Saturday, October 30, 2010

So You Wanna Be A Cowboy – Here’s How!

No longer content to read a western in the comfort of an easy chair? Do you occasionally get the itch to strap on a gunbelt and swagger out with a blazing six-shooter? Of course you do. But in these repressive times you need to be careful where you swagger and where you’re pointing that pistol, pilgrim! SASS (Single-Action Shooting Society) may have a club near you. SASS is the predominant organization behind a sport known as “Cowboy Action Shooting” which is the fastest growing sport in the United States. Men, women and youngsters alike all enjoy shooting safely with their trail pards. NOTE: Cowboy Action Shooting is not a “re-enactor’s” sport. The guns are real and we use live ammunition shooting at stationary metal targets. To participate you’ll need a shotgun, a rifle, two six-shooters, a holster and at least a cowboy hat. You get to pick your own alias such as “Buckshot Smith” or “Dandy Derringer Jones.” SASS has clubs in England,  Canada, Australia and every state in the Union.

Visit the SASS website HERE for more information.
Visit the Uberti Firearms website HERE.
Visit the Ruger Firearms website HERE.
Visit the Cimarron Firearms website HERE.
Visit the Henry Firearms website HERE.
Visit Wild West Mercantile HERE.

PHOTOS: Tom McNulty shooting a Henry Big Boy rifle; 
Jan McNulty shooting Cimarron’s 1873 Winchester, Trapper model

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Jack and the Jungle Lion by Stephen Jared

Here’s a debut novel that will knock your socks off. Jack and the Jungle Lion opens in Hollywood in 1937. It’s about a film actor named Jack Hunter who is cut from the same cloth as Tyrone Power, Clark Gable or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. In route to a location shoot his plane crashes and Hunter finds himself trapped in the Amazon rainforest with animal trainer Maxine Daniels and her two children, as well as the irascible co-pilot, Clancy. Surviving is not going to be easy and Hunter needs to become the hero he’s played on screen in order to get home safely. But can he handle the role?

In sixteen chapters author Stephen Jared takes readers on a whirlwind adventure. The pacing is spot-on, the characters believable and endearing, the action jumping off the page. Jared is a superb writer. This book is being advertised as “A romance of adventure” and truer advertising has never been written. Jack and the Jungle Lion is not only reminiscent of the classic pulp stories from the 30s and 40s, but also of those grand movie adventures during Hollywood’s heyday. Jack Hunter is put through the ringer – poison stick pits, anacondas, malevolent natives – but all of that is a mere trifle when Jack returns to Hollywood and his wife. You’ll have to read the book to see how it all plays out.

Jack and the Jungle Lion is chock full of action, humor, adventure and romance. Stephen Jared has just staked his claim as a pre-eminent voice in the growing legion of writers producing retro style adventures, just the way you want them. Jack and the Jungle Lion is a topnotch entertainment. And yes, it would make a great movie!

NOTE: the book’s beautiful cover artwork is by Paul Shipper.
Visit him online at:

Stephen Jared’s website is HERE.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Retro Western Excitement: Dodge City (1939) starring Errol Flynn

Some years ago I spent a considerable amount of time researching the great Errol Flynn’s life. This resulted in a few magazine articles and eventually a biography published in 2004. I am proud to have been at the forefront of a revival of interest in Flynn’s career, a revival that continues to this day. I have been consistent in stating that Flynn’s first western, Dodge City, is a classic. Dodge City is given scant attention by fans, scholars, and bloggers. Too much is made of the fact that Flynn stated he felt miscast in Westerns. He was effective in these roles and the films were fun. Give Dodge City another look.  The film’s elements will seem familiar because after this its many iconic scenes were emulated in thousands of westerns. Dodge City set the standard high and remains a fine example of “filmmaking as entertainment” par excellent. A cattle stampede, a saloon brawl, a gunfight on a train, galloping horses and blazing six-shooters. All in Technicolor with a Max Steiner score. Flynn, Olivia De Havilland, Alan Hale, Guinn Williams, and Bruce Cabot and Victor Jory as the bad guys. Flynn’s other westerns are: Virginia City (1940), Santa Fe Trail (1940), They Died With Their Boots On (1942), San Antonio (1945), Silver River (1948), Montana (1950) and Rocky Mountain (1950). For an in-depth look at Dodge City and the now legendary press junket find a copy of my book Errol Flynn: The Life and Career published by McFarland Publishers. Visit their website HERE 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Walther PPK: “A Real Stopping Gun”

This post was updated on May 5, 2018 with a fresh
link to the Walther website.

