Thursday, April 26, 2012

Morley Troman

Morley Troman (b. Wednesbury, England, 26 February 1918; d. Ploumillian, France, 29 October 2000)

Throughout his life Morley Troman was primarily interested in sculpture and writing. Born Frederick Morley Troman in Staffordshire, he was the son of William H. B. Troman and his wife Beatrice (née Denning), who were married in 1912. After studying drawing and sculpture at the Wolverhampton College of Art, he served in W.W. II and was a prisoner in Germany from 1942-44, after which time he worked in England and Germany as a volunteer aiding concentration camp victims. In 1946 he settled in Paris, and in 1956 bought a farm in Brittany, where he remained for the rest of his life.  In 1946 he married a painter, Shulamith Przepiorka; they had one son and one daughter.

Troman published only two novels, both of which reuse material from Breton legends.  The Hill of Sleep (London: Chatto & Windus, 1960) is narrated by a man returning to an island off the coast of Brittany where fifteen years earlier (in 1944) he had been hunted by German soldiers.  Gradually he pieces together the repercussions of his previous presence on the island. The review by Anne Duchene in The Guardian declares: “The construction is intricate, but handled with authority, the local climate is powerfully summoned up, and the undertow of the uncanny, below the rational event, is impressively embodied in the huge old recluse who sheltered the hero in an cottage on a gorse-bound cliff and who becomes a kind of Celtic king-magician. This is a very solid, imaginative essay, in the full sense of the term” (8 July 1960, p. 4).

The Devil’s Dowry (London: Chatto & Windus, 1961) has a long descriptive subtitle which reads “Being the improbable history of Bilz of Penn Menn and Yseult the Red, with some account of necromancy and wantonness in the country of Ar-Goät, set down from hearsay.” Here young Bilz, the son of a beggar-woman, decides it is his vocation to become a thief.  He learns mimicry and courts Iseult, the daughter of the Lord of Keruez, and must compete with the Devil to save her. Troman’s style in both books is subtle and modern, but it is also at times plodding. 

In addition to sculpting and writing, Troman also did some radio and television work, particularly on Breton subjects, including a series on the restoration of Troman’s seventeenth century farmhouse in Ploumillian. Troman worked at a third novel, The Standing Stone, but it was never published.

Monday, April 16, 2012

David T. Lindsay

David T. Lindsay (fl. 1936-1940)

**Note:  Thanks to information from an anonymous source, I have a new entry on the real David T. Lindsay available here; but I keep this entry for its extensive information on his books**

David Lindsay (1876-1945), who had no middle name, published five novels during his lifetime, ranging from his first, A Voyage to Arcturus (1920), to his fifth, Devil’s Tor (1932).  The Times Literary Supplement reviewed four of Lindsay’s five novels, omitting only Adventures of M. de Mailly (1926), which is generally considered Lindsay’s least intellectual book.  Though the reviewers for The Times Literary Supplement did not always appreciate Lindsay’s novels—and indeed they misunderstood and miscategorized more than two of them—at least the editors considered Lindsay’s work worthy of coverage. 

Thus, in 1936, when further books bylined “David Lindsay” began to appear, so did reviews in The Times Literary Supplement. But after two reviews, published five weeks apart, there were no more.  Presumably the editors realized that this new, prolific David Lindsay—who published eighteen novels between March 1936 and January 1940—was an entirely different author, and one whose books were not worthy of continued coverage.

The first book published and reviewed was The Ninth Plague. Here is what the reviewer—Julian Arthur Beaufort Palmer (1899-1973), author of a few historical books on India—had to say of it:

     A band of burglars, known as the Grey Seals from the grey hoods and overalls in which they operated, were really collecting resources for a maniac who for the sake of revenge wished to exterminate the human race by an event similar to the Ninth Plague of Egypt (darkness) explained by the author as “neutralizing the chemical rays of the sun.”  This involved the construction of a platinum-lined retreat in a cave in the peninsula of Sinai, an expensive proceeding; hence burglaries and an attempt to marry one of the gang to an heiress. The British Secret Service, ubiquitous from Maida Vale to Ismailia, successfully interfere, though its principal members are nearly exterminated by a sea of mud in the cave.
     The phantasmagoria is unconvincing even of its kind, but there is so much incident that the reader becomes quite excited. Judges of the High Court in England are not described by the title of “Judge”; the passages in Scots are overloaded, and there is one remarkable example of English as she should not be wrote—“Thou, Ali Beshar, will be on the road with thy car and will wireless the movements of the police. The rest of you know what thou has to do.”  (9 May 1936)

