Friday, August 5, 2016

Henry del Campo (1899-1961)

Artist, Illustrator
Born March 10, 1899, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Catalonia, Spain
Died November 20, 1961, Brookview or Albany, New York?

Henry Valentine del Campo was a Spanish artist born on March 10, 1899, in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, a city on the Mediterranean coast near the border with France. His parents were Purdence or Petro del Campo and Sara or Sarah del Campo. Both were native Spaniards, and both came to the United States in 1912. They had two sons, Emil, born on August 12, 1895 or 1896, in Sant Feliu de Guíxols or nearby Girona, Spain, and Henry del Campo, younger by three or four years. The boys came to the United States with their parents and were supposedly naturalized in 1919. If that's the case, they both earned it, for both served with the U.S. Army in Europe during the Great War.

Henry del Campo, though younger, was first to enlist. He was inducted into the New York National Guard on May 8, 1917, a month after the Unites States declared war on Germany. Del Campo first served in the infantry, then was transferred to a machine gun unit. He served overseas from July 9, 1918, to May 8, 1919, when he deserted "while in confinement awaiting trial" in Miramas, France (this according to his military record). I don't know why del Campo was in confinement, and I can't say how he escaped, but for the next twenty years, he hid from view.

Miramas, France, the place of Henry del Campo's confinement, is on the Mediterranean coast, not far from the port of Marseilles and by my guess about 200 miles from his birthplace in Spain. There are implications in all that, but probably no one now can say how the fugitive from American military authority made his way back to the United States. In any event, by January 4, 1920, the day they were counted in the U.S. census, del Campo was with his family in Brooklyn. I think it likely that they were hiding him, and because they were hiding him, they had to hide themselves by claiming a different surname. They were the del Gambos instead of the del Campos: Petro, who worked in a cork factory, Sarah, Emil, a stenographer, and Henry, without an occupation.

Henry del Campo was married by then. He had in fact married before shipping out to France. His bride was Marguerite Helen Casey, an Irish-American girl whom he wed on June 20, 1918, in Brooklyn, the day before her twentieth birthday. I don't know where she was in 1920 when Henry del Campo was counted with his family in New York, but in July 1922, Marguerite del Campo petitioned for naturalization in that same city. She claimed Spanish citizenship and arrived in New York from Havana, Cuba, by way of Key West, Florida. I wonder if the couple had lived in Cuba while things cooled off for Henry del Campo in his home city of New York.

In contrast to his brother, Emil del Campo served honorably in the U.S. military. He was inducted on May 29, 1918, in New York, and on July 31, 1918, he was transferred from an infantry unit to a machine gun unit. He was promoted to corporal the next day. The older del Campo brother served overseas from July 6, 1918, to August 23, 1919. He was honorably discharged on August 28, 1919, but served in the New York militia until August 12, 1959. He died in September 1964 in Spain, possibly in Barcelona (or his death was reported by the consulate in Barcelona). Emil del Campo showed up in the 1930 census with his widowed mother in Brooklyn. He was a widower, too. His brother, however, was still missing, at least from my search. Finally, on March 17, 1939, Henry del Campo reappeared, surrendering himself at Fort Totten, located in Queens, New York. "[R]eturned to military control" he was discharged on April 13, 1939, "under other than honorable conditions, by reason of desertion admitted and physical unfitness." Trial was "deemed inadvisable." (All from his military record.) Five months later, in November 1939, his first drawings in Weird Tales were published.

Henry and Marguerite del Campo were enumerated in the U.S. census on April 16, 1940, in Brooklyn. Next door were Emil del Campo, a foreman for a WPA project, and his mother Sara [sic]. Henry was, at the time, an illustrator working on his own account, while Marguerite was an office worker at a kennel club. According to what they told the enumerator, they had lived in the same place in 1935. All that leads me to believe that del Campo didn't just start working as an artist or illustrator in the five months between his military discharge and his first drawings in Weird Tales. It seems more likely that he had been working in his chosen field for some time and that only in 1939 was he finally free to use his own name again. Maybe there are drawings by del Campo hiding, just as their creator was at the time, in the magazines and newspapers of the 1920s and '30s.

Weird Tales moved to New York City in 1938 and came to an end in 1954. In the intervening years, Henry del Campo contributed twenty illustrations to the magazine, mostly in the years 1939-1942. (There is a gap from 1942 to 1947, roughly the war years. Could del Campo have been involved in the war effort?) Other than a reprint in the Fall 1984 issue, del Campo's illustrations for Weird Tales from November 1939 to January 1954 are his only known credits in the genres of fantasy and science fiction.

