Friday, March 30, 2007
This little bit of random thought was inspired by a comment by Jeremy Briggs that, for all his popularity, almost nothing was known about the hugely talented L. Ashwell Wood. The Internet offers only one site -- part of the National Archives -- that features any kind of biographical detail:
"Ashwell Wood had a distinct illustrative style that featured in many books and magazines, notably working as Eagle's longest running artist. His intricately detailed annotated sketches, often featuring a familiar 'cut-away' section, were not only artistically clean and sharp but also educational, offering clear explanations to complicated scenes."
The site also gives Ashwell Wood's year of birth as 1913.
Elsewhere we learn that Ashwell Wood was employed as a designer in an aircraft factory (presumably in the 1930s).
The earliest work I've found by L. Ashwell Wood appeared on the back cover of Modern Wonder vol. 2 no. 31 (18 December 1937); he also became one of their regular cover artists from vol. 3 no. 57 (18 June 1938), producing some 24 covers before the magazine switched to photographic covers in April 1939; he continued to produce illustrations for the centre pages and back covers for the magazine on and off until March 1941, by which time the title had changed to Modern World.
A number of illustrations can be found at the Cyberheritage website run by Steve Johnson, for example here (How a Modern Naval Flying Boat is Catapulted from a British Cruiser) and here (A Naval Destroyer). These he says were produced during the war for information leaflets produced by the government but are almost certainly taken from some of the many books Ashwell Wood illustrated for Odhams Press during the war; they are identical to the example below, which comes from Britain's Merchant Navy.
Some further examples can also be seen at the National Archives site, including the colour illustration below.
(For Eagle fans, I also spotted quite a few illustrations by Walkden Fisher on the Cyberheritage site, here and here, for example.)
In the very first issue of Eagle (14 April 1950), Ashwell Wood produced a cutaway of 'The New Gas Turbine-Electric Locomotive'. He went on to produce almost 40 cutaways for the first year of Eagle and hundreds more well into the 1960s.
Ashwell Wood also drew the brief series 'In Her Majesty's Lifetime' in 20 February - 1 May 1953 (vol. 3 no. 46 - vol. 4 no. 4) and made various contributions to the first six Eagle Annuals (one of which is reproduced here).
Twelve books of cutaways later appeared from Benwig Books in 1969-71?. Where the first eight seem to be quite difficult to get hold of, the last four seem to be very scarce (to the point where, until someone actually said they had copies, I was under the impression that they had never appeared... see Comments below).
The problem with discovering hard information on Leslie Ashwell Wood began with the simple fact that nobody seems to know when he died -- sometime in the 1970s or 1980s. I actually struck lucky quite quickly searching the death registers and found that Leslie Ashwell Wood died in early 1973 at Brent (NW London). Then the problems began... according to the register, Leslie Ashwell Wood was born 29 July 1903, not 1913. I'm pretty sure there can't be two Leslie Ashwell Woods. It's a very uncommon combination of names.
Just to double check I went through the birth records for 1913 and could find no Leslie A. Wood listed. However, there were no Leslie Ashwell Woods born in 1903 either! The nearest I could find was a Leslie Alfred Wood, born in Ashby de la Zouch (Leicestershire), who was, at least, born in the right quarter. A further five plain Leslie Woods were born in the same quarter along with a Leslie Charles and a Leslie Justin.
So could 'Ashwell' Wood be a pseudonym adopted by Leslie Alfred Wood or just plain Leslie Wood? Perhaps that's why so little is known about him... everyone has been looking for the wrong person! Or could all this be a red herring? Sometimes parents change their minds between registering a birth and Christening their child, adding or subtracting names.
I tried approaching the problem from another direction and checked an old advertising art book I have which dates from 1939. There's a Leslie Wood listed with very little information: this Leslie Wood was educated at Sir John Cass Institute and his address was listed as c/o H. & A. Dix, 66-67 Shoe Lane, E.C.4 (off Fleet Street... I remember it from my recent walking tour). H. & A. Dix & Co. were an engraving firm that dates back to the turn of the century that I was able to track through the London phone book to various addresses: 25 Farringdon Avenue [fl. 1904-18], 11 Farringdon Avenue, E.C.4 [fl. 1920-27], 66 Shoe Lane, E.C.4 [fl. 1929-39], no address listed [fl. 1943-44], 30 Craven Street, Whitehall W.C.2 [fl. 1946], Adelphi Terrace House, Robert Street, Strand W.C.2 [fl. 1947-53], 12 Great Newport Street, Temple Bar W.C.2 [fl. 1954-58], 87 Shaftesbury Avenue, W.1 [fl. 1960-73], after which they disappear.
In 1939, the company was run by Donald J. Dix and advertised themselves as producing "All styles and types for Showcards, Posters, Catalogue Illustrations, Press Adverts, Etc."
It certainly sounds like the kind of place where Ashwell Wood could have honed his talents for drawing but is that Leslie Wood the same chap who became better know to fans of Modern Wonder and Eagle as L. Ashwell Wood.
One thing I noticed was that the early artwork in Modern Wonder was signed 'Ashwell' rather than in full. Could it be that Leslie Wood adopted the name 'Ashwell' because he was moonlighting from his work at H. & A. Dix? Later illustrations are signed more fully but would his bosses have connected Leslie Wood with the illustrator L. Ashwell Wood?
It's the only explanation I can think of at the moment but, of course, it's all pure speculation.
In 1972, L. Ashwell Wood was living at 68 Chambers Lane, N.W.10. By the mid- to late-1970s that was the address of F. L. Wood. Some of Ashwell Wood's paintings were sold by Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co. at auction in 1978, described as the property of Mrs. Florence Ashwell-Wood who was, presumably, his widow. Florence Ashwell Wood, born on 9 April 1906, died in Ipswich in 1985, at the age of 79.
