Friday, March 22, 2013

FFB: What did Jorge Luis Borges and Mike Connors have in common with The Saint? (Not to mention Kookie...): Great American Publications in 1960

Great American Publications in 1960 published all the following magazines (and at least one arguable magazine in mass-market paperback format--all have that little "GA" logo tucked into one corner or another somewhere):

This tv-tie-in magazine, publishing new fiction aside from Tightrope! stories, lasted four issues...nearly as long as the tv series did (the show another victim of CBS thug James Aubrey, in this case facing off with similarly intransigent sponsors--see comments below for more on Aubrey).
One of the last of the new fiction magazines in pulp/"standard" size
...roughly the dimensions of the National Geographic or most comic books.


(I knew I was forgetting one!)








































 

































77 Sunset Strip was a more sustainedly successful television series, but an even less successful latter-day pulp-size fiction magazine (with an even more amateurish cover than the other GA magazines...probably a rush job), lasting a single issue--as Phil Stephensen-Payne (or possibly William Contento) put it at the Galactic Central site:

Published shortly after the demise of a very similar magazine, Tightrope!, from the same publisher [actually, the last issue of Tightrope! came out probably just after the single issue of the newer magazine--TM], 77 Sunset Strip also hoped to gain from the publicity of a popular television series of the same name. The pulp size and format was an anachronism and, despite the better-than-average run of contemporary crime-adventure stories, the magazine folded after a single issue.



1960: At Ziff-Davis, Cele Goldsmith's Fantastic Science Fiction becomes, somewhat less misleadingly (given its high fantasy content), Fantastic: Stories of Imagination; its companion, Amazing Stories, becomes Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction Stories; and, at Conde Nast, the most popular sf magazine slowly changes its title from Astounding Science Fiction to Analog: Science Fact -> Fiction (a change some longterm fans and readers, such as Isaac Asimov, never forgave editor John W. Campbell, Jr., for--at least in their more sentimental moods).  What I'd failed to remember in recent discussion is that Fantastic Universe (1953-1960), also usually a mixed fantasy and sf magazine which hoped you'd get that impression while usually labeling itself solely an sf magazine, in its last few issues also changed its title a bit, as well as going from "digest"- to "pulp"-sized format:
The final issue...Brown's novel's serialization ended with its first installment. 
Note Robert F. Young gets higher billing than Borges or Bloch. No.






































Despite not-terrible imagery upfront (even if the logo is a bit overdone), Fear! might've been the worst-packaged of Great American's fiction magazines...it lasted only two issues...John Jakes, Hal Ellson and Arthur Porges contributed new stories to this first issue, but you can't tell from the cover...
poor crow.







































The shortlived, digest-sized US reprint edition of the most important of UK sf magazines...for its first US issue, recycling the Fantastic Universe cover painting that inspired Algis Budrys's novel Who? (which in its turn was rather tepidly filmed, with Elliott Gould, in the early 1970s).























And, unsurprisingly, the most durable of the GA fiction magazines was The Saint Mystery Magazine, which they acquired along with Fantastic Universe from the folding King-Size Publications in 1959, and which, like New Worlds, had a UK version that could provide relatively inexpensive reprints...I believe this trade went both ways...
Not the most deft photo-collage...
Hans Stefan Santesson was the actual editor.

The rendered covers were a bit better, if busy...


















































Great American didn't last in the fiction-magazine business much past 1960...on balance, the covers didn't help...

Many (not all) of these cover images courtesy of Galactic Central.

Jim C notes in comments, below, that "Charteris"/Yin really hated the GA format for the magazine...here's a quotation from Yin (from Dan Bodenheimer's fine Saint-oriented site, taken from the first issue of the post-GA Saint Mystery Magazine in 1961) that rams that home:

"To all the old faithful readers who winced aloud at the atrocities of bad taste that were inflicted on this publication [The Saint Mystery Magazine] last year in a vulgar effort to jazz it up, I would like to say that my anguish was greater than anyone else's, and one of the best days of my life was when I was finally able to get THE SAINT [Mystery Magazine] back again from that management. Nothing like that will happen again, I assure you. As you see, the Magazine is once more exactly the same as it was in the good old days: the same classic style of cover, the same dignity of inside format, the same quality of production."

