Friday, November 11, 2016

FFM: STREET & SMITH'S DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, September 1946, edited by Daisy Bacon; ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, September 1945, edited by Frederic Dannay: FFB: THE STORY OF STORY MAGAZINE by Martha Foley (assembled and notes added in part by Jay Neugeboren), W.W. Norton 1980

back cover of Love Story Writer by Bacon
with an introduction by Laurie Powers
A redux post, in part in honor of Laurie Powers's forthcoming biography of Daisy Bacon, the most important editor of romance-fiction pulps, and not insignificant as the editor of Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine, the primary "non-hero" crime-fiction magazine from the most affluent pulp/digest fiction magazine publisher...her contemporary, also too overlooked now, Martha Foley, did major editorial work in contemporary/mimetic fiction with about as little sustained credit, as well as being a friend to fantastic and crime fiction...

from the FictionMags discussion list, 14 May 2000:

STREET & SMITH'S DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, September 1946 (Volume 172, Number 5). Legendary editor: Daisy Bacon. Monthly. 15c ($1.50/year in US/$1.75 Pan American Union/$2.25 elsewhere; no Canadian subscriptions accepted [Can edition?]). 

Ads for Calvert Whiskey, Listerine Antiseptic mouthwash, Pepsi-Cola, Ray-o-Vac batteries, Olin Bond flashlights and batteries, Gillette razor blades, Ballco Vacutex blackhead extractor. 

Digest, 130 pp. Cover photograph by Ardean Miller, III.

from one of my contributions to the FictionMags Index, or FMI:

ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, September 1945 (Volume 6, issue number 24). Legendary editor: Frederic Dannay; Mildred Falk, Mng. Ed.; Charlotte Spivak, Ass. Ed. Bimonthly. 25c ($1.50/year US and Pan American Union/$1.75 Canada/$2 elsewhere).

Ads for the Detective Book Club and an Inner Sanctum Mystery/Simon & Schuster (LAY THAT PISTOL DOWN by Richard Powell). 

Digest, 128 pp. Cover painting by George Salter.

one of Douglas Greene's FMI contributions:  

Ads for the Detective Book Club and an Inner Sanctum Mystery/Simon & Schuster (LAY THAT PISTOL DOWN by Richard Powell). 

Digest, 128 pp. Cover painting by George Salter.

one of Douglas Greene's FMI contributions:  

While published about a year apart, unlike the last two fiction-magazine issues I've reviewed here [on the discussion list], a few of my beloved parallels obtain, even when in reverse. Aside from both issues being very pleasant reading experiences overall (and neither being much sought after on thecollectors market--purchase of the DETECTIVE STORY cost me more in postage than in eBay bid price of $2, the EQMM was a buck in a comics store; while both are no better than good reading copies, try getting a merely complete PLANET STORIES for that price), one of the most striking things about them was how forgotten the DSM writers mostly are, and how many familiar names (perhaps some more remembered thanread) are in the EQ issue. The only definitely familiar name to me in the S&S item is William Campbell Gault, and perhaps unsurprisingly his "They'd Die for Linda" is the best story in that issue; possibly, I'd heard of Roy Lopez before, whose "You'll Be the Death of Me" is, like most of the other DETECTIVE stories, what could be called "fake hardboiled": wisecracking 'tecs of various sorts in stories with the trappings of classic BLACK MASK and (post-hardboiled-diaspora) DIME DETECTIVE fiction, without the bracing sense of hard living nor the worldly cynicism of Hammett or Chandler. Odder is the issue's 33-page"complete novel," "The Screaming Rock" by John H. Knox (whether a close relation to Calvin M. Knox [Robert Silverberg's most famous pseudonym]
, I'm not sure), which is nothing so much as a weird-menace/shudder pulp story with most of the torture taken out, more wisecracks and politics inserted. The McGuffin is a series of
60th anniversary issue just out; V1, #2, 1/1957 
experiments in cryogenics, not so named, that serve as 
obfuscation for murders at a remote psychiatric clinic, one not too different from the one in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY. William Honest (good old Honest Bill?) offers a reasonably effective frame for his impossible murder story, "Murder Is Where You Dig It"; Dorothy Dunn's"A Photo Finish" (the cover story) reads like a slightly more wholesome and ultimately upbeat version of a Jim Thompson desperate loser story (before Thompson, at least, was publishing them); "Oswald Has His Night" by Ronald Henderson is an interesting twist on a theme AHMM (to say nothing of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS: the tv series) would eventually beat to death; in this case the henpecked husband is framed for a murder he didn't commit by a third party, and has to solve the mystery before his wife returns from a visit, as well as before being collared by the police; "Blood Red Rubies" by Roland Phillips is imitation THE THIN MAN, but not too shabby an example. What the magazine reads like, in its mostly noirish feel but not quite full-fledged hopeless existentialism (or MANHUNT brutality), is AHMM 
in its first decades, even down to the mediocre uncredited line-drawing illustrations.

