Saturday, April 29, 2023

Howard Ellis Davis (1883-1951)-A Third Story of the Southern Swamp

Howard Ellis Davis (1883-1951) was a military officer and an engineer who worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Although he was born in Florida, Davis lived and worked in Georgia and Alabama. He moved to Bay Minette, Alabama, north of Mobile, in 1945 and lived there for the rest of his life.

Davis wrote more than one hundred stories and articles published in various pulp and slick magazines. His lone story for Weird Tales was "The Unknown Beast," a tale of Southern swamps published in the first issue, March 1923. Although he was in places other than Birmingham, Alabama, Davis apparently had connections to that city, specifically to his contemporary, Artemus Calloway (1883-1948), who conducted the short story department at the Birmingham News-Age-Herald. Calloway also contributed to Weird Tales. There is reason to believe that he was on the Alabama end of a connection between Weird Tales and his fellow writers in the Yellowhammer State. Anthony M. Rud (1893-1942), who was from Chicago but wintered in and went on public speaking tours in Alabama (Georgia, too), may have been the one who established the connection between those two places. There don't seem to have been connections between tellers of weird tales in most cities and states in America. Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Milwaukee were exceptions. But so was Alabama, and that's why I have created a category and a label called "Weird Tales in Alabama." Howard Ellis Davis was a part of the Weird Tales scene in Alabama. I think Alabaman fans of weird fiction have reason to be proud of their home state.

I have written about Davis before. Click here to read what I wrote. Davis died of a heart ailment at a hospital in Mobile, Alabama, on April 25, 1951, seventy-two years ago this week.

Howard Ellis Davis' Story:

"The Unknown Beast" is another story of Southern swamps. It's set in a backwater place called Bayou le Tor along Mississippi Sound, probably in Alabama, possibly a fictionalized version of Bayou le Batre in Alabama. Davis must have been well acquainted with such places. He wrote effectively of a landscape of giant cypress trees, live oaks, and sedge grass. As a forester and nature lover, I like to read of real natural places and real plants and trees.

"The Unknown Beast" is something like a murder mystery. There are suggestions that the horrible murders taking place in the swamps around Bayou le Tor are supernatural or even cryptozoological in nature. A local man, driving in a borrowed car, makes a journey two counties away to fetch back a deputy sheriff named Ed Hardin. It is Hardin who investigates the murders. One evening, armed with a pistol and a broad hunting knife, he fearlessly rides on horseback into the swamp. He is almost killed in the effort, but he brings out the unknown beast for all to see. It is Old Rensie Bucker, a black man and a former sailor, who provides the explanation as to the nature and background of the beast.

Davis' story is a straight, uncomplicated, third-person narrative. It's told in linear fashion, with no flashbacks, framing devices, introductions, stylistic flourishes, or other author's tricks. The style is readable and literary. It's not sensationalistic and definitely not stricken with overwrought, pulpish prose as in Hamilton Craigie's story "The Chain." The author doesn't draw attention to himself, and there isn't anything standing between the reader and his narrative. Although "The Unknown Beast" is marred in my opinion by transcriptions of dialect and accented regional speech among its various characters, Davis' approach is refreshing in a collection that has, to this point at least, included too many contrived, complicated, self-conscious, unsophisticated, simplistic, or not fully realized narratives.

I should let you know that there is in "The Unknown Beast" the first occurrence in Weird Tales of the n-word. I won't defend that word or its use, but I can say at least that it is used only by characters within the story, first by Ed Hardin, a white man, then by Rensie Bucker, a black man. Both men use the word in a matter-of-fact way. It seems to be just a word that people use in their everyday speech. In contrast, the author didn't use the word in his narration at all. Instead, he referred to black people as negroes. That word might be considered in our time offensive as well, but it is still in use among black institutions.

"The Unknown Beast" is not predictable. We don't know what the beast is until Old Rensie explains it to us. There is a nice twist at the end involving a "chile-minded" black man (kind of like Sloth in The Goonies) and a bunch of drug smugglers aboard a schooner out of the East Indies. It seems to me that drugs would have been a taboo subject in mainstream magazines of that time. More than that, though, "The Unknown Beast" has a slightly weird element in it, and I think it found an appropriate place in Weird Tales. As in later tales by H.P. Lovecraft, there is the theme of degeneracy. There is also, again, the theme of the swamp monster, as well as references to the Orient, both of which were staples of pulp fiction.

"The Cypress Swamp" (1894) by Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. (1862–1932).

Text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Farnsworth Wright (1888-1940)-A Short Short Story

Newspaper Reporter, Soldier, Translator, Author, Editor, Music Critic
Born July 29, 1888, Santa Barbara, California
Died June 12, 1940, Jackson Heights, New York

I have stayed away from writing a biography of Farnsworth Wright. Luckily, I found a source that will allow me to go on avoiding that task. My source is a biographical article in a series called "Titans of Science Fiction," printed in the fanzine Science Fiction Digest, Combined with The Time Traveler, in Volume 1, Number 7, from March 1933. The editor was Maurice Z. Ingher; associate editors were Mortimer Weisinger, Raymond A. Palmer, and Julius Schwartz; and contributing editors were Forrest J. Ackerman and Henry Schalansky. The article itself was written anonymously. Wright may have himself been the author. I found this issue of Science Fiction Digest in a most timely way, on Saturday last week. It's from the collection of Margaret B. Nicholas of Bartlett and Marietta, Ohio. I found it at the same place as her larger collection, much of which I purchased last year.



    Editor of Weird Tales since November, 1924, was born in California forty-five years ago. Has English, Scotch, and French blood in him. Lived in San Francisco until 1906 when the earthquake 'threw' him out.
   Was bitten early with the editorial bug. When attending a San Francisco High School, he published an amateur magazine, "The Laurel," which he edited, wrote, and printed himself on a hand press belonging to a friend.
    Was educated at the University of Nevada and the University of Washington. While at the latter he was managing editor of their daily paper. Had to work his way through college. Spent one year surveying, one summer canvassing books, another summer as entomologist for the British Columbia Hop-Company, campaigning against the hop-fleas and the hop-lice.
    When the United State got into the Big Scrap he went to France as a private in the infantry. Was acquainted with French well enough to act as a French interpreter in the A.E.F. for one year.
    Returned to resume life as a newspaper reporter in Chicago. Was the music critic for the Chicago Herald and Examiner (the Hearst Morning paper in the Windy City) for two years.
    Wrote stories and read manuscripts for Weird Tales when Edwin Baird was editor from 1923-1924, and later became its editor when the Popular Fiction Publishing Company bought the magazine in 1924.
    He is the author of about 40 stories altogether, but story-writing is merely an avocation with him. Has written but one science fiction story, "An Adventure in the Fourth Dimension," an uproarious satire on interplanetary stories and science fiction in general. It was reprinted twice: in the Ten Story Book, and again with "The Moon Terror."
    It is rumored that Mr. Wright writes under the nom-de-plume of Francis Hard, whose stories and poems have appeared in Weird Tales and Oriental Stories--but he prefers not to say anything about it.
    His favorite relaxations are chess and swimming, he prefers to read books dealing with science and history. His favorite poet is Keats, favorite story-writer is Alphonse Daudet, but thinks William Morris' "A King' Lesson" is the best short story he's read. Likes to see Mickey Mouse on the screen in preference to anyone else, and considers Master Robert Wright, age three, his favorite hobby.