The second book was The Two Red Capsules, and the review by J[ohn] Chartres Molony (1877-1948), who wrote a couple of novels and several books on Ireland and the Irish, follows:    

    Mystery and murder are excellent ingredients in a thriller, but Mr. Lindsay is somewhat too liberal with them. Robert Laidlaw has invented a marvellous gun, and the villainous Baron Hiroshi, and the still more wicked Count Silenski (who in the end turns out to be the American Jeff Parker) are determined to obtain possession of the plans at any cost. Their opposite numbers are the Hon. Richard Monroe, who is a “Foreign Office detective,” and Inspector John Jackson, who is an unusual member of the Scotland Yard force. Before the parties are through with the business the fair face of England is littered with corpses. Count Silenski is cosmopolitan, but surely he would evoke comment in France by introducing himself as le Compte de Moreul, which seems to mean “the Moreul account.” And Frenchmen do not get into an “impassé,” a word which so spelt has no meaning at all. The Count’s Russian coadjutor might call himself Pavlovitch, but scarcely Paulvitch. In short, the book is somewhat crude. (13 June 1936)

The science fictional mechanism of The Ninth Plague may make one think of the author of A Voyage to Arcturus, but little of the remaining descriptions of the two novels will elicit such a comparison. (Oddly, though, the convoluted and pulpish plots do recall the novels of David Lindsay’s elder brother, Alexander Lindsay, who in the 1910s published several novels as “Alexander Crawford”.)

It is interesting to note that after the first three or so novels were published with the name “David Lindsay” on the title page and dust-wrapper, the author’s name was soon afterwards altered to “David T. Lindsay”—as if to create a distinction from the earlier David Lindsay.  Without seeing multiple copies of all eighteen novels by this second Lindsay, it is difficult to determine what exactly took place and when. For example, though I have observed a copy in dust-wrapper of the first book, The Ninth Plague, which has only “David Lindsay” on the title page and on the dust-wrapper, it has “David T. Lindsay” stamped on the spine of the binding.  This may represent a later issue binding, done after the middle initial was added to the byline.  Or, though it would seem odd, the full name with middle initial could have been used on the spine from the outset.  For the purpose of this note, it is not really necessary to study the entire evolution of the byline.  The central relevant point is that after some books were published as by “David Lindsay”, the middle initial was added to the byline for the bulk of the later volumes. 

Still there remained some confusion among the readers of fantasy and science fiction about the differing authorship, a point which E.F. Bleiler addressed in The Checklist of Fantastic Literature (1948). He separated the two authors, and credited “Mrs. Jacqueline Lindsay, of Sussex, England; wife of the late David Lindsay, for information which enabled us to disentangle the hitherto confused David Lindsay’s”  (p. xv).  But even Bleiler’s evidence didn’t satisfy everyone.  R. G. Medhurst (1920-1971) was a noted British collector of fantasy, as well as a writer on parapsychology and a member of the Society for Psychical Research.  In a column “The Antiquarian Bookshelf” in the June 1951 issue of Fantasy Advertiser, Medhurst wrote:

I don’t feel so happy about the David Lindsay position as [the] Checklist appears to be. Bleiler segregates two Lindsays, one responsible for the remarkable series of novels from A Voyage to Arcturus to Devil’s Tor and the other, called “David T. Lindsay”, for the series of air adventures and thrillers published by Hamilton of London.  This appears to be on the authority of Mrs. Jacqueline Lindsay, widow, presumably, of the first David Lindsay. . . .  There certainly seems no internal evidence of style or characterization to suggest that two men were involved. Though the subject matter of the two series of books is very different, I had no doubt when I read, for example, The Ninth Plague, that this was written in fact by the original David Lindsay.  I wonder whether it should be surprising, supposing that only one David Lindsay produced all these books, that his wife would suggest the contrary. The Hamilton novels are undoubtedly potboilers, though not without merit. The earlier series, on the other hand, remarkable productions as they were, seem to have been financial failures. It is surely possible that if an author were forced to turn out trivial works, having failed to find an audience for his important writing, he might well have conveyed to the people around him a feeling of dislike for his association with such stuff.  This is, of course, all conjecture. Perhaps in time to come we may produce more solid evidence. 

