Sunday, June 26, 2011

John Creasey's Dr Palfrey (Department Z5)

I was a huge fan of John Creasey when I was a kid. When I was young, I used to read a lot of books that my Dad read as he often had paperbacks sitting around; he was a fan of the Inspector West novels and I, too, became a fan. But the ones that I loved were the Doctor Palfrey novels. Our local library let me have an adult ticket when I was still very young as I'd read my way through everything good in the children's section at a terrific rate and I read some of the later books as they came out.

Many of the Doctor Palfrey books fall into the category of global disaster novels and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them was the first SF novel I ever read. I don't recall reading the early novels. Maybe it's just my memory playing tricks, but all the Palfrey novels I read had two words in the title (The Flood, The Inferno, etc.), so I'm in for a bit of a treat at some point because at the recent ABC show I picked up a small stack of the earlier Palfrey novels. Whether they're any good or not, I don't know. The only Creasey novel I've read in years was an Inspector West and I did rather enjoy it as a straightforward police procedural that, for a change (especially these days), didn't involve a serial killer. I'll have to revisit Creasey again as I have a stack of his Toff and Baron books. In the meantime, here are the 11 Dr. Palfrey novels I picked up. Hopefully I'll be able to fill in some gaps over time. [I should note that I have been filling gaps occasionally, which is why there are now more than 11 covers.]

Traitors' Doom (London, John Long, Nov 1942)

The Valley of Fear (London, John Long, May 1943)
revised as The Perilous Country, Arrow, 1962.

Dangerous Quest (London, John Long, Jun 1944)

The Legion of the Lost (London, John Long, Nov 1943)

The Hounds of Vengeance (London, John Long, Feb 1945)
revised, Arrow Books 938, 1967, 192pp, 3/6. Cover by unknown

Death in the Rising Sun (London, John Long, 1945)
Arrow Books 696, 1963, 192pp, 2/6. Cover by Roger Hall
revised, Arrow Books, 1970.

Shadow of Doom (London, John Long, Jan 1946)
Arrow Books 734, 1964, 192pp, 2/6. Cover by Roger Hall
revised, Arrow Books, 1970.

The House of the Bears (London, John Long, Jan 1947)
revised, Arrow Books 676, 1962, 192pp, 2/6. Cover by unknown

Dark Harvest (London, John Long, Sep 1947)
revised, Arrow Books 677, 1962, 192pp, 2/6. Cover by unknown

Sons of Satan (London, John Long, Jan 1948)
Arrow Books 699, 1963, 190pp, 2/6. Cover by Roger Hall
revised, Arrow Books, 1970.

The Wings of Peace (London, John Long, Sep 1948)
revised, Arrow Books 733, 1964, 192pp, 2/6. Cover by Roger Hall

The Dawn of Darkness (London, John Long, Jun 1949)

The League of Light (London, Evans, Nov 1949)
revised, Arrow Books 717,  1963, 192pp, 2/6. Cover by Roger Hall

The Man Who Shook the World (London, Evans, Nov 1950)
revised, Jay Books 32, 1958, 2/-. Cover by G. Benvenuti?
revised, Arrow Book 718, 1963, 192pp, 2/6. Cover by Roger Hall

The Prophet of Fire (London, Evans, Jun 1951)

The Children of Hate (London, Evans, May 1952)
as The Children of Despair, Jay Books, 1958.

The Touch of Death (London, Hodder & Stoughton, Feb 1954)

The Mists of Fear (London, Hodder & Stoughton, Mar 1955)
Four Square 868, 1963, 223pp.
Four Square 1874, 5/-.

The Flood (London, Hodder & Stoughton, Mar 1956)
Hodder, 1958, 2/6.

The Plague of Silence (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1958)
Hodder Paperbacks

The Drought (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1959)
Four Square 918, 1963, 157pp, 2/6. Cover by unknown
revised as Dry Spell, Four Square 1920, (Jul) 1967, 3/6.

The Terror (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1962)
Hodder Paperbacks

The Depths (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1963)

The Sleep! (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1964)

The Inferno (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1965)
Arrow Books 0099-08650-6, 1974, 190pp, 35p. Cover photo

The Famine (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1967)
Hodder Paperbacks 340-10668-9, 1969, 188pp, 4/-. Cover: photo

The Blight (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1968)

The Oasis (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1969)

The Smog (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1970)

The Unbegotten (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1971)

The Insulators (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1972)

The Voiceless Ones (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1973)

The Thunder-Maker (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1976)

The Whirlwind (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1979)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

J. Weedon Birch

J. Weedon Birch is a name I come back to regularly. I've never read a word of his writings but he intrigues me because he was a prolific writer, a publisher and, mostly, because I've not been able to find a trace of him. I've spent hours — days even — trying to find just the tiniest slither of official documentation of his existence, just as others (including Bill Lofts and Derek Adley) did before me. It's a good thing I love a mystery.

This particular mystery started fifty or so years ago when various collectors of Old Boys Papers — as children's story papers are known amongst those who collect them — noted that the famous Fat Owl of the Remove in the pages of The Magnet was not the first star of children's fiction to rejoice in the name Billy Bunter. Shortly before Charles Hamilton (using the pen-name Frank Richards) began writing stories featuring Greyfriars School, another author, H. Philpott Wright, was writing a similar school series in the pages of Vanguard Library, a weekly published from 4 May 1907 by a minor publisher, Trapps-Holmes. Hamilton was a regular writer for Trapps-Holmes and it was interest in Hamilton that made Vanguard Library of interest to collectors. In its pages, Hamilton wrote of various schools, including Northcote, Norchester, Larkshall College, St. Kate’s, Redclyffe and various others; towards the end of the original run, between September and November 1909, Hamilton was responsible for the bulk of the contents under various pen-names, including Gillingham Jones, Ridley Redway, Robert Stanley and a number of anonymous yarns. In earlier issues he also wrote as Roland Rodway, Cecil Herbert, Eric Stanhope, Gordon Conway and contrinued his St. Kate’s yarns under the name Frank Drake.

