Friday, 1 July 2011

FFB: KICK A TIN CAN by Dianne Doubtfire

The opening line to this 1964 novel rings so true to me.

'Wilfred Kittering's desk was in the back row, which made it easy for him to read Lolita during Religious Instruction.' In my case it was 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'.

Wilfred is a fifteen year old living with his widowed mother who runs a sweetshop in London's East End.
Every weekend, before he died, father and son would go for walks in the countryside. It is something that Wilfred misses. Until the day he decides to catch the Green Line bus and venture out on his own.
He walks along the river where he meets public schoolboy Andrew Rose-Pearson. They form a friendship and end up falling in the water. He accompanies Andrew home where he meets his mother, Carol, who is thirty four and very attentive to Wilfred who returns home wearing some of Carol's husband's clothes.
Back in the East End Wilfred begins a new relationship with a girl his own age, Jill Dennison. A doomed relationship when he returns the clothes to Carol.

Dianne Doubtfire pushes boundaries in this novel. Growing pains are there and Carol latches on to the fact that Wilfred yearns to become a writer. She indulges him by giving him a place to write and buys him a typewriter.
Carol is a well drawn picture of the deperate housewife. No husband and a son who only comes home in the holidays. Wilfred alleviates her boredom and fills her loneliness. On the other hand Wilfred comes of age too quickly for his own good and finds it difficult to understand when Carol finds someone her own age.

A brilliant novel - though a subject that is rather taboo in this new Victorian era.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

FELIXSTOWE MOTORCYCLE SHOW - 26th June 2011 - Images

Just a fistful of photos that we took today.
We think that between us we took about 300 photos altogether.

The event was jam packed with stalls for Royal Enfield, Harley Davidson, Triumph, Aprilla and Victory motorcycles. Great support for the Air Ambulance and other emergency services.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

SIEGE AT MA-KOUIE by Derrick Wright

First published 1959 by Robert Hale Ltd
Corgi edition published 1961

The orders were simple - the road past the fort at Ma-Kouie must be denied to the enemy artillery for five days. Time is essential for planes to bring in reinforcements urgently needed at Dien Bien Phu otherwise all Laos falls to the Viet-Minh.
The problem is that by the time these orders arrive at Captain Renoir's HQ he has just eighteen men left alive. But these men of the French Foreign Legion are a tough bunch and prepared to carry out their orders. After all there is very little choice though the mission is totally suicidal.
The plan is simple.
First destroy the bridge over the Ma-Kouie River.
Second hold the fort for twenty four hours after the enemy arrive.
Third pull back to a grassy knoll where Renoir will place mortar positions.
The fort is placed under the command of Sergeant Steve Brent, a tough uncompromising 'Limey'. With him is the American Corporal Bud Galland who loves hard as he fights; Johnny Hellwig, a young German deserter who becomes a man. Others are memorable like Me'n Fou with a fly tattooed on the end of his nose and Mohaffy the Irish American with a grudge against the sergeant. Then there is the big built Marie with a hatred for the Viet-Nimh who killed her husband and son - a woman determined to go down fighting. And Ly-Lin, a prostitute hopelessly devoted to Bud Galland who stands by his side through thick and thin.

Derrick Wright has written a character driven book about men and war that still stands up today. The reader gets involved with the story and as the numbers begin to dwindle you feel the loss. The battle scenes are well described - in such a way that you can see it happen as though it was a movie.
This was one of those books that went around my class at school and I still have it.

Monday, 20 June 2011


What a weekend coming up.
Saturday sees the scooters coming down to the beach followed, on Sunday, by the motorbikes. A touch of deja vu here but Brighton it is not.
Friday and Saturday the 24th and 25th June sees the Coasters Scooter Club celebrate it's 50th Anniversary at Trimley social club. Money raised goes to the Air Ambulance.
Formed back in 1961 as the Felixstowe and District Scooter Club they can be found holding court every Wednesday at The Steam Boat Tavern in Ipswich, Suffolk.
Live bands and DJs will supply entertainment and there will be a ride out to Felixstowe on the Saturday morning.

Then on Sunday 26th June Hamilton Road in Felixstowe plays host to the second Motorcycle Show. There will be a ride in from Stonham Barns near Stowmarket to raise money for St.Elizabeth Hospice.

Both events will have stalls and autojumble.

Friday, 17 June 2011


In 1967 Adam Diment was about to rewrite spy fiction.
There had been many contenders for Ian Fleming's and James Bond's throne. 'Boysie' Oakes in John Gardner's 'The Liquidator' (Gardner would take over the Bond franchise) and Doctor Jason Love in 'Passport To Oblivion' (filmed as 'Where The Spies Are'). Add to the list John Sanders with Nicholas Pym, the 'James Bond' of Oliver Cromwell's Secret Service.

So, enter Philip McAlpine. Tall, good looking and a love of fast cars, fast living, pot, sex and all manner of things mod. Truly a sixties child.
Suddenly his creator, Adam Diment, was the 'big thing'. Both he and his creation were hailed as the true successors to Fleming and Bond.

'The Dolly Dolly Spy' is told in the first person and appears to be a slow starter. McAlpine is coerced into working for British Intelligence department 6(NC/NAC) by the head Rupert Quine who is nothing like M. Quine is camp and prone to calling people 'luv' but this is just window dressing for a man who has a nasty, sadistic streak and can resort to blackmail with a smile on his face.
Recruited McAlpine is sent to work for the International Charter Inc a company that British Intelligence are interested in. On the surface the company runs package holidays for tourists to the Mediterranean island of Dathos. Underneath there is gunrunning and other clandestine activities going on. As a perk for this McAlpine is well paid and has the privelege of having his girlfriend, Veronica, live with him.
But the easy living comes to an end when he has to start earning his money and has to kidnap a former member of the Waffen SS. The only trouble is that the Americans want him too and McAlpine is not a subscriber to any 'special relationships'.

What makes 'The Dolly Dolly Spy' stand out from the crowd is Adam Diment's delivery. His hero says exactly what he thinks and that goes all the way to make McAlpine real - like you were reading an autobiography.
There were three more books 'The Great Spy Race', 'The Bang Bang Birds' and 'Think,Inc' the latter in 1971 after a gap of three years. But that was the end as Adam Diment just disappeared from the scene.

There was talk of a movie with David Hemmings but it came to nothing. Though, I do wonder if the McAlpine novels insired Austin Powers though that character does not compare.

If you liked Bond, then you will like McAlpine.

Monday, 13 June 2011


This is something of a first - being able to review a CD before it's commercial release.
It has been eight years since the release of 'The Curse Of Blondie' and still Blondie moves on with a kind of re-invention. The Blondie style is always there flipping through trends and styles and mixing it all up.
The opening track 'D-Day' is all that. Not the usual toe-tapping, pop arty single type opener but something dark and brooding that creeps up on you.
And anyone could mistake 'What I Heard' as the next in line as the sure fire hit single.
'Mother' was the actual single release. On the surface it is about a club the Debbie Harry frequented called Mother. Dig a little deeper into the lyrics and it turns into what you want it to be.
As I have said all the Blondie styles are there including a touch of Reggae - 'Girlie Girlie' for example.
Although this is a CD of new material there are some tracks that have been around for a while as part of Blondie's live gigs.
All in all I enjoyed the 'Panic Of Girls' CD - but then I am biased as I like Blondie and Debbie Harry (er - singing solo - I mean).
Blondie's 'Panic Of Girls' is released on the 4th July next.

Friday, 10 June 2011

FFB: JOURNEY INTO SPACE by Charles Chilton

As 'Riders Of The Range' finished so Jet Morgan and his crew took a 'Journey Into Space'. The series ran from 1953 to 1956. Series 1 had various titles 'Journey To The Moon' and 'Operation Luna'. Series 2 'The Red Planet'. Series 3 'The World In Peril'.
Although the first episode pulled in a large listening audience the earthbound storyline saw the number of listeners dwindle. However once the spaceship 'Luna' took off the figures rose with it.
The cast consisted of Andrew Faulds as Jet Morgan; Alfie Bass as Lemmy (though David Kossof played the role in the early episodes); Guy Kingsley Poynter as Doc and Don Sharp as Mitch.

In 1954 Charles Chilton, writing his first novel, brought the first 'Journey Into Space' series to the reading public.
In a change to the radio show Charles Chilton began the book as Jet Morgan and his crew are preparing to return to earth from the moon. Something is wrong as both oxygen and fuel are running out and there doesn't seem to be any logical explanation.
Fortunately Doc, one of the crew, has been keeping a journal and the revelations has heads spinning.
Set in 1965, the year Charles Chilton thought that man might land on the moon, it is very close to the real thing.
Suspense increases as radio contact with Earth is lost and the radio operator, Lenny, hears strange music that none of the others can hear. Yet there is nothing wrong with the equipment.
All the ingredients of the sci-fi series are there including a fleet of UFOs and alien beings.
Although the first book was published in hardback in 1954 it was not until 1958 that Pan issued this title in paperback.
Although I never missed an episode it was great to relive the series through the written word.

Saturday, 4 June 2011


Usually I avoid books that tell of someone else's creation's life before, during or after the events of a novel.
I did not know that this book, published in 2001, even existed.
However, the first few lines of the prologue grabbed my attention as did the first page of the story proper. Always a good place to start.

The story is set 25 years after the events of John Wyndham's original novel 'The Day Of The Triffids'. Young David Masen (son of Bill and Josella)wakes up to darkness on the triffid free Isle Of Wight. Outside he can hear people going about their normal business. It is not long before David realises that he is not blind and that a trail of space debris has hidden the sun.
Masen is a pilot and takes off in an old Gloster Javelin to try and discover what lies behind the cloud. With nothing to guide him he is forced to land on a floating island populated by a 16 year old girl and a forest of triffids. Not only that but the girl, Christina, is immune to triffid stings.
It is not long before the pair are rescued by a passing ship with a biological team of Americans aboard who find a fascination with Masen's ability to fly. Their interest is heightened when it is discovered that the Javelin was powered by triffid oil that has been refined by Bill Masen and Croker's efforts.
The Captain of the ship is ordered to sail straight back to Manhatten and not the Isle Of Wight. It seems that Manhatten's dictator wants to grab both the refinery process and cash in on Christina's immunity.
Manhatten is a surprising place and it is not long before David Masen realises that there is something dark lying behind the bright lights. Indeed, the man in charge of the Manhatten complex is an old enemy - Torrence.
And David has struck up a friendship with his daughter, Kerris - and to Masen's surprise she is, also, part of the resistence.
If that wasn't enough - the triffids have mutated as well.

On it's own 'The Night Of The Triffids' stands well on it's own two feet. The storyline contains some expansions on John Wyndham's themes not just from the original novel but from some of his short stories as well - especially the baby farms. And there were times when I quite forgot that the book wasn't written by Wyndham - but like it says in the song 'there's always something there to remind me.'

Tuesday, 31 May 2011


This debut novel by Ruth Dugdall is not always an easy read.
For the most part the narrative comes from Rose Wilks, a woman serving an eight year term for the manslaughter of a baby.
The remaining narrative comes from Cate Austin the probation officer assigned to compile a report for the parole board who are to consider Wilks for release.
The opening chapter and the three that follow are quite important as it raises questions in Wilks' guilt or innocence. Means and opportunity for the crime are there - but motive?
As Rose Wilks continues her narrative while some things become clear so other suspicions begin to dawn.
Is Rose envious of her partner's ex? After all Emma has all the good looks; married to a successful man and with a healthy son. A son that Rose was found guilty of killing.
Emma and Rose meet in hospital where they both give birth to boys. Unfortunately, Rose's boy dies but not before she realises that both could pass as brothers and have the same father.
There is no doubt that Rose was in Emma's house with Emma's boy shortly before the fire that killed him. But......
On the other hand there is divorced mother, Cate Austin, who has suffered bad depression and has returned to work. She has been assigned to the women's section of Bishop's Hill Prison and her first case is to write up a report on Rose Wilks for the parole board. Or, in the words of her boss Paul Chatham 'It's a parole report on a nonce.' (A nonce being a child abuser/killer).
The problem here is that Cate is a mother and a professional. All Cate wants is for Rose to accept 'responsibility for her actions'. Rose refuses to do that on the grounds that she would do nothing to hurt a child. And there is a moment when Cate has some empathy towards Rose that is short lived. When asked if her report will influence the parole board, Cate says that it will be their decision.
There is so much in this book that it is difficult to say much without throwing in a load of spoilers.
And this is a debut novel.
The 'stars' of this book Rose Wilks, Emma Hatcher and Cate Austin are well drawn.

Ruth Dugdall's next novel 'The Sacrificial Man' is due out 25th June 2011.

Friday, 20 May 2011

'MACHO MAN' RANDY SAVAGE - R.I.P. 20th May 2011

'Macho Man' Randy Savage died today at 10:00 am today in Tampa, Florida in a car crash following a heart attack. He was 58 years of age.
The former WWF (as it was then) superstar was known for his colourful outfits, sun glasses and that gravelly voice that uttered that catchphrase "Ooh! Yeeah!". And that diving elbow finisher that took out the likes of Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan.
During his career he would hold seven World Championship titles and would be regarded as one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time.
This year for the first time since the mid 1990s Randy Savage was chosen as one of the Legends on the computer game 'WWE All Stars'
But it is the man that we fans remember.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

FFB: QUATERMASS by Nigel Kneale

This is the fourth and final instalment in the saga of Professor Bernard Quatermass.
It was written at the same time as the 1979 ITV serial of the same name. The difference between the two is that the novel contains more scenes than the serial.

Quatermass has retired to Scotland where he is guardian to his granddaughter. But there is a generation chasm existing between them and she runs away. Coming to London to appear on a TV programme and search for his granddaughter, Quatermass finds a world gone mad. Anarchy rules and a war rages between two factions - the Badder-Mindhoffs and the Blue Brigade.
Arriving at the TV studios he is witnesses the destruction of a joint Russian and American space project. A beam from outer space spears through the spaceship on its trajectory towards earth.
The target is ancient sites around the world. Places where the strange hippy like cult of the Planet People gather. They believe that the time has come to be lifted up to the Planet.
Meeting scientist Joe Kapp, Quatermass is taken to a research establishment close to an old henge known as Ringstone Round. Believing his granddaughter to have joined the Planet People he goes in search of her and witnesses the destruction of the those that are gathered at Ringstone Round.
There is a survivor who is slowly crystalising. Quatermass tries to get her to London for treatment but becomes separated and rescued by a gang of old age pensioners.
Meanwhile, the Badders and Blues are throwing down their weapons. Joining the Planet People they march to the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium where the inevitable happens.
Quatermass sees a way of halting the madness and sending a message to the Planet. The only way to do this is to use the old people to build a bomb. Why? Because 'the Planet' seems to ignore the elderly.

The story is neatly woven together with some well drawn characters. Bernard Quatermass is world weary and distracted by his need to locate his granddaughter. Then there is Kickalong, a Planet People leader, who is a bully and will use any means possible to ensure his tribe reach their destination.

On the whole maybe a fitting epitaph for Bernard Quatermass.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

HOT FOR CERTAINTIES by Robin Douglas-Home

Robin Douglas-Home, a leading socialite (or celebrity) of his time was the nephew of a former British Prime Minister. Amongst the women he was 'seen with' were Princess Margaretha of Sweden and Princess Margaret, the Queen's sister. In between he married the fashion model Sandra Paul.
Robin Douglas-Home was an accomplished jazz pianist and writer. He had written a biography of Frank Sinatra before he ventured into the fictional world of 'Hot For Certainties'.
This first novel centres around public schoolboy, David Melrose.
For the most part our hero is an observer to the world around him. With grandparents trapped in their own world and unaccepting that things have changed since the second world war. Public school life trapped in another kind of time warp that will eventually clash with the real world. The divorce of David's parents leaves him strangely cold as though the result was something that was inevitable. While his mother remains an interfering 'I know what's best for you' person David's father marries a younger free spirit who finds it natural to bare herself in his presence.
Eventually, David finds his own way as he embarks on his coming of age journey with a relationship with his grandparents maid, Jean, with whom he shares a passionate night. Looking forward to the next holiday and enlarging his relationship with Jean, David's well meaning mother sends him off on a holiday with his best friend aboard the family yacht. Here he meets the frigid (soon to be man-eating) Polly.
Because of this Jean gets engaged to another boy and dumps our hero. Then David meets Laura the sister of the school 'pin-up' and from there things come to a head through a series of misinterpretations. Observer now becomes challenger and David questions the world around him.

This novel holds the interest because there is the insight of the main character who can add a often humourous slant even in the gravest moments.

'Hot For Certainties' was first published in 1964 by Longman's and by Pan Books in 1966.

Robin Douglas-Home died at the age of 36 in 1968. He had suffered from clinical depression for years.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

SCARECROW by Matthew Reilly

I thought that this Australian writer was new yet Matthew Reilly's 2003 novel 'Scarecrow' could almost rank as a forgotten book.
His first novel, 'Contest', was written when he was just 19 and he went on to self-publish that one in 1996ish. Subsequently, Pan MacMillan picked this one up for publication along with the first two Shane Schofield novels 'Ice Station' and 'Area 7'. Again these were published in the late 1990s. Fortunately, Pan MacMillan re-released these books in 2010.

'Scarecrow' is the codename for Shane Schofield who now has a bounty on his head. But then so have 14 others and they have all got to die by 12 noon on the 26th October. The bounty is put up by a cabal known as Majestic-12; twelve of the richest and influential men in the arms business who want to make more money by creating an artificial cold war - except that one of their number has a much better idea with a total world war.
It would be easy to say that this reads like a Bond villain up against a new kind of 007. Not really the case though which is a good thing and there are a number of levels to this yet the author does not get the reader too confused. This book is fast that I really wanted time out for a breather...but not for long as short cliff hanging passages make the reader want to continue. I mean how can you take a break and make a cup of coffee when a sinking supertanker is hurtling towards the bottom where a mini-sub containing the hero is trapped. This is the stuff of Saturday morning cinema serials....what happens next and does the hero escape? Well, of course he does as this occurs long before the end.
All of which makes this book fun for our hero is believable and has a depth to him that makes you want him to succeed - or rather how he gets there.
To add to the mix there this chase and pursuit element. The Scarecrow is on the run from the bounty hunters while, at the same time, he is chasing the bad guys and a bunch of clone missiles.
In an interview at the end of the book Matthew Reilly says that he wanted to write a faster book. Well, I've read some fast paced books but 'Scarecrow' is a lot faster. Therefore, I guess that he has acheived his goal.
The next Scarecrow novel is 'Scarecrow And The Army Of Theives' which should (according to Amazon) hit the UK shelves in the early part of 2012. Long enough for me to recover, then.

Thursday, 28 April 2011


As you can see there is a pile of books out there - some with remembered titles while others lie forgotten.

Derrick Wright's 'Siege At Ma-Kouie' was originally published by Robert Hale in 1957.
The French Foreign Legion take on the Viet-Minh army just prior to the battle of Dien Bein Phu.

'Who Was Then The Gentleman?' is a novel of the Peasants Revolt of 1381. Charles E. Israel brings Wat Tyler to life in a story that contrasts the poverty and injustice of the time with the luxury and indifference of the court of Richard the Second.

Long before the movie trilogy Robert Heinlein told the story of Johnny Rico and the 'Starship Troopers'.

Back in 1960 the Daily Mail said that Constantine Fitz Gibbons novel, 'When The Kissing Had To Stop', relegated Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World to the nursery. With a portrayal of pitched battles between armed police and gangsters; race riots and a Ban The Bomb movement that sweeps a meglomaniac into power - and allows the Russians to occupy Britain. A novel that seemed, at the time, to trigger a number of cold war political thrillers on a similar theme - one by a certain Douglas Hurd.

Next week we will kick off with the only novel written by a British Jazz pianist and biographer of Frank Sinatra.


OPEN RANGE will, also, take a look at the music of the past - some of which may have become forgotten.
Like the syncopated sounds of The Temperence Seven who were driven crazy in the sixties or the eighties Italian queen of Europop, Spagna, who urged every boy and girl to call her.
We will take a look at new heavy metal all girl group Hysterica and Scandinavian symphonic rock star Issa.
There is a lot of good stuff out there and we hope to entertain you with some of it.


OPEN RANGE is coming back.
Yes, with more of the same and some other stuff as well.
As the title of this blog suggests the range is wide open. So for a while we'll be throwing out hints at what is to come and the direction we plan to go in.

The last piece we did attracted 60 - yep, SIXTY - spammers with nothing better to do with their time. They don't get published anyway.
Hopefully, they have got whatever it is out of their system and we can get with the business of what we do best.