Collecting


COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir, Part 12 :
Rereading UNKNOWN and UNKNOWN WORLDS
by Walker Martin


   Why reread? I’ve known several readers and collectors who bluntly state that they seldom or never reread stories or books. They argue that there are too many new books waiting to be read, sort of the like the old saying, “So many books, so little time.”

   I love to reread but only my favorite books and stories. And only the ones that I consider to be outstanding or great. There is nothing more exasperating than to reread a book and realize that it was not even worth reading the first time. Not to mention the waste of time. That’s why I’ve always noted on a slip of paper the date read, my grade, and comments about the book. Then, decades later, I can tell at a glance what I thought of the book and whether it is worth a second reading or not.

   So aside from the enjoyment of rereading an outstanding book, why read it again? Some books demand a second (and a third and a fourth) reading because they have several layers and levels of complex meaning that you might want to explore and investigate. Also a book read in your twenties may reveal additional meanings when you reread it many years later. There have been books that I read as a young man that I didn’t have the proper maturity to truly understand but as an older reader, I now find them to be indispensable.

   Every reader has their favorite books that they have reread. Some of mine are:

         War and Peace — 3 times.

         Moby Dick — 3 times.

         The Sun Also Rises — 5 times.

         Under the Volcano — 5 times.

   In the different genres I’ve several books that I’ve reread:

   In science fiction: Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man and Stars My Destination. Also the novels of Philip K. Dick and Robert Silverberg; the short stories of J.G. Ballard and Theodore Sturgeon.

   In the detective and crime genre: the novels of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Elmore Leonard, and Ross Macdonald.

   In the western field: the novels of Luke Short, Elmore Leonard, Elmer Kelton. Lonesome Dove is maybe the best western I’ve ever reread.

   I also have reread stories in the pulp magazines. Many literary critics make the mistake of lumping all the pulps into one sub-literary category. They think all the pulps published mediocre and poor action fiction of very little redeeming literary value. They are wrong. There is such a thing as excellent pulp fiction, and I’ve tried to point out some examples in this series on collecting pulps.

   Of course, I absolutely agree with Sturgeon’s Law which in simple terms may be explained as “90% of everything is crap.” This is a good thing to say to anyone who criticizes your tastes in reading matter. For instance if they sneer at your love for detective, SF, or western fiction, then you can state Sturgeon’s Law, which I’ve found to roughly apply to just about all forms of literary endeavor.

   In other words, I’m always looking for that less than 10% that I hope will be worth reading and rereading. As I reread my notes spread throughout thousands of books and fiction magazines, I see I’m now at a good point in my life where I’m reading mainly the good 10%. Sure, every now and then I make a mistake or blunder and find myself reading the 90% crap, but after so many years of reading, I’m getting pretty good at avoiding the stuff that is not worth reading.

   A couple months before the August Pulpfest convention, one of the committee members, knowing my love for the magazine Unknown, asked me if I would participate on a panel discussing the title. This made me think about Unknown and how I had started collecting and reading it so many years ago.

   When I first started to think about collecting it, I was just a teenager and had very little money. I had enough to buy the SF digests and paperbacks but a set of Unknown back in the 1950′s cost around $50, a sum that I never had until years later. Back then, just about all pulps were a dollar or less, a fact that is hard to believe now.

   Finally in 1963, while attending college, I managed to put aside $50 and I started scouting around for a set of the 39 issues. All I could pay was $50 but everyone I contacted wanted more. I even contacted the Werewolf Bookshop in Verona, Pennsylvania (this bookstore advertised in many of the digest SF magazines) and I still have the letter dated September 3, 1963. I stapled it into my Unknown book where I noted my thoughts and comments on the magazine. The owner stated that he had contacted three fans and only one was willing to sell and he wanted $200 for his set.

   Back in 1963 this was an outrageous sum, and it’s lucky I did not send money to the Werewolf Bookshop. It seems the owner was in the habit of sending you anything he had if he did not have the books that you ordered. Then when you complained about receiving books that you didn’t want, he would ignore your letters and keep your money. If I had sent him $200, there is no telling what he would have shipped me. Except that it would not have been a set of Unknown. I have read about and even met fellow collectors who fell victim to this scam.

   Fortunately, I eventually bought a set from Gerry de la Ree, a SF collector and dealer who lived in New Jersey. For decades in the 1960′s, 1970′s, 1980′s, Gerry mailed out monthly sale lists listing SF pulps, digests, books, and artwork. He wanted only $50 and I now had the complete set. I read several stories in scattered issues, but college and then being drafted into the army delayed my project of reading the complete set.

   However, by 1969 I was discharged and I spent six months of doing nothing but reading. I didn’t even look for a job, and I loved living in my mother’s house drinking beer and reading all day. She must of thought she raised a bum, but she was wrong. She raised a book collector and reader.

