Sunday, November 30, 2014

Batman ‘66 by Jeff Parker and Various Artists

I rarely purchase anything published by DC or Marvel these days. Having grown tired of the endlessly strung-out, incomprehensible plot lines and inflated prices, I gave up on these two publishers about the time they were consumed by large corporations who clearly don’t respect the characters they hold the copyrights on. I made an exception for Batman ‘66 because I thought the premise was fun. Essentially, using the likenesses and style of the 1960s Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, Batman ’66 attempts to replicate the campy goofiness that helped make the show a fan favorite. Author Jeff Parker manages to instill some humor into a script that captures the style of the teleplays, and I can imagine the dialogue as if it were spoken by Adam West, etc. I also felt the television series worked specifically because of its exaggerated approach to its material, whereas the comic book comes across as an exercise in forced zaniness. This paperback is volume one and collects the first five issues of the series. Visually, the artwork is retro as it should be. Kudos to Jonathan Case, Ty Templeton, Jose Quinones, Sandy Jarrell, Ruben Procopio and Colleen Coover for capturing the general style of the show. All of the best villains are featured: The Riddler, The Joker, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, The Penguin, and at the end of this volume we are blessed with an appearance by Batgirl. The plot line doesn’t matter here, because as I said it’s an exercise in forced zaniness. I enjoyed Batman ’66, and I may pick up the additional compilations as they’re released, but I can’t see myself making a long-term habit of it. Still, this was an entertaining nod to the campy 60s and I recommend Batman ’66 as a stocking stuffer for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Reluctant Pinkerton by Robert J. Randisi


The Reluctant Pinkerton follows Bullets and Lies but can be read as a stand-alone novel. The main character, Talbot Roper, is considered by many to be the best private detective in the country. The author, Robert J. Randisi, creator of the legendary The Gunsmith series, is a master at creating interesting characters. Naturally, he puts his characters into some very interesting situations, and that’s when the fun really begins. Roper is solicited by the sons of Allan Pinkerton to look into some sabotage against the Union Stockyard Company. Dead and mutilated cattle, suspicious fires, and even murder have made the cattle business down in Fort Worth, Texas downright dangerous. Roper, suspecting more than he is being told, takes the assignment and soon finds out that staying alive can be a real challenge. The Reluctant Pinkerton is quintessential Randisi – entertaining and easy to read. I whipped through these chapters quickly because I wanted to see how it all plays it. You might be surprised at how some characters turn out, but I won’t tell. Roper goes undercover to get at the truth, encounters a damsel or two, and Randisi had me guessing as to how it would end. Of course, I knew that Roper would prevail, but the details in the plotting were a surprise. This is a testament to Randisi who never seems to run out of surprises. Published by Berkley with yet another great cover by Dennis Lyall, The Reluctant Pinkerton is custom-made for both paperback collectors and lovers of westerns.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is set in the world of The Kingkiller Chronicle and readers familiar with those books will find interest in this stand-alone tale featuring Auri, one of the characters in that series. I’ve been a fan of Rothfuss since reading the first volume, The Name of the Wind, and its follow-up, The Wise Man’s Fear validated my initial reaction. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a novelette offering some insight into Auri, and takes place over a period of several days. Presented as a “slice of life” so to speak, the story is propelled by a series of incidents - some dangerous, some simple - as Auri goes about her business. The attraction here is really the quality of the writing for Rothfuss is that kind of writer who could re-write a phone book and make it interesting. The book includes some fine illustrations by Nate Taylor. Basically, a character study, The Slow Regard of Silent Things will be incomprehensible to readers unfamiliar with The Kingkiller Chronicle. Rothfuss explains this rather poorly in the foreword and therein we find the book’s flaw. In the “Foreword” and “Endnote” Rothfuss makes the critical error of assuming that he’s smarter than his readers and attempts to explain why The Slow Regard of Silent Things is brilliant but probably not everyone’s cup of tea. It all struck me as pompous and self-congratulatory and injures the book. The “Foreword” and “Endnote” should never have been included. Every book has its own soul, as the late great Don Pendleton pointed out, and the last thing we need is the author flashing us his ego like a doofus in a bathrobe and telling us how great he is even if we don’t like what we see. I enjoyed The Slow Regard of Silent Things for what it was, a well-written character study that held my attention. Nothing more, nothing less. For DAW collectors this is DAW # 1670.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Part Two - Interview with Author Keith Chapman

