Out of the Wreck (Wildside Press, 2006)
As Captain Dingle led me a merry chase all yesterday evening I thought I'd share my confusion.
In what I laughingly call my spare time I'm doing a lot of background research for the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. You can probably guess how far I've gotten...
Captain Dingle wrote primarily under two names, the abbreviated Captain A. E. Dingle and the pseudonym "Sinbad". He wrote mostly adventurous yarns of the sea for British and American story papers and pulps. Nowadays he's almost forgotten except by pulp collectors and Sherlock Holmes buffs. To the latter he was the author of a Holmes pastiche entitled "Watson!" which appeared in Short Stories, 10 October 1921. He was a popular author in his time, a reviewer of one of his novels remarking that "This Captain Dingle is really a captain, a deep sea sailorman, and more than that he is a story teller par excellence. The Flying Kestrel pulsates with the pounding of the seas on battened hatches, it thrums with the singing of the gales through bellying topgallants and taut braced hemp and it exults in the sailor-craft of a master mariner ... It's like "Two Years Before the Mast" and Morgan Robertson and Conrad rolled into one. And it's dollars to doughnuts after you have raced through it once, you'll turn right back to the first page and begin again." (Egbert S. Turner, 'Browsing in Literary Fields', Syracuse Herald, 26 June 1927)
Wildside Press have put out a couple of his books in recent years but there's very little about him on the web beyond a handful of books for sale and the occasional mention of his Sherlockian connection.
His name in full was Aylward Edward Dingle and in reference works it's pretty well established that he was born in Oxford in 1874 and died on 30 October 1947. A quick check with death records showed that he died in Kerrier, Cornwall, aged 74.
Which bit of information meant at least half an hour's work, because 1947 minus 74 years doesn't make 1874. So I checked for his birth and couldn't find it mentioned anywhere between 1870-1875. In fact, there's no record of anyone called Aylward Dingle ever being born. I could see my evening slipping away.
Here's where luck plays a part in the story: last month, a Bermuda newspaper called the Royal Gazette carried an article on the celebrations surrounding the 100th birthday of Muriel Ethel ("Bubbles") Gauntlett. Mrs. Gauntlett was born in Oxford in 1908 and was the daughter of... Captain Aylward Dingle. A quick search proved that Muriel Ethel Dingle was registered as being born in Headington, near Oxford. The article also mentioned Muriel's mum (Marion) and sister (Doris) who was two years older. And some family stories...
The Dingle family moved from Oxford to Staten Island, New York, when Muriel was about two years old, where her father pursued his career as an author of novels and magazine articles about the sea. "These were well received at the time and, apart from hardships during wartime, provided a good living for the family."
In 1918, Captain Dingle became weary of trying to make a comfortable life for his family in a climate that was bitterly cold in the winter, often without the means to heat his home because of war-time shortages of fuel.The Dingle family then settled in Bermuda where Captain Dingle did much of his writing on Marshall's Island. His two daughters were educated and later employed on the island. Muriel was married to Ernest Gauntlett (hence the comment above about the significance of the name).
He began to long for a warmer, gentler climate in which to work and raise his family, and on August 13, 1918 he set sail for Bermuda in his small boat The Gauntlet, its name later having great significance in Bubbles's life.
Captain Dingle made his solo voyage to Bermuda accompanied only by his dog Trixie, and is believed to be the first man to have sailed this route single-handedly.
He reached Bermuda on September 9, much to the relief of his anxious family who had travelled to Bermuda a few weeks prior to this voyage on a converted destroyer.
Captain Dingle was near starvation when he was towed into Hamilton Harbour by the American Coast Guard, after enduring the most extreme hurricane conditions at sea which blew him off course, causing great delay and hardship that nearly took his life.
Next port of call (there's a joke in there somewhere) was the immigration records for New York, which recorded the arrival of a Muriel Dingle and her older sister Doris on two occasions in 1911 and 1912. However, mum's name turned out to be Ethel M. Dingle rather than just Marion.
So is there any record of a Dingle marrying someone called Ethel Marion in the UK...? Why yes, there is: in 1904 Ethel Marion Tuckey married one Albert Edward Dingle. That's Albert, not Aylward.
In 1901, Albert Dingle appears in the census records as a 21-year-old able seaman in the Royal Navy, born in St. Clement's, Oxford..
In 1891, there are two Albert Dingles listed as being born in Oxford aged 11. Albert E. Dingle was the son of Robert C. and Sarah Dingle. Jamie Sturgeon has pointed me to Dingle's entry in Who Was Who in which "Aylward's" parents are named as Robert Charles Dingle and his wife Sarah Ann (nee Cotterell). In the 1881 census Robert C. is listed as being a "shopman / ropemaker", living with his wife Sarah, 4-year-old daughter Annie E. and 2-year-old son Albert E. Father and mother were married in Oxford in 1876, and there is an Albert Edward Dingle registered as being born in Oxford in 1879.
Who Was Who reveals that Dingle first went to sea at the age of 14 and commanded both sail and steam ship until the age of 40. He began writing for American magazines, eventually returning to England in 1930. As well as writing novels and short stories, he was a frequent broadcaster and sailed his own schooner yacht in ocean races. At various times in his life he built gasworks, managed a rope factory (perhaps his father's?), was footman for J. Pierpont Morgan (the American financier), sold dictionaries to Negroes living in New York and was a labourer in Thames Ironworks shipyard.
In 1944, and now living in Cornwall, Dingle married for a second time, to Dorothy A ("Nan") Fessenden. He died only a few years later.
However, this still doesn't explain why his second marriage and death were registered as Aylward or his age at death was listed as 74. Was Aylward an official change of name? And if I'm right about Albert being born in 1879, he would have been 68 or thereabouts when he died. Mysteries for another day.
Ships of Strife (Wildside Press, 2006)
UPDATE: 18 September 2008
I stumbled upon the following biographical sketch by Dingle which appeared in a column entitled "The Men Who Make The Argosy" dated 12 November 1932.
I was born in Oxford, England, of parents who not only thought poverty no crime, but actually seemed to be proud of it. I ate bread and lard for my school luncheon for a good many years, wore my father’s old togs and my mother’s old shoes. My father was a retired whaler turned itinerant preacher, and was a hard old man.I also note that Black Dog Books are shortly to put out a collection of Dingle's pulp stories under the title Old Sails.
All the school I got was common day school to the age of fourteen. Then the sea. I sailed in British ships for twenty-two years from boy to master. Commanded two steamers in the Cape and Australian trade, and one bark. Was mate of a full-rigged ship, second mate of another, quartermaster in the only windjammer I ever knew to carry one, and able seaman in yet another famous old clipper.
After nearly a quarter of a century afloat, and five shipwrecks, I had a steamer blown up under me, and thereafter failed to connect with the sea as master, and my eyes were too poor to go through the grades again; so I had to seek new employment at the age of nearly forty, with a small family to take care of. A friend in New York wrote me in England that I could get work in America; so I sold my home, left the cash with the family, and worked my passage over on a steamer as a waiter.
I washed automobiles for Gimbel’s for two dollars a night, and was fired because I fell asleep in a car after trying to sell dictionaries in Jersey all day. I packed groceries for one of New York’s biggest stores, at ten dollars a week.
I got a job sweeping out offices; and the boss persuaded me to go to his country home and run a little motorboat. He bribed me by advancing the money to get my family out, and I fell. I was freight wrestler and milkman, had to keep in order a stinking motorboat for which I had only hatred, and was expected to polish brass and varnish, carry express bundles and cases of milk, and look like a yachtsman. I wasn’t fired; I was taken back to the office, which was part of the bargain I had insisted upon. I earned seventy-five dollars a month, running a calculating machine and a battery of files.
