It’s fun finding out… about Chapman Pincher

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Discovered in a box of books is this copy of It’s Fun Finding Out, putatively by Bernard Wicksteed, but actually written with Chapman Pincher, the man who was to become a true legend among spy-hunters.

Back in 1947, when the book was published by the Daily Express, Wicksteed, an RAF war hero, was an ex sub-editor who had published his first book, Father’s Heinkel in 1944. Pincher was an ex physics teacher who had recently joined the Express as a science correspondent. One day Express editor Arthur Christiansen had the bright idea of bringing the two men together to compile an exploration of weird facts something along the lines of the American Ripley Believe It Or Not books. The result was It’s Fun Finding Out.

Structured so as to reveal facts while on visits to several places, including a Zoo, the seaside, a farm, a wood at night, a river bank, the country in Autumn, a grouse moor, an art gallery and the Science Museum, the book also considers facts relating to social history, philately, the amazing physical toughness of Winston Churchill, the French view of the English and vice versa, and guppies, among many other topics. Continue reading

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The name is Bond…Sexton Bond

From the Peter Haining papers, this typed manuscript  by the great researcher and expert on British comics and periodicals W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts (1923-1997). It is interesting that Fleming got even close to writing a Sexton Blake, a bit like J.K. Rowling deciding to do a new Secret Seven adventure (actually not a bad idea..)

Sexton Blake and James Bond

I must confess that I greatly enjoyed the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming. Alas, there were only about sixteen of them as he died a premature death in 1964. Since then a number of other writers have penned them, but never read as well as the creator.

The first in 1955 was entitled 'Casino Royal' when the author an ex-M.I.5 man, certainly was authentic in every detail. The films that commenced in 1963 with 'Dr. No'*. I also greatly enjoyed, especially those featuring Sean Connery. Roger Moore his successor was just as good, though even more suitable to the Saint character, with his type of humour.

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Fascists “Uppish” Again (Tom Driberg)

Found - this cutting from the Oxford Mail - Thursday 4th February 1943 detailing an incident straight out of Foyle's War. While World War II was raging, back in England pro-Nazi 'hooligans' were getting 'uppish.' A good demonstration of fair play and free speech - but 'much to be deplored.' Tom Driberg, now the subject of several biographies, was an openly gay, Communist sympathiser and a lifetime opponent of fascism. Churchill said 'he is the sort of person who gives sodomy a bad name..' Peter Wright of Spycatcher fame said he was a double agent...

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Fascists "Uppish" Again - M. P.

Mr. Driberg (Ind., Maldon) asked the Home Secretary in the Commons today if he was aware that an organisation which advocated peace by negotiation with Hilter, and distributes pro-Nazi, anti-parliamentary and anti-Semitic propaganda, was proposing to hold a public meeting at a London theatre in the near future, and whether he would take steps to prevent the holding of such a meeting as likely to provoke a breach of the peace.

Mr. Morrison said that while watch was being kept on the activities of this organisation, his present information did not suggest that this meeting was likely to attract so much public interest that serious disorder was to be apprehended, and it would be premature for him to decide at this early date whether there were ground to prohibit the meeting, under Regulation 39E.

Mr. Driberg: Will you bear in mind that only last night there was a deplorable exhibition of hooliganism at Finsbury, where a memorial of Lenin was broken up and tarred and placarded with Fascist slogans?
Will you bear in mind that these people do seem to be getting rather uppish again and require a sharp check?

Mr. Morrison: I will certainly look into that incident to which you refer. If true, it is much to be deplored.

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Artists as foreign spies

It is a fact that many signposts were temporarily removed, especially in rural areas, during the Second World War, and that countrymen were advised to report sightings of suspicious foreign looking and foreign sounding individuals in their district. What is not generally known, I suspect, is that an artist plying his or her trade as a landscape painter could have come under the gaze of local busybodies, including members of the Home Guard, who may have reported them to the authorities.

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