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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

C J Ashford

At the age of 94, C. J. Ashford has had an astonishingly long career which continues to expand as more paintings emerge from his studio, a converted garage at his home of over 60 years at Shooters Hill. He is famous for his aircraft paintings, but is also a specialist maritime artist who has also painted steam trains and cars. His artwork is meticulously researched and convincingly painted in watercolours and occasionally in oils. He has also produced covers for books and magazines, postcards, posters and illustrations for the First World War Aviation Historical Society's Cross and Cockade and books published for the RAF Benevolent Fund, including Wright to Fly.

Colin James Ashford was born in Ackworth, Yorkshire, in March 1919 and is still painting. He attended Ackworth Quaker School, where his teachers told his parents that they could teach the naturally talented youngster nothing further about drawing. He won a Junior Exhibition to study art for four years (1933-37) at Wakefield School of Art, followed by three years (1937-39) at Glasgow School of Art, where he won drawing and painting prizes.

He was interested in both aviation—having first flown in a bi-plane piloted by a Great War veteran whilst still at school—and maritime art. He would spend his holidays on fishing boats out of Scarborough trawling for herring.

He joined the First Battalion Scottish Light Infantry during the Second World War and arrived in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force shortly before the Dunkirk evacuation. Sent to defend the gap in the Allied front created by Belgium's surrender, the Infantry dug in over night after a rapid march and held out for 24 hours against a superior force, which included two Panzer divisions. Ashford, wounded in the leg, was taken to Poperinge, Belgium, and found taken back into battle as part of an artillery unit after accepting a ride with a tracked bren-gun carrier. Soon after, he found himself shoulder-deep in water whilst trying to cross a river where the bridge had been demolished. He spent two days on the beach at Dunkirk before being returned home.

After three months hospitalisation recovering from his wound and shell-shock, he served with the Royal Engineers in North Africa and Italy. His artistic talents were employed in developing camouflage.

After the war he took a job with a publisher, working freelance in his spare time. In 1959, he was commissioned to illustrate an aerial photographic sortie by an Airco DH.9 flying over Crystal Palace. The resulting artwork attracted the attention of Freeman, Fox and Partners, a firm of consulting engineers, who hired him to produce artwork for numerous bridge and road building projects.

His paintings can be found in the Royal Air Force Museum, the Yorkshire Air Museum, Hendon RAF Museum, the National Maritime Museum, Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in New Zealand and other museums around the world.

He continues to be exhibited at the Aviation Paintings of the Year exhibition at the Mall Galleries. The latter exhibition is organised by the Guild of Aviation Artists, which Ashford was a founder member of. Created in 1971 to promote aviation art, the Guild now has over 500 members worldwide. Ashford has won the Guild's Hawker Siddeley Trophy for best watercolour of the year more than once and was elected Vice President in 2010.

(* Much of the above information is derived from an interview with Ashford at the e-Shooters Hill website.)

C J Ashford - Strange Mechanical Wonders

( * © Associated Newspapers)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Gordon C. Davies

Gordon C. Davies was a prolific book cover artist from the 1950s to the 1980s, most notably on a great many science fiction books as he was a very good artist of technology, from trains and planes to spaceships, and military subjects which included hardware.

I became aware of Davies' work when I began collecting SF books published by Curtis Warren; he worked prolifically for them (the rates were low); Phil Harbottle was a big fan of his work and when we were writing Vultures of the Void was of the opinion that it was Davies' covers that sold Curtis Warren's SF line, not the quality of the stories (which was also low... sometimes very low!). Davies produced over 40 covers for Curtis in 1952-54. In 1954, a book appeared under the byline Gordon Davies, although it was probably not by the artist.

Davies also worked for various other publishers around the same period including Scion, Authentic Science Fiction, Futuristic Science Stories, Panther Books and Brown Watson. The cheap paperback boom came to an end in 1954 and Davies had to find work elsewhere, including features for Daily Mail Boys Annual, Swift Annual, Eagle Annual and centre-spreads for the Eagle weekly. He continued to produce covers for Pan Books and New English Library, notably for titles by Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein.

Davies—full name Gordon Charles H. Davies—was born in West Derby, Lancashire, on 6 May 1923. [I believe he was the son of Henry and Martha (nee Rawlinson), who were married in West Derby in 1922.] Davies married Marjorie P. Mason in Surrey in 1951, Judy R. Hunt in Canterbury, Kent, in 1988.

He lived at 155 Sunning Vale Avenue, Biggin Hill, before moving to Woodlands Farm, Lyminge, Kent, in about 1970, where he lived until his death in 1994, aged 70.


Aircraft. Paulton & London, Purnell & Sons, 1961.
My Picture Book of Aeroplanes. London, Dean & Son, 1961.
My Picture Book of Road Travel. London, Dean & Son, 1961.
My Picture Book of Road Travel Old and New (by Lawrence). London, Dean & Son, 1965.
Trains Old and New. London, Dean, 1968.
The Moon. London, Macdonald & Co., 1971.
World War 1 Aeroplanes. London, Ward Lock, 1974.

Illustrated Books
Rescue from the Air by Michael Gibson. London, Abelard-Schuman, 1960.
Daily Life Science by Christine Bate. London, Ginn & Co., 5 vols., 1961-70.
Our Railways by Maxwell Taylor. Paulton & London, Purnell & Sons, 1961.
Dean's Gold Medal Book of World Travel. London, Dean & Son, 1962.
Classic Car Profiles ed. Anthony Harding. Leatherhead, Surrey, Profile Publications, 1966- .
Astronomy by Iain Nicolson. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1970.
Giant Wonders of the World by John Gilbert; illus. with Chris Mayger. London, Ward Lock, 1970.
Rockets and Missiles by David Mondey. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1971.
Cars in Profile by Anthony Harding. Windsor, Profile Publications, 1973.
Take Better Photographs by Reg Mason (based on the ATV television series In Focus with Harry Secombe). London, Hamlyn, 1973; as In Focus with Harry Secombe by Reg Mason. London, Independent Television Books, 1976.
The Invention of Bicycles & Motorcycles by Derek Roberts. London, Usborne Publishing, 1975.
The Encyclopedia of the World's Classic Cars by Graham Robson. London, Salamander Books, 1977.
Let's Look at Space by Tim Furniss. Hove, Wayland, 1987.
UFOs by Ben Wilson. Hove, Wayland, 1988.
Mysteries of the Unexplained by Sue Crawford et al. London, World International, 1991.

It is worth noting here that there was a Gordon L. Davies, A.R.C.A. (1926-2007) who was an artist and author of such books as Painting in Acrylics (1991), etc. and a Gordon Davies (1924-2009) who was a Canadian travel writer and painter who authored The Living Rivers of British Columbia and The Living Rivers of British Columbia and Yukon volume two.

(* Originally published 8 December 2006.)

Gordon C. Davies - The Radio Telescope

( * © Associated Newspapers)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

David Griffiths

David Arthur Griffiths was an author who, as far as I'm aware, never published any work under his own name. In fact, his writing career appears to have lasted only fifteen months from the publication of his first novel in October 1950 to the last in January 1952. In that time, he produced seventeen short (36,000-word) novels for the publisher Curtis Warren, where he was also working as an editor.

The majority of his books were science fiction and, had it not been for the speed with which he churned out these novels, Griffiths could have perhaps become a writer of interest. Some of his contemporaries, notably Ted Tubb, Ken Bulmer, John Burke and John Brunner, all managed memorable careers after having started writing for the cheap end of the paperback market.

Tubb in particular has a place in this brief story. Griffiths was a fan of science fiction and known to Tubb as an attendee of the White Horse, where fans of SF gathered each week, and of the Festival Convention in May 1951. At the time, Griffiths was working as a manuscript reader for Curtis Warren, who were just launching a new line of science fiction novels; he invited Tubb to submit novels which he would feed into the system. Thus Tubb's debut novel appeared under the pen-name King Lang, which was for the most part used by Griffiths.

Griffiths was slightly older than Tubb, so probably born around 1918. He would have been 20 or 21 when war was declared, and probably served the full six years of the Second World War.

His earliest known novels are a series of much sought after Burroughs-inspired novels featuring the character Azan the Apeman. Inspired by the popularity of Mark Goulden's reprints of Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels, Griffiths quickly penned six novels featuring an RAF pilot who befriends a native after crash-landing in the African jungle. Nursed back to health, but with no memory of his former life, the pilot becomes known as Azan to the local tribesmen.

The six Azan novels were fast-paced, unpretentious adventure yarns. Unfortunately, they were a little too close to Tarzan for the comfort of ERB Inc., who threatened to sue the publisher unless the series was dropped. The pen-name Marco Garon must have been a popular one, as it was subsequently used on a long series of Jungle Jim-style African adventures written by Denis Hughes.

Griffiths, meanwhile, was also writing SF as David Shaw, King Lang and Gil Hunt. It is also likely that he penned one of the crime novels that appeared under the house name Brett Vane, although this, too, might have been one that Griffiths channeled through to Curtis Warren.

Although Griffiths wrote the kind of space opera yarns typical of the time, he was a reasonably imaginative writer and certainly a cut above his contemporaries at Curtis Warren. I remember when Phil Harbottle and I were putting together a bibliography of 1950s paperback SF that one or two of Griffiths' novels were pretty good compared to most of the chaff I was having to read. Novels like Astro Race and Task Flight (both as King Lang) and Vega (as Gil Hunt) stood out as being pretty good. Some of the others were... not so good.

Griffiths' writing career was cut short when, in the Winter of 1951-52, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps., never to return to science fiction. What happened to him is a mystery that still has me mystified.



The Missing Safari
Curtis Warren, Oct 1950, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

The Lost City
Curtis Warren, Oct 1950, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

White Fangs
Curtis Warren, Jan 1951, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

Tribal War
Curtis Warren, Jan 1951, 112pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

Jungle Fever
Curtis Warren, Mar 1951, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

King Hunters
Curtis Warren, Mar 1951, 112pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney


Laboratory 'X'
Curtis Warren, 1950, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

Planet Federation
Curtis Warren, Nov 1950, 160pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Space Men
Curtis Warren, Jan 1951, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald


Gyrator Control
Curtis Warren, Jan 1951, 112pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Astro Race
Curtis Warren, Feb 1951, 112pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Task Flight
Curtis Warren, Feb 1951, 111pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Rocket Invasion
Curtis Warren, Aug 1951, 111pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Projectile War
Curtis Warren, Sep 1951, 111pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald


Curtis Warren, Oct 1951, 111pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Curtis Warren, Jan 1952, 111pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A. Burgess Sharrocks

Alfred Burgess Sharrocks P.R. Cam. A. was born in Stockport in 27 November 1919, the son of Alfred Sharrocks (1893-1963) and his wife Mary Ellen (nee Burgess, 1897?-1955?), who were married in Stockport in 1917. Alf had a number of younger siblings, including Joan M (1921), Edward F. (1923), Winifred Beryl (1927), Sybil P. (1931) and Roy Alan (1934).

He studied at Stockport School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. Exhibited regularly at the Royal Cambrian Academy and painted a great many landscapes of the Welsh hillsides.

A. Burgess Sharrocks is probably best known for his dustjackets and illustrations for the Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton, taking over from previous illustrators George Brook and Bruno Kay in 1956. Elsewhere, he was often called upon as a nature artist, especially in annuals.

I believe he was married twice: firstly to Alisimon Strange (1917-1967) in Manchester in 1949; and, following her death at the age of 49, to Catherine E. Milner in Conway, Wales, in 1973. He had a daughter from his first marriage, Alisimon J. Burgess Sharrocks.

He died in late 1988, aged 69, at Bangor, Caernarvonshire.


Illustrated Books
Adventures and Escapes, ed. E. W. Parker, M.C. London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1953.
Essential English for Foreign Students by Charles Eckersley; illus. with others. London, Longmans, 4 vols., 1955-63.
Three Cheers, Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1956.
Secret Seven Mystery by Enid Blyton. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1957.
Yma a thraw by Eirwen Jones & Hannah Davies. London, Macmillan & Co., 1957.
The Great South Sea by Roger Pilkington (London, Macmillan & Co., 1957). 
Knights of St. John [Kreuzritter] by Gerhart Ellert; tranlated by J. Brockett-Pugh. London, Lutterworth Press, 1958.
Puzzle for the Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1958.
Nature Detectives by Donald G. Cunningham. London, Macmillan & Co., 1959.
Secret Seven Fireworks by Enid Blyton. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1959.
Good Old Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1960.
Warriors' Hoard by Hugh Collinson. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1960.
Shock for the Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1961.
Look Out Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1962.
On the Ball! by Gordon Jeffery. London, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1962.
Athletics, ed. G. F. D. Pearson. Edinburgh, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1963.
Fun for the Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1963.

(* Expanded from it original appearance on 13 February 2007.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Comic Cuts - 25 July 2014

I have been indulging myself with a bit of a break. Mel had the week off, so we've tried to have a relaxing time, watching a bit of extra TV, going for walks and taking a trip down to the quay for lunch mid-week. Much sprawling around doing nothing, too. The main topics of conversation all week have been: should we bother with the washing up...?; should we bother doing the lawn...?; and how gorgeous are Scottie dogs? (This after the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.)

Yes, there was a bit of work in between. My new external hard drive turned up at the tail end of last week and there was a 24-hour period (spread over three days) of copying the contents of one drive onto the new one so that I had a mirror. I feel much happier now that I have everything doubled-up again, although I am painfully aware that I also need to back-up the rest of the files on my computer, not just the ones that I've put in "storage".

And I've been cleaning up artwork for what will hopefully be the next Bear Alley book. It's a comic strip reprint that I'm licensing, so I'm waiting until contracts are signed and money has exchanged hands before I announce it. But I'm on the second pass of the 120 or so pages of artwork and pondering on what I should write in the introduction. That's all I'm saying for the moment.

Available now from Bear Alley Books

Sales of the Countdown to TV Action index have slowed down considerably—perhaps everyone somehow realised I was taking a bit of a break? Seriously, you don't have to worry... just keep ordering. I can cope. For all you chart-watchers, this week's Top Ten all-time bestselling books from Bear Alley looks like this (with last week's position in parenthesis):

1 (1) Lion: King of Picture Story Papers
2 (4) Countdown to TV Action
3 (2) Eagles Over the Western Front volume 1
4 (5) Hurricane & Champion
5 (3) Pages from History: Illustrated by C. L. Doughty
6 (6) Eagles Over the Western Front volume 2
7 (7) Eagles Over the Western Front volume 3
8 (8) Ranger: The National Boys' Magazine
9 (9) London is Stranger Than Fiction
10 (10) Boys' World: Ticket to Adventure

I'm still  sporting the beard I let grow towards the end of the Countdown book—something of a tradition I've had on long projects. Without deadlines, I need something to remind me to finish books off and there's nothing like an itchy new beard to do that. I've kept it fairly well trimmed this time and I'm not planning to shave it off until the next book is complete. Hopefully it will help keep me concentrated. Once my holiday is over.

The photo at the top of the page is the first ripe tomato from this year's crop. It's only when you taste home grown tomatoes that you realise how bland supermarket bought tomatoes taste. After the success we had with cherry tomatoes last year, we're attempting to do the double this year with a more traditional tomato plant as well as the cherry tomato plant. The first of the larger tomatoes is getting riper by the day and we've a very good crop that should keep me in sandwiches for most of the summer. Yum!

This week's random scans are another quartet of titles by Ben Sarto. Some of these are from rather poor originals but I think they've cleaned up OK. The first two are from 1947 and have covers by H. W. Perl, the most prolific cover artist for the cheap-end paperback publishers in the years immediately after the war. Nothing is known about Perl, which is a real shame because, when he put some effort in (presumably when he was better paid!) he was a very capable artist.

The other two are by Len Potts and Ray Theobald. Hot Dames Die Cold was the very last Ben Sarto novel to be published—the 103rd if memory serves. They were a very mixed bunch but certainly the early yarns by Frank Dubrez Fawcett deserve a little attention. If you've never read any of the Ben Sarto novels, my article "I Kill 'em Inch by Inch"—available on Kindle—is a good primer to the kind of thing he wrote.

The above Ray Theobald cover is a handy link to the next cover gallery I'm putting together which also acts as another episode of "mysteries that have me mystified" (a phrase you'll understand only if you have to have been reading this column for some years). There will be other stuff, but I still need to write it... and I really ought to get back to work, so don't expect too much.