Friday, November 7, 2014

Thunderbirds, Space 1999, Stingray, Captain Scarlet: The Definitive Top Ten Gerry Anderson Shows

If you grew up in the UK in the 60’s or 70’s, you could not fail to get caught up in the World of Gerry Anderson at some point or other.
F.A.B. Thunderbirds Are GO!

Born in 1929, Gerry was an English TV producer, with a huge imagination and equally expansive dreams. He began in the late 50’s with puppet oriented children’s television, gave us science fiction icons like Thunderbirds, Space 1999, and ended a generation later in 1983 with a science fiction classic; Terrahawks.
Children of all ages have their own particular TV favorite, and below I have listed the top ten.
In reverse order, I have taken into consideration, viewing length, formats, countries reached, and spin off value. I hope among my top ten you will find your favorite.
Four Feather Falls 1957
Number 10. Four Feather Falls (1957)… is Gerry’s Kansas adventure, a puppet western ala Wagon Train. After experimenting with The Adventures of Twizzle, and Torchy the Battery Boy, Gerry produced thirty-nine 13 min episodes of Four Feather Falls, but despite some clips being re-shown, the series was never repeated.
Supercar 1960
Number 9. Supercar (1960)… Gerry’s next venture lasted 2 series, with thirty-nine 25 min episodes, and was first to use the word Supermarionation (Anderson’s patented puppet technology). It spawned a four week run of comics in the USA, where the TV series was syndicated.
Joe 90 1968
Number 8. Joe 90 (1968)… Following the failure of the second Thunderbirds feature film, Joe 90 lasted just 30 episodes. And although it was a favorite of mine (age 10) it would prove to be the last string puppet series made by Anderson to reach television. The idea of downloading a new skill-set to accomplish undercover work has been copied many times since.
Terrahawks 1983
Number 7. Terrahawks (1983)… was Anderson’s final hurrah. In thirty-nine 25 min episodes, done in the Henson style of hand puppetry, the series was most popular in Japan. It was one of the first television shows to be made into a computer game. I am ashamed to say I never watched it. By then I was 34, and wrongly considered myself way too old for Gerry Anderson’s puppets.
Fireball XL5 1962
Number 6. Fireball XL5 (1962)… Following Supercar’s USA success, Fireball XL5 actually ran on official NBC format in the children’s hours from 1963 to 65. Thirty-five 25 min episodes were made, and it carried onto comic and book formats. I had a foot-long plastic Fireball XL5 spacecraft which I threw up into the air, watching it float back to earth in a flimsy polythene parachute.
Stingray 1963
Number 5. Stingray (1963)… Thirty-nine 25 min episodes were produced of this fantastic undersea adventure. Although colour television was still seven years in the future, Stingray was the first British Children’s TV series to be entirely filmed in colour. It was syndicated in the USA, and shown in 7 countries. It had a regular spot on the Century 21 comic.
George Sewell and Gabriella Drake 1969
Number 4. UFO (1969)… This was the first of Anderson’s real life dramas to be produced. Twenty five 50 min episodes were made, but despite huge popularity in the UK it never got a second series. The scripts for season two were re-written into the plot for Space 1999. Like the puppet series Captain Scarlet, it used sexy females in short skirts, every young man at the time would remember the purple hair and curves of both Wanda Ventham and Gabriella Drake.
Lieutenant Green, Captain Blue, and Captain Scarlet 1967

Number 3. Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967)… Thirty two 25 min episodes were made of this ‘darker’ space series, dealing with death, vengeance and inter-planetary war. It was shown in 40 countries inc USA, and a 2005 animated series. The immortal Captain Scarlet was the epitome of cool, and the sexy female pilots, unshaven baddie Captain Black, and grumpy Colonel White completed the cast. I had all the matchbox die-cast metal cars. "Spectrum is Green!"
The main cast Space 1999 1975

Number 2. Space 1999 (1975)… Two series of forty-eight 50 minute episodes were made, networked in both the USA and in Canada, starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, straight from their success in Mission Impossible. International stars galore flocked for parts in the episodes, and many old faces crop up, even in small bit-parts.
The king of them all: Thunderbirds 1974

