Friday, October 30, 2020

FFB: Robert Arthur's Young Readers' Ghosted Anthologies, Continued: ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S GHOSTLY GALLERY (Random House, 1962) and ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S SPELLBINDERS IN SUSPENSE (RH, 1967): Friday Fright Night

Previous blog entries from the Random House YA anthology series:

Other volumes in the Random House YA series:

Robert Arthur, editor:
Alfred Hitchcock's Sinister Spies (1966)
Alfred Hitchcock's Daring Detectives (1969)

Robert Arthur, author:
Alfred Hitchcock's Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries (1963)
the initial AH and the Three Investigators novels (beginning 1964)

Henry Veit, editor:
Alfred Hitchcock's Supernatural Tales of Terror and Suspense (1973)

• Frontispiece blurb by Robert Arthur (as by Alfred Hitchcock): These are mystery-suspense stories. Some will keep you on the edge of your chair with excitement. Others are calculated to draw you along irresistibly to see how the puzzle works out. I have even included a sample or two of stories that are humorous, to show you that humor and mystery can also add up to suspense.

So here you are, with best wishes for hours of good reading.

• The Chinese Puzzle Box by Agatha Christie [Hercule Poirot], (ss) The Sketch Oct 3 1923, as “The Case of the Veiled Lady”
11 • The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell (nv) Collier’s Jan 19 1924
65 • Puzzle for Poppy by "Patrick Quentin" (Richard Webb and Hugh Wheeler) (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Feb 1946
79 • Eyewitness by Robert Arthur (ss) Detective Fiction Weekly Jan 28 1939; as "Eye Witness"
94 • Man from the South by Roald Dahl (ss) Collier’s Sep 4 1948; as "Collector's Item"
105 • Black Magic by Sax Rohmer [Bazarada], (ss) Collier’s Feb 5 1938
119 • Treasure Trove by F. Tennyson Jesse [aka Wynifried Margaret Tennyson Jesse] [Solange Fontaine], (ss) McCall’s Apr 1928
126 • Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper by Robert Bloch (ss) Weird Tales Jul 1943
146 • The Treasure Hunt by Edgar Wallace [J. G. Reeder], (ss) Flynn’s Nov 22 1924
162 • The Man Who Knew How by Dorothy L. Sayers [Pender], (ss) Harper’s Bazaar Feb 1932; also as “The Man Who Knew”
175 • The Dilemma of Grampa Dubois by Clayre Lipman and Michel Lipman (ss) The American Family a 1952 issue
182 • P. Moran, Diamond-Hunter by Percival Wilde [P. Moran], (nv) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Apr 1946
Robert Arthur, having inherited the editorship of the Random House "Alfred Hitchcock" anthologies aimed at adult readers either with or just after 1959's Alfred Hitchcock Presents: My Favorites in Suspense (in the spot where Arthur would be credited in his later volumes, Patricia Hitchcock under her married name is cited instead), had produced another volume in that series, 1961's AHP: Stories for Late at Night (and might also at least helped put together 1957's AHP: Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV at Simon & Schuster) before Random House decided they also might have a market for a juvenile-readers' series, and tapped veteran children's editor Muriel Fuller to assemble the nicely illustrated and designed Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful (1961). However, Fuller's book was somewhat lacking in punch; a quarter of the text was taken up with a long excerpt from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, excellent material but even better in context and while suspenseful, not exactly the kind of thing kids picking up a Haunted AH book might be looking for. A chestnut of a Doyle Sherlock Holmes story was mixed with stories a bit more on point from some good writers, such as Manly Wade Wellman, but nearly all of those stories were from young readers' magazines Boy's Life and Story Parade. This was the kiddie roller-coaster.
By the time the second AH volume for young readers was released, Arthur had the gig. None of his selections were from magazines aimed at kids, yet all were accessible to young readers. Perhaps the self-indulgence of Fuller in running the Twain excerpt for much of her book was seen as more off-putting than Arthur including three of his own stories, if good ones, as a means of presumably supplementing his take of the editorial budget (or perhaps he sold rights to himself for budget prices to allow for only two stories in the public domain to be included). This was definitely a full-strength anthology for little monster-lovers. While Arthur was never afraid to run a chestnut in his YA books as well (such as "The Upper Berth", certainly, and to a lesser extent the Burrage, Wells and Stevenson stories), he was also offering fairly recent stories for 1962, in the Kuttner and Moore (even if it was dealing in its outre manner with an early postwar situation) and most of the others.
By the time of the 1967 suspense volume, the success of both Random House series was assured, as was that of the third series Arthur had launched with them, the Three Investigators novels. Unfortunately, Arthur's health was beginning to fail by this time, even if his ability to assemble an entertaining anthology was undiminished; the mix of impressive chestnuts young readers might not've yet encountered (such as cover story "The Most Dangerous Game", probably the most plagiarized short story in the 20th Century in English; I find myself disagreeing with Friday Fright Night host Curtis Evans in his relative assessment of the original story and the first film made from it, by largely the same folks behind the first King Kong; I prefer the original text) and even slightly more "edgy" newer stories such as Roald Dahl's "Man from the South". Of course, I'd also take slight issue with the notion that Robert Bloch's "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" (another remarkably widely-plagiarized story!) is a realistic mystery/suspense story so much as horror...Daphne Du Maurier's "The Birds" wanders up to the edge of that divide, as well...though including either the Dahl, which had already become one of the most famous of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: tv episodes, nor "The Birds", source story for the inferior 1963 Hitchcock film, probably wasn't too much a matter of controversy around the Random House offices. 
I certainly loved this series of anthologies as a young reader, and inhaled them along with the Random House adult-oriented volumes from about 1974 onward (and the Dell paperbacks taken from them and their similarly-packaged series of best-ofs from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine), the RH volumes as edited by Arthur up till his death in 1969, and the adult series continued by Harold Q. Masur from the next volume till the death of Hitchcock himself in 1979; Henry Veit was to produce the two YA anthologies cited above after Arthur's last.
Curtis Evans will have the links for this week's, possibly the last Friday Fright Night this year?, at his blog tonight, and I'll have a fortnight's worth of Friday's "Forgotten" Books at my blog sometime tonight as well, with others added as I find them tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Short Story Wednesday: DIME MYSTERY MAGAZINE, October 1949: John D. MacDonald, Margaret St. Clair, Day Keene, Lix Agrabee...

