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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Sean M'Guire

In 1931, adverts for Sean M'Guire's third novel described it as "An enthralling romance by an author who is rapidly establishing for himself a reputation as an enterprising and original thinker."

M'Guire's previous two novels had been of interest to fans of lost race yarns as the first concerned a remote island inhabited by monsters and the second a feral child aiding a lost race in Africa. The latter, Beast or Man? was reprinted in 2009 by Ramble House, one of the first titles under their Dancing Tuatara Press imprint.

In Spider Island an ailing ex-service man, drudging as a clerk, takes a holiday at a remote place by the sea, and saves from drowning a golden-haired society girl, whose brother owns a yacht. The latter is the means by which the clerk plans to go adventuring after discovering the location of a strange treasure. The Scotsman (19 September 1929) offered the following description:
Strange things have been met with, in fact and in fiction, in the South Seas; but never anything resembling the discoveries made at and in the vicinity of Mr Sean M'Guire's Spider Island ... the key to the existence and locality of which was found in the familiar form of a manuscript contained in a sealed section of bamboo cast up on the shores of England within reach of the hands of a holiday-making clerk. Men who have been turned into rocks and yet continue to live through some kind of suction from the soil; slugs, fifteen feet long, that live in caves and absorb their human and other prey by enclosing and digesting them in sight of the spectators, carnivorous creepers, and the diabolical priests of a horrifying cult that, under the influence of a potent drug, can turn themselves into a fluent mass, more deadly than anything that moves on limbs, above all the "Spider" itself, are among the wonders revealed in a tale that reads in part like the outcome of nightmare. To enjoy it, one must put aside all thought of the probable and possible, and be content to follow the guidance of wild and unrestrained imagination.
Spider Island does not appear to have been widely reviewed on its appearance in September 1929, and Beast or Man? was equally poorly reviewed the following February. John Pelan, introducing the latter, considered M'Guire's two novels "exceptional" and "a breath of fresh air".

Both books, says Pelan, raised serious moral and ethical issues. "Both are far deeper than anything [H. Rider] Haggard attempted, though both operate easily enough as pure pulp adventures." In Beast or Man?, big-game hunter Dick Fearless questions the banality of his life and the morality of trapping intelligent creatures for exhibition. In later chapters, the half-human, half-gorilla progeny of a human boy raised by apes, is the inspiration for the title.

M'Guire published only one more novel, Paul Garroway, Priest, which again made little impact. The Aberdeen Press & Journal (15 April 1931) was one of the few papers to carry a review:
Mr Sean M'Guire has given us a readable story of the war which, however, principally concerns Paul Garroway, who preferred the rural church living to sitting on an office stool. Paul married young. Shortly after the war broke out he was appointed a padre and posted to an infantry battalion. He was broad-minded and got on well with officers and men alike. he was respected by all ranks; he gave good advice and helped many in their troubles, and was altogether an influence for good in the battalion. In France he was awarded the V.C., was wounded, sent home, and then dispatched to Egypt, where his beliefs were rudely shaken as the result of discussions with Singleton, the scientist. He began to lose faith and hope and it was a nerve-racked Paul Garroway who returned to England. That briefly is the story, which winds up with an incident following the Armistice showing how he regained his faith. We get the happy ending, although it is not very satisfying. The story is well sprinkled with humour supplied by the irrepressible Bridgeworth, who is never daunted.
Again, it appeared that M'Guire was attempting to write a novel which would ask serious questions about faith and religion in the same way that Beast or Man? questioned the belief that Europeans were inherently superior to African tribesmen.

With Paul Garroway, Priest, M'Guire vanished as an author. In fact, he had never existed.

Sean M'Guire was a pen-name, but the clues to his real identity are almost non-existent. The sole source of information is a brief paragraph in "Town Talk and Gossip", compiled for The Sporting Times (9 November 1929) by "The Tramp".
"Moving" by Plane.
THAT prolific writer of thrillers, Sean M'Guire, is nothing if not original. He was moving from London to Merstham, in Norfolk, and nothing would suit him but to go by air. He is an ex-R.A.F. officer, and was accompanied by another war-pilot, Major Gibson. His real name ("Sean M'Guire" being but a pseudonym) appears on the title-pages of several learned works of ornithology, so versatile is he. His collection of birds' eggs is unrivalled in this country.
The first problem here is that Merstham is in Surrey, not Norfolk. However, the mention of ornithology makes me believe the author meant Martham, near the coast of Norfolk some 20 miles north-east of Norwich. The village falls within the Broads National Park and is home to the Martham Broad nature reserve.

Unpacked, the information contained in this paragraph is skimpy at best: a former R.A.F. officer, assisted by his friend, Major Gibson, has moved from London to Martham. He has published "several" books on ornithology and has a large collection of birds' eggs.

None of these clues have yet yielded a name for the author behind the Sean M'Guire novels, but they're a first step in the right direction.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Comic Cuts - 9 December 2016

Another issue of Hotel Business was signed off on Tuesday, although we went right up to the wire—the last paid-in feature arrived at 4:36pm and I signed off the last page at 5:26. Some poor sod still had to upload a high resolution PDF file to the printers, but I could sit back and relax.

