Friday, September 24, 2010

FFB : Firsts: NEW BLACK MASK, ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S ANTHOLOGY, NEW WORLD WRITING, TRIQUARTERLY, WORKS IN PROGRESS and other periodical books and littles


The last major subsets of "firsts" among the fiction magazines that got me hooked were arguably books, most of them...Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for January, 1978 was the first adult fiction magazine purchased for me new, 75c and the best bargain in fiction magazines at the time. And, unusually for AHMM covers of the time, it was competently composed...and there were memorable stories from Lawrence Block and Jack Ritchie, particularly. Inasmuch as I'd already collected some mid-'60s back issues, and read a few more borrowed from the Enfield Central Library, I was given the funds to buy a subscription...and not too long after, I was able to procure a copy of the first Alfred Hitchcock's Anthology, which many reference sources would prefer not to call a magazine, despite being issued periodically to newsstands by magazine publisher Davis Publications (who also issued Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and the Ellery Queen's Anthologies, which the Hitchcock item imitated), although a Dial Press hardcover edition was also published which tried to disguise the all-AHMM selections as one of the eclectic anthologies Robert Arthur and Harold Q. Masur would ghost for Hitchcock and Random House. These, instead, were edited by the magazine's editors...in the manner of the many previous Dell paperbacks taking their contents from AHMM. The early AHA issues/volumes had a Very rich backfile to draw on, so you can see how addictive they could be, as well...at about the same time, I was not only also picking up new issues of EQMM and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, but was always happy to stumble over such treasures of the recent past as The Saint Mystery Magazine,,,and, several years later, in 1985, a clangourous new porject popped up, the New Black Mask, even as MSMM was beginning to go into its final tailspin, Each issue of New Black Mask, all published as books by HBJ, which would also sell you a subcription to the series just like a magazine, featured a remarkable mix of writers spanning the range of hardboiled and noir ficton and bit beyond. I actually picked up the last volum as NBM to keep first, then collected most of the rest as I catch could, and also the successor series, A Matter of Crime (after the trademark holders of Black Mask challenged NBM's right to use the title).

I started reading the eclectic little magazines (as distinct from fantasy-fiction littles such as Whispers), aside from arguably Short Story International (which was a nonprofit that used good paper and charged twices as much for itself per issue than most of the other fiction digests...but it was on newsstands, unlike most littles), with TriQuarterly, which in its first decade particularly was offering one great issue after another, particularly when Robert Onopa was associated with the magazine, in the latter '70s. A snobbish backlash over the SF issue (Algis Budrys, Ursula Le Guin, Thomas Disch, Samuel Delany) severed most of the staff, including Onopa, from the magazine, which has yet to fully recover its quality of those years...the subscribers, I guess, had been pushed to their limits by the previous western (Dorothy Johnson, Cormac McCarthy, et al.), "Love and Hate," and other theme issues, including "Prose for Borges" and more. (TriQuarterly has gone web-only just recently.) Of course, even before I began reading the little magazines that were no-bones-about-it magazines (such as also The Paris Review and Antaeus...it took me a while to find The Ontario Review and Boulevard and the comparitively dull Story revival), I had found some of the periodical book/magazine projects that had begun in the 1950s, such as New World Writing (the 6th volume/issue featured a long excerpt from Louis Armstrong's memoirs, contemporary Japanese haiku in translation, and more),
and their modern descendents, such as the Doubleday Literary Guild loss-leader Works in Progress (which in the first issue I had offered the best chunk of Alix Shulman's Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen). I tumbled to New Directions and New American Review (later simply American Review) and Evergreen Review (in those largely post-censorial times) not long after.
...come to think of it, mentioning Evergreen reminds me of two other categories of fiction magazine that I haven't quite yet nostalgically surveyed...the humorous and the erotic (the latter had quite a vogue in the '80s and '90s, ranging from Yellow Silk to Paramour, from Future Sex to Blue Blood).

For more "forgotten" books this week, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

11 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Nice little personal history, Todd. Thanks.

K. A. Laity said...

I love love love that Evergreen cover! It's so perfectly a timecapsule, but it remains beautiful not completely dated like many covers.

I read a lot of the Alfred Hitchcock collections, but I didn't tend to buy magazines until I was a teen and then they were all music. I remember the issue of Crawdaddy with a picture of Paul McCartney on the cover, a story following a typical day for Keith Moon, and a long long piece on suicide, that I kept forever, even as the cover grew loose, re-reading it.

Surely it was in a Hitchcock collection that I first read "Homecoming"?

George said...

I was a big fan of EVERGREEN, too. I never had a complete run, but I did pick up copies wherever I could. It eventually morphed into a paperback at the end of its run. I have a few of those, too.

Todd Mason said...

Thank you, Patti. Events have conspired even more thn usual against allowing the reading/rereading of a single text.

Yup, Kate, and yuo have Robert Arthur to thank for that. His brilliant anthologies under Hitchcock's brand set a standard for Harold Q. Masur (for the adult books) and small knot of others(for the YA) to live up to...and the best-of-the-magazine books weren't too shabby, either. Arthur always was a fantasist first, though like Fredric Brown, Robert Bloch, and not a few others was equally at home with crime and fatnastic fiction. I wonder why I never saw CRAWDADDY around much...perhaps it was buried behind too many CIRCUSes and HIT PARADERs and latter-day (duller) CREEMs for me to see it (to say nothing of TIGER BEAT) on my newsstands where I was lucky to find DOWNBEAT, the venerable jazz magazine.

Yup, George...EVERGREEN was self-consciously Naughty (in the days before "transgressive" was a buzzword) but was usually a solid magazine, as it, indeed, morphed into a periodical book in the '70s and is now a webzine. Ever look at it nowadays?

Scott Cupp said...

Todd - I remember that issue of TriQuarterly quite fondly. I no longer have it but if I recall correctly there was a very good Michael swanwick story in there as well as some interesting essays.

Todd Mason said...

You remember correctly...Swanwick was the primary up-and-comer represented in the issue, and Budrys and Disch contributed essays, Budrys's was major: "Paradise Charted" (Disch also offered fiction). I pick up all TRIQUARTERLYs from that era when I come across them unless they are in Really bad shape or priced outrageously.

Todd Mason said...

I must admit the Gina Gershon lookalike on the '70s EVERGREEN cover is a lot more eye-pleasing than even a well-composed Hitchcock cover...

Walker Martin said...

I collect the mystery and SF digests but this is the first time I've come across another collector who also likes the so called Little Magazines. I have an entire room that holds nothing but runs of TRIQUARTERLY, SCRUTINY, CRITERION, LONDON MAGAZINE, HUDSON REVIEW and many others. I keep them in a separate because they don't get along with my pulp collection.

Todd Mason said...

Well, the paper is usually better...though my 1940s YALE REVIEWs are mostly distinct, even with the untrimmed edges and the "standard" size (similar to NATIONAL GEOGRPAHIC or comic books), from the pulps only in the sedate covers. Wonder if they used the same printer/binders as some pulpsters in Holyoke, MA.

I collect the western magazines, too...and would've mentioned them if there had been another sustained good one aside from EQMM/AHMM/ASIMOV'S/ANALOG stablemate LOUIS L'AMOUR in the last twenty years plus...and sports fiction, if ELYSIAN FIELDS QUARTERLY and ARETE/ATHELON hadn't been so lonely...

Evan Lewis said...

I know I picked up at least the first three issues of The New Black Mask. How many were there?

Todd Mason said...

Eight under that title, then four more as A MATTER OF CRIME, which volumes/issues as well as title had less zip (and a standard mass-market paperback format, which made keeping the price the same hard to justify).