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Julius W. Long is another forgotten author from the pulp age, in some ways so obscure that there is no reference that identifies what the “W.” in his name stands for. From what scant information exists about his life, it appears he was a lifelong resident of Bellefontaine, Ohio—a small town nearly 50 miles northwest of Columbus and the county seat of Logan County—which not only posesesses the shortest street in the US (“about 20 feet”), but also the highest point in the state of Ohio (1550 ft.).
Whether Long set out to become a writer is not known. From various sources, he had many varied interests during his life—from tennis to gun collecting to model railroads—yet it appears that Long was at heart a writer and, later in life, a rather prolific one at that, who penned over 100 fiction stories, an unknown number of factual articles for a variety of magazines and a novel. He also appears to have been a constant letter writer to all sorts of magazines. What is surprising, however, is that he was also a full-time lawyer.
After a standard public school education, Long attended Columbus University and then graduated from Ohio State University in 1931. The 1931 graduation date is only assumed, as Long was accepted into Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Alpha Theta as a member of the Class of 1931, but he doesn’t appear on any of the listings of Ohio State graduates. His membership in both PBK and PAT suggests his degree was in history.
When Long started submitting material for publication is not known. His first published story for which there is any record, “The Dead Man’s Story,” appeared in the September, 1933 issue of Weird Tales, a few years after his graduation from college and between 1933 and 1934 he published five additional stories in the magazine. These early stories all show a great deal of originality, being more concerned with mood, the paranormal and that slightly unsettling “creepy” sort of horror, rather than the hardcore horror that was being produced by Lovecraft and his disciples.
After this early success, Long disappears from all the fiction indexes until the beginning of 1937. One of his obituaries states that he studied law (with no dates given) in the office of his father and this may account for some of this gap. One oddity, however, is that Long was admitted to the bar in 1939 and became the junior partner in the firm of Long & Long—his father was senior partner—yet he found time to return to writing in 1937.
These stories are not in the same style as the earlier work—Long was now writing both horror and, primarily, detective fiction—and his horror work was appearing in other magazines besides Weird Tales. Not surprisingly, lawyers are featured in major roles in the stories of this period. The horror stories are also, at least those found in Weird Tales, longer than his early work and are a mix of science fiction and non-subtle horror. Editor Farnsworth Wright must have gotten good response to Long’s return, since Long’s name is featured for the first, and only time, on the cover of the April, 1937 issue.
Between 1939 and 1942, Long seems to have taken another hiatus from publishing, although a single story appeared in late 1939 in Popular Publications’ Detective Tales. He would have been of the correct age for military service during World War II, but there is no mention of his having served in any record available. It is possible he may have been deemed unfit for active duty, but spent much of these three years working in some kind of war effort on the home front. There is also the possibility that he spent a large portion of 1939 studying for the bar exam.
Long’s return to publication in 1942 began his most productive period—so productive, in fact, that one wonders how much time he actually spent working as a lawyer. Over three-quarters of his fiction writing was produced during this time, all of it of the detective genre, often with two or three stories seeing print in a given month. Aside from single stories, Long also had two ongoing series. For Dime Detective Magazine, he wrote about Clarence Darrow Mort, a slightly seedy, and often drunk, defense attorney and for Black Mask, he penned the exploits of Ben Corbett, chief inspector for the DA’s office. Although he never seemed to get a cover illustrations, Long’s popularity was obvious in the detective pulps, since his name appeared on nearly every cover in which he had a story.
By the late 1940s, Long’s fiction output began to slow. He published a single novel, Keep the Coffins Coming (Julian Messner Inc., New York ), in 1947 (reprinted by Avon in 1950 as Murder in Her Big Blue Eyes) and one of his stories (research has failed to uncover the title) was used in part as the basis for a 1949 film, The Judge, directed by Elmer Clifton.
The early 1950s saw only a handful of stories published, however there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that Long had turned his output to non-fiction. Otto Penzler mentions articles written for Field and Stream about guns and gun collecting. There are a few articles on the law and the legal process that are available on the Internet and his obituaries make mention of an article published by Esquire in 1954 concerning the Ohio Highway Patrol.
Whether Long turned to non-fiction due to the slowing of the pulp market, or whether he found a stronger voice in presenting facts instead of fiction is unknown. What is known, is that he died in his sleep on July 22, 1955. Sadly, his death was attributed to “an asthmatic condition.” A final posthumous story appeared in the January, 1956 issue of The Saint Detective Magazine. He is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery under a single headstone with his father and mother.Bob Gay