Heritage \ Writings \

Leonard Lanson Cline (1883-1929)
Born in Bay City, prominent author of novels.

Biography (Added March, 2013)


Leonard Lanson Cline (11 May 1893-15/16 January 1929) was a American novelist, poet, short story writer, and journalist.

Born in Bay City, Michigan, he attended the University of Michigan, was married in 1913, published his first book of poetry, Poems, in 1914 and worked for The Detroit News 1916-1922. In 1922 he took a position at the Baltimore Sun.

His writings appeared in a variety of magazines--The New Republic, The American Mercury, The Smart Set, The Nation and Scribner's Magazine. His journalist work appeared in the Baltimore Sun, The New York World, The Chicago Daily News, The New York Herald Tribune, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Viking Press published his first novel, God Head in 1925. It deals with the Kalevala legends in a modern society. The critic Laurence Stallings wrote: "It is the most tempestuous novel of many seasons. It would be eminently fair to believe that Leonard Cline could write rings around a half dozen of our ten best novelists." (The New York World, 21 October 1925)

In 1926 he published the light-hearted Listen, Moon!, which deals with a professor assuming the role of a pirate along the Chesapeake. Time’s reviewer wrote of it, "the commonplace has suddenly, with sublime and innocent vulgarity, comic pedantry, unflagging ebullience, gone stark, raving romantic.... The contrasting humor and whimsy of [Cline’s] new novel is as astonishing as it is joyous."[1]

In 1927 he published The Dark Chamber, arguably his most famous work. It was described by H.P. Lovecraft in his Supernatural Horror in Literature as "extremely high in artistic stature". A review proclaimed, "he has opened a squamous dungeon of the mind and explored it with the erudite perversity of a cheerier, juicier Poe. Like all horror stories it is belittled by its own theatricality yet it remains an amazingly worded orgy of the more unspeakable human propensities." [3]

He also published stories in the pulp magazines under the pseudonym "Alan Forsyth". (Six of these stories are collected in The Lady of Frozen Death and Other Weird Tales, published in 1992).[4]

Cline was also a translator, translating Thomas Raucat's The Honourable Picnic from the French. His translation of Ramσn del Valle-Inclαn's La Lampara Maravillosa (The Lamp of Marvels), a book of spiritual exercises, remains unpublished.

In 1927, during a drunken quarrel, Cline shot his friend Wilfred Irwin, who died of his wounds several hours later. Cline was tried and sentenced to a year in prison for manslaughter. He was released after eight months for good behavior. Henry Luce gave Cline a job at Time when he got out of prison. On the evening of 15 January 1929, Cline hosted a party at his New York City apartment to celebrate the sale of a scenario for a play. Cline complained to friends at the party about having chest pains. He was found dead of heart failure in his apartment five days later, not having been seen alive since the night of the party

Libary bulletin. (Added March, 2013)

Michigan Library Bulletin, Vol. 10-17. 1919.

Leonard Cline, who has been known especially as a critic of literature and music on various daily papers and magazines, was born in Bay City in 1894. He was a student at the University of Michigan immediately following which he was engaged as literary and music critic on the Detroit News for several years. He later filled the same position on the St. Louis Post Dispatch and is at present writing for the Chicago News. His articles appear regularly in the American Mercury, the Nation, the Smart Set, and other periodicals. “God-Head” is his first full sized book.

Death notice. (Added March, 2013)

The Milwaukee Journal – Jan. 21, 1929

Leonard Cline, Author, Found Dead in Studio.

New York – Leonard Cline, novelist and paywright, was found dead in bed Sunday in his studio apartment. Dr. Raymond R. Mills, medical examiner, said Cline had died apparently from heart disease and that he probably had been dead five days.

The author gave a party Tuesday in his apartment to mark the sale of a scenario for $400. Since his release last July from a Connecticut prison, where he had served 10 months for manslaughter, Cline had kept much to himself and received few friends.

Cline left newspaper work to write novels and his first book, “Godhead” scored a substantial success. He laater wrote “Listen, Moon” and “The Dark Chamber.”

The last volume was written in his cell, Cline turning out the chapters on a typewriter, set up, where a guard could look on. He was convicted of the death of Wilfred Irwin, a New York advertising man who had long been his friend. Before the victim's death in a hospital Cline offered his blood to save Irwin.

Additional Notes.

    1881 – Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Cline, Leonard – book-keeper Morning News, res West Bay City.
  • Cline, Martin – molder, res e s Grand nr D & B C R R
  • Cline, Samuel – laborer, res e s Williams 1 s of 19th.

    1881-82 – Directory: West Bay City, Mich.

  • Cline, Leonard – reporter, bds A T Russell

    1893 – Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Cline, Alire – motorman B C C Ry Co., bds 415 Adams.
  • Cline, Miss Cynthia M – res 615 Jefferson.
  • Cline, Leonard L – res, 621 Jefferson.
  • Cline, Martin C. - foreman M. Garland, res 315 N. Adams.

    1900 – Census: Detroit, Wayne, Mich.

  • Cline, Leonard L. - b. June, 1893, Mich.
  • Jesse F., wife – b. Feb., 1870, Mich.
  • Elizabeth F., daughter – b. June 1891, Mich.
  • Leonard L. (Jr.), son – b. June 1893, Mich.

    1913 – Michigan Marriages: Manistee, Manistee, Mich.

  • Date: Oct. 28, 1913.
  • Groom: Leonard L. Cline, born in 1893, at Bay City, Mich., son of Leonard L Cline and Jessie Forsyth.
  • Bride: Mary L. Smurthwaite, born in 1893, at Manistee, Mich., daughter of Thomas Smurthwaite and Matelda L Indermiller.
  • Official: James E. Wilkinson, rector.
  • Withnesses: Horace Bigeton and Helen J. Wilkinson, both of Manistee.

    1918 – World War I Draft Registration.

  • Place: Detroit, Mich.
  • Leonard L. Cline, born May 11, 1893, at Bay City, Mich.

    1920 – Census: Wayne Co., Mich.

  • Cline, Leonard L. - b. 1894, Mich.
  • Louise, wife – b. 1894, Mich.
  • Mary F., daughter – b. 1915, Mich.
  • Leonard, son – b. 1917, Mich.
Related Note & Pages

Related Pages:
None at this time.
People Referenced
Bigeton, Horace
Cline, Alire
Cline, Cynthia
Cline, Elizabeth (dau.)
Cline, Leonard L. (subject)
Cline, Leonard L. Jr. (son)
Cline, Leonard L. Sr. (father)
Cline, Martin
Cline, Mary F. (dau.)
Cline, Samuel
Forsyth, Alan (aka.)
Forsyth, Jessie (mother)
Indermiller, Matelda (m-inlaw)
Irwin, Wilfred
Luce, Henry
Lovecraft, H.P.
Mills, Raymond R.
Raucat, Thomas
Russell, A.T.
Southwaite, Mary L. (wife)
Southwaite, Thomas (f-inlaw)
Stallings, Laurence
Wilkinson, Helen J.
Wilkinson, James E.
Subjects Referenced
Bay City, MI
Connecticut prison
Detroit, MI
Manistee, MI
New York, NY
Univ. Michigan
Boston Sun
Chicago News
Detroit News
St. Louis Post
Viking Press
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.