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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Harry Bensley - The Man in the Iron Mask (part 3)

On 26 September 1904, 29-year-old Harry Bensley, described as a labourer of no fixed abode, stood before the court in Willesden charged with obtaining by false pretences sums amounting to £67 from John Bradley and £300 2s 6d from Thomas Jordan. It was alleged that the prisoner had represented himself as the son of Sir Robert Burrell, Mayor of Thetford, and as the heir to the extensive estate in Norfolk of his godmother, the late Mrs Holland of Errieswell Court, Thetford. The estate amounted to 12,500 acres and £9,000.

Prosecuting for the Treasury, Mr. A Sefton Cohen introduced the case and brought forward a number of witnesses. Their case was that Mr. John Sidney Bradley, a warehouseman, had become acquainted with Bensley in 1902 and recommended him to his brother-in-law, Mr. Thomas Jordan, a locomotive inspector at works in Edgeware Road, where the prisoner was subsequently employed as a coal-man, serving coal to the engines. Bensley told Jordan that he was heir to extensive estates in Norfolk, the various properties including the Priory, occupied by Mr. Musker, the racing owner, and the Shrubberies, occupied by Mr. Champion, the vinegar merchant. He was to come into possession of Errieswell Court and thousands of acres when he turned thirty, but if he attempted to raise money on it, the whole estate would fall into the hands of the trustees—a Mr. Houchin, solicitor, Thetford, and a Mr. Lendon, solicitor, Budge Row, Cannon Street, London EC—due to the terms of the will.

Bensley asked Jordan for an advance of £10 and showed him a typewritten letter purporting to come from a moneylender named King who was offering to lend him £200. Mr. Jordan received two telegrams signed King offering him £50 and £100 if he would induce Bensley to accept his offer of £200 and a second offer of £1,000. Jordan showed the telegrams to Bensley, who claimed that there seemed to be a plot to make him borrow money and that King was in league with the trustees.

Bensley showed a typewritten letter from Mr. Lendon on headed paper stating that repairs were needed to the estate and that a local builder named Holden had estimated the cost at £1,528 and was to be given the contract to do the work. A second typewritten letter from the same source informed Bensley that his sister wanted him to go on a yachting cruise in the Mediterranean and suggested that he should borrow £200 against his furniture.

Bensley could not go on the cruise aboard the Belvedere without £200. Jordan advanced him the money. One of the bank notes passed to Bensley was later used to pay for passage for the prisoner and his wife to Sydney. Yet another letter required Bensley to attend a meeting on the estate on 4 July 1904, which meant travelling overland from the Mediterranean; this transport problem was solved by another £20 loan from Jordan.

Jordan told the court that IOUs from Bensley were destroyed so that there was no risk of the estate being lost to the trustees. The prisoner's wife was present on one occasion and said that she had been to Errieswell Court with her husband and had seen the family jewels in Norwich Castle.

Lavinia Bradley, daughter of John Bradley, had also made the acquaintance of "Mrs. Burrell" and had worked with her at a dressmaker's at Upper George Street, Marylebone.

Bensley and his wife set off for Brighton, where he was to board his sister's yacht. No more was heard from him and enquiries in Thetford resulted in the police being contacted.

Mr. John Houchin, the Town Clerk of Thetford, stated that he had lived in the town all his life and was the only solicitor of that name in the area. Neither he nor his brother, with whom he practised, were trustees of any will for a Mrs. Holland. Nor was he aware of any "Sir Robert" Burrell, despite knowing the family well. A talented engineer, Robert George Burrell, born in Thetford in 1849, had worked for his father's traction and steam engine manufacturing firm, and had died in 1904, shortly before the court case, aged 55. Far from being Robert's son, Houchin said he believed the prisoner was a labourer from Thetford.

Detective-sergeant Cole deposed that he had retrieved the prisoner from the police at Cape Town and had brought him back to England. He had searched the records at Somerset House and could find no trace of Mrs. Holland's death or her will.

