Sinister Cinema: Godfather, Meet the Rio Kid

Pulps in the Movies. On Sale Every Wednesday.

Some might fear to spot woodpulp fiction mags in one of the most beloved — and prestigious — movies of all time. Oscar winner for Best Picture. Best Director. Among others.

But not our doughty correspondent John Locke.

He spots a pulp, he reports a pulp — and he tells it like it is:

Godfather II (1974) featured extensive sequences showing how young Vito Corleone became the Don (the Mafia title, not the Herron, though the two may be closely related).

The year was 1917.

This shot follows Vito’s assassination of Don Fanucci, the Black Hand boss who was the reigning parasite of Little Italy. Note how smartly dressed Vito (Robert De Niro, middle) is now, a clear contrast to his shabby workman’s clothes of previous scenes. He’s cashing in on the power of fear.

Vito passes a newsstand with a sullen landlord who’s just wilted before the suggestion he cut the rent of a poor widowed tenant.

Well, this is embarrassing — not the landlord’s failure to withstand the polite pressure of the dangerous new Don, that is, but the contents of the newsstand.

Here at Pulps in the Movies, we’re enslaved to a high level of exactitude.

One of Godfather II’s six Oscars was for Best Art Direction–Set Decoration.

And now we must give this Oscar an asterisk it can’t refuse.

A column of pulps, the left row, adorns the newsstand. Adventure (top), began in 1910, but the issue on display is dated February 1945. The Rio Kid Western (middle) ran from 1939-53, but this issue is for September 1945. (We’re stumped on the western pulp closer to the bottom, though it looks like another 1940s issue. Can anyone help?)

These issues were on sale roughly when Michael Corleone returned from WWII, where The Godfather (1972) begins.

(There’s a second magazine below Adventure. I have no idea what it is. It could even be a dime novel. The fifth mag at the bottom of the stack — impossible to make out with what’s showing. As for the larger mag on the right, they seem to have obscured the logo. It may be a McClure’s, a woman’s mag at that time, but I couldn’t find a matching cover. Clearly mock-ups, given the multiple copies. If you look at the copy the reader is holding, it appears to have a stiffer cover than an actual magazine.)

No doubt, these particular pulps were chosen because their yellow backgrounds pop off the screen better than earlier pulps. Authentic 1917 covers were printed with muted, often dull, colors.

In 1977, Harry Steeger, founder of Popular Publications, who published the 1945 Adventure, was asked about pulp cover colors. His answer:

“There were certain colors and color combinations used on covers which attracted buyers more than other colors. I made a complete study in considerable depth of every color in the artist’s palette. I made all the various combinations possible and then studied them at various distances to note and study the eye appeal. In addition to this, I kept a newsstand in my office and arranged covers on the newsstand to see which ones stood out above the others. This study went on year after year. I became aware of the fact, for instance, that the hot colors like reds and yellows appealed to men, whereas the cooler colors like the greens and the blues and the pastel colors appealed more to women. The magazine covers were planned accordingly.”

Thus, Steeger created the other Yellow Peril in the pulps, a ridiculous proliferation of yellow-background pulp covers.

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Frisco Beat: Daniel Woodrell, Resident

Terry Zobeck just happened across an article on Hammett and a couple of New Guy writers (new compared to Hammett, at least) in which they eat in John’s Grill, visit Burritt alley — the things one does in Frisco.

For me the most interesting moment was learning that Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone (star turn vehicle for JLaw), was once a resident of Sam Spade’s burg.

Very light on the info, though. No address. No neighborhood. No year dates.

Still, interesting to know. I’ll insert the factoid in my Literary San Francisco file.

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Rediscovered: Another Derleth Review Copy

Inspired by looking over the Paul Dobish list of Arkham House review slips yesterday, Arkham and August Derleth savant John D. Haefele sent in an image of a related item for your instruction and amusement.

Check out the way the Ben Abramson company dealt out the info in a review copy of Derleth’s 1945 H. P. L.: A Memoir.

Not a review slip but a rubber stamp, with the pub date and price left blank to be filled in by hand.

No, not Arkham, but given the authorship of Derleth and the subject matter, pretty damn close.

I’d keep it with my Arkham stash.

