Tuesday 31 July 2012

Farnham Bishop - Educator, Writer

[Farnham Bishop was a writer who collaborated with Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur on many short stories and novels for the pulps. He also wrote stories on his own, and wrote non-fiction books as well, writing a history of the submarine, a history of the Mexican-American war and a book on the Panama Canal. More after the break.]

Monday 30 July 2012

Raymond Chandler - Good biographical article at the Daily Mail, UK

The Daily Mail, UK, website recently posted a long article about Raymond Chandler's life and how it influenced his work. A new biography of him has been published, and the article seems to be a good summary.

You can read the article here. Link to the book below

Friday 27 July 2012

Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur - Professor, pulp writer

Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur
Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur

Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur was born on September 18, 1888 in Franklin, Massachusetts. He was the son of Clarence Arthur Brodeur and Mary Cornelia (Latta) Brodeur. His father was then the principal of the State Normal School, Westfield, Massachusetts and had graduated from Harvard.

Arthur grew up in Westfield and went to Harvard, where he met Farnham Bishop, who was to be his best friend and writing partner. He completed his education at Harvard, getting his A.B. degree in 1909, and his M.A. (English Philology) in 1911. After this, he worked for some time as an English teacher at the Volkmann School, Boston.
Bishop introduced Brodeur to his wife, Ophelia Maude Noland, a Radcliffe student, to whom he got married on Sep 3, 1912. She listed her profession as stenographer on their marriage record. Arthur went back to Harvard and completed his Ph.D. in 1916. His thesis was “The Grateful Lion from Henry of Brunswick to Guy of Warwick”.
In 1915, he published his translation of the Norwegian poem, The Edda. This was an attempt to popularize the poem with a rigorous, scholarly basis for the translation. I think he succeeded, I wanted to go and read the rest after I read this:
Night ‘tis called among men,
And among the Gods Mist-Time;
Hooded Hour the Holy Powers know it;
Sorrowless the giants,
And elves name it Sleep-Joy;
The dwarves call it Dream-Weaver.
1916 was also the year when his writing partnership with Farnham Bishop started, with their first serial, In the Grip of the Minotaur, being published in Adventure. He came to the University of California, Berkeley as instructor in English and Germanic philology.
His lectures were enjoyed by his students, who liked the way he treated the characters in the old sagas as human beings, not mythical characters. In his view, they had human problems, were shaped by the society they lived in and their actions were governed by their heroic code.
This also reflects in his stories. The Fulvia series (jointly authored with Farnham Bishop) was centered on a Sicilian princess, the only child of her aging father. It deals with her opposition to men who want to conquer her and their realm. It was the same with his tales inspired by the Scandinavian sagas; a good example is “The Honor of a King” in the September 20, 1923 issue of Adventure.
In 1921, he received a stipend of a thousand dollars (now worth about forty thousand dollars) to study language and literature in Uppsala University, Sweden. He became a professor in 1930. On 23 Nov 1944, his wife passed away. In 1946, he became the founding chairman of the newly created department of Scandinavian studies.
He remained as its chairman until 1951. He received the Royal Order of Vasa, First Class, from the government of Sweden for his services to Scandinavian culture. He continued teaching till his retirement in 1955.
He said that he had three ambitions “all divergent and improbable – a quiet country life, eminence as an archaeologist, and some modest reputation as a writer of fiction”. He managed to accomplish the last two, for in addition to his writing, he did considerable field research into Californian  Indian life in the past.
Arthur was a member of the Adventure Camp-Fire Club, a group of men who met at irregular intervals to talk about adventure. He also liked to entertain his students. He died on September 9, 1971. He was survived by his brother, Clarence, and his second wife, Josephine Thompson Brodeur.

Links to his books in print:

Saturday 21 July 2012

A celestial laureate - short story by Ernest Bramah

This short story originally appeared in The Living Age, v. 301, 1919. Download the story here.

Friday 20 July 2012

Ernest Bramah - Humorist, Detective fiction writer

[In which your slow-witted servant recommends to your exaltedness’ attentions the boundless wisdom, lofty morals and incomparable diversions to be found in the stories of the itinerant story-teller Kai-Lung as related by the venerable hermit Ernest Bramah.]

Ernest Bramah set his Kai Lung stories in a China that never was, where people spoke in an archaic, orotund, circumlocutory and mannered way, conveying messages that were diametrically opposed to the words that they actually said. The artistry of the language is a delight, and if you relish subtle verbal humor, you are in for a treat. Here is an example; a leader of labourers is talking to the merchant who employs them, asking for a raise
"Know then, O battener upon our ill-requited skill, how it has come to our knowledge that one who is not of our Brotherhood moves among us and performs an equal task for a less reward. This is our spoken word in consequence: in place of one tael every man among us shall now take two, and he who before has laboured eight gongs to receive it shall henceforth labour four. Furthermore, he who is speaking shall, as their recognized head and authority, always be addressed by the honourable title of 'Polished,' and the dog who is not one of us shall be cast forth."
"My hand itches to reward you in accordance with the inner prompting of a full heart," replied the merchant, after a well-sustained pause.
Or another merchant who, tallying his profits, is distracted by the wailing of a street musician:
To Wong Pao, the merchant, pleasurably immersed in the calculation of an estimated profit on a junk-load of birds' nests, sharks' fins and other seasonable delicacies, there came a distracting interruption occasioned by a wandering poet who sat down within the shade provided by Wong Pao's ornamental gate in the street outside. As he reclined there he sang ballads of ancient valour, from time to time beating a hollow wooden duck in unison with his voice, so that the charitable should have no excuse for missing the entertainment.
Unable any longer to continue his occupation, Wong Pao struck an iron gong.
"Bear courteous greetings to the accomplished musician outside our gate," he said to the slave who had appeared, "and convince him—by means of a heavily-weighted club if necessary—that the situation he has taken up is quite unworthy of his incomparable efforts.”
In the Kai Lung stories, there is never a straight path to any point, and there is never a straightforward conversation. Stories wind from one plot twist to another, and conversations take entire pages; but there is never a feeling of slowness because the words are so precisely crafted to amuse. There is plenty of satire and irony in the stories. I could keep on giving quotes from Bramah, but I will leave you to discover them.
Ernest Bramah
Ernest Bramah

Ernest Bramah (real name: Ernest Brammah Smith) was born on 20 March 1868 in Manchester, the son of Charles Clement and Susannah Brammah Smith. He attended Manchester Grammar School. In 1887 or so, he went to a farm in Erith as a pupil and stayed there for about 15 months, moving to another farm called Tudorlands, where he spent a further nine months. He decided to become a farmer, and spent a year choosing a farm. Then he spent four years running his farm. His experiences formed the basis of his book, English Farming and why I turned it up (1894), a book that did not sell at all and was remaindered and pulped.
In 1890, he started writing a column for the Birmingham News, and with financial support from his father, he was able to travel to London to take up journalism as a career. In 1892, he became a secretary to Jerome K. Jerome, who was then an editor of the London magazine Today. Later he became an editorial assistant for Today. He remained at Today till 1895, when he left to become the editor of the Minister, another magazine. On 31 December 1897, he married Lucy Maisie Barker in St. Andrew,​ Holborn,​ Middlesex. The same year, he had quit his job to become a full-time writer.
By July 1899, he had written his first book, The Wallet of Kai Lung, and was searching for a publisher. He was rejected by many publishers before the book reached Grant Richards, who was then living at Bisham Park Farm. E.V. Lucas brought the manuscript to Richards, who liked it. At the time that Richards first received it, the manuscript had only three stories in it. It was expanded to nine stories before being published in 1900. The book did not do particularly well, and till 1907 only two thousand two hundred and fifty copies were printed in three editions.
His work was glowingly reviewed by writers like Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and Hillaire Belloc, and Bramah started contributing to popular magazines like Punch and The Strand magazine, where his detective, the blind Max Carrados, was appearing at the same time as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Carrados was highly popular with readers, and was a rival of Sherlock Holmes.
In 1907, Bramah produced his first, and only, work of science fiction, What might have been: The story of a social war. The story is set in 1918, when science has made flight with wings possible.  A Labour government is in office, with a comfortable majority, thanks to universal suffrage; nationalization and strikes are happening frequently and the British Empire is disintegrating. The middle class, conscious of their fate, are leaderless and have withdrawn from politics.
A mysterious savior appears who forms a new party, the Unity League, under which the middle class unite. The League’s members then boycott coal or coal products. This paralyzes the country, civil war breaks out, and the Government resigns. The Unity League forms a government, and returns the country to the status quo, abolishing universal suffrage and undoing the Labor government’s legislation.
In 1914, he published his first collection of Carrados stories, Max Carrados. This was a popular success, and Carrados stories continued to appear in The Strand magazine, rivaling Sherlock Holmes in popularity.
Even though his publisher, Grant Richards, requested him at least twice a year to write more Kai Lung stories, it was only in 1921 that Bramah decided to write more. His second volume of Kai Lung stories, Kai Lung’s Golden Hours, was published in 1922. It was successful, and led to the reprinting of the earlier book, The wallet of Kai Lung.
Two more collections of Kai Lung stories appeared, Kai Lung unrolls his mat (1928) and Kai Lung under the Mulberry tree (1940), as well as a novel, The Moon of Much Gladness (1932).  In between these, there were three more Carrados collections, Eyes of Max Carrados (1923), Max Carrados Mysteries (1927) and The Bravo of London (1934).
Ernest Bramah was a very private person, keeping his private life hidden. He did not give any interviews and conducted his business with his publishers through letters, sometimes not seeing them for years at a time. He passed away in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset on 27 June 1942.
Links to a selection of his books:

