Friday, September 28, 2012
Forgotten Books: The Shudder Pulps: A History of the Weird Menace Magazines of the 1930s - Robert Kenneth Jones
I've mentioned the Weird Menace pulps a couple of times recently, and that prompted me to pull this book down from my shelves and read it. Originally published by FAX Collector's Editions in 1975, a reprint edition is still available from Wildside Press.
Jones does a great job of covering the history of this fascinating sub-genre, starting with Popular Publications changing the direction of DIME MYSTERY from traditional mystery reprints to original Weird Menace yarns. Leo Margulies, editorial director of Ned Pines' Thrilling Group of pulps, gets a chapter to himself for his creation of THRILLING MYSTERY, which provided direct competition to Popular and DIME MYSTERY. From there Jones explores all the other publishers in the field and also provides a great deal of information and critical analysis about the writers who were featured in the Weird Menace magazines. I learned several things I'd never run across before, including the fact that four prolific pulp authors - Hugh B. Cave, Arthur Leo Zagat, Wyatt Blassingame, and John H. Knox - lived in a tiny fishing village in Florida at the same time. Million-words-a-year man Arthur J. Burks gets a whole chapter to himself.
Being a writer, I love this kind of stuff. I'm always interested in learning about how other writers lived and worked. Jones talks a great deal about the different themes used in the Weird Menace pulps and how the best writers learned to get around the formulas dictated by the editors and craft many excellent, unusual stories.
After a run of about seven years in the 1930s and early 40s, the Weird Menace pulps faded away, a development that Jones writes about as well. His respect and affection for the genre shows through and makes THE SHUDDER PULPS a fine piece of pulp history. If you're interested in such things, you need to check it out. I had a great time reading it.
One interesting side-note: in his acknowledgments at the front of the book, first published 37 years ago, remember, Jones thanks none other than Walker Martin, one of the leading pulp fans in the world and frequent commenter on this blog. I got a kick out of that, too.