Monthly Archives: July 2017

Spaceway Science Fiction April 1955

spaceway4_1955Criswell made the cover of Spaceway again in April 1955 with the ominous prediction “The Dying Planet.” Inside we learn he’s not talking about our planet, but Bellarion, a planet remarkably similar to Earth. Criswell predicts the alien planet’s fate will collide with ours as Bellarion leaves orbit, shooting across the depths of space only to arrive in our solar system where it will explode.

A second piece, attributed to Charles Wireman, provides a short biography of the famed psychic.

Perhaps Criswell’s greatest Spaceway triumph will follow, when he shares the cover with Mae West, on the final issue of Spaceway’s first run in June 1955. Stay tuned to this blog for future details!

POD or EPUB?

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Pulp Literature #15

The digital digest editors/publishers we spoke to prefer printed copies, but a healthy portion of their readers prefer to read on-screen. Jennifer Landels reports Pulp Literature leverages every sales channel. “Along with print, we make html, PDF, EPUB and mobi versions, all of which are available when you buy the digital issue,” says Landels. “It took us a while to find the right eBook formatter, so the EPUB and mobi versions of issues 1–3 are not quite what we wanted. However, by issue 4 we found Booknook.biz and they are absolutely fabulous: fast, accurate, and great people to work with. They use the InDesign files supplied by our designer and the ebooks look as close to the print version as possible given the format. However, I still feel that to appreciate the graphics, e-subscribers would do well to check out the html or PDF versions as well as downloading the ebooks for their readers.”

Pulp Literature #15 is available now.

The above excerpt, from “Digital Digest Magazines” interviews with the editors, appears in TDE4.

Charles H. Gesner’s How Can You Be Reading This?

amazing_stories_194703Stories from Suspense Magazine #3 Fall 1951: “How Can You Be Reading This?” by Charles H. Gesner


A story built around a wacky job function—expungers—those tasked with erasing anyone they’re sent to call on. Perhaps it was prophetic as this appears to be Gesner’s only published work besides a letter of comment published in Amazing Stories (March 1947).

Image from Galactic Central.

Galaxy Novel #19

gn19Jack of Eagles by James Blish is the nineteenth Galaxy Novel, published in 1953, cover by Ed Emshwiller.

Synopsis: Danny Caiden’s on the run—from the FBI, the SEC, the Justice Department, and the Mob. Only recently, Danny had been an average New York copywriter, until he suddenly found he had ESP. His knowledge of the future is astonishing, and the rest of Danny’s powers are just beginning. But someone else wants him too: an evil group of preternatural men bent on world domination. They’ll stop at nothing until they capture Danny . . . or destroy him. Why? Because only Danny has the power to sabotage their diabolic tyranny. In the final, frenzied battle, Danny must summon all his powers, or sacrifice himself—and all mankind—to satanic slavery forever.

Bulldog Drummond by Sapper

bulldog_drummond“Enormous physical strength is a great asset, but it carries with it certain natural disadvantages. In the first place, its possessor is frequently clumsy: Hugh had practised in France till he could move over ground without a single blade of grass rustling.”

Early in the 20th century it was not permitted for officers serving the British Army to publish under their proper names. Thus, Herman Cyril McNeile was given the pen name “Sapper” by the owner of the Daily Mail, Lord Northcliffe.

Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond began as a policeman in his first appearance in a short story published in The Strand Magazine, but McNeile transformed the character into a gentleman adventurer for the first novel, published in 1920.

The language used in the book reflects its era, nationality, and commonly accepted prejudices, which call attention to themselves at least once every few pages. A humorous example; as Drummond and his pals recover from being drugged the Captain quips, “However, while you go and put your nuts in the river, I’ll go up and make certain.” In this case “nuts” means “heads.” Another convention of the times is the inclusion of the chapter number in its title: “Chapter one in which he takes tea at the Carlton and is surprised.”

The British edition shown here is Hodder and Stoughton’s soft cover from 1953. The first of 19 in the series, ten of which were penned by McNeile and continued by his friend Gerard Fairlie after McNeile’s death in 1937. It might be considered a paperback, but its dimensions and overall feel align with Fleetway’s Suspense magazine, so I will treat it as the first of a digest series.

The quality production values and heavy-weight cover stock of this 1953 edition, made the volume easier to hold and handle than a typical 60-year-old digest. If only more publishers had followed suit.

As the story opens it’s December 1918, just a month after the end of the first great war, at the Hotel National in Berne. Count Comte de Guy gathers a trio of wealthy businessmen, Mr. Hocking, an American, and two Germans, Herr Steinemann and Herr von Gratz, to finance his scheme to mount the defeat of England. “. . . a defeat more utter and complete than if she had lost the war . . . .”

They agree on the condition that de Guy convince another wealthy American, Hiram Potts, to join them and reduce each man’s investment to a quarter, rather than a third of the total required. Meanwhile, Captain Hugh Drummond, late of the Royal Loamshires, reviews responses to his blind box newspaper ad seeking adventure. From the stack of letters, one catches his eye and leads to a meeting with Phyllis Benton, and coincidentally Henry Lakington, whom she later confides is “the second most dangerous man in England.”

Of course, this begs the question, who is number one? A man named Carl Peterson, whom Lakington reports to. It seems Phyllis’ father has somehow been unwillingly drawn into a conspiracy hatched by Peterson, and Miss Benton hopes Drummond is just the man to set things right.

Like most classic pulp heroes Drummond is wealthy, extraordinarily fit, remarkably adept at numerous fighting skills, a born leader and irresistible. (In Drummond’s case “his best friend would not have called him good-looking,” but his smile is devastating. “He smiled, and no woman yet born could see Hugh Drummond smile without smiling too.”)

His archetype is always freed from conventional problems and concerns, apparently so all of their energies can be focused on their altruistic missions—none of the normal baggage and responsibilities of life to weight them down. Unfortunately, all this damned perfection can also make them boring. Sapper was a fine writer, but his efforts to continuously ensure readers understand the remarkable character and humility of his hero is at times tedious.

At the other extreme, Drummond is transformed to near absurdity in the presence of the love of his life, Miss Benton. His normal heroic ability is reduced to the level of an awkward teenager when they’re alone on the page.

My first encounter with Bulldog Drummond, from the old time radio program, was very favorable. I was preconditioned to enjoy this novel, and if I’d read it alongside the exploits of David Innes and Curt Newton, back in high school, I may well have loved every minute of it. But coming at it fresh, nearly a century after it was written, I found it more difficult to enjoy.

After an excellent prologue sets up the impending crisis, the meandering plot takes a hundred pages or more to bring the threat back into the story’s primary focus. There are moments of excitement—paralyzing gas, a gorilla at large and an insidious chemical bath, to mention a few—but nearly every scene is mired in a verbose narrative that sucks the momentum and urgency from the action.

Bulldog Drummond was a bestselling series for thirty years. The first novel was adapted for the stage, where it ran for 428 performances. Popular radio and movie series were based on the hero’s exploits. The character inspired Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Drummond’s place in the halls of adventure fiction fame is unequivocal.

It would be ridiculous to deny the quality of the prose or the popularity of the character. It’s a classic. Just be aware it’s firmly rooted in the style and sensibilities of its era, which for me overshadowed its many merits.

Talmage Powell’s Terror in the Sun

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Manhunt May 1957 with Talmage Powell’s “Midnight Blonde”

Stories from Suspense Magazine #3 Fall 1951: “Terror in the Sun” by Talmage Powell

Talmage Powell wrote hundreds of stories for pulps and digests, including Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, Mike Shayne and Manhunt. “Terror” centers on a father’s hunt for his son’s killers in the sweltering heat of the Everglades. Armed with a shotgun, tension builds as the search progresses; exploding when he finds them. Terrific story.

Many thanks to “Geographer” for your continued support of The Digest Enthusiast, and for taking the time to rate TDE6 on amazon. Much appreciated!

Broadswords and Blasters #2

B&B2The pulp magazine with modern sensibilities is back with its second edition!

Contents
From the Editors
“Kauahoa vs the Mu” by Patrick S. Baker
“A Western Promise” by Calvin Demmer
“Feathered Death” by Steve Cook
“The Soul Plantation” by Sara Codair
“Island of Skulls” (part two) by Matt Spencer
“Kane and Grable” by Michael T. Best
“The Oath Breaker” by Grey Harlowe
“The Deep Well” by C.R. Langille
“The Eye of the Sun” by D.J. Tyrer

Broadswords and Blasters #2 Summer 2017
Editors: Matthew X. Gomez, Cameron Mount
Cover: Luke Spooner
6” x 9”, 102 pages
POD $6.99, Kindle $2.99 (free with print version)

Broadswords and Blasters website

Don Mardick’s Not a Leg to Stand On

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Hollywood Detective Dec. 1949 with Don Mardick’s “Needle in the Haystack”

Stories from Suspense Magazine #3 Fall 1951: “Not a Leg to Stand On” by Don Mardick

Another five-star story. A prison break sparks an encounter between a cop, an insurance investigator and the escapee’s brother. Loot, gunplay and a wheelchair add motivation, tension, and considerable action. It’s unfortunate there isn’t more of Mardick’s work available, the only other published story I could find was “Needle in the Haystack” in Hollywood Detective, Dec. 1949.

Image from Galactic Central.

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Sept. 1981

Mike-Shayne-9-1981

Browsing a digest that arrived yesterday, I was delighted to find a short, short by Robert Lopresti called “Stumped.” Even at just over a page Rob manages to entertain and amuse in his send-up of the live and loves of a hardboiled dick.

Contents
Mike Shayne Mystery Makers
“Killer’s Cruise” by Brett Halliday (Mike Shayne short novel)
“Bucknell’s Law” by Clayton Matthews
“Going to Pot” by Patty Matthews
“Uncle Max was Bleeding” by Arthur Moore
“Dear Stranger” by Gary Brandner
“The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend” by Dan J. Marlowe
“Blarney” by Richard Laymon
“Counselor at Law” by Carl Panzran
The Phantom Detective by Michael Avallone, art by Frank Hamilton
“The Brass Ring” by Jack Matcha
“Night Run” by William L. Story
Mike Shamus by Fred Fredericks (comic strip)
Stiff Competition by John Ball (book reviews)
“Stumped” by Robert Lopresti
Mike’s Mail (LOCs)

Robert Lopresti was interviewed in The Digest Enthusiast book two.

Art Taylor’s “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants”

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EQMM Mar/Apr 2013 with Art Taylor’s “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants”

An excerpt from Art Taylor’s interview in The Digest Enthusiast book four. When asked if he relied on existing knowledge or research for the background of his stories he said this about his story from the Mar/Apr 2013 issue of EQMM:

Art: For “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants,” however, I was in new territory. I know little about plants, and they regularly perish under my own care. But plants—and plants versus animals—seemed a necessary metaphorical element to the story I was working on, so I ended up reaching out to a botany professor here at George Mason University with some questions.

“Funny story there—partly a plot spoiler, I’m afraid. When I emailed her—this was back in 2007 or so, as I recall—I also asked about ricin, and she quickly responded that I should call instead of emailing. When I did get her on the phone, she told me that she’d worked at Quantico for a while and that our email exchange had probably already been flagged by the government because of that mention of ricin. I laughed at the time. Seriously? Like the government is checking through everyone’s emails? Again, this was around 2007, so . . . .”