I have a newspaper item from the Troy, New York, Times Record for August 8, 1956, page 2:
Henry del Campo and Ruth E. Trainor, both of Brookview Road, Schodack, state in another certificate that they are conducting business there under the name of Art Associates.
So, by 1956, Henry del Campo had relocated to upstate New York from Brooklyn or New York City. He was still, evidently, working as an artist. By this item, he lived in Schodack, south of Albany. He may also have lived in Halfmoon, north of that city. In any case, del Campo's time in the Albany area was cut short with his death at age sixty-two on November 20, 1961. His widow, Marguerite Helen Casey del Campo, passed away in October 1988 in Brooklyn. As mentioned, del Campo's brother, Emil del Campo, died in September 1964 in Spain. Both del Campo brothers appear to have been childless. Henry del Campo's art may be all that anyone has left of the family here in America.

Henry del Campo's Illustrations in Weird Tales
"The Withered Heart" by G.G. Pendarves (Nov. 1939)
"Towers of Death" by Henry Kuttner (Nov. 1939)
"Black Was the Night" by Laurence Bour, Jr. (May 1940)
"Golden Chalice" by Frank Gruber (July 1940)
"The Artificial Honeymoon" by H. Bedford-Jones (July 1940)
"The Fiddler's Fee" by Robert Bloch (July 1940)
"The Gentle Werewolf" by Seabury Quinn (July 1940)
"The Blind Farmer and the Strip Dancer" by H. Bedford-Jones (Sept. 1940)
"The Reward" by Robert Clancy (Sept. 1940)
"The Unusual Romance of Ferdinand Pratt" by Nelson S. Bond (Sept. 1940)
"The Last Waltz" by Seabury Quinn (Nov. 1940)
"The Wife of the Humorous Gangster" by H. Bedford-Jones (Nov. 1940)
"Turn Over" by Dorothy Quick (Nov. 1940)
"Honeymoon in Bedlam" by Nelson S. Bond (Jan. 1941)
"The Downfall of Lancelot Biggs" by Nelson S. Bond (Mar. 1941)
"The Affair of the Shuteye Medium" by H. Bedford-Jones (Mar. 1941)
"Death of the Kraken" by David H. Keller (Mar. 1942)
"The Churchyard Yew" by J. Sheridan le Fanu (July 1947)
"Green Brothers Take Over" by Maria Moravsky (Jan. 1948)
"The Calamander Chest" by Joseph Payne Brennan (Jan. 1954)
Heading for Book Reviews page (Fall 1984; originally in a previous issue of Weird Tales)

Further Reading
None known.

An illustration by Henry del Campo from the story "The Wife of the Humorous Gangster" by H. Bedford-Jones, reprinted in The Adventures of a Professional Corpse by H. Bedford-Jones (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2009).

Revised on August 12, 2016. Thanks to Steven Rowe for providing Henry del Campo's death date.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Note from PulpFest

PulpFest this year was far less eventful for me than last year's show. I found a few books and magazines to add to my collection. I also found a couple of items for my research about my home state of Indiana and its connection to the pulps. And I saw a magazine cover that made me think of a recent comment from one of my readers who asked me to post images of all of the swipes Frank Frazetta made in his artwork. That's not something I can do, of course, as I don't know about all the swipes Frazetta might have made in his long career. All I can do is look at Frank Frazetta's swipes and possible swipes--of which there are few by my estimate--and the swipes other artists made of his work--of which there are hundreds, if not thousands--and do this only as I find them.

And I found one, maybe, at PulpFest:

Here is the cover of Adventure for March 1931 (first) with a cover by Leonard Cronin. When I saw this image, I couldn't help but think of a painting by Frank Frazetta:
His cover painting for Atlan by Jane Gaskell (1968).

So is that a swipe? I don't think anyone can say for sure. In art, there is the concept of rhythm, that is, a repetition of elements so as to give a sense of movement. A pack of wolves lends itself to a rhythmic treatment, as in these two images. All are wolves, but each is slightly different from the rest of the pack. Together they give an impression of animation and movement.

Here's another wolf cover:

Weird Tales, September 1942, with a cover by Albert Roanoke Tilburne.

