Monday, April 8, 2019
Wormwood 32 - Literary Enigmas
Wormwood 32 is now available. Several of our contributors in this issue discuss literary enigmas. Peter Bell considers ‘The Mystery of Mark Hansom’, an author who published a succession of weird thrillers in a five year period in the mid Nineteen Thirties, and then vanished. The name was no doubt a pseudonym — but who was the writer behind the mask?
Various theories have been suggested, but Peter puts forward a startling new proposal, supported by careful discussion. If he is right, this brings a whole new dimension to the work of another author in the supernatural fiction field.
Chris Mikul, meanwhile, looks into the unusual career of Julian Osgood Field, who wrote racy fin-de-siecle thrillers under the pseudonym ‘X.L.’ Though this identity has never been in doubt, the full extent of his other activities has not been revealed before, and they even involve an unfortunate contact with another noted literary family.
The decadent thrillers of Edogawo Ranpo, who may have adopted his pen-name from an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe, ought to be better-known outside his native Japan. Oliver Kerkdijk, in his celebration of the writings, concedes that Ranpo is no stylist, but celebrates the utter strangeness of his extraordinary fantasies.
Charles Eric Maine wrote what he liked to call ‘scientific thrillers’. As John Howard recounts, this pseudonym was adopted by a young SF fan from Liverpool who went on to produce a score of brisk futuristic novels. Like Ranpo’s work, they may not be read for their style, but they have their furtive enthusiasts for their narrative drive.
Victor Neuberg is perhaps still mostly known as an acolyte of Aleister Crowley. But, as Adam Daly explains, there was much more to this eccentric figure than this. He was a poet, an editor, an encourager of poets (among the first to publish Dylan Thomas) and most of all an elliptical visionary.
R B Russell discusses a mystery concerning that most recherché of literary figures, Frederick Rolfe, who adopted the pen-name Baron Corvo, and who has long obsessed collectors keen to discover anything at all to do with him, including somewhat unusual impedimenta.
In our regular columns, Doug Anderson offers Late Reviews of several books (and authors) which have not been widely noticed before. But obscurity does not necessarily mean quality, and Doug assesses which of them are merely competent and adequate, and those that are distinctive and original.
John Howard’s Camers Obscura column, devoted to the independent presses, ranges from an early 19th century supernatural tale which may be a previously unidentified piece by a distinguished figure in the field, to experimental contemporary prose.
Reggie Oliver reviews a new biography of Oscar Wilde, and offers his own illuminating insights into his life and work, and also discusses some recent contemporary fiction.