Leonard H. Nason — Soldier and Writer

May 7, 2018 by

At this year’s convention, PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. Our programming will focus on the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture. The first of these pulps — WAR STORIES — debuted with its November 1926 number. Featuring authors such as Larry Barretto, Robert Sidney Bowen, Harold F. Cruickshank, George Fielding Eliot, Steuart Emery, Arthur Guy Empey, Robert H. Leitfred, Ralph Oppenheim, Alexis Rossoff, and Raoul Whitfield, WAR STORIES demonstrated that tales about soldiers in battle could sell magazines.

The war pulps would become a substantial category in the rough-paper industry — particularly with stories about the air war. However, until Dell Publishing launched WAR STORIES, the so-called Great War was rarely explored in the pulps. As Tom Roberts writes in THE ART OF THE PULPS: “Following World War I, the reading public had grown weary from the news of battlefield atrocities. They wished to escape, to forget the realities of the recent conflict; fiction of the European front became taboo, as did war stories in general.”

One author who bucked this trend was Leonard H. Nason. After enlisting in the United States Army in 1917, he was sent to France, serving under General Pershing. He fought in the Meuse-Argonne offensive and was wounded in action. Following the war, Nason found work as an insurance claims adjuster. After marrying in 1920, he turned to writing to earn extra income:

“The only thing I knew well enough to write about was the war. True, millions had been to the war, but many more millions hadn’t, and those who had been in the big fight liked to talk about it, and to hear others talk about it. I had noticed that wherever two or three overseas men got together they invariably began yarning about the war. I had heard some good stories from some of these men, and I had told a few myself that seemed to go over pretty well.”

Nason sent his first tale, “The Patrol,” to ADVENTURE in early 1922. In THE LURE OF ADVENTURE, Robert Kenneth Jones writes, “All the editors in the office . . . enthusiastically embraced it — all, that is, but Arthur Sullivant Hoffmann (the magazine’s editor-in-chief) who questioned its point of view and method of telling.”

Thankfully, Hoffmann relented and accepted the story, sending its author a check for fifty dollars. Included with the payment was a note suggesting that ADVENTURE was not in the market for additional stories about The Great War. After unsuccessfully trying his hand at stories about “pirates and buried treasure and cowboys and Chicago gunmen,” Nason returned to the trenches of Europe.

ADVENTURE had said they wanted no more war stories. That was all right, but I had to write war stories, so I sat down and wrote an account of my first battle. . . . I decided to set it down just as it had happened, and then it sounded all right. In other words, it was sincere. The incidents fell naturally into place and the story rang true. . . . I had to write about the war as I knew it, or not at all. I couldn’t doctor my stories, color them, fix ’em up to read the way I might have wished they had happened. I had to write them just as they were, maybe adding a little here and taking out a little there, but leaving the essential truth and incidents just as they had come to me.”

It wasn’t long before Nason’s stories were being noticed by readers. One letter-writer to ADVENTURE remarked, “You have certainly made a find in young Nason, as his stories are so natural as to be classed almost as facts.” Even today, the author’s work rings true. According to pulp fan and historian, Walker Martin, “His work is just not about World War I, but about men and how they deal with the horrors of war.”

Join PulpFest 2018 on Thursday, July 26, at 8:40 PM as Sai Shankar looks at this substantial but largely forgotten author at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry. You can join PulpFest by clicking the Register for 2018 button on our home page. And don’t forget to book a room at the DoubleTree. They’re going fast!

(Sai Shankar is a resident of Washington state, where he works in the computer industry. He explores pulp magazines, authors and their stories on Pulp Flakes. You’ll also find photographs from the pulp conventions that he attends on the same site.

Between 1922 and 1928, Leonard H. Nason published over seventy articles and stories in ADVENTURE. Beginning in 1926, he found another steady market for his work in THE SATURDAY EVENING POST. His stories also appeared in THE AMERICAN LEGION MONTHLY, BLUE BOOK MAGAZINE, COLLIER’S, THE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN, FAWCETT’S BATTLE STORIES, LIBERTY, and other magazines. His novella, “Three Lights from a Match,” appeared in the February 20, 1924 issue of ADVENTURE. The issue featured front cover art by H. C. Murphy. It was one of very few ADVENTURE covers depicting The First World War.

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)

Season’s Greetings from PulpFest

Dec 25, 2017 by

From July 26 – 29, 2018, PulpFest will celebrate the centennial of “The Armistice that Ended The Great War.” The convention will also mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Grand Master of Science Fiction Philip José Farmer.

We’ll be exploring the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture. PulpFest 2018 will feature presentations on art in the war pulps and men’s adventure magazines, plus a look at war comics. We’ll also have expert presentations on air war pulps, Edgar Rice Burroughs and The Great War, and the life and fiction of Leonard Nason, an author who served in the First World War and wrote about his experiences. Robert Gould, the son of pulp illustrator John Fleming Gould — who contributed interior illustrations to G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES and many other pulps — will also be on hand to discuss his father’s life and artistic career.

