Friday, 29 June 2012

W.C. Tuttle - Western, short story and movie writer, humorist and detective fiction author

[W.C. Tuttle, like B.M. Bower, Walt Coburn and Dan Cushman, was an authentic westerner from Montana who became a writer. He wrote westerns, naturally, but not the usual sheriff-rides-into-town-and-cleans-it-up stuff. Rather, he wrote humorous stories and detective fiction, creating characters who were always looking to find what was over the next hill, and would never stick long in one place.  He had a fondness for alliteration, naming his characters Hashknife Hartley, Sleepy Stevens, Sad Sontag, Cultus Collins and Hilarious Henry. He was also a cartoonist and an artist, sharing with Frederick M. Blakeslee the distinction of having contributed stories as well as cover illustrations for Adventure magazine. More after the break.]

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Drums drone death - novella by J. Allan Dunn

A detective story set in the South Seas. With a brainy he-man detective, pidgin talking natives, effete Britishers, pounding jungle drums, a blow gun attacks, a native witch doctor, Yellow peril Japanese, a secret plot against America and a beautiful girl in a negligee  – Allan Dunn covers all the standard tropes. Did I mention the hero’s name – John Carter? Link after the jump.

Friday, 22 June 2012

J. Allan Dunn - Pulp author, Novelist, Explorer, Sailor

[J. Allan Dunn was a prolific pulp writer, playwright, poet, artist, explorer and movie writer, writing over a thousand stories from 1914 to 1941 of which many were published in book form and serialized in newspapers after their magazine publication. He specialized in South Seas and pirate stories, but wrote detective stories, science fiction and westerns as well. More after the jump]

J. Allan Dunn
J. Allan Dunn

Joseph Allan Elphinstone Dunn was born on 21 January 1872 in London into a wealthy Irish family. He was the son of Joseph Holdsworth/Hepworth/Hexworth (I found too many alternate spellings to be sure what the real name was) Dunn and Elizabeth Elphinstone (Miall) Dunn. He was educated at Winchester Public School and went to New College, Oxford, where he got his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1893. Subsequently, he also got the degree of Bachelor of Science. He was a tall (6’ 1’’) and handsome man.
He was interested in travel, adventure and writing, and became a journalist, travelling around the world. He covered the Spanish-American war of 1898 in the Caribbean and the Philippines, and the Russo-Japanese war of 1904. He was a friend of Jack London, and during the Russo-Japanese war they witnessed the Port Arthur bombardment and nearly got shot for breaking away from Tokyo against Japanese regulations.
 He had started on his travels, moving around the China Sea, Hawaii and the South Pacific, and was one of the first white explorers in New Guinea, claiming to have faced death from hostile tribes there. He said:
…White man’s magic saved the day. I traced the tribal totem – a tortoise – on my arm with a stick of soap. Then I set fire to jungle bark fibers with my burning-glass, rubbed the ashes over my arm, and lo, there was the turtle’s outline, showing my kinship with the tribe. Soon I was pressing on, my most thrilling adventure safely behind…
During this period, he got married for the first time, to Grace K. Buchanan, on 15 Dec 1900 in Honolulu. He was the associate editor of Austin’s Hawaiian Weekly at the time. While in Honolulu, he inherited around four thousand pounds from his uncle, the equivalent of half a million dollars today. He built his own yacht and sailed the seas, circumnavigating the world thrice. A description of him at the time from an actor friend of his who visited him:
Dunn lives in a little house, on the outskirts of Honolulu, that was once occupied by the late Robert Louis Stevenson. This is not remarkable, because, according to the Hawaiian landlords, everything on the island was once the home of the famous Scotsman. Dunn has a big wicker chair on his veranda that he occupies most of the time. His writing materials, paint boxes, cigars, canvases and prompt books are piled around within easy reach. He wears, in the privacy of his home, a costume that Is a combination of the native dress and certain portions of the Shakespearean wardrobe that he used while in Janet Waldorf’s company. He writes a bit, paints a bit, acts a bit and altogether enjoys himself mightily all the time.
By 1904-05, he had moved to San Francisco, with his wife, and was a member of society there, staging and acting in plays with his society friends. He was the editor of the Sunset magazine from 1906-07, and advertising manager for the San Francisco railroad. He continued to be a close friend of Jack and Charmian London during this time, staying at their home frequently.
In January 1913, he was caught after having pawned stolen jewellery from his friends and hosts, though no one prosecuted him. His thefts included some pyjamas from Jack London! He claimed that he did the thefts because the magazines he wrote for had delayed payments and he had run out of money.
He divorced his first wife the same year, remarried in September 1913, to Gladys Courvoisier, and moved to Greenwich village, New York. It was Glady’s third marriage; both prior marriages had ended in divorce for cruelty. He started his writing career the same year, starting with a couple of articles in the Saturday Evening Post. His writing career took off, and he was on his way to producing a million words a year.
Gladys Courvoisier Dunn c. 1918
Gladys Courvoisier Dunn c. 1918

