A while back I was talking about authors who were popular in their time but are almost forgotten now. F. Van Wyck Mason probably falls into that category. Not many people reading his books these days, I'd guess. And he was popular in two genres, not just one.
I first became aware of Mason's work in the Sixties, when I was a huge fan of spy, secret agent, and espionage fiction. I read everything I could find along those lines, so it's not surprising I came across several paperbacks about Army Intelligence officer Colonel Hugh North, written by someone with the sort of odd name Van Wyck Mason. I liked the ones I read, books with titles like TROUBLE IN BURMA, MARACAIBO MISSION, DARDANELLES DERELICT, and HIMALYAN ASSIGNMENT. As you can tell, North was something of a globetrotter. I was working in the local public library at the time, and someone donated a bunch of old mysteries. That was when I discovered that Hugh North had been around for quite a while, starting as a captain in novels written in the Thirties such as THE WASHINGTON LEGATION MURDERS and THE BUDAPEST PARADE MURDERS. I liked these even better than North's later adventures.
After a while, working in the library as I was, I became aware of a historical novelist named F. Van Wyck Mason. Had to be the same guy, surely. But I didn't read many historical novels then, so I never gave one of Mason's a try, despite my fondness for the Hugh North books.
I had read all of the Captain/Major/Colonel North novels I could find by the end of the Sixties, and after that I didn't read anything else by Mason for a good thirty years. But when I started buying old issues of the pulp magazine ARGOSY on eBay a few years ago, I noticed lots of novelettes and serials by an author by-lined on the covers as F.V.W. Mason. It took me a while, but eventually I realized this was the same guy. I read several of his historical adventure novels that were serialized in ARGOSY and liked them quite a bit. Like the Hugh North novels, they were never flashy, just good solid storytelling with a fine sense of time and place.
All this was on my mind because I'm currently reading a Civil War historical novel by Mason entitled PROUD NEW FLAGS (Lippincott, 1951) and enjoying it a lot. Yes, it's a little old-fashioned, but as you'd expect from someone who cut their writing teeth on the pulps, it has a good sense of pace and action. F. Van Wyck Mason may be forgotten, but he's still worth reading, at least to me.
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