Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympics Special

Patrick Nicolle

James E. McConnell

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

Monday, July 30, 2012

World of Wonder part 55

Celebrating the arrival of the Olympics to our TV screens!

Gerry Haylock

David Nockles

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

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mick Norman

Mick Norman was the pen-name of Laurence James who followed in the footsteps of Peter Cave and Alex R. Stuart, whose Chopper and The Bikers (respectively) had appeared in 1971. Stuart wrote his fifth and final biker novel in 1973 and Mick Norman was born to replace him.

The four Angels books featuring Gerry Vinson sold over a quarter of a million copies. I interviewed Laurence for a fanzine I used to do and he recalled:
The weirdest thing I ever had was with the Angel novels. I was married with three little kids and used to go on holiday to North Wales, and I set the Angels’ base in North Wales on a deserted mining village and in book one or two I gave explicit instructions on how to get there, exactly where it was, what it was and how you got there. And I thought it was just interesting background. And about two years after I’d quit, about ‘74 or ‘75, we went there for a May holiday to this hotel and the kids wanted to go to the deserted village, which is what we called it. So we drive over, park at the top, because you can’t get down to it at all - in those days there was no road to it at all - and there were several transit vans and furniture vans, which I thought was a bit odd...
__We start walking down. It was a beautiful day, and coming up this very steep path that we were walking down were two or three Angels; they walked past, said ‘‘Hi, how are you,’’ and when we got to the bottom there were 40 or 50 Hell’s Angels there. And I suddenly realised why: they’d read the books, someone had got out a road map and said ‘‘Hey look, it’s a real place. Let’s go there for our next run.’’ And they went there and left a few bits of Angel graffiti on the old buildings, and then someone else did it a few weeks later, found the graffiti and said ‘‘Yeah, this is the place all right.’’ Like Field of Dreams. I built it and so they came!
__We went back to the hotel. There were a lot of them down there, and we went back to the hotel nearby and said ‘‘There’s an awful lot of motorcycle chappies down at the village.’’ And he said, ‘‘Yeah, they all started turning up about six months ago and nobody knows why.’’ I said: ‘‘Do they cause any trouble?’’ ‘‘No, no. Quiet as lambs. They spend a lot of money in the pubs and shops. They’re very welcome.’’ Phew!
__That taught me a serious lesson: you’re flirting with truth if you do things like that. They stopped doing it eventually, got bored, but it was an amazing moment. You think ‘Because of my books, these people have come from all over the country and they’ve come to this place because of me.’ And you think ‘God, this is power!’
Creation Books reprinted the four novels in an omnibus in 1994 with an introduction by Stewart Home. Home notes "Today, Mick Norman's biker books appear prophetic, imbued as they are with the atmosphere of a country reeling under the blows of unemployment and economic decline. Re-reading these novels makes the boom years of the '80s seem like a mirage, an unrealistic dream. It's as if the imminent threat of political violence and social breakdown has been hanging over us for the past twenty years."

Those words could have been written yesterday rather than nearly twenty years ago. Clearly it's time for Mick Norman's novels to be rediscovered and reprinted once again.

