The recent Book Group meeting was very good fun as usual, although of course we are now missing young Master Alex, who has been seduced by the bright lights of London as many an itinerant Scot has before him. It was the first time we had discussed a graphic novel and I was very pleased that the group had picked my favourite author and favourite series, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. We focussed on the Doll’s House segment, which is arguably where the series began to grow into the groundbreaking form of story-telling that it would later become. Dense, multi-layered, it begs numerous re-reading while, as with Straczynski’s Babylon 5 (for which Gaiman wrote after much persuasion) it is also a series which works even better when reviewed as whole, allowing the reader to see how many connections run through the years of the series, with small incidents and background characters becoming important many years later.

Easy to forget for those new to the series that this was all done as an 8-year plus comic run and people like me had to wait four weeks at a time for each instalment (of course, I still have them all). Sandman drew me into a luminous realm for over 8 years and was quite simply one of the most wonderful stories I have ever read in any medium. The special Ramadan issue alone is one of those magnificent, magical tales which live in your head and heart forever. I read and re-read every single issue and still re-read them to this day. They carried me throughout the whole of the nineties, a dream chariot running on a yellow brick road, quite wonderous. Hy Bender’s excellent Sandman Companion was naturally picked up from my study shelves once more as well for a read through of the relevant chapter – except now I can’t stop re-reading the rest of the book, appropriately enough in bed just before sleepy time; a lovely way to open the Gates of Horn and Ivory of an evening.

And now I’m off to delve into the Vesuvius Club, a new book due this November from Mark Gattis of League of Gentlemen fame. Mister Lucifer Box, Esquire is a dandy and a rake in Edwardian London. Behind the scandal he is also His Majesty’s Secret Service top agent, foiling dastardly plots. So far it’s like a cross between Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Sebastian O and Raffles, but far naughtier! More later.