“I imagine,” Haefele says, “that the Abramson edition of Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature was done in similar fashion.”

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The Paul Dobish Jr Collection of Arkham House Review Slips

If you recall my essay on Arkham House ephemera in Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine back in October 2002, I wrapped it up by mentioning that much other ephemera existed than just the stock lists and brochures I concentrated my attention on. August Derleth ordered Arkham House matchbooks to spread around — those must be more ephemeral than the ephemera!

And Paul Dobish Jr made a plea for recognition of the review slips that went out with review copies from Derleth’s various imprints. Yes, sure, those items are interesting, but I cut the Gordian Knot by saying that I would “regard the review slips as desirable extras in the actual review copies, parts of a book, like the dustjacket.”

I still think of the review slips that way, and Paul still wants collectors to know about them, so we cut a deal: I told him, Put together a list and I’ll put it up on the net. See if it stirs up any further info.

The main list below consists of items Paul has in his personal collection — like the legendary The Phil Mays Collection of Arkham House Ephemerae from 1985 consisted only of items Mays had assembled, and nothing more.

But I’m sure Paul would be interested in knowing of any items he doesn’t have to hand. I imagine, too, he’s open to buying any strays. I’ll forward the info.

Paul writes, “I suspect many others exist.”

And now, Paul Dobish Jr with an Intro:

I have been seeking the review slips/letters for a long time. I never found a significant “batch” of them. Nearly every example that I have is the result of a “one-off” purchase, usually accompanying a “regular” copy of the book, not one of the formal plastic comb-bound style advance/proof copies of the books, which often had a review slip affixed to them. 

For regular trade copies of the books that went out for review purposes, the slips were typically laid in or sometimes tipped-in to the front free endpaper. This list includes those loose slips as well as slips that I only have affixed to proofs of the books.

I have not distinguished nor annotated which slips are entirely printed and which had the book specifics — title, author, publication date, price — typed on review “blanks” of the period.

“Letter” means the generic type, pre-printed in multiples.  Not individualized correspondence, done only as a single copy. An example shown here comes with E. Hoffmann Price’s The Book of the Dead.

Sizes of the slips varied, but generally the slips were roughly from 3.5″ to 4″ wide x 4.5″ to 5″ tall — save that the Lellenberg, one of the last books to date released under the imprint of Arkham House, is a bit larger at roughly 4.25″ x 5.5″.

The later review slips and letters seem to have been done on white paper (again, the Lellenberg being an exception). As can be seen in the scans, at least some of the earlier slips were done on variously colored paper.

I do not know:

1. how many others exist

2. which was the first title to have one

3. which titles — if any — did not have one (although a few likely “suspects” come to mind).

As with advance/proof copies of the books themselves, generally speaking the slips from the 1970s/1980s seem to be the easiest to obtain. 

But all examples are scarce/rare.

I once passed on an example of ALWAYS COMES EVENING paired with the book at $1500.  (I asked, but the seller would not split up the pairing.)

And a collector once told me that he had a slip for HORNBOOK FOR WITCHES.  (How I wish that I had that one!)

NB: SELECTED LETTERS OF CLARK ASHTON SMITH and CAVE OF A THOUSAND TALES share a single physical review letter, of which I only have one copy.

NB: The two printings of SELECTED LETTERS [III] 1929-1931 each have
their own separate slip/letter.

No pretense of anything remotely like completeness is suggested.

I strongly suspect that most of the books published by Derleth “missing” from this list also had review slips/letters. 

Arkham House / M&M review slips/letters:

Bear: THE WIND FROM A BURNING WOMAN [NB: slip only on a comb-bound proof]


Bishop: BLOODED ON ARACHNE [NB: slip only on a comb-bound proof]

Bishop: ONE WINTER IN EDEN [slip]

Bishop: WHO MADE STEVIE CRYE? [slip]

Blaylock: LORD KELVIN’S MACHINE [slip]

Bloch: FLOWERS FROM THE MOON AND OTHER LUNACIES [letter]

Bond: THE FAR SIDE OF NOWHERE [letter]

Bond: NIGHTMARES AND DAYDREAMS [slip]

Bowen: KECKSIES AND OTHER TWILIGHT TALES [slip]

Brennan: STORIES OF DARKNESS AND DREAD [slip]

