EDitorial Comments


Posted in Special Sale on December 5, 2018 @ 5:04 pm

Hey, gang, I’ve just discovered that Amazon is currently selling copies of The Art of the Pulps, which I co-edited with Doug Ellis and the late Bob Weinberg, for just $21.51 — about 40 percent of its original $49.99 suggested retail price. And if you’re an Amazon Prime member you can get it in two days with free shipping. This is a wholesale price, and was roughly what Doug and I paid for extra copies we purchased upon the book’s publication. I don’t think brand-new copies will ever sell any cheaper, so if you’re looking to buy a Christmas present for yourself and don’t already have AotP, now’s the time. I just bought a couple more copies for my own files!


Posted in Murania Press,Upcoming Books on November 29, 2018 @ 11:36 pm

A few particularly lurid magazines hold special places in the brief but storied history of the “weird menace” pulps: those published during the late 1930s by Martin Goodman, whose holdings would soon include the four-colored ancestors of the Marvel Comics empire. Among Goodman’s “Red Circle” group were Mystery Tales, Uncanny Tales, Marvel Tales, and Real Mystery—pulps that reached new heights (or, rather, plumbed new depths) of depravity with their blood-curdling, stomach-churning narratives built around sex and sadism.

Next month Murania Press will release Satan Lives for My Love!, an anthology of salacious, spine-chilling stories culled from the notorious Red Circle horror pulps. Outrageously outré for those late Depression years, these paraphilia-crammed yarns still, some 80 years later, retain their ability to shock even the most jaded readers. The adjectival phrase “envelope-pushing” easily could have been coined to describe the terrorific tales that spilled from the woodpulp pages of these periodicals like entrails from the bellies of their disemboweled victims.

Subscribing to the dictum “sex sells,” Red Circle’s editorial director Robert O. Erisman encouraged his contributors to wallow in licentiousness. This preoccupation with thinly veiled carnality was manifest not only in the company’s weird-menace titles but in its detective pulps and even in Marvel Science Stories, its first science-fiction magazine. Playing up sexual content was a way of distinguishing the line, which attracted second-rare fare because Goodman rarely paid more than a half-cent per word.

Mystery Tales, the first Red Circle weird-menace pulp, started off fairly tame. Like others of its type, the magazine initially published stories in which the threat of sexual violence was always present but rarely carried through. Presumably with Goodman’s knowledge and blessing, Erisman decided to increase its sleaze quotient. Completely throwing off the shackles of good taste, he instructed writers to devote considerable wordage to graphic depictions of torture, almost exclusively inflicted on women. Previously the protagonist’s wife or sweetheart always escaped physical punishment, if only at the last possible second. But by late 1939 all bets were off, and it was not uncommon for female leads to undergo floggings and worse, although the most gruesome fates were reserved for secondary characters.

Red Circle writers trafficked in sexual perversion to a startling degree. The pages of Mystery Tales, Uncanny Tales, and the others teemed with examples of sadism, masochism, necrophilia, and even hints of bestiality. Rapes were never explicitly described, but one needn’t read much between the lines to know it was happening. Young women always made the most alluring victims, and under Erisman their ages dropped precipitously. Sixteen-year-old heroines were not uncommon.

Most yarns were supplied by a small group of contributors—Bruno Fischer, Don Graham, Ray Cummings, Mary Dale Buckner, Arthur J. Burks, Allan K. Echols, and Robert Leslie Bellem—occasionally writing under their own names but also using a battery of house names and pseudonyms.

Satan Lives for My Love! collects the (curdled) cream of this crop: tales skimmed from all four titles, representing the mainstays named above. The 100,000-word collection includes Ed Hulse’s introductory essay “Unholy Jitters: Sex & Sadism in Red Circle’s Horror Pulps,” originally written for Blood ‘n’ Thunder #2 and reprinted several times by popular demand, most recently in The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Sampler. The book’s cover sports a J. W. Scott painting originally used on the July 1939 issue of Mystery Tales.

As high-grade copies of Red Circle horror pulps typically sell to collectors for hundreds of dollars each, this jumbo-sized book’s $25.00 price tag makes it a bargain. If you’ve got a strong heart and a stronger stomach, by all means try Satan Lives for My Love! We guarantee you’ll find it surprising, at the very least.



Holiday-Season Sale Begins Today!

Posted in Murania Press,Special Sale on November 23, 2018 @ 6:18 pm

The biggest, longest sale in Murania Press history begins today, November 23.

Until New Year’s Eve most of our books will be available at a discount of not 20, not 25, but 30 percent off cover price. For obvious reasons we’re excluding our most recent releases, Behind the MaskThose Sexy Serial Queens, and the newly revised Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction. And we’re holding the discount to 20 percent on Flickering Shadows.

If you plan on purchasing our books as Christmas presents and want to receive them before December 24, we strongly advise you to buy sooner rather than later, as increased seasonal demand doubtless will add to the delays our printer is already experiencing. At present it’s taking two weeks for them to print and ship books for us. Most packages are sent from their South Carolina plant via UPS Ground, so customers on the West Coast should add another week for delivery. We regret the long lead time in fulfilling orders, but as stated in a previous post, we’re at the printer’s mercy. Hopefully the steep discount we’re offering will compensate for the lengthier-than-usual wait.

We can offer, on a limited basis, immediate shipping of a few titles on which we have extra copies in stock. These include Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents, Volume One: Pride of the Pulps; Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents, Volume Three: Fighting Crime One Dime at a Time; The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Sampler, and Flickering Shadows. Likewise, we have a few extra copies of several reprinted novels: Barehanded Castaways, The Perils of Pauline, Pirates of the Pines, The Purple Eye, and The Wilderness Trail. Please be advised, however, that our copies in hand are limited.

As always, our sale prices include shipping to the domestic United States. Buyers from Alaska, Hawaii, and other countries must inquire for shipping rates before they make a purchase.



An Important Announcement for Murania Press Customers

Posted in Murania Press on November 9, 2018 @ 4:17 pm

As we write these words, Murania Press has arrived at a turning point in its 11-year history.

Those of you who’ve been loyal customers since we published The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Collecting Pulps in 2007 know that we’ve subscribed to the POD (Print On Demand) model of small-press publishing, which obviates the necessity of maintaining large inventories and printing books in quantities of 500 or 1000 copies to get a feasible unit cost.  We began with a printing company then called Lightning Source but in 2009 transferred our allegiance to an outfit named CreateSpace, which offered cheaper unit costs and had the added benefit of being allied with Amazon.

That year we brought Blood ‘n’ Thunder to CreateSpace as well, and since then every Murania Press publication has been printed by them. Our books and magazines, with rare exceptions, were produced at and shipped from their South Carolina plants in Charleston and Columbia. While there have always been delays in processing large orders (such as our shipments to wholesale customers), for the most part we were able to fulfill single-copy orders expeditiously.

Last year we began noticing delays in single-copy shipments, and this year the situation has gotten steadily worse. It’s currently taking CreateSpace an average of ten business days to print and ship one book. We’ve complained repeatedly but to no avail. Things took a turn for the worse following September’s Hurricane Florence, which pounded the Carolinas and flooded the areas where CreateSpace’s plants were located.

The rollouts of our two most recent publications, Behind the Mask and Those Sexy Serial Queens, have been close to disastrous as a result of CreateSpace’s snail-like service. We deserve some of the blame for delays in early shipments of Mask, which had to be recalled to address a serious copyright-page omission regarding current ownership of The Lone Ranger. But even after processing the corrected files we sent, CreateSpace dragged its feet on fulfilling the initial batch of orders, resulting in month-long waits for customers.

Being now owned by Amazon (which is in the process of folding it into Kindle), CreateSpace has naturally been more prompt fulfilling orders for our books placed with Amazon. Of late there have been whispers among small-press publishers that this is a deliberate strategy to drive more business to that corporate behemoth at the expense of marginal operators like us. Apparently Jeff Bezos and his underlings don’t have enough money already.

We are keenly aware of dissatisfaction among those who purchase Murania Press books via our website. All year long we’ve fielded your e-mails. Most people have been understanding, some have not. We’re acutely aware Amazon has made rapid shipping so easy, and for no extra cost to Prime members, that customers don’t want to wait two weeks for a book from us when they can get it from Amazon in two or three days.

The problem is that we can’t survive on Amazon royalties, which return to publishers significantly less money than they can make by selling their wares directly via website. That’s why, even though fully aware of the inconvenience involved, we’re asking you to keep purchasing Murania Press products directly from us — even though you’ll have to wait longer to receive them.

We’ve established a reputation for non-fiction books that are well researched, well written, and well edited. We provide the handsomest editorial packages our limited budgets will allow. But it requires enormous investments of time and effort to turn out products of the quality we maintain, and unless we can meet a certain profit threshold we won’t be able to continue.

In recognition of the current difficulties, we’re taking steps to guarantee better service during the upcoming Christmas shopping season. Even though it runs contrary to the POD model, which was supposed to free us from the necessity of fronting money for inventory, we’re already ordering quantities of the books on which we intend to run holiday-season sales. Come early December we’ll have them on hand and will ship directly to you without relying on CreateSpace for short-order fulfillment. Obviously, if we run out of stock early on certain items, we’ll have to reorder and keep our fingers crossed for timely shipments from the plant.

What happens in the future? Well, we’re already looking for viable alternatives to CreateSpace. Unfortunately, the most likely is also vastly more expensive: our unit costs would practically double, forcing us to raise prices or accept greatly reduced profit margins. So we’re still looking.

During this difficult period we’re asking that you stick with us, even if it means longer wait times. Otherwise we’ll have to close down — and we don’t want to do that.

Watch this space for future announcements about future developments at Murania Press.

Collectibles Update

Posted in Collectibles For Sale on October 12, 2018 @ 4:41 pm

Two weeks ago we added approximately 30 new items to our Collectibles for Sale section but forgot to post anything here about the update. Well, consider yourselves informed. A number of choice items have been sold but many remain. And we dropped prices on a few that have been lingering in that space for some time now.

Check it out; there are interesting pieces available at excellent prices. And remember, shipping to the continental United States is included in each item.

October Overstock Sale

Posted in Murania Press,Special Sale on @ 4:33 pm

We’re currently overstocked on several Murania Press titles, left over from our exhibits at recent hobbyist confabs. Therefore, we’re offering them at 20 percent off list price as long as supplies last, which we don’t believe will be very long.

The books on sale include Pride of the Pulps (Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents, #1), Fighting Crime One Dime at a Time (Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents, #3), Flickering Shadows, and The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Sampler.

The sale price has already been attached to each book’s page here on the site. Again, these are copies that are already on hand and available for immediate shipping.



2018 Labor Day Weekend Sale

Posted in Murania Press,Special Sale on August 31, 2018 @ 12:41 am

Beginning Friday at 12:01 a.m. and continuing through Monday at 11:59 p.m., all Murania Press books are on sale. Prices have been marked down between 20 and 25 percent, and as always shipping is included for domestic U.S. customers.

What’s different about this sale is that it will be the last one for certain titles in our catalog. I’ve recently been informed by our printer that costs are going up for the first time in nine years. Rather than pay more for books that are marginal sellers I will retire them from the line. So this will be your last opportunity to get some of these books.

PulpFest 2018 Report: Part Two

Posted in Conventions,PulpFest on August 1, 2018 @ 11:38 pm

(All photos accompanying this report were taken by Curt Phillips unless otherwise noted.)

Any hopes I had for getting plenty of sleep on Friday were dashed quickly, as I spent most of the night tossing and turning. I mention this only because it affected my actions late Saturday evening, as you’ll see below.

After breakfasting with pals I returned to the hucksters room for another day of wheeling and dealing. Sales of Murania Press product picked up, and by mid-afternoon I’d sold all available copies of our two most recent books, Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents #4 and The Wild West of Fiction and Film. I also moved some of the collectable pulps and books on my table. Comics legend and old friend Jim Steranko stopped by for a lengthy chat, as did various PulpFest regulars I’d not yet had a chance to jawbone with. Periodic forays to tables manned by other dealers resulted in many purchases, some of them real bargains.

FarmerCon presentations and New Pulp readings (by Jim Beard, John Bruening, Win Scott Eckert, and Frank Schildiner) ate up the afternoon programming slots, and the day flew by rapidly. PulpFest held its usual Saturday-night dinner in the hotel, although for my evening meal I joined a large group that sauntered down the road to a local restaurant.

We were careful to finish eating in time for the annual business meeting, at which PulpFest committee members Mike Chomko, Jack Cullers, Barry Traylor, and Chuck Welch assembled on the dais to face convention attendees. It was an unexpectedly dramatic session owing to Jack’s revelation that the committee—burned out after years of mounting the con—would be losing Chuck, who is moving with his family to Canada. This loss promised to further burden the already-overworked committee members. Jack then dropped a bombshell: PulpFest has received an offer to merge with a larger comic convention back in Columbus, our original home. Nothing has been decided but the committee is carefully weighing all options. The ensuing discussion was lively but brief due to time constraints.

The business meeting drew a good-sized crowd.

Following the business meeting David Saunders, son of famed pulp artist Norman Saunders and designer of the Munsey Award for distinguished service to the pulp-collecting community, bestowed this year’s award upon William Lampkin, editor of The Pulpster, which doubles as program book and annual magazine. Mike Chomko accepted for Bill—a well-deserved honor, in my view—and read a brief statement.

Tony Davis, long-time former editor of The Pulpster, interviewed the convention’s Special Guest, author Joe R. Lansdale, whose multi-media credits are too numerous to mention here. That discussion was followed by a David Saunders presentation on the art of war pulps and a panel discussing WWI themes in the work of Philip José Farmer, featuring Christopher Paul Carey, Win Scott Eckert, and Paul Spiteri.

Although it’s embarrassing to admit, I skipped most of the Saturday-night programming out of fear I’d fall asleep and start snoring. Instead I mosied out to the Double Tree’s copious lobby and engaged in several lengthy conversations with various friends I’d not spent time with earlier.

Tony Davis (right) introduces Joe Lansdale.

The Saturday-night auction, another 200-plus-lot affair that promised to drag on for hours, got underway more or less on schedule shortly after 10 p.m. The Friday-night sale had been dominated by 12-issue lots of Wild West Weekly; Saturday night’s boasted similarly numerous batches of Western Story Magazine. But there were other interesting items as well, and I had my eye on one in particular: the 1941 issue of Thrilling Adventures that introduced Thunder Jim Wade in a novel credited to Charles Stoddard but actually written by prolific SF author Henry Kuttner. It came up late in the auction, when I was fighting to stay awake.

I didn’t have much competition for the pulp and won it for a reasonable price. Bleary-eyed and somewhat dazed (more so than usual, that is), I shuffled up to the dais to pay for my item. You won two lots, I was told. No, I replied, just the one. Turns out I also won a pulp I couldn’t remember bidding on. That’s what acute sleep deprivation will do to you. After seeing the second item, a high-grade 1945 issue of Jungle Stories, I realized it was indeed something I would have competed for. Luckily, it had only cost me $30. In my zombified state I might have bid considerably more.

At this point I should’ve called it a day and gone straight to my room, but upon passing through the lobby I spotted a large group in conversation. As they were all friends, I pulled up a chair and gabbed with them until the gathering broke up sometime around 2 a.m.

Fortunately, I got just enough sleep to be coherent the next day. PulpFest’s Sunday session is always a short one; no programming is scheduled and dealers begin packing up at noon, even though the convention technically ends at 2 p.m. The worst part is saying goodbye to friends and fellow collectors I only see once or twice a year. The weekend always passes way too fast.

Inscribing a book at my table. Photo by Scott Cranford.

We were back on the road by 12:30 and reached my place in northern New Jersey some seven and a half hours later, at which time the Great White Whale disgorged a tired but satisfied quintet of pulp fans.

So how did this year’s Pulpfest stack up against previous editions? On balance, quite well. It’s true that attendance was down and that dealer-room sales were not quite as robust as we would have liked. That speaks to an ongoing problem which deserves a separate discussion I might undertake here in a future post. Certainly the committee’s work was first-rate; Jack, Mike, Chuck, Barry, and their family members came through once again. I couldn’t detect any problems with the running of the show, although not having attended all the events I don’t know if any started egregiously late or were bedeviled by technical problems. PulpFest’s justifiably celebrated programming reflected the same careful thought and enthusiastic participation we’ve all come to expect.

In the end, we all have to wonder if this admittedly small, specialized hobby is large enough and strong enough to sustain two national conventions. The first PulpFest, back in 2009, nearly tripled the attendance at the disastrous 2008 Pulpcon, which killed off that venerable confab. The second and third saw additional growth, but subsequent years—when we moved to downtown Columbus—found the show leveling off. The 2017 move to this current location was widely heralded for the excellence of the venue, but PulpFest has not had noticeable support from fans in Pittsburgh and the surrounding communities. Hence the decline in attendance.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know that there is an answer. But like I said above, the issue needs to be addressed. In the meantime, let’s all wish the PulpFest committee members well as they grapple with the tough decisions that lay ahead.

PulpFest 2018 Report: Part One

Posted in Conventions,PulpFest on @ 5:20 pm

(All photos accompanying this report were taken by Curt Phillips unless otherwise noted.)

Last Thursday morning my New Jersey home was the site of a rendezvous with fellow pulp aficionados Nick Certo, Scott Hartshorn, Digges La Touche, and Walker Martin. They arrived shortly before 9 a.m. for our annual trip to PulpFest. We’ve been traveling together for many years now (the same motley crew accompanies me on our trip to the Windy City pulp convention every April), always riding in a rented 15-seat van we’ve affectionately dubbed the Great White Whale. There might only be five of us, but we need a vehicle that big to hold our dealer stock and convention purchases, so the rental agency removes the last two rows of seats for us.

We loaded up in double time and made a quick stop for coffee at my local Dunkin Donuts, as per our usual custom. By 9:30 we were zooming westward on Route 80, once more bound for the Double Tree Hilton Pittsburgh—Cranberry, which despite its name is actually located in Mars, Pennsylvania. Last year’s PulpFest was the first staged in this excellent venue, and we all looked forward to returning.

Arriving just before 5 p.m., we unloaded luggage and stock and made a beeline for the 13,500-square-foot ballroom that doubles as the con’s exhibit space. I dumped my boxes on the table assigned to me but didn’t bother setting up, preferring to canvas the room for bargains.

Long-time collector Walter Albert scans the dealer room.

Almost immediately I spotted an eye-popping display of high-grade, dust-jacketed editions of Chelsea House books reprinting stories from early Street & Smith pulps. Dozens and dozens of them. For more than 15 years I’d been seeking a copy of Cherry Wilson’s Stormy, originally serialized in Western Story Magazine. And there it was, right in front of me! I snatched up the book only to be informed by dealer Scott Edwards that fellow dealer and uber-collector Rich Meli had just that second purchased the entire lot. I was crushed. But at a table just down the aisle from Scott’s exhibit, my long-time friend Sheila Vanderbeek had just laid out another batch of Chelsea House first editions. Lo and behold, she too had a copy of Stormy! It lacked the wrapper and wasn’t quite as sharp as Scott’s, but I grabbed it nonetheless. My long search was over. O frabjous day!

I joined a bunch of friends and fellow attendees for dinner, which took longer than anticipated and caused us to miss the show’s first programmed event. This year’s PulpFest celebrated the 100th anniversary of World War I’s conclusion, with the Philip José Farmer centennial a sub-theme being explored at Farmercon, PulpFest’s satellite gathering. Sai Shankar, whose Pulp Flakes blog is a treasure, discussed the life and output of Leonard Nason, a treasured contributor to Adventure who specialized in stories about the Great War. Sai’s presentation was followed by one from Burroughs Bulletin editor Henry Franke covering the War’s impact on ERB’s work. Michelle Nolan brought up the rear with an exploration of war comics. Fairly exhausted from my preparations for the trip and the long drive I retired early and was sound asleep by midnight. But I woke up at about 1:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep.

Friday’s session opened promisingly as bargain seekers hurried from table to table, but within a few hours the pace slowed and it occurred to me attendance might be down somewhat. (Later on, PulpFest chairman Jack Cullers confirmed that to me.) Quite unintentionally, pulp-convention huckster rooms often have their own theme—being dominated one year by hero pulps, the next by detective pulps, and so on—and this time around PulpFest was surfeited with Westerns. The two auctions, being made up primarily of material from three estates, fairly teemed with them. I had quite a few in my 20-percent-off Bargain Box. And even dealers who normally don’t stock the things, like Connecticut’s Paul Herman, were offering them in large quantities.

Dennis Harford making a box-by-box search for treasure.

Afternoon programming mostly featured readings from New Pulp authors, per usual. I heard good things about Christopher Paul Carey’s recitation from Swords Against the Moon Men, his authorized sequel to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Moon Maid. (Artist Mark Wheatley was also on hand to display his gorgeous illustrations for the book.) Chris and Mark, joined by Mike Croteau and PulpFest Special Guest Joe Lansdale, discussed the influence and legacy of Philip José Farmer in one of the prime-time sessions. That was followed by a presentation by Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle on war-themed material in men’s “sweat” magazines. Next was a panel on air-war pulps featuring pulp historian Don Hutchison, PulpFest’s own Mike Chomko, and Age of Aces principals Bill Mann and Chris Kalb. After that Bob Gould, son of prolific Popular Publications illustrator John Fleming Gould, entertained con attendees with an account of his dad’s career.

Auctioneers Joe Saines (left) and John Gunnison.

The Friday-night auction featured a variety of items but was dominated by heavy bidding on nearly innumerable 12-issue lots of Street & Smith’s long-running Wild West Weekly. I didn’t compete for most of them—wouldn’t bid against good friends who had already expressed interest—but managed to win a dozen from 1936 and a dozen from 1943, the magazine’s last year. One lot set me back $50, the other $45, for a per-issue cost of four dollars. Not bad. Regular PulpFest auctioneers John Gunnison and Joe Saines did their usual top-notch job keeping things moving and disposing of more than 200 lots in record time. Even so, it was past 1 a.m. when they brought the gavel down on the last, and having gotten less than two hours of sleep the previous night I staggered back to my room for what I hoped would be deep, lengthy slumber.

(Part Two will follow shortly.)

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