As you can see from the above, rather than offering Jeremy a nice, neat biography all tied up with a bow, all I've managed to do is muddy up the waters and call into question the one fact that everyone accepted -- that Leslie Ashwell Wood was born in 1913.
Inside Information series:
__1: Inside Information on Civil Aircraft, illus. by the author. Hendon, Benwig Books, 1969.
__2: Inside Information on Modern Ships. Hendon, Benwig Books, 1969.
__3: Inside Information on Trains Today, illus. by the author. Hendon, Benwig Books, 1969.
__4: Inside Information on Military Aircraft, illus. by the author. Hendon, Benwig Books, 1969.
__5: Inside Information on Space Travel, illus. by the author. Uxbridge, Benwig Books, 1970.
__6: Inside Information on Naval Ships, illus. by the author. Uxbridge, Benwig Books, 1970.
__7: Inside Information on Racing Cars, illus. by the author. Uxbridge, Benwig Books, 1970.
__8: Inside Information on Hovercraft, illus. by the author. Uxbridge, Benwig Books, 1970.
__9: Exploring Under the Seas. Slough, Bucks, Benwig Books, 1971?
__10: Famous Steam Trains. Slough, Bucks, Benwig Books, 1971?
__11: World Car Speed Records. Slough, Bucks, Benwig Books, 1971?
__12: Tanks and Armoured Cars. Slough, Bucks, Benwig Books, 1971?
Britain's Wonderful Fighting Forces, ed. Captain Ellison Hawks. London, Odhams Press, 1940.
Britian's Modern Army. An authoritative account of the daily life of a modern soldier and of the work, weapons and machines of the army. London, Odhams Press, 1942.
Britain's Wonderful Air Force, ed. P. F. M. Fellowes. London, Odhams Press, 1942.
Britain's Glorious Navy, ed. Admiral Sir Reginald H. S. Bacon; foreword by Admiral Sir Edward R. G. R. Evans. London, Odhams Press, 1943.
Britain's Merchant Navy, ed. Sir Archibald Hurd. London, Odhams Press, 1944.
The Secrets of Other People's Jobs. The story of Great Britain's industries and the workers who man the machines. London, Odhams Press, 1944.
Warfare Today. How modern battles are planned and fought on land, at sea and in the air, ed. Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon, Major-General J. F. C. Fuller & Air Marshal Sir Patrick Playfair. London, Odhams Press, 1944.
Railways, Ships and Aeroplanes illustrated. Their construction and working fully described in words and pictures [by Cecil J. Allen, J. V. Stone & Norman Macmillan]. London, Odhams Press, 1945.
The World's Railways and How They Work. London, Odhams Press, 1947.
The Complete Book of Motor-cars, Railways, Ships and Aeroplanes. The fully illustrated story of power and speed in modern transport. London, Odhams Press, 1949.
The World's Airways and How They Work, ed. J. W. G. James & John Stroud. London, Odhams Press, 1950.
Odhams History of the Second World War, ed. H. C. O'Neill. London, Odhams Press, 2 vols., 1951.
The Eagle Book of Cutaways, ed. Denis Gifford. Exeter, Webb & Bower, 1988.
Just to stir up a little more mud, there would seem to be a second Leslie Wood who was active from the 1940s to the 1960s. This Leslie Wood is given the birth year 1920 by various libraries. I'm guessing that he would have been called up for service in around 1940 and begins his artistic career immediately after the war. I'm also guessing this is not the Leslie Wood listed in the advertisers book as that Leslie Wood was trained at John Cass and was already working in 1938 (when the book was compiled). I believe a typical art course ran for four years which, I think, rules out anyone born in 1920.
Unfortunately, when you start researching things like this you also start to question everything. Is that 1920 birth year right? Could L. Ashwell Wood have had a parallel career as an illustrator for children's books?
Thankfully, the answer is no. According to the Dictionary of British Book Illustrators, this Leslie Wood was born in Stockport, Cheshire, the son of a master craftsman, and was educated at Manchester School of Art. He worked freelance as a landscape painter, lithographer, book illustrator and designer for advertising and also as a part-time lecturer at Epsom and Ewell School of Art (1965-68) and an associate lecturer at Bristol Polytechnic Faculty of Art and Design since 1964.
Big Red Bus series, with Roy Burden. Exeter, Wheaton, 9 vols., 1978-81.
Six Silly Cyclists. Exeter, Wheaton, 1979.
A Dog Called Mischief. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1985.
The Frog and the Fly. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1985.
Bump, Bump, Bump. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1986.
Tom and His Tractor. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1986.
Sam's Big Day. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987.
Dig, Dig. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.
My House. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.
Our House. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.
Callers at Our House by E. M. Hatt. London, Faber & Faber, 1945.
The Story of the Little Red Engine by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1945.
The Little Red Engine Goes to Market by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1946.
Whoo, Whoo, the Wind Blew by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1946.
Lords of the Isle by Arthur Groom. London & Glasgow, Art & Educational Publishers, 1947.
The Cat with a Guinea to Spend by E. M. Hatt. London, Faber & Faber, 1947.
Singular Travels. Campaigns and adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolph E. Raspe; with an introduction by John Carswell. London, Cresset Library, 1948.
Galloway Gamble by John Hubert Newsom. London, Macgibbon & Kee, 1951.
Ebenezer the Big Balloon by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1952.
The Little Red Engine Goes to Town by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1952.
The Little Red Engine Goes Travelling by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1955.
The Little Red Engine and the Rocket by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1956.
The Long Flight Home by Erik Hutchinson. London, Faber & Faber, 1957.
The Little Red Engine Goes Home by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1958.
Late for School by Carol Odell. London, Faber & Faber, 1960.
The House Next Door by Carol Odell. London, Faber & Faber, 1961.
L'Auto cachee by John Alfred Robinson. London, Macmillan & Co., 1963.
Oxford Colour Reading Books by Clifford Carver & Cecil H. Stowasser. London, Oxford University Press, 1963.
Deliliah by Johnny Morris. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1964.
Jumbo Back to Nature by Helen Cresswell. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1965.
Oxford Junior Wordbook by Clifford Carver. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1965; as Beginning to Read, 2 vols., 1985.
The Football by Charles Molin. London, Hamilton, 1966.
Dormouse Tales by Charles Molin. London, Hamilton, 5 vols., 1966.
Jumbo Afloat by Helen Cresswell. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1966.
The Little Red Engine Goes to be Mended by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1966.
Hi-Jinks Joins the Bears by Margaret J. Baker. London, Harrap, 1968.
The Little Red Engine and the Taddlecombe Outing by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1968.
Melodia by Antonia Ridge & Miles Bouhuys. London, Faber & Faber, 1969.
Thursday Ahoy! by Michael Bond. London, Harrap, 1969.
The Little Car Has a Day Out by Leila Berg. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1970.
Roddy the Roadman by Phyllis Arkle. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1970.
Teabag and the Bears by Margaret J. Baker. London, Harrap, 1970.
Adventures in Barfield (contains: The Pigeons, Pigs in the Kitchen, Hedgehogs in the Cellar) by Olive Jones. London, Methuen Children's Books, 1971.
The Little Red Engine Goes Carolling by Diana Ross. London, Faber & Faber, 1971.
Pets in Barfield (contains: The Foal, The Rat Hunt, Simon's Rabbits) by Olive Jones. London, Methuen Children's Books, 1971.
Summer in Barfield (contains: Pip and the Seagull, Newts in the Pond, Shetland Ponies) by Olive Jones. London, Methuen Children's Books.
Thursday in Paris by Michael Bond. London, Harrap, 1971.
Boots and the Ginger Bears by Margaret J. Baker. London, Harrap, 1972.
I Love My Love with an A. Where is he?. London, Faber, 1972.
Roddy and the Rustlers by Phyllis Arkle. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1972.
The Rotton Old Car by Geraldine Kaye. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1973.
Grandpa and My Sister Bee by Joan Tate. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1973.
Oxford Caribbean Workbook by Clifford Carver. London, Oxford University Press, 2 vols., 1974.
Roddy on the Motorway by Phyllis Arkle. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1974.
Before I Go To Sleep by Enid Blyton. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1975; as Bedtime Stories and Prayers, London, Granada, 1982; ?as Tales from the Bible, London, Armada, 1988.
Roddy on the Canal by Phyllis Arkle. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1975.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
- Bryan Talbot is interviewed by Ross Robertson in the Sunderland Echo (27 March), 'Alice in Pictureland'.
- The final voting form for the Eagle Awards has been posted at the Eagle Awards website. Voting ends on Sunday, 22 April.
- The Forbidden Planet blog reviews Invasion, the latest Rebellion reprint from 2000AD.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The Laughing Lady, illus. Geoffrey Fletcher. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1957.
Alibi Children, illus. Peggy Beetles. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1958.
The Cat Strikes at Night, illus. Peggy Beetles. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1959.
Disappearing Diamonds, illus. Peggy Beetles. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1960.
I'm 99% certain I'm not making too big a leap here: Marcus Morris, the founder of Robin, was a Reverend from Southport and Fred Chadwick seems to have religious connections with the New-Church House in Manchester. Maybe there's a connection, maybe there isn't although to me it seems likely.
The Senior Section of the Sunday School. London, c.1920.
How Can I Best Serve My Fellows?. London (?), c.1930.
The Touch of Jesus. A message to boys and girls. London, Junior Members' and Young people's Council of the General Conference of the New Church, 1934.
At Eventide-Light. Manchester, North of England New-Church House, 1935.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Nancy Catford wrote and illustrated a series of animal books in the tradition of Beatrix Potter in the 1930s. I've been unable to find a year of birth for her but I notice that one of her animal books was written by Barbara Catford (I'm guessing at her being a sister) who, I believe, was born in Hackney, London, in 1903.
A recent eBay auction included an autographed copy of Maurice the Mouse and a copy of Robert the Rabbit inscribed (19 Dec. 1939) "This little book was compiled by Nancy Catford one of our ambulence drivers at Stokes. She has now gone to Hungary to help look after the refugees from Poland."
Miss Nancy Catford lived at 79 Brook Green, London W.6 around 1950-52. Her work seems to come to an end around 1953 but I can find no record of her death (searched 1951-58).
Robert the Rabbit, illus. by the author. London, Frederick Muller, 1934.
Percy the Penguin, illus. by the author. London, Frederick Muller, 1936.
Maurice the Mouse, illus. by the author. London, Frederick Muller, 1937.
Ronnie the Robin, illus. by the author. London, Frederick Muller, 1937.
Sammy the Squirrel, illus. by the author. London, Frederick Muller, 1937.
Dan the Duckling, illus. by the author. London, Frederick Muller, 1938.
Derek the Dragon, illus. by the author. London, Frederick Muller, 1939.
Making Nursery Toys, illus. by the author. London, Frederick Muller, 1944.
Making and Modelling, illus. by the author; edited by Susan French. London, Daily Mail School-Aid Department, 1946.
