Friday 28 December 2012

Arthur D. Howden Smith - journalist, historian, soldier, pulp author

[Arthur D. Howden Smith was one of the best authors writing for Adventure. He had a tendency to create series – with Captain McConaughy fighting the Germans in World War 1; the sword Grey Maiden repeatedly turning up across history, and Swain the Viking being the three most popular. He was a journalist and historian as well. On his 125th birthday, here’s a profile of the writer and his work. After the break.]

Arthur D. Howden-Smith c. 1908
Arthur D. Howden-Smith c. 1908
Arthur D. Howden Smith was born on 29 December, 1887, in New York. He was from an old  New England family with roots in the sailing business. At the age of seventeen, he became an apprentice at the New York Evening Post. He decided to become a reporter, and having met Balkan emigrants in the cafes of New York, decided to make a trip to Macedonia.
Macedonia was then in revolt against the Turkish Empire, and Howden Smith left for Europe, determined to be a war correspondent. When he reached Sofia, he met a council and asked for permission to go with a rebel band (cheta), the committee was at first disinclined to give permission.
"You are a small man," said Dr. Tartartcheff. (Arthur Howden Smith was 5’ 7” and weighed about 160 pounds). "Do you think you could stand the work? It is very difficult. You cannot rest. The askares (soldiers) follow you, always. You wear sandals which do not protect your feet. Often, you must go without food. When you are tired to weariness, it is your bread that you throw away, that you may not have to sacrifice any of your ammunition. It is a hard life, sir, and a thankless one.
You do not understand the kind of warfare the Turks wage. It is not such as Western Europe knows. There is no mercy shown. It would do you no good to be a non-combatant. You would be slain, just the same, if they caught you. The askares never take prisoners. You are young and you have life before you. Think about it. Is it worthwhile? Remember you are not one of us; we are not your people. Why should you risk your life in an alien cause? There can be no middle course for the man who goes into Macedonia. He either goes with the Turks, or he goes with the chetniks, and if he goes with the chetniks, he goes armed."
“I understand the risks," I said. "I know what they will be and I am willing to take them."