   I started reading from the first issue, March 1939 and I read each issue, every story, every word, until the end in October 1943. That’s 4 1/2 years and 39 issues. Over 250 stories ranging from novel length to short story. John W. Campbell, the editor of both Unknown and Astounding, estimated that the 7 by 10 inch pulp size issues contained 70,000 words of fiction and the 8 1/2 by 11 inch format contained 110,000 words.

   That means I read over 3 million words of fiction in 1969 when I started my project of reading the entire set. I forget how long it took me but since I was not wasting any time working, I probably read close to an issue every day or two. I then recorded my thoughts in a standard English composition notebook. I think they still make these things, black with white speckles and it says “Composition” on the front cover. With over 100 pages I could devote two pages to each issue, listing each story and author along with a grade and my comments. At the end of each year, I did a summary listing my favorites.

   During the Pulpfest panel, I read some of my comments from this notebook and a couple collectors asked me if I had such books for each magazine that I collected. I used to but I eventually switched to the system of putting a slip of paper in each magazine or book with my comments, grade, and date read. I have thousands of books and magazines with these annotations tucked inside each copy. I still have a few of the notebooks, with the Unknown comments being the most extensive. I see I have one on Weird Tales where I read and noted my reactions to reading three years of issues, 1933-1935.

   So to prepare for the panel, I reread only the stories that received an outstanding rating back in 1969. We often think that we were a different person 45 years ago and for the most part we probably were. I was in my twenties back then and ahead of me were all the usual things like getting married, raising a family, starting a career, buying houses, etc. Of course this series of essays deal with my collecting experiences. So what did I think at the age of 72 looking back on my younger self praising and exclaiming over the stories in Unknown?

   As I reread story after story, I was impressed again at the literary quality of the magazine. I guess that’s why I’m writing about the magazine again in 2014, only instead of just comments meant for my older self, I’m now writing for other collectors and readers and encouraging them to read and reread Unknown.

   What were the outstanding novels? Lest Darkness Fall and The Wheels of If by L. Sprague de Camp, who also wrote the superior Harold Shea novels with Fletcher Pratt. Death’s Deputy and Fear by L. Ron Hubbard; Hell Is Forever by Alfred Bester; Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber; None But Lucifer by H. L .Gold and de Camp.

   Among the shorter fiction, we have several novelettes by Henry Kuttner. I believe these stories represent the first quality fiction by Kuttner. Jane Rice also had several stories and when the magazine died in 1943, she almost stopped writing because Unknown was her favorite market. One of the sad things about Unknown ceasing publication was the fact the Jane Rice had a 33,000 word short novel that was scheduled for a future issue. But the manuscript has been lost by Street & Smith and Rice did not keep a copy. Anthony Boucher, Fritz Leiber, and Theodore Sturgeon also had many shorts.

   But despite all the excellent fiction in Unknown, the magazine can best be described and explained by simply looking at the art of Edd Cartier. He is Unknownwith its gnomes, demons, and fantasy figures that defy description. I once had a chance to buy an original Unknown cover painting by Cartier. In the 1980′s, someone was walking around one of the Pulpcon conventions with the painting but he wanted $2,000 for it. At the time I had bought many cover paintings but the highest price I ever had to pay was $400. One of my collector mistakes. I should have dug up the money somehow because it’s worth a fortune now.

   Cartier dropped out of fantasy and SF illustration sometime in the early fifties but I did manage to meet him around 1990 at Pulpcon in Wayne, NJ. Rusty Hevelin was running Pulpcon and he said Edd Cartier would be available to talk to one night. But it would be for only a special group of pulp collectors who Rusty would choose. Fortunately, I was one of them and it remains a Pulpcon highlight that I still remember all these years later.

   Speaking of Cartier brings up what I think of as one of John W. Campbell’s mistakes. With the July 1940 issue the cover art was discontinued. Campbell must have looking to attract more readers with a literary style cover showing a more bland, sedate listing of stories. Maybe he thought the illustrations too garish on the covers. But the lack of any cover art at all just made the magazine seem a puzzle to many newsstand browsers. One of the big reasons for cover art is to grab your attention while you are looking at scores of magazines. Without cover illustrations the magazine just was lost on the stands. Where do you put it? This experiment was tried by previous pulps like Adventure and The Popular Magazine, and it was never successful.

   I’ve owned several sets of Unknown during the last 50 years and it is still possible to pick up issues. After the panel a couple collectors told me they wanted to start collecting it and I told them to keep looking through the dealer’s room at Pulpfest because I saw several issues for sale. Usually the price is around $20 but I’ve seen higher and lower prices. Ebay also has issues.

   At present I own two sets, one is the usual individual 39 issues and one is a bound set in 14 hardcover volumes. There is an interesting story about this bound set. I only paid $400 for it at Pulpcon a few years ago and neither the dealer or me noticed that it had a signature in the first volume. When I got home I was amazed to realize that I had John W. Campbell’s personal bound set of the magazine. It was inscribed as follows, “To George Scithers, who worked hard for this set”. Signed John W. Campbell. I’ve worked hard for certain sets of magazines, so I know what he means.

