Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Notes: Barry Hughart

Barry Hughart (his surname is pronounced  hew-gert) died in 2019 at the age of 85.  His career as a writer of fantasy was short-lived, but his work was acclaimed. His first novel, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was (1984), was the co-winner of the 1985 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (along with Mythago Wood, by Robert Holdstock), and it won the 1986 Mythopoeic Award for Best Fantasy Novel. It was the first of three novels in a series. The second book was The Story of the Stone (1988), and the third, Eight Skilled Gentlemen (1991). Subsequently, all three were collected as The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox (1998). With increasing disappointment with his publishers, he left the field. He gave few interviews, and for the most part didn't say much publicly about himself. But these stray comments can be used, along with genealogical resources, to give somewhat of an overview of his life.

He, and a twin brother Peter, were born in Peoria, Illinois, on 13 March 1934. He had a sister one year older, and a half-sister from his father's first marriage. His parents were John Harding Page Hughart, Jr. (1899-1963) and Annie Veronica Barry (1907-1977), who were married in Chicago in 1931. In the 1930 US Census, his father was listed as the manager of a lumber company, and in the 1940 US Census as a salesman for a pipe manufacturing company, while Hughart's Contemporary Authors entry notes his father was "a naval officer." (The father became a Captain in the U.S. Navy in World War II.) His mother (known familiarly as Veronica), according to her obituary in the Arizona Daily Star for 4 August 1977, was an artist, architectural designer, and former journalist. She had attended school in North Carolina, and lived in Illinois and Connecticut before moving to Arizona in 1941, where she operated a guest ranch near Bonita, Arizona, beginning in 1948.  She and her family moved to Tucson in 1951. In the early 1950s she wrote a syndicated newspaper column titled "What a Woman Thinks." 

Barry and his brother are known to have attended the Greenfield school in Arizona, and Barry also attended Andover in Connecticut, in the class of 1952. He went to Columbia University (A.B., 1956), and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1956-60. From 1960-63 he worked with a military surplus weapons supplier in the Near East, and from 1963-65 in the Far East. From 1965-70 he was manager at the Lenox Hill Book Shop in New York City, after which time he became a writer.

Hughart characterized his early life as follows in the flap copy of the 2008 Subterranean Press edition of the omnibus of The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox:
Barry Hughart, Fear magazine 1989

When I got out of Andover in the 1950s I suffered from fairly severe depression, but this was back when the only such term recognized by the medical profession was 'depressive' following 'manic' which was one bad gig until some genius renamed it 'bipolar disorder' and after that it couldn't harm a fly. Since I wasn't lucky enough to qualify for manic and clinical depression didn't exist they diagnosed schizophrenia and packed me off to a booby hatch. (Which was not entirely a bad thing. Man, the scene at Kings Count Psychotic Ward was like awesome!) Then I was promoted to a slightly less odorous asylum where Doctor Oscar Diethelm expounded upon the delights of going snickety-snick on my frontal lobes, and while it would take too long to explain I managed to escape to Columbia University. There I found myself groping through weird landscapes obscured by clouds of pot behind which pimpled prophets of the Beat Generation shrieked, 'Our minds destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked, dragging through black streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, or what the fuck, something like that. Yo, daddy-o!' and I said to myself, 'Barry, you have found a home.' 

When I wafted back into the world a few years later my depression was still there but I was allowed to prove my sanity by blowing things up for the U.S. Air Force. No, not Vietnam. Planting ingenious and mostly illegal mine fields around the eternal DMZ in Korea. Time passed but not much else. I moved to the Arizona/Sonoran Desert where I could live quietly, surrounded on all sides by prickly pear, cat's claw, devil's horns, barrel cactus, jumping cactus, and illegal immigrants. I still occasionally dreamed of bright flashes followed by BOOM! which was a shame because I had other memories of the Far East: good memories, warm memories, and in 1977—ten years before Prozac—I decided to use those and whatever else I could come up with to create an alternate world into which I could creep on dark and stormy nights and pull over my head like a security blanket. So I read a lot and scribbled a lot and gradually the land of Li Kao began to take shape. But the first draft of Bridge of Birds didn't really work and I couldn't see what was wrong, so I dumped it into a drawer for a few years. Then one day I read Lin Yutang's The Importance of Understanding and found the prayer to a little girl that I mention in a footnote in the final version. It made me realize that while I'd invented good things like monsters and marvels and mayhem the book hadn't really been about anything. I opened the drawer. 'Okay!' I said to myself. 'This book is going to be about love.' And so it is, and so are ones that followed

The original draft of The Bridge of Birds is online here.  It was printed as a standalone trade paperback volume to the slipcased edition, limited to 200 copies, of the 2008 Subterranean Press omnibus, The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox.

According to Hughart, the rewritten Bridge of Birds was turned down by 17 publishers before it finally sold to St. Martin's Press as a straight novel. A reader at Alfred Knopf returned the manuscript with a haughty comment: "This is not historically accurate!"  Hughart noted: "Paperback rights were sold to Del Rey thanks to Anne McCaffrey, who was solicited for a comment on the hardcover, loved the book, and later pressed it on to Judy-Lynn Del Rey in a New York taxi" (Locus, December 1985). Thus, rather reluctantly, he became a fantasy author, though he felt that his books were more adventure or detective stories. 

In an interview with Jerry Kuntz from January-February 2000, Hughart reflected: 

The master Li books were a tightrope act and hard to write, but not, alas, very remunerative. Still, I would have continued as originally planned if I'd had a supportive publisher: seven novels ending with my heroes' deaths in the battle with the Great White Serpent, and their elevation to the Great River of Stars as minor deities guaranteed to cause the August Personage of Jade almost as much trouble as the Stone Monkey. Unfortunately I had St. Martins, which didn't even bother to send a postcard when I won the World Fantasy Award; Ballantine, which was dandy until my powerhouse editor dropped dead and her successors forgot my existence; and Doubleday, which released The Story of the Stone three months before the pub date, guaranteeing that not one copy would still be on the shelves when reviews came out, published the hardcover and the paperback of Eight Skilled Gentlemen simultaneously, and then informed me they would bring out further volumes in paperback only, meriting, of course, a considerably reduced advance.

That put an end to the series, and one can't really blame Hughart for stopping.

There remain some mysteries of Hughart's bibliography yet to be solved.

In the Locus profile from December 1985, it states: The Bridge of Birds was “the first novel Hughart published under his own name, but he had previously written two pseudonymous novels which he now dismisses as ‘terrible—I’ve done with them and want to forget them.’” He clarified this a bit in his 1992 Contemporary Authors entry, noting he was "also author of screenplay for Bridge of Birds, and 'a couple of early novels under pseudonyms: out of print, unlamented, and the author prefers to forget them." But what are they about, and what are the pseudonyms?

In the profile of Hughart in the May/June 1989 issue of Fear, it is noted: “Despite the odd-job existence in the Far East, Hughart enjoyed writing: he did not intend to be a novelist but would have liked to have been a poet and, indeed, some of his verse did see publication.” Publication where? His Contemporary Authors entry notes that he was a "contributor of articles to periodicals, including Village Voice."  But none of these contributions are known.

Also in his Contemporary Authors entry, Hughart noted that he “worked as dialogue writer for films, including Devil’s Bride, Honeymoon with a Stranger, Man on the Move, The Other Side of Hell, Welcome Home Johnny Bristol, Snow Job, Special Effects, and When the Bough Breaks.  Some of these were released as films---e.g., Honeymoon with a Stranger (1969), Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol (1972), Snow Job (1972), but Hughart’s input was likely minimal. 

He did, however, write three known screenplays in this time period, whose copyright was registered with the Copyright Office in Washington, D.C.  These include “The Idol’s Eye” 68 pp., October 1970;  “Sing along with Billy Blake” 121 pp., including lyrics for one song, November 1971; and “Enemies of the People”  150 pp. March 1973.  All three are unproduced.

Again from his Contemporary Authors entry, he noted as his "work in progress": "Writing a novel, Dancing Girl, and preparing a screenplay for the work; continuously researching ancient China."  None of these ever appeared.

Finally, a recommendation for the Barry Hughart Bibliography, a website maintained by Mike Berro, an invaluable resource.  See here.  And it also hosts the interview with Hughart by Jerry Kuntz, January-February 2000, cited above.  Accessible here.



