Archive for westerns

The debut of new Western podcast Hellbent for Letterbox

Posted in Genres, movies, podcast, pop culture, Western with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2016 by Paxton

Hell Bent for Letterbox cover art LG

My good friend (and Nerd Lunch Fourth Chair Army officer) Mr Michael May asked me to co-host a podcast with him.  And I must be crazy because I said, “Sure, why not?”  And let me tell you why I said that.  First, Michael is awesome.  We love him on Nerd Lunch, in fact, we just recently finished up several episodes in a row with him (Janu-May-ary).  Second, Michael and I have a similar love for the Western genre.  So, Michael asked if I wanted to start an all-Westerns podcast.  There was no way I could say “no” to that.

So, this podcast is going to watch and review a different Western every month.  We will probably also watch and review certain Western TV shows as well as discuss a few Western books.  But the focus will be mostly movies.  I’m really looking forward to it because I have a few holes in my Western viewing that need to be filled.

Which, for this first episode, Michael and I set the table for the podcast.  We talk about our introduction to the Western genre.  We talk about some of our favorite Western movies, stars and directors.  We talk about what we hope to accomplish with this show and what types of movies and stars we want to “catch up” on.  And, at the very end, Michael reveals what our first movie review will be in our second episode.

So come check out the beginning of Hell Bent for Letterbox.  I don’t know if you can get it on iTunes just yet. but if not, it will be there soon.  Maybe even Stitcher at some point.

Regardless, you can listen to the show right here.

If you’re super excited about subscribing in iTunes and it’s not showing up, here’s the RSS feed you can drop into iTunes to subscribe manually.


Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2014

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 12, 2015 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

I can’t believe I’m doing these year end wrap up reports again.  Where does the damn time go?!

Anyway, if you’ve read this article in the past you know I keep my book log online.  Here’s the link to my Book Log on Google Spreadsheet.  There are tabs for every year since 2007.

Looking at that log it looks like I read about 78 books/comics this year.  That total includes not only books I read for the first time but anything I re-read for the second (or more) time.  For the list below, though, I’ll only take into account books I read for the first time this year.

And I actually have four books on this list that were released in 2014.  That ties my total from last year.  It’s rare when I get to read a currently released book, but I’ve done it four times each in the last two years.  Amazing!

On to the lists!

Below you will find, first, my list of favorite books and following that my list of favorite comic books/graphic novels.  All that I read for the first time this year.  Enjoy.


Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown (2014) – Joe Schreiber – I predicted at the end of my 2013 Best Books I Read article that this book would be on the list for 2014.  And, as you can see, I was right.  Joe Schreiber really hit it out of the park with this one.  A prison thriller that has Maul locked up in a prototype prison that pits its prisoners in gladiatorial matches and broadcasts those matches on pay-per-view.  Very brutal and lots of fun we get lots of awesome Maul in this book.  However, to be honest, the last third of the book sort of goes WAY bananas in a weird way.  It’s still really good, but the book sort of becomes super-gonzo and you’re left scratching your head wondering, “What the f**k is going on?  Did THAT just happen?!”.  However, overall, still one of the best books I read this year.

Point of Impact (Bob Lee Swagger #1) (1993) – Stephen Hunter – I was not aware of this book until I saw the Mark Wahlberg movie Shooter, which is based on this book.  I love that movie and finally picked up the source material this year to give it a go.  And it’s AMAZING.  Even better than the movie.  A bit more story to sink your teeth into and a bit more of an epic bad guy for Swagger to focus his revenge on.  Great action packed book.  I look forward to reading more of Hunter’s Swagger books in the future (there are several).

The Shining (1977) – Stephen King – This Halloween I decided to fill another hole in my Stephen King reading list.  Two years ago I had finally tackled The Stand and just last year I read The Talisman.  So, I thought, let’s continue that trend this year and I decided to read ‘salem’s Lot.  I enjoyed it more than I expected, plus it left me wanting to read more early Stephen King, so even though I only had about a week left in October, I picked up The Shining on my Nook for like $2 and dove in.  And discovered probably the scariest book I think I have ever read in my life.  The Shining is big on plot and character detail as early King likes to be, but once the stuff in the hotel starts happening, it gets seriously scary.  Like several nights I had trouble sleeping it was so scary.  So here it sits on my list.  But as much as I loved this book, I really saw no need for a sequel so I have little to no desire to read Doctor Sleep.  I even tried reading a sample and I couldn’t even finish it.

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (2007) – James Swanson – Earlier in 2014 I got into an American History phase.  I read Walter Isaacson’s epic Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and was all wrapped up in the days of the early Revolution.  I then watched Spielberg’s Lincoln and loved it before starting this book.  This book is a fascinating account of the days leading up to and the 12 day manhunt that occurred after President Lincoln’s assassination.  Lots of inside stuff I never knew about.  And it’s written in a very modern way that keeps events interesting and not like reading events out of a history book.  Right after reading this book, I watched Robert Redford’s The Conspirator to complete my unofficial “Lincoln trilogy”.  So now, I’m on the lookout for Swanson’s other books he’s written, most specifically the one about Kennedy’s assassination.  But I highly recommend this book.

Star Wars: Tarkin (2014) – James Luceno – This last slot was tough. I had a few REALLY good books I could have put here.  Most notably The Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussRed Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and When March Went Mad by Seth Davis.  But I went with my gut and chose this book.  The second Star Wars book on my list.  I really love what they’ve been doing with the Star Wars novels the last few years.  They’ve really been changing it up and getting really good stories out there.  Luceno wrote one of my favorites from a few years ago, Darth Plagueis, and he looked to do the same thing here.  But this is a more intimate story than the galaxy wide epic that played out in the pages of that earlier book.  Luceno really fleshes out the character of Tarkin in this book and investigates a bit more his relationship with Vader and even the Emperor.  Lots of Star Wars-y goodness to be had.  It gets me excited to see what comes next for the Star Wars expanded universe.

Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk (2006) – Greg Pak (writer), Carlo Pagulayan (artist) – Oh, man, this book is epic.  It’s bad ass.  It’s just awesome.  Hulk is deemed “too dangerous to stay on Earth” by a think tank of Marvel’s smartest so they devise a way to shoot him off to another world so he can’t hurt anyone.  The only problem, something happens en route and Hulk crash lands on the wrong planet.  A planet that enlaves Hulk and forces him to compete in gladiatorial games until he decides he’s had enough and stages a coup to take over the planet.  So much awesome contained within.  I can’t recommend this enough.

Savage Dragon Vol. 1 (1993) – Erik Larsen (writer/artist) – Back in September I decided I wanted to read the first 10-20 issues of all the original launch titles of Image Comics.  Most of them were forgettable.  However, Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon was not only readable, it was GREAT and deserves a spot on my list.  I was surprised how much I thoroughly enjoyed this comic and I look forward to catching up on all that I missed with this character.

Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon (2012) – Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (artist) – This was suggested to me by several people but I never listened.  But the more I heard how good it was the more I became intrigued.  So I grabbed the first volume of Matt Fraction’s series for cheap and read it.  And loved it.  This is minimalist storytelling at its finest.  Sort of a “between the panels” look at what Clint Barton does when he’s not being an Avenger.  Quirky, but it’s charming and lots of fun.  I’ll definitely be checking out more of this series.

Thief of Thieves (2012) – Robert Kirkman (writer), Nick Spenser (writer), Andy Diggle (writer), James Asmus (writer), Shawn Martinbrough (artist) – I’ve actually read the first three volumes of this title which cover the first 19 issues of the series.  And it’s pretty great.  Master Thief (retired) Redmond is called back into the life in order to save his estranged son.  This is a pretty great comic with some pretty great writers.  It’s also a nice change from all the super hero books I normally read.  Just a regular guy, trying to get on with his current life but his previous life and his reputation won’t let that happen.  Great book.

Krampus! (2013) – Brian Joines (writer), Dean Kotz (artist) – I think I’ve talked about this book before.  This is such a fun read.  It makes great references to all the Santa/Christmas iconography you can imagine and even makes someone like Doc Holliday, that has nothing to do with Christmas, fit right into the story.  Great art, fun story.  I really hope this gets picked up for some sequels.  So much potential awesome to be mined out of these characters.  GET IT AND READ IT NOW.

That’s my best of list for 2014. It was really hard to pare some of that list down as I read some really good stuff this year. But I also have some good stuff lined up for myself next year. I plan to continue my Stephen King reading by possibly tackling Needful Things as well as possibly It.  There are some good Star Wars books coming out next year featuring Luke Skywalker (Heir to the Jedi) as well as two of our favorite Lords of the Sith.

Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2013

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2014 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

How did this happen!?  It’s that time of year again where I pick my favorite books of the year?  Is 2013 over already?  WTF?!  Time is just flying by.  My son is 3, my daughter is 1 and I’m writing the fifth in my series of year end book reports.  THAT. IS. COCONUTS.

Anyway, if you’ve read this article in the past you know I keep my book log online.  Here’s the link to my Book Log on Google Spreadsheet.  There are tabs for every year since 2007.  Take a look on the 2013 tab and you  can see that I read 58 books/comics/graphic novels this year.  That’s way low compared to 2012 in which I read 80 books/comics/graphic novels.  However, having two kids will do that to you.  Those totals include not only books I read for the first time but anything I re-read for the second (or more) time.  For the list below, though, I’ll only take into account books I read for the first time in 2013.

And I actually have FOUR books on this list that were released in 2013.  That may be a personal record.

Below you will find, first, my list of favorite books and following that my list of favorite comic books/graphic novels.  Enjoy.


Impulse (Jumper Book 3) – Steven Gould – I talked about this series on the Nerd Lunch podcast last year and I sort of reviewed the first two books on the blog back in 2009.  I enjoyed the movie for what it was but it led me to the books which were published first.  And the books are excellent.  There are three of them; the original Jumper from 1992, the 2004 sequel, Reflex, and then this third book which was released early 2013.  All three books are excellent, but you’ll need to read the first two before reading this book.  There’s a lot of continuity that flows throughout the books.  Oh, and if you hated the movie, don’t worry, other than sharing a few of the same characters, the stories are completely different between the two.  Just a warning, though, there is another “Jumper” book by Steven Gould called Jumper: Griffin’s Story.  That book is not really a part of this series, it’s a part of the movie series.  Confusing? Yes, but that’s the way it is.  Read my blog review above for a little bit more explanation.  All that aside, this is a fun read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  And hopefully we don’t have to wait 10 years for another Jumper book.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards Book 1) (2006) – Scott Lynch – I forget how I first stumbled across this book, I think it was while I was searching the store on my Nook.  I was intrigued by the title and the premise. It’s somewhat like an Ocean’s 11 con man/heist story but set in a fantasy world.  Hard to explain, but the book is extremely well written, has a great world built up within and interesting, smart and dangerous characters.  Gun to my head, I would probably put this as my favorite book of the year.  Just really fun and well written.  I recently bought the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, with holiday money and I’m eyeballing the third book, The Republic of Thieves, which came out in Oct 2013.  Lynch also plans a series of novellas based within this world.  If you like smartly written, character based fantasy with a nice helping of action, this book is for you.

