Thursday, March 6, 2008

Pulp Memoirs

The other day, a member of one of the yahoo groups I joined commented that he liked the fact that my grandfather's memoir, Pulp Writer, was written right after his career with the pulps had slowed down. Because he had written it in 1943, right when Wild West Weekly was closing up shop, his memory was still fresh and was able to include a lot of good detail about writing for the pulps, as well as events that occurred at the publisher Street & Smith.

The following question was then asked: what about other pulp writers who ended up penning their memoirs? We couldn't think of any that had written theirs so soon after the end of the pulps; as it is, there aren't that many memoirs of pulp writers, period. I guess many of them weren't that interested in that part of their life, were embarrassed that they had written pulp fiction, and/or hadn't gotten to the point where they could appreciate the importance of putting down their thoughts. I (and plenty of other people, especially those on these yahoo groups) wish they had.

Eventually some of them realized that a) they better write it down because there was a dearth of information about the pulps and 2) they weren't ashamed of being a pulp writer anymore. You get to a point in your life when you realize that what other people think isn't as important. Thank God for that, huh?

Here's a list that I'm starting. I know it's incomplete. If any of you out there want to add to the list, add a comment and I'll greatly appreciate it. Maybe we can start something here. Seems a little counterproductive - after all, I want people to buy Pulp Writer, not necessarily other writer's memoirs, but people are going to read what they want to read, regardless of what I say. And hey, we're all in this together, and the written information out there about pulp fiction writers and pulp fiction history is scattered to the four corners of the earth and sometimes very hard to compile. Some of these writers were some of the "big names," and others added to the list may not be as famous. But I and others are grateful that all of these were written.

Many of these were picked out of bibliographies of reputable history books I have in my library.

1. Probably the best known: Frank Gruber, "The Pulp Jungle." 1967.
2. Harold Hersey. "Pulpwood Editor." 1938. Yes, an editor, not a writer. But great information and a requirement for any pulp student.
3. Walt Coburn. "Walt Coburn: Western Word Wrangler: An Autobiography." 1973.
4. E. Hoffman Price, "Far Lands Other Days." 1975.
5. Clark Ashton Smith. "The Black Book of Clark Ashton Smith." 1979.
6. Jack Williamson. "Wonder's Child: My Life in Science Fiction." 1984.

Every single one of these, with the exception of "Pulpwood Editor" was written at least 20 years after the end of the pulps, most of them more. I know that after my grandfather wrote Pulp Writer in 1943, he submitted it to one publisher (that I know of) who returned it, saying they didn't think there was a market for it at that point. That was in 1943.

Funny how times change.


Laurie Powers said...

OVER MY SHOULDER Reflections on a Science Fiction Era by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach was a wonderful memoir. It was published by Oswald Train in 1983. It more involved book publishing than the pulps but it did involve many pulpish

Steve Everett

Pap said...

Two more that come to mind are these.
"Book Of The Dead Friends of Yesteryear:Fictioneers and Others"
E. Hoffman Price. Published by Arkham House in 2001 and has an introduction by Jack Williamson.
"Magazines I Remember: Some Pulps, Their Editors, And What It was Like To Write For Them" Hugh B. Cave and published by Tattered Pages Press in 1994.
Arkham House also published "Cave Of A Thousand Tales" The Life and Times of Hugh B. Cave in 2004.

Barry Traylor

Laurie Powers said...

This comment is from Mike Chomko from a chat group. He was kind enough to note that two of the original memoirs I had posted on the original post are not memoirs. I will be changing that shortly. Here's Mike's list of other pulp memoirs. He has several of these available, and his contact information is on the bottom.

Laurie, you mentioned posting six pulp memoirs on her blog. Two of the books you listed are not memoirs:
4. E. Hoffmann Price, "Far Lands Other Days." 1975. This is a collection of Hoffman Price's fiction.
5. Clark Ashton Smith. "The Black Book of Clark Ashton Smith." 1979. This one is a collection of notes that served as the basis of stories and poems that Smith later published.

Here are some that should be added to your list:

Bedford-Jones, H., POST MORTEM, 1980. This is a small booklet that was published by the executor of the Vincent Starett literary estate that was limited to 86 copies and printed by a Missouri antiquarian bookseller. I believe the material was originally written in 1947, two years before the death of its author. The material is more readily available as part of the book, KING OF THE PULPS: THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF H. BEDFORD JONES, a biography/bibliography of the author written and compiled by Peter Ruber, the late Darrell C. Richardson, and Victor A. Berch and published in 2003 by Battered Silicon Dispatch Box.

Bloch, Robert, ONCE AROUND THE BLOCH, 1993. Published by Tor, this is Bloch's "Unauthorized Autobiography."

Eggenhofer, Nick, "HORSES, HORSES, ALWAYS HORSES: THE LIFE AND ART OF NICK EGGENHOFER, 1981. This book was edited by Gene Ball and published by Sage Publishing of Cody, Wyoming. Eggenhofer was THE artist for Street & Smith's
WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE. This is part autobiography/part art book.

Gibson, Walter B., "My Years with the Shadow," in THE CRIME ORACLE and THE TEETH OF THE DRAGON, 1975. This is one of two introductions to this Dover Book that reprints two of the adventures of The Shadow. The second introduction is by John L. Nanovic, editor of THE SHADOW and DOC SAVAGE. It is noted below.

Gibson, Walter B., THE SHADOW SCRAPBOOK, 1979. Anthony Tollin, current publisher of THE SHADOW and DOC SAVAGE, was a contributing editor to this book which contains Gibson's memories of writing the Shadow novels for Street & Smith, a previously unpublished Shadow story, comic strips, a list
of the stories, and more.

Gulick, Bill, SIXTY-FOUR YEARS AS A WRITER, 2006. This was published by Caxton Press of Caldwell, Idaho. Gulick was a regular contributor to THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and other national magazines, but got his start by
writing for the pulps. He discusses his apprenticeship as a pulp writer in a few short chapters at the start of his book.

Hoffmann Price, E., BOOK OF THE DEAD: FRIENDS OF YESTERYEAR: FICTIONEERS AND OTHERS, 2001. Published by Arkham House, this is subtitled "Memories of the
Pulp Fiction Era." This is a collection of the author's memories of his fellow pulp writers that, according to Peter Ruber's introduction to the
book, was a work-in-progress for 33 years. The first chapter, a piece on WEIRD TALES editor Farnsworth Wright, appeared in July 1944 in W. Paul Cook's magazine, THE GHOST.

Nanovic, John, "I Never Called Him Bill," in THE CRIME ORACLE and THE TEETH OF THE DRAGON, 1975. This is one of two introductions to this Dover Book that reprints two of the adventures of The Shadow. The second introduction is by Walter B. Gibson, author of most of The Shadow novels.

Rouse, William Merriam and Babcock, Miriam DuBois, THE PULPS, THE
ADIRONDACKS, AND COON MOUNTAIN BILL, 2006. The first fifty-some pages of this collection of pulp stories and previously unpublished fiction is a biography of this ARGOSY writer, written by the author's stepdaughter. It is
largely based on Rouse's correspondence. A bibliography of the author's published fiction, compiled by Albert Tonik and Larry Estep, follows the stories.

Tuttle, W. C., MONTANA MAN, 1966. An autobiography of the great Western writer, published by Avalon Books.

Whitehouse, Arch, THE FLEDGLING: AN AERIAL GUNNER IN WORLD WAR I, 1964. Not a memoir of his writing years, this is the story of the aviation fiction writer's WWI years.

Woolrich, Cornell, BLUES OF A LIFETIME, 1991. Edited by Mark T. Bassett and published by Popular Press, this is more a collection of autobiographical sketches left among the author's papers.

There are also essays cattered here and there throughout various pulp fanzines.

And now for the commercial plug: some of the books listed above are still in print and available through me. Having long sold Battered Silicon's books, I'm able to provide copies of KING OF THE PULPS and THE PULPS, THE
ADIRONDACKS, AND COON MOUNTAIN BILL. I'm also a distributor of Arkham House's books and can get copies of BOOK OF THE DEAD as well as Hugh Cave's biography, CAVE OF A THOUSAND TALES. Finally, Gulick's SIXTY-FOUR YEARS AS A
WRITER has been a book that I have handled. I still may have a copy or two left in my backstock. If not, I can reorder it for you.

Laurie also mentioned Walt Coburn's autobiography, WALT COBURN: WESTERN
WORD WRANGLER. The basis of this book was an essay that Coburn wrote for one of the "True West" magazines. I reprinted this essay in an issue of my pulp-history fanzine, PURPLE PROSE. I only have about a dozen copies left of
the issue. If you're interested, they are available for $18, postage paid.
You can drop me a line via email at

Laurie Powers said...

Another one that comes to mind is MAGAZINES THAT I REMEMBER by Hugh Cave.


Laurie Powers said...

This note is from Barry Traylor:

Mike Chomko is much too modest as he neglected to mention the Pulp fanzine he has published, namely Purple Prose and in particular issue # 16 with "Notes and Name Droppings from an Editor's Chair" by Henry Steeger the man who began Popular Publications in partnership with Harold Goldsmith.
The only problem is that I have a hunch this issue is out of print.

Barry Traylor

Laurie Powers said...

This comment is from Mike Chomko:

Morgan mentioned, MAGAZINES I REMEMBER. I had forgotten about that one. It was written by Hugh B. Cave and published by Tattered Pages Press (Doug Ellis) in 1994. It's based on correspondence between Cave and fellow writer,
Carl Jacobi. The letters start in 1931, so at least part of the book was written during the pulp era.

There are also two books, both edited by John Locke, that are culled from the pages of the writers' magazines (such as WRITER'S DIGEST) of the
pulp era. PULP FICTIONEERS: ADVENTURES IN THE STORYTELLING BUSINESS was published in 2004 by Adventure House. PULPWOOD DAYS, VOL. ONE: EDITORS YOU WANT TO KNOW was published in 2007 by Off-Trail Publications (Locke, himself). I still sell copies of these last two titles.

Mike Chomko

Laurie Powers said...

A comment from Richard Hall:

Harry Bedwell. Harry Bedwell, Last of the Great Railroad Storytellers.
Frank Donovan Bedwell wrote railroad stories for Railroad Magazine and Saturday Evening Post.

Karl Detzer. Myself When Young
An autobiography, it covers his youth up to his college years and
nothing about this writing career.

Clarence Mulford. Bar-20: The Life of Clarence E. Mulford. Mike Nevins
Writer of westerns, most notably Hopalong Cassidy of the Bar-20 ranch

Robert Turner. Some of My Best Friends are Writers

Richard Wormser. How to Become a Complete Nonentity



Laurie Powers said...

A comment from Ron Clinton:
I suspect they've already been mentioned, but if so, I missed them: Frank Gruber's THE PULP JUNGLE and THE NEW PULPWOOD EDITOR by H. Hersey.

Incidentally, I just picked up PULP WRITER...looking forward to reading it.

Ron Clinton

Laurie Powers said...

Cartomancer left the following comment: Tom Blackburn penned an exceptional memoir in the April 1944 WRITER'S
DIGEST, "Take with Soda."

Laurie Powers said...

Has anyone mentioned Richard Wormser's HOW TO BECOME A COMPLETE NON-ENTITY?
Anthony Tollin left the following comment:

Has anyone mentioned Richard Wormser's HOW TO BECOME A COMPLETE NON-ENTITY? It's available from Much of it involves his career as a Hollywood screenwriter, but it also has a number of chapters on his work as
an assistant editor at Street & Smith, Walter Gibson, Wormser's writing on the NICK CARTER pulps and for other pulp publishers. --Anthony Tollin

Laurie Powers said...

From Patricia Rogers:

Williamson, Jack. WONDER'S CHILD.

There are two editions. One came out in 1984 and Jack added to that for the 2005 edition. It is a wonderful read.

Laurie Powers said...

Paul Dellinger wrote:

I'm not sure if you'd want to include all these among the pulp writer memoir list, as some came along after the pulps, but these are excellent books about writing and living in the SF field:

Damon Knight, "The Futurians"

Robert Heinlein, "Grumbles from the Grave" (a posthumous collection of letters)

Perry A. Chapdelaine Sr., Tony Chapdelaine, George Hay, editors: "The John W.
Campbell Letters"

Thomas Disch, "The Stuff Our Dreams Are Made Of"

Frederik Pohl, "The Way the Future Was"

Robert Silverberg, "Reflections and Refractions" (collection of his columns)

Isaac Asimov: "In Memory Still Green"; "In Joy Still Felt"; "Asimov Laughs Again"; "I.
Asimov: A Memoir"

Piers Anthony, "Bio of an Ogre"

Laurie Powers said...

Paul Dellinger wrote:

I meant to mention that those last two, the Moscowitz and Platt books, are collections of articles about a bunch of individual writers. The authors interviewed them, quoted them and supplied context for the interviews.
So those two aren't actually biographies -- or, if they are, they're mini-biographies.

Laurie Powers said...

tbax 127 wrote:
Let me add another book to the list of pulp writers. Although no a
memoir in the usual sense, the book "Secrets of the World's Best
Selling Writer" by Francis and Roberta Fugate,is a detailed look at the style and techniques of Erle Stanley Gardner, mostly in his own words from letters and his extensive notebooks. There are a number of references about his experiences in learning to write for the pulps,although the focus is on the writing and storytelling skills and not the related pulp history history.

Laurie Powers said...

Andrew Porter wrote:

THE WORLD OF SCIENCE FICTION, 1926-1976 by Lester Del Rey, Garland
Publishing, 1979, ISBN 0-8240-1446-4, hardcover, $15, no dustjacket.

Laurie Powers said...

Andrew Porter wrote:


Next you're going to say you've never heard of the FANCYCLOPEDIA....

Todd Mason said...

Among the books that Paul Dellinger mentioned, actually nearly all the authors/subjects, even the comaparitively late Robert Silverberg, actually did write for the last pulps, at least...and in the second quotation from Dellinger, Sam Moskowitz's name is typo'd. Charles Platt's DREAM MAKERS, DREAM MAKERS II, and DREAM MAKERS (Second Edition, which draws from the previous two books but doesn't include all the contents of both) is only the most famous of interview collections among sf/fantasy writers, including those who contributed to the pulps...among the others are Paul Walker's SPEAKING OF SCIENCE FICTION, and at least one volume of Darrell Schweitzer's. Ed Gorman has been at least partially responsible for at least one similar book in the crime-fiction field. And I believe at least one similar collection of western-fiction writers' interviews has been published.

And Damon Knight's THE FUTURIANS and Frederik Pohl's THE WAY THE FUTURE WAS have their origins in a volume called HELL'S CARTOGRAPHERS, edited by Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison, wherein Aldiss, Harrison, Knight, Pohl, Robert Silverberg, and Alfred Bester all contribute short autobiographies, and all of them had some interaction with the pulps, at least...I think Aldiss is the only one never to publish in a pulp per se, as opposed to their digest-sized and other magazine successors, among other fora. Variant versions of Bester's essay have appeared elsewhere (in Harrison's anthology NOVA 4 and in Bester's collected short work, for example)...I'm not sure the other five have been reprinted as they are here at all.