Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Later Oz Works of Jack Snow

While they were not publishing any new Oz stories by him, Reilly & Lee kept Jack Snow as a possible returning author for future Oz books. (They did publish an Oz book without him and Kramer, but we'll get to that soon.) But his next (and last) Oz venture with them wasn't an Oz story.

Published in 1954, Who's Who in Oz was an alphabetical listing of all the characters from the thirty-nine Oz books. Also, Snow provided biographical sketches of the authors and illustrators of the Oz books. (It must be noted that this was 1954, before the International Wizard of Oz Club was founded, so there had not been a lot of published research done in this area yet, so some of Snow's information is a little faulty.)

While Snow is informative and doesn't reveal too many plot details, there are a few points in his listing of Oz characters that stick out oddly. When he covers the Good Witch of the North, who he seems to treat as a different character from Tattypoo, who "thought she was the Good Witch of the North," he says, "Dorothy says that some pretty important things have transpired involving the Good Witch of the North, but the story is just too long to crowd into a small space. It would take a whole book, Dorothy tells us."

The Guardian of the Gates is not listed as Snow somehow made the mistake of combining him and the Soldier with the Green Whiskers, Omby Amby. Under Omby's listing, it says "See also WANTOWIN." Wantowin has a separate listing saying, "This is really Omby Amby, the soldier with the green whiskers. Perhaps the Oz historian who wrote this book wanted to see if you remembered Omby Amby and so invented a new name for him. Well, you did remember, and now Wantowin is again called Omby Amby." Snow, you cheeky man...

Who's Who in Oz is a worthwhile addition to an Oz collection, and it should only take a little bit of searching to find. It was reprinted in 1988 by Peter Bedrick Books, which is the edition I own. I would not be surprised if it had a largely new design, but it is a very attractive volume. Apparently, the International Wizard of Oz Club bought up a large stock of these and has had them available for sale. (However, they have recently announced that they are trying to clear their inventory.) Books of Wonder once listed it in their catalog. There has also been another reprint, but I have not seen this one.

The only other completed Oz work by Snow is a short story called "A Murder in Oz," which he submitted to Ellery Queen magazine, but it was rejected. Posthumously, the International Wizard of Oz Club serialized it in some of the earliest issues of The Baum Bugle. It has also been reprinted alongside some of Snow's supernatural horror fiction in Hungry Tiger Press' Spectral Snow: The Dark Fantasies of Jack Snow, which is where I read it.

It is a story that I have, for a long time, been against spoiling the ending of. Let it suffice to say that in the story, Ozma is found dead and the Wizard and Glinda must find the murderer.

Although many do not consider "Murder" to be part of Oz continuity, I personally accept it as so. I see no real discontinuity, except for that clunky bit where the characters say that Baum established that people in Oz cannot be killed. But my favorite part is near the beginning, in which the adult characters of Oz enjoy some things they wouldn't around the children. Cocktails are served, while Glinda is attended to by handsome mountain giants and the Shaggy Man smokes a cigar. I would recommend "Murder" to Oz fans.

There has been word of Snow working on a third Oz book manuscript entitled Over the Rainbow to Oz. There has been talk that it would cover the early history of Oz, but according to Lin Carter, Polychrome would meet a boy in America named Billy and take him over the rainbow to Oz. And seemingly, the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West would also play a factor. I would not be surprised if that odd bit about the Good Witch of the North in Who's Who was also a clue about this book.

If Over the Rainbow to Oz ever existed, it has been tragically lost to us, and perhaps not because of time. I have heard a rumor that the manuscript was possibly destroyed. Marcus Mebes informs me that to his knowledge, a Virginia Glendening, claiming her mother was in negotiations to illustrate, said she had the manuscript in a safe deposit box and would trade it for a copy of Ruth Plumly Thompson's The Wonder Book. When Fred Meyer of the International Wizard of Oz Club offered to follow through on this, she claimed she was having trouble retrieving the manuscript, but she'd work on it. She died sometime afterward without having done so, and her heirs have not responded to any questions about it. (Marcus asks that if this information is inaccurate, he'd welcome a correction.)

Jack Snow's final, but perhaps greatest, contribution to Oz came shortly after his death. He noted that Sherlock Holmes fans had begun a group called "The Baker Street Irregulars." Why couldn't such a society exist for Oz fans? Snow had been corresponding with many Oz fans, and had commented, "How nice it would be if they could write to one another and leave me alone."

An announcement of "The Oz Irregulars" appeared in the April, 1955 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but nothing came of it. However, after Snow's death, his address book was used by a young fan named Justin Schiller to create the charter members of a little group called "The International Wizard of Oz Club."

Snow died in 1956. In his afterword to Spectral Snow, David Maxine writes: "The cause of his death is said to have been internal hemorrhaging probably related to cirrhosis of the liver." But Snow's life was not a happy one, even aside from his lack of success with Oz.

Jack Snow was gay in a time when homosexuality was extremely frowned upon. Thus, not only was he treated as a social pariah, he also had trouble accepting it himself. This personal stress is believed by some to have helped the deterioration of his health, leading to his death at age 48. In a posting on the International Wizard of Oz Club's message board, Maxine criticized Snow's family. "They cut him off, have blocked research into his life, and have left him in an unmarked grave for fifty-plus years. Their bigotry is what they should be ashamed of — not Snow's sexual orientation"

(David Maxine has since visited Jack Snow's grave and discovered that Jack Snow is buried next to his father whose grave is marked by a simple military headstone, issued by the government. Perhaps financial straits are a reason why Snow's grave has gone unmarked.)

Maxine's mention of "cut him off" refers to financial troubles Snow experienced in his later years. One sad item of note to Oz fans is that Snow had one of the largest collections of Baum materials at the time, but in his dire financial straits, he was forced to sell it off.

Unlike Baum and the others who had worked on the Oz series, Snow's life did not have a happy note before death. He had no idea of how much his Oz work would be appreciated, or of the result of his hope of an Oz society that did come to pass and still runs today.

Appreciation of Snow's work is what we can do to remind us of a man who wanted to bring Oz back to how Baum had it. Everyone, as long as they could get along with others, is welcome in the Oz Snow wrote about, no matter what their eccentricity might be.

1 comment:

thesithempire said...

This is a nicely written tribute to Snow, a man who indeed went before his time. Shame on his family for what they did to him!

As regards Over the Rainbow to Oz, several years ago, I attempted to contact Glendening's heirs, to no avail. None of the ones I spoke to claim to have even known her. Perhaps that was true and I didn't have the right people, but I didn't get exactly get a good vibe from the few that I spoke to, which left me suspicious. But without any leads, or enough time and resources to push further, I wasn't able to move forward.

What would be the chances that the manuscript is still sitting in a safe-deposit box somewhere? (I wonder where she banked?)