Thursday, April 25, 2013

Happy Birthday To O. Henry

Steve King at the web site notes that today is the birthday of one of my favorite writers, O. Henry.

On this day in 1898 William S. Porter -- the drug store clerk, cowboy, fugitive, bank teller, cartoonist and future "O. Henry" -- began a five-year prison sentence for embezzlement. Porter had published several stories prior to his prison term, but the fourteen written behind bars represented a new style and quality, and began his rise to popularity. Porter hoped a pseudonym would keep the disgrace of his conviction from his young daughter, who was told that he was away on business. Why Porter settled on "O. Henry" is variously explained: as a drug store clerk in his teens, Porter would have known of the famous French pharmacist, Etienne-Ossian Henry, whose name appeared in the drug dispensary guide as O. Henry; he took the name from one of his prison guards, Orrin Henry; while courting a young lady he called a stray cat over with "Oh Henry!" and then later wrote about the incident, signing the unpublished piece, "O. Henry"; as ranch hand in his early twenties, he knew the cowboy song "Root, Hog, or Die," and found it apt: "... Along came my true lover about twelve o'clock / Saying Henry, O Henry, what sentence have you got?"

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read about O. Henry in my Crime Beat column on Mahattan noir classic stories via the below link:

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