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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)


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Donald Davie & the poetry scene (1963)

Found in a copy of New & Selected Poems by Donald Davie (Wesleyan University Press, 1961) a handwritten letter from the author. A good newsy letter that gives a snapshot of the  Oxford and transatlantic poetry scene of the early 1960s. It is to Fred Hunter founder of Independent Radio News, teacher of journalism and something of a poetaster and friend of many of the Sixties and Liverpool poets. He also had a poetry record label (Stream Records) which in 1967 put out an L.P. of the American poet Dorn reading from his North Atlantic Turbine. The letter reads:

[Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge]. June 18th 1963.

Dear Mr. Hunter,

I was touched and pleased to have your request from yourself and Mr. S. Raut Roy. I have today dispatched the books to you - don't send them on to India before taking out your own two copies!

I know Jonathan William, by name of course and I believe he was lately entertained by my young colleague Jeremy Prynne, to whom I am chiefly indebted for my knowledge of the Projective Verse poets, who seem to me to represent the only plausible growing-point for Anglo-American poetry. Olson I esteem chiefly as a theorist, Duncan's work I hardly know, but Creeley's I admire very much. We would link with him Edward Dorn whose very distinguished collection in typescript we are at present (Prynne and I) trying to place with a London publisher - but with predictably little success. 

I am having great difficulty about completing a new collection of poems which will represent in some degree the sympathy I feel for some of the Projective Verse methods. But this business of doubling up as poet and don is quite hopeless! 

Again, I'm grateful.

Yours sincerely, 
Donald Davie
BeatGirl

Dail Ambler

A letter from the Peter Haining collection unsigned but certainly from Steve Holland, a fellow British pulp enthusiast who wrote a definitive book on the subject - The Mushroom Jungle and later a book on pulp writer Dail Ambler The Lady Holds a Gun! Both books can be bought at Amazon, the latter only as a Kindle download…Among many works written under pseudonyms Dail Ambler (a.k.a.Danny Spade) also wrote the screenplay for the cult film Beat Girl (1960) starring the amazing Gillian Hills.

Dear Peter,
 Many thanks for your letter, and for the offer of some Janson's on loan...
THE MUSHROOM JUNGLE: well, you've certainly come to the right person to ask, as this is the working title of my book on the fifties publishers! I dreamed up the title years ago when I started, a sort of play on The Asphalt Jungle, with mushrooms chucked in because of how these publishers seemed to pop up overnight. The bulk of the bibliography (which runs to 250 pages} is written, but I'm adding to it all the time…

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The Ghosts of Glamis

Found -  The Ghosts of Glamis - a typescript, apparently unpublished, from around the 1960s. Glamis is the seat of the Queen Mother's family, the Bowes-Lyons, and is said to be the most haunted castle in Britain. There is the Grey Lady who haunts the chapel, a tongueless woman haunting the grounds, a young black servant boy haunts the seat by the door to the Queen's bedroom, also the ghost of the gambler and hell raiser Earl Beardie has free range of the house (he lost his soul to the devil in a card game). There are more. The castle is also mentioned in Shakespeare's MacBeth, and the murder of King Malcolm the II is supposed to have taken place in one of the rooms.This seems unlikely as the castle dates from the 14th century and the murder from the 11th century. The typescript is of unknown provenance but seems to have been written for publication...

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Horror in the Night by Richard Macgregor (aka MacGregor Urquhart )

A local dealer has this graphic artist's illustration for a lurid book cover. He thinks he may have bought it from someone selling a quantity of book cover illustrations on card (gouache, watercolour etc.,) by the railings on Bayswater Road about 30 years ago. Art (now mostly kitsch and worse) is still sold there every Sunday. Often these illustrations  have lettering so you can see the title, but not in this case, and no artist had signed either.

By sheer chance he found the actual book that had used the illustration - in a box of SF, fantasy and horror paperbacks.  The book was Horror in the Night, a short story collection by Richard Macgregor published by Digit in London in 1963. Not a lot is known about Macgregor, these were 5 short horror stories and he seems to have written 5 other books between 1963 and 1964 for Digit. Titles like The Deadly Sun, Creeping Plague, The Day a Village Died --- a category that came to be known as Doom Watch fiction, possibly post apocalyptic in content. A further book Taste of the Temptress came out in Sydney in the mid 1960s published by Eclipse, so he could have been Australian -this was also published by Digit so possibly not (also it seems he was from Essex - see the excellent Bear Alley.) As for the artist it could be one R.A. Osborne (1923 - 1973) art director of Digit at the time and responsible for many of their covers including Macgregor's Day a Village Died, the story of a village plagued by killer ants.

This piece first appeared at our old site Bookride and since then new information has come to light via dealer Cold Tonnage and the IMDB database. It seems that his real name was MacGregor Urquhart. IMDB's short biography says he 'was a writer and actor, known for The Powder Monkey (1951), John of the Fair (1951) and The Malory Secret (1951). He died on March 17, 1967.' His first work of fiction appeared in the early 1960s  so it seems that his writing career followed his spell in movies. Further investigation shows he was also a playwright with at least one published play Investigation. A Pay in Three Acts (Evans, London 1958.)