Friday, January 06, 2023

Comic Cuts — 6 January 2023

The first post for a new year ought to be momentous, but this will be more self-indulgent than anything else.

I spent a couple of weeks on the run up to Christmas trying to compile a list of all the books I had been involved in, which you can see some of the results of in the cover gallery that appeared on New Year's Day. The list I compiled was actually far more detailed, and the listed contents will hopefully be appearing on the FictionMags Index at some point.

A lot of what I have written is long gone and forgotten – a lot of it rightfully so – but most of it I'm still quite proud of. I'm constantly tinkering with old features here in Bear Alley as they're on public display, but older articles I tend to overhaul thoroughly when I get a chance to update something with new information.

Probably the most revamped piece has been about journalist and crime writer Dail Ambler, who has become something of an obsession. I first wrote about her in "The Lady Holds a Gun" in 1994 for the fanzine Pseuds Corner, a piece I revised for an appearance in Crime Time in 1997. I revised the article again when I reprinted all my Crime Time pieces in a very short print-run collection Mean Streetmaps (2011), which was something of an experiment at publishing a hardback in the early days of Bear Alley Books.

I was planning  to publish the collection through Create Space on Amazon, but ran into some problems with getting the contents published how I wanted them. Instead, I published some of the articles individually as e-books in 2013. I took down the e-book version of "The Lady Holds a Gun" when I revised it once again for an appearance in Forgotten Authors Vol.1 (2017).

The latest version is almost unrecognisable from the original piece written 23 years earlier, but you can follow the evolution of the article through its five appearances. The bibliography of her novels has expanded from 51 to 82 and added a number of teleplays and screenplays.

The first appearance was in a fanzine I produced in 1994 about pseudonyms and house names. There have been a great many books that list pen-names, but there was one that particularly bugged me because it misrepresented information from one of my bibliographies and attached my name to batshit falsehoods like American horror writer Seabury Quinn being the author of British gangster novels that appeared under the name Hans Lugar.

One of the biggest problems was that every time researchers tried to correct something and have it removed from circulation, someone would come along and simply take all the old pseudonyms books and reinsert the wrong information into their book — size trumping accuracy every time. Pseuds Corner involved trying to find credible sources for information and to point out wrong information rather than just dropping an entry.

Anger propelled me through four issues between January and November 1994, but changes at work—the launch of a new magazine for which I was managing editor—meant that I simply didn't have time to continue. A few months later I took over the newsletter of the British Association of Paperback Collectors (BAPC) and launched PBO, which I managed to keep going for three years and nine issues, some of them quite substantial.

I spent a couple of days during the week between Christmas and New Year indexing those two titles, and as I have been trying to tidy my shelves ahead of moving my desk out of the office and into the living room, I have managed to index a few other minor mags. relating to paperback collecting.

I'm back at work, now. Scanning is the order of the day as I begin work on the next batch of books for Dolmen. When you're scanning on what might be considered an industrial scale (!), it can get a bit boring, and I have found myself wandering off onto the internet rather too regularly. I think I've figured out a good way to help me from growing bored: it involves a tablet, some speakers and youtube videos of concerts, which I can stream as I work. On Wednesday, I watched the last performance of Genesis at the O2 Arena on 26 March 2022 and a Deep Purple concert also at the O2 on 22 October with Simon McBride replacing Steve Morse.

(It was rather sad to see Phil Collins so unwell, having to be helped onto the stage and singing while seated, but I'm glad the band have been able to retire on their own terms, rather than through the death of a member. I'm also glad that the concert was available on Youtube, as I'm sorry to say that I don't think it was strong enough to merit a DVD or BluRay release.)

Watching a concert on a tablet isn't exactly like being in the venue, but it's a great way to hold my attention while I'm scanning. Next up... The Scorpions, The Prodigy and Iron Maiden!

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