Wednesday, December 28, 2011

C. Bryson Taylor

C. Bryson Taylor  (b. Washington, D.C., 7 March 1880; d. New York, c. 9 June 1936)

Charlotte Bryson Taylor was the daughter of John Yeatman Taylor (1829-1911) and Sabella Barr Bryson (1846-1919).  She had a younger brother Andrew Bryson Taylor (1883-1909).  Her father had been medical director of the United States Navy, and retired in 1891 with the rank of Rear Admiral.  Charlotte was educated at private schools in the District of Columbia and in Connecticut.  Her first story appeared in The Overland Monthly in 1898, and by 1900 her newspaper and magazine work had become regular. She always signed her work “C. Bryson Taylor”, presumably to disguise her gender. Based out of Washington D.C., and later out of New York, she published over the span of about a decade numerous stories and articles in popular magazines, most notably in Everybody’s Magazine, but also in Munsey’s Magazine, All-Story Magazine, The Cosmopolitan Magazine and The Delineator

Taylor’s first novel was In the Dwellings of the Wilderness (New York:  Henry Holt, 1904), a short fantasy in which archeologists Deane and Merritt and their men unearth the mummy of a high ranking woman from its sealed tomb in Egypt. The evidence suggests that she was walled-in while alive, behind a door marked “forbidden”, in order to trap the devil soul that possessed her.  The next morning the mummy has disappeared—soon afterwards a beautiful woman tries to lure some of the men into the desert. Those who follow her are never seen again. The leader Deane gets lost searching for one of his men, and is attacked by something which bites his shoulder, attempting to suck his blood.  Deane escapes, but the next day he and the expedition leave the desert to its secrets.  This short novel, published in April 1904, is well-written and evocative, an understated but atmospheric tale perhaps influenced by Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars, published in England in June 1903. 

Taylor’s second novel, Nicanor: Teller of Tales (Chicago: A.C. McClurg, 1906), was illustrated by Troy and Margaret West Kinney, and it is a more ambitious enterprise, if a less lasting one. Set in Britain during the Roman occupation, it tells of Nicanor, the son of a peasant. Nicanor becomes enraptured by the story of the Christ-child, and in retelling it becomes a captivating storyteller himself.  The book was well received at the time of its publication.

Taylor’s brother was killed in an automobile accident in 1909. In 1911, her father, after some years of declining health, shot himself in the head.  Taylor’s published output ceased, and for a while she worked on the staff of Everybody’s Magazine, to which she had been a regular contributor. Taylor married Anderson Oakes Randall (c. 1882-1917) in November 1912.  After her husband’s death in New York in May 1917, she disappeared from public life, and died in early June 1936. She was buried in the family plot near her husband and mother in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn on June 13, 1936.

NB: An earlier version of this entry appeared in my column “Notes on Neglected Fantasists”, Fastitocalon no. 2 (2010). 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

G. S. Tancred

G. S. Tancred (b. Christchurch, New Zealand, 19 October 1868; d. Kensington, London, 8 February 1959)

Gwendoline Sybil Tancred was the second of six children of Sir Thomas Selby Tancred (1840-1910), a railway and mining engineer, after 1880 the 8th Baronet of Boroughbridge in the County of York, and Mary Harriet Hemans (1846-1918). Gwendoline had one older sister, two younger sisters and two younger brothers. Her family moved back to England when she was young, and Gwendoline was educated at Fauconberg House, the Cheltenham Ladies’ College in Gloucestershire. Of her sisters, Edith Mary Tancred (1873-1953) was active in the women’s police service.  Her brother Thomas Selby Tancred (1870-1945) became the 9th Baronet. He married the eldest daughter of Sir John Grant Lawson, the 1st Baronet of Knavesmire, and in 1914 assumed by deed poll the name Sir Thomas Selby Lawson-Tancred.  Her other brother Francis Willoughby Tancred (1874-1925), dabbled in poetry, and was a member of the Poets’ Club established by T. E. Hulme.  As F.W. Tancred, he published a single, slim volume Poems in 1907. 

 G. S. Tancred also published a single book, an anthology of poetry, Realities: An Anthology of Verse (Leeds: At the Swan Press, London: Gay and Hancock Limited, 1927), which is most notable for the inclusion of an original poem “The Nameless Land” by J. R. R. Tolkien (reprinted, for those interested in reading it, in The Lost Road, pp. 98-100, published in 1987). A slim book of only 32 pages, it contains 21 poems (plus verse by the editor used as epigram).  Compiled as a benefit anthology for the Queen’s Hospital for Children in Hackney, Bethnal Green.  The hospital had originally been founded under another name by two Quaker sisters in 1867, becoming the Queen’s Hospital for Children in 1907.  In 1942 it amalgamated with another hospital to become Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital for Children, operating until 1996 when services were moved elsewhere and the buildings left vacant. Realities is dedicated by Tancred to her nephews and nieces; she never married.

