The Popular Publications Magazines

The Policies of Battle Aces, Gang World, Detective Action Stories and Western Rangers Outlined in an Interview with Harry Steeger

By August Lenniger

From Writer’s Digest September 1930

The new magazine group started by Harry Steeger, former editor of the Dell magazines War Birds and Sky Riders, and Harold S. Goldsmith, former managing editor of the Magazine Publishers group, has brought forth four new titles which are now on the newsstands.

Battle Aces, our air book, will run mostly war stuff,” Mr. Steeger explains. “The air market is flooded with the usual type of story; we want something with an original idea. The very much overworked plots about the yellow flier turning hero, dog-fights in which squadrons of planes meet squadrons of the enemy, are out. The motive of the story should have something to do with the air; something that makes it essentially and definitely a flying story. In other words, that there would be no story without aviation. But, on the other hand, it is not necessary for the action to take place predominantly in the air.”

The feature story of the first issue is “The Squadron of the Living Dead” by Steuart M. Emery. This gets away from the ordinary by an intricate plot in which the Germans are planning to invade Allied territory by going underneath the Vosges Mountains by drying out a lost river, an action in which their air forces are to play a very prominent part. Two Yank heroes of the Tombstone Squadron are instrumental in wrecking the German scheme.

“One Green Flare,” by O.B. Myers, concerns a Yank who gets shot down behind the German lines and has one green flare which he fires to let his comrades know he is safe. He lands on a secret German drome and the Germans think he fired the flare to let the Yanks know the location of the drome. The Germans bind him to the tarmac, in the dramatic climax of the story, where he is all but killed by his own people’s bombs—but Mr. Myers manages to get his hero safely out of the predicament. The principal feature of this story is in the suspense created by the situation of the hero being almost killed by his own comrades.

Gang World will feature a general type of story dealing with tough and ready characters in conflict with each other and the law,” announced Mr. Steeger. “Its stories will be realistic, packed with strong action, gun fighting, moll-interest and having a punch that will give this magazine the stamp of originality.”

“Death to Double Crossers,” by William H. Steuber, is the feature novelette of the first issue. A man in prison writes to a gang leader that another fellow in jail with him has the dope on money hidden away. He wants the gang leader to get him out of jail and split the profits. Intrigue and doublecrossing as to who will get him out follow. Finally the gang set the jail on fire, and dressed as firemen get him out during the confusion.

“Lead Command,” by Don Kehoe, a writer who occasionally appears in the Saturday Evening Post, has a revenge motive. One brother is a ventriloquist and knife thrower in vaudeville; the other brother a gangster in love with a gang leader’s “moll.” The gang leader has the second brother killed. The ventriloquist steals the girl and goes single-handed after the gang. He gets into many tight corners but always manages to work out through ventriloquism.

“The feature story of the first issue, ‘The Key to Room 537,’ by Erle Stanley Gardner, is an excellent criterion of what we want for our Detective Action,” said Mr. Steeger. “It is a true mystery and action type. A young man is coming home late at night, gives a girl a lift. He finds jewels and a labeled key to an office in his car after she leaves; fear that he will get into trouble through their possession causes him to attempt their return. He enters the room and finds a corpse at a desk with a bullet hole through the head. He leaves hurriedly, forgetting the jewels. A ticket has been put on his car for parking. He telephones the police and says his car was stolen; for a couple of days the police believe him. Then he gets a telegram stating ‘I will call for jewels.’ When he sees the girl she demands, ‘What do you mean by stealing the confession and jewels?’ Gangsters come in; there is gun fighting; both the girl and he are tied and gagged and taken to a car. She escapes from the car and he gets taken to the police, where he finally proves that the deceased was a suicide.

“It is a very intricate story, and can not be made entirely clear in such a brief outline,” Mr. Steeger smiled, “but what I want to lay stress upon is the unusual situation of this entirely innocent young man getting himself deeper and deeper into this mystery, where something is happening every minute, in his efforts to extricate himself.

“As our title suggests, we will feature this action type of detective story, although we occasionally will use the deductive type as exemplified by ‘Mystery of the Strange Explosions,’ by Frank V.W. Mason, in which the president of a steel company is found murdered on a lonely country road in an automobile. The solution follows the lines of the conventional detective story.”

“In Western Rangers,” Mr. Steeger continued, “we will use stories featuring gun fighting, battles from ambush, bandits running wild, action stories that will make the blood tingle and the imagination run wild.”

The lead story of the first issue is “The Red Ranger,” by J. Allan Dunn, featuring a Texas Ranger who runs up against a bunch of Mexican smugglers and eventually saves the captured American girl from their clutches.

Western Rangers will permit a certain amount of woman interest, provided the action story is not overshadowed by it; it should be incidental rather than essential to the plot.

As these magazines are all monthlies, serials will not be used, but novelettes of around 15,000 words, and shorts from 3000 to 5000 words are in demand. Rates are to be approximately one cent a word and up on acceptance. The Popular Publications, Inc., are located in the News Building, 220 East 42nd Street, New York.