With each new issue of Blood ‘n’ Thunder goes a fresh batch of subscription renewal notices, and I’m always gratified when subscribers re-up for another year. From the beginning BnT has enjoyed the support of an unusually loyal customer base; until the recent economic downtown I could count on an annual renewal rate of 95 percent, which in the magazine business is considered extraordinarily high. Even these last few years, over 90 percent of the zine’s subscribers have continued to renew annually, albeit not always as promptly as in the past.
I consider myself blessed to maintain the confidence of so many people, especially since today’s serious collectors of pop-culture artifacts have so many choices. Pulp-fiction aficionados no longer confine their purchases to the original rough-paper magazines; they also pick from a minimum of a dozen different reprints issued every month in both facsimile and newly typeset editions. Movie buffs aren’t restricted to DVDs of recent major-studio films; nowadays there’s an ever-increasing number of boutique companies servicing film collectors with releases of obscure low-budget features and serials. Olive Films, for example, is finally mining the Republic Pictures library for seldom-seen “B” movies. Even the big Hollywood outfits have realized there’s a market for classic cinema beyond Casablanca and Singin’ in the Rain. The Warner Archive alone releases more vintage product than most collectors can keep up with. Every month is a budget-buster for me.
Given the plethora of choices most hobbyists face, I never take for granted the subscription-renewal checks that flow in following publication of a new BnT. This past week I received two checks with notes that particularly warmed my heart. I’m quoting from them in part below but withholding the names for obvious reasons.
The first note came from the wife — or, rather, the widow — of a charter subscriber. She wrote:
My husband — — has passed away. Since he was a big supporter of your magazine I am sending one last renewal but please do not send copies. We have many, many years of collectibles to put on the market so please just accept the subscription money for helping to support your publication. — always supported independent work and I know he always enjoyed your magazine. Thank you.
Needless to say, I was incredibly touched by this generous gesture. I intend to offer the widow ad space in exchange for the renewal, in the event she can use it to help liquidate her husband’s collection.
Just the other day I received a renewal check from a long-time subscriber who enclosed this note:
Dear Ed: Recently I have declined to renew a number of my subscriptions because money is tight but I am enclosing $40 to renew Blood ‘n’ Thunder. BnT fills a great need for us pulp fans so you can count on me as a loyal supporter. I plan to eventually order your recent books when I can fit them in my budget. Sincerely….
You can’t receive notes like that without feeling enormously grateful that someone has chosen your product at the expense of another publisher. And believe me, whenever I’m at the computer at 2 a.m., swearing at myself for burning the midnight oil to finish an overdue issue, I pause to remember that I have supporters as loyal as those quoted above. You deserve the best zine I’m capable of producing and I promise to live up to the trust you’ve placed in me. The support and kind words — from all of you — are very much appreciated.
Nearly 11 months ago I announced that the long-awaited Distressed Damsels and Masked Marauders (aka The Bane of My Existence) was nearly ready for publication. Alas, this cursed project had to be back-burnered yet again, and now almost another year has passed. It was my hope — indeed, my determination — that DD&MM would be finished and printed in time for this year’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, but my loss earlier this year of Murania art director Chris Kalb (whose design work is currently very much in demand and earning him far more than I can afford to pay) threw a monkey wrench in my plans. With a little help from another graphic designer, I did my own layouts for the three latest Murania Press publications: The Wilderness Trail, The Best of Blood ‘n’ Thunder: Volume Two, and the new double issue of Blood ‘n’ Thunder — all of which had been promised for delivery at Windy City. (Fortunately, Chris was able to design covers for the two trade paperbacks.) I simply didn’t have enough time to polish off DD&MM as well.
Now, however, having just finished shipping the new books to dealers and subscribers, I’m focused like the proverbial laser on the silent-serial book. The manuscript was done a long time ago, although while the book was sidelined I continued adding facts I had uncovered in the interim. A legal challenge some time back might have prevented me from reprinting exclusive material, but after a lengthy and nerve-wracking struggle I prevailed, finally getting out from under the threat of an injunction. But at last the text pages have been laid out and proofread, with only minor editorial corrections needed as I write these words.
The single most time-consuming problem I’ve faced has been doing justice to the book’s 300-plus illustrations, a sizable number of which are nearly 100 years old. I have spent hundreds — no, make that thousands — of hours doing Photoshop repairs to the still photographs, newspaper cuts, line drawings, and poster scans that accompany DD&MM‘s text. Some stills suffered from “hypo” deterioration, which I minimized by using Adobe software to recreate sections of the images. Original ads clipped many decades ago from newspapers and pressbooks were torn, chipped, and in some cases badly faded. These, too, required digital fixing; often I had to enlarge images ten times their original size and do repairs on a pixel-by-pixel basis. This type of work isn’t brain surgery, but it requires tremendous patience and lots of time, especially if one isn’t an experienced graphic designer schooled in the intricacies of Photoshop. Perhaps my biggest mistake in estimating DD&MM‘s availability was underestimating the amount of time I needed to finish this work. Several deadlines were further pushed back by the acquisition of stills even better than those I’d had originally included to represent certain titles.
Happily, the process is finally drawing to a close. Having cried wolf so many times about this book, I’m reluctant to announce another definite publication date I might miss. But this time I really am close to completing the damn thing once and for all. It’s now largely a matter of finishing the picture pages, plugging in (or correcting) captions, and reworking the index to reflect added material that changed page numbering. Then it’s up to my printer to deliver a proof copy that does justice to all the work I’ve done on the illustrations. Once I okay the proof, finals will be printed and shipped.
Bottom line: We’re looking at weeks, not months, before copies are ready for delivery — and this is absolutely the last time I’ll have to say so. To those who pre-ordered the book and have been extraordinarily patient, I can only repeat what I’ve said privately, one on one: If after reading DD&MM you don’t think it was worth the wait, I’ll refund your money in full, no questions asked. That’s how certain I am that the final product will surpass my original hopes for it.
The first book bearing my Murania Press imprint was The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Collecting Pulps, which I researched for years prior to writing. Upon its publication in 2007 the Guide sold briskly, surpassing my very modest expectations in fairly short order. It did particularly well on Amazon, eventually reaching hundreds of buyers who’d never heard of the Blood ‘n’ Thunder magazine.
As the title made clear, my Guide was geared to those hobbyists interested in accumulating the vintage magazines themselves. Its pages carried no mention of the Print On Demand publishers whose pulp reprints were beginning to divert collector dollars from the purchase of original rough-paper periodicals. Nor did they acknowledge the mass-market anthologies that had recognized the enduring appeal of pulp fiction by including it in thick hardcover and trade-paperback editions. These omissions were not oversights on my part; they reflected a conscious decision to focus on collectable pulps only.
The early years of the 21st century had seen a dramatic escalation in prices as new hobbyists competed feverishly for pulps auctioned on eBay. I’d written the Guide with those enthusiastic and largely uneducated neophytes in mind; that experienced collectors also found it worthy was icing on the cake.
The pulp bubble — like so many others — eventually burst, and the prolonged recession from which we are only now recovering didn’t help matters. Prices began to fall as once-well-heeled hobbyists cut back on discretionary purchases. Long-time collectors who’d lost jobs were forced to sell their pulp holdings to generate income. Rare and high-grade pulps continued to fetch top dollar, and certain genres remained more popular than others, but in the main we saw prices decline as supply began to exceed demand.
Furthermore, the years since I wrote and published the Guide have seen an explosion in the quantity and quality of trade-paperback reprints facilitated by easily obtainable desktop-publishing software, the proliferation of Print On Demand companies, and the rise of social media as a means of promoting self-published books.
An even more meaningful phenomenon was the widespread embrace of “pulp culture.” Mainstream publishers increasingly used old pulp paintings on the covers of their new books. Then we started seeing enthusiastic reviews of mass-market, trade-paperback anthologies such as The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps and its sequels edited by Otto Penzler. Suddenly, critics were enthusing over obscure yarns by writers previously known only to collectors of rough-paper magazines. Thanks to the Black Lizard tomes it was possible to walk into a Barnes & Noble bookstore and come out with a book featuring stories by Talbot Mundy, Frederick Nebel, George F. Worts, Norbert Davis, and their contemporaries. Now it’s even possible to buy hundred-year-old pulp stories in e-book form.