What I actually did was watch Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie, which was pretty good; I also enjoyed the two episodes of the Arise series that I've managed to catch. I think  the number of different versions it has gone through (movie, movie 2, Stand Alone Complex and movie, Arise and movie, PC games and even a theatre production) proves that Masamune Shirow's original comic strip was a fantastic base from which to jump off. And early... the original manga was serialised in 1989. Mind you, I read Neuromancer in 1985 and had read 'Johnny Mnemonic' when it originally appeared in Omni in 1981. Thirty-five years ago. Oh, boy. Where do the years go?

Anyway, Ghost in the Shell is the kind of cyber-thriller series I enjoy. I'm looking forward to the movie that's due out next March. It looks like it will be a good year for big-budget comics-based movies, with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets due in July, the Kingsman sequel due in June plus the usual plethora of DC and Marvel tie-ins.

I haven't been impressed with DC's recent crop (Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad) but Wonder Woman – based on the trailer – could put them back on top. I'm definitely looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor:Ragnarok and I'll give Logan and Spider-Man a look-in. The second Wolverine movie (the one set in Japan) was OK but I haven't been a huge fan of the X-Men franchise. At the end of next year there's the Justice League movie, but if it's as bad as Batman vs Superman (seriously: Martha?) and Suicide Squad...

And while we're about it, can movies please stop with the anti-gravity power beams? Why does every movie have to have electric blue beams shooting into the clouds, which darken and swirl around to make a hole, through which rubble and junk shoot. The Avengers, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men and even the Ninja Turtles have all used the same trope, as did Ghostbusters, Transformers, Independence Day: Resurgence and even Big Hero 6 (see some examples here). There might have been one in Warcraft, too. It was cool when the ground started breaking up and rising in Akira twenty-five years ago, but it's becoming tedious in the extreme now.

With blue power beams filling my thoughts, here are today's random scans on the theme of the colour blue.

Coming soon: With Christmas fast approaching, I thought it was time to share another Paul Temple adventure, so over Christmas and New Year, we will be featuring "Paul Temple and the Khanwada Conspiracy". The adventure will start on Monday, December 19.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 7 December 2016.

2000AD Prog 2010
In this issue:
Judge Dredd: In Denial by Michael Carroll (w), Andrew Currie (a), Chris Blythe (c), Annie Parkhouse (l)
Savage: The Marze Murderer by Pat Mills (w), Patrick Goddard (a), Annie Parkhouse (l)
Counterfeit Girl by Peter Milligan (w), Rufus Dayglo (a), Dom Regan (c), Ellie De Ville (l)
Flesh: Gorehead by Pat Mills (w), Clint Langley (a), Ellie De Ville (l)

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Dan Dare audio release

The upcoming release of B7 Media's Dan Dare audio adventures has inspired the company to put together a brief video history of the character:

And here's a preview of the first story:

The first three stories can be ordered now from Big Finish. The first volume also contains a fourth disc of music by Imran Ahmad from Dan Dare and other B7 Media productions.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Randal Charlton

The Tribune was a new Liberal morning penny newspaper, launched on Monday, 15 January 1906, just in time to report on the sensational result of the general election, which saw Arthur Balfour's Conservative and Liberal Unionist coalition government dumped and a landslide victory for Liberal Henry Campbell-Bannerman. The newspaper, founded by MP Franklin Thomasson, was considered a little heavyweight in both appearance and contents, ran for two years before announcing its demise on 7 February 1908.

It was launched with a capital of £20,000, but this disappeared in the first year without leaving any appreciable mark on its sale or advertising revenue and a further £150,000 had to be injected to pay off liabilities accrued during the previous year and to keep the paper going. But while the future seemed somewhat brighter, the paper was still losing between £900 and £1,500 a week, a financial strain that was too great to carry for too long.

It was with the Tribune that Randal Charlton first came to the public attention. In his mid-twenties, Charlton joined as a "special" writer on the paper, but his early efforts were probably overshadowed by his first impact. During the launch of the paper a party was organised for the staff and Charlton, arriving early, imbibed heavily and passed out at the feet of Liberal MP Augustine Birrell.

The newspaper became the background for Philip Gibbs' novel The Street of Adventure (1909), the first successful novel to accurately depict Fleet Street. "The book is classed as fiction, but even to those unfamiliar with the inner workings of the London Press, it will be at once obvious that the characters and scenes are drawn from real life, and that there is a distinct autobiographical atmosphere throughout," reported The Scotsman, and Gibbs would later admit that "It is no secret now that the newspaper was 'The Tribune,' which lived and died before the war, as one of the most unhappy adventures in Fleet Street."

Gibbs later recorded that, although the book was a huge success, he sadly made no money from it because his royalties were swallowed up in legal costs for a threatened libel action bought by his former colleague Randal Charlton. "He was not pleased with my portrait," Gibbs later confessed.