The Swan Press was a small publishing outfit run in Leeds from 1922 through 1929 by S[ydney] Matthewman (1902-1970), whose father ran a printing firm.  Many of the five or so dozen publications that issued from the Swan Press were poetry collections, often written by Matthewman himself or some of his friends; some of the chapbooks had very small limitations. Many names recur in the various little collections, like Wilfred Rowland Childe, Alberta Vickridge, Lorna Keeling Collard, Lady Margaret Sackville, Albert Wainwright (for art and decorations), and even J. R. R. Tolkien.  In Realities, there are two poems by S. Matthewman, two by Alberta Vickridge, and one each by Wilfred Rowland Childe, and Margaret Sackville.  As "Gwendoline S. Tancred" the editor contributed three poems (plus the epigrammatical verse).  Other better-known contributors include Oliver St. John Gogarty, L.A.G. Strong, and Evelyn Underhill.  The poem by G.K. Chesterton is reprinted from his volume Poems (1915). Several of the Swan Press volumes issued in 1927 and 1928 were co-published with the London firm Gay and Hancock. 

The frontispiece (no artist is credited) illustrates the editor's epigrammatical poem, which reads in part:
Now wireless with music the world has united
     To England, Dominions, and Youth,
May the earth by our words, our deeds, and our writings,
     Be ringed by Love, Beauty and Truth.  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Emily Plenderleath Harrison

Emily Plenderleath Harrison (b. reg. Hart, Durham, Oct.-Dec. 1843; d. reg. Windsor, Berkshire, Oct.-Dec. 1933)

Emily Plenderleath Harrison was the fourth of eleven daughters of William Gorst Harrison (1803-1891), the oldest of five sons of shipbroker William Harrison of Thornhill, Sunderland. In a brief introduction to her sole book, The Lion’s Birthday (Eton, London, and Colchester: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co., [1920]), Harrison notes that the book was written by her sister and herself more than sixty years earlier (i.e., before 1860), and though she admitted to collaboration, she did not name any one of her sisters on the title page as co-author.  This short children’s book contains illustrations by Dora Barks, and a one-paragraph “Foreword” by M.R. James, the noted ghost story writer, then Provost of Eton College. Harrison worked at Eton College from around 1890, and from that work came her association with James. Harrison never married, and died in late 1933, aged 89.

The Lion’s Birthday is a story told in forty verses, each containing four lines.  The story tells of the Lion, who in order to celebrate the ten years he has been monarch of the wood and plain, sends out invitations to the various animals to join him for a party. Not all the animals are eager:

The Elephant, in private, thought
That it would be an awful bore;
But yet he thought he ought to go
As he had never been before.

The Tigers, Wolves and Panthers said
“Pray tell the Lion we’ll be charmed.”
The Stags (poor things!) replied the same,
But inwardly they felt alarmed.

The monkeys are excited, the sheep are shy (fearing that the Wolves surely would be there), the Bears and Leopards were delighted.  Alas, the party does not work out so well, for the Tiger is tempted by the Deer and kills her, breaking everything up, and some animals giving chase to the murderer.

James ironically calls the story a “pleasant ballad” in his foreword.

NB: A slightly different version of this entry previously appeared at here at Wormwoodiana. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bassett Morgan

Bassett Morgan (b. Chatham, Ontario, 26 November 1884; d. Alameda, California, 28 January 1977)

"Bassett Morgan" and Forrest J. Ackerman
Grace Ethel Jones was the daughter of British-born parents, Edwin Bassett Jones (1846-1916) and Emily Dunkley (1851-1926), whose families emigrated to Canada when they were very young. Grace Jones had two older brothers; the family grew up in Chatham, in southwestern Ontario, where Edwin Jones was Waterworks Superintendent and City Engineer. Grace Jones married Thomas Russell Morgan (1881-1930s?) on 20 August 1905; the couple had one daughter and one son. They emigrated to the United States around 1918, settling in Alameda, California, where Grace Jones Morgan died in 1977 at the age of 92.

Bassett Morgan's first cover
illustration, September 1927 
She is best remembered as a contributor to Weird Tales, in whose pages she published thirteen stories, between 1926 and 1936, under the pen-name “Bassett Morgan,” which was made up of her father’s middle name combined with her own married name.  And though she also contributed to Ghost Stories, most of her writing appeared outside the weird-fiction field in periodicals ranging from The Royal Magazine, Cassell’s Magazine, The Smart Set, Argosy, All-Story, Munsey’s Magazine, Sea Stories, Boy’s Life, Woman’s Journal, Top Notch, and Black Mask, among many others.  She also published three novels, two under her real name and the third under her pseudonym.     