Arthur D. Howden Smith dressed in the rebel uniform of the Macedonians c. 1907
Arthur D. Howden Smith dressed in the rebel uniform of the Macedonians c. 1907
He spent the year in the Balkans, roaming with the cheta, and fighting with them. With this experience, he became an “expert” on the Balkan problem, and went back to New York, where he wrote a book, Fighting the Turk in the Balkans, on his experiences. George Haven Putnam, the publisher of G. P. Putnam's Sons, saw the manuscript when it was only two-thirds complete, sat up half a night reading it and decided to publish it.
This connection also probably led to him writing articles for Putnam’s magazine on different subjects ranging from the Balkan situation to wireless telegraphy and electric power.
From 1908 to 1915, he was a reporter on the New York Evening Post. 1911 was the year of his first appearance in Adventure, and by 1913 he had sold four non-fiction articles to Adventure, along with three short stories. During this time, he was also writing newspaper articles on corruption in New York City politics.
From 1918 to 1920, he was political and Washington correspondent of the New York Globe. The gap in employment may be explained by service in World War 1; I was unable to find any records of this; other than the fact that a draft registration in his name exists. After the war, he became a correspondent for the Evening Post.
Nora Howden Smith nee Pinkney
Nora Howden Smith nee Pinkney
In 1912, he married Nora Pinkney, and they had a daughter, named Nora after her mother. Nora died as a child, sometime in the 1920s. As far as I know they did not have any other children. After this period, I couldn’t find many facts about his life. His World War 2 draft card mentions his wife’s name as Dorothy, but I couldn’t find any record of such a marriage.
Arthur D. Howden Smith c. 1918
Arthur D. Howden Smith c. 1918
The only paper trail he left behind that I found was the books and stories that he wrote. As a historian, he wrote biographies of John Jacob Astor, Commodore Vanderbilt, Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott and Colonel House. But it is in his stories for Adventure that we are interested, and the highlights are described below.
The man was a serial writer, and he kept writing series – starting with Miles McConaughy, a Cornish captain who fought the Germans. I haven’t read any of these stories.
His next set of stories around the same character was The Doom Trail and Beyond the Sunset, both novels that appeared as serials in Adventure. The hero of these stories was Harry Ormerod, an outlaw in England who escaped to America.
Next came the stories of Swain the Viking, in 1923.  The first five stories were collected in a book, Swain’s Saga. From 1923 to 1925, he wrote at least seventeen stories in this series, which was based on the Orkneyinga saga. Swain is a determined, clever man who works on his own, going from losing everything to being a king maker and ends with him dying as he lived. These are grim stories, with death and revenge being the themes.
In between this series came his best work, Porto Bello Gold, which is a prequel to R. L. Stevenson’s classic, Treasure Island. It was published as a serial in Adventure before being published as a book. It was very popular in its time; WorldCat lists 28 editions, including translations in German and Polish. Sadly, it is almost unknown today, which it doesn’t deserve. The hero of Porto Bello Gold is the young Robert Ormerod, son of the Harry Ormerod, the hero of earlier stories. This is in print today, but if you hang around EBay, you may be able to snag a copy of the 1924 edition for less than or the same price as the new reprints. The 1924 edition has coloured plates and illustrations by H.C Murphy, an illustrator who worked for Adventure.
After Swain the Viking came the stories of the Grey Maiden, a sword. The sword itself was not magical; it passed through history with a series of owners and the stories describe incidents in history where the owners of the sword battled. There is a legend about the sword that a man owning the sword cannot die by another sword. An excellent series of nine stories takes us from Ancient Egypt to classical Greece, from there to Ancient Rome, to Hannibal’s army fighting the Romans, back to the end of the Roman Empire, thence to the Arabian desert, to Scandinavia of the Vikings, to Italy in the Middle ages and from there to Elizabethan England just after the Spanish Armada. The first story in the series, The Forging, is available online at the Black Mask magazine site. You can read the rest of the stories online at OpenLibrary, which has a scan of the 1929 edition.
He continued writing for Adventure well into the 1930s and 1940s, including more stories of Swain the Viking. Since he had killed off Swain at the end of the earlier series, these tales of Swain were presented as incidents that occurred before his death. As far as I know, the later tales were not series stories. In between, he wrote another book based on a character, Allan Breck, from R. L. Stevenson’s Kidnapped.
Arthur D. Howden-Smith passed away on December 18, 1945.

Links to books in print:

[Ignore the cover on the book in the middle, the book is indeed Porto Bello Gold.]

Monday 24 December 2012

Merry Pulp Christmas

Here are a few articles I rounded up from the web on Christmas and the pulps. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Christmas in Pulp Magazine Land!

Christmas Art - Pulp Magazine style!

More Christmas Pulp Covers

Merry Christmas – Men’s Adventure Magazine style… (Warning: NSFW)

Monday 17 December 2012

The burning sky - novella by H. A. DeRosso

This novella by H.A. DeRosso is about a marshall who comes to town to retrieve stolen gold. With an unusual happy ending, perhaps because that is what a slick like Collier's wanted.

Download the story here.

Friday 14 December 2012

H. A. DeRosso - Western Noir pulp author

[A tip of the Stetson to James Reasoner of Rough Edges for pointing out this excellent forgotten writer who doesn’t have a Wikipedia article. I have only read a few stories of his so far, of which one is a short story from Ranch Romances, but even there the dark, noirish tone of the story stands out. Almost like Cornell Woolrich in the feeling of despair that he’s able to evoke. I’ll be posting that short story this week and keeping an eye open for more stories from him.

I wasn’t able to find a photo of him. If anyone has one, maybe one from a book cover, please post a link in the comments section.  Finally found an image of him from the August, 1953 issue of Gunsmoke magazine. More after the break.]
Author H. A. DeRosso (1917-1960)
Image from Gunsmoke magazine, August 1953

Sunday 9 December 2012

The history of the Argosy magazine - article by William DeWart, publisher of the Argosy magazine

[This article on the history of the Argosy was published in the December 10, 1932 issue of the Argosy. The occasion was the fiftieth anniversary of the magazine. The author is William DeWart, the owner and publisher of the Argosy. On the occasion of the one hundred and thirtieth anniversary of its beginning, here is the article. After the break.]

