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Friday, November 06, 2015

Comic Cuts - 6 November 2015

I've made a couple of nice breakthroughs with my research for the new project. The main theme is how British readers developed a taste for American gangster fiction, but a lot of bits of biography of various authors will be woven in. There are a couple of authors that I'm really interested in who have proven difficult to tie down as far as biographical details are concerned. One in particular I've written about a couple of times in the past but I've never been able confirm anything about his life and career.

This week I had a breakthrough: I now have a firm grasp of his birth and death dates, shortly to be confirmed as I've ordered up forty quid's worth of birth, death and marriage certificates—it's an expensive game, this research! I'm also having to pick up quite a bit of reference material that I can't get hold of through inter-library loan, so I'm going to have to think of a way of making a bit of extra cash to pay for the all this.

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It's the end of the growing season for our tomatoes and cucumbers. The final tally was quite amazing:  129 Tumbeling Tom tomatoes from a single hanging basket; 21 Marmande Beefsteak tomatoes and 199 Black Cherry tomatoes. Nearly 350 in total... for a pair who usually manage to kill off any plants that come near the house that's pretty damned good.

We also had five really nice cucumbers (and a sixth that was nibbled at by snails which we threw away), and 24 runner beans. Unfortunately, the latter arrived in ones and twos, so we never really managed to get a meal out of them, just threw them in with the other vegetables.

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This week we heard that Victor Berch has died at the age of 91. I had known Victor for thirty years as a more off than on correspondent. I remember receiving his letters, starting in the mid-Eighties, neatly hand-written on yellow notepaper, densely packed with information. Some of my old paperback publisher lists that I produced for Richard Williams owed a lot to Victor, the early Hamilton & Co. listing in particular.

It's a very sad day when someone like Victor passes away. I have to confess that sometimes my first thoughts aren't for the family but for the loss to the community of researchers, not only of a friend but of knowledge that might never have been shared or put down on paper. Thankfully, Victor was always keen to share what information he could dig up and, as the internet spread to take over from "snail mail",  he contributed greatly to the likes of Mystery*File and especially Al Hubin's monumental Crime Fiction Bibliography as part of the little circle of researchers trying to keep the latter as up-to-date and accurate as possible.

Kenneth Johnson has written a fantastic tribute to Victor at the Mystery*File website.

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Today's random scans are a handful of war-themed novels I picked up in a charity shop last week. I have an earlier edition of the last one, Goshawk Squadron by Derek Robinson, and I've written about Robinson previously. The others are from the 1970s, the earliest a 1970 edition of Fred Majdalany's Patrol, previously published by Panther in 1966 and in hardback in 1953. Majdalany (1913?-1967) had been a journalist and theatre publicist who had written The Monastery, a well-received book about the Battle of Cassino. After the war Majdalany found work as a film critic for the Daily Mail.

Both Patrol and Reign of Hell have covers by Michael Codd. I found myself writing about Sven Hassel a few months ago for a project that doesn't seem to have come off. Shame, as it would have been fun. The research won't go to waste, tho'.

Heinz Konsalik was the pen-name of Heinz G√ľnther (1921-1999), a German war correspondent who turned to writing novels. According to Wikipedia he wrote 155 novels, which is an astounding number if they were all war novels. One of the copies I picked up was so poor that even I couldn't be bothered to put in the hours it would have taken to clean up a cover scan to my usual quality threshold. It's a shame as I rather like the anonymous cover artist Tattoo (an imprint of W. H. Allen) used for these novels.

(* The photo at the head of today's post is of the Colne Barrier, taken last Sunday during our morning walk. Actually, it's four photographs stitched together in PhotoShop.

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