The Dangerous Dames of Maxwell Grant

May 10, 2017 by

Maxwell Grant was a pen name used by the authors of The Shadow pulp magazine stories. Street & Smith, the publishers of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE, asked Walter B. Gibson, the writer they originally hired to chronicle the Shadow’s adventures, to create a pen name so that numerous authors could be used to write the stories without confusing the readers. Gibson, who was also a nonfiction writer, adopted the pen name Maxwell Grant, taking the name from two magic dealers he knew, Maxwell Holden and U. F. Grant.

Four authors besides Gibson have used the Maxwell Grant pseudonym over the years: Theodore Tinsley, who wrote 27 Shadow stories between 1936 and 1943; Lester Dent, who wrote one story, “The Golden Vulture,” in 1938; Bruce Elliott, who wrote fifteen Shadow stories between 1946 and 1948; and Dennis Lynds, who wrote nine Shadow paperback novels between 1964 and 1967.

Although most hardboiled pulp fiction in the pulps featured male protagonists, some very dangerous dames also found their way into the rough paper magazines. These hardboiled ladies helped to pave the way for such modern day gumshoes as Sue Grafton‘s Kinsey Millhone, Marcia Muller‘s Sharon McCone, and Sara Paretsky‘s V. I. Warshawski. As part of our celebration of the “hardboiled dicks, dangerous dames, and a few psychos,” of the pulps, please join PulpFest 2017 on Thursday evening, July 27, at 10:30 PM as Anthony Tollin explores “The Dangerous Dames of Maxwell Grant: Myra Reldon, Margo Lane, and Carrie Cashin.”

Although Margo Lane is, by and large, the best known of these three characters, she is probably the least dangerous of Grant’s dames. Writing in DEADLY EXCITEMENTS, the late Robert Sampson remarked, “. . . she was a feather-headed nitwit, a flighty pest who lacked any sense of personal danger. . . . The Shadow treated her rather humorously, as if she were a kitten full of catnip. She caused more trouble than she was worth.”

The character was originally created for the Mutual radio broadcasts networks and debuted in 1937. A friend and companion to Lamont Cranston, Margo Lane spies for his alter ego, The Shadow. She would later make her first print appearance in the The Shadow newspaper strips. In 1941, Walter B. Gibson included her in her first pulp novel, “The Thunder King.”

Myra Reldon was the first female agent to work for The Shadow. Born in Shanghai, she had spent many years in Asia learning the languages and the customs of the Chinese. This led her to become an undercover agent for the U. S. Department of Justice, where she disguised herself as “Ming Dwan,” and investigated Chinese matters. The Shadow came in contact with her while working on a case in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He was impressed with her talents and brought her into his organization. Her first appearance was in the 1937 story, “The Teeth of the Dragon.”

Although he used his real name for the Carrie Cashin stories, Theodore Tinsley was the writer who most often — after Walter Gibson — hid behind the Maxwell Grant house name. Attractive as sin, hard-boiled as hell, and one of the very first of the hardboiled lady dicks of the pulps, Carrie Cashin appeared in over three dozen action-packed, fast-paced stories, starting in the November 1937 issue of Street & Smith’s CRIME BUSTERS. This dangerous dame continued in that magazine through a name change — to MYSTERY MAGAZINE in 1939 — right up to her final appearance in November 1942, one of the last issues of the pulp.

Anthony Tollin, publisher, writer, and researcher, is best known for his reprints of Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, and other pulp heroes, issued through the Sanctum Books imprint. These books serve as a source of entertainment and knowledge for veteran pulp fans as well as a major gateway for new people to enter the pulp-collecting hobby. Additionally, Tony was the co-author — with Walter Gibson — of THE SHADOW SCRAPBOOK, and helped to put together and introduce numerous recorded collections of pulp-related radio programs during his association with Radio Spirits. He was also involved with several comic book interpretations of the great pulp heroes and worked as a colorist for many years, primarily for DC Comics. In 2011, Anthony received the Munsey Award for his many contributions to the pulp community.

(Myra Reldon, one of the dangerous dames created by the authors who hid behind the pseudonym of Maxwell Grant, first appeared in the November 15, 1937 issue of THE SHADOW, published by Street & Smith and featuring front cover art by George Rozen.

Although he used his own name for the Carrie Cashin stories, Theodore Tinsley also used the Grant pseudonym, writing 27 of The Shadow’s pulp adventures. His most dangerous dame, Ms. Cashin, was featured in 39 issues of CRIME BUSTERS and MYSTERY MAGAZINE. From time to time, she garnered top cover billing on the magazine — including the November 1938 issue, featuring work by an unknown artist — that also ran the adventures of Lester Dent’s Click Rush, Walter B. Gibson’s Norgil the Magician, Frank Gruber’s Jim Strong, Norvell Page’s The Death Angel, and others.)

