Sunday, 25 May 2008
TRUE WEST MAGAZINE
Out now - the current issues features a sweet looking four year old cowboy on the cover and believe it or not it is George W. Bush The subtitle reads - cowboy at 4, president at 54 and the article inside features a number of US Presidents who have lived the cowboy lifestyle.
Although this magazine contains more ads than its main rival, Wild West Magazine, it is still a good read and some of the articles particularly the reviews of western movies and books are unique to the mag.
This issues features are:
the last cowboy president
suriviving the santa fe indian market
Cowboy photograhs by Erwin E. Smith
Mike Blakely on his songs and western novels.
EDGE NO 4 - THE KILLERS BREED
GEORGE G GILMAN
Originally published1972 bears the number 017001
This, the fourth in the Edge series, was quite a brave experiment back in the day when novels like this were expected to stick to the tried and trusted formula. After the success of the first three novels which all played out in a linear fashion, the author here decides to tell two stories. The first set in the current day in which the injured Edge is tended for by two women and another set in the past which details Edge's experiences in the civil war when he was a young man known as Joshua Hedges.
The flashback scenes, which make up the bulk of the book, give the character flesh and the author places him in several historical battles - Shenandoah, Bull Run and Shiloa. The author explains in his foreword that he had to take some liberties with historical fact to place his character in these skirmishes but it is written with such authority that most readers would fail to notice the small alterations from established fact.
An excellent entry in the series - well worth hunting down a copy on ebay or amazon.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Monday, 19 May 2008
Wild West Magazine volume 21 no 1
PUBLISHED BY Weider History Group
USA IMPORT £4.95
This is actually the current issue available over here in the UK.
The cover image is one of a series of pop art western works Andy Warhol did and the article inside also shows the artist's similar renditions of Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley. These are all day-glo western images and to be honest I'm not sure I really like them. Mind you I've never got the appeal of Warhol but the article is at least very informative.
The rest of the magazine is made up of the usual articles and features as well as many historical photographs.
TEN MYTHS ABOUT LITTLE BIG HORN
THE BATTLE OF WHITESTONE HILL
ELLSWORTH: BEN AND BILLY THOMPSON'S COW TOWN
CELEBRATING THE FOURTH OF JULY FRONTIER STYLE
ROUNDUP OF NEWS
GUNS OF THE WEST
And numerous other smaller articles and features
I especially found the fourth of July interesting - you don't think of the day to day aspect of frontier life. I've never really given a thought to how Christmas and other big events were celebrated. And of course in America you don't get bigger than the fourth of July.
There are some great photographs such as one showing a parade down Colorado's main street in the 1890's And the accompanying text is, as always, informative and busily written. It's all excellent stuff. This is my favourite magazine bar none and I buy almost a dozen magazines regularly.
Sunday, 18 May 2008
1971 directed by Mark Rydell
This is the sort of western they just don't make anymore - all action, family viewing with just the right amount of comedy.
John Wayne plays Will Anderson, an aging rancher who finds he has no hands to help him drive his cattle over four hundred miles of the most inhospitable landscape on the planet. In desperation he visits the local schools and hires on a bunch of kids, the oldest being 15, to do the job.
The film briefly touches on the boys journey to manhood but it largely ignores the rites of passage story and instead concentrates on the pathos, danger and humor of the cattle drive. And it's a better film for it. This is also one of the few movies in which Wayne dies, shot in the back by Bruce Dern's character. The actor was warned that audiences would hate him for killing Wayn and he joked, Yeah but they'll love me in Berkley. In fact the actor did indeed recieve death threats.
The films holds up well and because of its fast moving nature it still captivates today - I watched this film with my 13 year old son and two daughters, aged 6 and 4, and they thoroughly enjoyed it and when Wayne died there was not a dry eye in the house.
Excellent western entertainment.
The DVD IS WELL STOCKED WITH EXTRAS:
COMMENTARY BY THE DIRECTOR
NEW CAST/DIRECTOR REUNION FEATURE
VINTAGE FEATURE ORIGINALLY AIRED TO PROMOTE THE FILM IN THE THEATRE
THEATRICAL TRAILER AND A STILLS GALLERY.
Saturday, 17 May 2008
Published by Black Horse Westers (Robert Hale)
hardcover isbn 070907722-x
original price £10.75
originally published 2005
Lance Howard is the pen name of American writer Howard Hopkings who writes regularly for the Black Horse westerns imprint. Follow the link to the authors web site and the great online pulp magazine he publishes.
John Ladigan is a manhunter, a gun for hire, who recieves a mysterious telegram from his journalist brother summoning him to the Colorado town of Timmervale.
As soon as Ladigan arrives in the town he walks straight into trouble with Jack Timm who is beating up on an whore while the terrified town citizens stand by. Ladigan interfears, stopping the sadistic Timm, who just happens to be the son of the brutal Soloman Timm.
The violence in the opening chapter is very graphic and owes a lot to the excesses of the Italian westerns, but it's written well and the author's grip of character is superb so that the reader is sucked into the story from the get go. The whore, Prilla immediately gets our sympathy and we find ourselves rooting for her as the sexually hung up Timm beats up on her. She is a strong character and rings true to the nineteenth century setting but it is with John Ladigan that the story starts to live on the page. He is an enigmatic character - part lone ranger, part Eastwoodesque drifter, a part hard boiled detective.
The story, far from being a simple horse opera soon takes several devilish turns as murder and mystery deepens and the author does a skilled job at keeping us tearing through the pages until the final bloody denouncement.
This is a great page turner and proves that the western tradition is very much alive and kicking. Check out the other books in the Black Horse western range by following the link above.
Friday, 16 May 2008
Edge: Apache Death
George G. Gilman
Originally published as a paperback original by NEL 1972
Bears the number 45004238 3
The year is 1866. The region is Arizona territory. The town is called Rainbow. The cavalry are here, so is an English gambler and so is Edge. On the borders of the town wait Cochise and his Apaches.
They will all be together at Rainbow's end.
So began the third in the ultra violent but supremely readable western series from British author Terry Harknet, Aka George G. Gilman. And if anything this one tops the violence in the previous two books and on times, it is so nasty that it becomes blackly humorous. There is much humour in this book and the interplay between Edge and the Englishman is inspired writing.
Easily the best of the first three books.
Edge:Ten thousand dollars american
George G. Gilman
published by NEL as paperback original 1972
carries the number 45001060 0
When I was a kid during the seventies I and a few friends had a kind of reading club in which we would swap books. These tomes were usually the hard hitting, all action, violent epic paperbacks of the day and I vividly remember that this book was given to me in exchange for a copy of James Herbert's The Rats, and as such was the book that introduced me to the new kind of Western hero. In fact so popular did the character of Edge become with me that I was always reading one of the books. In fact I used to bunk off school (mitching we called it. Going on the mitch.) and I remember one glorious summer's day, the sun too bright, the sky too blue to be stuck in a classroom, spending the entire afternoon alone, up a tree reading an Edge novel. Not sure which particular one but it could have been this one.
That was almost thirty years ago now. Makes a person feel old.
Reading it now, as a forty year old, I felt strangely nostalgic but still enjoyed the well written mixture of blood, guts and graveyard humour.
The books starts with Edge still sheriff of Peaceville but when a group of Mexican bandits ride into town and proceed to shoot the place up and rob Edge of all his money, the scene is set for another revenge western.
This book is even better than the first one and now all humanity is stripped from the character of Edge and he kills without regret as he makes his way through the western landscape that is part Sergio Leone and part Dario Argento.
Another great book in the super violent pulp tradition.
Published by NEL first edition 1972
(C) George G. Gilman 1971
the first issue carried the number 45001061
Paperback westerns were once all the rage and the genre claimed a large percentage of High Street Sales. George G. Gilman was a pen name of English author Terry Harknet - he was also responsible for the highly popular Adam Steele series of westerns, but it is with the character Edge that he received his greatest success.
In fact so successful was the character that he even spawned a series of comic books and some of the original Edge novels, particularly the later ones, are fetching an high price at online auction sites like Ebay.
But to review the first Edge book now, all these years later, in more politically correct times is a joy. Good unpretentious fun - forget all about artistic merit and saddle up for a damn good ride. Could have been what reading was invented for.
The book opens with a young crippled kid, Jamie Hedges working the family farm and waiting for his older brother, Joshua to return now that the war is over. However when six riders come into the ranch and tell Jamie that his brother Jo his dead the young boy is heartbroken. Soon however it becomes clear that the riders, all of who served under Joshua Hedges have an hidden agenda. By the end of the first two chapters Jamie has been tortured before being shot in the head and the ranch has been burnt to the ground.
The riders vanish and later Joshua, still very much alive, turns up and find the devastation. He pauses to bury his brother and then takes to the trail to become the one man killing spree, Edge who will stop at nothing to get revenge on his brother's killers.
The rest of the book is great fun with the pudding milked to the max - there's a stage robbery, indian attacks and many varied inventive killings as Edge makes his way towards the six men he must kill in order to avenge his brother's death. The book ends with Edge becoming the temporary sheriff of Peaceville but upon turning the last page, the reader knows that soon Edge will once again be surrounded by mayhem and carnage.
The Edge books are very much in the pulp tradition but what made these books so popular and leaves them still very readable is that as well as the violence and thrills there is no small amount of character development. Edge's transition from weary war vet to cold impassive killer is logically done and works in the context of the story. There is also great use of black humour making the books the logical successor to the Eastwood/Leone films and latter day westerns in particular.
The Gentleman plans to review the entire Edge series here and we will also, in a later posting, look at Gilman's other best known character, Adam Steele.
INFO FROM PULPRACK
Such was the success of this series that NEL immediately announced another from the George G. Gilman pen. Born from a failed screenplay that Terry had written, Adam Steele made his debut in 1974 and would ride alongside Edge -- both on the bookshelf and in three adventures they would simultaneously share -- until their demise in 1989. A third series entitled The Undertaker, which would feature the humorless mortician named Barnaby Gold, surfaced in 1981. Unfortunately, it was absent of the success shouldered by Terry�s earlier Gilman series and vanished after only six titles.
Terry Harknett, however, was not limited to his work as George G. Gilman.
A member of the infamous Piccadilly Cowboys, who circled their wagons around the George G. Gilman success, Terry would also create the Jubal Cade and Apache series. Sharing work on these with Laurence James, which had left his editorial position at NEL to become a full-time writer, along with the likes of Angus Wells and John Harvey (the latter who later gained fame as the author of the Charlie Resnick series of police procedurals), this talent pool became prolific throughout the 1970s and early 1980s at producing a wealth of entertaining Western fiction.
Though none of the titles would reach the heights at which a George G. Gilman paperback could obtain, each writer would have his own personal success with the likes of such series as Herne the Hunter, Crow, Gunslinger and Breed; all of which were cast from the Gilman model.
Eventually, as the sales of Western fiction began to slowly diminish in the early 1980s, the remainder of the Piccadilly Cowboys watched as their series were unsparingly cancelled. Terry continued to pen George G. Gilman yarns, managing to survive a failed motion picture adaptation of Edge and the bankruptcy of Pinnacle, until he realized that it had come time to call it a day.
Unfortunately, in 1989, NEL released their final George G. Gilman titles. Terry cited both the lack of sales and his own "diminishing brain cells" as the reason he allowed the sun to set on his beloved characters, giving them free reign to ride away on their own without the fear of cancellation stalking their every move like a well-trained bounty hunter.
But as the years passed and the name George G. Gilman, which at one time had trailed only the likes of Louis L�Amour and Zane Grey as the top-selling Western authors, slowly faded from respective circles; Gilmaniacs worldwide would not allow the flame to be extinguished.