Monday, January 28, 2019

J. Aubrey Tyson

J. Aubrey Tyson in 1903
J. Aubrey Tyson (b. Philadelphia, 6 March 1870; d. New York City, 16 October 1930)

John Aubrey Tyson was the son of Clifton Walter Tyson (1847-1931), a stenographer, and his first wife, Joanna Fannie Doyle (1847-c.1890).  John Aubrey Tyson had two younger brothers.

He became a journalist, and worked for various newspapers in the northeast over his career. He married Catherine Josephine Brophy, who had come from England, in Manhattan on 25 November 1896.  They had one daughter, and were later divorced around 1905. Tyson remarried. His second wife, fifteen years his junior, was named Violet; they also had one daughter.

Tyson's first known story appeared in a newspaper in October 1895.  It was quickly followed by "The Dexter Bells," which appeared in the December 1895 issue of the British magazine The Ludgate.  From then on through the late teens he contributed a large number of stories and serials to the popular fiction and pulp magazines, including Pearson's Magazine, Argosy, Munsey's Magazine, The All-Story Magazine, The Railroad Man's Magazine, The Scrap Book, Snappy Stories, and Top-Notch Magazine.

The 1923 Macmillan dust-wrapper
Tyson's first of four books was The Stirrup Cup (1903), a fictional story of the the courtship and marriage of Aaron Burr. His second book was The Scarlet Tanager (1922), a story of espionage and diplomatic intrigue set around the year 1930. It seems to have been moderately successful, so that the same publisher soon issued his third book The Barge of Haunted Lives (New York:  Macmillan, 1923; London: Mills and Boon, 1924). This was not in fact a new story, for it had been serialized in The All-Story Magazine from November 1908 through April 1909. It begins intriguingly, and the setting is a barge anchored off Long Island, where nine men and one woman, most of whom do not know each other, have been brought together by their host to tell their respective stories so that the haunted aspects of their lives become clear to all.  The guests are known to each other only by descriptive names such as the One-eyed Duck Hunter, the Veiled Aeronaut, the Sentimental Gargoyle, the Decapitated Man, the Fugitive Bridegroom, and others.

The book (likely inspired in form by the nested stories in Robert Louis Stevenson's New Arabian Nights) begins promisingly, but as successive tales are told the implausibilities and sheer artificialities of the novel's construction become increasingly distracting to the reader. The whole scenario is complicated and convoluted well before it reaches the end. Many of the intertwined stories are tales of adventure, and though the book has a reputation for supernatural content, this is very much overstated.  For instance, to one teller, a certain woman appeared to be a vampire, but we quickly learn that was not the case.  Overall this is standard pulp-magazine fare, but it goes on far too long.

Tyson's final book was a detective novel, Rhododendron Man (1930).  The central mystery is that an unknown person stood in the rhododendron bushes outside a library window and shot and killed Lloyd Gasperson.  Dashiell Hammett reviewed the book in the New York Evening Post, citing faults and irrelevancies similar to those that mar the tales told in The Barge of Haunted Lives:
An unskillfully wrought affair that should not baffle you. The author overlooks one howling clue pointing straight at the guilty person. The story starts with a kidnapping that has not much to do with the rest of the plot and then passes on to the murder of Lloyd Gasperson, which has not anything to do with the kidnapping." (21 June 1930)
On 16 October 1930, Tyson's dead body was found at the foot of a tree in Central Park in New York City.  Beside him was a bottle which the police said had previously contained poison.  In his pockets were rejection slips from various magazine publishers. 

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