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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Eagle Annual query

I've had a note from Sid Crawford who recalls a story from Eagle Annual that I can't identify (the curse of the "stuff still in boxes" strikes again):

"I remember a short strip in the Eagle annual, about two boys, one of whom was adopted. The story line was that the parents took their own son on a day out but the foster son was adopted for the day by a wealthy family with a wonderful car who took him on a day out where they treated him like a king.
"The punchline was always the return of the "family" and the chagrin of the natural son who had fared worse than his sibling."

Anyone know the name of the strip or story?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Comic Cuts

Not much to report. On the home front the work on the porch seems to have ground to a halt with no activity for the last couple of days. Mind you, I can't tell you how great it feels to have a break from the distraction and noise. Blissful silence broken only by me groaning under the weight of boxes that still need to be emptied. The headache has been replaced by backache.

There's little news on the work front. I've typed up most of the text for the stories in the next two Trigan Empire Collection volumes. I've now typed up the dialogue for over 470 episodes of the strip940 pages. Only a handful to go now. I've also been proofing some of the pages for the Karl the Viking box-set. "Some of" because one set of proofs has gone missing in the post.

Tomorrow I start work on the Trigan introductions which should be interesting as we're dealing with the very first few stories so I've got to get my head around how the Elekton solar system works, the history of the Vorgs and the origins of Trigan City.

Monday (September 1st) sees the release of my next bunch of books: Love on Ward B: Hospital Nurse Romance Library and The Best of Boyfriend. These are both credited to Mel on Amazon, her first byline on a book, although she has worked on a number of books in the past and edited a crafts book for David & Charles a couple of years ago. We've worked together on quite a few things in the past, although, in this instance, I'll put my hand up and say that I'm responsible for these particular books... and any mistakes.

Monday also sees the release of The Best of 2000AD, which I had no hand in. I've not seen any information on the book other than that it's a 384-page collection of classic strips. I have managed to get my hands on a scan of the cover (see the top of the column) which reveals some of the characters who will be appearing: Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, ABC Warriors, Flesh, Slaine, Invasion, The Mean Arena, Tharg's Future Shocks, Time Twisters, Harlem Heroes, MACH1, Mean Team, Nemesis (Terror Tube, Killer Watt), Shako, Robo-Hunter and The Ballad of Halo Jones. The book would appear to be a selection of strips, covers and excerpts.

Also released, and one I'm particularly looking forward to, is the latest Commando volume, Bandits at 12 O'clock edited by George Low. Again, I don't know the full contents but it's a collection of flying stories that includes 'Black Zero' (Commando 456 art by Jose Jorge), 'Mosquito Ace' (Commando 943, art by Gordon Livingstone) and 'Jet Blitz' (Commando 243, art by Gordon Livingstone). Any book that has artwork by Jose Jorge is instantly recommended.

I should have mentioned this first before you spent all your moneyAmazon seems to have sorted itself out as far as Against All Odds: War Picture Library Vol. 2 is concerned: they've got copies in stock again after an annoying week of "temporarily out of stock" notices. It's now soared up to #5 in Amazon's Second World War chart and #17 in the Graphic Novels chart. I ought to do a top-sellers chart quick... could be my one chance to get into the Top 20!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jack Hutton (1928-2008)

Best known as the former editor of the hugely influential music magazine Melody Maker, Jack Hutton, who died on August 24, learned his editorial prowess at Dundee-based D. C. Thomson, where he worked on The Hotspur, Dandy and Beano. Hutton was born on April 17, 1928, in Sydney, Australia, where his father, a ship's engineer, and mother were passing through on their way to Scotland. Leaving school at the age of 15, he worked for D. C. Thomson until he was called up for National Service which he served with the R.A.F. in the south of France. Returning to Dundee, he began working on the Sunday Post newspaper where he was to meet his future wife, Joyce.

A keen jazz fan, Hutton learned to play the trumpet and, with Joyce, launched the Dundee Jazz Club which they ran for three years. Married in 1953, the Huttons moved to London in 1954 where Jack took a job with Melody Maker. He took over the editorship in October 1962, the month that The Beatles' "Love Me Do" hit the charts. He left in 1970 to set up Spotlight Publications with former MM advertising manager Peter Wilkinson and launch their own music paper, Sounds. Spotlight were also publishers of Kerrang! and Popswap. He eventually retired in 1987.

Obituaries: The Independent (28 August), The Guardian (2 September).

Dan Dare and Virgin Comics: the final verdict

The sales figures for British comics I recently recorded may seem gloomy and following an ever downward trend, but spare a thought for British characters abroad. The estimated circulation for the final issue of Virgin's Dan Dare is in and it hasn't set the world aflame.

Not that Virgin's other titles have caught the public's imagination either. As I write this, rumours are flying about the closure of Virgin's New York headquarters. The most recent report I've seen says that the New York office has been closed and the company, according to CEO Sharad Devarajan, is "restructuring" and relocating to Los Angeles. "The decision to scale down the New York operations and concentrate on core activities is due to the current macro-economic downturn."

Virgin Comics was launched in 2006, backed by Richard Branson and based on the notion of getting Bollywood and Hollywood film industry folk to create characters from which comics and movies could be derived, leading to titles created by John Woo, Nicholas Cage, Jenna Jameson and Guy Ritchie (the actual writing was down to lesser mortals). The company was co-founded with Indian author Deepak Chopra and filmmaker Shekhar Kapur who had, in 2004, set up a deal with comics' publisher Gotham Entertainment to create a company intending to produce animated movies and comics for the Asian market. Gotham Studios Asia was based in Bangalore, India. When Gotham Studios Asia failed to get the backing they needed, Richard Branson became involved and the company became Virgin Comics and Animation.

Virgin Comics set up office in New York and, in 2006, launched their 'Shakti' line of comics based on Indian mythology. Their most high profile title, John Woo's Seven Brothers was launched in October 2006, the stories written by Garth Ennis based on Woo's updating of a Chinese folk tale.

Subsequent launches included work by musician Dave Stewart (Walk-In) and a joint venture with the Sci-Fi Channel (Mike Carey's The Stranded). Various other titles have been announced, including a strip created by Hugh Jackman (Nowhere Man), a new superhero team by Stan Lee and a web-animation project, The MBX, based on the Mahābhārata by Grant Morrison.

For British comics' fans, the big news release came in May 2007 when rumours began circulating that Virgin Comics had signed a deal with the Dan Dare Corporation to create new adventures for Dan Dare. The rumours were confirmed in August.

The first series of Dan Dare has run its course to mixed reviews. Steve Winders summed up the comic here on Bear Alley with the words "despite some negative observations this is an interesting new interpretation with much to commend it."

I've been following the sales of British characters since the announcement that WildStorm was to launch the Albion series in the USA. After a reasonable if unspectacular start, the Albion series suffered from months of delay which, I suspect, put paid to any success the series might have had. And since shop owners tend to look at the trends for a previous series when it comes to ordering stocks of a new series, the 'Albion Universe' titles were unlikely ever to recover from this shaky start.

Please note that these figures, based on figures published by ICv2, relate to advanced orders placed with Diamond Distributors only.

Albion
06/2005__#1__18,791
07/2005__#2__15,403 (-18%)
08/2005
09/2005
10/2005__#3__14,835 (-3.7%)
11/2005
12/2005
01/2006
02/2006
03/2006
04/2006__#4__10,766 (-27.4%)
05/2006__#5__10,476 (-2.7%)
06/2006
07/2006
08/2006
09/2006__#6__9,465 (-9.7%)

16 months to release six issues! Following the initial settling down figure—a first issue is always likely to outsell the second and third issues by quite a margin—the gaps in the schedule hit the title hard, with the fourth issue shedding over a quarter of its advance orders.

