On Mail Order In The Twentieth Century

Further to yesterday’s potted history of the Malice Aforethought Press, I rummaged in a paper-midden and found a dog-eared copy of our 1988 mail order catalogue. I thought it might be of historical interest to reproduce some of the contents, in spite of the sinking feeling I had as I read my blurbs and shuddered at the, er, gaudiness of my prose.

All of these pamphlets are of course out of print, though most of the texts were collected in the 1989 paperback Twitching And Shattered. That, too, is out of print, but copies occasionally crop up on eBay or in secondhand bookshops or for auction here at Hooting Yard.

The Malice Aforethought Press was established in 1986 for the express purpose of scraping vegetable matter, rinds, and caked grime from the interior walls of a large iron bran-tub. However, this dreadful scheme met only with ignominy and ruin. Fleeing to a sanatorium in Greenland, the Malice Aforethought Press held a number of fruitless meetings with aviators, bonnibels, conspirators, dolts, ecclesiastics, fanatics, gaberlunzies, hacks, idiots, joskins, kakas, lepers, mahouts, notaries, obfuscators, polatouches, quaestors, revengers, succubae, tziganes, uhlans, vipers, wags, xemas, yahoos, and zealots. Halfway through this series of conferences, the sanatorium was uprooted from the sod and pitchforked into the demented ocean by an inexplicable force. Things looked grim. Saved from drowning by the intervention of a crumpled urchin, the Malice Aforethought Press returned to England, determined to enwrap the bran-tub in massive, fibrous blankets. Thousands upon thousands of eager volunteers had to be turned away, ejected into hailstorms through the rotting wooden portal which fronts our monstrous office. As a sop to these thousands, the Malice Aforethought Press has arranged to publish a selection of documents which lay bare the true history of the rusted cooking-pots stacked higgledy-piggledy in the corridors of a smashed-up building painted crimson…

Hoots Of Destiny
Three graphic stories. Many pictures, a few words.

1. Fun with gravel
2. L’Histoire du paving slabs
3. Why do potatoes exist?

Why indeed? An unclassifiable work of shining lucidity and brazen incorrigibility. The leitmotifs of this ridiculous publication, the keys to its charm, are many and various. One could perhaps single out an eyebrow, a hake, an inspirational choir funnel. Each copy is produced by our Frank on an individual basis; Hoots Of Destiny is part hand-drawn, part hand-written, and hand-coloured throughout. Each copy is dated, numbered, signed, and dedicated. So there. The perfect gift for bailiffs, Jesuit fathers, or menacing figures draped in grisly shifts.

Forty Visits To The Worm Farm
A hectic tale of malfeasance and calumny, set in an exciting worm farm. Whisks, turnips, and dangerous machinery abound, and the cast of unlikely characters includes Canute Hellhound, whose tremendous, ground-breaking lecture on the pith and nubs of wormery is reprinted in part. This pure and urgent work brings together the Sacred and the Profane, the Dim and the Doomed, and the Patron Saint of Worms with his Destiny. Our classic bestseller! The text is accompanied by four illustrations in which the author depicts his characters with withering intensity. If you buy only one book this year, you would be advised to seek medical help.

Tales Of Hoon
A magnificent collection of four crumpled yarns set in the dismal, sump-strewn land of Hoon, with the odd detour to its hinterland of purple hills and bauxite mines. A cast of hundreds, most of whom are called Ned, appears in these rum and preposterous stories. As a special treat, the texts are complemented by three maps and a really exciting A3 fold-out diagram, hand-coloured and unbelievably lavish. Each copy also contains a piece of sandpaper. Truly a labour of love; either that or sheer dementia.

A Zest For Crumpled Things
Twenty-six potted biographies of characters whose behaviour would be out of place in most of what passes for “fiction” these days. The texts make use of neologism, poltroonery, and reverential plagiarism of M P Shiel (1865-1947). Among those potted by Frank’s doolally pen are Maud Abdab, Cora Dwabb, Istvan Ick, Ned Lip, and Jodhpur Valentine. With twenty-six photographs from the author’s collection, rescued from an incinerator in the cellar of a ruinous building in the north of England.

The Churn In The Muck
A couple of stories; one about ponds, hotels, and hollyhocks, the other about hotels, hollyhocks, and ponds. More alphabetical excursions by Frank, who doesn’t intend to abandon this compositional device until he has well and truly wrung its neck. Biographical notes on the main characters are bunged in at the end for no apparent reason, shedding unpitying light on old favourites like Lars Talc as well as introducing some brand new gits, including Eileen Hollyhock and the Brothers Hellbag. Fully illustrated with four black & white plates by the author. A splash of colour is added by the insertion of a sheet of wallpaper in all fifty copies of this first edition, numbered and signed and all the usual shenanigans…

House Of Turps (in preparation)
The first volume in a projected series of 26 books in which the full and uproarious history of the House of Turps is dissected with a blunt pen-knife. This initial book potters about in the pre-history of the House, examining the events leading to its foundation, in particular the role played by a large number of inanimate objects including hammers, iron pots, wrestling-rings, and bandage paste. Future volumes in the series will lay bare the complete history of this remarkable institution, the whole adding up to what can only be described as a Bath of Learning, a Broth of Truth. Deceptively simple, even rambling, the construction of this first book is awesomely complicated, its intricate machinery a triumph of meldrum and binge. Illustrated by the author, as usual. Signed & numbered, as usual. Silk-screened cover, for once.

NOTE : That last blurb was written before I actually wrote House Of Turps. It remains the only one of the planned series of twenty-six ever to see the light of day. The cover was not silk-screened.

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