CHB’s WORLD OF PULP - Paperbacks - Magazines - Movies - Comics



  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent

    I know, like me, you’re a Stephen King fan, but Guy’s books are nothing like those. They get straight to the plot have little time for characterisation, usually the hero is a scientist or professor type who pulls a girl much younger than himself along the way. A lot of graphic violence intermixed with some frantic sex and that’s about it. But it’s not as simple as that, the books are well written, within the boundaries of pulp fiction, and it takes a professional author to keep things interesting and making you want to turn the page. Guy was a master of that sort of fiction and there is no one who can take his crown as the King of British pulp horror.

    If anyone is thinking of trying one, then obviously Night Of The Crabs is his most famous book, but personally I would try and find a copy of Thirst, it’s probably his most expansive novel and closer to an early James Herbert style novel than his usual output.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 27,007Chief of Staff

    I did read Night of the Crabs a long time ago…it was enjoyable enough 😀

    YNWA 97
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent

    I’m glad you liked that @Sir Miles I know your tastes are more in the Fleming/Deighton/le Carre mould, who are certainly not pulp authors, even though some snooty critics place Fleming in that category.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 27,007Chief of Staff

    Oh I can read all sorts of rubbish too 🤔 I treat them as a ‘palate cleanser’ 🤣

    I don’t tend to read ‘horror’ though…it’s not a genre that overly appeals…

    YNWA 97
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent
    edited November 2023

    Power Comics - Part One.

    Power Comics was a range of 5 titles published by Odham’s which was a rival to the D C Thomson and Fleetway groups. These comics were Wham!, Smash!, Pow!, Fantastic and Terrific. They didn’t begin as Power Comics, that was an advertising gimmick that started later, so let’s go back to the beginning and trace the history of this seminal range of comics that ended in a disastrous fall.

    Alf Wallace had been recruited from Fleetway who had had great success with their war library titles. In 1964 he managed to employ D C Thomson’s legendary artist Leo Baxendale for a salary of £8k per year (£135k in today’s money), a very sizeable amount. Baxendale was the artist on The Beano’s Bash Street Kids, Minnie The Minx and Little Plum. Baxendale was given full reign to produce a rival comic and Wham! was launched on 20 June 1964, complete with free gift, which was a staple ingredient in British comics upon launch - usually a free gift was supplied for the first 3 issues to get a readership flowing - more about free gifts in another article.

    Baxendale used his new found power to create a more adult orientated comic with the use of unusual plots, surreal humour and appalling puns. The comic grew in readership and was so successful that another title was added on 5 February 1966 - Smash! (my personal favourite comic of all time). Copying it’s sister title it ran a whole range of stories including Leo Baxendale’s The Man From B.U.N.G.L.E., Bad Penny and Grimly Fiendish. The Man From B.U.N.G.L.E. would become the cover story where the spy is out into an impossible situation to escape a nefarious plot to kill him and readers had to determine how he would escape from the artwork provided. It was extremely popular. Bad Penny mimicked The Beano’s Minnie The Minx. Ken Reid, of Jonah fame in The Beano, came on board and his strip Queen Of The Seas which was a pastiche of Laurel & Hardy, drawn with consummate skill it unfortunately was too old for its target audience and was unfortunately dropped. Adventure strips included The Legend Testers (my favourite British adventure strip of all time), The Ghost Patrol and Brian Lewis’s Moon Madness.

    Behind the scenes the editors were finalising a deal with Marvel Comics to reprint their popular superhero titles. Imported DC comics were readily available in British newsagents but Marvel had no such distribution deal, only a few “ballast” issues that entered the country and were undamaged. They had had a deal with Alan Class (see an earlier article) but Wallace outbid him and a new deal was struck. When the present licensing deal with Alan Class ended, Odham’s were allowed to print from Marvel’s titles. On 21 May 1966 in issue #16 of Smash! Jack Kirby’s Incredible Hulk began. Because of the larger page format of Smash!, panels were rearranged to fit. A whole 6 pages were dedicated to the strip, a quarter of the entire comic, pushing out 5 regular strips from previous issues. Suddenly it seemed as if a volcano had erupted. Sales went through the roof. When there was a problem one week with receiving the reprint material the editors hastily drew an original story featuring The Hulk which did not go down very well with Stan Lee. Smash!#38 remains a landmark issue. Harsh words were exchanged and promises made to never do this again. On 6 August that year the Fantastic Four debuted in the pages of Wham! to similar success. When they finally had reprinted the final issue of The Hulk they moved onto The Avengers with equal success.

    The superhero craze in Britain had caught on with the broadcasting of the Batman TV series and with issue #20 Batman was launched onto the front cover of Smash! Not the DC stories as a deal couldn’t be reached, but with the syndicated newspaper strip which was in scores of American newspapers. Again, this helped Smash! to become a huge success. Batman would hold the front cover for 94 issues until the TV series was less popular when it was moved to inside pages.

    On 3 December the Power Comics logo was first used in issue #44 and the legend of these titles was born (see top left of cover).

