I'm still waiting on news for my proposed slate of Bear Alley Books comics' titles (for which I apologise: it's very frustrating but beyond my control) so I've spent what I jokingly call my 'spare' time pulling together a collection of essays to celebrate 25 years since my very first 'book' was published. Actually it wasn't a book at all, just a set of duplicated pages held together with a staple entitled Scion and Dragon Books. It was published by Richard Williams, a book dealer based in Scunthorpe who published 15 of my paperback checklists between 1984 and 1990.
25 years later my bibliography is a bit more extensive and the checklists tend to be forgotten as they're long out of print and horrendously out of date. In that 25 years I've written something like 1,500 articles, news and reviews columns, introductions and lists... and I'm not counting this blog which is shortly to hit 750,000 words. I'm a bit amazed by these numbers myself. In the 1990s I was writing over 400,000 words a year—far more than I write now. I'm slowing down (and getting more rambling) in my old age!
To celebrate those 25 years, I've pulled together a collection of some of my favourite essays. Back in the '90s I was a regular contributor to Crime Time magazine, writing a regular column on any subject that grabbed my fancy each issue. The result was a series of pieces about authors (and a couple of film-makers) that I was interested in, ranging from 1950s British gangster writers like 'Ben Sarto' and 'Griff' to classic American hardboiled writers W. R. Burnett and James M. Cain. Along the way I also tackled Ed (Plan 9 From Outer Space) Wood, the pulp origins of hardboiled fiction, and the highest-selling American crime writer of them all, Mickey Spillane.
The book is called Mean Streetmaps and it will contain 16 essays. Someone's proofing the text for me at the moment and I'm hoping to have it out within a few weeks. I'm working on a micro-site for the book at the moment and as soon as that's ready I'll post a cover, contents page and details of how to order.
Back in December last year I mentioned that I was planning a yard sale. Not in the traditional sense of selling stuff out of a yard, but in the sense of clearing shelf-space by the yard.
Well, I finally got around to starting the big clear-out. I spent Sunday morning at the local boot fair selling off a load of old toys and tat that has been cluttering up cupboards for years, plus five large and two small trays of books. And we managed to sell over half of them, a total of over 200 books.
The frustrating thing is that not one of them was actually from a shelf, so I've not made any impact at all in that direction. I did recently sell some comic collections, but they only accounted for about six inches of shelf space. But between that and the boot fair, I've got rid of about 4 yards of books, so I'm off to a good start.
(By the way, anything I think will be of interest to readers of Bear Alley, I'll offer here first, once I can get a list together.)
Between finishing up Mean Streetmaps, writing reviews (oh, yes, that's still ongoing!) and sorting out books, I'm running late on answering e-mail queries so if you've written in asking questions in the last couple of weeks I apologise. I'm trying to catch up with the backlog but work has to come first.
Talking of work... my occasional employer, The Guardian newspaper, is giving away comics for the next week, starting tomorrow (Saturday) with an issue of Jackie, the Valentine Day issue from 1975. Over the following six days they'll give away the following comics: Sunday (Observer)—The Beano (#2000 from 1980); Monday—Roy of the Rovers (the 1981 issue when Roy is shot); Tuesday—Bunty (the 1972 Summer Special); Wednesday—The Dandy (the last Korky the Cat cover from 1984); Thursday—Tammy (the very first issue from 1974); and finally, on Friday—Whizzer & Chips.
You can see what the comics look like at the head of this column. I'm told that they're being reprinted in their original format.