Pulp magazines reigned for about a quarter of a century as the most popular entertainment medium in America. They were cheaply produced and, during the Great Depression, were blessedly cheap to buy, generally a dime.|
And they were plentiful. After a low-key beginning, when a few magazines displayed their tasteful covers to an appreciative readership, their success spawned countless competitors. The covers became more and more garish, and promised ever greater excitement. Western covers went from an illustration of an Indian gently paddling his canoe to furious cattle stampedes, a huge gang of obviously ferocious savages attacking a defenseless family, and depictions of shootouts in every conceivable locale. Mystery covers went from showing a cop on the beat to villainous thugs tearing the clothes off a helpless young woman (most frequently a generously endowed young blonde) or any other sort of action that promised the reader endless excitement.
And they delivered. Pulp writers knew how to write thrilling stories and books. Many of the best went on to extremely successful careers in book form. Dashiell Hammett wrote most of his stories and novels for the pulps, and he is now recognized as one of the most influential fiction writers of the 20th century. Raymond Chandler, too, wrote stories for the pulps and is frequently conceded to be the great mystery writer of the 20th century.
Pulps became more and more specialized as their numbers increased, soon appealing to fans of jungle stories, science fiction, fantasy, railroad stories, romances, Westerns, Western romances, aviation, the Foreign Legion, engineering, the outdoors, courtrooms, Wall Street, newspapers, firefighters, and so on. Now there is a new book that recalls that Golden Age of the pulp magazines (roughly 1920-1945) with a knowledgeable and nicely written text that covers all the highlights of the major magazines and the major writers, who are sometimes remembered today and, alas, sometimes not.
And there are those fabulous covers! Magnificently produced in Hong Kong, Pulp Culture is a genuine bargain. Here are the Shadow, Max Brand, Talbot Mundy, Erle Stanley Gardner, Black Mask, Sax Rohmer and Fu Manchu, C.S. Forester, and Captain Horatio Hornblower, Doc Savage, the Phantom Detective, and on and on.
For the old codgers among us, this gorgeous book will produce a happy trip down memory lane. Younger readers, eat your heart out. It will show you what you missed in a time of great storytelling that today's television shows can't ever match.
Source: Otto Penzler, Amazon.com
From its origins in the late nineteenth century, when adventure stories reigned, through almost six decades of slinking sleuths, galloping ghouls, nitty-gritty gals, and invincible warriors, the pulp magazine transported readers to new frontiers of the mind. The proving ground for scores of writers and illustrators who went on to achieve great fame, these publications helped popularize authors such as Dashiell Hammett, Ray Bradbury, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Taken collectively, they now provide a panorama of some sixty years of illustration and social commentary. Hailed as "lush" by the New York Times, this is the most comprehensive compilation ever published on the subject. Winner of the "Pop Culture Book of the Year" by the Independent Publisher's Association, it is a must for graphic artists, fiction lovers, and anyone who appreciates the art of pulp fiction's golden age.