The 1928 New York edition
of Morgan's first book
Salvage All (New York: Thomas Crowell, 1928; London: Grant Richards, 1928), as by Grace Jones Morgan, concerns a young street waif at a British Columbia seaport, and the men who seek to aid or abuse her.  Tents of Shem (London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, 1930), also published as by Grace Jones Morgan, is a complicated story of a reckless young woman, born of an old Irish family and a San Francisco dancing girl with lax morals, who could not escape her heritage. The Golden Rupee (London: John Long, 1935), as by Bassett Morgan, is a South Sea adventure of young Captain Paradise, who murders a leper and takes the man’s treasure, including an intricately beautiful model of a ship called the “Golden Rupee.”  Captain Paradise has a vessel built to this design, but he is fated never to sail in it, as he is killed by a rival the night before his wedding, and his rival takes the ship. However, the ghost of Captain Paradise still rules over the lives of those who had known him, with tragic results. 

In 1974, under her full name Grace Jones Morgan she introduced and self-published an edition limited to one hundred numbered copies of her father’s autobiography, The Recollections of Edwin Bassett Jones.  This gives some accounts of his amateur archeological work, including his finds of Indian artifacts and of a mastodon.

NB: An earlier version of this entry appeared in my column “Notes on Lost and Forgotten Writers” in All Hallows no. 42 (October 2006). 

Morgan's second and last
cover illustration , January 1935 
A Bibliography of Bassett Morgan's weird fiction: 

            Weird Tales, January 1929
            Donald A. Wollheim, ed. Avon Fantasy Reader 10 (1949)
Black Bagheela
            Weird Tales, January 1935
The Demon Doom of N’Yeng Sen
            Weird Tales, August 1929
The Devils of Po Sung
            Weird Tales, December 1927
            T. Everett Harré, ed. Beware After Dark! (1929)
            Christine Campbell Thomson, ed. By Daylight Only (1929)
            Weird Tales, March 1939
            Kurt Singer, ed. Satanic Omnibus (1973)
            Kurt Singer, ed. Shriek (1974)
Gray Ghouls
            Weird Tales, July 1927
            Weird Tales, September 1939
            Donald A. Wollheim, ed. Avon Fantasy Reader 15 (1951)
The Head
            Weird Tales, February 1927
The Island of Doom
            Weird Tales, March 1932
            Christine Campbell Thomson, ed. Grim Death (1932)
            Christine Campbell Thomson, ed. Not at Night (Arrow, 1960)
            Weird Tales, July 1926
            Christine Campbell Thomson, ed. You'll Need a Night Light (1927)
            Herbert Asbury, ed. Not at Night! (1928)
            Weird Tales, December 1937
            Hugh Lamb, ed. Star Book of Horror No. 2 (1976)
            Weird Tales, November 1936
The Punishment of Barney Muldoon
            Ghost Stories, October 1929 
            Mike Ashley, ed. Phantom Perfumes and Other Shades (2000)
The Skeleton under the Lamp
            Weird Tales, May 1928
           Strange Stories, March 1932

            Startling Mystery Stories, Spring 1969
Tiger Dust
            Weird Tales, April 1933
            Christine Campbell Thomson, ed. Keep on the Light (1933)
            Donald A. Wollheim, ed. Avon Fantasy Reader 12 (1950)
            Weird Tales, January 1954
            Short Stories, Feb. 1959
The Vengeance of Ti Fong
            Weird Tales, December 1934
The Wolf Woman
            Weird Tales,  September 1927
            Robert Weinberg, ed. The Eighth Green Man and Other 
                            Strange Folk (1989)
            Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dzemianowicz, Martin H. 
                           Greenberg, eds. Weird Vampire Tales (1992)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Robert Emmett McDowell

Robert Emmett McDowell (b. Sentinel, Oklahoma, 5 April 1914; d. Louisville, Kentucky, 29 March 1975)

Robert Emmett McDowell was the eldest of two children, the only son of Robert Chester McDowell (1886-1971) and [Alice] Lucile Furnas (1884-1965). His sister was Sara Jean McDowell (1917-1994).  Their mother, Lucile Furnas, was the first cousin of Wilna Ensley (1884-1971), the mother of writer Evangeline Ensley (1907-1996), who wrote as “Evangeline Walton”. Thus Robert Emmett McDowell and Evangeline Ensley, sharing the same great-grandparents,  were second cousins.  They certainly knew one another’s writings, for the older members of their families kept in close contact, and in a letter from 1978 Walton named McDowell an example of another writer in her extended family.

McDowell is remembered primarily as a Kentucky historian, but he got his start writing for the pulp magazines.  Though born in Oklahoma, his family shortly thereafter removed to Louisville, where the McDowell family had strong ancestral ties. McDowell remained based in Louisville for the rest of his life.  He was educated at the Du Pont Manual High School and attended the University of Louisville for 1935-36. On August 31, 1940, he married Audrey Adams (1919-2004), who worked for many years with the Talking Book Department of the American Printing House for the Blind, before becoming a copywriter for advertising agencies. They had one son, Robert Emmett McDowell, Jr. 

McDowell served in the Merchant Marines during World War II, visiting much of Europe and northern Africa in the process. It was late in the war that McDowell started writing.  His first story was bylined with his full name, but after that, and throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he signed his work “Emmett McDowell”, returning to the use of his full name in the 1960s. 

