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Monday, 22 September 2014

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 15 Sep - 21 Sep 2014


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits121118136135103100130843120
First Time Visits11410413412810098127805115
Returning Visits71427323385

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Bond 24 to start shooting. Titled rumoured is Only Time Will Tell

The next James Bond movie, the 24th in the long running series, will start filming on Dec 6th and will once again be directed by Sam Mendes. At the moment the film is without a title though the hot rumour is that the film will be called, Only Time will Tell - you know that has a Bondian ring to it.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Hell on Wheels

I'm enjoying AMC's western, Hell on Wheels and other than a few shakey episodes I'm of the opinion that the series has been pretty damn good, with many standout scenes - for instance last week's episode (series 4, episode 5) had an incredible set piece which surely rates as the most original escape from a hanging scene in all western history. The show has some great characters and with AMC's expertise with small screen production it certainly looks good in a gritty kind of way. And yet the series has largely failed to connect with the critics -

The Huffington Post called it "tedious," TV Guide "heavy-handed," USA Today "as subtle as a sledgehammer," The San Francisco Chronicle "cartoonish," The Philadelphia Daily News "meandering," and Variety "diluted and herky-jerky." Slate, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times said much the same. Two glowing reviews from The Washington Post and The Boston Globe notwithstanding, even the positive write-ups in Newsday, The Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Post, The Miami Herald, and The Wall Street Journal seemed to conclude that the show was solid if unspectacular, a significant come-down for a network accustomed to scooping up Emmys by the handful. 

A lot of western fans read the Archive and chances are many watch the series so it would be interesting to know what Archive readers think of the show. Personally I enjoy the show and whilst I don't rate it as highly as that other relatively recent TV western, Deadwood I still rate it pretty highly. And of course westerns on the small screen are rare these days so it's a nice change amongst all the cop dramas and zombie-filled soap operas.

The show is set around the construction of the first transcontinental railroad across the USA, and the moveable towns called Hell on Wheels that exists alongside the railroad. AS soon as one stretch of rail is completed and the railroad moves on, the town goes with it. The current season (season 4) is set in 1867 and chances are given the reasonable ratings (it's the networks second most watches show just coming in behind The Walking Dead ) and AMC's track record is that the show will be renewed for a fifth series - I do hope so as I want to see the conclusion to this story.

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 1 Sep - 7 Sep 2014


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits115138120119117111125845121
First Time Visits111131116117114104118811116
Returning Visits4742377345

Friday, 22 August 2014

J.T. Edson: The Forgotten Bestseller

J T Edson
"Hell No! it would involve riding a horse, have you seen those things? they're ugly at both ends & darn uncomfortable in the middle"   J. T. Edson upon being asked if he'd like to be a real cowboy.

He was once one of the world's best know western authors, perhaps coming only second in name recognition, if not in sales,  to Louis L Lamour, and yet these days he is virtually forgotten - so much so that recently there was a debate on Facebook amongst a number of western addicted friends about the author. Strangely most thought he had died and there was little to confirm otherwise on the internet. I put on my investigating hat and discovered that J. T. Edson was indeed alive and residing in an old people's home just outside Melton Mowbury. In later years the author had become a recluse due to ill health and was no longer writing - mystery solved, then. However the story took a twist and  it was shortly afterwards that we heard the author had died at the age of 86.

He had been responsible for more than 130 westerns and although an Englishman, who most recently lived in Melton Mowbury he was an honorary deputy of Travis County, Texas - something that came about because of his once huge popularity in the US.

Edson had been  a dog handler in the British Army - he served in Kenya.  Like many writers he worked many jobs before finding success -  running a fish and chip shop and working the production line  in a pet food factory were only two of the jobs he did before finding success as a writer which enabled him to concentrate on his craft full time. Overall he was responsible for paperback sales totalling more than 20 million. Once he had been a household name but the western fiction boom is now long over and he remains unknown to all but western aficionados.

"My father did  inherit a love of good quality, 'genuine cowhide' leather belts & cowboy boots, I must stress, no cowboy would stroll out, guns at dawn in one of his many very loud Hawaian shirts!" Sam Page, daughter of J. T. Edson.