Of course, we’ll also be celebrating the life and legacy of science fiction author and pulp fan Philip José Farmer. The members of FARMERCON 100 will be offering panels and presentations on “World Building and Writing in the Nine Continuity,” the author’s novels set in 1918, and much more (including a showing of the French documentary, MOI TARZAN).

And don’t forget about our convention’s Guest of Honor — Joe Lansdale — the author of over forty novels and numerous short stories. He’s also won the Edgar Award, ten Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many other honors.

Why not treat yourself to a gift and register for PulpFest 2018? Better yet, bring your entire family. Pittsburgh is a great city to visit, particularly when the Pirates are in town!

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday season from your PulpFest organizing committee — Jack and Sally Cullers, Mike Chomko, Bill Lampkin, Barry Traylor, and Chuck Welch

(Rudolph Belarski painted the cover for the December 20, 1928 issue of Dell Publishing’s WAR STORIES. It’s a particularly moving portrait of a soldier making his way carefully across no-man’s-land. The glare of a flare, rather than that legendary star, lights his way.)

Armistice Day

Nov 6, 2017 by

The day when we honor all U. S. military veterans — November 11 — originated as “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. The day became a national holiday in 1938 and was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

One hundred years ago today, the struggle for the battered village of Passchendaele — officially called the Third Battle of Ypres — was drawing to a close. The town’s remnants would be reclaimed by British and Canadian forces on November 6, but the fighting would last four more days.

Edwin Vaughan– an officer of the 1st/8th Warwickshire Regiment of the British Expeditionary Force — wrote about the carnage in his journal:

“Up the road we staggered, shells bursting around us. A man stopped dead in front of me, and exasperated I cursed him and butted him with my knee. Very gently he said, “I’m blind, Sir” and turned to show me his eyes and nose torn away by a piece of shell. “Oh God! I’m sorry, sonny,” I said. “Keep going on the hard part,” and left him staggering back in his darkness . . . A tank had churned its way slowly behind Springfield and opened fire; a moment later I looked and nothing remained of it but a crumpled heap of iron; it had been hit by a large shell. . . .

From other shell holes from the darkness on all sides came the groans and wails of wounded men; faint, long, sobbing moans of agony, and despairing shrieks. It was too horribly obvious that dozens of men with serious wounds must have crawled for safety into new shell holes, and now the water was rising about them and, powerless to move, they were slowly drowning. Horrible visions came to me with those cries, (of men) lying maimed out there trusting that their pals would find them, and now dying terribly, alone amongst the dead in the inky darkness. And we could do nothing to help them; Dunham was crying quietly beside me, and all the men were affected by the piteous cries.”

On August 25, when he awoke to take muster, Vaughan’s worst fears were realized: “Out of our happy little band of 90 men, only 15 remained.”

Such were the horrors of Passchendaele and the “War to End All Wars.” In 1914 as war was declared, there were street celebrations across Europe. No one envisaged the stalemate of the trenchs nor the appalling casualties of four years of fighting. About 8.5 million soldiers on both sides of the conflict died of wounds and disease. According to the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA“It has been estimated that the number of civilian deaths attributable to the war was higher than the military casualties, or around 13,000,000. These civilian deaths were largely caused by starvation, exposure, disease, military encounters, and massacres.”

Except for a single writer — Leonard Nason — stories about the First World War were very limited in the general fiction pulps. But as the rough paper magazines began to specialize in the teens and twenties, the first pulp devoted to tales of war would appear. Introduced by Dell Publishing in 1926, WAR STORIES would be followed by many others: BATTLE STORIES, WINGS, OVER THE TOP, DARE-DEVIL ACES, SKY FIGHTERS, and dozens more. Most disappeared by 1940 as another “Great War” was unfolding.

Beginning on Thursday evening, July 26, and running through Sunday, July 29, PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. The convention’s focus will be the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century as well as the depiction of war in popular culture. Please join us at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just outside Pennsylvania’s Steel City. We’ll also be celebrating the century mark of Grand Master of Science Fiction Philip José Farmer. PulpFest and its associated convention — FarmerCon — will be saluting the acclaimed author of such works as ESCAPE FROM LOKITHE DARK HEART OF TIME, the classic Riverworld series, and more. Award-winning author Joe Lansdale will be PulpFest‘s guest of honor.

A soldier running along a corduroy track through Chateau Wood (photograph from the collection of the Imperial War Museum).

(H. C. Murphy painted the front cover art for the February 20, 1924 issue of ADVENTURE. Leonard H. Nason was featured on the cover for his short story, “Three Lights from a Match,” appearing in the issue.)