Discovering authentic information on this interesting Fleet Street character has proven surprisingly difficult, although he appears glancingly in a number of reminiscenses about the street of ink.

H. Simonis, in The Street of Ink (1917), called Charlton "a great news gatherer. He started the entertaining 'Rambler' page which is such a sprightly feature of the Daily Mirror, and which he still contributes. He has also been associated with the Sunday Pictorial since the first." He receives a mention in The Receding Shore (1933), the memoirs of Bohemian Henry Savage, and Lord Alfred Douglas thought him “a charming fellow, who also wrote for me on The Academy.” (The Pantomime Man, 1933). Hannen Swaffer (Daily Herald, 12 March 1945) recalled an incident at the 1918 funeral of a former boxer: "When the remains of Dick Burge were slid into the furnace, Marie Lloyd, I well remember, tore herself away from Randal Charlton's comforting arms and shouted 'Dick, let me come with you!'" Philip Page (The Sphere, 16 September 1933), recalled "another Daily Graphic colleague was Randall Charlton. Charlton was a curious character, vastly tall and impressive, a fine journalist when he chose to be, a promising novelist, and a man of odd enthusiasms, which included Marie Lloyd, "Squire" Chaplin—and a whole gallery of criminals. He was never deeply interested in the theatre, though his knowlede of the music-halls was extensive and peculiar."

Bernard Falk described him (in He Laughed In Fleet Street, rev. 1937) as “an astonishing bohemian … tall, mysterious, unplaceable, promising, once to be a first-class novelist, next looking like one of the great journalistic successes of Fleet Street, finally tailing off into an odd-job reporter. Whenever I saw him I had the feeling that I was talking to a picturesque character in an O’Henry story. None the less, a nice fellow, as gentle as his voice. When in need he applied to me, and I offered him work, gave him definite jobs to do, but what happened when he left my room I never knew; no copy came from him and no explanation.”

Charlton stood six feet four inches and was, according to Douglas Martin (New York Times, 21 December 2002), "something of a dandy who wore morning coat, brocaded waistcoat and top hat as he made his reportorial rounds." He cut a regal figure in Bouverie Street; he was one of the New Bohemians—a drinking club founded in the early 1900s, that held its first meeting in the Portugal in Fleet Street and later gathered at the Tarton Room in Scotch House, Milford Lane, The Devereaux, The Prince’s Head in Buckingham Street, the Mitre and the Round Table. Its members included F. J. Cox, Edwin Pugh, Edgar Jepson, Cecil Chesterton, Charles Sheridan Jones, David Wilson, Arthur Machen and Christopher Wilson.

The description of him as potentially a first class novelist is backed up by contemporary reviews of his three novels, which appeared over a period of five years: Mave. A romance (1906), The Virgin Widow (1908) and The Bewildered Bride (1911). The first of these was seen as highly promising:
Mr. Randal Charlton has given us in "Mave" a singularly romantic tale in a delightful setting of old English country life. The love affair of Robert Trayner, who goes down to a little market town to transact professional business for his uncle, the London broker, and of Mave O'Moran, the pretty assistant in the ribbon shop, is withal a sad story. The lad is honest and the maid true, but fate is unkind to both, and to one there comes a tragic ending terrible in its pathos. Mr. Charlton has worked out a plot very deftly, and drawn his characters with a strong hand. The heroine is innocence itself, fervent in her love of the impetuous youth, and trusting implicitly in his honour—and her faith in him is not misplaced. But she stands in deadly peril of two individuals of widely different temprements—one a "patron of the virtues," the other a brutal ruffian of the most degraded type. The circumstances in which the three are brought together form the main, and, indeed, the most exciting part of the story. Other personages figure in the narrative—Trip, a horse jockey, full of anecdotes of old prize-fights, and with an unrivalled capacity for swallowing strong liquor; John Moff, the landlord of the inn; and old Mosely, the shady attorney. The old-fashioned surroundings, the life in the country inn, the movement in the High-street, the talk of coaches and post-chaises, and the scandal and gossip, all go towards the making of a very charming picture of the days when the nineteenth century was young, and men of fashion, like Mr. Robert Trayner, wore green coats and fine cambrios. (Norfolk Chronicle, 14 July 1906)

One detects in "Mave" ... a new note, which is full of promise of something greater than even the considerable achievement that stands to the author's credit in this novel. The atmosphere is charged with romance, and the story, which is by no means an easy one to present, is very cleverly told. Mave, the daughter of a woman who was hanged in the days when executions for petty offences were common enough, is the ribbon-counter girl in the millinery shop of a small country town when she excites a storm of passion which sweeps away several men. In the verse used as a motto to the book there occurs the line, "You were made from the twilight and rain"; and, consequently, no definite portrait of her is given. But Robert Trayner, whom she inspires with a great and a pure love, and Daniel Deacon, whose religious zeal is replaced by overwhelming desire, as well as Nat Avershaw, with his brutish admiration, are all drawn to the life. The end is tragic—it could not be anything else—and one perceives the hand of destiny. It is a notable and a distinguished piece of work, and much may be expected from the author. (Manchester Courier, 24 July 1906)
During 1907, Charlton was involved in the "The Cry of the Children" campaign, named after a series by George R. Sims and intended to raise awareness and push for legislation to prevent children from being allowed in public houses under a certain age. Charlton spoke at meetings, including a large meeting at The Corn Exchange in November 1907 in which he insisted that nobody could be satisfied with the state of England as it was to-day; nobody could feel that this great nation was organized as it ought to be; it seemed to him like a body in which the circulation of the blood was not active enough, and where every member of that body did not get sufficient life and power into it.

