Monday, March 6, 2017
THIS DAY IN COLLIER'S WEEKLY: March 6, 1937
This issue of The National Weekly has a good tally of pulp veterans, including the almost inevitable Ernest Haycox and Octavus Roy Cohen, who hadn't appeared in pulp for nearly a generation by this time. Will F. Jenkins, who contributes a South Sea island story, was better known to pulpdom under his pseudonym, Murray Leinster. Jenkins used his real name occasionally in pulp, sometimes when "Leinster" was also appearing, and most recently in a 1935 Double-Action Western. He broke into Collier's as Jenkins in 1935 and hit the ground running, publishing ten stories in 1936. He continued to sell pulp stories as Jenkins, perhaps now because his real name had enhanced marketability. Jenkins never fully differentiated between Will F. Jenkins the slickster and Murray Leinster the pulp writer; Jenkins landed a story in Adventure in 1947 and appeared in Ranch Romances as late as 1957 while Leinster continued his legendary sci-fi career. He didn't sacrifice whatever pulpy gift he had for slick success, unlike Frederick Nebel, arguably the exemplary case of a pulpster selling out. Nebel was a titan of Black Mask magazine, a pioneer of the hard-boiled style alongside Dashiell Hammett, Carroll John Daly, et al and a writer who gave that style a distinctive emotional intensity as private eyes, cops and reporters butted heads against each other. His transition to the slicks began while he was still writing the Cardigan series for Dime Detective, when he made his Collier's debut in 1933. This issue's "The Grand Manner" was on newstands around the same time as his penultimate Cardigan story in the March 1937 Dime Detective; the last Cardigan appeared two months later. The mainstreaming of Nebel was an odd process. In movies, it involved the transformation of his Black Mask reporter Kennedy into girl reporter Torchy Blane for a series of movies made entertaining by Glenda Farrell's energetic work in the title role. For Collier's, meanwhile, Nebel wrote mostly romance stories that can't help but seem lifeless compared to his detective stories. Yet Nebel seemed to consider these his real work. He infamously declined to be included in an anthology of Black Mask fiction because he considered those stories inferior stuff. He had succumbed to middlebrow sensibilities just as more canonically literary writers were thought to have (e.g. F. Scott Fitzgerald) when they collected the big paychecks from the mass-circulation slicks.It was probably easier for western writers like Haycox to cross over without compromising their imaginations because westerns were going to be thought of as genre stuff no matter what. In any event, Haycox, Jenkins and Nebel are three distinctive examples of how pulp stars adapted to the demands of the slicks and their own artistic temperaments. As usual, you can sample the whole issue at unz.org.