene so distasteful when there are gruesome scalpings, tortures and shootings which I lapped up. Still the author is right in bringing the scene to such vivid, horrific life and he seems to be using the overkill of this single buffalo to highlight the wanton destruction of the species by the whites during the westward expansion. Much is made of the fact that the white's only seem interested in the liver and testicles of the Buffalo,considering them a luxury but will allow the rest of the beast to go to waste, while when the Indians kill one of the noble creatures nothing is wasted. The buffalo is given almost mythic status within the story and serves as a symbol of a way of life fast vanishing
In all 200 people left on the expedition but gradually they were whittled down until only a handful survive - one incredible scene sees the adventurers having to climb down a cliff to avoid a prairie fire started by the Comanches, but this is only one set piece amongst a string of ever more audacious events.
The author certainly knows how to carry a story and I, as a western writer, found myself amazed at how real the story became as I read. If I could only achieve something half as good in my own writing.
Overall I would say this book is a worthy start to an incredible saga - the author seeks to demythologise the West and show it as it must have really been, but at the same time in Gus and Woodrow he has created two characters who firmly belong in the myth of the western. Poetic, brutal, beautiful and above all compelling - I picked up the book every chance I got and thought nothing of sitting there reading for a couple of hours at a time.
Right then....it's straight into Comanche Moon