   The magazine is not really rare because so many SF and fantasy collectors loved the magazine and saved their copies. It is probably the most missed of all the pulp titles. In the letter columns of old SF magazines, it is often referred to as “the late, lamented Unknown.” For several years after it ceased publication due to the war time paper restrictions, letters in Astounding kept asking when the title would be revived. Evidently Campbell intended to start it up again when paper was available. But that was not until 1948 and then Street & Smith killed off all their pulps except for Astounding in 1949.

   So Unknown remained dead but several magazines were influenced in the 1950′s. Fantasy Fiction lasted four issues in 1953; Beyond Fantasy Fiction lasted ten issues in 1953-1955; and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which is still being published, has often printed Unknown type fiction.

   If you are not a collector but you still want to read some of the best fiction, there are several collections available:

UNKNOWN WORLDS: Tales From Beyond, edited by Stanley Schmidt and Martin H. Greenberg (Garland Books, 1988) This is the biggest and best collection. 25 stories and 517 pages.

RIVALS OF WEIRD TALES, edited by Weinberg, Dziemianowicz, and Greenberg. (Bonanza Books, 1990) Among stories from other magazines, there is a section of 11 stories from Unknown, amounting to 200 pages.

THE UNKNOWN, edited by D. R. Bensen (Pyramid, 1963) This paperback has 11 stories and story notes.

THE UNKNOWN FIVE, edited by D.R. Bensen (Pyramid, 1964) Another collection from Bensen.

UNKNOWN, edited by Stanley Schmidt (Baen Books, 1988) Nine of the longer stories and 304 pages. Paperback.

HELL HATH FURY, edited by George Hay (Neville Spearman Ltd., 1963) Seven stories in hardback.

OUT OF THE UNKNOWN, by A.E. Van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull (Powell Publications, 1969) This paperback has seven Unknown stories by Van Vogt and wife.

   And finally there are two full-length studies of the magazine:

THE ANNOTATED GUIDE TO UNKNOWN AND UNKNOWN WORLDS, by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz (Starmont House, 1991) This is an excellent study of all aspects of the great magazine. A total of 212 pages with a long essay about the magazine, followed with detailed story annotations on every story, a story index, an author index and much more! Highly Recommended.

ONCE THERE WAS A MAGAZINE, by Fred Smith (Beccon Publications, 2002). Each issue is discussed plus author and title index.

   So ends my rereading of Unknown and I hope to return someday. I guess we shall never see a revival of the magazine. I noted over a dozen pleas from readers in Astounding, all asking when Unknown would be revived, but the October 1943 issue was the last one. A digest issue was planned and discussed in the October issue but an order for additional paper reduction came and Unknown was a victim of WW II.

REST IN PEACE: Unknown and Unknown Worlds.

NOTE:   To access earlier installments of Walker’s memoirs about his life as a pup collector, go first to this blog’s home page (link at the far upper left), then use the search box found somewhere down the right side. Use either “Walker Martin” or “Collecting Pulps” in quotes, and that should do it.

CONVENTION REPORT: PulpFest 2014
by Walker Martin

   I’m just back from PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio. Out of the six annual conventions which began in 2009, this one was the best. They seem to be improving each year and I’m compelled to file my convention report right away even though I’m exhausted from lack of sleep and the 10 hour ride.

   Once again, four of us rented a van because we needed a bigger vehicle to carry all our books, pulps, and artwork. Coming back, we were worried about fitting everything in and a couple big boxes had to be mailed back by UPS. One of these days we might have to take a vote and leave one of our group of biblio maniacs behind due to lack of space!

   Why do I consider this one to be the best of the six PulpFests? I never thought I would be praising the evening programming instead of just talking about the dealer’s room but this year set a standard for programming that will be hard to break in the future. During the three evenings we had over a dozen panels, tributes, and discussions:

   Laurie Powers lecture at Ohio State about her grandfather Paul Powers

   Frank Robinson Tribute

   Nathan Madison and Ed Hulse discussing FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES, one of the great pulps.

   The Avenger’s Diamond Jubilee

   FarmerCon panel on Philip Jose Farmer

      And that was just Thursday night. Friday we enjoyed:

   1939: Science Fiction’s Boom Year

   STARTLING STORIES: An overview(Another great pulp)

   Philip Jose Farmer’s Early Science Fiction

   Pulp Premiums and Promotions by Chris Kalb

   Eighty Years of Terror: The Weird Menace Pulps

   1939: The Golden Year of ASTOUNDING STORIES

      And then Saturday evening we had the auction plus:

   UNKNOWN: The Best in Fantasy Fiction

   John Newton Howitt: a discussion about the artist by David Saunders

      Each night ended with a four chapter Buck Rogers serial.

   I’ve spent some time listing the above in detail because the former Pulpcon conventions of 1972-2008 never really had such a great number of interesting and valuable programming. I attended almost all the conventions and each Pulpcon had evening events like the Guest of Honor speech, the banquet, an auction, a radio play, and at the most, a couple of panels.

