I love this book, Cheap Thrills by Ron Goulart. It came out in 1973 from Arlington Press. Does that house even still exist? It’s a history of the pulp magazines, and it features no illustrations, no reprints of the loud, bright, nightmarish covers we all know so well, just words. It is Goulart’s history of the era based on interviews with the people who created the pulps from the 1920s through the early 1950s. The chapters are divided into topics per genre—“Heroes for Sale,” “Thank You, Masked Man,” “Dime Detectives,” “Tarzan and the Barbarians”—you get the idea. There have been plenty of books published since 1973 about the pulps; Robert Lesser has apparently cornered the market on promoting the wonderfully sexy and violent cover paintings that promoted these monthlies during the Depression, and Lee Server’s Danger Is My Business, from 1993, is breathtakingly well designed, with good background and historical information, lots of reproductions of interior black-and-white illustrations, and plenty of photographs of the great writers of the period. And I still think that Tony Goodstone’s coffee table volume The Pulps, which was everywhere in the early 1970s, especially once it was remaindered, served as a kind of lodestone to attract attention to that period of popular writing.
But Ron Goulart interviewed the publishers and editors and writers and artists. And one of the best parts of this book for me is the section of excerpts in the back taken from conversations with the pros who worked on these magazines. This is Ken Crossen:
I was married in 1936 and answered an advertisement for a job. I was hired to work on Detective Fiction Weekly. The Munsey Company was an interesting place when I went to work there. Although Frank Munsey was dead it was run in much the same fashion that he had, since he was known for evaluating the worth of a manuscript by how heavy it felt on his hand.”