March 2020 - The Trigan Empire, The Prisoner of Zenda and the February issue of Yours Retro magazine...
  Books Monthly's nostalgia page
  you'll find the occasional nostalgia title on this page...


Nostalgia Book of the Month - Don Lawrence: The Rise And Fall of the Trigan Empire

 Published by Rebellion 19th March 2020

The first of a four-volume series reprinting The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire - a landmark 1960s science fiction series which rivalled Game of Thrones in popularity and was the precursor to every mythic sci-fi adventure to come!

Under the leadership of Trigo, the Vorg tribesmen band together to resist the Lokan invaders, forming a new country, The Trigan Empire. This is the epic story of its rise and fall.

Featuring an extraordinary combination of the Roman Empire and ancient Greece, Trigo‚Äôs story is told in ground-breaking fully painted artwork. This is the first in a series collecting all the stories painted by the legendary Don Lawrence.

Everyone will be aware of the two "Franks", Frank Bellamy and Frank Hampson when it comes to British comic book illustrators. Perhaps less well-known is Don Lawrence, who illustrated stories in two of the very best comics I ever read - they were comparatively small, just a little over A5, and they were the Sun and the Comet, featuring Buffalo Bill and Billy the Kid. Don was one of the finest ever British artists, preferring to do full-colour paintings of his subjects, and is probably best-known for his illustrations for The Fall and Rise of the Trigan Empire, which ran in Ranger - The National Boys' Magazine, and subsequently in Look and Learn in the mid-1960s.

This first volume of the Trigan Empire (three more to follow, Volume 2 is to be published in November of this year) contains a staggering 300+ pages, and the sheer volume and quallity of the illustrations is mind-blowing, and rightly puts Don Lawrence at the head of British comic illustrators! The story is based on the distant planet Elekton. When a spacecraft from Elekton crash lands on Earth, a scientist, Peter Richard Haddon embarks on a lifelong vow to translate the books of Elekton and thus we learn the history of the fall and rise of the Trigan Empire - Trigan named after one of three brothers, Trigo, Brag and Klud.

This is superlative science fiction of the kind that was to be found in iconic British comics of the mid-late 1950s, including Dan Dare, illustrated by various artists including Frank Hampson, in the Eagle comic; Captain Condor, and Jet Ace Logan in the Lion and Tiger comics. All science fiction comic strips of the time predicted a turn-of-the-century in which we would have conquered space and started to have adventures with extra-terrestrials. Even 2001: A Space odyssey predicted manned spaceflight on a scale we can only dream of, and that was set 20 years ago! The quality of the writing and the incredible artistic skills of Don Lawrence put the Trigan Empire head and shoulders above anything else that was on offer in the mid-sixties. I believe the series may have finished by the time we started to buy Look and Learn for our eldest son, who was born in 1967, but I remember the Trigan Empire, and may have looked at the magazine before we got round to buying it.

The quality of the printing in this wonderful book is superlative, the story is literally out of this world, and a better tribute to the great Don Lawrence will be hard to imagine. Rebellion Publishing have taken on the role of protecting and promoting the great legacy of British comics, and this first volume of Trigan adventures is one of the finest British comic books I have ever seen. I hope I get to review books 2-4! Mind-blowing excellence, science fiction of the highest order and a stunning introduction to the creative minds and geniuses of British comic book art of the 1960s!

Anthony Hope: The Prisoner of Zenda

Published by Oxford World's Classics March 2020

'If love were the only thing, I would follow you-in rags if need be ... But is love the only thing?'

Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda is a swashbuckling adventure set in Ruritania, a mythical pocket kingdom. Englishman Rudolf Rassendyll closely resembles the King of Ruritania, and to foil a coup by his rival to the throne, he is persuaded to impersonate him for a day. However, Rassendyll's role becomes more complicated when the real king is kidnapped, and he falls for the lovely Princess Flavia. Although the story is set in the near past, Ruritania is a semi-feudal land in which a strong sword arm can carry the day, and Rassendyll and his allies fight to rescue the king. But if he succeeds, our hero and Flavia will have to choose between love and honour.

As Nicholas Daly's introduction outlines, this thrilling tale inspired not only stage and screen adaptations, but also place names, and even a popular board game. A whole new subgenre of 'Ruritanian romances' followed, though no imitation managed to capture the charm, exuberance, and sheer storytelling power of Hope's classic tale.

I recently bought the Fourth Commander Book for Boys, which I originally had as a Christmas present in 1960 - I remember being a tad disappointed at the time because instead of the original stories in the first three annuals, the fourth contained truncated versions of classic boys' stories, including The Prisoner of Zenda. I remember picking the book up a while after Christmas 1960 when I was stuck for something to read, and deciding, after all, that it was a real treasury of good, classic literature - I lapped up The Prisoner of Zenda, feeling slightly more grown-up than I had previously to be reading a classic novel that was, unusually and coincidentally, a thrilling adventure. This new edition from Oxford World's Classics is a splendid addition to their library of classic literature - it's a rip-roaring adventure story for boys, although there's plenty of romance in it too, making it entirely suitable for anyone really. I love the picture on the front cover, and I love the story still. It was a joy to read again, definitely all the better for being complete, although the Commander Book still has its merits, because it is lavishly illustrated!

Yours Retro Magazine - the February 2020 issue

The February 2020 edition of Yours Retro is out now! This is the second of the new monthly editions, and it is crammed with fascinating stories and facts from times past. The cover story features Lauren Bacall, who became Humphrey Bogart's fourth wife, and who stayed with him until his untimely death in 1957. There are articles about Marlon Brando and how he almost brought the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty to a standstill; about Danger Man Patrick McGoohan, who was offered the part of James Bond but turned it down because of his near-puritanical principles; about puppets like Pinky and Perky, Andy Pandy and Topo Gigio and how they entertained us in the 1960s; the top ten dance routines from the movies; about how famous film stars got their breaks into showbusiness, and much, much more - it's a regular cornucopeia of nostalgia, and it's now published each month! The March issue will be published on March 26th, and I for one can't wait. It's a magazine you will read from cover to cover, guaranteed to help you remember the film and television stars from the last century. In my opinion it's the very best magazine on the market (in the UK) and it's going from strength to strength! Absolutely marvellous entertainment!

One of the best, and now regular, features, is REEL OBSESSIONS, where Yours Retro staff reveal their seven favourite films - this month it's the turn of Christine Curtis, Yours Retro's Deputy Editor, who chooses: Top Hat, Harvey, It's A Wonderful Life, Oh! Mr Porter, His Girl Friday, Some Like It Hot, and A Matter of Life and Death. I don't believe any of those films are on my list, and certainly not A Matter of Life and Death! In the days of video machines, a colleague at work lent me a copy of this film, telling me that I would absolutely love it. To this day I can't decide whether or not he was joking, but I hated it, almost from start to finish. I found it utterly boring, and finished watching it after about a half hour. It was utterly dreadful - I can't imagine what David Niven was thinking! My top seven films would be:

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (nothing to touch this brilliant climax to the very finest fantasy series ever made)
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (William Shatner at his absolute best)
Star Wars: A New Hope (I love all of the Star Wars films, but the first three, the prequels, are my least favourite. The latest ones have all been spectacularly good, and I really didn't know which one to choose, so I've chosen the very first one, where we are introduced to Luke, Leia, Han, C3PO and R2D2)
Zulu (Based on a true story, and Michael Caine's finest - a thrilling spectacle!)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Plenty of more recent science fiction but this one started it for me - I saw it in the cinema in London four times! I now have the definitive Blu Ray version, recently reissued)
The Green Mile (The very best adaptation of a Stephen King story, utterly compelling and beautiful)
The Sound of Music (I could have chosen Les Miserables or even West Side Story as my favourite musical, but The Sound of Music just edges it for me!)

but not necessarily in that order, although I think Return of the King would have to be my favourite film of all time - the rest I love equally but would struggle to put them in any kind of order. If you'd like to share your top seven films, your own personal REEL OBSESSIONS, I'd be happy to print them in Books Monthly. In the meantime, get down to the newsagents and pick up your copy of issue 23 of YOURS RETRO - it is fabulous!

I had an enormous collection of annuals and books in the 1950s and early 1960s, and have so far managed to collect most of what I used to have, including several years of Lion and Tiger Annuals from the mid 1950s, my two favourite books of all time, Robin Hood and His Merry Men, and King Arthur and his Knights (both Regent Classics), along with the first six titles in the Jalna Whiteoaks series by Mazo de la Roche. I had all four Commander Books, and my sister Jean had the first Coronet book for Girls, which I received for Christmas (see below). This page is dedicated to nostalgia titles, those I have in my collection already, or titles I have picked up at car boot sales and in charity shops. Anything to do with nostalgic literature from the 1950s and 1960s you'll find on this new page in Books Monthly. The February issue of Yours Retro is out now, see below for a look at what's inside!

The Coronet Book for Girls

Published by Sampson Low 1957

Finding a Coronet Book for Girls or a Commander Book for Boys in reasonable condition is quite rare nowadays. Finding one with a dust jacket is very rare. This one I found on World of Books just before Christmas and persuaded my daughter to get it for me as a Christmas gift - it was ridiculously cheap and in exceptional condition. Although the dust jacket was torn, I was able to mend it with sellotape and it joins the three Commander Books for Boys already in my collection, and all with dust jackets. These books are precious to me for a number of reasons - firstly, they were published over four years, each year there was a Commander for Boys and a Coronet for Girls, from 1956 to 1959. I was ten years old in 1956, and had already discovered reading in a big way. This mammoth book, nearly 500 pages long, was crammed with brilliant, illustrated stories.

My sister, five years older than me, got the first Coronet book for Girls, but she was already by that time growing out of girls' annuals, and although she got the Schoolfriend and Girls' Crystal Annuals for a couple more years, the first Coronet was the only one she ever had, and it was me who snaffled it and read it after I had read all of the stories in my Commander Book for Boys. Secondly, it introduced me to the brilliance of Eric Leyland, who edited both titles, and in addition wrote many of the stories. In the Coronet books, he wrote under female pseudonyms, as I recently discovered. In 1957, the year of the Second Commander book, I wrote to him, care of the publisher, to ask him if there were any books based on the schoolboy stories featured in the annuals. I received a courteous and prompt reply from the man himself, informing me that the stories had been written specifically for the annuals, and referring me to other authors of school stories that I could seek out in book form. I later discovered (and purchased) a copy of Totty (who featured in the first two Commanders) by Roland Smith, a book which was first published at the turn of the 20th century.

I don't recall any of the stories in this Coronet annual, because it is the second in the series, and my sister Jean would not have had it. My search for more Commanders and Coronets with dust jackets continues, while in the meantime, I am enjoying immensely the hours of joyous reading contained in these unique, beautifully illustrated by Robert McGillivray and packaged treasure troves of children's literature!

Update: I now have six of the eight books that were published from 1956-1959; I have all four Commander Books for Boys, and I have the Second and fourth Coronet Books for girls, all with dustjackets. These, for me, are the most important books from that era. The stories are superb, the inline illustrations by Ronald McGillivray are exceptionally brilliant, and the dustjackets are simply out of this world!

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 22nd year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at and I'll let you know where to send it.

  Home Page

  Alma Books

  Children's Books

  Fiction books

  Fantasy & Science Fiction

  Nonfiction Books

  Acker Bilk Sleeve Notes

  The Stephen King page

  Pen and Sword Books

  Email me