Friday, December 9, 2016


It seems like there was a perpetual struggle over at Detective Fiction Weekly against the temptation to make their covers look like vaudeville or fight-card posters with all the names and descriptions. Sometimes artists and editors resisted that temptation to tremendous effect, as we've seen a few times this year. More often, I fear, the thought was: "Let's try to mention as many things as possible that somebody might be interested in." One result is this wordy 1939 cover ballyhooing Handwriting Analysis and Cipher Solving along with the (hopefully) Outstanding Short Fiction. DFW probably needed all the specialized readers it could get at this point. It had been shrunk to 112 pages, presumably so the Munsey Corporation could use the paper saved for all its futile new Red Star magazines. They still had an ace to play in Erle Stanley Gardner, who was not so flush from the success of Perry Mason that he would not bother publishing in pulp anymore. That fall he had switched loyalties from Street & Smith to Munsey, moving his popular character Lester Leith from Detective Story to DFW. This week's "At Arm's Length" apparently was a standalone story without a series character. William Brandon's contribution is "Pat and Mike and Murder," while Hugh B. Cave contributed "Laugh, Clown!" DFW was still able to squeeze in short stories by Martin Lehigh and Lawrence Treat along with an installment of Dale Clark's "Cop's Crusade" serial, along with all the non-fiction stuff. Curiously unbilled on the cover is FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who has a piece here on "Problems of Law Enforcement," which I suppose he'd know better than anybody.

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