Thursday, November 8, 2018

Joan Samson

Joan Samson (b. Eire, Pennsylvania, 9 September 1937; d. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 27 February 1976)

Joan Samson was the daughter of Edward W. Samson, a nuclear physicist, and his wife Helen, née Verrall, a teacher.  She attended Wellesley College from 1955-57, her undergraduate years interrupted by marriage and by following her husband to Chicago. She finished school at the University of Chicago (B.A. 1959), and taught elementary school in Chicago (1959-60). Soon afterwards her marriage broke up. She taught further in Newton, Massachusetts (1960-63). She also taught in London, England, in 1965-66, and in London, on 27 May 1965, she married Warren C. Carberg, Jr., a library administrator. They lived in Europe for a few years before returning to Massachusetts. They had two children, a daughter and a son. Samson went back to school at Tufts University (M.A. 1968), taught at a country day school in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1968-69, and worked as a manuscript editor of the journal Daedalus from 1973-75.

Her first book was Watching the New Baby (1974); it has photographs by Gary Gladstone.  It is an account for children of what to expect with regard to a new family member. It was based on the birth of her daughter. Samson's husband noted that "because it contains a story of the growing fetus, librarians classify it as sex education. But all manner of other folk—notably new mothers—have delighted in the warmth and informativeness of the book."

Samson's only novel, The Auctioneer (New York: Simon and Schuster), is dated 1975 but was not published until mid-January 1976. Five weeks later the author was dead of brain cancer. Her novel was briefly on the bestseller lists, and a film was planned but never came about. The Auctioneer was also published in England, and in Dutch and Spanish translations.  Centipede Press published a lavish limited edition in 2010, with an introduction by Ed Gorman. A Valancourt Books reprint appeared in 2018, with a new introduction by Grady Hendrix and an afterword by Warren Carberg.

The Auctioneer is not really a horror novel. It is better classified as a non-supernatural suspense story. Set in a small town in New Hampshire, it concerns a newcomer, auctioneer Perly Dunsmore, who comes to the town and basically takes over everything by forcing townspeople to contribute each week to his auctions, by which he raises money for himself and for the increasing supply of town deputies he controls. Those who refuse to contribute each week soon find themselves, or their family members, victims of some kind of misfortune, often resulting in maiming or death. The townspeople quickly fall in line, and despair at finding a way out. The tense atmosphere grows in a long crescendo before any resolution is possible. The novel also works a parable of the devastating effect of the commercial mindset on people, small towns, and the old traditional ways. It has been hailed as a minor classic, but it is not without some flaws.

The novel started as a ten-page short story, which her husband encouraged her to continue.  It is based somewhat on the experiences she and her husband had vacationing and spending weekends in rural New Hampshire. Carberg noted that it was inspired by a vivid dream: "Joan awoke one day, she said, with the feeling that the dream had just handed her a situation and an impression that she must write about. What subsequently evolved was a thrilling suspense story."

Friday, August 31, 2018

Donald Macpherson

Donald Macpherson (b. Boughton, Kent, 17 July 1889; d. Cambridge, England, 24 April 1966)

"Donald Macpherson" was the pseudonym, used on two novels, of the British-born academic George* Humphrey, the son of Edmund Humphrey and his wife Emily Anne Maddex. He had a younger sister Dora Humphrey. He was educated at Queen Elizabeth's School, Faversham, and All Souls College, Oxford (1909, Honour Mathematical Moderations; 1912 Literae Humaniores). After graduating from Oxford he was awarded a Cassell scholarship to the University of Leipzig, where he studied experimental psychology under Wilhelm Wundt.  From 1916 to 1918 he taught classics at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada, and from there moved on to Harvard University, where he received a PhD. in psychology in 1920. He was an assistant professor of psychology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut from 1920 to 1924, then in 1924 he was appointed the Charlton Professor of Philosophy at Queen's University on Kingston, Ontario, a post he held until 1947, when he became the first professor of psychology at the University of Oxford.  He retired in 1956, moving to Cambridge, where he died in 1966.

Humphrey's professional works include The Story of Man's Mind (1923), The Nature of Learning in Its Relation to the Living System (1933), Directed Thinking (1948) and Thinking: An Introduction to Its Experimental Psychology (1951). With his first wife, Muriel Miller Humphrey, whom he married in 1918 and with whom he had one daughter, he translated Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard's early nineteenth-century account of the case history of a French feral child discovered around the year 1800 (at the estimated age of twelve). The translation was published as The Wild Boy of Aveyron (1932). Muriel Humphrey died in 1955, and in the following year George Humphrey married his colleague Berta Hochberger.

