[A tip of the Stetson to James Reasoner of Rough Edges for pointing out this excellent forgotten writer who doesn’t have a Wikipedia article. I have only read a few stories of his so far, of which one is a short story from Ranch Romances, but even there the dark, noirish tone of the story stands out. Almost like Cornell Woolrich in the feeling of despair that he’s able to evoke. I’ll be posting that short story this week and keeping an eye open for more stories from him.
I wasn’t able to find a photo of him. If anyone has one, maybe one from a book cover, please post a link in the comments section. Finally found an image of him from the August, 1953 issue of Gunsmoke magazine. More after the break.]
|Author H. A. DeRosso (1917-1960)
Image from Gunsmoke magazine, August 1953
H. A. (Henry Andrew) DeRosso was born on July 15, 1917 in Carey, Wisconsin. He was the son of Italian immigrants, Bartolo De Rosso and Giustinia Piazza, who owned a farm there. Bartolo had come to the United States in 1902, possibly from Velo d’Astico. He was the third of five children, and grew up with three brothers and a sister.
He studied at the Hurley High School, and before he graduated from there in 1935, he knew that he wanted to be a writer. He wrote his first story while confined at home with an attack of measles, and since then he had a “burning desire to achieve success as an author”.
From 1937 to 1939, he attended the Gogebic Junior College, where he was an “A” average student in the first semester. While at Gogebic college, he was the editor of the college monthly magazine, The Jaysee Journal. During his tenure, it was ranked high among nearly 600 college newspapers by the Journalism Department, University of Minnesota.
He attended one semester at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1940. All this while, he was writing stories and sending them out to magazines. At Wisconsin, he decided to make one last effort to realize his ambition – he allowed himself one more year, and if he didn’t have a story published in that time, he would seek another profession.
Luckily for us, he sold his first story, Six Gun Saddlemates, in July 1941 to Street and Smith’s Western Story Magazine. This was after he had written nearly 80 stories and attempted to get them published. He was working with a literary agent, and this made the difference. When he wrote his first stories, he had never actually been in the west, and most likely, had never been out of his county. He obtained background material on the west through extensive research, and accumulated a library of western history books to help him write his stories.
I am not sure whether he served in World War 2. In 1941, his draft classification was eligible, but exempt because he had someone depending on him. As he seems to not have married, it was probably his parents. By 1943, he had been reclassified 1-A, which means eligible and selected. His output seems to have dropped in 1944 and 1945, possibly the result of military service.
After coming back, he seems to have worked some time as a farmer, and on other things than writing. In 1946, he went on his first tour of the west with his parents. By 1953, he was producing a steady stream of stories for the western magazines. During that period, he wrote an average of at least 12 stories a year. By one account, he was writing close to 2000 words a day, and managing to sell around two-thirds of them. 1951 saw the publication of his first paperback, Tracks in the Sand, a PocketBook. His second book, .44, was published in 1953.
From 1954, his output seems to have declined till his death seven years later in 1960. Many web sites call his death in 1960 a suicide; I don’t know on what they base this. The only newspaper report I could find of his death states that the coroner ruled that the death was accidental and no inquest would be held. He was living alone when he was found by the man delivering the Sunday newspaper. He was lying near the outside door of a shed, with a .44 caliber pistol on the floor near his body. The coroner concluded that he slipped on a rug and the gun accidentally discharged as he was walking out of the shed. The date of death was estimated to be 14th October, 1960.
The vast majority of his stories were westerns, set in New Mexico, Arizona and California. He wrote a couple of science fiction stories as well, and appeared in Manhunt and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine with mystery stories as well. He mostly wrote novels or short stories, very few novellas. Even the titles of his stories sound like they could fit comfortably in Black Mask – Death Stacks the Deck, This Bullet Has Your Name on It!, Silent Are the Guns, Guns Were Made to Kill With – and some of them sound like the western noir blend they are – She Had Red Lips, He Had a Six-Gun; The Badman and the Bad Girl; Ride a Dead Horse; A .44 Is My Best Friend.
Here’s a short story of his, Hide-Away, that’s out and out noir (courtesy PulpGen.com).
Links to books still available: