Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Michael Hayes

The 1978 hardcover edition

Michael Hayes  (fl. 1970s)

Michael Hayes edited and introduced some six hardcover collections of supernatural stories from 1976 through 1980, in addition to a collection (probably his most significant book) of Supernatural Poetry: A Selection, 16th to the 20th Century (hardcover 1978; trade paperback 1981).  All seven books came from the same publisher, John Calder of London. The blurbs about the editor on the dust-wrappers all say something to the effect that Michael Hayes was born and educated in Ireland, and that he has been in publishing for many years. His one other book, co-authored with his wife, Arlette Hayes, was Dining Out Beside the River Thames (1973).

His six collections are as follows:  The Supernatural Short Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson (1976); The Supernatural Short Stories of Sir Walter Scott (1977); The Fantastic Tales of Fitz-James O’Brien (1977); The Supernatural Short Stories of Charles Dickens (1978); The Ghostly Tales of Washington Irving (1979); and The Haunting Tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1980). 

The seven volumes make up a nice series.  Hayes and his wife were the dedicatees of Arthur Rex (1978) by Thomas Berger. They were apparently still living in London in the early 2000s.

NB: I’ll be grateful if anyone can provide further biographical information. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Henrietta Weaver

Henrietta Weaver (b. San Francisco, California, 20 September 1870; d. Florence, Italy, 7 January 1951)

Henrietta Weaver was the daughter of Philip Liscum Weaver (1828-1902), a businessman based in San Francisco, and his wife Ellen, née Armstrong (1844-1924), a daughter of Richard Armstrong (1805-1860), an early missionary to Hawaii. She had one brother, who became a well-known lawyer in Honolulu, and one sister. 

Henrietta spent much of her life abroad, in Europe from 1874-75; Paris from 1893-1900; Florence from 1906-08; the Orient from 1910-12; and Florence from 1921 until her death.  

Weaver’s one book was a collection of fifteen short stories, Flame and the Shadow-Eater (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1917), published during a three year period when she lived in New York City.  She had married, probably in Paris sometime in the latter half of the 1890s, Henry Guy Fangel (1875-1943), an illustrator and artist; they were divorced around 1908, with no children. Fangel married Maud Tousey in 1909, and worked for a while as an art editor at Good Housekeeping, but his second marriage also ended in divorce, and he died destitute in Paris. 

Flame and the Shadow-Eater was published in May 1917, and earned mostly appreciate reviews.  Asia noted that Weaver presents the philosophy of the Old East “through the medium of a series of tales in which holy men who follow the Path of the Lotus Law, proud rulers surrounded with Oriental splendors, maidens in whose sleeves subtle perfumes linger, are drawn like silken threads.  The stories themselves are without action and are perhaps too vague to be truly Oriental. In the manner that ‘A.E.’ and Yeats and the Irish Revivalists have translated primitive Celtic ideas into terms of modern poetry, so Henrietta Weaver translates the Orient and makes of it a somewhat moralized and simplified Arabian Nights. Yet the book has charm. The style is graceful and is characterized by well chosen imagery” (July 1917).  The New York Times Book Review was slightly more critical:  “The stories themselves are not unentertaining, and many of the descriptions are very gracefully written. But this type of fiction is peculiarly exacting . . .  Weaver frequently succeeds only in being obscure when she endeavors to be mystical.  Nevertheless, this volume has a touch of unusualness which is rather refreshing, and though the reader is seldom without a feeling that the tales are falling short of what they ought to be and of what the author intended them to be, their abundance of color, their intellectual quality, and their departure from the commonplace make them quite interesting” (8 July 1917).

Weaver attempted to secure a London publisher to reprint the volume in 1935, but found no interest.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Norman Power

Norman Power (b. Islington, London, 31 October 1916; d. reg. Birmingham, May 1993)

Norman Sandiford Power was the eldest son of Walter Sandiford Power, a clergyman, and his wife May, née Dixon. 

Power grew up in Newcastle-on-Tyne, where his father was vicar in a poverty-stricken parish.  The family moved to Birmingham in 1926. He went to Stanley House School, and then to St. John’s School, Leatherhead. Power studied history at Worcester College, Oxford (B.A. 1938; M.A. 1942), and theology at Ripon Hall, Oxford (B.A. 1940).  He was ordained a priest of the Anglican Church in 1940, and thereafter served in the Birmingham area, settling as the vicar of Ladywood in 1952, a position he held until his retirement in 1988. He was also the canon of Birmingham from 1965. Power married Jean Edwards on 17 April 1944; they one son and three daughters.

Power’s first publications were nonfiction, including The Technique of Hypnosis (1953) and The Forgotten People: A Challenge to a Caring Community (1965), the latter concerning the displacement of the poor and elderly in his district as properties were being destroyed by developers. Power also contributed a weekly column to The Birmingham Evening Mail, beginning in 1953, and wrote articles, stories, and verse (sometimes using the pseudonym Kratos) for various periodicals, including Argosy, Punch, The Observer, The Guardian and The Birmingham Post.  He published a volume of poetry, Ends of Verse (1971), with an introduction by Ruth Pitter, and two short books, In Bereavement–Hope and Son of Man–Son of God, both in 1979.

Power’s fiction grew out of stories he told to his children as bedtime stories.  He wrote three short novels about a north Atlantic island, the home in the fifth century of the kingdoms of Firland and Borea, the latter ruled by the evil magic of Queen Ivis.  In the first book, ten-year-old Richard learns he is the rightful king of the forbidden territory of Firland.  He is aided by the wizard Greylin, who goes forward in time to consult with Sherlock Holmes (with the permission of the publishers of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories).  The first book was published in paperback (with cover and a map signed Clebak) as The Firland Saga (Kinver: Halmer, 1970), and reissued in a nice hardcover (illustrated by Michael Jackson) as The Forgotten Kingdom (London: Blackie, 1973). The second volume (also illustrated by Jackson) was Fear in Firland (London: Blackie, 1974). The first book was translated by Benedikt Benedikz into Icelandic in 1973, and both were translated into Danish in 1973 and 1974.  A third volume, Firland i Flammer [Firland in Flames] (1974) appeared only in Danish translation; it has never appeared in English.  In 1978, Power wrote:  “I thought, if Tolkien can create a world and Lewis a country, surely I could manage an island! In not too serious a mood, I mixed an element of Tolkien, a sampler of Lewis, a touch of T.H. White (The Sword in the Stone—which I also loved) and a dash of Asterix the Gaul—and plastered them on to a rough Malory background.  Hence Firland!”

Power’s association with J.R.R. Tolkien began in March 1938 when Tolkien was invited to speak at a meeting of the Lovelace Society at Worcester College.  Power already knew The Hobbit, published some months earlier in September 1937, and he sat at Tolkien’s feet as Tolkien read his then-unpublished fairy-story Farmer Giles of Ham. Years later, just before Tolkien died  in 1973, Power and Tolkien exchanged some letters and books, when Power lived near Tolkien’s boyhood home. After Tolkien’s death  Power wrote a handful of articles about their association, in Library Review, The Tablet, and various Tolkien-related publications.

One further Tolkien association comes via artist Pauline Baynes, who illustrated Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham (1949) and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962), among other Tolkien-related projects (in addition to illustrating C.S. Lewis's seven volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia).  Baynes also did an illustration of a scene from the first Firland book which appeared as the cover illustration for the Autumn 1980 issue of Mythlore (whole no. 25).

Cover art by Pauline Baynes for The Forgotten Kingdom

Monday, March 28, 2016

Marjorie T. Johnson

Marjorie T. Johnson (b. Nottingham, England, 24 February 1911; d. Nottingham, England, 26 October 2011)

Marjorie Thelma Johnson was the younger of two daughters of George William Johnson, a solicitor’s clerk, and his wife Ellen Gertrude Johnson. Her sister was Dorothy Alexandra Johnson (1902-1988). Johnson worked professionally as a secretary in a solicitor’s office.   

Johnson had seen a fairy first as a six-year-old child, and wrote an account of this visitation (initially omitting the fact that her sister was also a witness, though later accounts correct this) that was published as a letter in John O’London’s Weekly, on 28 March 1936, following a request published on 7 March 1936 for “first-hand accounts of fairies seen in this country,” which brought in over a dozen signed accounts during subsequent months.   

In 1950 Johnson become the secretary of a resurrected Fairy Investigation Society, which had originally been founded in 1927 by naval captain Quentin C.A. Craufurd (1875-1957), and though it lasted some years its meetings dwindled out during the war. In 1955 Johnson began putting together a book of first hand encounters with fairies which she called Fairy Visions, and she was assisted by Alastair Alpin MacGregor (1899-1970) who published letters in The Listener  and Folklore soliciting further accounts. MacGregor dedicated his Ghost Book (1955) to Johnson, yet withdrew from the project a few years later as he wanted to go abroad and Johnson wanted to press forward with publication. Around this time Craufurd wrote a foreword for the unfinished book.

On 23 October 1960 The Sunday Pictorial, a London tabloid, published an article “She Does a ‘Kinsey’ on Fairies . . . ,” by Tom Riley,  which traduced Johnson and her beliefs by highlighting her comments about the sex lives of fairies, claiming falsely that her entire book was on fairy sex. Johnson published a letter in The Sunday Pictorial disassociating herself from the article, because of which she and her sister had been plagued by sensation-seeking journalists. Johnson soon withdrew from an active role in the Society. The work on her book continued, though it was delayed by family health concerns and her own professional obligations. 

In 1996 Johnson finished the final draft of her book, now retitled Seeing Fairies: Authentic Reports of Fairies in Modern Times, A Book for Grownups. Leslie Shepard (1917-2004), who had run the Fairy Investigation Society for some years, helped her to try to find a publisher, though they were long without success, at least among English-language publishers. The book first appeared in German translation as Naturgeister: wahre Erlebniss mit Elfen und Zwergen [Nature Spirits: True Experiences with Elves and Dwarfs] in 2000. Two further translations appeared in 2004, in Czech as Přírodni duchové [Nature Spirits] and in Italian as Il popolo del bosco [The Forest People]. Johnson died in 2011 at the age of 100.  Her book finally appeared in English (in the United States) three years later as Seeing Fairies: From the Lost Archives of the Fairy Investigation Society, Authentic Reports of Fairies in Modern Time (San Antonio, Anomalist Books, 2014), with an introduction by Simon Young. The cover photograph shows Marjorie Johnson playing a bamboo pipe in 1934. 

Johnson apparently also self-published, in association with the Nottingham Writers Society and the Gypsy Lore Society, a booklet Gypsy & Fairy Lore & Children’s Verse (date unknown), but no copies are currently known to have survived.  

Monday, February 29, 2016

Seamus Cullen

Seamus Cullen (b. New York City, 15 November 1921; d. Ireland, 27 November 2005)

**Update 3/3/18: A special thanks to Alex Falcone for sharing information about Cullen which he got from Cullen's friend Herbie Brennan, and with which I'm able to update this entry.**

Seamus Cullen in 1970
“Seamus Cullen” was a pseudonym for an American, long resident in Ireland. His real name was James Serwer; he was known familiarly as Jim. He was the son of Harry Serwer (1891-1962), who worked in advertising.  Little is known about his life. 

Cullen’s birth-year appeared in Library of Congress cataloguing information as 1927, but this is erroneous (the correct year being 1921). The dust-wrapper blurb for his first (mainstream) novel, Walk Away Slowly (1970), which is described by the publisher as “a novel about an obsessive love,” divulges more details about his life than perhaps any other published source.  It reads:

Seamus Cullen, onetime photographer and classical guitar player, spent his early childhood mostly in New York City and the west of Ireland. Now he seems settled in Dublin, but travels constantly as a marketing and management consultant to business firms all over Europe. After the war he did a stint for the Civil Air Patrol in the United States Naval Air Service and professes to “still find flying fun, skiing, water skiing, just being in the country.” He is also “rather busy bringing up a twelve-year-old daughter single-handedly. Married twice and extremely cautious.”

Cullen is best-known for the second of his four novels, the bizarrely twisted and erotic Astra and Flondrix (London: Allen Lane, 1976; New York: Pantheon Books, [1977]), in which the naïve Flondrix, the offspring of a sexual transgression between the mortal Dark King and an Elvan princess, journeys around in a world where every orifice is open to every form of eccentric genitalia, in terms of shape, size, color, etc. The plot itself is minimal, and the unending sexual escapades are the basis for the narrative’s forward movement. According to fellow fantasist Herbie Brennan (whom Cullen came to know in Ireland), the manuscript was originally titled Enter Prefix, and while Cullen was apparently somewhat insecure about the book, Brennan loved it and encouraged him to send it out for publication.  After a few refusals, it was accepted by Allen Lane, and renamed (at the publisher's behest) Astra and Flondrix. It was modestly successful, and was translated into Danish, Dutch and Swedish.

Cullen wrote a sequel, which Brennan thinks was titled The Beast Beneath, but the editors at Allen Lane responsible for accepting and publishing Astra and Flondrix had left the firm, and the book was declined.

Cullen also published in England two Arabian-styled fantasies, A Noose of Light (1986) and The Sultan’s Turret (1986); they have had no U.S. editions. An extensively revised episode from the second of these novels appeared in Mike Ashley’s The Mammoth Book of Seriously Comic Fantasy (1999; US title, The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy II), following an Arthurian tale, “Meraugis and Medwina,” which had appeared in Ashley’s The Chronicles of the Round Table (1997).

In May 2006, a query from Mike Ashley to Cullen was returned and marked “deceased.”  A further query with the post office in Kilmacanogue, where Cullen lived just to the south of Dublin, revealed that Cullen had been very ill with cancer, and had moved to a neighboring village the year before. According to Herbie Brennan, Cullen died of brain cancer, not long after his eighty-fourth birthday.