Friday, August 31, 2007

Sabre Library

A query comes my way via the comments from Crow who asks "Any chance of an article about Commandos poorer cousin, Sabre Library?"

Well... um... yes, but I don't know a lot. I don't have any copies of the various Sabre libraries and, as far as I'm aware, there's no checklist of titles. Over the years I've jotted down any information I've stumbled across but that isn't much and some of the info. is a bit confusing.

There were four Sabre Library titles, each with a Sabre Library sabre logo. The original publisher was Sabre Publishing who were an offshoot of Brown Watson Ltd., a paperback publisher which had been running since the 1940s. Brown Watson published a lot of books under the imprint Digit Books between 1956 and 1967. Their big moneyspinner was a Western author called J. T. Edson whose books were recycled constantly. When Digit came to an end as an imprint, Brown Watson launched Sabre Western and reprinted many of Edson's titles again. Edson's contract was then bought by Corgi Books and, in 1968, Sabre Western became Sabre Books, although still an imprint of Brown Watson Ltd.

I suspect that the Sabre Library titles were also produced by Brown Watson in 1971 (they were shortly to relaunch as paperback publishers under the Flamingo Books imprint), although it may be that the line was sold to New English Library who, I believe, distributed the books.

The four titles were Sabre Library: Romantic Stories in Pictures, Sabre Library: Thriller Stories in Pictures, Sabre Library: War Stories in Pictures and Sabre Library: Western Stories in Pictures. All four titles were launched in 1971 at 6p but I've no idea how many titles appeared each month. All the stories were reprints of Spanish strips.

I don't think this series lasted very long, perhaps only a matter of months if more than one title was published in each series per month. If not, I'm guessing they lasted perhaps eighteen months.

However, they then seem to have been picked up by another company (or maybe the same company under a different name), Librus Ltd. Now, I'm not sure when this occurred, but there seems to be a gap in the numbering that I know of and the libraries may have started numbering again from 50 rather than going back to number 1 or even picking up where the previous series had ended. I say this cautiously as the lists I have are only a smattering of titles and not all them dated.

I'm not even sure if the Romance series was continued. I've not heard of any later titles.

The Thriller, War and Western series definitely continued, relaunched in either 1973 or 1974. Both War and Western continued until at least 1977: the last issue numbers I know of are: Thriller - 98 (1975); War 151 (1977) and Western 185 (1977).

The other interesting thing with these later issues as I've not seen a number duplicated and there's a chance that the books were intermingled as part of a single line of titles. However, it could be a simple case of lack of information that makes it appear that they're all one line.

And that, I'm afraid, is all I know. If anyone has a stack of these rather obscure libraries to hand, perhaps they would like to jot down a list of titles and publications dates and drop me a line.

Update: 2 September

More info rolls in care of Jeremy Briggs who sent along a scan of the above issue. It's later than the last issue I had listed -- no. 157. This was published by Euredit of Barcelona, printed in Spain and distributed by Independent Magazines Ltd., 181 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 4DD. Copyright is 1978 and the war issues were being published at the rate of three a month. Could be that by this time they were only publishing the war title.

(* The pic at the top comes from this New Zealand trading site.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Harry Rountree

New Zealand-born artist Harry Rountree (1878-1950) was a hugely popular cartoonist who contributed to Punch, Radio Times, The Tatler and many other magazines. And, so I discovered today, The Children's Newspaper. 'The Rescue' appeared in the 28 January 1939 issue.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Moon Stallion

Jeremy Briggs makes a welcome return (and I can watch Heroes tonight!) with a look at a previously unrecorded telefantasy comic adaptation...


In 1995 Time Screen fanzine published a guide by Andrew Pixley to British Telefantasy In Comics. In it they listed all the comics which had comic strips of British television programmes such as Doctor Who, Thunderbirds, The Avengers and Robin Of Sherwood, amongst many others. The list has since been put onto the net and more than a decade later it still stands tall as the definitive work on the subject.One of the reasons that it is so well regarded is that there have been very few omissions discovered in it. The best known omission, then unknown to the wider telefantasy community, was the short lived comic strip in The Beezer of the black and white science fiction puppet series Space Patrol which has since been well documented on the Space Patrol website and added to the online version of the Time Screen listing. So when I picked up a copy of IPC's Tammy comic recently, amongst a selection of other totally unrelated comics, I was surprised to open it and find a comic strip of the BBC TV series The Moon Stallion.

The Moon Stallion was broadcast on BBC1 on Sunday afternoons in November and December 1978, and repeated in June and July 1980. It was written by Brian Hayles, the creator of Doctor Who's Ice Warriors and the planet Peladon, and starred amongst others a young Sarah Sutton, three years before she would become the Doctor's companion Nyssa. This six part series told the story of the blind Diana Purcell who moves to the Vale of the White Horse and her midnight adventures with a ghostly stallion. The white horse in this case is the Bronze Age White Horse of Uffington which is a real chalk carving in Oxfordshire.

The series is well remembered by those who saw it but, since it has never been released on DVD and only released as a cut down video version in the early days of BBC Video (on both VHS and Betamax), it is not that well known a series. Indeed the only piece of contemporary related merchandise was thought to be the paperback novelisation by the original script writer which was released by Mirror Books in November 1978. Since this novelisation was included in the Time Screen Telefantasy Book List, The Moon Stallion is a title they would have had in the Comics List if they had known of it.

The single issue of Tammy that I have is dated 17 February 1979 and has the story as a two page black and white strip, with the story being told in text boxes only with no speech balloons. I have no details of when it started or how long it ran since this particular issue is within the body of the story.

It just goes to show however that other than Girl, Misty and a very few others, the comic titles aimed at girls are akin to an undiscovered country with who knows what sights waiting to be discovered by the intrepid explorer (whether he be on horseback or not).

(* As far as I'm aware, the strip began towards the end of 1978. The artist was Mario Capaldi.)

G. M. Payne

The Children's Newspaper continues to turn up surprises. During the run that has appeared this week on the Look and Learn website, I found a cartoon by G. M. Payne, a name I recognised from some of Britain's earliest comics of some 100 years ago.

Surprisingly little seems to be known about him -- not even his full name -- so I'm pleased to say that we can correct that situation, albeit only a little. Gilbert Morris Payne was born in Cardiff in 1879, the son of Joseph Payne, a cabinet maker, and his wife Elizabeth Alice (nee Bowen), who had married in 1870. Gilbert was the fifth child (of six) and was the younger brother of Austin Bowen Payne who, like his brother, went on to become an artist, best known for drawing 'Pip, Squeak & Wilfred' for the Daily Mirror.

Gilbert -- who always signed with the abbreviated 'G. M. Payne' but was also known as 'Bertie' to his family -- grew up in Cardiff, Llandilo Talybont and Aberdere, where his uncle, furniture dealer Jacob Payne, lived. He was in his teens when the family moved to Islington, London, where Joseph worked as a pattern maker.

Gilbert found work with James Henderson's Lot-o'-Fun where he was drawing 'Midshipman Breezy' in 1906, although for many years he worked for the Amalgamated Press, drawing for Comic Cuts, Jester & Wonder (where he created 'Constable Cuddlecook'), Merry & Bright (drawing the front page 'Curly Kelly'), Butterfly, Puck, Favourite Comic, Penny Wonder, Firefly, and Kinema Comic.

Throughout his career, Payne also produced humorous colour paintings for postcards, published by Gale & Polden, a selection of which (nabbed from eBay) appear below.

Payne was married in Islington in 1909 but I've yet to establish his date of death. The top cartoon dates from 1919 and his work in Kinema Comic was in around 1920, at which time he was still only around 40 years of age. He was also an illustrator for Chums, his work appearing regularly in 1922-24.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dan Dare Returns

According to a press release from Virgin Comics, they are to publish a new series of Dan Dare comics from November, written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Gary Erskine.

Branson has acquired the publishing, TV, movie and videogame rights to Dare. The comic will be part of the Virgin Comics lineup which already includes a number of high profile titles created by movie directors such as John Woo, Terry Gilliam and Guy Ritchie and actor Nick Cage, although the strips are then written by lesser mortals.

Here's the press release in full:


London, England - August 27, 2007 - Aviator and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson today announced that Virgin Comics ( will be bringing legendary super hero Dan Dare out of retirement and back into the outer reaches of the galaxy, with an all new Dan Dare comic book series. The new series will be published monthly beginning November 2007 and will be written by legendary comic author, Garth Ennis (author of Preacher, The Boys, Hitman, John Woo's Seven Brothers and other acclaimed and best selling titles).

Dan Dare has been an icon since 1950. Elaborate stories of his space travel and galactic battles defending people of the universe captivated post-War baby boomers. Dan Dare's adventures burst to the forefront of pop culture, selling nearly 1 million copies each week in the pages of the Eagle comic.

"Dan Dare is the quintessential British hero. He's our Captain America, our Superman, our Batman, he's all of them rolled into one. He's the original and the best." said Garth Ennis, recipient of several National Comics Awards for the best in UK comics and Will Eisner Awards for the best in US comics.

"Dan Dare is an heroic, thoughtful and fiercely independent character, I was an avid reader of his epic journeys. It is a pleasure for Virgin Comics to be involved with such a legendary character - one of the original great aviators" said Sir Richard Branson.

"Dan Dare is the real original Super Hero. In the '50s, on the front page of The Eagle, he was selling one million copies a week. Today, his impact and appeal to readers across the UK and around the world can be even greater with Virgin Comics. This is a perfect partnership." said Colin Frewin, CEO of the Dan Dare Corporation. "Superman, Batman and Spider-Man beware - Dan Dare - Pilot of the Future is back to protect us all.

Virgin Comics' Dan Dare is set in the future, albeit not too many decades from the present day. Colonel Dare is still vibrant and courageous - but now he's retired. His retirement is a self-imposed exile, the result of his disgust with politics and the post-nuclear warfare that has destroyed North America and much of Asia - leaving the UK as the wold's last remaining superpower. Readers familiar with Dan Dare stories will recognize many of the original cast including a wiser and more experienced Digby; the innovative brilliant and beautiful Professor Peabody; and of course the enemy of all that is good, the super-intelligent ruler of the Treens - The Mekon, together with a mix of galactic evil beings.

"Dan Dare and Virgin are a perfect combination - two iconic UK brands. We are thrilled to be working with Colin and Garth to redefine this quintessential character for a new generation of readers around the world." said Sharad Devarajan, Virgin Comics' CEO.

"Dan Dare + Garth Ennis = AWESOME," explains Gotham Chopra, Virgin Comics' Chief Creative Officer. "there's not much more to say because this is a combination that doesn't require hype - great comic heroes plus great comic writers equal a great time for all of us. Expect nothing less."

According to a Variety article by Marc Graser, the storyline involves Dare emerging from a self-imposed exile, the result of his disgust with politics and the post-nuclear warfare that has destroyed North America and much of Asia -- leaving the U.K. as the world's last remaining superpower. This, and the image released (see top of column), makes it pretty clear that this will not be the Dan Dare of the 1950s Eagle. Guns are definitely in.

At the same time, Garth Ennis has already proved that he can take a character -- Battler Britton -- and write a new story around him whilst retaining the flavour of the old stories.

Here's the text from Previews for the first issue:

"He brokered peace with alien races, pushed the frontiers of space, and saved the planet from total annihilation… repeatedly. But now, his Space Fleet has disbanded, the United Nations has crumbled, his friends scattered to the solar winds. Britain is once again the world power, but Dare, disillusioned and disappointed in his once-precious home country, has quietly retired. But there’s trouble mustering in Deep Space. The H.M.S. Achilles is picking up strange signals when, suddenly, an enormous fleet of hostile ships ambushes the destroyer. As the crew struggles to stay alive, they realize with horror that the hostiles have brought a weapon of unimaginable power. Dan Dare, pilot of the future, has been called out of retirement!"

But there's more: according to Graser, "CAA [Creative Artists' Agency] is packaging the potential film and meeting with clients about the project." Virgin Comics have already inked one deal with producer Joel Silver to adapt Guy Ritchie's The Gamekeeper which Ritchie will direct.

Richard Sheaf reports at the Down the Tubes blog that although the PR cover is by Bryan Talbot, the first seven issue of the new comic will have covers by Gary Leach.

(While we're visiting the blogosphere, Lew Stringer correctly points out on his Blimey! blog that Dan has been appearing regularly in the pages of Spaceship Away for the past few years, so the revival is hardly new.)

The news broke yesterday while I was at a wedding. Old time UKCAC-goers may not recognise the lass on the right as Nicola Broad who, twenty years ago, slinked onto the stage as Catgirl. It's the glasses... or not getting married in a cat suit. One or the other. Jon is well known to all in the gaming community as the man behind Ground Zero Games.

Some things are more important than even Dan Dare.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Starblazer Memories by Tony O'Donnell

* Please give a big Bear Alley welcome to Tony O'Donnell, long-time pal and a damn fine comics' artist. Tony sent this over in the wake of my recent (and totally self-indulgent) 'Starblazer Memories' columns. This is turning into a bit of a series...