   But this year’s PulpFest had over a dozen programs on the schedule, including much needed discussions of such interesting and influential magazines as FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES, STARTLING STORIES, TERROR TALES, ASTOUNDING, and UNKNOWN.

   We need even more such panels and tributes because they are the real reason that we continue to meet at these conventions. We read these great pulps because they are filled with excellent fiction; we collect them because they are beautiful artifacts and we are obsessed by them; we talk and discuss and argue about them because they are important subjects in magazine history and popular culture.

   I’ve spent my adult life reading, collecting, and discussing these magazines. When I think back over my life, I don’t think of myself as someone who worked as a supervisor and manager in business. No, I was, and I still am, a book, magazine and art collector who arises each day thinking of such subjects as listed above. We should all be proud to be called readers and collectors, especially in this busy modern world where we are constantly bombarded with electronic distractions.

   Another great thing about this convention involved the awarding of the Munsey Award to Randy Cox, who has written several books about the pulps and dime novels plus being the editor of THE DIME NOVEL ROUND UP for around 20 years. He has long deserved this award and recognition.

   Another pulp enthusiast and worker won the Rusty Hevelin award for service. Congratulations Barry Traylor, a long time committee member of both Pulpcon and PulpFest.

   It’s always enjoyable seeing and speaking to such interesting collectors. I also was glad to speak with Mike Nevins, who showed me a proof copy of an upcoming book, and Gordon Huber, who is the only collector to attend every Pulpcon and PulpFest since the beginning in 1972. I was also glad to see Tom Krabacher who was wearing a great UNKNOWN T-shirt one day and an ADVENTURE related shirt the next. I asked if he could make me copies of these shirts and he agreed to try. I’ll be glad to add them to my collection of shirts I wear celebrating various pulp magazines.

   In addition to this being the best PulpFest, issue number 23 of THE PULPSTER was the best of the Pulpcon and PulpFest convention magazines. The front cover shows a great Edd Cartier cover from UNKNOWN. Mike Chomko has a long article on the SF pulps, Don Hutchison discusses the weird menace magazines, Garyn Roberts talks about Ray Bradbury’s fanzine and other articles cover Argentine SF, horror pulps, Hannes Bok, Fritz Leiber, and Frank Robinson. Editor William Lampkin deserves our thanks for this excellent issue.

   The auction was the best PulpFest auction also. For the first time all items had to have minimum bid of $20 and this kept out most of the trivial and less interesting items. A nice variety of magazines were auctioned but the most interesting items were several lots from the estate of an author by the name of Everil Worrell, who appeared in several issues of WEIRD TALES during the twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties. In addition to manuscripts there were several letters from editor Dorothy McIlwraith discussing such interesting subjects as WEIRD TALES art, problems with payments, and the changeover to the smaller digest format.

   As usual I had a table in the dealer’s room and I sold several cancelled checks paying for stories in ADVENTURE MAGAZINE. I also sold DVDs, pulp related books, and magazines. But my main interest was in buying pulps and I found one of my major wants, the July 7, 1917 issue of ALL STORY. Not that it has much of interest but I’m close to completing my set of ALL STORY and now only need 3 issues of the over 400 published during 1905-1920. Frankly, when I started collecting the magazine decades ago, I never thought I’d come so close to completion simply because so many issues contain Edgar Rice Burroughs. A great magazine full of so many early science fiction classics.

   Since the 1960′s, I’ve had all the ASTOUNDING back issues but I noticed a run of the years when John Campbell worked for the magazine in 1937-1943. 72 issues, most in fine condition, which is better than my set. Naturally I had to buy it and I now have two sets of the individual issues plus a bound set. You can never have too many sets of your favorite magazines! You know it’s true love when you buy duplicate sets, which I’ve done with such titles as ASTOUNDING, PLANET STORIES, UNKNOWN, and FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES. My wife says it’s hoarding but we all know it’s collecting.

   There were over 100 tables in a large room and attendance was between 450 and 500. This also makes it not only the best Pulpcon/PulpFest, but also the largest. The committee has already booked the Hyatt for 2015 and 2016, so we are set for the next two years. Speaking of the committee, I must thank them by name. Jack Cullers and his army of family volunteers, Mike Chomko, Barry Traylor, Ed Hulse, and Chuck Welch. Thank you fellow readers and collectors, for all your work done on this convention. I hope we all can continue to attend many more PulpFests!

COLLECTING PULPS: A MEMOIR, PART ELEVEN –
Frank Robinson, 1926-2014
by Walker Martin


   I’ve just learned that Frank Robinson died on June 30, 2014. Another of my old pulp friends that I will miss and one less of the collectors who used to actually buy the pulps off the newsstands in the thirties and forties. Frank was born in 1926 and was 87 years old at the time of his death.

