Bedford-Jones, H. James 1887-1949
BEDFORD-JONES, H. James 1887-1949
(Henry James O'Brien Bedford-Jones, Donald F. Bedford, Montague Brisard, Cleveland B. Chase, George Souli Demourant, Paul Ferval, Captain Bedford Foran, Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, M. Lassez, Lucian Penjean, Margaret Love Sangerson, David Seabrooke, Charles George Souli, Torquay Trevison, Elliott Whitney, John Wycliffe)
PERSONAL: Born April 29, 1887, in Napanee, Ontario, Canada; became a naturalized U.S. citizen; died May 12, 1949; son of William John Wicliff and Henrietta Louise (Roblin) Bedford-Jones; married Helen Swing Williamson, 1914 (marriage ended); married Mary Bernardin McNally (a writer); children (first marriage): two daughters, one son. Hobbies and other interests: Book and stamp collecting.
CAREER: Novelist and short story writer.
MEMBER: Cliff Dwellers Club (Chicago, IL), Authors' Club (London, England).
The Cross and the Hammer: A Tale of the Days of the Vikings, David C. Cook (Elgin, IL), 1912.
Flamehair the Skald: A Tale of the Days of Hardrede, illustrated by Dan Sayre Groesbeck, A.C. McClurg (Chicago, IL), 1913.
The Conquest, Cook (New York, NY), 1914.
Under Fire, Howell (New York, NY), 1915.
The Myth Wawatam, or Alex, Henry Refuted, Being an Exposure of Certain Fictions, Hitherto Unsuspected of the Public; with which Are Also Found Some Remarks upon the Famous Old Fort Michillimackinnac, All of which Is Herein Written and Publish'd from the Notes of Henry McConnell, Gent., privately published (Santa Barbara, CA), 1917.
The Mesa Trail, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1920.
The Mardi Gras Mystery, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1921.
(Under name John Wycliffe) Against the Tide, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1924.
The Hazards of Smith, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1924.
The Kasbah Gate, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1924.
Splendour of the Gods, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1924.
Blood of the Peacock, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1924.
The Cruise of the Pelican, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1924.
The Trail of the Shadow, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1924.
(Under name Allan Hawkwood) Viking Love, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1924.
The Star Woman, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1924.
Afoul of Destiny, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1925.
Loot!, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1925.
The Wilderness Trail, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1925.
Far Horizons, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1925.
(Under name Montague Brisard) Son of the Cincinnati, Small Maynard (Boston, MA), 1925.
Arizona Argonauts, Garden City Press (New York, NY), 1925.
Mormon Valley, Garden City Press (New York, NY), 1925.
Outlaw of Rattlesnake Gap, Garden City Press (New York, NY), 1925.
The Second Mate, Garden City Press (New York, NY), 1925.
The Sheriff of Pecos, Garden City Press (New York, NY), 1925.
Rodomont: A Romance of Mont St. Michel in the Days of Louis XIV, Putnam (New York, NY), 1926.
Saint Michael's Gold, Putnam (New York, NY), 1926.
The Black Bull, Putnam (New York, NY), 1927.
The King's Passport, Putnam (New York, NY), 1928.
D'Artagnan: The Sequel to "The Three Musketeers," Augmenting and Incorporating a Fragmentary Manuscript by Alexandre Dumas, pere, Covici, Friede (New York, NY), 1928.
Cyrano, Putnam (New York, NY), 1930.
The Shadow, The Fiction League (New York, NY) 1930.
(With wife, Mary Bedford-Jones) D'Artagnan's Letter, Covici-Friede (New York, NY), 1931.
Drums of Dambala, Covici-Friede (New York, NY), 1932.
The King's Pardon, Covici-Friede (New York, NY), 1933.
The California Trail, Phoenix Press (New York, NY), 1948.
Also author, with uncredited coauthor W.C. Robertson, of The Temple of the Ten, 1921, reprinted, Grant (West Kingston, RI), 1973; also author of the novel Centaur to Cross, 1929.
Also author of more than one hundred novels in history, adventure, juvenile, fantasy, and science fiction genres.
"JOHN SOLOMON" SERIES; UNDER PSEUDONYM ALLAN HAWKWOOD
John Solomon, originally published in Argosy, 1916.
John Solomon Retired, originally published in Argosy, 1917.
