Saturday, May 14, 2016

Flavia Richardson (1897-1985)

Pseudonym of Christine Campbell Thomson
Aka Christine Hartley
Author, Editor, Anthologist, Literary Agent, Occultist
Born May 31, 1897, London, England
Died September 29, 1985

Christine Campbell Thomson was the editor of eleven collections of weird tales and the author of at least eleven weird tales of her own. She was married more than once, but her name at birth seems to have been Christine Mary Campbell Thomson. (Her husbands were named Cook and Hartley.) If Christine Mary Campbell Thomson was indeed the later editor of weird tales, then she was the daughter of Herbert Campbell Thomson and Constance Emily Temple Thomson, and she was born in Marylebone in London. In 1911, that same girl lived with her family at 34 Queen Anne Street, not far from Sherlock Holmes' residence at 221B Baker Street, also in Marylebone.

Christine Mary Campbell Thomson was born on May 31, 1897, in London. She was educated at Queen's College and by age thirty was a published author and the editor of a series called Not at Night, named after the first volume in the series, from 1925. There were eleven books in the Not at Night series, plus an omnibus edition (published in 1937), an American edition (1928), and four (or six) reprint editions from many years later. The lists that follow are from The Speculative Fiction Database. Any transcription errors are my own.

Not at Night Series
  • Not at Night (1925)
  • More Not at Night (1926)
  • You'll Need a Nightlight (1927)
  • Gruesome Cargoes (1928)
  • By Daylight Only (1929)
  • Switch on the Light (1931)
  • At Dead of Night (1931)
  • Grim Death (1932)
  • Keep on the Light (1933)
  • Terror by Night (1934)
  • Nightmare By Daylight (1936)
  • Not at Night Omnibus (1937)
In 1928, Macy-Macius of New York reprinted some of the stories from those British editions for American readers. The title was Not at Night: Creepy Tales!, and the editor was Herbert Asbury. In the 1960s, of course, there was a wave of nostalgia for fantasy and horror of the pulp-fiction era (as well as for Universal monsters and other movies from the same era). Arrow Books, a British publishing house, brought back the Not at Night series in its own series of paperback editions, two of which were reprinted with different titles:

Not at Night Arrow Books Reprints
  • Not at Night (1960)
  • More Not at Night (1961; reprinted as Never at Night, 1972)
  • Still Not at Night (1962; reprinted as Only By Daylight, 1972)
  • Terror by Night (1976)
The odd thing about all this is that the stories from the series were drawn for the most part from an American magazine, none other than Weird TalesMike Ashley is a historian of science fiction. By his count, there were 170 stories in the Not at Night series, of which 100 (or 59 percent) came from Weird Tales. So in the 1960s, readers could catch up on reprints from a British series from the 1920s and '30s, which were in turn reprints from an American magazine of that same period, and at least one of which, "Out of the Earth" by Christine Campbell Thomson (writing under a pseudonym), was originally in a British magazine. You'll understand why I'm not going to catalogue the stories from the Not at Night series.

If a sketchy website is a reliable source of information, then Christine Campbell Thomson registered her firm, Campbell Thomson and McLaughlin Limited, on March 19, 1932, with offices in Arsenal, London--if I interpret the thing correctly. Campbell Thomson and McLaughlin was a literary agency and its founder a literary agent. The firm was subsumed by The Marsh Agency Limited, also of London, a firm still in existence.

Even before she established her own firm, Christine worked as a literary agent. Among her clients was Richard Martin Oscar Cook (1888-1952), who went by the truncated name of Oscar Cook. Just back from Borneo in the early 1920s, he went to Christine Campbell Thomson for help with his memoir of the Orient. She retitled it and the book was published as Borneo: The Stealer of Hearts in  August 1924. On the last day of the following month, she and Cook were married. It was his firm (he was a part owner, I think), Selwyn & Blount Limited, that published the books in the Not at Night series, as well as Christine's novel, His Excellency (1927). She also wrote the novels The Incredible Island (1924), Port of Call: Love and Murder in Algeria (1936), Hawk of the Sahara (1939), and In a Far Corner. And she contributed to the Daily HeraldEvening News, Glasgow Herald, Newcastle Sunday SunStar, and other papers. You can find out more about the writing couple on Douglas A. Anderson's blog, Lesser-Known Writers, here. There you will read that Oscar Cook and Christine Campbell Thomson had one child, a son named Gervis Hugh Frere Cook (later Frere-Cook), born on July 12, 1928. He was also a writer, but his career was cut short with his death late in 1974.

Oscar Cook and his wife were divorced in 1937 or 1938. He died on February 23, 1952, in London. In 1945, she married a man name Hartley, and that was her surname at her death in 1985. So, there is a lot about names in the story of Christine Campbell Thomson. Here's another: Flavia Richardson. That was her nom de plume, and the one she used for all but the last of the following short stories:

Short Stories
  • "Out of the Earth" in Hutchinson's Mystery Story Magazine (Jan. 1925; reprinted in Weird Tales, Apr. 1925)
  • "When Hell Laughed" in Hutchinson's Mystery Story Magazine (Jan. 1926; reprinted in Gruesome Cargoes, 1928; You'll Need a Nightlight, 1927; More Not at Night, 1961; et al.)
  • "At Number Eleven" in By Daylight Only (1929)
  • "The Gray Lady" in Weird Tales (Oct. 1929)
  • "Pussy" in At Dead of Night (1931; reprinted in Not At Night, 1960)
  • "The Red Turret" in Switch on the Light (1931; reprinted in A Century of Creepy Stories, 1934; et al.)
  • "Behind the Blinds" in Grim Death (1932; reprinted Still Not at Night, 1962; Only By Daylight, 1972)
  • "The Black Hare" in Keep on the Light (1933; reprinted in Not at Night Omnibus1937)
  • "Behind the Yellow Door" in Terror by Night (1934, reprinted in Not at Night Omnibus1937; et al.)
  • "Empty Stockings" in Nightmare By Daylight (1936)
  • "Message for Margie" in The Fifth Pan Book of Horror Stories (1964; et al.)
As mentioned, Christine was also a novelist, and she wrote non-fiction, including:
  • The Right Way to Write Successful Fiction (to which she may have been only a contributor)
  • Murder and Sudden Death with John C. Woodiwiss (1939)
  • I Am A Literary Agent (1951)
  • The Western Mystery Tradition: The Esoteric Heritage of the West (1968)
  • A Case For Reincarnation (1972) 
Finally, Christine Campbell Thomson Cook Hartley was an occultist, a friend of Dion Fortune (1890-1946), and a member of the Society of the Inner Light. She died on September 29, 1985, at age eighty-eight.

Flavia Richardson's Stories in Weird Tales
"Out of the Earth" (Apr. 1927; previously in Hutchinson's Mystery Story MagazineJan. 1925)
"The Gray Lady" (Oct. 1929)

Further Reading
You can read about Christine Campbell Thomson and her husband Oscar Cook on Douglas A. Anderson's blog, Lesser-Known Writers, here, and on the website Vault of Evil: Brit Horror Pulp Plus!, here. Otherwise, the pickings seem to be pretty slim for such a significant figure in the history of weird fiction in Great Britain.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

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