// you’re reading...


Peter Normanton p4

Peter Normanton gives some excellent reading suggestions.

READERSVOICE.COM: Can you recommend any books on horror comics, their artists, writers and publishers, particularly from the late 1940s to the 1970s?

PETER NORMANTON: Oh certainly. If you want to learn something about these comics try your best to pick up Mike Benton’s History of Horror Comics from 1991, although this is now out of print. I love this book; there are so many images from the 1950s through until the end of the 1980s, with page upon page of indispensable information plus an engaging tongue in cheek approach that makes it a highly enjoyable read.
Stephen Sennitt’s Ghastly Terror published by Headpress is a must; this again covered the 1950s but this time continued on as far as the late 1990s. Stephen is a huge admirer of Skywald and those bizarre Eerie Publications. He was also the first author to examine the excessive underground horror comics of the early 1970s.
Comic Books and America 1945-54 by William Savage Jnr. is also worth delving into as is A Haunt of Fears by Britain’s own Martin Barker; both contain plenty of material on the comics of the time but go that little bit further in investigating the social conditions and factors that led to the anti-comics crusade along with the subsequent legislation on both sides of the Atlantic.
The 1992 Overstreet Price Guide contained an inspired piece on Atlas Comics, with a gallery of covers to get you frothing at the mouth.
The EC connoisseur should read The Mad World of William Gaines by Frank Jacobs published in 1972 and follow that with Tales From The Crypt The Official Archives by Digby Diehl, Tales of Terror by Fred von Bernewitz and Grant Geissman and finally Grant’s Foul Play! There is much to be learned about the company and their portfolio of titles from what will prove to be a venerable set of additions to any library on comic book history.
I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute to Alan Hewetson’s Skywald Horrormood, which covered Alan’s career and the Skywald terrors of the 1970s. Published by Headpress this book is now in very short supply, I advise you to snap it up while you still can.

RV: What about books in general? Could you recommend some of your all-time favorites, whether fact or fiction, comics or not?

PN: If I was pushed to nominate a favourite it would have to be Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. This is fantasy at its darkest, toying with so many of our fears and aspirations. It’s also beautifully written; Ray’s not just a science fiction writer, he is a writer per se.
I’ve recently read Pete Crowther’s The Land of the End of the Working Day. Pete’s another fellow who knows how to write and tell a story, all four of them in fact in this collection. For those of you who have a morbid fascination with the kind of horror with an unnerving sensation of urban isolation Mark Samuels’ The White Hands comes highly recommended. I envy him his talent for conjuring with the written word.
These few years past I have discovered the delightful Zoran Živkovic; his storytelling returns to the European folklore I grew up with, before giving it a disconcerting modern twist that leaves the reader struggling for breath in the face of such awe.
Twelve Collections and The Teashop along with the two volumes of Impossible Stories contain some of the most compelling literature to see publication in the last half century. The day to day realism of Christopher David Robert’s
Five Fathoms Down held me gripped from beginning to end. This was a deliciously unsettling read; sadly I have never seen anything under his name.
Just the other week I read Trevor Hoyle’s Down the Figure 7, not science fiction or horror this time, but as he describes it a fictional memoir. The book is set in the neighbourhood where I grew up a decade before I came into the world; Trevor’s tale is set in the period 1950-51 and his reminisce reflects many of the tales my dad told me about this time.
Of course I relish much of the works of Iain Banks, Stephen King, H .P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker and Ramsey Campbell.

-continued next page
-copyright Simon Sandall.