Thursday, June 2, 2011

Stanley Hopkins Jr.

Stanley Hopkins, Jr. (b. Long Island, New York, 27 February 1923; d. Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2 May 2002)

"Stanley Hopkins Jr." was a pen-name used by Blythe Morley, the daughter of the novelist and critic Christopher Morley (1890-1957), one of the founding editors of The Saturday Review of Literature, and his wife Helen Booth Fairchild (1894-1966). Blythe Morley was their third daughter (of four children), and was raised in Roslyn, on Long Island.  She was educated at Vassar.  Her first novel was a mystery, Murder by Inches (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, [1943]), as by Stanley Hopkins Jr.  The dust-wrapper blurb is quite entertaining:

This first detective story by a new author has the liveliness and gaiety of youth. The scene is on Long Island near a defense plant. Clues are many and curious, and the plot is contrived with unusual care. Why do the cats of the neighborhood disappear? What does the ruler with divisions of thirty-seconds of an inch mean? Who is the secret visitor Ed Sharp entertained the night he was murdered? This is the kind of story one looks back from the end with complete satisfaction. Good in plot, it is even better in its characters. As Stanley Hopkins himself remarks, the only completely fictitious character in this novel is the author.

The pen-name derives from a minor character in the Sherlock Holmes stories--where Stanley Hopkins is a young Scotland Yard inspector who admires Holmes's detective techniques even if he finds it difficult to apply them to his own work.  Blythe Morley's father was a well-known devotee of Sherlock Holmes, and in 1934 he had founded the Baker Street Irregulars, a fan club for Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts that continues to the present. Murder by Inches was well-reviewed--not a bad reception for the twenty-year-old author.  A further volume soon appeared, The Parchment Key (New York:  Harcourt Brace and Company, [1944]), also by Stanley Hopkins Jr.  And a final short story, "The Lady Holding a Green Apple", appeared under that pseudonym in the February 1947 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Blythe Morley's two subsequent novels were published under her own name, The Intemperate Season (New York: Farrar, Straus and Company, 1948) and A Campaign in Time (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1952), after which she ceased publishing.  She married James Brennan, and died in New Mexico at the age of 79.

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