Somewhere a Roscoe: Dan Turner and SPICY DETECTIVE

Jun 13, 2017 by

“From the window that opened onto the roof-top sun deck a roscoe sneezed: Ka-Chow! Chowpf! and a red-hot hornet creased its stinger across my dome; bashed me to dreamland.”

That’s Robert Leslie Bellem communicating through Hollywood gumshoe Dan Turner. The story is “Lake of the Left-Hand Moon,” originally published in the December 1943 issue of HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE.

Born in Philadelphia and trained as a newspaper reporter, Bellem began writing for the pulps in 1928. “I was thumbing through a magazine one day. I stumbled on an illustration to a story . . . It depicted two or three native South Seas island gals — clad in no more than the law allowed — surrounding one rather embarrassed-looking beachcomber. I squinted at the daub and got a definite inward reaction. I sat down at my typewriter and batted off ‘Eden Island,’ a sex yarn. It was the first sex farce I’d ever written. I sent it to PEP. They bought it and yelled for more of the same. That’s four years ago — now I sell about five or six sex farces a month, and hardly get time to write anything else!”

In 1934, Harry Donenfeld’s Culture Publications introduced SPICY DETECTIVE STORIES. Edited by Frank Armer, the former publisher of PEP, Bellem would be on board from day one, penning the adventures of Dan Turner, “six feet plus and one hundred ninety pounds of wisecracking, .38 toting, whisky-swilling, womanizing private eye.” The character would go on to fight, shoot, and kiss his way through a “good two hundred tales,” published in SPICY and SPEED DETECTIVE STORIES, as well as HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE STORIES.

A prolific writer, Robert Leslie Bellem “knocked out hundreds of other stories, at one stretch selling about a million words of fiction per year.”

He wrote a variety of fiction including adventure, detective, western, mystery, weird and of course the sex farces. During the 1930s Bellem regularly appeared in the Trojan/Culture pulps SPICY DETECTIVE, SPICY MYSTERY, SPICY-ADVENTURE and PRIVATE DETECTIVE (and their later incarnations as the SPEED titles) both under his own name and a stable of pennames. On more than one occasion an entire issue of a pulp was comprised of works by Bellem under several names. Bellem also published fiction in REAL DETECTIVE STORIES, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY, THRILLING DETECTIVE, MAMMOTH DETECTIVE, THE GHOST, THRILLING SPY STORIES, SUPER DETECTIVE, and POPULAR DETECTIVE, to name a few.

As the pulp market contracted and died, Bellem turned to the television industry, scripting for DICK TRACY, PERRY MASON, THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, 77 SUNSET STRIP, CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT, THE F.B.I., BROKEN ARROW, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, DEATH VALLEY DAYS, THE MILLIONAIRE, and others.

Join PulpFest 2017 on Thursday, July 27, at 9:40 PM as we welcome author, editor, and publisher John Wooley for a look at Robert Leslie Bellem and Dan Turner. Immediately following John’s talk, members of the Pulp-Pourri Theatre will perform a reading from one of Bellem’s entertaining tales of “Hollywood, U.S.A.’s number one gumshoe.”

One of the first books John Wooley sold — to Bowling Green State University Popular Press — was a collection of Dan Turner stories. He has since written, co-written, or edited over three dozen books, including the current HOMICIDE HIGHBALL: THE LOST DAN TURNER MOVIE SCRIPT (Bold Venture Press), which spotlights the alternative screenplay for the Dan Turner made-for-TV movie. John has also written comic books, trading cards, and thousands of magazine and newspaper stories, most of them in conjunction with his work as the music and horror-movie writer for the TULSA WORLD, a position he held from 1983 through 2006. Winner of the Lamont Award in 2006, Wooley is co-owner, with John McMahan, of the pulp-related Reverse Karma Press. In 2015, John was inducted into the Oklahoma Historians’ Hall of Fame.