 

Street & Smith’s Second String Superheroes

Jun 1, 2016 by

The Whisperer 1936-10Will Murray discovered Doc Savage in 1969 when he picked up the Bantam Books edition of DUST OF DEATH. Within a few short years, he began contributing to Doc Savage fanzines, starting with THE DOC SAVAGE READERSoon thereafter, he began placing articles in other fanzines, including ECHOES, THE PULP COLLECTOR, and PULP VAULT, writing about Doc and other pulp characters and the magazines in which they appeared. Today, nearly fifty years later, Will is one of the most respected authorities on the pulp magazine, having authored countless articles and books, including THE DUENDE HISTORY OF THE SHADOW MAGAZINE and WORDSLINGERS: AN EPITAPH FOR THE WESTERN.

In addition to his many non-fiction work on the pulps, Murray was the ghost-writer for about forty of the Destroyer action-adventures novels. He has also written nineteen Doc Savage novels and a fully authorized Tarzan novel, RETURN TO PAL-UL-DON. A second is forthcoming. He also serves as the literary agent for the Lester Dent estate and as the co-editor of Sanctum Books’ highly regarded pulp reprints.

At 9:10 PM on Thursday evening, July 21, Will Murray will begin PulpFest‘s much-admired programming with a discussion of “Street & Smith’s Second String Superheroes — The Whisperer and The Skipper.”

After Street & Smith kicked off the hero-pulp explosion when THE SHADOW MAGAZINE debuted in 1931, pulp publishers scrambled to grab a share of that eager reading audience. More character pulps came into the mix in 1933: Street & Smith’s DOC SAVAGE, NICK CARTER MAGAZINE, and PETE RICE MAGAZINE; Thrilling Publications’ THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE and THE LONE EAGLE; and Popular’s THE SPIDER and G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES.

In 1936, Street & Smith decided to introduce a harder edge to their hero pulps. Turning to former newspaperman, Hollywood scripter, and prolific pulp author Laurence Donovan — who had written nine adventures of the Man of Bronze — the publisher brought out THE WHISPERER during the fall of 1936. Hitting the newsstands with an October 1936 number, The Whisperer was police Inspector (later police commissioner) James “Wildcat” Gordon. The stocky, granite-jawed policeman attempted to fight crime within the law during the day, but transformed into The Whisperer to take the law into his own hands when it didn’t go far enough. THE WHISPERER lasted 14 issues, ending with the December 1937 number. All of the novels were written by Donovan under the house name Clifford Goodrich.

Two months after the first appearance of the original THE WHISPERER magazine, THE SKIPPER went on sale with a December 1936 cover date. As The Whisperer is often said to have been inspired by The Shadow, there’s little doubt that Captain John Fury — the Skipper — was a variant of Doc Savage.

The Skipper 1936-12Also written by Laurence Donovan — under the house name Wallace Brooker — Cap Fury wasn’t the giant that Doc was; instead he, like Wildcat Gordon, was stocky, but with “flaming red hair” and “sharp arctic blue” eyes. He had Doc-like skills, which included lip reading, using pressure points to subdue the bad guys, and cat-like agility. He also relied on oversized sea boots to conceal hypodermics, oxygen masks, and other gadgets. His flaming red hair and last name echoed his dealings with the criminal sort. Unlike Doc, who refrained from killing, Cap Fury made good use of automatic pistols and a whip to mete out justice. Vowing to rid the seas of pirates and criminals, he battled a number of fantastic foes who controlled death rays, a meteorite that removed oxygen from the air, voodoo practitioners, plague-bearing rats, and other nefarious foes.

When THE SKIPPER was canceled after 12 issues with the December 1937 number, Cap Fury moved into the back pages of DOC SAVAGE MAGAZINE. The shorter stories were written by Donovan, Harold Davis, and Norman Daniels.

Join Will Murray at PulpFest 2016 to learn much more about The Whisperer and Cap Fury. “Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” will salute the 80th anniversaries of the two pulp heroes. PulpFest 2016 will take place from July 21 through July 24 in the Columbus, Ohio Arena district at the Hyatt Regency hotel and the city’s spacious convention center. You’ll have a FANTASTIC time. You can book a room from the PulpFest home page by clicking the link that reads “Book a Room Now.”

(THE WHISPERER was introduced to readers with its October 1936 number, featuring front cover art by the talented John Newton Howitt, a devoted landscape painter whose work was sold at fine art galleries in New York City. With the advent of the Great Depression, the artist turned to the pulps for income. An excellent painter, Howitt found a ready market in the rough-paper periodicals, selling freelance pulp covers to ADVENTURE, DIME DETECTIVE, HORROR STORIES, THE SPIDER, TERROR TALES, THE WHISPERER, WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, and other pulp magazine titles.

