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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gerald Gordon

The Crooked Rain by Gerald Gordon (Digit Books, May 1957) Cover by Ed Blandford

Gerald Gordon was a South African author, born in Kimberley on 19 January 1909, the son of Solomon Gordon and his wife Frances (nee Fine). He matriculated from Kimberley Boys High School in 1925, having won the London College of Preceptors Prize for top place in the British Empire in Latin and Greek, the Kimberley Dux Medal and the De Beers and Diamond Scholarships which took him to the University of Cape Town. There he read classics, winning the top place in Latin and shared the Governor General's prize for the best BA student. After his first year, he switched to reading law, obtaining five medals and three distinctions. In 1930 he received his LL.B. degree and was admitted to the bar the following year. He published his first book on law in 1936.

Gordon joined the South African Infantry in 1940, serving in East Africa and Egypt in the Intelligence Section; later he returned to the Union as Information Officer with the rank of lieutenant; he was demobilized in 1945 with the rank of captain.

He returned to the bar in Cape Town and became a King's Counsel from 1949. With Leo Marquard and some of their former colleagues in the army's Information Service, he formed the Institute of Citizenship, serving on its council and, for 17 years, as its Honorary Life President.

He distinguished himself at the bar in a number of cases fighting restrictions on coloured persons and, in 1958, stood for the South African Liberal Party, although he was not elected. He was chairman of the Cape Bar Council for three terms from 1965 to 1972. He retired from active practice in 1974 but continued to write articles on politics and sociological topics for the South African press. He was also a director of Purnell & Sons (publishers), Chairman of Contrast, a South African literary journal, and National President of SA PEN. In 1996 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws hororis causa by the University of Cape Town.

Gordon travelled widely around Africa, including a 9,000-mile safari south of the Sahara in 1954-55, and his interested included climbing, swimming, the arts and music. In all he wrote only three novels, the first, Let the Day Perish (1952), translated into seven languages, including Hebrew, Rumanian and Russian.

He was married to literary critic Nancy Muriel Baines in 1960 and had two children. He died in 1998.

In a tribute written for Consultus (November 1998), Judge President Gerald Friedman wrote, "I knew Gerald for almost 50 years. I worked with him at the Bar and marvelled at the thoroughness with which he approached his briefs. He was undoubtedly one of the Cape Bar's great sons. His passing is a great loss to us all."

PUBLICATIONS

Novels
Let the Day Perish. London, Methuen & Co., 1952; as Dark Brother, New York, Pyramid Books, 1954.
The Crooked Rain. London, Macdonald & Co., 1954.
Four People. Cape Town, Purnell & Sons, 1964; London, Macdonald & Co., 1964.

Non-fiction
South African Law of Insurance. Cape Town, Juta & Co., 1936; revised 2nd edition, assisted by W. S. Getz, 1969; revised 3rd edition as Gordon and Getz on the South African Law of Insurance, by W. S. Getz and D. M. Davis with Gerald Gordon, 1983; revised 4th edition, 1993.
Public Safety Bill is Dictatorship (pamphlet). Cape Town, Civil Rights League, 1953.
Law of Compulsory Motor Vehicle Insurance, with A. Suzman. Cape Town, Juta & Co., 1954; revised 2nd edition as Suzman and Gordon on the Law of Compulsory Motor Vehicle Insurance, with W. Odes, 1970; revised 3rd edition as Suzman, Gordon and Hodes on the Law of Compulsory Motor Vehicel Insurance in South Africa, with Lionel H. Hodes, Juta, 1982.

Others
The Long Way Round by Anthony Delius; photographs by Gerald Gordon & John Torres. Cape Town, Timmins Publishers, 1956.
Dark Pilgrim by Frans Venter, translated from Afrikaans by Gerald & Walter Gordon. Kibdibm Collins, 1959.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

J D Salinger cover gallery

The death of J. D. Salinger on Wednesday prompts a cover gallery of UK paperback editions of his work. Not that Salinger had a happy relationship with his publishers over here. Salinger, of course, shot to fame with the publication of The Catcher in the Rye in 1951 and immediately became a semi-recluse.

When Penguin published an edition of the novel, they published a photograph of Salinger, as they did for every author where a picture was available. Salinger was unhappy and insisted—indeed, had it written into contracts—that future Penguin editions of his work carried no photograph or biographical sketch and no reviews on the covers.

This led designers to struggle with the design of Salinger's books. The 1964 edition of Raise High the Roof bean, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction was purely typographical. Even the use of typography caused problems, as was revealed by Phil Baines in his book Penguin By Design: in 1968, Penguin found themselves "between designers" and, as an emergency measure, were publishing each book with a 36pt "A Penguin Book" strap line. This oversized headline was used on Salinger's Franny and Zooey. An unhappy Salinger had the headline removed and the cover became one of the most minimalist on Penguin's list.

One title that did have an illustrated cover was the Ace edition of For EsmeWith Love and Squalor, published in 1959. This had a fabulous cover by Enric Sio and carried a range of reviews on the back cover... perhaps the reason why Ace Books did only the one Salinger novel. It was subsequently reprinted by Four Square. Penguin, with their strict overall design concept, could pull off the minimalist covers that most other publishers would have rejected.


Update: 3 February 2010
Salinger continued to be heavily involved in the covers Penguin produced for his books into the 1990s when they were reissued, as revealed by Tim Bates in a recent letter to The Guardian.

Publications
The Catcher in the Rye. Boston, MA, Little, Brown, 1951; London, Hamish Hamilton, 1951.
Nine Stories. Boston, MA, Little, Brown, 1953; as For EsmeWith Love and Squalor and other stories, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1953.
Franny and Zooey. Boston, MA, Little, Brown, 1961; London, Heinemann, 1962.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. Boston, MA, Little Brown, 1963; London, Heinemann, 1963.
The Complete Uncollected Short Stories of J. D. Salinger. California, 2 vols., 1974.
Hapworth 16, 1924. Washington, DC, Orchises, 1997.

