Friday, July 31, 2015

FFM: KEYHOLE MYSTERY MAGAZINE and SHOCK in 1960 (edited by Dan Roberts and anonymously, from Winston Publications)

Second issue; cover by Ed Emshwiller
1960 was an odd year in fiction-magazine publishing, and a tough one. A number of interesting projects were launched--too often only to stumble and fall, or fold, after only a few issues; a number of venerable titles and publishing groups changed hands, settled in with new owners, or went out of business, or all three.  Three was often a magic number for the good new magazines of 1960, though Saul Bellow and partners' The Noble Savage got as far as five issues in two years, while New World Writing got a new publisher and slightly different format, and the major little magazine Accent ended its 20-year run; Pocket Books' adventure in magazine publishing, Ed McBain's Mystery Book, was among the three-issue titles, while one of the new TV-related fiction titles offered by Great American Publishing, Tightrope, saw four, with another, 77 Sunset Strip,  getting out a single issue and their horror companion, Fear!, two. While The Saint Mystery Magazine was continued by another publisher, most of Great American's fiction magazines, including their newly-purchased Fantastic Universe (with a last issue featuring Robert Bloch, Fredric Brown and Jorge Luis Borges), were folded by the end of 1960, as were Columbia Publications' last titles: Double Action Western, Future Science Fiction, Double Action Detective (which had at the end featured a Edward Hoch "Simon Ark" story in every issue) and Science Fiction Stories (the last issue offering new work by Kate Wilhelm, Murray Leinster, Donald Westlake, A. Bertram Chandler and Donald Wollheim). And two interesting new magazines from a small publisher, Keyhole Mystery Magazine and Shock: The Magazine of Terrifying Tales, had their three-issue runs.
A battered copy of the first issue; cover by Emsh
Keyhole was a literate crime-fiction magazine in a period when the flood of cf titles, inspired in large part by the mid-1950s success of Mickey Spillane-flavored Manhunt, had started to recede; Manhunt itself had lost much of its audience (though claiming on its increasingly cheap-looking covers to still be the most popular cf magazine in the world, almost certainly fraudulently). Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine had recently been purchased to help found Davis Publications, and (back at EQMM's original home, Mercury Press), though long-running companion Mercury Mystery had just folded, Bestseller Mystery Magazine continued. Aside from the magazines mentioned above, and the then relatively-new Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine and the somewhat eccentric Mystery Digest (and a brief attempt to import the British John Creasey Mystery Magazine in 1959), most of the US cf titles were leaning cheap and sleazy, often having as much in common with "men's sweat" "true story" sex-and-adventure magazines as they did with the better crime-fiction titles.  Keyhole was doing a lot better than the likes of Web Detective or even the somewhat more professional Trapped
Rather good choices in reprints, mixed with some solid, if not groundbreaking, original fiction, and a bit of attempted pop-culture hipness in invoking Elvis in the cover story--coauthored by Robert Bloch as "Will Folke"...
If anything, an even better issue...at least in adding Bloch, Sturgeon and Collier originals along with another Davidson in the mix. 

And with the third and final Winston issue, deFord's back, and she and Bloch and Collier are joined by Roald Dahl, the busy Charles Boeckman, and then-new writer R. A. Lafferty--one has to wonder how new a George Kauffman item could be. A four year old Ellin reprint from EQMM seems a bit recent, but EQMM would do similar things...and it was Ellin (today is the anniversary of his death, oddly enough). Note also, still pinning hopes to a pop-music crossover appeal, with Fabian Forte, of all people, as a detective. 

Meanwhile, and for no obvious reason edited anonymously (with radio/comics-style "editorial hosts" who are a Beast and a spider), Shock showed some signs of being aimed a bit younger, while still offering a lot of first-rate work...albeit even more of it reprinted and not a little of that set chestnuts from the horror and suspense literature.  EC Comics legend Jack Davis did all three covers, much in the style of their horror comics or Mad...while some of the fiction was a bit grim even for the more receptive kids:

But, then again, there are worse things for young minds to be warped by than "Bianca's Hands"...the Davidson story was reprinted in F&SF a decade later, and a decade+ after that in Dennis Etchison's anthology Masters of Darkness III.  Originals by Richard Matheson, Jim Thompson, Reginald Rose (12 Angry Men), and Davidson are nothing to dismiss out of hand, even if the Davidson is probably the closest to major work by its author. A young Lenny Kaye, a decade+ before starting to play with Patti Smith Group and putting together the Nuggets anthology albums of garage-rock and protopunk, wrote a published fan letter about this issue.



























Originals by Davidson again, deFord, and Bloch again as "Will Folke"...one does get the sense that Dan Roberts, whoever he? was, definitely edited both Winston titles.
And the third and last Winston issue features originals by Edward Hoch, Lafferty, Westlake, and journeyman John Anthony West, among others...including one of the best stories of Bloch's career, "Final Performance," a story that is in more ways than one a hardboiled punch in the gut. 

It's a real pity that these magazines didn't do better in the suddenly crowded, then thinned out, marketplace of 1960...and even more a pity that Winston apparently sold the title rights and unpublished inventory, if any, to Pontiac Publishing, already responsible for some of the bottom of the barrel sleaze titles, of which their 1961/62 continuations of Keyhole and particularly Shock were prime examples.  Don't confuse the originals with these decomposing revenants...

And see the indices at Phil Stephenson-Payne's The Crime, Mystery, & Gangster Fiction Magazine Index, the source of the indices above and several of the cover images.  For a sense of how these magazines went, try Peter Enfantino's reviews of the archetypal Web Detective.

For more of today's titles, please see Evan Lewis's blog (filling in this week for Patti Abbott, on assignment in Traverse City). 

