East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Other People’s Pulps: That Carruthers chap

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… and then they ask you where your ideas come from.
I was looking up M. Y. Halidom last night.
Halidom was the alias of one Alexander Huth, that published a number of supernatural tales and novels in the late 19th and early 20th century.
I learned of his existence when I found out about the three volumes of Tales of the Wonder Club, a collection of “club stories” about a bunch of individuals that meet in a pub (the quaintly-named “Ye Headless Lady”) to trade strange and chilling stories.

A small clique or brotherhood, known as “The Wonder Club,” had been nightly in the habit of assembling here for years, and this served to bring grist to the mill. Some of the eminent men from the neighbouring village, among whom were the doctor, the lawyer, an antiquary, an analytical chemist, and others, had formed among themselves a club, which was to consist only of very choice spirits, like themselves, and if any guest were introduced among them, it was only to be with a letter of introduction and the full consent of all parties. By these strict rules they hoped to keep the club select. A room at the inn was set apart for them, into which no one not belonging to the club ever presumed to enter, unless it was the landlord, who would be called every now and then to[7] replenish the bowl, and whom sometimes the guests of the club would “draw out,” as it was whispered in the village that the landlord of the “Headless Lady” knew a rare lot of stories, he did; also how to tell ’em, too, my word! but these he generally reserved for his more intimate customers. One strict law of the club that we have not yet mentioned was that no guest invited was to be a “business man.”

The set-up is strikingly similar to Ike Asimov’s Black Widowers stories, but here the slant is towards the weird, the horrific and the supernatural. With a bit of humor thrown in for good measure.
And to make things more fun for collectors, Huth that was Halidom published the first book of the series under another alias, Dryasdust.

Interested parties can find an illustrated edition of the three volumes of Tales from the Wonder Club on the Project Gutenberg.
I will probably post on each of the three volumes separately.

Now, Halidom’s most famous book is called The Woman in Black that is NOT the story upon which the 2012 movie of the same title was based.
Hallidom’s is a far more intriguing story: back from the Boer War, sir Ashley Carruthers is visiting a friend when he stops in a country village church and meets a mysterious Woman in Black that seems to scare the vicar during his sermon.

Who is this Woman in Black? Why has she struck fear into the heart of the Reverend Jabez Waldegrave? What is her part in the sudden illness which strikes Carruthers? Why, when she is detained by the police, does she transform from a beautiful woman into an old hag? What part is played by the mysterious ring she considers so important to her?

The book is pretty hard to find – it was reprinted in 2006 but I’ve been unable so far to trace a cheap copy.

But what struck me was the name of the main Character.
Ashley Carruthers.

This is not the first time I meet the name.
I remember distinctly that there was a “Carruthers” that was the character used as an example in the old Space:1889 handbook. That was the first time I met the name. If I remember coirrectly the guy was called Arthur Carruthers.
That later popped up in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist – Bob Carruthers, that is.

And then, of course, there’s Carruthers (no first name given) in Erskine Childers’ The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service1.

Now, according to Wikipedia

Carruthers is a Scottish surname and clan, originating from the lands of Carruthers in Dumfriesshire. The place name is derived from the Cumbric for “Rhydderch’s fort” possibly in reference to Riderch I of Alt Clut.

… but etymological details apart, I find it interesting this presence of the Carruthers boys in so many genre adventures set at the turn of the last century.
Were they related?
Let’s forget for the moment the apocryphal Space:1889 Carruthers, and let’s take a look at the three others:

  • The Carruthers of **Sands** (1903) is a minor official in the Foreign Office.
  • Halidom’s Ashley Carruthers (1906) is a member of the landed gentry and a former officer of the British army in South Africa.
  • The Bob Carruthers in **Cyclist** (1904) is also from South Africa, and by all appearances, a gentleman.

I’ve half a mind of going Wold Newton on these guys, and invent some fictitious biography of the Carruthers Brothers.
It might be fun.

  1. that, curiously enough, I was discussing with my friend Jim Cornelius over at his blog a few days back. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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