Thursday, April 11, 2019

Katharine Metcalf Roof

Katharine Metcalf Roof (b. Clifton Springs, New York, 31 March 1871; d. probably New York City, after 1958)

Katharine Metcalf Roof (her first name is often mispelt Katherine) was the only child of Francis Henry Roof (1840-1916), a physician (and a 1862 graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University), and his first wife, Mary Metcalf Stocking (1841-1917), who were married in 1866.

Katharine was educated at private schools, and at the New York School of Art.  Her parents were divorced in the 1890s, and in 1901 her father was remarried to a much younger woman.

Katharine started publishing in 1902, and from then on through the 1920s she was a prolific writer of short stories and novellas for Ainslee's Magazine, The Smart Set, All-Story, The Century Magazine, Munsey's Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and many others. Though her output diminished in the 1930s, she published a good number of detective stories on into the 1940s. She also published some weird tales. Two appeared in Ghost Stories in December 1927 ("How I Got Back My Soul")  and February 1928 ("My Bewitched Bedroom"), while another, "A Million Years After," appeared in Weird Tales in November 1930. A ghost story, "The Edge of a Dream," had earlier appeared in The Smart Set for December 1907. Despite her prolificity, very few of her stories have ever been reprinted.

With regard to books, Roof published three plays, two works of nonfiction and three novels. The plays include Three Dear Friends: A Feminine Episode in One Act (1914), The Mirror: An Original One Act Play (1924) and Man under the Bed (1924). ("The Mirror" is a play about reincarnation; it originally appeared in Shadowland, July 1920.) Her first work of nonfiction, The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase (1917), a biographical work on her former teacher at the New York School of Art, was her most successful. Her other nonfiction title was Colonel Williams Smith and Lady: The Romance of Washington's Aide and Young Abigail Adams (1929).

Of her three novels, the first, The Stranger at the Hearth (1916), is a study of New York society, while her third, Murder on the Salem Road (1931), is both a romance and a murder mystery, set in the late 1830s, during the presidency of Martin Van Buren. With regard to supernatural literature, Roof's main contribution is her second novel, The Great Demonstration (New York: D. Appleton, 1920). It is primarily a romance, with some occult happenings. Basically it is a love triangle between two men and one woman.  Both Roger Lessing and Terry Endicott are in love with Lucretia Dale.  When Terry goes off to war, Lucretia decides that she loves him, but Terry is reported dead, and Roger then presses her to marry him.  Roger is a proponent of New Thought, believing that "What I desire, will come to me." He has become successful but is rather arrogant and unpleasant. To gain Lucreita's favor he strengthens his will and attempts mind control. When Terry returns after having only been imprisoned in Germany, Roger uses astral projection, which goes tragically awry. The novel is flawed but not wholly without interest. 

The last I have been able to trace Roof is to December 1958, when she renewed the copyright on her book Murder on the Salem Road. She was then living in New York City, where she had resided for decades.  (If any one can supply an obituary and a death date, I'd be grateful.) 

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