H. Russell Wakefield

Herbert Russell Wakefield (1888–1964)[1] was an English short-story writer, novelist, publisher, and civil servant chiefly remembered today for his ghost stories.


Wakefield was the third of four children of the clergyman Henry Russell Wakefield, who would become bishop of Birmingham in 1911. Born in Kent, he was educated at Marlborough College before attending University College, Oxford, where he took second-class honours in modern history and played first-class cricket, golf, hockey and football. From 1912 to 1914 he was secretary to Viscount Northcliffe; he then served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in France and the Balkans during World War I, attaining the rank of captain. During the war Wakefield called on the British government to use Chinese workers to assist the UK war effort.[2]

Wakefield served as his father's secretary in 1920, when he accompanied the bishop on a lengthy tour of America. There he met and married Barbara Standish Waldo, an American woman whose parents were reputed to be wealthy. The Wakefields settled in London, where Wakefield went to work as a chief editor for the book publisher William Collins, Sons and Co., and she worked as a nurse. They were divorced in 1936, and in 1946 Wakefield was married again, to Jessica Sidney Davey.[3] His experiences in the publishing world provided him with background material for several unusual and eerie tales, including "Messrs Turkes and Talbot."

Shortly before he died, Wakefield's wife wrote August Derleth that her husband had destroyed his correspondence files, manuscripts and all photographs of himself.

Weird Tales November 1950
Wakefield's "The Third Shadow" was the cover story in the November 1950 Weird Tales


Wakefield's ghost stories were published in several collections during the course of his lengthy writing career: They Return at Evening (1928), Old Man's Beard: Fifteen Disturbing Tales (1929), Imagine a Man in a Box (1931), Ghost Stories (1932), A Ghostly Company (1935), The Clock Strikes Twelve: Tales of the Supernatural (1940), and Strayers from Sheol (1961). In 1946, August Derleth's Arkham House issued an expanded version of The Clock Strikes Twelve for the U.S. market; they were also the publishers of Strayers from Sheol. In 1978, John Murray published The Best Ghost Stories of H. Russell Wakefield, edited by Richard Dalby, which spanned Wakefield's career and featured some previously uncollected tales. A series of collections comprising his complete output of published ghost stories was produced in the 1990s by Ash-Tree Press in limited editions that quickly went out of print. Ash-Tree also published a volume of previously unpublished stories, Reunion at Dawn and Other Uncollected Ghost Stories, in 2000.

Wakefield's supernatural fiction was strongly influenced by the work of M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood.[4] "The Red Lodge", "The Thirteenth Hole at Duncaster", "Blind Man's Buff", "'Look Up There!'" and "'He Cometh and He Passeth By!'" are among his most widely anthologised tales.

Wakefield is best known for his ghost stories, but he produced work outside the field. He was greatly interested in the criminal mind and wrote two non-fiction criminology studies, The Green Bicycle Case (1930) (about a 1919 death in Leicestershire) and Landru: The French Bluebeard (1936). He also wrote three detective novels: Hearken to the Evidence (1933), Belt of Suspicion (1936) and Hostess of Death (1938).

In 1968, BBC Television produced a dramatization of Wakefield's supernatural story "The Triumph of Death", starring Claire Bloom and now thought to have been wiped, for the series Late Night Horror.

Critical reception

Many critics consider Wakefield one of the great masters of the supernatural horror tale; his atmospheric work in the field has been frequently compared to that of M. R. James. August Derleth called him "the last major representative of a ghost story tradition that began with Sheridan Le Fanu and reached its peak with Montague Rhodes James".[5] John Betjeman noted, "M. R. James is the greatest master of the ghost story. Henry James, Sheridan Le Fanu and H. Russell Wakefield are equal seconds."[6] M. R. James himself was slightly more reserved in his praise, calling They Return at Evening "a mixed bag, from which I should remove one or two that leave a nasty taste" but also saying the book had "some admirable pieces, very inventive".[7] H. P. Lovecraft claimed that Wakefield "manages now and then to hit great heights of horror despite a vitiating air of sophistication".[8] Franz Rottensteiner described Wakefield as "perhaps the last ... representative of the classic ghost story writer" and said that Wakefield's ghost stories have "a certain power".[9] The horror historian R. S. Hadji included Wakefield's "The Frontier Guards" on his list of the most frightening horror stories.[10] On the other hand, S. T. Joshi's view of Wakefield was negative: he has referred to Wakefield as "the mediocre H. Russell Wakefield".[11]

Criticism of Wakefield's work is scattered and uncollected. The majority of it exists in reprints of his collections, in brief articles in reference books, and in surveys such as Jack Sullivan's Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood (1978). Appraisals can be found in Supernatural Fiction Writers (Scribners, 1985), the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers (St. James Press, 1998), and Supernatural Literature of the World (Greenwood Press, 2005).