* * *

It goes on from there, but that's enough for now. "Master Robert Wright," by the way, was Wright's son, Robert Farnsworth Wright (1930-1993). How strange it is to hold a publication from ninety years ago in one's hand, a publication that was new and fresh when a long-dead man was just a three-year-old boy.

"Francis Hard" was in fact a nom-de-plume of Farnsworth Wright. (Hard was his mother's maiden name.) He began using that nom-de-plume only after he had assumed the role of editor of Weird Tales in November 1924. In all, Wright had five stories in Weird Tales from March through November 1923, plus three short stories and five poems in Weird Tales, Oriental Stories, and The Magic Carpet Magazine from November 1924 to October 1937. So there was precedent for an editor to use a pseudonym while still having his works printed in Weird Tales. Maybe Lamont Buchanan, later associate editor, availed himself of that practice during the 1940s and '50s.

Farnsworth Wright's Stories in Weird Tales
  • "The Closing Hand" (Mar. 1923)
  • "The Snake Fiend" (Apr. 1923)
  • "The Teak-Wood Shrine" (Sept. 1923)
  • "An Adventure in the Fourth Dimension" (Oct. 1923; reprinted in The Moon Terror [1923] and in The Best of Weird Tales: 1923 [1997])
  • "Poisoned" (Nov. 1923)
Stories & Poems by Farnsworth Wright Writing as Francis Hard in Weird Tales, Oriental Stories, and The Magic Carpet Magazine
  • "The Great Panjandrum" in Weird Tales (short story, Nov. 1924)
  • "The Dark Pool" in Weird Tales (poem, Apr. 1925)
  • "The Death Angel" in Weird Tales (poem, Sept. 1925)
  • "Two Crows" in Weird Tales (poem, Jan. 1925)
  • "The Evening Star" in Weird Tales (poem, Mar. 1926) 
  • "The White Queen" in Oriental Stories (short story, Oct./Nov. 1930)
  • "The Picture of Judas" in The Magic Carpet Magazine (short story, Apr. 1933)
  • "After Two Nights of the Ear-ache" in Weird Tales (poem, Oct. 1937)

Farnsworth Wright's Story:

"The Closing Hand" is a very short story of only two pages. It takes place in an old house at night, with two sisters lying together in an upstairs bedroom and the younger of them talking about how the place might be haunted. The older sister is more level-headed and proceeds to fall asleep. There are sounds downstairs. The younger sister wakes the older, who goes to investigate. She is gone for too long. A presence comes into the room and . . .

"The Closing Hand" is written more or less at a high school level. It begins as a haunted house story and ends as a simple crime story. It reads like a sequence from a modern horror movie.

In its issue of September 1, 1922, the Chicago Tribune asked the man on the street, "What do you think of Health commissioner's Bundesen's 'public' health plan?" Farnworth Wright, then aged thirty-three, provided this answer.

Original text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, April 24, 2023

Merlin Moore Taylor (1886-1939)-Another Prison Story

Author, Journalist, Editor, Traveler, Explorer
Born October 5, 1886, Batesville, Arkansas
Died February 18, 1939, Chicago, Illinois

Merlin Moore Taylor was born on October 5, 1886, in Batesville, Arkansas. His father, Reverend James Jackson Taylor (1855-1924), was a missionary and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Reverend Taylor went back and forth between the United States and Brazil during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Merlin Moore Taylor lived in Brazil from 1890 to 1897 and again from April 1899 to August 1900. He was in Rio de Janeiro in 1893 during the Brazilian Naval Revolts, or Revoltas da Armada, in which the city was bombarded by naval forces in revolt against the government. Although he was only a child, Taylor's career as a traveler in foreign lands and a witness to events in faraway places had begun.

Taylor was born and educated in Arkansas, yet he had close connections to his neighboring state to the north. Macon, Missouri, claimed him, and he served with Company D of the 4th Missouri Infantry, enlisting in July 1908 and serving, I believe, three years in all. His wife was Lily May Freeman Taylor (1886-1947). They lived in St. Joseph, Missouri, from about 1902 until at least 1910. Taylor was on the editorial staff of the St. Joseph Gazette during those years. He also worked as a newspaper editor in St. Louis.

By June 1917, when he filled out his draft card, Taylor was in Chicago and working as an editor for William D. Boyce (1858-1929). Boyce was an editor, publisher, explorer, and founder of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and the Lone Scouts of America. From his headquarters in Chicago, he issued a popular weekly newspaper called the Saturday Blade. After breaking with the BSA, he launched the Lone Scouts of America and began publishing a weekly, eventually monthly, magazine called Lone Scout. Merlin Moore Taylor was editor of both publications. Ralph Allen Lang (1906-1987), thirty years his junior, was a Lone Scout in his rural Pennsylvania home. He also contributed to Weird Tales, though a decade after Taylor. The Lone Scouts were geared towards literary and artistic endeavors. They had their national publication in Lone Scout, but they also produced local journals. In reading about them, I get the impression they were like the fanzines of a later time. I would not be surprised to find that other Lone Scouts contributed to Weird Tales.

In November 1920, while living in Chicago, Taylor applied for a U.S. passport. His intention was to leave from Vancouver, British Columbia, on December 15, on board the Makura, bound for Australia and New Zealand. His expressed purpose was to "travel and obtain data for articles." In 1921, accompanying British magistrate and patrol officer Richard Humphries and with Harry L. Downing of Sydney, Australia, also in tow, Taylor went into the interior of Papua New Guinea. According to Taylor, it was the first time that white men had made that journey in the forty years that it had been a British territory. (1)

Taylor arrived back in Victoria, British Columbia, in September 1921. His experiences and observations while in Papua New Guinea were the basis for his book The Heart of Black Papua, published in 1926. Excerpts from the book were syndicated in American newspapers during the 1920s and '30s. "Two Sorcerers of Black Papua," reprinted in Horror in Paradise: Grim and Uncanny Tales from Hawaii and the South Seas (1986), was also drawn from The Heart of Black Papua. The editors of that book were A. Grove Day and Bacil F. Kirtley.

