Brian Leno noticed a copy of my 1984 litcrit anthology on Robert E. Howard — The Dark Barbarian — on the block at eBay for $150 or make an offer. Hunt around and you can find copies much cheaper, but those copies are not this copy, inscribed to Ted Schulz in the year of publication.
Ted was a bigwig Sherlockian in the Bay Area, and in that era in the early 1980s I often attended meetings of the local Baker Street Irregulars club, known by the handle The Scowrers and the Molly Maguires (if memory serves). Ted was ex-military and used his connections to host meetings in the old Officers Club in Fort Mason.
I said at the time— and still think — that Ted must have been the nicest guy I ever met. He radiated niceness.
He was, however, a crummy driver (like many guys I’ve encountered from the military). Made me nervous as hell. Clutching the seat with clawed fingers stuff.
Once we were heading to SFO to pick someone up — I think it was Jon Lellenberg. Jon was another bigtime Holmesian, from around D.C, I think — some sort of government work, the detail I remember was that he had just spent a few weeks or months at the Arctic Circle staring down the throat of “the Russian Bear.” Another nice guy. Hosted a Bouchercon once. You may have seen his name recently because John D. Haefele singles him out in his Firsts article on modern Arkham House ephemera as the author of what — currently — is the final book published under the Arkham banner: Baker Street Irregular.
So, we drifted toward SFO with Ted at the wheel, just poking along, wandering across lanes, and finally I couldn’t take it any more and said something like, “Jeez, Ted, you drive like a mother-in-law.”
Ted took his eyes off the road and just beamed at me.
Autograph Hound Saturday once again. Kind of snuck up on me.
I mentioned the other week that Brian Leno has been collecting signatures like hell recently — on top of collecting like hell his whole life — and he’s here today to unholster a few new items from his horde of John Hancocks:
I’ve been going a little nuts lately with the autographs, Don.
Got Freddie Mills in the mail yesterday.
Picked up a Delos Lovelace, the guy who wrote the movie adaptation of King Kong back in the thirties, and on the same theme I got Helen Mack, the lady from Son of Kong — she also starred in She, alongside Randolph Scott.
I’m waiting for a Malcolm McDowell signed 8×10 from A Clockwork Orange.
Also picked up a Frank E. Schoonover auto — did the great dust jacket for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. Tough to find at a decent price.
Right now I have my beady eyes on Valerie Hobson, Baroness Frankenstein from The Bride of Frankenstein. She was married to John Profumo — remember him and the big political sex scandal in England in the sixties?
For all you sports fans I picked up some handwriting examples of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. Nothing major there, but they will do until I can grab their autographs, which because they are so goddamned expensive, could take a while.
The boxer in the shot above of course is Freddie Mills. The Secret Life of Freddie Mills, by Michael Litchfield, is a very good book and I recommend it. Litchfield delves into all the murky business of Freddie and the infamous Kray Brothers, and the Jack the Stripper case. How much is believable is up to the reader.
And speaking of the Krays I received Reg Kray’s A Way of Life in the mail today from the U.K. I was told it was signed and I took the seller’s word for it and let that be a lesson to me. It looks like an authentic signature, but when it’s compared to other copies of the same book it’s revealed to be a facsimile.
I should have tracked down other “signed” copies and I’d have seen right away what it was. I didn’t do my homework on that one, which I usually do.
Let my guard down and got banged with a left hook.
Still it was cheap enough that I won’t kick up a fuss. Live and learn, and I’m sure the book will still be an interesting one.
I’ve never read Hugh Pendexter, but Robert E. Howard did.
In a 1931 letter to H. P. Lovecraft, Howard heaps praise onto Pendexter’s “Devil’s Brew,” a two-part serial that had appeared that year in the pages of Adventure.
The Texas author liked it so much he informed Lovecraft that he was going to mail the two issues to him, so he could judge for himself.
Obviously he valued the opinion of the Gentleman from Providence.
Lovecraft replied favorably upon the pulp tale, and Howard was pleased. Always nice to have a friend confirm our own literary tastes.
Pendexter, one of the giants of Adventure, is not read so much today. He didn’t write about barbarians battling sorcery or multi-tentacled creatures arising from dark oceans.
Instead, Pendexter wrote historical fiction, books about the taming of the American Frontier, and these types of yarns just aren’t much in favor with the readers of today.
But back in his time he must have been something, filling the pages of Adventure with stories so strongly based in truth that, for the edification of his readers, he would list the books or articles he had used during the creation of his story.
Here is his autograph, in a battered copy of Gentlemen of the North, which had appeared in Adventure in 1919. He signed it on November 2, 1931 in his hometown of Norway, Maine. A very nice example of his penmanship, even if a couple of letters are a trifle smudged.
His signature isn’t common but I have come across a few books that he inscribed, and so far they all have one thing in common. They’re all beat to crap, as if they went a few rounds with Rocky Marciano.
Either his books were tossed aside and not regarded highly — or conversely they were valued greatly, and read again and again.
I think it’s the latter of those two, and for proof we can look at the March 20, 1926 issue of Adventure from my collection. It showcases a beautiful painting by Raphael Cavalier but a former owner has scrawled “Pendexter part three” across the cover, which does irritate me — but only a little.
On the spine of the magazine this desecration continues with the letters “HP” penned — this time neatly — into the side. How can anybody be irritated at witnessing a reader displaying such love for a favorite author?
The story inside was titled “Log Cabin Men,” and if I ever find the other 4 parts, I’ll have to give it a try.
But for now I’m going to start reading— soon — Gentlemen of the North. I just hope the book doesn’t crumble to pieces as I’m handling it.
If Pendexter was good enough for Robert E. Howard, I’ll bet he’s good enough for me.
Autograph Hound Brian Leno has been as busy collecting as ever, despite the pandemic and the lockdown, and pops in today to explain what happened to the guys on the rope.
In addition to that mountaineering moment, he reports that he “ordered a biography of the fellow who killed John Wilkes Booth, Boston Corbett. Interesting guy, very religious.
“Seems like one time he passed a couple of prostitutes and it must have excited him. Got himself home, started reading the Bible, fetched himself some scissors and castrated himself.
“With a pair of scissors.
“Apparently no one really knows of his passing, but it’s thought he died in a big fire in Minnesota.”
Among other notable acquisitions for the Leno trove he got the John Hancock of the Frankenstein play author Richard Brinsley Peake (Mary Shelley was in the audience for the premiere). The suicide or murdered Jack the Stripper suspect. Boxer Freddie Mills, rumored sexual partner to one of the Kray Brothers.
Brian says, “As with your Arkham ephemera collection they don’t take up much room. One scrap of paper and a signed small photo of Mills, getting ready to duke it out with someone. A smaller triumph was the purchase of another Freddie, Freddie Jones who played the carnival barker in The Elephant Man and the monster in Frankenstein Must be Destroyed.”
The multifarious joys of autograph collecting.
Here’s Brian to give us the scoop on the hot news of 155 years ago:
I have been to the mountain top. Just finished my own shootout for an Edward Whymper autograph, and that baby is coming to the states! I guess during the bidding you could say I started with a bang and got a Whymper. Wasn’t cheap.
The image above captures the moment the rope broke and four of Whymper’s companions, just after completing the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn, went tumbling to their deaths. Whymper, I believe, is second from the top and the print is by the great French artist, Gustave Dore. (Coincidentally, I also have Dore’s signed business card.) The chromolithograph appeared in the March, 1867 issue of Demorest’s Illustrated Monthly Magazine, a couple of years after the event.
The auto came in a shot-to-shit copy of Whymper’s 1896 guide to Chamonix and Mont Blanc. Once I got the book, I cut the page free and framed it.
On the Dore artwork, by the way, the guy with his arms outstretched, right at the break of the rope, is Lord Francis Douglas. Francis was the brother to the Marquess of Queensbury of the sponsor of the boxing rules fame. His nephew, it would follow, was then Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde’s boyfriend.
Of the four that perished, Douglas was the only body never found. Still not, as far as I know.
All this happened July 14, 1865. The fall off the Matterhorn occurred about two months after the end of the Civil War, to put things in perspective.
Of the incident, Whymper said, “Every night, do you understand, I see my comrades of the Matterhorn slipping on their backs, their arms outstretched, one after the other, in perfect order at equal distances. . . .”
The article writer doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact that I’m the one who pushed for Monroe Street as the lane to rename, because Lawrence Ferlinghetti wanted to mark Burritt Alley for the handle Dashiell Hammett Street.
Nope, not on my watch. Burritt is mentioned by name in The Maltese Falcon. Don’t dink with it.
(The reader is left to his or her own devices to figure out that the 1988 renaming of 12 streets in honor of authors and artists covers both Hammett Street and Jack Kerouac Street, the only ones of that group surveyed in this write-up. And there’s nothing about the sordid era when the street sign was damaged, replaced, and misspelled!)
Anyway, a nice enough newspaperesque tidbit.
But heed this trigger warning: Some renaming action involves racist history.
Tell me, not in San Francisco!
(Or, when will they want to rename the city itself? All that shocking colonial backstory. May I suggest Dashiell Hammett Burg?)
The maelstrom of Arkham House ephemera collecting swept me up again, with John D. Haefele clinging onto the plunging raft by my side.
Some weeks that’s been all I could think about, bidding on items I didn’t have in the stash, figuring out this or that arcane permutation of the hobby. The other day Haefele and I (with strong input from Paul Dobish) determined that there exist — at least — some six variants of Item 92 from the list of Classic Era ephemera I surveyed for Firsts: The Book Collectors Magazine. Until we batted the info out, previously unknown variants, of course.
Now we know about them, but you don’t.
I’m sure the current burst of activity was inspired by Haefele stepping up with his recent survey of the Modern Era ephemera for Firsts — an essay in one issue (one of only a handful of historical presentations on modern Arkham yet done) and a list of the post-Classic Era ephemera items in the next. That sparked the dive back in.
Back into what?
Not just the hobby itself, but into a book-length expansion of the Classic List which Haefele and I have been talking about for years — I just noticed a reference to the project in a 2007 note. The plan at the moment is to show an image of every single item, in addition to the description.
Once we get that one done, then you’ll know what we know.
I think we have roughly 50 more Classic Era items as of now to add to the 100 tallied in Firsts. And the list will expand in other ways. Haefele has persuaded me that pure August Derleth brochures — Stanton & Lee — need to be inserted where they would appear. Ditto Hawk & Whippoorwill. Sure, I get it: August Derleth was Arkham House.
And Haefele talked me into adding issues of the in-house magazine The Arkham Collector to the list.
Don’t think I’m some pushover. The magazine was sold — it is not by definition ephemera. But what Haefele pointed out was that it took over many of the functions of the various brochures, listing projects underway. If you don’t have The Arkham Collector in the record, then you don’t have the full “history” usually recorded by the ephemera.
I recall that some collectors griped that certain books — Stan McNail’s Something Breathing or Donald Sidney-Fryer’sSongs and Sonnets Atlantean— seemed to leap into print from nowhere, without significant advance notice in the flyers. But they were mentioned as upcoming in The Collector. And the envelopes with new issues of the magazine also were loaded up with contemporaneous brochures and inserts.
The Arkham Collector won’t just be dropped directly into the numbering system for the ephemera. I’ll allow it in, but each of the ten issues total will be done via Roman numerals — I, II, III through X. Hey, it’ll look cool on the page.
And we ought to be upfront about other reasons why Haefele is pushing for The Arkham Collector to assume its proper place in history.
Secrets of the past, unveiled!
“Despite years of researching the ‘Derleth Papers,'” Haefele notes, “I’ve never uncovered any official explanation why Derleth started up the magazine — beyond the time and money considerations offered when he announced it.”
Haefele reports: “I’ve always thought (rather, hoped) that I was the young fan who brought Derleth to the tipping point when he decided to publish The Arkham Collector, which he announced in Spring 1967.
“That’s because on October 20, 1966 I had written to him: ‘I think you could publish a monthly fan-zine in which news of new books printed or going out-of-print could be presented, along with reviews and amateur writings a minimum length. The fans could pay the fee of publication and postage.’
“Derleth’s reply was dutifully sent on October 24”:
In 1977 Don Herron began leading The Dashiell Hammett Tour, now the longest-running literary tour in the nation. On this site you’ll find information on current walks — dates, where to meet, arranging tours by appointment — plus a hard-boiled blog with news, reviews of books and film, and a dash of noir.