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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Richard Conroy

Richard Conroy is yet another of my "mysteries that have me mystified" authors. I only have three of his novels—two Westerns and one SF—and one that I suspect is by him. He seems to have been a pretty good writer and I remember Derrick Rowles, an editor at Hamilton & Co., telling me that "Conroy was one of my favourites. I never had to lay a pen on his manuscripts. I just used to read them for pleasure."

Conroy wrote two series: as Duke Montana he penned the Deadlight series starring John Lincoln Deadlight, a roving cowboy with a black eye-patch: "That black patch was John Lincoln Deadlight's trademark. When it was seen in some quiet spot south of the Forty-ninth parallel and West of the Missouri, it spelt trouble. Bad men began to fidget at the mere mention of it, and law-officers felt uncomfortable around the collar. Because though Deadlight had cleaned up more corrupt towns and killed more bad men than any five elected sheriffs, his methods weren't wholly orthodox. Or law-abiding, for that matter." His other main series featured the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody and was based very loosely on the life of William Frederick Cody.

The noticeable thing about his Westerns—and I'm basing this on only two, remember—is that they are written in plain English rather than the mock, drawling Yankee adopted so badly by some of his contemporaries. One of the earliest novels to appear under the Duke Montana byline was full of it: "Ah'm droppin' into line, mistah. Yew're all right ... I guess yer a spy. jes' tagging along behind us ... Another word an' I'll tumble an brand yuh," etc., etc. Conroy used 'you' instead of 'yer', for instead of 'fer'... just plain English.

His SF novel, Mission from Mars, was a satire with the working classes fighting the aristocracy after Martians intervene and destroy all the gold in Europe. Phil Harbottle, rightly critical of most of the science fiction that was published during the early 1950s, described one of Conroy's stories as "absurd, but quite well written"... praise indeed!

So what happened to Richard 'Rick' Conroy? A capable writer shouldn't just disappear completely. Did he simply move on and write under other pen-names? Sometimes you can strike lucky and find other stories by authors in other places but that hasn't been the case with Conroy: his two dozen or so novels from Hamilton & Co. are all that is known about him. Everything else, his life, career and maybe other literary achievements, is a mystery.

Injun Justice. London, Hamilton & Co., Mar 1951.
Mission to Mars (as Rick Conroy). London, Hamilton [Panther Books], Aug 1952.

Novels as Scott Jefferson (series Buffalo Bill Cody)
Buffalo Bill Cody. London, Hamilton [Panther Books 45], Apr 1953.
Bill CodyFrontiersman. London, Hamilton [Panther Books 56], May 1953.
Cody’s Rough Justice. London, Hamilton [Panther Books 63], Sep 1953.
Vengeance of Bill Cody. London, Hamilton [Panther Books 64], Sep 1953.
Jesse James. London, Hamilton [Panther Books 79], Oct 1953.
Gilded Lily. London, Hamilton [Panther Books 98], Nov 1953.
Longhorn Stampede. London, Hamilton [Panther Books 112], Feb 1954.

Novels as Duke Montana (house name; series: John Lincoln Deadlight)
Lynch-Law in Perdition. London, Hamilton & Co., Sep 1951.
?Plunder in Panama. London, Hamilton & Co., Sep 1951.
?Traitor’s Gibbet. London, Hamilton & Co., Sep 1951.
Millionaire Train Robbery. London, Hamilton & Co., Sep 1951.
Blood-Stained Silver. London, Hamilton & Co., Oct 1951.
The Lynching Jury. London, Hamilton & Co., Nov 1951.
?The Fighting Cheyennes. London, Hamilton & Co., Feb 1952.
Mister Justice Deadlight. London, Hamilton & Co., Mar 1952.
Deadlight, the Liberator. London, Hamilton & Co., Apr 1952.
Deadlight Makes a Million. London, Hamilton [Panther Books], Jul 1952.
Deadlight and the Redskin Ghost. London, Hamilton & Co., Aug 1952.
Deadlight and the Bandit Loot. London, Hamilton [Panther Books], Oct 1952.
Deadlight the Avenger. London, Hamilton [Panther Books], Oct 1952.
Insanity by Arrangement. London, Hamilton & Co., Jan 1953.
Deadlight, the Hanging Judge. London, Hamilton [Panther Books 27], Jan 1953.
West of El Paso. London, Hamilton [Panther Books 33], Mar 1953.

Short Stories as Rick Conroy
Martians in a Frozen World (Authentic SF 26, Oct 1952)
Manna From Heaven (Authentic SF 32, Apr 1953)
Eve Hated Adam (Authentic SF 34, Jul 1953)

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