And given that I've posted about Shock (this one rather than the several other magazines of that title, not even counting its shudder-magazine continuation) and Fear! and the Magazine of Horror and its stablemates, (and the various revivals of Weird Tales starting after the turn of the next decade),  I suppose doing a take on the Other horror magazines of note in the 1960s, such as Macabre, The Arkham Collector, Bizarre! Mystery, and even the all-reprint Strange Fantasy might well follow...along with such early '70s colleagues as Coven 13/Witchcraft and Sorcery, The Haunt of Horror (the fiction magazine from Marvel, before they turned it into a large-format comic), Weirdbook and others...

16 comments:

Bill Crider said...

I wish I'd seen some of these on the stands. Any magazine featuring Fabian as a detective would have been a must-buy.

Todd Mason said...

He reportedly was very good as a psychopath in the episode of BUS STOP, one based on a Tom Wicker story, that got the series pulled off the air...

Juri Nummelin said...

Is Dan Roberts the same guy who wrote lots of western and romance paperbacks in the sixties and seventies? If so, his real name was William Edward Daniel Ross and he lived 1912-1995, writing lots of short stories for different mags.

Yvette said...

Oh Todd, I wish I had something of interest to say about your well researched and comprehensive post but I have never read any of this sort of thing in magazine form. I know, I know, you probably consider this a shortcoming in my literary education - so be it. :) But all is not lost: I did recognize 11 of the authors listed. I am not completely beyond the pale.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Juri, is this the guy who was most probably best known in the 1960s for the DARK SHADOWS novels as by Marilyn Ross, and a GUINNESS BOOK record-holder for prolificacy? Probably. Have to wonder if he was faster than Barry Malzberg or more productive than Robert Silverberg or Lester Dent, but these magazines seem like a likely job for him to take on.

Yvette, there is no lack of people who've never read a fiction magazine, nor even picked up one to check out some excellent illustration or see what a favorite writer was up to. You might enjoy the experience more than you think (you sure you haven't?)...and just don't tell Walker Martin, fellow northern Jerseyite, who might have to come by with several hundred examples for you to try...you can tell they fascinate me, but this FFMagazine post is perhaps the least popular, so far, that I've posted in a while, so perhaps I tax the readership.

Walker Martin said...

I discovered the crime digests about the same time I discovered the SF digests(1956). But as a teenager living on my small allowance, I could not afford all the SF magazines plus the crime magazines like MANHUNT, etc. But many years later, I did start collecting MANHUNT and the many imitators. Then when I retired a few years ago, I figured I was finished with the crime stuff and sold them at Pulpcon.

Turned out I was wrong and I started collecting them again! I picked up a set of MANHUNT which I've written about and at Windy City in April 2015 I bought over a hundred crime digests like TWO FISTED, OFF BEAT, SURE FIRE, etc. Then I bought another hundred when they were delivered at my home. Titles like GUILTY, TRAPPED, and PURSUIT.

I have KEYHOLE and SHOCK(again!) and will hang on to these until the bitter end.

Casual Debris said...

Good article. I like Davidson's "The Tenant." Interesting to note that its inclusion in the Etchison anthology was Davidson's own doing (the idea for the Masters of Darkness series is that the authors themselves select one of their own, lesser known yet personally liked stories). Had Davidson not been invited to the series, the story would until today remain un-printed outside its two magazine appearances.

Todd Mason said...

Frank: Yup (plus at least French translation in Fiction, the French correspondent to F&SF)...though perhaps that will change soon.

Walker...have you made initial efforts toward placing your collection with a library or archive? And have you found much worth reading in,say, Off Beat?

Todd Mason said...

And, thanks!

Walker Martin said...

I'm still busy collecting and reading, so I haven't given much thought to placing it with a library or archive. My feelings now are more in line with placing the magazines and art with other collectors.

MANHUNT is quite readable in the early and mid fifties and some of the other hardboiled crime digests are of interest also. But OFF BEAT, TWO FISTED, and some of the others are just about unreadable. They are collectible mainly because of the bizarre cover art. I've found this applies to many of the men's adventure magazines also. The Nazis and damsels in distress covers are outrageous and crazy but the fiction, or so called "articles", are hopeless.

George said...

KEYHOLE and SHOCK didn't show up around here. I've never seen these covers before but I really like them!

Jack Seabrook said...

Walker, let me know when you want to start placing magazines and art with other collectors. I'm just a short drive away.

Todd Mason said...

George, you can do worse than Emshwiller and Davis on their worst days...I wonder if Forte posed for the photo cover, or it was an image already at hand.

Jack, many of us live in NJ, after all, or nearby...my worry about trying to place my collection, as George did his, with a university or similar, is if some idiot comes in and decides it's a lot of waste paper...much as might happen to a collector with unsympathetic or overwhelmed survivors. Or the kind of optimist who hopes against hope for a $150+ eBay sale on a single copy, if rare, of a Myron Fass issue, full of half-Fass fiction. At least the last might wise up.

R.T. said...

This is amazing stuff! What a great lineup of names! I am especially intrigued by the Saul Bellow connection, and I'll be digging further into that one.

Todd Mason said...

THE NOBLE SAVAGE published a best-of that is harder to find than issues of the magazine itself, RT...if you hit the link above, you'll see part of the reason the enterprise had some potholes on its road...and how those led pretty directly to Bellow's HERZOG.

Todd Mason said...

Well, actually, I take that back: the best-of volume Bellow and Keith Botsford put together from four of their magazine projects can be had inexpensively online, and is also still in print at full price from its publisher, all 1100 pages of it: Editors, edited by Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford