Friday 25 October 2013

Nictzin Dyalhis - Auto-biography in Campfire – Adventure, October 10, 1922

Cover of Adventure, October 20, 1922 (courtesy Laurie Powers' Wild West Blog)
Cover of Adventure, October 20, 1922 (courtesy Laurie Powers' Wild West Blog)

From the Camp-Fire, Adventure, 20th October, 1922, where Nictzin Dyalhis had his first story (Who Keep the Desert Law) published:

Illustration for Who Keep the Desert Law by Nictzin Dyalhis
Illustration for Who Keep the Desert Law by Nictzin Dyalhis

FOLLOWING Camp-Fire custom Nictzin Dyalhis rises and introduces himself on the occasion of his first story in our magazine:

Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania.

“Hello, the Fire!”
In the old days it paid to stand off and yell, and not approach too close until actually invited. Of course, the invitation is an open one, but even so, although frequently tempted to walk into the light, I have refrained until I felt justified in coming in out of the wet.
BY PROFESSION I am a chemist. In years nearly fifty—-in heart, about sixteen - my wife’s mother says I’ve never grown up! One way she’s quite right, for I am one of these sawed-off, hammered-down, weazened-up runts weighing— when I’m fat-and-sassy—from five to ten pounds over one hundred.
A long time ago I went to the South-west. My intentions were good—I was going to assay all the ore west of the Rockies!
Rex Beach wrote a book once called “Pardners”— in that book an old-timer says: “Thar’s two diseases no doctor has any right meddlin’ with—one’s hoss-racing, t’other’s prospeclin.’” He’s quite right! I know! Assaying? Pooh pooh! An old man, with more pity on my ignorance than I deserved, took me with him on the desert.
Bitten at a tender age, what hope remained for one thus afflicted?
SURE, I’ve done lots of other things since, but—I went one trip snapper-fishing in the Gulf when only a “kid-of-a-boy.” I took one trip and only one “down-de-bay” out of Baltimore on an oyster-dredger in the bad old days of the “pungy,” the “bug-eye,” and the “brogan-canoe”! I’ve signed out on more than one “tall water” cruise, but I invariably turned up missing before the return trip. Because why? Prospectin’ was good somewheres up-country!
I’ve prospected for gold, silver, platinum, tungsten, several of the commercial minerals and, above all, for gems and precious stones, including pearls (fresh-water variety), also, turquoise and ruby (domestic and foreign). Did I ever strike it rich? I’ll say I DID! I’m worth exactly eleven million seven hundred thousand dollars—in experiences which otherwise I might never have had! Money? How do you get that way? I’m dead broke!
“Never made any?” Oh, yes, I did—but I used it! What am I to do when Winter comes? Before next snow-fly I’ll be on the trail again. Following that—I should care! And the worst of it all is— my wife aids and abets me in my sins! And she’s no slouch with a pan, a dry-washer or a jassacks! She can tie all “them” hitches—hackamore, hobble, diamond and squaw. Also, she knows a dang-sight more than I do about pearls.
Now I’ve no contract to use up all the paper in sight, so here we rest—you probably need it after this screed!
And to you about the Fire—may your shadows never grow less! And to those on the trails—may your feet never grew wearied!

And so—Good-night.
—Nictztn Dyalhis
For more information on this author who was a prominent science fiction writer and had five cover stories in Weird Tales, see this article.

Friday 18 October 2013

H. D. Couzens - Auto-biography in Campfire – Adventure, April 10, 1922

[This is an excerpt from the Campfire column in the issue of Adventure magazine dated April 10, 1922. It's about H.D. Couzens - whose novelette, Brethren of the Beach, was being published in expanded form in that issue.]

H.D Couzens - Brethren of the Beach - Adventure, April 10, 1922
H.D Couzens - Brethren of the Beach - Adventure, April 10, 1922

HARRY D. COUZENS, whose complete novelette appears in this issue, died in Arizona in May, 1914, after a long, brave fight against tuberculosis. Our reprinting “Brethren of the Beach” in enlarged form is explained in a note at the beginning of the story.

You old-timers will remember him, for his stories were favorites with you. Personally he was a man. If you knew him you liked him and admired him.

The following is from the Arizona Republican of May 20, 1914:

H. D. COUZENS was for many years one of the most prominent residents of Honolulu, T. H., where he held the position of chief deputy in the internal revenue service of the United States, and in that capacity gained distinction for efficiency in the performance of the duties of an office which, in that territory where smuggling and other illicit practises were unusually prevalent, required the exercise of much hardihood and courage.

During his residence in Honolulu and later in Los Angeles and New York, Mr. Couzens worked assiduously at writing and painting, in both of which arts he gained a wide reputation. Although his pictures, depicting different phases of the tribal life of the natives of Hawaii and of other parts of the world, brought him repeatedly into favorable prominence in the United States, his greatest reputation was earned as a writer of adventure stories full of the tang the South Seas and accurately descriptive of the islanders and of the varied types of white men who live among them. His knowledge of these people was obtained through personal association during his living and voyaging among the myriad islands of the southern seas and his writing was correspondingly true to life.

HE WAS, I think, the subject of the first of those informal talks that grew into our “Camp—Fire” department—when only the page facing the opening page of an issue was used for the purpose.

In those first days the author did not talk direct to readers but sent me the material from which I made my little “talk.”

THE following is his letter to me, giving me the information I used in that first talk:

Born Virginia. Ancestors, father’s side, long line of sea-captains back to Matthew Couzens, original settler at Newport, who was captain of British privateer: Hence roving disposition, I suppose. Educated and intended for engineer. Left New York in 1886 for Honolulu where I lived 4 years, returning in 1890 to New York intending to finish my engineering course and continue as the successor of my grandfather, Matthew K. Couzens, a civil engineer of Yonkers, N. Y., but found I was too good a draftsman. Had always done drawing and painting after a fashion but decided to take up art seriously as a career. I studied at the Art League and the old William M. Chase school on 23rd Street and later went to Paris where I studied in the Julian school and in the studios of Carolus Duran and I. L. Gérôme. As I had no funds for this, I was obliged to earn every cent as I went along and my years of study were a period of some privation upon which I do not look back with much pleasure. I have a house in Paris, or rather the little suburb of Renard, which I haven’t seen for fifteen years.

IN 1899 I left New York for Honolulu and lived there till 1907. In 1900, when the islands were formally annexed to the U. S., I was appointed Chief Deputy in the Internal Revenue service and held that in Honolulu till 1906. From 1907 till 1909 I lived in San Francisco when, by special request I accepted the appointment of Chief Deputy of Internal Revenue in Los Angeles. California had been divided into two official districts and my services were in demand as an expert to help them establish the new Southern District. I accepted a 60-day appointment but at the end of that period was asked to officiate for 60 days longer and did so. I came to New York in 1910, returning to Log Angeles in January, 1911, to settle some business matters.

SO MUCH for bare facts. These as they stand are not particularly interesting and you can utilize them as you see fit. The real that you want I’ll try to string along at random. For instance:

I have cruised in the South Seas, have chummed with traders, blackbirders, beach-combers, remittance-men and sailors. Kipling once said that if one lived at Port Said long enough he would meet everybody in the world. I think this is truer of Honolulu than it is of Port Said—at least you'll meet them there in less time. I met Robert Louis Stevenson in King Kalakaua’s stand at the old racetrack, and I’ve sat with Jack London on the lanai of the Seaside Hotel and heard him roast his critics by the hour. I have gone back and forth across the Pacific on Army transports and found old school mates in captain’s uniform seated opposite me at mess. I think I have as large a nodding or speaking acquaintance as any man in the world.

This may be trite enough and I realize that you want things can use to advantage. It is harder, I assure you, to write this sort of thing than episodic fiction. I may say that my best friend in Honolulu was Captain Albert H. Otis, who was captain of the yacht “Casco” when Stevenson took his celebrated cruise, and who is the original of “Captain Nares” in “The Wrecker”. He, dear man, has been the unconscious original of more than one of my fictitious sailor-men.

I HAVE slept out in the hills in the quest for moonshiners, and being entirely an out-of-door man by instinct and inclination have ridden horses of all tempers and breeds, sailed boats of all rigs, used firearms of all descriptions since I was too young to remember. Revolver-shooting is a hobby and I have several trophies for revolver and shot-gun work. Like Stevenson, I too have slept out in Portsmouth Square under the sky; and, like him too, all my life I have tried to write and seen my most ambitious efforts (essays, etc.) overlooked. Here the resemblance probably ceases.

I HAVE always had the inclination for literature and have been actually writing for publication since 1894, when a story of mine which appeared in Outing fired me with the ambition to peg away and make good in this way but it was later, when I was in the Revenue Service in Honolulu, that I began to tackle the real stuff. I used to go down to the office in the old Palace and plug away on my stories (sometimes all night long) and many of my things that are appearing now are the direct result of that patient industry. Some of it I sold, but I hoarded the rest against the great idea of coming East to the proper market for it and making good.

I was actually on my way to New York with this idea when I reached San Francisco in 1907. Then I reasoned with myself something after this fashion: I knew San Francisco, after a fashion, but. I knew no one there who be of the slightest use or help to me, whereas in New York I had friends and influence. Why, then, would it not be a good idea to “try it on the dog?” In other words, see if I could make good there first. I set myself a. mark. It was to sell Sunset Magazine a. good story (one that I approved of myself), illustrated by myself and then I would keep on my way East.

Well, I did it. I sold them a good many other things, cover pictures, illustrations, etc., and did considerable work for the art department of the Southern Pacific. I turned out stuff for various publications including the Western Field, the Newsletter and Crocker’s monthly and had various interests with engraving firms and lithographers that kept me pretty busy. I felt in the beginning that I was taking a sporting chance. That was my reason for stopping there in the first place, but as soon as they published “On Mokapu Beach” with my illustrations I packed my trunks.

Then came the appointment to the District of Southern California and I spent the following year there looking out for the interests of Uncle Sam, shooting quail and ducks and catching rainbow trout-altogether a busy and interesting year.

ITHINK this is about all. I know you don’t want anything of the personal adventure stuff in this else could branch into various flights. Perhaps you can find enough to answer your purpose in what I have written here. You might dwell on the fact that the South Seas and its people and what men do with schooners have been things of particular interest to me and I have made an effort to set some of them down in an interesting way. I’m still trying of course and I trust that Billy Englehart and I will have many a wild cruise together. The company of that celebrated ruffian is meat and drink to me, as Billy Bones says.

Note: Brethren of the Beach can be found in the outstanding collection from Black Dog Books, The Best of Adventure, 1910-1912.

Friday 11 October 2013

Review of the Pirates of the Pines by A.M. Chisholm

Treasure Island was a very successful book in 1883, gaining critical acclaim and popularity for its author, R.L. Stevenson, who until then had not been successful. It is still in print today, and has never been out of print since its first appearance in print.

Stevenson tells a rousing story of a boy becoming a man in a hunt for treasure while battling against pirates, and his characters are memorable –impulsive Jim Hawkins, the morally ambiguous pirate Long John Silver, the evil blind pirate Pew, the dogged Dr. Livesey, the bumptious yet likable Squire Trelawney and many others. Stevenson’s gift for capturing scenes in dramatic detail, a product of his childhood playing with a theatre set of toys, served him well in this book. Like that other great Victorian children’s novel, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island was born when Stevenson told his stepson a story to pass an idle rainy day.

The success of Treasure Island inspired many sequels and prequels, with Arthur Howden Smith penning one of the best prequels – Porto Bello Gold. Pirates of the Pines, originally published in 1915 as the Fur Pirates in the Popular Magazine, is A.M. Chisholm’s homage to Treasure Island. A.M. Chisholm was a writer of western and north-western stories and was one of the main contributors to the Popular Magazine, with an average of five stories every year in the nineteen twenties and thirties.

Introduction to Pirates of the Pines, from the editor of the Popular Magazine
Introduction to Pirates of the Pines, from the editor of the Popular Magazine

Chisholm takes the central plot of Treasure Island and relocates it in the far north of Canada, where rivers take the place of roads, and forests are like seas where you can go for days without seeing anyone on the horizon. While Chisholm borrows the plot from Stevenson, the characters in the story are all his own – they speak in their own north woods dialect and have distinct personalities. I was unable to locate the area he uses as the setting; I did find a river named Carcajou and a lake named Atikameg, but they are so far apart as to make the story impractical. I particularly liked the beginning:

IF it were not for Peggy I should not write this story at all. Peggy is my niece, and I am very fond of her and she knows it. So when she got the idea in her glossy young head we both knew very well what would happen, although I objected that there was no woman in the story except that other Peggy who, being my sister, did not count, and the klootchman Lucille, who was most certainly not a heroine. But Peggy overrode me grandly by saying she was tired of wilderness heroines who crop up where no white man would think of taking a woman. There was something in that.

But I protested further that though I had told the yarn often enough it was quite a different matter to write it. “Bosh!“ said Peggy. “Write it just the way you tell it.”

So I was up against the iron there, too. I do not know just how to make a proper literary start; but, as with most other work, perhaps the main thing is to get started somehow.

My name is Robert Cory. I do not remember my mother. My father, who taught history in a college which is not necessary to name, died when I was a little shaver, and when his friends came to dig into his affairs they found that he had very little money and insurance and only one relative on so far as they could ascertain, a brother who lived in the wilderness that fringed the Carcajou. And so my sister Peggy and I, two forlorn little waifs, were packed off to him, and no doubt everybody was glad to be rid of us.

Now our Uncle Fred, though college bred like my father, had been a rolling stone. But finally he had taken up land on the Carcajou, in the belief that it would someday be valuable, and, of course, as everybody knows now, he was right. But at that time he was land poor. He had several thousand acres of farm and timber lands on which he was hard pressed to make even the small payments required by the government, but often he had not enough money to buy flour.

He worked a scant thirty acres with the help of one man, a slow-moving, lanky, one-eyed Scandinavian named Gus Swanson. This gave him subsistence. And for more he waited till the march of settlement west and north should strike him; and the slow years never shook his faith, which has since been amply justified.

Peggy was his favorite, and from the first she could twist him around her finger, just as the other Peggy now twists me, and to me he was more like an elder brother than an uncle.

And so, you see, as a boy my life was bounded by the Carcajou. I had only faint recollections of anything different. Its waters and bordering forests made up my world, with which I was very well content. In summer, when old enough, I helped in the gar den and fields, and fished and gathered wild berries in season for Peggy to do down against the winter. And in winter I fished through the ice, and set my small line of snares and traps for rabbit and muskrat and mink and fox; and even for the great, silver-gray, soft footed, tuft-eared lynx.

And yet it must not be supposed that Peggy and I grew up like young savages. We had our schoolbooks and our regular hours for study, and our uncle taught us, having been no doubt at much pains to brush up his rudiments.

The plotting had to be changed to fit the new locale (you can’t imagine the narrator stealing a ship in a forest), and Chisholm does a masterly job of changing the elements while retaining the flavor of the original. Murania Press’ reprint of this excellent story is well done, with high quality, easy to read typography and no errors that I could find. The cover is an excellent illustration from Frank Schoonover and suits the book perfectly. If you like adventure stories, this book is for you. To read the first four chapters of the book, click here.

Friday 4 October 2013

A.M. Chisholm - Author, Lawyer, Judge, Coroner

A.M. Chisholm was one of the mainstays of the Popular Magazine. As far as I know, he did not create any series characters, but my knowledge in this area is limited as I don’t collect or read Popular Magazine. I recently read his book, Fur Pirates, which was recently reprinted as Pirates of the Pines by Murania Press. It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it. While the reprint is excellent, the introduction lacks biographical information except for a few tidbits; and that prompted me to go on this expedition in the wilds of the internet.

A.M. Chisholm, Canadian author
A.M. Chisholm, Canadian author