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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Adam Diment

Adam Diment, aspiring singer Victoria Brooke and a Tiger Moth

In a brief description of Adam Diment, Atticus of the Sunday Times said, he "is twenty-three; his hero, Philip McAlpine, is based on himself. That is to say he's tall, good-looking, with a taste for fast cars, planes, girls and pot." Pooter of The Times (2 Mar 1968) revealed that "Tube posters will soon advise travellers that if they can't read Adam Diment, they should love him. An author needs the stamina of youth to underwrite an invitation like that. Diment at 23 is pale and a touch peaky, and the motherly might think that his fine blonde hair blows about a bit, but there are no other obvious signs of his being short of love. Nonetheless, viewers of Southern Television's 'Day by Day' may decide on Monday that it would be wise to lock up their daughters when he's signing copies of The Great Spy Race, judging from the footage of dollies which the unit canned."

Diment was the phenomenon of 1967, his debut novel wowing most reviewers. Anthony Boucher, in the New York Times, claimed Diment was "a happy answer to my recent plaint about the lack of really young writers in the suspense field. The Dolly Dolly Spy introduces Philip McAlpine, an agent who smokes hashish, leads a highly active sex life, kills vividly, uses (or even coins) the latest London slang, and still seems a perfectly real (and even oddly likable) young man rather than a reflected Bond-image. His first effort as a double agent, kidnapping a monster of the Waffen S.S., is slow in starting, but well plotted and brightly coloured."

Across the pond, in Diment's native London, H. R. F. Keating was rather less impressed, writing a pithy review in The Times (14 Oct 1967): "Mostly concerned with a very wicked air charter firm. Read it when you feel about 18: it will save you finding out for yourself what smoking 'pot' is like."

Desmond Elliott, Adam Diment and actress/model Suzie Mandrake

Originally entitled The Runes of Death, Diment took his manuscript to agent Desmond Elliott, who immediately sold it to publisher Michael Joseph, who contracted six books from the novice author. It has been said that the title was the only thing that changed before publication. The Dolly Dolly Spy shot Diment to immediate fame, an article in New Society revealing that the book made "something in the region of £40,000 from sale of hardback, paperback and translation rights." Jonathan King described it on TV as the most important work to appear in 1967. Dutton published an American edition, and Diment was interviewed by Publishers Weekly during a book signing tour and photographed by Life.

In photos, Diment lived up to his newspaper persona: sharp suits and frilly shirts, frolicking with young actresses, hanging out with artists and smoking dope. Jacket descriptions also pushed him as an action man, flying small planes and practicing pistol shooting. He was filmed dancing in Popdown, the cult movie that celebrated everything hip about late Sixties London.

In truth, he wasn't quite the young blade that his newspaper interviews portrayed, publicity having shaved a couple of years off his true age. Frederick Adam Diment was born in 1943, the son of Robert Eric Diment and his wife. Robert was a former sailor with the Union Castle shipping line who had begun farming in Chickerell, Wiltshire, following his marriage to Audrey Catherine Dare in 1939. They later moved to Court Lodge Farm, Crowhurst, East Sussex, Robert eventually retiring in 1978.

Adam Diment started writing fiction at school. He was educated at Lancing College, West Sussex — where one of his contemporaries was lyricist Tim Rice — and was a student at the Royal Agricultural College. He subsequently worked as an advertising salesman for magazines, in paperback publishing, and as a copy-writer.

Diment and actor David Hemmings

The Dolly Dolly Spy, published when Diment was 24, was followed in quick succession by two more novels featuring Philip McAlpine in 1968 and it was announced that the first novel was to be filmed for United Artists with David Hemmings in the lead role. The film was to be produced by Stanley S. Canter and Diment's agent, Desmond Elliott, but eventually came to nothing. During Canter's stay in the UK, both he and Diment were anonymously accused of a currency swindle — Diment accepting a $2,000 (or $2,400) cheque from Canter and writing out a cheque to Canter for £1,000 which Cantor was able to cash. Both letters (released from the National Archive in 2000 under the 30-year rule; they can be seen here and here) appear, from style and tone, to have been written by the same person. There would also appear to have been little if any legal follow-up and the file was closed within a few weeks... but given the scarcity of information known about Diment, it has become part of the mythology and will inevitably feature in any piece written about Diment in the future.

The letters do contain one interesting nugget: that Diment had travelled to Rome. With the apparent collapse of the film version of Dolly Dolly Spy, Canter's next project was an Italian/American co-production, Hornet's Nest, starring Rock Hudson, filmed by Producioni Associate Delphos and distributed by United Artists.

According to Eric Hiscock's Last Boat to Folly Bridge (1970), Diment "quit Britain" in April 1969 "with a beautiful Cuban girl called Camille, whom he had met at a party in London" — presumably the Camille to whom he dedicated The Bang Bang Birds. Canter eventually returned to the States (his later films include the Tarzan adaptation Greystoke) and Diment returned to London where he had a flat at 28 Tregunter Road, Fulham, and wrote his fourth book, Think, Inc., which saw McAlpine depart the British secret service and join a criminal gang. After that, Diment's name disappeared from book covers and McAlpine was never to be seen again. Perhaps the lack of an American edition and the four year gap between paperbacks here in the UK put Diment off the idea of writing volume 5. Perhaps his desire to write something different meant reinventing himself under a pen-name.

As far back as 1975, the Observer Magazine was asking "Whatever Happened to Adam Diment?" There were plenty of rumours which placed him everywhere from Europe to the Far East. Whatever the truth, Diment appears to have turned his back on his writing past; none of his books are currently in print and, married with two children, he now lives a quiet family life in Kent.

The Dolly Dolly Spy (London, Michael Joseph, 1967; New York, Dutton, 1967)
Pan Books 0330-02150-8, (Aug) 1968, 190pp, 5/-. Cover: photo

The Great Spy Race (London, Michael Joseph, 1968; New York, Dutton, 1968)
Pan Books 0330-02234-2, (Mar) 1969, 169pp.

The Bang Bang Birds (London, Michael Joseph, 1968; New York, Dutton, 1968)
Pan Books 0330-02382-9, (Nov) 1969, 191pp, 5/-.

Think Inc. (London, Michael Joseph, 1971)
Pan Books 0330-23699-7, (Sep) 1973, 172pp.

(* Photos © Time Inc.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Comic Cuts - 27 January 2012

I'm pleased to announce that the second proof of Pages from History arrived during the week and I'm putting in a print order today. So those of you who have been kind enought to pre-order the book should get their copies before the official publication date of 6 February. For those of you who get paid in the last week of the month, there's still time to order a copy at the discount rate. I wanted to reward the people who have shown a huge amount of faith in Bear Alley Books... but I will have to knock the discount on the head after 3 February.

Some of you may have noticed a lack of updates to the little rolling news column that sits over to the left of this central column.  I'm not sure why, but there was a problem with it that meant that, whilst I could write new entries, they weren't saving. I've resolved this by loading up a new widget and deleting the old one. Simples. Keeping up to date with the news, not so simples... but I'll do my best.

I had to buy myself another external hard drive to cope with the scans I have been generating for Bear Alley Books and to back up the work I have been doing for Look and Learn. All things expand to fill the space available, as they say, but I seem to be filling up hard drives at a crazy rate. The new computer was double the size of the old one but I've somehow filled an extra 200GB. That leaves me with a workspace of around 50GB, which sounds a lot but the latest folder of work that arrived was 49GB, so I've had to break it down into smaller, more manageable folders. Hence the need to buy a brand spanking new 2TB drive. And at some time I'm going to have to replace another one because I'm paranoid about losing data unless I have it backed up onto two drives. Long time readers will remember I had a couple of catastrophic external hard drive failures back in February 2009 and my computer went into meltdown last summer, so I'm speaking from experience when I say "Back everything up!" Believe me, you don't want to go through what I've had to go through in the past.

Amazing to think that I now have vastly more computing power than NASA had when they sent a rocket to the moon.


I spotted this some weeks ago and have been meaning to share it with you. I love this kind of thing. It's addictive... but I'm going to give you the link anyway. Go take a look at Alex Cherney's other videos at Vimeo.

Our random scans this week are four from Scion from the early 1950s. These were all in pretty bad condition and you'll see that it wasn't always possible to fix them. But I've done the best I can. I love these old gangster covers... so anyone who wants to send me any scans, please do. Condition not important, but reasonably big so I've got something to work with.

 
 
 
Next week: more Paul Temple and hopefully in the correct order. D'oh!

Paul Temple and the Great Jewel Robbery part 5

(* © Evening News)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paul Temple and the Great Jewel Robbery part 3

(A few people spotted my not-deliberate mistake yesterday... I posted Wednesday's strips on Tuesday; I've now dropped in the missing episodes.)

(* © Evening News)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Paul Temple and the Great Jewel Robbery part 1

As promised, here's another Paul Temple adventure for your delectation and, hopefully, delight. As with the previous series, I'll be running these Monday through Friday with a break at the weekend so I get a chance to post a cover gallery or some bits of random research rather than doing what I'm supposed to be doing, which is working on the next book. We've all got to have a break some time.

Now, on with the show...

(* © Evening News)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart Series

Although Philip Pullman is nowadays best known for the three novels that make up the His Dark Materials trilogy, which were bestsellers in the latter half of the 1990s and into the new millennium, he had earlier written a series of four novels set in Victorian England featuring Sally Lockhart. Although thought of as being aimed at children, they have surprisingly (or, perhaps, not so surprisingly, given that this is Philip Pullman) adult themes, including, but not limited to, drug taking, prostitution and illegitimate children. Probably better for a young teen audience than a pre-teen audience.

Published by Scholastic, the covers have gone through several evolutions over the years. Although I'll probably be hauled over hot coals for saying this, my favourites are the recent photographic covers.

The Ruby in the Smoke (London, Oxford University Press, 1985; revised, Puffin Books, 1987)
Puffin Books, 1987
Scholastic 0439-01077-2, 1999.
----, [12th imp.] n.d., 207pp, £5.99
Scholastic 0439-97778-9, 2004,
----, [4th imp.] n.d., 209pp, £5.99. Cover by David Hopkins
Scholastic 978-0439-94366-6, 2006, 209+[21]pp, £6.99. Cover photo by Mike Hogan. TV Tie-in.
Scholastic 978-1407-11169-8, 2009, 240pp.
Scholastic 978-1407-13054-5, Feb 2012, 240pp, £6.99. Cover photo

The Shadow in the North (as The Shadow in the Plate, London, Oxford University Press, 1986; revised as The Shadow in the North, Puffin Books, 1988)
Puffin Books, Aug 1989
Scholastic 0439-01078-0, Mar 1999, 286pp, £5.99.
Scholastic 978-0439-95526-3, Apr 2004, 304pp. Cover by David Hopkins
Scholastic 978-1407-10627-4, Dec 2007, 304pp, £6.99. Cover photo. TV Tie-in.
Scholastic 978-1407-11170-4, May 2009, 304pp, £6.99.
Scholastic 978-1407-13055-2, Feb 2012, 288pp, £6.99. Cover photo

The Tiger in the Well (London, Penguin Books, 1991)
Scholastic 0439-01079-9, Mar 1999, 392pp, £5.99.
Scholastic 978-0439-97780-7, Feb 2004, 448pp. Cover by David Hopkins
Scholastic 978-0439-95525-6, Apr 2007, 431+[23]pp, £6.99. Cover by Domic Harman
Scholastic 978-0439-11171-1, May 2009, 464pp.
Scholastic 978-0439-13056-9, Feb 2012, 448pp, £7.99. Cover photo

The Tin Princess (London, Penguin Books, 1994)
Scholastic 978-0439-99711-9, Sep 2000 , 304pp.
Scholastic 0439-97779-7, Feb 2004, 276pp, £5.99. Cover by David Hopkins
Scholastic 098-0439-95527-0, Apr 2007, 304pp, £6.99.
Scholastic 098-0439-11172-8, May 2009, 304pp, £6.99.
Scholastic 098-0439-13057-6, Feb 2012, 304pp, £6.99. Cover photo

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Taffrail (Henry Taprell Dorling)

I had an enquiry during the week asking what I knew about Captain Henry Taprell Dorling, who wrote naval thrillers under the name Taffrail. To be honest, I knew nothing, so I did a little digging around and came up with the following.

Dorling was born in Duns, Berwickshire, on 8 September 1883, the son of Francis Dorling of Farnborough, Hampshire, a Colonel in the Royal Sussex Regiment, and his wife Constance Elizabeth (nee Holland). He entered H.M.S. Britannia in 1897 and served as a midshipman in H.M.S. Terrible in South Africa and China, taking part in the relief of Peking in 1900. He became a sub-lieutenant in 1902, was promoted to lieutenant in 1904 and qualified as a staff instructor in 1913.

During the Great War he served chiefly with destroyers in the North Sea, engaged mostly with minelaying. He was mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the D.S.O. in 1918, having already received a gold medal from the Swedish government for saving life at sea. In 1918, he joined the plans division of the Admiralty staff, serving there until 1921. He retired from the service in 1929.

He had already established himself as a popular writer on ships and the sea and on life in the Royal Navy in war and peace. After his retirement he applied himself seriously to narratives of the sea based upon Admiralty and other authoritative sources for both fiction and non-fiction. His earliest volume published under the nom-de-plume Taffrail was Pincher Martin, O.D., a collection of stories and sketches of life in the Navy. It was followed by books on the "little ships" in the war of 1914-18, on famous sea escapes and adventure, and on some of the great Elizabethan sea-dogs. His first novel, Pirates, a story (largely based on Admiralty information) of the operations of the pirates in the Canton delta and of the duties of the British gunboats involved, appeared in 1929.

Endless Story (1931) was a vivid, unadorned account of the work of the destroyer flotillas in the war; Seventy North (1934) was a novel of adventure about a Hull trawler within the Arctic Circle; books about the merchant navy and the minesweepers were followed by a novel about the merchant navy, Mid-Atlantic (1936).

In 1939 Dorling was recalled to the Navy and served in the Ministry of Information and afloat in all types of warships; in 1942, after the landing in North Africa, he joined the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, as press liaison officer. The following year his novel Chenies appeared, described as a spirited if perhaps somewhat conventional picture of a British naval family, with two of its members at sea, in wartime.

In 1944 he was made an officer of the American Legion of Merit. Dorling was an active journalist, serving as the naval correspondent of The Observer from 1945, and broadcaster. He was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a Younger Brother of Trinity House and a member of the Navy Records Society.

He was married to Evelyne Frances MacDonald in 1909 and had one son. He died on Monday, 1 July 1968 at the Dreadnaught Hospital, Greenwich, aged 84.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Comic Cuts - 20 January 2012

I'm very grateful to everyone who has so far pre-ordered the Pages from History Illustrated by C. L. Doughty book. It was a title I was a little nervous about because, for all his talents, Doughty is not a well known name amongst collectors.

The lack of reprints in the past has consigned a great many very talented artists and writers to obscurity and even the recent boom in British comics' reprints didn't take much advantage of the vast backlog of material available. Hopefully, if Pages from History is a success, we'll be able to do a few more collections and rescue a few other names. I'm already thinking of one that I'd love to do... but let's see how this one goes first.

Since last week I've given the book a thorough proofing, as have my three proof-readers (so a big thanks to them). I've added a key to all the illustrations which now includes the date of publication and added a couple of extra images, which now brings the book pagination up to 176 (for no extra cost!). I'm now waiting on a second proof to make sure that none of the alterations I've made have screwed things up; in other words, I'm confident that we'll hit the on sale date of 6 February and maybe even have the pre-ordered books shipped earlier than that.

Below are a few pages from the book's art gallery — there are over 100 illustrations in the book, all taken from original artwork, as well as four full-length strips. (And, yes, I've spotted that the pages below don't have page numbers... but the book will.)

 
 


Following on from last week's forties western titles, I thought it was about time we had a few more examples of the good girl art that was on show on contemporary crime/gangster yarns, so this week we're celebrating (in a small way) the wonderful H. W. Perl. I know nothing about Perl. Incredibly prolific in the late 1940s and early 1950s — often working at such speed that the results were not always good. But when he was good, he was very, very good. Then he disappeared completely in 1952, just as the number of books being gathered up by the vice squads up and down the country began to leap. Perl's sexy covers were certainly a target. So did he give up? Or did he reinvent himself under another name? Does anybody know?

The fourth and final title has what I presume to be a cover by Arnold Taylor, who was generally to be spotted working for book club hardcovers.

 
 
 
From Monday you'll be able to read Paul Temple's latest adventure, "Paul Temple and the Great Jewel Robbery". I finally got around to sorting it out, thanks to some late nights and lots of coffee. I must have done something particularly wicked in a former life because I'm not even going to get a lay in over the weekend thanks to the Inland Revenue, who will be snaffling up my feeble PLR payment and more once I file my tax returns. Aaaaagh!