Secondhand Rows 

Join Stephen Reid, our secondhand maestro, every month here as he takes a closer look at a couple of titles from his shelves.

May We Meet Again

 - Monday, November 18, 2013
For our last column for this year, a quartet of titles:
Fifty Years of Perceval Drawings by Ken McGregor. Bay Books, Sydney. 1989. First Edition. Hardcover. 256pp., Colour illustrations. Very Good Condition in Very Good Dustjacket. $90.00. This book reproduces 230 of artist John Perceval's (1923–2000) 'best drawings, selected to span his entire career'. They cover his early years in hospital, his life as a young exuberant artist, family life, his tragedies and illnesses and his artistic recovery.
Eugene von Guerard's Australian Landscapes compiled by Marjorie Tipping. Lansdowne Press, Melbourne. 1975. First Edition. Hardcover with original slipcase. 118pp., 24 colour lithographs, notes on each, bibliography. Book title is lettered in gilt on the spine with a black and white portrait on the front board. Limited to 1,000 signed and numbered copies of which this is No. 570. Very light foxing and wear on book edges otherwise Very Good Condition in slightly worn slipcase. $190.00. Austrian born artist Eugene von Guerard (1811–1901) arrived in Australia in 1852 to take up gold prospecting in Victoria. Having no success on the goldfields, he instead produced a popular series of artistic studies of goldfields life and within a decade was the foremost painter in the colonies. Active between 1852 to 1882, Guerard became one of Australia's most important landscape artists. This book reproduces a series of 24 tinted lithographs originally published in 1867: 'illustrative of the most striking and picturesque features of the landscape scenery of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia & Tasmania, drawn from nature and lithographed by the artist'. 
And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave. Black Spring Press Ltd, London. 1989. First Edition. Hardcover. 254pp. Moderate spotting to top edge otherwise Very Good Condition in a slightly worn Dustjacket. $75.00. Australian musician Nick Cave's (b.1957) 1980s career trajectory peaked with the publication of this, his first novel. Having already achieved recognition with the bands The Birthday Party (1973–1983) and The Bad Seeds (1984–), he cut his acting teeth in Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire (1987) with The Bad Seeds performing a concert in Berlin. A volume of lyrics King Ink also appeared the following year. Film soundtrack contributions and musical collaborations with Shane McGowan (of the Pogues), P.J. Harvey, Marianne Faithfull and Kylie Minogue lay ahead.
Pan's Daughter: The Strange World of Rosaleen Norton by Nevill Drury. Collins Australia, Sydney. 1988. First Edition. Hardcover. 154pp. Black and white illustrations, endnotes, bibliography, index. Remainder mark on bottom edge.  A Very Good copy with a lightly worn Dustjacket. $35.00. This is a lively biography of New Zealand born trance artist and pagan worshipper Rosaleen Norton (1917–1979)—known to friends as 'Roie' and later to the public at large as the 'Witch of King's Cross'. Her family emigrated to Australia in 1925. Leaving art college in 1928 she worked variously as a kitchen-maid, nightclub waitress, postal messenger, occasional artist's model for Norman Lindsay and cadet journalist  on Smith's Weekly. Her first published fantasy illustrations appeared in 1941. By 1949 she had met her lover, the poet Gavin Greenlees (1930–1983). Norton first attracted controversy when she was charged with obscenity over a series of pagan, sexually explicit drawings exhibited at the University of Melbourne, in August 1949. Police raided the exhibition, which included such works as Lucifer and Witches' Sabbath. The charges were dismissed after she provided a detailed explanation of her occult beliefs.
Her art work was inspired by images and beings she claimed to have seen in psychic trance encounters invoked by both self-hypnosis and later, LSD. A compilation of her mystical artwork, with poems by Greenlees, was published as The Art of Rosaleen Norton (1952) by publisher Walter Glover. Containing explicit images such as Fohat and The Adversary, this work was even more controversial than her Melbourne exhibition. The publisher was charged with producing an obscene publication and the book could only be distributed in Australia with some of the more sexually explicit images blacked out. In the United States copies were burned by customs officials. The publisher was sent bankrupt, so Norton proceeded to sell her occult artwork directly to the public. She also openly established a Pagan Coven dedicated to the 'Great God Pan' at her lodgings in Kings Cross. More trouble from the authorities was to follow.  A series of confiscated photographs depicting simulated ceremonial rituals, led to Rosaleen being charged in 1956 with 'engaging in unnatural sexual acts', and she unwittingly aided in the public ruin of Sir Eugene Goosens, conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, who was both a member, from 1952, of her coven and her lover. Her notoriety/fame endured throughout the 1950s and 1960s, with evermore lurid embellishments, up until her death at age 62. Quite a life. This handsome volume includes most of the more 'notorious' examples of her artwork as well as a sympathetic and perceptive analysis of her disparate occult philosophy.


STEVE'S BOOKS FOR 2013

Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons by George Pendle. $29, PB
'Rocket Scientist Blows Himself Up!' screamed the headlines about the mysterious explosion that killed 37 year old John Parsons in his makeshift laboratory on the outskirts of Pasadena in June 1952. A double tragedy as it turned out, since his elderly mother upon hearing the news, took her own life the same day. The scientific community mourned a brilliant (if mildly eccentric) rocket engineer whose experiments had advanced the understanding of rocket propulsion during the 1930s when few were taking rocketry itself seriously.
Yet, the day of his death, before the arrival of the press, two friends hurriedly visited his house to whitewash out a huge mural depicting Satan's visage. Turns out that Parsons was also an ardent diabolist—a High Priest of the Church of Thelema—promoting the ideas of the English occultist Aleister Crowley (1875–1947).
While Jack Parsons was conducting solid rocket fuel experiments for the US government on the eve of World War II, he had also rented a 25 acre (10 hectare) estate outside Pasadena. During the 1940s, following their masters' creed, 'Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law', commune members, who included several fading silent movie stars, indulged in as many drugs, drink and 'sex magick' rituals as they could handle. Parson's first wife took off to Florida with L. Ron Hubbard, later the founder of his own cult, Scientology, so Jack anointed her 17 year old stepsister as his new communal companion. As his behaviour became increasingly erratic, his isolation from the world of rocketry intensified.
His final love interest was a young, red-headed wild child artist with whom he was planning to travel to Mexico for a new variation on the good life. His only income by now was creating explosive special effects for the film industry. The day he was to leave for Mexico he was rushing through a final order for a film company when disaster struck. Robert Goddard, Albert Einstein, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov also make brief appearances in this entertaining book examining the wilder side of American science and culture. 


The Satin Man: The Disappearance of the Beaumont Children Revealed by Alan Whiticker and Stuart Mullins. $24.95, PB.
Seeing the photo on the cover of the three Beaumont children strikes a nerve. They are my contemporaries. Jane Beaumont (9) was my age. Her younger sister Arnna (7) and her brother Grant (4) were the ages of two of my sisters. At 10 am on 26 January 1966 the three children catch a bus to Glenelg Beach. Jane is given eight shillings and sixpence, 85 cents, ($10.00 in today's values) by her mother Nancy to buy lunch. Having arrived, at around 10.15 am they are recognised by and call out and wave to the local postie. A school friend of Jane's sees them playing in the water at about 11.00 am. They had placed their towels in the shade at Colley Reserve, a small park directly opposite the beach and were running in and out of the sprinklers. A Glenelg woman later notices them playing with a man described as between 30 to 40 years old tall, slender.
Other witnesses later see him dressing them and the three children apparently waiting for him. The children are last seen 'around midday' when they buy their lunch at  Wenzel's Cakes—paying with a £1.00 note ($50.00). Someone had given them a large amount of money. They are not seen again. They fail to return home on the 2.00 pm bus as arranged and are reported missing by their parents that evening.
Journalist Whiticker follows his previous book on the case with a presentation of new evidence and leads. A potential suspect (now deceased ) is named pseudonymously—a businessman who may have been involved in the disappearance and buried the children in an Adelaide factory. The evidence, including interviews with family members, is not entirely conclusive but is tantalisingly suggestive. Certainly worthy of further investigation by authorities. 


White Gold by Giles Milton. Paperback. $24.99, PB
'As the sun rose spectacularly over the city’s eastern ramparts and the men were led through the principal gate, they were tormented by jeering, hostile Moors. We were met and surrounded by vast crowds of them ... offering us the most vile insults. As word of their arrival spread through the souks, more and more people flocked to the city in order to mock the hated Christians. They surged towards the frightened captives and tried to beat them with sticks and batons'.—Cornish cabin boy, Thomas Pellow, aged 11, recalling the start of his 20 year captivity by Barbary Corsair pirates in 1716.
Did you know that between 1550 & 1750 over one million Europeans were captured and enslaved? I didn't. Algiers alone was a prison for anywhere between 25,000 to 50,000 slaves. Slaves markets also flourished in Tunis and Morocco where Thomas was sent. His purchaser was Sultan Moulay Ismail, a murderous tyrant committed to constructing a vast pleasure palace of some 450 kms! that extended  from Meknes to Marrakesh—built entirely by Christian slave labour. After enduring much torture, Pellow converted to Islam and became the personal slave of the sultan for over two decades, including service as a soldier in the sultan’s army, before finally making his escape &  returning to Cornwall. This is an excellent account of the white slave trade, supported by unpublished letters & manuscripts of slaves& the various ambassadors sent to free them.

In my last column of 2013 may I wish all Gleaner readers an enjoyable Holiday Season. May we meet again. Stephen Reid