Note the encircling movement of the wolves in each picture and the way they advance into the foreground after emerging from beyond the horizon. Tilburne was known to make a swipe or two, but is this a swipe from the earlier Adventure cover? As Mr. Owl says, "Let's find out."

Here is the Adventure cover, flipped so that the wolves are in the same orientation as in Frazetta's and Tilburne's covers. There is some similarity in Frazetta's picture to the flipped version of Cronin's picture. More incriminating is Tilburne's treatment, for the wolves in the rear are posed in exactly the same way that Cronin posed his wolves more than a decade before.

So Tilburne is guilty, but is Frank Frazetta? That last wolf is suspiciously familiar: it looks a lot like Cronin's last wolf. Ditto the leaning conifer. But is this a swipe? You'll have to decide that for yourself.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rodney M. Ruth (1912-1987)

Illustrator, Advertising Artist, Children's Book Artist, Syndicated Comic Strip Artist

Born September 21, 1912, Benton Harbor, Michigan
Died January 27, 1987, Park Ridge, Illinois

When I introduced this series, I didn't know who RMR was. I found out at PulpFest by looking at an issue of Amazing Stories in which Rod M. Ruth signed several illustrations with a distinct flourish to his initials. He was born Rodney McCord Ruth on September 21, 1912, in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Edd Cartier went to school in New York City and found work with Street and Smith, a publisher with headquarters in that city. Rod Ruth did much the same in his locale by studying at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the Frederick Mizen School of Arts, and the Institute of Design, and going to work for Ziff-Davis of Chicago. His illustrations appeared in Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures from 1940 to 1951. He also drew the newspaper comic strip The Toodles from 1941 to 1958. Ruth had a more varied career than Cartier and continued working as a professional artist even after pulp magazines came to an end. He illustrated books about dinosaurs and animals and Rand McNally's series of books about monsters and aliens, for which he had a real flair. Rodney McCord Ruth--RMR--died in Park Ridge, Illinois, on January 27, 1987, at age seventy-four.

Rodney M. Ruth's Illustrations in Weird Tales
"Yellow" by Conda Douglas (Winter 1985; from an unknown source)
"The Bus People" by J.N. Williamson (Winter 1985; from an unknown source)
"Peau de Cuir" by Steve Perry (Winter 1985; from an unknown source)

Further Reading
  • "Ruth, Rod," The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (online), Jan. 14, 2013, here.
  • "Rod Ruth," Lambiek (online), no date, here.
Note: I have a new computer, but when you get a new computer, about half of your old stuff no longer works. For me, that includes some of my software, plus my scanner, plus my scanner/printer/photocopier. As soon as I solve the problem of a scanner, I will post images again.

Update (August 3, 2016): An illustration by Rod Ruth, used in Weird Tales for Winter 1985 but from an unknown original source. Note the stylized initial "R" on the far right.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Edd Cartier (1914-2008)

Illustrator, Draftsman, Art Director
Born August 1, 1914, North Bergen, New Jersey
Died December 25, 2008, Ramsey, New Jersey

Whether he knew it or not, Edd Cartier contributed to Weird Tales. His drawing in the Winter 1985 issue was used to fill out a page containing a book review by Gustavo H. Vintas, M.D. The drawing (which I will post once I have my scanning problem figured out) looks like a clipping from a larger drawing and probably came from another magazine. Cartier is best known for his illustrations in The Shadow, Doc Savage Magazine, Astounding Science Fiction, and Unknown. He also worked for Gnome Press and Fantasy Press. I suspect the drawing came from Astounding or Unknown.

Edward Daniel Cartier was born on August 1, 1914, in North Bergen, New Jersey, and studied at the Pratt Institute in two stints, one before and one after the Second World War. He served in the U.S. Army during the war and used his G.I. Bill benefits to earn a bachelor of arts degree from Pratt in 1953. He was a unique and versatile artist, and his work, whether signed or not, is unmistakable. It's a shame that he never drew pictures for Weird Tales, as his dark, weird, macabre, and often humorous style would have worked in the magazine. In any case, Cartier died on Christmas Day in 2008 at age ninety-four. I checked my copy of Edd Cartier: The Known and the Unknown (Gerry de la Ree, 1977) and could not find the illustration used in Weird Tales. That's no great surprise, as Cartier created hundreds of drawings published from 1937 onward.

