Friday, September 26, 2014

Comic Cuts - 26 September 2014

I'm writing this on Thursday morning because it's Mel's birthday. We were out last night and tonight is our only chance to catch our breath because we're out Friday and Saturday nights. Think lovely thoughts of Mel... she's put up with me for 21 years, protecting the world from my terrible jokes and the incessant stream of stupid thoughts that stumble around my brain that need to be spoken out loud. So you should be thanking her for her years of dedicated service, dealing with me so you don't have to.

It was a bit of a race against time yesterday to complete a second draft of the Harry Bensley/Man in the Iron Mask story, which I wanted to get done before we went out. The current version runs to just over 12,000 words and I'm waiting on some certificates to confirm one or two new details that I've added—like the identity of a previously unreported child. If you read the story as it was serialised earlier this month, the main thrust of rewriting it has simply been to add more detail. The serial version has been removed ahead of its ebook appearance.

I've also been working on a second, similar piece that I suspect will also be serialised on Bear Alley. These essays take quite a chunk of time to write because I'm researching as I write and you end up digging around in places that won't necessarily become part of the final story—but you still have to find out what you can so that you know for sure that a particular thread leads nowhere. My most sustained piece of writing was The Trials of Hank Janson, which was 100,000 words written in twenty days... but it required twenty years of research to put me in a position where I could do that.

And I wouldn't want to do that again. It was quite tiring.

I did once write a 30,000-word magazine supplement in a week. Again, not recommended. This was back in 1999, the days of dial-up modems and around the time that major companies were introducing ADSL lines. Publicity companies welcomed this innovation as it meant that they could post images behind a password-protected wall that editors/designers could download, saving the publicity company tons of cash because they no longer had to produce photographs or slides and post them out to magazines.

In theory, a 1 megabyte photograph could be downloaded on a 500kbit/s [kilobytes per second] ADSL line in 2 seconds.

However, because I was freelance and working from home, I didn't have ADSL. I did have a new, dedicated phone line put in, with a maximum download speed of around 43kbit/s, or so the phone company promised (I think... it was fifteen years ago!). The actual speed varied but was usually about 12kbit/s tops and once hit a maximum of 18kbit/sec. Broadband, for comparison, should be a minimum of 256kbit/s over a phone line, but if you've ever downloaded anything you'll know from watching the green bar crawl that it can be far slower. Ditto our old phone line which often worked at around 6-8kbit/s and any lengthy pause meant that the signal was lost and the photo request cancelled, half-an-hour into a download. All you could do was swear and start the download again.

So... this magazine supplement I was putting together back in 1999 was about the upcoming relaunch of the Star Wars franchise. The Phantom Menace was the first new film in 22 years and my bosses at Trinity Publications (part of Trinity Mirror) were thinking about putting out a science fiction magazine called Quest. Not my idea (or my title!) but I was happy to go along with it. And they decided, very late in the day, that the new Star Wars movie was a good place to launch a 64-page supplement to the magazine that I was editing at the time, Model Mart. There was bugger-all budget and they wanted it in two weeks because it was going to be printed in colour.

Muggins here had to stay up all night for a couple of nights trying to download every available photo from the publicity company so we had illustrations. I was praying that the lack of any other traffic on the line might meant that the connection held a little better. I still had glitches, including one picture that had already taken 45 minutes to download reaching 98% downloaded before the line crapped out and I was left with a near complete file that I was unable to open. Nor was the system smart enough for me to simply download the missing 2%... I had to start all over again.

Problems of a couple of sleepless nights were compounded by the fact that I didn't have any writers able to deliver in the time available. By luck one guy had an interview lined up with Ray Park which he promised to turn around in almost no time at all. I was also in touch with a Star Wars fan who was writing some features on the previous Star Wars movies for the monthly magazine I was working on; he quickly put together a short piece that I wove into a longer narrative about the history/making of the new film and how we learned all about the development and production of the film through this then relatively novel thing called the internet.

When it finally appeared, Quest was a lovely-looking failure. It didn't get the advertising the company had hoped for, probably because it was being bagged with a cheap black & white "mart" title; I think there was a degree of cannibalizing Model Mart and trying to persuade our regular b/w advertisers to switch to colour... which most of them resisted.

