Thursday, May 16, 2013

Before the Golden Age-John Russell Fearn

John Russell Fearn
Born June 5, 1908, Worlsey, Lancashire, England
Died September 18, 1960, Blackpool, Lancashire, England

Much has been written about this author who wrote much. I'll write much less. British author John Russell Fearn wrote hundreds of essays, stories, novels, and collections published between 1933 and 2013. You can read some of his titles on The Internet Speculative Fiction Database and the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Fearn penned science fiction, mysteries, Westerns, and maybe romances, too. His pseudonyms number in the double digits: Vargo Statten, Volsted Gridban (also used by E.C. Tubb), Thornton Ayre, Polton Cross, Geoffrey Armstrong, Dennis Clive, John Cotton, Ephriam Winiki, Mark Denholm, Spike Gordon, Conrad G. Holt, Lawrence F. Rose, John Russell, and Earl Titan. Fearn also used the house names Astron Del Martia, "Griff," Paul Lorraine, and Brian Shaw. His many series included The Golden Amazon series, which was especially popular with women. The Toronto Star published Golden Amazon stories in its weekend magazine section for many years.

Fearn was born in and died in the United Kingdom. He produced fiction out of proportion to his fifty-two short years on earth.

For Weird Tales
"Portrait of a Murderer" (Dec. 1936)

The Golden Amazon in "The Amazon Strikes Again" from the Toronto Star, Saturday, February 21, 1948. This looks like it could be an advertisement for some kind of hair product. Instead, it's an illustration for the "Star Weekly Complete Novel," which was later printed in book form. With images like this appearing in newspapers and magazines, it's no wonder people saw flying saucers in the skies and encountered "Nordic" aliens when the things landed. The artist's signature is on the right, but I can't read it.
Here's a Harlequin paperback of The Deathless Amazon. It looks like the guy in the Star Trek-looking shirt could actually be enjoying the attention he's getting from the Golden Amazon. The cover art is by Paul Anna Soik (1919-1999), a prolific artist for Harlequin Books. 
John Russell Fearn is on the short list of science fiction authors who have had a magazine named for them, even if Vargo Statten is a pseudonym. This is a British magazine as you can see. That's a pretty cool spaceship. Unfortunately I don't know who drew it.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley


  1. I remember reading that E.C. Tubb wrote Westerns prior to the Earl Dumarest books. Retrospectively, Earl is very recognisably a descendant of 'Shane', 'The Man With No Name' etc - so I guess no surprises there!

  2. Aonghus,

    Thanks for mentioning E.C. Tubb. He should be on my current list, "More Authors from the Golden Age of Science Fiction." I'll correct the oversight.

    The Earl Dumarest series sounds interesting. I just read about it on Wikipedia. It sounds like Battlestar Galactica was--intentionally or not--a swipe from that series.

    If Earl is a descendant of Shane, The Man With No Name, etc., I wonder what are the origins of that character. Part Byronic hero? Part descending angel? A supernatural figure of some kind?


  3. I guess the big difference between BSG and the Dumarest saga is that - whereas the crew of BSG rarely get to land anywhere - Earl does wind up on a different planet in each book. I've often wondered about the origins of this particular mythic type too, as I'm not sure he has a European equivalent - no recent equivalents, anyway - although he does have some similarities to a knight errant (something Stephen King was quick to exploit in his 'Dark Tower' books). He may be an exclusively American creation!