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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Albert Dorrington

Another mystery writer from the Edwardian age that has been causing the Crime Fiction Bibliography brains trust some hair pulling. This one we've yet to resolve so if you don't like mysteries that are left hanging, just read the Eagles strip. Move right along. Nothing to see here.

Albert Dorrington wrote novels, pulp stories and other fiction, including, it would appear, a little fiction about his upbringing. So far we've established that he was born in 1859, 1868, 1870, 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875 and 1876, according to various resources. Usually, it's just a case of checking in the birth records to see which is right, but with Albert Dorrington that's proving to be just one of the problems.

The BMD records have a number of Albert Dorringtons born in around that period, a couple of which can be immediately ruled out:

Albert Dorrington (b. Derby, 1Q 1866)
Albert Dorrington (b. Salisbury, 3Q 1866)
Albert Dorrington (b. Bishops Stortford, 4Q 1869) (d. Bishops Stortford, 2Q 1870)
Albert Dorrington (b. Kensington, 4Q 1874) (d. Kensington, 4Q 1874)

I can't find anyone with the middle name Albert until Charles Albert Dorrington was born in 1879 (much too late, even with the spread of years given above). So these seem to be the four suspects and we've narrowed it down to two already. There's an Albert Dorrington who married in Derby in 3Q 1885 which might be our first guy, in which case he's not our man, for reasons I'll come to shortly.

The records are imperfect as can be seen by a look at the death index: there's an Albert Dorrington who died at Portsea in 1882 aged 10... but no sign of his birth 10 years earlier in 1871/72. It could be that this Albert Dorrington was born abroad.

The most comprehensive study of Dorrington is probably the entry in Australian Dictionary of Biography (Volume 8, 1981) penned by Ken Stewart. Stewart claims that Dorrington...
was born probably on 27 September 1874 at Fulham, London, son of William Dorrington, policeman, and his wife Hannah, née Byford. He was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham. When he was about 16 he 'drifted' to Australia where, after brief stays in Melbourne and Adelaide, he travelled through German settlements in South Australia; in Queensland, the Torres Strait, and Palmerston (Darwin); and in outlying settlements in South Australia, supporting himself through canvassing and other jobs. Germans, Chinese, Kanakas, Afghans and Japanese, often unpleasantly perceived, populate much of his fiction. In 1899 Dorrington settled at Waitara, Sydney, where he lived with Leonora Anderson, who bore him several daughters. For seven years he replated silverware for a Pitt Street company.
This does not entirely match the entry compiled by AusLit, which claims he was born on 14 August 1871 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, and died in Ruislip, London, on 9 April 1953. It reproduces a biographical note from The Bulletin Story Book (1901), which states that he...
Attended King Edward Grammar School, Birmingham, until his sixteenth year. Came to Australia in 1884; and, after many unsuccessful bids for fortune in Melbourne and Adelaide, began a tour through Australia as a newspaper and general advertising canvasser. Within two years had wandered from Adelaide to Bourke, from Bourke to Torres Straits, working the back towns, and thereby gaining a knowledge of bush life. In 1895 began contributing to the Bulletin. Now [1901] in business in Sydney, devoting his spare time to literature.
A note at AusLit reads: "Most sources give 1874 as the year of Dorrington's birth, but the Bulletin Story Book has it as 1871, as does Dorrington's entry (in his own hand) in A. G. Stephens's Australian Autobiographies, vol.1. (The latter source also states the day and month of his birth as 8 August.)"

It's worth noting here that the Bulletin biography says he attended school until he was 16 but does not state that he immediately went to Australia, but this, I suspect, is where the notion that he was born in 1868 comes from (1884 minus 16). The Bulletin entry is mathematically wrong: if Dorrington was born in 1871 and went to Australia in 1884, he could not have remained at school until 16. And, according to the Author's and Writer's Who's Who he attended the Oratory School in Birmingham, not a Grammar School.

Back to the Australian Dictionary of Biography where we learn more of Dorrington's early career...
Dorrington started writing for the Bulletin in the late 1890s, often as 'A.D.' or 'Alba Dorian'. After 1900 he also contributed to such publications as the Freeman's Journal, the Australian Worker, Steele Rudd's Magazine and the Bookfellow. Among his close friends were James Dwyer and Victor Daley; he perceived, ahead of his time, the literary sophistication of Joseph Furphy. A. G. Stephens promoted Dorrington's early fiction, publishing Castro's Last Sacrament, and Other Stories (1900), and collaborating to write a romantic novel, The Lady Calphurnia Royal, serialized in the Bookfellow in 1907, and published in London in 1909. The two quarrelled bitterly for decades, first in Australia over personal matters, and later concerning arrangements for the novel's publication in Britain and the United States of America. Dorrington had left Australia in 1907, arguing that local conditions provided 'no opening'; that Australian critics neglected promising writers other than those of assured position; and that cheap English periodical literature had swamped the local market.
Al Hubin tells me that AusLit lists 328 works (mostly columns and short stories) by Dorrington under various names including Alba Dorian, Alba Dorrington, Alba and Alba D.

The Author's and Writer's Who's Who mentions that he was commissioned by the Sydney Bulletin to report on whaling in 1906; Stephen Martin, in The Whales' Journey (2001) says his visit to Twofold Bay was in June 1908 and that Dorrington, "repelled by the stench of the whaling station, but perhaps also influenced by the desire for sensation", wrote up a lurid account of his visit:
Whale offal clings and rots where it holds. On Judgement Day, when the Angel of the Apocalypse has poisoned the land and sea, the Devil will smother mankind with the vitals of the whale.
A photograph captioned "Lawson and friend Albert Dorrington at Circular Quay, Sydney, 1908" appears in A Fantasy of Man: Henry Lawson Complete Works, 1901-1922,, ed. Leonard Cronin (Lansdowne, 1984). Both these notes seem to imply that Dorrington was still in Australia in 1908, despite the information elsewhere that he left for London in 1907.

However, John Herrington points me to a shipping manifest for the Ophir, which arrived in London on 7 May 1907 carrying a Mrs. Dorrington and her two infants (who started their journey in Sydney; and a Mr. A. Dorrington (who was picked up in Columbo).
After visiting Ceylon, Dorrington settled near London, and published a misleading account of allegedly exotic colonial hard-ships as an orchardist, which Stephens in Australia exposed and derided. Later Stephens, Louis Becke and Randolph Bedford accused Dorrington of plagiarism; but in London he gained recognition for newspaper serials, in the Daily Telegraph and elsewhere, and for stories for the Pall Mall Magazine and other magazines.
Dorrington's first British novel, And the Day Came was published in 1908. His stories also appeared in Blackwood's and Chamber's Journal but, despite a fairly prolific output of novels over the next few years and Stewart's fairly rosy picture of him ("He remained a Fleet Street journalist"), his career proved none too successful and at around the beginning of the Great War, he had to apply to the Royal Literary Fund. According to the Oxford Companion to Edwardian Literature...
he stated to the Royal Literary Fund that he had 'known no other profession than that of literature'. In the ten years before 1914 he was earning £400 a year, the war reduced this to £30 a year, with the consequence that he, his wife and three daughters were evicted from their house in Bournemouth. He also applied to the Society of Authors and the Professional Classes War Relief Council for support.
Dorrington was, as noted above, married with three children. He had lived in Waitara, Sydney, between 1899 and 1907 and was living with Leonore Anderson in around 1901, although the two were not married and there is no trace of a marriage certificate. Two daughters were born in Australia, Marjorie (also known as Deborah) Anderson (b. Petersham, 1902) and Leonore (also known as Leonore Patricia) Anderson (b. Sydney, 1904), and a third, Madeline (also known as Georgina Madeline) Dorrington, in Brighton, Sussex, in 1909.

In August 1915, he travelled to America, the shipping manifest describing him as a 43-year-old war correspondent and novelist (implying he was born in 1871/72); he was joined in February 1916 by his wife and daughter Madeline. Leonore gave their address as 60 Alfred Road, Feltham, Middlesex. Mother and daughter returned in May 1916, followed by Albert in August (now aged 44), who gave his permanent address as 9 Grafton Street, London.

(A brief aside: Mum gives her age as 31, meaning she was born 1884/85; in the 1911 census she is 27, thus born 1883/84, and implying she was still in her teens when she began living with Dorrington. In fact, she was born Leonore A. Anderson, the daughter of Henry D. and Emma I. M. Anderson, in Sydney in 1883.)

Dorrington had already had some success in America, selling stories to Red Book, Popular Magazine, The Cavalier (where his novel, The Velvet Claw, was serialised in 1912), Top-Notch and Short Stories. Over the next few years, he appeared in Argosy, All Around Magazine, People's, All-Story Weekly, Western Story Magazine, Sea Stories and others. His writing career seemed to pick up and he also sold to various magazines in the UK (amongst them Detective Magazine and Happy Magazine) in the 1920s as well as reviving his career as a novelist.

In August 1922, the engagement of Leonore Patricia Dorrington and Archer Jack Greathed (b. Hereford, 1900) was announced. Greathed was an accountant and broker who travelled to Venezuala that month, subsequently joined in 1923 by Leonore Dorrington and her mother. The couple had two daughters, Rosemary Jane (b. Curacao, West Indies, c.1925) and Janet Eve (b. Vancouver, Canada, 1931); the family had moved to Canada in 1927, and Archer worked as an accountant for Glen Waghorn & Co. of Vancouver until emigrating to America in November 1931.

The marriage appears to have broken down soon after. Archer Greathed returned to Canada and went on to marry Mary Gladys Laird and have two further children before serving with the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada during the war. Rising to the rank of Major, he was killed on the Western Front in Holland on 21 January 1945, aged 44.

Leonore Patricia, meanwhile, also remarried, to Colonel Rowland Shand Kydd, at Marylebone, Loneon, in 1934, although was still listed as Leonore Dorrington when she travelled to Gibraltar in January 1935, her intended permanent home being Spain. She died in Henley, Berkshire, in 1956.

Deborah M. Dorrington, Albert's elder daughter, I believe to have married Francis H. Cunnack in Falmouth in 3Q 1928. Madeline, the younger daughter, is said to have moved to Canada in the 1950s.

When Albert's second daughter's engagement was announced, he was described as "of Ruislip" in the announcement. Albert Dorrington had found a permanent home at Waitara, Ickenham Road, Ruislip, Middlesex. Waitara had, of course, been where he had lived whilst in Australia. It seems that Albert lived here for the rest of his life and his death is registered at nearby Harrow in 2Q 1953. Albert is said to have died at Ruislip on 9 April 1953. In yet another twist to the confusion over his birth, the register gives his age at death as 94 (i.e. born c.1858).

Which brings us back to where we started. Dorrington had himself written that he was born in 1871, which ties in with the ages he gave when he travelled to America. But Dorrington also presumably supplied the information to The Author's and Writer's Who's Who for 1935/36 that he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1876 (seeming to correct the information in the 1934 edition that he was born in 1870). And perhaps to Who's Who in Australia, which listed him from at least as early as 1935 and at least as late as 1950, where his year of birth was given as 1875. The same year was given by Who's Who in Literature.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography would appear to offer confirmation of his date of birth by listing the names of his parents, William and Hannah. But could this information have been taken from a birth certificate? If it was, as I suspect, the birth certificate of Albert Dorrington whose birth was registered in Kensington in 4Q 1874, the information is almost certainly wrong: that Albert Donnington died at birth or shortly after as his death is also registered that same quarter.

William Dorrington was born in Romford, Essex, in 1851 and married Hannah Byford, born in Sudbury, Suffolk, in 1850. Their marriage was registered in Romford in 2Q 1872. If I'm right, their first son Albert was born in Fulham in 1874 and died soon after; a second son, Ernest Harry Dorrington, was born in Fulham in 1876, and is the only son to be found living with William and Hannah (at 45 Cruikshank Road, West Ham) in the 1881 census. It would appear that William died in 1884 and Hannah followed in 1888. Ernest was an inmate at a boys' home in Kentish Town at the time of the 1891 census and later worked as a soap cutter, living with his uncle in West Ham in 1901.

The fact that this particular Albert Dorrington and his brother were born in London and his parents lived in London flags up a number of questions. For instance, why would Albert Dorrington subsequently claim he was born in Warwickshire rather than London, and why would he attend a school in Birmingham? The London birth on 27 September also disagrees with the birth day (14 August) that Dorrington gave for himself.

School attendance in Birmingham makes his birth in Stratford-upon-Avon seem far more likely; in the Author's and Writer's Who's Who he claims Stratford in 1876, information that surely would have come from the author himself. I'm inclined to believe that, whilst people lie about their age, they tend not to change their place of birth.

Dorrington nowadays is remembered in the UK and USA for minor contributions to the crime and science fiction genres. His The Radium Terrors (first serialised in Pall Mall Magazine (UK) and The Scrap Book (US) in 1911 and published in book form in 1912) is a mix of both, concerning the robbery of a vial of radium by a Japanese master crook named Dr Tsarka. He has a far better reputation in Australia for his writings around the turn of the last century; several of his stories have been reprinted in anthologies although, as far as I can tell, only The Radium Terrors remains in print (as an out of copyright POD book).

For such a minor author, he's caused an awful lot of heads to be scratched over the years...

Update - 10 March 2012: Throwing a further spanner in the works... Thanks to Alex (see comments) I've taken a look at an online family tree that includes Albert Dorrington, which states that he was born in 1873 and his birth was registered in Sudbury under the name Albert Byford. There is certainly such an entry in the official records (4Q 1873). The tree confirms his parents as William Dorrington and Hannah, née Byford, who were married in 1872... so why Albert would be registered under his mother's maiden name I've no idea; a birth in 4Q 1873 is well over nine months after a marriage in 2Q 1872.

I'm not convinced that this resolves the mystery... it just adds another twist and implies that he was only ten or eleven when he travelled to Australia (if the 1884 date is to be believed). Yet more things to scratch your head over...

Novels
And the Day Came. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1908.
The Lady Calphurnia Royal, with A. G. Stephens. London, Mills & Boon, 1909; as Our Lady of Darkness, with A. G. Stephens. New York, The Macaulay Co., 1910; London, Wright & Brown, 1931.
Children of the Cloven Hoof. London, Mills & Boon, 1911 [1910].
Our Lady of the Leopards. London, Mills & Boon, 1911.
The Radium Terrors. London, Everleigh Nash, 1912; illus. A. C. Michael, Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, Page & Co., 1912.
A Door in the Desert. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1927.
The Moon-Dial. London, Methuen & Co., 1928.
The Fatal Call. London, Methuen & Co., 1929.
Madonna Island. London, Wright & Brown, 1932.
The Velvet Claw. London, Wright & Brown, 1932.
The Half-God. London, Wright & Brown, 1933.
A Mirror in Chinatown. London, Wright & Brown, 1933.

Collections
Castro's Last Sacrament and other stories. Sydney, Bulletin Newspaper Co., 1900.
A South Sea Buccaneer. London, Andrew Melrose, 1911.
Stories to the Master. London, Mills & Boon, 1926.

Others
The Diamond Ape [by A. Dorrington] and other tales in the intermediate style of Pitman's Shorthand. London, Sir I. Pitman & Sons, 1920.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1970s

Above is the cover for the next Roy collection to be published by Titan. The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1970s is due out on 21 June 2009. Here's their publicity blurb.

"This title celebrates another momentous decade in the career of soccer's greatest player, Roy Race, as he competes to win the GBP 30,000 Goal Rush Challenge, teaches how to play American Football, tackles the problem of hooliganism head on and struggles to control Melchester's latest signing - the fiery, arrogant but highly talented Paco Diaz. This volume also features a selection of features and articles taken from the original "Roy of the Rover" comic, including a 2 page feature written by Eric Morecambe. Also included is a selection of period ads for legendary toys including Chopper, Dinky, Corgi and a variety of Kellogg's long defunct breakfast cereals."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

When Knockout met Valiant

Great News, Pals! That was always the tag-line when British comics merged and they usually trumpeted the event in the departing paper. Sometimes it was a small toot, tucked away in a corner but when Knockout was folded into Valiant in February 1963 it was heralded with a 4-page supplement, the centre pages in colour. The merger was a big success -- Valiant's launch in 1962 had not been as spectacular as Fleetway had hoped, but the circulation of the merged paper soared. I don't have precise figures, but certainly over 300,000 copies a week and maybe approaching 400,000. Valiant continued to sell well until around 1970/71 when it many Fleetway comics slumped; it was around that time that the comics were hit by industrial action and disappeared from the newsstands for often weeks at a time. By 1974, sales had dropped by a third.

I don't have comparative figures for D. C. Thomson's boys' titles but I wonder if they suffered nearly as badly? It may be that the comparatively steady sales of Thomson titles is what inspired Fleetway to adopt more of a Thomson look and feel to many of their future launches; or maybe it was simply because Fleetway were attracting a lot of ex-Thomson staff.

But that was a decade away... back in 1963, here's how Knockout announced that it was merging with Valiant...

(artwork © IPC Media)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Peter Wallage

I first stumbled across the name of 'P. Wallage' in some payment records that came my way. Under the pen-name Peter Bruce, he contributed a text story, "Race Against Time", to Boys' World in 1963. Also with an episode of the "Mini-Mystery" series. Not a big contributor but, being a completist when it comes to this kind of thing, the number of contributions doesn't really matter.

Digging around, I began to suspect that P stood for Peter. Peter Wallage was a writer on cars and car maintenance and repair who had been a journalist for over 40 years. Now retired, he continues to write about his hobbies of photography, cameras and camera repair and has his own website (now closed) where he chats about his interests. I dropped him a line recently to ask about his contributions to comics and... well, you can read what he has to say for yourself.

Peter was in the RAF for his national service in the late 1940s. He was married to photojournalist Valerie Wallage in 1954 and worked as a design draughtsman for Rolls-Royce. It was here that he began writing.
Most of my freelancing was non-fiction, mainly for hobby magazines. I freely admit I was hopeless at writing fiction short stories for adults, I got enough rejection slips to paper a room. However, I had long held the opinion that literacy among children in the 1930s when I was growing up was higher than it was after the war. Rightly or wrongly I attributed a lot of this to the written comics of the 30s and 40s. I speak from a boy's point of view but I suspect it was similar with girls.

At the age of about eight most boys had 'graduated' from picture comics like Dandy, Chips and Beano to the written comics like Adventure, Wizard, Hotspur and so on. They were full of stories with daring larger than life heroes who swashed their buckles and buckled their swashes in fine style. If you couldn't read fluently you couldn't follow the stories. Moreover they were well written with good grammar and syntax. Yes, they demanded what Somerset Maugham called "a willing suspension of belief" but that's been true of adventure stories throughout history and still is today.

My wife suggested I tried freelancing for boy's comics and magazines and gradually I began to get more acceptances than rejections. The potential market was quite large. As well as the established comics, mainly from Fleetway and Thomson-Leng, several publishers launched new magazines such as Eagle, Boy's World, Look and Learn and Finding Out.

I recall the story "Race Against Time" which I wrote for Boy's World. I don't remember the details but seem to remember that the central figure was a racing driver who was considered past his prime by up and coming younger drivers but who got the opportunity to show that he was still as good as the best, and better than most.

I never had a lot of success with Fleetway, but wrote quite a lot of stories for Thomson-Leng. They always paid on acceptance, and put the stories in whichever of their comics they thought it suited best (or which had a hole that needed filling). I also wrote a whole series for Finding Out. These were not fiction stories, they were stories about events in history told in a style to interest children. I remember writing about the start of the Victoria Cross award for gallantry, the pilot Jimmy Angel who discovered Angel Falls, Bleriot's flight across the Channel and numerous other events. The stories had to be historically accurate, but the writer was allowed to dramatise them to some extent, imagining the thoughts and emotions of the central character. I remember the editor described them as 'faction', a marriage of fact and fiction. Most of the boys stories were published without a by-line, but for publications that used it I adopted the pen-name of Peter Bruce.

In the 1960s, written stories in boys comics began to give way to picture-strip stories. I wrote picture-strip scripts for a number of Thomson-Leng publications, including some of their Commando booklet series but didn't enjoy it as much as writing words. More and more of my freelancing was for hobby and enthusiast magazines, mostly in the vintage and classic car field.
In 1964, Peter gave up design work to join Iliffe (which later became part of IPC) as a technical editor on the weekly newspaper Motor Transport. He was also editor of Car Fleet Management and freelanced 'in house' for journals such as Autocar, Thoroughbred and Classic Cars. Resigning in 1979, he became a full-time freelancer and at one time was contributing regularly to eight magazines, all non-fiction and all commissioned work using his own name. He was also freelance editor of The Automobile.

Since 1988, Peter has published dozens of books under the Wallage Reprints imprint, editing collections of repair and service notes from old publications of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s covering such diverse subjects as cars, bicycles, tractors, watches, sewing machines and cameras.

Writing for boys' papers accounted for only a very small proportion of the millions of words he penned as a technical and industrial journalist. Now in his eighties, Peter claims that he "seldom writes for publication any more, but it's true that writing is an addiction and writers never fully retire. I still enjoy writing on various forums and internet hobby groups."

Non-fiction
The Restoration of Post-War Cars. London, Batsford, 1979.
How to Restore Car Interiors. London, Osprey, Oct. 1983.
How to Restore Electrical and Ignition Systems. London, Osprey, Oct 1983.
How to Restore Body Decoration, Brightwork and Instruments. London, Osprey, 1987.
Ford Escort & Orion Service Guide and Owner's Manual, with Lindsay Porter. Hereford, Porter Publishing, 1995.
Ford Fiesta: Service Guide & Owner's Manual, with Lindsay Porter. Broomyard, Porter, 1995.
Metro: Service Guide & Owner's Manual, with Lindsay Porter. Broomyard, Porter, 1995.
MG Midget & Austin Healey Sprite: Step-by-Step Service Guide, with Lindsay Porter. Hereford, Porter, 1995.
Rebuilding and Tuning Ford's Kent Crossflow Engine, with Valerie Wallage. Sparkford, Haynes, 1995.
Kit Car Electrics. Blueprint Books, 1997.
Rebuilding and Tuning Ford's CVH Engine. Sparkford, Haynes, 2000.
Repairing and Restoring Classic Car Components, with John Wallage. Sparkford, Haynes, 2001.

(* My thanks to Peter Wallage for taking time to answer questions about his writing career. The photographs comes from his website—which has subsequently closed.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hawking cartoon controversy

A minor spat has blown up over a cartoon by Brook (Rick Brookes) featuring Stephen Hawking (no stranger to appearing in cartoons, having most famously appeared in episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama), who was recently admitted to hospital suffering from respiratory problems. Within hours of it appearing in the pages of Metro, calls were being received at the headquarters of the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association which sparked a debate over whether the cartoon crossed the line of good taste.

Christine Knox, chief executive of the MND Association, has been quoted as saying, "The Metro cartoon sets aside his achievements and reduces him to being labelled by his MND – a disease that is always fatal and leaves people unable to walk, talk or feed themselves."

Sorry, but I have to disagree. Precisely what does the cartoon take away from Hawking's remarkable achievements? Has it somehow made all 25 million copies of A Brief History of Time disappear into a wormhole? And as for being defined by his MND... doesn't the fact that he's the most globally-known sufferer of MND, via the biographies, the tens of thousands of newspaper articles that have been written about him and countless dozens of television appearances, in part already define him? Hawking has probably done more to stimulate discussion and raise awareness of MND than any other person on the planet.

To say that Hawking's life and works are so fragile that a single cartoon can take away all he has achieved and reduce him to being defined solely by his MND... isn't that rather insulting?

(* cartoon... probably (c) Richard Brookes and/or Associated Newspapers Ltd.)

Comic Cuts

I've spent most of the week trying to put a book together in double-quick time. I won't jinx it by saying what it is but I think you'll like it. I'll say more when it's actually in the bag.

One of the reasons I wanted to take a couple of days off was the perform a little maintenance, things like backing up Bear Alley just in case something goes horribly wrong. It's the kind of thing that's easy to let slide (and the fact that I'd not done any backing up since last September probably tells you that I'm a bit lax when it comes to things like that).

It also gave me a chance to cobble together some statistics about the site. I've now used 96% of my allotted space. A lot of that, of course, is because Bear Alley is fairly picture heavy. As I don't want to strip out all the images, it looks like I'm going to have to take the plunge and pay for some extra space. If anyone cares to help out, I've added a little PayPal donation button down there in the right-hand column.

There were 137,250 words written for Bear Alley in the six months between October 2008 and March 2009 bringing the grand total to something like 675,000 words. That's not a wholly accurate figure because there's some repetition (the recently released and upcoming books listings) but it's still a lot of words in two-and-a-half years. This is a good opportunity for me to thank the people who have been good enough to donate some of their words to BA, especially Tony Woolrich, Gordon Howsden and Jeremy Briggs who have been welcome regulars.

Last October, Bear Alley was receiving something like 460 visitors a day; this peaked in December with over 800 visitors per day, and the March average isn't far below that at 700 visitors a day. I'm not going to be challenging Google as the most visited website just yet but that's still a lot of people on a daily basis.

I hope you're all enjoying "Eagles Over the Western Front". I'll have more episodes for you shortly so you'll get the chance to see how Harry Hawkes' adventures in the Royal Flying Corps continue. Hopefully things will settle down a little next week and I'll be able to post more regularly.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

J. G. Ballard (1930-2009)

There have been lots of books that I remember with great affection: the Lone Pine novels by Malcolm Saville, the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge and the Famous Five and Adventure books by Enid Blyton were childhood favourites. There have been lots that I've found thrilling. or funny or fabulous. As someone who reads for entertainment, I tend not to read books where the author's intention is solely to dazzle readers with their literary dexterity; by which I mean that I tend to read books where the author sets out to tell a story—the quality of the writing thereafter depends on how good they are as writers.

Reading brings with it a happy helter-skelter of emotional responses. I worried for the Twins in Saville's books, laughed out loud at Jennings' antics, but I've not read many books that disturbed me to the point where I actually stopped reading, even for a few days. I usually skip cheerfully from one book to another because I enjoy them, whether they be novels, collections of short stories or graphic novels (I make no distinction... they're all books). I can think of only three books that stopped me from immediately picking up another one.

Ape And Essence by Aldous Huxley, The Face That Must Die by Ramsey Campbell and Concrete Island by J. G. Ballard.

Why those three I've no idea. I don't have any vivid memories of any particular scenes that I found disturbing and I don't connect the books with any special or traumatic time of my life. For some reason they've stuck in my mind as books I must go back to and re-read. Indeed, I dug out The Face That Must Die last year and it's still one of Ramsey Campbell's best. Didn't stop me from immediately picking up another book, tho'.

This isn't going anywhere. I've no great insight about the books to offer. I just heard that Ballard died this morning and thinking about the above has been bugging me all afternoon. Enough to make me want to write it down.

Obituaries: The Times (20 April), Daily Telegraph (19 April), The Guardian (20 April); The Independent (21 April).

The Town Tamers

The Town Tamers
by Jeremy Briggs

Following on from Steve's charity shop find of Willie Blaine's novel Witch’s Blood comes another DC Thomson related novel courtesy of a charity shop. Unlike Witch’s Blood, which was written by a DC Thomson staffer on a subject unrelated to Thomson's titles, The Town Tamers is a novel written by a DCT freelancer based on a comic strip from DCT's The Victor.

