I came across John Randolph Phillips’ name when i was looking at an issue of The Popular Magazine in the 1930s. At this time Popular was past its peak in the early 1900s-1919 or so, and was further handicapped by the death of its long time editor, Charles Agnew McLean, a couple of years earlier.
Even past its peak, it was still full of readable stories if not quite as exciting, as the rest of the general fiction pulps. John Randolph Phillip’s Or Maybe Alaska (The Popular Magazine, August 1st, 1930) is an example of this.
|Or Maybe Alaska – Popular Magazine, August 1, 1930 – Story by John Randolph Phillips, illustration by George H. Wert|
The story is told from the point of view of a teenager, Steve Walker, who’s run away from home. Steve is currently working in a pool hall managed by a fat, ill-tempered man named Butch who withholds Steve’s wages so that he can’t walk away.
Into this setup walks a drifting bum, Wirt Coleman, who likes the kid – the affection is mutual and the kid tries to persuade Wirt to take him along on his drifting. Wirt refuses, telling Steve to go home. Wirt also beats Butch in pool games, and Butch decides to get his money back by cheating Wirt in a poker game, with Steve (who Wirt trusts) peeking at Wirt’s cards and signalling Butch. Steve refuses, but is physically coerced into going along with Butch’s plan. It won’t be revealing too much to say that the story has a happy ending for both Steve and Wirt. Nothing outstanding, but nothing to complain about either.
|John Randolph Phillips c. 1930 (Photo taken from the Scottsville, Virginia Museum)|
Phillips’ writing career is similarly unremarkable. He started writing fiction in 1928, placing 2 stories in Street and Smith’s Sport Story. He followed this up with 15 and 21 stories in 1929 and 1930, and then dropped to 3-6 stories a year in the 1930s and 1940s. Til 1935, he was exclusively publishing in Street and Smith titles – Sport Story, Popular, Complete Stories, Excitement and Nick Carter. In 1935, he broke into Argosy and never appeared in Street and Smith pulps after the end of that year.
In the 1940s, his output was mostly in the slicks (American Magazine, Collier’s, Country Gentleman among them). In the 1950s, he published a story or two each year. His last story was for Chatelaine in 1967.
Click here to go to the author’s bio on the Scottsville, Virginia museum’s site.