Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lamont Buchanan (b. 1919)

Associate Editor and Art Director of Weird Tales Magazine
Author of Books and Articles
Born March 7, 1919, New York, New York

For most of the 1920s and '30s, the editorial offices of Weird Tales magazine were located in Chicago. In 1938, the magazine changed hands and made a permanent move to New York City. Two years later, as longtime editor Farnsworth Wright retired in failing health, Dorothy McIlwraith took over the helm of Weird Tales, adding that responsibility to her position as editor of Short Stories magazine. Assisting her on Weird Tales was a young writer, Lamont Buchanan, who served as associate editor and art director. Dorothy McIlwraith stayed with Weird Tales until its final issue in September 1954. For that she has gotten a lot of print. Very little has been written about Lamont Buchanan.

Charles Lamont Buchanan was born on March 7, 1919, in New York City. His father, Charles L. Buchanan (1884-1962), was a journalist as well as a music, art, and drama critic. Even as a child, Charles Lamont Buchanan was going by the name C. Lamont. In later years, he dropped the "C" and became simply Lamont Buchanan. I don't know when he assumed his position with Weird Tales, but it's common knowledge that Dorothy McIlwraith became editor of the magazine with the May 1940 issue. If Buchanan started at the same time, he would have just turned twenty-one years old.

Enthusiasts of the Farnsworth Wright years at Weird Tales are often not kind to Dorothy McIlwraith. Perhaps they see the 1920s and '30s as a golden age for "The Unique Magazine," an age that became tarnished during the 1940s. To be fair, though, we should all remember that two of the most important writers for Weird Tales--H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) and Robert E. Howard (1906-1936)--died within a year of each other, before McIlwraith came on as editor. Other contributors, such as C.L. Moore, had moved on to other things by 1940. The list of contributors during the 1940s and '50s is nothing to sniff at though. It includes Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Edmond Hamilton, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Carl Jacobi, and many other well known authors. We should also remember that pulp magazines in general went into decline during the 1940s and '50s. Wartime paper shortages followed by the rise of comic books and paperback novels helped finish off most of the pulps. Dorothy McIlwraith actually acquitted herself quite well by keeping Weird Tales alive until 1954.

The Wright years at Weird Tales are seen as a golden age not only for their words, but also for their images. It's true that Hugh Rankin, Virgil Finlay, and J. Allen St. John were mostly absent from the magazine after 1940, but Margaret Brundage continued doing covers until 1945, while other artists such as Hannes Bok, A.R. Tilburne, Matt Fox, and even Frank Kelly Freas came on to take the place of illustrators since departed. One of the artists most closely identified with Weird Tales was actually a discovery of its art director, Lamont Buchanan.

The inimitable Lee Brown Coye (1907-1981) created the cover illustrations for ten issues of Weird Tales between 1945 and 1951. Moreover, his fantastic black and white artwork appeared in the interior, either as illustrations for stories or as stand-alone "Weirdisms." Coye was introduced to Weird Tales in 1944 when he was working on the illustrations for an anthology to be called Sleep No More. His publisher did not have manuscripts of the stories that would be included in the anthology, so Coye went to the source, the editorial offices of Weird Tales magazine. There he met Lamont Buchanan, who asked him to illustrate a story for the magazine. The two became friends, and Coye became a regular contributor to Weird Tales.

Buchanan was connected in a more intimate way with another contributor to "The Unique Magazine." Allison V. Harding was one of the most prolific writers for Weird Tales during the McIlwraith years. Her "Damp Man" stories of 1947-1949 kept readers coming back for more. Allison however became the source of a mystery: Who was she? The answer is that Allison V. Harding was Jean Milligan, Buchanan's wife (although I don't yet know the date of their wedding). I have looked into the mystery of Allison V. Harding in the previous posting. I'll have more to say as I find out more about her. In any case, no one knows or no one is telling the circumstances under which Jean Milligan came to write for Weird Tales. She and Buchanan may have met in New Canaan, Connecticut, where both lived during the 1930s. They may even have been high school classmates.

In addition to being an editor and art director, Lamont Buchanan was an author. He wrote "Feeding 7,000,000!" with Lynn Perkins for Argosy (April 1945) and "What Makes the Action Story Go" for Writer's Yearbook (1945). Between 1948 and 1956, he authored or compiled a number of books on sports, transportation, and American history. I'll list those books in the next posting.

Allison V. Harding wrote her last story for Weird Tales in 1951. The magazine ceased publication in 1954. And Lamont Buchanan published his last book in 1956. So what happened to the writing couple? That's another mystery surrounding tellers of weird tales.

"Weirdisms" by Lee Brown Coye appeared in Weird Tales during Dorothy McIlwraith's years as editor (1940-1954). Coye, who is still closely identified with the magazine, was a discovery of Lamont Buchanan, associate editor and art director at the time.

Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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