EDitorial Comments

Labor Day Weekend Sale: Both Volumes of CLIFFHANGER CLASSICS

Posted in Serials,Special Sale on August 31, 2017 @ 8:40 pm

Beginning at midnight tonight (Thursday, August 31st) and for the next four days, you can purchase both volumes of Blood ‘n’ Thunder’s Cliffhanger Classics for $39.95, with shipping included to buyers in the continental United States. That’s a discount of 20 percent, as each book normally sells for $24.95. (Buyers in Alaska, Hawaii, and foreign countries can still get both volumes at the sale price but must contact me to inquire about the cost of mailing.) Volume One has been in our catalog for several years; Volume Two was released late last month. Several reviews have already been posted to Amazon’s listing for Volume Two, and we’re happy to report that they unanimously rate the book five stars!

Reviewer “Tal Chotali” writes: “The world of movie serials has a wonderful historian in Ed Hulse. . . . His chapter on the making of one of the best Republic serials, Spy Smasher, alone is worth the price of the book. Very few people have had the opportunity to seriously interview the stars, directors, producers, and crew who worked in this genre, and Ed Hulse’s interviews are a model for anyone that seeks to be an accurate chronicler.”

Rich B. says, “This is not a puff piece or coffee-table book. It’s a meticulously researched series of essays on a number of movie serials. Anyone interested in film and film production will find this book rewarding with its detailed production history and first-hand anecdotes of the serials that are discussed.”

Mark headlines his review, “The best historian on movie serials does it again.”  He goes on to say, “Well written and full of original research, this is another great book by Ed Hulse. It focuses on several important serials and provides quite a bit of behind-the-scenes detail.”

We’re extremely flattered and grateful for such glowing notices, which match those posted for the first volume of Cliffhanger Classics.

We frequently offer a holiday-weekend sale of some kind, and those of you who might be new to the award-winning Blood ‘n’ Thunder and its satellite publications from Murania Press are invited to take advantage of this special deal — provided, of course, you’re interested in movie serials to begin with.

Head on over to our Books section to find a special page set up just for this weekend’s two-book deal. It’ll be taken down at midnight on Monday and both volumes will revert to their standard price of $24.95 each.

 


Now Available for Immediate Shipping: THE PENNY-A-WORD BRIGADE

Posted in Blood 'n' Thunder Presents on August 3, 2017 @ 9:50 pm

The second volume of Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents is now ready for immediate shipping. I’d hoped to debut it officially at last week’s PulpFest, but a printer snafu prevented me from getting copies to the show on time. The Penny-a-Word Brigade represents a departure for Murania Press in that it’s the first non-fiction book I’ve published that doesn’t contain any of my writing — except for the introduction, from which I quote below in explaining what the book’s all about.

From today’s vantage point, some 120 years after the first all-story, rough-paper magazine started a revolution in the publishing industry, the life of a pulp-fiction writer may appear more romantic than it actually was. There’s something quintessentially American about the scrappy entrepreneur laboring in solitude, relying on talent and initiative to achieve success in his chosen field against overwhelming odds. Viewed in that light, the pulp fictioneer of yore casts a lengthy shadow. If you admire those who make their living with words, it’s easy to find something admirable—perhaps even noble—about an earlier era’s ink-stained wretches, who endured privation for weeks, months, and even years before finally breaking into print.

Frank Gruber’s 1967 memoir, The Pulp Jungle, speaks of aspiring fiction writers getting evicted from their hotels or boarding houses, of long days spent making the rounds of Manhattan-based publishing houses, of haunting automats and subsisting on the only free meal available to penniless scribes—tomato soup improvised by drawing hot water in coffee cups, then adding ketchup and crackers from the dining tables. Born of necessity, this tactic was said to keep many a writer alive long enough to “click” with the right market. Then, once established, it was understood to be only a matter of time before he would rival Max Brand, H. Bedford-Jones, or Edgar Rice Burroughs. And after conquering the pulps, why, it wouldn’t be any time a-tall before he cracked the slick-paper periodicals—Collier’s, American, Red Book, The Saturday Evening Post—where one’s work attracted the attention of discriminating readers and, with any luck, editors from the prestigious houses publishing cloth-bound books. At least, that’s what the struggling storytellers dreamed as they gulped steaming mouthfuls of that tomato soup.