Anyway, enough rambling. I've forgotten what the point of all this was. Oh, yes. Writing this new serial. It seems likely that I'll run it here because it's going to involve quite a lot of research and I don't like to leave Bear Alley bare for any great length of time. It's the gateway for Bear Alley Books, which is where I'm earning my meagre living these days, so I need the visitors.

On Sunday I wandered around town following a bit of the Sale Trail. This is a first for me and a fantastic idea... people set up tables in their gardens on in public areas and flog off stuff they don't want anymore. Coordinated centrally, there was a Sale Trail map produced so you could see where tables were located. I strolled down the road to the quay and picked up three decent DVDs for £3.50 total. The bulk of the items for sale seemed to be baby clothes and there were a lot of old kids' games and toys. Nothing from the childhood of this fifty-two-year-old, but spin-offs from the bizarre and surreal In the Night Garden and the like.

We don't watch many kids programmes, not since they cancelled I'm Sorry I've Got No Head, which was hilarious. There are still moments of genius: Horrible Histories told the life story of Charles Dickens in a spot on parody of the songs of The Smiths. But there's nothing like Thunderbirds or Catweazle or (my sister's favourite) The Adventures of Black Beauty (featuring one of my favourites, Stacy Dorning!).

Stacy Dorning in Adventures of Black Beauty and an episode of Space: 1999

I cut back from the quay—remember? I was out walking—past the chip shop where we sometimes pick up fish 'n' chips, but which made the papers this week as the scene of a most violent crime. We were alone in the shop with the guy involved only a week earlier... but I guess that was the problem—we were alone. Business was not thriving.

The biggest frustration is that we have another chip shop here in town but it's just a little too far to walk back from and still have piping hot food. You need to eat it on the hoof and that's fine if you just want chips... but try eating fish with your fingers. Or even with one of those horrible little wooden forks. It's not on.

This column is turning into a right old ramble. To get back to something approaching business, I'm currently waiting on the OK from the copyright holder regards Arena and I'm starting to explore ideas for other books. I've had a few suggestions and I think some of them will make excellent collections.

My problem is getting hold of the comics themselves. Not always easy without spending a lot of money. So to start with, I may be limited to areas where I already have comics. But if there's anyone out there with a scanner and good runs of old DC Thomson comics from the sixties and seventies, let me know. Fifties, too, if you have them.

Random scans this week are a trio of children's stories that fit into the dystopian theme that I've been looking at on occasions over the past few weeks. The Hunger Games was incredibly popular and it has spawned a hugely successful movie series. Of course, success breeds more of the same, and we've recently had Divergence, based on the novel by Veronica Roth and, arriving in cinemas shortly, The Maze Runner from the novel by James Dashner.

Upcoming... well, it'll be patchy again because we're out for the next couple of evenings; also, I need to set up the payment system so that people can start ordering copies of the new book. It's all fiddly stuff that takes time. But I'll squeeze whatever I can into the weekend.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Commando issues 4743-4746

Commando issues on sale 25 September 2014.

Commando No 4743 – Return To The Sky
No, you’re not seeing things, that is a Sopwith Camel scout attacking a Ju 87 Stuka. But surely, you say, they’re planes from two different wars, their designs nearly 25 years apart. Surely they would never have met in combat.
   Well, yes and no.
   How this unlikely pair came face to face takes a bit of explaining. It’s the story of a warrior’s…

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Carlos Pino

Commando No 4744 – Scourge Of The Desert
The Sign of the Scorpion was their badge, and soon the Germans learned why…for the men of the Long Range Desert Group would fight as long as they drew breath. Their raids were as fast as the sting of the scorpion, and twice as deadly!

The sub-title “the toughest desert rat of them all” would seem to sum up this story very neatly but there is a lot more going on here than just a lantern-jawed British hero beating the beastly Jerries. There are at least two other battles going on alongside that struggle.
   Gordon Livingstone’s crisp interior artwork — with Zip-a-tone shading in amongst the black pen work — marries excellent detail work along with dynamic figures to match the frantic mood of the action.
   Ken Barr’s cover work does what it always does — makes you want to open the book. And as you’ve done that, it’s worked!
   Originally titled Single Fare To Tobruk, this is classic Commando at its finest.—Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Story: Kenner
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Ken Barr
originally Commando No 123 (July 1964), re-issued as No 663 (July 1972)

Commando No 4745 – “On The Run!”
On the retreat to Dunkirk, Sergeant-Major Mike Fletcher had hooked up with a trio of individuals separated from their units. Eventually they were captured and became POWs.
   However, Mike saw some potential in this down-trodden and uninspired bunch. The Sergeant-Major was determined to turn them into proper soldiers once and for all!
   First, all they had to do was escape…

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Morahin
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4746 – No-Gun Hero
When Johnny Peace was called up to the army he refused to fight, refused to kill anyone. And he was branded a coward.
   So he went to war as a medical orderly. Not for him guns or grenades — his only weapons were his medical satchel and his courage.
   A coward? Not Johnny Peace. There was probably never a braver man in the British Army!

Although Medical Orderly Johnny Peace (yes, really) is our eponymous No-Gun Hero, he is all but upstaged by a magnificent mutt — the fierce but noble Alsatian called Satan (yes, really).
   There have been a few fighting dogs in Commando’s long history. Memorable canine “tails” (sorry, at least one pooch-related pun is compulsory) have included “Wagger’s War” (No 1106), “Billy’s Best Friend” (No 3938) and “Hounds Of War” (originally No 67, re-issued late in 2013 as No 4664).
   So, “Fetch!” a cuppa, “Sit!” back and enjoy the story of a devilishly heroic hound.—Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: Bernard Gregg
Art: Boluda
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No 965 (September 1975), re-issued as No 2299 (August 1989)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Walter & Leonard Townsend

In April 1930, two brothers were threatened with legal action by Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the Home Office pathologist. The brothers were authors Walter and Leonard Townsend, who had collaborated on a book about Spilsbury, as they had on two previous biographies. In September 1929, Albert E. Marriott & Son had published a well-received biography of the Prince of Wales and a biography of the Pope was due for publication in May 1930.

The Townsend brothers had been contracted by Marriott to write the book about Spilsbury. After taking the trouble to ascertain from official sources that no record such as they were compiling existed officially, Sir Bernard Spilsbury and His Famous Cases was completed and a set of proofs were sent to Sir Bernard.

It was then that Spilsbury acted, saying on Monday, 21 April 1930, "I shall take legal action to stop the publication of the book unless I receive within the next day or two an undertaking that it is to be withdrawn. The book is quite unauthorised by me, and until the proofs were submitted to me a week ago I had no knowledge at all of the publication."

The brothers expressed astonishment at the statement that Spilsbury was ignorant of the publication, claiming that they had written to Spilsbury making clear their intentions to write a book and asking asking the privilege of submit ting a questionnaire to him. "The letter to Sir Bernard was written on January 29th, and I know for a fact that it was posted. If it was not received by him, then it is a different matter. The postal authorities do sometimes misplace letters in transit, but not often."

Walter Townsend noted regarding the questionnaire that any points which were considered by Sir Bernard to be improper or of too private a nature could be deleted. When they received no reply, they assumed that Spilsbury was either not sufficiently interested in the matter to deem it worth while refusing, or he was indifferent as to whether the book was written on not.

"There is no doubt that there is some misunderstanding about the whole affair," Leonard Townsend told the Hull Daily Mail (22 April 1930). "With regard to the legal question we have no intention of withdrawing the manuscript in view of our letter to Sir Bernard, but we are securing a ruling from the Society of Authors."

Sir Bernard maintained that the book was "a disgraceful piece of work, entirely unauthorised and unwelcome. The manuscript was written in such a way as to lead me to understand that it had been written by an American. Many of the 'facts' are inaccurate, and it is full of the grossest flattery." According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, who carried the news on the day Spilsbury issued his statement, "Some of the details of Sir Bernard's cases are so intimately described, it is stated, that the impression might be gathered that the facts are taken from personal sources."

