Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ivy Gordon Edmonds

I received this morning a lengthy e-mail from Brian Threlkeld, who'd noticed my seven-year old query on writer I.G. Edmonds at the Rara-Avis e-mail list's archives. I asked him a permission to publish his letter here. So, here it is, with my original query on top.

RARA-AVIS: I.G. Edmonds From: Juri Nummelin

Date: 15 Aug 2000
Does anyone know anything about one I.G. Edmonds? There are several books translated in Finnish under this name, but he's not mentioned in Allen Hubin's crime fiction bibliography. Edmonds had in the sixties a sex-cum-private-eye series called Big Eye and the titles are always something like "Big Eye and the Scorched Bikini". Any information is valuable.

Hello. You made this query quite a while ago, but perhaps an answer will still interest you. I encountered the author I.G. Edmonds (I think his first name is "Ivy") when I was in the 6th grade, through one of his books, entitled The Case of the Marble Monster and Other Stories. This collection of stories for younger readers was about Tadasuke Ōoka (1677-1752), a judge in "old" Japan who because legendary for his wisdom, generosity, creativity, and unassailable integrity. Marble Monster may have been a condensation of Edmonds's Ooka the Wise: Tales of Old Japan, (Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1961), which, itself, Edmonds seems to have adapted from an earlier book (see below).

A helpful summary of information about Judge Ooka was included in a book review, in an English-language Japanese paper, of a series of recently-published mysteries or crime stories for young readers, set in 18th-century Japan. The books were written by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, a husband and wife team living in New York City.

"The crimebuster in the three Hoobler books published so far is Judge Ooka Tadasuke, Echizen no Kami (Lord of Echizen), a historical figure who certainly needs no introduction to Japanese readers. Appointed by Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune as one of Edo's two machi bugyo (governor-magistrates) in 1717, Ooka presided over the Southern Court for nearly two decades and earned a legendary reputation for integrity.

"As his fame spread after his death in 1751, stories about his exploits were compiled into an anthology known as 'Ooka Seidan (Famous Cases of Ooka),' dramatized in several kabuki plays and, from 1970, made into a popular television series.

"Ooka, incidentally, boasts the distinction of having entertained readers in English for nearly a century. His first appearance dates back to WJS Shand's 'The Case of Ten-Ichi-Bo, a Cause Celebre in Japan,' published by the Tokyo Methodist Publishing House in 1908. Ooka then reappeared in 1956, in 'Solomon in Kimono: Tales of Ooka, a Wise Judge of Old Yedo,' an oversize illustrated book from the Pacific Stars & Stripes by I.G. Edmonds. "

I remember reading a brief note by Edmonds in Marble Monster that told of being stationed in Japan after WW II (in the U.S. Air Force, I think), and of listening to his Japanese landlady tell funny, fascinating, and delightful stories about Judge Ooka. He clearly enjoyed living in Japan, and his desire to publish English-language versions of those stories reflects the affection he had for the place and the people. I would speculate that he also married a Japanese; a number of his books included the co-author Reiko Mimura.

More generally, the Library of Congress online catalog indicates that Edmonds was publishing in the United States from 1961 to about 1982. He authored over 50 books, largely for young people, on a wide variety of topics. He seems to have written mostly as what I would call a pulp, or commercial, writer. He would write about anything, it seems, from motocross to the Shah of Iran to magic tricks. I've wondered if a lot of his books weren't written on commission from publishing houses. Perhaps publishers for youth markets were trying to make sure they had a catalog of books on a certain range of topics always available, and they hired writers like Edmonds to crank out books to order with a fairly short turn-around. Such writers would have been able to work quickly, and generate books that were undistinguished as literature, but competently written -- easy reading for transient enjoyment, to be consumed, set aside, and forgotten. That, however, is just speculation on my part.

I do feel, however, that the Ooka books appear to have been more a labor of love for Edmonds, something he cared about for more than the living he could earn from it. Edmonds would, by the way, be about 90 years old, by now, I think -- but at least one source I've seen states that he's still alive, living in the town of Cypress, in southern California.

I hope this has been at least a bit illuminating for you.

This certainly was illuminating. As to my original query, I'd found sufficient info on Edmonds (I was working my way through writing Pulpografia) and noted that he was Ivy Gordon Edmonds. I also found, thanks to Barry Malzberg, that the Scott Meredith Literary Agency records state that the Big Eye books were sold to Scandinavia (not to Finland, however, so the Finnish editions were probably pirated and no one was ever paid for them). So, they share the same fate as some crime novels by Bruce Cassiday and Frank Castle, i.e. they weren't published in English at all. I may post a list and pictures of them at a later point.

Furthermore, Brian managed to find an address to one Ivy Edmonds, who might still be alive in his early nineties. I may yet write him a letter and ask him about these affairs.


Tommi said...

Juri, heitin sua blogissani tunnustusplakaatilla.

West of the Woods said...

Hi, I am currently reading the Marble Monster Ooka book by Edmonds! Looking forward to hearing if you were able to contact him. I would like to ask him if he knew or knew of a certain Post Wheeler, who also had a great interest in Japan. (Wheeler died in 1956.)

Juri said...

Sorry, so far no contact with him.

Roy said...

I am reading an old copy of Trickster Tales in 2012. When I searched for I. G. Edmonds, I could find very little conclusive information about him online. The stories in this book are wonderfully written with humor. He makes them really come to life. It is a shame that you just missed him apparently, as he died on December 31, 2007. You can find more information about him here: BTW, the speculation about his marriage was correct. Someone really needs to put a Wikipedia page up for him.

Juri said...

Thanks, Roy, sad to hear about his death. I indeed sent him a letter, but since he was dead already, it's no mystery he never got back to me.