Friday, January 23, 2015

Comic Cuts - 23 January 2015

Some weeks come and go so fast that you barely realise that the time is passing. I'm thinking back at what I've achieved these past seven days and I can't think of a thing. I've started on the introduction to the next book, managed to find some artwork that I wasn't aware of and waded through a pile of magazines in the hope of finding more.

Then there were two nice meals... but they don't count as work, memorable though they were. It was nice to get out of my little office because I've really noticed the temperature drop this week. We had a flurry of snow on Saturday while I was waiting in the queue for the bus along with half a dozen other grumpy folk and one very excitable young girl who was jumping up and down with joy... she was inside one of the shop's opposite the bus queue, in the warm and untroubled by the biting wind. The snow stopped just as the bus arrived. although I wouldn't be feeling paranoid about this if the following hadn't happened...

On Wednesday, as Mel and I left the house, the snow came down quite thick and fast. It lasted exactly half an hour which I know because that's how long my morning walk takes and the snow slowed and stopped just as I got back to the driveway of the house.

The snow is clearly out to get me.

I managed to catch up with The Man in the High Castle, the Amazon Prime pilot, which I thought superb. It's based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, which I started re-reading during the week after completing a rather disappointing whodunnit (The Affair of the Mutilated Mink) which tried too hard to complicate the plot in order to offer multiple solutions and just ended up rather too silly for my tastes.

The pilot, on the other hand, was superb—a masterclass in creating a show relatively cheaply without it wholly distracting from the story. The story, for those who haven't read the book, is set in an America where the Nazis and Japanese won the Second World War. It is now 1962 and America is divided into two, the east coast under German rule and the west coast occupied by Japan with a neutral buffer zone between the two. The elderly Hitler is ill and the Japanese worry that his death will cause could result in the rise to power of a more aggressive leader who will destroy the fragile alliance between the Germans and Japanese and use their nuclear bombs against the west coast.

Meanwhile, a young New Yorker working for the American resistance drives west to deliver a package—a film reel entitled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy—to Canon City in the neutral zone. At the same time, a woman travels west from San Francisco after watching the film, passed on to her by her sister shortly before she (the sister) is shot. The film, in a series of news clips, depicts an alternative world in which America wins the war and has reputedly been created by someone known only as the Man in the High Castle.

Amazon will move forward to create more episodes depending on reaction to the pilot. Well, at the moment it looks like they're onto a winner and I'm certainly hoping for more. It feels like this project has been around for quite a while; Scott Free (Ridley Scott's production company) was reputedly involved in adapting it for the BBC five years ago with an excellent playwright named Howard Brenton adapting the novel. I'd love to see his take on the book. This version is adapted by Frank Spotnitz, whose work is always worth watching—he was responsible for a lot of The X-Files.

Talking of the latter, I'm in two minds about the rumours that it might be coming back. I followed it through to the bitter (and frustratingly inconclusive) end of season nine, plus two movies, and the only reason I would want it to come back would be to give the show a satisfying conclusion and not drag it out.

Our random scans today are by unidentified or unknown (to me) artists. The Execution of Private Slovik (Panther 645) is from 1956, the cover by David Kirk who, as far as I'm aware, didn't do any other covers for Panther.  Panther 905, The Story of Wake Island by Colonel J. P. S. Devereux (1959) is signed... but who's signature? It looks a bit like 'Crair', but that seem unlikely. Update: My eyesight is better than I give it credit for. I'm told that the signature is that of American artist Mel Crair, who illustrated a lot of US paperback covers and men's magazines.

I've put in Panther 914 but I did some digging and found that this was a reprint of an American cover originally published by Avon Books. The artist is Gilbert Fullington who appears to have produced a number of covers for crime novels, although there is nothing to be found about him via a quick Google search.

Finally for today, Panther 1463 from 1963 is The Long Overcoat by Pete Fry. Fry was the pseudonym of James Clifford King; he was also a private eye and the narrator of fifteen books published by T. V. Boardman and John Long. The cover is signed, but is mostly a squiggle with possibly 'cuti' at the end.

If I get a chance I'll update the Upcoming Releases and Recent Releases columns for next week. I also have a couple of books that I want to review, so there should be something to look forward to. With any luck, I'll be in a position to announce the title of the next book next Friday. I won't promise, but fingers crossed. And there are my tax returns to fill in. Oh, joy!

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