R. R. Ryan

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Evelyn Bradley
Born14 December 1882
Waterloo, Lancashire
Died18 October 1950
Hove
Pen nameR.R. Ryan, Rex Ryan, Cameron Carr, John Galton, Dennis Bradley
OccupationDramatist, actor, theatre manager, novelist
NationalityBritish
Period1925–1940
GenreHorror, psychological thriller
Literary movementDark romanticism
SpouseFirst wife: Elizabeth Hornsby; Second wife: Annie Howard
ChildrenDenice Jeanette Bradley

R(ex) R. Ryan, a pseudonym of Evelyn Bradley (1882–1950), was the author of twelve published horror/thriller novels.

Identity[edit]

There can be few authors in the horror–thriller genre as elusive as R. R. Ryan. Until recently no biographical details about this author were known. Interest in the work of R. R. Ryan was limited to a few hard-core collectors until Karl Edward Wagner included three Ryan titles in his well-known lists of best horror novels for Twilight Zone magazine in 1983.[1]

Following Wagner's death Ramsey Campbell acquired his collection of Ryan books and subsequently published the first critical article on Ryan in Necrofile.[2] Campbell also wrote an entry on Ryan for the St James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers.[3]

In 2002 Midnight House reprinted Echo of a Curse with an introduction by D. H. Olsen with full descriptions and critical appraisal of all of the R. R. Ryan novels. Like earlier commentators, Olsen maintained that Ryan was a woman, in part "due to Ryan's inability to depict convincing male characters, while her female characters are much more fully drawn", as well as "significant examples of typically female outlooks and attitudes pervading even the most male-dominated of her novels".[4]

An article in the Ghost Story Society journal All Hallows revealed the existence of R. R. Ryan’s publishing contracts in the archives of Random House.[5] The contracts indicate that one person appears to have been responsible for all of the Ryan novels, along with four others which appeared under two different names: three under the name Cameron Carr and one under the name John Galton. A children's book by Cameron Carr called The Thought Reader was published by W. Barton in the first half of the 1940s.

Recent research has shown that Rex Ryan was a pseudonym used by Evelyn Bradley, a theatrical manager who was born in Waterloo, Lancashire, in December 1882, and who lived much of his adult life in Hove, Sussex. He is known to have written several plays in the same sensationalist vein as his novels. Ryan took his own life in October 1950. His daughter also wrote four thrillers in the 1940s under the name Kay Seaton.[6]

Works[edit]

R. R. Ryan's work is variable in quality but much of it is literate, considering its often disturbing subject matter. In most of the books the plot device is the same: a menacing male father figure preys upon a vulnerable young girl. This is a standard device of gothic drama and early film (and of such novels as Sheridan Le Fanu's Uncle Silas).

The explicit threat of sexual violence is ever present in a Ryan novel, and this alone makes it unusual for a Herbert Jenkins book of the 1930s. Furthermore, the author controls the mounting tension in a way that can leave many readers feeling almost as traumatised as the fictional characters. These two aspects, coupled with the ingenuity of the plots, has made Ryan a popular author among connoisseurs of vintage weird fiction.

The novels published under the name Cameron Carr explore very similar though less fantastical paths. Although written with the same verve and style, these novels possess a deeper psychological depth than the R. R. Ryan books, suggesting that the author wished to compartmentalise his life by keeping the use of the names separate.

Bibliography[edit]

Title Year Genre Notes
The Tyranny of VirtueApril 1925Psychological thrillerAs Noel Despard
crime thriller 
The Right to KillApril 1936Psychological thrillerCheap edition: January 1940
Deals with the theme of justified homicide 
Death of a SadistJanuary 1937Psychological thrillerCheap editions: January 1938 (Success Library) and March 1939 (Popular Library)
A young couple exact revenge upon a sadistic man who has taken sexual advantage of a vulnerable young woman. 
Devil's ShelterSeptember 1937Horror, psychological thrillerCheap edition: September 1938
A young actress is stranded in a mental hospital where the "lunatics have taken over the asylum." 
A New Face at the DoorOctober 1937Psychological thrillerAs Cameron Carr. Cheap edition: November 1938
Set in a boarding-house; the characters are members of a repertory company in a provincial theatre. The theme is treated with insight and humour. 
The Subjugated BeastJanuary 1938Horror fiction, psychological thrillerCheap edition: March 1939 (Success Library)
A cruel scientist subjects his wife to a diet of raw meat to see whether it affects her mental state. 
Gilded ClayFebruary 1938Psychological thrillerAs Cameron Carr. Cheap editions: March 1939 and March 1940
A surgeon violently opposed to abortion falls in love with a pregnant woman who wishes to abort her child. 
Freak MuseumJuly 1938Horror fiction, psychological thriller
A young Irish girl finds herself imprisoned in a sinister hospital with some very unpleasant monsters. 
The OtherJuly 1938Psychological thrillerAs Cameron Carr. Abridgement (96 pp.): Mellifont Press, [1942]
A man is driven insane by two conflicting personalities, one of which is evil. 
Echo of a CurseMarch 1939Horror fiction, psychological thrillerCheap edition: August 1940 (Success Library). Reprinted in 2002 by Midnight House, including an essay by D. H. Olsen, titled "Honor, Sadism and Dysfunction: The Dark, Demented World of R. R. Ryan"
Supernatural horror novel involving typical Ryan themes of sadism and romance, with vampirism and lycanthropy thrown in for good measure. 
The Stars I Kneel ToMarch 1939Psychological thrillerAs John Galton. Cheap edition: April 1940
Romance with typical Ryan theme of psychological torture. 
No EscapeApril 1940Psychological thriller
The identical sister of murdered woman turns up at the husband's house to take her sister's place. The novel is notable for its darkly comic, almost farcical plot. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Karl Edward Wagner's Favourite Horror Novels Archived 2008-05-09 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Ramsey Campbell, "R.R. Ryan", Necrofile Win. 1998, reprinted in Ramsey Campbell Probably (PS Publishing, 2002).
  3. ^ David Pringle (ed), St James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers (Detroit: St James Press, 1998).
  4. ^ D. H. Olsen, "Honor, Sadism and Dysfunction: The Dark, Demented World of R. R. Ryan", in Echo of a Curse by R. R. Ryan (Seattle: Midnight House, 2002) ISBN 0-9707349-6-4.
  5. ^ James Doig and Theo Paijmans, "Finding R. R. Ryan", All Hallows: The Journal of the Ghost Story Society 37 (2004).
  6. ^ James Doig, "R. R. Ryan Found", All Hallows: The Journal of the Ghost Story Society 44 (2008).