A big welcome to Adrian Levano whose first book, Blue Light Models was released at the beginning of this month.
As the title implies, Adrian is a collector, and has written this book with new collectors in mind.
As you may know, with my other hat on, I write magazine articles on all kinds of subjects including writing about scaled models, toys, miniatures, collections and collectors. I met Adrian when visiting the Maidenhead Static Model Club earlier this year to write about his club for Diecast Collector Magazine.
The MSMC club is the UK's oldest and widest model collectors' club in the UK. As well as being a collector, Adrian is the editor of the club's magazine, Wheel Bearings. I asked him what the role entails.
“This is my third year as editor,” says Adrian. “I took over at quite short notice and tried to make it look a bit less like a club newsletter, although time and budget constraints limit my ambition a little! Obviously, it’s main purpose is to pass on club news of the Maidenhead Static Model Club, forthcoming events and to report on club meetings. In addition I try to put in some articles about models, and also about real transport subjects.
“Although I’m very pleased that quite a few members contribute to it, I quite often come up with pieces about my own experiences – like a ‘cub reporter’ I always travel with a camera! Fortunately I work for a company specialising in design and print, so I’m able to handle all aspects from design through to sticking stamps on the envelopes myself!”
This is Adrian's first book, and he explained how it all came about.
“Amberley Publishing approached me with the proposed subject, so after due consideration I decided to give it a go. The book attempts to give an overview of model emergency services vehicles over the decades, across the world, and some advice about how to buy, store and care for a collection.
“Of course, most toy and model manufacturers have produced a far wider range than just ‘blue light’ models, so in a way it’s also a brief history an overview of model vehicles in general. In fact the title is a rather anglo-centric as emergency services vehicle in other countries can have other colours of flashing lights such as red or orange.
“Although it’s written from the point of view of a British collector, I have tried to cover as wide a spread of interests as possible, and have included modern toys available at ‘pocket money’ prices through to the rarer collectibles.”
“I had a contract which gave me six months to complete the draft. Had it not been for some personal matters which took up a fair bit of time, and the need to do some ‘real’ work as well, that would have been fine. As it was, I was down to the line, even to the point of needing to plead for a short extension. As the deadline date was the Friday of a bank holiday weekend, the extension was only until the following Tuesday morning – I assumed they would not be working on it over the weekend!”
I asked Adrian just how tricky the task turned out to be.
“It was a lot more tricky that I envisaged. I found writing the text the most straightforward part, but my concept that the various sections would be the same as producing a series of articles was way off the mark.
Deciding which models to use to illustrate a particular subject was the worst part. As so many could be used for several alternatives such as country, material, scale or category, I found I had to re-photograph a lot of models. I wanted to avoid using the same item twice. At one point, every surface of the house was covered with toys and models which I didn’t want to put away in case I needed them again! At that point I realised it was a good thing I didn’t have a cat … This was complicated further by having been out to take pictures of (or having borrowed models) belonging to other collectors which I was subsequently unable to group with others of my own.
“I have to admit I learned a lot in the writing process. I hope I didn’t make too many factual errors, but I needed to do quite a bit of research – a lot of thing I thought I knew suddenly needed verifying before I committed myself to print.
“I also found the word count tricky to cope with, in actual fact I cheated a bit by adding a lot more information into the photo captions. This could have been a much bigger book, but I think it’s a good introduction and, as I say in the book, finding out for yourself what’s out there is a lot of the fun of collecting.”
Naturally, I wondered how and when he first caught the collecting bug.
“I’m told that I could identify real cars before I could pronounce the names,” says Adrian. “I’ve always been a ‘collector’ of toy cars, and since the age of about eight or nine have kept them in their boxes. Admittedly they were taken out and played with, so most from those early days show some signs of that use. There have been times over the years when the collecting was ‘on hold’ but I never disposed of any toys, and still they keep accumulating as I find new areas of interest. It was probably a move to the South-East of England in the 1980s that was the biggest boost, I found myself in close proximity to several collectors toy fairs, one of which in town where I lived. I do find such fairs are the best way of adding to the collection, although internet auctions are good if you know what you want.”
His book talks about emergency service vehicles, so I wondered if he specialised in particular collectables.
“Well that’s the thing! I’m not a specialist on emergency services – I have all sorts, in all scales and materials. In a way that probably equipped me better for this project than collectors who specialise in only one particular aspect. A lot of British collectors seem to prefer home-grown products, and I think the same applies in other countries. For me, the more unusual the better.
“When I was young we made regular family trips to Germany and other European countries, and that was a major influence in widening my horizons about what was around – remember that was long before the internet, so the toys and models I brought back from my travels were things hardly seen in England.
“With one exception, I have always avoided the temptation to try to get everything of a particular series. It’s the last few that are always the most difficult to get and which cost a lot more. There is always something different to add a new flavour to the collection – for example it’s only in last year or two that I have taken any real interest in tin plate toys. They have a distinct charm which had eluded me previously. Perhaps with age and experience I can now put toys into a social and historical context which gives a new dimension to my hobby.”
But what does Adrian do when not writing, working of out and about collecting?
“I wouldn’t like your readers to think that toys and models are my whole life! At times I just shut the door to the collection room (yes, it does have its own room complete with small photo studio) and try to engage with the real world. For example, I’m an amateur musician and play keyboards. It’s odd how things overlap though; of the musicians I’ve worked with in recent years, at least two spring to mind as serious model enthusiasts, one is a leading expert on plastic toy soldiers, the other makes the most amazing model railway locomotives and rolling stock from scratch and also edits a model railway club magazine.
“I’m also a keen, if very amateur gardener, and also hope to get back to more travelling soon. My favourite city to visit is Istanbul, but as fate would have it, Turkey adds very little to my model collection – so going there is a real holiday from my everyday world in every sense.”
Thank you, Adrian for being on my blog. Wishing you every success with the book.
The publishers link for sales: https://www.amberley-books.com/blue-light-models.html or the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blue-Light-Models-History-Collectors/dp/1445657155