Tag Archives: Concrete Surfer

Jinty 27 May 1978

jinty-cover-27-may-1978

  • Concrete Surfer (writer Pat Mills, artist unknown)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Winning Birthday Girls! – Contest results
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Knight and Day
  • A-to-Z of Things to Do – part two
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Talking to the Star from “Robin’s Nest” – Feature
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Seahorse Sunspecs Case – feature

The panel from “Slave of the Swan” actually appeared in the story some weeks ago, which is a bit irregular. Usually Jinty used panels from the current episode of a story for a cover. The depiction of Katrina’s apron is reminiscent of a tutu, which is very clever and also fitting for the ballet theme. And in this week’s episode of “Slave of the Swan”, the Swan’s lies get even crueller. Now she’s got poor Katrina thinking she’s an arsonist and a murderer who burned down an orphanage in revenge and killed someone in the flames!

Last week “Concrete Surfer” was pushed off its usual slot of leading story, but it’s back there this week. Carol freely admits to Jean how she had played Jean for a fool. Belatedly, Jean wishes she had had a tape recorder on hand so she could prove it to everyone else. They all think Carol is a sweet girl and Jean bullies her. The skateboard contest gets underway and Jean is thinking up her own lyrics to the piece of music Carol has chosen: “Isn’t she sickening…? Isn’t she spiteful…? I never thought what a cat she could be…”

In part two of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” the war ends in victory for the Allies, but the Peters children have no heart for celebrating because their father was KIA. They cheer up when Mum gets complimentary tickets for them to see a “Wizard of Oz” production. This introduces the Wizard of Oz theme that will resonate throughout the rest of the serial.

In “Knight and Day”, Pat meets her stepsister Janet, who’s a very nasty piece of work and bullies Pat. At least she reveals the real reason why Mum reclaimed the daughter she had always neglected: it was so they could get a council flat. Well, well, well!

“Clancy on Trial” impresses her grandfather by standing up to him (the only one who does), especially when he expresses his long-standing disapproval of her mother’s marriage to a bus driver. Meanwhile, Sandra continues to help Clancy to learn to walk again.

Last week “The Zodiac Prince” and his gift of balance to Julie unwittingly made another circus performer jealous. Now she’s putting herself in danger trying to prove herself on the high wire. Fortunately Julie is able to come to the rescue and everything is sorted out. Fresh trouble isn’t far away though, and it comes when the Zodiac Prince sees a girl mistreating a donkey and decides it’s time for another astral gift. However, next week’s blurb informs us that he’s about to make a big mistake.

There are double emergencies in “Cathy’s Casebook” this week. Mr Shaw’s daughter gets injured after being thrown from her horse and loses her nerve, and a café owner collapses from a perforated ulcer.

 

Jinty 20 May 1978

jinty-cover-20-may-1978

  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow – first episode (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Get in the Swim! Competition
  • Concrete Surfer (writer Pat Mills, artist unknown)
  • Knight and Day – first episode
  • A-to-Z of Things to Do – part one
  • Clancy on Trial – first episode (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Snow in Summer – feature

The advertising for Jinty’s new competition and her A-to-Z of things to do has pushed the story panels right off the cover. There’s only a blurb at the bottom to say that three new stories have started. It looks like the pull-out feature, competition and stories have pushed out “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” and “Alley Cat” out of the issue; neither appears this week.

The first new story, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, pushes “Concrete Surfer” out of her usual slot as leading story. The episode is also a four-pager, which gets it off to quite a start. It seems fitting as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” went on to be one of Jinty’s most enduring and longest stories. It was the last of the three Jinty serials to be set in World War II. As the story opens, the war is drawing to a close. VE Day is in sight, wartime restrictions are easing a bit, and the Peters family are looking forward to the day when Dad comes home from the war. But of a sudden Mum gets the dreaded envelope that means KIA.

The second new story is “Knight and Day” (a popular play on one girl being named Day and the other Knight in a serial). Pat Day’s mother has always neglected her and she is now happily fostered out to the Hargreaves. But now, all of a sudden, the neglectful mother (now Mrs Knight under her new marriage) has successfully applied to get her back. But why would she even bother?

The artist for the third new story, “Clancy on Trial”, is a surprise. It’s Ron Lumsden, who is best remembered for being the first artist on “The Comp”. Clancy Clarke is determined to walk again after being crippled in an accident and is getting help from her cousin Sandra. All of a sudden, Clancy’s grandfather, who had ignored her before, suddenly takes an interest in her. As with Pat’s mother it sounds suspicious, but at least we get an inkling of his motives – to put her to some sort of test.

In the other stories, “The Zodiac Prince” hands out another astral gift, and this time it works out. Julie is now happily reunited with her father and, thanks to the astral gift, is now joining him at the circus. Unfortunately it pushed out another performer and now she’s jealous.

“The Slave of the Swan” is finally beginning to remember bits of her past. But the Swan is getting set to ensnare her again, and she’s already pulled the wool over the eyes of the police who were getting on her trail at last.

In “Cathy’s Casebook” Dad is hauled up before the medical board on an unfair charge of neglecting a patient, thanks to the old trout of a district nurse who judged him too harshly and wouldn’t listen to pleas that Dad was overworked and feeling unwell. But Cathy makes sure the medical board listens to her over them! The nurse looks veerry sour indeed when Cathy gets the charge against her father dismissed.

“Concrete Surfer” finally catches creepy Carol out once and for all. She tricks Carol into admitting that she stole her skateboard. Not that it would do much good in the competition – Jean can’t compete unless she finds the skateboard.

 

Jinty 13 May 1978

jinty-cover-13-may-1978

  • Concrete Surfer (writer Pat Mills, artist unknown)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Wednesday’s Child – Gypsy Rose story (artist Hugo D’Adderio)
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • The Birds – final episode (artist Keith Robson, writer Len Wenn)
  • The Cinderella Story of Sneh Gupta– Feature
  • Shadow on the Fen – final episode (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Make a Sunflower Shoulder Bag – Feature

 

Gypsy Rose is back this week, but she’s clearly being used as a filler. Her run in Jinty was nowhere as regular or as solid as the Storyteller’s in June/ Tammy. Her story features a kid brother who strikes up an unusual friendship with what turns out to be the ghost of another boy who was starved to death by his aunt.

Next week “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” starts, and its announcement is unusual. It’s on the letters page, in response to one reader who wrote in to say that “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” was her all-time favourite Jinty story (perhaps she was one of the many readers in Pam’s Poll who voted for its reprint). The editor informs the reader that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is penned by the same author as Stefa (now that’s quite a lead-in) and “it’s making us all have a lovely cry at the office!”

Jinty also announces that “Clancy on Trial” starts next week as well. So this week we see the final episodes of “The Birds” and “Shadow on the Fen”. The ending of “The Birds” is grim, with the parents plummeting to their deaths in the car because of those crazy birds and that chemical factory that has driven them crazy. In “Shadow on the Fen”, the Witchfinder is reduced to just bones and then dust after being struck by… well, it’s not quite clear if it is the power of the holy cross or the falling wishing tree that lands on top of him. But it is quite reminiscent of how a vampire is destroyed.

Jean almost walks out on the skateboarding club but changes her mind. And she’s beginning to suss Carol out; she can’t stand being on the losing side and being second best. She always has to be the winner and centre of attention. So Jean’s quite pleased there’s going to be a skateboarding competition where she can settle things with Carol once and for all.

Katrina Vale, “The Slave of the Swan”, overhears the story of how the Swan got crippled: the story goes that a friend got jealous of her final triumph in “The Swan” role and injured her deliberately. We realise they can only mean Katrina’s mother. But from our brief glimpse of Mrs Vale as a sympathetic character way back in part one, can we really believe she would do such a thing? Meanwhile, the police are finally on the trail of the missing Katrina. Will they be able to rescue her from the Swan?

Sue calls upon Henrietta’s help to cook a meal for her friends, but finds she would have been better off doing it herself.

The Zodiac Prince sets out to help a girl who’s got circus in her blood, but her snooty aunt is keeping her away from it.

Being a doctor’s daughter pays off dividends for Cathy – she gets to see her favourite pop star in person when he needs a doctor. Cathy also finds a way to cheer up sourpuss Tom while he’s in hospital, though it flouts hospital rules.

 

Jinty 6 May 1978

jinty-cover-6-may-1978

The Concrete Surfer finds sneaky Carol cheated to put up the winning design for their skateboard tee shirts. She’s now so fed up with smarmy Carol being Miss Bainbridge’s pet that she wants to walk out on the skateboard club.

