Saturday 5 December 2015

Perks of being a pulp collector #42

I recently read Mike Ashley's article on the biggest pulps. And I recalled something I recently saw on James Reasoner's blog:

an issue of Mammoth Detective that undoubtedly is the champion single regular issue at 320 pages.

Mammoth Detective, September 1942.
Mammoth Detective, September 1942.

Mammoth Detective, September 1942
Mammoth Detective, September 1942

Looks to be about an inch thick. At that, I think it could stop a bullet (at least a .22). I knew that there had to be some perks to being a pulp collector.

And that reminds me: Did you know that pulp collectors need therapy? That's because they have many issues.

Saturday 28 November 2015

BBC Video on the Zaporozhian Cossacks

This video on the Zaporozian Siech of the Cossacks should be of interest to Harold Lamb fans. Best enjoyed full screen in HD.

And if you haven't read any of the stories yet, now would be a good time to click the link above and get at least one of the collections. I recommend starting with this one

Saturday 5 September 2015

R.W. Daly - Seeker of the Deep

Last week, I reviewed the July 1952 issue of Adventure. I mentioned the story by R.W. Daly. I have read some stories by him in the 1940s too and felt that he was one of the better writers in the forties. He wrote excellent historical naval fiction, but sadly there are none available now. As a sample of his excellent work, here is the story from the 1952 issue for your reading pleasure.

If you read it and like it, leave a note in the comments section.

Saturday 29 August 2015

Adventure, July 1952 - review

Review of one of the last issues of Adventure, this issue was quite undistinguished and I just happened to pick it because it was at the top of the pile. Ratings for each story at the end on a 5 point scale.

Adventure - July, 1952
Adventure - July, 1952

Cover by Monroe Eisenberg, the cover has nothing to do with any story inside as far as I can make out.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Pulp Artist's site: Gloria Stoll Karn

She has done covers for Black Mask, Dime Mystery, Detective Tales, and New Detective. Also Rangeland Romances, All-Story Love, New Love, Love Book, Love Short Stories, Love Novels, Romance, and Thrilling Love magazines.

In addition, she did interior illustrations for Argosy magazine.

Her website at has some of her cover artwork and contact information.

Surely a worthy candidate for guest of honor at a pulp convention.

Saturday 15 August 2015

Stories from pulp authors at the Library of America

Raymond Chandler
Saturday Evening Post
October 14, 1939
Dashiell Hammett
Black Mask
October 1, 1923
Dashiell Hammett
Black Mask
October 15, 1923
Dashiell Hammett
Black Mask
October 15, 1923
David H. Keller
Weird Tales
January, 1929
H.P. Lovecraft
National Amateur
March 1922
Seabury Quinn
Weird Tales
July 1927
Francis Stevens
People’s Popular Magazine
February 10, 1919

The collections these stories were reprinted in are available as well:

Saturday 8 August 2015

Adventure's failed experiment in 1927

Earlier on this blog, we've talked about the change in Adventure magazine that took place in 1927 when new owners took over the magazine - the magazine changed from this look:

to this:

The contents of the magazine also changed, a books column was added, there was discussion and reviews of the best outdoor equipment etc. The fiction was kept intact, though.

We've discussed earlier whether this was the cause for Arthur Hoffman's departure from the magazine. Walker Martin (see the comments in the link above) feels that Hoffman was supportive of the move, but left because it failed to improve the business. I felt the new ownership was taking it in a direction that Hoffman didn't want, and that was part of the reason that Hoffman left.

Here's something that I found recently that might help - correspondence between Joseph Cox, the editor who succeeded Hoffman and Horace Kephart, an outdoors expert. Cox wanted Kephart to become a part of the Ask Adventure group of experts who answered readers' queries.

While doing so, he mentions that the new ownership wanted to make Adventure into the "trade journal of all the outdoors". That would probably have meant less fiction and more non-fiction. That change in direction, combined with the drop in readership, was (in my opinion), the reason for Hoffman's departure.

As we know, the magazine's circulation didn't improve and Adventure was back in pulp format in 1927. Joseph Cox left as editor in 1928 and the magazine went downhill until Harold Bloomfield took over as editor in 1934.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

In honor of International Tiger Day

Short Stories April 10, 1946
Short Stories April 10, 1946

A wonderful cover by A. R. Tilburne, and stories from Dan Cushman, Caddo Cameron and Wilbur S. Peacock - all great authors. This is one I have.

Some more tigers from the same artist and same magazine:

Short Stories, November 10, 1938
Short Stories, November 10, 1938

Short Stories, April 10th, 1939
Short Stories, April 10th, 1939
Short Stories, September 10, 1944
Short Stories, September 10, 1944
Adventure, October 3, 1918
Adventure, October 3, 1918

Adventure, June 10th, 1922
Adventure, June 10th, 1922

Adventure, June 1946
Adventure, June 1946
Adventure, December 15, 1932
Adventure, December 15, 1932 
Adventure, June 15th, 1932
Adventure, June 15th, 1932
The most unlikely one:
Adventure, November 1933
Adventure, November 1933
And to round it all off, another tiger cover from A.R. Tilburne:
Adventure, September 1941
Adventure, September 1941
Pick your favorite and tell us why in the comments,
or share your personal favorite tiger cover.
Bonus: The prize winner
Weird Tales, April 1933
Weird Tales, April 1933

Saturday 25 July 2015

Issue Review: Argosy, 12 November 1932

Argosy November 12, 1932
Argosy November 12, 1932

I recently acquired a good run of Argosy in the 1930s, and plan to work through them over time. I'll post my notes here as I work through individual issues. I only plan to post reviews of serials that begin in the issue. It's difficult to review a serial instalment on its own, and most of the time you only need to decide if the serial is worth reading or not, so I'll review the complete serial in the issue it begins in.

If you have read this issue, let me know what you think.

Saturday 18 July 2015

Pulp author with a website of his own - James P. Webb

When I started reading the pulps, I was amazed that any of the magazines had survived this far. They were meant to be read and discarded. The authors and their stories had been forgotten by most people. Who'd have thought that a pulp author would have a website or could publish an ebook?

But here we are, and last week, I reviewed a collection of stories by Neil Martin, and I recently came across a website for the pulp western author James P. Webb, created by his son Sid Webb.

He's posted a story by his father from Wild West Weekly. More interestingly, he's posted the publication record of his work from 1939-1942. It shows his career as an author, which I plan to dive into greater detail later, once I've done some analysis on it.


Saturday 11 July 2015

Pulp Reprints: Collected Stories of the Sea by Neil Martin

Neil Martin (1885-1963) was brought up in Laredo, Texas. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 devastated his family and caused him to take up life as a sailor, before an accident made him leave the sea. By the late 1920s, he was out of work and looking for a way to earn a living. At the time of the Great Depression, there wasn't much work for him to do. Luckily for him, he was a good storyteller and had sold a couple of stories to Top Notch (published by Street and Smithand Danger Trails (published by William Clayton).

He started off on a writing career then, writing sea stories and westerns for magazines like Sea Stories and Five Novels Monthly. This phase of his career lasted till the early 1940s, when he shifted markets to Short Stories magazine, edited by Dorothy McIlwraith. He started writing exclusively for Short Stories, and his series of stories about Henry Pou, a Cajun lawman in Louisiana, was a hit with readers.

Three of his stories were given cover illustrations as well.

His pulp writing career ended when the pulps declined in the 1950s. He passed away in 1963.

Coming back to the book under review:

This collection features four pieces from the magazine, Five Novels Monthly and one from Short Stories. It seems to have been put together by a descendant, William Neil Martin (possibly a grandson). It has an introduction with some biographical information, but no photo of the author.

The four pieces from Five Novels Monthly are:  Forbidden Seas from December 1931, Eastward Passage from September 1933, Thunder Over the Mast from March 1938 and Shanghaied! from January 1939. I enjoyed them all, though the romantic element felt a little out of place and formulaic. In each, the hero falls in love with the heroine whom he rescues, but hardly any words are exchanged between them. I have not read any other stories from Five Novels Monthly, so I don't know if this was a general feature of all stories in that magazine.

Forbidden Seas is a long story of a quest for a fortune in mammoth ivory hidden on a Russian island before the Russian Revolution. Three people are after the ivory, a rogue trader who has managed to suborn a Russian gunboat commander to give him exclusive trading rights, our hero and the heroine who is the daughter of the man who cached the ivory.

