The late Alan Austin (The Guv’nor) was one of the most respected figures in British comic book fandom, who did much to inspire and enthuse many others in the field. Now, two books he wrote – Comics Unlimited: My life as a Comic Collector and Dealer, and The Adventures of Bernie Burrows, Bookseller, a series of short stories based on his life as a book dealer, have been independently published, by Fantasy Unlimited Books.
Alan was the first full-time comics dealer in the UK, and published many fanzines about American comic books throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, including Fantasy Unlimited (later Comics Unlimited), the first Comic Book Price Guide for Great Britain, the Golden Age fanzine and the DC and Marvel Comics Indexes.
“I knew Alan for 43 years and our common interests in comics, then books, then writing in general forged a growing bond of friendship,” writes Nigel Brown, announcing the book releases. “We even found common ground and were each other’s sounding-boards concerning our mutual problems with our businesses: him as a comic and book dealer; myself as the owner of an optician’s practice. It was surprising how often our common complaints matched, whether it was dealing with landlords, leases, or the Great British Public.
“Alan was always a ready and sympathetic ear at the end of the telephone – for others as well as myself – and is much missed.”
Published with the permission of Deborah Hyde and the Estate of Alan Austin, Comics Unlimited: My life as a Comic Collector and Dealer details Alan’s life in comics, and his experiences as a comic collector and dealer from the early days of comic book fandom, beginning in the 1960s.
“It’s a comfort that he left a body of work, including this book about comics, for us to again hear his voice through his words,” says Nigel, “and we can all enjoy another conversation with Alan, if one-sided, about our mutual enthusiasm: the American comic book.”
The book is text-only, so you may want to complement your reading with a visit to the Classic UK Comic Zines Archive site, where you can find a collection of read-only British fanzines from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Alan later became a respected book and dealer. He never wrote a non-fiction book about this second career, but he did write a series of short stories based on his life as a book dealer: The Adventures of Bernie Burrows, Bookseller, the stories of a reader, collector, and seller of books.
His world is populated by people struggling through the calamities of life, as is Bernie himself. But Bernie doggedly pursues his vocation despite growing competition from other bookdealers and websites, and an increasingly difficult public.
Join Bernie as he risks a late night opening of his bookshop in the hope of “the big sale”, encounters the phantom book-leaver, faces a life-or-death locked room mystery he has to solve, sets off on an expedition across the streets of Chicago in search of dust-jacketed treasure, and many more adventures.
Alan wrote a these stories to chronicle the disappearing world of the second-hand bookshops and bookdealers, written with an honesty and perception that only an insider could relate.
Both books have been independently published as both ebook and physical editions through Amazon, and are available worldwide.
• Read Nigel Brown’s article on Alan Austin and the background to publishing these books on Super Stuff in the Bronze Age – musings on comic collecting and Super Stuff in Portsmouth & Southsea in the fun 1970s
With thanks to David Hathaway-Price for this news tip