Illustrator and art director Stevie Gee has a pretty solid place in our hearts; his work is a glorious collection of iconic retro elements, moustachioed men, skateboarding and surfing know-how and the occasional dollop of sleaze for good measure. His Bookshelf, however, secures him in It’s Nice That history forevermore; never before have a classic skateboard, several pairs of silken panties, such a delightful collection of textiles and a cat called Olive featured. His book collection is pretty good too, jumping from vintage erotic comic books to 70s psychedelia is one fell swoop. All hail Stevie Gee!
S.E. Hinton: Rumble Fish
This is probably my favourite book of all time alongside The Outsiders, which S.E. Hinton wrote when she herself was still a teenager. It centres on Rusty James and his brother “the Motorcycle boy” and is filled with drinking, smoking, drugs, gang fights, motorbikes, romance, teenage rebellion and isolation. Perfect. There’s some lovely stoner wisdom in there which is tragic and beautiful.
As a teenager I bought a red Japanese fighting fish after reading the book: "Rumble fish… They’d kill each other if they could… If you leaned a mirror against the bowl they’d kill themselves fighting their own reflection.” That didn’t work but I did sadly accidentally boil the little guy when I illuminated the bowl with a desk lamp. RIP Rusty James.
Shout-out to my cat Olive for letting me staple a paperback to her legs.
Charles Burns: Black Hole
I love graphic novels and it was a tough call for this spot between this and Daniel Clowes’ warped classic Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. Both create a strange vibe in my head that lingers long after reading. The book is at both turns creepily repellent and beautifully romantic. The story is about an STD which causes weird mutations in teenagers. Set in the 70s, it’s a kind of American suburban sexual nightmare, as the kids affected become outcasts from society and begin to grow odd mutations like tails, their faces begin to melt, they grow hair all over, get tentacles or, my personal favourite, a tiny talking mouth on the neck.
It’s dark and intriguing with weird drug-fuelled psychotic dream sequences that remind me of some vivid teenage experiences of my own. Charles Burns is an inspiration to me as an illustrator and artist: regardless of his phenomenal storytelling, his style is dark and beautiful and he can draw hair like I will only ever be able to dream of doing! Inspirational stuff.
Director General: Rafael Marquez Torres: Policiaco de Color
I never had the desire to become a policeman until I saw Policiaco de Color. It’s technically more of a comic book than a book, but it has inspired me no end. It is Mexican crime-erotica that I picked up from a market in the Dominican Republic. The paper is dirty and the book is clearly “well used.”
This little comic is part of a small collection I have of these and they tap into a pretty sexist fantasy of round-buttocked voluptuous women bending down all over the place and succumbing to the questionable charms of muscled lotharios. Throw in some scenes of wild danger, violent fights and fast cars. I know morally it’s wrong in its objectification of women and its dominant male lead characters, but its sexy boldness is still inspiring to me…
Steven Kane: SKATEBOARD: A Guide to Improving Technique
I think my Grandma bought me this book around 1989. It’s a step-by-step guide to getting tricks. From learning to push and ollie all the way to getting air on vert ramps. It never occurred to me to take this book out into the street as a kid and learn from it but I did enjoy looking at the tricks. It’s the page called “tools of the trade” that showed me a glimpse of Jim Phillips’ legendary graphics that was so inspiring to me and truly set me on the path I am on now. It sounds like a horrible cliché but skateboarding genuinely changed my life in so many ways and this book is a nice reminder of when I started in the late 80s and early 90s.
P.S. The skateboard is an original Christian Hosoi hammerhead with pink tiger grip job. Raaaaaaad!
Ram Dass: Be Here Now
My good friend Joe Lauder from Satta skates lent this book to me a while ago and it was a pretty inspirational moment.
Released in 1970, it’s known as the counter-culture bible and is a mix of eastern philosophy and 60s psychedelic experience. If the Christian Bible had included rad drawings like this I might have been a bit more down with it. It’s kind of confusing to read, in all honesty, and I’m unsure what half of it means but there are no doubt some gems of wisdom within its pages. If the following extract blows your mind then you should read the book. If it leaves you confused and bewildered then you should probably also read it.
“1. Ask yourself: Where am I?
Ask yourself: What time is it?
Say it until you can hear it.”
It blows my tiny mind holes.
Odhams Press Ltd.: The Wonder book of Comics
There is an inscription in the front of this book for my dad from his mother, dated Christmas 1949. It’s now been passed on to me and I remember reading this book as a very small child, so it has some happy family memories. The book is a lovely mix of comics, facts, jokes, things to make and do, and adventure stories. There is a kind of fun innocence to the names of the stories like Billy Bunters Booby Trap, The Wisdom of Wung Loo, Finger Wings and Chiff and Chuff.
Illustrated by lots of different people, it has so many amazing and different styles and techniques, which is what I think made it so appealing. Beautifully preserved, no doubt I will one day pass this on to my kids, but I think I’ll keep it for myself a little bit longer.
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