Lionel Fanthorpe
The Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe.
The Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe.

The Reverend Robert Lionel Fanthorpe (born February 9, 19351) is a British priest and entertainer, and has at various times worked as a journalist in Cromer, the headmaster of a large comprehensive school in Cardiff, television and radio presenter, author and lecturer.2 Born in Dereham, Norfolk, he currently lives in Roath, Cardiff, South Wales and is married to Patricia Fanthorpe.

Achievements

Amongst Fanthorpe's achievements are:


Writing

Lionel Fanthorpe’s output can be grouped under three broad headings, as follows:

  • Approximately 180 paperback novels and short story collections, in the science fiction and supernatural genres, produced for the UK publisher Badger Books during the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Numerous books on Christian themes, including the "Thoughts and Prayers" series.
  • Compilations of Forteana (generally with the word "mystery", "mysteries" or "mysterious" in the title), co-written with his wife Patricia.

Badger Books

Fanthorpe began working for Badger Books in the early 1950s, and over the period of the next 15 years produced many books under different pseudonyms, some of which were house names shared with other of Badger Books' writers. These included: Victor La Salle, John E Muller, and Karl Zeigfreid. Pseudonyms exclusive to Fanthorpe's short story output include Neil Balfort, Othello Baron, Noel Bertram, Oben Leterth, Elton T Neef, Peter O'Flinn, René Rolant, Robin Tate and Deutero Spartacus. Names he used for novels include Erle Barton, Lee Barton, Thornton Bell, Leo Brett, Bron Fane, L P Kenton, Phil Nobel, Lionel Roberts, Neil Thanet, Trebor Thorpe, Pel Torro and Olaf Trent.

The exact number of books Fanthorpe wrote for Badger Books is not known, but is estimated to be in excess of 180, 89 of which were written in a 3 year - an average of a 158 page book every 12 days.3

During his time at Badger Books, Fanthorpe was essentially a small cog in a large publishing machine.4
The way the company worked was to acquire the cover art before the book was written, and send it to the author who then had to write a story around the cover. In some cases, Badger Books re-used cover art that had been produced to illustrate completely different novels. For example, Fanthorpe's 1960 novel Hand of Doom was written to suit a cover that had been produced to illustrate John Brunner's Slavers of Space, which formed one half of Ace double D-421.5

Although generally based on situations and plots familiar from pulp fiction, the novels are noteworthy for the unashamedly "nerdy" way they draw on a vast range of academic and pseudo-academic facts to fill out their background, including the mythology of Ancient Egypt (The Eye of Karnak), Babylon (Unknown Destiny), India (Vengeance of Siva) and Greece (Negative Minus). The stories also flaunt the author’s wide knowledge of Fortean subjects, such as vimanas (The Negative Ones), Chase Vault and The Devil's Footprints (U.F.O. 517), the disappearances of Benjamin Bathurst (Time Echo) and the crew of the Mary Celeste (Barrier 346), as well as the career of Charles Fort himself (The X-Machine). Another novel that discusses Charles Fort explicitly (both in the text and in the back-cover blurb) is Forbidden Planet. This latter novel has no connection with the famous film of the same title, but instead describes a vast interstellar chess game played by superhuman entities using human beings as pawns. Other novels are pastiches of accepted works of the Western Canon - Beyond the Void is a loose rewrite of Shakespeare's play The Tempest, and in Negative Minus the characters Suessydo and Epolenep reenact Homeric tales.

Fanthorpe’s work for Badger Books was produced at high speed (each 150-page book taking a month or less to write) and he continues at a similar pace both writing and publishing.


Further Reading

Cross, Debbie (1995). Down the Badger Hole. R. Lionel Fanthorpe: the Badger years. Portland: Wrigley Cross.6 Includes a bibliography, an introduction by David Langford, and samples of Fanthorpe's writing.

Holland, Steve (1997). Badger Tracks: Exploring the publications of John Spencer & Co. Colchester: Underworld Studios. A comprehensive history and bibliography of Badger Books (including but not limited to the titles written by Fanthorpe).


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