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Friday, May 13, 2016

Comic Cuts - 13 May 2016

Does anyone remember the Iron Mask book I was doing? The one that has had "Coming soon" typed underneath it for months? Well, it may actually be coming soon!

Long-time readers will recall that I ran into some problems with the POD printer used for Bear Alley Books... they changed suppliers and the new lot wanted to add a barcode on the inside of the back cover. For reasons nobody has adequately explained, they need to add a blank page in order to do this.

So a couple of month's ago, having spent far too long researching the darn thing, I got a proof of the book that looked OK. I'd sent a 42-page file, which I intended to make up to 44 pages with a map in the centre. The proof, which I wanted so I could check the quality of some of the pictures, looked fine. I dropped the map into the centre pages and ordered ten copies. What I got back was a disaster. My 44-page book had been turned into a 48-page, the map wasn't on the centre pages and there were four unwanted blank pages at the back.

After a long-running correspondence, during which I was told the wrong way to set up the book, we finally figured how to fix the problem. It still meant two blank pages at the back of a 44-page book, but at least that's only 4 1/2% of the book... it's not so off-putting when you're asking people to pay for what is already quite an expensive, slim A4 booklet. It did mean I had to rejig quite a few pages to get everything to fit as I still wanted to include the map.

I'm now waiting on another proof, which the company is paying for. And once I approve that, we will have our first Bear Alley Books production of 2016.

Anyone who has read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, or seen the TV series, will be pleased to hear that Kate Summerscale has a new book out. The Wicked Boy concerns the tragic tale of 13-year-old Robert Coombes and his 12-year-old brother, Nattie, who were tried for the murder of their mother in 1895. At an earlier inquest into the mother's death, the foreman stated that "the Legislature should take some steps to put a stop to the inflammable and shocking literature that is sold, which in our opinion leads to many a dreadful crime being carried out."

A short while later, the St James's Gazette and Pall Mall Gazette both published influential essays condemning penny dreadfuls, although an earlier Home Office inquiry had failed to find a link between cheap books and juvenile crime. Not that that stopped the newspapers of the day linking the two, although I suspect it stirred up more interest for the papers than it persuaded people not to read them.

Their demise had more to do with the rocky finances of the people producing them, plus the arrival of even cheaper magazines costing only a ha'penny, than the condemnation of juries and newspapers.

Putting my own interest in penny dreadfuls to one side, the book is well worth a read anyway. Written with the same sharp eye for detail that was evident in Mr Whicher, the author pulls off the tricky task of making both inquest and trial compelling (I know from experience that it's not easy!) and the post-trial incarceration of Robert in Broadmoor is shocking. Through a bit of luck and perseverance, Summerscale was able to track down what became of Robert after his release—a fascinating story in itself.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that Kate sent me a very nicely signed copy and I'm briefly mentioned in the acknowledgments.

A quick note (more a reminder to myself than anything): Martin Averre, of ACE Comics, and local DC fan Larry Smart are soon to be seen discussing comics on a short programme that is to be broadcast by Sky ahead of an episode of DC's Legends of Tomorrow next Thursday (19th).

Random scans this week really are... four books that I've picked up over the past few weeks that are still sitting close to the scanner. Yes, I spent so much of the evening reading The Wicked Boy that I ran out of time...

Part three of Roger Perry's new series will appear tomorrow, with further episodes on Monday and Wednesday.

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