(* The rejected cover image for Franny and Zooey is from Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005 by Phil Baines, London, Allen Lane, 2005.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Comic Cuts - 29 January 2010

A busy week... if I was on twitter you'd have seen a lot of very smiley tweets—or whatever it is you do to signify happiness—on Monday as I finished the introduction for Wells Fargo and on Tuesday the biographical sketches of author Kelman Frost and artist Don Dawrence. That doesn't quite complete the book but it does take care of almost all the writing, which means I can take a pause for a few days while the artwork goes off to be proofed.

Mind you, if I'd been twittering all this I probably wouldn't have any of these things finished. And I like to have some news for the news column!

The hot-off-the-press news (for me anyway) is that the next pair of StormThe Collection albums are underway. I got the rough translation for the tenth collection through this week and have already started work on it. Volume ten contains two more albums: The Return of the Red Prince and The Von Neumann Machine, both written by Martin Lodewijk and both drawn by Don Lawrence. This puts us within spitting distance of completing the run of 22 albums that Don Lawrence drew, although I'm hopeful that the books have found enough of an audience to merit translating the new stories currently appearing in the Dutch comic Eppo. There's also the Storm-related book Commander Grek to think about, too.

Next week we have our regular monthly Recent Releases and Upcoming Releases columns and, mid-week, I'll be starting a new strip, something a little more substantial that the 4-part "Red Badge of Courage". In the meantime I'll leave you with a couple of covers to 'tease' the Upcoming Releases which will include details of the new Best of Battle and Darkie's Mob collections.

Add them to your wants list now!

Bill Ritchie (1931-2010)

Bill Ritchie, who spent 39 years as an artist with D. C. Thomson, died suddenly on Monday evening, 25 January, at his home in Friockheim, near Arbroath, Scotland, aged 78.

William Ritchie was born in Glasgow on 1 August 1931 and, as a teenager, was one of Scotland's top cycle speedway riders, riding with the Craigton, Glasgow and Scotland teams and competing in the Olympic Championship in 1948 (a 3-day event held at Crossmyloof in which he placed second overall) and the Scotland vs. England 'test' in 1949.

At the same time, he was studying at the Glasgow School of Art, although taught himself the art of cartooning by copying the work of popular Scottish cartoonists like Bud Neill and Jimmy Malcolm. It was Malcolm who suggested that he offer his work to Dundee-based D. C. Thomson.

Ritchie gave up cycling when he entered his National Service, spending most of his time as a Corporal in the Military Police in Korea. He was, however, still able to draw, and his first published cartoon appeared in The Weekly News. On his return, he moved to Dundee and pursued a career as a staff artist with Thomsons.

His first comic strip, "Clumsy Claude—The Blunder Boy", debuted in The Beano in January 1955, but it was with "Baby Crockett", a character derived from Davy Law's popular "Wee Fella" strip in The People's Journal, that Ritchie found his signature character. Named after the popular Davy Crockett, "the tiny mite who's dynamite" debuted in issue 34 (8 September 1956), was the bane of his family, especially his dad. Such was the popularity of the character that for 15 of his 37-year run, his weekly adventures ran simultaneously in Beezer/Beezer & Topper (1956-93) and Bimbo/Little Star (1961-76).

Ritchie was also responsible for a number of other hugely popular characters, including schoolgirl "Toots" (Bunty, 1956-86), schoolboy "Smiffy" (Beezer, 1967-88), and "Hairy Dan--Football Fan" (Beezer, 1972-81). Other strips from his prolific pen included "Pooch", "Pip the Penguin", "The Moonsters", "Barney Bulldog", "The Twitz of the Ritz", "Sweet Sue", "Hungry Hoss", "Pam" (and the spin-off "Scratcher"), "Kong" and "Gnatasha". Ritchie also drew strips and covers for Annuals and, in his early days, illustrations for Thomsons story papers.

"The simplicity of his line disguised the absolute craftsmanship and skilled composition of his pages," says Lew Stringer in a tribute to Ritchie. "There's no mistaking his style and it was always of the highest professional standard. Over the decades he must have entertained millions of children, and that's a proud achievement that I hope will bring some comfort for his family in this time of loss."

Although he retired after 39 years, Ritchie continued to work for Thomsons, his output even as a septuagenarian including regular cartoons in The Weekly News, and, as Willie Ritchie, illustrating two books written by Alison Mary Fitt.

Ritchie met his wife, Anne Wynd, in Dundee and they married in 1959. They had three children, Pete, Ian and Jacqueline, raised in the family home in Carnoustie, near Dundee. Ritchie and his wife moved the short distance north to Friockheim in 2001.

Reporting on the news on the Comics UK forum, Iain McLaughlin, sub-editor of The Beano, said: Bill's enormous catalogue of work will be well known to every British comics fan. For those of us who worked with Bill, he was one of the folk you always looked forward to seeing. You knew you'd have a good laugh and an interesting chat with Bill. His knowledge of comics and artists was extraordinary. And he was just a really nice guy, always gracious and helpful. A genuinely nice man who will be missed greatly by all of us who worked with him."

Obituaries: The Courier (28 January 2010), Daily Telegraph (24 February 2010).
Tributes: Lew Stringer (27 January 2010), Down the Tube (28 January 2010); Peter Gray (various).

Illustrated Books
Scottish Nursery Rhymes by Norah Montgomerie. Hogarth Press, 1946.
The Story of Clan MacWee by Alison Mary Fitt. GW Publishing, 2008.
The Story of Caln Mingin by Alison Mary Fitt. GW Publishing, 2008.

(* The (uncredited) photograph comes from the Courier, linked above; Baby Crockett and Smiffy are both © D. C. Thomson.)

The Red Badge of Courage part 4

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Comic Cuts: 25 January 2010

A quick bit of blog news. Our first strip of the year begins tomorrow and runs to the end of the week—a nice short one by Ramon Sola, best-known to most British comics' readers as the artist of "Hook Jaw" in Action. This one is a little less frenetic but still full of action as it adapts the classic American Civil War story The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.

Now that I've completed work on the Wells Fargo artwork (finished it late Friday night—example above), I'm feeling a little more inclined towards sorting out the strip content on Bear Alley, so I should have another strip starting about the middle of next week, following the monthly Recent Releases and Upcoming Releases columns, which I'll be updating this week for publication next Monday and Tuesday. Hopefully I'll still have some time to write up some more columns about forgotten writers as I'm still steadily tidying up some of my shelves and scanning covers whenever I get a chance; last night I scanned another twenty covers for the Christie Cover Cavalcade, which pretty much clears me out. Mind you, there are still a few boxes of books I've not had a look at yet... who knows what might turn up.

The latest episode of the Comics Novelisations and Tie-Ins listing was posted yesterday (scroll down if you missed it) and I'll try to get the final section up in a more timely fashion. And I've some ideas for future galleries which should keep me and the scanner busy for a few months to come.

Comic Cuts: 2009 Wrap Party

Figures released by Nielsen Bookscan revealed that Titan Books had a very good year in 2009, with revenue up on 2008 by £1.6 million to £6.76 million. "Titan for the second year in a row benefited from the Watchmen film," said The Bookseller's Tom Tivnan and Philip Stone. "Alan Moore's graphic novel contributed £713,000 to Titan's coffers in 2008 due to pre-release buzz, and just over £1m in its release year of 2009."

What they don't mention is that if Watchmen accounts for a million, that still leaves increases of over £500,000 spread across the rest of its output, some of which was admittedly Watchmen-related. But hopefully a good sign.

The best-selling comics'-related book was, of course, the Beano Annual, with sales of 227,949. The new year deep discounting will boost that number in January 2010, as it will have for all annuals.

In other annual-related news, Pedigree had 24 titles break the £50,000 barrier in 2009, up from 18 in 2008, and showed a growth in revenue of 42%, reaching £5.26 million in 2009. Their leading titles were X-Factor and WWE and, although I've not found precise figures, 155,000 and 115,000 respectively are probably in the right ballpark.

Egmont's biggest selling annual was Hannah Montana, with a total sale in the region of 157,000, a long way down on last year's big seller, High School Musical, which probably sold around 260,000.

I've no figures for magazine sales in 2009 as the Audit Bureau of Circulations website now requires a subscription to access figures. Oddly enough, this now makes D. C. Thomson—traditionally seen as the most secretive of British publishers when it came to circulation information—the easiest to find figures for. Circulation figures relating to the period January to June 2009 show that The Beano sold an average 53,964 copies a week, Dandy Xtreme 20,403 a fortnight and Beano Max 42,565 a month. All three saw changes in comparison to the previous six monthly figures (covering July to December 2008), The Beano down almost 8,000 (a drop of 12.8%), Dandy Xtreme down by 6,000 (-23.6%) and BeanoMax actually seeing a small rise, up 2.6%. With the Commando books selling approximately 40,000 a month (Thomson's own figure for 2008, so possibly out of date), it is easy to see that comics—always considered a minor part of Thomson's output, even in the heady days of sales in the millions—would now be little more than a sideline for D. C. Thomson were it not for the sales of annuals. The Beano's weekly sale pales in comparison to Thomson's other famous weekly magazine, The People's Friend, which continues to sell 313,711 per issue.

The most interesting experiment of the year was Egmont's four specials, something I hope has proven successful (although I had some problems getting hold of the Misty Special). It might lead to more experiments on the newsstand in the future. The number of reprint books was down on 2008, primarily due to projects delayed at Titan and the low number of titles put out by Prion. The 2010 titles, from Prion at least, are likely to be slimmer and cheaper in the hope of broadening their appeal and getting them into shops that have previously not taken them. With any luck, the economy will pick up and we will start to see more titles planned for 2011.

Edith Blair-Staples

From little acorns...

John Herrington noted an undated novel included in Crime Fiction Bibliography credited to Edith Blair-Staple published in the "My Pocket" Novels series produced by Hornsey Journal in the 1920s. The novel (actually, at 64 pages, probably more correctly a novelette) dates from 1923 and was the work of Edith Blair-Staples (with an additional 's' not on the novel). A Google search of her name results in only a handful of hits, most often in connection to a short story co-authored by romance authoress Hermina Black, herself a prolific contributor to the "My Pocket" Novels series, and once in a biographical sketch of dancer and dance director William Chappell.

The latter reveals that William Chappell, born in Wolverhampton on 20 September 1907, was the son of Edith Blair-Staples and actor William Chappell. "His parents separated and his mother, Edith Blair-Staples, moved the family to Balham, South London, c.1913 and became a fashion journalist."

From this little acorn we have been able to reconstruct a little of the family tree. William Chappell, the father, was born Archie Walter Chappell in Stourbridge in 1879. This leads us to his marriage in 1905, in Devonport, Devon, to Edith Eva C. Black.

Working backwards, we find that Edith Eva Staples married George Frederick Black in Prestwich, Lancashire, in 1892.

In the 1881 census, we discover that Edith E. Staples was the daughter of Frederick I. G. Staples, born in Ceylon in c.1838, and then a Chief Constable working in Stockport. Edith's mother was Julia Mary Wilhelmina Staples (nee Waller), born in East Grinstead, 1844, and the family included a number of siblings: Mary Hermina H. Staples (b. St Helens, Channel Islands, c.1864; married 1888), Frederick H. M. Staples (b. Ceylon, c.1866), Edith E. Staples (b. Ceylon, c.1868), Alice Maud W. Staples (b. Ceylon, c.1870). Arthur Durnford Staples (b. Stockport, Cheshire, 1875; a Corporal with the 18th London regiment (London Irish Rifles) when he died 12 April 1917) and Edwin G. H. Staples (b. Stockport, c.1877). Frederick's brother-in-law, Christian Waller, was also living with the family at Victoria Park, Stockport.

The 1891 census lists the father as Fred Blair Staples, a Commission Agent still living in Stockport with wife Julia and their three youngest children Maud, Arthur and Edwin, who were all still in school. In 1901, Frederick, Julia and Maud had moved to St. Leonard, Wandsworth, south London. Frederick was now described as a "Colonel in Army (retired)". Frederick died in 1909, aged 71.

Frederick can be be found in the ranks of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment. The London Gazette reveals that, on 24 April 1855, Frederick Blair Staples, Gent., was to be made Ensign, without purchase, of that regiment. Ensign Staples then rose to Lieutenant, by purchase, on 1 August 1856. On 21 January 1874, it was noted that Captain Frederick Blair Staples, late of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment, was to made Captain of the 80th Foot; a year later, on 6 January 1875, Captain Staples retired on temporary half-pay. On 21 June 1879, Captain Staples, late 80th Foot, was made Brevet Major of the 93rd Foot, and Major from 14 July 1879. On 25 February 1880, Captain and Brevet Major Staples retired on a pension with the honourary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Edith's mother died in Wandsworth in 1931, aged 87.

Piecing all this together, we discover that Edith Staples was born in Colombo, Ceylon, probably in 1868 and returned with her family to England in around 1873, living firstly in Stockport. Although she cannot be found in the 1891 census, Miss Edith Blair Staples appeared at the Theatre Royal, Stockport, in 1891 in the play Proof which set a local record in receipts. She married in 1892 and had a daughter, Emma Hermina Mary Black, born in Stockport on 9 June 1893—better known as the romance writer Hermina Black.

Edith then married Archie Walter Chappell in 1905. In 1911, Hermina is living with her grandmother, Julia, in Wandsworth, her occupation given in the census as actress. Edith and Archie, meanwhile, were living in Kings Norton with their son William but they separated soon after and Edith and William moved to Balham, where Edith took up a career as a fashion writer.

Archie had served three years with the Staffordshire Yeomanry but saw no war service until signing up for the South African Expeditionary Forces on 14 March 1916. Archie listed his next of kin as Edith Eva Clara Chappell (wife) of 10 Coalbrook Mansions, Bedford Hill, Balham, London S.W.; the records say he is married and has two children. The two children are likely to be their son William and Hermina, Edith's daughter from her previous marriage.

What happened to Edith? I did have a theory that Edith had married a third time, to Alfred E. Goodman in Lewisham in 1914. However, this turns out to be incorrect and the marriage relates to Edith Clara E. Chappell, born in Greenwich in 1871, who died in Bromley, Kent, in 1959, aged 88. Just goes to show you have to be careful with this kind of research.

Rather, I now believe she died in Kensington in 1952, aged 84, her death registered under the name Edith E. C. Chappell.

(* With the usual thanks to John Herrington and Jamie Sturgeon for helping piece this together.)

Update: 26 January 2010
Jamie Sturgeon has found Edith's birth records in Overseas Army Returns, confirming that she was born at St. Peter's Church, Fort Colombo, Ceylon, in 1868.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Christie Cover Cavalcade: part 5

We continue our Agatha Christie season with a rather random selection of Christie covers from Pan Books.

The Moving Finger (Pan 55, 1950) Cover by George Woodman

A Murder is Announced (Pan G144, 1958) Cover by John Keay

Appointment With Death (Pan G155, 1958)

The Man in the Brown Suit (Pan G176, 1958) Cover by Sam Peffer
The Man in the Brown Suit (Pan X242, 1963) Cover by W. Francis Phillipps?

The Body in the Library (Pan G221, 1959)

N or M? (Pan G259, 3rd imp., 1961) Cover by Sam Peffer

Partners in Crime (Pan G526, 1962) Cover by W. Francis Phillipps

Evil Under the Sun (Pan X170, 1963) Cover by W. Francis Phillipps?

Three Act Tragedy (Pan X275, 1964) Cover by W. Francis Phillipps

Friday, January 22, 2010

Comic Cuts - 22 January 2010

Here I am again with the familiar mantra of "not much to report". The Wells Fargo book is almost done, only a few days away from being completed. I'm on the last leg of the introduction and have started doing a second pass over the artwork to make sure I've not mucked anything up. There's about six pages I want to redo as I'm not happy with the way they've turned out. Without original artwork, we're at the mercy of the original printing and the quality varied from one week to the next (and, indeed, from one copy to the next). That said, having put quite a few weeks into this so far, I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Talking of original artwork... I've just received about ten huge bags full of artwork for upcoming projects. Some of it is simply stunning and I'll be teasing you with some scans over the coming weeks.

Some good news for fans of Eagles Over the Western Front is that more original artwork has turned up, so when I finally get the books into print, around half the pages will have been reproduced from artwork. It's going to delay publication for a bit, but the books will be all the better for it.

A couple of blogs that you might want to check out. Peter Richardson has been running some nice comic art and book covers recently on his Cloud 109 blog, recent posts including artwork by Fortunino Matania, Ron Embleton and a slew of book covers by Denis McLoughlin.

The second is a new blog looking at the history of The Beezer, which ran from 1956 to 1981. Not much to see at the moment but hopefully it will grow and grow.

Which reminds me of something I've been meaning to ask for some time: does anyone know what happened to the Wizard blog? Has it disappeared completely or has it moved?

A final bit of Bear Alley news (talking of things that disappeared...): I've finally completed the 5th episode of the comics novelisations and tie-ins listing and I'll be posting it over the weekend. Only one more part to go and I'll gather them all together and put in an easy to follow link.

Today's random scan celebrates the upcoming Lil Del 'n' Rodney show Rock & Chips, the youthful adventures of the Trotters from Only Fools & Horses. And I've a bit of a confession... I can't remember who sent this to me. It was a reader who wanted to know where the illustration had appeared and I'm pretty sure I completely failed to i.d. the source or the artist.

Tim Carew

The Last Warrior by Tim Carew (Digit Books R467, 1961)
Martin Tonnard, in serious trouble with his Commanding Officer, is relegated to a tedious administration job in Aldershot. A friendly Brigadier from the War Office offers him the command of a company composed of military bad characters, which is being sent to an African colony where trouble is expected.
__Arriving in the colony of Solkotrea, Tonnard finds an incompetent governor and a disagreeable and ruthless chief of police—and trouble brewing. When the revolt comes, Tonnard and his men are trapped in the Residency with no communication with the outside world. Under these circumstances Tonnard's genius for leadership comes into full play; and his men prove that a full conduct sheet is no handicap when things are really sticky.
Tim Carew was the pen-name of John Mohun Carew. born in Bury St Edmunds on 8 July 1921, the son of Peter Fitzwilliam Carew (a soldier) and his wife Joyce (nee Fortescue).

Carew attended Marlborough College in 1934-38 and then joined the British forces in 1939, serving with the Gurkha Rifles in India, Burma, Malaya and Indonesia, and with the Devon Regiment in Hong Kong and Malaya. He was awarded the Military Cross and Burma Star. He wrote of his experiences in the army in All This and a Medal Too (1954).

After ten years, he left the army and became a feature writer for the Sunday Express, Soldier magazine and Reveille, as well as contributing to the Evening Standard, Evening News, Daily Mail, English Digest, Men Only, British Army Journal, Wide World and other magazines.

He also wrote the screenplay for Laughing in the Sunshine (Ett kungligt äventyr), a Swedish/UK co-production starring Jean Anderson and Ragnar Arvedson, released in 1956.

Carew was married to Barbara Joan S. Shakespear on 1 December 1950. He died in Bracknell, Berkshire, on 3 September 1980.

Novels
Evens the Field. London, Constable, 1955.
Man for Man. London, Constable, 1955.
Married Quarters. London, Constable, 1956.
The Last Warrior. London, Constable, 1958.

Non-fiction
All This and a Medal, Too. London, Constable, 1954.
The Fall of Hong Kong. London, Anthony Blond, 1960.
The Vanished Army. London, William Kimber & Co., 1964.
Korea: The Commonwealth at War. London, Cassell, 1967; as The Korean War: The Story of the Fighting Commonwealth Regiments, London, Pan Books, 1970.
The Royal Norfolk Regiment: The Ninth Regiment of Foot. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1967.
The Longest Retreat: The Burma Campaign, 1942. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1969.
The Glorious Glosters. London, Leo Cooper, 1970.
Hostages to Fortune. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1971.
How the Regiments Got Their Nicknames, illus. Nicholas Bentley. London, Cooper, 1974.
Wipers. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1974.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Commander A. B. Campbell

As one of the hugely popular "Brains Trust" on the BBC's Any Questions?, Archibald Bruce Campbell broadcast to 20 million listeners. The show, which debuted on 1 January 1941, featured a panel of regulars—philosopher C. E. M. Joad, zoologist Julian Huxley and Campbell—plus guests answering questions sent in by listeners. The show was hosted by Donald McCullough. Campbell drew on his wide experiences and travels for his answers—often beginning, "When I was in Patagonia...", which became something of a catchphrase. Campbell brought a rather more down-to-earth informality to the proceedings and was never afraid to ask his intellectual colleagues to explain their answers more clearly if he had not understood them. In one period he was receiving 500 letters a week from listeners.

Campbell was dropped from the programme in May 1946. Several months later he claimed that he had been "muzzled" by the BBC because of remarks he made during a discussion on the Bikini bomb tests. He had suggested that scientists should be sent to Bikini instead of dumb animals. The survivors, he said, could then describe their experiences. Asked by Sir Malcolm Sargent if he rated scientists lower than rats, he replied: "Some I do." The BBC denied that Campbell had been banished from broadcasting.

Campbell was born in Peckham, London, on 21 January 1881, the son of Hugh Campbell, a former captain in the Royal Navy, later a schoolmaster, and his wife Caroline Mary (nee Southern). He was educated at St. Olave's School in Southwark and at two schools run by naval coaches in Portsmouth but failed his entrance exam for the Royal Navy.

He emigrated to Canada where he had various jobs, including expeditions to northern Canada to survey timber for the Canadian government. He returned to England after three years but failed the medical exam to join the Merchant Navy. Instead, he obtained a job as an assistant purser with the Orient Line and travelled widely on passenger liners in the years before the Great War.

Commissioned in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Campell was called up and served as paymaster-commander of H.M.S. Otranto, a merchant cruiser patrolling the south Atlantic. He was the senior surviving officer when the Otranto sank with the loss of 362 lives after colliding with a troopship in fog off the island of Islay in October 1918.

Campbell put the sea behind him when he was demobbed in 1920. He took up schoolteaching and then publishing; as A. B. Campbell & Co. he produced Health for All, Handicrafts and Stamp Magazine. Many of his magazines failed during the depression and the company's office was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1941. Seeking additional income, Campbell wrote a play, The Million ot One Chance, based on the mystery of the Marie Celeste, which was performed in Australia and South Africa in 1934. He approached the BBC in 1933 and made his first broadcast--"The Last Voyage of the Otranto"--in 1935. He appeared on Men Talking, Young Ideas and The World Goes By shows. He made his debut television broadcast in December 1936.

Commander A. B. Campbell (right) on Any Questions? with guest Commander Rupert Gould.

He made over 200 appearances on the Brains Trust panel of Any Questions? between 1941 and 1946 and at the same time wrote a regular column for the weekly Star, "Campbell Calling". During the war he was attached to the eastern command welfare station, travelling around England and talking to troops.

He continued to appear on the BBC in a variety of shows: for Children's Hour he gave talks on curiosities he had collected during his travels; "Commander Campbell Talking" was a series for Woman's Hour broadcast in 1952. In 1956 he starred in the ITV series Calling on Campbell, relating seafaring tales. His last broadcast was on the Today programme in February 1959. During lulls in his writing and broadcasting, he worked for an advertising agency earning £12 a week.

Campbell published over two dozen books for adults and children, including a number of volumes of biographical reminiscences: With the Corners Off (1937), Come Alongside (1946), Into the Straight (1950) and When I Was in Patagonia (1953). He contributed to numerous magazines including Men Only, Everybody's, Blackwood's and various daily and weekly newspapers.

Campbell was married twice, although nothing is known about his first marriage. He was a widower when he married May Evelyn Prevost (nee Webb), a secretary, on 30 March 1942. He lived at 10 Northwick Terrace, London N.W.8, and died in a nursing home at Twyford Abbey, Ealing, on 11 April 1966, aged 85.

Non-fiction

The "Animal" Picture Crossword Book for Boys and Girls, illus. by C.A.S. London, Garrick Publishing Co., 1933.
With the Corners Off. My adventurous life on land and sea. London, G. G. Harrap, 1937; Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott, 1938.
Picture Crosswords. For boys and girls. London, A. B. Campbell & Co., 1939.
The Battle of the Plate, with a foreword by the Rt. Hon. Lord Chatfield. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1940.
The Escape of H.M.S. "Calliope". London, Oxford University Press, 1940.
You Have Been Listening To... London, Chapman & Hall, 1940.
Zeebrugge. St. George's Day, 1918. London, Oxford University Press, 1940.
Bring Yourself to Anchor. London, Chapman & Hall, 1941.
Sailing To-night with the Merchant Navy. London, R. Tuck & Sons, 1944.
Yarns of the Seven Seas. London, Sir I. Pitman & Sons, 1944.
Come Alongside. London & New York, Stanley Paul, 1946.
Commander Campbell's Scrapbook. A volume about a thousand things. London, W. H. Allen, 1950.
In the Tracks of Old Explorers, illus. G. Wylde. London, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1950.
Into the Straight. London & New York, Stanley Paul & Co., 1950.
Salute the Red Duster. An account of the exploits of the Merchant Navy in the Second World War, with a foreword by Lord Mountevans. London, C. Johnson, 1952.
When I was in Patagonia. London, C. Johnson, 1953.
Fun with Trains. A picture crossword book for boys and girls, illus. Valerie Landon. London, Epworth Press, 1954.
Stories that Jesus Told, in the words of the Authorized Version. With crosswords and puzzles, illus. Ian Armour-Chelu. London, Epworth Press, 1955.
The Story of Joseph. Abridged in the words of the Authorized Version. With crosswords and other puzzles. London, Epworth Press, 1955.
A Book of the Ship. Stories to read, pictures to paint, puzzles to solve, illus. Archie White. London, Epworth Press, 1956.
Customs and Traditions of the Royal Navy, with a foreword by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Chatfield. Aldershot, Gale & Polden, 1956.
Life with Red Indians. Stories to read, pictures to paint, puzzles to solve. London, Epworth Press, 1956.
About Dogs. Stories to read, puzzles to solve, pictures to paint. London, Epworth Press, 1957.
About Horses. Stories to read, puzzles to solve, pictures to paint. London, Epworth Press, 1957.
Great Moments at Sea, illus. Bruce Cornwell. London, Phoenix House, 1957; New York, Roy Publishers, 1957.
The True Book about the North American Indians, illus. N. G. Wilson. London, Frederick Muller, 1961.
Queer Shipmates, illus. by R. M. Sax. London, Phoenix House, 1962.
Pray Silence. Hints for speakers, illus. Sillince. London, Epworth Press, 1964.

Others
The Brains Trust Book, edited by Howard Thomas; introduction by Donald McCullough. Answers to "Any Questions?" by Commander A. B. Campbell, Dr. Julian S. Huxley, Professor C. E. M. Joad, and guests of the Brains Trust. London, Hutchinson, 1942.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Warren Eyster

Far from the Customary Skies by Warren Eyster (Digit Books, Jul 1956)

John T Frederick ("Speaking of Books", The Rotarian, Jul 1953) offers the following review:
Far from the Customary Skies, by Warren Eyster, follows a pattern that has been familiar in war novels since World War I: it deals impartially with a group of men rather than with one central character. The group in this case is made up of enlisted men on a U.S. destroyer, and the narration carries them from a training cruise into repeated battles in the South Pacific, and a great storm. Officers play only a small part in the story. Much of it records the day-to-day work and talk that make up the prevailaing texture of living on board ship. Some of the men are very firmly portrayed with increasing sharpness as they are progressively revealed; others are shadowy, or achieve a superficial distinctness and retain it.
__Though it resembles other recent war novels in substance and structure, Far from the Customary Skies far surpasses most of them as a piece of writing. I can't say that it's authentic—I don't know. But it has authority. The writing makes me feel and smell and taste, gives me a fresh grasp of some very elemental experiences. Though rightly the power of words in this book is most fully displayed in the sustained narratives of the storm and of battle, it is apparent also in very simple and even trivial passages, almost on every page. The writer falls short of his purpose of impartial, objective comprehension only briefly and very rarely. This book is happily free from the curious inverted sentimentalism that marks so much war fiction. The ugly details and obscene expressions employed are for the most part definitely functional, contributing to legitimate revelation of character and mood. I don't think this is the pattern for the greatest achievements in fiction, but within his chosen pattern Warren Eyster has written with honesty and with undeniable power.
Warren Orndorff Eyster, born in Halifax on 2 January 1925, but was raised in Steelton—later the setting of his National Book Award-winning novel No Country for Old Men—by his grandparents, Samuel J. (a blacksmith in a steel factory) and Louise H. Orndorff, parents of Margaret R. Orndorff, who had married Stanley R. Eyster in 1924. Eyster lived with them until he was seventeen, delivering newspapers, selling subscriptions and, at the age of fourteen, becoming a collector of overdue accounts. He graduated from Steelton High School in 1942 and took a job with the Army Air Corps as a hydraulic learner. In August of that year he met two friends on their way to the Navy recruiting office and walked with them; he enlisted (they did not). He later wrote:
I loved the sea. I found war exciting. I loved going into port. I lost a finger and got shook up a bit. I spent some time in a naval hospital and then worked in a mental hospital. After this, I became a pest-control sailor on a naval base in swamp land, and spent my time hunting down coyotes, rats, mice, mosquitoes and gophers. I got so bored I would track down coyotes with a club. After that I worked in a lumber yard.
__When I was discharged, I went to work for the Army Air Corps again. boredom led me to take a job with an old man who had a steam saw and a track of lumber. I was paid hardly anything, but got enough logs to build a cabin. A friend and I built it, all but the root. To live we cut grass, cut down or trimmed trees, and sold ice cream at a summer resort. Winter came, so I took a job with Piper Cub of Lock Haven. Somewhere in the midst of all that I applied to go to college and wound up at the Harrisburg Academy, where two months later they told me I was good college material. Two years later I was a college graduate. Then I attended the University of Virginia and went sailing along great guns towards a Master's. Except for Chaucer and Milton. I have no gripe against Chaucer and Milton, but I have plenty against the way they are taught.
Eyster began writing his first novel at graduate school and worked at a variety of jobs (setting pins in a bowling alley, for the post office, etc.) whilst writing. He also spent two years on a literary fellowship at the Centro Mexicano de Escritores.

He subsequently became a teacher at Louisiana State University and an adviser on the Delta Review and its predecessors Manchac and Delta. The New Delta Review Eyster Prize was a short story prize named for him.

Eyster is, I believe, still alive and living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He married in 1954 and had a daughter.

Novels
Far from the Customary Skies. New York, Random House, 1953; London, Allan Wingate, 1953.
No Country for Old Men. New York, Random House, 1955.
Goblins of Eros. New York, Random House, 1957; London, Victor Gollancz, 1957.
Darkness on the Susquehanna. Louisiana, WOE is me, 1995.
Summer's Lease. Louisiana, WOE is me, 1995.
The Woman Who Couldn't Say No. Louisiana, WOE is me, 1995.

Others
Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb, after word by Warren Eyster. New York, Avon, 1963.

(* Most of the biographical information quoted above was derived from this site.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Robert Prowse, senior and junior

I'm still racing against the clock to finish the Wells Fargo introduction (9,000 words and counting) before the next load of work lands on my desk and spills all over the floor of my office... there's a whole heap of artwork on the way that needs scanning!

So today's post is actually to be found over on John Adcock's Yesterday's Papers blog, posted last night. So pop over there and have a good browse around as there's some fascinating stuff to look at relating to old penny dreadfuls.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as humanly possible!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Paperback Cover Cavalcade 10

I ran out of time on the post I was planning for today as it has been a bit of a crazy weekend. Went bowling Saturday night and, as I knew I wasn't going to have much time for blogging, wrote up a quickie post on an unknown author called Geoffrey Mark Saturday morning. As it turns out, I then spent most of Sunday evening following up clues to a biographical sketch which Jamie Sturgeon discovered on one of his books.

And then there's the e-mails. 263 e-mails that needed responding to, some dating back quite a few weeks. I managed to get it down to 240 but if you've sent me an e-mail and not heard from me, sorry... I'm doing the best I can to keep up with them but a lot of the e-mails I get require a lot of digging around for information and I can't always promise a quick reply. Some of the subjects for this evening's digging included Bingham Dixon (William Armstrong Borland), photos of comic artists, Andy Pandy, a story paper writer called C. B. Dignam, some additional research for an article on Robert Prowse (both senior and junior) and the aforementioned Geoffrey Mark.

The text for another writer is written but I suddenly realised that the picture needed a hell of a lot of cleaning up and it wasn't going to be something I could do quickly. So that post goes on hold and I've now got to think of something quick.

So here are a couple of covers, inspired by some correspondence I've been having with David Roach. At top we have Consul 1071 (1961) which David thought was by an Italian artist and which probably is... I think I must have missed some of the to-ing and fro-ing on this one between the UK and Italy. Immediately below is one that I came up with as being possibly by an Italian artist, only to be shot down from all sides. The only consensus is that it might be a British artist or maybe an American reprint. But the one below that is definitely Italian as it is signed by the fabulous Enrico De Seta.

The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett (Consul M718, 1959)

The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett (Digit Books, Jun 1957) Cover by De Seta

So, here we are again: well past midnight and a busy day to look forward to as I'm back on the Wells Fargo introduction (6,500 words and counting) and have every intention of finishing the book in this coming week. Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Geoffrey Mark

Better to Die by Geoffrey Mark (Digit Books D268, 1959) Cover by R. A. Osborne
Here is a story of the terrible battle of the barricades when the Red armour smashed back into the City and with it came Mongolian infantry and the vengeful Secret Police. Budapest in her travail!
__We read of the bravery of the Freedom Fighters and the high tide of victorious ecstasy that filled the capital... only to be dashed to the ground when the enemy execution squads went to work!
Geoffrey Mark was the author of two other novels: The Girl and the Barbarian was a historical involving Mongol tribesmen; and The Veils of Fear is a thriller described thus: "The discovery of a white girl cowering beside an oil pipe-line in a Middle Eastern desert is the start of a chain of events which brings to light a staggering twentieth century traffic in slaves. To find the links in the chain Tyler, a British investigator, heads a team of international agents to uncover an organisation reaching from the French Riviera to the Persian Gulf."

A biographical sketch of Mark in the latter reveals the following:
Geoffrey Mark, who is married with three children, was born in London in 1928. His father was a cinema executive and his mother an American stage actress. On leaving Eton he went to Gainsborough Pictures as an Assistant Director. Following his army service he joined Granada Theatres, but decided that indoor life was not for him and subsequently took jobs as a labourer in a market garden and as a truck-driver.
__After his marriage he went to the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester and then bought and farmed a Cornish hill farm. A frequent traveller abroad, he now lives in Buckinghamshire and script-writes for a film company.
The problems with this begin with his place and year of birth... no Geoffrey Mark born in London in 1928. Which makes me suspect that Geoffrey Mark is a pseudonym or only a partial name.

We can make some assumptions from the biography published above. One is that, if Eton educated, he probably did not leave school at 14 or 15 as many did before 1973 when the leaving age was raised to 16. So it seems probable that he was educated up to the age of around 17 or 18 and left Eton (where he was likely a contemporary of politician Alan Clarke and assistant director of the RSC John Barton) at around the time the War ended. This would make him as assistant director for Gainsborough around 1946. National Service was introduced in 1947, at first requiring service for a year, increased to 18 months in early 1949 and two years in 1950 (the last intake of National Servicemen was in 1960). Given that Mark turned 18 in 1946, he likely only saw 12-18 months of National Service and joined Granada Theatres in the late 1940s.

He was probably married in the period 1949-53 and had three children by the end of that decade at least some of whom were likely born in Cornwall. And he was a screen-writer living in Buckinghamshire around 1960.

I can't find any likely suspects amongst the assistant directors at Gainsborough in the late 1940s, nor anyone who attended Eton and the Royal Agricultural College who isn't a politician, a soldier or a peer. Which leaves only one final clue: Better to Die is dedicated to Olwen. If it's a first novel, it may be that Olwen is the author's wife. Unfortunately, a search for women called Olwen marrying in 1949-53 turns up 1,240 results, at which point even I give up.

On the off chance that "Geoffrey Mark" were the author's first two names, I did a search for "Geoffrey M." born in London in 1928 which turned up 6 names:

Geoffrey M. Anderson (b. Hampstead, 4Q 1928)
Geoffrey M. N. Foley (b. Marylebone, 4Q 1928)
Geoffrey M. Gardner (b. Hackney, 1Q 1928)
Geoffrey M. Neil (b. Islington, 3Q 1928)
Geoffrey M. Ostrer (b. St. Geo. H. Sq., 4Q 1928)
Geoffrey M. Willis (b. Lewisham, 2Q 1928)

Lo and behold... there's a marriage between Geoffrey M. Ostrer and Olwen E. Parker registered in North Surrey in 2Q 1949. And even better there are three children: Mark S. Ostrer (b. N. Surrey, 1949), Karen E. Ostrer (b. Launceston, Cornwall, 1954) and Carla O. Ostrer (b. Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, 1958).

Geoffrey M. Ostrer was the son of Mark Ostrer (b. 4 November 1892), described as a merchant banker of 80 Portland Place, London, in 1930, and his wife Florence M. (nee Peterson, b. Chicago, c.1903; d. London, 1940). Florence was born in Chicago, which ties in with the comment about her being American. Mark Ostrer, meanwhile, was one of three brothers (Isidore, Maurice and Mark) who administered the affairs of Gaumont-British, founded in 1927 in the wake of the Cinematograph Films (Quota) Act. Isidore became President of Gaumont-British in 1929; Mark Ostrer was Chairman. Maurice Ostrer was also a director of Gainsborough Pictures, where "Geoffrey Mark" became an assistant director. When Mark Ostrer died on 5 November 1958, an obituary in The Times noted that Mark had married Florence Peterson ("an American actress") in 1927. "Their two sons [Geoffrey M. and Edward M.] are both in film production."

(Of no consequence to this piece on Geoffrey, his uncle Bertram was a writer and producer whose screenwriting credits include Park Plaza 605, based on the novel Daredevil Conquest by "Berkeley Gray" (Edwy Searles Brooks) and Mystery Submarine, which starred Laurence Payne, later to play Sexton Blake, and thus has connections to two major boys' story paper heroes.)

Probate records for Mark Ostrer confirm that his sons were named Geoffrey Mark Ostrer and Edward Mephi Ostrer. (And it might be worth noting that the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is in error when it states that Ostrer's two sons were from his second marriage to Olivia May Venning, whom he married in 1943.)

Geoffrey Mark Ostrer died in Chichister, Sussex, in 1975.


The Veils of Fear by Geoffrey Mark (John Long, 1960). Dust Jacket by Chavasse
The Veils of Fear (Panther, 1962). Cover by Barye?

Novels
Better to Die. London, Jarrolds, 1957.
The Girl and the Barbarian. London, Jarrolds, 1958.
The Veils of Fear. London, John Long, 1960.

(* With thanks to Jamie Sturgeon and John Herrington.)