Campbell: ALONE WITH THE HORRORS [slip]

Campbell: THE HEIGHT OF THE SCREAM [slip]


Campbell: NEW TALES OF THE CTHULHU [NB: slip only on a comb-bound proof]

Cannon: LOVECRAFT REMEMBERED [slip]

Carter: DREAMS FROM R’LYEH [slip]

Case: THE THIRD GRAVE [slip]

Coppard: FEARFUL PLEASURES [slip]

Copper: FROM EVIL’S PILLOW [slip]

Copper: NECROPOLIS [first printing] [slip]

Counselman: HALF IN SHADOW [slip]

Derleth: HARRIGAN’S FILE [slip]

Derleth: IN RE: SHERLOCK HOLMES [slip]

Derleth: NEW HORIZONS: YESTERDAY’S PORTRAITS OF TOMORROW [slip]

Derleth: THE SOLAR PONS OMNIBUS [slip]

Derleth: WISCONSIN MURDERS [slip]

Durbin: DRAGONFLY [letter]

Grant: TALES FROM THE NIGHTSIDE [slip]

Harvey: THE CLEANSING [letter]

[Joshi, as editor] see under: Lovecraft MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS

Joshi: SIXTY YEARS OF ARKHAM HOUSE [letter]

Kessel: MEETING IN INFINITY [slip]


Kirk: WATCHERS AT THE STRAIT GATE [NB: slip only on a comb-bound proof]

Kress: THE ALIENS OF EARTH [slip]

Lawrence: NUMBER SEVEN QUEER STREET [slip]

Le Fanu: THE PURCELL PAPERS [slip]

Lellenberg: BAKER STREET IRREGULAR [slip]

Long: HOWARD PHILLIPS LOVECRAFT: DREAMER ON THE NIGHT SIDE [slip]

Long: IN MAYAN SPENDOR [slip]

Lovecraft: AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS [Corrected fifth printing] [slip]

Lovecraft: THE DUNWICH HORROR AND OTHERS [Corrected sixth printing] [NB: slip only on a comb-bound proof]

Lovecraft [edited by Joshi]: MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS [slip]

Lovecraft: SELECTED LETTERS [III] 1929-1931 [first printing] [slip]

Lovecraft: SELECTED LETTERS [III] 1929-1931 [second printing] [letter]

Lovecraft: SELECTED LETTERS [IV] 1932-1934 [slip]

Lovecraft: SELECTED LETTERS [V] 1934-1937 [slip]

Lovecraft: THE SHUTTERED ROOM & OTHER PIECES [slip]

Lovecraft: SOMETHING ABOUT CATS [slip]

Lovecraft / Derleth: THE SURVIVOR AND OTHERS [slip]

Lumley: BENEATH THE MOORS [slip]

Lupoff: LOVECRAFT’S BOOK [slip]

MacLeod: VOYAGES BY STARLIGHT [letter]

Malzberg: IN THE STONE HOUSE [letter]

Price: BOOK OF THE DEAD: FRIENDS OF YESERYEAR: FICTIONEERS & OTHERS [letter]

Ruber: ARKHAM’S MASTERS OF HORROR [letter]

Russ: THE ZANZIBAR CAT [slip]

Schultz/Conners: SELECTED LETTERS OF CLARK ASHTON SMITH [letter: NB:
this title combined with Thomas’ CAVE OF A THOUSAND
TALES: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HUGH B. CAVE]

Shea: POLYPHEMUS [slip]

Shepard: THE JAGUAR HUNTER [first printing] [slip]

Smith: THE BLACK BOOK [slip]

Smith: POEMS IN PROSE [slip]

Smith: A RENDEZVOUS IN AVEROIGNE [first printing] [slip]

Smith: SELECTED LETTERS OF CLARK ASHTON SMITH [NB: listed above under:
Schultz/Conners rather than under: Smith]

Smith: SELECTED POEMS [slip]

Smith: TALES OF SCIENCE AND SORCERY [slip]

Starrett: THE QUICK AND THE DEAD [slip]

Sterling: CRYSTAL EXPRESS [slip]

Swanwick: GRAVITY’S ANGELS [slip]

