Friday, January 18, 2019

Viking Adventure

Vikings have captured our imaginations in a way that no other people in history have done. Maybe we have ancestral memories of their falling upon us without warning, taking what they wanted and burning the rest. If you had lived during their heyday, Vikings could never have been far from your thoughts. They would always have been there, creeping along the edges of your imagination and your fears, and it would have been equally so for your grandparents before you and your grandchildren after you. There may have been Huns and Goths, Mongols and Turks, Persians and Saracens, stalking along the borderlands of European civilization, but none can compare now in our imaginations to the Vikings.

In thinking about the Viking-fantasy story, it occurs to me now that there are three types. First is the type in which Vikings are the encountered. We see them from the outside, from the perspective of perhaps a more civilized observer. I haven't yet read "A Yank at Valhalla" by Edmond Hamilton (Startling Stories, Jan. 1941), but I suspect that this is an example of the first type. Next is the type in which Vikings are the encounterers. (Blogger doesn't like that word.) In this type, we see things from the perspective of the Vikings themselves, very often in their encounters--historically accurate or not--with American Indians. I have a book, Prince Valiant in the New World by Harold Foster (Nostalgia Press, 1976), that tells such a tale. (Beowulf, in which Grendel and his mother are the encountered, is also of this type, I think.) The third type is the story of the Vikings as a people, their ways of life among themselves and in their own world and culture. If fantasy and science fiction are ultimately stories of encounter, then it's hard, it seems to me, for this third type to fall within those genres, unless the monsters, gods, witches, and undead encountered are a part of Norse mythology and folklore itself and not something from the outside.

My friend Hlafbrot has pointed out that Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider Haggard (1891) has a place on the list of Viking literature. I have never read this book, but it's listed in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, indicating that it's a genre work and not one of conventional or mainstream literature. In fact, if Eric Brighteyes was the first or one of the first modern Viking stories, then maybe it was also the beginning of the Viking-fantasy in our popular culture. Pulp magazines arrived on the scene just five years after Eric Brighteyes was published. I can't say when the first Viking story appeared in a pulp magazine. I also can't say what the first Viking story in Weird Tales might have been. Writers and readers of "The Unique Magazine" seem to have been far more interested in tales of the Orient and the tropics. (1) Robert E. Howard is supposed to have written a lot of Viking stories or quasi-Viking stories. The one that comes to mind, "The Frost Giant's Daughter," never made it into Weird Tales.

After writing about Vikings the other day, I cast about for a book to read and came quickly enough to a novel by one of my favorite authors for children. It's called Viking Adventure, and it's by Clyde Robert Bulla (1914-2007). Like so many Viking stories, this one is about an encounter with American Indians before Columbus. And like so many of the late Mr. Bulla's books, it is told in what I hear as a melancholy voice. Although his books are for children, Clyde Robert Bulla knew what it is to be a child, to suffer pain and loss, loneliness and yearning, to feel small and out of place, to feel like running and hiding, to dream and to have one's dreams thwarted or unfulfilled. If a good book is one that resounds within you even after you have finished reading it, then Viking Adventure is a good book, better, I would hazard, than myriads of supposedly serious and ambitious novels written for adults.

(1) If Viking stories are Northerns, stories of the tropics are Southerns, and those of the Orient are Easterns, then there was far more emphasis on Southerns and Easterns in the pulps than there was on Northerns. Or if people wrote and read stories of the Far North, they were about the North Woods, about the taiga and the tundra, Alaska, the Yukon, and the Arctic, all set in the present of the pulp-fiction era or in the recent past. There was even a pulp magazine called North-West Stories.

Prince Valiant in the New World (1976) is Prince Valiant Book 6, part of a series of storybooks adapted from the comic strip by Hal Foster and published by Nostalgia Press of New York City. Here is the encounter depicted again and again in popular culture: the Viking meets the American Indian in a time before Columbus.

Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider Haggard, originally published in 1891, was reprinted again and again during the twentieth century. Here is the cover of the Zebra paperback edition of 1978. The identity of the cover artist is unknown. The furious action (and the depiction of the hero's anatomy) may be under the influence of Frank Frazetta, but the technique is purely 1970s, like that of Michael William Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson, or Jeffrey Jones. Update: I hear from bthom1 that the cover artist is Esteban Maroto. Thanks bthom1.

