Thanks, CroMagnonMan, for those great scans! I wonder if people in Holdaway's fan club (I presume there still is one, since I learned that a Frank Bellamy one is pretty lively from what I saw a few months back) know about these.
Interesting about the cards. I would have imagined that a popular line of them featured popular cricket gents. Are those the same as "footballers" in the UK? I remember this disc I have in a box somewhere which, at one point in between the songs, had the voice of David Hockney observing with languid appreciation how much he liked some line of stamps that had just come out (sometime around 1967) featuring "footballers kicking up their legs." It was the soundtrack of a film called Tonite let's all make love in London.
No need to comment upon this taradiddle... Thanks again for the interesting photos! Surprised to see something by John Christopher in there... I found some of the Tripods episodes on Youtube recently and was going to have a go at watching at least one.
What a splendid collection and a wonderful find, CM. Hours of fun just looking at the covers and the ads, cards, etc that come from inside (as an aside, when I was a kid I loved all the ads and catalogues for 'this months books' that came from the Thriller and Companion book clubs, ranging from '52 to '69, when he died - a window into another world). Then there's the books themselves! I see what you mean about the more function covers - they have a certain ascetic aesthetic to them.
Like yourself, I salute the diligence and dedication of the original collector (as well as his taste!). As for squaring the later sexploitation titles with the religious pamphlets, well... he was either a determined thriller fanatic who was prepared to ignore those titles in staying true to his task of collecting, or... well, put it this way: I'm not sure the likes of Lord Longford watched all that smut PURELY for research purposes...
I too harbour fond memories of book clubs pulphack, with their specially illustrated brochures. In my case not the Thriller and Companion one but whatever its early 80s BCA equivalent was. Equally I remember poring over full colour ads like these for the US SF book club which used to run regularly in mags like Starlog, and feeling pained by frustrated envy:
Even looking at them now they can't fail to make UK versions look poor cousins in comparison, what with their sumptuous unique covers commissioned from the likes of Richard Corben, Boris and Rowena. Back then this was the stuff of impossible unattainable glamour to a kid marooned in dreary English surburbia. Of course I fully appreciate now that US book club editions were no better made than UK ones (although the paper used was superior) but even so they continue to exert a spell over me. On more than one occasion I've gone out of my way to ensure that a particular SF/Fantasy book for my collection is the US book club edition: THE CHRONICLES OF AMBER for example.
Thought you might appreciate seeing this period Odhams brochure which I was fortunate enough to find (along with some family photographs oddly enough) still tucked into my latest Man's Book arrival. Don't you just love that skull on the loco.
As promised here's some scans from the latest batch of arrivals. I'm particularly delighted to finally acquire THE SANDS OF KALAHARI which was the basis of a cracking mid 60s film, although I'm given to understand that author Mulvihill detested it. It was a movie notable for its stunning South Africa locations and its uber cool Johnny Dankworth soundtrack.
I don't know if Helrunar will agree with me or not but the cover illustrations once again speak to me of the work of Jim Holdaway. There's no signature this time but the publication date is right and there's something very suggestive of Holdaway's style in the way the figures in SOK especially are posed.
There's no credit attached to the left hand volume either. But - and maybe its my imagination - isn't there something distinctly Don Lawrence about the male figure in THE BRIGHT ROAD TO FEAR? He looks very Trigan Empire, if you know what I mean.
NB: For anyone still keeping a tally I've added two further titles to the 1973 listings. These aren't new finds but rather titles I've been awaiting clarification of information on. The FLIGHT INTO DANGER is the only example of a reprint in the entire series that I'm currently aware of.
I believe I would be testing the patience of the Vault, and risking thread fatigue into the bargain, if I persevered much longer with postings on this subject. There seems little further to be added in any case. So I've decided to conclude my own contribution with a brief revised summation of everything I've learned over the course of the last few months, supplemented by such additional information which has come to light with my more recent acquisitions.