Part Two-Interview with Author Keith Chapman
As Keith Chapman, Chap O'Keefe was an editor and contributor to various fiction publications in London in the 1960s before shifting to New Zealand and spending nearly 35 years in newspaper and magazine journalism. He returned to fiction writing in earnest in 1992 with the O'Keefe westerns and edited the Black Horse Extra online magazine. As well as standalone titles, the O'Keefe westerns include the adventures of the ex-Pinkerton detective, Joshua Dillard, and the exploits of the engaging Miss Lilian Goodnight, a scallywag heroine better known as Misfit Lil. O'Keefe's books have been  published in the series Black Horse Westerns, the Linford Western Library, and Dales Westerns, and they are now being reissued as ebooks. His latest ebook release is Peace at Any Price which I reviewed on this blog in February.

TM: How did you come to write your first Black Horse Western?

KC: Having been in the industry from the age of 18, I knew that step one in fiction writing professionally was always to identify a potential, paying market, research it – that is, do a lot of reading! – and only then start writing. By the time the 1990s rolled around, this routine had become close to impossible. Magazines buying fiction had all but disappeared; publishers of original, genre fiction novels had dwindled to a couple of dominant players, usually specializing in romance; most remaining comics were scripted on a staff-writer basis. What I did find was that the Cleveland Publishing Co. of Sydney, Australia, was still issuing monthly its western booklets in 96-page digest format and they circulated widely in New Zealand. I'd produced western scripts in my Micron and Odhams days, and as a kid I'd avidly read more than a few numbers of the Amalgamated Press's Western Library, which had been a companion series to the Sexton Blake Library with the same editor and some of the same writers. But when I submitted an inquiry to Cleveland, I was knocked back. I was told by Jennette McNair, “We currently have drawers full of unedited Western manuscripts submitted by our regular writers who have been writing our novels profusely for the past 10 years, so we are not interested in obtaining any more stories for years to come. We will keep your letter on file – maybe you might be interested in doing some editing some time?” Not quite ready to abandon the idea of doing a few westerns, I remembered the attractive hardcover Black Horse Westerns. These had been launched in their present format in 1986 and had started to gain shelf space in several local public libraries. I posted off my opening chapters and a synopsis to publishers Robert Hale Ltd in London and gained immediate acceptance. Thus came about Chap O'Keefe and a series of 25 novels in a genre that many had already written off. Interestingly, two of the top Cleveland writers, Paul Wheelahan and Keith Hetherington, were soon writing westerns for Hale, too.
TM: I enjoyed Peace at Any Price, which you have re-released this year as an ebook. I’m interested in your view on electronic books and the future of print titles. Would you care to comment?

KC: Not so long ago, self-published ebook originals and reissues were being welcomed as the possible rescuer of genre-fiction publishing. Most traditional publishers of print books had turned away from shorter genre fiction, preferring to concentrate on padded, mainstream blockbusters by a handful of celebrity authors or their ghost writers. Personally, although I've read 70 or so ebooks this year on my Kindle, I would rather have the more complete experience of a paper book. Every paper book has its own character. There is variation in typeface, design, a color cover, and much, much more. An e-reader is a somewhat sterile gadget even when held in a simulated-leather case. Flipping back and forth to check on what has already been read is also far easier with a “real” book. My view on print titles is that they are being defeated mainly by cost. For a reader in a faraway place like New Zealand, a major component of cost is shipping charges which can double the price of a purchase, whether from a local bookshop or an international online supplier. That said, the seller dominating the ebook scene, Amazon – annoyingly and inexplicably even to Kindle Direct Publishing support staff – imposes its own surcharges on overseas customers for Kindle editions. Delivery of an ebook to a New Zealander, for example, should cost no more than delivery to someone in the US. But when I go to Amazon's US website from an Internet address in New Zealand, I find the price of the $2.99 Chap O'Keefe Kindle ebooks has been automatically marked up 20% to around $3.60. This is still in US dollars and has nothing to do with exchange rates. If as a self-publishing author I were to try to correct the anomaly, by setting my own Australasian region price comparable to the US one, Amazon would slash my royalty rate by half.
TM: Westerns are experiencing a revival in my view, thanks primarily to print-on-demand technology and the increasing popularity of Robert Hale’s Black Horse Western imprint. But there’s still a long way to go to make these titles as accessible as other genres found in mainstream booksellers. Can you share your view on the eternal appeal of westerns?

