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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sydney J. Bounds (1920-2006)

I'm very saddened by the news that Syd Bounds has died. Syd was one of the first authors I ever wrote to, way back in 1979 when I was writing a school project on science fiction magazines. We last met at the ABC comics fair in February. Syd had moved, in May, from his home in Kingston-upon-Thames to Telford, Shropshire, and was unable to get to either the September or October book fairs which he had so regularly attended for many years. He was recently hospitalised and died on Saturday, 25 November, having celebrated his 86th birthday a couple of weeks earlier.

Born on November 4, 1920, Sydney James Bounds sold his first story in 1943 and was one of the more prolific authors of the ‘mushroom jungle’ post-war era of cheap paperback publishing and beyond. Although he wrote over 40 novels, Syd’s metier was always the short story of which he wrote hundreds, many published anonymously in children’s papers and annuals. Anyone who has tried to make a living from selling fiction will know the difficulties of changing characters and plots every 2,000 words, yet Syd managed to make a living doing just that for many years. Although best known for his science fiction, his talent for turning a situation on its head in one chilling line made him one of the champions of small press horror magazines of the 1980s and 1990s. It was only in 2003 that any of his short stories were collected, in the two volume Best of Sydney J. Bounds, edited by Philip Harbottle, although his work has been translated into a number of languages, appearing in France, Norway, Sweden and Italy as well as America and Australia. Three stories have been adapted for radio and one story for American TV.

Like many writers, retirement age came and went and, in the 1990s, Syd was working for a correspondence school in writing and I can think of no-one better for advice when it comes to producing professionally acceptable stories.

In the spring of 2000, he began writing novels again when Phil Harbottle sold many of his old westerns to Robert Hale. Syd signed a five-book contract and, despite being adamant that the fifth would be his last one, he continued to produce new novels in his ‘Savage’ series, the seventh of which was published in December 2005.

Unmarried, Syd was around five foot six, slightly built with a shock of white hair. It was always a pleasure to meet up with him and he always has the same answer if you were to ask how he was doing: "Still upright," he would say with a grin. I shall miss his good humour.

(* I above books show the diversity of Syd's talents to write what the market demanded. The Big Steal is especially apt title for that crime novel -- John Spencers published it four times under four different bylines and Syd never saw an extra penny! The photograph was taken in October 2003 at the Park Plaza Hotel.)

2 comments:

Chris said...

Aw. He was a big name in the small press when I was selling stories to them in the 1980s. It looks like we overlapped by place also - I moved to Kingston last year.

Steve said...

Syd lived at the same address, 27 Borough Road, Kingston-on-Thames, for over forty years. I can still remember it even without looking it up!

Steve