Dulltown, Europe: Today’s carefully selected adjectives are: corpulent, defluent, sumptuary, cupped, magnetic, and carbuncled.
As you know by now dear reader I am a great fan of those scruffy 1960s British science fiction and supernatural pulp paperbacks, those Badger Books which I occasionally feature on these pages. Yes, I suppose I do ridicule them, but even bearing in mind their faults and their shoddiness, I am really still quite fond of them and their writing – they have a certain mix of old-fashioned charm and accidental surreality.
Years ago when I first discovered these Badgers in second-hand bookshops and junk shops (it was the gaudy and outlandish cover paintings which originally attracted me) I would buy them for a few pence, rush off home, and straightaway loll on the bed and ‘read’ them. I put the word ‘read’ in inverted commas here, because I would often skip several pages when it became obvious that the writer, good old Robert Lionel Fanthorpe MBIS (who wrote almost all of these works – apparently he knocked out one of these novels every two weeks!) was struggling to fill the quota number of words required (always 158 pages worth) and would, seemingly without any embarrassment, start padding it out big time. Sometimes he would cheerfully insert a few paragraphs lifted from encyclopaedias and other textbooks into his stories. I remember one novel with nearly a whole chapter telling us The History of the Olive pinched from somewhere or other before we got back to the plight of the poor people who had just been kidnapped by aliens, dropped into the blue blue sea off Greece, and had subsequently been washed up in an annoyed and wet state on the shore…
I used to copy out some of my favourite gems of RLF’s rich writing style every time I came upon one; I recently found an old piece of paper with some of them on it:
‘Ace Boulder had turned a white as graveyard marble. His face was a ghastly sheet in which his eyeballs had almost disappeared, like spit-holes in the snow.’
‘The big man’s hands hovered so close to the handles of the big 45s, that they fluttered above the iron like birds fluttering above a marsh picking up mud in their beaks to make their nests in the cliff face.’
‘Dave held his breath. Lorenzo ground his sharp Italian teeth together in an angry snarl.’
‘The waiting X12, like a slim needle she towered ready: Anonymous scurrying technicians had seen to that; they had been over her like ants building a nest, like bees building a comb, like wasps chewing that strange waxy substance in their weird little jaws.’