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Friday, December 22, 2017

Comic Cuts - 22 December 2017

My last report of the year. It started badly with the loss of a job and has ended very pleasantly with the publication of a book I'm very happy to put my name to. I dedicated myself for most of 11 months on two project: earlier in the year I had hopes of getting the Valiant Index completed this year. Working on Hotel Business for a couple of years meant very little time for Bear Alley Books, and I think I got caught up in my new-found freedom and overindulged myself. My notes on the stories I was reading are extensive—43,000 words... and I've probably not read more than half the stories!

I needed to step back. In parallel I'd been writing some longer pieces for Bear Alley on long-lost writers and finding it very satisfying to spend, say, a week on something that I could turn into a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, rather than the months I was spending reading comic strip... although I really did enjoy reading those comic strips, some of them for the first time since I'd read them as a kid. Then there were the weeks of compiling a vast Excel spreadsheet listing episodes of Captain Hurricane, Billy Bunter, The Crows, The Nutts and various other strips so that I could identify the sources for reprinted episodes. That wasn't much fun, but needed to be done if the index was to be of any value. This is probably the last time I'll get to write about the comic I grew up with, so I want to do it right, do it accurately and, as best I can, definitively.

So I switched tack during the summer with plans to piece together a collection of essays about long lost writers under the title Fifty Forgotten Authors. I think I'd forgotten that some of them, even the ones being written up for Bear Alley, could take a week or more.

I write roughly a thousand words a day. That's a thousand words that I hope won't need much revision as I revise as I go along. Sometimes I need to go back and do an extensive rewrite—that's happened this week with the latest essay—but I've still managed to get 7,500 words written that, barring a major discovery late in the day, and with only a few minor tweaks, will almost certainly be the words you read when they appear in the next book.

I'm now approximately 116,000 words into the book... which has had to become four books along the way because I didn't think that it would be such an epic size. The first volume is out and the second volume almost written—I'm working on the last trio of essays—but that's still only half the magic "Fifty". I'm also beginning to wonder whether I will end up with an 800+-page volume, or whether I should shrink the font size so that I can get it down to a more manageable page count. I may also have to increase the size of the book (the current volumes are 6x9" trade paperbacks), which will also save quite a few pages.

Because I'm earning no money while I'm writing these essays—and, let's be honest, I'm not going to be earning a fortune from the books—I'm trying to keep my costs down. Sometimes I just have to go out and blow some money on birth, death or marriage certificates. My hit rate recently has been two useful one for every three ordered. I've just received three more, two of them resolving long-standing mysteries (one a date of birth, one I believe identifying the name that hid another author and conman at the time of his death). One was the wrong guy. Still, not bad, and another step towards having volume two finished.

So, for the last time before Christmas, here are a few random scans. Not so random, as they're examples of books by some of the authors in the above volume.


That's it for today. Paul Temple continues over the weekend and next week and I might have sobered up for another column next Friday. Until then, have a great time over Christmas, indulge your every whim and hopefully you'll get all the presents you want. You can make my Christmas by buying one of my books.

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