Ace On Sunday #8

Ace Double Header

Last Sunday I began a new Ace Double book, serial number 58880 to be precise which contained two novels by Swedish author Sam J. Lundwall (here). The first story, No Time For Heroes was a strange and slightly campy romp which I thoroughly enjoyed. Today I’ve flipped over the volume to reveal another odd sounding novel which has this as its tagline;

Terra through the science fiction looking glass

To make things a little more odd, this novel (like last week’s story) features a wonderfully bizarre cover painting from the talented Josh Kirby. The picture shows an urbanised planet-scape from an elevated viewpoint, a humanoid robotic figure stands in the foreground as a young female dressed in classic Alice In Wonderland garb plays with a skipping rope on the roof of a building behind him. Curiouser and curiouser…

I’m looking forward to reading this one today after my first taste of Lundwall last week, something tells me I’m in for a few twists and turns along the way. Please feel free to share your thoughts via the comments and do come back next weekend when I’ll be making a fresh choice of Ace Double from the unsubscriber library shelves.

Alice’s World by Sam J. Lundwall
(Serial Number 58880)
This version was published in 1971 by Ace Books
The cover artist is Josh Kirby

58880 - Alice's World by Sam J. Lundwall

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Teece’s Bit… Archetypes Of The Easy Unconscious

It’s been a while since we last heard anything from my fellow book and record aficionado Teece so I though I’d put that right this week and hand over the reigns once more. Take it away old chap…

Teece's Bit Header Feb 2016

Ever heard a tune for the first time and had an uncanny feeling you’ve heard it before? It somehow strikes a chord deep in your musical memory banks? There are a number of easy listening tunes which have this effect upon hearing. I call them Archetypes of the Easy Unconscious. These are the tunes our ancestors must have been humming to themselves as they crouched behind a rock, spear in hand, waiting for that woolly mammoth to amble by, and wishing they were back at the cave with their womenfolk. Subconscious tuneage from the stone-age dream-time.

Tunes like Perfidia, Caravan, Delicado, Patricia, Dansero, Guaglione and A Man And A Woman. These tunes crop up again and again on easy listening LPs. Deconstructed, re-imagined, re-interpreted, but always providing that tingle of strange familiarity deep in our musical soul. Blueprints to our collective musical psyche.

To accompany these musings here are some covers from my LP collection, featuring … a man and a woman!

After Dinner Music by Victor Young And His Swinging Strings
This version was released on Decca Records, no year is listed

After Dinner Music by Victor Young

Contrasts by David Carroll And His Orchestra
This version was released on Mercury Records, no year is listed

Contrasts by David Carroll

Ciao by Al Ciaola And His Orchestra
This version was released in 1963 on United Artists Records

Caio by Al Caiola

Family Favourites by Harry Breuer And His Quintet
This version was released on Audio Fidelity Records, no year is listed

Family Favourites by Harry Breuer

Around The World by Various Artists – Moods Orchestral Series
This version was released in 1967 on Philips Records

Around The World by Moods Orchestral

Ace On Sunday #7

Ace Double Header

It’s Sunday once again and so I’m making a trip to my library shelves to choose a brand new Ace Double book for today’s reading pleasure. This week I thought I’d dip into a recently acquired batch which were all published in the early seventies and have pulled out a volume containing two novels by Swedish author Sam Thore Jerrie Lundwall.

First up from serial number 58880 is No Time For Heroes which bears the following tagline;

Survival technique for a one man planet team-run!

This doesn’t really give too much away regarding the storyline and so here’s an extract from the blurb inside the cover;

“There’s no time for heroes like the present,” said General Superhawk, as he was relieved from his laundry duties to head the spaceship’s invasion of the untouched-by-human-hands-or-feet planet, which had been dead for 200,000 years.

“This is absolutely no time for heroes” said the planet’s central brain computer which had, in its long, long loneliness, peopled its planet with fabled literary creatures created from its monstrous protoplasma vats.

“I’m no hero!” screamed the small, fat man with the moustache as he was bullied onto the planet as the ship’s Number One scout.

Intriguing stuff for sure. The novel features a sterling piece of artwork by Josh Kirby depicting a mechanical insect with a humanoid head and rather psychedelic eyes. The landscape in the background of the painting is filled with bizarre structures amongst which stand a number of robotic figures. It’s a typically brilliant effort from Kirby who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite SF cover artists.

The time has now come to discover how this novel plays out, accompanied as ever by a steaming hot cup of tea. I hope that this wonderful vintage book cover appeals to you as it does me, let me know what you think as always in the comments. I’ll be back next Sunday to flip over this book to find out what lies on the opposite side so join me then for more Ace Double action.

No Time For Heroes by Sam J. Lundwall
(Serial Number 58880)
This version was published in 1971 by Ace Books
The cover artist is Josh Kirby

58880 - No Time For Heroes by Sam J. Lundwall

Masques Of Satan By Reggie Oliver

I first discovered the writing of Reggie Oliver back in 2013 after stumbling across a copy of his most recent short story collection which was curiously titled The Complete Symphonies Of Adolf Hitler. I finished the book in just two sittings and was completely gripped by the general air of unease and oddness of the stories contained within the volume. Here at last was a worthy successor to the late, great Robert Aickman as an author of classic English strange fiction. It wasn’t long before I had purchased the remaining three of his available collections which were luckily all in print via Ray Russell’s wonderful Tartarus Press.

Last month I received an email from Ray explaining that Tartarus were issuing a reprint of Oliver’s much sought after 2007 collection titled Masques Of Satan, the first time it had been available following its initial publication by Ash-Tree Press. I was quite naturally excited at the prospect of reading more by this extremely talented author, playwright and accomplished artist.

This morning I received a package containing my copy of the book which was signed and hand numbered by Mr Oliver himself, a lovely touch indeed.

Masques Of Satan Reggie Oliver Frontispiece

The volume itself is a large format paperback which is unusual for Tartarus who mainly specialise in hardback editions although my other four Oliver collections are printed similarly. Needless to say, Ray has made the Tartarus paperback a thing of beauty by dressing it in the familiar cream livery of its hardback companions and used a much heavier, higher quality stock of paper than is usual for the leaves. It feels so much more tactile and durable than any other softcover book I have on my library shelves.

Masques Of Satan by Reggie Oliver

Another great touch is that each of the 12 shorts and novella in this volume are once again accompanied by a beautifully detailed black & white illustration by the author himself. Reggie Oliver is clearly as good an artist as he is a writer, I’d be interested to see a collection of his drawings published too at some point.

Masques Of Satan Reggie Oliver Illustration 1

Masques Of Satan Reggie Oliver Illustration 2

Masques Of Satan Reggie Oliver Illustration 3

Masques Of Satan is available in a limited run of 250 copies so do be sure to order quickly as stocks tend to sell out rapidly, the Tartarus Press website can be found here.

Eight Penguin Covers by Alan Aldridge

Penguin SF Logo 1967

In 1967, Penguin chief Allen Lane was harbouring serious misgivings about the direction that editor Tony Godwin was taking Penguin with regard to the marketing and distribution of fiction. Lane felt that the covers being designed by Alan Aldridge and his colleagues were becoming too commercial and increasingly tasteless. To Lane such covers were undignified and not in keeping with Penguin’s reputation. Worse still, the use of images he regarded as titillating or even offensive was an insult to the books’ authors, some of whom were now making their own feelings known, with more than one threatening to move to another publisher.

Matters were made worse by Godwin’s desire to sell Penguin books in non-traditional outlets such as supermarkets. Lane disliked the idea and as booksellers joined authors to protest at the way Penguin was heading so the rift between the two men deepened. To Lane, Aldridge’s ‘vulgar covers’ and Godwin’s ‘gimmicky selling’ were a threat to over thirty years of Penguin tradition and brand identity. If left unchecked it would only be a matter of time before the books were being packaged and sold just like any other consumer product. The crisis came to a head in late April and early May with a boardroom bust-up that resulted in Godwin’s departure and Lane’s barbed comment that ‘a book is not a tin of beans’.

The Penguin SF titles published in 1967 perhaps give some idea of what all the fuss was about, for whereas previous SF covers had targeted adults, Aldridge wanted his to ‘reach the kids’ and for that something different would be needed. Aldridge’s new designs retained the black, white and mauve livery that had first been used the previous year but shortened the banner to SCIENCE FICTION and relocated it beneath the logo along with the price. With the price and banner out of the way, the title and author’s name were shifted to the top right corner. But tinkering with typography was merely housekeeping to clear away the clutter in preparation for the main event. For unlike the other SF covers of 1966, the artwork was no longer confined to a white-bordered window but took centre stage instead.

Penguin SF had never seen anything like it. Aldridge clothed his cast of characters in gaudy bow ties & polkadots or kipper ties & pantaloons, mixing vaudeville with freak show in a crazy raving medley of surrealism and psychedelia that pinched from Pop Art whilst also flirting with Art Deco. His phantasmagoria of floating images took SF cover art to the brink and the titles of the books said as much. Strung out in shrieking white capitals, they splintered the blackness like a banshee’s wail.

Cartoonish and cadaverous, gilded and grotesque, Aldridge’s artwork was trippy and fun. It tuned in to the spirit of the times and to some his covers were the drug of choice (this was 1967 after all and flower power was in full bloom) but they did not please everyone. Aldridge aroused adoration but also abhorrence and some of his covers in the main fiction list provoked a particularly hostile reaction. It was enough to ensure there would be no encore. With Godwin gone, Aldridge’s position at Penguin became increasingly untenable and by early 1968 he too had left the building.

I happen to think that this series of eight titles illustrated by Aldridge have stood the test of time and still look decidedly freakish, even in 2016. What I like most about these covers is that they look about as far away from SF as you can possibly get, taking a direction never before explored by artists and completely reflecting the times they were created in. Feel free to drop me a comment and let me know what you think about this collection of bizarre covers.

Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison
This version was published in 1967 by Penguin Books
The cover artist is Alan Aldridge

Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison

Destination: Void by Frank Herbert
This version was published in 1967 by Penguin Books
The cover artist is Alan Aldridge

Destination Void by Frank Herbert

The Wind From Nowhere by J. G. Ballard
This version was published in 1967 by Penguin Books
The cover artist is Alan Aldridge

The Wind From Nowhere by J. G. Ballard

A Plague Of Demons by Keith Laumer
This version was published in 1967 by Penguin Books
The cover artist is Alan Aldridge

A Plague Of Demons by Keith Laumer

The Circus Of Dr Lao by Charles G. Finney
This version was published in 1967 by Penguin Books
The cover artist is Alan Aldridge

The Circus Of Dr Lao by Charles G. Finney

The Joyous Invasions by Theodore Sturgeon
This version was published in 1967 by Penguin Books
The cover artist is Alan Aldridge

The Joyous Invasions by Theodore Sturgeon

Time And Again by Clifford D. Simak
This version was published in 1967 by Penguin Books
The cover artist is Alan Aldridge

Time And Again by Clifford D. Simak

Tiger! Tiger! by Alfred Bester
This version was published in 1967 by Penguin Books
The cover artist is Alan Aldridge

Tiger! Tiger! by Alfred Bester

Ace On Sunday #6

Ace Double Header

It’s Sunday once again and I’m finding myself completely settled in my new routine of working through the Ace Double library shelves. Last weekend I chose serial number M-109 which contained two titles which were both penned by US author G. C. Edmondson and began with the short story collection Stranger Than You Think (here). This week, it’s time to flip the book over and read the second novel which is titled The Ship That Sailed The Time Stream.

There isn’t a tagline on this cover so I’ll include these nuggets from the inside cover blurb;

“Ensign Joe Rate, captain of the experimental Navy yawl Alice, figured that everything that could happen to him in one day had already happened. First, after a freak electrical storm at sea the Alice had somehow been thrown a thousand years backwards in time, and it looked like they were stranded in the past.

Then there was the voluptuous barbarian girl they’d saved from captivity – her presence on board a ship full of normal sailors wasn’t likely to lessen the problems of the situation.

Then he saw the four Viking raiding ships bearing straight for him, and in a few minutes the first spear thunked into the Alice’s foredeck.”

The brooding Jack Gaughan cover illustration shows the Alice being struck by lightning amidst the aforementioned electrical storm as an unsavoury cast of historical warriors loom menacingly above the stricken vessel.

This tale sounds like it has all the elements of a fine time-travelling and decidedly purplish yarn so I’ll dive straight in. Join me here again next Sunday when I’ll be making a new choice of Ace Double book from my library to share with you. I hope that this cover meets with your approval, please do drop me a comment and let me know what you think.

The Ship That Sailed The Time Stream by G. C. Edmondson
(Serial Number M-109)
This version was published in 1965 by Ace Books
The cover artist is Jack Gaughan

The Ship That Sailed The Time Stream by G. C. Edmondson

Off The Shelf; Barry N. Malzberg

I have to admit that I wasn’t really aware of Barry N. Malzburg until around a year or so ago when I picked up a copy of his Destruction Of The Temple novel, mainly due to its eye catching cover art. I enjoyed reading it so much that I began searching for more of his books and have subsequently ended up with a fine selection of titles. Here are six of my favourite covers taken from that collection, a few of which are still as yet unread;

The Sodom and Gomorrah Business by Barry N. Malzberg
This version was published in 1974 by Pocket Books
The cover artist is Charles Moll

The Sodom And Gomorrah Business by Barry Malzberg

Scop by Barry N. Malzberg
This version was published in 1976 by Pyramid Books
The cover artist is Stephen Fabian

Scop by Barry Malzberg

Revelations by Barry N. Malzberg
This version was published in 1972 by Warner Paperback Library
The cover artist is uncredited

Revelations by Barry Malberg

On A Planet Alien by Barry N. Malzberg
This version was published in 1974 by Pocket Books
The cover artist is Charles Moll

On A Planet Alien by Barry Malzberg

The Men Inside by Barry N. Malzberg
This version was published in 1975 by Magnum/Prestige Books
The cover artist is Ron Walotsky

The Men Inside by Barry Malzberg

Overlay by Barry Malzberg
This version was published in 1975 by New English Library
The cover artist is Ray Feibush

Overlay by Barry Malzberg

The Last Transaction by Barry N. Malzberg
This version was published in 1977 by Pinnacle Books
The cover artist is Ron Walotsky

The Last Transaction by Barry Malzberg

Guernica Night by Barry N. Malzberg
This version was published in 1979 by New English Library
The cover artist is Tim White

Guernica Night by Barry Malzberg