Planet Stories, Winter 1945, cover
for McDowell's "The Great Green Blight"
Between 1945 and 1954 McDowell published just under forty stories and novelettes in the pulp magazines.  The first was a science fiction tale, “The Happy Castaways”, in the Spring 1945 issue of Planet Stories, McDowell’s most fruitful venue.  Ten further stories would appear in this magazine through 1950.  McDowell sold three stories to Amazing Stories, at least one (“The Wandering Egos” April 1948) to editor Ray Palmer, with one to his successor Howard Browne (“What Price Gloria?” July 1951), and one (“Hereafter” April 1950) that appeared in an interim issue that could have been bought by either editor. Another tale appeared in Startling Stories (“Realities Unlimited, July 1948), and McDowell also sold a single story to John W. Campbell at Astounding Science Fiction, “Veiled Island” in the January 1946 issue. (This is one of the few McDowell stories to have been reprinted—Groff Conklin used it in his 1955 anthology Science Fiction Adventures in Mutation.)  

Of his writing career, McDowell wrote in a profile in Planet Stories (Spring 1948): “I like to write.  I haven’t any axe to grind, unless it’s about people who think a story should fulfill some purpose other than entertainment. ‘Didn’t you enjoy it?’ That should be the final criterion. I’d like to be able to write stories that you couldn’t put down and that you regretted coming to an end.”

McDowell’s versatility is shown by his contributions to other genre magazines, like Jungle Stories (adventure tales set in Africa), Frontier Stories (westerns), and Action Stories (action adventures).  Jungle Stories was McDowell’s second-most prolific outlet—he published seven stories in the magazine between 1946 and 1949.  Jungle Stories, Frontier Stories, Action Stories, as well as Planet Stories, were all owned by one publishing firm, Fiction House, so it seems likely that McDowell benefited from good relations with some in-house editor, for more than half of his pulp stories appeared in Fiction House magazines. 

In 1949 McDowell broke into Adventure, then still one of the most prestigious pulp magazines, with two stories (“Master Thee ad’ Thou” October 1949; and “Cave-Inn Rock” July 1950). Also in 1949, he began to shift over to the writing of detective fiction, with two stories in Detective Tales (“Charge Off the Body!” May 1949; and “Somebody Killed My Gal!” September 1949).  Others mysteries appeared in Popular Detective (“Dames Have Two”, July 1952) and McDowell’s final two pulps stories were in Triple Detective (“All She Wants Is Money” Summer 1953; and “The Tattooed Nude” Winter 1954). 

McDowell turned to mass-market publishing in the mid-1950s, as the pulp magazines were dying out.  His first book, Switcheroo (New York: Ace Books, 1954), was one half of an Ace Double (D51), with Lawrence Treat’s  Over the Edge the corresponding other half of the paperback.  McDowell authored both halves of his other Ace Doubles (D-329 and D-445):  Three for the Gallows / Stamped for Death (New York:  Ace Books, 1958), and Bloodline to Murder / In the Kill (New York: Ace Books, 1960).  All of these are detective stories, and several have the recurring character Jonathan Knox, besides being set in Kentucky.
Front and rear covers for Ace Double D-445

In the 1950s McDowell became increasing interested in Kentucky history, particularly that of the Louisville area. He joined The Filson Club in May 1956, and was a devoted member for the rest of his life.  The Filson Club—now called The Filson Historical Society—was founded in 1884 and works to preserve the history, tradition and culture of Kentucky and the Ohio valley.

McDowell’s first hardcover book (and from here on he mostly used as byline his full-name) was the historical adventure novel Tidewater Sprig (New York:  Crown, 1961), which is set in the pioneer days in Kentucky when the salt found locally in licks (particularly Bullett Lick to the south of Louisville) was a vital and valuable resource for the preservation of food.  His next book, City of Conflict (Louisville: Louisville Civil War Round Table, 1962), is a nonfiction study of Louisville during the Civil War. McDowell’s play, “Home Is the Hunter”, about the establishment of the first permanent settlement in Kentucky in 1774 at Harrod’s Town, was performed each summer in modern Harrodsburg from 1963-65, and it proved popular. A historical novel about Daniel Boone, Portrait of a Victim (New York:  Avalon Books, 1964), also appeared at this time.  He contributed numerous article on historical subjects to The Louisville Courier-Journal Magazine, The Louisville Magazine, and The Filson Club History Quarterly

McDowell returned to the mystery genre with The Hound’s Tooth (New York:  William Morrow / M. S. Mill, 1965), as by Robert McDowell, with what was to be the first of a series centering on Floyd Bowman, a deputy in the Kentucky State Police.  Though McDowell was reported to be working on a follow-up titled The Sour Mash, it never appeared.  His final book was a guidebook, Re-discovering Kentucky: A Guide for Modern-Day Explorers (Frankfort, KY: Kentucky Department of Parks, 1971). In 1971 McDowell became the editor of publications at The Filson Club, a position he held until his death four years later, less than one week short of his sixty-first birthday. He was buried in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville. His widow, in her retirement, worked as an archivist at The Filson Club, where the bulk of McDowell’s papers are now housed. 

