Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Reina Melcher Marquis

Reina Melcher (b. Lousville, Kentucky, 12 August 1881; d. New York, 2 December 1923)

Reina Melcher Marquis and Don Marquis, 1912
According to a brief account in the October 1907 issue of The Writer, Reina Melcher was an only child who lived much of her early life in the extreme south, traveling extensively with her parents. Thus her education was irregular and "carried forward largely under private tutors."

Her first marriage, in Louisville on 20 September 1902, was to Shirley M. Crawford. It was brief, and by 1904 she was living in Atlanta.  Her first story was published in the July 1907 issue of Uncle Remus's Magazine, then edited by Don Marquis (1878-1937). She contributed two further stories to the magazine in the same year, and a poem to Appleton's Magazine. Marquis asked her out for an ice cream soda, and a romance developed.  They were married in Atlanta on 8 June 1909. By the end of 1909 they had moved to New York, where Don Marquis slowly became famous as a writer and newspaper humor columnist. His creations of archy the cockroach and mehitabel the cat, as well as the bibulous "Old Soak" became household names in the 1920s and 1930s.

As Reina Melcher Marquis (the surname is pronounced  Mark' wis), she contributed to Woman's Home Companion and published her first and only book, the novel The Torch Bearer, which came out from D. Appleton and Company in June 1914. (Appleton became her husband's publisher, too, for several years beginning in 1916.)  The novel explores the question of how a woman can be a wife and mother and at the same time be true to her art. The Bookman found it "a welcome variant on the recently much overworked theme of the modern woman" (September 1914), while the New York Times wondered "Can a woman serve two masters, one being her husband and the other her pen? Mrs. Marquis has written a pretty, appealing story about it, but, although her solution of the question is far-visioned and exalting, her treatment fails to carry conviction" (5 July 1914).

The Marquis family suffered tragically in their personal lives. Their son, born in 1915, died at the age of five. Reina died suddenly of heart failure in December 1923. Don Marquis believed that her heart had been weakened by the birth of their only other child, daughter Barbara, who in turn died young in 1931. Don Marquis married a second time, but he had the first of a series of heart attacks in 1929. His second wife died in 1936, followed by Marquis himself in 1937.

An obituary for Reina Melcher Marquis notes that she was well-known in the literary world, and "a contributor to many magazines." After a simple service of the Christian Science Church, her remains were cremated. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Kathleen Herbert

Kathleen Herbert (b. Old Portsmouth, Hampshire, 23 November 1924; d. England, 31 July 2016)

Kathleen Herbert c. 1986
Kathleen May Herbert was the daughter of Edgar George Herbert (1899-1977), who served in the Royal Navy for many years, and his wife Kathleen, nee Bailey (1900-1968), who were married in Islington, London, in late 1923.

She was educated at Hendon County School, and matriculated at Somerville College, Oxford, in 1943. She was awarded a First in English Language and Literature in 1946. She took the Education Diploma the following year, and spent most of her career as a teacher, including time at the Gowerston Girls' Grammar School near Swansea (1948-50), the East Ham Girls' Grammar School (1950-1974), resigning when her father became incurably ill from cancer (as had her mother some years earlier). Later she took a post at St. James' Catholic High School in Edgeware. 

She heard J.R.R. Tolkien lecture for the first time in 1943, inspiring her lifelong interest in Old English lore and legendry. Herbert clearly kept up with Tolkien scholarship. When Tolkien's book of lectures from the 1930s and 1940s, Finn and Hengest, edited by Alan Bliss, were published in 1982, Herbert reviewed the volume for Mallorn, the journal of the Tolkien Society, issue 20 (September 1983). Her review shows intimate familiarity with Tolkien's fiction, including The Silmarillion (1977) and Unfinished Tales (1980), along with recent scholarship, like Humphrey Carpenter's biography of Tolkien (1977) and his edition of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1981), along with T.A. Shippey's The Road to Middle-earth (1982). She found Finn and Hengest to be "a valuable and fascinating work."

Her first novel suffered from large cuts in order to be of publishable size for a small press.  It was called Lady of the Fountain (Frome, Somerset: Bran's Head Books, 1982). It is based on the medieval Welsh Arthurian romance, Owein: Chwedyl Iarlles y Ffynnawn.  She secured publication for subsequent books with the Bodley Head in London and St. Martin's Press in New York, and these were translated into several languages. First came Queen of the Lightning (1983), followed by Ghost in the Sunlight (1986). A revised version of her first novel (with a few cut parts restored), in essence a prologue to the other two, appeared as Bride of the Spear (1989). All three novels are set in the sixth and seventh centuries in the northern kingdoms of Britain. Queen of the Lightning won the annual Historical Novel Prize given in memory of Georgette Heyer. In 1984 Herbert retired completely from teaching, and was remembered fondly as an inspirational teacher.

