Monthly Archives: March 2016

Oh, that Gouverneur Morris—the Writer

The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #4, June 1952

The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #4, June 1952

Gouverneur Morris’ “Back There In the Grass” is filed aptly under the category “strange” on the contents page of The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #4 (June 1952). It originally appeared in the volume It, And Other Stories (1912).

A lone cable operator stationed on a Polynesian island, hosts a scientist collecting grass specimens for the Bronx Botanical Garden. In their explorations they soon make a discovery so unbelievable only a talented wordsmith could pull it off. Here’s how it opens:

“It was spring in the South Seas when, for the first time, I went to shore at Batengo, which is the Polynesian Village, and the only one on the big grass island of the same name. There is a cable station just up the beach from the village, and a good-natured young chap named Graves had charge of it.”

Not to be confused with the Founding Father, Gouverneur Morris the writer, was a pulp fiction author and screenwriter who wrote the “Yellow Men and Gold” serial that began in Adventure #1 (1910), screenplays for The Penalty with Lon Chaney Sr. (1920) and The Man Who Played God with George Arliss and Bette Davis (1932), among many other works.

Gordon Van Gelder: Fantasy & Science Fiction

F&SF Oct/Nov 2008

F&SF Oct/Nov 2008

D. Blake Werts: After a while at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, you also became publisher. How do the roles of editor and publisher differ and why were you compelled to also take on the role of publisher?

Gordon Van Gelder: To answer your second question first, I took on the role of publisher because the Fermans were looking to sell the magazine. Buying the magazine and becoming its publisher was the best way to make sure I’d be able to continue editing it.

As for how the editor and publisher roles differ, they’re obviously not too far apart, since Ed Ferman and I both managed to hold down the two roles for years. As I see it, the editor’s responsible for most of what goes between the covers while the publisher handles the rest. That is to say, the fiction and nonfiction are the editor’s responsibility, while the publisher handles advertising, promotion, production, and marketing.

Excerpt from the interview in The Digest Enthusiast #1.

Damon Knight in Beyond Fantasy Fiction

Beyond July 1953

Beyond July 1953

Inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2003, Damon Knight was also honored as SFWA’s 13th Grand Master in 1994. A master of the short story, his “Babel II” appeared in the July 1953 edition of Beyond Fantasy Fiction. Here’s the opening:

“From the front he looked a little like Happy Hooligan, if you remember that far back. From the side, where you got a better view of that silver-white crest, he looked more like a cross between George Arliss in a cockatoo.”

Knight shared his expertise with aspiring writers, he was a founder of the Clarion Workshop and taught there for 27 years. He also wrote the instructional writing book Creating Short Stories.

An introductory promise from The Mysterious Traveler Magazine

Most fiction magazines open their fiction with an introduction. A short paragraph to frame the context of what’s to come or provide background on the author or the story. Or, far less useful, it may consist of hype.

The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #4, June 1952

The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #4, June 1952

The Mysterious Traveler’s introductions to the stories in his digest magazine spanned all approaches. I usually relish his glib remarks, but on “The Hint” by Robert Arthur, writing as Jay Norman, the balance slips promising an ending that “…you’ll be a long time forgetting.”

Here’s the opening to the story from The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #4 (June 1952):

“We were somewhere west of Chicago, rocketing through flat Iowa farmland at a velocity that sent the coffee slopping over the edge of my cup. It was early—so early that I was the only one in the dining car, except for the very neat little man who sat opposite me. I didn’t know his name, but we had chatted over a drink in the club car the evening before, and it had been natural for me to invite him to sit with me when he entered the diner a moment after I did.”

It was a good story, maybe even a great one. I remember giving it a 4-star rating. But I forget how it ended.

Curtis Fuller: Fate Magazine #497

Fate Magazine #497, Vol. 44 #8, Aug. 1991 with Curtis Fuller (1912-1991) tribute

Fate Magazine #497, Vol. 44 #8, Aug. 1991 with Curtis Fuller (1912-1991) tribute

In the late 1940’s, Raymond A. Palmer was editor of Amazing Stories and Curtis Fuller was editor of Flying, both published by Ziff-Davis. When the company announced they’d move their offices from Chicago to New York as of 1950, it sparked a new publishing venture.

Palmer and Curtis knew that stories of unexplained phenomenon like UFOs were widely popular with readers and decided the market would support a magazine completely dedicated to other-worldly subjects—and Fate magazine was born.

Not long after Palmer moved from Chicago to Amherst, Wisconsin, the Fullers bought out his interest in the magazine, and Mary Fuller took over as editor.

Pocket Detective Magazine #2

Pocket Detective Magazine #2 Nov. 1950

Pocket Detective Magazine #2 Nov. 1950

Published by Trojan Magazines by publisher Frank Armor, and edited by Adolphe Barreaux, Pocket Detective Magazine was the size of a paperback with the editorial content of a digest, displayed on newsstands rather than book shelves. It measured 4.75” x 6.75,” ran 100 pages (actually 98) and featured seven short stories per issue.

Published quarterly (per indicia in issue #2), the magazine debuted in Sept. 1950 and ended in Nov. 1950 after only two editions.

“Murder in Red” by Tedd Thomey
“Dressed to Kill” by Ed Barcelo
“Portrait of Crime” by Ladson E. Church
“Deadly Secret” by Calvin L. Boswell
“Voice from the Grave” by C. William Harrison
“Winged Terror” by Tom Lee
“Scarabs of Doom” by Clive Criswell

The final three pages are devoted to “The Mail Pouch” with readers’ comments and editorial response from George Delbow. The feature begins with a short commentary about the upsurge in crime and shared responsibility being our best defense. “Every decent citizen can be a sort of private eye in helping authorities round up crooks by reporting anything that looks in any way suspicious. If every one of us is alert, crime and criminals can be curbed considerably.” Basically the same advice we hear today regarding terrorists, repeated in airport and subway on public announcement systems.

Regarding feedback, Delbow expresses thanks to a letter-writer complimenting Trojan’s pocket-size magazines: “Yep—we plan to bring out more titles. Several more are already on the stands. Ask your newsdealer for Hollywood Detective, Six-Gun Western and Pocket Western.”

This issue of Pocket Detective also announced plans for Crime Fiction Stories, on sale Sept. 21, 1950. Another reader suggested a science fiction title. Delbow’s response: “That’s a pretty interesting proposition, and we’ll give it a lot of thought. Maybe there are a lot more fellows like you who are interested in science fiction.”

The cover of Pocket Detective #2 was painted by Robert Maguire, and each story inside began with a half-page illustration.

The pocket-size Hollywood Detective began in 1942 as Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective as a pulp magazine, changing its title to simply Hollywood Detective in Sept. 1943 and continued for seven more years until its final, pocket-size edition in Oct. 1950.

Trojan Magazines also published a series of crime and western comic books in the early 1950s including Attack! and Beware (acquired from Youthful in 1952), Western Crime Busters, Crime Mysteries, Youthful Romances and Crime Smashers. The later was their longest running title (15 issues) and included series characters Dan Turner “Hollywood Detective” created by Robert Leslie Bellem; Sally the Sleuth created by Adolphe Barreaux, and who first appeared in Spicy Detective Stories; Gail Ford “Girl Friday;” and Ray Hale “News Ace.”

Pocket Detective Magazine was also the title of an earlier effort published by Street & Smith from Dec. 1936 to Oct. 1937, under the editorial guidance of Robert Arthur. Michael L. Cook describes it in his reference book Mystery, Detective, and Espionage Magazines: “It was hoped that the small size and ease with which it could be carried would attract possible readers and persuade them to part with fifteen cents. Too, this size magazine could be printed more economically than the larger, bulkier, pulp-size magazines. But sales did not result in the anticipated success, and Pocket Detective Magazine was discontinued after eleven issues.”

Unfortunately, the concept didn’t fare any better in 1950, but Trojan’s version remains a rare and highly collectable part of digest magazine history.

Tom Fisher and the Not So Private Eye #10

No So Private Eye #10 1982(?)

No So Private Eye #10 1982(?)

I ran across Not So Private Eye #10 searching on “Tom Fisher,” a cartoonist I first discovered in the 70s from his wonderful Softboiled: Night of the War Hounds zine, self-published in 1978. He also published Circus Squadron the same year. I liked his work so much I was thrilled when he agreed to draw the cover of Funny Paper #3 in 1980.

I lost track of Tom in the 80s, but still hope to discover new work by him on the occasional search. Recently, I was delighted to find Not So Private Eye #10 which includes a wraparound cover, several interior illos and reviews of a one story each from Two-Fisted Detective Stories and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine—all by Tom Fisher! A thrilling detective find.

Turns out Not So Private Eye was a zine published by Andy Jaysnovitch, devoted to the private eye/hardboiled character. The listing in Michael L. Cook’s Mystery, Detective, and Espionage Magazines provides a useful history of the title’s first nine issues. (Info beyond those are based on what I could gather from the web.) The zine is also listed in The Heirs of Anthony Boucher by Marvin Lachman.

#1 Aug/Sep 1978 (7” x 8.5”) 28 pages
#2 Oct/Nov 1978 (7” x 8.5”) 48 pages
#3 thru 8 (8.5” x 11”)
#9 Jan 1982 (5.5” x 8.5”) 20 pages
#10 1982(?)  (5.5” x 8.5”) 48 pages
#11 1983
#11-1/2 1984

Another nice surprise in issue #10 was Brad W. Foster’s (illo) and Bill Crider’s humorous piece on “The Complete Crocadilettante or It’s a Croc(k).”

According to Cook, Tom and Brad, and several other cartoonists, also contributed covers to some of the earlier issues, so I’ll be on the lookout for more of these gems.

Pulp Modern #10 Spring 2016

Pulp Modern #10 Spring 2016

Pulp Modern #10 Spring 2016

Pulp Modern returns, now presenting nothing but the very best crime fiction available today. Issue ten is filled with dangerous women and reckless men and bad craziness all around.

“Security” by E.F. Schraeder
“The Tell-Tale Cadillac” by Tony W. Brown
“A Waste of Pain” by Albert Tucher
“Shrink Wrap” by Craig Faustus Buck
“Covered Bridges” by Joe Kraus
“Safekeeping” by Leon Marks
“Rheo Bars” by Preston Lang
“The Pareto Principle” by Scotch Rutherford
“The Dredger” by Mark Rapacz
“The Suffrages of Brother Notary” by Parnell Stultz

Editor: Alec Cizak
6” x 9” 96 pages, $5.99 and $2.99

Purchase: Print and Kindle on the monster river.
News: Facebook data collection site.
Submissions: Pulp Modern website.

Rudy Rucker in Asimov’s

Asimov's July 2015

Asimov’s July 2015

The opening of Rudy Rucker’s “Petroglyph Man” from Asimov’s Science Fiction, July 2015:

“One August, Julio and Beatriz went for a vacation in Hawaii. Beatriz was a grade-school teacher. Julio was doing product support for a new photo app called Benthos. Lately things had been rough.”

Rucker’s story combines technology and the supernatural world in an inventive dive into the uncharted waters of relationships and love.

Fredrick Wells aka Robert Arthur in Mysterious Traveler #4

The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #4, June 1952

The Mysterious Traveler Magazine #4, June 1952

Writing as Fredrick Wells, Robert Arthur wrote “Bee-Line Bait,” first published in Argosy (Sept. 1942). Ten years later, as editor of The Mysterious Traveler Magazine, Arthur changed the title to “Pigeon’s Blood,” kept the pseudonym and ran it in MT #4 (June 1952). Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Nick Carrington handed back the fountain pen, and his abductor took from him the note he had written his wife, Beatrice. It was short and direct.”

It’s no surprise this short, inventive story was selected for the magazine. It’s a 5-star crime adventure about an abductee who outsmarts his kidnapper.