Rediscovered: Arkham House Ephemera Back on the Block

In the last month or so bidding on items of Arkham House ephemera on eBay has been hot and heavy. The other day I popped a note to my ephemera collecting bud John D. Haefele and reported: “To my surprise the Item on the block today — no. 82 — roped in $127.50 (we’re rich!).”

The item number refers to my list of Classic Arkham ephemera in Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine back in October 2002. No. 82 is a one page announcement for the then new little magazine The Arkham Collector (but at least it features printing on both sides).

I didn’t jump in with a bid, because I have it — and in better condition than the one offered. (Though truth to tell, I’m not that picky about condition — with the ephemera, you take what you can find, and I actually kind of like the ones marked up by Derleth at Arkham or even annotated by the individual collectors of yesteryear. I say as much in Firsts.)

Haefele responded to the news: “That’s amazing — ridiculous actually — thankfully I have one that came with my subscription to the Arkham Collector that began with the first issue. If my notes are correct, this insert first appeared as part of the Collector bundle beginning with the second issue — sent then to everybody — after that only to new purchasers that were starting with a later issue.”

Another Item just went on the block (No. 83 if you want to check) — blurbed as “uncommon,” but I don’t know. I’ve got FIVE copies. I wonder how many Haefele has?

All the action prompted a prowl through my holdings again, where I surprised myself discovering I have two of Item 68 (the 25th anniversary booklet) and three of Item 74. I knew I had one each, somehow had never marked down the dupes.

I even got up enough steam to reread Haefele’s recent Firsts article on the Modern Ephemera and look through that stuff, too.

I’d half-forgotten the page plugging Frank Belknap Long’s biography of Lovecraft, which I got from Harry O. Morris Jr. of Nyctalops fame. The Classic Era stuff that came from HOM is especially appealing, because he kept the various Items inside the original envelopes that Derleth sent them in. Very cool.

I thought some of you might like a look at the Long Item. You won’t find it on Haefele’s checklist of the Modern Ephemera, because it is not a piece of official in-house Arkham publicity. Looks to be something Long threw together himself to promote the book for the release in 1975. Haefele covers the saga of that title’s delays and problems in his article.

I guess — if you’re ambitious, or merely crazy — you could begin a collection of such things, side-promos from Arkham authors. I know Donald Sidney-Fryer did a bookmark to celebrate the release of his 1971 volume Songs and Sonnets Atlantean.

That’s two.

How many more?

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Sinister Cinema: An Oscar-Winning Pulp Reader

Pulps in the Movies. On Sale Every Wednesday. Brought to you by that expert pulp hound John Locke.

Take it away, John:

Who knew you could win an Oscar for reading a pulp mag on screen?

But here is Tatum O’Neal doing exactly that in Paper Moon (1973), playing Addie while con-man Moses Pray (played by Tatum’s real-life father Ryan O’Neal) — not having a pulp of his own — looks on, bored.

Tatum, who was ten, is still the youngest person ever to win an Oscar.

The pulp is the December 1931 Clues, with a cover by Wesso. Addie appears to be reading “The Better Half,” a short story by crime-fiction writer Milo Ray Phelps.

The screen story is set in 1936, so, for us purists the use of a 1931 magazine totally destroys the willing suspension of disbelief.

But there’s no arguing with the Academy.

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Two-Gun Bob: A Probable Outline

Kevin Cook was moping about his vast library, wondering what might make a nice offering before the public for March 10 — and he found something connected to an event 84 years ago today. Spotting the John Hancock of P. Schuyler Miller, a vestigial nerve twanged in his ancestral memory.

And he saw:

P. Schuyler Miller (1912-1974) is probably best remembered today for his book reviews for Astounding Science Fiction/Analog from 1945 until his death, but he was already a professional author from 1930 onward. The Titan — inscription below — is a collection of his best science fiction short stories.

But for us Robert E. Howard fans, Miller is known as the co-author, with John D. Clark, of “A Probable Outline of Conan’s Career.” The original draft of that outline was sent to Howard in Cross Plains, Texas.

Howard’s March 10, 1936 reply to Miller provides the most background information regarding Conan that we have directly from Howard himself. Was it a good thing that the outline was written so that Howard provided so much background for Conan?

Yes and no.

The information is interesting to anyone captivated by Howard’s creation of the Hyborian Age and Conan’s world.

But, and it’s big but, I believe that the revised outline first published in 1938 in The Hyborian Age was the very impetus for L. Sprague de Camp to fashion his ridiculous idea of “The Conan Saga,” and together with Lin Carter to decide to write novels “filling in the blanks within the outline.”

Who would guess that such an innocuous fan gesture would lead to such terrible results?  

Without the very idea of the outline in his head, de Camp might have just edited an eight book Lancer series with the original Howard tales, he and Carter only completing the Conan fragments that REH left at his death — and not have had any thoughts about “blank” spaces that had to be filled in.

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Frisco Beat: Portable Storage Three

Bill Breiding seems to have slipped into a fanac groove, just Pubbing His Ish under the title Portable Storage Three.

Five bucks if you don’t get it for the usual — actually a good deal these days, because he’s piled up over 170 pages of material.

Bill even has a Theme: San Francisco. Packed with memoirs from people who used to live in The City, people hanging on by a thread, people who only passed through. . . . Chunks of description on movie theatres and bookstores that no longer exist, how various neighborhoods have changed and are changing again.

A section on Chinatown movie houses reminded me I already did that topic, in the essay “The Shadow of the Dragon,” now in the eBook The Dark Barbarian That Towers Over All. Main subject: Robert E. Howard and Bruce Lee, but how could I not go into my researches in The Great Star, The Pagoda. . . .

If you like San Francisco as a subject, honest, it’s pretty interesting stuff. Or you can just skim for the good bits, like if you wanted to go to a pool party at Robert Silverberg’s house you had to go in naked.

If you recall, I did a tidbit for Portable Storage Two, and return this round with the beginning of a review of Donald Sidney-Fryer’s autobiography Hobgoblin Apollo. I’m thinking I’ll do the review as a triptych, two smaller panels on either side of the larger review block.

If you’re standing in front of the triptych, this piece is the panel to your left, and of course covers the part of his life when DSF lived in San Francisco.

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Sinister Cinema: Cagney Kills Time with Otis Adelbert Kline

For his previous Pulps in the Movies post, John Locke spotlighted a flick starring James Cagney. All well and good, but Jimmy wasn’t the guy holding a pulp in that one.

Did Jimmy himself ever read a pulp in a motion picture, you might ask.

Come on, spill with the dope. Did he?

John snappy-patters an answer:

Here’s Cagney on a train reading the January 4, 1930 Argosy. He appears to be absorbed in the third installment of Otis Adelbert Kline’s Maza of the Moon (no relation to ERB’s The Moon Maid, of course).

Standing by, with other things on his mind, is co-star Edward G. Robinson.

The film Smart Money was released on July 11, 1931, so it’s unlikely that the prop department snagged the pulp fresh off the newsstand. If they didn’t have it in their inventory of useful objects, they could easily have bought it for half-price (5¢) from any bookshop that carried used magazines.

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Hammett: “A Fast-Moving Gripping Mystery Yarn”

The pulp expert John Locke was just telling me he got his hands on a trove of Photoplay issues from the 1930s, and figured everyone would like to see how the trade mag blurbed the very first movie version of Sam Spade’s big case.

Whoever knocked out the review liked the flick a lot more than most people do — but it offends the local Shaolin Temple that the anonymous bozo doesn’t even mention Dwight Frye’s turn as Wilmer. Come on!

“Here’s a review of the 1931 Maltese Falcon,” John reports. “Nothing earth-shaking, but it’s a nice bit of ephemera not to be found in Layman’s Discovering The Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade.”

And in the event you have trouble reading from the image, John sends along the text of the review:


ARE you one of those who delight in a fast-moving gripping mystery yarn? Does your spine tingle in response to the clever machinations of the screen detective?

Then this picture is your dish, and you’ll love it. See if you can untangle the mystery before the last reel. It’s a great game.

Ostensibly, this is a starring picture for Bebe Daniels, but her part isn’t one, two, four, compared to that handed Mr. Ricardo Cortez, the sleek young gentleman who is now doing the best screen work of his career. What a performance Cortez gives in this picture, playing the demon detective who is also a first-rate Don Juan.

The story, made from the well-known novel of the same name, concerns the desire of several people to possess a jewel-encrusted statuette of an enameled falcon, worth fabulous sums. Cortez is the lad who turns the trick.

Bebe does excellent work in a part that doesn’t give her nearly enough elbow-room. Cortez, as we’ve said, is thoroughly fine, and good helping performances are given by Una Merkel, Dudley Digges and Otto Matiesen.

This is as fine a piece of film mystery — with chills and thrills — as the screens have held in some months. You’ll like it, you mystery fans!

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Rediscovered: Belknapius Comicbookmanius

The other day we ran a 1946 inscription from Frank Belknap Long — Young Belknapius of Lovecraft Circle fame — in a copy of his first release from Arkham House, The Hounds of Tindalos.

But it turns out there is more to that story, and Steven Rowe dropped me a note with the info:

“The autographed book is interesting,” Steven said, “but it’s also worth noting that Richard Hughes, who the book is signed to, was Long’s editor at ACG Comics, when Long wrote stories for Adventures Into the Unknown #1 Fall 1948.

“Hughes had been editor for Ned Pines’ comic book line, where he also wrote many of the stories. It is not known if Long wrote anything for Hughes prior to 1948.”

The fact that Long had done some comic book work had slipped from my active memory (I’m not that big a fan of FBL’s writing), but his pal and fellow Lovecraft Circle stalwart Don Wandrei also did some comic scripting — I did a little note on the subject in an early issue of Studies in Weird Fiction. And a few writers more associated with comics — Gardner F. Fox, for one — also did some prose fiction for the pulps. Fox even cracked Weird Tales, where the Lovecraft Circle made its name. (I think of Fox as an example because I always liked his scripts — Hawkman, for one — and because a recent biography has brought him back onstage.)

Reminds me of the conversation I once had on the pulps transitioning over to comics with Mike Friedrich — from the Pulp Jungle to the Comic Book Jungle.

But now the idle thought comes up that if Lovecraft himself hadn’t died in 1937, just as the comic book medium was forming, would there have been any chance his pals Long and Wandrei might have dragged him into doing a little something?

No, probably not.

Then again. . . .

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Rediscovered: Stilson to Davis

You might be wondering what sort of correspondence Charles B. Stilson — author of Polaris — of the Snows — engaged in 96 years ago today.

Or perhaps the thought hadn’t crossed your mind.

In either case, the noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook is here with an archival sampling from his vast holdings, offering a look at “an exchange of letters between Stilson and Bob Davis regarding book publication of ‘The Black Wolf of Picardy,’ originally serialized in Argosy from June 15-July 20, 1918.

“The same time that Stilson was writing his lost race novels for All-Story he was separately writing a series of historical novels for Argosy.

“Following these letters the novel was indeed published by G. Howard Watt in 1924 under the title of The Ace of Blades. The front cover as above.

“The ‘RHD’ initials for Davis’ name represents his full name of Robert Hobart Davis.”

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Hammett: #MeToo

Evan Lewis keeps poking around in the newsprint of yesteryear, digging up a little of this and more of that on Hammett — a writer who became enough of a celebrity in Hollywood to grab continual coverage, once he made his name.

Evan’s post yesterday is worth checking out. Couldn’t be more timely, with Cosby locked up and Weinstein also headed for the slammer.

Yes, I refer to the notorious lawsuit where actress Elise De Viane accused Hammett of beating her up. Kind of in the same ballpark. Surf over to Evan’s blog and read some of the coverage, if interested.

Glancing over the articles — the incident isn’t news, it’s in all the biographies — I found this especially pointed and yet droll comment from the July 7 1932 Manhattan Kansas Republic: “Probably he was only studying her reaction and gathering material for a modern novel.”

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Sinister Cinema: Taxi!

For the sixth adventurous outing into his new series Pulps in the Movies, John Locke picks up on one of those reliable newsstand scenes he’s mentioned.

Too bad Cagney himself isn’t killing time in the frame, but for movie buffs I think the spotlighted actor will do just fine: an uncredited Nat Pendleton, whose mug any Hammett fan ought to know from his role as Inspector John Guild in the Thin Man series.

Take it away, John:

Here’s a scene from Taxi!, a 1931 Jimmy Cagney film. I had a hunch that this streetwise story would cough up some pulp and, sure enough, I didn’t have to wait long.

This newsstand shot appeared just after the six-minute mark.

The image occurs early in the shot. Within moments, another character enters the scene, obscures the view, and the camera rises, losing the logos along the bottom row: All-Story Love, Sport Story Magazine, and Flying Aces.

Pulps were often used as cheap sight gags that upended audience expectations: the nice little old lady is reading a grisly murder story mag, or the tough old buzzard is reading a romance pulp.

The usage here seems to fit that pattern.

The film is set in New York City, the world’s most built-up metropolis, but the hardboiled city boys dream of the wide-open spaces of the West, represented by western pulps being featured on the stand.

Both the Far West Stories and Triple-X Western are the October 1931 issues, which went on sale in September. The film’s earliest release was in the UK on December 29, 1931. All of which probably means that the prop department bought the magazines fresh off the newsstand just before the scene was shot.

Films traveled from set to theater a lot faster in those days, a point further confirmed by the movie’s semi-coherent plot.

But you can’t go wrong with Cagney.

And thanks as always to Galactic Central for providing their extensive galleries of cover images, without which the pulps in these movies would be really, really hard to identify.

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