THE HISTORY OF SHORT STORIES IN THE EVENING NEWS
It should be noted that the essays below merely provide a brief overview of the history of short fiction in the Evening News. The fact that certain authors do not get a mention here should not been seen in any way to be a critical judgement on their work. Literally tens of thousands of short stories were published in the newspaper over a period of over ninety years, so by definition my knowledge can only be sketchy at the very best. However, I hope that what I have written below provides a decent overall picture of the newspaper's long and famous tradition of publishing short stories.
On May 7, 1887, the Evening News published a short story called "The Touch of a Vanished Hand," which was credited to "W. H." To my knowledge, this was the first-ever short story to be published in the newspaper. There were no more short stories in the paper for over three years, although it is worth noting that the Evening News did publish some serialised fiction throughout the 1880s. An example of this was the "Switchback of Real Life" series by the Rev. T. Oswald Keatinge which ran for many issues.
On September 15, 1890, the editor of the Evening News printed a message on the front page inviting professional and amateur writers to submit their short stories for possible publication in the newspaper. The editor requested that the stories must be "original, dramatic, and tersely and brightly told." Soon after this short stories became a regular feature in the Evening News.
From September 1890 to January 1892, short stories were printed on the front page of the Evening News on a more-or-less weekly basis. During this period a number of writers were regular contributors to the newspaper. Among these were Annie Fields, Henry Edlin and Esther Miller. In addition, a considerable number of stories were published anonymously.
However, this period proved in a way to be a false dawn because in January 1892 the Evening News suddenly stopped publishing short stories. For the following two and-a-half years there were no stories published in the newspaper at all. It was not until September 11, 1894, shortly after the newspaper was bought by Alfred and Harold Harmsworth, that the short story once again became a regular feature of the paper. From this date onwards short stories appeared on the front page every single day, with very few exceptions, until December 1899.
A curious fact worth noting is that nearly all the stories that appeared between 1894 and 1899 were published anonymously. Among the very few authors who were given credit for their work were occasional contributors such as Robert Dennis and Hume Nisbet, the latter known for his supernatural fiction. A more regular contributor was George R. Sims (1847-1922), the famous journalist and playwright, whose stories typically ran over two days. It is also worth noting that the short story feature was occasionally usurped by serials (usually novels published in instalments) that would often run for weeks. In addition, on certain occasions short stories would not appear in order to make space for news articles.
On December 4, 1899, the editor of the Evening News began a regular front page column devoted to news about the Boer War. At this point the short story disappeared from the front page to make way for the war column. Over the following months very few stories appeared, although in the latter half of 1900 they began to appear more regularly. Several of the stories published at this time were, as in previous years, published anonymously. However, there were a number of regular contributors in this period. These included Fredrick G. Engelbach and Hamilton Frewen.
In the following January the short story feature was once again dropped, this time in favour of fiction serials, which continued to run for the whole of 1901. However, a handful of short stories did in fact make an appearance in April and May of 1901, several of these credited to a "Delta Mu." Throughout 1902 serials continued to be printed in favour of short stories. This year saw a similar set-up to 1901, though in 1902 only one short story was printed in the newspaper, an anonymously written tale printed across three days. The next two years saw a continuation of this situation, with fiction serials semi-permanently replacing the short story feature. Only four short stories were printed from 1903 to 1904; these four tales were contributed by Clarence Rook, Bradford K. Daniels, W. W. Jacobs ("A Garden Plot") and one anonymous story.
From January to September 1905, serialised fiction continued to appear in the Evening News instead of short stories, although in February of that year the paper published one untitled story by Maxim Gorky. In October 1905 short stories (which from this point were no longer printed on the front page) began to appear nearly every day in the newspaper, with the vast majority of them published anonymously. This continued throughout 1906, with nearly all the stories written anonymously and appearing regularly in the paper, if not every day.
By early 1907 short stories (some anonymous, some not) were still being published at least weekly in the Evening News. A number of these were in fact summarised adaptations of longer works, such as "The Boots" by Charles Dickens which was taken from his story the "Holly Tree Inn." Another special adaptation published in this period was "The Diamond Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant. In May 1907 five short story excerpts, drawn from various magazines of the day, were published in one single issue of the newspaper. The authors of these stories were Bernard Capes, H. Jenner-Fust Junior, Will Evans, George F. Bird and A. G. Greenwood. The full-length stories had originally appeared in such periodicals as the Pall Mall Magazine and the London Magazine.
Shortly after these somewhat unusual fictional experiments, the paper ceased to publish short stories. From June 1907 onwards serialised fiction once again took the place of the short story in the newspaper, with no short stories appearing at all for the remainder of 1907 and the whole of 1908. Only one story appeared in 1909, the strangely titled "The Jew's-Harper: A Sussex Chapter" by Arthur Beckett. Fiction serials continued throughout 1910, with only three short stories printed this year, two by R. E. Mead and one by Edwin S. Turner. It's worth noting that in this period short stories were a little difficult to identify in the paper, with the few that did appear being (somewhat unhelpfully) not actually labelled as stories. Indeed, Edwin S. Turner's contribution "Singlehanded," which is included in this index, may actually have been intended as a feature article. In earlier years, the Evening News short story feature would often carry the proud heading of "Our Short Story." However by 1910 the short story was clearly out of vogue with the editors of the Evening News, who obviously preferred to print serials instead.
Searching through editions of the newspaper in this period reveals an amusing fact. During these years some of the advertisements printed in the newspaper appear - at first glance - to be short stories. These items took the form of dialogues, with the inconspicuous abbreviation "Advt." printed in very small and faint lettering at the bottom of the text. Aside from this, a more detailed examination of the text would reveal the true nature of these pieces. For example one realises that it's not a short story when it's clear that the characters are discussing a brand of soap!
There were no short stories at all in 1911, and only one in 1912, a very short piece by Anthony Spurr that appeared under the somewhat incongruous title "Men Who Should Not Play Golf: A Wife's View." As with some previous stories, it is unclear whether this was intended as a work of fiction or as a fictionalised observation of everyday life. In 1913 the Evening News continued to run novel-length serials throughout the year. During this period the newspaper would often print the first part of a fiction serial with subsequent instalments continuing in the magazine Answers, which along with the Evening News was published by Associated Newspapers. Just two stories appeared in 1913, "The Christmas List" by Ward Muir and "The End of the Story" by Max Pemberton, with the ever-present fiction serials continuing throughout this year and the next.
However, 1914 saw more short stories in the Evening News than in previous years. Maurice Drake, Alexander Crawford, Ariel Wright, Emma. M. Wise and Phyllis Gardner all contributed one story each to the newspaper in 1914. Arthur Machen (1863-1947), a feature writer for the Evening News, published four stories in the paper in 1914, the most noted of which was "The Bowmen," which appeared on September 29, 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. Machen, who had already written a number of war articles for the paper, set his story "The Bowmen" at the time of the retreat of British soldiers from the Battle of Mons in August 1914. His story, intended as a work of fiction, told of how certain soldiers witnessed a miraculous vision of St. George and his Agincourt bowmen above the battlefield. In a seemingly bizarre coincidence, real-life reports from the battlefield told of how those present had beheld unexplained phenomena at the scene of the fighting. These sightings gave rise to an extraordinary level of public fascination in Machen's story, with many readers assuming that the tale was based on fact, despite its supernatural content. A point worth mentioning is that Machen's piece was not labelled as fiction and in the very same edition of the Evening News there was a story by a different author which appeared under the heading "Our Short Story." These factors helped add to the confusion surrounding "The Bowmen." In the ensuing weeks the celestial archers of Machen's story were replaced in the public imagination by angels, thus giving rise to the legend known as The Angels of Mons. Although Machen always maintained that his piece was purely a work of the imagination with no factual basis, a cloud of myth, legend and much heated discussion was generated by Machen's short story. The resultant interest in all this was so great that the following year the editors of the Evening News announced that due to popular demand the story was to be published in book form in the collection The Bowmen and Other Legends of the War (1915). The irony of "The Bowmen" is that Machen wrote a number of far more accomplished war-inspired stories and articles for the Evening News, and yet none of these had quite the same impact as "The Bowmen," a story which Machen later described as "harmless and inoffensive." Of course, an author's most famous work is rarely is best, with Machen, seemingly fed up with all the furore surrounding his story, writing an article for the Evening News in 1916 entitled "The Angels of Mons: Absolutely My Last Word on the Subject." For those wishing to read more, some of Arthur Machen's thoughts on his story can be read on-line here.
Despite the ongoing war in Europe dominating the headlines and overall content of the Evening News, the paper continued to print serialised fiction throughout 1915. Six short stories appeared in this year, with contributions from C. H. Joscelyne, Arthur Machen, Wilfrid L. Randall, W. McCartney, Mrs. Neish and an anonymous story called "The One-Armed Recruit" (as by "Unstarred") which was printed on December 15, 1915.
A similar amount of short stories appeared in 1916 alongside the fiction serials. Grace Mary Golden, who also wrote a number of feature articles for the paper, contributed two excellent stories inspired by the war, the beautifully written "Is My Boy Among Them?" and "The War Bride." Ernest Jenkins, Dorothy Coates and Arthur Machen also saw their work appear in the newspaper. In addition, one anonymous story and a story credited to "A. M." called "The Ghost of Whit Monday" (inspired by Charles Dickens) were published in 1916.
By the middle of 1917, with the paper's regular size only four pages long, and news of the war dominating the general contents, even serialised fiction had disappeared from the Evening News. Just one short story appeared in 1917, a quirky tale of social observation entitled "Poor Old Fat Man" which appeared under the initials "B. B." Serials and short stories remained absent from the newspaper for much of 1918, with the exception of one short story credited to "E..R." called "The Big Push," which appeared on October 7, 1918. This was a very short and topical story about a family reflecting on the prospect of peace after years of war. The First World War finally ended the following month, with the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918.
Although there were many more occasions in the years that followed where short stories were absent from the newspaper, they would always return by popular demand. It is clear that the tradition of short stories in the Evening News was firmly established in the early years of the newspaper's history.
With the war over, it wasn't long before the Evening News began to print fiction serials again. The first appeared at the beginning of December 1918, though no short stories were printed in this month. Only four short stories were published in the paper in 1919. Two of these were provided by previous contributor Wilfrid L. Randell. The others were "The Secret" (published anonymously) and a curious yarn by J. A. Holland with the evocative title "The Cat-Woman of Soho." Serialized fiction continued throughout this year and the next, with just one story appearing in 1920, Arthur Machen's "Scrooge: 1920 (A New Christmas Carol)," which was printed at the end of the year.
W. McCartney, a staff writer on the Evening News, contributed the only short story to appear in the newspaper in 1921, a quirky piece called "An Absolutely New Dog." Another McCartney story followed in June 1922, with no more stories published in the newspaper until October 7, when the Evening News reprinted "Buying a Rug From a Turk" by W. G. Fish, a story that originally appeared in the Daily Mail in 1916. In November of 1922 the Evening News began a new series of themed short stories specially written for the paper by famous American writers. The stories in this series were all concerned with various aspects of married life, and were somewhat longer than previous stories that had been published in the newspaper. A total of fifteen "married life" stories appeared throughout the last two months of 1922, with contributions by such authors as Dorothy Canfield, Julian Street, Zona Gale, Edith Barnard and Samuel Hopkins Adams, all noted writers in their home country. Interestingly, the "Married Life Short Story Series" proved to be an early precursor of the various series of themed stories that the Evening News was to publish many years later.
Serialised fiction continued to take precedence over the short story feature during these years, and 1923 was no exception. Despite the "married life" series of the previous year, only two short stories appeared in 1923. The first of these was printed on January 16, an excellent tale by the New Zealand born author Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) entitled "Life of Ma Parker." Mansfield had in fact died just a few days earlier and the editors of the Evening News published the story in honour of her memory. A talented young writer, she had already had several volumes of her short stories published, and her fictional output is still held in high esteem to this day. The only other tale to appear in 1923 was Denis Mackail's "A Ghost Story for Christmas Eve," printed, obviously, on December 24!
Two very different stories were published in the Evening News in the latter half of 1924. The first of these was A. Bonnet Laird's "As For Speed For Its' Own Sake-," a light-hearted piece concerned with (as the title suggests) the relatively new phenomenon of speeding motorists. Laird was a staff writer on the Evening News. The only other short story published in 1924 was a tale entitled "London Smuts: A Christmas Fairy Story," which appeared on December 23. This story was written especially for the Evening News by Queen Marie of Rumania, who had previously contributed an article to the paper while visiting London.
The next short story to appear in the newspaper was on February 2, 1925, the excellent mystery tale "The Pigeon of Monte Carlo" by the Right Hon. Lord Darling. Darling was a well known judge who also wrote a number of crime articles for the Evening News. Another story, "The Master of Castle Raymond" by Max Pemberton (also an Evening News journalist), followed in November of the same year. Two more stories appeared at the end of 1925. A previously unpublished tale (translated from the Danish) entitled "King, Queen and Knave" by Hans Christian Andersen was published in the Evening News on December 15. The manuscript for this story had been found in the Royal Library of Denmark at Copenhagen. Also published in the Evening News in December of 1925 was the first ever Winnie the Pooh story by A. A. Milne, printed in the Christmas Eve edition. Although the story appeared under the simple heading "Winnie the Pooh," A. A. Milne enthusiasts identify the correct title of this story as "The Wrong Sort of Bees." Indeed, this story is better known to fans of the Pooh stories as the first chapter of the original Winnie the Pooh book.
No more stories appeared in 1925. However it is worth noting that staff writer and previous story contributor W. McCartney wrote a number of pieces for the newspaper during this period, the problem with these being that many of them are hard to distinguish as either stories or articles. A close examination of these anomalies reveals that they would appear to have been intended as articles rather than fiction, and as such none of them have been indexed on this website.
Early in 1926, two fine short stories by Saki were reprinted in the newspaper by permission of a publisher who at the time was bringing out a book collection of Saki's work. Three more stories appeared later that year, "The Gentleman on the Mat" by C. J. Cutcliffe, and two more Winnie the Pooh tales by A. A. Milne, "The Rescue of Piglet" and "The House at Pooh Corner."
Throughout 1927 the Evening News published a series of children's stories by Professor Leonard Hill, an eminent London doctor. These stories, which Hill wrote for his granddaughter as a hobby, included such enchanting pieces as "The Little Eflin" and "Selim the Cat." Professor Hill's own illustrations appeared alongside these tales, of which there were twelve in total. The last in the series was "Sheila's Christmas Fairies," which appeared on December 24, 1927. Only one other story was printed in 1927, an unusual ghost story entitled "The Riddle of Lichen Hall" by Lady Cynthia Asquith.
The first short story to be published in 1928 was on February 16, a breezy little tale by Patrick Murphy called "Mine Host Throws a Pretty Dart!" Two more stories followed in June 1928, "The Happy Winners" by French writer Germaine Beaumont and "The Woman in the Veil," a supernatural story by E. F. Benson. No more stories appeared until December 1928, when Professor Leonard Hill returned to the pages of the newspaper with "The Story of Diana and the Owl," another tale written for children. The last story to appear in 1928 was "The Snow" by Hugh Walpole, published on December 21.
A handful of stories were published throughout 1929, including several by the novelist Geoffrey Moss (1886-1954), a major in the British Army whose short fiction was published in a variety of periodicals. Moss' stories were in fact presented in the Evening News as "story-articles," with each one dealing with a particular theme from real life. Other stories in 1929 were contributed by Marion Yeulett, W. E. Richards and Dr. Montague James, whose "An Afternoon Ghost Story" (printed on September 5) was reprinted from Shudders, an anthology of ghost stories edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith.
Novel-length fiction serials, which had appeared continuously throughout the 1920s, continued to be a daily feature of the newspaper in 1930. Only six short stories appeared this year. Three were by Countess Margit Bethlen, the wife of the Hungarian Prime Minister, along with a brace of tales by previous contributor Patrick Murphy and one contribution by Hugh de Selincourt, "A Bad Black Dog."
Short stories were published more frequently in the Evening News during the following year. A regular contributor during 1931 was M. A. Dormie, the American wife of an English doctor. Other authors whose stories were printed in 1931 included Captain J. F. J. Fitzpatrick, whose articles were also popular in the newspaper, and Kathleen Hewitt. Some of the stories in 1931 were published under mysterious initials such as "L. W." and "H. G." It may never be known whom these authors were. The last story to appear in 1931 was the strangely titled "George Economises" by Elinor Newman.
Patrick Murphy's entertaining tales returned to the pages of the Evening News early in 1932, with a further story by M. A. Dormie. During the summer of 1932 the paper suddenly stopped publishing fiction serials, which had ran continuously in the newspaper for many years. They were not to return until long after the Second World War. The latter half of 1932 saw only three short stories in the Evening News. "Gold Fever!" by Leonora Gregory appeared on November 25. Gregory, who had lived in Queensland, Australia, also contributed a series of true stories from "down under" which proved a popular feature in the Evening News. In December of 1932 two stories by the prolific mystery writer Edgar Wallace were published, "Educated Evans" and its sequel "Mr. Homaster's Daughter."
The next four stories to appear in the newspaper were in May and June of 1933. Three of these were by the French novelist Maurice Dekobra, with another by Simpson Stokes, "A Break in Routine..." which was published on June 30. No more fiction was published until August 5, 1933 when the editors announced that the short story was once again to be a daily feature of the newspaper. Interestingly, this editorial policy echoed that of the Daily Mail, which was also owned by Associated Newspapers. The first in the new series of what the paper described as "The Best Short Stories" was "An Unflawed Blade," a classic story by P. C. Wren. The golden age had begun, and it truly was just that, with the continued success of the newspaper echoed by the popularity of the daily short story feature, which I shall discuss in more detail below.
The advent of what I would describe as the "golden age" of short stories in the Evening News began on August 5, 1933. From this point onwards, short stories were printed (with very few exceptions) every day in the newspaper for decades to come (right up to October 1980 in fact, when the paper ceased publication). Most of the material that appeared in the newspaper in the latter half of 1933 was in fact reprints of stories by famous authors, a whole host of classic stories by the likes of Jack London, A. J. Alan, Katherine Mansfield, Nathaniel Hawthorne, H. G. Wells, O. Henry, Saki, Guy de Maupassant and W. W. Jacobs. These classic tales were published daily in the Evening News for the remainder of the year. However, interspersed with these stories was new material by authors such as Dewan Sharar, C. T. Stoneham and C. Gordon Glover, each of whom went on to be a regular contributor to the newspaper in the years to follow. Stoneham, for instance, began his decades-long association with the Evening News with the publication of his story "The Lair of the Leopard" on September 4, 1933.
By January of 1934, reprints of older stories had been entirely phased out and replaced exclusively by all-new material by a wide variety of authors. This policy was to continue in the newspaper for decades to come. Indeed, in a sense it was when the paper stopped publishing reprints that the real golden age truly began. Furthermore, as stated above, a number of authors who went on to be regular contributors had their debuts in the newspaper in the mid-1930s period. Howard Jones, Alan Hyder, Michael Kent, F. G. Turnbull, H. A. Manhood, Murray Sanford and Trevor Allen all sold regularly to the Evening News in the 1930s. A few well known authors were appearing regularly also; these included the Italian playwright and novelist Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) and Captain Frank H. Shaw (1878-1960). It is also worth noting that the stories printed in the Evening News throughout the 1930s were usually quite long, often filling almost an entire (broadsheet) page of the newspaper. In addition, the stories were always accompanied by quite stunning artwork during this period, some examples of which can be viewed here.
The quality of the short fiction published in the 1930s was very high. As well as the aforementioned frequent contributors, others whose work featured often in the 1930s included D. Wilson MacArthur (who was also the literary editor), W. R. Aitchison, F. Morton Howard, Nigel Morland, Eleanor Burford, J. Jefferson Farjeon, Donald Gilchrist, Phyllis Hastings and Kenneth Barber. Barber's unusual tales were often concerned with Islamic mysticism and their exotic flavour mirrored the adventurous and wide-ranging stories that were typical of this period. The Evening News short story feature was very much an international affair in the '30s. Authors from all over the globe were represented in the newspaper, including the Indian writer Dewan Sharar whose memorable work was a real highlight in the newspaper during these years. The stories themselves were often set in all manner of locations around the world. There were numerous tales of adventures on the high seas, thrilling tales of safaris and jungle expeditions, spy and espionage thrillers, dramas set in the Australian outback and so on, all of which no doubt reflected literary tastes of the time. The far-flung regions which formed the settings of so many tales by British writers no doubt also reflected the fact that Britain still had an Empire at this point! This is of course not to say that the paper did not publish its fair share of down-to-earth tales set in London. Indeed, when one looks at the golden age of short stories as a whole, it is impossible to make generalisations with so many stories appearing down the years by so many authors. However, it is certainly true that the sheer variety of the short fiction published in the 1930s in particular was noticeable.
A number of stories published in the Evening News during the 1930s did in fact form part of ongoing serials, with each tale nevertheless being a story that could stand on its own. Trevor Allen contributed several tales featuring the curious antics of a group of cockney musicians known as "The Noise Merchants." Murray Sanford entertained readers with his series of tales chronicling the light-hearted escapades of his fictional creation Sergeant Patrick O'Mara of the Antrim Rangers. Alan Hyder's sparkling stories about the adventures of a Jamaican boy called Matt ran from the mid-1930s well into the 1940s. Another long-running series of interconnected tales worth noting are C. Harcourt Robertson's Pilkinsop stories, about a civil servant based in Burma.
It is unclear who the fiction editor was at the time short stories began to appear regularly in 1933, or indeed who served in the role of fiction editor in all the years before that. However it is known that the author D. Wilson MacArthur (1903-1981) was the fiction editor during the 1930s. He was succeeded in the role by the talented writer John Millard, who like MacArthur contributed several of his own short stories to the Evening News. The estimable Millard, who was described by Leslie Thomas as "a gentle, schoolmasterly man," flourished in the role until 1955, when Edward Campbell (1916-2006) took over as the new literary editor.
With the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 the Evening News was forced to shrink in size due to government-imposed paper restrictions. Prior to this, the paper had been turning out 20-page editions on a regular basis. However by 1942 the paper had gradually decreased in size to a mere four pages long. Despite this the short story continued to be be printed daily in a prominent position, usually on page two. This proves just how popular the short stories were, with the editors obviously considering them an essential feature of the newspaper. Indeed, considering the fact that the Evening News remained only four pages long until the relaxing of paper rationing in the early 1950s, it is all the more extraordinary that short stories continued to be a daily feature throughout the war years and the difficult, austere times for the country that followed.
From the early 1940s onwards, the stories themselves were noticeably shorter in length than before. However there was no lessening of quality as a result of this. It could be argued that the brevity of the stories was probably more suited to the busy commuter who may not have had much time to read a long and complicated story. Even after the Evening News began to grow in page length after the end of rationing, the typical length of a short story had been established as a tried and tested format in the 1940s so that this tradition continued right through the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
Throughout the 1940s, many of the short stories that appeared in the newspaper were written by a small army of regular contributors. These included the prolific star talents Paul Feakes, Phillip Neville, Howard Jones, L. S. Howarth, Will Scott, H. P. Watts, Rearden Conner, Jane Locke (who wrote her first story for the Evening News while sheltering in Piccadilly underground station during the blitz), Alan Hyder and Keston Clarke, to name but a few. Among Phillip Neville's many contributions were a series of humorous stories featuring his popular character "P.A." (short for Penelope-Ann), a young girl whose escapades delighted readers for many years. C. T. Stoneham, who lived in Kenya for much of his life (he was stationed with the Royal Fusiliers in British East Africa during World War One), contributed dozens of stories about the wild animals of Africa. These tales were unusual in that they displayed an unrivalled knowledge and obvious love for the wildlife of Africa and were often told from the point of view of the animals themselves, be it a hippo, elephant, leopard or some other exotic creature. Stoneham's imaginative tales were published regularly in the Evening News for many years, with the last appearing in 1964. F. G. Turnbull was another writer who wrote a series of animal stories for the Evening News, contributing dozens of tales up until 1968. One wonders if there was a certain rivalry between the two authors, although wildlife stories were so popular in this period that there was no doubt ample room for both writers in the pages of the Evening News.
The list of long-serving regular contributors goes on and on, and it is important to stress that I am merely touching the surface here. This can only be an overview of the many different talents and the thousands of stories published in the Evening News in the period from 1933 to 1974. For not only were there regular contributors, there were also complete one-off writers, and those of whom nothing is known who had only a handful of stories published in the newspaper. Indeed, even the prolific Paul Feakes, who wrote so many stories for the Evening News, is shamefully forgotten today. Likewise Will Scott and W. P. Speechley, two prolific writers whose excellent work has been unjustly neglected. In contrast to this are those famous writers who occasionally contributed their work to the newspaper. John Creasey, Denys Val Baker, Ursula Bloom and H. E. Bates, all famously successful authors, contributed a good number of short stories, as did Leslie Thomas, a journalist on the Evening News in the 1950s who went on to become a best-selling novelist. Another noted writer who appeared in the Evening News was Audrey Erskine Lindop (1920-1986), the accomplished novelist and scriptwriter. Lindop contributed two memorable stories to the newspaper, the ghost story "As One Lady to Another" and the poignant "Heirs Unapparent," both of which appeared in 1954. Irish-born writer Bill Naughton (1910-1992), also a novelist and screenwriter, contributed a good number of short stories to the newspaper in the 1940s and 1950s. Naughton is most remembered today for his hit West End and Broadway play Alfie (1963), which was made into a feature film starring Michael Caine in 1966. Also worthy of mention here is Dorothy Edwards (1914-1982), who contributed a handful of delightful tales to the newspaper including the emotive "But Real to Her-," which appeared in 1950. Edwards is best known for her My Naughty Little Sister series of books written for children.
As mentioned elsewhere on this website, staff writers who worked on the newspaper also contributed the odd short story from time to time. As well as the aforementioned Leslie Thomas, these included Ken Follett (who also went on to become a successful novelist), Bill McGowran, L. F. Lampitt, Bill Boorne and Stephen Williams. In addition, literary editors D. Wilson MacArthur, John Millard and Edward Campbell contributed a few of their own stories to the Evening News.
Other contributors to the paper included members of the public who successfully sent their stories in to the short story competitions the newspaper occasionally ran. At the other end of the spectrum were the handful of actors, comedians and music-hall entertainers who had their work published in the newspaper. This diverse bunch included Alec Guinness, whose unusual story "Tik Polonga" appeared in 1961, and Spike Milligan, whose "It Could Only Happen Once" was published in the same year. Other famous names included George Robey, Max Bygraves, Val Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Bob Monkhouse, Harry Secombe, Arthur Askey, Benny Hill and Peter Sellers. A number of other celebrities and actors - particularly from the 1950s period - who are sadly forgotten today also published short stories in the newspaper.
In the early 1950s two authors who were to become important contributors to the newspaper had their debuts in the Evening News. The prolific Herbert Harris had his first story, "Board Meeting" printed on November 27, 1951. Rosemary Timperley made her debut in February 1952 with the touching "Golden Moment," the first of many superb tales she wrote for the Evening News over a period of 27 years. Interestingly, Harris and Timperley were similar in that their early work for the newspaper consisted of mostly light-hearted tales, whereas later on both authors tended to contribute more hard-edged stories. With Harris the emphasis was on crime stories, whereas Timperley's speciality was ghost fiction.
In the early to mid 1950s, it was noticeable how the stories in the Evening News were becoming more and more diverse. Editorial policy aside, new talents were joining the ranks of the already established regular contributors. Among these were Colin Robertson, Pat Garrod, William Glynne Jones and Cardew Robinson, all fine writers whose contributions were obviously held in high regard by literary editor Edward Campbell. As well as the ever-popular detective stories that the newspaper published, and the ubiquitous light-hearted yarns so aptly suited to reading on the train home from work, a number of wild-west stories by American writers appeared in the paper from the 1950s onwards. Readers evidently liked these tales, which no doubt provided escapism for many commuters in the austere London of the early 1950s, where rationing was still in effect. London was still recovering from the war, and the daily short story no doubt provided very welcome and undemanding entertainment for many.
The Evening News also provided readers with a good number of science fiction stories in the 1950s and 1960s. Arthur C. Clarke and John Newton Chance were notable contributors. Detective fiction was provided by the likes of John Creasey and Ursula Bloom, both prolific writers who contributed many short stories to the Evening News. Other genre writers who wrote frequently for the newspaper included A. M. Burrage and Lord Dunsany, both known for their fantasy and supernatural output.
As a side note, it is worth mentioning again here the wonderful illustrations that nearly always accompanied the short stories from 1933 right through to the 1960s. Some were simple but effective sketches of the principal characters of the stories, while others were evocative, imaginative and surreal drawings, a few of which I have reproduced in the artwork section of this website.
In 1955, John Millard was succeeded as literary editor on the Evening News by Edward Campbell, who continued the short story tradition of the newspaper admirably, remaining in the position until shortly before the newspaper folded in 1980. Although Campbell did contribute a few of his own tales to the newspaper in 1968, he was nowhere near as prolific as his predecessor, who even sold one story to the paper after his retirement. Nevertheless, Campbell excelled as literary editor through the 1960s and 70s, publishing countless superb stories by a wide variety of up-and-coming new writers.
Throughout the years 1957 to 1959, short stories would often fail to appear in the Evening News for weeks at a time. Legend has it that the editor during this period was fed up with arguments between feature writers, journalists and the fiction editor over allocated newspaper space for their respective contributions, so at times he decided to remove the short story feature in order to avoid these conflicts. Sacks of vituperative mail from angry readers are said to have followed whenever this occurred, demanding the return of the short story immediately. By 1960 short stories had been reinstated on a permanent basis, indeed they were never to be dropped from the pages of the newspaper again.
During the 1960s, the short story was so popular amongst readers that the paper regularly printed short biographies and photographs of the authors alongside their work. This meant that we got to read about (and see photographs of) such long-term contributors as W. P. Speechley, Paul Feakes and Eric Allen, as well as newer writers. In some cases these short biographical sketches provide the only source of information on many of these sadly forgotten authors.
In this same period, the newspaper would often run a week of short stories of one particular genre, so that you would sometimes have a themed week of romance stories or science fiction tales, with other weeks made up of sea stories or westerns. In addition to this it should be noted that the Evening News continued to print serialised fiction in the post-war period, continuing into the 1970s. These fiction serials would usually run alongside the short story feature. Some of these would be adaptations of popular films or television series of the time, such as the hugely popular program Dixon of Dock Green. An example of a film script being serialised in the Evening News occurred in 1968, when shortly before the theatrical release of the film Planet of the Apes, the newspaper published a serialised story version of the movie based on Paul Dehn's screenplay.
A number of talented writers made their debut in the Evening News during the early 1960s. These included James Stagg, a retired newspaperman who contributed several excellent tales between 1963 and 1967. One of the best of these was "Help! I Can't Swim" (October 22, 1965) a love story with a twist. The Yorkshire-born crime writer Cyril Donson made his debut in 1961, with the story "Smart Guys Collect." Donson went on to contribute a series of memorable stories throughout the 1960s and 70s. Another regular contributor who made his debut in the early 1960s was Stephen Phillips, whose first story in the newspaper was printed in May 1962. Acclaimed writer L. P. Davies contributed a handful of stories to the newspaper, the first of which appeared in 1964. Davies was adept at combining the genres of mystery and science fiction in his stories, and the tales he sold to the Evening News are fine examples of his exceptional work.
By the late 1960s, many of the old guard contributors from the 1940s period had sadly either passed away or had simply stopped writing for the Evening News. It is unlikely that any of the older writers found that their work had fallen out-of-favour with the newspaper, for two reasons. The first is that the fiction editor, Edward Campbell, remained in the role from 1955 to 1980, providing a sense of continuity for the writers. The other reason is simple. With stories appearing every day, the newspaper needed to make sure that the stories were diverse, and having a mixture of both older, established writers and younger authors would no doubt have helped to provide a variation of theme and style.
Nevertheless, many of the older names disappeared from the pages of the Evening News in the late 1960s, with a stalwart few continuing to contribute their stories into the 1970s. These included Rearden Conner and Paul Feakes, two amazingly prolific and versatile writers whose stories entertained readers for decades. New talent however emerged during this period, with a diverse range of authors having their work published in the Evening News. Writers who emerged in the late 1960s and went on to contribute regularly to the newspaper include Penny Ledigo, Plichta Hall, Gabriel Hythe, Pete Hammerton, Willis Carstairs, Peter Wallace and Edwin Jay. The early 1970s saw the debut of a number of other new authors in the Evening News, with readers thrilling to the fresh and original fiction supplied by authors such as Val Leslie, George Carder, Giovanni Ceccarelli and Douglas Baker.
In social terms, Britain was going through a transitional period in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of the short stories printed in the Evening News at the time reflected this, with a good number of racy and irreverent tales replacing the kind of stories one would have read in the newspaper back in the 1950s. As well as the younger writers who were selling their work to the Evening News, some of the more established contributors successfully adapted their own styles in order to move with the times.
The early 1970s proved to be the final years of the Evening News as a broadsheet, with the paper changing dramatically both in form and content in 1974. However, the paper's long tradition of publishing varied and entertaining short stories remained very much alive after the upheaval which occurred late in 1974.
The Evening News converted from broadsheet to tabloid size on September 16, 1974. The last story to appear in the Evening News when it was still a broadsheet was "Can't Win Them All" by Jay Collins. After a hiatus of six weeks, the short story returned to the Evening News as a daily feature on October 31, 1974. Shortly after this the short story was permanently dropped from the Saturday edition of the newspaper, in favour of fiction serials. Thereafter for the next six years, until the final issue was printed in 1980, short stories appeared daily from Monday to Friday every week in the Evening News.
The quality and diversity of the fiction published in this period was very high, with literary editor Edward Campbell admirably maintaining the newspaper's long tradition of publishing new authors as well as an established few. Long-time contributors Donald Noakes, Douglas Railton, Rosemary Timperley, Herbert Harris, Rearden Conner, Howard Jones, Trevor Allen, Colin Howard, H. P. Watts, Clay Allison, Jeffry Scott, Paul Feakes and Leone Stewart were all still appearing regularly. In addition, a few surprising names had stories in the Evening News in the mid to late 1970s, including Barbara Cartland whose beautifully written "It Is Called Love" appeared in 1975. Another unlikely contributor was Bob Monkhouse, whose bizarrely titled "Hassan the Sweet Puts the Bite on us Suckers" was printed on September 10, 1976.
A curious fact worth noting is that the title of Bob Monkhouse's story was not particularly unusual for the period. Strange indeed was the newspaper's editorial policy of attributing very long titles to nearly all the short stories published in the newspaper at this time. This practice began soon after the Evening News converted to tabloid size in 1974, and continued until 1980, when the paper closed. It is certainly the case that the long story titles used in this period were down to the editors and not the writers, and one can only assume that this was done in an effort to attract readers. One cannot imagine for instance, Rosemary Timperley ever titling one of her stories "The Death Watch Memories of a Wrecked Romance" (December 15, 1977), but despite this the stories themselves were generally very good. Still, one wonders what Edward Campbell (if indeed it was down to him) was thinking of when he thought up such cumbersome titles as "Conscience is a Pretty Girl with Big, Sad Eyes" and "The Bird Watcher's Quest for a Nest-Egg!"
The Evening News ran a short story competition in 1978. The competition was set up in recognition of the fact that the Evening News had been famous for publishing short stories for nearly forty years. On the panel of judges for the competition was former Evening News journalist and contributor Leslie Thomas, who noted that the quality of the many entries sent in by readers was very high. One of the winning entries printed in the newspaper was a story by Bill Bryson, who was later to become famous for his travel books which include the best-selling Notes From a Small Island (1995). The paper printed twenty winning stories (most of which had rather long titles!) in total, with the overall winner being John Coleman's "Struck Dumb by a Big Blond," which appeared on July 27, 1978.
The Evening News also ran the odd "classic reprint" throughout the 1970s. These included the stories "Jeeves Cracks the Great Pearl Robbery" (a condensed version of "Aunt Agatha Takes the Court") by P. G. Wodehouse, and "A Child's Christmas" by Dylan Thomas. Interestingly, this practice set a precedent for what was to follow years later when the paper returned to the streets of London for a brief period in 1987.
The very last short story to be printed in the Evening News was "When the Boss is Away" by Devora Pope. It appeared in the last-ever issue on October 31, 1980. It is sad that very little was made of this at the time, with a brief message stating that this was the last-ever story to be published in the Evening News being the only acknowledgement by the editors that this long tradition had come to an end. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that literary editor Edward Campbell had already retired by this time.
However, technically speaking this was not quite the end of short stories in the Evening News. The paper was unexpectedly revived seven years later.
During the brief resurgence of the Evening News in 1987, the editors of the revived newspaper ran a regular "classic short story" feature. The first story, "Mr. Loveday's Little Outing" by Evelyn Waugh, appeared just one day after the paper hit the news-stands on February 25, 1987. Accompanying this story was a message from the editors informing readers that they were mindful of the newspaper's long tradition of printing short stories, and that they intended to continue with this practice. From this point on, stories appeared every day in the newspaper by the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Saki, H. H. Munro, M. R. James and W. Somerset Maugham. In addition to this, the Evening News did in fact reprint some more recent stories by authors such as Ruth Rendell.
However, to my knowledge no new or previously unpublished stories appeared during this period. Indeed, a few weeks after the newspaper was relaunched, a curt message began to appear beneath each short story informing would-be-contributors that the editors were not accepting story submissions and did not wish for them to be sent in. This message appeared every day until the newspaper ceased publication at the end of October 1987.
One may wonder why the editors decided not to publish any new material in this period. This can be explained by the fact that the 1987 version of the Evening News was run on a very tight budget and was staffed by a much smaller team of journalists than it had when the paper closed in 1980. As stated elsewhere on this web site, the Evening News in 1987 had a circulation of only 30,000 copies, far below that of the Evening Standard. The issue price was also extremely low and as the overall purpose of resurrecting the Evening News was to act as a "spoiler" to the London Daily News (which it did), one can surmise that Associated Newspapers Ltd had no intention of continuing with the newspaper for longer than necessary. These facts clearly indicate that the business of reading story manuscripts and paying contributors for their work was simply not budgeted for by the proprietors. Another point worth recognising is that as the vast majority of the stories published in this period were classics from many years ago, most if not all of them would have already been in the public domain. In other words, it would not have cost the paper a penny in rights to reprint them.
The notes above should indicate that the history of short stories in the Evening News is a vast area that is not easy to summarise. That the stories down the years reflected the editorial constraints, public tastes, changing fashions, and social mores of the times is obvious. What all the stories share is a terseness of style, a conciseness that was demanded by the editors of the writers who contributed to the paper. These stories were geared towards the reader with little time on their hands for lengthy characterisations and over-complex plots. The stories in the Evening News were necessarily short, but good writers were able to excel in this disciplined literary form, and stamp their own style and idiosyncrasies in their stories. The Evening News enabled many writers to flourish over the years, often providing an author with his first step into the literary world. With so many authors and so many years of stories, there is a wealth of diverse material tucked away in the pages of this newspaper. That so much of it will probably never be reprinted is a small tragedy. As long-time Evening News contributor Herbert Harris once noted, an incalculable number of good short stories are published in newspapers and magazines, with most of them destined to fall into a kind of limbo. That many of these stories are in effect fascinating relics of bygone times, hidden gems just crying out to be read again is undoubtedly true. By creating this index of the Evening News short stories, I hope that in some way I've preserved at least for posterity's sake a permanent record of them. And if the paper at times published reprinted material, it's important to note that the overwhelming majority of short stories in the Evening News were original works published for the first time in the pages of the newspaper. And although the real golden age of short stories in the Evening News didn't arrive until 1933, there were many stories published in the years prior to this that were of equal merit, some by legendary writers; E. F. Benson, Edgar Wallace, Katherine Mansfield, et al. It is with regret that this project does not cover the many fiction serials that the paper ran, particularly those novel-length serials (or "feuilletons" as they were commonly known) that appeared in the early years of the newspaper's history. That is a huge project of indexing that will have to be left for another day!
Copyright © 2006 Richard Simms