Zebra reprinted Eric Brighteyes in 1982 with different cover art, but the artist is again unknown.

In 1979, Zebra Books issued a sequel, Eric Brighteyes: A Witch's Welcome, penned by Sigfriour Skaldaspillir, better known as Mildred Downey Broxon. The cover artist was Ken Barr, but the mountain in the background wasn't his . . .

For he swiped it from Frank Frazetta's cover for Conan of Cimmeria, in which the quasi-Viking story "The Frost Giant's Daughter" appeared. Though offered to Weird Tales, "The Frost Giant's Daughter" was refused by its editor, Farnsworth Wright, and went instead to the March 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan. Frazetta's illustration of the story is justly famous.

In 1963, Thomas Y. Crowell Company of New York published Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla. Here's the cover of the Weekly Reader Children's Book Club version, with illustrations by Douglas Gorsline. Viking Adventure is the story of a boy named Sigurd who goes on an adventure far from home, to Wineland, our America, inhabited only by what we now call Indians. It is a moving story of growth and loss, and I recommend it.

There were Westerns in the pulps, but there were also Northerns, if you want to call them that, but Northerns are not about Vikings. Instead, they're about what Bob and Doug McKenzie call the Great White North. In the pulp magazine North-West Stories (later North-West Romances), these two genres lived side by side. Here is an example of the cover, from the Winter issue of 1950, showing a sort-of Betty Hutton lookalike with her parka conveniently undone and her sweater conveniently tight. This was the 1950s after all, the era of the sweater girl. Anyway, if this were a Weird Tales cover, it would fall into the category of "Woman and Wolf" (click here). The title story in fact is called "The Wolf-Woman of Chandindu," by C. Hall Thompson, who also, as chance would have it, contributed to Weird Tales. More evidence that all things form circles.

Text and captions copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tales of Viking Fantasy

A month ago I wrote about Vikings and other medieval subjects on the cover of Weird Tales, and out of that I received a couple of comments from readers about Viking fantasy stories. That got me thinking that there may be a missed sub-sub-genre of fantasy and science fiction dealing with those men and women of the north, with their winged and horned helmets, long, braided hair, conical breastplates, and raiments of hide and fur. So here is a first shot at stories of Vikings and Norsemen, with some also of Saxons, Geats, Goths, and other early northern Europeans thrown into the mix. These are stories with fantastic, supernatural, weird, or science-fictional elements. That leaves out a lot of good Viking stories to be sure, but you've got to draw a line somewhere. I welcome additions to this list. If you send them, I will add them.

  • Beowulf by an unknown author (date of composition unknown)--Beowulf is the granddaddy of Northern fantasy in English, and although it's really the story of Geatish men, I think I have to include it here. To leave it out would be a bumbling kind of oversight. Beowulf has been an inspiration to myriads of writers, including, in the twentieth century, J.R.R. Tolkien and Michael Uslan, better known as the executive producer of the Batman movies.
  • Unidentified stories by Ralph Milne Farley (Argosy, 1930s)--A commenter on my earlier article mentioned these stories, but I don't know any titles.
  • The Lost Vikings by Jack Bechdolt (1931)--A lost lands/lost race novel set in Alaska.
  • Prince Valiant by Hal Foster (1937)--A Sunday comic strip in which the title character, a Norseman, goes on adventures, some fantastical or supernatural, all over the globe, as the subtitle reads, "In the Days of King Arthur." Adapted to film in 1954.
  • "King of the World's Edge" by H. Warner Munn (Weird Tales, Sept.-Dec. 1939)--A four-part serial by a correspondent and friend of H.P. Lovecraft, "King of the World's Edge" is a story of Romans and Saxons in pre-Columbian America, authored by an enthusiast of history and archaeology, including the idea that Vikings came to America during the Middle Ages and left behind evidence of their visit.
  • "A Yank at Valhalla" by Edmond Hamilton (Startling Stories, Jan. 1941)--Reprinted as The Monsters of Juntenheim (1950).
  • "Flight into Destiny" by Verne Chute (Weird Tales, Mar. 1943)
  • The Lost Ones by Ian Cameron (1961)--Reprinted as Island at the Top of the World (1974) and adapted to film as The Island at the Top of the World (1974).
  • Journey into Mystery (Aug. 1962)--Marvel Comics' version of Thor as a superhero (and future member of the Avengers) first appeared in Journey into Mystery in August 1962. Since then, he has been in countless comic books and now a series of movies made by Marvel Studios.
  • Eaters of the Dead: The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in AD 922 by Michael Crichton (1976)--Reprinted as The 13th Warrior in 1999 and adapted to film that year under the same title.
  • The Norseman (1978)--A movie starring Lee Majors, Cornel Wilde, and Mel Ferrer.

DC's version of Beowulf starred in his own title in the 1970s. The stories were written by Michael Uslan and drawn by Ricardo Villamonte. Here is the cover of the first issue, from May 1975.

Prince Valiant of comic strip fame is a Norseman. Here he is on the cover of Dell Four Color #900, from 1958. The interiors were drawn by Bob Fuji, but I'm not sure that he was the cover artist here.

Startling Stories, January 1941, with a cover story, "A Yank at Valhalla," by Edmond Hamilton and cover art by Earle Bergey. 

"A Yank at Valhalla" was reprinted in 1950 as The Monsters of Juntonheim in a British edition. The identity of the cover artist is unknown.

Weird Tales, March 1943. The cover story is "Flight into Destiny" by Verne Chute. The cover art is by Edgar Franklin Wittmack. 

In 1974, Walt Disney Pictures released an adaptation of The Lost Ones by Ian Cameron. Here is the movie tie-in edition of Cameron's book, retitled to match the movie.

Vikings in America were and still are a popular theme in popular culture. (Prince Valiant came to America, too.) In 1978, American International Pictures released The Norseman, with Lee Majors in the lead role as a Viking in the New World. I think The Norseman made a clunking sound, but I remember that my younger brother saw it at the movie theater with his friends. Note the similarity of the movie poster to one of Frank Frazetta's Conan covers for Lancer. If you have never seen Hal Foster's original Prince Valiant, you know that Frazetta took a great deal from Foster. Who can blame him? And so this Frazetta-like poster closes a circle.

Text and captions copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Friends of Thanos

While I was away over the holidays, we watched Avengers: Infinity War on Netflix. We had seen it at the movie theater months before, but we wanted to see it again as the release of the sequel approaches. (Avengers: Endgame will be out in April.) Even though we knew what was coming, it was still shocking and sad to witness half of the team crumble into dust and blow away. (Bill and Ted were right after all: All we are is dust in the wind.) I can't wait to see Thanos get his comeuppance in the next movie. We all have our theories about how that will happen, but I think we'll all be proved wrong. (I think Ant-Man will play a strong role, but we'll see.)

A day or two after we watched the movie, my nephew told me that there was some kind of controversy involving Thanos and the description of Avengers: Infinity War on Netflix. I resolved to find out more once things calmed down after the holiday. I have read about the controversy now, but I still don't really understand what the big deal is. It leads back to something that I wrote about months ago, though, in an article called "Summer Movie Miscellany" (here). In that article I made a kind of prediction. As it turns out, I was right, but then it doesn't take a genius to be right about these things.

The recent controversy has to do with this description of Avengers: Infinity War posted on Netflix:
Superheroes amass to stop intergalactic sociopath Thanos from acquiring a full set of Infinity Stones and wiping out half of all life in the universe.
That's not exactly informative. The uninitiated might ask, What the heck is an Infinity Stone? But if you have to ask, you probably shouldn't watch Avengers: Infinity War until you have seen a couple of dozen other Marvel movies first. Anyway, a bunch of people who don't have anything else to do objected to the characterization of Thanos as a sociopath. The objections seem to fall into two categories. First is that the use of the word sociopath is incorrect or inaccurate. Second and more troubling is that Thanos is not a sociopath because what he's trying to do--kill off half of the life in the universe--is actually a good thing. I'll take these objections one at a time.

