Lucy M. Boston (1892–1990) was born in Southport, Lancashire. She studied English at Oxford and served as a nurse in France, before settling in Cheshire towards the end of the First World War. After her marriage broke down in 1935 she trained as a painter in Europe, eventually returning to England on the eve of the Second World War. In 1939 she bought the eleventh century Manor in Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire, which was her home and literary inspiration until her death. It is the setting of her much-loved series of Green Knowe novels for children, and is now open to visitors.
Dreamer, castle builder, archaeologist, and anthropologist, Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930) inherited a fortune that fuelled his wanderlust. Mercer was a tireless creative genius who spent his life fulfilling his family motto, Plus ultra—“More Beyond”. He earned a law degree, mastered five languages, supervised archaeological digs around the world, and became a beloved philanthropist in his ancestral home of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Overshadowed by his many accomplishments is the wonderful but nearly forgotten collection of stories, November Night Tales.
Fritz Leiber was born in Chicago on 24 December 1910. Although trained as an actor, he made his name among the pages of the pulp magazines of the 1930s and ’40s. After a brief correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft, Leiber began writing in earnest, penning classics of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, including Conjure Wife, the Hugo Award-winning Ill Met in Lankhmar, and the pioneering tale of urban supernaturalism “Smoke Ghost”. Leiber passed away in San Francisco in 1992 at the age of eighty-one.
William Hope Hodgson was born in Blackmore End, Essex on 15 November 1877. Though distinguished as a sailor, body builder, photographer, and soldier, Hodgson is now remembered as a writer of the fantastic and macabre: The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” (1907), The Ghost Pirates (1909), The Night Land (1912), and the occult detective stories in Carnacki, the Ghost Finder (1913). Hodgson’s literary career was tragically cut short by an artillery shell at the Battle of Ypres in late April 1918.
Ethel Mannin (1900-1984) was a best-selling author born and bred in South London. Her first novel, Martha, was published in 1923, having first been entered in a writing competition. She continued to write at an astonishing pace, producing over fifty novels during her long career, plus multiple volumes of short stories, autobiographies, travel and political writing. Mannin was also a lifelong socialist, feminist, and anti-fascist. She died in Devon at the age of 84.
Robert Lloyd Parry is a performance storyteller and writer. In 2005 he began what he now refers to as “The M. R. James Project”, with a solo performance of “Canon Alberic’s Scrap-book” and “The Mezzotint” in James’s old office in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. The Project has since encompassed five more one-man theatre shows, several films and audiobooks, two documentaries, a guided walk, and numerous magazine articles.
Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951)—journalist, novelist, broadcaster—is best remembered for his occult detective John Silence and, in particular, two terrifying tales of otherworldly encounters: “The Willows” and “The Wendigo”. The intensity of Blackwood’s stories often arose from personal experiences: his days struggling to survive in the hell of 1890s New York, his travels down the Danube, across the Caucasus, into the depths of Egypt, or the remote mountain passes in Switzerland—all fed his fascination with Nature.