Eastward Passage is the story of a couple of thieves after a pair of legendary pearls called the Twin Moons, being carried by a trader. They pursue them through a shipwreck and a mutiny.

Shanghaied! starts with the hero waking up on a whaling ship with a blinding headache and no memory of how he got there. He has to get back to shore by a certain date to claim an inheritance and there seems to be no way for him to do that. To complicate matters, the heroine shows up

Thunder before the mast starts with a sick man being brought aboard a cargo ship by his sister. Before she can get back, the crew, led by a pair of thieves, mutinies in an attempt to steal the cargo of gold that the ship is carrying. The mutineers need the captain to sail the ship, and uses the heroine to blackmail him. There's a storm on the way, and the captain uses that to his advantage.

First Command, (Short Stories, 25 May 1940), has the hero against two adversaries, an unknown person sabotaging the ship he's sailing on, and the captain of the ship, who is trying to sabotage his career and his love life.

An enjoyable read overall. The stories are well written, and the heroes think instead of merely punching or shooting their way out. You can get the paperback or the ebook.

Saturday 4 July 2015

Happy Pulpy Independence Day, USA

Some pulp and other magazine covers to celebrate the 4th of July. Happy Independence Day to our American readers.

These magazine covers featuring the American flag are from World War 2, in July 1942. Seven months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, morale was low, war bond sales (funding the war effort) were low, and the fear of rationing paper was high. Publishers and the US government got together in an effort to boost morale and increase war bond sales, indirectly proving the value of magazines in keeping morale high. More about that in this wonderful website from the Smithsonian institute here.

The Adventure cover is missing from their list, though. Street and Smith had the same cover for all their magazines. The covers that stand out for me are Flying Aces, Short Stories, RedBook and McCall's. It must have been great to see all these covers on a newsstand.

What are your favorite pulp covers showing the American flag?

Saturday 27 June 2015

From the pulps to the slicks - A letter to the Saturday Evening Post from the Argosy magazine's editor

Many authors made sales to the pulp markets before appearing in the slicks. Usually neither they nor the magazine editors paid much attention to their prior work and did not trouble to call them out. The letter below must have spoken for many pulp magazine editors, surely.

This letter originally appeared in the letters column (KEEPING POSTED) of the Saturday Evening Post dated 24 May 1941. I liked both the sting in the tail of this letter and the attitude of the Post in publishing this without comment.

Letter of the Week
HERE is an open letter to Keeping Posted from the editor of Argosy, reprinted from that magazine :
We were both proud and happy to notice the recent debut (with Blood on the Moon, K. P.) in your magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, of one Luke Short, a writer of Western stories.
Our delight in this undertaking, however, was somewhat soured when we turned to your always edifying Keeping Posted page. There, in an introduction to biography of Mr. Short, we discovered the following discouraging query: "Where, we asked ourselves," you asked yourselves, had this Luke Short been hiding himself, his cayuse and his six-guns?" For your information, Mr. Short, up to the very moment of your dazzling recognition of his hidden talents, had been hiding in precisely the same place that has harbored so many of your other writers—men like Richard Sale, Borden Chase, Allan R. Bosworth, Albert Richard Wetjen, Richard Howells Watkins, Karl Detzer, L. G. Blochman, and considerable company. Not to mention C. S. Forester. (Surely you must have heard of Captain Hornblower.) The place we refer to is the pages of the Argosy.
Mr. Short, for instance, has sold us two serials and a great many short stories. A substantial number of readers admired and praised his work. Among them are conceivably several thousand who read both your magazine and ours. How do you think they are going to like your thesis that until they came upon Mr. Short in your book neither he nor they had any existence? But that, of course, is your problem.
Assuming for the moment that, until Mr. Short's manuscript arrived like an unheralded bombshell on your busy desk, you had never been aware of his previously published work, still we find you a little ungrateful. Perhaps it is mere egotism on our part, but we like to think that the Argosy played a part in the development of the writers we have mentioned. It might be quite possible that the work they did for us helped them to be worthy of you.
But this was intended to be congratulatory, not reproving, so we rejoice in Mr. Short's new eminence.
And we hope you will cherish him as we do. We even hope you got as good a Short story as the ones we printed.
Your ever-loving, if nonexistent, co-worker,

Monday 22 June 2015

Gone North by Charles Alden Seltzer

Altus Press just released the Argosy Library Series 1 - 10 books that originally appeared in Argosy magazine. I picked up a few of them, and added them to the to be read pile in my ebook library.

