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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Rebellion releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 19 December 2018.

Judge Dredd Megazine 403
Cover by Cliff Robinson/Dylan Teague
More action and adventure in the future-shocked world of Judge Dredd! There’s a party to remember in Judge Dredd: “The Fright Before Christmas”; the marines are getting closer to Dominion and have the Dark Judges in their sights in “The Torture Garden”; it’s a desperate last stand for Metta Lawson in Lawless: “Ashes to Ashes”; Psi-Judge Lillian Storm chases down a body-stealing highwayman in Storm Warning; and the colonists fight back against their mutant captors in Blunt.
    When originally announced back in October, the  bagged reprint was to be the conclusion of the classic SF thriller “Mind Wars” by Alan Hebden and Jesus Redondo, but this was delayed due to the Carlos Ezquerra special released with #402.

JUDGE DREDD: THE FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Alex De Campi (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Matt Soffe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
LAWLESS: ASHES TO ASHES by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
STORM WARNING: OVER MY DEAD BODY by John Reppion, Leah Moore (w), Jimmy Broxton (a) Simon Bowland  (l)
BLUNT II by TC Eglington (w) Boo Cook (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE DARK JUDGES: THE TORTURE GARDEN by John Wagner (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Features: Roy of the Rovers, Wildcat
Bagged reprint: The Best of Tharg's 3rillers

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ramsey's Raiders

In May 1940, a British unit under Second Lieutenant Gareth Evans is ordered to hold a vital stretch of road in France to allow the BFE to retreat to Dunkirk. As the day wears on, the unit offers a stubborn defence against advancing German forces, until the commander of a unit of stragglers orders Evans to join his men for evacuation.

In August 1942, Evans is bored of training and wants to get back into the action. He is posted to a long range group base in western Egypt, home to the elite SRF—Special Raiding Force. Evans' knowledge of the local terrain (pre-war he had been a driver for an archaeological expedition in Egypt) makes him a useful recruit to Captain Jimmy Ramsey's unit.

Demolitions expert Sgt. Derek “Jarv” Jarvis, a Scot, introduces Evans to two more newcomers: Aussie veteran Corporal Bill “Oz” Orwell and Irishman Corporal Liam “Fitz” Fitzpatrick. Along with private Bernard “Monty” Monteith, and with Sgt. Joe Haynes introduced in the second story, they make up a unit known as Ramsey's Raiders. The SRF take on long range missions, striking at key targets behind enemy lines.

Nicknamed “Ramsey's Ruffians” by their sister SRF team, they will take anything not nailed down if it will help a mission, from jerricans to a German PzB 39 anti-tank rifle, which they fit to the back of their jeep. Evans is more “by the book” and struggles to show the initiative that Jimmy expects of his team—so Jimmy pulls some strings to get them an “op” and throws Evans in at the deep end... only for Evans to show the same lack of initiative.

But Jimmy has talked with his opposite number on the rival team and talked into giving Evans another chance. Put in charge of Jeep number two again, will he be able to prove himself when faced with another major operation?

Anyone expecting the vast desert vistas of Lawrence of Arabia is going to be disappointed. The colouring is unremittingly dark and drab, as if everything happens at night, which it doesn't. Even in daytime scenes, the sky has faded only slightly to grey most of the time; at mid-day, the burning desert still only has a hint of blue (see top panel, right); and a "violent orange flame" (bottom) looks like a dying ember. Subtle colouring works on night-time scenes, but there needed more contrast between night and day.

That said, the story survives the muddy colouring. It harks back to the kind of wartime movie made in the 1940s and 1950s, the fish out of water newcomer who struggles at first but eventually finds his place in a team that then accepts him.Made up of the first two Ramsey's Raiders yarns originally published in Commando in 2005. In a break from the normal tradition for stories that were complete in themselves, Ramsey's Raiders was planned as a series, which meant that author Ferg Handley could introduce the characters over a number of issues. Where the first issue concentrates on the arrival of Gareth Evans, the second weaves the background of "Oz" Orwell into the story as the action moves from Africa to Sicily and his fractious relationship with the breezy, upper-class "Monty" comes to the fore.

The page size has been enlarged and, along with the new colouring, the episodes have also been re-lettered. Keith Page's original artwork has a confident simplicity that works well in colour; called upon to draw endless driving scenes in desert landscapes, often at night, Page still managed to imbue every panel with motion and action.

The book has Volume 1 printed on the spine, and I hope that D C Thomson has the confidence to continue to reprint the series, which ran for an initial 11 episodes, with more following over the years (and more adventures are promised for 2019), and also to take a look at other episodes of Commando that might be deserving of the same treatment... there are plenty of them.

Ramsey's Raiders Volume 1 by Ferg Handley & Keith Page. D. C. Thomson ISBN 978-1845-35747-4, 128pp, £14.99. Cover by Ian Kennedy. Available via Amazon.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Comic Cuts - 15 December 2018

Week two of my enforced employment is almost over and I'm actually enjoying the experience. Every day has presented me with some new challenge and while the subject matter might not be what I would normally choose to write (no comics companies covered so far!), the one thing it isn't is repetitive. Since last week's column I've covered companies offering express shipping and delivery, domestic and residential cleaning, flooring and pet-sitting.

Typically I would aim to write a thousand words  a day, but these pieces are averaging around 1,400—much of it, admittedly, supplied by the companies, but all of it has to be checked and there's quite a lot of new material to research, mostly relating the value of the business.

You never know what you might stumble upon, like the guy who set up a coffee chain after a career in acting in Canada which saw him appear in The X-Files, MacGyver and The Twilight Zone. Nowadays he is the head of operations in the UK. I've yet to find anyone with any comic or book connections that I can exploit for Bear Alley.

Some good news that I've not had a chance to mention before is the arrival of a copy of my Don Lawrence: A Scrapbook of Art and Illustration. This is a project I've had completed for some while, but circumstances conspired to delay the book, in no small part the pound crashing in the wake of the decision to leave the EU.

Because the book was full colour, it was necessary to print it abroad and ship it into the UK. The fall of the pound against the dollar meant that the print costs—paid in dollars—suddenly cost a lot more. The pound dropped from $1.48 to $1.29 in early July 2016, and again collapsed in October to $1.21. The exchange rate improved in early 2018, peaking in mid-April, since when it has dropped away once again. Today's rate is $1.26, which means that printing costs 15% more than it did two and a half years ago.

Hence the delay in printing until earlier this year.

Just to rub in the delay, I didn't realise the book was out! I didn't receive a copy until this week... I've had a few people asking after it and I've been saying that it was due soon. Well, it's definitely out now. The final version of the book is a little shorter than I'd planned, with some illustrations from the pages of Speed & Power not included in the printed book, but there had to be some trade-off between page count and an acceptable price.

