Friday, April 1, 2016

FFM: SHORT STORY INTERNATIONAL, February 1965 edited by Samuel Tankel; THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. MAGAZINE, February 1966 edited by Cylvia Kleinman

image courtesy James Reasoner, who comments here
Another head-to-head comparison of fiction magazine issues, and perhaps not the first pair one might think of despite the mutual interest in espionage fiction: from the FictionMags list, 29 May 2000:

SHORT STORY INTERNATIONAL February 1965 (Volume 2, Number 4)

Editorial by Samuel Tankel
"The Wallaby Track" by Les Shymansky (Polish-Australian)
"Toward the Unknown Region" by Pira Kanungsattam (Thai)
"The Quiet Island" by Darrell Bates (English-Gibraltaran)
"Brother Ben" by Norma Fay Hamilton (Jamaican)
"The Dark Forest" by Sergei Maximov (USSR-US; translated by Igor Kozak)
"Death" by Rene Marques (Puerto Rico/US; translated by G. R. Coulthard)
"Olga's Revenge" by Jerome Bahr (US)
"A Vacant Bed" by Solveig Christov (Norwegian; translated by Carolyn 
"All Our Yesterdays" by Beb Vuyk (Indonesian)
"The World Is Too Much With Us" by H. E. Bates (English)
Letters column

Published monthly by Short Story International, Inc (copyrighted by 
Universal Printers, Inc). Editor and Publisher: Samuel Tankel. 
Managing Editor: Francesca van der Ling. Interior illustrations by 
John Groth. Cover photograph by Milt Shapiro (for "The Dark
50c/issue; $5/year. 160 pp; digest.

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. MAGAZINE February 1966 (Volume 1, Number 1)

Editorial by Leo Margulies
"The Howling Teenagers Affair" by "Robert Hart Davis" (Dennis Lynds)
"Robert Vaughn (Napolean Solo)" by Sigmund Smallman
"The Proposal" by James Holding
"David McCallum (Ilya Kuryakin)" by Peter Oppenheim
"One Gun, One Bullet" by Thomas Calvert McClary
"'But You Don't Know Me!'" by Steve April
"The Peepshow Murder" by John Jakes
"Leo G. Carroll (Mr. Waverly)" by Walter H. Springs
"The Big Cat's Claws" by Tom Curry
"The Cardboard Box" by Carolyn Wynne

Published monthly by Leo Margulies Corp (includes house ads for MSMM 
and SHELL SCOTT MYSTERY MAGAZINE). Editorial Director: Cylvia
Kleinman [Margulies]; Publisher: Leo Margulies. H. N. Alden: Associate
Interior illustrations by Hector Castellon. Cover photographs from 
MGM/Arena Productions. 50c/issue; $6/year. 144 pp; digest.

Now, if [FM list-member] Paul [Di Filippo]'s looking for apples and oranges among fiction magazines, these two would seem to fit the bill. Before I read them, I suspected that they would both have at least a modicum of international intrigue fiction (although the latter-day SSIs I'd read when they were new or newish in the late '70s and early '80s only rarely delved into spy fiction, the cover of this first-incarnation issue, with its two men in vaguely Russian uniforms and woman in Red Cross finery, suggested some sort of Iron Curtain action in "The Dark Forest"). I was mostly wrong.

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. MAGAZINE, while briefly bridging the gap 
between the hero pulps and the endless sequelization of the "media" 
books of the '70s onward (as opposed to the rather brief runs of MFU, 
GET SMART!, and other '60s book-series entries), offers as its only remotely 
espionage-oriented fiction, a remarkably unevenly-written novella, 
attributed to one of the "Davis"es (Bill Pronzini and Talmage Powell 
are apparently among those who've used this house name, also used on 
MFU novels in paperback [James Reasoner notes this one was by Dennis Lynds]); word-count-packing redundancy frames 
occasional acutely-written passages, and Napolean Solo is not 
particularly good-looking on one page, handsome on the next. I 
skimmed it after the first few pages; read this way, it's still a 
pretty shambolic affair. Nice, if overly severe, descriptions of the 
Australian desert; Stan Musial is typo'd into Stan Musical.