Saturday 8 December 2012

James B. Hendryx - Cowboy, Prospector, Gambler, Writer, Rancher


Today, 9th December, is the birthday of James B. Hendryx, who was the author of the Halfaday Creek series of stories (starring Corporal Downey of the Mounties and Black John Smith) as well as the Connie Morgan series for boys. I highly recommend the Halfaday Creek stories, some of which can be read online at PulpGen. They are comic stories of justice among criminals.

His life was pretty interesting, too. I came across these biographies of him online, and thought i'd share them with you.
Biography for James B. Hendryx @ IMDB (by John F. Barlow)
Biographical article at, an online site dedicated to James B. Hendryx
Another biographical article at

A recent article on James B. Hendryx from the Leelanau Enterprise (the newspaper of the town Hendryx stayed in)

In addition, here's an answer from him to the question: Why do you live in Michigan? I think it gives a picture of the kind of character he was.

Why do I live in Northern Michigan? Well - why not? After knocking about through many of the states of the Union, and a good bit of Canada, I have come to the conclusion that Northern Michigan offers fewer drawbacks, and a greater number of advantages than any locality which has been my fortune, or misfortune, to have visited.

The entire South may be considered undesirable as a place of permanent residence, for the same reason that Hades would be undesirable as a place of permanent residence. The Central States, forming as they do, the core of the Union, may be treated as a core, and tossed aside. Which leaves only the northern tier for serious consideration. New England may be dismissed with the simple statement that I do not choose to live in New England. New York, teeming with editors, is to be avoided; as is Pennsylvania on account of the poor fishing. Senator Walsh and his investigating committee ruined the hunting in Ohio when they drove all the game the state had to offer into deep cover.

The stench from the Indiana political sewer renders that state unfit for the raising of wholesome children. With Chicago in the north, and Herrin in the south Illinois is no more conducive to longevity or the peaceful productivity of fiction than any other active battlefield would be. Minnesota would be a good old state - but I lived in it for over twenty years. North Dakota has the Non-Partisan league. And when winter comes to Montana, believe me, it is a place to be avoided, even by brass monkeys! Washington, Oregon and Idaho offer excellent hunting and fishing, but the outlay during nearly six months of the year, in rubber boots and umbrellas, is a serious drain on the wallet.

California is a place to visit - not to live in, continued residence producing that peculiar form of insanity which causes one to boast of three hundred and sixty-seven days of sunshine per annum - no matter how much it rains. I note that I forgot Wisconsin - but since Mr. Volstead kicked the fame out under from Milwaukee, one could hardly be expected to live in Wisconsin from choice.

Therefore, having good fishing and hunting within easy access, good schools for the children, good folks to associate with, a climate that is delightful the year round, and a firm conviction that the rest of the United States is unfit for human habitation, I live in Northern Michigan. 

Links to a sampler of his stories (All stories in the Halfaday Creek/Corporal Downey series, and courtesy PulpGen):

Black John thinks fast
Corporal Downey cracks a case
Corporal Downey calls the tune
Black John Invokes the Gods
Dry Rot
The Man With the Glass Eye
Finger Prints
A Man Hires a Guide

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Courage - short article on the salvage of the S-51 written by Commander Ellsberg

[This article was originally published in Popular Mechanics. It's about the courage of the divers on the team that salvaged the S-51, a submarine that sank off the coast of Block Island in water a hundred and thirty five deep. Link after the break.]

Saturday 24 November 2012

Commander Ellsberg – Commander, Diver, Engineer, Inventor, Fencer, Writer (part 3 of 3)

[This is the last part of a three part series, part 1 and part 2 have already appeared on this blog. Read on after the break.]

Massowa was an Italian naval base built by Mussolini to attack Ethiopia. It had been bombed, and ships were sunk in the harbor. Ellsberg’s assignment was to make Massowa useful, as it was the only harbor that could support the British Fleet in the Mediterranean.  The nearest drydock and repair station other than Massowa was in South Africa, 4000 miles away. When the British had conquered Massowa, the defeated Italians had wrecked the repair shops and smashed the machines with hammers, bombed and sank the two drydocks that were used for repair and overhauling, and sank 26 Axis ships in the harbor to make it unusable. Then they took away all the tools.