I've also received copies of my latest Forgotten Authors book, the fourth, which completes the first series. When I decided to do this series, the idea was to update a bunch of old Bear Alley posts to bring them up to scratch—I've been running BA for twelve years now and when I was writing those early pieces, I didn't have access to some of the tools that Ancestry and Find My Past have made available... and I want to get the best out of what are two pretty hefty subscriptions (about £250 a year between the two).

The aim was to produce a book entitled Fifty Forgotten Authors. By the time I'd written up fifteen of them, I'd figured out that fifty was going to be too much for one book. I think my original estimate was that the fifty would run to 180,000 words. As it turned out, I think the total was 280,000 words, spread over four books. No wonder it took me a year to write... plus a couple of months, proof-reading, spell-checking, re-writing and designing. Still, four books in sixteen months isn't bad.

My TV viewing has been all but wiped out by working away from home. Where I used to watch shows at lunchtime and—as I didn't have to worry about what time I got up—as a way to relax just before going to bed, I'm now just watching a few things in the evening. It took until Thursday to catch up with the latest episode of Doctor Who, where we would normally have watched it Saturday or Sunday. We did see a couple of films over the weekend, including the excellent Mission Impossible: Fallout—why can't they make more thrillers like this?—and the OK but nothing special Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom—why do they have to make the plots so utterly predictable in films like this? You can't cover up poor writing with awe-inspiring special effects any more... we've seen too many dinosaurs to be impressed.

I've just started watching Mrs. Wilson, which got off to a fascinating start. I'm especially interested in this three-parter because it's based on the life of Alexander Wilson, who was one of the subjects in my first Forgotten Authors volumes, an author who may well have been a spy, as he claimed, but whose secret life hid multiple marriages and court cases. I'm a big fan of Ruth Wilson, who is playing Alison Wilson, her own grandmother, in the show—I thought she would make an excellent Doctor Who had Jodie Whittaker not won the role.

Sam Wilson (Ruth's brother) reveals a little more here.

More next week...

Friday, December 14, 2018

J F Weedon

J.F. WEEDON
by
Robert J. Kirkpatrick

J.F. Weedon worked for The Illustrated London News for many years in the 1880s and 1890s, while at the same time also illustrating around 17 children’s books, mainly historical stories, and several other books, yet he has been almost completely overlooked by the main reference sources. Her merits just two brief sentences in Simon Houfe’s The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists 1800-1914: “Illustrator of sporting subjects. He contributed to The Graphic (1888).” However, underlying this is a sordid tale of cruelty, adultery and bigamy.

He was born on 3 October 1846 in St. Pancras, London, and baptized, as Joseph Frederic (note the spelling) Weedon, on 14 November 1858 at St. George’s Church, Bloomsbury. His father, Joseph Henry Weedon, was a boot maker, born in 1826 (and who himself was baptized at the same church four days after his son). He had married Maria Garrett in 1846 – they had one other son, Frederick Joseph, born on 23 November 1849 and who was baptized along with his brother in 1858.

At the time of the 1851 census the family was living at 9 Harrison Street, St. Pancras. Joseph Frederick was clearly a talented artist, as he was recorded in the 1861 census, when he was only 15, working as a wood engraver, and living with his family at 12 Henrietta Street, Bloomsbury. In 1862, he was a prizewinner in the Oxford Local Exams (although it is not known which school he was attending) and in 1864 he won a prize at the North London Working Classes Industrial Exhibition, held at the Agricultural Hall, Islington.

Three years later, on 25 March 1867 at St. Pancras Old Church, he married Mary de Corbin, born in Brighton in 1848, and the daughter of Frederick de Corbin, an office porter. They went on to have nine children, all of whom died in early infancy apart from two: Alice Maud, born on 20 June 1867, and Ada, born on 10 May 1871 (and baptized 32 years later on 16 December 1903 at Christ Church, Holborn). The family moved about a bit: 14 Drummond Crescent, Euston Square (1867); Harrison Street; Gray’s Inn Road; and, in 1871, 2 Cloudesley Street, Islington, where Joseph was recorded in that year’s census as a “Draughtsman on wood.”  He was still working as an engraver in 1881, when he was living with his wife and children at 18 Isledon Road, Islington.

However, his marriage was then in serious trouble, as revealed when his wife filed for divorce on 3 August 1889. Her petition stated that he had “a violent temperament,” frequently “used coarse and offensive and threatening language,” and “on numerous occasions had assaulted and beaten her.” In September 1880 he committed adultery with an un-named woman, and as a consequence passed on an infection of venereal disease to his wife a month later; and in April 1886 he committed adultery with his wife’s sister, Ellen Copperthwaite. His wife also detailed various assaults, from 1888 onwards when they were living at 39 Oakfield Road, Finsbury Park. The end came in February 1889, when Joseph moved out of the family home and arranged for all the household furniture to be removed and sold. Mary Weedon was granted her divorce on 2 May 1890, with Joseph ordered to pay maintenance (although he failed to do so until at least 1894).

In the meantime, Joseph had moved on from engraving to producing illustrations in his own right. His earliest known work appeared in Harper’s Weekly in 1878. In 1882, he contributed to The Pictorial World, and it was also around this time that he began contributing to The Illustrated London News, continuing to do so until at least 1896. (This begs the question as to whether or not he was related to Edwin Weedon (1819-1873) who worked for The Illustrated London News for over 35 years). He also contributed to The Illustrated Naval and Military Magazine in 1885, and to The Graphic in 1888. Most of his illustrations for The Illustrated London News were of current events, such as royal visits, funerals, dramatic news items etc., although he also covered a few wars overseas (e.g. in Egypt and the Soudan).

His first book illustrations appeared in 1885, in a boys’ school story written by M.M. Pollard and published by the Religious Tract Society. He went on to illustrate at least another ten books for the Religious Tract Society, including three by Emma Leslie, alongside seven children’s books for the National Society’s Depository, by authors such as Esme Stuart, M. Bramston and Charlotte M. Yonge. He also became particularly associated with Percy Lindley, for whom he illustrated several travel books – for example Walks in the Ardennes, which was first published in 1887 and re-issued and revised at least four times. 

Other publications to which Weedon contributed were The Ludgate Monthly in 1891 and 1892, where he illustrated half a dozen or so short stories, and the Aldine Publishing Company’s My Queen Library in around 1900. He also designed a number of Christmas cards for Harding & Co. in the late 1880s, and he produced 12 paintings which were reproduced as colour lithograph posters, under the title "Temperance Pictorial Diagrams" for the United Kingdom Band of Hope Union in 1894, which were accompanied by a booklet, Abstinence and Hard Work, written by Charles Wakely.