Interest in Hamilton's tales spread to others in the Vanguard Library, especially those of H. Philpott Wright featuring the boys of Blackminster school, and starring Taffy Llewellyn, although most of the attention to the series was because of a boy by the name of Billy Bunter. Whether this inspired Hamilton when he came to name his Greyfriars' characters is unlikely to ever be known for sure; Hamilton later claimed he had used the Bunter name in a rejected story as far back as 1899, and had kept it in mind, to be revived when he started writing the Greyfriars yarns in 1908 (he certainly recycled names endlessly; most of the boys’ names were used time and time again, and even Greyfriars School had been used before in Smiles, another Trapps Holmes paper, in 1907).

Taffy Llewellyn appeared in some 44 stories in Vanguard Library between 1907-09. He then left Blackminster School and teamed up with a detective by the name of Jubal Grail, whose adventures had been appearing concurrently in Vanguard Library credited to one Captain Addison. It seems logical to conclude that Captain Adison and H. Philpott Wright were the same author.

Wright remained something of a mystery in boys' paper collecting until it was realised that photographs that appeared in Diamond Library and True Blue of the authors H. Philpott Wright and J. Weedon Birch were the same photograph. (Unfortunately, I've never seen these photographs, but as the information came from Bill Lofts I believe it to be fact.)

True Blue was another Trapps-Holmes paper whilst Diamond Library was published by Aldine Publishing for which I have only a very partial listing. Birch turns up at least twice with stories entitled 'Marooned at School' (1912) and 'The Demon Bowler' (1913) and it seems likely that Birch, for some reason unknown, switched his allegiance from Trapps-Holmes to Aldine in the summer of 1909. His mantle as the Vanguard Library's most prolific contributor was picked up by Charles Hamilton and Stephen H. Agnew.

Birch's Blood Brothers, a story of the Matabele rebellion, was published in 1912 as the first number of Aldine's World-Wide Library which also included contributions by James Skipp Borlase, William Hamilton Maxwell, James Maclaren Cobban and other adventure story writers before coming to an end in 1913.

Bill Lofts and Derek Adley, in The Men Before Boys' Fiction, recorded (under the entry for H. Philpott Wright) that "Birch was an officer and transport rider to the Chartered Companies of Rhodesia and disappeared from the writing scene before the First World War."

This turned out not to be true: J. Weedon Birch was recorded as a shareholder in Aldine Publishing in 1920, where he was described as a publisher, and, that same year, he co-launched his own publishing company, G. H. Robinson & J. Birch, based in London, which reprinted over a dozen racing titles by Nat Gould and published the Hearth & Home Library (1920-21). Birch was one of his own authors, writing three novels for the firm, At the Kraal of the King (1921), The Lure of the Honey Bird (1921) and The Rhodesian Lily (1922). A later book was The Koodoo Patrol, another African adventure, published by Pilgrim Press (1926).

Birch, again with G. Heath Robinson, also set up Sphinx to publish The All Picture Comic, the first all-pictorial comic published in the UK, although it only lasted for three months in 1921. Sphinx then published the children’s paper Toby from September 1921 which was later sold to Odhams.

G. (for George) Heath Robinson was the younger brother of T Heath, Charles and W. Heath Robinson, the famous artists. George was registered in the London phone book in 1921-22 at 21 Mecklenburgh Square, W.C.1, listing himself as a publisher. One would expect his partner to be fairly close by but, unfortunately, I can find no trace of J. Weedon Birch listed. I did find a John E. W. Birch living in Ilford, Essex, but I'm pretty sure he's John Ernest William Birch, born in West Ham in 1863, for whom I can trace no publishing connections.

Nor have I found any record for the death of J. Weedon Birch. He may have been active as late as the mid-1930s, as his story 'Marooned at School' was reprinted in The Popular Book for Boys (London, Shoe Lane Publishing Co., 1935).

The only glimmer in all this murk is that I think I've found his family. The Weedon Birch name would appear to have come from the marriage of Joseph Birch, a successful shoe and boot maker, and Ann Weedon in Amersham, Bucks., in 1842. Joseph and Ann (sometimes spelled Anne) had ten children of which only one, Joseph, was a boy (a second son, Frank Weedon Birch, died the same year he was born).

It seems unlikely that Joseph was J. Weedon Birch — I say this because he would have been in his seventies when setting up his publishing company. It is, however, possible that he is the Joseph Birch listed in the 1871 census born c.1848 in Chesham who became a farmer in Great Marlow. He had, by the age of 23, married Emma (25). He may also be the Joseph Birch who, in 1881, aged 32, was the inn keeper of the Albert Arms in Reading. He does not seem to appear on the 1891 or 1901 census returns.

Whether Joseph and Emma had any children I've no idea. From Lofts & Adley we know that J. Weedon Birch spent some time in Rhodesia, which could explain why he doesn't seem to appear in census records. Of course, I could also be barking up completely the wrong tree.

The 1861 census lists the Birch family thus:
  • Joseph Birch (42)
  • Ann Birch (40)
  • Jesse Birch (16)
  • Mary Ann Birch (14)
  • Joseph Birch (12)
  • Sarah J. Birch (10)
  • Kate Birch (8)
  • Henrietta Birch (6)
  • Emma Birch (4)
  • Amelia Birch (2)
  • Fanny W. Birch (3 mo)
All were born in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, which is where they were living in 1861 and in 1871.