Angels from Hell
New English Library 0450-01503-3, May 1973, 127pp, 30p. Cover photo: Ku Khanh by Lagarde
"They're the Last Heroes"
The time is a little in the future. The place is England. Repression has driven the Hell's Angels underground. But they are still around!
__Gerry Vinson wanted to join the 'Last Heroes'. Suddenly, he found what he was looking for.
__Just in front of him, appearing from the ground like a pantomime demon, was Tiny Terry.
__In an age of smart suits and short hair, the Angel looked literally unbelievable. he stood a couple of inches over six feet and was big-built. His hair was shoulder-length, matted and oily. He had a full beard, partly tufted, with short lengths of greasy ribbon tied in it. His teeth were mostly broken or missing. In the centre of his chest was tattooed a red-winged skull with the words: "Hell's Angels - North London Chapter".
__Even in the future, the Angels take some stopping!
Angel Challenge
New English Library 0450-01650-1, Oct 1973, 127pp, 30p.
A year or so has passed since the apocalyptic ending of 'Angels from Hell'. The government has fallen and a new freedom washes through the streets.
__From their hide-out in the mountains of Snowdonia, Gerry Vinson leads his chapter – the remnants of 'The Last Heroes' combined with 'The Wolves' – on a run South. Back to London.
__Back to a city ruled by a new Hell's Angels chapter – 'The Ghouls' – and terrorised by gangs of teenagers who crop their hair and ape the manners of the 'Skinheads' of the sixties.
__Gerry knows that there can only be one winner. He also knows that the price of defeat is likely to be death.
Guardian Angels
New English Library 0450-01786-9, Apr 1974, 124pp, 30p.
A giant rock group tour is being planned, with top names from the United States, and security is the big problem with the promoters. How can they avoid the apalling violence from rioting fans, without jeopardising the lives of the security guards themselves?
__The Hell's Angels seem the answer, and Gerry Vinson's Last Heroes emerge from their Welsh retreat to do the honours. But the American groups have organised their own protection – an American chapter. The inevitable rivalry and ill-feeling is only averted when they are faced with a new threat – and satined and scented skulls.
Angels On My Mind
New English Library 0450-01831-8, Oct 1974, 143pp, 35p.
The Hell's Angels are outsiders. They make up their own rules. They delight in perverting the 'normal' way of life and turn their backs on the rest of society.
__But for those who get in their way, and won't let them have what they want, they have only one answer – violence. And even when the do-gooders step in to save lost souls, they find that what goes on inside an 'Angel's' head is too much. Stranger than fiction in fact.
__What started out as a crusade ends in death. The Angels swear revenge on those who betray them.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

Comic Cuts - 27 July 2012

The first true week of summer and my workload slumped as the attractions of the sunshine outside topped the desire to sit indoors in front of the computer. Or that's how it felt . . . Truth be told, I think I was just feeling lazy and using the garden as an excuse. Mel was off work on Monday and it's such a novelty to have someone else at home during a work day that I too easily let it distract me.

Progress on the Mike Western: A Life in Comics is best-described as steady: I'm trying to finalise a stripography and have finally discovered (thanks to readers of Bear Alley!) some of Mike's contributions to the Football Picture Story Monthly (see last week's column for details); I also have to thank David Slinn for his help doing some Mike-spotting on Valiant covers.

There are a couple of areas where my collection lets me down with regards to covers. For instance, I have what I think is a definitive list of Battle and Eagle covers, but I know Mike contributed covers to Scorcher & Score and I don't know how long some of them ran for: I note that he contributed to 'When the Crowd Roared' (1971), 'Top Teams' (1971-72?), 'Meet the Manager' (1972?-73) and 'Spot the Team' (1973-74), but I need examples and dates.

Ditto for Roy of the Rovers. Mike was drawing 'Billy's Boots' in 1988-90, by which time I'd given up reading the paper – I was working as an office manager for a company in London in 1988-89 and was on one of my irregular sabbaticals from comics. I did pick up the occasional issue, so I know that Mike did at least one cover . . . and where there's one, there's possibly more.

I've started work on laying out the book in rough while I'm waiting on a few odds and ends of information. And I'm still trying to think what to do about a cover. As soon as I figure it out, you'll be the next to know.

Random scans. we're coming to the end of our trek through Biker and Hell's Angels exploitation novels. On Sunday we will have a Mick Norman gallery but today we have a pair of post-Norman biker yarns from New English Library. Thom Ryder was John Harvey and these were his first published novels. They were set in the near future and the first was written over the Christmas holidays as John was still a schoolteacher at that time. As John later said: "Every fifth chapter was a diatribe against what was going wrong with secondary education, and there were lots of chapter headings which were lines from Bob Dylan songs, and every second chapter there’s a fight - it was fun! The whole thing about genre writing is walking a tightrope between what is required and what you want to do, and you find ways of getting a purchase on it."

