Friday, March 30, 2012

Julian Kilman

Julian Kilman (b. Drummondsville, Ontario, 26 March 1878; d. Gulfport, Florida, 3 April 1954)

Julian Kilman was the pen-name of Leroy Noble Kilman, the elder of the two children of Alva Hamilton Kilman (1853-1916) and his wife Ida M. Kilman (1859-1920s?), née Noble.  His sister was Zella May Kilman (1880-1955).

Kilman immigrated to the United States around 1897, afterwards becoming a U.S. citizen.  He studied at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and received an A.B. in 1905 and a LL.B. in 1906, after which he was admitted to the bar.  Settling in Buffalo, he was from 1908-1914 an assistant government attorney for the Western District of New York, moving over to the Bureau of Naturalization in 1914 and becoming the District Director of Naturalization in 1925, a position he held until his retirement. 

On 26 July 1910, at Milan, Michigan, he married Cecile Lily Gauntlett (1883-1962). They had two children, Katherine (born circa 1913) and Julian (1915-1990).  Soon after his marriage he began to contribute short stories to magazines, and the bulk of them so far discovered appeared between 1921 and 1930, all with the byline “Julian” Kilman. With his proficiency at the short story, he at times lectured on story writing at the University of Buffalo.

Kilman published six stories in The Black Mask, beginning with “The Peculiar Affair at the Axminster” in the first issue dated April 1920.  More significantly, he published five stories in Weird Tales, also beginning in its very first issue dated March 1923, with “The Mystery of Black Jean”.  Kilman’s stories appeared in the first four issues, and in the sixth, all published in 1923.  The longest tale, “The Golden Caverns” (May 1923), is a lost treasure story set in Brazil, while “The Affair of the Man in Scarlet” concerns an execution in thirteenth century France.  The three other stories are all about murders and crimes.  Marvin Kaye, in The Best of Weird Tales 1923 (1997), considered three of Kilman’s five Weird Tales stories to be among the top works of fiction published in the first year of that magazine’s existence.  However, as well-written and executed as these stories are, the simple truth is that there is very little of the fantastic in them, and as little horror. It seems probable that as Weird Tales found its own niche, Kilman drifted away from being a contributor simply because his work was never a good fit in the first place and because his interests lay elsewhere. 

Over fifty short stories by Kilman are known, but he never published a collection, nor indeed any books at all.  Magazines he contributed to include Midnight Mystery Stories, The Smart Set, Action Stories, Mystery Magazine, Detective Tales, Tropical Adventures, Real Detective Tales, People’s Story Magazine, Brief Stories, The Double Dealer, The American Short Story, 10 Story Book, and others. After 1930 Kilman’s output ceased, save perhaps for a couple of nonfiction pieces in Argosy in 1946 that are bylined “L.N. Kilman”.  Kilman was known also to be an ardent amateur lepidopterist.  He died in Florida, but was buried in Milan, Michigan.  


  1. It's not entirely clear from your article above, but Julian's story "The Well" is actually available in the book Marvin Kaye's "The Best of Weird Tales 1923" mentioned above, excerpted from the June magazine. It's available in pb or Kindle format.

  2. Hi Gumbywan:

    You are correct, Kilman's "The Well" is reprinted (in full) in Marvin Kaye's _The Best of Weird Tales 1923_. That's probably a good story to sample, but I confess I didn't find it (or the others in Weird Tales) to be as interesting as Marvin Kaye did!

  3. If anyone is interested, the first four stories from Weird Tales are available in Wikisource and, I think also in Project Gutenberg. I have just re-read Black Jean from the first issue and really like it.

    If any of the Black Mask or other stories are available online, I would be interested to read them.

  4. Nice post thank you Tameka