Answering this latter point, Leonard Townsend was quoted as saying: "We have no wish to imply that we are reproducing Sir Bernard's own case-book. One section, dealing with about 20 of Sir Bernard's most famous cases, we gave the title, "Sir Bernard's case-book," but only in a general sense and never thinking that it could be taken to imply anything actually associated with the written records of a doctor, which anyone should know would be jealously guarded."

Walter Townsend added. "We were asked by a member of a publishing firm to write this book, and have done so under contract. We completed it only last week, and the firm submitted it immediately to Sir Bernard Spilsbury. It was definitely understood between us and the publishers that after Sir Bernard read the manuscript, we would make any alterations he might suggest."

The Hull Daily Mail noted that "During last week-end frantic efforts were made to get in touch with Mr. Marriott, who was away yachting on the French coast. Several wires were sent to him on Tuesday at various points at which he might have called."

As soon as Mr. Marriott reached England (the report continued), he telephoned his London office and, on reaching London, he at once got into touch with Sir Bernard Spilsbury's solicitors. He then issued the following statement:
Mr Marriott has had a consultation with Sir Bernard Spilsbury's solicitors with reference to Sir Bernard's objection to the book which was shortly to be issued by Messrs Albert E. Marriott, Ltd., and which dealt with himself and the murder cases with which he had been connected.
    In view of the position in which Sir Bernard would be placed with the General Medical Council, Mr Marriott has agreed to withold the publication of this actual work and a new book is being planned to bear the title of 'Murder Will Out,' and in which Sir Bernard Spilsbury will be in no way connected.
Leonard Townsend confirmed the news to the Hull Daily Mail (23 April 1930), saying: "We are re-writing the book under the title 'Murder Will Out,' and the new version will be published as soon as possible."

The Townsends had already penned two biographies for the same publisher, making their debut with Marriott with the first complete biography of the Prince of Wales. To insure the accuracy of the book, the manuscript was forwarded to St. James's Palace for the attention of Sir Godfrey Thomas, K.C.V.O., Principal Private Secretary to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. Sir Godfrey not only read and corrected the manuscript before publication, but also supplied certain facts and details of the greatest use to the authors.

The writing had not been easy, reported the Yorkshire Post (27 September 1929): "Interviewed yesterday, they said they experienced great difficulty in collecting material for their biography of the Prince, as many people in a position to give information declined to do so. Sir Godfrey Thomas, private secretary to his Royal Highness, had been most helpful, they said, in correcting the proofs. Cuts were made, chiefly of anecdotes, but they say that out of 85,000 words Sir Godfrey did not cut out more than 1,000 words.

Described as "unpretentious in their appearance and demeanour", Walter and Leonard Townsend, of 67 Princes Avenue, Hull, were well known local authors, having published articles in a number  of newspapers that had received favourable criticism and reviews as widely as Canada, South Africa and America. Before taking up writing as a profession, they were both accountants of Yorkshire Bank Chambers, Princes's Avenue. They were invited to undertake the biography of the Prince of Wales after the publisher, Albert E. Marriott, after publishing a series of articles on the centenaries of certain celebrities. Some of their work had been published anonymously, but they were credited with two books at that time: An Introduction to Finance and Lucrative Hobbies.

The various titles they wrote for Marriott included The Biography of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, The Biography of His Holiness Pope Pius XI (which, they claimed, was "an unbiased biography without any grinding of personal religious axes, or prejudiced by active participation in the rites of any definite Church.") and, belatedly, Black Cap, subtitled Murder Will Out.

Their father, Walter Leonard Townsend (1873-1943), was the librarian of the Hull Central Library and was for 12 years on the staff of the Leeds Public Libraries.Walter had married Florence Gertrude Monkman (1872-1950) on 4 August 1897 and had five children: Hilda Gertrude Townsend (1898-1966), Walter, Leonard, Elsie (1903-1904), who died before she was a year old, and Frank.

Walter junior was born in Hull on 16 December 1899 and his brother Leonard was born two years later in late 1901. As well as being partners in commercial business and as writers, the two made a splash locally on 9 February 1933 when they celebrated a double wedding at St. Augustine's, Queen's Road, Hull. Walter and Leonard married respectively Lilian Ellen East, daughter of Mr & Mrs T. A. East, and Mary Marjorie Pease, daughter of Mr and Mrs Charles Pease. The only thing the grooms did not share was their honeymoon destinations: Leonard went to Whitby and Walter to Scarborough. They were also living apart, Leonard in Hall Road and Walter in Allderidge Avenue.

It was noted at the time that they had collaborated on "several light novels", presumably published under pen-names. The earliest known novel written by the pair is Luck of the Course, published by Hornsey Journal as part of their FP Racing novels series in October 1934. A second, A Shadow on the Course, followed four months later. Four more novels appeared in the same series in 1940-42.

Little is known about their output at this time. The two brothers were still writing after the war and a report in the Hull Daily Mail (22 February 1945) reveals that they had were still collaborating, giving a joint talk to the Hull Publicity Club where they recounted the worries and humours of their literary partnership. "It was evident that the partnership is a happy and productive one which has lasted 25 years." The two had recently been elected members of the Royal Society of Literature.

A report from August 1945 noted that the brothers had three books due to go to press: Secret of the Sands ("a new analysis of some famous unsolved real-life mysteries); Wreckers of the Range ("a conventional Western thriller"); and Happy Holidays ("a book for boys, [which] has been copiously illustrated in black and white by the authors"). As far as I am aware, only the second of these appeared.

The news item also revealed that the brothers Townsend were "at present engaged on rather more serious literary work, for they have been invited by a well-known Indian firm of educational publishers to write a series of English Grammar books for Forms I. to VI., to be used in Indian schools." Whether these appeared, I have no idea.

John Humber, in his regular column in the Hull Daily Mail, commented that the brothers were "versatile writers about whom items have appeared in these Notes over the years," had had one of their short stories translated into Danish with such success that they had been invited by a Danish literary agent in Copenhagen to write stories especially for the Danish reading public. "In addition to their latest enterprise," Humber continued, "demands have come this month for their literary work from Malaya and Burma." Their publisher in Stockholm had managed to get their annual royalty cheque through to Hull without a break during the six years of war.

In November 1947, the two brothers were elected Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society. This followed the publication of several officially sponsored guides to rural England which the brother had written since 1945. These were published anonymously – possibly by Century Press, who published an extensive run of Rural Guides in the late 1940s and early 1950s. "In their researches they have set down not only populations and rural rating notes," said one newspaper report, "but have redescribed well-known beauty spots, rural industries, traditions, and hopes for the future. They have set themselves the task of delving into every rural district in the United Kingdom."

The last traced books written by the Townsends are poles apart: Costing for Builders, with illustrations prepared by Walter's son, Robin, was published in 1948 and revised in 1957; their last known fiction, Gipsies in the Wood, was a short novel for children published in 1953.

The brothers were still active at least until the late 1940s when Leonard was listed in The Author's and Writer's Who's Who 1948-49. The entry noted that he was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and that his recreations included touring, fruit-growing, music and bridge. An earlier (1930s) entry for Walter noted that he was the local representative for several trade journals and had contributed to over 90 newspapers and magazines. He listed his recreations as swimming and chess.

Walter died in Hull on 6 June 1972, aged 72. Leonard died in Beverley, Yorkshire, in 1986, aged 84.


Novels as W. & L. Townsend
Luck of the Course. London, Hornsey Journal Printing Works (FP Racing 172), Oct 1934.
A Shadow on the Course. London, Hornsey Journal Printing Works (FP Racing 180), Feb 1935.
Judy’s Horse. London, Hornsey Journal (FP Racing 305), Apr 1940.
The Thoroughbred. London, Hornsey Journal (FP Racing 311), 1942.
A Long Chance. London, Hornsey Journal (FP Racing 317), 1942.
The Wonder Horse. London, Hornsey Journal (FP Racing 319), 1942.
Secret of Blue Gully. London, Martin & Reid, Nov 1948.
Gun Branded. London, Martin & Reid, May 1949.
Riding High. London, Martin & Reid, May 1949.
Rex the Rectory Mouse, illus. Vera Rice-Jay. London, Thames Publishing Co., 1950.
The Round House Mystery, illus. Joyce Johnson. Huddersfield, Schofield & Sims, 1951.
Gipsies in the Wood, illus. J. W. Tate. Leeds, E. J. Arnold & Son, 1953.

