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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Prudence O'Shea (Jasmine Chatterton)

Prudence O'Shea had a varied career under a number of names. She was an actress, model, designer, author and agent over the years, yet surprisingly little seems to be known about her.

She was born Victoria Jessamine Merchant on 12 March 1893, her birth registered in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, although census records state that she was born in nearly Aldershot. Her father, Victor Jabez Merchant, was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, in 1864 [he was baptized John Victor Jaber (sic) Merchant] and married Fanny Sargent in 1885. Victoria was the last of four children. Victor Merchant was a soldier for many years, serving with the permanent staff of the 4th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. He completed 25 years of exemplary service between June 1883 and his retirement in September 1908. He subsequently served during the First World War as a Captain with the Durham Light Infantry.

By 1901, Fanny Marchant (sic) is listed as head of the family home at 20 New Street, Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Her occupation is given as "monthly nurse" and she still has three of her children living with her. Victor has returned in the 1911 census, where he is working as a clerk in the corn trade and living with his wife and two of their children at Tower Road, Boston, Lincolnshire

Her mother died in 1914 and Victor married his second wife, Florence Mary Hewitt, in 1916. He died in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, in 1932, aged 68.

In 1913, she was one of the "Daily Express Ladies" who were given flights at Hendon over the Easter weekend. A report of the weekend notes that "Lewis Turner ... took up one, Miss Prudence O'Shea of the Gaiety." A later newspaper interview noted that she had "appeared in several shows, including some produced by George Edwardes in the hectic times of the Gaiety."

She performed in numerous plays, including Broadway performances in a variety of musical comedies, To-Night's the Night (ensemble, Shubert Theatre, 24 Dec 1914-27 Mar 1915), The Blue Paradise (chorus, Casino Theatre, 5 Aug 1916-[May 1916], Around the Map (Venus Lova, New Amsterdam Theatre, 1 Nov 1915-29 Jan 1916), Sybil (chorus, Liberty Theatre, 10 Jan-3 Jun 1916) and Betty (as Lady Paula Colquhoun, Globe Theatre, 3 Oct-25 Nov 1916).

Theatre life had many ups and downs, as the following interview notes:
While rehearsing, Miss O'Shea met a girl who was to play a large part in her life. She was Melisande, one of the most beautiful girls on the stage. The two became firm friends.
    In one of their hard-up periods, Miss O'Shea and Melisande met a young man named Carlos. He showered presents on them, and later revealed, when Melisande was going to America, that the money he had spent on them was obtained by forging his wife's name.
    Carlos saw Melisande off on the train. She would not kiss him. He committed suicide on the platform.
    When things were going well, the girls went out to parties with regular monotony. They reached home at four o'clock in the morning. "We seemed to be drunk every night," says Miss O'Shea.
    Came the war and the wonderful days of the stage seemed to disappear with its arrival.
    Miss O'Shea, after a while, took up war work. Melisande went to America. They never saw each other for some time. Then one day, Miss O'Shea saw a woman walking aimlessly through the London streets. It was her friend.
    Melisande said she was tired of life. It seemed that happiness would never come to Melisande. It did, however, in the same way—by marriage.
This brief interview (syndicated to various newspapers in June 1930) noted that Miss O'Shea had also found happiness in marriage and was living with her husband and "two romping children" in a little cottage by the Thames. Prudence—or, rather, Victoria Jasmine Merchant—had married Robert Ernest Chatterton (1897-1974) in 1929. Robert, born in 1897, was also known as Robert E. Seiffert, had previously married Olive A. Groves. One of the two romping children was probably Michael G. Groves born in 1924.

Prudence O'Shea had begun publishing fiction at least as early as 1923 and her stories and articles appeared throughout the 1920s in 20 Story Magazine, The Royal Magazine, Piccadilly and The Bystander.

Prudence also designed clothing and was described as a "director of one of London's exclusive designing firms. She was pictured in some of her creations, a two-piece sports suit and a black georgette frock.

Prudence also began writing novels in the latter half of the 1930s, averaging one a year between 1936 and 1940. However, her output was curtailed by the war and she made the transition to agenting other people's work when she set up Jasmine Chatterton Ltd., an author's agency, in 1944. The directors of the firm included her husband, Major Robert E. Chatterton, and accountant K. C. Lindsay. The firm's office was given as 28 Montpelier Street, London S.W.7. and an advert in the 1949 Author's and Writer's Who's Who claimed that the company represents "Books. Adult; Adolescent. Fiction and Non-fiction. No reading fee charged. All manuscripts submitted must be highest standard."

The marriage between Jamine and Robert had by then broken down and Robert E. Chatterton (or Seiffert) married Gertrude S. Blackman (nee Sarah Gertrude Newton, 1894-1963, previously married to Richard D. Blackman in 1924 and Reginald Hamilton-Brown in 1938) in 1947.

Jasmine Chatterton's business ran until 1962. A notice appeared in the London Gazette warning that the company would be struck off the register and dissolved, which it duly was in March 1963. Presumably the company had not been active for some years. Whether Jasmine Chatterton continued to work in literary circles or as a writer is unknown. 

Victoria Jasmine Chatterton died peacefully at St Mary Abbotts Hospital, Kensington, on 26 June 1982, aged 88. She was cremated at Mortlake Crematorium, London SW14, on 6 July.


Famine Alley. London, Albert E. Marriott, 1930.
Silver Mountain. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1936.
Warm Autumn. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1937.
Scandalous Interlude. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1938.
Free and Fortunate. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1938.
Paradise for the Porretts. London, Cassell & Co., 1940.
The Cygnets, with Meg Sheridan. London, Macdonald & Co., 1947.
Wine and Roses. London, Macdonald & Co., 1948.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Comic Cuts - 19 September 2014

Anyone following the progress of the latest book from Bear Alley will be pleased to hear that the release date should only be a matter of weeks. I finished the layouts on Tuesday and I'm now waiting on a proof copy. There's an approval process that I need to go through with the copyright holders but they've been very receptive so far and I'm not expecting any problems.

The final book is 140 pages, with a couple of introductions, one relating to the creators of the strip and a second about gladiatorial combat past, present and future. The latter is a little self-indulgent, and at over 4,400 words a lot longer than I'd planned, but as I'd already had to set the price when we were negotiating the license, it hasn't made any difference to the cover price and the book won't cost you a penny more just because I've added half a dozen more pages.

Within the next couple of weeks I should be able to confirm the release date and will have everything set up to take payments over on the Bear Alley Books site.

I have a couple of ideas for what to do next; hopefully another strip collection. But as I haven't even started the negotiations yet, I'd better not jinx the notion by talking about it too early.

I'm in a weird state of post-book euphoria. While I'm waiting on the proof, and before I get cracking on the next book, I want to nudge a couple of other projects along. One is to rewrite the Harry Bensley/Man in the Iron Mask material that I published on Bear Alley a few weeks ago and put out an e-book. I have a little additional information on his travels, more on his marriages and have discovered a previously unmentioned child.

I also want to revisit another old rogue that I've written about in the past. I spent Wednesday ferreting around the pages of newspapers from between the wars and turned up a lot of new and interesting information. I've also nailed down details of his birth and discovered the curious story of his father.

And I'm now going to be a rotten sod and not say his name. I don't want to give away all the surprises.

Let's talk about something else. Weight watchers will be pleased to hear that I haven't put on any weight or pissed off (on my behalf) to hear that I haven't lost any weight. I'm stuck on 101 kilos and have been for two months. I don't think it's a coincidence that I've been working on the new book for precisely that period. Although I haven't missed any of my walks and only missed a handful of rides on the exercise bike, I haven't really done much else. So while I've found the level of exercise that will keep my weight steady, I need to push it that extra mile, or an extra ten minutes, if I'm to burn off a few calories.

Tomato season is almost  over. For a pair of non-gardeners with the black, twisted fingers of death rather than green fingers, Mel and I have done pretty well with our pair of tomato plants. We've had over 200 tomatoes – had some with out macaroni cheese last night! – but we're thinking that next weekend we'll pluck off any remaining fruits and just leave them on the window sill. If they ripen, great. If not, we can fry them, right?

Our random scans this week are a couple of SF Masterworks titles that I've picked up recently. I can't believe I sold off a load of these many years ago. It really is an astonishing series containing an amazing line-up of novels. If you ever needed to recommend any science fiction titles to anyone, you could do a lot worse than saying "Just pick up any title with the SF Masterworks brand and you'll be holding a classic."

Perhaps Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed wouldn't be the best place to start for anyone coming to SF new. Politics and sociology aren't what people expect of science fiction and a novel like The Dispossessed can be a bit of a struggle for the novice. I like the fact that the SF Masterworks series began with The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and Cities in Flight by James Blish, which are all good starter novels if you want to get into SF.

Samuel R. Delany's books had some of the best covers around when I was buying paperbacks in the 1970s. Some fabulous work by Chris Foss, Peter Elson, Angus McKie and Tony Roberts – I'm going by memory, so forgive me if I'm wrong. My original copy of Nova has a couple of spaceships in an asteroid field with a distant sun and a lot lens flare. The book has been gone for twenty years but I can still see it. [In fact, I found a scan online – very poor but I've included it above so you can see what I'm talking about.]]

The last of our quartet is a bit of an oddity. I have recently picked up a couple of novels by Neal Asher, but have yet to actually read one. The Engineer is an early collection published by a little Leicester outfit, Tanjen Ltd. I'd never heard of them until I picked up this book. They seem to have been a publisher of horror novels, collections and anthologies, active around the late 1990s/early 2000s. They published Asher's first novel, The Parasite in 1996.

Coming shortly: I have another excellent historical piece by Robert Kirkpatrick about penny dreadful publisher Henry Lea, which I will be running soon. I might – might – take a few days off to catch up with various tasks that need doing (back-ups, e-mail, etc.) and to get my Iron Mask e-book written. These things don't write themselves, you know!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Magnum Annual 1983 (part 3)

(* Magnum P.I. TM and © Universal City Studios Inc.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Magnum Annual 1983 (part 2)


(* Magnum P.I. TM and © Universal City Studios Inc.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Magnum Annual 1983 (part 1)

Based on the popular American series Magnum P.I. starring colourful Aloha shirt-wearing Tom Selleck, the Magnum Annual appeared three times, cover dated 1982, 1983 and 1984. The annual I'm revisiting this week is the middle one, published by Stafford Pemberton in 1982, priced £2.50, and featuring the talents of long-time World Distributors contributors Chas. Pemberton, who wrote the stories, and artists Edgar Hodges and Walt Howarth.

The set up of the show was simple: Magnum was a private eye based in Hawaii. He lives in the guest house of an author, Robin Masters (voiced by Orson Welles), whose estate is watched over by an ex-British Army Sergeant Major, Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, played with an impeccable English accent by American actor John Hillerman. Magnum can often be found in a bar run by Rick Wright (Larry Manetti) or using the services of helicopter pilot T.C. Calvin (Roger E. Mosley), when he is not driving around in Masters' Ferrari 308 GTS.

The annuals were notably more gritty in their storylines that some of their contemporaries. This blog discussing the 1982 annual notes: "I expected something along the lines of your typical, boring and benign TV comic adaptation - harmless and child friendly.  What I got was something not that far off from those old pulp magazines."

So, sit back, relax and enjoy a few pages from Magnum Annual 1983.

(* Magnum P.I. TM and © Universal City Studios Inc.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ian McDonald cover gallery


Desolation Road (1988)
Bantam 0553-17532-7, (Feb) 1989, 355pp, £3.99. Cover by Les Edwards.
Earthlight 0671-03753-6, (May) 2001, 373pp, £6.99. Cover by Paul Youll

Out on Blue Six (1989)
Bantam 0553-40044-4, (Aug) 1990, 335pp, £4.99. Cover by Will Cormier

King of Morning, Queen of Day (1991)
Bantam 0553-40371-0, (Feb) 1992, 389pp, £4.99. Cover by Mark Harrison

Hearts, Hands and Voices (1992; also published as The Broken Land)
VGSF 0575-05373-9, (Mar) 1993, 320pp, £4.99. Cover by Jim Burns

Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone (1994)
(no UK paperback)

Necroville (1994; also published as Terminal Cafe)
VGSF 0575-06004-2, (Jul) 1995, 317pp,p £5.99. Cover by Chris Brown
Gollancz 978-0575-09851-0, (Mar) 2011, 354pp, £7.99. Cover by Dominic Harman

Chaga (1995)
Vista 0575-60022-5, (Nov) 1996, 413pp, £5.99. Cover by Mark Harrison
Millennium/Orion 1857-98875-2, (Jun) 1999, 413pp, £6.99.

Sacrifice of Fools (1996)
Vista 0575-60059-4, (Dec) 1997, 286pp, £5.99. Cover by Mike Posen

Kirinya (1998)
Millennium/Orion 1857-98876-0, (Jun) 1999, 412pp, £6.99. Cover by Mick Posen.

Tendeleo's Story (2000)
PS Publishing 1902-88012-9, (Aug) 2000, 91pp, £8.00. Cover by David A. Hardy

Ares Express (2001)
Earthlight 0671-03754-4, (Mar) 2002, 553pp, £7.99. Cover by Paul Youll

River of Gods (2004)
Simon & Schuster 0743-25670-0, (Jun) 2004, 583pp, £12.99.
Pocket Books 0743-40400-9, (Apr) 2005, 583pp, £7.99. Cover by Paolo Pellizarri; design by Darren Wall
Gollancz 978-0575-08226-7, (Jul) 2009, 584pp, £8.99. Cover by Dominic Harman

Brasyl (2007)
Orion 0575-08050-7, (Jun) 2007, 405pp, £12.99. Cover by Dominic Harman
Gollancz 978-0575-08288-5, (Aug) 2008, 420pp, £7.99. Cover by Dominic Harman

The Dervish House (2010)
Gollancz 978-0575-08053-9, (Aug) 2010, [8]+472pp,  £12.99. Cover by Dominic Harman
Gollancz 978-0575-08862-7, (Jul) 2011, 480pp, £8.99.

Planesrunner (2011)
Jo Fletcher 978-1780-87679-5, (Jan) 2013, 320pp, £12.99. Cover by Ghost
Jo Fletcher 978-1780-87667-2, (Apr) 2013, 371pp, £7.99. Cover by Ghost

Be My Enemy (2012)
Jo Fletcher 978-1780-87680-1, (Jun) 2013, 320pp, £12.99. Cover by Ghost
Jo Fletcher 978-1780-87670-2, (Jan) 2014, 384pp, £8.99. Cover by Ghost

Empress of the Sun (2014)
Jo Fletcher 978-1780-87681-8, (Jan) 2014, 389pp, £12.99. Cover by Ghost


Empire Dreams (1988)
(no UK paperback)

Speaking in Tongues (1992)
VGSF 0575-05608-8, (Oct) 1993, 248pp, £4.99. Cover by Jim Burns

Cyberabad Days (2008)
Gollancz 978-0575-08408-7, (Apr) 2009, 320pp, £12.99. Cover by Dominic Harman
Gollancz 978-0675-08406-3, (Oct) 2009, 488pp, £7.99. Cover by Dominic Harman


Kling Klang Klatch, with David Lyttleton (1992)
Gollancz 0575-05298-8, (Aug) 1992, 80pp, £9.99. Cover by David Lyttleton