He and Gladys had a son on March 13, 1916.  On August 11, 1918, he and Gladys quarreled, and Gladys threatened to kill herself and the child. She rushed to her room, took out a gun and held it to her head. When Dunn called to her, she turned around and discharged the revolver, hitting her son. The child died. She was sentenced to a year in prison. During the trial, and later, Dunn stood by her side. They were separated by 1926 and Dunn was paying her six hundred dollars a month alimony.
Dunn was a member of the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War 1, and was thrice decorated for his actions, attaining the rank of major and staff officer. I could not verify this from military records, though.
I suspect Dunn remarried a third time, because in 1927 there is a news report of him disappearing and his wife searching for him. I cannot find any record of his marriage or the name of his wife at the time. The trigger for the disappearance seems to have been a telegram Dunn received, the message being “Book ordered stop. Not received. Awaiting instruction.”, signed “Given”, and without a return address. Dunn went away the same night, without waking his wife, and could not be found till at least November 4th. I could not find any reports of his return.
He got married one more time, on 30 October 1936, to Loyola Lee Sanford, his agent. He was a director of the Explorers Club, member and vice-president of the Adventurers club, member of the Circumnavigators club and the Advertising Club. He published more than forty novels, and more than two thousand stories in all. J. Allan Dunn died on March 25, 1941.

Bonus: J. Allan Dunn's signature
J. Allan Dunn's signature

Link to J. Allan Dunn's books:

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Bust of Lincoln - short story by James Francis Dwyer

This short story by James Francis Dwyer is not remotely pulpish. It was a very popular story in its time, and was reprinted as a book. It reminds me of O'Henry and John Collier. Link after the jump.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A jungle graduate - short story by James Francis Dwyer

This short story from James Francis Dwyer gives me the creeps. It has been anthologized many times, and is contained in his collection of short stories, Breath of the Jungle. Link after the break.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

James Francis Dwyer - biography

[James Francis Dwyer’s biography reads like a story from the pages of the pulps. He was a mailman, a reformed convict and a tram conductor before he met with success as a writer. He wrote adventure stories for the pulps – stories which are as exciting today as they were when they were written.
One such is the “The Spotted Panther” is a story of three adventurers in a quest for the Great Parong of Buddha, a fabulous valuable sword. To get it they go to the Place of Evil Winds, encounter the Golden One and have many other adventures. It is a fast paced and thrilling pulp adventure, typical of his writing.
He was also a proto-blogger, selling subscriptions to letters of his travels as they happened. Want to know more? Read the article, after the jump.]

James Francis Dwyer c. 1912
James Francis Dwyer c. 1912

James Francis Dwyer was born on 22 April 1874 at Camden Park, New South Wales, Australia. He was the fifth son of Michael Dwyer, farmer, and his wife Margaret, née Mahoney, both from Cork, Ireland. The family moved to Menangle in 1883 and next year to Campbelltown. He and his seven brothers used to work on the family farm. He was educated in local public schools till 14, when he was sent to relatives in Sydney, where he worked as a publisher's clerk.
He became a letter-carrier at Rockdale, New South Wales, in May 1892. On 7 November 1893 he married Selina Cassandra Stewart. Despite a brief meeting with Robert Louis Stevenson which turned his thoughts towards writing, he remained with the post office, becoming a postal assistant at the Oxford Street branch from 1895.
On June 16, 1899 Dwyer, with two associates, was convicted of forgery to obtain ten pounds and received a seven year prison sentence. His associates got off lightly, with one and two year prison sentences. He was paroled in 1902 after serving nearly three years in Goulburn gaol. While he was in prison, he started writing, publishing a poem and two short stories. As 'J.F.D.', 'Burglar Bill', 'D' and 'Marat', he wrote for the Bulletin.
After he was released, he worked as a salesman, clerk, compositor, pigeon-buyer and signwriter. He accidentally met Sir Frederick Darley, the Judge who sentenced him. Sir Frederick took him to his office and gave him a lengthy letter of introduction to "The Sydney Morning Herald." The letter brought him a polite reception from the management but no job.
He turned to journalism, freelancing for Truth and Sydney Sportsman, making around twenty pounds a week. He was convinced that he could not prosper as a story writer in Australia, and in 1906, after his parole completed, left for London with his wife and daughter, Glory. He had around a dozen stories which he tried to sell, but the magazine market was so slow that his savings evaporated. Lacking a college education, and without any references, he could not get a job. He decided to immigrate to America.
Once he reached New York and got past immigration, he sent the twenty five dollars required to get past immigration back to his wife in London. He was broke and looking for a job, so he went to newspaper offices looking for work as a journalist. He was told to “get to know the town. Get Americanized before you try to get a job” by the editor of The World, who advised him to get a job as a tram conductor.
Dwyer applied for this job. In the meanwhile, he took a job addressing envelopes for a firm in Beekman Street. He got ninety cents a thousand, and would do around 1700 a day, earning him around $ 1.50 a day. He was living in a room costing $ 1.25 a week, eating a pound of rice in three days. He lost this job because he was delayed when he went out to send money to his family.
In the meantime, his wife got worried, and decided to join him. She sold and pawned everything they had, but found herself two pounds short. She managed to borrow the two pounds from a fish merchant in London, and set off for New York. Before she arrived, Dwyer managed to get another job addressing envelopes. He also managed to get a job in opera, paying him fifty cents a night.
The week she arrived, Dwyer managed to get the tram conductor job. He now faced a fresh obstacle, getting his uniform. His wife pawned a lace kerchief to get money for the uniform, and Dwyer joined as a trainee. After three days, he was examined by an inspector, who failed him. Luckily for Dwyer, a drunk discharged conductor came up at this time and started abusing the inspector. The inspector asked Dwyer to fight the conductor. Dwyer did, and in winning the fight, passed the exam.
Dwyer spent about ten weeks as a tram conductor, and wrote a story about how the tram company was endangering passenger safety by ignoring regulations. He sold this story and with his salary, had $ 33 in savings. Out of this money, he bought a typewriter for $ 8. With this, he started writing stories, and in his first year, was earning about $ 20 a week. To support their family, his wife had to work as well, inserting small bones to stiffen woman’s collars, making about $ 5 a week.
James Francis Dwyer and his first wife, with their daughter Glory, c. 1912
James Francis Dwyer and his first wife, with their daughter Glory, c. 1912
James Francis Dwyer with his daughter Glory, c. 1912
James Francis Dwyer with his daughter Glory, c. 1912

After winning a contest, he received a commission to write for the Black Cat magazine. After that, his stories were published in Harper's Bazaar, Collier's, The American Magazine, The Ladies’ Home Journal and other popular magazines and proved very profitable. By 1912, he was making around $ 5000 a year. That was the year he wrote his first novel, “The White Waterfall”, a South Seas adventure story of a scientific voyage to the “Isle of Tears”, and the subsequent mayhem as all goes as unexpected.
To gather information about the locations for his stories, he travelled extensively in America and Europe; and revisited Australia in 1913. His wife got tired of the travel, and wanted to return to Australia, but Dwyer refused. She filed for a divorce in Reno, Nevada.  He was divorced in December 1919, and on 30 December, 1919, he married his agent, Catherine (Galbraith) Welch. His ex-wife returned to Australia with their children.
His search for exotic settings and tourist information, and his second wife's interests as a cultural historian carried them through Europe, Asia and North Africa. In 1920, they established a permanent residence at Pau, in the French Pyrenees.
In 1921 they started the Dwyer Travel Letters to inform prospective American tourists about places in Europe. This was a weekly letter from Dwyer to the subscriber, containing a picture and describing the place that Dwyer was currently visiting. Dwyer sold this as a service for teachers and tourists.
Ad for the Dwyer Travel Letters
Ad for the Dwyer Travel Letters

