Collecting


COLLECTING PULPS: A MEMOIR, PART TEN –
What To Do With Our Collections As We Get Older
by Walker Martin


   Recently, once again, the old question came up about why wives often hate book and pulp collections and what should be done as the collector gets older.

   I can only speak about my own wife and collection but I have heard that many other pulp and book collectors suffer from the hatred of the non-collector. I stress the word “non-collector” because I really have found out during a half century of collecting that the non-collector does not understand the collector at all. I am not talking about a nice little collection of books in dust jackets that sort of look nice in the den.

   No, I am talking about filling a house full of books, pulps, vintage paperbacks, DVDs, and original art. My house is a 5 bedroom house with a full basement and a two car garage that I converted into a library. All the rooms have books in them except for my son’s room and the dining room. The family room, the living room, the bedrooms, the basement, are all stuffed with my collection which I have happily accumulated since 1956.

   I have found out that it is not reasonable to expect a non-collector to understand the joy and fun such a collection gives to the collector. Most non-collectors see such a large collection as clutter, a hoarder’s sickness, a mess, a waste of money.

   If you tell a non-collector that something is worth a thousand dollars, they will say “great, sell it and buy a sofa” or something. I once did a series of posts on PulpMags called “The Loneliness of the Pulp Collector.” I tried to do it with a sense of humor but many other collectors saw my point about being alone with no one to talk to about what you are reading or collecting. My neighbors, my relatives, my co workers, all do not understand me or why I have such a large amount of books and pulps. They think my original cover paintings from the pulps and paperbacks are trash or offensive because most show women in peril or distress being threatened by insane cretins.

   I am now 71 and don’t think about getting rid of my collection or selling it or what will happen after I’m gone. It’s been my life for so many years that I cannot imagine being without it. I keep telling myself that I should slow down and maybe stop but I’m still going strong and spending thousands on rare cover art and sets of magazines. I’m not rich but my one vice is I love reading and collecting books and pulps.

   To give you an idea of the way I think as a collector, when I was discharged from the army I was so happy that I had survived, that I wrote out some life goals for myself to follow. The first two were to collect complete sets of Weird Tales and Black Mask. Which I managed to do in the 1970′s. In other words my goals were not the usual ones of getting a good job and starting a career, getting married and starting a family, buying a nice car house, etc.

   True, I did all these things but my main goals have always revolved around reading and collecting books, pulps, paperbacks, and original art. Speaking of original art, I’ve been trying to stop buying it because I’ve filled up all the wall space and since I’m getting older, why keep buying, etc. But here is another example, recently while at the Windy City Pulp convention in Chicago I saw a beautiful and amazing piece of art, quite large, by Howard Wandrei. It is an unpublished work and cost more than I like to spend but it was so impressive and bizarre that I had to buy it.

   Maybe you get my point by now. I’m a collector first and foremost and intend to keep at it until I die. I also happen to be a father, husband, retired from a responsible job, etc. But these are things that billions of other people have also done. Being a collector and reader is something special and unusual especially in these times of electronic gadgets, facebook, and twitter.

   So, right now I’m doing nothing about my books except reading them. After I’m gone someone else will read and enjoy them.

   OK, enough, I have to tell my wife that I just bought another set of Planet Stories, even though I have the Frank Robinson set already. See, his set is too nice to read and ….

THE SECOND GREAT PAPERBACK REVOLUTION:
E-Books and the Second Coming of the Pulps and The Paperbacks
by
David Vineyard

 

   It is common on this blog for myself, and others, to bemoan why so many of the great (and admittedly not so great) writers of the past are not represented in today’s book market. The lament usually goes something like this:

   They don’t write them like they used to, and all the great old books are lost, forgotten. You can’t find (choose the name of your choice) in print. The only books out there are dull and badly written in comparison. The new generation doesn’t know what it is missing …

   In the immortal words of Seinfeld: ‘Yada yada yada…’

   Well, I sorry to deny my fellow curmudgeonly collectors and readers one of our pet hobby horses, but our favorite lament is no longer true, and so untrue that the solution to the problem is not in some dusty musty smelling used bookstore, crowded book fair or busy convention where you have to cram a year’s worth of book hunting and buying into a few cramped hours, but no farther away than a fingers touch away and under $10 in cost.

   In the last 24 hours I have recreated some major elements of my lost collection, and the most it has cost me for a single volume has been $4, in many cases less than $1. Understand I’m not just talking about obscure or once famous writers from another age, though I’ve recovered my complete Charlie Chan, Philo Vance, Mr. Moto, Bulldog Drummond, Dr. Thorndyke, Father Brown, Sherlock Holmes, Raffles, and Tarzan collections — all for a grand total of $1.99 (the Tarzan); those have been around almost from the beginning, in public domain.

   No, I’m talking about a second paperback and pulp revolution equal to the first, and, like the first, in cheap readily accessible attractive and easily transportable editions. Oh, and I might add so far I haven’t spent a dime for the devices to read them, though I certainly plan to buy an inexpensive Kindle soon. Carrying a thousand books in a device smaller than a trade paperback gives a new meaning to the word ‘pocketbook.’

   More importantly, some of these writers haven’t been available at these prices since the 1980‘s.

   Who am I talking about?

   John D. MacDonald, Dan J. Marlowe, William Campbell Gault, Ross McDonald, Peter Rabe, Wade Miller (the complete Max Thursday for .99 each), Frank Kane, Brett Halliday, Mickey Spillane, Donald Hamilton, Stephen Marlowe, Ed Lacy, Henry Kane: and from the pulps, Nebel, Chandler, Hammett, Paul Cain (for free), Carroll John Daly, Robert Leslie Bellem, not to mention Doc Savage, the Spider, the Avenger, the Black Bat, even Nick Carter, Frank Merriwell, and the Rover Boys …

   Almost all those books are under $10, most under $5 and many under $1. Some are even free.

   Granted, you don’t have the pleasure of an actual book in your hands, and it takes a bit of time to adjust to reading in this format (arguably the Kindle, Nook, etc are closer to actually reading a book), but many of the complaints I’ve heard lodged against e-books here echo what was said of the pulps and paperbacks as well. E-books will never replace the feel of a book, certainly not a leather bound or quatro buckram edition with its scent and heft, but frankly I had less than 100 such books in my extensive collection and few of them were worth what I paid for them. E-books won’t appreciate in value either, but they are here, available, and no doubt will develop their own following.

   To quote James Joyce, I’m not trying to convert you or pervert myself, but I am trying to point out that this is far and away the most important revolution in books since the paperback was born. When I began collecting it took me years to accumulate books by John Buchan, Sapper, Dornford Yates, Louis Joseph Vance, Maurice Leblanc, Talbot Mundy, Edgar Wallace, Rohmer, Van Dine, and others. Now all it takes is a few keystrokes and a WiFi or DSL connection. I could, with a little effort, and under $500 dollars, download my entire collection of over forty years worth close to $100,000, in less than eighteen hours — and that only because of sheer volume.

   I don’t ask that you adapt to the e-book, or even read one, but don’t complain about expensive limited reprint editions or the scarcity of this material. Everyday more volumes are being added and new generations of readers are discovering these writers, people, I might add, who would not have purchased them from a paperback kiosk and certainly not in limited overpriced editions. Most of these books have reviews by people who read and enjoyed them and don’t know there ever was a paperback revolution.

   I currently reside in a small town, a small and spectacularly illiterate community, where the only source of books are a high school library and the Dollar General, and neither updates its stacks often or carries much more than women’s soft core porn, vampire and ‘romantic suspense’ novels. A treasure is a remaindered Preston and Childs or Cussler. Once a month, if I’m lucky, I get to a Hastings. For now that’s it. But, at my fingertips I have access to books from around the world in countless languages and libraries as important as Oxford’s Boedelian and Harvard.

   Like the first paperback revolution this includes an entire new world of original e-books, many better than you could hope, or no worse than what you find on the mass market book stands at Wal-Mart, and numerous sources of free books. I can also, for far less than the near $30 they cost on the stands, purchase the latest bestseller. You can even purchase an e-book “safe” for $20 to protect your collection — more than I can say for actual books.

   Then too, those of us who have been married should welcome the end of those long forbearing stares when our collection threatens to over run the house having already driven the cat and both cars out of the garage and threatening to cause the ceiling to collapse by their sheer weight in the attic…

   Books and collecting have always evolved. Don’t be the guy complaining because some German named Gutenberg put all those monks copying books out of business. This is not a fad, it’s a revolution, and standing in the way of one has never been a good idea.

   How could any of us complain about our favorite writers being in print and finding new and enthusiastic readers? Because digital editions take up no actual physical space (a Kindle can hold 10,000 books and will only get more powerful), and cost virtually nothing to reprint, the possibilities are endless.

   Most of us converted without pain from 16 mm to VHS to DVD, to Blu-Ray. This is the same thing, only here when a format goes kaput you don’t have to replace everything you own in Beta, you download a free converter and soon it’s all back. Granted Kindle won’t play on Nook and so on, but you can get a free app to read any format or get a free Calibre converter for extinct formats like Microsoft Readers LIT that take up little space on your PC and require no tech savvy to use.

   For those of us born in the shadow of the first paperback revolution this one is even bigger, and likely more fundamental culturally. You don’t have to embrace it, but recognize what it means. Book collecting will never be the same again. This is the most important thing to happen to books since Gutenberg, I have no idea where it is going, but if it keeps my favorites from the past available I say it’s going in the right direction.

   Somehow I don’t think Erle Stanley Gardner or Mickey Spillane would be the least bothered by having their work bring in money in another format — I can promise you Alexandre Dumas, the most business savvy author who ever lived (despite losing everything numerous times) wouldn’t mind at all.

   Collectors, and I include myself, need to dismount our high horses before we fall off of them.

   Oh brave new world that has such formats in it.

COLLECTING PULPS: A MEMOIR, PART NINE –
WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE
by Walker Martin


WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   Recently, a collector of hardboiled fiction was visiting me and he noticed that my dining room was filled with stacks of WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, hundreds of issues. In fact there were two extensive runs of the magazine, each one over a thousand issues. His first question was what on earth was I doing? A question I might add that my wife asks me each day in louder and more exasperated tones. Taking over the dining room was a major victory in the constant and bloody pulp wars between the collector and the non-collector.

   I of course thought it was perfectly obvious what I was doing. I was going through the painstaking process of carefully comparing each issue in order to keep the better condition copy for my own collection. This process of having to decide which copy is the better one, has been known to drive collectors crazy.

   He then wondered why I was bothering with a western magazine when he knew me as a collector of mainly SF and hardboiled fiction. After he left I started to think how did I get involved in such an enormous project as collecting western pulps. Why enormous? Because, after the love pulps, the western pulps were the most popular and best selling fiction in the 1920′s and 1930′s.

   To start collecting the many titles is a major commitment in time and money. Not to mention the necessity of having the space to store them. Plus, I only collect books and magazines that I can actually read, so I have to devote some time to reading the stories. But I’ve never seen that as a big problem because I’m reading all the time: in bed, outside in the shade, while eating. The only time I’m not reading is while I’m asleep or at a book convention hunting for books. But even while sleeping I often dream about reading and what I’ve read.

WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   When I was working and people would ask me about my job, I often responded that I was a reader and collector. Only later would I realize that they were referring to my occupation which I considered as only a means to pay the bills. We all have jobs and careers but if you are a serious collector, then your main function, your main purpose in life is often your collection. Hunting for rare items, adding to your collection, and thinking of new areas to expand your collecting interests.

   And the above sentence just about explains why I expanded into the western pulp and paperback areas. I have this theory about collecting, mainly that the collector must keep expanding into other interesting areas because once you complete a collection of a certain author or magazine, then there is a danger of boredom setting in and you end up selling your collection. But if you keep collecting and getting interested in new areas, then you do not get jaded and cease collecting.

   In my own case, I started out reading and collecting SF at age 13, then ten years later I started reading and collecting detective and mystery fiction, and then in a few years adventure fiction. Meanwhile I always kept an interest in mainstream and literary fiction.

   I still remember the day in 1980, when I realized that I was close to realizing my pulp magazine goals. I had extensive runs of all the major SF, detective, and adventure magazines. I was mainly involved in filling in some gaps and titles. However, except for a few issues, I did not have many western pulps.

WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   I was fortunate to be friends with a major western pulp collector, Harry Noble. Harry was quite a bit older than me and had actually bought the pulps off the newsstands. The only pulp I ever bought off a newsstand was SCIENCE FICTION QUARTERLY in 1956, just as the pulps died. So naturally Harry was the man to talk to about the western pulps.

   While driving to Pulpcon in the early 1980′s, Harry regaled me with many stories of his early pulp collecting days. He started off in the early 1930′s as a boy reading WILD WEST WEEKLY. But this magazine was slanted toward the teenage boy market and he soon graduated to the more adult WESTERN STORY. This was probably his favorite magazine because of all the Max Brand stories.

   By the time we returned from Pulpcon, I was desperate to collect WESTERN STORY. I asked Harry what he wanted for his set which was not complete but numbered over a thousand of the over 1250 issues. Yes, you read right, *over 1250* issues! For most of its life WESTERN STORY was a weekly, which meant 52 issues each year or 520 issues during a decade. A major title indeed.

   He said $5,000 which came to around $5.00 each. Not a bad price but $5,000 was like impossible for me to pay. Like all of us, I had the usual bills to pay, car payments, mortgage, children to raise and educate, and a non-collecting spouse to care for and feed. In the early 1980′s I was earning maybe $10,000 a year which provided for a middle class lifestyle but not for a major expense like a set of WESTERN STORY.

WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   But as some of you know, I’ve never let lack of money stand in my way when it comes to collecting my favorite addiction, my drug of choice: books and pulps. I mean this was my purpose in life, right? Since Harry and I were good friends, he trusted me to pay him $100 every pay check until the amount was paid off. So every pay check I paid Harry before any other bills. I saw the pulps as more important than such routine things as car payments, food, electric bills.

   As I looked through the collection, I realized that I had made a the right decision. WESTERN STORY was one of the major pulp titles and one of the greatest success stories. In 1919, Street & Smith decided to follow up the success of DETECTIVE STORY, which had become a big seller since the first issue appeared in 1915. Just about immediately WESTERN STORY was a big success and during the 1920′s I’ve read some accounts that put sales at 400,000 and even 500,000 an issue. And this was for a weekly magazine.

   The title lasted for 30 years, 1919-1949. However after the big selling 1920′s, the depression caused a decrease in the weekly circulation. The word rates were cut and Max Brand for instance, went from a nickel a word to 4 and even 3 cents. By 1934 he was no longer the main attraction and he developed other markets such as movies and other magazines.

   I believe the next blow was in 1938 when Allen Grammer became president of Street & Smith. Before 1938, the firm had been mainly family run since the 1850′s, so Grammer was the first outsider to head the company. If a member of the family had been president, they probably would have had some sentimental attachment to the old dime novel and pulp days, but Grammer was strictly business. In fact, he saw the future as not the pulps but women’s slick magazines.

WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   In 1943 came another blow when Grammer decided all the pulps would be published in digest size. All the other publishers elected to decrease pages because of the war time paper restrictions but Street & Smith started to appear in the smaller size format. It’s true that the digest size was the future but they really looked sorry compared to the larger 7 by 10 pulp size.

   But he didn’t just decrease the size, he also killed several of the major Street & Smith titles such as WILD WEST WEEKLY (1927-1943, over 800 issues), SPORT STORY (1923-1943, over 400 issues), and the most missed of all, one of the greatest fiction magazines ever, UNKNOWN WORLDS (1939-1943, 39 issues).

   Since Allen Grammer had no sentimental attachment to the pulps, he saw after WW II that their days were indeed numbered. He gave the order in 1949, he pulled the trigger that caused the bloodiest day in pulp publishing history, the killing of the entire Street & Smith line of pulps. The only exception was ASTOUNDING.

   There have been many theories as to why this magazine survived the blood bath. I’ve heard that Grammer or one of the big shots in the organization liked SF. I’ve also heard that ASTOUNDING was on firmer financial ground and making money compared to the other pulp titles which were not that profitable.

   The entire Street & Smith pulp line was dismantled and it must have been a sad and shocking day as the realization set in and the editors, staff and writers had to accept the fact that a major pulp market was indeed dead.

   Daisy Bacon, one of the most senior editors with over 20 years experience editing LOVE STORY, DETECTIVE STORY and other titles was terminated. It’s reported she hated Grammer and never forgave him. In WESTERN STORY there was no advance notice, the magazine just ended with no obituary after over 1250 issues. A couple years later, Popular Publications tried to revive the title but the experiment lasted only a few issues. The pulp era was over except for a couple titles that limped on for a few years.

WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   Now there is an amazing footnote to the above horror story (well, a horror story to a pulp collector like me!). In the mid-1990′s an elderly man moved into the house right next door to me. He was in his late 70′s and a retired music teacher. He held an open house to introduce himself to the neighbors and my wife and I attended. While walking through the house, we were stunned to see two original cover paintings from WESTERN STORY hanging on the wall of the den.

   In a daze, I slowly approached the paintings and saw they were both by Walter Haskell Hinton who did several covers for WESTERN STORY in the late 1930′s (the dates of the covers are September 24, and October 29, 1938; shown to the left, and to the right below). I collect original pulp art and couldn’t believe my eyes. What are the odds of a neighbor moving next door with two pulp paintings? A billion to one?

   I foolishly said, like an idiot, “Hey, do you know you have two pulp paintings hanging in here, huh?” It’s a wonder he didn’t escort us out of the place. But yes, he realized it and his name was Paul Grammer and his uncle was Allen Grammer, the infamous president of Street & Smith!

WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   He said his father also worked for the firm in some capacity and when the two brothers died, he inherited the two paintings. Paul is no longer with us but before he died he did sell me the two paintings, one of which I still have hanging in my family room as a reminder of the craziest coincidence in my life.

   In addition to the fiction, the art of WESTERN STORY is reason enough to collect the magazine. They used several first rate artists which reminds me of another strange story. I once was in an art gallery in NYC back in the early 1980′s looking at fine art and abstract art. Then again, I was stunned to see a cover painting from WESTERN STORY. It was by Charles Lasalle and was the cover for the first Silvertip story by Max Brand.

   The date is March 25, 1933 and shows a man on a horse looking at a trace of blood in the snow (shown to the left below). Again, while speaking to the gallery owner, I asked what do you want for the Charles Lasalle pulp painting. He gave me a look like I had asked him about pornography and said “We do not sell pulp art” and the way he said *pulp art* made it an obscene word.

WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   After he quoted a high price that I couldn’t afford, I slunk out of the gallery and went home. The first thing I did was go to my WESTERN STORY collection and make sure it was a pulp cover. Then the next day I returned to the gallery with the pulp and showed the owner that the Lasalle painting was indeed pulp. He was so distressed that he sold it to me for a bargain price just to get rid of it.

   Western cover art is known for the shoot ‘em up images, usually a bunch of cowboys blazing away at each other. But WESTERN STORY, especially in the 1920′s, often showed scenes from a cowboy’s life. Anything from playing poker to rounding up steers at night or even chuck wagon scenes. Some favorites of mine are several covers that show cowboys reading WESTERN STORY.

   Perhaps my favorite of them all is the first cover Walter Baumhofer did for WESTERN STORY. It so impressed the editors that they hired Baumhofer to do 50 more covers including some great ones for DOC SAVAGE. It’s the cover for September 3, 1932 and simply shows a road agent with a rifle standing in the rain (shown to the right below).

WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   Another very interesting series of covers was done by Gayle Hoskins in the early 1930′s. A couple dozen cover paintings showing scenes from “A Day in the Life of a Cowboy”. These were so popular with the readers that Street & Smith packaged them as prints and gave them away to subscribers. The vast majority of course were tacked up on walls and lost over the years. But I did manage to find a complete package with the envelope and prints that somehow survived.

   I’ve saved the best artist for last. Nick Eggenhofer’s main market was WESTERN STORY for over 20 years during 1920-1943. He did many cover paintings which sell for more than I can afford but he also did thousands of interior illustrations. I have several in my collection and even these can cost a few hundred or a few thousand. There is a great book about his pulp work and working for Street & Smith. It’s called EGGENHOFER: THE PULP YEARS and copies can be found on the second hand book market.

   But of course most collectors are interested in the authors. During 1920-1934 you can almost say that Frederick Faust, who wrote under the name of Max Brand and many other names, was WESTERN STORY. Some issues contain three of his stories, including the three longest such as two serial installments and the complete novel.

   Though there used to be many collectors and lovers of Max Brand, we are now down to only a few. I remember in the 1960′s and 1970′s, these collectors were all over the place: binding copies of WESTERN STORY, making little homemade books out of stories excerpted from the magazine and even publishing a few fanzines.

   I started reading Max Brand in 1955 but SF soon took over as my main reading addiction. I’ve always had a problem with his work and in 50 years of reading Brand I would have to say that he wrote too much and did it too fast. For many years he did over a million words a year and was one of the highest paid pulp writers. He was making over a hundred thousand a year when such money was like a million dollars. He owned a villa in Italy and wrote poetry. Unfortunately just about everybody agrees that his poetry is dated and of little interest. He was killed while serving as a correspondent in WW II.

WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   I divide Max Brand’s work into three parts: one third is good, one third is OK but nothing special, and one third is below average or poor. I never know what I’m going to find when I read him. I might read a couple novels and think, that he is really good and that the fault has been with me for not being able to appreciate him. Then I’ll read a couple bland, sort of mediocre serials, followed by one so poor I have to give reading and I start thinking that he just wrote too fast, etc.

   But Max Brand was not the only writer of interest in WESTERN STORY. I can recommend Luke Short who did some fine work for the magazine and went on become one of the best. Also Ernest Haycox and such excellent pulp writers like W.C. Tuttle, H. Bedford Jones, S. Omar Barker, T.T. Flynn, L.L Foreman, Robert Ormand Case, and many others.

   But one of best that I’d like to specially mention was Walt Coburn. Like Max Brand, he wrote too much and too fast but he knew the west and cowboy life. In fact he was called “the cowboy author” because he actually lived the life. His western dialog and action rings true and is not false like some of Max Brand’s work. But he certainly was capable of poor work every now and then. He had a drinking problem but somehow managed to live to age 79 before hanging himself, probably due to poor health.