The figures are generally considered to be fairly accurate and an interesting test for the first issue is to compare the ICv2 figure (18,800) with the sales figure reported by authors John Reppion and Leah Moore (20,427), 8% higher. If we add 8% to the figure for the final issue, it still only sold 10,222 copies, or around half the sales of the first issue. The Reppion/Moore blog later (11 December 2005) announced that the total print run for the first issue of 21,476 had sold out and that initial orders were 16,452—lower than the initial ICv2 figure.

Let's move on to other British characters...

Thunderbolt Jaxon
02/2006__#1__11,475
03/2006__#2__8,726 (-24%)
04/2006__#3__6,239 (-28.5%)
05/2006__#4__5,408 (-13.3%)
06/2006__#5__4,852 (-10.3%)

Battler Britton
07/2006__#1__14,843
08/2006__#2__12,631 (-14.9%)
09/2006__#3__9,985 (-21.0%)
10/2007__#4__9,234 (-7.5%)
11/2007__#5__8,888 (-3.7%)

Dan Dare
11/2007__#1__9,434
12/2007__#2__7,838 (-17%)
01/2008__#3__7,657 (-2.3%)
02/2008__#4__7,885 (+3%)
03/2008__#5__7,518 (-4.7%)
04/2008
05/2008__#6__6,438 (-14.4%)
06/2008
07/2008__#7__6,229 (-3.2%)

As you can see from the above figures (and, again, I emphasise that these are estimates from one distribution company), promoting British characters to an American audience hasn't been entirely successful. In only one way was Dan Dare more successful than the other three titles: it shed less of its initial audience, losing only 34% of its initial orders between first and last issues (for comparison, Albion shed 49.6%, Thunderbolt Jaxon 57.7% and Battler Britton 40.2%). But it started with initial orders under 10,000 copies in a month when seven titles sold over 100,000 copies.

I'm sure you could post comparable figures for a lot of American comics and the trends seen in the above four titles are probably common for many comic books. But as a group they represent what was hoped to have been a revival of interest in British comics' characters and, sadly, the experiment has been a failure. I've no doubt that the awful starting figure for Thunderbolt Jaxon reflected retailer dissatisfaction at the long delays in the release of Albion. The slight bump upwards of Battler Britton was possibly a result of confidence placed by retailers in the author and theme—Garth Ennis + war story, already a proven combination in titles like Adventures in the Rifle Brigade and War Story.

The poor showing of Dan Dare... well, that could be a reflection of the generally poor sales of other Virgin titles. The title was given pretty good coverage in the UK when it was launched (on radio and in the national newspapers) but that was a couple of months after the initial orders were placed and resulted only in a lot of disappointment as old-time fans intrigued by the press coverage arrived at comics shops only to find that copies of the title had sold out.

The cut-backs at Virgin are unlikely to affect the release of the Dan Dare collection, due in October. Virgin Comics still exists as a company. Whether we will see a second series of Dan Dare is another matter. My guess is that it will depend on how well the aforementioned collection does. From previous news we know that Gary Erskine will stay on as artist but Garth Ennis is leaving and no new scriptwriter has been announced.

Sales figures always make me sound like a doom-merchant. Maybe I am... I've just dug out an e-mail that I sent to IPC's Andrew Sumner way back in March 2005—around the time shops would have been ordering their copies of Albion issue one—in which I said "I don't think we can pin all our hopes on Albion. My guess is that it will debut somewhere around the 15-20,000 sales mark and fall back to around 8-13,000 by the end of the run." Fairly broad figures, but I wasn't far off.

All this rambling leaves one pretty hefty question unanswered: Is there a future for British comics' characters in the American comic book market? Looking at the figures the answer ought to be a pretty emphatic "No!" but figures don't take into account the enthusiasms of publishers (in the case of Dan Dare, it was Richard Branson's love of the character), the quest to find 'new' characters to exploit, even if they're old and haven't been seen for thirty years, the indefatigable faith publishers have in themselves that convinces them they can relaunch a character that has already failed a few times (such as Dynamite Entertainment's June announcement that they are licensing Judge Dredd for publication in the USA), the spin-off potential from films and TV shows (IDW's Doctor Who seems to be doing OK; Dan Dare would probably benefit from his rumoured big screen outing) and a few etceteras.

British comics characters have never made much of a splash in the US market but I'm sure they'll continue to have a small part to play in the future.

But what about Dan Dare? Well... I'm not so sure. I personally think Dan Dare is a great character. But—and it's a big but—he was launched at a time when Britain was struggling to get through the post-war depression. Launched in 1950, Dan's was a bright, colourful, optimistic future and, over the course of his first few years in the pages of Eagle, Britain began to claw its way back onto an even keel. Food rationing that had begun in 1940 were still in force when Eagle was launched in April 1950. In May 1950, rationing of petrol and chocolate biscuits came to an end; in September the soap ration ended; there was a steady lessening of the tight wartime controls over the next few years and 1954 saw the last of those controls lifted.

1945-51 has been called Britain's 'Age of Austerity'. From 1951-64 was 'The Age of Affluence'. Consumerism and optimism were high, coinciding with what most fans consider Dan's best years (1950-58). Dan's bright future may not have seemed so far away to the children watching London and other bombed out cities being rebuilt and following the advances being made in rocketry and transport. More and more homes had television sets and I'm sure to some it must have seemed like they were close to living in Dan's future of video phones and space rockets.

Dan was of his time: the hero of some well-scripted and well-drawn adventures at a time when things were looking up. Those conditions no longer exist. We've had the space race and put a man on the Moon and then done very little about it and the future depicted in the Dan Dare strip looks further away now than it did fifty years ago.

Dan has been revived half a dozen times since the 1970s but never with any spectacular success. Of these, Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes' Dare remains the best because it, too, was of its time. Dare was the deeply cynical reflection of Margaret Thatcher's Britain which had no place for an old-style hero like the 1950s Dan.

Dan, it would seem, works in one of two ways. For fans of the original comic, you need the old Dan and you need to ignore the last fifty years of history. Spaceship Away! has published a handful of excellent Dan Dare stories set within Frank Hampson's vision of the future and they have succeeded as stories. A new Dan Dare must, however, ignore the past and look to today to create a new future. In this respect, I think the latest series didn't do too badly and it was severely damaged by early publicity which harked on about how Dan was "Captain America .... Superman ... Batman ... all rolled into one", which he clearly isn't, and how he "burst to the forefront of pop culture" in 1950, which makes him sound irrelevant. Calling him a 'brand' didn't help because the majority of the audience, if they knew Dan Dare at all, only knew him from the animated show of 2002, which was nothing like the Ennis-penned comic book.

Marketing Dan as a revival of the old character does not work. Or, rather, it works to the tune of under 10,000 copies. If the second series is to survive, Virgin need to cut the ties with old Dare and build on the new Dare they have to hand.

(* Dan Dare © Dan Dare Corporation. Dan Dare © Virgin Comics)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

C. H. B. & Marjorie Quennell

(* Another fine piece from the pen of Tony Woolrich, to whom I offer my thanks. Contributions to Bear Alley are always welcome.)

Charles Henry Bourne Quennell (1872–1935) and his wife Marjorie (née Courtney) (1883–1972) were the authors of a series of well-known illustrated history books for children which they wrote after the end of the First World War and which were still being re-issued into the 1980s.

Charles trained as an architect and set up in practice in Westminster in 1896. He designed numbers of houses, mostly in London and the Home Counties, as well as some churches. He was typical of his time; much into the Arts and Crafts movement. He drew together some like minded friends and formed the Lambeth Guild of Handicraft, making joinery, metalwork etc by hand. According to Charles’s brother, writing after his death, some of their work was for a church at Brith-dir in North Wales. This is probably Brithdir, Dolgelly, Gwynedd, Grade 1 listed, and a fine example of an Arts and Crafts design building. He wrote for Bells a guide to Norwich Cathedral and for Batsfords a book about modern suburban houses. He had the reputation of being a particularly skilful pen and ink draughtsman. He was specially interested in recording craftsmanship, particularly for buildings and farm vehicles.

The First World War virtually killed his architectural practice, and he was employed in 1918 as an architect by the Messrs Crittall Co., makers of metal windows, to design a housing scheme for their employees at Braintree, Essex. He died in 1935.

Marjorie was a painter in oils and watercolour, mostly of architectural subjects and also an illustrator. They had three children, one of whom, Peter, (1905-1993) became a well-known writer and was editor of History Today. After her husband’s death in 1935 she was appointed curator of the Geffreye Museum, London, until 1941, then lived in America for some years working as an illustrator. She died in London in 1972, aged 88.

At the end of the First World War the Quennells conceived the idea of writing a series of illustrated children’s books, A History of Everyday Things in England, 4 vol (1918-1934). It was concluded by The Good New Days (1935), where modern industrial and agricultural processes, together with the problems of the future, were considered. A second series was produced, Everyday Life in… (1921-26) describing living in Prehistoric to Norman times. A third series of Everyday Things (1929-32) covered Greece in antiquity. After the Second World War Marjorie illustrated two more books in the Everyday Life series on Biblical times, the texts being written by others.

All were books about ‘material culture’ and dealt with history from the ground up. They were specially strong on housing, agriculture and the way people earned their livings. They were described by Hector Bolitho as “transforming teaching”. They sold in thousands and were reputed to have been used by more than eight hundred schools in Britain alone and more were in use in overseas in English-speaking schools. Translations of a number of titles have been made into Russian, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Swedish and Danish.

The books were illustrated with some coloured drawings of mostly costume, half tones and a profusion of line drawings made by the authors. All the books went into numerous revisions, with the information upgraded to take account of modern knowledge.

While the work of Charles Quennell has attracted the interest of historians of architecture, the work the Quennells did as writers of children’s books is not discussed in modern academic studies of children’s books. Nor has anything be found about the artistic work of Marjorie Quennell.

The following list of the Quennells has been compiled from the online British Library Catalogue, COPAC and WorldCat augmented by titles noted by book dealers in ABE. Many of the books went into several editions, but the earliest ones traced are the ones noted. More references might be added for Marjorie Quennell’s book illustrations.

PUBLICATIONS

C. H. B. Quennell, The new cathedral church of Norwich: a description of its fabric and a brief history of the episcopal see, London, G. Bell and Sons, 1898. [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
C. H. B. Quennell, Modern Suburban Houses. A series of examples erected at Hampstead & elsewhere from designs, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1906.
Marjorie & C. H. B. Quennell, A History of Everyday Things in England, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1918-1934.
__vol 1, 1066-1449 [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
__vol 2, 1500-1799 [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
__vol 3, 1733-1851 [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
__vol 4, 1852-1914 [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
Marjorie & C. H. B. Quennell, A History of Everyday life in…, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1921-1926.
__The Old Stone Age [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
__The New Stone Age, Bronze and Early Iron Age [available online in various formats at the Internet Archive]
__Roman Britain
__Saxon, Viking and Norman Times
Marjorie & C. H. B. Quennell, Everyday things in Greece, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1929-1932.
__Vol 1, Homeric Greece
__Vol 2, Archaic Greece
__Vol 3, Classical Greece
Marjorie & C. H. B. Quennell, The Good New Days, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd., 1935.
Marjorie Quennell, London craftsman: a guide to museums having relics of old trades, London, London Transport, 1939.

Books illustrated by Marjorie Quennell
E. Lucia Turnbull and H. Dalway Turnbull, Through the gates of remembrance: first series: a trilogy of plays centred round Glastonbury, London, T. Nelson & Sons, 1933.
Elisabeth Kyle, Disappearing Island, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1944.
Gertrude Hartman and Lucy S. Saunders, Builders of the Old World, Boston, D. C. Heath & Co., 1949. [Vol 4 of the History on the March series]
A. C. Bouquet, Everyday Life in New Testament Times, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1953.
Wallace Walter Atwood and Helen Goss Thomas, Visits in other lands, Toronto, Ginn, [1955?].
E. W. Heaton, Everyday Life in Old Testament Times, London, Batsford Ltd, 1957.


REFERENCES

Prefatory material to the A History of Everyday Things in England.
Hector Bolitho, A Batsford Century: The Record of a Hundred Years of Publishing and Bookselling, 1843–1943, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1943, pp, 54-55, 85, 127-28.

C. H. B. Quennell
The Times (Obituary) 7 December 1935, with a correction by his brother, W. D. Quennell, 14 December 1935.
Tony Crosby, “The Silver End Model Village for Crittall Manufacturing Co. Ltd”, Industrial Archaeology Review, XX, (1998), pp 69-82, ISSN 0309-02728.
Nick Collins, “In search of C. H. B. Quennell”, Context 89, May 2005, pp 14-18.
Elizabeth McKellar, “C.H.B. Quennell (1872-1935): architecture, history and the quest for the modern.” Architectural History, 49 .(2006) pp. 211-246. ISSN 0066-622X .

Marjorie Quennell
The Times (Obituary) 4 August, 1972.
Sir Peter Quennell, (1905-1993). Article by James B. Denigan, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. [accessed 12 August 2008].

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Harry Pettit

Harry Pettit and daughters

I recently picked up a DVD version of an old Children's Film Foundation movie, Treasure at the Mill, originally released in 1956 and starring a young girl whom I had the fortune to correspond with forty years later. Merrilyn Boorman was, at the age of 13, known under her maiden name, Merrilyn Pettit, the daughter of artist Harry Pettit who has featured on Bear Alley before.

Henry A. Pettit was born in West Ham, London, in August 1913, the son of Henry William Pettit and his wife Ruth Augusta (née Harwood), and studied at St. Martin’s Art School. Before becoming a freelance artist and naturalist, he worked in an advertising agency and as Art Director of May and Baker, based in Dagenham.

Harry Pettit went on to become a member of the Royal Society of Watercolour Artists and also painted in oils as well as being a top-flight illustrator. Some of his best illustrative work was produced in black and white on scraperboard as can be seen in his work for Eagle Annual. His interest in wildlife and birds in particular—he maintained a large flock of water fowl—led to much work for cage bird and bird-watching magazines such as Birds Illustrated. He knew and worked with James Fisher and Peter Scott in the early days of the World Wildlife Fund.

Pettit was also a dog lover with a particular fondness for the Newfoundland. He helped restore the breed in the early post-war years, having one of the first pups born in the UK after World War II. He designed the Newfoundland Club logo which was used for many years.

The family moved to Spring Valley Mill in Ardleigh, near Colchester, Essex, where Harry Pettit set aside a room as a studio and began to restore the Mill to its former working condition. The mill pool had to be dug out with a crane as it had silted up during the war and the mill wheel replaced.

Pettit's daughter Merrilyn was a keen reader of Girl and the family home became the subject of a visit from Girl's roving reporter, Jackie. The report led to Wallace Productions approaching the family and using their home as background for a movie. Treasure at the Mill was produced in 1956 and starred Harry Pettit, his wife and three children, Merrilyn (13), Hilary (12) and Harry Jr. (7). The story was developed by Malcolm Saville and scripted by Mary Cathcart Borer and related how young John Adams (played by Richard Palmer) learns that there is a treasure trove buried at the mill; with the help of the Pettit children – and the hinderence of greedy Mr. Wilson (John Ruddock) – he finds the treasure. Although the Pettit children have fond memories of their brief movie career, the one disappointment was that their voices were not used in the film; plans for them to travel to London to dub the movie were shelved and other actors and actresses drafted in.

The movie was distributed by the Children's Film Foundation and was released in January 1957. Malcolm Saville's novelisation of the story, which appeared that same year, was illustrated by Pettit.

In the movie, a photograph of Harry Pettit in a Royal Navy uniform, juxtaposed with a picture of a boat at sea, was introduced to offer some explanation for his missing leg. In fact, Pettit did not serve during the war as he had lost his leg many years earlier in an accident when, at the age of 19, he jumped from a moving train as it came into a station, slipped on ice and fell under the wheels. The leg was amputated several times due to gangrene but eventually spread into his spine. These were, of course, long before the days of antibiotics.

This did not prevent him from living an amazingly active life and the family travelled around Europe in the early 1950s, an unusual activity so soon after the war.

Pettit also illustrated Under the Sun by George & Marth Berry (Hodder & Stoughton, 1955) and Unto the Fields by D. W. Gillingham (Country Book Club, 1955).

In 1955, Harry Pettit became a regular contributor to the pages of Playhour, the nursery paper published by the Amalgamated Press. For many years, his work appeared in colour on the back page, beginning with 'Jungle Days and Woodland Ways' in 1955. He was soon teamed up with naturalist and BBC presenter Frances Pitt for the series 'The Little Friends of Frances Pitt' (1955-56). Pitt, well known in the 1950s for his books about country life, was also credited as the author of 'Little Red Squirrel', which took over the back cover slot in March 1956 and ran until May 1958. The hero of the title was a curious creature who loved exploring the countryside he lived in, visiting woodlands, copses and sometimes old buildings to discover the wildlife that lived there.

Harry Pettit's love of nature meant that he insisted on drawing animals realistically ("No animals with clothes," he insisted) although he could probably have made more money painting the kind of anthropomorphic animals that filled the other pages of Playhour and its companion, Jack and Jill. He contributed a number of strips to the Jack and Jill Book and Playhour Annual, as well as contributing illustrations and articles to Eagle Annual and Girl Annual in the mid-1950s.

Following a brief series about 'Dogs' (1958) in Playhour, he returned to the subject of countryside wildlife with 'Friends of Little Red Squirrel' (1958). This, and the short-lived back cover feature 'All About Cats with Peter and Pam' (1958) were to be his final work for the paper. Suffering from ill-health, he died prematurely in August 1958, aged 45.

For some years, Harry Pettit’s wife, Grace E. (née Tingley), whom he married in 1939, wrote replies to correspondents of Playhour when children wrote in to Sonny and Sally, who starred in the paper every week.

His granddaughter, Eleanor Boorman, continues the family tradition and is herself a well known portrait painter.

(* More information on the DVD Treasure and Trouble can be found at the Malcolm Saville Centenary website. It can also be ordered via Amazon. Images from Treasure at the Mill © The Children's Film and Television Foundation. The article 'Mystery at the Old Mill' originally appeared in The Children's Newspaper, 2 March 1957; that and the comic strips 'Jungle Days and Woodland Ways' and 'Little Red Squirrel' are © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd. With thanks to Merrilyn and Eleanor Boorman.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

W. H. Morris

William H. Morris is one of those problematic authors whose name is so common that locating information on his life is almost impossible and he remains something of an enigma. This is a shame as he was a very prolific author whose writing dates back to at least as early as 1923 when he can be found contributing stories to Chums, The Scout and The British Girl's Annual. His name is associated with a great many children's papers and annuals.

Morris appears to have spent his fifty-six plus years as a writer concentrating mostly on writing short stories. I emphasise appears as we know so little about him; one would expect an author to move with the changing markets and, as one market dries up, a jobbing writer would have to find other outlets. Towards the end of his life he did indeed pen a couple of historical novels, Peasant, Priest and Harlot (1978) and The Puritan and the Maid (1979) for Robert Hale and it was through their records that we were able to establish that Morris died on 6 January 1981.

For those of you who have not done any family history research, the death records in the UK are kept in large, quarterly volumes and the volume covering January 1981 also covers February and March of that year. There are five entries for a William H. Morris:

William Henry d. Walsall (born 27 Dec 1896)
William Henry d. Sunderland (born 12 Nov 1900)
William Henry d. Shewsbury (born 8 Jan 1904)
William Henry J. d. Gloucester (born 28 Apr 1901)
William Horace d. Camden (born 13 Sep 1897)

Until we know where "our" William H. Morris lived, it is impossible to tell which of these entries relates to the author. There are a couple of options for solving the dilemma, although both involve throwing money at the problem.

We can, however, fill in a little of his career between 1923 and 1981. In his early career he wrote at least two serials for Chums, 'King Cade' (1923) and 'The Road of Adventure' (1925), and a short story appeared in the Greyfriars Holiday Annual 1930 (1929). According to Bill Lofts & Derek Adley, long-time researchers into old boys' papers, Morris was one of the anonymous contributors to D. C. Thomson's Adventure story paper and also contributed anonymously to many Amalgamated Press junior titles: Chick's Own, Rainbow, Puck, Chips, Favourite Comic, Wonder, Butterfly, etc. He also wrote for Gem, the famous home of Tom Merry & Co., Little Folks and Young England.

Most, if not all, of these stories would have appeared in the 1920s and 1930s, as many of the titles listed above folded before, or due to, the advent of the Second World War. If we take an educated guess and say Morris was born in 1900 [our suspects above were born 1896-1904], it is likely that he served during the Great War, at least in the latter part [as he would not be allowed to volunteer until the age of 16]. I don't imagine he rose too high in the ranks and, given that he was not an officer, I somehow doubt he would have been called up for service during World War II as he was already around 40 years of age. He contributed a few stories to The Children's Newspaper in 1938-41, although we cannot take that as proof that he was not serving in some capacity.

His post-war career is also rather patchily documented. He was a prolific contributor to Girl in 1951-60 and seems to have concentrated his efforts on writing for girls and annuals. He wrote a number of stories for Schoolgirls' Own Library under the pen-names Elizabeth Dale and Susan Morris in 1959-62, and both pen-names also appeared in the pages of School Friend with serials such as 'Vicky of Silverlake Holiday Camp' (by Susan Morris, 1960) and 'Student Nurse Gillian' (by Elizabeth Dale, 1960-61).

Novels as Elizabeth Dale
Sue of the Moorland Riding School. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/311), Aug 1959.

Novels as Susan Morris
HazelHostess of the Holiday Coach. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/294), Oct 1958.
Hostess of the Touring School. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/305), Apr 1959.
The Spectral Skiers. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/320), Dec 1959.
Sally of the "Gazette". London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/334), Jul 1960.
The Happy Castaways. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/362), Sep 1961.
Drowned Village. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/372), Feb 1962.

Morris then disappears from sight, perhaps into retirement or perhaps behind an as yet unidentified pen-name. The latter seems likely as, in 1978, a novel suddenly appeared from Robert Hale, the first of two historical tales he wrote for the firm. As mentioned previously, we have been able to establish that he died soon after their appearance.

I imagine that, should we be able to track them all down, the number of stories bearing Morris's name numbers in the hundreds; add to that the stories he penned anonymously and we have the beginnings of a remarkable output. How an author can write successfully for over fifty years without barely leaving a trace I find hard to imagine, although I suspect it reveals more about the poor state of research into once-popular magazines and annuals than it does about an author trying to obscure his output.

Update: 4 February 2008

A contact at Robert Hale informs us that William H. Morris lived in London, N.W.6, so it looks highly likely that William Horace Morris, who died in Camden in 1981 is our author. He was born on 13 September 1897, his birth registered at St. Pancras. It would appear that he was the son of Samuel Morris (a brickmaker) and his wife Selina, who were living with their four children at 94 Allcroft Road, St. Pancras in 1901. (Worth noting that there was another William H. Morris also living in St. Pancras at the time of the census, the son of William T. and Lizzie Morris, but the combination of Christian names (William and Horace) makes me pretty sure this second WHM is not our man.)

Not much more I can add. Samuel Morris married Selina Bryent [possibly a typo for Bryant] in 1885 and all their children were born in St. Pancras.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Maude Meagher

Maude Meagher [pronouced Mahr] was born in Boston, Massachusetts, April 8, 1895, the daughter of the Rev. H. A. Meagher, a missionary, and his wife Anne Maude (née Tomlinson) Meagher. She was educated at California University, graduating in 1917. Here she met Catherine Urner and became a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1918, working as a correspondent and actress in England and Germany in 1919-20. She then travelled with Urner through France, Algeria and Italy.

Under the pen-name John Halden, she was a regular contributor to The Children's Newspaper, where she wrote 'Copper Mountain' (1925) which was based on various books (The Friendly Arctic, Hunters of the Great North and My Life with the Eskimo) by Vihjalmur Stefansson. Other serials included 'Eagle Feathers' (1924), 'The Secret of the Ages' (1929), 'The Green Door' (1930), 'The Silver Button' (1932) and 'Pearl River Pirate' (1935). Her work was often based on her extensive travel and interest in archaeology and history.

Whilst in the UK in the 1920s and 1930s, still actively working as a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, she also contributed adventure stories to the boys' paper Champion as Buck Marriott and the Greyfriars Holiday Annual as Montague Wynne; I also suspect she was the author behind 'Lariat' Pete, another Champion contributor.

Returning the the USA, with her friend Carolyn Smiley, Meagher published the magazine World Youth which contained the work of youngsters from 47 different countries, a typical article relating the daily life of a young girl in Sri Lanka. The aim of the magazine was to forge understanding between cultures with young people the target audience.

Apart from a wartime hiatus, the magazine appeared between 1936 and the late 1950s. During the break they began building Casa Tierra, a large adobe house in Los Gatos, Saratoga, California, in 1941. This included making the bricks that formed the walls. The war intervened and their two helpers were drafted, leaving the two women to do most of the building work themselves, completing the work in 1946. Meagher and Smiley wrote a pamphlet, How We Built an Adobe House for World Youth, in 1950. Years later, the house was restored by its current owners (cf. 'Saratoga's Casa Tierra: At one with the earth' by Mary Ann Cook, Saratoga News, 23 Oct 2002).

Retiring in the late 1950s, Meagher and Smiley sold the house to geologist Maurice Tripp and celebrated with a trip to Europe where Smiley, who had a history of heart problems, became ill and died in an Italian monastery. Meagher subsequently became Artist in Residence at the Villa Montalvo, Saratoga, before retiring to Carmel, Monteray, in California in 1966, where she died on January 24, 1977.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels
White Jade. London, The Scholartis Press, 1930.
The Green Scamander. Boston & New York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1933; London, Constable, 1934.

Non-fiction
Fantastic Traveller. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1931; London, W. Heinemann, 1932.
How We Built an Adobe House for World Youth. Saratoga, CA, World Youth, 1950.

Verse
Six Sonnets, illus. Valenti Angelo. Grabhorn Press, 1930.

(* The Children's Newspaper © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd. The illustration is by Ernest Prater.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

George Goodchild

George Goodchild was an incredibly prolific novelist and short story writer whose career lasted over 55 years during which time his output never seemed to let up. The publications checklist below lists 135 novels (106 under his own name), 61 collections and 8 other titles. He also wrote plays and, before becoming a full-time writer of fiction, Goodchild had worked as a journalist and in a publishing house.

For such a prolific author, not a great deal seems to be known about Goodchild. He was born in Kingston-on-Thames in 1888, was married to Dora Mary Hill and had one son and two daughters. He lived at The Great Quarry, Guildford.

A number of his books and stories were filmed, including Colorado Jack (1921, based on Colorado Jim), Bucking the Barrier (1923, from a story by Goodchild), The Public Defender (1931, based on The Splendid Crime), Condemned to Death (1932, based on Jack o'Lantern), Trooper O'Neill (1932) and No Escape (1936, based on No Exit).

Goodchild died in Aldershot in 1969, aged 80.

He wrote about a number of characters over the years, most notably those featuring police officer Inspector McLean, spy catcher Q33 and Trooper O'Neill. Many Inspector McLean stories appeared in The Weekly News where they continued to appear (anonymously) until 6 October 1979, long after Goodchild's death. Given the popularity of the McLean stories (they even inspired an Inspector McLean Library from D. C. Thomson), I'm surprised that there seems to be a dearth of information on the character or his author.

Only a handful of his books are still in print, although there have been quite a number reprinted in large print over the past decade or so.

His early contribution (1921) to The Children's Newspaper is also something of a surprise as it is a science fiction yarn, a genre Goodchild never seems to have tackled again.