Number 1. Thunderbirds (1974)… The International Rescue juggernaut lasted 2 series, ran thirty-two long 50 min episodes, was broadcast in 30 countries, spawned two Supermarionation feature films, and a 2004 film based on the series. The Thunderbirds accessories caused Christmas shopping frenzies to find ‘Tracy Island’, and kids to buy plastic and metal toys by the million. Gerry’s wife, Sylvia, produced the voice for Lady Penelope, and who can forget the craggy voice of her driver/butler, Parker. I think every kid in our street had one Thunderbirds toy. Who can forget the complicated launch sequences from Tracy Island: Thunderbird One blasting off from under the swimming pool, and the palm trees folding backwards to allow Thunderbird Two to reach it's launch ramp.
And of course, the playgrounds rang to the sounds of “F.A.B. Thunderbirds Are Go!”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Brand New: Vampires Don’t Cry: A Mother’s Curse

Our latest vampire novel is a slight change in direction for us. Rather than being set in modern times like the rest of the Vampires Don't Cry series, A Mother’s Curse spans a century of struggle from 1859 to the early 1960’s. It is written in our usual two voiced style, following the adventures of two beautiful young vampires, Valérie and Theresa.
Valérie, Florence, Italy 1859: As her mother undergoes the violent transformation from human to vampire on the cold wet cobbles of a Florence alley, baby Valérie is ripped from her mother’s stomach. With this cruel beginning, the childhood of Valérie Berthier was never going to be easy. Unable to comprehend her own uniqueness, she spends her infancy in violent confusion before being institutionalized into an asylum as a young child. She matures under questionable medical supervision, only to break free in her late teens. It would take a strong spirit to tame her wildness, and Amos Blanche, a power hungry vampire is a perfect fit for the job. They form an alliance, an uneasy partnership that lasts eighty years.
Theresa, small town New Jersey, 1958. Theresa (Finch) Scholes is a typical teenager in her first year at college. There is little extraordinary until she’s turned by the local bad boyvampire, recruited into Amos's ranks. Amos has work for Theresa, and soon her life is taking the most unexpected turns. She’s befriended by Valérie, who helps her adjust to her new species, but as they are drawn into Amos’s power struggles, they have no idea of what fate has in store.
Valérie and Theresa receive specialized training, but will it be enough to survive the vampire conspiracy that surrounds them?
Born into vampire life, Valérie is unique and seen by some as “the most important person on the planet”, and although she sees herself as normal, unknown to her, she is feared and venerated by some of the elusive Council of Elders.
We think we’ve woven a great story, and hope to continue the story into a trilogy. The clicky link cover above will take you to our Amazon page where you can read the first few chapters for free. We hope you enjoy.
Details at;

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Modern Zombie: Just How Un-dead Are They?

Well, of course there are more opinions than we have aficionados; everyone seems to have their own interpretation of the properties of the modern zombie.
Movement… In some films of the George Romero type, the un-dead are simply shufflers, hardly capable of more than a mile an hour. They can move faster as they close in on flesh, but they’re hardly a problem if you have some form of enclosed transport. In others like 28 Days/Weeks Later, and World War Z, the rage-consumed populace run like sprinters, their strength and rage making it impossible for the survivors to outrun them.
Intelligence… This runs the gamut from totally stupid to having the ability to play video games (Sean of the Dead). If their ability to learn is transferred from their original human selves, we would assume that given enough time they would eventually gain some form of intelligence.
Physiology... Okay, they’re un-dead, but what does that word actually mean to their physical makeup? Do they still have some form of internal physiological system? Do they breathe? Do they have hearts that pump blood round their bodies? Does their hair continue to grow? Their nails?
All the above leave the zombie world an easy place to write in, the parameters are wide, the possibilities endless. In this world, we place our newest offering: The Zombie Safe Sex Guide: Mating and Dating in a Post-Apocalyptic World.
The Zombie Bible has been around for a year or so, teaching all forward-thinking humans to prepare to survive the holocaust/apocalypse AS A ZOMBIE.
Yes, you heard me… as a Zombie.

And we’ve had a few laughs on the way. But now, by popular demand, we’ve re-visited its dusty pages and breathed some new life into its hallowed tomes. We’ve inserted The Zombie Safe Sex Guide between the covers, and credited our shuffling colleagues with the sense of sexual passion. With chapters on dressing, hairstyles, oral sex, with the emphasis on safety, and acronyms galore, we think we’ve given you zombies out there a chance to get your jollies in a tortured and twisted world.
Available on Amazon now, and on eBooks everywhere else pretty soon.
catch up with all my outpourings here...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Two Nazareth Stories a Decade Apart, and my Contribution to Rock History: The Long Black Veil

These Nazareth albums were a common sight in Greenhall High School corridors.

