Sunday 25 December 2011

Frank Bellamy - Tough Ghosts and Old Bones

Tough Ghosts by William J. Elliott (Pub: Gerald G. Swan),
Originally 1941; this edition c.1950

Mike Higgs wrote to me recently and asked if by chance I had a cover of "Tough Ghosts" published by Gerald G. Swan, the publisher who hoarded books during the run up to the Second World War and had a field day publishing during and after the war. (Take a look at Bill Contento's list). Quite a few Swan books are available via the usual sources, but it's hard to find hardbacks with dust jackets intact.

I did have the cover and sent him a copy saying I was intending adding it to the blog when I could discover any other information on it. Nothing arose and I forgot all about it. Now Mike has given me the incentive to write something and I'll tell you why, in a moment.

William J. Elliott was born, according to, in 1886 and published many crime books. He was quite prolific at Swan's as a cursory search on the Net will show. That's it! That's all I can find. No wonder I didn't write anything. Even though Steve Holland mentions him, I suspect that's taken from a contents page and if I hadn't wanted to rush this for Christmas, I would have asked Steve beforehand!

I asked Mike about his interest in Swan publications. "When I received the cover, I saw that it was a paperback edition with a 1/- price tag. I have seen an early ad for a paper edition but it was priced at 2/-  Add to this the fact that there is a hardback edition with dust jacket and it makes you wonder how many editions there were. All would have used the same cover artwork of course. With all these variations, it's no wonder that Swan checklist compilers can often be found in quiet corners banging their heads against brick walls."

Anyway, why the rush to publish this now?

Old Bones by Herman Petersen (Pub: Gerald G. Swan), 1950

Mike has kindly sent me the cover of a book that I didn't know existed which actually - unlike the above, to my knowledge, is signed clearly by Frank Bellamy. I quickly bought my own copy. Another interesting fact: many dust jackets were cut in different places. Mike's scan has half of Bellamy's signature cut off - so I have used my copy above.

He wrote to me "In fact, it was because I had a chance to see Frank's work on that particular Swan novel that made me take a closer look at "Old Bones" because I suddenly saw a similarity in technique."  

"Old Bones" we know a lot more about, as it's an American novel from 1943 - this copy was published 1950. As this excellent review of the actual book tells us:
Herman Petersen was a prolific contributor to the aviation, adventure, and detective pulps of the Twenties and Thirties; one of his stories appears in the famous “Ku Klux Klan Number” of Black Mask (June 1, 1923). Between 1940 and 1943, he published four crime novels advertised by the publisher of three of them, Duell, Sloan & Pearce, as “quietly sinister mysteries with a rural background.”
Luckily the dustjacket appears to have survived - I wonder if it is because the design is so startling in that 'death' green? It's a very strong design by Bellamy - especially when one considers at this time in his career, he had designed billboard posters and advertising for films, but had not started on a regular weekly comic strip. He had produced a weekly cartoon for the local paper illustrating local football matches. Follow the above link to Mystery*File to see the Dell cover version of this book. I prefer the Bellamy!

If you want to know if Mike is thinking of doing a Complete Cloak - you heard it here first. He is!  He asked me to emphasise that he hopes it will be in 2012, but bear with him. And whilst writing he answered a few questions about his involvement in the Hawk Book reprints (an article for another day) and mentioned "If Hawk Books had continued, we may well have featured more Bellamy material. I know that one thing I wanted to do was reprint those"Heros" strips in a landscape format."

And finally if you want to see some of Mike's work, which I too loved in the Power Comics of the sixties, take a look at Lew Stringer's affectionate tribute to Christmas comics

Happy Christmas readers!

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