Monday, April 16, 2012

David T. Lindsay

David T. Lindsay (fl. 1936-1940)

**Note:  Thanks to information from an anonymous source, I have a new entry on the real David T. Lindsay available here; but I keep this entry for its extensive information on his books**

David Lindsay (1876-1945), who had no middle name, published five novels during his lifetime, ranging from his first, A Voyage to Arcturus (1920), to his fifth, Devil’s Tor (1932).  The Times Literary Supplement reviewed four of Lindsay’s five novels, omitting only Adventures of M. de Mailly (1926), which is generally considered Lindsay’s least intellectual book.  Though the reviewers for The Times Literary Supplement did not always appreciate Lindsay’s novels—and indeed they misunderstood and miscategorized more than two of them—at least the editors considered Lindsay’s work worthy of coverage. 

Thus, in 1936, when further books bylined “David Lindsay” began to appear, so did reviews in The Times Literary Supplement. But after two reviews, published five weeks apart, there were no more.  Presumably the editors realized that this new, prolific David Lindsay—who published eighteen novels between March 1936 and January 1940—was an entirely different author, and one whose books were not worthy of continued coverage.

The first book published and reviewed was The Ninth Plague. Here is what the reviewer—Julian Arthur Beaufort Palmer (1899-1973), author of a few historical books on India—had to say of it:

     A band of burglars, known as the Grey Seals from the grey hoods and overalls in which they operated, were really collecting resources for a maniac who for the sake of revenge wished to exterminate the human race by an event similar to the Ninth Plague of Egypt (darkness) explained by the author as “neutralizing the chemical rays of the sun.”  This involved the construction of a platinum-lined retreat in a cave in the peninsula of Sinai, an expensive proceeding; hence burglaries and an attempt to marry one of the gang to an heiress. The British Secret Service, ubiquitous from Maida Vale to Ismailia, successfully interfere, though its principal members are nearly exterminated by a sea of mud in the cave.
     The phantasmagoria is unconvincing even of its kind, but there is so much incident that the reader becomes quite excited. Judges of the High Court in England are not described by the title of “Judge”; the passages in Scots are overloaded, and there is one remarkable example of English as she should not be wrote—“Thou, Ali Beshar, will be on the road with thy car and will wireless the movements of the police. The rest of you know what thou has to do.”  (9 May 1936)

The second book was The Two Red Capsules, and the review by J[ohn] Chartres Molony (1877-1948), who wrote a couple of novels and several books on Ireland and the Irish, follows:    

    Mystery and murder are excellent ingredients in a thriller, but Mr. Lindsay is somewhat too liberal with them. Robert Laidlaw has invented a marvellous gun, and the villainous Baron Hiroshi, and the still more wicked Count Silenski (who in the end turns out to be the American Jeff Parker) are determined to obtain possession of the plans at any cost. Their opposite numbers are the Hon. Richard Monroe, who is a “Foreign Office detective,” and Inspector John Jackson, who is an unusual member of the Scotland Yard force. Before the parties are through with the business the fair face of England is littered with corpses. Count Silenski is cosmopolitan, but surely he would evoke comment in France by introducing himself as le Compte de Moreul, which seems to mean “the Moreul account.” And Frenchmen do not get into an “impassé,” a word which so spelt has no meaning at all. The Count’s Russian coadjutor might call himself Pavlovitch, but scarcely Paulvitch. In short, the book is somewhat crude. (13 June 1936)

The science fictional mechanism of The Ninth Plague may make one think of the author of A Voyage to Arcturus, but little of the remaining descriptions of the two novels will elicit such a comparison. (Oddly, though, the convoluted and pulpish plots do recall the novels of David Lindsay’s elder brother, Alexander Lindsay, who in the 1910s published several novels as “Alexander Crawford”.)

It is interesting to note that after the first three or so novels were published with the name “David Lindsay” on the title page and dust-wrapper, the author’s name was soon afterwards altered to “David T. Lindsay”—as if to create a distinction from the earlier David Lindsay.  Without seeing multiple copies of all eighteen novels by this second Lindsay, it is difficult to determine what exactly took place and when. For example, though I have observed a copy in dust-wrapper of the first book, The Ninth Plague, which has only “David Lindsay” on the title page and on the dust-wrapper, it has “David T. Lindsay” stamped on the spine of the binding.  This may represent a later issue binding, done after the middle initial was added to the byline.  Or, though it would seem odd, the full name with middle initial could have been used on the spine from the outset.  For the purpose of this note, it is not really necessary to study the entire evolution of the byline.  The central relevant point is that after some books were published as by “David Lindsay”, the middle initial was added to the byline for the bulk of the later volumes. 

Still there remained some confusion among the readers of fantasy and science fiction about the differing authorship, a point which E.F. Bleiler addressed in The Checklist of Fantastic Literature (1948). He separated the two authors, and credited “Mrs. Jacqueline Lindsay, of Sussex, England; wife of the late David Lindsay, for information which enabled us to disentangle the hitherto confused David Lindsay’s”  (p. xv).  But even Bleiler’s evidence didn’t satisfy everyone.  R. G. Medhurst (1920-1971) was a noted British collector of fantasy, as well as a writer on parapsychology and a member of the Society for Psychical Research.  In a column “The Antiquarian Bookshelf” in the June 1951 issue of Fantasy Advertiser, Medhurst wrote:

I don’t feel so happy about the David Lindsay position as [the] Checklist appears to be. Bleiler segregates two Lindsays, one responsible for the remarkable series of novels from A Voyage to Arcturus to Devil’s Tor and the other, called “David T. Lindsay”, for the series of air adventures and thrillers published by Hamilton of London.  This appears to be on the authority of Mrs. Jacqueline Lindsay, widow, presumably, of the first David Lindsay. . . .  There certainly seems no internal evidence of style or characterization to suggest that two men were involved. Though the subject matter of the two series of books is very different, I had no doubt when I read, for example, The Ninth Plague, that this was written in fact by the original David Lindsay.  I wonder whether it should be surprising, supposing that only one David Lindsay produced all these books, that his wife would suggest the contrary. The Hamilton novels are undoubtedly potboilers, though not without merit. The earlier series, on the other hand, remarkable productions as they were, seem to have been financial failures. It is surely possible that if an author were forced to turn out trivial works, having failed to find an audience for his important writing, he might well have conveyed to the people around him a feeling of dislike for his association with such stuff.  This is, of course, all conjecture. Perhaps in time to come we may produce more solid evidence. 

Medhurst was completely wrong, of course, as later scholarship on the first David Lindsay has shown that he spent the decade following the publication of Devil’s Tor obsessively writing and re-writing a remarkable novel titled The Witch, before finally retiring from authorship around 1942. Until now, nothing at all has been written about David T. Lindsay and his corpus. 

All eighteen novels were published by the London publisher John Hamilton, which was founded in 1925 and run by Charles H. Daniels, and Mary F. Daniels.  The Authors, Playwrights & Composers Handbook for 1935, edited by D. Kilham Roberts, describes them as “publishers concentrating on books concerned in any way with aviation and aeronautics, also cookery books and some general fiction (especially thrillers)” (p. 194). The firm was liquidated in 1941.  But David T. Lindsay’s novels can be seen to fit very well in their list.  Nine of his novels are part of the publisher’s “Ace Series” of aviation thrillers.  The Ninth Plague is part of “The Sundial Mystery and Adventure Library”. His first two novels, noted above, have a recurring character, the Honourable Richard (“Dick”) Monroe of the Secret Service, and The Two Red Capsules additionally introduces the reader to Inspector Jackson—the gloomy Chief Inspector John Jay Jackson of Scotland Yard, known also as “Jailbird” Jackson, who would feature in four other novels.  The overwhelming bulk of David T. Lindsay’s novels are mysteries in some form, and it is not at all surprising to find seventeen of the books listed in Allen J. Hubin’s Crime Fiction, 1749-1980: A Comprehensive Bibliography (1984), the only title missing being Lindsay’s western, Vengeance Rides North (1939). 

