The beat Engelbrecht had drawn for the early morning rise was a stretch of jet black water between the Jubilee Gasometer and the Municipal Slaughter House. A dank mist lay over the canal. The vampire bats were out in swarms. The bot-fly waltzed in virid clouds. You could hardly have had a better surrealist fishing day.
Thus Maurice Richardson in The Exploits of Engelbrecht, newly-printed copies of which I picked up this week from the Savoy Books’ office. This is the reprint of the Savoy edition which was published in 2000 and would have been out two years ago had various problems not intervened. As a result it’s inadvertently become an anniversary edition which is fitting since Engelbrecht was the first title in the line of books from Savoy’s publishing relaunch ten years ago. I’ve mentioned before that I was dissatisfied with my original design so it was a pleasure being able to rework the book slightly in a manner which better suits Richardson’s marvellous stories. The main change is a completely re-designed dust jacket done in three colours printed on textured paper; this has made the book a nice thing to handle as well as look at. A few new illustrations were added courtesy of Savoy artist Kris Guido. Kris is a far better cartoonist than I and his drawing of Engelbrecht facing one of his broomstick-riding foes adorns the front board.
Another cartoonist, Martin Rowson (currently at the Guardian), reviewed the earlier edition for The Independent on Sunday:
Far more obscure, but for my money the best book of the year, is The Exploits of Engelbrecht by Maurice Richardson. Richardson, who died in 1978, was one of the old school of hacks; he later became a stalwart infester of the Colony Rooms and the sordid pubs round Soho that teemed with pissed-up talent in the 1940s and 1950s. The Exploits of Engelbrecht, the dwarf surrealist boxer, and his adventures shooting witches, boxing grandfather clocks, playing football on Mars and games of surrealist golf which last for infinity, originally appeared in Lilliput when it was at its post-war zenith. The stories were illustrated by, among others, Searle and Hoffnung. Ah, God, those were the days.
This edition is lavishly illustrated and comes with endorsements from artist James Cawthorn (who provided some illustrations and an introduction), Michael Moorcock (who provided the afterword), and JG Ballard (who provided a blurb). Since its original publication in 1950 Engelbrecht had been one of Ballard’s favourite books; I wish he could have lived long enough to see this latest edition.
Engelbrecht isn’t on sale yet as I don’t think a price has been decided on but since this is a limited run it’ll be around £25 + p&p. Any queries should be directed to Savoy Books who have a PDF of the first chapter (plus illustrations) available to read. Next up is the enormous Moorcock tome; more about that soon.