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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Brian Worthington-Stuart part 1

There are some authors who are just made for Bear Alley. Brian Stuart is definitely one. Beyond a list of 16 novels under two pseudonyms that appears in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction Bibliography, no broader bibliography has appeared anywhere. The only available biographical information easily available is the brief note (also written for Hubin's Bibliography): "Birth name uncertain; was known as Brian Arthur Lewis Stuart when he changed his name to Brian Worthington-Stuart, and later changed it again to Brian Martin-Stuart."

I had put together a few notes some time ago after discovering a court case, but it seemed that each time I thought I had discovered all I could, something else would turn up. I have no doubts that there is more of Brian Stuart's story still  to be told and I would love to hear more. For the moment, this is as full a picture of Stuart's jigsaw life as I have been able to put together.

Brian Stuart's name first began to appear in the 1930s. An author and journalist, Stuart was described as having joined the Foreign Legion and was later to become the first Englishman to be offered a commission. He made a lone trek across the Sahara, made money dowsing for water in the desert, was offered a wife as part payment for his services, encountered thieves and murderers, and had his life saved by sorcery.

Of an early radio broadcast M.C. of the Manchester Guardian (8 November 1934) said: "Mr. Stuart is a wanderer by temperament, and he started his wanderings one day when he had become bored with his position as a clerk in the Bank of England. He has served in the Foreign Legion, and has worked and wandered in India, Canada, and other countries. The talk was most entertaining and amusing, for he seems to have a natural gift for telling stories of his travels, and his manner is rather laconic and dry, so that he makes an effect of humorous understatement."

His novels, written under the names Brian Stuart and Peter Meredith, were well reviewed and appeared popular. As Stuart he had created the character "Knock Out" Kavanagh's whose "gentian blue eyes no longer humorous or twinkling behind the quite unnecessary monocle" take on a steely glint at the first sign of danger. Stuart's favourite characters seemed to be former army officers with experience in the Middle East or India. Stuart built up a small group who appeared in a number of his books, including Chief Detective Inspector Ian Fleming, known as "Never-Let-Go" Fleming, and Colonel Adrian Forester and his friend, Colonel Grenier.

Stuart's writing career had started in the 1930s but came to an abrupt end in the mid-1950s, after which no trace of any further work has been found. Whether he continued to ply his trade as an author and journalist I have yet to discover. On the other hand, his origins and pre-writing career can now be revealed.

Stuart was born Arthur Lewis Martin in Stroud Green, London, on  6 March 1902. He was the son of Arthur William Martin, born in Battersea in c.1872, and his wife Louisa Mary Bell, born in Fermoy, Cork, on 31 December 1871. Married on 15 December 1896 at Crouch End, London, Mr. Martin was a staff engineer (1st class) with the General Post Office. His wife (who had worked as a telegraphist for the G.P.O.) was related to Sir George Bell (1794-1877), an Irish-born soldier who had served in the Peninsular and Crimean Wars during a long and distinguished career which he brought to wide attention in a two-volume autobiography, Rough Notes by an Old Soldier (1867).

Arthur Lewis Martin's upbringing remains a bit of a mystery. At the time of the 1911 census, when he was aged 9, he and his parents were visitors at the home of Charles Emil Ramspott at Mooredale, Epsom Downs, Surrey.

What we know of Arthur Martin's early career is from later newspaper reports which reveal that he joined the Bank of England as a clerk in 1920, leaving in 1926 to travel to India as a clerk to a firm of stockbrokers, which subsequently went broke; he then went to Canada, also with stockbrokers, before returning to England.

In January 1930, some local newspapers carried a report that one Arthur Lewis de Vere Martin Bell, an accountant, was arrested on Wednesday the 22nd at Lapford Rectory, in Lapford, a small village in Devon. Sergeant Squire and Constable White brought Bell before the Bench at nearby Northtawton on Thursday and he was remanded pending the arrival of an escort.

Bell had been arrested on a warrant issued by the Metropolitan Police for the alleged obtaining of goods by means of a worthless cheque. Bell was remanded in custody by Mr. Gill at Westminster Police Court on the 25th of obtaining a gun and case, and a cigarette case and matchbox, valued at £24 6s 6d. by false pretences from the Army and Navy Stores in Victoria Street, S.W.

Detective Smith told the magistrate that a quantity of property was brought to London with Bell—including an Oxford M.A. hood, a cheque book, a passport in the name of Arthur Lewis Martin, an order book on the Army and Navy stores, and clothing—and a further charge was to be preferred. Smith said that Bell had stated: "I wish to clear the matter up now. I did obtain the gun, the cigarette case and matchbox from the Stores. I pawned them the same day in the Strand, but I have lost the tickets."

That this was Arthur Lewis Martin cannot be doubted. The name De Vere Bell was probably concocted from his similarly named uncle, Warwick De Vere Bell, born in Devonport, Devon, in 1866, a civil servant and son of Harry Humphrey Bell, Martin's grandfather.

Mention of Martin's passport makes me wonder if any of the following is related to our author: in 1929, one Arthur Martin, a 27-year-old accountant giving his address as c/o Holt & Co., 3 Whitehall Place, London, travelled to Canada aboard the Ausonia, arriving in Montreal on 29 October 1929; similarly, a 27-year-old clerk with the address 134 Regent Street, SW, left London on 9 May 1930, bound for New York aboard the American Farmer; and, later, on 10 January 1934, aged 32, accountant Arthur Martin (now of 254 Upland Road, E.Dulwich  SE22) again travelled to Canada via New York from Southampton aboard the White Star's Olympic. While speculative, hopefully connecting these trips is an educated guess. Martin claimed in court that he worked for a stockbroker in Canada around this time.

Martin had been a member of the Territorial Army Reserve since the early 1920s; late of the Inns of Court O.T.C., he was made a 2nd Lieutenant of the 17th Battalion (4th London Regiment)  on 28th March 1924. He was later made a Lieutenant on 17 December 1932

It was said that it was through his connection with the 4th London Regiment that he became attached to the French Foreign Legion. He was said to be in the Consul's office in Oran, on the coast of north-west Algeria, the setting for his book Adventure in Algeria (1936).

The book was generally well-received, a typical review appearing in The Observer (10 January 1937):
Here is one of the freshest and most winning books of travel offered for a long time. Mr. Stuart writes with such a perfect unconsciousness of his public and such a disregard for all the mannerisms that are supposed to be “literary,” that a schoolboy’s letter could not be more frank, intimate, or revealing. He never tells a story or exhibits a humorous situation that does not at once yield its full value.
    Part of his tale is occupied with a journey on foot well into the interior of French Africa. It is plentifully studded with odd and picturesque experiences, and in the course of it he drank out of a tea-cup once given to his Arab host by General Gordon, and had Miss Amy Johnson swoop down upon him from the skies in the course of her homeward flight from the Cape. But the pages that arrest attention most sharply are those describing his service in the Foreign Legion and stripping from that corps many popular and invidious legends.
    Bad characters would find it very difficult to get in, and piety is not unknown in its ranks. “In the company in which I finished up my service, a Russian corporal-farrier held a Bible class for anyone who cared to attend.” As for “brutality,” the author declares that “Field Punishment No.1” of the British Army in the Great War was far and away more severe than anything the Legion knows, and the only complaint he makes of its regime is that the food on active service is not what it should be. The “horrors” that invest popular conception of the Legion are the creation, Mr. Brian Stuart maintains, of “deserters and similar cowards.” It will be interesting to see whether his vindication goes unchallenged.
Some reviewers felt that "a little inconsistency here and there, however, shakes one's confidence in his own story." (Western Morning News, 7 October 1936) He related how he had joined in 1931 and found the Legion very welcoming. "The barracks at Ain Sefra were absolutely the last word in cleanliness and comfort," he revealed. The food was delicious.

Although marked out for rapid promotion and the unusual honour of a commission even before he had begun training, "Stuart" did not stay long in the Legion. He was rejected on account of bad eyesight after about six months. Thereupon he sought adventure by himself in the desert and the second and larger part of the book described his experiences.

Arthur Lewis Martin returned to England in 1933 and, using the pen-name Brian Stuart, began writing about his experiences, with articles such as "Foot-Loose in the Sahara" for Blackwoods and "Across the Sahara on Foot", for Pearson's Magazine in 1934. That same year he began broadcasting on the BBC, with "Legend of the Foreign Legion" broadcast on 7 September 1934, followed by two contributions to the "Rolling Stone" series:  "Banks, Barracks, and Bivouacs", broadcast on 7 November 1934, and "Footloose in the Sahara", broadcast on 12 December 1934. These and other articles for the likes of Windsor, which became the basis for Adventure in Algeria. While establishing himself as a writer, he was also spent some time between 1933 and 1935 selling vacuum cleaners in London.

It was during this period, shortly after his return to England, that Martin became embroiled in another court case. On 9 May 1934, the Highgate Sessions heard the case of Mrs. Doris Blodwin Hudgell, who was applying for a separation order against her husband, Frederick Louis Hudgell. The case was complicated by her husband's cross petition asking for custody of their daughter. The couple had married in April 1929 and daughter Barbara was born in 1931. Mr. Hudgell worked as a motor-fitter for the L.N.E.R., earning £2 18s. a week.

Mrs. Hudgell revealed that Mr. Hudgell had been "difficult to manage" on New Year's Eve and had smashed a panel of a kitchen cupboard, knocked her against the fireplace and nearly broke her back. On April 24 he had flown out of bed in a mad rage, ripped her pyjama coat from her, picked her up bodily and kicked her in the stomach several times. He left her the following day.

Mrs. Hudgell also alleged that her husband had been carrying on with another woman, and came home in the early hours of the morning. In the course of the previous three months he had assaulted her several times.

She had scrubbed floors to help pay off her husband's debts and, earlier in the year (1934), she had taken in a lodger at her husband's request. The lodger was Arthur Lewis Martin.

Martin, then living at the London Central Y.M.C.A., gave evidence that he had met Mrs. Hudgell at a Lyons Corner House and later responded to an invitation to tea with Mr. and Mrs. Hudgell. Later, arrangements were made for him to lodge at their home at 11 Woodside Grove, North Finchley. He was there for three weeks but left, he said, because he could not stand the way Hudgell treated his wife, and he did not think she should be left alone in the house with him. "Hudgell treated her abominably," he said. "I have seen him hit her frequently and squeeze her in the throat until she went red in the face. I have seen her knocked against the kitchen wall, and he pretended to cut her throat with a razor." Hudgell would threaten to injure her and then commit suicide. On one occasion, Martin had come into the kitchen and found Hudgell there with a girl on his knee.

The magistrate eventually decided that the case should have been settled by voluntary separation and that the summons for cruelty had not been established and was therefore dismissed. However, the two were back before the magistrates on 6 June 1934, with Mrs. Hudgell claiming desertion and alleged wilful neglect of their daughter; she also asked for custody of the child. The case was again adjourned as Mr. Lincoln (appearing for Mr. Hudgell) had not passed on material relating to an allegation of misconduct by Mrs. Hudgell. When the case resumed two weeks later, Mr. Ricketts (for Mrs. Hudgell) said that the promised material had only been handed over the weekend before the case was to be heard and it appeared that the husband was "trying to starve his wife into submission." The case was again adjourned.

Eventually, on 4 July, the case was heard. Mrs. Hudgell strenuously denied having had an affair with a man named Hopton in 1932. Nor had she misconducted herself with the lodger, Arthur Lewis Martin.

Giving evidence, Mr. Hudgell said that after he had been living with them for some time, Martin had told him that he liked his wife and wanted to marry her. Martin, said Hudgell, suggested that he (Hudgell) should go away with another woman and commit adultery with her so that his wife could get a divorce. Martin had appeared at the May hearing during which he had said, "I am not going to pretend I am not in love with Mrs. Hudgell, partly in sympathy owing to the treatment she got from her husband. The fact that she is married I cannot help. Nor can I help the fact she is not in love with me."

The case was eventually found in Mrs. Hudgell's favour and she was given custody of the child.

(* In Part 2: Arthur Lewis Martin becomes Brian Arthur Lewis Stuart and begins writing novels... and ends up in jail.)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Comic Cuts - 26 May 2017

For someone who lives a relatively quiet life stuck at home either in front of the computer or the TV, this has been an exciting week. On Sunday we headed into town to see comedian Susan Calman, who you probably know from The News Quiz or her solo show Susan Calman is Convicted on Radio 4, lathough she pops up on TV with surprising regularity, appearing regularly on CBBC and hosting an afternoon quiz show called The Boss, which despite her every effort is just terrible.

We last saw her on her Lady Like tour, way back on 24 October 2014. Looking back at the Friday column after the gig, I see that it wasn't even mentioned, the column dominated by the demise of our washing machine and the need to generate a few book sales so we could afford a new one. I think I had reached a point where I knew I was going to have to sort out a paying job at some point and lack of funds was weighing on me.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years and I was pretty much in the same boat until a fortnight ago. I've just started work on a new project for my old boss at Look and Learn. I don't want to say much as it's not my project and not up to me to reveal all but it basically revolves around the idea of producing an illustrated dictionary for modern day social media consumption.

I've only been working on it for a few days, but I have to admit that I'm rather enjoying it. Mind you I'm only a couple of hundred entries in. Let's see how I feel once we pass the couple of thousand mark.

This doesn't mean the Valiant book is on hold. I should be able to do the two together, although I did take a couple of days off (Thursday through Sunday of last week) to write a three-parter that will be starting here at Bear Alley tomorrow, all about a writer named Brian Stuart... only he wasn't named Brian Stuart originally. I thought I'd be able to tackle him fairly quickly, but every time I thought I'd found everything, something else would turn up which shed new light on him.

But you can start reading all about him tomorrow. My point is that the article was utterly consuming as far as time was concerned, so I put in a couple of days on another side project that I've been doing, which is to index old annuals... and if you've listed the contents of an annual you'll know that it, too, is surprisingly time consuming. Especially if, like me, you spend a couple of hours trying to figure out where all of the strips and features were reprinted from (as was the case with many annuals from the 1970s); that can be made doubly hard if the strips were originally Italian.

I managed to catch up a bit, completing the original run of Eagle Annual from 1952 to 1975, and mailed off the results to fellow collectors who are also involved in this madness. Wednesday involved the first trip to the dentist in quite some while, and, bar a trip to a hygienist in June, that should be it for another six months. All I can say is, kids, don't take up smoking. I did, and although I gave up a few years ago, I'm still paying the price of a thirty-a-day, thirty-five year habit.

Monday night we were out on the town again, this time to a book launch. Or books, plural, launch as it was for the latest novels by James Garbutt and Henry Sutton. Both are better known as James Henry, although they only collaborated on one novel under that name, the first of a series of prequels based on R.D. Wingfield's Jack Frost character (famously played by David Jason in the long-running TV series). James then took over the name and has subsequently written three more Frost novels—the latest one released this month—and a stand-alone featuring another policeman which was set around the local Colchester area (Blackwater, just out in paperback).

Meanwhile, Henry has just published his tenth novel and, looking to start a new series, has written it under the name Harry Brett. I'm not revealing any deep, dark secret... he's plugging the book on his website.

The two make an excellent double act and the chat was full of anecdotes and insights into their writing processes and how those different processes caused problems when they came to collaborate. It was a highly entertaining hour and I got the latest Frost signed for my Mum as she's enjoyed the previous three and it was her birthday this week. I haven't seen her to pass it on, yet, so it'll be a nice surprise [I can say that because she doesn't have a computer and isn't reading this!]

Following on from last week's cover scans, here are a few more books by comedians.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Search/Destroy: A Strontium Dog Fan Film now online

The Strontium Dog fan movie Search/Destroy has been released and is available online:




In the far future strontium-90 fallout has created a race of mutants, outcasts from society, despised by the ‘norms’ and given only the dirtiest job - bounty hunting. Johnny Alpha is one such mutant, working for the Search/Destroy (Strontium Dog) Agency, hunting down criminals for the Galactic Crime Commission, aided by his trusty Viking sidekick, Wulf Sternhammer.

Search/Destroy: A Strontium Dog Fan Film, is an unofficial, not for profit project, based on the work of John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Alan Grant. The short film is produced by the team behind the Judge Dredd based fan film - Judge Minty, and follows Johnny and Wulf as they investigate a spate of Strontium Dog disappearances.

Featuring Matthew Simpson as Johnny Alpha and Kevin Horsham as Wulf Sternhammer, preview screenings and production images have received positive reactions from co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. The film received its premiere at 2000 AD’s 40 Years of Thrill-Power Festival, on February the 11th 2017 and is now available to view online for free.

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases 24 May 2017

2000AD Prog 2032
Cover: D'Israeli
Judge Dredd: Sons of Booth by TC Eglington (w) Nick Dyer (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Illustrators #18 (Spring 2017)

Mort Drucker, who leads off the latest issue of Illustrators, is famous for his caricatures of movies, TV shows, stars and celebrities. To anyone who has ever stumbled across MAD Magazine his work is instantly recognisable. His strength is that he not only produces spot on caricatures but that he places them in richly detailed and realistic settings. This maybe reflects his earliest artistic experiences drawing backgrounds for 'Debby Dean, Career Girl' for six months in 1947.

The 18-year-old had no formal art training but soon found himself working on the staff at National (later DC Comics) before going freelance in the 1950s, which led him to work as a cover artist (notably for Time), poster artist and illustrator for books, magazines, comics and advertising for the next six decades. Answering an advert in 1956 led him to MAD Magazine and launched a 55-year relationship which saw him parody everything from Saturday Night Fever to Star Trek.

Not so well known is Ernest Garcia Cabral, a Mexican cartoonist who trained in Paris and learned to tango in Buenos Aires. He brought Art Nouveau and Art Deco painting to South America, acted in movies and was one of the leading newspaper and magazine illustrators of the 1920s to the '60s.

 
This is followed by my favourite piece in this issue: a look at the origins and art of Puffin Books. The famous imprint was launched by Penguin Books-creator Allen Lane in 1939 at the suggestion of Country Life editor Noel Carrington when they met over lunch a year earlier. With Puffin Picture Books a success, 1940 saw the arrival of Puffin Story Books, but the line only became a phenomenon with the arrival of Kaye Webb, who grew the publishing line from 150 titles to 1,200 in her 20 years in charge.

Somewhat cheekily, this issue includes an interview with Illustrators editor, Peter Richardson, himself an illustrator, while the issue is wrapped up with a brief piece on Katyuli Lloyd, who found early success with her illustrations for Virginia Woolf's Flush: A Biography, which earned her a number of award nominations and commissions from The Folio Society. The issue closes with a short appreciation of John Watkiss.

 
For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. Issue 19 will feature James (Dinotopia) Gurney, Erik Kriek, J.O.B. and Philip Mendoza.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alexander Wilson

Alexander Joseph Patrick Wilson was born in Dover on 24 October 1893, to an English father (Alexander Wilson, 1864-1919) and an Irish mother (Annie Maria, nee O'Toole, 1866-1936), who were married in Hong Kong in 1886. His father had had a 40-year career in the British Army from 15-year-old boy bugler to Colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps when he died in 1919. His father served throughout the Boer War, receiving the Queen Victoria and King Edward VII medals. He was mentioned in despatches for his managing and supplying of hospital ships and trains from the Western Front. In the final year of World War I he was responsible for all medical supplies to the British Army in Europe.

In his childhood Alexander Wilson's family followed his father to Mauritius, Singapore, Hong Kong and Ceylon. He was educated at St. Joseph's College, Hong Kong, a prestigious public school, and St Boniface's Catholic College in Plymouth where he played amateur soccer.

Wilson was a Naval Cadet in 1911-12, training at Devonport. He served in the Royal Navy at the start of World War I. A reference in a War Office document indicated he had been in the Royal Naval Air Service and crashed his plane. He was then commissioned in 1915 in the Royal Army Service Corps escorting motor transports and supplies to France.

On 2 March 1916, Wilson married Gladys Ellen Kellaway (1896-1991), the daughter of Frank Herbert Kellaway, a retired postal clerk, and Ellen Mary (nee Collier). Gladys lived at Foxbury, Lyndhurst, and Wilson at the time was living in Princes Crescent, Lyndhurst, the two marrying at the local church.

That same year, Wilson received disabling injuries to his knee and shrapnel wounds to the left side of his body before being invalided, and received the Silver War Badge. He attempted to re-enlist, pretending he was perfectly fit when he arrived at a recruitment office in 1917. Wilson's first son, Adrian, was born that same year.

In 1919, Wilson joined the merchant navy, serving as a purser on a requisitioned German liner SS Prinzessin, sailing from London to Vancouver via South Africa, China and Japan. He was arrested on his arrival in Vancouver, accused of stealing £151 and sentenced to six months with hard labour at Oakalla Prison Farm, British Columbia.

Wilson and his wife were actor-managers of a world-renowned touring repertory company in the early 1920s, during which time they had two more children, Dennis (1921) and Daphne (1922).

Responding to an advert in The Times, Wilson—now using the name Alexander Douglas Gordon Chesney Wilson—went to India to become Professor of English Literature at Islamia College, the University of Punjab in Lahore (now part of Pakistan). He began writing spy novels while in India and received his first contract for The Mystery of Tunnel 51 from Longmans and Green Co. in 1927. His fictional chief of the British Intelligence Service, Sir Leonard Wallace, first appears in Chapter IX from page 59. There is no documentary evidence that Wilson himself had any connections with MI6 (The Secret Intelligence Service), MI5 (The Security Service) IPI (Indian Political Intelligence in London) or the Indian Intelligence Bureau in Delhi at this time.

While in the post at Lahore, he travelled around the North-West Frontier, learned Urdu and Persian and was appointed an honorary Major in the Indian Army Reserve while in command of Islamia College's UTC (University Training Corps) which amounted to half a company. In his application for the Emergency Officer War Reserve in 1939 he said that during these years, he also spent time in Arabia, Ceylon and Palestine. Wilson had a leading role in Lahore's only all Muslim College that educated and trained for the British Indian Army the sons of Waziristan Chiefs and farmers from the North West Frontier. The Soviet Comintern was active in subversion and supporting insurrection. Between 1928 and 1932 the British authorities were combating a heightening of terrorist plots and assassinations. Tensions were raised by hunger strikes and the Lahore Conspiracy Case during which pro-independence activists died and were sentenced to death.

He was interviewed and appointed as an English professor by the then principal of Islamia College, Abdullah Yusuf Ali (an author, academic and educationalist who went on to translate the Quran). Wilson provided a positive and sympathetic portrait of Abdullah in his second novel The Devil's Cocktail (1928), as the principal of a fictional Sheranwalla College, Lahore. He succeeded Yusuf Ali as principal of Islamia College in 1928 until he resigned in 1931.

His first spy novel, The Mystery of Tunnel 51, featuring the character Sir Leonard Wallace, was published in 1928. The struggle by Wallace and his intelligence officers and agents to battle against the Soviet Union, terrorism and subversion in the British Empire, the tentacles of global organised crime, and Nazi Germany would feature in eight subsequent novels. That same year he also published The Devil's Cocktail.

Wilson's first four books were published by Longmans Green & Co in 1928–1931 and in addition to the two spy novels first featuring Sir Leonard Wallace and the British Secret Service, Murder Mansion (1929) and The Death of Dr. Whitelaw were both crime thrillers.

It was during this period that Wilson met Dorothy Phyllis Wick an actress and singer who arrived in India with the Grand Guignol Theatre Company. As early as 1928, newspapers in Lahore were giving her name as Mrs. Dorothy Wilson, although no record has been found of a marriage. Her husband began editing a daily English-language newspaper in Lahore in 1931 while Dorothy returned to England.

Alexander followed in 1933 and, in October 1933, Dorothy gave birth to a son, Michael Wilson. The family lived in Little Venice in London W9, but after 18 months Alexander Wilson returned to his first wife and family, now living in Southampton. After a further 18 months, in 1935 Wilson moved to London, telling Gladys that he intended to find somewhere for them all to live. Instead, he returned to Dorothy.

Wilson's next novel, The Crimson Dacoit, appeared in 1933 from Herbert Jenkins, who thereafter became his main publisher of novels for the next seven years. The novel was well-received by The Scotsman, who described it as
... a romance of modern Indian politics and crime by a writer, Major Alexander Wilson, who has considerable knowledge of the field and the subject. A series of risings, accompanied by outrages, occur in a district of the Punjab in which Ian Hunter is a superintendent of police. They culminate, to his mind, in the abduction of an English girl in whom he takes a personal interest. In the quest, zealous and efficient help is rendered by another, but a native, member of the Indian police, Rai Bahadur Surdar Gopal Singh, and suspicion falls on a certain Ram Chandra Jawaya Pal, a graduate of Cambridge, as being a secret agent of the Revolutionaries, although behind him is perceived the mysterious figure of the "Crimson Dacoit," so called because he keeps his face partially covered by a crimson veil. Failing other means of tracing the headquarters of the gang, where they have hidden Vera Saunders, Hunter and his two friends, Lambert and Chesney, set out on a private quest, very ill provided, as quickly turns out, with the means of accomplishing their purpose. They succeed, however, in tracing the dacoits to a cave in a nullah in the hills, where a thunderstorm and flood come in a timely way to their assistance; and, as the acute reader of the story may have come to suspect, the real villain of the piece is discovered in the immaculate Gopal Singh. (The Scotsman, 23 March 1933)
Two months later, T. Werner Laurie published another story by Wilson, which could not have been more different. Confessions of a Scoundrel appeared under the pseudonym of Geoffrey Spencer, the same surname used by the first actual 'C' Mansfield Smith-Cumming when renting the MI6 headquarters at 2 Whitehall Court. The book was a dramatic autobiography of a jewel-thief, forger, burglar and murderer, which some reviewers took to be factual. "Ericus" of The Bystander offered his blunt opinion:
Villainy, unmitigated and unashamed, is the main-spring of Confessions of a Scoundrel by Geoffrey Spencer. This is, I imagine, fiction founded on a modicum of fact, though how much of it is fact and how much fiction, I would not like to say—and, anyway, who cares about that? The central figure of this autobiography was set on the downward path by a pious fraud of a parson and early acquired that craving for women and the excitement that goes, as he says, with making money unlawfully, which brought him inevitably to the stickiest of endings. A crude, callous, and somewhat naive record of the glittering underworld of Europe, Australia and America, of card-sharping and forgery and jewel-thieving and brothel-keeping, ending with the violent extinction of the clergyman who began it all. (The Bystander, 31 May 1933)
Wilson's biographer, Tim Crook, has noted that the book "bears very close resemblance to the text, plot and theme of a novel published a year later by Herbert Jenkins titled ‘The Sentimental Crook’." Wilson's 1934 novel featured Michael Granville, who specialises in card-sharping and forgery and shows considerable ingenuity in planning his 'coups'. The Scotsman (28 May 1934) thought it daring to make such a character the hero of the book, but "There was something to be said for the young man, but not much. The excitement of the game meant more to him than its rewards, and he had been brought up very neglectfully. At any rate, his exploits are thrilling enough, but it is a pity that his eventual reformation is caused by a realisation, following a spell in prison, that the game is not worth the candle, rather than on moral grounds."
Tim Crook notes that only one New Zealand journalist appears to have noticed the similarities between the two books:
...here's a case of two novels which, although the books have different titles, were brought out by different publishers, and bear different names of authors, are almost identical, except for some pages at the beginning and the end of the volumes.
The reviewer for the Evening Post (26 September 1935) noted that "Certain incidents have been given a slight 'twist' in detail, but generally the settings and characters are the same. When approached on the matter of this 'coincidence' neither publisher would make a statement; they were 'going into the question.'"

Clearly Herbert Jenkins had no problems with the situation, as Wilson's books were proving very popular with the reading public and, one has to assume, none of the reading public had complained. Wilson had reintroduced Sir Leonard Wallace in a series of books that appeared throughout the 1930s, beginning with Wallace of the Secret Service (1933), a collection of stories which ranged through Egypt, Morocco, Russia, Greece and India, Get Wallace (1934), a novel involving the theft of national secrets in the UK, and His Excellency, Governor Wallace (1935), which saw Wallace solving a plot to undermine British control in Hong-Kong.

The following review of Wilson's next novel will give you an idea of how popular his books were with contemporary reviewers:
Alexander Wilson in “Microbes of Power” paints for us a picture of possibilities for a future war, when some ruthless power may utilise the  myriads of disease germs to cripple a rival nation.
    Certainly in this yarn,  when Sir Leonard Wallace, Head of the British Secret Service, and his subordinates get on the track of obscure events in Cyprus, they did not think they were being led up to a gigantic conspiracy to lay the world in ruins. The narrative is couched in the most exciting vein, with unexpected twists to the theme. It is hackneyed to say that it is impossible to put such a book down, but this only comes into this class. Adventures and death build up to a terrific climax in a burning house , and he will be a very exacting reader who does not get his money’s worth out of “Microbes of Power.” (Gloucester Citizen, 3 August 1937)
The next Wallace novel, Wallace at Bay (1938), took place in and around Little Venice, an area very familiar to its author, where Wallace tackles international anarchists. Wallace Intervenes (1939) dealt explicitly with Nazi Germany – even featuring a huge swastika on the cover – and concerned a British agent who has fallen in love with a confident of Marshal von Strom, who has him imprisoned and the girl sentenced to death.

This was followed by the collection The Chronicles of the Secret Service (1940), containing three novellas set in Hong-Kong, Afghanistan and London.

He also published under two further pseudonyms. Under the name Gregory Wilson, writing for The Modern Publishing Company, he authored The Factory Mystery and The Boxing Mystery in 1938. Under the name Michael Chesney he wrote a trilogy of further spy novels of imperial adventure featuring the central character Colonel Geoffrey Callaghan 'Chief of Military Intelligence' between 1938 and 1939. Callaghan of Intelligence, "Steel" Callaghan and Callaghan Meets His Fate were published by Herbert Jenkins. The novel Double Masquerade and the previously mentioned Wallace collection, both published by Herbert Jenkins in 1940, proved to be his last.

It was Michael, Alexander Wilson's son by his second marriage, who, in 2005 at the age of 73, began the investigation into his father's past. He had changed his name by deed poll to Mike Shannon when setting out on his career as an actor and poet. When he was only nine years old his mother and her family told him his father had been killed in the Battle of El Alamein and he did not discover the truth until 2006.

Michael suspected his father was involved in intelligence activities as an agent in the 1920s and 1930s and he based this supposition on his memory of seeing his father meet Joachim Ribbentrop at the German Embassy in Carlton House Terrace, London in the spring of 1938 and other meetings with mysterious men to whom his father spoke fluent German. It is certain that Wilson was in MI6 in 1940, by which time he had left Michael's mother Dorothy and met his third wife, Alison McKelvie, a secretary in MI6.

They were married on 8 September 1941 in Kensington, London (Wilson using the name Alexander Douglas Gordon Wilson), a few months after the death of Alison's father, George Lockhart McKelvie, a solicitor. The couple had been living together for some months and a son, Gordon, was born in January 1942.

In 1942, Wilson told his wife Alison that he was dismissed from MI6 to go into the field as an agent. He said his subsequent misadventures, including being declared bankrupt, though never discharged, and being jailed for petty crime, were part of the cover he had to adopt for operational reasons.

In May 2013 a second tranche of Foreign Office files connected with intelligence matters was released to the National Archives at Kew. This included a file marked 'The Case of the Egyptian Ambassador,' and concerned an MI5 investigation into alleged espionage by the ambassador and his staff in London from the beginning of the war. The papers refer to an SIS/MI6 translator who was accused of embroidering his record of eavesdropping on telephone calls to and from the Embassy. Although the translator's name is redacted it is likely to refer to Alexander Wilson since the details disclosed match those included in the first part of Alison Wilson's memoir written for her two sons and quoted from in Tim Crook's biography of Wilson, The Secret Lives of a Secret Agent, published in 2010.

The file reveals that the translator of Hindustani, Persian and Arabic had joined the service in October 1939 and been dismissed from SIS in October 1942. It was reported that he had faked a burglary at his flat and been in serious trouble with the police. The Director General of MI5 Brigadier Sir David Petrie stated that the fact he was no longer in the service was: '...perhaps some small compensation for the amount of trouble to which his inventive mind has put us all. A fabricator, such as this man was, is a great public danger.' The then Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, Sir Stewart Menzies wrote: 'I do not think it at all likely that we shall again have the bad luck to strike a man who combines a blameless record, first rate linguistic abilities, remarkable gifts as a writer of fiction, and no sense of responsibility in using them!

During the war, with the publishing industry in chaos, Wilson, then living at 32 Craven Hill Gardens, London W2, went into bankruptcy in January 1944. He was receiving financial aid from his eldest son Adrian around this time, although his bankruptcy notice reveals that he is "temporarily employed in a Government Department".

On 2 October 1944, as Alexander Joseph Wilson, he was charged at Marylebone with masquerading as a colonel in the Indian Army with seven decorations, to four of which he was not entitled.A detective said that he stopped Wilson when he was wearing the uniform, R.A.F. wings, D.S.O., D.S.C., the laurel leaf for mention in despatches, and the Croix-de-Guerre, in addition to the three decorations from the Great War to which he was entitled. Wilson told the magistrate he hated being out of khaki at this time, and this masquerade was sheer madness. He admitted the charge of wearing the uniform contrary to the Defence Regulations, and was remanded.

During his trial at Marylebone later that month, Detective-Sergeant Manning said that the accused was living far beyond his income from writing and had been under police observation for some time because he had been posing as a colonel. Wilson said that he was keen to get back into the army and it played on his mind when he was not accepted. The Magistrate said it was a scandalous thing to do and fined Wilson £10.

Wilson found work as a cinema manager, but was prosecuted in 1948 for embezzling the takings from one of the cinemas. He subsequently worked as a porter in the casualty unit of West Middlesex Hispital. Whilst there, he met and, in January 1955, married a 27-year-old nurse, Elizabeth Hill, with whom he had another son, Douglas. Elizabeth and Duncan later moved to Scotland, although she kept in touch with her husband, who continued his parallel life, living with Alison.

She had suffered greatly from Wilson's fantastical lies, one of the earliest that he was a relative of Winston Churchill and his grand home had been requisitioned and would be returned once the war was over. His arrest in 1944 occurred as they were leaving Sunday Mass, Alison pregnant with their second son, Nigel. After his second period of imprisonment, they were forced to move regularly: 17 times in  17 years. His compulsion to lie continued: in later life he claimed he was returning to work for the Foreign Office when, in fact, he obtained a job as a clerk at Sandersons Wallpaper factory in Perivale, Ealing.

Wilson died at 13 Lancaster Gardens, Ealing, W13, of a heart attack due to atheroma on 4 April 1963, aged 69. While Alison was aware of his affairs, and knew of Dorothy (from whom she believed Wilson was divorced) and her son Michael, she only found out about Wilson's first wife and children whilst dealing with his papers. Wilson was buried in Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth, where Alison first met Grace – pretending to be distant relatives to keep the truth from Alison's sons.

At first with no tombstone, although one was erected in 2008 following a gathering of Wilson's extended family.

Sam Wilson, a BBC journalist, wrote a lengthy article for The Times in 2010 that explored the impact of his grandfather's complicated private life on his various families."In total he had four families; four wives and seven children ... None of the families was aware of any other. But he tended to them all – lavishing the same love and attention on them [all] ... he was a loving dad, generous, fun and a sincere Roman Catholic."

Wilson made a number of attempts to revive his literary career in later life, four unpublished manuscripts surviving him: the thriller Murder in Duplicate, a western The Englishman From Texas, a spy thriller Out of the Land of Egypt (written in the late 1950s as by Col. Alan C. Wilson; the author previously used the title in Wallace of the Secret Service) and a handwritten MS dating from 1961.

In 2015–16 Allison & Busby republished nine of Wilson's Wallace of the Secret Service novels. The Daily Mail said of the re-issue of The Mystery of Tunnel 51 "prepare for a romping read," and that it was the "first of nine fast and furious adventures."

PUBLICATIONS

Novels
The Mystery of Tunnel 51. London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1928.
The Devil's Cocktail. London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1928.
Murder Mansion. London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1929.
The Death of Dr. Whitelaw. London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1930.
The Crimson Dacoit. London, Herbert Jenkins, Mar 1933.
The Confessions of a Scoundrel (as Geoffrey Spencer). London, T Werner Laurie, May 1933.
Wallace of the Secret Service. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1933.
Get Wallace! London, Herbert Jenkins, 1934.
The Sentimental Crook. London, Herbert Jenkins, Apr 1934.
The Magnificent Hobo. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1935.
His Excellency, Governor Wallace. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1936.
Microbes of Power. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1937.
Mr Justice. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1937.
Double Events. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1937.
Wallace At Bay. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1938.
The Factory Mystery (as Gregory Wilson). London, Modern Publishing Company, 1938.
The Boxing Mystery (as Gregory Wilson). London, Modern Publishing Company, 1938.
Callaghan of Intelligence (as Michael Chesney). Herbert Jenkins, 1938.
Scapegoats for Murder. London, Herbert Jenkins, Mar 1939.
"Steel" Callaghan (as Michael Chesney). London, Herbert Jenkins, Mar 1939.
Callaghan Meets His Fate (as Michael Chesney). London, Herbert Jenkins, Nov 1939.
Wallace Intervenes. London, Herbert Jenkins, Dec 1939.
Double Masquerade. London, Herbert Jenkins, Mar 1940.
Chronicles of the Secret Service. London, Herbert Jenkins, Aug 1940.

Non-fiction
Selected English Prose Stories for Indian Students, with Mohammad Din. Lahore, Shamsher Singh & Co., 1926.
Four Periods of Essays. Lahore, Rai Sahib M. Gulab Singh & Sons, 1928.
Selected English Essays (From Steele to Benson). Lahore, Uttar Chand Kapur & Sons, 1930.

(* I picked up a novel by Alexander Wilson on Saturday and, knowing nothing about him,  checked him out on Wikipedia. His life and various careers proved utterly fascinating, hence this column, which is partly based on his Wikipedia entry – they've lifted plenty from Bear Alley, so I think it's only fair – although I've added many additional details. Further details about his work can be found at Tim Crook's website, Alexander Wilson – Author, Adventurer and Spy)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Comic Cuts - 19 May 2017

After my production slowdown of last week, I've managed to pick up the pace somewhat, with some actual, honest-to-god paying work being squeezed in alongside my various projects.

Chief amongst the latter, of course, is the Valiant index, for which I've still got to think of a title. At the last count my notes for the introduction ran to 37,000 words, which is way beyond what I was anticipating. Admittedly Valiant ran to many more issues than some of the titles I've tackled over the past few years (Ranger, Boys' World, Countdown), but I was expecting the text to run to around 40,000 total, not with five years history still to cover. It does at least explain why it is taking me so long to put together.

I had hoped to have the book out in time for the arrival of One-Eyed Jack, the Rebellion reprint, but I'm definitely going to miss that deadline by a mile. Could I have the book out in time for the release of The Leopard From Lime Street, which follows on the 12th of July? I very much doubt it, as the longer text also means more pages to design, more words to proof, etc. But hopefully by July I'll be getting close.

Rebellion, incidentally, have released a new cover image and also announced a 200-copy limited edition hardcover which will include a numbered bookplate and art print. You can pre-order the books via Rebellion's new Treasury of British Comics website.

There are a number of other British comics reprints on the horizon and not limited to the titles announced by Rebellion back in March. Titan are also publishing a new Dan Dare volume, continuing the series of earlier titles, in October. I'm not sure what the precise contents will be but the volume seems to pick up from the last (Trip to Trouble, published in 2010) in the middle of Eagle volume 11 (1960), so I'm guessing it might include "Mission of the Earthmen" and "The Solid Space Mystery", the latter reintroducing Dan's nemesis, The Mekon.

At the moment, the promo cover has a slight error, giving the title as "Mission of the Earthman" (singular) rather than the "Earthmen" (plural) of the original Eagle strip. An easy mistake to make, but it will hopefully be fixed before the book goes to print. At the moment, the book is due out on 24 October 2017.

The Amazon entry for the book unhelpfully lists the authors as Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy, neither of which had anything to do with the strips at that point. Don Harley and Bruce Cornwell were the chief artists for the next couple of years, with Eric Eden writing scripts.

A month before that, on 12 September, we should be getting Hook Jaw: The Complete Original Collection, which is described as running to 160 pages... so it will certainly be more complete than the previous Hook Jaw collection from Spitfire Books, which ran to only 96 pages. I'm not sure if the book will include any strips from annuals or holiday specials, of which there were quite a few.

Rebellion have Marney the Fox out in September, too, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that these titles will all do well and we'll start seeing a few more reprints of old British comics on the horizon.

Random scans. I picked up a couple of books by comedians recently, then realised I had a few others from months gone by already scanned, so to lighten your day...

 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Commando 5019-5022

Commando issues on sale 18 May 2017.

Offering four singular World War Two adventures, issues 5019 – 5022 of Commando delve into the comic’s classic roots, while delivering distinctive twists on archetypal tales. From battle torn French villages to the choppy waves of the English Channel, our heroes come in Matilda tanks, Henschel 126s, and Air Sea Rescue motor launches...and sometimes they fight on both sides…

5019: Tank Commander
Two tanks take centre stage in Janek’s stunningly realistic cover, as one Matilda’s gun barrel fires, the explosion mirrored where the shell hits the rival Panzer. However, this diminution of the war, focusing on only one squadron’s battle, acts as a microcosm, offering more attention to the characters, but keeping the stakes as high as ever.
    Handley’s story focuses on Lieutenant Mark Watmore, stranded in the French Hamlet, Saint-Nadine, and tasked with covering the allies retreat to Dunkirk. But when a lone Matilda tank crawls into the quiet Hamlet, crewed by its squad’s lone survivor, Sergeant Jack Taylor, who warns Watmore of approaching Jerries, they have only one choice: to train Watmore’s men in the tank and use it to defend their position!
    Filled with Vila’s strong-jawed Tommies, and stunning attention to uniform and vehicles, “Tank Commander” is a great addition to any collection.

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Vila
Cover: Janek Matysiak |

5020: Sea Ace
Brunt’s timeless story from 1968 is a Commando classic of friends turned rivals, allowing a varied view on war, duty, revenge and morality. In it, Norman Scott, an Air Sea Rescue pacifist wants only to save lives instead of taking them. Norman had witnessed loss and suffering on both sides from WWI, but Hugh Webster, a friend from his past, is blinded by revenge for his father’s mental degradation as a result of shell-shock from the trenches. Webster wants the Germans to pay – no matter the cost - and he won’t let Norman get in his way…
    Emphasising this rivalry, Gordon C. Livingstone’s cover highlights the dynamic binary of the characters by dissecting the page with the wing of Focke-Wulf 190, separating the red from yellow in the sky.

Story: Brunt
Art: Gordon C. Livingstone
Cover: Gordon C. Livingstone
Originally Commando No. 346 (July 1968) reprinted No. 1071 (October 1976)

5021: Caught in Crossfire
Rodriguez and Morahin’s cinematic artwork takes the reader from the dark, clammy interiors of the Burmese jungle to the perilous, icy heights of the Swiss Alps, the artists’ sense of scale adding to the tension of George Low’s gripping story of cat-and-mouse. It is this scene above Alps that David Alexander’s moody cover takes inspiration from, as we see a Henschel 126 strafing in the wind, tailed by two aircraft on either side, as lightning strikes against the snow-capped peaks behind them!
    Belonging to one of the “the evilest alliances ever formed”, Captain Isamu Nagata, an intelligence officer of the Imperial Japanese Army no longer believes in the war. But after accidentally shooting a German looter, Nagata is forced on the run, taking him across borders and against enemy and ally alike. For him surrender is no option...

Story: George Low
Art: Rodriguez & Morahin
Cover: David Alexander

5022: Trouble Trooper
Alan Burrows’s cover is pure Commando grit, creating a thrilling pairing with C. G. Walker’s story of one of Commando’s most “likable rogues”, Trooper Bill Bourne. Notorious for going A.W.O.L., despite his best intentions, Bourne is no stranger to trouble, or breaking the rules… But when war breaks out, Bourne must learn to obey orders and stick with his team.
    Charmingly drawn with thick, curly hair and a cheeky grin, Keith Shone’s illustrations of Bourne really capture the charismatic vagabond, while robbers in fedoras and trench coats, along with bleeding gutters between the panels add to the lure of his artwork and fully compliment Walker’s exhilarating story.

Story: C. G. Walker
Art: Keith Shone
Cover: Alan Burrows
Originally Commando No. 2594 (August 1992)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 17 May 2017.

2000AD Prog 2031
Cover: Cliff Robinson/Dylan Teague
Judge Dredd: Sons of Booth by TC Eglington (w) Nick Dyer (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Judge Dredd Megazine 384
Cover: Cliff Robinson
Judge Dredd: Gecko by TC Eglington (w) Karl Richardson (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Anderson, Psi Division: Dragon Blood by Alan Grant (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Havn by Si Spencer (w) Henry Flint (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Lawless: Long-Range War by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Features: Interrogation - Chris Lowder, Interrogation - Rory McConville, New Books: Summer Magic, New Comics: Beast Wagon
Bagged reprint: Necrophim: Hell's Prodigal by Tony Lee (w) Lee Carter (a) Annie Parkhouse, Ellie De Ville (l)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Edmund Bagwell (1966-2017)

Edmund Bagwell, best know for his work on 2000AD's 'Cradlegrave' and 'Indigo Prime', died on Tuesday, 14 May, at the age of 50. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Born Edmund Richard Bagwell in Preston in 1966, Bagwell studied at Leeds Polytechnic where he was a contemporary of Duncan Fegrado. Two years his junior, Bagwell would later say that it was thanks to Fegrado’s encouragement and support that he found work in comics.

His earliest regular contributions appeared in Deadline in 1988 when he wrote and drew ‘Syd Serene’ as Anonyman. Using the pen-name E. C. Perriman, he contributed ‘A Single English Rose’ to Blaam! (1988-89) and further stories (as Edmund Perryman and Anonyman) to Crisis, The Revolver Horror Special and Speakeasy. After an early contribution to the Judge Dredd Mega-Special (1992) as Edmund Kitsune, Bagwell found work with Marvel UK, drawing ‘Motormouth & Killpower’ for Overkill (1992) and Black Axe (1993). During these few years he worked with Nick Abadzis, D’Israeli, Peter Hogan, Warren Ellis, Graham Marks and Simon Jowett amongst others.

Primarily he worked in animation and computer graphics, living for some time in Angouleme, France, before moving to Seoul in South Korea with his wife Hae Sook to be closer to family. He returned to comics in 2005, contributing to Liam Sharp’s Event Horizon anthology. “Edmund lived with me and Christina in Richmond, just outside London, back in the Marvel UK days,” recalled Sharp. “He also contributed to Mam Tor, drawing ‘Chase Variant’ and illustrating my prose story ‘Jed Lightsear’.”

Sharp remembers him as “Just a brilliant, under-appreciated talent with a unique voice.”

After producing a handful of ‘Tharg’s Future Shocks’, Bagwell returned to mainstream comics with ‘Cradlegrave’ (2009), a horror story set in a sink estate that Ramsey Campbell described as “a fine rich achievement in modern supernatural terror,” whilst also praising the artwork, the story “well served by artist Edmund Bagwell, with his keen eye for the telling detail and his economical, often cinematic, way of conveying it. The Cradlegrave estate seems permanently steeped in dusk – in a light that can’t be bothered to raise itself. You can almost smell the rot in the streets laden with heat and rubbish.”

Bagwell took over ‘Indigo Prime’ for two series (2011), which allowed him to “access his inner Jack Kirby.” “I think you can see his influence in my designs for the series,” he told Matthew Badham in 2012. “Quite a lot of the machinery and vehicles are a bit Kirby-esque, plus I have used a fair amount of ‘Kirby Krackle’ for some sequences.” Chris Weston, the strip’s original artist, has said, “Edmund rebooted one of my old strips … and I’d always tell him that he did a better job than I did, whenever I saw him (a compliment he’d stubbornly refuse to accept, bless him).”

His most recent 2000AD work was ‘The Ten-Seconders’ (2013), written by Rob Williams, who wrote the storyline with Bagwell in mind. “I knew it was going to be big Kirby-esque gods, and when I saw his work on ‘Indigo Prime’, I thought he’d be perfect,” Williams told Mark Kardwell in 2013. Kardwell described the arrival of Bagwell on the strip thus: “It’s great to see Bagwell bring some much-needed clarity to ‘The Ten-Seconders’ after the murkiness of his predecessors; it’s like a new day has dawned on these characters. Unfortunately, it’s a new dawn that’s bringing with it an invasion of gigantic humanoid aliens. Bagwell tends to restrict his most Kirby-influenced drawing to the pieces he produces for his own amusement at his blog, otherwise it affects his published work in more subtle ways – some Kirby krackle in the skies, the occasional squared-off fingertip, a shared sense of cosmic scale, Again, Bagwell is bringing modernity to the strip, too.”

Bagwell was only occasionally active on social media: he ran a blog, Four Colours Good, in 2010-14, and was active on Twitter for some years (@BagG_E).

David Leach recalled on Facebook, “I first met him back in the glory days of Marvel UK and always enjoyed his company. He had an exceedingly dry sense of humour and a style of drawing I found utterly intoxicating.”

His family have asked that donations be made to Pancreatic Cancer UK in Edmund's memory.