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The Shudder Pulps –

The Shudder Pulps

Sunday , 19, May 2024 Leave a comment

Robert Kenneth Jones’ The Shudder Pulps is possibly the first history of a pulp magazine genre. The book was first published as a hardback by Fax Collector’s Editions in 1975 (with cool Mike Kaluta cover). A trade paperback edition from New American Library followed in 1978.

The weird menace pulps lasted about eight years from 1933 to 1941. The concept was the brain child of Harry Steeger, publisher of Popular Publication line of pulps. The stories had gothic elements, mystery, torture, and non-supernatural explanations.

Jones goes through the success of Dime Mystery, Horror Stories, and Terror Tales all from Popular Publications and the imitators like Thrilling Mystery. Weird Tales even attempted to ride the wave with Paul Ernst’s “Doctor Satan” series.

He discusses some of the exemplars including Hugh B. Cave, Wyatt Blassingame, John H. Knox, and Norvell W. Page. Jones differentiates the styles of the bigger writers for the weird menace magazines.

There were trends including the defective detectives and femmes fatales. Some science fiction and Weird Tales writers had a few stories in these magazines including Robert E. Howard, Jack Williamson, and Edmond Hamilton.

There was a backlash against the lurid covers of torture and also the decline of the genre as a whole by 1940. Dime Mystery became a standard crime/detective/mystery pulp and lingered on until 1948. Terror Tales and Horror Tales both ended in 1941. The classic years were 1933 to around 1939.

The Shudder Pulps is a good history of the pulp magazines in general as Jones has some details on the business side of things. He also has quotes from a fair number of pulp fictioneers who wrote for the weird menace magazines. There are a lot cover and interior art included in the book and an index. There is an abundance of information including index in 238 pages.

I have the Fax hardback without the dust wrapper. I have a couple of weird menace anthologies from the 80s edited by Sheldon Jaffery. John Pelan edited some single author collections and two anthologies Tales of Terror & Torment volumes 1 and 2 if you are interested on reading some of the fiction. I intend on picking those up once I get some back log of unread books reduced.

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