Galaxy Science Fiction Novels #1

Galaxy Novel #1

The size of a digest magazine makes them ideal for readers. Not so for newsdealers. Standard racks aren’t designed for digests and if you can’t grab the attention of someone browsing the stands, impulse sales are tough to close. Challenge enough for digest magazines. But what is a newsdealer to do with a digest-size novel coming at her through her regular magazine distributor?

Despite display and distribution challenges, the Galaxy Science Fiction Novels ran from 1950 to 1961. Shown here is the cover of the first edition that launched the series.

Steve Carper examines the series and its roots in “The Galaxy Science Fiction Novels” in TDE4.

Oliver Saari

Suspense Magazine #1 Spring 1951

Stories from Suspense Magazine #1 Spring 1951

“The Deathless Ones” by John Chapman and Oliver Saari
A monolithic space ship transports a crew of two thousand to colonize a new world light years away. Everything aboard the self-sufficient wonder goes exactly as planned until the crew and its expanding population realize the conditions in space have an unexpected effect on them—they are no longer aging and will expend their resources long before they reach their destination.
Oliver Saari (1919–2000) was a fan and writer of science fiction. He was a founder and first Director of the Minneapolis SFL, and Assistant Director for Clifford Simak when the Minneapolis Fantasy Society gathered what was left of the SFL group in 1937. The group’s journal was called The Fantasite.
Saari’s short story “The Cannibals” appeared in Future Fantasy and Science Fiction, Swan American Mags #11 (1948) and his novelette, “Under the Sand-Seas” appeared in Super Science Stories, January 1941. Both Saari and John Chapman had letters of comments published in the February 1935 edition of Amazing Stories (along with Arthur C. Clarke). Chapman and Saari also contributed to the Sky Hook fanzine, published by Redd Boggs during the 1950s. Saari was awarded the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award in 2011, a year after his death.

Big Fiction #7

Big Fiction #7 Winter/Spring 2015

The latest (final?) issue of Big Fiction, Winter/Spring 2015 includes:

“I’ll Be Your Fever” by Panio Gianopoulos
“Happy Birthday to Me” by Neina Gordon
“A Theory of Transformations” by Earle McCartney

Editor and publisher: Heather Jacobs
Printed by Bremelo Press

Big Fiction website
Dock Street Press website

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Special thanks to Rod Lott for his review of The Digest Enthusiast book five at Bookgasm yesterday!

Beyond #18

Beyond Vol. 4 #19 Feb. 1971 or is it?

Beyond began as a digest-sized magazine in September 1968 and ran for a dozen issues. A year after its debut, #13 in September 1969, it became a full size publication (8.5” x 11”). The issue shown here self-identifies as Vol. 4 #19 February 1971. However, as Tom Brinkmann, expert on off-the-beaten-path magazines reports in TDE3, the March issue was actually #19, although it was mislabeled as #18!

What’s more, a full page advertisement in the edition shown here states, “Beyond returns to the popular digest size beginning with the March issue! 132 pages of psychic phenomena bigger & better than ever! On sale at leading newsstands Tuesday, February 2nd!”

Brinkmann reports no knowledge of issues beyond March, which was also full size.

Manhunt Dec. 1953

Manhunt: the gold standard of hardboiled crime fiction digests. One look at the line-up for this issue tells you why. David Goodis opens with “Black Pudding,” the dark, sweet, just dessert of revenge. That’s Ken and Tillie on the cover, painted by Frank Uppwall. Pretty girl, but then you’re looking at her good side. Ken’s first impression: “It was a female voice, sort of a cracked whisper. It had a touch of asthma in it, some alcohol, and something else that had no connection with health or happiness.” He’s fresh out of San Quentin, with plans for a fresh start in Philly that turn dire when his past suddenly flashes a five-inch blade in the dark.

The premise of Richard Marsten’s “Switch Ending” is remarkably similar to “Black Pudding.” How long does it take an ex-con’s old cronies to make trouble once he’s back on the streets? It this case, Danny joins the trouble in progress and attempts to set things right. But he’s living in a dark, noir world, and the best he can manage is to trade one evil for another.

“Killing on Seventh Street” by Charles Beckman, Jr. is a psychological thriller. A regular Joe kills a robber/rapist and struggles with how the violent act has changed him. “But, that evening, he was behind the garage, sharpening the lawn mower, when the neighborhood dog came running over, barking. Clifford reached for the animal and things dissolved in a haze. When it cleared, the dog was a limp form, its broken neck clenched in this hands.”

“Murder Marches On” by Craig Rice features series character John J. Malone. In this adventure the slight lawyer must simply liaise a list of names from a witness to the authorities, as said witness prefers to remain anonymous. Perhaps for the sake of its drama, the exchange takes place in a parade with Malone dressed for the part. At the designated moment chaos erupts and the list holder is murdered. Malone is left with five pages to ensure he’s not the next victim, solve the murder, find the list and collect his fee from his now deceased client. Fortunately, he’s in good hands with Rice.

Things turn considerably darker in “Sucker” by Hunt Collins. Arrested for the rape and murder of his babysitter, Harley appeals to his friend and lawyer, Dave, to help clear him. At the trial the prosecutor’s case, built on a chain of circumstantial evidence, is riddled with doubts by the time Dave finishes. Trouble is, so is Dave.

“Portrait of a Killer” was a regular true crime feature written for Manhunt most often by Dan Sontup. The series began in August 1953 and ran twenty-four issues, ending in July 1955. This issue devotes three pages to Portrait #7, Tillie Gburek, a serial killer who started out poisoning neighborhood dogs and then moved up to a succession of husbands.

The “The Wife of Riley” by Evan Hunter, concerns the disappearance of Riley’s wife at a seashore resort. The place is run by an untoward dude, rife with hidden agendas. “His skin was bad and his eyes were puffed with sleep, and he looked like the kind of guy you could rouse out of any doorway in the Bowery.” Tension mounts as Riley strips away the resort’s façade of normalcy to learn the where and why of his wife’s sudden vanishing act.

Scott Jordan was a series character created by Harold Q. Masur. The lawyer/sleuth takes on a new client in the “Richest Man in the Morgue.” It’s one of several Jordan stories for Manhunt, later collected in The Name is Jordan (1962). “Morgue” is a top-notch yarn with some terrific writing. Here’s one of Masur’s punchy asides: “They thought Hitler was nothing but a windbag too, until he gave the world twenty-four hours to get out.”

Some of Manhunt’s stories are so dark, they could easily have run in a horror magazine. For example, “The Quiet Room” by Jonathan Craig features a dirty cop and his dirty partner. She beats up underage prostitutes in the soundproof room at the precinct to learn the names of the girl’s johns. Then he blackmails the johns to keep their criminal activity off the record. Things end badly.

“The Coyote” by David Chandler features a father who forces his son to “be a man” by killing a coyote. It’s brutal and torturous, and unfortunately, an accurate portrayal of doctrine over common sense.

Roy Carroll’s characters face personal and social atrocity in “Wife Beater.” Officer Tom Rivas grew up in a house where dad beat mom. Perhaps Cherry Szykora did too. Both wrestle with their pasts as they try to rectify their present.

“The Icepick Artists” by Frank Kane is listed on the contents page as a novelette. It is, but it’s also the first part of a longer saga that involves the death of a PI employed by Seaway Indemnity. The firm hires Johnny Liddell to investigate. He solves the murder, but the larger criminal mastermind waits for readers and Liddell in a follow-up adventure in the January 1954 edition.

“Crime Cavalcade” presents a rapid-fire succession of short true crime stories in newspaper style. The feature ran from May 1953 through December 1955, handled by Vincent H. Gaddis. Here’s a example: “As a gag to illustrate low salaries, Bruce Shanks, cartoonist for the Evening News in Buffalo, N.Y., pictured a policeman baby-sitting to supplement his regular salary. However some of the paper’s readers didn’t get the point. Half a dozen parents telephoned police headquarters that night seeking baby sitters.”

The issue’s final yarn, “The Insecure” by R. Van Taylor was billed as “. . . one of the most unusual ideas ever to appear in Manhunt.” It’s more like something out of the Twilight Zone than a traditional crime anthology, but once you’re tuned in to its unreliable narrator, its an entertaining twist on the expected.

If this edition is any indication, it’s small wonder Manhunt remains the premier title for fans and collectors of hardboiled crime fiction digests.

This review originally appeared in The Digest Enthusiast #3 January 2016.

Laughing masks when luck’s running good

The final story in the final Ellery Queen digest-sized collection of Dashiell Hammett shorts—Mercury Mystery #233 (1962)—is “When Luck’s Running Good.” The opening paragraph follows:

“A shriek, unmistakenly feminine, and throbbing with terror, pierced the fog. Phil Truax, hurrying up Washington Street, halted in the middle of a stride and became as motionless as the stone apartment buildings that flanked the street.”

Originally titled “Laughing Masks,” the story first appeared in Action Stories in November 1923 under Hammett’s Peter Collinson pseudonym.

(Image from Galactic Central.)

Pulp Literature #13 Winter 2017

As Pulp Lit begins it’s fourth year, the issue’s cover by Zoran Pekovic sports a matt finish and the magazine is now accepting advertisements. The page size shrinks to 5-1/4” x 8”, knocking a quarter-inch off last issue’s width and height. Full contents include:

From the Pulp Lit Pulpit  by Jen, Mel & Katherine (Katherine Howard replaces Susan Pieters, who is taking a year off to concentrate on her own fiction. Rachel Kuo joins PL as marketing/advertising coordinator and Anat Rabkin as bookkeeper.)
In This Issue (Fiction/author teasers)
“The Devil You Don’t” by Matthew Hughes (reprinted from Asimov’s March 2005), art by Mel Anastasiou
“Fishface and the Leg” by Matt Hughes (reprinted from The Western Producer 1982), art by Mel Anastasiou
Feature Interview: Matthew Hughes
“The Seven Swans: The Case of the Cavalier’s Rapier” story and art by Mel Anastasiou
Poetry by Susan Taylor, Daniel Aristi, Jude Neale and Elizabeth Amerding
“The Green Thread and the Blue” by Carolyn Oliver, art by Mel Anastasiou
“Piano Music” by Susan Pieters, art by Mel Anastasiou
“Mermail” by Eric Del Carlo, art by Mel Anastasiou
“How to Lose a Week” by F.J. Bergmann, art by Mel Anastasiou
The 2016 Hummingbird Prize for Flash Fiction, awards and presents the winners, with comments from Bob Thurber and art by  Mel Anastasiou:
Winner: “Xuefi and His Heart” by Rebecca Wurtz (included)
Runner-up: “Painted Nails” by Jenna Park (included)
Honourable Mention: “Scathed” by Holly Woodward
Editor’s Pick: “Better Watch Out” by Anna Belkine (included)
“It Rained Then Too” comic with story and art by Anat Rabkin
“Allaigna’s Song: Aria” story and art by J.M. Landels
The Artists (short bios)
Marketplace (ad section)

Publisher: Pulp Literature Press
Managing Editor: Jennifer Landels
Acquisitions Editor: Melanie Anastasiou
Assistant Editor: Katherine Howard
Poetry Editor: Daniel Cowper
Copy Editor: Amanda Bidnall
Proofreader: Mary Rykov
Graphic Designer: Claire Milne
Mathmagician: Anat Rabkin
Advertising Co-ordinator: Rachel Kuo
Consulting Editor: Susan Pieters
5-1/4” x 8” 222 pages
$14.99 print
$4.99 ebook

Pulp Literature website

Showdown by Charles Beckman, Jr.

Charles Boeckman (1920–2015), an original pulpster, dropped the “o” from his name and wrote as Charles Beckman, Jr. His story “Showdown” appeared in Flying Eagle’s Gunsmoke in August 1953. Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Dave Segel awoke with a start, reaching for his gun with the instinctive movement of a hunted animal. He lay half-crouched on his blanket, peering into the Stygian blackness with red-rimmed eyes. He had picked this spot shrewdly, knowing that the tangled brush surrounding it would give warning. And he had been right. For it had been the muffled crack of a twig snapping under a stealthy foot that had penetrated his fitful dozing and brought him wide awake.”

Beckman’s stories appeared in pulps and digests of nearly every genre. Recently, two collections of his work have been published: Suspense, Suspicion & Shockers (2012) featuring crime fiction and Saddles, Sixguns & Shootouts (2013) featuring westerns.

Asteroid of Horror

Ed Emshwiller illustration from Super-Science Fiction Oct. 1959

Our final Super-Science Fiction post for now features the opening lines to James Rosenquest’s “Asteroid of Horror” from the last issue which landed on newsstands in October 1959.

“He was a clay pigeon, a sitting duck, a target.”

The story intro explains: “It was a graveyard in space, a feeding ground for an abominable thing that had lived for millions of years and filled its lair with tons upon tons of bare bones.”

The opening spread displays the illustration shown of the abomination by Ed Emshwiller that harkens back to Kelly Freas’ cover painting seen earlier that June.

The dimple in the morgue

Originally titled “The Dimple” when it appeared in Saucy Stories, October 15, 1923, this short, short tale by Dashiell Hammett was retitled “In the Morgue” for Mercury Mystery #233, February 20, 1962. Here’s the opening from the latter:

“Walter Dowe took the last sheet of the manuscript from his typewriter with a satisfied sigh and leaned back in his chair, turning his face to the ceiling to ease the stiffened muscles of his neck. Then he looked at the clock: 3:15 A.M. He yawned, got to his feet, switched off the lights, and went down the hall to his bedroom.”

To introduce the story Ellery Queen informs readers, “A generation or so ago, when this story was first published, an author was not permitted to refer in print to a woman’s legs—they had to be called “limbs”. . .” Even in a magazine called Saucy Stories?!?!?

(Image from Mike Hubert’s Dashiell Hammett website.)