Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Sign of Four part 10

Tomorrow:  The great Agra treasure!

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Tabloid Books

I sometimes pick up odd books from minor publishers I don't recognise. Tabloid Books was one such publisher. They described themselves as "New, exciting and different"...
These are fast-moving thrillers that tell the story of the events which lead up to, surround, and then follow the 'breaking' of an exclusive front page banner headline in a typical tabloid newspaper, the Daily World.
Tabloid Books were based at 12 Beresford Drive, Southport PR9 7JY, and appear to have only published three titles in 1992-93:

ISBN 1874652...
01-5 Soap Star Kidnapped by Julian Desser (1992)
02-3 Sex By Royal Appointment by Julian Desser (1993)
03-1 Soccer Ace Gunned Down by Neil Bartlem (1993)

Neither author appears to have written any other novels.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Sign of Four part 9

Tomorrow:  The pipe of Death!

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Paperback Cover Cavalcade 12

Today's paperback cover cavalcade is an odd-shaped books special. Three books that have been trimmed into interesting shapes to reflect their contents... not really much else I can add!

Valentine Night by Jill Young. Pan 30595, 1989. Cover design: Sands Graphics
Brighton in winter doesn't seem to have much to offer Vanessa. No fun, and no one who really understood her. Until she met Dusty.
__Attractive, gentle and confident--he's just about everything she could wish for. That, and a date for the Valentine's Ball. But Dusty seems to have other plans...

A Small Book of Grave Humour by Fritz Spiegl. Pan 02871, 1971.
"The object of an epitaph is to identify the resting place of the mortal remains of a dead person. It should therefore record only such information as is reasonably necessary for that person."—The Churchyard Handbook

Metal Mickey's Boogie Book by Metal Mickey and his friends, with help from Colin Bostock-Smith and Mary Danby; illustrated by Bryan Reading. Armada C1955, 1981.
All kinds of fun with TV's most lovable robot and his friends Brainbox, Bootface, Stringbean, Stumblebum, and, of course, the Little Fruitbat.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Alan Plater (1935-2010)

Alan Plater, playwright and screenwriter, died on Friday, 25 June, aged 75. He was best known for his TV work on such series as Z-Cars, Softly Softly and in more recent years Dalziel and Pascoe and Lewis but, to my mind, his finest moments were with The Beiderbecke Affair and its two sequels. There was almost no action at all - just marvelous, sparkling dialogue.

A small connection with British comics: he adapted Bill Tidy's Daily Mirror strip "The Fosdyke Saga" into two plays, The Fosdyke Saga (1975) and Fosdyke Two (1976) which successfully toured the country.

Obituaries: Daily Telegraph (25 June), The Independent (26 June), The Guardian (25 June).

The Sign of Four part 8

Tomorrow:  A sailor in disguise!

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Jo Gannon / Robert Knight: Plasmid

Some oddities that I stumbled across whilst emptying shelves...

Plasmid by Robert Knight, based on a screenplay by Jo Gannon  (London, Star 30683, 1980).
*Note: Jo Gannon credited on cover and spine.
There was a sudden swishing of leaves behind him and he twisted around, his face contorting in horror as his eyes alighted on the warped parody of a human being which was advancing on him. The creature was like a ghost, its ivory skin gleaming in the dark, a mud-stained white gown hanging raggedly on its body. It was shaped like a man but looked otherwise inhuman, its scarlet eyes glinting with an uncanny hunger and lust. Eric's heart gave a tremendous jolt and stopped beating. He slumped forward onto the ground, his dead eyes staring upwards but seeing nothing as the nightmare figure moved forward, panting, its arms dangling at its sides. It gazed down at the dead man for a moment, then regarded the dog. It knelt beside the dead animal, tore a leg off the carcass and bit into it, greedily, voraciously, like an animal devouring its prey...
What makes this an oddity is that it is a novelisation for a movie that was never made. It was to have been made by Salon Productions, who produced Adventures of a Taxi Driver and two sequels, which were hugely successful in the late 1970s. Stanley Long was to have directed the movie but it failed to get off the ground. Instead, Long's next project was the three-story horror anthology Screamtime (1983).

The screenplay—in which a scientific experiment to alter DNA in order to make man adaptable to the extreme environments of deserts, the arctics and even the vacuum of space, goes wrong—was credited to Jo Gannon, actually Joe Gannon, who was credited as Editor on Long's trio of Adventures movies. Irish-born Gannon, went to the USA at the age of 17 and was involved as a lighting technician at the Avalon Ballroom. Before long, he was involved with rock acts Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper, doing lighting for Cooper's 1975 Welcome to my Nightmare concert.

Gannon then appears to have returned to the UK in the late-1970s before departing again for America where he has written, directed and produced a number of American TV shows, including Archie Bunker's Place in the 1980s and In the Heat of the Night in the 1990s, with episodes of Moonlighting, The Twilight Zone and Max Headroom along the way. His most recent writing credit, according to IMDB, is an episode of Law and Order Criminal Intent in 2009.

The novelisation, credited to Robert Knight, was written by Christopher Evans, who also wrote a couple of other horror novels under pseudonyms, as well as co-editing anthologies (with Robert Holdstock), editing art books and publishing seven novels under his own name (Capella's Golden Eyes, The Insider, In Limbo, etc.).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ella M. Scrymsour

Ella Scrymsour has been something of a mystery to researchers for many years. A relatively minor author, her work nevertheless falls into a number of categories where people keenly seek out information: science fiction, horror and crime. As the bulk of her output was romances, often only a single work falls under the microscope, usually her novel A Perfect World. Researchers dig a little, find nothing, and move on.

Well, it seems that it's now my turn to dig a little. I figure that any book that John Clute considers "remarkable" is worth a look. So it is with The Perfect World that we start, and I'm grateful to Ned Brooks for allowing me to reprint a review of the book he wrote for It Goes On The Shelf (July 1995, online here):
I mention this book in connection with The Night Land because they are similar in several ways—both are from the same period, both are utterly humorless, and both make use of the idea of dehydrated water (Hodgson's is a powder that turns to water when the air hits it, while Ms Scrymsour's is a 1-inch cube of what looks like camphor that makes a quart of water when heated).
__The lack of humor makes these books hard to plow through, though The Perfect World is written in conventional English prose and reads far more easily than the obsessively-detailed pseudo-archaic first person narrative of The Night Land. In a way this makes the technical howlers in Ms Scrymsour's book more startling—her prose is conventional, her very British characters are conventional, and yet, in spite of her bizarre imagination, she apparently had a very dim grasp of physical reality.
__The story starts off as a supernatural thriller—our heroes come to a small village to learn the coal-mining business, as their uncle and guardian (who in his spare time is buiding an airship powered by a mixture of "petrol, radium, and theolin") owns the mine. They apparently set off a local curse (dating from Henry VIII's seizure of the monasteries) that forbids strangers in the village, but the link of this curse to subsequent events is never explained and is soon forgotten when one of them vanishes and the other is lost in a mine cave-in. As soon as the action moves underground, Ms Scrymsour's deficiencies in physics become noticeable—the hero lost in the cave-in finds himself by an underground stream and throws in a piece of coal to see how deep it is! "There was a slight splash, but no sound came to tell him that it had reached the bottom". He eventually comes upon humanoid creatures—"no more than three foot six inches", with purple skin, flaxen hair, and a ten-inch horn in the middle of the forehead. One of these attacks him—"he beat his horn in Alan's face". I find this impossible to visualize.
__The horned purple midgets (the High Priestess has "small and pretty" features, "almost of English mould") turn out to be the descendants of ancient Hebrews swallowed up by the earth for defying Moses (see Numbers 16, v.31); and our heroes (the one who vanished is found by the one lost from the mine—he had been dragged down into the bowels of the earth by an incomprehensible sort of electric rope that the troglodytes have for that purpose), who have had proper classical educations at Queens College, Cambridge, soon learn to speak their corrupted Hebrew. Moses is dated to 1400 BC here, so the people of the underworld have had 3300 years to turn purple and grow horns.
__After further underground adventures our heroes escape to the surface with one of the midgets, who turns to dust as soon as the sunlight strikes her. They find that five years have passed, they have missed WWI, and they are in Australia.
__As with the Curse, the plot now abandons the purple midgets. One of our heroes takes his Australian nurse home as his wife, and they find that the uncle, in his grief at their disappearance, has become a hermit and perfected his 900-foot aluminium aircraft, the Argenta. They take it up for a spin and then the world is destroyed.
__Fortunately, the Argenta is fitted with an optional outer hull that "unfolds and clips into position by means of strong clasps" at the pull of a lever. The space between the hulls is then filled with a "mixture of gases of which ether is the chief component". The ship with our heroes, wife, baby, uncle, and an engineer and a mechanic is hurled into outer space. After a year or so they reach Jupiter, almost dead of hunger and thirst. The mechanic goes out too soon and dies of the sulfurous gases of the upper atmosphere.
__Oddly enough, the basic data on Jupiter is about right—it is five times as far from the Sun as the Earth and our heroes realize that this would give it only 1/25 the solar radiation. The pleasant climate is explained by a crude version of the greenhouse effect. The surface gravity of Jupiter is given as three times Earth normal, and that checks with my reference book as well.
__Jupiter has a planet-wide advanced civilization of humans descended from an Adam and Eve who did not sin and so were never cast out of their garden. Sin, however, is not absent. After a battle with a devil-worshipper for the hand of the princess, our unmarried hero marries her and eventually becomes King of Jupiter and lives happily ever after.
__It would make a great movie...
A brief series about psychic investigator Shiela Crerar appeared in Blue Magazine in 1920 was rediscovered by Jack Adrian and reprinted in 2006.

