Kendell Foster Crossen
- "Kent Richards" redirects here. For the leader in the LDS Church, see Kent F. Richards.
|Kendell Foster Crossen|
July 25, 1910|
Athens, Ohio, United States
|Died||November 29, 1981
|Pen name||Richard Foster, Bennett Barlay, Kent and Clay Richards, M. E. Chaber|
|Children||Stephen Foster Crossen, Karen Crossen Ready, Kendra Crossen Burroughs, David Crossen|
Kendell Foster Crossen (July 25, 1910 – November 29, 1981) was an American pulp fiction and science fiction writer. He was the creator and writer of stories about the Green Lama (a pulp and comic book hero) and the Milo March detective novels.
His pen names included Richard Foster, Bennett Barlay, Kent Richards and Clay Richards, Christopher Monig (allegedly the name of a ghost of the town of Crossen on the Oder), and M. E. Chaber (from the Hebrew word mechaber, meaning author). Some bylines use the abbreviated name Ken Crossen.
Kendell Foster Crossen was born in Albany, Ohio (outside Athens), the only child of farmers Sam Crossen and Chlo Foster Crossen. He attended Rio Grande College in Ohio where he played football. He was an amateur boxer and worked at jobs ranging from carnival barker to insurance investigator. In the 1930s he was employed as a writer on Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects, including a New York City Guidebook, before becoming editor of Detective Fiction Weekly.
In the 1940s he wrote pulp detective fiction and novels under his own name as well as the pseudonyms Richard Foster, M. E. Chaber, Christopher Monig, Clay Richards, Bennett Barley, and others. He originated the pulp and comic book character the Green Lama, a crime-fighting Buddhist superhero whose powers emerged upon the recitation of the Tibetan mantra "om mani padme hum." He wrote hundreds of radio scripts for Suspense, The Saint, Mystery Theater, and others. His later television credits include 77 Sunset Strip, The Man from Blackhawk, Man and the Challenge, and Perry Mason.
In the 1950s Crossen began writing science fiction for publications such as Thrilling Wonder Stories, including the humorous Manning Draco stories about an intergalactic insurance investigator (four of which are featured in the book Once Upon a Star, 1953). His novels in the genre are Murder Out of Mind (1945), Year of Consent (1954), dealing with a 1990 America run by tyrannical "social engineers", and The Rest Must Die (1959), about survivors of a nuclear catastrophe in New York City. Novellas include Passport to Pax (1952) and Things of Distinction (1952). He edited two sci-fi anthologies, Adventures in Tomorrow (1951) and Future Tense (1952).
A successful series of tightly plotted novels about a martini-drinking, poetry-quoting New York insurance investigator named Milo March were published under the name M. E. Chaber from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s: Hangman’s Harvest (1952), No Grave for March (1953), As Old as Cain (1954), The Man Inside (1954; made into a 1958 film), The Splintered Man (1955), The Burned Man (1956), A Lonely Walk (1956), Abra-Cadaver (1958), The Gallows Garden (1958), A Hearse of Another Color (1958), So Dead the Rose (1959), Jade for a Lady (1962), Softly in the Night (1963), Six Who Ran (1964), Uneasy Lies the Dead (1964), Wanted: Dead Men (1965), The Day It Rained Diamonds (1966), A Man in the Middle (1967), Wild Midnight Falls (1968), The Flaming Man (1969), Green Grow the Graves (1970), The Bonded Dead (1971), and Born to Be Hanged (1973). In some of these plots, March is called to duty in the U.S. Army Reserve. Notable among these is The Splintered Man, in which he rescues a West German scientist captured by the East Germans, who tortured him by plying him with LSD. Crossen prided himself on being one of the first novelists to write about LSD. In 1967 he published The Acid Nightmare, a cautionary young adult novel in which a teenage boy experiences two LSD trips, one good and one bad.
Kim Locke and Brian Brett
Two other insurance investigator heroes were Kim Locke, who appeared in novels written as Kendell Foster Crossen (The Big Dive, 1959; The Tortured Path, 1957; The Gentle Assassin, 1964), and Brian Brett, in books written as Christopher Monig (Once Upon a Crime, 1959; The Lonely Graves, 1960).
Final unpublished novel
Crossen’s last Milo March novel, Death to the Brides (1974), was rejected for publication, owing to a dispute between author and publisher. Crossen reported that his editor at Henry Holt & Co. wanted him to remove an unflattering portrait of President Richard Nixon from the novel, in which Colonel March goes on mission to Vietnam, accompanied by a Puli dog named Dante. This manuscript is preserved along with the rest of Crossen’s papers in the 20th-century collection of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. Kendra Crossen Burroughs, who owns the rights to the manuscript, plans to publish it after making some editorial improvements.
Ken Crossen was married four times and had four children: Stephen Foster Crossen, Karen Crossen Ready, Kendra Crossen Burroughs, and David Crossen. He died on November 29, 1981, in Los Angeles.
- Personal communication to the author’s daughter, Kendra Crossen