In the meantime, his personal life had become a squalid mess. For some reason, in 1884 he started using the name Julian F. Weedon – a notice in The Morning Post (9 December 1884) referred to illustrations by Julian F. Weedon in the Christmas number of Life. (It is not clear what this periodical was – it was not the American Life, as none of the December issues contain a Weedon illustration). He was subsequently recorded in the Electoral Register as Julian Weedon living at 39 Oakfield Road, Finsbury Park, in 1888 and 1889, and in 1890 a revised edition of Percy Lindley’s Walks in the Ardennes credited Julian F. Weedon as the illustrator – previous editions had simply referred to J.F. Weedon. 1891 he contributed illustrations to The Ludgate Monthly under the same name. (There are no birth or baptism records for a Julian Weedon, neither does a Julian Weedon appear in any census return. Julian F. Weedon was clearly Joseph Weedon.)

On 5 July 1890 Julian F. Joseph Weedon married Beatrice Louise Annie Newton at Lambeth Register Office. They moved to Brook Villas, Loughton, Essex, and then, in 1891, to 9 Moultrie Terrace, George Lane, Woodford, Essex. Two months later, according to a petition for a judicial separation lodged by Beatrice on 1 February 1893, he began assaulting her. She detailed several more assaults – being punched, kicked and pushed down the stairs – until she left him in September 1892, although on the promise that he’d treat her “more kindly” she returned. However, the assaults continued, and she left him again in January 1893.

They appear to have been reconciled, because on 31 May 1900 The Daily Mail reported on an apparent case of theft, where William Creighton, the manager of an oyster bar, was charged with stealing two vases from a house in Goldsmith Road, Friern Barnet. His solicitor told the magistrate that Creighton’s wife had eloped with an artist, who had taken the vases, which belonged to Creighton, with him. Creighton had gone to the artist’s house, which had been left unlocked, simply to liberate his own property. A woman then stepped forward and told the magistrate that she was the wife of J.F. Weedon, an artist, and that he had disappeared. The police then stated that they believed the couple had gone to France. Creighton was discharged, and the magistrate said that he could do nothing about Weedon’s desertion of his wife.

In 1900, Julian Frederick Weedon was listed in the London Post Office Directory as having a studio at 41, Wych Street, Strand.

On 28 April 1902, Julian Frederick Weedon married Ella Harriett Biffen, the 27 year-old daughter of a clerk, at the Parish Church of Bishops Hatfield, Hertfordshire. The marriage certificate stated that Weedon was a bachelor, with his father named as Joseph Henry Weedon. Eighteen months later Weedon found himself sent for trial for bigamy, with The Morning Post (and a few other newspapers) referring to “Julian Frederick Weedon, a farmer, of Southgate Road, Enfield.”  Two weeks later, Weedon appeared at the Old Bailey, with The London Daily News (20 October 1903) reporting on “a terrible story of bigamy and cruelty…..” in “the case of Julian Frederick Weedon, aged 49, a well-educated black and white artist, who pleaded guilty to having committed bigamy by marrying Ella Harriett Biffen, a respectably connected young woman.” The court was told that
Weedon was first married in 1867, and lived with his wife until 1889, there being ten children. Then, in consequence of his conduct, by which she was for a time rendered deaf and blind, she divorced him. In 1890 he went through a form of marriage with another woman, and lived with her until 1899, but in consequence of his conduct she obtained a judicial separation.” Weedon, the court was then told, “became acquainted with a married woman, whom he induced to desert her husband, who, through this fact, took to drink and lost a good situation. He treated this woman brutally.” Weedon, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude, serving this at Dartmoor, and being released on 22 January 1906.

Apart from three minor discrepancies  –  Weedon was not a farmer, as initially reported; he was 57 years old in 1903, not 49; and he and his first wife had nine children, not ten – otherwise this ties in completely with everything else.

How he earned a living after his release is not known. His last illustrations appear to have been published in 1907, although they had probably been executed (and possibly published elsewhere) prior to this. Presumably, given his recent past, he was unable to find work, at least as an illustrator. A Joseph F. Weedon was recorded as having been discharged from the Holborn Workhouse on 15 March 1909, although his age was given as 72 (Weedon would have been 63). There is no trace of him in the 1911 census, although his wife was living at 1 Russell Road, Redlands, Bristol. In 1918, Weedon was recorded as living at 12 Beaconsfield Buildings, York Road, Islington. He subsequently appears to have moved to Bristol, where he died at Southmead Hospital on 24 May 1924, of pneumonia following a hernia operation. His home address was given as 5 Cecil Road, Clifton, Bristol, while his wife, who was present when he died, was living at 48 Upper Belgrave Road, Clifton. She later re-married, and died in 1965.


PUBLICATIONS

Books illustrated by J.F. Weedon
Robert Deane’s Mission: A Tale for the Young by M.M. Pollard, Religious Tract Society, 1885
The Boy Who Never Lost a Chance by Annette Lyster, Religious Tract Society, 1886
Through Stress and Strain: A Story of the Huguenot Persecution by Emma Leslie, Religious Tract Society, 1887
Walks in the Ardennes ed. by Percy Lindley, W.H. Smith & Son, 1887 (and revised and re-issued in 1888, 1890, 1891 and 1893)
Harry Lester’s Revenge by Alice Lang, Religious Tract Society, 1888
Tempted, or The Old Lady’s Prize by Harriette E. Burch, Religious Tract Society, 1888
The Making of a Hero: A Story of the Huguenots by Emma Leslie, Sunday School Union, 1888
Carried Off: A Story of Pirate Times by Esmè Stuart, National Society’s Depository, 1888
At Even-Tide: Texts for Quiet Moments, Book Society, 1888
Angel Voices on Life’s Pathway, Book Society, 1888
By Little and Little: A Tale of the Spanish Armada by Emma Leslie, Religious Tract Society, 1889
Aunt Selina’s Legacy: A Story for Children by Esmè Stuart, Religious Tract Society, 1889(?)
Dangerous Jewels by Mary Bramston, National Society’s Depository, 1890
Our Little Dots’ Picture Scrap Book, Religious Tract Society, 1890 (with other artists)
Walks in Epping Forest by Percy Lindley, 123-125 Fleet Street, (“new edition”) 1891 (with other artists)
A Hero in the Strife: A Tale of the Seventeenth Century by Louisa C. Silke, Religious Tract Society, 1892
The Cross Roads, or A Choice in Life: A Story for Young Women and Older Girls by Charlotte M. Yonge, National Society’s Depository, 1892
The Adventures of Denis by M. Bramston, National Society’s Depository, 1892
A Nest of Royalists by Esmè Stuart, National Society’s Depository, 1892
A Small Legacy: A Story for Children by Esmè Stuart, National Society’s Depository, 1892
Not One Of Us by anon. (Margaret Roberts), National Society’s Depository, 1892
Tried in the Fire by Louisa C. Silke, Religious Tract Society, 1893
Cigarette Papers for Holiday Smoking by Joseph Hatton, 30, Fleet Street, 1893 (with W.H. Margetson)
Walks in Belgium by Percy Lindley, 30 Fleet Street, 1894
Our Gracious Queen: Pictures and Stories from Her Majesty’s Life by Mrs O.F. Walton, Religious Tract Society, 1897 (with other artists)
The Victorian Album: A Record of Her Majesty’s Glorious Reign from Drawings, John Harrop, 1897
New Walks by the Rhine by Percy Lindley, 1898
Pictures and Stories from Queen Victoria’s Life by various authors, Religious Tract Society, 1901 (with other artists)
My Picture Story Book, Religious Tract Society, 1907

