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Red Tom

A literary thread 21 12 2010

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I was raised in a bookless house,my early reading experiences being via the comics of the 1950's and Radio Fun annuals lying around my grandmother's house, and later, an uncle (still a teenager) in the 'merch' brought home American comic books.
The Beano, Dandy, Beezer etc were my favourites, I can recall a neighbours (older) son trying to introduce me to the Hotspur and the Eagle, definitely a superior literary experience. However,my old man was a product of the courts and cellars of the '20's and '30's and perhaps understandably had his own prejudices and insecurities which coloured his opinion and outlook to an extent.He regarded this neighbour as having middle class aspirations/prentensions, therefore the son's preference in comics was seen as the preliminary to my becoming a cap-wearing 'college pudd'n' by some process of osmosis, and such subversive sensory stimulation was not for me.So Mickey the M, Korky the K,and Biffo the B it remained for the time being.
I avidly devoured whatever came my way however, and recall a brief flirtation with 'pocket book' comics. These were invariably war related, in which the (British) heroes traversed the globe sticking it to the Kraut/Huns, Japs/Nips, and anyone wearing a turban (aieeehh).
A shop behind McNally's pub was opened as a fish and chip shop by a Chinese ex seaman and his Geordie wife, my sister baby sat for their young son, and I wound up with some Chinese 'comics'. These were a bit like a flicker book,printed on cheap, garishly coloured paper, rather like a large book of raffle tickets. The subject matter was similar to the Monkey legends and very exotic to a scouse street arab.
I also had a collection of a publication titled'Famous Monsters of Movieland'-Karloff,Lugosi, Chaney Snr and Jnr etc etc.
These took second place to D.C. comics, they were the business all right, and as a bonus, the advertisements provided a teasing insight into the world of American kids. X-ray specs etc, and the most amazing bikes, all mail order (don't forget your zip code).
A digression.
I began a paper round in order to fund my habit,and derived great pleasure(especially in summer) pedalling around the empty, early morning streets on my home made bike.This was self assembled from components obtained by various means, not all legal unfortunately.
After a while some of my associates had joined the delivery brigade and we supplemented the fees earned by disgracefully and shamefully relieving our various employers of large quantities of cigarettes and sweets.This proved to be the path to the slippery slope,as after a while, a some time aquaintance had inveigled us into even more reprehensible activities culminating in some housebreaking.These regretable and ignoble expeditions became too serious for my liking and signalled the parting of the ways with my erstwhile accomplices and remain a source of regret and shame this day.
I would have gone to confession, but I'd sussed that one out early on and so absolved myself.
End of digression.
Before leaving St Anne's junior school, my patient perusal of the printed page had paid dividends and I was presented with a book (The Adventures Of Robin Hood) in recognition of my superior reading ability.
The next book in my 'library' was The Dog Crusoe by R.M.Ballantyne. This book which I still have, was sadly, purloined from the school reserves,I don't regret this particular piece of larceny however,as it was my introduction to 19th century writers, and ultimately Dickens, a source of infinite pleasure. I still have hope that some of my descendants might acquire the taste as it were,but time will tell. I gave my kids the reading bug, however as yet it doesn't extend to Dickens but there's still hope for my grandchildren.
By the time I'd started work in 1966 I'd progressed to Mad magazine, but after purchasing a copy of Anne Frank's diary I opted for a more gratifying reading experience and my comic book consumption all but ceased, apart from discovering Robert Crumb a few years later, and I still enjoy the odd dip now and again in Viz,and there are two Our Wullie annuals on my shelves, a recent birthday gift, but that's it.

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  1. Oudeis's Avatar
    Ah, yes Brer T. S/he who discovers the joy of reading discovers all that is possible and a great many worlds where the possible is no barrier to a mind that can look through either end of a telescope at one and the same time and 'know' all things great and small.
    Santa should bring you Hugo's Les Miserables. For this tale takes the reader on a journey through the heart and mind and spirit of man.
    Read on MacDuff, as the bard of Avon nearly said.