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Cline, Leonard

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1893-1929) US author most remembered for his sf-tinged Horror novel, The Dark Chamber (1927). Initially a journalist, he won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles about the Ku Klux Klan for the Baltimore Sun. His first book, Poems (coll 1914), was followed by two mainstream novels, the dark God Head (1925), which makes use of legends from the Kalevala, and the light-hearted Listen, Moon (1926). In 1927, after beginning his third novel The Dark Chamber, he shot and killed a friend in an argument at his farm in Mansfield, Connecticut. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and spent the better part of a year in prison, writing the remainder of his novel there. Reviews were generally favourable and the book was praised by H P Lovecraft for its artistry. It is clothed in the trappings of a gothic novel (see Gothic SF) but centres upon the "semi-scientific" experiments of a man obsessed with recovering buried memories from his own past, using music, Hypnosis, and other techniques in his isolated mansion. Having reconstructed his life he becomes bent on delving further back, past his birth abd into ancestral memories, using psychoactive Drugs. He ends up devolving into an atavistic state (see Devolution) which ultimately spells his doom. The character of his hired assistant, Hough, is possibly based on the man Cline had killed. A contemporary reviewer thought it an example of a trend in fiction using "scientific superstition" to replace religious superstition. It has often been compared to Altered States (1978) by Paddy Chayefsky, to which it bears a great deal of thematic similarity; but Cline's novel is much less explicit. He wrote numerous non-genre short stories, as well as tales in the weird fiction mode as by Alan Forsyth, five of which were collected posthumously in The Lady of Frozen Death and Other Weird Tales (coll 1992 chap). After his release from prison he was given a position with Time magazine by Henry Luce, but died from heart disease shortly after, while only in his mid-thirties. A second collection of poetry, Afterwalker (coll 1930), was published posthumously. [LW]

Leonard Lanson Cline

born Bay City, Michigan: 11 May 1893

died New York: January 1929 [body found 20 January]

works (selected)


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