Saturday, May 28, 2011

Preston Langley Hickey (1900-1962)

Editor, Author, Magician, Poet, and Publicist
Born July 30, 1900, Charlestown, Massachusetts
Died September 28, 1962, Indianapolis, Indiana

Preston Langley "Duke" Hickey was born on July 30, 1900, in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and lived in Chicago (where his father ran a restaurant called the JeJong) and Minneapolis as a young man. He served overseas in the U.S. Army's famed "Rainbow Division" during World War I. (Poet Joyce Kilmer was also a member of the division, commanded by General Douglas MacArthur.) In civilian life, Hickey attended the New York Institute of Fine Arts and the McPhail School of Music in Minneapolis.

At nineteen Hickey was an editor for the Associated Press in Minneapolis. He also wrote booklets after the war, Practical Drawing Room, Club and Stage Patter (1919) and Parlor Problems, or Mental Mathematical Magic (1920). During the 1920s, he wrote for pulp magazines, some fiction, some verse, and some "true" stories. "True" stories--true romances, true confessions, true mystery stories, true terror tales--were a popular kind of pulp story. Hickey contributed to that sub-genre in the magazine True Detective Mysteries. During the first year of Weird Tales' run, he wrote a regular "true" feature, "The Cauldron-True Adventures of Terror." "The Unique Magazine" also published two of his poems, "Hops" and "The Crystal Globe," in 1924. His short story, "The Ship Terror," appeared in the October 1924 issue of Triple-XIf Hickey is known for any of his works today, it's for a book called The Conspiracy of Silence: An Indictment (1938), written with silent movie actress Juanita Hansen (1895-1961). The book came out of her experiences abusing drugs. In it, she argued that drug users should be treated medically rather than sent to prison. Unlike other celebrity drug users, she reformed and lived a long life.

Hickey spent most of his career in motion picture publicity and eventually became known to "every newspaper movie critic east of the Mississippi" according to his obituary. He spent the last fourteen years of his career in Cleveland with Universal International Films. From his obituary:
Combining the swashbuckling style of movie publicists of another era with the qualities of modern public relations men, he obtained essentially the space he required in newspapers and other publications when he was publicizing a movie.
In addition to writing fiction, semi-fiction, and non-fiction, Hickey enjoyed compiling historical information on the state of Montana. He was in fact a member of the Montana Cowboys Association, the Vigilantes Club of Virginia City, Montana, and other organizations, despite living in Lakewood, Ohio, late in life. Preston Langley Hickey died on September 28, 1962, in Indianapolis, Indiana, while on a publicity trip.

Preston Langley Hickey's Features and Poems in Weird Tales
"The Cauldron-True Adventures of Terror" (June 1923; July/Aug. 1923; Sept. 1923; Oct. 1923)
"Hops" (Poem, Jan. 1924)
"The Crystal Globe" (Poem, Mar. 1924)

Further Reading
I don't know of any sources for Hickey's work except for the original works themselves.

Although Preston Langley Hickey's "The Cauldron" did not appear in the May 1923 issue of Weird Tales, a cauldron appeared on the cover that month, presaging the arrival of Hickey's feature in June. The cover art is by an illustrator whose identity will be revealed in a future posting.
Silent movie actress Juanita Hansen suffered through drug abuse during much of her career in Hollywood. By the 1930s, that career had ended, but that didn't stop her from becoming an anti-drug crusader. Her book with Preston Langley Hickey, The Conspiracy of Silence: An Indictment (1938), was part of that crusade. Early on, Juanita Hansen took a turn as a jungle girl in The Lost City of the African Jungle (1920). Tarzan had made his debut just eight years before.
For the last fourteen years of his life, P.L. "Duke" Hickey did publicity work for Universal International pictures, producer and purveyor of movies made in the old pulp genres of western, adventure, horror, and science fiction.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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