The 1871 census makes interesting reading as it seems to conflate two households into one headed by the aforementioned Joseph. For clarity, here's the list of occupants (excluding servants, and I've added a couple of missing Birch children for clarity, but you can see the original above):
  • Joseph Birch (57, b. c.1819; d. 1878)
  • Ann Birch (50, b. 1821; d. 1875)
  • Jesse Birch (26, b. 1845)
  • [[Mary Anne Birch (would have been 24) (b. 1847) poss. married]]
  • [[Joseph Birch (would have been 22) (b. 1849)]]
  • Sarah Jane Birch (20, b. 1851) became a domestic servant/cook
  • Kate Birch (18, b. 1853) m. Beale
  • Henrietta Birch (16, b. 1855) became as jeweller's assistant
  • Emma Birch (14, b. 1857) became as jeweller's assistant
  • Amelia Birch (12, b. 1859) became a music teacher
  • Fanny Weedon Birch (10, b. 1861; d. Uxbridge, 1921) m. Henry Thomas Cherry in 1885
  • [[Frank Weedon Birch (b.1861; d.1861)]]
  • Lucy Birch (8, b. c.1864) became a governess/school mistress
  • Emma Weedon (14, b. Cripplegate, Middlesex, c. 1857)
  • Kate Weedon (11, b. Cripplegate, Middlesex, c. 1860)
  • Alice Weedon (10, b. Cripplegate, Middlesex, c. 1861)
  • Charles Weedon (5, b. Cripplegate, Middlesex, c. 1866)
  • John Weedon (3, b. Chesham, Bucks, c. 1868)
  • Frank Weedon (1, b. Cripplegate, Middlesex, c. 1870)
So we come to the Weedon part of this family. They would appear to be the children of William Weedon (a master butcher) born in Chesham, Bucks in c.1820, and his wife Amelia Helen Weedon (b. Shoreditch, Middlesex, c. 1831). In 1861 they are living in St. Giles Without Cripplegate, in East London (along with Agnes D. Weedon, William's 43-year-old sister, also born in Chesham); thanks to baptismal and other records, we can compile a pretty accurate list of family members:
  • Emma (b. 9 December 1856)
  • William (b. 25 February 1858)
  • Kate (b. 3 October 1859)
  • Alice (b. 22 December 1860)
  • James (b. 1 June 1862)
  • Richard (b. 11 November 1863)
  • Charles (b. 6 May 1865)
  • John (b. 17 September 1967)
  • Frank (b. 20 September 1869)
  • Thomas Ramsdale Weedon (b. Chesham, 1872)
William Weedon had previously been married to Emma Cressell in 1851, with whom he had two children, William Arthur (1853) and Frank (1855), neither of whom survived childhood. Emma died in 1855 and William subsequently married Amelia Helen Perrin in Cripplegate on 16 March 1856. His parents were Edward Weedon (1790-1855), a wheelwright, and his wife Jane (nee Densford), who had married in 1816. William and a number of members of his family seem to have moved from Chesham to Cripplegate where aunt Mary (Edward's sister) had married a butcher called John Seeley. William and his brother were both butchers in East London by 1851, and sisters Sarah (living with William and Edward) and Agnes (living with the Seeley family) had also decamped to London.

William's younger sister Ann, meanwhile, had married to Joseph Birch in 1842. Hence the family connection.

What these census records don't explain is why six of the Weedon's nine (at the time) children were living with the Birch family in 1871. James and Richard, two of the other three were pupils at a school in Tring, Hertfordshire, but William, Amelia and their eldest son, also William, are missing from sight. Maybe it was something as simple as a holiday abroad.

William Weedon died in 1880 and his widow is living in Hampstead by the time of the 1881 census along with her children Emma, Kate, James, Charles and Thomas R. and two servants, so the family were clearly not left destitute. By 1891, she has moved to Hendon, still living with many of her family (Emma, William, Charles, Frank). She died in 1899 in West Ham.

I seem to have travelled some distance away from the original mystery, but I'm resolute in my notion that somewhere amongst the above family is the mysterious J. Weedon Birch.

Here's my final stab at this for the moment. In the 1901 census there's a Joseph W. Birch, born in Chesham, Bucks, aged 41, married to Sarah A. Birch (36, also born in Chesham), and their children Maggie (8), Constance (6), Leonard W. (5), Charles F. (3) and John A. (7 mo). His occupation is given as bookmaker. He must be Joseph William Birch, born in 1860, married Sarah Ann Lacey in 1892. I'm including him here as an outsider — perhaps almost definitely an also ran — in the search for J. Weedon Birch.

When Lofts & Adley wrote that Birch was "probably one of the most interesting authors in the early days of the century and certainly the most mysterious," they weren't joking.

This is a mystery I'm sure to return to in the future.

Novels by J. Weedon Birch
Blood Brothers. A story of the Matabele rebellion. London, Aldine Publishing Co. (World-Wide Library 1), 1912.
Marooned at School. London, Aldine Publishing Co. (Diamond Library 170), 1912.
The Demon Bowler. London, Aldine Publishing Co. (Diamond Library 202), 1913.
At the Kraal of the King. London, G. H. Robinson & J. Birch, 1921.
The Lure of the Honey Bird. London, G. H. Robinson & J. Birch, 1921.
The Rhodesian Lily. London, G. H. Robinson & J. Birch, 1922.
The Veldt Trail. London, National Sunday School Union, 1925.
The Koodoo Patrol. London, Pilgrim Press, 1926.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Comic Cuts - 24 June 2011

Not a lot to report as I've spent the week trying to get as far ahead with work as I possibly could ahead of the big shutdown and migration. The bit of wire I ordered arrived but I'm not convinced it's the right one! I'm now waiting on a visit from someone who knows what they're doing before I do anything else.

Meanwhile, I'm doing another major backup of everything on the old computer, which I started Thursday evening. At this precise moment (around 1:30 in the morning) I've still 80 minutes of copying left for one bit of the drive; then I'll be leaving the rest to copy overnight.

While it's copying I'm trying to spend the time constructively, working up some notes on the 'Roy of the Rovers' newspaper strip that appeared in the Daily Star back in the 1980s and 1990s... the first bit of work I've done on the Mike Western book for over a week. For relaxation, I've been watching an episode of the BBC2 thriller The Shadow Line over lunch each day this week and we've been watching episodes of the first season of Babylon 5 in the evening. The former is excellent - the best police drama the BBC have done in a while; the latter is still as good as I remember it first time round.

Air Pirate Press have just published a retrospective of one of 2000AD's greatest artists, The Art of Brett Ewins, which is now available via Amazon at a knockdown £9.99. As well reproducing some of his original artwork, pencils, inked pages and paintings - some of it previously unseen - there's a candid 11,000 word interview with Ewins talking about his work in comics and the toll it took on his health.

Also now announced is Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss which I had a small hand in... well, my scanner had a bit of a hand in it anyway. The bulk of the work was by the indefatigable Rian Hughes whose talents for restoring artwork far outstrips mine (we all need something to aspire to). I've had this as a PDF for a while but the book is now in the hands of the authors - Rian shares the writers credits with Imogene Foss - and should be in the shops before too long. The official release date is 22 July, but if you want to have a sneaky peak at the contents, click on the video below:

This is by far the most comprehensive collection of Foss artwork ever assembled, a large chunk of it taken from original artwork and the remainder carefully restored from printed covers. It's 240 pages of the best SF artwork you'll see this side of Pluto. Foss's spacecraft bristle with antennae, rocket pods and exhausts; they're pitted and battle-scarred and you can actually believe they're the kind of ships that might one day plough the spacelanes. Foss painted each panel and rivet that made up these vast space hulks in the same way that the best military artists paint aircraft and tank... they're utterly convincing and they totally revolutionised the artwork for British SF books in the 1970s, echoes of which you can still see today in books, movies and video games.

Foss is making a rare appearance at Forbidden Planet in London on the Thursday, 21st July for a signing between 6 and 7 pm.

Just enough space to squeeze in a random scan. This was sent over by Morgan Wallace and required a heck of a lot of work just to get it where it is now, which isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I've no idea why, but Milestone books from the early 1950s are almost always the most beaten and battered of all those old Fifties gangster yarns. This one showed lots of wear, creasing and general damage, but it cleaned up OK. The artist is Len Gard about whom we know almost nothing.

Coming to a future near you: a couple of odd bits over the weekend as I struggle to discover anything about J. Weedon Birch and show off the Dr. Palfrey novels I picked up at last week's ABC Show. Next week, a new story featuring 'The Man Who Searched for Fear' and our regular 'Recent Releases' and 'Upcoming Books' columns. And a new computer that works. Hopefully.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ken MacLeod cover gallery

Ken MacLeod is a Scottish SF author, one of the wave of British authors who began appearing in the 1990s that include Charles Stross, Stephen Baxter, Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds and Adam Roberts. A fine writer who deserves a gallery here. I also like cover artist Lee Gibson and ran a little gallery of the 'Engines of Light' trilogy hardcover jackets back in June 2008.

What actually prompted this little gallery was that I've just noticed a curiosity regarding MacLeod's Dark Light where the front cover is a rotated version of the hardcover dustjacket image (above). Moving the author's name down from the top header and onto the image, means that the spaceship would be entirely covered up, so they've turned the image 90 degrees. The back cover and spine is another extract from the original. Scroll down to see how it turned out.


The Star Fraction (1995)
Orbit, 1998
Orbit 184149096-2, 2nd imp., 2000; 3rd imp. 2000.
----, 4th imp., 2001, 341pp, £6.99. Cover by Angus McKie

The Stone Canal (1996)
Legend 0099-55901-3, 1997, 322+20pp, £5.99. Cover by Chris Moore (design by Slatter-Anderson)

The Cassini Division (1998)
Orbit 185723730-7, 1999, 240pp, £6.99. Cover by Mark Salwowski

The Sky Road (1999)
Orbit 185723967-9, 2000, 402pp, £6.99. Cover by Lee Gibbons

Cosmonaut Keep (2000)
Orbit 184149067-9, 2001, 385pp, £6.99. Cover by Lee Gibbons

Dark Light (2001)
Orbit 184149109-8, 2002, 368pp, £6.99. Cover by Lee Gibbons

Engine City (2002)
Orbit 184149203-5, 2003, 369pp, £6.99. Cover by Lee Gibbons

Newton's Wake: A Space Opera (2004)
Orbit 184149224-8, 2005, 369pp, £6.99. Cover by Lee Gibbons

Learning the World: A Novel of First Contact (2005)
Orbit 184149344-9, 2006, 398pp, £6.99. Cover by Lee Gibbons

The Highway Men (2006)
Sandstone Press 1905-20706-9 [Sandstone Vista 8], 2006, 74pp, £5.95. Cover photo

The Execution Channel (2007)
Orbit 978-184149349-7, 2008, 370+36pp, £6.99.

The Night Sessions (2008)

The Restoration Game (2010)

Intrusion (2012)
Orbit 978-1841-40940-6, 2013, 387pp, £8.99. Cover design by Nico Taylor

Descent (2014)

Dissidence (2016)

Insurgence (2016)

Emergence (2017)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New computer falls at first hurdle

Well, I've got the new computer and spent most of the evening checking to see what I needed to do before switching it on as this is the first time I've tried to get a computer working by myself. I've had about five computers in total: I bought my first one in 1990. It had a 30mb hard drive and the previous owner proudly told me I'd never need to buy another computer because there was so much space I'd never fill it. And even if I did, I could copy stuff onto a 5 ¼ inch floppy disc.

