Saturday, 23 January 2021

Jaundiced eye by William Campbell Gault

I recently came across this article by pulpster William Campbell Gault, originally published in the Summer 1955 issue of the fanzine Grue. Fanzine scanned at the wonderful Fanac.org


JAUNDICED EYE
by Wm Gault


There is a derogatory phrase used by critics in the more enlightened critical journals. The phrase is "pulp writing" and they use it whenever they want to deprecate a man’s technique. What they mean is the kind of writing that used to prevail in the magazines (now mostly dead) that were termed ''pulp" because that was the kind of cheap paper on which the mags were printed. Actually, "action" writing would be more nearly accurate.

Well, the field produced mystery men like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and Frederick Haslitt Brennan and the prolific E. S. Gardner. Magazines like the old Argosy, Adventure, Blue Book, Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly would be included in the term.

And these magazines produced some fine stories by some exceptionally gifted men. Any critic who took the trouble to read them would be bound to find a few stories he liked. Unfortunately, very few critics can read and oven fewer can think. I imagine what they do is have someone run old tape recordings of Edmund Wilson’s opinions and from them they get certain critic’s phrases and certain blind prejudices. Mr. Wilson was beautifully acid but not always discerning and he had a great lust for the obscure.

Believe me, there is nothing personal in this diatribe; I have enjoyed about an 85 percent favorable critical reception on every book I ever turned out. If this is immodest, it is also statistical and I have clippings to prove it. Besides, I am a hack and know it. And am proud of it, in a way.

My beef is concerned with the readers who might be frightened away from the print market by these hair-splitters. I love the printed medium because no time clock is involved and I hate time clocks. I want to survive in this medium, and quite possibly prevail. And we have such awesome competition, TV and the silver screen and a thousand other entertaining distractions.

I want people to read and I would rather have them read Drano ads than read nothing. And the great scorn of the critics could conceivably put them out of business eventually, a very chilly commercial attitude. But they go blindly on, losing readers and alienating customers.

A man like Truman Capote is searched minutely for symbolisms that give his lavender words a deeper meaning. I respectfully insist that this kind of search would find even deeper meanings in Max Brand. Because even critics can see that Hemingway is great, it distresses them that he has hair on his chest. So he is also searched for symbolism, in order that the critics may safely acclaim him, Mr. Hemingway is about as symbolic as a poke in the nose, but lucidity is a crime to critics and they must have a different reason for liking him. They don’t want to be associated with the people, those horrid things who want to buy books.

Don’t listen to ’em. You go out and buy a book. If you don’t want to strain the budget, buy a two-bit book. You will find one to suit any taste, from Joyce to Spillane. But decide for yourself if you like to read. And if you do, buy some more books and get that library card. You can buy half a dozen for the price of one drink at Ciro's.

Who knows, you might even enjoy reading.

—William Gault

Some things never change. 

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Georges Surdez - Turnstile (from Everybody's Magazine, March 1929)

It's been a while since i posted some action/adventure fiction on this blog. This story originally appeared in the March 1929 issue of Everybody’s magazine. In the last couple of years it was published, Everybody’s became a pulp magazine.  This was a bit surprising as the publishers, The Ridgway Company, already had one pulp magazine in their stable – Adventure. Everybody’s was in the same genre (general action/adventure), used the same authors and illustrators and even the same editor, William Corcoran – the designated successor to Adventure’s Arthur S. Hoffman. So why not just put out more issues of Adventure every month?



Maybe they wanted to clear inventory. At the time, Adventure was being revamped into a more slick-ish magazine of the outdoors. The fiction had to be slanted differently, and finding their inventory of pulp stories surplus to their needs, they recycled it in Everybody’s.

 No matter why it happened, I am glad of that policy as it resulted in more quality action/adventure fiction to read. And here is a cracking example from Surdez, one of Adventure’s most prolific authors. He specialized in French Foreign Legion stories, a genre that has died out today. Most of these involved tough men in tough situations, facing moral choices that resonate even today.

 I won’t spoil the story by telling you more.



Saturday, 7 November 2020

Ernest Bramah's Max Carrados

Here we are the end of this series of posts about blind detectives. I’ve already written about Bramah, so this article focuses on Max Carrados. And there is no better way to appreciate Carrados than to sample his stories. I’ve read all three collections of the Carrados stories: Max Carrados, The Eyes of Max Carrados and Max Carrados Mysteries

From these, I've picked my favorites and added a quote so that you can get a flavor of Bramah’s writing. All these stories and a few others are collected in the Dover reprint, The best Max Carrados mystery stories, which includes a great introduction by E.F. Bleiler.


The best Max Carrados detective stories

Saturday, 31 October 2020

A Damon Gaunt mystery - Eyes that saw not

Continued from last week's post on Isabel Ostrander, the creator of the blind detective Damon Gaunt

Unlike Thornley Colton, who displayed his skills in a number of novella length tales before getting into a novel-length adventure, Damon Gaunt's first appearance is in a serialized novel. Because of the bigger  scope of the novel, he doesn't have to show off his skills till about thirty paragraphs in. His first deduction is that the person who has brought him the case of Garrett Appleton, murdered at his home, is a cocaine addict. He bases this on the constant sniffing and rubbing of his nose.


Saturday, 24 October 2020

Isabel Ostrander - Author

Isabel Ostrander was a prolific writer in the early twentieth century, contributing more than thirty serials using three pseudonyms, and perhaps more under other names, to the Munsey and Street and Smith pulps in little over a decade before her untimely death. Many of these serials were later reprinted as novels, some with changed titles.

Her inclusion in this series of articles is due to her creation of Damon Gaunt, the second blind detective to feature in American fiction. The first was Thornley Colton, created by Clinton H. Stagg. Damon Gaunt is however, closer to the British school of detective fiction epitomized by Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. How? We’ll see later.

Isabel Ostrander c. 1907
Isabel Ostrander c. 1907