Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Carolyn Haywood (1898-1990)



Carolyn Haywood lived a very long life and wrote dozens of books beloved by children. She was born Mary Carolyn Haywood on January 3, 1898, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Charles and Mary Emma (Cook) Haywood. Her brother George Biddle Haywood, with whom she lived later in life, came along after her on October 2, 1901. (He also served in the U.S. Army during World War II.) Carolyn was an artist before she was a published author. She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and, as the book jacket bio above tells us, under three pupils of Howard Pyle, who was called the father of illustration in America. Her first book was B is for Betsy, published by Harcourt Brace in 1939. The book jacket bio here is from Back to School with Betsy, dedicated to her brother George and published in 1943. Late in life, Carolyn wrote several books about Christmas, including Merry Christmas from Betsy (1970), Merry Christmas from Eddie (1986), Santa Claus Forever! (1982), and How the Reindeer Saved Santa (1986). Carolyn Haywood died on January 11, 1990, a little more than a week after her ninety-second birthday.

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, November 11, 2017

N. Roy Clifton (1909-1985)



Norman Roy Clifton was born on September 17, 1909, in Sheerness, Kent, England. His parents were Irish-born but lived in England. They emigrated in the census year of 1911 and were in Winnipeg, in the Province of Manitoba, in the Canadian census year of 1921. Mr. Clifton was on the move again during a census year in 1930, when he crossed from Canada into the United States. He was enumerated that year in Manhattan but was without employment in the first full year of the Great Depression. The book jacket biography above, from Mr. Clifton's book The Figure in Film (1983), gives the facts regarding his career. Educated in England, Winnipeg, and Auckland, New Zealand, N. Roy Clifton worked as a lawyer, educator, and librarian. He was also keenly interested in theater, film, and square dancing. According to a source on the Internet, Clifton taught geography at Richmond Hill High School, presumably in Richmond Hill, Ontario, in the 1950s and '60s. According to that same source, he died in 1985

In addition to being a poet and an author of non-fiction, Mr. Clifton wrote a children's novel called The City Beyond the Gates, illustrated by Tibor Kovalik and published by Scholastic-TAB Publications in 1977. It's an odd book and written in an odd way. The language, imagery, and themes are are a mix of the poetic, allegorical, dreamy, fabulous, absurdist, and surrealistic. It is in fact a dystopian novel, an unusual genre for children. It must surely be one of the earliest books of its kind written specifically for children. By the way, the illustrator, Tibor Kovalik, was born in 1935 in what was then Czechoslovakia. He emigrated to Canada in 1968 and has worked as an artist, art director, and art teacher. You can find his self-titled website at this link: http://www.tiborkovalik.com/personal.en.php.

Updated November 13, 2018
Original text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ross Lockridge, Jr. (1914-1948)



Today, December 11, 2016, is the two-hundredth birthday of the State of Indiana. I had hoped to be within the bounds of my home state for the occasion. Instead I will observe it from a distance.

There was once a Golden Age of Literature in Indiana. The bulk of that age came closer to the beginning of the Hoosier State than to our own time. Its luminaries--Booth Tarkington, Maurice Thompson, George Barr McCutcheon, Edward Eggleston, Meredith Nicholson, James Whitcomb Riley, Gene Stratton Porter--are now largely forgotten to readers outside the state. Indiana's prominent writers since the Golden Age can hardly be called a group. Rather, they are scattershot and include men and women as disparate as Jessamyn West (1902-1984) and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007) or Philip José Farmer (1918-2009) and James Alexander Thom (b. 1933).

No one can say what the Great Indiana Novel might be, if there has ever been one. One candidate--in fact, one candidate for the larger honorific of Great American Novel--is Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr., published in 1948 by Houghton Mifflin. Born on April 25, 1914, in Bloomington, Indiana, Lockridge was prodigious in his powers as a student, scholar, and writer. Before Raintree County, he pounded out a 400-page poem called The Dream of the Flesh of Iron and a 2,000-page fragment of a novel with the working title American Lives, neither of which has since been published. In starting over with a new novel--what would become Raintree County--he simply turned over the pages of American Lives and began typing on the reverse side.

In the making for half a decade and originally extending to 600,000 words, Raintree County was generally well received in its time. The New York Times liked it. The New Yorker, on the other hand, did not. There is reason to believe that the unfavorable opinion of that magazine precipitated Lockridge's suicide on the same day that it appeared in his hometown Bloomington newspaper, on March 6, 1948. Lockridge's novel had been in print only two months when he asphyxiated himself with the exhaust from his car. He left behind a wife and four children, among other family members. He also left behind his lone novel, running, in the Book-of-the-Month Club edition shown here, to 1,066 pages. In that he joined Harper Lee and others whose fame rests almost entirely on one book.