Nothing is known about Ella M. Scrymsour beyond the information appearing in Who's Who in Literature, which gives her year of birth as 1888, a brief list of books and magazines contributed to—Pearson's Weekly, Novel Magazine, Blue Magazine, Corner Magazine, Lady's Companion, Woman's Companion, etc.—and an address c/o Literary Year Books Press, Ltd., 21 Breeze Hill, Bootle, Lancs., who were the publishers of Who's Who in Literature.

Bizarrely, a small clue to her identity may appear in the Spanish ABC magazine published in Madrid on 22 November 1925, which translates as:
ABC in New York.

The International, founded and directed by Irma Kraft, finishes its inauguration shiningly. For the opening an interesting Chinese atmosphere work was chosen, written by two English. It is called, symbolically, The Bridge of Distances, and is by authors John and Ella Scrymsour.
So we now know that she had a husband called John. Checking for information on this play we find that The International Playhouse was founded by Irma Kraft in 1925 with the object of performing plays from around the world in New York. Kraft travelled around Europe before the first season began on 5 October 1925 buying plays and the 8 June 1925 issue of the New York Times announced that "Tsu Tsan or The Bridge of Distance" was to the International's first offering after an opening at the Morosco Theatre on 28 September). The cast, announced later, was led by Ullrich Haupt, Mary Newcomb, Beryl Mercer, Stephen Wright and Ray Collins.

The Bridge of Distances proved a little controversial as it featured a white woman having an affair with a Chinaman. Ned Brooks, again writing in It Goes On The Shelf (January 2000, online here), describes the novel thus: "This was published 2 years after her The Perfect World, mentioned in a previous issue. The first part of it is a standard racist pulp adventure involving two British rogues stealing a princess and a priceless jewel from a noble Chinese family in 1873—and the second part is theosophy about the karmic consequences of this adventure in 1923. Much better written than The Perfect World, but not as much fun!"

A big clue appears twice in the pages of the New York Times: the paper's "News and Gossip of The Rialto" column on 7 June 1925 notes that "Martin Lewis and Evan Thomas, of London, who aquired the world rights of an Anglo Chinese play by John and Ella Scrymgeour, have sold the American rights to the International Playhouse of New York." The paper's "Theatrical Notes" for 11 September 1925 also gives the authors' names as John and Ella Scrymgeour.

If I'm right, Ella M. Scrymsour is actually Mrs. John Scrymgeour and the best match I have been able to find in UK records is Edith M. Scrymgeour (nee Brett), possibly born Edith Mary A. Brett in Wayland, Norfolk, in 1870. Edith married John M. Scrymgeour in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1913. J. M. Scrymgeour was in the phone book living at 19 Moor Road South, Gosforth, Newcastle, in 1932-34; I believe he died at Castle Ward, Northumberland, in 1933, aged 57. He is therefore likely to be the John MacLaren Scrymgeour born in Ludlow, Shropshire, in 1876.