(Beside the outrageous writing of Robert Leslie Bellem and his peers who wrote for Culture Publications, the Spicy line of pulp magazines is collected for the pulp art of the talented H. J. Ward and others. Ward contributed the cover illustration for the December 1937 number of SPICY DETECTIVE STORIESThe artist began working in the pulp industry in 1931, selling freelance pulp covers to many different publishers, including Munsey, Dell, Popular. However, the majority of his work was published by Culture/Trojan. Ward became the publisher’s top artist.

Many thanks to Tom Roberts of Black Dog Books for his highly informative afterword to CORPSE ON ICE, quoted in this article.)

 

Thrilling Pulp Heroes of the Forties

Jun 20, 2015 by

Shadow33-08-01In the spring of 1931, THE SHADOW MAGAZINE was introduced to readers by Street & Smith Publications and proved an instant hit. Within a few short years, all of the leading pulp magazine publishers hoped to emulate its success by introducing their own hero pulps. The first to the starting gate would be Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines, the pulp chain that will be feted at this year’s PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio.

The first of the so-called hero pulps inspired by Walter Gibson’s “Dark Avenger” was THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, launched in early 1933. Later that same year, Standard followed with the first air war hero magazine, THE LONE EAGLE. Next came G-MEN, the first pulp magazine to capitalize on growing popularity of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI agents. Thrilling closed the thirties by introducing the heroic adventures of the Black Bat to readers of BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE MAGAZINE, a pulp that had been around nearly as long as the company’s first hero pulp, D. L. Champion’s THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE.

In 1939, while attending the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York City, Standard Magazines’ editor-in-chief, Leo Margulies, “was so overcome by the sincerity of the fans,” that he and editor Mort Weisinger immediately began to work up an idea for a new kind of fantasy magazine. The result of those discussions was CAPTAIN FUTURE, a hero pulp that premiered at the beginning of 1940.

40-01 Captain FutureOr so the story goes. In actuality, the Thrilling Group’s editorial staff had been batting around ideas for a science-fictional single-character magazine for about a year, even asking long-time Standard author Edmond Hamilton to work something up involving a “Mr. Future, Wizard of Science.” Eventually, this character evolved into Captain Future, a super-scientist with laboratories and a residence on the Moon. In each issue of the pulp, Hamilton’s Captain and his faithful assistants pretty much would save the solar system from desolation at the hands of this villain or that. The novels were fairly juvenile space-opera. CAPTAIN FUTURE ran until the spring of 1944, surviving for seventeen issues with Edmond Hamilton at the helm for all but one. In 1945-46, three additional Captain Future novels ran in STARTLING STORIES, with Hamilton writing two of them and Manly Wade Wellman one. Seven shorter works followed in 1950, all written by Hamilton. Popular Library reprinted thirteen of the Captain’s adventures in paperback in the late sixties. Today, specialty publisher Haffner Press is collecting the entire series into quality hardbound volumes.

40-01 Ghost Super-DetectivePremiering around the same time as the good captain, THE GHOST, SUPER-DETECTIVE was a short-lived hero pulp that ran for just seven issues, even though, during its abbreviated life, it went through two title changes. It became THE GHOST DETECTIVE in the summer of 1940 and THE GREEN GHOST DETECTIVE in the winter of 1941. Whatever the name, this pulp hero was actually George Chance, a professional magician who decided to use his skills of prestidigitation to fight crime. As The Ghost, Green Ghost, or whatever, Chance took on the guise of a ghoul. As the late Robert Sampson wrote: “His face is bloodless white, the eyes sunk deep in blotched hollows. The nostrils gape wide. Yellow teeth fill a distended mouth. In short, he looks like a dead man, a staring corpse. These features appear by night, glowing with dim luminescence, to the confusion of the underworld.” After the pulp was cancelled in 1941, the character returned in a series of a six short stories that ran in THRILLING MYSTERY from 1942 through 1944. The entire series, both novels and short stories, was written by G. T. Fleming-Roberts. It has been reprinted by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box as part of its LOST TREASURES FROM THE PULPS library. A prolific author, Fleming-Roberts wrote other single-character adventures including Secret Agent “X,” The Black Hood, Dan Fowler, and Captain Zero. He also penned two other magician-detective series—the Diamondstone tales for POPULAR DETECTIVE and the Jeffery Wren yarns for DIME DETECTIVE.

Air War 1940-FallThe adventures of Captain Danger were told in AIR WAR, a companion to SKY FIGHTERS, THE LONE EAGLE, and other Thrilling aviation pulps. The magazine debuted during the fall of 1940 and ran for a total of nineteen issues. Credited to Lieutenant Scott Morgan, a house name, the tales of Allen Danger, a soldier of fortune who dedicated his life to helping the downtrodden, appeared in the first fifteen issues of the Standard pulp magazine. Described as a demon of the skies, his missions took him across the globe, delivering aerial justice against the Axis powers. According to pulp historian Don Hutchison, the series was created by Robert Sidney Bowen. However, at least seven of the stories–including the last yarn in the Spring 1944 issue–are known to be the work of Norman Daniels.

40-10 Masked DetectiveThe last of Standard Magazines’ line of non-western single-character pulps, THE MASKED DETECTIVE, also reached newsstands in the fall of 1940. The title character was the alter ego of crime reporter Rex Parker, a laid-back newshawk who worked for a New York newspaper. When not tracking down news for his paper, he battled crime as The Masked Detective. A student of kick-boxing, the detective “wore a neat black suit, gray shirt, dark bow tie, black hat, and a black mask covering his eyes, forehead, and nose. He wore specially built shoes with square, hard toes. He was also a master of ju-jitsu, a good shot, a trained boxer, a makeup artist, and a ventriloquist.” Author credit went to C. K. M. Scanlon, a house name. Norman Daniels is known to have written at least five of the stories. THE MASKED DETECTIVE ran for twelve issues, lasting into the spring of 1943.

Scattered throughout Standard’s anthology titles are other so-called pulp heroes including The Crimson Mask. Attributed to Frank Johnson, the series was largely written by the prolific Daniels. The Mask was the alter ego of pharmacist Robert Clarke, a man seeking revenge against the criminals who had murdered his father. Aided by a small group of friends, the Crimson Mask battled gangsters, kidnappers, and Nazi spy rings through sixteen stories. The series ran in Thrilling’s DETECTIVE NOVELS MAGAZINE, debuting in the August 1940 issue and running through the April 1944 number. The Mask’s stories usually alternated with Daniels’ own Candid Camera Kid yarns, introduced in the June 1939 issue. The first five Crimson Mask stories have been reprinted by Altus Press.

Exciting Detective 41-FallEXCITING DETECTIVE premiered during the fall of 1940, promising “fast-moving, dynamite-packed, up-to-the-minute novels, novelettes, and stories that carry a high-powered punch!” It ran for a total of fifteen issues, ending with its Summer 1943 number, a victim of wartime paper rationing. Appearing in four of its issues–beginning with the Fall 1941 number–was Miles Murdock, a plastic surgeon also known as The Purple Scar. Attributed to John S. Endicott, the stories are thought to be the work of pulp writer George A. McDonald. A “grim nemesis of evil,” The Purple Scar was a master of disguise who spoke in a “hoarse whispering, rather chilling, tomb-like voice.” He wore a purple mask to imitate his murdered brother’s features, scarred by acid and submerged in water. “Purple becomes black at night, which makes my face invisible instead of betraying it as a pale glow in the darkness.” All four of The Scar’s stories have been reprinted by Altus Press.

Debuting in the May 1941 issue of THRILLING ADVENTURES, Henry Kuttner’s Thunder Jim Wade was a short-lived character who is usually written off as a Doc Savage clone. Published under the house name of Charles Stoddard, Wade was raised in a lost colony of Crete where he developed various mental and physical abilities. A roving troubleshooter operating off of a secret island in the South Pacific, Jim is alerted to problems through agents scattered across the globe. Helped by two assistants–Red Argyle and Dirk Marat–Thunder Jim starred in five adventures published in consecutive issues of the Standard pulp magazine. All have been reprinted in a single volume published by Altus Press, entitled THUNDER JIM WADE: THE COMPLETE SERIES.

Thrilling Mystery 41-11Although the bulk of the Dr. Zeng Tse-Lin stories were co-written by W. T. Ballard and Robert Leslie Bellem and published in POPULAR DETECTIVE, the first story of the series–“Fangs of Doom”–ran in the November 1941 issue of THRILLING MYSTERY. An allegedly Chinese crimefighter who is actually the son of white missionary parents, Zeng was assisted by Lai Hu Chow, a Chinese man who wears an artificial leg in which he can carry weapons and other useful items. The entire series has been reprinted by Altus Press. Dr. Zeng will also be explored during our PulpFest presentation, “Thrilling Detectives,” taking place on Thursday, August 13th, at 8:40 PM.

As part of its celebration of the Thrilling Group, PulpFest 2015 is proud to welcome Altus Press publisher and 2012 Munsey Award winner Matt Moring; 1979 Lamont Award winner and author of “The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage and Tarzan” Will Murray; pop culture expert and 2014 Inkpot Award winner Michelle Nolan; and popular culture Professor Garyn G. Roberts, who was awarded the Munsey in 2013, for a presentation entitled “Thrilling Heroes of Standard’s Pulps and Comics.” Scheduled for Friday evening, August 14th, at 10:40 PM, it will examine the evolution of the Standard hero in both pulp magazines and comic books. Thrilling’s heroes of the detective and western genres will be dissected on Thursday, August 13th.

Our discussion of Standard’s heroes began on Friday, June 19th, to call attention to this “Thrilling Presentation!!!” You can read our previous post about the Thrilling pulp heroes of the thirties by visiting  www.pulpfest.com. On Sunday, we’ll turn our attention to the comic book heroes of Standard, Better, Nedor, and Visual Editions.

(George Rozen’s painting for the August 1, 1933 issue of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE is perhaps one of the artist’s most iconic images of Walter Gibson’s “Dark Avenger.” Born 110 years ago in October 1895, Rozen and his twin brother, Jerome, were both pulp artists. George’s first published assignments were covers and interior pen-and-ink story illustrations for Fawcett magazines. In 1931, he replaced his brother as the cover artist for Street & Smith’s THE SHADOW MAGAZINE. George Rozen became the pulp’s most renowned cover artist, while his brother branched out into the more prestigious fields of advertising and slick magazines.

As time passed, George Rozen continued to work for the pulp industry, selling cover art to all of the major publishers including Popular and the Thrilling Group. For Ned Pines, Rozen painted adventure, detective (such as the first issue of THE MASKED DETECTIVE, dated Fall 1940), western, war, and even science-fiction covers, including the first issue of CAPTAIN FUTURE, dated January 1940. As the pulp market began to contract, his work was increasingly found on paperbacks from Popular Library and Ace.

While training for the priesthood in his native Puerto Rico, Rafael de Soto began taking private art lessons with a local artist. He emigrated to the United States in 1923 and soon found work at an advertising company. He began to draw interior story illustrations for Street & Smith’s western pulp magazines in 1930. Two years later, he started to sell freelance cover paintings to all the major pulp magazine publishers including Clayton, Dell, Fiction House, Popular, Street & Smith, and the Thrilling Group. It was de Soto who created the cover art for the first issue of THE GHOST SUPER-DETECTIVE, dated January 1940. He continued to produce pulp covers up until the demise of the industry during the 1950s. He also sold freelance illustrations to slick magazines, many paperback book covers, and covers and interior story illustrations for men’s adventure magazines. Rafael de Soto retired from freelance illustration in 1964 and began teaching art at the State University of New York, Farmingdale. He taught art for the rest of his life and embarked on a very successful career as a portrait artist.

Although some have attributed the front cover art for the first issue of AIR WAR, dated Fall 1940, to Harold William McCauley, who primarily worked as a staff artist for the Chicago-based Ziff-Davis publishing house, the painting does not resemble the artist’s usual work. It seems hard to imagine that Standard Publications would launch a new title with an untried free-lance cover artist living in Chicago, who they had never worked with before. Unless proven otherwise, the cover artist for this particular issue of AIR WAR is not known.

Ernest Chiriacka provided the cover illustrations for both the Fall 1940 issue of EXCITING DETECTIVE (featuring the premier of The Purple Scar series) and the November 1941 issue of THRILLING MYSTERY (which featured E. Hoffmann Price’s “Fangs of Doom,” the start of the Dr. Zeng series). Chiriacka’s first published story illustrations appeared in 1939 in Street & Smith’s LOVE STORY MAGAZINE. During the 1940s, he began selling freelance pulp covers to a variety of magazines including ADVENTURE, BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY, DIME WESTERN, G-MEN DETECTIVE, THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, STAR WESTERN, SWEETHEART STORIES, TEXAS RANGERS, and WESTERN ACES. In 1950, he joined the American Artists Agency and began a successful career as a slick magazine illustrator. He also painted many paperback covers up until 1965. Afterward, he retired from commerical illustration to concentrate on painting visionary landscapes of the Old West.)

 

Thrilling Detectives

Jun 11, 2015 by

Thrilling Detective 1943-11

I have a little office which says “Terry Mack, Private Investigator,” on the door, which means whatever you wish to think it. I ain’t a crook, and I ain’t a dick; I play the game on the level, in my own way. I’m in the center of a triangle; between the crook and the police and the victim. The police have had an eye on me for some time, buy only an eye, never a hand; they don’t get my lay at all. The crooks; well, some is on, and some ain’t; most of them don’t know what to think, until I’ve put the hooks in them. Sometimes they gun for me, but that ain’t a one-sided affair. When it comes to shooting, I don’t have to waste time cleaning my gun.

Three Gun Terry Mack was the world’s first hard-boiled private eye. The creation of Carroll John Daly, Terry appeared in a pair of stories featured in THE BLACK MASK in 1923 and 1924. He was soon supplanted by Daly’s best known detective, Race Williams, who debuted in the June 1, 1923 issue of the magazine that would become synonymous with the hard-boiled detective story.

THE BLACK MASK was not the only rough-paper magazine where tough-guy detectives made their home. When Popular Publications launched their line of ten-cent pulps, they got the ball rolling with DIME DETECTIVE, another classic in the line of hard-boiled periodicals. Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines was right there with Steeger and Goldsmith, starting his chain of pulp magazines with THRILLING DETECTIVE in the very same month. The first issues of Popular’s and Pines’ new periodicals were dated November 1931.

“Action-packed, well-written and well-planned stories. Novels must be of the trip hammer type, with a murder in the first chapter and others later.” Those were the editorial requirements set forth by THRILLING DETECTIVE in a 1933 issue of THE WRITER. Although they were not always well-written or planned, no one could fault the magazine for a lack of action . . . nor corpses. Under the guidance of managing editor Leo Margulies and his hand-picked staff, THRILLING DETECTIVE ran “rough-and-tumble, corpse-ridden yarns” featuring “suitably hard-nosed and hard-boiled detectives.” As Margulies often opined, his line was “the fastest bunch of all pulps.”

On Thursday evening, August 13th, beginning at 8:40 PM, John Wooley and John Gunnison pay a visit to some of the continuing characters from the Thrilling line of detective pulps — Doctor Coffin, the allegedly dead Hollywood actor turned vigilante, created by pulp and film writer Perley Poore Sheehan; the workaday detectives such as department store detective Don Marko, the creation of Stewart Sterling (whose real name was Prentice Winchell); the extremely prolific Robert Leslie Bellem’s Hollywood gumshoe Nick Ransom who, like his better known counter-part Dan Turner, “torches a gasper” or “sets fire to a coffin nail” when he lights a cigarette; and the bindlestiff crimefighter, Baghdad, Hobo Detective, written by Milton Lowe and featured in a pair of stories that ran in POPULAR DETECTIVE.

