Victor Rousseau Emanuel

Victor Rousseau Emanuel, originally born as Avigdor Rousseau Emanuel, was born 2 January 1879 in England to Joel Emanuel and Georgiana Rousseau. He died 6 April 1960 in Tarryton, New York. Primarily a writer of pulp fiction, he was active in Great Britain and the United States during the first half of the 20th century. Regarding the first two decades of his career, he wrote predominantly under the pen names Victor Rousseau, H. M. Egbert, and V. R. Emanuel, but, come the 1930s, officially abandoned these and numerous others in favour of establishing Victor Rousseau as a recognisable name in the pulp fiction field. He wrote "spicy" stories under the pen name Lew Merrill.

For the Belgian sculptor see Victor Rousseau.

Life and career

Emanuel enrolled at Harrow in 1892 and Balliol College Oxford in 1896. Due to unfortunate circumstances, he departed London and sailed south to Cape Town. For the next two years, he travelled South Africa, landing odd jobs as he went. While in Johannesburg, he learned the newspaper trade, landing a job with the Standard and Diggers' News and then the Transvaal Leader. With the hue and cry of the Boer War in full swing, Emanuel enlisted with Bethune's Mounted Infantry in 1899, but was discharged about 35 days later. Nearly a month later, he registered with the Colonial Scouts at Pietermaritzburg, and was officially discharged four months later, in April 1900.

With his brief life experiences in South Africa and his involvement in the Boer War, he returned to London and readily sold his first novel, Derwent's Horse. This was a fictional, humorous account of two recruits within the spoofed Bethune's Mounted Infantry. With the proceeds from this novel, Emanuel realised that in journalism lay his future, and set sail again, this time for New York City, in June 1901.

While between jobs in 1902, he began writing his second novel, Spartacus. It was written along the lines of Gustave Flaubert's novel, Salammbo. Three years after he began, he submitted it to Houghton-Mifflin in September 1905. It was rejected as a weak novel with poor characterisation.

That same year, Emanuel assisted with the Jewish Encyclopedia, published by Funk & Wagnalls in 1905 and 1906.

His earliest known fiction output appeared in late 1905, in the form of children's vignettes, syndicated nationally, carrying the byline V. R. Emanuel.

From early 1906 through 1907, he wrote regional Florida special articles for the Baltimore American. He took on an editorial post with Will Carleton's Every Where magazine in mid-1907. Here, he also created the alias Egbert Prentice. This, upon departure, morphed into the famous H. M. Egbert alias. Emanuel made his first official professional magazine sale, with the short Canadian frozen North tale, "The Last Cartridge," in The Munsey (1907 September).

Come 1908, he landed an editorial position with Harper's Weekly, a position he retained for three years. It is here that H. M. Egbert makes its earliest known debut, within the edition of 26 December 1908, attached to an article, rather than a fiction story. While employed by Harper & Brothers, he wrote special articles and the occasional short story. Stories he or the staff deemed unfit for Harper's Weekly were sold to the Illustrated Sunday Magazine, a nationally syndicated publication that was a subdivision of the Buffalo Times. Stories that failed to meet with this editor's approval were likewise circulated to lesser syndicates.

In 1909, he wrote his landmark series The Surgeon of Souls, which featured Dr. Ivan Brodsky, a man who believed in faith and hypnotism as the cure toward laying ghosts, etc. These were syndicated amongst the big-city newspapers under the alias H. M. Egbert and sold poorly. Ironically, it found new life, nearly 15 years later, with 11 of the surviving tales being reprinted as original fiction within Weird Tales magazine, this time bylined as Victor Rousseau.

Emanuel went on to author numerous newspaper series under a variety of genres, from 1910 through 1913. His first foray into the field of science fiction was the ill-fated series The Devil Chair. John Haynes, an Englishman, stripped of inherited land in America, is paralysed by a bullet to the spine, and railroaded into prison and left there to rot. While in the workshop, he fashions a gyroscopic device, that whilst adhered initially to a boot, propels him a couple hundred miles per hour, and while affixed to any object, can not be removed, until he deactivates it. The series is a fast-paced, pure blood-and-thunder romp across America and the world, as John Haynes hounds the villains and wreaks death and destruction on all those who wronged him.

From 1913 through early December 1919, Emanuel, his wife and two children, moved from New York to Canada. While there, he was influenced to write the best fiction of his literary career, spawning the Canadian serials Jacqueline of Golden River and Wooden Spoil. Both would eventually become hardcovers and sell extremely well. Amongst these regional tales, early in 1914, he focused all his energies into creating the best, highest quality stories credited to his potential, in the form of the unofficial series title of Tales of the St. Lawrence Riverway. With the village of St. Jean, Quebec, as the focal point, the central character, in French, "le curé," was in name Pere Sebastian or Father Sebastian. Each tale ended with a moral. Nine of the stories were printed in Blue Book magazine (1914 September through 1915 May), whilst others, unaccepted here, were sold elsewhere over the ensuing years. In fact, the series found new life, being reprinted well into the 1930s, by the Toronto Star and the Boston Globe.

Come the Spring of 1914, all his creative juices flowed into his magnum opus, The Messiah of the Cylinder, an answering cry against H. G. Wells' When the Sleeper Wakes. Despite acceptance by Everybody's Magazine, the story lingered for three years (1917 June, July, August, September). While this serial gathered dust, another science fiction serial made its debut, leading many SF enthusiasts to believe this to be Emanuel's first true SF venture. Written during the summer of 1915, The Sea Demons was printed by All-Story Weekly and serialised in three instalments (1916 January 1, 15, 22).

He was also briefly employed to write story adaptations of motion pictures into syndicated fiction stories for Universal Film. This led to the sale and release of his first screenplay, The Truant Soul (25 December 1916). A decade later, several of his pulp western stories were adapted into films.

Emanuel continued to churn out science and fantasy serials for the various Munsey publications, including:

  • Fruit of the Lamp (The Argosy, 1918 February 2, 9, 16, 23)
  • Draft of Eternity (All-Story Weekly, 1918 June 1, 8, 15, 22)
  • Eric of the Strong Heart (Railroad Man's Magazine, 1918 November 16, 23, 30; 7 December 14)
  • The Eye of Balamok (All-Story Weekly, 1920 January 17, 24, 31)
  • My Lady of the Nile (Argosy All-Story Weekly, 1921 May 7, 14, 21, 28)

Come mid-December 1919, the Emanuel family sailed for England. Unprepared for post-war impoverished England, Emanuel found employment difficult. Refusing to accept a working man's job again, he stuck firmly to writing fiction, while his family were at times homeless and starving. In early 1922, Emanuel returned to writing what he did best, a Canadian serial. The Home Trail was printed in People's Story Magazine (1922 August 25; 4 September 11, 18, 25) and sold for $1,000. With the sale of this novel, Emanuel sailed for America in July 1922, and promptly followed up his success with another $1,000 Canadian serial sale! Lee of the Northwest Mounted appeared in People's Popular Monthly (1923 January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August). This he succeeded later the same year with yet another $1,000 sale, in the form of Sergeant Forbes, Alias in four instalments of People's magazine (1923 August 15; 1 September 15; 1 October).

From 1923 to 1925, Emanuel proudly sold three "serious" novels under his own surname. The first, The Story of John Paul, was suppressed as libelous; largely because his brother, Montague, is named in the novel as the protagonist's father; additionally, the novel was anti-Semitic. In late 1924, he sold Middle Years; this was released in early 1925, and dealt with a middle-aged man's life insecurities and fancy for a younger woman. With the elimination of his initial novel, which had announced a forthcoming sequel, Emanuel rewrote it as The Selmans, attacking England's Jews as hypocritical.

With the success of his three 1922–1923 one-grand Canadian serial novels, Emanuel realised his future lay in writing Frozen North and Western tales for the pulp magazines, a market he continued to tap until 1942. He also wrote heavily during this period for the various self-proclaimed True magazines. However, since they were reportedly "true" tales, none of the tales sported a byline. Confirming which stories are his is nearly impossible, unless he used Canada or South Africa as background colour as potential clues.

With The Surgeon of Souls finding new life in Weird Tales (1926–1927), Emanuel re-entered the fantasy field courtesy of Bernarr MacFadden's Ghost Stories magazine (1926–1929), running a series of psychic investigative tales featuring Dr. Martinus. He also sold five SF tales in 1930 to the newly launched Astounding Stories of Super-Science, and two novelettes in 1931 to Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories. With his elimination from the defunct Ghost Stories publication, he was invited to write for Clayton's Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, supplying three tales (1931–1932). In 1932, he [officially] entered Weird Tales with two tales, and in 1933, one last SF tale in The Argosy.

During the mid-1930s, after the Bernarr MacFadden outfit cut Emanuel from their "unofficial" literary contributing staff, he turned to the lucrative but somewhat embarrassing Spicy pulps market, churning out hundreds of short stories. Stories that failed to hit the pulp markets were rewritten, sex slightly included and thereby made saleable to the Spicy field. From 1940 to 1941, he wrote the first dozen "Jim Anthony, Super Detective" novels for Super-Detective; Jim Anthony was a pulp hero created in imitation of the vastly popular Doc Savage. Thereafter, he continued to heavily supply short stories to the Spicy market until 1947, then trickled a couple more for some years before entirely vanishing, forever.

Works (as Victor Rousseau)

  • Derwent's Horse (UK: Methuen, 1901)
  • Messiah of the Cylinder (USA: A.C. McClurg, 1917) and Apostle of the Cylinder (UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1918)
  • Wooden Spoil (USA: George H. Doran, 1919) unauthorised edition
  • Wooden Spoil (USA: Grosset and Dunlap, 1919)--(UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919)
  • The Eye of Balamlok (The All-Story, 1920)
  • The Big Muskeg (USA: Stewart Kidd, 1921)--(UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1923)
  • The Lion's Jaws (UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1923)
  • The Home Trail (UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1924)
  • The Big Man of Bonne Chance (UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1925)
  • Golden Horde (UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1926)

Works (as H. M. Egbert)

  • Jacqueline of Golden River (USA: Doubleday Page, 1920)--(UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1924)
  • My Lady of the Nile (UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1923)
  • The Big Malopo (UK: John Long, 1924)
  • Draught of Eternity (UK: John Long, 1924)
  • The Sea Demons (UK: John Long, 1924)
  • Eric of the Strong Heart (UK: John Long, 1925)
  • Mrs. Aladdin (UK: John Long, 1925)
  • Salted Diamonds (UK: John Long, 1926) 2nd imprint circa 1927–28
  • Winding Trails (UK: John Long, 1927)

Works (as V. R. Emanuel)

  • The Story of John Paul (UK: Constable, 1923)
  • The Selmans (USA: The Dial Press, 1925)
  • Middle Years (USA: Minton, Balch, 1925)

Works (as Victor Rousseau, reprinted posthumously)

  • The Surgeon of Souls (USA: The Spectre Library, 2006) Dr. Ivan Brodsky series
  • The Tracer of Egos (USA: The Spectre Library, 2007) Dr. Phileas Immanuel series
  • The Devil Chair (USA: The Spectre Library, 2009) John Haynes series


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