Saturday, August 26, 2017
Leaping from Pulps to Paperbacks
Scott D. Parker
Over on my western author blog yesterday, I reviewed “The Haunted Legion,” a pulp story by Bradford Scott (AKA Leslie Scott). Don’t worry: the hero, Walt Slade, is a Texas Ranger and a detective so he fits right in here with Do Some Damage. Heck, the structure of the yarn is such that it comes across as a classic golden age detective story, albeit with guns and horses. That surprised me as I figured it would be a whole lot more action considering it was much shorter than the two paperback adventures of Slade I had already read and loved (FOUR MUST DIE and KILLER’S DOOM).
Which got me to thinking more in the mystery/crime field: Were there any detectives who made the jump from the pulps into the paperback book market? Few come to mind. Maybe Ellery Queen? Michael Shayne, I think, went the other way, but I could be wrong.
As aspect that fascinated me was the type of language author Bradford Scott put in Slade’s mouth. In the paperbacks, he spoke like the educated man he is. “You” is written “you” and “maybe” is “maybe.” Not so in the pulp. “You” becomes “yuh” and “maybe” comes across as “mebbe.” It was odd and off putting, to be honest. I got used to it, but still.
Part of me wonders if that was a publisher decision as Bradford Scott moved his character from the pulps to paperbacks. Maybe it was just a natural evolution of writing styles from pulps to paperbacks.
But back to the main question: detective character making the leap from pulps to paperbacks. How many? I can’t think of any Erle Stanley Gardner character who made the transition.
Idle thoughts that occurred to me as I watch local TV coverage of Hurricane Harvey. Speaking of the hurricane, we here in Houston stocked up for the storm no matter the course it takes. No immediate order to evacuate tonight (25 August) but my heart and prayers go out to the folks down in Rockport, Corpus Christi, and the central Texas coast. As I’m writing this, it’s around 10:35pm and Harvey has just made landfall as a Category 4 storm. That’s the worst for Texas since 1961. It’s difficult to fathom 140 MPH winds. It is also in times like these—and the eclipse earlier this week—when we humans are reminded of our place in the universe.
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Ellery Queen first appeared in hardback novels and really didn't have much of a pulp presence except in some issues of BLUE BOOK. Frank Kane's private eye character Johnny Liddell, though, first appeared in a story in the pulp CRACK DETECTIVE before a long career in hardcover and paperback original.
James Reasoner gives a good example with Frank Kane's Johnny Liddell series. There are a good many others.
Stewart Sterling (real name Printice Winchell) was a regular in Black Mask and he carried over Fire Marshall Ben Pedley from the pulps to hardback and paperback publications. The better ones (Five Alarm Funeral 1942 and Where There's Smoke 1946) are good hard-boiled reads) as is the stand-alone Down Among the Dead Men 1943 about the NYC harbor police.
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