Novels as Wal Leonard
The Buckaroo Rides Out. London, Piccadilly Novels 223, 1945.
Trouble Trail. Leicester, Fiction House, 1951.
Nevada Pay-Off. Leicester, Fiction House, Feb 1952.

Novels as Leonard Walters (series: St Hal's [Jack Barry & Co.])
Wreckers of the Range. London, Martin & Reid, Nov 1945.
The Gold Trail. London, Martin & Reid, Apr 1946.
Yellow Streak. London, Martin & Reid, Apr 1946.
The Boss of Gray Flats. London, Martin & Reid, Feb 1947.
The Bounder of St Hal’s. London, Martin & Reid, 1947.
The Rift at St Hal’s. London, Martin & Reid, 1947.
The Rebel of St Hal’s. London, Martin & Reid, 1947.
The Snob of St Hal’s. London, Martin & Reid, Dec 1947.

Non-fiction as W. & L. Townsend
An Introduction to Finance: a book for the average man. London, Crosby, Lockwood & Son, 1927.
Lucrative Hobbies. London, G. Allen & Unwin, 1927.
The Biography of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. London, A. E. Marriott & Son, 1929.
Black Cap. Murder Will Out. London, A. E. Marriott, 1930; in 2 volumes, Black Cap and Murder Will Out, London, Mellifont Press, 1938.
The Biography of His Holiness Pope Pius XI. London, A. E. Marriott, 1930.
Mystery & Miracle Plays in England. London, Henry Hartley, 1931.
Costing for Builders, illus. prepared by Robin Townsend. London, E. & F. N. Spon, 1948; revised, 1957.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Prudence O'Shea (Jasmine Chatterton)

Prudence O'Shea had a varied career under a number of names. She was an actress, model, designer, author and agent over the years, yet surprisingly little seems to be known about her.

She was born Victoria Jessamine Merchant on 12 March 1893, her birth registered in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, although census records state that she was born in nearly Aldershot. Her father, Victor Jabez Merchant, was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, in 1864 [he was baptized John Victor Jaber (sic) Merchant] and married Fanny Sargent in 1885. Victoria was the last of four children. Victor Merchant was a soldier for many years, serving with the permanent staff of the 4th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. He completed 25 years of exemplary service between June 1883 and his retirement in September 1908. He subsequently served during the First World War as a Captain with the Durham Light Infantry.

By 1901, Fanny Marchant (sic) is listed as head of the family home at 20 New Street, Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Her occupation is given as "monthly nurse" and she still has three of her children living with her. Victor has returned in the 1911 census, where he is working as a clerk in the corn trade and living with his wife and two of their children at Tower Road, Boston, Lincolnshire

Her mother died in 1914 and Victor married his second wife, Florence Mary Hewitt, in 1916. He died in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, in 1932, aged 68.

In 1913, she was one of the "Daily Express Ladies" who were given flights at Hendon over the Easter weekend. A report of the weekend notes that "Lewis Turner ... took up one, Miss Prudence O'Shea of the Gaiety." A later newspaper interview noted that she had "appeared in several shows, including some produced by George Edwardes in the hectic times of the Gaiety."

She performed in numerous plays, including Broadway performances in a variety of musical comedies, To-Night's the Night (ensemble, Shubert Theatre, 24 Dec 1914-27 Mar 1915), The Blue Paradise (chorus, Casino Theatre, 5 Aug 1916-[May 1916], Around the Map (Venus Lova, New Amsterdam Theatre, 1 Nov 1915-29 Jan 1916), Sybil (chorus, Liberty Theatre, 10 Jan-3 Jun 1916) and Betty (as Lady Paula Colquhoun, Globe Theatre, 3 Oct-25 Nov 1916).

Theatre life had many ups and downs, as the following interview notes:
While rehearsing, Miss O'Shea met a girl who was to play a large part in her life. She was Melisande, one of the most beautiful girls on the stage. The two became firm friends.
    In one of their hard-up periods, Miss O'Shea and Melisande met a young man named Carlos. He showered presents on them, and later revealed, when Melisande was going to America, that the money he had spent on them was obtained by forging his wife's name.
    Carlos saw Melisande off on the train. She would not kiss him. He committed suicide on the platform.
    When things were going well, the girls went out to parties with regular monotony. They reached home at four o'clock in the morning. "We seemed to be drunk every night," says Miss O'Shea.
    Came the war and the wonderful days of the stage seemed to disappear with its arrival.
    Miss O'Shea, after a while, took up war work. Melisande went to America. They never saw each other for some time. Then one day, Miss O'Shea saw a woman walking aimlessly through the London streets. It was her friend.
    Melisande said she was tired of life. It seemed that happiness would never come to Melisande. It did, however, in the same way—by marriage.
This brief interview (syndicated to various newspapers in June 1930) noted that Miss O'Shea had also found happiness in marriage and was living with her husband and "two romping children" in a little cottage by the Thames. Prudence—or, rather, Victoria Jasmine Merchant—had married Robert Ernest Chatterton (1897-1974) in 1929. Robert, born in 1897, was also known as Robert E. Seiffert, had previously married Olive A. Groves. One of the two romping children was probably Michael G. Groves born in 1924.

Prudence O'Shea had begun publishing fiction at least as early as 1923 and her stories and articles appeared throughout the 1920s in 20 Story Magazine, The Royal Magazine, Piccadilly and The Bystander.

Prudence also designed clothing and was described as a "director of one of London's exclusive designing firms. She was pictured in some of her creations, a two-piece sports suit and a black georgette frock.

Prudence also began writing novels in the latter half of the 1930s, averaging one a year between 1936 and 1940. However, her output was curtailed by the war and she made the transition to agenting other people's work when she set up Jasmine Chatterton Ltd., an author's agency, in 1944. The directors of the firm included her husband, Major Robert E. Chatterton, and accountant K. C. Lindsay. The firm's office was given as 28 Montpelier Street, London S.W.7. and an advert in the 1949 Author's and Writer's Who's Who claimed that the company represents "Books. Adult; Adolescent. Fiction and Non-fiction. No reading fee charged. All manuscripts submitted must be highest standard."

The marriage between Jamine and Robert had by then broken down and Robert E. Chatterton (or Seiffert) married Gertrude S. Blackman (nee Sarah Gertrude Newton, 1894-1963, previously married to Richard D. Blackman in 1924 and Reginald Hamilton-Brown in 1938) in 1947.

Jasmine Chatterton's business ran until 1962. A notice appeared in the London Gazette warning that the company would be struck off the register and dissolved, which it duly was in March 1963. Presumably the company had not been active for some years. Whether Jasmine Chatterton continued to work in literary circles or as a writer is unknown. 

Victoria Jasmine Chatterton died peacefully at St Mary Abbotts Hospital, Kensington, on 26 June 1982, aged 88. She was cremated at Mortlake Crematorium, London SW14, on 6 July.


Famine Alley. London, Albert E. Marriott, 1930.
Silver Mountain. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1936.
Warm Autumn. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1937.
Scandalous Interlude. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1938.
Free and Fortunate. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1938.
Paradise for the Porretts. London, Cassell & Co., 1940.
The Cygnets, with Meg Sheridan. London, Macdonald & Co., 1947.
Wine and Roses. London, Macdonald & Co., 1948.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Comic Cuts - 19 September 2014

Anyone following the progress of the latest book from Bear Alley will be pleased to hear that the release date should only be a matter of weeks. I finished the layouts on Tuesday and I'm now waiting on a proof copy. There's an approval process that I need to go through with the copyright holders but they've been very receptive so far and I'm not expecting any problems.

The final book is 140 pages, with a couple of introductions, one relating to the creators of the strip and a second about gladiatorial combat past, present and future. The latter is a little self-indulgent, and at over 4,400 words a lot longer than I'd planned, but as I'd already had to set the price when we were negotiating the license, it hasn't made any difference to the cover price and the book won't cost you a penny more just because I've added half a dozen more pages.

Within the next couple of weeks I should be able to confirm the release date and will have everything set up to take payments over on the Bear Alley Books site.

I have a couple of ideas for what to do next; hopefully another strip collection. But as I haven't even started the negotiations yet, I'd better not jinx the notion by talking about it too early.

I'm in a weird state of post-book euphoria. While I'm waiting on the proof, and before I get cracking on the next book, I want to nudge a couple of other projects along. One is to rewrite the Harry Bensley/Man in the Iron Mask material that I published on Bear Alley a few weeks ago and put out an e-book. I have a little additional information on his travels, more on his marriages and have discovered a previously unmentioned child.

I also want to revisit another old rogue that I've written about in the past. I spent Wednesday ferreting around the pages of newspapers from between the wars and turned up a lot of new and interesting information. I've also nailed down details of his birth and discovered the curious story of his father.

And I'm now going to be a rotten sod and not say his name. I don't want to give away all the surprises.

Let's talk about something else. Weight watchers will be pleased to hear that I haven't put on any weight or pissed off (on my behalf) to hear that I haven't lost any weight. I'm stuck on 101 kilos and have been for two months. I don't think it's a coincidence that I've been working on the new book for precisely that period. Although I haven't missed any of my walks and only missed a handful of rides on the exercise bike, I haven't really done much else. So while I've found the level of exercise that will keep my weight steady, I need to push it that extra mile, or an extra ten minutes, if I'm to burn off a few calories.

Tomato season is almost  over. For a pair of non-gardeners with the black, twisted fingers of death rather than green fingers, Mel and I have done pretty well with our pair of tomato plants. We've had over 200 tomatoes – had some with out macaroni cheese last night! – but we're thinking that next weekend we'll pluck off any remaining fruits and just leave them on the window sill. If they ripen, great. If not, we can fry them, right?

Our random scans this week are a couple of SF Masterworks titles that I've picked up recently. I can't believe I sold off a load of these many years ago. It really is an astonishing series containing an amazing line-up of novels. If you ever needed to recommend any science fiction titles to anyone, you could do a lot worse than saying "Just pick up any title with the SF Masterworks brand and you'll be holding a classic."

Perhaps Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed wouldn't be the best place to start for anyone coming to SF new. Politics and sociology aren't what people expect of science fiction and a novel like The Dispossessed can be a bit of a struggle for the novice. I like the fact that the SF Masterworks series began with The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and Cities in Flight by James Blish, which are all good starter novels if you want to get into SF.

Samuel R. Delany's books had some of the best covers around when I was buying paperbacks in the 1970s. Some fabulous work by Chris Foss, Peter Elson, Angus McKie and Tony Roberts – I'm going by memory, so forgive me if I'm wrong. My original copy of Nova has a couple of spaceships in an asteroid field with a distant sun and a lot lens flare. The book has been gone for twenty years but I can still see it. [In fact, I found a scan online – very poor but I've included it above so you can see what I'm talking about.]]

The last of our quartet is a bit of an oddity. I have recently picked up a couple of novels by Neal Asher, but have yet to actually read one. The Engineer is an early collection published by a little Leicester outfit, Tanjen Ltd. I'd never heard of them until I picked up this book. They seem to have been a publisher of horror novels, collections and anthologies, active around the late 1990s/early 2000s. They published Asher's first novel, The Parasite in 1996.

Coming shortly: I have another excellent historical piece by Robert Kirkpatrick about penny dreadful publisher Henry Lea, which I will be running soon. I might – might – take a few days off to catch up with various tasks that need doing (back-ups, e-mail, etc.) and to get my Iron Mask e-book written. These things don't write themselves, you know!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Magnum Annual 1983 (part 3)

(* Magnum P.I. TM and © Universal City Studios Inc.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Magnum Annual 1983 (part 2)


(* Magnum P.I. TM and © Universal City Studios Inc.)


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