Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ian Allan (1922-2015)

A rail news website is reporting that publisher Ian Allan died on 28 June, one day before his 93rd birthday. Ian Allan Publishing has been in existence since the Second World War with Allan at its head for many years until he retired.

Born in London on 29 June 1922, Allan was educated St. Paul's School. He had a leg amputated following an accident during an Officer Training Corps exercise at the age of 15.

He had joined the office of the General Manager of the Southern Railway at Waterloo Station in 1939, but moved to the PR department following the outbreak of war. Here he learned the basics of the print and production of the Southern Railway magazine.

Dealing with a stready stream of questions from the public meant Allan kept extensive notes on all of Southern Railway's rolling stock but his suggestion that the company publish his notebooks was turned down. Instead, Allan published them himself and The ABC of Southern Locomotives, collecting useful information for "locospotters", appeared in 1943. The one shilling book quickly sold out its 2,000-copy print run.

A reprint and further titles followed. The company Ian Allan Ltd. was incorporated in 1945 and Trains Illustrated magazine began appearing the following year. Other magazines, including Locomotive Railway Magazine and Railway World followed. There was such an interest amongst readers that the publisher set up the Ian Allan Locospotters Club which would eventually have 300,000 members. Organizing trips for members gave Allan the experience to set up a travel agency. Other business interests included hotels, model making and manufacturing regalia.

Allan published a great many annual over the years, including Aircraft Annual (1949, 1954-75), Trains Annual (1954-60, 1967-71), Locospotters' Annual (1957-71), Ships Annual (1958, 1967-69, 1971), Buses Annual 1963-72, 1976-77) and Railway World Annual (1972, 1976-77).

He also published Eileen Gibb's The Adventures of Sammy the Shunter stories in an oblong format similar to the railway stories to the Reverand Awdry and kept them in print into the 1970s.

Allan, who was awarded the OBE in 1995, married Mollie Eileen Franklin in 1947 and had two sons.

Obituaries: The Guardian (6 July 2015), Daily Telegraph (30 June 2015).

Geoffrey Trease

Although he was well known for his stories for boys, Geoffrey Trease did not contribute heavily to boys' papers, contributing only a handful of stories to Boy's Own Paper in the late 1930s. He was, however, a regular in The Children's Newspaper with a number of stories and serials published in the post-Arthur Mee era between 1949 and 1960. He notably published a series of stories featuring The Silver Gentleman (1950) and the serial The Silver Gentleman Again (1951-52). He also contributed to Collins Young Elizabethan, including the serial Word of Caesar (1955-56).

Here from the clippings file is an obituary from 1998.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Anne Perry

Another clipping from my scrapbook. Peter Jackson's fantastic Beautiful Creatures was based on the murder case mentioned.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Red Dwarf

More from the boxes of paperwork that have built up over the past thirty years. For commercial reasons, we covered a lot of ground in Comic World outside of comics, including the (then) new season of Red Dwarf. Today's scrapbook consists of a couple of cards - Craig Charles and Starbug - that were published by Portico Designs in 1993, plus a couple of photographs from the same era.

This was, of course, the launch for Season VI, which to my mind was one of the best in the show's history. Just look at the delights on offer that season: Psirens, Legion, Gunmen of the Apocalypse, Emohawk: Polymorph II, Rimmerworld and Out of Time. I know there are people who hate the series because the crew were trapped in Starbug with the Red Dwarf itself nowhere in sight, but I still think this is one of the best six-episode runs of any comedy on TV.

(* Red Dwarf © Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Comic Cuts - 26 June 2015

I'm in the eye of the storm. It's press week at Hotel Business and after a nervy couple of days waiting for features to start appearing the last two days have been incredibly frantic, turning around editorial at a rate to keep the hungry beast that is our design studio fed.

At the beginning of last week I thought I had everything ticking along reasonably well only to have the rug pulled from under my feet. Without going into detail, I was left with a couple of holes last Thursday that needed filling. Thankfully, a useful service I had been asked not to use was made available to me and a request went out for material. Four or five responses was all I needed, and I had those by Friday. Everyone had a deadline of Wednesday—hence the nervy start to the week. Thankfully, all was delivered and I ended up with a selection to choose from.

Unfortunately, there's very little room in the mag for extensive articles and almost invariably they come in long. One dealt with today was meant to be around 600 words, came in at nearly 900 and had to be hacked back to 550. I'm going to have to get tougher with anyone who sends in over long pieces.