Another Saint project I should've mentioned in the earlier drafts of this post, and which I've mentioned on-blog before, is The Saint Mystery Library, which according to Dan Bodenheimer's site, was launched in 1959 as a side project by 1950s Saint Mystery Magazine publisher King-Size, who instead of publishing it themselves, subcontracted to Great American Publications...which is how GA and King-Size first became partners, and shortly thereafter King-Size sold its two fiction magazines to GA. The Library began as a reprint-series (of the reprints from the magazine, which like Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine among other digests reprinted older short fiction) as (against Leslie Yin's wishes) the publishers moved toward an all-new-fiction policy for The Saint magazine, but by the end of its run in 1960, the Library was also publishing original fiction, as a "paperback magazine." (The numbering sequence for the Mystery Library seems to have begun, for no good reason, with 118.) Sometimes a volume was entirely devoted to a novel, sometimes to a mixture of shorter fiction, and each with a short editorial by Yin.


GA's attention to detail: Ed Hoch's name misspelled.


The last issue/volume, apparently notable also for Yin's editorial demonstrating his fandom of calypso and other Caribbean music...


And the art-direction magic at GA didn't stop at their fiction magazines...this title sold to the Motor Trend folks after GA's collapse...
For more of today's books, magazines (perhaps!) and some short fiction, please see Patti Abbott's blog. I am scheduled to host the FFB links next week...and thanks for a citation of this post's earlier form go out to J(eff). Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet.

17 comments:

Jerry House said...

That March 1960 SAINT was the very first one I bought at a newstand.

Todd Mason said...

I almost posted the February issue, with Fritz Leiber's "Schizo Jimmie," the only issue of the Great American run I have a copy of...but these four had at least arguably better covers...

Walker Martin said...

Speaking of NEW WORLDS, there is an excellent new book out about the magazine: BUILDING NEW WORLDS by John Boston. I just finished reading it and enjoyed using it as a guide as I looked through my set of NEW WORLDS. He also has a book out on SCIENCE FANTASY called STRANGE HIGHWAYS, which is also a must read if you collect British SF magazines.

Jim C. said...

As I recall,Leslie Charteris hated those picture covers on the SAINT, as opposed to the solid blocks of color on the earlier issues. I have to admit I feel that way,too.

Phillyradiogeek said...

Ah yes, "Jungle" Jim Aubrey, the man responsible for all the hillbilly "hickcoms" such as Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction.

He was also famous for breaking up with women in fancy restaurants so they wouldn't make a scene.

Todd Mason said...

And, Brian, beating up women if he thought he could get away with it. Harlan Ellison is among those who recounted how Keefe Brasselle got several shortlived CBS series out of Aubrey turning to KB, who was Connected, after Aubrey beat up one date pretty badly...not knowing she was a mid-level Mafioso's daughter. Brasselle apparently traded using his influence to negate the contract on Aubrey for the opportunity to do several no-ratings series on the Tiffany Network in the early '60s.

Walker--I haven't yet picked up BUILDING NEW WORLDS but I do have STRANGE HIGHWAYS, and I believe Boston, with some input from Damien Broderick, have a third volume forthcoming...it's impressive and inspirational work.

Jim, that certainly explains why The Saint magazine, after the year Great American owned it, went back to the all-text and stick-figure covers...it's remarkable how ugly the industry standard was for crime-fiction magazines in the '60s, particularly, when EQMM was being printed by Holyoke's cheapest, and only Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine among the durable titles was making any effort to look good (particularly after Mercury Mystery folded)...even Hitchcock's had more than its share of amateurish covers and perfunctory interior illustration. I wonder how little Yin/Chareris liked the last, mass-market paperback-sized covers of the UK edition of the magazine, with their blatantly sexual imagery..

