September 2007

   Quick note after reading the latest entries on your blog. Very sorry to hear about Joe Hensley’s death; he was a gentleman and a very good writer.

   On the positive news side, I was pleased to see The Compleat T. Arthur Plummer. Obscure he certainly was, but obscure is my meat, as you know, and I have and have enjoyed several of his novels. Thought you might like to add the enclosed FE jacket scan of one of his earliest and scarcest titles, Haunting Lights (1932), which has typically wonderful U.K. period artwork.

Haunting Lights, T. Arthur Plummer


   Thanks for the Plummer cover. It’s a nice piece of work, all right. For a long time, when I was younger, I didn’t bother with British detective fiction like this. Whatever I came across, I quickly turned over and passed along to someone else. Foolish me.

   I met Joe Hensley once at a Pulpcon, not as I recall when he was a guest of honor, but I believe last year, when he came as an ordinary attendee. He was a very nice, outwardly gentle man, but I got the strong impression that as an attorney, he knew what he was doing and could be tough when it counted. I’d certainly have liked to have him on my side, if ever I needed a good lawyer.

— Steve

   This profile came as the result of an inquiry from Donna Frey, who asked —

    Steve, Thanks again for your help with identifying the real “Theresa Charles” . May I impose on you again? I think you might be more into true mystery and suspense writing than I am, but I can’t find an answer anywhere to another “gothic” mystery writer. This is a real puzzle. Janet Louise Roberts, a prolific writer who was billed as “the mistress of romantic mystery,” also wrote under the names Janet Radcliffe, Rebecca Danton, and Louisa Bronte. I think she lived 1925-1984, maybe. But I can’t find one other fact about this woman. Where did she live? Was she American? What was her life like? She had a distinctive style, so I don’t think the publisher was paying different writers to create under that name. Can you, or your interested readers, help? Thanks. Donna

   Some questions are more easily answered than others. Not only does Contemporary Authors (CA) have an entry on her, but their essay quotes liberally from yet another source. It’s highly unlikely that I should not do the same.

Isle of the Dolphins

   According to CA, Janet Louise Roberts was born January 20, 1925, in New Britain CT, the town next to the one where I live, and died June 11, 1982, in Dayton Ohio, where she was a reference librarian for the Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library between 1966 and 1978.

   Quoting CA here and there, not only did she write contemporary, historical,and gothic romances, but “she even ventured into occult territory with The Devil’s Own, Isle of the Dolphins, Lord Satan, and Her Demon Lover — stories in which the devil or other demon fills in for the traditional romantic hero.”

   In an interview with Publishers Weekly, again according to CA, she explained “that she began using pseudonyms to avoid embarrassing her father, a missionary in a rather conservative church.”

   In Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, essayist Barbara E. Kemp is quoted as saying: “One of the most prominent features of her novels is the portrayal of women as ineffectual beings, subject to much degradation. Men, on the other hand, are “rough and overbearing. […] It is not uncommon for the heroine to be raped by the hero at least once in the story. Sexual details are not very explicit, but the lack of tenderness and the idea of sex as punishment are apparent.”

   In spite of Roberts’ failings, Kemp goes on to conclude that she “remains one of the most popular of the romance novelists. Her view of women as pretty dolls to be used and manipulated by men certainly must cause feminists to gnash their teeth, but she obviously strikes a responsive chord among her readers.”

   The following list of her crime-related fiction is taken from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin. It may not include all of her romance fiction that may qualify, and some of the books listed perhaps should not be there. We’ll save these two obviously related problems and solve them another day.

ROBERTS, JANET LOUISE (1925-1984). See pseudonyms Louisa Bronte, Rebecca Danton & Janette Radcliffe. Some of the listed titles are more straight romance than romantic suspense. ** = reprints not previously known to Al.

* The Jewels of Terror (n.) Lancer 1970
* Dark Rose (n.) Lancer 1971 [U.S. South; 1860s]
* Love Song (n.) Pinnacle 1971
* Ravenswood (n.) Avon 1971 [England; 1800s]


* The Weeping Lady (n.) Lancer 1971
* The Curse of Kenton (n.) Avon 1972 [England]
* The Devil’s Own (n.) Avon 1972
* A Marriage of Inconvenience (n.) Dell 1972 [England; 1800s]
* Rivertown (n.) Avon 1972
* La Casa Dorada (n.) Dell 1973

La Casa Dorada

* The Dancing Doll (n.) Dell 1973 [England; 1800s]
* The Dornstein Ikon (n.) Avon 1973 [Austria]
* The Golden Thistle (n.) Dell 1973 [Rome; 1800s]

Golden Thistle

* Isle of the Dolphins (n.) Avon 1973 [Greece]
* My Lady Mischief (n.) Dell 1973 [England; 1800s]
* The Cardross Luck (n.) Dell 1974 [England; 1800s]
* The First Waltz (n.) Dell 1974 [Vienna; 1814]
* Castlereagh (n.) Pocket Books 1975 [England; 1819]
* Jade Vendetta (n.) Pocket Books 1976 [England; 1894]

Jade Vendetta

* Wilderness Inn (n.) Pocket Books 1976 [U.S. West; 1795]
* Island of Desire (n.) Ballantine 1977
* Her Demon Lover (n.) Pocket Books 1978; See: Avon 1973, as by Louisa Bronte.
* Black Pearls (n.) Ballantine 1979 [Hawaii; 1880s]
* Golden Lotus (n.) Warner 1979
** Lord Satan (n.) Pocket Books, 1979. See: Avon 1972, as by Louisa Bronte.
** Black Horse Tavern (n.) Pocket Books, 1980. See: Popular Library 1972, as by Rebecca Danton.
* The Sign of the Golden Goose (n.) Pocket Books 1980; See: Popular Library 1972, as by Rebecca Danton.

BRONTE, LOUISA; pseudonym of Janet Louise Roberts

* Lord Satan (n.) Avon 1972 [England; 1815] [Reprinted as by JLR, Pocket, 1979]

Lord Satan

* Her Demon Lover (n.) Avon 1973 [Balkans] [Reprinted as by JLR, Pocket, 1978]
* Greystone Tavern (n.) Ballantine 1975 [Connecticut; 1776]
* Casino Greystone (n.) Ballantine 1976 [Connecticut; 1896]
* Freedom Trail to Greystone (n.) Ballantine 1976 [Connecticut; 1860]
* Gathering at Greystone (n.) Ballantine 1976 [Connecticut; 1812]
* Greystone Heritage (n.) Ballantine 1976 [Connecticut; 1948]
* Moonlight at Greystone (n.) Ballantine 1976 [Connecticut; 1924]

Moonlight at Greystone

* The Vallette Heritage (n.) Jove 1978
* The Van Rhyne Heritage (n.) Jove 1979
* -The Gunther Heritage (n.) Jove 1981

DANTON, REBECCA; pseudonym of Janet Louise Roberts

* Black Horse Tavern (n.) Popular Library 1972 [Reprinted as by JLR, Pocket, 1980]

* The Sign of the Golden Goose (n.) Popular Library 1972 [Reprinted as by JLR, Pocket, 1980]
* -Fire Opals (n.) Crest 1977 [England; 1800s]
* Ship of Hate (n.) Dell 1977 [Ship]

RADCLIFFE, JANETTE; pseudonym of Janet Louise Roberts

* -The Blue-Eyed Gypsy (n.) Dell 1974 [England; 1800s]

* -The Gentleman Pirate (n.) Dell 1975 [England; 1800s]
* -The Moonlight Gondola (n.) Dell 1975 [England; 1800s]

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