Um... I really haven't done anything else. For entertainment I've been rewatching the first season of Heroes and revelling in just how good it was. If I remember correctly, the newspapers turned against the show with season two, complaining that it was too slow or two complex, and this seemed to infect viewers who couldn't cope with anything more complicated than "Save the cheerleader, save the world". That's my memory of the situation, although maybe they waited until season three before really getting their claws out. Personally, I stuck with it and thought it was still an interesting show. And I'll definitely be watching Heroes Reborn when it comes out.

David Ainsworth, who regularly sends over book cover scans, sent me an Arrow book during the week (that's it at the head of this column) and inspired the following random collection of Dennis Wheatley titles. The first four have artwork by Sax. The fifth is by... who? It's fantastic and was used as a cover from 1954 through six impressions of The Devil Rides Out over the next decade. Not Sax, I think, but I'm struggling to put a name to the artist.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Commando issues 4819-4822

Commando issues on sale 18 June 2015

Commando No 4819 – Brilliant Death
The Convict Commandos are not known to do things the conventional way. Titch Mooney, Jelly Jakes, Smiler Dawson and Guy Tenby — not forgetting their ruthless confederate Dr Jane Mallory — always get the jobs where conventional is not an option.
   Even by their standards, though, a boat chase through the centre of Venice was a bit extreme.
   You really have got to read this tale.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet

Commando No 4820 – Lost Patrol
Sergeant Jim Stark was trying to lead a lost patrol of fellow Chindits back to safety, through a jungle swarming with Japanese. A tight enough spot for any man, even worse for Jim who had lost his memory.
   But Jim didn’t know the half of it.
   Among the men of that lost patrol was a man already wanted in England for murder, a man whose burning dark eyes bored into Jim’s back every time it was turned, a man who had to kill the sergeant or die himself!

The trouble with the records for the early Commando books is that the entries tend to be a bit cryptic. Take the details for the names; usually it’s just a second name with an initial added only if there are two creators with the same surname.
   Take the de la Fuentes, for example. There’s V de la Fuente, R de la Fuente and finally J de la Fuente. We know the first two are Victor and Ramon but we only think the last is José Luis as the work he’s known for is nothing like this.
   Not that it matters here as the work is as punchy as the hard-hitting Powell (no first name again) script. Classic Commando.—Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Story: Powell
Art: J Fuente
Cover: Ken Barr
Originally Commando No 176 (August 1965)

Commando No 4821 – A Motley Crew
In the lead-up to the hastily organised evacuation at Dunkirk, a disparate group of servicemen found themselves thrown together.
   A Pay Corps clerk…
   …an RAF policeman…
   …and a Royal Navy Able Seaman…
   …were joined by a shady civilian who was unsure whose side he was on, except his own.
   They would have to combine their skills, intelligence and abilities if they were to live to fight another day.

Story: George Low
Art: Morahin
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4822 – Full Speed East
THE MEN — Tough British sailors schooled in the traditions of Trafalgar. Lean, hard-fighting Americans spurred on by the memory of Pearl Harbour.
    THE SHIPS — MTBs of the Royal Navy — four torpedo tubes, six guns, capable of 40 knots. Patrol Torpedo Boats of the US Navy — four tubes, five guns, a top speed of 45 knots.
    THE OBJECTIVE — To close with the enemy…FAST!

Character clash is at the heart of all fiction. Without it we simply would have no drama. This tough sea and jungle tale has that character clash in spades — British Royal Navy sailors face off against their US counterparts as they struggle to put aside their differences and fight the real enemy, the Imperial Japanese Navy. The tension builds gradually, unravelling like the coils of a giant snake…
   Oh, there is a giant snake in it as well. Just thought I should mention it.—Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: Mclean
Art: Fleming
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No 1080 (November 1976), re-issued as No 2372 (May 1990)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Monica Edwards

Two obituaries I clipped back in the day for the late Monica Edwards. My sister loved her horseriding and her horses, and as I'd read anything I could pick up in the house when I was a kid, I also read a few of her horsey books. I remember reading Judith Beresford, especially, but I'm sure I also read some by Monica Edwards.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gerald Scarfe

A Gerald Scarfe interview from the Sunday Times Magazine, 2 November 1986.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Batman and Batman Defects

Some newspaper reports on the Tim Burton Batman movie from 1989, plus a bonus report from 1994 when Michael Keaton left the franchise.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

W D Maydwell

W. D. Maydwell has been a bit of a mystery writer for many years. One of my favourites amongst the old paperback publishers is Mellifont Press, an Irish printing firm that published cheap fiction and non-fiction reprints for over thirty years. They were notoriously badly paid, as little as £10 for one of their slim booklets, so a lot of their output was cheap editions of hardback books or a last resort for original material that couldn't be sold elsewhere.