KC: No, I'm sorry I can't. Back in 1972, Dean Koontz could open his chapter on Westerns in Writing Popular Fiction by saying, “As long as the American public looks upon the history of the Old West as a romantic and nostalgic era, there will be a market for the Western novel, and this means the market place should be open for a good many decades to come.” Koontz mentioned Dell, Bantam, Fawcett, Avon, Lancer, Signet, Ballantine, and “most other paperback houses” releasing monthly Western lists. Alas, those days, or decades, are now gone. Likewise, so have the once ubiquitous TV western series and movies. Yes, we do have the BHW imprint, but when I started writing for Hale they could publish ten westerns a month, which is no longer the case. Hale has always depended heavily on the UK library market. I fear that once the public suspects its tax money is being spent to buy minority interest entertainment, like western novels, vote-chasing politicians are likely to crack down further on the libraries' budgets. Regardless of inflation and the rising price of BHWs over the years, Hale have also never raised the advance paid its western authors. I don't like to sound mercenary, but when it comes to writing I am a mercenary. Writing and editing are the only jobs I've ever felt qualified to fill. They produced the income to buy a home and raise a family, and now they are the only way to supplement a basic, state-pension income. I would rather not work at all and make do with what I have than work for unrealistic rates.
TM: What are you working on now?

KC: First and foremost, recovery from major open surgery to remove a tumor and part of my left kidney. The problem was, in medical terms, a cystic “papillary renal cell carcinoma.” It was found unexpectedly, as kidney cancer often is, by an unrelated ultrasound examination followed up with a CT scan. A further CT scan is scheduled for February which I hope will tell me what the future holds. My only original fiction writing this year has been a pseudonymous novel accepted by a UK ebook publisher and released in July. The book was unrelated to westerns, crime, horror ... indeed any genre likely to impress or appeal to the readers of Dispatches from the Last Outlaw. Sales of this ebook have not yet reached a level I would consider encouraging , although it has to be admitted the sales of western ebook Peace at Any Price have not given reason for congratulation either, despite a couple of grand reviews, one of which was yours, Tom. Writing westerns, or any ebook genre fiction, could soon become a field of endeavor for only the enthusiastic hobbyist. Last year, Witchery: A Duo of Weird Tales, released for the Kindle under my own name, didn't set the fantasy fiction world clamoring for more either. In the ebook world, what Lee Goldberg called “the tsunami of swill” continues unabated. You have to wonder how much effort some of the new, self-publishing authors put into learning their craft; also whether it would pay them to make that effort anyway. I'm almost convinced the majority of downloads of genre fiction are based on low price or giveaway schemes alone. A poorly written piece of short story length frequently rates on Amazon as highly as a carefully prepared novel buried among the thousands of online offerings at the same price. Perhaps the successful ebook author has to cultivate a flock of what I believe social media call “friends,” which is not a game I want to play. I will try to put out another of the Chap O'Keefe titles as an ebook before Christmas, all being well.

TM: Many thanks Keith, for taking the time to answer these questions!

KC: Thank you, Tom, for the opportunity.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Interview with Author Keith Chapman AKA Chap O’ Keefe


Interview with Author Keith Chapman AKA Chap O’ Keefe
PART ONE
As Keith Chapman, Chap O'Keefe was an editor and contributor to various fiction publications in London in the 1960s before shifting to New Zealand and spending nearly 35 years in newspaper and magazine journalism. He returned to fiction writing in earnest in 1992 with the O'Keefe westerns and edited the Black Horse Extra online magazine. As well as standalone titles, the O'Keefe westerns include the adventures of the ex-Pinkerton detective, Joshua Dillard, and the exploits of the engaging Miss Lilian Goodnight, a scallywag heroine better known as Misfit Lil. O'Keefe's books have been published in the series Black Horse Westerns, the Linford Western Library, and Dales Westerns, and they are now being reissued as ebooks. His latest ebook release is Peace at Any Price which I reviewed on this blog in February. 
Keith Chapman (left) with Bryan Edgar Wallace and Penelope Wallace, the son and daughter of Edgar Wallace. Keith is showing them the planned covers for an upcoming issue of the EDGAR WALLACE MYSTERY MAGAZINE at a function held in an upmarket London hotel
 TM: I’m always fascinated by the books people enjoyed as children and in learning what influence they may have had. Tell me about the books you read as a child or as a teenager that might have influenced you. 
 
