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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Anthony Rolls

C. E. Vulliamy was the author behind the pen-name Anthony Rolls, a byline used on four crime novels published in a short period in 1932-34. He later wrote further crime novels under his own name in the 1950s. Vulliamy wrote widely on his many interests. An obituary began "Vulliamy was a writer of many parts and of individual and rewarding quality. Although he was without academic training of any kind he had the tastes and capacities of a scholar, and it is possible that his early work both as archaeologist and historian might have received wider recognition if it had been supported by the conventional authority of a university post. He established himself as a writer of historical and literary-historical biography, with the age of Johnson and the mid-Victorian era as his favourite periods, joining to wide if at times slightly wilful scholarship a felicitous turn of irony and a habit of independent judgment. In later years he displayed an increasing relish for satire and took a skillful and entertaining hand, in a series of imaginary biographies and memoirs, in guying the Victorians."

Colwyn Edward Vulliamy was born in Glasbury, Radnorshire, Wales, on 20 June 1886, the son of  Edwyn Papendick Vulliamy and his wife Edith Jane (nee Beavan), and baptized on 18 July 1886 at Llowes, Radnorshire. The surname derived from a clockmaker named Francois Justin Vulliamy (1712-1797), born in Pay de Vaud, Switzerland, who moved to Paris and then to London. Justin Vulliamy set up shop in Pall Mall in partnership with Benjamin Gray, watchmaker to King George II, and married Gray's daughter, Mary.

1902 portrait by Percy Elizabeth Flora Thomas
Justin had four children, two girls and two boys; of the sons, Benjamin maintained the family tradition by became a watchmaker – as did his son and grandson – while Lewis (1791-1871) became an architect. Edwyn was the fourth child of Lewis and his wife Elizabeth Ann (nee Papendick). Born in London, Edwyn became a landowner in Glasbury, Radnorshire, Wales, and helped in the building of a local church in 1883.

His son, Colwyn Edward Vulliamy, was educated privately and as a young man began studying art under Stanhope Forbes at the Newlyn art colony, near Penzance, Cornwall, in 1910-13. Soon after, he wrote his first book, a Fabian tract on Charles Kingsley.

His father died on 29 March 1914, leaving an estate of £8,290; Glasbury House and various properties were left to his wife and the remainder to his son.

There is some confusion about his wartime experiences. An obituary in The Times (the chief source of biographical material for Vulliamy) notes "In the war of 1914-18 he held a commission in The King's Shropshire Light Infantry, serving in France, Macedonia and Turkey. Transferring to the Royal Welch Fusiliers, he was in 1918 attached to headquarters of the 28th Division as ADC and camp commandant, and, after the armistice, was appointed education officer to the division. He was demobilized with the rank of captain."

Attempting to unpack and prove this information has proven quite tricky as available army records for Vulliamy are particularly badly scanned and almost impossible to decipher. Certainly the story isn't as straightforward as the obituary claims.

Vulliamy enlisted for service in the regular army in 1914 but failed to pass the medical test. "His action is all the more appreciated because, owing to the recent death of his father, he has many responsibilities at home," wrote Charles W. Simpson in a letter to the Cornish Telegraph (24 September 1914). "If every man with domestic ties would come forward we should soon hear the last of those who are at liberty to volunteer and fail to do so. Buck up the Newlyn artists!"

He was able to enlist in 1916 and was posted to Army Reserve on 27 January 1916. He married Eileen Muriel Courtenay Hynes on 29 April 1916 in Penzance, Cornwall, and was mobilized shortly after on 14 July 1916. He was sent to France  with the 6th Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry but fell ill and was hospitalized in September 1916. After recovering, he performed Military Police duties and seems to have thereafter served with the Military Foot Police, possibly in Macedonia and Turkey. He was discharged from the Military Foot Police on 6 April 1918, aged 31. He also served as 2nd Lieut. with the 3rd (Res.) Garrison Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and was made a temporary Captain whist employed as an Education Officer between January and November 1919. He was made a Captain in 1922.

