Bertrand Leslie "Bert" Shurtleff was born on August 3, 1897 in Little Compton, Rhode Island. He attended East Greenwich Academy were he starred on the football field. After enlisting in the U.S. Naval Reserve Force he was sent to Brown University to study for a commission. When the war ended he stayed at Brown where he participated in wrestling and football. Shurtleff wrestled four years at Brown and won the New England Intercollegiate lightweight wrestling title in 1919-20. On the gridiron he dominated as one of Brown’s finest football offensive linemen playing two years at tackle before shifting to center his senior season. Shurtleff was quick at diagnosing plays and was an aggressive but clean tackler. He never wore a helmet and would often roll up his sleeves almost to the shoulders when the going got especially tough. He was inducted into the Brown University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1971.
He became a professional football player for seven seasons seeing action with the New York Giants (1922), Providence Steam Roller (1923-26), independent Springfield Silvertowns (1926) and the Boston Bulldogs (1929). He was one of the very few Rhode Islanders to play for the Roller prior to and during the team entering the National Football League in 1925. The Providence Journal wrote in 1925; "As he crouched in the line, beside his helmeted comrades, his shock of black hair was very noticeable. Usually, he was the among the last to emerge from a pile-up, and, while others readjusted misplaced headgear, or asked for time to recover from their injuries, Shurtleff shook his head, perhaps wiped a bloody nose, and crouched low in the line again, ready for the next play. With the Steam Roller eleven, which he joined after graduation from Brown, his conduct has been the same". Later he was a professional wrestler under the name "Mad Murdock" on the wrestling circuit and ran a wrestling carnival meeting all comers. He became a teacher at Durfee High School and coached the football team. In addition to teaching and coaching, Shurtleff lectured widely at high schools, civic clubs and other groups on the fakery in professional wrestling.
What stood out from this rugged physical man was his passion for literature. He was an accomplished wordsmith. Shurtleff wrote a little book of original verse while still a student at Brown. Songs at Anchor was published and sold 2,000 copies in 1922-23. His first novel in 1938, Carey's Carnival, was about Rhode Islanders in the American Revolution. He also wrote The AWOL Series of books about a German military dog during World War II. Between 1938 and 1963 Shurtleff had 14 books published and placed stories in about 30 magazines including Argosy, Amazing Stories, Astounding Science Fiction. He also attempted to break into the movies. He made several trips to Hollywood getting only bit parts and writing scenarios. In 1925 legendary sports writer Grantland Rice shared a poem in newspapers nationwide by Shurtleff on his endorsement of football great Red Grange.