Sunday, February 12, 2017

Travels with Robert . . . Clarksville, Texas by Todd B. Vick

On April 30, 1913, Dr. Isaac M. Howard registered his medical license at the Red River County Courthouse in Clarksville, Texas. It was around this time that the Howards relocated to Bagwell, Texas for a spell. However, Clarksville, Texas and Red River County had a hundred-year history before the Howards ever step foot in the area.

On my recent road trip to Clarksville, I discovered a few things about my home state’s history that I did not know.

First, five men who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence are from Red River County. These men include, Richard Ellis (1781-1846), moved to Texas from Virginia, owned a plantation on the Red River, and served as a Texas senator. Robert Hamilton (1783-1843), immigrated from Scotland, to North Carolina, moved to Texas in 1834 and eventually became Chief Justice of Red River County.  Albert Hamilton Latimir (1800-1877), settled near Pecan Point in 1833 and served two terms as a representative for Red River County, became the State comptroller, and was an associate justice of the Texas Supreme court. Samuel Price Carson (1798-1838), served as a State and U.S. Representative in North Carolina before moving to Texas, was elected Secretary of State of Texas ad interim government. Collin McKinney (1766-1861), was born in New Jersey, moved to Texas and served three terms as a Texas State Representative, and Collin County and the city of McKinney are named for him.

Second, traveling back home from Clarksville, about 10 miles almost due south of Bagwell, I visited a relatively recent discovered abandoned cemetery in the area. Because of the historical significance of who is buried in this cemetery, the State spent funds to clean up the area, gate the tiny cemetery in and strategically place several historical markers around the cemetery.

This cemetery is the William Becknell/Robbinsville cemetery. William Becknell, known as the “Father of the Santa Fe Trail,” was an American Frontier soldier, trader, farmer, rancher, and politician. Born in Virginia around 1787, he joined Daniel Morgan Boone’s company of U.S. Mounted Rangers and fought under the command of Major Zachary Taylor in the Battle of Credit Island, Iowa in 1814.

After the War, and the death of his wife, Becknell gathered a trading party to accompany him across the Great Plains to Mexico in 1821. He was the first U.S. Trader to arrive in Santa Fe after Mexico won its independence from Spain. He was the first to “open” (or begin) legal international trade in Santa Fe. In 1835, he moved with his new wife and family to Red River County in Texas where he spent the remainder of his life. Shortly after he arrived in Texas, he commanded a militia unit known as the Red River Blues to protect settlers from raiding Native Americans.




Sunday, January 22, 2017

He's Eleventy-One Years Today!

Happy birthday, Robert E. Howard!

Born January 22nd, 1906 in Peaster, Texas. 

REH with Patch

Robert E. Howard is 111 years old today! 

The general tradition in Howard fandom is to read a story by Howard and while doing so, imbibe your favorite beverage!

So . . . Here's to the first of all dog brothers . . . Cheers!



Monday, January 16, 2017

Updates and New Projects by Todd Vick

Hello, Readers!

Sorry for my absence. It has been a few months since anything has been posted here at On An Underwood No. 5. Even so, there are several things to announce and a few new projects on the horizon for those of you interested in Weird Tales, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, etc.

First, I've been feverishly researching and writing an upcoming biography about Robert E. Howard. I submitted a proposal for the biography to the University of Texas Press and met with the senior editor of UT Press last May in Austin, Texas. He told me they were interested in seeing two chapters from the work, so I was given the thumbs up to move forward. There's a whole story about how all this unfolded, something I'll save for an upcoming article here. Anyway, this project has had me traveling to various places all over the state of Texas. Because of this, a new idea for a series here at On An Underwood No. 5 about those research/biography trips has developed and hopefully the first in that series will be posted here relatively soon. A number of fun adventures have been had on these research trips, new places discovered, and lots of Texas history learned. So be expecting this series.

Second, the new Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies is soon to be released. According to Mark Hall on the Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies' Facebook page:
Vol. 8, No. 2 is finishing up in layout and then off for proofing, so it should be available for purchase in a few weeks. Contents for this 70+ pages of Howard goodness is as follows: Gunter's Local Color and Its Underlying Meaning in Robert E. Howard’s Weird Western, Southern Gothic Horror and Detective Stories. Vick's The Mistaken Identity of a Barbarian: Conan, Hero or Anti-Hero? and a review by Jason Carney on a recent Karl Edward Wagner collection.
I'll certainly announce its release when that occurs, so be watching for that.

