Monday, June 24, 2019

Introducing Dick Callingham: Yet Another Webb-Wheeler Pseudonym

Twisted Minds and a Haunting Voice
Dick Callingham's "Terror Keepers"
aka Patrick Quentin's A Puzzle for Fools
was the March 1936 cover story
in Detective Story Magazine

Like many men and women of similar persuasion in those dangerous pre-Stonewall days, Richard "Rickie" Webb and Hugh Wheeler, aka Patrick Quentin, Q. Patrick and Jonathan Stagge, had a penchant for concealment.  Certainly this penchant manifested itself in the two men's multiplicity of mystery pseudonyms.  Yet another Webb-Wheeler pen name now has been uncovered: Dick Callingham, for which Rickie and Hugh borrowed Hugh Wheeler's middle name, Callingham (which in turn had been derived from the surname of a great-grandfather of Hugh's, John Callingham, who served as one of the early "bobbies" in London's Metropolitan Police, aka Scotland Yard). 

As "Dick Callingham" Rickie and Hugh published three known pieces in Detective Story Magazine, a pulp magazine that served as one of their most frequent repositories of short fiction. 

These pieces are "Striking Silence" and "Terror Keepers," both from 1936, and "The Frightened Killer," from 1937.  I have been able to see a copy of the March issue of DSM containing "Terror Keepers," and it turns out that it is the first published version of the premier Patrick Quentin novel, A Puzzle for Fools, which was published six months later.

Putting on the Ritz
Ad for Lucky Strikes,
America's favorite cigarette,
on the back cover of DSM
Slimming women were advised
to reach for a Lucky
rather than a sweet
Why did Rickie and Hugh create "Dick Callingham"?  Probably because as Q. Patrick they had over 1935-37 published eight additional pieces in DSM, including the future Jonathan Stagge novels The Dogs Do Bark, The Scarlet Circle and Murder or Mercy? and the future Q. Patrick novel Danger Next Door.  There was, in short, a pulps glut of Q. Patrick, so all parties concerned decided to give this Dick Callingham chap a chance.

After 1937 Rickie and Hugh increasingly focused their attention, when it came to short fiction (including short novels), on the more prestigious (and lucrative) glossy women's magazines, dubbed "slicks."  Their fiction in pulps like DSM was altogether grislier stuff, aimed at a primarily male audience that took their crime writing neat.  A Puzzle for Fools is set at an asylum (albeit a swankier one) and has plenty of outre details.  Later Patrick Quentins would dial down the horror (though not the suspense) and dial up the glamour.

More coming soon, I hope, on the mystery of Webb and Wheeler short fiction, as Crippen and Landru gets set to mail pre-orders of their new Rickie and Hugh short fiction collection, The Cases of Lieutenant Timothy TrantIt's a good 'un!  Getting to work on, among other projects, Moray Dalton, Christopher Bush, Bernice Carey and Rickie and Hugh's Timothy Trant has been a great blessing.

Nix on Parties! Ad from DSM
Even more terrifying than crime
for many pulp fiction readers
was the scourge of pimples, which
threatened to extinguish one's social life

Opening of "Terror Keepers":

It always got worse at nights.  And that particular night was the first time they had left me without any kind of dope to help me sleep.

Opening Sentence of a A Puzzle for Fools:

It always got worse at night.  And that particular night was the first time they had left me without any kind of dope to help me sleep.

Just one change here, from nights to night. However, don't think that Hugh, who did the transfers from magazine publication to published novel, didn't make improvements in the writing.  You can see it, for example, in the novel's final lines--though you don't want me to quote those, surely!

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