Edd Cartier's Illustration in Weird Tales
Spot drawing on the book review page (Winter 1985; from an unknown source)

Further Reading
  • "Edd Cartier (1914-2008)" by Bhob, Potrzebie (online), Dec. 27, 2008, here.
  • "Edd Cartier, 94, Pulp Illustrator, Dies" by William Grimes, New York Times, Jan. 8, 2009, here.

An illustration by Edd Cartier, originally from another source--an unknown source but not necessarily an Unknown source--and used in Weird Tales for Winter 1985.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Weird Tales and the Inner Sanctum

The Red Right Hand (1945) by Joel Townsley Rogers was first issued in hardback by Simon and Schuster as part of its Inner Sanctum Mystery series. As Mike Tuz pointed out in his recent comment, that was at about the same time that Universal Pictures was releasing a series of horror movies under the same name. If you listened to the radio in 1945, you were likely to hear a sardonic voice and the sound of a creaking door in the introduction to a weekly show called Inner Sanctum Mystery (more popularly known as Inner Sanctum Mysteries). A decade later, you could have watched Inner Sanctum on television, if only for a season. So how were these series related? Where did the Inner Sanctum brand begin? And what did it all have to do with Weird Tales? That's what I'll write about today.

First, I should say that there doesn't seem to be much of a connection between Weird Tales and Inner Sanctum Mystery. In beginning my research, I was hoping to find more. So maybe the title of this article is a little misleading. On the other hand, there are some pretty big gaps in the online history of the brand. For example, a list of radio episodes on Wikipedia includes the names of only a few scriptwriters. Likewise, The Internet Movie Database includes the titles and casts of all forty episodes of the TV series, but the writers' names are mostly missing. And good luck finding a comprehensive list of the titles in Simon and Schuster's hardbound Inner Sanctum Mystery series. So maybe there are still connections awaiting discovery. Weird Tales and the Inner Sanctum had this much in common at least: both began in the 1920s as the creations of enterprising young publishers.

In the case of Simon and Schuster, those enterprising young publishers were Richard L. "Dick" Simon (1899-1960), a piano salesman, and M. Lincoln "Max" Schuster (1897-1970), an editor of a trade magazine. (1) According to Wikipedia, that fount of all knowledge, "Simon's aunt, a crossword puzzle devotee, asked Simon whether there was a book of these puzzles that she could give to a friend. Simon discovered that none had been published, and, with Schuster, launched a company to exploit the opportunity." The year was 1924, plumb in the middle of a decade of fads and other wonderful nonsense. Crossword puzzles became the latest, and Simon and Schuster was off and running.

Almost from the beginning--or at least as early as 1927--Simon and Schuster ran a regular advertising column called "The Inner Sanctum" in the New York Times and Publishing Weekly. Readers may or may not have known it, but "the Inner Sanctum" is the name the two publishers gave to an office within their own suite of offices on 57th Street, just off Fifth Avenue. The Inner Sanctum was in fact a room situated between the respective offices of Dick Simon and Max Schuster. Here is a playful map from 1927, drawn by C. Vernon Farrow:

The legend reads, in part, "The Sun Never Sets on The Inner Sanctum of Simon and Schuster." Before going on, I would like to show another map drawn by the artist Charles Vernon Farrow (1896-1936):

This one is entitled "A Map of the Wondrous Isle of Manhattan" and is dated 1926. The isle was and is wondrous to be sure, and the cartographer Farrow made a wondrous map to match it. This map in particular makes me think of Dell's famous line of map-back paperbacks of the 1940s. Dell was the second major publisher of paperback books in America. Simon and Schuster, publishers of Pocket Books, was the first.

So "the Inner Sanctum" originally referred to the house of Simon and Schuster, then to series of books published by that house. Not all of the Inner Sanctum books were mysteries, at least at the outset. There is, for example, an Inner Sanctum edition of War and Peace, published in 1942. According to Martin Grams Blog (here), the Inner Sanctum series, published monthly, were color coded: blue binding for "serious drama," red for "lighter fare" and/or romance, and green for "detective stories." (Mr. Gram's wording is a little ambiguous. I hope I interpret it correctly.) Later, once the radio show became popular, the Inner Sanctum series were strictly mysteries.

The first Inner Sanctum Mystery was I Am Jonathan Scrivener by Charles Houghton, published in 1930. In 1935, a young woman named Lee Wright (1904-1986) began working at Simon and Schuster as a secretary. The following year, she became editor of the Inner Sanctum Mystery series, and in 1944, senior editor. It was Lee Wright who was so effusive about Joel Townsley Rogers' story and novel The Red Right Hand, and it was she who saw it into print in 1945.