Then we’ve got the wartime creation of “Walt Bruce” — an allegedly Chinese crimefighter known as Dr. Zeng who is actually the son of white missionary parents. Written by Bellem and W. T. Ballard, the Zeng stories came about through the encouragement of the Office of War Information, which thought that playing up our Chinese allies in stories was a wonderful idea. Dr. Zeng’s sidekick Lai Hu Chow, who is really Chinese, has an artificial leg in which he can carry weapons and other useful stuff.

Of course, there’s also Race Williams, one-time BLACK MASK big dog who famously boosted sales of the magazine every time he was featured on the cover. The end was coming into sight for Race and his creator. Carroll John Daly moved into comic books after the death of the pulps. Race appeared in a handful of stories published in THRILLING DETECTIVE before he found his way into SMASHING DETECTIVE STORIES during the early fifties.

John Wooley is the author, co-author, or editor of more than thirty books, including the recent HARD-BOILED CHRISTMAS STORIES. John also penned the script for the made-for-TV movie DAN TURNER, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE, the award-winning independent film CAFE PURGATORY, and the documentary BILL BOYCE – MONEY ACTOR. He has also written comic books, trading cards, and thousands of magazine and newspaper stories, most of them in conjunction with his work as the music and horror-movie writer for the TULSA WORLD, a position he held from 1983 through 2006. He is currently a contributing editor and columnist for OKLAHOMA MAGAZINE and full-time freelance writer specializing in pop-culture subjects. This year, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Historians’ Hall of Fame.

John Gunnison is one of the foremost pulp dealers in the world. He’s the owner of Adventure House, a firm that not only deals in pulp magazines and other paper collectibles, but also publishes pulp replica editions and other material, including the much-admired HIGH ADVENTURE. John is the author of BAUMHOFER: PULP ART MASTER and BELARSKI: PULP ART MASTER, and co-author of THE ADVENTURE HOUSE GUIDE TO THE PULPS, one of the foremost reference works concerning pulp magazines. For Collectors Press he helped design Frank M. Robinson’s PULP CULTURE, Max Allan Collins’ HISTORY OF MYSTERY, Ron Goulart’s COMIC BOOK CULTURE, and other works. John was formerly the editor and publisher of THE PULP COLLECTOR, a leading pulp fanzine in its day.

Join the two Johns for a look at some of the most intriguing continuing detective characters that the Thrilling group published, along with a few of their creators on Thursday, August 13th, at 8:40 PM. To learn more about this and all of our PulpFest 2015 programming, please click the “schedule” button on our home page at www.pulpfest.com.

(Another leading author to appear in THRILLING DETECTIVE and other Standard detective pulps was Benton Braden. He got his start in 1933 by placing a story in Street & Smith’s CLUES ALL STAR DETECTIVE STORIES. A few years later, he found his way to Standard with a short novel entitled “Face Fixers.” It ran in the July 1936 issue of POPULAR DETECTIVE. Soon thereafter, he began the “Mr. Finnis” series for THRILLING DETECTIVE. It concerned a wealthy young bachelor who, “when he became the deadly foe of crime . . . his features seemed to have set as though they were granite. His eyes were smoldering, bitter, resolute in determination to kill or be killed.” Benton also wrote the “Percentage Kid” stories for Standard as well as the adventures of Willie Brann, a gumshoe with an insatiable appetite for peanuts who packed a “pair of gats which brought terror to . . . the underworld.”  Braden continued writing for the company through 1952. One of the Brann stories appears in the issue pictured here, the November 1943 number of THRILLING DETECTIVE. The cover artwork is by George Rozen.

To learn more about the Thrilling Group and THRILLING DETECTIVE and read some of its stories, pick up a copy of THRILLING DETECTIVE HEROES, edited by John Locke and John Wooley and published by Adventure House in 2007.)