Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (6)

This the final part of this amazing series. Many thanks David Redd.

APPENDICES

Assorted background and peripheral information on Bear Hudson and others.

Appendix 1 

Norah C. James 

Her 1939 autobiography I Lived in a Democracy is good on reminiscences of Victorian childhood and early grass-roots politics, but then becomes sketchier, mainly due to James’ determination “to avoid my emotional life”. Love affairs with “C” and “Y”, and indeed the obscenity trials of The Well of Loneliness and James’ own Sleeveless Errand, receive only brief treatment, as (with more reason) does a phase of subsequent writing covered by “I decided to write some more books, and used a pseudonym for some of them.” However James’ many cameos of social attitudes are revealing, and the reader can discern the mood which made “Jimmy” write Sleeveless Errand the way she did. The appearance of her Straphangers as a Cub Book is just one of the minor mysteries which must lie behind so many Bear Hudson activities.

Appendix 2

Bernards’ Fiction Series

Bernards contained mysteries too. This sub-series seems to have consisted of just two thin paperbacks, Nos. 27 and 29 within the general wartime numbered series otherwise labelled “Bernards’ Technical Books”. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (4)

John Lane, the London publisher of Eudora Welty’s classic story-collection The Golden Apples, decided in 1952 that sales had slackened too much to justify keeping the work in print. According to Noel Polk’s Eudora Welty – a bibliography of her work (1994), “1175 unbound sheets were sold to “Bear Hudson[?].” How very odd. Perhaps across the world there are copies of John Lane’s edition of The Golden Apples in unusually basic binding.

Did Bear Hudson do that kind of thing often? Apparently, yes. Or at least, it did in 1952. The Reading University literary archives include records from publishers George Allen & Unwin Ltd; in 1952 there was correspondence with “Bear Hudson Ltd who buy remainders from A&U”. Interesting.

A year later, though, Bear Hudson made one last attempt at an orthodox publishing venture.

The Hudson House Classics

After the gap, in 1953-54 there materialised the “Hudson House Classics”. These were five hardcover books reprinting safely out-of-copyright children’s stories such as Treasure Island.

Despite the statement “Published by Hudson House, London” these were clearly Bear Hudson productions. The 1953 dust-jacket spine of Kidnapped carries the familiar logo of the reading bear, and the books were printed by Technical Suppliers Ltd., known to be located at 63, Goldhawk Road, as was Bear Hudson Ltd. itself. Untitled19

Not all Hudson House Classics were dated (or indeed showed the bear anywhere). I found a 1954 date for Treasure Island hiding behind the frontispiece, inexplicably avoiding the title and back-of-title pages. Some books may have been reprinted or only bound-up intermittently; their boards can be either red or green.

Then, after these five, nothing. (More Hudson House Classics were said to be forthcoming, but naturally I can’t find any, not even Little Women despite the HHC Good Wives being its sequel.) So there are still questions.

What was Bear Hudson doing after the Forties? Who were the people behind it?

I looked for the people first. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (3)

Bear Hudson authors

Much could be written about “Elmer Elliot Saks”, better known as F Dubrez Fawcett or as the main “Griff” of many near-the-knuckle paperbacks. With short page counts and fast typing he could breeze through a book a fortnight and still take afternoons off.

The House of Fear by “Frank Richards” reminds us that Charles Hamilton had years of wartime struggles, scraping along in low-paying marginal markets before his post-war resurgence with Billy Bunter in books, theatre and TV.

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

Frank Griffin in Nos. 525 and 538 may have been the F. Griffin who wrote Bear Hudson’s factual No. 518, Women’s Legal Problems. However, he was more obviously the Frank Griffin who wrote pulp action paperbacks for Mellifont, Hamiltons and others.

Pure non-fiction contributors also intrigue. No. 515 The 20th Century Guide to London was by Vernon Sommerfield, a pre-WWII transport writer who had broadcast as early as 1925 on “The Human Side of Railways” from 2LO, the forerunner of the BBC; his son was the noted political activist/novelist John Sommerfield.

And who was W.T. Baker, author of the atypical polemic I Speak to the Workers, No. 503? A review of his book mentioned that “Under the pen-name of “Benchfitter” he has contributed frequently to house-organs published by the staffs of factories.” Clearly Mr Baker had spoken to the workers before. Did his proposed next book, ‘Two-tenths of a thou’ from Nazi domination, ever appear? Apparently not. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (2)

Bear Hudson numbered booklets

The first Bear Hudson booklet was Be Clever with Leather, numbered 501. (No doubt the numbers 1 to 500 were left clear for Bernards.) The highest Bear Hudson number I know of was No. 555, How to Make Rugs, by F.J. Christopher. Some titles carried both the general number and a subset number within a “Model Engineering Series”.

