Wednesday, February 1, 2017


A few days ago, had I remembered, I could have shown you George Surdez's most famous story. It might be more correct to call it his most lasting cultural legacy, since very few people now, I imagine, can say they've read the story. Surdez honed his mastery of Foreign Legion stories in the pulps and continued publishing their throughout his too-short life. He broke into Collier's, which became his main slick market, late in 1932. By comparison, he appeared in The Saturday Evening Post only once. The January 30, 1937 Collier's included Surdez's story "Russian Roulette," which is credited with popularizing -- or, I should say, widening public awareness of the infamous game of death. In 1941 Surdez was writing "fall of France" stories in pulps and slicks alike, though these often sounded a strong note of continuing resistance to Nazi occupation. This issue's "The Men of Yore" is in that line, with an appropriate note of fatalism at a moment when Germany was still ascendant. For the mundane reader, Surdez would be deeply overshadowed by the issue's two star contributors: Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck, who begins the "important new serial novel" China Sky, and Agatha Christie, who continues her famous Hercule Poirot serial Evil Under the Sun. Christie was a pulp veteran, many of her stories making their first American appearances in Blue Book or Flynn's (before it became Detective Fiction Weekly) in the 1920s. This number, like many a Collier's, is marred by one of Roark Bradford's negro-dialect comedies. The National Weekly kept publishing Bradford's stuff until he died, the last stories appearing as late as 1949. The Post had a similar series, while by comparison, with the sad exception of Blue Book, you didn't see that kind of crap much in the pulps. Anyway, browse at your leisure via this link.

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