20 January 2020

An R.T.M. Scott Cover Cavalcade

It seems appropriate that a man taken with mysticism and the supernatural would end up as a phantom. Reginald Thomas Maitland Scott – R.T.M. Scott – isn't to be found in The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, or W.H. New's Encyclopedia of Canadian Literature. Forget about Alberto Manguel's Canadian Mystery Stories. I first saw Scott's name as a kid on a couple of paperback reprints. I had no idea that Scott was Canadian. I didn't know that he'd received a Royal Military College education. I didn't know that he'd served in the First World War. I still don't know what brought him to writing.

Scott published his first story, "Such Bluff as Dreams Are Made Of," in the 3 April 1920 issue of Adventure. Look carefully and you'll see him listed last on the issue's cover.

Scott was thirty-seven when that first story was published. He wrote for a further twenty-six years, only to fall silent during his final two decades.

The cover of Scott's first book, Secret Service Smith, looks like something from another time. What I mean to say is that it looks like something that is not of its time – more Edwardian than Roaring Twenties.

Secret Service Smith (New York: Dutton, 1923)
The first of eight Secret Service Smith books, the cover is nothing like The Black Magician, its follow-up:

The Black Magician (New York: Dutton, 1925)
I think the first editions of Ann's Crime and Aurelius Smith – Detective, the third and fourth Secret Service Smith books are the two best covers to grace an R.T.M. Scott novel:

Ann's Crime (New York: Dutton, 1926)
Aurelius Smith – Detective (New York: Dutton, 1927)
Though I do like this later treatment of the former:

Ann's Crime (New York: Dutton: 1938)
That Ann. What a badass. Quite different from this Jazz Age honey:

Complete Detective Novel Magazine (November 1928)
The Secret Service Smith adventures are pretty good – writes a man who has read only one – but Scott is much better known as the author of the first two Spider novels:

The Spider (October 1933)
The Spider (November 1933)
Pure pulp, they came and went in the autumn of 1933 – and weren't available in book form until 1969, three years after Scott's death. These were the covers on which I first read Scott's name:

The Spider Strikes! (New York: Berkley, 1969)
The Wheel of Death (New York: Berkley, 1969)
I remember seeing these several years after publication – most likely in our local used bookstore – but turned up my nose. The Spider seemed to owe too much to the Shadow, which had become something of an obsession. Had I known they were written by a fellow Canadian I might've given them a chance.

The Agony Column Murders (New York: Dutton, 1946)
Scott's two final novels, The Agony Column Murders and The Nameless Ones, were published during a time of grief. His son and namesake had followed him into service in a World War – and, like his father, he'd survived. Unlike his father, he was killed in an accident before returning home.

The former editor of Mystical Science Magazine, Reginald Thomas Maitland Scott, fis, shared his father's beliefs concerning the unseen world. I see now that I've done both a disservice with my earlier reference to Scott's interest in the supernatural – "supernormal" is the word Reginald Thomas Maitland Scott, pere, would've used.

The Nameless Ones (New York: Dutton, 1947)
We've done both R.T.M. Scotts a disservice in not recognizing their writings.

Neither deserves to be a phantom.

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