Rediscovered: Wings of Danger

Months ago I was emailing back and forth with Kevin Cook and he mentioned that he was thinking about getting rid of a couple of his Lost Race novels, because they were duds and he’d never read them again.

Now, I am under the impression that Kevin has a complete collection of Lost Race novels — certainly of the original vintage era — so I disputed for a moment the concept of dumping any. A complete collection is a research tool, something you could donate to a library when you’re finished with it. The more complete, the better.

So what if a novel in the group sucks? Of course some of them will suck.

It’s like collecting San Francisco Mysteries. Doesn’t matter if the book is good, bad or indifferent, what matters is A) it is a mystery of some stripe, and B) is set at least in part in San Francisco. 

Ultimately, of course, I told Kevin to do as he would — his collection to dispose of as he will.

I’ll bet, though, the items he was thinking of dumping weren’t autographed. That would add up to a whole new equation, would it not?

For Autograph Hound Super-Sunday Kevin kicks us off with a signature in a Lost Race novel he assures us is not a dud.

Among his holdings Kevin says, “I have a copy of the special ‘Autograph Edition’ of Wings of Danger by Arthur A. Nelson.

“The novel has to be one of the two or three finest Lost Race novels ever written.

“Vikings in central Africa.

“Apparently a big favorite with Robert E. Howard fans.

“Weird thing is that his novel was so well written, but he apparently never authored another book. His byline appears once in Adventure and not in any other known pulps.

“Plus, Vikings in central Africa — outside the usual parameters for Lost Race fiction, but he pulled it off perfectly.”

This novel saw original publication under the title “The Adventurers” in Adventure in 1915, and is easily available to read in the Altus Press Lost Race Library. You know, if you feel like checking out Vikings in Africa and sinking into a book Kevin Cook has no plans on dumping.

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Rediscovered: Mark Channing White Python Slugfest

Autograph Hound Saturday once more, and it looks as if the theme for the weekend is “Lost Race” John Hancockery.

You know the Lost Race genre, where one dude or another — Alan Quartermain or Tarzan, usually the athletic type — often as part of an expedition — trudge into Africa or the Himalayas or some other vast and remote fastness, and — What the Hell, indeed —stumble across a lost race from Atlantis or other exotic land, holed up in some corner somewhere — not just hanging out in a village or two like the native population. 

Both of our stalwart Autograph Hounds, Brian Leno and Kevin Cook, jump into the fray — I couldn’t hold them back. Had to let ’em both loose or they’d have torn the joint down.

Brian punches in first with the image at the top: “It might be a bit of a surprise to admit that, even though I pursued his signature, I have never read Mark Channing, and so know very little about him.  I guess some people will think I’m nuts to buy signatures of writers I’ve never read, but I’ve never read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and I continue to look for a L. Frank Baum autograph.

“Douglas A. Anderson has a pretty nice write up about Channing and includes a photo of the author. Channing spent time in India, and his books — as Anderson puts it — ‘were similar to the novels of Talbot Mundy, and their mix of adventure and Indian mysticism was popular with readers, particularly in the United States.’  

“I first heard of Channing years ago,” Brian continues, “when I was reading Talbot Mundy.

“I always liked Mundy, and so I thought I’d dip into Channing but I wanted to get his signature first. He’s not an easy find, and he can be high, usually too much for what I wanted to pay.

“But a few weeks ago I found his White Python, signed, for a very reasonable price from an U.K. dealer and that book is now in my collection.

“Which means I can begin to start reading Channing, although I’ll have to find cheap copies of his books, because I certainly don’t want to take a chance on breaking the spine or spilling something onto the signed volume.

“Any person who treasures inscribed copies knows exactly how I feel.

“I believe the inscription reads: ‘To Samuel Hopkins adorable personality and a great healer from his grateful friend and client Mark Channing Xmas 1934’ — I like Christmas signatures.

“I looked up Samuel Hopkins, if that’s who it is, and really found nothing of value that might trigger who this ‘healer’ might be.

Brian wraps it up: “Channing’s handwriting is a bit sad. The inscription is in a Hutchinson, second impression.”

I’m willing to bet that Kevin Cook’s copy is a first, because that’s how he usually rolls.

The holograph remains crummy, but it’s a double whammy signature — full “Mark Channing” after the “For [decipher the name to your heart’s content] from” and then an additional note initialed “M.C.”

Kevin says, “I believe that what he wrote was ‘All good wishes to a great sportsman!'”

Looks like the writing is on the front free endpaper, in a Hutchinson edition from 1934.

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Rediscovered: Lovecraft — the Reason There’s Arkham Ephemera

If we’re celebrating John D. Haefele’s landmark article on Modern Arkham House Ephemera in the September/October issue of Firsts (with the checklist of items to follow soon in the November/December issue) — and we are — then how about bringing out the Big Gun?

For Autograph Hound Super-Sunday check out the ownership inscription by none other than H. P. Lovecraft in a Dr. Syntax volume from his library. No Lovecraft, no Arkham House — no Arkham House ephemera.

Haefele says, “Something of possible interest from my files.

“On August 29, 1936 HPL wrote Henry Kuttner, ‘I enjoyed yours of Aug. 14, & am very grateful for the glimpse of the Combe-Rowlandson ‘Dance of Death’. These quaint early 19th century products have always held a particular charm for me — ‘Dr. Syntax’ having been encountered at an early age. I wish I had acquired a whole set of these red-covered reprints when they were cheap. As it is, I have only the first ‘Syntax’ book.”

The item entry from Lovecraft’s Library: A Catalogue (Fourth Edition):

941. Syntax, Doctor [pseud. of William Combe (1742-1823)]. The Tour of Doctor Syntax in Search of the Picturesque. <1812> New ed. New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1903. 266 pp. … Poem.

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Rediscovered: Modern Arkham Ephemera

Autograph Hound Saturday rolls around once again, and What the Hell!

Brian Leno is off for the weekend on an expedition into the darkest corners of lowlife gambling dens, and he’s incommunicado.

Kevin Cook apparently is digging through all his books and pulps and cheques, determined to determine exactly which autograph in his holdings features the absolute worst handwriting. Caveman and sub-caveman stuff.

Fortunately — it saves me the trouble of digging any John Hancocks out of my own holdings — John D. Haefele pops in a couple of items, kind of in celebration of his article “Arkham House Ephemera: The Modern Years” appearing in the current issue of Firsts: The Book Collectors Magazine.

Haefele chipped in as a research assistant when I covered “Arkham House Ephemera: The Classic Years” back in 2002.

He reports, “Firsts arrived today, & overall I am very pleased with what I see. Apparently these days there are fewer pages, the 2002 issue had 72, but this one only 40.

“The layout & featured text blurbs look professional & very handsome. They only used three images — not numbered — but they are large & clear & good choices. I’m thinking — hoping — they will use many others to illustrate the actual checklist next time.

“They included the entire article — everything — except for three lines — only three, they carefully chose to drop, I think, so that the article fit the 9-page spread perfectly.

“All in all, I am thrilled with this appearance. A much more meaty & comprehensive piece than it seemed on my computer screen.”

Haefele’s article was excellent in Word doc, but there is something magical about seeing the thing in print. The minor deletions were just the usual editing one would expect in a pro magazine. The longest, and most interesting one, refers to the Phil Mays List, which really launched ephemera collecting as a hobby: 

“Following Mays, the early pieces traded for as much as $30 or $40 apiece. Though the Ruber-era pieces trade at $10 or $20, they do trade — and without any reference tool. As for Vanderburgh-Weinberg pieces — other than a few insiders, who before now even knew they existed?”

Get the point? The appearance of the Modern Era checklist in the next issue of Firsts ought to start a stampede, and prices, hey, the prices may go up a few notches.

In case you’re not savvy in this corner of the collecting world, the image at top features an inscription by author Lin Carter to Roderic Meng — Meng managed Arkham House after the death of August Derleth in 1971, a key figure in the Modern Era.

Carter wrote many, many books, including a poetry collection released by Arkham. Before he left the firm, Don Wandrei told me he had rejected the Carter volume, but apparently the poet noodled around and got Meng to put it back in the lineup.

Ah, the history of good old Arkham House.

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Hammett: Final Jeopardy(!)

Watching Jeopardy!, S36 E8 for 9/18/19, I roused to some attention when they did a clew featuring Lillian Hellman — but, hey, it’s only Lillian Hellman, who cares, right?

Since they just did Hammett recently, I admit I was caught completely flat-footed when Final Jeopardy rolled around.

The category was The 1940s.

The statement when it rolled out read:

This nickname for a history-changing weapon of 1945 came from a character in “The Maltese Falcon”


The champion, Jeopardy Jason, pulled out another win with the answer:

“What is the Fat Man?”

Another contestant also got Fat Man. The third went with Little Boy — which Alex Trebek noted was “also inspired by Dashiell Hammett.”

Yeah, kind of. You can look it up and read all about it, but the bombs dropped on Japan to cut to the chase in World War II were named Fat Man and Little Boy. The initial names for the double whammy duo were Thin Man and Fat Man, based on the thin and fat designs for the weapons. And an apparent awareness of Hammett’s works from somebody in the bomb lab.

When something wasn’t right with Thin Man, they tweaked it — but apparently couldn’t keep the original name. So Thin Man became Little Boy and the rest is indeed history.

Final jeopardy, and how.

And you thought Hammett was just another pretty face, limited to books and movies.

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Rediscovered: A. Merritt

For Autograph Hound Super-Sunday (Revisited), Kevin Cook dips into his archival material to do a showcase on another of his favorite authors: Abraham Merritt.     