   Frank wore many hats, and I’m not talking about the hat that he always wore. He was an SF author, a writer of mainstream action fiction, an editor for the men’s magazines such as ROGUE, CAVALIER, PLAYBOY, a speechwriter for Harvey Milk, who was shot and killed in the 1980′s, a member of the San Francisco gay community, and finally at the end of his life, a movie actor. (He had a bit part playing himself in the movie, MILK.)

   However, though I was aware of all the above, I knew him only as one of the most intense and fanatical pulp magazine collectors that I have ever known. He was a “condition collector” and probably the top such collector among pulp collectors. Frank just didn’t collect nice condition pulps; he collected magazines that were often in perfect condition with white pages and glossy, new looking covers and spines. This is getting harder and harder to do because the pulp era is now many decades in the past, the last ones dying in 1955. (There are a couple of exceptions such as RANCH ROMANCES.) Some of the beautiful magazines that Frank collected are now close to a hundred years old.

   I first came into contact with Frank in the early 1980′s when he wrote me about some of his wants. We corresponded for many years and traded pulps back and forth. Not an easy thing to do because Frank only wanted perfection. He had what other collectors called “the wall of pulps” and they were all in fine or mint condition. His SF magazines were probably the best condition set in existence and his WEIRD TALES were a thing of beauty.

   During our correspondence, it was only natural that the subject of Pulpcon would arise. I urged him to attend the annual convention which was usually held in the Dayton, Ohio area. He eventually went to many of the conventions in the 1980′s and 1990′s and was finally awarded Pulpcon’s highest honor, the Lamont Award, at Pulpcon 29 in 2000.

   When I think back on our many conversations at Pulpcon, I cannot recall a single non-pulp related discussion. All we ever talked about were book and pulp matters. Wait — I do remember once showing him an original pen and ink illustration from a SF magazine that was used on one of his stories, but that was just about as far afield as we ever strayed.

   And that was how I liked it. Pulpcon was like a big book and pulp party, as if you had died and had gone to heaven. No families, no problems, forget your worries and just dive right into a gigantic room full of old magazines and books. I once had a friend who carried on an affair with a motel maid during the convention. When he told me about it, I was puzzled. Why, was my response. Sex could be pursued the other 51 weeks of the year. Why bother during Pulpcon?

   Frank felt the same way. Usually he could be found sitting behind a table comparing pulps and upgrading his magazine collection. You couldn’t miss him with his trademark golf cap and sonorous, deep voice. Pulpcon once had a guest that had worked at Ziff Davis as Frank had back in the forties and when he heard The Voice, he immediately knew who it was and yelled, “Why it’s that kid from the mailroom!”. He didn’t recognize the face but you could never forget Frank’s voice.

   Great collectors compile great collections not just by buying them but also by helping other collectors. I’ve run into this a hundred times with old-time collectors over the years. Here are some examples where Frank attempted to help me with my collection:

   1. During our correspondence, Frank asked me for my want list. At the time I was collecting just about every major pulp title except for the love, sport, and aviation/war magazines. Therefore it was several pages long and handwritten. He found several of my wants and we traded back and forth. A couple months later, I received in the mail a neatly typed manuscript. It was my handwritten want list that Frank had typed and without errors. It must have taken him hours to do it.

   2. Upon hearing that I had 112 SEA STORIES and only needed 6 issues for a complete set, he said he was willing to let me have his issues if he had the ones I needed.

   3. I was once talking about how I had various parts of the famous October 1912 Tarzan issue of ALL STORY but I was missing some pages. He offered to try and put together a complete issue if he could manage it.

   4. Since that didn’t work out, once Frank was at an auction on the east coast, and called me at work. He wanted to know how high I was willing to bid on the Tarzan issue and he would bid and get it for me. Unfortunately I was only prepared to go as high as $5,000 and someone else got it. But this is another beyond the call of duty or friendship action.

   As Frank got older, I guess he finally reached the point that we all eventually get to. He decided to find another home for his great collection. One of the great magazine auctions of several decades was held by Adventure House a couple years ago. It was simply called The Frank Robinson Collection auction and of course all serious collectors started to squirrel away money, borrow and rob the family bank accounts, lie to their non-collecting spouses, and otherwise act in ways that would be frowned on in polite society.

   I knew that most of the Robinson collection would be beyond my means because of the premium that we put on nice condition pulps. Fortunately I had most of the magazines already in lesser shape. But I did want something from the Frank Robinson Collection for my own collection and in memory of our friendship. I was fortunate to get several WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE issues from the early twenties in beautiful condition. But even these white paper artifacts cost me a lot more that I had thought they would. Each issue cost me over $100. A friend of mine got caught up in a bidding war and paid over $900 for a magazine that was worth less than a hundred.

   So I knew I was in dangerous territory. For instance the WEIRD TALES set went for over a quarter of a million dollars. But as all collectors know, you can always get more money, but rare books and pulps are not so easy to find. All collectors make mistakes. One of mine was selling my set of the 71 issues of PLANET STORIES for a thousand dollars several years ago. True, my set was not that great condition but I missed the garish, good girl art covers and the space opera. The letter columns were of great interest and fun to read.

   I decided to get the PLANET STORIES set at the Robinson auction. I knew they would go high, maybe cost more money than I would want to spend. I had sold my beat-up set for peanuts, which came to $15 each. What would the best condition set in the world go for? I knew the copies were perfect, white pages, bright, newsstand fresh covers and spines and that new pulp smell. They were new, 60 to 70 years after being printed!

   Even at $100 each the set would cost $7100 and I knew such condition would force the bidders to go higher that $100 each. It sure did but after the dust settled, I was the proud owner of the greatest set of PLANET STORIES in existence. Not just in the world but in existence! If you are a serious book or magazine collector, then you know this feeling. At first I figured I paid too much, but maybe not because I soon was offered my money back plus a set of PLANET STORIES in nice shape if I would sell the Robinson copies. I refused of course.

   Shortly after the above events, I went to the Windy City pulp show in Chicago. Doug Ellis had invited a few art and pulp collectors out to his house for lunch before the start of the convention. I was wandering through looking at the pulp art when I heard the sound of snoring on a couch in the basement. I went over and there was Frank Robinson laying flat on his back, sleeping. With his hat on! I stress the hat because Frank always had the golf hat on and even swam with it on according to reports. Well, now I knew that he even slept with the hat on.

   I didn’t say anything, but in a daze I went upstairs and said to Deb and Doug, “What’s cooler that having pulps from the Frank Robinson Auction?” “Having Frank himself as part of your collection!” Well of course he was just visiting, and I went back downstairs and looked at him again. This time he woke and without a second’s hesitation, said “Hi Walker” and proceeded to talk about pulps. I told him I had a special stamp and ink pad made and I was going to stamp each issue of PLANET STORIES on the cover and contents page the following statement: FROM THE FRANK ROBINSON COLLECTION.

   Of course I would be crazy to do that but I have been called crazy before. The magazines are so perfect that I’m afraid to handle them and I certainly can’t read them without degrading the condition. However, I solved my problem by buying back my beat up set that I had sold for $1,000 a dozen years ago. This time it cost me $1,700 to get them back. Now I have two sets of PLANET, one to read and one as a shrine to the memory of Frank.

   My last conversation with Frank was a couple years ago. I was looking at some WEIRD TALES that looked perfect and were up for auction. I heard that distinctive voice say, “Hey Walker, look at the paper inside.” I did and it was browned and brittle. We grinned at each other.

   RIP Frank.

WINDY CITY PULP CONVENTION 2014 REPORT
by Walker Martin


   As many of you may know I love going to pulp conventions and I’ve been attending them since 1972. I have a maniacal desire to read and collect old books and pulps. I realize it may be an addiction and a vice but it doesn’t seem to hurt my health or finances like drinking, drugs, gambling, or chasing women. Well at least it didn’t hurt me until this convention.

   For the last few months my legs have developed a pain which bothers me while sitting and sleeping. I’m often awakened at night by the pain and I’ve yet to find a comfortable position to sleep. I’ve seen different doctors and pain pills don’t help that much. A nerve doctor said maybe my back problems was the cause and I have scheduled further x-rays and MRI’s. But the main thing the medical profession agreed on was that I would not be taking any 15 hour trip to Chicago. (Airplanes are a problem because of claustrophobia and limited bags to bring back pulps.)

   Needless to say, being the insane collector that I am, I ignored all medical advice and on Thursday, April 24, I was in a car heading from Trenton, NJ to Morristown, NJ, where I was one of five collectors who had rented a big van. After an hour in the car, and even before getting to the van, I was in distress and reminding myself that I was a book collector and reader and nothing was going to stop me. I had to keep saying this to myself several times during the trip, which I now refer to as Death Trip 2014.

   But somehow, 15 hours later, I limped into the Westin hotel near Chicago and thought only about going to my room and having a stiff drink, pain pills or no pain pills. But in my room, the usual desire to meet other collectors and talk about books and pulps, kicked in and I went to the hospitality room. Once there, I stationed myself against the wall near the refrigerator where the beer was and I proceeded to drink, thinking By God, I made it.

   And I’m glad I did because I met a man who runs one of the very best pulp blogs. Sai lives in India and administers a blog called Pulpflakes. A great name for a great website and it’s all about pulps, the authors, the editors, the artists, the magazines. This was Sai’s first pulp convention.

   Another interesting person was Mala Mastroberte, the queen of the pulp pin-ups. Ed Hulse had the great idea to have her at his BLOOD n THUNDER table and perhaps it was too great an idea. I heard more than one collector refer to table not as the BLOOD n THUNDER or Ed Hulse table, but as the Mala table. Mala was a big hit and fortunately she had her boyfriend to watch over her because some collectors are all about the books and they don’t know how to act around women. Nothing worse than a leering bookworm. I ought to know.