In The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers (2005), edited by John R. Shook, Humphrey's professional publications are assessed as follows:
The pattern of Humphrey's lifetime research reflected his concern with integrating the separate approaches of the various schools. In writing The Story of Man's Mind, he had found that he could not deliver a popular account of problem solving by adults, or even of the normal flow of adult mental associations, without recourse to the notion that all thought was guided by motives of some kind. In a second popular book, Direct Thinking (1948), he suggested that psychoanalysis might provide a rationale whereby even conflicting thought processes could be shown to have an underlying logical structure if the motives underlying them possessed common elements. Humphrey's Thinking (1951) is the most detailed account in English of the research on human mental problem solving that had been carried out in Germany by the Würzburg School, by Otto Selz, and by the Gestalt psychologists. Their experiments all demonstrated the importance of motivation ("set") in determining the sequence of thoughts. 
The two Donald Macpherson novels come directly out of Humphrey's professional work.  At their simplest, they are novels which experiment in methods of using the mind to manipulate matter.  Both center around four main protagonists:  Reginald Brooks, who works at a Montreal private experimental scientific think-tank, the McDuffie Institute; George MacTavish, a journalist who became friends with Brooks when they were both at Oxford; Olive Paynter, a distinguished scientist herself and Montreal society debutante, and the fiancée of Brooks; and Mary Raiche, another eligible society woman who had gone to school with Olive. In Go Home, Unicorn (London:  Faber and Faber, 1935), Brooks and his friends study some bizarre phenomenon, including a man who has seen a disembodied hand come through an open window of his car, causing an accident; in another instance a woman's severed head angrily manifests itself at a dinner party; in another, a celebrated composer directing his own "Hymn of Hate" is flung violently across the stage as a result of the audience's reaction; and subsequent to two of the characters attending a lecture on Mythological Animals, an angry unicorn manifests itself to the danger of all. Only the presence of Mary Raiche calms the animal, and its rage at Olive Paynter forces her to admit sexual indiscretions in her past, and she withdraws from the intended marriage to Brooks.  The solution to the supposed hauntings turns out to be quite silly.  At the McDuffie Institute, Brooks's research involves radiating guinea pigs, and the altered states of the minds of the guinea pigs is determined to have caused the hauntings.  As a novel, Go Home, Unicorn has considerable problems:  the characters are wooden, much of the heavy dialogue is either humorless banter irrelevant to the story or Brooks's info-dumps of his ongoing analysis of the case, given to set up the next plot moves of the characters in their attempt to solve the mysteries. Yet despite these and other flaws (ranging from dated sexism to nonscientific explanations), the story is readable and compelling primarily because what keeps happening is unusual and unexpected. Oddly, in the final chapter, after Brooks has explained the situation, a strange and seemingly-evil tentacled thing appears on the ceiling at the McDuffie Institute, giving the novel it's most intriguing development—yet this happens after the mysteries have been explained. (The book appears to switch genres with this last section, going from a light comedic fantasy to unrestrained horror. The only other book I can think of like this is Michael Arlen's Hell! Said the Duchess, published in 1934.)

The second novel, Men Are Like Animals (London: Faber and Faber, 1937) is a direct sequel to the first, taking place something over a year after the events of the first novel.  Brooks and Mary Raitch are married, but Olive has put together some sort of electrical machinery that amplifies and alters human emotions from a distance, so much so that Mary Brooks is lured into infidelity with George MacTavish. Olive is seeking to get Brooks back, but things do not work out as she had planned.  Again the same flaws appear in the novel, and the again it's the sheer unusualness of the plot and straightforward readability of the prose that keeps one going to the end.  Damien Broderick, in his Psience Fiction (2018), counts Go Home, Unicorn as one of the earliest novels of telepathy or psi powers.

*Internet resources give "William" as a middle name, but none of the genealogical and printed sources I have consulted corroborate this, and his birth and baptism registrations include no middle name.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Genevieve Genevra Fairfield

Genevieve Genevra Fairfield (b. New York City, 1830; d. Washington, D.C., 5 February 1912)

Frontispiece to Irene (1852)
There can be few literary families as ill-fated as the Fairfields. The father was Sumner Lincoln Farifield (1803-1844), editor and poet, author of such volumes as Cities of the Plain (1828) and The Last Night of Pompei (1832), the latter of which Fairfield sent to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose novel The Last Days of Pompei came out two years later.  Fairfield stoutly maintained that Bulwer-Lytton had plagiarized from his work. In American Authors 1600-1900 (1938), Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft note that "Fairfield was subject to spells of insanity and all his poetry shows the effect of his morbidity and bitterness.... He had few friends, and his poetry, at times reaching a high level in early American literature, is now little read" (p. 261). Fairfield's mental health broke down around 1836-37, and his wife wrote in The Life of Sumner Lincoln Fairfield (1846):
From this fatal period commenced the decline of the poor poet ... It was not long before his constitution began to suffer from severe attacks of epilepsy. The exposure and suffering to which he became inured brought on a complication of diseases which lasted  during life. For the last five years of his life he was unable to make any exertion whatever for the support of his family, which consisted of five young children. (p. 58)
The mother was Jane Fairfield, née Frazee (c.1804-c.1863). She met Sumner Lincoln Fairfield in July 1826, as he returned to America after some months in England.  They were married on 20 September 1826, and soon after she moved in with her husband and his mother, all their household furnishings were seized for debt. After their first child Angelo died on 11 May 1832, at the age of four years and three months, the doctor told the parents that a post-mortem examination of the child's brain had disclosed that "probably at twelve years of age your son would have fallen into fatuity"  (The Autobiography of Jane Fairfield, p. 96). They were told to "be grateful that your son has gone to rest" (ibid).

Jane realized that she had to step up and find ways to provide for her family, soliciting advance subscriptions for her husband's publications, and arranging the financing for their monthly magazine venture, The North American Magazine, which debuted in November 1832. It was retitled The North American Quarterly Magazine in 1835, suspended in 1837, and revived and sold in 1838.  Jane Fairfield published two books, The Life of Sumner Lincoln Fairfield (1846), which includes a large selection of her husbands poems; and The Autobiography of Jane Fairfield (1860).

Besides their first child who died very young, they had five other children.  The two elder daughters were Genevieve Genevra Fairfield  (b. 1830) and Gertrude (b. 1832). Their birth-years have been confusingly interchanged in various reference works, though in their mother's two books it is clear that Genevieve was the "eldest daughter" and Gertrude the younger. Little is known about the subsequent children, which (according to the 1850 U.S. Census) included Ellen (aged 15, thus born circa 1834-35) and Elizabeth (aged 12, thus born circa 1837-38).  The final child was evidently a boy, Eugene.