It was a tough grind, to be sure, but one that continued to attract hopefuls. Dewy-eyed aspirants were willing to serve an apprenticeship in the pulps, secure in the knowledge that raw talent and hard work would carry them to inevitable success in the slicks. And from there to—book sales! Newspaper syndication! Hollywood movie rights! These neophytes, eager for helpful tips and sage advice from the pulpwood Big Timers, poured over the pages of trade journals such as Writer’s Digest, Author & Journalist, Writer’s Review, and Writer’s Markets and Methods.

Established pulp writers and editors who contributed to these publications were surprisingly generous with advice and admonition both. Every now and then their articles were vague or self-serving, but a large number offered genuinely useful tips and outlined methods of working that are just as sound today as they were in 1930 or 1940. Indeed, although the rough-paper magazines themselves are long gone, many essays collected in this book will hold significant educational value for today’s wannabe writers.

A majority of the trade-journal pieces herein saw revival in issues of Blood ‘n’ Thunder. A few—specifically, those by hero-pulp legends Lester Dent, Norvell Page, and Walter B. Gibson—have been reprinted multiple times, but never all between two covers. In context, surrounded by similar articles from peers, each represents a vital piece in the larger puzzle.

Variety has been my watchword. I’ve mixed straight how-to articles with market analyses and personal reminiscences. Walter Gibson’s 1941 piece, celebrating his tenth anniversary as chief chronicler of The Shadow’s exploits, has a wealth of nostalgic detail but also some very sound advice for potential authors of single-character series. In addition to Gibson & Company, you’ll find contributions from such legendary high-volume producers as Arthur J. Burks, H. Bedford-Jones, and Erle Stanley Gardner along with many second-tier favorites, including Nelson Bond, Frederick C. Davis, G. T. Fleming-Roberts, Frank Gruber, and Henry Kuttner.

The blue-pencil boys also supplied guidance to followers of the writers’ magazines, and I’ve added excellent essays by Adventure‘s Arthur Sullivant Hoffman, Black Mask‘s Joseph T. “Cap” Shaw, and editorial directors of the major pulp outfits: Rogers Terrill (Popular Publications), Leo Margulies (the “Thrilling Group”), Robert A. W. Lowndes (Columbia/Double Action/Blue Ribbon), Ralph Daigh (Fawcett Publications), and Robert O. Erisman (Martin Goodman’s “Red Circle” line). Agents Lurton Blassingame and August Lenninger, frequent contributors to Writer’s Digest, present market reports that at the time of publication were considered valuable tools for newcomers aiming to crack well-established sheets.

One essay deserves a bit of explanation. “A Cent a Word,” bylined “Anonymous,” was first published in the February 1936 issue of American Mercury, a highbrow journal with limited circulation among the literary set. Vividly written and highly evocative of the period, it’s also an acidly cynical, unrelenting exercise in self-loathing. I find this piece a valuable counterpoint to the largely hopeful and encouraging submissions to the trade journals. It presents the dark side of pulp fictioneering and warrants close reading for purposes of balance.

Bottom line: Whether you’re a would-be fiction writer in the pulp tradition or a student of the pulp era and American popular culture, this book will make a great addition to your reference library.

 

 


PulpFest 2017 Report

Posted in Conventions,PulpFest on August 1, 2017 @ 11:18 pm

Last weekend found me mingling with some 300 rabid enthusiasts gathered at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Mars, Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh. The occasion? The ninth edition of PulpFest, the annual convention of pulp-fiction fans and collectors. Having moved from its original home in Columbus, Ohio, the summer event was making its debut at a new venue.

And what a venue. I’ve been attending conventions of various kinds for exactly 50 years now but have rarely set foot in a hotel more perfectly suited than the Double Tree for the event it hosted. The dealers room, where most of the weekend’s action took place, ran to more than 13,000 square feet and was beautifully designed and lit. The programming room—where the panels, presentations, and Saturday-night auction were staged—was right next door, a not-insignificant convenience.

The Double Tree has been undergoing renovation and, quite frankly, is a far more impressive facility than its out-in-the-boonies location would suggest. The hotel’s design and layout is quite appealing, the sleeping rooms are sizable and well-appointed. Also, the convention rate included free breakfasts for guests every morning—including the services of an omelette chef. Easily a $15 value.

The 13,440-square-foot dealer room. Photos by Karen Davis Cunningham.

PulpFest (of which I was one of the original founders) early on distinguished itself with the variety and quality of its programming, and this year’s confab boasted a typically stellar lineup of events. The convention’s theme this year was “Hardboiled Dicks, Dangerous Dames, and a Few Psychos,” to which the various readings and discussions adhered faithfully. The Farmercon, PulpFest’s yearly adjunct devoted to the works of Philip José Farmer, presented a panel discussion featuring Win Scott Eckert, Frank Schildiner, and Art Sippo, with Mike Croteau weighing in on Farmer’s connection to Robert Bloch. Win also read from Farmer’s The Scarlet Jaguar.