Notes and references

  1. ^ Wakefield's date of birth is often incorrectly given as 1890. See Richard Dalby, "Introduction", The Best Ghost Stories of H. Russell Wakefield (Chicago: Academy Chicago Publications, 1982), p. 7. ISBN 0-89733-066-8
  2. ^ Guoqi Xu, Strangers on the Western Front: Chinese Workers in the Great War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), p. 27. ISBN 0674049993. "H.R. Wakefield, a British officer, later wrote that the supply of white labor was then strictly limited, and the cold climate was unsuitable for black labor. This situation made the Chinese very valuable to the British."
  3. ^ Dalby, "Introduction", p. 8.
  4. ^ Chris Morgan, "H. Russell Wakefield", in E. F. Bleiler, ed., Supernatural Fiction Writers (New York: Scribner's, 1985), pp. 617–622. ISBN 0-684-17808-7
  5. ^ Quoted in Dalby, "Introduction", p. 7.
  6. ^ Quoted in Dalby, "Introduction", p. 7.
  7. ^ M. R. James, "Some Remarks on Ghost Stories", The Bookman, Dec. 1929. Rpt. in A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings by M. R. James (Ashcroft, BC: Ash-Tree Press), p. 479.
  8. ^ H. P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature (New York: Dover, 1973), p. 81. ISBN 0-486-20105-8
  9. ^ Franz Rottensteiner, The Fantasy Book: An Illustrated History from Dracula to Tolkien (New York: Collier Books, 1978), p. 63. ISBN 0-02-053560-0
  10. ^ R. S. Hadji, "The 13 Most Terrifying Horror Stories", Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, July–August 1983, p. 63.
  11. ^ S. T. Joshi, review of Arkham's Masters of Horror by Peter Ruber, Weird Tales, Summer 2000.

External links

Arkham's Masters of Horror

Arkham's Masters of Horror is an anthology of fantasy and horror stories edited by Peter Ruber. It was released by Arkham House in an edition of approximately 4,000 copies in 2000. The book includes an introductory essay by Ruber before each story and about its author.

Ruber drew criticism from the horror/fantasy community for the hostility with which he introduced some authors within the volume - for instance, his accusation that H.P. Lovecraft "had a schizoid personality" and could be labelled "a genuine crackpot."

The book was translated into Spanish in 2010 as Maestros del horror de Arkham House (Valdemar).[1]

Arkham House

Arkham House is an American publishing house specializing in weird fiction. It was founded in Sauk City, Wisconsin in 1939 by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to preserve in hardcover the best fiction of H. P. Lovecraft. The company's name is derived from Lovecraft's fictional New England city, Arkham. Arkham House editions are noted for the quality of their printing and binding. The colophon for Arkham House was designed by Frank Utpatel.

Ash-Tree Press

Ash-Tree Press is a Canadian company that publishes supernatural and horror literature.

The press has reprinted notable collections of ghostly stories by such writers as R. H. Malden, A. N. L. Munby, L. T. C. Rolt, Margery Lawrence, and Eleanor Scott. It also has published newly edited collections of supernatural tales by such writers as John Metcalfe, Marjorie Bowen, Vernon Lee, and Frederick Cowles, and it has produced multi-volume sets of the complete supernatural short stories of Sheridan Le Fanu, E. F. Benson, H. Russell Wakefield, Russell Kirk, and A. M. Burrage. In 2001, the press published a collected edition of M. R. James's ghost stories and related writings.

In addition, Ash-Tree Press has published new collections of stories by contemporary authors and a series of original anthologies. Awards for these include the 2002 British Fantasy Award for best collection for After Shocks by Paul Finch and the 2004 International Horror Guild Award and 2005 World Fantasy Award for the anthology Acquainted with the Night, edited by Christopher and Barbara Roden.Ash-Tree Press itself has received the 1997 Special Award, Non-Professional, from the World Fantasy Awards and the 1999 Specialty Press Award of the Horror Writers Association.Christopher and Barbara Roden are the proprietors of both Ash-Tree Press and Calabash Press; the latter publishes fiction and nonfiction related to Sherlock Holmes.

Dark Mind, Dark Heart

Dark Mind, Dark Heart is an anthology of horror stories edited by American writer August Derleth. It was released in 1962 by Arkham House in an edition of 2,493 copies. The anthology was conceived as a collection of new stories by old Arkham House authors. The anthology is also notable for including the first Cthulhu Mythos story by Ramsey Campbell.

Dark Things

Dark Things is an anthology of horror stories edited by American writer August Derleth. It was released in 1971 by Arkham House in an edition of 3,051 copies. It was Derleth's fourth anthology of previously unpublished stories released by Arkham House. A translation in Japanese has also been released.

Ghost Story Society

The Ghost Story Society was a not-for-profit literary society whose members shared an interest in supernatural fiction. Founded in Britain in 1988 by Rosemary Pardoe, Jeffrey Dempsey, David Cowperthwaite and Mark Valentine, it had an international membership and was later administered by joint organizers Christopher Roden and Barbara Roden, owners of Ash-Tree Press, with the assistance of David G. Rowlands, Richard Dalby, Jan Arter, and Roger Dobson. It has not been active since 2007.

The society produced the journal All Hallows, which featured new ghostly fiction, along with studies of the works and lives of such authors of classic ghost stories as M. R. James, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Algernon Blackwood, H. Russell Wakefield, E. F. Benson, A. N. L. Munby, and R. R. Ryan, as well as more recent authors such as Robert Aickman, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Terry Lamsley, and Jonathan Aycliffe. It also included detailed reviews and notices of recent ghostly publications and films, letters from members, and a column by Ramsey Campbell. All Hallows received the 2003 International Horror Guild Award for best periodical.


Grotesquerie is a literary form that became a popular genre in the early 20th century. It can be grouped with science fiction and horror. Authors such as Ambrose Bierce, Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft , H. Russell Wakefield, Seabury Quinn, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Margaret St. Clair, Stanton A. Coblentz, Lee Brown Coye and Katherine Anne Porter have written books within this genre.

The term has also been used to describe macabre artwork and movies, and it is used in architecture.

Over the Edge (anthology)

Over the Edge is an anthology of horror stories edited by American writer August Derleth. It was released in 1964 by Arkham House in an edition of 2,520 copies. The anthology was produced to mark the 25th anniversary of Arkham House. None of the stories had been previously published.

Peter Ruber

Peter Ruber (September 29, 1940 – March 6, 2014) was a United States author, editor and publisher. He had been an advertising executive, book publisher and, for the past two decades, a consultant and free-lance journalist for many leading business information technology magazines. He lived on Long Island, New York with his wife, three sons, three grandchildren and a mountain of books and literary papers.

As publishing executive, he came to know and publish many books by Arkham House founder August Derleth between 1962–1971, some under his Candlelight Press imprint, and researched his former colleague's life and time for nearly forty years.

Ruber became the editor for Arkham House in 1997, after Jim Turner left to found Golden Gryphon Press. Ruber drew criticism for the hostile opinions of various authors he expressed in his story introductions within his anthology Arkham's Masters of Horror (2000). Rumours of his ill-health circulated for some time; he suffered a stroke in 2004 and his editorial duties at Arkham House lapsed due to this.

Ruber authored The Last Bookman: A Journey into the Life and Times of Vincent Starrett: Journalist, Bookman, Bibliophile (NY: Candlelight Press, 1968; reprint Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 1995) and editor of over 25 books. He did much research for a biography on August Derleth (as yet unpublished) and Seabury Quinn. He also began editing for Battered Silicon Dispatch Box all of Vincent Starrett's works, with 22 of a projected 25 volumes already in print.

In 2000 Ruber edited a collection of previously unpublished stories by H. Russell Wakefield for Ash-Tree Press. For the same publisher in 2003 he edited Night Creatures by Seabury Quinn.

Ruber suffered a stroke in 2004 and his editorial duties at Arkham House lapsed due to this.

Ruber died on March 6, 2014.

Sleep No More (anthology)

Sleep No More is an anthology of fantasy and horror stories edited by August Derleth and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye, the first of three similar books in the 1940s. It was first published by Rinehart & Company in 1944. Featuring short stories by H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and other noted authors of the macabre genre, many of the stories made their initial appearance in Weird Tales magazine. The anthology is considered to be a classic of the genre, and is the initial foray by Coye into the field of horror illustration.

Strayers from Sheol

Strayers from Sheol is a collection of stories by author H. Russell Wakefield. It was released in 1961 and was the second collection of the author's stories to be published by Arkham House. It was published in an edition of 2,070 copies.

Some of the stories had appeared originally in Weird Tales, The Arkham Sampler, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Fantastic Universe.

The Arkham Sampler

The Arkham Sampler was an American fantasy and horror fiction magazine first published in Winter 1948. The headquarters was in Sauk City, Wisconsin. The magazine, edited by August Derleth, was the first of two magazines published by Arkham House. It was published on a quarterly basis. The cover design was prepared by Ronald Clyne and was printed in alternating colors for the eight quarterly issues. Each issue had a print run of 1,200 copies with the exception of the Winter 1949 "All Science-Fiction Issue", of which 2,000 copies were printed. The Autumn 1949 issue was the last edition of the magazine.The Arkham Sampler published fiction, poetry, reviews, letters, articles and bibliographic data. The magazine published the first appearances of work by H. P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. van Vogt, Robert Bloch and others. Other writers featured in the magazine include Anthony Boucher, Everett F. Bleiler, Martin Gardner, Carl Jacobi, David H. Keller, Fritz Leiber, Frank Belknap Long, E. Hoffmann Price, Vincent Starrett, Jules Verne and H. Russell Wakefield.

The Clock Strikes Twelve

The Clock Strikes Twelve is a collection of stories by author H. Russell Wakefield. It was released in 1946 and was the first collection of the author's stories to be published by Arkham House. It was published in an edition of 4,040 copies.

The Night Side

The Night Side is an anthology of fantasy and horror stories edited by American writer August Derleth and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye. It was first published by Rinehart & Company in 1946. The stories had originally appeared in the magazines Amazing Stories, Collier's Weekly, Weird Tales, Saturday Review, The London Mercury, Unknown, Astounding Stories, Esquire, The Briarcliff Quarterly, Cosmopolitan, Blue Book, Top-Notch and Fantastic Adventures or in the collections The Clock Strikes Twelve, The Children of the Pool, Fearful Pleasures, Nights of the Round Table and My Grimmest Nightmare.

Travellers by Night

Travellers by Night is an anthology of horror stories edited by American writer August Derleth. It was released in 1967 by Arkham House in an edition of 2,486 copies. None of the stories had been previously published.

Wakefield (surname)

Wakefield is an English surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Andrew Wakefield (born 1957), former British bowel surgeon known for fraudulent research

Captain Arthur Wakefield (1799–1843), who died in the Wairau Affray, brother of Edward Gibbon Wakefield

Charity Wakefield (born 1980), English actress

Charles Wakefield, 1st Viscount Wakefield of Hythe (1859–1941), British peer and founder of Castrol

Daniel Wakefield (1776–1846), writer on political economy

Daniel Bell Wakefield (1798–1858), son of Edward Wakefield

Edward Wakefield (1774–1854), English philanthropist and statistician

Edward Wakefield (New Zealand politician) (1845–1924), son of Felix Wakefield, New Zealand politician and journalist

Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796–1862), influential theorist on colonization

Edward Wakefield (British politician) (1903–1969), British civil servant and Conservative Member of Parliament

Elsie Maud Wakefield (1886–1972), English mycologist

Felix Wakefield (1807–1875), brother of Edward Gibbon Wakefield

George William Wakefield (1887–1942), British comics author

Gilbert Wakefield (1756–1801), English scholar and controversialist

Howard Wakefield (1884–1941), American baseball player

Hugh Wakefield (1888–1971), English actor

Humphry Wakefield (born 1936), English baronet

James Wakefield (1825–1910), United States politician

Jenn Wakefield (born 1989), Canadian ice hockey player

Jerningham Wakefield (1820–1879), son of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, New Zealand politician and author of Adventures in New Zealand

John Allen Wakefield (1797–1873), United States politician and military leader

John Peter Wakefield (1915–1942), British racing car driver

Norman Arthur Wakefield (1918–1972), Australian naturalist

Priscilla Wakefield (1751–1832), author

Rhys Wakefield, (born 1988), Australian actor

Richard Wakefield, American poet and literary critic

Robert Wakefield (died 1537), English linguist and scholar

H. Russell Wakefield, (1888–1964), English author

Peter Wakefield (disambiguation)

S. A. Wakefield (1927–2009), Australian author

Susan Wakefield, taxation expert from New Zealand

Tim Wakefield (born 1966), pitcher for the Boston Red Sox

Wavell Wakefield, 1st Baron Wakefield of Kendal (1898–1983), British politician

Colonel William Wakefield (1801–1848), who founded Wellington, New Zealand, brother of Edward Gibbon Wakefield

When Evil Wakes

When Evil Wakes is an anthology of fantasy and horror stories edited by American writer August Derleth. It was first published by Souvenir in 1963.

Who Knocks?

Who Knocks? is an anthology of fantasy and horror stories edited by American writer August Derleth and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye. It was first published by Rinehart & Company in 1946. Many of the stories had originally appeared in the magazines Everybody’s Magazine, The Century, Weird Tales, Unknown, Temple Bar, Hutchinson’s Magazine, The English Review, Smith's Magazine and Harper's.

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