Robert Arthur

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Robert Arthur.

Robert Arthur, Jr., the creator of the juvenile detective book series, The Three Investigators, was born on November 10, 1909, at Fort Mills, Corregidor Island, the Philippines, where his father, Robert Arthur, Sr., then a lieutenant in the United States Army, was stationed.

Because of his father’s profession, Robert’s childhood was spent moving. From 1911-1915 he lived in Fort Monroe, Virginia, from 1915-1919 in Fort Andrews, Massachusetts, and from 1919-1924 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his father was a Professor of Military Science and Tactics in the University of Michigan’s ROTC program. In 1924, Arthur’s family was back at Fort Monroe, and from 1924-1925 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, then from 1925-1929 at Fort Monroe again. He and his brother John Arthur, who was born in 1914 and later became a career army officer, were educated in the public schools of Hull, Massachusetts, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Leavenworth, Kansas, and Hampton, Virginia, and it was in Hampton Virginia that Robert Arthur attended high school, and was elected President of the senior class.

Then, although Arthur was offered scholarships to both West Point and Annapolis, he turned them down, because by the time he was in high school, he already had his heart set on being a writer, and indeed, he published his first story while he was attending Hampton High School. In 1926 Robert Arthur enrolled at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia. Two years later, he transferred to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, from which he graduated in 1930 with a B.A. in English with Distinction. After working as an editor at one of the Munsey Publications, he returned to the University of Michigan where he received his M.A. in Journalism in 1932. He then moved to New York City, where he lived in Greenwich Village in a walk-up apartment at 123 Waverly Place.

During this time, Arthur began writing stories for publication in the pulp magazines which flourished at that time. In those days, a first-class pulp writer could make four and sometimes five cents a word, so Arthur was able to support himself in New York during the Depression. Between his graduation from Michigan in 1930 and 1940, his stories were published in Wonder Stories, Detective Fiction Weekly, Mystery, The Illustrated Detective Magazine, Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine, Amazing Stories, The Shadow, Street & Smith Mystery Reader, Detective Tales, Thrilling Detective, Double Detective, Startling Stories, Collier’s, The Phantom Detective, Argosy Weekly, Unknown Worlds, and Black Mask.

In addition, during this time, Arthur worked as a writer and editor for pulp western, fact detective, and screen magazines for Dell Publishing, and was associate editor of Photo-Story, a picture magazine published by Fawcett Publications. More significantly, he conceived and edited Pocket Detective Magazine for Street and Smith, the first pocket-sized, all-fiction magazine, in which several of his stories were published. In February 1938, he married Susan Smith Cleaveland, a radio soap opera actress from whom he was divorced in 1940. In 1940, he took a class in radio writing from Eric Barnknow at Columbia University, and it was in this class that he met David Kogan, with whom he decided to partner in radio writing.

Robert Arthur in his college days.

Arthur and Kogan began to write and produce together in the early 1940’s, during which time -- from 1942 until 1944 -- Arthur was also Copy Editor and later Head Writer for Parade, the national literary supplement. As Head Writer, he was in charge of many of the major text pieces; he also accompanied photographers on photo shoots, wrote stories from research, and originated story ideas. Between 1940 and 1943, his stories appeared in Detective Fiction Weekly, Weird Tales, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Detective Fiction Weekly, Detective Tales, Comet Stories, Unknown Worlds, Short Stories Inc., Asteroid, Astounding Science Fiction, Detective Tales, Detective Novels Magazine, MacLean’s Magazine, Household Magazine, The Elks Magazine, Astounding Science-Fiction, and Astonishing Stories, Sir!, Baffling Detective Mysteries, Dime Mystery, and Detective Story Magazine.

Then, from 1944 until 1952, Arthur, with Kogan, was a producer-director for the Mutual Broadcasting System, for which he and Kogan co-wrote and produced many shows for Dark Destiny, and also their own show, The Mysterious Traveler, which was re-aired as Adventure Into Fear, and syndicated among radio stations by Harry S. Goodman Productions. During the time The Mysterious Traveler was aired, it ranked at the top of all shows heard over the Mutual Broadcasting System, consistently outranking CBS and NBC shows broadcast at the same time. In a report from the Research Department of WOR Radio dated July 31, 1950, The Mysterious Traveler was ranked first out of the sixteen most popular shows on radio. Robert Arthur and David Kogan were awarded the Edgar for Best Mystery Radio Show of the Year by the Mystery Writers of America.

Previous to this, while enrolled in a class taught at Columbia University by Whit Burnett, the editor of Story Magazine, Robert Arthur had met Joan Vaczek, a fiction writer and the daughter of a Hungarian diplomat. Arthur and Vaczek were married in December of 1946, and moved to a house on Croton Lake Road, facing the Croton Reservoir, in Yorktown Heights, New York, where they lived until 1959. They had two children, Robert Andrew Arthur in 1948, and Elizabeth Ann Arthur in 1953. Elizabeth Arthur, like her parents, is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. While living in Yorktown Heights with his wife and family, Robert Arthur continued to write short stories, and publish them in the pulps, and from 1946 to 1948 he was also the managing editor of the Waverly Publishing Company. From 1948 to 1951 he produced Dark Destiny, a dramatic TV series. After 1952,he worked as a co-producer for the radio show Mystery Time.

In 1953, because of Arthur’s involvement, and the involvement of his partner David Kogan, in the Radio Writer’s Guild, The Mysterious Traveler was abruptly canceled. WOR and the Mutual Broadcasting System, during the McCarthy era, believed that the Radio Writer’s Guild was leading writers, in the words of Kogan, “down the path to Moscow.” Robert Arthur’s era as a writer for radio came to an end. Before it ended, however, he wrote and produced over five hundred radio scripts for his two shows as well as for other shows such as The Shadow and Nick Carter. In 1959, Robert Arthur and Joan Vaczek were divorced, and it was at this time that Arthur moved to Hollywood where he lived for almost three years, working in television. He wrote scripts for The Twilight Zone, and he worked as a story editor and script writer for Alfred Hitchcock’s TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

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