Jeffrey Marks was on hand with “Hardboiled and Dangerous: The Many Characters of Erle Stanley Gardner,” and Altus Press head honcho Matt Moring supplied an overview of Dime Detective that included some very interesting tidbits of related info, such as circulation figures for Black Mask. Tom Krabacher and Walker Martin commented on Gordon Young’s Adventure Magazine series featuring Don Everhard, a rough-paper tough guy now believed to have had more influence than previously suspected on the hard-boiled school of pulp fiction.

Guest of Honor Gloria Stoll Karn, who painted dozens of covers for such Popular Publications pulps as Black Mask, Detective Tales, and Rangeland Romances, was introduced by pulp-art historian David Saunders, who compiled a terrific selection of her art for his slide show. A petite and still lively nonagenarian, Gloria related some choice anecdotes about her tenure as a Popular cover artist and seemed delighted to field questions from fans and sign examples of her work after the Saturday-night event.

Adventure House’s John Gunnison and son before their “wall o’ pulps.”

As always, the New Pulp contingent dominated afternoon programming with readings by authors Ron Fortier, Frank Schildiner, and Win Scott Eckert. Additionally, Ron moderated a New Pulp panel discussion featuring his fellow fictioneers Fred Adams Jr., John Bruening, Wayne Carey, Michael Maynard, and Charles Millhouse.

I have to confess that I never attend the afternoon events, being occupied with crassly commercial pursuits in the hucksters room. But based on reports heard after the fact, I should’ve sat in on a reading from last year’s Robert Bloch’s Psycho: Sanitarium by its author, distinguished horror/fantasy writer Chet Williamson. Various friends told me it was first rate, as is the book itself.

Adventure House’s John Gunnison and veteran PulpFest dealer Joe Saines deserve kudos for their handling of a longer-than-usual Saturday-night auction in which approximately 280 lots were gaveled over a period of more than three hours. Items from the estates of two recently deceased pulp collectors (one of them Blood ‘n’ Thunder contributor Larry Latham) were auctioned off, with multiple groups of Western Story Magazine issues making particularly strong showings. Items coming under the headings of effluvia and ephemera fetched some hefty amounts; a brace of Shadow promotional decals sold for more than $500, and bidding got heated for an empty trunk that belonged to Don Everhard creator Gordon Young.

Exhibit arranged by the son of prolific pulp illustrator Gould.

Although attendance was down from previous years (perhaps owing to uncertainty over the new location’s feasibility), everyone with whom I interacted seemed to have a good time. Business was relatively brisk at my table after a slow start on Friday; I brought approximately six dozen pieces of Murania Press inventory and went home with just three. My collectable pulps, digests, and paperbacks sold pretty well too, although I dumped two boxes of the latter into the auction just to make additional room for all the stuff I bought at the show.

The general consensus was that moving PulpFest to Pittsburgh and the Double Tree took the sting out of abandoning our long-time Columbus headquarters. (Actually, it was the Hyatt that did the abandoning, informing chairman Jack Cullers last year that our group was too small to justify turning so much square footage over to us—”Thanks, but no thanks, guys, find another venue.”) Frankly, I thought the new digs reinvigorated the convention. I liked the Hyatt, but the Double Tree’s amenities and overall convenience (did I mention the free parking and easier load-in for dealers?) make it infinitely more attractive from where I sit.

The small community of pulp-fiction aficionados is well served by PulpFest and the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, which unfolds every spring. Both events are organized by unselfish volunteers who work all year long to make their respective conventions fun and memorable. In 2017 they succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. If you’ve never been to a pulp show and are interested in vintage rough-paper fiction, you really owe it to yourself to pay a visit. The web sites for these shows can be found here and here; bookmark them today and follow them in the months ahead as 2018’s meetings begin to take shape.

CORRECTION, August 3 — In posting the original report I was remiss in neglecting to acknowledge and thank the PulpFest committee members: Jack and Sally Cullers, Mike Chomko, Chuck Welch, William Lampkin, and Barry Traylor. Thanks also to the volunteers who gave up a nice summer weekend to placate several hundred goofy collectors.

Legendary artist (and pulp aficionado) Jim Steranko dropped by to say hello.