I still remember buying the fist issue... what excited me was the thought that actually getting to work on Starblazer seemed infinitely more possible than, say, breaking into 2000AD or even 'American Comics', this was still the 1970s and Barry Smith was still the only Brit to have achieved that feat.

Then I learned that Grant Morrison was both writing and drawing Algol the Terrible for Starblazer - and getting £500 for his efforts! This was REAL money... we were on £10 a page with Near Myths, OK it was less than £10 a page on Starblazer but they only wanted two to three pics per page.

I sent samples off to IPC and DCT (Starblazer) in March 1979, I got a very nice reply from Doug Church. I will always remember how good it felt to read that letter, even though it is now lost: "of all the samples recently submitted to our office, yours were among the best."

He advised me that it would be best to broaden my range of samples as they were all SF and suggested I find a good Agent, recommending the Temple Art Agency.

Then all that was forgotten... Starblazer sent me a trial script!

Looking back, my first attempt at a Starblazer was a disaster. My infatuation with Gil Kane's Starhawks style competed with the ever present influence of Frank Bellamy and John Buscema and my inability to draw! I remember phoning the office -- the presumption! -- I was told that I was not ready yet but the spaceships were good! I was sent £10 for use of Letratone... my first cheque from a Publisher. I did not think of The SF Bookshop in Edinburgh, the publisher of Near Myths as a Publisher at that time.

It was another four years before I got to draw my first Starblazer - SPACE GHOST.

I enjoyed working on Starblazer and I regret now how often I avoided the opportunities to draw more of them...but the 'grass was always greener elsewhere' or so I believed at the time. My other regret is that my lack of confidence in my own work led to my using far too many 'embarassing ' swipes...although I can recall a Starblazer that vitually recycled the previously mentioned Starhawks strip by Gil Kane.

(* All Starblazer artwork is © D. C. Thomson. Typically, I can't find copies of Tony's earlier, more science fictional Starblazers, so these pics come from later issues: the cover is issue 197 which has interior art by Segura; the alchemist is Melthas from no. 192, 'The Face of Evil'; and the sabre-toothed beast is from no. 226, 'Prince of Fear'. Ray Aspden has kindly supplied an image from no. 152, 'DoomWorld', one of the ill-fated [and some might say ill-conceived] role-playing Starblazers. Ray adds, "I hasten to add that I'm not a raving egoist -- it was D. C. Thomson who came up with the space trooper's name! I'd originally called him Stig, as can be seen in picture 79 when Bill McLoughlin missed a bit of his sub-editing.")

Look and Learn interview

A nice big interview about The Bumper Book of Look and Learn appears in today's Sunday Telegraph (26 August) where Nigel Farndale trumpets (and quite tunefully, too) the 'Comic Genius' that is Look and Learn. You can read the feature at the Telegraph's website which heralds 'The Return of Look and Learn'.

Nigel brought some interesting observations of Maxwell Knight to the interview as he studied Knight as part of his research for the book Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William & Margaret Joyce (London, Macmillan, 2005): "Readers had no idea that before becoming a naturalist he had been the head of B5(b), a semi-autonomous department within MI5. As a spymaster, his tasks had included the surveillance of extremists and the recruitment of agents -- among them William Joyce, better known as Lord Haw-Haw, the last man to be hanged for treason for broadcasting Nazi propaganda during the Second World War. Knight was a deeply eccentric figure, a bisexual who kept a meagerie, which included bears, parrots and snakes, in his Chelsea flat. His reputation never recovered from his failure to uncover the Cambridge spy ring and, in 1956, he reinvented himself as Uncle Max, a BBC broadcaster specialising in natural history talks for children."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Comic Clippings - 25 August

The circulations for a number of British children's magazines have recently been released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations so it's charts time again.

Just to show you how volatile the market is, sales for Toybox rose 1.5% against the previous six months but was down 22.4% year-on-year. Fun to Learn-- Friends, down 7.9% is actually up 4% on sales for the same period last year. The biggest success story has been BBC's Doctor Who Adventures Magazine which first registered a year ago with sales of 77,852 and has added 30,000 and 50,000 sales with each six-monthly figure until it is now the best-selling comic in the UK, outstripping The Simpsons Comics which was the best-selling title of 2006.

Some figures in the chart below are for 2006, the latest available from some publishers, and some are estimates, as indicated.

(I've had to scan a print-out as I've yet to figure out how to do neatly tabulated data on Blogger.)

Other bits of news...

* 'Mon Dieu! Poirot gets a makeover'. Ben Hoyle reveals (The Times, 25 August) how HarperCollins is publishing Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot in a series of graphic novels. Eight titles will appear this year, including Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express, followed by eight more next year. A more general piece on crime fiction ('The genre that just won't die') at the BBC News (21 August) site includes a few images from the adaptations.

I believe these Christie adapatations have previously appeared: according to 'Comic Christie: Murder or reincarnation?' by Arati Menon Carroll (Business Standard, 5 August), "Euro Books, the publishing division of Euro Kids India, has just launched 13 titles ... that are English adaptations of comics strips that originated in France a few years ago."

Titles include Death on the Nile (adapted by Francois Riviere, illustrated by Solidor), Murder on the Links (Riviere & Marc Piskic), Murder on the Orient Express (Riviere & Solidor), The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (adapted/illustrated by Bruno Lachard) and The Secret of Chimneys (Riviere & Laurence Suhner).

* Inspired by the above news, Tara Mulholland reveals 'More than words: Britain Embraces the graphic novel' (International Herald News, 22 August). Link via Steve Flanagan's Gad, Sir! Comics!

* Uninspired by the above news, Ned Beauman argues that adaptations are a waste of time unless they add something new in 'Comic versions of books need novel angle' (Guardian Unlimited, 23 August).

* Bryan Talbot is interviewed about his new book, The Naked Artist, by Tim O'Shea at Silver Bullet Comics in 'The Many Layers of Bryan Talbot' (21 August). Link via Journalista.

Alice & Claude Askew

Claude Arthur Cary Askew was born in Holland Park, Kensington, on 27 November 1865, the second son of Reverend John Askew, M.A. Educated at Eton and on the continent, Askew married Alice Jane de Courcey Leake (born St. Pancras, London, on 18 June 1874, the daughter of Colonel Henry Leake) in Paddington on 10 July 1900 and the pair became industrious writers of stories and serials.

"It was because our tastes were so identical that we decided to take up literary work together," said Mrs. Askew, "and the idea came to us about a year after our marriage. Our first venture was a serial in The Evening News and this was so successful that we were soon writing serials for other papers.

"Later on we wrote our first book -- The Shulamite. Its genesis was curious. One Sunday morning, quite unexpectedly, we began talking over the plot. We got so enthusiastic about it that we determined to begin it at once and by nightfall we had completed several chapters. The beginning of this novel is a fair example of the way in which we work. If we feel keen about a story we do it very quickly and we find that the work we do at fever heat is always our best." The Shulamite was dramatised in 1906 by Claude Askew and Edward Knoblauch for production by Lena Ashwell at the Savoy Theatre. Between them, they produced 89 novels and one non-fiction book in the space of twelve years.

"A curious fact in connection with our work is that people sometimes assume that we are brother and sister," recalled Alice Askew. "I remember on one occasion our secretary overheard in a railway carriage a man telling a fellow passenger that he knew 'the Askews' quite well. 'Brother and sister, you know,' he said, 'and most passionately fond of each other, and neither of them ever intend to marry!'"

During the war with Germany, the Askews were in Serbia where Major Askew was attached to the Serbian Army – the experience used as background for their book The Stricken Land (1916) – and were involved the retreat of the Serbians from Prishtina to Alessio. On October 5, 1917, they were aboard a ship in the Mediterranean which was attacked by an enemy submarine. Both were recorded as having drowned at sea.

The couple were survived by a son and a daughter. In more peaceful times they had lived in Wivelsfield Green, near Burgess Hill in Sussex.

Novels by Alice & Claude Askew
The Shulamite. London, Chapman & Hall, 1904.
Eve – and the Law. London, Chapman & Hall, 1905.
The Premier’s Daughter. London, F. V. White & Co., 1905.
Anna of the Plains. London, F. V. White & Co., 1906 [1905].
The Etonian. London, F. V. White & Co., 1906.
Jennifer Pontefract. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1906.
The Baxter Family. London, F. V. White & Co., 1907 [1906].
The Love-Stone. London, Sisley’s, 1907.
Lucy Gort. A study in temperament. London, F. V. White & Co., 1907.
Out of the Running. London, Everett & Co., 1907.
The Plains of Silence
. London, Cassell & Co., 1907.

The Sword of Peace. The story of a secret society
. London, Everett & Co., 1907.
Not Proven
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1908.
The Orchard Close
. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1908.

The Path of Lies
. London, F. V. White & Co., 1908.
The Tempting of Paul Chester
. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1908.
The Blue Diamond
. London, C. H. White, 1909.
The Devil and the Crusader
. London, F. V. White, 1909.
Felix Stone
. London, Everett & Co., 1909.
John Heriot’s Wife
. London, F. V. White & Co., 1909.
. London, Chapman & Hall, 1909; abridged, London, George Newnes (Sevenpenny Novels 24), 1921.
Behind Shuttered Windows
. London. C. H. White, 1910.
Fate – and Drusilla
. London, Everett & Co., 1910.
The Quest of El Dorado
. London, Cassell & Co., 1910.
The Rod of Justice
. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1910.
Scarlet Town
. London, C. H. White, 1910.
The Sporting Chance
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1910.
. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1911.
Helen of the Moor
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1911.
The House Next Door
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1911.
Kitty Shafton – Swindler
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1911.
The Pearl of Great Price
. London, F. V. White & Co., 1911.
A Society Marriage
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1911.
The Stolen Lady
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1911.

The Woman Deborah
. London, Eveleigh Nash, 1911.
The Apache
. London, Everett & Co., 1912.
. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1912.
Bess of Bentley’s. A true shop-girl story
. London, F. V. White & Co., 1912.
The Dream Daughter
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1912.
The Englishwoman
. London, Cassell & Co., 1912.
In Lovers’ Lane
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1912.
The King’s Signature
. London, Chapman & Hall, 1912.
The Lily and the Devil
. London, Everett & Co., 1912.
Outlaw Jess
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1912.
The Actor Manager
. London, George Newnes, 1913.
God’s Clay
. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1913.
The Golden Girl
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1913.
Milly the Actress
. London, Aldine Publishing Co. (Mascot Novels 2), 1913.
The Mystery of Helmsley Grange
. London, C. A. Pearson, 1913.

. London, Everleigh Nash, 1913.
A Preacher of the Lord
. London, Cassell & Co., 1913.
A Scarlet Sin
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1913.

Souls Adrift
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1913.
Araby’s Husband
. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1914.
By Order of the King
. London, Aldine Publishing Co. (Goodship Sixpennies), 1914.
. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1914.
Gilded London
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1914.
In Strange Shoes
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1914.
The Legacy
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1914.

Love the Jester
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1914.
Through Folly’s Mill
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1914.
The Golden Quest
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1915; abridged, London, Aldine (Novels 8), 1924.
Her Mother’s Child
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1915.
The Lurking Shadow
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1915.
Master and Man
. London, Aldine Publishing Co. (Mascot Novels 22), 1915

The Missing Million
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1915.
The Tocsin. A romance of the Great War
. London, John Long, 1915.
. London, Chapman & Hall, 1915.

The Weavers
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1915.
Wild Sheba
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1915.
The Footlight Glare
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1916.
Her Father’s Daughter
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1916.
. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1916.
The Garment of Immortality
. London, John Long, 1917.
The Inscrutable Miss Stone
. London, John Long, 1917.
The Lost Idol
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1917.
The Paignton Honour
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1917.
. London, Chapman & Hall, 1917.
The Bride in Black
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1918.
Lady Borradale’s Ordeal
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1918.
The Ordeal of Ann Curtis
. London, Jarrolds, 1918.

The Telephone Girl
. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1918.
The Work of Herr Hands
. London, Chapman & Hall, 1918.
The Secret Pathway
. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1919.

The Yellow Yoke
. London, Aldine Publishing Co. (Goodship Sixpennies), 1919.
The Grip of Sin
. London, Lloyds, 1920.

Lavender’s Inheritance
. London, United Press, 1922.
. London, John Long, 1923.
Her Empty Triumph
. London, J. Leng & Co. (People’s Friend Library 162), 1926.
A Woman’s World
. London, J. Leng & Co. (People’s Friend Library 170), 1926.
A Deadly Revenge
. London & Dublin, Mellifont Press, 1934.

The Stricken Land. Serbia as we saw it. London, Everleigh Nash Co., 1916.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tom Gallon

Thomas Henry Gallon was born in Bermondsey, London, on 5 December 1866, the son of John P. Gallon (an engineer, fitter and turner) and his wife Martha K. Gallon. Tom Gallon grew up in hard times as a young boy, starting work at a London warehouse where he worked 12 hours a day, later finding a position as a clerk in a City office before becoming usher in a large private school; later he worked as a secretary to the mayor of a town in the country.