Bensley returned to court on the 3rd of October. The first witness was Mr. Lendon, the Budge Row solicitor. Lendon had been abroad when the case began and had travelled 500 miles in order to attend the inquiry. Now in the witness box, he stated that he had first seen the prisoner only ten minutes earlier and he was not the trustee of any Mrs. Holland or of Errieswell Court.

James Bennett Hale, a clerk with Messrs Honder Bros., shipping agents of 12 Pall Mall, deposed that the prisoner went to the office in April 1904 and booked two third-class passages to Sydney, Australia under the name Harry Barker, and gave an address in Paddington. He paid a £20 deposit, the two ten-pound notes being part of the sum obtained from Thomas Jordan. Bensley subsequently got a transfer from third to first class on board for himself, his wife and a child.

The evidence of the prosecution was completed, but Mr. Cohen asked for the prisoner to be remanded while the police made further inquiries. Bensley returned to court a week later to discover that a further charge was being laid against him... one of bigamy.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Harry Bensley - The Man in the Iron Mask (part 2)

Census returns for James Henry Bensley, 1841-1861.

To find out more about Harry, we have to begin with a married woman named Susannah Elmer. Susannah was born Susan Ringer in Snetterton, Norfolk, in 1839, the daughter of James and Mary Ringer, but had already adopted the name Susan Elmer when she married William Elmer, a groom, in 1857, suggesting that she may have already been living with him before the marriage, which was recorded under both names.

Susan and William had a daughter, Louisa (1859), but appear to have separated soon after. By 1871, Susan—now styling herself Susannah Elmer—was living  at Church Row, St. Mary, Thetford, Norfolk, and making her living as a hat maker. She had three more children, James (1865), Edgar (1867) and Ellen Mary (1870). She was still listed as married but was also listed as head of the household.

Ten years later, Susannah (still listed as married—William Elmer eventually died in Thetford in 1887, aged 54) and her family were living with Harry Bensley in Castle Street, Thetford. Harry, born in Stonham Aspall, Suffolk, on 20 May 1839, the son of James (1804-1840) and Jemima Bensley (1803-1842), was baptized James Henry Bensley at the local Anglican church on 23rd June. He was listed as Henry James Bensley in the 1841 census (it was common to reverse names shared between parents and children) and was living with his mother and three siblings: Robert (c.1832), Thompson (c.1835) and Mary Anne (b. 30 May 1836). Thompson also died in 1842, aged 8. Robert can be found in the 1851 census working locally as an agricultural labourer but I've found no later trace. Mary Ann (15) and Henry (12) are both to be found in the local Workhouse at Barham that year.

James Bensley, aged 22, is to be found in the 1861 census serving as an Ordinary Seaman in the Royal Navy. At the time, he was at sea serving on HMS James Watt.

 
 
Susannah Elmer, census records 1861-1881.

There seems to be no further trace of him until, as Harry, he is listed in the 1881 census as head of a household that includes Susannah Elmer. At that time he was working as a labourer at a saw mill and the pair had two young children, Harry Bentley (sic) Elmer (1876) and Alice Bensley Elmer (1878). Harry Bensley eventually married Susannah in Thetford in 1884. Whilst Louisa and James were living with their mother, 14-year-old Edgar had been consigned to the Union Workhouse as a pauper.

Edgar managed to survive and later worked as a labourer; he was living with his brother, James, in Magdelan Street, Thetford, by 1891. James married and moved to Brandon, Suffolk, where he had at least eleven children. Louisa, meanwhile, had a daughter, Lily Emma Elmer, in 1880. She married John Loynes in 1885 and had at least eight more children.

By 1891 Harry senior's family were living in St. Giles Lane, Thetford, the household now consisting only of Harry, Susan and children Harry and Alice. Harry senior was working as a labourer in a wood yard; his son, aged 14, was an agricultural labourer.

In November 1890, Harry junior had found himself in trouble when he was brought before Bury St Edmunds Assizes on a charge of arson at Thetford. The crime was stack-firing—in this case setting fire to a number of stacks of barley, oat and hay—and although he admitted the charge, he was acquitted with a warning.

