Leo Margulies at 115!

Jun 22, 2015 by

Soon after Ned Pines was asked by The American News Company to start a chain of pulp magazines that it would distribute for him, the young publisher approached former literary agent and Frank A. Munsey employee, Leo Margulies, to be the managing editor of the new enterprise. With the country gripped by the Great Depression, the two men came up with a daring idea for the rough paper market–a ten-cent pulp magazine.

Standard Magazines, better known as “The Thrilling Group,” launched THRILLING DETECTIVE, THRILLING ADVENTURES, and THRILLING LOVE in late 1931, each selling for a dime. Within two years, the line was expanding, first with THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, followed by THE LONE EAGLE, SKY FIGHTERS, THRILLING RANCH STORIES, and THRILLING WESTERN. As Standard grew, Leo Margulies became the company’s face.

Margulies was born on June 22, 1905 and raised in Brooklyn, New York. After briefly attending Columbia University, he began working for the Munsey magazine chain, selling subsidiary rights to its stories. His mentor was the legendary editor, Bob Davis, the man who published many of the early works of Max Brand, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Cummings, George Allan England, A. Merritt, and other popular writers.

After Davis left the pulp industry, Margulies started a literary agency with a colleague. He later worked as head of East Coast research for Fox Films; helped to establish Tower Magazines, sold exclusively through Woolworth’s; and founded his own literary agency. After joining Ned Pines’ new publishing venture, he developed a reputation “. . . not only for quick decisions on buying stories but also for swift payment, which made him a writers’ favorite.”

Respected by authors and editors alike, Margulies became known as “The Little Giant of the Pulps.” As author and screenwriter Steve Fisher described in an article written for a writer’s magazine, “. . . there was a sudden silence. Fifty people stopped eating and looked up. Leo Margulies made his usual dramatic entrance. . . . I thought for a moment (American Fiction Guild) president Art Burks was going to leap to his feet and salute.”

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine 81-09During World War II, Margulies enlisted in the military as a war correspondent. He was on board the USS Missouri when the Japanese surrendered. Returning to the USA, he helped launch the Popular Library line of paperback books. In the early fifties, following a lengthy trip to Europe, Leo Margulies left Ned Pines’ employ and started a new publishing venture, King-Size Publications. He returned to the fiction market with two digest magazines — THE SAINT DETECTIVE MAGAZINE and FANTASTIC UNIVERSE. In later years, he established MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. MAGAZINE, ZANE GREY’S WESTERN MAGAZINE, and other fiction digests. He also revived WEIRD TALES in 1973-1974, for four issues, edited by Sam Moskowitz. Leo Margulies died on December 26, 1975 at the age of seventy-five.

As part of its tribute to Ned Pines’ Standard MagazinesPulpFest 2015 will welcome Leo Margulies’ nephew, Philip M. Sherman, to the convention to discuss his uncle Leo on both a personal and professional level. “Not only was Leo an outstanding editor and publisher . . . he was also an outstanding uncle,” Mr. Sherman writes. Philip — who is working on a biography of his uncle — will discuss Margulies’ relationship with his own family as well as the “Little Giant’s” relationship with writers, as expressed in his personal correspondence. Mr. Sherman, the son of Margulies’ sister Ann, will also be sharing family photos of his Uncle Leo as well as excerpts from letters written by the managing editor of Standard Magazines.”

Joining Mr. Sherman on stage will be popular culture scholars Ed Hulse, editor of BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER, and Will Murray, author of “The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage and Tarzan” from Altus Press. Following Mr. Sherman’s intimate presentation on his uncle, the three will discuss the unique methods used by Margulies to manage the Thrilling chain of pulp magazines. The convention would like to thank former organizing committee member Ed Hulse for helping to arrange Philip M. Sherman’s appearance at PulpFest 2015.

“Leo Margulies: The Little Giant of the Pulps” will begin at 7:10 PM on Friday evening, August 14th. Learn how you can register for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” to be sure not to miss this historic presentation by clicking the red register button found on our home page at www.pulpfest.com.

(According to John Locke’s introduction to THRILLING DETECTIVE HEROES, during the Second World War, Leo Margulies “answered the higher calling of wartime. He and several other writers and editors joined the Navy for a stint in the Pacific Theater as war correspondents.” Pictured here is Margulies in uniform. Many thanks to Matt Moring of Altus Press for this photograph. It originally appeared in Will Murray’s study of the pulp western, WORDSLINGERS.

About six years after Margulies’ death, MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, one of the magazines the longtime editor founded after his departure from the Thrilling Group, ceased publication, just seven shy of its 300th issue. During its last year, it ran a seven-part series on pulp heroes that was written by mystery author, Michael Avallone, the creator of private eye Ed Noon. Featured in the September 1981 issue — with a cover by Keller — was Avallone’s tribute to THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, the first hero pulp to be published by Leo Margulies for Standard Magazines.)