Monday, August 22, 2011

Nard Jones (1904-1972)

Journalist, Novelist, Historian, and Short Story Writer
Born April 12, 1904, Seattle, Washington
Died September 3, 1972, Seattle, Washington

Nard Jones was the kind of writer every state and region hopes for, a writer with a sense of place, someone rooted in his native soil, an author who writes about his home truthfully, lovingly, and respectfully. Jones wrote the first novel in which his home city of Seattle is not just a setting, but a real place, essential to the story. He is also credited with the first detective novel set in Seattle. The focus of his many novels and historical books is the Pacific Northwest--Washington and Oregon--where he was born, lived, worked, and died.

Maynard Benedict Jones was born on April 12, 1904, in Seattle. Between 1919 and 1927, he lived in Weston, Oregon, where he went to high school and where he was a columnist for the Weston Leader. At Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, Jones founded Blue Moon, a literary magazine, and served as campus correspondent for the Walla Walla Daily Bulletin. Graduating with honors, Jones set out on a career in journalism, eventually becoming chief editorial writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He also began writing fiction.

Nard Jones was a prolific author of short stories, writing over 300 in all. They were published in all manner of popular magazines: The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Liberty, Blue Book, Argosy, College Life, Breezy Stories, Smart Love Stories, This Week, The Passing Show. His only story for Weird Tales was called "Nomadic Skull"--a title that makes you want to pick up and read--and it was published in the May issue, 1933.

Jones also wrote history and fiction for the book-reading crowd. There were eighteen titles in all, most in hardback, a few in paperback. His first novel, Oregon Detour (1930), was set in the fictional town of Creston, Oregon. The people of Weston, where Jones had lived as a youngster, saw themselves and their town in Oregon Detour. Like so many small-town novelists of his era, Jones--and his book--were subject of controversy back home. Copies of it kept disappearing from the public library. For years the people of Weston speculated on just who was supposed to be whom in the pages of Jones' novel. Jones followed Oregon Detour with The Petlands (1931), the first novel with a Seattle setting. He ended the decade with The Case of the Hanging Lady (1938), a detective novel, also set in his hometown.

Jones served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II as a public relations officer in Seattle. That experience gave him the material he needed to write his postwar novel, The Island (1948). Other novels and local histories followed, the last, published posthumously, entitled simply Seattle (1972). During the early 1960s, Jones wrote and narrated a radio program called "Puget Sound Profiles," broadcast over a dozen Washington State stations. He died a decade later in the city of his birth, on September 3, 1972.

Nard Jones' Story in Weird Tales
"Nomadic Skull" (May 1933)

Further Reading
Nard Jones is still a popular writer in the Pacific Northwest. His books and biographical information are easy to find, including on the Internet.

Writer Maynard Benedict "Nard" Jones (1904-1972).
The cover of Nard Jones' 1954 novel, I'll Take What's Mine, with cover art by Saul Tepper. The male character looks an awful lot like Kirk Douglas, one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1950s.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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