The rest of the issue's stories are generally-good crime fiction 
straight out of the inventory of MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, which probably seemed a little less odd in the contemporaneous SHELL SCOTT MM V1, #1. James Holding's "The Proposal" is not the minor classic that "Second
Talent" is, but a fairly neat insurance-scam story with noirish humor. Thomas 
Calvert McClary's "One Gun, One Bullet" is an excellent "open" crime 
story, in which an upper-level Mafia aide does his damnedest to 
advance himself as paranoia starts to mess over the dons; a Man in a 
Gray Sharkskin Suit. Steve April's story is poorly-constructed but 
engaging enough as it weaves a blackmailing bookkeeper with her 
teenage underprivileged assassin and the butcher at the center of the 
mystery; like several other stories here, it ends immediately with
the arrest of the confessing suspect. John Jakes's "The Peepshow Murders" 
seems like it may have been meant to be a different, longer story, so 
much wordage (at a penny each) is given over to the stupor the 
self-destructive detective-protagonist wallows in, only to too-easily 
shake that about a third of the way in. Tom Curry's is a mediocre 
gimmick-weapon story, but Carolyn Wynne's "The Cardboard Box" reads 
like something that shouldn't've been rejected by HITCHCOCK'S, an 
after-the-worm-turned story that very elegantly lays its cards on the 
table. The three brief actor profiles are most notable for the 
diffidence with which the stars discuss their gigs.

SSI in both incarnations, if this issue is indicative of the first, 
was consistently a source of good fiction, but only occasionally 
excellent or better fiction; a certain NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC-style good 
grey blandness could settle over the magazine at times: "Short
stories bring the world into focus." Although it was also usually good for 
some interesting fantasy (this aspect as much as the international 
good-willism seemed to excite Judith Merril in her writeup for her 
10th YEAR'S BEST annual), as with Les Shymansky's opening story, "The 
Wallaby Track" (reprinted here from Shymansky's collection ESCAPE TO 
THE TROPICS). Aboriginal fantasy in the manner of THE LAST WAVE,
only with less invested in the "white" characters. "Toward the Unknown 
Region" is a kind of personal alternate history rumination, a what-if 
from the point of view of a young man wrestling with guilt for being 
expatriated for his education who learns of the hardships of his 
family back home (reprinted from the New Zealander little magazine 
LANDFALL). "The Quiet Island," the longest story in the issue and
the one reprinted from the least obscure source (an issue of the previous 
year's SATURDAY EVENING POST), was perhaps too-perfect-for-SSI a story 
to pass over--occurring as it does upon a fictional? remote island 
somewhere off the UK? coast populated by peaceful, rulebound but more 
or less anarchist folk of multicultural ancestries, and what they do 
in the face of a volcanic flow that comes to reshape their homeland.  
Darrell Bates is in no hurry with this story, which strategy begins
to pay off after a page or so (I wonder how many SEP readers were so 
patient?). "Brother Ben" (from PUBLIC OPINION, perhaps a Jamaican 
magazine of that name, after appearance in FLAMINGO magazine) is a 
fine dialect tale of love lost to overwhelming religious faith; "The 
Dark Forest" (from Maximov's collection BLUE SILENCE) turns out to be 
a brutal, though justifiably so, WW2 tale of Russian partisans coping 
with the requirements of war vs. humanity. Rene Marques, who would 
have stories in the later issues as well, has a good minor tale of a 
man who overcomes his omniphobic paralysis in the face of political 
repression, perhaps in Puerto Rico but even more likely in one of the 
many even less fortunate Hispanophonic lands of the Americas (from
the SAN JUAN REVIEW). "Olga's Revenge" is the kind of thing Garrison 
Keillor would later make his career of, mildly serious tales of 
everyday lives among the Norwegian-American community leavened with 
homespun wit; reprinted from Bahr's WISCONSIN TALES, it plays a neat 
enough turn on most cuckoldry fiction by having the younger, more 
attractive wife the vain, aggrieved party. Solveig Christov's "A 
Vacant Bed" is perhaps the most impressive of the very short stories 
in this issue, a sort of turning inside-out of "The Dark Forest" in 
which the apparently noble avenger/rescuer is revealed to be a coward 
of the first water (from SCANDINAVIAN-AMERICAN REVIEW). This is 
followed immediately by "All Our Yesterdays": another hospital-based 
story, this one set in Indonesia in ca. 1960, with flashbacks to the 
atrocities of the Japanese occupation, which somewhat eerily presage 
the events in Indonesia simultaneous with this issue's release (from 
THE LITERARY REVIEW for Winter 1961). "The World Is Too Much With Us" 
(from THE GOLDEN ORIOLE, a collection of Bates's work) rounds out the 
issue amiably, a story of a man's wooing away from a chicken as the 
sole object of his affection by a widow. Perhaps not the kind of 
story that would've appeared in the SATEVEPOST.  

For more of today's books, as opposed to magazine reviews that are millennial, please see Patti Abbott's blog...


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I used to have a whole batch of the UNCLE magazines (or digests rather, right?) - as a kid I remember being amazed at how prolific Hart Davis was ... oh, blessed youth (and ignorance). In the Italian edition of the Mike Shayne mag, I think i read my first stories by Hock and Pronzini - I still remember the Hoch as being a very good one ("The Golden Lady") - I think the Pronzini may have been a ghosting for Dresser as Halliday but I'm not sure - maybe not. It was about 35 years ago ...

Todd Mason said...

Digest-sized magazines are definitely still magazines...I'll have to seek out the Italian SHAYNE. Of course, Edward Hoch and Bill Pronzini were and are even more prolific than any of the Renown Publications "house names"...even if we don't count BP's contributions thus...or James Reasoner and his!

George said...

I love these fun digest magazines! I bought some of them but somehow I missed a few.

Todd Mason said...

Well, as you've noted from time to time, the magazine distribution racket (I use the term advisedly) was particularly hit and miss from the latter 1950s onward, particularly at the local level, where large and small national distributors usually relied on some rather unimpressive business associates. who'd often gotten their start in the days when the way to up your newspaper's sales was to arrange for An Accident or several to happen to the competing papers' delivery trucks.

Northern New York newsstand browsers, for example, didn't always see everything that publishers and national distributors might hope they would.

James Reasoner said...

Since that's the first issue of the MFU digest, the other stories probably were pulled from the MSMM inventory. As the magazine continued, there began to be more espionage-oriented backup stories, but there were always some regular crime stories filling out the pages.

I think Pronzini, in collaboration with Jeff Wallmann, did only a couple of Mike Shayne stories as Brett Halliday and one solo MFU story ("The Pillars of Salt Affair") as Robert Hart Davis. But it was my favorite story from the MFU digest, as I told him many years later when I met him at a convention. Leo Margulies supposedly came up with the Robert Hart Davis house-name in honor of one of his old bosses, the pulp editor Bob Davis. When I wrote one of my espionage-themed Mike Shayne stories for MSMM, I included a dedication to Robert Hart Davis on the manuscript, but Chuck Fritch didn't run it.

Todd Mason said...

Indeed! In terms of Pronzini (and Wallmann) doing house-name work for Margulies and Renown, I was also thinking of the "Romer Zane Grey" ghost jobs they did for the Renown version of Zane Grey's Western Magazine, among with some other contributions. Everyone should definitely look at your post on this debut issue.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Apologies for the Hoch typo (stupid banana fingers).

Todd Mason said...

All sympathies, Sergio! I recall seeing Robert Bloch on at least two covers as Robert "Block"--and those folks were presumably being paid. I wonder, given how it's pronounced, if anyone would typo Hoch as "Hoke"...