A.M. Burrage

A_M_BurrageAlfred McLelland Burrage (1889-1951) was the son of the writer Alfred Sherrington Burrage, the nephew of the writer Edwin Harcourt Burrage, and the cousin of Edwin’s son A. Harcourt Burrage (who published a children’s space opera, Hurtlers through Space, in 1951). A.M. Burrage himself was a prolific writer of short-stories, and a small number of novels: apart from a break for his war service, he wrote almost continuously from 1905 to the end of the Second World War. Jack Adrian, an expert on his work, reckons that he must have written well over a thousand stories: and that is assuming that it is possible to know all his pseudonyms. (The best known are Ex-Private X and Frank Lelland.) Adrian estimates that about two-thirds of Burrage’s stories were romances. But he made a name for himself as one of the very best writers of ghost stories. They were published in collections such as Some Ghost Stories (1927) and Someone in the Room (1931), and Jack Adrian has republished others that had never appeared in book form in Burrage’s lifetime. They were often startlingly original, involving time-slips, or being told from the perspective of the ghost. He wrote some novels, such as Seeker to the Dead (1942), an occult thriller, but it is the short stories that are generally agreed to be superlative.

Burrage was born in Hillington in Middlesex. In 1905, when he was sixteen, his father died, and he began writing for a career in order to maintain his mother, wiser and aunt. He wrote all kinds of stories, including school stories, but found editors, notably Isabel Thorne and David Whitelaw, who encouraged him in his love of the supernatural. He seems to have written almost nothing after 1945; he died in 1956.

Apart from his war memoir (see War Experiences), he wrote little about himself, and little seems to be known. I have relied on the entry in the Encyclopedia of Fantasy, by Mike Ashley, and the piece by Jack Adrian in David Pringle, ed., St James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers, First edition (Detroit etc: St James Press, 1998), 111-113.

 

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