Mar 242014

BNT Guide to Pulp FictionInterested in selling at PulpFest 2014? If your specialty is pulp magazines, vintage paperbacks, first edition hardcovers, original art, series books, dime novels, men’s adventure, true crime, digest, or slick magazines, Big Little Books, B-movies, serials and related collectibles, old-time-radio shows, or Golden and Silver Age comic books, then PulpFest is for you.

The people who attend PulpFest are primarily interested in pulp and genre fiction as well as pulp and paperback art. So it’s a great place to sell science-fiction books, mystery and detective fiction, adventure or western fiction, original artwork, and more. And it doesn’t have to be old! Publishers such as Adventures in BronzeAge of AcesBattered Silicon Dispatch Box, and Murania Press do well selling their pulp reprints and related materials as do resellers such as Mike Chomko, Books and Martin Grams. Likewise, new pulp publishers and authors such as Dick Enos, William Patrick Maynard, and Ron Fortier and Rob Davis of Airship 27 have found PulpFest to be a great event to market today’s pulp fiction.

PulpFest 2014 will have over 100 six-foot tables in its 15,800 square-foot dealers’ room. Wall tables will cost $80 and island tables will be $70. Dealers will also be required to purchase regular three-day memberships for themselves and for any helpers accompanying them to PulpFest. For those dealers who will be staying at the Hyatt Regency ColumbusPulpFest is pleased to offer a third table free for every two tables that they rent, a tremendous savings. That’s buy two and get one free to thank such dealers for helping to defray the convention’s substantial costs by staying at the host hotel.

Our dealers’ room will be open at 10 AM on Friday, August 8th, and remain open until 5 PM. We’ll also have hours on Saturday and Sunday, August 9th & 10th. Please visit our convention hours page for more details. And don’t forget about our early-bird hours on Thursday evening, August 7th, from 6 PM to 10 PM, when dedicated fans of  pulp and genre fiction will enjoy an extra four hours of shopping.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning now to attend as a PulpFest 2014 dealer and join hundreds of pulp fiction fans at the pop-culture center of the universe! You can register by clicking on the link below for a download of our 2014 dealer newsletter & registration form.

PulpFest 2014 Dealer Newsletter & Registration Form

If you’d prefer to register via email, please send all of the information requested on our dealer registration form to Jack Cullers at and complete our survey by clicking here.  Remember, we’ll be holding a random drawing for three free memberships to PulpFest 2014 for those who respond to our survey questions.

The front cover to Ed Hulse’s The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction was designed by Chris Kalb, a talented illustrator who also put together the PulpFest website way back when. This must-have, non-fiction guide to pulps and pulp fiction was published in 2013 by Murania Press.

Sep 212012
I've been compiling the new issue of Ruudinsavu (= Gunsmoke), the official magazine of the Finnish Western Society. I've been dreaming about the issue dedicated to the Zorro phenomenon, to the movies and comics and other stuff that's been made about him. It seems like it's now coming true, with me writing the article on Johnston McCulley who originally invented the character and wrote the first stories about him.

McCulley wrote four novel-lenght stories about Zorro, but weirdly enough only the first seems to have been published in book from. Can this be true? And the first one, originally "The Curse of Capistrano", later published as The Mark of Zorro, the title of the Douglas Fairbanks film of 1920, is now available only in the POD edition from Wildside Press. (It's okay, but it has an ugly cover, with McCulley's name written wrong ("McCully") and the book has some formatting and scanning errors.) How can this be? McCulley died in 1958, so his work is technically still under copyright - except seemingly for The Mark of Zorro, since I don't think Wildside Press is paying anyone anything for the rights of book. Is there a problem with McCulley's heirs? I notice Googling around that there's been talk about the collected Zorro short stories coming from Black Dog Books, but so far nothing.

Back to the actual book. "The Curse of Capistrano" was published in All-Story Weekly in 1919, making Zorro one of those long-living heroes originated in the pages of a pulp or other fiction magazine, just like Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes. The story was fast made into a movie and hence the book was getting to be known as The Mark of Zorro.

The book is entertaining, and though it's dated in many ways (Zorro never kills anyone, except one guy in a duel and that's perfectly alright for everyone concerned), it's still a quick read. McCulley uses a highly sophisticated style, one he probably thought suits the early 19th century Spaniards, and at times it's a bit too funny - unintentionally. The book's also staged like a play, with far too few scenes for action and too many of them take place indoors. There are some good battle scenes to make up for the staginess. The basic gimmick - that Zorro and Diego Vega are one and the same guy - is basic knowledge to everyone now, so the book loses one of its advantages at first sight.

I'd really like to read the other McCulley Zorros, but it seems it's almost impossible, unless I pay some real money for the old pulps they were published in. (Make sure to note these Zorro tie-ins from Sandra Curtis that to my knowledge have never been published in English.)

The weird things don't end here, by the way: McCulley's Zorro was never published in Finnish. We've had only the movies and the Disney TV show and Steve Frazee's novelization of it.

Other Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's blog here.
 Posted by at 9:01 pm
Sep 172012

This week, our friends at Marvel publish the Classified Edition of Incognito, collecting, with bonus material, the first two volumes of the acclaimed, hard-boiled series that Joe Hill describes as “what the albums of the Black Keys are to rock and roll and the pictures of Quentin Tarantino are to film.”

Hill’s essay on INCOGNITO follows. Go check out INCOGNITO now! We’ll have more from Brubaker and the INCOGNITO series as the week continues.

I hate it when comic creators get bitching and moaning about how their art form doesn’t get the respect it deserves, isn’t honored the way theater or painting or mainstream literature is honored, and all that blah-de-blah-de-fucking-blah.

Oh, go cry a river somewhere over your twenty-year-old copies of Maus and leave me alone.

Then there are these card-carrying boys of Fanboy Nation who want to establish a “read-comics-in-public” day, to make comics seem more socially normative.

Fuck that.

I don’t want comics to be respectable. I don’t want everyone proudly looking at them in public. I want reading comics to feel dirty and unhealthy and transgressive, to feel like sin, like a visit to the whorehouse, or a secret fight club, or maybe both at the same time.I don’t read comics, I do comics, like shots, four-color grain alcohol slurped out of the White Queen’s dainty navel; afterwards she can slap me around  a little and tell me how she’s going to punish my wrongdoer. I didn’t put my money down for a moving literary epiphany. I dropped my cash to see badass women cavort in fetish costumes while fighting evil, to watch brutal men strangle monsters with their bare hands, to see a city block leveled (if not a whole city), and to have a front-row seat as malformed monsters of evil are sliced in half by their own death ray machines.

Don’t get me wrong. I am often engaged, enthralled, and moved by the redemptive experience of high art, as it is found in films like “Rules of the Game,” a book like Malamud’s “A New Life,” or a comic like “Fun Home.” It’s just that I don’t seem to be compulsively drawn to that kind of thing. What really gets my pulse jacked are stories of grime and punishment, lawlessness and disorder, the bad and the ugly(hold the good).

Stories of this ilk grab me like a magnet grabs iron shavings. The creators of such work are blood-slicked  MMA fighters, in a world where to fight at all is increasingly seen as barbaric, and embarrassingly out of step with the times. If I was a more sensible man, governed by more sensible, forward-looking notions, I’m sure I would invest my time in better mannered, more tasteful art forms. But my deepest enthusiasm has always been reserved for the creators that speak to my nerve-endings.

I suppose it’s a failing; I have always had compassion for the wrong people.


Speaking of the wrong people, let’s talk about Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

INCOGNITO: BAD INFLUENCES is their latest crime of passion, but it is only one outrage in a five-year spree that dates back to their first creator-owned book together, CRIMINAL: COWARD. I recommend the entire CRIMINAL and INCOGNITO library without reservation. CRIMINAL and INCOGNITO are to comics what the albums of the Black Keys are to rock and roll and the pictures of Quentin Tarantino are to film. That is to say, they are willful efforts to explore a given medium at its most primal, most unthought state; to get down to the id of a particular kind of art. The id of film is, no doubt, the American grindhouse cinema of the 70s; the id of rock is Muddy roaring that he’s got his mojo working; the id of comics may be viewed in the blood-spattered crime and horror books of the early fifties, and here it is again, unadulterated and pure, in the work of Brubaker and Phillips.

I hasten to add that these are not coy, artificial, wink-wink attempts at homage. INCOGNITO is not the kind of work that operates from homage, a parasite living on nostalgia and borrowed time; it is the kind of elemental work people pay homage to twenty years on down the road.

BAD INFLUENCES is the second book in the story of Zach Overkill, a nearly indestructible man who spent years using his powers to get rich, get laid, and lay waste (Didn’t read the first book yet? Stop where you are. It’s not that you can’t read this book if you didn’t bother with book one. It’s that you shouldn’t. Go and get it, read it and come back).

Only one thing could endanger our (anti-)hero: growing a conscience. Zack is never going to be on the side of the angels, but in the course of his two-fisted travels, he catches a bad case of humanity, and is never quite able to shake it. While searching for Simon Slaughter, a former hero, who went deep undercover among the bad guys, and who has apparently gone native, Zack finds his own soul…and isn’t very happy about it. It was, frankly, a whole lot more fun whoring and kicking-ass, in the days before he learned how to think. In this way, Zack’s inner struggle is a perfect analogy for the comic business as a whole: is it better to work for a noble, elevating, occasionally boring goal…or to get away with murder?

Ed Brubaker’s answer to that important, even necessary question is right here in this book. I don’t want to give anything away, or to speak for him, but it’s probably worth noting: Ed didn’t name his protagonist Zack Overthink.

At a pivotal moment in the story, Zack catches himself feeling bad for all the outlaws he’s crossed and destroyed, and ruminates: Maybe my problem is I have compassion for the wrong people. Caring about, rooting for, and getting off on the dirty dirty lives of the bad guys…that’s just sick.

Oh, you too?

Joe Hill

New Hampshire, April, 2011

May 172012

(By Michael)

                                    “Rip me! Rip me!”
                                                – Cora, The Postman Always Rings Twice

Ophelia:            Rip me. [Hamlet rips her blouse.] Again . . . again. [He does, he does.]


Hamlet:             That was either my sixteenth-century fingers, or your sixteenth-century bodice.

Ophelia:            My bodice, baby! Rip me! Rip me!

Hamlet:             I already did. I already did.

Ophelia:            You’re so hot. Let’s kill my dad..

Hamlet:             Polonius?

Ophelia:            He’s a perv and talks like an Elizabethan.

Hamlet:             So do you.

Ophelia:            I know. Rip me. [Hamlet rips her bodice.] I saw him in my bedchamber fingering my knickers.

Hamlet:             Oh man, I’ll stab him in the arras.

Ophelia:            The ass?

Hamlet:           The arras – the curtain. I’ll stab him when he’s hiding behind the arras.

Ophelia:            You talking Elizabethan?

Hamlet:             Yeh.

Ophelia:            That’s why you’re italicizing?

Hamlet:             Uh huh.

Ophelia:            Grrr. Rip me.

Hamlet:             Wait – Here he cometh.

Ophelia:            Grrr.

Hamlet:             What the hell? That’s mom’s bedchamber. What kind of kinky-ass . . . Hey, yo! Polo! Wassup with the Peeping Tom? You peeping on the queen-my-mother, my-father’s-brother’s-lover?”
Polonius [Clutching his heart]:               Sire, I assure thee –

Hamlet [Drawing his sword]:                 I’ll assure you.

Polonius:           Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

Hamlet:             You talking like Ben Franklin, old man?

Polonius:           Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar.

Hamlet:             Wait a minute – That’s Elizabethan.

Ophelia:            Rip me?

Polonius:           Beware of entrance to a quarrel –

Hamlet:             Enough!

Polonius:            – but being in, bear it that the opposed may beware of thee.

Hamlet:              ENOUGH!

Polonius:           This above all –

Hamlet [Running his sword through Polonius]:    A rat!

Polonius [Dying]:          To thine own self be true.

Ophelia: [Regarding her fallen father]:    You killed him.

Hamlet:             Yeh.

Ophelia:            That’s hot.

Hamlet:             Yeh.

Ophelia:            Rip me.

Hamlet:             Later, babe. Right now, I got an uncle that needs killing.


Apr 142012
A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini


PAUL CAIN – Fast One. Doubleday Doran & Co., hardcover, 1933. First appeared in serialized form in non-consecutive issues of Black Mask magazine between March and September, 1932. Bond Mystery #10, digest paperback, 1945. Avon #178, pbbk, 1948; Avon #496, ppbk, 1952. Southern Illinois University Press, hardcover, 1978. Popular Library, paperback, “American Fiction” series, 1980. Black Lizard, paperback, 1987.

   The hardest of the hard-boiled writers for Black Mask in the early 1930s was unquestionably Paul Cain (Peter Ruric). His style, as pulp authority Ron Goulart has noted, at times “becomes as sparse and clipped as that of a McGuffey’s Reader.”

   In an afterword to the Southern Illinois reprint edition, critic Irvin Faust says that Cain “hasn’t the time or patience for excess baggage. He picks up his literary scalpel and scrapes away conjunctions as if they were bad merchandise… He digs into the page with a hard sentence: simple, declarative, exact.”


   Fast One is Cain’s only novel. (He was primarily a screenwriter and is responsible for such films as One for the Money, Grand Central Murders, and Mademoiselle Foi.)

   It was written on a bet and its various sections first appeared in Black Mask as five self-contained novelettes prior to book publication. It is unrelentingly grim and stark and brutal, to such an extent that it becomes uncomfortable to read; one begins to feel a kind of breathless despair well before the end.


   The “hero” is Gerry Kells, a mysterious loner, a criminal who insinuates himself into the Los Angeles underworld and wreaks havoc on its denizens and on others who happen to get in his way. The dust jacket blurb on a 1978 reissue by Southern Illinois University Press says about Kells:

    “Only the strong prosper in the world of the Depression. Seemingly amoral, Kells does prosper. He strikes to survive, kills without conscience, without time for conscience. But he never becomes a mere killing machine. His integrity, his humanity, abides in a code demanding that he pay for all services: those rendered for him, those rendered against him. He pays with a two-sided coin-loyalty, revenge. He spends money freely, and those who cross him die hard.”


   Cain knew his Los Angeles and he knew the ways of its Prohibition and post-Prohibition underworld. The portrait he paints of both, and of Gerry Kells, makes Fast One an important and compulsively readable novel, despite that feeling of breathless despair it engenders.

   The only other book by Cain is Seven Slayers (1946), a collection of seven of his other Black Mask stories, all of which are in the same tough vein and all of which are excellent samples of pulp writing at its best.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

 Posted by at 7:18 pm
Apr 112012
Reviewed by Walker Martin:

PAUL CAIN – The Complete Slayers. Edited and with a biographic essay by Max Allan Collins and Lynn F. Myers, Jr.   Centipede Press, hardcover, March 2012.

PAUL CAIN The Complete Slayers

   Recently I was very impressed by a collection of hardboiled literature and we discussed it here on Mystery*File. I’m talking about Frederick Nebel’s The Complete Casebook of Cardigan. Around the same time, a second collection was published, this time by Paul Cain (no relation to James Cain). The book is titled The Complete Slayers and has created a buzz on the internet and in some discussion groups.

   Paul Cain’s career was far shorter than Frederick Nebel and except for one short story in 1949, all his fiction appeared during the period between 1932 and 1936. At least three major newspapers have reviewed the book, one did not like it and the other two loved it.

   In The Wall Street Journal, Lee Sandlin bluntly states, “Cain wasn’t any good.” However in The Washington Post, Michael Dirda, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reviews, gives the collection a very favorable review and stresses Raymond Chandler’s quote about Paul Cain’s style being “some kind of high point in the ultra hard-boiled manner.”

PAUL CAIN The Complete Slayers

   He then finishes his long review by saying, “There’s absolutely nothing to criticize about the knockout stories inside the book…” The Los Angeles Review of Books also gives it a favorable long review and discusses “The grim hardness of a neglected noir master.”

   I’ve been a long time admirer of Paul Cain and first read his work in Black Mask back in the 1970′s when I was picking up back issues for only a few dollars each. Of the 20 stories in this collection, 17 of them first appeared in Black Mask. Five were combined and published as Cain’s only novel, Fast One.

   I reread the novel a couple times over the years and now with this collection, which reprints the novel in its original magazine form, I feel I can safely say that Fast One definitely deserves to be on any list of the 10 best hardboiled novels.

PAUL CAIN The Complete Slayers

   On a recent panel at PulpFest in Columbus Ohio, the topic was Black Mask and the consensus was that Paul Cain was one of the very best writers for the magazine, after of course, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Exactly how editor Joseph Shaw discovered Paul Cain is still a mystery but we can recreate some of the details of what must have happened.

   In 1930 Dashiell Hammett stopped writing for Black Mask. He had been writing for the magazine for several years and had just about created the hardboiled detective. I say just about because some scholars also credit Carroll John Daly. He left not because of any disagreement but simply because the movie industry in Hollywood paid far more money.

   Shaw even sent Hammett a check for $500 as an advance on another story, but this money was now just pocket change since Hollywood was paying more than this every week.

PAUL CAIN The Complete Slayers

   In an attempt to replace Hammett, Joseph Shaw got Frederick Nebel to start writing a series about another agency detective called Donahue. There were over a dozen of these novelets, which will soon see publication as Tough As Nails (Altus Press). Then in 1932 he discovered Paul Cain, and it’s obvious that Cain was encouraged to write in the Hammett, tough hardboiled style.

   The first story by Cain appeared in the March 1932 issue of Black Mask and was called “Fast One” The first novelet of a series that would eventually be published as the novel, Fast One.

   It stars Gerry Kells and relates the complicated plot of how Kells gets involved in gambling and corrupt politics. The story is very bleak, very violent, very fast.

   Kells gets his face carefully kicked, sapped on the head, shot in the leg, an ice pick in the back, and finally a car crash. If you are looking for a clean cut hero with a happy ending, then this is not the book for you.

PAUL CAIN The Complete Slayers

   His girlfriend Granquist has no first name and is a drunk. Again, not your typical pretty, young heroine of most novels. In fact I consider her to be one of the most believable gangster girlfriends that I have read about.

   Then in 1933, Shaw discovered Raymond Chandler as the hunt to replace Hammett continued. In 1936 Joseph Shaw left Black Mask over a salary dispute and he had such a big influence that several writers also quit the magazine.

   When he left, so did Paul Cain, Frederick Nebel, and Raymond Chandler. Lester Dent also stopped writing for the magazine. He only wrote two hardboiled stories but he might have written more with Shaw’s encouragement. The magazine became quite different after Shaw left, certainly less hardboiled.

   The Complete Slayers is published by Centipede Press in a special 500 copy edition, signed by the editors and the artist, Ron Lesser. The cover price is $75 but I see that still is discounting it at $47.

PAUL CAIN The Complete Slayers

   This book is definitely worth the price. There are 622 pages, a biographical essay about Cain’s life, a 13 page color section of book and magazine covers, and each story has an introduction. The dust jacket cover is a knockout showing a scantily dressed blond, casually pointing a gun at some guy lying on the floor.

   There is one incorrect statement in the biography that has to be pointed out. The editors state that after Shaw left Black Mask in 1936, Daisy Bacon took over as editor. Daisy worked for Street and Smith and was responsible for the astounding success of Love Story, which was the biggest seller of all the pulp magazines. I’ve heard circulation reports of 600,000 a week.

   She eventually became editor of Detective Story in the 1940′s but at no time did she ever edit Black Mask. The lady who took over after Shaw was Fanny Ellsworth(1936-1940). Then Ken White became editor in 1940 when Popular Publications bought the title.

   If you like hardboiled fiction or the tough Black Mask style, then this collection is a must buy. It gets my highest recommendation.

PAUL CAIN The Complete Slayers

 Posted by at 11:20 pm
Mar 282012
Reviewed by Walker Martin:

FREDERICK NEBEL – The Complete Casebook of Cardigan. Volume 1: 1931-1932. Altus Press, hardcover/paperback, February 2012.

   Matt Moring of Altus Press has just published a collection of stories by Fred Nebel that not only is an excellent collection of hardboiled fiction but also is quite historically significant. Fred Nebel (1903-1967) was one of the early Black Mask authors who started to write detective stories in the hardboiled style. He sold his first story to the magazine in 1926 and editor Joe Shaw encouraged him to join Dashiell Hammett and John Carroll Daly in the writing of hardboiled, tough, fast action stories.


   Nebel had a long running series starring Captain Steve MacBride and a reporter by the name of Kennedy. This was followed by a later series about a private eye named Donahue. When Harry Steeger started Popular Publications, one of his early titles was Dime Detective and he offered Nebel and some of the other Black Mask authors a higher rate if they would also write for him.

   The top writers for Black Mask were probably getting around 3 cents a word, so this meant an increase to 4 cents, which at the time was very good money. a 10,000 word novelette could bring in a $400 check. In the depression era this was like over $4,000 in today’s money.

   The first issue of Dime Detective appeared with the date of November 1931, and it contained the first Nebel story for the magazine. Nebel during the period 1931-1937 would go on to write 44 of these hard driving, tough tales, all starring Jack Cardigan of the Cosmos Detective Agency. At first he was in charge of the St. Louis branch but then moved on to the main headquarters located in New York city.

   I’ve been collecting Dime Detective since 1969 and have read almost all the Cardigan stories, so when I received this book, I thought I’d just read a couple stories to make sure I still felt the same way about the quality and then file the book away with my other hardboiled books written by Hammett, Chandler, James Cain, and Paul Cain.

   However, I was surprised as to how well the stories held up to a second reading and before I knew it, I had read all of them in a space of a few days.


   Altus Press plans to publish all 44 Cardigan stories and this first volume contains the first eleven, written in 1931-1932. There will be not only an additional three volumes, each around 400 pages, but also volumes reprinting Nebel’s series starring Kennedy and MacBride, and Donahue. The book has a nice introduction by Will Murray and each story has the original John Fleming Gould illustrations.

   Now, though I’ve mentioned Nebel with such names as Hammett and Chandler, I do not by any means place him on the same level. They are at the very top. I would place these stories on the the second level along with such writers as Paul Cain, Norbert Davis, Robert Reeves, Merle Constiner, etc, most of whom wrote for both Black Mask and Dime Detective.

   These writers I consider to be very good to excellent, while Hammett and Chandler are in the great class, often considered legitimate, no doubt about it, American Literature.

   So this collection and the future ones which will soon be published by Altus Press, gets my highest recommendation. If you try and collect the original pulps you will run into two problems. The first being that they are now very rare and hard to find, and the second being the prices are very high. Copies of Dime Detective in the 1930′s are now over the $100 per issue level and some are selling for $200 or $300 each. The Chandler issues are even higher.

   One interesting subject is discussed by Will Murray in the introduction and has also been covered before by Steve Mertz and others. This involves the reaction that Joe Shaw encountered when he was compiling the stories for The Hard-Boiled Omnibus, the first hardboiled anthology, published in 1946. He wrote Fred Nebel asking for permission to publish one of his Black Mask stories and Nebel turned him down saying that he considered his pulp work “dated” and not up to the quality of his best work.


   This is another example of how blind some authors can be concerning the quality of their own fiction. In the early 1930′s Nebel broke into the slick market and he actually considered this slick work to be far better than his pulp stories. He certainly got paid a lot more and this must of blinded him to the relative quality.

   The slicks had a very high percentage of women readers and the editors felt that stories should have a strong love or romance element. Nebel was willing to write this type of fiction for such high paying magazines as the Saturday Evening Post, Liberty, Collier’s, and Woman’s Home Companion.

   I collect the slicks also and have read some of Nebel’s slick work and it cannot even begin to compare to his best pulp work as written for Black Mask and Dime Detective. I can understand him writing the slick formula because the pay was so high compared to the pulp rates. He was receiving thousands of dollars for short slick work compared to hundreds for pulp novelettes.

   He also wrote three novels and thought these would be remembered but nothing ever came of his hardcover writing career. While his slick magazine work has been completely forgotten, his pulp stories have appeared in just about every hardboiled pulp anthology. Mysterious Press even published six of the Cardigan novelets in a paper edition over 20 years ago but it failed to sell.

   Copies of this collection are easy to obtain for around $30 for a high quality paper edition and for $10 extra you can get a hardcover. I recommend the hardcover because of the historical and literary significance of the book. You can order from the Altus Press website or from Mike Chomko Books. also carries the paper edition.

   I encourage all lovers of hardboiled and pulp fiction to support this publishing project.

   We do indeed live in The Golden Age of Pulp Reprints.


Contents:    (All stories reprinted from Dime Detective.)

“Death Alley” (November, 1931)
“Hell’s Pay Check” (December, 1931)
“Six Diamonds and a Dick” (January, 1932)
“And There Was Murder” (February, 1932)
“Phantom Fingers” (March, 1932)
“Murder on the Loose” (April, 1932)
“Rogues’ Ransom” (August, 1932)
“Lead Pearls” (September, 1932)
“The Dead Don’t Die” (October, 1932)
“The Candy Killer” (November, 1932)
“A Truck-Load of Diamonds” (December, 1932)

 Posted by at 9:00 pm
Mar 202012
Movie Commentary by Walker Martin:


   John Carter, the movie has not yet been reviewed on Mystery*File and this is a movie that demands to be mentioned here. I call it the Pulp Movie of the Century because it actually is. It has been 100 years since the novel appeared in the pulp, All-Story, as a six-part serial in 1912. The movie has been slammed by the critics and is not doing well at the box office, but it has been receiving very favorable comments on some discussion groups I belong to that are focused on pulpish subjects.

   Frankly, I don’t think some of the critics know what they are talking about. Despite some changes, this is a fairly faithful adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels about Mars. His first published work was Under the Moons of Mars in All-Story and was the big first success in his Mars series.


   Without this serial in 1912, All-Story and Science Fiction as we know it might have had a different history. Burroughs was the driving force behind the decision by the All-Story editors to encourage their writers to write what has been called the Scientific Romance.

   When Sam Moskowitz decided to do a collection of SF stories from the Munsey pulps, he called it Under the Moons of Mars. (This by way, is a far better title than John Carter.) In addition to the stories, Moskowitz also included an excellent long history of SF in the pulp magazines up to 1920.


   What do I mean about the critics not knowing what they are talking about? They are treating this film like the plot is a copy of some tired previous SF movie. Gentlemen, this is the serial, the book, the plot, that started the whole craze for SF adventure in the pulps. Sure, there was H.G. Wells before Burroughs, but Wells is on a higher literary level for sure. Though he appeared in the pulps, it was mainly through reprints.

   The critics do not realize the impact in 1912 that Under the Moons of Mars had on the typical reader of popular magazines. It was like a bolt out of the sky shocking the reader who was hungry for imaginative literature.

   Things would never be the same after this serial in 1912. All-Story went on to publish scores of SF adventures and in 1926 the first SF pulp appeared. For many years after, readers in the letter columns requested reprints from the great old Munsey pulps. Then in 1939, a magazine was created that did indeed reprint the Munsey science fiction stories from All-Story, Argosy, and Cavalier. It was called Famous Fantastic Mysteries and is today considered one of the best looking and prettiest pulps ever published.


   So, to the jaded critics of today, sure John Carter has some faults, but in 1912 this story was a stunning achievement. Even decades later, readers would be amazed by the Mars books.

   I know I was at the age of nine years old. In the early 1950′s, I remember my father giving me a stack of the Mars and Tarzan novels and saying how great they were. A year later, I had read and reread them all, and used to think of which books I would try to save if the house ever caught on fire. My answer was always the same: the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

   Now, I’m not saying this movie is great, after all it has been 60 years since Burroughs grabbed hold of me. But it is good and not as bad as the critics are saying.


   As I was coming out of the theater, there were two young boys ahead of me, both of them jumping up and down with excitement. To me they looked to be around nine or ten years old, the same young age that I once was back when I first discovered John Carter and his adventures. One said to the other “Wasn’t John Carter great!,” and his friend replied that the movie was cool. They then started talking about seeing it again.

   There may have been only 15 or 20 people in the theater when I went for the noon showing but seeing these two kids made me realize once again Burroughs still had that power to excite, just like he must have excited readers in 1912. I have a feeling that John Carter may be a failure on this initial release, but like Blade Runner, it will be considered a success many years later.

 Posted by at 1:09 am
Mar 152012
My Favorite Magazines
by Walker Martin

   I collect and read quite a few other types of magazines besides the pulps. A couple of members of FictionMags, an online Yahoo discussion group, asked me about my favorite magazines, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss the subject.

       Slicks —


   This is easy for me to answer. My favorite slick magazine without a doubt is The Saturday Evening Post. They used the best authors and the best artists. It was weekly and some issues in the 1920′s were 200 pages.

   Usually collectors of the Post concentrate on certain authors or artists. Since thousands of issues were published you do not find many people trying to collect the entire run. However, I was one of the completists and at one point I had over 3,000 issues during the 1900-1970 period.

   The last time I moved not only could I not pick up the yearly boxes of the magazine (each box had 52 issues), but the movers had trouble also because of the weight. Eventually I sold much of the collection but I still have a complete run of 1940-1970.

   Another slick I liked a lot was American Magazine, mainly because of the mystery short novels they published. Jon Breen edited a collection of these novellas called American Murders.

       Digests —

   This is a far more difficult category for me to choose a favorite but I’ll go with Galaxy for the SF genre and Manhunt for the crime genre.


   Galaxy was the first magazine I bought off the newsstand in 1956 and it led to my present collection of many different titles. But my reason for picking Galaxy is not just nostalgic. I really feel that it was the best of the SF digests especially under the editorship of H.L. Gold and Fred Pohl.

   Pohl was smart enough to offer Robert Silverberg a deal to buy all of his stories submitted to Galaxy in the 1965-1972 period or thereabouts. Some of the best SF ever written appeared during this period and I’ve read many of Silverberg’s stories and serials more than once.

   Has there ever been a greater or higher quality number of novels in any SF magazine? I mean, think of it: The World Inside, Tower of Glass, Downward to Earth, Dying Inside, all in about two years.

   Alfred Bester wrote two great novels but they were in 1952 and 1956. J.G. Ballard wrote some great novels but they all did not appear in the SF magazines. Maybe Philip K. Dick comes closest but again, he did not write all of them for the SF magazines. Sturgeon had some great work in Galaxy but it was all novelette length.

   Can anyone show me a comparable run of novels in the SF magazines?

   Manhunt lasted 114 issues during 1953-1967 and during the fifties started the hardboiled crime digest craze. At one time there seemed to be dozens of Manhunt imitators but none of them could match the quality of the magazine that started it all.

   Unfortunately by the sixties it was all downhill and the hardboiled crime era was just about over. Two crime digest still exist, though they are not really hardboiled like Manhunt: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

   Circulations are dropping fast and in these days of the e-book revolution, we will probably see the end of the digest magazines.

       Literary Magazines —


   By literary I mean such magazines as the Hudson Review, T. S. Eliot’s Criterion, Scrutiny, Kenyon Review, and so on.

   I have just about all the back issues of many of the quarterlies and I love the Hudson Review, but my favorite is Horizon, not the hardbound art magazine but the monthly British magazine edited by Cyril Connolly during 1940-1949. It lasted 120 issues and I like it so much that I have two sets, one of loose issues and one bound set.

   There are other magazines that I have in two sets, loose and bound and you know you have to love a magazine to have it in bound and loose sets! Let’s face it, collecting books and magazines can be an addiction like alcohol, smoking, gambling, and drugs. But at least we get something to read and sometimes the books are even worth money. Not to mention that collecting old magazines won’t harm your health.

       Men’s Adventure Magazines

   This is a sore point with me and maybe some of you can help me out. I have hundreds of issues from the 1950′s and 1960′s, most showing sensationalistic covers like Nazis partying with half nude girls, while GI’s wait to gun them down. I have yet to find a title that ran decent fiction other than maybe Cavalier in the fifties.


   I’m not talking about Playboy which actually ran high quality fiction, but the titles like Men’s Adventure, True Men and so on. The only redeeming value to these magazines are the crazy covers but I’m hoping someone here can convince me otherwise.

   Phil Stephensen-Payne has a great link to many titles of men’s adventure magazines published in the 1950′s and 1960′s

   Please someone show me something else about these magazine that is readable! I’ve just about given up. The covers are stunning and very eye catching but that’s all I see about these magazines. I guess the WW II vets loved these things but I can’t see anything other than the covers worth collecting.

   Check out the link to It’s a real laugh.

   At one time I had a great cover painting from one of the men’s adventure magazines. It show Nazis turning girls into gold ingots. No wonder they lost the war.


   I haven’t even touched the pulps which are such a big subject they deserve their own section separated by genre:

       General Fiction Pulps —


   These pulps are often called adventure pulps by collectors but I prefer the label General Fiction. The best ones lasted for very long periods and were very popular with male readers. All Story, Argosy, Short Stories, Blue Book, Adventure, and Popular Magazine were the main titles and I’ve collected them all:

   Adventure Magazine is my favorite and the pulp years lasted from 1910-1953, for 753 issues. The best period was during the 1920′s when editor Arthur Sullivant Hoffman managed to obtain the very best action and adventure fiction. Richard Bleiler wrote the standard history of the magazine in his Adventure Index. Also Blood n Thunder Magazine devoted a special issue to Adventure a couple issues ago. I had an article picking my favorite stories.

   All Story lasted for over 400 issues, 1905-1920, when it was absorbed by Argosy. Famous for providing Edgar Rice Burroughs with a market for his Tarzan and Mars novels. Sam Moskowitz wrote an interesting history of the magazine in Under the Moons of Mars.

   Argosy became the first pulp in 1896 and lasted into the 1940′s when it became a man’s adventure magazine.


   Short Stories began in 1890 and lasted into the 1960′s. For much of that period it came out every two weeks like clockwork and printed the best action adventure. Blood n Thunder had a long two part article covering the 1920′s and 1930′s.

   Blue Book was known for quality fiction and Mike Ashley wrote a long history of the magazine which appears in Pulp Vault 14. This is the best single issue of a pulp fanzine and can be ordered on Amazon.

   Popular Magazine lasted over 600 issues, 1903-1931 and was called the training ground for the Saturday Evening Post. Another high quality pulp that had a two part article in Blood n Thunder.

       Detective and Mystery Pulps —

   This is easy because of what collectors call “The Big Three”: Black Mask, Dime Detective, and Detective Fiction Weekly. Hammett started in Black Mask and Chandler wrote for all three.

       Western Pulps —

   Western Story lasted over 1200 issues and is my favorite. But West during the Doubleday years of 1926-1935 was also quite good. So was Star Western and Dime Western, both published by Popular Publications.

       Hero Pulps —


   Most were aimed at the teenage boy market but at least two stand out: The Spider because of the crazy, fast moving plots and weird menace elements and Secret Agent X because it was not as childish as the others.

   I have to admit that I have a problem with many of the hero pulps because of the silly and sometimes stupid sidekicks. I know they were in there because someone figured the teenage boys would like them. Sort of like the childish sidekick humor in the B-westerns of the 1940′s.

   Some of the pulp sidekicks make the western sidekicks look brilliant. In Doc Savage we have Monk and Ham, for instance and their dialog and attempts at humor are enough to make me stop reading. Same thing with G-8 and His Battle Aces. Nippy and Bull have made me consider ripping up a $100 G-8 pulp.

       SF and Supernatural Pulps —


   Astounding definitely was the best SF pulp. Weird Tales and Unknown Worlds, the best supernatural. Strange Tales, if it had lasted longer than seven issues, it would have been as good or better than the other two.

   Famous Fantastic Mysteries and the companion magazine, Fantastic Novels, are beautiful pulps. It is still possible to get a set without breaking the bank, and these magazines are another example of sets that I have in two formats: bound and unbound. I admit it’s crazy to have two sets, but who said love is logical?

       Sport Pulps —

   Street and Smith’s Sport Story was by far the best sport pulp.

       Love Pulps —

   These were the best sellers of the pulps because teenage girls and young women bought them. Love Story was the best with a circulation that reached 500,000 a week. Edited by the great Daisy Bacon.

   I’d appreciate any feedback on the above that you would care to provide. Do you disagree or have other favorites?


   Todd Mason mentioned that the Daisy Bacon years where she edited Detective Story are underrated. This is certainly true especially the digest period in the 1940′s.


   In 1943 Street & Smith changed the format of their entire pulp line of magazines from the standard pulp size of 7×10 inches to the smaller digest size. The paper shortages during WW II probably drove this decision. Then the publishers saw that the future looked bleak for pulps and killed every digest title except for Astounding.

   But to get back to Daisy Bacon, she was the guiding force behind Love Story for two decades and then she took over Detective Story and actually introduced a more hardboiled story to the sedate magazine.

   Detective Story had started in 1915 and for most of the next 25 years steered clear of the hardboiled type of story. But Daisy managed to get some of the Black Mask writers to write for her, for instance Roger Torrey and William Campbell Gault. Fred Brown also. I cover the history and many of the authors of Detective Story in an article which can be seen here on the Mystery*File blog.

   When I say Love Story was the best of the love pulps, I’m speaking compared to each other. Since I try to collect every fiction magazine under the sun, I made an attempt, more than once, to read Love Story and some of the competition.


   I would not advise anyone to try this experiment. Despite being the best sellers among all the pulps, the love genre was very restrictive to say the least. The young ladies and teenage girls of the 20′s, 30′s, and 40′s, only wanted to read the same formula over and over, and the love pulps gave it to them, over and over.

   I’m speaking of the girl meets boy, they have some problems, and everything is resolved at the end. Ranch Romances was different from the others, but I see it as mainly a western title with some romance elements.

   The love genre may have been the big sellers among pulps (and even slicks since the readership was mostly women), but nowadays collectors mainly ignore them and copies can be had very cheaply. I can count very few people who collect them.

   When I bid on some copies at a recent pulp convention, several of my collector friends burst out laughing or were just stunned speechless. I could only explain my seemingly insane actions as an attempt to collect something new, since I’ve collected everything else.

Previously in this series:   The FRANK M. ROBINSON Collection Auction.

 Posted by at 11:20 pm
Mar 022012
The FRANK M. ROBINSON Collection Auction
by Walker Martin

   Recently I was disturbed to notice that a pulp discussion group that I contribute to seemed to be ignoring or unaware of the fact that a major pulp collecting event had just occurred. In fact, I call it The Pulp Auction of the Century.

   I am of course referring to the auction of the collection of Frank M. Robinson, science fiction author, Hollywood screen writer, movie actor (he appears in Milk), and world class collector of high condition pulp magazines. I stress the “high condition” part of the last statement. Frank has been written up many times because of his famous “wall of pulps,” all in fine or very fine condition.

   First, what qualifies me to be making such a claim that this was The Pulp Auction of the Century? I’ve been a collector of magazines since February 1956, when as a child, I bought my first issue of Galaxy, a science fiction digest magazine.

   I still have that very same issue that seemed to be on every newsstand and in every drugstore in the Trenton, NJ area. Not only does Galaxy no longer exist but most newsstands and drugstores no longer carry SF or crime fiction magazines. There are only five digest fiction magazines left and they all have decreasing circulations in this era of the electronic gadget and the e-book. We might soon live to see the end of an era, the death of the digest fiction magazines.

   As the years progressed, I started to collect not only back issues of the SF and crime digests, but I also started to collect the pulp magazines, which ruled the newsstands during the 1900-1955 period.

   First I collected complete runs of the SF and fantasy pulps and then I went on to collect all the major detective and adventure titles. Some of my articles concerning these activities have appeared on Mystery*File under the headings of “Memoirs of a Pulp Collector” and “Adventures in Collecting.” I am frankly a lover of old magazines and my collection includes not only pulp and digest, but also slick, men’s adventure, literary magazines and film journals.

   So though I live in a house full of thousands of magazines and books, I never really became a “condition collector” like Frank Robinson. I wanted to compile complete runs of magazines and read them but this would be very difficult if I limited myself to only fine condition copies, not to mention the fact that readers are often very reluctant to read high quality magazines for fear of downgrading the nice condition.

   This is not to say that I never obtained magazines in beautiful shape; I just did not limit myself to collecting them.

   During this 55 year period of collecting I was witness to many pulp sales and auctions. I attended just about every Pulpcon since the first one in 1972. I bought pulps by the thousands and consider myself a serious collector.

   So when the rumors started to circulate that Frank Robinson was going to sell his collection of 10,000 magazines, most of which were in beautiful condition, this was major news. No one had a collection of such fine condition magazines that could compare to the Robinson collection. Recently John Gunnison, who runs Adventure House, published a full color, 500 page book showing the complete collection in all its glory.

   I first became aware of Frank Robinson when I was a kid and read one of his early stories in a 1951 back issue of Galaxy. Several years later I read his novel, The Power and then saw the movie that supplied him with the funds to amass such an astounding collection, The Towering Inferno.

   In the 1980′s Frank and I started trading pulps back and forth and I noticed he was extremely fussy about condition. Later in the 1980′s, he started to attend Pulpcon on a regular basis and I got to actually meet and talk to Frank. He would actually sit at his table in the dealer’s room with two stacks of pulps, carefully comparing copies and choosing the better condition.

   Condition was everything and like most such collectors, I don’t believe Frank actually read the magazines. At one time in his younger days he did read them, but now they were like beautiful works of art, to be admired and looked at. I know many collectors who love the covers and the condition but they don’t read the magazines.

   Frank has a long article in the 500 page book titled “On Collecting”, where he explains his love of SF and how he got started collecting.

   You might wonder why he decided to sell his collection. He says, “The collecting bug waned…” but I’ve seen many collectors who when they reach a certain age decide to find a younger home for their collection. Also, I think he reached the point that all collectors fear, the time when they realize that they have achieved all their major wants and goals.

   So on February 25, 2012, at 7:00 pm began the first of 12 scheduled auctions which Adventure House will run the next few months. This first one I considered the most important because it would put complete sets of pulps and digest up for bids. Some major pulp titles were sold and I’ll list some of the results, though these figures may not be final since the dust has not settled yet.

   I watched the entire auction online, minute by minute, and lot by lot. I also bid on some items but most of the sets I either have or at one time had and then disposed of after reading all that I wanted:

       Doc Savage (complete set) — $50,000

       Astounding SF (these are the pulps, bedsheets, and digests) — $30,000

       Startling Stories (complete set in fine condition) — almost $5,000

       Adventure Magazine (complete set of over 700 issues)— $40,000

       Blue Book (not complete but an extensive run) — $48,000

       Weird Tales (the crown jewel of Frank’s collection and the best condition set in existence) — $250,000

       Planet Stories (all 71 issues in very fine condition, also probably the best set in the world) — $14,000

   Also up for bids were such sets as Wu Fang, Thrilling Wonder, Golden Fleece, Magic Carpet, Oriental Stories, etc. In addition to the above prices there was also a 10% buyer’s premium.

   According to John Gunnison who ran the auction, sales almost hit the $500,000 mark and he considers this to be the most successful sale he has ever been involved in.

   Now looking at the above prices you might consider them high. But you have to remember, these are not your usual good condition pulps with the usual browned paper, spine and cover flaws. These mainly are fine to very fine condition and thus bring much higher prices than the standard condition magazine.

   Think of it this way, most of us have bought cars, sometimes paying over $25,000 and ten years later we have nothing to show for our hard earned money. To a collector, it is just as important to have a nice collection, so the prices may not be as out of line as you think.

   In addition, where else are you going to find such important and significant titles as Adventure and Blue Book? During the period of around 1910-1950 these magazine carried the best adventure fiction written by the best authors.

   And of course Weird Tales is in a class by itself. Can anyone really argue that it was not the best fantasy and supernatural magazine ever published? Well maybe Unknown Worlds, but it only lasted 39 issues.

   So I would like to thank Frank Robinson and John Gunnison for providing a great and noteworthy pulp auction. After all these years, I thought I’d seen it all but this auction proved once again to me that collecting books and pulps is the grandest game in the world.

Previously in this series:   Is Completism Fatal?.

 Posted by at 4:03 pm

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