The contribution of W.O.G. Lofts ( 1923 – 1997) to the history of boys’ fiction in the British periodical press is immense. ‘Bill’ Lofts, a mechanical engineer by training, but a fact-collector by inclination (why did he never enter BBC’s Mastermind ?), was also interested in detective stories. Sexton Blake and Sherlock Holmes were two creations on which his skills as an astonishingly assiduous researcher were exercised to great effect. Years spent among the riches of the British Museum Periodical Library at Colindale on projects which probably no-one else had either the energy or commitment to pursue produced what turned out to be invaluable guides to the more obscure purlieus of popular literature. One such study was The Adventures of Herlock Sholmes: a History and Bibliography, a pamphlet co-written in 1976 with the owner of the Dispatch Box Press, Jon Lellenberg, an expert in the history of Sherlock Holmes in parody and pastiche.
According to Lofts and Lellenberg, the story of the Herlock Sholmes parodies was also the story of their creator, Charles Hamilton (above) the most prolific writer in the English language, who as the mainstay of Amalgamated Press, is estimated to have written around 72 million words in his whole career , the equivalent of a thousand full-length novels. Using the pen name ‘Peter Todd’, which was the name of a pupil at Greyfriars School, which Hamilton had dreamed up for The Magnet, Hamilton made Todd a contributor of Sherlock Holmes parodies to The Greyfriars Herald, the school’s own newspaper, which Amalgamated Press brought out as a separate publication.
Found in the Peter Haining archives this long piece from 1995 about the great Flower Fairy illustrator Cicely Mary Barker. It is likely to be the fruit of research by PH's good friend the amazing W.O.G. 'Bill' Lofts. Cicely Mary Barker's beautiful illustrations are still much loved and have become something of an industry. She also produced some deeply religious illustrations which are also of very high quality.
CICELY MARY BARKER
Wander into almost any stationers', gift or book shop, and you will see them - on cards and calendars, notelets and writing pads, diaries and address books, pencil tins and wrapping paper - even on tins of tea and Wedgwood china collectors' plates! The Flower Fairies suddenly seem to be everywhere.
They never really went away, of course - since they first appeared over 70 years ago, they have continued to work their magic on generations of children and adults alike. If all at once they seem more popular than ever before, it is because 1995 marks the 100th anniversary of the birthday of their creator, Cicely Mary Barker. To celebrate the centenary in June, and hand-in-hand with a big marketing campaign, Warnes are due to publish the first ever study of the artist: “Cicely Mary Barker and her Art” by Jane Laing. This superbly produced book, lavishly illustrated with colour plates of the artist's work and family photographs, is an absolute "must" for any collector of Barker's work, and guaranteed to add to her ever-increasing circle of admirers world-wide.
Found - part of a letter to Peter Haining from W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts about an intended book on post-war British pulps. Neither WorldCat or Copac show such a book among Lofts's oeuvre.The manuscript could possibly be among Haining's papers which we are still sifting through. Almost all of the authors mentioned can be found at the Sf Encyclopaedia site but even there details can be quite scant. Some of these pulps are now quite valuable - There Were No Asper Ladies, for example, features an occult detective (Lucian Carolus) and is a full blown vampire novel.
Many thanks for your list of fifties books. An interesting little list as well. As I said, I'll return the favour at the top of the list and work my way down (so expect some jumping about!).
I don't; know anything about David Scott-Moncrieff, apart from the act that he had a second collection of horror stories. They were published in 1948 and 1949.
This the second part of this quest by the great researcher Lofts from circa 1975…there is a piece on Mann at Wikipedia, giving his real name as Charles Henry Cannell and with more up to date information and an earlier birth date (1882). Last year a biography appeared The Shadow of Mr Vivian: The Life of E. Charles Vivian (1882-1947) by Peter Berresford Ellis.
On the Trail of the Mysterious "Jack Mann". By W. O. G. Lofts.
The mysterious "Jack Mann" seems to be in the news again of late, especially with the excellent news that Bookfinger have started to republish his novels. The first entitled 'Grey Shapes' being excellently revised by Lillian Carlin, a few issues of this magazine ago.
I use the expression 'mysterious' relating to "Jack Mann" in the sense, that it was only recent I was able to satisfy myself regarding his real identity. At least here in England his real name has been a matter of much conjecture for many years. He suddenly appeared in the world of fiction in 1933, when he wrote two novels for the publishers Wright and Brown. This firm who had offices in Farringdon Avenue, London, just off the mighty Fleet Street was run by two elderly gentlemen a Mr Wright and Mr Brown. Apart from their popular fiction books being sold cheaply to the public and libraries, the owners were also extremely popular with Sexton Blake pulp writers. These authors simply changed the name of Sexton Blake and his assistant Tinker to some other names, and their whole original Blake stories were published as 'new; to the unsuspecting public.
From the Tartarus site with thanks (1937)
Found among the papers of the writer Peter Haining, this piece (the first of two) by the writer and expert on popular fiction and juvenile literature W.O.G. Lofts. It is on the elusive writer of supernatural fiction Jack Mann (real name E.C.Vivian (but also known as Charles Henry Cannell, A.K. Walton, Sydney Barrie Lynd, Galbraith Nicholson and Barry Lynd.) As Jack Mann his books are highly collectable and some of considerable value. Lofts starts off by tracing his daughter...
Report by W. O. G. Lofts
Report of Visit to Mrs. K. Ashton. Monday July 7th 1975.
Frank Vernon Lay and myself arrived at Mrs. Ashton's flat at 7pm sharp which is situated in a Mews off Beaumont Street, London. Mrs. Ashton was about 60 well groomed, and obviously well educated. Unfortunately the meeting on the whole was a great disappointment as we were not there more than 15 minutes. Mrs. A who was born during the First World War, knew nothing about E. C. V's Hutchinson (publishing) activities. She had no copies or records of the magazines and was not very expert (in my opinion) of his stories. The majority of her family papers were destroyed during the last war. The facts gleaned that elucidated several things however were interesting.
Charles Henry Cannell, was his real name, and he was the son of a Norfolk farmer. He had a serious dispute with him early in life, and so changed it. His mother did not remarry, and he had no brothers or nephews, only two sisters whom he did not keep in contact with. He served in the Boer War, but she did not think in the Great War. In the last was he was an Air-Raid warden. An early writing venture was "Books for the Bairns' edited by William Stead (very juvenile material) and he also working in collaboration with the author J. D. Beresford - material not known. He wrote some Westerns for Ward Lock under the name of Barry Lynd., and also other material for 'Wind and Water' magazine. E. C. V. certainly and without question was JACK MANN, and he wrote the stories entirely by himself. His agent was not concerned in this and probably he (the agent) felt disgruntled and this was the reason why he was not interested to talk about it. Mrs Ashton could not throw any light on the large number of books that came on the market though curiously this was the same time she moved from London to North Wales. Its more than likely they were originally her own father's autographed copies (and from her mother's) and she did not want to admit it. She seemed to me vague in places (e.g. the nickname her father called her mother inscribed in books) but did promise to look through all the papers when she had time. We had a glass of sherry and then left!
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.