Sunday, October 16, 2011

Forbes Parkhill (1892-1974)

Aka Otto Vloto
Author, Editor, Newspaperman, Screenwriter, Teacher
Born December 31, 1892, Denver, Colorado
Died June 19, 1974, San Diego, California

As a writer, Forbes Parkhill was a jack-of-all-trades. He wrote fiction and non-fiction, for pulps and for slicks, for newspapers and for the movies. He was born the son of a surgeon on the last day of 1892 in Denver, Colorado, and remained a Western writer even when he wasn't in the West. Parkhill attended the University of Colorado in 1910-1911 and worked as a reporter and editor on the Denver Post from 1913-1928. During World War I, Parkhill served in the U.S. Army and worked on a newspaper in El Paso, Texas. Between 1932 and 1936, he was an instructor in journalism and short story writing at the University of Denver. His career as an author of short stories was well on its way by then, for Parkhill wrote prolifically for Western story magazines between 1922 and 1951. Seven of his many stories made it to the silver screen during the 1930s. Pulp fiction writer James M. Cain wrote the screenplay for Stand Up and Fight (1939), based on a story by Forbes Parkhill. The Colorado author wrote at least two screenplays himself. His last work for the movies--an uncredited work--was the story upon which West of the Brazos (1950) was based. Parkhill's work also appeared in Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, and other slick magazines.

In 1940, Parkhill went to New York to serve as national editor of  new publication, PM. World War II caused a change in plans for him and countless others. During the war, Parkhill worked as a magazine specialist in the War Department. Afterwards he became research assistant to U.S. Senator Eugene D. Millikin, in 1949-1950. Parkhill also began writing non-fiction, entirely on the subject of the American West. His book, Last of the Indian Wars, won a prize for best non-fiction by a Colorado author in 1962.

Forbes Parkhill wrote one story for Weird Tales. Entitled "Coils of the Silver Serpent," it earned a spot on the cover in February 1936. Unfortunately for the author, his story shared that issue with "Yvala," a work by C.L. Moore, one of the most popular and imaginative writers for "The Unique Magazine" of the 1930s. Hers was voted the most popular story by readers of that issue.

Parkhill's last book of non-fiction, Donna Madixxa Goes West: The Biography of a Witch, was issued in 1968 when its author was in his mid seventies. Forbes Parkhill died six years later, on June 19, 1974, in San Diego.

Forbes Parkhill's Story in Weird Tales
"Coils of the Silver Serpent" (Feb. 1936)

Further Reading
There is abundant reading on the Internet on Forbes Parkhill and his work. His non-fiction is probably easy to find, too.

"The Kenosha Kid" by Forbes Parkhill was one of the lead stories, maybe even the cover story, for the August 1931 issue of Western Rangers. Parkhill wrote dozens of stories for Western pulps over his thirty-year career. The cover art is by Don Hewitt. Eli Colter's name is also on the cover. She too was a teller of weird tales.
A story by Parkhill also made the cover of Weird Tales in February 1936, despite the fact that he was competing with Robert E. Howard, C.L. Moore, and Paul Ernst. Even Henry Kuttner, Catherine Moore's future husband, was on hand for the issue with his poem, "Ballad of the Gods," his first work for "The Unique Magazine." The cover artist was Margaret Brundage. The interior artist for "Coils of the Silver Serpent" was Vincent Napoli.
Forbes Parkhill (1892-1974). (Photo from Blue Book, 1942.)
Postscript (Oct. 18, 2014): A reader has pointed out that Forbes Parkhill filed a copyright for a book called The Black Sombrero, which he presumably wrote under the pseudonym Otto Vloto and published in 1963.
Thanks to Randal Everts for the photo of Forbes Parkhill.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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