Charlton was clearly a powerful and popular speaker, his speech littered with applause when he spoke of  the crowd gathering that night because they wanted to give children the change to grow in wisdom and stature; to save them from their bad homes, from the bad streets, and from the power of the public houses—although the loudest applause was reserved for the end of his speech, which was a quote from Isiah: "How art thou fallen from salvation O day star, son of the morning; how art thou cut down to the ground, O thou who didst lay low the nations."

The following year, the Liberal government passed the Children's Act, also known as the Children's Charter.

Under the heading "Clever, but depressing," the Daily News reviewed Charlton's next novel, The Virgin Widow:
Originality and cleverness distinguish this novel, but it is original at the expense of probability, and its cleverness takes a morbid and unpleasant turn. An outline of the plot will help to explain our meaning. The story is told by "Mr. John," a cripple whose misfortune makes him adopt the tone of a lonely philosopher. His brother, Edward Bulmer, is dying of a wasting disease. He married – if the contract can be called a marriage – a woman who is content to be his nurse in return for a home. He then adopts, or, to be more precise, buys a child, Francine, and the happy home is complete. Edward is soon dead and out of the way.
    The next important character to appear is one Bramwell Moore, a playwright, and, of course, a disappointed playwright, because nobody must be cheerful in this novel. He is a frequent visitor to 'The Farm,' where the widow resides, and she falls in love with him. But he (need we say?) loves another – the girl Francine. The plot thickens with the arrival of an Italian, one Garianni, who holds a secret of the widow's past life, and is blackmailing her. He is murdered, by whom we are left to guess. In any case, Moore is tried for the crime, and acquitted through the sacrifice of the widow, who proves an alibi for him which involves a very emphatic and quite untruthful denial of her own virtue. After this it is a bitter blow to her to discover that the man on whose behalf she has abased herself is to marry Francine, and the book ends with her death under pitiful circumstances. Such a story might have depressed Mark Tapley* himself.
    * The depressed Dickens character from Martin Chuzzlewit.
Charlton's follow-up, published in 1911, was also reviewed in the Daily News (5 June 1911):
It is a pleasant fancy of Mr. Charlton's to pretend that his story is founded on fact, and there is, we suspect, this much ground for his pretence, that one of the characters has been suggested to him by some living person. We mean Mr. Hillary St. Ann, a gentleman in whom the author takes great and justifiable interest and pride. He is a bachelor who is losing the bloom of youth. Untouched himself, until too late, by affairs of the heart, he contrives to be the deus ex machina for troubled lovers, and he has the two refreshing qualities of superficial cynicism and a warm heart. The other characters are either undistinguished or unconvincing. The hero, Harry Monteith, is a shallow and impressionable young man, and the "bewildered bride" herself an ingenuous young lady of little individuality. Miss Scarlett, the servant girl whose past has converged on sordid lines with that of the hero, is not a convincing figure, although Mr. Charlton deserves credit for some originality in his treatment of her. The story is very clever and interesting, in spite of incidents which the author himself excuses on the ground that he is only narrating facts—an excuse, by the way, which is never valid for the purposes of a novel.
The Manchester Courier, meanwhile, thought it a "frankly sensational love story":
The author professes that it is simply a narrative of actual happenings, and extraordinary events do occur in real life. Certainly the tale is told in a matter-of-fact, off-hand style, with few trimmings and no attempt at polish, so that the profession of actuality is so far supported by internal evidence from the book itself. Anyhow, the story is readable, and that quality in this connection is of vastly more importance than mere truthfulness.
The Bewildered Bride was to prove Charlton's final novel, and his literary and theatrical career tailed off after this point. In 1915, he co-authored (with Frank L. Lascot) a biography of Edith Cavell which was announced to be published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1916, but there appears to be no trace of it held by any of the copyright libraries or on sale second hand. Charlton also had a hand in the production of Joy-Land, a huge, colourful musical revue produced by Albert de Courville at the London Hippodrome in December 1915 and subsequently on tour. The music was by Herman E. Darewski and how much was contributed by Charlton is unknown as the book and lyrics were credited to De Courville and Wal Pink.

While his literary career may have stumbled, Charlton was still finding regular work as a journalist. Following the demise of the Tribune, he had worked for the Daily Graphic, covering such stories as the trial of Dr. Crippen. In around 1913, he joined the staff of the Daily Mirror where he created the "This Morning's Gossip" and "Today's Gossip" columns, signed by 'The Rambler', that ran throughout the war years 1914-18. He was also a regular contributor to the Sunday Pictorial (which would later become the Sunday Mirror) during that same era.

