|bc||John Winton Heming,
prolific Australian pulp writer
JOHN Winton (Jack) Heming was born at Richmond, Victoria, on December 26, 1900 and died on April 9, 1953.
He was one of the hardy breed of prolific authors whose work formed the backbone of Australia's pulp fiction output during and after World War 2.
Heming churned out huge numbers of pulp titles in a range of genres under 16 or more pen-names, many of which are unrecorded. Some of his known pseudonyms include Tex Barton, Paul de Wreder, Buff Blackstowe, Val Winton, Valerie Winton, Wal King, C.W. Ellsworth and Master-Sarg.
He considered writing to be "a trade, like cabinet-making" and he advertised his willingness to write anything to order.
Not surprisingly, much of his writing cannot be said to exhibit great literary merit, but he certainly possessed imagination, drive and an ability to promote himself.
In biographical notes printed in books and magazines of the 1940s and 50s, Heming claimed various careers for himself, including professional boxer, stage actor and producer, journalist, circus acrobat actor, singer, dancer, vaudeville comedian and scene-painter.
His son, J.W. Heming Jr, writing a foreword to a 1997 reprint of Time Marches Off (a science fiction title in which a pair of time travelling ockers experience the many faces of future Sydneys) noted that Jack Heming had left school at 14, working in Brisbane as a telegram delivery boy and educating himself by reading anything that came to hand.
Heming settled in Sydney and worked as a proofreader for various newspapers until work dried up in the Great Depression. He eked out a living as a freelance writer and established a repertory theatre company in George St, Sydney, for which he wrote, directed and acted in numerous plays.
He appears to have been an almost compulsive writer and articles by him can be found in an extraordinary range of publications, ranging from mainstream to marginal.
In 1948, attempting to claim the crown as the most prolific of Australian authors, he declared to The Sunday Sun that he had written more "best sellers" than any other Australian.
To back this claim he said he had written 177 Westerns, 32 mysteries, 4 children's books, 90 love novelettes, numerous science-fiction novelettes, a handful of pirate books, 17 adventure novelettes, 1500 short stories, songs, poems and plays.
"My method is simple," he wrote. "I work to a system, so many pages to a chapter and when you get near the end of a chapter you slam in the biggest and most interesting fact you can think of. The first three pages of the following chapter are devoted to justifying the end of the last one."
Heming said he worked 30 hours a week, churning out 30,000 words and earning about 36 pounds. "I could earn more if I wasn't lazy," he remarked.
"At home I have a butter box, and every time I get an idea I write it on a scrap of paper and consign it to the butter box. Every three months or so I go through the box and write the ideas into plots.
"Of course whatever you write you must remember that virtue always triumphs.
"Once I wrote a story about a ballet dancer. Nothing got her down, even when she had both her legs cut off.
"From that time on she sat in the wings during performances and directed the show."
Summing up his father's career, J.W. Heming Jr wrote: "He worked like a beaver at anything and everything that made no money whatever. When he died he owed thousands of pounds to various creditors, so although he made very little money while he was alive he finally proved the truth of the ancient adage that he who dies in debt makes a profit."
Australian science fiction expert Graham Stone paid tribute to Heming's contribution to that genre by publishing the 1997 reprint of Time Marches Off. Heming was, with Stone and others, a leading member of the Futurian Society. In his introduction to the book, Stone described Heming as "the most conspicuous" of the small group of hard-bitten Australian wartime pulp authors.
To list his articles in magazines and periodicals would be arduous. The following is a partial list of his books and novels.
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