As a big fan of outdoor writing and its history, I'm always fascinated with how many different kinds of writers dabbled in the "outdoor game." There were a lot of outlets for fishing writing in the pre-World War II era especially, and it attracted a great variety of authors. I will profile one of my favorites today, a name far more known in other circles than in outdoor writing. A name that may just send a chill down your spine: August Derleth.
August Derleth is best known for founding Arkham House in 1939, a publisher whose first goal was to publish and popularize the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft was one of the great authors of the macabre in history, and his current reputation was built in large part by Derleth's unceasing work. He created the rich Cthulu mythos, a term that Derleth himself first coined and eventually contributed to.
But August Derleth was one of the most prolific regional writers in American history. The author of over 100 books on almost every conceivable subject--from Wisconsin history to mysteries to stories set in the world of Lovecraft--Derleth was also a prominent outdoor writer in the 1930s and early 1940s. A regular contributor to the magazine Outdoors, he penned dozens of fishing, hunting, and camping stories in his earlier years.
In April 1940 Outdoors profiled Derleth as part of its continuing efforts to introduce the reading public to its writers. In each of these features, they allowed the writers themselves to pen their own biographies. Here's what August--whom the Outdoors editor described as "America's youngest but most prolific and distinguished writer"--wrote:
Born February 24, 1909 in Sauk City, Wisconsin. B.A., U. of Wisconsin, 1930. Have worked in factories, edited national and little magazines. Began writing at 13, publishing at 15, have since then had over 1,000 titles published in over 200 magazines here and abroad. Roll of Honored by O'Brien for short stories several times. Guggenheim fellow, 1938. Lecturer in American Regional Literature at U. of Wisconsin for five weeks yearly, a special, unique course has no parallel anywhere in the U. S.
Have contributed to a great variety of magazines, ranging from pulp to such markets as New Republic, Atlantic Monthly, Scribners, Redbook, Coronet, Yale Review, Poetry, Commonweal, etc. Author of the Judge Peck mysteries (MURDER STALKS THE WAKELY FAMILY, THE MAN ON ALL FOURS, THREE WHO DIED, SIGN OF FEAR, SENTENCE DEFERRED, THE, NARRACONG RIDDLE), the Sac Prairie books, a series designed to portray a century in the life of a midwestern village. To this saga belong books of poetry: HAWK ON THE WIND, MAN TRACK HERE, HERE ON A DARKLING PLAIN; of short stories and novelettes: PLACE OF HAWKS, ANY DAY NOW, COUNTRY GROWTH; novels-STILL IS THE SUMMER NIGHT, WIND OVER WISCONSIN, RESTLESS IS THE RIVER; other prose, ATMOSPHERE OF HOUSES.
Biographer of Zona Gale, Winsor McCay. Coward McCann will publish the first book of excerpts from the Sac Prairie Journal, some of which has run regularly in OUTDOORS, on March 21, 1941.
In addition to books mentioned above: under a pseudonym, Tally Mason, wrote CONSIDER YOUR VERDICT; with R.E.F. Larsson edited the anthology, POETRY OUT OF WISCONSIN; with Donald Wandrei collected and edited the short stories of H. P. Lovecraft, THE OUTSIDER AND OTHERS, publishing the book ourselves under the Arkham House imprint.
My hobbies? I like first and foremost, nature, hiking, astronomy, ornithology (belonging to the Ornithologist's Union, Audubon Society, etc.). I collect comic supplements and am currently willing to pay well for copies of Little Nemo in Slumberland; I collect American stamps; I -like to fence, I am fond of good music, good books, good companionship and conversation, and am now almost ready to get into my new house where I will at last have room for a display of my hobbies. (Yes, and I like to play chess!)
Derleth, like so many of his fellow outdoor writers (both full and part-time), was truly a renaissance man. Sadly, what outlets do such aspiring minds have today? With the changes in the publishing model, there is only one place that offers such an outlet for writing of such variety: the internet. Only the vast majority of internet sites do no pay.
Where will outdoor writing be in 20 years? The thought is often on my mind...
-- Dr. Todd