Thursday, December 20, 2012

R.R. Ryan

In 2004 Theo Pajmans and I published an article in All Hallows about the 1930s thriller writer, R.R. Ryan.  We revealed the existence of the book contracts for R.R. Ryan in the archive at Random House.  The contracts indicated that, in addition to the seven novels that he published under his own name, R.R. Ryan wrote four novels under two pseudonyms, Cameron Carr and John Galton.  At that time Random House would not release any personal information about Ryan for privacy reasons, so we were unable to establish the identity of the author, though we suggested a couple of possibilities, the actor Cameron Carr, and Rachel R. Ryan, who wrote a book about the city of Manchester in the 1930s.

In 2008, Random House agreed to release the personal information in the contracts in response to an access request.  All of the books are contracted to R.R. Ryan of 16 Granville Road, Hove, Sussex, except No Escape, Ryan’s last novel, which is addressed to 80B Lansdowne Place, Hove, Sussex.  The contract for No Escape is dated 17 November 1939.

A letter dated 3 March 1939 indicates that R.R. Ryan accepted an offer assigning copyright for all three names to Herbert Jenkins, now controlled by Random House.

The last correspondence in the R.R. Ryan file is a letter from Mrs Anne Ryan, R.R. Ryan’s wife, dated 1 August 1956.  The letter is addressed from 80B Lansdowne Place.  The letter appears to be a response to a letter dated 30 July 1956, which is not extant. In the letter Mrs Ryan accepts an offer made by Herbert Jenkins, but it is not clear for what, though it is conceivable the offer is for the copyright of No Escape, which was contracted after Ryan sold the copyrights of his other books to Jenkins in March 1939.

The Hove electoral registers reveal that a man named Rex Ryan lived at the Hove addresses with his wife, Anne.  Local directories confirm that the Ryans lived at these addresses.  Mrs A. Ryan is listed in Pike’s Directory for 1939-40 at 16 Granville Road.  Kelly’s Directory for 1947 and 1951 lists Mrs R Ryan at 80B Lansdowne Place, and lists Mrs A. Ryan at the same address for 1964 and 1966.

There is only one Rex Ryan listed in the UK Death Indexes for the period 1939-1956; he died at Hove, aged 67, in the last quarter of 1950.  His death certificate confirms that he was in fact R.R. Ryan.   His occupation is given as “retired theatrical manager and author”.  He was “found dead eighteenth October 1950 80B Lansdowne Place, Hove”.  The cause of death is given as “asphyxia due to carbon monoxide poisoning following inhalation of coal gas.  His own act. Suicide whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed.” 

The most intriguing detail of all comes under his name:

“Evelyn BRADLEY otherwise Rex RYAN”

Evelyn Bradley who was born in Waterloo, Lancashire on 14 December 1882.  His birth certificate was registered in September 1883.  He was the son of Walter Bradley, described in the 1891 census as a retired African merchant, who was born in about 1849, and Alison Bradley, born in about 1857.  Evelyn had two siblings, Arnold and Norah.  The 1891 census also lists Mary Webster, a school governess, as living with the family.  In that year the family were living in Cheadle in Cheshire; the 1901 census has the family living in Ripponden in Yorkshire.

Evelyn Bradley was a theatre manager, actor, and playwright, and his knowledge of the theatre appears in his books; a number of his protagonists are actors or aspiring actors, there are frequent theatrical references in his books, and A New Face at the Door, under his Cameron Carr pseudonym, concerns the members of a repertory company in a provincial theatre. 

Bradley’s plays included titles such as Yellow Vengeance, The Trap and The Volga Boatman.  The former is mentioned in Steve Nicholson’s The Censorship of British Drama 1900-1968 (2003-5):

In November 1928, [Lord Cromer, the Lord Chamberlain, who was responsible for theatre censorship in Britain until 1968] licensed Yellow Vengeance, in which Wong Koo, a doctor, threatens to inject the son of an Englishman, with tetanus, unless Pearson sacrifices his second wife to Koo’s lust, as revenge for Pearson having violated Koo’s betrothed twenty years earlier.  It is hard to argue with Street’s description of Yellow Vengeance as ‘the Chinese rubbish play reduced to a very simple form’, and Cromer noted that it was just the sort of play to which the Chinese consulate was ‘constantly taking exception’.  However, Koo actually turns out to have been bluffing, and is ‘much less a villain than the usual Chinese type’, so Cromer was more easily able to justify his decision: ‘as the Chinaman comes out with all the credit, I can hardly object to the play on either political or moral grounds.’

Rex Ryan may also have written The Twister, another sensational play, which was set in Chang’s Torture Chamber and featured cocaine gangs.  The play was licensed in September 1928 for the Grand Theatre, Brighton, close to where Ryan lived and worked. 

Interestingly, Ryan’s wife was Anne Howard, whose mother was Zoe Beatrice Howard, formerly Redgrave, and related to the famous acting family.  Anne Ryan died in about 1970 and evidently destroyed all of her husband’s papers.

Evelyn Bradley appears to have been known as Rex Ryan from an early period, and as we have seen, his wife called herself Anne Ryan.  Their daughter, Denice, called herself Bradley-Ryan on her marriage certificate.  Denice was born in 1915 and was herself a writer: she published four novels with T Werner Laurie under the name Kay Seaton:  Pawns of Destiny (1947), Tyranny Within (1946), Phantom Fear (1948) and Dark Sanctuary (1949).  A short article on “Kay Seaton” published in the 1948 Christmas edition of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes News says that she writes the novels in long-hand and sends them to her father in Hove who has them prepared for manuscript and sent to the publishers.  Rex Ryan’s grandson’s, David Medhurst and Paul Caton, also confirmed the existence of another novel, Tyranny of Virtue (London: Willis, 1925) written under the pseudonym Noel Despard.  Paul Caton and his sister Elspeth run the R.R. Ryan website, which includes lots of genealogical information and some rare photographs:


  1. Astonishing literary detective work. You may have single handily caused an entire generation of deconstructionists to rewrite their doctoral thesis.

  2. John Pelan has now identified R.R. Ryan (and Carr and Galton) as Evelyn Bradley's daughter, Denice Jeanette Bradley-Ryan (see here and here), based on confirmation from her son. Do you agree with his conclusion?

  3. No, I don't agree with John. When I first contacted David Medhurst about R.R. Ryan he was genuinely delighted that his grandfather wrote the books, but when I interviewed him several years ago he'd formed the view that his mother wrote the books, though he had no evidence. For me the authoritative sources are the book contracts which all have Rex Ryan's home address. Let's face it, if you're looking for a person named R.R. Ryan and someone pops up whose name is Rex Ryan and whose home address is on all the book contracts, there's every chance you've found your author. John's argument about Denice Bradley-Ryan wanting to use a male pseudonym (though what is male about R.R. Ryan?) seems disproven by the fact that she was happy to use a female pseudonym when she came to write the Kay Seaton books.

    1. Believe it or not, I'm just now seeing this, and it's not me drawing such a conclusion. That would be our publisher, Fender Tucker not paying close attention to what I wrote *sighs(

  4. I agree with James that Denise Bradley-Ryan is not R.R. Ryan. David Medhurst has claimed that the 'The Tyranny of Virtue' by Noel Despard is also a novel by R. R. Ryan. If DBR was RRR, she would have written this novel at age 9. Not very likely in my opinion. However, it is possible that she was the author behind the works written by Cameron Carr and John Galton. After R.R. Ryan published his first 2 novels, his subsequent novels were published in almost perfect tandem with the CC and JG's novels, piggybacked or "carbon copied" with the RRR novels. The CC/JG novels attributed to RRR were all romantic psychological thrillers as were the later Kay Seaton novels. That is for one, 'The Thought Reader' by Cameron Carr which was a children's story. What is significant about this? What most people do not know is DBR wrote several children's stories later in life that were never published.
    I believe it is very likely that Evelyn Bradley used his reputation to help his daughter develop her career as a writer. But I believe the dark, twisted, horror and sci-fi novels of R.R. Ryan were more likely written by a man who killed himself rather than the 20 something romantic who gave up her career as an author to marry and raise a family.

  5. As far as I know neither David nor John has said that Denice Bradley-Ryan wrote Tyranny of Virtue - surely that would be impossible! Your other points certainly sound reasonable, though it's impossible to be sure this far removed, unless new evidence turns up. Really the only definite evidence we have are the book contracts and Rex Ryan's death certificate, which gives his occupation as 'Retired theatrical manager and author.'

    1. No one looking at the simple evidence (including the time-line) could possibly come to the conclusion that Denice Bradley-Ryan was R.R. Ryan. For some years the interesting possibility was raised that the Seaton books were collaborations between father & daughter based on a remark made in a publicity interview that "my father helps me with the novels". Obviously, that can mean anything." We're fortunate to have a follow-up article from 1948 that spells out exactly what she meant... Apparently, Denice would write the novels in long-hand and her father would type them up. Did he re-write an awkward paragraph here and there? Probably, in the greater scheme of things does it matter? No, not at all, that's line-editing, not collaboration and with this, I'm considering (thanks in large measure to James) all "mysteries" of R.R. Ryan to be closed.
      Now we can still try and figure out who "Mark Hansom" was. I've got what I believe to be a very solid profile of the man; just can't put a name to him (yet).