Monday, November 30, 2009

Pulp Memoirs - A Comprehensive List

About a year and a half ago I posted a list of memoirs penned by authors who wrote for the pulp fiction magazines during the golden age of pulps. My list was pretty lame: it only consisted of 6 titles. Then my long-suffering friends from the pulp magazine groups contributed about 20 more, which were added as comments. I promised at the time that I would eventually repost everything all in one blog. Well, now it's happening, a year and a half later.

The decision to re-post this list is partly fueled by my recent reading of Daisy Bacon's memoir, LOVE STORY WRITER, which was published in 1955. Daisy writes very little of her personal life but her advice on how to get published in the pulps must have been invaluable to writers at the time, and now LOVE STORY WRITER gives us a good view into what it must be have to be the head editor of Street & Smith's LOVE STORY MAGAZINE.

So here's the list, in alphabetical order based on the author's last name. Any comments that the contributors had about the books is included in quotes. Thanks to all who contributed! And again, if you have any more to add, just add them in the comments and I'll see to adding them to the list.

I'll be adding entries as they are given to me.

Bacon, Daisy. LOVE STORY WRITER. 1955. Memoir, but more of a writing guide, by the editor of Street & Smith's best selling magazine of all time, LOVE STORY MAGAZINE.

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."

Blackburn, Tom. "Take with Soda," in WRITER'S DIGEST, April 1944. "An exceptional memoir."

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

Bonham, Frank. "Tarzana Nights," essay on ghosting for ed Earl ONE RIDE TOO MANY. Barricade Books

Cave, Hugh B. MAGAZINES I REMEMBER; SOME PULPS, THEIR EDITORS, AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO WRITE FOR THEM. Tattered Pages Press. 1994. "This is 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." Arkham House also published "Cave Of A Thousand Tales" The Life and Times of Hugh B. Cave in 2004.

Clarke, Arthur C. ASTOUNDING DAYS: A SCIENCE FICTIONAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY. He has many interesting things to say about the magazine especially the 1930's and 1940's.

Coburn, Walt. "Walt Coburn: Western Word Wrangler: An Autobiography." 1973.

Cushman, Dan. PLENTY OF ROOM & AIR. (1975).

DelRey, Lester; EARLY DEL REY; Doubleday, 1975, and numerous story prefaces, etc on pulps/stories/editors

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

Eshbach, Lloyd Arthur. OVER MY SHOULDER: REFLECTIONS ON A SCIENCE FICTION ERA. "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 people."

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."

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."

Gruber, Frank. THE PULP JUNGLE. 1967. One of the best-known memoirs by one of the contributors to BLACK MASK.

Gruber, Frank; 39pp preface in BRASS KNUCKLES, Sherbourne, 1970

Gulick, Bill. SIXTY-FOUR YEARS AS A WRITER. Caxton Press, 2006. "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."

Hersey, Harold. PULPWOOD EDITOR. 1938. Hersey was the creator and editor of some of the strangest pulp titles of all time, including SPEAKEASY STORIES, PRISON STORIES, STRANGE SUICIDES and MEDICAL HORRORS.

Johnson, Ryerson. essays,

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."

Pohl, Frederik. THE WAY THE FUTURE WAS. who celebrated his 90th birthday this past Thanksgiving Day). "In addition to his career as author, agent, lecturer, ambassador, etc., Fred was also one of the youngest pulp magazine editors at age nineteen working for Popular on Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories. Rick Hauptmann (Jack Williamson's bibliographer) opined on several occasions that Fred's book was his finest work of fiction!"

Powers, Paul. PULP WRITER: TWENTY YEARS IN THE AMERICAN GRUB STREET. 2007. A memoir of Powers' career as a writer for WILD WEST WEEKLY, penned in 1943 and discovered in 1999 by his granddaughter, Laurie. Includes a Prologue and Epilogue by Laurie that discusses the history of Wild West Weekly and Powers' life after 1943.

Price, E. Hoffman. BOOK OF THE DEAD FRIENDS OF YESTERYEAR: FICTIONEERS AND OTHERS. 2001. "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." With an introduction by Jack Wiliamson.

Price, E. Hoffman, FAR LANDS OTHER DAYS. 1975.

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."


Steeger, Henry. "Notes and Name Droppings from an Editor's Chair," in PURPLE PROSE, #16. "By Henry Steeger, the man who began Popular Publications in partnership with Harold Goldsmith. May be out of print."


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."

Wormser, Richard and Skutch, Ira. HOW TO BECOME A COMPLETE NONENTITY. 2006.

Other Biographies and Histories Recommended by Contributors (This is NOT a complete list of pulp fiction history books by any means):


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.

"The Harry Bedwell book is worth reading because very little is out there about the long running pulp, RAILROAD STORIES. Also has a nice bibliography in the back listing Bedwell's pulp and slick appearances. It's online free through the Google website and copies are also available on"

Fugate, Francis and Roberta. SECRETS OF THE WORLD'S BESTSELLING WRITER. 1980. "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."

Del Rey, Lester. THE WORLD OF SCIENCE FICTION, 1926-1976 by Lester Del Rey, Garland
Publishing, 1979.

Reynolds, Quentin James. "The Fiction Factory; Or, From Pulp Row to Quality Street: The Story of 100 Years of Publishing at Street & Smith. Random House (1955). Not quite a pulp-writer's memoir, but it has info on S & S's magazines, and not just their genre titles.


From Ken McDaniel: “you might want to consider the excellent Jon Tuska prefixes to his 2 or 3 hardcover anthologies(one of them was Star Western).”


Evan Lewis said...

A great list, and a great reference in itself. At one of the many LanceCons I attended some years back, I briefly met Ryerson Johnson, and remember he was writing a memoir. Well, I just looked it up, and see Bill Pronzini inherited the unfinished manuscript, and has published excerpts here and there, but it's questionable whether the whole work will ever be suitably prepared for publication. Too bad.

James Reasoner said...

Frank Bonham's essay "Tarzana Nights" is about the time he spent ghosting for Ed Earl Repp. It's been published in several places, including as the introduction to his short story collection ONE RIDE TOO MANY, published in the Nineties by Barricade Books and still readily available on-line.

Walker Martin said...

Ryerson Johnson was a regular at Pulpcon for many years and lived into his 90's. I had many discussions with him and we carried on a correspondence about his pulp days. For a period in the 1940's he was even an editor at Popular Publications. When his office days ended they let him take whatever pulp paintings and interior art that he wanted and this eventually resulted in me obtaining many pieces of art from him.

He was a professional writer most of his long life and a great guy to talk with about the old magazines. Pronzini did manage to get one or two installments of Ryerson's memoir published on the website.

Barry Traylor said...

There may be some overlap between what Mike Chomko did in Purple Prose #16 and the interview with Harry Steeger that was in Xenophile #33 published in 1977 but I would have to reread both to be sure.
Xenophiles are not impossible to find as I seem to recall a set being in the auction at PulpFest last Summer.
Of course it is possible that Mike still has a few copies at Casa Chomko.

Laurie said...

Thanks for all these additions. I'll be adding those to the list along with others that I get in the PulpMags group.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'd enjoy reading that Walter Gibson piece.

Walker Martin said...

By the way the book by Frank Donovan, HARRY BEDWELL, is available online free through the Google website. Just type Harry Bedwell in and the free book is listed as one of the hits.

It's worth reading because very little is out there about the long running pulp, RAILROAD STORIES. Also has a nice bibliography in the back listing Bedwell's pulp and slick appearances. Copies are also available on

Rick said...

Great list! Printing it out for checklist reference. Thanks.

Laurie said...

The list is up-to-date with additions previously mentioned here and on PulpMags.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Gosh, I love this list. Thanks so much for putting it together.

Ken said...

Hi: I think you will want to include the following: (a. Gruber, Frank; 39pp preface in Brass Knuckles, Sherbourne hc, 1970 (b. DelRey, Lester; Early DelRey; Doubleday, hc, 1975 numerous story prefaces, etc on pulps/stories/editors (c. Turner, Robert; Some of My Best Friends are Writers, But I Wouldn't Want My Daughter to Marry One; Sherbourne hc, 1970. Also you might want to consider the excellent Jon Tuska prefixes to his 2 or 3 hardcover anthologies(one of them was Star Western). Ken McDaniel(of pulpmags)

Laurie said...

Patti, glad you appreciate it.

Ken, Thanks for the info. I'll add Frank Gruber's and Lester Del Rey.
I've already included Robert Turners book. As for Tuska's, I'll list them, but after this I'd rather not get into listing history books at this time, including prefaces. There are a lot of history books on pulps and I don't want to include those on this post. It would make it way too long. But I appreciate the info. Maybe a future post. Maybe.

Barry Traylor said...

I just realized that nobody has mentioned the late E.Hoffman Price's excellent memoir of Pulp Ficioneering days called "Book Of The Dead" published by Arkham House in 2001.

Laurie said...

This list has been updated with new comments and messages received in the PulpMags group through today. Starting today, this list will also be available as a File on the PulpMags Yahoo group.