KC: I guess it really began with my mother's 1928 Playbox Annual which included nursery-age picture stories featuring Tiger Tm and the Bruin Boys. By the 1940s, the Bruin Boys were appearing in Rainbow, the Amalgamated Press's companion title to Playbox. So I became a regular reader of that paper, then a fortnightly, around the age of six and still have three of its annuals. Once I was old enough to have a public library ticket – no, before, because I borrowed my big sister's! – my book reading quickly took in the usual British fiction favorites of the time, Enid Blyton's many series, Richmal Crompton's William books, and Captain W. E. Johns' Biggles flying yarns. As far as comics went, I largely shunned the adventure strips that appeared in the likes of Eagle and Lion. I preferred the text stories in weekly papers like the AP's Champion and D. C. Thomson Ltd's Rover and Wizard. By the time I was nine, I had added the monthly Sexton Blake detective novels to my reading list and was soon using my dad's library ticket so I could borrow Leslie Charteris's Saint books from the adult section. Then there was Agatha Christie, Edgar Wallace, and John Creasey, who was the first author I corresponded with.
 
TM: In email to me you mentioned working in the 1960s with W. Howard Baker at Fleetway Publications, as the AP had become known. Can you tell me more about that? 

KC: When Baker secured the editorship of the Amalgamated Press's venerable Sexton Blake Library in the mid 1950s, it was partly on the strength of a book that was ghost-written for him by Jack Trevor Story, who had been an author on the UK Panther Books list at the time Baker had been on their editorial staff. Story, of course, later secured his reputation with The Trouble with Harry (filmed by Hitchcock) and Live Now, Pay Later. He also wrote many fine Sexton Blake novels under his own name. At the AP in the late 1950s, Baker set up a system for producing Sexton Blake Library books that appeared under the house names Desmond Reid and Richard Williams. Manuscripts from people like Wilfred McNeilly, Vic J. Hanson (who later became a Black Horse Western writer under his own name and Jay Hill Potter), and Stephen D. Frances (the original Hank Janson) were accepted for about half the AP's fee. Baker would copy-edit the material and annotate the sections he considered in need of rewriting. The manuscript was then sent to George Paul Mann (aka Arthur Maclean), another of his old Panther Books associates I believe. Mann would produce a clean typescript for the printers and collect the other half of the AP budget for the book. By the time I was working at Fleetway as Baker's assistant on the Sexton Blake series, the Desmond Reid system, or a similar ghostwriting setup, was also used to produce the books that came out under the W. A. Ballinger and Peter Saxon pen-names and even as by W. Howard Baker. For example, early drafts of Savage Venture (Ballinger) and The Reluctant Gunman (Baker) first appeared in Baker's private office as distinctive, rather untidy Wilfred McNeilly typescripts. McNeilly produced his work using a blue rather than a black ribbon on lighter-weight paper than was the standard. 
 
TM: Reading other Internet commentators, it would seem some murkiness surrounds Baker's writing activity. 

KC: And you might say that was true at the outset ... in every way. I remember the cover over the fluorescent light fitting in Baker's office was decidedly brown in tint. Surely it must have been made that way? But no, by the late '50s/early '60s, as well as being overweight and perhaps spending more time than he should have in the Fleet Street pubs, Baker was smoking way too much. One weekend, the cleaners removed the nicotine stains from the white-enameled partition walls and from the ceiling and light fitting. On Monday morning Baker complained strenuously about the brightness in his office! 
 
TM: How did the Fleetway experience shape your own career? 

KC: Substantially. Bill Baker was a shrewd operator, and I probably owe him a great deal for a subsequent working lifetime spent exclusively in fiction-writing and journalism. How did it all happen? Well, when I was still in my last school years, I contributed to what US readers might call a fanzine and to the readers' letters pages that appeared at the back of the monthly Sexton Blake Library books. These review pieces caught Baker's eye and he invited me to visit him at Fleetway House, London, home of many of Britain's most famous periodicals. For a suburban kid with my avid fiction-reading background that was a great thrill. Even more captivating was Baker's later invitation for me to join his staff to fill a position left by the departure of Michael Moorcock. It was my last term of school before taking exams for the advanced-level General Certificate of Education. Having seen enough of academic study, I immediately abandoned Plan A, which had been to continue my education by attempting to secure scholarship entrance to Jesus College, Cambridge. The chance of commencing working life by becoming a junior at Fleetway was just too attractive to refuse. University would have been something of a drain on my parents' finances; I also saw it, in those impatient youthful days, as yet more delay to tasting other adult freedoms. I enjoyed the time I spent copy-editing the writing of authors like those already mentioned, plus Tom Martin (aka Martin Thomas), Rex Dolphin, and Philip Chambers, to name yet another regular three. I relished providing the blurbs and chapter heads for their novels, and invariably the titles that replaced their working titles in the way that was then common pulp-publishing practice. And I learned heaps of valuable skills.
 
TM: Which were?

KC: Today a writer of genre fiction must more than ever be capable of providing properly edited copy, ready for publication, print or electronic, with all the necessary ancillaries, like attention-grabbing headings and blurbs. Just the other day I came across a blog where the writer said Baker “had a knack for snappy titles,” and showed examples of ones for Sexton Blake books and chapters. I wonder if Baker was any better at or more prolific in this than in other areas. During the time I worked with him, I produced almost every editorially substituted Sexton Blake Library book title, plus most of the chapter heads. The procedure with the renamed books was that Baker would ask me for a short list of appropriate titles and taglines once a cover had been completed or selected from generic stock. The trick was to tie cover and story together to best effect. Sometimes I would insert material altering scenes in the book to better suit the cover art. I imagine all my predecessors would have served Baker similarly. 
 
TM: Please can you tell me something about the years after Fleetway? 

KC: Next up came an overly busy but paradoxically enjoyable stint with Micron, a fledgling backstreet publisher based at Wallington and Mitcham, south of London. This was amply covered last year in a 12-page article in issue three of the sumptuous UK publication Illustrators (The Book Palace Ltd, London). Demand had dwindled for text pulp fiction and Micron's output was mostly 64-page complete picture-story novelettes. Just leaving my teens, I found myself a big and somewhat lonely fish in a small pond. I ridiculously became responsible editorially for ten titles per month, four war, four western, and two detective. I also produced the scripts for some of them in what, strictly speaking, should have been my out-of-office hours. Although as a working-class child with limited pocket money I'd always considered picture-strip publications gave less value for money than similar text stories, I found them rewarding as a writer! On top of the comic books for Micron, I managed to suggest, set up, and become the founding editor for Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine. This was in some measure Micron's attempt to fill the gap in the market left when Fleetway discontinued its Sexton Blake Library. Blake writers like Martin Thomas, Rex Dolphin, Arthur Kent, Vic J. Hanson, and Sydney J. Bounds all contributed thriller novelettes or stories to EWMM. Syd Bounds, like Vic Hanson, was another veteran of the post-war UK pulp fiction market who later ended his writing life as a Black Horse Western author. Tributes to Bounds by literary researcher Steve Holland and myself can be found under the heading Farewell to a Small Giant here: www.blackhorsewesterns.com/bhe5. 

TM: And after Micron? 

 KC: Micron in its original form was short-lived. It was under-capitalized and up against stiff competition from much bigger publishers of similar material, like IPC (Fleetway) and Thomson who had the distribution muscle conferred by their top-selling women's magazines packed with lucrative color advertising of consumer goods. After Micron failed, I shifted back to London, to Odhams Books, which like Fleetway was another IPC company. Largely, I edited chidren's annuals for them. And, of course, I wrote lots of scripts for strips, plus a few text stories. As always, the output was shaped by what the market wanted: war, western, fantasy, school stories, humor ... you name it. I had the pleasure to see the stories drawn by people who were unquestionably at the top of their game: John Burns, Don Lawrence, Martin Salvador, Alfredo Marculeta, F. Solano Lopez, Matías Alonso.... But change was again in the offing, due this time to budget cuts and reorganization within the IPC empire. My wife and I chose to make a more settled life for ourselves at the other end of the world in New Zealand. This effectively brought a close to my regular writing for what had once been regarded as mass market-fiction publications. In our new country, my work was on newspapers and non-fiction magazines. Occasionally I would sell a confessions romance to a UK magazine, or a ghost script to Charlton Comics in the US which might be drawn by the celebrated Steve Ditko of Spider-Man fame, or Tom Sutton. 
 
NEXT WEEK! Keith will tell us how he came to write his Black Horse Westerns, and how he views the future for the genre, ebooks, and print books!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Legend of Robin Hood