Maydwell was the author of nine books published in a series launched shortly before the start of the Second World War. In 1939 the publisher debuted the Mellifont Sports Series of 128-page novels and occasional non-fiction. The series included some regulars from boys' papers, including John Hunter, John G. Rowe, Peter W. Batten and Charles E. Pearce, and probably most notably, John Creasey. In all, the series published some 45 books, so Maydwell's nine made up a substantial percentage of the output in 1940-41.

At least one of the novels had made a prior appearance as a magazine serial: "The Football Racket" had appeared in D. C. Thomson's sporting paper Topical Times in 1939 ahead of its Mellifont appearance in 1940.

I also believe he wrote for Piccadilly Novels as William Darrell, two novels appearing in 1940-41.

Other than these hard-to-find books, there was no other known information about Maydwell until a recent bit of research by John Herrington brought some potentially interesting information to light. Firstly, it appeared that in around 1945, Maydwell was referred in a newspaper article as a local journalist. The piece, in the Plymouth Western Morning News, concerned an address made by Maydwell to the Torquay Overseas League at the opening of their winter session in October 1945.

The Portsmouth Evening News had carried a couple of sporting reports on the subject of rugby in 1938-39, and the Gloucester Citizen had carried a piece on cricket around the same time. In 1945, Maydwell was a witness in a libel case against the Torquay Times and South Devon Advertiser where he was described as the chief reporter of the Torquay Times and Directory.

This led to a possible sighting of Maydwell in official records as the death of a William D. Maydwell, aged 58, was recorded in 2Q 1950 in Newton Abbot, Devon. He would have had to have been born in 1891 or 1892, but there is no sign of a birth under that name.

Maydwell had probably been living in Newton Abbot since at least the end of the Second World War, since there was a record of his marriage to Grace M. Clark (or Maydwell) in that district in 3Q 1945. Grace Mary Maydwell, born in 1901, died in 2Q 1970 in Torbay, Devon.

This was not, it would seem, his first marriage as there was an earlier record of a marriage in St. Giles, London, between Maydwell and Flora A. Croft in 1917. The marriage did not last, ending in divorce in November 1922. Flora Alice Maydwell later lived in Paddington in the late 1920s and subsequently married in St. Nazaire, France, in the early 1930s.

This is all rather less than illuminating and it is only now that things start to get interesting. The National Archives has a record dating from 1914 of a  Consular court case held in Cairo, Egypt: Duncan Silvestro Rabagliati v H. E. Wortham & W. D. Maydwell. A second case followed in 1916: Anglo- Egyptian Bank Ltd. v. W. D. Maydwell.

Although these are public records (FO 841/143, FO 841/156), I've not had a chance to examine them; presumably they were not so bad as Maydwell was shortly after back in the UK and subsequently served in France with the Royal Army Medical Corps. On 23 December 1917 he transferred to the Labour Corps and, the following day, was promoted to temporary 2nd Lieutenant. He was later promoted to the rank of  Captain.

According to Maydwell's army records, he was on "Suspense List/68", which relates to the Suspension of Sentences Act, 1915 under which (and I'm indebted to a reply from Alan Greveson in this forum), under which:
sentences of imprisonment or penal servitude in the field were subject to review to prevent trained soldiers from languishing in prison, but also to allow a soldier under sentence to redeem his character by a period of good conduct (or "conveniently" getting shot).
Perhaps his appearance on the Suspense List (which would have almost certainly meant forfeiting any service medals) was somehow related to his court cases in Egypt... it seems unlikely that it was the cause of his transfer from R.A.M.C. to Labour Corps as he was immediately promoted in rank.

Maydwell's next known appearance was before a judge at the Central Criminal Court, where he was sentenced on 11 May 1920 to nine months for stealing a diamond ring valued at £60. At the time, Maydwell was living in a flat in Jermyn Street and was engaged to a Mrs. Mary Perkins, a divorcee who lived in Kensington. During a visit, Maydwell had remarked that her ring needed cleaning and that he knew a shop in Bond Street where it could be done.

Two days later, Maydwell told her that the ring would be posted on the next day by the shop. When the ring did not arrive, Mrs. Perkins visited Maydwell's flat only to find him out. Looking around for something with which to write a note, she discovered a pawnbroker's ticket in a drawer in respect of her ring made out for £30 in the name of Captain W. Maydwell.

Mrs. Perkins took the ticket to the police. A later report noted:
William Darrell Maydwell, 31, was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment with hard labout on an indictment charging him with stealing a diamond ring and brooch, and converting to his own use a diamond and emerald ring and a diamond pendant which had been entrusted to him for valuation and resetting. (The Times, 12 May 1920)
He was back in court a year later, arrested in April 1921 after having fraudulently obtaining a meal on credit. Described as a waiter he gave the name Captain Stanley when charged and claimed ethat he was "broke and hungry and had to get food somehow." The meal, at Frascati's Restaurant in Oxford Street, London, consisted of
Soup, 2s.; fish, 5s.; vegetables, 2s.3d.; chocolate, 6d.; coffee, 6d.; wines, 5s., spirits, 8s. 4d.; liqueurs, 10s.; cigars, 4s.; cigarettes, 3s.; minerals, 1s; total, £2. 6s. 9d.
Charged at Marlborough Street on 23 April 1921, the prisoner was held on remand under the name Henry Edward Stanton as the police had reason to believe there would be other cases to inquire into.

When his case came up at the Old Bailey in May 1921, Stanton—described as "a well-dressed man of 29—admitted 17 cases of obtaining meals and goods by false pretences. Chiefly, the prosecutor, Mr. Travers Humphreys, drew attention to a £250 cheque he gave to Harrod's banking department on 8 April. Told that it would take several days for the cheque to clear, Stanton, using the name Major A. G. Stanton of Park Mansions, said this was awkward as he wanted a few things for the week-end. He was allowed to open a credit account, through which he immediately ordered cigars, cigarettes, tobacco, a cigarette case and a gold wristlet watch and had them sent to his flat. He waiting outside the Mansions until the goods were delivered and took them from the delivery van. Within a few days he pawned the cigarette case.

He also stole a cheque book from Mr. Robert Downs at a Turkish baths and, by means of worthless cheques, obtained clothes from Burberry's. A detective gave evidence that there were seventeen other charges against the prisoner in various parts of the country, and at least three warrants out against him.

In evidence, the police said that the prisoner was not a major, but his real name was unknown. It was known that he had been sentenced a year earlier to nine months with hard labour. This time, the judge sentenced him to eighteen months' hard labour.

Released the following year, Maydwell was almost immediately in trouble again: in November 1922, the Recorder at the Old Bailey remarked that he had never seen an educated man descend so low, as he sentenced Maydwell under the name William Henderson to three years' penal servitude for cheque frauds and luggage thefts from railway stations.

"Henderson", under which name he was tried, had obtained a book with 12 cheques, the property of N. H. R. Dade, using which he had obtained credit from Romanos restaurant to the value of £2. 16s. 11d. He had attempted to similarly defraud the Army & Navy Co-operative Society of £2 9s. Other charges concerned the stealing of suitcases and other articles from Great Western Railway and The Midland Railway.

A little of Maydwell's background was revealed during the case: it was said that he had been well educated at a public school but had been prevented from going to university by the death of his father. Before the war he had been a journalist in Alexandria and in the R.A.M.C. during the war he had obtained the rank of Captain.

Since the war he had separated from his wife, and had been sentenced to nine months for stealing the jewellery of a woman with whom he was associated.

He had pleaded guilty of almost all of the charges and  sentenced; the three sentences, each of three years, were to run concurrently. He was released on 13 February 1925.

Maydwell—or Stanton... or Henderson—then disappears until the first sighting of him as a south coast journalist in 1938.

Given that his birth year is known approximately—Stanton was 29 in 1921 and Henderson 30 in 1922—his birth in around 1891 or 1892 is fairly firmly established; the death of William D. Maydwell in 1950 at the age of 58 also ties in with this date.

The two most frustrating aspects of this rather patchy story is that we still don't know for sure that William Darrell Maydwell was his real name: there's no record of anyone being born under that name in 1891/92.

There was a Henry Edward Stanton born around that time who, at the age of 24, enlisted in the 4th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. This Stanton had married Fanny Frances Entwistle two days before Christmas in 1914 and had a son, John Henry Stanton by the time he signed up in 1915. A former baker, Stanton served in India and South Africa for 3 1/2 years before being discharged with the rank of L/Cpl. This Stanton would appear to have continued living in Worcester after the war, and indeed the next war, as that was where his death was registered in 2Q 1965, aged 74. He's clearly not our man.

The second frustration is that extended gap between around 1924, when he was probably released from jail, and 1938, when he turns up as a sports journalist and novelist. Could he have been working under other names or anonymously during that period?