Capt. Edward Ellsberg surveying the harbor of Massowa from a sunken wreck
Capt. Edward Ellsberg surveying the harbor of Massowa from a sunken wreck

One of the many Axis vessels sunk at Massowa, Eritrea
One of the many Axis vessels sunk at Massowa, Eritrea
Some British experts thought that Massowa could not be salvaged quickly. Ellsberg spent the first few weeks before going to Massowa putting together a salvage organization. All the Navy divers were busy in Pearl Harbor, and could not be spared. He went to Hollywood, where he hired five divers from film companies that made underwater movies. This was his crew.
While waiting for tools to arrive from the US, Ellsberg salvaged what he could locally. His crew requested each ship that came into the harbor to give them any tools, even a hammer or a screwdriver!  He drove 80 miles to get a couple of handsaws, and recovered some electric motors from an abandoned gold mine in the hills. He found that the Italians had not smashed everything – by matching up the undamaged parts from each motor, they could get power generation started at twenty five percent of the original capacity. They set up a crude foundry to replace the broken parts. Within two months, nearly every machine was back in operation, before any of the new machinery had arrived from the US.
The heat at Massowa was unbearable. The sea water was so hot that swimming was not possible. The iron plates on the ships reached temperatures up to 160⁰ F.  Metal tools could not be lifted without gloves, and even then had to be dunked in the water first to cool them off. Dehydration was a major problem. Taking advice from Army officers in the area, Ellsberg decided to emulate the steel workers in Pittsburgh, and ordered salt tablets distributed at regular intervals among the salvage workers by Eritrean water boys. In spite of these precautions, the heat and dirt had severe impact on health – one-fourth of the crew was in hospital. At about this time, the divers from Hollywood arrived.
The most important vessel to raise was a massive drydock that had been sunk in the middle of the harbor. The Italians had exploded bombs inside the drydock to sink it. The British had written it off as unsalvageable. “
I kept thinking about that drydock. The British reports told me about the damage it had received. We had two diving suits and I went down myself to test an idea I had. I believed if all the damage was in the base, and the two sides had not been perforated, there would be enough buoyancy in the two sides to raise the drydock even though the base was filled with water and silt.
With three old air compressors, we began working. In five days we had the drydock two-thirds up. There were eight compartments along the bottom and they had placed bombs in each unit, seven of which had exploded. A diver was able to get inside the eighth unit through a manhole and carefully remove the unexploded bomb.
This left a seated compartment on the end which we could raise by air pressure. Using the domino concept, by raising the end one we could get to the next one und seal it and then raise that and get to the next one and so on. In nine days the whole drydock was afloat and the holes temporarily patched with wood.”

The sunken drydock at Massowa, Eritrea, that was salvaged by Commander Ellsberg's team
The sunken drydock at Massowa, Eritrea, that was salvaged by Commander Ellsberg's team

With the drydock working, the rest of the work was a lot easier. He kept raising the sunk vessels and repairing them, till the point there was no place to put them. With the British supply ships backing him, Field Marshal Montgomery stopped the German advance at El Alamein. Eisenhower landed at Casablanca, and the German Field Marshal Rommel was caught between two armies. During this time, Ellsberg lost forty pounds in weight.
With things running smoothly at Massowa, Ellsberg was ordered to fly to the Mediterranean. He flew to Algiers, where he found things in a mess. The Vichy French had sabotaged their own ships all along the African coast rather than let them fall into Axis hands. The French Naval base at Oran needed to be unblocked. Three big drydocks had been sunk – one was three times bigger than the one at Massowa. Under air attack, he and his team managed to repair the drydocks and start repairing ships.
After a medical checkup, the doctor ordered him to get out of the war zone and rest. He was sent home to Bethseda where tests proved he was suffering from battle fatigue and needed a good rest. He got a month’s leave, and after the leave was over, he was appointed as chief inspector of forty shipyards in the New York City area.
After a year of duty and rest, he wanted to get back into the action. He went again to Adm. King, who pointed to a map on the wall and asked him to pick his assignment. Ellsberg knew they were getting ready for the European invasion and wanted to be part of that. With a letter from King, he flew to London to report to Adm. Harold Stark. Stark wanted him to review the overall plan for Operation Overlord, from the planning stages of the invasion through the landing and the subsequent operations.
The biggest problem with the invasion was that the Germans controlled every harbor in Europe from Norway to France. The Allies couldn’t land unless they could support the troops with arms, ammunition and supplies. The plan they finally decided on was to build two artificial harbors in pieces and tow them across the English Channel, where they could be reassembled and used. Operation Overlord depended on these harbors, and British engineers had been working for a year on the problem.
Navy Capt. Dayton Clark, whose responsibility it was to get the harbors assembled, appealed to Ellsberg. He believed that the pieces could not be lifted off the English beach.
Getting the harbor pieces off the beach would be similar to a salvage operation. The operation would be the equivalent of raising eight Normandies (the luxury liner) in a three-day time limit. There were 100 pieces, each weighing 6,000 Ions. Raising each of them would be like raising a sunken ship.
I found the British hadn’t had a test run and didn’t intend to. They were entirely confident they’d raise them successfully for D-Day. I knew from looking at the equipment they planned to use that it positively wouldn’t work. I talked the British officer ¡n charge into showing me how it would be done, using one of the pieces. They got this pump as big as my living room and began to pump. After four hours of pumping, not one gallon of water had been pumped out.
D-Day was near and the U.S. Army was depending on artificial harbors which would never get to Omaha Beach! The men would be massacred. ¡ urged the job had to be given to the US Naval Salvage.
Ellsberg made a report in which he stated that the pieces could not be moved from England with the equipment they had. Stark sent the report to Eisenhower, Eisenhower notified the British. Ellsberg was told to return to the area where the harbors were.
The next day, here comes a whole batch of American and British brass. The first car stopped and the door opened and out stepped Winston Churchill himself…Homburg hat, cane and cigar! I was introduced to Churchill. He looked the harbors over. It didn’t take long.
Then he announced that he was taking the project away from the British Engineers and giving it to the Royal Navy. They put the total English salvage support on it just 10 days before D-Day! I was ordered to stay on the channel as a consultant.”
On D-Day he was on the beach, and his orders were to “stay on the channel”. He decided they didn’t say which side, and hitched a ride on one of the floating harbors to Normandy. He reached the beach, and landed tanks. A day after landing the equipment, he stepped onto a corpse-covered beach. He stayed in Normandy for the next five months. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his work on the floating harbors. Ellsberg was awarded the Legion of Merit by President Roosevelt in the spring of 1943.
He returned and became the shipbuilding supervisor for all naval shipyards in the Great Lakes area. After seven months in that job, he went on inactive duty, and retired in 1951. Then he moved to Maine. All along, he had kept writing. In the thirties, he published a biography of John Paul Jones and a trilogy of juvenile books about sunken treasure.
In the forties, he published two volumes of his World War II memoirs - Under the Red Sun (Massawa) and No Banners, No Bugles (North Africa). His writing reduced in the fifties; he was also working as a marine and petroleum consultant at that time. He wrote the last volume of his memoirs, The Far Shore, and published it in 1960. Reliving the horror of those days made him decide to never write another book, and he did not.
He spent his time sailing and fishing, and passed away on January 24, 1983.

Links to books in print:

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Commander Ellsberg – Commander, Diver, Engineer, Inventor, Fencer, Writer (part 1 of 3)

[Got any impossible missions? You’ve come to the right place. Edward Ellsberg didn’t know the meaning of the word. He was a naval commander, deep sea diver, engineer, inventor and expert fencer. Did I mention that he was also a best-selling writer?
Read more after the break.]

Friday 19 October 2012

The skeletons of Paradise - short story by Hapsburg Liebe

This story from Hapsburg Liebe originally appeared in the Black Cat magazine in 1920. It's an interesting tale of a love triangle gone wrong, set on an island paradise.

Download the story here.

Friday 12 October 2012

Charles Haven Liebe aka Hapsburg Liebe – Soldier, Lumber mill operator, Writer, Movie Producer

[Charles Haven Liebe was the author of many Tennessee mountain and western stories. He started out as a lumberman. More after the break.]

Tuesday 9 October 2012

The White Gorilla - short story by Elmer Brown Mason

Enjoy this short story by Elmer B. Mason from the All-Story Weekly, Sep, 1915, with an illustration by Virgil Finlay.

Download the story here.

