Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (6)

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


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”.

27        Fighter Controller, Squadron Leader J D V Holmes, RAF

29        Did This Really Happen? Sidney Gainsley

Fighter Controller by J D V Holmes was a better-produced book than its homespun card cover might indicate. It was a short fictionalised account of WWII RAF life, illustrated with contemporary photographs and sketches, printed in Edinburgh on reasonable quality paper. Its appearance in a line of cheap technical booklets may be due to the family patriotism evidenced by Bear Hudson’s later tribute to wartime leaders (No. 527, They Led Us to Victory) or, I sigh, it may have some other explanation.

(Holmes, incidentally, was a Spad pilot in WWI and survived being shot down over Germany. Afterwards he flew commercial pleasure flights for some years – one early colleague was Alan Cobham – and much later wrote up the experience for Popular Flying, September 1937. Bernards produced other aviation titles with You Can Fly, Aeronautics Illustrated and Manual of Gliding Design & Construction, but all were non-fiction and none were by Holmes.)

Did This Really Happen? by Sidney Gainsley was a more typical Bernards production with its small print on coarse paper. It contained eight short stories about strange twists of fate, and probably appeared in early 1944. Gainsley (originally Ginsburg) had already written the non-fiction Bernards’ booklet No. 28 on income tax. Ten years later Sidney Gainsley, F.C.A., then of 1, Quality Court (that huge and historic building which housed, inter alia, the Registered Office of “mushroom” publisher Grant Hughes), would be the liquidator for Grant Hughes and also would initiate the winding-up of its sister company Curtis Warren. The circular connection with Bear Hudson via Gainsley is that both the later firms were run by Joseph Pacey, a co-director of Hamilton’s with Albert Assael’s brother Harry. Forties publishing could seem a very small world.

Further evidence: in November 1962, the small printing firm of Haverfield Press Limited held a meeting at 108 Brompton Road, Kensington (the address of Panther Books / Hamilton & Co.) and passed a Special Resolution: “That the Company be wound up voluntarily and that Sidney Gainsley, F.C.A., of 52-54 Gray’s Inn Road, London W.C.1, be and he is hereby appointed Liquidator for the purposes of such winding-up.” The Registered Office of Haverfield Press Limited was at 52-54 Gray’s Inn Road, London W.C.1, and the Company Chairman was J. Pacey.


The title story is a fictional explanation for the mystery of the “Marie Celeste” [sic]; a few others have a slight supernatural element. Mr Gainsley later wrote at least one short thriller but was published by Brown Watson (then another Bernard Babani company). Thus Did This Really Happen? seems to have concluded Bernards’ Fiction Series.

The whole episode remains a curious footnote to the Bernards story, and I still wonder who acquired these two books – and why. They pre-dated Bear Hudson’s fiction offerings by several months, and these Bernards booklets have a tone of plain-man practicality in their prose unlike anything from Bear Hudson. Although Albert Assael was a director of both companies and later published much fiction, I would judge that someone else chose these two.

Appendix 3

 Bear Hudson magazines by date

(Compiled from on-line data posted by Phil Stephenson-Payne and others. Probably incomplete.)

Feb 1948         Intimate Love Stories  (#1)     32pp, 1/-

Feb 1948         Intimate Love Stories (#2)

Mar 1948        Intimate Love Stories (#3)

Mar 1948        Thrilling Romances (#1)         32pp, price 1/-

Mar 1948        Thrilling Romances (#2)

Apr 1948        Intimate Love Stories (#4)

Apr 1948        Intimate Love Stories (#5)

Apr 1948        Screen Cowboy Stories (#1)   24pp, price 1/-

Apr 1948        Screen Romances (#1) 24pp, price 1/-

May 1948       Intimate Love Stories (#6)

Jun 1948         Thrilling Romances (#3)

Jun 1948         Intimate Love Stories (#7)

Jul 1948          Thrilling Romances (#4)

Jul 1948          Intimate Love Stories (#8)

Jul 1948          Screen Cowboy Stories (#2)

Jul 1948          Screen Romances (#2)

Aug 1948        Thrilling Romances (#5)

Aug 1948        Thrilling Romances (#6)

Aug 1948        Rip-Roaring Western              64pp, price 1/6

Oct 1948         Thrilling Crime Stories            32pp, price 1/-

Nov 1948        Screen Crime Stories               24pp, price 1/-

Many of the above were undated.

Appendix 4

Other Assael/Babani magazines to 1950 

(For comparison with the Bear Hudson magazines of the same period. Again, compiled quickly from on-line data posted by Phil Stephenson-Payne and others, and not checked for completeness.)

(a) Brown Watson magazines

Most details below are from Fictionmags, which explains that Detective Casebook is actually “One of the many British magazines in the 1940s published as a series of booklets with different titles to avoid paper restrictions.” The same may be true of other titles. Most were 32pp, quarto, priced at 1/-.

Sep 1946         Purple Star Adventures

Nov 1946        Green Star Adventures

  1. 1946 Western Star Adventures
  2. 1946 Vivid Stories

1947-48           Sparkling Confessions (11 issues?)

1948                Superb Confessions (2 issues?)

1948                Spotlight Confessions (1 issue?)

1948                Unique Romances

Feb 1948         Fireside Detective Casebook (#1)

Mar 1948        Bedside Detective Casebook (#2)

Apr 1948        My Story Confession Book

May 1948       Tantalising Tales

Jun 1948         Keyhole Detective Casebook (#3)

Aug 1948        Slave Girl

Oct 1948         Tales of the Turf

Nov 1948        Western Tales

Jan 1949          Arizona Western

(Although, it is tempting to piece together a possible sequence: Slave Girl, Tales of the Turf, Unique Romances, Vivid Stories, Western Tales … )

(b) Hamilton & Co. magazines

1946                Futuristic Stories        48pp, pulp, price 2/-

1946                Futuristic Stories        32pp, pulp, price 1/-

Nov 1946        Strange Adventures     48pp, pulp, price 1/-

Feb 1947         Strange Adventures     32pp, pulp, price 1/-

  1. 1949 Homicide Detective 64pp, quarto, price 9d

May 1949       Crime Detective

June 1949        Police Detective

  1. Aug 1949 Crime Investigator      64pp, pulp, 9d

Oct 1949         Racket-Buster Detective

1951-57           For clarification, the Hamilton & Co “Authentic Science Fiction”                            novel series soon became a magazine but remained in paperback                              format until May 1957, when it went digest-size. Title and page count                  varied. Price 1/6, later 2/-.

(c) John Spencer & Co magazines

One-off titles:

1948                Bohemian Tales

Jun 1948         Crime Confessions                  (#1?)    24pp, pulp, price 1/-

Jul 1948          Thrilling Western                                31pp?

Jul 1948          Phantom Detective Cases       (#2?)    28pp, pulp, price 1/-

Summer 1948  Harem Frolics                                     32pp, price “75 ¢”

Nov 1948        Mystery Crime Cases                        (#3?)

Mar 1949        Ace Western

Apr 1949        Dynamic Detective Cases       (#4?)

Again there was a clear break in format after 1949. (Although there does seem to have been a Crime Confessions #2, date uncertain.) From 1950 on, John Spencer & Co. published four paperback science fiction magazines which ran for several years: Futuristic Science Stories, Tales of Tomorrow, Worlds of Fantasy and Wonders of the Spaceways. Later still, there were a couple of magazines which might be regarded as eventually mutating into part of the Badger Books Supernatural series, published as paperback books. Like many similar companies (including Grant Hughes and Hamilton & Co.), John Spencer & Co. tried publishing comics but found books more profitable.

(d) Instructive Arts

While Bear Hudson and the three other publishers listed above were extremely busy with magazines in 1948-49, this does not seem to have been true of Instructive Arts. I list below the results of a brief trawl for their publications, which all seem to date from 1950 or later:

1950    Art and the Nude, Feodor Hodak        spiral bound, art studies

1951    Double Cross Trail, E E Halleran    paperback

Outposts of Vengeance, E E Halleran

Kill to Fit, Bruno Fischer

Knife in my Back, Sam Merwin

Rustlers of Red Creek, Charles H Snow

also Walter Standish; title(s) not known?

1955?  Flick #1                                               small glamour magazine

1956?  Pick #1                                                small glamour magazine

Pick #3

1958?  Wagon Wheel Westerns                      paperback

Gunsmoke DawnJohn Shane W51?

Rifles on the Rim, Charles H Snow W55?

Rim-Fire Skunked, Charles Bellew W57?

Ranger Round-Up, Gladwell Richardson W66?

Vermilion Outlaw, Calico Jones W67

The Shootin Sherriff, Tex Riley

Ambush Hell, George C Appell


W48 (Brand of a Cowboy, Clay Allison), W49, W50, and then W74 on, are            listed within subsequent Wagon Wheel Westerns as being published by Brown   Watson. Seemingly only W51 to W73 – and perhaps not all of them – would        have been from Instructive Arts. What went on in numbers below W48 is  another mystery to me.

1960? Royal Picture Story Books

The Adventures of Hanky-Panky        boards 4+20pp

Stumpy the Scarecrow

Will the Fiddler, Enid Blyton              hardcover 56p unpaginated 105/8″ x 77/8″

1960s  Golden Rose Picture Story Books      card covers + 12pp

The Cat who was a King         

            The Enchanted Valley  

            The Four Musicians

            Happy Hours

            The Little Green Man

            Little Red Riding Hood

            Olive with the Little White Hands

            Princess Viola

            The Shepherdess and the Chimney-Sweep

            White rose and Red rose

Undated ephemera

Jolly Jumbo Crayon and Painting Book * card covers + 8pp

Helter Skelter Painting and Crayon Book: Stories – Games – Puzzles

*at least one other title in same format but from “Treasure Colouring Books”?