Whilst serving in the near east, Vulliamy developed an interest in archaeology and his interest grew when he returned to civilian life. He published a number of books on the subject throughout the 1920s, also editing the letters of Tsar Nicholas II to the Tsaritsa, 1914-1917, and a selection from the volumes of The Red Archives. In the 1930s he penned biographies of Voltaire, Rousseau and John Wesley, "the latter a genuine feat of sympathy, for Vulliamy's own standpoint was fundamentally agnostic, and 'enthusiasm', in the eighteenth century sense, had no part in his make-up," revealed The Times, continuing,
And then Vulliamy, always a learned Johnsonian, conceived the idea of writing a biography of literature's most celebrated biographer—James Boswell. The book, which appeared in 1932, was calculated to cause some stir. Although it disposed effectively of the legend of Boswell's stupidity, it presented him in no very pleasant guise, making of him a conceited and drunken clown and even going so far as to cast doubt on his sanity. The case was, without a doubt, rather strained, although like almost everything of Vulliamy's it was well documented and vigorously handled.
A biography of Quaker and Founding Father William Penn from the same period was the basis for Lance Comfort's 1942 film Courageous Mr. Penn starring Clifford Evans. He also penned biographies of Mrs. Delany, Mrs. Thrale and George III.

Using the pen-name Anthony Rolls, Vulliamy also began writing crime novels. Although he wrote only four, he attracted the attention of Julian Symons who wrote in Bloody Murder that Rolls' The Vicar's Experiment (1932) was one of the most notable crime novels influenced by Francis Iles' Malice Aforethought, a psychological thriller which inverted the detective story by following the murderer as he plots the death of his wife and then carries out his plans; in Rolls' book, the murderer is a clergyman who suffers murderous impulses towards an obnoxious parishioner. "A good deal of what follows is very amusing," Symons opined, "although the story falters sadly once suspicion of the clergyman has been aroused."

Each of Rolls' novels seems to have had something to distinguish them: "Clever character drawing as well as a skillfully devised mystery distinguishes Anthony Rolls' Lobelia Grove (Bles). By way of a change from the remote country mansion that is frequently the setting for a mystery story the action in this instance passes in a garden city," reported the Lincolnshire Echo (2 November 1932). Family Matters was well received by Dorothy L. Sayers who thought "The characters are quite extraordinarily living, and the atmosphere of the horrid household creeps over one like a miasma." The story was something of a farce, with a number of dysfunctional family members and friends intent on finishing off the detestable Robert Kewdingham but whose efforts counteract one another.

Rolls' final novel, Scarweather, was briefly reviewed by the Yorkshire Post thus: "Mr. Rolls usually gives us a quite commonplace setting for his crime stories, which tends to make them all the more realistic, but in Scarweather he breaks new ground with a story about archaeology. To everyone but the narrator the crime and how it was committed must have been fairly obvious, but it is certainly a new departure to bury the corpse in a barrow so that the skeleton may be taken for a relic of the Stone Age." (28 November 1934)

He joined the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps during World War Two, but relinquished his commission on 30 March 1940 due to ill-health.
It was with a demi-semi-autobiographical volume, Calico Pie, Vulliamy showed clear signs of coming into his own as a satirist. The free and flowing admixture of the fictitious in this volume that gave promise of excellent entertainment, and it was the series of biographies of wholly imaginary nineteenth-century characters, set against an accurate and detailed historical background, that provided the satirist with his best opportunities. In A Short History of the Montagu-Puffins (1941); The Polderoy Papers (1943); Doctor Philligo (1944); Edwin and Eleanor (1945); Vulliamy often combined instruction and sharp-edged humour to admirable purpose. 
1949
In Prodwit's Guide to Writing, Vulliamy was aiming his satirical pen elsewhere. According to this review. "I'm sure that Vulliamy's main reason for writing the book was that it allowed him to say exactly what he thought of the book world without incurring the sort of wrath that would result if he had written a direct and controversial attack on the good and the great. And, despite the good-clean-fun approach, it is pretty clear that he had a fairly low opinion of how certain aspects of the post-war book trade were conducted.

In the 1950s, Vulliamy returned to writing crime novels with Don Among the Dead Men (1952), described by Martin Edwards as "The Vicar's Experiments, but this time the deranged killer was an Oxford academic." It was filmed in 1964 as A Jolly Bad Fellow. Five more novels followed, the last published in 1963.