A woman gets on Sue’s nerves with her bossiness and endless spouting of old proverbs, and Sue reckons the woman doesn’t even know what those proverbs mean. Oohh, sounds like an open invitation for Henrietta to hand out another lesson with her mischief-making magic.

The Swan is up to mischief of an even more nasty nature. She’s poisoning her own pupils against Katrina with false stories and sneaky tricks to make Katrina look a thief in order to turn them against her because they were trying to help her. At least Sarah is still friendly and is treating Katrina to a ballet performance.

It’s the final episode of “Waking Nightmare”. Phil realises she should have heeded newspaper reports that Carol was not quite right in the head. But Carol’s mother admits it was partly her fault for concealing it because she was ashamed to let people know her daughter was mentally ill. Phil helps Carol overcome her fear of doctors and everything works out happily.

“The Birds” is on its penultimate episode, and it’s only the second one. There was so much scope to make this Hitchcock-inspired story longer, so why did they just keep it at three episodes?

“Shadow on the Fen” is clearly nearing its end as we’re told the story will reach its climax next week. This week The Witchfinder attacks Mrs Perks, the only ally of Linden and Rebecca. At least they manage to get hold of his book, the second magic artefact they have to destroy to destroy him. However, he managed to get away with his last artefact, the magic knife.

Cathy saves the life of a critically ill man, but the old sourpuss isn’t showing her any gratitude. Dad takes her out for a treat, but there could be a surprise when someone asks if there is a doctor in the house.

The Zodiac Prince is trying to work out what’s upsetting the clown he’s standing in for. Then he and Shrimp find a photograph that could be a clue.

 

Jinty 22 April 1978

jinty-cover-22-april-1978

Last week Jean believed she had finally seen through Carol as “a smarmy little creep!” But she repents when Carol really puts on the waterworks. Did she really hurt Carol’s feelings or has the smarmy little creep worked her way around her again? Meanwhile, Jean takes on some advice to bring some rhythm and flow into her skateboarding and is making progress. However, could Carol be trying to discreetly undermine it?

In “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” some bullies always pick on a girl and call her names. Naturally, Henrietta decides to give them a taste of their own medicine, which gets a bit out of hand. They end up in detention, but it’s a fitting punishment for bullying.

The Swan has made a slip that she knew the slave’s parents. But she twists it around with another lie: the slave’s parents died in prison for theft and she may have inherited their bad ways. It’s an old trick in “amnesiac” serials and it does what the Swan intended: the slave becomes demoralised and begins to doubt herself.

Carol comes to the rescue of Phil, who’s under a pile of debris. However, Carol seems to be going to pieces because the debris is reminding her of something.

The Zodiac Prince casts a spell on a girl to make her attractive to animals. It was meant to save her from a tiger, but it backfires when every single animal in town follows the girl all the way home, and the spell starts messing things up at the circus as well. Father tells the Prince he can’t remove the spell, so he suggests another to modify the first. But will it work out?

It’s the final episode of “Paula’s Puppets”. Paula’s in a cross-country race but isn’t up to it with nobody to support her. Then, all of a sudden, Dad is there to cheer her on. But he’s supposed to be in prison! What gives?

Linden manages to get the plant to cure Rebecca, despite the Witchfinder trying to stop her by turning himself into the largest rat you ever saw. Next they learn how to stop the Witchfinder – destroy his three magic items – but they have to track them down first.

Cathy thinks her father needs a break and leaves the phone off the hook so he won’t be disturbed. But this could lead to real trouble if there is an emergency…

 

Jinty 15 April 1978

jinty-cover-15-april-1978

  • Concrete Surfer (writer Pat Mills, artist unknown)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Waking Nightmare (artist Phil Townsend)
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Paula’s Puppets (artist Julian Vivas)
  • Idol By Name (Billy Idol feature)
  • Shadow on the Fen (artist Douglas Perry)
  • The Revenge of Peter-the-Fisherman! (writer C. Mitchell, artist Keith Robson) Text story competition entry
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
  • “Sunny” Sparklers – feature

Jean is furious to discover Carol has been muscling in on her skateboard territory by secretly learning to skateboard as well. And she reckons she’s finally seen through sweet-faced Carol too – “you’re a smarmy little creep!” But has Carol finally been defeated?

Sue asks Henrietta for a spell to help her win a balloon race, though she admits she should know better than that. Sure enough, Henrietta makes the punishment fit the crime.

The Swan’s revenge on Katrina is getting worse and worse. She’s tricked Katrina into wearing heavy boots to stop her dancing and then she just about breaks Katrina’s fingers when she slams a piano lid on them. At least the other girls are wising up and trying to help Katrina. But what comes of it remains to be seen.

Life on the run in “Waking Nightmare!” reaches the climax when Phil has a serious accident and now she’s trapped under a pile of debris, with nobody to hear her screams for help, and there’s no sign of Carol.

“Paula’s Puppets” has reached its penultimate episode. The puppets have led Paula to a piece of evidence that is supposed to clear her father. Unfortunately Paula can’t understand what the hell it is about.

The Zodiac Prince takes a job as a fortune teller at a funfair, and with the help of his father predicts a terrible thunderstorm is going to hit. Pity the father didn’t also predict a tiger getting loose because of the storm damage, which puts a little girl in danger.

Rebecca’s been injured by the Witchfinder’s blade and could bleed to death from its poison. The only way to save her is to venture into Barberry Fen to get a certain flower – but that is where the Witchfinder is at his strongest!

Cathy’s been advised to work with her doctor father in order to get closer to him. So she joins a first aid class – but she didn’t expect her father to be the instructor!

Pat Mills: Interview

Pat Mills is someone who has already contributed lots to our knowledge of girls comics of this era, but even so there are still some gaps in our knowledge of what he wrote, and always plenty more questions to be asked. With thanks to him for his contributions now and in the past, here is a brief email interview.

1) In previous discussions you’ve identified the following stories in girls’ comics as having been written by you. Are there any stories missing from that list that you can remember? Some other stories have been attributed to you – also listed below – which you’ve either specifically said you didn’t write, or which haven’t been included in those previous discussions. It would be great to clarify this once and for all, if we can.

Known stories (Jinty)

You have also said before that you wrote a horse story, without identifying which one it was. Might it be “Horse from the Sea”? Or perhaps “Wild Horse Summer“?

Pat Mills: No. Doesn’t ring a bell. It’s possible I did the horse story for Tammy, but it wasn’t very good.

Tammy

  • Ella on Easy Street?
  • Glenda’s Glossy Pages?

Pat Mills: Charles Herring wrote Ella which I hugely admire. I wrote Glenda. Also – Aunt Aggie, School for Snobs, and Granny’s Town, but not all episodes.

Misty

  • Moonchild
  • Roots (Nightmare)
  • Red Knee – White Terror! (Beasts)

Pat Mills: Think “Red Knee” was mine if it was the spider story. Also “Hush Hush Sweet Rachel” – art by Feito.

And some Jinty stories you didn’t write but which are often attributed to you: “Knight and Day” (now confirmed as not yours), “The Human Zoo” (I think this is thought to be Malcolm Shaw’s), “Wanda Whiter Than White“, “Guardian of White Horse Hill” (you’ve previously thought this is likely to be Malcolm’s too).

Pat Mills: No, none of those are mine.

2) I appreciate that it’s harder to remember which stories were written by other people, if you even knew these details at the time. If there are any stories that you know the writers of, we are always up for adding to our store of attributions! We know that co-workers of yours such as John Wagner, Gerry Finley-Day, Malcolm Shaw, Charles Herring wrote for girls comics, in case that helps to trigger any memories. Did you also perhaps know Jay Over, Ian Mennell, Benita Brown, Maureen Spurgeon? (Some of those names are listed in the era when Tammy printed creator credits between 1982 and 1984, meaning we do have some story credits already in hand for that time.)

Pat Mills: Charles Herring was great – Ella and similar stories.  Pat and Alan Davidson wrote stories like Little Miss Nothing – Sandie and the equivalent in Tammy. They were top writers and that style of ‘Cinderella” story was hugely popular, but I don’t think they ever worked for Mavis. [In fact we do know that Alan Davidson wrote for Jinty, though Pat Davidson did not.]

John Wagner created and wrote “Jeanie and her Uncle Meanie” for Sandie, I think.  John was an editor on Sandie, but Gerry was the founding editor.

I wrote “Captives of Madam Karma” in Sandie.

John Wagner and I wrote “School of No Escape” in Sandie. (That was not bad) And “The Incredible Miss Birch” for Sandie. (Not our finest hour!) And I must have written at least one other story of this kind for Sandie.

I also wrote “Sugar Jones” and other stories for Pink, and “9 to 4” for Girl.