THE SKIPPER, including the first issue dated December 1936, featured cover art by Lawrence Donner Toney, a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago. During the 1930s and 1940s, Toney painted covers for pulp magazines, such as CLUES, COMPLETE STORIES, WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, and WILD WEST WEEKLY, all published by Street & Smith.)

Street & Smith’s Second String Superheroes

Feb 1, 2016 by

The Skipper 1936-12THE SHADOW MAGAZINE kicked off the hero-pulp era with a bang when it debuted in 1931. Pulp publishers — including THE SHADOW‘s publisher, Street & Smith — scrambled to grab a share of that eager reading audience.

It took Street & Smith until 1933 to add more character pulps to its lineup: DOC SAVAGE, NICK CARTER MAGAZINE, and PETE RICE MAGAZINE. That same year, Thrilling Publications released THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE and THE LONE EAGLE, while Popular Publications introduced THE SPIDER and G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES.

Popular Publications’ THE SPIDER pushed the boundaries set by the other hero pulp magazines, which were rather mainstream. The Spider was judge, jury and executioner in his battle against crazed, blood-thirsty villains. Other Popular pulps — HORROR STORIES and TERROR TALES — pushed those boundaries even further. The chain’s pulps were “jammed with non-stop violence, like the fever dream of a homicidal maniac,” wrote the late pulp historian Robert Sampson in DEADLY EXCITEMENTS. And as their publisher’s name reflects, these pulps were quite popular. So popular, in fact, that Street & Smith decided it needed to put a harder edge in its hero pulps.

Rather than introduce those themes in its already popular THE SHADOW and DOC SAVAGE magazines, Street & Smith turned to two new hero pulps — THE WHISPERER and THE SKIPPER — to ratchet things up a notch or two.

THE WHISPERER hit the newsstands with an October 1936 number. The Whisperer was police Inspector James “Wildcat” Gordon, who before the end of his first adventure (“The Dead Who Talked”) would be named police commissioner.

The 30-year-old, stocky, granite-jawed policeman attempted to fight crime within the law during the day, but transformed into The Whisperer to take the law into his own hands when it didn’t go far enough. The brash Wildcat Gordon favored equally brash — no, make that garish — suits, often green-checked with bright red ties, a matching carnation, a battered Army campaign hat, and large, yellow shoes. The Whisperer was just the opposite.

Gordon’s crime-fighting alter ego was described as drab, homely, and unassuming. To transform into The Whisperer, Gordon changed into a gray business suit, gray spats and an old-fashioned round-brimmed hat, dusted his brownish/reddish hair with a white powder, and inserted two dental plates that transformed his square jaw into a long, narrow and oddly pointed one. The dental plates also caused him to speak in a low but penetrating whisper — hence his name. To aid him in meting out justice, The Whisperer packed two automatics fixed with super-silencers, which hissed and flashed licks of blue flame when fired. At other times, he took pleasure in snapping criminals’ necks with his exceptionally strong hands.

(Oh, does Police Commissioner James Gordon sound familiar? You’re probably thinking of Police Commissioner James Gordon from BATMAN. That’s just one of several links between the comic-book Caped Crusader and The Whisperer. Will Murray and Anthony Tollin address how THE WHISPERER and other pulps influenced BATMAN in Sanctum Books‘ reprints of the pulp series.)

When necessary, The Whisperer went undercover as D. Smith, or Dunk Smith, a two-bit crook, who looked just like The Whisperer, but without the hat. He had to moderate his speech, keeping it hoarse and husky, in order not to give himself away. Smith’s dog, a Scottish terrier named Brian Boru, only answered to Gordon when he’s either The Whisperer or Dunk.

Gordon was joined in the magazine by Richard “Quick Trigger” Traeger and his granddaughter (later daughter) Tiny Traeger; his police chauffeur, Horace “Slug” Minor; Detective Sgt. Thorsen; and Judge Patrick Kyley. Thorns in Gordon’s side were Deputy Commissioner Henry Bolton, Gordon’s obnoxious assistant who desperately wanted Gordon’s job, and Van Royston, the foppish mayor who dressed in black tie, tails and a silk top hat, and would have welcomed Bolton’s promotion.

Despite the hopped-up violence (at least for Street & Smith standards), The Whisperer rarely faced the sorts of villains confronted by The Spider. The Whisperer tackled organized crime, racketeers, political corruption, and the like.

The Whisperer 1936-10THE WHISPERER‘s first magazine lasted 14 issues, ending with December 1937. All of those novels were written by Laurence Donovan under the house name Clifford Goodrich. Donovan was an ideal fictioneer for putting an edge on The Whisperer (and The Skipper). He was also writing for the more provocative Spicy line of pulps. After his namesake pulp folded, The Whisperer moved to short stories in the back pages of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE, with one appearance in CRIME BUSTERS, for the next three years. Donovan fell out of favor with Street & Smith in 1938, and was replaced by Alan Hathway as the new Clifford Goodrich.

As the United States became embroiled in World War II, pulp popularity rebounded from a slump in the late 1930s. Street & Smith moved The Whisperer back to his own magazine, and restarted the numbering with Vol. 1, No. 1, dated October 1940. The character’s appearance was changed; gone was the drab gray, replaced with black. Murray has speculated that the change may have been to distance The Whisperer from Street’s latest pulp hero, The Avenger, who was also stocky and dressed in gray. The new series lasted ten every-other-month issues, ending the character’s pulp appearances for good with the April 1942 issue.

Two months after the first appearance of the original THE WHISPERER magazine, THE SKIPPER went on sale with a December 1936 cover date. As The Whisperer is often said to have been inspired by The Shadow, there’s little doubt that Captain John Fury — the Skipper — was a variant of Doc Savage.

THE SKIPPER was also written by Laurence Donovan, under the house name Wallace Brooker. Donovan was quite familiar with Doc Savage, having written nine of the Man of Bronze’s adventures from 1935 to 1937.

Cap Fury wasn’t the giant that Doc was; instead he, like Wildcat Gordon, was stocky, but with “flaming red hair” and “sharp arctic blue” eyes. He had Doc-like skills, which included lip reading, using pressure points to subdue the bad guys, and cat-like agility. He also relied on oversized sea boots to conceal hypodermics, oxygen masks, and other gadgets. His flaming red hair and last name echoed his dealings with the criminal sort. Unlike Doc, who refrained from killing, Cap Fury made good use of automatic pistols and a whip to mete out justice.

Fury sailed a rusted-looking old tanker, the “Whirlwind,” which was actually a state-of-the-art battleship, with deck guns, a fully outfitted laboratory, a hanger with foldable aircraft and a submarine, and elaborate living quarters.

Joining Fury in his adventures were Peter Doom, a former policeman and Fury’s closest associate; James Jonathan “Marlin Spike” Briggs, a Monk Mayfair-like first mate; Hurricane Dan Belmont, the giant second mate; Cock-eye, the third mate; and James “Bumps” McCarthy, “a roly-poly, red-haired” fellow “known as ‘Bumps’ because of his constantly getting himself into jams’ who was a newsreel camera man that followed Fury around for great film. Princess Mara — Mara von Jean, the Black Leopard Princess — takes the Pat Savage role in the series beginning in January 1937. She turns up occasionally when she’s not at a Boston girls’ school. There’s also G.R.M. “Grump” Rollins, chairman of the board that owned the Whirlwind.

Again, echoing Doc Savage, Fury was drawn into his battle against evil after his brother, Captain John Fury, was murdered by ocean-faring evildoers in his first adventure. Cap Fury vowed to rid the seas of pirates and criminals.

Unlike the routine bad guys that The Whisperer fought, The Skipper battled a number of fantastic foes who controlled death rays, a meteorite that removed oxygen from the air, voodoo practitioners, plague-bearing rats, and other nefarious foes.

When THE SKIPPER was canceled after 12 issues with the December 1937 number, Cap Fury moved into the back pages of DOC SAVAGE MAGAZINE. The shorter stories were written by Donovan, Harold Davis, and Norman Daniels.

(In addition to their pulp appearances, both The Whisperer and The Skipper branched out to backup stories in Street & Smith comic books in the 1940s.)

Learn much more about The Whisperer and Cap Fury at PulpFest 2016. “Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” will salute the 80th anniversaries of the two pulp heroes. Pulp historian Will Murray will tell the story of “Street & Smith’s Second Stringers: The Whisperer and The Skipper” at the con. Murray is the 1979 Lamont Award winner, and author of “The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage and Tarzan” for Altus Press. PulpFest 2016 will take place from July 21st through July 24th in the Columbus, Ohio Arena district at the Hyatt Regency hotel and the city’s spacious convention center.

(THE SKIPPER, including the first issue dated December 1936, featured cover art by Lawrence Donner Toney, a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago. During the 1930s and 1940s, Toney painted covers for pulp magazines, such as CLUES, COMPLETE STORIES, WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, and WILD WEST WEEKLY, all published by Street & Smith. Most of his work for pulp magazines was signed only with his initials.

THE WHISPERER was introduced to readers with its October 1936 number, featuring front cover art by the talented John Newton Howitt, a devoted landscape painter whose work was sold at fine art galleries in New York City. With the advent of the Great Depression, the artist turned to the pulps for income. An excellent painter, Howitt found a ready market in the rough-paper periodicals, selling freelance pulp covers to ADVENTURE, DIME DETECTIVE, HORROR STORIES, THE SPIDER, TERROR TALES, THE WHISPERER, WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, and other pulp magazine titles.

To learn more about these talented artists, be sure to visit David Saunders’ Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists where you will find more than 300 biographical profiles of American pulp artists.)

Hey!! Kids Comics

May 31, 2015 by

Shadow Comics #1When Street & Smith got around to releasing its first comic book in January 1940, the four-color industry was six years old. Started by the Eastern Color Printing Company in 1934 and strengthened by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson in the next year, the comic book market exploded following the introduction of Superman in 1938 and Batman in 1939. Although its iconic pulp heroes–Doc Savage and The Shadow–helped to inspire the creation of these superheroes, the pulp magazine powerhouse waited to join the fledgling industry. Although it would never become a leader of the industry–producing only 351 issues of comic books–the Street & Smith four-color line would create some of best-selling books of the Golden Age of comics, racking up nearly three million issues a month in 1943.

PulpFest 2015 will mark the 75th anniversary of Street & Smith comic books on Thursday, August 13th with a multimedia presentation showcasing work by Walter Gibson, Theodore Sturgeon, Jack and Otto Binder, Edd Cartier, Bob Powell, George Tuska and Joe Maneely from some of the rarest comic book issues of the Golden Age of Comics. Panelists Will Murray, Tony Isabella and Michelle Nolan will join moderator Anthony Tollin to celebrate the 1940 comic book debuts of The Shadow, Doc Savage, Nick Carter, Bill Barnes, The Avenger, Iron Munro, Carrie Cashin and The Whisperer.

The panel will also discuss the 1942 Bill Barnes comic story that predicted the U-235 atomic bombing of Japan, the most successful sports comic book of all time–TRUE SPORT PICTURE STORIES–and original Street & Smith comic book features including Blackstone: Super Magician, Supersnipe, Red Dragon, Ajax the Sun Man, Hooded Wasp and the adventures of Little Nemo in Slumberland by Otto Binder and Robert Windsor McCay.

Tony Isabella is an American comic-book writer, editor, artist and critic, best known as the creator and writer of DC Comics’ first major African-American superhero, Black Lightning; and the co-creator of Marvel’s Misty Knight and Tigra. He is the author of 1000 COMIC BOOKS YOU MUST READ, a history of the American comic book industry wrapped around commentaries of more than a thousand comic books from 1938 to present. The first in a series of memoirs of sorts will be published later this year. His latest views and reviews can be found at the nigh-daily Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing.”

Will Murray is a noted scholar of American popular culture, having written hundreds of essays on the pulps, comic books, motion pictures, and more. He is the author of “The All-New Wild Adventures of Doc Savage” and co-editor to Sanctum Books’ very successful pulp reprint series.

Michelle Nolan has been a newspaper and magazine feature writer for fifty years. She has written more than five hundred comics-related features for magazines such as COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE, COMICS BUYER’S GUIDE, ALTER EGO, and COMIC BOOK ARTIST.

Anthony Tollin is an authority on comics, pulps, and old-time radio. A former colorist and assistant production manager for DC Comics, he is the editor-publisher of Sanctum Books, responsible for hundreds of authorized reprints of Street & Smith’s Avenger, Doc Savage, Nick Carter, The Shadow, and The Whisperer. Winner of the 2011 Munsey Award, Anthony will soon be publishing a deluxe hardcover edition reprinting the entire two-year run of The Shadow newspaper comic strip.

“75 Years of Street & Smith Comics” will take place on the second floor of the Hyatt-Regency hotel in beautiful downtown Columbus, Ohio, beginning at 9:20 PM on August 13th. Register for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” to be sure to be first to the spinner rack by clicking here.

(Street & Smith entered the comic book market in January 1940 by publishing an anthology title called SHADOW COMICS. In addition to the title character, the book also featured such pulp favorites as Doc Savage, Bill Barnes, Iron Munro, and Carrie Cashin. Dime novel stalwarts Frank Merriwell, Nick Carter, and Diamond Dick also appeared in the issue. The front cover art, created by George Rozen, originally appeared on the November 15, 1932 issue of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE, illustrating Walter B. Gibson’s novel, “Dead Men Live.” SHADOW COMICS would run for a total of 101 issues. It was cancelled in 1949 when Street & Smith pulled the plug on all of its pulps and comic books.)

Play Ball! A Look at the Sports Pulps

May 25, 2015 by

Thrilling Sports 36-09Although sports have long been part of our history–native Americans are known to have played a primitive form of lacrosse–it was not until 1896 and the introduction of Gilbert Patten’s Frank Merriwell that sports became established in American popular fiction. From 1896 through 1916, Frank and his relatives appeared in more than 1,000 issues of Street & Smith’s story paper TIP TOP WEEKLY and its successors. After the nickel weekly’s demise, the Merriwells’ adventures continued elsewhere in the Street & Smith line of publications, including TOP-NOTCH MAGAZINE and SPORT STORY MAGAZINE, the first all-sports pulp magazine. All told, there were more than 500 million copies of Merriwell periodicals released by the publishing giant over the years.

The first issue of SPORT STORY MAGAZINE, dated September 8, 1923, sold for 15¢ and contained a variety of sports fiction, ranging from baseball, boxing and horse racing to polo, auto racing and tennis stories. Except for the occasional yarn in the general-fiction pulps such as ARGOSY and BLUE BOOK, SPORT STORY would have the market to itself for most of the next five years. It was not until the introduction of FIGHT STORIES during the spring of 1928, that another sports pulp would emerge. However unlike SPORT STORY, the Fiction House pulp focused solely on boxing stories.

With the collapse of the world economy in 1929, the sports pulp market would remain relatively stagnant during the early years of the Great Depression. It would not be until the summer of 1935 and the introduction of DIME SPORT MAGAZINE by Popular Publications that the genre would begin to take off. Over the next five years, twenty-five new sports pulp titles would be introduced to American readers. One of the leading publishers in the rapidly expanding market would be Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines, also known as the “Thrilling Group” of pulps. From 1936 through 1953, Pines’ company would publish about 230 sports pulps.

Standard’s foray into the sports pulp market began much like that of Street & Smith: THRILLING SPORTS, introduced during the fall of 1936, featured a wide range of sports fiction, from baseball and football yarns to track-and-field stories and hockey and horse racing tales. It likewise featured a variety of authors, including western writers Tom Curry, Giles Lutz, and in later years, Louis L’Amour; science-fiction stalwarts Nelson Bond, Ray Cummings, and Oscar Friend; detective dramatists William Campbell Gault, Richard Sale, and Robert Leslie Bellem; and aviation addicts Joe Archibald, George Bruce, and Robert Sidney Bowen. Standard would follow its “Thrilling” title with POPULAR SPORTS MAGAZINE in 1937 and EXCITING SPORTS in 1940. It would enter the specialty sports market–long the province of Fiction House–in the fall of 1939 with THRILLING FOOTBALL. POPULAR FOOTBALL and EXCITING FOOTBALL would follow in 1941.

Like all of the Thrilling titles of the time, the sports magazines were under the guidance of managing editor Leo Margulies–himself a topic at this year’s PulpFest–who wrote:

“The wide field of sports is covered by our magazines . . . Every branch amateur, professional, and collegiate athletics is covered; mature and vigorous stories, with real people and a hero facing a realistic problem. Human interest and woman interest are both desirable–for the stories should be slices of life. Solid story structure must bolster any sport angle. No sport story should ever be so nearly plotless as to read like a newspaper report of a game. Naturally, sport scenes must not be ignored to build up plot, but the plot should be forwarded by them, should grow out of the sport conflict, whether the story is told from the point of view of the hero, the trainer, the coach or an observing friend. . . . Be meticulously careful about the authenticity of the sport material. Keep the story adult! American readers are essentially sport-minded. They are eager for good sport stories, whether about baseball, football, swimming, horse racing, motorboat racing, water polo, golf, tennis, rowing, track, boxing, or any other sports that keep young and old Americans out in the open rooting for their favorite exponents of their favorite game.”

Please join PulpFest 2015 on Thursday evening, August 13th, as we welcome journalist Michelle Nolan to discuss the evolution of the sports pulps. Ms. Nolan has been a newspaper and magazine feature writer for fifty years, covering human-interest features, pop culture, and sports. She has written more than five hundred comics-related features for magazines such as COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE, COMICS BUYER’S GUIDE, ALTER EGO, and COMIC BOOK ARTIST. She wrote 100 consecutive “Nolan’s Notebook” columns for COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE from 1993 to 2005. She has contributed to dozens of books and wrote the ground-breaking book LOVE ON THE RACKS: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN ROMANCE COMICS, published by McFarland in 2008. She is also the author of BALL TALES: A STUDY OF BASEBALL, BASKETBALL, AND FOOTBALL FICTION OF THE 1930S THROUGH 1960S, published by McFarland in 2010. She received an Inkpot Award for her work at the 2014 San Diego Comic Convention.

“Play Ball: A Look at the Sports Pulps” will take place on the second floor of the Hyatt-Regency hotel in beautiful downtown Columbus, Ohio, beginning at 10:50 PM on August 13th. Register for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” to be sure not to miss the first pitch by clicking here.

(The first issue of THRILLING SPORTS was dated September 1936 and featured “The Hurdling Hurricane,” credited to Arthur William Rickard, as its cover story. Also featured were baseball, boxing, auto racing, horse racing, and tennis stories. One of the authors whose work was included in the first issue was Ford Frick. In 1951, Frick became the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. The cover art for the issue was by Earle K. Bergey, who, along with Rudolph Belarski, created many cover paintings for Standard’s sports pulps.)

Paul Powers Items Added to 2014 Auction!

Aug 2, 2014 by

Tom Lovell Sonny TaborAlthough writer Paul Powers is best known for his contributions to magazines such as Weird Tales, Wild West Weekly, Thrilling Ranch Stories, and Western Story Magazine, he was also a collector. Thanks to the Powers family, PulpFest has added four more auction lots from the estate of an accomplished pulp author to its Saturday Night Auction. The convention will also be offering twenty-five lots of books, manuscripts, and ephemera from the collection of Everil Worrell, a writer for Weird Tales.

The convention is grateful to pulp fan and scholar Laurie Powers and her family for adding this material to an already exciting auction, one that will include over 150 pulps as well as digests and dime novels from a Boston collection acquired by auctioneer Joseph F. Saine. To honor Paul’s love of animals, especially dogs, all proceeds from the sale of the four Powers lots will be donated to the Grand-Paws Senior Sanctuary in Acton, California. If desired, the sanctuary will happily provide receipts to the winners of the lots for tax purposes.

As part of its Saturday Night Auction, beginning at 9:30 PM on August 9th, PulpFest is please to offer the following lots from the estate of writer and collector Paul S. Powers:

1.  One hardbound copy of  the first US edition of Paul S. Powers’ Doc Dillahay, published by Macmillan in 1949. Overall condition is good with browning of front end paper. Covers are in very good condition with a tight spine. Dustjacket is in poor condition. This full-length historical-fiction novel is described on the front cover blurb of Bantam paperback #832 as “A smashing, true-to-life novel of Old Arizona!”

2.  One hardbound copy of the first UK edition of same, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1950. Overall condition is good to very good. Covers have faded slightly. No marks inside except for pasting of an author’s agent sticker on inside of end paper. Dustjacket is in fair condition with slight tears along edges and small piece missing from bottom of spine.

3.  A color reproduction of Tom Lovell’s portrait of “Sonny Tabor and Paint,” suitable for framing and offered as a premium to readers of Wild West Weekly, circa 1935. Readers were asked to send in three coupons clipped from consecutive issues of the pulp magazine to procure the artwork.

4.  A color reproduction of H. W. Scott’s portrait of “Kid Wolf and Blizzard,” suitable for framing and offered as a premium to readers of Wild West Weekly, circa 1935. There were at least three other reproductions in the set featuring portraits of Bud Jones, the Whistlin’ Kid, and the Circle ‘J’ Pards, the descendants of the original Billy West gang.

Four more reasons to be in Columbus from August 7th through August 10th for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con,” PulpFest 2014!

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To learn more about Paul Powers and Everil Worrell, click on their names in the first paragraph.

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Unknown: The Best in Fantasy Fiction

Jul 29, 2014 by

Unknown 39-03On Saturday, August 9th, at 8 PM, celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication considered the best fantasy magazine of all time, Street & Smith’s Unknown. Join acclaimed lecturer on the history of pulp magazinesProfessor Tom Krabacher of California State University, Sacramento; commentator Walker Martin, who writes about pulp collecting on Pulpmags and Mystery*File; and Professor Garyn G. Roberts, editor of The Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy, as they revisit the magazine’s highlights.

Debuting in February 1939 and publishing a complete novel in each issue, Unknown featured many works now considered classics of the fantasy genre—Anthony Boucher’s “The Compleat Werewolf,” L. Sprague DeCamp’s “Lest Darkness Fall,” L. Ron Hubbard’s “Fear” and “Typewriter in the Sky,” Fritz Leiber’s “Conjure Wife” and the early Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, Norvell W. Page’s Prester John stories “Flame Wind” and “Sons of the Bear-God,” Theodore Sturgeon’s “It,” Jack Williamson’s “Darker Than You Think,” and many others.

Over its 39-issue run, the magazine went through a variety of permutations including the elimination of cover art beginning with the July 1940 number. The magazine would get a new name in  late 1941. Despite the changes, Unknown Worlds would be cancelled following the issue dated October 1943.

Krabacher’s, Martin’s, and Robert’s presentation, “Unknown: The Best in Fantasy Fiction,” accompanied by selected cover art, is yet another reason to make PulpFest your “must-see” convention of 2014!

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The Avenger Turns 75

Jul 22, 2014 by

Avenger 39-09Seventy-five years ago, Astounding Science Fiction published the first science-fiction stories of Robert E. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, and A. E. Van Vogt, as well as Isaac Asimov’s first story for the magazine. The year also witnessed a blossoming of magazine science fiction and fantasy with eight new pulps entering the field. The first World Science Fiction Convention was also held in New York City that year, home to the World’s Fair and its “World of Tomorrow” theme. It was indeed a golden year for fantastic fiction.

1939 was also the year that Street & Smith attempted to duplicate the success of their leading character pulps, The Shadow and Doc Savage. Trying to get all their ducks in order, the company’s business manager Henry Ralston and hero-pulp editor John Nanovic hired journeyman author Paul Ernst to write the lead novels for a new single-character magazine entitled The Avenger.

With the help of Shadow scribe Walter B. Gibson and Lester Dent, the man behind the Doc Savage tales, Ernst was given the task to create what was hoped to be a very profitable magazine. Writing behind the Kenneth Robeson house name, the pseudonym used for the Doc Savage yarns, Ernst put together some excellent stories, particularly in the early going. In the initial entry in the series, “Justice, Inc.,” Ernst’s character, former adventurer Richard Henry Benson, suffers a nervous breakdown following the disappearance of his wife and daughter during an airline flight. Afterward, Benson’s hair is white and his face frozen, but very pliable. This allows him to mold his features into whatever disguise he chooses. He becomes The Avenger and gathers a group of fellow justice-seekers around him.

On Thursday, August 7th, at 9:30 PM, join PulpFest for a salute to “The Avenger’s Diamond Jubilee.” Author and popular culture scholar Rick Lai will offer an illustrated history of the character, exploring The Avenger’s creation and development over time.

Best known for his articles based on the Wold Newton concepts of Philip José Farmer, recently collected by Altus Press as Rick Lai’s Secret Histories: Daring Adventurers, Rick Lai’s Secret Histories: Criminal Masterminds, Chronology of Shadows: A Timeline of The Shadow’s Exploits and The Revised Complete Chronology of Bronze, Rick Lai lives in New York. His short fiction has been collected in Shadows of the Opera (Wild Cat Books, 2011) and two Black Coat Press collections published in 2013–Shadows of the Opera: Retribution in Blood and Sisters of the Shadows: The Cagliostro Curse. He has also appeared regularly in Black Coat’s Tales of the Shadowmen anthologies.

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An Astounding Resurrection

May 12, 2014 by

Astounding Stories 34-12Like Hugo Gernsback had done before it, the demise of Astounding Stories was shortlived. Sold to Street & Smith, the powerhouse publisher of The Shadow, Wild West Weekly, Love Story Magazine, and other pulps, the magazine was back on the racks in September 1933. The new Astounding Stories was edited by F. Orlin Tremaine who seemed to have great faith in the future of science fiction.

Mirroring Harry Bate’s ability to offer more money to his writers and pay rapidly, Tremaine worked to improve the literary quality of the fiction that he published. He challenged his writers to think outside the box, asking them to explore new ideas through what he called “thought variant” stories. Aided by his assistant editors, Desmond Hall and, later, John W. Campbell, Tremaine hoped to diminish the literary bias against science fiction by publishing unusual works by the best science-fiction writers of the 1930s—Campbell, L. Sprague DeCamp, Raymond Z. Gallun, Murray Leinster, Frank Belknap Long, H. P. Lovecraft, C. L. Moore, Ross Rocklynne, Eric Frank Russell, Nat Schachner, E. E. Smith, Don A. Stuart, John Taine, Donald Wandrei, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Jack Williamson, and others.

After publishing such classic works of science fiction as John W. Campbell’s “The Mightiest Machine,” Raymond Z. Gallun’s “Old Faithful,” Murray Leinster’s “Sidewise in Time,” H. P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Colour Out of Time,” E. E. Smith’s “The Skylark of Valeron” and “Galactic Patrol,” Don A. Stuart’s “Twilight,” ” Stanley Weinbaum’s “The Red Peri,” and Jack Williamson’s “The Legion of Space,” Tremaine became an editorial director at Street & Smith. Although the best years of the magazine were yet to come, Tremaine had transformed Astounding Stories into the leading magazine in the science-fiction field. There it would stay for at least the next three decades.

To learn more about the image used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.