Then I went over to James Reasoner's blog, where he wrote a review of Charles Alden Seltzer's book. Gone North. After reading the review, I pulled it out of the to be read pile and read it in a couple of sittings. It was a light, exciting read. One passage in particular says it all:

Fallon was pleased. This expedition was not to be a search for a dead man; it was to be a battle for a life and a fortune—for two lives, his own and Lin Underhill’s. Arrayed against him were two unscrupulous white men and all the lawless red men that could be bought or bribed. It might be that even the somewhat mythical Randall would develop into an enemy.

Fallon was headed into a mysterious country. A few hundred feet in front of him was a faithless guide, behind him were two men who had already revealed their murderous purpose, and upon all sides as he pushed further into the wilderness would be the hazards of the silent coverts from which might be sped the winged arrow of the white men’s forest confederates.

A fun summer read.

Saturday 13 June 2015

Interview with Matthew White Jr. - Editor of the Argosy

This interview originally appeared in the magazine, THE EDITOR, dated October 1904.

Interviews with Editors.





SOME TIMES we feel in a somewhat light and flippant mood when we go on these little interviewing expeditions. Not that we are not always keenly alive to our readers' interests, but just a little light-hearted, you know. In such a frame of complacency I entered the office in the Munsey suite that is labeled " Dramatic Editor," for it must be known that Mr. White is not only the editor of The Argosy, but is also the dramatic editor and critic of Munsey's. But the full effect of my jaunty entrance was lost, for Mr. White was not in. I seized this opportunity, however, to con the rare photographs and antique programmes that lined the walls in passe partout neatness. and to get myself into more repressible demeanor.

I had not long to wait, for Mr. White soon came in.

The editor of The Argosy is one whose iron-grayness becomes, and the general note of warmth and good-feeling puts one immediately at ease. He greeted me with his cordial little smile and asked : " And what can I do for you. sir? “

" Mr. White. THE EDITOR would like to quote to its readers the Argosy market, its likes and dislikes; kind of stories do you favor? “

' Stories that are stories." answered he, smiling, this time at the triteness. " That is," he hastened to add, " stories with a snap and go; stories that rivet the attention.”

" Adventure? “ I tested.

" Yes; adventure plays quite a role in The Argosy, of course, as you know. Fantastic tales I like. Stories of unusual development in plot, even bordering upon the extravagant.”

" How about the love element. sir? “

" Not at all necessary. On the contrary. I reallv don't care much for love stories in The Argosy. Of course, love enters into more or less all the stories, but the tendency is to repress it.

" You see," he continued, " our readers are, in most part men—architects, mechanics, business men, who read it for relaxation; and that leads me to another point—the stories must be clear, easy reading; none of the 'clever,' ' smart stuff that sometimes graces the magazines. Mr. Munsey has a term for such. He calls it ' fine writing.' " That, as I say, I don't want. Things must drift in perfect sequence, and the reader must be carried on without any effort on his part.”

" Has the humorous story a chance? “

" Do you know a magazine where it hasn't “

We thought a little and shook our head.

" But any humorous story that casts a slur upon, or ridicules any class of readers, is not wanted. You see, we can't offend.”

" How about the matter of length ? “

" As to that, there is abundant scope. I should say that anything from one thousand words up. You see, there are about 700 words to an Argosy page, and we would want, therefore, hardly less than a thousand. Now, in Munsey's the storiettes can't be too short.”

“Serials ?"

" Yes; but these are usually written by our regular writers.”

" Oh ! so you have your regular contributors ? “

" Yes, indeed; there are men who have been writing for me for years, but that doesn't at all shut out others. Indeed, I am always on the lookout for new blood in- the magazine.”

This statement Mr. White did not have to substantiate, for we know a veritable little army of those who have sold him their first story—mirror associates included.

" Although I like serials," he offered, "I don't like the kind of stories that runs in a series, you know. Let it be all one story, not a vaguely connected string.”

" How do your regular writers get all these fantastic ideas for stories, Mr. White ? “

" Oh, we rather work together, you know," he answered modesty. " You see, since I've given up writing so much myself, the ideas for stories seem to come to me more than ever; so we just make a little family affair of it, and sit and have fun talking out the plots.

" Now, as an example of how one of our stories is suggested we'll look at one of our back numbers.”

Here Mr. White thumbed the recent issues that backed his desk in straight-stacked precision. Selecting one with seeming abandon, he opened it to the " complete novel " and passed it over to me: " There's a story that was made up of a regular incident, and a small one at that. One day while walking along Broadway, about Forty-second Street, I think, someone in the crowd pushed me roughly against a plate-glass window. Nothing happened, and the window didn't even break, but I began to think of the train of incidents that might well follow such an occurrence.

" I gave the idea for what it was worth to one of my men, thinking that maybe he could make a short story of it. But, after working at it a little, he began to see more and more in it, and as a result we see that he even evolved such a plot that he protracted it to 40,000 words, and that is how we have ' The Turn of the Wheel.' “

He tossed the magazine down.

" Then you like stories founded on fact, Mr. White? “

" I must know how you use the term," he replied, " before I can answer that.”

" Well, I mean ' true stories.' “

" Ah! there's the difference ! " said the genial little man with the warmth of enthusiasm that cannot grow old. " Stories that are founded on fact are far removed from ‘true’ stories as the term is generally used. Truth is stranger than fiction, and for that very reason makes poor fiction.

" My idea is that the basis of a story can be founded on fact, and such a fact that the writer can weave a plot around and about. Let him give his fancy play, bring in as much of the fanciful and fantastic as he likes, but make it all in harmony with the controlling motive of the story.”

Mr. White was warming into his theme, but I was chary of taking too much of his time, so I said : " Well, Mr. White, if you give your writers as much time, even, as you do such sorry questioners as myself, I can never doubt their warm feelings toward their chief.”

Here Mr. White tucked his head with the same pleasant little smile, and somehow I rather wanted to join the little family that he had mentioned.

" There are a few little technical points that I favor that maybe would be of interest to you. The title of a story is very important, and preferably should arouse curiosity. That's old, of course, as well as saying that a snappy first sentence is almost essential; but they can't be dwelt too much upon.

" Another thing, as Argosy is not illustrated, it makes a better page, and one more relieving to the eye, to have no more than two sentences to the paragraphs.

" Circulation? Oh, we're above the 350,000 mark now.”

" Do you pay upon acceptance, Mr. White? “

" Always.”

I tried to think of something else to ask him, but not a subject came to mind and do you know? the only height to which my inanity could attain, after thanking him for his courtesy, was the expression of a fervent wish that it would not rain on the morrow.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Collector's nightmare

Imagine collecting this magazine, just this issue alone would take a lifetime.

Matthew White Jr. - Author, Editor of the Argosy magazine

A profile of the editor of Argosy magazine from 1886-1928

Matthew White Jr., Editor of the Argosy magazine
Matthew White Jr., Editor of the Argosy magazine

Matthew White Jr. was born on September 21, 1857 in Greenwich village, the son of Matthew and Sybilla McMinn White. He studied for two years in France and Germany and then began his career as an author and drama critic before becoming an editor. He was a drama critic initially and joined Munsey’s Magazine as a dramatic editor. In 1885, he established a publication for boys called Boy’s World. He became the editor of Argosy in 1886. He presided over the transformation of the magazine.

1886 - 1888
1888 – 1891
1891 - 1894
1894 - 1896
1896 - 1943
8-16 pages
16 pages
16 pages
96-128 pages
144-192 pages
11 x 17 in (Tabloid)
7.5 x 9.75 in
9.75 x 12.5 in
6.5 x 9.75 in
8.5 x 11 in (Pulp)

In 1896, Argosy became an all fiction magazine . As editor for the Argosy in its early years, Matthew White set the editorial direction and ensured that the magazine had a diverse mix of genres covering adventure, westerns, mystery, humor and science fiction while sticking to the Munsey formula of serials as a driver of repeat purchases. The typical issue of Argosy had a serial ending in it, another starting in it and a couple of episodes of an ongoing serial. This was in addition to the short stories that were about half the content.

 “We'll let you into a little secret," says Mr. Matthew White, Jr., editor of The Argosy, ' 'of how our stories all manage so cleverly to grip the reader's interest at the outset and hold it to the finish. And we can best do this by quoting from a letter sent to one of the New York daily papers a year or two ago by a man who had evidently never been fortunate enough to come across a copy of The Argosy; for the sort of thing he sighs for in stories is the very thing The Argosy supplies. To quote: 'Editors and publishers say of stories: "Give us plot and climax," while we, the people, protest against the machine-made stuff of that class.' Well, The Argosy never has a story written backwards—that is to say, the editor never hits on some frenzied position for the hero and calls on an author to write a story around it. That would be machine-made stuff.' Stories for The Argosy are chosen on an entirely different plan. What phase of life is likely to be most interesting to the big majority of readers? This being settled upon, the author is told to carry his hero along in a series of experiences that would be liable to happen to any one under such conditions. You all know if Sam Chase, from next door, dashes into your house and tells you that your neighbor on the other side, Robert Waite, has received a letter announcing that he has inherited a million from a man he has met but once, you are eager to have Sam tell you the whys and wherefores.

Pique the reader's curiosity and then gratify it. This is the secret of The Argosy's success. This, and the human touch in all its stories, even in those with the fantastic tinge. But to quote again from the kicking correspondent of the New York newspaper: People complain of the long-drawn-out stories of the magazines, with their wordiness that means nothing and that comes to no end, but breaks off anywhere in the middle, as if ideas or ink, or both, had given out, and we are angry to think we have wasted time in reading such stuff. There is not one person in a thousand who wants to use his own brain to finish unfinished stories, when the writers have been paid for doing it. Such stories are like a half- finished meal when one is hungry.' This is another thing The Argosy does not do—print stories which wander off at the end into hazy nothingness that some writers are pleased to call 'artistic finish,' but which, as a matter of hard, cold fact, is neither finish nor art.

In its short stories, The Argosy will continue to head the procession, as it does in its long fiction. Contributors complain that it is very difficult to write The Argosy kind of story; nevertheless the editor goes on demanding the goods—the brand experience has proven to him the big mass of readers want, for with The Argosy they waste no time in wading through a tame introduction to get at the kernel of the narrative. Stories must capture interest at the outset. Authors, keep this motto before you, if you want to break into The Argosy.'

He took a break from editing the magazine in 1913, when he moved to London as literary representative of the Munsey group. He was looking for suitable British authors and stories to reprint in the Munsey magazines, but that doesn’t seem to have worked out.

“The most striking difference is the element of surprise. the average novel or story published here convinces me that the English public wants to know most at the outset how the story will end. In America that would bc quite fatal. We do not want to know how it will 'come out' until it has 'come out.' The greater the surprise and the more novel the 'twist,' the greater chance the story has of being a great American success. Next I should place the English writer's attitude towards women. We place women on a pedestal. This characteristic finds its way into everything we do, and this is especially true of our literature. It is not for me to say what the attitude towards women should be. I can only say what it is in America and what it appears to me to be here. And here it seems to me that the women invariably get the worst of it. Price Collier says, 'England is a man's country.' The reflection of this in manuscripts is a barrier to their use in America, because many of our readers are women, and because the American man's instinct is to suffer, if by his suffering he can make woman the gainer."

I don’t know how long he was away, and who the editor of Argosy was during this time. Perhaps someone with access to the issues of Argosy published at that time can look at the table of contents pages and tell us. But he did return to America and resumed his position as editor of the Argosy.

Frank Munsey died in 1925, and the ownership of Argosy, along with the other Munsey magazines,  passed on to William DeWart, the company general manager. White must have thought that at 70 years he was done with magazine editing, and in 1928 he retired from his position as the editor. After him, there was a steady procession of seven editors till September 1943, when Argosy stopped being a pulp magazine.  These successors also stuck to the formula established by White, however, the amount of science fiction in the magazine dropped considerably.

Matthew White Jr. died on 17 September, 1940 at the age of 82. He doesn’t seem to have married and was survived by his sister, Sybella White Tithington.