February 12th, 2011

andrew potter

Behind the Cover: Norman Saunders

Norman Blaine Saunders (January 1, 1907– March 7, 1989) was a prolific commercial artist who produced paintings for pulp magazines, paperbacks, men's adventure magazines, comic books and trading cards. On occasion, he signed his work with his middle name, Blaine.

Ellene Politis, 1947 (Norman Saunders's wife and model)

Norm Saunders' career was launched when his contributions to Captain Billy's Whiz Bang resulted in a job with Fawcett Publications, where he was employed from 1928 to 1934. He explained in 1983 the events that led to his arrival at Fawcett's offices in Robbinsdale, Minnesota:

I was hitchhiking, got into this Model-T Ford with a big trunk strapped up and these two guys in front. One of them had a gun, a rifle. He said, "Keep your eye peeled on the back, kid, see if there are any police or motorcycle cops or something." What the hell was this? These two guys had robbed somebody, or tried to, out in North Dakota, and they had stolen this car from some farmer and were trying to get away. As we got to the outskirts of Bemidji, I was getting awful nervous. There at the town they saw a sand pit with a big hole dug out of it, and they took this car over and got out and pushed it in. They went that way, and I went this way. That night I caught a freight train to Minneapolis. I took a streetcar ride to the end of the line, and there was a two-story bank there and a big sign: "Robbinsdale, the home of Fawcett Publications." I said, "By gosh and by gracious, we got us a real true publisher here!" There was where they were printing Captain Billy's Whiz Bang.

He left Fawcett to become a freelance pulp artist, moved to New York and studied under Harvey Dunn at the Grand Central School of Art. He painted for all the major publishers and was known for his fast-action scenes, his beautiful women and his ability to meet a deadline. He worked in almost any genre—Westerns, weird menace, detective, sports, and the saucys (sometimes signed as "Blaine"). He was able to paint very quickly, producing one hundred paintings a year—two a week from 1935 through 1942.

During World War II, Saunders served with the Military Police overseeing German prisoners. Transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers, he supervised the construction of a gas pipeline following the Burma Road. During his off hours, he did watercolors of Burmese temples.

In 1958, Saunders obtained his first assignment from the Topps company, painting over photographs of baseball players who had been traded, so that they would appear to be wearing the jersey of their new team. Topps soon employed Saunders to create artwork for many other cards. He was hired to paint scenes for one of the most successful of all non-sports card sets: Mars Attacks in 1962. Letters of protest from parents prompted Topps to issue the cards under a different company name. His Wacky Packages cards were even more commercially successful. He also produced a number of less well known trading-card series, including: Ugly Stickers, Nutty Initials, Your Own Name and Civil War News.

His daughter, Zina Saunders, is also an illustrator for magazines, books and trading cards.

Saunders original painting "The Ones" for the May 1951 issue of the science fiction pulp magazine Marvel Science Stories, sold at auction for $50,788 in August 2010.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Saunders

Norman Saunders by David Saunders
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: The Illustrated Press, Inc.; First Edition edition (January 20, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982004109
ISBN-13: 978-0982004104
Amazon: Norman Saunders

This spectacular new 368-page hardcover monograph is the catalog raisonne of the extensive career of the legendary artist Norman Saunders. From his work as one of the top pulp illustrators, to his paintings for men's adventure magazines, paperbacks, comics, Mars Attacks, Wacky Packages, and more, this book provides a thorough overview of his life's work. Illustrated in full-color with hundreds of images culled from Saunder's extensive archives.

David Saunders is the son of Norman Saunders, and a noted fine artist showing with the Fischbach Gallery in New York. He is an authority on the art of the pulp magazines, and has contributed numerous articles on this subject to Illustration magazine. Some of these articles have featured the artists Norman Saunders, Rafael DeSoto, John W. Scott, Allen Anderson, Frederick Blakeslee, and Gloria Stoll. David Saunders lives in Long Island, NY.

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andrew potter

Something Like Summer by Jay Bell

What could have been a simple and harmless coming of age story in the ’90, in the hand of Jay Bell becomes a somewhat surprisingly deep and a little sad quest of a young man towards his future.

Of the many trouble gay kids I have read about, in novels filled with angst and drama, Ben Bentley is probably one of the luckier: he accepted he was gay at a more or less young age, around 14 years old, and after some months spent being the best “secret” friends of his fellow schoolmates, he decided to come out; this event had two consequences, one positive, his family is supportive of him and his mother arrives to give him relationship advices, and one negative, he has no more friends if not Allison, a same age girl who was a former friend of his older sister. But sincerely, being Ben in high school and almost read to face the big brave world, one year or two of abstinence from sex is not a big drama if he is lucky enough to have a welcoming habitat, his home, were he can grow up safe and comfortable.

For this reason, as many other ordinary teenagers in the world, Ben falls in love for a stranger he only crosses on the street while the other is jogging. Same age as Ben, he is probably a new kid at the same high school Ben will attend at the end of the summer; Ben stalks the other teenager until he is able to find out the name is Tim and he is living nearby. And indeed Tim attends the same high school. And the problem is that Ben has came out at school and so everyone, and above all the jocks Tim is friending, call Ben names. It’s not easy for a gay kid to come out in high school, teenagers are not always welcoming, and above all they are still unsure of their own, and Ben is an unsettling presence, someone who scares some of them.

For an event and also thanks to Ben’s insistence and perseverance, Tim and Ben make friends, but Tim doesn’t want to acknowledge their friendship in public: not only Tim is from a very conservative family, he is also claiming (or pretending) that he is bisexual, and he has a poster girlfriend; plus Tim has his own issues at home, and some bad experiences in the past, and more or less he doesn’t want to be on center stage, under the scrutiny of public opinion.

From a teenager perspective, and the reader external point of view, the relationship between Tim and Ben when they are in high school is unbalanced: Ben is obviously in love and Tim, as probably any other teenager in the world would do, is taking advantage of that; Tim is not a bad guy, most of the time he grants Ben everything the other kid wants, even when Tim knows it will be trouble for him. Little by little, I started to understand Tim’s point of view, how Ben is pushing him at the pace that is probably too fast for him. Ben is not an adult, he is a kid, and like that, he cannot understand that very important things need time.

I will not really go further in describing the story, basically the story follows Ben and Tim from high school to college to their late twenty, sometime together sometime far from each other; Ben will also love someone else, Jace, and while Tim is Ben’s first love, powerful and passionate, Jace is Ben’s true love, cultivated and strong. It’s quite impossible to say who Ben loves more, Tim and Jace are different kind of love, and I think Ben was lucky enough to experiment both of them. The strange thing is that, while Ben and Tim are obviously the “heroes” of this novel, the real good character, the perfect hero in a way, is Jace; I’m true, I think Ben and Tim are cute and nice, but they are also characters that need to grow, while instead Jace is a wonderful man, a light in the life of Ben, and probably the one that allowed Ben to move from kid to man.

Amazon: Something Like Summer
Amazon Kindle: Something Like Summer
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (January 8, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1453875042
ISBN-13: 978-1453875049

Reading List:

http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=reading list&view=elisa.rolle

Cover Art by Andreas Bell
andrew potter

Fair play and Amazon Reviews, probably not reconcilable

I like to write reviews on Amazon since, let be true, Amazon is still the main window for books out there and I have the chance to connect with a lot of readers and authors through it. But my relationship with the Amazon users has not always been easy.

I remember one time when I complained since a lot of my reviews didn't appear right away; I discovered than that Amazon filters the reviews before posting them and if in your review there is one of the words they classified as "risky" then they have to be approved, otherwise they are posted right away. One of the words is "gay" and of course most of my reviews contain that word. Now don't get me wrong, most reviews appear after 12/24 hours maximum, but sometime they seem to be lost in the space. That time I complained and one of the Customer Service instead of answering my claim, suggested me to write "more meaningful reviews" (Also, please make sure you are providing your opinion on whether the items you are review are good or bad and the reasons why. It appears that the majority of your reviews are just the descriptions of the plots of the books (!!!!)). Of course I escalated the reply, I obtained a somewhat of "I'm sorry for the inconvenience" letter from a manager of the Customer Service, but sincerely it was disappointing and I wasn't in the mood to go on.

Then I reached the coveted tag of "Top 1000" reviewer (coveted not by me but apparently by so many other reviewers) and the real trouble started. I receive negative votes of my reviews with apparently no logic and moreover I noticed a trend: when I receive a negative vote I go to see the other reviews and most of the time, ALL the other reviews received a negative vote other than the last posted; and strange enough, most of the time it's not that the last posted review is on the different trend from yours, it's only that probably the reviewer would like to be among the three reviews that appear on the details page of the book without clicking on the "see more" link. I used to be upset by this behaviour, not since my aim is to be among those 3 reviews, but since sometime I really liked the review I wrote and it upset me to receive a negative vote. But I have also learned to not care too much, another Amazon user rightly pointed out to me that I have an high rate of helpful votes, and with all the reviews I wrote that is a good thing.

The other behaviour I don't like is when I receive a not so polite comment on a review from people that probably are trying to raise an argument not related to my review. It happened recently on a review I wrote for a Gay Romance. A commenter asked, with quite the anger in the words, if the author was a woman, since he believed the author was a woman pretending to write as a gay man. I then clicked on the other reviews and I saw he wrote a negative review for the same book, and of course I had received a negative vote on mine. Now, sincerely, what my review had to do with the anger of this other reader? It's quite sure the negative vote was from him, but again, what have I done or written to be worthy of his negative vote if not reading a book and liking it?

I don't expect any resolutive answer or advice on this post ;-) It was only a way to share some thoughts I have sometime.