Merlin Moore Taylor traveled extensively in the United States, South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the East Indies, and the South Seas. He wrote travel articles and true crime articles published in a number of newspapers. Living in Chicago in 1930 with his wife, Taylor worked for Chicago Herald Examiner Publishing. He was also a journalist with I.N.S., or International News Service. Fans of 1970s television will remember that Carl Kolchak, the Night Stalker, also worked for the INS, also of Chicago. His employer, though, was the Independent News Service.

Merlin Moore Taylor was a very prolific author of stories and articles published from June 1919 to February 1940. These appeared in Adventure, All-Story Weekly, Asia, The Black Mask, Detective Story Magazine, Novelets, Real Detective Tales and Mystery StoriesShort StoriesSport Story Magazine, Star Novels, The Wide World Magazine, and other titles. Although they are not listed in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, some of Taylor's stories have titles that suggest they are genre stories, including "In the Clutches of the Werewolf" (The Regent Magazine #11, Oct. 1924), "The Wolf Man" (Novelets, Jan. 1925), and "The Werwolf’s Claws" (Adventure Trails, Jan. 1929). Taylor had only one story in Weird Tales, "The Place of Madness" (Mar. 1923), and one in Detective Tales, "First Catch Your Rabbit" (Feb. 1923). He also had one story in Amazing Tales"The White Gold Pirate," from April 1927. Finally, I have found two stories by Taylor syndicated in American newspapers, "By Law of Tooth and Talon," a serial in the St. Louis Star, from 1921, and "The Wicked Flee" in the Chicago Tribune, from December 17, 1922.

According to Lucien W. Emerson in his newspaper history of the Lone Scouts of America (see below), Merlin Moore Taylor died of the effects of blackwater fever contracted when he was in Papua New Guinea. That sad event took place on February 18, 1939, in Chicago, Illinois. Taylor was just fifty-two years old.

(1) Benjamin Stevens Boyce, son of William D. Boyce, also traveled to New Guinea. The younger Boyce died in 1928. His father published posthumously his Dear Dad Letters from New Guinea, dispatched from an expedition to that island country. I don't know if there was any connection between Boyce's and Taylor's expeditions.

Merlin Moore Taylor's Stories in Weird Tales and Detective Tales

Weird Tales

  • "The Place of Madness" (Mar. 1923)

Detective Tales

  • "First Catch Your Rabbit" (Feb. 1923)
Further Reading
  • "Murder Plot and Deadly Hate of Sorcerer Make Journey Perilous" by Merlin Moore Taylor in the Washington, D.C., Sunday Star, November 28, 1926, part 5, page 2.
  • "The Golden Years of Lone Scouts" by Lucien W. Emerson in Southern Utah News, August 13, 1959, page 1+.

Merlin Moore Taylor's Story:

Like "The Ghost Guard" by Bryan Irvine, "The Place of Madness" is set in a prison, afterwards in a hospital. There is more to Merlin Moore Taylor's story than to Irvine's however, and the twist at the end, though foreseeable, is more powerful.

God earns mention again in "The Place of Madness." Dr. Blalock, who has gone through the ordeal of solitary confinement in a darkened prison cell, speaks from his hospital bed:

And in my agony and fear I cursed the God who had created me and saddled me with this thing [i.e., his conscience]. I learned my lesson, though, before I was through. I who had presumed to place my own puny will above the Great Eternal Will; I who had dared to believe that the great order of things, the plan by which we all must live and die, must make an exception of me, learned that I was wrong.

There are those among us who would place themselves above God, thereby also above nature, reality, and their fellow human beings. I don't sense any prickings of conscience among them, though, and so we have one example of a difference in the moral universe of one hundred years ago versus the apparent utter lack of a moral sense today, especially among our elites.

Taylor wrote of "the Great Eternal Will." Our current problem may also have to do with will. Aleister Crowley infamously wrote, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law," while Nietzsche's idea seems to have been that, now that God is out of the way, the will to power remains as a guiding force, or the guiding force, in the lives of men. He also made a connection between the will to power and the desire for cruelty directed at other men. George Lucas got in on the act, too. From Wookiepedia, first a quote, then the beginning of an encyclopedia entry on the Whills:

"The midi-chlorians are the ones that communicate with the Whills. The Whills, in a general sense, they are the Force."
--George Lucas

Star Wars creator George Lucas intended the Whills to be microscopic single-celled life-forms who were essentially God; the will of the Force.

Remember what O'Brien in Nineteen Eighty-Four said about power: "The object of power is power." Power is both the goal and the means of attaining the goal. Power is, among other things, the power to humiliate and the power to inflict cruelty upon our fellow human beings, without guilt, remorse, shame, or fear of punishment. In "The Place of Madness," Dr. Blalock speaks against this kind of worldview. But he still has a conscience. Our current elites, especially in government, are driven by will and a lust for power. They seek to humiliate us, to punish us, to visit cruelty, poverty, and misery upon us. And they seem to take pleasure in all of that and in all of it to be free of guilt. I suppose one day they will have to confront themselves, and if not that, they will at least be confronted by a greater power that in this life they have denied. On the other hand, I feel certain that many of them will go to their graves believing that they remain God-like in all of their qualities. I remember seeing a firefly caught in a spider's web. It went on blinking and blinking, signaling life and promising life even as the end came near. Our elites are not so innocent as that firefly, and yet they go on announcing themselves, even as the end nears. Remember, finally, that Taylor's father was a minister, and that in 1923, humanity was still living near the beginning rather than at the end of a century of horrors.

"The Place of Madness" also recalls Orville R. Emerson's story "The Grave." The theme is much the same, namely of madness brought on by solitary confinement, of a man alone, trapped deep in the earth. Emerson's German soldier is free of guilt however. Dr. Blalock, on the other hand, loses his mind partly because, for two hours, he is utterly alone with himself, his thoughts, and his nagging conscience. The implication in Taylor's story is that an innocent man with a clear conscience can tolerate isolation and sensory deprivation better than can a man wracked with guilt, for a man alone must confront himself.

"The Place of Madness" is unusual in that it's not very sentimental. There are also taboo subjects, including female promiscuity and pregnancy outside of marriage. Taylor would probably have had a hard time placing his story in a mainstream magazine. However, there aren't any weird elements--no fantasy, no horror, and no pseudo-science or science fiction. There is crime, though, and confessions of crime. Maybe "The Place of Madness" could have gone into a crime/detective/mystery magazine. You could call this a conte cruel except that the man who receives punishment is not innocent, and his punishment is not arbitrary. You could also look at Dr. Blalock's volunteering to go into the isolation cell as the workings of the imp of the perverse, or a subconscious desire to punish himself or to visit justice upon himself. There are faint echoes of Poe and Hawthorne, especially The Scarlet Letter, in "The Place of Madness." There may also be Freudian concepts at work.

One last thing: there is in Taylor's story a powerful appeal against solitary confinement in prisons. And what he wrote a century ago is still true today. Solitary confinement remains a question of morality and of humane treatment of our fellow human beings, even if they have committed the most horrendous of crimes. One thing seems certain, and that is that a man alone and deprived of stimuli will lose his mind.