The next sighting of Harry is in 1898 when he marries Ipswich-born Kate Green in Thetford. His mother, Susannah, died a year later, in 1899, aged 59, and Harry, his father, died in 1902. In his later days, Harry senior was living with his step son, Edgar, who, by 1901, was married (to Mary) and a father of two (Edith Harriet and Charles Edgar), living at 39 Magdalen Street, Thetford. Edgar and Mary subsequently had a third child (Stanley Clifford). They remained in Thetford, Norfolk, where Edgar died in 1934.

Harry senior's death was registered in Croydon in 1902.

34 Woodside Avenue, Croydon, was, by 1901, where Harry Bensley junior was living along with his wife Kate and daughters Alice Susannah (1899; who married Joseph Sage in 1920; died in London in 1926, aged 26) and Lily Edith (1900, who married Thomas R. O. Watson in 1921;  died in London in 1937, aged 36).

 
The next sign of Harry is a newspaper report of his arrest in The Times, which, on 20 September 1904, noted:
At Willesden, HARRY BENSLEY, 28, described as a labourer, with no fixed abode, was charged with obtaining various sums of money by false pretenses in 1903 and 1904. Bensley had been brought from Cape Town by the Kenilworth Castle by Detective-sergeant Cole, and Detective-inspector Pollard stated he was alleged to have obtained £7 10s. on April 24, 1903, and £58 10s. subsequently from John Sidney Bradley, living at Paddington, and £200 on April 10 last from Thomas Jordan, of Kensal-rise, on the representation that he was heir to a lot of property at Thetford, Norfolk. Mr. Grant remanded the prisoner.
The case came to court in Willesden on 26 September 1904.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Harry Bensley - The Man in the Iron Mask (part 1)

In the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Senator Ransom Stoddard returns to the town of Shinbone to attend the funeral of Tom Doniphon and later admits to a reporter that there is more to the story of how he became governor. In Shinbone, Stoddard is known as the man who shot to death the violent outlaw Liberty Valance; now he reveals the truth to the reporter. When Stoddard finishes his story, the reporter destroys his notes, saying "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

There's an element of "print the legend" about Harry Bensley. The first time I heard the story—at an exhibition of local history in Wivenhoe—it was that Bensley, "The Man in the Iron Mask", had, in the Edwardian era, attempted to walk round the world. The attempt nearly killed him and he was close to victory, having travelled the length of Britain, crossed America and walked through Japan, China, Russia, Turkey and Greece, when the Great War broke out. Bensley abandoned his odyssey in nothern Italy, returning to England to serve his country.

The broad details of the story were related by Bensley himself, as he sold postcards and a pamphlet on his travels. The pamphlet detailed the conditions he was to undertake if he was to succeed in his attempt, which involved visiting a huge array of towns in every corner of England and Wales before he set off for Scotland, Ireland and thence around the globe.

Here, then, is the legend.

Harry Bensley was a rich man. He had invested his money wisely in Russia and earnings from theses investments amounted to £5,000 a year. Bensley was a bit of a playboy, spending his time in the West End of London, gambling and womanising.

In 1907, he became embroiled in a bet between John Pierpont Morgan (who took over the running of the merchant banking firm Peacock Morgan & Co. set up by his father, which he later renamed J.P. Morgan & Co.) and Hugh Cecil Lowther, the 5th Earl of Lonsdale, well known as a sporting gentleman. Over dinner at the National Sporting Club in London, the two argued over whether it was possible to travel around the world without being identified. Lonsdale took the position that it could; Morgan disagreed and put up $100,000—£21,000 in sterling—and Bensley, hearing of the bet, decided to take up the challenge.

There was a huge list of conditions attached to the wager, chief amongst them that Bensley should never identify himself or allow himself to be identified; that his only means were £1 and a change of underwear at the start of his journey; and that he must find himself a wife.

