Wednesday 27 February 2013

Free pulp stories at Munsey's - selected authors

I haven't been posting short fiction lately, so I thought you might enjoy this roundup of pulp fiction available from the Munsey's site by authors who have been featured on this site (or should have been).

Flying U Ranch (Flying U)
The Phantom Herd (Flying U)
The Barrigudo (Pedro & Lourenco)
The Bouto (Pedro & Lourenco)
The Trumpeter (Pedro & Lourenco)
The Vulture (Pedro & Lourenco)
L. Patrick Greene
Black John Invokes The Gods (Halfaday Creek)
Black John Thinks Fast (Halfaday Creek)
Dry Rot (Halfaday Creek)
Finger Prints (Halfaday Creek)
A Man Hires a Guide (Halfaday Creek)
The Man With The Glass Eye (Halfaday Creek)
H. Bedford-Jones
Rose Face (Abdul Dost)
Talbot Mundy
Affair in Araby (Jimgrim)
Guns of the Gods ((Jimgrim)
E. Hoffman Price
Albert Richard Wetjen
Gordon Young



Tuesday 26 February 2013

Biography of Warren Hastings Miller - author, outdoorsman, sailor, editor

The article can be found here.

James Reasoner has a review of the Black Dog collection of Miller's Captain Jim Colvin stories here.

Friday 22 February 2013

Interview with Johnston McCulley (creator of Zorro)

Johnston McCulley, Alias
Seth Bailey
[Originally appeared in the Oakland Tribune, May 20, 1923]
If you have ever read stories written by Harrington Strong, John Mack Stone, Walter Pierson or Camden Stuart, you have read works by the author about whom this article is written – Johnston McCulley.
But few authors boast as many as four nom de plumes, and few with as many as Johnston McCulley. Some of his best known stories and books are “Broadway Babs”, “The Mark of Zorro”, “The Masked Woman” and “The Black Star”. His most interesting creations were “Thubway Tham” and “Zorro”, who have left more laughs and tears in their wake than any other creation by this star of fiction.
“Thubway Tham” was created quite by accident. McCulley was in New York and not getting on any too well when he received a hurry-up call from one of the magazine editors he knew, asking for a story to fill a certain portion of a magazine (few words illegible here) in a few days. McCulley sat down at his typewriter and whistled. He had everything with which to produce what the magazine editor wanted except the story itself. He had imagination, courage and the willingness to work. So at random he banged at the typewriter keys, grinding out something that had come into his mind only that morning. It was but an incident that had occurred on the subway – a mere nothing at all to anyone else. But it had left a suggestion in McCulley’s mind, and his imagination had pounced on it and seized it by the throat. It had been so recent that his mind had not ample time to treat it justly. The seed had been sown but the proper time had not elapsed to allow it to spring into life.
As the typewriter keys recorded the grain of thoughts, pinning them together in a ripping story, there came into the scene from out of nowhere the character of Thubway Tham. There was a strong appeal for more of him, and the next week saw Johnston McCulley wrestling with his latest character. He has since written more than one hundred tales, using the same character, all of which have appeared in magazines.
McCulley created the character of Zorro in “The Curse of Capistrano”. He studied the old Californian mission empire for years, and has written several stories dealing with mission times. Zorro was intended to reflect the spirit of the caballero of the times, and to everyone’s satisfaction he did. Douglas Fairbanks made his greatest screen success with Zorro.
One of the interesting things about Johnston McCulley is his source of plots. Most writers have a particular source for their plots, usually from association with the things about which they like best to write. But not so with McCulley. Everything and everywhere is his source. He looks for plots while fishing or motoring, or while digging in the garden. There is nothing prosaic or commonplace in all the world (few words illegible here). There’s a plot in the peculiar facial expression of the man he meets on the street, or (few words illegible here) song. Love, hate, greed, revenge, self-sacrifice have a million angles each. “Combine two or three, mix with a few characters, and you have a plot,” he says.
McCulley is very successfully married, so successfully married that he calls himself the one-half-of-one-percenter. His other ninety-nine and one-half per cent is also constantly on the alert for suggestions (one-half-of-one-percenter will help the one-half-of-one-percenter in his daily task of writing successfully. His only children are brain children, but they cause him as much combined worry and joy as real ones, he asserts.
Calling at his home, 1939 ½ Argyle Avenue, one might find McCulley pounding away at the typewriter, or on the same day a week later he might be working in his garden back of the house, out fishing or motoring. He has not set a schedule for work. In writing long stories, he usually begins work soon after breakfast and works until late at night, with time off for meals. He will often, after finishing one story, putter around in the garden, or do some repair work on his car until 10 o’clock in the morning, or three or four in the afternoon, then sit down and write a new tale, writing until he is tired. Some days he works all day, other days but half a day, and some days not at all. He is subject to loafing spells of several days at a stretch, and sometimes weeks. He dignifies these spells with the title of “slump”. Whenever he gets into a “slump”, he usually goes fishing till he finds the “slump” wearing off.
Most of his plots are thought out at bedtime, generally just after retiring. He carries the plot over until morning and if it then appears to be as good as he believed it to be the night before, he gets up (few words illegible here).
“What kind of a story is easiest for you to write?” I asked him.
“That in which I am interested myself,” he replied, “rather than the one written to fill some editorial request. Swift-moving romance is the easiest, particularly of olden times. Detective and mystery tales are the hardest, though I have written hundreds of them. They are more like work than anything else.”
(few words illegible here) time, as possible, when he is not subject to a “slump”, at work in his studio, but he does not forget that he owes some of his time to his wife and home. He aims to spend as much time with the other half of the family as he does in his studio.
Fishing is his middle name, be it trout or sea fishing. He has plotted many a tale whipping a stream. Of this recreation, he says:
“If mentally tired, I can get more rest and real pleasure out of fishing than anything else I might do. I don’t care much for hunting. I don’t get half the kick from firing a gun at a running deer as I get when a trout strikes my fly. Man! That’s sport. It takes greater skill to fish than to hunt. Here is a statement that I suppose would cause an argument most anywhere, but that’s my way of looking at it.”
He is what you might call an auto fiend. Nothing suits him better, and nothing will lure him away from his work quicker, than a long auto trip across the country. When he breaks camp in the morning, he looks at his speedometer, and when he reaches camp at night, his first act is to record the day’s mileage. He prides himself in covering a greater distance quicker than someone else can cover it.
If you were to ask him why he doesn’t play golf he would give you several legitimate reasons.
“I’m not old enough for golf yet. When I’m eighty perhaps I’ll fall for it.”
McCulley spent much of his early life in newspaper work – fourteen years, to be exact, in Chicago, Peoria, Columbus, Kansas City, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles and Denver. He travelled the road that many others have travelled, restless, looking for some new environment; then he began to write successfully.
“Do you attribute your success to newspaper training?” I asked him.
“Absolutely,” he replied promptly, as though he had reached the conclusion some time ago. “The newspaper man, if he be a live one, meets all sorts and conditions of persons and learns to analyze men and motives. Thus he learns to create characters and (one word illegible here). He mixes with the saintly and sinful, priest and (one word illegible here), sees virtue and vice in equal portion. In after years as he writes fiction, he is pretty liable to know what he’s talking about. He will make a cop talk a police argot and he won’t have a society leader drinking tea out of a saucer. If more motion picture people had been newspaper men we wouldn’t see so many laughable breaks in the films.”
McCulley was born in Ottawa, Illinois, February 2, 1883, according to his pedigree in “Who’s Who”. He sold his first story while a cub reporter. It was a Goldfield yarn, written during the rush there. He sent it to Karl Edward Harriman of the Red Book, who immediately bought it. It was not the first one he had written. The first one eventually went into a sewer after it had been returned four times. The Goldfield story was his second. Possessed with new vigor, he wrote six more, and fizzled on all of them. Then he settled down to business. He watched carefully and learned his own faults. He never met an editor personally until he had sold two million words of fiction. This should smash the popular idea that a new writer must have a pull to get into print.
He reads about a dozen books a month by other authors and glances through all the magazines to watch the work of others and to keep tab on the ever changing market, noting changes in policy as indicated to him, changes in the style of stories that are popular, changes regarding length, and so on.
McCulley’s advice to aspiring authors is briefly as follows:
“Have a story to write, and be sure you have a story before you commence to write one. That is where the average beginner falls down. (Couple of sentences illegible here). The beginner often is inclined to start too slow and never wants to quit when the story is done. You can have a snappy ending and be true to life at the same time.”
“Why seek to depress folks who have enough depression in the ordinary routine of their lives? Express contentment and happiness and the might of right without going to extremes and writing stuff of the silly happy life.”
“Give the public action. That’s what it wants – lots of it. Give them romance, the downfall of ulterior motives and the triumph of right. This can just as easily be done in a murder mystery tale the same as in a story of Biblical times, and in an entertaining manner instead of like a sermon.”
“The novice can gain much by reading much. He must get some idea of how others do it – don’t copy them, but get into the swing of telling stories the way the public. This swing can best be understood from reading popular stories or books, that have met with instant favor by the public. The (few words illegible here) is the big feature, but the way it is told is ninety percent of the success of the writer.”
“The beginner is going to have many of his manuscripts returned, but that is no reason why he should quit. When a manuscript comes back, it is a sure shot that something is wrong with it. There is some fault in it that caused it to be rejected. He may have written his story properly, or told it properly (few words illegible here) the wrong magazine. But a story properly written and told properly usually draws more consideration than a printed rejection slip. So it pays to dig into it and discover for one’s self wherein the trouble lies. After this discovery is made, it is quite an easy matter to correct one’s faults.”
McCulley was asked who, in his opinion, were the three leading authors of America, to which he replied:
“Booth Tarkington, who mingles realism and romance as none other; Joseph Hergesheimer, the best living imitator of dead and gone Europeans, Joseph C. Lincoln, who digs down to bedrock and comes up with the genuine roots of humor.”
Every author whom I’ve asked that question, to date, has added just one other to the list, and McCulley did not fail in keeping up to standard.
“Those, of course, in addition to myself,” he ended.

Sunday 17 February 2013

Pulp in the mainstream - two sports pulp articles

Pulp in the mainstream - article on Margaret Brundage in The Atlantic magazine

I just came across an article in the Feb 1, 2013 issue of The Atlantic magazine on Margaret Brundage, with cover illustrations from Weird Tales. Thought you might like it as well.

Johnston McCulley - special exhibit being planned at his birthplace, Chillicothe, Ohio

Johnston McCulley (Creator of Zorro) article about writing

[Originally appeared in The Editor, v. 52, Jan-Jun 1920]

Twelve years ago we sold our first story; three years ago we felt that we had “arrived”; at present we cannot begin to supply direct requests from magazine editors for fiction along certain lines. Perhaps that is success in a measure. How was it attained? Not easily, you may be sure—but neither was the attainment particularly difficult.

There never was a time when there was such a demand for fiction and creative work of all kinds as now. There never was a time when the new and unknown writer had such chances of getting a hearing. He, or she, does not have to be a genius. A capacity for hard and earnest work, a spirit of optimism, and a reasonable amount of ability is all that is required. And the rewards are far greater than they ever were in the history of the world.

I always wanted to be a writer. I went into newspaper work and took the steps from office boy to managing editor. When I could I wrote stories. The first dozen or so made the rounds of the magazine offices until the manuscripts were worn out. I put them aside and stopped for a time. Six months later I read them over, and it came to me like a flash that they were all wrong—not in conception, but in mechanics. I sat down and wrote a fresh story, sent it to Karl Edwin Harriman, of the Red Book (this was in 1907), and Mr. Harriman purchased it, asked for more, and gave me encouragement. A year later I was writing—and, what is more to the point, selling—short stories, novelettes and serials, all I could turn out.

There were disappointments, of course.

Stories that were my “pets” frequently came back. But I kept at work, studied the magazines and the markets, made it my business. If an editor “turned down” a tale, I sent him another. I broke into more magazines. I got money for film rights. And every acceptance, every publication helped advance me.

To the beginner who sometimes grows discouraged, let me say this, straight from the shoulder and without egotism—for I am by no means an extraordinary man.

I sold more than two million words of fiction before I ever met a magazine editor personally. Where is the old “howl” that a writer must have a “pull”?

I had my rate raised voluntarily by three publishing concerns without expecting it.

I found editors honest, courteous and agreeable by mail—and the same when I later met them personally.

With possibly a few exceptions, the magazine editor wants “stories” as much as names, and he always is eager to make a discovery. Naturally, your manuscripts will be worth more to him if he has purchased some of your stories and his readers are acquainted with your work and like it.

There is only one way—work! Don’t waste time trying to be “literary,” cursing editors who return your tales, or inventing schemes to prove to yourself that your story has not been read. Most magazines pay good salaries to men to read manuscripts, and your story will be read through, and from a friendly standpoint, unless the first page convinces the reader that it is hopeless as far as his publication is concerned.

Study the market! If you were a traveling salesman for a hardware jobber, you would not try to sell a bill of goods to a beauty parlor proprietor. Use common sense in marketing your fiction. Don’t send a salacious story to The Youth’s Companion or an essay on a religious subject to Snappy Stories. That last sentence is not so foolish as it sounds; writers make mistakes as grave as that every day. A certain great magazine will print nothing dealing with crime—cannot you see that you might write a crime story that was a masterpiece, and yet not sell it there? And would that be reason for feeling discouraged?

Read—always read! Read the classics— and then forget them. Read them for brain exercise only and do not try to analyze them. They have had their day. Shakespeare could not get a new play produced on Broadway now. Read the magazines, at least skim through them. See what other writers are selling. Watch those to which you hope to contribute. Say to yourself that there must be some reason why those stories are accepted and yours returned—find that reason and you’ll begin to sell. That’s what I did.

And the thrill when your first story is in print! I still remember it. And then the great thrill—when you hold in your hands your first book. I never shall forget that. Those thrills are worth all the money you’ll get.

Writing nowadays is a business, and the writer must be a business man. It pays well. More members of the Authors’ League of America than people at large think are making in excess of $10,000 per year. But you can do nothing by writing in a desultory fashion. Make it your business. If you write as a “side line,” make it your business just the same during the hours you write. Literature is a jealous mistress; she demands considerable attention and will not endure neglect. Fame and Fortune are fickle goddesses that will turn their backs if you turn your head away for a moment.

How to write? That is a difficult question. I suppose every author has a different method. The best I know is this: get your basic idea; walk around and view it from all sides; convinced that it is all right in every particular, that it is original to a degree and not contrary to good taste, seek some good point of attack. Claim the interest of the reader immediately. Remember the old thrillers? “Bang! Bang! The shots rang out on the midnight air!” Silly? Yes, but that is the idea. Every reader wants to know who was shot, if anybody, who did the shooting, why, and how the crime will be brought home to the guilty person. A hundred questions rise in the reader's mind when he sees that opening sentence. And the reader will stick to your story until all those questions are answered. That’s your task—answering them in an entertaining manner—and when you have all of them answered, for heaven’s sake, stop! Ending a story is as important as beginning it.

Don’t preach—we hire men to do that. If you point a moral, do it in a quiet fashion. Don’t look up all the big words in the dictionary—the editors themselves might not know what they mean. Be human, be natural, be optimistic, above all, be kind. Get in the right frame of mind before you write a word, and never write at all unless you are in the right frame of mind.

Write about things with which you are acquainted. People of today are travelled and educated. Don’t write about Hong Kong unless you have been there, or some reader will make sarcastic remarks to your editor. Don’t get the idea that writing for children is easy—it is the hardest of all. Don’t write a love story unless you have felt the thrill of love. By the way, if you can write original stories of young love, there are magazine editors waiting with hundred-dollar bills in their hands—waiting and longing for you.

And don’t give up! If you ran a store, would you give up if you failed to sell a pair of shoes to the first customer? You’d try to sell them to the next, wouldn’t you? Very well, then!

How do stories start? With me, sometimes they start with something observed on the street, possibly with a title that comes to mind, perhaps with some phrase I have read. At times they develop quickly, like a flash almost ; at other times they do not develop for considerable time. It's a funny affair, the development of a story. Sometimes, I have a tale plotted to the last minor incident, to the “tag,” and then, again, I start with an original opening and let the tale develop itself. Letting a story write itself is a sure way to success if your mode of thinking is proper and you are in the right state of mind.

Most writers need a specialty. Only a few can write in a dozen different channels. Get your specialty. Be known as a writer of love stories, of mystery tales, of outdoor adventure—whatever is your choice. Take time to find out what you can do best—what you like to do best—generally they are the same.

Experience comes with every completed manuscript, whether it is sold or not. Recently, finishing a serial for a magazine, I wrote 21,000 words in 24 hours. I couldn’t have done that five years ago. Why? Simply because, almost unconsciously, as I am writing now I evade pitfalls which used to cause me trouble. The construction of scenes and sentences comes easier—merely experience. And a lot of that experience was gained by writing stories that never did sell and never will.

And have faith in yourself, and grin when anybody seeks to discourage you. That’s all.

Monday 11 February 2013

H. Bedford-Jones, King of the Pulps, speaks about his typewriter's keyboard layout

From the letters column of the Author’s League Bulletin, Vol. 6, No. 7, October 1918, a letter from H. Bedford-Jones about some typewriter modifications he made to increase his speed. Bedford-Jones was the "King of the Pulps", writing more than a million words a year.