I recently learned that one of my favorite authors passed away last July 4. C.J. Henderson succumbed to cancer after a courageous battle. If you can, send up a prayer for his family, and if you wish, help them pay off his medical bills.
He was a tremendously creative author, and quite prolific. Having grown up in the Mid-West, he came to New York for college, and lived there with his family. Over the years, he taught, worked a number of jobs, as aspiring authors always do, and finally was able to live from his writing.
And what writing it was! His genres were the hard-boiled crime stories, horror, and comic books. Not surprisingly, he gave the following as his favorite authors, many of whom you will know: Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Poul Anderson, Frank Miller, Stan Lee, Alan Moore, Clifford D. Simak, John Brunner, Philip K. Dick, James Clavell, Lester Dent, Jonathan Swift, Edgar Rice Burroughs, C. J. Cherryh, Sax Rohmer, Rex Stout, Jack Vance, Brett Halliday, Jack London, C.L. Moore, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. As my friends know from that list, this was a man after my own heart!
His favorite poem was one of my short list of my all-time favorites: “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelly (1818). I’ll share it with you in memoriam:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
As I think I have mentioned before, my shortlist of favorite poems also includes “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1819) by John Keats, “Sailing to Byzantium” (1926) by William Butler Yeats, “Kublai Khan” (1797) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Jerusalem” (from his Milton) (1804) by William Blake, “O God of Earth and Altar” (1906) by G.K. Chesterton, “The Waste Land” (1922) by T.S. Elliot, “La noche oscura del alma” (“The Dark Night of the Soul”) (1578-9) by San Juan de la Cruz, O.C.D., “God’s Grandeur” (1918) by Gerald Manley Hopkins, S.J., “Forma Bonum Fragile est” (“Beauty is a Fragile Good)” (2 CE) by Ovid in his Ars Amatoria (see my take on this poem in my chapbook Circles: Poems of Youth), and the Carmen 5 of Catullus (c. 84 – 54 BCE), if only for the one magnificent line: “… nox est perpetua una dormienda” (the phrase is so allusive, it defies any translation that would limit it: roughly: “… a night perpetual which must be slept”). The line has been the inspiration for a great deal in the modern world!
A couple of notes: “Jerusalem” and “O God of Earth and Altar” are best known as Hymns today. If we would but heed the message of these two poems, we would transform the world. Samuel Taylor Coleridge is one of the characters in Tim Power’s whopping good yarn, The Anubis Gates!
A linguistic note: throughout this post I use the convention term, “Occult Detective,” to indicate someone who investigates phenomena having to do with the supernatural, etc. As we know, “Occult” only actually means hidden, from the Latin occulō (“hide, cover”), from ob + colō (“tend, care for”). Colo comes from the earlier *quelō, from Proto-Indo-European *kʷel- (“to move; to turn (around)”). Many cognates including Ancient Greek πέλω (pélō), πόλος (pólos), τέλλω (téllō), τέλος(télos), τῆλε (têle), πάλαι (pálai), κύκλος (kúklos). Occult Sciences are the study of hidden or esoteric matters in an organized fashion. Today, in our polarized society, Occult has taken on a connotation of evil, but that is not its only meaning.
C.J. Henderson’s Work
I am most familiar with his works in the Horror genre. He is best known for two of his series, The Jack Hagee series of parboiled detective stories, and the Teddy London series of Occult Detective novels and stories. He wrote many other series, including those devoted to Piers Knight (a curator at the Brooklyn Museum who fights supernatural horrors), Kolchak the Night Stalker and others. His full bibliography is quite extensive.
One of his best techniques was to further the adventures of heroes created by previous authors (such as Lin Carter’s Dr. Anton Zarnak and H. P. Lovecraft’s Inspector Legrasse), or otherwise weave other literary themes, horrors, and ideas into his fiction. Far from being derivative, he used his materials deftly, always respectful of the sources, but using creative license to flesh out and extend the original characters and ideas. It’s not an easy trick to pull off, but he did it with humor and panache!
The Teddy London Detective Agency
In many ways, his longest series showcases his particular talents spectacularly. It’s my favorite of his works, and I have just completed reading every bit of Teddy London that I know of. In The Teddy London series, he combines the Hardboiled detective genre with the horror genre (both traditional and Lovecraftian) with very engaging and enjoyable results. I won’t spoil the fun of your discovering what horrors Detective London, his Agency and his friends have to contend with, but I’ll share a bit to entice you!
Teddy is a hardworking, hardboiled PI in New York City, good at what he does. In the first novel, The Things that are not There, he encounters a horror out of Lovecraft that changes his life, and his vocation, forever. Along the way, he gains new allies, and we meet some of his old friends. Characterization was one of Henderson’s strong suits, and the reader really comes to like, love, and care about the characters. Slowly, we get to know them as real people, with strengths and foibles. You will come to feel very close to Teddy, Lisa, Paul Morcey, Lai Wan, Cat, Doc Goward, Pa’sha, Father Bain, Jhong and the rest.
On the riotous ride through the novels and short stories, he also utilizes a great deal of the world’s mythologies, and re-purposes myths in a most creative way. Often, I am annoyed by authors who use mythologies too cavalierly, but not with Henderson. His variations make good sense, and they even clarify the materials he works with. It fits in to the cosmos that he is creating. He brought many a smile to my lips with his humor and sound philosophy. Since Robert Parker’s Spenser and Hawk are some of my favorite fictional sleuths and tough guys, I see Teddy London and his partners much as esoteric versions of them.
Some of these stories are still in print, others you have to search for at places like Amazon and Bookbinder.com. It’s worth the work.
After having completed the whole Teddy London canon, I believe I have come up with the order of the Novels and Short Stories based on their internal chronology. Their publishing order is rather different. He first published five novels in the 1990s as Robert Morgan as Berkeley Prime Crime paperbacks. He continued with numerous short stories and two additional Novels. However most of the later tales are inserted earlier into the internal timeline. When you read them in order, you will understand why. It was a good decision by Henderson, and I am grateful he did so.
I remember picking the original five up many years ago at the storied Berkeley SF/Fantasy/Horror bookstore, Dark Carnival, named for Ray Bradbury’s Dark Carnival, a short story collection published in 1947 by Arkham House, the publishing house founded by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to publish the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Arkham House became one of the most important horror publishers in the U.S., and inspired generations of like-minded horror publishing houses.
Dark Carnival Bookstore is one of the survivors in the dwindling population of SF/Fantasy/Horror bookstores, alongside Borderlands on Valencia in San Francisco (now SADLY CLOSING in March 2015!) and Forbidden Planet in NYC. Gone are such wonderful oases of fantasy such as The Change of Hobbit in Westwood/Santa Monica which withdrew into myth in 1991. Its offspring The Other Change of Hobbit, held on in Berkeley/El Cerrito until 2014 and might be back. While I was in Regency (teaching) at Loyola High in Los Angeles 1981-1984, the wonderful old house that was Change of Hobbit’s home was one of my places of Zen, along with the late, lamented Bodhi Tree Bookstore on Melrose. (A new Bodhi Tree Online store is in the offing. Sign up now!) The SF/F/H Bookstores, which began in the 1970s were a result of the overwhelming popularity of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and the revival of interest in the Heroic Fantasy and Horror genres during the 1960s onward.
See how it all ties together!
The Teddy London Timeline
Henderson had a nack for experimenting with his storylines in short stories, and then expanding them into Novels. He also alludes to other adventures that we don’t have in the canon. Perhaps one day another author with similar skills will fill in the fascinating gaps!
So here’s how I think the Teddy London timeline works:
“You can’t take it with you” (“Mirrors of the Soul”)–the Jack Hagee novel that eventually became the first novel, with a new Teddy London replacing Hagee) (Published in The Occult Detectives of C.J. Henderson.)
The Things That Are Not There (as Robert Morgan)
Some Things Never Die (as Robert Morgan: republished as The Stench of Fresh Air as CJH)
“Glory and Fame” published with The Sleep that Rescues.
“Two Great Pleasures” (a Lai Wan story, but other characters are also included) (published in Lai Wan: Tales of the Dreamwalker)
“The Horror at Columbia Terrace” (a Paul Morcey story, published in The Occult Detectives of C.J. Henderson. It is a sequel to H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook.” The HPL story is not one that critics generally like, and is full of Lovecraft’s nativist prejudices and a (sometimes inaccurate) jumble of magic and demonology based on the eponymous articles in the 1902 Britannica by Edward Burnett Tylor, LL.D., D.C.L., F.R.S., Professor of Anthropology, Oxford University. Both Tylor and HPL incorrectly call the Middle-Eastern Yazidi devil-worshippers. These flaws are absent from the Henderson sequel.)
“Family Ties” with Patrick Thomas (this Lai Wan story would be in this general time period) (published in Lai Wan: Tales of the Dreamwalker)
“The Darkness of Nightmare” (this Lai Wan story would be in this general time period) (published in Lai Wan: Tales of the Dreamwalker)
“Innocent Monsters” with John L. French (this Lai Wan / Bianca Jones story might be in this general time period) (published in Lai Wan: Tales of the Dreamwalker). Bianca Jones is a Baltimore Occult Police Detective with her own series by French which I look forward to reading.
“The Burning Touch of Gratitude” (this Lai Wan story would be in this general time period) (published in Lai Wan: Tales of the Dreamwalker)
“The Soul’s Right Hand” (probable location) (Published in The Occult Detectives of C.J. Henderson)
“Juggernaut” (probable location) (Published in The Occult Detectives of C.J. Henderson)
“The Door” (Genesis of the next novel) (Published in The Occult Detectives of C.J. Henderson)
An Eternity of Self (CJH’s last published London novel. Hard to come by. I bought my copy from Amazon-France. WorldCat shows it in only one Library. Hey Marietta Publishing, how about republishing it!
“A Perfect Moment” (in An Eternity of Self)
The Thing That Darkness Hides (as Robert Morgan)
“On All the Snow Around” (Genesis of the next novel) (Published in The Occult Detectives of C.J. Henderson.)
All Things Under The Moon (as Robert Morgan)
The Only Thing To Fear (as Robert Morgan)
Some Things Come Back (as Robert Morgan)
Lai Wan Stories I cannot place in the Timeline, all published in Lai Wan: Tales of the Dreamwalker):
“A Happy Mother Takes Away Pain”
“One Night in Chinatown” (with Bruce Gewheiler) (Lai Wan teams up with Donna Fargo. Fargo, Blakley and Boles are psychic investigators in Henderson and Gewheiler’s Where Angels Fear to Tread.
“Not What One Does” (with John Sunseri, and featuring NSA Agent Jack Dixon. Dixon and Harrison Peel are featured in a series of stories by Sunseri. For The Spiraling Worm in this series, he collaborated with David Conyers. The stories involve modern Lovecraftian horror set in the world of espionage and government conspiracies.
“The Curse of Eternity”
“The Moment After Death”
(As these could take place at any place in the timeline, I suggest sprinkling them in between the London Novels. They really are good!)
You might also enjoy The Supernatural Investigators of C.J. Henderson!
All-in-all, C.J. Henderson delighted and intrigued his readers, and kept them on their toes. He will most certainly be missed. As one of the editorial descriptions mentioned, he single handedly revived a great sub-genre: Occult Investigations.
A Delightful Sub-Genre
Stories, films, and TV shows about investigators looking into the supernatural or eerie have always been a favorite of mine. I’m a fan of horror and tales of the Supernatural, and also a big Mystery/Detective/Cop story fan. my weekly viewing in that genre currently includes:
- Blue Bloods
- Law and Order: SVU
- (soon): CSI Cyber
- NCIS (all iterations)
- Criminal Minds
- Chicago PD
I’ve wanted to put this list together for a long time, and it seems like a fitting memorial to C.J. Henderson! It’s a venerable sub-genre, an intersection of several genres. The list below is not in any particular order, it’s just as I found them or remembered them. I’ve tried to provide as many links as I could. When you are in Language Arts Division of Armstrong Tutoring, Editing, and Consulting, go back and forth a page, as there are often additional books linked there.
Many thanks to Wikipedia for many of these listings and descriptions!
Occult Detectives, Amateurs and PIs:
To Sura by Pliny the Younger’s (ca. 62-ca 113 CE) Letter 83 investigating ghosts.
Fitz James O’Brien’s Harry Escott. A specialist in supernatural phenomena, Escott investigates a ghost in “The Pot of Tulips” (1855) and an invisible entity in “What Was It? A Mystery” (1859).
The narrator of Robert Bulwer-Lytton’s novella “The Haunted and the Haunters; or, The House and the Brain” (1859) is another student of the supernatural who probes a mystery involving a culprit with paranormal abilities.
E. and H. Heron‘s Flaxman Low, featured in a series of stories in Pearson’s Magazine (1898–99).
William Hope Hodgson‘s Carnacki the Ghost Finder. The adventures of Carnacki have been continued by A. F. Kidd in collaboration with Rick Kennett in 472 Cheyne Walk: Carnacki, the Untold Stories (2000) and by William Meikle in Carnacki: Heaven and Hell (Colusa, CA: Ghost House Press, 2011), and Carnacki: The New Adventures (2013).
Rose Champion de Crespigny’s Norton Vyse.
The occultist Dion Fortune made her contribution to the genre with The Secrets of Dr Taverner (1926), consisting of psychic adventures of the Sherlock Holmes–like Taverner as narrated by his assistant, Dr Rhodes.
Dennis Wheatley‘s occult detective were Neils Orsen and Duc de Richleau series by Dennis Whately, including The Devil Rides Out, Strange Conflict and Gateway to Hell (1930s to 1970s). Investigating Satanic Cults.
Manly Wade Wellman, whose character John Thunstone investigated occult events through short stories in the pulps, collected in The Third Cry to Legba and Other Invocations (2000) and in the novels What Dreams May Come (1983) and The School of Darkness (1985); He also has another investigator, Silver John: for his stories, click here, and here. He also is mentioned in Brian Keane’s Dark Hollow and even on a CD: Who Fears the Devil by Joe Bethancourt.
The Ghosts in Baker Street pits Sherlock against supernatural horrors.
Peter Saxon (The Guardians series)
Other Detectives with Weird themes include:
David Rowlands (Father O’Connor)
Jonathan L. Howard (Johannes Cabal)
Arthur Connan Doyle’s Professor Challenger’s The Land of Mist.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Scoobies hunt evil.
Angel (TV). Buffy’s love as a Vampire Detective.
Indiana Jones series of films, etc. Archaeologist finds legendary artifacts such as the Ark of the Covenant.
Supernatural (TV). Two brothers investigate and battle evil.
“Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
Eureka (TV). Weird Science in the Company Town of Eureka, OR. More Science Fiction than Horror/Fantasy, but it has ties to Warehouse 13.
Carnivàle (TV). Sadly truncated series about mystery and magic in a traveling carnival during the dustbowl era. Shame on HBO for cutting its run!
Devil’s Advocate (Film). A young attorney discovers that the head of his firm is other than he seems!
Teddy London Series by C. J. Henderson (see sections above)
Lin Carter’s Dr. Anton Zarnak
Several of the Ghost Stories of M.R. James include investigation and detection.
Much of the Weird Fiction of Russell Kirk. I love his supernatural stories, I disagreed with his politics and social views.
The Novels of Charles Williams. His 7 Novels are written in the style of 1930s-40s detective novels and involve the supernatural. The first three chapters of his 8th novel, The Noises That Weren’t There were published in Mythlore 6, 7, 8.
Dean Koontz‘s The Haunted Earth and Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy, a modern-day investigator in an alternate universe where magic works, and the Angevin Empire still rules, are examples in which occult detectives operate in a world where the occult is simply an accepted part of mundane life.
Derrick Ferguson (Dillon and here). A harboiled PI battles evil. “He’s a soldier of fortune gifted with an astonishing range of remarkable talents and skills that make him respected and feared in the secret world of mercenaries, spies and adventurers. A world inhabited by amazing men and women of fabulous abilities that most of us are unaware even exists.”
Josh Reynolds: A revival of Pulp Hero Super-Detective Jim Anthony.
Alan Moore. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Also check the following page at the store).
Lester Dent, Henry Ralston, John Nanovic: Doc Savage (Also check the following page at the store).
And here’s more Occult Detectives in Comics!
Joel Jenkins, Josh Reynolds, Jim Beard, Ron Fortier, Occult Detectives Vol 1.
Justin Gustainis: Those Who Fight Monsters. This will introduce you to even more Occult Detectives:
- Danny Hendrickson – from Laura Anne Gilman’s Cosa Nostradamus series.
- Kate Connor – from Julie Kenner’s Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series.
- John Taylor – from Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. (See above)
- Jill Kismet – from Lilith Saintcrow’s Jill Kismet series.
- Jessi Hardin – from Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.
- Quincey Morris – from Justin Gustainis’ Morris/Chastain Investigations series.
- Marla Mason – from T. A. Pratt’s Marla Mason series. (Check previous page at the Store too.)
- Tony Foster – from Tanya Huff’s Smoke and Shadows series.
- Dawn Madison – from Chris Marie Green’s Vampire Babylon series. (Also the Jensen Murphy, Ghost For Hire Series)
- Pete Caldecott – from Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London series. (See next Store Page too.)
- Tony Giodone – from C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp’s Tales of the Sazi series. (See next Store Page too.)
- Jezebel – from Jackie Kessler’s Hell on Earth series. (See next Store Page too.)
- Piers Knight – from C. J. Henderson’s Brooklyn Knight series. See also.
- Cassiel – from Rachel Caine’s Outcast Season series.
See also the Occult Detective Megapack.
Jill Vassilakos-Long, Paul Vassilakos-Long: Strange Cases: A Selective Guide to Speculative Mystery Fiction
For French readers, there are two studies of Occult Detectives by Lauric Guillaud: Les détectives de l’étrange, Volumes 1 and 2.
Newspapers Investigating the Weird:
Law Enforcement Agencies Investigating the Weird:
Nick Pollotta‘s Bureau 13 universe, in which an FBI division investigates Supernatural occurrences. Based on a Role Playing Game (RPG):
Men in Black (Comic Book and Film Series). Keeping tabs on Aliens.
The X-Files (TV and Film). FBI investigating the Weird.
Special Unit 2 (TV) Chicago PD Division keeping tabs on “Links.”
Fringe. (TV) FBI unit investigating the Weird.
Grimm (TV). Police procedural in Portland investigating activities of the evil among the Wesen (Mythological creatures).
Moonlight (TV). Vampire PI in Los Angeles.
Twin Peaks (TV). FBI Agent investigates the strange goings-on in Twin Peaks, WA.
Forever Knight (TV) Vampire Police Detective in Toronto.
Torchwood (TV). Really Science Fiction, but with Weird touches. It follows the investigations of Captain Jack, a friend of Doctor Who, heading a branch of the Occult agency founded by Queen Victoria after she encounters a Werewolf in Doctor Who episode “Tooth and Claw.” Both Torchwood and Doctor Who are covered by Arthur C. Clarke’s third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” which follows the sentiments in a 1942 story, “The Sorcerer of Rhiannon,” by Leigh Brackett: “Witchcraft to the ignorant, … simple science to the learned,” and in Wild Talents (1932) where Charles Fort states”…a performance that may some day be considered understandable, but that, in these primitive times, so transcends what is said to be the known that it is what I mean by magic.”
Sleepy Hollow (TV). A resurrected Ichabod Crane investigates evil doings along with Police Lt. Abbie Mills.
Erica Lindquist, Aron Christensen: The Dead Beat Series. An occult noir series. “The dead really aren’t that different from the rest of us. Some work honest jobs and pay rent on their host bodies every month, right on time. But some of them refuse to play by the rules. Police Exorcist Arphallo Sirus and his murdered partner, Sam Trent, hunt down the ghosts that break the laws of the living and the dead.”
Deliver us from Evil. The memoirs of real-life NYC Police Sgt. Ralph Sarchie document his encounters with the Weird.
Storehouses of the Weird:
Warehouse 13 (TV). Secret Service Agents guard the depository of all magic items, and investigate artifacts that have gone rogue.
Friday the 13th: The Series (TV). Inheritors of an occult store must retrieve all of the cursed artifacts that had been sold.
I know there’s more out there, and I am sure I have omitted a few classics. Please leave comments at the Blog with additional authors/stories in this sub-genre!
In tribute to C.J. Henderson: Keep Reading!
Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant