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Friday, November 20, 2015

Comic Cuts - 20 November 2015

I spent a long weekend recording some audio for a project I'm trying to get off the ground but which won't be ready for some while, so I can't really go into details. As usual, I'm my own writer, narrator, sound-recordist, editor and music director, which is why everything I do takes so damn long.

My favourite bit is the research and writing. Most writers will say that the research is the best part of being a writer, but in my case, because most of my longer pieces are about subjects where there's very little known, the act of writing is almost like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and there's a lot of fun to be had building these pictures.

Putting structure to these pieces can be part of the fun. Back in the 1990s – especially 1994 to 1997 – I was writing huge amounts for various magazines, some of which I was editing. Comic World was one, and, faced with a fresh blank page every morning, I'd occasionally need to do something to keep my interest up or, even more often, just to find a way to get myself typing. I did a lot of interviews and found that I could often spark an idea by thinking about the subject of the interview and finding a related quote in a Book of Quotes. I often used this method to find titles and, once I'd typed in the title, the sentences seemed to flow.

Sometimes I would try structural tricks just to please myself. My favourite was an article that covered the release of five or six different new comics for which I had done nine (brief) interviews. I wasted a whole morning wondering what to do with mass of information... whether I should do five or six separate articles or whether I could do two or three and then do more the following month. The more I looked at it, the more confusing it got. Until I had a flash of inspiration and went out and bought a copy of Alice in Wonderland. Reading through the book I managed to find five or six little quotes which related to the five or six comics. So I used the quotes to get into a few paragraphs about the comics, topped and tailed the article with the beginning and the end of the book... and that's how the article was published a couple of weeks later. Nine interviews, all linked with quotes from Lewis Carroll.

I've just finished writing a roughly 6,000-word piece about an author. That's probably the longest piece I've written since May. I'm working on a couple of other longer pieces that will probably take a month or two to research – lots of reading, but of books that I'm looking forward to reading – and then a couple of weeks to write everything up. I've also had to spend some money on certificates, which I've now received and which proved very enlightening. There's one author I've been seeking information on for thirty-five years and he grows more interesting the more I learn. I can't wait to get the results written up.

As I was in town on another trip to the dentist on Wednesday, I dropped into one of the charity shops that I don't visit on a weekly basis as their turnover of books isn't great. They do, however, occasionally have pre-decimal paperbacks and I managed to pick up a couple. Enough for another themed set of random scans.

This time it's Corgi Books... I managed to pick up four, which I'll reveal in chronological order. A Night to Remember is Walter Lord's famous telling of the sinking of the Titanic. It was horribly creased but it looks great now I've attacked it in Photoshop. Its a beautifully moody cover, almost black and white, although I've seen other copies where the blue shows through a little better. No idea who the artist is, but I imagine that the book sold a lot of copies as it was tied in to the 1958 movie.

Next up, The Clydesiders by Hugh Munro, set in the Glasgow shipyards in the 1930s, written by a Scotsman who had worked in the shipyards. I've written about Munro before, so go take a look if you'd like to know more about him.

I produced a war-themed set of random scans a couple of weeks ago and I found another couple of novels from the same period when Sven Hassel was proving so popular that every publisher had to have their own series about German soldiers. Willi Heinrich's books were translated from German, the first in 1956 as The Willing Flesh, which was later filmed by Sam Peckinpah as Cross of Iron. His early novels are said to be very good, The Savage Mountain amongst them, although his later work was more pulpy and sexy to attract audiences in the Seventies and Eighties.

Lastly, The Big Red One by Sam Fuller, who appeared here on Bear Alley back in July when I was sorting out some old paperwork. I'm not sure which came first... whether Sam Fuller filmed his own novel, or novelised his own film. I think they developed at the same time, as both film and book came out in 1980 and the book has a post-script by Fuller discussing the making of the film.

I also found another Heinz Konsalik novel at the same charity shop. I still haven't figured out who the cover artist is, but I know I like him, so I thought I'd use it as this week's column header. This one dates from 1978. The Richard Burton biography (above) was also part of the same batch – 3 for a £1, so I had to find a sixth book.

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