Second computer was one from work. Can't remember how big it was but it seemed incredibly fast. Mind you, it took all night to copy the data off my original computer, which was falling apart even as we copied. We ran a disc test on the hard drive before hand and it had maybe 5% bad sectors. After copying, we tried again and it was 25% bad sectors. My £700 computer went into a skip (minus the hard drive). Second computer was replaced a few years later with something that I think had a 35gb hard drive because we were by now scanning a lot of our own pictures (this being back in the days when I was working on magazines for Trinity Mirror). That one was replaced as my main machine around 2000; I used the older machine as a back-up until the summer of 2002 when the hard-drive went bang and froze solid. When we took the machine apart, the hard drive had a scorch mark on it. "That shouldn't happen," said a friend and demanded I take photos so he could show his techie pals.

I eventually replaced the back-up with a laptop, which I still use. The main machine was replaced around 2005 with the machine that's now on its last legs and about to be replaced.

A rambling way of getting to the point, which is that I've never had to set up my own computer from scratch before — that being one of the advantages of house-sharing with people who are technically minded.

"How's that working out for you," I hear you ask. Thank you for asking, but the title of this piece says it all. I got as far as plugging the new machine into the mains, unplugged the monitor from my old computer and... well, nothing, because it's the wrong sort of cable to fit into the new computer. Apparently I need a DVID cable. So the credit card has taken a bit more of a beating and I'll have another bash at getting the new computer working in a couple of days. I might have a photo or two of the new beast by Friday.

Before I disappear, a quick warning. Although I'm not losing access to the internet while I'm changing computers (I've still got the laptop) I may be losing e-mail and the scanner for a couple of days. So if you send an e-mail and don't hear back, you'll know why. I've just watched a Microsoft video about how to migrate old files onto a new machine but I'm still clueless.

Arthur A. Dixon

I've just started working on a new series of features for the Look and Learn blog looking at some of the artists whose work appears in the picture library. As there are over 11,000 artists represented in the library, it should keep me going for some while, especially as there is almost nothing known about some of them. Take, for instance, Arthur A. Dixon, who gets five lines in the Dictionary of British Book Illustrators. Now, I've managed to expand that to around 200 words, but to get there took an awful lot of digging around. In fact, I ended up with notes of around 1,300 words just to boil it down to 200. Waste not, want not. Here are my notes and you can see what I culled from them if you slip over to the Look and Learn blog.

Arthur Augustus Dixon. Born St. Pancras, London, 8 May 1872 and Baptized on 25 Sept. at All Saints, St. Pancras. Father was a grainer & marbler. Father died in Pancras in 1887. Mother died 1901.
1881 (8) Pancras, Richard (42), Rosa (39), Frederick Richard (10) Herbert Walter (4) Charles (1)
1891 (18) Islington with widowed mother Rosa (49), Frederick (20), Herbert W. (14)
1901 (28): lived in Islington with wife Cecil Elsie Dixon (34) and daughter Elsie Dixon (11 mo.)
Married Cecil Elsie Sowerby, in Steyning, Sussex, in 1899 and daughter Elsie born 1900.
Cecil E. Dixon d. 1955, Berkhamsted, Herts.
Arthur A. Dixon d. 1959, Berkhamsted, Herts.
Frederick Richard Dixon (b. 8 May 1870)
Herbert Walter Dixon (b. 1876)
Charles Dixon (b. 19 May 1879)

Illustrated Books
Cross Purposes; or, The Deanes of Dean's Croft by Emma Marshall. London, Griffith, Farran, Browne, 1899.
The Holly Tree by Charles Dickens. London, Ernest Nister, 1899?; New York, E. P. Dutton, 1899.
A Big Temptation by L. T. Meade (and others). London, Ernest Nister, 1900; New York, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1900.
Bruno and Bimba: The story of some little people by Evelyn Everett-Green. London, Ernest Nister, 1900; New York, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1900.
To Pay the Price by Silas K. Hocking. London, Frederick Warne, 1900.
The King's Butterfly by Evelyn Everett-Green. London, Ernest Nister, 1900.
Sunny Tales by Nora Hopper, etc., illus with others. London & New York, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1901?
Guardian Angels: Poems and Stories by Nora Hopper, illus. with others. London, Paris & New York, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1901.
A Princess's Token by Evelyn Everett-Green. London, Ernest Lister, 1902.
To the Rescue. A tale of a London 'prentice boy by Evelyn Everett-Graen. London, Ernest Nister, 1902; New York, E. P. Dutton, 1902.
The Secret of the Everglades. A story of adventure in Florida by Bessie Marchant. London, Blackie, 1903.
Henry Esmond by William Makepeace Thackeray. London, Collins Clear-Type Press, 1903.
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, 1903?
The Mystery of the Pine Wood; and, The Hollow Tree House by L. Molesworth. London, Ernest Nister, 1903; New York, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1903.
Child Characters from Dickens retold by L. L. Weedon. London, Ernest Nister, 1905; New York, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1905.
Christmas at Bracebridge Hall by Washington Irving. London, Ernest Nister, 1905; New York, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1905.
Cranford by Mrs. Gaskell. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1905.
Little Lady Val by Evelyn Everett-Green. London, Ernest Nister, 1905.
The Swiss Family Robinson. The journal of a father shipwrecked with his wife and children on an uninhabited island by J. Wyss, translated from the German by M. Wiss. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1905.
Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawathorne. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1905.
The Last Days of Pompeii by Lord Lytton. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, 1905?
A Noble Life by Mrs Craik. London & Glasgow, Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1905?
North and South by Mrs. Gaskell. London & Glasgow, Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1905?
The Courtship of Miles Standish by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. London, Ernest Nister, 1906; New York, E. P. Dutton, 1906.
Songs of Faith and Hope, illus. with others. London, Ernest Nister, 1906.
Mother's Little Man by Mary D. Brine. London, Ernest Nister, 1906?
A Daughter of the Ranges: A story of Western Canada by Bessie Marchant. London, Blackie & Son, 1906.
In a Land of Beasts by E. Everett-Green. London & Glasgow, Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.
The Boy Hero of Erin: The story of Cuchulainn and the champion of the Red Branch of Ulster re-told by Charles Squire. London, Blackie & Son, 1907.
Evangeline: A tale of Acadie by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. London, Ernest Lister, 1907.
Tales of a Fairy Court by Andrew Lang. London & Glasgow, Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1907.
Pamela's Hero. A tale of the Gordon Riots by Pamela Moore. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1908.
The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge. London, Collins, 1908?
The Poetical Works of Matthew Arnold. London, Collins, 1908?
Fairy Tales by Edouard Laboulaye. London, Ernest Lister, 1909.
Good Comrades: A story of a little German boy and his dog by M.S.S. London, Blackie & Son, 1909.
The Third Class of Miss Kaye's by Angela Brazil. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1909.
The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley. London, Ernest Nister, 1908; New York, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1908.
Fairy Tales by Wilhelm Hauff, translated by L. L. Weedon. London, Ernest Lister, 1910.
The King's Liege. A story of the days of Charles I by H. A. Hinkson. London, Blackie & Son, 1910.
The Nicest Girl in the School. A story of school life by Angela Brazil. London, Blackie & Son, 1910.
The Poetical Works of John Keats. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, 1910?
The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas. London, Collins Clear-Type Press, 1910?
The All Fairy Book. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, n.d. (1910s?). [dustwrapper]
The Count of Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, n.d. (1910s?).
Hereward the Wake by Charles Kingsley. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, n.d. (1910s?).
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, n.d. (1910s?).
Les Misterables by Victor Hugo. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, n.d. (1910s?).
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, n.d. (1910s?)
The Professor at the Breakfast-Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, n.d. (1910s?).
The Manor House School by Angela Brazil. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1911.
The Red Knights by G. I. Witham. (London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1911).
The Heroes; or, Greek Fairy Tales for Children by Charles Kingsley. London, Blackie & Son, 1911?
Terry the Girl-Guide by Dorothea Moore, foreword by Anges Baden-Powell. London, James Nisbet & Co., 1912.
The Basket of Flowers: A Tale for the Young from the German (Das blumenkörbchen) of Christoph von Schmid. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1912?
Shakespeare Stories for Children by E. Nesbit, illus. with others. London, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1912? 
Children's Stories from Longfellow by Doris Ashley, illus. with others. London, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1914.
Children's Stories from Tennyson by Nora Chesson, illus. with others. London, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1914.
Schoolgirls and Scouts by Elsie Oxenham. London & Glasgow, Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1914.
Stories from the Bible by T. W. Wilson. London, Blackie & Son, 1914.
Fairy Fancies. London & Glasgow, Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1914?
When Auntie Lil Took Charge by May Wynne. London, Blackie & Son, 1915.
Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Doris Ashley. London, (Raphael Tuck?), n.d. (c.1915?)
Children's Stories from Russian Fairy Tales and Legends translated and adapted by Seraphima Pulman, edited by Capt. Edric Vredenburg. London, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1917.
The Children's Jesus by E. B. Trist. London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1919; New York, Macmillan, 1919.
The Abbey Girls by Elsie Oxenham. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1920.
Ungava. A tale of Esquirimaux land by R. M. Ballantyne. London & Glasgow, Collins Clear-Type Press, 1920?
The Precious Gift: Bible stories for Children by T. W. Wilson. London, Blackie, 1922.
Fairy Tales for the Schoolroom, illus. with others. London, The Gresham Publishing Company, 1923.
The Candle of the North. Stories from the Venerable Bede by C. M. D. Jones. London & Oxford, A. R. Mowbray & Co., 1924.
Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving, illus. with H. M. Brock. London, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1924.; Philadelphia, David McKay, 1924.
Granny's Wonderful Chair by Frances Browne, (London & Glasgow, Collins, 1925).
Tom Brown's Scooldays by an Old Boy (Thomas Hughes). London, Butcher, n.d.
Pictures from the Old Testament. With descriptive text and Bible references. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1953.

(* pics © Look and Learn Ltd.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

John S. Margerison

A recent enquiry led me a bit of a merry chase. Who was John S. Margerison? A simple enough question and one that I didn't have much of an answer to. He was a prolific writer for boys and had written quite a few books on the Royal Navy, so there seemed to be a naval/seagoing connection. But we had no dates for him.

My Story Paper Index listed quite a few stories dating from 1916 to 1922 and his books were published in that same period. I also found a listing for John S. Margerison in the phone book, his address given as St. Clere's Hall, Danbury, Essex, where he was listed in 1923-24. All of which hinted that something had happened to Margerison to bring his career to an end in the early 1920s.

During my digging for Margerisons connected with Essex I turned up another possible clue in the birth of a child called John S. Margerison, whose birth was registered in West Ham in 1918. Records for that period had begun listing the mother's maiden name, which, in this case, was Boyland. And from these little acorns grew the following story...

Quite when John Strong Margerison adoptated that name is unknown, although it would appear to have been in his teens. He was, in fact, born Joseph Margerison at Little Padfield, Glosop Dale, in Derbyshire, on 28 April 1887, the son of John Margerison, a shoemaker who had married Catherine Lister in 1883. The couple had seven children, three boys followed by four girls, Joseph being their second but oldest surviving son.

In neither the 1891 nor 1901 census is John Margerison with his family; in the former he is lodging in Rishton and in the latter Royton, both in Lancashire. In 1891, Catherine is lodging in Crompton, Lancashire, and her occupation is given as cotton operative and Joseph is living with his uncle and aunt, John William and Anne Harrison, in Glossop, Derbyshire. In 1901, Joseph is still living with his uncle and aunt but now in Mottram, Cheshire, and with his youngest sister, Eva. His parents had by now separated and Catherine was living in South Manchester as Catherine Tierney, described on the census return as the wife of shoemaker John Tierney, although they did not marry until 1921. Three of Joseph's four sisters were sent to the Oldham Union Workhouse.

In Our Wonderful Navy, Margerison wrote, "The call of the sea is something that vaguely stirs in the veins of every boy worthy of the name as soon as he attains the age of fourteen or thereabouts." This was certainly true of Joseph who, aged 14, ran away to sea to join the Royal Navy.

In June 1912, Able Seaman Margerison was one of the crew of the HMS Prince of Wales who were awarded medals for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea. went to the aid of the steamship SS Delhi, which was stranded off Cape Spartel, Morocco, on 13 December 1911. The ship had been carrying the Duke of Fife with the Princess Royal and their daughters, who were on their way to Egypt; in thick rain, heavy seas and strong currents, the ship had drifted closer to the shore than its crew realised and became stranded about three and a half miles south of Cape Spartel. During the rescue, three crewmen of the French cruiser Friant had died and the Gibraltar lifeboat destroyed, but all the passengers and crew of the Delhi were saved.

Margerison had married, in 1907, Beatrice Alice Boyland at Portsea Island (he is erroneously listed as John Strong Margeson); Beatrice had been born at Portsea in 1886, the daughter of Henry Charles Boyland and his wife Angelina. They had three children, Cecil Reuben (1908-1980), Margery Madeline Patricia (1916-1989) and John S. (1918-1918).

I've no idea whether Joseph Margerison served during the Great War; he would have been in his late twenties when war broke out, but from 1916 on would appear to be writing far too prolifically for someone in service. Perhaps his talent for writing about and promoting the Royal Navy was considered of greater use than to have him serve aboard ship. His books and stories were well received at the time and his work appeared in The London, Chambers's Journal, War Illustrated, The Royal Magazine and Short Stories. He wrote two series of articles about joining the Navy ('Come to Sea, My Lads!' and 'Under the Red Ensign') for The Boys' Friend in 1916 and, after the war, was a regular contributor to Chums, The Boys' Realm and other boys' papers.

Margerison also worked as an advertising manager, travelling to Bombay, India, in the 1920 and was editor of the Netherlands Indies Review, the official organ of the British Chamber of Commerce for the Netherlands East Indies (or Dutch East Indies, nowaday Indonesia). Margerison noted in the pages of The Asiatic Review in 1921 that he "has known the Netherlands East Indies for a considerable period" and "has watched the steady development of the islands from an industrial point of view." The Netherlands Indies Review was later edited by Philip C. Coote and later became The Java Gazette.

Joseph Margerison died in a motorcycle accident in 1925, aged only 37.

UPDATE 1 February 2015
I received an interesting note from John Elsbury, Margerison's grandson (he's the son of Margery Madeline Patricia Margerison), who tells me:
According to my mother, her brother Cecil brought a motorbike home one day and John S insisted on taking it for a test drive from which he didn't return.
     The story goes that he had just completed an application for a life insurance policy, which was sitting on the hall table with the first premium cheque, stamped and ready to go into the mail.  According to my mother, the family then rapidly descended the ladder from upper-middle to working class. His widow, Beatrice, went into service and was, when I was a child in the 1950s, working as a live-in carer for a family with a child with special needs.
    I believe my sister has his WW1 Service Record. I think he may have been invalided out of the RN. I have his fob watch which appears to have been pawned a few times. I have a vague recollection that I was told, as a child, that he had been promoted up to able seaman a couple of times, then been busted back to whatever the lowest rank was. Interestingly, although the family legend was that he had run away to sea – as you report – my own attempt to do the equivalent and join the RAF at age 18 was firmly squashed by my parents. So much for tradition...
Margerison was invalided out of the service on 21 June 1913, a matter of months before his father died. After the war, he lived in Dagenham and at Green Gables, Tilty, Essex. He worked as an advertising manager, travelling to India in May 1920. He was living at Greenorbor, Duton Hill, Dunmow, Essex, when he died on 21 March 1925.


The Navy's Way. London, Duckworth & Co., 1916.
Action! Stories from the modern navy. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917.
Turret and Torpedo. Tales of the navy trade. London, C. Arthur Pearson, 1917.
Periscope and Propeller. More tales of the navy trade. London, C. Arthur Pearson, 1917.
The Sea Services. A complete guide to the Royal Navy and the Mercantile Marine. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917.
The Sure Shield. London, Duckworth & Co., 1917.
Destroyer Doings. London, C. Arthur Pearson, 1918.
The Hungry Hundred: Royal Naval Reserve. London, C. A. Pearson & Co., 1918.
Hunters of the U-Boat. London, C. Arthur Pearson, 1918.
The Navy's Larder and the Marketing List of the Ship's Housewife. Toronto, Warwick Bros. & Rutter, 1918.
Petrol Patrols. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1918.
Midshipman Rex Carew, V.C.. London, Nelson, 1919.
Our Wonderful Navy. The story of the sure shield in peace and war, illus. Charles de Lacy. London, Cassell & Co., 1919.
Torpedo versus Gun. The story of a naval bet. London, C. Arthur Pearson, 1919.
Frank Carroll's Mystery. London, Lloyd's School Yarns (#22), 1922.

(* The illustrations above are from Our Wonderful Navy and are by Charles De Lacy.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Comic Cuts - 17 June 2011

The two big events of the week for me occurred on Sunday and Tuesday. Sunday was the latest ABC show which turned out to be an excellent day. Although I had no problems on the trains (which is quite common during the summer), I arrived in London to a steady drizzle of rain. Arrived at the Royal National around 10:30 am damp but in good cheer. This was the first time I had the current four Bear Alley Books titles on show and Geoff West kindly donated some table space.

David Ashford was also on hand to do some signing as we were trying to give the latest Book Palace publications a push; I'm happy to say that everyone was very complimentary regarding the Thriller Libraries and Wells Fargo & Pony Express books.

I managed to sell a few copies of all four Bear Alley titles which was especially pleasing — I'd taken a couple of copies of Mean Streetmaps up to the show expecting to take both of them home again but managed to flog one of them! My little display had quite a few browsers and I sold 11 books in total. This might not sound like a lot but my attitude going in was that anyone attending the show would be looking for old comics or books to fill out their collections rather than new books. To get into double sales figures was a nice surprise and I think I might have sold more if volume 3 of Eagles had been available — which it will be by next time.

Apart from one coffee break I was behind the table most of the day; I managed to do one quick scout around the smaller of the halls where we were and bought some books, which I'll be posting as a gallery shortly. All in all, it was an excellent day. Wish I'd managed to get around the other halls, but you can't have everything.

(Incidentally, the photo above looks a little sparse because I had just started packing away when I realised I hadn't taken any photos and my camera was still in the bag. Hence the quick snapshot, with David Ashford also packing in the background.)

The second bit of news is that on Tuesday I spent a ton of money, just shy of £1,000, and have a new computer on the way. So that's the meagre profits I made from the book fair on Sunday wiped out and a lot more besides. I'm going to have a vast credit card bill next month. The good news is that I've been offered a bit more work which will help pay it off. I don't know how this will impact on Bear Alley and Bear Alley Books, but I'm hoping that I can keep everything running smoothly. I've not missed many days since I decided that I was going to post something on a regular basis and we're coming up for our fifth birthday in August. If I find that I'm stretched too thin, I'll at least try to find a good comic strip for you.

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I'm thinking that the Mike Western book is probably going to be called Mike Western: A Life in Comics. I'm still writing — the last word count clocked in at around 14,000 and I still have some way to go — but I took a break this week to lay out some pages because I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to do the book in the way I wanted. The original A5 version I did ran the two parallel strands that make up the Mike Western Story — Mike's autobiographical piece and my commentary — side by side. It means that the book then becomes a proper chronological survey of Mike's work from beginning to end rather than breaking the book into two uneven halves.

Now that I know that it works, I'm ploughing ahead with the writing. I've till got quite a way to go. Because of the way the comics have surfaced, I've finished the 1950s and have notes on the early sixties; then there's a huge gap before things pick up in the mid-1970s and carry forward to the mid-1980s, then there's another hole that needs to be filled. I've no idea how long it'll take to complete but it should be quite a substantial book by the time it's finished.

I'm out of news, so I'll wrap up with some random scans. These are a couple of books I picked up at the fair, both from the 1940s. The first is a short crime novel by the mysterious Penny Street, who is credited with only three short titles, which makes me suspect she is actually a pen-name. The second book is by the pseudonymous Bree Narran, who wrote some saucy stuff back in the years just after the First World War which were still finding their way into print after the Second World War. Narran is someone I'll have to return to at some point.

Over the weekend I'll have some more TV Express scans. Next week... probably a bit of a mixed bag as I try to catch up on a couple of pieces I keep trying to fit in but never seem to get around to.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

TV Express Scrapbook: Tony Hancock and Sid James

More features on the stars of yesterday from the pages of TV Express, these two relating to the comedians Tony Hancock and Sidney James.

The two had been working together for years on Hancock's Half-Hour and had made the successful switch to television together. But with the end of the TV show's sixth series, James was dumped by Hancock who feared that he and James would be seen as a double act. Hancock went off to star in the film The Rebel and James was left to his own devices. But Sid was already an established film actor with about 150 movies under his belt and would have no trouble finding more work, including the launch of a new star vehicle on TV, Citizen James. The show was in effect Hancock without Hancock, Sid playing much the same character as he had on the radio, with support from Bill Kerr, another star from Hancock's Half Hour. The series was created by Galton & Simpson, although later episodes were by Sid Green & Dick Hills, better known for working with Morecambe & Wise.

Citizen James ran for three series and 32 episodes in 1960-62, during which time James also established himself as the leading star of the Carry On movies. He went on to star in a number of TV series, including Taxi!, George and the Dragon, Two in Clover and the long-running Bless This House.

Hancock, meanwhile, had successfully transitioned to solo player in Hancock, but his follow-up to The Rebel, The Punch and Judy Man, which was at attempt to get away from the character of Anthony Aloysius Hancock and prove he could tackle a more dramatic role, was not so well received. His film career on hold, Hancock split from Simpson & Galton and made two more TV series in 1963 and 1967 but eventually left for Australia where he hoped to relaunch his career with Hancock Down Under. He managed three shows but committed suicide during the production in 1968.

(* © TV Publications Ltd.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

TV Express Scrapbook: Gerry Anderson

Today's scrapbook pages are a couple of features about Gerry Anderson shows, Four Feather Falls and Supercar.

(* © TV Publications Ltd.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

TV Express Scrapbook: No Hiding Place

'No Hiding Place' was based on the long-running TV series which was broadcast between 1959 and 1967, a total of 236 episodes. The show starred Raymond Francis as Det. Chief Supt. Tom Lockhart and Eric Lander as Det. Sgt. Harry Baxter, who were also the stars of the comic strip. After 140 episodes, Lander was replaced in 1964 by Johnny Briggs as Det. Sgt. Russell.

The strip version of 'No Hiding Place' also had a reasonable run of 81 episodes between 1960-62, drawn initially by Mike Western but later handed over to others when it switched to complete stories. In its latter days it introduced a spot-the-clue feature by which time Gerry Embleton had taken over the artwork. Below are a few episodes by Mike Western, along with the preview published a week ahead of the strips' debut.

(* © TV Publications Ltd.)


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