In the late 1980s or early 1990s, she wrote another novel, Moon in Leo, but though her publisher the Bodley Head thought it her best, they declined it for economic reasons. The manuscript languished for years. Herbert turned to writing a number of nonfiction books, on specialized historical topics, for a small press, Anglo-Saxon Books.  These book are not scholarship per se (the scholar Carole M. Cusack noted in 2011 that "Herbert aims to raise popular awareness of Anglo-Saxon and British Celtic culture, but despite her knowledge and love of the subject fails to meet academic standards of probity"). The first was Spellcraft: Old English Heroic Legends (1993); it was retitled more simply as English Heroic Legends when reissued in 2000.  Other titles include the small volumes Looking for the Lost Gods of England (1994), a transcription of a talk given to The English Companions in March 1994; and Peace-Weavers and Shield-Maidens: Women in Early English Society (1997), another talk given to the same organization in the winter of 1994-95. Some extracts from Looking for the Lost Gods of England appear under the title "The Early English" in the collection Our Englishness (2000), edited by Tony Linsell.

On 20 May 1991, Herbert gave a long and interesting interview to Raymond H. Thompson of The Camelot Project about her writings and her interests.  It can be read in full here. Here she comments on Tolkien: 
I was one of Tolkien's students, although I must admit that as far as I was concerned at that time, he was the man who lectured on Beowulf and The Fight at Finsburgh. Reading The Lord of the Rings, however, is like reading The Iliad. Just as every other epic poem seems a little bit pale by comparison, so every other fantasy novel seems to be watered-down Tolkien. He was a tremendous influence on me—linguistically, I would say, more than artistically—because of his utter integrity, his refusal to pass any word without a full consideration of its meaning and its history. Though I loved The Lord of the Rings, to me he is the editor of Finn and Hengest. That is the supreme experience for me, reading his work on that text. It opened a window into a whole period in the life of the English.
Herbert had a massive stroke in April 1994, and had a long decline physically and mentally through her remaining years. A close friend of more than four decades, Connie Jensen, founded the small press Trifolium Books in order to publish Herbert's novel Moon in Leo, set in the time of the Restoration of King Charles II in the seventeenth century. It came out in 2011. A short story found in her papers, "The Once and Future Queen," appeared as an ebook in 2013. Since 2013 Trifolium Books has announced several times the imminent republication of Bride of the Spear, with additional material and notes, but as of this writing (May 2020) it still hasn't appeared.

Another fairly large work left by Herbert (incomplete) was to have been titled Ghosts of Camelot. Herbert discussed it at the end of her 1991 Camelot Project interview referenced above. It concerned the use of the Arthurian legend in fourteenth century England, in which an Oxford scholar and poet sees a copy of the manuscript of Layamon's Brut. The main character of the novel was a skeptical Welsh girl. Herbert wrote some "50,000 words, and left lots of research notes, plot lines and incidents" according to an editor at Trifolium in 2013 who hoped to complete the work. 

Kathleen Herbert died in her sleep on 31 July 2016.

Note: This Kathleen Herbert should not be confused with the British poet Kathleen [Valerie] Herbert (1905-1996), author of Here and Now: Selected Poems 1928-1988 (1989) and other works, including her first book, No Return (1937), which was published under her maiden name, K.V. Chevis.

*I'm grateful to Kate O'Donnell, Assistant Archivist at Somerville College, Oxford, for providing information.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

James S. Wallerstein

James S. Wallerstein (b. New York City, 25 September 1910; d. Mount Kisco, NY, 28 June 1990)

James Scheuer Wallerstein was the son of  Max Wallerstein (1874-1937) and his wife, Helen (b. 1886; last traced to the early 1950s), nee Scheuer. Max Wallerstein and his brother Leo (c. 1882-1958) were from a Jewish family in Bavaria. Max studied chemistry at the University of Munich, with his Ph.D. thesis being "A Study in the Transformation of Barley Fat during Germination." By 1895 Max had emigrated to the United States and he became involved in the brewing industry. In 1902 Max and his brother Leo founded the Wallerstein Laboratories in New York, providing consultation services to the brewing industry. After a visit to England, Max published in 1907 a long study of "Notes on English Brewing" in volume 3 of the Transactions of the American Brewing Institute. Max married Helen in Tarrytown, New York, on 24 June 1909.  Besides their son James, they had a daughter Elizabeth, four years younger than James.

