Wednesday, 30 September 2009


After blogging about Charley (or Charlie) Parkhurst we came across this novelisation of the famed stagecoach driver's life.
Fern J. Hill takes the reader right into the story and her style is so engaging that when I opened the book I was hooked. So, this is one book that did not make it on to my 'too be read' pile.
The facts of Charlotte Parkhurst's life is, as explained in my previous blog, very scant but Fern J. Hill by telling the story in the first person makes for a believeable person.
The reader is taken through Charley's childhood in an orphanage and her subsequent escape to Massachusetts where she is employed by Ebenezer Birch. That Charley is female are discovered by Ebenezer's wife, Tilly, and later by another driver with whom she has an affair that results in the birth of her daughter in Georgia. When young Mattie dies, Charley drowns her sorrow in drink but Charley returns to the trade of her choice. Despite her drink problem she is sober when she drives. In 1851 she heads for California and this is where Charley Parkhurst's reputation is made.
What makes this novel stand out is the way that Fern J. Hill has combined fact and fiction in a way that the reader is left with the impression that there is no dividing line.
Fern J. Hill has her own website that is full of facts about the life of Charley Parkhurst.
There is, also, a You Tube trailer.
This book is available through both and or via The Book Depository.
Certainly recommended read.


The next instalment of this exciting western story can now be read at
This story is gathering pace and comes with twists and turns that leaves the reader wanting more.
All the links to the previous episodes can be found at Meridian Bridge.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


On a Tuesday on Dark Bits ( Howard runs a series called Terror Tuesday. The point of this is to promote the horror novel that, like the western, is disappearing from the shelves.
Last week was about ghost stories and invited readers of his blog to mention their encounters - so here we go:

The Summer Of '69

The first week of July '69 my fiancee, Sandra, and I went to Minehead in Somerset for a week before joining up with her mum and dad for the second week.
We spent our time roaming through Somerset and Devon or just lazing on the beach.
One of our roams took us to Dunster Castle but what intrigued me was the tower on the opposite hill.
It was quite a hot day and the sky was cloudless so we ambled through the town passing by the old Yarn Market. Eventually, we found a track that took us onto some open farmland. Unfortunately, there was no way into the woods of Conyger Hill as it was surrounded by a barbed wire fence.
This was no deterent to someone who wanted to know more.
So we ducked through the strands and followed a narrow path up to the tower.
The tower is a folly built by the Luttrell family to resemble the ruins of a castle.
Anyway Sandra posed for a photo within the ruins of the sun-dappled walls of the tower. By then she was feeling a bit chilly and wished that she had brought a cardigan with her. I had to admit that it had, suddenly, grown a hell of a lot cooler and a breeze had begun to build up.
I looked up and noticed that the tops of the trees were bending. The sky, too, had clouded up. Very dark - very grey.
With it came an atmosphere - a tangible evil.
And a sound - a sound of drumming mixed with rattling metal.
It was scary and we were both running downhill as fast as our legs would carry us.
Sandra kept going - but I stopped. Don't ask why - but I did and turned around.
Coming through the trees were what seemed like hundreds of dark vague shapes. It was as though an army was coming after us.
And then we were through the fence into the blinding sunlight of a hot July day.
We stood in the middle of the field and looked back at the hill and said out loud: "What the hell was that?"

We had encountered the leper mercenary army.
Back during the English Civil War the Roundheads had laid seige to Dunster. Conyger Hill would have been a good strategic point for Captain Blake's artillery. But Cromwell had an uneasy feeling when climbing the hill and decided against it. I guess I know why.
But here we are forty years on and both Sandra and I still recall that day.
Neither of us have a clue about who this army is. Certainly, pre-dates the building of the folly which was built in 1775 and the English Civil War.
Back in '69 there were references to a leper army or mercenaries but they were vague. Since then nothing that explains anything more.
Of one thing I am certain - we are not the only people to experience this.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

JACK THE RIPPER: The Singing Girl

When I commented on The Tainted Archive's review of Patricia Cornwell's Jack The Ripper book I pointed out that no one seemed to concentrate on the final murder and the singing girl.
Books have mentioned her and skipped by it - even Superintendant Barlow in the 'Softly, Softly' special dismissed it.
As a fifteen year old kid I was concious that the final murder just did not fit in with the pattern.
So this is what I am going to concentrate on the - the importance of a singing girl.
Mary Kelly was the final victim of Jack The Ripper.
And the proof is - what?

