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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Alex Philip: two authors often conflated

My good friend John Herrington opened a little can of worms when he mentioned Alex Philip recently. John was trying to discover information about an author listed in Crime Fiction Bibliography for his crime related novel Complete Change (1926). A handful of other novels appeared under the same byline, including the 1927 Lost World novel The Painted Cliff, and it was assumed that these were by the same author, believed to have been an American who spent most of his life in Canada.

However, copyright records prove different and show that there are two authors, both known as Alex Philip, who were contemporaries but who worked thousands of miles apart.

Firstly we have British author Alexander John Philip, born in Marylebone, London, in 1879. He began his career as a boy assistant at the Chelsea public library in 1892, subsequently holding posts in Willesden and Hampstead before becoming chief librarian at Gravesend between 1903 and his retirement in 1946.

Philip was an author and publisher, responsible for a number of year books published for libraries, museums and art galleries. He was the owner, editor and publisher of the monthly magazine The Librarian between 1911-46. He is probably best known nowadays as the author of A Dickens Dictionary (1909) and A History of Gravesend and Its Surroundings (1954).

He married Yvonne J. B. De Plounevez or Minnie Ethel Wallis in 1905 in Gravesend 1905. He died in 1955.

The second Alexander Philip is often described as American, but he was born in Scotland in March 1882, the third son of John and Elizabeth Philip. The two had a large family, and emigrated to America in 1884 where John became a superintendent at a granite quarry in Bluehill, Maine. Alexander was educated in Maine.

In 1906, Alexander moved to Canada, following in the footsteps of his older brother, John, who had emigrated there two years earlier. In 1911, the two brothers were sharing a house together with their wives—Alexander was now married to Myrtle Tapley, also from Maine, who had emigrated to Canada in 1910.

In 1915, following the opening of the PGE railway the year before, Alex and Myrtle opened a hotel, the Rainbow Lodge, in Alta Lake. This helped create a tourism industry in British Columbia's Whistler Valley with the Rainbow Lodge becoming a hugely popular honeymoon destination.

Alex wrote three novels: The Crimson West (1925), The Painted Cliff and Whispering Leaves (1931), the first of these being the basis for Canada's first ever talkie, The Crimson Paradise (1933), now lost.

Further information about Philip's novels can be found in Carole Gerson's online essay 'Alex Philips: An Embarrassment in Our Literary History', which will give you a good idea of what she thinks of their quality.

Alex Philip continued to live in Alta Lake until his death in Vancouver on 10 October 1968, aged 86. His wife died on 15 August 1986, aged 95 in Squamish.

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