06 September 2016

The Last of James Benson Nablo?

The life of James Benson Nablo has always intrigued. A Niagara Falls native who had never before appeared in print, he came out of nowhere in 1945 with The Long November, a solid novel from a major New York publisher. It was then off to Hollywood, where three motion pictures featuring big names like Mickey Rooney, George Raft and Edward G. Robinson were made from his stories. A fourth, China Doll starring Victor Mature, was in production when Nablo died at age forty-five.

There's more to the writer's story, of course. For one, there was a second novel, And Yet Another Four, he had under contract with Scribners. Nablo wasn't satisfied and set it aside. The manuscript is now lost.

Two years ago, I helped bring The Long November back into print as part of the Véhicule Press Ricochet Books series. It's now joined by Stories, a collection of Nablo's previously unpublished short fiction. This attractive hardcover, handset and printed using a Vandercook SP-15 press in an edition of fifty, is the latest title from J.C. Byers' Three Bats Press.

Five stories in all, they're preceeded by my Introduction. Also included is an Afterword and memorial verse by Nancy Nablo Vichert, Nablo's daughter. The latter dates from her years as a student at McMaster University.

With Stories, all known surviving writing by James Benson Nablo is now in print. Until today, they existed only as a series of manuscripts the author had entrusted to Nancy.

But what are they? As I write in the Introduction, Nablo couldn't have intended these stories for the movies, and yet Nablo never published any short stories. What's more, there's no evidence that he so much as tried. Were they written for his own amusement? Are they false starts? Fragments of larger works?

All these years later, he remains the Mysterious Mister Nablo.

Copies of Stories by James Benson Nablo can be purchased by contacting Three Bats Press: 

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  1. Mysterious and intriguing. Thanks for the post and for earlier ones about Nablo.

  2. Thanks to you both. I wish Three Bats all good luck with this. Clearly, a labour of love.

  3. I came across an original copy of The Long November owned by my father, now deceased. The book is inscribed to my father by the author and refers to their friendship stengthened by there "journey together". It was signed in 1947 "at Hollywood". I don't recall my dad ever commenting about being in Hollywood. He was only 20 in 1947. This is quite intriguing to me.

    1. Mary, I don't know how your comment passed me by. What a curious item. Nablo would not have been in Hollywood long when that book was signed.