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Commando 5183-5186

Brand new Commando issues are out today! Featuring Lancaster raids over Germany, coward pilots on the Russian front, a chilly reception in the Falklands, and the mystery of a British traitor!

5183: Raid over Heilbronn
Among the snowy clouds above Germany hides many eager Me 109s waiting to poach a fat British Bomber! Iain McLaughlin weaves a tale of isolation and tension aboard a Lancaster on the long, fraught journey to its target. But will the men aboard W-for-William return from their bombing raid over Heilbronn?

Story | Iain McLaughlin
Art | Paolo Ongaro
Cover | Janek Matysiak

5184: Coward in the Cockpit
Imagine a pilot being frightened of the plane beneath him! Well, Sergeant Pilot Jack Warren might have had trouble performing in the cockpit, but once you got him on the ground with a captured Luger in his hand he was a different man! 

Story | Wilkinson
Art | Fleming
Cover | Buccheri
Originally Commando No. 280 (August 1967).

5185: The June Winter
Jason Cobley tackles the controversial action of the Falkland’s War in his second ever issue of Commando! Yomp with the marines of 3 Commando after entering a war on the other side of the world, where many didn’t understand why Britain was fighting so hard to keep the Falkland Islands… but they would find out.

Story | Jason Cobley
Art | Carlos Pino
Cover | Carlos Pino

5186: Mystery of the Sands
Lieutenant Chris Craven was a traitor! Or at least that’s what everyone had thought… For over fifty years, the mystery of Craven lay undiscovered in the North African desert but the men who served with him would finally learn the truth!

Story | CG Walker
Art | Gual
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 2894 (October 1995).

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Rebellion releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 12 December 2018.

2000AD Prog 2111
Cover: John Higgins
The Galaxy's Greatest Comic rounds out another storming year with a 100-page Xmas spectacular, featuring a stunning line-up of stories and creators. Judge Dredd tackles a sinister Christmas spirit in "Jingle All the Way"; Nolan Blake has to investigate a terrorist cell in Skip Tracer: "Louder Than Bombs"; vampire bounty hunter Durham Red takes down a criminal gang in "Three Gifts"; Celtic warrior Slaine learns a little of Ukko's nefarious past in "The Bogatyr"; Deadworld's survivors face down Judge Fear in "Running Scared"; something evil lurks in the woods in new folk-horror series "Thistlebone"; the master cult makes its move in Brink: "High Society"; the vampires take to the skies above WWI France in Fiends of the Western Front; and the supernatural series Caballistics, Inc. comes to a close with the final ever episode "Visiting Hour." Plus much more!

Judge Dredd: Jingle All the Way by TC Eglington (w) Boo Cook (a) Annie Parlhouse (l)
Caballistics, Inc.: Visiting Hour by Gordon Rennie (w) Dom Reardon (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Fall of Deadworld: Running Scared by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Skip Tracer: Louder Than Bombs by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
Sláine: The Bogatyr by Pat Mills (w) Chris Weston (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Brink: High Society by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Fiends of the Western Front by Ian Edginton (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Durham Red: Three Gifts by Alec Worley (w) Ben Willsher (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Sunday, December 09, 2018

W B Handforth

W.B. HANDFORTH
by
Robert J. Kirkpatrick

W.B. Handforth is something of an enigma. He illustrated around 50 books between 1879 and 1931, mainly children’s books, many of which were boys’ historical and adventure stories, yet he appears to have done hardly any work for periodicals. He also, at one point early in his career, described himself as a landscape artist, yet no paintings by him appear to have been recorded.

He was born on 2 May 1859 in Manchester, and christened William Bradshaw Handforth. His father, Mark Handforth (born in Didsbury, Cheshire, in 1831) was a cheese factor, who had married Clarissa Bradshaw (born in 1829 in Sheffield) in 1854. They had three children besides William: Mark Philip (born in 1857), Clarissa Mary (1864) and Henry Thomas (1866).

Shortly after William’s birth the family moved from Manchester to Chelford, Cheshire, where Mark became a general provision dealer. At the time of the 1881 census, when the family was living at The Woodlands, Knutsford Road, Chelford, Mark had become a cheese monger and his two older sons, Mark and William, were both working as assistant cheese mongers. Mark senior died on 26 July 1882, leaving an estate valued at £3,713 (around £355,500 in today’s terms), with probate granted to Mark and William, both described then as cheese and bacon factors.

This seems to have encouraged the brothers to abandon the business, with Mark junior emigrating to New Zealand in 1885, where he worked as an artist and carpenter, dying there in 1940. He was joined by his mother, who died there in 1913, and his brother Henry, who died there in 1940.

In the meantime, William Bradshaw Handforth studied at Manchester School of Art between 1884 and 1886. In 1887, in Prestwick, Manchester, he married Dora Weiss Harrison, born in Manchester on 13 August 1867 and the daughter of John Harrison, a music professor, and his wife Fanny, a music teacher. They immediately moved to Wales, where they had the first two of their three children: William, born in 1889, and Richard Eustace, born in 1889. In 1890, they were recorded at “Merrie Meade”, Llewelyn Road, Colwyn Bay; and in 1891 they were recorded at Tanyeaed, Chapel Street, Llandrillo yn Rhos, Conway, Denbighshire (employing a 13 year-old servant). At this time, William described himself in the census as an “Artist Landscape.” However, there are no online records of any of his paintings, either in terms of images or records of any being sold at auction.

By 1896 the family had moved back to Manchester, to 171 Upper Brook Street. Their third son, Philip Anthony, was born there in 1897.

