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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Herbert Shappiro

Herbert Arthur Shappiro wrote Westerns. Not usually my cup of tea but because of his connection with various British publishers I wanted to do some digging into his career. The only readily available source of information for Shappiro I was able to find was 20th Century Western Writers which had a somewhat minimalist entry under Shappiro's 'pseudonym' Burt Arthur:
Born in Texas c. 1899. Married Hortene (sic) Shappiro; had children, including the writer Budd Arthur. worked as a newspaperman and editor, for an advertising agency, and as a playwright and screenplay writer. Died in 1975.
What research I've been able to do seems to contradict some of this information. For starters, the only official records I have been able to track down show that his name was Shapiro (with one 'p'). According to his draft registration card (he joined the US forces in 1918, aged 19), Herbert Arthur Shapiro was born on 24 May 1899 and was living in the Bronx, New York, and was working at the time as a stenographer in New York City. His father was Henry Shapiro who was living at the same Bronx address.

In the 1920 US census, Herbert was still living with his parents at the same address along with siblings Bella, Ethel and Emanuel. Thanks to finding the names of Herbert's parents, I've been able to track the family through various census records and found the following:

Born in 1874, Henry Shapiro was a Russian immigrant who arrived in the USA in 1890 and became a naturalized citizen in 1896. Sarah, his wife, was born in February 1874 and married Henry in 1893. Bella was born in May 1894, Yettie (Ethel) in April 1897 and Herman in May 1899. So it would appear that Herbert was actually born Herman.

In the 1900 and 1910 census records, the family were living in the Manhattan (Ward 12), New York. Henry was listed as a salesman of ladies wear in 1910 and his family had expanded to include Emmanuel, born in c.1901. (Henry's sister, Rose, was also living with them.)

Ethel and Emanuel were still living with their parents in 1930, the last of the US census records available.

In 1925 or 1926, Herbert Shapiro (as he was now known by now) married. Herbert and Hortense appear in the 1930 census living in the Bronx with their 1 1/2-year-old son, Herbert, later to become better known as Budd Arthur.

Herbert Shappiro's first novels, The Black Rider and The Valley of Death appeared in 1941 and he went on to write at least another 65 which were published under the names Herbert Shappiro, Burt Arthur, Herbert Arthur, Arthur Herbert and Wayne Sotona. The latter name was used on a series of four High Chaparral TV series novelisations published by World Distributors in 1968-69 and I don't think Shappiro has been previously associated with the name. I make the connection because three of Shappiro's novels -- namely Nevada (1949, a.k.a. Trigger Man, a.k.a. Trigger Man from Nevada), The Drifter (1955) and Requiem for a Gun (1963) -- were reprinted by World Distributors under the Wayne Sotona pen-name in 1972.

In the early 1940s, Herbert Shappiro was writing fiction for Western pulps under the Columbia house name Cliff Campbell, a couple of which were reprinted in the UK by Gerald G. Swan.

(* the Fictionmags Index also lists a short story by one Art Shapiro ('Records Don't Cheat', Popular Sports Magazine, Spr 1947) which sounds suspiciously like (Herbert) Art(hur) Shapiro.)

As well as his prolific output of novels and short stories, Shappiro also wrote screenplays and scripts for television and radio. I've not been able to trace many -- the movie Ride Out For Vengeance (1957) was based on a Burt Arthur novel, and an episode of Cheyenne ('Decision at Gunsight') was from a Burt Arthur story. Shappiro also wrote for the Lawman TV series (c.1958).

At some point after 1930, Herman/Herbert Arthur Shapiro changed his name legally to Herbert Arthur, under which name his death was registered in 1975. Herbert Arthur died on 15 March in Chicago, where he had lived since 1973. Collaborations between Burt and Budd Arthur continued to appear until 1984. In 1978, the TV series The Oregon Trail adapted one of his collaborations with Budd Arthur, for the episode 'Suffer the Little Children' (1978). His wife, Hortense W. Arthur, died in 1996.


(* I chose Love Throws A Loop to illustrate this piece on the very confusing career of Herman Shapiro because it caused me quite a bit of confusion when I picked up a copy many years ago. Herbert Shappiro is clearly identified as the author on the cover -- as indeed he is. The book is a reprint of Shappiro's 1946 novel The Texan. But turn to the title page and the book is erroneously credited to Murray Leinster. And the publisher... Pemberton of Manchester on the title page but this was actually published by Bell Features & Publishing Co. of Toronto, Canada, and distributed in the UK by World Distributors. A number of these 'Bell Novel' titles appeared in 1946 to exploit a loophole in the import laws which kept American paperbacks from being widely distributed in the UK for many years after the war.

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