 


Memorial Day Collectibles Sale!

Posted in Collectibles For Sale,Special Sale on May 26, 2017 @ 4:41 pm

Our Memorial Day Weekend sale extends to our Collectibles section, where prices on many items have been dropped and another group of pulps and hardcovers has just been added. Some of the new arrivals are pictured below.

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wwnovel

topnotch

startling

 


Holiday Weekend Sale!

Posted in Special Sale on @ 4:32 pm

Another Memorial Day weekend is upon us, which means it’s time for another Holiday Weekend sale of Murania Press publications.

Between now and midnight (Eastern time) on Monday, May 29, you can purchase all of our books and magazines — with the exception of our new release, the first volume of Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents — for 20 percent off list price. As always, our sales prices include shipping to buyers in the U.S. International buyers will still have to pay extra for shipping and must ask us for quotes before making purchases.

Now’s your chance to catch up on our recently published books you might have missed. Or you can make your set of Blood ‘n’ Thunder complete by picking up back issues that slipped past you. But remember, the sale ends promptly at midnight on Memorial Day.

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Now Available: The First Volume Of BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER PRESENTS

Posted in Blood 'n' Thunder Presents on @ 1:00 pm

In case you hadn’t heard, last fall we brought to an end Blood ‘n’ Thunder‘s 14-year run as a periodical. The zine went out with a bang: a double issue numbered 49/50 and packed with some of the best articles in BnT history. In the editorial we promised to continue the franchise with a series of standalone volumes, issued at irregular intervals, covering various aspects of pulp and pop-culture history under the general title of Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents.

Well, this week we proudly release the first volume of Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents, subtitled Pride of the Pulps. It’s been designed in the “deluxe” trade-paperback format of 8 1/2 x 11 inches, with the series title in a wraparound banner and the volume number printed at the top of the spine. All future volumes will have a uniform design.

Pride of the Pulps devotes nearly 100,000 words to in-depth surveys of six classic rough-paper magazines: Adventure, All-American Fiction, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, The Popular Magazine, Short Stories, and West. Earlier versions of these overviews were published in back issues of Blood ‘n’ Thunder, but all have been revised and expanded for this book. Greatly expanded, in some cases: the essay on Short Stories, for example, first appeared as a two-parter with a total word count of 11,500 words. Its counterpart in Pride of the Pulps runs close to 17,000 words.

The addition of new material extends as well to illustrative matter. The surveys in Pride include more pulp covers and interior illustrations than accompanied their earlier versions in BnT, but we’ve also added more scans of original cover paintings.

In short, this is not a reprint volume that simply repurposes old copy. It has a significant amount of new content and is a veritable textbook of pulp-fiction history. Even if you’d be satisfied with the essays as printed in BnT, it would cost you well over $100 to purchase those issues individually. And that’s assuming you could find them all: the two issues with the Short Stories survey have been out of print for many years.

Future volumes of Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents will be devoted to the following topics: a history of Argosy, the working life of pulp writers, the output of legendary scribe Edgar Wallace, a history of Doubleday’s Crime Club book division, and a survey of films made during 1932, which we posit to be fantastic cinema’s best year. We hope and expect to issue at least two volumes per calendar year, although we’re on track to publish three in 2017. Stay tuned for more announcements.

In the meantime, don’t miss out on our first release in the Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents series. We guarantee it’ll make a valuable addition to any home library of reference works covering pulp fiction and vintage American popular culture. You can get it right here.

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Collectibles Section Updated

Posted in Collectibles For Sale on April 29, 2017 @ 9:18 pm

We’re doing some Spring Cleaning at the Murania Press storage facility and have just added a slew of pulps to our Collectibles For Sale section. In the days and weeks ahead we’ll be listing vintage hardcovers, paperbacks, and non-pulp periodicals as they are unearthed from the bowels of our archives. Meanwhile, there are some attractive and relatively scarce mags among the latest offerings. Some of them are pictured below. Look for them in the Collectibles section; you’ll find them righteously priced.

 

teeth-dragon

top notch

black book

tec-tales


Now Available for Shipping: THE BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER SAMPLER

Posted in Blood 'n' Thunder on April 18, 2017 @ 9:12 am

Blood ‘n’ Thunder last year ceased publication as a periodical, and I’ve been an abject failure at keeping this blog updated, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting on my hands. Far from it! In addition to collaborating with Doug Ellis on the upcoming The Art of the Pulps (more about that in a future post), I’ve just finished putting together Pride of the Pulps, the first volume in an irregularly published series I’m calling Blood ‘n’ Thunder Presents. (More about that in a future post, too.) And I’m currently working on Volume Two of Blood ‘n’ Thunder’s Cliffhanger Classics—which, unlike the first, will feature a substantial amount of all-new content.

What brings me here today—just as I’m preparing to leave for the annual Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention—is the arrival of The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Sampler, now available for purchase and shipping.  It’s a large-size trade paperback of 250 pages, reprinting 17 of the very best articles that appeared in issues 22/23 through 30.

Long-time BnT readers and subscribers will remember that Murania Press has previously published two volumes titled The Best of Blood ‘n’ Thunder. Those books, which were published in a smaller format and used relatively few illustrations, have continued to be good sellers because they reprint material from the first 21 issues, now many years out of print.

I wanted to try something different with the Sampler in hopes of attracting new readers to Blood ‘n’ Thunder. Being a profusely illustrated, large-format book with a two-column page design, it replicates BnT to a much greater degree than did the Best of volumes. With any luck, buyers will find it sufficiently appealing to justify purchases of back issues still available here on the site. Of course, the Sampler is a bargain in its own right: One would spend a hundred dollars buying the eight issues excerpted in its pages. Speaking as objectively as possible, the book offers a terrific cross-section of BnT material; I deliberately cast a wide net, making sure to represent not only pulp-related essays and articles, but also the zine’s other areas of interest, specifically vintage movies and Old Time Radio. Pulp-fiction content dominates, of course, and two of the movie articles (covering early Zorro and Tarzan films) have pulp connections.

Compiling these writings for the Sampler also enabled me to improve some of them with additional information and correction of minor mistakes that slipped into print the first time around. And while most articles are illustrated as they were in the magazine, a few are accompanied by artwork not available to me when I initially published them. For example, my piece for #26 on the making of Gunga Din (which reworked an earlier essay I’d done for the Lone Pine in the Movies magazine) now includes several fantastic candids taken on the set during production. And a portfolio of illustration art by the legendary Norman Saunders sports repros of numerous pulp-cover paintings that have come up for auction since we first printed the gallery in 2009.

I’m satisfied that the Sampler will make a great introduction to Blood ‘n’ Thunder and related publications. I daresay that even veteran BnT readers might find it useful, if only because it contains between two covers a lot of good reading you’d otherwise have to fish through eight different issues to find.  You can get the Sampler right here.

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Murania’s First Release of 2017

Posted in Murania Press,The Johnston McCulley Collection on February 3, 2017 @ 8:44 am

Yes, it’s been a long time since this blog was updated. But at last we have some exciting news to report. Pulp fiction’s first super-villain is back after nearly 100 years in obscurity—and his criminous exploits are just as thrilling now as they were a century ago!

After a lengthy, unanticipated delay we’re finally releasing the first volume of our Johnston McCulley Collection, which brings back into print several long-forgotten characters whose adventures were chronicled by Zorro’s creator for Detective Story Magazine. McCulley’s most famous hero has long overshadowed the others, but this astoundingly prolific ex-journalist also wrote series with more than 20 recurring protagonists, good guys and bad guys alike, for that legendary Street & Smith pulp.

The first of these debuts in 1915, Detective Story‘s first year. He is named Black Star, after the star of jet emblazoned on the hood he wears to conceal his identity. His minions, also clad in black hoods and robes, use vapor guns to subdue their victims and adversaries. These non-lethal weapons emit a gas that instantly renders unconscious those who breathe it in close quarters. Black Star avoids the use of deadly force and always keeps his word. But that doesn’t make him any less terrifying.

An early 20th-century metropolis trembles in fear at the mention of his name. His meticulously-planned depredations leave victims quaking in their shoes and baffle the police, who seem helpless to stem the rising tide of panic that threatens to engulf the city. Amateur criminologist and millionaire clubman Roger Verbeck, aided by his loyal valet Muggs, sets out to apprehend Black Star and finally does. But the master criminal makes good his escape and, once again in command of his army of robed and hooded henchmen, plots a campaign of revenge that will find the mayor, police commissioner, and prominent citizens under his control and at his mercy—with even the brilliant Roger Verbeck powerless to stop it!

Johnston McCulley’s Black Star stories—the first few of which were published under his John Mack Stone pseudonym—were incredibly popular among early readers of Detective Story Magazine. These World War I-era yarns anticipate much of what would become common in crime and hero pulps during the Depression era. You’ll find them fascinating.

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