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Friday, August 15, 2014

Comic Cuts - 15 August 2014

This should be the final week that I gloss over any news of the next title to appear from Bear Alley Books. I'm in the process of swapping contracts with the copyright owner and about to write out a cheque, so I should be able to announce the title next week.

I haven't been idle... it's a comic strip reprint so I have been cleaning up scans and roughing out an introduction. The former process is almost finished and I should have the text finished next week. I still have to sort out a cover and to lay out the book, but my turnaround time is pretty quick and the book should be available next month.

So... um... do you want to hear about the tomatoes? We've now had 14 of the big 'uns and 44 cherry tomatoes. And they're delicious, too. I don't want to talk them up too much, but they put Sainsbury's tomatoes to shame. You can—and I do—eat them as a snack. Yum!

Maybe it's the mix of rain and sunshine we're having that's bringing out the best of the plants. I've just read on the Wikipedia page for tomato that "the poor taste and lack of sugar in modern garden and commercial tomato varieties resulted from breeding tomatoes to ripen uniformly red." This is what happens when you listen to Marketing over Quality Control—now doctors have to tell you to eat fruit because breeding has made them aesthetically pleasing, but bland and tasteless. A bit like pop stars.

The other good bit of news is that I'm now 15 stone something rather than 16 stone something. I have what's best described as a sedentary lifestyle: I'm in front of a computer most of the day when I'm not in front of the TV or in bed. And since I've worked from home I've steadily piled on the pounds. Things weren't helped by my heavy smoking, a love of fast food and a bad back that has caused me problems since I slipped a disc when I was in my early twenties.

You can get away with a lot when you're young, but not so much when you're getting a bit long in the tooth. Since moving to Colchester twenty-something years ago I've put on weight steadily; when I gave up smoking three years ago I piled in on, which was causing major problems with my back. It was getting to the stage where Channel 5 were going to get interested in putting me in a documentary. So I decided I needed to lose some weight, slowly and steadily in a sustainable way. Over the past year and a half I've lost about a pound a month following the simple dietary advice that you need to "eat less and move around more".

And this week I cracked that 16 stone barrier. I've still a long, long way to go... I need to lose another 2 stone just to be considered obese and another 4 stone to get to the top end of where my weight should be. If you're not a regular reader, maybe you should make a note to call back in four years and see if I made it.

Random scans this week are a selection of books I've picked up cheap recently. When I moved to Colchester there were three very good second-hand bookshops. We're now down to one and the charity shops rarely carry anything pre-decimal. There's one bookshop in Wivenhoe, which has a shelf of second-hand books... but there are second-hand books all over the place. One of the newsagents sells cheap books, the post office ladies raise money for charity by selling books for 50p, all the pubs have a shelf of books that you can read or take and sometimes you'll just find books sitting in a box on a wall with a note saying: Free.

A free box is where I found Hubert Selby's once controversial Last Exit to Brooklyn, still the only book, as far as I know, that someone actually claimed depraved them. It was during an obscenity trial, and the woolly definition of an obscene libel is that it is something that has a tendency to deprave or corrupt. Well, nobody has ever shown quite how a book has depraved or corrupted the witnesses brought in to speak against it... except once when, back in the late 1960s, publisher Sir Basil Blackwell said that he had been corrupted by reading Last Exit to Brooklyn. The jury found against the publisher John Calder, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Nick Davies is the journalist responsible for breaking the phone hacking scandal. This is one of his earlier books, the grim and tragic story of drugs and prostitution and poverty in Britain... and this during the supposed boom years of the 1990s. I'd hate to think what a sequel would uncover about society today, thanks to bedroom taxes and the tabloids demonizing the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho I found in a pub. I'm endlessly fascinated by Hitchcock, who made some of my favourite movies (I've probably got more Hitchcock movies than films by any other director). This one features Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren from the 2012 movie on the cover. The book is packed with detail about the movie, from its conception as a novel and the first abortive screenplay to its presentation in theatres and its influence on later movies.

And, lastly, we have Lyttleton's Britain, which cost me 50p. It collects some of the introductions that Humphrey Littleton gave to the various towns visited during the recording of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. These have always been a delight—and I'm glad to see (or, rather, hear) Jack Dee continue the tradition to this day. Although they will always be best with Humphs sometimes faltering but always knowing delivery, some of the entries are laugh out loud even when read in silence.

Last week I knew what the hell I was going to be doing for the next few days. This week... not so good. I'm trying to put together a John D. MacDonald cover gallery but the clock is ticking and I might not be able to get it finished. I've dug out a couple of annuals that have some strips and illustrations worth rescuing from obscurity.

So the next seven days may see some combination of the above, and at the end of it an announcement. It's about time. (Or am I thinking of Doctor Who?)

1 comment:

Kid said...

How about doing a book of the complete Mighty Moth, by Dick Millington? I'd certainly buy it.