Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tom Ingram



Tom Ingram (b. Spaxton, England, 26 July 1924; d. reg. Bath, England, January 2007)

Thomas Henry Ingram was the son of John Markham Ingram, an officer in the armed forces, and his wife Grace Williams.  He served in the Royal Artillery of the British Army from 1942-45, and was educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (B.A. 1948; M.A. 1957).  He worked for a few years as a teacher, and for several subsequent years as a researcher and writer, before lecturing in the United States for the Netherlands Office of Overseas Students in 1957-58, and as an instructor (1958-60) and assistant professor of English (1964-65) at Long Island University. Returning to England he held positions at the City of Bath Technical College (1960-64; 1965-67) and the British Polytechnic, West England College of Art (from 1967).  He married Marie Robbins-Vona in April 1958; they had three children, two daughters and one son.

All his books are published as by “Tom Ingram.” His first, Bells in England (1954), is nonfiction, and it includes two appendices written for the book by Robert Aickman, on Henry Irving in “The Bells” (five pages) and “The Bells of Bealings House” (also five pages). With Douglas Newton he compiled Hymns as Poetry (1955), and Banns of Marriage (1955) was his first novel.

Ingram turned to writing juveniles in the 1970s, and the first of these, The Hungry Cloud (1971; retitled Garranane in the 1972 U.S. edition), is a compelling fantasy (with excellent illustrations by Bill Geldart) of an evil lady named Fenrir who can destroy a person by drawing a likeness, threatening Kai and his sister Flor as well as their entire kingdom. It was followed by two other juveniles, The Night Rider (1975), a time-slip fantasy, and The Outcasts (1977), where in response to murderous attacks by eagles on a village, three people are driven away. 
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Monday, January 25, 2016

Darrel Crombie



Darrel Crombie (b. New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, 1915; d. New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, 2001)

“Darrel Crombie” was the pseudonym of Joseph Fraser Darby, the son of Joseph Edwin Darby (1882-1965), a British-born Canadian accountant, and his wife, a school-teacher, Marion Louise Fraser (1883-1965), who were married in New Glasgow on 4 September 1914.

Darby, as “Darrel Crombie,” published very little, but small-press publisher Donald M. Grant thought very highly of him.  Grant published his only-known short story, “Wings of Y’vren” in the anonymously-edited paperback anthology, Swordsmen and Supermen (1972).  A short essay titled “Ghosts Walk . . .” is a memoir of Darby reading Talbot Mundy as a youth.  It appeared in Grant’s Talbot Mundy: Messenger of Destiny (1983). 

According to Grant, Darby studied writing for more than two years in the mid to late 1930s via a correspondence course with Arthur Sullivant Hoffmann (1876-1966), who had been the editor of Adventure during its glory years 1912-1927.  Grant also notes that Darby “began to crack the British market with poetry and fiction. But World War II rolled around, and a hopeful start was erased in a day.” Darby gave up writing creatively for more than twenty-five years (though he worked for years as a journalist).  Through the late 1960s and early 1970s he worked on a trilogy to be titled The Priestess of the Silver Star, but he never finished it.  In the mid-1970s, after Grant was shown an unpublished El Borak story by Robert E. Howard titled “Three-Bladed Doom,” he passed it on to Crombie for re-writing.  Crombie reworked this into a 102 page typescript under the title of “Lair of the Hidden Ones,” but again he never finished it. 

Darby’s pen-name took the “Dar” from his last name, expanding it to Darrel, and Crombie came from his summer home in Abercrombie, just outside of New Glasgow in Nova Scotia. 

*I’m grateful to Nagzie Harb of Nova Scotia for supplying some information on Darby.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

L.A. Lewis



L. A. Lewis (b. Sheffield, England, 6 February 1899; d. Southall, England, 28 October 1961)

Leslie Allin Lewis was the only child of Arthur Henry Lewis (b. 1872), a brewery expert according to the 1911 UK Census, and Catharine (sometimes Catherine) Mary Ann Allin (1870-1962), who were married at Wantage, Berkshire, in the spring of 1896. 

Leslie grew up at the Allin family estate at East Hendred in Berkshire, and was educated at Roysse’s School in Abingdon (now named Abingdon School).  As a boy he wrote and illustrated a series of stories about a panther named Blackie. During World War I he joined the Artist’s Rifles, and trained as a pilot, taking his certificate on the Maurice Farman Biplane at the Military School in Ruislip, on 29 May 1917. According to Richard Dalby, he served in France for a year, and after the war he took a course in Aero Engineering, and later earned an Instructor’s license. 

His father apparently died before 1925, and after 1926 Leslie lived with his mother and some members of her family in the Finchley area of London, through around 1951, save for a time of service in the R.A.F. during the World War II.  In July 1929, he published a story “The Chords of Chaos” in The Theosophist, edited by Annie Besant. His one collection of ten stories, Tales of the Grotesque (London: Philip Allan), came out as part of the “Creeps” series in October 1934. It is one of the best of the volumes of the “Creeps” series, with original tales like “The Tower of Moab” in which a man’s madness is exemplified by his vision of a Babel-like tower. One later tale, “The Author’s Tale,” came out in Terror by Night (1935), edited by Christine Campbell Thomson as part of the “Not at Night” series.

Elizabeth Yeardye Rickell (1897-1988), who had served in Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Crops during World War I, was Leslie’s longtime friend, and she apparently became his common law wife in the early 1950s (there is no official record of their marriage).  She told Richard Dalby that her husband destroyed his surviving writings in a fit of depression, and that he long suffered from hallucinations, and from deteriorating physical and mental health during his final years. He died of a heart attack while in hospital in 1961.  Tales of the Grotesque has been reprinted three times, expanded by the one uncollected tale, in hardcover by Ghost Story Press in 1994 and 2003, and in trade paperback by Shadow Publishing in 2014, each reprint having an introduction by Richard Dalby.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

J. Max McMurray



J. Max McMurray (b. Roanoke, Alabama, 28 September 1908; d. Roanoke, Alabama, 3 January 1966)

James Max McMurray was the youngest of five children of William Harmon McMurray (1868-1954) and his wife Correna Eldorado Reaves (1868-1937)  He had three older sisters and one older brother.

McMurray attended Auburn University and the University of Virginia, before finishing up at Delta State College, in Cleveland, Mississippi, in 1932. His first novel, and only published book, The Far Bayou, was published by Rinehart and Company in September 1951. Around the time of publication, McMurray wrote:  “Cleveland is in what a certain writer referred to as ‘the adorable Delta’, a country unto itself, and one that has attracted many races and creeds. It is in the Delta that I have spent most of my adult life, with vacations on the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. The Far Bayou was begun in Cleveland and finished in Attalla and Roanoke. I have published no other fiction.  I am now living in Roanoke and working on another novel.”  McMurray published nothing else, and died unmarried. Oddly, The Far Bayou is today collected primarily because its the dust-wrapper was designed by Philip Grushkin (1921-1998), one of the major New York book designers from the 1940s through the 1980s.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

David T. Lindsay

David T. Lindsay (b. St. Monans, Scotland, 5 March 1897; d. Edinburgh, Scotland, 3 March 1953)

David Tod Lindsay was the ninth of ten children of Thomas Lindsay (1856-1936) and his wife, Beatrice Craig Phillips (1858-1939). He had six older brothers, two older sisters, and one younger brother.

Little is known of his life and education. He served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's) line infantry regiment during World War I. He married Lizzie Reid Scott (1901-1988) in St. Monans in 1935, and they had one daughter. 

Between March 1936 and January 1940 he published eighteen novels, all with the firm John Hamilton of London.  Most were mysteries, with at least two recurring characters. The Honourable Richard ("Dick") Monroe of the Secret Service appears in two novels, while Chief Inspector John Jay ("Jailbird") Jackson of Scotland Yard is featured in five. A few of Lindsay's books are more unusual, like the western, Vengeance Rides North (1939). Some of his mysteries have slight fantastic elements, like the rationalized "ghosts" in Inspector Jackson Investigates (1936). Three of his novels are science fictional, the two most interesting being his first book, The Ninth Plague (1936), in which a maniac seeks to exterminate the human race and bring about a great darkness by neutralizing the chemical rays of the sun; and The Green Ray (1937), in which a green ray is used to cause the engines of airplanes to stall while in flight.  The third title reputed to have science fiction elements is Air Bandits (1937).

