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.