Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hugh B. Cave

Imagine this:

Bitter winter. Midnight. You're driving as fast as you can to an urgent appointment. On your right you see a wide frozen lake gleaming in the moonlight. A bit further on you see an amusement park that is closed for the season, everything shiny with ice. But as you come upon it you hear an impossible clamor--the thunderous sound of the ferris wheel starting up. Then comes the sound of a woman screaming. You stop the car to watch in disbelief as the ferris wheel car holding the woman begins its climb up the tracks, tracks covered in ice that will certainly hurl the car to the ground when it reaches the top.

Now is that a hook or is that a hook? We're trapped in an ice-snow-rain storm out here so I spent my free time checking out websites I'd hadn't read for a long time. One of them ran a long piece on the career of Hugh B. Cave, a man who made his mark in horror and fantasy but who also did some exotic crime work for the detective pulps. The piece made me grab a collection of his called Bottled in Blonde about (get this) a private eye who is always half-drunk while working on a case. The above opens one of nine adventures that appeared in Dime Detective in the Thirties.

Cave's work as a crime writer compels because of the unsettling horrific aspects of the stories, a Weird Tales star picking up some of the small time money the tec boys are chasing.

Cave had a long run in the slicks as well as the pulps and in the Fifties Cave had three NY Times bestsellers. He wrote and sold fiction well into his nineties.


Fred Blosser said...

It's nice to see that Hugh Cave, John Butler, and some of the other old time B-list pulp writers ("B" not as a comment on the quality of their work -- just that they never reached the popular heights of Hammett, Chandler, Lovecraft, ERB, etc) have been collected in book form in recent years. I hope that that others like Eric Taylor, Dwight Babcock, Thorp McCluskey, and Paul Fairman get similar recognition before too many more years pass, and we recede that much further from the pulp era.

Anonymous said...

Cave may be the only author who was able to sell stories to Astounding, Weird Tales, Black Mask and Adventure, a literally amazing feat of professional versatility.
A number of authors might be called King of the Pulps, but Cave has a better claim to that crown than most.

John Hocking

Anonymous said...

And Fred Blosser forgets what you mentioned, Ed...that with work such as THE CROSS AND THE DRUM, Cave was reaching large audiences in the 1950s the way Lovecraft, at least, didn't for decades after his death. I guess it's a matter of sustained appeal...that funny bit of business as to who gets to stay in print and who largely doesn't.