Solomon's Son, originally published in Argosy, 1918.
Solomon's Quest, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1924.
John Solomon, Supercargo, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1924.
Gentleman Solomon, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1925.
Solomon's Carpet, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1925.
The Seal of Solomon, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1925.
John Solomon, Incognito, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1925.
The Shawl of Solomon, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1925.
The Wizard of the Atlas, Hurst & Blackett (London, England), 1928.
(Under name Donald F. Bedford) John Berry, Creative Age (New York, NY), 1947.
L'Arbre Croche Mission, privately printed (Santa Barbara, CA), 1917.
The Fiction Business, [Evansville, IN], 1922, published as This Fiction Business, Covici, Friede (New York, NY), 1929.
The Graduate Fictioneer, with an introduction by Erle Stanley Gardner, Author & Journalist Publishing (Denver, CO), 1932.
The Mission and the Man: The Story of San Juan Capistrano, with drawings by June Simonds, San Pasqual Press (Pasadena, CA), 1939.
Fruit before Summer (poetry), privately printed (Long Beach, CA), 1915.
(Translator) The Breeze in the Moonlight, "The Second Book of Genius," Putnam (New York, NY), 1926.
(Translator) The Passion of Yang Kwei-fei, Covici-Friede (New York, NY), 1928.
(Translator) From Centaur to Cross: The Unpublished Correspondence and The Centaur, Covici-Friede (New York, NY), 1929.
Author of numerous novels and short stories under pseudonyms. Author of "Trumpets from Oblivion" series for Blue Book, including the short stories "The Stagnant Death," 1938, and "The Serpent People," 1939; author of the "Counterclockwise" series for Blue Book, including the short stories "Counterclockwise," 1943, and "The Gods Do Not Forget," 1944; author of the "Tomorrow's Men" series for Blue Book, including the short stories "Peace Hath Her Victories," 1943, "The Battle for France," 1943, "Sahara Doom," 1943, and "Tomorrow in Egypt," 1943; author of the "Quest, Inc." series for Blue Book, including the short stories "The Affair of the Drifting Face," 1943, and "The Final Hoard," 1945; also author of "The Adventures of a Professional Corpse" series for Weird Tales, 1940–41, the "Carson's Folly" series for Blue Book, 1945–46, and "The Sphinx Emerald" series for Blue Book, 1946–47. Contributor to magazines, including Blue Book, Magic Carpet, Golden Fleece, All-Star Weekly, and Weird Tales.
SIDELIGHTS: H. Bedford-Jones was undoubtedly one of the most prolific writers of the pulp-fiction industry during its heyday in the first half of the twentieth century. Some of his comrades, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, and Erle Stanley Gardner, went on to greater fame, probably because they created characters that were eventually immortalized in movies and television. Yet Bedford-Jones, who published under his own name and numerous pseudonyms, wrote more stories than his competitors. He was so productive that he was known to have several typewriters set up at once, with a different novel in progress on each one. His ability to produce vast quantities of dependable fiction earned him the title "King of the Pulps."
Bedford-Jones befriended another powerful pulp writer, William Wallace Cook, while both were living in Marshall, Michigan. Bedford-Jones was employed at the local newspaper, and had not yet made his mark as a writer. Cook, on the other hand, was an established figure in the pulp industry. When Cook's wife died, the man found himself unable to complete the 25,000-work novel he was scheduled to deliver to his publisher that week. Bedford-Jones took on the job himself and submitted his completed work on behalf of his friend. His writing ability and his act of kindness impressed Cook sufficiently that he arranged a meeting with his publisher, and Bedford-Jones was launched on his own career.
Much of his work was done for magazines, such as Argosy, Detective Fiction, Blue Book, and other pulp outlets. He wrote westerns, historical fiction, fantastic stories, boy's fiction, and other varieties of fiction, eventually writing scores of novels and more than one thousand magazine stories. Although he never came up with a hero as enduring as Burroughs's Tarzan, he did create a popular series of books about John Solomon, an adventurer who travels through lost worlds. Bedford-Jones lived extravagantly compared to most writers, maintaining several residences and traveling frequently. He was once offered a yearly salary of 25,000 dollars per year if he would write exclusively for Liberty Magazine, but he turned it down; writing for several publishers, he was earning closer to 60,000 dollars per year.
A survey of the author's work shows that he was versatile as well as productive. His 1921 mystery novel The Mardi Gras Mystery boasts a complex plot in which the exploits of a jewel thief, the "Midnight Masquer," turn out to be a decoy for the deeper espionage of protagonist Henry Gramont into oil property. Gramont traces the clues and arrests the members of a criminal organization, only to find that its leader, Fell, is an undercover operative. New York Times reviewer H.S. Gorman remarked of the novel: "It will delight the soul of the lover of detective yarns that are well sustained to the last thrill." A contributor to the Springfield Republican wrote: "The author not only tells a clever story but keeps his high card to play on the final trick"; and a critic for the Literary Review, in a similar mode, declared the book "a swift novel, full of action and improbability, and with a very satisfactory ending." In the same year, Bedford-Jones published The Mesa Trail, a western adventure in which a middle-aged female prospector, Mrs. Mehitabel Crump, befriends a liquor-sodden actor, Thady Shea, who unwittingly betrays her interests in a mineral claim. Shea spends the remainder of the novel atoning successfully by saving the claim.
The Star Woman was a well-received adventure yarn with fantasy overtones that focuses on the English and French in Hudson Bay, a historical setting that Bedford-Jones carefully researched. Hal Crawford, the hero, quests for Star Woman, a mystical female known to wear a star-shaped jewel on her breast; he undergoes a series of ordeals before finally finding this ideal love. Stella Heilbrunn of the International Book Review wrote approvingly: "All the stuff of adventure is here. Historical facts support it." The critic added that "good writing adds beauty of word and scene. Could an adventure-lover ask for more?" While praising the author's style, Heilbrunn went on to offer the suggestion that a livelier, less "bookish" writing style might have been asked for, but added that the novel contained plenty of action. A Literary Review critic called The Star Woman "one of the outstanding novels of the year," and a reviewer for the New York Times also endorsed it, claiming that the book would appeal both to lovers of melodrama and to "those readers to whom mere melodrama does not appeal."
The tales of historical adventure that Bedford-Jones penned during the second half of the 1920s often concerned French history. The 1926 novel Rodomont is set on Mont St. Michel during the reign of Louis XIV. The Canadian hero, Rodomont, bears a letter to the monastery—a letter that, unknown to its bearer, orders his own imprisonment. After much turmoil, Rodomont escapes to England with a fellow Canadian. A New York Times reviewer praised the novel, saying that in spite of conventional genre apparatus, "the story is told with a zest and rapidity that keep the reader's interest constantly awake." A contributor to the New York World observed: "Few late adventure romances of our ken maintain their action throughout at so violent a pitch as one finds here. It is a vigorous, well written tale."
Bedford-Jones wrote a number of other adventures set in Europe, some around Mont St. Michel itself. The action of 1927's Saint Michael's Gold takes place during the French Revolution as the author's American hero tries unsuccessfully to save a treasure for the monastery, but does succeed in helping some royalists escape. The 1928 novel The Black Bull is set in Italy in the seventeenth century. Once again Bedford-Jones uses the device of introducing a hero from another country, this time, an Irish cavalier in pursuit of vengeance against an evil Italian duke. A critic for the Boston Transcript called Black Bull "a spirited tale full of the glamour of Old Italy." A New York Times contributor praised the author's dexterous handling of the flow of narrative, and a New York Evening Post reviewer compared the novel to a Verdi libretto.
Also in 1928, Bedford-Jones revived the classic tale of the Three Musketeers in D'Artagnan: The Sequel to "The Three Musketeers," Augmenting and Incorporating a Fragmentary Manuscript by Alexandre Dumas, pere, a novel that incorporates a fragmentary text by Alexandre Dumas. Praise came from a New York Herald Tribune Books critic, who called the attempt "high romantic adventure of the right old heady flavor … full of the proper spirit and stuffed with genuine thrills." Some reviewers found fault with the author's style and technique but enjoyed the novel's atmospheric adventure elements anyway. A New York Times reviewer called D'Artagnan "an entertaining, swiftly moving story," while a Boston Transcript critic noted that "Mr. Bedford-Jones has recaptured the spirit of The Three Musketeers." A contributor to the Saturday Review of Literature continued to echo critical praise, dubbing the novel "a story full of action and fire."
The King's Passport was also about D'Artagnan, and involved Edmund Rostand's long-nosed fictional hero Cyrano de Bergerac to boot. Reviews of The King's Passport tended to take a line similar to that of reviews of D'Artagnan. A New York Times critic called the novel "a fine, galloping, vividly told yarn," while a Saturday Review of Literature contributor termed it "excellent reading. An intelligent, skillful novel of action." A reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement singled out the characters of Cyrano, Cardinal Richelieu, and the Cardinal's secretary, Mazarin, as well-drawn.
In 1930 came Bedford-Jones's Cyrano, which a New York Times reviewer called "a lively, swashbuckling, swiftly moving tale." The Times critic alluded regret-fully to a lack of plausibility, however, as did a Books contributor who also found the novel readable and enjoyably written. An Outlook critic solved the dilemma of excitement versus plausibility by calling Cyrano "an excellent cloak and sword romance."
Another Three Musketeers-based novel, D'Artagnan's Letter, was written by Bedford-Jones along with his wife, Mary, and published in 1931. It concerns the discovery, at an auction, of a letter supposedly written by D'Artagnan giving a clue to a missing fortune; the book centers on the search for that fortune. A Boston Transcript reviewer called this opus "a romantic tale with a happy ending, which moves swiftly with an adventure on almost every page."
Published in 1933, Bedford-Jones's novel King's Pardon returned once again to France, but this time focuses its action during the reign of Henry IV. The hero, returning from a war in Hungary to find his lands seized, turns outlaw, serves the king, and wins a fair lady. "If sustained violence and bloodshed constitute the main essentials in a story of this kind," wrote a New York Times reviewer, "the book easily rates the rank of masterpiece."
An author capable of writing and publishing so many varied works of fiction was surely qualified to write a nonfiction book on the craft of writing; Bedford-Jones did so in 1922 with The Fiction Business, which was reissued in 1929 as This Fiction Business. According to a New York Times review of the book, the author recommends a hard-headed, businesslike approach to writing. He advises the novice to determine what category of fiction he or she would prove best at and then proceed to acquire skill with words, characters, and technique through sheer diligence. According to a review in the New York Times, Bedford-Jones "is wholly practical in his viewpoint and in his defense of it he points to his own not inconsiderable commercial success as an author…. It must be admitted that he knows what he is talking about." A reviewer in Boston's Herald Tribune Books noted, in a similar vein, that for prospective authors who felt an affinity for Bedford-Jones's commercial approach, "his advice is eminently practical and to the point. He knows his stuff."
From 1912 until the 1940s, Bedford-Jones kept up his prodigious output. Ill with diabetes and having suffered a series of heart attacks, his production then dropped, but even so, was still on a par with most pulp writers of his time. Little of H. Bedford-Jones's fiction is available to the general reader today, but he and other writers like him were the bedrock of popular fiction in their own time. They maintained an enthusiastic readership for publishing houses and thriving magazines, and thus provided the climate in which more enduringly celebrated writers could flourish.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Murphy, Michael, editor, Post Mortem: H. Bedford-Jones, [St. Louis, MO], 1980.
St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Booklist, May, 1932.
Books, May 11, 1930, p. 10; February 28, 1932, p. 14.
Boston Transcript, October 15, 1927, p. 4; October 13, 1928, p. 7; July 18, 1931, p. 8.
International Book Review, December, 1924, p. 63.
Literary Review, May 28, 1921, p. 9; September 6, 1924, p. 9.
New York Evening Post, January 21, 1928, p. 14.
New York Herald Tribune Books, November 11, 1928, p. 20; August 25, 1929, p. 10.
New York Times, July 10, 1921, p. 11; September 14, 1924, p. 24; March 28, 1926, p. 22; November 27, 1927, p. 36; April 1, 1928, p. 24; November 25, 1928, p. 3; July 28, 1929, p. 8; April 13, 1930, p. 9; April 23, 1933, p. 16.
New York World, April 4, 1926, p. M7.
Outlook, April 2, 1930.
Saturday Review of Literature, October 4, 1924; January 1, 1927; August 25, 1928; October 13, 1928.
Springfield Republican, June 19, 1921, p. A9.
Times Literary Supplement, September 6, 1928, p. 634; June 16, 1932.