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Andy Capp: Sources & Footnotes

 
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Miscellany
Murder Ballads
Secret London



1) British Cartoon Archive (www.cartoons.ac.uk/artists/regsmythe/biography).
2) Hareket Gazetesi (date unknown). Quoted in Time, November 1, 1963.
3) Lebanon Daily News, March 7, 2010.
4) Smythe’s trophies include five consecutive Panel Strip of the Year awards from The Cartoonist Club of Great Britain (1961-1965) and the US National Cartoonist Society’s 1974 Reuben for Best Newspaper Strip (Humour).
5) Universal Uclick (http://universaluclick.com/comics/strip/garfield).
6) Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/2000-02/14/051r-021400-idx.html).
7) Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blondie_(comic_strip)#75th_anniversary).
8) King Features (http://kingfeatures.com/comics/comics-a-z/?id=Hagar_The_Horrible).
9) Gary Groth essay, The Complete Peanuts (Fantagraphics Books, 2004-2016).
10) For a guide to Andy Capp’s many collections, see the Tony’s Trading site here: www.tonystrading.co.uk/galleries/comicstrips/andycapp-uk.htm
11) Personal interviews, April and May 2012.
12) The World of Andy Capp, by Reg Smythe & Les Lilley (Titan Books, 1990). This is by far the leading biographical source on Reg Smythe, but is currently out of print. I’ve used it a lot here, and serious Andy Capp fans will find it’s well worth the effort of tracking down a second-hand copy.
13) I remember reading Andy Capp collections as a child in the 1960s, and I found the wife-beating gags no more shocking that Garnett did then. The drinking gags struck me as wild exaggerations when I read them at that age, but simple reportage when I began my own drinking career a few years later.
14) The Andy Capp Book, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Newspapers, 1958).
15) All the dates in this list are taken from the British Cartoon Archive’s website (above), which has a searchable database containing Smythe’s original art from the strip’s first few years.
16) The three jokes mentioned here appeared on December 10, 1957, July 2, 1960 and May 9, 1961 respectively.
17) The “I love yer” joke appeared on October 2, 1963.
18) The “Mind yer own business” joke appeared on October 25, 1957.
19) The Cream Of Andy Capp, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Newspapers, 1965).
20) Andy Capp Picks His Favourites, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Newspapers, 1963).
21) Where I’ve identified a strip only by its year of publication, that means I can’t be more precise. As a rule of thumb, I’ve subtracted one year from the publication date of the collection containing it, assuming that a 1969 collection contains strips first carried by the Mirror in 1968 and so on.
22) Andy Capp No. 30, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Books, 1973).
23) The whippet cartoon appeared on September 9, 1960.
24) Andy Capp No. 39, by Reg Smythe (Mirror Books, 1977).
25) You’re A Star Andy Capp, by Reg Smythe (Mirror Publications, 1988).
26) Sunderland Echo, August 10, 2007.
27) Andy Capp ‘Uncapped’: The Smyth Family Origins Illustrated, by Ian Smyth Herdman (self-published, date unknown). Copies available at Hartlepool library. The author produced this memoir in an attempt to restore the honour of Richard Smyth’s side of the family after the criticism both Florrie and Reg have levelled against him. “The reader may consider my comments to be bias,” he says. “However I have written this book on the basis of facts as proved or recorded.”
28) The Other Capp, by Al Capp (Saturday Evening Post, March/April 1973).
29) Andy Capp No 34, by Reg Smythe (Mirror Group Books, 1975).
30) Smythe would always phrase these introductions as if they were about Andy and Flo’s lives, but fill them with such vivid detail you knew he must be describing his own family’s experience too. “Flo’s dad was on the dole for years, and her mum had a little cleaning job,” he writes in Andy Capp Number 37. “But the money didn’t go far enough, so she used to pawn her wedding ring every Monday and get it out on Friday for the weekend. Like most kids, Flo was roped in to run messages. She didn’t mind the straightforward shopping, but she hated having to ask for things like broken biscuits, stale cake and cracked eggs.”
31) Unidentified newspaper, quoted in Lilley’s book (above).
32) In a 1966 strip, Flo tells Ruby that Andy once took her on a wartime trip to the Lake District in his Bren carrier. See the first of Smythe’s two 1967 collections (Daily Mirror Newspapers).
33) In his introduction to Andy Capp No 32, Smythe notes that Andy’s battered old shaving mug “served him well all through North Africa – Mersa Matruh, Tobruk, Alex...”.
34) In a 1965 strip, Andy remarks, “I was in the Northumberland Fusiliers durin’ the last lot”. See the first of Smythe’s two 1966 collections (Daily Mirror Newspapers).
35) In a 1971 strip, Andy snaps to attention and declares, “I was a sergeant in the fusiliers!” See Andy Capp No 28 (Daily Mirror Books, 1972).
36) In a 1977 strip, Smythe draws Andy on his way to a regimental reunion with four medals on his chest. See Andy Capp No 40 (Mirror Books 1978).
37) The “ex-soldier” reference comes in The World of Andy Capp’s 1991 collection (Mirror Publications).
38) Reg’s rendition of pre-war St Mary’s was not a strictly literal one, but Hartlepool historian Stan Laundon agrees this is the church he had in mind. Smythe adds a clock the real church never had to let him remind us how late it always is when Andy leaves the pub.
39) Smythe tells this story differently in his 1973 Saturday Evening Post interview. In that version, he approaches a Fleet Street editor directly, who fobs him off by saying all submissions must come through an agent. Smythe then drops that editor’s name with Gilbert, claiming what amounts to a personal recommendation, and wins his appointment that way. In this account, Gilbert tells him to produce not 30 pocket cartoons in a week, but 40.
40) Reg’s Post Office wage of £5 a week would be worth about £150 in today’s prices. The six guineas he received for the two Everybody’s cartoons translates to about £190.
41) This is not easy. Years ago, I worked for a trade newspaper called Money Marketing, where one of my jobs was to brief the Alex cartoonists about industry issues for a sponsored strip they did in our paper. The trick was to produce a finished strip that was accurate enough for none of us to look stupid, but not so pedantic that it destroyed the joke.
42) You can see two of Zec’s best wartime cartoons from the Daily Mirror here: www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jzec.htm “Don’t lose it again”, published in May 1945, may be the single most powerful cartoon of the whole war.
43) Publish And Be Damned, by Hugh Cudlipp (Andrew Dakers, 1953).
44) This version of the Barker story is taken from the BCA’s website (above). How much the Hartlepool fan contributed to Andy’s original creation, we’ll never know, but he certainly inspired one 1966 strip. Andy’s walking along the street in the rain, with various passers-by mocking him for the fact that he’s using an umbrella. “They can laugh as much as they like,” he thinks. “But if they think I’m goin’ t’ sleep in a wet cap, they’re mistaken!” See the second of Smythe’s two 1967 collections (Mirror Newspapers).
45) Sally Savage, Bill Herbert’s daughter, donated a photocopy of Smythe’s original art for this cartoon to the BCA, which is how I’ve been able to compare it to the printed version.
46) This remained true throughout Smythe’s whole career with the Mirror. Near the end of his life, he said: “They’ve never censored anything I’ve drawn. I have never yet had a single cartoon turned down by the paper”.
47) The UK Shameless was far better in its first two seasons, which Paul Abbott wrote himself. He based the Gallaghers on his own family background just as surely as Smythe based Andy on his, and it’s noticeable how much more three-dimensional his own scripts allow the Gallaghers to be.
48) In this way, Andy’s personality could be said to match the Mirror’s own. In its heyday, the paper was populist in the best sense, but principled and serious too. If Andy is the Mirror at its peak, then Frank Gallagher is the Sun.
49) Hartlepool Mail, Sept 3, 2009. See some of the club’s Andy Capp images here: http://paper-fang.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/youre-some-hero-andy-capp.html Andy’s also been given an unlikely sex-change to become mascot of a women’s rugby team in New York State: http://members.tripod.com/lady_rebel_rugby/
50) Daily Mirror, June 28, 1958.
51) Smythe acknowledged his strip’s kinship with Coronation Street in one 1966 gag. Andy walks all the way from the telly to the kitchen just to give Flo a peck on the cheek. “It ‘appens every time ‘e sees Ena Sharples,” she explains, smiling. See the second of Smythe’s two 1967 collections (Mirror Newspapers).
52) Read All About It: 100 Sensational Years of The Daily Mirror, by Bill Hagerty (First Stone, 2003).
53) Corriepedia (http://coronationstreet.wikia.com/wiki/Coronation_Street_Wiki)
54) When I made this point in my conversation with Hiley, he quickly reminded me that Martha Longhurst had been present in that Coronation Street scene too. I hope she’ll accept my apologies.
55) An offer to syndicate Smythe’s work in the US would not technically constitute a “job” in its strictest sense, so perhaps that’s the hair Capp is splitting here. Equally, it’s possible that Edwards construed a casual remark of Capp’s as a concrete offer, and that everything else flowed from that misunderstanding.
56) The average exchange rate between Britain and America in 1965 valued each pound at about $2.79, implying Reg’s “$30,000 a year raise” was worth about £11,000. Adding that to the original salary of £7,500 which Edwards mentions give us £18,500, which is not far off the “about £20,000” he gives as Reg’s improved salary. Whether anyone’s including ancillary income like Reg’s new cut of the Christmas annuals in any of this, I don’t know.
57) The BCA website (above) gives Reg’s improved salary as “£25,000 a year, plus a percentage of the income from the Andy Capp annuals published in Britain”. It’s impossible to fully reconcile these figures, but they are broadly in line with one another.
58) Capp notes that Smythe had not been slow to criticise Charles Schulz either. Early in the article, Smythe confesses he’s bored by the Peanuts characters “talking like no kids ever talked” and pained by watching “that nasty little girl deliberately inflict pain and humiliation on that suffering little boy”. This last point seems a little rich coming from someone who’d drawn so much violence in his own strip.
59) It hadn’t occurred to me till I typed this Lilley quote in place, but he could equally well be discussing the work of the American cartoonist Jamie Hernadez. His Love & Rockets stories are drawn with a very crisp, economical line too, and he’s every bit Smythe’s equal when it comes to spotting his blacks.
60) Even Buster’s own comic had dropped any notion of Andy’s paternity by 1965, though the title itself didn’t expire till 2000. By then, Buster had actually appeared in Andy’s Mirror strip, thanks to a May 1995 gag picturing his portrait above the sleeping Andy’s head. This was done to acknowledge the comic’s 35th birthday.
61) Hiley developed this point a little further in our conversation, suggesting that Andy might be a portrait of Richard Smyth’s life before Reg came along. “We’re going to start talking about Darth Vader in a minute,” he laughed. “The metal helmet with a cloth cap on top: ‘Reg, I am your father’.”
62) The Gospel According to Andy Capp, by Daniel McGeachy (John Knox 1973).
63) Al Capp preferred to draw a parallel between Mr Punch and Andy’s creator, saying Reg’s face was a softened version of the Punch drawing on that magazine’s masthead. Punch was resolutely middle-class, but easily the most prestigious UK magazine to sell your cartoons to in Smythe’s youth. He bombarded them with 6,000 cartoons before finally getting one printed there, and spent the rest of life kicking himself for wanting its approval so badly.
64) It’s telling that Capp says Smythe’s face can also be found “on the star comedians of English music halls”. Andy fits that comic tradition perfectly, as do the Northern club comics who picked up music hall’s baton in the 1970s.
65) Smyth Herdman confirms that Reg’s wage during his Laughter At Work days in the mid-fifties was £35 a week. That’d be worth about £800 a week today.
66) Percy was sweet on Flo in the strip, but could never persuade her to leave Andy. By giving him the same surname as the man who’d married Flo’s real-life inspiration, I like to think Smythe was offering Percy a kind of consolation prize.
67) The Mirror was a strong supporter of both the Labour Party and Britain’s trade unions, but the same cannot be said of the cartoonists’ body Smythe helped to set up in 1960. Early efforts to form The Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain were stymied by members’ reluctance to serve on its management committee because they feared their editors would see the club as a trade union in the making, and that its officers would be left open to reprisals as a result. The club solved this impasse by adopting a constitution barring it from ever becoming a union or a guild, which amounts to castrating yourself before the slave master has a chance to do so. Organising a bunch of 200 freelancers was always going be like herding cats, but it’s hard to imagine either Andy or the Mirror’s NUJ chapel talking such a meekly compliant stance.
68) The Harold Wilson strip appears in Andy Capp No. 25 (Hamlyn Publishing Group, 1970). The two Margaret Thatcher strips appear in The World of Andy Capp’s 1983 and 1986 volumes respectively (Mirror Books/Mirror Publications).
69) Bumper Issue: The World of Andy Capp, by Reg Smythe (Mirror Publications1987)
70) Jerry Seinfeld would have recognised these maxims. He summed up his own sitcom’s guiding principle as: “No hugs and no learning”.
71) Smythe used exactly this gag in a 1981 strip showing Jack setting a pint mug in front of Andy with the handle facing the wrong way. Andy protests that he’s left-handed – just as Smythe himself was - and Jack sets the matter right. Without an exact date for the Hartlepool trip Layson mentions, however, it’s impossible to say whether the strip or the real incident came first. See Andy Capp no. 46 (Mirror Books, 1982).
