Monday, April 07, 2014

Monday Morning Digest Magazine: Shell Scott Mystery Magazine, February 1966


No doubt hoping to duplicate the success of the long-running MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, in 1966 Leo Margulies launched another digest magazine featuring a lead novella about a famous private eye, backed up by various mystery and crime short stories. Unfortunately it didn't work as well with SHELL SCOTT MYSTERY MAGAZINE, which lasted less than a dozen issues. But they were good issues! This is the first one, and I remember reading it sitting in a motel room in Austin, Texas around 1981 or '82. In addition to "The Da Vinci Affair" by the great Richard S. Prather, other authors in this issue are Donald E. Westlake, Talmage Powell, James Holding, Paul W. Fairman, Hal Ellson, and Hal Dresner. That's a fine line-up.

11 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wonder if a time will come when these sort of magazines will make a return. The ones still around seem to be hanging on by a gasp and a grasp.

Walker Martin said...

I've been reading and collecting all types of fiction magazines since 1956 and it looks like we are near the end of the digest format fiction era. There are only 5 digests left and they are poorly distributed. Only Barnes & Noble in the Princeton area carries ASIMOV'S, ANALOG, F&SF, EQMM, and AHMM.

Just like the pulps had their era of approximately 1900-1955, the digests will have a defined period also. We are in the e-book period now with some online fiction magazines but there is still a question as to whether they can really survive also.

I really don't think short fiction stories play much of a part in the reading habits of people anymore. The TV series have taken the place of the monthly short fiction magazine.

Once there were scores of fiction magazines on the newsstands; now those days are gone forever.

Tom Johnson said...

Walker is correct. I am also a collector of digest magazines, and have a huge library of them, with thousands of duplicates. But finding other collectors is next to impossible. The nearest chain store is fifty miles away, and there is only a Hastings and Books A Million, and neither carry the digest titles. I don't even find them in thrift stores any more. I will not subscribe, though, so the only way I can get copies are through swaps and, again, there is no one to trade with out there.

Patrick Murtha said...

Wow, this tempts me to start collecting them. Wouldn't want you guys to be lonely! I'm out of the country in Mexico, though, so I'd have to go through Ebay, online bookstores, etc. The only copies of the Shell Scott Mystery Magazine on Ebay right now are pretty pricey, but one can start on better known digests by investing just a few bucks. As with vintage paperbacks, it's not just getting the texts that appeals, but the atmospheric associations of the format, as Mr. Reasoner describes ("sitting in a motel room in Austin, Texas").

Richard said...

Man, I love to get my hands on a decent copy of this one, James. Maybe Tom has a spare.

It seems the on-line only SF-F mags Clarksworld, Apex, Lightspeed are doing all right, though due to formatting issues I can't access them. That may be the future, digest-on-pad type platforms, for them all.

Todd Mason said...

All the current digests have healthy e-editions, as well. I suspect they'll continue in that format if the paper editions have to go away...and, of course, at my B&Ns and not too many other good newsstands I see, I tend to pick up the little magazines and the 8.5 x11 magazines such as THE STRAND when I see them...

Todd Mason said...

...and I see them regularly. (Though B&N seems to have given up on some of the smaller magazines of late, and such UK titles as BLACK STATIC and CRIMEWAVE.)

I should probably start gathering and mailing digests for folks such as Tom...certainly some of the bookstores, such as Uncle Hugo's in Minneapolis, will be happy to do similarly.

Todd Mason said...

So, why in the hotel room? At a con? Pick this up from a huckster's table? Weirdest thing was how SSMM failed so quickly. Would you have enjoyed taking a crack at a SS story?

Todd Mason said...

I have to wonder why people are so often resistant to short fiction. If you have difficulty reading, I can see how the stage-setting one has to do might as well be for a novel, to get more bang for the mental "buck"...but why do adept recreational readers often slight them?

James Reasoner said...

Todd,
I don't recall why I was in Austin, but I know it wasn't for a convention. I found that SSMM in a used bookstore there. I would have found trying to write a Shell Scott story very intimidating. I'm not sure anybody but Prather could have ever done the character justice. But if someone had offered me money to try . . . I probably would have.

Anonymous said...

Todd -- Even Uncle Hugo's here in Minneapolis no longer carries ASIMOV'S or ANALOG (because the monopoly local distributor doesn't want to bother with them). And their mystery sister store no longer carries ELLERY QUEEN'S or ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S -- same reason. I know of only one Barnes and Noble store in the metro area that gets these (same store is also the only one I know of that gets THE STRAND; BLACK STATIC; etc. also FORTEAN TIMES -- I think this is because the magazine buyer for that specific store is sympathetic, and if she ever leaves the job I imagine they will vanish there as well.
Denny Lien (in Minneapolis)