Jeff Flugel said...

Really interesting post, Todd! Your knowledge of vintage genre fiction is quite encyclopedic. Of the ones pictured, I've only encountered the Saint Mystery Magazine, and only know a bare minimum of some of the others. You're right, the covers don't come close to the best the magazine industry was capable of back then.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, Jeff. FANTASTIC UNIVERSE, as noted, was only other title here with any staying power (leaving aside the tumultuous history of the original, UK NEW WORLDS), albeit the issue on display here was the last...THE MIND THING by Fredric Brown, not his best novel but not too shabby, didn't get past its first installment in serialization. (My Bantam paperback has a much better cover than the FU issue.) Sometimes referred to as the "poor man's F&SF," FANTASTIC UNIVERSE did publish some interesting material, but might be most famous today for its least interesting...bad Conan pastiches ("completions") by de Camp and Nyborg (though Lin Carter, perpetrator of the worst of these, joined the team in the 1960s) and UFO nonfiction of various sorts by Ivan Sanderson and other occasionally responsible, but still hoping hard, observers (many of those articles attributed to "Civilian Saucer Intelligence").

michael said...

Todd, as for next week's Tuesday look at the visual forgottens, I found a blog you might want to check out. TVaholics: http://tvaholics.blogspot.com

It spends most of its time with numbers such as social media or ratings (old and new) but occasionally it features a look at one TV series. This Friday's (4/22) has a nice look at NBC's Cliffhangers.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, Michael. I'll take a look.

Hoppy Uniatz said...

Maybe it's just me but it seems somewhat hypocritical of you to point out GA's inability to spell Ed Hoch's name properly yet for you to refer to Charteris as Leslie Yin. He changed his name, legally, from Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin to Leslie Charteris in October 1926. So if you want to refer to his original name at least get it right and call him 'Bowyer-Yin'.

Todd Mason said...

Maybe it is just you, Hoppy...since his original name has usually been given, unhyphenated, as Leslie C. B. Yin. If that is incorrect, a rather less snotty tone for the correction could be useful. Meanwhile, it is not remotely professional to not be able to spell a contributor's name on the cover of a magazine, where the name is seen as a draw to readers and a selling point.

George said...

I wish I'd picked up more of the SAINT MYSTERY LIBRARY paperbacks way back when. I haven't seen one in a decade.

Todd Mason said...

I'm surprised you didn't have the complete run, George...and certainly the last issues of the UK edition, in mass-market paperback format as well...

Rich Horton said...

Excellent stuff, Todd. I never knew that FANTASTIC UNIVERSE had ended its run back at pulp size -- with a pretty impressive looking issue based on the names on the cover!

Also had not noted FU's last minute emphasis of "Science Fact and Fiction". All post-Sputnik stuff, you think?

I have in front of me (and am about to write about) the December 1959 issue of FANTASTIC SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, and within it there is a letter bitterly complaining about the name change (and the presumed greater emphasis on SF vs. Fantasy).

--
Rich Horton

Todd Mason said...

And perhaps that complaint was used by Goldsmith to to change the magazine's name again! It had, after all, been simply FANTASTIC for the first several years...

The attempt to emphasize science fact in the wake of new attention to the sciences after Sputnik (and the International Geophysical Year) might well've been a spur to suggest that there was something a bit weightier about AMAZING and ANALOG (and the die-off of sf magazines in those years also might've encouraged an attempt at seeming educational)...but FANTASTIC UNIVERSE rather punted any such attempt by, if anything, going for more outlandish illustration and a more garish logo when changing cover format...

Thanks, Rich.

Todd Mason said...

And it should be noted that FANTASTIC UNIVERSE began its life as, and until the last year had always been, a digest...Great American apparently hoped offering several of their titles in pulp size would get some greater visibility for the magazines, but never put THE SAINT into that format.