Day Keene was the pseudonym of Gunard Hjerstedt who was born on the south side of Chicago, the son of a paving contractor, in 1903. Keene became an actor in repertory theatre in the early 1920s. When some of his friends, such as Melvyn Douglas and Barton McClain, decided to try movies, Keene, who had already had some success writing plays for the group, flipped a coin to decide between acting and writing. Writing won.
In the 1930s he began writing scripts for radio soap operas. He was the principal writer for the “Little Orphan Annie” radio program. In 1940 he started contributing to pulp magazines specializing in crime and detective fiction. His first stories were published in Ace G-Man Stories and Dime Mystery and later he graduated to Black Mask and Dime Detective.
Tired of the pressure and the grind, Keene moved to the sparsely populated west coast of Florida, where he became one of the first, best, and most prolific writers to make the transition from the pulps to the newly emerging paperback originals in the late 1940s. He also befriended young writers who had moved there, among them Talmage Powell and John D. MacDonald.
Courtesy of the Maureen Moran Literary Agency
Ed here: Many of you probably own some of the fine collections of Fredric Brown pulp stories published by Dennis McMillan in the 90s. Now I'm told that virtually if not literally all of Day Keene's pulp stories will be collected in similar fashion--running to twelve volumes over the years. I've always liked Keene's stuff. He's never less than readable and sometimes he's almost a genius.
And anybody who roomed with Melvyn Douglas (one of my favorite actors) can't be all bad. What a trio--Keene, Douglas and burly Barton McLain..