Sunday, June 27, 2021

William L. Chester

William L. Chester (b. New York City, 7 January 1907; d. Briarcliff Manor, NY, 9 October 1971)

William Lester Chester was the son of William Chester and Christina Jensen, who were married in Dupage, Illinois, on 6 October 1903. Little is known about his early life. By the 1930 US Census, he was a clerk at a bank, and his father's birthplace is given as Minnesota,  and his mother's as Denmark. In the early 1930s he married Irene Harriet Lang (1907-1997). They had no children.

Chester is remembered for four serials that were published in Blue Book Magazine in the 1930s. All center on an orphaned white boy in the Arctic north of Siberia, who is called Kioga, the Snow Hawk, and who grows up to be the chief of his tribe of native peoples. The first of which, Hawk of the Wilderness (Blue Book Magazine, April through October 1935), appeared in hardcover from Harper & Brothers of New York in February 1936. It was made into a twelve episode film serial, just over three and a half hours long, that was released in late 1938. Grosset & Dunlap published a tie-in edition with the serial.  In 1966, the film serial was edited down for television to one hour and forty minutes in length and retitled Lost Island of Kioga. At the same time Ace Books issued the novel as a mass market paperback under its original name. 

Chester's three related serializations were Kioga of the Wilderness (Blue Book Magazine, April through October 1936); One Against a Wilderness (Blue Book Magazine, March through August 1937); and Kioga of the Unknown Land (Blue Book Magazine, March through August 1938). These three titles were collected in book form by DAW Books in 1976, 1977, and 1978, respectively. (One Against the Wilderness is a collection of six linked stories, not a novel per se.)

Chester published one other known story, "Not to the Swift," in Adventure for October 1938. In the 1940 US Census, Chester is listed in the Bronx as a skating instructor at a rink. During World War II he served with the Ski Troops at Camp Hale, Colorado. He later settled in Tarrytown, and operated a real estate office in Chappaqua, and worked for a time in the administrative offices of Grasslands Hospital (now known as the Westchester Medical Center), in Valhalla, New York. He and his wife eventually settled near Ossining, where Chester died unexpectedly at his home at the age of 64. His wife was his sole survivor.  

*Special thanks to Kevin Cook for assistance with this entry.


  1. Could you say where you got the date of death from, as no such death on Ancestry or Family Search. All I know is that his wife died in 1997 as a widow.

  2. It came from an obituary published right afterwards.