Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lamont Buchanan

Lamont Buchanan (b. New York City, 6 March 1919; d. New York City, 21 April 2015)
 
Lamont Buchanan in his mid to late 80s
 

Charles Lamont Buchanan, Jr., who went by his middle name, was the second of two children and the only son of Charles Lamont Buchanan (1884-1962), a music, art and drama critic, and his first wife, Anita Marshall Dominick (1881-1967), who were married in New York on 11 June 1911. Their first child was a daughter, Jane, some four or five years older than her brother. The Buchanans were divorced and Charles's second wife was Elizabeth Ellis, who survived him.  As "Charles Lamont Buchanan" the father had published a small booklet of poetry, Preludes in Shade (1902), limited to fifty copies from handmade plates.  He worked as a newspaperman first in Hartford, Connecticut, and later in New York.

Lamont Buchanan is remembered primarily as an  "Associate Editor" at Weird Tales under Dorothy McIlwraith's editorship.  After some newspaper work, Buchanan's tenure at Weird Tales ran from the November 1942 issue through the September 1949 one. He worked at the same time for Short Stories, which was also edited by McIlwraith. By 1946, Buchanan was doing most of the work on Weird Tales, according to some notices in Writer's Digest. Between 1947 and 1956 Buchanan also published some thirteen illustrated books of nonfiction, covering topics of sports to politics.  A complete list, with their descriptive subtitles, includes:


The Story of Football in Text and Pictures (1947)

The Story of Basketball in Text and Pictures (1948)

People and Politics: The Pictorial History of the American Two-Party System (1948)

A Pictorial History of the Confederacy (1951)

The World Series and Highlights of Baseball: in Text and Over 250 Pictures (1951)

The Story of Tennis in Text and Pictures (1951)

A Pictorial History of the Confederacy (1951)

The Flying Years (1953)

The Kentucky Derby Story in Text and 140 Illustrations (1953)

The Pictorial Baseball Instructor; with Forty Magic Rules to Help You Play Any Position Better in Little League, College Play, Major League (1954)

Steel Trails and Iron Horses: A Pageant of American Railroading (1955)

Ballot for Americans: A Pictorial History of American Elections and Electioneering with the Top Political Personalities, 1789-1956 (1956)

Ships of Steam (1956)

In the Bronx in 1952, Lamont Buchanan married Jean Milligan (1919-2004) who is reported to have been his high school sweetheart.  What makes this especially interesting is that researcher Sam Moskowitz noted in the 1970s that the pay records for Weird Tales showed that "Jean Milligan" was the payee for some thirty-six stories published in Weird Tales that were bylined "Allison V. Harding."  Initially it was believed that Milligan was the author of these tales, which correlated closely with Buchanan's tenure as Associate Editor at Weird Tales, and at Short Stories, where six additional Harding stories appeared. (The details are given in the Allison V. Harding entry at this blog: click here.) More recently, however, it has been suggested that Buchanan wrote the stories and had the payment sent to his future wife. Evidence that supports this conclusion can be found in the author blurb on his second book, The Story of Basketball in Text and Pictures (1948), which reads:
"As one of the earliest contributors to the big pictorial magazines, he is a firm believer in the text and picture method of telling a story. Besides being a prolific writer of short stories and articles for various publications, Mr. Buchanan has authored network radio scripts, and is also a full-time magazine editor." 
Nothing is at present known about Buchanan's radio scripts, and there are no known short stories under his byline, though for nonfiction he is known to have contributed articles to Liberty and Argosy in 1945 (the piece in Argosy was co-written with his friend and predecessor at Weird Tales, Lynn Perkins), and to Radio and Television News in 1950. Of more interest is Buchanan's article "What Makes the Action Story Go" in Writer's Year Book in 1945, a collection of tips for writers. The idea of Buchanan being "a prolific writer of short stories" would fit with the idea that he wrote the Allison V. Harding stories. 

After 1956 Buchanan and his wife virtually disappeared from public life. They lived in a rent-controlled apartment in the Sutton Place neighborhood of Manhattan for at least five decades.  After an incident in 2004 of both Buchanan and his wife falling and calling out for help, they were moved into an Upper West Side nursing home. Jean Milligan Buchanan died shortly thereafter, in December 2004. Lamont Buchanan lived on for more than ten years, and after his death at the age of 96 in 2015 it was discovered that he had amassed a fortune of over fifteen million dollars, presumably through investments, for he and his wife were known to live frugally. He left no will (and he and Milligan had had no children), but a search turned up a single living blood-relative, an estranged niece, the only child of his sister Jane, from her first marriage to Robert B. Sinclair. 

A few years before Buchanan's death, an unpublished interview from 1940 with reclusive author J.D. Salinger (1919-2010) surfaced, and the news reports claimed that Buchanan had arranged the interview and known Salinger. The claim was also made that Buchanan may have been the inspiration (or partially so) for Salinger's most famous literary character, Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Any close examination makes this assertion seem very dubious. 

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