Medhurst was completely wrong, of course, as later scholarship on the first David Lindsay has shown that he spent the decade following the publication of Devil’s Tor obsessively writing and re-writing a remarkable novel titled The Witch, before finally retiring from authorship around 1942. Until now, nothing at all has been written about David T. Lindsay and his corpus. 

All eighteen novels were published by the London publisher John Hamilton, which was founded in 1925 and run by Charles H. Daniels, and Mary F. Daniels.  The Authors, Playwrights & Composers Handbook for 1935, edited by D. Kilham Roberts, describes them as “publishers concentrating on books concerned in any way with aviation and aeronautics, also cookery books and some general fiction (especially thrillers)” (p. 194). The firm was liquidated in 1941.  But David T. Lindsay’s novels can be seen to fit very well in their list.  Nine of his novels are part of the publisher’s “Ace Series” of aviation thrillers.  The Ninth Plague is part of “The Sundial Mystery and Adventure Library”. His first two novels, noted above, have a recurring character, the Honourable Richard (“Dick”) Monroe of the Secret Service, and The Two Red Capsules additionally introduces the reader to Inspector Jackson—the gloomy Chief Inspector John Jay Jackson of Scotland Yard, known also as “Jailbird” Jackson, who would feature in four other novels.  The overwhelming bulk of David T. Lindsay’s novels are mysteries in some form, and it is not at all surprising to find seventeen of the books listed in Allen J. Hubin’s Crime Fiction, 1749-1980: A Comprehensive Bibliography (1984), the only title missing being Lindsay’s western, Vengeance Rides North (1939). 

E.F. Bleiler lists three of David T. Lindsay’s titles in The Checklist of Fantastic Literature as having elements of fantasy or science fiction: Air Bandits (1937), The Green Ray (1937), and The Ninth Plague (1936),   R. Reginald’s Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Checklist 1700-1974 (1979) lists two of the above books, dropping The Air Bandits. Other David T. Lindsay books certainly have slight elements of fantasy, albeit some are rationalized as with the “ghosts’ in Inspector Jackson Investigates (1936).  The Green Ray is definitely science fiction, for it concerns a green ray which, when used, causes engines to stall. Thus Thomas Fenton, conspiring with various shipping magnates, uses the green ray on large airplanes, causing them to crash or become lost at sea, all in an attempt to convince the public that planes are not safe. Fenton additionally has nefarious plans of his own, which Julian Grey, of the family-run Airways Ltd., together with his old friend Jimmy Travers, now in the Secret Service, must thwart. 

Virtually nothing is known of the author, and various booksellers have suggested that the “David T. Lindsay” byline might be a house pseudonym.  Evidence against this is found in my copy of Inspector Jackson Investigates, which is inscribed on the front free endpaper “Author’s Copy / David Lindsay / Cellardyke / October 1936”.  This would seem to situate the author in Cellardyke, a village in Fife, Scotland, just to the east of Anstruther. Presuming he was a real person, it seems odd that he would publish eighteen novels and abruptly disappear without a trace. If anyone reading this can supply any further details about this David T. Lindsay, I would be grateful to hear from them. 

A full chronological list of David T. Lindsay’s books is given below, with brief notes on series and recurring characters. All titles were published by John Hamilton of London.

The Ninth Plague  [March 1936]
            Part of The Sundial Mystery and Adventure Library. Richard Monroe.

The Two Red Capsules [May 1936] 
            Richard Monroe; Inspector Jackson

Wings over Africa [July 1936]  Ace Series

Inspector Jackson Investigates [September 1936] 
            Inspector Jackson

Air Bandits [February 1937]  Ace Series

Masked Judgment [March 1937]  Ace Series

The Black Fetish [May 1937]

The Flying Crusader [May 1937]  Ace Series

The Green Ray  [July 1937]  Ace Series 

Wings over the Amazon [November 1937]  Ace Series 

Another Case for Inspector Jackson [January 1938]   
            Inspector Jackson

The Flying Armada [April 1938]  Ace Series

The Temple of the Flaming God [May 1938]  Ace Series 

The Man Nobody Knew [September 1938]
            Inspector Jackson

Inspector Jackson Goes North [February 1939] 
            Inspector Jackson

Vengeance Rides North [May 1939]

