Writer with as many talents as pseudonyms
Friday 11 February 2005
Bruce Bingham Cassiday, writer and editor: born Los Angeles 25 January 1920; married 1950 Doris Galloway (one son, one daughter); died Stamford, Connecticut 12 January 2005.
The American writer Bruce Cassiday was a multi-talented producer of popular fiction, hard-boiled suspense and espionage tales, carefully crafted Gothics (a literary sub-genre that needs a firm hand on its inevitably Byzantine plots), medical melodramas and television novelisations, as well as "How to" tomes on lawns and landscaping, home carpentry, solar houses, dieting, and a number of ghosted biographies (only a few of which he owned up to).
He was one of the brains behind a $10,000-prize "Murder Game" novel, and compiled and edited a number of scholarly yet reader-friendly guides to detective, mystery and science fiction, including an excellent trawl through the art of ratiocination in mystery fiction before Sherlock Holmes, Roots of Detection (1983).
Cassiday's own roots lay firmly in the pulps, though not in any negative sense. He was one of the last generation of writers who not only read and enjoyed the enormous variety of pulp magazines as they were being produced, but saw them as a useful as well as entertaining entry into the writing business.
He had been a staffer with Henry Steeger's "Popular Publications" - an outfit which, back in the 1930s, was (with Street & Smith, and Ned Pines's "Thrilling" group) one of the top three pulp publishers in the United States - throwing himself into his editorial chores with unbridled enthusiasm, and grasping instantly that readers, above all else, appreciated an attention-grabbing title. Some of Cassiday's own titles - Chain-Gang Gun Moll, Brush Babe's Poison Pallet (about a homicidal artist) and Hellcat of Homicide Highway - are certainly eye-catching enough, almost attaining the surreal; the stories aren't bad, either.
Bruce Cassiday was born in 1920 in Los Angeles, growing up there, as well as in Alaska and Hawaii, where his father was chief architect of the Honolulu city hall. Later he became an architect for RKO Studios in Hollywood and from him Cassiday acquired a lifelong love of building and carpentry.
After high school, he took an English course at UCLA, graduating with highest honours before joining the US Army Air Force during the Second World War. He served in the North African and Italian theatres of war as well as, later, in the West Indies and Puerto Rico.
Back in civvy street, Cassiday was attracted to popular fiction, first of all writing for radio drama series such as Grand Central Station and the immensely popular Suspense show, before turning his typewriter in the direction of the pulps. At one stage, as an editor for the "Popular" line, he was handling two crime and four western pulps simultaneously, processing manuscripts by some of the giants of the pulp era - D.L. Champion, Hugh Cave, John D. Macdonald, Day Keene and Steve Fisher among them, as well as the early stories of the young Louis L'Amour.
In 1954 Cassiday became fiction editor for Argosy, for which, among other tasks, he selected, edited and condensed the magazine's monthly "book bonus". He also conducted a regular "home workshop" feature which became gratifyingly popular, and much later led to his writing a number of useful guides including Practical Home Repair for Women: your questions answered (1966) and The Carpenter's Bible (1981). He also collaborated with his wife Doris on Fashion Industry Careers (1977) and Careers in the Beauty Industry (1978).
When Argosy folded, Cassiday went freelance, during the 1970s writing all kinds of paperback fiction under a variety of pseudonyms, most demonstrating his delightfully dry sense of humour. On a couple of occasions he was Annie Laurie McAllister (he had an affection for the novels of Sir Walter Scott, and Scotland in general), and as Annie Laurie McMurdie he managed to sell a Gothic, Nightmare Hall, to Lancer Books before the firm crashed, and another Gothic, The Diabolist, as Mary Ann Drew (say it fast). He wrote a kung-fu thriller, The Year of the Cock, as C.K. Fong, undoubtedly recalling that the great W.C. Fields had once pronounced the word "Fong" as euphonious, using it as one of his own bizarre pseudonyms.
All his career Cassiday was happy to collaborate: with Waltraud Woeller on The Literature of Crime and Detection: an illustrated history from antiquity to the present (1988), for instance, and with Dieter Wuckel on The Illustrated History of Science Fiction (1989). With his long-time colleague Bill Adler he wrote the prize "whodunit" Murder Game (1991 - "There's a $10,000 reward for solving the crime; it could be yours!"), an entertaining biography of the talk-show host Jay Leno, The World of Jay Leno (1992), and Murder on the Internet (1999), which proved to be the last book he finished before the onset of the affliction, Parkinson's disease, that finally cut short his productive life.
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