Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ronal Kayser (1905-1988)

Aka Dale Clark, Dale Clarke
Born August 27, 1905, Springfield, Minnesota
Died February 22, 1988, San Diego County, California

Ronal (or Ronald) Sherwood Kayser was born on August 27, 1905, in Minnesota and lived in towns named after two of the state's ten thousand lakes. Graham Lake may have been his place of birth. At age twenty-five, he lived in Round Lake with his family and was already calling himself an author of magazine stories. Kayser married in 1930 and may have left home for Chicago at about the same time. In any case, he worked as an investigator for the Juvenile Protective Association (JPA), an agency set up by social worker Jane Addams in 1901. His position with JPA may explain why his first two stories for Weird Tales appeared under a pseudonym, Dale Clark. (A speculation on my part.) Those stories were published in early 1934. By the October issue, Kayser was writing under his own name.

Nineteen thirty-six was a good year for Ronal Kayser, at least when it came to Weird Tales. He had three stories and a poem printed in the magazine that year, beating his previous best of three stories printed in 1934. One from 1936, "In the Dark," was reprinted in 100 Wild Little Weird Tales (1994) and is now available as a download on the Internet. "In the Dark" was also Kayser's last story for "The Unique Magazine," although he sold other stories to Argosy and Terror Tales during the 1930s.

Weird fiction, though popular, had limited appeal during the pulp era, at least compared to crime fiction. Perhaps recognizing that and drawing on his experience as an investigator, Kayser began writing detective stories, some with a scientific angle, and again under his Dale Clark identity. Among his books were Focus on Murder (1943), The Red Rods (1946), Mambo to Murder (1955), and Country Coffin (1961). Kayser also wrote stories for Detective Story Magazine, Detective Fiction Weekly, and other magazines during this phase of his career. 

Kayser lived in La Jolla, California, during the 1940s and probably afterward. He died in San Diego County on February 22, 1988, but his fiction is still read and admired, in print and encoded in electrons.

Ronal Kayser's Stories, Poem, and Letter in Weird Tales
"The Phantom in the Sky" (Jan. 1934) as Dale Clark
"Behind the Screen" (Apr. 1934) as Dale Clark
"The White Prince" (Oct. 1934)
"The Albino Deaths" (Mar. 1936)
Letter to "The Eyrie" (May 1936)
"The Seance" (poem, Apr. 1936)
"The Unborn" (July 1936)
"In the Dark" (Aug./Sept. 1936)

Further Reading
You can read more about Kayser's detective stories on websites devoted to pulp fiction. A search with the keywords "Dale Clark" and "detective" will turn up plenty of material.

The Blonde, the Gangster, and the Private Eye was also titled The Red Rods (1946). I'm not sure if Lauren Bacall had anything to do with the story, but there she is on the cover, apparently in the role of a femme fatale
Finally, the cover of A Run for the Money (1956) by Dale Clark, alias Ronal Kayser. Now the woman looks like Susan Hayward or Arlene Dahl. The man looks like he's gotten a run for his money.
Thanks to Randal A. Everts for locating Ronal Kayser's birth record.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Minor quibble -- "Minnesota's thousand lakes"? The standard description is "Land of 10,000 Lakes," but in fact I believe the official total is closer to 15,000.

    Happy to see and learn from this, since I keep informal records of any sf/f writers with significant Minnesota connections, and did not know about Kayer.

    Denny Lien, pulp collector, sf fan, and librarian in Minneapolis

  2. Hi, Denny,

    Sorry for the error. I have multiplied those lakes by ten to match your state's nickname. Thanks for pointing out my mistake. It sounds like you're doing for Minnesota what I'm doing for my home state of Indiana.


  3. Any chance you want to sell you copy of avon #47 to me? Of the 49 book set, it is the only one I am missing.

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    2. To the person who left the above deleted comments,

      As I don't have advertising or other commercial messages or content on my blog, I have deleted the image in question, as well as our exchange of comments.

      Thanks for reading.