Genevieve's first book, Genevra: or, The History of a Portrait (1851) was published anonymously, as "By an American Lady / A Resident of Washington City." In her Autobiography, Jane noted that Genevieve "gave to the novel her own name. She had both the following, Genevieve Genevra. She preferred Genevra, on account of its easy pronunciation" (p. 190), though her mother always referred to her as Genevieve.  The book took her a little less than a year to write, and after its publication Genevieve continued to write and paint.  She sent copies of her book to many notables, and received praise in various letters from Eugene Sue, Henry W. Longfellow, and Fitz-Greene Halleck, among others. Jane Fairfield published these letters in her Autobiography.

Genevieve put together a second book, and secured a publisher, but what came out is something rather different.  The book is called Irene: or, The Autobiography of an Artist's Daughter and Other Tales (1852).  The title story is not by Genevieve but by her sister Gertrude, and it takes up some two-hundred and sixty-some pages of a volume comprising three-hundred and eighty-three pages. In an "Authoress' Notice" it reveals that:
In consequence of an unavoidable delay in the completion of a Novelette, by Miss Genevieve Genevra Fairfield, which was originally designed to conclude this work, Miss Gertrude Fairfield, her sister, will supply its place with 'Irene.'
The other one-hundred and twenty-odd pages include two items by Genevieve, a novella "The Vice President's Daughter" (ninety pages) and a short story "The Wife of Two Husbands" (twenty-five pages).  The book is dedicated to Eugene Sue as "the greatest of living authors and the most elegant man of his time." The front matter includes the text of a letter from Sue accepting the dedication.

This was apparently the last of Genevieve Genevra Fairfield's publications. (Some sources list another undated publication entitled "The Inkeeper's Daughter" but this has not been traced.) She was soon courted by the English immigrant William North (1825-1854), who was then emerging as an interesting and promising writer and journalist.  But according to her mother, Genevieve insisted that she would never marry, and though she enjoyed North's company (as did her mother), she spurned his offers of marriage.  In the end North committed suicide by swallowing prussic acid on 14 November 1854, some saying he was sick of the poverty of the life of a journalist, others that he was frustrated by disappointed love. Both are probably true.

By the winter of 1859, Genevieve, whose own mental balance had long been erratic, was put into the West Philadelphia Insane Asylum by her mother.  After some months she seemed to have recovered, and was released for a short while, before she broke down and was committed again.  Sometime in the 1860s (perhaps after the death of her mother) Genevieve was transferred to Washington D.C.'s Government Hospital for the Insane (St. Elizabeth's Hospital), where she spent the rest of her life, dying on 5 February 1912.

Gertrude Fairfield fared no better than her sister.  On 6 May 1853, in New Orleans, she married Francisco Xavier Vingut (1823-1857), a Cuban immigrant who was a Spanish professor at the City University of New York from 1848 until his death. Vingut was a prolific writer and editor. With his wife, he edited Obras de don Jose Antonio Saco (1853).  Gertrude (as Gertrude F. de Vingut) also edited Selections from the Best Spanish Poets (1856) and wrote Naomi Torrente: The History of a Woman (1864). They had one daughter. After Vingut's death, Gertrude married George Carter Barrett (1838-1906) on 30 November 1865. Barrett was a well-known and distinguished judge, for many years on the New York State Supreme Court. Barrett adopted Gertrude's daughter (Gertrude Josephine Vingut Barrett, 1857-1888) and was devoted to her.  Gertrude and Barrett had their own daughter, Angela Carter Barrett (1867-1891).  After the deaths of both of her daughters, Gertrude experienced some sort of mental derangement, and was put into a private asylum in Lindenhof, Coswig, Saxony, run by Dr. R.H. Pierson. At the time of her husband's death in 1906, Gertrude had been institutionalized for several years.  Her husband's will left a trust fund of $25,000 for the care of his "afflicted wife." Gertrude reportedly died in Lindenhof in 1912.

Judge Barrett evidently had some literary aspirations, which brought about some public discord with his wife.  In December 1883, Walleck's Theatre in New York put on a performance of a play entitled "An American Wife," authored by Barrett. A letter from Gertrude F. Barrett, sent from Florence, Italy, and dated 22 December 1883, was printed in New York newspapers beginning on January 9th 1884, claiming that the play was a collaboration, with Gertrude writing the serious portion of the play and her husband writing the comedic part. Judge Barrett maintained that he was the sole author of the play (though he admitted that his wife contributed to another of his plays from 1876 entitled "The Watchword: A Comedy in Five Acts").  Another newspaper noted that "there is only one thing about the play of any importance just now, and that is that the public is thoroughly tired of it and everything connected with it." (The Evening Star, 12 January 1884).

Genevieve and Gertrude's brother Eugene is also reported to have been institutionalized.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Harry Ludlam

Harry Ludlam in 2005
Harry Ludlam (b. reg. Holborn, London, Oct-Dec 1924; d. reg. Hastings, Somerset, 25 November 2011)

Herbert William Ludlam, always known as Harry, was the son of  Charles W. Ludlam and his wife, Winifred Hook, who were married in Tendring, Essex, in early 1924.  Little is known of his early life, but during W.W. II he served in the R.A.F. in the Far East. After the war he was engaged in newspaper work, in the Midlands and later in London. Harry Ludlam married Barbara E. Steele in Birmingham in the summer of 1951. They had two children.

In the early 1950s, Ludlam met Bela Lugosi, and a few years later he found a cheap first edition of Dracula (a book he had previously encountered as a schoolboy) and began to work on a biography of Bram Stoker. Ludlam had written short stories and novels without any achieving publication, and he yearned to do something more noteworthy.  He was aided by Stoker's son, Noel, and Ludlam spent seven years researching the book, which finally came out as A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker (1962), some months after Noel Stoker's death. Decades later Ludlam would publish a short book My Quest for Bram Stoker (2000), which gives an account of the evolution of Ludlam's most famous work. The Stoker biography was pioneering, as no one had bothered previously to study Stoker in such detail. Despite several more recent (and much better sourced) biographies of Stoker, Ludlam's anecdotal book still retains interest. (A paperback edition from New English Library in 1977 was more sensibly titled A Biography of Bram Stoker: Creator of Dracula.)

