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Crowfeeders (Black Horse Western) Hardcover – 24 Sep 1999

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B J Holmes (Bryan or BJ to his friends) wrote westerns under his own name and also five pen-names: Ethan Wall, Charles Langley Hayes, Sean Kennedy, Jack Darby and J William Allen.
Of his fifty books, eleven so far have been, or are being, re-issued as e-books. Alongside the Piccadilly entries (Shatterhand and Reaper series) publishers Robert Hale have issued his GUNSMOKE IN VEGAS as an e-book which is now available on Amazon under his J WILLIAM ALLEN nom-de-plume.
"The VEGAS book is the closest I ever got to a movie," BJ says, "when the president of a US state Film Commission - out of the blue - got in touch, expressing an interest in it. Discussion got as far as mentioning the word "screenplay" and, ignorant at the time of the concept of 'development hell', I reckoned I was at least one step up the magic ladder (albeit a very long ladder). So for a short time I was cock-a-hoop. But it was only to be for a short time - the matter suddenly went cold and the project didn't materialise. Heigh-ho, that's the way the cookie crumbles."
"Anyway a hefty bit of research - history, geography - had gone into it," he went on, "because I had set it in the Las Vegas of long ago - which as far as I know hadn't been done before. Nowadays we associate the place with gambling and gangsters but at the time of my story it was still just an out-of-the-way watering hole, known variously as Vegas Springs or The Meadows, whose actual whereabouts were still little known."
"Remains of the early settlement are there to this day as an historical exhibit just out of town. but of the many people I know who have holidayed in Las Vegas none have visited the site. Don't blame 'em, really - folk go there for the bright lights - not a history lesson! Anyway, readers can decide for themselves whether or not GUNSMOKE IN VEGAS would have made a good movie."

Up-dates on the author can be found on the PICCADILLY PUBLISHING website* while ADAM WRIGHT's BLACK HORSE WESTERN site** carries an extended interview (including a not-very-complimentary caricature of him as an obnoxious sheriff, done of him by one of his students). Incidentally, the latter interview also reveals how, late in life, the author happened to become for a short time a "crossword guru" (as one newspaper hyperbolically called him) with a handful of books emerging under the Bloomsbury, Collin and A & C Black labels. "I was particularly proud of the crossword dictionary which, with the 2nd edition and my adding to it daily, had taken eleven years to complete - about the same time it took Samuel Johnson to finish his dictionary - but he had an army of helpers!"

And next .... in the pipeline from Piccadilly......HEAD WEST, the first comprehensive collection of all the writer's western short stories published over a span of thirty years.


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From the Author

Since a kid I’ve always loved western films and when I was introduced to the glory of Shakespeare at school I became fascinated with the way the Bard’s plots were adapted to the western format. Delmer Daves’s Jubal with Glenn Ford is a rather obvious Othello, even down to the handkerchief acting as the trigger for suspicion and jealousy. Far more subtle is William Wellman’s Yellow Sky (Gregory Peck) which is a fascinating reworking of The Tempest with a beauty of its own. There are several others but best of all is Anthony Mann’s The Man from Laramie, solidly based on King Lear with Lear becoming a megalomaniac ranch-owner and James Stewart in the Gloucester role. Interestingly, just about the most horrific scene on the stage is the putting out of Gloucester’s eyes and in the film this becomes the deliberate putting of a bullet through Stewart’s gun-hand, which even today must be one of the most gruesome scenes in the history of the cinema.
So, when I had become an established writer, my thoughts turned to having a go at pillaging Old Bill for myself. I chose a play and, in between working on other projects, selected key scenes and rewrote them. Initially it was just as an exercise, without any immediate intention of getting published.
Years on, following an illness which had made writing difficult, I was clearing out my files and came across the forgotten notes. Having something that was already half-written meant I didn’t have to start from scratch. (With regard to the prospect of starting a new book, my illness had put me on a par with an inexperienced climber looking up at Everest from base camp.) So I tweaked here and there, wrote linking passages, finding that the thing began to take on a life of its own, growing organically as a novel does and distancing itself somewhat from the original. And the result was Crowfeeders.
So there it is – a Shakespearian play in the guise of an "aw-shucks" shoot-’em-up western. Given its long gestation and the arduous task of bringing it to completion, I must admit to being a little proud of it.
And, as to which of the Bard’s plays served as the inspiration, I leave it to the astute reader to figure out!

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