If you recall, Kevin got interested in the concept and potential ramifications of the autograph weekends early in the game, throwing out a few thoughts at the time, plus a cool inscription from good old Abe.

He’s back today with new examples of John Hancocks, a couple from Merritt, and even one from the legendary Munsey editor Robert Davis.

The image at top is from a 1935 edition of Creep Shadow Creep! from Methuen & Co. Ltd. Hence the ref to “his shadows.”

At bottom we have an exchange of letters between A. Merritt and Bob Davis. Kevin says: 

“I think that the most interesting thing about the letters was the use by Davis of the title ‘The First Step’ in a letter from 1924. Merritt never published anything titled ‘The First Step,’ but the logical inclination here is to guess that the reference is to the next piece of his fiction that Munsey would publish, that being ‘Seven Footprints to Satan,’ although it did not see print in Argosy All-Story Weekly until July 2, 1927.

“Merritt did publish one other piece of fiction between ‘The Ship of Ishtar’ in November 1924 and ‘Seven Footprints to Satan.’

“Of course that story was ‘The Woman of the Wood’ in Weird Tales for August 1926. Davis famously had rejected that story, calling it ‘plotless.’ Contrary to Davis’ opinion, the readers of Weird Tales would vote it the best story to ever appear in that magazine’s history.

“In his own time, Merritt was called ‘The Lord of Fantasy’ and was probably recognized in the United States as the most important fantasy author in the first half of the 20th century. Worldwide, J.R.R. Tolkien was the most important fantasy author of the second half of the 20th century.

“In the 69 years since that demarcation Merritt’s reputation has not been sustained. Other authors, most notably Robert E. Howard, are today considered more important ‘fantasy’ authors than Merritt from that time period.

“One thing to remember, though, is that Merritt was never a professional author; he never wrote to support himself, only out of a love of writing out the visions of his unique imagination.

“It is enough to state that Merritt not only had a vivid imagination, but was also a superb story-teller whose novels and short stories thousands of readers have enjoyed in the last 100 years.”

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Rediscovered: Tod Robbins

And finally for this incarnation of Autograph Hound Saturday Revisited we lay out another signature from Clarence A. Robbins, often billed as C.A. Robbins, but best known as Tod Robbins, who wrote the story that served as the kernel of inspiration on which Tod Browning’s cult classic Freaks was based.

One of us! One of us!

Previously, we featured a John Hancock that read “Tod Robbins.” This time you get a “C.A. Robbins” — on a cheque from the personal holdings of noted pulp and book collector Kevin Cook.

Kevin reports that while the cheque paid for a story titled “In Brangler Hall,” the final published version appeared with the title “Wild Willie, the Waster” — as by Tod Robbins — in the February 14, 1920 issue of All-Story Weekly.

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Rediscovered: Another Lamb

Back in July we dropped a couple of early signatures by adventure writer Harold Lamb.

For Autograph Hound Saturday Revisited how about one from much later in Lamb’s long career, to give you a chance to compare and contrast?

Inked into a copy of A Garden to the Eastward, published in 1947 by Doubleday & Company, Inc. — from the library of Kevin Cook.

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Rediscovered: E. Charles Vivian

Kevin Cook returns once more to handle the autograph action this weekend, but let’s put some spin on it with the premiere of Autograph Hound Saturday Revisited.

An easy concept. You’ve seen signatures by these people before. But you haven’t seen these John Hancocks.

E. Charles Vivian ranks among Kevin’s top collecting passions. He trotted out an inscription awhile back where the prolific author simply signed off as “Viv.”

Today you get the whole moniker. Inked into a 1926 Hodder & Stoughton copy of A King There Was. Kevin, expert in collecting these Brit writers, points out that “12.4.26 means April 12, not December 4.”

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Hammett: Another Ferris Wheel Caper

If you’re deep into Hammett, you know that he claimed Pinkerton’s Detective Agency once sent him out on an assignment to track down a Ferris wheel stolen from a carnival.

Supposedly happened somewhere in Big Sky country, circa 1920.

A quote that’s come down the years has Hammett quipping, “I didn’t think I’d find it parked in somebody’s backyard.”

One of his showstopper sleuthing stories, he told it to people in San Francisco, and Hollywood, and New York — usually doing slightly different versions.

The cut-to-the-chase version seems to be that he roamed around the countryside visiting each and every carnival, until he found a Ferris wheel without a legitimate Bill of Sale.

Mystery solved.

Believe the story or don’t believe the story (like Sam Spade, I neither believed nor disbelieved your story) but I think you’ll agree it’s not a crime you expect to hear much about, right?

Brian Wallace — always scouting the web for any mentions of Hammett or noir — or, apparently, stolen Ferris wheels — just popped me a link to yet another stolen Ferris wheel caper from just last month. Last month!

Jeez. I think we may have a crime wave going on here.

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