Another Simon and Schuster employee figures pretty prominently in the story of Inner Sanctum Mystery as well. His name was Leon Shimkin (1907-1988), and in 1924, at age seventeen, he signed on with the firm as a $25-a-week bookkeeper. Described by the New York Times as "[t]ireless and hard-driving," Shimkin soon worked his way up to be business manager and eventually to chairman of the board and owner of the company. He was in on the founding of Pocket Books, the first line of mass-market paperback books in America, in 1939. (Shimkin was treasurer of the venture.) "While critics scoffed at the notion of selling 25-cent paperback books in supermarkets and similar outlets," wrote the Times, "Pocket Books was an immediate success." It also spawned myriads of paperback book publishers, many of which lived on the pulp genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, detective, and mystery stories. Paperbacks also helped bring pulp magazines to an end after World War II. Hardbound books survived of course, and the Inner Sanctum Mystery series carried on at least until the 1960s. I have titles for 1960--The Dead Beat by Robert Bloch--and 1966--The Incredible Scholck Homes by Robert L. Fish. I don't know when the last title in the series was published.

In the early 1940s, Leon Shimkin sold the rights to Inner Sanctum Mystery to Universal Pictures. By the time the first movie came out in 1943, Inner Sanctum Mystery, also called Inner Sanctum Mysteries or just Inner Sanctum, had been on the radio for a couple of years. I suspect that Shimkin helped orchestrate that deal, too. In any case, the radio show, which began on January 7, 1941, was a hit. Under producer Himan "Hi" Brown (1910-2010), Inner Sanctum Mystery ran for more than eleven years and a total of 526 broadcasts. The last came on October 5, 1952. (2) As I said, the writers' credits are mostly missing. Stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Guy de Maupassant, both of whom were in Weird Tales, were adapted for the show.

From 1943 to 1945, Universal released six movies in the Inner Sanctum Mystery series starring Lon Chaney, Jr. These are supposed to have been based on the radio show. The titles are:
  • Calling Dr. Death (1943)
  • Weird Woman (1944)
  • Dead Man's Eyes (1944)
  • The Frozen Ghost (1945)
  • Strange Confession (1945)
  • Pillow of Death (1945)
Weird Woman was based on the story "Conjure Wife" by Fritz Leiber, Jr., and although "Conjure Wife" wasn't in Weird Tales (it was in the rival title Unknown Worlds in April 1943), its author was. The movie title of course echoes that of Weird TalesBy the way, Leiber's father, Fritz Leiber, was in the non-Universal movie Inner Sanctum from 1948. He played a character called Dr. Valonius.

Finally, Hi Brown produced the television adaptation of Inner Sanctum in his studios in New York City. The show ran for forty half-hour episodes from January to October 1954. (The show ended a month after Weird Tales.) As an early anthology series, it gave a lot of young actors and actresses--Warren Stevens, Jack Klugman, Jack Albertson, Betsy Palmer--a chance to appear on television. It very likely helped pave the way for other anthology series as well, particularly The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), which, like the original radio series, had, in its host, the series' only regular character. The host of The Twilight Zone was of course played by Rod Serling, a most worthy successor to the Weird Tales mantle.

(1) Simon seems to have been the principle partner. There is comparatively little on the Internet about Schuster. Find A Grave has him, but his birth date--March 2, 1897--and birthplace--Austria--are missing. Schuster's father was a U.S. citizen at the time of Schuster's birth. According to Schuster's World War I draft card, "[the] child came to the U.S. when [he was] 6 weeks old." Max L. Schuster died on December 20, 1970, at his home in Manhattan.
(2) Like pulp magazines, radio drama and comedy were casualties of the post-war world. All survived in one way or another, however. Pulps didn't die so much as simply change form. They became paperback books, digest-sized magazines, and standard-sized magazines. The last true pulp magazine was Ranch Romances and Adventure, which came to an end in 1971 or thereabouts. Radio shows didn't exactly die, either. They simply became TV shows, and most of the old radio stars made the switch to television. Some, like Jack Benny, were successful. Others weren't. Incidentally, Hi Brown produced a later radio show called CBS Radio Mystery Theater (1974-1982), more or less as a reprise of Inner Sanctum Mystery, complete with the sardonic host and the creaking door. I am happy to say that we listened to that show when we were kids, and so we got in on the very tail end of radio drama in America.

Here are some sources:

Simon and Schuster
"Leon Shimkin, a Guiding Force At Simon & Schuster, Dies at 81" by Edwin McDowell, New York TimesMay 26, 1988

Inner Sanctum Mystery

"Debunking the Myth . . ."

Original text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, July 25, 2016

Joel Townsley Rogers (1896-1984)-Part Two

Joel Townsley Rogers' mystery novel The Red Right Hand began as a short story that at some point fell into the hands of Lee Wright, an editor at Simon and Schuster. On July 7, 1944, Ms. Wright wrote to Rogers. "I have fallen very much in love with THE RED RIGHT HAND," she effused, "and would love to discuss with you the possibilities of lengthening it to fit book publication." The short story version appeared in New Detective Magazine in March 1945. A couple of months later, Simon and Schuster issued the novel-length version in hardback as part of its Inner Sanctum series. A paperback edition by Pocket Books followed in October 1946, and The Red Right Hand has been reprinted several times since. I have the Carroll and Graf edition of 1983 and will use page numbers from that volume. (1)

The Red Right Hand is a murder mystery/detective tale. The detective (and narrator) in this case is a medical doctor named Henry N. Riddle, Jr., nicknamed Harry. His story, then, is a hairy riddle. The doctor himself is a riddle, and for a time, you don't know whether he can be trusted to tell the story or not. I'm still not convinced that he has told the whole truth.

The Red Right Hand is an odd story. It's non-linear--which is to say modernistic--in how it is recounted. Dr. Riddle circles around the events of the story, moving back and forth through time and looking at things from different angles in his attempt to untangle the mystery. His solution comes in real time, as, at the beginning of the novel, he does not yet know who the murderer is. (For a while, I had a feeling that he was the murderer.) The Red Right Hand is also unusual in that Riddle solves the mystery not by flatfooting around a city like Philip Marlowe or a hundred other tough-guy detectives but by sitting at a desk in a darkened house as the fiancée of the murdered man sleeps on a nearby couch and the voices of searchers resound in the night outside. Again and again he asks himself a number of questions, the foremost of which is:
     Where is the killer now?
     For I have a cold and dismal feeling that he is somewhere near me, no matter how far off the lanterns move and the voices call and the hounds bay. And near the sleeping girl beside me, his victim's wife to be. A feeling that he will strike again. That he knows I am somehow dangerous to him. Though how, I cannot yet perceive.
     Somewhere in the darkness outside the window.
     Or nearer even than that, perhaps. Inside this creaky two-hundred-year-old-hill-country farmhouse itself, it may be, so silent now and temporarily deserted of the hunters. (p. 10)
Riddle, who wanders freely through time and space in trying to solve the mystery, is also bound by time to do so before the killer strikes again and in space to remain at his desk, where he can think through the problem before him and watch over the sleeping young woman. There is throughout the story a palpable sense of menace and terror, of an unknown and unseen killer close at hand and ready to fall upon the narrator at any moment.

The Red Right Hand is non-linear, as I have said. In addition to the non-linear narrative, there are webs of connection and coincidence so uncanny and bizarre that they call into question Riddle's reliability--even his sanity--as the storyteller. In addition, there are enough red herrings to fill a driftnet. The overall sense is that this is a dream. (The murdered man's fiancée, Elinor Darrie, sleeps through the entire novel.) Riddle names the dreamlike and nightmarish quality of his story only at the end:
     "What is there to tell?" he [Rosenblatt, the police detective] said.
     "Nothing but that it was all a nightmare," I said. "A bad dream without reality."
     "That's all it ever was," he said. (p. 191)
* * *