Born in 1928, JT (John Thomas) Edson was one of Britain's best known and best selling western writers in the Seventies with over 130 western novels to his name. As the interest in westerns declined throughout the Eighties he continued to write although his later novels were only published in the United States. Whilst best known as a novelist, earlier in his career he had written comic strips and text stories for Thomson's boys adventure comics. These mainly appeared in The Victor beginning with the text story "The Dogs Of Kwang" in 1962 and continuing with such ongoing series as "The Sheriff Of Rockabye County" and "Johnny Orchid, White Hunter".

Victor issue 191, dated 17 October 1964, began a 13 issue run of a western story called "The Town Tamers". In it the characters of Dusty Fog, the Ysabel Kid, Mark Counter, Waco and Doc Leroy rode into Trail End to bring justice to a lawless town—to literally tame it. With Dusty Fog as Marshall and the rest of the team as his deputies, they went about cleaning up the more wayward of the town's citizens. "The Town Tamers" also appeared in the 1966 Victor Book For Boys as an eight page comic strip.

As well as their appearance in The Victor, Edson wrote about the same group of characters in many of his adult novels with the series that "The Town Tamers" characters appeared in being known generically as the Floating Outfit books. This series eventually totalled 66 titles. Edson was well known for using the same characters or their extended families in most of his novels leading to a very densely interconnected set of books with heavy continuity between them. Indeed the first chapter of The Town Tamers novel references nine other Edson books as footnotes. Since he did not always write the different titles in chronological sequence, books written later in Edson's career can be set chronologically earlier in the series continuity, so a listing of the Floating Outfit books in their reading order varies greatly for a listing of the same books in their publishing order.

The Town Tamers novel first appeared in paperback from Corgi in 1969 with the copyright assigned to JT Edson himself. Other titles in the Floating Outfit series date back to 1961 with Trail Boss published by Brown Watson, which means that Edson was writing comic strips using at least some characters from his already published novels. As such The Town Tamers comic strip is effectively a tie-in to the Floating Outfit series of novels rather being than a wholly original Victor comic strip. That said, as the printed credit to Thomson's at the beginning shows, it is still a novelisation of the comic strip albeit much expanded and with more adult themes that would ever have been possible in a mid-Sixties children's comic. Whilst fights and saloons appeared, the comic strip characters would not have been heading for the local brothels to spend their gambling winnings as at least one of the novel’s characters does.

The Edson novels were popular enough to eventually attract Hollywood's attention and, while not directly associated with the comic strip, there are two TV movies (or possibly a miniseries split in two for home video release) based on Edson's novels and both include main characters from The Town Tamers. Guns of Honor and Trigger Fast were both released on video in 1994 and were based on the Floating Outfit novels The Ysabel Kid and Trigger Fast. They featured three of the five Town Tamer characters from Victor with the role of Dusty Fog played by Christopher Atkins while Todd Jensen played the Ysabel Kid and Gerard Christopher played Mark Counter.

Returning to the comic version of the story, in 1989 JT Edson was interviewed by Alan Smith in The Illustrated Comics Journal issue 35 and briefly discussed "The Town Tamers" strip. In the article Alan Smith indicated that Edson actually got two novels out of "The Town Tamers" stories that he wrote for The Victor. One of them was obviously The Town Tamers but that means that there is another Victor tie-in novel out there still to be found.

So pardners, strap on your gun belts, saddle up your horses and join the posse—we have another title to track down.

(* Town Tamers comic strip © D. C. Thomson)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Robert Peacock (c.1926-2009)

An inquest was held on Tuesday, 14 April, at St Pancras Coroner’s Court concerning the death of cartoonist Robert Peacock, who died on Friday, 23 January 2009, aged 82 or 83. Peacock, a former Punch cartoonist described as a well-known member of the bohemian Soho art scene, committed suicide by walking into the path of a southbound Metropolitan Line train at Finchley Road tube station, shortly after 1 pm. Transport Police responded to the incident at around 1.30 pm.

Peacock, of Goldhurst Terrace, Swiss Cottage, had become increasingly concerned about his faltering memory. His wife, Jacqueline Peacock, a charity manager, said, “He was incredibly funny and always making people laugh. But as he got older he couldn’t have that life. He found it very frustrating. He wouldn’t have made a sad old character.” On the morning of his death, Peacock had complained that he had not slept the night before.

A passionate artist, Peacock worked in fine art publishing as well as freelancing cartoons. His love of jazz meant that Soho became a regular haunt and he was friends with many of the jazz greats in the 1950s and '60s. Drinking companions included Brendan Behan, the Irish novelist, and abstract painter Aubrey Williams. In later years he was a regular at The Blenheim, Loudoun Road, and The Clifton. 69-year-old former political speech writer Rex Warrick described Peacock to the Camden New Journal (16 April) as “very quick-witted and one of the most vitally alive people I have ever met. When you heard the chimes of midnight in Bob’s company you could count yourself fortunate.” His other passion was cricket and he regularly attended matches at Lords.

Coroner Dr Andrew Reid said: “Mr Peacock had started to suffer from short-term memory problems that was causing him some degree of anxiety. He timed his actions to maximise the chances that he would be struck by the train. Sadly, my only conclusion is that Robert Peacock took his own life.”

He is survived by his second wife, Jacqueline, and a son from his first marriage.

Sources: Hampstead & Highgate Express (30 January); Camden New Journal (16 April).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Up And At 'Em! (War Picture Library collection 3)

Released 6 April 2009, Up And At 'Em! is the third volume collecting the best of War Picture Library. Published by Prion, it follows the successful release of two earlier volumes, Unleash Hell and Against All Odds.

Contents

Rough Justice (WPL X214, Oct 1963) Art: Larry Horak; Script: Norman Worker
Strike Silent (WPL 218, Nov 1963) Art: Luis Arcas; Script: James Edgar
The Secret Enemy (WPL 242, May 1964) Art: John Gillatt; Script: Donne Avenell
Counter Attack (WPL 283, Mar 1965) Art: Gonzalez; Script: A. Carney Allan
Trail of the Avenger (WPL 229, Feb 1964) Art: Gino D'Antonio; Script: Norman Worker
Devil's Island (WPL 227, Jan 1964) Art: Vittorio Cossio; Script: Norman Worker
The Iron Cross (WPL 202, Jul 1963) Art: Victor de la Fuente; Script: Norman Worker
The Long March (WPL 206, Aug 1963) Art: Ramon de la Fuente; Script: G. R. Parvin
Operation Doomsday (WPL 295, Jun 1965) Art: Gino D'Antonio; Script; Douglas Leach
Undaunted (WPL 292, Jun 1965) Art: (Ortiz studio); Script: Norman Worker
Sound the Alarm (WPL 212, Oct 1963) Art: Victor de la Fuente; Script: A. Carney Allan

Synopsis

Fix bayonets! Stand by to go over the top with the third volume of blood-and-glory combat stories from the War Picture Library. This selection promises to take you from the mud and thunder of the trenches to the sweat and suffering of the jungle in a series of adrenaline-fuelled picture stories that represent the cream of War's 25 years of publishing.

To display the amazing comic-book art that brought these stories so vividly to life to its best advantage, each adventure is reproduced here 25 percent larger than in the original War Picture Library editions, drawing you even further into the action.

Whether you are a seasoned campaigner, or whether this is your first experience of War, Up And At 'Em! will have you marching shoulder to shoulder and dodging bullets with some of the toughest fighting men ever to storm the pages of a comic book!

Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars "A book that's worth reading and taking a little time to appreciate what our boys of the past and present are doing in preserving peace and democracy that we all often take for granted ... It's hard to pick a favourite but mine will have to be "Rough Justice" it shows that it wasn't just the public school boys and those from a decent background that joined his majesty's armed forces but for the few who did wrong and came good in the end!"—Amazon.co.uk

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hal Pink

The Crime Fiction Bibliography Brains Trust has been mulling over the career of Hal Pink, who wrote a number of Western and Crime novels back in the 1930s before disappearing from the literary scene. Steve Lewis, who runs the incredibly good Mystery*File blog, published some information recently from correspondence with Christine Craghill, who is related to Pink through her paternal grandfather. From her comments and a little further digging, we now know a little more about the curiously named Hal Pink.

He was born Harry Leigh Pink at Port Sunlight on the Wirral, Cheshire, on 20 November 1906, the son of Frederick George Pink and his wife Ethel (nee Billington) who were married in Birkenhead in 1903. His middle name was apparently derived from his step-grandfather, Edward Leigh.

Pink must have developed a taste for writing early as his first stories began appearing in the mid-1920s when, I believe, he adopted the pen-name 'Pard' for a number of articles appearing in Chums in 1925-27, mostly concerning cowboys and the ways of the Wild West. At least two of the articles were illustrated by Hal Pink. A series of brief short stories appeared in 1927 under the title "Western Trails" featuring Buck McLeod, a 'line rider' with the Bar-C outfit based in Missouri. Pink also appeared in both British magazines and American pulp magazines over the next decade, including Lariat Story Magazine, Passing Show, Mystery, The Storyteller and Detective Story Magazine.

Hal Pink appeared with a slew of short novels published by Dublin-based printer Mellifont Press in the early 1930s. He was amongst their earliest authors with titles like Jean of the Lazy J Ranch and The Heritage of Kid McCloud amongst the first books Mellifont published. One title, The Miracle Rider, appeared anonymously but was advertised elsewhere as being by Pink.

His first full-length novel, The Rattlesnake, was published in 1934, followed by The Cossack Mystery (1934), both from Mellifont. Pink subsequently sold novels to Philip Allan, Herbert Jenkins and Hutchinson & Co. The latter were his main publisher from 1938 on. Between 1938-41, Pink wrote five novels featuring the adventures of Inspector Docker, a pseudonymous novel (as Charles Van Horn) and a biography of Bill Guppy, a pioneer woodsman in Temagami, who tutored a young English boy called Archie Belaney when he arrived in Canada. Belaney later reinvented himself as 'Grey Owl'.

Pink had travelled regularly to Canada and America during the 1930s (known trips to the USA in 1931, to Canada in 1933, 1936 and 1937). Whilst in England, he lived at Craven House, Grove Road, London, and 25 The Ridgeway, Wadden, Croydon. At the time, he described his occupation as journalist.

Pink's writing career seems to have ended not long after the war began. He had moved permanently to Canada where he was an honors graduate of Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. It may be here that he received his religious training, as, around that time, he became rector of Hornnby, in the dicese of Niagara, and served Emmanuel Church on Hanlon's Island, in the diocese of Toronto.

In 1942, he founded an Anglican mission parish in the bush country of northern Canada, near the war boom town of Nobel. Moving to America, and by now styling himself as the Reverend Leigh-Pink, he became canon residentiary of the Cathedral Church of St. Mark in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here he founded "The Trailblazers" in 1947, a fan club for Episcopal western missions offering small boys a cowboy program with a direct pledge of a dime a week to western missionary week.

Harry Leigh-Pink married Toronto-born Dorothy Kerr (1918-2003, obituary here) and, with their two young sons (Peter (b. July 1945) and Robin (b. Feb 1949), the Leigh-Pinks moved to California, where the Rev. Leigh-Pink took over as chaplain of the Navy Family Chapel in Long Beach in 1950. He became rector of the Long Beach Episcopal Church in 1952. Two daughters were born around this time: Phyllis (b. June 1954) and Janet (b. Dec 1957).

He remained in California for the rest of his life, latterly at St. Stephen's Church, Stockton, and the St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Bakersfield, where he died on 22 November 1973. The family name has evolved subsequently to Leighpink.

A newspaper report from 1950 noted that the Rev. Leigh-Pink was formerly "established as novelist and newspaperman in Great Britain with 30 adventure and mystery thrillers published." The listing below numbers only 20 books, so further titles under pseudonyms may exist.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels (series: Insp. Docker)
Jean of Lazy J Ranch. London, Mellifont Press, 1932.
The Heritage of Kid McCleod. London, Mellifont Press, 1932.
The Gas Mask Gang. London, Mellifont Press, 1933.
The Masked Terror. London, Mellifont Press, 1933.
The Rattlesnake. London, Mellifont Press, 1934.
The Cossack Mystery. London, Mellifont Press, 1934.
The Miracle Rider. London, Mellifont Press, 1935.
The Rodeo Trail. London, Philip Allan, 1936.
The Secret Service Mystery. London, Mellifont Press, 1936.
Tangled Trousseaux. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1936.
Purely Platonic. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1937.
The Green Triangle Mystery (Docker). London, Hutchinson & Co., 1938.
The Strelsen Castle Mystery (Docker). London, Hutchinson & Co., 1939.
The Black Sombrero Mystery (Docker). London, Hutchinson & Co., 1940.
The Test Match Mystery (Docker). London & Melbourne, Hutchinson & Co., 1940.
The Rodeo Murder Mystery (Docker). London & Melbourne, Hutchinson & Co., 1941.

Collections
Trail Tales. London, Mellifont Press, 1932.
The Fellowship of the Feather (Waldron). London, Mellifont Press, 1933.

Novels as Charles Van Horn
The Quest of Krang. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1938.

Non-fiction
Bill Guppy. King of the woodsmen life-long friend and tutor of “Grey Owl”. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1940.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

David Fickling "confident" that The DFC will return

David Fickling, publisher of The DFC, seems determined to bring the comic back in some form. He's been quoted by Andrew Ffrench of the Oxford Mail (13 April), as saying "The DFC was subscription-only and was growing steadily, but unfortunately not fast enough in the current economic climate. The comic would still be going if the credit crunch had not come along. I would love to see it reopen in the spring of next year, but it is not a foregone conclusion ... We need to learn from our mistakes and make something even better next time round ... I am confident that The DFC will return in some capacity. But when the comic returns, I want to retain the freedom to continue the brilliant stories that children want to read."

I've already grumbled by two penneth's worth on the subject and I'm pleased to note that Fickling addresses the subject of collections briefly, saying "I always planned to publish some of the strips as books — they should sell well in the UK and across Europe."

Matthew Bell at the Independent on Sunday writes in his weekly diary (12 April) that the comic "was axed by Random House after if failed to draw its "target subscription level", although a spokesman declines to say what that was. "Sometimes the market can prove too hard," she says, "It needed time to grow but in a recession it couldn't be allowed the luxury of a slow-build."

Lesser known art of Roland Davies

The Lesser Known Art of Roland Davies
by Gordon Howsden

Roland Davies is arguably best remembered today for his cartoon and comic strips but there was much more to his art than that. A number of profiles have already been written about Roland Davies including a superbly comprehensive chapter in Norman Wright and Davis Ashford’s recent publication, Masters of Fun and Thrills. It is hardly necessary to write yet another but, as an introduction to some of his art that is not so well known, I think it appropriate just to mention some of the salient points of his stellar career as an artist and illustrator.

The first thing worth mentioning is the rather strange discrepancies relating to his date of birth. No one seems to dispute that he was born in Stourport, Worcestershire and named Roland Oxford Davies, but the exact day and year of birth have varied among normally reliable sources. In an article I wrote about him for Cartophilic Notes & News I plumped for 22 July 1904 and I am pleased to say that Steve Holland also believes this to be the correct date.

Roland attended evening classes at the Ipswich School of Art before enrolling for full-time study. His first job was as an apprentice lithographer where his assignments included designing cinema and railway posters. His first freelance work appears to be for motor-related magazines, which is in accord with Roland’s own keen interest in speed. When a new boy’s weekly, Modern Boy, was launched in 1928 Roland was among the recruits engaged to design the action-filled front covers.

His work for Modern Boy and similar comic papers brought him to the attention of printers Mardon, Son & Hall, and Roland was commissioned to prepare the artwork for a series of 50 cards to be issued by Ogden’s and titled “ Motor Races, 1931”. This was a significant assignment as Davies was also required to write 80-100 word texts to accompany the illustrations - and all to a tight deadline originally set as 10 November 1931.

The set features both cars and motor cycles, with the first 33 cards covering the former and motor cycles the balance. The first card depicted Malcolm Campbell breaking the world’s land speed record in Blue Bird on Feb 5th with the cards then running in date order through to Sir Henry Birkin at Brooklands on Oct 17th. The motor cycle section covered various events from the 100 mile sand race at Southport on May 9th to the Manx Senior Grand Prix on Sept 10th. It was an astonishing feat to have recorded and describe these events in graphic detail, and although the original issue date was missed the cards finally found their way into packets of cigarettes in December 1931.

More important work lay ahead in the following year when Roland’s celebrated comic strip, “Come on Steve” was picked up by the Daily Express in March 1932. This ran until 1939 when unaccountably the Express let the strip lapse, although it was promptly picked up by the Sunday Dispatch and ran for a further 10 years. The character of carthorse Steve also featured in animated films and various books and booklets, the latter mainly appearing after the war published by Perry Colour Books.

Probably also in 1932 J Salmon Ltd of Sevenoaks in Kent became another client when they commissioned designs for their Salmon Series of postcards. I have five speed-related cards from this period although the likelihood is that at least six illustrations would have been commissioned. The items I have are: Talbot Car; Miss England; The Cheltenham Flyer; Schneider Trophy Winner and A Senior T.T. Winner. These were in print throughout the 1930s. Salmon’s maintained contact with Davies and during WWII he designed some superb action studies of British fighter aircraft. Reprints of these are still being produced by Salmon in modern postcard size.

On July 30th, 1938 D C Thomson launched their new comic, Beano, and Davies was among the first contributors with “Whoopee Hank” and “Contrary Mary the Moke”. The following year he was also engaged by Amalgamated Press to contribute to their new title, Knockout. During the War, Davies took up a permanent position with the Sunday Dispatch but continued to contribute elsewhere, including the Thomson sporting paper, Topical Times. His patriotic contributions to the war effort published by Raphael Tuck included Air War at Sea and War in the Air in addition to the titles mentioned in Masters of Fun and Thrills.

After the war, Roland contributed to several Teddy Tail Annuals, did a couple of motor cycle booklets for the Daily Mail and in 1949 took over the long running Sexton Blake strip in Knockout. From the 1950s onwards Roland Davies strips appeared in Swift, TV Comic, Girl and Disneyland in addition to which he contributed to several annuals. In the late 1960s to early 1970s Deans published a small number of children's booklets which featured Roland Davies’ artwork, but thereafter he changed direction and took to painting landscapes, seascapes and street scenes for the art market.

A wonderfully varied and creative career was brought to an end when Roland Davies died on 10 December 1993.

Note from Steve: Davies is often said to have been born in 1910, an error that I believe first appeared in Denis Gifford's entry for Davies in The World Encyclopedia of Comics. This date has been often repeated, but even the briefest check with birth and death records reveals that he was born in 1904.

(* artwork © variously to IPC Media, D. C. Thomson and Roland Davies Estate)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Willie Blain

Picked this up on Saturday. On the surface it might not seem like the sort of thing I'd normally grab if I saw it in a charity shop, but Witch's Blood was written by one of the top editors at D. C. Thomson. William Blain was one of the principal creators of some of Thomson's most famous characters, including flying ace Braddock, super athlete Wilson and the Wolf of Kabul. In the 1930s, it was Blain who believed that there was a market for a humour comic and who put together dummies that would eventually emerge as The Dandy in 1937.

Eventually Willie Blain became Managing Editor of all of the Thomson line of comics, originating their girls' comics with Bunty (1958), their boys' adventure comics with Victor in 1961 and such famous titles as Jackie (1964). Although he rarely gets a credit, a poll of the most important figures in the history of British comics would almost certainly have to include Willie Blain in the top five.

(My top five, in alphabetical order: Willie Blain, Ted Holmes, Leonard Matthews, George Moonie, John Purdie. Bubbling under would be Albert Barnes, George Cantle, Reg Eves, Pat Mills, Marcus Morris and a bunch of others. Tomorrow I might have a completely different list but that's the list as I see it today.)

As well as his editorial work, Blain wrote two successful books. Witch's Blood (1946), the second (following a sea-faring biography entitled Home is the Sailor, 1940), apparently sold over a million copies and is still in print. The story follows five generations of the same family, one a witch, burned at the stake in 1660, who prophesyses that her family will become powerful figures in the town of Dundee. The reviewer for the Manchester Guardian (29 March 1946) found it "rather overpacked with turbulent incident," but concluded that it was "recounted with vigour and humour, and the family drama is interwoven with the drama of Scottish history."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Comic Cuts

Things could be getting a little patchy for the next couple of weeks as I'm hard at work on The Art of Ron Embleton book, reprinting some of Ron's finest work from the pages of Look and Learn. With about 600 pages to choose from, it's going to be a cracking book. I've still got a lot of scanning to do but I took a a few hours off today to clean up a couple of pages. The above was the first page I worked on and I'm pretty pleased with the results. Don't expect the finished book for a while yet, tho.

One book that is out now is the latest volume from Carlton. It's called Up And At 'Em! and it's another selection of 10 stories from the pages of War Picture Library. Once I get hold of a copy, I'll put together one of my little information columns. But you can order it at a knock-down price via Amazon at the link above. They reckon they've got copies in stock.

The other book that's now definitely out is the US edition of Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History which was out over here in January. The US edition has a completely different cover (by Oliver Frey) but is otherwise the same book. The UK edition (linked above) has a cover by Vincent Di Fate so I've been incredibly lucky on both editions... go on, you know you want to buy it!

That's it. I've run out of things to plug. Hope you all enjoy your Easter break.

Dick Tatham

Dick Tatham and Petula Clark

Dick Tatham was briefly a contributor to Boys' World in the early 1960s but was better known as a music journalist for Record Mirror, Crescendo, Billboard, Disc and Valentine. He also wrote music articles for D. C. Thomson's girls' papers Jackie and Diana. He lived in the Balham and Streatham areas of London in the late-1950s and early- to mid-1960s but that's all I've been able to discover.

Update: 19 December 2012. Tatham's full name was Richard Maurice Tatham, born in Steyning, Sussex, on 8 July 1917, the son of Guy Edgar Tatham and his wife Ethel Maude (nee Disher). He died in Surrey in around August 1981.

Non-fiction
The Wonderful Tommy Steel. Picture-story album. London, Record Mirror Cardfront Publishers, 1957.
Football Champions. London, 1965.
The Bay City Rollers Yearbook. London, Phoebus, 1975.
Elton John, with Tony Jasper. London, Octopus Books, in association with Phoebus, 1976.
Elvis. London, Phoebus, 1977.
The Incredible Bee Gees. London, Futura Publications, 1979.

Others
Cliff and His Wonderful Life, foreword by Dick Tatham. London, Go Magazine, 1964.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bernard Buley

An author who appeared on my radar many years ago, way back in the late 1970s when I was still at school, Bernard Buley remained stubbornly elusive when it came to personal information for years. Although I chipped away at him for years, it was only recently that I managed to track down information on his death, which, despite being reported as "some time in the 1960s", actually occurred in 1973 when Buley was in his early seventies.

Ernest Bernhardt Buley was born in Melbourne, Australia, on 17 September 1899, shortly before his father, the journalist and editor Ernest Charles Buley, and mother, German-born Olga, came to England. The Buley family, which included Bernard's elder sister Olga Margerita Buley (1897-1986), took up residence at 240 Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith, and, later, at 7 Burbage Road, Herne Hill. Ernest soon became a popular figure in Fleet Street, easily recognised because of his Mephistophelian beard and the battered bowler hat that he always wore to cover his bald head.

Bernard followed his father into writing and was a regular contributor to Chums, Crusoe Magazine, Boys Magazine, Boys Realm and Champion. He joined Hulton Press where he became editor of Boys Magazine in the late 1920s. He was the sub-editor, under Hadyn Dimmock, of Scoops, Britain's first science fiction magazine, in 1934 for which he wrote the serial "Master of the Moon".

After the Great War, his father had become a prolific novelist as Bat Masters, under which name he wrote a series of horse racing novels. An expert on the track, although not so successful as a pundit, Ernest Buley earned himself the nickname "the new Nat Gould". As far as I'm aware (and contrary to what I've said in the past), I now believe that Bernard Buley did not use the name. Two later reprints published in the mid-1930s after Ernest's death have proven to be reprints of earlier titles.

In the late 1930s, he also contributed to Modern Wonder.

During the war, Buley began writing for a number of small publishers and it is likely that he used a great many untraced pen-names or was writing for magazines as yet unindexed. One known pen-name is Roy McRae, used on four short crime novels in the late 1940s. He also contributed anonymously to Boys' World in the early 1960s, his last known story appearing in 1964.

Buley was married to Suzanne R. Berryman (1897-1972) at Holborn in 1922 and had at least five children: Suzanna J. (b. Romford, 1923), Peter Bernard (b. Romford, 1925-1988), Keith Paul (b. Bucklow, 1927-2000), John L. (b. Eton, 1928) and June R. (b. Eton, 1933).

He died at Richmond-upon-Thames in 1973.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels
Klondike Bound. London, Amalgamated Press (Boys Friend Library 2/262), Nov 1930.
The Lumber Champion. London, Amalgamated Press (Boys Friend Library 2/294), Jul 1931.
Sky Devils. London, Amalgamated Press (Boys Friend Library 2/314), Dec 1931.
With Whizz at the Wheel. London, Amalgamated Press (Champion Library 129), Jun 1934.
The Sword of Justice. London & Dublin, Mellifont Press, 1935.
The Boy who Played with Giants. London, Popular Fiction, 1941?
The Husband She Dare Not Trust [and ‘‘Whom God Hath Joined’’ by Doris Farlowe]. Popular Fiction (Women’s 2d Popular Novels 32), 1943?
The Spanish Main, illus. Serge Drigin. Edinburgh & London, W. & R. Chambers, 1950.

Novels as Roy MacRae
Death at the Theatre. London, Popular Fiction (Detective 113), 1949?
The Whispering Voice. London, Popular Fiction (Detective 119), 1949?
The Black Cat Murder. London, Grayling (Mystery Thrillers 2), 1949?
Dangerous Lady. London Grayling (Mystery Thrillers 4), 1949?


UPDATE: 16 April 2009

It would appear that my assertion that Bernard Buley wrote under the female pen-names Alma Buley, Amber Leigh and Alice Stafford, contributing to girls' papers such as School Friend, School Girl and School-days Weekly in the 1920s, is wrong. A relative of Bernard contacted me after I posted the above piece and said that Alma Buley was, in fact, Bernard's sister. I'm hoping for some additional information shortly and will re-post once this little mystery is resolved.

Novels by Alma Buley
Wendy Beresford’s Double. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 1/140), Oct 1927.
The Slackest House in the School. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 1/179), Nov 1928.
A Spoilt Girl’s Schooldays. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 1/221), Oct 1929.
Expelled. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 1/267), Sep 1930.
Monica Eversley’s Ordeal. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 1/283), Jan 1931.
Lorna’s Last Term. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 1/323), Nov 1931.
When Dancing Days Were Over. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 1/329), Jan 1932.
In Conflict with the Captain. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 1/371), Nov 1932.
The Rebel of the Family. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 1/399), Jun 1933.

Novels as Amber Leigh
Rivals for Ballet Fame. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/197), Nov 1954.
Loyal Allies of the Expelled Captain. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/205), Mar 1955.
Rinty—the Dog with a Secret. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/211), Jun 1955.
Challengers for the Gold Cup. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/235), Jun 1956.
Stand-in for Her Filming Sister. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/248), Nov 1956.
Youngest Girl in the Ballet. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/284), May 1958.
Water Ballet at St. Wynn’s. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/293), Oct 1958.
Winter Sports Rivals. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/299), Jan 1959.
Tess of the High Trapeze. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/304), Mar 1959.
Schoolgirl Pony Trekkers. London, Amalgamated Press (SOL 2/342), Nov 1960.