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