I have noticed that in postwar culture, there seems to have been a movement towards the strange, bizarre, and otherworldly, towards dream-states, nightmares, hallucinations, fantasies, and other altered states of consciousness. You'll see that in movies as varied as Spellbound (1945), The Boy with Green Hair (1948), and Invaders from Mars (1953). The war itself, with all its horrors, explains some of that. The arrival or importation into America of European intellectual ideas such as psychoanalysis and surrealism played its part as well. (2) By no coincidence, perhaps, there is in The Red Right Hand a surrealist artist whose presence offers a clue as to the author's purposes. The artist's name is Unistaire, and, like Salvador Dalí, he is from Spain (though not Spanish but Basque in nationality). It is Unistaire who diagnoses the crime:
"This is definitely a surrealistic murder. It is the murder of a genius. It has symbolism." (p. 133)
He calls the men investigating the crime "too much the routine policemen, thinking only in terms of moronic killers for gain" and Dr. Riddle "too pragmatic and unimaginative to understand it," continuing: "What you need is to believe with all your soul in phantasms which cannot possibly exist." (p. 133) Unistaire believes that he alone, as an artist, sees the situation clearly:
      "A surrealistic murder!" he said with delight. "And it takes a surrealist to interpret and explain it. I have the key. I understand the symbolism. I will interpret and explain it. Give me a quarter head of moldy cabbage, a wig, a pair of glass eyeballs, an old umbrella, a dressmaker's form, a cube of ice, and a copy of Mein Kampf with the title printed in red letters, and I will put the picture together and explain it." (p. 134)
Some of those seemingly random and unrelated objects are actually clues--the cabbage, the wig, the glass eyeballs. The color red figures prominently in the story--the red right hand; Dr. Riddle's red hair; the red-haired dwarf, also called "Doc"; and so on. But my eyes immediately lit upon the words a dressmaker's form, for just a few months back, I wrote about a real-life surrealistic murder, about Dalí and other surrealist artists, and about dressmaker's dummies. The murder was of Elizabeth Short, the so-called Black Dahlia. She was killed on the morning of January 15, 1947, less than two years after The Red Right Hand was published. (3)

* * *

Right before reading The Red Right Hand, I read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré. It's a good book and was well read and well received. The Red Right Hand on the other hand is known only to a few fans of mystery. So is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy a better book? The general opinion would seem to be "Yes," but why? Is it really better, or is it considered better because it was written with a British accent? There is to be sure a moral dimension to Mr. le Carré's book. At first glance, that would appear to be lacking in The Red Right Hand. Also, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy appears to be more serious and sophisticated. I might object to that characterization for two reasons. First, the solution to the mystery hinges on a slip-up by the mole that might have a better place in a Dr. Haledjian mystery than in a major novel. Second, it's entirely too easy to make the mole the same man with whom George Smiley's wife has had an affair. A more complex and perhaps more realistic solution would be for that man not to be punished for one transgression by being punished for another. Instead, Smiley--and by extension Mr. le Carré, who had, when writing the book, recently gone through a divorce--gets to punish the man who has wronged him. That's not to say the solution in The Red Right Hand works out well in terms of storytelling, for it seems to me too mechanical and too dependent on multiple coincidences. I didn't let that spoil my enjoyment of the story however.

As for the moral dimension of one vs. the other, The Red Right Hand seems to be simply an entertainment. But Joel Townsley Rogers hit on something in his book, identifying early on a kind of killer who is entirely too familiar to us now, the psychopath or sociopath. Dr. Riddle asks the question:
Assuming his brain is not just a dead jumble of loose cogwheels and broken springs, what is he trying to accomplish--what makes him tick? (p. 6) (4)
He approaches the problem as a man of science, a rational man, a physician--but also perhaps as a psychopath, for one way of looking at the psychopathic killer is as a person without a soul who wishes to open up his victim to see "what makes him tick." When the body of Inis St. Erme, the young woman's fiancé, is found, it's skull is also found to have undergone a crude trephine. (5) Dr. Riddle describes it:
"It wasn't an operation with any sense to it, either. It looks like some crazy man trying to get an idea out of St. Erme's head with an auger after he was dead." (p. 138)
There it is again, something we have seen before, namely, the psychopathic killer opening people up, trying to find out what is inside them, what animates them, trying to uncover the mystery of the human soul or spirit which seems to be lacking in the killer himself. And as I said, the psychopath shares much with the medical doctor, who tends to see the human body as a mechanism, as a concatenation of cells, tissues, and organs rather than as the seat of the sacred human self. Again, Joel Townsley Rogers, in a lowly pulp novel, diagnosed the problem:
Old Adam [MacComerou, author of a textbook on psychopathology] . . . . had naturally found some amusement in pricking, in his quiet way, at practitioners of medicine and surgery . . . . One of the most interesting chapters in Hom. Psych. was one called "Jekyll-Hyde, M.D.," in which he had gathered together the case histories of murderers who had all happened to be doctors. I'll admit that he had plenty there. (p. 95)
The mole inside a spy agency makes for a nice villain, but he has shown himself to be a man of his time. The psychopathic killer, including the killer who acts out his bloody and bizarre pseudo-artistic or pseudo-intellectual theories, including also the medical doctor or surgeon, who sees people not as human beings but as soulless machines, is a killer who survives into the present and will very likely be with us for a long time to come.