Star Wars: Scoundrels (2013) – Timothy Zahn – Timothy Zahn is one of the best Star Wars EU writers. He wrote the Zahn Trilogy as well as the awesome books Star Wars: Allegiance and Star Wars: Outbound Flight (which made my favorites list in 2010).  This is a Han Solo adventure that also happens to include Chewie, of course, and Lando.  And it’s great.  I honestly hope that when Disney makes the Han Solo stand alone movie, they use this as the blueprint.  It takes place right after the first Death Star is blown up in the original Star Wars: A New Hope. Han gathers a team of expert con men and thieves in order to steal a priceless piece of art from a Black Sun boss.  Han hopes the proceeds from the job will free him of his debt to Jabba.  Lots of well written, fun dialogue and heist action.  There’s also a short story prequel to this book called Star Wars: Winner Lose All that focuses on what Lando is doing right before the actual book. It, too, is a lot of fun.

Star Wars: Kenobi (2013) – John Jackson-Miller – Oh wow, two Star Wars books get to make my list this year. Yay!  This book was very highly anticipated by myself.  I’ve said for years that a movie or book based on Obi-Wan’s “Tatooine Years” would be amazing.  When Disney was throwing out the stand alone movie ideas I said Ewan McGregor as Kenobi should get one.  And this book should be the basis.  It takes place just after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.  Obi-Wan has dropped off Luke to the Lars Homestead and he’s setting up base in the Judland Wastes and starts getting acquainted with the denizens of a small moisture farming town who are being attacked by Tusken Raiders.  Great book.  Check it out.

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Reading Forrest Carter’s Josey Wales novels

Posted in books, Genres, movies, Western with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2013 by Paxton


I have been a fan of Clint Eastwood’s 1976 western The Outlaw Josey Wales since I first saw it with my dad back in the 80s.  I actually saw and know Clint Eastwood more for Josey Wales than I do “The Man with No Name” because I saw it first and it led me to Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy”.  So, being a fan of it for so long I was surprised a few years ago when I discovered the movie was actually based on a 1973 book by Forrest Carter called Josey Wales: The Rebel Outlaw.  The story would subsequently be retitled Gone to Texas.

Being such a huge fan of Eastwood’s take on the character I felt I needed to read the source material. So I got the above book from and set about reading about one of my favorite gunslingers.

I have to say, I’m really surprised how close to the story the movie was. Carter writes a very good, gritty, action-y western. The feel on the page is the same as watching the movie. It helped that I had Eastwood’s visage burned into my brain whenever I hear the name Josey Wales. The mannerisms, the speech. It’s obvious Eastwood was very respectful of the original stories and strayed little from not only the character but the overall storyline. The only thing I think the book does better is the character of Laura Lee is a much better character in the book. But, honestly, I’m not a big fan of Sondra Locke, so that may have been a factor.

But the book, I can honestly recommend it for both fans of Eastwood’s movies and fans of good, western action in general.  The book is a fast paced read, clocking in at around 200 pages and offers a lot of gunfights and good dialogue.  It actually got me excited to read Old West fiction again, something I haven’t really done since high school.

In 1980, Carter followed up Gone to Texas with a sequel called The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales.  This sequel was also included in my book copy.  Needless to say, I was pretty eager to read this sequel and see what could have also been a sequel to Eastwood’s Josey Wales (Eastwood did consider doing it but it never developed).

Josey Wales - Eastwood

The story picks up a short time after the original book.  A terrible tragedy befalls Josey Wales’ bride and his newborn child.  Honestly, the tragedy is told in detail and it’s pretty horrific to read, especially as a father.  And the rest of the book is also incredibly violent, even more so than the first novel which is not as much as you’d expect.  However, I was pulled in again by Carter’s writing style and the way he tells a story.  It’s another excellent Josey Wales novel and I liked it as much if not MORE than the original.

It’s sad that Carter never wrote anymore Wales novels.  I know Eastwood had the book and I think he was considering, but by 1980 I think he wanted to do other movies and leave the Western behind.  When he did his final Western, Unforgiven, I was surprised that the main character wasn’t Josey Wales, however, there may have been rights issues.

So if you enjoy good action, you can’t go wrong with these Josey Wales books.  They are excellent examples of fast paced Old West fiction that I personally enjoy reading.  Do yourself a favor and give it a chance.