Sunday, December 31, 2017

Henry Aveline Perkins

Perkins in 1943
Henry Aveline Perkins (b. Petropolis, Brazil, 22 April 1919; d. New York City, 20 July 1999)

Henry Aveline Perkins was the second son of British parents, F.W. Perkins and his wife Winifred. (His brother Frederick F. Perkins was five years older.) Though born in Brazil, he soon moved with his family to England. He attended the Charterhouse school near Godalming.  He began his writing career with the Daily Mirror of London, after which he wrote advertising copy. Later he returned to Brazil to settle private business, and he worked on the staff of the News of Rio de Janeiro. He came to New York from Rio, arriving in December 1939.  He worked under Dorothy McIlwraith as "Associate Editor" of Weird Tales, and Short Stories, from the May 1940 issue of Weird Tales through the September 1942 one.  Initially he is credited as "H.A.  Perkins," later "H. Aveline Perkins" and finally with his full name. He was sometimes called Henry, and other times Harry. In later years, he used Lynn as his first name, shortened from his middle name Aveline. While working at Weird Tales and Short Stories, Perkins also began to write prolifically for the comics market, though much of this work is unsigned, including some stories for Superman and Batman. One of the characters he invented was "The Weeper," a character who is convinced that life is sad and it's criminal for people to be happy. "The Weeper" was his entree to Fawcett Comics, and re-appeared a number of times.

Perkins is profiled in the April 1943 issue of Writers' Journal for his role as associate editor of the Fawcett Comics Group, whose comics told the stories of such personalities as Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Junior, Mary Marvel, Mr. Scarlet, Bulletman, Don Winslow of the Navy, Spy Smasher, and Captain Midnight. Perkins revealed that while he worked at Weird Tales and Short Stories, he had at any time several hundred acceptable stories to choose from, and that writers, however well known, had no guarantee of acceptance. At Fawcett Comics, he had on his desk only scripts that have been ordered.  Thus, "the comics script-writer, then, is never faced with the gloomy prospect of finished and efficient work being rejectedthe pulp writer's greatest dread." Perkins continued: "Because of the close personal association between editor and writer, once a plot idea (which often comes from the editor) has been accepted (and often planned for a specific issue) and the idea developed through discussion, the story itself—if it turns out okay—is virtually certain of acceptance before it's written!"

Perkins was self-evidently promoting his role in comics, but it is interesting to read his views on the pulps and comics writers:
"To write  comics," he declares, "you need a certain piece of creative mechanism which is lacking from the minds of most writers. That piece of mental machinery is visualization. For while most writers see pictures then they writethey do not write stories in terms of pictures

"They don't do this because they don't have to. Their skill in handling picture words conjures up for the reader the necessary pictures. A pulp writer's story comes out in the magazine essentially as he wrote it on the typewriter. 

"But a comic script is not published—any more than a moviegoer pays to see a scenario. A comic script is handed to an artist, who draws the pictures which have been visualized for him by the script writer. The writer's dialogue and captions are then added to the art work. Color is provided by the engraver, and the finished picture story finally reaches the public.

"Essentially," says Perkins, "a really effective picture-fiction scenario is produced by a writer who has conjured up a really thrilling and very pictorial mental movie—run it off in the projection room of his own imagination—then cut it up into the most dramatic stills. With the story cut up into these stills, the author then describes each still for the artist, adding the appropriate dialogue and captions where these are called for.

"As a matter of fact, the similarity between comics writing and movie writing is quite amazing! 

"For writing a comics script is the closest thing to writing a movie script outside the movies. Neither technique is, essentially, writing. It's devising. Both demand co-operation with, and knowledge of, other skills and minds. The movie writer must have an understanding of actors, directors and camera techniques. The comics script writer must understand the possibilities and the limitations of the artist who is going to 'produce' his script. [. . . ] The story must be very simple, and be pictorially conceived. In other words, the basic plot idea must lead to pictorial sequences when the script gets to the stage of being drawn up. The usual pulp plot is of no use whatsoever.

"For instance, among the many basic plot ideas which I've dreamt up and then passed on to writers was the notion that it'd make swell pictures and a novel story if surrealist pictures were brought into play.

