Saturday, November 05, 2016

The Case of the dozen or more Don Campbells

A question came up recently about an assertion  in Crime Fiction Bibliography that the author Don Campbell was born in 1883. I had the same information in my own notes about the author... but it didn't take long to discover that the date is actually associated with a different Don Campbell.

We need to exclude this guy before we can start looking for the author we're after. The date comes from the Author's and Writer's Who's Who which gives the following information, which I'll paraphrase:

CAMPBELL, Donald Edward Henry. born 1883. educated privately and at Oxford. Occupation: Medical practitioner. War Service: special Des: wounded twice and shipwrecked once. Address: Phoenix House, Sutton Oak, St Helens, Lancs.

He was a writer of history, specialising in biographies of Scottish adventurers and soldiers and the life-stories of the great Arabic scholars of the Middle Ages. He was the author of Arabian Medicine and its influence on the Middle Ages (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 2 vols., 1926). US copyright records also show that Campbell wrote the novel The Call of the Jungle (illus. W. E. Wrightman, London, Simpkin, Marshal & Co., 1926) under the name Robert Noel Rivers. He died in St Helens in 1949.

Anyone trying to track down information about anyone else named Don or Donald Campbell has also to resolve the elephant in the room that is Sir Donald Campbell, most famous for holding various land and water speed records. He was Donald Malcolm Campbell, born in Kingston upon Thames on 23 March 1921, the son of Sir Malcolm Campbell, who also held similar records and made he Bluebird cars and boats famous. Sir Donald Campbell famously died on 4 January 1967 when his boat cartwheeled across Coniston Water, the wreckage remaining unrecovered until 2001.

There are two American authors named Don G. Campbell. The older, who wrote on real estate and consumer issues, died in Phoenix on 3 August 1991, aged 69 (he was born 7 June 1922). His books included Let's Take Stock (1959), What Does Daddy Do All Day (1963), Understanding Stocks (1965) and The Handbook of Real Estate Investment (1968) and his 'About Real Estate' column was syndicated to about 50 newspapers.

The younger Don G. Campbell (b. 27 December 1946) was an authority on music, best known for his books The Mozart Effect  and Healing at the Speed of Sound (with Alex Doman). He died on 2 June 2012.

We can also eliminate two Australian authors. Donald Campbell (1886-1945) was the author of Wayfarings Among the Pharaohs (Adelaide, W. K. Thomas & Co., 1923), which described his travels in Egypt. Donald Gordon Campbell (1925-1995) wrote poetry and stories as Don Campbell.

The Don Campbell we're after was active in the 1920s and 1930s, so this rules out a number of British authors, including Donald Campbell (1928-2001), author of So You Want to Join the Police (Meilsham, Venton, 1975), Sir Donald Campbell (1930-2004), a professor of anaesthesia at the University of Glasgow and president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and Donald Campbell (1940- ), playwright author of The Jesuit (1976) and other plays.

Of an age that puts him in the frame, is Donald Francis Campbell, born 1867, who wrote A Short Course on Differential Equations (New York & London, Macmillan, 1906), but he seems a very unlikely candidate.

In Scotland, Captain Donald Campbell wrote a number of plays in the 1930s, including Kirsty's Surprise (1930), Uncle Andie. A Doric play (1931), Bamboozled. A comedy in 3 acts (1932), Exploding a Rumour. A one-act comedy (1932) and Six Months' Hard. A Scots comedy in three acts (1935). I managed to find a photo (below) of Campbell appearing in the latter play in 1936.

At the same time Donald Marr Campbell (1904-1974) was a prolific writer for American pulp magazines including West, Golden West, Detective Fiction Weekly, Flying Aces, Spy Stories, Two Gun Western Stories, Western Trails, Eagles of the Air, Gangland Stories, etc. I suspect he may have continued writing into the 1940s, appearing as Don Campbell in Fight Stories and Dime Detective Magazine after the Second World War. Campbell died in Texas on 29 April 1974.

Although "our" Don Campbell was also active in the British equivalent of the pulps—namely boys' papers and the cheap paperback market—I don't believe it could be Donald Marr Campbell. The earliest stories I have found by him appeared in 1919 in Boys' Realm under the pen-name F. Delmere. The character Jack Bain was known as Useful Jack, and it was under the latter title that some of the stories were brought together in The Nugget Library in 1920. Donald Campbell then contributed to the same publisher's Sexton Blake weekly The Union Jack which was running a 'Detective Supplement' series of short non-fiction articles. Here Campbell wrote about everything from 'Military Punishments in Prisons' and 'Transported to Australia' to 'The Crime Hunters of New York' and the six-part 'Six Crook Close-ups', between 1924 and 1926.

Campbell's first novel, The Golden Snake, followed soon after. In the early 1930s, Campbell—under his own name and the name F. Delmere—contributed to the cheap paperback market, writing for Gramol, London Publishers Agent and Mellifont Press. At the same time, he was writing articles and stories for newspapers under the names F. X. Delmere and Francis X. Delmere, some of which were syndicated abroad.

It seems likely that our Donald Campbell was a journalist who dipped into writing fiction on occasions. A search of census records for "Donald Campbell" and "journalist" turned up two names, one in the 1881 census for Donald A. Campbell, a 29-year-old Scotsman boarding in Manchester, and one in the 1911 census for Donald Frederick Campbell.

The latter was born in the City of London and, in the 1891 and 1901 census returns, was listed as a book publisher, aged 38 and 49 respectively, living with his extensive family in Lewisham. By 1911 he was a journalist for newspapers, now aged 58 and living in Peckham Rye.

I'm not convinced by either if these. Donald Frederick was born in 1853 and died in 1916, too early (and, frankly, too dead) to be our man. Donald A. Campbell at first looks more promising, reappearing in the 1901 census, now listed as a 49-year-old "journalist and author", living at 28 Wilson Road, with his wife, Rebecca (nee Rooke), and children Donald Archibald P. M. (6) and Thomas Kirnan G. (4). I believe he is Donald Archibald Campbell, born 17 January 1852 in Stoneykirk, Wigtown, Scotland, the son of John J. Campbell and Eliza Earle Paul. Unfortunately, he can't be out author because he died shortly after the census in 1901, aged 49.

Having eliminated our best two options, we need to tackle the question from another angle. In payment records Campbell was listed with the middle initial 'B'. This offers a fairly wide range of possibilities. Looking at death records, we find a number of Donald B. Campbells:

Donald B. Campbell: born c.1856, died 3Q 1917 West Derby
Donald B. C. Campbell: born c.1876, died 4Q 1942 Pancras
Donald B. Campbell: born c.1885, died 2Q 1968, Chelsea
Donald B. Campbell: born c.1941, died 1Q 1964, Oxford.

We can eliminate the last of these immediately and finding information on the other three is proving tricky. None appear in UK census records with that initial, but searches elsewhere may help us trace information. There was, for instance, a Donald B. Campbell born in Dunbartonshire, Schotland in c.1876, the son of John William Campbell and his wife Christina, and a Donald B. Campbell served with the Cameronian (Scottish Rifles) during the Great War. (Not, I believe, Donald Burns Campbell, who was born 10 February 1894, and saw service in the Navy at the Battle of Jutland.)

A Donald Brown Campbell served as a private with the Royal Buckinghamshire Yeomanry, and as a Lieutenant with the Reserve Regiment of Cavalry. After the war he went on to join the Watling Street Lodge of the Masons in Stony Stratford in 1921, at which time his occupation was described as "Manager". He was aged 35, so born around 1886.

In the 1939 Register there is a Donald Campbell (b.2 August 1886), retired journalist, living at the Common Lodging House, 16-20 Duval Street, Stepney. He seems quite a likely candidate and I'm tempted to link him to the following, who is another tempting candidate for "our" Don.

Donald Bayly Campbell was born in Paris France in 1886. He volunteered for service during the Great War in May 1915, at which time he was 28 years and 9 months old, making August 1886 his likely month of birth. At the time of the 1901 census, Campbell was attending Haileybury College, Great Amwell, Haileybury, Hertforshire, where his education included the Officer Training Corps. Before the war he was a journalist living at 24 Rue de la Republique, Saint-Germain-on-Leye, a commune in the suburbs of Paris.

Most of the information known about him comes from his patchy service records. He was attested at Havre, France, on 9 May 1915 and became a Pioneer in the Royal Engineers having been attested as a journalist. Two days later he was transferred due to the heavy need for infantry soldiers, Campbell electing to be sent to the Royal Fusiliers (City of London) Regiment. On 8 July he was given 13 days detention for being absent without leave before being posted on 2 August 1915.

He was married on 26 February 1916 at St. Paul's Church, Maison Dieu Road, Dover, to Marie Simone Germaine Jeanne Delvalat, then living at 101 Buckland Avenue, Dover. Campbell had previously given his next of kin as Miss Isabel Campbell—probably Isobel Ward Campbell, born in Paris in the early 1880s. Later that year, on 21 August, he was given 8 days detention and forfeited 8 days pay for absence.

Campbell was part of the British Expeditionary Force from 7 January 1917, serving in France with the 24th Royal Fusiliers until April 1917 when he was classified PB (Permanent Base) arriving on duty at 24 General Hospital at Etables on 22 August 1917, after being granted a fortnight's furlough in June/July. He was again deprived of two days pay for being absent from his quarters on 16 September 1917. In November he joined the F.B. Depot, shortly before being hospitalised with scabies.

He subsequently transferred to the Royal Engineers Transport Establishment on 1 May 1918, where he was posted to R.E. Railway Transport on 2 May. Sent to Italy, he continued to flaunt the rules, and was caught in a cafe during prohibited hours (docked five days pay), was absent for a number of hours on 16 January 1919 (docked seven days pay), and found drunk on 14 February 1919, for which he was awarded 21 days Field Punishment No.2. He had been briefly hospitalised between 19 November 1918 and 14 December.

Campbell was demobbed on 27 May 1919. He had made a claim for being repatriated overseas and in the early months of 1919 was living at Anderton's Hotel, Fleet Street. There was no mention of family, so it would appear his marriage did not last.

Aside from his writing, there is no further sign of Campbell until 1930, when he was renting a room at 1 Derby Street, St. Pancras, London. And, if I'm correct, in 1939 he was living at the Common Lodging House in Stepney. Given the London connection, it seems possible that he is the Donald B. Campbell who died in Chelsea in 2Q 1968, aged 83. That said, Donald Bayly Campbell would have been only 81, so maybe his death has still to be found... as, I should add, any confirmation that he is, indeed, the author of the stories below.

Update: 5 December 2016. Thanks to Mark Bailey, I can untangle one of the above threads. It seems that it was not Donald Bayly Campbell who died in 1968 but Donald Brown Campbell, who is also mentioned above. Mark, who is making a study of Donald Bayly Campbell's father, tells me he has found no link between Donald and author Don Campbell.

So it's back to square one... or maybe only as far as square two. It does raise another question: If Donald Brown Campbell was 83 when he died he was probably born in 1884, rather than 1886, as I had previously noted.


Novels as Donald Campbell
The Golden Snake. London, Federation Press, c.1927.
The Mask of Murder. London, Gramol (Thriller 3), Mar 1931.
The Murder Trap, with others. London, London Publishers Agent, 1938; London, Gerald Swan (Mystery Thrillers 2), Sep 1942

Novels as F. Delmere
Useful Jack. London, Amalgamated Press (Nugget Library 36), Oct 1920.
The Lion’s Claws. London, Gramol (Thriller 1), Mar 1931.
Tina the Surprising. London, Mellifont, 1932.
The Triumph of Erica. Dublin, Mellifont, 1932.
Dead Man’s Gang. Dublin, Mellifont, 1934.


Stories as F. Delmere / Francis X. Delmere
A Sporting Chance (Useful Jack; The Boys’ Realm, 27 Sep 1919)
Jack’s Enemy (Useful Jack; The Boys’ Realm, 4 Oct 1919)
A World’s Champion (Useful Jack; The Boys’ Realm, 8 Nov 1919)
Some Lions and a Large Mouse (Belper News, 3 May 1935)
“Black Cats Are Lucky!” (Belper News, 17 Sep—24 Sep 1937; The Warminster Journal, 24 Sep 1937; The Auckland Star (Australia), 18 Oct—19 Oct 1937)
Banknotes from Heaven (The Auckland Star (Australia), 7 Dec 1938)
The Snatch (Birmingham Weekly Post, Aug 1939)

Military Punishments and Prisons (Union Jack 1085, 26 Jul 1924)
The Artful Argentine! (Union Jack 1091, 6 Sep 1924)
The Hand of the Law in Italy (Union Jack 1094, 27 Sep 1924)
The Riders of the Border (Union Jack 1095, 4 Oct 1924)
The Gun-Runners (Union Jack 1104, 6 Dec 1924)
Informers All (Union Jack 1118-1119, 14 Mar-21 Mar 1925)
The Guardians of Paris (Union Jack 1128, 23 May 1925)
‘La Camorra’ (Union Jack 1133-1134, 27 Jun-4 Jul 1925)
Transported to Australia (Union Jack 1137, 24 Jul 1925)
Pinched! (Union Jack 1157, 12 Dec 1925)
The ‘Crime-Hunters’ of New York (Union Jack 1171, 1173, 20 Mar 1926, 3 Apr 1926)
The Goat Riders (Union Jack 1175, 17 Apr 1926)
Six Crook Close-ups (Union Jack 1192-1196, 1198-1199, 21 Aug—18 Sep 1926, 2 Oct—9 Oct 1926)
The Man who Made the Sureté (Union Jack 1193, 28 Aug 1926)

Non-fiction as F. X. Delmere
Ocean “Hops”. A vision of the flying future (Aberdeen Press and Journal, 27 Apr 1928)
The Marsh Nomads (London Life, 27 Apr 1935)
Facts About “The Special Branch”—and the Work it Undertakes (Staffordshire Advertiser, 25 Mar 1939)

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