Sunday, 25 November 2012

A Hammer horror collectable, and remembering Anton Diffring's final performance


The Man Who Could Cheat Death, John Sansom, Ace Books, 1959





"What happens when he cannot obtain the necessary gland in time ends in a shocking climax of horror and bestiality."

Blimey.

I've not seen Hammer's The Man Who Cheated Death, but it looks like a cracker (though I assume the film is not as hilariously out of sync as this trailer):




Up this week is a copy of the tie-in novelisation, which is in pretty good nick, with cover art adapted from — it actually looks like it's been repainted, rather than just lifted — the UK quad poster for the film:




It would appear to be a fairly rare book, with just one copy currently on ABE, at £28, and the odd copy turning up on eBay now and again. I'd imagine it's of appeal to Hammer collectors only these days, and to be fair even they do not revere it as a lost classic. (The film many Hammer fans do regard as the best of the studio's vast output is The Brides of Dracula, which does not even star the iconic Christopher Lee. Interestingly, Bond fans have long held On Her Majesty's Secret Service to be the best of the series, even though it features a far from iconic Australian ex chocolate carrier as 007. This is an example of something, I expect.)

The titular death-cheater is played by Anton Diffring, who worked a few times for Hammer, including in this busted TV pilot for a series to be called Tales of Frankenstein, but he's best remembered for playing Nazi officers in countless films — this one being probably the best loved ("Broadsword calling Danny Boy" etc).

Diffring's final role was playing an old Nazi (natch) in the 1988 Sylvester McCoy Doctor Who adventure 'Silver Nemesis'. The story, which mixed neo-Nazis with Cybermen, dark Time Lord secrets and, um, jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine, was a lot of fun, but utterly incomprehensible, and has latterly become known amongst Whovians as 'Silly Nemesis'.

Diffring reportedly had no idea what was going on in the plot, or what his character was supposed to be trying to do (but then, frankly, neither did the scriptwriter). Apparently he only took the role because it would bring him to the UK from his home on the continent just in time for Wimbledon, which he then proceeded to watch on the telly any spare moment he got. Bless.






Sunday, 21 October 2012

Doctor Who: Pop group manager and Muff snatcher

TV Comic Annual 1969




This week's book is a copy of the TV Comic Annual 1969, which was published, as is the way with annuals, in time for Christmas 1968. It's in pretty good nick, not price clipped, with an ink name and address inside, but no other pen mark. I found this in the flea market in Crystal Palace, and it hasn't come far in 43 years: the original owner was a Nicholas Masterson of 44 Denmark Hill, just up the road. Master Masterson was careful enough to only do the quizzes and puzzles in the book in pencil, which is easily removable (though I like to leave such scribblings as they are).

TV Comic, as its name suggests, featured various tie-in strips and stories every week, and this annual, containing a previously unpublished selection, includes favourites such as Popeye, Basil Brush, Skippy and Ken Dodd's Diddymen, but my potential eBay purchasers will I think be interested in only one of them: Doctor Who.

The Doctor's comic strip adventures began in TV Comic in 1964, and in what has to be a tie-in strip record, they're still running today, albeit in a different title: Doctor Who Magazine. Over the years, many artists and writers have come and gone, and in the late 70s/early 80s several of the people who would go on to define the modern comics era did some of their earliest work on the strip or its spin-offs, including both the creators of this rather well known graphic novel.

The history of the strip has inevitably been extensively written up by fans, both online and in print, but the TV Comic stories themselves, aside from the ones that made it into a short lived magazine series several years ago called Classic Comics, have never been properly collected and reprinted. 

Many would argue that's no great loss, as the strip was often very silly, and had little in common with the 'proper' Doctor on the telly. While this is undoubtedly true, the art was often rather lovely. Here's the first page of the first of the two 4-page stories in the annual, 'The Time Museum', drawn by longtime Who strip artist John Canning.






The scripts rarely got sillier than the second Who story in this annual. I'll let the chaps at the fansite Altered Vistas summarise it: 

When the TARDIS materialises beside a road in the year 2208 it causes pop group The Electrodes to crash their tour bus. The Doctor, John and Gillian rush to help them and find none of them seriously hurt, but how can they get to their gig to perform for thousands of their fans in just an hour’s time? The Doctor has the answer and equips them all with rocket packs. They are so impressed they hire him as their manager. They make the gig in time.

Between shows the Doctor learns that they did have a manager before, but he tried to trick them out of their money and threatened their lives when they sacked him. The Doctor, John and Gillian observe the crowd at the final gig and, when the Doctor sees an extra wire leading into the group’s speakers, he realises their ex-manager plans to blow them up on stage. He, John and Gillian swoop down using the rocket packs and lift the band to safety just as their evil ex-manager detonates the speakers. The Doctor then apprehends the villain. After seeing the Electrodes successfully complete a planet-wide tour, the Doctor and his companions depart in the TARDIS. The Electrodes are capable of managing themselves.

Wouldn't you just love to see a TV episode with the same plot? I really would, actually.

One of the panels in this story contains one of the Doctor's best-ever lines, in any medium:





Muff, Fuzz and Snatch? Can the writer of this story, one Roger Noel Cook, really have been utterly oblivious? I think not.

Any upper echelon Whovians reading this post will undoubtedly have a remaining, nagging question. Why is it that Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor is seen fighting a William Hartnell, Tenth Planet-era Cyberman, instead of the sleek new versions he had already encountered on TV?





We'll never know, though it's probably just because John Canning only had photo reference from The Tenth Planet. Regardless, it gives me an excuse to run this, a recent piece by the best artist ever to draw a Tenth Planet style Cyberman, the great Mick McMahon.








Sunday, 14 October 2012

For Your Eyes Only, 1st/1st Great Pan edition, 1962

... and a brief rumination on James Bond film titles





"Urbane savagery" says New York Herald Tribune. That's as good a two-word description of Bond as any I've read.

With Skyfall about to hit cinemas (and already getting rave reviews), this week's book is another Pan edition, though unlike the Goldfinger copy I previously blogged about, this one's a first printing, a 1st/1st of the For Your Eyes Only paperback. It's not mint, and a previous owner decided to tear the bottom corner of page 149/150 off, but it's a solid book for the price I'm asking for it.

A quick google of the cover artist, J. Oval, reveals he was actually called Ben Ostrick, and used to live in my old stamping ground, Clapham Common. Here's another of his pulp covers for Pan, as seen on the excellent Pulp International:




No, I'd never heard of it either. Or the movie version.

Though I must have seen a few on the TV, For Your Eyes Only was the first Bond film I saw in the cinema, when it came out. It's actually my favourite of the Roger Moore Bonds for that sentimental reason alone, though it is quite highly regarded by fans, and Moore himself, because after the post-Star Wars silliness of Moonraker, it was a stripped back, quite violent film, with less Moore (s)mugging and a bit more, well, urbane savagery. This scene is about as 'hard' as dear old Sir Rog got in any of his films:


 


... and in case it comes up in a pub quiz, always remember that For Your Eyes Only is the only Bond film to date in which the singer of the theme song (the so-80s it hurts Sheena Easton) appears on screen during the opening credit sequence. Yes, Madonna has a (rubbish) cameo in Die Another Day, but you don't see her on screen singing the (also rubbish) 'feem toon.'

Die Another Day was the second 007 film to have a non-Fleming title seemingly created by a James Bond Film Random Title Generator (an idea so good I had to check whether there was one, and of course, there is), the first being Tomorrow Never Dies. I suppose there's also Connery's 'unofficial' Never Say Never Again, but I always thought that had the requisite slightly bonkers Fleming ring to it. Licence to KillGoldeneye and The World is Not Enough are not named after a Bond novel or short story, true, but they have a Fleming connection (the meaning of 'double O', the author's house in Jamaica and Bond's family motto respectively) and are at least cool titles.

Skyfall is another non-Fleming title, and while it's easier to work into the lyrics of a song than Quantum of Solace was (though radio funsters Adam and Joe managed it), it's still verging on bland. The trouble is, there's only a handful of remaining unused Fleming short story titles, and I can't see any of them getting past marketing and onto the poster:

'The Hildebrandt Rarity' (sounds boring, or too German)
'Risico' (sounds like a board game)
'007 in New York' (what, he doesn't go anywhere else for the whole movie?)
'The Property of a Lady' (men won't want to see this movie)

I imagine marketing weren't too keen on Quantum of Solace at first, but probably didn't want to admit they had no idea what it meant, and besides, once they realised they could do this with the '007' on the poster they were happy:




If the producers want to keep it old school Fleming for the title next time around, I agree with the fans who think there's one obvious choice: use Blofeld's alias from You Only Live Twice.

James Bond will return, in... Shatterhand.








Saturday, 6 October 2012

You wait decades for a rare Saki dust jacket to come along...

The Unbearable Bassington — art by Harry Rountree




There was much excitement on this blog a few weeks ago when I discovered a previously unrecorded dust jacket for a book by one of my favourite authors, H. H. Munro, better known as Saki. As this post lamented, I missed out on buying it, though the seller did send me some photos. The (wonderful) design turned out to be by the noted woodcut artist John Hall Thorpe

I'd surmised that this evidently extremely rare jacket must have been included with a later printing of the short story collection in question, Beasts and Super-Beasts, so I decided I'd have a quick look on ABE to see if there might be any of his other books where the reprints had dust jackets too... and yes folks, I found one. In 1924, the final Saki collection, The Square Egg, was published. The first edition came with a plain, text only wrapper (which I have), but I now know that a couple of reprints that came out at the same time — or at least, in the same year — were given pictorial jackets: the Hall Thorpe Beasts and Super-Beasts, and the thing of beauty pictured above, The Unbearable Bassington, featuring an illustration by Harry Rountree.

He certainly looks pretty unbearable, doesn't he?



(Please excuse the reflection on the photos, but the jacket came nicely presented in a mylar protector which would be tricky to take it out of!)

Saki's short stories are rightly more celebrated than his two novels (Bassington and the Germans-invade-England satire, written on the eve of WW1, When William Came), but people are still discovering and enjoying The Unbearable Bassington, and it's hardly been out of print, even as a separate edition, since it was first published in 1912.

The jacket artist Harry Rountree has quite a pedigree it turns out. A New Zealander who came to the UK as a young man (just like Hall Thorpe, except he was Australian), Rountree had a long and distinguished career as an illustrator, as this heartfelt tribute by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. reveals. The Bassington jacket was probably just 'another job' for him, but produced to his usual very high standards nevertheless. I love it.  

So when did Rountree paint this piece? Was the illustrated dust jacket only included with the 1924 reprint of Bassington, to give it another 'push', and a little bit more visibility on the shelves? The copy above (and yes, dear reader, I managed to buy this one!) is a 1924 reprint. The novel had already been reprinted in 1912 (3 times) and 1913 (twice). I think it had this dust jacket design from the outset, and I'll tell you why. Look at Harry's signature above. It's hard to see in the photo, but after the last E is a full stop, and then, after that, there's a 12: for the year, surely. So one can assume that somewhere, someone might still have a first/first in dust jacket. I've certainly never heard of one, let alone seen one...

The artist William Stout is a Rountree fan, and appears to have written a book about him, though I can't find any copies for sale; perhaps he's still working on it. I wonder if he's aware of the Bassington jacket?

Also in 1912, Rountree painted the illustrations for the first printing of Conan Doyle's The Lost World, when it was serialised in The Strand. Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. is lucky enough to own the original of one of them, and here it is, complete with a '12' after his signature.







Saturday, 29 September 2012

Wilkie Collins by Peter Ackroyd (2012 First Edition)

Bought from The Bookseller Crow (with thanks to the £10 stranger)

 



I've been away on me hols, hence the lack of posts recently, but normal service shall resume soon. Lots of books on my shelves to sell in the weeks and months to come, including one that was banned by the estate of Ian Fleming (and is one of the few copies that escaped pulping), a bizarre and very rare book about a Billiards Pointer, and a copy of a book by Baron Corvo that once belonged to a prominent member of the Bloomsbury group (with her notes scribbled throughout).

Today though is a book which is not for sale, because I only bought it a few hours ago and haven't read it yet. It's only a short one, which Ackroyd probably wrote by mistake while he was working on his much longer Dickens biography a few years ago.

I just thought I'd mention it as a chance to shamelessly plug the local independent bookshop I bought it in, Crystal Palace's excellent Bookseller Crow. The owner also has a great blog here. He's the kind of person to go out of his way to stock books by such luminaries as Hovis PresleySpalding Gray and Ivor Cutler, which makes him more than OK in my book(s).

I'd also like to thank whoever it was who dropped the £10 note which I found, slightly scrunched up on a shelf below the till area, which, after checking with assorted customers and indeed the owner that they hadn't just dropped it, I used to buy this book. With that kind of luck, tonight's quadruple rollover, being called as I type this, could yet be mine... (seconds later) or not. Well, a tenner ain't bad.

Sunday, 2 September 2012


Essays on Various Subjects by Hannah More (1824)

Sir Samuel Morton Peto's copy


I love the internet. It's amazing what you can learn, and how fast you can learn it. Strap in, this is quite a long post, but it will take you on a journey from a little book on my shelves via a social reformer, a forgotten giant, Mick Jagger and violent mummies, to underwear in South London.

This week's eBay listing is a small leatherbound volume I picked up at a bookfair earlier this year because I simply liked the feel of it. It's not in tip-top condition; the boards are a bit worn and there's a bit of foxing, but the binding is pretty tight, it's got lovely marbled endpapers, and it's old: 1824. Plus, it smells nice. 



It's not a first. By 1824 Hannah More's Essays on Various Subjects was already over 40 years old and had evidently been through many editions. Subtitled Principally Designed for Young Ladies, the book argues that women are "one of the principal hinges on which the great machine of human society turns" and points out that the education of girls should go bit further than music and dancing. There's also an essay 'On Sentimental Connexions' which basically warns that you should ignore men who flatter you in conversation and agree with your ideas, as they're all only after one thing. (Hannah More never married.) Here's the frontispiece, featuring some Young Ladies.



As this biography shows, Hannah More was a fascinating character, who mixed with the likes of Samuel Johnson, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, Joshua Reynolds and William Wilberforce during her long life as a writer, and campaigner for reform in both the rights of women and the poor. Some of her ideas have dated a bit though: she was a strong supporter of teaching the poor to read, but drew the line at teaching them to write as well, lest they have designs above their station in life, and grow dissatisfied. When she died aged 88 in 1833, a few years after this edition was published, she left £30,000, a huge amount of money. As historian Linda Colley has pointed out: "More had become the first British woman ever to make a fortune with her pen."

This post is not (just) about Hannah More though. It's about who owned this particular copy of the book. The inside front board has a book plate pasted to it:



'Ad Fidem Fidelis' (Faithful to the end) is easy enough to read, but the name took a couple of goes. But then I typed 'S Morton Peto' into Google. It would appear that this book comes from the library of a very eminent Victorian indeed...


Sir Samuel Morton Peto (1809 - 1889) has been described as the Victorian equivalent of Richard Branson. I'll let the blurb for this recent biography by Adrian Vaughn give the outline of his life:

'Samuel Morton Peto was one of the giants of Victorian Britain who left behind an impressive legacy, evidence of which can still be seen today. Born in 1809, he was an inspired entrepreneur who was, perhaps more than any other individual, responsible for establishing Britain's path to industrial capitalism. An active Member of Parliament, he was one of the most energetic pioneers of Free Trade and a new industrial, social order. To achieve this avant-garde vision, he borrowed and built everything from railways, docks, and harbours to factory towns, dormitory towns, Baptist chapels, dance halls and holiday resorts. Amongst his many famous projects were the Lyceum theatre, Hungerford Market, and Nelson's Column in London, along with several sections of the Great Western Railway, Curzon Street station in Birmingham, and the London, Chatham & Dover Railway. He was also involved in the creation of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, railways in Algeria and the Crimean peninsula during the war, and he financed the Great Exhibition of 1851, backing Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace. Peto's ambition crossed national borders and encompassed European co-operation and Anglo-French finance. In 1857, he was made a baronet of Somerleyton Hall in the County of Suffolk for his services, but ultimately financial crisis caught up with him and he and his family were ruined. He was declared bankrupt in 1868 and exiled himself to Budapest, before returning to England and dying in obscurity in 1889.'

Quite a story, eh? Peto's Wikipedia entry has a few extra details – his involvement with the building of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster made him a millionaire, and he attended the opening of the Algerian railway with Napoleon III – and a post on his biographer Adrian Vaughn's website adds: 

'The story of Morton Peto really is a wonderful series of paradoxes. One could say that he robbed the rich to feed the poor, certainly his ordinary shareholders frequently ‘lost their shirts’ but his navvies were employed well for 30 years. Peto eventually went bankrupt and brought down Overend Gurney, the people who had been lending him injudiciously large sums of money. The failure of Overend Gurney brought about the total collapse of the British banking system on 10 May 1866.
Peto’s bust at the exit doors of Norwich Station has an inscription which states that he was a ‘Baptist, Philanthropist and Entrepreneur’  that is true, but he was also a ‘Liar, a Cheat and a Fraud’. BUT – there is always a ‘BUT’ with Peto, he didn’t make shady deals for his own sake, although of course, he took his profit, he used ‘iffy’ money to create better housing, vast new industries, giving tens of thousands employment until recent times. He died on 13 November 1889 without a will, he had very little to bequeath. His wife died leaving £500 to the Baptist Missionary Society. Peto left behind him, a whole new holiday town and fishing port of Lowestoft, the Victoria Docks in London, railways all over the world. Employment, food and housing for the masses.'

Adrian Vaughn's admirable efforts aside, it's fair to say that S. Morton Peto is a mostly forgotten figure now, even though in his day he was up there with, and as well known as, Brunel (who he employed on several occasions) and Stephenson.

But what was he doing with this book, full of advice for 'Young Ladies'? In 1824, the year this copy was published, Peto was only 15. Perhaps he was looking for the inside track when it came to his own wooing efforts? It's perhaps more likely that this book was acquired years later, bought by or given to one of Peto's eight (count 'em!) daughters, and put in the family library, complete with Father's book plate. We'll never know...

One of the houses this book would once have been shelved in has a special place in my heart though. According to this article on the Peto family, in 1875 they lived temporarily in Stargroves, near Newbury. Later owned by Mick Jagger, Stargroves earned its true place in history as the main outdoor location for this:



Yes, everything leads back to Doctor Who in the end.

But that's not all. The same article reveals that  one of Samuel's seven sons, Basil, and Basil's son Christopher, were both MP for Barnstaple (my local constituency when I was growing up).

Another grandson, Sir James Michael Peto, was a Lt-Colonel in the Coldstream Guards. He was also a poet. He published the requisite slim volume in 1947 (Accidental poems of occidental Britain, and other occasional verse). Here's one of his poems. It's about knickers. I love the internet.

Weybridge to Waterloo
as told to Lt Col Sir Michael Peto Bt by a Lady in 1949

You've heard the tale of how I got
My dressing gown with stripe and spot;
Well, now I'll risk being rather bory
And tell you yet another story.
            *       *       *      *
One day I went to town by train -
(My home's at Weybridge on the Main
Line of the Southern Railway)- when
I cursed the cross-word, dropped my pen
(My Biro pen!) in the pocket
Of my handbag, where my locket,
Lipstick, rouge, and my mascara
Lie side by side with something rarer . . .
Where was I? Oh, I know, please listen;
I looked outside and saw them glisten,
As we were going fast through Clapham -
(A most peculiar thing to happen); -
Glanced through the window, quite by chance,
And saw a pair of nylon pants,
Glinting glossy, sheer and gleaming,
Just my cup of tea, and seeming
What I'd sought in shops and stores
Bargain-basement and first-floors.
There they were, hung out to dry,
I yelped with envy, gave a cry
Of greed surcharged with thisty longing.
At Waterloo I joined the thronging
Crowds milling for the only cab,
My conscience never gave one stab.
You know my methods; off we went
In search of Clapham knickers bent.
We found them, and I did persuade
Their owner, a girl both prim and staid,
To part with them for two pound ten.
            *        *        *        *
They fit divinely. Do say when
You'd like to see them? Darling now? . . .
There, how d'you like them? . . Oh, and how! . .
                                          Michael Peto


Monday, 27 August 2012

"Stop [pause] messin' about!"

When Harold Pinter wrote sketches for Kenneth Williams

Programmes for Pieces of Eight (1959) and One Over the Eight (1961)



A couple of theatre programmes this week. Both quite rare survivors. It's the name of one of the writers in the first one that caught my eye...

In May 1958, Harold Pinter's play The Birthday Party opened in London. Eight performances later, it closed, after a critical and commercial battering. (True, influential Sunday Times critic Harold Hobson gave it a rave, but it had already come off by the time that review was published.) Pinter would eventually break through in 1960 with The Caretaker, but in 1959, when his Birthday Party producer Michael Codron put on a West End revue starring Kenneth Williams, the 29 year old writer was probably happy to be asked to contribute a few sketches.

The lead writer for Pieces of Eight was a wunderkind who was then still a student at Cambridge: a pre-Beyond the Fringe Peter Cook. His sketch 'Not an Asp' is probably the best-remembered bit of the show, and was still being performed by Kenneth Williams, and indeed Cook himself, decades later.



Pinter had four sketches in the show: 'Special Offer', 'Getting Acquainted', 'Request Stop' and 'The Last to Go'. Of these, 'The Last to Go' was the only one to make it onto the Original Cast Recording album, which is still available. It's a typically, um, Pinteresque piece of desultory conversation between an old newspaper seller (Williams) and a bartender, which manages, by not really being about anything, to be about pretty much everything. There's a later performance, without Williams (but possibly featuring Pinter?) which you can hear in full here

Though the other three sketches were published in the collection A Slight Ache and Other Plays, it appears Pinter chose not to preserve 'Getting Acquainted', and I've seen the piece described as 'possibly lost'. However, given that the revue's full script would have been submitted to the Lord Chamberlain's office to gain a licence for performance (as all theatrical productions had to do back then), there must be a file copy somewhere, probably in the British Library. 'Umbrellas', a forgotten Pinter sketch for a later revue, turned up there last year, and caused quite a fuss.

Pieces of Eight was a big hit, and ran for over 400 performances. One Over the Eight followed in 1961, again written largely by Peter Cook (who was by then the toast of London), but without any input from Pinter (who was by then the toast of London too, albeit with a somewhat different crowd toasting him).

Here's Kenneth Williams, pictured in his dressing room before going on to perform in Pieces of Eight. I wonder if he ever got a visit from Harold. 


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Goldfinger, Great Pan paperback edition (and a Moonraker melange)




A 'bread and butter' book this week: nothing to set the world on fire, not especially rare, but a nice copy of a collectable book, and an excuse to link to this (the best ever deployment of the line "Good evening Mr Bond").

I'm not a James Bond collector, luckily, as it can be an expensive business. Dustjacketed firsts are a mainstay of UK Bookfairs, and copies of the early ones in really good nick go for silly money. Add a Fleming signature and we're into the stratosphere. Bond never seems to go out of fashion, but after that Olympic cameo, and with the 50th anniversary of the first film adaptation, Dr. No, and a new movie, Skyfall, both coming up this year, I imagine the book collecting side is in pretty rude health.

I suppose there must be people out there who have gone beyond the hardback firsts and now want to collect all editions of every Bond novel (an endless task, surely), but one of the first stages on that journey must be to assemble a shelf of paperback first editions. It's by no means easy (true first printings of the paperback of On Her Majesty's Secret Service are ridiculously rare), but if you're not fussy about getting a 1st/1st – the copy I'm selling this week is a 1st/5th, for example – then you can find copies without having to break into Fort Knox (see what I did there?).

Then again, this book might find a buyer who is not a Bond collector. This chap collects Pan paperbacks. His wonderful website is both a testament to a rather scary obsession, and a very useful research tool. He's only got three Pans left to go before he has a full set. I rather hope he never makes it. (What will he feel like if he did?)

For Bond collectors though, here's the paperback motherlode: Piz Gloria (named after the location used for Blofeld's mountain base in O.H.M.S.S.) has nearly 500 different covers to pore over.

By way of illustration, here are the covers, in no particular order, for Moonraker alone (or Too Hot to Handle, as it was first called in the USA... )































Sunday, 5 August 2012

A previously unknown piece by John Hall Thorpe?

The Saki dust jacket artist revealed!



After my previous post about this wonderful, and ridiculously rare dust jacket for a book by one of my favourite authors, I thought I'd try and find out a bit about the artist, who's clearly credited in the bottom left hand corner: 'Hall Thorpe'.

Mere seconds on Google reveal that it has to be John Hall Thorpe (1874-1947), who, it turns out, was an Australian-born artist who moved to England and made his name with a hugely popular series of colourful woodblock prints. Though he also produced landscapes and city scenes, his trademark was  flowers. Here's his single most famous print, 'The Country Bunch', made up from 15 blocks which apparently took Hall Thorpe a full year to prepare:


This print, and many others like it were hung above countless fireplaces in the 1920s and 30s, and Hall Thorpe still has a considerable following today, as this 2008 exhibition catalogue shows. He was really hitting his stride in the period just after the First World War, exactly the time he would have designed the jacket for Beasts and Super-Beasts, which includes some flowers along with the society gent and the wolf, just for good measure.

The very informative blog The Linosaurus, which contains several posts about the artist (who bizarrely does not have a Wikipedia entry yet), mentions a children's painting book with art by Hall Thorpe, but I've yet to discover any other book or dust jacket work by him: which makes his Saki design doubly rare! (And gives me another reason to be annoyed I missed my chance to buy it...)

John Hall Thorpe ended up living in Bexhill, on the South coast of England, where he died of pneumonia in 1947 (a committed Christian Scientist, he refused medical help when he got ill). If you're local to the area, you might want to visit an exhibition of his prints being mounted by Pimpernel Prints at The Seaside Gallery in Bexhill from the 10th to the 22nd of September 2012. I might pop along meself.