Monday, April 18, 2011

Wulf The Briton - First Reactions

We're starting to receive feedback on all three of the Book Palace Books new releases. Steve Holland has been keeping readers of Bear Alley posted on some of the responses as well as plans for his own Bear Alley Books for which he is now taking pre-orders. As Steve says on his blog, none of these books are exactly going to be gathering the kind of readership that the late Stieg Larsson's books attract, but then the whole beauty of niche market publishing is that you know your readership and you share their enthusiasms. In doing so you make a contract of good faith with them to deliver the kind of book worthy of their time and money.

Never is this requirement more pressing than when publisher and editor go out on a limb to produce a book whose production specs are such that the cost of the book itself will make significant demands on the purse strings of it's target audience.

And never did a book more embody this principle than does Ron Embleton's Wulf the Briton - The Complete Adventures. This book was a joy to work on and was a huge learning curve in terms of all aspects of the production but there comes a moment when you have looked at the last set of proofs, made the final small adjustments and then comes the time to give the red light to the guys in Shenzhen Province to set the presses rolling. Which when one thinks about it for more than a moment is a truly alarming prospect because at this stage there is no going back.

My relief when I finally got to hold one of those very few copies that were air freighted over in early March was palpable, but as I said to Geoff West, who is the creative force behind BPB, "It doesn't matter really what we think. It's the reaction of the people who have stumped up the readies to buy this book that is really going to count. It's a small world and the opinion of our readership is crucial in this regard."

Well I am pleased, well delighted would be more apt, to say that the reaction we have had has been overwhelming. Despite the high price, people love this book and have been emailing and phoning us up as well as sharing their enthusiasm on discussion groups where it was described on the UK Comics Forum as "The Book of the Century". A slight exaggeration perhaps but very flattering nonetheless.

Here's some of the emails we have received so far:

Dave Gibbons:

Just received the Wulf volume. I'm stunned: I was expecting something wonderful and it exceeded all my expectations!

The repro, the production and the features are all beyond excellent. You should all be very proud of a job very, very well done.

Thanks so much for letting me be a small part of it!


-- Dave

Andrew Skilleter (illustrator and long time friend of Ron Embleton)

Hello Peter,
I meant to mail you yesterday but what with things and going out today it hadn't been done. Just wanted to say my SPECIAL edition of Wulf has arrived and I am speechless - I am going to reply properly AND blog on it  - I never expected anything so original and sumptuous and  BIG!  To own this book is a privilege and I know you've worked so hard ...will reply and comment further in a day or two...



David Slinn:

The book itself, Peter, is not only a triumph that does live up to Alan’s (Vince) assessment, and sits very comfortably with your own thoughts on what Alastair achieved with Tomorrow Revisited, but puts the efforts of a particular bĂȘte noire well and truly in the shade.  Like Phil Rushton, I’m a bit lost for the right words – but trust you’ll get the picture... ... ...
Will follow this up, when I have absorbed the overall effect of reading it as intended – like a really good book?  For the moment, again many thanks.

David Simpson:

Hi Peter
I'm one of the people who bought your Wulf The Briton book, and I thought that you'd like to know that I'm one very happy customer.  I've read a lot of comic books in my time, plus a lot of collections of old comics, and Wulf is right up there with the best I've read both in content and in the superlative packaging.
I'm not (quite) old enough to have read Wulf first time around (I was born in 1957) but I do have a handful of back issues of Express Weekly, plus a long time liking for Ron Embleton's work.  That's one reason why I bought the book but, truth be told, what prompted me to actually shell out for it were the enthusiasm of a friend of mine, who is just old enough to have read at least the later episodes of Wulf when they came out, and the coverage you gave to it on the Cloud 109 blogsite.  that coverage made it clear that you were going the extra mile (mile?  More like a whole Marathon) to make this a great book.
It is a great book, and I'm so glad I bought it.
Thank you
David Simpson

Alan Stephen:

Received your e-mail from a friend just wanted to thank you for the hard work and dedication put into a book that I'll  enjoy and treasure for a long time - the wonderful Wulf the Briton

Steve Taylor:

Hello Peter,

Just to let you know that today I have received: The Thriller Libraries, Don Lawrence's Westerns AND Wulf the Briton. I will send Geoff a separate Thank You, but I am totally impressed with Wulf - you did great work (which gives me a warm feeling about the McLoughlin venture). The reproduction is super - did you use original artwork?

Andoni from Spain:

Yesterday I have receive my copy of RON EMBLETON'S WULF THE BRITON. It's amazing! Extraordinary beautiful! Big size. Wonderful job with the restoration of the Technicolor. The best comic book of the year.
Now I can rest in peace.

In addition to these generous and heart warming emails, we had many phone callers including  David Ashford, Alan Vince and the artist Oliver Frey who all described the book as sumptuous and made particular mention of the sheer size and amazing production values of the book.

But perhaps the most amazing call of all came from Ron Embleton's widow Elizabeth, who was just over the moon with the book and so pleased that Ron's artistry hadn't been forgotten. I think all of us are very firmly of the opinion that artist's of the stature of Ron Embleton will never be forgotten.

 Wulf the Briton © Express Newspapers 2011.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flickr For Publishing

Steve Holland has kindly asked me to share the occasional thought apropos of all the activities that are ongoing with Book Palace Books. "What me?" I protested, "look Steve old bean, I am snowed under with work, I've got my own blog to do, plus day job, plus working on the definitive Denis McLoughlin book". At this point Steve pushed back his Homburg and lit a cigarette. "Tell me about it buddy', he drawled laconically, "you me and Barney McGrew, we all got a million and one jobs to do". I looked past Steve's shoulder and saw the silhouette of the head honcho Mr Geoff West, the man with the green visor and the cigar stub jutting from his set jaw and resigned myself to the task in hand.

Why am I writing in this strange idiom I asked myself as you dear reader, if you have stayed with us this far, are doubtless asking? Well as intimated above I am working on editing what I think will be a truly fantastic and definitive book on the art of Denis McLoughlin and he did create covers for a lot of hardboiled fiction. And if you read enough of this stuff you and are of a suggestible nature you will end up thinking talking and writing like this - sad but true.

The text for this book has been written by Denis McLoughlin's friend and biographer David Ashford and also includes a mini autobiography by the artist himself. The text is first class and i just have to ensure that the rest of the book does David's biography justice.

My task vis a vis the Mcloughlin book is, as stated previously - editing and reformatting, but it also includes such fun tasks as designing the thing so that it has a real dynamic. The sort of book that you pick up and it just welcomes you in, which in the case of Denis McLoughlin is relatively easy to achieve as his work at it's best is just totally seductive.

The book will be a lot less expensive than the recent Wulf the Briton extravaganza, quite simply because the work we are showcasing is relatively small scale and even Denis McLoughlin's Boardman hardbacks are all A5 size, so we are not immediately into the economies of scale dictated  by attempting a same size reprint of a UK broadsheet comic. Consequently this book will be about the size of the Fleetway Indexes and will not be nearly as expensive to produce as the Wulf book.

But, and this dear reader is where you come in, my work also includes sourcing really amazing imagery which we can use to add further visual flair to this illustrative extravaganza. What I really need at the moment is (ideally high grade) material to source, particularly in the case of the Boardman paperbacks and hardback hard boiled fiction. We have some but we need more and if you can help out this would be great. So if by any chance you do have any material of this nature which you can scan, do let me know and also if you have, by some miracle McLoughlin original artwork for the Boardman Hardboiled fiction covers we would be forever in your debt.

In fact any original cover and color artwork would be great, we have some but more would be wonderful.

I have set up a Flickr gallery devoted to Denis McLoughlin's "Noir" covers which is located here

Here just as a taster are a few of the early paperback covers which show McLoughlin at his most powerful both in terms of design and handling of subject matter. One of the really useful aspects of Flickr is  in the way that it shows account holders what the most popular images they have uploaded are. Brilliant from my point of view and also for publishers in general yet another way to network.

Which is what you need to do these days to really share projects such as this with an audience that is definitely out there - they just need cultivating and Flickr provides yet another way to facilitate this.

P.S. I have received an amazing and overwhelming response via emails, phone calls, forums and twitter to the Wulf book, I'll (immodestly) post about this very shortly.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Size matters!

After a madcap week, copies of the latest releases from Book Palace Books are now arriving in the hands of readers who pre-ordered copies... and some are going to be in for a surprise!

It isn't until you have all three titles together that you realise just how massive the Wulf the Briton book is. Look at the picture above... while it looks pretty spectacular in its gorgeous red livery, you don't quite get full effect of the dimensions of the book.

I'd already seen copies of the Wells Fargo and Thriller Libraries books, both of which are oversized hardbacks, but even they were dwarfed by Wulf.

To get the full effect, you need something for comparison... say a bog standard paperback novel. Something like this...

Wulf is a giant of a book, with the artwork printed at the same size as it originally appeared in Express Weekly. It's huge. I'd be doing the other two books a disservice if I didn't say that you should have all three on your shelves... but for Wulf you may just need new a whole new bookcase!