Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Morning Digest Magazine: The Man From U.N.C.L.E., February 1966

As a huge fan of the TV series THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., I can't tell you how excited I was to walk into Lester's Pharmacy one day after school to pick up my week's supply of comic books, only to find the first issue of this magazine on the rack there. Luckily I had enough allowance money to buy it without having to give up any comics. I was already reading the paperback U.N.C.L.E. novels, so I was glad to get more reading material based on the show. In small-town Texas in those pre-Internet days, I had no idea what was coming out and didn't know what to expect until I saw it.

"The Howling Teenagers Affair" was actually a novella, probably about 25,000 words, and the author behind the house-name Robert Hart Davis was really Dennis Lynds, although I had no idea of that at the time. (And I certainly didn't dream that about 15 years later, I would be trading letters with the guy who wrote "The Howling Teenagers Affair".) Lynds was a busy guy in the Sixties, writing all the Mike Shayne stories in MSMM from 1963 to 1970, or thereabouts, writing the new series of Shadow paperbacks published by Belmont Books, and turning out seven of these U.N.C.L.E. novellas for the digest magazine, in addition to mystery novels and short stories under his own name and several other pseudonyms. I was a regular reader of his work, I just never knew it at the time.

The other two main writers on the U.N.C.L.E. digest were Harry Whittington and John Jakes, with stories contributed here and there by Bill Pronzini, Talmage Powell, Frank Belknap Long, Richard Curtis, and I.G. Edmonds. Each issue featured an assortment of mystery and espionage novelettes and short stories to go with the lead "novel". Tom Ramirez, who wrote Nightstand Books as Tony Calvano, had an espionage series, and Dan Ross, probably best remembered for writing the Dark Shadows paperbacks and hosts of other Gothics as Marilyn Ross, contributed a series about a Chinese detective.

I bought nearly every issue of the magazine at Lester's, and when I got home I generally had time to sit down and read the U.N.C.L.E. novella straight through before supper. I'd read the back-up stories later. Many years later when I was writing the Mike Shayne stories in MSMM, I did one that was a tribute to those U.N.C.L.E. stories and called it "The Death From the Sky Affair". The manuscript carried a dedication to Robert Hart Davis, the house-name on those earlier stories. (And as a side note, Leo Margulies came up with that name as a tribute to Robert Davis, an early pulp editor Margulies had known.) Chuck Fritch, the editor at MSMM, didn't run the dedication with that Shayne story, and he changed the title to the simpler "Death From the Sky". But I knew what it really was, and now so do you.

UPDATE: My memory has betrayed me. It was actually my Mike Shayne story "Doomsday Island" that was the U.N.C.L.E. homage. "Death From the Sky" was an earlier story in the same series featuring Shayne's battles against The Black Lotus. 


Paul Bishop said...

Great post, James. I loved these magazines, which still hold a place in my collection. I too became friends with Dennis Lynds, who was always most gracious. His stories about the one-armed P.I. Dan Fortune are lost gems.

Ed Gorman said...

I'm envious of your long and fine career, James. I really enjoy your stories of your early years. Can't get enough of them actually.

DOMA275458 said...

Do you recall what issue of MSMM, the Doomsday Island story was in?
Don O'Malley

James Reasoner said...

It's in the February 1982 issue of MSMM.

RJR said...


Dennis was one of my first friends in this business. I remember having lunch with him in 1980i Manhattan. I took a stack of his books out of a shopping bag and put them on the table for him to sign, and then he took my first book from his pocket and did the same. Surreal. I miss him.


James Reasoner said...

Good story, Bob. Thanks for sharing it.

Taylor401306 said...

I well remember the "Man From UNCLE" magazine. It introduced to pulp fiction such as Weird Tales. Regularly the magazine woulf feature a "Department of Lost Stories" that usually reprinted a Weird Tale.

James Reasoner said...

I remembered the pulp reprints but had forgotten it was called the "Department of Lost Stories". Some wonderful stuff there.