E.F. Bleiler lists three of David T. Lindsay’s titles in The Checklist of Fantastic Literature as having elements of fantasy or science fiction: Air Bandits (1937), The Green Ray (1937), and The Ninth Plague (1936),   R. Reginald’s Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Checklist 1700-1974 (1979) lists two of the above books, dropping The Air Bandits. Other David T. Lindsay books certainly have slight elements of fantasy, albeit some are rationalized as with the “ghosts’ in Inspector Jackson Investigates (1936).  The Green Ray is definitely science fiction, for it concerns a green ray which, when used, causes engines to stall. Thus Thomas Fenton, conspiring with various shipping magnates, uses the green ray on large airplanes, causing them to crash or become lost at sea, all in an attempt to convince the public that planes are not safe. Fenton additionally has nefarious plans of his own, which Julian Grey, of the family-run Airways Ltd., together with his old friend Jimmy Travers, now in the Secret Service, must thwart. 

Virtually nothing is known of the author, and various booksellers have suggested that the “David T. Lindsay” byline might be a house pseudonym.  Evidence against this is found in my copy of Inspector Jackson Investigates, which is inscribed on the front free endpaper “Author’s Copy / David Lindsay / Cellardyke / October 1936”.  This would seem to situate the author in Cellardyke, a village in Fife, Scotland, just to the east of Anstruther. Presuming he was a real person, it seems odd that he would publish eighteen novels and abruptly disappear without a trace. If anyone reading this can supply any further details about this David T. Lindsay, I would be grateful to hear from them. 

A full chronological list of David T. Lindsay’s books is given below, with brief notes on series and recurring characters. All titles were published by John Hamilton of London.

The Ninth Plague  [March 1936]
            Part of The Sundial Mystery and Adventure Library. Richard Monroe.

The Two Red Capsules [May 1936] 
            Richard Monroe; Inspector Jackson

Wings over Africa [July 1936]  Ace Series

Inspector Jackson Investigates [September 1936] 
            Inspector Jackson

Air Bandits [February 1937]  Ace Series

Masked Judgment [March 1937]  Ace Series

The Black Fetish [May 1937]

The Flying Crusader [May 1937]  Ace Series

The Green Ray  [July 1937]  Ace Series 

Wings over the Amazon [November 1937]  Ace Series 

Another Case for Inspector Jackson [January 1938]   
            Inspector Jackson

The Flying Armada [April 1938]  Ace Series

The Temple of the Flaming God [May 1938]  Ace Series 

The Man Nobody Knew [September 1938]
            Inspector Jackson

Inspector Jackson Goes North [February 1939] 
            Inspector Jackson

Vengeance Rides North [May 1939]

Stranglehold [September 1939]  Ace Series

Mystery of the Tumbling V  [January 1940]


  1. These entries are always fascinating. It has the feel of a biblio Sherlock Holmes.

  2. I remember the shock I felt at finding one of this David Lindsay's novels on an eBay search (for the other David Lindsay). Thanks for providing some info on this doppelganger author!

  3. Just checked the Sotlands People site. A David Lindsay was born 1885, married 1909 and died 1964 in Kilrenny, Fife (which includes Cellardyke). Nothing to say he's the author, but very suggestive, I would think.

  4. Thanks. I wonder if an obituary might tell us more about this David Lindsay (like his middle initial, and whether he was our author). Confirmation is needed, but this is a start!

  5. I have quite a few books from John Hamilton, and I find it very frustrating that they are so difficult to date. I see contradicting information on book vendors' sites, and I wonder if any knows of a source where I can learn more about the publisher, or find a list of John Hamilton's publications. When did the "Aviation Book Club" get started, when the "Ace" Series, when the "Airman's Bookshelf"? When did the various titles appear? Can anyone help?

    1. The best source is the lists of other books advertized on the dust-wrappers, or in a publisher's catalogue---e.g., my copy of Inspector Jackson Investigates has a 35-page John Hamilton catalogue, dated "Autumn 1936", bound in at the rear. You might also try The Reference Catalogue of Current Literature for the late 1930s and early 1940s. It is, essentially, a bunch of bound-up catalogues of British publishers. It was issued only every four years or so, in 1932, 1936 and 1940, for the relevant time-period. I've only ever seen it at a couple of very large university libraries in the US. I can't help on Charles H. and Mary F. Daniels. I got their names from the 1935 Authors, Playwrights & Composers Handbook source as given in the entry.

  6. And for that matter, does anyone know a source of information on Charles H. and Mary F. Daniels, who ran the "John Hamilton" house during its 1925-1941 existence?