It’s all Ian Fleming’s fault. In his sixth James Bond novel, Doctor No (1958), He replaced Bond’s beloved Beretta with a Walther PPK. The Beretta had jammed in the previous novel, From Russia With Love, and M felt it was time for a re-evaluation. “It’s a real stopping gun” Major Boothroyd tells M, and so the famous switch was made. The scene was realized on screen in the first Bond film almost exactly as it appeared in the book. The Walther PPK suddenly became an internationally famous firearm.

But what kind of gun is this and how does it handle?

There are several models of the Walther, the most common being the PPK – short for Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell or Police Detective model. It was manufactured by Carl Walther Sportwaffen in Germany and for several years by Smith & Wesson in the United States, but under license from Walther. In 2017 Walther began manufacturing the PPK again in the United States.
 In Doctor No Bond is issued a Walther PPK 7.65 mm (about a .32 calibre). As Boothroyd explained: “I like its light trigger pull and the extension spur of the magazine gives a grip that should suit 007. It’s a real stopping gun.” My Walther PPK is the version being distributed in the United States by Smith & Wesson and I chose the .380 ACP over the .32. The Walther PPK has a kick to it all right. Its flat frame and compact size make it the perfect concealed-carry gun. Bond used a shoulder holster but the Walther is just as easily concealed on a hip holster under a large shirt like a football jersey or, in some instances, a Hawaiian print shirt. I recommend a dark colored nylon sports undershirt rather than a white T-shirt which too easily outlines the Walther’s dark frame. There is virtually no bulge visible when the Walther is concealed. Of the automatics in my collection the Walther PPK, the 9 mm Beretta 92FS and the Colt. .45 ACP offer the fastest response. Of course, there’s nothing so pleasing than a Colt single-action revolver which Wyatt Earp and the boys used to good effect at the OK Corral, but that’s another story.

Fleming was right. The Walther is a real stopping gun and shooting enthusiasts interested in owning this historic firearm are encouraged to visit their local gun emporium. And if you haven’t read one of Ian Fleming’s masterful James Bond novels here’s the list below.

Follow the LINK HERE to the WALTHER website.

Casino Royale, (1953), Live and Let Die (1954), Moonraker (1955), Diamonds Are Forever (1956), From Russia with Love (1957), Doctor No (1958), Goldfinger (1959), Thunderball (1961), The Spy Who Loved Me (1962), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963), You Only Live Twice (1964), and The Man With the Golden Gun (1965). In the film version of From Russia With Love, Bond is carrying a Walther, but in the book he still has the Beretta.

And here are some inviolate rules of firearm safety: Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction; always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; know your target and what is beyond; know how to use the gun properly; be aware that certain types of guns and shooting activities require additional safety precautions; there is no such thing as an unloaded gun; never aim the muzzle at anything unless you are willing to destroy it. And finally – never assume that your opponent is unarmed! 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why You Should Buy A Black Horse Western!

Black Horse Westerns are published by Robert Hale Publishers in London. They are essentially lending library titles with a low print-run. Many of them are also later published in large print by Linford and distributed by the Ulverscroft Foundation. The Hale Black Horse Westerns are hardbacks and sell for about twenty bucks each. Hale publishes multiple titles each month and are the only publisher in the world committed to publishing westerns extensively. No American publisher currently comes close to Hale’s output. The Black Horse Westerns are noted for their strong characters, brisk pacing and plentiful action. They are all reminiscent of the classic pulp stories of the 30s and 40s, but often they are much better. In fact, I contend that the Black Horse Westerns have taken the place and are the rightful heirs to the grand adventure writers of yesteryear. Each Black Horse Western is a collector’s item. Many of the writers have produced dozens of memorable stories. Howard Hopkins, Ian Parnham, David Whitehead and so many others have excelled in a genre that too many people claim is dead. Black Horse Westerns have become so popular (and with the American market frozen like a deer caught in the headlights) that popular writers such as John D. Nesbitt are having their stories published by Robert Hale. I have published two Black Horse Westerns with a third forthcoming and more in the works. I am proud to be a very small part of this prestigious group. Some of these writers such as Gary Dobbs have been highly successful in generating media interest in their books. And the books are good. Each one with its own distinctive style, but all of them satisfying the demand for grand old-fashioned adventures. Visit Robert Hale Publishers website for details. The books are available on Amazon worldwide. Isn’t it time you saddled up with a Black Horse Western?

