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.
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.
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.
Star 0352-31933-X, n.d. (1986?), 169+157pp, £2.50.
Enter the world of today's most notorious outlaw – the biker!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.
__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.