As early as 2009 I was getting letters from people who wanted to know if I’d be publishing updated editions of the Guide. The idea had occurred to me, but as the years went by I got the impression that another book aimed at hard-core collectors was not needed. The market had expanded to include relative newcomers to the pulp community — folks who enjoyed the fiction but had no need or inclination to collect the original magazines. Therefore I decided that, in order to broaden my book’s appeal, a revised second edition would be titled The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction.
I’m happy to report that the revisions are just about finished and the book will debut this summer. The text of the first Guide is there in total, although greatly expanded. I’ve added material to every chapter — practically every page — from the earlier edition. I’ve also added chapters to cover genres I passed over the first time around: Aviation/War, Sports, Romance, and the “smoosh” (aka girlie) pulps.
Additionally, you’ll find detailed coverage of mass-market anthologies and small-press reprints of pulp fiction. There’s a lot of this material available now, so naturally some chaff is mixed in with the wheat. The new Guide turns a discerning eye on this plethora of product, offering solid recommendations along with the historical and contextual background.
The Guide to Pulp Fiction will have the same format as the Guide to Collecting Pulps: seven by ten inches, just like most rough-paper magazines of yore. Each page has two cover reproductions. Until layout is completed I won’t have an exact page total, but based on the length of the manuscript I’m guessing the book will come in somewhere between 360 and 400 pages. The price will be $29.95.
People have used such words as “formidable,” “outstanding,” and “indispensable” to describe The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Collecting Pulps. Indeed, I’ve received more compliments on this book than on any other I’ve written and/or published. It was still selling reasonably well on Amazon until I voluntarily withdrew it from circulation some months ago. Lightly used copies are listed there (not by me) for as much as $366. I have no doubt that the Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction will replace it as a must-have reference work. Nowhere else will you find, in one book, a complete history of pulp fiction as well as up-to-date coverage of other, more current sources of the escapist literature that shaped American popular culture throughout the 20th century.
Watch this space for further details….
As of today all subscriber copies of Blood ‘n’ Thunder #36/37 are in the mail, with the exception of a few owed to those who’ve sent renewal checks since I returned from the Windy City Pulp Convention last week. Early comments in the issue have been favorable, and according to reports from my wholesale clients it appears to be selling briskly.
If you haven’t received your copy yet, don’t worry: it’s on the way!
The 2013 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention took place last weekend, and I’m still recovering. Bracketed by grueling 14-hour drives, the show found me scurrying around like the proverbial chicken without a head — changing DVDs in the Film Room every hour or two, manning the Murania Press table solo (for the first time in many years), and flitting from one dealer’s table to another in search of elusive pulps on my want list.
The con once again unfolded in the luxurious Westin hotel in Lombard’s Yorktown Shopping Center, the jewel of this upscale Chicago suburb. The Westin is my favorite of the dozens of hotels I’ve patronized in 40 years of convention-going, and its proximity to innumerable restaurants is much appreciated. Everything about this year’s visit was predictably and resoundingly favorable — except the weather. With several friends in tow, I left northern New Jersey last Wednesday, which saw the temperature rise to 80 degrees. That night, by the time we rolled into Lombard after driving many hours through steady wind and rain, the mercury was down to 41. And we didn’t see the sun until Sunday.
Not that we spent much time outdoors. As always, the convention teemed with hobbyists hot on the trail of their favorite collectibles. Windy City chairman Doug Ellis had sold out the dealer’s room in record time, renting nearly 150 tables to vendors selling original pulps, paperbacks and hardcovers, along with such related items as comics, fanzines, and newly published pulp-fiction reprints. Additionally, the current crop of “New Pulp” fictioneers was well represented. The variety of material for sale was little short of mind-boggling, although some dealer stock looked a little too familiar for my tastes.
The Windy City staff (of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit to being a member) did its usual fine job of mounting a memorable convention: The art show and programming, pegged to the 90th birthday of Weird Tales and the centennial of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu, maintained the customary high standards. But the heart of this particular convention has always been its huckster room, with the bulk of con activity revolving around buying and selling. And the 2013 show was no exception.
Collectors of Arkham House books had to have been gratified to see so many choice titles in one room. Virginia-based dealer Dave Kurzman had his usual assortment, but DreamHaven Books’ Greg Ketter also displayed multiple copies of desirable Arkhams, the result of having recently bought two collections of same. Long-time pulp collector Richard Meli made his convention debut as a dealer with an eye-popping selection of high-grade pulps. Among the many treasures sold at his Heartwood Auctions table was a nice copy of Shadow #1, which fetched $10,000. Connecticut dealer/collector Paul Herman offered seldom-seen British editions of early Black Mask issues. And so on.
For real action, though, the Friday-night auction couldn’t be beat. For the last two years, Windy City has been auctioning inventory belonging to the late Jerry Weist, a near-legendary collector of comics and pulps as well as the publisher of the classic fanzine Squa Tront. This year’s sale included items from Jerry’s core collection. They included high-grade copies of Teens issues of The All-Story and All-Story Weekly, most carrying installments of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. If you know the pulp market at all, you know that these issues are scarce in any condition and high-grade copies extremely rare. So it was no surprise to see them bringing record-breaking prices at the auction.
The Murania Press table wasn’t as active as it’s been in previous years, although I brought 60 copies of the new Blood ‘n’ Thunder double issue and sold them all. I also did well with the recently released Wilderness Trail, the strong early sales of which rival those of Barehanded Castaways, up to now the best-selling title in Murania’s Classic Pulp Reprints line.
Although the Windy City con is mostly driven by commerce, it’s also a great venue for socializing, and as always I enjoyed fraternizing with friends I only see two or three times a year. The pulp-collecting community is minuscule compared to those of other hobbyist groups, but it’s populated by a grand bunch of guys (and, increasingly, gals). I enjoyed visiting with each and every one of them and only wish I’d had more time to gab with those I touched base with just briefly.
Some 488 people attended this year’s confab, thanks in no small part to a nice article in the Chicago Sun-Times and a story on one of the local TV stations. Congrats to co-chairmen Doug Ellis and John Gunnison, program-book editor Tom Roberts, and all the volunteers who worked hard to uphold the level of quality for which this convention is justifiably famous. It’s an honor to be part of such a staff, believe me.
Now it’s on to PulpFest, about which you’ll be reading more in this space over the next few months.
Correction, April 24: I was mistaken about the sale of Shadow #1. The issue was actually sold by long-time collector/dealer Jerry Schattenberg, whose glass case of rare pulps was right next to the Heartwood Auctions display. Also, the buyer informs me that the purchase price was “slightly higher” than the reported ten grand. In any case, it was a notable transaction.
The 2013 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention begins just two weeks from today, and it promises to be a real barn-burner of a show. Murania Press will be on hand with a broad selection of publications, including recent issues of Blood ‘n’ Thunder (including the latest, our Winter/Spring double), all four volumes in the Classic Pulp Reprints series, and both volumes of The Best of Blood ‘n’ Thunder.
We’re offering Windy City attendees some special deals on product they purchase at the show. Anyone buying both Best of Blood ‘n’ Thunder volumes will get the pair for $40, which represents 20 percent off the list price. Anyone pre-ordering The Island, the upcoming Murania Press edition of J. Allan Dunn’s sequel to Barehanded Castaways (currently our best seller in the Classic Pulp Reprints series), can get both books for $30 postpaid. And anyone who subscribes to Blood ‘n’ Thunder for the first time at the convention will be entitled to a 20 percent discount off any Murania Press books purchased on the spot. These deals are good only as long as supplies last, and only for the duration of the Windy City convention.
Look forward to seeing some of you in Chicago. If you’re a current Blood ‘n’ Thunder subscriber, make sure you stop by our table and pick up your copy of the latest issue. If not, stop by anyway and introduce yourself. If you go away empty-handed it won’t be for lack of effort on our part!
Now available — The Best of Blood ‘n’ Thunder: Volume Two! Just received the first copies and it looks fine. If you’re a relatively recent subscriber to BnT and have had little luck locating the out-of-print issues, this meaty tome is a must-have item. Its 316 pages are crammed with the best articles and reviews from issues Eleven through Twenty-One. That adds up to more than 100,000 words of history and commentary on vintage pop culture, emphasizing coverage of pulps but also featuring pieces on movies, story papers, and Old-Time Radio. Subjects, writers, magazines, and characters include Adventure, The Shadow, Black Mask, Talbot Mundy, Doc Savage, H. G. Wells, Short Stories, Sam Spade, L. Ron Hubbard, The Phantom Detective, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Erle Stanley Gardner, Bill Barnes, Detective Fiction Weekly, and much more. Waste no time; hop on over to our Home page and order your copy today!
Hot off the press! The fourth volume in Murania’s Classic Pulp Reprints series is ready for purchase. By early next week I should have a proof copy of The Best of Blood ‘n’ Thunder: Volume Two, which will become available as soon as I give it the once-over and approve it. Both books, along with the Winter/Spring 2013 issue of Blood ‘n’ Thunder, will make their official debuts at next month’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. But why wait? Be the first on your block to get Wilderness Trail! It’s a rousing pulp adventure yarn making its American debut in book form.
Scheduled for debut at next month’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, the upcoming double issue of Blood ‘n’ Thunder (36/37, Winter/Spring 2013) boasts more contributors than any previous number of the magazine. The distinguished roster includes old favorites as well as new additions to our Writers Brigade. And the issue itself has everything BnT readers crave — well-researched articles, eye-popping pictorial features, and carefully chosen stories reprinted from rare pulps — in twice the usual quantity. Here are the highlights, in the order in which they appear:
• Our “Tricks of the Trade” department features a meaty excerpt from H. Bedford-Jones’ 1929 book, This Fiction Business.
• Veteran fan and professional fictioneer James Reasoner reviews vintage pulps in our “Off the Shelf” department.
• This issue’s “Series Spotlight” falls on a long-running Zorro clone, El Coyote, whose career is summarized by Roberto Barriero.
• Will Murray continues to share with BnT the latest results of his detective work on long-forgotten pulp writers, this time uncovering the true identity of the author behind Munsey’s short-lived “Doc Harker” detective series.
• Fred Nadis provides an informative excerpt from his biography of pioneering science-fiction fan and writer Raymond A. Palmer, who assumed editorship of the nearly moribund Amazing Stories in 1938 and turned it into a publishing powerhouse within a few short years.
• A blue-ribbon panel of experts selects the most underrated adventures of Doc Savage. Among the contributors to this survey are Will Murray, Link Hullar, and Dafydd N. Dyar, who also collaborated on an influential 1980 poll of the top ten Doc novels.
• Eminent film historian Richard W. Bann offers “Nick and Nora: The Beginning,” a fascinating article on the making of The Thin Man. This lengthy piece is accompanied by scenes from the movie, rare behind-the-scenes stills, and the Joseph Franke illustrations used in the Redbook magazine publication of Dashiell Hammett’s classic whodunit.
• As part of BnT‘s celebration of the Fu Manchu centennial, novelist William Patrick Maynard — officially licensed by Sax Rohmer’s estate to continue the series — summarizes the Devil Doctor’s infamous literary career and offers his opinions on outstanding installments of the saga.
• Present-day pinup queen Mala Mastroberte brightens the pages of BnT with a portfolio of her pulp-cover recreations, in which she is not only the model but also the photographer and the graphic designer!
• One of this issue’s “Blood ‘n’ Thunder Reprints” is a seminal story that heretofore has escaped the notice of pulp collectors and historians: “He’s a Good Little Guy at That,” the actual first entry in William Wirt’s long-running series featuring soldier-of-fortune Jimmie Cordie.
There’s more, but the above lineup should give you a pretty good idea just how special this book-length double issue will be. Watch for it next month!
- Thanks To Our Loyal Subscribers!
- DISTRESSED DAMSELS & MASKED MARAUDERS: The Final Update
- Coming Soon: BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER GUIDE TO PULP FICTION
- BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER #36/37: Subscriber Copies Have Shipped
- Windy City 2013 Convention Report
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- Blood 'n' Thunder
- Collectibles For Sale
- Murania Press
- Recently Read
- Upcoming Books
- Western Movies
- Adventure House
- Age of Aces Books
- Altus Press
- Armchair Fiction
- Black Dog Books
- Black Mask Magazine
- Brotherhood of the Popcorn
- Coming Attractions
- Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists
- Girasol Collectables
- Heartwood Auctions
- Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson
- Mike Chomko Books
- Raven's Head Press
- Vintage Library
- Vintage Pulps
- Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention