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Saturday, April 17, 2010

R. Wills Thomas

I think I made an error with Ronald Wills Thomas many years ago which has been picked up by others, so I'm trying to check and correct this error. I had fixed on the record of a Ronald W. Thomas who died in February 1955; re-checking the information I had to write up this column I found that this person died aged 46, implying a birth in 1908/09 and was almost certainly Ronald William Thomas, whose birth was registered in Islington in 1908.

The author Ronald Wills Thomas was, on the other hand, born around May 1910 in Aberdare, Glamorgan. He was the son of Ambrose Thomas, a grocer of 36 Herbert Street, Aberdare, and his wife Bessie Florence (nee Morgan) who were married in Lewisham in 1909.

A back-cover blurb to one of his novels notes that he spent his early boyhood in Cornwall, near St Michael's Mount. He began writing when he was 18, installing himself in a fifth floor room in Montmartre. Lack of success and money compelled him to find other work and he drifted southward to Lyons, where he took a position as a clerk in a wine business.

Subsequently he worked as a journalist, translator and teacher of English, living in the Belgian Congo, Pimlico, the shores of the Red Sea and Brighton.

I haven't tracked down dates for these events but I can say with reasonable certainty that Thomas was married to Dorothy A. Parsons in Westminster in 1935 and, around 1937-39, was living at 22 Redcliff Street, S.W.10 and, by 1939, at Colgate, Horsham, Sussex. Thomas was a prolific translator of novels from German and French during this period.

He joined the army early in the war and was invalided out after an accident. This did not prevent him from seeing a good deal of the Middle East as a civilian and he joined Intelligence in Germany at the close of the war.

After the war, Thomas began writing crime novels and thrillers. As far as I can tell, he first appeared under the house name Jeff Bogar in 1950—a name also used by other writers—although he also quickly established himself writing hardcover novels as Ronald Wills and James Cadell. Hamilton & Co. canceled their line of gangster novels in 1951 but began publishing thrillers in 1953 under their Panther Books imprint. Thomas wrote all the novels that appeared under the Jeff Bogar byline between 1954-55, these being the last of his known novels. A non-fiction book on the subject of the young Lawrence of Arabia appeared in 1960 as did a number of further translations under the pen-name James Cadell.

I now believe that Thomas died in 1969, aged 58, his death registered in Chichester, Sussex, although I'm trying to find a way of confirming this.

Novels as Jeff Bogar (possibly wrote others under this name)
Lady - Pass My Gat!. London, Hamilton, 1950?
Payoff For Paula. London, Hamilton, 1950?; as The Tigress, New York, Lion 72, 1952.
Undercurrent. London, Panther 102, Jan 1954.
Fire Zone. London, Panther 113, Feb 1954.
Pink Film. London, Panther 165, Dec 1954.
The Concrete Curtain. London, Panther 166, Dec 1954.
The Land Pirate. London, Panther 180, Mar 1955.
The Speed Queens. London, Panther 120, Jul 1955.
Painted on a Donkey Cart. London, Panther, Nov 1955.

Novels as James Cadell
Roast Pigeon. London, MacGibbon & Kee, Sep 1951.
Black Niklas. London, Victor Gollancz, Aug 1954.

Novels as Ronald Wills
Live Bait. London, Wingate, Oct 1950.
Big Fish. London, Wingate, Apr 1951; New York, Roy, 1954.
The Black Weever. London, Wingate, Sep 1952; New York, Roy, 1955.
Food For Fishes. London, Andrew Dakers, Feb 1954.

Non-fiction as James Cadell
The Young Lawrence of Arabia, illus. William Randell. London, Max Parrish, 1960; New York, Roy Publishers, 1961.

Others
Leather-Nose by Jean La Varende, translated by R. Wills Thomas. London, Methuen & Co., 1938.
A Child of Our Time. Being Youth Without God and A Child of Our Time [Jugend Ohne Gott and Ein Kind unserer Zeit] by Odon von Horvath, translated by R. Wills Thomas. London, Methuen & Co., 1939.
Days of Delight [Les Plaisirs et les jeux] by Georges Duhamel, translated by R. Wills Thomas. London, Andrew Dakers, Oct 1939.
The Age of Fish [Zeitalter der Fishe] by Odon von Horvath, translated by R. Wills Thomas. New York, Dial Press, 1939.
Centaur of God by Jean La Varende, translated by D. A. & R. Wills Thomas. London, Methuen & Co., 1939.
A Villa in Sicily [Villa Aurea] by Georg Kaiser, translated by R. Wills Thomas. London, Andrew Dakers, 1939.
Vera by Georg Kaiser, translated by R. Wills Thomas. New York, Alliance Book Corporation/Longmans, Green & Co., 1939.
The Great North [Grande nord] by Felice Bellotti, translated by James Cadell. London, Andre Deutsch, 1957.
Parachutes and Petticoats [Les fleurs du ciel] by Brigitte Friang, translated by James Cadell. London, Jarrolds, 1958.
Red Cloth and Green Forest [Samatari] by Alfonso Vinci, translated by James Cadell. London, Hutchinson, 1959.
The Lapps [I Lapponi] by Roberto Bosi, translated by James Cadell. London, Thames & Hudson, 1960.
Krakoram. The Ascent of Gasherbrum IV by Fosco Maraini, translated by James Cadell. London, Hutchinson, 1961.

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