Third, if you have not already bought or subscribed to the recent Skelos: The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy, then I highly recommend it. It has a nice mix of new weird fiction, non-fiction essays, poetry, and books reviews. If you are interested, you can subscribe or buy individual copies at the Skelos Press website.

Fourth, have you tried to track down copies of the two volume set titled, A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, only to discover it costs hundreds of dollars? Good News! Hippocampus Press will soon republish the set and you can now pre-order it at their website.

Fifth, if you are not a member yet of the Robert E. Howard Foundation, then you can become one for free or pay for a membership (which is now tax deductible and greatly helps the Foundation with funds to publish books, etc.) at their website.

Sixth, Howard Days in Cross Plains,. Texas is just a little over 4 months away. If you are wanting information about attending this year's event you get info here and here.

That's all for now. I'll also be attempting to get new guest writers and articles here for 2017. And remember, be looking for upcoming posts about my biography/research trips. Have a great 2017! Cheers!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Conan and the Dweller Part 4: Some Notes on William Lumley by Daniel Harms, Michael Lesner, and Bobby Derie

Despite his role in lives of H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard, we know less about Lumley than most others of Lovecraft’s circle.  Six letters in Lovecraft’s Selected Letters were written to him (SL 3.372-3, 450; 5.207, 213-4, 273, 420), but none of them truly reveal anything other than that he was interested in occultism, mythology, and Lovecraft’s dreams; a bit more is revealed in scattered references from the letters Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith discussing their correspondence with Lumley, or the appearance of his work in print.

William Lumley’s most notable work is the short story “The Diary of Alonzo Typer,” as revised by H. P. Lovecraft and finally published in Weird Tales (Feb 1938). Lumley’s original draft, published in Crypt of Cthulhu #10 (1982) and reprinted in Price’s Black Forbidden Things and Medusa’s Coil and Others, has its interesting moments, but it consists mainly of an undated, rambling set of entries. No information was given for the author or the diary, save that it was “found after his mysterious disappearance.” The piece has no clear purpose or conclusion, and the only virtue is that this brings it a touch of authenticity.

Lovecraft did a considerable amount of work on the manuscript. He wrote the introduction setting the scene in Lumley’s New York state near Buffalo, describing the village of Chorazin and the history of the van der Heyl family, provided a chronological framework for most of the work, and introduced the idea of Typer being a relative of the van der Heyl family. This, of course, was in addition to dropping the names of a few Mythos tomes. Oddly enough, the insertions of Theosophical lore (the city of Shamballah, the Book of Dzyan) are Lovecraft’s.

Lovecraft’s finances were already running out, but as he considered this collaboration philanthropy (OFF 299), he accepted only a copy of E. A. Wallis Budge’s Egyptian Book of the Dead as payment for the revision (SL 5.208). Lovecraft supposed the story would land with William Crawford at Marvel Tales, but instead Lumley sent it to Weird Tales. (ES 2.711-2) When Farnsworth Wright accepted the story and inquired as to why it sounded so similar to Lovecraft, Lumley revealed to the editor that Lovecraft had revised many pieces that had appeared in the magazine under the names of others (SL 5.207). Despite this acceptance, Wright held on to the story for over two years.

In his letters, Lovecraft gives little biographical data on his correspondent. Lumley is described regularly as “old,” and while described as living in Buffalo, New York in 1931 (ES 1.339), the only full address given is in 1933, which Lovecraft lists as 742 William St. (LRBO 55) L. Sprague de Camp quotes a letter from Lovecraft to Robert Bloch stating that Lumley:
who claims to be an old sailor who has witnessed incredible wonders in all parts of the world, & to have studied works of Elder Wisdom far stronger than your Cultes des Goules or my Necronomicon. (HPL 407)
However, de Cramp but provides no source, and the quote does not appear in any of Lovecraft’s published correspondence. Yet, the possibility that Lumley may have been a seaman is valid, for in another letter Lovecraft says that Lumley: “has been at sea & seen odd parts of the earth[.]” (LFO 153)