Gault's use of multiple viewpoints/narrators is the major deviation from basically serious plain tales wisecrackingly told, and his and perhaps Dunn's are the stories that most deserve to survive this issue's shelf life, but one common feature here is in fine pulptradition: attention-getting, even when cliched, opening lines:

Lopez: "He was a little guy, wearing a checked suit. He was
bald-headed. And he was scared green."

Honest: "You felt like front table at El Morocco when Marie came in.
Nobody expected her to sing, but it wouldn't have been surprising.
Tycoons like Roger Tillman could afford such a wife."

Dunn: "Tommy Murphy tore up his losing ticket after the eighth race
and left the grandstand. His hopes fluttered down to the cold cement
flooring with the pieces of cardboard. And he felt cold and grey
inside, drained of his laughter and his luck."

Knox: "Plain Sid Wilson felt the sickening pause as the wheels of
his coupe lost their grip on the icy slope."

Unlike [fellow Street & Smith fiction magazines] ASTOUNDING or UNKNOWN, but like WILD WESTDETECTIVE STORY here restricts Ms. Bacon's editorial comment to teaser blurbs, and offers couple of examples of rather sentimental doggerel as space-filling tags (the better one by Edgar Daniel Kramer, the other by L[ight?]. Breeze).

No such restriction applies to Fred Dannay, of course, whose
introductory essays several times threaten to exceed the length of
the stories blurbed. Fully half the contributions to this issue of EQMM
are reprints, and only one of the originals is bylined unfamiliarly
(as far as I can recall): James Yaffe's "The Problem of the
Emperor's Mushrooms," aside from being a short, decent alternate-to-Graves
modern retelling of the intrigues in the Roman court of Claudius, is
piss-poor example of a crime story, albeit with another draft it
could've been a better one; Dannay flagellates himself in the intro
over Yaffe's previous EQMM story, because it never occurred to either
author nor editor that a toy balloon blown up by a person wouldn't
levitate in normal atmosphere, apparently a crucial plot point (the
flaw in this story is more a matter of telegraphing and awkwardness in
dialog, but, as Dannay notes, it was rushed into print to prove Yaffe
not an idiot).

More experienced hands than Yaffe's are also tapping in Morse code in this
issue. Agatha Christie's "The Case of the Vulture Women" (a reprint
from a 1939 THIS WEEK magazine [wasn't this a PARADE-like newspaper
insert?][yes, it was--the later me]), is a Hercule Poirot puzzle that probably could've been solved in a few minutes cogitation by Dr. Watson or even Mike Hammer; it was certainly pretty obvious to me, albeit Christie's digs at the
English's depredations upon other languages ring true with anyone
who's ever heard what too many Britons do to Spanish words. The other puzzle
stories in this issue are less straightforward, if too often too
easily soluble: John Dickson Carr's quasi-impossible crime tale,
"Will You Walk into My Parlor?", is actually a radio script, previously
broadcast as part of the SUSPENSE series; G. K. Chesterton's "Dr.
Hyde, Detective, and The White Pillars Murder" (ENGLISH LIFE, January
1925) is not atypically as much philosophical rumination as puzzle,
and somewhat guessable in its "surprise"; Lillian de la Torre's
original Samuel Johnson/James Boswell historical mystery, "The
Wax-Work Cadaver," gets only slightly bogged in its attempts at
period color. James M. Cain's non-puzzle, "Pastorale" (AMERICAN MERCURY,
1928), is a minor murder tale with a not particularly deft use of
vaudeville "countrified" dialect (but it was an inexpensive inhouse reprint from a "name" writer, and certainly hardboiled enough; the inadvertantly Tuckerizing opening lines: "Well, it looks like Burbie was going to get hung.
And if he does, what he can lay it on is, he always figured he was so dam
smart."). Things look up with Ben Hecht's brief parody, "The
Whistling Corpse," an original (intentionally) as turgid as the "had I but
known" (as Dannay calls them) once and future Gothics (as I tag them)
within the cf tradition, and worth a chuckle; far funnier and more
devastating is H. F. Heard's original Mr. Mycroft (as in Holmes
pastiche) tale, "Adventure of Mr. Montalba, Obsequist," which, in
addition to goosing Doyle a bit, prefigures Waugh's THE LOVED ONE in
most of the latter's best dimensions (this one's use of cutting-edge taxidermy/undertaking practices and arguable positing of long-term self-induced suspended animation sparks an argument--is this fantasy or no?--between Heard and Dannay which is dutifully detailed in an endnote, and makes for a weak parallel with Knox's proto-cryogenics story in DSM). Philip Wylie's original "Perkins' 'First Case'" is an amiable mix of NYC
slice-of-life and offbeat detection, far less sententious (as I guess it would have to be) than what SF by him I've tried has been (WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE with Balmer and THE DISAPPEARANCE); anyone read his Crunch
and Des stories? Vying with the Heard for second-best in the issue is Damon Runyon's "What, No Butler?" (from COLLIER'S in 1933 and  the 1944 collection BLUE 
PLATE SPECIAL), like most of theDETECTIVE STORY offerings a basically serious story dressed up with humor, this time from the master of present-tense slang. The best story is unsurprisingly Dashiell Hammett's "Two Sharp Knives" (COLLIER'S MAGAZINE, 1942), which more than any of the other stories in either CF magazine issue (the Gault and the Runyon come the closest, but not that close) gives the sense of life as it is actually lived by adults. And tells a fine, understated story.

(And one wonders if Daisy Bacon and Dannay, both on his own ticket and because he seemed to frequently work with women editors, had for obvious reasons less truck with the misogyny several here have mentioned as impediments to reprinting MANHUNT and at least some BLACK MASK stories....)

FFB: THE STORY OF STORY MAGAZINE by Martha Foley (assembled and notes added in part by Jay Neugeboren), W.W. Norton 1980

Jay Neugeboren, in his introduction to the published form of Foley's memoirs in progress at the time of her death, notes the dire state she found herself in, barely getting by on her royalties from editing Best American Short Stories (after four decades at that desk; she had taken over from the founding editor, her friend, after he was killed in England by Nazi bombing from the air), mourning the death of her son (who had been, apparently, a heroin junkie), isolated and ailing. Which seems very strange indeed, given the breadth of her early career, before and during founding and editing Story (or, as she always refers to it, STORY...all caps and in italics), and leaving Story to take on the BASS position and divorcing Whit Burnett, who kept the magazine they had co-founded (and ran it into the ground, though also saw it revived fleetingly twice before his death and the eventual revival of the title for a decade by the Writer's Digest people).

Incomplete as the account is, Foley had packed a lot of living into her first decades, beginning her memoirs with a reminiscence of her lonely and abused childhood, after her parents became seriously ill and had to place Foley and siblings with resentful relatives (or other surrogates), Foley did love the legacy of the library her parents had assembled, which traveled with the younger Foleys. Not long after high school, Alice Paul finds Foley doing some small tasks at the Socialist Party hq in New York, when Paul came over with other Women's Party activists looking for reinforcements to protest that antifeminist crusader, Woodrow Wilson, on his return from Europe (particularly amusing when we consider how famously his wife would be the voice of the, and probably the acting, President in his ill last years--he is easily among our most overrated Presidents); Foley, Paul and the other protestors were jailed but not processed (so could not be bailed out nor otherwise released), and Foley's firsthand career investigating the corruption of the larger society had begun. She would be drawn into journalism, working with Cornelius Vanderbilt in Los Angeles (and serving as one of the key editors on CV's paper there), meeting Whit Burnett and moving with him to New York and then onto foreign correspondence for major papers in Paris and Vienna, and beginning to publish Story in the face of the early 1930s narrowing of the short-fiction markets, particularly among the more intellectual and arty generalist magazines (Mencken and Nathan's move from the fiction-heavy The Smart Set to the essay-oriented The American Mercury being a key impetus, another being the closure of the key experimental little magazine transition to fiction, rather than poetry, just before Foley and Burnett took the plunge). Meanwhile, Story would publish the first stories, and later work, of folks ranging from John D. MacDonald to J. D. Salinger, Zora Neale Hurston to William Saroyan, (almost) Ernest Hemingway and his inspiration, Gertrude Stein (neither of whom Foley was ever terribly impressed with as people) to (definitely) Nelson Algren (whom she liked enormously till his public rudeness about his affair with Simone de Beauvoir), Carson McCullers to John Cheever, Kay Boyle to Erskine Caldwell, Peter de Vries to Norman Mailer. While building this legacy, she developed long friendships the likes of fellow reporter and historian William Shirer and a banker turned writer/publisher who was going by Rex Stout (and introduced him to the model 
note Foley credits her son with co-editing

for Nero Wolfe...Foley suspects Stout modeled Archie Goodwin on himself). 

And as incomplete as this review is under the current circumstances, most of this book is written in great good humor (with the necessary seriousness brought to many issues of the times, and nostalgia never allowed to go unchecked) and touches on the careers and Foley's interactions with many more folks than I cite here (hell, Neugeboren, in going through the notes and the completed majority of the manuscript, finds himself wondering what happened to such Foley discoveries as A. I. Bezzerides--apparently no film buff, Jay). Eminently rewarding, as well as sobering as one considers how Foley's late life was spent. 


Walker Martin said...

I have all the digest issues of DETECTIVE STORY and it's puzzling how Street & Smith managed to put such bland and boring covers on the magazine in the 1940's. For instance the issue prior to this one has a squirrel on the cover and another issue has a cat. Not as part of the cover image but as the main figure. Daisy Bacon introduced a more hard boiled tough story policy in the forties but the covers remain sort of silly for a detective magazine. In fact they reflect the cover policy of LOVE STORY MAGAZINE.

George said...

People will look back on that era and pronounce it a Golden Age. A ton of great stories appeared in those years as your lists demonstrate.

Todd Mason said...

Walker--! definitely look forward to reading Laurie's book to see why Street & Smith seemed so much more indulgent of Campbell than Bacon, aside from wanting Campbell handy to edit technology magazines when the spirit moved them to launch/relaunch one. Perhaps he got along better with the S&S brass.

I guess S&S wanted to distance themselves from "pulpiness" as much as possible in the '40s, and I'm not sure there was an art director at DETECTIVE STORY (I'll need to dig copies out). The abstract images on the later still issues are often rather poorly executed, if interesting in concept.

George--People really do look back on that era as a golden age...certainly most sf people in the '70s and '80s still meant the Campbell magazines in the latest '30s and '40s as the Golden Age of sf and "newsstand fantasy"--even if, I believe, you, and no few others, (sensibly) prefer the efflorescence in those fields in the '50s. Aside from those who continue to note that the Golden Age of sf is 12- or 13-year-old new readers in the field...certainly, one could make a living writing short fiction for magazines in that era, even if you'd have to supplement what you'd get from STORY, and EQMM and DSM wouldn't set you up quite as well as THE SATURDAY EVENING POST or even BLUE BOOK might...but you wouldn't be down and out...while electronic publication makes it easier to publish short fiction than ever before, but also to make even less money, adjusted for inflation, than ever.