The first objection is easy enough to deal with. First, the term sociopath is informal and imprecise. It isn't a diagnosis. People use it more or less how they please. It doesn't mean very much to say that Thanos or anybody else is a sociopath. Second, Thanos is not a real person. He exists only as drawings on paper or as a bunch of electrons. How can you get worked up over something so inconsequential as that? As William Shatner (or the evil Captain Kirk from Episode 37) might say: "Get a life! For cryin' out loud, it's just a movie." How can anyone possibly have enough time or interest to start some kind of wacky campaign to get a television blurb changed? I mean, how old are you people? What have you done with yourselves? Move out of your parents' basement and grow the hell up!

The second objection, that Thanos is actually a good guy and is trying to do something good and necessary in the universe, is far more serious and scary. But then we live in a world full of serious and scary things, one of which is the nihilistic, anti-human thinking of countless millions of people--people who hate themselves and because of it hate everyone else, past, present, and future, God included. They are the kind of people who made the twentieth a century of horrors and promise to make the twenty-first a proper sequel of greater, though more subtle, horrible things.

As I wrote before, if you believe that humanity should be reduced or diminished, you are, like Thanos, a monster and a villain. Get that into your head: You are a monster. And I hope--we all should hope--that you never have even the remotest access to power (1, 2)

(1) Although in a democracy, even monsters have power. In fact, democracies are just as likely as any form of government (or even more likely) to give rise to monsters, as a democracy inevitably results in a rapid race to the bottom, and monstrousness resides in every one of us at the basest of levels.
(2) By the way, has anyone noticed the similarities in motivation between Thanos and Kodos the Executioner from the Star Trek episode "The Conscience of the King"? The difference is, I guess, that there is nothing to prick the conscience of Thanos.

Copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Read Weird Tales

After receiving a request from a reader, I have added a page to this blog called "Read Weird Tales." Click on the item on the right or here for a link. This new page includes links to websites on which you can read whole issues of Weird Tales in digital facsimile format. If anyone knows of similar websites, even if they include only one issue, please let me know, and I may add it to the list.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Shadow Over Aquaman

I'm back again after the holidays and eighteen sleep-deprived days at home. Two days into the new year we saw Aquaman at a mostly deserted movie theater. That's what happens in the middle of a holiday week in small-town Indiana. We stayed for the last of the credits and when we walked out of the theater into the darkened hallways of the multiplex we saw only the manager, who was sweeping up.

Like I said, I was sleep-deprived. I have to admit that I almost dozed off three times during Aquaman. But even if I hadn't already been sleepy, I might have felt the same way, for Aquaman is too long and, for at least an hour, too slow-moving to hold a person's interest very well. The players are Jason Momoa as Aquabro, Willem Dafoe as Mr. Miyagi, and Nicole Kidman as the Aquamom. They are supported by Dolph Lundgren as a guy whose pink hair flows and swirls like he's in a VO5 commercial and Randall Park as Conspiracy Brother, among others. Every one of them also takes a turn playing the role of Basil Exposition, and every five or ten minutes during the movie someone stops the proceedings to tell you a little story about something you don't really care about or understand. I actually groaned at one point because of it. This is no way to tell a story. In fact, one of the first things you learn in storytelling is to show it, not tell it. Even my thirteen-year-old nephew said that the movie is "cringy" in places. It's not a good sign when a kid calls your superhero movie "cringy," but that's a good word to describe the dialogue in Aquaman, which includes a little gem in which someone or other says that he plans to become "the Ocean Master." If he were in Machu Picchu or San Francisco or some similar place, I suppose he would want to become the Stair Master.

Near the beginning of Aquaman there is a little still life shown in the interior of the lighthouse keeper's home. One of the elements in this tableau is a paperback version of The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft. I'm not the first to comment on the Lovecraftian elements in Aquaman. Others have already gone there, including more than a few who just have to tell you again that Lovecraft was a horrible racist. And did we mention that Lovecraft was a horrible racist? There can be no doubt that H.P. Lovecraft wrote again and again about race and the mixing of races, as well as about the degeneration, decay, and dissolution of individual human beings and their familial or tribal lines. There is just that in "The Dunwich Horror," a tale of a kind of demigod named Wilbur Whateley, first published in Weird Tales in April 1929. The same theme appears again in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," published posthumously in the same magazine in April 1942. It seems to me, though, that Lovecraft could have been writing about himself when he told tales about mixing and degeneration or decay, for his father was a common traveling salesman and eventual syphilitic while his mother was the daughter of a prominent and well-established New England family. (Even she ended up in the bughouse.) I sense that the author himself felt the creeping of tainted blood in his blue veins as he lived out his life in a decaying home among decaying fortunes. In any case, Aquaman is also a tale of the mixing of races. The results here are positive, though, in that the title character is not degenerate but emergent. However, there is a degenerate race of men in Aquaman, and I couldn't help but see them as the Deep Ones from "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." Finally there is a deep-sea leviathan like Cthulhu, befriended by Aquabro and voiced by Julie Andrews of all people. Mary Poppins returns indeed.

I haven't yet seen a DC movie as good as the least good of the Marvel Studios movies, but then I haven't seen them all yet, from either studio. I can say, though, that the DC movies lack a kind of warmth and humanity that prevails more or less in the Marvel movies. They're also slow, talky, and lacking in humor. (1) I'm not sure why that is. Marvel doesn't have a lock on good screenwriters and directors. DC ought to be able to come up with something comparable. But they don't. As I have said before, DC ought to hire Marvel Studios to make their movies for them. Anyway, we saw previews for M. Night Shyamalan's new movie Glass on Wednesday night last week. If you have to see a new superhero movie this month, see that one instead of Aquaman. You can also look forward to Captain Marvel in March and Avengers: Endgame in April. Both are from Marvel Studios. Sorry, DC.

(1) The DC movies also miss out on the essence of the original comic book characters. For example, in Superman Returns, from 2006, Superman becomes Superstalker, a brooding creep who spies on Lois Lane as only a super-powered guy from Krypton can. In that and other Superman movies, the original and essential love triangle of Clark Kent-Lois Lane-Superman is banished to the Phantom Zone and Superman is made to be in love with Lois Lane. That's not how it works, people, and if you knew better, maybe moviegoers would like your product. Beyond that--and speaking of racism and racial stereotypes--the makers of DC movies are guilty of what I think is a pretty egregious perpetuation of a stereotype of Jewish men as cowards, weaklings, and nebbishes in the character of the Flash, from Justice League (2017). If they had had a black Flash like Stepin Fetchit or an Asian Flash like Long Duk Dong, viewers and critics would have howled, and rightly so. But this is the twenty-first century and one of the few permissible stereotypes left is one or more of the Jewish people. I guess that's to be expected when one of our major political parties is so outwardly and unabashedly antisemitic. And it ain't the Republicans.

H.P. Lovecraft had only one cover story in Weird Tales but in order to get it he had to go to Canada and then only after he had died. The story was "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and it appeared in the May 1942 issue of the Canadian edition of the magazine. The artist was cartoonist and illustrator Edmond Good.

Text and caption copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, December 31, 2018

Guy L. Helms (1898-1932)

Soldier, Newspaperman, Editor, Author
Born September 8, 1898, Salisbury, North Carolina
Died February 21, 1932, Salisbury, North Carolina

Guy Liston Helms was born on September 8, 1898, in Salisbury, North Carolina, to Clarence E. and Emma B. Helms. He enlisted in the U.S. Army before the American entry into the Great War and served as a recruiter in his hometown of Salisbury in 1916-1917. Helms trained at Fort Caswell, North Carolina, and went overseas, to France, in late 1917 or early 1918. He served in the 4th Company, 2nd Trench Mortar Battery, 2nd Infantry Division, a division that fought in most of the major engagements on the Western Front from July to November 1918. Helm's division served in occupied Germany after the war and returned to the United States in July 1919. Helms attained the rank of sergeant during his time in service.

Guy Helms was gassed during the Great War, though I don't know when or where. That injury determined the course of the rest of his life and resulted in his early death. After returning stateside and being discharged in May 1919, he took up studies in electrical engineering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That didn't last long, for in October 1919, he had to give up his studies and repair to a hospital in Statsen (sic), Wisconsin. Helms tried again, entering Columbia University, in Missouri, in the summer of 1920. Yet again he was forced to give up his studies and return to a hospital in Milwaukee.

The third time may have been the charm. In late 1920 or early 1921, Helms began studying at the Marquette University School of Journalism. In 1922, while still a student, he worked as poetry and exchange editor at the Marquette Journal. That same year he was appointed chief of staff of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), department of Wisconsin. He had previously been editor of Legion-Airs, a monthly newspaper printed by the Sergeant Arthur Kloepful Post of the American Legion in Milwaukee. By 1925, Helms was back with the American Legion as the editor of The Badger Legionnaire and director of a news bureau, which wrote and distributed news stories of interest to Wisconsin veterans.

Guy L. Helms wrote just one story for Weird Tales, "The Dancing Partner," in the jumbo-sized first-anniversary issue of May/June/July 1924. Helms would have been at the time affiliated with veterans' organizations, probably the American Legion, which had its national headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. Indianapolis was also the city in which Weird Tales had its editorial offices (perhaps a grandiose description of what must have been only one or two rooms in an ordinary office building). By late 1924, both Weird Tales and The American Legion Magazine were being printed by the Cornelius Printing Company of Indianapolis. The November 1924 issue of Weird Tales was the first in which Farnsworth Wright, another veteran of the war, was credited as editor. I write all of this to point out that, again as in the case of Orville R. Emerson, there's reason to think that veterans of the Great War were drawn to submit their stories to Weird Tales through some kind of connection to the American Legion. I don't know what evidence there might be in favor of such a supposition--maybe an advertisement or a bit of correspondence. More likely, any evidence of such a connection has long since disappeared.

Guy L. Helms returned to his hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina, late in life, and that is where he died, on February 21, 1932, from complications of having been gassed during the war. He was survived by his parents, his wife, and his two children and was buried at Salisbury National Cemetery in Salisbury.

* * *

This is how I will close out the hundredth-anniversary year of the end of the Great War, which was, as should be so painfully clear to us now, one of the most disastrous events in human history. Like Guy Helms and millions of other men and women, we are still paying a price for that war, and we will go on paying a price far into the future. I hope there will come a time when we and our civilization will recover, just as its veterans hoped that they would one day recover. There is so much that depends on it. Some of the alternatives are unthinkable. They may in fact represent a slow slide into ice. The fire of the past might have been preferable, despite all of the suffering, pain, destruction, and death it caused, for even as the fire raged, there was still a chance for a different outcome. Now we are left in the aftermath of the war, living closer to ice than to fire. But as Robert Frost wrote, "for destruction ice/Is also great/And would suffice."

Guy L. Helms' Story in Weird Tales
"The Dancing Partner" (May/June/July 1924)

Further Reading
I have assembled this biography from snippets of information appearing in newspapers in North Carolina and Wisconsin from about 1915 to 1932. There is otherwise little that I could find on Helms, his life, or his career. I have to wonder, though, whether he was related to Jesse Helms, the longtime senator from North Carolina.

(Despite the image above:)

Happy New Year to Readers of Weird Tales!

Copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Robert H. Leitfred (1891-1968)

Aka Robert Fleming
Stenographer, Soldier, Author
Born August 5, 1891, Syracuse, New York
Died August 16, 1968, Orange County, California

Robert Henry Leitfred was born on August 5, 1891, in Syracuse, New York, to Henry and Jennie (Bennett) Leitfred. The surname is unusual. Nonetheless, it's not easy to find information on Robert H. Leitfred in newspapers, public records, or the Internet. As a young man, he worked as a stenographer. On October 26 (or 27 or 28), 1914, Leitfred married another stenographer, Mildred Snyder, in Syracuse.

In 1918, Leitfred enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served in a motorcycle unit and was in France from 1918 to 1919 before returning to his civilian job as a stenographer. According to The FictionMags Index, his first published story was in Detective Tales in December 1923/January 1924. Detective Tales was a companion magazine to Weird Tales. (The first issue was actually published in October 1922, five months before Weird Tales.) We might take that as Leitfred's introduction to Rural Publishing Company and its magazine titles, but his first story in Weird Tales was not published until 1935. In the intervening years he had dozens of stories in war, aviation, Western, and other pulp magazines. From his start in 1923 to his finish in 1951, these included Aces, Airplane Stories, Black Book Detective Magazine, Breezy Stories, Detective Story Magazine, Over the Top, Short Stories, Sky Birds, Three Star Magazine and Three Star Stories, War Stories, Western Trails, Wings, and other titles. Leitfred's credits in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and weird fiction include the following:
  • "The Vanishing Ray" in Detective Tales (Dec. 1923/Jan. 1924)
  • "Where Gravity Ends" in Air Wonder Stories #3 (Sept. 1929)
  • "Prisoners of the Electron" in Astounding Stories of Super Science (Oct. 1930)
  • "Prisms of Space" in Astounding Stories (Nov. 1933)
  • "Yellow Doom" in Weird Tales (May 1935)
  • "Seven Seconds of Eternity" in Weird Tales (Sept. 1940)
  • "Core of the Purple Flame" in Weird Tales (Nov. 1941)

Under his pseudonym Robert Fleming, he wrote:
  • "Thunder Over the Channel" in Battle Birds (Feb. 1942)
  • "Just About Eels" in Fantastic Adventures (Aug. 1942)

Leitfred also wrote short stories published in newspapers during the early 1950s, three hardbound crime-detective novels in the 1930s, and a paperback novel in the 1950s:
  • The Corpse That Spoke (1936)
  • The Man Who Was Murdered Twice (1937)
  • Death Cancels the Evidence (1938)
  • Murder Is My Racket (1952)

In about 1930, Leitfred moved to Laguna Beach, California, to be among the growing colony of writers there. He went to Laguna Beach with Robert C. Du Soe (1920-1964), formerly of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, then and later an author of adventure stories and children's books. I have names of other writers who lived and worked in Laguna Beach during the 1930s, but those will have to wait for another day and another entry.

Robert H. Leitfred died on August 16, 1968, in Orange County, California, less than two weeks after his seventy-seventh birthday.

Robert H. Leitfred's Stories and Letter in Weird Tales
"Yellow Doom" (May 1935)
"Seven Seconds of Eternity" (Sept. 1940)
Letter to "The Eyrie" (Sept. 1940)
"Core of the Purple Flame" (Nov. 1941)

Further Reading
See "Robert H. Leitfred-Author" on the website PulpFlakes, July 15, 2017, hereFor more on Robert C. Du Soe, see Clear Heart Blog by Joe Cottonwood, in an entry of September 6, 2012, here.

Robert H. Leitfred's story "The Vanishing Ray" was in Detective Tales in its December 1923/January 1924 issue. For a year or so, Detective Tales was a companion magazine to Weird Tales. You can see the connection in the cover designs for the two magazines in 1923-1924. All or most of these were two-color designs (usually red and black, as in this cover). Many of the artists did double duty as well, for instance, R.M. Mally, who created this design, as well as the covers for Weird Tales for most of the period June 1923-May/June/July 1924. As for Leitfred's story: I don't know what it's about, but the title makes me think there is some kind of proto-science-fictional theme or elements.

Without my intending to, this is becoming a series relating to World War I and a few of the tellers of weird tales who were also veterans of the war. Robert Leitfred was among them. I don't know in what unit he served and whether he saw combat, but Leitfred wrote war stories for years after his return to the United States in 1919. His story "The Fourth Squad," for example, was in Three Star Stories for July 1929 (#1). The cover art includes the artist's monogram, but I don't know who he or she was.

As the 1920s and stories of war gave way to the 1930s and a proliferation of crime and detective tales, Leitfred wrote more in those two genres. His story "The Devil Laughed" was the cover story for Detective Fiction Weekly for October 10, 1936. I don't know the name of the cover artist.

Leitfred had another cover story in Weird Tales in September 1940. It's called "Seven Seconds of Eternity," and the cover art, by Ray Quigley (1909-1998), is strange beyond belief.

After nearly thirty years as a professional writer, Robert H. Leitfred began to wind down in the early 1950s. Whether that was by choice or by the vicissitudes of the market, I can't say. In any case, he had a last hurrah as the author of a paperback crime-detective novel, Murder Is My Racket, a Harlequin book from 1952.

Text and captions copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley