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 only 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.

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.

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)