Edson's style was for straight forward storytelling, fast paced and action packed though he was fond of historical detail and many of his books contained footnotes that were often more than a page in length. These could on times be tiresome and many readers skipped them, but when they worked they added a level of authenticity to the story. Often these footnotes would concern issues of continuity from book to book, but on times they would contain vital historical detail - I learned a lot about the real Old West from J T's footnotes.

The author often made in-jokes within his books and in 1984 the Labour Party protested about the characters in JT’s Ladies: they included a gunslinger called Roy Hattersley (then the party’s deputy leader) and his sidekick Len Murray and three desperadoes named Alex Kitson, Alan Fisher and David Basnett — all of them well-known trade union leaders.J T then, was not a lover of trade unions. Edson developed a deep disapproval of Liberal and Liberal-Radical politics and was avowedly Right of Centre in his political ideology.

Edson was also no fan of his critics and a dedication in one of his books (J. T' Ladies) read: " For all the idiots of the press who have written articles entitled things like 'Fastest Pen in Melton Mowbray’ and have been filled with the most stupid, snob-oriented pseud-jargon never to appear on the pages of mine or any other author’s books. May the bluebird of happiness fly over them when it has dysentery, because that is catching.’’ 

The books of course live on and are still out there - Edson titles are pretty common on the used book circuit, and hopefully the books will soon find a new lease of life in the digital marketplace.

Fads in reading come and go and although westerns are not currently the most popular genre for escapist fiction, they will no doubt have their day again. And when they do then J. T. Edson will again be riding high can't, after all, keep a good man down.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Sunlight: A hundred years dead

Watching filmed footage of the First World War one gets an odd sensation - we are aware that what we are witnessing are horrific events, and yet there is so much distance between now and then that it is difficult to fully appreciate the enormity of the situation presented in the grainy film. The movements of the men on the screen seems jerky, almost as if they were created by animation and the explosions are merely puffs of smoke, fleeting and seemingly insubstantial. Photography is basically the capture of light and what we are watching is sunlight a hundred years dead.

Prior to starting work on my book, Cardiff and the Valley's In The Great War (published Feb 28th 2015 by Pen and Sword Books), my knowledge of the so called Great War was limited to a list of dates and major battles. But by the time I finished the book I had a far greater understanding of the conflict. It had been brought closer to me, and now I saw it as a very human story. No longer was it some far distant war, the combatants made up of anonymous names and faces, the devastation lessened by the passing of the years, but something very real, something that I felt on a deeply emotional level. There were times when I was writing that I found tears in my eyes - one such instance was when I detailed the eventual fate of the Cardiff Pals, but there were others too. Writing the book had brought me closer to these soldiers who long before I was born took to the foreign fields to protect a way of life for future generations...for you and me, if you like.
One of the many memorials in Welsh Towns - this one is Llanharran

The research for the book was immense and I spent many hours going through old newspapers in Cardiff's excellent Central Library, covered many miles traveling up and down the country visiting graveyards and the offices of military records and on several occasions meeting people who had stories to tell of relatives who had fought in the war.

I am immensely proud of this book and now have to work with the publishers on the proofing stages, before the book is ready for the printers. It's due out on Feb 28th 2015 and is already showing up on Amazon where you can request to be informed when the book is available for purchase.

I do hope many of you pick up a copy.

Cardiff in The Great War - Looks at the Cardiff Pals and other local regiments who fought in the Great War and how the experience of war impacted on the area, from the initial enthusiasm for sorting out the German Kaiser in time for Christmas 1914, to the gradual realization of the enormity of human sacrifice the families of Cardiff were committed to as the war stretched out over the next four years. An important place for Coal export this book looks at how the balance between working and fighting was achieved by the Dockyard workers The Great War affected everyone. At home there were wounded soldiers in military hospitals, refugees from Belgium and later on German prisoners of war. There were food and fuel shortages and disruption to schooling. The role of women changed dramatically and they undertook a variety of work undreamed of in peacetime. Meanwhile, men serving in the armed forces were scattered far and wide. Extracts from contemporary letters reveal their heroism and give insights into what it was like under battle conditions.