The phone book then lists Mrs. E. M. Scrymgeour at that address in 1935-48; she then moved to 44 Rectory Road, Gosforth, in 1949-50, then disappears from the phone book, which makes me wonder if she is the Edith M. Scrymgeour who died in Winchester, Hampshire, in 1950, aged 80.

This unfortunately contradicts one of the known facts about Ella... that she was born in 1888.

I may have taken a wrong-turning somewhere but I think there's a good chance that Ella M. Scrymsour was actually named Scrymgeour. A copy of her marriage or the death certificates of Edith or John might shed some light, should anyone care to take a punt.

UPDATE: 28 June 2010
Jamie Sturgeon suggests an alternative to my identification of Norfolk-born Edith Mary A. Brett which is a slightly better fit to the birth date. There was an Edith Mary Brett born in Durham, Gateshead, c. 1881 (which fits the age for the Edith M. Scrymgeour who died in 1950). She was a secretary to her father, a glass merchant and was living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1911. John Maclaren Scrymgeour was a partner in a St. Lawrence, Newcastle, based Size making firm, the Gelata Products Company. One of the partners dropped out in December 1914 but the other two, Scrymgeour and Turner Crankshaw, continued the business. Scrymgeour held a patent in 1915 (renewed in 1923) for an invention entitled "Improvements in or relating to rosin size for paper making".

Again, I should note that Edith and John Scrymgeour may be a red herring and we have yet to find Ella and John Scrymsour.

The Perfect World. A romance of strange people and strange places. London, E. Nash & Grayson, 1922; New York, Stokes, 1922.
The Bridge of Distances. London, P. Allan & Co., Mar 1924.
'Neath Burmese Bells. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1925.
Love's Crucifixion (as C. M. Scrymsour). London, Hornsey Journal (My Pocket 124), 1927.
Bungalow Love. London, Hornsey Journal (My Pocket 156), Apr 1928.
When Wings Are Folded. London, Mills & Boon, 1933.
The Girl Who Came Between. London & Dublin, Mellifont Press, 1933.
GayA Good Time Girl. London & Dublin, Mellifont Press, 1934.
Love Untold. London & Dublin, Mellifont Press, 1934.
Love Above All. London & Dublin, Mellifont Press, 1935.
Shiela Crerar, Psychic Investigator, ed. Jack Adrian. Ashcroft, BC, Ash-Tree Press, 2006.

(* My thanks to Ned Brooks for permission to reprint material from It Goes On The Shelf, a full run of which can be found here on the Fanac Fan History Project website.)

The Sign of Four part 7

Tomorrow:  A mysterious telegram from Sherlock Holmes!

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Sign of Four part 6

Tomorrow:  Toby makes a mistake!

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Peter Van Greenaway

The Medusa Touch by Peter Van Greenaway. Gollancz 01702, 1973 (h/c). Cover by Colin Hay
With his third novel, Peter Van Greenaway proves himself to be unquestionably a master of suspense. Each of his plots turns out to have a more shattering impact than the previous one. The Man Who Held the Queen to Ransom and Sent Parliament Packing was hailed in the Press as the "most astounding novel" of its year. Of its successor, Judas!, R. C. Churchill said (in the Birmingham Post), "as thirlling a story of suspense as any reader could desire"; the Manchester Evening News called it "a cliff-hanger"; and The Times declared, "This extraordinary book (which contains about three other novels) is impossible to set aside." Now Mr Van Greenaway comes up with something even more startling.

The quiet opening, which suggests a detective story, is deceptive. A well known novelist, Morlar, has been battered almost to deatah; in  fact, the police doctor pronounces him dead, but by some miracle of will-power, there's a flicker of life in him still, desperately holding on. Inspector Cherry of the Yard can find no conventional clues; but, an unconventional man, he begins to explore Morlar's mind, as revealed in his novels and in interviews with his psychiatrist, Zonfield.

Zonfield describes Morlar as "the most dangerous man in the world", and he could be right... throughout Morlar's life, his enemies have mysteriously met disaster. In their sessions together, the psychiatrist has tried to explain this (and much more) away as coincidence or premonition. But he cannot explain away the appalling evidences of his power which Morlar now produces—the destruction of a submarine, the crash of a jumbo jet into Centrepoint, the fatal deflection in orbit of a manned moon rocket.

And now, from a note in Morlar's journal, the Inspector realises where he intends to strike next, and why he is striving so desperately to stay alive to engineer his atrocious coup...

The novel builds up to a climax of agonising suspense, as the Inspector tries in vain to persuade people at the very top level that he isn't crazy and that the fantastic danger is real. And at the end Morlar, his coup achieved, passes on a last two-word message of even more terrible import. This is indeed the Arctic and Antarctic of chillers.
Peter Van Greenaway is a bit of a mystery. His novels are well known, especially The Medusa Touch, which was filmed in 1978 and starred Richard Burton and Lee Remick. What surprises me is that almost nothing is known about Van Greenaway himself.

Despite what it says in the blurb above, The Medusa Touch was not his third novel but his fifth, the first two (The Crucified City and The Evening Fool) appearing in the early 1960s. Van Greenaway was born in London in 1929 and died in 1988. He was a former lawyer who turned to writing full time... and that is all that appears to be known about him.

The real mystery is that he doesn't seem to appear in birth or death records. There is a brief announcement of his engagement on 12 October 1949 in The Times: "The engagement is announced, and the marriage will shortly take place quietly, between Peter, only son of Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Van Greenaway, of London, and Ursula, only daughter of the late Mr. Philip Mond, and of Mrs. Mond, of Flat 7, 71 Holland Park, London, W11."

The marriage records record the marriage in 4Q 1949 in Kensington between Ursula A. I. Mond and Peter V. Greenaway. Ursula was born in 1928.

It seems that Van Greenaway began writing for TV in the late 1950s, his scripts including one-off plays for ITV Television Playhouse, ITV Play of the Week, The Wednesday Thriller, Thirty-Minute Theatre, Mystery and Imagination and ITV Sunday Night Theatre. Working backwards, he appeared as an actor in a series called Escape in 1957 and had a play on the radio (Home Service) entitled The Drummer Boy as early as 1955.

However, this small (but usually well received) list of credits is all that remains of Van Greenaway beyond his engagement notice and a note that he and his wife attended the memorial service of Mrs. Constance Goetze in 1951.

If Van Greenaway was, indeed, his name. The name doesn't turn up in any census or phone records. Only two Peter Greenaways were born in 1929, one (Peter N., born in Uxbridge) the son of Horace and Beatrice Greenaway, the second (Peter, born in Maidstone) the son of William and Laura Greenaway... not A. G. Van Greenaway.

So who was Peter Van Greenaway? At this time I have no idea... a mystery that has me mystified. Unusual for such a high profile author.

Minor update: 26 February 2011
From an anonymous comment below and a little further digging, we learn that Peter Greenaway was the son of Arthur Thomas George Greenaway (1902-1972) and his wife Florence Mary (nee Hyde, 1906-1991) who were married at Forest Gate on 10 April 1926; their son, Arthur L. Greenway, was born in 1927. If you recall that 'Peter' was the only son, I think this one can be classed as "solved" thanks to our anonymous contributors.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Sign of Four part 5

Tomorrow:  Scotland Yard makes an arrest!

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Sign of Four part 4

Tomorrow: First evidence of the Sign of Four!

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Sign of Four part 3

Tomorrow: Horror in the house at Norwood!

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Sign of Four part 2

Tomorrow: Thaddeus Sholto's amazing story!

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Sign of Four part 1

The comic strips are back! We haven't run one for a while as most of my time in front of the computer has been dedicated to scanning book covers from books that I'm getting rid of, plus the occasional cover gallery, knocked together while I have all the books in one place. However, I'm dedicating Sunday evening to cleaning up pages from The Sign of Four, an adaptation of the second of Arthur Conan Doyle's four Sherlock Holmes' novels (it was a sequel to A Study in Scarlet and preceded The Valley of Fear and The Hound of the Baskervilles).

This adaptation appeared in Look and Learn between September and December 1968, drawn by Robert Forrest, who had earlier drawn an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. As I implied previously, Forrest is a bit of an acquired taste, one that it took me a little while to discover. It was only after I'd seen a lot more of his earlier work for the Thriller Picture Library, where he worked on Victorian classics like Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde and The Picture of Dorien Gray, that I began to appreciate his style. The two Sherlock Holmes adaptations were amongst his last work and a fitting tribute to an artist who was at his best when depicting London's foggy, lamplit streets.

Make sure you come back tomorrow for the next episode, which introduces one of the villains of the piece, Thaddeus Sholto.

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tony Hancock

Another radio comedian... and if you haven't guessed yet, I'm clearing out a shelf of these things, hence the recent galleries relating to Joyce Grenfell and Spike Milligan (scroll down to see them if you like this kind of thing).

Tony Hancock was one of the comedy greats. Hancock was dead by the time I was six, so I doubt if I caught his Hancock's Half Hour first time round, so I guess I learned about him through osmosis. I remember hearing an episode of the radio series (in which he became a Scottish laird) on a car journey (where to and when I've no idea) and the BBC probably repeated episodes of the TV series in the late 1960s but I can't pinpoint the moment when I realised that Hancock and his scriptwriters Ray Galton and Alan Simpson were the finest team British comedy has ever produced. There can't be a person alive who hasn't seen at least a clip of the infamous line from "The Blood Donor" ("A pint? Why that's very nearly an armful!").

Pressure of time means I'll have to point you in the direction of Wikipedia to learn more about Hancock. He died on 24 June 1968 but, forty-two years on, and with radio shows and the remaining TV shows still available on CD and DVD, hopefully he'll not be forgotten.

Hancock by Freddie Hancock & David Nathan (London, William Kimber, 1969)
Coronet 0-340-20513-X, 1975.
Coronet 0-563-20461-3, 1986.
Chivers 0-745-17061-7, 1987. [Large Print]
BBC 0-563-38761-0, 1996.

Hancock's Half Hour by Ray Galton & Alan Simpson (London, Woburn Press, 1974)
Futura 0-860-07246-0, 1975.
(contains: The Missing Page; The Reunion Party; Hancock Alone; The Bowmans; The Blood Donor; Ray Galton and Alan Simpson in conversation with Colin Webb)

The Entertainers: Tony Hancock by Philip Oakes
Woburn-Futura 0-7140-0138-0, 1975.

Hancock's Last Half Hour by Heathcote Williams (London, Polytantric Press, 1977) [chapbook]

Tony Hancock 'Artiste': A Tony Hancock Companion by Roger Wilmut (London, Eyre Methuen, 1978)
Methuen 0-413-50820-X, 1983.

The Best of Hancock by Ray Galton & Alan Simpson (London, Robson, 1986)
Robson 0-860-51367-X, 1993.
(contains: The Economy Drive; The Two Murderers; Twelve Angry Men; The Big Night; The Cold; The Missing Page; The Poison Pen Letters; The Radio Ham; The Lift; The Blood Donor)

The Illustrated Hancock by Roger Wilmut (London, Queen Anne Press, 1986)
Macdonald Queen Anne Press 0-356-14781-9, 1987.

Hancock's Half Hour: Radio scripts by Ray Galton & Alan Simpson compiled by Chris Bumstead (London, BBC, 1987)

Lady Don't Fall Backwards by Joan Le Mesurier (London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1988)
Pan 0-330-30994-3, 1989.

When the Wind Changed: The Life and Death of Tony Hancock by Cliff Goodwin (London, Arrow, 1995)
Century 0-712-67615-5, 1999.
Arrow 978-0099-609414-4, Nov 2000, 608pp. 

Hancock's Last Stand: The Series That Never Was by Edward Joffe (London, Book Guild, 1998)
Methuen 978-0413-74040-3, Sep 1999, 234pp.

Fifty Years of Hancock's Half Hour by Richard Webber (London, Century, 2004)
Arrow 0-099-46488-8, 2005.

Tony Hancock: The Definitive Biography by John Fisher (London, HarperCollins, 2008)
HarperCollins 9780-0729119-9, 2009, 627pp, £8.99. Cover photo by Camera Press

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Arthur Herzog (1927-2010)

Arthur Herzog, author of The Swarm, died on 26 May at a Southampton, New York, hospital from complications following a stroke. He was 83.

