Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Grover Brinkman (1903-1999)

Newspaperman, Correspondent, Author, Photographer, Hobbyist
Born February 27, 1903, Illinois
Died March 17, 1999, Illinois

Grover Brinkman was a man of many interests and talents. With his wife, he owned and operated a small-town newspaper for two decades, and he served as a correspondent for a national news agency. His stories and articles were printed in newspapers throughout the Midwest and in magazines as varied as Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Boys' Life, Mother Earth News, and the scholarly journal Environment. He snapped a famous photograph of a tornado and documented its aftermath for Life magazine. Brinkman even had his gadgets and inventions highlighted in Popular Mechanics over the course of a couple of decades. By all indications, he was an irrepressible force.

H. Grover Brinkman was born on February 27, 1903, in Illinois. His father owned a soda manufacturing plant in Okawville, a small town in the southern part of the state, now home of the last remaining mineral springs resort in Illinois. At age sixteen, Brinkman sold his first freelance story for six dollars. He later said, "I wanted to be a writer all my life." 

Brinkman's only formal training came from business program at Belleville Commercial College. Brinkman married at twenty-two and at about the same time acquired his hometown paper, the Okawville Times. He and his wife, Leona Stricker Brinkman, owned and operated the paper from 1925 to 1947, sometimes taking eggs or a chicken for payment. The Okawville Times is still in operation and still in the Stricker family.

Brinkman was a writer for life. In addition to writing and taking pictures for the newspaper, he was employed as a correspondent for the Central Press Association. His articles appeared in papers throughout the Midwest, including the Chicago Tribune. On March 15, 1938, he was Johnny-on-the-spot when tornados tore through his home state. He photographed an approaching funnel cloud from a quarter-mile away, narrowly escaping with his life. Life, which printed the photo in its April issue, called him "the most successful" of lensmen to have snapped pictures of the first tornados of the season. As I write this, Illinois is once again recovering from March whirlwinds.

Grover Brinkman wrote one story for Weird Tales and was one of a number of newspapermen to write for the magazine during its very early days. His story was called "The Hour of Death," and it appeared in the December 1925 issue. Brinkman's other genre fiction was mostly in the field of mystery and detective stories. He wore out the markets in writing for Action Stories, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Dime Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Guilty Detective Story Magazine, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, Off Beat Detective Stories, Super-DetectiveTerror Detective Story Magazine, Trapped Detective Story Magazine, Two-Fisted Detective Stories, and Web Detective Stories. Brinkman also authored at least two books, Grover Brinkman's Southern Illinois and Night of the Blood Moon (1976). He claimed to keep 100 articles in the mail at all times. "That way," he said, "I get a check or a rejection slip every day."

As a youngster, Brinkman lived in Plum Hill, Illinois. After many years in Okawville, Brinkman moved to Columbia, Illinois. Even at age ninety, he had no plans to retire. "I want to be the George Burns of journalism," he said. Grover Brinkman lived to the advanced age of ninety-six (only four years fewer than Burns) and died on March 17, 1999, in Illinois.

Grover Brinkman's Story in Weird Tales
"The Hour of Death" (Dec. 1925)

Further Reading
If you search for "Grover Brinkman" on the Internet, you won't fail to find his work. You can see a photograph of him at the website of the Okawville Times, here.

Super-Detective, April 1950, with a cover story, "Murder Rides the Moon," by Grover Brinkman. Note the blurb for a comic section.
Brinkman's story, "Soft Arms--Bloody Hands!" appeared in Off Beat Detective Stories in January 1961. Say what you will about his work, at least Brinkman didn't hide behind a pseudonym. Incidentally, I wonder if that could be Nurse Diesel in her younger days.

Thanks to Randal A. Everts for further information on and the photograph of Grover Brinkman.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley.

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