   After buying the Harry Noble set and reading it for 20 years, I made a mistake and traded it away for some art. I figured I had read all the best fiction and could move on to something else, some other magazine that I might want to collect.

   Well I figured wrong. As usual I missed the set and started to regret my decision. But fate is a funny thing and in 2006 Harry Noble told me he had a terminal illness and was expected to live only for a few months. He invited me and several other long time pulp collectors to visit him and buy magazines.

WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE

   Since selling me the WESTERN STORY’s in 1980, Harry had built up his set and now in 2006, again had over a thousand issues. He agreed to sell me the set again and again for only $5,000! This time I had the money to pay him and I drove back home with a carload of WESTERN STORY. My wife was not pleased to see the magazine return home, to say the least. We all managed to say goodbye to Harry and so ended the life at age 88, of one of the greatest book and magazine collectors that I have ever known.

   I could write a book about my experiences in collecting this magazine but I better bring it to an end. Wait a minute, here is another crazy collecting story. I once found out a bookstore in New Mexico had 800 issues of WESTERN STORY in nice shape from the late 1920′s to the digest years in the 1940′s. Though I had the issues already, how could I turn down their price of only 50 cents a issue if I took them all.

   I frantically sent off $400 and in a couple weeks 16 large boxes of WESTERN STORY hit the Trenton post office. They evidently didn’t want to deliver them and the manager called me to come and pick them up. This actually was OK with me because then I could figure out a way to smuggle them past my wife, otherwise known as The Non-Collector.

   I waited until she left for work and then I called my job and told them I’d be late due to a family emergency. I quickly picked them up from the post office, in the process almost throwing my back out due to my haste. I hid them in the basement so mission accomplished. I then went to work but I’d forgotten that I had to attend a staff meeting with some big shots. So not only was I late but my suit and tie had pulp shreds and dirt plastered all over. To make matters worse I apologized by mentioning my joy of receiving 800 WESTERN STORY pulps.

   Now, one thing you cannot do as a collector and that is to try and really explain the joy you get out of collecting books or pulps. You might get away with it talking to other collectors, but not to people who collect absolutely nothing and in fact, don’t even read. For years after, my bosses would sometimes bring up the subject of my so called “western collection” in dismissive terms. It probably even cost me a promotion. The funny thing is they had no idea that the “western collection” was really just a small part of my overall collection. If they had ever known the true extent of my addiction and vice, they would have figured out some way to get rid of me.

   At this point, after collecting WESTERN STORY for so many years, I’m down to needing only 11 issues but they are the hard to get 1919 and early 1920 issues, so I may never find them. But it’s been a hell of a ride and I’d do it all over again!

CONVENTION REPORT: PulpFest 2013
by Walker Martin

   During the dates of July 25-July 28, 2013 an event happened in Columbus, Ohio, that may have been not important to non-pulp and non-book collectors, but if you collect and read these great artifacts then you know that something very special occurred. I attended almost 40 pulp conventions when the old Pulpcon was the big summer event during 1972-2008. And as much as I loved that pulp convention, it never reached the heights of the present show which we call PulpFest. The most attendees that Pulpcon ever had was around 300 and many of the events had around 100 or so. But all five of the recent PulpFests have had higher attendance than Pulpcon ever had. Once again the attendance reached 400 with 100 dealer’s tables.

pulpfest 2013

   Yes, it is hard to believe but this was the fifth convention of the new pulp convention. And as a special reward to the attendees, it was one of the very best shows. If you read or collect pulps, pulp reprints, books, vintage paperbacks, slicks then this was the place to be. If you like old movies or collect original art from books and magazines, then you were in luck because there were plenty of dvds and art for sale.

   As usual, I had been thinking of this convention ever since the Windy City Pulp Convention ended in April. I’m severely addicted to reading, collecting, and buying all sorts of books and magazines and I needed another fix. I also collect dvds of old movies and original artwork, so non-collectors simply do not understand me at all. They tend to call me everything from hoarder to that crazy guy who likes to read. Actually it is impossible for the non-collector and non-reader to ever understand the collector, so the best policy is to ignore the poor ignorant fools.

   If you do not read or collect anything then you better stop reading this report because it will freak you out. Most of the 400 attendees were addicts like me and they were out to collect and buy books and magazines come hell or high water. One collector actually took an Edd Cartier artwork out of my hands while I was looking at it and yelled “I’ll buy it!”

   Another time a collector beat me again to a pulp cover painting and I was consumed with feelings of jealousy and hatred. The only thing that stopped me from trying to yank it out of his hands was the fact that he was a lot younger than me and could pound me into the floor before I made my getaway.

   It’s a pulp jungle out there as Frank Gruber once said, and every man for himself. Since I couldn’t sleep the night before, I got up at 4:00 am and waited for the van to arrive. For the last several years, a group of us have been renting a van and driving out from NJ. We have to rent a van because a normal car will not hold all our acquisitions.

   Only veteran, long time collectors are allowed in this van and you have to have a thick skin because we are prone to joke and laugh at each other. We even use insults in order to try and get an advantage over each other. Once again to pass the time we talked about bizarre and crazy pulp collectors that we have known.

   I recounted the story of a friend who wanted to steal art from the art display and another friend who picked up girls by leering and saying “the mole men want your eyes”. It seemed to work, but I never tried it because all I’m interested in at the pulp conventions are books, pulps, and original art. Everybody can have sex, but to hell with it during the pulp convention!

