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Sunday, 22 December 2013


The last adventure in the series of ebook short stories in The Casebook of Doctor Marcus Quigley is out now.

Doctor Marcus Quigley, itinerant dentist, gambler and bounty hunter has been trailing a vicious murderer across the United States for several years. Now, when he has finally learned where his man is hiding, he hears that he has been shot and killed in a crooked poker game. Marcus makes his way to identify the corpse, only to learn that life has just become a lot more complicated – and dangerous!

Saturday, 14 December 2013


Western Fictioneers have two anthologies out in time for Christmas. These are respectively volumes 9 and 10 in the Wolf Creek series, written under the house name of Ford Fargo.



If you have followed the Wolf Creek novels so far, you will know that things are hardly ever as they seem. These are not chocolate box portrayals of Christmas in Kansas 1871, but a mixture of tales that will whet your appetite for more. They are both available from Amazon as paperbacks or ebooks for Kindle.

Clay More's story, told from the point of view of his character, Doc Logan Munro the town doctor is called THE SPIRIT OF HOGMANAY. It is the penultimate story in Volume 10.

Wolf Creek, Book 10: 

Sarah’s Christmas Miracle
by Big Jim Williams
Irish Christmas at Wolf Creek
by Charlie Steel
A Home for Christmas
by Cheryl Pierson
The Angel Tree
by Chuck Tyrell
The Spirit of Hogmanay
by Clay More
O Deadly Night
by Troy D. Smith

Wolf Creek Book 9: 

The Last Free Trapper
by Jory Sherman
A Savior is Born
by Meg Mims
That Time of Year
by Jerry Guin
‘Twas the Fight before Christmas
by Jacquie Rogers
A Kiowa Christmas Gift
by Troy D. Smith
Renewal of Faith
by James J. Griffin

Sunday, 1 December 2013



When you set out to write a historical novel, whether that is set in prehistory, medieval England or the American Old West the first thing you have to do is immerse yourself in that time period. One thing you can be sure of is that if you get the historical details wrong then some of your readers will probably stop reading at that point in the story without enjoying the rest of the adventure. You have to pass the test of time.

We are talking about anachronisms. The word comes from the Greek ana, meaning 'against' and chronos, meaning 'time'. Effectively it refers to an inconsistency in time. An obvious example would be having a telephone back in the days of King Henry VIII, or having a character in the 19th century using  a slang term from the 21st century. It is acceptable to have these things occur in a Sci Fi time story, or even in an alternate universe or Steampunk novel, wherein you have created an alternative time and technology, but it is not acceptable in historical novels.

The Wimshurst machine, an electrostatic generator was invented between 1880 and 1883

Yet it is easy to slip them in by accident if you just assume that certain things had been invented 'round about' a particular time. The only way to guard against it is to be meticulous in your research, getting things pinned down to exact dates.

As a doctor I introduce medical details into most of my novels and stories. I make sure, however, that I have researched the minutia about the medical and surgical instruments that I have my characters use and I make sure that they are practising exactly as an actual doctor of the time would practice. That means I go back to primary sources. I consult medical textbooks of the time to ensure that particular illnesses were known about then, that surgical operations or techniques had been developed and that a treatment outcome would be plausible. While books and films often have someone half-dead or in the advanced stages of septicaemia brought to a town doctor in the 1870s who almost miraculously cures them because he is so skilled, the reality would probably be quite different. Don't get me wrong, my characters do perform cutting edge (for the time) operations but I make sure that what they do would be feasible, using the techniques and facilities of the time.

Let me give you an example. Don't have a doctor in the Old West taking somebody's blood pressure. It was not understood. Indeed it was not until 1896 that Scipione Riva-Rocci invented the sphygmomanometer. This was done using a mercury manometer. It was subsequently refined by Von Recklinghausen in 1906, which used a moving needle to measure the pressure. In neither of these was a stethoscope used. Indeed, the stethoscope was still a relatively new instrument and it did not occur to anyone that there were useful sounds that could tell one about blood pressure.
Having this early 20th century sphygmomanometer to measure blood pressure in the Old West would be an anachronism
A Russian doctor, Nicolai Korotkoff (1874-1918) wrote a thesis about his use of the stethoscope to measure blood pressure in 1910. It was entitled Experiments for determining the strength of the arterial collaterals. In this book he outlined the method of taking the blood pressure that has been used right up until the present day. But it wasn't used in the 19th century; that would be an anachronism.
So too it is with my character of Doc Marcus Quigley, itinerant dentist, gambler and bounty hunter, whose adventures I write for High Noon Press. He practices with the dental equipment of the time, using the techniques then known. 
   Dental toothkeys were going out of fashion in the late 19th century, but some dentists still used them
It is actually great fun doing the historical research when you write a western or any other type of historical novel. Steep yourself in the time period and get a feel for it. Makes copious notes and find out when certain things were invented and when they drifted into common usage. Make sure you pass the test of time.

Monday, 25 November 2013

DICE DIVINATION - another dice trick to entertain your friends

As you will know if you have been following the ebook adventures in The Casebook of Doctor Marcus Quigley, my character is an itinerant dentist, gambler and occasional bounty hunter. He is particularly fond of dice.

Most people are aware that on a die (that's the singular of dice) the numbers on two opposing faces add up to seven. This has been the basic design of dice since about 1400 BC. This little fact is used again and again in various dice tricks, such as the little effect I am going to describe here.
But less well known is the fact that dice can be right or left-handed. This is a topological principle in that right-handed and left-handed dice are mirror images of each other, which cannot be superimposed on each other. 
Because the opposing numbers add up to seven, it means that the one, two and three and the six, five and four will meet at opposite vertices. Get a die in front of you and check that out. 

                                                             Right and left-handed dice

Now place it in front of you so that the one is on top and so the two and the three are also visible. Western die will have the two on the left and the three will be to the right of it. That is, it goes counter-clockwise. This is called a right-handed die. It is the standard pattern of all western dice. 

Chinese dice are left-handed. A left-handed die with the one on top  will have the two on the right and the three on the left of it. That is, it is clockwise. You will see this on Mah Jong dice.

Look at the pips now. There are differences here also. Western dice tend to have all the pips either black or white. They are all the same colour and the same size.
                                               Western and Eastern dice (Eastern in the centre)

Chinese and Korean dice have a single very large one or ace, which is coloured red. And the four is also usually red. 

AND NOW FOR DICE DIVINATION - an easy trick with three dice.

You hand a spectator three dice and get them to roll them while your back is turned. Then get them to make a stack of the three. You turn and with barely a look at the stack tell them that you can make a dice divination. You reveal a number, which will be the total of the numbers that are hidden from view.
As the top die is removed and the hidden numbers are added together, your audience will be amazed that you were correct.

The Method
The trick simply depends upon the principle that the two opposing faces always add up to 7. So when you turn you just glance at the top number. You then subtract that from 21 and you will have the total.
After giving the total you deliberately instruct the spectator on which number to add. Firstly, he should remove the top die and look at the number on its bottom. To this add the number of the second die that has been revealed. Then lift that up and add the number that was on its bottom, then the number on the top of the last die, and finally the number on the bottom of the last die.

The Presentation
This is as outlined in the Effect. The only thing to focus on is that you only glance at the top number, then you quickly look away. Misdirect the audience’s attention to the other numbers that are on the other faces, and the fact that you could not have seen them all. 

That's it - Hey Presto!

Monday, 11 November 2013



In my ebook series of short stories The Casebook of Doctor Marcus Quigley, published by High Noon Press, you may have noticed that Marcus Quigley, itinerant dentist and occasional bounty hunter is also a proficient gambler. He is strictly honest, of course, but he can spot a card-sharper or a dice mechanic within moments..

A couple of blogs ago I talked about a simple dice trick that you can try out on friends. Marcus used it in book V of the series, The Shooter.

This time I'm going to focus on another little curio with cards.

Instead of counting the cards one by one, you can check a 52 card deck, that is a deck without jokers in it, by spelling out the names of the cards. Before you start, look through the deck and bring the King of Diamonds to the bottom. You are now ready to start.

With the deck held in one hand, all face down, place one card face down on the table and call out ‘A’, then toss the next card on top and call out ‘C’, then the next and call out ‘E’. 

So you have spelled Ace. Now continue through the entire deck .... ‘T’, then ‘W’, then ‘O’, and keep going through the cards and  spelling out each letter until you do the King.

And as you reach the final card just ask the audience which of the four kings went to war? Let them guess, then you toss down the King of Diamonds face up, explaining that you can always tell it was him, for he was the one who lost an eye. And if they would like to check, they will find that it is true.

Just remember that you spell Jack, rather than knave!

Then you may like to show all four Kings and tell them who they are. We are not exactly sure, but it is speculated that the  four Kings relate to the following historical characters:

The King of Diamonds is suspected to be Julius Caesar or Caesar Augustus.

The King of Spades is said to be King David.

The King of Clubs is said to be Alexander the Great.

And the King of Hearts is said to be Charlemagne. 

The King of Diamonds is usually the only one in profile, hence the one eye, and the King of Hearts is sometimes called the ‘suicide card,’ because it depicts a King stabbing his head with his sword.

And I'll be back soon!