Appendix 5 

Brown Watson and Priory Books – a long hard trail

While I was checking the Assael and Babani publishing firms, little side-issues kept distracting me. The worst began with two old paperback westerns, both bearing a little publishing information with a sting in the tail:“Printed in Hungary for Priory Books, England. Copyright A. Babani (London)”.

“Copyright A. Babani”?

I wondered what was going on. Albert Babani and his brother Solomon at Brown Watson had published both books previously (as “Wagon Wheel Westerns”), but their practice was to ascribe copyright to Brown Watson or to any previous publisher. This “A. Babani” in the Priory books did not make sense.

I knew that Priory was a publisher to approach with caution. Its 1970s paperbacks had sparked accusations of book piracy with consequent investigations; many Priory covers were classics of cheapness. Perhaps mistakenly, I started looking at a few more Priory westerns and found – in only my small sample – three main variants:

  1. c. 1969-70.

Cover simple coloured sketch, legend “A MUSTANG WESTERN”.

Price 20p or 4/- (back cover, international price list).

“A Mustang Western. Printed in Hungary for Priory Books, England.” Includes a source note, e.g. “© by Brown,Watson Ltd.”

2a. c. 1971.

More professional cover. Logo of “PRIORY” over a stylised medallion and number.

Price 25p (back). Thin paper.

“Published by PRIORY BOOKS, London, England … Produced in Israel”. Includes a source note, e.g. “First printed by Ace Books, Inc.”

2b. c.1974. As 2a, except:

Front cover price $1.25. UK 30p (back).

Name in logo SHARON. “Published by Sharon Publications, Tel Aviv, Israel … Produced in Israel by EDREI-DAN PRINTING WORKS LTD. Tel Aviv, Israel.” Includes a source note of original copyright.

  1. c.1978. Limited-palette art, no logo.

Price 75p (back). Thicker paper.

“Printed in Hungary for Priory Books, England. Copyright A. Babani (London)”.

Puzzling enough – is this all the same firm or not? – but further complications arise. (Never mind a possible fourth variant: Coffin Creek by J A Hordan [sic] from Priory may have the worst “western” cover in history. I’d rather ignore it.) Here as sample evidence of the complications is the printing history of Silver Heels by Cal Paton, as seen by Worldcat:

1964    Wright & Brown 173pp – the evident source for the following editions.

1965    Brown Watson Western Pocket Library No. 15. 63pp

1969    Brown Watson Sabre Books 2nd 158pp

?          London : Priory Books ; Tel Aviv : Edrei-Dan Printing Works, ©1963. 158pp

?          [Bridlington, Yorkshire] : Bridbooks Publishers, ©1963

?          [Israel] : Bridbooks Publishers, ©1963 158pp {Same edition? See below.}

A Priory edition of Silver Heels advertised on-line has a limited-colour Hungary-type cover. However, also advertised is a Sharon edition which states “Published by PRIORY BOOKS, London, England © by Brown Watson Ltd 1963 … Produced in Israel for PRIORY BOOKS, London, England by EDREI-DAN PRINTING WORKS LTD., Tel Aviv”. All inside a Sharon cover. How interesting.

From the Worldcat evidence I’d guess that the Priory/Sharon/Bridbooks “© 1963” is a mis-reading of “1965” from the “Western Pocket Library” edition, omitting the Wright & Brown original altogether. Perhaps “Copyright A. Babani” in some books is equally inaccurate.

(Incidentally, the Brown Watson “Western Pocket Library” consisted of two-column text stories in the well-known 64pp digest “library” format. Not to be confused with some later Top Sellers “Western Pocket Library” picture stories.)

Another complication arrives via Silver Heels: its “Bridbooks” edition. I possess (pending clearout) a couple of 20p Bridbooks efforts, which resemble the c. 1971 25p Priory Books although their covers seem far cheaper. Both lines feature slim books, various titles in common and a propensity for being stamped with F.W.W. (Woolworth’s) remainder prices, possibly their main form of distribution.

My two Bridbooks both state “Published by Peter Haddock Ltd, Bridlington, England … First printed by Ace Books, Inc. … Produced in Israel for BRIDBOOKS PUBLISHERS”. Yes, the distinctive Priory style. Who was copying whom?

The bottom line is that I found no direct connection between either Priory or Bridbooks and Brown Watson. Yet that “A. Babani” copyright was odd.

