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 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.