Writing was always his ambition and, after many hardships (to which can be added that of ill-health) he found great success with his first novel, Tatterley. "Tatterley changed my world for me," Gallon would later say, "yet it was quite an accidental success. I had always wanted to write from the time I was a boy, and my first story was actually accepted and paid for when I was seventeen and a half. I received thirty shillings for it, and I naturally thought my fortune was made."

The book was considered by some a second-rate imitation of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol as it concerns Caleb Fry, a grasping, unscrupulous money-grabber in the mould of Scrooge. Caleb has the audacious idea of pretending to die, returning as his own double and confidential servant to his heir. He discovers that he dislikes his heir and, instead, feels sympathy for a nephew he had previously robbed and disinherited.

Like Dickens, Gallon often wrote Christmas tales, the first appearing in Phil May's Winter Illustrated Annual entitled 'The Power of Philip Wade'. Another Scrooge-like character appeared in his The Man Who Knew Better. Gallon would later sit on The Dickens Testimonial Committee, wrote 'A Dickens Dream' for The Strand and sat as a member of the Dickens Fellowship on the jury of a mock trial of John Jasper, accused of the murder of Edwin Drood (based on Dickens' unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood), the trial presided over by G. K. Chesterton as the Judge. (Jasper, incidentally, was found guilty of manslaughter.)

Gallon won great popularity with his novels, publishing two, three or four new novels a year as well as contributing to many popular papers such as The Strand. "Books have always influenced me," he said. "I think that every book a novelist reads must influence him in one way or another. A layman reads a novel, as a rule, for its story, but the professional writer looks at a book from many points of view. He studies its style, technique, characterisation, plot, dialogue; his professional eye is attracted to many points that escape the ordinary reader's notice; and, therefore, as I say, every book he reads must influence him, if not in one way, than in another. Personally, I dare not read anything except the lightest of fiction when I am writing a novel, lest it take me off the rails of my own work. More than once I have had to abandon a tale because I found myself unwittingly plagiarising in it some work read months before that had greatly impressed me."

Gallon lived at 3 Gray's Inn Place, London [1901], 190 Adelaide Road, St John's Wood, London N.W. [1903/13].

In July 1913, Gallon's younger brother, Frederick Herbert Gallon, a struggling artist living at Little Kingshill, near Great Missenden, shot his wife and their 5-year-old son before killing himself.

Tom Gallon died fourteen months later at his home, 43 Springfield Road, Hampstead. He had been suffering for some weeks from pleurisy and his end came when he suffered a heart attack on 4 November 1914. He was 48 years old.

Many of his novels were subsequently filmed, amongst them The Princess of Happy Chance (1916), Meg the Lady (1916), The Cruise of the Make-Believes (1918), The Lackey and the Lady (1919), A Rogue in Love (1922), Boden's Boy (1923), Off the Highway (1925, based on Tatterley) and The Great Gay Road (1931).

Miss Nellie Tom-Gallon, Gallon's younger sister, was also an authoress, born Helen Kate Gallon in 1874. She died at her home at 10 Belsize Park, London, on 1 February 1938, made a financial bequest to the Society of Authors in memory of her brother and the Tom-Gallon Trust Award has been awarded bi-annually since 1943.

Tatterley. The story of a dead man. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1897; New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1897.
A Prince of Mischance. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1897; New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1898.
Dicky Monteith. A love story. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1898; New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1898.
Comethup. London, Hutchinson & Co., Oct 1899; as The Idol of the Blind. New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1899..
The Kingdom of Hate. A romance. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1899; New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1899.
Kiddy. London, Hutchinson & Co., May 1900; as Kiddie, New York, B. B. Vallentine, 1900.
A Rogue in Love. London, Hutchinson & Co., Nov 1900.
The Man Who Knew Better. A Christmas dream, illus. Gordon Browne. Westminster, Archibald Constable & Co., Oct 1901; New York, Appleton & Co., 1901.
Rickerby's Folly. London, Methuen & Co., 1901.
The Second Dandy Chater. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1901; New York, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1901.
The Charity Ghost. A tale of Christmas, illus. Gordon Browne. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1902.
The Dead Ingleby. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1902.
The Mystery of John Peppercorn. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1902.
The Girl Behind the Keys. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1903; ed by Arlene Young, Peterborough, Ont., Broadview Encore Editions, 2006.
In a Little House. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1903.
The Lady of the Cameo. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1903.
Nobody's Baby. A Christmas idyll, illus. Gordon Browne. London, Eveleigh Nash, 1903.
Boden's Boy. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1904.
The Golden Thread. The story of a stolen Christmas. London, Eveleigh Nash, 1904.
Jarwick the Prodigal. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1904.
Peplow's Paper-Chase. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1904.
Aunt Phipps. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1905.
Lagden's Luck. Bristol, Arrowsmith, 1905.
Meg the Lady. A romance. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1905.
Fortunes A-Begging. A romance. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1906.
Jimmy Quixote. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1906.
Christmas at Poverty Castle. London, Eveleigh Nash, 1907.
The Cruise of the Make-Believes. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1907; Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1907.
Judy--and the Philosophers. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1907.
The Lackey and the Lady. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1908.
Tinman, illus. Amédeé Forestier. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1908.
Brother Rogue and Brother Saint. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1909.
The Dream--And the Woman. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1909.
The Great Gay Road. London, John Long, 1910.
The Mystery of Roger Bullock. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1910.
The Rogue's Heiress. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1910; New York, G. W. Dillingham Co., 1910.
As He was Born. London, Eveleigh Nash, 1911.
Dead Man's Love. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1911.
By the Name of Miss Smith. London, Hodder & Stoughton (1d stories), 1912.
Levity Hicks. London, John Long, 1912.
Memory Corner. London, John Long, 1912; New York, G. W. Dillingham Co., 1912.
Young Eve and Old Adam. London, John Long, 1913.
"It Will Be All Right!" London, Hutchinson & Co., 1914.
The Man in Motley. London, Mills & Boon, 1915.
The Princess of Happy Chance. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1915.
The Diamond Trail. London, Mills & Boon, 1916.
The Man Hunt. London, Mills & Boon, 1916.
The Lady in the Black Mask. London, Mills & Boon, 1917.

The Touch of the Child, and other stories. London, Mills & Boon, 1918.

