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Friday, June 12, 2015

Comic Cuts - 12 June 2015

I'm starting to get back into the swing of doing some research again. After six or so weeks where I was dividing my time between work on Hotel Business and trying to sift through boxes of paperwork that has accumulated over the past thirty years, I needed a change of pace.

Inspired by stumbling over a pile of photocopies that I've had sitting around since 2007, I'm hoping to have a mini-blitz on putting names to some artists we failed to identify when we were putting together The Thriller Libraries book, published by Book Palace in 2010. These things tend to come around every five or six years and it's amazing how you can chip away at these unidentified pages and resolve one or two even sixty years after the event and with most of the participants and records long gone.

The research I did for the Lion index might hold a few keys as there were a handful of artists identified who are likely to have worked elsewhere at what was then the Amalgamated Press—artists like A. Forbes, F. A. Williams or Brian O'Hanlon (about whom I have recently learned a little more, which I will share when I get a chance). There are other names that I've learned in the past few years (Leslie Waller) or artists who later worked for D. C. Thomson but who started at Amalgamated (Bob Webster), whose early works have yet to be identified.

Gathering these few clues together and punting round a few photocopies or scans can often resolve long-standing mysteries. Maybe we will draw a blank on some of the artists, but hopefully we'll solve a handful now and the names of the others might come to light at a later date.

(Incidentally, our column header is a bit of a mystery... if anyone can put a name to this artist I know a couple of people who would be very pleased. It dates from 1934 from the original Ranger story paper.)

With the recent success of discovering the name of the man behind Justin Atholl, I decided I'd also tackle another author again. This time around I picked Mike Fallon, a Bristol-based writer and editor who should have been easy to spot as we knew the name of his wife. But there wasn't any mention of his marriage in official records which could only mean two things: an error in the records or Fallon wasn't his real name. The trouble is, that was the name he seemed to be known by to everybody and during my last trawl I'd figured out that he'd moved to Australia, working as a journalist in New South Wales and writing the occasional western (that's one of them above).

This time around I was able to locate him in electoral records in Australia, which gave us the full name of his wife; and an old newspaper report noted his wedding in 1949, which gave the bride's maiden name. From there it was easy to find the marriage record and Mike Fallon's real name: Bernard Barton.

No, it didn't mean anything to me either. I guess he changed it because there was already a famous poet by the name of Bernard Barton, but he then proceeded to write under pen-names. I know a few but I'm sure there are a pile still to be discovered. Maybe some more revelatory discoveries will be made the next time I take a look into Fallon and his writing career.

One of the reasons I mention this bit of research is because it reveals another utterly frustrating aspect of this kind of research. Fallon, it turns out, died in 2004, twenty years after I first came across his name. But he remained invisible until now. And, worse, his wife died only two months ago, in April, and I'm sure she would have been able to reveal a great deal about his writings.

This isn't the first time my research has been thwarted by a frustratingly close miss. When I was researching the Boy's World index I discovered that original editor Jim Kenner had a brother. And I tracked down the brother in the USA only to find that he had died three weeks earlier. Perhaps the worst case was just after I started, way back in 1979, when I wrote to Walter Gillings, a key figure in the history of British SF. I received no reply, and it was only months later—at the World SF Convention held in Brighton that year—that I learned that Gillings had died. Checking on the dates, he either died on the day my letter arrived or the day before. (I suspect the latter as I probably used a 2nd class stamp... I was still at school and didn't have a lot of spare change!) (And before I get a reputation for killing people off, many of the authors and artists I've contacted over the years have been alive both before and after my letter or e-mail arrives!)

Today's random scans are Simon Morden's Samuil Petrovitch series. Originally a series of linked short stories that grew into a science fiction trilogy, there are now four novels of which I have had two for ages. Thankfully I managed to track down the missing two last weekend and now intend to work my way through them when time allows (along with the thousand and one other books I want to read!).

The series can boast the odd claim that the first three all three won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2011, as the trio of books making up the initial trilogy were released simultaneously. Book four was published in 2013.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the latest issue of Jeff Hawke's Cosmos and next week we will probably be looking at some of those mystery artists who worked on Cowboy Comics in the early 1950s. That should keep me busy!

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