"Accordingly, the writer and I cooked up a yarn where poltergeists get into a surrealistic picture exhibit and animate the artists' nightmares. Amusing and convincingly realistic sub-characters were injected, and an amusing, novel and very pictorial story was the result. 

"Again, I thought up a story, for 'Captain Marvel,' about the world of the immediate and forseeable future. The gadgets, inventions and miracles of this amazing world that most of us will see, and which certainly all children will live in and enjoy, turned into a very glamorous, very graphic story. It was titles 'The World of Your Tomorrow.'

"Or take this character story. An example of this is a story I worked out for 'Lance O'Casey,' a roving, swashbuckling happy-go-lucky type of adventuring hero. A pirate tale always makes good pictures, but the theme is worn out and hackneyed. Most pirates are blood-thirsty monsters. So I thought up 'The Pirate Who Hated Blood.' It made a very entertaining and novel yarn.

[. . .] "The search for novel and different plot angles is endless. And in the searching, a writer automatically learns a vast amount about plotting. 

"For instance, although I was a pulp magazine editor and read many thousands of scripts, and although I could judge where plots lived and where they died, I was never much of a hand at creating plots myself until I started to write comic scripts.

"My plotting ability continually improved as a comic writer. And later, when I came to edit comic magazines as a full-time job, I found that the faculty for dreaming up all kinds of ideas and angles grew even greater, and continues to grow.

[...] "Writing for the comics guarantees economic security and a greatly increased income, and work that is forever fresh and fascinating. Comics offer, also, to the ambitious writer, a chance to grow creatively—and to gain a working preview of the future.

"For, with the promise of television and other miracles of amusement, comics are truly the shape of things to come in publishing and entertainment!" 

Perkins seems to have left Fawcett Comics not long after this profile appeared, and he is believed to have worked for another firm for a couple of years before leaving the field. The few people in comics who remembered him felt he was quirky and hard to get along with, though he apparently had good editorial sense. In 1945, Perkins went out to Hollywood, where he worked as co-writer on four original screenplays for serials from Republic Pictures, including The Purple Monster Strikes (August 1945), The Phantom Rider (January 1946), King of the Forest Rangers (April 1946) and Daughter of Don Q (July 1946). A shortened version of The Purple Monster Strikes (a science fiction story of a Martian crash-landing on earth in prelude to an invasion*) was released for television in 1966 under the title D-Day on Mars. Perkins stayed in Hollywood through at least 1951 (when he became a Naturalized U.S. citizen), but by 1954 he was back in New York, with his wife Alice, who was three years younger than himself. In the 1970s he was working in public relations. Perkins died in New York City in 1999. 

An article covering Perkins's comics work much more thoroughly than it is covered here, "The Stan Lee of 1943" by Will Murray, appeared in the Comic Book Marketplace (no. 120, March 2005). 

 NB: A special thanks to John D. Rateliff for help on this entry. 

* See also the entry on this serial in Thomas Kent Miller's Mars in the Movies (2016), pp. 32-33. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lamont Buchanan

Lamont Buchanan (b. New York City, 6 March 1919; d. New York City, 21 April 2015)
Lamont Buchanan in his mid to late 80s

Charles Lamont Buchanan, Jr., who went by his middle name, was the second of two children and the only son of Charles Lamont Buchanan (1884-1962), a music, art and drama critic, and his first wife, Anita Marshall Dominick (1881-1967), who were married in New York on 11 June 1911. Their first child was a daughter, Jane, some four or five years older than her brother. The Buchanans were divorced and Charles's second wife was Elizabeth Ellis, who survived him.  As "Charles Lamont Buchanan" the father had published a small booklet of poetry, Preludes in Shade (1902), limited to fifty copies from handmade plates.  He worked as a newspaperman first in Hartford, Connecticut, and later in New York.