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Tip of the Stetson to Audie Murphy

Audie Murphy (June 20, 1925 – May 28, 1971) has long been one of favorite actors. His talent was underrated during his lifetime but there is currently a revival of interest in his western films which pleases me enormously. He was the most decorated American soldier of World War II and a celebrated movie star for over two decades in the post-war era, appearing in 44 films, over 30 of them Westerns.

Check out his performance opposite James Stewart in Night Passage. It’s an underrated gem with a superb supporting performance by Dan Duryea. Murphy is right on as the surly and stubborn evil brother who naturally redeems himself in the final reel. And his entrance in the film is a classic – he appears as the Utica Kid, riding at breakneck speed and topping a hill, clad in a black leather jacket, black holster, black hat and reining his horse to a stop as he surveys the train passing below him. His expressions are joyful and mischievous. Murphy had become a fine actor with an appealing “screen presence.” Here he makes the perfect foil for James Stewart who campaigned to keep Murphy in the film when original director Anthony Mann balked at the idea. Stewart and Mann, who had made Winchester 73’, The Far Country, Bend of the River and The Naked Spur together, disagreed on this and various other production details, and Mann pulled out to be replaced by the capable James Neilson. Much has been made of Mann’s departure, and too often film commentators cite this as a reason to disparage Night Passage. But both James Stewart and Audie Murphy fans will tell you this – the film is entertaining, and Stewart and Murphy are reason enough to watch.

Audie Murphy filmography: A Time for Dying (1968), 40 Guns to Apache Pass (1967), The Texican (1966), Gunpoint (1966), Arizona Raiders (1965), Apache Rifles (1964), Bullet for a Badman (1964), The Quick Gun (1964), Gunfight at Comanche Creek (1963), Showdown (1963), Six Black Horses (1962), War is Hell (1962), Whispering Smith (Television series, 1961), Battle at Bloody Beach (1961), Posse From Hell (1961), Seven Ways From Sundown (1960), The Unforgiven (1960), Hell Bent For Leather (1960), Cast a Long Shadow (1959), The Wild and the Innocent (1959), No Name on the Bullet (1959), The Gun Runners (1958), Ride a Crooked Trail (1958), The Quiet American (1958), Night Passage (1957), Joe Butterfly (1957), The Guns of Fort Petticoat (1957), Walk the Proud Land (1956), World in My Corner (1956), To Hell and Back (1955), Destry (1954), Drums Across the River (1954), Ride Clear of Diablo (1954), Tumbleweed (1953), Column South (1953), Gunsmoke (1953), Duel at Silver Creek (1952), The Cimarron Kid (1952), The Red Badge of Courage (1951), Kansas Raiders (1950), Sierra (1950), The Kid From Texas (1950), Bad Boy (1949), Beyond Glory (1948), Texas, Brooklyn & Heaven (1948).

NOTE: the lobby cards are from my personal collection. Not all of these films are available on DVD but let’s hope they eventually make the transition to the digital format.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tony Curtis: A Memorable Moment

I was fortunate to meet Tony Curtis twice. First in 1993 at a book signing (see photo) and again last year at a film memorabilia convention in Chicago. I found him charming, articulate and compassionate. My favorite memory happened when I was watching him interact with fans in a bookstore. I remember a young woman walked in with her newborn and Tony said “Here, let me hold her.” And he held the baby girl so that the woman could snap photos of her child with a movie star. The woman was thrilled and nearly overcome by his kindness. I’ll never forget the grateful look on that woman’s face as Tony cooed with her beautiful child. He was a fantastic actor and obviously a kind man. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Rest in peace Tony Curtis.