Quest for Jack Mann 2

This the second part of this quest by the great researcher Lofts from circa 1975…there is a piece on Mann at Wikipedia, giving his real name as Charles Henry Cannell and with more up to date information and an earlier birth date (1882). Last year a biography appeared The Shadow of Mr Vivian: The Life of E. Charles Vivian (1882-1947) by Peter Berresford Ellis.

On the Trail of the Mysterious "Jack Mann". By W. O. G. Lofts.

The mysterious "Jack Mann" seems to be in the news again of late, especially with the excellent news that Bookfinger have started to republish his novels. The first entitled 'Grey Shapes' being excellently revised by Lillian Carlin, a few issues of this magazine ago.

I use the expression 'mysterious' relating to "Jack Mann" in the sense, that it was only recent I was able to satisfy myself regarding his real identity. At least here in England his real name has been a matter of much conjecture for many years. He suddenly appeared in the world of fiction in 1933, when he wrote two novels for the publishers Wright and Brown. This firm who had offices in Farringdon Avenue, London, just off the mighty Fleet Street was run by two elderly gentlemen a Mr Wright and Mr Brown. Apart from their popular fiction books being sold cheaply to the public and libraries, the owners were also extremely popular with Sexton Blake pulp writers. These authors simply changed the name of Sexton Blake and his assistant Tinker to some other names, and their whole original Blake stories were published as 'new; to the unsuspecting public.

"Jack Mann's" first novels introduced a sort of detective/cum  adventurer named Rex Coulson, who was lean, lithe and six feet tall. Later he had published the more famous and more widely collected stories of Gregory George Gordon Greene, known as 'Gees', an amusing, almost flippant private deceptive, who was proprietor of Gees Detective agency of 37, Little Oakfield Street, in Haymarket, London.

This agency, run with the aide of his secretary, derived its name, from the four G's of his name. Green, a very large handed, lanky awkward looking man, was well suited to the job, having spent two years in the police force. All his cases seem to have invoked supernatural happenings hence their great popularity, and valuable collectors items once they got out of print. In all "Jack Mann" wrote thirteen novels for Wright and Brown featuring Coulson or "Gees", the last appearing in 1940 entitled 'The Glass Too Many'.

Unfortunately the second world war, with its strict paper rationing restricted new authors work, and Wright and Brown suffered more than most, when their offices and all their records were destroyed by fire during the bombing of London. Moving to much smaller premises, they carried on right until a few hers ago, when overnight they just folded up and done a vanishing act that would have taxed the powers of Sherlock Holmes to solve. Many of their stories were also reprints of serials that had appeared in popular magazines, but in  "Jack Mann's" case, the tales seem to have been completely original.

No trace of them has ever been found in English magazines, but this evidence is far from being conclusive, as there are large gaps in the British Museum files - especially the period 1920/40, when they were destroyed by fire during the last war.

They did however, publish in the American ARGOSY in the period 1938/9 serial versions of his 'The Ninth Life' and 'Make of Shadows', which appeared simultaneously in the Wright and Brown novels. This at the time, suggested that maybe the author could have been an American. Later still, the former serial was reprinted in the April 1950 issue of A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine, the editorial column in the same issue, containing the most revealing paragraph…

Pen names are never unusual, so you will not be surprised to learn that  "Jack Mann" is none other than that very funny author of fantasy, Evelyn Charles Vivian. Amongst his best known works are 'City of Wonder' and 'Maker of Shadows'. And speaking of shadows… here is a job for all you fantasy enthusiasts, what has become of Mr. Vivian? He's an Englishman who during the last war lived in Chelsea, London. But since 1947 we have been unable to trace him!

It was in a 1947 issue of a companion magazine FAMOUS FANTASTIC that Vivian's  'City of Wonder' was reprinted. Evidently the magazine's editor was able to make arrangements with him for that reprint, but could not get ion touch with him three years later. As the publisher of these two magazines was also the publisher of ARGOSY (more preciously the publisher Popular Publications)… had bought out the earlier publisher, the Frank A. Munsey Co., in 1943) the editor evidently had access to the records of the original negotiations, and obviously had found out from those records the "Mann" and Vivian were one and the same writer.

I don't know if any readers were successful in finding out what had happened to  Evelyn Charles Vivian. thought personally in view of the many hours spent in the endless research and deadends I think it highly unlikely. Details are still rather sketchy, but at least I can solve the main point of that editorial statement. To contact him in 1950, they would have had to consult the Spirit World as he died in 1947 at the Princess Baetrice Hospital, Earls Court, London, not far from where he lived in Chelsea, aged 64. The exact date for biographical records the 21st May 1947. What was revealing was that his actual legal name was Charles Henry Vivian, and he had tagged the 'Evelyn' on at the easy time in his career and more surprising still, at birth his name was Charles Henry Cannell! A name which he wrote a number of books later reprinted under his more famous name of Vivian, probably gained by his mother marring again.

Born in Loddon, Norfolk in the latter part of 1892 nothing is known at all of his early life. His first book was written in 1907 entitled 'The shadow of Christie' and published by a firm long out of print, Gay and Bird, and what a splendid book it is with an eerie atmosphere in its theme. In 1913 he married in Worthing, Sussex the daughter of a wealthy family, Marion Christmas Harvie, and they had one daughter Katherine, Marion Louise (who later married; married name Ashton, and at present untraceable). Settling down in Chelsea, London he probably served in the Forces for time. He was editor of 'FLYING' (1916/18) and also wrote books about the British Army (1914/15).

In the period 1923/4 he was editor of the HUTCHINSON MYSTERY AND ADVENTURE magazine, and stories simply flowed from his pen. Indeed he became also most a second Edgar Wallace, apart from writing for no less than 15 publishers in the hardback category, he wrote juvenile fiction for BOYS OWN PAPER and YOUNG ENGLAND. The history of Aeronuatics (1921), an adaption from the film 'Shooting Star' by Anthony Asquith (1928), history books on Robin Hood, the African Velt, and Boy Scouts, and deceptive stories featuring a sleuth named Inspector Head. Yet despite his large output, he died an almost poor man. His wife who died in 1964 at the advanced age of 88, being much more fortunate.

Despite these revelations about Vivian, the big mystery surrounding "Jack Mann" drags on. His English agent whom I have met, confesses that he only ever had faint suspicion that Vivian was "Mann" - but he certainly never handled any of his material. A novel entitle 'Vain Escape' was publicised by Robert Hale in 1952 some five years after Vivian's death, yet his agent never knew anything about it nor can the publisher tell me after this long period of time. Rumours are now circling in England, the source unknown that "Jack Mann" was really Vivian's brother, and the brother' worked in collaboration. A large amount of books have recently come on the market, which certainly have come from Vivian's own personal library, by the autographed family message inside. Investigations to trace their source have been trying to pierce the Iron Curtain. In 1927 Vivian wrote 'The Forbidden Door' for Ward Locke - which featured a character named Coulson with similar characteristics as the "Jack Mann" creation. Maybe he developed him from there.

Whilst "Jack Mann" wrote brilliant mystery, fantasy, supernatural type of stories,surely he even could never have spun such a web of mystery that surrounded his own identity.

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