Reed de Rouen

Last updated 09 January 2020

Reed de Rouen (1917-1986)
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Reed Randolph De Rouen

Born: Sunday 10th June 1917
Died: Wednesday 11th June 1986 (age: 69)


Reed de Rouen was an American of half Native American (Oneida) extraction, born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on 10 June 1917 (not 1921, as the Internet Movie Database would have it). De Rouen was a supporting actor in film and television, based in the UK and very active during the 1950s and 1960s; his earliest role known to me was as a soldier (uncredited) in The Third Man. As well as his regular film appearances, he was also on the British stage in the 1950s, in plays such as Plain and Fancy (Drury Lane Theatre, 1956) and Subway in the Sky (Savoy, 1957).

Of note to SF fans were his television appearances as Pa Clanton in "The Gunfighters", a third season adventure of Doctor Who (later novelised by David Cotton) in which the Doctor—William Hartnell—travels to Tombstone of 1881 in time to witness the gunfight of the OK corral, and in an episode of The Invisible Man entitled "The White Rabbit", about a mad scientist’s plans to create an army of invisible animals; he also appeared a couple of times in The Avengers, although in its thriller days rather than the later, as well as writing an episode, "Six Hands Across a Table" for Patrick Macnee & Honor Blackman.

His science fiction novel, Split Image (originally published in 1955 and reprinted by Panther Books (763) in 1958 and Digit Books (R728) in 1963), at least showed a modicum of originality, although it has a derivative plot about a landing on an uncharted planet that is actually a mirror of the Earth. The story follows Aldo Chandler, an ex-bomber pilot and property dealer whose folorn lovelife eventually leads him to New York and a meeting with an old friend, David Evans, who wants him to co-pilot a spaceship created by a Doctor James MacDonald. Agreeing, Aldo is later introduced to MacDonald’s wife, Isbel, with whom he falls in love with, and meets Bradley, the physicist who has helped develop the astro-magnetic powered rocket they will fly.

The first half of the book is spent flight-testing and philosophising about love, flying and how beautiful the Earth looks from on high. Unfortunately, David is killed during the first test flight and, in true space-opera style, the spaceship is blasted off course by "a huge mass of solar dust, a hundred thousand miles of it, and travelling at great speed—straight for us!" on its flight to the Moon and crashlands on the planet Dextar, where Aldo meets the Lawyers, a group of robots left by the planet’s doomed population. More philosophy (war, religion) follows until the robots allow the astronauts to return to their rocket and leave for Earth.If you are expecting a pulp novel (as I was), the book rather lumbers in comparison to most SF from the 1950s and 1960s; the coverline—"A novel of interplanetary menace"—promises something rather different to what the book actually delivers, which is a wordy anti-war, pro-life message.De Rouen's The Heretic is not SF, concerning an American who, whilst fighting on the side of the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, is arbitrarily picked out as a scapegoat in a communist trial of supposedly Fascist agents provocateurs. Although he escapes execution, thanks to a well-timed air raid, his life is subsequently dogged by this event, his left-wing friends shunning him and anti-communists mistrusting him for his left-wing leanings. During the Korean War he becomes a symbol for both sides and undergoes a series of contradictory brainwashings and re-indoctrinations. "Mr. de Rouen writes crisply, though the style occasionally gets a little too overwrought for its own good, and he is not frightened of tackling a big theme," claimed the reviewer for The Times (2 April 1964). "His novel inevitably recalls the world and some of the attitudes of Mr. Arthur Koestler, and does not suffer unduly from the comparison."

Reed De Rouen also wrote a number of teleplays for various series, including Ghost Squad, Crane, The Man in Room 17 and Man in a Suitcase (where he also appeared in one of his own scripts), and co-wrote an unproduced Doctor Who story with Jon Pertwee in 1970. His last film appearance (to my knowledge) was in 1972, and some years later—in 1979—he collaborated on a crime novel, Death List, which appeared as a paperback original from Futura. I’ve not seen this later novel and whether De Rouen wrote any others is unknown, but his two known novels give him a place in the canon of British paperback authors—and not many paperback authors can say they welcomed Joseph Cotten to Vienna in one of Britain’s greatest movies!De Rouen died in London on 11 June 1986. He was married to Laila S. de Rouen (b. Benton, Montana, 22 June 1923) and they had at least one son, Reed R. de Rouen Jr. (b. Butte, Montana, 3 October 1946); De Rouen was married again to Claire Aplhandéry in in the early 1950s and had another son (Robin, b. 1955).

Biography from Bear Alley. Published with permision.