Lamont Buchanan is remembered primarily as an  "Associate Editor" at Weird Tales under Dorothy McIlwraith's editorship.  After some newspaper work, Buchanan's tenure at Weird Tales ran from the November 1942 issue through the September 1949 one. He worked at the same time for Short Stories, which was also edited by McIlwraith. By 1946, Buchanan was doing most of the work on Weird Tales, according to some notices in Writer's Digest. Between 1947 and 1956 Buchanan also published some thirteen illustrated books of nonfiction, covering topics of sports to politics.  A complete list, with their descriptive subtitles, includes:

The Story of Football in Text and Pictures (1947)

The Story of Basketball in Text and Pictures (1948)

People and Politics: The Pictorial History of the American Two-Party System (1948)

A Pictorial History of the Confederacy (1951)

The World Series and Highlights of Baseball: in Text and Over 250 Pictures (1951)

The Story of Tennis in Text and Pictures (1951)

A Pictorial History of the Confederacy (1951)

The Flying Years (1953)

The Kentucky Derby Story in Text and 140 Illustrations (1953)

The Pictorial Baseball Instructor; with Forty Magic Rules to Help You Play Any Position Better in Little League, College Play, Major League (1954)

Steel Trails and Iron Horses: A Pageant of American Railroading (1955)

Ballot for Americans: A Pictorial History of American Elections and Electioneering with the Top Political Personalities, 1789-1956 (1956)

Ships of Steam (1956)

In the Bronx in 1952, Lamont Buchanan married Jean Milligan (1919-2004) who is reported to have been his high school sweetheart.  What makes this especially interesting is that researcher Sam Moskowitz noted in the 1970s that the pay records for Weird Tales showed that "Jean Milligan" was the payee for some thirty-six stories published in Weird Tales that were bylined "Allison V. Harding."  Initially it was believed that Milligan was the author of these tales, which correlated closely with Buchanan's tenure as Associate Editor at Weird Tales, and at Short Stories, where six additional Harding stories appeared. (The details are given in the Allison V. Harding entry at this blog: click here.) More recently, however, it has been suggested that Buchanan wrote the stories and had the payment sent to his future wife. Evidence that supports this conclusion can be found in the author blurb on his second book, The Story of Basketball in Text and Pictures (1948), which reads:
"As one of the earliest contributors to the big pictorial magazines, he is a firm believer in the text and picture method of telling a story. Besides being a prolific writer of short stories and articles for various publications, Mr. Buchanan has authored network radio scripts, and is also a full-time magazine editor." 
Nothing is at present known about Buchanan's radio scripts, and there are no known short stories under his byline, though for nonfiction he is known to have contributed articles to Liberty and Argosy in 1945 (the piece in Argosy was co-written with his friend and predecessor at Weird Tales, Lynn Perkins), and to Radio and Television News in 1950. Of more interest is Buchanan's article "What Makes the Action Story Go" in Writer's Year Book in 1945, a collection of tips for writers. The idea of Buchanan being "a prolific writer of short stories" would fit with the idea that he wrote the Allison V. Harding stories. 

After 1956 Buchanan and his wife virtually disappeared from public life. They lived in a rent-controlled apartment in the Sutton Place neighborhood of Manhattan for at least five decades.  After an incident in 2004 of both Buchanan and his wife falling and calling out for help, they were moved into an Upper West Side nursing home. Jean Milligan Buchanan died shortly thereafter, in December 2004. Lamont Buchanan lived on for more than ten years, and after his death at the age of 96 in 2015 it was discovered that he had amassed a fortune of over fifteen million dollars, presumably through investments, for he and his wife were known to live frugally. He left no will (and he and Milligan had had no children), but a search turned up a single living blood-relative, an estranged niece, the only child of his sister Jane, from her first marriage to Robert B. Sinclair. 

A few years before Buchanan's death, an unpublished interview from 1940 with reclusive author J.D. Salinger (1919-2010) surfaced, and the news reports claimed that Buchanan had arranged the interview and known Salinger. The claim was also made that Buchanan may have been the inspiration (or partially so) for Salinger's most famous literary character, Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Any close examination makes this assertion seem very dubious. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Romer Wilson

Romer Wilson  (b. Ecclesall, Sheffield, 26 December 1891; d. Lausanne, Switzerland, 11 January 1930)