It now seems clear that the series eventually terminated at either 162 or 163 omnibus volumes. The reason for the ambiguity? Well, I currently have 74 volumes catalogued under the list of 1950/60s issues but a numbering sequence that actually extends through to volume 75. Now it may well be that this is simply due to one book being incorrectly ascribed to the wrong year of issue. But it could also be true that there really is one additional volume out there that I simply am unaware of at present. One thing I can say for certain; any missing volume certainly isn't James Mayo's SERGEANT DEATH as I previously postulated. That book was included in the series under its original title of ONCE IN A LIFETIME.
The colourful dust wrappers were indeed dispensed with after 1971, as I speculated, and the reasons for this are laid out in this piece of period literature which I was delighted to discover squirrelled away between the pages of a recent acquisition.
Contrary to a previous assertion though the faux leather bindings continued to be embossed with the MB monogram of the discus thrower through to 1972. After that was dispensed with also there really was very little to distinguish the Odhams series from Readers Digest books and I suggest that the reason the majority of the later MB volumes are so hard to come by is that many were destroyed on the basis of this misconception.
The author whose work featured most often over the lifetime of the series was not Dick Francis - as I initially believed - but actually Harry Patterson with twelve novels credited to his various non de plumes. The only surprise in this is that his contributions terminated in 1972, several years before THE EAGLE HAS LANDED catapulted him into the front ranks of bestselling authors. Odhams were banging the drum for him long before he was ever famous. Nor was he alone in this farsighted patronage. Its one more testament to the acumen of that "all male editorial board".
Running Patterson close in contributions were Francis, James Hadley Chase and Andrew York with ten novels apiece. Leslie Thomas was surprisngly well represented too with eight books.
The more I've delved into this topic so ever the more fascinating I'm come to find it. The range and variety, to say nothing of the quality, of the material selected was sustained to a remarkable degree. It should be acknowledged that books like PSYCHO, THE IPCRESS FILE, JACK'S RETURN HOME, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123, FIRST BLOOD et al had yet to establish their importance, reputation and popularity when they were singled out for inclusion in the series. Once again all credit is due to the discernment and taste of the series editors.
As FM pointed out earlier in the thread the scope and scale of the popular franchises used over the course of the Odhams series is astonishing: all nine of the Jonas Wilde novels for example, seven Modesty Blaise capers, five Charles Hood thrillers, three Boysie Oakes escapades, three Travis McGee adventures, to say nothing of a solitary Saint excursion (though presumably one not in a pear tree).
The series is also notable for the way it charted the changing taste in men's fiction away from war stories, first to spy thrillers and then to outright smut. All of which remain welcome in Cromagnonman's cave.
And on that note I think its about time I committed myself to actually reading some of this stuff instead of faffing about researching it.
Well that resolution lasted about as long as a chocolate frying pan, didn't it.
But I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that that numerical discrepency has now been resolved. A volume that should have been listed under 1968 was erroneously assigned to 1970 instead. That mistake has now been rectified. So 162 volumes it is.
I've started to make some moves to rearrange the listings into numerical order but its a work in progress and so may take some time.
Well, I think it's a testament to man's ability to defer from doing anything practical that you have compiled this diligent list. I recently made rearranging the bookshelves in the bedroom a long drawn out enough task to avoid hanging her indoors' lovely new mirror in the lounge for several weeks...
The letter explaining why the painted covers were dropped is wonderful, and bespeaks of the '70's - power cuts, Ted Heath looking more ashen by the day, darling Harold asking us to give a year for Britain and then pissing off a couple of months later (copyright Wm Rushton), three day weeks, etc - my God, I'm turning into Dominic Sandbrook! Enough of that, but suffice to say that the trick of keeping it in a typewriter font and not adopting the same font as the catalogues makes it all seem more personal. Not.
I did like the catalogue of forthcoming attractions - that style of columns interspersed with b&w art is exactly like the old Companion Book Club catalogues - but then, I think they were an Odhams club, as well. I was talking about this with my chum Ian (whose wife is still begging him to clear out the loft after 11 years while he just shuffles the boxes of old paperbacks about) last year, and I think the reason I hate 'literature' (with a few exceptions) and still have a soft spot for middle-class angsty novelists like Nick Hornby and Lisa Jewell (who are this generation's Pamela Hansford Johnson) even though I generally despise middle class mores (I live near enough to Wanstead to experience these idiots regularly) is because I grew up learning about storytelling from the Companion volumes my dad left behind, so in my skewed version of 'what writing is' that kind of clear but detailed prose is 'proper' writing. Which puts me out of step with the current vogues - the other day I was killing time in a Waterstones while her indoors scoured M&S and Dorothy Perkins in Romford, and leafing through the new writers and titles in the SF and Horror sections, I realised that very simple direct prose, almost bereft of description but focused on simple action cues, seems to be the current fashion. I couldn't tell the difference between the adult titles and the YA titles - and not in a good way. I can't do that style, it's just too boring to write. It explains to me why my career has flatlined (well, that and the fact that my anarchist views make my viewpoint unfashionable at either end of the spectrum, politically - too liberal for the hard right pulpsters and too cynical for the wet liberal middle class market).
It seems a fair assumption that these Men's volumes chart the changing tastes of the average male reader over their period of publication. I'd wager that if you did the same with the Readers Digest volumes you'd get a similar idea of how non-generic fiction and non-fiction tastes changed, too. I know this the Vault, and we like the smut partly because it has period charm and immense wind-up value (or is that just me?), but I can't help lament the change away from square-jawed heroes to birds in flimsy nighties. Smut is never as much fun to read about as to practise, whereas I love reading about crime and action, but would more than likely faint if some bugger pulled a gun on me. Vicarious living has its good side, after all.
Most featured writers: there's an interesting one - I wonder if Harry Patterson disappears in the early seventies, just before his commercial breakthrough, as his publisher demanded a bit more money for secondary rights? If his sales were increasing, the boost of a book club edition would not be quite so necessary, and they would balance this against the potential loss in full-price sales. Whereas earlier, they would have welcomed the coverage a book club edition attracted, and the extra income it produced. Certainly, even in the early nineties if you were starting out your publisher would pray you got picked up by a book club, especially in genres like true crime. When it comes to James Hadley Chase, on the other hand - his publisher was Hale, and they were old school and just liked to pick up the money anywhere. It all counts, y'know. And JHC came from another era, when you just grabbed the money before the mushroom paperback house went under...
Finally, it's funny to look back at those book clubs and see how they were so specifically gender marketed. I suppose that generally even these days it's more likely to be a bloke that buys Andy Macnabb and a woman who goes to the Mills & Book rack, but in those days it looks like it was almost against the law to read Ursula Bloom if you were male, or Ed McBain if you were female. Which is amusing when you consider how much golden age detective fiction was written by women. And I know that my granny used to devour all the hard-boiled Thriller Book Club titles when they came through the door, before my dad had a chance to get his hands on them...
I believe I would be testing the patience of the Vault, and risking thread fatigue into the bargain, if I persevered much longer with postings on this subject.
Trust me, you wouldn't be. Very well done in identifying all the volumes. Have still to spot a single one of these on regular market trawls, but MB #71 now high on wants list for inclusion of Pendulum.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
There's something so perfect about a letter to a subscriber of a Men's Book Club being addressed as "Dear Member." I might have been tempted to write "Dear, DEAR Member" but then I have been known at times to pile Pelion upon Ossa.
CroMagnonMan, I vote for you to continue! But alas, this isn't a democracy...
I will have to look through the thread to see if there's a statement regarding just how long the series, and the club, survived those pinched economies of '71.
One of the best threads to appear on the Vault in recent times - many thanks for the sterling work, CromagnonMan. Prior to this, the only volumes I'd seen of this series was the later ones reprinting the various front covers, and so I was completely unaware that, for the first few years, original artwork for each story was used as the cover. Now that I'm aware of this, I'll be on the lookout for a few of them - namely the two Charles Williams novels "The Big Bite" and "The Stain of Suspicion," which is incorrectly allocated to Jack Couffer in the first page listing, and the early Modesty Blaise outings.
I'm holding on by a fingernail and my right bollock!
Gosh! What can I possibly say? Presented with such a concerted show of goodwill and interest it would be a churlish cove indeed who declined to heed the encouragement offered to persevere with posts on this topic. And while Cromagnonman may be guilty of many faults churlishness is not listed amongst them. Honestly chaps, I haven't had a lump in my throat this big since the last time I dined out on aurochs ribs.
Helrunar: I hope you'll be pleased to see that I've found two more Jim Holdaway covers for you. The earlier of the two volumes dates from 1960 thereby demonstrating that Holdaway was involved with the series for longer than previously thought. As well as the covers he also contributed some quite charming internal spot illios for the individual title pages and I thought you might enjoy seeing one of these as well.
The series continued to be issued until 1977 when it was abruptly terminated. The exact reasons for this aren't clear but I'm prepared to speculate that the switch in emphasis away from war/spy stories to smut alienated many of the older book club members who had been with the series from the start without attracting sufficent numbers of new younger subscribers to compensate for their loss. The demographic the publishers were aiming at by publishing stuff like LAST TANGO IN PARIS had competing distractions for their leisure hours at the time such as the novelty of colour television: (we didn't get a colour set in our cave until 1977, just in time for the cup final). Also this inflationary price hike can't have helped matters either:
Severance: Those are extremely kind and generous comments and I thank you sincerely for them. Yes, those impressive colour jackets feature on the first 44 issues with SNAKE WATER/MODESTY BLAISE/THE LONG DAY'S DYING being the last volume to make use of one.
I also greatly appreciate you taking the time to point out the error regarding MB # 7. The mistake has now been rectified and each book accorded the correct attribution. May I also direct your attention to another Charles Williams book, AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, catalogued under the 1973 listings.
Pulphack: And there I was labouring under the impression that we were all contributing here to the construction of a pop culture edifice in the face of widespread disinterest. The possibility that all we're really doing is f*rtar*ing around with kitsch and trivia as an alternative to doing something worthwhile is profoundly depressing. Give me worthless self-delusion over prosaic progress any day of the week.
Here's something I thought you might enjoy seeing: a flyer for the Companion Book Club which I found lodged between the leaves of a recent arrival. It had been serving its purpose there as a bookmark for so long that its colouring had actually bled into the pages of the book. (Again here I must pause to salute the diligence and commitment of the original collector whilst at the same time qualifying my regard for him with the observation that he doesn't appear to have actually finished a single one of these books that he spent such time and money accumulating. Not if the mountain of litter I've found deposited inside them testify to anything).
And the reverse:
It provides yet another marvellous window into that surreal dystopia of the early 1970s with its grand larceny of decimilisation, shopping by candlelight, Biffo ousted from the front page of the Beano: grim times indeed. Unless you were seven or eight like I was in which case it was all part of a wonderful adventure. And the telly was great.
Ah, Ted & Harold. No one was ever likely to equate either of them with the Gladstone or Disraeli of their age. But where would Mike "And this is me" Yarwood have been without them.
Thanks for the latest awesome post. I'm afraid I have an unattractive smirk on my face whenever I behold the artfully designed letterhead for the manly men's MEN'S BOOK CLUB. No doubt I'd be beaten to a pulp for such gratuitous display of sarcasm and undue amusement if we were all discussing all this like good British men around pints at the local. I'm not surprised that the good solid chaps way back when felt they just couldn't stick at such tripe as LAST FANDANGO IN PARIS.
It's kind of amazing that the old club tottered on as late as '77, given both the ghastly bouts of inflation that struck during the earlier 70s plus cultural shifts. I think a combination of the latter plus other events and elements led to the finale of the British film industry, or one important phase of it, at least.
