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6 March. Neil Gaiman's American Gods is no longer being considered by HBO but the option has been picked up by Freemantle Media. Anansi Boys is also in the works as a mini-series for the BBC, produced by RED Productions.
4 March. Cubicle 7 are selling PDF downloads of their Starblazer Adventures cheaply as they will not be renewing their license to publish using the FATE gaming system.
28 February. Penguin Books are taking legal action against Miram Elia's We Go To The Gallery, saying that the parody of old style Ladybird Books infringes their copyright (video).
28 February. Although Bear Alley is skewed towards older British comics, there are plenty of newer comics that are worth picking up. Joe Gordon, over at the Forbidden Planet blog takes a look at the astonishing range of upcoming titles.
22 January. The British Library's upcoming comics exhibition, Comics Unmasked, will run from 2 May until 19 August. The Guardian has an excellent feature with quotes from Paul Gravett, one of the organisers, and Dave Gibbons amongst others.
22 January. Simon Fraser appears on Natalie Kim's It's a Draw YouTube video series.
For newcomers, World of Wonder was a British educational magazine published in the early 1970s. Often considered the lesser companion to Look and Learn, I had to look through all the issues I had recently, when I was researching the Pages from History
book, and was reminded just how good some of the illustrations were. As
it's not a magazine that many have collected, I'm trawling through the
copies I have (not a complete set by any means) and gathering together a
few galleries featuring images that take my fancy. You can find more of
these mini-galleries by following this link.
Here's a little oddity... a comic strip issued as an A4 flyer by British Rail warning youngsters of the dangers of playing on railway lines. Along the lines of the Green Cross Code Man, the BR campaign features Captain Caution, drawn by Ron Smith. I believe this was published in May 1986, at which time Smith was drawing Judge Dredd for the Daily Star. My thanks to Richard Sheaf who sent this over.
(* My thanks to Richard Sheaf who sent this over.)
Here we are at the end of another no-news week. It isn't that I'm not working, just that the work has been much the same for the past seven days.
But let me start off by rolling back the clock to last Friday. I spent half the day in London discussing some future work and then escaped back home early enough to use my cheap day-return. I haven't been to London for ages and I'd hoped to take advantage of the paid-for ticket; unfortunately, the heavens had opened while we were heading for lunch. So it was a case of eats and shoots off as I didn't fancy getting soaked and then having a damp and miserable wait until after rush hour before I was allowed onto a train; I scarpered back to Liverpool Street and headed straight home only to see the sun peer out from behind the clouds about ten seconds after embarking. For the whole trip the weather was gorgeous.
Mind you, it has been making up for it ever since and we've had rain every day, some of it quite heavy. In a way it has helped focus me on work — which at the moment is the Sexton Blake Annual reprints. I have one volume almost complete but my intention is to get at least the second volume finished before I release the first in order to make sure that the books come out regularly and on time. It will also give me a longer gap before I need to get down to work on Blake 3 during which time I'm hoping to get some work on another book done as there are a number of projects I've had hanging around for ages that I promised I'd get back to the first chance I had.
Meanwhile — and I know this is the bit you've all tuned in to hear about — I am still smoke free and have been for three weeks. Is it getting any easier? Yes. Do I want to smoke? Yes, please! Can I resist the urge? Yes. Am I still eating two packets of Polos a day? Yes.
Something I've discovered about Polos, incidentally... Nestle do a sugar-free version, which is useful as I'm getting through so many. They have zero sugar/fat/saturates and only trace amounts of salt compared to normal Polos which contain per tube — let me emphasise that, per tube — 32.8 grams of sugar, which is 37% of the suggested average adult intake. So my two tubes add up to 72% of my daily sugar ration.
Now, I'm not a big sugar eater — no sugar on breakfast cereal, no sugar in my coffee — so my intake has probably doubled over the past three weeks. So why no sugar rush? If anything, I'm feeling more tired. This is a topsy-turvy world!
The Kindle Fund has taken a bit of a leap thanks to a very kind donation from a regular Bear Alley reader. Add that to the money I've saved by not buying cigarettes and we've now reached a grand total of...
Kindle Fund: £131.22
Not much further to go now!
Random scans this week are inspired by a couple of titles I was given whilst up in London, so I'd like to thank Laurence Heyworth for the first pair on show. The World Distributors title is painted by R. W. Smethurst, who was a regular with World and produced covers for books and annuals, as well as magazines like Phantom and Combat for Dalrow Publishing. We ran another cover by Smethurst only recently.
Next up: Man-Bait by Charles Westhill, which reads very much like the kind of tough British crime novel that was common a few years earlier. The book is British but the cover is, I'm sure, a US reprint.
And to end on, a couple of further Digit paperbacks. The Eleanor Glyn is by R. A. Osborne and the Butler is possibly American; the original Digit cover is really dark and I've not been able to do much with it, although a little manipulation of the brightness and contrast has at least brought out the figures.
The next few days will see the end of "Coral Island", a cover gallery and the return of the World of Wonder galleries. See you then.
A shorter column than usual this week as I'm off to London for the day to see if I can drum up some work to keep me in Polo mints — of which I've been getting through a couple of packets a day since giving up smoking. Something else I'm going to have to ween myself off at some point. I'm still not smoking — two whole weeks now and it's only just starting to get a little easier. I'm still taking the occasional puff on the electronic cigarette, but I'm trying to keep that to a minimum as I don't want to swap one addiction for another.
I thought I would see some improvements but all I've noticed so far is that I'm feeling more tired and more easily distracted. Part of the problem was that, over the first two days, I deliberately screwed up my routine in order to avoid the habitual cigarettes I've been smoking for 20+ years; now that I'm trying to get back onto my normal work schedule again I'm finding it difficult. Mel described it as jet lag and I can't think of a better description.
In between lapses of concentration, I've managed to get the new book out and all the advance orders should be filled by the time you read this, depending on the post... although copies will obviously take a little longer if you're not in the UK. I'm about to begin work on the next Bear Alley Books publication, which will be the Sexton Blake Annual. I'm a big fan of Blake, so I'm looking foward to getting started. I'll probably release these every six weeks or so and, with a good tail wind, I'll have more books on offer over the summer and autumn. That's the plan anyway. Our column header is the 1938 edition.
As regular readers know, the money I'm saving by giving up smoking is going into what I'm calling my Kindle Fund, raising money to buy a Kindle. And the fund currently stands at...
Kindle Fund: £69.22
Our random scans for today begin with three covers I was missing from the John Wyndham cover gallery. These have been sent in by Richard Sheaf and I'll be adding them to the Wyndham gallery shortly. The last two are by two artists favoured by most collectors of British paperbacks, namely Ron Turner and Reginald Heade. The Turner is a Badger classic, Supernatural Stories issue 6 from 1955; the Gardner is a hardcover dustjacket, Cassell, 1944. This is what the internet was made for: Heade and cats!
Our comic strip continues over the weekend as I'm away up in London today and have to do some shopping and scanning tomorrow. With luck I'll have a new cover gallery for you next weekend.
Here's a bit of a treat for you... Mike Hubbard's 1966 adaptation of Coral Island based on R. M. Ballantyne's hugely popular boy's adventure novel. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, the three lads shipwrecked on the reef aren't alone for long and they discover that their uninhabited island isn't short of visitors. I'll be running the strip over next weekend to give myself a chance to clean up some artwork for the next few episodes of our World of Wonder galleries and to work up some more cover galleries. These things take time, folks, and that's one thing I haven't had much to spare recently.
(And just to prove how much of a mad rush this was done in, I didn't even check to see whether we'd run the strip before... and it turns out that I ran it back in February 2010. Too late to sort out something new now, so I hope this will be fresh to most of you; to anyone who has been reading for years, I redid the clean-up on the artwork on some of the episodes, so it should look better than last time.)
John Wyndham was the star of the very first cover gallery here on Bear Alley when I posted a collection of Penguin covers back in November 2006; I've returned to him a couple of times since but this is the first consolidated cover gallery featuring all the previous scans plus a few new ones.
I have a soft spot for Wyndham. Not only for his novels but because when I went freelance back in the autumn of 1990, the first article I sold was a piece on Wyndham to the Book and Magazine Collector (it appeared in the March 1991 issue). It proved to be one of the few pieces I wrote that earned me any money — I had plenty of pieces published (in the A.C.E. Newsletter, Eagle Times, C.A.D.S., Books Are Everything, Locus, Paperback Parade, Paperback & Pulp Collector, Don Lawrence Collection, Pandarve, Comic Journal, Classic Collector) plus a bunch of small press publications (The Mike Western Story, Thriller Picture Library index, The 1st Paperback & Pulp Bookfair Souvenir Booklet). I was pinning my hopes on The Trials of Hank Janson, which should have earned a few hundred dollars (this was the chapbook version, published in the USA) but which actually earned a few tens of dollars, minus the £15 my bank charged to turn it into sterling); in fact, my earnings during those 15 or so months amounted to only a few hundred pounds. Things looked even bleaker when a change of editor at B&MC meant no more commissions. But what happened then is a story for another day.
I have to thank Ricard Sheaf as he supplied a couple of the scans. A couple of others come from Flickr (but cleaned up somewhat)... the rest are mine... and I'm reminded that I really should cull the pile of Wyndhams so that I only have one copy of each now that I've scanned all the covers. Something else that I need to get around to.
The Curse of the Burdens (as by John B. Harris)
Aldine Mystery Novels 17, Feb 1917, 64pp, 4d. Cover by Wardle. Note: There is some question as to whether this is by John Beynon Harris, there being no direct proof that he wrote it, although Harris's biographer David Ketterer has said that it shares some stylistic similarities to Harris.
Foul Play Suspected (as by John Beynon; London, George Newnes, 1935)
(no UK paperback)
The Secret People (as by John Beynon; London, George Newnes, 1935; as by John Beynon Harris, New York, Lancer, 1964; as by John Wyndham writing as John Beynon, London, Coronet, 1972; as by John Wyndham, London, New English Library, 1987)
Coronet 0340-15834-4, 1972, 192pp. Cover by Chris Foss
----, 1977, 192pp. Cover by Colin Hay
New English Library 0450-42014-0, 1987, 192pp.
Planet Plane (as by John Beynon; London, George Newnes, 1936; abridged as Stowaway to Mars, London, Nova, 1953; as Stowaway to Mars by John Wyndham writing as John Beynon, London, Coronet, 1972; Greenwich, CT, Fawcett, 1972)
Nova SF1, 1953. Cover by Gordon Hutchings
Coronet 0340-15835-2, 1972, 188pp, 30p. Cover by Chris Foss
---- [3rd imp.] 1972. Cover by Chris Foss
---- [7th imp.] 1977. Cover by Colin Hay
New English Library 0450-42024-8, 1987, 188pp. Cover by Peter Elson
The Day of the Triffids (London, Joseph, 1951; New York, Doubleday, 1951)
Penguin Books 993, 1954, 272pp, 2/-. Cover by John Griffiths?
---- [2nd imp.] 1956
---- [3rd imp.] 1958
---- [4th imp.] 1959
---- [5th imp.] 1960, 272pp, 2/6. Cover by John Griffiths?
---- [6th imp.] 1961, 272pp, 2/6. Cover by John Griffiths?
---- [7th imp.] 1962, 272pp, 3/6. Cover by John Griffiths
---- [8th imp.] 1963
---- [9th imp.] 1963, 272pp, 3/6. (same as 7th)
---- [10th imp.] 1964
---- [11th imp.] 1965
---- [12th imp.] 1966
---- [13th imp.] 1968
---- [14th imp.] 1969
---- [15th imp.] 1969
---- [16th imp.] 1970
---- [17th imp.] 1970
---- [18th imp.] 1971
---- [19th imp.] 1972
---- [20th imp.] 1972
---- [21st imp.] 1973
---- [22nd imp.] 1974
---- [23rd imp.] 1974
---- [24th imp.] 1975
---- [25th imp.] 1975
---- [26th imp.] 1976
---- [27th imp.] 1977
---- [28th imp.] 1979. Cover by Peter Lord
---- [29th imp.] 1979
---- [30th imp.] 1980, 272pp, 95p. Cover by Peter Lord
Penguin Books 0140-28553-9, 1999?, 272pp.
Penguin Books 0141-18541-4, 2000, xvii+233pp. [introduction by Barry Langford]
Lion King of Picture Story Papers Click here to order "It's a great read in itself and has sent me back to the Lion comic to re-read some of my childhood favourites. The pictures are reproduced crystal clearly and even this old man can read the original art ... It's a gorgeous book and if we are snow-bound as the media has been saying for weeks, I have plenty to keep me amused this chilly January weekend!" - Norman Boyd.
Sexton Blake Annual 1941 Click here to order "If you've been meaning to give Sexton Blake's adventures a try, this would be a great place to start. I've seen the actual annuals go on Ebay for three or four hundred bucks, so this is definitely a bargain too." - Singular Points.
Peter Jackson's London Is Stranger Than Fiction Click here to order ""The original books have been highly collectable for many years now, but finally they’ve been republished in a single volume from Bear Alley Books ... for the ridiculously reasonable price of £14.99. Do yourself a favour. " Christopher Fowler.