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Savoy Books 
Sieg Heil Iconographers

Jon Farmer


2006

235mm x 180mm

Soft covers

First publication

608pp

ISBN 0 86130 116 1

Sieg Heil Iconographers

 

 

"Get up in the morning and hang your brightest colours."
George Bernard Shaw

In this large format volume, the dark mavericks of art, literature and music once again sally forth, contradicting preconceived conceptions of who are the important cultural figures of our times. And not a moment too soon.

Here is an antidote to the usual propaganda—a sparkling gallery of creators who weave in and out of society, spinning a web that connects high and low, the whole delivered under the similitude of a dream.

With 608 pages and over 550 illustrations, this is a heavy book in more ways than one!

Jacket design by John Coulthart.
Mr Punch face by Harry Douthwaite.


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Reviews

"I must admit that, as an American who's nearly a generation behind you guys, I find some of your cultural enthusiasms curious. Lash LaRue? Half the time I've spent with your books has been dedicated to searching Wikipedia for Jessie Matthews and the like. I see that partly this is your intent-to educate me as a reader on this subterranean cultural stratum. Its a bit like Bataille's heterology, an effort to embrace the waste products of history, but without his weary Catholicism. (I always get the impression Bataille approached 'otherness' shit-the same way Jesus approached the feet of his disciples, ie, with every intention to anoint it.)

"What you say about Lash LaRue makes me think about the way your 'curious enthusiasms' differ so markedly from the uncurious ones of, say, JG Ballard in Crash and Atrocity Exhibition. When he writes about Jackie Kennedy, Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Ronald Reagan, it seems perfectly natural because we're still in the grip of that same celebrity culture. (It's weird: Jackie remains a bigger celebrity today than any celebrity of today will ever be.) Whereas when you write about Lash LaRue, its like reading a master chef praise the rare flavor of muskrat fur. You think to yourself, "Huh? What do they know that I don't know?" And that reaction is symptomatic not just of the fact that you've extolled something odd, but that that person or thing has become odd by virtue of a historical process of indigestion. JFK is cool. Sir Oswald Mosley is a burp or a fart.

"(Wikipedia tells me that BBC History Magazine voted Mosley the 20th century's "worst Briton." That's an incredible distinction, if you think about it.)

"The tricky thing to distinguish, from the reader's vantage point, is whether you uphold these forgotten 'icons' because you genuinely believe they're worth upholding or because you simply want to push society's face into its own shit. My guess is that it's a bit of both. How can society learn that it sometimes shits out golden eggs without smearing its nose around in its own excrement?

"You can see that your books have been giving me quite a lot to think about.

"But what really grips me about Savoy's work is its sheer inventiveness and *balls*. Seriously, I haven't seen anyone wager so much on a book since I don't know when. In a way, Naked Lunch doesn't even compare, since Burroughs had little hope of publishing it, let alone much idea of even creating a book. Furthermore, his market had been primed by Kerouac and Ginsberg. You guys? I guess your market had been primed by your bookstores and by other bits of alt culture, like rock and roll. But otherwise, so far as I can make out, your books must have just careened into consciousness like those choco-Jews in Baptised in the Blood of Millions."

KEITH, Supervert, Reality Studio

"This beautifully produced oversize paperback is the third in a series of Savoy biographies, or 'manifestoes', following Robert Meadley's A Tea Dance at Savoy and DM Mitchell's A Serious Life. Given that Savoy's output these days is hardly prolific, such an evident fascination with their own output might seem at best narcissistic and at worst redundant, but the lavish presentation and sheer chutzpah of the writing bring this close to the crowning glory the author seems to be aiming for.

"Part of Savoy's appeal is the company's resistance to neat pigeonholing, the irritant bibliophiles' arcane medley of fantasy fiction, Nazi fashion, children's comics and full-bore rock'n'roll perversely refreshing in an age of increasing specialisation and aggressive mediocrity. Savoy's wayward eclecticism means that the Meadley, Mitchell and Farmer books don't overlap as much as you'd expect, each author providing his own idiosyncratic take on the company's origins, output and obsessions, and while Farmer shares the rambling tone common to all three books, his bold, opinionated prose, enlivened by occasional flashes of brilliance, makes this the pick of the bunch. You may not agree with what Farmer writes, but his approach is so ballsy that the book is never less than entertaining, even with the absurd enthusiasm informing references to 'eager jig gash' and the following paean to Fenella Fielding: 'I would crawl ten thousand miles over ground glass because of that voice, just to wank in her shadow.'

"Offensiveness has always been key to Savoy's strategy, of course, even offensiveness at a schoolboy level (what else to make of the title of the recent collection of Kris Guidio cartoons, Fuck off and Die?), and this is where I think Farmer steers a little wide of the mark, twisting himself into all kinds of awkward shapes trying to defend the Lord Horror books and justify the company's support for or interest in a host of unacceptable icons, from Bernard Manning to Nicholas van Hoogstraten via Ian Brady. As John Waters once pointed out, if it's the liberals who'll come to see your films, it's the liberals you need to attack, and it's this attitude that drives Savoy's insistence on speaking the unspeakable. Lord Horror doesn't seem to me to be 'about' the Holocaust, any more than it's 'about' William Joyce: it's about confrontation, and works partly because it is indefensible, although it's too extreme and florid to be taken entirely seriously, its collision of mechanised slaughter, 50s British children's fiction and rock'n'roll mayhem as close as anything else to the definitive Savoy statement. In a similar vein, while Farmer berates Savoy's critics for focussing too closely on the purported racism of the Lord Horror books (perhaps their least interesting quality), he too shows a reluctance to engage critically with the broader scope of Savoy's output, his unquestioning reverence almost aligning itself with the critical vacuum Savoy has always battled against.

"But these are small quibbles set against such an entertaining read, infectiously enthusiastic enough to leave me unexpectedly wanting to re-read Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E Howard. It's also perhaps the most beautifully designed Savoy production to date (no mean feat considering designer John Coulthart's characteristically high standards), the bounty of Lash Larue western posters and James Cawthorn fantasy illustrations rarely bearing any relation to the text but providing yet another version of the Savoy story to run alongside Farmer's celebration. The author intimates at the end of the book that this is Savoy's swan song, but the death knell may be a little premature (thankfully), as a collected Reverbstorm is planned for future release: hopefully with Farmer's volume Savoy will receive the attention it deserves and return to the fray with a freshly sharpened razor."

JAMES MARRIOTT, Londonbookreview.com

"Thank you so much for your wonderfully weird emporium that I received this morning. God knows what it says for my upbringing that nearly all the contents somehow square up with the cartography of my mind. I was born to older parents and my father remembered William Joyce as a young man when together they would court two pretty blonde sisters, one of whom eventually became known as an actress. As an adolescent my brother had what I shall euphemistically term a 'character change' and became obsessed with the Nazis and right-wing cults. Our house became filled with strange pamphlets or Nazi 'hatelets' as they were so daintily termed and any casual visitor might be sat down in an armchair and treated to the 'Horst Wessel' full-blast while my brother discoursed on the ample proportions of Aryan skull-sizes as opposed to the smaller Negro variety. Neither did I know of your formidable creative output, so the book is doubly welcome in that it is familiar and radically enlightening. You have even included stuff on Ian Brady and, in the company of Colin Wilson, several years back, I remember meeting that strange girl, 'the Devils' Daughter', who claimed to be Brady's daughter and wrote a rather eerie autobiography on the subject.

"Congratulations on producing something so aerating and salubrious."

PAUL NEWMAN, Abraxas Magazine

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