Update, 26 August 2016:  McDowell's science fiction story "The Great Green Blight" has just been reprinted in Pulp Adventures #22 (Summer 2016).  Check it out here at Amazon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Joseph A. Margolies

Joseph A. Margolies (b. Brest-Litovsk, Russia, 25 December 1889; d. West Hartford, Connecticut, 22 June 1982)

Joseph Aaron Margolies emigrated from Russia to the United States when he was twelve. In 1906 he became an office boy and assistant librarian at the Rand School of Social Science in New York.  In 1912 he began his career in bookselling at Brentano's.  He was a buyer for the New York store from 1923 to 1929, when he left Brentano's to become sales manager of the Covici-Friede publishing house.  After that publisher went under in 1938, Margolies returned to Brentano's, where, from 1944-47, he also served as director of the Council of Books in Wartime. In 1945-46 he additionally served as president of the American Booksellers Association. In 1951 Margolies left Brentano's to join the publisher Wilfred Funk Inc. as an executive vice-president. In 1955 he took over the management of the World Affairs Center Bookshop of the Foreign Policy Association and of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, retiring in 1960.  On June 30, 1914, he married Bertha Heft; they had two children, daughter Helen (Mrs. Leo Rifkin) and son Peter.  Though he resided in Manhattan, Margolies died in a Connecticut nursery home at the age of 92, survived by his second wife Hermine.

Margolies published only one book, the anthology Strange and Fantastic Stories: Fifty Tales of Terror, Horror and Fantasy (New York:  Whittlesey House, 1946).  The dust-wrapper blurb describes this volume as representing "the secret pasttime of a bookseller's lifetime. . . .  The fifty selections were chosen from over 500 outstanding stories over a period of many years." The selections are first-rate, and the anthology must have seemed at the time of publication to be a cornucopia---even though it was oddly arranged by having the stories presented alphabetically by author. Christopher Morley provided a typically breezy Introduction about how his friend of more than three decades, old Joe Margolies, had at last managed to get Morley to introduce his book, despite Morley being late in delivering promised manuscripts to several other publishers.  It is unfortunate that Margolies himself contributed nothing beyond the selection---no foreword, no notes, not even a discussion of his principles of selection.  One feels the absence, and despite the high quality of the selected stories we as readers would like to have had some peek behind the scenes about how Margolies went about his task of compilation.

In 1948 Margolies returned the favor to Morley by writing an Introduction to the first combined edition of Morley's two classics Parnassus on Wheels & The Haunted Bookshop (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1948). (Despite the title, The Haunted Bookshop, originally published in 1919, is not a supernatural story---the proprietor/bookseller calls his shop haunted because the spirits of the great from literature live on there.) Margolies noted perceptively that "only his success as a writer of books kept Christopher Morley from becoming a great seller of books. In these books he shows a love and knowledge of the book business which only a few of us professionals possess."

In the mid-1950s, Margolies began a book on the history of the book business in America to cover the years from 1900 to 1950---a subject about which he was especially qualified to write.  Unfortunately the book was never completed. Of his own experiences from his many years as a bookseller, he left only an oral history interview, conducted in 1971 by Michael Kraus, as part of the Oral History project at Columbia University.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bernadine Bailey

Bernadine Bailey (b. Mattoon, Illinois, 12 November 1901; d. Illinois, 21 October 1995)

Bernadine Bailey (née Freeman) spent most of her life in the Chicago area, save for the time she was away at school (Wellesley College, B.A.; University of Chicago, M.A.; and Sorbonne, University of Paris, certificate), and a period she spent in Indianapolis after her marriage to hospital scientist John Hays Bailey. By the mid-1930s she was back in Chicago, where she worked for various publishers and as a free-lance writer.  For a time she was directing staff editor for Childcraft, a long popular educational series for children published first by W.F. Quarrie Co. and afterwards by Field Enterprises (later bought out by World Book). From the 1930s through the 1970s he published a huge number of nonfiction books for children (some by-lined Bernadine Freeman Bailey), one of the earliest being The Follett Picture-Story Book of Indians (1936). 