Making Your Own Party Decorations, illus. by the author. London, Frederick Muller, 1951.
Modelling with Plastics, illus. by the author. London, "Daily Mail" Publications, 1951.
Ernest the Elephant by Barbara Catford. London, Frederick Muller, 1935.
Puffins by R. M. Lockley. London, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1953.
John Spencer & Co. was set up in the 1940s to exploit the shortage of reading material and began with the usual staples of gangster and westerns yarns. By the late 1950s they had evolved into Badger Books which ran with reasonable success until 1967. Towards the end, sales of their books were slipping badly and the company looked elsewhere for income. Alan Class had a steady sale in American reprints with titles like Creepy Worlds, Sinister Tales and Secrets of the Unknown throughout the 1960s and, in the face of declining book sales, comics may have seemed a viable alternative.Spencers launched four titles in 1966: Fantasy Stories, Macabre Stories, Spectre Stories and Strange Stories, all of which were initially prepared by Mick Anglo. Anglo had edited comics for Paget Publications and Martin & Reid in the 1940s and had a long association with Len Miller & Co. for whom he created the Marvelman family of titles out of the ashes of Captain Marvel; Anglo had also edited the latter-day Classics Illustrated comics for Thorpe & Porter in the early 1960s.
The Spencer comics were something of a poor-mans Alan Class comics: priced at a shilling, they contained six or seven horror stories, most of which had little or no merit. The artwork compared to the Class comics (whose titles included reprints by some of the best American artists - Steve Ditko, Al Williamson, and many others) was atrocious, and the printing (initially done in Italy) was poor although the occasional decent cover did turn up.
They had little going for them and today are almost impossible to find. But they are interesting oddities. For instance, Anglo reworked a number of strips which Ron Embleton had written and drawn in his early career for Spaceman, published in the early 1950s by Norman Light. These stories featured Scientific Investigation Bureau mystery-solver Bill Merrill; the reprints were redrawn and (poorly) relettered as can be seen in the example below.
Another strip looks suspiciously like a rejigged Davy Crockett western and it seems likely that all the strips were reprints of one kind or another. Spencers, never ones to spend money where they didn't need to, also used reprinted covers: Spectre Stories no.1, for instance, was a Gerald Facey cover from one of their earlier horror magazine, Supernatural Stories no.3, redrawn to fit the cover to the story
Michael Jay was not the only artist in these later issues but all the artwork had the distinction of being universally terrible.
The four horror magazines all folded after six issues but Spencers were not quite finished. In 1967 they flirted with two more titles, The Adventures of Mark Tyme and The Purple Hood, both the work of Michael Jay.
Mark Tyme featured a time-travelling scientist whose first adventure (with Roman Gladiators) had damaged the wrist-watch sized device he needed to return to the present. After each adventure he was sent spinning into a new time period. In the companion title, the international crime-fighter The Purple Hood was Lee Briton, whose secret identity is known only to Sir Franklyn James, head of the most secret top level department for security in the country. Neither had much chance to travel far, as both comics folded after only two issues, bringing Spencers association with comics to an end.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Apart from the fact that he was born in 1914, the only information about Dunn comes from the newspaper report below: he was educated at public school and at Cambridge; he tried and failed to become a professional artist; he struggled to make a living writing adventure yarns for boys. In 1959, he had a huge win on the football pools -- £260,104 -- and his financial struggles presumably ended. At the time he was living in a flat in Chelsea.
As his name hasn't cropped up amongst those Amalgamated Press papers I've seen and I have found no recorded pseudonyms, I wonder if Dunn was writing for the D. C. Thomson boys' papers in the 1950s. The newspaper report makes no mention of any other profession so I have to presume that he was a full-time writer up until 1959.
For a man who wanted to preserve his anonymity, he did a damn fine job!
Peggy Bridges contributed to Robin Annual 9 (1961). Contributed to the slim Flamingo Books (Oliver & Boyd) early reading series and appears to have been a contributor to 365 Animal Stories (Feltham, Hamlyn, 1968).
Matilda, illus. Jean Hinde. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1965.
Laurie, the Fine Fir Tree, illus. Peter Lloyd. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1966.
The Magic Shoe, illus. Peter Lloyd. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1966.
Toby For Luck, illus. Lynette Hemmant. London, Blackie, 1968.
Tall Stories. Bath, Better Books, 1976.
Friday, March 23, 2007
One of the reasons for dipping into 'Trelawny' was that I've been on a war footing for quite a few months; as you'll know, I've been involved in choosing stories for two upcoming collections for Carlton, details of which will be announced shortly. But here's a sneak peak at the covers:
The books are due for release on 3 September. They haven't turned up on Amazon yet but I'll be keeping my eyes open and I'll let you know when you can get your pre-orders in.
The other war book I've been working on is the first volume of a new series of indexes. This one will cover all the war libraries from Fleetway (War, Battle, Air Ace, War at Sea and Giant) with their attendant holiday specials. This has been co-compiled with David Roach (who should need no introduction) and we're finishing up the proofs at the moment. The next in the series will update and vastly improve three of the indexes I co-compiled with David Ashford: Thriller Comics, Cowboy Comics and Super Detective Library. Then it's another volume with David Roach covering all the other libraries, from Action and Top Secret to all the romance and schoolgirl libraries. Since only a handful of these have ever been indexed before we're still at the coal face, chipping away at the lists but some of the information that we're coming up with is startling and I have to believe David when he says that some of the romance libraries were amongst the most consistently well-drawn comics ever published in the UK. I'm hoping that anyone buying the first two volumes will want to complete the set... and I can promise you a few surprises amongst the artists who worked on these things.
Back to Trelawny for a few seconds. The above page (© IPC Media, by the by) is by Victor de la Fuente who was the strip's main artist and another name in British comics that rarely gets a mention. He was well known in his native Spain as the artist of 'Haxtur' and in the 1970s and 1980s his work found a wider audience in the pages of Pilote, l'Echo des Savanes and A Suivre. The few bits of his European artwork I've seen are fantastic. In the UK his work appeared mostly in War Picture Library and Battle Picture Library where it has been pretty effectively buried for too many years.
Maybe I should start a campaign to get Garth Ennis to write new Trelawny stories -- not a bad idea in itself -- and then Titan will have an excuse to reprint some of the originals as a companion to their Charley's War series. (I'm determined to get the best of British comics back in print even if I have to do it one strip at a time. And if I write the introductions I get free copies! Cunning, eh?)
- Paul Rainey is reading a thousand issues of 2000AD from issue 1 on. You can follow his progress on his 2000AD Prog Slog blog.
- There's a fantastic collection of Ron Turner's cover art on Flickr. Just wonderful!
- Bryan Talbot is interviewed by Stephen R. Bissette in 'Down & Out the Rabbit Hole: Alice in Sunderland' (Panel to Panel, posted 19 March).
- An interview with Warren Ellis about his upcoming Black Summer series: 'Warren Ellis Starts a Revolution in Black Summer' by Arune Singh (The Comic Wire, 14 March).
- Rich Johnson (Lying in the Gutters) posts a link to the Sleeze Brothers website (still under construction).
Winifred Edith Bear was born in Tendring, Essex, on 25 June 1908 and lived with Fras. Arthur Bear at Dale View, Hove, for many years; I presume this was her brother as Bear was her maiden name. He is thought to have died around 1969 and Winifred continued to live in Hove until her death in 1980.
She was a semi-prolific writer of girls' stories whose work appeared in various magazines and annuals. I first stumbled upon her name in various Gerald G. Swan wartime publications such as Fairies, Girls' Fun, Schoolgirls Pocket Library, Schoolgirls Short Stories and various annuals. Winifred Aber and Wilfred Aber are fairly transparent pseudonyms, the latter used for boys' stories and non-fiction. Her work pre-dates Swan and she had a number of articles and stories in Girls' Own Paper in the mid-1930s. I've patched together a short bibliography of her work but I'm sure that many more stories remain to be discovered lurking in annuals from Dean, Birn, Juvenile Productions and others.
The 'Hunches' of Harriet. London, Gerald G. Swan (Schoolgirls' Pocket Library 12), 1942.
Mystery at Llanfychen. London, Gerald G. Swan (Schoolgirls' Pocket Library 15), 1942.
The Challenge of Gwilym. London, Gerald G. Swan (Schoolgirls' Pocket Library 24), 1946.
Duel Control at St. Chad's. London, Gerald G. Swan (Schoolgirls' Pocket Library 27), 1950.
All About Dogs. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1941.
The Thief (Girl's Own Paper, v.54, p.71)
The Feeble Boy from Next Door (Girl's Own Paper, v.54, p.477)
The Farm by the Billabong (Champion Book for Girls, London, Dean, 1940s)
The Impertinent Tennis Star (Splendid Book for Girls, London, Birn, 1940s)
The House of the Screaming Portrait (Schoolgirl Short Stories 1, Feb 1945)
The Knot-Tying Prince of Tripona (Fairies Album 1946, 1945)
The Laughing Ghost of Garryoaks (Schoolgirl Short Stories 2, Mar 1946)
Ghost of the Gorge (Schoolgirl Short Stories 4, Jul 1946)
The Two A's of Three B (Schoolgirl Short Stories 4, Jul 1946)
Something Remarkable (Girls' Fun, Dec 1946)
Spot(s) Light on Hester (Girls' Fun, 1 Mar 1947)
The 'Monoplane Man' Mystery' (Girls' Fun Bumper Number, Apr 1948)
Land of the Pixies (Fairies Album 1949, London, Swan, 1948)
A Queer Customer (Scramble, Apr 1949)
Sheer Funk (Girls' Fun, Jun 1949)
The Stuffy Swatter (Girls' Fun, Jul 1949)
Three Was Company (Schoolgirls' Album 1950, 1949)
Great-Grandma's Centenary [by W.B.] (Schoolgirls' Album 1950, 1949)
Marjory's Birthday (Girls' Fun, Oct 1949)
Next-Door Namesake (Girls' Fun, Oct 1949)
Wanted: An 'Ugly Sister' (Girls' Fun, Dec 1949)
Macky's Madness (Girls' Fun, serial, 2pts., Jan-Feb 1950)
Buttons from Bits (Girls' Fun Annual 1951, London, Swan, Sep 1950)
Granny's Gold Locket (Girls' Fun Annual 1951, London, Swan, Sep 1950)
Land of the Pixies (Fairies Album 1950?, 1949?)
That Awful Gissing Girl (The Book for Girls, London, Juvenile Productions, 1950s?)