An illustration from Merlin Moore Taylor's article "Murder Plot and Deadly Hate of Sorcerer Make Journey Perilous" in the Washington, D.C., Sunday Star, November 28, 1926, part 5, page 2. The illustrator was Douglas Ryan. One of the white men in this picture is the author Taylor. I doubt whether Ryan's depiction of him is an actual likeness.

Text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Anniversary No. 12

I began writing this blog twelve years ago today, on April 22, 2011. My first subject was C.L. Moore, one of my favorite authors of fantasy and weird fiction and someone who grew up where I grew up, in Irvington, on the east side of Indianapolis. I have since written more than 1,200 articles--1,245 as of today--and in that time, there have been 1,550 comments posted here. A lot of those are my responses to comments others have made. I'm always glad to hear from readers and to receive contributions. I do a lot of thinking and a lot of research in order to write this blog, but I can't know everything, read everything, or think of everything, and so I thank everyone who has written, knowing the things I don't know and thinking of the things I haven't thought of. I encourage everyone to write again, write more, or write for the first time.

I have 120 followers on this blog. Thank you, followers. I have also had more than 1.2 million visits on Tellers of Weird Tales (1,202,877 as I write). I went over the 1.2 million mark on April 11, 2023. That's a lot of visits, even if half of them might be hackers, spammers, and robots. I wonder now whether artificial intelligence is making searches of the Internet and whether any visits made by AI to my blog or any other blog are counted in the overall tally. I think we're past the point of no return when it comes to distinguishing between people and machines. Nevertheless, I thank all of you humans who read Tellers of Weird Tales, and I thank everyone who has expressed appreciation, admiration, or encouragement, either in the comments section or by personal email. Finally, I thank Randal A. Everts, who has done so much to uncover the identities, images, and lives of the men and women, artists and writers, who contributed to Weird Tales magazine.

Weird Tales, December 1933, with cover art by Margaret Brundage. This cover is from nigh on ninety years ago. The clock hands turn and time flies. The Rule of Twelve holds: there are twelve divisions on the multicolored circle pictured above. This image was published in the twelfth month of the year, and the cover price was two bits, or two times 12 1/2. I have been writing for twelve years now. In that time, I have written more than 1,200 articles and have had more than 1,200 thousand visits to this blog. I also have twelve-times-ten followers. And if you add up the numbers in the beginning date for Tellers of Weird Tales--4-22-2011--you get twelve. Is there significance? I can't say.

Text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Hamilton Craigie (1880-1956)-The First Detective Story

Henry Hamilton Edmund Craigie
Author, Editor, Poet, Teacher, Amateur Historian
Born July 22, 1880, Round Hill, Greenwich, Connecticut
Died August 9, 1956, Brooksville, Florida

Henry Hamilton Edmund Craigie, known as Hamilton Craigie, was born on July 22, 1880, in Round Hill, Greenwich, Connecticut. I haven't found anything on Craigie from before 1918, when he was already on the cusp of middle age. It was in 1918 that his career as a professional writer began, if the list of his stories in The FictionMags Index has captured his first credits. That career was bracketed by Aprils: from April 6, 1918 (in The Argosy), to April 1956 (in Famous Detective Stories), Craigie had scores of stories in Action Stories, Adventure Novels and Short Stories, The Argosy and its successors, The Black Cat, Detective Story Magazine, Jungle Stories, Mystery Magazine, Short Stories, Western Novels and Short Stories, Western Story Magazine, and other genre titles. In addition, Craigie had stories in Collier's, The InternationalMetropolitan, and Woman's Home Companion. He also wrote nonfiction articles and items about writing and the writing business.

Hamilton Craigie had five stories in Weird Tales, beginning with his crime/detective story "The Chain" in the first issue, March 1923. He also had three stories in the Weird Tales companion magazine Detective Tales in its first year, culminating with "Derring-Do," also in March 1923. Craigie continued to have stories in the successors to Detective Tales after it had gone to another publisher. He and Otis Adelbert Kline were the only authors to have a story in each of the first four issues of Weird Tales.

Craigie's five stories for Weird Tales include one called "The Jailer of Souls" (June 1923). It's a story of the American West, perhaps an early weird Western. There is mention of Java and other places in the Far East, but it is not set in the jungle and there aren't any flashbacks to a jungle setting. Nonetheless, Craigie had a story called "Jailer of Souls" in Jungle Stories in the Winter issue, 1952/1953. I can't say that these were the same story, as I have not read the Jungle Stories version. As for the Weird Tales version, it looks as though Craigie was working towards a fictional milieu inhabited by smart, able, and powerful heroes, almost like superheroes. In both "The Chain" and "The Jailer of Souls," he used an expression, Criminopolis, as a kind of shorthand to represent the world of crime against which his heroes operated. By the way, there is a book called Criminopolis, written by the French author Paul Mimande (1847-1913) and published in Paris in 1897.

"The Chain" is a crime/detective story, while "The Jailer of Souls" is a Western. It looks as though most of Hamilton Craigie's output was in those two genres. I have found ten books by Hamilton Craigie, all of which, judging by their titles, are Westerns:

  • The Longhorn Trail (1931)
  • Southwest of the Law (1932)
  • Nevada Jones (1935)
  • Hair-Trigger Hombre (1946)
  • Trigger Trails (1946)
  • Feudal Range (British edition, 1948)
  • Thunder in the Dust (1952)
  • The Longride (1954)
  • Rim Rock Range (1955)
  • The Ranch of the Raven (British edition, date unknown)
In addition to being an author, Hamilton Craigie also worked as a magazine editor. In 1918, when he filled out his draft card, Craigie was living in Summit, New Jersey, and working as an associate editor for the Frank A. Munsey Company, publisher of The Argosy. He was also on the editorial staff of The Black Cat and Metropolitan.

Hamilton Craigie was born in Connecticut and lived for a time in New York City. I suspect this was in the 1910s and/or 1920s. He appears to have spent most of the 1930s in Chatham, New Jersey. In 1942, when he filled out his second draft card, Craigie was in Essex, New Jersey.

I believe Craigie was married twice, first to Mary A. Melia (1884-1938), after her death, to Edith Fulton Martini (1893-1978). They were married in Hernando County, Florida, on December 12, 1944. It looks as though Craigie lived in Florida from the early to mid 1940s until his death in 1956. He taught short story writing at the University of Tampa Adult Education Center as early as 1948.

Craigie's daughter by his first marriage, (Mary) Virginia Craigie, was also a writer. She graduated from Eden Hall Convent of the Sacred Heart Boarding School in Torresdale, Pennsylvania, in 1933, having won the Louise Imogen Cuiney prize for highest average in literary work during her high school career. She had already by that time contributed articles to children's magazines. Afterwards she studied at the College of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan. She married John V.E. Zink.

His second wife, Edith Fulton, was a writer, too. She had poems in Bozart, Florida Magazine of VerseKaleidographThe Literary Digest, the Tampa Tribune, and other publications. These were collected in Disturbing the Stars, published in 1949. Edith Fulton was also a columnist for the Brooksville Sun newspaper.

Hamilton Craigie died on August 9, 1956, in Brooksville, Florida. He was seventy-six years old.

Hamilton Craigie's Stories in Weird Tales and Detective Tales

Weird Tales

  • "The Chain" (1923; reprinted Nov. 1952)
  • "The Incubus" (Apr. 1923)
  • "Midnight Black" (May 1923)
  • "The Jailer of Souls" (June 1923)
  • "The Man-Trap" (Nov. 1925)
Detective Tales

  • "The Mirror" (Nov. 16/Dec. 15, 1922)
  • "The Symbol of Authority" (Feb. 1923)
  • "Derring-Do" (Mar. 1923)

Hamilton Craigie's Other Stories Listed in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database

  • "The Vengeance of Hanuman" in Strange Stories (June 1940)
  • "Swamp of Dread Mist" in Jungle Stories (Spring 1950)
  • "Jailer of Souls" in Jungle Stories (Winter 1952/1953)

Craigie also had a story called "The House Without a Door" in Real Detective Tales in June 1924, as well as stories in Real Detective Tales and Mystery Stories. Finally, I found a story by Craigie called "Roundup of Reno Red," which was syndicated in newspapers in 1930.

Further Reading
"Today in Tampa" by Leo Stalnaker in the Tampa Times, November 22, 1948, page 2.

Hamilton Craigie's Story:

"The Chain" is a short story in six chapters. It tells of one harrowing evening in the life of a private detective named Quarrier. Although a quarrier is a man who works in a quarry, you can also look at the name as a pun on the word quarry as an animal that is hunted. In other words, a quarrier might be a man who hunts other men.

I was hoping for a more sustained work in "The Chain." After all, it's fairly long. Instead, all of the events in the story take place in a single evening, beginning with a ride in a New York taxicab and ending at Quarrier's very elaborately made offices. Although Quarrier and all of his attributes are described in detail, Craigie's tale hinges on a physical place and the minute details of that place. Describing a complex physical environment can be a challenge for a writer. I would advise against it if that's at all possible. Fortunately for the reader, Craigie included in his story a map, a floor plan of Quarrier's offices. Even so, it's not quite enough. You still have to read closely if you're going to understand just what has happened and in what way. In any event, that floor plan is the first drawing (not counting decorations) to appear in Weird Tales. I'm not sure that we can call it an illustration, though, as it does not depict a scene from "The Chain." It's there just so that we can understand better what is happening. Call it a graphic version of Craigie's prose, an example of the adage a picture is worth a thousand words.

There aren't any elements of horror, fantasy, or pseudo-science (i.e., science fiction) in "The Chain." Quarrier has a weird experience, though, when he senses an invisible presence in his office, or recently departed from his office. Craigie's story would seem out of place in Weird Tales. However, I detect a nascent genre or sub-genre here, namely, the weird-hero genre of the pulps, later the superhero genre of comic books. Quarrier is obviously a superior man, almost like a Conan of the city. Nothing can stop him, including a mob of gangsters who attacks him in the street, or an armed guard, whom Quarrier knocks out and disarms, even though he's bound by a kind of Gordian's knot. Nothing eludes him, either, including the lightly swinging electrolier chain of the title. It is by that swinging chain that his enemy the Big Gun's scheme is undone. (That's the Big Gun, not the Big Guy. The Big Guy's crime career began much later.)

I can't say that "The Chain" is a very good story. My main complaint is against Craigie's prose, that awful purple prose so common in pulp magazines. Here is but one egregious example:

Now Quarrier, his mouth a grim line, was reaching with the butt of his automatic to break that glass when, with a grinding of brakes the taxi whirled suddenly to a groaning halt.

I don't know about you, but that reads like an entry in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Fortunately we have to endure only one -ly word in that awful sentence. Pulp fiction authors loved their -ly words, non-words, too, such as "blackly" and "oilily." And this is my continuing complaint against pulp fiction and pulp magazines, both old and new: it and they can never be taken seriously (except by fanboys) and will never gain any purchase in the wider realms of literature (except with fanboys) for as long as the prose is so bad. Quarrier has the makings of an interesting character, but he's mostly two-dimensional. And that gets to a second complaint I have against pulp fiction, one that lies with bad characters, especially with characters who are not recognizably human. Edgar Rice Burroughs' characters, for example, are not human, and so his stories will never rise to the level of literature. In contrast, characters created by Raymond Chandler, who also wrote for pulp magazines, are recognizably human, and so Chandler's stories have attained a higher level of both quality and art.

From the Tampa Times, 1948.

Text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, April 16, 2023

David R. Solomon (1893-1951)-Another Story of the South

Author, Journalist, Military Officer, Attorney, American Legion Leader
Born July 9, 1893, Meridian, Mississippi
Died November 15, 1951, Birmingham, Alabama

David Rosenbaum Solomon was born on July 9, 1893, in Meridian, Mississippi, to Samuel Isadore Solomon, a bookkeeper/accountant and a native of Nisstadt, Germany/Poland, and Fannie (Rosenbaum) Solomon. I'm not sure where Nisstadt is or was. It may have been Neustadt, a district in Prussia.

David R. Solomon graduated  from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor of arts degree in 1915 and a bachelor of laws degree (Ll.B.) in 1916. He practiced law in Meridian from June 1916 to January 1918. While trying to enlist in the U.S. military during the Great War, he worked as a journalist with the Washington Times. On May 24, 1918, Solomon succeeded in enlisting in the U.S. Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He served in the 33rd Field Artillery from May 24, 1918, to December 12, 1918, and was stationed at Camp Jackson, South Carolina. He did not serve overseas.

Upon returning to civilian life, Solomon relocated to Birmingham, Alabama, and that's where he spent the rest of his life. On November 1, 1920, he married Madeline Alva Hirshfield in Birmingham. He was with a firm called Leader & Ullman in that city until November 1922, when he opened his own law practice. Even then he was known as an author of magazine short stories.

The first credit by David R. Solomon listed in The FictionMags Index is a vignette called "Her Visit" in Saucy Stories, April 1917. That was in the same month in which the United States entered the Great War. Solomon's next credit, a short story called "The Pikesteps of Pindar," didn't arrive until the May 31, 1919, issue of Argosy. From then until September 1934, Solomon had stories in Argosy, The Black Mask, Cosmopolitan, The Designer and the Woman's Magazine, Detective Story Magazine, Hearst's International, Munsey's Magazine, People's Story Magazine, Top-Notch Magazine, and other titles. He had just one story in Weird Tales and two in Detective Tales, both in the first year those two magazines were in print.

It looks like David R. Solomon's younger brother, Mendel Moses Solomon, was also an author of pulp stories. Born on August 20, 1895, in Meridian, Mississippi, he enlisted on the same day as his brother, May 24, 1918. Whereas David remained stateside, Mandel served overseas with the 152nd Infantry Regiment, from October 1918 to May 1919. He was discharged on May 12, 1919. From 1922 to 1931, Mandel had stories in Argosy Allstory Weekly, Detective Story Magazine, Thrilling Detective, and Top-Notch Magazine. He also had one story in Detective Tales, "The Double Cross," in March 1923, the same month in which David R. Solomon's story "Fear" was in Weird Tales. A businessman, author, and philosopher, he died in Meridian, Mississippi, on September 30, 1954. Neither man survived his 50s.

David R. Solomon was well known in Birmingham both as an attorney and as a writer. He was associated with other Birmingham writers, too, some of whom also contributed to Weird Tales. In October 1936, he served as a judge on the board for the fifth anniversary of the Birmingham News-Age-Herald's short story department. That department was conducted by Artemus Calloway (1883-1948). The other judges were Pettersen Marzoni (1886-1939) and Edgar Valentine Smith (1875-1953). The winner of the fifth-anniversary contest was Don Elwell. The story the following week was by Howard Ellis Davis, Jr., son of Howard Ellis Davis (1883-1948), who also had a story in the first issue of Weird Tales. That one is still to come in this series.

I have a couple of more credits for David R. Solomon, "The Official Ear," a short story syndicated by the Chicago Tribune in December 1923; and a short story called "Man Shy" which was to have been turned into a movie by the Birmingham Amateur Movie Association in 1928. "His short stories delighted readers of the big slick magazines," wrote the Birmingham News, "[b]ut he loved the law more than writing entertaining fiction, so he dropped writing altogether." (1) That appears to have been in 1934. Solomon afterwards devoted himself to serving his community and his fellow veterans.

Solomon was the commander of the Birmingham post and a member of Jewish War Veterans; commander of General Gorgas Post No. 1, American Legion; and state judge advocate of the Alabama department of American Legion. He also served with the Red Cross during World War II. He died prematurely, four days after Armistice Day, on November 15, 1951, in Birmingham. His hometown paper remembered him: "This community misses David R. Solomon--and he will long be missed. For Dave Solomon was one of those rare souls with a zeal for good work and a sense of humor that sparkled the path before him" (2)

David R. Solomon's Stories in Weird Tales and Detective Tales

Weird Tales

  • "Fear" (Mar. 1923)

Detective Tales

  • "The Invisible Assassin" (Feb. 1923)
  • "Fog" (Mar. 1923)
Further Reading
A full and very interesting page on the Birmingham News-Age-Herald's short story department, October 4, 1936, feature and magazine section, page 2.

(1) "The doughboy's friend" in the Birmingham News, December 3, 1951, page 1.
(2) Ditto.

David R. Solomon's Story:

"Fear" is a very short story, taking up only three and a half pages in the first issue of Weird Tales. It's a pretty minor story, really just a brief tale. Once again, we have a story set in a Southern swamp. Once again, there is a conversation that begins around a campfire. Once again, we have a man and his daughter, who is named Ruth, with the mother nowhere in sight, just as in "The Thing of a Thousand Shapes." (Surely there were other names for women besides Ruth in the 1920s.) And once again, there is a recounting of a man getting snake-bitten, just as in "Hark! The Rattle!" There is a mild, possibly humorous, twist at the end of "Fear." The story is only three and half pages long. You might as well read it as skip over it.


Text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, April 13, 2023

G.A. Wells (?-?)-The First Story of the Far North

Author, Traveler
Born ?, Ohio
Died ?

As far as I know, nobody has identified the author G.A. Wells, although The FictionMags Index lets us know that he or she was from Ohio and was also a traveler. Wells had several dozen stories published from 1917 until 1938. Titles include Ace-High Magazine, Adventure, The Black Cat, Detective Story Magazine, The Frontier, North•West Stories, People's Favorite Magazine, Short Stories, Telling Tales, Thrilling Stories, Top-Notch Magazine, and Western Story Magazine. Wells had one story in Weird Tales, "The Ghoul and the Corpse," from March 1923. The dates of Wells' stories suggest that he or she was of the same generation of several other authors from that first issue, perhaps born in the 1880s or 1890s. A lot of authors in Weird Tales used only their initials, but I wonder if G.A. Wells got something out of the similarity between his or her name and that of H.G. Wells.

G.A. Wells' Story in Weird Tales
"The Ghoul and the Corpse" (Mar. 1923)

Further Reading
None known.

G.A. Wells' Story:

"The Ghoul and the Corpse" is misnamed and that diminishes the story, making it sound like a conventional horror story rather than what it is, for "The Ghoul and the Corpse" is set not in some dark and musty graveyard but in the far north of Alaska. There is a framing device in the story. One man, McNeal, recounts a tale told him by another, named Chris Bonner. I'm not sure why authors of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries felt compelled to distance themselves from their own stories. Could there have been some kind of stigma attached to the writing of fiction? Did people--authors and their readers alike--consider fiction to be a kind of lie? I'm not sure. I remember the secretary at the first forestry office where I worked said that she didn't read novels "because they're not true." I liked her and got along with her, but that didn't stop me from wanting to slap her down. Her feeling gets to a lack of understanding in so many people as to the difference between truth and fact. Fiction is not factual. We can all agree on that. That doesn't stop the best of it from containing real truth.

McNeal, a fur trapper, is settling in for the winter in a place called Aurora Bay, on the Arctic Sea, when into his igloo comes Chris Bonner. Bonner has been alone in the boondocks and has a story to tell now that he's back among his fellow men. He begins by recalling the theory that, long ago, the earth turned sideways, with the tropics becoming polar regions and vice versa. Why would he talk about such a thing? Because he's trying to explain how he found a prehistoric apeman frozen in an Alaskan glacier.

"The Ghoul and the Corpse" is a tale told around a fire in a remote place. As a tale--a very old type to be sure--it's fairly short, not well developed, and concerns itself only with a single episode in the experience of a single character. It could have been so much more, as the concept at its core has such great potential. But we have to give the author Wells some slack. This was only 1923 and only the first issue of Weird Tales. It would fall on later authors to carry the concept along of the creature frozen in ice and to develop it further.

So in "The Ghoul and The Corpse" there is talk of suspended animation (as in "The Thing of a Thousand Shapes" by Otis Adelbert Kline); what Wikipedia calls "the Cataclysmic Pole Shift Hypothesis"; and prehistory, apemen, and Darwinian evolution. (There is a recapitulation of evolution in Kline's story, too.) Also in "The Ghoul and the Corpse" there is an early example (I think early) of a creature frozen in ice and then revived. Ice doesn't kill. It only preserves. (1)

In reading Wells' story, I couldn't help but think of Sasquatch or Bigfoot. I also couldn't help but think of the Minnesota Iceman. Again, before these things can be seen (or made), they must be imagined, and it is artists and writers who very often do the imagining.

