Rog Phillips' The Club House
Edited and with Annotations by Earl Terry Kemp
The Last Stand, 2014, 630 pages, $35.

Review by Ye Ed

Earl Terry Kemp is in a unique position to publish a collection of Rog Phillips' science fiction fan columns. Not only has Terry published two other Rog volumes (The Complete Lefty Baker and The Best of Rog Phillips Vol. II), but he is also Rog's godson. Let's add one more very important reason--he's meticulous when it comes to details, indexes, footnotes--all the essentials that make a solid reference book for the serious science fiction fan and historian. And yet this latest offering from Terry's "The Last Stand" press is more than a mere reference work, it's a homage to one of the truly great writers of the golden age of pulp fiction, now all but forgotten by modern publishers.

Sound familiar? It should, to any fan of the glory days of pulp fiction. Many pulp writers of the WW II and post-war era have been forgotten, including their editors. This is especially true of Ray Palmer's Chicago-based "stable" of writers that wrote for the Ziff-Davis prozines.

In my case, it was my job to revive Dick Shaver, Ray Palmer and the cast of characters surrounding them. In Terry's case, he's brought back Rog Phillips, and many of the same Ziff-Davis characters who, along with Rog, made up Rap's famous "inner circle." As with Shaver and so many others during the Ziff-Davis years, Rap took Rog under his wing and became his mentor and editor. He even sent Rog $500 with orders to come straight to Chicago to begin a writing career at Ziff-Davis. Rog was about to enter a strange world, where editor Rap was in the middle of orchestrating (and defending) The Shaver Mystery.

Rog cashed the check, followed Rap's orders, and slipped into the Windy City, unknown, one marriage already under his belt (there would be more), to stake his claim as a ZD pulp writer. His was the story of so many writers of that era, like Howard Browne, Paul Fairman, William L. Hamling, Chester S. Geier, Berkeley Livingstone, Leroy Yerxa--all of them young, vibrant, full of piss and vinegar and ready to take on the world. Now all but forgotten.

Thus was the case for Rog Phillips, which was just one of 20 names he used during his writing career. One of those pen names was the coveted "A.R. Steber," which up until Rog, was used solely by Ray Palmer himself. The fact that Rap allowed him to use it says something about their close relationship. So close, in fact, that Rap was best man at Rog's wedding to Mari Wolf, and Rog chose the very same church in which Rap married the love his life, Marjorie Wilson.

Then there were the times when Rog would drive Rap to Lilly Lake, Illinois, a one hour trek from Chicago, to visit Dick and Dottie Shaver, with occasional passengers like Bill Hamling, Chet Geier, and Howard Browne.

Rog and Shaver would eventually butt heads, and a feud brought an icy end to their relationship. One could assume it came from vying for the affections of their mentor, Ray Palmer, who straddled the fence as best he could between both parties. But it was the ensuing decline of Shaver and The Shaver Mystery at Ziff-Davis that gave Rog his chance to shape fifth fandom, for as Terry points out in his introduction, it was within these columns that, "...[Rog] single-handedly created science fiction fandom as it is now known. This is an inescapable fact..."

In eliminating the Shaver Mystery from Amazing Stories it was Rap's plan to placate angry fandom (after four years of hyping Dick Shaver's stories) by coming up with a peace offering. Rog Phillips was essential to that plan. At Rap's request, he began to write a column about fans for fans. Though Rog had been writing for Ziff-Davis publications since the earliest days of the Shaver Mystery beginning in 1945, his first "The Club House" column appeared in Amazing Stories' March 1948 issue, along with Shaver's cover story "Gods of Venus."

It is with that first column that Terry Kemp begins his Rog compilation and has accomplished the monumental task of collecting, transcribing, editing, and publishing every "The Club House" column Rog ever wrote, ending with the final column in Rap's Other Worlds, April 1956. Also included is a detailed Roger P. Graham bibliography, 170 pages of Terry's annotations from each of the columns, the index, and of course, Silverberg's afterword. The collection's 630 pages, with its 8.5x11-inch format, weighs over four pounds, and it's worth every ounce to any Roger P. Graham fan or the serious fandom scholar, for taken as a whole, these columns contain information on hundreds if not thousands of fanzines and fan news items of the post-war era! The extensive, 49-page index alone makes this a stellar contribution that will take its place among the notable fan history books of the 21st Century.

The introduction makes for fascinating reading as we watch Rog's early career skyrocket, only to sputter and begin to fall back to earth, along with his failing health. It's a moving account of a pulp writer who could have been one of the true greats had he gotten the breaks and lived long enough to keep writing. Rog died in 1966 at the age of 56. Interestingly, after accepting the job as Rap's columnist in 1948, Rog found himself in an instant feud with the same stf fan that bedeviled Rap over the Shaver Mystery: Forrie Ackerman!

As Terry points out in his introduction, "Ackerman, leading the fan opposition to the Shaver Mystery accused Phillips of being an agent of Palmer attempting to seduce the fans by 'drowning them in butter.'" Rog's down-to-earth personality calmed all suspicions, and The Club House was off and running as one of the most popular and long-lived fan columns, appearing in Amazing Stories, Universe Science Fiction, and Other Worlds Science Fiction.

Terry's research also unmasked the true identity of the writer behind the equally famous "Pandora's Box," a similar fan column appearing in Bill Hamling's Imagination, with Mari Wolf's byline. It was Rog. During an in-person interview with Hamling in 2012, Terry confronted him with his suspicion that Rog was, in fact, the true author of Pandora's Box. Hamling confirmed it. So Rog was writing two fan columns simultaneously. Was the subterfuge necessary because Rog didn't want to slight Rap by writing a fan column for Hamling's mag too? The reason is unknown.

Sad to say, Rog got the same bum's rush that Shaver got when Howard Browne took over as editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures. Browne made it clear that he had no intention of allowing any of Ray Palmer's "juvenile" writers to appear in his version of Amazing Stories. He was moving into "adult" literature, even as his circulation plummeted.

It took Earl Terry Kemp five years to acquire the rare fanzines, aging pulps, and in-person interviews needed to put this collection together. His Acknowledgements page reveals the foundation of this meticulous research. We were flattered to see our name there too, though our part was a "drop in the bucket," as Rap used to say.

So two thumbs up for this major yet touching tribute to the late Roger Phillips Graham. It's a testament to the perseverance of its editor, Earl Terry Kemp, and his boyhood memories of his long ago godfather--Rog Phillips.

The Last Stand is taking advance orders for a limited number of editions signed by the author. The price is $35 (shipping not included). To find out how to place your order (remember, only a limited number of signed copies will be offered to the public) go to 22nd Century Enterprises.