Monday, February 1, 2016

Abrach (?-?)-Part Two

Abrach, author of "The Plaid" in Weird Tales, July 1952, was very likely a pseudonymous author. As I wrote in the first part of this article, the name Abrach offers clues as to the author's place of origin, for it is a Scottish surname, probably originating in Lochaber, in the west Scottish Highlands.

There are several names in "The Plaid." The story is in the form of a letter (dated June 1, 1941) from a Raymond Sedgwick, serving in "His Majesty's Forces in northern Scotland," to Rolfe Hayter, his friend in London. The story is about a Scottish family, Shemas and Johan MacGillivray and their young daughter Morag. A Mrs. Munro also appears in the story, and there is reference made to "that medium we heard at the Harrisons." Those names may offer further clues as the identity of the author.

Weird Tales was full of Scottish authors, or Canadian or American authors with Scottish surnames. Examples include Estil Critchie, Arlton Eadie, Ainslee Jenkins, and James MacCreigh. It's interesting that all of those names are pseudonyms. Ray McGillivray, who wrote "The Forty Jars" (Apr. 1923) is another example of an author with a Scottish surname. Perhaps significantly, his surname is the same as the family in "The Plaid," only with an Mc instead of an Mac. His Christian name is the same as that of the narrator. So could Ray McGillivray have been the mysterious Abrach? Maybe.

Here's a wrench in the works of that idea: According to the website Author and Book, Ray McGillivary was a pseudonym used by the American author Anthony Melville Rud (1893-1942). Rud also wrote for Weird Tales. His story "Ooze" was the cover story in the first issue of the magazine (Mar. 1923). He also had a story in the second issue, "A Square of Canvas" (Apr. 1923), the same issue in which "The Forty Jars" appeared. In the pulp fiction era, it was common for magazines to use pseudonyms so as to seem to offer a greater variety of authors to their readers. The problem here is that Rud's supposed pseudonym, Ray McGillivary, has a different spelling than the name of Ray McGillivray, the author of "The Forty Jars." The difference is slight, though, and I think negligible. If Anthony Rud was Ray McGillivary, he was probably also Ray McGillivray. Likewise, the name McGillivray, the presumed pseudonym, has a spelling that is slightly different than the name MacGillivray, the family name in "The Plaid." Again, the difference is negligible.

Here's another wrench in the works, though: Anthony Rud died in 1942, after the date in the story, but ten years before it was published. Could he still have been the author, and, for whatever reason, his story was not published until 1952? Could the story have been previously published under a different title and author's name? Weird Tales is known to have dug up old stories and even to have reprinted them with altered titles and authors' names. So, yes, those things are possibilities.

Two more things and then the end: First, Anthony Rud was of Norwegian descent on his father's side, but his mother's family came from Canada. Her maiden name was Piper. Rud used her surname in another of his pseudonyms, Anson Piper. I wonder if he could have used a name from farther back in his family line, namely, Mac or McGillivray or Mac or McGillivary, for his other pseudonym. I don't know that those names appeared in his family tree, though. Second, is the name or clan of MacGillivray related to the name or clan of McIlwraith, Dorothy McIlwraith's family? Both originated in the region of Ayrshire and Lochaber. One form of MacGillivray is MacIlvray, which seems to me awfully close to McIlwraith. Maybe Dorothy McIlwraith dug up the story "The Plaid" from somewhere in Scotland or England among her family, friends, or acquaintances. Or maybe it was in fact the work of Anthony Rud and she cottoned to it because of its relationship to her family, clan, region, or nation.

The mystery of Abrach shows few signs of clearing.

Next: Anthony M. Rud and the Tango Dancer Murder

Copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

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