How many?

Feb 1, 2019

Self-help books annoy me. Why should anyone be taken in and believe that someone else knows better how you should live your own life? “the life-changing magic of tidying up” was published a few years ago by Marie Kondo. This bonkers “organising consultant” has now been given a TV show. Her latest advice, along with obsessive clothes-folding, is that for a stress-free and clutter-free life you shouldn’t own more than 30 books. This minimalist militant says “Let’s face it, you are going to read very few of your books again”. Once you have read your newspapers/magazines they should be immediately thrown in the trash so as not to upset the neatness of your coffee table. Clothes you haven’t worn for a few months should be sent to the charity shop. So in the summer do you throw away your overcoat, gloves and scarf because you haven’t used them recently? Saying that you should only keep things that bring you joy isn’t really very practical is it? Do I chuck out the Washing Machine,Lawnmower…cutlery? As for just keeping 3o books….that’s impossible. I need 30 bookcases so I can empty my 150 boxes full of books/magazines and then I’d be able to see/display what I own. 

Next to last book dept:    I’ve recently bought (and quickly recycled into Tesco’s Book Bank container) Stoner by John Williams. I think I’ve finally learnt my lesson. Don’t buy something just because someone else says it is wonderful. The glowing reviews said this obscure novel was the greatest literature of the C20th. No it isn’t. It’s absolute rubbish. Even I could do better. I struggled through the first 70 pages amazed at the one-dimensional characters and slow plot. I’ve better things to do with my time. Just sitting and stareing into space is a better use of my time than reading this book. Whilst I was in the right mood I went to the CD shelf and picked a dozen titles to throw in the wheely bin. They were all purchased on the strength of reviews in “Mojo” magazine. They were all crap too!


Last book dept:     I said I wouldn’t buy any more books and yet here I am happily reading this year’s Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Not that you can place much credence on their prices. 10p each is a far more realistic price for any comic made since 1980 !!  I’ve been buying this annual price guide religiously since the 4th issue. I saw the first three books advertised in comics and magazines in the early 1970s but back then I didn’t have the technology to send money to the States!

Dunno why we’ve still got the X-Men on the cover though. Aren’t they last year’s/last decade’s thing??? Surely the sales of their (pretty well unreadable) comics must be on the skids by now? Aren’t there any hot new modern comics/characters these days and if not why not??

43rd edition

PS: Over the years I’ve bought all sorts of stuff from Amazon. Not just books: car parts, canned unicorn meat and even a new element for the oven the other day. So why don’t they sell the new updated FUGG??? That’s Fogel’s Underground Grading Guide. This is the anti-matter version of Overstreet containing details of numerous “underground” and “adult” comics that Overstreet pretends just don’t exist.


I’ve been reading the new book by Padgett Powell entitled “The Interrogative Mood”. You’ve probably heard about it. It’s the one where every single sentence in the book is a question. Although it’s an interesting concept the American-centric aspect of many of the questions (whatever happened to Howdy Doody, Tab, soda fountains, S&H stamps etc) began to irritate.

It does however make you stop and think about life, the universe and everything with questions we probably don’t stop and ask ourselves often enough like:-

“Do you subscibe to the notion that people who knew what they were doing began to die off about 1945 and are now on the brink of extinction? Do you prefer diarrhoea to constipation? Do you know the distinction between moss and lichen? Is it your impression that people who worked in animation in the 1930s did more drugs than people who work in it today? Are you engaged in a fight against clutter? Does honey come out the front end or the back end of a bee? Have you ever lost a shoe and thrown away the second shoe and then found the first shoe? What would you think an Uzi machine gun might cost? When was the last time you saw an ostrich? Would it be feasible to go to India and not be heard of again?” etc etc etc for over 100 pages !!

Of course, there is another school of thought that says it doesn’t do to question things. If we analysed our lives and the universe too closely we might come to the conclusion that most of our waking hours are spent in ultimately pointless endeavours. If I knew which part of a bee honey came from or could prove that the “authorities” don’t have any more clue about what is going on than anyone else would my life be any better? Even writing this blog whilst humming a Jimmy Cliff tune from 1972 is futile but I do like to keep myself amused in my tea break…..

The more I read this book, the more I began to formulate my own questions which the author had missed.

“Do you update your Facebook page at the same time as checking your phone for texts and watching TV? Where do you go to my lovely when you’re alone in your bed? Where have all the flowers gone? What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding? Will the last word ever spoken be “why”?” etc


Feb 17, 2010

Collecting isn’t just a male preserve. Have you seen how many shoes and handbags most women accumulate? But it is true that men as the hunter-gatherer are the main hoarders of “stuff”. Before I came to my senses I had a garage full of bits of old cars. I once kept the back half of a Triumph Herald car sitting at the bottom of the garden. The intention was to throw the bootlid away and make it into a garden seat!! At one time I saved all the Programmes from Pop Concerts and Football matches I had attended.

In this interesting book Hunter Davies gives some thought to the reasons why people collect things and what motivates them to start (and stop) collecting. I suppose he had to do something on wet Saturday afternoons when the local Football team were playing away!! Funnily enough I own four of the six items pictured on the cover of this book. Blow Football games and William Books must be in many attics. Hunter has an enviable collection of Beatles memorabilia. It did help that he met them in the late 1960s when he produced the first in-depth book about them. He was also present in studios when they were recording and was able to pick up disguarded (?!!?) scraps of paper containing now-precious hand-written lyrics etc.

Hunter writes a monthly column in The Sunday Times called “Mean with Money”. Certainly, not throwing things away can have financial advantages…but only if you keep them long enough for values to rise I fear. If only I’d hung on to all my childhood comics until now!! But fashions come and go and they might just as well have remained worthless newsprint. He even concedes that collecting stamps is an ultimately pointless exercise although it kept him well amused whilst he was actually doing it.

I’m not sure if collecting stuff now for the future will make your fortune. Certainly not comics. This week both the X-Men and The Fantastic Four UK monthlies have started again at Number One. How long will it take before those issues have any real value? Never, I should think. The problem is that everything gets saved nowadays. People collect toy cars, keeping them in their pristine unopened packets. That never happened in the 1950s, so if an ancient boxed Dinky toy has survived it is consequently valuable. I sometimes wonder if future generations will have the slightest interest in the Victorian furniture and large gloomy paintings that so often feature as “valuable collectibles” in TVs “Antiques Roadshow” and the like. All you can do is collect things that you actually like and if they appreciate in value then that is a bonus. But if WW3 arrives, Victorian furniture, toy cars and comics won’t be much use to anyone …………

100 copies

Mar 14, 2009

ITEM:   A couple more books have found their way onto my groaning bookshelves. A mere one hundred people will own this hardback edition. I’m sure many more will grab the paperback. A quick glance reveals that the logo was designed by Todd Klein. The book was printed in Canada. And there is a vast Bibliography at the back. Scarily I seem to own much of the weird and wonderful stuff in that list (although all my 2000ADs and Sounds newspapers were burnt in the great cull of ’86 !!).  I don’t have any of the Discography though, and I wasn’t aware that he produced some artwork for the 1982 B.J and the Bear Annual !!  Now might be the time for the completists out there to snap up one from their local Charity Shop/eBay whilst they are still 25p each ??


And I must look out that old copy of “Escape” to re-read the fascinating  account of his visit to the USA in the mid 1980s.


Although, unlike some people, I don’t believe it to be the centre of the Universe with all ley-lines converging there, I do think that some magic has emanated from Northampton over the last 30 years.

ITEM:   Here is another book limited to 100 copies. However this is more probably to do with the steep cover price. And the fact that they will be hard-pressed to find 100 people like me that are actually still interested in what must be the most obscure comics on the planet !! 


This book is all about the long-forgotten British comics of the 1950s from the small publishers who tried to copy the American comics of the day in both size and format. These pale imitation super heroes were sometimes entertaining but more often just plain rubbish. But looking back through the prism of time fascinating all the same. At 464 pages this work is a labour of love by compiler Mike Higgs. Yes the very same guy who wrote and drew the unique and funny “The Cloak” back in Odhams “Pow” comic in the 1960s. What I’d like next Mike would be a collection of “The Cloak”. How about it ??


Down with Skool

Nov 15, 2008

As any fule kno one of the funniest children’s books ever written was this. I only had a tatty paperback reprint until the other day when I found this first edition from the mid 1950s unnoticed and unloved in a local charity shop.


Other books in the seies are “Whizz for atomms”,”How to be topp” and “Back in the jug agane”. Author and former teacher Geoffrey Willans died in 1958 at the age of 47.

Although I have collected/read/sold/destroyed comics for over 40 years I’ve never made any particular effort to visit blogs and websites run by the comic creators themselves. (Although I did visit Steve Gerber’s blog regularly in the last year of his life and for a time I looked at Mark Evanier’s extensive ouevre and that’s about it.) Quite by chance today I found myself in the middle of Todd Klein’s blog. That is a name I have seen regularly for the last 30 years or so as a letterer of umpteen (how many I wonder) comics. It was nice to find out more about the person and personality that until today was just a name. Amongst Todd’s hobbies and interests is collecting children’s novels. In fact he seems to be an authority on the subject. I wonder if he is familiar with this book? 



Up the Junction

Sep 24, 2008

I’ve just purchased the recently re-issued DVD of the 1968 film “Up the Junction” directed by Peter Collinson and starring Suzy Kendall and Dennis Waterman. Its an account of life in a grim Battersea and Clapham Junction that the swinging sixties hadn’t then reached. The writer of the novel upon which the film was based had herself  moved from upmarket Chelsea to live in the backstreets of working class Battersea. (I’m sure its now a trendy chichi place to live). 

With a soundtrack by Manfred Mann and the cute Adrienne Posta as the brassy factory dollybird ultimately suffering a backstreet abortion the humour is decidedly black. But as a social document of the times its invaluable. Highly recommended.

The book (her first) was written by Nell Dunn in 1963 and it became a BBC TV play before ultimately becoming a film. Nell was then married to Jeremy Sandford, famous for the equally harrowing and even more famous BBC TV plays “Cathy come home” and “Edna the inebriate woman”.

Jack Trevor Story

Aug 18, 2008

I try to express myself in this blog but usually fail miserably. There is an art in writing well. Often million-selling novels don’t contain great writing. Great writing is hidden in blink-and-you’ll-miss-them newspaper columns. I love Caitlin Moran’s articles in The Times. Howard Jacobson (in The Guardian?) has a flair for the english language that befits his literary/education background. Julie Birchill in her pop newspaper/Modern Review days. Jeffrey Barnard in The Spectator when he was merely unwell rather than his current situation of being deceased. People whose names I forget (or never actually got round to remembering) in Mojo music monthly. Even MacBiter in “Computer Shopper” magazine who managed to write entertainingly for years about absolutely nothing.

In my opinion one great overlooked writer is the late Jack Trevor Story. How many people have actually heard of Jack and how many of his books are still in print today? For a time he made a living writing TV scripts and pulp detective stories but is probably most remembered for his comic novels about dissolute characters evidently based upon himself. Much more of his writing appeared in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it places like the 1950s monthly pulp Sexton Blake Library or Punch or various newspaper columns.

My favourite novel by Jack is “I sit in Hanger Lane” about a guy forever dashing between wife and mistress until he can’t remember where he should or shouldn’t be at any one time. He only seems to be aware of his surroundings when he finds himself in his car stuck at the Hanger Lane traffic lights. I’m sure the whole book, as with everything Jack wrote was a watered down version of the even more amazing/eventful/mad things that actually happened to him in real life.

JTS was a larger than life character and perhaps his own worst enemy. According to various sources he sold film screenplays for a fraction of their value and wrote scripts for many TV shows and knew many influential people but never managed to capitalise on it. Allegedly throughout his life he was always short of money. And yet he had a succession of wives/girlfriends until late in life. Even towards the end when he became ill he wrote with such passion. The fact that Michael Moorcock (no slouch himself with hundreds of books to his name) thinks Jack Trevor Story is one of the greatest writers who ever lived says it all really.

Follow this link for more info about this fascinating writer. Here is an example of his writing from an issue of The Sexton Blake Library pocket book:-


“There is a sadness which grows from the seeds of remembered happiness;
there is a weariness which springs unrequested from the
remembered fountains of youth;
there is a nostalgia conjoured from faraway places and gone people and
moments which have long since ticked into the infinite fog.”


Idols Magazine

Apr 29, 2008

Bill Harry had been involved in pop publishing for many years (Mersey Beat Magazine, and books about the Beatles) when he launched “Idols” Magazine in the UK in the 1980s. This publication covered a broad spectrum of Movie Stars from the Silent era to current Actors, TV, Pop Stars….anyone who someone else might idolise. Always a great read.