Sunday, May 07, 2023

Fleetway Picture Library Classics

They're like buses... you wait for ages and three come along at once. I'm talking the latest releases from The Book Palace, of course.

The latest trio are collections of pocket libraries, namely a second volume of Larrigan westerns entitled Larrigan Rides Again, a gathering of four of Gino D'Antonio's Frontline War Stories, and Captain Blood, which brings together four pirate yarns.

I can cover all three at reasonable pace, because we have seen quite a few of these volumes in the past - I think there has been ten volumes already, bringing together scarce issues of Thriller, Super Detective, Lone Rider, War and Battle picture libraries. The slight difference here is that these latest volumes are proper hardcovers rather than the flexiback covers of earlier volumes, which makes them even sturdier.

The first Larrigan collection brought together episodes drawn by Arturo Del Castillo for Lone Rider Picture Library (with one episode being slipped into the Cowboy Picture Library when Lone Rider folded). This volume picks up the remaining four episodes that appeared in Lone Rider and Cowboy, three drawn by Emilio Frejo and one by Carlos Roume. Frejo did his best to keep some continuity of look with Del Castillo's issues, but frankly need not have bothered; he was shaking off the influence by his last story ('Ghost Town') and it's my favourite of the three. Roume's rugged, square-jawed cowboys are always welcome.

Larrigan was one of those drifting cowboys who would arrive in town and finds himself caught up in a feud between cattlemen and rustlers or a local sheriff and invading gunfighters long before Sergio Leone filmed A Fistful of Dollars, which owed a debt to Kurosawa's Yojimbo, which itself owed a debt to Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest.

Captain Blood is also a sequel - to Pirates! - but this volume concentrates on Rafael Sabatini's classic pirate yarns, Captain Blood: His Odyssey (1922) and two collections The Chronicles of Captain Blood (1931) and The Fortunes of Captain Blood (1936). The Thriller Picture Library versions of the latter two adapted four  (of ten) stories from the first and two (of six) from the second. The artwork changed from issue to issue: C. E. Drury, Robert Forrest and Guido Buzelli drew these, with Forrest also drawing The Black Swan adapting another Sabatini pirate novel from 1932.

The third volume is a collection of four stories drawn by Gino D'Antonio. I love D'Antonio's work in War and Battle picture libraries and reprinted quite a bit when I had the opportunity a decade or so ago. His war work is simply amazing and any collection of his 34 full-length war stories is a winner in my eyes.

D'Antonio was drawing these stories through the studio of Roy D'Ami and even there he was admired by his fellow artists for the skill with which he depicted men in the middle of fighting mayhem.

Captain Blood (Fleetway Picture Library Classics)
Book Palace Books ISBN 978-191334842-1, 2023. 272pp, £25.00. Available via Amazon.

Gino D'Antonio's Frontline War Stories (Fleetway Picture Library Archives)
Book Palace Books ISBN 978-191334834-6, 2023, 272pp, £25.00. Available via Amazon.

Larrigan Rides Again (Fleetway Picture Library Classics)
Book Palace Books ISBN 978-191334841-4, 2023, 268pp, £25.00. Available via Amazon.

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