After his first book, Ludlam published prolifically. His publisher, Foulsham, hired him to edit two volumes of "true" hauntings by Elliott O'Donnell (1872-1965), who was a very popular figure in his time for his lectures, broadcasts and writings on the paranormal, being well-known as the premiere  ghost-hunter. The first, The Screaming Skulls and Other Ghost Stories (1964), contains thirty-eight of O'Donnell's tales compiled and arranged by Ludlam from O'Donnell's many books. Ludlam also contributed a one-page introduction about O'Donnell. The second, The Midnight Hearse and More Ghosts (1965), contains another thirty-seven tales, similarly arranged by Ludlam, with an even shorter introduction. After O'Donnell's death, Ludlam was given to complete O'Donnell's last project, which he was working on when he died.  It was published as Elliott O'Donnell's Casebook of Ghosts (1969). A further collection appeared as Elliott O'Donnell's Ghost Hunters (1971). It has no introduction but on the dust-wrapper it notes that "recent discovery of further papers among the effects of the late Elliott O'Donnell makes possible this collection of true stories by Britain's most renowned ghost-hunter." It contains eighteen tales. An Omnibus edition Elliott O'Donnell's Great Ghost Stories (1983) collects only two books, The Screaming Skull and Other Ghosts from 1964 and Elliott O'Donnell's Casebook of Ghosts from 1969.  The 1991 volume The Great Ghost Hunter (as by Elliott O'Donnell, with the cover title True Stories form the Great Ghost Hunter) contains twenty-one tales; it is basically a reprint of Elliott O'Donnell's Ghost Hunters from 1971, with the final three tales in the book being reprinted from The Midnight Hearse (1965), itself having been made up of reprints from previous publications.

Ludlam launched his own series of books of true hauntings with The Mummy of Birchen Bower and Other True Ghosts (1967) and The Restless Ghosts of Ladye Place and Other True Hauntings (1967).  Both volumes were combined in 1985 in what was labeled by the publisher "A Harry Ludlam Omnibus" but which was otherwise confusingly titled the same as his first volume, The Mummy of Birchen Bower and Other True Ghosts. In the 1990s Ludlam published two further volumes of true hauntings,  Ghosts Among Us (1994) and True Ghost Stories (1999). 

The 2005 Ash-Tree reprint, using the first edition cover art
In 1964, Ludlam published his first novel, The Coming of Jonathan Smith (retitled Witch's Curse in the 1969 U.S. paperback edition).  This book is Ludlam's most significant achievement in the weird fiction genre. It is supposedly based on some material discovered during Ludlam's research on his Stoker biography.  The story concerns a haunting from the past by a malevolent spirit which is possibly causing suicides in the present. The details of the haunting aren't entirely worked out (some aspects are left without any explanation or context), but the narrative is engaging.  Ludlum's second novel was a paperback original, Oh Jimmy, You’ve Gone (1974), in which a rock-star continues to make and release hits after his supposed death in an airplane crash.

Ludlam also published another biography, Captain Scott: The Full Story (1965), about the antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912).  And with Paul Lund, Ludlam began a series of books that recount various stories of action in World War II.  These include: PQ 17: Convoy to Hell (1968);
Trawlers Go To War (1971); Night of the U-boats (1973); The War of the Landing Craft (1976); Out Sweeps! (1978); and Nightmare Convoy (1987). The series was very popular. Atlantic Jeopardy (1990) is a compilation of the first three volumes. In 2010-12 the six books were reissued in a series headed "I Was There" with the original titles sometimes slightly altered.  The first few came out as trade paperback and ebooks, but subsequently the others came out as ebooks only.  

Lund and Ludlam also tried their hand at military fiction of World War II, including novels The Fate of the 'Lady Emma' (1978); Hit the Beach (1979); and Icekill (1984). 

Ludlam's final solo novel was The Eye of Starosta: Being the Strange Journals of Captain Adam Thain (2005). Billed as his "second horror-thriller" (the first being The Coming of Jonathan Smith), it is the reminiscences of Adam Thain, a criminal who committed supernaturally-inspired atrocities in World War II who is imprisoned by his mother at a house in Cornwall. Sadly, the novel is rather diffuse and ineffective.  

Ludlam's final book was Talk of the Devil ... and His Awful Relations (2006), a slim collection of eighteen lighter notes on topics such as "Lilith the Shriek," "Loki the Fickle," "Choice Hells," "The Wild Huntsman," and "Dracula's Relations."  It is illustrated by Paul Lund.  Ludlam spent most of his last years as caregiver for his wife, who suffered from Parkinson's Disease. Ludlam died at the age of 87.
Thanks to Andrew Parry for considerable help with this entry. Originally posted on 12 August 2018, this entry has been updated on 1 October 2018.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bob Leman

Photo courtesy of Jim Rockhill and the Leman family.
Bob Leman (b. 22 May 1922, Eureka, Illinois; d. 8 August 2006, Bethel Park, Pennsylvania)

[Updated 4/15/18] Robert Joseph Leman was the son of Joseph Frederick Leman (1894-1969), a farmer, and his wife Lois Emma Altorfer (1893-1927), who were married on 21 March 1921 in Roanoke, Illinois. He had two younger sisters, and a younger brother, as well as a half-brother, born after his father had remarried in 1932.

Leman graduated from high school in 1939, and he attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana for three years before enlisting in the army in October 1942. He served as a field artillery officer during World War II, after which he completed his B.A. degree in 1947 on the G.I. Bill, studying political science. Also in 1947, Leman married Margaret Anne Longacre (1926-2012), with whom he had two daughters. And he went to work in the oil and gas industry (first at Standard Oil, now renamed Exxon), which remained his profession until retirement.

Leman was since youth a voracious reader, not only of science fiction (he read Edgard Rice Burroughs when he was nine, followed soon after by H.G. Wells and the pulp magazines), but of literature in general, including writers like Mark Twain, Vladimir Nabokov, William Faulkner, and Henry James.  Of the pulp magazines Leman told Jim Rockhill that he enjoyed Weird Tales, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Astounding Science Fiction and the variously-subtitled successor Analog, which were under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Jr., from 1937 until Campbell's death in 1971.  Leman was a member of First Fandom, owing to his activities as a science fiction fan prior to 1938, but his most active period in fandom began in 1957, when he joined the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA). The first issue of his FAPA fanzine (November 1957) was titled The American Journal of Oculenteratology, with "oculenteratology" being what Leman called "an etymologically imperfect coinage of mine, meaning (or intending to mean) 'the study of bug-eyed monsters.' " Leman retitled his fanzine The Vinegar Worm with the second issue (January 1958), and so it remained until its final issue (volume II, number twelvethe sixteenth sequential issue) of November 1969. The fanzine followed Leman's employment; it was issued first from Denver 1957-c.1960, then from Rawlings, Wyoming, until 1961, and then from Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, where Leman and his family finally settled.

Leman described his fanzine as "completely written by me with no fancy graphics or illustrationsmostly humorous, mostly essays, and sometimes a story. It contained quite a bit of parody and some satire." Most of the "stories" might more accurately be described as sketches, and they include things like "Paint the Coffin Fuschia" (a John D. MacDonald parody) and "The Davenport" (subtitled "A grieved reaction to The Couch, a 'novelization' by our old friend, Robert Bloch"), or more original short pieces like "Brisker Pipes" by Farley McNitt (about the conflict between a man and his wife over fandom) and "Horror Unparalleled" by Blossom Grabenhorst (a parody of adventure tales like those of A. Merritt). Other authors parodied, in a symposium based on the nursery rhyme of "Little Miss Muffet," include Thomas Wolfe, Philip K. Dick, Ayn Rand, William Faulkner, Allen Ginsberg, and Bob Leman himself. A later issue mocks Harlan Ellison's anthology Dangerous Visions, as Perilous Hallucinations, with entries on Theodore Sturgeon, Lester del Rey, Philip Jose Farmer, and Ellison's own contribution, "The Marauder Lurking Near the Chasm Lying at the End of Time." The Vinegar Worm contained a number of book reviews too, of Mervyn Peake and J.R.R. Tolkien (Leman much preferred The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings). Probably the most brilliant writing in The Vinegar Worm was Leman's championing of the forgotten writer Dorcas Bagby (1883-1963), for whose novel The Moswell Plan (1905) Leman makes a strong case for it being "the greatest novel of the supernatural ever written."  Of course it was a hoax: Miss Bagby and her novel existed only in Leman's imagination, but it was kind of Leman to share this wonderful conception of an imaginary writer and her oeuvre with the world.

Leman put out some other fanzines, like the one-page (two sides) An Inquiry into Certain Little-Known Consequences of the Berlin-Bagdad Pact (1957), which was entirely fannish in nature, being written in support of Richard Eney's candidacy for that year's Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund.  For the Spectator Amateur Press Society (SAPS) Leman also published six issues of Nematode, no. 1 (January 1958) to no. 6 (January 1960). A single-page Bulletin of the Dorcas Bagby Society (probably late 1961), was followed by a large issue 2 that seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with Dorcas Bagby (the only reported copy, from which I've seen two scanned pages, are printed over doubly, and thus virtually unreadable).

Leman's output of fiction was relatively small, but it was of consistently high quality, with a modern and realistic approach to the elements of fantasy that he used. He wrote in total sixteen short stories. His first book was the reprinting of a 1984 story, Instructions, as a chapbook in 2001 from Tachyon Publications. Fifteen stories (including "Instructions") were collected in the 2002 volume Feesters in the Lake & Other Stories, edited by Jim Rockhill. Thirteen of the short stories had appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; the first in 1967 and the rest between 1977 and 1988. (Leman read every issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction since its inception in 1949.) Only one story ("Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming") had appeared elsewhere, in Shadows 10 (1987), edited by Charles L. Grant. The fifteenth story ("How Dobbstown Was Saved") was newly-published, though it had been sold in February 1981 to the never-published anthology The Last Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison. 

Leman left two unpublished works, a short story "A Clock for a Demon," a kind of Screwtape-type story in which a demon attempts to instruct his nephew in perpetrating evil among humans. It was turned down by Ed Ferman of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1989 because at that time Ferman had too many horror stories in stock.  Leman's other unpublished work dates from the first half of 1987; it is a large fragment of a novel titled Worms, comprising some thirty-thousand words.  It is vintage Leman, and it is a real regret that he didn't finish it.

Leman's most famous work is doubtless his 1980 short story "Windows," which was filmed as part of the Night Visions series, and aired in July 2001 (retitled "A View through the Window"), starring Bill Pullman. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Howard Rose

Howard Rose (b. Chicago, 19 January 1922; d. Olive Bridge, NY, November 1987)

Howard Rose was the oldest of two surviving sons of Sam Rose (c.1897-?), a restaurant manager and owner, and his wife Etta Donchin Rose (c.1898-1952), both of Russian Jewish descent.

Rose served in the army in World War II, and studied painting and art history for four years at the Art Institute in Chicago. He moved to New York in 1950, where he made a career working in the art galleries. With his partner Raymond Saroff (b. 1922), he began to collect art in the late 1950s, developing a particular interest in folk art.  Saroff described their collecting in 1989: "Over a period of twenty-five years our collection came to include more than 300 items. The variety was enormoussculptures and paintings, of course, but also furniture, rugs, quilts, drawings, toys, theorems, tramp art, etc.most of it from the 19th and early 20th centuries."
The 1969 Macmillan cover

In New York Rose also began to write fiction.  He published only one novel during his lifetime, that being Twelve Ravens: A Novel of Witchcraft (New York: Macmillan, [February] 1969). It was well-reviewed. Kirkus Review described the book as "a starling, stygian tale of a witches' coven in the midwestern hills, vaulting out of the dark venue of Poe with something of the manic, picaresque energy of Pynchon." The story centers on a Jewish family, Max and Rose Lavin and son Alan. Their handyman, called Gypsy, is a magus and the leader of the rural town of Braddox, southwest of Chicago. Its modernist take on the occult was perhaps a bit too early to be appreciated. Rose wrote several more novels before his sudden death.

From 1979 to 1982 Rose wrote a book on Unexpected Eloquence: The Art in American Folk Art.  The first chapter appeared in Art in America for January 1982, but the full book did not appear until 1990, three years after Rose's death, when it was published by Raymond Saroff in association with the Edith C. Blum Art Institute at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, where there was an exhibition of selections from the Howard Rose / Raymond Saroff Collection of American Folk Art from December 1989 through March 1990.

Saroff also reprinted Twelve Ravens in 1990, and published for the first time three other Howard Rose novels, The False Messiah trilogy, comprising The Pooles of Pismo Bay (1990), a Great Depression sage concerning the Wobbly sensibilities in the Poole family; Oak Street Beach (1990), a short novel concerning Reuben Poole, set fifteen years after The Pooles of Pismo Bay; and The Marrano (1992), the third in the sequence though it overlaps in time with Oak Street Beach. None of these have the overt occult presence found in Twelve Ravens.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Clara H. Holmes

Clara H. Holmes (b. Ohio, 1838; d. Colorado Springs, Colorado, 14 July 1927)

Updated* (3/20/18): Very little seems to be able to be discovered with any certainty about  the early life of Clara H. Holmes.  She was born in Ohio in 1838.  She married James L. Holmes, a carpenter six years her senior, around 1857.  They lived in Iowa and Chicago, and had two daughters, born around 1859 and 1861. James L. Holmes died in Chicago c. 1876.

Clara H. Holmes moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado, in the summer of 1892. She contributed to Midland Monthly beginning in 1896. Other articles include "The Ice Cave, Cripple Creek, Colorado," in the September 1897 issue of Travel. Various stories published in newspapers up to around 1910 include "Uncle Eben's Mistake,""It Only Came After He Recovered from His Bashfulness," and "Trifling Telephone Tangles." But her most significant publication was a volume of eleven short stories, Floating Fancies among the Weird and the Occult (New York: F. Tennyson Neely, 1898). The author's name is misprinted as "Howard" on the spine, but is correct on the title and copyright pages.  The eleven short stories are amateurishly written, but some of the content is still interesting, as in the first story, "Nordhung Nordjansen," a hollow-earth tale, where a sailor finds himself in this dimly-lit world of mist beings in human form. In "A Nineteenth Century Ghost" a woman is haunted by the ghost of the woman who took her husband away from her. "A Tale of the X-Ray" tells of a man who experiments with X-rays, resulting in a physiological change.

Clara H. Holmes moved to Colorado Springs perhaps as early as 1908. In 1926 Holmes published a second book, a collection of verse entitled Scattered Autumn Leaves. She died the next year at the age of 89.

*Thanks to Steven Rowe for contributing updates to this entry.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Alan Griffiths

Alan Griffiths (b. Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England, 15 March 1899; d. reg. Lambeth, Greater London, January-March 1950)

Alan Charles Griffiths was the second of four surviving children of Charles Herbert Griffiths (1874-1950), a commercial traveler in engineering, and his wife Kate Elizabeth Thompson (1872-1960), who were married in Bury St. Edmunds in the spring of 1897.His older sister was Gertrude Kate Griffiths (1898-1982), and his younger brothers were Leslie Neil Griffiths (1905-2006) and Geoffrey Norman Griffiths (1907-1989).

Alan Griffiths published four novels in England, all humorous fantasies after the manner of Thorne Smith, the first two of which achieved American editions.  Griffiths supplied some biographical information for the blurb on the rear flap of the first American publication, and as information on Griffiths is rare, it is worth quoting this sardonic piece in full
Alan Griffiths, whose hilarious explorations bring startling news from Heaven, has himself led a quiet if somewhat incongruous life. He began as an apprentice in an iron foundry and put into every casting all the loathing of which his soul was capable.

At seventeen he went to war in the hope of seeing something of the world. As a result of Ypres he has seen it though one eye ever since.

Later he spent three years in an Indian woolen mill advertising underwear to natives who had no inclination to wear it.

Returning to England he wrote limericks for a patent cheese and got a very temporary job as a postman.

US edition
Now he is thirty-five, a bachelor and a novelist with a slight leaning toward Sufism and a stronger leaning toward becoming a millionaire.
This first novel was Strange News from Heaven (London: Lovat Dickson, 1934; Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1935). In it a reverend suffers a stroke and is pronounced dead. But he suddenly returns to life with strange tales of his visit to heaven. It received mixed reviews. While the New York Times called it a "delightfully impudent extravaganza" (21 July 1935), the Boston Transcript complained "not only is the news from heaven strange but it turns out to be rather dreary" (27 July 1935).