Howard Pyle illustration of Robin Hood

The man of the greenwood stands like a sentinel with bow in hand, a quiver of goosefeather arrows slung across his shoulder. On his belt hangs a short broadsword. Atop his head a feathered cap marks him as a woodsman and a hunter. His clear eyes and stoic features bespeak of strength and determination. He is eternal, the champion who, like Arthur the once and future king, stands forever against tyranny.
In the many folktales about Robin Hood he is an outlaw intent on robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. His home is Sherwood Forest, a hilly stretch of land in Nottinghamshire. With him are his Merry Men – Friar Tuck, Little John, Allan a Dale, Will Scarlet and others. His true love is Maid Marian (often spelled as Marion). His arch enemy is guy of Gisbourne. For most of us these names conjure images from the 1938 Warner Brothers adaptation, The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn. The Adventures of Robin Hood is my all-time favorite film because it represents what a motion picture should be. It is a fantasy with a little bit of everything – heroes, villains, action, a splendid musical score, and a happy ending. Volumes have been written about this film, which I noted in my biography on Errol Flynn owes much to the 1922 silent film by Douglas Fairbanks. The Fairbanks film is equally magnificent, but it was Errol Flynn that introduced me to the legend of Robin Hood.
Naturally, the bookhound that is my one true self has sought the books and dusty tomes relating to the bandit of the greenwood. My first choice is Howard Pyle’s 1883 The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, written and illustrated by Pyle. The writing is colorful, the characters exactly as you want them, with a bittersweet but appropriate ending with Robin unleashing an arrow and instructing that he shall be buried where the arrow falls. How grand if all heroes might fade with such nobility.
Of interest to Errol Flynn collectors are Robin Hood and His Merry Men by Sara Hawks Sterling, published in 1921 but re-issued in 1938 by Grosset & Dunlap as The Adventures of Robin Hood on the dust jacket and sporting the now famous image of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood. Of note are the endpapers reproducing a scene from the film of Little John and Robin battling with quarterstaves over a stream. But take another look, that’s not Alan Hale and Errol Flynn but rather two stunt doubles. As for the text, it’s credited as “Retold by” and is essentially a florid rewrite of the Howard Pyle classic. The dust jacket specifically promotes the film as “Presented by Warner Bros. in Technicolor starring Errol Flynn with an All-Star cast.” A variant edition exists with the same dust jacket but minus the Warner Bros. and Flynn blurb.
Endpapers to the Sara Hawks Sterling book featuring stunt doubles
Only recently I acquired the 1965 Airmont paperback of E. Charles Vivian’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, a modern retelling that owes as much to Pyle as it does to Fairbanks and Flynn. A tremendously enjoyable re-imagining, Vivian’s prose is straightforward and perhaps lacking flourishes where flourishes might have made it better, but still a ripping yarn.
This brings us to I. A. Watson’s Robin Hood quartet, each volume as lively as an orchestra in the heat of a rhapsody. Published by Airship 27, Robin Hood: King of Sherwood (2010) begins by re-imagining the meeting of Robin and Marion. Written, by Watson’s own admission, as “Robin Hood as if he appeared in Argosy or The Strand Magazine.” Being a fan of the pulps, Watson is true to his vision. His talent is undeniable, the book captivating, the tale told with zest. Add to the mix a strong historical backdrop (with footnotes) and Robin Hood: King of Sherwood is the best fictional account on Robin Hood published in the last fifty years. Many, many authors have set their sights on the bandit of Sherwood Forest, but Watson takes the prize. Watson followed with Robin Hood: Arrow of Justice (2011) and imagines a nefarious plot by the Sheriff of Nottingham to lure Robin Hood into a trap by staging an archery contest; and Robin Hood: Freedom’s Outlaw (2013) concludes the trilogy with Robin and his Merry Men intervening in the Sheriff of Nottingham’s assault on Sir Richard at the Lee’s castle. The historical background, strong characterizations and obvious love for his material are evidence enough that Ian Watson’s Robin Hood books are a must-have for fans. A fourth supplemental volume, Robin Hood: Forbidden Legend (2014) featuring short stories, essays and comic strips, has just been released.
Stills from The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (1946) starring Cornel Wilde (left), and Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950)
As for the additional films, I am fond of The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (1946) starring Cornel Wilde, and Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950) starring John Derek. Unlike most extremists in the Errol Flynn fan community, I don’t get upset when Hollywood makes another Robin Hood film. Robin Hood is appealing. I enjoyed Kevin Costner’s take on Robin Hood, and I enjoyed Russell Crowe’s take on Robin Hood. And at the end of the day we still have Errol Flynn on DVD or Blue-Ray or as a digital download, and his performance will live forever. I agree that remakes are often a waste of time, as with the recent The Lone Ranger film, but the legend of Robin Hood is choice material. Incidentally, the novelization of the Ridley Scott directed Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe was written by David B. Coe. 
Robin Hood is eternal; a champion of justice whose exploits will live forever, the hero all men wish to become. No matter if he appears again in a comic book or a television show, this is a legend that will continue to entertain us all.