    With these two titles such a roaring success the editors were pressurised into launching a third title, so on 21 January 1967 Pow! became the third comic incorporating Marvel strips alongside more traditional British strips. Henceforth Spider-Man and Nick Fury entered the fray along with Ken Reid’s Dare-A-Day-Davy amongst others. Also the first issue included a free gift Spider-matic gun.

    The powers that be at Odham’s were ecstatic at the sales and just a scant 3 weeks after Pow!’s launch they published Fantastic. Now this was entirely different from the three present titles as this was reprinting mainly just Marvel titles, namely Thor, Iron Man and The X-Men. It resembled the Marvel UK weeklies that would appear in the next decade. A British superhero strip was also there called Missing Link, once again, Odham’s provoked the ire of their master’s, Marvel, as The Missing Link was clearly based on The Hulk’s appearance but with the huge licensing fees being paid to Marvel it helped smooth things over and Missing Link evolved into Johnny Future, superhero.

    Pow! and Fantastic continued the high sales trend, so the Odham’s bigwigs thought that more of the same would be a good thing.

    To be continued…

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,890Chief of Staff

    Thanks, CHB, these comics were very much my thing when I was just a lad and it's good to find out the background.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent

    thanks for more info on these British comic books CoolHand

    do you have any examples of these fakeHulk stories? thosed be cool to see

    this attempt to continue an American series that had already ended reminds me of MarvelMan, which I do know a little about. American publisher Fawcett's 1940s character Captain Marvel (no relation to Marvel comics) was the most popular superhero of the era, and was reprinted in the UK. When Fawcett went out of business in the mid50s, the British publishers just replaced the Captain Marvel reprints with an almost identical character called MarvelMan, who lasted another decade. MarvelMan was written and drawn by UK cartoonist Mick Anglo. The reason I know about MarvelMan is the character was revived by Alan Moore in the late 1970s, in an extreme postmodern deconstructed form, then when that series was reprinted in the US it was renamed MiracleMan

    I imagine in the early60s Power Comics mightve thought they couldve done the same thing with a character Marvel had stopped publishing. At that point Marvel were themselves very close to going out of business, not the juggernaut that dominates all entertainment we know today, and that s one reason the original American Hulk comic was cancelled after only 6 issues. But Marvel owner Martin Goodman was legally savvy, especially with trademarks, and would have been quick to put a stop to such things. I'd think it was Goodman whod threatened Power Comics, not Stan Lee, who was an employee at the time.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,890Chief of Staff

    I hope CHB doesn't mind, and I'm sure he could do a much better job, but here's a brief look at the fake Hulk character -

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent

    @caractacus potts and @Barbel thank you both for your contributions, it’s great to have responses to these articles, the more the merrier.

    This is the cover to Smash! #38 which had the “rogue’ Hulk story…

    …and the first three pages…

    I used to own the entire set of Smash! comics - including free gifts - I sold it to a very dedicated collector before I moved over here - it’s another thing that I now wish I hadn’t done!

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent

    Power Comics - Part Two

    With Fantastic continuing the huge success of the Power Comic range, a fifth was added on 8 April 1967 called Terrific. The contents were dominated by Marvel reprints of The Avengers, Sub-Mariner and Doctor Strange.

    So, things were going really well, but a perfect storm was brewing and the Power Comic house was going to collapse in spectacular fashion.

    Three separate storms were converging into each other simultaneously and as each one met, the stronger the storm raged.

    Storm 1. The emergence of ITV into homes up and down the UK marked the end of the BBC dominance, instead of dull children’s programmes based on classic novels producers like Gerry Anderson were showcasing series such as Stingray and Thunderbirds. Television rental shops were springing up everywhere and suddenly everyone was able to afford to have a television sat in their front room. Instead of reading about these adventures, kids were able to see them, and sales of comics declined during the 60’s.

    Storm 2. There was a financial crisis in 1967 (history does repeat itself), and Harold Wilson’s Labour government disastrously decided that the answer to the problem was to devalue the British pound in November, sending the USD exchange rate tumbling from 2.80 to 2.40 to the pound. There followed a crisis for the USD in March 1968 which had a tumbling effect on the Franc and the Mark, which were also devalued.

    Storm 3. Odhams deal with Marvel did not exclude them from entering the UK market themselves. Whereas DC had always had a big exposure in newsagents Marvel did not have such a deal in the UK. Marvel’s Martin Goodman made a deal that freed them from a restrictive distribution agreement and soon Marvel quadrupled their monthly output and thousands of comics were heading into the UK’s newsagents, all in four-colour, whereas the Power Comics were in black and white.

    Odhams licensing fees had to be paid in dollars. The repeated falls in the value of the pound against the dollar made the payments significantly difficult to maintain. Increasing the cover price was already a no-no situation, Fantastic and Terrific were already at 9d per issue, three times the price of DC Thomson’s perennial favourites Beano and Dandy which were 3d each. Launching so many titles backfired on the directors and with families pulling in the purse strings children could not afford to buy the entire range. With the other three priced at 7d each to buy all five would cost a mighty 39d or 3s/3d per week.