This period around 1970 was a time of great flux for Brown Watson (as it was for most Assael/Babani firms). After the 1965 injunction from W H Allen over Frank Harris’ My Life and Loves, Brown Watson had some dizzying years. It changed its main imprint from Digit to Sabre, sold its star author J T Edson to Corgi, rebranded again as Flamingo (more westerns, reprints of W R Burnett and some Tarzan books) and switched c.1974 into film and TV tie-in annuals, ending in 1979 when Albert Babani’s sons moved to Grandreams. Somewhere in all this there may have been a brief acquaintance with Priory or Bridbooks. Who knows?

I hope somebody else has the full story. I haven’t. Priory belongs to a long hopelessly-confused trail of publishers in which the first firm alone (Brown Watson) can drive bibliographers to despair even without considering its shadowy beginnings as Bush Publications. I mentioned Top Sellers, an imprint (to use the term loosely) of Thorpe & Porter. I suppose this merits one last digression.

Originally Brown Watson of London and Thorpe & Porter of Oadby, Leicester, were two independent companies both busy with books and magazines: BW in general publishing, T&P mainly reprints/imports. However by the mid-1970s, after various changes and takeovers, both were part of the Warner publishing empire located within London’s Columbia Warner House: Thorpe & Porter, Top Sellers, Williams Publishing (Tarzan and adult material), General Book Distributors (UK MAD etc) and of course Brown Watson (those fondly-remembered tie-in annuals). In the same building with BW and the rest were the Warner film empire and its more orthodox book publishers, namely Howard & Wyndham and – by sheer coincidence – old friend W H Allen.

After 1979, if I understand subsequent events correctly, a company called Radmace went through various incarnations as Brown Watson (Leicester); Brown Watson; and Mcdonald Publishing, which retained Brown Watson as an imprint. One director of the company, c.1991-92, was Peter Haddock.

London, Hungary, Israel, Bridlington, Priory Books, Sharon Books, Bridbooks, Warner Bros (I didn’t imagine it), Peter Haddock Publishing… The authors involved were not only the usual pulp stalwarts but also included Ursula Bloom, Gil Brewer, A Bertram Chandler and even Bruce Graeme, a million-seller in his pre-war heyday. I hope all these people got paid.

Afterwards, the modern Brown Watson issued many children’s books and ephemera. Peter Haddock too continued publishing, notably his “Priory Classics” including Kidnapped, The Water Babies and Good Wives, which almost brought me full circle to the “Hudson House Classics” and Bear Hudson.

But I’m still puzzled by those 1970s Priory Books bearing the enigmatic “Copyright A. Babani” instead of a more understandable “© Brown Watson”. Could it be just that someone in a hurry couldn’t remember the name of Mr Babani’s firm?

Appendix 6 

Assael/Babani Publishing Firms

(Main companies arranged by owner)

Footnote: the next generation

All five Assael daughters married, and at least three engaged in some form of business activity although not apparently publishing. Michael Babani continued the successor company to Bernards, concentrating on computer books, while Brian and Peter Babani left Brown Watson for Grandreams. The rest of their family did other things. Nothing in the later years could rival the astonishing Assael/Babani productivity of the Forties which created at least six publishing firms: Bernards, Brown Watson, Hamilton & Co. (Stafford), John Spencer & Co., Instructive Arts and of course Bear Hudson.


4 thoughts on “Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (6)

  1. Peter Babani

    I am Peter Babani and I worked for my father A.Babani from 1962-1971.
    We published western & war paperback novels and our most successful author was an author and postman from Melton Mowbray called J.T.Edson whose books were loved by his fans at the time.
    At Christmas he would send my dad a huge pork pie from Melton Mowbray.
    In 1971 Imy brother Brian and I went to work for Brown Watson’s new owners Warner Bros and stayed until 1978 when we left to set up Grandreams a childrne’s books publisher.
    Sadly this company was placed in the hands of liquidators by the firm’s bankers in 2000.

  2. David Redd

    Great to hear from you Peter – I used to buy Grandreams annuals for my own children! I’ve also read some JT Edson books. Such a lovely detail that he used to send your dad a pork pie. As you may guess I hope one day someone will write up the amazing story of Brown Watson, and the related family firms. Thanks and best wishes, David

  3. Cheryl Bee

    Hi there Cheryl Bee Peter’s cousin and daughter of Albert Assael.
    Did you ever investigate Digit books another imprint of The Babani stable on Peter’s father’s side (Bertie)? Also Badger books which I think was my father’s youngest brother Sammy’s label?
    Also Panther books my father’s younger brother’s imprint he ran with Joe Pacey?
    I have another relative now 95 who may also have been involved with publishing too. I shall investigate.

    1. David Redd

      Sorry, eyesight now prevents further research, but glad to hear from you. Such interesting publishers! Best wishes, David


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