Thomas: CAVE OF A THOUSAND TALES: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HUGH B. CAVE
[letter: NB: this title combined with Schultz/Conners:
SELECTED LETTERS OF CLARK ASHTON SMITH]

Tiptree: TALES OF THE QUINTANA [NB: slip only on a comb-bound proof]

Turner: CTHULHU 2000 [slip]

Walter: IN THE MIST AND OTHER UNCANNY ENCOUNTERS [slip]

Wandrei: POEMS FOR MIDNIGHT [slip]

Wilson: THE MIND PARASITES [slip]

===

Addendum I: Stanton & Lee review slips:

Derleth: SAC PRAIRIE PEOPLE [slip]

======================================================================

Addendum II: Additional Review slips:

This small list consists of additional slips/letters reported to exist — some I have seen images of:

Brennan: NIGHTMARE NEED [slip]

Drake: HORNBOOK FOR WITCHES [slip]

Howard: ALWAYS COMES EVENING [slip]

Lovecraft: DAGON: AND OTHER MACABRE TALES [1st printing] [slip]

Lovecraft: DAGON: AND OTHER MACABRE TALES [1986 printing] [slip, on a comb-bound proof]

Lovecraft: THE DARK BROTHERHOOD [slip]

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Death Lit: Manchette Under Review

My review of the latest translation from French noir master Jean-Patrick Manchette — No Room at the Morgue — recently popped at PW.

Here’s the really good news — New York Review Books lined up another translator to work on the Manchette oeuvre. For years now it’s been either Donald Nicholson-Smith or James Brook, and I’m not complaining about their product — between them they made Manchette one of my all-time favorite noir writers. But with Alyson Waters added to the mix, it is possible they might translate the rest of Manchette’s novels in my lifetime — I honestly didn’t think it would happen. They might even be able to put his criticism and reviews, such as Chroniques, into my vernacular.

Manchette is legendary for writing ten crime novels and then quitting after he wrote his obvious masterpiece, The Prone Gunman.

But then he made a comeback to write a decades-spanning saga of assassins and spies, supposed to go on book after book. Manchette didn’t quite get the opening finished before his death. That novel-length fragment appeared under the title Ivory Pearl.

Of the previous ten novels, six now have seen American print.

Four left.

I’m hanging on. I can make it, I can make it.

Go, New York Review Books, go!

While the top half of my No Room at the Morgue review presents the info points I sketched in, the wordage is switched up to the point I normally wouldn’t link to it. However, the last couple of sentences are pretty good, and those are mine.

If you’re interested, you’ll find it in the list of Manchette reviews in PW that follows, presented in order of American publication. Surfing around their site, I could not find a review for Nada, so I’ll cover that one on These Mean Streets in the next day or two.

If PW reviewed it, it wasn’t me at the keys.

Of the other reviews, I did all but one — acknowledging whatever editorial input tweaked a few words here or there:

Three to Kill

The Prone Gunman

Fatale

The Mad and the Bad

Nada

No Room at the Morgue

and

Ivory Pearl

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Sinister Cinema: Twentieth Century Hot Spot

Pulps in the Movies!

On Sale Every Wednesday!

I wonder what the fiction mag and film impresario John Locke has for us today. . . .

Let’s find out:

Here in 1934’s great comedy, Twentieth Century, a private investigator is forced to take a call while reading Dime Detective Magazine. He appears to be very near the end of Frederick Nebel’s latest Cardigan story, “Hot Spot.”

No wonder he looks annoyed.

The pulp is dated March 1, 1934, and the film premiered in New York City on May 3, so you know it was the latest issue when they filmed it.

John Newton Howitt’s great cover reveals the literal underworld — New York’s crime-infested sewers.

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Rediscovered: Place of Hawks — a.k.a. Arkham House

Apparently my post the other day on August Derleth and his home Place of Hawks set off a little brush-fire on Facebook.

The main point I was disputing was that Derleth lived in a “log cabin” in Wisconsin, and that his custom-made castle dubbed Place of Hawks was not a log cabin — unless somehow in your brain you think it is.

John D. Haefele writes to let me know that “People are sharing your recent blog about Derleth on Facebook,” but that “they are posting inadequate photo-postcards they happen to have with Place of Hawks in the background to show the home Aug had built” — which is more or less what I did. I figured anyone ought to be able to determine from the sheer scale of the building in the image I used that it was not what anyone would think of as a “log cabin.”

