Thomas Bertram Costain (May 8, 1885 - October 8, 1965) was a Canadian journalist who became a best-selling author of historical novels at the age of 57.
Costain was born in Brantford, Ontario
. He was an editor at the Guelph Daily Mercury
between 1908 and 1910. He married Ida Randolph Spragge in New York City
on January 12, 1910. The couple had two children, Molly and Dora. Beginning in 1914, he was a staff writer for and, from 1917, editor of Toronto
magazine. His success there brought him to the attention of The Saturday Evening Post
in New York City
where he was fiction editor for fourteen years. In 1920 he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He also worked for Doubleday Books
as an editor 1939-1946. He was the head of 20th Century Fox
’s bureau of literary development (story department) from 1934 to 1942.
In 1942, he realized his long-time dream when his first novel For My Great Folly was published, and it became a best-seller with over 132,000 copies sold. The New York Times reviewer stated at the end of the review "there will be no romantic-adventure lover left unsatisfied." In January 1946 he "retired" to spend the rest of his life writing.
Raised as a Baptist, he was reported in the 1953 Current Biography to be an attendant of the Protestant Episcopal Church. He was described as a handsome, tall, broad-shouldered man with a pink and white complexion, clear blue eyes, and a slight Canadian accent. He was white-haired by the time he began to write novels. He loved animals and could not even kill a bug (but he also loved bridge, and he did not extend the same policy to his partners). He also loved movies and the theatre (he met his future wife when she was performing Ruth in the The Pirates of Penzance).
Costain's work is a mixture of commercial history (such as The White and The Gold, a history of New France to around 1720) and fiction that relies heavily on historic events (one review stated it was hard to tell where history leaves off and apocrypha begins). His most popular novel was The Black Rose (1945). It was a selection of the Literary Guild with a first printing of 650,000 copies and sold over two million copies in its first year.
His research led him to believe that Richard III was a great monarch tarred by conspiracies, after his death, with the murder of the princes in the tower. Costain supported his theories with documentation, suggesting that the real murderer was Henry VII.
Costain died in 1965 at his New York City home of a heart attack at the age of 80. He is buried in Brantford. A public elementary school in Brantford is named in his honour.
His daughter Molly Costain Haycraft became a writer of historical novels.
- For My Great Folly (1942)
- Joshua: Leader of a United People - A Realistic Biography (1943) - with Rogers MacVeagh
- Ride With Me (1944)
- The Black Rose (1945)
- The Moneyman (1947)
- High Towers (1949)
- Son of a Hundred Kings (1950)
- The Silver Chalice (1952)
- The Tontine (1955)
- Below the Salt (1957)
- The Darkness And The Dawn (1959) (on Attila the Hun)
- The Last Love (1963)
- The White and the Gold (1954)
- The Chord of Steel: The Story of the Invention of the Telephone (1960)
- William the Conqueror a Landmark book (1963)
- The Plantagenets series (also known as The Pageant of England)
- The Conquering Family (1949)
- The Magnificent Century (1951)
- The Three Edwards (1958)
- The Last Plantagenets (1962)
- Stories to Remember (1956) a selection of novels and short stories chosen by Costain and John Beecroft. First of 3 collections.
- More Stories to Remember (1958) with John Beecroft
- Thirty Stories (1961) with John Beecroft
Films from his works
- Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 9: American Novelists, 1910-1945.
- “Screen Notes” New York Times, October 16, 1934, page 31.
- “Southron, Jane Spence “The Pirate” July 26, 1942, page BR6.
- "Thos. Costain, Novelist and Editor, Dies" Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1965.