The Saint May 1957
Stewart Sterling was a pulp fictioneer and radio scriptwriter. He also wrote a series featuring Fire Marshal Pedley and one with house detective Gil Vine. Sterling was the primary pseudonym of Prentice Winchell, but he also wrote as Spencer Dean, whose series character was department store detective Don Cadee, and a few stories as Jay de Bekker and Dexter St Clair. Here’s the opening for Sterling’s “The Well-Mannered Monster” from The Saint (May 1957)
“Rugely is in Staffordshire, something like a hundred miles north of London, one of the quietly quaint towns you may have seen pictured on lithographs in the railway stations of England or the travel agencies of American cities. If you chance to visit Rugely, not far from the bustling count seat of Stafford and only a bit further from the famous sporting town of Derby, you may find it difficult to envision this agreeable village in the valley of the Trent as having been the scene of a comedy of terrors which made the bloodiest murders of the Borgias seem pallid performances indeed.”
Richard Moore wrote a terrific piece on Stewart Sterling for Mystery File.
The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #4, June 1952
Craig Rice was of course not a man, but the pseudonym of mystery writer Georgiana Craig, the first mystery writer ever to grace the cover of Time magazine in 1946. Her story “His Heart Could Break,” starring series character, John J. Malone, first appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (March 1943) and was subsequently reprinted as the lead story in The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #4 (June 1952). Here’s the opening paragraph:
“John J. Malone shuddered. He wished he could get the insidious melody out of his mind—or, remember the rest of the words. It had been annoying him since three o’clock that morning, when he heard it sung by the janitor of Joe the Angel’s City Hall Bar.”
The young heir to a fortune, convicted for the murder of his uncle, is found hanged in his jail cell. Tragically just before his lawyer, John J. Malone, can collect his fee for uncovering new evidence important enough to earn the young heir a second trial. The idea for this five star story apparently came to Rice while riding on a train past Joliet Prison.
Beyond July 1953
Roger Dee was the pseudonym of Roger D. Aycock (1914–2004), who wrote primarily science fiction. Here’s the opening to his “The Songbird” from the debut issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction (July 1953).
“The seasons got stuck in April, and Marble County had a spring that was seven months long. A seven-month spring is a plain miracle anywhere, and it made my neck of the woods—Payson’s Falls and a twenty-mile circle of country around the town—famous.”
Dee wrote ~50 short stories and several novels during the 1950s. Several more novels were published posthumously. There isn’t much information about him on the web, but he was profiled in Imagination, April 1954.
Mysterious Traveler #3 March 1952
The final story in The Mysterious Travel Magazine #3 is “Told For the Truth” by Cyril Hume. Here’s the opening:
“This story was told me a year or two ago by an American doctor from Philadelphia I met him in the American Express at Florence, and because I knew the city better than he, I was able to render him a slight service. As a result he had me to dine with him. We became acquainted over champagne.”
When the story was first written in 1925 its shock ending may well have been unexpected, but today’s reader will likely see it coming, following the clues Hume give us along the way. It originally appeared in Street of the Malcontents (1927). On a scale of 5, I’d give a 4. It fits the mystery/macabre sensibilities of the MT radio program quite well.
Hume (1900–1966) was born in London and attended Yale University. His novels included Wife of the Centaur and Cruel Fellowship. He is most remembered for his screenplay career, penning scripts for 29 films including Tarzan Escapes (1936), Forbidden Planet (1956), The Invisible Boy (1957), and the Rifleman TV series.
Nostalgia Digest, Summer 2014
“During the waning days of radio’s golden age, something new was brought to the broadcast medium: a Western for adults—Gunsmoke. Ground-breaking in its use of dialogue and sound effects as well as subject matter, Gunsmoke swept the listener into the daily life and brutality of the western frontier of 1870s Kansas.”
Opening lines from “How the West Grew Up” by Nick Deffenbaugh, Nostalgia Digest Summer 2014
TDE Book Three now available from Mike Chomko Books
Mike Chomko Books now has The Digest Enthusiast book three in stock and available through his Feb/March 2016 Catalog, listed under Larque Press. He’ll also bring copies to the upcoming PulpFest (July 21-24, 2016) in Columbus, Ohio. Many thanks for your support, Mike!
Rob Lopresti reports his “Shanks Goes Rogue” is scheduled to appear in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in the May edition. Rob gave a talk last fall on Crime Against Nature: Writing An Environmental Crime Novel in which he discussed his latest novel Greenfellas. You can hear it here.
Gary Lovisi has completed an article on the digest-sized Galaxy Magabooks. Watch for it in TDE4, scheduled for June 2016 publication.
The digest covers shown in TDE often require retouch to bring them back to their original luster. I’m not a Photoshop wizard by any means, but I do the best I can with my limited knowledge of the program.
I collected a set of The Mysterious Traveler Magazine for the article that appeared in TDE2. This cover from January 1952, the second issue, was in the worst condition. It was a little creepy at times as I repaired the image brick by brick with that helpless woman staring ahead at the fiend off-screen. You spend that much time looking at her and you start to wonder why she isn’t kicking the bricks away as fast as he’s putting them up—let alone waiting for them to set!
And in grayscale
After the color work is finished the image is converted to grayscale and the levels are adjusted to add a little contrast. The type on some covers can become very difficult to read in the black-and-white version. In those cases, the intensity of the original color is adjusted (red to pink for example) until it’s readable in the grayscale version.
Mysterious Traveler #3 March 1952
“Richard Brison came to me with one of the strangest delusions I have ever encountered.” That’s the opening line of Lou Houston’s terrific yarn ”Drop Dead!” from The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #3 (Mar. 1952).
The story is categorized on the contents page as “strange,” but it could just as easily been classified as fantasy or even horror. The main character has good reason to believe his habit of quipping “drop dead” is literally the cause of death. After he witnesses the demise of two successive victims, he’s willing to do whatever the doctor orders to bring an end to his dilemma.
I could find no other fiction credits for Lou Houston online, but a writer by that name was a scripter for radio (Gunsmoke) and television including episodes of Science Fiction Theater, Highway Patrol, Klondike, 77 Sunset Strip, The Addams Family, Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies.
Shanks on Crime by Robert Lopresti
Reticent sleuth, Leopold Longshanks, is the creation of Washington State’s author Robert Lopresti. Mysteries have a way of finding Shanks, and he has a way of solving them. Here’s the opening from “Shanks on Misdirection” that originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (Jul/Aug 2009) and reappeared in the Shanks On Crime anthology:
“Just look at him,” muttered Leopold Longshanks. “I can’t believe he had the gall to show up.”
Shanks is approaching a dozen appearances in AHMM, outdistancing Lopresti’s other series characters Marty Crow and Uncle Victor. His recent novel, Greenfellas was published by Oak Tree Press in 2015.
Borderline debuted in September 1964, from Sherbourne Press in Los Angeles, from Publisher Louis Linetsky and Executive Editor Sydney Omarr. The digest magazine ran for ten issues, ending in February 1966.
The cover of Borderline #7 (July 1965) illustrated the feature “I Ching: The Book of Changes” by Lawrence Lipton (who also wrote for Knight magazine).
“But, the feature of the most interest to me was “Borderline Special: L. Ron Hubbard” sub-titled “Scientology—The Sound and the Fury.” The piece was actually a response, in the form of a letter by Hubbard, to the article that ran in Borderline’s second issue (October 1964) by Richard G. Sipes.”
Excerpt from “The Borderline Beyond” by Tom Brinkmann, TDE2 June 2015