The Man Who Stole the Castle, with Leon M. Lion (Garrick Theatre, 1900)
Memory's Garden (1902)
Lady Jane's Christmas Party (Garrick Theatre, 1904)
Law and Order (Palace Theatre, 1908)
The Great Gay Road (Court Theatre, 1911)
Aurora's Captive (Prince of Wales Theatre, 1913)
All's Fair (Tivoli Musichall, 1913)
Felix Gets a Month, with Leon M. Lion (Haymarket Theatre, 1917)
Pistols For Two, with Leon M. Lion (Coliseum, 1917)

The Angel of the White Feet. A play in one act by Douglas Bain, adapted from the short story by Tom Gallon. London, H. K. Lewis, 1911.
The Touch of the Child. A dramatic incident in one act by Leon M. Lion, adapted from Tom Gallon's story. in T. H. Lacy's Acting Edition of Plays Vol.162, 1913.

Novels by Nellie Tom-Gallon
Monsieur Zero, with Calder Wilson (collection). London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1923.
He Who Walked in Scarlet, with Calder Wilson. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1924.
Dawn of Desire. London, Diamond Press, 1927.
Full Passion Mood. London, Diamond Press, 1928.
The Man Who Changed His Wife. London, E. Nash & Grayson, 1928.
I Meant No Harm! London, Heath Cranton, 1935.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Alphonse Courlander

"Mr. Alphonse Courlander is an author whose work has reached a high level of excellence. His romances teem with careful thought, and it is easy to read between their lines the fact that the author is master of his subject.

"A comparatively young man, Mr. Alphonse Courlander has made phenomenal strides up the literary ladder. Perhaps it was his writing of poetry that first set him on his climb for the heights of authorship. He published a little volume called "Perseus and Andromeda" and then throwing aside all ideas of engineering--his first love--he plunged deeply into journalism, and at the age of twenty-one we find him on a daily paper."

Thus the editor of the Fiction Lover's Library introduced Eve's Apple to his readers. The reviewer at The New Age (13 June 1908) agreed that the author "writes, perhaps, rather better than the average of his class, and has a good notion of telling a story." However, this tale of a man of means and leisure whose life is blighted when he falls for a Parisian adventuress -- leading to disgrace and imprisonment -- also made the reviewer ask: "Why, then, should he deal in types and situations so wildly remote from the world of actuality?" A reviewer for The British Journal of Nursing (9 February 1907) had found his previous novel, The Sacrifice, rather melancholy and wishing that Courlander "would write of men and women with whom we could be more in sympathy."

Alphonse Courlander was of Russian extraction but born in London on 11 April 1881, the son of Louis Courlander (1849-1931) and his wife Gertrude (nee Hart, 1851-1913) who had married in Kensington in 1874. Louis was born in Libau (now Liepaja, Latvia) and made his living as a jeweller and optician.

Alphonse was the fourth of six children and lived for some time in the land of the Great White Czar -- "the land of music and the new literature." He was to become a correspondent for the Daily Express and covered "the whole gamut of the special correspondent's experience," ranging from covering the Socialist Congress at Copenhagen to war correspondence during the Balkan Wars. Courlander was the first war correspondent to get into Scutari after the Turks surrendered the city to the Montenegrins in April 1913.

Courlander would later say, "The art of writing in the daily newspapers is probably the most difficult of all forms of all forms of fiction ... you must never deliberately write down to your public." This attitude made him a popular contributor to many magazines, including The Strand, The London Magazine, Everybody's Magazine, Munsey's, Railway Magazine, The Captain, The Craftsman and elsewhere. He made journalists the heroes of his novel Mightier Than The Sword.

He was a friend of E. Nesbit. Correspondence in the Edith Nesbit Collection, McFarlin Library, Tulsa, includes a postcard from Courlander (in 1912) signed by his family and a request (undated) for an interview about her latest story. At the time of the latter, Courlander and his family -- he was married to Elsa Mary Pauline Hahn (1873-1952) in 1906 and had one child, a daughter named Rosemary Elsa Courlander (1909-1964) -- were living at 47 Queensborough Terrace, Portchester Gate, London W.

In 1914, Courlander was the Paris correspondent for the Daily Express when war broke out in Europe and this led to his tragic end, as related in My Seven Selves by Hamilton Fyfe (available here):

"I sent Bedelia home to England after a day or two and joined Alphonse Courlander in his apartment at the back of the Rue de Rivoli. His family were away. He was glad to have company. A third journalist, Rosetti, a Roumanian, also stayed there, and as long as we were together Alphonse was cheerful and confident. He talked about going to the front if his paper would send him and if he could ride "a little low horse." A delightful fellow he was, amusing, quick-witted, but not well-equipped to withstand the panic which seized the city as the Germans came nearer every day. I was driving back from Rouen one day just after it started and met on the road hundreds of vehicles of all descriptions making for the coast, piled with luggage and furniture and bedding and bird-cages, the owners' white faces peering out anxiously at the imprudent fellow who was going towards the danger. The alarm was intensified by the folly of the authorities. They had issued so many lying statements that no one believed anything — except that the danger was a great deal nearer than official announcements admitted. This untrustworthy character of the communiqué's got me into an adventure that might have ended in catastrophe. But let me finish the melancholy tale of Alphonse Courlander first.

"He was left alone in his flat. Rosetti had gone off somewhere. I was spending my time between the front and the coast, whither I had to take my despatches to be put on board steamers for England. Alphonse caught the prevailing epidemic of fright. One morning he made up his mind to leave for London. Then, as he sat in the train, the shame of abandoning his post came vividly before him and he jumped out. But the next morning he went to the station again and this time he stayed in the train. In London he was badly received. He killed himself. I am certain that if Rosetti and I had been with him he would have laughed at the panic and might be alive to-day. It was because nothing of the sort had ever before come into his safe, sheltered life that he imagined the horrors of a siege and bombardment to be much worse than they are."

Courlander died on 23 October 1914, aged 33.

The Taskmaster. London, Duckworth & Co., 1904.
Seth of the Cross. London, Eveleigh Nash, 1905.
The Sacrifice. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1907.
Eve's Apple. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1908.
Henry in Search of a Wife. A fantasy of sentiment. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1909.
Uncle Polperro. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1910.
Mightier Than the Sword. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1912.

Perseus & Andromeda. London, At the Unicorn, 1903.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Comics Britannia

Here's the full transmission details for Comics Britannia which is to be broadcast as three hour-long episodes in September on BBC4. More details can be found at the BBC site for the show.


How we grew up with comics and how comics grew up with us...

From the Beano to Bunty, Commando to Viz, the Eagle to 2000AD, British comics have captivated generations from the Thirties to the present day.

Now BBC Four delves into the world of the British comic, exploring the art and craft of the industry in a celebration of this British comics tradition.

The series features those who wrote and drew the original strips, comics experts and a range of fans whose lives have been shaped by reading ‘classic strips.’

Comics Britannia is a rich mix of interviews, strips and archive illuminated by a unique graphics style which literally allows you to step into the comics world.

Comics Britannia forms the centrepiece of BBC Four’s Comics Season, which also includes Jonathan Ross in search of comic legend Steve Ditko, Adam West Batman series, The Batman Story and Modesty Blaise.

PROGRAMME ONE: The Fun Factory (10th September)

COMICS BRITANNIA explores the world of the children’s humour comic and the revolution which began with the first publication of the Dandy in 1937.

The series explains why colourful, cheap publications like the Dandy, and then the Beano enchanted a generation living through the effects of the Depression, WW2 and post-war Austerity.

Comics Britannia revisits the golden age of comics in the Fifties and early Sixties and looks at the work of great comics artists Dudley Watkins, Davey Law, Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid, revealing how a new subversive and anarchic humour emerged from the pages of the Beano and the Dandy.

Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, writer Jacqueline Wilson, Oscar winning animator Nick Park and Cartoonist Steve Bell discuss their passion for comics, with some surprising revelations!

PROGRAMME TWO: Boys & Girls (17th September)

Following the Second World War boys and girls adventure comics emerged to capture the imaginations of the growing baby boomer generation.

Comics Britannia tells the extraordinary story of the bohemian vicar who founded the most ground-breaking comic to emerge in the immediate post- war era – The Eagle, complete with its very own super hero, Dan Dare.

The programme looks at attempts to create the equivalent for girls —comics featuring ballet and boarding schools, such as School Friend, Girl and Bunty.

Meanwhile, the boys grew up with their comic book heroes achieving impossible feats of courage and endeavour on the fields of sport and battle, with the larger than life exploits of Captain Hurricane and Roy of the Rovers.

But comics would soon have to reinvent themselves and follow their readers as they grew older. Titles such as Mirabelle and Romeo were introduced to appeal to older girls who had once loved Bunty & Girl.

Into the Sixties and Seventies the industry responded to a changing Britain with a new generation of comics such as Jackie, Tammy and Battle aimed at meeting the new demands of teenage readers.

Fans of comics in this episode include comedian Frank Skinner, ex footballer and pundit Mark Lawrenson, cartoonists Posy Simmonds and Gerald Scarfe, and writer Jacqueline Wilson, who all reveal their childhood favourites.

PROGRAMME THREE: X-Rated : Anarchy in the UK (24 September)

COMICS BRITANNIA X –RATED reveals how during the Seventies and Eighties a generation grew up reading a new kind of comic. Directed at older, adult readers, these comics had strips with darker, more satirical and sexual material. There was a new sophistication in the writing and artwork which began to see comic books evolve into a new phenomenon – the graphic novel.

From the bedroom of brothers Chris and Simon Donald in Newcastle came the outrageous Viz which by the Eighties was selling a million copies nationwide and was responsible for inventing the Fat Slags, Roger Mellie, Johnny Fartpants and Sid the Sexist.

At the same time in the late Seventies, 2000 AD was published, sending Punks into Space and creating the iconic anti-hero Judge Dredd.

Out of this comics ‘new wave’ emerged a major talent, writer Alan Moore. Working with leading artists, he created ground-breaking work such as V for Vendetta, Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The programme interviews Moore and the group of other writers and artists who spearheaded the adult-oriented revolution in British comics: Simon and Chris Donald, Dave Gibbons, Carlos Ezquerra, Kevin O’Neill, Alan Grant and David Lloyd.

Super comics fans Frank Skinner, Stewart Lee, Andrew Collins and Charles Shaar Murray are also on hand to offer their take.

IN SEARCH OF STEVE DITKO (Tuesday 18 September, 9.30pm)

Jonathan Ross goes in search of his hero Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spiderman.

Steve Ditko is virtually unknown to all but a handful of comic book enthusiasts. In a one off film for BBC Four, Ross, a noted comic book enthusiast and obsessive Ditko fan, goes in search of the comic book legend, co -creator of Spiderman, who lives his life as a recluse.

Steve Ditko should, and could quite easily have become a multi millionaire. Many times he has been offered vast sums of cash in return for explaining why he left Marvel and of course, Spiderman, the character he co-created with Stan Lee back in 1961.

Steve Ditko and Stan Lee worked together at Marvel for five years and with Spiderman on the verge of becoming the best selling comic book in the world, Ditko left the book and the company. While at Marvel, he had designed all of the characters, illustrated and inked each issue and provided Spiderman with his unique look. He'd also plotted every story, leaving Stan Lee to write the dialogue.

In the years that followed he continued creating many new and wonderful characters for the biggest comic companies, as well as expressing his own political and personal views in independently published books. He has never explained why he left Spiderman when he did, or why he has never returned to draw his most famous character again. It’s a question that intrigues and perplexes comic fans all over the world. Meanwhile, Stan Lee's contribution to the Spiderman phenomenon has left him well known and wealthy.

To discover what led to Ditko’s strange career path, and in an effort to ensure this reclusive genius receives the credit that is his due – Ross heads off in search of both the man and, hopefully, the truth.

Ross’s search takes him from the UK to Los Angeles. On his journey, he talks to those who met and worked with Ditko, including Stan Lee, co-creator of the web-slinging Spider-Man and another comic book legend, Northampton based Alan Moore.

Rich Johnston has a review of this last programme in his latest Lying in the Gutters column.

Charles H. Mansfield

Charles Herbert Mansfield, born in Islington in 1864, was the son of Charles Edward Mansfield (1837- ), a London-born reporter who became City Editor of the Morning Post, and his wife Maria (nee Glass), who were married in 1863. The Mansfields had a second son, Walter Edward, born in 1870.

Charles followed in his father's footsteps, although this was much against his inclination, working as a clerk and then as a successful financial journalist. "The atmosphere of 'stocks' and 'shares,' 'bulls' and bears,' at last began to pall on me," he later revealed. "I grew tired of figures -- they made my head whirl! -- and I longed to relinquish that kind of hard labour in favour of a much brighter and fascinating side of journalism -- that of story writing.

"It is just possible that the desire to produce fiction myself may have arisen from my acquaintance with the fairy tales contained in the prospectuses of joint stock companies, and from hearing the romantic stories -- which I can never hope to excel -- told by some chairmen at the general and extraordinary (occasionally very extraordinary!) meetings of their shareholders!"

As a financial journalist, Mansfield came into contact with many City sharks and shady individuals who preyed on the innocence of small investors. This may account for his having an absorbing passion for the study of criminology. Any great trial was sure to find him an interested spectator. A graphic and realistically portrayed criminal trial was one of the elements of his novel Mystery Limited.