72) The Guide to Musical Theatre (www.guidetomusicaltheatre.com).
73) The Comics Journal number 79 (January 1983).
74) Daily Mail, September 30, 1982.
75) OIivier Awards website (www.olivierawards.com)
76) Andy’s current writers make exactly the same point about him. “Andy is not stupid,” Goldsmith told me. “We don’t have him being stupid, we have other people being stupid and him putting them down.” Garnett adds: “He’s not an intellectual person by any means, but he’s got a sharp mind. ‘Streetwise’, I suppose, is the word you’d use.”
77) As we now know, one thing keeping Maxwell busy at the Mirror in 1984 was working out how to steal its employee pension fund – a theft that was not discovered until seven years later. I still treasure the Mirror front page reporting Maxwell’s death, which carries a smiling photo of him and a massive headline reading: “THE MAN WHO SAVED THE MIRROR”. A month later, the same paper’s front page was: “MILLIONS MISSING FROM MIRROR”.
78) “[Andy] is a small man full of huge attitudes,” Lilley himself writes. “He makes sweeping statements about small matters. His almost deadly aggression is aimed at tiny targets.” What actor wouldn’t love playing a part like that?
79) Andy Capp: The Complete Series (Network DVD, June 2012). More details on the Network site here: http://www.networkdvd.net/product_info.php?cPath=92_93&products_id=1576
80) Today, February 27, 1988.
81)The Mail on Sunday, February 28, 1988.
82) Andy’s other major excursion into electronic media at this time was his computer game for the Commodore 64. “Andy has to acquire money from various sources while consuming as much alcohol as possible, and avoid getting arrested,” the game’s Wikipedia page explains. “Running out of kisses or alcohol means the game instantly ends.”
83) Both these strips can be found in The World of Andy Capp Bumper Issue (Mirror Publications 1986).
84) There’s also one 1987 strip which shows a miserable Andy sat on the sofa with a smoking cigarette in his hand. This is either a very subtle acknowledgement that a man like Andy would be prone to backsliding when stressed, or a momentary lapse of concentration by Smythe as he drew that particular panel. See The World of Andy Capp (Mirror Publications 1988)
85) The Comics Journal 165 (January 1994).
86) New York Times, June 1, 1990.
87) Hiley made this point when we discussed Avon’s equally bizarre 1969 decision to sell talcum powder in an Andy-shaped bottle. “Because he’s so universally-known, he tends to get conscripted into all sorts of campaigns that are based on reaching large numbers of people,” Hiley says. “It’s not necessarily thought whether he’s appropriate for those campaigns.”
88) I’ve never been able to trace Reg’s final two Andy Capp collections, which cover his strips from 1993 and 1994. I’ve read all the others, though, and even the 1991 and 1992 volumes show no drop in quality that I can detect.
89) Homer Simpson’s laziness and fondness for beer give him quite a bit in common with Andy. Hartlepool’s had a nuclear power station since 1985, which is now the town’s biggest single employer, and I like to think Mr Burns owns that one as well as the Springfield plant where Homer works.
90) Hartlepool Mail, April 20,2004.
91) Hartlepool Mail, May 4, 2005.
92) Hartlepool Mail, July 10, 2005.
93) Hartlepool Mail, December 29, 2005.
94) Hartlepool Mail, August 8, 2006.
95) Hartlepool Mail, September 27, 2006. By now even the paper itself was starting to wonder if the supposed opposition to the statue really existed. Its latest story was confident enough to say only that opposition had been “previously reported”. If the writer had any concrete evidence of opposition – and a single quote would have done - those weasel words would not have been needed.
96) Hartlepool Mail, April 20, 2007.
97) Hartlepool Mail, June 29, 2007.
98) Reg’s statue produced an unlikely tribute from Marty Kelly, an unemployed labourer in Hartlepool’s Blakelock Road. “I thought it cost a lot of money,” he told the Hartlepool Mail on September 18, 2007. “I thought to myself, ‘I could do one for about £10 to £15’. The two bags of sand cost £3, and I borrowed the bucket, trowel and gloves so it was even cheaper.” When he’d finished, Kelly had two five-foot figures of Andy and Flo, flanking his front door in a pose that suggested Flo was waiting for Andy to finish his pint.
99) Six months after the unveiling, Hartlepool Council decided to auction one of the two five-inch brass figures of Andy Robbins had given them as part of the statue project, and donate the money raised to Children in Need. It fetched £1,200 from local businessman, John O’Connor, who planned to exhibit it behind the counter at his new tearoom on the Headland. “I always wanted Andy to stay at home rather than be shipped off to America,” he told the Hartlepool Mail. Bids had been received from “as far afield as Shropshire,” the paper added. (See Hartlepool Mail, Nov 20, 2007, and Nov 27, 2007.)
100) The Change4Life strips ran in the Mirror over a six week period, starting on February 6, 2012.
101) The last time Andy had packed up the booze for any length of time was a run of six gags in 1959, when Smythe showed him on the wagon. This was one of two experiments he made that year in giving the strip a continuing story-line. The other showed Andy in hospital for 12 consecutive days. See The Best of Andy Capp (Daily Mirror Books, 1960).
102) Kleefield on Comics, March 8, 2012 (http://kleefeldoncomics.blogspot.co.uk)
103) The home brew strips appeared in the Mirror on March 16 and March 17, 2012.
104) To see a couple of numbers from Great Barr’s 2009 production of Andy Capp: The Musical – complete with accents – click the YouTube links here and here.
105) This particular cartoon appeared on the Mirror’s women’s page on July 17, 1958. It’s a single panel, headed “Florrie, who appears by kind permission of Andy Capp.” The gag is that Flo’s standing on a weighing machine, but holding her coat out at arm’s length in the hope that its own weight won’t register on the dial. This is the only Florrie cartoon I’ve seen, but there nay have been others.
106) “A lot of people think it takes place in London,” Garnett says. “When Andy’s in the canal, they often refer to him being thrown in the Thames and things like that. But short of putting ‘Hartlepool’ in every strip, that’s just one of the things you have to accept, I think.”
107) It seems odd to think of anyone confining themselves to such a small world today, but Noel Gallagher revealed in a recent BBC interview that his own working-class suburb of Manchester hadn’t been so very different in the 1980s. “I was the only person in that whole area that was interested in anything other than City,” he tells Mark Lawson. “I was going into town to see bands and stuff like that, and they thought I was a weirdo.” (BBC Four, March 30, 2012).
108) There are a couple of Reg Smythe strips which show Andy visiting London as a travelling Hartlepool United supporter. He’s only ever seen in a pub interior there, though, and the pub he chooses is no different from those at home.
109) Once every couple of years in the strip, Smythe might show Flo dragging Andy out for a walk in the park. Aside from those gags, trees in the strip really are as rare as Hiley suggests.
110) Joseph Priestley’s 1831 book Navigable Rivers & Canals lists a 300-yard canal in Hartlepool, built in 1764 to connect Hartlepool Harbour to the sea. It was absorbed into the docks development long before Andy’s time.
111) The strangest object in this BCA collection is a sealed tin can produced by a military veterans’ club called South Vancouver Unit 26. Headed “The Andy Capp Club” and carrying a picture of Andy himself, the can’s label gives its contents as: “the wonderful aroma of hops, barley and cigar smoke from the clubrooms of Unit 26”.
112) One of Reg’s great fears in later life was that this knack for brevity had started to desert him. “He said to Ken Layson, the cartoon editor, that he seemed to be becoming more and more wordy,” Goldsmith told me.
113) More Andy Capp, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Books, 1962)
114) Happy Days With Andy Capp, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Books, 1963)
115) Andy Capp Number 42, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Books, 1979)
116) Laugh With Andy Capp, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Books, 1961)
117) World of Andy Capp Bumper Issue, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Books, 1988)
118) Andy Capp Number 25, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Books, 1970)
119) In a 1975 strip, Andy reminds Flo that he’s “a sign writer by trade”. I think this was Reg’s way of giving Andy a hint of his own artistic ambitions, but doing so in the context of Andy’s world. See Andy Capp Number 36 (Mirror Group Newspapers, 1976).
120) Andy Capp Number 37, by Reg Smythe (Daily Mirror Books, 1976)
121) Andy Capp Number 38, by Reg Smythe (Mirror Group Newspapers, 1977)
122) Daily Mirror, August 5, 1957.
123) Andy Capp No 33, by Reg Smythe (IPC Newspapers, 1974)
124) Andy Capp No. 23, by Reg Smythe (IPC Newspapers, 1969)
125) Andy Capp No 35, by Reg Smythe (Mirror Group Newspapers, 1975)
126) Andy Capp No 37, by Reg Smythe (Mirror Group Newspapers,1976)
127)Andy Capp No 43, by Reg Smythe (Mirror Books, 1979)
128) The Mirror was changing fast too. Just three years after Andy’s debut it appointed its first City editor to cover affairs in London’s financial district.


Peter Cook and Andy Capp: Secret brothers?

Five of the remarks below were made about the British comedian Peter Cook, and five about Andy Capp. All I’ve done is remove the names. But can you guess which is which?

1) “This is a figure from the parables: a publican, a sinner, but never a Pharisee. In him, morality is found far from its official haunts, the message of a character like [his] being that a life of complete self-indulgence, if led with the whole heart, may also bring wisdom.”

2) “He can walk past a pub any time he likes - unless it’s open.”

3) “He may well have decided at quite an early stage that there are more important things in life than good health – against all the flow of modern thinking. But did he ever decide what they were? The love of a good woman, as he eventually found in [her], perhaps.”

4) “Why is the world so prim, puritanical and judgemental about everyone else’s lives? Why this school-report, could-do-better, needs-to-pull-his-finger-out attitude to others?”

5) “Idleness is being free to do anything.”

6) “He is admirably satisfied with what he has. I don’t know if he’d regard it as being limited or constrained. And I suppose contemplating somebody who has all that they want and all that they need is rather satisfying.”

7) “Idleness comes naturally to me.”

8) “He has a happy arrogance, which may be essentially selfish, but which is close to that genuine liberation that is born of a true faith in the forgiveness of God.”

9) “I’m inclined to think of him as the last of the cavaliers. He seems to do exactly what he wants, when he wants, without fear or favour.”

10) “[He] was waylaid by the first pub they passed, went in for a drink, and didn’t emerge until closing time.”

SCROLL DOWN FOR ANSWERS.



















ANSWERS
1) Alan Bennett on Peter Cook. (2) Flo Capp on Andy Capp (3) Auberon Waugh on Peter Cook. (4) Stephen Fry on Peter Cook. (5) Andy Capp on Andy Capp. (6) Nicholas Hiley on Andy Capp. (7) Peter Cook on Peter Cook. (8) Daniel McGrath on Andy Capp. (9) Reg Smythe on Andy Capp. (10) Harry Thompson on Peter Cook.



SOURCES: Something Like Fire: Peter Cook Remembered, ed Lin Cook (Methuen, 1996); Andy Capp Number 26, by Reg Smythe (IPC Newspapers 1971); The World of Andy Capp, by Reg Smythe (Mirror Publications 1985); Personal interview (April 2012); Peter Cook: A Biography, by Harry Thompson (Hodder & Stoughton 1997); The Gospel According to Andy Capp, by Daniel McGeachy (John Knox 1973); New York Times, June 1, 1990.