Tuesday, May 29, 2012

World of Wonder part 41

Mario Capaldi


Juan Gonzalez Alacreu
Eustaquio Segrelles?

(* World of Wonder © Look and Learn Ltd.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

World of Wonder part 40



Juan Gonzalez Alacreu

(* World of Wonder © Look and Learn Ltd.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Antony Lopez

Antony Lopez was the author of five novels for New English Library in 1975-76 but nowadays is better known for writing verse and writing critical volumes on poetry. Born in Stockwell in 1950, he was educated at local schools in Brixton, South London, and Henry Thornton Grammar School. He worked briefly as a freelance writer before the opportunity arose to take up further education at the University of Essex and at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. He then began teaching American Literature at Cambridge, and later taught at Leicester University (1986-87) and Edinburgh University (1987-89); he then joined the University of Plymouth where he was appointed first Professor of Poetry in 2000 and Emeritus Professor of Poetry in 2009. During this time he has also been a regular performer at art and poetry events, winning a number of awards for his works. He is now self-employed.

When in his early twenties, Tony was having the occasional story accepted by newspapers and magazines but was not earning enough to make a living. He decided to try a novel, writing The Second Coming, which ended up at New English Library in around 1973. "It took a long while to sell it and then a while to appear," Tony recalled recently. You can find an extensive review of the book at the Vault of Evil British horror forum.

Although The Second Coming was speculative fiction, New English Library were publishing a number of books in series; avoiding horror and hells angels, he was asked to write a series about American gangsters, which Tony agreed to write. "I wrote those books very fast, taking incidents from non-fiction crime books, gangster biographies, and stringing them together. I expect that the staff at NEL rewrote what I sent."

The Hoods appeared under the pseudonym Vincente Torrio. In an interview, Tony recalled "My agent was very good at contracts and rights, got me a better deal than I had with the first book. I wrote very fast, one book in ten days, didn’t have any other income, and we sold the books several times over, so that was good. I have a set in Danish somewhere. I don’t know if the other translations were ever done or just rights purchased."

After four novels, he became dissatisfied with the series and a medical crisis led him to give up writing for NEL. After travelling to New York, he found that he could attend university as a mature student and be paid (a little) to study; back in the UK, he worked at a publishing firm dealing with proofs and advertising copy until he became a student.

The Hoods : 1 Executioner
New English Library 0450-02611-6, Oct 1975, 124pp, 35p. Cover: photo
The Hoods are... An explosive new series exposing the violence of Chicago in the 20s.
__Jim Sheridan. He's the hero. He grew up with the street gangs, learned his business the hard way. He's a pusher, a fast climber with ambition. In this story he becomes a hit man, the executioner. It's the first step up the ladder to the top.
__Ed Corso. He's the small-time crook whose organisation becomes too big to handle. He's the man Jim makes his mark.
__Louis Banks. He's the businessman who advises Corso, and hides when the heat is on. His ambition is to take over Corso's stake.
__Izzy the Rat is a gang leader. He fights like a rat, he's a psychopathic killer, and he's Ed Corso's Number One enemy.
__This series is a reconstruction of the life and crimes of the Chicago gangsters who operated throughout the depression and prohibition eras. Their trade was violence, corruption, gambling, prostitution, drug abuse—anything illegal that made money and lost souls.
The Hoods : 2 Bootlegger
New English Library 0450-02728-7, Oct 1975, 128pp, 35p. Cover: photo
Louis Banks, shady lawyer, took over Ed Corso's mob when Ed was gunned down. But Jim Sheridan, the man who made the hit, the man Louis double-crossed, biding his time over the border in Mexico. He wanted a share, his share, in the mob's new-found wealth.
__For the National Prohibition Act, which became effective in America at 12.01 a.m. 17 January, 1920, had produced a new source of illegal wealth for the rapacious mobsters While the American people danced and drank in speakeasies the gangsters made loot, gained power, killed and maimed the law and the rival gangsters.
__So revenge and greed occupied Jim Sheridan's mind — Louis was the target.
The Hoods : 3 Politician
New English Library 0450-02767-8, Jan 1976, 126pp, 40p. Cover: photo
Jim Sheridan and the Syndicate have the town of Chicago sewn up. The police are in the pocket of the gangsters; the speakeasies, the brothels, the gambling clubs are all flourishing. Now it's time for Jim Sheridan to break into the big time, time for him to set up his own man as mayor in town. The man he picks is Tad Paulsen, the platform is effective government, and the hoods will see that he makes it into power.
__The deal is set up, the police are squared. But, sitting one day in the barbershop, a spray of machine-gun fire smashes through the door and catches Jim in the shoulder. Someone is out to hit him.
__Who is the mysterious enemy who is trying to mow Jim down, take over his territory and break up the Syndicate? Soon the town is blown apart as gang attacks gang; no one is safe on the streets.
The Hoods : 4 Dealer
New English Library 0450-02879-8, 125pp, 45p. Cover: photo
They sent Jim Sheridan to jail to teach him a lesson. And he learnt — about the two big H's, Heroin and Homosexuality.
__So when Jim tasted freedom again, he decided to corner the heroin market. And that meant messing with the heavy mobs in New York. But Jim knew all there was to know about the treachery of gang rivalry, and turned the whole shooting match to his favour.
__That's how Jim came to be the proud owner of a six million dollar empire — in heroin.
(* Many thanks to Tony for answering a number of questions relating to his novels. You can find out more about his work at his official website and blog.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Comic Cuts - 25 May 2012

Few people are keen to admit publicly when things go wrong and I'm no different. Let's just say that I thought I'd tackle this Kindle thing head on and uploaded a book's worth of text. I managed to get it published and then took a look at it and immediately took it down again.

It was a disaster! The problem was the amount of formatting I'd incorporated into the text — from fairly simple things like indented paragraphs to more complex things like footnotes. Easy enough to do in In Design, which I used to create the pages, and quite understandable to Adobe PDF Maker, via which I created the PDF. But not, it seems, to Kindle, which sucked all the formatting out of the pages before adding a few additional problems, including (but not limited to) resizing text and turning chunks of it red.

Back to the drawing board. There are two bits of silver lining to this... firstly I was using text that I hadn't actually intended putting up (not in that format, anyway) so the fact that it didn't go up doesn't matter; and, secondly, I know now that I have to keep the text simple. And that I can do! However, if I do want to make the look a little more designed, I already have a programme on the computer that will help me write html. (I downloaded the mucked up text from Kindle to see what had gone wrong and it was delivered as an html file, so I'm guessing I can revise it and re-upload it at some point.)

I wonder if any other Kindle books have been available for less than thirty seconds?

Things will hopefully go a little smoother when I next give Kindle a try. However, this past week I've been concentrating on print projects, with a one day delay while I put together an obituary for The Guardian. The London Is Stranger Than Fiction volume is coming together. I had a version put together in rough late last year in order to get permission to do it; this week I've redone all the internal pages and compiled the index. With the addition of all the strips from Jackson's London Explorer, the book should run to around 92 pages in a square-bound format that I think is rather nice.

I haven't forgotten about Sexton Blake... the plan is to do the proofs for two Blakes and the Jackson volume in one go to try and keep my costs down.

Rolf Harris has been in the news a few times over the past couple of weeks, first with the announcement that he was to be given an Academy Fellowship at the Bafta TV Awards and again when a painting of his failed to achieve an over-inflated price at auction. As if that wasn't enough, Harris has a retrospective exhibition running at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

So I thought I'd have my own little retrospective here on Bear Alley, having stumbled across the following illustrations in London Mystery Magazine from 1953. The picture below and our column header for this week were drawn when Rolf was just 22 years old and not long after he came to England to study at the City and Guilds Art School, Kennington.

Random scans. This is in part a request and I have to confess — it's that kind of column today — that I can't remember who asked about this series. Back in the early 1930s, a little publisher called Target put out two crime series in an effort to rival Amalgamated Press's Sexton Blake. The C.I.D. (Crime Intrigue Detection) Magazine which featured the adventures of Maxton Hunter by a variety of authors and a series of novels by William J. Elliott starring Royston Frere and Mimi, two character Elliott later revived for further adventures in hardcover when he was writing for Gerald G. Swan. The other series was Target Library and both appeared in 1933.

The covers were by Jack Long who was an editor and artist for Provincial Comics in around 1931. It's worth noting that Elliott's pal Gwyn Evans also wrote for Target Library. My bio. of Evans includes a scan of the cover of the book. How desperate was that for a plug?

To wrap up this week's column here are a couple of other early anonymous detective yarns, the first featuring Norman Steele and his assistant Bullet. Norman Steele also featured in the story No Escape which we featured as a random scan back in March. Both these date from 1933 but Norman Steele dates back to at least as early as 1918 when he featured in the anonymous collection The Grip of Justice: The Exploits of Norman Steele, Detective, also published by Newnes in an earlier version of the Newnes Adventure Library.

Then there's another Newnes detective character, Tubby Haig, who appeared in a series entitled Newnes Bulldog Library, which ran between 1917 and 1922 and was then merged with their Adventure library to form the Bulldog Adventure Library, which ran until 1924. The issue pictured (the only one I have) has a cover by "R.H.B." who is, I believe, R. H. Brock, brother of H. M. Brock.

Next week: If I can get it together over the weekend, we will have a couple of days of World of Wonder followed on Wednesday and Thursday by our regular Recent Releases and Upcoming Releases columns.

The Prince and the Pauper part 12

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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Frederick E. Smith (1919-2012)

Frederick E. Smith, best-known as the author of 633 Squadron and its sequels, died on Tuesday, 15 May 2012, aged 93 following a heart attack.

Born in Hull, Frederick Escreet Smith began writing in the late 1940s following his marriage and a move to South Africa; he began publishing short stories in London Mystery Magazine and elsewhere, his first novel appearing in 1953. He was not a genre writer, his forty novels covering everything from romance, historical fiction, thrillers, both world wars and even TV and movie novelisations.

It is a little known fact that Smith also wrote briefly for comics. When I asked him about this in 2008, he said: "I did some work  for Fleetway House way back in the sixties when I was trying to make a living from novel writing. My editor there was Ken Mennell [who] asked me to do a picture strip novelette of the original 633 Squadron and afterwards I did some war themed scripts for him, although for the life of me I can't think of their names. One I do remember, however, was about an air ace called Paddy Payne. It was, if I remember correctly, featured in colour on the front page of a comic."

Paddy Payne, Warrior of the Skies, appeared on the cover of Lion between 1957 and 1964, although I was unable to work out precisely which stories Smith had penned, although it was likely to have been around 1962/63. He also wrote a couple of full-length stories for Battle Picture Library in 1963-64.

Obituaries: The Guardian (28 May 2012).

Below is the 633 Squadron cover gallery I originally published back on 21 June 2011.

633 Squadron (London, Hutchinson, 1956)
Arrow, 1958, 2/-. Cover by Ed Blandford
Corgi GB1535, 1964. Cover: film still
----, [2nd imp.] 1964, [3rd imp.] 1964, [4th imp.] 1965, [5th imp.] 1966, [6th imp.] 1966, [7th imp.] 1967, [8th imp.] 1967, [9th imp.] 1968, [10th imp.] 1969, [11th imp.] 1969.
Corgi 08169-8 [12th imp.], 1971, 222pp, 5/-. Cover by Brian Lewis?
---- [13th imp.] 1972, [14th imp.] 1972, [15th imp.] 1973, [16th imp.] 1973, [17th imp.] 1975, 40p.
Cassell 36621-8, 2003. Cover: photo

Operation Rhine Maiden (London, Cassell, 1975)
Corgi 10155-9, 1976, 266pp, 75p. Cover by Brian Lewis?

Operation Crucible (London, Cassell, 1977)
Corgi 10741-7, 1978, 207pp, 80p. Cover by Brian Lewis

Operation Valkyrie (London, Cassell, 1978)
Corgi 11075-2, 1979, 255pp, 95p.

Operation Cobra
Corgi 11824-9, 1981.

Operation Titan (Severn House, 1982)
Corgi 12046-4, 1982, 239pp, £1.50.

(* Photograph at top of column is from here, where it appears with no copyright information.)

The Prince and the Pauper part 9

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

What's Going On?

I've no idea why only one post is showing on the front page of Bear Alley. If you want the latest episode of The Prince and the Pauper, you will have to click the 'Older Posts' link at the bottom right of the Comic Cuts post.

Apologies for this. I've fiddled around with the settings, but nothing I do seems to make a difference.

Comic Cuts - 18 May 2012

I'm writing this Wednesday night rather than last thing Thursday, as I normally would. Nothing dramatic is happening — I'm just going to have limited access to the net tomorrow night. I've spent the week sorting out the text that I started last week and I now have — or, hopefully, will have by the time you read this as there's still some way to go — a roughly 17,000-word short history of London.

This is part of my attempt to generate text that might be published in e-book form that will also include some reprint fiction. I was hoping to announce things this week but I've spent so much time trying to get all my ducks lined up that I've not had time to sit down and work out which duck goes where. All I know is that they're facing in the right direction.

One of the projects is a reprint collection of Peter Jackson's classic Evening News strips 'London is Stranger than Fiction' and 'London Explorer'. That might not be the final cover above, but I rather like it. More news on that one shortly.

One quick bit of news: William Rudling of Jeff Hawke's Cosmos fame is one of the finalists of Radio 4's 'So You Want to be a Scientist?' challenge, which began on the Material World radio show last September. William submitted a theory that people who look the same also often sound the same; he is now involved in experiments to see whether one's facial structure has an affect on the tone of one's voices.

The experiment is being run through the University of Leeds and you can find out more about it — and get involved — by clicking here. More information about the radio show can be found here.

Today's random scannery has a story paper theme to it. The first character on show, Invisible Dick, was the star of Rover in the 1920s. In an odd move, perhaps showing just how popular the character was, some of the stories were reprinted in a hardback collection by D. C. Thomson in 1926. The experiment seems to have been unsuccessful as there were no more reprints until after WW2. Frank Topham is almost certainly a pseudonym created just for the reprints; the true author remains unknown.

Morgyn the Mighty was also from Rover, first appearing in 1928. Morgyn became a comic strip in the early issues of The Beano and later reappeared in Victor. He was almost identical to Strang the Terrible, who debuted in text form in Adventure in 1931 and also appeared in comic strip form in the Beano. This hardcover reprint was undated but appeared in 1951, according to the British Library, although while I was digging around the internet, I noticed that one dealer has a copy for sale which he claims has a dedication dated 1949. The hardback includes black & white illustrations and a dust-jacket drawn by Dudley D. Watkins.

And, finally, Wilson, the world's most mysterious athlete. The Truth About Wilson originally appeared in Wizard in 1943 and was subsequently reprinted in book form in paperback in 1962 as part of the Red Lion Library series. The Truth About Wilson is credited to W. S. K. Webb, the name of the first-person narrator of the book, a reporter for the London Daily Clarion, but the true author was almost certainly Gilbert Dalton.

Next week, we continue with The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, adapted by Bill Baker.


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