True Crime, True North

True Crime, True North

True Crime, True North by Carolyn Strange and Tina Loo
The authors use the term “pulp magazine” throughout the text, and even on the cover, but this volume focuses exclusively on true crime stories, not pulp fiction. Although I’m unable to verify the size of the magazines included, they appear to be full size periodicals, not the traditional pulp-size standard on newsstands below the border. Those points aside, Strange and Loo provide a useful overview of the Canadian true crime magazines of the mid-1940s through the mid-1950s, when Canadian publishers rose to fill the void when Canadian importation of non-essential goods began in 1940, including magazines.

Strange and Loo devote their attention to the magazines’ content, its sources (newspapers and police files), advertisements, and the portrayal of the law (moral, righteous, exemplary) and the lawless (greedy, ruthless, unfaithful). “The 1940s was a transitional period: It was a time when brazenly sexual cover imagery promised more than it delivered. In fact, stories about ‘perverted’ sexual violence were rare and sketchy. Those few stories published in the Canadian pulps . . . adhered to the industry’s unwritten code of propriety, steering clear of frank and lurid accounts of sexual violence that dominate in today’s true crime writing. Canadian writers wanting to explore ‘the sex perversion angle’ had to seek out U.S. publishers, such as Ace and Dell.”

From this book, I gather that Canadian true crime writers were typically given credit for their stories, whereas down south, it seems the more sensational of the American true crime magazines usually left their stories anonymous. The design of True Crime, True North is excellent and takes great advantage of the sexy, sensationalistic covers of the magazines, most often displaying them in color. The volume closes with a bibliography of references. Overall it’s a fine history of a subject rarely covered.

Suggestions for future editions:
More information on publishers.
A list of titles, including publication dates, number of issues, and magazine sizes.
Audience: who bought and read these magazines?
Add a few interior spreads from the magazines. To what extent did the publishers use police file photos or reenactments with models?

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