On the walk last Sunday a guy rolled in from Phoenix, and at one point mentioned that he once met another guy and was kind of pleasantly surprised to discover that this guy had two sons — named Miles and Archer.
“You must be a BIG Hammett fan,” he said to the guy.
“Who?” replied the guy.
He’d never heard of Hammett.
What are the odds, right?
Other than the fact that the story was told, I can’t verify any truth to it.
As I told the guy from Phoenix, I am like Sam Spade, I neither believed nor disbelieved his anecdote.
Another Autograph Hound Super-Sunday rolls around, relentlessly, like time itself.
I thought Brian Leno might finally have snapped, after the last weekend’s round of superb John Hancockery from Kevin Cook.
Brian popped me a note: “Cook’s stuff was fantastic. I almost broke down and cried, like Alexander the Great.
“No more autograph worlds for me to conquer.
“Kevin Cook got there first.”
But then Kevin asked if Brian happened to have an H.G. Wells.
The battered autograph boxer surged back onto his feet!
Brian reports: “I went digging for it. Broke one arm and lost three toes but I found it, really it wasn’t easy. Initialed H.G.W with his typical flair. One of my gems.
“Part of my youthful years were spent in theatres watching The Time Machine (1960), First Men in the Moon (1964) or War of the Worlds (1953). Later I discovered The Invisible Man (1933) and then came Island of Lost Souls (1932), truly a favorite. Charles Laughton is magnificent as Dr. Moreau and of course Bela Lugosi as the ‘Sayer of the Law’ is unforgettable.
“The Wells note gives his address as 47, Chiltern Court, Clarence Gate, N. W. 1, and he moved here, according to J. Hammond and his An H. G. Wells Chronology, in July of 1930.
“The card appears to be dated Jan. 22, 1934, which makes it all fit.
“It seems to start “Dear May/ Warm approval. I’m here but won’t” — at least that’s what I dope out. He appears to be stating that he’ll write a longer letter another time.
“Wells’ handwriting is not all one would wish for — in fact, reading what he wrote is almost impossible.
“The last word I believe is supposed to be ‘letter’ but looks like a reading on a heart monitor.
“Anybody with good enough eyes to decipher this I’d be happy to hear from.
“The important thing, however, is the H.G.W at the end, and it’s pretty cool to have Wells’ phone number included on the note.
“Certainly Wells is not a cheap autograph to obtain, but plenty examples are available — none for pocket change.
“I did get lucky with my Wells signature though, not too terribly high, a bargain. It kept me, and my wallet, out of the House of Pain.”
A notable example, says I, of an “initial signature” — but here’s the thing: HALF of an H.G. Wells signature consist of initials anyway, right?
Now, pardon me while I punch Mr. Wells’ phone exchange into my cell, and see what happens to the space-time continuum. . . .
For Autograph Hound Saturday our resident Autograph Hound Brian Leno trots out yet another signature from his not inconsiderable holdings. Brian says:
“Philip M. Fisher, Jr., is not a name that immediately comes to mind when collectors talk of the Munsey writers.
“Some pulp enthusiasts may feel his biggest claim to fame is his ‘Worlds Within Worlds’, but I’ll bait my hook for his short story ‘Fungus Isle,’ which appeared in Argosy All-Story Weekly October 27, 1923.
“With this story Fisher pretty much booked passage on the same ship with William Hope Hodgson, because his story owes plenty to Hodgson’s marvelous ‘A Voice in the Night.’
“While the Hodgson tale is undoubtedly a classic of horror fiction, Fisher’s take on the island-infected-with-fungus theme is not. Still, it’s a good try and it is reprinted in the Fisher collection Beyond the Pole and Other Weird Fantasies (2013).
“One story not reprinted in that anthology is ‘The Tusk of El Carnicero’ — the subject of the Fisher signed check, from my collection.
“This yarn appeared in the October 6, 1923 issue of Argosy All-Story Weekly under the title ‘The Tusk of the Butcher.’ El Carnicero translates from Spanish to the butcher, so this is obviously the same story, just undergoing a title change.
“Fisher is a rare autograph and, to me, desirable, for his Hodgson connection.
“It’s the only example I’ve ever seen — and I’ve looked.
“I’ll probably never hook a William Hope Hodgson signature, but if you like reading about fungus-infected humans, Fisher is a solid second place.”
Kevin Cook adds some thoughts in re: the artist P.J. Monahan, featured in today’s Autograph Hound Super-Sunday Polaris — of the Snows coverage:
“Probably best remembered for his later All-Story Weekly cover painting for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ‘Thuvia, Maid of Mars’ — subsequently used as the dust jacket painting on the A.C. McClurg first edition of that novel in book form.
“Look at his great painting for ‘Polaris,’ though.
“I am not sure that he ever topped it.
“In fact, I strongly prefer it compared to the later Virgil Finlay cover painting for the reprinting of the novel in Famous Fantastic Mysteries for July 1942.”
In his coverage of the most recent PulpFest for the Pulp Flakes blog, I noticed Walker Martin make this comment: “Now you might wonder what I bought and sold. As usual my best seller were the cancelled checks that Bob Weinberg had sold me back in the 1980’s. These were all from Munsey and Popular Publication files and full of fascinating information about the prices paid for stories and artwork and the date and title of the pulps that they appeared in.”
Yep, hard info — plus cool autographs. Brian Leno has reported that some items from his collection were purchased from Walker at a previous PulpFest. But the Cornell Woolrich auto, he says, “I got from Scott Hartshorn, and then when you introduced me to Walker Martin I went wild and pulled out the wallet.
“I remember Walker let me sit in his table area and scan through what he had.
“The Walt Coburn and the Talbot Mundy we’ve already presented.
“Both were great guys and my wallet was considerably less fat when I arrived back in North Dakota.”
I think that trove of pulp cheques cleaned Autograph Hound Leno out — at least temporarily. In pulp circles it’s common knowledge that Bob Weinberg landed the banking archives, and from Bob they began to work their way out into the world.
After looking over Walker’s pulp report, Kevin Cook put in some background detail: “What Walker Martin did not say is that Bob Weinberg kept a hoard of checks for himself from his favorite authors.
“I imagine that he kept all the checks for A. Merritt’s stories and novels, plus probably the six Munsey checks endorsed by Robert E. Howard and the one from Dashiell Hammett as well. Maybe they will eventually show up on one the auctions someday. Imagine the frenzy bidding for a Robert E. Howard signature!”
Whereupon Leno put in: “Years ago I remember Weinberg was selling an REH initialed check for $225. I was young and broke and it slipped through my fingers.” (Interesting to know that Howard didn’t even bother fully endorsing the cheques, just scribbled “REH” on them and took them to the bank.)
But that bit of info caused me to chip in, “Bob may well have turned over some of the treasures on the side — it’s quite possible some of the better items went out privately.”
And that set Kevin on the trail deep into the backroads of the Pulpy Pulp Pulp jungle seeking knowledge, and a Secret Master of That Fandom “clued me in that there are only a few checks left, none signed by A. Merritt.
“Private deals were apparently the rule.
“That’s how I obtained the Charles B. Stilson checks that appear on the blog today.”
So, what tour de force of John Hancockery could Kevin Cook lay out for today’s Autograph Hound Super-Sunday?
How about the cheque covering the first of many, many imitations of Tarzan — and the cheque covering the cover art of the pulp where it appeared?
Kevin loves the cover, might be his favorite of all time.
Back in May, Kevin noted, “to my mind the first Tarzan imitation was ‘Polaris — of the Snows,’ the polar Tarzan, by Charles B. Stilson. ‘Polaris’ debuted in All-Story in December 1915, just three years after Tarzan first appeared.
“Although completely inaccurate with polar bears at the south pole,” Kevin adds, “and with some crude points in the writing, Stilson’s three Polaris novels still possess a vigor and excitement that makes them fun to read even today.
“‘Polaris’ was followed by ‘Minos of Sardanas’ in 1916 and ‘Polaris and the Goddess Glorian’ in 1917.”
“Perley Poore Sheehan is an unacknowledged master of fantastic fiction.
“After serving as Munsey’s editor of The Scrap Book and working in the same editorial offices with Matthew White (Argosy) and Bob Davis (All-Story), he was able to sell a steady stream of novels and stories to both editors for the next decade before he was lured to Hollywood.
“His most well-known screenplay would be the adaptation of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923 starring Lon Chaney.
“Prior to that triumph, though, we find an author whose magazine serials were regularly published in book form; titles such as Apache Gold, If You Believe It,It’s So, Three Sevens and Those Who Walk in Darkness.
“What was not published in book form at the time were the fantastic novels that Sheehan wrote, the best of which include ‘The Abyss of Wonders,’ ‘The Copper Princess,’ ‘The Woman of the Pyramid’ and ‘Judith of Babylon.’
“He must really have loved writing fantastic fiction because he lost economically by doing so, with no book publication bringing in that additional income. That’s a key ingredient in my admiration for Sheehan, the fact that he continued writing fantastic fiction even though it was not to his financial benefit. He could have concentrated on writing his melodramas, routinely issued in book form, and made more money.
“You can see from the checks from that period how little money authors received; even for novels the pay seemed to be in the $500 to $800 range. For some reason, though, fantastic themes from lost race to reincarnation, interested him enough that he sacrificed the extra funds to write them.
“Sheehan wrote well enough that basically anything he wrote would sell, but only he and George Allan England seemed to regularly get their pulp novel work for Munsey reprinted immediately in book form. I stress the immediacy. Examples here would be by England The Alibi, magazine 1915, book 1916, Cursed, magazine 1919, book 1919, and by Sheehan Apache Gold, magazine 1919, book 1919, We Are French, magazine 1914, book 1914.
“On the other hand, Sheehan’s fantastic fiction masterwork The Abyss of Wonders was published in Argosy in 1915 and was not published in book form until 1953. Immediacy. How could an author choose to write a novel and project his income therefrom if it might not be published in book form until a decade or more later?
“Remember, even Edgar Rice Burroughs did not get a single science fiction novel published in book form until the first four Tarzan novels were selling well enough for A.C. McClurg to be willing to take a chance on the Mars series. A Princess of Mars, serialized in All-Story in 1912 — the book in 1917. Most of the non-Tarzan Burroughs from McClurg came a decade or more after the original magazine serialization. At the Earth’s Core, magazine 1914, book 1922. The Eternal Lover, magazine 1915, book 1925. The Monster Men, magazine 1913, book 1929.
“And even then, only 10,200 copies of A Princess of Mars were printed in October 2017 — after 32,000 copies of The Son of Tarzan were issued in March of that year.
“The letter here deals with motion picture rights. The movie rights for The Whispering Chorus went for $3,000.00, and Sheehan pocketed $2.700.00 after Munsey’s 10% commission.
“102 years ago that was probably a nice sum of money.
“The extra $2,700.00 he received for film rights was easily four or five times what he was paid for the magazine serial rights.
“In all honestly, this whole subject of Why They Lost Money Writing Fantastic Fiction deserves a whole essay in and of itself. The main problem in writing it is that there are few if any words left by those authors from a hundred years ago to tell us their thoughts about the subject. Everything has to be conjecture.
“Although, the possible thought exists that prior to the strict classification of fiction into genres the authors simply may not have realized that they were losing so much potential income by writing fantastic fiction.
“They just wrote on spec what interested them, skipping from topic to topic without thought of the ‘type’ of fiction they were writing.
“The appearance in 1915 of Detective Story Magazine and its subsequent success changed the pulp landscape forever by the end of the 1910-1919 decade. Weird Tales would appear in 1923. Amazing Stories, the first all science fiction pulp, in 1926.”
For the rest of Autograph Hound Saturday let’s return to the thrilling days of the early twentieth century pulp scene, and hand the action over to Kevin Cook.
Kevin’s got something sneaky going, pulling out John Hancocks from writers who went by three full names.
(I suspect a conspiracy is afoot on the three name names front, since Brian Leno just told me, “Got Edward Lucas White and Edwin Lester Arnold in the mail yesterday, so I’m as happy as a guy going on a date with Bettie Page.”)
Kevin reports on his first offering: “Homer Eon Flint today is probably best known as the co-author with Austin Hall of The Blind Spot, a classic early parallel world novel.
“But he deserves greater acclaim as one of the first American authors to write interplanetary fiction in the space opera vein — keeping in mind that he was writing a full decade ahead of E. E. Smith, Edmond Hamilton and John W. Campbell.
“His ‘The Lord of Death’ has an ending that today we would condemn as one of the worst cliches in all science fiction, as two people named Edam and Ave flee a planet in a spacecraft obviously headed toward earth.
“Hold on a second, though. Sure, in 2019 we would laugh at such a story, but ‘The Lord of Death’ was first printed in May 1919.
“Perhaps he introduced that theme to science fiction? You cannot label something a cliche if you are the first person to write it.
“Flint’s career was cut short by his somewhat mysterious and unexplained death in 1924. His signature is also rare because no books of his were published in his lifetime.”
The story “The Man in the Moon” hit print in All-Story Weekly for October 4, 1919.
John D. Haefele slips a toe into the Autograph Hound Saturday action, writing:
“You and your cohorts seem focused on the first third of the twentieth century.
“Here is one of interest from the middle. I didn’t even know I had it until I stumbled on it by accident yesterday.
“I don’t know what the word is over the date — a nickname? Any ideas?”
My best guess is “October” — any other possible guesses I will forward along.
The inscription is by Karl Edward Wagner, author of the Kane series of Sword-and-Sorcery stories and novels, anthologist, horror writer, one of the publishers of those big fat Carcosa books. An interesting figure, but I’m guessing his signatures are a dime a dozen. He went to lots of conventions where books could be signed, sent out lots of cards and letters in his role as a publisher and editor of the Year’s Best Horror Stories. Without even trying, I must have close to ten books or pieces of mail with his John Hancock.
No, the main reason I’m putting this one up is because it happens to be inscribed to Eric Carlson. I was just mentioning Eric, part of the old MinnCon Lovecraftian crew. He did a particularly good rebuttal to some of the L. Sprague de Camp nonsense about HPL and REH as that fight erupted in 1975 and 1976.
If I remember right, Eric took on de Camp — who presented as one smug, arrogant asshole — for deriding various beliefs or ideas Lovecraft entertained as if no one could ever possibly have believed something like that. No way.
Pretty sure Eric was the guy who first pointed out that in books such as Lost Continents, on the Atlantis myths, that de Camp mocked the concept of continental drift. Big masses of land just drifting around? — ridiculous!
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.