News spread in early July 1916 that Charlton, described by The Era as "a well-known journalist" and by the Sporting Times as "the handsome young fellow with the Early Victorian tailor, who writes the genial “Gossip” in the Mirror," was to marry. A report on the wedding was carried by The Guardian (23 July 1916):
There was a large congregation at the church of Our Lady and St. Edward, Chiswick, yesterday, when Miss Birdie Coplans—well known in theatrical circles as Birdie Courtney—was married to Mr. Randal Charlton, who has been for some years past on the staff of the “Daily Mirror.” The wedding ceremony was performed by the Very Rev. Canon Egan. The bride has been appearing with great success in “Half-Past Eight” at the Comedy Theatre.
Birdie was the daughter of Elimelich Coplans (1856-1923) and Rachel Dinah Coplans (neé Press, 1858-1937), both immigrants from Jonava, Lithuania. They had married in Lithuania in 1874, shortly before emigrating, first to Whitechapel and then to Canterbury, and having 12 children. Birdie was born Fagilia Coplans in Canterbury in 1891, but registered as Fanny Coplans; as “fagilia” means little bird in Yiddish, she became known as ‘B’ or ‘Birdie’, but later anglicized her name to Barbara.

By 1916, she was well known for her appearances in revues and as a chorus girl with George Edwardes "Merry Widow" company.

Two children were born over the next couple of years—Maud M. Charlton on 24 March 1917 and Warwick Michael John Charlton on 9 March 1918—and the family were to be found living at 119 Park Road, Hanover Gate, London. However, life was not easy for the new family and on 13 April 1921, a petition was filed against Charlton with the High Court of Justice, and an order was made on 5 August 1921: Charlton was bankrupt and debts were paid off at a rate of 4 shillings to the pound. Another petition was filed on 4 August 1922 and an order made on 29 September 1922.

By this time, Charlton gave his address as John Bull, Long Acre, London. He had been a long-time friend and defender of Horatio Bottomley, who had been a Liberal MP when Charlton worked on The Tribune. Bottomley had founded John Bull in 1906. He was possibly working on Bottomley's newspapers at the time, the National News (later the Sunday Illustrated) and the short-lived Sunday Evening Telegram following his seeming departure as 'Rambler' from the Daily Mirror. By 1922, Bottomley was no longer connected with the paper and was facing a great many charges for fraud, for which he received a seven-year sentence.

Charlton's problems were not solely financial. He had separated from his wife and had been ordered to pay her the sum of £125 a year. Charlton had petitioned for a divorce naming a candidate in the then-current Parliamentary election as the co-respondent. However, he subsequently took out a summons asking for his petition to be withdrawn and instead tried to claim damages of £2,000 from the co-respondent.

Mrs. Charlton, meanwhile, claimed that her husband had paid none of the money he was ordered to pay and the case came before Mr. Justice Astbury at the Bankruptcy Court. Charlton was summonsed to appear due to arrears of alimony amounting to £85 10s.

Charlton's poor fortunes meant that final payments made against his latest bankruptcy amounted to only 5d. in the pound. He was eventually released from his 1921 bankruptcy on 3 January 1924, and the 1922 bankruptcy on 17 March 1925.

In 1930, Charlton (increasingly, his first name was spelled Randall) was back in court, but was this time not the defendant. The only mention I have been able to find is in the Yorkshire Post (10 May 1930):
Before Mr. Justice Maugham, in the Chancery Division yesterday, mentioning was made of the action by Mr. Randall Charlton against Messrs. Hutchinson, the publishers, upon which there was a motion for an injunction to restrain an alleged passing off by the defendants. It was stated that it had been agreed, subject to the approval of the Court, that the motion should stand over until the trial of the action, costs to be costs in the action. Mr. Justice Maugham approved this action.
The lack of any further newspaper coverage makes it seem unlikely that the case ever came to trial. Eighteen months later, and almost unnoticed, Randal Conway passed away at the age of 49. The New York Times carried a brief note:
LONDON, Dec. 27.—Randal Charlton, novelist and theatrical critic, with a wide circle of American friends, died during the week-end. Mr. Charlton for many years was one of the best known figures in Fleet Street and was chiefly associated with the Daily Mirror.
Although the NY Times refers to the previous week-end, the date of Charlton's death has been given as 8 December 1931.

This uncertainty about the date seems quite fitting, as it caps a rather mysterious life. Charlton appears to have arrived fully formed at The Tribune, and no earlier official record than the 1911 census, which records his birthplace as Bloomsbury, London, and his age as 28.

Of his family, there was certainly further trace. In 1933, Mrs. Randall Charlton penned "The Rabbit", a short story in the pages of The New London Magazine. Her husband had also written at least a couple of stories during the Great War, "Shuffling Papers" (The Strand (US), May 1914) and "Wit of Don Jose" (Overland Monthly, Mar 1917).

In 1938, Randal Charlton's daughter hit the headlines when it was announced that her previously announced engagement to Viennese film star Anton Walbrook, would not be taking place. Maude Courtney (her mother's stage name was Birdie Courtney) was a 21-year-old chorus girl with C. B. Cochran's company and 38-year-old Anton Walbrook was internationally famous for his appearance as Prince Albert in Victoria the Great and Sixty Glorious Years and as Michel Strogoff in Michel Strogoff and The Soldier and the Lady.

Walbrook was born Adolf Wohlbrück and it was his nationality that was the problem, as was explained by solicitors when the split was announced:
It appears that Mrs Randall-Charlton, the mother of Miss Courtney, while aware of her daughter's close friendship with Mr Walbrook, was ignorant of the proposed marriage.
    Immediately she learned of the plan she pointed out to her daughter that by marrying Mr Walbrook she would automatically be forced to surrender her British passport and thus lose her British nationality.
    Legal advice was sought this morning, as Miss Courtney is not yet 21 years of age [she was – Steve], and, as a result of this advice Mr Walbrook and Miss Courtney have reluctantly agreed that in view of the difficulties that would arise for both parties, the application for marriage should be withdrawn.
    Mr Walbrook, who has made England his home for the last two years, is still an Austrian subject, and, although he hopes to remain in this country, both he and Miss Courtney have agreed that legal obstacles have unfortunately created the postponement of their plans.
    Mrs Randall-Charlton told a reporter that Mr Walbrook's nationality was the sole bar to his marrying her daughter. "Personally I think he is a very charming man," she said.
    "Maudie is, of course, terribly disappointed—broken hearted. They are still friends and if there is any way of surmounting the barrier the wedding will take place as soon as ever the difficulties can be straightened out.
    "In the present state of European turmoil I dare not think of my daughter becoming an alien, being married to a man without a country, and a subject of Herr Hitler.
    "Mr Walbrook is a refugee—he had a Jewish grandmother—and Maudie is a Catholic. Her family is descended from the Plantagenets and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It is one of the oldest families in England.
    "How could she sacrifice this great heritage to become an outcast?"
As Birdie Courtney's family were Lithuanian, she can only be talking about her late husband's family.

Warwick Charlton, her son, also had a turbulent career, leaving school to become a journalist like his father, but soon caught up in the war. Originally in the Royal Fusiliers, he produced a magazine that was seen by Randolph Churchill, who asked him to produce a paper for the Western Desert Force. This was the infamous Eighth Army News and Charlton went on to produce The Crusader and Tripoli Times and earned himself a mention in despatches at El Alamein. He was press advisor to General Montgomery and, after VE day, Service Relations Officer to Lord Mountbatten before becoming a feature writer for the Daily Express and broadcaster.

He wrote plays and a book on the Profumo Affair, raised money to build a replica of the Mayflower, which sailed to America in 1957 under Captain Alan Villiers, and in 1999 was behind the proposed Hawking Spacetime Centre in Seville. Warwick Charlton died in December 2002, aged 84.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Illustrators #16

The latest issue of Illustrators (Autumn 2016) thumped onto the doormat the other day, reassuringly hefty in these days of lightweight Toblerones.

It's a particularly colourful issue which leads off with a nice long appreciation of Neal Adams, whose memorable run on Deadman made his name in the late 1960s. Adams went on to draw X-Men and The Avengers, before returning to DC to revive Batman,  team-up Green Lantern / Green Arrow, and Superman vs. Mohammad Ali before turning to book covers and independent comics, returning occasionally to the mainstream (e.g. Batman Odyssey, First X-Men).

Peter Stone covers his career in detail and the feature is accompanied with some great illustrations dating back to his early Sixties work on the "Ben Casey" newspaper strip and numerous comic covers. The only shame here is that the article doesn't cover much from the past 25 years.

Never mind. Here's Paul Slater to keep us amused with some of his wilful mischievousness. British-born but inspired by MAD Magazine, he is probably best known for his covers for The Listener and twenty years illustrating the "Eating Out" column for the Times Magazine and working on Saturday, the weekly Daily Express magazine, all of which has allowed him to draw and paint his absurdist illustrations in a wide variety of styles.

Canadian Will Davies worked for a wide range of America's top magazines, from The Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal to Good Housekeeping. He returned to Canada and was soon earning $500 a week (big bucks in the 1950s) and named "Canada's top illustrator".

Cecil Glossop was an English illustrator who contributed to boys' papers in the 1920s and 1930s, most notably to Chums where he was one of the paper's chief adventure story illustrators, favouring stories of pirates, highwaymen and foreign legionnaires, although he was versatile enough to draw everything from African adventure to aviation.

Little-known these days, this exploration of his work by David Ashford is especially welcome.

For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. Issue 17 will feature Mort Kunsler, Gustave Dore, Zac Retz and Francisco Coching.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Comic Cuts - 2 December 2016

Having spent a little time working on the Valiant index, this week I've had to concentrate on the job that pays the rent. Hotel Business has taken up most of my work day and hasn't left time for much else. I did spend most of Saturday and all of Sunday working on another article about an obscure and long-forgotten author. And I would have gotten it finished if it hadn't been for those darn kids!

Actually there were no kids involved. Mel was away the weekend before last, so we've had a lot of TV to catch up with. As well as our usual weekly intake of humour (The Last Leg, Have I Got News For You, QI, Dave Gorman's Modern Life is Goodish), and documentaries (Planet Earth II, Who Do You Think You Are?), we've been catching up with the second series of Missing, which has been brilliant.

We treated ourselves to fish & chips on Monday and a double-helping of the latter thriller, with a desert of No Such Thing as the News to finish off the evening on a lighter note. I think this second serial is the equal to the first series, which was a huge hit in the papers. It doesn't seem to have generated the same high count of column inches, but it has been as nailbiting. Tchéky Karyo has been brilliant as dogged detective Julien Baptiste and I've been a fan of Keeley Hawes for years. She played Diana Dors in a 2-parter about twenty years ago and has since been responsible for some of the most dramatic moments on TV in shows like Spooks, Ashes to Ashes and Line of Duty as well as playing the mother in The Durrells. She's one of a small handful of actors whose choices seem to coincide with my tastes (Celia Imrie and Olivia Coleman are usually good rules of thumb, too, although the former did appear in a film called Dude, Where's My Donkey, so it isn't foolproof).

My lunchtime viewing has been Dune, the mini-series that appeared on the Sci-Fi Channel in 2000 starring Alex Newman, William Hurt and Saskia Reeves. I had the good fortune to pick up the sequel, Children of Dune (2003) recently and thought I'd reacquaint myself with the original series. It took a while, but I've finally ploughed through all three lengthy episodes. I remember it as being far better than the David Lynch movie – which I've also rewatched this year, but with no greater enthusiasm than I previously had for it – and it still holds up well. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

I was prompted by the news that there is to be another Dune movie. It's not an easy book to translate into a single film, as Jodorowski's failed early attempt and Lynch's butchered completed attempt proved. Maybe the producers are thinking of it as a two- or three-part epic story that will take more than one film to tell.

There hasn't been much time for anything else, so we'll go straight into our random scans... which are a few covers for comic strips that I've picked up recently. Three are old Private Eye strips, the first by "Monty Stubble" (the joint pen-name of PE editor Ian Hislop & artist Nick Newman, who later co-wrote the My Dad's the Prime Minister TV show). "Battle For Britain" originally ran in 1983-87. Nick Newman still draws the "Snipcock & Tweed" cartoon.

The Barry McKenzie series had an even greater pedigree as it was written by Barry Humphries (based on an idea by Peter Cook) and drawn by cartoonist Nicholas Garland. It inspired two films, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and Barry McKenzie Holds His Own.

Lastly, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard by Eddie Campbell and Dan Best, because if you see anything by Eddie Campbell, you pick it up. Right?

I should add that the column header is by Paul Lehr, another pair of scans that I've had sitting on the desktop of my computer for months. I have a feeling that I pasted the two pics together that way because the NEL version came out earlier than the Signet book. Not that it matters in the big scheme of things, but it does affect the way I list the art credit in my notes.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Commando issues 4971 - 4974

Commando issues on sale 1st December 2016.

Commando – 4971 – Island of Last Hope
In 1938, Germany invaded Poland…but Poland did not give in without a fight.
    Captain Micha Polanski and the Polish Air Force fought valiantly against the might of the Luftwaffe. But when his brother was slaughtered, Micha swore vengeance against the plane that cut him down, the plane that bore the symbol of a Black Eagle and Swastika.
    Micha was sent to Britain to continue the fight against Nazis, but he still hoped he would see that plane again and avenge his brother. As for Micha and many other Poles, Britain was wyspa ostatniej nadziei… The Island of Last Hope.

Story: Shane Filer
Art: Muller
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando – 4972 – Stringbag Ace
They said H.M.S. Adventurer was a haunted ship; haunted by a shadowy figure bent on sending the carrier to the bottom with all her planes and crew.
    Mystery lights flashed at night to guide enemy bombers to her. Men were struck down in shadowy corners and never knew what hit them. Guns jammed, planes blew up. Death, sudden and baffling, stalked by night along the quiet alleyways of the ship…
    And a young flight lieutenant wanted to get his Spitfires and their pilots to Malta in one piece.

If you’re searching for an outstanding adventure then look no further than this maritime gem. Tyson contrasts the claustrophobic confines of the H.M.S. Adventurer with the endless vistas of the skies to create a tense tale of ships, sabotage and Stringbags.
    To top it all off, this issue boasts a truly dynamic cover, courtesy of iconic and greatly missed Commando artist, Ken Barr. Set at a dizzying angle, it’s a dramatic and exhilarating depiction of aerial action.—The Commando Team

Story: Tyson
Art: Peter Ford
Cover: Ken Barr
Stringbag Ace, originally Commando No 265 (June 1967), reissued as No 935 (May 1975)

Commando - 4973 – Mountie Hunter
Mounties Drew Fraser and Ross McKinley were partners and best friends. But when Drew enlisted in the Canadian Army, Ross was left behind.
    However, Mountie life was far from quiet for Ross as the destruction of the war in Europe had extended its deathly claw all the way to Canada. Trains and supply lines were being targeted with ruthless precision, destroying vital supplies for the Allies. So ruthless in fact it spelled only one thing – sabotage!
    Hunting the German spies would push Drew to the edge and force him to make the ultimate sacrifice. But a Mountie always gets his man…

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Vincente Alcazar
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando - 4974 – Press Gang
Front-line action from the London blitz right through to the final American triumph against the Japanese in the Pacific. Not bad for a man invalided out of the R.A.F. in 1940 and not even in the fighting forces.
    But then R.D. Jones was a press photographer and he and his mate Tommy Vidler were a two-man team of war correspondents, risking death to get the news to their readers at home.

Alan Hemus’ celebration of wartime correspondence is a boyish adventure that runs the full length of the Second World War, from the London Blitz to the final days of the Pacific War.
    There is a great array of characters and show stopping set pieces, all brought to life by the dynamic pen of artist, Manuel Benet. Benet is a true Commando comics veteran, still illustrating new issues to this day, so it’s a real joy to be able to share some of his earlier artwork – enjoy!—The Commando Team

Story: Alan Hemus
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Press Gang, originally Commando No 2479 (June 1991)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion Releases for 30 November and 1 December.

2000AD Prog 2009
Judge Dredd: Cube Root of Evil by Arthur Wyatt (w), Jake Lynch (a), John Charles (c), Annie Parkhouse (l)
Savage: The Marze Murderer by Pat Mills (w), Patrick Goddard (a), Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hunted by Gordon Rennie (w), PJ Holden (a), Len O'Grady (c), Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: Return of the Revolutionaries by Rory McConville (w), Eoin Coveney (a), Ellie De Ville (l)
Flesh: Gorehead by Pat Mills (w), Clint Langley (a), Ellie De Ville (l)

Fink Angel: Legacy by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Mick McMahon, Peter Doherty, Carlos Ezquerra, Tiernen Trevallion
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08497-7, 1 December 2016, £14.99. Available from Amazon.
THE ANGEL GANG ARE THE MEANEST, MOST DERANGED VILLAINS EVER to come out of the Cursed Earth. The all-male family of psychopathic criminal hillbillies first encountered Mega-City One’s greatest lawman Judge Dredd when he was on a quest to find the Judge Child. Having despatched Pa, Link, Junior and Mean, Dredd later came face to face with Fink Angel, the eldest sibling of the clan who visited Mega-City One in search of vengeance for his fallen kin folk. The latest member of the Angel Gang is Fink’s son Ratfink – a Cursed Earth-dwelling fiend who preys on passing helltrekkers. Just like his father, Ratfink has a love of poisons, rodents and mayhem…

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 28
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08433-5, 1 December 2016, £19.99. Available from Amazon.
THE BAD AND THE MAD IN MEGA-CITY ONE! Mega-City One is plagued by a group of rebelling Jimmy Dean clones, underground murder clubs, a Sexmek serial killer and a revenge-filled taxidermist, back from the grave and looking for justice!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Martin Aitchison (1919-2016)

The obituary for Martin Aitchison appeared in the Saturday edition of The Guardian (26 November 2016). For those of you who missed it:

If you're like me and your eyesight isn't as good as it used to be, you can read the text online here at the Guardian website, where it appeared back on 10 November.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Bungle Brothers

Working on the Valiant index means trying to nail down a lot of artists that were still unidentified when I did the original version back in 1994. I'm rather poor on humour artists, but I know there are experts out there who may be able to help. If you know someone who might be able to help, send them a link to this post. I'll be eternally grateful.

I'm reposting the "Tatty-Mane" column, which you'll find if you scroll down. Here we take a brief look at "The Bungle Brothers", which first appeared in Valiant on 18 November 1972 and ran, with a few gaps, until 10 March 1973.

But who was the artist?

(* The Bungle Brothers © Rebellion Publishing Ltd.)

Tatty-Mane King of the Jungle

The funny animal strip was no stranger to Valiant by 1966. The paper had, after all, been running ''The Crows' since its first issue. Most of the humour strips in Valiant were by recognisable names (the mighty Roy Wilson even had a strip in early issues), but one or two names have eluded me.

Who, for instance, was the artist for 'Tatty-Mane King of the Jungle', which ran for almost two years in Valiant in 1966-68. It could be one of the Spanish artists who began filling the pages of British comics with slickly drawn humour strips in around 1960, most notably Angel Nadal who drew 'The Nutts' for Valiant for almost a decade and Martz Schmidt who, I believe, drew a couple of early Valiant strips.

Here are a few early strips featuring Tatty... hopefully someone will be able to identify the artist.

(* 'Tatty-Mane' © Time Inc. (UK).)