It was probably during her time in Indianapolis around 1930 that she became friends with Evangeline Ensley (1907-1996), who wrote as "Evangeline Walton". When Ensley was visiting Chicago in the summer of 1935, it was Bernadine Bailey who took her to meet Llewellyn Jones (1884-1961), then the literary editor at Willett, Clark and Company.  Jones was initially wary of the young woman and her manuscript (afterwards saying that he feared she was a schoolteacher, and he'd just read another schoolteacher's manuscript and hadn't liked it), but when he and others in the firm came to read the manuscript of The Virgin and the Swine (more familiarly known to modern readers as The Island of the Mighty as it was retitled when it was republished in 1970), they were impressed and brought out the first edition in November 1936.  Llewellyn Jones took a great interest in Miss Ensley, and planned to publish her novel Witch's House* in the fall of 1937, and was impressed with some of her short stories, a volume of which he thought would enhance her reputation as a writer. Alas, none of these plans came to pass, for relations with Willett, Clark soured very abruptly around May 1937, after Ensley made a visit to Chicago and stopped at her publishers, presumably to inquire why she had never been paid.  It was the first of her many disappointments with publishers. Llewellyn Jones also left Willett, Clark later that year. In 1946 Bernadine Bailey assisted Ensley in recovering the copyright of The Virgin and the Swine from Willett, Clark, two years before the remaining assets of the firm were sold off to Harpers.

Bernadine Bailey and Evangeline Ensley remained good friends.  The scans accompanying this entry are taken from items sent to Ensley by Bailey (courtesy of Louise Hammond).

*Published as Witch House by August Derleth's Arkham House in 1945.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Peter Penzoldt

Peter Penzoldt (b. Munich, Germany, 18 January 1925; d. Geneva, Switzerland, 21 August 1969)

Peter Penzoldt was the son of Fritz Penzoldt (1888-1959) and the famous Wagnerian contralto Sigrid Onégin (1889-1943), whose first husband had been the great Russian impressario Eugen Borisowitsch Onégin (1888-1919). Fritz Penzoldt was a medical doctor who also wrote novels and who published, in 1939, a biography of his wife. His brother was Ernst Penzoldt (1892-1955), an artist, sculptor and writer, well-known in Germany. As a young boy Peter often stayed with his uncle while his mother was on tour. His family settled in Switzerland in the early 1930s.
The dust-wrapper of the 1952 first edition.
Peter Penzoldt’s doctoral thesis at the University of Geneva, The Supernatural in Fiction was written when he was twenty-four and published three years later; it was the major professional publication of his life. After receiving his degree, he taught for a year in Geneva, and married Rachel Vallette, with whom he had one daughter, Silviane.  He came to America in 1950, and taught for two years at San Francisco State College. In 1951 he became a naturalized American citizen.  The following year his thesis appeared in book form, and he accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Classics and German at Sweet Briar College in Virginia.  In 1954 he moved to the Modern Language Department at Sweet Briar, where he remained for the rest of his life. After his father’s death, he donated a large collection of his mother’s songs, recordings, scores and books to the Sweet Briar College Library.  He became a full professor in 1962, and in 1965 The Supernatural in Fiction was reprinted by the Humanities Press of New York. Penzoldt died while visiting his wife’s family in Geneva in August 1969.
The Supernatural in Fiction was published by Peter Nevill of London on the recommendation of Algernon Blackwood, who had recently issued two books with Nevill, the omnibus Tales of the Uncanny and the Supernatural (in October 1949), and a new edition (adding photographs) of Blackwood’s autobiography, Episodes before Thirty (published March 1950).  The Supernatural in Fiction was dedicated to Blackwood, who had come to know Penzoldt in Switzerland in 1949, some months after they had begun corresponding. Sadly, Blackwood died in December 1951 before he could see the finished book, which appeared the following year.  A number of Blackwood’s letters to Penzoldt are quoted in the book, giving a valuable perspective and authority to the coverage of Blackwood’s writings. Penzoldt also gives credit for assistance to August Derleth, Edward Wagenknecht, and other noted anthologists, so he seems to have been particularly enterprising in his research, and the end-result is the better for his diligence. 
            Penzoldt’s approach to the genre was, for its time, unusually thorough, concentrating on English and American short stories.  His book is divided into two parts—the first covering the structure and motifs of supernatural stories, and the second devoted to specific practitioners, like Le Fanu, Kipling, M. R. James, and Walter de la Mare.  One chapter is devoted to Blackwood, whom Penzoldt called “the greatest of them all.” Machen and Lovecraft, among others, are covered in a chapter devoted to “The Pure Tale of Horror.”
Penzoldt’s book followed two other pioneering studies, The Supernatural in Modern Fiction (1917) by Dorothy Scarborough, and The Tale of Terror (1921) by Edith Birkhead.  All three books have flaws, but each contains material of value for the modern reader and critic of supernatural fiction.  Penzoldt has his own idiosyncrasies. He seems at times too technically analytic (though these details remain valuable), and seems at other times too Freudian, while his high-handed dismissal of stories containing descriptions of sadism, like Kipling’s “The Mark of the Beast,” seems puritanical to the modern reader:  “How such tales can be constantly republished in the face of the laws against pornography is an unsolved mystery.”  Fortunately such critical lapses are not common, and Penzoldt closes with a more sensible affirmation:  “I wish most of all that this book should do something to affirm the dignity of the weird tale, that it should show that some of the best modern literature has appeared in this form” (p. 256).  These are sentiments with which most of Penzoldt’s readers will agree. 

Blanche Bloor Schleppey

Blanche Bloor Schleppey (b. near Edinburgh, Indiana, 8 August 1861; d. Indianapolis, Indiana, 13 February 1927)

A Hoosier writer of short stories and newspaper features, Blanche D. Bloor was born near Edinburgh, Indiana, on 8 August 1861, and educated at the Oldenburg Academy, a Catholic high school. She married John Hart Schleppey (1861-1946) in 1887, and moved to Crawfordsville, where she lived across the street from Lew Wallace, the Civil War general and author of Ben Hur (1880).  Moving to Indianapolis in 1893, Schleppey began to write illustrated feature articles for the Indianapolis Sentinel and other newspapers.  She was also active in women’s clubs in the city.   

Her only book was the now very rare short story collection, The Soul of a Mummy and Other Stories (1908).  Privately printed and self-published, it contains eleven stories, most of which, despite the book’s title, are only marginally weird. (The title story concerns a bachelor sent to Cairo to procure a mummy for a private collection.  A young woman escapes her father by hiding in the mummy case.  The bachelor helps her and they marry.)  Schleppey was ill with a tumor and confined to her home for the last ten years of her life.  She died in a hospital in Indianapolis in February 1927 at the age of sixty-five. She is buried at the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. 

Her final publication, a “Sonnet to My Doctor”, appeared in Indiana Poetry (1925), compiled by Eletha Mae Taylor.  Her only child, son Bloor Schleppey (1888-1975), was a newspaper reporter for the Keith Syndicate, and later became nationally-known as a strike-breaker for newspaper publishers. In 1973 he self-published a small book, Plow Deep and Straight, a selection from his weekly newspaper column, “The Furrow”, which had appeared in The Zionsville Times of Zionsville, Indiana, from 1935-1971.  The columns are deeply conservative politically, a label of which Bloor Schleppey was quite proud.

Despite the dates of the columns being given on the cover as beginning in 1921, the columns range from 1935-1971

NB: An earlier version of this entry appeared in my column "Notes on Lost and Forgotten Writers" in All Hallows, no. 42 (October 2006). 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dorothy M. Grobe Litersky

Dorothy M. Grobe Litersky (b. Wisconsin, 29 February 1916; d. Boynton Beach, Florida, 26 September 2002)

Dorothy Margaret Grobe was born of English parents who divorced before she was four. She grew up in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Little is known of her life. Her sole published book is Derleth: Hawk . . . and Dove (Aurora, Colorado: The National Writers Press, dated 1997 but not published until mid-1998), a vanity-published biography of the Wisconsin author, editor, and publisher August Derleth (1909-1971). In the summer of 1964, Litersky was one of the four founders of the School of the Arts at Rhinelander in northern Wisconsin.  Derleth became a regular writer-in-residence at the Rhinelander program, and it was at this time that Litersky decided to write Derleth's biography, a task that would take her thirty years to complete.  According to her acknowledgements in the published book, she nearly died twice before completing it, and one must consider it remarkable that she, in her eighties and in poor health, did so. However, that cannot excuse the many problems of the work itself.  Much of it is based on the vast archive of Derleth's papers--itself incomplete--that was given to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin after his death, and so the story it presents is mostly Derleth's own view, warts and all.  Litersky says that Derleth "wanted a portrayal of the whole man, free of the closet of lies he had been forced to hide in throughout his lifetime" (p. ix). And while Litersky succeeds in presenting Derleth as a egotistical, conceited, manipulative, omnisexual and voracious cad, she fails on the other hand to show why anyone might have admired or even liked either the man himself or his writings, and Derleth's literary work in particular gets short shrift.  Litersky's own poor writing is no match for her subject, and she shows little understanding of nuance, which gives rise to a large number of slight misstatements of fact and outright errors. In presenting everything from Derleth's point of view she gives no context to frame or analyze his perspective.  Her method of footnoting and sourcing quotations is abominable.  Nevertheless one comes to feel that the basic, unattractive portrait of Derleth that emerges is at the least authentic to those sides of his character. Until such time as someone attempts a true scholarly biography, this may be all we have to weigh-in against simple and more common adulatory fan criticism.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sara Gerstle

Sara Gerstle (b. San Francisco, California, 16 November 1874; d. New York, New York, 17 August 1956)

Sara Hecht was the daughter of M. H. Hecht, a shoe merchant of German descent, and his wife Alice.  In October 1896 she married William Lewis Gerstle (1868-1947), the son of Lewis Gerstle (1824-1892), the Vice President of the Alaska Commercial Company.  The Gerstle family was very affluent, having a house on Washington Street in San Francisco, and a summer home in San Rafael. In the late 1920s, William L. Gerstle was the president of the San Francisco Art commission.

William and Sara Gerstle had one child, daughter Miriam Alice Gerstle (1898-1989), who became an artist and who married the British architect Grey Wornum (1888-1957), the designer of the Royal Institute of British Architects building in London, completed in 1934.

Late in life, while in the hospital, Sara Gerstle wrote some short stories while recuperating from an illness.  Two small books of these stories were printed in fine press editions limited to 150 copies.  Four Ghost Stories (San Francisco: Adrian Wilson, Printer at the Sign of the Interplayers, 1951) has a short introduction by the author’s daughter, signed M. W. [Miriam Wornum]. The follow-up booklet is Three Houses (San Francisco: Adrian Wilson, Printer at the Sign of the Interplayers, 1952). The blurb on the latter describes the contents as follows:  “Here is another small book by Sara Gerstle which leaves the ghosts not quite so much in possession. Last time they had it all their own way, slithering and sliding at their own pace through the pages. Here the three houses are of first importance, and though none of them are quite what they seem to be, it is a slow infiltration, a glance over one’s shoulder, and a thought after the light has been put out, that makes this not a book of ghosts, but a book of houses with a question mark. Two of the houses have been lived in by the author.”  The autobiographical element is apparent in the only story to have been reprinted from these rare volumes, “Death of a Good Cook,” which can be found in Haunted San Francisco (2004), edited by Rand Richards.  It reads very much like the usual tale of a personal encounter with the supernatural; it is matter-of-factly told, with little interest in atmosphere or effect. Thus, it is more a specimen of folk tale than of literary creation.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

De Witt Newbury

De Witt Newbury (b. New York, New York, 10 July 1888; d. Riverdale, New Jersey, December 1967)

De Witt Newbury published no books, but he was a frequent contributor to the pulps magazines in the 1940s and 1950s, specializing in westerns and in adventure stories, some of which were stories about the Vikings, all of which showcase Newbury's interest in history.
De Witt Newbury

He was born De Witt Mirrielees Newbury in New York, the son of George Newbury,  a shipping manager of Canadian and British descent, and his wife Jessie, née Mirrielees, whose parents came from Scotland and Wales. De Witt Newbury had an older brother and a younger sister; he seems never to have married.  Early in the twentieth century, the Newbury family moved to a house on the Pompton Newark Turnpike in Riverdale, New Jersey, where De Witt lived the rest of his life.  He worked for a time in advertizing, and then followed his father as the manager of a shipping firm, but in the late 1930s, he turned to writing.  His first pulp story seems to have been "Good Men's Luck" in Adventure in July 1939. This was followed by some Viking stories in Adventure, and further ones in Argosy in 1943 and, later in the decade, in Blue Book. He published one novelette, "A Man Can Swear", in Doc Savage (June 1946). Otherwise, he contributed more regularly to Frontier Stories, where eight tales appeared between 1946 and 1953.  His last known short story appeared in Western Short Stories in June 1954. 

In a letter to "The Camp-Fire" in Adventure in the July 1939 issue, Newbury revealed that his nickname was  "Doc", and he gave the following biographical information:
Have been a framer and a machine-gunner with the A.E.F., Company C, 105th Battalion. Have done some knocking around, had a brief and inglorious career as a commercial artist, and put in years of business hustling in New York City. Now I have dug into the old home acres to battle the depression. . . . I have always liked to write, and have always written.  More for pleasure than profit, though my stuff is published now and then.  I like to write fiction based on sound historical fact. About men who really lived and things they actually did.  The Norsemen are my favorites. I don't want to pose as a great authority on Scandinavian history, but I have done a lot of studying and thinking about them. They were the toughest, hardiest adventurers of all time.  And real humans, too.
The former home of De Witt Newbury, in Riverdale, New Jersey

NB: Thanks to Morgan Holmes for assistance on this entry.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lyllian Huntley Harris

Lyllian Huntley Harris (b. Fulton County, near Atlanta, Georgia, September 1883; d. Sandersville, Georgia, 12 January 1939)

Lyllian Brantley Huntley was an only child whose parents divorced when she was young.  She was raised by her mother, Mattie May (Pringle) Huntley.  On December 5, 1905, in Macon, Georgia, Lyllian married John Joseph Harris (1881-1951), a lawyer (and after 1933, a judge). They settled in Sandersville, where both had grown up. They had no children. Lyllian Huntley Harris was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Southern States, and lived most of her life in central Georgia.

Harris had only one significant publication, the short story "The Vow on Halloween" which appeared in the May-July 1924 issue of Weird Tales, the last of the large bedsheet style format. With the title spelled slightly differently (as "The Vow on Hallowe'en") the story was fraudulantly attributed to noted Irish writer Dorothy Macardle (1889-1955) by Peter Haining and included in his anthology Hallowe'en Hauntings (London:  William Kimber, 1984).  Haining even claimed the story had appeared in a 1922 issue of Eire, where it did not.  This is a typical example of the brazen fraud that Haining engaged in while putting together his many anthologies; the scope of this fraud has only become apparent in recent years.  "The Vow on Halloween" is being reprinted with its correct author name in Paula Guran's anthology Halloween, to be published by Prime Books in late September 2011. **UPDATE, see comments below: in the end this story was not included in Paula Guran's anthology.**