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Monday, 1 February 2016

The Welsh Ripper Killings

" Buffalo Bill and Jack the Ripper in Wales around the turn of the twentieth century, kind of catches the imagination doesn't it. Lots of action with intriguing characters, a very good read. I have to admit the ending left me hanging but I understood the logic of it. Read it it and see what you think "   Five Star Amazon Review

The process of producing an eBook is obviously quite different to that of a physical book, but the editing process for The Welsh Ripper Killings has been just as strenuous .  I've written about many aspects of the novel in previous posts and so I thought I'd tell you all a little about Police Inspector Frank Parade's town of Pontypridd.

Parade's beat is the Welsh town of Pontypridd - "Pontypridd was a vibrant cosmopolitan town and had all the attendant problems that went with such prosperity. Alongside the great wealth there existed extreme poverty and the streets were often lawless – river traders, gypsies, pickpockets, drifters, even escaped convicts ranging from petty thieves to crazed killers would come up the canals and make for the alehouses and taverns of which there were plenty. There they would mingle and lose themselves among the sea of faces. Though it had not always been so and the town, once a rural backwater, had been born out of the industrialisation of the surrounding areas and had benefited from its close proximity to the Glamorganshire Canal, which allowed access from Merthyr’s coalfields to the docks in Cardiff and from there the world beyond."

One area of Pontypridd featured heavily in the book is The Tumble - the modern day Tumble is pictured left and the pic above is the same area as it was in Parade's day. Note the trams that ran the length of the town during the days that Frank Parade walked the cobbled streets.
Today the Tumble is made up of a busy main road but sadly the town is no longer the thriving attraction it once was. The main building in the picture is today known as The Soul Suite but in Parade's day it was The White Hart and behind that is the River Taff and the beautiful Ponty Park.
I have tried to remain accurate with Ponty's georgraphy in The Welsh Ripper KIllings although I have taken some artistic licence in the name of telling a story. For instance in the novel the fictional alehouse, The Butcher's Arms is situated opposite the White Hart and it is here that much of the action takes place. The landlord is one Eli Jenkins, a small wiry man who is always on the lookout to make money, legal or otherwise.
"Eventually the Taff Vale railway had linked Pontypridd to the Rhondda creating a fast and efficient artery into the coal scarred hills. Each year would see over 57 million tons of steam coal shipped down from The Black Klondike, as the valleys were
now known. The coal would then be transported down to Cardiff and Barry and once again sent around the world. Fires, the industrialised world over burned bright with Rhondda coal."
The Welsh Ripper Killings is available now from Amazon, Smashwords and anywhere eBooks are sold.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 18 Jan - 24 Jan 2016


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits892791069111310264844121
First Time Visits84271102841119563810116
Returning Visits5847271345

Monday, 11 January 2016

David Bowie: Never gonna get old

Two days ago I reviewed David Bowie's new album, Blackstar - that was Saturday and today,

Monday I'm writing about his death.

Where the fuck did Monday go? Bowie asks on one of the songs on his new album, which seems to be a seven track meditation on mortality. It's an amazingly good album, but very bleak, black even and no doubt, Bowie, knowing the end was close, designed it to be his last word.

Something happened on the day he died, spirits rose a meter and stepped aside - Blackstar

Look up here, I'm in heaven
I've got scars that can't be seen
I've got drama, can't be stolen
Everybody knows me now -
Lazarus, the second track on the new album.

Bowie was, without any doubt, one of the most influential artists of the rock era. He is truly immortal like only a select few - John lennon, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash and  Elvis Presely all come to mind and Bowie's name will take rightful place besides these true icons, for each of them have left an imprint on music that has become a part of rock's DNA and not just in musical terms but in their very persona. There was something about these people that made them stand out, made them truly great. And Bowie was definitely a great.

Bowie lived the rock and roll lifestyle to the full - drink, drugs, bisexuality all played a large part in his life. It can be argued that the 1970's was his most creative decade with albums like Low, Ziggy Stardust, Station to Station, Hunky Dory and Diamond Dogs all cementing his position as rock's greatest innovator but albums that came after his golden decade were pretty damn good, in fact for Bowie it seemed as if his golden years never really ended. Scary Monsters and Super Creeps kicked off Bowie's 1980's  and although he entered a fallow period following this record, his 1983 album, Let's Dance was his most commercially successful - Let's Dance, to my mind, was too poppy and had none of the brilliance of his 1970's work, but it did yield several hugely successful singles in Let's Dance, China Girl and Modern Love.

In the early 1990's Bowie seemed to turn his back on his solo career and instead became a member of Tin Machine, but although he intended the band to be a democracy it was the Bowie name that dominated. Bowie constantly shifted styles in the following years, scoring many successes but to my mind his next truly great album was 2002's Heathen, which was followed a year later by the even better (to my mind) Reality. One track on the album, Never Get Old just rocks as Bowie screams out, 'never gonna be enough money, never gonna be enough sex, never gonna be enough drugs.Never ever gonna get old.' But you know what - Bowie had gotten old and it suited him.

 Then Bowie seemed to fade away and official word was that he had retired, while rumours did the rounds that he was seriously ill, dying even - He surprised fans in 2013 when he released a new album, the Next Day which sounded both fresh and at the same time a rollback to Ziggy era Bowie. His final album, Blackstar came out last weekend, released on Bowie's 69th birthday, and then he once again took fans by surprise by dying after secretly battling cancer for more than 18 months. NO doubt Bowie had planned for the last album to be released on his 69th birthday, all too aware that his own end was imminent. Bowie, it seemed, had died the way he had lived...on his own terms.

Bless you gave so much and we carry you in our hearts.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Sherlock delivers a steaming turd for Christmas

'Is it silly enough for you yet?' Moriarty asks somewhere around the half-way point of the festive edition of the BBC's. Sherlock.

Oh it's gotten more than silly. in fact it's quite daft...yet, somehow it's still compelling.

 Deep down I know it isn't any good but Cumberbatch keeps me glued to the screen. There were good points of course - It was great to see the character in the proper Victorian setting, but as soon as the story got all Inception, jumping back and forth between time frames...well it lost me. Did the events in the episode actually happen? Was it all a drug induced trip for Holmes who has taken his seven per cent solution? Does anyone care?

What started as a traditional Victorian ghost story featuring Sherlock Holmes soon resorted to self referential bollocks, as timelines were torn apart, the promised program was mutated into something mirroring latter day Dr Who. Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss did a great job in bringing Holmes into the modern day but they ain't as clever as they think they are and this episode is an utter car crash. For one thing they cheated the viewer - this was no Victorian era set Sherlock as had been promised.
And for another they presented a real conundrum and then left it unanswered.

 You see, one of us is thick...Either's it's me because I don't understand what
 happened, or it is MoffatGattis for serving up a  steaming turd and calling it Christmas entertainent.

All I can say is I think it was all down to the women libbers. Least, I think that is what happened.

I'm still eager for the next series of Sherlock, but this special will be a lot to get over. I suppose I should watch it again to see if I can better understand it...but what would be the point? Once a steaming turd, always a steaming turd.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Star Wars: The Force old dude's thoughts.

I intended on waiting for the DVD, but in the end the hype,  and the instances of my eleven year old daughter, got to me and I trundled into my local multiplex to view the latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. I'm hardly what you could call a Star Wars geek, but I was 12 years old when the first movie came out and like most kids back in 77, I loved it - bought the comics, carried the lunchbox to school - that sort of thing. Over the years I must have seen Star Wars umpteen times and like most people I hated the prequel movies. In fact I can't really call myself a fan of the original trilogy, - well not fully. Since I don't like Return of the Jedi, finding it incredibly childish after the brilliance of Empire Strikes Back. But you know sitting there in the cinema, with incredibly low expectations born out of cynicism, I found myself feeling like that twelve year old kid again. The new Star Wars movie really is, in the words of that long gone twelve year old, superb and fabby!

MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW - Don't read any further if you've not seen the movie and don't want to know several of the major plot points, but the film's been out a few weeks now and I can't really explain what I liked about this film without talking over some  of the finer points. Firstly bringing back the original cast is the best thing about the movie, and tossing Luke Skywalker into the background and concentrating on Han Solo is even better . If both of these characters were given equal prominence then the new characters would have struggled to make an impact, but this time Han drives the movie while Luke's part is merely a cameo played out right at the end, just as the credits roll - this creates incredible anticipation for the next Star Wars movie. And of course Luke Skywalker was kind of a boring character next to Han Solo, who truly is the coolest guy in the universe. Next time Han won't be about to overshadow Luke and everyone else, so  it should be all systems  that's Thunderbirds! I'm getting my ancient franchises all mixed up.

Harrison Ford is brilliant as the aged version of the character that originally made him a superstar - he's greyer. more wrinkled and a little slower but he's still the same old lovable rogue. He also steals every scene he's in - from the moment Han and Chewie take to the screen, this movie really comes alive. And - AND HERE'S THAT BIG SPOILER- when Han Solo cashes in his chips it truly is an emotional moment. I'm no longer that twelve year old kid that first fell in love with the intergalactic con man, , I'm a fifty year old guy with more than a few wrinkles myself, and yet the death of Han Solo brought a tear to me eye. My reaction, like Chewi's was astonishment and anger and I could have quite happily blasted the killer, Kylo Ren (actually the son of Han and  Leia) myself. I guess this is testament to the skill of the filmmakers but we have so much invested in Han Solo that his loss...well, it makes you feel bad inside, almost like you've lost someone real. And in a way we have - back in 77 we all went to see Star Wars, and for most of us the focus was on Han Solo. All the mystical mumbo-jumbo about the force was just filler...the real story was the adventures of Solo and his walking carpet Chewbacca. And so when Han Solo died it was as if a piece of that twelve year old I'd once been, had died with him. Here lies innocence and a belief that movie characters are immortal.

The new cast members, Finn and Rey who are intended to be the new blood  are superb and no doubt the younger viewers (the true audience for this movie) will latch onto them, but for all us ageing viewers the focus is on the old timers, - the originals you might say. And Luke turning up at the end, looking not unlike the way we first saw Obi Wan in the original Star Wars,and not even getting a single line,  gets us all revved up for the next movie. Yep Han Solo is dead but hey, life goes on and we want to see if this aged version of Luke Skywalker has any balls. This character who spent most of the original movie wanting to shag his sister. admittedly he didn't know at that point that she was his sister, is going to be the focus for the next Star Wars movie. His sister, Leia of course will also be a part of that next Star Wars movie, but she did so little in The Force Awakens, that she wasn't really important and might as well have not been there at all. Let's hope they give her more to do next time, but please don't get her back in that bikini from Return of the Jedi - a fully clothed Leia is a better option... and who, would have  thought I would have ever said that!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015 and all that

2015 was a busy year for me - as well as penning a new western, Riding the Vengeance Trail (out May 2016), I found myself working on two major non fiction projects Cardiff and the Valleys in the Great War saw publication from Pen and Sword Books during the summer, while Dark Valleys, a look at historical murders that have taken place in and around the South Wales Valleys will see print during 2016.

I'm still writing and polishing the latter title - my deadline looms a month away, and I'm pleased with the way the work is shaping up. The research threw up some interesting avenues of investigation, and I was able to share some new information with the police regarding a cold case from 1993 - but you'll
be able to read about that later in 2016 when the book sees print. Ive also signed another contract for a follow up to my first world war study, -  Cardiff at War 1939-1945 will likely see print during mid 2017, but I'll be starting the work on this title immediately following the delivery of the manuscript for Dark Valleys to my publisher.

During the summer, May to be precise my western, The Man From Jerusalem saw print, and sadly turned out to be my last western for Robert Hale, the publishing house that first put me into print. In Dec 2015 Robert Hale shut up shop after more than 80 years in the publishing business. They had my forthcoming, Riding the Vengeance Trail under contract and to say I was dismayed is an understatement. Still there was a silver lining in the shape of Crowood Publishing who are to continue the Black Horse Western line and my book is to see publication in May as originally scheduled. Still I'm going to miss Robert Hale and owe them a great deal.

Several of my older titles are to be republished by the wonderful Piccadilly Publishing - Tarnished Star and Wild Bill Williams will be the first two - Tarnished Star now goes under a different name, LawMaster in order to tie into a film version, that director Neil Jones is developing.

I'm pleased to be publishing with Piccadilly Publishing and plan to pen a new western for them during the first few month of 2016. And I'm hoping that the company will be able to put me westerns before a new and larger audience.

Piccadilly Publishing is the brainchild of longtime Western fans and Amazon Kindle Number One bestselling Western writers Mike Stotter and David Whitehead (a.k.a. Ben Bridges). Since 2012 the company has been bringing back into 'e-print' some of the most popular and best-loved Western and action-adventure series fiction of the last forty years.

They certainly have a high profile on the Internet and as you can see from the new cover art for, Wild Bill Williams they  mean business. As soon as the new editions are available I'll let you all know.

What have I enjoyed this year? Well there was a new Bond movie, Spectre and although not as strong as Skyfall it was a damn entertaining ride, Quentin Tarantino delivered a great western in The Hateful Eight and there was another bloody Star Wars movie. I didn't visit the big screen as much as usual in 2015 (Im getting tired of superhero movies) but I did follow some great TV - the second season of Fargo was even better than the excellent first, and The Walking Dead returned for a new season and seemed to be back on form. Hell on Wheels also returned to the small screen and so far the first half of the fifth and final season has been aired - I enjoyed it overall but think the show is starting to power down. Still the mid-season climax was exciting stuff and I'm eager for the conclusion early in the new year. There was also a TV pilot, thanks to Amazon, of Edge, the western character created by George G. Gilman. And whilst not brilliant the pilot did show promise so fingers crossed.

What books stick in my mind? Well I very much enjoyed the new Bond novel, Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz. Stupid title aside it was a bloody good read that managed to feel like Fleming was once again pounding the keyboard. This year also saw Stephen King publishing the first two books in the Bill Hodges Trilogy and I think these books are among the best he's ever written - Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers kept me turning the pages. A lot was made of the fact that these were straightforward crime thrillers with no supernatural elements, but to me they felt like vintage King and the characters were as good as ever. End of Watch, the final book in the trilogy will be published this coming summer and I can't wait to finish the story.

I also read a fair few westerns this year - going through the entire Lonesome Dove series in chronological order rather than publication order, and found that I was noticing a lot of continuity errors when read in this way. I also caught up with classic westerns thanks to new eBook editions and have especially enjoyed rediscovering Herne the Hunter. I also  read a lot of crime fiction this year - The Girl in the Spider's Web was a worthy continuation of Stieg Larsson's Millenium series. No one could have expected this book to stand up alongside the original classics but author, David Lagerchrantz seems to have managed it. We lost Ruth Rendell this year and Dark Corners was published as a posthumous work. The author had all but completed the book when she died in May and all that remained was for some polishing. I very much enjoyed this book and was deeply saddened by the death of the author. The world of fiction also lost another of its great voices this year, when Terry Pratchett passed away in March. His final Discworld novel, The Shepard's Crown came out during August and although I picked up a copy on publication day I have yet to read it. It sits in my TBR pile and will be tackled soon.

During 2015 eBook sales seem to have levelled off but the industry is still strong - of course the year started with the tremors resonating from the Amazon/Hatchette book pricing row but now that the industry has matured somewhat it was inevitable that sales would even off. Though eBooks are still doing the business and look set to continue doing so. All in all though it was a calm year with Amazon upgrading the excellent paperwhite device, and admitting that their prestige Voyage eBook reader failed to find the market. In truth the Paperwhite device is so good that there is no need to try and top it. And whilst the Voyage may be the best eBook reader out there it is simply too expensive and is, let's face it, not that much better than the Paperwhite.

And so we fast forward into 2016 - on a personal note I've got the birth of my first grandchild to look forward to, and I'm hoping to get a couple more books written. As well as the contracted titles, I've set myself a target of writing at least three novels during the coming year. I certainly need to get the fourth Granny Smith novel done and somewhere in the back of my mind I can feel another Jack Martin novel taking shape-still we'll talk about all that at the end of the year.