Mansfield said that he felt "thoroughly at home" writing detective tales, often written in collaboration with his younger brother, Walter, under the pen-name Huan Mee. The two collaborated on short stories (for Everybody's, Pearson's, Penny Pictorial and various other magazines) and novels. Charles was also a poet, his verse appearing in The Red Magazine.

In 1891 he was living at 13 Despard Road, Islington, with his wife, Alice, whom he married in 1887, and son, Harold Edward (1889- ). By 1901 the family had moved to 1 West View, Highgate Hill, Islington. For relaxation, he said that he preferred the theatre to any other form of amusement. He was greatly interested in magic but no believer in the occult. His hobby was travelling, delighting in watching the roughest of rough seas rolling in on the wild Cornish coast, although the snow-clad peaks of the Alps fascinated him even more.

Walter Edward Mansfield, also an author/journalist, married to Helen and, in 1901, living in Hornsey with their daughter, Phyllis Ethel (1898- ). He died in 1916 at the young age of 45. I have yet to find the death date for his elder brother, Charles.

Mystery Limited. London, Amalgamated Press (Fiction Lover's Library), 1914.

Novels as Huan Mee (co-written with W. E. Mansfield)
A Beauty Spot. London, Gale & Polden, 1894.
Wheels Within Wheels. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1902.
The Jewel of Death. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1902.
Weaving the Web. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1902.

Collections as Huan Mee (co-written with W. E. Mansfield)
A Diplomatic Woman. London, Sands & Co., 1900.
Solving the Unsolvable. London, Ferret Fantasy, 1980.

Comic Clippings - 22 August

I've been taking some holiday time away from Look and Learn... which means I've had my nose to the grindstone working on the 4-book Karl the Viking box set for DLC again. 17,000 words written and the end is in sight at last! For light relief I've also written the introduction to a collection of Franco Caprioli's 'The Legend of Beowulf' which is to be published in Italy. The strip originally appeared in Look and Learn in 1970.

On the work front -- because I'm still "at work" the moment I sit down in front of the computer whether I'm on holiday or not! -- the deal between Look and Learn and ROK Comics has just had its first results launched: the classic Robin Hood strips produced by Frank Bellamy for Swift are now available as downloads for your mobile phone. There's a press release about it here and you can see a preview here.

A few things I've been catching up on this evening...

* An alternate version of The Black Diamond Detective Agency, Eddie Campbell's recent graphic novel. The Forbidden Planet International blog has details of a pitch produced by James Sturm and Nick Bertozzi based on Campbell's 2003 unproduced movie screenplay. Bertozzi has posted a number pages at Act-i-vate.

* 'Andi Watson Goes Clubbing', interview with Andi Watson by Jennifer M. Contino (, 21 August). Link via Journalista.

* 'Ennis Shows His 'Streets' Smarts', interview with Garth Ennis by Brian Warmoth (Wizard Universe, 21 August). Link via Journalista.

* John Adcock has been posting some interesting material from the pages of 1935-vintage issues of the News of the World, including adverts for various other publications and a run of a strip based on humorous takes on news stories by an artist who signed himself Cosmos: here, here and here. He's also recently posted examples of work by cartoonists Tom Cottrell and Arthur Ferrier.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gerald Biss

Edwin Gerald Jones Biss was born in Cambridge in 1876, the fourth son of Cecil Yates Biss, a Harley Street physician who was a pioneer of the open-air treatment of consumption. Educated at University College, Leys School, Cambridge, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, matriculating in 1895. He was originally intended for the Bar but, like many other budding barristers, he drifted into journalism and found himself with a very successful career, particularly his articles on the relatively new sport of motoring. His articles appeared in The Strand, Tatler, Daily Mail and Evening Standard and he was the motoring correspondent for the Sunday Times, the Sketch
and a special correspondent for Vanity Fair (New York). One of his most popular columns, 'Motor Dicta' concerned "odds and ends of automobilism" appeared in the Evening Standard and The Sketch.

An ardent student of criminology, he could boast a large collection of criminal books as well as some interesting relics. According to one brief biographical sketch. "He studies the subject thoroughly scientifically, both from the medical and legal point of view," attributing his success largely to the fact that he can never "play the fool with his public."

"I aim at making all my plots, however unusual, appear credible," he once said. "I wish my reader to think, 'Well, this might have occurred,' or 'This might have happened to me at any time.' I try to create and preserve the illusion of probability and I frequently draw on life for my plots. The main idea in Branded -- one of the five novels I have written -- is based upon two famous criminal cases that thrilled the world a few years ago."

Biss was a popular writer of the feuilleton, writing serial stories for many leading magazines. "Serial writing has now become a habit with me, and I am afraid I am incurable," he said.

His best known novel, The Door of the Unreal, was his only supernatural yarn. Published in 1919, it appeared long before Hollywood established many of the conventions that nowadays are associated with werewolves. The novel was noted by H. P. Lovecraft in his 'Supernatural Horror in Literature' as handling "quite dexterously the standard werewolf superstition." The story is still in print from at least two different publishers and is available as a PDF download here (part 1), here (part 2) and here (part 3).

Physically large, Gerald Biss died suddenly at the age of 46, collapsing from a heart attack on 15 April 1922 whilst visiting a friend, A. E. Manning Foster, at his flat in Davies Street, Berkeley Square. Biss married Sarah Ann Coutts Allan (1878?-1952) at East Preston, Sussex, in 1905, and had a son, solicitor Godfrey Charles D'Arcy Biss (1909-1989) and a daughter, Couttie Margaret Janet Biss (1907-1988).

Of 'Gerry' Biss, a correspondent to The Times said, "It is seldom given to any man to have so many intimate friends, so many acquaintances who, in all walks of life without, perhaps, knowing him intimately, nevertheless, instinctively felt real, deep affection for this most jovial and kind-hearted of men. Gerry Biss was the friend to all. A writer of remarkable distinction, a man who set 'people' above 'things', gifted with just that imagination and enthusiasm which made his articles, in whatever paper, in whatever style, shine out with an individuality all their own."

The Dupe. London, Greening & Co., 1907.
The White Rose Mystery. London, Greening & Co., 1907.
Branded. London, Greening & Co., 1908.
The House of Terror. London, Greening & Co., 1909.
The Fated Five. The tale of a tontine. London, Greening & Co., 1910.
The Door of the Unreal. London, Eveleigh Nash Co., 1919; New York, G. P. Putnam, 1920.

Motor Dicta. London, Greening & Co., 1909.


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