Lumley was a common name in Buffalo in the early-mid 1930s, and four or five William Lumleys can be found in the city directories for the period, but only one lived at 742 William Street. The directories list a William Lumley who had lived in this building for a few years (having moved there from 450 Niagara Drive). The building in question stood at the corner of William and Smith Streets in Buffalo, but has since been demolished. It appears to have been a business and attached carriage house, the second floor of which was let out to lodgers. When Mr. Harms visited the site around 2000, the building was abandoned. A paint store had been the last occupant of the storefront on William St. The bulk of the structure, extending down Smith Street from the intersection, was painted deep green and had a decided tilt to one side.
Weird Tales Feb. 1938

Lumley dropped in and out of the city directory over the years.  He never appeared again after he left 742 William St. The only other information given was an entry that he worked as a “watchman” at an unspecified business.

A systematic search of the cemeteries in Buffalo found one record of a “William Lumley” in the French and German Cemetery, and a search of the plots turned up Lumley’s unmarked grave.  The cemetery records stated that Mr. Lumley was born on March 20, 1880, and died on May 31, 1960 of coronary sclerosis.  His death occurred in Alden, New York (a town to the east of Buffalo where the Erie County Home and Infirmary is based), and welfare paid for his burial expenses.  The dates appeared to be right – Lovecraft implied that Lumley as an older man – but it was difficult to say whether this was the Lumley who lived at 742 William St.

In “The Diary of Alonzo Typer,” Alden, New York, south of Attica, is Typer’s last stop in civilized areas before walking to the town of Chorazin. If Lumley’s character followed the actual geography, it is likely that Typer would have walked to the van der Heyl mansion in this direction, as the landscape is much hillier than that elsewhere in the area. The region’s legends include mentions of Native American mounds in this area, as well as at least one mysterious stone structure, most likely the remnants of a former house, which could have provided some inspiration for Lumley’s handwritten draft. Still, no town named Chorazin exists in the area, and no one ever built a house in this region that has dates near those of the van der Heyl mansion: these were elements that came from Lovecraft’s imagination.

In the Alden Town Clerk’s Office is the death certificate for the Lumley buried in the French and German Cemetery, who was listed as a watchman for the American Agrico Chemical Company.  Because of the profession and name, we can be fairly certain that this Lumley was our man.  The certificate noted that William Lumley was born to Edward Lumley and Isabel Johnson in New York City, and that he was single. His last address in Buffalo was 8 Park Street (within a few miles of the two addresses already mentioned), but in 1958 he was moved to the Erie County Home and Infirmary in Alden, where he passed away two years later. Any records at that institution would have been destroyed in a fire, according to a clerk there.

This is where the trail went cold. While we now know Lumley’s whereabouts for the end of his eighty-year life, the man himself remains an enigma. Did he stay in Buffalo all of his life, or did he move about the country in search of work before returning home? Were his trips to China and India that Lovecraft mentioned products of Lumley’s (or Lovecraft’s) imagination, or did they really occur?

Writing the John Hay Library, we discovered that a few letters by Lumley – totaling six pages – had been preserved. Lumley’s letters, for the most part, discuss his favorite tales in the pulp magazines and fan journals. In addition to Lovecraft, his two main correspondents seem to have been Smith and C. L. Moore, both of whom encouraged him in his fiction. Lumley submitted many pieces of fiction, including the titles “The Phantasy” and “Dread Words,” to Marvel Tales and other magazines, apparently to no avail. He and Lovecraft shared a love of cats, and one of Lumley’s letters discusses the worship of Bast at some length. Those looking for more clues as to Lumley’s past are given only a few items of interest – a brief mention that Lumley had been in Port Said in Egypt, and that he had once owned a black panther from Sumatra who had been given to a circus. (The most likely candidate, the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, has no record of any such transaction.)

At this point, our research into Lumley’s life has to be put on the back burner, yet we hope that someday more investigation into this fascinating figure’s life will be done. What we have now is merely a skeleton.

