The Jessie Douglas Kerruish Mystery and The Undying Monster

I thought information on Charles Wadsworth Camp was scarce, but that’s before I tried to find anything about Jessie Douglas Kerruish! So far, all I’ve unearthed is this cryptic excerpt from the product description of the Ash-Tree Press edition of The Undying Monster:

“First published in 1922, The Undying Monster is a thrilling tale of mystery, adventure, and horror, which provided the archetype for the Hollywood werewolf movie. In his introduction to this edition, Jack Adrian discusses the strange, sad fate of the novel and its author, while two contemporary appendices provide a fascinating look at Jessie Douglas Kerruish and the novel’s initial reception.”

Strange, sad fate, ehh? I’m hesitant to buy the $47.50 book to find out more, but Jack Adrian also wrote the biographical entry about Kerruish in The St. James Guide To Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers (St. James Press, December 1997, edited by David Pringle). My local library supposedly has the St. James Guide, according to an online search, but is unavailable for placing a hold on, possibly because it’s a reference book and can’t be checked out. First chance I get to visit the library, we’ll see what’s what.

The movie came out in 1942, twenty years after the book. In England, the film was called The Hammand Mystery. The Missing Link Classic Horror site says:

“Produced in response to Universal’s successful The Wolfman of the previous year, The Undying Monster is a tale of lycanthropy set in an isolated mansion on a cliff edge in Cornwall. The film was badly publicised at the time of its release, which contributed to the poor box-office receipts. Nevertheless, the film is an elegant and highly entertaining tale that owes more to murder mysteries than it does to conventional werewolf stories.”

1000 Misspent Hours and Counting says:

“20th Century Fox never really developed a consistent, distinctive voice for their 1940’s horror movies (perhaps because they made so few of them), unless possibly free-roaming quirkiness counts as a unifying aesthetic. That very unpredictability makes the studio’s wartime fright films among the most dependably interesting of the era, however, and The Undying Monster is an especially striking example. It looks essentially like a contemporary Universal gothic, but it plays more like a murder mystery in which the culprit just happens to be a werewolf. In fact, one might almost look at it as a lycanthropic variation on The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

An interesting side note is that the complete title of the original novel was The Undying Monster: A Tale of the Fifth Dimension.

To be continued when I find out what happened to Jessie Douglas Kerruish. If anyone out there knows, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

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Mysteries of London

 G. W. M. Reynolds  (July 23, 1814 – June 19, 1879) is not as famous today as Dickens or Thackery, but during his lifetime, he was arguably more popular. His serial The Mysteries of London (1844), sold 40,000 copies a week in installments known as “penny dreadfuls” before it was issued in bound volumes.

Wikipedia tells us, “The Mysteries of London and its sequel The Mysteries of the Court of London are among the seminal works of the Victorian ‘urban mysteries’ genre, a style of sensational fiction which adapted elements of the Gothic novel – with its haunted castles, innocent noble damsels in distress and nefarious villains – to produce stories which instead focussed on the shocks of life after the Industrial Revolution: the poverty, crime, and violence of a great metropolis, complete with detailed and often sympathetic descriptions of the lives of lower-class lawbreakers and extensive glossaries of thieves’ cant, all interwoven with a frank sexuality not usually found in popular fiction of the time. Although Reynolds was unusual in his religious skepticism (one of the main characters in The Mysteries of London was a clergyman turned libertine) and political radicalism, his tales were aimed squarely at the tastes of his mostly middle- and lower-class audience; they featured hump-backed dwarves, harridans and grave-robbers who groped past against a background of workhouses, jails, execution yards, thieves’ kitchens and cemeteries.”

You can read the entire text of Mysteries of London at the Victorian London web site.