Serendipity and Shadows


Funny how it works.

I was watching this item on eBay yesterday, planning to bid if I could get it near the asking price. I’d seen it offered for much higher prices, too much for my blood. In the end, I was lucky, only bidder.

This morning, off work with a stinking headache, I had an acknowledgement from the seller, asking if I was the Martin Crookall who… Well, with a name like mine, it’s obvious we don’t come in six-packs and yes, I was and am. The seller is an old acquaintance, who I first knew in the early Eighties, as a sixteen year old who had just put together the first issue of a comics fanzine called Shadows. I’d just had a letter published in Daredevil, under a gross mangling of my name (knew I should have printed it and not just signed it), and was surprised to get a letter adressed to my unwelcome alter ego, asking if I’d contribute to the next issue of Shadows.

I did, and to practically every other issue of its run, which led to me contributing to practically every other reputable fanzine of that lost, pre-Internet era, and becoming a regular in both Fantasy Advertiser (aka FA) and Arkensword, the only two ‘zines with circulations topping 1,000.

It was a fun time, making pen-friends and friends, going to Conventions, meeting writers and artists, getting recognised by Alan Moore. For about five years I was what was then called a BNF (Big Name Fan, as opposed to BOF, aka Boring Old Fart, though I’ve no doubt there were many, then and now, who thought the latter more appropriate). Better still, those years of writing and being praised did wonders for my self-confidence and represented an invaluable, indeed vital, stage in my development towards the novels I’ve written since. All thanks to Pete. Thanks, buddy, it couldn’t have happened without you.

I dropped out of fandom years ago. Prior to the messahges today, I can’t remember when I last spoke to any of the community of then. I know that Martin Skidmore and Steve Whittaker have gone ahead but I have no idea of the whereabouts or fortunes of anybody else: Pete Campbell, Fiona Jerome, Gerard Kingdom, Martin Hand, Captain Courageous, Tim Bateman, the lovely Sue Swazey, Hortense the Wonder Goose (who was also from Manchester), Paul Duncan, John Jackson, Les Chester and many more whose names won’t come out of the box immediately.

Pete sounds happy, with a large family. I hope all the others are still with us, and are doing what they wanna do and followed their intentions through (per Syd Straw’s ‘CBGBs’), and if any of them happen across this, I hope they’ll at least post a comment.

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