Works Cited

CL       Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard (3 vols. + Index and Addenda)
ES        Essential Solitude (2 vols.)
HPL     H. P. Lovecraft: A Biography
LFO     Letters to F. Lee Baldwin, Duane W. Rimel, and Nils Frome
LRBO  Letters to Robert Bloch and Others
MF      A Means to Freedom (2 vols.)
MTS    Mysteries of Time & Spirit
OFF    O Fortunate Floridian!
SL        Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft (5 vols.)
SLCAS Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith

Thanks to E. P. Berglund, Monika Bolino, Derrick Hussey, Cheri Lessner, Donovan Loucks, and Mason Winfield.  Special thanks to John Stanley and the John Hay Library.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Cannonballs, Boxers, and Music Halls: Robert E. Howard's Stay in San Antonio by Todd B. Vick

Robert E. Howard certainly loved San Antonio, Texas. On several occasions he declared it was not only his favorite city in Texas, but boasted that it was probably the greatest city in the country. Back in early 1931, Robert E. Howard and his parents stayed in San Antonio for several months. While there, Howard worked on genealogy research, took in the city, enjoyed a few prize fights, frequented a number of bookstores, and visited a few pubs. Periodically he would write his friend, Tevis Clyde Smith, to give him an account of the goings on in the city.

These letters are some of the most interesting Howard wrote during this small stretch of time. In one of the letters, circa March 1931, he told Smith that George Godfrey was in town for a heavyweight prize fight. That particular evening Godfrey was apparently at one of the local music halls publicly taunting carnival and vaudeville performer, Frank "Cannonball" Richards. Godfrey was a mountainous figure for the time, standing six-three and weighing around 250 lbs of pure muscle.
Jack Dempsey & George Godfrey
Publicity Photo

Godfrey had a reputation, due to his enormous size, of being not only a braggart, but sometimes a pompous wind-bag. On several occasions this got Godfrey in hot water. A prime example, the Langford/Godrefy fights. Sam Langford was dwarfed (standing only five-eight) and substantially out-sized by Godfrey, and because of this Godfrey taunted Langford before their first bout. Langford, a legend in the sport of boxing, didn't much care for the attitude and preceded to hammer Godfrey in their first of three bouts, knocking him out. Godfrey would later win the World Colored Heavyweight Championship twice and would eventually fight heavy weight champion Primo Carnera.

Frank "Cannonball" Richards had spent years traveling with carnivals and vaudeville shows demonstrating his enormous abdominal strength, letting people punch, kick and swing sledgehammers at his belly. He also had a special twelve-foot cannon rigged to shoot a 104 lbs cannonball into his stomach. This feat would toss him back about 6 feet into a safety net. He then would stand up, unscathed, causing the onlooking crowds to burst into applause and awe.

Frank "Cannonball" Richards
"Well, pretty soon I'm going down to a music hall, I think, and watch the big smoke George Godfrey do his stuff." wrote Howard. Godfrey was challenging onlookers to punch him in the stomach and Howard declared, "they have a 212 pound smoke for the job." Word had apparently got around that Godfrey was not only taunting Richards, but challenging onlookers to punch his stomach. Someone had found a 212 pound man who was up to the challenge, and Howard didn't want to miss the hoopla. In response, Howard writes, "Frank Richards, the man with the iron belly is in town and raging. He says George is trying to steal his stuff and will probably raise some kind of hell at the fights tonight."

There is surviving film footage of Frank Richards performing his feats in various locales which has circulated widely and been used in various television shows and documentaries, it has become somewhat of a pop sensation. The Simpsons even parodied Richards on one of their episodes. Homer Simpson, on a stage in front of thousands of people, humorously performs the exact cannonball stunt Richards did so many decades ago.




It's not known whether Howard went to the music hall, he never writes a follow-up letter to Smith. It is also not known whether Frank Richards showed up at George Godfrey's fight, as Howard had heard that he might. Even so, Howard's letter gives us a nice peek into the pop culture of his time.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Trash or Classics: The Readers and Writers of Pulp Magazines (Part 2) By Todd B. Vick

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read!”―William Faulkner

The pulp magazine industry experienced its zenith during the 1920s and 1930s. Aside from a small resurgence of great writers in the 1940s and early 1950s, who got their start in the pulps, the 20s and 30s delivered more recognized pulp writers than any of the other decades. The readers of the golden era of pulps read stories from pulp greats such as Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Hugh B. Cave, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lester Dent, C.L. Moore, Sax Rohmer, and the list goes on. This same era of the pulps would also instill into the minds of a handful of young readers the desire to become writers.

Jack Kerouac
A whole generation of young readers in the late 20s and early 30s spent their free time with their noses in pulp magazines. Many of these readers would, as adults, be the political movers and shakers of the 1960s. In fact, one such group of readers were later called The Beat writers. "Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs all acknowledged the influence of pulp magazines (named because of the cheap wood pulp paper used to print them) on their later work."[1]

Both Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg would claim that certain stories they had read in the the various pulp magazines had inspired them to become writers later in life. Kerouac was so influence by the pulps that in 1959 his "fantasy novel, Doctor Sax, served as a tribute to the pulp magazine characters (especially "The Shadow") he loved as a child growing up in Lowell, Massachusetts.[2] In Doctor Sax, Kerouac writes:
Young Jack Kerouac
On Saturday night I was settling down alone in the house with magazines, reading Doc Savage or the Phantom Detective with his masky rainy rainy night—The Shadow Magazine I saved for Friday night, Saturday morning was always the world of gold and rich sunlight."[3]
While attending Bartlett Junior High School (1933) Kerouac read pulp magazines and enjoyed characters such as "The Green Hornet" and "Phantom Detective." These characters and stories inspired him to create "his own stories, encouraged by the school librarian, Miss Mansfield, who ran an after-school discussion group and writing club."[4] Kerouac always claimed that this early influence from the pulps sparked his desire to be a writer.

Allen Ginsberg was a bit of a loner who not only enjoyed listening to Flash Gordon and The Shadow on the radio, but he spent a lot of time reading his favorite pulp magazines. "In early 1941 his first work appeared in print when two pieces were published in the school magazine, the Spectator."[5] Ginsberg attributes his early desires to write to those radio shows and pulp magazines which sparked his imagination.

Allen Ginsberg
Ginsberg never mentions (that I could find anywhere) specific writers from the pulps that he enjoyed, but he has mentioned specific magazines he read frequently; these include Weird Tales, Black Mask, and The Shadow. And, of course, we all know Ginsberg would later become a world renown poet and political figure for civil rights in the 1960s, ultimately writing his now famous and frequently banned poem "Howl."

The last of these Beat writers to read pulp magazines as a young person was William S. Burroughs. Of the Beat writers and poets, Burroughs is probably the most eccentric. Never afraid to draw attention to himself, he thrived on the pulp magazines that were the strangest: Weird Tales, Planet Stories, Amazing StoriesStrange Tales, and others. Burroughs actually mentions pulp writers who had a profound impact on his writing. Topping that list is, of course, H.P. Lovecraft. However, Burroughs has also mentioned, in various interviews, Robert E. Howard as someone he read and enjoyed. Burrough's work titled Naked Lunch centers around a kind "pulp magazines" tone. Additionally, in a chapter titled, "Wind Die. You Die. We Die." from Burrough's book titled Exterminator!, Burroughs writes,
Funny what you find in old pulp magazines. "Wind Die. We Die. You Die." Quite haunting actually . . . the middle-aged Tiresias moving from place to place with his unpopular thesis, spending his days in public libraries, eking out a living writing fiction for pulp magazines . . . good stories too . . . [6]
William H. Burroughs
Here Burroughs is recognizing those who influenced him as a writer, describing in uncanny detail some of the events in certain pulp writers' lives that they have conveyed to their readers in biographies and interviews. Burroughs took offense at how the literary community maligned the pulp magazines and their writers. As a Harvard graduate in 1936, Burroughs witnessed first hand the comments and criticisms that were herald against pulp magazines. Portions of his novel Naked Lunch are not only a hat tip to the genre and its magazines but an attack against those who had the gall to demonstrate a kind of literary snobbery toward pulp writers.[7]

Some of these same critics, after Burroughs wrote and published Naked Lunch, would tag Burroughs as a pulp writer. Something they intended as an insult. Burroughs took it as one of the highest compliments he could be given.


Works Cited

1. Weidman, Rich. The Beat Generation FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Angelheaded Hipsters. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid. (Italics already present)
4. Evans, Mike. The Beats: From Kerouac to Kesey: An Illustrated Journey through the Beat Generation. Philadelphia: Running, 2007. Print.
5. Ibid.
6. Burroughs, William S. Exterminator!: A Novel. New York: Penguin Books, 1979.
7. See the essays in Harris, Oliver, and Ian MacFadyen. Naked Lunch @ 50: Anniversary Essays. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2009. Especially Timothy S. Murphy's chapter titled "Random Insect Doom: The Pulp Science Fiction of Naked Lunch."


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Trash or Classics: The Readers and Writers of Pulp Magazines (Part 1) By Todd B. Vick

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read!”―William Faulkner

Pulp Magazines had humble beginnings. Being the offspring of the penny dreadfuls and the dime novels, the pulps had about the same reputation; at least in the beginning. The pulps were conceived in the late 19th Century when Frank Munsey overhauled his previous dime novel called Golden Argosy. Though it looked more akin to a small sturdy magazine or pamphlet by today's standards, it set a precedent for what would later be the first pulp magazine called Argosy. Golden Argosy had a balanced blend of fiction and nonfiction articles. Its audience was teen aged boys, and it had a fair level of success. The magazine changed names several times over the years but typically kept the same format of including both fiction and non fiction. That is until late 1896, when it adopted the name Argosy Magazine and switched to strictly fiction. Thus, the pulp magazine was born. 

April 1912
Beginning in December 1896 Argosy Magazine had the entire market for pulp magazines pretty much to itself. That is until January of 1905 when Munsey added another pulp called The All-Story Magazine. The All-Story Magazine, which changed its name to The All-Story in 1907 and then All-Story Weekly in 1916, set an industry standard by publishing authors who would eventually become some of the biggest names in the industry: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Max Brand, and A. Merritt.[1] Additionally, in May of 1905 a pulp called The Monthly Magazine published by Story Press Corporation joined the pulp market fray. It would eventually be bought by Louis Eckstein's Consolidation Magazine Corporation and later be known as The Blue Book Magazine.

In November of 1910, a fourth pulp magazine would emerge called Adventure. While it was "[N]ot as historically or culturally significant as Argosy and All-Story, Adventure enjoyed an even better reputation and today remains highly regarded by pulp collectors for its overall excellence." (Hulse 55) Under these auspicious beginnings and over the next 5 decades, hundreds of pulps would pop up. Some lasting decades, some only a few issues. The golden era for these magazines would be the 1920s and 30s and thereafter the industry would slowly wane until it was overshadowed by comic books and cheap paperback books.

Several writers cut their teeth in the pulp magazine industry and would eventually break free of that industry to write novels and gain recognition as writers. Some of these writer's works are now included in the curriculum of public schools here in the U.S. Other pulp writers died in mid-career and still managed to be carried onward by fans and scholars who kept their works alive even today. But the undercurrent of these popular magazines were the eyes that were tightly fasten to their pages; the readers—both adults and kids— who handed over their hard earned money and read the stories. It would be several decades after the golden era of the pulps that popular culture would witness the industry's full impact.

The intent of this article is two-fold. First, to examine a handful of writers who, while they were working on novels, also attempted to break into the pulps. Some of the names of these writers might surprise you. Second, to examine a few pulp readers who, as children during the pulps' golden era, were so influenced by the stories it convinced them to become writers. Several of these names might surprise you as well. 

Hemingway's 1923 passport photo
Let's begin with the writers. Aside from those who were actually publishing their works in the pulps, who also garnered a large following, there were aspiring writers who not only read the pulps, but were also attempting to breach their covers with articles of their own. One such writer was Ernest Hemingway. "By the time Hemingway was in his early teens, pulp magazines were a presence on every newsstand." (Earle All Man! 33) Even though Hemingway was reading the pulps in his early teen years, between 1918 to 1922 (ages 19 to 23 years of age) he was submitting short stories to The Saturday Evening Post. However, during this same time span, Hemingway was submitting stories to Adventure, Blue Book, and Argosy[2] According to a letter written to a good friend—Will Horne—in 1919, "Hemingway stated that Burroughs, who 'perpetrated Tarzan & the Apes,' was urging him to write a book." (Earle 33) This is, of course, another indicator that Hemingway was actually reading the pulps, and possibly corresponding with their authors.[3]

Since the pulps were being published weekly and bi-weekly, stories typically followed a particular formula, were written fairly quickly, and too often not re-written (edited) simply due to lack of time[4] Hemingway didn't deviate from this formula, as his early pulp submissions reveal. Hemingway submitted "war stories, boxing stories, gangster stories, romances, and at least one story told from the point of view of a dog." (Earle 35) Of course, everyone knows eventually Hemingway's novels were published, and the rest is history. What many people do not know is that Hemingway, to some degree, cut his 'writing teeth' in the pulps.

Another well known writer who weaved in and out of the pulp arena was none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald really never needed the pulps, or the slicks (literary magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, etc.) for that matter. Born in a well-to-do upper middle class family, Fitzgerald attended St. Paul Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, and by age 13 the school newspaper published a mystery story he'd written. When Fitzgerald was 15 he was sent to a well-known Catholic boarding school in New Jersey called Newman. He spent his remaining school years at Newman, graduated and it was on to Princeton.

First Edition Cover for
This Side of Paradise
While at Princeton he sharpened his writing skills and wrote for The Princeton Triangle Club and their Nassau Literary Review, as well as the Princeton Tiger (the college's literary humor magazine). By March 1920, at the age of 23, Charles Scribner's Sons published Fitzgerald's debut novel, This Side of Paradise. So where do the pulps fall into this story? In the 1920s, as an already established writer, Fitzgerald (with his wife Zelda in tow) moved to Paris, France. The Fitzgeralds soon met Ernest Hemingway and thus began a meaningful and helpful relationship for F. Scott Fitzgerald. With money running short, and Fitzgerald's debut novel only doing moderately well, the Fitzgeralds needed cash. Hemingway, who had already established himself as a magazine writer, introduced Fitzgerald to the world of not only the pulps but of a larger market in the arena of the slicks.

In April of 1920, H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan started a kind of "high brow" pulp magazine called Black Mask. The intent of Black Mask was to attract the best writers of the pulps and low end slicks. This idea did not quite work the way Mencken and Nathan planned (mainly because both carried an elitist attitude and looked down their noses at pulp fiction magazines and their writers). In the beginning they culled material from The Smart Set, a literary magazine, which left the first few issues' stories of Black Mask dry, dull, and boring (slow-paced yarns). Something not conducive to the more rapid quick, action packed stories of which the pulp readers were acquainted. Eventually, Mencken and Nathan were able to obtain writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Carroll John Daly, all whom were able to write faster paced well written stories conducive to pulp readers. These three eventually became the staple writers for Black Mask. H. L. Mencken and F. Scott Fitzgerald were friends, and so Mencken regularly accepted Fitzgerald's work for The Smart Set.

Even though Fitzgerald, like Mencken, frowned upon the pulps and pulp writers, he certainly had no qualms about making extra cash from them. Mencken had also tried his hand in the pulps prior to The Smart Set and Black Mask with his creation of magazines such as The Parisienne and Saucy Stories, using both his colleagues and friends—Hemingway and Fitzgerald—in those magazines as well. Moreover, after seeing the kind of bankroll he could acquire—$15,000 to $20,000 per year—Fitzgerald was more than happy to submit his stories to various slicks and pulps.[5] In time, Fitzgerald was able to balance his time devoted to novels as well as short stories and garner a lucrative career from both.


[1] Ed Hulse discusses this in greater detail in his work titled The Blood 'N' Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction (Murania Press, 2013)
[2] David M. Earle discusses this period of Hemingway's life in a goodly amount of detail in his work titled All Man!: Hemingway, 1950s Men's Magazines, and the Masculine Persona.
[3] Unfortunately no such letter from Burroughs to Hemingway exists, the only evidence for it is Hemingway's claim made in his letter to Will Horne.
[4] All these points are detailed in Earle's work All Man!
[5] Here's an interesting tid-bit of historical trvia. Through this time period - the early to mid-20s, Fitzgerald was publishing quite a few short stories to various pulps and slicks, many of which focused on the "flapper" movement of the day. The flappers coupled with the popular music of the time set a new trend throughout the 1920s. It was during this period and Fitzgerald's exposure to the flappers via the various popular stories in the slicks and certain pulps that he coined the term "The Jazz Age" which is still used today to describe the era.

Works Consulted/Cited

Earle, David M. All Man!: Hemingway, 1950s Men's Magazines, and the Masculine Persona. Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 2009. Print.

Earle, David M. "Pulp Magazines and the Popular Press." Volume II: North America 1894-1960 The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines (2012): 197-216. Web. <http://uwf.edu/dearle/earle.pdf>.

Hulse, Ed. The Blood 'N' Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction. N.p.: Murania, 2013. Print.