Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Morning Digest Magazine: Doc Savage, October 1946

We think of DOC SAVAGE as a pulp first, and rightly so since it's one of the most iconic pulps ever. But for a good part of the Forties it was a digest magazine, like Street & Smith's other former pulps THE SHADOW, WESTERN STORY, and ASTOUNDING. I know some people don't care for the series, but I was a huge fan after picking up the Bantam reprint of METEOR MENACE from the spinner rack in Tompkins' Pharmacy after school one afternoon in 1964. (Fifty years ago! Hard to believe.)

Anyway, I bought and read those Bantam paperbacks faithfully all through junior high and high school, and so did my friend Gary Looney. We rehashed the plots endlessly. I knew the novels had appeared originally in pulp magazines, although I had never seen one.

Then one day at school, Gary handed me a copy of the October 1946 issue containing the Doc Savage novel DEATH IN LITTLE HOUSES. He had found it at the First Monday flea market in Weatherford and wanted me to have it, since he knew I was an even bigger Doc fan than he was. Sure, it was a digest, and the cover's nothing to write home about, but it was an actual DOC SAVAGE MAGAZINE, not a reprint. In fact, at that time it would still be years before DEATH IN LITTLE HOUSES was reprinted, so I was able to read a story that your average Doc fan in those days couldn't. It was a wonderful thing.

Later I bought some more Doc digests at Collectors Bookstore in Corpus Christi and was glad to have them, too. To this day, I've still never owned a pulp-sized issue of DOC SAVAGE, although I've read most of the novels in reprints, as well as some of Will Murray's new Doc novels.

Is DEATH IN LITTLE HOUSES any good? I haven't read it since high school, but I remember enjoying it. Maybe I'll reread it one of these days.


Walker Martin said...

Has anyone else noticed something about the post war hero pulps? After WW II, the returning vets were not kids anymore and the hero pulp editors made an attempt to upgrade the quality of the stories to a more adult level.

I'm not just talking about the lead novels starring Doc or the Shadow, but the short stories and novelets in the back of the magazine. John D. Macdonald, after his discharge in 1946, was an example of the better quality stories appearing in the Street & Smith digests. These two titles became more of a mystery or crime fiction magazine rather than the standard hero pulp, at least during 1946-1949.

By 1950 the hero pulp was just about dead except for a couple titles like The Phantom Detective. No new titles made their appearance in the fifties except for a couple exceptions like Captain Zero and Sheena, which were not successful.

When the paperbacks took over, they continued the move toward more adult fiction, as did the crime and SF digests.

James Reasoner said...

As I recall, there's a John D. MacDonald story in this very issue. I've also heard that the editor (Babette Rosmond?) asked JDM to ghost one of the Doc Savage stories but that he turned it down. Might have been interesting. Doc as an early version of Travis McGee (Doc was born on a boat, after all) and Monk as Meyer.

Charles Gramlich said...

JDM? Wow, I need it.

Stephen Mertz said...

That's an excellent point Walker makes on the pre- and post-war pulp readers that had never occurred to me. Some of those later digest Lester Dent entries in the series are Dent's unsold mainstream detective novels retooled as Doc adventures. I enjoy the sparse, breathless style of the early tales but sort of prefer these later, more adult stories.

Jonathan G. Jensen said...

James and all you pulpsters, I bought a nice long comics box of Doc's at the Windy a few years back and most of them were pulp size and from 1938 or so, but a bunch of them are digest from the 40's and I'm with you guys on the reading, much better tales. What the hey, they only cost me 5 bucks each, not the greatest shape, but readers. I read them one old then one from the end of the run, good stuff!

Walker Martin said...

Jonathan, I remember when you visited the Windy City Pulp show for a couple hours and bought those DOC SAVAGE pulps. Hope to see you again this year. You can never have too many books or pulps!