I first heard of “men’s adventure magazines” or “men’s sweat magazine” in an article by Will Murray for Cryptic Publications’ Shudder Stories No. 1 back in the mid-1980s. Cryptic later did an one off imitation, Man’s Guts in 1989 (with a story by my friend Charles Hoffman). I was familiar with the spicy pulps, the weird menace pulps, and of course the adventure pulp magazines. These post pulp magazines are an area I had only superficial knowledge.
Men’s adventure magazine flourished around 1954 to 1966 though some hung on into almost the 1980s. The magazine appeared to grow in a niche between the more respectable “men’s magazines” such as True and the post-pulp version of Argosy and the porn mags. They were heavy on the illustration. Some fiction did run though most were “true” or “true confession” type pieces that went back to the pulp magazines published by Fawcett.
I am getting an education in the post-war men’s adventure magazines courtesy of Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle at New Texture Books (Menspulpmags.com). They had a table at Pulpfest last month and Did some talking with them about writer Robert Edmond Alter. Alter had two classic Gold Medal crime paperbacks in the 1960s. He wrote a lot for Argosy and Adventure specializing in sea diving stories. He wrote enough shark stories to fill up an Argosy Special on sharks in 1977. He died relatively young in 1966 from cancer and could have beaten Peter Benchley to the punch with the great shark novel.
Most of what I know about the men’s adventure magazines previous to now has been from It’s A Man’s World by Adam Parfrey (Feral House, 2003). Man’s World is a big illustrated coffee table book with an essay on the rise of the magazines, some interviews with editors and authors, and lots and lots of pictures.
New Texture Books is putting together books of reprint art, articles, and stories from these magazines. Bob Deis sent me some books to review. Let me tell you, they are beautiful.
Illustration appeared to be more important than the contents for the post war men’s adventure magazine in contrast to the pulp magazines. It was also a different set of writers. The classic era of mass market paperbacks had quite a few writers who got their start in the last days of the pulp magazines: John D. MacDonald, Gardner F. Fox, Louis L’amour, Gordon D. Shirreffs, Poul Anderson.
You did have some writers I recognized including Lawrence Block, Harlan Ellison, and Robert Silverberg writing pieces for these magazines. There are new authors I am unfamiliar with: Robert F. Dorr, Walter Kaylan, Jane Dolinger, Ken Krippene to name a few. One writer who wrote for these magazines was Mario Puzo, the guy who wrote The Godfather.
Weasels Ripped My Flesh! Is a good introduction to the men’s adventure magazines. It is a trade paperback, 416 pages, 23 stories, three interviews, and a magazine cover reproduction in black and white for each story. You get some brief history of the magazines from Wyatt Doyle’s foreword and Robert Deis’ introduction.
Some of the stories are sensationalized versions of true events by Robert F. Dorr (Korean War) and Walter Wager (WW2). You have the out and out sadistic Nazi story (“Grisly Rites of Hitler’s Monster Flesh Stipper” by Jim McDonald) that harkens back to the weird menace stories of the 1930s.
There are a fair number of tropical adventure stories. I rather enjoyed E. C. Schurmacher’s “I Was a Slave of the Savage Blonde” set in an out of the way area of Paraguay. Robert Silverberg has a rip roarin’ “Trapped by the Mau Mau Terror” from Exotic Adventures in 1959. That was an updated spicy pulp story with the violence and sex turned up.
The Harlan Ellison story (“Death Climb” from True Men Stories in 1957) was an efficient little thriller.
There are of course five animals attack stories including weasels, tiger, bear, snapping turtles, and monkeys. Animal attacks were a big part of the cover art.
This book took me outside of my normal fiction reading (most pre-1950 and pulp originated). The stories are efficiently told with no excess verbiage; a skill that needs to be relearned. I have an absolutely beautifully put together book on cryptozoology pieces from these magazines on the to be read pile.
These magazines took cover art to the next level in comparison to the pulp magazines. Norman Saunders, Earl Norem, Mort Kunstler, James Bama and many others produced outlandish and garish cover paintings month after month.
If you are curious about this era of American magazines, you can order Weasels Ripped My Flesh! From Amazon.com for $24.95 or on E-bay.