   After nine hours of driving we arrived in Columbus at 3:30 pm. We quickly checked in and once again I marveled at the size of the hotel and convention center area. I got lost more than once. Maybe that’s a result from all the years that I’ve spent alone in a room happily reading. That’s my ideal of a good time: reading a good book.

   Since Ed Hulse, our driver, was giving a lecture at Ohio State’s Thompson Library, we went with him to listen to him talk about the ancestors of Batman. For an hour and a half he discussed the various pulp crime-fighters. Eric Johnson, a professor at Ohio State, drove us over to the Library. He has organized these annual lectures each year during PulpFest and this one was especially enjoyable.

   We then registered for the convention and set up our tables. The panels discussed the influence of Fu Manchu and Hollywood and the Hero Pulps. Following the panels, we watched the first five chapters of THE SPIDER’S WEB. Starring Warren Hull and Iris Meredith, this has never been commercially released but is available on the bootleg market.

   In my opinion, this is one of the very best serials ever made. It faithfully follows the spirit of the Spider novels and is non-stop action. We saw five chapters each night for three evenings. My favorite scene involves a little old lady in a dress fighting the Spider. I know it’s a henchman but the scene is funny as hell seeing a woman in a dress and white wig fighting the Spider. I guess the Spider didn’t think it was funny because when the little old lady tried to run away from him, he calmly shoots her in the back. I almost had an accident laughing. One of the great scenes in movie history. I guess the movie code censors didn’t preview THE SPIDER’S WEB because they would have demanded the scene be cut. The poor little old lady. I loved it!

   I mentioned the competition between collectors above. Sometimes it can misfire. For instance when the collector took the Cartier drawing away from me, I was very jealous. He paid more than it was worth at $450 but I was still unhappy. But the next day I found si more Cartier drawings, each priced at only $160 each plus they were signed!

   Needless to say, I took great enjoyment in showing my friend that he had overpaid about $300. I was happy to see that he was crushed and I took advantage of his sadness to eagerly push ahead of him and buy some pulps. It’s true that we have been friends for 40 years but we are talking about our collections here! It’s dog eat dog!

   Next to the dealers room I noticed hundreds of women shrieking and yelling at another convention. It seem to involve baskets and shopping. In fact one lady on the elevator asked me if I had found any good shopping bargains. I quickly told her, with a superior air, that I was a member of the PulpFest convention. She asked with great puzzlement “What’s Pulpfest?”

   Since I only had something like 15 seconds on the elevator to explain, I simply muttered it was a convention of book collectors. She repeated in a tone of wonderment “book collectors?” As I said, the non-collector will never understand the collector.

WALKER MARTIN - PULPFEST 2013

   Now, you might wonder what I brought to sell and what I bought for my own collection. Recently I was lucky enough (or perhaps a non-collector would say *unlucky enough*), to obtain over 1,000 issues of WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, 1919-1949. I already had almost all the issues but I wanted a few wants plus I’m always looking for upgrades. So I passed many of the Max Brand issues on to a friend, but that left me with many duplicates. So I boxed up a couple hundred issues, mainly 1936-1939 and priced them at only $5 each. The 1920′s I wanted $15 each but it was amusing to watch the many collectors walk by perhaps the biggest bargain in the dealer’s room, sneering at WESTERN STORY issues priced at only $5.

   However, there were a few who realized that I may have taken leave of my senses and bought all the issues I had before I was committed to the local insane asylum. I’m talking about fellow out of control collectors like Matt Moring, David Saunders, and Randy Vanderbeek. These guys know a bargain when they see it! By the way, I’ll try and remember to forward a photo of me looking at the WESTERN STORY’s on my table.

   I also sold several cancelled checks from the files of Popular Publications and Munsey. Again, there are a few collectors that know these are extremely rare and unusual.

   What did I buy? The best and rarest item was a bound volume of a magazine called ROMANCE. Despite its name it was not a love pulp and during its short life of only 12 issues in 1919-1920, was the companion magazine to the great ADVENTURE MAGAZINE. I’ve been hunting for decades for this title and have only found three or four issues. This volume contained six of the 12 issues and made me very happy. Next to it was the crazy magazine THE SCRAP BOOK, so I bought the those volumes also.

   I also bought 24 issues of various crime digests, the ones that tried to imitate MANHUNT in the 1950′s. I used to have these issues but since they are quite unreadable, I sold them years ago. If a collector lives long enough, he often will start collecting items that he previously sold. The covers are nice, showing all sorts of violence against women. Sorry ladies, but digest and pulp collectors seem to like these covers and they bring high prices. I’m talking about such crime digests as TWO-FISTED TALES, OFFBEAT, GUILTY, KEYHOLE, and WEB TERROR.

   I also bought several issues of GHOST STORIES. Despite the claim that these are true stories, they really are fiction. Since I’ve been at the collecting game so long, I’ve filled in most of my wants but I did manage to find a DIME DETECTIVE I still needed. Also an FBI DETECTIVE and a DETECTIVE STORY from 1922.

   I bought several pieces of pulp art in addition to the six Edd Cartier drawings, such a Kelly Freas paperback cover painting and other things too numerous to name. But I do want to mention the Walter Baumhofer art that David Saunders had at his table. He had something like a hundred pieces of art that may have been used as interior illustrations in various pulp magazines. They all eventually sold and I managed to buy many of them. David threw in a great photo of Baumhofer.

   Speaking of David Saunders, I would like to like to discuss the various panels and discussions, but there were too many for me to cover here. Pulpfest.com has a complete listing but I would like to mention two that I found to be of great interest. They all are interesting and that is another thing that Pulpfest is known for. The excellent quality of the evening programming. But my two favorites were the presentation that David Saunders gave on Walter Baumhofer and the talk that Chris Kalb gave on hero pulp premiums and promotions.