James S. Wallerstein attended Harvard University (A.B. Honors, 1932, with thesis "Freedom and the Self"), and Columbia University (A.M., 1938, thesis "The Development of Felix Adler's Thought in Relation to Economic Issues"). He also received a Ph.D.  He joined the Sarah S. Ollesheimer Fund, a college scholarship foundation named after his mother's aunt, in the early 1940s, and remained there until his death. He also worked as a brewmaster at the Wallerstein Laboratories in the 1940s, until the firm was sold in the 1950s. He married and raised two sons.

Wallerstein also wrote children's plays and books for young adults. It appears that most of these came out from subsidy or vanity publishers.  His first book was the novel The Demon's Mirror (New York: Harbinger House, [January] 1951). The second edition from Bellamy Press is undated, thereby causing confusion bibliographically, but according to an advertisement in Publishers' Weekly for 19 May 1951, it was published just four months after the first edition. (Many copies of the book were apparently distributed by various foundations with which Wallerstein was associated.) The Demon's Mirror is Wallerstein's primary contribution to the literature of the fantastic. The blurb on the rear of the dust-wrapper notes that the novel is condensed from an original of 1800 pages, which took Wallerstein more than thirteen years to write. The prelude opens in the ancient past with the demon Saurakin coming to the King's court and presenting a magic mirror, which makes real the thought of the person standing before it. Thus the "Horror" in the King's mind becomes real.  The scene then shifts to modern times and quickly the book becomes sprawling, attempting too many things while succeeding in none of them. The result is an eccentric and wobbly book that was clearly something its author did not know how to handle. It is not, however, without interest, but it remains fairly unsatisfying as a work of literature. 

Wallerstein's plays include The Cactus Wildcat: A One-Act Rip-Roaring Western Comedy for Children (1954), which was reprinted in Adventure: Five Plays for Youth (1945). Another collection was Over the Hills: Four Plays for Youth (1959). 

The rest of his novels were illustrated, and they include Tommy and Julie (1952), illustrated by Chester Goodwin; The Trail of Danger (1971), illustrated by Richard Giordano; and the final two, The Outer Darkness (1976) and No Traveller Returns (1987), both illustrated by Frederick J. Mackie, Jr.
The Outer Darkness is blurbed as "the Cain and Abel story in modern America. But with an unexpected ending. A tale of romance, adventure and Gothic mystery."

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Notes: Patricia Squires

Patricia Squires published only one book, The Ghost in the Mirror and Other Ghost Stories (London:  Frederick Muller, 1972).  A paperback edition appeared the following year, and a translation into French in 1975. Besides the uncredited cover illustration, there are chapter-heads to each of the stories, clearly by the same artist. (The style looks familiar, but I can't attach an artist's name to it. Anyone?) 

The book collects nine stories told to Squires by the people of Sussex, where she lived.  But these are not the usual hasty oral accounts of experiences with the supernatural, but crafted tales based on the folk stories. There is also a four page Introduction by the author in which she notes that she has been collecting ghost stories for twenty years.
Chapter-head to the third tale
I was looking for first-hand ghost stories--not the old ones that had been handed down from father to son, not those that were more likely the product of the imaginations of the local wits than genuine manifestations; but tales of inexplicable events, fully-documented and authentic. And, above all, they had to be unique, unusual.

The stories in this book are of that kind, and they cannot easily be refuted. They have been checked, double-checked, and cross checked.
 Squires also discusses her views on sensitives, ghosts and poltergeists, while scorning the confirmed sceptics who ridicule the supernatural.

The blurb about the author, printed on the rear flap of the dust-wrapper, states "Patricia Squires is married to the well-known occult writer E. Squires England and lives in Sussex." I don't know how "well-known" E. Squires England was as an occultist, but I can find only two short stories by him, "The Dancing Leaves" in London Mystery Selection no. 90 (1971) and "The Toll of Justice" in the same magazine two issues later (no. 92, 1972).

Of course both the "Squires" and "England" were adopted names.  Patricia Squires was born Sylvia Patricia Deegan at Yapton near Arundel, Sussex, on 18 September 1936, the daughter of George Richard Henry Deegan, a maintenance and decorating contractor, and his wife Lillian, nee Talbot. The girl switched her first and middle names and was thereafter known familiarly as Patricia.  She married Eric Ball (1926-1976) on 17 December 1955, and they had two daughters. I traced her up to 2009 when she was living in West Sussex, and presumably still is.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

James Cary Hawes

James Cary Hawes (b. Millersburg, Kentucky, 2 December 1891; d. Kenton, Kentucky, 5 December 1935)

James Cary Hawes was the second of three sons of Albert Cary Hawes (1859-c.1901), a pig iron manufacturer, and his wife Martha ("Mattie") Hawes (1863-1936), nee Butler.  Albert Cary Hawes was the son of Brigadier General James Morrison Hawes (1824-1889) of the Confederate States of America.

The family lived in Chicago for a number of years.  In 1902, after the death of her husband, Mattie Hawes moved back to Kentucky. According to his draft registration card from June 1917, James Cary Hawes was then working as a clerk at a lumberyard in Chicago.  He is listed as having the physical debility of being a hunchback.

His only known fiction is the story "The Crystal Ball" published in the 1 August 1919 issue of The Thrill Book.  It is a rather flat situation comedy--wherein a film actor, in debt to his boss, faces a series of contrived situations in order to get out of debt.  These include arranging a quick marriage to become his dying aunt's heir, as well as dealing with a series of ladies claiming to own a valuable diamond (known as the Crystal Ball) which had been stolen yet somehow comes into the actor's possession. The situation ends ridiculously, as the actor's girlfriend has staged the whole situation to delay any marriage until her own acting contract, which specifically forbade her from marrying, expired at midnight. The boss then buys screen rights to the scenario. 

Hawes is also known to have contributed to The Spectator: A Weekly Review of Insurance.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Notes: Arnold Federbush

Houghton Mifflin, 1973
Arnold Federbush published two novels, The Man Who Lived in Inner Space (Houghton Mifflin, 1973) and Ice! (Bantam, 1978). The Man Who Lived in Inner Space concerns a man crippled by an explosion at a chemical factory who becomes an ocean dweller after learning to breathe in the ocean depths. This brings him to meditations on consciousness and the interconnectedness of everything. Ice! describes a rapidly returning Ice Age that descends upon New York City, presaging in a number of ways the disaster film The Day After Tomorrow (2004).

Federbush was born in New York City on 16 March 1935, the son of Isadore Federbush (the manager of a manufacturer of ladies underwear, according to the 1940 US Census), and his wife Sarah, both emigrees from Russia. Arnold had two older sisters. He received a B.A. from Washington Square College of New York University, and an M.A. in Theater Arts from UCLA, where he made a student film called 111th Street (1963). He worked as a film writer and film editor (e.g., on the TV movie I'm a Fool (1977) starring Ron Howard). He wrote a screenplay adaptation of the 1965 autobiographical novel Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown, but it was never produced, the same fate met by his screenplay for his own novel The Man Who Lived in Inner Space
Bantam, Mass market original

Federbush died of cancer in Los Angeles on 4 September 1993. A third novel, reportedly on spontaneous human combustion, was left unfinished.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

A New Type of LKW Entry Format

So far I've posted nearly 150 entries on this Lesser-Know Writers blog, all using a particular encyclopedia-styled format. Meanwhile, two of my desks (I regularly use five) have become hugely overstacked with (among other things) papers and books for planned entries that I haven't yet written up. The reasons for not writing these entries up vary, but often it has something to do with some information lacking that is vital to keeping up with the overall format--it could be the smallest fact, or date, or something larger. In order to share this research, I've decided to add a second alternative format in which I will post entries on this blog. I am not abandoning the main encyclopedia-styled format, but a looser less-complete format is necessary in order to share the information I have. To date I have used the author's main byline as the title to a post on that person. I will continue to do this for entries in the encyclopedic format. The newer looser-styled entries will still contain the author's byline in the title, but the title will also include at the start the word "Notes" followed by a colon and the usual byline of the subject.

As always, comments are welcome, as is additional information from readers. Occasionally I have been asked where I got certain facts on some lesser-known figure. Most of the vital statistics about people's lives come from various genealogical databases (some subscription), and there really isn't a good or useful way to cite such things, so I've not bothered. However, if I've used some printed source, however uncommon, I usually make mention of it. For many of these LKW there are no printed sources (save maybe book reviews) because no one has written about them before.