Florence Roma Muir Wilson was the daughter of Arnold Muir Wilson, a solicitor, and Amy Letitia Dearden Wilson. She was educated at West Heath School and at Girton College, Cambridge.  She began writing in 1915, and published the first of several novels, Martin Schüler, in 1918.  Further books of fiction include If All These Young Men (1919); The Death of Society: Conte de fée premier (1921), winner of the Hawthornden Prize; The Grand Tour (1923);  Dragon's Blood: Conte de fée deuxième (1926); Latterday Symphony (1927); and Greenlow (1927).  Her nonfiction includes a play, The Social Climbers: A Russian Middle-class Tragedy in Four Acts, Seem Through Western Eyes (1927);  and a biography, All Alone: The Life and Private History of Emily Jane Brontë (1928). The Hill of Cloves: A Tract on True Love, with a Digression upon an Invention of the Devil (1929) is a philosophical story.  Wilson met the American anthologist Edward J. O'Brien (1890-1941) in Italy, and they were married in 1923.  A few years later they settled in Switzerland. They had one son. Romer Wilson died of tuberculosis in 1930 at the age of thirty-eight. A posthumous collection of short stories was Tender Advice (1935).  

Wilson also edited three illustrated anthologies of fairy tales, which merits her attention here. All three books have the same subtitle: "A Collection of the World's Best Fairy Tales from All Countries." The first two,  Green Magic (1928) and Silver Magic (1929), were illustrated by Violet Brunton.  The third, Red Magic (1930), was illustrated by Kay Nielsen. All three volumes (but especially the Kay Nielsen volume) command high prices on the collector's market. 

Green Magic (1928)

Red Magic (1930)

from Red Magic (1930)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gerard F. Scriven

Gerard F. Scriven (b. reg. Wandsworth, October-December 1910; d. Clifton, Bristol, 9 January 1949)

Gerard Francis Scriven was the son of Robert Scriven, a journalist (and sub-editor at a newspaper, according to the 1911 UK Census), and his wife Grace Scriven.  Gerard had one older brother and a number of younger sisters.

He was educated at The Priory, the White Fathers' Junior Seminary at Bishop's Waltham in Hampshire, where around 1926-27 he honed his skills as editor of and contributor to The Priorian, the school magazine.

He was ordained a priest in London in 1937, and was appointed to Heston, Middlesex, where the Society of Missionaries of Africa, known as the White Fathers because of the white robes of their dress, ran a thriving parish. He then spent about six years in North Africa (Algeria) before returning to England and taking over the editorship of the White Fathers' magazine. Between 1943 and 1948, he published six books, all with the firm of Samuel Walker in London.  Four are in a series of books about Wopsy, a small Angel who is suddenly given the care of a Matongu (African) baby, known as Shiny John. The first book, Wopsy: The Adventures of a Guardian Angel, came out in November 1943, though it began as a serial in 1940 in the children's section of the magazine The White Fathers of Africa. It was followed by Wopsy Again: The Further Adventures of a Guardian Angel (1945), Wopsy and the Witch Doctor (1946), and The Wanderings of Wopsy (1948). These illustrated books were popular among Catholics through the 1950s and 60s, though today they would be considered racist and culturally insensitive. Scriven published another volume in 1946, "a Life of Our Lord for children as told by the Angels," entitled While Angels Watch: The Life of Jesus Our King

The book for which Scriven deserves attention here is The Ghost Shop (1948), which gives some examples of the history of the Spectral Agency of  Mr. Ivanish, who hires out spooks from his shop in Fingle Street, which is open only "when required." The book contains twelve chapters, with the first being a set-up for the adventures that follow. According to the blurb on the dust-wrapper, Scriven did not intend these stories for children but for their elders. The illustrations (including that on the dust-wrapper) are by Rosemary de Souza, and are suitably atmospheric.  Scriven's prose shies away from horror, and is more straightforward. The tales are at times moralistic. Scriven is buried in the Heston Cemetery.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Arnold Dawson

Arnold Dawson (b. Islington, London, 13 November 1888; d. reg. Camberwell, July-September 1971)

Arnold Woodroffe Dawson was the second child of Charles James Dawson (1840-1904), a schoolmaster, and his wife, Ellen, née Cooper (c.1849-1894), who were married 29 May 1884 in St. Jude, Mildmay Grove, Islington.  Their first child was Lorna Pearl Dawson (1885-1970).  The father, as C.J. Dawson, published in August 1890 a textbook, Essays, Essay-writing and Paraphrasing: being models and hints for pupil teachers, scholarship candidates and students, followed in 1891 by a new edition, "sixth edition revised and enlarged by C. J. Dawson," of W. J. Dickinson's The Difficulties in Grammar and Analysis Simplified, originally published in 1878.

After the deaths of his parents, Arnold lived with his older half-brother, Charles Dawson. Arnold was educated at the Haberdashers' School and the Islington Training College. He served in W.W.I from 1915-1919 in the Roy West Kent Regiment. He married Jean Brown Wilson in Hampstead in early 1919. He had a later common-law wife called Nesta who died around 1960.

Arnold worked primarily as a journalist, at The Daily Herald from 1919 through 1930 (Literary Editor, 1927-1930), The Sun Graphic & Daily Sketch from 1931 through 1947, and at The British Weekly from 1947. He contributed to various journals including The Bookman, Clarion, and T.P.'s Weekly. In his final years he lived in a book-filled flat in Brixton in south London.  

In 1927, while Literary Editor at The Daily Herald, he started publishing a series of short stories under the title "Tales That Enthral".  A selection of these stories were collected in an anthology Tales That Enhtral: A Selection of Twenty-nine of the World's Best Short Stories, published by Richards in March 1930.  It is Arnold Dawson's only book. In the Introduction, he wrote:

This volume is an answer to numerous requests from Daily Herald readers who have followed with interest the series of short stories published in that newspaper during the past three years, and have written asking that a selection from them should be published in book form. In making the  selection I have endeavoured  to cover as wide a range as possible, and it will be found that there is a considerable variety of theme and treatment, which is not surprising in view of the fact that the authors represented include the writer of a “Sheik story” a thousand years old, the famous Italian, Giovanni Boccaccio, many nineteenth century masters of the short story, and several noted authors of our own day.  Humour and horror, irony, pathos and fantasy are all represented in these pages, and I think it may be claimed justly that each story is a little masterpiece of its kind.

He also noted that some of the stories were written specifically for the Daily Herald series, and claimed that E. Nesbit's contribution, "A Christmas Criminal" was printed for the first time in the series, being her last story, written on her death-bed, though that event occurred on 4 May 1924, nearly three years before the Daily Herald series began. Overall, though, the anthology delivers a good number of entertaining stories, a number of which are weird or fantastic. Here is the table of contents:

Tales That Enthrall ed. Arnold Dawson (London: Richards, 1930, 2/-, 256pp, hc)

Introduction · Arnold Dawson
A Romance of the Desert · Al-Asma’I
The Three Rings · Giovanni Boccaccio
Kirk Alloway Witches · Robert Burns
Dream Children · Charles Lamb
“El Verdugo” (The Executioner) · Honoré de Balzac
The Shot · Alexander Pushkin
A Tale of Terror · Thomas Hood
The Lost Hand of Zaleukos · Wilhelm Hauff
The Haunted and the Haunters · Lord Lytton
The Wicked Prince · Hans Andersen 
The Mummy’s Foot · Théophile Gautier
The Masque of the Red Death · Edgar Allan Poe
The Moss-Rose · Grenville Murray
The Passage of the Red Sea · Henri Murger
A Terribly Strange Bed · William Wilkie Collins
Journalism in Tennessee · Mark Twain
Our New Neighbors at Ponkapog · Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Tennessee’s Partner · Bret Harte
After Twenty Years · O. Henry
The Pearl of Love · H. G. Wells
Arvie Aspinall’s Alarm Clock · Henry Lawson
A Christmas Criminal · E. Nesbit
Many a Tear · M. P. Shiel
The Mother Stone · John Galsworthy
The Wag · Henri Barbusse
The Opening of the Door · M. P. Willcocks
A Love Tale of Two Common People · Joe Corrie
The Soul of Ivan the Peasant · Alexander Neveroff
Biographical Notes

NB: Thanks to Kate Stout for sharing information given in this entry.