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Friday, June 05, 2009

Comic Cuts

I've been dropping hints about publishing some books for some time without actually giving any details. Over the past couple of weeks I've promised news soon and I'm pleased to say that I've almost got my ducks in a row. So... next Friday I'll be announcing the first two titles that will be appearing under the Bear Alley Books imprint. That's Friday the 12th. There, I'm committed to it now. Can't go back. Big announcement. Next Friday.

Until then, 'fraid it's Project One and Project Two. I have a printer's proof in front of me for the former which looks pretty damn good. A few things to tweak before the book is printed but not far to go at all. Project Two... well, I received a cover sketch on Wednesday and it blew me away. I can't wait to see it in colour. I think you'll love it, too.

I've still got other commitments to work on. We're on the very final stages of finishing the Frank Bellamy's World War 1 book and I finished cleaning up the pages of 'Wells Fargo' on Tuesday. It's going to be a hell of a book: Don Lawrence's artwork is stunning. And it doesn't end there as I'm about to start on the second part of the book, 'Pony Express'. Between them they run to around 200 pages so it's going to be a bumper book when it appears. Unbelievable to think that the neither strip has been reprinted in full before now. In fact, I don't think 'Pony Express' has ever been reprinted in the UK at all.

My new book from Carlton (under their Prion imprint) is out next week. I received a copy earlier this week and I'll be posting some information on the contents in the next day or two. As a teaser, I thought you might like to see the original artwork clean of lettering—it's at the head of the column above. The artist was Graham Coton, one of the greats from the era of the War Picture Library. David Roach called him "The king of vehicles, machines and weaponry," in his book The Art of War, and I'd have to add that Coton was at his best with aircraft in aerial action. Dogfights never looked so exciting. Coton was still painting aircraft long after the closure of the war libraries and deserves to be more widely known as the fine artist he was.

The latest issue of Paperback Fanatic (#10, June 2009) arrived this week, and continues to improve with every issue. It's now designed by Glenn Fleming (whose name you might recognise from Crikey!) who provides good clear layouts. With a huge range of paperback covers providing the artwork it's a great-looking magazine. Central to this issue are interviews with author John Harvey and artist John Holmes plus articles on Barry Sadler's Casca series of mercenary novels, the occult novels of Gerald Suster, the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series (not that kind of adult!), German Frankenstein novels and British sex education paperbacks of the 1960s and 1970s. You can't get more diverse than that. Further information and how to obtain copies of the magazine can be found at the Paperback Fanatic website.

Last thing through the post this week, a copy of the latest Commando book, which I'll review below. The monthly Commando books are also celebrating D-Day with a run of themed issues in June. The first batch of four titles (#4203 The Jailbreak; #4204 Fight Fire With Fire; #4205 D-Day Plus; #4206 Beach-Head Battle) are on sale from the 11th and the second batch (#4207 To Lead the Way; #4208 Close Support!; #4209 Terror on the Battlefield; #4210 Dead Man's Boots) follow a fortnight later. "Had we not had the benefit of the selfless efforts of a huge number of soldiers, sailors and airmen involved on that day, history would have been much blacker," says editor Calum Laird. "Our eight stories, though fictional, are our way of saluting that generation while spreading the story of what they did and what we owe them."

Interesting side note: apparently, Commando had their best ever sales during the 1970s and sales peaked when, one month, they sold 750,000 copies (over 90,000 copies of each of the 8 issues that month). When you consider that both War Picture Library and Battle Picture Library were both still going (and producing 20 titles a month between them), Combat Picture Library was still going and various other pocket library titles were being published—romance and schoolgirls regularly, plus a variety of science fiction, horror, western and thrillers at various times—a regular sale of 1½ to 2 million of these pocket books a month isn't an outrageous guess. Ah, those were the days!

Well that's cleared the desk a bit! Next week we have a new "Eagles Over the Western Front" story for your entertainment, plus that announcement next Friday. And anything else I can squeeze in.

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