Walter B. Gibson (1897-1985)
Walter Brown Gibson
Place of Birth
Germantown, Pennsylvania, USA
Gibson possessed the superior gift of writing and wrote over one hundred books on magic and various other genres. He also served as a ghost writer for books on magic and spiritualism by famous magicians, including Houdini.
As a magician, Gibson introduced the famous "Chinese linking rings" trick in America, and invented the "Nickels to Dimes" trick that is still sold in magic stores to this day.
Gibson penned "more than 300 novel-length" Shadow stories, writing up to "10,000 words a day" to satisfy public demand during the character's golden age in the 1930s and 1940s.
Walter Gibson was born September 12, 1897 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. His father, Alfred Cornelius Gibson, worked as a gas fixture manufacturer, and his mother, May (Whidden) Gibson raised young Walter.
Gibson's propensity for literary achievement was noted early in his career. He often referred to himself as a teenage bookworm. He also developed a very early interest in the art of magic.
In 1905 he attended a party in Manchester, Vermont. He was given a string to follow, and told there was a surprise for him at the end of the string. There lay a trick box, and thus was born an interest in magic, which remained with him throughout his life.
Young Gibson also enjoyed articles on magic in his favorite St. Nicholas Magazine. By 1912, when he was 15, he was seeking out magic shops. He also discovered that he loved mystery of all kinds.
He wove this interest in magic and mystery throughout his writings, whether they were novels, puzzles, science, psychics, crime stories or books and articles about unique personalities. That same year, Walter wrote a mystery story for the Wissahickon School Magazine of Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, Pa.
In 1916, while Gibson was a student at the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey, he won a literary prize for a mystery story called "The Romuda."
After graduation from Peddie, Walter attended Colgate University. His first "real job" was in the insurance field, but still he continued to write. Between 1922 to 1931 he was a professional writer as a reporter with the Philadelphia North American, and later The Evening Ledger.
While with The Evening Ledger, Walter placed a series of daily "After Dinner Tricks" with the Ledger Syndicate. These articles consisted of 150 words each, with drawings. At its conception, he hoped the feature would last a year.
It lasted three years, and led to a succession of daily features, including 1,080 releases of "After Dinner Tricks," 940 releases of "A Puzzle a Day," 600 releases of "Teasers," which were a combination of puzzles and quizzes, 1,920 releases of "Brain Tests" which was the first popular version of Intelligence Quizzes, or IQ's with illustrations.
Between 1926 and 1932, Walter wrote the following books: The World's Best Book of Magic; Thurston's 200 Tricks You Can Do and 200 More Tricks You Can Do; Blackstone's Secrets of Magic, and Modern Card Tricks.
He also wrote the Book of Secrets under his own name, plus Houdini's Escapes and Houdini's Magic, compiled from Houdini's own notes. Many of his books have been continuously in print over the years.
In 1931 Gibson switched from syndicate writing to mystery fiction. He accepted a year's contract to deliver four stories involving a character to be called "The Shadow."
These were 75,000 word pulps. When the first two sold out, the publication was then published monthly. In March 1932 Gibson was given a contract to deliver 1,440,000 words, which meant 24 stories at 60,000 words each, during the coming year.
In March 1934 The Shadow Magazine became a monthly, and later it appeared every other month. Finally in the summer of 1949 it became a quarterly. By then Gibson had written 282 Shadow novels as Maxwell Grant.
That same year, on August 24, he In this life, he married Litzka R. Gibson, who was also a writer, and the couple resided in New York state where they continued to write.
The years 1946 to 1961 ushered in a new era in Gibson's writing career. He was moving more and more into the book field, while at the same time creating true crime stories for Fact Detective Magazine.
Many of his books were paperback handbooks, written under pen names. Other books were ghost written for people who were identified with specific fields, including Dunninger and Kreskin.
From 1961 on, Gibson concentrated almost exclusively on books. Since most of these books can be listed, they can be counted on an overall basis covering more than 50 years - from 1926, when his first hardcover book appeared, to 1985, when some of his works, including The Master Magicians and The Bunco Book, had been reissued.
Walter used many pen names, but as Maxwell Grant he devised a special signature that became a trademark in his Shadow book autographs. This was a combination of "Walter B. Gibson" and "Maxwell Grant," woven together into one signature.
Incidentally, the name "Maxwell Grant" was the result of his friendship with two magic dealers, Max Holden of New York and U. F. Grant of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Holden did a hand shadow act, and Grant did a shadow illusion.
Walter enjoyed going to comic book conventions and pulp conventions, and always wore his Shadow ring with its inscription inside from Lamont Cranston.
His interest in magic, friendship with the leading magicians of the past century, and a complete knowledge of stage magic, lifted his creative mind to even higher levels.
Walter's talent and creative use of magic was always recognized by the magic fraternity, and in 1971 The Academy of Magical Arts awarded Walter a Literary Fellowship. In 1979 he was awarded the Masters Fellowship.
The time came when frequent travel was no longer possible. His body eventually failed, but his mind remained as keen as that of a young man. Walter passed away at the age of 88, on December 6, 1985.
Information courtesy of Wikipedia, MysticLightPress.com
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