“I’m seeking information on novelist Arthur Rees (Australian born 1872 (ish ), died 1942). Spent (perhaps much) time in England and wrote novels showing detailed knowledge of and interest in his adoptive home. His ‘detective/horror’ work includes The Shrieking Pit set in Norfolk and the tiny port of Blakeney.

    “The book is prefaced by reference to Annie and Frances – my sisters in Australia, and a lengthy poem (of merit) about Blakeney.

    “Any biographical information would be very much appreciated. Many thanks.”

R– B–


   As always, when asked about an author new to me, I turn first to Allen J. Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV, wherein is found:

REES, ARTHUR J(ohn) (1872-1942)
   * The Hampstead Mystery [with John R. Watson] (n.) Lane 1916 [Crewe]
   * The Mystery of the Downs [with John R. Watson] (n.) Lane 1918 [Crewe]
   * The Shrieking Pit (n.) Lane 1919 [David Colwyn]
   * The Hand in the Dark (n.) Lane 1920 [David Colwyn]
   * The Moon Rock (n.) Lane 1922
   * Island of Destiny (n.) Lane 1923 [Insp. (Chief Insp.) Luckraft]
   * Cup of Silence (n.) Lane 1924
   * The Threshold of Fear (n.) Hutchinson 1925 [Colwin Grey]
   * Simon of Hangletree (n.) Hutchinson 1926 [Colwin Grey; Insp. (Chief Insp.) Luckraft in a walk-on role].
   * Greymarsh (n.) Jarrolds 1927 [Colwin Grey]
   * The Pavilion by the Lake (n.) Lane 1930 [Insp. (Chief Insp.) Luckraft]
   * The Brink (n.) Lane 1931
   * Tragedy at Twelvetrees (n.) Lane 1931 [Insp. (Chief Insp.) Luckraft]
   * Investigations of Colwyn Grey (co) Jarrolds 1932 [Colwin Grey]
        • The Black Box • ss
        • The Enamelled Chalice • ss
        • The Finger of Death • nv, 1926
        • The Grey Quill • ss
        • The House by the Fells • ss
        • The Katipo • ss
        • The Lost Treasure of the Incas • ss
        • The Missing Passenger’s Trunk • nv
        • The Ten Commandments • ss
        • The Valley of the Snakes • ss
   * The River Mystery (n.) Jarrolds 1932 [Insp. (Chief Insp.) Luckraft]
   * Aldringham’s Last Chance (n.) Lane 1933 [Insp. (Chief Insp.) Luckraft]
   * Peak House (n.) Jarrolds 1933
   * -The Flying Argosy (n.) Jarrolds 1934
   * The Single Clue (n.) Robertson, Australia, 1940 [Insp. (Chief Insp.) Luckraft]

   This listing includes the British editions only. A handful of the titles were published in the US, often with title changes; CFIV also lists one US title which has not yet been matched with an UK equivalent. Books in which a setting is indicated (most of them) take place in either England or Wales.

   After consulting CFIV, as usual I sent out the usual cry for assistance, which was quick in arriving. From John Herrington came the bulk of the incoming information:

Hi Steve,

   First it might be worth suggesting to R– that he contacts Local Studies Library in West Sussex, as Rees was living in Worthing in that county in the 1930s – may have died there?

   From E. Morris Miller in Australian Literature (Rev 1950 ed).

   “Arthur J. Rees was born in Melbourne in 1977 (typo I presume). He was for a short time on the staff of the Melbourne Age and later joined the staff of the New Zealand Herald. In his early twenties he went to England. His literary output belongs to the period that follows, and reflects little if anything of his Australian experience. He died in 1942. His proficiency as a writer of crime mystery stories is attested by Dorothy L. Sayers in the introduction to Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror (1928) and two of his stories were included in an American world-anthology, besides translations of other of his works into French and German.”

   Not a lot, but at least a start.

   His entry in 1935 Authors and Writers Who’s Who adds little, as well as giving his birth date as 1870! He is described as author and journalist, working for the London Times 1914-22 and editor of New Zealand Truth 1910-12. He is married, but no wife’s name given. And, of course, that he was living in Worthing at the time.

   I wonder if he has an entry on AustLit. Allen has, or did have, access to this.

   If you are interested, some of his books appear to be available as free e-books.




   Then from Al Hubin:


    Sorry…no details other than birth/death dates in AustLit. But there is a note to a biographical sketch in “The Lone Hand” Volume 14 Number 84, April 1914, page 337. I’ve no idea where one might lay hands on this issue of this periodical, alas.



   Heading back to do some Googling on my own, I came up with the following book descriptions from the Supernatural Fiction Data Base (which I did not know existed before):

The Shrieking Pit, 1919

   Not, strictly speaking, a supernatural title. The locale that gives the book its title has a supernatural legend attached to it that is mentioned in passing, but there are no supernatural incidents in the story.    (**)


The Threshold of Fear, 1925

   A novel with borderline supernatural content: its villain has occult powers of mind control.

** As part of the introductory material for this book is the following: “As the scenes of this story are laid in a part of Norfolk which will be readily identified by many Norfolk people, it is perhaps well to state that all the personages are fictitious, and that the Norfolk police officials who appear in the book have no existence outside these pages. They and the other characters are drawn entirely from imagination.”

   As John mentioned, four of Arthur Rees’s mysteries are available as free etexts. I’ve provided links to these in the entry from CFIV. If you (like me) dislike reading novels for entertainment from a computer screen, you can always download them as text files, then print them out. All it will cost you is the paper. And a new printer cartridge, I hasten to add, but still a bargain.