Lastly, we have Easy Riders, an omnibus containing Easyrider: Best Biker Fiction 1 (0352-31365-2) and Easyrider: Best Biker Fiction 2 (0352-31566-0), both published in 1984. The two volumes were originally published in one volume: Best Biker Fiction 3 (Paisano Publications Ltd., 1983) and consisted of short stories reputedly written by genuine bikers for an American biker magazine (not specified). The authors have names like Grumpy Joe, Tinker, Weird Willie and La Bete – too esoteric for British readers, it seems, and unsold copies of the two books were literally combined with a new cover to create this omnibus.

If you're wondering what has happened to Peter Cave's biker books, don't panic . . . they'll be along shortly.

Avenging Angel
New English Library 0450-02200-5, Mar 1975, 125pp, 35p. Cover photo by Redferns
Britain in the 1970s. The government is harsh and repressive. The permissive era is over and the youth cult groups of the sixties – Hell's Angels, Skinheads – have disappeared. Or so it seems.
__The rebellious freedom-loving spirit of the Hell's Angels still lingered on here and there. And there was another threat too, posed by the short-haired, fashionably dressed groups of sixth formers known as the Dudes, who were becoming unbelievably vicious and cruel.
__And then, one night, a group of leather jacketed youths swooped on a Dude Club. They rode in full glory on their hogs, and the days of gang warfare were returned, only more bloody. A wave of violence sweeps the country and the vengeance of the Angels is complete.
Angel Alone
New English Library 0450-02513-6, Jul 1975, 126pp, 35p. Cover: photo
Dan and the chapter of Angels he leads have a safe hideout, in the ruins of an old church in the Fens. But when he and his chapter ride out to do battle with their deadly enemies, the Dudes, the forces of law and order are quickly alerted. The victorious Angels are followed back to their retreat, and the army and police bombard the ruins till they are reduced to a pile of smoking rubble. No one could have survived; all must be dead.
__But are they? Who is the lone messiah who rides across the country with his hog and his mama, hoping to restore the Hell's Angels to their former violent glory.
Easy Riders
Star 0352-31933-X, n.d. (1986?), 169+157pp, £2.50.
Enter the world of today's most notorious outlaw – the biker!
__The power of a hard fist to the gut, the excitement of non-stop action, the erotic thrills of an all-night party – all the action is here in Best Biker Fiction – hot stories from the hottest motorbikers' magazine in the world.
__From the smoky darkness of a roadside bar to the wide open expanse of the endless highway; from the perfumed sheets of a woman's bed to the mean streets of the city: these are the mean men who live to ride – and ride to live.
Next week, a change of pace as it's recent releases and upcoming releases week here at Bear Alley. "Westward Ho!" ends tomorrow and we have the aforementioned Mick Norman cover gallery on Sunday. You can find more inconsequential chatter on my Facebook page.

Westward Ho! part 10

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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alex R. Stuart

Alex R. Stuart was the pen-name of Richard Alexander Steuart Gordon who also wrote science fiction as Stuart Gordon. Gordon died in 2009 and we ran an obituary for him at the time.

The Bikers by Alex Stuart
New English Library 0450-01026-0, Nov 1971.
---- [2nd imp.] Oct 1971 [prior to publication].
---- [3rd imp.] May 1972, 126pp, 25p.
Meet Larry the Lamb – mad-eyed monster with multi-coloured hair, rider like none other of the great BSA Lightning Rocket.
__Meet Little Bill  – huge, with vulture nose and black stringy hair and, from the elbow down, a metal arm with gleaming steel claws that clutch his Harley-Davidson 74 like they were born from it.
__Watch It! When these two meet, it's Hell on Earth – and all England has to pay...
The Outlaws by Alex R. Stuart
New English Library 0450-01210-7, Aug 1972, 142pp, 30p.
84 Killed as Hell's Angels riot at rock festival!
That's the world of the Bikers and their leader Little Billy – a mind-snapping, road-raping, nightmarish renegade – daring the whole country to mess with him.
__His long greasy mane whips and streams past the glasciated valkyrie face of his black-booted old lady. His long, curving, dawn-catching, two-pronged claws, replacements for his left hand and forearm, victim of a Californian outlaw axe.
__There's no mistake and no second changes with Little Billy.
The Last Trip by Alex R. Stuart
New English Library 0450-01288-3, Nov 1972, 141pp, 30p.
Maniac keening against the wind from the hills. Heather scorched by the hell-flame of his passing. A chrome monster screaming hatred against all pursuers.
__Little Billy, last and lonest of all Angels is going North. The fastness and desolation of Scotland is teh only refuge for him. Billy has no more friends – just a world of enemies.
__Alex R. Stuart brings the trilogy of Little Billy – that began with 'The Bikers' and continued with 'The Outlaws' – to an apocalyptic climax. This really is the ultime – The Last Trip.
The Devil's Rider by Alex R. Stuart
New English Library 0450-01359-6, Jan 1973, 141pp, 30p.
New English Library 0450-02519-5 [2nd imp.] Apr 1975, 141pp, 35p.
"The moon gleams ivory through wisps of cloud. Shovels and pickaxes are strapped to the bikes, like Sam insisted. For what? Digging their own grave? Sam wouldn't say. The whole trip's weird."
The Bike from Hell by Alex R. Stuart
New English Library 0450-01586-6, Jun 1973, 144pp, 30p.
The Sons and Daughters of Baal rode high to Stonehenge on that Midsummer night.
__Johnny's black bike was sold after his trial – four times. It killed two owners and injured a third. so it was brought back to wait for Johnny's release.
__It's all coming together. But there are still several loose threads in the web. Threads which are almost invisible, and might not be seen in time. Threads upon which everything depends...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lucinda Cowell

In the run-up to last Sunday's 'Crabs' gallery, I posted a couple of other Guy N. Smith covers on Facebook. One of them, Werewolf by Night, was by Lucinda Cowell and a little digging around turned up a few facts about her.

Lucinda L. Cowell was an American-born – on 18 March 1947 – who set up a print design shop in London in 1972. She worked closely with Terry Gilliam on Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and on the book Animations of Mortality (Eyre Methuen, 1978). She returned to America, moving to San Francisco, California, and designed covers for records, including Just for Fun and Tiptoe Tapdance by Hank Jones (1977-78), and records by Red Garland, Rance Allen, Tommy Flanagan, Idris Muhammad and Dewey Redman in 1977-80. Later credits include paintings for Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the 1988 soundtrack to Gilliam's movie by Michael Kamen, and designs and illustrations for Chronicle by Miles Davis (1992) and Everybody's Singin' Love Songs by Sweet Thunder (1995).

In 1980 she co-founded, with her husband Ron (Ronald Earl) Michaelson, the company Concept Art Studios, an entertainment-advertising agency creating ad campaigns for both art films and mainstream movies. The company expanded from a garage operation and now boasts a 20-person team working under the direction of Aaron Michaelson. The company has worked on some of the highest profile movies and electronic games of the last thirty years, including Superman, Teen Wolf, Sex, Lies and Videotape, Mona Lisa, Barton Fink, Ace Ventura, Traffic, Matrix Revolutions, Kill Bill, V For Vendetta, Bolt, Fast & Furious, Unknown and Sherlock Holmes, Halo, Bioshock 2 and upcoming Gatsby.

In the early- and mid-1970s, Cowell produced dustjackets and paperback covers for a number of books. She also produced interior artwork for Science Fiction Monthly in 1974-75. Her book cover credits include:

The Bedside Book of Horror, ed. Herbert van Thal. Arthur Barker, 1972.
Destiny Doll by Clifford D. Simak. Sidgwick & Jackson, 1973.
Panic O'Clock by Christopher Hodder-Williams. NEL, Aug 1974.
Werewolf by Night by Guy Smith. NEL, Sep 1974.
Dracula 3: Dracula's Brother by Robert Lory. NEL, Nov 1974.
Dragon Skins by Richard Allen. NEL, Jan 1975.
Inverted World by Christopher Priest. NEL, 1975.
Songmaster by Orson Scott Card. Dial Press, 1980.
Unaccompanied Sonata and other stories by Orson Scott Card. Dial Press, 1981.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Comic Cuts - 20 July 2012

After taking most of the weekend off and enjoying one day of not bad sunshine – we went down the pub, thank you, and had a generally lazy day – I've actually felt quite refreshed and this week I've had the writing equivalent of a spring in my step. The file obituary I was working on for The Guardian is now finished and I have returned to Mike Western: A Life In Comics.

I had a fairly substantial chunk of this written last year when computer problems forced me to put the book on hold but I'm determined this time to get it finished. Some of you will know that I did a booklet about Mike way back in 1990 for which I (with Mike's approval) turned his words from our correspondence into an autobiographical piece, to which I then appended a series of notes about the strips he had worked on. It is this latter segment that I'm expanding. Over the years I have found various ways to read a lot of more Mike's strips than I had back when we were corresponding. I'm working on the principal that there are roughly three generations of fans who will know Mike's work. The older generaion will remember him as the artist of 'Johnnie Wingco' in Knockout in the 1950s; then there are the baby boomers like myself who caught up with Mike when he was drawing 'The Wild Wonders' in Valiant. And then there's a slightly younger crowd who know his work from Battle, Eagle and Roy of the Rovers.

With luck and a good tail wind, you'll get a good idea of the storylines of everything Mike drew from my much-expanded commentary. I'm also adding quotes from a few people who worked with Mike and some background provided by his family, all of which adds up – I hope – to as complete a picture of his working life as you could hope for.

Our column header this week feature's Ian Kennedy's cover from the first issue of Football Picture Story Monthly, published by D. C. Thomson in 1986-2003. It ran for over 400 issues, of which I have a paltry 11. My problem is that I'm trying to track down Mike Western's contribution(s) which I suspect may have begun in 1993. I have recently spoken to the former editor of Football Picture Story Monthly who is certain that Mike did contribute . . . but it's now a case of tracking down those contributions. So if you have copies and think you might have spotted some of Mike's work or you have issues and you don't know what Mike's work looks like, let me know via the address below my photo above left. The picture above is NOT Mike Western, by the way. I wanted an illustration and this one is by Mike White. Update: Thanks to Chris Barnett, I now have some confirmed sightings of Mike Western's work in FPSM in 1996. At least five back-up stories. But don't let that stop you looking as there may be more to be found.

Over on Facebook – yes, I now have a Facebook page if you missed last week's account of how I accidentally signed up – I mentioned that I was sorting through some photos when I spotted one of a shelf taken shortly after we moved house and the books on it hadn't moved since. I was bitten by the tidyup bug and, while I have the books off the shelf, I'm scanning the covers. So today's random scans are part of a cluster of biker exploitation books that I have been running daily on Facebook.

The following are a few books about biking and Hell's Angels.

Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Corgi 0552-10166-4, 1976.
---- [2nd imp.] 1976; [3rd imp.] 1976; [4th imp.] 1977; [5th imp.] 1978; [6th imp.] 1979; [7th imp.] 1979; [8th imp.] 1980; [9th imp.] 1981.
---- [10th imp.] 1981, 373pp, £2.25. 
One of the most profoundly important bestsellers of our time. The fabulous journey of a man in search of himself.
"I think Mr. Pirsig has written a work of great, perhaps urgent, importance ... read this book." Philip Toynbee, The Observer
"The most explosive detective story of high ideas in years." Newsweek
"A brilliant and original book ... a pathfinding attempt to examine and solve our contemporary ills. Everybody should read it." P. J. Kavanagh, The Guardian
"Profoundly important ... full of insights into our most perplexing contemporary dilemmas ... intellectual entertainment of the highest order." New York Times
"The most exciting book I have read in years. It is challenging, exhilerating, dramatic and classic." Vogue
"A hypnotist's crystal ... sparkled with diamonds." Richard Bach, author of Johnathan Living Seagull
"An unforgettable trip." Time
Double Zero by David Collyer
Fontana 0006-23204-3, 1973, 224pp, 40p.
---- [2nd imp.] May 1973.
Rev up and ... off
__These were the instructions given to David Collyer at the start of his unorthadox ministry as chaplain for a club for the unclubbable Rockers, Hell's Angels and Mods in Birmingham.
A fantastic story
__How he avoided being killed or maimed for life and yet persisted in his love and duty to these violent young people is nothing short of miraculous,
No punches are pulled
__Murder, sex, drugs, death on the road, thieving, malicious damage, and all the turbulence of ignorant and undisciplined youth are the scene. No attempt was made to preach or to moralize. The author literally became 'one of them'. But throughout the narrative there is a response to a religious need and a will to service for others which makes this not only a breathtaking but also a very moving book.
Hell's Angel by Brian Greenaway with Brian Kellock
Lion Publishing 0867-60360-7, 1982, 144pp, £1.50.
Brian Greenaway was president of a Hell's Angel chapter.
__He was violent, full of hate, deeply into drugs.
__Then, in Dartmoor Prison, he had an experience which changed his life.
__In this powerful, real-life book he tells his story.
Inside by Brian Greenaway with Clive Langmead
Lion Publishing 0867-60658-8, 1985,
---- [2nd imp.] 1989, 125pp, £2.99.
Brian Greenaway knows prison life from experience. Chelmsford, Winchester, then four years in Dartmoor.
__He knows how hard it is to stay human in 'the time machine'.
__But something happened to Brian in prison that gave him hope. Nowadays he goes back inside voluntarily – to share this hope with today's cons.
__This book, the sequel to the bestselling Hell's Angel, is both his story and theirs.
Buttons: The Making of a President by Jamie Mandelkau
Sphere 5804-1, 1971, 157pp, 30p.
This is the true story of Buttons, President of the London Chapter of the Hell's Angels, England, as told to Jamie Mandelkau.
__Buttons traces the rise of the leader of Britain's Hell's Angels from his days as a rocker, through his visit to the United States where he received his Angel colours, to his return and subsequent adventures in Britain. It is not a book for the squeamish: Hell's Angels are not always gentle, nor does their life style always reflect the accepted norms of society. It is, however, an honest account of one part of the New Culture.
Freewheelin Frank by Frank Reynolds as told to Michael McClure
New English Library 2599, Oct 1969, 110pp.
Hell's Angels are the most savage, lawless motorcycle gang that ever roared along American roads. This is the first book about Hell's angels by a Hell's Angel.
__Here are the facts about their weird codes of honour, their brawling, their drug-taking and their fantastic sex orgies.
__Freewheelin Frank Reynolds has been a leading member of Hell's Angels since 1961. He reveals why he is an Angel, how he became one, and the startling philosophy that is the most important part of a Hell's Angel's life.
A Place in Hell: The autobiography of Wild Bill Henderson as told to H. R. Kaye
New English Library 2707, May 1970.
---- [2nd imp.] Aug 1971.
New English Library 0450-01330-8 [3rd imp.] Aug 1972, 125pp, 30p.
This is the incredible autobiography of 'Wild Bill' Henderson – a Hell's Angel who pushed dope, raped women, terrorized 'squares' and lived in a jungle of crime, violence and sadistic warfare.
__Now a respectably married man – this is the story of his dark days; the almost indescribable thrill of owning and riding a motorcycle, what Hell's Angels really stood for, the senseless violence, the way out orgies, the unbelievable initiation rites, the runs, rumbles and deaths. Here is the truth, never before fully revealed, never before in such shocking detail!
__We dare you to read this book, and come out of it unchanged, unshaken by the sickening sexual madness and violence of the thousands of Hell's Angels who found a place in Hell.
Wheels of Rage by Kurt Saxon
New English Library 0450-01841-5, Jun 1974.
---- [2nd imp.] May 1975, 158pp, 35p.
The Hell's Angels are aptly named, for this not-so secret cult has grown in number and a violence that has reached screaming headlines across the U.S.A. No-one is safe from the chaos and destruction they wreak.
__Some say the members are sick, others see the Angels as the answer to our materialistic, and deadly safe world where there are no more heroes, no more challenges.
__This is the story from the inside; the secret rites, the joy of speed, the frenzy of violence that shock and threaten the fabric of our society.
Next week will see the adaptation of Westward Ho! continuing. Saturday, I think I have some notes on an artist featured amongst the Guy N. Smith pictures I've recently posted... Sunday could well be another gallery of classic biker fiction – written by people who had probably never been within a hundred yards of a motorbike, but knew that was also true of the people buying the books!


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