His trip would see him pass through 160 towns and cities in 40 counties in England plus a further 12 cities in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. After that, Bensley would be expected to visit a further 118 cities in 19 different countries, including Canada, USA, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Japan, China, India, Egypt, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Germany and Holland.

A minder was appointed to accompany Bensley to make sure that he kept to the rules, which involved obtaining a signed document from the Mayor or some other responsible person and a postal stamp to certify he had been to the town or city.

To finance the journey, Bensley was allowed to sell postcards and pamphlets from a pram, which bore the legend "Walking Round the World". These striking portraits often included his minder and, in later group shots, his wife.

Bensley set out on New Years Day 1908 from Trafalgar Square, and travelled widely around the United Kingdom. On his travels, he met King Edward VII at Newmarket and sold him a photograph for £5. What happened next depends on who is relating the story: the King refused to sign Harry's autograph book... or, alternatively, Harry refused to give the King his autograph because he did not want to be identified.

Eventually, after travelling 30,000 miles around the world, he reached Genoa in August 1914 and the plug had to be pulled on the bet due to the outbreak of the Great War. In one version of the story, Bensley abandoned the wager when war broke out. Despite having almost completed the trip, his patriotism was too strong and he had to answer the call of duty, returning from Italy to sign up and serve with bravery through the war.

In another version of the story, related by John Ezard (The Guardian, 29 July 1998):
[J. P.] Morgan ratted on the bargain. The first world war had broken out. Morgan, founder of the US Steel Corporation, is thought to have become worried about the value of his assets. A disconsolate Bensley returned to Thetford by ship and is not known to have gone abroad again.
But this was not the end of the story. Angry because he had covered 30,000 miles and only had six countries and 7,000 miles to go, the banker agreed to pay him £4,000 compensation, which Bensley donated to charity.

This is the story in broad outlines. Unfortunately, if you begin to pick at the various threads, it begins to unravel. The end of the story, for instance just does not ring true. John Pierpoint Morgan was travelling abroad in his 75th year when, on 31 March 1913, he died in his sleep at the Grand Hotel in Rome. This is seventeen months before he is said to have contacted Harry to let him know the bet was being cancelled.

And if that part of the story isn't true, how much of the rest of it has been faked? Could the whole thing have been a hoax promulgated by Harry Bensley?

Here, then, is the story... and it's a far more interesting story than the legend.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Helen MacInnes cover gallery

Novels

Above Suspicion (1941)
Corgi Books T3, 1953, 281pp. Cover by Mates
Fontana Books 1537, 1965, 254pp.
---- [2nd imp.] 1967.
---- [4th imp.] 1970.
---- [17th imp.] Jun 1979, 254pp, 80p. Cover photo by Robert Golden
Titan Books 978-1781-16153-1, 2012, 345pp.

Assignment in Brittany (1942)
Corgi Books G79, 1954, 382pp, 3/6.
Fontana Books 1263, 1966, 317pp.
---- [2nd imp.] Jan 1967.
---- [3rd imp.] Feb 1968, 317pp, 5/-. Cover photo
---- [4th imp.] 1969, 318pp.
Fontana Books 0006-14997-9, 1977, 318pp.
Fontana Books 0006-16713-6, 1985.
Titan Books 978-1781-16151-7, 2012, 429pp.

While Still We Live (1944; UK as The Unconquerable, 1944)
Fontana Books 0006-17065-X, 1970, 511pp.
---- [16th imp.] Apr 1990, 619pp, £3.99. Cover photo
Titan Books 978-1781-16155-5, 2013, 681pp.

Horizon (1945)
Corgi Books T96, 1955, 192pp, 2/-. Cover by S. R. Boldero
Fontana Books 0006-11922-0, 1969, 191pp.
---- [7th imp.] Jun 1975, 191pp, 50p. Cover photo
Fontana Books 0006-15691-6, 1979, 191pp.
---- [13th imp.] 1990, 192pp.
Titan Books 978-1781-16327-6, 2013.

Friends and Lovers (1947)
Fontana Books 0006-16718-7, 1972, 336pp.
Titan Books 978-1781-16334-4, 2014.

Rest and Be Thankful (1949)
Fontana Books 0006-16379-3, 1973, 317pp.
Titan Books 978-1781-16157-9, 2013, 475pp.

Neither Five Nor Three (1951)
Fontana Books 0006-17121-4, 1969, 350pp.
---- [12th imp.] Apr 1985, 350pp, £1.95. Cover photo
Titan Books 978-1781-16156-2, 2013, 483pp.

I and My True Love (1953)
Fontana Books 0006-17120-6, 1968, 287pp.
---- [Xth imp.] 1971.
Titan Books 978-1781-16325-2, 2013, 379pp.

Pray for a Brave Heart (1955)
Fontana Books 176, 1957, 253pp.
Fontana Books 1398, Jul 1966, 253pp,, 5/-. Cover photo

---- [5th imp.] 1969, 253pp.
Fontana Books 0006-14426-8, 1980, 253pp.
Fontana Books 0006-17066-8, n.d., 252pp. 
Titan Books 978-1781-16152-4, 2012, 343pp.

North from Rome (1958)
Fontana Books, 1960.
Fontana Books 1145 [2nd imp.] Jul 1965.
Fontana Books 1728 [3rd imp.] May 1968, 253pp, 5/-.
Fontana Books 0006-12534-4 [15th imp.] Jun 1976, 287pp, 65p. Cover photo
Fontana Books 0006-15184-1, 287pp.
---- [20th imp.] 1990, 362pp.
Titan Books 978-1781-16326-9, 2012, 394pp.

Decision at Delphi (1960)
Corgi Books FN1292, 1963, 381pp.
Fontana Books 1532, 1967, 444pp.
---- [4th imp.] 1970, 444pp.
Fontana Books 0006-14427-6, 1977, 444pp
Titan Books 978-1781-16154-8, 2012.

The Venetian Affair (1963)
Fontana Books 1330, 1966, 348pp.
Fontana Books 1602 [2nd imp.], 1967, 348pp.
Fontana Books [4th imp.] 1968, 348pp.
Fontana Books 0006-12533-6, 1971, 348pp.
---- [11th imp.] Apr 1976, 348pp, 80p. Cover photo
Fontana Books 0006-15013-6 [16th imp.] Jun 1990, 382pp.
Diamond Books 0261-66511-1, 1994, 382pp. Cover photo
Titan Books 978-1781-16330-6, 2012, 483pp.

The Double Image (1966)
Fontana Books, 1968, 317pp.
Fontana Books, 1970.
Fontana Books 0006-14998-7, 1977, 317pp.
Titan Books 978-1781-16328-3, 2013.

The Salzburg Connection (1968)
Fontana Books 2499, 1971, 378pp, 7/- (35p). Cover photo
Fontana Books 3035 [2nd imp.] Sep 1972.
---- [3rd imp.] Feb 1973, 378pp, 40p. Cover still. Movie Tie-In.
Fontana Books 0006-13035-6 [4th imp.]; [5th imp.]; [6th imp.].
---- [7th imp.] Oct 1975, 378pp, 75p. [Cover still as above]
Fontana Books 0006-17268-7 [14th imp.] Aug 1990.
Diamond Books 0261-66441-7, 1994, 378pp. Cover photo
Titan Books 978-1781-16329-0, 2012.

Message from Málaga (1971)
Fontana Books 0006-15298-8, 1973, 352pp.
---- [4th imp.] 1978, 352pp.
---- [6th imp.] Jan 1982, 352pp, £1.50. Cover photo by Robert Golden
Titan Books 978-1781-16333-7, 2012.

The Snare of the Hunter (1974)
Fontana Books 0006-14414-4, 1976, 252pp.
---- [6th imp.] Jun 1979, 252pp, 85p. Cover photo
---- [13th imp.] 1990, 252pp.
Titan Books 978-1781-16332-0, 2013.

Agent in Place (1976)
Fontana Books 0006-17265-2, 1977, 320pp.
---- [10th imp.] May 1987
---- [11th imp.] Jun 1990, 346pp, £3.50. Cover photo
Titan Books 978-1781-16335-1, 2013, 421pp.

Prelude to Terror (1978)
Fonatana Books 0006-15935-4, 1979, 320pp.
---- [9th imp.] Feb 1990.
Diamond Books 0261-66438-7, 1994, 399pp. Cover photo
Titan Books 978-1781-16336-8, 2013, 432pp.

The Hidden Target (1980)
Fontana Books 0006-16329-7, 1982, 352pp.
Titan Books 978-1781-16339-9, 2013, 483pp.

Cloak of Darkness (1982)
Fontana Books 0006-16796-9, 1983, 315pp.
Titan Books 978-1781-16337-5, 2013.

Ride a Pale Horse (1984)
Fontana Books 0006-17119-2, 1986, 320pp, £2.75.
Titan Books 978-1781-16338-2, 2013, 429pp.

OTHERS

Sexual Life in Ancient Rome by Otto Kiefer, translated by Helen MacInnes Highet and Gilbert Highet (1934)
Panther Books 02715-7, 1969, 399pp.
Constable 0094-74480-7, 1995, 380pp.

Friedrich Engels: A Biography by Gustav Mayer, translated by Helen MacInnes Highet and Gilbert Highet (1936)
(no UK paperback)

PLAYS

Home Is the Hunter: A Comedy in Two Acts (1964)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

D. L. G. Stainton / Guy Leslie / John Southcombe

John Southcombe is an author from my file of "mysteries that have me mystified". He contributed a handful of stories to annuals published by Boardman in the 1950s but is otherwise absent from any publication that has been indexed. The logical explanation is that he is not a real person... but if that's the case, who was behind the pen-name?

I wonder if Southcombe was another pen-name for D. L. G. Stainton, who was a contemporary also writing for many of the same annuals. Notably, Stainton used the pen-name Guy Leslie to pen half of the text stories in the later Boardman annual, which also contained multiple stories by Southcombe.

Donald Leslie Guy Stainton served in the Royal Army Service Corps.—the transport corps—during the Second World War. A cadet in 1942, he rose to the rank of 2nd Lt. on 16 May 1942. He was later listed as a Lieutenant (Hon Capt.) in 1950.

Born in York in 1919, the son of Lesley Arnold Stainton (1892-1974) and his wife Gladys May (nee Creaser, 1895?-1964). He had a younger sister, Gladys V. Stainton, born 1924. The family lived in Muswell Hill, London, in the 1920s and 1930s.

Stainton was married to Marion Rose Partridge (b. 10 March 1921) in Fulham, London, in 1940. They were living at 72 Niton Street, Fulham SW6 in the 1950s/60s. He later moved to Bexhill-on-Sea, E. Sussex, where his wife died in 2002.

PUBLICATIONS

Short Stories as D. L. G. Stainton
The Case of the Disappearing Gangsters (Okay Adventure Annual, 1956)
The Unwilling Hero (Okay Adventure Annual, 1956)
The Atomic Aeroplane (Okay Adventure Annual, 1956)
The Secret of Grey Range (Treasure Story Book for Girls, 1956?)
Menace on Wheels (Speed Stories for Boys, 1957)
(title unknown) (Garland Story Book for Girls, 1957)
The Guardian of the Devil's Cave (Giant Story Book for Boys, 1957)
The Sea Witch (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1958)
The Kidnapped Millionaire (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1958)
The Air Pirates (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1958)
Intrigue at Cannes (The New Parade for Girls, 1959)
Myra Makes the Grade (The New Parade for Girls, 1959)
The Vanishing Gangsters (The Big Parade for Boys, 1959)
The Forbidden Island (The Big Parade for Boys, 1959)

Short Stories as Guy Leslie
Heroes of the Sea (The Horizon Book for Boys, 1957?)
What an Exhibition (The New Parade for Girls, 1959)
A Friend in Darkness (The New Parade for Girls, 1959)
Mystery on the Marshes (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1959)
Jet Age Safari (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1959)
The Submarine Hunters (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1959)
Jungle Adventure (The New Target Book for Boys, 1960)
Highland Christmas (The New Target Book for Girls, 1960)

??Short Stories by John Southcombe (ascription uncertain)
Pirate Island (Ajax Adventure Annual, 1952)
Jungle Flight (The Adventure Annual, 1953)
In Search of the Abominable Snowman (Okay Adventure Annual, 1955)
The Raiders of Busangar (Okay Adventure Annual, 1956)
The Pride of the Tremars (Okay Adventure Annual, 1956)
Mutiny on the "Merrydown" (Okay Adventure Annual, 1957)
Orders to Wellington (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1958)
The Glittering Hod of Nigai (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1958)
Red Rock Revenge (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1958)
Desert Danger (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1959)
The King's Casket (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1959)
The Circles West Feud (Okay Annual of Adventure Stories, 1959)

Comics
Night Raider (Commando 35, Sep 1962, art by Matias Alonso)
Duel in the Sky (Commando 47, Dec 1962, art by Ferran Sostres)
Rogue Bomber (Commando 88, Oct 1963, art by Ferran Sostres)
Desert Ace (Commando 96, Dec 1963, art by Medrano)
Killer with Wings (Commando 103, Feb 1964, art by Peter Ford)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Comic Cuts - 29 August 2014

(* For unknown reasons, my internet connection has been playing up for a couple of days. Uploads and downloads are painfully slow when it's working and the connection has a habit of dropping out while I'm trying to save. So... this may be a bit short and under-illustrated. I'll do my best but if that's the case you'll know why.)

I'm making progress on our next book and should be heading into the approvals phase shortly. With the Bank Holiday upon us last weekend I kicked back and did a couple of bits and bobs that needed to be done, including a little bit of backing-up on my computer and looking at the lawn and deciding whether or not it needs cutting. Unwilling to rush such a major decision (especially on a weekend), I managed to keep the negotiations going until the rain came and made it a moot point.

The rain arrived on Monday and didn't cease for 25 hours and the lawnmower hasn't emerged from the shed. We risked dissolving by heading off to a local exhibition on the history of our new (four years one month) home town put together by the Wivenhoe History Group. I'm interested in authors and artists so I was hoping that there might be something on that subject. I couldn't find anything specific but there were an awful lot of scrapbooks that I never had a chance to look into. We did have a chat with the chap who was running the exhibition and I told him of the surprise I had whilst researching a piece on Dave Wallis, author of Only Lovers Left Alive, who (it turned out) used to live just down the road from where I'm writing this.

Other local authors include children's author Leila Berg, Elizabeth Jeffrey, author of historical novels, Belinda Starling, who wrote The Journal of Dora Damage before dying tragically young, regency novelist Fenella J. Miller and SF author Keith Brooke. I gather Nicholas Joll, author of Philosophy and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is also local; children's author Neil Jones (who also works on the Evening Gazette newspaper) may also be a Wivenhoevian. (I think I just made up that last word.)

There were hundreds of photographs of local people and local places. The notable locals looked severe and unyielding in portraits, while the shipbuilders and cargo loaders who worked at the local docks were smiling and dirty. There were a lot of beards, some ridiculously bushy, and boats. This was a shipbuilding area up until around 1961 and that industry dominated the photos. Captain Carter was given plenty of space. He was the Captain of the Royal Yacht Britannia on her maiden voyage in 1893. There's a blue plaque dedicated to Carter on a house just around the corner.

There were a couple of other things that I found very interesting and which I'm planning to find out a little more about: The Wivenhoe Flyer, built in 1909, the Volta pocket submarine, built during WW2 and The Man in the Iron Mask, who, for a bet, tried to walk around parts of the world without showing his face. How could anyone resist digging down into that little story.