Tuesday 17 July 2012

When men were men, and clothes were clothes...

[They could take a beating and come out snowy white.]

The "Boss" Washing machine - Advertisement c. 1909
The "Boss" Washing machine - Advertisement c. 1909

Friday 13 July 2012

A short history of the Saturday Evening Post by the Curtis Publishing Company

Frederick S. Bigelow wrote this history of the Saturday Evening Post, covering the years 1897 to 1927. It was expanded in 1937, and covers the rise of the magazine from a circulation of 1600 copies in 1897 to about three million in 1937, under the editorship of George Horace Lorimer. It mentions briefly the major authors and their series characters including, but not limited to, Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, O’ Henry, Jack London, Ring Lardner, James Branch Cabell, Norman Reilly Raine, William Hazlett Upson, Leonard Nason and Guy Gilpatric. Download after the jump.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Bill Adams poem - Old temple of the deep - a sailor's prayer

[Here is a poem of Bill Adams from the pages of Short Stories dated September 25, 1928. It’s a sailor’s prayer that I thought you’d enjoy. After the jump.]

Tuesday 10 July 2012

The signal - short story by Bill Adams

From Bill Adams, a story of the brotherhood of the sea. It originally appeared in the Feb 24, 1934 issue of the Argosy. Link after the jump.

Friday 6 July 2012

Bill Adams - sailor, short story writer, poet

[Bertram Martin (“Bill”) Adams is another forgotten writer who wrote for Adventure. He was a sailor on the clippers (wind powered ships), and retired from the sea when his body could not take the strain of further voyaging. Contemporary critics raved over his work, comparing him to Joseph Conrad, and he was a favorite of readers. He won literary awards for his clean and spare tales of the seas. Today his name is almost unknown. More after the jump.]

Sunday 1 July 2012

W.C. Tuttle and the Nobel prize for literature - what's the connection?

Answer to the question I asked earlier: W.C. Tuttle and the Nobel prize for literature - what's the connection?
In the Nobel Prize winning author V.S. Naipaul’s book, A House for Mr. Biswas, the protagonist’s brother in law, and one of the main characters, is a reader of W.C. Tuttle. Throughout the book, he is referred to as WC Tuttle, his wife as Mrs. Tuttle, and their children as the Tuttles.
Hope you liked that.