Incidentally, the first few titles were published from 14 The Broadway, Hammersmith, W.6, before the firm settled down at Goldhawk Road, W.12. (A reprint of Be Clever with Leather had the old address on its front cover and the new address on its back, before a further reprint saw 63 Goldhawk Road reach the front cover at last.)

(web image)

(web image)

The Bear Hudson publishing story had several twists and turns. Omitting various oddities of 1946-48 for now, I would place the numbered booklets into three main phases:

1943-5             mostly craft/DIY subjects

1946                mainly pulp fiction

1947-50           returning to crafts

Booklet prices and formats

The prices ranged from 1/- to 2s.6d (5p to 12½p in modern money), with a very few at 6d or 3s.6d. This may have seemed expensive at the time for small stapled pamphlets, but in wartime the printers often controlled the scarce paper stocks and could negotiate a high cover price to increase their own profits. The flimsy pink interior paper just visible in the early printing of Be Clever with Leather above may have been an attempt to imitate home pattern paper, or may have been simply what was available; later impressions saw variations in paper, printers and even the number of staples. (Wartime shortages may explain why, for example, Bernards’ booklet No. 42 used eye-straining dark red paper, while No.51 was slightly more legible on blue.) Most Bear Hudson titles were printed on ordinary white paper. Continue reading

Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (1)

Sent in by  David Redd this original history of London publisher Bear, Hudson Limited. For which much thanks. Here is the opening part– the rest will follow over the next few weeks..

Introduction

This is the book which caught my eye:

The Terror of Timorkal by Festus Pragnell

(Image courtesy of Brian Ameringen and the SF Encyclopedia Gallery)

It was small, old (1946), oddly-shaped, and from a publisher new to me, Bear Hudson Limited of London. Over a few years I acquired this and other slightly strange little books from the same firm. Bear Hudson, I discovered, had a bafflingly varied mixture of titles and writers:

  • Dames Spell Trouble!
  • Say It with Violence!
  • Model Railway Construction!
  • Make Your Own Motors!
  • Women’s Legal Problems!
  • N Wesley Firth!
  • Eudora Welty!
  • Frank Richards without Billy Bunter!
  • Bob Hope!
  • The Curate Finds the Corpse!
  • The Case of the Indiana Torturer!
  • and a possible relationship with “Bernards’ Radio Manuals”.

Forgive my lack of title-differentiation and excess of exclamation marks. I have tried investigating to make sense of the wide variation in publications, but Bear Hudson seems to have been the original moving target.

I hope my limited findings may intrigue or amuse – and I hope that someone more knowledgeable may fill in at least a few of the many gaps.

–David Redd, 5th February, 2017.

Continue reading

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Samuel Fuller and 144 Piccadilly

Found- a British paperback 144 Piccadilly (NEL, London 1973) a novel by the American film director Samuel Fuller. It concerns a group of London hippies who barricade themselves inside a decaying Mayfair mansion and resist all efforts to evict them. One cataloguer notes that the American edition rather obscures the fact that it was based directly on an actual event — “ripped from the headlines,” as Fuller might have put it. In September of 1969 a radical group known as The London Street Commune, formed to highlight concerns about rising levels of homelessness in London, took over a large house at the corner of Piccadilly and Park Lane (just across from Hyde Park); they occupied the building for six days before being forcibly evicted by the police. Fuller’s literary conceit was to insert himself into the situation, “playing” the narrator, a cigar-smoking American film director (in London for a BFI retrospective of his films) who gets involved with the squatters by accident. Unlike most of Fuller’s books, it’s not just a novelization of one of his own film treatments; as he tells it in his posthumously -published memoir, he actually had been in London when the occupation was taking place, had witnessed the initial break-in while out on a late-night walk, and with his “newspaperman’s nose,” had contrived to have a chat with the occupiers. “The disheveled squatters invited me to stay on,” he wrote ‘(if)…I hadn’t had prior commitments, a wife, and a flight back to the States the next day, I would have.” He subsequently got “damn mad” about the treatment accorded the squatters by the British media and the police, and knocked out a novel in which “an American film director very much like me participates in an illegal entry in London, then tries to bridge the generational gap by becoming the group’s mascot and witness. The fictional ‘me’ does what I was tempted to do but couldn’t, abandoning his hotel suite for a mattress on the floor with the flower children.” He never made a movie of the book.

Loosely inserted in the book is a typed postcard (27/11/71)  from Fuller “Am writing ‘Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street’ which I’ll shoot here in Feb. My book 144 Piccadilly just came out… Am at Senats Hotel 5 Koln 1 – Unter Goldschmied”. Fuller has not signed the card but the words ‘Mit Luftpost’ are handwritten in red ink, presumably by the great man…  At the front of the book is the ownership signature of Phil Hardy, the recipient of the card- he wrote a book on Fuller published by Praeger ( N.Y. 1970)