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Encyclopedia > F. Van Wyck Mason

Francis Van Wyck Mason (November 11, 1901August 28, 1978, Bermuda) was an American historian and novelist. He had a long and prolific career as a writer spanning 50 years and including 65 published novels.


Mason was born to a patrician Boston family which traced its roots back to the 17th Century. His early life before he started writing was filled with adventure. His first eight years he lived in Berlin and then Paris where his grandfather served as U.S. Consul General. After a few years in Illinois he left for Europe in 1917 while still a teenager to fight in World War I. Like many future writers, he was an ambulance driver for a while. He then managed to enlist in the French Army where he became a decorated artillery officer. By the end of the war he had worked his way into the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Lieutenant. After the war he went to prep school before attending Harvard where he received his Bachelor of Science (SB) in 1924. At one time in his student days, he was mistakenly arrested for murder. Having borrowed a dinner jacket, he was wrongly identified for a waiter who at the time had committed a murder.

His hopes of entering the diplomatic corps were thwarted after the death of his father and he started an importing business instead. He spent the next few years traveling the world buying rugs and antiques before getting married and settling down. His travels were extensive and included Europe, Russia,the Near East, North Africa (9 weeks with own caravan), the West Indies, Central Africa, and a ride across Central America on horseback. He lived in New York City and was in a famous Cavalry division of the National Guard and played quite a bit of polo.

Mason married socialite Dorothy L. MacReady in New York City in 1927 and while expecting the birth of his first son, he started writing for the pulp magazines. This turned out to be successful for him because he sold his first 18 stories without a rejection, and went on to publish his first book in 1930. This book, The Seeds of Murder introduced Captain Hugh North, a detective in Army Intelligence and the hero in a long series of "intrigue" novels. He also settled his family around Baltimore, Maryland about this time.

By 1931 he had made the transition to full-time writer, publishing two more Captain North novels and his first historical novel, Captain Nemesis, which was republished from an earlier pulp serial. The historical novel apparently did not sell well because he went back to the mystery/intrigue books, publishing a dozen or so over then next 7 years. He developed his Hugh North character, who was Mason's alter ego, in these books. North was a prototype for James Bond in that he a smooth, capable spy, as well as quite a lady killer. This series of books also seemed to predict actual military events before they took place, including a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mason was still selling historical stories for the pulps during this period and in 1938 returned to the genre for a major novel, Three Harbours, about the early phases of the American Revolution. This book turned out to be very popular and changed his focus to historical fiction for the rest of his career, though he would continue to write Hugh North stories until 1968.

He wrote two more companion books to Three Harbours, Stars on the Sea and Rivers of Glory, as well as three more Hugh North mysteries in the years leading up to World War II. These books all did very well, especially Stars on the Sea which was a top 10 bestseller for 1940, and Mason was in his prime before the war interrupted his writing for a time. He reenlisted at the beginning of the war and rose to Colonel while serving on General Eisenhower's staff. He did manage to write some youth oriented war stories during the war under the name Frank W. Mason as well as publishing a couple of reworked pulp serials under the name Ward Weaver.

After the war he settled into a more leisurely pace of a little more than one book per year, which he was to maintain for the next quarter century. His style was well refined by this time and he was able to publish a string of fairly popular books. He finished his American Revolution series with Eagle in the Sky in 1948, wrote a popular novel about the famous buccaneer, Henry Morgan called Cutlass Empire in 1949, and started a trilogy on the Civil War in 1951.

He rewrote more of his pulps for the paperback market during the fifties and had a successful youth book called The Winter at Valley Forge in 1955. He would continue to write historical novels for the youth market after that as part of his mix. He also moved to Bermuda from the Baltimore area during the '50s. His wife was ill during this period and finally died in 1958.

He was soon remarried to Jean-Louise Hand, his long-time secretary. He spent the rest of his life in Bermuda, writing historical fiction for both the adult and youth market as well as several more Hugh North novels. He drowned off the coast of Bermuda in 1978 after having finished his final novel, Armored Giants, about the battle between the Monitor and Merrimack, which was published posthumously in 1980.

Writing Style

Mason's writing style was colorful though straightforward. He seems to use his own voice in telling these stories in the third person, though he only lets a little of his personality come through as narrator. His stories usually revolve around a heroic gentleman character. This hero is usually a little rough around the edges and may be forced to extreme measures by circumstances, but in the end, comes out on top. Based on his own life which involved extensive travel, his stories are usually either set in exotic locations, as in the Hugh North stories, or involve main characters who are getting about quite a bit. His historical stories nearly always involve some kind of warfare and frequently include naval battles. While one may learn a little history and geography when reading his works, the main point of his stories is the excitement provided as he first makes the reader care about his main characters and then puts them into dire circumstances where they have to fight for their lives.


  • American Men at Arms (editor)
  • Armored Giants
  • The Barbarians
  • The Battle for Quebec
  • The Battle of Lake Erie
  • The Battles for New Orleans
  • Blue Hurricane
  • The Branded Spy Murder
  • Brimstone Club
  • The Bucharest Ballerina Murders
  • The Budapest Parade Murders
  • The Cairo Garter Murders
  • Captain Judas
  • Captain Nemesis
  • The Castle Island Case (or in another edition: The Multi-Million-Dollar Murders)
  • A Christmas Story Valley Forge 24 December 1777
  • Cutlass Empire
  • Dardanelles Derelict
  • The Deadly Orbit Mission
  • Eagle in the Sky
  • End of Track (as Ward Weaver)
  • The Fighting American (editor)
  • Flight into Danger (as Frank W. Mason)
  • The Forgotten Fleet Mystery (as Geoffrey Coffin)
  • The Fort Terror Murders
  • The Golden Admiral
  • The Gracious Lily Affair
  • Guns for Rebellion
  • Hang My Wreath (as Ward Weaver)
  • Harpoon in Eden
  • Himalayan Assignment
  • The Hong Kong Airbase Murders
  • Log Cabin Noble
  • Lysander
  • Manila Galleon
  • Maracaibo Mission
  • The Maryland Colony
  • Munition Ship Murders
  • Murder in the Senate (as Geoffrey Coffin)
  • Our Valiant Few
  • Pilots, Man Your Planes (as Frank W. Mason)
  • Proud New Flags
  • Q-boat (as Frank W. Mason)
  • Rascals' Heaven
  • Return of the Eagles
  • The Rio Casino Intrigue
  • Rivers of Glory
  • Saigon Singer
  • The Sea 'Venture
  • Secret Mission to Bangkok
  • Seeds of Murder
  • The Seven Seas Murders
  • The Shanghai Bund Murders (also in a revised edition: The China Sea Murders)
  • Silver Leopard
  • The Singapore Exile Murders
  • Spider House
  • Stars on the Sea
  • The Sulu Sea Murders
  • Three Harbours
  • Trouble in Burma
  • Trumpets Sound No More
  • Two Tickets to Tangier
  • The Vesper Service Murders
  • The Washington Legation Murders
  • Wild Horizon
  • The Winter at Valley Forge
  • The Yellow Arrow Murders
  • The Young Titan
  • Zanzibar Intrigue

  Results from FactBites:
F. Van Wyck Mason - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1377 words)
Mason was born to a patrician Boston family which traced its roots back to the 17th Century.
Mason married socialite Dorothy L. MacReady in New York City in 1927 and while expecting the birth of his first son, he started writing for the pulp magazines.
Mason was still selling historical stories for the pulps during this period and in 1938 returned to the genre for a major novel, Three Harbours, about the early phases of the American Revolution.
Wyck House (956 words)
Mason, whose home is in Maryland's famous Green Spring Valley, may be found shooting ducks in the winter or playing polo in the summer.
Mason claims the distinction of being one author who has actually been arrested for murder.
Mason in what they mistook for a waiter's outfit and took him to jail.
  More results at FactBites »



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