Entry updated 29 September 2020. Tagged: Author.
(1857-1914) US-born author, in the UK from 1892, active as a writer of Pulp-magazine fiction and creator of the flamboyant burglar-turned-detective Hamilton Cleek (or rather, as he signs his early letters to Scotland Yard, "The Man Who Calls Himself Hamilton Cleek"), introduced in a series of magazine stories beginning with "The Man of the Forty Faces" (August 1910 People's Ideal Fiction Magazine) and in book form as The Man of the Forty Faces (coll of linked stories 1910; rev as fixup vt Cleek, the Man of the Forty Faces 1913; vt of original coll Cleek, the Master Detective 1918). Cleek's cases are wildly extravagant though nonfantastic: the "Red Crawl", a fearsome hybrid spider/octopus Monster in "The Riddle of the Red Crawl" (September 1910 People's Ideal Fiction Magazine), inevitably proves to be a Villain in red spider/octopus costume. The hero himself, however, possesses a modest Superpower, the ability to rearrange his features by sheer effort of will (thus the "Forty Faces" soubriquet) to the extent of deceiving close associates and family members of those whom he impersonates (see Shapeshifters). The suggested "scientific" explanation is that his pregnant mother played with a rubber toy having stretchable features, thus influencing the unborn child. In the first book's final episode it emerges, preposterously, that Cleek is also the lost heir to the throne of the little-known European country Mauravania, which might as well have been called Ruritania or Graustark; he is acclaimed as king but rejects the throne at the close of Cleek of Scotland Yard (?-? 1912 Cassell's Saturday Journal as "Cleek of the Yard"; 1914), one episode of which features radium (see Elements) as a quasi-Poison. Most short-story and later novel titles begin "The Riddle of ..." (stories are sometimes "The Mystery of ..."); hence our Riddle/Hamilton Cleek series designation.
Hanshew also wrote as Charlotte Mary Kingsley. He is credited with The Frozen Flame (April-July 1920 Short Stories as "The Riddle of the Frozen Flame"; 1920; vt The Riddle of the Frozen Flame 1920) with his wife Mary E Hanshew, in the Riddle/Hamilton Cleek sequence of thrillers, almost entirely without fantastic content; here the apparently supernatural "frozen flame" manifestations by night are explained as marsh gas villainously augmented with artificial gas-bladders. No pre-1920 magazine publication of this title has been traced; his widow, an author in her own right, may have worked up earlier material or continued the series solo, though also crediting her husband. [DRL/JC]
Thomas Washington Hanshew
born Brooklyn, New York [now New York City]: 3 January 1857
died Anerley, Surrey: 3 March 1914
works (highly selected)
- The Man of the Forty Faces (London: Cassell, 1910) [coll of linked stories: first/also published August 1910-April 1911 People's Ideal Fiction Magazine: Riddle/Hamilton Cleek: hb/]
- Cleek of Scotland Yard (London: Cassell, 1914) [first appeared as "Cleek of the Yard" ?-? 1912 Cassell's Saturday Journal: not technically a fixup but episodic construction gives the same effect: Riddle/Hamilton Cleek: hb/]
- The Frozen Flame (London: Simpkin, Marshall and Co, 1920) with Mary E Hanshew [first appeared April-July 1920 Short Stories as "The Riddle of the Frozen Flame": Riddle/Hamilton Cleek: hb/]
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