William’s career as an illustrator appears to have begun in 1895, when he was one several artists who designed a cover page for The Studio. Two years later he illustrated a re-issue of Thomas Moore’s 1827 historical novel The Epicurean, published by Downey & Co. The following year, his illustrations appeared in two further Downey & Co. novels, a re-issue of Captain Mayne Reid’s The Scalp Hunters, and The Story of an Ocean Tramp by Charles Clark, and in Downey & Co.’s Christmas Annual. In 1899, he illustrated another sea-faring story for Downey & Co., Herbert Hamblen’s The Yarn of a Bucko Mate. He went on to illustrate many more similar novels for publishers such as The Religious Tract Society, George Routledge & Sons, the S.P.C.K., Henry Frowde, Blackie & Son, Hodder & Stoughton, Thomas Nelson & Sons, and, later, The Aldine Publishing Company. Amongst the authors whose books he illustrated were G.E. Farrow, R. Stead, John C. Hutcheson, Gordon Stables, A.L. Haydon, E. Harcourt Burrage, Frederick Harrison, J. Percy Groves, William Beckford, George Manville Fenn and Wingrove Willson, although he never became closely associated with any one author (or, indeed, any particular publisher). His last book illustrations appeared in 1931.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, he appears not to have been a regular contributor to periodicals. The only periodicals which are known to have featured his work were The English Illustrated Magazine (1906), The Boy’s Own Paper (1916), Young England (1917), The Children’s Companion (1923), and The Crusoe Mag. (1926).

At the time of the 1901 census, William and his family were living at La Maisonette, Warren Road, Chingford, Essex, with William described as an “Artist and Designer.” Ten years later, the family was as “Briarspatch,” Cliff Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, with William described as an “Artist, book and magazine illustrator.”

By 1939, when he was living with his wife at 29 Cliff Road, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, he had retired. He died, of a cerebral haemorrhage, at 29 Cliff Road on 13 October 1945. His wife remained at Cliff Road, and died at the General Hospital, Rochford, Essex, on 2 December 1955. An illustration credited to W.B. Handforth – a black and white halftone of Christ commanding some of his disciples to spread the gospel, appeared in an issue of The Bible and Our Times, an American Seventh Day Adventist magazine in May 1954. Presumably, this had been published somewhere else earlier, although when and where is not known.

How W.B. Handforth earned a living is something of a mystery. His income from his known illustrations would have been fairly meagre. He may have spent much of his career working as a designer, his work being uncredited, or he may have been comfortable living off his father’s legacy. Either way, he was a competent and moderately successful children’s illustrator who seems to have been completely forgotten.


PUBLICATIONS

Books illustrated by W.B. Handforth
The Epicurean by Thomas Moore, Downey & Co. Ltd., 1897 (re-issue)
The Scalp Hunters: A Romance of Northern Mexico by Captain Mayne Reid, Downey & Co. Ltd., 1898
The Story of an Ocean Tramp by Captain Charles Clark, Downey & Co. Ltd., 1898
The Christmas Tree, Downey & Co., 1898 (with other artists)
The Yarn of a Bucko Mate: His Adventures in Two Oceans by Herbert Elliott Hamblen, Downey & Co. Ltd., 1899
Ellie and Her Cousins by Mabel Quiller-Couch, Henry Frowde, 1908
The Golden Touch by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Frowde, 1908 (re-issue)
Rainbow Gold by G.E. Farrow, Henry Frowde, 1908
Adventures Ashore and Afloat by various authors, Religious Tract Society, 1908(?) (re-issue)
Kinsman and Namesake: A Story of the Days of Henry IV by R. Stead, Blackie & Son, 1909
The Mystery of the Ash Tree by Mary Frances Outram, Religious Tract Society, 1909
Fritz and Eric, or The Brother Crusoes by John C. Hutcheson, Hodder & Stoughton, 1909 (re-issue)
The Cruise of the Snowbird: A Story of Arctic Adventure by Gordon Stables, Oxford University Press, 1910 (re-issue)
Norman’s Inheritance, or The Young Crusaders by Edith C. Kenyon & Rev. R.G. Soans, Religious Tract Society, 1910(?) (re-issue)
The Quest of the “Wild Swan” by A.L. Haydon, Sunday School Union, 1911
The Twin Castaways by E. Harcourt Burrage, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1911
Ernest Hepburn, or Revenge and Forgiveness by H.C. Adams, Religious Tract Society, 1911(?) (with Ernest Prater) (re-issue)
The Buccaneers of the Spanish Main by Albert M. Hyamson, George Routledge & Sons, 1912
Young Salts by William Charles Metcalfe, S.P.C.K., 1912
The Treasure Finders: A Forest Story by Mary Rowles Jarvis, Religious Tract Society, 1912
Thrilling Tales of Great Events, Re-told from Survivors’ Narratives by Walter Wood, George Routledge & Sons, 1912
By Pluck and Luck: A Story of Adventure by Frederick Harrison, S.P.C.K., 1912
The Fortunes of Harold Borlase: A Story of the Days of Blake by John Garaeme, S.P.C.K., 1912
The Lost Exile: A Tale of Siberia by Gertrude Hollis, S.P.C.K., 1912
Vathek: An Arabian Tale by William Beckford, George Routledge & Sons, 1912 (re-issue)
Tarbucket and Pipe-Clay: The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Brodribb, Middy and Marine by J. Percy Groves, Hodder & Stoughton, 1913 (re-issue)
English Officers of the Nineteenth Century by Cyril Scudamore, George Routledge & Sons, 1913
Blue Jackets, or The Log of the Teaser by George Manville Fenn, Henry Frowde, 1913 (re-issue)
The Swiss Family Robinson by W.H.G. Kingston, George Routledge & Sons, 1914 (with John Gilbert) (re-issue)
(re-issue)
The School of Arms: Stories of Boy Soldiers and Sailors by Ascott R. Hope, George Routledge & Sons, 1915
The Ideal Home: How to Find It, How to Furnish It, How to Keep It by Matilda Lees-Dodds, George Routledge & Sons, 1915 (with Sybil Tawse)
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, George Routledge & Sons, 1917(?) (re-issue)
The Ordeal of Ann Curtis by Alice Askew, Jarrolds, 1918 (dustwrapper)
True Stories of the Water Folk by Mable Marlowe, George G. Harrap & Co., 1921
Kevin and the Cats by K.F. Purdon, S.P.C.K., 1921
Comrade by E.L. Haverfield, Religious Tract Society, 1923 (with H.M. Rhodes) (re-issue)
Little Robin Gray by Edith C. Kenyon, Religious Tract Society, 1924 (re-issue)
Scouts of the Prairie ed. by Wingrove Willson, Aldine Publishing Co., 1925 (with other artists)
Peter Lawson, Wolf-cub, or The Mystery of Redcroft Farm by H.B. Davidson, “Children’s Companion” Office, 1926
The Sioux of St. Jude’s by Wingrove Willson, Goodship House, 1926
Nan and the Rest by Edna Lake, Religious Tract Society, 1927
The Merry Men of Sherwood by various authors, Goodship House, 1927 (with other artists)
Bright and Breezy Stories by Uncle Reg, Epworth Press, 1928
Jolly Stories of School Life and Brave Deeds for Boys by various authors, Epworth Press, 1928
Jolly Stories for Girls: Tales of School Life and Brave Deeds by various authors, Epworth Press, 1929
A Convict: The Story of an Indian Hillman by Ernest Bell Sharpe, Church Missionary Society, 1931

Friday, December 07, 2018

Comic Cuts - 7 December 2018

This week has seen me return to work after a break of about twenty months, during which I've written four published books—the Forgotten Authors series—finished up a fifth book that appeared a while back but which I've yet to see—the Don Lawrence Scrapbook—and written up 40,000 words of notes for the Valiant index, that I'm hoping to get back to in the future.

What you have to understand is that, busy as I am, none of these projects will earn me a huge income. I self-publish a lot of books and will keep them in print for as long as I can, which means they will be earning me a higher rate than a royalty payment for their lifespan. But—and it's a big but—I'm also my own author, editor, designer and publisher, which slows down the whole process as I swap hats over the course of a book's creation. Frankly, if I was to hire in an editor or designer to do the work, the books I've produced over the past seven or so years would be uneconomical.

While I hope that I will earn a reasonable amount over the lifetime of a book—I'll still (I hope) be earning a few quid every month from them well into my retirement years—that doesn't help me pay the rent this month, or next month, or the month after that. Hence the reason why I'm back in gainful employ for a while, so I can build up my savings to a level where I can risk (and it is a risk) writing another book that won't be troubling the best-seller lists, but which I'll enjoy writing.

After a couple of months looking for something suitable, I was offered some work that will keep me going into the early months of next year. It's for a company I've worked for previously—most recently in 2015-17 editing a trade paper, Hotel Business, on a part-time basis and, prior to that, I've  worked for on-and-off—more the latter than the former—dating back to 1991.

The company has changed greatly over the years, from producing a dozen or so cheap-and-cheerful 'Mart' titles, to a well-oiled operation that publishes 40 consumer and trade (B2B) magazines, plus about the same number of website operations. Most of the magazines are specialist titles relating to crafts (Mel has worked in that area for many years), health, food and gardening. (Nothing like the line-up when I started, which included such titles as Caravan Mart, Boat Mart, Gun Mart, Paintball International and the much missed Comic World, which is where I started!) Last September, the company was taken over by DC Thomson, so I'm now working for the same company that's behind The Beano and Commando. I'm probably the only person working here who has (a) written comic strips for the company; and (b) licensed books from them (the now out-of-print Arena and Frontline UK). Now they're paying my wages... so thank you DCT.

This branch of the company runs a couple of mags and websites dedicated to franchising, a subject I know almost nothing about. When Hotel Business folded in January 2017, I wrote a handful of articles for one of the franchise magazines, but that was my total contact with the subject until this week.

Now I'm an expert on a bunch of different companies and business types. I'm writing company profiles for one of the websites at the rate of around one a day and the first five have included a business mentoring company, a pet food supplier, a home care specialist, a van-based mobile coffee supplier and an express package delivery outfit.

Adjusting to working in-house has been interesting. I'm heading out of the house in the dark and getting back in the dark, so there have been a few surprises along the way. Our landlady had the front of the house repainted and I didn't know anything about it until Thursday, when I left the house a bit later than usual.

I was dog-tired the first three days and in bed by ten on Wednesday night—which is almost unheard of, as I was always a bit of a night owl. I'm having breakfast again rather than waiting until eleven to have brunch and a break. On the plus side, I'm finishing work at 5:30pm  and not worrying about it until 9:00 the following morning.

I'm lugging my laptop in every day as it's the only bit of kit I have to play music on. I tried it through the computer I have been given but the ear phones could barely reach the socket and I had to sit with my head lop-sided, which was very painful on the neck. I tried balancing the computer on piles of books (the office is full of nice hardback cookery books) but gave up when I nudged the computer and it almost slid off the platform I'd made. I managed to pull the power cord out the back, which caused a minute of panic until I realised what I'd done. I'm not sure what everyone else in the office makes of  my occasional sniggering at podcasts or head-bobbing to music. I've always played music or podcasts while I work as it blurs out any background noise and, having worked on my own for most of the past thirty years, I'm easily distracted when I'm working with other people.

I'm writing this Thursday afternoon from my desk in the office and you should be able to read this on Friday morning as usual. I may have to shuffle things around a little bit in the future... I enjoy writing these columns and hopefully the work won't get in the way. But I might have to move them so that they're posted on Sunday or Monday. Robert has said that he still has some artists to cover in his regular artist bio. series, but that, too, might move to a different day. I've found it quite difficult to keep on top of e-mail, although hopefully that situation will resolve itself as I get used to my new life-work balance. What hasn't helped has been quite a few orders and notifications of Ebay sales arriving early in the week when I'm unable to do anything about them as there isn't a nearby post office.

The only other negative is the temperature. The offices are kept so warm that by mid-afternoon I'm feeling quite dozy. I'm used to an office with no insulation and dressing up to keep warm, not stripping down to a t-shirt every morning and still finding myself sweating.

Other than that, everything seems to be chugging along nicely. It has been nice to bump into some old friends and make some new ones. You can't ask for better than that.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Rebellion releases (2000AD)

Releases from Rebellion for 5 December 2018.

2000AD Prog 2010
Cover: Chris Weston
Incredible SF action from the Eisner-nominated UK anthology! Everything wraps up in the final regular issue of the year - hitmen Sinister Dexter battle an underground villain in "The Sea Beneath the City"; Gene the Hackman faces the dawn of a brave new world in the finale to Kingdom: "Alpha and Omega"; Bridget Kurtis gets closer to the heart of the conspiracy in Brink: "High Society"; and in a complete Dredd thriller a medical experiment has serious side effects in "Trial by Fire"!


JUDGE DREDD: TRIAL BY FIRE by Rory McConville (w) PJ Holden (a) Jim Boswell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRINK: HIGH SOCIETY by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
KINGDOM: ALPHA AND OMEGA by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Abigail Bulmer (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
SINISTER DEXTER: THE SEA BENEATH THE CITY by Dan Abnett (w) Steve Yeowell (a) John Charles (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Cover reveal: Forgotten Authors vol.4

Here's the cover for the upcoming Forgotten Authors Volume 4, which should be available very, very soon. UPDATE: It's available NOW!


