Hardboiled and Dangerous: The Characters of Erle Stanley Gardner

Jun 15, 2017 by

When the magazine BLACK MASK is discussed, author Dashiell Hammett generally comes into play. But the creator of Sam Spade and The Continental Op was far from the most prolific contributor to the greatest of the hard-boiled detective magazines. That honor would go to Erle Stanley Gardner, best known for creating Perry Mason. Gardner would appear in THE BLACK MASK over one hundred times.

A practicing lawyer interested in a better income, Erle Stanley Gardner forced “himself to churn out four thousand words a night. It took two years, but he made his first sale to the pulps. It wouldn’t be the last.” During his fifty-year writing career, Gardner would publish close to twenty million words of fiction and create “no less than 49 unique detectives and adventurers who made two or more appearances in book or magazine form . . .”

According to Bill Pronzini’s introduction to THE DANGER ZONE AND OTHER STORIES published by Crippen & Landru in 2004 — Gardner published 128 novels between 1933 and 1970. Eighty-two of these feature Perry Mason, while Bertha Cool and Donald Lam appear in 29 book-length adventures. Crusading district attorney Doug Selby appears in nine novels, while the remaining eight feature other characters.

“All of Gardner’s other series characters . . . were created for the magazine markets, both pulp-paper and slick-paper, and appear only in novelettes and short stories. Several hundred of these yarns saw print from the 1920s into the 1950s, the preponderance in a ten-year-span from 1926 to 1936 when Gardner lived up to his billing as “King of the Woodpulps” by producing and selling an average of one million words of fiction annually. ARGOSY, BLACK MASK, and DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY were his favorite pulp markets, printing nearly 200 stories among them. Series tales and one-shots also ran regularly in DIME DETECTIVE, CLUES, STREET & SMITH’S DETECTIVE STORY, TOP-NOTCH, BLACK ACES, ALL DETECTIVE, SHORT STORIES, and a host of others . . . .

“Foremost among his amazing array of short-fiction creations are Ed Jenkins, the Phantom Crook, an outlaw and ‘famous lone wolf’ who lives by his wits and solves crimes unjustly pinned on him by the police, many of which have San Francisco Chinatown settings; and Lester Leith, debonair man-about-town, whose ‘chain lightning mind’ allows him to both outfox criminals and outmaneuver his butler, Scuttle, an undercover police spy. Jenkins appears in 72 novelettes published in BLACK MASK between 1925 and 1943 . . . Leith can be found in 65 novelettes in DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY from 1929 to 1943 . . .”

Other oft-published series characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner include Bob Zane of the “Whispering Sands” tales; Sidney Zoom, master of disguises; Señor Lobo, Mexican soldier of fortune; the Patent Leather Kid; Paul Pry, who steals from crooks; Bob Larkin, an adventurer armed with a billiard cue; attorney Ken Corning; gunslinger Black Barr; and Speed Dash, the Human Fly.

At 8:50 PM on Friday, July 28, PulpFest 2017 welcomes Jeffrey Marks for a discussion of Gardner’s four types of pulp characters: the western miner, the non-Perry lawyers, the traditional pulp loners, and the author’s happy-go-lucky criminals. Marks is a long-time mystery fan and freelance writer. His works include WHO WAS THAT LADY, a biography of mystery writer Craig Rice; ATOMIC RENAISSANCE: WOMEN MYSTERY WRITERS OF THE 1940S/1950S; and PULP ICONS: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER AND HIS PULP MAGAZINE CHARACTERS. His latest work is a biography of mystery author and critic Anthony Boucher entitled ANTHONY BOUCHER. It has been nominated for an Agatha and fittingly, won an Anthony Award.

Jeffrey’s work has won a number of awards including the Barnes and Noble Prize. It has also been nominated for an Edgar Award, three Agathas, two Macavity Awards, and three Anthony Awards. Today, he writes from his home in Cincinnati, which he shares with his partner and two dogs.

Please join us from July 27 through July 30 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry — just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” — for PulpFest 2017 as we celebrate the hardboiled dicks, dangerous dames, and a few psychos of the pulps. You can join PulpFest by clicking the Register for 2017 button on our home page. And don’t forget to book a room at the DoubleTree. They’re going fast!

(First introduced to BLACK MASK readers with the story, “The Shrieking Skeleton,” published in the December 15, 1923 number under the pseudonym Charles Green, Erle Stanley Gardner quickly established himself as a readers’ favorite. Soon thereafter, he introduced his first series character, Bob Larkin. But it was with the January 1925 number that Gardner truly hit paydirt, introducing Ed Jenkins in “Beyond the Law.” By the end of 1926, Jenkins was garnering the cover spot of the magazine, including the March 1933 issue featuring artwork by J. W. Schlaikjer. Erle Stanley Gardner’s Phantom Crook would appear in 72 novelettes published in BLACK MASK between 1925 and 1943.)

Hardboiled Dicks: A Look at DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE

Jun 12, 2017 by

Matt Moring — the publisher of Altus Press and its fine line of pulp reprint and history volumes — turns an eye toward DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE on Saturday, July 29, at 9 PM. It’s all part of the celebration of hardboiled dicks, dangerous dames, and a few psychos at PulpFest 2017.

Although the earliest pulps were general fiction magazines, the rough-paper rags eventually began to specialize. Pulps featuring aviation and war stories, fantasy and the supernatural, love and romance, the railroad, science fiction, sports, and other genres emerged. There were also titles devoted to prison yarns, firefighters, and even engineering stories. However, one of the longest lasting and most popular categories was the detective field. In fact, the first pulp magazine successfully dedicated to a single fiction genre was Street & Smith’s DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE.

Although a trailblazer as a specialty magazine, DETECTIVE STORY did little to further the development of the detective or crime story. That task would be left to its highly prized successors: BLACK MASK  — the pulp where the hardboiled detective story began to take shape — and DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE — where the tough guy detective became extremely popular. Call them what you will — flatfoots, gumshoes, dime detectives, or private eyes  — it was these hardboiled dicks that transformed the traditional mystery story into the tough guy (and gal) crime fiction that remains popular to this very day.

Most critics site BLACK MASK MAGAZINE as the fertile ground where hardboiled detective fiction gathered its form. From 1923 through 1931, it reigned supreme as the home of the genre. Then, in 1931, Henry Steeger and Harold Goldsmith of Popular Publications introduced DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE. Costing a nickel less than BLACK MASK, its appeal to the cash-strapped consumers of the Great Depression was hard to dispute. As Stefan Dziemianowicz wrote in his introduction to HARD-BOILED DETECTIVES (1992):

As added inducement, it was able to lure BLACK MASK regulars like Gardner, Nebel, Chandler, Norbert Davis, and Frederick C. Davis into its pages by paying them the princely sum of four cents per word — one cent more than BLACK MASK and quadruple the going pulp fiction rate. DIME DETECTIVE made only two stipulations to its authors: there were to be no novel serializations and the characters they created could not appear in competing magazines. The result was a looser and more varied magazine than BLACK MASK.

Before long, DIME DETECTIVE would become the best-selling title of the mystery-detective genre and the most popular magazine of its publishers’ line of pulp magazines. By the summer of 1933, it was appearing twice monthly, a schedule it maintained through June of 1935. It would be one of Popular’s longest lived titles, running for 274 issues — largely on a monthly basis — through its August 1953 number.

Running for twenty years, Popular Publications’ DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE published thousands of high-quality hard-boiled stories by hundreds of authors, eventually becoming the most respected detective pulp magazine behind BLACK MASK. However, DIME DETECTIVE excelled at introducing long-running series characters, something BLACK MASK normally didn’t do. These series characters run the gamut of quirky detectives, completely unique and offbeat: the types of investigators which had never been seen before (and rarely repeated with such skill since).

Matt Moring — who wrote the words above — is the publisher at Altus Press. Reprinting pulp fiction from a wide variety of pulp genres, including hero, detective, jungle, the French Foreign Legion, and more, Matt has quickly become one of the leading publishers in the pulp world. He has also published numerous historical works on the pulps including biographies, indices, and examinations of single-character magazines. Together with Will Murray, Matt revived the Doc Savage series, publishing brand new stories after a long absence. The Altus Press website is also an excellent reference source, featuring links to The Pulp Superhero Index and The ECHOES Index. Matt was our Munsey Award winner in 2012.

(In addition to employing some of the pulp industry’s leading authors, DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE also employed its leading artists, including the “king of the pulp artists,” Walter Baumhofer. The skilled brushes of artists such as Baumhofer — his work graces the cover of the January 1936 issue shown here — along with the experienced writers, low price, and continuing characters such as Vee Brown and Jack Cardigan helped DIME DETECTIVE to become the leading magazine of its field.)

New for PulpFest 2017 — Hardboiled Dicks, Dangerous Dames, and a Few Psychos I

Oct 10, 2016 by

PulpFest 2017 Post CardBeginning with its first convention in 2009, PulpFest has annually drawn raves from pop culture enthusiasts. Planned as the summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest seeks to honor pulp fiction and pulp art by drawing attention to the many ways they have inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, game designers, and other creators over the decades. That’s why PulpFest is renowned for its wide range of interesting and entertaining programming. So what will be happening at PulpFest 2017?

Although the earliest pulps were general fiction magazines, the rough-paper rags eventually began to specialize. Pulps featuring aviation and war stories, fantasy and the supernatural, love and romance, the railroad, science fiction, sports, and other genres emerged. There were also titles devoted to prison yarns, firefighters, and even engineering stories. However, one of the longest lasting and most popular categories was the detective field. In fact, the first pulp magazine successfully dedicated to a single fiction genre was Street & Smith’s DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE.

Introduced in late 1915, the first pulp devoted to “stories dealing with the detection of crime” inspired dozens of similar titles: ALL DETECTIVE MAGAZINE,  CLUES, CRACK DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE-DRAGNET, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE, NEW DETECTIVE, POPULAR DETECTIVE, PRIVATE DETECTIVE STORIES, REAL DETECTIVE TALES, SPICY DETECTIVE STORIES, THRILLING DETECTIVE, and many others.

Popular Engineering Stories, 30-04Although a trailblazer as a specialty magazine, DETECTIVE STORY did little to further the development of the detective or crime story. That task would be left to its highly prized successors: BLACK MASK  — the pulp where the hard-boiled detective story began to take shape — and DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE — where the tough guy detective became extremely popular. Call them what you will — flatfoots, gumshoes, dime detectives, or private eyes  — it was these hardboiled dicks that transformed the traditional mystery story into the tough guy (and gal) crime fiction that remains popular to this very day.

We’ll be back in a month with another post on our 2017 themes. Next time, we’ll explore the dangerous dames of the pulps. Meanwhile, stay tuned to PulpFest.com for news on our “New Fictioneers” readings, Saturday Night Auction, and much more.  We’ll have a new post each and every Monday in the weeks ahead. So visit often to learn all about PulpFest 2017, “Summer’s Hardboiled Pulp Con!”

(Designed by PulpFest’s artistic director, William Lampkin, our PulpFest 2017 post card features the work of artist John Newton Howitt. His painting was originally used as the cover for the April 15, 1934 number of Popular Publications’ DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE.

The April 1930 issue of POPULAR ENGINEERING STORIES, a “Blue Circle Magazine,” was the only issue of this pulp. Published by Harold Hersey’s Magazine and Book Corporation, it featured front cover art by W. C. Brigham, Jr.)

100 Years of the Specialty Pulp

Oct 8, 2015 by

Detective Story 1915-10-05Although it’s not as widely collected as its successors — magazines such as BLACK MASK and DIME DETECTIVE — Street & Smith’s DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE was a trailblazer. Its debut issue, dated October 5, 1915, was the first pulp magazine successfully dedicated to one fiction genre. Its first editor, Frank E. Blackwell, explained in an early issue, “I feel that stories dealing with the detection of crime are of more interest to the reading public than any others.” Many more specialty pulps would follow in the ensuing years, culminating in single-character magazines such as THE SHADOW or DOC SAVAGE MAGAZINE.

DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE was a continuation of the nickel weekly, NICK CARTER STORIES, in which the first part of the lead story of the new pulp — “The Yellow Label” — had appeared. According to dime novel and story paper expert, J. Randolph Cox, “The intent was to transfer the reading public of Nick Carter’s adventures over to a more adult and sophisticated fiction magazine.” Judging from its long life — DETECTIVE STORY would run for thirty-four years, from October 5, 1915 through the Summer of 1949, a total of 1,057 issues — Street & Smith’s intent was very ably achieved.

Unlike its highly prized successors — particularly BLACK MASK, the magazine where the hard-boiled detective story first took shape — DETECTIVE STORY emphasized the more traditional or “clued” detective story. Carolyn Wells, Ernest M. Poate, Arthur B. Reeve, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ellery Queen, and others all wrote stories along the traditional line, while Edgar Wallace, J. S. Fletcher, Johnston McCulley, Christopher Booth, Herman Landon, and more offered tales of rogue or “bent” heroes. Sax Rohmer was also a contributor to the magazine, introducing the “yellow peril” theme to the magazine’s mix. In later years, the fiction took on a more realistic tone, resembling the stories found in ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, the mystery digest that had debuted during the second half of 1941.

Although DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE did little to further the development of the detective or crime story, its success would lead to a proliferation of pulp magazines devoted to a single theme or genre. According to the late pulp and science-fiction scholar Sam Moskowitz, “While not the first of the specialized fiction magazines, being preceded by THE OCEAN and THE RAILROAD MAN’S MAGAZINE, it accomplished what they had not by creating a trend that would result in the proliferation of the pulps into western, love, air, science fiction, and supernatural, as well as detective.” Likewise in 1931, the CBS radio series inspired by the magazine’s fiction, DETECTIVE STORY HOUR, would introduce the public to The Shadow, the announcer for each episode. Soon thereafter, Street & Smith would launch THE SHADOW DETECTIVE MAGAZINE, and the single-character pulp would be born.

In 2016, PulpFest intends to salute one-hundred years of the specialty pulp, first popularized during the fall of 1915, when DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE premiered. Join us at the Hyatt Regency Columbus from  July 21 – 24, 2016. It should be a very special convention!

(The first issue of DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE featured front cover art by John A. Coughlin, a Chicago-born artist who got his start in his home town’s advertising business. Coughlin moved to New York City in 1912 and painted his first pulp cover a year later — for Street & Smith’s THE POPULAR MAGAZINE. Other pulp clients included ARGOSY, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY, SHORT STORIES, TOP-NOTCH, and WILD WEST WEEKLY. He also contributed cover art for HARPER’S WEEKLY, FARM AND FIRESIDE MAGAZINE, and THE SATURDAY EVENING POST. According to pulp art scholar David Saunders, Coughlin’s cover for the March 7, 1931 issue of DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE marks the first painted appearance of The Shadow on a pulp magazine.)