Thursday 21 June 2012

Tyger, Tyger...

Once upon a time in a distant age Britain had an empire, generations of schoolchildren were educated in classes where maps of Britain and it's dominions were highlighted in red, with pink indicating recent or not so recently independent countries which still resided within the Commonwealth and should the shit hit the fan, could always be relied on to send troops to bolster the ranks of good old Tommy Atkins.

In those long gone and dimly remembered times the people of dear old Blighty had their news and entertainment delivered to them by people wearing dinner jackets and sounding like variations on a voice of John Mills. In other words, expensively educated and talking with a flat E. En fect everybedy telked with a flet E in thess deys, even people weth (shudder) regionel eccents telked weth flet Es.

Es ey teype thes ... sorry As I type this I am thinking back to my own childhood, growing up in a post war Britain, where the maps with the red and pink still hung yellowing on school walls, the illusion of dominion still stubbornly persisting, even though aside from the fact that the country was virtually bust there were the winds of change starting to erode the red bits on those now brittle maps.

So books that harkened back to the days of Empire didn't seem THAT bizarre and a lot of one's childhood reading was informed by what would now appear as patrician and somewhat condescending texts about men in pith helmets attended by friendly natives. Men in pith helmets usually equipped with maps and hunting rifles, friendly natives weighed down with white man's gear - masses of it - and also weighed down by their own superstitions, which only the man in the pith helmet could allay via the benefit of a sound mind, a decent public school education and his trusty fire stick, should push come to shove.

I was vividly reminded of these now wildly anachronistic texts, when working on one of the features destined for inclusion in issue 2 of Illustrators. Norman Boyd has written a superb piece on the life and work of Raymond Sheppard who died tragically young but worked with a determination and drive that offset his cruelly truncated career with a truly impressive back catalogue of artwork and illustrations, such that even if we had had a whole book to fill, we would have been hard put to it to decide what to leave out and what to include.

One of the commissions that he undertook saw the commencement of a long and fruitful collaboration with the retired hunter Jim Corbett. Corbett in many ways fulfilled the man in the pith helmet ideal, born in 1875, the son of a Postmaster stationed in Northern India. As a boy Corbett grew up with a deep love and affection for the flora and fauna of a part of the world where the jungles and ravines of North India abut the snow peaked Himalayas. If paradise could ever be said to exist on earth it was probably located in Corbett's back yard.

Despite his love and respect for the wildlife of the region, he was also prone to the follies of the time when it came to his dealings with what was then termed "game" and "big game". In both instances "game" refers to animals viewed through a telescopic rifle sight, the only difference being that the addition of the word "big" imbues the quarry with the ability to effectively take lethal action against it's tormentor should it get the opportunity.

Corbett soon came to regret his profligate destruction of some of the region's finest beasts and instead confined his culling activities to hunting down the deadly man-eating tigers and leopards that so blighted the lives of his neighbours. The first Corbett book upon which Raymond Sheppard  brought his considerable talents to bear was Man-Eaters of Kumaon, which was published with Sheppard's stellar artwork in 1952.

Here then are 12  good reasons why this book is such a masterpiece , add in Corbett's storytelling and despite the time warp, you have a book that is as compelling a page turner as it was when I first encountered it some fifty years ago.

Monday 11 June 2012

When Is A McLoughlin Not A McLoughlin???

Following on from yesterday's posting and thinking of the months and months of my life and several other good souls lives, Mark Terry of Facsimile Dust Jackets and author David Ashord to name but a few, that were invested in making The Art of Denis McLoughlin a book worthy of it's subject, I thought I would run some of the covers that have been mistakenly attributed as being by the hand of Denis McLoughlin, when in fact they were created by other artists who had to cover for the great man when his unrelenting production schedule seemed on the point of chewing up time that was already apportioned elsewhere.

The covers in question were all from his "hardboiled fiction" covers for the Boardman Mystery series along with his Boardman Bloodhounds and also extended into his TVB paperback covers. several of these had actually made it onto the page layouts for the book before the mistake was spotted.

Here is the cover which got me checking with a number of sources as to the true provenance of these "misattributed" artworks:

Looks like a McLoughlin doesn't it? According to legend even Maurice Flanagan organizer of The Pulp and Paperback Fair thought it was when he used this image as one of a series of McLoughlin themed cards at one of his Paperback Fairs back in the day. It was Denis himself who flagged up the error.

Here are some more close but no cigar "Macs":

(I'm kinda relieved that the last five aren't by the great man.)

Sunday 10 June 2012

Coming Atcha!!!

As visitors to this blog are only too aware, your old Blogmeister has been conspicuous by his absence of late. Impervious to pangs of conscience, his keyboard has remained out of action at least as regards the cybernetic activity required to satiate the desires of some of his most loyal readers.

Has this man got no conscience?

Well actually he has and I have been feeling varying degrees of guilt but I comfort myself with the thought that it's all for a good cause.

And the good cause is nearly upon us as Illustrators Issue 1 along with The Art of Denis McLoughlin are currently being printed and bound and will be hitting these shores come August.

So here as a taster is the cover to The Art of Denis McLoughlin, plus the cover and some interior spreads from issue 1 of Illustrators.

And I think those of you who want to try this first issue out will agree (well I am hoping fervently that you will agree) Illustrators is going to be an ever better substitute for a daily blog - not to mention The Art of Denis McLoughlin, which finally does this amazing artist the justice he so richly deserves by providing a definitive collection of his work with accompanying text by the late artist along with a wonderful memoire and critical appreciation by his friend and biographer David Ashford.

The book also includes check lists of all those killer diller Bloodhound hardboiled fiction covers along with glowing reproductions of scores of covers most of which have not been seen by more then a few of his most devoted fans. Whilst his Buffalo Bill Annuals might well be reasonably familiar to a lot of collectors, there are few who have seen all his TVB noir paperback covers. Within the pages of this book you will see all of the TVB Paperback covers painted by McLoughlin, along with some really early Bloodhounds. There is discussion of his techniques and reproductions including full size details of some truly stunning originals.

McLoughlin is also the lead feature in the debut issue of Illustrators along with an interview with Ian Kennedy looking back on his over half century of working as one of this country's premier illustrators and comic strip artists, with features on the Spanish artist and doyen of romantic illustration Angel Badia Camps and Parisian artist Cheri Herouard adding further luster to the proceedings. A beautifully instructive essay by Mick Brownfield takes you behind the scenes of one of the artist's most iconic Radio Times Christmas covers.

We have got the most fantastic team of contributors on board and over coming months you can look forward to features by the artist and writer David Roach, writers David Ashford Norman Boyd and Gary Lovisi, ex Fleet Street Art Editor Bryn Havord, the writer and broadcaster Brian Sibley and host of the amazing Carol Day website and David Wright specialist Roger Clark to name but a few.

All in all perhaps not such a bad trade off after all.

We hope you will join us for the ride.

We will be giving you a sneak preview of issue 2 shortly.