Vulliamy died in Guildford, Surrey, on Saturday, 4 September 1971, aged 85. His wife Eileen had died in 1943, aged 57. They had two children: daughter Patricia Drift Vulliamy (14 February 1917-1987) and son John Sebastian Papendick Vulliamy (17 March 1919-2007), an architect who married children's writer and artist Shirley Hughes. Their children include author Ed Vulliamy and children's book illustrator Clara Vulliamy.

PUBLICATIONS 

Novels
Calico Pie: An autobiography. London, Michael Joseph, 1940.
A Short History of the Montagu-Puffins. London, Michael Joseph, 1941.
Doctor Philligo: His journal & opinions. London, Michael Joseph, 1944.
Edwin & Eleanor: Family Documents, 1854-56. London, Michael Joseph, 1945.
The Poldenoy Papers. London, Michael Joseph, 1946.
Henry Plumdew: His memoirs, experiences and opinions. London, Michael Joseph, 1950.
Don Among the Dead Men. London, Michael Joseph, 1952.
The Proud Walkers. London, Chapman & Hall, 1955.
Body in the Boudoir. London, Michael Joseph, 1956.
Cakes for your Birthday. London, Michael Joseph, 1958; New York, British Book Centre, 1959.
Justice for Judy. London, Michael Joseph, 1960.
Tea in the Abbey. London, Michael Joseph, 1961.
Floral Tribute. London, Michael Joseph, 1963.

Novels as Anthony Rolls
The Vicar's Experiments. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1932.
Lobelia Grove. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1932.
Family Matters. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1933.
Scarweather. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1934.

Novels as Twim Teg
Jones: A Gentleman of Wales. London, Chapman & Hall, 1954.

Non-fiction
Charles Kingsley and Christian Socialism. London, Fabian Society, 1914.
Prehistoric Remains in West Penwith. St. Ives, J. Lanham, 1921.
Unknown Cornwall. London, John Lane, 1925.
Our Prehistoric Forerunners. London, John Lane, 1925.
Immortal Man. A study of funeral customs and of beliefs in regard to the nature and fate of the soul. London, Methuen, 1928.
The Red  Archives. Russian State papers and other documents relating to the years 1915-1918, selected and edited by C. E. Vulliamy, translation by A. L. Hynes, with an introduction by Dr. C. T. Hagberg Wright. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1929.
The Letters of the Tsar and the Tsaritsa, 1914-1917, translated by A. L. Hynes from the official edition of the Romanov correspondence, edited and with notes by C. E. Vulliamy. London, John Lane, and New York, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1929.
The White Bull, with Saul and various short pieces by Votaire, translated, with an introduction and notes, by C. E. Vulliamy. London, Scholartis Press, 1929.
The Archaeology of Middlesex and London. London, Methuen & Co., 1930.
Voltaire. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1930.
John Wesley. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1931; 3rd ed., London, Epworth Press, 1954.
Rousseau. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1931; Port Washington, N.Y., Kennikat Press, 1972.
James Boswell. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1932
William Penn. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1933.
Judus Maccabaeus. A study based upon D. Quarto Karadyne's translation of the Ararat codex, edited by C. E. Vulliamy, illus. Gladys Hynes. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1934.
Aspasia. The life and letters of Mary Granville, Mrs. Delany, 1700-1788. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1935.
Mrs. Thrale of Streatham: Her place in the life of Dr. Samuel Johnson and in the society of her time. London, Jonathan Cape, 1936.
Royal George. A study of George III. London, Jonathan Cape, 1937.
Outlanders. A study of imperial expansion in South Africa, 1877-1902. London, Jonathan Cape, 1938.
Crimea: The Campaign of 1854-56. London, Jonathan Cape, 1939.
English Letter Writers. London, Collins, 1945.
Ursa Major. A study of Dr. Johnson and his friends. London, Michael Joseph, 1946.
Men and the Atom. London, Michael Joseph, 1947.
Byron. London, Michael Joseph, 1948.
Prodwit's Guide to Writing. London, Michael Joseph, 1949.
The Anatomy of Satire. An exhibition of satirical writing compiled & edited by C. E. Vulliamy. London, Michael Joseph, 1950.
Rocking Horse Journey, Some views of the British character. London, Michael Joseph, 1950.
The Onslow Family, 1528-1874. With some account of their times. London, Chapman & Hall, 1953.
Little Arthur's Guide to Humbug. London, Michael Joseph, 1960.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Comic Cuts - 21 April 2017

I eased my way back into work on Tuesday after a long, lazy Easter weekend, catching up on some TV (finishing off Danish financial thriller Follow the Money and US horror series Penny Dreadful) and a couple of movies from last year (Moana, Sing) that definitely lightened the mood after the cheerless (if fitting) endings to the two TV shows.

Our TV viewing seems to be split nowadays between shows we watch weekly – recently that has included Vera, Robot Wars and Marvels Agents of SHIELD; the new Doctor Who also falls into this category – and others we "binge" watch... and I use the word cautiously because I'm not sure how quickly you have to watch a show to class it as a binge. What I mean by the term is that we wait until we have the whole thing and watch an episode every night, barring those nights when we have something else on.

Currently that show is Lucifer, the American TV series based on the Sandman/Vertigo character; there are elements from the Mike Carey run in the TV show but it has been turned into a police procedural with the addition of a female police officer named Chloe Decker. The show seems to have gone down well in the US (the second season is currently running and a third season has already been announced) but I'm finding Lucifer Morningstar a bit whiny. I think the character suffers from the Superman problem, that he's so utterly powerful/evil that his power could resolve everything in no time at all. Hence, in Superman's case, Kryptonite, to lessen his powers. In Lucifer's case, our "hero" limits himself by chanting the mantra "I just want to find out who really needs to be punished," and having only one power: that he can talk you into revealing your deepest desires... sometimes. It doesn't always work. Having him reveal his true face and threaten to rip you limb from limb might get the right answers quicker, but it might also leave every episode 20 minutes short.

Hopefully the quality will pick up. I'm certainly going to give it until the end of the first season.

As I work from home I can also slip in a show at lunchtimes and I've been watching The Expanse season 2, which I'm really enjoying. It's based on the novels of James S. A. Corey and the TV show sticks fairly closely to the books. Shuffled around a little to make it work on television, but essentially the same. I've read book one (Leviathan Wakes) and I'm just starting book two (Caliban's War); the TV show introduced some characters from the latter into the first season and ended about three-quarters of the way through the book; the second season has completed book one and I'm three episodes from the end, which is about half-way through book two. At this rate, with at least nine books planned, we could still be enjoying the series in 2027!

Before you start thinking that's all I've been doing, I've also been working on the Valiant index. I spent a couple of days working through the 'House of Dolmann' stories. A lot of the information that went into the first edition was compiled in the late 1980s/early 1990s and the index was published in 1994. This is the first time I've been through every issue since and we're managing to identify a lot of previously unidentified artists. This new edition will, for instance, add at least four new names to the list of 'Captain Hurricane' artists, and two new names for 'House of Dolmann'. The other day I spotted a Tom Kerr episode of 'Kelly's Eye' that I'd previously missed and we're refining the information for a great many other strips. The annuals and summer specials are being added for the first time, so the index area at the back of the book will be a huge improvement over the previous edition.

I'll be working on the introduction again once I've finished writing this!

I think that's my cue to line up some random scan. Here are some devilishly good covers inspired by mention of Lucifer...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Commando issues 5011-5014

Commando issues on sale 20 April 2017.

Issues 5011-5014 deliver a hotpot of unique wartime adventures, ranging from WWII Home Front detectives to grizzled Yankees in the Vietnamese jungle. While Flight of Fancy and Killer Commando tackle different genres, delivering time honoured Commando themes and stories with a Science Fiction twist and Film Noir flair, Launch the Wildcats! offers a different perspective on the Germans in WWII, and The Hill, with its Vietnam setting, tackles notions of duty and pacifism. There’s certainly something for everyone in these issues!

5011: Flight of Fancy
“No, it can’t be? A flying saucer! It’s right here in front of me…just like in those comics!”
    In a singular George Low story, Commando dips its toe into the realms of Science Fiction as WWII Private Roger Brown, general knowledge mastermind, encounters a flying saucer! Roger’s squad immediately dismiss him, thinking he’s gone mad. But was the aircraft only a figment of his imagination, or could it possibly be one of the Nazis’ experimental “Vengeance Weapons”?
    The otherworldly ideas of this issues are highlighted by the stand out greens and reds of Ian Kennedy’s cover, contrasting the alien nature of the aircraft against the natural forest backdrop. However, Rezzonico’s interior art keeps Commando’s military realism intact, featuring detailed illustrations of Tiger Tanks, Panzers, PIATs and Flugkreisels.

Story | George Low | Art | Rezzonico & Vila | Cover | Ian Kennedy

5012: Launch the Wildcats!

Giving the rare perspective of a British subject raised in Germany, McOwan’s story shows that there is prejudice on both sides, and emphasises a varied view of the Germans, many of whom hated the Nazis. These blurred enemy divides are highlighted in Gordon C. Livingstone’s action packed cove, as deep blues bleed into reds and purples across the page.
    Franz Braun, really Frank Brown, attended school in Germany, cared for by his loving aunt and uncle. But as he grew, Nazism tightened its grip on his adopted homeland and Franz was forced to return to Britain. Then, when the war started, Franz fought against the country that had raised him in order to free it from its oppressive government.

Story | McOwan | Art | Gordon C Livingstone | Cover | Gordon C Livingstone
Originally issue 332 (May 1968) and 1039 (June 1976)

5013: The Hill

It’s January, 1968. Rookie troops are stationed on Hill 466, A.K.A. Little Round Top. There’s booby-traps, deadly wildlife, sweltering heat - and the North Vietnamese Army is closing in, but the men must defend that hill with their lives. This tension is felt from page one as Janek Matsiak’s cover puts you right in the action, seating you inside a helicopter looking out at a fight of armed choppers hovering over the tangled green mass of the Vietnamese jungle. However, what makes this story unique is the characters’ view that, unlike the two world wars, this fight may have no reason…
    An ensemble of characters, different motives and reservations are voiced against and in for the Vietnamese war, but thanks to Rodriguez’s detailed illustrations, each character is distinctive.

Story | Ferg Handley | Art | Rodriguez | Cover | Janek Matysiak

5014: Killer Commando

Ian Kennedy’s second cover in the collection, the close-ups of the hero and villain, complete with a fedora, trench coat and silencer pistol are all reminiscent of the Film Noir style it pays homage to, which C T Rigby takes full advantage of in the interior art.
    Mike Knowles’s story is a tale of old versus young, when a rogue Commando, trained as an expert assassin, can no longer see the line between right and wrong. After killing his ex-smuggling partner during an air raid, decorated Dunkirk veteran Kenneth Bagnall thinks he has gotten away with murder – but hot on his tail is veteran civilian policeman Ernest Hallows.
    But who will win this deadly game of cat and mouse…?

Story | Mike Knowles | Art | C T Rigby | Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally 2545 (February 1992)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

April 19

Judge Dredd Megazine #383
Cover: Adam Brown
Judge Dredd: Gecko by TC Eglington (w) Karl Richardson (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Anderson, Psi Division: Dragon Blood by Alan Grant (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Havn by Si Spencer (w) Jake Lynch (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Lawless: Long-Range War by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Features: Interrogation - Dermot Power, Interrogation - David Aja, Alex De Campi, Kei Zama, New Comics: Freeway Fighter, New Books: The Last American
Bagged reprint: Dead Signal by Al Ewing (w) PJ Holden (a)

2000AD Prog 2027
Cover: Matt Ferguson
Judge Dredd: Harvey by John Wagner (w) John McCrea (a) Mike Spicer (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w)   Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w)  D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Comic Cuts - 14 April 2017

Another birthday has come and gone. Due to it falling so close to Easter, I'm holding off on celebrations until later in the month when friends are back from visiting family or not tied up with kids during the school hols.

It strikes me that I'm in the same boat as I was two years ago – in need of some steady work. However, something good always comes out of these periods of under-employment. My default position on losing jobs is always to write a book, because of the frustration of not having the time while I'm working for other people or on other projects. That's how The Mushroom Jungle and The Trials of Hank Janson came about, because I suddenly found myself with the time to do the research and writing. Leaving Look & Learn led to Bear Alley Books and the folding of Hotel Business will hopefully result in my first index for a couple of years.

Talking of which... the work is chugging along. I'm reading and writing notes. At the last count I had around 28,000 words of notes, so I expect the Valiant intro. will be about the same size as my book on Look and Learn, which was around 47,000 words. I'll then have to tighten it all up, so it should be shorter than that, and potentially around the same size as the Countdown to TV Action intro, which was 35,000 words. But I must admit I'm guessing at this stage.

With nothing further to report, I'll hand over to this weeks random scans, which are, unsurprisingly, on the theme of "old". I'm  taking a break over Easter so there might be nothing further posted until next week... I need a break! I'm old!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases 11–12 April 2017.

2000AD Prog 2026
Cover: Clint Langley
Judge Dredd: Harvey by John Wagner (w) John McCrea (a) Mike Spicer (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w)   Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w)  D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Judge Dredd: The Cape and Cowl Crimes (US edition) by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Andy Lanning, Steve White, Robbie Morrison, Simon Spurrier, Alec Worley (w), Eric Powell, Alan Davis, Simon Bisley, Carlos Ezquerra, and Ben Willsher, Mike Collins, Dermot Power, Richard Elson, Paul Marshall (a), Chris Blythe (c), Tom Frame, Annie Parkhouse, Sam Gretton (l)
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08525-7, 11 April 2017, 160 pages, $19.99. Available on Amazon.
COSTUMES ARE FOR CREEPS! From super-powered aliens to Cursed Earth mutants, Judge Dredd dishes out justice to all in this action-packed collection of stories from some of comic’s biggest talents.
    There are plenty of law-breaking freaks amongst the citizenship of the Big Meg. From Futsies to Umpty-baggers, the Judges have their hands full. But the worst offenders are those who try and enforce their own brand of justice. Especially that strange strain of vigilante who chooses to hit the streets in brightly-coloured spandex!

The Last American by John Wagner & Alan Grant (w), Mick McMahon (a), Phil Felix (l)
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08544-8, 11 April 2017, 144 pages, £17.99 / $24. Available from Amazon.
Twenty years after a global nuclear war destroyed the world, Captain Ulysses Pilgrim is woken from suspended animation by three military robot aides.  Selected by his superiors to survive the initial onslaught, Pilgrim now has one last mission; to scour through post-holocaust U.S.A. in the search for other survivors.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Geoff Ryman cover gallery

The Warrior Who Carried Life (London, Allen & Unwin, 1985)
Unicorn/Unwin Paperbacks 0048-23266-1, 1985, 173pp, £2.95. Cover by Michael Embden

The Unconquered Country: A Life History (London, Allen & Unwin, 1986)
Unicorn/Unwin Paperbacks 0048-23314-5, 1986, 134pp. Cover by Sacha Ackerman


The Child Garden; or, A Low Comedy (London, Unwin Hyman, 1989)
Unwin Hyman 0044-40684-3, 1989, 400pp.
Voyager 0006-51088-4, 1999, 500pp.
Gollancz [SF Masterworks] 0575-07690-9, 2005, 388pp.

Was... (London, HarperCollins, 1992; New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1992)
Flamingo 0586-09179-3, 1993, 368pp.
---- [xth imp.] 1999, 456pp.
Gollancz [SF Masterworks] 0575-07669-0, 2005, 455pp.

253: The Print Remix (London, HarperCollins/Flamingo, 1998)
Flamingo 0006-55078-9, 1998, 364pp, £6.99.

Lust; or, No Harm Done (London, HarperCollins/Flamingo, 2001)
Flamingo 0002-25987-7, 2001, 400pp, £9.99.

Air: or, Have Not Have (New York, St Martin's Grifffin, 2004)
Orion 0575-07811-1, 2006, 390pp.

The King's Last Song; or, Kraing Meas (London, HarperCollins, 2006)
HarperCollins 0002-25988-5, 2006, 488pp.

COLLECTIONS

Unconquered Countries: Four novellas (New York, St Martin's Press, 1994)
HarperCollins 0006-48347-x, 1999, xii+275pp.

Paradise Tales and other stories (Easthampton, MA, Small Beer Press, 2011)
(no UK paperback)

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Last American

The Last American arrived in print almost two years after the end of the Ronald Reagan administration and the beginning of George Bush senior’s term in office. The second issue arrived on shelves around the same time American forces launched bombing raids in Iraq ahead of a ground invasion that began four weeks later. Operation Desert Storm was the most televised war the world had ever seen with live coverage of missile strikes and air raids launching from aircraft carriers. Americans were filled with nationalistic pride and the President’s approval ratings soared.

And in comic shops The Last American painted the bleakest possible picture of war and its consequences. In this case a Third World War which involved the use of nuclear weapons. A soldier named Ulysses S. Pilgrim is placed in suspended animation in the hope that he will survive the impending nuclear holocaust. Awakened twenty years later, he begins scouring New York looking for survivors only to find an unremittingly dark and desolate landscape of broken and twisted buildings, burned out cars and the bones of thousands upon thousands of victims.

Accompanied only by three robot companions, Pilgrim is the last man alive, brooding over the horror of it all. America has gone and his purpose—to restore order if chaos reigns or exact retribution should there be an enemy in control when he awakens—has gone with it. America is invoked through songs, from “New York, New York” juxtaposed against the desolation Pilgrim finds to George Washington rapping about democracy, but this really is twilight’s last gleaming and every hope he has that others have survived is dashed.

Mike McMahon’s blocky, geometric artwork is a perfect match for the twisted, rubble-strewn wastelands that Pilgrim and his mechanical pals inhabit.

The Last American was one of the last collaborations of the John Wagner / Alan Grant writing team, which was tearing itself apart by the tail end of the Reagan era. So, too, was America’s great enemy Russia. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and 1991 saw the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was over and national pride at its height, leaving The Last American in its dust and uncollected until Com.x published a trade paperback edition in 2004, shortly that company, too, imploded.

With Putin’s Russia reclaiming its place in world politics and Donald Trump as America’s 45th President, the Doomsday Clock ticks ever closer to midnight. Perhaps these inspired but particularly bleak outpourings on the futility of war are due to find an audience this time round.

The Last American. Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08544-8, 11 April 2017, 144 pages, £17.99 / $24. Available from Amazon.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Comic Cuts - 7 April 2017

Progress was made on a couple of fronts this week. The money-paying work that has been hanging over my head for the past month is finally going somewhere; I have two more articles written on financial subjects that, to be honest, I barely understand. If you're ever in the same situation, do what I did: find somebody who does understand the subject and interview them. Then, in the edit, change your dumb questions (e.g. "What does that mean?") to smarter-sounding questions (e.g. "Is it a strategy that can be applied globally to both large corporations and SMEs?").

On the Valiant index front I took a break from the 1960s where my note taking has reached 1966 and The House of Dolmann and jumped ahead a decade to take a look at One-Eyed Jack, as Rebellion have a collection coming out in June. What a great strip. Not without its problems: cramming a whole story with a beginning, middle and end into three pages was never the best way to do things, hence to preponderance of serials in British weekly anthology comics.

2000AD solved this problem by giving strips like Judge Dredd more space; Valiant solved it by training its writers to cut out every bit of fat from a storyline, which made each tale motor along but without any hope of complexity in the plots of development in the characters. That's great when you're 12 and not looking for anything other than a fast-paced yarn to entertain you, but you can see how limiting that is when you're re-reading a strip for the first time in forty years.

To make the stories readable, given the limitations of the format, was a skill in itself and that's why you see the same names crop up over and over again in British comics. There are still vast holes to fill in our knowledge of who wrote what, but it's usually the same names who crop up time and again: Tom Tully, Fred Baker, Frank Pepper, Scott Goodall... and in the Seventies and beyond Pat Mills, John Wagner, Gerry Finley-Day, Alan Hebden... writers who could spin an imaginative yarn within the boundaries of the short-form format of British comics.

I've also been keeping busy indexing some of Fleetway's old annuals. It's a bit of a sideline, and I really ought to be concentrating on Valiant, but there was so much reprinting in later annuals and holiday specials that knowing where the strips originally appeared is quite useful for other indexes.

Random scans... for no particular reason, a group of books by winners of the Victoria Cross.


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Commando issues 5007-5010

Commando issues on sale 6 April 2017.

All set in different conflicts during WWII and following very different protagonists, the latest four issues of Commando deal with themes of duty and heroism, pushing the boundaries of both qualities and blurring the divide between the Allies and the Axis.