   But don’t feel too sorry for Ed Hulse because he stumbled across the find of the show. Shortly after the convention opened he bought several long comic book boxes of ALL STORY. Most seemed to be priced at $5.00 and included several Edgar Rice Burroughs issues. Most were from 1917-1920 and there were over a hundred. I need one issue from this period and since I only need a total of 4 to complete my set, I was naturally very excited and figured the issue had to be there.

   Since we were all busy the first few days of the convention, there was no time to look through the magazines until Sunday afternoon. With great anticipation I watched as the magazines were sorted into years and then into months. The issue I need is dated July 7, 1917 and I noticed there were 11 months well represented from 1917. But one month was completely missing. You guessed it. No July issues at all.

   There is nothing more embarrassing than seeing some old guy sobbing because he needs a pulp. I managed to control myself and slunk off to the bar to drown my sorrows. I can deal with leg pain but not with missing out on my book wants.

   A good friend of mine told me about his find. He bought over 50 WEIRD TALES from the 1930′s for only like $25 to $45 each. I couldn’t believe such good luck and almost had him convinced that something must be wrong with the issues, perhaps pages excerpted or poor condition. But no, the magazines were ok.

   At this point I’d like to talk about the importance of attending these conventions, not only Windy City, but Pulpfest and the few one day shows that are held. I realize there are valid reasons for not attending, such as poor health and lack of money. But I’ve always forced myself to figure out someway to attend because I find so much not only in the dealer’s room but through friends and contacts. For instance I managed to get the several lots I wanted in the auction. If I had stayed home because of my leg problem, I never would have gotten them.

   And the conventions revive your interest in collecting, which I seriously believe is one of the joys of life. I actually feel sorry for non-collectors and people who call collectors the dreaded “hoarder” name. (There is a big difference in meaning between “collector” and “hoarder” but that’s another subject that many non-collectors simply do not understand at all.)

   Collecting has helped increase my desire to keep living, otherwise I might just pine away and eventually waste away like many of my non-collecting friends. I would have to say collecting books and pulps is the grandest game in the world and one that can give your life meaning.

   Now you might ask what did I get after all the trouble described above? Well, one problem with living a fairly long life is the chance that you might start to run out of things to collect. I guess at one time or another, I’ve collected just about every major pulp, digest, and literary title, including many slicks. I never bothered with the love, sport, and aviation genres but I’ve been involved with most other titles.

   So my wants are getting kind of esoteric and bizarre. A few issues here and there to complete sets. A few pulp artists or magazine cover paintings. Many years ago I used to collect the hero pulps but I sold them all. But the auction listed several lots of the SHADOW digests. They had most of the issues from 1944-1948, a total of 40 in all.

   I was interested in these issues because the magazine became more of an adult crime magazine during the post war years. Returning WW II vets did not give a damn about the Shadow but the back up stories and novelettes were of interest. I managed to be the high bidder on all the Shadow digest lots, a total of 10 lots. The average price came out to only $21 per issue which was far lower than the $50 -$80 prices that I saw in the dealer’s room.

   Another item I desperately wanted was a preliminary sketch by artist Lee Brown Coye. The finished piece of art in FANTASTIC, February 1963, I think is stunning and I noticed the preliminary drawing was very detailed and close to the finished art. Again, I was the winning bidder at $650.

   Speaking of the auctions, there were two that lasted several hours during the evening. The Friday auction was mainly from the collections of the Jerry Weist estate and the Robert Weinberg collection. The Jerry Weist items were mainly very nice condition SF magazines and the Weinberg collection included some stunning SF correspondence, cancelled Munsey and Popular Publications checks and all sorts of interesting items.

   The original manuscript of C. L. Moore’s “Black God’s Kiss,” which appeared in WEIRD TALES, October, 1934, bought the highest amount of money I’ve ever seen at a pulp convention auction: $4,500 plus the $500 buyer’s premium. That’s $5,000 for an iconic, unique item.

   Some other authors represented by checks and letters were L. Ron Hubbard, Farnsworth Wright, Henry Whitehead, Abraham Merritt, Austin Hall, Homer Eon Flint, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Murray Leinster, Isaac Asimov, Fred Pohl, Otis Adelbert Kline, George Allan England, Algis Budrys, Eric Frank Russell, and others too numerous to name.

   The Saturday night auction was made up of over 100 lots listing most of the issues of the SHADOW magazine. Most issues went for reasonable prices. Following the SHADOW auction there were almost another 100 lots listing various pulp magazines but there also was a Frank R. Paul illustration from FANTASTIC NOVELS which went for $800.

   The Windy City show is not just the dealer’s room and auction, though that’s what most collectors are interested in. There also was a very large art show with quite a few pulp paintings and illustrations from the collections of Doug Ellis and Deb Fulton, Robert and Phyllis Weinberg, and others. Ed Hulse put on his usual fine film show which lasted all day and even after the auction in the early morning hours. The themes celebrated the 95th birthday of BLACK MASK and WESTERN STORY.

   There were two panels after the dealer’s room closed. The first one was on a subject that was very much needed but had often been ignored over the years at Pulpcon. The Western Pulps panel was comprised of Ed Hulse, Walker Martin, and Tom Roberts. In about an hour we tried to make up for lost time and discuss major elements of this important topic. Which of course is impossible since there were scores of western titles and it was the biggest selling genre by far except for perhaps the love pulps.

   I gave my opinion concerning the best western pulp magazines, all of which I have collected over the years. The biggest of all was WESTERN STORY, 1919-1949 with over 1250 issues. I need about 11 issues including the first one and I’ll never be able to complete the set but I have hopes of getting it down to single digits.

   The second best and some would say even better than WESTERN STORY, was definitely the Doubleday issues of WEST during 1926-1934. During this 8 or 9 year span the magazine was often published on a weekly and bi-weekly schedule and had all the good authors. It was sold to another publisher in 1935 and continued on for many years but not at the Doubleday level. Third and fourth best would be DIME WESTERN and STAR WESTERN and some feel they were the best westerns published by Popular Publications.

   We now live in a era that has no western short fiction magazine and this is hard to believe when we look back to the 1930′s and 1940′s when the newsstands groaned under the weight of these titles.

   There were many interesting western writers and some of my favorites are Luke Short, W.C. Tuttle, and Walt Coburn. Coburn had a drinking problem and this showed in some of his work but when he was feeling good and sober, he was one of the best because he grew up on a working cowboy’s ranch and knew how the men dressed, talked, and rode. Black Dog Books will soon be publishing a collection of Coburn’s fiction from WESTERN STORY. Keep an eye out for BULLETS IN THE BLACK by Walt Coburn. Introduction by the great James Reasoner.

   My old friends of 20 or 30 years ago would have said that I have committed sacrilege by not including Max Brand. Max Brand collectors used to be all over the place at Pulpcon, collecting the pulps, binding the stories into home made books, writing articles and talking about him. In fact, if they were still alive I would not dare say anything negative about Brand. Not if I wanted to keep their friendship. They loved Max Brand and for over 50 years I’ve tried to love him also. Some of his work I like and some I hate. I now would have to say that Max Brand wrote too much and too fast and that’s going to hurt him as far as being remembered.

   The Second panel was on Saturday night and discussed Hammett, BLACK MASK, and the Detective Pulps. Moderated by John Wooley along with such experts as Ed Hulse, Digges La Touche, and Bob Weinberg. I was so jealous about not being on this panel that I tried to pick a fight with Digges by yelling at him, “So You’re the expert on Earle Stanley Gardner!”. But I didn’t have enough to drink to be drunk enough, so they ignored me.

   Bob Weinberg did make one interesting statement about the cover art of DIME DETECTIVE being better than the covers of BLACK MASK in the 1930′s. Maybe the late thirties yes, but when Paul Herman, another BLACK MASK art collector, and I heard this, we started muttering that though we love and have covers from DIME DETECTIVE, the early 1930′s covers of BLACK MASK are amazing. Joe Shaw made sure the cover artist captured the tough, hardboiled, atmosphere of the magazine.

   The funny thing is that someone told Bob Weinberg about my disagreeing with him. Later on, he approached me and told me I was wrong, and how could I say such a thing, etc. But this just shows why Bob and Paul and I, are pulp art collectors. To collect cover art you must be opinionated and passionate about the subject. Otherwise you don’t collect original art at all.

   The program book, which is compiled and edited by Tom Roberts, is excellent. About 50 pages on the detective pulps, another 50 pages on the western pulps, and 50 pages on art and film. I’m certain you can get a copy from Black Dog Books.

   On Sunday, I talked with Doug Ellis about the attendance. He said they broke 500 for the first time ever (the most the old Pulpcon ever had was 300) and had 150 dealer’s tables. I spent the entire three days limping around the room and the place was always busy. The old Pulpcon used to have periods where it looked deserted but you don’t see this at Windy City or Pulpfest.

   So, on Monday morning, in a steady rain, we just barely crammed in all our treasures into the great white van. There were a couple times I almost said to stop the van, so I could get out, but we made it back to Morristown in about 14 hours. I was so exhausted that I wondered if I could make it to the car for the ride back to Trenton. We transferred all the boxes to Digges’ car and were ready to go. I told myself, look I just made 14 hours, I can make another hour or so. Then Digges told me the car battery was dead and the car would not start.

   At this point the details are a sort of blur for me. I remember standing in the dark and thinking what now? If it was up to me, I’d still be standing there. Fortunately Ed Hulse’s sister let us come into her house even though it was late and gave us coffee. She even called her Triple A and had them jump start the car. So off we finally went.

   Now the big question is will I be able to make to Pulpfest, August 7, 2014? Collectors, you better believe it!

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.

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   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!

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   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.

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   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).

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   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.

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   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.

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   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!

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