Sunday 13 April 2008


One of the best TV drama series of the 1990s (the original Cracker aside) was Between the Lines, about a trio of police officers involved in internal investigation, with all of the proeblems and conflicts of interest that entails. The main character, pants-man Detective Superintendent Tony Clark, was played very well indeed by the actor Neil Pearson.

Pearson has done a lot of great work since (including a memorable role in Drop the Dead Donkey), and he has also turned his hand to writing with great results. Liverpool University Press has recently published his Obelisk: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press.

Mancunian Kahane set up Obelisk in Paris in 1929. The basic plan was to release excellent and controversial literature in English that took full advantage of France's liberal censorship laws, literature that would have been suppressed in the UK and America. This literature was funded by a series of pornographic pulp works which Obelisk also produced. Among the writers Obelisk published were Richard Aldington, Cyril Connolly, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, James Joyce, Lawrence Durrell and Frank Harris.

Obelisk books were bought by English and American tourists, ex-pats and soldiers, and then smuggled or posted home under plain wrappers. Hence this simple but effective cover design, as though uncovered by some sharp-eyed customs officer:

Here are a couple of lovely-looking Henry Millers that Obelisk put out.

Note the warning at the bottom of the Tropic of Cancer cover.

UPDATE: Pedro Marques of the fascinating Montag points out that "Tropic"'s cover is by Kahane's son, the 15 year-old Maurice Girodias, the very same who would become famous as Olympia's (and "Lolita"'s) publisher.


Steerforth said...

Superb covers - and Neil Pearson's just gone up several notches in my estimation.

A few years ago he came in one of my shops to buy a book - I can't remember what it was. He was very unassuming and I almost didn't recognise him.

(One day I will write a post about famous customers I've had, as the list includes Anthony Burgess, Mick Jagger and Pete Townsend)

JRSM said...

Yes, I was surprised when I realised it was the same man--always pleasant to see someone involved in TV/film produce something that's not an autobiography and not ghosted.

(Resists temptation to ask what did they buy?)

Steerforth said...

I wish I could remember what they bought - nothing very controversial, otherwise I'd recall the titles.

I particularly remember Anthony Burgess. His wife kept calling 'Antonio!' and he came across as rather henpecked.

Pedro Marques said...

"Tropic"'s cover is by Kahane's son, the 15 year-old Maurice Girodias, the very same who would become famous as Olympia's (and "Lolita"'s) publisher.

JRSM said...

Of course! Thanks for that--I'll add it ti the post.