Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pulp Detective Magazines

Wild Bride Gets Her Fill...of Murder
by Robert A. Waters

About a year ago, I found a box of 50 pulp magazines at a yard sale. The seller was asking only $ 4.00 for the whole box so I paid her and rushed away before she could change her mind. In the 1970s and 1980s, I would sometimes buy True Detective, Detective Dragnet, Inside Detective, and Official Detective. Because of the racy pictures and the screaming titles, I always felt a little sleazy going to the counter to pay--it didn’t help when my wife would whisper, “The cashier’s going to think you’re a serial killer.” But there really were some great true crime stories inside those blood-drenched covers.

From the time the first pulps were published in the 1890s, they were among the most popular form of entertainment in America. For ten cents (and later, two bits), readers could escape from world wars and a Depression and lose themselves in romance, adventure, science fiction, crime, fantasy, and horror. The magazines were popular in hobo jungles and homeless camps and among blue collar workers. No member of the reigning literati would be caught dead with a copy, of course, but the pulps and their authors are remembered today while many of the best-sellers of the time are well-forgotten.

Some of the world's finest writers worked for the pulps. Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan), Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch (Psycho), Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), and Tennessee Williams were just a few of the authors who used the pulps to survive the hard years.

After decades of languishing as a red-haired step-child in the world of literature and art, the magazines have come into their own. Now they’re studied in universities and collectors pay high prices for rare issues.

The true detective magazines were known for their colorful titles: “Bedsheet Strangling of the Nude Nymph”, “Who Deep-Sixed the Naked Blonde?”, and “Hooker Was Butchered Like a Pig” are just three examples.

Unfortunately, the detective pulps no longer exist. I bought my last copy sometime in the mid-1990s (much to the relief of my wife), although they may have staggered along for a few more years. Television and the Internet and rising costs dealt the death-knell to the pulps.

Here are a few of my favorite titles from the world of pulp.

“The Pretty Farm Girl Practiced Pest Control by Plugging Her Lover.”

“Tale of the Ozark Maniacs.”

“A Gloved Rapist Stalked the Streets of ‘Strangle Town’.”

“Strangled Nude on the Ninth Green.”

“15 Minutes of Murder Cooled Mr. Hormones.”

1 comment:

Phillip said...

Like you, I'm a fan of pulps and true crime.

I was still able to find true crime magazines until the early 2000's. Their sister magazines - the true romance types - are still around.

I's nearly lost all hope till I ran across "True Detective" at the bookstore this past February.

It's the British version, but it always has at least two American based stories in it. Their part of the "True Crime Library" magazines.

And there is still that sleazy thrill of buying one - especially in an upscale neighbourhood!