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.

Posted in Dash, News | Tagged , |

Tour: Miles, Archer

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.

Posted in Dash, Tour | Tagged |

Hammett: Out of the Gate, Jeopardy! Strikes!

The game show Jeopardy! kicked off its new season this week, and a Hammett clew jumped up in the very first episode.

At one point, as documented on this blog, they had been dropping refs to Hammett like a beginning juggler drops balls. But then they laid off for awhile.

I’m pleased to report that Jeopardy! is back on the Mean Streets scene, baby — in the Double Jeopardy round, the $800 slot in the category Last Name Flow-Togethers.

That means the last names of the clew people kind of meet in the middle.

And the statement was:

Lena, one of TV’s “Girls”, & Dashiell, who wrote about hard-boiled men

A contestant buzzed in and said:


Lena Dunham. Dashiell Hammett.


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Rediscovered: Hobart Gondor Wagglestaff?

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. . . .

Posted in Lit | Tagged , , , |

Rediscovered: Philip “Fungus” Fisher

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.”

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Rediscovered: Monahan v. Finlay

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.”

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