(1) When it comes to monsters, ice is good for two things: one, preserving creatures such as Frankenstein's monster and the Thing from Another World so that they can be revived and used to tell a scary story; and two, immobilizing creatures such as the Damp Man and the T-1000 so that the main characters can make their escape. Then, of course, the creature is revived so that another scary story can be told, and the cycle repeats itself.

Argosy, May 1969, with a cover story "The Missing Link" by Ivan T. Sanderson. The cover blurb says that he was found in Wisconsin. That may or may not be true. Now, though, he's called "the Minnesota Iceman," and I believe he's living in suspended animation in Texas. Anyway, could Frank Hansen, the huckster behind the monster, have read "The Ghoul and the Corpse"? Or did he get his idea from Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), better yet, from The Thing from Another World (1951)?

Text and caption copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, April 10, 2023

Bryan Irvine (1885-1945)-A Prison Ghost Story

Soldier, Newspaper Editor and Publisher, Author, Movie Scenario Reader, Public Speaker, Prison Guard, Nightwatchman/Guard/Detective, Physiotherapist
Born February 10, 1885, Miles City, Montana
Died August 27, 1945, Los Angeles County, California

Bryan Irvine was born on February 10, 1885, in Miles City, Montana, to Thomas Howard Irvine, at one time a county sheriff, and Mary Elizabeth Irvine. His uncle and presumably his namesake was Bryan Irvine, a Montana pioneer and a miner in the area of Butte. Bryan Irvine the younger enlisted in the U.S. Army on the day before his twenty-first birthday, February 9, 1906. He was the editor and publisher of the Darby Record in Darby, Montana, in 1914 and thereabouts. In 1918, when he filled out his draft card, he was working as a prison guard at Montana State Prison and living in Deer Lodge, Montana.

On September 12, 1908, in Powell County, Montana, Bryan Irvine married Bertha Wood. Together they had two sons, Thomas Ainsworth Irvine, who died in 1909 at age one, and Harl Wood Irvine. Bertha W. Irvine died on December 1, 1939, in Santa Monica, California. She had been an invalid for more than twenty years. Irvine's second wife was Nancy N. Irvine.

From 1917 to 1937, Irvine had dozens of stories in pulp magazines, mostly in Detective Story Magazine (later Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine) and Western Story Magazine, but also in Ace-High Magazine, Argosy Allstory Weekly, Far West Stories, and 10 Story BookIrvine fictionalized his father as the Tiger Kid in "'Tiger Kid's' Trail," published in Western Story Magazine, February 12, 1921. "My father was at one time considered the best six-shooter shot in Montana," Irvine explained with just pride. Irvine had four stories in Weird Tales from 1923 to 1927. "The Ghost Guard" in the inaugural issue, March 1923, was his first.

Sometime between 1918 and 1921 or so, Irvine moved to California and became involved in the movie business. He had an article in The Photodramatist, subtitled "The Scenario Writers Magazine," in November 1921. Theodore Le Berthon (1892-1960), who also wrote for Weird Tales, had an article in that same issue. In 1922, Irvine worked as a reader on the staff of Thomas H. Ince Studios. Known as "the Father of the Western," Thomas H. Ince (1880-1924) died prematurely, either on board William Randolph Hearst's yacht or shortly after being carried ashore on a stretcher. Ince and his wife were Theosophists. She had his body cremated as they had agreed.

Bryan Irvine lived in Santa Monica, Venice, Los Angles, and possibly other cities in southern California. He was the president and member of the Monrovia Writers Club and a member of or associated with the Pasadena Writers Club. Other members of the Monrovia Writers Club and their associates included (in 1925): William and Ellavera Nelson, Jack and Helen Jarmuth, Mrs. Moss Renaker (a designer of pottery), Wallace Blakey, Mrs. Manton Barnes, Mrs. George Wilcox, O.H. Barnhill, Paul Rockwood, Charles Davis, Harve Wilson, Arthur Zimmerman, Scott Way and Isabel Stewart Way, S.J. Ryan, Elizabeth Pingree, Florence McAvoy, and A.W. MacyJack Jarmuth wrote the intertitles for The Jazz Singer (1927). Mrs. Moss Renaker was a designer of pottery. Isabel Stewart Way was a very prolific author of Western romances and other fiction and nonfiction in pulp magazines, slick magazines, and newspapers. I feel certain that other writers on this list had their own accomplishments of note.

Bryan Irvine was well suited for work as an author of Westerns and detective stories. His family were early settlers in Montana and he spent his childhood and early adulthood in Big Sky Country. He also worked as a prison guard and was the proprietor of Irvine Patrol Service in southern California during the 1920s. A contemporary newspaper article explained: "He prowls about the street at night, safeguarding local business houses, seeing that lights and gas are turned off, doors locked and premises protected from marauders. But while he is prowling about, he is busy thinking up plots for fiction stories [. . .]." (From the Venice, California, Evening Vanguard, July 30, 1928, page 1.)

In 1930, Irvine was living in Los Angeles and working as a fiction writer. Ten years later, he was newly married after the death of his first wife and working as a physiotherapist, also in Los Angeles. Bryan Irvine died on August 27, 1945, in Los Angeles County. He was just sixty years old.

Bryan Irvine's Stories in Weird Tales
"The Ghost Guard" (Mar. 1923)
"Shades" (July/Aug. 1923)
"The Great Adventure" (Apr. 1924)
"The Crooked Smile" (May 1927)

Further Reading
"Six-Shooter Shot: Subject of Magazine Sketch Is Well Known Here" in Ravalli [Montana] Republic, June 3, 1921, page 1+.

Bryan Irvine's Story:

"The Ghost Guard" is a ghost story and one of vengeance dealt from beyond the grave. It's pretty conventional, pretty predictable, and I'm afraid pretty unremarkable. One interesting thing about it, considering the author's resume, is that it is set in a prison, one of the main characters being a prison guard, another an inmate, and a third the captain of the guard.

A postcard of Montana State Prison, Deer Lodge, Montana, date unknown. In "The Ghost Guard" by Bryan Irvine, there is a lot of wordage devoted to the layout of the fictional Granite River Prison, especially its towers. I suppose the ghost of Asa Shores haunts one of the structures shown in this picture. And could one of the men standing along the wall be Irvine?

