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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hal Pink

The Crime Fiction Bibliography Brains Trust has been mulling over the career of Hal Pink, who wrote a number of Western and Crime novels back in the 1930s before disappearing from the literary scene. Steve Lewis, who runs the incredibly good Mystery*File blog, published some information recently from correspondence with Christine Craghill, who is related to Pink through her paternal grandfather. From her comments and a little further digging, we now know a little more about the curiously named Hal Pink.

He was born Harry Leigh Pink at Port Sunlight on the Wirral, Cheshire, on 20 November 1906, the son of Frederick George Pink and his wife Ethel (nee Billington) who were married in Birkenhead in 1903. His middle name was apparently derived from his step-grandfather, Edward Leigh.

Pink must have developed a taste for writing early as his first stories began appearing in the mid-1920s when, I believe, he adopted the pen-name 'Pard' for a number of articles appearing in Chums in 1925-27, mostly concerning cowboys and the ways of the Wild West. At least two of the articles were illustrated by Hal Pink. A series of brief short stories appeared in 1927 under the title "Western Trails" featuring Buck McLeod, a 'line rider' with the Bar-C outfit based in Missouri. Pink also appeared in both British magazines and American pulp magazines over the next decade, including Lariat Story Magazine, Passing Show, Mystery, The Storyteller and Detective Story Magazine.

Hal Pink appeared with a slew of short novels published by Dublin-based printer Mellifont Press in the early 1930s. He was amongst their earliest authors with titles like Jean of the Lazy J Ranch and The Heritage of Kid McCloud amongst the first books Mellifont published. One title, The Miracle Rider, appeared anonymously but was advertised elsewhere as being by Pink.

His first full-length novel, The Rattlesnake, was published in 1934, followed by The Cossack Mystery (1934), both from Mellifont. Pink subsequently sold novels to Philip Allan, Herbert Jenkins and Hutchinson & Co. The latter were his main publisher from 1938 on. Between 1938-41, Pink wrote five novels featuring the adventures of Inspector Docker, a pseudonymous novel (as Charles Van Horn) and a biography of Bill Guppy, a pioneer woodsman in Temagami, who tutored a young English boy called Archie Belaney when he arrived in Canada. Belaney later reinvented himself as 'Grey Owl'.

Pink had travelled regularly to Canada and America during the 1930s (known trips to the USA in 1931, to Canada in 1933, 1936 and 1937). Whilst in England, he lived at Craven House, Grove Road, London, and 25 The Ridgeway, Wadden, Croydon. At the time, he described his occupation as journalist.

Pink's writing career seems to have ended not long after the war began. He had moved permanently to Canada where he was an honors graduate of Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. It may be here that he received his religious training, as, around that time, he became rector of Hornnby, in the dicese of Niagara, and served Emmanuel Church on Hanlon's Island, in the diocese of Toronto.

In 1942, he founded an Anglican mission parish in the bush country of northern Canada, near the war boom town of Nobel. Moving to America, and by now styling himself as the Reverend Leigh-Pink, he became canon residentiary of the Cathedral Church of St. Mark in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here he founded "The Trailblazers" in 1947, a fan club for Episcopal western missions offering small boys a cowboy program with a direct pledge of a dime a week to western missionary week.

Harry Leigh-Pink married Toronto-born Dorothy Kerr (1918-2003, obituary here) and, with their two young sons (Peter (b. July 1945) and Robin (b. Feb 1949), the Leigh-Pinks moved to California, where the Rev. Leigh-Pink took over as chaplain of the Navy Family Chapel in Long Beach in 1950. He became rector of the Long Beach Episcopal Church in 1952. Two daughters were born around this time: Phyllis (b. June 1954) and Janet (b. Dec 1957).

He remained in California for the rest of his life, latterly at St. Stephen's Church, Stockton, and the St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Bakersfield, where he died on 22 November 1973. The family name has evolved subsequently to Leighpink.

A newspaper report from 1950 noted that the Rev. Leigh-Pink was formerly "established as novelist and newspaperman in Great Britain with 30 adventure and mystery thrillers published." The listing below numbers only 20 books, so further titles under pseudonyms may exist.


Novels (series: Insp. Docker)
Jean of Lazy J Ranch. London, Mellifont Press, 1932.
The Heritage of Kid McCleod. London, Mellifont Press, 1932.
The Gas Mask Gang. London, Mellifont Press, 1933.
The Masked Terror. London, Mellifont Press, 1933.
The Rattlesnake. London, Mellifont Press, 1934.
The Cossack Mystery. London, Mellifont Press, 1934.
The Miracle Rider. London, Mellifont Press, 1935.
The Rodeo Trail. London, Philip Allan, 1936.
The Secret Service Mystery. London, Mellifont Press, 1936.
Tangled Trousseaux. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1936.
Purely Platonic. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1937.
The Green Triangle Mystery (Docker). London, Hutchinson & Co., 1938.
The Strelsen Castle Mystery (Docker). London, Hutchinson & Co., 1939.
The Black Sombrero Mystery (Docker). London, Hutchinson & Co., 1940.
The Test Match Mystery (Docker). London & Melbourne, Hutchinson & Co., 1940.
The Rodeo Murder Mystery (Docker). London & Melbourne, Hutchinson & Co., 1941.

Trail Tales. London, Mellifont Press, 1932.
The Fellowship of the Feather (Waldron). London, Mellifont Press, 1933.

Novels as Charles Van Horn
The Quest of Krang. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1938.

Bill Guppy. King of the woodsmen life-long friend and tutor of “Grey Owl”. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1940.

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