Saturday, December 01, 2018

Ernest Hasseldine

ERNEST HASSELDINE
by
Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Ernest Hasseldine was jobbing illustrator, mainly of children’s books and periodicals, much of whose work remains unrecorded and unidentified. He was best-known in his home town of Harpenden, Hertfordshire, as a painter and designer between 1908 and 1944.

He was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, on 20 June 1875 – his father, Joseph, was a boot maker, born in Raunds, Northamptonshire, 1846, who had married Sarah Brawn, born in Winwick, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, in 1845, at Great Gidding, Huntingdon, on 29 April 1872. Ernest was the second of their four children.

The family moved to London some time after 1881, being recorded in the 1891 census at 39 Douglas Road, Willesden, with Joseph working as a commercial traveller, and Ernest working as an architect’s clerk. He became active in the local Wesleyan Juvenile Missionary Association and its school. He subsequently trained as an artist, although where and when is not known. At the time of the 1902 census, he was living (occupying a single room) at 6 Messina Avenue, Hampstead, working as an artist and designer.

Later that year he married Edith Mary Barrett, born on 23 September 1874 in Hampstead. They went on to have two children: Edith Marjorie, born on 25 July 1903, and Howard Ernest, born on 17 July 1906.

As an illustrator, Hasseldine’s earliest-known work was a series of illustrations for David Hobbs’s A Noble Champion, published by S.W. Partridge & Co. in 1902. In 1905, Hasseldine resigned from his work with the Wesleyan Missionary Association, because of ill-health, and moved to Harpenden, Hertfordshire, settling at Melrose Cottage, St. James Road. He immediately became active in local affairs, beginning with the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Leyton Road, where for a while he was the Co-Superintendent of the Sunday school and a member of the Sunday School Council, being appointed Superintendent of the School in 1915 (although again ill-health meant he had to resign in late 1917).

In the meantime, he had been working as both an artist, mainly in watercolours, and as an illustrator. Between 1907 and 1920 he illustrated at least nine children’s books, including two boy’s stories written by J. Harwood Panting and published by Frederick Warne & Co., two adventure stories published by S.W. Partridge & Co., and five titles issued by the Aldine Publishing Company.

During the First World War he was commissioned by the Church Army to produce posters appealing for funds to help Britain’s troops. He later did similar work for the Salvation Army and the South London Mission in Bermondsey. He became a member of the committee which raised funds for Harpenden’s Nursing Centre and, later, the Field House Hospital. In 1920 he designed the Harpenden War Memorial Cross, which was placed on Church Green. Ten years later, he became a founder-member of the Harpenden Preservation Society, and designed the Harpenden Sign, to commemorate the coronation of King George VI in May 1937. (The sign was replaced in 1949).

Although he was a keen painter, with a passion for landscapes and local scenes, often commissioned by local residents, most of Hasseldine’s income came from illustration. Much of this was religious in nature. It is known that for many years he provided illustrations for periodicals issued by the Harmsworth Press, including Arthur Mee’s The Children’s Encyclopaedia, although much of his work remains to be identified. Between 1923 and 1925 he illustrated 13 titles written by Rev. W.T. Balmer for the Atlantis Press and distributed in Africa – these were basic readers written in both English and African languages.

In around 1927 he and his wife moved to 12 Elliswick Road, Harpenden, although in 1928 they were also recorded in the Electoral Register at 102 Belsize Road, Camden, London. They later, in around 1935, moved to 33 Fairmead Avenue, Harpenden, and in 1941 they moved again, to 4 Overstone Road, Harpenden.

Hasseldine’s last work appeared in Ballads of Bermondsey, published by the Epworth Press in 1943. He died a year later, on 27 October 1944, at the Harpenden Auxiliary Hospital, after a short illness, leaving an estate valued at just £1,911. His wife subsequently went to live with her sister Eleanor Barrett at 27 Overstone Road, where she died on 14 June 1954.



PUBLICATIONS

Compiled by Ernest Hasseldine
War Cartoons, New Zealand Bible, Tract & Book Society, 1917
The Fairy Fiddler   1917(?)
The Fairy Horsemen,  1918(?)

Illustrated by Ernest Hasseldine
A Noble Champion by David Hobbs, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1902
The Hero of Garside School by J. Harwood Panting, Frederick Warne & Co., 1907
The Two Runaways by J. Harwood Panting, Frederick Warne & Co., 1908
Dick’s Daring, or The Secret of Toulon by Arthur Holland Biggs, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1909
Alison’s Quest, or The Mysterious Treasure by Florence Bone, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1910
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Aldine Publishing Co, 1910(?) (re-issue)
Fairy Stories from France, Aldine Publishing Co., 1917(?)
Old World Stories, Aldine Publishing Co., 1918 (Tales for Little People)
The Story of the Shepherds, with other New Testament Tales by Rev. J. Crowle-Smith, Aldine Publishing Co., 1919
Old World Stories from the Old Testament by Rev. J. Crowle-Smith, Aldine Publishing Co., 1919
Princes: White and Black by Basil Matthews, Aldine Publishing Co., 1922
The Story of Robinson Crusoe, Retold Especially for Young Folk by Wingrove Willson, Aldine Publishing Co., 1922
The Story of Ulysses, Aldine Publishing Co., 1922 (Tales for Little People)
“City of Laughter, City of Tears”: A Record of Christian Work in the Slums, The South London Mission, 1922
The Law of the Friend by W.T. Balmer, Atlantis Press, 1924
Hutchinson’s Picturesque Europe by Walter Hutchinson, Hutchinson & Co., 1925  (with other artists)
Tales of God’s Packmen by Edwin W. Smith, British & Foreign Bible Society, 1928
The Glory in the Garret by Walter Spencer, Epworth Press, 1932
Ballads of Bermondsey by Leslie Davison, Epworth Press, 1943

Friday, November 30, 2018

Comic Cuts - 30 November 2018

After a couple of frustrating months, I've now found some work that will keep me going into the new year. I'm not sure whether I can talk about it... I'm basically writing company profiles for a new website based around the franchising business. As it hasn't been announced in any way, I'll keep it at that.

The work is going to be intense and I'm also going to be working in-house, so for the next few months Bear Alley is going to have to take a back seat. I'll do what I can, when I can, and try to keep things rolling along smoothly – this site is, after all, the gateway to Bear Alley Books and I want people to keep buying my books!

My ability to answer correspondence is going to take a hit. If I don't respond straight away, don't panic. I will get to... whatever it is.

I had a meeting on Monday where the project was outlined in detail and we all shook hands. I had to hop on a bus to get home and was so engrossed in the book I was reading that I almost missed my stop. I bounced down the stairs at top speed to get off, but thankfully someone had been waiting to get on and I wasn't driven away.

I was quite fired up and sat down to finish off one of the two essays I'd started for the next Forgotten Authors book. There wasn't a great deal left to do, so I managed to finish it off that afternoon. One down, one to go.

Toshiba 3tb
Woke up Tuesday with a knackered knee. It felt fine while I walked in a straight line, but putting weight on it to walk up a step or up stairs was quite painful. All I can think is that I pulled a tendon or ligament while rushing to get off the bus on Monday. (I had to look up the difference, which is basically this: tendons attach muscle to bone, ligaments attach bone to bone.) I suspect what I'd pulled was one of the tendons in my knee joint.

I have one of those heat packs that you can microwave, so I spent most of Tuesday with that wrapped around my knee. It worked... I could barely feel any problems on Wednesday, and by Thursday there were no twinges at all.

On Tuesday the two external hard drives I ordered arrived. One of my back-up drives stopped working a few weeks ago, but I managed to cobble together enough space on smaller drives that I had retired but which were still working. Because a lot of what I do involves high res images, I have always required a lot of external storage. I don't remember the size of the first external drive I had but I'm guessing 250mb. Back in around 1994, we used a 100mb zip drive to take digital copies of colour pages and covers for Comic World to a Repro company in Coggeshall that ran the pages out as film, which was then sent by Red Star up to the printers up in Yorkshire.

Happy days!

I've always tried to be sensible about doing back-ups for everything I do. I did have one disaster many years ago which cost me a lot of heartache. I'd digitally recorded all my old vinyl LPs and had them stored on a hard drive; I also had other work backed up onto that drive and a second hard drive. Being small, the two overlapped but also had files on them the other drive didn't have. Both drives failed within a week of each other. One was utterly dead... I lost the whole of my book about Sci-Fi Art, published back in 2009 – all the text, all the images, all my notes, unused scans... all gone.

Thankfully, we managed to recover everything on the second drive, although it was touch and go. So I got my music back.

Toshiba 5tb
Since then, every back up has a mirror. I buy new drives in pairs, working on the theory that if one breaks, the other is just as old and may also be on its last legs. I retire the working drive and hopefully will never have to use it again. However, if the same thing that happened this time happens again, I will at least have a working drive to make an emergency back up.

I'm retiring a 3tb drive, along with one of the 1tb drives that have been standing in for the past three weeks., although I will keep them all safely stored. (The other 1tb I'm using to back-up Mel's computer... just in case.)

Everything from the 3tb is being shunted over to two 5tb drives and the data from the 5tb is moving to a pair of 6tb drives. That's two sixes, two fives, a three and two ones. Roughly 25 terabytes of external storage (because a 6 is actually nearer 5½, and a 5 nearer 4½). That may sound like a vast amount of space, but you'd be surprised at how quickly it can be filled. I have 1½ terabytes of images from my days at Look and Learn still stored, 2tb of TV, radio and music that I've recorded, 1tb of back-ups from my computer dating back to 2013. Because I back everything up twice, that's 9tb used up already, and we haven't yet started on all the scans or comics and book covers and the accumulated junk that has been copied from one computer to another since I got my first PC back in 1989. That PC had a 30mb (megabyte, not gigabyte) hard drive and the guy selling it to me said "You'll never need to buy another computer with a hard-drive that size!"

I'm writing this on Thursday evening, with drives that have been working away in the background for over 48 hours now. I'm not even half way through juggling the data between them: I have one of the 6tb drives done; and one of the 5tb drives is getting close to being done. But I still have the other two drives to do.

The click and ticking has been the constant background noise to finishing off the other essay that I'd left half completed a while back when distractions got the better of me. The daft thing is that I was fairly close to finishing it and I had it all done and spell-checked by end of play Wednesday. That brings the current total for the fifth Forgotten Authors volume up to four finished essays of around 28,000 words. Still a long way to go and I'm unlikely to be able to work on any more for a while.

My TV watching this week has mostly involved old episodes of Columbo – I found a box set of season two and it has some classic episodes, one of them written by hard boiled novelist Jonathan Latimer (Solomon's Vineyard et al) and episodes starring Honor Blackman of The Avengers and Goldfinger, Anne Baxter, who was Eve in All About Eve and starred in the classic film noir The Blue Gardenia, and Leonard Nimoy of Mission: Impossible and this episode of Columbo fame.

Much as I love Columbo, better still was Counterpart, which has a science fiction premise at its centre but plays out like a spy thriller. Thirty years ago, our world diverged from a parallel world which continues to grow ever different from the point of divergence but which has somehow remained connected to our reality. A crossing point exists between the two worlds, which also shares information through an interface, run covertly by employees of the United Nations.

These differences are personified by Howard Silk (J. K. Simmons), a lowly interface operative, forever looked over for promotion, on one side meets his counterpart, a forceful, knowledgeable field agent who has travelled between the two realities. In operator Silk's reality, his wife (Olivia Williams) is in hospital following a hit and run accident, while agent Silk's wife is part of a group investigating a plan to replace people with their counterparts as part of a wider conspiracy.

I thought it was gripping. With something like this, there's the worry that you might become lost in the plot or find it hard to distinguish between the two worlds or two characters who are the same person. Believe me, you won't have any problems. The worlds and the characters have had thirty years to diverge and never the twain shall meet.

The show has an incredible central performance by J. K. Simmons playing two versions of the same character, a weak man who hardens as he discovers things about his family and the family he never had, and a hard man who softens as he realises what he has had and has lost. Sorry to be a bit airy fairy over this, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone who follows up my hearty recommendation to track this down and watch it.

I didn't realise that the show is a year old and that the second season is just about to start in the US in a matter of days.

You may notice that I'm rambling as this is possibly the last time I'll be able to do so for a while. I'm sat here listening to The Comedian's Comedian podcast interview with the Elves of QI's No Such Thing as a Fish, tidying up a handful of scans which will appear below. I find it incredibly relaxing, probably because it's something I can do relatively quickly. Most of what I've been doing for the past few years can take days if not weeks to research and write up; a cover scan on the other hand – as long as the book is not too beaten up – might take fifteen minutes to clean. I try to take out the bumps, creases and rusting, realign the artwork so it's straight and adjust the colour so that it looks fresh off the printing presses.

At the end of fifteen minutes, I've got something that looks 100% better than when I started, which is extremely satisfying. I've just tidied up six covers in an hour and pasted them up into pairs, so here they are... our random scans for the week, chosen because I had more than one scan and it seemed like a good chance to pick the best and dump the others before I do another back-up. Enjoy...