   David Saunders, as the son of artist Norman Saunders, knew Walter Baumhofer. There is no one better qualified to talk about Baumhofer. What a great discussion, and I hope PulpFest has David Saunders talk about pulp artists at every convention. David has one of the best websites on the internet where he discusses pulp artists. The site is pulpartists.com. The committee already have invited Chris Kalb back to give us additional information about the pulp premiums.

   The auction was mainly from the collection of Al Tonik and this time concentrated on the research books that Al had accumulated over the years. I also buy reference books as they are published so I had almost all of these items.

   Several pulp reprints and books about the pulps made their debut. WORDSLINGERS by Will Murray, THE BLOOD n THUNDER GUIDE TO PULP FICTION by Ed Hulse, HIDDEN GHOSTS by Paul Powers, a collection edited by Laurie Powers, PAPERBACK CONFIDENTIAL: Crime Writers of the Paperback Era by Brian Ritt, and from Altus Press, THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF HAZARD AND PARTRIDGE by Robert Pearsall with an excellent and long introduction by pulp scholar, Nathan Madison. We really do live in the golden age of pulp reprints and reference books.

   Tony Davis retired as the editor of THE PULPSTER last year but this year the new editor, William Lampkin, carries on the tradition by editing a fine collection of articles. My favorite is the piece on Daisy Bacon by Laurie Powers.

   The Munsey Award was given to pulp scholar and anthologist, Garyn G. Roberts. Congratualtions Garyn, you really deserve this recognition.

   OK, there must be something I can complain about, right? Nope, no drunks giving me a sour look, no complaints about the lighting in the dealers room, no bitching about the hospitality room. I just went to the bar on the second floor and acted like a collector. All the non-collectors gave me plenty of space!

   So, I would like to thank the PulpFest committee for all their hard work. Mike Chomko, Jack Cullers, Ed Hulse, and Barry Traylor. Thank you, thank you!

   And to all you collectors and readers out there. Make plans for PulpFest next year. Do it now and no excuses accepted! Even if we die, we can haunt the place.

ADVENTURES IN COLLECTING:
PULPFEST 2013
by Walker Martin


pulpfest 2013

   Readers and Collectors! We are down to the final minutes now. It’s time to separate the non-collectors from the collectors. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Pulpfest begins this Thursday, July 25 and continues through Sunday, July 28 in Columbus, Ohio. The complete details are at pulpfest.com.

   Will you be one of the millions of poor souls that do NOT attend PulpFest? Or will you be among the elite of old magazine collectors, those that DO attend? I’m talking about the 400 or so pulp, digest, paperback, book and original art collectors who will be swarming to the pulp collecting center of the universe. In April it was Chicago for Windy City and now in July, it is Columbus, Ohio.

   I’ve heard all the reasons for not attending this pulp convention and there is no acceptable excuse! Illness? Hell, I knew a collector who attended knowing he had a terminal illness and would be dead in a few months. I once attended with a busted back, wrapped up like a mummy, not able to sit down for the entire convention. Every 40 minutes I had to stop the car and get out to stretch and walk around. For awhile I was almost positive that I wasn’t going to make it and I started stopping near hotels in case I had to give up and just lay in a bed for a couple weeks.

   But the thought of my collection kept me going. The visions of more SF magazines, more detective and adventure pulps, more westerns. The artwork, the original cover paintings, the interior illustrations. The stacks of digest magazines, the vintage paperbacks. The friends and old pals that I enjoyed talking to and seeing once again. Some of the best friendships in my life are now stretching beyond the 40 year mark. I just had lunch with a collector that I’ve know since 1970 and we talked about books for 3 hours straight. How could I not attend the pulp convention? When I returned home, I took 4 weeks off from work to recuperate from my back problems. Let’s face it, our collections are more important than some job that just pays the bills.

   Speaking of money, I’ve heard the excuse about not having the cash to attend the convention. I never let this stop me. Sometimes I borrowed the money from the bank or the credit union. I even borrowed money from my wife. You know you have to be desperate to ask for help from a non-collector! I’ve used my credit cards, pension money, money set aside for bills. I mean we are talking about a serious addiction here!

   To be a serious book or old magazine collector, is a calling of the highest order. You are not just some wage slave like the other millions of non-collectors. No, you are a Collector with a capital C. You don’t just eat, work, watch TV, and sleep. And then repeat it day after day like most poor bastards. YOU READ! You Collect valuable and rare artifacts.

   In this era of electronic gadgets, you actually collect non-electronic books and pulps. I mean how cool is that? No computer geek can stand up to that. E-books look pitiful next to a beautiful real, hard copy book. You can’t collect E-books like pulps. A stack of pulps is a thing of beauty. The smell, the look, the feel. And they are worth money!

   I’ve tried many addictions and they can’t compare to collecting books and pulps. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, all can destroy your health and finances. I won’t even get into sex. Sexual habits can ruin you just like any addiction or at the very least, you will find yourself married to a non-collector!

   So there is still time to say to hell with your job and personal responsibilities. Your family can do without you for a few days. Your book addiction needs to be fed. Your Collection must be extended and made larger. You need more books!

   PulpFest awaits…

COLLECTING PULPS: A MEMOIR, PART EIGHT –
THE NIGHT PULPCON ALMOST ENDED WITH A DRUNKEN BRAWL
by Walker Martin


   I guess if you live long enough and hang out in the appropriate dives, you will eventually see fistfights and guys swinging beer bottles at each other. Normally you will not see book or pulp collectors try to strike and harm another collector. I’ve always said my favorite type of people are book collectors and since there are so few pulp collectors left, I don’t want to get into any arguments with the few that are still around.

WALKER MARTIN Windy City Pulp Show 2013

   Today, a friend sent me an email about a British first edition by H. Bedford Jones. He mentioned that he might consult the resident H. Bedford Jones expert, Digges La Touche (see above). Upon reading this, I almost fell out of my chair laughing and yelling “So you’re the expert on H. Bedford Jones!” I was thinking back more than thirty years ago when the Pulpcon convention almost ended in a drunken brawl.

   Rusty Hevelin, the head honcho and boss of the convention, never scheduled the evening panels ahead of time. He just about always would give you an hour or even a few minutes notice that he would like you to talk about a pulp author or be part of a panel discussing some aspect of pulpish literature.

H Bedford Jones

   I remember once he approached me about ten minutes before the start of the evening programming and wanted me to interview Robert Bloch. Sometimes I turned him down due to not being prepared on short notice but other times I accepted.

   Evidently, at the last minute, Rusty decided to have a panel discuss H. Bedford Jones. He found three collectors who agreed and up to the stage stepped veteran pulp collectors Darrell Richardson, Harry Noble, and Digges La Touche. All were fans of the author and the discussion kept everyone’s attention.

   Everyone behaved themselves and there was no problem. Until the banquet that night. Harry Noble and I were sitting at one of the dinner tables waiting for our food and drinking beer. Another long time pulp collector, Andy Biegel, also sat down. Without any preface or explanation, Andy blurted out, “So you’re the expert on H. Bedford Jones.” At first Harry and I thought that he was kidding and we just laughed. Andy didn’t laugh however and he repeated in a louder voice, “So you’re the expert on H. Bedford Jones.”

   We now realized that Andy Biegel was drunker that we were and was in fact insanely jealous because he had not been chosen to be on the Bedford Jones panel. Harry tried to explain that he was not an expert but just a fan of the writer and loved to talk about his books. Andy was having none of it and repeated for the third time, at the top of his voice, “SO YOU’RE THE EXPERT ON H. BEDFORD JONES!”

BEDFORD JONES - Fang Tung

   At this point it was obvious that in another minute Biegel was going to fling himself across the table and try to strangle Harry Noble. Though Harry was older than Biegel, such an action would not be a good idea since Harry was a fitness buff and body builder. Since I considered Harry my best pal, I certainly would have joined in the fight and probably we all three would have been rolling over on the floor punching and flailing.

   To make things worse, Andy had a disability involving one leg being shorter than the other. I’m sure Harry and I would have been banned from Pulpcon for life for the drunken beating of a person with a physical handicap. So fortunately we stood up and without saying a word to Andy, we left the room. The next day Andy Biegel evidently didn’t remember anything about the incident and talked to us just as though nothing had happened.

   Harry Noble and Andy Biegel are no longer with us but I still remember the Pulpcon brawl that almost happened over 30 years ago. Everytime I hear that someone is an expert on H. Bedford Jones, I start to scream, “So you’re the expert on H. Bedford Jones!”

ADVENTURES IN COLLECTING:
WHITHER VINTAGE PAPERBACKS?
by Walker Martin


   In the 1970′s one of my main interests was collecting the Dell mapbacks. I remember at one point in the 1990′s I figured I had them all, but I’ve lost interest over the last decade or so and now I’m not sure. In the 70′s and even 80′s I was getting some good trades for my duplicates, including some original cover paintings.

   Now, I’m not even sure I could get $5 each. I know at Pulpcon about 5 years ago, I had a table full of vintage paperbacks priced at $5 each and no one was interested except for the Guest of Honor. Larry Niven was so bored and ignored by pulp collectors that he wandered over and bought one paperback to read.

   At the paperback show in NYC I saw many Dell Mapbacks priced at a couple bucks each.

***

   The Doc asks about the prices of vintage paperbacks over the years. There are some exceptions of course with certain authors and oddball titles, but as a general rule and across the board, paperback prices have indeed gone down over the years.

   I first started to seriously collect paperbacks in the 1960′s and 1970′s. I soon had enough Ace Doubles, Gold Medals, Dell Mapbacks, Signets, etc to fill what I call my paperback room. Many genres and titles would not fit into the room and are presently stored in my basement, such as western, SF, and mainstream novels.

   At one time back in the 1970′s, I thought that prices would increase on vintage paperbacks but I was disappointed to find out that they decreased over the years. The internet probably had something to do with this because abebooks.com and ebay made it obvious that many paperbacks were not as rare as we once believed.

   For instance before the internet I sold the 13 Hammett digest-sized paperbacks for a few hundred dollars. But after the internet it was apparent that these paperbacks were not rare (Jonathan Press, Mercury, Bestseller). Now they are available at far lower prices.

   Each year I attend the NYC Paperback Convention put on by Gary Lovisi. There have been over 20 annual shows. The last few years the average price of many vintage paperbacks were a dollar or two. Many were priced at 2 or 3 for $5.00. Discounts were available for quantity buyers. I found the same thing at the Windy City Pulp Convention and PulpFest.

   As I said, there are exceptions like Junkie and Jim Thompson firsts. But for the most part, paperback values have gone down since the 1970′s and 1980′s. In fact they have dropped so much that it’s not worth my time to bring them to sell at the conventions at $5 each. They won’t sell at that price and to sell at a buck or two is just like giving them away. I’ll keep them instead.

   ____

Editorial Comment: This latest installment of Walker’s occasional columns for Mystery*File first appeared as a pair of comments following a review by Bill Deeck of Murders at Scandal House (1933) by the all-but-unknown Peter Hunt. What prompted a followup discussion of old paperbacks and the people who collect them was the fact that the most easily found copy of Scandal House would be the Dell mapback edition (#42) published in 1944.

Next Page »