Great scan of that Holdaway illustration! You mentioned a novel by Charles Williams and I found myself wondering if the former "Inkling" had found a new home for his occult-themed fictions in this series. Turns out there was a US writer of the same name who emitted action thrillers and apparently died at some point in the later 70s. Hope the heartbreak of the Men's Club going under didn't contribute to his demise.
Grand stuff! Did you have to buy a couple of new bookcases to accommodate all of these?
Also have to comment that "Snatch!" seems like a funny title to find advertised for a MEN'S book club... but ours is not to question why... OOPS... "Snatch!" was a featured title in the COMPANION BOOK CLUB. Which is why titles such as "Life with Daktari" and work by women authors was included. I need to read more carefully, not just guffaw at whatever hits the screen without paying more attention!
Grief! I remember the other Charles Williams! Something about 'Doves' in one title, and one set in a sub - might have been the same book - I had two of them out of the library when I was a kid and I remember he was supposed to be the next big thing in thrillers and then just vanished! That explains it, then...
Thank you CM for that Companion Book Club flyer - Desmond Bagley, now that's how a 60's thriller writer looked: cavalry twill (and that's just the trilby!), small check on the trews and big cheques from the publisher. And a pipe and goatee. Splendid. Bagley, Hammond Innes and Alastair MacLean were the big thriller sellers for CBC (who obviously had a good deal with Collins, as Helen MacInnes and Mary Stewart were the big female returners and they were Collins writers as well, I think), and they also did quite a few by John Harris (as per the flyer) and the American Ernest K Gann. I was weaned on that stuff, which probably accounts for a lot. I take it the Daktari book was by someone who was in the series, which I remember well for Clarence the cross-eyed lion (there were the inevitable paperback tie-ins from Four Square, probably via Souvenir Press).
When you consider that much of the sixties spy and thriller boom was hep but written by old chaps like Bagley, Innes and MacLean (b. 1920-ish, Innes even earlier) and James Leasor, James Mayo and Fleming himself, it's no wonder that Adam Diment took off like a rocket and burned out equally quickly - the Jim Morrison of spy fiction? Except he didn't die, of course. And looked more like David Hemmings.
But enough of this rambling. I have hoovering and repotting to do, and no amount of flannel about building a pop culture mountain will convince her indoors (even though I think it's worthwhile for more than just avoiding real work, too, if I'm honest)...
Anyone got a trowel?
(Edit - Mary Stewart was a Hodder author. I just remembered that!)
Re Charles Williams: I can't find anything about doves but will a CONCRETE FLAMINGO do? And - blimey O'Reilly - but I didn't realise that he wrote DEAD CALM too. Didn't know it was based on a book at all if I'm being honest. I love that film: Sam Neill in his pomp, and Nicole Kidman before she gave up being a spunky bird in favour of a fey ethereal wraith.
I didn't realise at first either that its actually a cigarette that Bagley is smoking. Its the knot in his tie that makes you think its a pipe bowl. Plus one's own expectations. But I'm still willing to bet that that jacket had leather patches on the elbows.
Good gravy, so it is! A fag! Should be a pipe - I bet that tie is tweed and that's why the knot is so big. I notice the shirt is small check, too. And half-rimmed glasses - the perfect touch!
Charles Williams - I have just googled him and realise that I might be thinking of someone else with the 'Dove' thing - 'And The Deep Blue Sea' rings a bell, though. I was amazed to see he'd been a US paperback writer for so long - as I remember it, the dustjackets of the library books trumpeted him as the upcoming thing, so perhaps he'd only just seen UK hardbacks, and they were preparing a push for him at that time? I know I've seen some of those paperbacks in the years since, and never made the connection.
I didn't realise Dead Calm had been a book, either. God, Sam Neill was one hell of an actor then - still is, really, but that was his prime, as you say. We did once muse on Aussie actors on here after Rod Taylor died, but I can't remember if we mentioned Sam. Must have done (leaves it to others to check as is too lazy on a Saturday morning)...