Two Nazareth Stories… in two separate continents… a decade apart…
Nazareth are a Scottish rock band from Dunfermline, usually associated with the worldwide hit Love Hurts, from their 1975 album, Hair of the Dog. I remember their albums as a teenager at Greenhall High School, just ten miles south of Edinburgh (maybe 25 miles from Dunfermline)… they were our real local band, no matter what Bay City Rollers fans said. Their version of Joni Mitchell's This Flight Tonight is still one of my favorite songs, and My White Bicycle is a superb rock song. I still remember the album covers, swapping bootleg cassette recordings… Razamanaz, Loud and Proud… man, those were the days.
Years later, in the early nineties, Nazareth played a Community Centre in Cowdenbeath, just ten miles from their home base, and I went along. I looked forward to hearing their hits, but I did have a hidden agenda… A few months earlier, BBC had done a cool local history series on various Scottish towns, and Nazareth had performed a version of The Long Black Veil in the closing credits… in the show they sang A-Capella, with only drums as their accompaniment, each band member beating some kind of rhythm, with a four or five part harmony. I waited through the first half of the concert, then they had a break… we all went to the makeshift bar. To our surprise, the band also joined the fans, drinking their beers, standing in a small circle, being ignored by most of the audience, most being far too star-struck to intrude into their circle.
Not me. “I’m going to ask them where I can get a recording of it…” I said to my first wife, who, to her credit, tried to hold me back. But it was too late; I was off, weaving through the groups, my target? The band.
Nazareth, Long Black Veil; A very bad still from the BBC credits

“Hey guys” I said quite nervously, I mean, they were Nazareth, but to my surprise I was welcomed into the circle with smiles and chinks of our glasses. “I have a question.”
“What’s up, man?” Dan McCafferty croaked at me.
“You guys sang on a BBC documentary.”
“Yes we did!” the band enthused. “Long Black Veil” they chorused.
I knew I was close to my goal. “So what album is it on?” I asked. Well… that threw the cat in with the pigeons… they couldn’t decide, they suggested various albums, then shook their heads, amicably arguing amongst themselves. McCafferty muttered to himself, scratching his chin. “I don’t think we’ve ever recorded it.” He finally said. “Do you want us to play it tonight?”
Well, what could I say? I nodded enthusiastically. They asked my name, and I shook their hands, gave my thanks, and left them to their beers. In their second half, after a heavy rock song, they all kinda drifted off their instruments, and shuffled to a line on the stage. One by one they picked up drums, some unscrewing them from the drummer’s kit.
“We’re going to do a request.” Dan said, “One we’ve never done on stage before.” The crowd cheered. I stood in awe, hoping that they’d go through with it. “This is The Long Black Veil.” They began a slow dirge beat, then as Dan McCaffrey stood to the microphone, he said… “This one’s for Ian.” I felt chuffed, and stood in the audience smiling throughout the performance.
The crowd loved it.
Nazareth; a more modern version of the band.

I next bumped into Nazareth in America early in the next millennium.
The local radio station in Topeka, Kansas, announced their concert in a kinda seedy part of Kansas City, and the race was on.
“Let’s go.” My second wife, Karla, said, looking to wind down after finishing a long day at work, “It’ll be fun. They’re your countrymen.” I have to be honest, I’d been drinking through the Saturday afternoon, so I couldn’t drive. I nodded my consent, although I didn’t relish the alcohol-free hour drive from Topeka to KC. But I nodded, and got in the car… I mean what else does a good husband do?
Well, we’d left it pretty late, and it was dark when we got into the area of the bar in question. Karla seemed to have an inherent idea of where she was going, and eventually, we pulled into a packed parking lot, just as the band got out of their large bus. “We’re going to be late!” I yelled, but no matter what we did, no matter what route we took, threading through the cars, we couldn’t beat the band to the door. I walked in right behind Dan McCaffrey, and the doorman put up his hand at my attempted entrance.
“There’s a cover charge!” he shouted.
“Thank God we’re not late.” I said, out of breath from our run across the parking lot. “I just traveled five thousand miles to see these guys!” I joked. “They’re from my home town!” To our surprise, the last man from the band turned round, hearing my accent.
“Where are you from?” he said in heavily accented Scots. I swear it was Dan McCaffrey, but like I said, I had been drinking. “Fife!” I shouted, laughing at the irony of the situation. “They’re with the band!” the musician said, waving us inside, challenging the doorman to take money from us. Heck, my accent had got me another freebie.
Well, they didn’t play Long Black Veil in the seedy bar in eastern Kansas City, but we had fun. We’d gotten in free, and my notoriety had increased a notch.
Today, as I wrote this story, I looked up Long Black Veil, and found Wikipedia’s listing…
“A version by Scottish rock band Nazareth was never released on an album, but is played at live concerts.”
My contribution to Rock History….

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Vulnerable Vampire... Lost in Tudor England

A Connecticut Vampire in King Arthur's Court: Time Traveler by Misfortune, Lost in Olde England

Imagine you’re a vampire; a present-day vampire.
You are the pinnacle of human evolution, you are faster, stronger, and will outlive every human on the planet, as long as you keep your head on your shoulders, or stop people putting a wooden stake through your beating heart.
You do not fear a 'normal' human's death; you simply wake up a few hours later, usually still at the scene of your demise, or on the coroner’s stainless steel table. You rise, you escape, and you slip back into your vampire lifestyle, with nothing missed.
Wounds that would scar a human for life, heal in hours, leaving your skin flawless.
You are immune from bacteria and disease, incapable of prolonged pain, and have the hypnotic ability to elicit total control over normal humans.
And to make matters far better, you live in an age when people are reading about vampires all the time, while also not believing in them in real-life for a second.
You are virtually immortal.
Life is good.
Good, with a capital G.

Then imagine yourself the same cock-sure vampire thrown back in time 500 years.
Back to a time where every man in the land carried a weapon, usually of the thin sharp steel variety, or worse still, the sharp wood variety.
And to make matters worse, you've arrived at a time where, although the people are rabid church-goers, they're also fanatically suspicious, and are perfectly able to believe in demons, and monsters from hell.
You are suddenly rather nervous regarding the inviolability of your supposed immortality.
But it gets much, much worse…
Imagine, in this Tudor England, when you kill someone, a ‘shimmer’ happens around you, rendering you immobile and vulnerable for several seconds… a shimmer which only you feel… a shimmer which places you completely at the mercy of those sharp weapons.
Your supposed vampire imperviousness is stripped from you, leaving you to rely on other traits to survive.
Under these conditions enters Richard DeVere, present-day Connecticut born and bred. A vampire suddenly transported to a strange time of which he has little knowledge, his normal advantages stripped from him.
You have entered the world of “A Connecticut Vampire in King Arthur’s Court”, the latest novel from Ian Hall.
Available as an eBook everywhere, and a paperback at
Get more information at

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation Book 5: Druid's Work

I'd like to announce the imminent arrival of the fifth part of my Roman/Scottish saga, Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation.
The story so far… It is now the winter of 80AD, and the Romans have already invaded lowland Scotland, establishing a perimeter across the narrowest part of the country, an earthen wall between the Clyde and Forth rivers. (Sixty years later, this wall would be fortified again as the Antonine Wall). The Roman plan for the destruction of the Scottish (Pictish) people is simple; they will exterminate or bribe all who stand in their way. The Votadini clan in the eastern lowlands laid down their weapons, and received huge amounts of gold for doing so. The Selgovae on the borderlands were not so fortunate; determined to resist, they were crushed by the weight of two Roman legions.
Thus begins Caledonii, Book 5: Dhruid's Work.
Calach, the young Caledonii leader, has plans underway for the unification of the clans against the Romans, but needs time to bring his plan to fruition, and time is not on his side. The Roman commander, Julius Agricola, is under direct orders from Emperor Titus to quash the northern tribes not under Roman control, and planned a swift two year campaign to do so. With the first year safely running to plan, he winters his forces behind his earthen wall, ready to strike into the Scottish highlands and drive the Caledonii into the sea.
Uwan, Calach's younger brother, is a druid with knowledge and wisdom far beyond his years, and the druid hierarchy has plans of their own, using Uwan as the spearhead. He travels to the Irish kingdom of Dalrieda and confronts the Irish druids, enlisting the aid of the Scotti clans in a lowland rebellion against Agricola's forces. With the planned rebellion in place, their hope is to give Calach one more year to prepare.
But Uwan's eyes are on a far greater prize, not only has he work to do at home, he also has a life-changing journey to make; he must travel to the center of the empire, to Rome itself, and confront Titus.
Caledonii Part 5: Druid’s Work is the tale of Uwan’s mission and the second year of the Roman invasion of Scotland.
The words of a Scottish poet yet then unborn, the Roman’s would find out that “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”
Book 5 will be released in the Autumn of 2014, here are the other volumes.

Find out more at or at

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Aftermath of Bannockburn: The Long Journey Home

Photo by David Robertson Photography
To the rulers of the day, wars are little more than statistics-not so to the common man.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Bannockburn, King Edward’s only thought was to reach Dunbar Castle, and find some safety in this suddenly dangerous land. He fled with his personal bodyguard of mounted knights and came to no menace on the journey east. The rest of his army found the retreat a little more perilous.

For hundreds of years the Kings of Scotland had bowed to their southern cousins, and for much of that time English Barons held positions of power in Scotland. The Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare, so recently cut to pieces at Bannockburn, had been “Warden of Scotland” and “Captain of Scotland and the Northern Marches” in 1308 and 1309. The Scottish people had already endured much suffering at English hands. But with the English army in such complete disarray, the statistics of war were now firmly on the Scottish side.

It is estimated that 10,000 Englishmen died or were captured at the field of Bannockburn, or in the immediate vicinity. That leaves a schism of another 10,000 men scattering all over lowland Scotland, leaderless and frightened, all trying vainly to reach the English border and escape this wild and vengeful land. In their eagerness to flee, some men would band together, taking refuge in large numbers, knowing that the lowly Scottish farmer could not attack such a force. Some would run in pairs or alone, seeking safety in guile and cunning to sneak southwards.

Historian Peter Reece has given us a very frightening statistic. After the battle of Bannockburn only one group of men is recorded to have reached England in safety; a bunch of Welsh spearmen under the command of Sir Maurice de Berkeley arrived at Carlisle Castle many days later. In Reece’s opinion, less than a third of the survivors from Bannockburn ever got home. Cutting the refugees down singly or in small groups, the people of Scotland wreaked their own bloody vengeance for centuries of English oppression. The name Bannockburn would be spoken of proudly for 700 years and more.

Ultimately, the events of these ‘border wars’ so long ago still undermine a curious relationship between  two countries now at peace and allies for many hundreds of years. While we Scots shake hands with our southern neighbors, it seems that even today we do so somewhat grudgingly. Scotland votes on independence this year, hoping to finally cutting the ties that the Union of the Crowns achieved in 1707. We live in historical times again.

I am a historian, writer and folk singer, so have sung and written about the cause of Scottish Freedom for many years. I was a member of the SNP and campaigned vigorously for the first bid for a Scottish Parliament years ago. I love my country and insults to her honor run deep, as illustrated vividly by this personal story:

On 15 June, 2012, England played Sweden in the group stages of the European Championship. I drove to a local "pub" in my new home town of Topeka, Kansas, where I knew I’d find huge screens to watch. Scotland hadn’t qualified, so I was here to support a Scot's next favorite team; “anyone who’s playing against England”.

In the huge bar, there were only four of us watching the game, and it became quickly clear that the two men at the next table were actually English, with the accompanying English accents. To be honest, they didn’t really converse with us much and we all watched the match with interest. Then Sweden scored, and I jumped out of my seat in exclamation. “Yes!” I punched the air. When the euphoria had died down, the nearest Englishman leaned over.

“’S’cuse me, mate?” he began in a very London accent. “You’re Scottish, aren’t you?”

“Yes!” I proudly declared, wishing I’d bought a Sweden shirt for the game.

“Then why are you supporting Sweden?” he asked.

“Seven hundred years of oppression, mate.” I crisply answered.

My wife cringed in her seat as I turned back to watch the television screen oblivious to her fears. Perhaps luckily for me England won, but when I was questioned later as to why I’d said such a cruel thing to my ‘fellow countryman’, I realized that I had not considered the snub for one second. The words had been so natural, so quickly out of my mouth, that I never gave it a second thought. Yes, to "the punters" wars are much more than mere statistics...

PHOTO CREDIT: David Robertson Photography
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