FORGOTTEN BOOKS ~ THE PULP JUNGLE BY FRANK GRUBER!
THIS IS ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT WRITERS AND WRITING. GRUBER WAS A MAN WHO TRULY LED THE LIFE OF A PULP WRITER AND WAS ABLE TO ELOQUENTLY CAPTURE THAT LIFE IN THE PAGES OF THIS MEMOIRE. NO FAN OF THE PULPS SHOULD PASS THIS ONE BY.
Frank Gruber’s first sale as an author came with a short story, The Two Dollar Raise,” which went to a Sunday School newspaper. The payment was #3.50.
The time was 1927, and for Gruber the first sale meant much more that being able to get a job as editor of a farm paper o the basis of being a published author. It meant the beginning of a massive assault on the pulp jungle.
The center of the jungle was in New York, where scores of magazines were published each month. They appeared with the thick, pulpy paper from which the name “pulp magazines, derived, and they had lurid, four-color covers, generally depicting some sort of violence. The pay for stories appearing in these magazines ranged from fractions of a cent per word to a lordly three and four cents per word.
Frank Gruber was determined to appear in these magazines at the top rates. Often forced to subsist on the Automat’s famous “tomato soup,” Gruber learned what it was like to have the “French key” used in his hotel room when he was arrears in rent. Between 1927 and 1934, he developed a grim but nodding acquaintance with the wolf. During it all, he continued to churn out an amazing quantity of material.
Gruber’s persistence paid off and, gradually, he began making sales. Never one to rest on his laurels, Gruber extended his range, doing short stories in one sitting, tackling the longer novelettes and serials and, finally, breaking into the book field.
This is the story of Gruber’s days in the pulp jungle, his memories of the editors who bought this material and the writers who were working then. Earle Stanley Gardner, Carroll John Daly Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and the incredible Max Brand are strong subplots in this document of one of the most exciting times and eras in popular American fiction.
This book is also a profound document for anyone interested in writing or knowing more about some of the fine authors America has produced. It is also a history of Black Mask, the now defunct magazine which ranks next to Edgar Allan Poe in the shaping of American mystery fiction as we know it today.
Above all it is the remarkable story of a man known the world over for his writing, a man who becomes impatient when he is between writing projects.
Frank Gruber has published so extensively in the mystery and western fields that it is difficult to keep track of the number. This is probably his fifty-third book, but the amazing author continu(ed) to produce manuscripts in addition to motion picture originals. He has also created three television series and sold a hundred and fifty scripts. He liv(ed) in West Los Angeles.
Happy 82nd birthday, Robert Vaughn
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