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BEAR ALLEY BOOKS
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Friday, January 19, 2007

In the Post

This will be rather briefer than I intended as we had a bit of a weather-related surprise: a tree fell down in our next door neighbours garden and broke through our fence. There wasn't a huge amount of damage, although it landed with enough force to break the ground around the roots of one of the apple trees in our garden. Hopefully not enough damage to force us to have the tree removed but we shall have to wait and see.

A couple of books and magazines have arrived in the post recently.

First off the bat -- and rather late as it actually arrived a while ago -- is the Winter 2006 issue of Eagle Times. This has the usual mixture of features and stories (the latter, adapting old radio scripts starring PC 49 have been a regular for some time now). The 'Frank Hampson's Locations' series continues with photographs of buildings relating to the Frank Hampson saga which, it must be said, is interesting to a hardcore fan like myself but would probably mystify anyone coming to the magazine for the first time; there's a photo of a Dan Dare Space Cup; articles on pop music during the days of Eagle and a Home Service wireless science programme, 'The World of Movement' broadcast in 1950; tributes to Peter Ling and Nando Tacconi; part 2 of a series on Dick Barton, this episode concentrating on the Dick Barton, Special Agent book published in 1950 plus extracts from the notebook of Pat Hetherington who enjoyed the show so much she kept shorthand notes of all the plots; Roger Perry offers a typically forthright piece on Marcus Morris; there's some examples of Frank Hampson's work in Meccano Magazine; Geoffrey Bond discusses Sanders of the River; and David Gould looks back at the 20th Eagle Society Weekend in Salisbury. Something for all tastes as long as your tastes are firmly esconsed in the 1950s. Over the years, the editorial team have attempted to move away from the Dan Dare-centric magazine of the past and cover a broader range of topics, albeit with a glancing connection with the old Eagle. For this they've taken the occasional knock from folks who want "All-Eagle, all the time" but I find most of the extracarricular material interesting as it helps put Eagle into the context of the era -- very useful for someone who was only old enough to read comics when Eagle was on its last legs.

Eagle Times is available by subscription (£22 UK, £26 overseas surface, £29 overseas airmail) from Keith Howard, 25A Station Road, Harrow, Middlesex RA1 2UA.

Dime Novel Round-Up (no. 702, December 2006) contains a lengthy bibliographical piece on the Australian magazine Once-a-Week (1881-94) written by Toni Johnson-Woods, who is an academic with a taste for popular fiction, ranging from the story paper/dime novel days to the Aussie hard-boiled novels of the 1950s/60s. She's the author of a splendid Pulp: A Collector's Book of Australian Pulp Fiction Covers (2004) and Blame Canada! South Park and Contemporary Culture (2006) and lists "flirting behaviour" as one of the subjects she's interested in studying. What more can you say? Except, maybe, stop reviewing the author and start reviewing the essay. It's good, solid coal-face research into an area I know nothing about which is always interesting and the list of serials (nearly all reprinted from American magazines of the era) is comprehensive.

Dime Novel Round-Up is available by subscription ($20 a year) from J. Randolph Cox, PO Box 226, Dundas, MN 55019, USA.

The latests issue of Book and Magazine Collector (no. 278, February 2007) has interesting articles on Posy Simmonds and Ernest Aris, the latter especially interesting as it reminds me how much Aris influenced the artists who drew anthropomorphic animal tales for the nursery comics of the 1950s. Beatrix Potter was also an influence, no doubt, but her illustrations were rather wishy-washy watercolours; Aris, by comparison, produced far more robust characters. You can certainly see his influence in the work of Philip Mendoza, who was the artist most called upon to produce the kind of illustrations Aris also produced. Some day I'll try to get some scans of the work of both artists for comparison.

Last but not least, a copy of Mother Tells You How just arrived. This is another collection from the pages of Girl (as was the recent The Best of Girl) but this time dedicated to a single strip which ran in the magazine between 1952-60. This is an essential buy if you've yet to master the art of washing up or making your bed; for some, it will just go to show what a condescending paper Girl could be. Girl was not even of its time in many respects; the majority of young girls growing up in post-war Britain were not like Judy, the heroine of the strip who hangs on mother's every word as she prepares her for a thoroughly middle-class life. There's lots of crocheting, patching up, needlework, cleaning and tidying on offer; other strips are indeed practical and useful -- treating cuts and burns, various cooking tips -- but the majority would have been alien to the majority of readers... I wonder how many would have a burning desire to make raffia hats or plant pot covers?

With the benefit of hindsight, the book will keep readers in fits of giggles and it's a great book to dip into during moments of boredom -- like when you're waiting for Blogger to upload pictures. I've been enjoying it immensely.

The book is published by Prion Books on 5 February.

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