Friday 5 October 2012

Elmer Brown Mason – Entomologist, Lumberman, Traveller, Ad-man, Writer

[Elmer Brown Mason wrote only one story for Adventure. I came across him in the excellent collection, The Golden Anaconda, from Off-Trail Press. John Locke, the editor of the book, mentions that there is some mystery about the author, and I was intrigued enough to try and find out more.
He wrote stories set around the world, in Borneo, Africa, South America and the swamp country in the US. Some of his stories centred around animals – with the heroes usually trying to collect rare animals for one reason or the other. These rare animals included an albino otter, a white gorilla, a dinosaur and a large black butterfly. The stories are usually set in places that he had personally visited, so there is an authentic flavor to them. More after the break.]
Elmer Brown Mason c. 1903
Elmer Brown Mason c. 1903

Elmer Brown Mason was born September 30, 1877, in Deer Lodge, Montana. Even the date of birth is a puzzle. He put down 1880 as his year of birth in official documentation, but the 1880 census has him listed as a 3 year old in his family, indicating 1877 is correct.

He was the son of Captain Roswell Henry Mason, surveyor general of Montana, captain in the 72nd Illinois in the Civil War and recorder of the Illinois Commandery of the Loyal Legion, and Mary (Brown) Mason of Rome, N. Y. His grandfather was the Hon. R. B. Mason, mayor of Chicago at the time of the Chicago fire and builder of the Illinois Central Railroad.  Sometime in his childhood, his family moved back to Chicago.

He had a younger brother, Roy Murdock Mason. It looks like his family was well off, for he was educated at a prep school (University School in Chicago), and studied abroad as well. A count by his brother (who also attended Yale) listed nineteen Yale graduates in the family, and he says he may have missed five or six more. He was admitted into Yale in 1898, studied there till 1900, and is listed in the class of 1902 and 1903 – looks like Yale didn’t know for sure either when he was there. He mentions that he served in the Spanish American war of 1898 as second lieutenant of Company B of Colonel Koch’s regiment of United States Provisional Volunteers.

While at Yale, he contributed to the college magazine, The Yale Literary Magazine. In 1900, he switched to Princeton, and graduated from there with a B.A. in 1903. While there, he wrote articles for magazines, including one that appeared in the Nassau Literary magazine.

For the next ten years, he took many jobs, while roaming around America. This was the time he was travelling, with the general pattern being that he would accumulate a stake, toss a coin to pick one of two places he wanted to go to, and travel there while the stake lasted. Then he’d come back and get another job to build up another stake. His travels took him to Borneo, the Sunderbans in India, Europe, South America and the South of America.

Immediately after graduating, he went to New York, where he “wrote up French towns for the international Encyclopedia until the blamed thing got to Z”. He worked with Dodd, Mead & Co., working on Book Prices Current for them. He then joined Harper Bros., working in their subscription book and advertising departments.

His next job was as a reporter on the New York Sun for a short time, and from there he went to Scribner’s subscription book department. After that, he roamed around the Adirondack woods one winter. Then he tried to setup a real estate and advertising business on his own in New York. This led to his becoming the manager, mortgage loan department for White & Tabor in Chicago.

Another interval was spent in the woods (he doesn’t say which woods). Then he returned to New York where he was engaged in advertising a literary work. In 1909, he went to the Yale Forest School, Milford, Pa., for one summer then up into the New Hampshire lumber woods where he worked for the International Paper Co. as a common lumber—jack, working his way up to landing boss, checker to scaler and head chopper. He was finally put in charge of a job on the Connecticut River where he put a million b.f. of spruce into the drive. At this time, he also sold a story on lumberjacks to the Hampton’s Magazine in 1911.

The next year, he spent spring and winter at the Yale Forest School. New Haven, Conn., and then went into the Bureau of Entomology, U. S. Department of Agriculture. He was assigned to the Forest Insect Field Station 7, Spartanburg, S. C., to fight the Southern Pine Beetle. He went there as the most junior man and came away in charge with the high sounding title of Entomological Assistant, Branch Forest Insects, Bureau of Entomology, U. S. Department of Agriculture, in charge of South Atlantic and Gulf States, but was more widely known as “the bug man”, so christened by Governor Blease of South Carolina.  While on the job, he started writing “scientific articles” and “unscientific stories” for magazines to supplement what he called his “meager government salary”.