His first few books appeared as by "David Lindsay", but his middle initial was soon added, probably to distinguish his work from that of the fantasist, David Lindsay (1876-1945), whose novels had sold very poorly.  David T. Lindsay gave up writing after paper rationing started during World War II, and worked in the Rosyth Dockyard.


*I am grateful to an anonymous person who sent me details that allowed me to learn more about this author.  My original blog posting on David T. Lindsay, with much information on his books, remains available here.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

H.B. Gregory



H.B. Gregory (b. Derby, Derbyshire, 5 December 1912; d. circa 2007-2008)

Harry Beare Gregory was the only child of Harry Welbourne Gregory (1879-1960), the manager of a wall paper manufacturer, and his wife, Constance Ellen Beare (1883-1971), who were married on 19 December 1908 in Littleover, Derbyshire. 

Little is known of his early life or education, but by the late 1930s Gregory was working in a bank, and he had begun writing plays for his church theatre. He was a devout Anglo-Catholic. He married Ivy Joan Mee (1917-1999) in Derby, Derbyshire, in the spring of 1939. They had two daughters. Gregory served for nearly six years in the army during World War II, mostly in India, before returning to his bank job in 1946. In 1972, Gregory retired from his career as a bank manager.

The 1940 dust-wrapper
Gregory’s only book, the novel Dark Sanctuary (London: Rider, [February] 1940), is the tale of a family curse on the Lovells, who have an ancestral home on Kestral, an imaginary island off the coast of Cornwall. It shows the decided influence of Dennis Wheatley and Charles Williams, with a dash of H.P. Lovecraft.  It was publish in a small edition, and received almost no notice until 1983 when Karl Edward Wagner listed it as one of the “13 Best Supernatural Horror Novels” in a series of lists in the May-June 1983 issue of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine. Wagner’s contributions therein were based more on scarcity than on literary quality, and have elevated the desire for the specifically-mentioned titles well beyond their literary value.  In the last few decades, many of these impossibly rare titles have been reprinted, and thus can at last be assessed on their merits—or lack thereof. Dark Sanctuary was reprinted in a limited edition hardcover in 2001 by Midnight House, with a speculative introduction by D.H. Olson. Noted genre authority E.F. Bleiler called Dark Sanctuary “really third rate,” but that dismissal is a bit harsh. More realistically, Dark Sanctuary is no lost classic, but it is an interesting period piece, and it is fairly typical of many library thrillers of its time.

In the summer of 2004, the author, presumed long-dead, turned up alive and well at age 91, and in the autumn he was interviewed by John Pelan of Midnight House, though the interview was not published for nearly five years, appearing in the Summer 2009 issue of Allen K’s Inhuman Magazine. Gregory noted that he wrote Dark Sanctuary after spending his honeymoon near the island of St. Michael’s Mount, off the Cornish coast near Penzance.  This locale inspired the island of Kestral. Dark Sanctuary was again reprinted in 2012 by John Pelan’s Dancing Tuatara imprint with Ramble House Publishers. It reprints Olson’s introduction, and adds a fannish puff-piece by Pelan and his 2004 interview with Gregory. 

Gregory gave up after the lack of success of his novel. In the late 1950s he returned to writing and penned a small number of short stories for The Boy’s Own Paper.  The first was probably “Boys on the Moon” (publication date unknown). Other appearances include “Runaway Rocket” in the September 1959 issue, and “Landfall on Venus” in August 1963.  A further story formed the basis of an eight part film serial, made for showing to children in cinemas on Saturdays, produced by the Children’s Film Foundation, under the direction of Frank Wells, son of H.G. Wells.  Masters of Venus went into production in 1960 and took two years to make. It tells of the adventures of teenagers Pat Ballantyne and her brother Jim who end up on their father’s rocket to Venus, where they discover a race of six-fingered humans descended from Atlantis. It was released in September 1962, a well-done example of its kind.