Original text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Joel Townsley Rogers (1896-1984)-A Second Story of the South

Joel Townsley Rogers was born on November 22, 1896, in Sedalia, Missouri, and attended Harvard University. His studies were cut short by his entry into the U.S. Naval Reserve in June 1917. He served two years and more, separating in August 1919. Rogers' writing career began right away. From February 1920 ("The Battle Cruiser Lady" in Snappy Stories) until February 1959 ("No Matter Where You Go" in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), he had scores of stories in American pulp and slick magazines, often under the byline Roger Curly (for his curly hair). Rogers also wrote several books, including the murder mystery The Red Right Hand (1945). He was one of several tellers of weird tales who called Washington, D.C., home, and that's where he died, on October 1, 1984. "Hark! The Rattle!" was his only story for Weird Tales. 

I have written about Rogers and his book The Red Right Hand before. Click here for a biography and here for my essay on The Red Right Hand. By the way, one of the characters in the book is Inis St. Erme. His name is an anagram of "Sinister me."

Joel Townsley Rogers' Story:

"Hark! The Rattle" is a brief tale set in a New York nightclub called the Purple Lily. There are two main characters, an intense and agitated young man named Tain Dirk, and an older man, his questioner and eventually his accuser, named Jerry Hammer.

So, Dirk and Hammer.

"Hark! The Rattle!" is an unusual story written in an unconventional style. The main action takes place in the present. An explanation of the current situation comes in the form of a flashback set in the Okechobee [sic] Swamp of Florida. The present is exactly the present, that is, in early 1923. The flashback takes place on the day Dirk was born, January 1, 1899.

Rogers' story isn't exactly a club story, even if it is set in a club. The first club story in Weird Tales is probably still to come. It is a murder mystery of sorts, though, and the first of that genre to appear, as long as we can be generous in applying the label. After "Ooze" by Anthony M. Rud, "Hark! The Rattle!" is also the second story of the American South in "The Unique Magazine," and that brings up a matter of interest.

When I was a student of literature, I read a lot of novels by Southern authors, and I read a lot about Southern literature. When you read about Southern literature, you're sure to come upon the term or category Southern Gothic. The works of William Faulkner (1897-1962), Carson McCullers (1917-1967), and Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) are frequently thrown into that category. There are, of course, others, including Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), who contributed to Weird Tales. I didn't understand very well what "Southern Gothic" means when I was a student. I'm not sure I understand very much better now, although Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily" comes to mind when I consider it.

Ellen Glasgow (1873-1945), a native Virginian, is known to have used and perhaps to have originated the term Southern Gothic. Her comments on what she called "the Southern Gothic School" first came in a talk she gave in front of the Friends of the Princeton Library on April 25, 1935. Her talk appeared as an article entitled "Heroes and Monsters" in The Saturday Review of Literature, May 4, 1935. The first use of the term that I have found in American newspapers is in a yearend summary of Southern literature, "Hatred, Small Town Tensions Were Major Themes," written by Harnett T. Kane (1910-1984) and published in the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger on December 19, 1948, page 44. Kane wrote:

Eddison [sic] Marshall, with "Castle in the Swamp," presented a heavily hued Southern Gothic tale in the traditions of "Wuthering Heights."

Although Edison Marshall (1894-1967) was born in my home state of Indiana, he lived for most of his life in the South. He also contributed to Weird Tales, although he didn't know it: his contributions were posthumous. The castle or old manor house is a staple of the Gothic romance. If Wuthering Heights is Gothic, then Jane Eyre is more Gothic still. In 1943, producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur set Jane Eyre in the global south, in this case the Caribbean, in their film I Walked with a Zombie. There is of course a big house and a woman who comes from the outside to learn its secrets.

We should remember in all of this Leslie Fiedler's view of American literature, dazzlingly articulated in his Love and Death in the American Novel (Dell/Delta, revised edition, 1966) and summarized in a couple of quotes:

[. . . ] the American novel is pre-eminently a novel of terror (p. 26)


It is the Gothic form that has been most fruitful in the hands of our best writers [. . .]. (p. 28)

In other words, in essence, all of American literature, or the mainstream of American literature, is Gothic.

Joel Townsley Rogers was also a Southerner. You could call his story "Hark! The Rattle!" a Southern Gothic work, for there is violence and murder, superstition and supernatural workings, poverty and decay, and more than one Southern, grotesque type, including "[a]n old crone," a tobacco-spitting man with yellow eyes and a gun in the crook of his arm--Rogers called him "Poor white trash"--and another old crone, this one an American Indian. Inside their "dreary hut," fashioned from the swamp, is an unseen young woman in the process of giving birth. "He dies!" screams the old Indian woman, pointing at Hammer's friend. "We want his soul!" And so a weird twist unwinds in the story.

The point of all of this is that I wonder whether American authors, editors, and readers of the early to mid twentieth century saw the South as a kind of foreign land, replete with its own foreign customs, traditions, cultures, and peoples, a kind of equivalent to the global south and all of its hot, humid, dank, dark, and gloomy places. I wonder if to them the Mason-Dixon Line was like an American equator. Here above it, in the North--in Chicago, New York, and the Northeast--weird things are less likely to come about. But the region below it--the American South--is a place and the proper setting for Gothic terrors and Gothic horrors.

Two more things, first, "Hark! The Rattle!" is written in a strange, dream-like, almost hallucinogenic or surrealistic way. I'm not sure that Rogers' approach and style changed very much between 1923 and 1945, when The Red Right Hand was published.

And second, in "Hark! The Rattle!," just as in "Ooze," a monster comes from the swamp, although this one is of a far different kind. That made me remember that Grendel, the monster in Beowulf, is also a creature of such places:

A foe in the hall-building: this horrible stranger
Was Grendel entitled, the march-stepper famous
Who dwelt in the moor-fens, the marsh and the fastness;


Grendel this monster grim was called,
march-riever mighty, in moorland living,
in fen and fastness; 

So maybe the swamp monster of American popular culture goes all the way back to Beowulf, just as the idea weird seems to do.

"March," by the way, refers to marches or borderlands. A march-stepper or march-riever, then, is a wanderer, thief, or plunderer of the borderlands. There are marches--the Bossonian Marches--in Robert E. Howard's Hyborea. William Hope Hodgson wrote about such a place in The House on the Borderland (1908), though his use of the word denotes something far different. "On borderland we run," sang U2 in "A Sort of Homecoming," the unforgettable first track of The Unforgettable Fire (1984). And to come full circle, William Faulkner's last book was The Reivers (1962), adapted to a movie starring Steve McQueen in 1968. "Rieve" or "reive" is chiefly a Scottish spelling, and so we're back to Scottish words again. "Reave" seems to be the preferred spelling. Blogger doesn't like either of the first two spellings but is okay with the third.

Edison Marshall's Castle in the Swamp, in a Dell map-back edition from 1951. Note the blurb on the back cover. In addition to evoking Gothic imagery, it is written almost like lines from Beowulf: "Sinister was the swamp . . ." Note also that Dell published both Marshall's book and Fiedler's.

Original text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley