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Friday, July 31, 2020

Comic Cuts - 31 July 2020

I've had quite a productive week working on the magazine, which is increasingly likely to be published as BAM! with a subtitle to explain that it's "A magazine about British Comics" or somesuch. Anyone have any thoughts for a logo?

As of the weekend I had a lengthy piece on the history of British pocket libraries almost finished. On Monday I was subbing an article written by someone else (yes, I had my first outside contribution!) and writing a short companion piece, and on Tuesday and Wednesday I was writing another piece that will run in issue two.

It's now Thursday and I've had to take a break as I'm proofing copies of the two Longbow books. I've found a few niggling errors that have crept through—for reasons unknown to mankind (or at least editorkind) you can proofread a book to within an inch of its life, but the moment you get a printed copy, a mistake will leap out of the page at you. As I proudly showed off the printed copies to Mel and she flicked through them, she paused at a random page to read and inside of five seconds was pointing out a little mistake.

I'm taking a break from volume one at the moment, and will hopefully get it and volume two finished next week. The publication date should be within the first two weeks of August.

With another project finished, I was thinking back on a couple of things that I started but that for one reason or another never got past the finishing post.

Way back in the summer of 2015, I was working up some of my notes that I had for a project I called "Caught in the Act", which was intended to overhaul all my writings on old post-war paperbacks. I posted a few pieces between August and November, but not a great many.

The seeds of my later Forgotten Authors series were sown at that time, and one of the notions I came up with was a podcast about (surprise, surprise!) lost and forgotten writers. I had been writing about some of the authors who appeared on my list of early hard-boiled yarns that had appeared in the UK in the 1920s and 1930s, which preceded the gangster boom of the post-war years but which had already inspired the likes of Peter Cheyney and James Hadley Chase to produce hardboiled novels in the late 1930s. As I was researching the career of a long-forgotten writer named John Wallace, author of Millionaire Gangster (1937), he seemed a suitable subject and I set about turning my notes into something that I could narrate.

The idea was to do a series of two or three authors at a time, with each author covered in a number of episodes of about 15 minutes length. I think I'd already noticed by then that podcasts were starting to get longer and longer, and some that had started out at a jaunty half hour were now running to an hour or even two. Too long to give my full attention to. This is still true today. One podcast I  had been listening to regularly since 2012 I kind of gave up on in 2019 because they had bloated from an hour—with the occasional one that ran up to, say an hour fiftyto regularly running longer and only occasionally coming in at the shorter length. There are others where I have a dozen episodes that I haven't listened to, and one music podcast that runs to three hours per episode where I have three dozen episodes to catch up with.

So my idea was to keep 'em short so that they could be listened to in spare moments. You'll notice that the majority of my videos—the ones without interviews—were also around 13 or 14 minutes long, so as not to outstay their welcome.

Back to John Wallace... I wrote up my notes over a period of a few days until I had an article that was  about 6,500 words and, on 13 November 2015, recorded myself narrating it. I did the narration and the edit in the same way that I would later do the videos: just keep talking and, if you stumble over a word, go back to the beginning of the sentence and keep going. It meant that I ended up with two lengthy audio files, but editing was simply a case of removing all the audio where I'd made a mistake.

Because I was reading from a script, there was no problem of not being able to cut the audio together. The videos were rather more free-wheeling, although that never really came across as I edited out a lot of chat that went wildly off-topic. I was able to do that quite quickly. The next step took a little longer, which was to source some royalty free music that I could use to liven up my rather dull narration, and figuring out how to put that together with the audio. Here I took the advice of Adam Buxton who mentioned that he had used a programme called Audacity. This was free, and very easy to use. So I used it.

By the 15th I had a finished episode... and that was the end of it. On the 19th I wrote: "I spent a long weekend recording some audio for a project I'm trying to get off the ground but which won't be ready for some while, so I can't really go into details. As usual, I'm my own writer, narrator, sound-recordist, editor and music director, which is why everything I do takes so damn long."

I seem to recall that I started doing some research into another writer and began writing that up. Between that and other distractions, including Christmas, I never got around to putting music to the second episode of the podcast and the idea died. I needed to make some money to pay for the festivities and doing a podcast wasn't going to pay off my credit card! I also have a feeling that, in January 2016, I started doing the research that eventually resulted in the Iron Mask book.

Ah, well.

If the above has piqued your interest, you can now listen to the results and make up your own minds whether I was right to abandon fame and wealth as a podcaster and instead stick with blogging—which we all know is where the money is. I've had to convert the audio file into a little video, about 15 minutes in length, in order to upload it to Blogger. I hope you enjoy it.

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