Available and shipping now, my new book Good Old Mac: Henry Everett McNeil, 1862—1929.
“It does seem hard to imagine the gang without good old Mac somewhere in the background as a high spot of its general setting — for he was one of the founders [of the Kalem Club]; and his naive, individual note formed one of the most characteristic contributions to the entire symphony. At any rate, he will have a kind of modest and affectionate immortality in our reminiscent folklore — as well as in the memory of the thousands of boys who have read his tales.” — H.P. Lovecraft.
The ‘ground zero’ of modern horror was in the notorious slum of Hell’s Kitchen, New York, in the 1920s. There H.P. Lovecraft and his Kalem circle met regularly, in the room of the apparently simple old bachelor who had brought them together. This curious boy-man was Henry Everett McNeil, and “good old Mac” was Lovecraft’s close friend. In his walking tours of New York’s secret slums, McNeil opened new doors in Lovecraft’s macabre imagination and may have been the model for “He”. A year later he fatefully told Lovecraft about a new magazine…
“McNeil tipped me off to that Weird Stories thing [Weird Tales], which he says is published out of Chi[cago], but I ain’t saw it yet. I’ll tip it a wink the next time I lamp [see] a news stand.” — Lovecraft letter to Morton, 29th March 1923, in Letters to James F. Morton, 2011.
This new book is the first scholarly account of McNeil and his career. An in-depth biographical essay of 13,000 words uncovers for the first time: his origins and war record; the details of McNeil’s work as a scriptwriter for the earliest western genre movies; his work with screen cowboy Tom Mix; his work as a staff movie writer for Vitagraph — and then for Edison’s movie studio with fellow Kalem Club member Arthur Leeds; and his turbulent book publishing career. The book also tries to answer the riddle of why McNeil was apparently so poor, when he was a best-selling children’s author and a reviewer of books for The New York Times.
The footnoted essay is followed by a selection from McNeil’s works: a long macabre revenge story not published since 1900; two horror tales of wolf attacks; a Revolutionary War ghost story; the tale of a grey-haired bachelor who falls for a girl of sixteen; two of his best fantasy stories, and his own account of how he writes for his audience. The volume also contains his original movie ‘photoplay’ story for the feature-film Geoffrey Manning, and McNeil’s seminal 1911 article on how to write for the silent cinema. There is a complete annotated checklist of his known work, including the movies. Also a survey of McNeil’s various fictional appearances in weird fiction.
This new illustrated book will interest Lovecraft scholars, children’s book collectors, and silent-era movie historians alike. It contains the first known photograph of McNeil, a fine publicity picture in which he is seen seated in his room with his books around him.