Wednesday, December 22, 2010



Ed here: Last night I talked about Lee Server's excellent biography of Robert Mitchum. Here's Lee's masterful take on the pulps.
Used copies are readily available. (From 2009)


Before he became known for his excellent biographies of Robert Mitchum, Ava Gardner and Samuel Fuller, Server wrote and co-edited several books about noir. I collaborated with him on two of them. His knowledge of noir films made me feel like the tourist I am.

He also wrote one of the finest books on pulp fiction I've ever read, Danger is My Business. It's filled with full colors of cover from every genre of pulps and stories about the writers and artists and editors who made them so successful for two decades. Just one example--do you know how Myrna Loy got her last name? I didn't. It turns out the mysterious Peter Ruric, author of Fast One and several classic hardboiled Black Mask stories, gave it to her when she was still a dancer in a nightclub. Very little is known about Ruric who's real name was George Sims and who was born not far from Cedar Rapids.

Each genre gets it own chapter-horror, adventure-western, private eye, romance and sex, hero pulps and science fiction as well as a chapter on the so-called Fiction Factories that ruled pulp land.

The romance and sex chapter surprised me. These pulps took real risks given the prevailing morality of the era. Robert Leslie Bellems set the tone for the naughty hardboiled male writers while women turned in the real erotica.

Same with the horror pulps. Looking at the covers I'm struck by how many of them depicted female bondage. The scantily clad (and usually great looking) heroines were always tied up by some fiend.

We all know how a lot of blurbs work. One writer wants to help another writer so he praises the book. You can usually tell when the blurb writer is log rolling. "I don't think I've ever read a novel as stupendously suspenseful or as monumentally wonderful or as Nobel-worthy as Sure I Killed, I Killed Him Good. And there's print on every page! Honest!"

But here are two blurbs that ring true for sure.

"Danger is My Business Takes me back forty years to my beginnings. Thank God for the pulps!" Elmore Leonard

"Danger is My Business is pure gold. It is so much fun to read. Lee Server's enthusiasm is well-matched to a writing style so witty and a knowledge of the subject so wide-ranging that Danger I My Business is a total page-tuner, as involving as any of the magazines he's opened for us." Donald E. Westlake

This is a book that belongs in your library.

1 comment:

Evan Lewis said...

I bought this book last time you mentioned it, Ed, and I ain't been sorry!