Friday, August 17, 2007

Bruno Fischer

Written by Gordon Hauptfleisch
Published August 16, 2007
Part of Pulp Pages: Hardboiled and Noir Fiction

“The streets were dark with something more than night.” - Raymond Chandler

When it came to the non-nonsense penny-a-word economy and resourcefulness of such prolific pulpsters as Bruno Fischer, a picture would often foretell a thousand words, reliably triggering a torrent fit to thrill for the infamous Weird Menace pulps’ ever-insatiable lust for page-turning melodrama and moral dilemma.

In a bit of assembly-line ass-backwardness coming into the publication picture, the noirish stories were sometimes written to go along with artwork already in-house. “The covers were supposed to illustrate a story,” Fischer explained in Lee Server’s reference Danger Is My Business. “However, the covers were sometimes printed in advance, before there was a story. So what the editor did was show me the cover or a drawing - it was usually a picture of a half-naked woman and someone stripping the rest of her clothes off her. And on that basis I wrote dozens of stories.”

A not inconsiderable quantity that turned out to be a fraction of Fischer’s creative output during his 1908-1995 lifetime, which saw him write over 300 stories — the nightmarish tenor of which may seen in such titles “School for Satan’s School Girls,” “Models for the Pain Sculpture,” and “White Flesh Must Rot” — for the so-called shudder-pulps such as Terror Tales and Sinister Stories, and also for the mags Mask and Manhunt. Also writing as Russell Gray and Harrison Storm, Fischer authored 25 novels, such as The Bleeding Scissors, Murder in the Raw, and The Lady Kills.

Ed here: Interesting piece over on blog critics about Bruno Fischer. The older I get the better he reads; his best stuff anyway. While he wasn't an original writer, nor in the first tier of the Gold Medal writers, his books work very well as solid suspense stories. And work even better as historical pieces about his time and, one assumes, his attitudes about his time.

I'm particularly taken with the Gold Medals published in the early Fifties when Fischer takes us through the New America, the country that awaited the soldiers on their return from war. He shared this fascination with his Gold Medal compatriots including John D. Macdonald and Charles Williams. If he wasn't as talented as those men he was at least as honest and observant about the pitfalls of housing developments and life lived on credit.

Yes, he did an enormous amount of shudder pulp material but he also wrote The Bleeding Scissors, which is a true and very effective noir; and he saved his best novel for last, The Evil Days. If I ever teach a class in writing the suspense novel that will be one of my choices to read and take apart. It always reminded me of Howard Fast's hardboiled novels--the decent man trapped by fate (or a foolish mate) into not only trying to survive but also being forced to question the way he lives. The suburbs, the drab jobs in the city, the the endless anxiety over money.

He's well worth a read.


Anonymous said...

I did a book signing with Fuischer in New York shortly before he passed away. I sat next to him. He was completely blind and people would put books in front of him and his wife would guide his hand to sign his autograph. It was...inspirational.


Anonymous said...

As someone raised literarily on HITCHCOCK PRESENTS anthos, I was always happy to see Fischer in the TOC...I assume the quoted guy meant BLACK MASK and MANHNUNT magazines...