Friday, 28 August 2015

Military History Photo Friday: Pepperbox Pistol


I came across an interesting old gun in an antique shop here in Oxford. It was a so-called pepperbox gun much like the one pictured above. The pepperbox was an early form of revolver that, instead of having a cylinder that revolved, had four or more barrels that all revolved together. Early models had to be rotated by hand but later models had an action connected to the trigger so it would rotate with each shot.

The concept goes back to medieval times, and I wrote about a similar multibarreled handgonne on another blog. They were most popular from about 1800 up to around 1860, when they were replaced by proper revolvers. The pepperbox never saw any official military use that I know of and was strictly a personal weapon. While the multishot capability was a major benefit, it was front heavy and couldn't be aimed very well.

I've always liked antiques and was tempted to pick it up. But how could I justify spending 300 pounds ($460) on a gun that doesn't work anymore? Well, maybe it works. I'll let you try it while I stand at a safe distance.

Here's another percussion cap model, somewhat cruder, from the Museum of Weapons in Tula, Russia. While the gun shown above has six barrels, this only has four.

Images courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Blurb help please!

I'm getting ready to publish We Had Flags, Book 3 in my Toxic World post-apocalyptic series. It will be out in mid-September. Right now I'm fiddling with the blurb, always a tricky part of any project, and I could use some help. The blurb is below. Any thoughts? Thanks!

A law doesn't work if everyone breaks it.
For forty years, New City has been a bastion of order in a fallen world. One crucial law has maintained peace--it is illegal to place Blame for the collapse of civilization. Anyone found guilty of Blame is branded and stripped of citizenship.
But when some unwelcome visitors arrive from across the sea, old wounds break open and no one is safe from Blame.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Book Review: Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street

Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub StreetPulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street by Paul S. Powers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a writer, I've always been interested in the pulp magazine era. It was a time when writers could make a living on short stories by writing for the myriad of pulp titles available on the newsstands. Some writers were massively prolific, often churning out millions of words a year.
Paul Powers, the author of this memoir, was one of those writers. He wrote hundreds of short stories and novellas and lived through the golden age of the pulps.
His tale is a sad one, however. He wrote almost exclusively for the Western magazines, a genre that was dwindling as early as the 1930s. Yet Powers forged on well into the 1950s, making less and less money as he succumbed to exhaustion, lack of inspiration, and alcoholism. This provdes a doubly cautionary tale for writers--don't be a one-trick pony and don't get sucked into the bottle.
Besides this important bit of wisdom, the book is less than useful for someone interested in the writing of the period. Much of the memoir is about Powers' various moves throughout the West, and is padded out with a long intorduction and conculsion by his granddaughter, who discovered the manuscript, researched Powers, and finally got it published. A large amount of her writing is only of personal interest to members of the family and I found myself skimming these parts.
If you're going to read only one book on the era, I would suggest The Pulp Jungle by Frank Gruber, which is far more informative about the lives of writers and editors and the business of pulp magazine publishing. I've reviewed it here. If you want some more detail about the Western pulps, and the sad tale of how the pulp era ground down writers, give the Powers memoir a try.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Travel Tuesday: Protodynastic Egyptian Bracelet in the Petrie Museum


Can you tell I like the Petrie Museum? I blogged about this place for earlier posts on Midlist Writer about slings and other ancient Egyptian artifacts. I also did a post with lots of photos for Black Gate.

This is a bracelet from the Protodynatic Period, also called Naqada III, a time from c. 3200-3000 BC when states were beginning to form but the country had not yet been unified. The first hieroglyphs also date from this time, as do some rich cemeteries.

Someone should start making replicas of this bracelet, because my wife would love one. I think the original is out of my price range!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Enjoying an Oxford Summer

I'm nearing the end of my usual summer of research/writing/relaxing in Oxford. Weather-wise, this has been a nonsummer in the UK, with cool temperatures and way too many clouds. Like the English, we take advantage of any good weather we get and immediately head outdoors. This shot of the River Isis (the local name for the Thames) was taken on a walk to the medieval church of St. Margaret’s and its holy well. I also celebrated turning halfway to 92 with a medieval birthday cake. Click the links for the posts I wrote about this for Black Gate.

In writing news, I'm doing the final edits on We Had Flags, the third novel in my post-apocalyptic Toxic World series. It will come out in September. I'm also moving along in No Man's Land, the third in my Trench Raiders series.With all this bad weather, I've been doing more than my usual hiding in the Oxford University library researching and writing!

How has everyone else's summer been?

Friday, 21 August 2015

Military History Photo Friday: German Artillery of World War One


I'm hard at work on No Man's Land, book 3 in my Trench Raiders series, and the guys are having a bit of trouble with German artillery. They've been mucking about in No Man's Land, trying to assert their primacy over the space between the opposing lines, and now the Germans are telling Willoughby, Crawford, and the rest of the gang what they think of their antics by lobbing over a bunch of shells.

It's only a year into the war, so the Germans are still using a lot of older field guns, like the 7.7 cm Feldkanone 96 shown above in this image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. As the name suggests, they first came out in 1896 and by 1915 were well out of date with current technology. The piece had a significant recoil that meant it needed to be adjusted after each shot, thereby reducing the rate of fire.

Most were remodeled just before the war with a recoilless system plus a new carriage and front shield. They were given the added specification n.A. (neuer Art, meaning "new model"). This model proved much more useful and was the standard German field gun throughout the first two years of the war. One can be seen in the photo below photo courtesy Drake Goodman. Both models used a crew of five, so I'm not sure who the extra guys were. Perhaps they just wanted to have their photograph taken!
These two models were specifically designed as mobile field artillery. It soon became apparent, however, that the Germans were going nowhere fast. The guns' effective range of 5,500 meters was considered insufficient and in 1916 a new model came out, the 7.7 cm FK 16 with an effective range of 9,100 meters.

It had a much longer barrel that could be brought to a higher angle, as can be seen in this Wikimedia Commons photo, and it weighed considerably more. By this point in the war mobility no longer mattered, range and destructive power did. While this proved a more useful gun, shortages in German industry by this point meant that older field guns remained in use until the end.

The average British soldier came to know these guns all too well, being on the receiving end of their shots day in and day out. In fact, they probably knew more about German artillery than their own. No one wanted to get near the artillery of their own side because it was so often a target of the enemy!

Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Rat Killer and other Weird War Tales out now!


My latest short story collection, The Rat Killer and other Weird War Tales, is out now on Amazon and Smashwords. It's going through the Smashwords system of Premium distribution and will soon be available in all major online retailers. The cover is, as usual, done by my talented brother-in-law Andrés. It looks a bit different form his regular stuff and I think it works well. The book retails for $2.99. A blurb is below.

A rat hunter on the Western Front suspects his prey are plotting against him…
A routine trip through the trenches leads to an unexpected insight…
A soldier discovers the most dangerous enemy can't be killed…
A bereaved woman performs a forbidden ritual to avenge her father’s murder…
A doomed militia is offered a path to victory that leads to damnation…

Here are five tales of war from the pen of military historian and novelist Sean McLachlan. From the bushwhackers of the American Civil War to the trenches of WWI, these stories walk the line from the strange and paranormal to the frighteningly real.
Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.