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Friday, August 16, 2013

Comic Cuts - 16 August 2013

Well, I tried. It would have been so nice to have been able to announce that the latest Bear Alley book was finished when we're celebrating Bear Alley's seventh (seventh!!!) birthday, but sometimes you have to admit defeat. I'm three days off finishing and checking the layouts and I have some images that are placeholders while I wait for cleaner scans, but I should have the book sent off to the printers to get a proof next week. At which point I will put up the pre-order form. Hopefully the book will be on sale from 30 August.

So... seven years writing Bear Alley. We've seen some blogs come and go in that time yet Bear Alley seems to turn up with surprising regularity; I haven't missed many days since we moved house three years ago. Admittedly I'm aided greatly by the good folk at Look and Learn who have let me run riot through their comics for strips to publish online but even they take time to prepare and post. A week-long strip can often take up most of a Sunday to sort out; the Comic Cuts columns take a morning but the biographical features and cover galleries can be the work of days.

For those of you who haven't been here for the full seven years you may like to know why this blog is called Bear Alley. Well, the very first post was entitled "Why Bear Alley?" and it should tell you everything you need to know. However, I don't think I've ever discussed the actual circumstances that led me to set up Bear Alley online.

Peter Haining was one of the people directly responsible. It wasn't his intention, but he was working on a book and had borrowed a shed load of old paperbacks that he wanted to have scanned. You can see quite a few of my books in Peter's The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines (2000) and The Classic Era of Crime Fiction (2002), and he used to pop round in his car to pick up a box of books every now and then. His later trips were to borrow war books for a series of titles he was writing about World War II.

One day he phoned, trying to chase down information on the author Ernest McKeag; it so happened that I had written an article on McKeag, intending it to be published in my paperback fanzine PBO, which ran for nine issues in 1995-1998 before I ran out of time/energy. I dug out the McKeag piece for Peter but was already wondering whether I could figure out a way of publishing it online.

This wasn't my first attempt. Way back in January or February 2003, I had come up with the idea for a Vintage Paperbacks Website for which would be like an online edition of PBO, with articles published in quarterly "issues". I threw myself into it with a fair amount of gusto and wrote five or six articles, compiled a variety of bibliographies and even gathered together bits of news... but my enthusiasm for the whole thing began to sour towards the end of March as I realised how long it was taking and that, while I was writing these pieces, I wasn't actually earning a living.

A couple of the articles eventually made their way into print: a piece on Len Deighton appeared in Crime Time in 2004 and one on T. Lobsang Rampa eventually surfaced in Dodgem Logic in 2010 but I suspect a bit of digging around on my hard drive could turn up a few other lost pieces from the Vintage Paperbacks Website.

I digress. Fast forward from March 2003 to August 2006. One-time Tharg David Bishop had started a blog in October 2005—the still highly enjoyable, eclectic Vicious Imagery—so I asked him how easy it was to publish through Blogger. His response was along the lines of "It must be easy if I can do it," which was just the right answer for someone who struggles with anything new.

And that, dear readers, is how Bear Alley came to be...

Today's random scans celebrate the work of Douglas R. Mason, who was a writer of SF under his own name and the pen-name John Rankine. Born in Howardon, Wales, on 26 September 1918, Mason was very active in the 1960s and 1970s, his novels including five novelisations based on the Space: 1999 TV show. He died in Bristol, Gloucestershire, on 8 August 2013, aged 94.

We have a couple of biographies over the weekend, including a lengthy piece on long-time Eagle sub-editor Dan Lloyd. Next week... the race is on for me to finish this book, so we shall just have to see how I do over the weekend.


  1. Can(t believe no-one's wished you Happy Birthday yet. So....Happy Birthday!

  2. Well done! No easy task to keep a blog going for one year let alone several. Genuinely awe-inspiring to keep up the quality as you do.