When France fell in 1940, the Dwyers had to escape from the Nazis through Portugal and Spain. The Nazis wanted him for the anti-Nazi propaganda articles he had written for British and French newspapers. They lived at Dover, New Hampshire, during World War 2 and returned to Pau in September 1945. In 1949 he published his autobiography, Leg-Irons on Wings (published only in Australia, not in the US and UK), which he wanted to be an inspiration to young authors and a protest against judges who created second time criminals by passing harsh sentences.
James Francis Dwyer died in Pau, France on 11 November 1952.

Link to the only book of his in print below:

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Georges Surdez - Writer of French Foreign Legion stories

[Georges Surdez was a writer of French Foreign Legion short stories, written from his personal knowledge of men who had served in it. He was a regular contributor to Adventure from 1922 to 1948, with over a hundred stories appearing in Adventure, and had stories published every year during that period, an amazing record. He also wrote for Colliers magazine, where his short story in the 30 January, 1937 issue was the first to describe the game of Russian Roulette. More after the jump.]

Georges Surdez c. 1927
Georges Surdez c. 1927

Friday, 8 June 2012

William Hazlett Upson - creator of Alexander Botts

[This isn’t, strictly speaking, an article about a pulp author, or even an adventure author. But I enjoyed his tales of Alexander Botts. He was one of the leading humor writers for the Saturday Evening Post and there isn’t even a Wikipedia article on him; this post is my attempt to keep his stories from being forgotten.]

William Hazlett Upson
William Hazlett Upson (1962)

William Hazlett Upson (1891-1975) was born at Glen Ridge, New Jersey on September 6, 1891. He graduated from the Glen Ridge High School in 1909. Before joining Cornell in 1910, he worked on a cattle ranch in California for a year. He was a graduate of Cornell's agricultural course in 1914 (where he also took a course in short story writing), and worked as a “scientific farmer” on farms in New York State and Virginia until 1916. Later on, he claimed that he became a farmer because he wanted to be his own boss (“If you’re your own boss then you don’t have to give yourself work to do.”)

He enlisted in the Army in 1916 in the D Battery of the 13th Field Artillery, 4th Division. He took part in the Marne-Aisne, St. Mihiel, and Argonne offensives and entered Germany as part of the Army of Occupation. When he came back from the war, he joined a tractor company. In his own words:

I thought back to the month of August, 1919, when I first arrived at the factory. I was just out of the Army, after two years in France and Germany. I was looking for a job. The company was then called the Cleveland Tractor Company. It was only two or three years old, and it made only one model, a cute little tractor called a Cletrac, weighing a ton and a half, and developing ten horsepower on the drawbar. For its day it was a high-grade machine - designed by the great Rollin H. White of the same family who gave us the White Sewing Machine, the White Steamer, and the White Truck.

When I arrived in 1919, I did not know anybody at the Cleveland Tractor Company, I did not know anything about the Cletrac, and I did not know anything about the tractor business. But I was young. And I was confident. After all, I had enlisted in the Army knowing nothing of military affairs, and in the course of only two years I had worked my way up through sheer merit from the rank of private to the rank of private first-class. Having done so well in the Army, I felt I could do even better in the tractor business.

I barged into the office of the president of the company, Mr. Rollin H. White himself. I told him how good I was. I asked for a job. He referred me to Mr. George Pontius, manager of the service department. I told Mr. Pontius how good I was. He hired me as a service mechanic. I then told him - with a degree of caution unusual for me in those days - that although I was one of the finest mechanics in the country I was not completely familiar with the particular machinery they were making. Mr. Pontius thereupon assigned me to a tractor school conducted in a small shop just south of the main factory building.

For several weeks I toiled and sweated. I took apart several Cletracs. I put them together. I took them apart again. I put them together again. I scraped bearings. I ground valves. I adjusted carburetors. I cleaned magnetos. I played with pistons and piston rings, rocker arms, push rods, tappets, gears, shafts, and hundreds of other parts. And I fell in love with the tractor business. Every night I studied books about machinery and internal combustion engines.

After two weeks I was sent out as a trouble shooter. The West Penn Power Company was having difficulties with a fleet of six of our tractors that they were using in the construction of a power line through the mountains of Pennsylvania. When I arrived on the job I was pleased to find that I was received as a very important person. The chief mechanic conducted me to a tractor parked in a field, and respectfully asked if I would show him how to adjust the carburetor. I assumed a very impressive bedside manner which I had been practicing.

But right way I ran into a problem. The tractors I had worked on at the factory had had no hoods over the engines. But this tractor had a hood. It was held in place by four fancy catches. And these catches were of such a new and elaborate design that I had no idea how to operate them.

So there I was - the big expert from the factory, the final authority who was supposed to understand everything - and I did not even know how to open the hood to look at the engine.

I did some fast thinking. I would have to get rid of this chief mechanic for a few minutes. I said, "How would you like to run over to the shop and get me a few tools?"

"What sort of tools?"

"Just tools," I said nonchalantly - "a screw driver - a wrench - a pair of pliers."

He opened the tool box on the tractor and produced everything I had asked for.

I tried again.

"I’m sorry," I said, "but I will need a shorter screw driver, a longer monkey wrench, and a heavier pair of pliers."

The chief mechanic looked puzzled, but was sufficiently awed by my prestige as an expert to follow up my instructions even when they did not seem to make sense. He disappeared into the shop. While he was gone I had plenty of time to work on those fancy catches and get them open. When he came back I had no difficulty adjusting the carburetor. I had learned all about that in the tractor school at the factory.

The next problem was really tough. The tractor was the crawler type - it ran on two endless steel tracks like a war-time tank. Each of these tracks ran around a thing called a roller frame which had three small truck wheels at the bottom. The truck wheels turned on bearings, and it was these bearings that were causing untold grief and unhappiness.

Most tractors in those days used what were called plain bearings - a plain solid round shaft, surrounded by a plain solid sleeve or bushing, usually made of bronze or babbitt metal.

The Cleveland Company, however, had recently introduced something which all their salesmen were claiming as a sensational improvement: expensive high-grade special heat-treated alloy-steel roller bearings. This type of bearing undoubtedly added a sonorous and impressive note to the salemen’s line of talk. Unfortunately, it had not added to the happiness of the mechanics of the West Penn Power Company.

These bearings are wonderful if you keep them clean and adequately supplied with the high-grade Shell lubricants which my friend Ken Brown describes in such glowing terms. They have many very important uses in modern industry. But in one of the lower assemblies of a tractor driven though swamps and sand and dust, it was almost impossible to keep the bearing clean. The empty spaces filled up with sand, gravel, mud, and water. The rollers then cracked up. They get jammed crosswise. And the wheel no longer turned.

The chief mechanic told me in great detail and with great bitterness how, for the past few months, the truck-wheel bearings on all six of their tractors had been busting up, going to pieces, disintegrating and falling apart. He ended his remarks by stating that the tractor was no good, it never had been good, the company was not standing behind it, and it had better do something - or else.

I gathered that the "or else" included lawsuits against the tractor company and physical violence against the company's employees - including myself.

Again I had to think fast, I said, "Sir, I agree with you entirely. You have been cheated. You have been treated unfairly. You have been bamboozled. You have been done dirt. I apologize on behalf of the company. I regret that this was not brought to my attention sooner. And I thank you for stating your difficulties so frankly. Now that I am here, I can promise you that your troubles are over."

The man was still suspicious.

"What are you going to do?" he demanded.

BY THIS time I had come to several conclusions. First, having had no experience with this problem, any solution I might dream up would be mere guesswork. Second, mere guesswork would be better than nothing. Third, the trouble was apparently caused by dirt filling up the empty spaces around the rollers in the bearings. Fourth, if there were no open spaces there would be no place for the dirt to lodge. Fifth, I would have to get rid of these open spaces.

So I put on a very wise look. I spoke in meaningless by impressive terms of such erudite matters as friction coefficients and the viscosity of lubricants. Then I became confidential. I said, "In our company we have some of the finest engineers in the world. On theoretical matters they cannot be beat. But they are not practical men like you and me. They know that these roller bearings work perfectly when conditions are right. But you and I know that conditions here are not right. So we are going to substitute plain bearings. We are going to redesign the tractor so it will conform more closely to our ideas than to the ignorant prejudices of mere theoreticians."

Just as I expected, the chief mechanic was much pleased to learn that he was better than all the engineers at the factory, and that he and I were going to redesign the tractor - for that is exactly what we did.

We took out all the little rollers. We melted up some babbitt metal and we poured solid babbitt bearings in all of those truck wheels. Then we started the tractors and hauled supplies for the power line through the worst swamps and gravel beds we could find. After two days, our babbitt bearings were still going strong. They had lasted longer than any of the roller bearings. And they looked as if they would last indefinitely.

The chief mechanic and I congratulated each other on our superior wisdom and engineering skill. And I came back to the factory full of pride and joy.

I turned in a very impressive written report explaining how all of our engineers, including the president of the company, had been completely mistaken as to the value of roller bearings in tractor truck wheels. I related how I had come to expose this fallacy, how I had corrected the difficulty, and how I had explained matters to our customer’s chief mechanic in such a way that he had been completely satisfied.

Unfortunately, Mr. George Pontius was not favorably impressed. He said that is was not my job to redesign the tractor. I was not supposed to make unauthorized experiments by pouring hot babbitt into truck wheels which were designed for roller bearings. I was not expected to tell the customers that the tractor was built wrong and that I knew more than anybody else in the factory.

I answered these comments by modestly pointing out that I had fixed up the tractors so they ran perfectly - at least until I got out of town. And I had left the customer completely satisfied - for the time being anyway.

Mr. Pontius came back with the suggestion that I was perhaps a little too good to work for anybody as conventional and matter-of-fact as he was. With my superior abilities he felt sure that I could do better elsewhere. In other words, I was fired.

Mr. Pontius was very polite about it, and I felt sorry for him and for the company. If they were the kind of people who would get rid of anybody as valuable as I was, it was obvious that they could not hope to stay in business very long. It seemed too bad. However, as I was still in love with tractors, I scurried around and managed to get a job elsewhere in the tractor business.

He then took a job with the Holt Manufacturing Company (later known as the Caterpillar Tractor Company) of Dallas, Texas, as a service mechanic. In 1922, he had an operation, and was convalescing in the hospital. Time lay heavily on his hands, and he wrote a short story that he sold to Collier’s magazine in 1923. The same year, he married Marjory Alexander Wright, the daughter of Professor and Mrs. Charles Baker Wright. They lived in Peoria, Illinois and Connecticut before settling in his wife’s hometown of Middlebury, Vermont in 1928.

In 1924 he left his job with the Caterpillar Tractor Company in Peoria, Illinois, and began his career as a full time author. He created his famous character, Alexander Botts, in 1927. Alexander Botts was a tractor repairman who became a salesman (like the author), and relied on his wits, determination, luck to get him out of the messes (usually self-made) he got himself and his company into. His stories were told through the letters and telegrams exchanged between his office and himself. In his letters to the office, there are echoes of Ernest Bramah’s ironic way of saying something while meaning precisely the opposite.

Botts was usually at war with his boss about his goals, his methods and his expense reports, and managed to get himself fired and hired many times.  He was described as “an indomitable (though sometimes deluded) fellow American well acquainted with the sweet uses of adversity and adept at the fine art of plucking victory from the jaws of defeat.” The Botts stories are stories of the American dream; of hard work, of salesmanship, good old fashioned Yankee ingenuity (In one story he gets across a flooded river with heavy equipment by digging a new channel for the river behind the equipment and closing the old channel, thus getting across the river without having moved the equipment) and making good starting from nothing.

Alexander Botts was a very popular character, and appeared in a comic strip (“Alexander the Great”, 1936-38), in a movie (“Earthworm tractors”) and on several radio shows from Army Radio, Colombia Broadcasting and others. The movie is available freely online, and is worth watching for the action sequences with the tractor.

From 1927 to 1975, Upson wrote 112 stories of Alexander Botts. These were collected in “Botts in War, Botts in peace”, “Keep ‘em crawling: Earthworms at war”, “Alexander Botts, Earthworm tractors”, “Earthworms in Europe”, “Earthworms through the ages”, “No rest for Botts”, “Original letters of Alexander Botts” and “The Best of Botts”.

In addition to these stories, Upson wrote many other articles for Colliers, Esquire, the American Legion magazine, The Woman’s Home Companion and other magazines. He was also a playwright. Pocket Books, Doubleday, Farrar and Rinehart, and other companies published Upson’s “self-help” book, “How to Be Right Like Me”. He traveled around the country, giving lectures (“The art of being lazy”, “You too can be a lecturer”, “The adventures of Alexander Botts” etc.) and gathering background material.

William Hazlett Upson - the ergophobe (1946)
William Hazlett Upson - the ergophobe (1946)
Ergophobe - One who fears work

He had advice for would be writers:

A person must have a certain aptitude for writing to be successful. His method of constructing a story is to first build his plot in his head, examine it from all angles and then set about putting it on paper. The actual writing he considers routine work. In using this method most of the work is done in building up the idea for the story.

“Don’t give up your job to write. Until you become known, consider it an avocation.”

“Short story writing is easy, much easier than plumbing and requires little intelligence. All you do is choose a hero, put him in a tough spot, and get him out of it after the proper amount of agony and suspense.”

Apart from being a busy author and lecturer, he was active in civic affairs. He was the founder and president of the Middlebury Maternal Health Council (1932-1936), the first community clearing house for birth control information in the state. He was the superintendent of education in Bread Loaf, Vermont. He attended many of the Bread Loaf Summer Writer’s Conferences and occasionally taught creative writing at Middlebury College. He was a friend of Robert Frost, the poet, who also lived in Vermont.

William Upson passed away on February 5, 1975 in Middlebury. His collections of short stories are sadly out of print, but recently two collections of Botts stories have been published, containing 26 stories in all.

The fabulous saga of Alexander Botts and the Earthworm tractor
Alexander Botts rides again: More mayhem on the Earthworm tractor

Full stories of Alexander Botts that I found online. Not sure what the copyright on them is. Hope you enjoy them, and then go and buy the books above.

Alexander Botts, firebug
We’re going to ruin the lower classes
Botts and the jet-propelled tractor
Botts runs for his life
Botts in the islands

Monday, 4 June 2012

Photo feature - Kathrene Pinkerton in the wilderness

These pictures are from an article by Kathrene Pinkerton for Outing magazine, published in 1913. This was when she and her husband, Robert, were living in the cottage near Akitokan. Photos after the jump.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Kathrene and Robert Pinkerton - husband and wife writing team

[Many people have, at some time or other, thought of escaping civilization and heading out to the wide open spaces. With most people, it remains a thought.
Kathrene and Robert Pinkerton, a husband and wife author team who wrote stories of the Frozen North for Adventure, did just that. Robert was ordered by his doctor to get away from the city. He quit his job as a newspaperman, and went off with Kathrene to the bush in Ontario, where they spent five years writing and bringing up a family.]

Robert Eugene Pinkerton was born on March 12, 1882 in Arena, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin for two years. He worked as a cub reporter on the Milwaukee Free Press and was later telegraph news editor for The Journal in Milwaukee.

Robert and Kathrene Pinkerton camping before building their cabin
Robert and Kathrene Pinkerton camping before building their cabin

Kathrene Pinkerton was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 9, 1887. She obtained her BA. from the University of Wisconsin in 1909, and did advanced graduate work at the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy in 1910. Her early career was in public health in Wisconsin (field secretary of the Wisconsin Anti-tuberculosis association) and social work in Chicago.
Kathrene Pinkerton
Kathrene Pinkerton

The Pinkertons married in 1911. Robert’s doctor advised him to get away from the city for the sake of his health. With the $150 they earned from selling an article to Munsey’s Magazine, they departed for the wilds of Ontario, Canada, where they built a cabin in the bush, eight miles from the village of Atikokan. The only means of transport to and from Atikokan were by boat in the summer and dog sled during the long Canadian winter. She didn’t have any prior experience of camping, trekking, boating or cooking.
They built a one-room cabin in the bush that first year, using lumber they salvaged from an abandoned cabin and materials from a nearby ghost town. She trapped, cooked, washed and cleaned the cabin while he tried to write and sell fiction. No fiction sold that year. Money ran low, and they became desperate. Friends sent them article clippings giving advice on what to do when camping. They decided to write non-fiction articles on camping, based on their experiences, and sell them.
Robert and Kathrene Pinkerton's cabin, eight miles from Akitokan, in its first year
Robert and Kathrene Pinkerton's cabin, eight miles from Akitokan, in its first year

Their second year in the wilderness was more successful. The expanded the one-room cabin, built a fireplace and a bed-room. They built up a team of dogs that enabled them to roam further by dogsled.
Robert and Kathrene Pinkerton's cabin, eight miles from Akitokan, in its second year, when the fireplace was built
Robert and Kathrene Pinkerton's cabin, eight miles from Akitokan, in its second year, when the fireplace was built
Kathrene Pinkerton driving the dog sled, their only transport to Akitokan in the winter.
They started writing of the characters of the bush they had come to know, and their fiction started selling. For the next four years, they sold everything they wrote.
The next year brought bigger changes. A daughter, Bobs, arrived that year, causing them to take a brief break from the wilderness. They continued to write and sell fiction. They continued to bring up the child in the wilderness for the next two years.
Their success at selling fiction made life difficult, since they could not find the time to do the domestic chores, look after the baby and write fiction. “We sell stories to live better,” argued Robert, “and the better living won’t give us time to write stories.” Had they conquered the North, or had the North conquered them, wondered Kathrene.  Five years after they had entered the bush, they left it, selling the cabin they had built.
Coming back to civilization did not put an end to their wandering, however. They travelled extensively by car, living in the wilds of the Rockies, the heights of the Sierra Nevada and on the mesas of the Southwest. After that, for seven years, they spent most of the year on a boat. They cruised off the Pacific coast, near British Columbia and Alaska. Their daughter, Bobs, spent the academic year in boarding school and the vacations on the boat.
At first they were using a 36 foot cruiser, but as the trips got longer, they got a larger craft, a 19 ton petrol-engined yacht. They found two floating townships.
The store, restaurant, bunkhouse, blacksmith shop, warehouse and owner’s dwelling house, even a chicken house, rested on rafts of cedar logs. Chains and cables moored these rafts to shore, and long boomsticks running from shore to the rafts held them off, and kept them from battering on the beach as the community rose and fell with the big tides or was buffeted by fierce winter gales. Outer boomsticks herded the buildings in line, and also served as sidewalks.
Simoon Sound could change its town site with no more formality than calling a tugboat. The village had shifted several times. Once when the small daughter of its owner had been ill and required sun, the community had been moved across the bay, and the weekly steamship bringing malt and supplies had to go in search of the missing town.
Once a week when the ship from Vancouver arrived with stores and supplies, including fresh meat and vegetables, all the hand-loggers working In the district arrived in their motor boats with their wives to do their shopping. As soon as the supplies were discharged from the ship these customers helped themselves to what they wanted, and then told the storekeeper what they had taken, so that It could be charged to their accounts.
When Katherine was over forty-five, she took up a new career doing promotional work for a department store. She also became an author in her own right, documenting her adventures in three books, giving advice to woman campers in another, and writing more novels.
Kathrene Pinkerton passed away from cancer on September 6, 1967, in New York. Robert Pinkerton passed away three years later, on 16 February, 1970, in New York.
Kathrene Pinkerton c. 1941
Kathrene Pinkerton c. 1941

Links to books describing their life together below:

Bonus: Their signatures