Saturday 30 June 2018

Jack Ritchie - Detective/Crime Author

I read the October 1960 issue of Manhunt magazine recently, and came across a story by this author. The story is Shatter Proof, and it is a great story. 

This is the blurb for the story, no interior illustration though it got the cover.

Mr. Williams was a civilized man. When the professional hired to kill him appeared in his study, gun in hand, Mr. Williams naturally offered him a drink.

That's a great premise to start a story, and the story doesn't disappoint. It's only four and half digest size pages, but there's not one wasted word. And instead of the customary twist at the end of the tale, there are two, or is it three? You appreciate how difficult it is to review a really short story without spoilers, so go off and read it now if you can. You can always come back to this article in a few minutes.

The author, Jack Ritchie, had a twenty seven year career in the crime fiction field, seemingly all short stories, which may be why he is not so well known as he should be. One of his stories, The Green Heart (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, March 1963), was made into the movie A New Leaf featuring Walter Matthau. 

A good overview of his life and appreciation of his writing can be found here:
Author Jack Ritchie (1922-1983)
Author Jack Ritchie (1922-1983)
photo taken from the cover of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Jan 28, 1981

A detailed biography with many photos at this site:

Three collections of his short work were made; all are out of print now, sadly. Used copies of The Adventures of Henry Turnbuckle and Little Boxes of Bewilderment are available on Amazon. They're both collections of stories featuring his series character. A New Leaf and other stories, the first collection to be published, is not available on Amazon, but a used copy may be found on the other usual sites. All at high prices, i warn you. It's time for a new collection of his stories.

Saturday 23 June 2018

Art of the Pulps wins Locus award

The book, which i reviewed earlier, has won the Locus award for 2018 in the best art book category. Congratulations on a well deserved win for the editors - Doug Ellis and the late Robert Weinberg and their team of all-star contributors.

My signed copy of the Art of the Pulps - a great book, and one you should buy if you haven't already
My signed copy of The Art of the Pulps - a great book, and one you should buy if you haven't already

(Disable adblocker to see the images and links below)

The American Women's Dime Novel Project

Dime novels were the predecessors of the pulps, bringing cheap fiction to a mass audience of all age groups. They published stories in many genres - western, crime/detective, sports, horror, science fiction and romance being some.

Assorted dime novels (image courtesy Skinner Auctions)
Assorted dime novels (image courtesy Skinner Auctions)

I read a few, and it may have been my luck, but I didn't find them gripping. I never paid much attention to any critical reviews of them after that, but this website has gone some distance in changing my mind about them.

An introduction to the website itself:

This web site grew out my research for my dissertation entitled “All For Love: Gender and Class and the Woman’s Dime Novel in Nineteenth-Century America” which examines the genre of women’s dime novel writing and its role in changing gender and class formations. While other forms of nineteenth-century women’s writing have been the focus of extensive scholarship and have developed a strong presence on the web, it became clear to me that dime novels have not received the attention they deserve. This genre, once enormously popular with its readers, has been neglected for most of its history by scholars, collectors, and libraries. It suffers from the double burden of being both popular and written for working-class women. This project hopes to overcome the history of oversight to both the form and its readers by providing information about the novels themselves, the authors, the readers, and nineteenth century public reaction.

It has a great essay on the American women's dime novel, links to e-books of dime novels available for free, articles about a few authors and publishers (including Street and Smith).

American Women's Dime Novel Project
American Women's Dime Novel Project

I might go back and purchase this book (disable adblocker to see the picture below):

Saturday 16 June 2018

The last days of the magazine Short Stories

Last week, I reprinted the editorial from the Mar 25, 1940 (50th Anniversary) issue of Short Stories. This week, i just received a copy of the last issue of the magazine, and thought it would be interesting to look at the changes before the magazine ceased publication. It was one of the last pulps, stopping in 1959. All photos are from my collection, except the Dec 1957 one which i took from the FictionMags Index.

1951 Feb - Last pulp issue with original fiction, also possibly the last pulp issue with an original cover.

1951 Feb issue of Short Stories, last pulp issue with original fiction
1951 Feb issue of Short Stories, last pulp issue with original fiction

This has a John D. MacDonald story.

Saturday 9 June 2018

Editorial retrospective from the 50th Anniversary issue of Short Stories magazine

[Short Stories is one of my favorite magazines, and i recently got a copy of the 50th anniversary issue, so I decided to put this article online.]

ON OUR shelves in the SHORT STORIES offices in Radio City are copies of the little old magazines that were the first numbers of a periodical which first appeared in 1890. "It is intended to entertain and not particularly to instruct, " said an announcement in the first number, "while the lowest reading intelligence can rise to an understanding of its material, the highest will not find it uninteresting, commonplace or beneath appreciation. " Well, that was fifty years ago and during all that time SHORT STORIES has kept to its main purpose—to entertain.

Short Stories cover of bound volume from 1890
Short Stories cover of bound volume from 1890 
Consider for a minute the world of 1890; Benjamin Harrison was President of the United States, a country of 62, 622, 250 people; that year a gigantic skyscraper was completed in New York City—the World Building, 311 feet from curb to flagstaff (the Empire State Building is 1, 265 feet tall); the bill admitting Wyoming to the Union was signed; Helgoland was ceded to Germany by England in settlement of certain claims in Africa; the first execution by electricity took place in the United States; the president of the Mormon Church published a decree forbidding plural marriages; the first parliament in Japan was opened; Sitting Bull, the Indian Chief was killed by soldiers in South Dakota.