3) In Steve MacManus’ new book on his time in IPC / Fleetway, he talks about stories being measured in terms of the number of panels in the story: so for instance at one point he refers to a ‘twenty-two picture episode’ and at other points to a ‘thirty-picture script’. Is this something that you too remember from your time at IPC Fleetway? Did it happen at DCThomson too? I was interested in this because it seemed like a surprising way to think about comics, rather than in terms of page count.

Pat Mills: Yes. Steve is spot on. It’s a big subject. A thirty picture story in girls comics would theoretically deliver a lot of story. But it would be crammed and old fashioned. So I changed all that on 2000AD with less images on the page and started to apply it to Misty.

4) You’ve talked before about girls comics working differently from boys comics, and Steve MacManus recalls you saying that in a girls story the heroine would beat a bully, ride in a gymkhana, and still get back home in time to make her motherless family a hearty tea. Clearly girls comics were very full of plot! And you were a big part of rewriting a bunch of boys stories to make them fit the girls comics model more closely. Can you talk in a bit more detail about how this worked, in other words, what the mechanism was, more exactly? Is it a case of using fewer action sequences, more surprise reveals, lots of scene changes…?

Pat Mills: The big principle of girls comics that I applied to boys comics was “emotion”. Sometimes this worked well, but it needed applying in a different way. More “cool”, perhaps. Some girls principles didn’t adapt well:  jealousy for instance. Girls loved stories involving jealousy – boys didn’t. Hence “Green’s Grudge War” in Action wasn’t a hit.  Similarly, mystery stories work well in girls comics, boys didn’t give a damn about mystery. Hence my “Terror Beyond the Bamboo Curtain” in Battle, boys didn’t care what the terror was. It wasn’t a failure, but not the hit we hoped for.

However, where girls comics scored ENORMOUSLY was in having realistic stories that didn’t talk down to the reader. My “Charley’s War” is really a girls comic in disguise. Its popularity lies in it applying girls comic principles NOT boys comic principles – e.g. emotion is allowable in the context of World War One.

I was never that sold on “girls adventure” where there wasn’t a strong “kitchen sink”/Grange Hill factor. I think when Jinty went in for science fiction adventure it led the field, but not so sure about regular adventure which could seem “old school” – to me, at least. This was a factor everyone battled with on girls and boys comics, avoiding “old school” and creating stories that were “cool”.  Thus I would describe “Cat Girl” in Sally as uncool and old fashioned. Some of the Misty stories fell into that category – historical stories, for example.

Many thanks again to Pat Mills for his time, and for his memories and thoughts on this.

Exciting news about the IPC copyrights, pt II

Around this time last week, I met up with Ben Smith from Rebellion, to discuss the acquisition of the IPC copyrights and to pitch some possible ideas. This is not an interview (I didn’t take detailed notes), but it is a way of recording some particularly exciting elements of what’s looking plausible or likely.

First of all, Ben and the company as a whole are as keen to make great use of this new material as you could wish them to be. This is a significant investment for them, so it needs to be approached in a way that means it makes good long-term sense. There’s a lot of obvious value to be got from this treasure trove. A line of well-chosen reprints is a no brainer when you consider that the company has already proved the worth of that model (their reprint of Monster from Scream & The Eagle is one of their very best sellers).

Monster has name recognition factor (Alan Moore and John Wagner), but how do you sell the stories that don’t have quite such attention-grabbing names? And will it only be the ‘usual suspects’ that sit fairly comfortably alongside 2000AD – stories from horror comics or hard-hitting war tales? One of the things I was particularly happy to hear was that they really are looking in detail across the range of boys, girls, and humour comic stories. Ben was enthusiastic about all sorts of girls comics, from sports stories (yes, “Bella at the Bar” is a strong contender) to stories of everyday life (he name checked Pam of Pond Hill), and of course the science fiction / fantasy / creepy stories that were such a big part of Jinty, Misty, and Tammy. (We talked less about humour comics as it’s not my main focus, but they won’t be ignored in the line-up.) At the same time he was realistic in acknowledging that there will also need to be energy spent in making new markets; the nostalgia market is a great start but it needs to be grown to incorporate a new readership. Parents whose kids are outgrowing the Phoenix, or teens who are excited by the Olympics? Rebellion will be casting the net more widely than just the nostalgia market, wherever it ends up landing.

It’s not just reprints, though. We didn’t talk about relaunching titles or creating new material using the old characters – if these possibilities come into view I suspect it will be some way along the line, once the new playing field has been staked out and surveyed better. But merchandising, oh yeah. Again it needs to be done right, to make it work long-term, but can you imagine the bull leap from “A Leap Through Time” on a t shirt, or the cover of “Concrete Surfer” on a bag? Maybe you won’t have to just imagine it, soon.

bull-leap

Of course as a fan historian and interested blogger, I also wanted to ask other questions about the acquisition. Ben was quick to reassure that fan sites such as this one were very much fine by him (so long as people don’t ‘take the piss’ by which I assume he means reprinting whole issues or stories, or of course selling material commercially). They help to keep the buzz going, and are an important information resource. (Certainly any artist and writer credits that the reprints publish is more likely to come from bloggers and historians than from any official records, I fear.) So there is no problem with this site continuing to feature scanned art, sample episodes, posts about stories, and analysis (even if this includes spoiler details of story endings). You needn’t worry about changes to the content of this site, therefore (though I will now be amending the copyright information to credit Rebellion correctly).

I also asked about what sort of archives were included in the deal. Ben’s focus as the head of publishing is different from mine as a comics historian – he is thinking about the fact he will need to build around 80 metres of shelving to hold the bound file copies of the comics, and is looking forward to seeing if any of the new haul includes anything that could speed up the reproduction process (for instance, any usable film from the original printing – though he doesn’t hold out much hope). I am wondering if there might be any further material included in those archives – I don’t realistically expect there to be letters and editorial files, but you never know. Might there be a file copy of the issue of Tammy which never got distributed – the one which includes the last episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”? We know that there were 30 copies printed of the last pre-censorship Action, and maybe a similar situation could be the case here. I will be very keen to make a trip to the new archive location, once the dust has settled!

Can a computer program help us identify unknown writers? 4

Right now I am sorry to say that I haven’t had great success with the computer program that I was hoping would help us to identify unknown writers. I’m by no means declaring it to be impossible or unrealistic, but I think I will need to ask for help from the experts who wrote the program and/or who do more of this sort of analysis on a day to day basis.

My initial trials were to see if I could test a Jay Over script known to be by him against another one known to be by him, so as to see if the program could pick out a ‘known good’ example. It did do that pretty well, but it may be that I calibrated the program options too closely against Jay Over. I haven’t got to the stage of being able to say that this series of tests, done in this way, gives you a good chance of identifying this text by a known author. (Unless that known author is Jay Over, she says slightly bitterly.) And if I can’t do this reasonably reliably, there is no point (as yet, at least) in moving on to trying out unknown author texts.

In my last post about this computer program, I ran a series of 10 tests against a Jay Over text, and the program reliably picked out Jay Over as the most likely author of that text out of a supplied set of 4 test authors. It was much less reliable in picking out a test Malcolm Shaw text out of the same set of test authors: only 5 of the 10 tests suggested that Malcolm Shaw was the best fit. I have now tried the same 10 tests with an Alan Davidson text (“Jackie’s Two Lives”), and with a Pat Mills text (“Girl In A Bubble”). This means that all four of the test authors have been tested against a text that is known to be by them.

  • Unfortunately, in the test using an Alan Davidson text the program was even worse at picking him out as the ‘best fit’ result: it only did so in 2 of the 10 tests, and in 4 of the tests it placed him in last, or least likely to have written that test text.
  • In the test using a Pat Mills text, the program was rather better at picking him out as the ‘best fit’ result, though still not great: it did so in 4 out of 10 tests, and in 3 of the remaining tests he was listed second; and he was only listed as ‘least likely/worst fit’ in one of the tests.

The obvious next step was to try with a larger group of authors. I tried the test texts of Jay Over (“Slave of the Clock”) and of Malcolm Shaw (“Bella” and “Four Faces of Eve”) against a larger group of 6 authors (Primrose Cumming, Anne Digby, Polly Harris, Louise Jordan, Jay Over, Malcolm Shaw).

  • With the Jay Over text, only 7 of the 10 tests chose him as the ‘best fit’, so the attribution of him as the author is showing as less definite in this set of tests.
  • With the Malcolm Shaw texts, only 1 and 3 tests (for “Bella” and for “Eve” respectively identified him as the ‘best fit’ – not enough for us to have identified him as the author if we hadn’t already known him to be so. (He also came last, or second to last, in 4 of the first set of tests, and the same in the second set of tests.)

I should also try with more texts by each author. However I think that right now I will take a break from this, in favour of trying to contact the creators of the program. I hope they may be able to give me better leads of the right direction to take this in. Do we need to have much longer texts for each author, for instance? (We have generally been typing up just one episode for each author – I thought might be too much of an imposition to ask people to do any more than that, especially as it seemed sensible to try to get a reasonably-sized group of authors represented.) Are there some tests I have overlooked, or some analytical methods that are more likely to be applicable to this situation? Hopefully I will be able to come back with some extra info that means I can take this further – but probably not on any very immediate timescale.

In the meantime, I leave you with the following list of texts that people have kindly helped out with. You may find (as I have) that just looking at the texts themselves is quite interesting and revealing. I am more than happy to send on any of the texts if they would be of interest to others. There are also various scans of single episodes sent on by Mistyfan in particular, to whom many thanks are due.

  • Alison Christie, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” (typed by Marckie)
  • Primrose Cumming, “Bella” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Alan Davidson, three texts
    • “Fran of the Floods” (typed by Marckie)
    • “Jackie’s Two Lives” (typed by me)
    • “Kerry In the Clouds” (typed by me, in progress)
  • Anne Digby, “Tennis Star Tina” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Gerry Finley-Day, “Slaves of War Orphan Farm” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Polly Harris, two texts
    • “Monkey Tricks” (typed by Mistyfan)
    • “Midsummer Tresses” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Louise Jordan, “The Hardest Ride” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Jay Over, two texts
    • “Slave of the Clock” (typed by me)
    • “The Secret of Angel Smith” (typed by me)
  • Malcolm Shaw, five texts
    • “Lucky” (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “The Sentinels” episode 1 (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “The Sentinels” episode 2 (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “Bella” (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “Four Faces of Eve” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Pat Mills, two texts
    • “Concrete Surfer” (typed by me)
    • “Girl In A Bubble” (typed by me)
  • John Wagner, “Eva’s Evil Eye” (typed by Mistyfan)

 

 

Can a computer program help us identify unknown writers? 2

The jury’s still out at present, but I am very grateful for the kind offers of help of various sorts! I now have text versions of episodes of:

  • “Slave of the Clock” and “The Secret of Angel Smith” (Jay Over)
  • “The Sentinels” (Malcolm Shaw)
  • “Fran of the Floods” (Alan Davidson)
  • “Concrete Surfer (Pat Mills).

So I have enough to try to see if I can get the program to identify “Slave of the Clock” as being by Jay Over rather than any of the other writers. If anyone is able to send in any more texts, the following would be useful:

  • Some texts by female writers such as Anne Digby, Alison Christie, Benita Brown
  • Some more texts by the writers named above, so that I can offer the program a wider base of texts per each writer (rather than keeping on increasing the number of individual authors)

How far have I got so far? Not that far yet, I’m afraid to say. I have downloaded a copy of the program I chose (JGAAP) and I’ve got it to run (not bad in itself as this is not a commercial piece of software with the latest user-friendly features). I’ve loaded up the known authors and the test text (Slave of the Clock). However, the checks that the program gives you as options are very academic, and hard for me to understand as it’s not an area I’ve ever studied. (Binned naming times, analysed by Mahalanobis distance? What the what??) Frankly, I am stabbing at options like a monkey and seeing what I get.

I can however already see that some of the kinds of checks that the program offers are plausibly going to work, so I am optimistic that we may get something useful out of this experiment. These more successful tests involve breaking down the texts into various smaller elements like individual words, or small groups of words, or the initial words of each sentence, or by tagging the text to indicate what parts of speech are used. The idea is that this should give the program some patterns to use and match the ‘test’ text against, and this does seem to be bearing fruit so far.

So, an interim progress report – nothing very definite yet but some positive hints. I will continue working through the options that the program offers, to see if I can narrow down the various analytical checks to a subset that look like they are successfully identifying the author as Jay Over. I will then run another series of tests with a new Jay Over file – I’ll type up an episode of “The Lonely Ballerina” to do that, unless anyone else has kindly done it before me 🙂 – scans from an episode are shown below, just in case! That will be a good test to see if the chosen analytical checks do the job that I hope they will…

Jay Over, Lonely Ballerina pg 1

Jay Over, Lonely Ballerina pg 2
click thru
Jay Over, Lonely Ballerina pg 3
click thru