    Something had to give and sales declined to the point where the dreaded phrase “Great News For All Readers” would emblazon on the covers or inner pages. British comic collectors were used to this phrase in their comics - publishers had a bottom line of profit and if it came close to that line then a merger would happen where two comics would become one - with the most popular strips of the merging comic being transported into the parent comic where their least popular strips would make way for them. It was a pretty good business plan to be fair, with buyers of the cancelled comic then buying the new comic to continue reading their favourite strips.

    Odhams were publishing other titles as well during his period, including Buster, Valiant and Lion, all traditional boys adventure/comedy comics. The directors found that they were competing against themselves in many circumstances and the decision was made to start merging the Power Comic range.

    The first merger was Wham! which was absorbed into the higher selling Pow! after 187 issues…

    And just 3 weeks later the newest of them all, Terrific, merged into Fantastic after only 43 issues…

    Then on 7 September 1968 Pow! merged into the biggest selling comic Smash! and a few scant weeks later Fantastic also merged into Smash! which heralded the long famous masthead Smash! with Pow! incorporating Fantastic.

    Odham’s tried unsuccessfully to terminate their licensing agreement with Marvel as it was unaffordable, even with reducing the 5 comic range back down to 1. Using some British company legalities they transferred ownership within the group to another subsidiary and Marvel reprints were no longer within the pages of Smash!

    Smash! continued in its own right up to April 1971 where it was then absorbed into sister title Valiant after a good run of 257 issues - but it was never the same after the Marvel reprints ended.

    There were Summer Specials and Annuals under these titles, as well, but I’m not going to cover these here - I have plans for articles on these at a later date.

    In conclusion, it was the entry point for many British kids into the Marvel universe and the legacy of these five brilliant titles remains to the present day with high prices realised for issues on the second-hand market and auction sites. As I wrote earlier, Smash! is my favourite comic and happy memories abound when recalling them - which is what nostalgia is all about.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,890Chief of Staff

    Thanks for stirring those memories up, CHB. Yes, that was a weird title - "Smash and Pow incorporating Fantastic". If they could have figured out a way to include the other two as t I'm sure they would have.

    Also thanks for explaining how that whole range came to an end. Very interesting for those small boys who faithfully bought their copy or copies every week.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent

    Born in 1922 James Moffat was a Canadian pulp writer who had hundreds of westerns and crime stories published in pulp magazines during the 50’s and 60’s. Moving to England in the mid-60’s he was hacking out many cheap paperbacks under many pen names. In 1970 NEL (New English Library) came calling and he published the horror paperback Satan’s Slaves under the name James Taylor. This was clearly based on the Charles Manson murders.

    When NEL began looking for an author to write a book about the skinhead revolution that was sweeping the country at that time, a fifty year old was probably not what they were looking for, but he knocked off a novel in under a week and passed it to the editors. It was duly published under the title Skinhead and name of Richard Allen.

    The story is about 16-year old skinhead thug Joe Hawkins who works as a coal deliveryman who hates his parents and leads a small gang of similar youths on a rampage of violence against society. Sex is plentiful whether it be a knee trembler with the older barmaid at the pub or a 14-year old schoolgirl who is his girlfriend of sorts, or during battles with hippies where rape is on the menu. The book was a sensation. It passed the million copy mark very quickly and was on its 10th printing within 2 years. Suddenly, NEL had found an untapped source of income and Moffat/Allen churned out book after book about society’s misfits including sequels to Skinhead - Suedehead, Skinhead Escapes and Trouble For Skinhead. Other books he wrote were about the blossoming football gangs (Terrace Terrors, Boot Boys), girl gangs (Skinhead Girls, Sorts) amongst others. As with all things the formula was becoming stale and in 1974 Moffat wrote Skinhead Farewell which saw Hawkins die at the end in a plane crash.

    Moffat then turned his hand to the music industry with Glam, Teeny Bopper Idol and Punk Rock. His work with NEL ended with him going back to youth culture with Mod Rule, inspired by the movie Quadrophenia, this featured the son of Joe Hawkins, the result of one of his frequent rape victims from an earlier novel. Moffat was pushing 60 by this time and heavy drinking and smoking had taken its toll on his health and his writing had diminished in its power and it lacked pace. The book did not make it to a second printing and publishing being a case of “you’re only as good as your last book sales” it was the end for Moffat and NEL. Moffat had a renaissance in the early 1990’s where his books were reprinted in omnibus form and he was offered a new deal to continue the Joe Hawkins saga with Hawkins having survived the plane crash. But it was not to be as Moffat finally succumbed to his health problems and passed away in 1993.

    Moffat used the books to spin his own rhetoric which was right-wing populism. He railed against trade unions, welfare spongers and the liberal left. The books are misogynistic, women often are seen as enjoying being raped. Unashamed racism litters the narrative with repugnant viewpoints of the anti-hero Joe Hawkins and assorted companions. Moffat often denied having any sympathy for his characters but it is difficult to see past his denials - it’s a bit like Johnny Speight’s Till Death Us Do Part comedy series where racist antagonist Alf Garnett was deemed to be the one people were laughing against when we all knew that it was for those who agreed with his views. For all the bad things about his writing, his sensational descriptions of sex and violence were pure pulp excellence. The themes of defiance of authority struck a chord with youngsters of the day, it was wishful thinking for most readers that they could escape the boredom of their own lives and have the thrill of freedom to do anything they wanted.

    During the 70’s Moffat/Allen sold several millions of books - indeed I sold many thousands myself over the years - I remember Woolworth’s bulk selling remaindered copies by the hundreds and I spent a few days going to all their branches in the London/Outer London area buying up every single copy I could - the checkout girls sometimes were amazed at me purchasing sometimes over a hundred books in one go - I got a date with one of them as well!

    I cannot recommended the content of these books, but I can recommend the pulp writing, and if anyone wants to try one then Skinhead is the one to read, available on Kindle or if you have deep pockets then be prepared to pay a lot.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,890Chief of Staff

    Once again I remember these filling the shelves. They didn't interest me at all, and I never read any, but it's good to hear the background story.

    If I recall correctly, they had their imitators or copycats too although I can't remember the titles.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent

    Yes, other publishers raced to get their own versions out, off the top of my head there was Agro from Mayflower and Soccer Thug from Sphere amongst many others. NEL published many others too with other authors, including Hell’s Angels books etc.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent

    American Pulp Men’s Adventure Magazines - Part One:

    The postwar era began a new age in pulp magazines - men’s adventure magazines. The returning soldiers and blue collar workers were turning their attention to the lurid stories and accompanying sensational artwork for their entertainment. Discriminatory descriptions of foreigners and scantily dressed damsels in distress, saved by heroic white men, were the order of the day. Many stories were earmarked as “true”, I’m sure many readers believed that was so. Subjects were varied but popular themes were revenge, prison breakouts, men against nature and most popular of all, torture stories perpetrated by Nazi’s, Japanese and communists. The Nazi torture covers are the most highly prized issues sought after today, most issues fetch at least £100 each and sometimes a lot more. Seeing these were sold on newsstands in full public view it seems incredible in this day and age that it could have actually happened. What is undeniable is that the artwork was extraordinarily good. As long as sales were big then the publishers turned a blind eye to the content. Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management company was the leader in exploitation titles and as pre-Godfather author Mario Puzo (who earned an excellent living selling pulp stories) was quoted as saying - “Vietnam is not on the cards but WW2 was fun, totally exploitable”. And these sensational stories were interspersed with articles about “true-life” sexy co-ed’s, unfaithful wives, forbidden sex, and the like.

    Men against nature was a popular trope and the enemy ranged from gorilla’s, baboons, sharks, giant lizards and in fact virtually every dangerous species you could imagine. Creatures would appear from nowhere, unleashing devastating violence in mass attacks.

    American exotica was another popular trope. Jungle adventures with pre-Indiana Jones heroes rescuing scantily clad women from savages, perpetrated the superiority of the white man to an ever increasing circulation. Dozens of magazines selling between 100,000-500,000 copies per title were flooding the streets and readers couldn’t get enough of the buzzing mosquitoes, buxom maidens and the slaughter of cannibals.

    In part two we continue with more tropes, beginning with WW2.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent

    It was during the Korean War (1950-1953) that men's adventure magazines found a mass market for WW2 stories. The Korean War was rarely featured but WW2, where memories were a few years in the past, were game for exploitation and good and evil from that time was more easily understood. Editors in search of new material ordered their writers and artists to come up with more and more lurid tales as each issue had to surpass the previous one in terms of salacious content.

    Depending on your point of view, the men's adventure genre either fell into the gutter or hit the pinnacle of pulp success in the early '60s when over a dozen magazines started offering covers showing sexy women being bound and tortured. Sexual perversions are suggested in these magazines with headlines like "Slaves of the Emperor of Agony” and "Savage Rites of the Whip", but the stories themselves mainly lack any detail. But the violence is boundless, both in text and illustration with women being tortured in ever increasing sordid ways. Maybe not so oddly, the women being tortured were always sexy, with facial expressions that belied their predicament. Editors decided to not make the tortures seem too real, to avoid removal of the magazines from newsstands, but even so they are shocking illustrations, not in the skill of the artists, but in the content. The ones illustrated below are some of the milder covers…

    But a new war was being fought. Men’s adventure magazines increased their circulation during the height of those scary days known as the Cold War. The Cold War started after the powers divided postwar spoils and Russia hid behind the Iron Curtain, and the USA expanded its economic control with the support of dictator appointees in the Third World.

    It was a time of massive military buildup and state secrecy sponsored by the KGB and CIA, the Cold War was a time of Joseph McCarthy, atomic bomb tests, paranoia, state assassination and cover-up. WW3 was avoided but “proxy” wars like Vietnam and Afghanistan were fought instead.

    The Cuban issue was a hot topic. Castro replaced the Nazi’s and Japanese with his own variety of sadistic torture of white American women. Cover illustrations sometimes portrayed the missiles that readers had seen in newsreels during the crisis. If anything, the men’s adventure magazines made the apocalyptic reality seem a little less daunting.

    The Cold War produced James Bond, the secret agent whose mission was to detect an enemy far more obscure than the Nazis of decades past. The Cold War was fought by minds, not by war, and the public lapped up the superspies who protected us from the axis of evil.

    Sales of men’s adventure magazines started to decline drastically when, as Mario Puzo put it, the “non-fun” Vietnam War was seen every evening on television, complete with dull jungle footage and droning fatality counts. Editors tried a number of ways to regain interest. Biker gangs, hippy killers, and juvenile delinquents we’re all given a go in the late '60s and early '70s. But the population no longer felt the need to purchase an exaggerated portrayal of the morning headlines on their television sets so one by one the magazines fell by the wayside with the remaining handful turning into cheap porno mags.

    So that’s a brief history of an era of pulp magazines that influenced millions of readers. All these magazines are highly collectible nowadays, I could never have enough of these, they were literally snapped up instantly when they came into stock. It’s the old adage of sex sells, but sex and violence sells even better.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent

    Terry Harknett (1936-2019)

    The name Terry Harknett may not be that well known but it’s almost certain that everyone is unconsciously aware of him. He wrote about 200 books in the western and crime genres. Names that you may know are - George G Gilman, William Terry and Frank Chandler - he also had books published under a host of other names and even a few under his real name. His books are known for their violence and sardonic humour. Actual material on Terry’s life is sparse and although I never met him I did have email correspondence with him in his latter years where he lived in a nursing home in Lyme Regis, Dorset. So I have pieced together some of the things that he wrote to me.

    His first published books were in the crime genre and had good sales that meant he was commissioned for further work. He was then asked to do some movie tie-ins and he wrote A Town Called Bastard, Red Sun and Hannie Caulder for NEL using three different names. For a different publisher he wrote A Fistful Of Dollars.

    The editors at NEL were impressed with his work and asked him to create his own western hero - an initial two books were paid for at a sum of £150 each (£1700 in today’s money) plus 4.5% commission on sales. This anti-hero was called Edge and a legend in western series had begun. NEL asked him to come up with a pseudonym and he suggested G.G. Gilman (gee gee for horse and Gilman because he loved the Creature from the Universal monster series. The publisher settled on George G Gilman for the finished product. The first book in the series was The Loner and it followed Edge, who returns to his family Iowa farmstead after serving in the Civil War to find his younger brother has been killed and he sets out on revenge. This was real spaghetti western fare and the violence portrayed was far in excess than had been seen in western’s before. Gone was the white hatted hero who was fair and honest - here was a hardened man fresh from seeing unprecedented violence in a bloody war. Reaction was incredible and the two books flew off the shelves with immediate reprintings. Terry said he had written tongue firmly in cheek with as much blood and gore as he could describe and was amazed to be given a contract for a further four books providing it was more of the same but with the violence stepped up! So he wrote #3 Apache Death which was even more violent than the first two in the Edge and the publishers loved it, especially as sales were going into,orbit.

    Terry was a peaceful man and abhorred real life violence, but as a professional writer with a mortgage to pay he set aside those feelings and became the successful pulp writer who sold millions of books.

    NEL kept renewing his contract in blocks of four and then commissioned him to write another series in conjunction with Edge - this one was called Adam Steele and was another success for him even though sales were not as good as Edge they were still highly profitable and the series ran for 49 books compared to 61 for Edge and they even teamed up for 3 books titled Edge Meets Steele. He was writing four of each book per year and was renogiating his contract as time went on - NEL were never the best paying publishing company but by the early 1980’s he was getting £1000 per book (£3500 in today’s money) plus commission on sales. Also American publishing house Pinnacle came calling and they paid very much more than their UK counterparts, Terry was doing very nicely. Basic earnings plus sales commission from NEL were earning him the equivalent of over £1k per week in todays money and with USA earnings virtually tripling that he had at last found fame and fortune.

    As with all things, they go in cycles, and by the end of the 1980’s the western as a genre had all but died a death, both on the written page and on film and television. So with falling sales the Edge series ended with book #61. Terry wasn’t all that worried, he had managed to become financially secure and he had a good health insurance plan which was to serve him well as with failing health he ended his years in a nursing home.

    His books found a new audience online with Kindle, which is just as well as the lower print runs of the higher numbers fetch eye watering prices nowadays, and older fans and a new generation are enjoying the adventures of Edge.


    When he retired he wrote another six Edge books which were only published as e-books and sold really well.

    He said that he wrote them for something to do in retirement and for masses of Edge fans who were asking him for more books, and to wrap up the series in a better fashion than the final book, The Rifle.

    Our last email exchange before Terry passed away concerned my praise for him and the legions of loyal fans that had purchased many thousands of his books from my shop over the years and he replied to say that he was genuinely humbled that so many people appreciated his work and he was able to capture their imagination for countless hours.

    Terry Harknett passed away in 2019, a genuine good guy and pulp author extraordinaire.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,890Chief of Staff

    That was very interesting, CHB, especially for someone who while never having read any of these titles saw them on bookshop shelves constantly at the time.

    I hope you have more like this.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent


    Of all the Universal Monsters the one that must be considered the most “pulpish” is The Creature. And over three films The Creature became a legend in it’s own right.

    Universal Pictures had made themselves famous for the gallery of classic movie monsters they created in the 30s. Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster, The Wolf Man, The Mummy and all their various sons and daughters provided the studio with a rich reserve to draw from and kept the company in profits well into the late 40s.

    With the great 50s boom in sci-fi films it was only natural that Universal would seek to create a monster which would serve as a 50s equivalent those famous characters. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was the brainchild of producer William Alland, who said that he took the idea from an obscure South American legend about a missing link humanoid/fish creature.

    The Creature from the Black Lagoon is a superbly structured film which while obeying all the rules of the monster movie genre manages to create an air of quiet poetry, particularly in the orchestration and direction of the extensive underwater sequences.

    These scenes are even more effective when seen in the 3D process. Director Jack Arnold proved with this film and its sequel that he was a master of stereoscopes. Never simply using the system to provide startling effects, Arnold's control over the cameras enhance the visuals in a truly striking fashion. In particular two major underwater sequences show Arnold's ability to use the process to heighten the dramatic effect. The first is the justly famous "underwater ballet" performed by Julia Adams. At first the Creature simply observes her, fascinated by this beautiful intruder of his watery domain. Then, as he realises that she poses no threat, he swims towards her (and the audience) and mimics her movements. To see such a beautifully primal and grotesque creation moving with such grace laces the scene with a sub-textual eroticism quite uncommon in films of this genre. The 3D lends the scene a further air of dreamy sexuality. When the Creature finally moves close enough to touch Ms Adams' ankle it's almost like receiving an electric shock.

    Another scene, equally potent in its imagery — though this time of an horrific nature — is the sequence in which the Lagoon's intruders throw a powdered drug into the water in an effort to stun the seemingly all-powerful and intelligent monster. As the drug disperses and there is no sign of the Creature, Richard Carlson and Richard Denning don scuba gear and descend into the black depths. Suddenly the Creature is upon them and a battle follows. Frightening in its ferocity and enhanced by Arnold's rapid and dramatic editing, the sequence has a nightmarish quality. The scene ends with a vicious attack on Denning by the Creature which leaves the scientist dead. The final shot of his body, floating to the surface as the torn air line pumps oxygen into the water, remains one of the most potent images in all fantasy cinema.

    Completed on a budget of $250,000, the film made 3 million dollars on its first run. Universal had what they wanted, and rapidly the Creature became as much a fantasy film icon to the studio as Dracula and friends.

    With such success it was inevitable that Universal should demand a sequel. One year after the release of the first film they prepared the follow-up. Revenge of the Creature. Scripted by Martin Berkley and once again directed by Jack Arnold in 3D, the story begins with another expedition to the Black Lagoon. This time it is led by uncharismatic actor John Agar. At first it appears that the film is going to be little more than a copy of the first film, but Arnold realised that he had exploited the exotic Black Lagoon to its fullest in the earlier film. For Revenge, Arnold quickly dispenses with the setting, the Creature is captured and returned to Florida's Marineland for study.

    The scenes in which the Creature, drugged and helpless, is walked like a zombie around the pool, only to revive suddenly and make a break for freedom sets the tone of the film to come. Revenge of the Creature, by relocating the monster into an urban environment, and therefore by bringing him into closer contact with people other then scientists hints at the wholesale violence to come. For Revenge is by far the most violent of the three Creature features.

    The early scenes in Marineland, where the now fully awake monster is chained in a tank and kept under control with electric cattle prods, introduces an atmosphere of sadism missing from the original, and interestingly it is the humans who instigate the cruelty. Unfortunately it lacks the poetic visual nuances of the first film. Replacing Julia Adams is busty Universal starlet Lori Nelson. As with her predecessor the Creature takes an instant shine to her and in an extraordinary scene breaks into a restaurant where Nelson and Agar are dining and carries her off. When she is found some time later her state of dishevelment seems to indicate that she has been violated by the Creature, and it is the visual implication which further adds to the sense of greater physical violence.

    For this film Ricou Browning took over the role totally (he only did the underwater scenes in Lagoon) and subtle changes were made to the costume. The eyes now bulged more and the lips were made fuller and more fish like. Though the film was shot in 3D it received only a limited release in this format. The year was 1955 and the public were tiring of the craze. In many ways Revenge of the Creature is the perfect sequel. It captures much of the excitement of the original without being a simple copy. A definite attempt is made to make the Creature more sympathefic and for the most part is successful. The scenes of violence are heightened — in one outlandish scene the monster picks up a man and wraps him around a tree! Equally, scenes showing the Creature overturning cars, crashing into restaurants and being exhibited to a gawping public add to the surrealist imagery and content of the film.

    Revenge of the Creature proved almost as successful as the original (and provided an early role for Clint Eastwood) and Universal, true to tradition, felt that they could get another feature using the monster as star. Once more Jack Arnold was approached to helm the project, but he turned it down feeling, rightfully, that he had extracted as much cinematic mileage as possible from the Gill Man. The job of direction was given to John Sherwood who had little of Jack Arnold’s skills as a director. The Creature Walks Among Us lacks many of the high points of the first two and is little more than a programmer. However, scripter Arthur Ross realised that to simply pen another Gill Man story would severely strain the imagination (after all the Creature would seem to have been thoroughly killed off in the previous films) and would turn the story into nothing more than a standard monster on the loose opus, something the cinemas were already full of. Instead Ross devised a story which would humanise the Creature. The monster is found hiding in the Florida Everglades and while a capture is being attempted he is severely burned. Apparently dead, he is taken to a laboratory where it is discovered that he still breathes, and is just unconscious due to shock. An X-ray reveals that the monster is in fact equipped with almost human lungs. A quick snip by scientist Jeff Morrow and the Gill Man is able to breathe and no longer needs the water to sustain his life. But instinct proves stronger and the Creature spends most of the film's scant 78 minute running-time trying to return to the water.

    Unfortunately, like so many 50s low budget sci-fi films, characterisation of the humans in the story is spartan and at best they all seem an unlikeable bunch constantly squabbling among themselves. This also brought the humanity of the captured monster into sharper focus and apart from one or two outbursts he is relatively unimportant. Where in the first two films the monster initiates the action and acts as an agressor/protector (his domain), for Walks Among Us it spends much of his time either comatose on an operating table or penned up. With his scales burnt off he is dressed in a rough canvas suit, and along with the guttural grunting he emits it is easy to draw a comparison with the Frankenstein Monster of old — a victim of science gone wild.

    Like previous outings. Creature Walks Among Us has a monster with the eye for the leading lady, in this case Leigh Snowden. Oddly though, the sexual aspect is downplayed this time round, however this is more due to director Sherwood's bland direction than Ross's screenplay.

    To some Creature Walks Among Us marks a sad end to the series, but the closing shot of the film contains as much beauty as either of the previous movies. Moving innexorably onwards to the cliffs overlooking the ocean, drawn by an instinct the Creature can't understand but can only follow, the Creature plunges to his final resting place.

    The character of the Creature gave Universal a new monster for their rogues gallery, and a considerable amount of merchandise has appeared over the years. Comic books, plastic kits, standees and various novelisations have appeared ensuring that the image of the great Gill Man is part of pulp history.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,890Chief of Staff

    Good overview, CHB, I'm going to have to watch one of those again soon.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,393MI6 Agent

    Those are really good reviews @CoolHandBond especially the nuances of 3D relating to how an audience may react to a sequence. I am not a fan of 3D, but done well it has genuine impact. I thought you might have mentioned Henry Mancini contributed to the very dramatic and as you suggest sometimes romanticised film score. I have never seen the sequels and the second one sound like a revamp of King Kong for the Gill Man. The last is an attempt at story diversification which has merit, although as you hint, just who is John Sherwood?

    Now, relating to your other thread - or is it this one? - were there not comic books / mags featuring the Creature?

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent
    edited January 10

    Thank you @chrisno1 and I did miss out on Henry Mancini (my research lacks your prowess, unfortunately) and failed to expand on John Sherwood. I am trying to encapsulate these articles so that they don’t become too long to read - I much rather respond to questions like yours.

    John Sherwood was primarily an assistant director and the only other full directorial entries worth mention are The Monolith Monsters and No Name On The Bullet. He died in 1959 aged 56.

    There is indeed a very good extensive comic adaption from Dark Horse - it’s rather long and would take a lot of parts to post but if there is interest then I would certainly consider it, I would maybe post one segment per week which would take a few months to complete but would hopefully be a successful way of doing it.

    There are several other movies which would be ripe for this sort of once a week format - if anyone is interested in this let me know - either on here or by PM.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent

    JOHN CREASEY (1908-1973)

    The name John Creasey may not be well known nowadays but at one time, especially in the 60’s and 70’s, the paperback racks were full of his books. Not that he found it easy to break into publishing though, but he had undoubting faith in his ability and suffered over 700 rejection slips before his first story was accepted and published.

    So, John who? You may well have heard of two ITC series from the 60’s - Gideon’s Way and The Baron - these were based on two of his series of books. But, for a man who had sales in excess of a hundred million books, John Creasey has become something of an unknown today. Precise figures vary but John Creasey has published nearly 600 books under his own name and a large number of pseudonyms.

    John Creasey was born in 1908 and he attended school in Fulham until the age of fourteen when he left to work in a succession of clerical jobs. His dream was to be an author and he practiced hard, often doing so in working hours and was dismissed from a number of positions for writing when he was supposed to be doing the work he was being paid to do. He was 17 when submission number 744 resulted in a sale. For the next few years, he sold hundreds of short stories and articles before selling his first novel, Seven Times Seven, at the age of 23. This was a fast-paced thriller and set the tone for what would become the John Creasey brand. 

    A year later he published his first entry into series writing. The Death Miser (1933) was the first in the Department Z series, telling adventure thrillers about a fictional branch of British Intelligence battling the enemies of the country. The series would run to 29 titles. While the Department Z books were published under Creasey’s own name, in order to make a living as a writer, he needed to sell more. To do this he borrowed his first wife’s name (twice!) under which he wrote romantic mysteries. In fact, Creasey’s use of M.E. Cooke and Margaret Cooke as pseudonyms lasted longer than the marriage.

    Creasey’s second big success came as a result of a competition organised to find a successor to the criminal rogue, Raffles. Raffles was the antithesis of Sherlock Holmes, to which he was a contemporary protagonist. Could a criminal hero work in the 1930s? Creasey took up the challenge and created the character of John Mannering (The Baron). Mannering was an ex-jewel thief and current antiques dealer who was closer in tone and form to the literary version of Simon Templar than Raffles. Creasey won the competition, thriller writer Dennis Wheatley was among the judges. The prize was a cash sum and publication of the book, Meet The Baron (1937). These were published under the name Anthony Morton for marketing purposes. The Baron series consists of 49 titles and were amongst the first of Creasey’s books to also achieve publication in the USA.

    Back under his own name, John Creasey next launched what would become the closest to a signature series, The Toff, in Introducing The Toff (1938). The Toff was the Honourable Richard Rollison, a gentleman sleuth. Rollison as a character is a cross between Simon Templar (The Saint) and Lord Peter Wimsey, the series ran to 58 entries. By 1940 the floodgates had opened. Creasey was publishing over twenty books a year and was financially successful. His writing had expanded to westerns under such pseudonyms as Tex Riley and William K Reilly. Writing as Gordon Ashe, he started his first series featuring an official detective character, Patrick Dawlish. These were popular and there are 51 in the series which starts with The Speaker (1939).

    The Dr. Palfrey series of 34 books, beginning with Traitor’s Doom (1942), records the adventures of medical doctor Palfrey who is also a senior intelligence officer. This series evolved into science fiction territory, especially in such titles as The Flood (1956), The Depths (1963) and The Smog (1970). Creasey was somewhat ahead of the game in addressing environmental concerns. 

    Meanwhile the Inspector West series, starting with Inspector West Takes Charge (1942) was a more conventional crime series. He founded the Creasey Mystery Magazine which ran for ten years from 1956.

    blob: There was an error displaying this embed.

    While Creasey was often dismissed by the London literati, presumably because people actually read and enjoyed his books, Gideon’s Day was reviewed favourably by most newspapers as it had not been made known that Maric was actually Creasey. The secret soon came out, but the Gideon books were a success before and after the connection was made. Enough of a success, in fact, that the legendary film director, John Ford, chose to direct a film version starring Jack Hawkins, which was released in 1958. 

    Gideon’s Day was one of a number of films based on Creasey’s books. The first had been the low budget Salute The Toff (1951) and Hammer The Toff (1952). There was also Cat and Mouse (1958) based on a book written as Michael Halliday. One Creasey story was adapted for an episode of Boris Karloff Presents in 1962 and then Lew Grade made deals which led to Gideon’s Way (1964-66) and The Baron (1966-67). Both are fine series. The Gideon one is the better of the two although the decision to film in black and white, while adding gritty atmosphere, probably hindered later repeats. There were also several radio serials based on Creasey’s work. 

    Creasey’s second marriage ended in 1965 and he married for a final time to his nurse, Diana, before dying in June 1973.

    In the fifty years since Creasey’s death his name and books have departed from the consciousness. Everyone knows the name of Agatha Christie but when you mention John Creasey you are left mostly with blank expressions. Partly this was Creasey becoming a victim of his own success. He was so successful that for years after he died his books could be found easily and cheaply in secondhand bookshops (not cheap in my shop, though 😁) car boot sales and charity shops. It was not really worth publishers printing new editions. They have now become harder to find in physical form with the death of the secondhand bookshop, but many are available in e-book form.

    One of the notable things about Creasey’s work is how unformulaic they are. The plots rarely repeat or echo. The characters feel real and act as grownups. Creasey never wrote sex scenes but there is clearly a lot going on off-scene. Similarly, there is little or no gratuitous violence, but a sense of menace often prevails. What Creasey had was an ability to tell a yarn, and a good one at that. John Creasey was a phenomenon and deserves to be better remembered than he is.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,890Chief of Staff

    While I remember John Creasey and even read one or two of his books back in the day, I didn't know anything about him until reading the above, so thanks CHB. As you say the bookshelves used to have lots of his stuff (and though I didn't know it, his stuff under pennames) and it's all gone now- a bit like Dennis Wheatley.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,393MI6 Agent

    John Creasy cropped up in the 'I' newspaper general knowledge crossword the other week and for shame, I didn't get the clue and answer right 🙄

Sign In or Register to comment.