The Russian Heavyweight. London, Mellifont Press [Sports Series 23], 1940.
Between the Posts. London, Mellifont Press [Sports Series 26], 1940.
The Greyhound Murder Mystery. London, Mellifont Press [Sports Series 28], 1940.
The Dart Board Mystery. London, Mellifont Press [Sports Series 31], 1940.
The Football Pools Mystery. London, Mellifont Press [Sports Series], 1940.
The Football Racket. London, Mellifont Press [Sports Series], 1940.
The Soccer League Heavyweight. London, Mellifont Press [Sports Series 35], 1941.
Convict International. London, Mellifont Press [Sports Series 38], 1941.
Death in the Tote Box. London, Mellifont Press [Sports Series], 1941.

Novels as William Darrell
The Shadow of the Gestapo. London, Fiction House [Piccadilly Novels 171], 1940.
Compulsary Gangster. London, Fiction House [Piccadilly Novels 185], Dec 1941.

Visitor's Guide to Paignton. 1948.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Comic Cuts - 19 June 2015

I've spent most of the week dealing with questions of space. Not the galaxy-spanning stuff that I like to read about and not even the more practical questions of how to manage my books and shelves. No, this was how many words can you fit onto a page and how far can you cut down an article before it becomes a list.

From one direction I'm told that articles need to be interesting or nobody will read them; from the other the advice is to edit ruthlessly. But at some point you have to stop cutting or every iota of the writer's personality—and what actually makes it interesting to read—has been removed and you are simply regurgitating a handful of facts and puffing the product in as few words as possible. To my mind, that means you risk readers skipping over featurettes without their brains actually engaging with them. Not satisfying for the reader and bugger all use to the advertisers.

I'm still trying to get my head around this as we go into our final week on my second issue. The first issue was very much a case of gathering material and throwing it in—I took over the mag. half-way through the production cycle and had to use what was available to me. The production cycle was moved to make allowances, which has cut deeply into the time I needed to plan this second issue. To give you an idea of how tight things are, the forward planning meeting took place six working days before the editorial deadline!

At least this time I have a better idea of what is required. It's the difference between stumbling around in the dark for issue one and stumbling around in the light for issue two. Hopefully I'll have found my feet by next month.

One minor bit of good news. I checked my weight this morning and I've lost a pound. After three months of my weight bouncing up and down by a couple of pounds depending on what time of day I weighed myself, this is the first sign of it heading downwards again. Bizarrely it is now 24 months since I determined to lose some weight and I've now lost 24 pounds. I had hoped to lose a stone a year, but that hasn't happened. But a pound a month is not bad and it does prove that the low impact exercise I'm doing (trying to protect my back) is actually working.

Our random scans this week are... well, a random selection of Pan non-fiction, for no other reason than I fancied doing some Pan scans. Of all British publishers, I still think Pan had the finest selection of painted covers and I just love how diverse the covers are, no two of them alike. This is the polar opposite of today's books, where a successful title immediately becomes the template for a whole bunch of titles considered similar in theme. This is not to say there were no themes or common motifs in book cover artwork of old, but the approach and the final results were almost always very different. Today, it's all too easy to find the exact same image from an image library such as shutterstock being used or two or three novels.

W. D. Maydwell was a sports crime writer in the 1930s about whom nothing was known. A bit of literary excavation over the past couple of weeks has revealed that Maydwell had a criminal past  of his own. All will be revealed over the weekend. And next week I'll hopefully post some more of the scans from my digging through boxes of old paperwork, including some clippings about the Michael Keaton Batman movie that I've had since the late Eighties.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cowboy Comics unknown artists part 4

Our last selection of unknown artists from the pages of Cowboy Comics is a grab-bag of six different anonymous talents, although David Slinn, a good friend to Bear Alley, tells me that "Kit Carson and the Fighting Sioux" (Cowboy Comics 241, Dec 1957) is almost certainly A. L. Bushell, who contributed to various annuals around that same time and later worked for D. C. Thomson's boys' comics. I have to confess it's a new name to me, so I shall have to investigate further.

"Kit Carson and the Yellow Totem" (Cowboy Comics 134, Jun 1955)

"Kit Carson and the Indian War!" (Cowboy Comics 139, Jul 1955)

"Buck Jones and the Renegades of Stormy Pass" (Cowboy Comics 164, Mar 1956)

"Kit Carson and the Fighting Sioux" (Cowboy Comics 241, Dec 1957)

"Kit Carson and the Redskin Rising" (Cowboy Comics 136, June 1955)
"Kit Carson in Seven Hours to Live" (Cowboy Comics 229, Sep 1957)


Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books