Commando 5007 Ghost Ship
Our latest Home of Heroes issue, 5007: Ghost Ship deals with the WWII HMS Sheridan, a British Navy Destroyer on her last voyage. Writing duo Jim and David Turner’s story follows the Sheridan as she sails off the coast of South America, towards the Antarctic under new and inexperienced Commander Shaw, who does not respect his men, pushing them to mutiny as he recklessly pursues the mysterious Ghost Ship. Keeping in tune with Janek Matysiak’s dark and violent ocean on the cover, Keith Page’s interior artwork contrasts the icy blacks of the perilous south Atlantic against the towering, jagged white icebergs that threaten death at every turn.

STORY Jim and David Turner | ART Keith Page | COVER Janek Matysiak

Commando 5008 Operation Castaway
Then, in a reprint from our Gold Collection, issue 5008: Operation Castaway offers a warmer backdrop, with lurid reds and yellows on the cover. Set mainly on the south Pacific Island of Taraka, Gordon C. Livingstone’s American style of illustration emphasises a tropical paradise, disguising the dangers that lurk within the foliage. Lester’s story focuses on the partnership between arrogant Yankee General ‘Fireball’ Flynn, whose plane has crashed on the island, and no nonsense British Sergeant Frank Preston who is tasked with rescuing him. There’s plenty of action and heroism in this issue, with Preston even clinging to a submarine’s broken periscope, with only his head above the water, to direct the sub safely through enemy waters.

STORY Lester | ART Gordon C. Livingstone | COVER Gordon C. Livingstone
(Originally issue 323)

Commando 5009 Patrol Boat Prisoners
However, in issue 5009, Ferg Handley’s Patrol Boat Prisoners, heroism and duty are brought into question. Showing the maturing values of Commando, this issue features less of the 1960’s hair raising action in favour of a more grounded story and an insight to pacifism. Set in Autumn, 1944, patrol torpedo boat Lieutenant Mark Murdoch captures two Japanese officers, one of which has lost faith in Japan’s cause, believing that the attack on Pearl Harbour brought them dishonour.  Murdoch too expresses a disinterest in the war, fighting only because of his duty and his men. This is again emphasised by the gritty realism of Janek Matysiak’s cover and Jaume Forn’s interior art, which juxtaposes the mammoth ships against the small and indistinguishable figures of the men who fought on either side of the war.

STORY Ferg Handley | ART Jaume Forn | COVER Janek Matysiak

Commando 5010 Treasure Hunt
Finally, issue 5010: Treasure Hunt, a 1990’s reprint again follows a similar theme as Roger Sanderson’s story causes us to question if we can trust our enemies more than our allies? Focusing on a Nazi protagonist, Erhardt Schroider is given a sympathetic light as he detests his superiors for their indulgences while him men starve. Then, betrayed by his C.O., Schroider surrenders to the allies, striking a deal to give them information in order to save his men. Ian Kennedy’s cover is stylish and eye catching as always, with the title in a shocking mauve, and like Keith Shone’s interior art, details the Nazi, French and British uniforms with the historical accuracy that Commando is known for.

STORY Roger Sanderson | ART Keith Shone | COVER Ian Kennedy
(Originally issue 2578)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 5 April 2017.

2000AD Prog 2025
Cover: Clint Langley
Judge Dredd: Harvey by John Wagner (w) John McCrea (a) Mike Spicer (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Future Shocks: The Dream Factory by Rory McConville (w) Steve Yeowell (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w)  D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Monday, April 03, 2017

Continental editions

I picked up a copy of Geoffrey Jenkins The Unripe Gold yesterday as it was a nice, clean copy of a book I only had in a rather battered state. But looking through the two copies I found that they were different editions.

I don't know how prevalent this situation is now, but in the early Eighties, certain books – I only know of thrillers, but it likely affected a lot of popular authors – were pirated abroad and, to undercut these pirate editions, British publishers put out a continental paperback edition at the same time they published the hardback here in the UK.

So the example to hand was published in hardback by Collins in 1983 and in a continental paperback edition at the same time. It is recognisable as it has only a British price (£1.75) on the back cover.

This was followed in 1984 by what should be considered the first UK paperback edition, which was also distributed to some foreign parts. The copy I have has the UK price (£1.75) and a New Zealand price.

The second UK paperback edition was published in 1979 and does not mention the continental edition at all, but states the first Fontana edition was published in 1984.

I've seen continental editions mentioned before and also had later editions of paperbacks that seem to make no mention of these earlier paperbacks. I think this is probably the first time I've had all three early paperback editions.