Stranglehold [September 1939]  Ace Series

Mystery of the Tumbling V  [January 1940]

Friday, April 6, 2012

Colin de la Mare

Colin de la Mare (b. reg. Bromley, Kent, 10 January 1906; d. reg. Horsham, West Sussex, 16 April 1983)

Colin Francis de la Mare was the youngest of the four children of writer and poet Walter de la Mare (1873-1956) and his wife Elfrida, née Ingpen (1860-1943), who were married on 4 August 1899.  Colin’s older brother was Richard de la Mare (1901-1986), for many years a publishing executive at the firm Faber & Faber. Colin also had two sisters, Florence (b. 1900) and Lucy Elfrida, who was known as “Jinnie”, (b. 1903). Colin married Lilias Awdry (b. 1916) in 1941.  They had one daughter Julia de la Mare (b. 1943).

Colin de la Mare (right) with his parents in the early 1930s
Colin de la Mare published only one book, They Walk Again: An Anthology of Ghost Stories (1931). Containing eighteen tales, it is a fine collection with a number of classics, including Richard Middleton’s “The Ghost Ship,” Edith Wharton’s “Afterward,” William Hope Hodgson’s “The Voice in the Night,” Oliver Onions’s “The Beckoning Fair One,” W. W. Jacobs’s “The Monkey’s Paw,” and J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Green Tea”—along with less familiar tales by top-shelf writers such as Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, Ambrose Bierce, E. F. Benson, and M. R. James, among others.  That this volume was a kind of family affair is signaled first by the inclusion of two items by the compiler’s father, one story (“All Hallows”) as well as a twenty-two page “Introduction.”  The book was published by Faber & Faber, where the compiler’s brother, Richard, was even then a leading executive.  Colin de la Mare’s only prose contribution to the book is a short “Note,” mostly comprised of acknowledgements, but observing at the beginning that “the precise definition of a ghost story is almost as elusive as a ghost itself. But it is elastic enough, I think, to warrant the inclusion of certain examples only just over the border-line.”  Though this was his only publication, Colin de la Mare remained active in the literary world, working (according to his nephew Giles de la Mare) for many years as a colleague of Jack Morpurgo (1918-2000), who held various offices in the National Book League from 1955-87.

Historically this anthology has special significance because it began the revival of interest in the works of William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918).  American bibliophile H.C. Koenig (1893-1959) read Hodgson’s tale in this volume and thereafter sought out all of Hodgson’s first editions, which he generously circulated throughout the 1930s and 1940s amongst his correspondents, including H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Fritz Leiber, and others.  He brought Hodgson to the attention of a number of editors, including Mary Gnaedinger (who reprinted Hodgson in Famous Fantastic Mysteries) and Ellery Queen (who selected Carnacki, the Ghost Finder as part of Queen’s Quorum, an annotated listing, first published in 1948,  of the most important detective and crime fiction books).  Koenig befriended Hodgson’s sister, and assisted August Derleth on the Arkham House editions, writing the introduction to The House on the Borderlands and Other Novels (1946), and supplying Derleth with unpublished Hodgson manuscripts (including the Carnacki story “The Hog”)  that he received from Hodgson’s sister.  The growth of Hodgson’s posthumous reputation owes much to the seed planted by the reprinting of his one story in They Walk Again.
The 1942 Dutton reprint

A few final bibliographical notes. The Faber & Faber edition was published in April 1931, followed in October by the Dutton edition in the United States. The 1942 Dutton reprint adds a two page “Foreword” by longtime Yale English professor William Lyon Phelps.  Later Faber & Faber reprints were retitled The Ghost Book: or, They Walk Again.  In April-May 1956, the National Book League in London held an exhibition of Walter de la Mare’s books and manuscripts.  Item no. 21 was Walter de la Mare’s own copy of the first edition of They Walk Again, inscribed by Colin de la Mare to his father, with “copious notes and corrections in ink to the introduction” made by the writer himself. These notes, wherever they might be today, would make for fascinating reading. 

NB: An earlier version of this entry appeared in my column “Notes on Lost and Forgotten Writers”, All Hallows no. 43 (Summer 2007). 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Oscar Cook

Oscar Cook (b. Tollington Park, Islington, 17 March 1888; d. Kensington, 23 February 1952)

Richard Martin Oscar Cook, who commonly went by his third name Oscar, was born in greater London, the second son of Henry Adcock Cook (b. 1858), an athletic goods manufacturer, and Alice Cole (b. c. 1861), who were married in the Parish of St. James, Muswell Hill, Middlesex on 30 October 1885. Besides an older brother he had a younger sister.  Little is known of his youth and early adulthood, but he was educated at St. Catherine’s School and the family lived for a time in Broxbourne. At the time of the 1911 Census, Oscar was working as an insurance clerk in Broxbourne. By June 1912, he was nine thousand miles away from home in Borneo, where, finding himself out of a job after a disagreement with his employer at the Beaufort Borneo Rubber Company, he joined the North Borneo Civil Service, in whose employ he remained for about eight years, returning to London in 1920.  Back in England he was encouraged by friends to write a personal memoir of his time in Borneo, and when completed, he took his manuscript to the literary agency Curtis Brown.  There he met agent Christine Campbell Thomson (1897-1985).  Thomson gave his manuscript a more attractive title and proceeded to sell it to British and American publishers.  Borneo: The Stealer of Hearts was published in London by Hurst & Blackett in August 1924, and soon afterwards by Houghton Mifflin of Boston.  Following Thomson’s recommendation that he write about what he knew, Cook published a number of stories set in Borneo in magazines such The Blue Magazine, Hutchinson’s Adventure-Story Magazine, Hutchinson’s Mystery-Story Magazine, and The Novel Magazine.

Oscar Cook and Christine Campbell Thomson were married in London on 30 September 1924. Around this time, for about a year, Cook worked as the editor of two magazines, Hutchinson’s Mystery-Story Magazine and Hutchinson’s Adventure-Story Magazine.  In 1925 Cook acquired a controlling interest in the publishing firm Selwyn & Blount Limited. His wife devised and edited for the firm the very successful “Not at Night” series of horror anthologies, the first of which, titled “Not at Night,” appeared in October 1925.  Less successful on the Selwyn & Blount list were Cook’s own novel The Seventh Wave, published in September 1926, and a reprint of his memoir, Borneo: The Stealer of Hearts, in August 1927. Cook tried his hand at playwriting, and a version in three acts of The Seventh Wave was performed in 1927. 

Selwyn & Blount also published his wife’s novel, His Excellency, in September 1927.  The “Not at Night” series meanwhile had grown by two further volumes, More Not at Night in September 1926 and You’ll Need a Night Light in September 1927, but the success of this series was not enough to keep the firm alive.  In 1928 Selwyn & Blount was acquired by Hutchinson, which continued the profitable “Not at Night” series, making in total twelve volumes, the final being the Not at Night Omnibus (1937).  Thomson continued to edit the series, including tales of her own (under the pseudonym Flavia Richardson) as well as stories by her husband.

In 1928 Cook and Thomson’s only child was born, a son Gervis Hugh Frere Cook, who in adulthood became a navy officer and hyphenated his surname as Frere-Cook.  In the family tradition, Gervis Frere-Cook edited a few books in the 1960s and early 1970s, including The Decorative Arts of the Mariner (1966) and The Decorative Arts of the Christian Church (1972), before his early death in 1974.

Beginning in 1925, Thomson sold American serial rights for four of Cook’s stories to Weird Tales magazine, and these stories were mostly reprints (sometimes under new titles) of tales which had previously appeared in England.  (One Weird Tales story which appears in various indices as by Oscar Cook is actually bylined “Cargray Cook” and is mistakenly included with those by Oscar Cook. This story, titled “On the Highway,” appeared in the January 1925 issue.)  The story which appeared under the title “The Sacred Jars” in Weird Tales in March 1927, and which appeared in England as “When Glister Walked,” is actually an expansion of an episode which had appeared in chapter six of his memoir.  Cook’s best stories are those which are highlighted by the local color of Borneo.  His most famous story is probably “Boomerang,” which was effectively adapted by Rod Serling for a second season episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, where it was retitled “The Caterpillar.” The episode was broadcast on 1 March 1972.

Cook and Thomson’s marriage broke up in 1937, and Oscar Cook died in Kensington at the age of 63 in early 1952. 

NB: An earlier version of this entry appeared in my column “Notes on Neglected Fantasists”, Fastitocalon no. 1 (2010).