A ski lodge, sure — maybe a hunting lodge from which you might head out to pursue the most dangerous game.

“Here is a much better snap you should post as a follow-up of your own,” Haefele adds, “and it even has a good view of the original roof. For some reason I note ‘1949’ on my postcard, but the photo itself looks to be earlier . . . .”

Haefele is the expert on Derleth and his publishing firm Arkham House. And Place of Hawks housed both Derleth and the press he massaged into myth.

So, what do you think?

Log cabin or not log cabin?

You decide.  

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Hammett: Birthday 126

Yeah, 126 years ago today Samuel Dashiell Hammett began life as a fat baby, and lived that life as a thin man. Pinkerton’s detective. Pulp writer in San Francisco. Hollywood. Ended up in New York.

You probably know the outline.

But if you don’t, Brian Wallace found an article in a 2002 issue of The New Yorker that goes over the ground, using the 2001 publication of Hammett’s Crime Stories from the Library of America as the excuse.

I’m loathe to link to it because of the instant barrage of banner ads, but if you’re willing to tough it out, then it’s your problem and not mine.

Brian specifically pointed out this little section:

The Library of America’s new Hammett collection, “Crime Stories and Other Writings,” contains a poignant textual note explaining that one of the stories could not be taken from Hammett’s original version because no copies of the magazine it appeared in still exist. Few are likely to mourn the January, 1928, issue of Mystery Stories, one of about seventy “pulps” then on the market — “pulp” as a category denoted the low quality of the paper, and presumably also of the contents and the readership — but the contrast of this rough extinction with the smooth, acid-free immortality of the volume at hand does point up the cultural irony of Hammett’s career. . . . But the contrast also points up the irony of the sweeping cultural mandate of the Library of America, for, as it turns out, the salvaged story — “This King Business,” printed from a later version — is hardly worth the effort of reading once.

He knew I’d like that because right here on Up and Down These Mean Streets we witnessed Terry Zobeck find a copy of Mystery Stories and go through the textual differences between the original pulp and that “later version.” Terry provided Library of America with the pulp text for a revised third printing of Crime Stories.

Somehow when dealing with topics they’ve barely heard of — such as wood pulp fiction magazines — even the sophisticates come off like backwater rubes.

When the article writer typed

The current collection contains one perfect story — “The Scorched Face,” published in 1925 —which demonstrates how imaginative wit can transform even the crudest material into an exquisite whirring toy, a rococo clock with cops chasing crooks in circles and tumbling forth to chime the hour.

you can tell she has no idea whatsoever that Hammett stole the plot for that one from the Sherlock Holmes yarn “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” — still, sure, it is a hot Continental Op tale.

And not to be too mean to the venerable New Yorker. In 2013 they showed Hammett maintained his clout by using one of the “lost” stories later collected in The Hunter and Other Stories in a “fiction” issue —and nothing in Hunter can touch the best of the Op series gathered in Crime Stories.

I’m thinking if another lost Hammett story turned up today, The New Yorker wouldn’t be loathe to publish it.

One New Yorker to another.

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Sinister Cinema: Holy Spicy Detective, Batman!

Pulps in the Movies. On Sale Every Wednesday.

Sometimes Spicy. Always Hot.

For the nineteenth installment in his series, pulp expert John Locke takes us along on another expedition, where we find a unique sighting of a pulp in the cinematic wild.

Here’s John:

In Chapter 2 of the 1943 serial Batman — “The Bat’s Cave” — Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred wiles away the time reading the October 1940 issue of Spicy Detective. The “spicy” element should be obvious from the cover art—and from the prim Alfred’s startled expression. The content of the stories lived up to the lascivious suggestion of the cover. But only just.

The pulp belonged to a suite of four fiction magazines, the others being Spicy-Adventure, Spicy Mystery, and Spicy Western.

The appearance of a Spicy pulp in Batman is very much an inside joke. Both Culture Publications, which produced the Spicys, and DC Comics, which published Batman, were owned by the same individual: Harry Donenfeld.

(Another crossover: H.J. Ward, who painted the cover to this Spicy Detective — and many other issues of the chain — also painted a famous portrait of DC’s other big star, Superman.)