Those were the days when the infant SHORT STORIES first appeared in circulation, and as it grew, literary giants indeed were represented in its pages. Looking back over them we find the names of Kipling, Conan Doyle, O. Henry, Gilbert Parker, Bret Harte, Mark Twain, W. W. Jacobs, Laura E. Richards, Gertrude Atherton, Ambrose Bierce, to name only a few; early stories by such divergent modern celebrities as Ray Stannard Baker and Ellen Glasgow were written especially for our pages. "The Cook’s Victory" by a youngster of 19 who bore the name of H. L. Mencken, appeared in SHORT STORIES in 1900. In a recent letter Mr. Mencken says that the story was a by-product of his early reporting days on the Baltimore Morning Herald, when he covered a raid on an employment agency which specialized in shanghaiing men for the Chesapeake Bay oyster fleet.

Short Stories cover of May, 1904 issue, before Harry Peyton Steger became the editor
Short Stories of May 1904 slick digest format issue, before Harry Peyton Steger became the editor

The magazine somewhat in its present form began to emerge under the editorship of Harry Peyton Steger. Bob Davis recalls something of Steger in a letter he wrote us about him. "Harry Peyton Steger" said Mr. Davis, "during his all too short life, set so fast a pace for editors of short fiction magazines to follow that before they knew it they had acquired a standard in technique and editorial quality which gave an extraordinary impetus to readin’ even after Steger himself had passed from the stage. He had the gift of intimacy with writers. He was inspirational, instinctively aware of the public demand, and at the same time he was a man of fine appreciation. Mortals of his type dominate generations."

Short Stories pulp format issue dated October 1913, after Steger's editorship had ended
Short Stories pulp format issue dated October 1913, after Steger's editorship had ended
By Steger’s time SHORT STORIES had been taken over by Doubleday, Page & Company, and when Steger died in 1912, Harry Maule became its editor, and continued to guide the policies of the magazine for many years. It is an interesting fact that for a time Margaret Porter, O. Henry’s daughter, was its assistant editor, and in each issue there was an O. Henry story. Magazines were not so specialized at that time as they later became, and there were probably a tenth as many of them published as there are today. The general fiction magazine was lessening in appeal and magazines for more highly selective publics were taking its place. 

Short Stories August 1915 issue, continuing the transformation into full fledged pulp under Harry S. Maule's editorship
Short Stories August 1915 issue, continuing the transformation into full fledged pulp under Harry S. Maule's editorship
With its excellent author background, in SHORT STORIES a very definite editorial policy of red-blooded fiction was growing. Our appeal was to readers who wanted adventure and action and the thrill of far places; whose interest was in real characters functioning in situations and emergencies calling for resource and gallantry; who gloried in the exploits of the pioneers in our own West and on the frontiers of the world.

Short Stories, October 1917 cover - The first appearance of the red sun that i could find
Short Stories, October 1917 cover - The first appearance of the red sun that i could find

We evolved the idea of the big red sun on our covers as a distinguishing mark, and we take pride and satisfaction in the thought of the millions of readers to whom that cheerful sphere has meant a promise of good stories, well told by the best writers in their respective fields, men who know the value of accuracy of detail as well as of an enthralling plot.

An unusual red sun cover from Short Stories August 1920, by J. H. Litchfield
And since nothing is constant but change, times have moved on, and under its present ownership SHORT STORIES has grown up with a new generation of readers. While other magazines have lowered prices, changed policies and turned some strange handsprings in a mad hunt for circulation, we feel that we have resisted those temptations and depended on reader- loyalty as the backbone of our progress.

Short Stories March 25, 1940 issue cover by Edward M. Stevenson, editor Dorothy S. McIlwraith
Short Stories March 25, 1940 issue cover by Edward M. Stevenson, editor Dorothy S. McIlwraith
In conclusion, a word about this present anniversary issue of SHORT STORIES. We wanted to make it as typical as possible of the magazine as a whole, we wanted to please as many of our multifarious readers as we could; so you’ll find in it old friends such as Black John Smith and Hopalong Cassidy—Hopalong was the almost universal choice for a reprint of an old favorite; newer friends such as the Hawkins twins and Caffrey’s airmen; and significant of the portentous days in which we live—a story of the present War. It’s by a man who is living very close to it at the present time and who has had many yarns in SHORT STORIES in the past—Major Gilson. We are sorry that there isn’t a Tuttle story in this number, but a perfectly grand one which introduces Hashknife to our friend Cultus Collins came along just too late to be included; it will appear soon in our pages. So —we leave with you this issue of your magazine, we hope you like it, and that you’ll all be with us for the next fifty years of SHORT STORIES.

The Editor.

Saturday 2 June 2018

Thornton T. Shively - newspaper article about the author

More about this author's work on MysteryFile, including some nice comments. Basic biographical information:

Full name Thornton Taylor Shively

Birth: 26 Feb 1913 in Nebraska

Marriage: Susan Elizabeth Collinson on 28 April 1939 in Los Angeles

Writing career:  Under the pseudonym Thorne Lee, he wrote about 50 stories from 1942 to 1951, almost all in the crime/detective genre. Two novels, "The Monster of Lazy Hook" and "Summer Shock", both reviewed at MysteryFile.

Death: 21 Jun 1980 in Santa Cruz, California

This article was originally published in the Hayward, California, Daily Review on February 16, 1975.

Thornton D. Shively in the Hayward, California Daily Review dated Feb 16, 1975
Thornton D. Shively in the Hayward, California Daily Review dated Feb 16, 1975