Novels (series: Colorado Jim; Inspector McLean; Nigel Rix)
The Barton Mystery (novelisation of a play by Walter Hackett). London, Jarrold & Sons, 1916.
Tiger’s Cub. A romance of Alaska
(novelisation of the play by George Potter). London, Jarrold & Sons, 1917.
Behind the Barrage. The story of a siege battery
. London, Jarrolds, 1918.
The Land of Eldorado. A tale of the seal islands
. London, Jarrolds, 1919.
“Old Sport”. The romance of a warhorse, with Maurice Mottram. London, Jarrolds, 1919.
Colorado Jim; or, The Taming of Angela (Colorado Jim). London, Robert Hayes, 1920; New York, Watt, 1922.
The Compassionate Rogue. London, Jarrolds, 1920.
The Woollen Monkey. London, Lloyd’s, 1920.
The Alaskan. London, Lloyd’s, 1921.
Trooper O’Neill. London, Robert Hayes, 1921; New York, Watt, 1933.
The Right to Strike (novelisation of the play by Ernest Hutchinson). London, Robert Hayes, 1921.
Klondyke Kit’s Revenge. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1923 [1922].
The Valley of Lies. London, John Long, 1923.
The Man Who Wasn’t. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1924 [1923].
Plain Bill. A romance of Alaska. London, Jarrolds, 1924.
Tall Timber. New York, Watt, 1924; London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1927.
Hurricane Tex. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1925.
The Taming of Nancy. London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Red Letter Novels 141), 1925.
The Black Orchid. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1926.
Jim Goes North (Colorado Jim). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1926.
Ace High. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1927.
Meg o’ the Dale. London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Red Letter Novels 179), 1927.
The Monster of the Grammont. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1927; New York, Mystery League, 1930.
Mushalong. London, Robert Hayes, 1927.
His Desert Maid. London, J. Leng & Co. (Ivy Stories 133), 1928.
The Rain on the Roof. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1928.
The Elephant; or, The Man From Beyond. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1929.
The Freeze-Out. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1929.
Jack o’Lantern. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1929; New York, Mystery League, 1930.
The Man from the West. London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Red Letter Novels 221), 1929; as by Jesse Templeton, London, Mellifont Press, 1933.
The Girl at Pine Creek. London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Red Letter Novels 242), 1930.
The Girl Who Failed Him. London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Red Letter Novels 259), 1930.
His Bride form England. London, J. Leng & Co. (Ivy Stories 203), 1930.
The Emperor of Hallelujah Island. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1930; New York, Houghton, 1931.
The Splendid Crime. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1930; as The Public Defender, New York, Grosset, 1931.
Her Dear Tyrant. London, J. Leng & Co. (Ivy Stories 214), 1931.
The Road to Marrakesh. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1931; New York, Houghton, 1932.
For Reasons Unknown. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1932.
Petticoat Lane. London, Mellifont Press, 1932.
The Flagons of St. Niven. London, Mellifont Press, 1932?
The Choice. London, Mellifont Press, 1932?
Rosemary’s Love Adventure. London, Mellifont Press, 1932?
The Skeleton in the Cupboard. London, Mellifont Press, 1932?
The House of Strange Adventure. London, Mellifont Press, 1932?
The Singing Wheat. London, Mellifont Press, 1932?
Captain Sinister. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1933.
Mountain Gold. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1933.
Rainbow. The story of a dog and a man. London, Chapman & Hall, 1933.
The Square Deal. London, Modern Publishing Co., 1933.
The Triumph of McLean (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1933; New York, Houghton, 1933.
The Jury Disagree, with C. E. Bechofer-Roberts. London, Jarrolds, 1934; New York, Macmillan, 1955.
Mad Mike, edited by George Goodchild. London, Chapman & Hall, 1934; Toronto, Harlequin, 1953.
Quest of Nigel Rix (Rix). London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1934.
Yes, Inspector McLean (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1934.
The Dear Old Gentleman, with C. E. Bechofer-Roberts. London, Jarrolds, 1935; New York, Harper, 1936.
Death on the Centre Court (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1935; New York, Green Circle, 1936.
The Homeward Trail. London, George Newnes, 1935.
Knock and Come In (Rix). London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1935.
No Exit. London, George Newnes, 1936.
Rough Going. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1936.
Steve. London, R. Hale & Co., 1936.
Summer Moon. London & Dundee, J. Leng & Co. (People’s Friend Library 429), 1936.
Tidings of Joy, with C. E. Bechofer-Roberts. London, Jarrolds, 1936.
Danger Below (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1937.
Having No Heart (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1937.
A Murder Will Be Committed. London, R. Hale & Co., 1937.
Operator No.19. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1937.
Infamous Gentleman. London, Robert Hale, 1938.
The Prisoner’s Friend, with C. E. Bechofer-Roberts. London, Jarrolds, 1938.
Yellowstones. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1938.
The Clock Struck Seven. London, Robert Hale, 1939.
McLean Sees It Through (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1939.
We Shot An Arrow, with C. E. Bechofer-Roberts. London, Victor Gollancz, 1939.
Forced Landing. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1940.
Known as Z.1. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1940.
Man Peter. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1941.
Brave Interlude. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1942.
McLean Takes a Holiday (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1942; revised as Inspector McLean’s Holiday, London, Pan Books, 1951.
Behind That Door. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1943.
The Last Ditch. London, Mellifont Press, 1944.
Safety Last. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1944.
Uncle Oscar’s Niece (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1944.
The Footlight’s Call. London, Mellifont Press, 1945.
Wise Virgin. London, Mellifont Press, 1945.
Cauldron Bubble. London, Macdonald & Co., 1946.
East of Singapore. London, Mellifont Press, 1946.
Lady Take Care. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1946.
Rivers to Cross. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1947.
Dear Conspirator (McLean). London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1948.
Companion to Sirius (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1949.
Stout Cortez. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1949.
The Efford Tangle (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1950.
Final Score. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1950.
McLean to the Dark Tower Came (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1951.
The Spanish Steps. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1951.
The Last Redoubt (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1952.
Doctor Zils’ Experiment. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1953.
Double Acrostic (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1954.
Find the Lady! (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1955.
The Last Secret. London, Rich & Cowan, 1956.
Next of Kin (McLean). London, Jarrolds, 1957; Toronto, Harlequin, 1957.
The Danger Line. London, Jarrolds, 1958.
Tiger, Tiger (McLean). London, Jarrolds, 1959.
False Intruder. London, Jarrolds, 1960.
Savage Encounter (McLean). London, Jarrolds, 1962.

Novels as Alan Dare
Killigrew. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1922 [1921]; as Knight Takes Queen by George Goodchild, London, George Newnes, 1935.
The Isle of Hate. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1924; as by George Goodchild, London, George Newnes, 1935.
Out of the Desert. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1925; as by George Goodchild, London, George Newnes, 1934.
The Eye of Abu. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1927; as by George Goodchild, George Newnes, 1934.
The Guarded Soul. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1928.
Body and Soul. London, Jarrolds, 1929.

Novels as Wallace Q. Reid
The Sands of Desire. London, Robert Hayes, 1928; as by George Goodchild, London, W. Collins, Sons & Co., 1933.
The Bride of the Sierras. London, W. Collins, Sons & Co., 1933.
The Man from Peace River. London, W. Collins, Sons & Co., 1933.
Saskatoon Patrol. London, W. Collins, Sons & Co., 1934.
Red River. London, W. Collins, Sons & Co., 1934.
Bluewater Landing. London, W. Collins, Sons & Co., 1935.
Son of the South. London, W. Collins, Sons & Co., 1935.
Doctor of the North. London, W. Collins, Sons & Co., 1936.
The Rainbow Trail. London, W. Collins, Sons & Co., 1936.

Novels as Jesse Templeton
Jake Canuke. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1924; as by George Goodchild, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1932; as The Call of the North by George Goodchild, London, George Newnes, 1938.
The Eternal Conflict. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1925; as by George Goodchild, Stoke-on-Trent, Archer Press, 1950.
The Feud. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1925; as by George Goodchild, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1935.
The Timber Wolf. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1927.
Between the Tides. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1929; as by George Goodchild, Ward, Lock & Co., 1936.
Dead or Alive. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1929; as by George Goodchild, Ward, Lock & Co., 1937; abridged, Ward, Lock & Co., 1938.
The Bitter Test. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1930.
Clay-Face. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1930.
Ten Fathoms Deep. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1931; as by George Goodchild, Ward, Lock & Co., 1938.
The Yellow Hibiscus. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1931.
Love’s Challenge. London, Mellifont Press, 1932.
Winning Through. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1932; as by George Goodchild. Ward, Lock & Co., 1935.
Virginia’s Quest. London, Mellifont Press, 1934.
The Woman Accused. London, Mellifont Press, 1934.

Collections (series: Inspector McLean; John Trelawny)
Caravan Days, illus. C. A. Shepperson. London, Jarrold & Sons, 1916.
Umpteen Yarns, Collected from Somewhere in France. London, Jarrolds, 1917.
Down ‘Plug Street’ Way, and other tales. London, Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1918.
The Crimson Domino. London, Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1919; abridged (?) as by Jesse Templeton, London, Mellifont Press, 1933.
The Great Alone. London, Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1919.
Captain Crash. London, Robert Hayes, 1924.
McLean of Scotland Yard (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1929.
McLean at the Golden Owl (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1930.
McLean Investigates (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1930.
How Now, McLean? (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1931.
Chief Inspector McLean (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1932.
12 Dandy McLean Detective Stories. London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Dandy McLean Library), 1933.
12 Famous McLean Cases. London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Dandy McLean Library), 1933.
Dandy Hangs Behind (McLean). London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Dandy McLean Library), 1933.
Dandy Nabs “The Falcon”. London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Dandy McLean Library), 1933.
Dandy Against the Gangsters (McLean). London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Dandy McLean Library 5), 1933.
Greta Dey’s Confession (McLean). London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Dandy McLean Library), 1933.
Her Little Game (McLean). London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Dandy McLean Library), 1933.
The Pretty Daredevil (McLean). London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Dandy McLean Library), 1933.
The Prince of Crooks (McLean). London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Dandy McLean Library), 1933.
The Terror of Stapleton Quarry (McLean). London, D. C. Thomson & Co. (Dandy McLean Library), 1933.
Q 33 (Trelawny). London, Odhams Press, 1933.
McLean Plays a Hand (McLean). London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1934.
McLean Knows Best (McLean). London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1935.
McLean Prevails (McLean). London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1935.
The Man from the West, and other stories of adventure. London, George Newnes, 1935.
Mister Q 33 (Trelawny). London, George Newnes, 1935.
Lead On, McLean! (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1936.
McLean Finds a Way (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1936.
McLean Remembers! (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1936.
This Woman Is Wanted. London, George Newnes, 1936.
Call McLean (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1937.
McLean Takes Charge (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1937.
Q 33—Spy Catcher (Trelawny). London, Newnes, 1937.
McLean Incomparable (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1938.
Again McLean (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1939.
McLean Intervenes (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1939.
McLean Excels (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1939.
McLean Deduces (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1940.
McLean the Magnificent (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1940.
Up, McLean! (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1940.
McLean Keeps Going (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1941.
McLean, Non-Stop. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1941.
Hail McLean (McLean). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1945.
Inspector McLean’s Casebook (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1949.
McLean Carries On (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1950.
McLean Predominant (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1951.
McLean Steps In (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1952.
Well Caught, McLean (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1953.
Trust McLean (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1954.
Watch McLean (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1955.
McLean Solves It (McLean). London, Rich & Cowan, 1956.
Forever McLean (McLean). London, Jarrolds, 1957.
McLean Disposes (McLean). London, Jarrolds, 1958.
McLean Scores Again (McLean). London, Jarrolds, 1959.
Follow McLean (McLean). London, Jarrolds, 1961.
McLean Invincible (McLean). London, Jarrolds, 1963.
Laurels for McLean (McLean). London, Jarrolds, 1964.
McLean Takes Over (McLean). London, John Long, 1966.
McLean Knows the Answers (McLean). London, John Long, 1967.

Collections as Jesse Templeton
Inch of the C.I.D.. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., 1932; as by George Goodchild, Ward, Lock & Co., 1936.

Non-fiction
The Last Cruise of the “Majestic”. From the log-book of J. G. Cowie. London, Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1917.
Pinches of Salt from the Seven Seas. London, Jarrolds, 1918.

Others
The Lore of the Wanderer. An open-air anthology. London, The Wayfarer’s Library, 1914.
England, My England. A war anthology. London, Jarrold & Sons, 1914.
The Miniature Classics, edited by George Goodchild. London, Jarrold & Sons, 6 pts., 1914.
The Blinded Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Gift Book, edited by George Goodchild. London, Jarrold & Sons, 1915.
Made in the Trenches. Composed entirely from articles & sketches contributed by soldiers, edited by Sir Frederick Treves & George Goodchild. London, G. Allen & Unwin, 1916.
A Century of Western Stories, edited by George Goodchild. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1936.

Plays
They All Do It! and two other plays, with C. E. Bechofer-Roberts. London, Jarrolds, 1935.

(* The Children's Newspaper © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Comic Cuts

I was a bit astonished to discover tonight that I'd posted over 3,000 images over the past couple of years and with the blog now two years old, it's about due a little maintenance. This is post number 825 and I'm starting to run out of space, having used up 90% of the allotment I get from Blogger.

As I want to keep going as long as possible without having to pay for additional space, I've decided to migrate the Comics Bibliography over to what's called an aStore on Amazon. Since I included links to Amazon on all the books anyway, this seemed a logical move as it means I can remove a ton of pictures and free up some much needed space without losing all those cover images, which are now helpfully stored by Amazon. Things might look a bit patchy in places as I've got to locate and delete over 400 pictures, some of which I've used more than once so they're dotted around various different albums.

The new Comics Bibliography can be found just below the Amazon search box over to your right. Apart from producing a list of my own books, I've taken the opportunity to break down the lists into smaller, more easily digestible chunks. So what was a hugely cumbersome listing of Rebellion/2000AD graphic novels is now broken down into smaller categories (Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, etc. plus a miscellaneous section), the rambling reference sections and publishers listings are split up by characters and creators (e.g. Dan Dare, Brian Bolland) and I've also added a lot of other related links (such as the Black Flame 2000AD novels). The original idea was to produce a list of all the reprints that began appearing a couple of years ago and it very quickly got out of hand... hopefully you'll agree that the solution is more viewer friendly and easier to navigate.

I've still got some sections to add and, no doubt, I'll think of a lot more categories over the coming months. Eventually I'll also go through a lot of the Comic Cuts news columns and weed out material that's out of date, updated in later columns (such as the Upcoming Books news that appears here regularly) or has been proved to be wildly inaccurate (mostly release dates).

I can hardly believe that Bear Alley is two years old. I started it on a whim as I didn't have an outlet to publish any of the odd bits of research I was doing. As with most things I do, I didn't really have a clue what to expect or any particular plan of action. Just write stuff... post it... see if anyone finds it interesting.

Anyone coming to the site for the first time might wonder why it's called Bear Alley, which was explained in the very first post on 15 August 2006.

Arthur Nettleton Gaunt

Arthur Nettleton Gaunt, who also wrote as Arthur Nettleton, was born in Bradford on 14 August 1906. He was educated at Belle Vue Secondary School, Bradford, and seems to have lived in Yorkshire all his life. Addresses included 45 Haworth Road, Heaton, Bradford [1947] and Osborne House, Piggott Street, Halifax Road, Brighouse [1960]. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.

Gaunt spent much of his career writing feature material, often for children's publications, but also the Yorkshire Evening Post, various provincial and overseas newspapers and magazines. He also wrote some fiction for boys, including the novelette 'Plane Crazy' for The Children's Newspaper in 1938. He contributed articles to Boy's Own Paper and various annuals.

He died in Halifax in 1978.

Novels as Arthur Nettleton
Sinister Secret. London, Fiction House, 1937.

Collections as Arthur Nettleton
The Mystery of Marthwaite Manor. London, Lloyd Cole, Nov 1942.

Non-fiction
Collecting for Pleasure and Profit. London, Southern Editorial Syndicate Ltd., 1947.
Exploring Historic Britain. London, Southern Editorial Syndicate Ltd., 1947.
Pennine Ways from Skipton. London, Saint Catherine Press (Footpath Guides 24), 1947.
Around Bradford. London, Saint Catherine Press (Footpath Guides 66), 1948.
Around Harrogate. London, Saint Catherine Press (Footpath Guides 80), 1948.
Tourists' England: A Kaleidoscope of Oddities and Historic Treasures of Interest to Motorists, Cyclists, Walkers and Overseas Visitors in England's Countryside, Villages and Towns. Newcastle upon Tyne, Frank Graham, 1969.
History, People and Places in Yorkshire. Bourne End, Spurbooks, 1975.

Non-fiction as Arthur Nettleton
Cash From Your Camera: Making money from snapshots. London, Sir I. Pitman & Sons, 1938; as Cash From Your Camera: How to Sell Snapshots to the Press. London, Iliffe & Sons, 1951.
Writing For Overseas. St. Ives, Huntingdon, Matson's Publications, 1948.
Photography. London, Foyles, 1949.
All About Filing Negatives and Prints. London & New York, Focal Press, 1954.

(* The Children's Newspaper © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

D. M. Gill

I believe the D. M. Gill writing for The Children's Newspaper was Doris Muriel Gill, a writer on pioneers of history and religion.

There seems to be some confusion over her output as some libraries list some of the same books as being the work of Doris Mary Gill. I've gathered all the works from both names in the publications list below as, although stranger things have happened, in this instance I suspect there has been an error in records that has been carried from one library to another, especially as Doris Muriel and Doris Mary are given the same year of birth, 1904. (A Google search for "Doris Muriel Gill" and "Doris Mary Gill" only produces a smattering of books for sale.)

All very confusing. An admittedly fairly brief search of records turns up a Doris Muriel Gill of Wallasey, Cheshire, who died in late 1969 and left a fairly substantial amount in her will to the Jubilee Research Fellowship, Royal Holloway College, London University. But she was born 10 October 1894, not 1904. It's not unusual to discover that accepted years of birth are often wrong when you check them. Curiously, while actresses are considered past it once they get to a certain age and tend to shave off a few years to extend their careers, authors, bizarrely, face the similar problem of being considered out of touch with the audience if they're in their sixties and writing for a predominantly youthful audience. It may sound odd but I've come across instances of this in the past. There's also a certain vanity about age as anyone who has looked at a census will be able to tell you: it's not unusual for someone to only age 3 or 5 years between census records, which are taken 10 years apart.

Until I can discover where the 1904 year of birth information came from (so I can take a stab at guessing how safe the information is), I'll be cautious and say that Doris Muriel Gill (1894-1969) is only a tentative i.d. of our author.

Non-fiction
Great Men of History. London, G. G. Harrap, 1929.
People of the Light. London, Edinburgh House Press, 1933.
Junior Tales. The Harvest of the Spirit, with Lilian E. Cox. London, National Sunday School Union, 1934.
The "Pioneer" History Series. London, Sir I. Pitman & Sons, 4 vols., 1935.
__1 Pioneers of Home Making.
__2 Pioneers of Greece and Rome.
__3 The Pioneers of Britain and Europe.
__4 Pioneers of World-Wide Changes.
Victories of Peace. Stories of friendship in action. London, Student Christian Movement Press, 1935.
Methods of Teaching for Sunday Schools of To-day, with A. M. Pullen. London, National Sunday School Union, 1936.
Stories on the Lord's Prayer, with A. M. Pullen. London, National Sunday School Union, 1937.
Adventures of Service: Stories of Modern Pioneers, with A. M. Pullen. London, SCM Press, 1938.
Where There's a Will. Stories of man's use of God's gifts, with A. M. Pullen. London, National Sunday School Union, 1941.
Makers of History. London & Edinburgh, McDougall's Educational Co., 1943.

Plays
The Cup. An Easter play in three acts. London, A. J. G. Seaton, 1931.
Earnest-Money. A one-act play. London, H. V. Capsey, 1938.

(* The Children's Newspaper © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Comic Cuts: British Comics' Circulations Charts

Circulation figures for the first six months of 2008 have just been released by ABC, so here's our bi-annual round-up. (See here for the March 2008 round-up.)

PRE-SCHOOL MAGAZINES

The latest circulation figures show what is becoming a predictable steadily declining set of figures with only one or two launches. Why should this be?

I believe it's down to the fact that most comics/pre-school magazines are based on licensed material. The initial hype surrounding a new series will give a new title a solid launch—In the Night Garden being a prime example from 2007. Sales will, naturally, decline once the first set of free gifts has run out but remain bolstered by continual appearances on television over the next couple of years.

However, the pre-school market has a very narrow age range and young children will grow out of watching a show fairly quickly, starting a decline in sales which is never bolstered completely by the arrival of new readers. New shows take over the most popular viewing slots, relegating a show to a less popular time slot, losing viewers in the process, especially once there are no new episodes to watch.

All of this means that a popular magazine will have a high sale for a couple of years followed by a sharp fall from grace. A good example of this is Teletubbies which, in 2002, was selling over 100,000 copies per issue but has since declined to its current figure of just over 30,000. A similar pattern can be seen in the sales of Tweenies, Balamory and the now-defunct Fimbles, all CBeebies regulars. Even the CBeebies anthology magazines, Toybox and CBeebies Weekly, which feature many of the same characters, are showing signs of decline.

For the six months covered, Teletubbies was the biggest loser, down 11,300 sales per issue, followed by Toybox (down 9,300), Balamory (down 7,700), Noddy Magazine (down 7,600), In the Night Garden (down 6,700, although this is a settle down figure following its launch) and Fun to LearnFavourites (down 5,300).

The year-on-year (y/y) figures show an even sharper decline for some magazines: y/y, Teletubbies is down 23,500 sales per issue (42.7%), Toybox is down 19, 100 sales per issue (20.7%), Charlie & Lola down 16,400 (24.2%), Balamory down 14,900 (34.1%), Bob the Builder down 13,500 (19.8%), Noddy Magazine down 9,600 (29.8%), Disney and Me down 8,400 (15.3%), Tweenies down 8,200 (21.2%) and CBeebies Weekly down 8,200 (11.8%).

The only magazine that seems to be bucking the trend is Redan's Fun to LearnFriends, which has added 11,300 sales y/y (up 15%), perhaps at the expense of its companion Fun to LearnFavourites which has lost 16,600 sales in the same period (down 24.6%).

Cancelled titles in the last six months include Fi-Fi Magazine, Learn with Bob the Builder, Fimbles Magazine, Me Too and Underground Ernie, all published by BBC Worldwide. In addition, BBC Worldwide folded Disney Witch Magazine (aimed at a slightly older age range) but noted only in their annual review for 2007-08 that "Six small children’s titles were closed as part of the continuous review of the overall portfolio."


EVERYTHING ELSE

The big surprise to most people will be the sharp fall in sales of Doctor Who Adventures from BBC Worldwide which had a steady sale of around 155,000 in 2007 but shed over a third of its readership in the first half of 2008—during which period the BBC were broadcasting the fourth season of the show. Sales fell by 61,000 per issue (down nearly 40%), the fall almost certainly caused by the change in schedule from fortnightly to weekly in January 2008, three months ahead of the new series launch. It would be interesting to know what was happening in the same period with Panini's Dr Who Magazine but its circulation isn't audited by ABC.

The Simpsons Comics from Titan shed 21,000 readers although this is only a 7,700 (6.4%) drop y/y. Simpsons Comics Presents also fell by 15,400, a fall of 5,400 (6.8%) y/y. Both titles showed particularly good second half sales for 2007 which is why the drop appears so dramatic. Simpson's Treasure Trove was cancelled during this period.

Beano took a substantial loss of 12,500 (16.8%) and Dandy took a similar percentage loss (16.4%) but, starting from a far lower figure this meant a circulation drop of only 4,700 copies per issue. BeanoMax held fairly steady, down only 6%. Another popular D. C. Thomson title, Bratz, shed 11,000 copies per issues, perhaps indicating that the Bratz craze is at an end.

Other falling circulations were recorded for Panini's Scooby Doo (7,600) and Spectacular Spiderman (5,600), and Titan's Spongebob Squarepants (5,000) and Transformers (6,400).

The biggest rise in sales was for BBC Worldwide's Go Girl which increased its sales by nearly 5,000 copies per issue, a 15,500 increase y/y.

Disney High School Musical debuted from Panini UK in September 2007 at the same time the second HSM movie was released. One would expect the title to continue to do well in the second half of 2008 with the release of the third movie.

The Chart

Please note that the chart only covers titles where circulation figures are available and there are probably twice as many comics and children's magazines available on the newsagents shelves.

(* High School Musical The Official Magazine © Panini UK; In the Night Garden and Doctor Who Adventures © BBC Worldwide.)