He was born in Manhattan on 6 April 1927, the eldest son of songwriter Arthur Herzog Jr. and his wife Elizabeth Lindsay "Bunny" (nee Dayton). Raised in Tucson, Arizona, he attended Arizona University and received a B.A. from Stanford University in 1950. After serving in the U.S. Navy (1945-46), he returned to New York and received a M.A. in English literature from Columbia University in 1956. He worked in the Far East as an evaluator for the Peace Corps. In the mid-1950s he was an editor for Fawcett Publications.

After writing non-fiction articles for Esquire, True, Harper's and Nation, he produced a monthlyu series of interviews for IBM's Think magazine and, over a period of a year, wrote 18 articles for the New York Times Magazine. He turned down a job on the magazine, instead travelling to Angola to cover the Angolan uprising led by Holden Roberto.

Herzog wrote a number of non-fiction books before turning to novels, his first, The Swarm, about killer African bees migrating through South America into the United States. The novel was filmed in 1978 with Michael Caine in the lead role. His third novel, Orca, was filmed by Dino D. Laurentis, whilst I.Q.83, about a genetics team which creates a virus which reduces everyone's IQ, is in development by DreamWorks.

Herzog was married six times and is survived by his latest wife, Leslie Mandel-Herzog, a son from an earlier marriage and three grandchildren.

The Swarm. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1974; London, Heinemann, 1974.
Earthsound. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1975; London, Heinemann, 1975.
Orca. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1976; London, Pan Books, 1977.
Heat. New American Library, 1976; London, Heinemann, 1977; revised, Tudor Books, 1989.
I.Q.83. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1977; London, Heinemann, 1978.
Make Us Happy. New York, Crowell, 1978.
Glad to be Here. New York, Crowell, 1979.
Aries Rising. New York, Richard Marek, 1980; London, Heinemann, 1981.
The Craving. Dell, 1982.
L.S.I.T.T.. New York, Arbor House, 1984; as Takeover, Berkley, 1987.
Gone But Not Forgotten, with Patricia Fox-Sheinwold. New York, HarperCollins Children's Books, 2003.
Imortalon. Bloomington, IN, iUniverse, 2003.
The Village Buyers. Bloomington, IN, iUniverse, 2003.
Icetopia. Bloomington, IN, iUniverse, 2004.
The Town That Moved to Mexico. Bloomington, IN, iUniverse, 2004.
The Third State. Bloomington, IN, iUniverse, 2005.
Polar Swap. Bloomington, IN, iUniverse Star, 2008.

Body Parts. Bloomington, IN, iUniverse, 2005.
Beyond Sci-Fi. Bloomington, IN, iUniverse, 2007.

Smoking and the Public Interest, with others. Mount Vernon, NY, Consumers Union, 1963.
The War-Peace Establishment. New York, Harper & Row, 1965.
The Church Trap. New York, Macmillan, 1968.
McCarthy for President. New York, Viking, 1969.
The B.S. Factor: The Theory and Technique of Faking It in America. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1973.
Vesco: From Wall Street to Castro's Cuba. The rise, fall and exile of white collar crime. New York, Doubleday, 1987.
How to Write Almost Everything Better. Carlton, 1987; revised as How to Write Almost Everything Betterand Faster, New York, Carlton, 1995.
The Woodchipper Murder. New York, Henry Holt, 1989.
17 Days, the Katie Beers Story. New York, HarperCollins, 1993.
A Murder in Our Town. Bloomington, IN, iUniverse Star, 2007.

(* Photo from Electron Press authors' web page.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Comic Cuts - 18 June

I managed to pick up a cold last weekend which knocked me for six on Tuesday and Wednesday although it seems to be wearing off as I write this. As someone who claims they're usually not susceptible to colds, that's the second or third one this year. Must be my age.

The big news is that we've found somewhere to live. Contracts arrived Tuesday and we take over the house on the 17th of July. That could mean a mad rush to get out by the 20th from where we are now... or, if our landlord is OK with it, we'll pay the rent up to the end of the month and move at a more leisurely pace. I'd prefer the latter as it means we can move ourselves rather than try to find the better part of £2,000 to pay someone else to move us. Even renting a van, paying for petrol, paying drivers and buying dinners for helpers is going to work out a hell of a lot cheaper.

For those of you following the saga of the great clear-out, 38 bin bags of rubbish have so far left the house (this in addition to our usual weekly output). I've packed 678 books that I'm selling to a dealer... if you recall last week I mentioned I was aiming to clear 1,000 books from my shelves and I'm now well on my way to hitting that figure. I've scanned the covers of around 500 of those books so I have some record of them. A few of them have already turned up here on Bear Alley and I imaging a few more will be appearing in the coming days and weeks as I get around to cleaning them up. I've now finished going through all my old movie tie-ins and I'm taking a hard, cold look at my SF shelves, trying to figure out which authors I'm likely to re-read.

I have a few comic-related titles pictured below which are for sale, so scroll down to take a look. I'm not planning to sell vast amounts from my comics' collection but a few I'll probably have some more books up for grabs over the weekend or early next week, so keep visiting.

I've not had a chance to sort out any comic strips for Bear Alley of late—there simply hasn't been the time while I've dedicated every scanning moment to book covers. But I'll see what I can get together for a run of something soon... if not next week the week after.

I did have time to make a few additions to my Comics' Novelisations and Tie-ins listing which you can find here. The list is in six parts which I've re-ordered so they come up alphabetically. You'll have to hit the "older posts" links because the individual parts are so long, but it should be a lot easier to navigate. I've put in a permanent link in the Navigation area in the right hand column.

With everything steadily becoming more chaotic, I haven't been keeping up with the news, although I heard that Al Williamson had died. Although I collect and study British comics, even an Anglophile like me can appreciate such a huge talent as Williamson (who acknowledged his own debt to Frank Bellamy).

A couple of brief news bites...

A new website dedicated to the Eagle Annual has opened up at

And BBC Four included Viz and various political cartoonists (Gerald Scarfe, Steve Bell, Martin Rowson) in their series Rude Britannia, broadcast on Wednesday but which you can catch up on on the BBC iPlayer (if you're in the UK... I'm not sure if it's available abroad).

(* Today's column header is from Hora Cera Extra issue 64 (1962). Look closely at the credits and you'll see that it was scripted by J. Steinbeck and drawn by N. Rokwell (sic)... although this must have been a joke from the Argentinian editors. It's actually drawn by Graham Coton and reprints an old Thriller Picture Library story, itself a reprint of an even older Super Detective Library story from the 1950s. My thanks to Domingos Isabelinho for sending this over to me. Our random scan is the wraparound cover for Tanith Lee's The Storm Lord (Orbit, 1977), featuring a beautiful painting by Peter Jones, chosen simply because it was the last thing I scanned before I started writing.)

More stuff for sale

Some books for sale. If any of them interest you, drop me a line at the address below the photo top left. Postage & packing will be extra at cost and will probably add £2-3 to each book in the UK, more to US or Europe.

No Man's Land: A Postwar Sketchbook by George Pratt (Northampton, MA, 1992). 112pp. £20.

Lone Sloane Dilirius by Philippe Druillet (Paris, Dragon's Dream/Heavy Metal, 1973). £10. SOLD

Dracula by Jon J. Muth (NBM, 1992). Beautiful adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. £10. SOLD

Wild Palms by Bruce Wagner & Julian Allen (London, Arrow, 1993). Based on the surreal TV series produced by Oliver Stone. £10.

The Towers of Bois-Maury Volume 1: Babette by Hermann (London, Titan, 1989). Classic Euro-strip by famous Belgian artist Hermann Huppen. £5.

The Towers of Bois-Maury Volume II: Eloise De Montgri by Hermann (London, Titan, 1989). Classic Euro-strip by famous Belgian artist Hermann Huppen. £5. SOLD

A Guide to Comicscripting by Dave Taylor (London, Hale, 1993), illustrated by Bill Storie & Alan Burrows. £5.

Comics & Sequential Art by Will Eisner (Tamarac, FL, Poorhouse Press, 1985). Expanded edition. Crease on rear cover. £10. SOLD

Comicology: The Kingdom Come Companion (Ardmore, PA, Harbor Press, 1998). 272-page, comprehensive study of the Kingdom Come series by Mark Waid & Alex Ross. Lots of previously unpublished material. The books was withdrawn from sale following a complaint from DC Comics and most of the print-run was recalled and destroyed. Very scarce. £60.


Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books