(1) The quotes and publication history here are from a web page entitled "Joel Townsley Rogers-Writings" at this link.
(2) Postwar pseudo-religions based on science fiction owe a good deal to those developments as well. Dianetics and Scientology grew in part out of psychoanalysis. The myth and pseudo-religion of flying saucers, especially the contactee and abductee phenomena, are replete with accounts of dreams, nightmares, hallucinations, and other altered states of consciousness.
(3) To read more on the Black Dahlia murder, click on the label on the right.
(4) Notice the imagery of time passing and also of a mechanistic and reductionist or atomistic view of the human person.
(5) The victim's name is odd but significant: try rearranging the letters to see what you get. A hint: it's what the opposite of the hand named in the title of the book might say.

The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers in the Carroll & Graf edition of 1983. The cover artist is unknown.

Original text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, July 22, 2016

Joel Townsley Rogers (1896-1984)-Part One

Aka Roger Curley, Roger Curly
Aviator, Author, Editor, Civil Servant
Born November 22, 1896, Sedalia, Missouri
Died October 1, 1984, Washington, D.C.

Joel Townsley Rogers was born on November 22, 1896, in Sedalia, Missouri, to Otis J. and Bertha T. Rogers. He matriculated at Harvard University with the class of 1918, but world events had other things planned for him, for on June 25, 1917, Joel Townsley Rogers joined the United States Naval Reserve. Based on his record of service (below), I presume that he entered active duty on August 19, 1917. According to a website with the heading "Joel Townsley Rogers-Writings," Rogers received his flight training at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and was sent to Pensacola, Florida, to be a flight instructor. He served there, in Miami, and in Rockaway, New York, the last being the station where he separated from the navy on August 15, 1919.

Once returned to civilian life, Rogers decided to give writing for the pulps a try. The FictionMags Index has his first published story as "Finders-Keepers," published in Telling Tales in July 1920. However, according to the previously mentioned website, Rogers, writing as Roger Curly, had a story called "The Battle Cruiser Lady" in Snappy Stories for February 18, 1920. We probably should assume for now that "The Battle Cruiser Lady" was his first story using any byline. Dozens more followed, the last coming with the end of the pulp era in the 1950s. They were published in Action Stories, Adventure, Air Stories, Argosy, Detective Fiction Weekly, Metropolitan Magazine, New Detective Magazine, Snappy Stories, Warbirds, and other titles. Rogers had only one story in Weird Tales, "Hark! The Rattle!" from the very first issue, March 1923. Other works in the genres of fantasy and science fiction appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Startling Stories, Super Science Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories. Incidentally, Joel Townsley Rogers was one of few pulp writers who crossed over into writing for slick magazines, for he had three stories in The Saturday Evening Post between 1943 and 1958.

In 1920, Rogers was in Washington, D.C., with his parents and siblings. He was still working in aviation, in this case in the private sector. In 1922, the young writer was a graduate student at Princeton University and an editor at Brentano's Book Chat, where he used the pseudonym Roger Curley, a reference to his own curly hair. Rogers' first book dates from about that time as well. Entitled Once in a Red Moon, it came out in 1923, the same year in which he was published in Weird TalesBy 1940, he was in New York and working as a freelance writer. His remaining books came after that, The Red Right Hand in 1945, Lady with the Dice in 1946, and The Stopped Clock, also called Never Leave My Bed, in 1958. Rogers' books have been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Icelandic, and German. I don't know what he did once opportunities in the pulps dried up in the 1950s, but he lived for another quarter century and died on October 1, 1984, in Washington, D.C.

To be concluded . . .

Joel Townsley Rogers' Story in Weird Tales
"Hark! The Rattle!" (Mar. 1923)

Further Reading
There are lists of Rogers' stories on The FictionMags Index, The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, and on a web page with the heading "Joel Townsley Rogers-Writings," here. The last website also has information on Rogers' family, life, and career. You can of course also do an Internet search, which will likely prove fruitful, as Rogers is a widely admired writer, especially for his book The Red Right Hand, about which I will write next.

A military record for Joel Townsley Rogers, from U.S. Adjutant General Military Records, Harvard's Military Record in the World War (1921).
A passport photograph of Rogers, with his signature, from 1919.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley