Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Stories from Three (+) Magazines, Anthologized: Robert Bloch, John Cheever, C.B. Gilford, Damon Knight, Kathe Koja, Ursula K. Le Guin, Donald E. Westlake et al.

Three books taken from three magazines: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine--the first anthology from the magazine; Playboy--a sort of mid-stream collection of mostly sfnal work from the magazine, and one of the rather impressive Playboy Press paperback originalsand Amazing Stories, a signing-off of the magazine as it had been published for over a decade by TSR...

  • Publication: Alfred Hitchcock's A Hangman's Dozen (the first edition only, photographed here, as AH Presents: AHD, but Random House probably put pressure on Dell and HSD Publications to stop infringing on the RH-franchise title-form for their paperback original least till RH discontinued the series with the death of Hitchcock) Never before in paperback...and never in hardcover! (But the latter wouldn't be seen as a selling point.)
  • Editor: attributed to Alfred Hitchcock; probably? edited by AHMM editor Lisa Belknap or publisher (and successor editor) Richard Decker
  • Date: 1962
  • Catalog ID: 3428
  • Publisher: Dell
  • Price: $0.50; Pages: 222; Format: 
  • Notes: Despite the title there are 15 stories [says ISFDB...executioners can ad three at no extra charge.]
The first best-of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine Dell would publish, in a long string, while the magazine belonged to HSD Publications; when it was sold to Davis Publications, who had been publishing Ellery Queen's MM since the turn of the '60s, Dell's Delacorte hardcover imprint would issue the library-aimed hardcover versions of Davis's Alfred Hitchcock Anthology fat reprint issues (and, after Davis Publications' collapse, they sold their fiction magazine to Dell...hich in turn sold its magazines, mostly world-puzzle magazines, but also fiction and astrology [also fiction!] to puzzle magazine publisher Penny Press, which still publishes them)...and, coincidentally, the first I father picked it up for me from a shady bookstore in Boston where stripped paperbacks were sold for something like a quarter apiece. The Bradbury story is an anomaly...AHMM wouldn't regularly publish reprints till the early '80s and had only done so sporadically since the mid '80s. As I was, as I've noted, a horror-seeking device when 10yo, the stories that resonated most with me were the horror and borderline suspense stories, such as the C. B. Gilford (never mess with the shade of your ex-wife) and the Matheson (always look closely at the family portraits in odd-seeming small towns), and of course the Bradbury. But the Westlakes and Slesars also made an impression...Charles Einstein, of course, was the somewhat older brother of comedian/actors Bob Einstein and Albert "Brooks".

Part of another lengthy series of paperbacks, from Playboy Press when it was still active and largely devoted to books related to the parent magazine, and ready to tout the range of material they featured beyond and between the airbrushing.  Anthologies that put together Damon Knight (whose bitter story lends the book its title; an exercise in more directly expressed rage than most of his work, where anger is usually leavened with wit and no little irony), John Cheever and Ken Purdy are less common than they might be, despite Cheever and gearhead Purdy both having an affinity for at least borderline sf on occasion in their careers. Also, some horror mixed in with this "science fiction" collection, presumably more PP's nonchalance than worry that the book wouldn't sell as well with a "sf and fantasy" label.

Amazing Stories: The Anthology ed. Kim Mohan (Tor 0-312-89048-6, Jun ’95 [May ’95], $13.95, 320pp, tp) Anthology of 13 stories, 8 original and 5 reprinted from Amazing, with an introduction by Mohan and a reprint of an autobiographical piece by Robert Bloch as an afterword.
This anthology was essentially the Lost Last issue of the TSR Amazing, as the Dungeons and Dragons game/book publishers finally decided to quit expensively publishing and ineptly distributing Amazing, which they had bough from the ashes of Ultimate Publications in the early '80s just in time for Steven Spielberg to offer a tidy sum to purchase a/v rights to the title of the magazine and the stories they had under copyright for what turned out to be an unsurprisingly terrible and perhaps surprisingly unpopular tv series Spielberg had been careful to have NBC commit to two full seasons of (later terrible Spielberg series were not given such contractual largess).  It would be several years between the publication of this volume and the Wizards of the Coast (who took on a number of TSR projects) brief revival (and a longer period before the current revival, in its turn somewhat stymied  by the publisher's medical misfortunes).  The Robert Bloch story reprint is an amusing example of the kind of odd rigors the magazine had tended to see...published in one of the first higher-budget, semi-slick issues from then-long-term publisher Ziff-Davis, crime-fiction writer and longtime ZD editorial staffer turned editor placed this utterly non-science fictional horror story in Amazing rather than its companion Fantastic; it's an impressive horror story, but an odd choice for the sf magazine in when that magazine has two fantasy-oriented companions to fill (the reprinted Bloch memoir has a bit of a jest with the elder companion magazine, the pulp Fantastic Adventures, which would be merged with Fantastic at the end of 1954).  Kim Mohan produced a decent magazine that was rarely seen on general newsstands and selling very poorly as a result; TSR neither knew nor cared about selling a magazine that wasn't devoted to their games and the gaming audience.

More later, but as too often, there's too much else that needs doing to allow for more here now! Please see Patti Abbott's blog for more of today's short fiction entries.