Raintree County was adapted to the silver screen in 1957. Of the principal actors, which included Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Marie Saint, Nigel Patrick, Lee Marvin, Rod Taylor, and Agnes Moorehead, only Russell Collins (1897-1965) hailed from Indiana. Despite being set in the Hoosier State, the movie was filmed in the South, in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Like many of the works of Mississippi's own William Faulkner, Raintree County is set in a fictional locale. Both Faulkner and Lockridge provided maps of their respective fictional counties in their respective novels. In his prodigious output, Lockridge bore some resemblance, too, to Thomas Wolfe, another Southern author. I might add that I have been to the homes of both Faulkner and Wolfe. (Both were closed for repairs or renovations when I was there.) As for Ross Lockridge, Jr., I can't say that I have been to his home. However, I very often drive through Straughn, situated on beautiful flat ground along U.S. Highway 40, the National Road, in Henry County, Indiana, and the basis for Lockridge's fictional town of Waycross. I can't say, either, that I have seen the mythical golden raintree supposed to have been planted near there by Johnny Appleseed, who has his own final connection to Indiana by having been buried in Fort Wayne. Lastly, I would like to mention Lockridge's cousin, the author Mary Jane Ward (1905-1981) of Fairmount, Indiana, who wrote The Snake Pit (1946) and other novels. That book, too, was adapted to film, in 1948, and it, too, featured a Hoosier, actress Beulah Bondi (1889-1981) of Valparaiso.

So, Happy Birthday, Indiana, the Land of Indians, the Hoosier State, my home state, and a place of which Hoosiers are and can be justly proud.

Original text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, July 3, 2016

E. Harper Johnson (1920s-2016)




I have written before about E. Harper Johnson, but at the time I knew only a little about him. The book-jacket biography above tells a little more than that, but more of what I know now comes from Mr. Johnson's granddaughter Kisha, who has generously provided more information on him in her comments on my original article.

H. Harper Johnson was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1920s. He was a painter, muralist, cartoonist, and illustrator who lived and worked in New York, Africa, and I believe the Arabian Peninsula. His art training came at the American Academy, the National Academy, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Mr. Johnson's illustrations and cartoons appeared in newspapers, magazines, and more than 100 books. The illustrations and book-jacket biography above are from The Story of George Washington Carver by Arna Bontemps (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1954). Like the subject and the illustrator of his book, Arna Bontemps (1902-1973) was a black southerner and a man of great accomplishment.

Harper Johnson was married to Mildred Anita Johnson and to Salma Tahira Malik (1928-1979). He died on March 24, 2016. I hope to find more on E. Harper Johnson, his life, and his work. I invite and welcome comments and email messages.

Original text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Morrie Turner (1923-2014)



Morris Nolton "Morrie" Turner was born on December 11, 1923, in Oakland, California. He served as a mechanic with the Tuskegee Airman during World War II and contributed to Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the Armed Forces. In the 1960s, he traveled with other cartoonists to entertain the troops in Vietnam.

Turner began drawing cartoons and comic strips in the mid 1960s, mostly for the Chicago Defender, a black newspaper. Titles included Dinky Fellas (1964-1965), Press Gremlins (1964-1965), Reverend Smiley (1964-1965), Sepia Smiles (1964-1965), Dogbert (1965-1969), and Classified Chuckles (1966-1969). In 1965, Turner's syndicate rebranded Dinky Fellas as Wee Pals, the comic strip for which he will always be known. Wee Pals began on February 15, 1965, and is still running today, two years after the cartoonist's death.

Morrie Turner was a friend of Charles Schulz and Bil Keane, two other cartoonists of childhood. His Wee Pals is very much like Peanuts, with a large cast of kids who have their own distinct personalities, backgrounds, dress, and interests. It was and is a great strip. By the way, Nipper, the boy with the soul food stand on the cover of Doing Their Thing, wore a Confederate cap, though without the crossed swords. When asked why, he replies,"'Cause I'm non-violent!"

Morrie Turner died on January 25, 2014, in Sacramento, California.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Jack Matthews (1925-2013)



It's Christmastime, but here in the Midwest it's more like spring. I have seen snowdrops, dandelions, violets, and forsythia in bloom. Robins are still hanging together in flocks, but they have been singing their spring songs, though only a few notes. I doubt they have mistaken the season or feel any embarrassment for it. Robins, in their boldness, seem incapable of that. It may be that they hold their songs at the ready and are simply trying out for a debut that is still three months away.

It was a colder season forty-eight years ago today when the Silver Bridge came down. Forty-six people died that day, on the bridge and in the waters of the Ohio River. Even now, in the area of Point Pleasant and across the river in Gallipolis, Ohio, there are people who remember the disaster or knew or are related to someone who died there. Jack Matthews was born in Columbus, Ohio, but had roots in Gallia County, of which Gallipolis is the seat of government. Matthews' father came into the world on a Gallia County farm. I don't know that Jack Matthews knew or was related to anyone who died in the Silver Bridge disaster, but he took on the identity of a fictional survivor in his novel Beyond the Bridge, from 1970. The book jacket biography above is from that novel.

Beyond the Bridge is brief but dense and complex, a much different book than Matthews' first novel, Hanger Stout, Awake! (1967), which is more a song of innocence than of experience. Beyond the Bridge takes the form of a diary of a man who has put his old life behind him and assumed a new one on the other side of the river--beyond the bridge--in West Virginia. The book ends with an entry for July 18, 1968--four days before Jack Matthews' forty-third birthday--as the protagonist sets out to cross another bridge and begin another diary.

In Beyond the Bridge, Matthews' diarist is friends with a fallen preacher named Harlan and becomes the lover of a local woman, Billie Sue, who knows all the superstitions of Appalachia. The diarist, Neil, writes of himself and Billie Sue:
     Only before we went to sleep, I myself wondered why I should be so interested in these silly superstitions and Harlan's insane theology.
     I couldn't figure it out, except for the possibility that I could feel human breath in them. And I can't help feeling close to people who have long been dead, and have no other voice left. (p. 138)
I like to think that those who are gone still have a voice, even if it's one we can no longer hear. But if Jack Matthews' only remaining voice for us--whether we are vast seas or merely islands of readership--is in his books, then I must share the feeling of his diarist, that of being "close to people who have long been dead, and have no other voice left." His books speak, have the breath of life in them, and, though their author has been gone two years now, still live.

Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, December 4, 2015

Steele Savage (1898-1970)




Harry Steele Savage was born on December 21, 1898, in Central Lake, Michigan. According to his biography in The Rainbow Book of Bible Stories (The World Publishing Company, 1956, shown above), he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Slade School in London, and in Vienna and Paris. He designed the sets and costumes for Caviar, a musical comedy than ran for twenty performances at the Forrest Theatre in New York in 1934. Savage was also a designer of furniture, and he created at least one poster design during World War II.

Steele Savage is most well known as an illustrator of books, especially on mythology, history, and the Bible. He also created the covers for many science fiction novels of the 1960s and '70s. The illustrations above, from The Rainbow Book of Bible Stories by J. Harold Gwynne (1956), show Savage's style, which can be described as a kind of magical realism. Savage's other credits include:
  • The Decameron of Boccaccio (Blue Ribbon Books, 1931)
  • The Arabian Nights edited by Bennett Cerf (Triangle Books, 1932)
  • The Droll Stories of Honoré de Balzac (1932)
  • No Other Man by Alfred Noyes (1940)
  • Stories of the Gods and Heroes by Sally Benson (1940)
  • Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton (1942)
  • Throne of the World by Louis de Wohl (1949)
  • The Wild Party by Joseph Moncure March (1949)
  • Adventures with the Giants by Catherine F. Sellew (1950)
  • Adventures with the Heroes by Catherine F. Sellew (1954)
  • The Life of Christ by the Abbé Constant Fouard (1954)
  • The Token by Samuel Shellabarger (1955)
  • The Golden Library Book of Bible Stories by Jonathan Braddock (1956)
  • Martin Luther by Henry Emerson Fosdick (1956)
  • The Adventures of Ulysses by Gerald Gottlieb (1959)
  • Little Golden Book of Airplanes by Ruth Mabee Lachman (1959) 
  • Life in the Ancient World by Bart Winer (1961)
  • The Virginian by Owen Wister (Scholastic, 1964)
  • Golden Blood by Jack Williamson (1967)
  • The Well of the Unicorn by Fletcher Pratt (1967)
  • Breakthrough by Richard Cowper (1969)
  • Between Planets by Robert A. Heinlein (1970)
  • Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein (1970)
  • Rocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. Heinlein (1970)
  • The Long Result by John Brunner (1970)
  • The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein  (1970)
  • The Sorcerer's Skull by David Mason (1970)
  • The Squares of the City by John Brunner (1970)
  • The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein (1970)
  • Time for the Stars by Robert A. Heinlein (1970)
  • Starbreed by Martha deMey Clow (1970)
  • The Whole Man by John Brunner (1970)
  • Anti-Man by Dean R. Koontz (1970)
  • The Citadel of Fear by Francis Stevens (1970)
  • Black in Time by John Jakes (1970)
  • Report on Probability A by Brian W. Aldiss (1970)
  • Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein (1970)
  • Barrier World by Louis Charbonneau (1970)
  • World's Bible Story Library by J. Harold Gwynne (a multi-volume reissue of The Rainbow Book of Bible Stories, 1970)
  • Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein (1971)
  • Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner (1972)
  • Hurlbut's Story of the Bible (revised edition) by Jesse Lyman Hurlburt (1974)

This list is not necessarily complete.

Steele Savage lived in New York for much of his career. He died on December 5, 1970, at age seventy-one. You can read a little more about him on my blog, Tellers of Weird Tales, here. Part of the book list above is from the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley