What’s in a name? If you’re talking about flowers, maybe not so much. But if you’ve got novelists in mind, names can make quite a difference. Which brings me to John Evans, the author of Shadows Flying (1936), one of Anthony Slide’s “lost gay novels.” Both Baird and Greenwood (in An Annotated Bibliography of California Fiction, 1664-1970) and Kevin Starr (in The Dream Endures) mention the book and state that “John Evans” is a pseudonym. Starr evens suggests why the author did not use his real name. Baird and Greenwood say that the author was the son of writer Mabel Dodge Luhan. I figured that a few minutes of research on the internet would yield the man’s real name. And I was right: Luhan’s son was named John Evans. If he selected “John Evans” as a pseudonym, he made an unusual choice.
So where does the pseudonym idea come from? The starting point appears to be If You Have Tears (1947), a noir novel of a corrupt banker in San Bernardino. The Los Angeles Public Library provides a brief synopsis and says that the name of the author, John Evans, is a pseudonym. I figured that the real John Evans was the author but decided to check further. In Melvyl, the University of California catalog, If You Have Tears is attributed to Howard Browne, someone suspiciously born in 1902, the same year as Evans. So was Evans using the pseudonym “Howard Browne”? Further browsing in the catalog showed that Browne was born in 1907 or 1908 and wrote a number of books in the 1940s and 50s, some using the pseudonym “John Evans.” Melvyl can’t decide who wrote Andrew’s Harvest (1933), twice assigning it to Evans and twice noting that “John Evans” was a pseudonym for Browne.
On then to the Library of Congress, the last word in bibliographical accuracy. The catalog, however, adds to the confusion. It links entries for John Evans and Howard Browne. By giving Evans the same birth year, 1907, that it gives Browne, it indicates that Evans and Brown are the same person. So while the UC catalog says that Evans wrote one or perhaps two books, the Library of Congress catalog has decided that Evans didn’t exist. And it’s not the only one. Catalogs at Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia also link the author of Shadows Flying to Browne. (The libraries at the Universities of Chicago, Michigan, and Illinois don’t even have the book.)
Here’s the straight story, as far as I can figure it out. John Evans was born in 1902. He published two books, Andrew’s Harvest (1933) and Shadows Flying (1936). He never used a pseudonym. Howard Browne was born in 1908. He published twelve books, of which four, Halo in Blood (1946), If You Have Tears (1947), Halo for Satan (1948), and Halo in Brass (1949), used the pseudonym “John Evans.” Around 1955 Shadows Flying was reissued in paperback as Love in the Shadows with John Evans (the real one) as the author.