Well, isn't that a hell of a line-up of writers...St. Clair, MacDonald, Gault, "Keene", Powell, Siegel and Holden, even if I've barely read the last two...much as I've never before read the work of  Ms. "Lix Agrabee" (one of the more flagrant pseudonyms I've run across) as far as I know (Helen D. Conway has only four stories as by Agrabee listed in the FictionMags Index, all a cluster in Dime Mystery in 1947-49, and nothing much else pops up for her in a quick set of searches). 

What's notable about these folks, for the most part, is that they are writing better than serviceable pulp prose, as one might expect, even in this late pulp issue...inasmuch as all of them except, I think, Holden (and Conway) were going on to sustained careers in post-pulp-era publishing, several already contributing to higher-paying or more widely-respected markets by 1949. They were already writing fiction here and elsewhere that could fit in "slicks" or "little" magazines, paperbacks and Best of the Year annuals. Even if all but one of these short stories, in this penultimate issue of Dime Mystery (already costing the newsstand browser two dimes, and about to have its name changed, for a few more issues before folding, to 15 Story Mystery) are simply good reading, usually with excellent detail if not breaking much in the way of new ground. 

And so much burial ground to break, since all the short stories in this issue save St. Clair's involve corpses (or presumed corpses)  that need to be disposed of (in a variety of bucolic settings), but just keep coming back or refuse to stay where they were left or go where they should--or are they simply ghosts? Well, mostly corpses. The legacy of Dime Mystery as one of the original "shudder pulps" when that form was being more or less invented at Popular Publications in the early '30s gets its last licks in as this late issue features essentially all conventional but more or less "off-trail" crime fiction. 

Margaret St. Clair's "Nightmare Lady" is a turning worm story with an unsurprisingly (for its author) feminist edge (likewise, an openness to taking premonition dreams seriously), wherein a long-suffering sister/aunt, who has served as caretaker to her brother and his two children since the death of his wife, decides she won't allow him to crush the spirit of his daughter, her niece, through his bitter selfishness and stubbornness. Rather more deftly played out here than in too many episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: not too long after...

John D. MacDonald's "The Last Rendezvous" is also a revenger's tale, somewhat more improbable but neatly enough done, involving a husband and his young sister-in-law who play a kind of vicious turnabout trick on a drunken lout, who had caused the death of their wife/sister in such a way it couldn't be easily proven in court. Thus, in a small way, an early movement in the direction of The Executioners, filmed inadequately twice as Cape Fear.

"Day Keene" (Gunard Hjerstedt)'s "The Laughing Dead" is closer to its author at full display of his powers, wherein a very mean piece of human furniture kills a distant cousin of his wife in an opportune encounter on a lonely road, but has the damnedest time taking care of the corpse, which seems to keep popping up and/or refusing to be disposed of/temporarily hidden as well as it might be. Also depends on some rather improbable coincidences, but is a little less in need of being indulged by the reader than the plot of the MacDonald, though at least one of the coincidences is rather quickly papered over. 

While all the rest of these are at least well-enough-written and indicative of the better work these people would do elsewhere, "The Corpse Came Back!" (surprise!) by "Lix Agrabee" is a notable exception, trying breathlessly yet almost always clumsily to get across the rising desperation of its protagonist, telling us frequently in the same sentence two or three times what is happening/has just happened, just in case we wouldn't believe it the first time...which is odd, since the thin plot of this one, disenchanted poor boy bumps off his doting, but (very) slightly overbearing, wealthy young wife, is the least improbable of the quartet (even if the resolution is about as awkward as most of the prose). Less odd, though, given that pulps usually paid by the word, and this reads a bit like the clumsier passages in later Harold Robbins/Jackie Collins-style "glam" fiction, particularly when describing wardrobe selections in repetitious detail or with lines such as: "He leaned out, palms spread to balance himself, laughing insanely now that calm sanity had come to him, knowing as he did so that he must pull himself together and, as soon as possible, pull himself out of the whole thing." 

Dime Detective, of course, was at its height one of the most important of  crime-fiction magazines in the field, a notable heir to Black Mask, and its stablemate Dime Western had a similar influence in its field; Dime Mystery was always a bit overshadowed by its littermates except in its shudder primacy years, but I'll be reading at very least the William Campbell Gault story here, and the other work by some of the better writers as pops up in this issue and others archived on-line. 

Please see Patti Abbott's blog for the rest of this week's SSW entries!

Friday, October 23, 2020

FFM (Friday's "Forgotten" Magazines): May 1960 Horror and Fantasy Fiction Magazines: F&SF, FANTASTIC, SHOCK, FEAR!, SCIENCE FANTASY (April), FANTASTIC UNIVERSE (March), MACABRE (Summer)--Friday Fright Night

Some newsstand fantasy and horror (and sf and suspense fiction) in Spring of 1960:

Macabre, Summer 1960 
Price: $0.40
Pages: 28
                                      *Not as yet online, I believe

So...why May 1960 issues?

Well, this was one of the rare instances in which two newsstand horror-fiction magazines were launched with the same cover date...and the same lack of capitalization. Both Shock and Fear! were to last only briefly, three issues for Shock, two issues for Fear!...Winston Publications launched Keyhole Mystery Magazine at the same time, and with the same editor (though Dan Roberts didn't hide behind a Frankenstein's behemoth and an intelligent spider for the crime-fiction magazine--cutesy editorial fictions rarely help) and many of the same contributors, managed three issues before folding. Fear! was the product of Great American Publications, which had bought King-Size Publications' two fiction magazines (The Saint Mystery Magazine and Fantastic Universe--the US edition of the British New Worlds was launched with the March 1960 issue perhaps in part to make up for the folding of FU) and then added a small slew of other fiction magazines in an excess of enthusiasm, or at very least optimism...which overextension apparently contributed to Great American's crashing and burning by the end of 1960...they had folded Fantastic Universe, after an 8-year run, after beginning but never continuing the serialization of Fredric Brown's horror-adjacent sf novel The Mind Thing, and offering an uncredited translation of the first Jorge Luis Borges story to appear in an English-language fantasy magazine, in March (meaning it probably was still sitting on a few newsstands, at least, by the time the others here were issued).  The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF), Fantastic and the UK's Science Fantasy (the more fantasy and horror-receptive stablemate of New Worlds) would continue apace for some years, as would Joseph Payne Brennan's modest little magazine, the most prominent of those devoted to publishing weird fiction and poetry in 1960, Macabre.  

F&SF always included some horror in its mix, as did Fantastic, Fantastic Universe and Science Fantasy also...F&SF's first mooted title was Fantasy and Terror, though that was not seen as a particularly easy sell in the immediate postwar years, despite the continuing popularity of horror fiction and horror drama on radio and to some extent in film; the first issue, as edited by founders "Anthony Boucher" (William White) and J. Francis McComas, was titled simply The Magazine of Fantasy when released in 1949, and the current title (it's the only magazine in our array here still publishing, though the most recent revival of Fantastic folded only a few years ago) came with the second issue, as sf magazines had already established that they had a receptive self-conscious audience (while horror and fantasy readers were less likely to see themselves that way until the attempts to market to them began began consistently succeeding in the 1970s and '80s). Fantastic (founded in 1952), Fantastic Universe (in 1953) and Science Fantasy (established as a professional magazine under that title in 1950) all were ready from the start to announce their openness to sf...FU almost to a ridiculous extent, though in a sense it has perhaps the most cheerful and optimistic title of any professional fantasy/sf magazine so far (and in moments of anger, the initials work).

As noted, Shock was the stablemate of a crime-fiction magazine, most of Fear!'s freshet of stablemates were crime-fiction as well (and a couple of those were tv-series-tie-in magazines, 77 Sunset Strip and Tightrope, which mixed in non-series-related stories), and F&SF was seen as a fantasticated offshoot, in most ways, of its original stablemate Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; the relation of The Saint Detective Magazine and Fantastic Universe was in imitation of F&SF and EQMM. Fantastic, while its first two editors were at least as much interested in crime fiction as speculative, was for its initial 1952-80 run the consistent partner of the sf magazine Amazing, much as Science Fantasy was of New Worlds.  Brennan's little magazine was launched in 1957, as an attempt to provide a focus for those hoping to see a revival of Weird Tales magazine, which had folded in 1954, with Brennan as one of its last major "discoveries" (he had published more widely as a poet than a fiction writer, though had published a number of western stories, before WT in its last years published, most famously, such short horror fiction of his as "Slime" and "The Calamander Chest").

That said, it's perhaps also a mark of the times that led their publishers to try to launch horror/suspense magazines...a few publishers, particularly Ballantine Books, were starting up horror lines, however tentatively (and some of the crime-fiction book lines were showing an increasing willingness to dip back into at least borderline horror, tagging some titles as "novels of menace" and the like); the increasing embrace of horror hosts on television film packages, local and syndicated, seemed to be embraced by the culture at large in a way that horror comics had not been, even though they both had their roots in radio horror and suspense hosts--on series which in their turn had inspired some short-lived magazines in the 1950s, the eclectic Suspense and The Mysterious Traveler, and the later and somewhat more affectionately than respectfully remembered Tales of the Unanticipated. Television dramatic anthologies touched on horror and sometimes jumped in with both feet (following in the footsteps of such radio series transplants as Suspense and Lights Out), and odd hybrids such as Alcoa Presents/One Step Beyond arose, and then the first long-term success in US fantasticated tv drama anthologies, The Twilight Zone, beginning in 1959. In the UK, such writers as Nigel Kneale were offering wildly popular drama dancing on the line between sf and horror. And British horror films, from Hammer and other studios, were doing well in the States, as were some rather more sophisticated horror and suspense films than the low-budget monster movies that had flooded in with the advent of drive-ins and lots of teens with spending money. Such borderline horror as Psycho couldn't've have hurt the sales pitches for horror/borderline horror magazines to their publishers and distributors. 

All that said--what of the stories (and nonfiction features)? One thing that's hard to miss is how each of the magazines offers reprints--Shock almost to a fault, and the minor fiddling with titles of reprints in that issue seems almost as if they're hoping you won't recall those titles--seven out of 13 stories are good to excellent reprints, but some are definitely going to be familiar to most readers of horror--and if the magazine was aimed at kids (as the editorial fiction cuteness suggests), Theodore Sturgeon's "Bianca's Hands" probably wasn't going to be one of those reprints (though this is its first US magazine appearance, after beating a Graham Greene story in a contest in the UK magazine Argosy--after having appeared in at least a Groff Conklin horror anthology and Sturgeon's second, and horr0r-heavy and brilliant, collection). Such originals as Avram Davidson's "The Tenant" are nothing to be ashamed of, either. (The cover story in the third issue of Shock is Robert Bloch's brilliant suspense piece "The Final Performance", a new story--which, of course, editor Roberts presented as "Final Performance".) The least mining the past we see is in the Macabre issue, apparently...I haven't found a copy to read, so I don't know if Brennan's own H. P. Lovecraft essay builds on his nonfiction about HPL he'd published in the '50s; though it's amusing to note that this is certainly HPL month for nonfiction pieces, between Damon Knight's brief dismissal of how Lovecraft avoided overexposing his monstrous presences definitely to a fault and Sam Moskowitz's typically clumsy historical/critical profile; Brennan's is probably more adeptly written, and it would be interesting to see if it's more generally critical than Moskowitz chose to be.  In the Science Fantasy issue, the reprint is the similar Moskowitz essay about A. Merritt, which series ran on a several-month delay from their original appearances in Fantastic. Accompanying the essay in Fantastic is a reprint, from the very early and fairly elaborate 1935 fanzine Fantasy Magazine issue in which two quintets of writers were requested to write round-robin stories with the title "The Challenge from Beyond"--one group of five asked to take a science-fictional approach, the other, Weird Tales stars all save A. Merritt who was more an even earlier big draw in the likes of the US Argosy and All-Story magazines, to collaborate on a Cthulhu horror story. So, Catherine L. Moore (my favorite of this five), Abraham Merritt, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Frank Belknap Long fell to and produced the story reprinted here. (You are invited to imagine the prices copies of this issue of the 1935 magazine go for when made available.) 

Fear! dusts off a Wilkie Collins story from 1874, albeit one with a complex history; Fantastic Universe's only "true" reprint appears to be an Israeli news story (polymath editor H. S. Santesson might not've translated the Borges story, collected in Spanish as well as English in the versions of The Universal History of Infamy, as he refers in his editorial to Borges as a Mexican, rather than Argentine, editor...but perhaps it was a momentary slip). F&SF, as does Shock, reprints a John Collier story, only a relatively new 1956 item from The New Yorker, rather than a chestnut originally from Harper's in 1931 in the latter case; the F&SF issue also reprints a Joseph Hansen poem from Harper's, from the previous year. Shock reprints its Anthony Boucher story from F&SF in 1954; F&SF would eventually return the favor, reprinting Davidson's "The Tenant" a decade later, in 1971. 

And, Fantastic and F&SF in these issues offer impressive new stories by Fritz Leiber, one each in his most sustained series: a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story, "When the Sea King's Away" in the Fantastic issue, and a Change War story in the F&SF, "The Oldest Soldier"...

More to come. (It's been a surprisingly and suddenly busy two days.) Perhaps some pruning of the above, definitely some digging in with the horror fiction offered by each...