US edition
Griffith's second novel was Spirits Under Proof (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1935), retitled Authors in Paradise (New York:  Frederick A. Stokes, 1939) for its U.S. edition. Here an illiterate cockney publishes a novel The Return of Gulliver, supposedly dictated to him from the spirit world by Jonathan Swift.  Its notices were slightly better:  "The story is a little slow to start, and there is too much of it. But it is extremely bright" wrote Olga Owens in the Boston Transcript (19 August 1939). Beatrice Sherman in the New York Times noted: "Much of the book is heartily humorous. It grows a bit tiresome when it pursues too continuously the vein of a learnedly jocose letter to The London Times"  (20 August 1939).

Griffith's third novel came from a third U.K. publisher, as did his fourth, and neither were picked up by U.S. Publishers. The Passionate Astrologer (London: Arthur Barker, 1936)  continues in the same vein, as does his final book, Of Course, Vitelli! (London: Methuen, 1938), which achieved some fame in recent years because Jorge Luis Borges reviewed it (in Spanish) favorably, if very inaccurately, soon after publication. (His review was translated into English in Selected Non-Fictions, published in 1999.) In the book a writer invents a person named Vitelli and then writes his biography, while Vitelli's reputation grows until the inevitable happens.  I have written about Borges and this book here

With regard to attested facts in Griffiths's life, he joined the British Army in 1917, and thereafter lost his eye.  After the war, he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering at University College, London.  Nothing is known of the last decade of his life.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

John Shire

John Shire (b. reg. Somerset, England, April-June 1964;  )

John Shire is a small-press writer, publisher and photographer based in Brighton.  He began publishing stories in the small press in 1997. A collection of three stories, Undergrowth and Other Hidden Tales, was announced for publication in 2002 by Hollow Hills Publishing, and while the book achieved one review (see here), the book was apparently never published.

In 2011, Shire founded Invocations Press, and published his first book, a nonfiction volume Bookends: A Partial History of the Brighton Book Trade (2011), a fine read for anyone interested in bookselling lore in any locale. Particularly interesting is the coverage of Bill Butler's Unicorn Bookshop which ran from sometime around 1967 to 1974. Bill Butler (1934-1977) was an American beat poet who settled in Britain and frequently ran afoul with British authorities for publishing iconoclastic literature, like J.G. Ballard's Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan (1968).
An Antique Land

Shire published one of his own short stories An Antique Land (Invocations Press, 2012) as a paperback limited to 100 numbered copies. (It slightly expands Shire's story from Bound for Evil (2008), edited by Tom English.) Shire also issued a collection of ten stories (plus one nonfiction piece) Their Hand Is At Your Throats (Invocations Press, 2013), similarly as a trade paperback limited to 100 numbered copies

In the "Preface ... Stories After Lovecraft" Shire notes that "for almost thirty years I have been trapped in the orbit of a vast dead star named Lovecraft. And it's driving me mad. After any number of futile attempts at mapping its protean geography, I finally decided to put my efforts into breaking away instead. But it looks like that's never going to happen."

Six of the stories originally appeared in (mostly Lovecraftian) small press journals between 1997 and 2007, with four new stories in the collection.  Ellen Datlow noted in The Best Horror of the Year v. 6 (2014): "The new stories are surprisingly good, mostly rising above pastiche." Some of the stories, on the other hand, suffer a bit from too much postmodern playfulness. 

Shire also contributed some short entries to 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006), edited by Peter Boxall, including those for Borges's Labyrinths, Hodgson's The House on the Borderland, and Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.

In the about the author blurb in Their Hand Is At Your Throats it notes that he has worked "in record shops, antique shops and libraries, but prefers jobs he can make up himself, such as writer, publisher and photographer."  (Shire did the cover art for An Antique Land and Their Hand Is At Your Throats.)  A further note says "a degree in Literature and Philosophy has done him no good whatsoever." 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Linda Haldeman

Linda Haldeman (b. Washington, D.C., 14 July 1935; d. Indiana, Pennsylvania, 14 January 1988)

Linda Wilson was the daughter of John Barnett Wilson (1900-1974), an attorney, and his wife Mildred Louise Beckwith (1901-1977), who were married in Washington, D.C. on 2 June 1923.  They also had one son and another daughter.

Linda studied at Loyola University in New Orleans (A.B., 1958). She married Harry Haldeman (1933-1994) on 8 August 1959.  They had two sons and two daughters. For 1959-60, Linda was an instructor in English at Columbia College of Art in Columbus, Ohio. Soon after this, Harry Haldeman became professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the family settled there.

Linda Haldeman suffered from Bell's Palsy all her life, and was diagnosed with cancer around 1975, for which disease she had some twelve operations before her death.  Despite her illness, she published three novels and some short stories. Her first novel was Star of the Sea (Doubleday, January 1978), a Catholic miracle story set in Mississippi in 1950, in which a young girl at convent school converses with a statue of the Holy Mother and is party to some miracles.  This was followed in November by The Lastborn of Elvinwood (New York: Doubleday, 1978; London: Souvenir Press, 1981), set in Surrey, in which Mompen, the lastborn of the firstborn and a clumsy fairy, must be swapped for a willing human bride in order to save the dwindling fairy race.

Her third and final novel was a paperback original, Esbae: A Winter's Tale (New York: Avon, December 1981). Set on a college campus, it tells of a jock who has summoned Asmodeus to keep him from flunking out and a scatterbrained classmate Sophie, who Asmodeus wants to be sacrificed. But helping Sophie is Esbae, a "spiritous creature from the Empyrean" who has been sent to Earth to redeem itself.
The Avon Paperbacks
After the three novels, Haldeman published a novella and two short stories in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and a fantasy story in Magic in Ithkar (1985), a shared world anthology edited by Andre Norton and Robert Adams.  She also contributed to Opera News and Opera Journal (Haldeman's passion for opera is evidenced in Esbae).

In a note to Contemporary Authors c. 1980 Haldeman wrote:
"I am primarily a teller of tales. This is a profession that has fallen into disfavor with many critics. It is felt, it seems, that there are two kinds of fiction written, the good story and the literary novel, and it is assumed for some reason that they are mutually exclusive. It is my intention to remarry these two ideas of the novel after a too-long forced separation. An entertaining and absorbing plot ought not to exclude good writing style and sympathetic, well-developed characters."
Fellow-writer Nancy Springer wrote a short memoir of Haldeman for Locus (April 1988), noting: "she was a strong, sometimes angry, sometimes outrageously cynical woman, with a sly sense of humor and a questing mind. In appearance she was a pixie, an innocent. Appearances were deceptive. She knew the score, and she knew how to laugh it to shame. . . . She 'cast a cold eye on life, on death,' and kept a warm heart in defiance of both. She was quite possibly the most courageous person I have ever known." 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Jean Hawkins

Jean Hawkins (b. Malone, NY, April 1874; d. Malone, NY, 12 July 1925)

Emma Jean Hawkins was the only surviving child of George Hawkins (1830-1896) and his third wife Jeannette Robb (1845-1931), who were married in Malone, New York, on 22 November 1871.  The parents were both originally from Canada, but had settled in Malone in the very northern part of upstate New York, near the border with Quebec. The young girl was known as Jean, apparently because her paternal grandmother, Emma D. Hawkins (1808-1888), who lived with them, was known as Emma.

Jean Hawkins graduated from Smith College in 1897, and taught for a few years at the Franklin Academy in Malone. Then she took a two-years course in library science at the State Library School in Albany (B.L.S. 1902),  and then worked as cataloger at the Bryn Mawr College Library (1902-03), followed by a few years as librarian at the public library in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She resigned from the Eau Claire public library as of October 1905, and first worked at the  Athenaeum Library in Saratoga Springs, before returning to Albany a few years later, where she worked at the New York State Library while studying further at the State Library School.  From 1910 through June 1920 she was a member of the Faculty at the New York State Library School, teaching classes on classification, subject headings, elementary cataloguing, and loan work. After resigning from the Library School, she was librarian at the National Industrial Conference Board in New York City, and for two summers she was an instructor at the University of Michigan Summer School of Library Methods. She died at her home in Malone, after an illness of several months.

Jean Hawkins published very little, but while working at the New York State Library she compiled what is apparently the first published checklist of ghost stories and tales of the supernatural, the precursor of such works as E.F. Bleiler's Checklist of Fantastic Literature (1948).  It appeared in two parts in the January and April 1909 issues of The Bulletin of Bibliography, and thereafter it was printed in the same year as a small booklet by the Boston Book Company, no. 20 of their Bulletin of Bibliography Pamphlet Series. The late Richard Dalby, in his annotation to the entry for Hawkins in the Marshall Tymn's Horror Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide (1981) called it "an excellent checklist ... of approximately 300 novels and anthologies in the supernatural genre" (p. 475).

Hawkins wrote in her short preface:
This list was begun in a public library to supply the constant demand for ghost stories, which are hard to find because they are often short stories hidden in collections. The idea was to include none in which the mystery was explained, but some of these are now placed at the end under the heading "Humorous." The list has been enlarged to contain other stories of the occult, such as hypnotism, spiritualism, etc., but excludes folk lore and legends (except as these have been used by fiction writers), also satire under the disguise of the supernatural, allegories, fairy stories, tales of the Arabian nights' type and "scientific magic" like that of Wells. Even thus restricted, the material is extensive and the line so difficult to draw that the choice may often seem arbitrary. Some obvious omissions are due to my not being able to see the books.
The list, though superseded, is still useful today, and makes a cornerstone compilation for its time period.
A sample page from near the end of the alphabet
In 2006, when I inquired of the New York State Library, they could tell me nothing of Jean Hawkins, so it is especially nice at last to give Hawkins some recognition at for her pioneering work in the field of supernatural literature. (The 1897 Smith College Class Book sadly notes that a picture of Hawkins "was unfortunately impossible to obtain.")  

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Mary Leader

Mary Leader (b. Wisconsin, 19 March 1918; d. Mequon, Wisconsin, 27 April 2004)

Mary E. Bartelt was apparently the only child of Arthur H. Bartelt (1878-1952) and his wife Mabel Hall Duncan (1882-1964).  (The surname "Bartelt" is sometimes given incorrectly as "Bartlet.")

Little is known of her early life. She married Eric S. Leader (1910-1973), sometime after 1940; they had no children. At the time of her death, she had lived in Mequon, Wisconsin, for many years. As Mary Leader she published two novels, both supernatural in nature, Triad (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, [February] 1972), and Salem's Children (New York: Coward, McCann & Geohegan, [May] 1979).  The author blurb on Triad notes that Leader had had "a varied career as both actress and journalist."

Triad is the story of the haunting of a woman named Bronwen, apparently by her dead cousin named Rhiannon.  As commercial fiction it was successful enough to have a book club edition, and a mass market paperback release and a British paperback edition. The book has some name recognition because the American singer and songwriter Stevie Nicks (b. 1948) read the Bantam paperback, and was intrigued by the name "Rhiannon" so much that she wrote a song of that name for Fleetwood Mac, which became very popular. Nicks expressed little interest in the novel per se, saying "I just thought the name was so pretty that I wanted to write something about a girl named Rhiannon."

Salem's Children was much less successful.  Kirkus called it "a reincarnation novel of agonizing boredom," noting that "Leader has clearly done some homework about the culture of witchcraft in old Salem, but her mixture of research and romantic suspense is hysterically pitched and not believable for a millisecond" (Kirkus, 28 March 1979).

An early manuscript version of Triad is held in the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, along with an analysis of the Constitution by Leader's father, Arthur Bartelt.