As I've been writing about dystopian fiction, I've gathered together a few cover images that I'll run over the next few weeks. First up, Fred Pohl and C M Kornbluth's satire Gladiator-at-Law. Set in a future where corporations produce massive, violent celebratory arena games, it was first published by Ballantine Books in 1955, with a cover by Richard Power. The same cover was used on the 1958 Digit Books edition. The two Pan Books editions date from 1966 and 1974.

I have some bits lined up for the weekend... a look at one of the writers for Boardman's Okay annuals and hopefully a Helen MacInnes cover gallery, but it all depends on whether the internet can sort itself out. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

P.S. The tomato count is 108 from our two plants, including 83 from the cherry tomato plant. We're both turning slightly red.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Commando issues 4735-4738

Commando issues on sale 28th August 2014

Commando No 4735 – Deadly Enigma
Driving along a country road in neutral Switzerland, the Convict Commandos seemed to be enjoying a well-earned rest after a score of near-fatal missions. But appearances can be deceptive and, as the ever-fearful Jelly Jakes pointed out, their boss, Major Guy Tenby always had an unpleasant surprise up his sleeve.
   And so it proved. The Major’s latest escapade would plunge them into mortal danger once more as they tried to unravel a… DEADLY ENIGMA

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet

Commando No 4736 – Sea Wolf
Now they’re here; now they’re not!
   Now you see ‘em; now you don’t!
   They were the one thing the German Navy feared more than any other.
   They were commanded by men as daring as Sir Francis Drake, as crafty as Robin Hood.
   They were quite something, these MGBs.

Introduction
Here we have a story that pits a man from a privileged background — and, let’s face it, a huge snob — against his family’s former chauffeur. That might make an interesting tale in itself, but Gordon Brunt wasn’t satisfied with that, writing in a second strand concerning impetuousness versus considered actions. It’s no doubt a tension that exists in all military actions but it works particularly well here.
   Lurking behind Ken Barr’s cover — which with a head shot dominating should be static but isn’t thanks to that MGB in the background — is some very fine black-and-white work from Sostres who manages action and humour with the same ease.
   Give it a try, it won’t bite.—Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Story: Gordon Brunt
Art: Sostres
Cover: Ken Barr
Originally Commando No 106 (February 1964), re-issued as No 623 (February 1972)

Commando No 4737 – Desert Hunters
The desert is a harsh place. It’s hard to survive in even when conditions are at their mildest. Fighting a war there seems utter lunacy — after all, there’s nothing of any value there. But all war is madness and can bring madness to those involved.
   So British Army Lieutenant Ray Sherrington wasn’t surprised to find the man he was up against was ruthless to the point of insanity.
   Captain Silvio Scappa was as mad as a cornered scorpion, and with a poisonous sting in his tail.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Janek Matysiak
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4738 – Marooned!
No sailor likes the idea of being marooned…left high and dry on a remote spot of land. And when that island was held by a band of Japanese led by a fanatical officer who refused to believe the war was over, Lieutenant Commander Gib Davis and his crew had big trouble.
   And that was without taking into account the awesome secret weapon the enemy were determined to let loose…

Introduction
It’s always a pleasure to re-visit the earlier work of our long-standing contributors and this fortnight it’s the turn of time-honoured, and very talented, artist Carlos Pino.
   Many a wet and windy so-called Summer’s day at Commando HQ has been enlivened by a cheery e-mail from sunny Spain…Carlos letting us know that a bundle of his precious pages are on the way — and that the temperature is usually around 30 degrees Celsius! Not that we’re jealous.
   We’re so lucky that this fantastic illustrator is still drawing new Commandos for us — but for now enjoy this welcome blast from the past.—Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: Markham
Art: Carlos Pino
Cover: Jeff Bevan
Originally Commando No 2302 (August 1989), re-issued as No 3851 (October 2005)






Logan's Run Annual (part 4)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(* Logan's Run © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.)