Mary Kelly, unlike all the other victims was killed in her own home.
The lock to the front door was broken as was a pane of glass in the window - but this wasn't made by the Ripper doing a bit of breaking and entering. This had all happened sometime before and reported to the landlord.
At 9pm the night that Mary Kelly was killed several witnesses mentioned that they had heard a female singing indicating that Mary Kelly was not alone that night.

Back to the other victims. All were found in the street and all mutilated either by a butcher (Leather Apron) or a Royal Phycisian (Dr.William Gull). In Mary Kelly's case - her body was found on her bed in her room.

So - two women in one room where only one body was butchered. Not just butchered but mutilated beyond recognition. Ergo one mutilated body found in Mary Kelly's room must be that of Mary Kelly. Not exactly positive ID.

Whatever the theorists come up with for the murder of these prostitutes it has to be assumed that the killer knew what his victims looked like. So why remove Mary Kelly's face? He would have wanted her to be positively identified. On the other hand if he encountered the second female he would have known that it was not Mary Kelly.

Mad and illogical as it sounds - the only reason for the final victim having her face mutilated is to make people believe that the corpse was indeed that of Mary Kelly. And I am fully aware of what this implies and the weight of evidence concerning this one part of the Ripper crimes seems to draw a logical conclusion.
Though having a logical conclusion - doesn't explain the why - except that Anne Stride and the rest new Mary Kelly. They had been arrested, at various times, for prostitution and had used 'Mary Kelly' as an alias. Not really a good excuse for bumping them off - unless, of course, Mary Kelly did not like the reputation this was giving her.
What is obvious is that the Ripper killings ended with Mary Kelly's death.
For fifty odd years I have read everything and watched every documentary on the subject and I am still convinced - or deluded - that it was Mary Kelly who killed the singing girl. With that comes the possibility that Mary Kelly was The Ripper.
Far fetched - maybe.
I am reminded of that moment in the Sherlock Holmes 'Silver Blaze' concerning the curious incident of the dog in the night time. It did nothing. Exactly.
Substitute the curious incident of the singing girl in the night time - and some things make sense.
Or not - as the case may be.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


The Good The Bad The Weird is a 2008 Korean western directed by Kim Ji-woon.
It stars:
Jung Woo-sung as Park Do-won (The Good)
Lee Byung-hun as Park Chang-yi (The Bad)
Sung Kang-ho as Yoon Tae-goo (The Weird)
This is totally western in make-up though it is set against the Manchurian wilderness in the 1930s. The Japanese are looking to go to war against China and have a treasure map in their possession.
Chang-yi and his wild bunch are hired to get the treasure map. They stop a train with the intention of taking the map from the Japanese. Also on the train is Tae-goo who gets to the map first. Trapped on the train with the bandits closing in on him help arrives in the shape of Do-won, a bounty hunter, who is looking for Chang-yi.
What follows is gripping stuff as alliances are formed and disolved as the three main characters take on the Japanese Army and Chinese bandits all anxious to get their hands on the map and the treasure.
The good thing is that this is a visual film so the Korean language does not become a barrier. The English subtitles are unobtrusive - but it is not necessary when following the action.
The opening credits is something to savour with an eagle swooping down on it's prey that lies between railroad tracks. This coincides with the arrival of a train and just a few yards from where Chang-yi is standing between the tracks watching the train approach. The camera work is something that I found made this and many of the set pieces very awesome.
The ending is a bit tame - they should have used the alternative ending which can be found on this disc as it is more in keeping with the tone of the main movie.
Disc 2 has a 'Making Of...' documentry; an interview with cast and director and some more alternative endings.
All in all worth taking time out to see.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


The writer Robert S. Napier has written part 8 of this exciting western yarn. This can be found at - The Cap'n's Blog.

Parts 1-6 can now be read at The Culbin Trail (
Part 7 from western writer Joseph A. West is on The Tainted Archive (

Who will write Part 9?

Friday, 18 September 2009


The day that Sarah Ann Matthe was born in the 1700s she would have been unaware of the destiny that awaited her.
She would marry Butler William Mountain and help him to run 'The Saracen's Head' - the coaching station immortalised by Charles Dickens in 'Nicholas Nickleby'.
Sarah Mountain was described as a real beauty and totally devoted to her husband. She was never without a cameo broach pinned close to her heart. Not just any cameo but that of her husband.
But Sarah Mountain had another side to her - a determination to succeed in business. While her husband was happy to attend to the business of the tavern and hotel side of things Sarah built up a feed and grain business while, at the same time, going into the stagecoach business. Against male opposition she won the right to run the Louth Mail using her own coaches. She, also, built coaches to order and struck deals with the new owners that gave her a slice of their profits.
Not only did she have beauty but she had brains as well.
When her husband died in 1833 she retired from the business and brought a house just up the road from 'The Swan With Two Necks' in Whetstone nr Barnet, Hertfordshire. A house that someone tried to burgle only when he tried to climb a gate to get away she shot him in the leg and sat on him until the law arrived.
The Saracen's Head was taken over by Sarah's son Peter until 1868 when it was demolished to make way for the Holborn Viaduct.
Sarah Mountain died in 1835.
But in her lifetime she made her mark both as a formidable business woman and a loving wife and mother.

Thursday, 17 September 2009


Geneology is a mystery. For several years I have had a problem with one branch of the family tree.
Yesterday I broke through the barrier - thanks to the fact that the London Metropolitan Archives went on line. This can be found at and, probably, .com as well.
Not only did I break down one barrier but added to stuff that I already knew.
That said tracing the family history adds another tool to a writer's armoury - it teaches, me anyway, how to research.
In it's own way geneology can play a part in research for any kind of novel.
Take a look at the Census for 1880 in the US and you discover Morgan Earp in Tombstone stating his occupation as that of 'farmer'. Check it out at
OK so the Census for the US was taken every 10 years but it helps to know who was where at the time.
It is a useful tool.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Like just about everyone else I expected one of The Beatles re-mastered CDs to be at the top of the album charts. In fact the whole set to dominate the chart full stop.
But it appears that nostalgia of a different kind made it to No.1.
The Forces Sweatheart - Vera Lynn stands as the top of the chart.
While The Beatles may have been there for our teenage years it was the voice of Vera Lynn who invokes memories of the war years and many a Beatles fans' childhood. I, for one, grew up knowing the words to 'We'll Meet Again' and 'When The Lights Go On Again' and 'White Cliffs Of Dover'.
And seeing that it is the 70th Anniversary of the declaration of the start of World War 2 maybe the most fitting No.1.

Thursday, 10 September 2009


Randy at Not The Baseball Pitcher has written an excellent review of Chap O'Keefe's 'Misfit Lil Cheats The Hangrope'. Here's the link

While I'm writing Randy has a very good blog here and anyone interested in the Western genre might like to take a look at his back catalogue of Western movies and books.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

WILD BUNCH WEDNESDAY: Short Story Challenge


Part 6 of this exciting tale can be found at
This episode of the story comes from respected American western writer Jim Griffin.

For Part One -
For Part Two - is on this blog
For Part Three -
For Part Four -
For Part Five -

To write Part Seven just claim a place by commenting on the latest instalment. No blog? No problem.

DARK BITS: Guest Blog

In conjunction with the future publication of an anthology of new stories of the Old West - or Where Legends Ride 2 - the authors are making guest appearances on Dark Bits ( Topics range from their stories to their interest in the West.
Last Wednesday saw Jack Martin open the proceedings. This week sees the turn of Jack Giles who reveals a link to the British Western writer Oliver Strange.

Sunday, 6 September 2009



Down in the list of 'Other Interesting Places' is a link to The Bikers Boozer. Just to let any passing bikers know that they have moved to Facebook.

11th - 13th September 2009
It is that time of year when The Ace Cafe celebrates the Reunion. Bikers from across the world will descend one The Ace Cafe in London. Old Rockers from the sixties, members of the 59 Club who used to hang out here back in the Sixties get to enjoy a reflection of the good ole days. Rock 'n' Roll and a good day out for all the family.
And if that's not enough - then there's the Brighton Run on Sunday. E.T.A in Brighton is about 10:30 am.
Guess where I'll be next weekend.

Saturday, 5 September 2009


I often wander down to our local pub on a Saturday night to listen to live Heavy Metal music.
About a year ago the landlady and I were talking music that we liked. At the time she mentioned that I might like Doro Pesch who she had seen at the Wacken Festival in Germany.
Within days I got a message from British Heavy Metal group 'Girlschool' with the same suggestion.
So this Heavy Metal Cowboy rode off to You Tube to discover a live performance by this leatherclad blonde bombshell that blew my mind.
Doro Pesch was born 1964 in Dusseldorf, Germany. Originally, with Snakebite she went on to front the German Heavy Metal band 'Warlock'. While the 1980s scene was male dominated Doro made her voice heard and is regarded by many to be the Queen of Heavy Metal.
And she does have a sensational voice that contrasts with the gentleness of 'Black Rose' to the likes of 'Rock Angel' and 'Down And Out'.
Although she writes her own material she has covered Iron Maiden's 'Wrathchild' and Judas Priest's 'Breaking The Law'.
2009 has seen the release of a new album - 'Fear No Evil' - which has 13 tracks and CD-ROM video of 'Helzblut'.

Thursday, 3 September 2009


It had been a good summer. Sunday 3rd September 1939 was just as warm. Life should have been going on as normal but there were tensions in Europe.
At 11 am the Prime Minister of Britain, Neville Chamberlain, spoke to the nation on the BBC Radio.

"I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street. This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you that no such undertaking has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany."

During the course of the day France, India, Australia and New Zealand also declared war on Germany.

Hardly had any time passed from that declaration of war when Oberleutant Fritz-Julius Lemp in command of the U-Boat U30 sank the SS Athenia in the mistaken belief that the passenger ship was an armed merchant vessel.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

WILD BUNCH WEDNESDAY - Short Story Challenge

The short story begun by Ian Parnham at (The Culbin Trail)
now continues with Jack Martin's instalment at The Tainted Archive (

Part Two appeared on this blog.
Part Three appeared at
Part Four a

If you fancy joining in and adding a 500 word continuation to the story then leave a comment at The Tainted Archive.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


One of the main means of transportation back in the days of the wild west was the stagecoach. People, baggage and mail were carried by such companies as Wells Fargo, Butterfield and the California Stagecoach Company.
There were well known drivers such as Foss and Monk but even they fade into the background against Charlie Parkhurst.
Charlie was born somewhere in the mid-1810s up in New Hampshire and spent some time in an orphanage.
Down in Massachusetts Charlie discovered an affinity with horses and stagecoach owner, Ebenezer Balch, taught Charlie how to handle teams of four and six. So, when Balch went west Charlie tagged along.
During the gold stampede in California Charlie arrived looking for work. Despite the competition with down on their luck miners seeking work Charlie Parkhurst was taken on. Charlie had a reputation for being one of the safest drivers along the trail from Santa Cruz to San Juan and a reputation that made Charlie's name. An accident while shoeing a horse cost the sight of one eye but sporting a black eye patch Charlie carried on.
One day as Charlie rounded a bend there was a masked robber waiting. Never wanting to be caught out again Charlie learned how to use a .44. The next time someone tried to rob the stage he was shot dead by Charlie. Reports say that Charlie killed at least two people.
The most common ailment for a stage driver was rheumatism of the hands and Charlie was forced to retire. Charlie retired to Watsonville, California where Charlie tried a bit of lumbering, cattle ranching and raising chickens.
Charlie Parkhurst died there in 1879 from cancer of the tongue.
So why is Charlie Parkhurst a legend?
Because Charlie Parkhurst was born Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst.
A woman who, in 1868, became the first woman to have the vote - whether she used it or not will never be known.
When she died the press of the time was unkind and branded her a 'crossdresser' and other things.
She was 5'6" tall, slim and wiry with grey eyes. She would drink, smoke and swear. Her voice is described as a touch high pitched.
It is said that no one knew that she was a woman until she was laid out after she died. Somehow, that is hard to believe. A man who has been on the trail for a few days would have a few bristles on his chin - a need to shave. And there were signs that she had had a least one child.
I have no doubt that Charlie Parkhurst led a secret life. Not much choice considering the times that she lived in. Charlie, it is obvious, loved horses and the job that she did. Just that she had to wear men's clothes to do it.