Monday, May 7, 2012

Clive Pemberton

Clive Pemberton (b. reg. Kensington, London, April-June  1881; d. reg. Newton Abbot, Devon, Oct.-Dec. 1954)

Clive Pemberton was the fourth son of Thomas Joshua Pemberton (1837-1907) and his first wife, Catherine Jane Eccles Fisher (1838-1894).  One of Clive’s older brothers was the popular novelist Sir Max Pemberton (1863-1950).  After Clive’s mother’s death, his father married Alice Phillips, the daughter of the famous baritone Henry Phillips (1801-1876).  His paternal grandfather was Charles Pemberton, famous as an advocate for Liverpool. Clive began work on the Stock Exchange, but after three years abandoned it for journalism. 

Clive Pemberton is remembered primarily for his first book, The Weird o’ It  (London: Henry J. Drane, 1906), a collection of ten short stories which were originally published as a numbered series in the weekly paper Sketchy Bits, edited by Charles Shurey, beginning in early 1906.  The Weird o’ It appeared in December of the same year, and is now a very rare book. Perhaps the best stories in it are “The Pool” and “The Bulb”. In the former, a young artist’s wife is haunted by the pool nearby their new residence. The artist hears a local tale that previous occupants had been drowned in the pool owing to a curse, and he rushes home to find the inevitable.  In “The Bulb”, an ancient flower bulb and an associated descriptive papyrus is found inside a mummy case recently purchased at an auction.  The bulb is planted and grows.  Eventually the papyrus is translated and it warns of the fatality of the bloom of the bulb of Neshta, which lives for one moment and takes the life of someone in that same moment, a revenge planned for a future grave-robber.  Pemberton’s collection contains no lost masterpieces, but his work should not be entirely dismissed, for the stories are skillfully written grues, successful in attaining their small ambitions. In 2000, Midnight House of Seattle republished a hardcover edition of The Weird o’ It, limited to 460 copies, with one additional story, “The Mark of the Beast”, for which no source is given.

The Weird o’ It was followed soon after by The Harvest of Deceit (1908), a mystery novel published by Greening & Co.  A small biographical sketch of Pemberton (including a photograph, which shows a close facial resemblance with his older brother Max) appeared in the Greening house-organ, The Imp: A Monthly Magazine, at Christmas 1907, where it notes that Pemberton “has a leaning towards detective stories, and finds a peculiar fascination in keeping dark the mystery to the last line”.  It also notes that between 1902-07 he published over a hundred short stories and many novelettes and poems.  He was among the first to contribute stories in verse to The Novel Magazine (founded in 1905), which became a distinctive and popular features contributing to the success of the magazine. Pemberton is also known to have contributed to The Morning Leader, The Daily Mail, The Daily News, The Dundee Advertiser, Cassell’s Saturday Journal, Sketchy Bits, and various publications of Newnes and the Amalgamated Press. It seems likely that Pemberton’s connections to the latter were due to the influence of his brother Max, who worked closely with the founder of Amalgamated Press, Alfred Harmsworth (after 1905, Lord Northcliffe). Some undated Pemberton novels, including The Valliscourt Mystery (Lloyd’s), Her Own Secret, Until You Came (Amalgamated Press), and possibly others, likely appeared in the 1910s in paperback formats.  Such popular fiction titles, often part of a many-volume series, are not separately listed in the British Museum Catalogue, and as surviving copies are scarce, it is virtually impossible to find accurate bibliographical details.

Pemberton married Winifred I. Crooks (1894-1955) in the summer of 1915.  Two more novels appeared, including A Member of Tattersalls (1920) and The Way of the World (1921).   Nothing is known of his later life. 

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