Short Stories as Wilfred Aber
Liza Longlegs (Girls' Fun, Jun 1949)
Guaranteed Genuine (Scramble, 12 May 1950)
Short Stories as Winifred Aber
The Girl on the Boy's Side (Girls' Fun, Nov 1946; reprinted in Girls' Fun Annual 1957, London, Swan, Sep 1956)
Saturday Afternoon [by W. Aber] (Schoolgirls' Album 1950, 1949)
Romany... and Blackberry Pie (Schoolgirls' Album 1950, 1949)
Catering as a Career (Girl's Own Paper, v.54, p.13)
Give Your Friends a Scottish Tea! (Girl's Own Paper, v.54, p.337)
If You Go Camping (Girl's Own Paper, v.54, p.495)
Model Meals (Girl's Own Paper, v.55, p.135)
Bubble Ping-Pong (Girl's Own Paper, v.55, p.394)
Bird Cafeteria (Girl's Own Paper, v.56, p.205)
Hot and Tasty! (Girl's Own Paper, v.56, p.265)
Diet Without Tears (Girl's Own Paper, v.56, p.431)
Start Cold Baths Now! (Girl's Own Paper, v.57, p.336)
Look at Your Shoes (Girl's Own Paper, v.58, p.492)
Oil of Gold (Girl's Own Paper, v.60, p.130)
Long Tails and Short (Girl's Own Paper, v.62, p.236)
Little Ladybirds (Schoolgirls' Album 1950, 1949)
Non-fiction as Wilfred Aber
Wassailing the Apple Trees: A West Country Custom (Boy's Own Paper, Jan 1936)
Locking Up the Tower: Ancient Ceremony of the Keys (Boy's Own Paper, Jul 1936)
Isles Without Coal (Boy's Own Paper, Oct 1936)
Hats in History (Boy's Own Paper, May 1937)
The Christmas Log (Boy's Own Paper, Dec 1939)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
I've done bits of research ever since to see what else I could discover about the author and thought I had enough to write up a little biographical sketch six or so years ago. I'm very pleased to say that I've recently had the opportunity to correspond with Tony Batten, Peter's son who has been kind enough to fill in a number of gaps.
Peter Woodruff Batten was born in Tranmere, Cheshire, on 26 June 1893 and educated at a private school in Yorkshire and Baldock College, Herts. Batten was the fourth child (and second son) of John Thomas Batten, who worked for the Inland Revenue as a supervisor of an excise department, and his wife Mara Mira Swannell Batten (née Woodruff).
During the Great War Batten served in Gallipoli with the 5th Bn. The Manchester Regiment and in France at the first Battle of the Somme with the Cinq Ports Bn. of the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was attached to the Tank Corps as a Section Commander at the Battle of Cambrai where his tank was destroyed and he had to lead his troops to safety on foot. In 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross.
After demobilisation in 1920, he turned to writing and wrote some 40 novels between 1923-31 for Aldine Publications (Richard Worth being another of his pen-names). Aside from these, he also contributed to John Bull, the Sunday Express, Star and Daily Express. After working on the staff of the Daily Express, Batten joined the Sunday Dispatch as News Editor in 1926; he was the Chief Sub-Editor of the Sunday Express, 1929, before becoming Editor of the Sunderland Echo, 1930-32.
At the same time, Batten had a third career: as well as being a journalist and novelist, he was also acting on stage and radio and made uncredited appearances in the movies The Arcadians (1927, which also featured Phyllis Calvert in an uncredited role) and The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1928), He was most proud of his appearance in Dawn (1928), the story of Nurse Edith Cavell, portrayed by Dame Sybil Thorndike.
Despite these multiple careers Batten went into bankruptcy in January 1932.
Batten had married Sarah Eva Pritchard in 1911 with whom he had three sons and a daughter. The couple divorced in 1925 and Batten married Gladys Maud Daniels in 1926 with whom he had a further eight children. In the 1920s and early 1930s, the family was living at 12 Claverton Street, Pimlico, London. Batten left the UK for Australia in around 1934/35 to work as a sub-editor on The Truth, the Sydney Sunday newspaper. Batten did not get on with the paper's editor, the notoriously abusive Ezra Norton, and returned to the UK after a year.
In 1936, the family moved to Colombo where Batten took a job as chief sub on The Times of Ceylon, leaving in 1940 to emigrate to Melbourne, Australia, to work as a sub-editor for The Age. During this time he joined the Volunteer Defence Corps and, in 1941, talked his way into the Royal Australian Air Force. As an Intelligence Officer, he was sent to Perth, Western Australia, where he served until late 1942 when it was decided to send him to the tropics. This meant taking a medical and, with blood pressure of 200+, Batten found himself a civilian once again.
In Perth, he joined the Mirror as chief sub and was also an accredited War Correspondent. Post-war, he was made editor of the Mirror's sister paper, the Sunday Times. In 1947 he moved back to Sydney to become chief sub on the ABC Weekly where he remained for some years, although he continued his association as a regular contributor. In later years he was also a feature writer for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Whilst in Ceylon, Batten and his wife had started a children's radio programme and this experience led to him becoming the news editor of Radio 2GB in Sydney in about 1950, a position he held until shortly before his death. His work varied, from announcing to acting in radio plays, reading the news to reading 15-minute extracts from novels, broadcast at 8.45 am for people to listen to just before work. He also performed on stage (usually in farces).
"In later life he was, sadly, a heavy drinker and a gambler," recalls Tony, "though he never missed a day's worked and performed in his various roles without a hitch. He was a great cook and Sunday lunches were expected to be attended by his children well after we were married.
"He was a wonderful raconteur and had the ability, on occasion, to predict the future. Recently, my brother Michael and I recalled his saying to us of a neighbour 'He'll be dead in six months' when no one even knew the man was ill."
Working two jobs constantly would eventually take its toll and Batten, who had only recently retired from 2GB, having reached the age of 65, died at Bellvue Hill, New South Wales, on 28 September 1958.
Novels (series: Dixon Brett)
Game to the End. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 4), 1925.
The Needle Match. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 7), 1925.
The Wizard of the Wing. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 8), 1925.
Bred in the Bone. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 15), 1926.
From Prize Ring to Palace. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 18), 1926.
The Knock-Out Fisherman. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 22), 1926.
The Stolen Girl! (Brett). London, Aldine Publishing (Dixon Brett Library 4), 1926.
Dan of the Rovers. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 24). 1927.
The Airman Half Back. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 45), 1928.
The Greenhorn Champion. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 45), 1928.
The Speed-King Centre. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 61), 1929.
Champion in Spite of it All. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 69), 1930.
Nobbled!. London, Aldine Publishing (Racing Novels 101), 1930.
The Pit-Boy Centre. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 78), 1931.
Novels as Peter Woodruff
The Fighting ‘Parson’. Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 10), 1925.
The Battling Champ. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 13), 1926.
A Fight to the Finish. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 20), 1926.
Ploughboy Champion. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 23), 1926.
The Great Invincibles. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 27), 1927.
The Dandy Goalkeeper. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 31), 1927.
Dr. Jim, Full Back. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 33), 1928.
The Twin Centre. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 36), 1928.
Novels as Richard Worth (series: Dixon Brett)
Last of Her Line. London, Aldine Publishing (Racing Novels 15), 1923.
A Gallop to Fortune. London, Aldine Publishing (Racing Novels 26), 1924.
The Young Corinthian. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 3), 1925.
Fighting Mac. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 5), 1925.
Pride of the Fancy. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 8), 1925.
A Boxing Squire. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 11), 1925.
The Star of Hope. London, Aldine Publishing (Racing Novels 30), 1925.
A Bantam Champion. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 14), 1926.
A Footballer’s Romance. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 16), 1926.
The Mystery Centre. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 22), 1927.
What a Fighter!. London, Aldine Publishing (Boxing Novels 32), 1927.
The Murder in the Fog (Brett). London, Aldine Publishing (Dixon Brett Library 8), 1927.
The Actor-Footballer. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 35), 1928.
The Midget Winger. London, Aldine Publishing (Football Novels 42), 1928.
Twins of the Pigskin. London, Aldine Publishing (Racing Novels 94), 1930.
(* My thanks to Tony for the information and the photos of his father. Very much appreciated!)
Sunday, March 18, 2007
More good news (well, I think it's good news): it looks like the War Libraries volume of our series of Fleetway Indexes could be out in June
Below is the free plate from the Trigan volume. Below that it's just domestic talk which you can skip if you want.
After a few days feeling really wretched, I think I've got it down to mostly just a cold now. I never thought I'd be grateful to say those words but after what I've just experienced I shall have some respect for the humble cold bug which, this time last week, is what I thought it was. Then it took a turn for the worse midweek. Then it took a turn for the unmentionable at the end of the week. I won't mention it because kids might come along to the blog to look at the comics pictures but it was, in the words of Josie Lawrence, "Yukky!"
I don't want to turn this into a running commentary on my life but sometimes you can't help it. I try to post regularly but something like the above throws my schedule completely to the four winds and I'll need to catch up somewhere along the line. So if things get patchy again you'll know why.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
- The Bugpowder blog carries news of The Mindscape of Alan Moore, a double disc DVD to be released on 30 March 2007. You can find out more by visiting the Shadowsnake Films web site who are offering a 5% discount on pre-release orders.
- James Mackay has submitted a petition to the 10 Downing Street website asking that the Prime Minister "to award knighthoods to John Wagner, Pat Mills and Alan Grant in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the great British comic, 2000AD." 159 signatures at the time of writing.
Jeremy's trip reveals some of the interesting sights relating to D. C. Thomson in a little piece he calls...
Your walk along Fleet Street inspired me to take my camera with me to Dundee at the weekend. Despite their comics carrying the London address on the letters pages, Dundee is of course the home of D C Thomson and their headquarters is in the Courier Building in Albert Square, named after their Dundee Courier newspaper.
This imposing building was built in 1902 and so predated the renaming of the Thomson publishing business by David Couper Thomson in 1905 and the takeover of their Dundee publishing rivals, John Leng and Co, in 1926. The tower at the rear was added in 1960. The Albert Square entrance has Courier Office embedded into the steps leading up to the entrance.
Meanwhile the Meadowside entrance is rather more imposing with statues of Literature and Justice gazing down on what is now a taxi rank. A much older photo of the same entrance can be found in Dundee City Council’s Photopolis website.
It is also at the Meadowside entrance where the brass company name plate can be found, listing the company as Thomson-Leng Publications, as can also be seen on the London branch.
Of rather more interest to the tourists is the statue of Desperate Dan striding manfully through the pedestrianised zone of the city centre.
Yet his faithful Dawg is rather more observant of his surroundings.
Dawg sits down in his attempt at attracting Dan’s attention.
For what Dan has not realised is the young Minx who is preparing launch the contents of her catapult at our hero.
Only one problem… no elastic!
The statues at the corner of High Street and Reform Street are a source of amusement to all, a popular photo shoot for the tourists, and a plaything for young kids to clamber over.
My thanks to Jeremy. I had hoped to post this Sunday night or Monday but I've been laid low with some bug which has knocked my schedule completely out of whack. Hopefully I'm over the worst of it and normal service can be resumed shortly.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
To explain, Morley Adams Ltd. was a company that produced newspaper puzzles and quizes. Its founder was Morley Punshon Adams, born in Ipswich, Suffolk, in 1876, one of six children raised by his mother, the widowed Kate Amelia Adams (nee Corbyn), her husband, Thomas, having died in 1884 around the age of 44.
Adams was educated at a private school and, in his early twenties, worked as a Civilian Clerk with the Army Pay Corps in Kingston-on-Thames, before becoming a journalist and author. He wrote widely for newspapers and magazines, including the Daily Express, Sunday Chronicle, Answers, Sunday Express, Reynolds’, Illustrated News, Evening Standard as well as contributing to the Children’s Newspaper and Children’s Encyclopedia. He worked at the Amalgamated Press for 15 years.
A prolific writer of non-fiction books about natural history, hobbies, recreations and games, Adams also wrote two books of biography, Omar’s Interpreter (1909) about Edward FitzGerald and In the Footsteps of Borrow and FitzGerald (1914), the latter a gossipy account of a literary pilgrimage in which the authors footsteps frequently led him astray. Adams penned a serial, “The Cave of Illapa” (1911) which was set in Peru and appeared in Boy’s Own Paper. His other books for the Religious Tract Society included Boy’s Own Book of Indoor Games and Recreations, Boy’s Own Book of Pets and Hobbies and The Boy Scout’s Companion (all 1912).
Adams was probably best remembered for being instrumental in popularising the crossword puzzle in Britain after they were introduced by Arthur Wynne, a Liverpool man who emigrated to the United States around 1905 and compiled the first "Word-Cross" puzzle for the New York World in December 1913. The crossword puzzle was all the rage in the 1920s and, apart from writing his puzzle books, Adams also set up Morley Adams Ltd., a newspaper feature service to provide crossword puzzles and puzzle features. Adams also devised radio games such as Puzzle Corner, Ask it Basket and Limerick Race for the BBC.
In the 1940s, Adams was the writer of the long-running ‘Adam the Gardner’ weekly gardening strip in the Sunday Express, drawn by Cyril Cowell.
Adams was married to Angela O’Driscoll and had one daughter. He lived in Croydon, Surrey, where he died on Sunday, 31 January 1954. He was cremated at Croydon Crematorium on 4 February 1954.
The Amazing Adventures of Peter, Paul and Percy. The three perky pigs!. London, Faber & Faber, 1942.
The Pranks of Peter, Paul and Percy. London, Faber & Faber, 1944.
The Three Little Piglets. London, Faber & Faber, 1947.
Omar’s Interpreter. A new life of Edward FitzGerald. London, Priory Press, 1909; Folcroft, Pa., Folcroft Library Editions, 1973.
Tricks that Anyone Can Do. London, L. U. Gill, 1911.
The Boy Scout’s Companion. A manual of scoutcraft. London, R.T.S., 1912; 3rd revised edition, 1913.
The Boy’s Own Book of Indoor Games and Recreations. London, R.T.S., 1912.
The Boy’s Own Book of Pets and Hobbies. London, R.T.S., 1912.
In the Footsteps of Borrow & Fitzgerald. London, Jarrold & Sons, 1914.
Toys & Models Made from Matches. London, Bryant & May, 1914.
Books for Scouts. London, Henry Frowde, 4 vols., 1915.
The Complete Scout. London, Henry Frowde, 1915.
Toy-Making at Home: How to make a hundred toys from odds and ends. London, T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1915.
Puzzles that Everyone Can Do. A collection of new puzzles and problems. London, Grant Richards, 1931.
The Morley Adams Puzzle Book. London, Faber & Faber, 1939.
Children’s Pie. London, Faber & Faber, 1940.
The Children’s Puzzle Book. London, Faber & Faber, 1940.
The Penguin Crossword Puzzle Book. Harmondsworth & New York, Penguin, 1940.
The Second Penguin Crossword Puzzle Book. Harmondsworth & New York, Penguin, 1941.
You Can Make It. London, Faber & Faber, 1941.
Children’s Crossword Book. London, Faber & Faber, 1943.
The Children’s Book of Warplanes. London, Faber & Faber, 1944.
The Children’s How and Why Aeroplane Book. London, Faber & Faber, 1944.
The Children’s Invasion Book. London, Faber & Faber, 1944.
The Third Penguin Crossword Puzzle Book. Harmondsworth & New York, Penguin, 1944.
The Children’s Games and Amusements Book. London, Faber & Faber, 1945.
Adam the Gardner, illus. Cyril Cowell. London, Lane Publications, 1946.
Crossword Puzzles for Children. London, Faber & Faber, 1946.
Children’s Illustrated Crosswords. London, Faber & Faber, 1948.
Puzzle Parade. London, Faber & Faber, 1948.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Morley Adams Ltd.
Arthur W. Baldwin
Pat Bowyer (see Patricia Turner)
Roy F. Brown
Nancy Catford [Dora Catford]
Josephine Crichmay / Crickmay
Thomas Davis / Davies
Marcia Lane Foster
Gay (Wood? See below)
J. & A. Grahame-Johnstone
D. L. Mays
Michael K. Noble
Shirley Anne Richardson
A. E. (Tony) Speer
Jean / Joan Thompson
Patricia Turner (aka Pat Bowyer?)
Leila Berg (Wikipedia)
Roy F. Brown
Mary E. Carmichael
Nancy Catford [Dora Catford]
Rene Cloke (ills)
Dorothy Craigie (ills)
D. G. Edmunds
Rosemary Garland (ills)
Michael Gibson (ills)
Wendy Jeanette Grant
Patricia Hubbard (ills)
Ursula John (see Ursula Moray Williams)
Edward Lear (Wikipedia)
Joyce Clark Mitton
Muriel G. Nix
S. F. Palmer
Eileen E. Passmore
K. H. Pearce
Ann Pout (ills)
John R. Pulling
Norman Satchel (ills)
Doreen M. Sharp
Elizabeth Skottowe (ills)
Chad Varah (Wikipedia)
Jennetta Vise (ills)
Eric Wagstaff (songs)
Oscar Wilde (Wikipedia)
Ursula Moray Williams
Irene Williamson (ills)