James Donald Corley (1886–1955) was an American author of short stories, illustrator and architect. He is chiefly remembered for his three self-illustrated books, which included a number of classic fantasy short stories.
Life and career
Corley was born June 28, 1886 in Covington, Newton County, Georgia, the son of John J. and Annie (Bradshaw) Corley. His mother was the daughter of James Bradshaw, Presbyterian minister and President of the College for girls In Covington. He was living with his parents in Covington in 1900. He graduated from Emory University and studied architecture in Europe. In 1910 he was a lodger at 308 West 15th Street, New York City, and gave his occupation as architect. He married Harriet Evelyn Works (who later wrote as Harriet Works Corley) on July 23, 1916, three days after meeting her; the marriage dissolved within a year, although the couple apparently had a daughter. He was employed for a time by the New York firm of McKim, Meade & White, "playing a part in the work of decoration of the General Post Office." He designed camouflage for New York harbor during World War I. In 1920 he was living singly as a lodger together with other writers and artists.
As an artist Corley illustrated many magazine articles and books in addition to his own works. By the early 1920s he had "become known as a draftsman in black and white and in colored inks, and a portfolio of his black-and-white drawings was published" in 1921.
Corley contributed as a writer to a number of magazines from the late 1910s through the early 1930s, including Scribner's Magazine, the Pictorial Review, Harper's Magazine, and The Forum. By 1922, at which point he had already published several stories, he had "given up his architectural work in order to devote his time to writing and drawing." His first short story collection, titled The House of Lost Identity after the initial story in it, was published by Robert M. McBride in 1927 and was reasonably well-received, particularly by James Branch Cabell, who wrote a review that was included as an introduction in later printings. Corley's best-known work was his second book, The Fifth Son of the Shoemaker (1930). It and the subsequent The Haunted Jester (1931) appear to have sold less well than his first book, however, and afterwards he stopped publishing. He continued writing into his old age, well after abandoning his architectural profession. In 1942 he was living at 184 1/2 West 4th Street in New York City.
In 1955 he lived at 264 Avenue of the Americas in New York. He died on Sunday, December 11, 1955, at the age of 69 at St. Vincent's Hospital, New York. He was survived by his daughter Sheila and brother John Neill Corley. Neill would not claim Donald's body, so he was buried in Potters Field.
The Haunted Jester and The House of Lost Identity were reprinted by Books for Libraries in 1970 and 1971, respectively. Not long after, Corley's work was rediscovered by Lin Carter, who anthologized two of his fantasies in Discoveries in Fantasy for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in 1972, and another in Realms of Wizardry for Doubleday in 1976. Carter describes Corley's style as possessing a quality of "gorgeousness", which he characterizes as having "the sort of verbal richness that bejewels the pages of Clark Ashton Smith's work or the Arabian Nights ... lazy and singing, [with] a certain playfulness to it ..."
- Donald Corley at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database