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Friday, March 30, 2012

Comic Cuts - 30 March 2012

Blogger, in their wisdom, have made some changes behind the scenes to the various pages and panels I use to write and upload pictures each day. Although the changes were meant to be introduced across the whole blogger-sphere in April, I thought I'd stay ahead of the curve and switch over now.

I'm not sure if I approve yet. When they first tried to beta-test the new layouts I took a look and immediately switched back to the old style. Actually, I fired off a snotty comment about some of the icons they were using and criticised the layout. As is common with all big organisations making changes, they immediately ignored my feedback and went ahead with their "improvements". But I'm sure I'll get used to it... after all, when I was working on the Look and Learn blog I was using a different system entirely (Word Press) and managed to cope.

I don't think you will notice any of the changes on the pages you see, but I mention this just in case there's a glitch in the system and, one day in April, things go a bit weird for a while. Please let it not be April 1st, or everyone will think it's an elaborate joke.

Anyway, on with the news. Gwyn Evans: The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet is almost finished. It should run to around 96 pages, A4 perfect bound and I'm waiting on one thing before going to the proofing stage. As soon as I've locked down the pages, I'll be posting the usual pre-order form over at the Bear Alley Books site. Hopefully I'll be doing this within the next week, so keep your eyes open for an announcement.

Next week I should have an announcement about some more titles coming your way from Bear Alley Books that I'm planning to release over the next few months, starting (I hope) in May.

Also coming in April... another increase in postal charges. You may have seen in the news that prices are going up by 14p for both first and second class stamps from April 30th. That's a 30% and 39% increase respectively, driven by the government's desire to sell off the Royal Mail, which is likely to happen in 2014. A lot of the newspaper coverage has been about how the increase will affect the Christmas card market, but the collecting market will be hit immediately: everything you buy from eBay or from a dealer is going to cost you more. Take Amazon's fixed price of £2.80 for delivery. The packaging I use for Pages from History costs me £1.41 as I don't order in bulk — 1 pack of 50 at a time as I don't want to have a ton of cash tied up in packaging, nor do I have the spare change to order 500 or 1,000, which is where the discounts kick in. Postage, at the moment, is £2.16, making a total of £3.57; I set the charge at £4.00 on the website because I have to add in PayPal's charges (about £1.20 per book), which I split across the cover price and the postage charged.

Back at our Amazon example: Amazon charge £2.80 but that amount isn't sent to the seller. They claw back 56p, so the dealer only gets £2.24... and if it's costing me £3.57 post & packing, I lose £1.33 on every book sold through Amazon just in postage alone. That's why the basic price of the book on Amazon is £22 rather than the £17.99 list price on the Bear Alley Books website.

I've used Amazon as an example because I have the numbers to hand, but you can apply the same to all second-hand dealers, eBay, Abe Books, etc., etc., etc. The packet rate (up to 750 grams) is increasing to a flat-rate £2.20, so packets that used to cost £1.23 will almost double.

Inevitably, the price increases will have to be passed on by all small businesses. Most of them will survive but it's a frustrating price increase, especially when it is so cynically intended to boost the profits of the Royal Mail ahead of privatisation. As, I might add, is the move to separate the Royal Mail from the Post Office, leaving the latter with a £9.5 billion pensions black hole to be sorted out by taxpayers rather than the new owners of Royal Mail.

It might seem like an equally cynical plug  but if you are thinking about buying one (or more) of the books from Bear Alley, now would be the time to do it!

The last bit of Bear Alley Books news is that the hardback edition of Mean Streetmaps is now sold out! I have a couple of proof copies left over which are essentially the same as the finished version, should anyone wish to have a copy. As these are (obviously) very limited in number, and readers' last chance for a hardcover copy, I'll leave the payment buttons open for a week or so before I close them down.

Random scans. I tend to trawl all of the charity shops in my local area every Saturday while we're out shopping and it's more noticeable every year that fewer pre-decimal books appear on the shelves. That doesn't mean that I don't end up with two or three books every week, filling gaps in collections of authors I like, or just something to read on the bus home. And occasionally something interesting turns up.

For instance, I had no idea that there was a new series of Jack Frost novels being written. James Henry is the author... or should I say authors as it is the joint pseudonym of James Garbutt, former editor at Constable (who published R. D. Wingfield's Frost novels) and Henry Sutton, who has written seven novels under his own name. This is a prequel to Wingfield's novels and is the first of a series, the second title, Fatal Frost, due out in May in hardback and November in paperback.

I also picked up But For Bunter by David Hughes, published by Heinemann in 1985, which weaves in the famous schoolboy character and his creator, Frank Richards. Here's the blurb...
Billy Bunter lives! This announcement by his ex-wife Lesley sends Patrick Weymouth — a Greyfriars' addict since boyhood — on a headlong quest that puts his job as a government investigator of culture on the line, and new life into his orderly affair with his secretary Joanna.
__In a rambling house by the sea, he finds the ancient sybarite Archibald Aitken — the original, for certain, of the rascally Bunter — and is swept by his tide of memories to some startling discoveries: the real identities of Greyfriars' legendary 'Famous Five', and the truth about some of the 20th century's most cataclysmic events. If Archie is to be believed, Bunter is far from fiction — he has helped to make history.
__Neither the classic stories of Frank Richards, nor the great men and landmarks of this troubled century will ever seem the same again. Splendidly funny, provocative and profound, But For Bunter is one of the most original and enjoyable novels of the year.
The book was published in the USA under the title The Joke of the Century. The cover illustration below is by Lesley Buckingham.

Some while back I posted some old Amalgamated Press annual covers, including a broken run of Crackers Annual. Well, Rhonda Roy has sent over a scan to fill one of the gaps, which I thought I'd run here as it's unlikely that you, dear reader, check back regularly to see if those old galleries are filling up. Frankly, it was a column from three and a half years ago and even I had forgotten about it. So, a big thank you to Rhonda... now there's only two more to find.

And, finally, another book I picked up last week that relates to another cover gallery: Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss, published by Gollancz as part of the SF Masterworks series.

Next week A second attempt to run some World of Wonder illustrations. When I wrote last week's column, I completely forget that we were in the last week of the month, when we usually run the recent releases and upcoming releases columns. Thankfully, I remembered at the last minute, but it meant holding over the WOW galleries. Not to worry... it forced me to do a couple of extra day's worth so that they can run uninterrupted for the full week and add some colour to the blog before we head back into black & white for another strip, more news on which next week.


  1. Er....isn't that a scan of Aldiss's 'Non Stop' rather than 'An Age', which was subsequently saddled with the much-less evocative US title 'Cryptozoic'? (I never could understand why they did that as I still consider the original to be one of the best SF titles ever!)

  2. Er... yes... yes it is. Boy, was I tired last night. Now fixed so I look less tired and stupid. D'oh!