Friday, June 9, 2023

Richard Hodgens

Richard Hodgens (b. New Jersey, 7 August 1936; d. New Jersey, 23 June 1990)

Richard Hodgens is primarily remembered for his one book, a translation of part of Ariosto’s Orlando Furiosa that was published under the Ballantine Adult Fantasy imprint in 1973. Yet his wide-ranging interests and writings deserve more attention.

Richard Milton Hodgens was the middle of three children of Milton Gore Hodgens (1903-1972), a teacher at a trade school, and his wife, Loretta Loehnberg (1908-1988), who were married in Manhattan on 29 April 1929. Richard had a sister, Barbara, three years older, and another sister, Dale, seven years younger.

Richard was educated from the Glen Ridge High School, in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and at New York University (B.A. and M.A.). Around 1959 he had started working on the staff of a trade journal, Quick Frozen Foods, edited by Sam Moskowitz, who brought Hodgens into contact with more science fiction enthusiasts.

Previously, as he was finishing high school, Hodgens had published two short science fiction stories, “The Claws in Clausmas”(with John Kirwan, a close high school friend) in Universe Science Fiction for January 1955, which is a parodic look at the attempts to disrupt the sacred commerciality of the Clausmas (as a counter to Christmas, the religious holiday); and “For Glory and the Empire” in Spaceway for June 1955 (which had been submitted to the magazine in 1953). He also wrote and illustrated a children’s story set on Mars for his younger sister. He continued writing occasional science fiction through the 1960s, leaving a small number of unpublished stories and novellas. His final published story was “One by One” in the Magazine of Horror, no. 23 (September 1968), in which the final of the twelve men dedicated to Good is pursued by Evil.

Hodgens had more success with nonfiction. His first significant publication was “A Brief, Tragical History of the Science Fiction Film” in Film Quarterly, v. 13 no. 2 (1959). In 2016, when reprinted in Notions of Genre: Writings on Popular Film Before Genre Theory, edited by Barry Keith Grant and Malisa Kurtz, the editors wrote that Hodgens’s essay was “one of the first sustained critical attacks on the science fiction film as a debasement of the genre in comparison to its literary counterpart” (p. 150). Ray Bradbury wrote to Hodgens about this article on 17 December 1959: “When you speak of the film [The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms] as a ‘foolish fancy of Ray Bradbury’s’ you do me a terrible injury. The producers of that film purchased a short story of mine, ‘The Fog Horn’ … and only twenty seconds of my short story—I repeat, twenty seconds—appear.”

Hodgens in 1974
Hodgens contributed “Down with Dr. Strangelove and Other Political Science Fictions” to Tom Reamy’s Trumpet, no. 5 (April 1967) and “Notes on 2001: A Space Odyssey” to Trumpet, no. 9 (1969). Arthur C. Clarke commented on the latter in the next issue that “Hodgens’s article is one of the best I’ve read on the subject” (Trumpet, no. 10, 1969, p. 13). Hodgens had several letters of comment in Trumpet from 1965-1969, and contributed to Reamy’s other magazine, Nickelodeon, “Aristotle’s Word for Science Fiction Was Poesis” no. 2 (1976). In the late 1960s, Hodgens put together a portfolio of letters by and about Neil R. Jones (1909-1988), who is credited for the first use of the word “astronaut” in a story in 1930. This was never published.

Hodgens’s other significant body of criticism is on the science fiction stories of C.S. Lewis. Hodgens joined the New York C.S. Lewis Society at its founding, on 1 November 1969, and was a member for the remainder of his life. He contributed frequently to its Bulletin, both articles and book reviews.

Hodgens contacted Lin Carter in 1969 with a fan letter about Carter’s recently published Tolkien—A Look Behind “The Lord of the Rings”. They also discussed Carter’s anthology Dragons, Elves and Heroes, which came out in October 1969, and this brought about a casual discussion of the possibility of Hodgens translating a section of Orlando Furioso into prose for Carter’s in-progress anthology Golden Cities, Far. This, in turn, came out in October 1970. Carter included as the final selection a twenty-two page portion of Hodgens's translation of a section titled “The Palace of Illusion.” Carter also noted that if all were to go well, then Hodgens’s English prose translation would appear in 1971. But Ballantine’s precarious financial situation precluded this. The Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition of Orlando Furioso: The Ring of Angelica, Volume 1 finally came out in January 1973 (a reworked version of his “The Palace of Illusions” appears as part of chapter 12), the same month that the publisher was sold to Random House. A UK Pan/Ballantine edition appeared in September 1973. Carter’s introduction announced that Hodgens was now translating the entire book, and that “our new edition of Orlando Furioso will appear in several volumes, of which this is the first” (p. xvi). No further volumes were ever published, though rumors persisted that more of the translation had been completed. However, Hodgens's two sisters recall that while he had correspondence about other volumes, the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series was discontinued before anything was contracted. Hodgens felt that the published book should not have been credited as “translated” by him but rather as “paraphrased in English prose” by him. And though he had been schooled in Latin and Spanish, he had taught himself Italian via records that he checked out from the library in order to do the translation. 

Mark Valentine has written an appreciation of Hodgens's book at Wormwoodiana. 

Hodgens died on 23 June 1990, after having been diagnosed with a brain tumor. A piece by Mary Gehringer of The New York C.S. Lewis Society, “In Memory of Richard Hodgens,” noted his “wide range of interests, which also included kung fu movies, junk food, much early science fiction and the correspondence of Byron. . . . More than one of us discussed with Richard a favorite, long-remembered, and longed-for book only to have the volume arrive in the mail as a gift from Richard. . . . Richard’s humor was droll and could catch you unaware. He had unexpected whimsy. In a children’s story he wrote, the characters grow new clothes with each change of season, shedding their old ones, and thus never have to take baths” CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C.S. Lewis Society, no. 244 (dated February 1990, but not published until months later), p. 4.

*I am grateful to Dale F. Hodgens for sharing her memories of her brother.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

C. Armitage Harper

C. Armitage Harper (b. Harrison, Arkansas, 24 June 1905; d. Little Rock, 30 June 1975)

Clio Armitage Harper was the son of Clio Harper (1872-1932), at times a newspaper editor, and proprietor of a printing shop, and his wife, Zella Armitage (1876-1942), who were married in Harrison, Arkansas, on 26 September 1897. They had a daughter in 1899 who died in infancy; the son was their only other child. The father published several small booklets of poetry in the 1920s.

Little is known of the boy’s youth, but he was educated at the University of Arkansas (B.A., 1925) and Harvard University (M.A. 1927). He married [Grace] Eleanor Purifoy (1906-1983) in El Dorado, Arkansas, on 29 March 1928. He would follow his father and run a printing shop. Harper and his wife had three children, two sons and a daughter, the oldest of which was C. Armitage Harper, Jr., who has sometimes been confused with his father.

His first book, American Ghost Stories (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, [5 October] 1928), collects sixteen stories, with an introduction by the editor. Harper notes that the American contribution to the ghost story is to break it away from the conventional and to add humor, so he has included such stories by Mark Twain, Joel Chandler Harris, and Frank R. Stockton. The book also includes representative tales by Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Fitz-James O’Brien, Ambrose Bierce, Edith Wharton, Mary Wilkins Freeman, and F. Marion Crawford, among others, including Brander Matthews, Wilbur Daniel Steele, and Theodore Dreiser. Harper closes by saying that he has made an attempt to choose representatives of the various types: “from different sections of the country; tales of the sea; stories in dialect and with slang; tales perfect in exposition and technique, There are terrifying ghosts, malignant ghouls, ludicrous spectres . . .  Humorous stories have been interspersed among the tragic and horrific to allay the chill of terror which comes naturally . . . A happy balance of ghostland material has been attempted” (17). The book was published in England by Jarrolds in November 1929. It must not have sold well, for copies of both editions are scarce.

Harper also wrote The Story of Arkansas (1931), and, co-authored with L.A. Henry, Conservation in Arkansas (1939). 

Monday, December 26, 2022

Arthur A. Nelson

Arthur A. Nelson (b. Pentwater, Michigan, 24 December 1875; d. Ann Arbor, Michigan, 28 May 1917)

Arthur A. Nelson is known as the author of one single work, a four part serial "The Adventurers" which first appeared in the magazine Adventure from January through April 1915, and was collected in book form under the title Wings of Danger (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, [September] 1915). The story is a better-than-most lost race novel (clearly influenced by H. Rider Haggard), but not without its problems, and E.F. Bleiler accurately described it as "well-written pulp adventure, but cliched and disorganized in structure and incident." In the novel, a political race to claim land in East Africa for the English (led by pro-colonialist Cecil Rhodes) or by the Belgians (on order from the infamous King Leopold) brings about the discovery a lost race of ancient Norse descendants. The conflicts turn upon various love interests. The only hint about the author's identity occurs in the blurb for the story on the contents pages of the January issue of Adventure, where it refers to him as "a business man in a responsible position"--which isn't much to go on. 

Interestingly, Robert M. McBride & Company issued a special "Autograph Edition" of Wings of Danger with a tipped in page signed by the author, and including his photograph (see at the bottom of this entry). The novel was even serialized in at least two Canadian newspapers (The Manitoba Free Press and The Globe of Toronto) in July 1916. 

But the author himself proved very elusive, until a short profile, "Fascinating Story by a Type-Writer Man," was discovered in the December 1914 issue of Office Appliances, where it was revealed that Nelson was then the Advertising Manager of the Royal Typewriter Company. The profile includes the same photograph of Nelson as is found in the Autograph Edition of Wings of Danger, as well as a number of tantalizing if imprecise details:

He is the writer of the advertisements used by the Royal company in its last two advertising campaigns, introducing the new Royal Master Model No. 10, and promoting the development of the Royal business.

He won his way to his present position through the company's merit system. Starting as a salesman for the Royal . . . he was connected with one of the offices in the West. His good work as a salesman and his letters to the company upon matters of business led to his appointment as editor of the Royal Standard, the company's house organ. The excellence of his work in that capacity won for him his present position as advertising manager.

Arthur Nelson is one of the "Western brand of New Yorkers." He is of an adventurous disposition, and has spent much time in hunting and fishing in the woods of northern Michigan. He made good friends with the Ojibwa Indians, and learned to speak their language well, Years ago he was a police reporter on a metropolitan newspaper in the West; and city editor of a Michigan daily. All the while he utilized his spare time writing fiction and enjoying the unusual experience of selling everything he wrote. A number of his earlier stories were sold to the Frank A. Munsey people, and a serial to Street and Smith.*

The serial rights to "The Adventurers" were bought many months ago, for its publication in The Adventure magazine, before the story was actually completed.   

It is the biggest story from Mr, Nelson's pen, and is sure to give him a permanent place among writers of stories of adventure, One who read one of the manuscripts of "The Adventurers" said:

"It is far above the usual romance-adventure story as Stevenson's "Treasure Island" and should prove a rare delight to the lover of clean, idealistic romance, and new, surprising adventure. It re-echoes through its mysteries the days of the Dark Ages in a thundering clash with modern civilization. The characters move with a realism which quickly arouses the reader's sympathies, or the reverse. They are real people, in a real environment that makes the pages of "The Adventurers" pulsate with life throughout a swift, powerful action full of fascinating and natural incident.

The central character of the book is Cecil Rhodes, the British "Empire-Builder"; the other personages of the story run the gamut from an English "gentleman adventurer"--the hero--a French Marquis of the stuff of which D'Artagnan was made, a globe-trotting London savant, a "Kentucky widow," and some of the fairest heroines that were ever loved in books, to the Portuguese ex-artilleryman who manned the machine guns of the 'Black Company.' The final scene describes how the 'Black Company' held the fortress of Valkyria against the Red King's army and is a scene that powerfully grips the reader." 

More research has allowed these brief facts to be fleshed out. Arthur A. Nelson was born "Alfred Arthur Nelson" in 1875 in  Pentwater, Michigan, on the Lake Michigan coast to the south of Manistee. He was the youngest of eight children of Horatio James Nelson (1839-1924), who was born in Canada of paternal Scotch descent, and his wife, Margaret H., née Conlan (1839-1933), who was born in New York of paternal Irish descent; they married around 1860. The Nelson family emigrated from Canada to Pentwater around 1873, where Alfred Arthur and his one-year older brother were born.

Little is known of Nelson's youth or education, but he was known as "Fred Arthur Nelson"  or "Fred A. Nelson" from a young age. The story "Nadir Singh's Cavern" as by Fred A. Nelson in the June 1895 issue of The Argosy (a Munsey magazine; the story was reprinted in another Munsey magazine, The Quaker, for July 1899) is likely by him. Throughout his life he was itinerant. For some time through his youth he lived in Manistee, and it was there, at some point (perhaps in the 1890s), he was city editor of The Manistee Daily News. Around the 1890s his parents settled on the other side of Michigan, in Blaine, a small town (now extinct) in rural St. Clair County, to the northeast of Detroit and bordering on the southernmost tip of Lake Huron.

As Fred Arthur Nelson, he married Jeanette Caroline McConkey (1880-1954) in Mattoon, Illinois, on 22 June 1901. They would have two daughters (a third child did not live). The first daughter was born in Kentucky in 1901; the second in Michigan in 1907. By the 1910 Census the family was living in McAlester, Oklahoma. The Nelson family is found in the 1915 New York Census, living on West 70th Street in Manhattan, where Arthur's occupation is given as "Ad Manager." At this point he was certainly working for the Royal Typewriter Company, which had been founded in 1904 and which began operating in Brooklyn in 1906.  Nelson is credited as editing the house organ, The Royal Standard, which ran from about 1909 through 1926. Institutional holdings of this serial are scarce, especially for the years of 1914-1915 when Nelson was known to have been involved. Just when Nelson ceased employment with the Royal Typewriter Company is uncertain. Nelson died in Ann Arbor in the spring of 1917, of tuberculosis. He was buried in Blaine, Michigan. 

Aside of his novel (serialized in Adventure), and the one story in Argosy, no other publications are known, save for a small number of typewriting trade articles in the teens. One brief obituary states that he had "published several books including Wings of Danger, dealing with outdoor life," but none have been located. 

* Adventure was not a Street and Smith publication, which leaves open the possibility of another unknown serial by Nelson, perhaps published under a pseudonym.

Thanks to Kevin Cook for his interest and assistance with this entry.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

H.T.W. Bousfield

H.T.W. Bousfield (b. Sudbury, Derbyshire, 29 May 1891; d. reg. Kensington, London, Jan-March 1965)

Henry Thomas Wishart Bousfield was the second child (and only son) of the Rev. Stephen Bousfield (1850-1903), and his wife, Edith Mary Wishart (1859-1926), who were married on 8 April 1888 in Sudbury. Stephen Bousfield had been educated at St. John's College, Cambridge (B.A. 1872), and was ordained a deacon in 1881, and priest in 1882. He served as Curate of Plaistow, Essex, 1881-1883; Curate of Sudbury, Derbyshire, 1883-1898; and Rector of Shelton, Nottinghamshire, 1898-1903. 

Like his father, Henry went to Cambridge, but to Christ's College (B.A. 1912) instead of St. John's. Afterwards he was appointed Professor of History at the newly-formed Islamia College, Peshawar, North West Frontier, India. During the War he served in North Waziristan, France, and Mesopotamia. After leaving the Army in 1919, he went into business in London, working in advertising and as a bank manager. 

By 1913, he was publishing occasional poems and short stories, later appearing in other venues with occasional non-fiction (one piece, "A Coming Event Foreshadowed" in Pearson's Magazine, August 1919,  recounts Bousfield's occult experience during the war). Some short essays appeared as booklets, Elements of Effective Advertising (1924); RMS Queen Mary: The Ship of Beautiful Woods (c. 1935), an advertisement for the Cunard White Star Line of passenger ships; and It's Time to Think! How to Win the Peace (1943). The short stories for which he won acclaim began appearing in the 1930s, in Britannia and Eve, The Windsor Magazine, and Nash's-Pall Mall Magazine, and continued through the Second World War. Two books collecting his short stories, all competent commercial fiction, were Bousfield's main publications: The God with Four Arms and Other Stories (London: Arthur Barker, 1939), which contains eleven stories, and Vinegarand Cream (London: John Murray, 1941), which contains twenty-one.

After a few failed engagements (announced in newspapers in the early 1920s), Bousfield married Mary Adeline Guest (1904-1998) in 1929. They had no children. Bousfield died in London at the age of 73 in 1965 (not 1967 as is sometimes given). 

James Doig has collected eight short stories, comprising Bousfield's entire output of fantasy and weird fiction, from Bousfield's two collections, in The Unknown Island and Other Tales of Fantasy and the Supernatural (Ramble House, 2022). Bousfield's best tales concern the revival of pagan motifs in modern culture. "The Unknown Island" (Nash's-Pall Mall Magazine, May 1935) concerns the rediscovery of a gorgon on a Greek island, and is very similar to later stories like William Sambrot's "The Island of Fear" (1958) and C.S. Lewis's science fictional version (set on the Moon), "Forms of Things Unknown" (first published posthumously in 1966). (I have written about these stories previously here.) In "The God with Four Arms" a bronze image of Indra enacts a revenge. A few other stories are witchcraft themed. "The Impossible Adventure" is noteworthy in that it originally appeared in Weird Tales (November 1940), where it was accompanied by one illustration by Hannes Bok. In this story, a man visiting Greece find an injured  young centaur and, after nursing him back to health, takes him to Scotland, with disastrous results. "Death and the Duchess" is a tale of a kind of vampirism by blood transfusion. It was clearly inspired by "The Good Lady Ducayne" (1896) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.


Sunday, February 13, 2022

Alice Conger

Alice Conger (b. Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, 19 May 1908; d. Sauk City, Wisconsin, 6 November 1983)

A 1958 Bowling Team photo
Alice Josephine Conger was a school classmate of August Derleth. Both graduated from the Prairie du Sac High School in  June 1926. She went on to teach in nearby rural schools for about a decade. In 1936 she began doing research work for August Derleth, and this association continued until Derleth's death in 1971. It was evidently only part-time work, for her obituary notes that she also worked as a bookkeeper.

She typed many manuscripts for Derleth, and for Arkham House. In turn, when each new Arkham House book was published, as Derleth sent copies to authors to be signed and inscribed, he always requested one be inscribed to Alice Conger. Dozens of these have been sold at auction at premium prices. 

So far as I know, Conger never published anything, but her contribution to Arkham House was vital to its day-to-day operation. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Nicholas L. Brown

Nicholas L. Brown (b. Bialystock, Russia [now Poland], 5 October 1885; d. Philadelphia, 17 November 1947) 

Nicholas Leon Brown was the second son of Leon Brown (1862-1922) and his wife Anna Helen Brown (1861-1939). He had one older brother, two younger brothers, and two younger sisters. 

He immigrated to the United States in October 1902, at the age of 17, and within a few years had set up a bookshop in Philadelphia at 5th and Pine Street (where around 1904 or 1905 the future publisher E. Haldeman-Julius bought a pamphlet edition of Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol and mused about how thousands of such booklets could be made available--it was the germ idea of Haldeman-Julius's famous series of booklets that began in 1919 and became known after 1923 as the "Little Blue Books"). 

Nicholas L. Brown remained primarily a bookseller for the rest of his life.  He married Anna Koren (1886-1961), another immigrant from Bialystock, in Brooklyn on 1 June 1910. They would have three children, Constance Ruth Brown (1914-1919), Daniel Coleman Brown (1921-1999), and Ruth N. Brown (1925-2005). 

In the early teens, Brown began publishing books, as privately printed limited editions of what passed in those years as classical erotica. By 1916, he was publishing some books under his own name as publisher, first in Philadelphia, and after a move in 1918 in New York. His publishing list was never large, but included volumes of poetry, belles lettres, and translations. Brown published most of the output of Mitchell S. Buck, a Philadelphia heating engineer who translated classical erotica, and wrote modern works on classical themes. His volume Afterglow: Pastels of Greek Egypt 69 B.C. (1924) was published by Brown and includes a preface by Arthur Machen.  I have written more fully of Buck and his publications in an entry at Lesser-Known Writers. Brown also published in 1918 a reprint of Sonnets from the Pantagonian (originally 1914) by Philadelphian Donald Evans, and Precipitations (1920), a book of poems by the modernist Evelyn Scott (Scott would marry the British weird fiction writer John Metcalfe in 1930, after five years together as a couple). Other publications include a limited edition of Samuel Putnam's translation of Claude Farrère's Fumée d'opium, as Black Opium (1929), and the occult novel Souls in Hell (dated 1924, but published in December 1923), by John O'Neill, which sports a dust-wrapper blurb by Arthur Conan Doyle. 

In February 1931, Brown's bookstore in New York was robbed of rare books and letters valued at $5,000.  The letters included ones by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Woodrow Wilson, Charles Dickens, and Daniel Webster. Brown's publishing activities seem to have ceased in 1932, and by 1935 he had moved back to Philadelphia where he remained for the rest of his life. Brown died of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 61.