Because Spicy Detective was an “adult” magazine, and Batman aimed squarely at youngsters, the inside joke is barely discernible in the film. For one, the cover is obscured by shadow. Further, Alfred’s out-loud reading from the magazine reveals a standard spooky mystery. No sex.

But we insiders know what that look on his face really meant.

Note the grandfather clock in the background. It’s the secret entrance to the Bat’s Cave, from which Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson soon emerge to catch Alfred in the act of enjoying his guilty pleasure.

Bruce Wayne holds a “radium gun” that Batman and Robin have just confiscated from an insidious bunch of gangsters.

Just for laughs — and he gets ’em — Bruce zaps a vase on the table in front of Alfred — and the Spicy Detective goes airborne, exposing the risqué interior illustrations to any impressionable youth possessed of super-freeze-frame-sight.

Then Bruce and Dick take turns busting Alfred’s chops. He’s clearly the odd man out in this version of the Batman story:

When Alfred explains that he’s “sharpening his wits” with the detective-story magazine, it’s an extension of the gag for insiders who know that it’s not his wits that are gaining an edge from Spicy Detective. Alfred confirms as much by claiming to have made “a little joke.”

That’s all amusing enough, but this sighting is special for another reason:

It’s our only known appearance of a Spicy pulp on vintage film.

So far.

Ironically, the Spicys were off the market by the time Batman’s 15 weekly chapters were running in the summer of 1943. With the January 1943 issues, the publishers had toned down title and content to become the line of Speed magazines: Speed Detective, Speed Adventure, Speed Mystery, and Speed Western.

Thus the inside gag carried a note of nostalgia.

Or payback.

By the close of the 1930s, many pulps, in addition to the Spicys, had gotten quite daring — as well as offensive to the everyday Alfreds whose eyes and souls were assaulted by the extremes of sex and violence displayed on their local magazine racks — and at child’s-eye level.

In December 1938, a group of Catholic bishops formed the National Organization for Decent Literature to provoke citizens from coast-to-coast into pressuring vendors to take the offensive mags off the newsstands. For the most part, the initiative worked. When the bishops targeted the sex-and-sadism “weird menace” pulps in 1940 — Dime Mystery, Horror Stories, Terror Tales, Mystery Tales, etc. — they died, either through neutered content, outright cancellation, or both.

An entire pulp genre rapidly went extinct.

Except for Spicy Mystery, which remained as the last weird menace pulp standing.

The entire Spicy group motored on, seemingly impervious to censorship. The NODL lamented that the chain could turn a profit after selling thirty percent of the print runs, and thus there wasn’t enough boycotting muscle to bully the Culture boys into obedience.

However, wartime paper (i.e., labor) shortages — rumored through 1942 and introduced on January 1, 1943 — appeared to kill off the Spicys.

The timing is precise but the cause-and-effect less so.

We suppose that the publishers, with a frowned-upon product, feared being elbowed out of the competition for sufficient paper for all their endeavors. Why risk Batman just to be a little racy?

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Rediscovered: Time for Derleth

August Derleth is beginning to get renewed evaluation — and not just from our good pal John D. Haefele.

Just noticed an article by G. W. Thomas that blurbs Derleth’s 132 appearances in the magazine Weird Tales. Provides a list, in order — and reproduces many if not all of the original illustrations. Seeing is believing, right?

Without further checking, my memory tells me that Derleth was the second most prolific contributor to Weird Tales. First, of course, was Seabury Quinn, who knocked out the almost endless stream of stories about occult detective Jules de Grandin, and other yarns. Third, I believe — and you wouldn’t expect it — was none other than Clark Ashton Smith.

The blurbage in the article has a rough spot or two. Haefele mentions, “Actually, I counted 138 appearances in The Unique Magazine. This guy must have missed a legit pseudo.” And Derleth did not live in a “log cabin” in Wisconsin. He and a pal did rent a small shack to use as a writing studio. For a summer.

Or, I suppose you might think of the custom-made home Derleth had built, Place of Hawks, as a log cabin — a GIANT log cabin.

Here’s a postcard Derleth had made up, standing in front of his house. Log cabin or not log cabin? You decide:

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