Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Races, Chases & Crashes by Dave Mann and Ron Main


Actually, the complete title is Races, Chases & Crashes: A Complete Guide to Car Movies and Biker Flicks. In past entries I’ve been up front with my view that I see the drive-in carsploitation phenomenon of the 70’s as an off-shoot of the Modern Western. And a good argument can be made that the biker flick is an offshoot of Wild West Outlaw tales. As a matter of fact, more than a few bikers argue for that Wild West connection themselves. No less a personage than Dave Nichols does so in his interesting book The One-Percenter Code. Nicols being an editor at Easyriders magazine likely knows the connection inside-out, so who am I to dispute him?

This fantastic volume reviews over 500 films and the added attraction is that the authors sincerely love the genre and [this is unusual in a viewer/reviewer] they actually know the cars and bikes in the flicks. 
This inside knowledge goes a long way to inform how they see each film.

It has reminded me of old favorites, and led me to more than a few “Well, I’ve never even heard of that one” flicks. 

If the title moves you at all, then this volume is a safe bet for you. Easily the best of its kind on the subject.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Outsider by Frank Roderus


His eyes dragged closed and he tried to let his body go loose and limp. Tightening up against pain was the worst thing you could do. If you could go loose, completely and absolutely loose, the body would float away from the mind where the pain was held, and the pain wouldn't be so bad. A gray-haired old private first class, a man whose past owners had not always been considerate, taught Leon that a very long time ago and the advice had been proven sound.

A simple Western tale of a black soldier cashiered out of the cavalry who heads to Arizona to work his own land. The town simply does not want a black man around.
On one hand this is a simple, straight-forward story and in the end no surprises but…be damned if this thing did not have heart to burn. While “simple” it is never really that—there are a few characters that I would love to know in real life. A heart-breaker.



Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The 100 Greatest Western of All Time


Actually, this is a large glossy magazine special edition produced by the Editors of Wild West magazine [a fine publication by the way.]

There are a few historical sidebars of interest peppered throughout.

But, the meat of such volumes lives or dies on the list itself and in that regard, it is an admirable list with a few unfamiliar choices that sent me scampering to queue up. 

A slim but superlative volume.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Best of TV Westerns: The Critics' Choice : "Hopalong Cassidy" to "Have Gun, Will Travel," "Maverick," to "Bonanza" by John Javna


We continue on a theme.

This currently hard to obtain volume may be slim but there is much to appreciate. You will find many of the usual suspects here as the title suggests but a few hidden gems and insights are worth the time of the inveterate TV Western fan.

It was part of a series of “Best of TV” books that are all rather fun to browse. 

Disclosure: I have a "Mare's Leg." It sits above my desk. T'is a thing of beauty.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

52 Weeks 52 TV Westerns by Scott Harris, Paul Bishop, Rob Word & Contributors


Another fine volume in the authors’/packagers’ series of “52” where they delve into the “52 Best” books, films, TV shows etc. the genre has to offer.

[You’ll find the volume on Western fiction as well as interviews with Mr. Harris and Mr. Bishop on this very blog.]

Such “Best of” lists are rife with omissions and hurt feelings as invariably someone’s pet choice is overlooked. The opposite happens as well with the “Are you kidding me?! Who thinks that is any good?

Such things are the case with a listed endeavors, but the nature of such things is to act as a reminder for forgotten work, or as a finger pointing to undiscovered treasures, or at least sideways prompts to further enjoyments within the given subject.

With all the above in mind, the volume succeeds admirably.

I will provide not one sneak peek as to which shows did nor did not make the cut as that is the non-fiction equivalent of spoilers and less than kind to the authors’ incentives to continue to produce more good work.

It’s fine work, it will lead to much viewing entertainment. Pony up and pick up a volume.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton


“You expect everything to be easy because you are rich.” Lewis would chuckle watching him fumble and swear. “But the plate doesn’t care how rich you are. The chemicals don’t care how rich you are. The lens doesn’t care how rich you are. You must first learn patience, if you wish to learn anything at all.”

“Damn you,” Johnson would say, irritated. The man was nothing but an uneducated shopkeeper putting on airs.

“I am not the problem,” Lewis would reply, taking no offense. “You are the problem. Now come: try again.”

Here we have Michael Crichton’s only Western novel published posthumously. The timeline has it written perhaps in the 1970’s and it still has the mark of his trademark blending of science and narrative, here in the form of the Dinosaur Bone Wars of Professors Cope and Marsh, actual feuding personages.

Will follow our naïve young protagonist Westward and watch him mature and learn more than a good deal along the way.

It is not the most polished of Mr. Crichton’s several fascinating works [perhaps that is why he held it back] but it is still an intriguing look at his sole dip into the genre.

Note: The author was noted for his instructive asides where one feels the wiser for having read his fiction. I must admit his perspective on the American Indian titles “The Indian Village” found about halfway through the novel is mighty perceptive. Let us not forget that Mr. Crichton, among many things, was a skilled anthropologist. 

Essential? No.

Interesting? Oh, yes.

Sierra Showdown by John Reese

“ Bobby, men is the cheapest thing in the world! I can buy all the men I need. It’s like buying nails—by the pound or by the keg, whic...