Reginald Thomas Maitland Scott: The forgotten notable Ex Cadet…murder he wrote.

The forgotten notable Ex Cadet…murder he wrote…

Taken from The RTM Scott Collection – prepared by Dr. Thomas Vincent – Department of English – Royal Military College of Canada – 2003

597 Reginald Thomas Maitland Scott

In the Fall of 1901, Reginald Thomas Maitland Scott entered the Royal Military College of Canada as Cadet No. 597. He had just turned nineteen (born 14 August 1882) and came from Woodstock College, a respected Baptist prepatory school. His academic career at RMC, however, was not stellar but, as one of his peers later noted, he “lacked interest and application, rather than ability.” In 1904, he withdrew from the College without completing his program of study.

Scott accepted commissions in the Oxford Rifles and subsequently in the Governor-General’s Foot Guard, but it was travel and adventure that he really wanted. In 1908, he got a job as an installing engineer with the International Marine Signal Company of Canada, and for the next four years, travelled through Italy, Arabia, India, Burma, Ceylon, and Australia setting up marine navigational lighting systems in various harbours. He may have also been working for the British secret service at the time.

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With war approaching in 1914, Scott returned to Canada to enlist in the Canadian Army. He was commissioned as a Captain and served as second-in-command of No. 4 Company, 21st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, from 7 November 1914 to January 1916. Most of that service was on the Belgian Front. It was there that he was wounded and as a result was invalided back to Canada where he spent the rest of the war. Back home, he was initially attached to Headquarters Staff at Valcartier, but in 1917 was sent to Camp Borden as second-in-command of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Depot. He was promoted to Major in late 1917, served out the war at Borden, and was demobilized in early 1919.

That same year, Scott moved to New York to pursue a career as a writer, specializing in crime and mystery fiction. During the 1920s and 1930s, he built a solid reputation as a writer of popular sensational fiction. He became a frequent contributor to a wide range of American, Canadian, and British magazines, and through the publication of ten novels gained international recognition as one of the leading and most entertaining mystery writers of his day. Scott wrote in the tradition of Arthur Conan Doyle. In his works he developed the fictional character “Secret Service Smith” and, through Smith’s adventures became extremely popular and were transformed into radio dramas and stage plays. Several of Scott’s novels also circulated in Europe, translated into French and German.

Scott is also remembered for his contribution to the development of a popular pulp-fiction character in the serialized adventures of “The Spider”. Although it was once thought that Scott’s son was responsible for this work, recent researched suggests that it was the elder Scott who was involved. The idea for “The Spider” was conceived by Henry Steeger at Popular Publications, a New York publisher of fiction magazines, in response to the popularity of “The Shadow”, and was presented to the public in magazine form (The Spider), issuing monthly from October 1933 to December 1943. The majority of the tales in this long-lived serial were written by Norvell Page, and he is credited with developing the distinctive characteristics of “The Spider”. Nonetheless, it was R.T.M. Scott who was approached to produce the first two issues and it is fair to say that he laid the fictional foundations which Page subsequently expanded and developed. This publication occupies an important position in the historical development of American popular literature and has recently been reprinted.

In the 1940s, Scott`s popularity began to wane and tragedy struck the family. His son (and namesake) was killed in Holland in 1945 while serving as an officer with the Canadian Armed Forces in the 21st Army Group. By the time of his own death (5 February 1966), Scott`s work was virtually unknown and he had slipped into oblivion. Today, he is still remembered by scholars of popular culture as one of the builders of American crime and mystery fiction and his publications are avidly sought after by collectors of that genre. In Canada, however, he remains largely ignored. Although his work is noted by David Skene-Melvin in his bio-bibliography of Canadian crime writers and two of Scott`s short stories appear in recent anthologies of Canadian crime fiction, no record of his works appears in the standard Canadian literature bibliographies and there are no copies of his book publications in the National Library of Canada. In fact, I have been able to locate only five volumes in total in Canadian libraries.

Throughout his life, however, Scott proudly and consistently acknowledged his Canadian roots and his connection to the Royal Military College of Canada in all of his biographical and press notices. He maintained a close and affectionate relationship with the country of his biographical and press notices. He maintained a close and affectionate relationship with the country of his contributions to Canada as a soldier and a writer, and in acknowledgement of his life-long affection for RMC, the English Department and the Special Collections Section of Massey Library have joined to established The Reginald Thomas Maitland Scott Collection of his published fiction to mark the centenary of his arrival at the College.