As part of his job, he went around and delivered 49 addresses on the Southern Pine beetle from Houston, Texas, to Raleigh. N.C. and had 68 articles in various lumber journals and other magazines on the same subject. He states that he “saw pretty much all of the darkest South, got shot at twice and stabbed once in an illicit whiskey still in North Carolina, and generally had a good time”. Then he returned to Washington where he was engaged in research work and publicity for the Bureau of Entomology.

In 1912, he resigned his job and came to New York where he was the Assistant Advertising Agent for the Lackawanna Railroad for six months. Then he rejoined the advertising business, possibly as an advertising agent for Vogue and Vanity Fair. He quit his job in October, 1914 and tried to earn a full time living from story writing. In 1915, his father died.

He was successful at selling his stories, and this was probably the peak period of productivity for him. He sold thirty-one stories in 1916. He was living in Abingdon, Virginia at this time. 1917 saw him enlisting in the army, and he attended the Officer’s Training Camp, Fort Meyer, Virginia. He was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and promoted to 1st Lieutenant. He served with the K Company of the 120th Infantry in the 30th Division of the American Expeditionary Force.

He came home in 1918 and described his war experience in a letter to a Yale alumni magazine:

“Yes, I’m back in New York and darned glad to be sleeping in a bed instead of the mud around Le Mons, also I appreciate a bath a little oftener than now and then. In fact I’m glad that the sacré war is over.

I was on the other side for seventeen months, first at Ypres (where I got wounded and gassed) and later at the assault on Bellecourt (where I got wounded twice and gassed once). After that I spent six weeks in an English hospital In London. On November 11th I was in a small town called Eu and woke up the morning of the twelfth in the mayor’s bed with a hat very prettily trimmed with corn-flowers on my head. It was some party, believe me!

The 30th Division spent the winter freezing and swimming around Le Mons where I was claim adjuster, town major, and anything else that required a knowledge of French. When the Division went home I weighed only 110 pounds so got myself sent to the A.E.F. University at Beaune where I had a beautiful gold brick time and puffed out quite a bit. I was mustered out in July.

“My military record consists mostly of being wounded, (I was always too scared to run), and a Croix de Guerre which I am sure belongs to someone else. I got a German forester in one bunch of prisoners and also met Koomey at Beaune. He was in an engineer outfit. He wanted to go to Armenia but I don’t know whether he succeeded or not.

“I’m writing stories as usual, may or may not get married, and wish I could go to the School all over again—will if the spirit moves me much harder.”

The war wounds and his increasing age - he was forty one by the time he came out of the Army - combined to stop him travelling about. He didn’t like that very much, but continued selling stories, though not of travel and adventure anymore. His stories at this time are nothing outstanding, just regular, run of the mill stories that appeared in Munsey’s magazine.

He took up a job as a copy editor at around this time with Barton, Durstine & Osborne, better known to us today as BBDO. In this connection, he worked with the American Cancer Society. While I cannot be sure that this was the same person, I also think he shared a platform with Madame Curie as a speaker for a meeting on October 31, 1931. The meeting was organized by the New York City committee of the American Society for the Control of Cancer.

By 1926, he had stopped writing. 1926 saw only one story that I can find a record of. In 1926, a newspaper article refers to his wife, Mrs. May Stanley Mason (neé Finch), who was herself a writer for the magazines.

He retired from the advertising business in 1933, and moved to La Jolla, California. The next news from him is of his marriage to Mrs. Edith Hart Dunne. It was a second marriage for both of them; she already had three children from her previous marriage. I could not find out what happened to end his first marriage, nor could I find out what happened to May Stanley. Update: I found out that May Stanley Mason passed away on 27 Jun 1938 in La Jolla, California. In his retirement, he took up book collecting, and collected first editions of American authors, among them Mark Twain and Thoreau.
The 1950s saw a mini-revival of interest in Elmer Brown Mason’s stories, with Fantastic Novels and Famous Fantastic Stories reprinting his early stories from the All-Story Weekly and The Popular Magazine. I wonder what he made of that, I did not see any comments from the author on the reprints in the four issues I looked through. These reprints are wonderfully illustrated by Virgil Finlay; here is an illustration from “The Albino Otter”.
Illustration by Virgil Finlay for the Elmer Brown Mason story, The Albino Otter
Illustration by Virgil Finlay for the Elmer Brown Mason story, The Albino Otter
Elmer Brown Mason passed away on 19 July, 1955, in La Jolla, California, leaving behind his wife, his three step-children, and a wonderful set of stories. Links to books in print:

Friday 28 September 2012

Arthur S. Hoffman's birthday today - and a new fact about him

[From a letter to the Putnam County Courier, here’s an interesting fact about Arthur S. Hoffman on his birthday.]

Saturday 22 September 2012

Good news - new fiction magazines launching

In this age of diminishing magazine circulations, and magazines shutting down, it's good to hear news of a couple of magazines launching

1. A detective pulp in the UK
2. A general fiction magazine (still in fundraising)

Is this the dawn of a new fiction magazine age? Only time will tell, but if anyone in the UK can get the first magazine and share how it looks and feels, that'll be great.

Friday 21 September 2012

Detective Pulp Magazine Covers from the other side

Girl on those Pulp Magazines hates the life she leads

New York (UP) — Give her the plain and simple life, Mary Rorrer cried today. No passion, she begged. No sex.
"Something dull.” she pleaded. "Like selling ribbons in a department store. A small-town department store."
Miss Rorrer is a model for illustrators of those racy, blood- chilling, pulp detective magazines.
"Every month,” she moaned, “you can find me on the newsstands. But am I beautiful? Not me! My hair is askew. My face distorted. Usually, I’m backed against a wall, screaming. And my clothes — they’re spoiled and rumpled and ripped in several places — in short. I'm a mess!”
"Then, she said, “there’s always a man.” He stands menacingly before her, gun or knife, in hand.
“He has something on his mind,” she said. “If my pose is provocative enough the man on the street will be tempted to plunk down a quarter and turn to page 10 to see what it is. That's art."
Miss Rorrer, a 23-year-old blonde who earns $25 an hour, said she puts everything into her work but her heart.
"What's fame?” she wailed. "What's fortune? I can’t sleep nights, thinking of all those horror scenes I pose for. Nothing but homicide and suicide and attacks on innocent girls.”
Her job not only gave her nightmares, she said, but it interfered with her romances.
“At first, my boy friends like the idea of my being a model.” she said, “but after they see those illustrations — oh, brother.'“
She said the illustrators always chose her as the siren of the piece because they found her “sexy and sultry.”
“I can't help that, can I?” she sniffed. ‘'Nevertheless, I lose more men that way. They always get the wrong idea about me.”
Miss Rorrer said she came to New York two years ago, bent on an operatic career.
"The critics didn’t think much of my voice,” she said “but the illustrators saw something else in me. And, inasmuch as I was sending a kid brother and sister through school and had to eat, I decided to give it a whirl."
But the illustrators will soon have to get along without her, she said. She planned to get into another line of modeling — “shoes, or gloves, something sexless” — or return to her home, Hickory, N. C.
“Honestly,” she wept, “I can’t stand it. If I’m murdered in my bed just once more, why — I’ll simply DIE!”

[This article originally appeared in the Monday, 8 December, 1949 issue of the North Tonawanda Evening News.]

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Adventure's still possible...

Many days ago, Tom Johnson had observed in the comments on this post that there are very few adventurers left today.

The BBC just posted an article on the adventures that remain and the people who are tackling those. Thought you might enjoy it.

Monday 17 September 2012

Western pulp lovers - a site for us

Western pulp lovers: If you have ever wondered what a chuckwagon was, or how it came to be, what cowboys encountered on their cattle drives, what household life was like in the Old West, you've come to the right place.

What's a chuckwagon? Who invented it?

Why's a cowboy's saddle shaped the way it is?

What was a cattle drive like? (part 1)

What was a cattle drive like? (part 2)

Household tips for living in the Old West

Why's a cowboy's hat shaped the way it is?

And lots more on cowboy boots, the well dressed cowboy, wild burros, prickly pear cactus, tornadoes and fires in the old west at this wonderful blog.


Friday 14 September 2012

Interesting site on the pulp magazine industry, with in-depth looks at certain genres

As I was cutting my way through the internet jungle with the help of my trusty search engine, I stumbled upon an interesting site. I sat down to look at it and saw that it was merely the tip of a box full of interesting articles about pulp magazines and their history. I dug it up, and the contents are interesting. More after the break.