Two years that lasted. Then at a dinner to which I was invited, where every man had to tell a story about himself, an editor man told me I ought to write, and he’d like to see something.
I wrote something. He said it was fine, but he couldn’t read it. I’d have to type it. I had never seen a typewriter near enough to touch it. I tried to get the thing typed. Cheapest offer was five dollars. I had no five dollars, and didn’t believe the story would bring that much money. Saw an ad offering ten days’ free trial on a reconstructed typewriter, and sent for it. Took all the ten days to pick out a card saying I had received it. Then I asked for more time, because I had not been able to try it out. They gave me ten days more. I wrote the story in that time and got sixty-five dollars for it! Typewriter cost thirty-five dollars. Paid for it and started as a pukka author. Sent my family home out of the first money I earned that would pay their second cabin fare. They could live on one third the cost over there.
Then I sat down to write in deadly earnest, and did not sell a line for thirteen months. I sold everything I owned, the collection of years of far wandering, to keep the family going. For myself, at one time I lived for a week on fifteen cents worth of beans, boiled without salt, and nothing else.
Nobody told me why every story I wrote failed, until another editor man said he’d like to see me. He gave me a hint which opened my eyes to the fact that fiction is made, not born, and I soon began to sell stories. I have two daughters who are both threatening matrimony. I have published five books.
Novels as Captain Dingle
Gold Out of Celbes. Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1920.
Wide Waters. New York, Brentano's, c.1924.
The Flying Kestrel. New York, G. H. Watt, 1927; London, William Heinemann, 1928.
Fathomless. New York, Henry Waterson Co., 1927; London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1930.
Sea Worthy. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1929; Boston & New York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1930.
Tares. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1930.
The Silver Ship. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1931.
Ships of Strife. Rockville, MD, Wildside Press, 2006.
Out of the Wreck. Rockville, MD, Wildside Press, 2005.
Old Sails. Normal, IL, Black Dog Books,
Novels as "Sinbad"
Red Saunders. The chronicle of a genial outcast. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1934; as Salt of the Sea, Red Saunders, Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1934.
Yellow Half-Moons. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1936.
Not Wisely. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1936.
Mary, First Mate. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1937.
Nor Breed Nor Birth. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1937.
Mock Star. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1938.
Nita of Martinique. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1938.
Old Glory. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1938.
Adrift. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1939.
The Bomb Ship. London, Robert Hale, 1942.
Calamity Jock. London, Robert Hale, 1943.
Pirates May Fly. London, Robert Hale, 1943.
Desert Island Discord. London, 1944.
"Black Joker". London, Robert Hale, 1946.
The Age-Old Kingdom. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1947.
The Petrel's Path. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1947.
Reckless Tide. London, Robert Hale, 1947.
The Corpse Came Back. London, Robert Hale, 1948.
Out of the Blue. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1948.
Moonshine and Moses. London, Robert Hale, 1949.
Cave of Stars. London, Robert Hale, 1950.
Magnolia Island. London, Robert Hale, 1952.
Sargasso Sam. London, Robert Hale, 1952.
Sword of Tortuga. Beaufort, N.C., Pirate Privateer Productions, 1992.
Collections as "Sinbad"
Spin a Yarn, Sailor. London, George G. Harrap, 1934; Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1935.
Pipe All Hands!. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1935; Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1935.
Sailors Do Care. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1936.
She Stories. London, Avon, 1994.
Novels as Brian Cotterell
Sinister Eden. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1934; Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1934.
A Modern Sinbad: An Autobiography. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., Ltd., 1933; abridged [by J. Lennox Kerr], London, Guild Books, 1948; as Rough Hewn: The Autobiography of a modern Sinbad, New York, D. Appleton-Century Co., 1933.
Sinbad's Book of Pirates. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1935; Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1936.
(* My thanks to Jamie Sturgeon for the d/j of Out of the Blue.)