Found Pages: The Remarkable Harold Ernest (“Darcy Glinto”) Kelly, 1899–1969.
The New Columbia Encyclopedia (1975)
What you have here is an introduction to the author who, to judge from Google, is best known now, if at all, for the words “Lady Don’t Turn Over” and “Road Floozie.“
Lady—Don’t Turn Over (1940), together with James Hadley Chase’s No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939), of which it was an intensification, was a major influence on British gangster fiction in the post-WWll “Mushroom Jungle” (Steve Holland’s term) of cheapie paperback publishing, in which other Glinto titles appeared or reappeared.
Along with George Orwell’s essay “Raffles and Miss Blandish” (1944), it started me on the road that led to my Violence in the Arts (1973) and to several of the items here in “Thrillers.” It was my first sex-and-violence novel, and it rather than the actual No Orchids was in my consciousness when I read Orwell’s classic polemic.
I began work on the present project with three books on my shelf—Lady—Don’t Turn Over, Road Floozie, and Deep South Slave—and a problem. Was Deep South Slave by the same author as the other two? Apart from a handful of titles listed in them, I was entirely ignorant of the author’s other works, and all that I knew of his life, courtesy of an anonymous handwritten note in my copy of Lady, was that he and James Hadley Chase and their respective publishers had been fined at the Old Bailey in 1942 for having produced three “obscene” books.
One thing led to another, rather in the fashion that I imagine exploring a new cave system to be like. Narrow tunnels suddenly opened up into caverns with other tunnels leading off them, and when you went along those there were further forkings, and so on, as well as dead ends.
I now know a lot more about the works, but there are still a substantial number that I haven’t been able to access, and I still know, as distinct from surmising, singularly little about the author’s life. Nor is it always clear which books are in fact his. “Glinto” was only one of his pseudonyms, and he was himself a publisher, with his brother, in the pseudonym-riddled Jungle.
Others, I’m sure, have read some of the books that are still mere names to me, know things that I don’t about the author’s career, or have ideas about how to go about finding things out, and the Supplementary page is there for additions, suggestions, corrections. Titles still come on the market occasionally, too.
This site is work in progress, and I’ve tried to preserve something of the spirit of exploration. Maybe moving around in it will itself have something of a spelunking feeling.
“Darcy Glinto”! For a few of us, with its aura of the clandestine, it’s still a name to conjure with. For others, it’s probably merely “camp,” an allusion in “The Missing Page,” an episode in the British comedy series “Hancock’s Half Hour.” (See Note 39)
In any event it’s more interesting than the name of the actual man behind it, Harold Kelly—Harold Ernest Kelly, to be precise, but he operated simply as Harold. This was Britain, where the quintessentially “American” Edward G. Robinson would have been plain Edward Robinson, obviously without a hope of playing an Al Capone surrogate or G-Man.
There are some eighteen authentic Glinto novels altogether, Very few are on the market now, and when they do surface they are likely to be collectibles. Several aren’t even in the British Library, let alone in North American libraries.
They appeared in two series.
The first, comprising six titles, ran from Lady—Don’t Turn Over to either Yours Truly, Hoodlum (1941 or ’42) or Road Floozie (1941). Road Floozie was a poignant “existential” road novel whose characteristics you would never have inferred or predicted from Lady. (On the sequence see Sidebar 3)
In 1942, Pilot Officer (Admin.) René Barbazon Raymond (James Hadley Chase), Harold Ernest Kelly (Glinto), and their respective publishers were found guilty of obscenity in a trial at the Old Bailey. They were heavily fined—Raymond for Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief (1941), Kelly for Lady and Road Floozie—and the production of Glintos came to an abrupt halt. It was a foretaste of the Hank Janson trials a decade later.
A run of thirteen new Glintos began in 1947, when Harold and his brother Hector founded the Robin Hood Press, and continued until 1955, when Hector closed the press down. Hector’s fear of legal sanctions, as recalled in a letter to Steve Holland (Note 12), was evidently justified. The war against smut and filth sent two of Hank Janson’s publishers to jail for six months and put them out of business with punitive fines, wrecking their lives.
The second series of Glintos includes the remarkable Deep South Slave (1951), a moving and impeccably American-feeling tale of race, sex, pride, and punishment in darkest Georgia. It is not in the least exploitational, and I will be taking up the question of whether Kelly was in fact the author.
The first series was published by Wells Gardner, Darton, the second by Robin Hood Press. Nothing by Kelly seems to have been published in North America or, in striking contrast to Chase, France. (See Note 7).
During the interval between the two Glinto series, Kelly hadn’t fallen silent. On the contrary, he metamorphosed into Buck Toler (gangsters), Preston Yorke (science-fiction and detection), Eugene Ascher (the supernatural and detection), John Parsons (non-fictional social comment), and, marginally, himself.
Subsequently he also appeared as Gordon Holt (racing, crime, detection), Lance Carson (Westerns), Duke Linton (gangsters), and over his own name (non-violently), also probably as Clinton Wayne and possibly as Bryn Logan (Westerns). In a swan-song between 1961 and 1964, he wrote several Hank Jansons after the name was farmed out.
I will be chancing my arm with some of the attributions.
His range of genres and styles is wider than that of any other writer I can think of, and he brought commitment to all of them. Each, it seems to me, enabled him to realize a different set of potentials in himself.
It is important, too, to keep something in mind here.
In the Sherlock Holmes story “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” a horribly disfigured beggar is accused of having done away with a City-of-London gent. But it turns out, after some deft work by Holmes with a sponge, that the beggar is the gent in disguise, he having discovered years before that he could earn more as a pitiable mendicant than by respectable means.
It requires a mental wrench, at least it did for me, but when one looks at Kelly’s career as a whole, it isn’t an affair of a low-life (Glinto) writing up, but of somebody writing down who could write literally City-of-London prose when he wanted to—a fascinating somebody, when you start looking more closely.
Moreover, scandalous though it was, Lady—Don’t Turn Over didn’t inaugurate an escalating pattern of violences in the Glinto novels, particularly not violences against women.
In the pre-trial Glintos when they’re read in their publication sequence extreme violences in fact diminish and there is a growing identification with women, as there is in later books like Curtains for Carrie (1947) and No Comeback from Connie (1948).
I say more about that pattern in Sidebar 3.
Kelly’s books simply don’t fit the template for British gangster fiction that Richard Hoggart presents in The Uses of Literacy (1957) with a vividness that suggests that he had read some of it himself for other than research purposes.
We are in and of this world of the fierce alleyway-assault, the stale disordered bed, the closed killer-car, the riverside warehouse knifing. We thrill to these in themselves; there is no way out, nothing else; there is no horizon and no sky. The world, consciousness, man’s ends are this—this constricted and overheated horror.
Wow! Which way to the Funhouse, Mister?
No, Kelly, though not simplistically a moralist, was always concerned with moral values.
So who was Harold Ernest Kelly?
Biographical information about him has been extremely hard to come by.
All that I really know about him, apart from the publication facts, is that he was born in 1899 (see below for place and family), died seventy years later after reportedly retiring to the Canary Islands for reasons of health, worked in the Twenties and Thirties as a free-lance journalist, started in 1931 a City of London weekly called City Mid-Week that was put out of business the following year by a libel action, was back in the same court ten years later for the two books I’ve mentioned, was living near Romford, a few miles north-east-east of London, at the time, joined with Hector in three publishing ventures (Everybody’s Books, Hector Kelly, Ltd., and Robin Hood Press), and was sufficiently at home in French to be able to translate for publication a couple of French texts.
Beyond that, I think we can infer from the works that he was proud of his Irish blood, was interested in the Ring (perhaps frequented in the company of the champion wrestler George Hackenschmidt) and maybe the Turf, and spent some time on the water.
But I don’t know where he died, or whether he served in the Great War, or if he was ever in North America.
I made a number of guesses in the first edition.
I guessed that he was born an Ulster Protestant and grew up in a hilly area, probably near water; that there were horses in his youth, and maybe boats at some point; that he served briefly in the Great War; that at some point he was in Canada in the winter (possibly Timmins, Ontario); that he may have married late; that his wife’s name may have been Kathleen, and that his upbringing had been a strict one.
He might, I thought, have lost his father early or become estranged from him. He might, I say might, have had a sister whose name in the late Forties was Monica Lewis. He might—might—have had some ability as a graphic artist.
But that’s a lot of “might’s,” on the reasoning behind which, see Note 2.
Of course it could have turned out that he was a High Anglican born in Hampstead who went to Harrow, was a Conscientious Objector, married at twenty-three, and had five children.
But I rather doubted it.
I was going to add that at least we can be sure that he wasn’t the Harold Kelly who did a book called Pencil Drawing for Fun, but though this was most likely the American Harold C. Kelly who wrote on horology, probably nothing should be ruled out.
Well, after all those speculations, it’s corrections and amplification time. If you go now to Note 55, you will find some recently acquired hard facts about the Kellys, though still barely a start towards biographical substantiality.
I shall continue to provide corrections and amplifications along the way. Supplementary (see the top index bar) already has fascinating new material in it by a number of other hands.
In fact, four years later (2011), two valuable new items can be found in Note 67 and Note 68, the first of those, by Voncile Ralph, being a reminiscence about Harold as he was when she knew him in the mid-Fifties. When I read there of his fluent French, I realized once again how skewed my take on him had been by the clandestine Lady—Don’t Turn Over having been my first (schoolboy) encounter with “Darcy Glinto.” And if Kelly was in the Merchant Marine sometime between the wars, perhaps to get away from England after the City Mid-Week verdict, it would make his having been in North America at some point a near-certainty.
In the other Note, indefatigable bibliophile Morgan Wallace passes along information obtained from the Kelly family, together with photographs. Unfortunately no photo of Harold has surfaced yet. So I shall continue to imagine that we see him in the drawing accompanying Note 40.
In the 1951 introduction to London Cameos, a collection of character sketches of predominantly “little-guy” workers in the City of London that had appeared in City Mid-Week , Kelly recalls that the objective of himself and his unnamed co-editor had been
to send the existing staid, respectable, old-fashioned City paper mouldering down to a despised oblivion, to stagger Fleet Street by its scoops’ and the high literary level of its features and comments, and to shake the whole City to its foundations by dragging out its most cherished and esoteric secrets to the light of print.
So he was, it would appear, temperamentally a rebel even before the two court cases, after the second of which he was required to remain in custody until the fine—the equivalent of over £3000 now—had been paid. (See Note 8 about currency.)
Those defeats evidently hit him hard and angered him deeply. It must have been particularly galling that in the 1942 trial at the Old Bailey, rather than in the customary magistrate’s court, he and Chase were singled out for special treatment in the campaign that year against “obscene” books, they as well as the publishers having been charged.
It was a trial by jury, and he had to sit there and listen to passages from Chase’s Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief read out with distaste by the prosecutor, and see the jury file back in next day with a guilty verdict after spending the night with copies of the book. He and his publishers changed their pleas to Guilty, rather than go through that experience.
Captivity of one kind or another, and escapes or rescues from captivity, recur in his books, as do false accusations and the experience of shame. He was temperamentally on the side of victims and underdogs.
(See Note 11.)
To judge from one book each from the four occultist novels (Ascher) and five science- fiction ones (Yorke), some of his reading of choice carried him into zones of empowering knowledge off the beaten track.
In There Were No Asper Ladies [To Kill a Corpse], 1944, Lucian Carolus is a learned explorer of, and at times combatant with, supernatural manifestations, a member of the Nineties-flavoured literary family that includes William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost-Finder (1913) and Dennis Wheatley’s Duc de Richelieu (in The Devil Rides Out, 1935).
At the end of Space-TimeTask Force (1953), with its ventures into time-travel, there’s a Supplementary Scientific Note that begins with the announcement that “The Scientific basis of this story is sound, even though it goes far beyond the point at which our most advanced physicists have arrived,” and takes us through five densely argued pages about entities like Flow, Infinity, Time-Dimension Unit, and Space-Dimension Unit. (See Note 16.)
He also continued (defiantly?) with gangster narratives as Buck Toler.
The Lance Carson Westerns contain some of his best and most sensitive prose, and you can see him intelligently at work on themes of particular interest to him, free of the Glinto obligation to sound tough.
For other good Westerns that may be by him, see Sidebar 8.
An odd stylistic mannerism occurs in some definite Kellys, namely putting the introductory “He said’s” and the like at the ends of paragraphs by previous speakers. (See Note 17) But its absence shouldn’t be taken to mean that a work isn’t by him.
Carson, Wayne, and Logan are not among the three hundred or so authors discussed in James Vinson, ed., Twentieth-Century Western Writers (1982), or in any other source that I’ve checked. I will bet that very few American writers of Westerns display Kelly’s particular strengths.
The 1945 pamphlet Give the People Homes; It Lies with You, published under the name of John Parsons, and attributed to Kelly by two major libraries, displays practical idealism. Three years later, as Gordon Holt, he translated from the French an important and visionary architectural manifesto by one of Le Corbusier’s associates, in the same volume with the Master himself. (See Note 27)
One might consider this too as being, like Clinton Wayne’s Hell Driver on Nowhere Trail, Preston Yorke’s Space-Time Task Force, and the Harold Kelly children’s book Monkey Goes Home (1949), concerned with someone’s seeing things more clearly than the general run of people, including individuals in positions of authority.
Three or four of the novels that Kelly, if I’m right, wrote as Hank Janson are still of real interest.
It is too early for a full-scale article on him, at least by me. There are simply too many uncertainties. This is one of those areas where solid scholarship—biographical, bibliographical, textual—really matters.
Instead, what I have done is this.
I have provided, as a foundation, an annotated bibliography (“BioBibliographical”), arranged chronologically, of all the works that I have found attributed to him (plus a few attributions of my own), indicating where the attributions are made and in which principal libraries—mainly the British Library and the Library of Congress— copies can be found.
Included are such firm-seeming biographical facts as I have come across, together with occasional information about the publishing business.
In a second and much longer chronology, the five-part Violence, Inc., I provide more information about the contents of a lot of Kelly’s books, and set them in among a lot of other twentieth-century works, both fictional and non-fictional, in which violence figures significantly, plus others that bear in some way on the question of social order.
In the first two of those pages, which take us from 1899 up to 1939, I also provide a fair amount of information about realworld doings.
Personally I like chronologies. I like seeing things that happen in the same year. I like getting my bearings. Working on this one has been self-educational, since there were lots of names in the dusty attic of my mind, Amritsar Massacre for example, about which in fact I knew virtually nothing.
Picking the visuals has been fun.
There is further information in the Notes and in what I have called Sidebars, since they are parts of the latent narratives.
“Found Pages” is a kind of smorgasbord from which one can put together one’s own author.
Some of the Sidebars are virtual articles, and there is lots more information in the Notes.
“Concluding,” which in fact was written after a lot of the other work had been done, gives my over-all critical opinions about Kelly up to that point. With some tweaking, trimming, and re-stitching, “Introductory” and “Concluding” would be a single longish article.
“Supplementary” is for corrections and amplifications, mostly by others.
The present Sidebars are as follows:
- Sidebar 1. Some Orchids
- Sidebar 2. Chase and Glinto
- Sidebar 3. The Pre-trial Glintos
- Sidebar 4. Deep South Slavery
- Sidebar 5. Darcy Janson
- Sidebar 6. Rogues’ Gallery
- Sidebar 7. Kelly Brothers
- Sidebar 8. Scandal
- Sidebar 9. Westerns
- Sidebar 10. City Mid-Week
- Sidebar 11. Gangdom
- Sidebar 12. Jungle Books
- Sidebar 13. Bodily Harms
- Sidebar 14. Belgium 1914
The only article on Glinto that I have come across is Malcolm Chapman’s 296-word piece on him in the November 2001 issue of The Missing Page, the quarterly newsletter of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society, The piece is very largely a useful summary of the plot for the benefit of the curious, with only one inaccuracy (it wasn’t open-heart surgery).
There are two pages on Lady—Don’t Turn Over, and Road Floozie in George Ryley Scott’s “Into Whose Hands” (1945) in which he places them in the context of the 1942 purity campaign and provides even better plot-summaries.
Other references to Kelly in books, so far as my reading goes, are all brief and concern only Glinto. The voluminous French literature on crime fiction, with one exception, is terra incognita for me, but I would be very surprised were Glinto to figure in it. As I have said, he appears not have been published in France. For a French critic on Chase, see Note 7 .
Steve Holland has given us a fascinating book with The Trials of Hank Janson (2004). It would be splendid if he were to turn his expert attention to Kelly, who seems to me a much more interesting figure than Chase.
I am grateful to Ian Colford of the Dalhousie University Library for his general helpfulness and his particular interest in the Deep-South Slave problem, and to Mukund Miyangar and Sue Martin of the British Library for their helpfulness about photocopies, and to Lesley Hidden for providing me with a copy of The Missing Page with Chapman’s piece in it.
My blessings on John Baxter for photocopying Give the People Homes and parts of George Hackenschmidt’s Fitness and Your Self in the Library of Congress, and obtaining for me a copy of Buck Toler’s Tough on the Wops on interlibrary-loan; and on Jamie Sturgeon for enabling me to acquire, out of the blue, Darcy Glinto’s The Hangman is a Woman, and on Tom Lesser for his wonderfully generous helpfulness with respect to various other Glinto texts.
I am greatly beholden to Allen J. Hubin for his prodigious Crime Fiction II; a Comprehensive Bibliography, 1749–1990, rev. ed. (1994); to Maurice Flanagan for his richly illustrated British Gangster and Exploitation Paperbacks of the Postwar Years (1997); and to Steve Holland for his trail-blazing and generous-spirited The Mushroom Jungle; a History of Postwar Paperback Publishing (1993) and the poignant Trials of Hank Janson (2004).
Tony Goodstone’s fine anthology The Pulps (1970) and Robert Kenneth Jones’ The Shudder Pulps (1975) have been on my shelves for a number of years. For some other secondary works that I have consulted with profit, see BioBibliographical.
The present enterprise would have been impossible for me in the days before Google, Abebooks, and my Mac.
My thanks, as always, to Webmaster Rob Stevenson, whose expertise and patient coding make it all possible.
My thanks also to Bryan Maycock for his inspiring genealogical detective work.
Found Pages is for Steve Lewis, lovely editor and bibliographer, without whose interest and the stimulus of his ’zine Mystery*File (now available online at www.mysteryfile.com) I would not have embarked on this enterprise, which has expanded far beyond my original intentions.
In its revised and enlarged version, it is also for Steve Holland, Al Hubin, and Tom Lesser.
February 2006–February 2007