The 17 Detective Magazines

The still raging fad for mystery stories has quadrupled the number of magazines on the newsstands catering to this type of fiction. Before us are seventeen different magazines which we have just purchased off the newsstand. They each cover a distinct section of the mystery field. Eleven of the magazines are the standard pulp paper size of seven by ten inches while the other six of the larger standard smooth paper size of eight and a half by eleven. All are making a bid for mass circulation with flaming covers chuck full of action and drama.

Like any business based on a fad, most of the mystery fiction magazines come and go with such rapidity that it is hardly possible to give the style rules and editorial requirements of one of them without having to receive several hundred letters the following month from irate subscribers who begin their letters with “You poor saps—don’t you even know that Who Killed Cock Robin? was discontinued last week?”

On the other hand a magazine may continue, but the editorial policy does a complete back flip as executed recently by the crime magazines who now whoop it up loud and long for the Law while heretofore they thumbed countless pulp paper noses at the police. Having thus hopefully strung up an alibi about this article we cautiously proceed to enumerate the present mystery magazines.

Complete Detective Novel published at 381 Fourth Ave., uses one long novel, and several shorts based on factual accounts of crime dutifully embellished with life and drama. The stories are not the last word in literature but make facile reading coupled with action, robbery, and pretty girls. Few newsstand buyers can resist such a triumvirate.

Black Mask, 578 Madison Ave. The last time we saw it, Black Mask was trying to make up its mind whether or not to go mystery story whole hog or none. A page ad signed by Joseph T. Shaw, the editor, asked the readers to signify their favorite stories. At present they use western, detective, and adventure stories with an approximate length of twenty pages or 12,000 to 40,000 words. Mr. Shaw has a penchant for character interest, and a general convincing tone to a story. Most of the stories do not stress murder. Killings are incidental. “What I want first and last is a real story,” says the editor.

Clues, at 80 Lafayette St., New York, is a Clayton magazine, as is All Star Detective Stories. Both of these are discussed by W.M. Clayton their publisher in another part of Writer’s Digest.

Dragnet, at 67 West 44th St., New York, is one of the Magazine Publishers Inc. group. They use the good old time detective and crook stories. You must be modern, however, and know the most recent uses and ramifications of tear gas et al.

Fiction House, Inc., has two in this group, namely Detective Book and Detective Classics, both at 271 Madison Ave., New York. Here are some instant summaries of stories in the former; “Sinister as sin are the Dark Eyes—blind masters of Crime House. When the night is dark and the shadows deep, they cast their murder net.” … “A country village tasted terror when the killer of James Rowand walked its shadowed lanes unseen,” … “He staked his life against gangster lead—to track the hidden factory of bogus wealth.”

Fiction House has a reputation to keep up. They want good material, pay good rates, and cater to beginner or professional as long as the story is all there. Detective Classics contains one novel about ninety-five pages long, several shorts based on fact, and one short mystery.

Detective Story Magazine is a Street & Smith publication at 79 Seventh Ave., New York. It carries two novelettes, one serial, five short stories, and three or four miscellaneous items about crime such as “Women Smugglers Fined,” and “Prison Made Articles.” There is also one poem with a galloping lilt and plenty of slang.

Weird Tales, 2457 E. Washington Street, Indianapolis, Ind., carries the most ungodly stories a starved writer in a garret could concoct even if inspired by stale cheese and rye bread with no beer. Here are some of the summaries for May:

A strange tale about Nycea, the lamia who had her dwelling-place beneath the ruins of the Castle of Faussesflammes—a weirdly beautiful story.

A thrilling novelette about a race of people living in the interior of a gigantic sun—a startling weird-scientific story of a tremendous doom threatening the universe.

Back from the gates of hell came Jerry’s grandfather—a grim story of black magic and evil rites.

A strange fantasy, a bizarre extravaganza about a weird and wonderful country, and the terrible beings that beset it.

Startling Detective Adventures is a Fawcett Publication at Robbinsdale, Minn. They are making a play for true mystery stories illustrated with actual photographs from life. Doubtless Captain Billy who was recently off shooting in the tropics has seen another mirage cast up by the golden True Stories, and aims to rival it in the crime field. The April issue contains eight true features about crime including “My Seventeen Years Among Prison Rioters,” “How I Captured Topeka’s Girl Bandit,” and “The Clueless Crime.” Looks like a fine opportunity for a shrewd writer to interview some successful detectives and go in for collaboration. (In such cases, unless one of the two collaborators is unusually famous, the split is 60-40 with the writer getting the major receipts.) Startling Detective Adventures also contains two serials, and two detective adventure stories. All yarns must lend themselves adequately to illustration.

Macfadden is by no means left behind in the rush for public favor in mystery magazines. He has two, and both are good. True Detective Mysteries is as Macfadden as its glorious sister True Stories and also just as moral. Here are some of the summaries for April stories.

Beautiful Edith May Thompson—who has not heard of her—social favorite at the White House during the McKinley Administration? But—how many know the inside story of her brutal murder at a lovely spot near St. Michael’s, Maryland, that was cloaked in such deep mystery? Don’t miss The Man With the Twisted Foot, next month. It will tell the real story of this notorious case!

In the realm of astounding impostors who have been accepted publicly in the United States and Europe as well-known persons, George Gabor, alias “Baron Von Krupp,” stands out pre-eminently as the most absorbing story of this master dupester by the detective who caught him!—a story that, if it were told in fiction, you would say: “It could never happen!”

A well-known minister in Illinois fell by the wayside in sin. The story we have of this case is sensational in its details—but the facts justify its publication as a lesson to us all!

The Master Detective, the second Macfadden publication at 1926 Broadway, New York, is sensational and exploits every opportunity to use dramatic pictures and big names. Looks like it would be best to query the editor before sending in material. The mere mention of “skyline” in a story sends this particular editor off in a spasm of illustrations of all the famous skylines in the world. The magazine is probably aimed at those newsstand buyers who grab anything that has enough pictures of New York, Fifth Avenue, Greta Garbo, Houdini, Jack Johnson, Harry Thaw, and other equally famous sources of interest. At any odds take our advice, query the editor before sending in material.

Prize Detective Magazine is published at 1133 Broadway, New York. Production costs have possibly cast dismal shadows across their audit books and the paper used is not exactly of the Conde Nast grade, although the half-tones show up well. The cover states that “amazing mysteries” are carried.

Scientific Detective Stories is published by Hugo Gernsback who tells in this issue the type of material he wants. The address is 98 Park Place, New York.

The publisher of College Humor has taken a voyage in the mystery field with his Real Detective Tales. The April issue has a knockout cover, and the inside is almost as good. There are two novels, several long short stories, and a number of features, true articles, and short stories about crime. Office at 1050 N. LaSalle st., Chicago, Ill.

Detective Fiction Weekly at 280 Broadway was formerly Flynn’s and still has a good following. It is a weekly with the emphasis on plot and contains four short stories, a serial, two true stories, and some feature and fact articles. Established years ago, Detective Fiction Weekly will, no doubt, outlive its present lusty contemporaries and once again be supreme in its weekly field. As with all magazines that have stability and expect to do business next decade as well as this one, Detective Fiction Weekly has a good reputation among writers.

Scotland Yard is a new one, and published by Dell at 100 Fifth Avenue, New York. In the issue we have, pages 63 to 78 got tangled up in the bindery and are topsy turvy. The magazine deals with international crime as its title suggests. The title, by the way, is a keen one. The editor uses one short novel, one long short story, and about six short stories.

Whatever you do, thoroughly inspect a copy of one of these publications before writing for it.

Generally speaking, none of the publishers except Macfadden have put out a good-looking book, although Lansinger has managed to put some good covers on Real Detective Tales. The inside paper of most of the group is pretty lousy, and black and white drawings look like they must have cost at least five dollars apiece. The only good art work in any of the entire group is on the cover where, of course, it counts most as far as the sales go. The stories are pretty poor, although every magazine manages to have at least one good one. Writers have consistently stressed plot, and generally neglected character interest, while humor might be an undiscovered metal as far as its use goes in this group. It is difficult to predict which ones will last but Writer’s Digest puts its two dollars on True Detective to lead the pack at the end of three years.

Rates run from three cents a word to three quarters of a cent with the majority paying on acceptance. Naturally the most prosperous and professional looking of the lot pay the best rates. As seven-eighths of the mystery stories on the market today are sponsored by important publishing companies, writers need have no fear concerning payment. If you have a rattling good detective story with a fast peppy plot, plenty of horror, and a ton of action, all you need to sell it is a two-cent stamped envelope.

Authored by the Editor; from Writer’s Digest (April 1930).

Ten Detective Aces: The Variety Magazine of Detective Stories

A.A. Wyn

A.A. Wyn

“The most important thing that I am anxious to convey to Writer’s Digest readers is that Ten Detective Aces is the most elastic detective story magazine on the market today,” Mr. A.A. Wyn, editor, told me as the waiter placed our luncheon before us. “We have no iron-bound policy or preference for any particular type of detective story; we are endeavoring to make our magazine the outstanding publication in its field through the wide variety of fiction we offer to our readers. There are only three types that we steer away from—the straight story of the bootlegger gang-mob, the story of the dope ring showing the effects of drugs on the characters or the white-slavery yarn, and the straight deductive story.

“The one feature on which we do insist is that all of our stories must be fast-moving and develop plenty of suspense. The menace-action type story is one of the best for us, but it has unlimited possibilities of variety, and variety is what we are seeking. For example, in Ten Detective Aces we use stories showing the human side of life; stories of the hard-boiled detective presenting life in stark reality; horror stories, stories from the murderer’s point of view, stories with or without romance or woman interest. Our detective stories are usually against an American background, but occasionally a good yarn featuring an American hero against a foreign setting will also fit into our scheme. And we use an occasional humorous detective yarn. In fact, our policy is so elastic that even a good action-detective story against an underworld background or in which underworld characters are featured, has a chance with us although we emphatically do not want the straight gang-mob yarn. The typical straight deductive story has no place in our lineup—but in a short-short, for example, if it has enough suspense and a really clever surprise twist, we might make an exception. Or in a story where deduction plays an important part but which is worked out through action.

“We prefer the third person presentation, but here again our policy is elastic, for a good first person story will not be turned down.”

The August issue of Ten Detective Aces which Mr. Wyn later handed to me to check in preparing this article, contains the wide variety of which he speaks. The lead novelette, “Brotherhood of Death” by Carl McK. Saunders features a series character, Captain Murdock, rounding up the perpetrators of a reign of horror in Central City that follows a wholesale jailbreak engineered by a crooked warden, a corrupt detective, a politically prominent attorney, a radio announcer and a notorious gangster. Desperate, case-hardened and diabolically clever, this quintet, and a tough case for Captain Murdock to crack because of the positions of trust and power these men hold. A fast-moving, exciting story, typical of the hard-boiled realistic type Mr. Wyn mentioned.

The secondary novelette of this issue entitled “Calling Car 13!” by Frederick C. Davis also features a series character—the moon man—a modern Robin Hood, son of the police chief and engaged to the daughter of Gil McEwen, ace sleuth of the plainclothes division. Steve Thatcher, who assumes the identity of The Moon Man when occasion demands, preys upon the unscrupulous rich, is always “on the spot.” In this story we have an example of the human, emotional detective through the personal relations of the leading characters.

A strong suspensive situation is developed in this story, where, in order to save an innocent man’s life, it becomes necessary for The Moon Man to torture his own Sweetheart, and the author brings out a strong human-interest angle through the sacrifice of personal interest and the girl’s loyalty.

In connection with stories featuring a “series” character like these two novelettes, Mr. Wyn remarked:

“Almost every author wants to do a series around one character. These come under two heads:

  1. The character series which is in advance planned in detail, each story complete in itself, but depending to some extent on the action and relations of the characters built up in the individual stories as the series progresses. We have found this “Moon Man” series which is developed in this way, very popular with our readers.
  2. A character series which just “happen”—the chief character resurrected in individual plots that do not depend in any way upon background developed in the preceding stories of the series. The Captain Murdock stories by Carl McK. Saunders fall into this class; among others we have used of this type recently are the short stories featuring the Russian detective character Renouf, by Norman A. Daniels.

“The best way for an author to break in with a series character is not to submit three or four stories of the series at the start, as so many do, but rather to allow the editor to discover the series—particularly if the writer is a new contributor. Frankly, in the majority of cases, series stories are purchased from writers who have demonstrated their ability to consistently please our readers by fairly frequent appearance in our magazines with individual stories first. But as you well know,” Mr. Wyn told me, “we have purchased series stories from absolutely new contributors to our magazines, and even from writers who had never previously sold fiction elsewhere. But the wisest way for a new contributor who hopes to sell a series to go about it, is to simply submit a single story in which he develops a strongly-characterized and likable hero. If we buy that story, and see a chance of developing a series around the character, we will suggest to the author that we would be glad to consider other yarns featuring that character. Or, after we have used a first yarn, even if we haven’t suggested a series to the author, we might be intrigued by an outstanding second story concerning the same character, and before the author realizes it, he will have a series underway.

“About the same thing applies to our novelette lengths. We seldom buy these from new contributors to our pages—it is best to first sell us several shorts before offering us a ten or fifteen thousand word novelette. In the first place our needs for short stories is greater. Secondly we naturally prefer a writer who has proven himself to our readers in our featured novelette lengths. But this certainly is no iron-clad rule—if an outstanding novelette by a writer we’ve never heard of comes in the mail we’re only too glad to discover a worthy new contributor. And as you also know, we have published the first stories of many new writers in Ten Detective Aces as well as in our other magazines.”

Short stories of 2-5,000 words in length are the greatest manuscript need at Ten Detective Aces and offer the best chances of crashing this market. To give you a better idea of the variety of types they use, let us look over several in the August issue:

“Murder on the Scorecard” by Bert Stanley has a big league baseball background. An underworld gambler attempts to bribe three players of the team to throw the World Series game. When they refuse, two of them are mysteriously killed while running to first base. This story is told from the viewpoint of Hack Crowley, the remaining ballplayer and Mr. Wyn suggested that I point out that Ten Detective Aces is particularly looking for some good, writing menace-action mystery yarns from viewpoint other than that of the conventional detective.

“Who Killed Cocky Robbins?” by Joe Archibald is a humorous detective yarn concerning two newspaper reporters who get themselves into plenty of trouble by interfering in a murder investigation, yet are instrumental in apprehending the vicious villain.

“Ghoul of Longwood Cemetery” by Laurence D. Smith is a horror-menace action detective story with a strong romance interest. I asked Mr. Wyn on this point of woman interest, and here is his reply:

“A woman angle is welcome in any of our stories, but women should not be dragged in if there is no place for them. By woman interest we of course mean clean romance, not sex. After-marriage complications that logically motivate the plot are all right, too—if the sex angle is not emphasized. In novelettes of 9-10,000 which length we most frequently need, woman interest is in fact preferred; also in our 15,000 word feature novels.”

“Can you point out some of the most frequent mistakes writers make that necessitate the rejection of their manuscripts?” I prompted Mr. Wyn. “Mentioning some of them in this article will undoubtedly help many writers to avoid these errors.”

“I could give you enough material to write a book on that subject!” Mr. Wyn smiled. “But I believe the most frequent mistakes new writers make is to murder their stories rather than their victims! They read in some trade journal or other that a certain Big Name turns out so many thousand words per day on his electric typewriter, or some other Big Name slams off so many hundred thousand words per month on his little dictaphone. And they get the big idea that the main thing in writing is production. Which assumption is true—but nevertheless before anyone can run, they must be able to walk. The new writer fails to take into consideration that these Big Names are writers who have had years and years of hard struggle behind them—that they didn’t start off with such quantity production.

“When a new writer gets this production idea they usually murder their stories by failing to make them clear or convincing; their characters are wooden sticks walking around and talking like books instead of like human beings. The new writers who take plenty of time to get their stories into professional shape at the start are likely to succeed much faster than the fellows who are too anxious to get a number of stories going the rounds of editorial offices. Many new writers have ruined their chances of selling in many editorial offices by the submission of too much mediocre material.”

To which statement of Mr. Wyn’s, the interviewer adds his own unqualified and fervent “Amen!”

“But what about the most frequent mistakes new writers make in technique?” I suggested.

“We are tired of seeing the detective hero hit over the head by the villain just as the detective is about to discover something—this has become an office taboo”, Mr. Wyn replied. “It is bad business, too, for the author to pin the crimes on a crazy person not mentally responsible for his acts—in such cases there is more pity developed in the reader for the villain than a desire to see him punished. On the other hand, it is all right in some cases to have a villain just a bit ‘cracked’ on one subject—provided he is sane enough to provide a worthy antagonist for the hero, and the action of the story is based upon a logical, sane motivation—greed, revenge, ambition, etc.

“Another mistake writers make far too frequently is to have the hero captured by the villain at the climax, and allow the villain who intends to do away with the hero, gloatingly confess the full details of his crimes. Or the variations of the same device–the hidden dictaphone or stenographer, or the villain very accommodatingly going into a long, detailed confession, supplying all the details the detective has been unable to discover, after the detective has cornered him. This is of course unsound human nature. And it is very annoying when the author throws suspicion upon the detective, and everyone knows very well that he is innocent.

“The most discouraging mistake that an editor has to contend with from writers, is when the editor has gone out of his way to explain to an author to steer away from certain kinds of stories, plots or situations—and the author insists on sending back the same material time and time again in slightly different forms. Editors are after all only human—and this procedure naturally results in the author putting himself in line for the printed rejection slip.”

Ten Detective Aces, 67 W. 44th St., New York is a wide-open market for all types of good action-detective stories particularly in the 2-5,000 word lengths, and for outstanding novelettes 9-10,000 and 15,000.

Authored by August Lenniger; from Writer’s Digest (October 1934).

The Policies of Popular Publications

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

Harry Steeger

Harry Steeger

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 3,000 to 5,000 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.

Authored by August Lenniger; from Writer’s Digest (September 1930).

The Detective Fiction Market by Lurton Blassingame

When Eve stole the apple, she set the cardinal editorial principle of today’s numerous detective magazines: Crime Does Not Pay.

Public sentiment has always followed this principle excepting those times when strong efforts were made to enforce laws distasteful to a large proportion of the country’s citizens. In Merrie England when it was unlawful for a commoner to kill a deer, Robin Hood was an admired gangster. During the days of Prohibition, detective magazines were chiefly devoted to the exploits of gangsters. Repeal, whether or not beneficial to the rest of the country, has certainly raised the moral tone of the detective magazines. The cop and the lawmaker no longer get it in the neck.

The detective story, largely popularized and created by writers in this country first made headway in 1840-45 when Poe wrote “Murders in Rue Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter,” and “The Mystery of Mary Roget.” France helped this new literary genre with the work of Gaboriau. Then Wilkie Collins wrote The Moonstone, still a classic. In 1887 Conan Doyle wrote A Study in Scarlet and Sherlock Holmes started something which the American public wants kept alive.

No one needs to be ashamed of writing detective stories. The market for them is so wide that editors are continually hunting for new writers who have the ability to puzzle and to thrill the readers. There are today thirty-one pulp magazines using crime fiction exclusively and another is being started; the smooth-paper magazines and some of the general interest pulps use detective stories: and there are nine fact detective magazines devoted to the publication of stories of actual crimes.

The detective magazines are as modern as tomorrow’s newspaper. Secret poisons and locked rooms are passe. Criminals use the automobile, the airplane, submachine and trick photography in committing their crimes. Sherlock Holmes would look at a watch and tell you the life history of its owner; but it is suspected that his evidence would not stand up in court. Today G-men examine an abandoned car, name the men who rode in it through the identification of fingerprints; tell you by the mud under the fenders that it has crossed two state lines in the past twenty-four hours; and by examining the sediment in the oil case announce definitely that the car was chiefly used in a particular section of a state a thousand miles away!

You do not have to live in a city to write detective stories. There is a market for stories in which the town constable is the hero; or you can use a state trooper, a county sheriff, a parole officer, a prison guard, or any other law officer connected with the Government, a state, or a city. And there is still a market for stories of the private detective hero.

Know your subject. Talk with the type of law officer you plan to use; if this is difficult, read factual books about crime detection. Modern Criminal Investigation is a good one. Several detectives have published autobiographies; there are good books out on modern scientific crime detection; information about firearms is available in almost any library. You should know how many times a submachine gun fires at one loading, that a silencer cannot be used on an automatic pistol, that a city detective’s work is largely limited by the city limits. And much more. Bad technical mistakes bring rejections.

There are two distinctive types of crime stories. By far the most popular is the hero pattern in which the story is told from the viewpoint of the hero out to solve the murder and capture the villain. A simple “who did it” puzzle is not enough: Detective story readers are masochistic; they like to be tortured! To sell, you must create a hero who is sympathetic, you must make your readers want terribly for him to escape the dangers which threaten him and solve the case, and you must make it seem that the villain is so dangerously clever that the hero cannot win. Then, when your readers are ready to scream with suspense, the hero must pull the solution out of his clever mind, through the proper interpretation of clues, back his proof with gun play if necessary, and emerge victorious.

The hero pattern story has mystery, menace to the hero, and interesting character work. The proportion of these elements vary from magazine to magazine.

The other general type of crime fiction is the villain viewpoint yarn. And here, too, you must torture your readers. You must make your villain such a damnable louse that the reader will hate him, want him caught. But you let us see him plan and execute his crime with such fiendish cleverness that it looks as if he is going to get away with it. Then, at the last, he is caught through some minor flaw in his perfect plan, probably by the very thing he’d counted upon to bring him success. Thus justice is fulfilled. Too late he learns that crime does not pay.

Any grouping of detective story magazines must be tentative. There are too many ways by which the magazines may be grouped. Some want only stories about law officers employed by the Federal Government, and yet the emotional tone of the stories, and the amount of action demanded differ from magazine to magazine. The following classification is largely by emotional tone, a delicate thing to capture. I cannot emphasize too strongly the necessity of reading the magazine for yourself, not only one issue but many issues of the ones for which you intend to write. (All addresses, unless otherwise given, are New York City.)

Group 1. The Crime Thrillers

In many of the stories the hero is out to defeat some underworld character or gang.

In some stories in this group there is a mystery as to who committed the crime, but in many the villain is known or suspected from the first and suspense is maintained by the seeming impossibility of the hero overcoming the villain and securing evidence which will convict. These magazines appeal to the juvenile minds and the action pace is extremely fast. A few of these magazines will permit a girl interest, but for most of them the girls should be left out, particularly in short stories.

The Shadow, John L. Nanovic, 79 Seventh Avenue. The heroes for this magazine should be law officers of a town, city, county or state. Avoid woman interest. Villains are usually gangsters and in about half the stories their identity is known or suspected from the beginning. Here is a plot of a typical story—“One for the Record”—by Alan Hathway, one of the favorite writers for this magazine.

Detective Bill Clancy, whose brother is Chief of Detectives, knows that his father was killed either by Nig Colimo or Killer Bogert. A small-time gangster, when arrested, tells Bill the shooting was done by Colimo, that Bogert is dead. Bill hunts Colimo. He is attacked in the dark, fights fiercely but is captured, taken on board a boat. And there he finds Killer Bogert. Bogert explains that Colimo has been killed and he, Bogert, has been carrying on crimes under Colimo’s name, letting it be believed that Bogert was dead.

Bogert is afraid that the little crook who is being held at police headquarters, if kept away from dope, will spill the news that Bogert is alive. He demands that Bill have his brother release this crook. If he doesn’t, Bill’s brother will be gunned and Bill will be dropped into a vat of acid. Bill refuses, is left in the little cabin of the boat while he is taken toward the headquarters of the gang where they have the vat of acid. Bill manages to wreck the boat. But he’s recaptured because his hands are still tied. Bill is taken to the gang hideout, left in the cellar by the vat of acid. Bill uses the acid to burn the ropes from his wrists, puts a penny back of the fuse for the electric light in the basement fuse box.

Taken upstairs, while still pretending to be tied, Bill agrees to send a message to his brother, dictates it on a victrola record which contains the fingerprints of the dead Nig Golimo and he adds a few sentences to—supposedly—make sure that his brother recognizes the message as coming from him.

When the gangsters are out of the room for a moment, Bill puts another penny back of a light bulb in a table lamp. Result—the house catches on fire from the short circuit made.

The gangsters try to put Bill into the acid vat before the firemen arrive, but he puts up a hell of a fight. And almost immediately his brother and policemen break in. Bill’s innocently worded message to his brother had given the approximate location of the house and the fact that there would be a fire! The killer of Bill’s father is thus brought to justice.

The important point to note about this story is its rapid pace, the amount of action crammed into 5,000 words, and the surprise twist at the end.

Short stories of 1,500 to 6,000 words used here.

The Whisperer, John L. Nanovic, Editor, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York. The same type of story is used here as is used in The Shadow.

The Feds, John L. Nanovic, Editor, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York. This magazine is devoted to stories of Government officers—G-men, Secret Service men, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, Postal Inspectors, Customs Officers, Immigration Officers, etc. With this exception, the stories have the same pace and tone as those in The Shadow, but some woman interest is permitted, particularly in the novelettes.

Short stories, 2,000 to 6,000 words; novelettes 8,000 to 12,000 words.

Secret Agent X, Harry Widmer, Editor, 67 W. 44th Street. This magazine wants stories of all types of Government lawmen. The pace should be about as swift as it is in The Feds, but woman interest is desired and a more emotional tone is used in the writing.

The Phantom Detective, Leo Margulies, Editor, 22 W. 48th Street. This magazine uses a wide variety of short stories—both hero and crook pattern—up to 6,000 words. In all of them story excitement should begin with the first sentence and move steadily toward a smashing climax. Avoid mechanical plot construction and steer clear of super-sensational murder methods such as death rays, unknown poisons and Rube Goldbergish murder devices. In the detective story it is better to keep your criminal hidden until the end if you are using the hero pattern; and the clues by which he is finally identified should be convincing.

Operator #5, Rogers Terrill, Editor, 205 E. 42nd Street, uses only short stories up to 6,000 words and the heroes should be Army or Navy Intelligence officers working to thwart some threat against the United States Government. Woman interest is desired.

Group 2. The Semi-Smooth Paper Detective Magazines

A number of the contributors to this group have written for, or hope to write for, the smooth paper magazines. While some of this group’s sales are to juvenile readers, the magazines also are read by intelligent adults. They demand, therefore, good writing and convincing character work and situations. The stories must maintain reader interest at all times; any letdown is fatal; but this interest can be maintained by good situations and interesting characters and it is not necessary for the hero to shoot his way from the beginning to the end.

Detective Fiction Weekly, William Kostka, Editor, 280 Broadway. This magazine runs a variety of crime fiction. It uses humor and an occasional—very occasional—semi-tragic story; it uses crook pattern stories and stories told from the viewpoint of the hero. It uses stories of a hero against the underworld and stories of the hero against the villain who is a respected member of society who has committed his first crime. A synopsis of a single story would give you no idea of the variety of fiction used here, but the opening paragraphs of William Edward Hayes’ “Invention for Murder” will indicate how clearly the characters are drawn and how an interesting situation is suggested at the very opening of the story without any note of physical violence:

The man’s name was Bayard and his card read, “Investments.” Drew Kiley said, “Come in,” while his mind pondered, without results, the steel cabinet drawer in the corner where he had catalogued the principals in every crooked stock deal in the country.

This Bayard was big-bodied, with bristly gray hair and a military mustache. His cheeks were a well-massaged pink; his voice deep and oily, and he was too obviously affecting a calm that he didn’t feel.

“Would the young lady come in?” Drew asked. The young lady picked at her purse nervously and glanced quickly at Bayard. Her face was a long oval, her cheek bones high, her lips finely cut. Her eyes were frightened, bewildered, and she was concealing a deep agitation.

Black Mask, F. Ellsworth, Editor, 515 Madison Avenue. Under the new editor, this magazine has a slightly broader editorial policy than it had under Joseph Shaw who publicized Erle Stanley Gardener, Dashiell Hammett, and many other top notch detective story writers; but the magazine still publishes the most realistic fiction found in the detective field. Except for the short-short, one of which is published each month, it is better to tell your story from the viewpoint of the hero. Nothing soft and sentimental and emotional is welcomed by this magazine. Woman interest is perfectly all right, but even love is treated realistically and is understood to have a basis in sex, though sex itself is not used.

One short-short is used in each issue. Short stories up to 6,000 words; novelettes 10,000 to 20,000.

Detective Story, F.E. Blackwell, Editor, 79 Seventh Avenue. No gangster fiction is used. Good writing; strong characters and interesting situations are desired in place of gunplay. Some crook pattern stories are used in short lengths. Stories up to 6,000 words; novelettes 10,000 to 20,000; novels 45,000 to 50,000.

Detective Action Stories, Ralph Perry, Editor, 205 E. 42nd Street. This magazine does not want the “cops and robbers” story. The title is something of a misnomer because constant, fighting action is not used, nor is the purely deductive story. Convincing situations are essential and the editor likes stories which involve ordinary human beings, whether they are poor, middle class or well-to-do.

At the moment the particular need is for short stories of 5,000 words or less; but it does use short stories up to 7,000 and novelettes of 10,000 to 20,000.

Pocket Detective Magazine, Robert Arthur, Editor. 79 Seventh Avenue. A new monthly, wanting shorts, 3,000 to 10,000 words. The stories must have convincing plots, strong motivation, and interesting characters. No cheap characters or sordid settings, no gangsters, vicious or petty criminals. Interesting settings, interesting people in strong mystery or detective plots are what they are looking for. No photographs. Short fillers, oddities of crime or criminals. Similar to Reader’s Digest in size and format.

Group 3. The Character and Action Magazines

The chief difference in the requirements of the magazines in this group and in the group just discussed, is in the pace of the story. These magazines want good writing and good characterization, but the stories contain more physical action than those discussed in Group 2, but less action than in Group 1. This group does not stress realism as strongly as does Group 2, and the editors are looking for “color” in the stories used.

Popular Detective, Leo Margulies, Editor, 22 W. 48 Street. Popular publishes a variety of stories, some of them having very little action. This magazine does not care for the gangster type story or the story motivated by revenge for an old wrong theme. There should be several suspects and the hero’s evidence at the end, when he exposes the villain, should be strong enough to carry reasonable weight before a jury. Crook pattern stories are used in short lengths if they are very clever. Hero pattern stories for this magazine must have strong motivation for the crimes, clever sleuthing, and there should be no deliberate falsity of plotting to unfairly mislead the reader.

Short stories up to 6,000, and four novelettes of 8,000 to 10,000 words each.

Detective Tales, Rogers Terrill, Editor, 205 E. 42nd Street. Human interest detective stories are wanted for this magazine. The hero should be both colorful and convincing. Woman interest is used and provides a mild emotional note. The women are not just objects to be rescued and to provide motivation; they are glamorous and brave and capable of taking part in the action themselves.

Shorts of 1,000 to 6,000; novelettes 9,000 to 15,000 words.

Federal Agent, Arthur Lawson, 149 Madison Avenue. This bimonthly uses stories of all branches of Government lawmen—the F.B.I., Postal Inspectors, Treasury Department, etc. The distinguishing point about this magazine is its insistence upon accuracy in the methods used by its heroes. All the modern scientific branches of crime detection which the Government employs are featured in its stories, but this scientific material should not slow down the pace of the story.

Ace G-Man Stories, Rogers Terrill, Editor, 205 E. 42nd Street. This magazine uses stories of F.B.I. heroes. Color is stressed, and the heroes should have an emotional interest in the cases on which they are working.

Dime Detective, Kenneth White, Editor, 205 E. 42nd Street. Your hero can be a private detective or a lawman of any kind; but he must be colorful and everything he does must be convincing. The editor will buy no story about which he thinks even one reader will write in and say that it contains an inaccuracy. Clever crook pattern stories are used in short lengths. No gangster stories. Short stories up to 6,000; novelettes of 10,000 to 15,000.

Group 4. The Emotional Story

The distinguishing quality of this group is its insistence upon strong emotion throughout the stories. In every story the hero is emotionally involved and the action grows out of these emotional situations.

Headquarters Detective, Mary Lou Butler, Editor, 67 W. 44th Street. Stories for this magazine must feature law officers working for some town, city, county, state—or for the Government. A brief quotation from “Hell’s Heroes” will let you see the emotional note demanded. Stella Logan, Paul Bourke’s sweetheart, has just been told that her father, head of the Arson Squad, was seen in a warehouse just before it was set on fire.

“In the warehouse?” she repeated the words mechanically. “But that’s ridiculous! Why would dad be there? You’re framing him!”

MacSorley shook his head patiently. “Unfortunately, no! Bourke, here, talked with the watchman just before he died. The watchman identified your father.”

Her slim body went rigid. She jerked around until her pale face was close to Bourke’s own. “Paul Bourke—you! I wouldn’t have believed you capable of such a low, despicable trick! You believe anything so fantastic against dad! Oh! It’s contemptible! After all he did for you, all—” She choked, unable to go on.

Bourke kept his face impassive, but inwardly he was seething with compassion for her. “I couldn’t do anything less than report it. That’s my duty,” he growled doggedly.

“Duty!” she cried hysterically. “You call turning on your best friend duty! You’re a Judas! I never want to see you again! Never! Never!” She flung away from him, ran to the door.

Detective Romances, Harry Widmer, Editor, 67 W. 44th Street. The title tells the story on this one. Good character and good detective work is needed in the solution of clever crimes, but the hero is in love and the crime must be instrumental in uniting the hero and heroine.

Strong emotional situations, any type of hero.

Shorts up to 5,000 words; novelettes of 10,000 words to 15,000.

Ace Detective, Mary Lou Butler, 67 W. 44th Street. The stories here are similar in emotional tone to those found in Headquarters Detective; but the heroes can be private detectives or men who are not actually law officers of any kind but who are caught up in a criminal situation and must solve it. Criminal viewpoint stories are also used here.

Group 5. Fast Action and Color

The stories desired by the magazines in this group are similar to those used in Group 3. But on the whole the characters are a little more exotic, and while convincing situations are demanded, imagination and color are stressed rather than realism.

Nothing is done in the stories in this group which is impossible and no characters are used who are implausible, but characterization is achieved by obvious rather than subtle means. Some of the stories published by the magazines in this group are just as realistic as those published in Group 3. They have been put into a separate group because these magazines also publish stories which are more colorful, exotic, swiftly paced than the stories found in Group 3. These groupings were flexible!

Thrilling Detective, Leo Margulies, Editor, 22 East 48th Street. A very good example of what I mean by “color” for heroes and situations can be found by reading the series of short stories running in this magazine about a character known as “the Human Encyclopedia.” This character has read all the best encyclopedias, has a photographic memory, and so knows just about everything which has ever been written in an encyclopedia, and he uses his knowledge in solving crimes.

Leo Margulies showed his editorial brains by going after this series by Frank Gruber when it was turned down elsewhere. Selznick studios bought movie rights and brought Gruber [a Digest subscriber, by the way] to Hollywood at a good salary.

Clues-Detective Stories, R. Orlin Tremaine, 79 Seventh Avenue. Both hero and crook pattern stories. Shorts to 5,500; novelettes 8,000 to 15,000.

Ace High Detective, Ken White, Editor, 205 E. 42nd Street. Both hero and crook pattern stories are used here, and the yarns are very similar to those found in Dime Detective.

G-Men, Leo Margulies, Editor, 22 W. 48th. This magazine uses short stories up to 6000 words about all branches of government law enforcement work. However, since the lead novel—written on order—is about an F.B.I. hero, stories of other branches or the Government law enforcement organizations will have a better chance here.

Ten Detective Aces, Harry Widmer, Editor, 67 W. 44th Street. Stories with an emotional note, both hero and crook pattern. Shorts 1,000 to 5,000; novelettes 10,000 to 18,000.

The Spider, Rogers Terrill, Editor, 205 E. 42nd Street. Only shorts up to 6,000 with a colorful character defeating some big menace.

There are nine magazines devoted exclusively to the publication of stories of true crimes. Space does not permit a discussion of these magazines in this issue. However, if interesting crimes have been committed in your neighborhood and your law enforcement officers have solved them, it will pay you to read these magazines carefully, find out if you can get a police officer who worked on the case to sign the story with you and if so, query the editors of the magazines to see if they would be interested in having you write up the case for them. For further data see the Digest for November, page 19. Here is a list of the magazines which use stories of true crimes:

Inside Detective, West F. Peterson, Editor, 149 Madison Avenue; Master Detective, John Shuttleworth, Editor, Chanin Building; Official Detective, Harry Keller, Editor, 731 Plymouth Court, Chicago; Startling Detective Adventures, Leonard Diegre, Editor, 22 W. Putnam, Greenwich, Connecticut; True Detective Mysteries, John Shuttleworth, Editor, Chanin Building; American Detective Cases, Rose Bolsen, Editor, 551 Fifth Avenue; Front Page Detective, West Peterson, Editor, 149 Madison Avenue; Daring Detective, Leonard Diegre, Editor, 22 W. Putnam, Greenwich, Connecticut; Real Detective, Arthur Medford, Editor, 44 West Madison Avenue; True Crime Stories, Martin Goodman, Editor, R.K.O. Building.

So endeth the chapter. There are thousands of dollars to be made writing detective stories if you will learn your background accurately, and learn the editorial policies of the magazines for which you wish to write by a careful reading and study of the stories they publish.

Crime pays nobody, as the grinning ghoul who dismembered Aunt Hattie in the nursery found out, except freelance writers.

Authored by Lurton Blassingame; from Writer’s Digest (January 1937).

Dialogue by Joseph T. Shaw

Joe Shaw is the former editor of Black Mask and holds many warm personal friendships with authors he coached in the years he worked with the Warner Publications. At present Shaw is an agent, and does editorial assignments for various publishers.

Joseph T. Shaw

Joseph T. Shaw

In a writing job, dialogue stands out the most; it is also the potent element and certainly the most versatile. Excellent dialogue appears rarely, but it then invariably commands its just reward; and for that reason it certainly deserves your careful study and attention.

A cardinal rule in practically all writing is that the author should keep out of it entirely and allow his characters to tell the story. Nothing weakens or spoils even good dialogue so much as to have the author act as interpreter between the quoted lines.

Bill swung around upon Ed.

“You blankety blank blank!”

And the eager author, while his readers await Ed’s comeback, writes: “Bill was not smiling when he said this. He was angry. Moreover, he wanted to make Ed angry, force him to make the first move, to reach for his gun.”

“Now, Bill, you just oughtn’t to use names like that.”

And the eager author again: “Ed was a mild-mannered man. He didn’t relish a fight and he had a very wholesome respect for Bill’s speed on the draw and the accuracy of his shooting. He obviously preferred to swallow the insult than to risk the test.”

One must never even think of employing dialogue as a filler of space, without purpose, to break the long run of descriptive matter. I’m sure you have frequently seen stories where it seemed that the author, discovering pages without a spoken word, has suddenly decided that there must be a bit of dialogue thrown in here. Then comes the query, to himself: “Who shall I have talk? What will I have them say?”—and the compromise, “Oh, I’ll give them a half dozen lines about the weather.”

You are right. I’ve seen that far more often in manuscript than in published form, unless, indeed, you want to go back to the older, traditional English style with its inconsequential wordiness.

Dialogue should never be used without purpose, without a definite contribution to be made. If it needs introduction—and it can itself introduce a story, even a book—its most natural entrance is in the logical evolution of a situation, where characters have reached a point when they must talk it out, where the story demands it. Then let the characters you have portrayed tell the story you have set up, themselves; not in your language and with your own expression, but in their own.

For, essentially, dialogue must be real. It can be smart, if your characters are smart; it can be original, if your characters have that spark. But it must always be in character, not only with respect to the personalities to whom you give speech, but also with regard to the actual situation and its natural requirements. If it’s real, it strikes you pleasingly; if incongruous, it hits you like a slap in the face.

Of course the attempt for realism can be carried too for. Several writers have gained a measure of renown for their reproduction of what purports to be actual speech; but what is good in one medium is not so good in another. Most people say too much anyway, and are often repetitious. If you have to read every word they say, even in a short dialogue, it grows monotonous and you easily lose the thread of the discourse. Written dialogue should be edited, like everything else borrowed from another medium. As a rule, it should be terse, with only significant expressions remaining.

The staccato form is often effective in stepping up the speed when approaching a climax. Here, however, is an example of the reverse, and is given to show not only how suspense is sustained right up to the instant action breaks—and incidentally bringing the book to its peak—but also to indicate the calm steadiness of the speaker who, facing a seemingly unbeatable opponent, a moment later very nearly kills him with his bare hands. Moreover, in this instance, the ordinary short, sharp speech would be insufficient, since the “I” character feels it necessary before they fight to make absolutely clear to the third person, the woman, exactly what the situation is, to which she in a way has contributed.

“I will tell you, my dear,” I said, smiling at her, “it is because we are men and you are only a woman. And we are men in the raw, too, for things have come to that pass where you are no longer to be wooed but only to be won. Edward Leng, the Oriental barbarian, will have it so, and I, the Celtic one, am no better. You have proclaimed your very splendid ideals and given us an unmistakable dismissal, but the ultimate and lustful savage in us has no use for these things. We are going to fight savagely for you, and notwithstanding ideals and dismissals, you will be the chattel of the victor. Now, my pagan woman, if you will stand aside, we will settle this small matter of ownership. You will be safe in that doorway, or if you want to escape the victor for the time—only for the time—you can flee while we struggle….”

Leng… was now laughing in grim merriment.

“You surprise me pleasantly, King,” he said. “You and I are the same man at bottom. You have proclaimed my philosophy better than I could myself.”

“I know that,” I said. “It was your philosophy I proclaimed.”

“Come on then and throw me outside,” he said; and before he had finished speaking I was on him.

This is a rare passage. In the space of a paragraph it sets up the whole situation, makes the purpose, of the antagonist, brutally clear, exposes his character to the last fiber, and while extolling the woman, leaves no possible doubt of what she faces in the event that Leng is the victor. At the same time, it shows the high quality of King who, having found no other way to solve the situation, gives himself willingly to the test. Needless to say, it is a passage from a very thoughtful book, the sort we all hope to write someday.

Here’s another example of careful writing of a different type, sharper, yet made more impressive by its restraint. Nick Charles tries to talk a man away from an idea of using his gun.

Nora was saying: “He made me let him in, Nick. He said he had to—”

“I got to talk to you,” the man with the gun said. “That’s all but I got to do that.”

I said: “All right, talk, but do you mind putting the gun away?”

He smiled with his lower lip. “You don’t have to tell me you’re tough. I heard about you.” He put the pistol in his overcoat pocket. “I’m Shep Morelli.”

“I never heard about you,” I said.

He took a step into the room…. “I didn’t knock Julia off.”

“Maybe you didn’t, but you’re bringing the news to the wrong place. I got nothing to do with it.”

“I haven’t seen her in three months,” he said. “We were washed up.”

“Tell the police.”

“… But listen; what’s the law doing to me? Do they think I did it? Or is it just something else to pin on me?”

I shook my head. “I’d tell you if I knew…. I’m not in this. Ask the police.”

“That’d be very smart. That’d be the smartest thing I ever did…. The boys would like me to come in and ask ‘em questions. They’d like it right down to the end of their blackjacks. I come to you on the level. Studsy says you’re on the level. Be on the level.”

“I’m being on the level,” I assured him. “If I knew anything I’d—”

Knuckles drummed on the corridor door, three times, sharply. Morelli’s gun was in his hand before the noise stopped….

And here’s Nick and the copper, after Nick was shot:

“… How’d you people happen to pop in?”

The copper … said: … “Mack here sees this bird duck in, he gives us a ring and we … come on up, and pretty lucky for you.”

“Yes, pretty lucky for me, or maybe I wouldn’t ‘ve got shot.”

“This bird a friend of yours?” “I never saw him before.”

“What’d he want of you?”

“Wanted to tell me he didn’t kill the Wolf girl.”

“What’s that to you?”


“What did he think it was to you?”

“Ask him. I don’t know.”

“I’m asking you.”

“Keep on asking.”

“I’ll ask you another one; you’re going to swear to the complaint on him shooting you?”

“That’s another one I can’t answer right now. Maybe it was an accident.”

These two bits are either side of a shooting, and one point of interest is that both give practically the same impression of Nick Charles, cool, with his wits about him and apparently unworried. In the first of the two scenes, Nick knows very well that Morelli, a gunman on the dope, will shoot, as he does, on the slightest suggestion that he is being crossed; yet there is nothing flurried or strained in Nick’s talk; nor in Morelli’s either, which makes him a more dangerous, deadly type than if he were hysterical or threatening. Nick admits that he “could hear the blood in my ears and my lips felt swollen,” yet he holds the same poise under the gun to mask his own action. It can be noted that the restraint of this dialogue renders the action that follows, and the whole scene, more real and impressive.

The full effect of the action is accomplished because the emotion produced by it is not anticipated, and therefore not spoiled, by exactly similar emotion being exploited before it actually occurs.

I often have had reason to think that most dialogue is done too hastily. It is possible that the writer has his mind preoccupied with the action toward which he is approaching and, considering that it is the all-important part of the story, gives divided attention to the buildup and particularly to the talk that introduces it.

Dialogue has practically all the properties which a story demands. It can be both a story builder and a character builder. Of Mice and Men employed the functions of dialogue to their fullest extent. A sparse word of setup—the scene—a meager description of one big man and one small man, and dialogue supplies all the rest.

“Lennie! Lennie, for God’s sake don’t drink so much. Lennie, you gonna be sick like you was last night.”

“Tha’s good. You drink some, George You take a good big drink.”

“I ain’t sure it’s good water. Looks kinda scummy.”

Then Lennie makes ripples in the water. “Look, George. Look what I done.”

George looked sharply at him. “What’d you take outa that pocket?”

“Ain’t a thing in my pocket.”

“I know there ain’t. You got it in your hand. What you got in your hand—hiding it?”

“I ain’t got nothin’, George. Honest.”

“Come on. Give it here.”

“It’s only a mouse, George…. I don’t know where there is no other mouse. I remember a lady used to give ‘em to me….”

“… An’ she stopped givin’ ‘em to ya. You always killed them.”

“They was so little. I’d pet ‘em and pretty soon they bit my finger and I pinched their head a little and they was dead—because they was so little….”

“Well, you ain’t pettin’ no mice while you walk with me. You remember where we’re goin’ now?”

“I forgot again.”

“We’re gonna work on a ranch like the one we come from up North. Now, look—I’ll give th’ boss th’ work tickets, but you ain’t gonna say a word. You just stand there and say nothin’. If he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won’t get no job, but if he sees ya work “ before he hears you talk, we’re set. Ya got that?”

“Sure, George. Sure I got it.”

“O.K. Now when we go in to see the boss, what you gonna do?”

“I… I… I ain’t goin’ to say nothin’. Jus’ gonna stand there.”

From even these few lines there can be no question of the characters of the two men; in fact, the whole setup of the story is here, even to the planting of the first indication that big Lennie is a killer, not through any “meanness,” but because of his enormous strength, the feeble mind that controls his impulse to bear down when the object of his petting resists. The work is open to criticism as a book. It is to all intents a play presented in book form, for when dramatized, the descriptive passages were used as stage directions. But it does show the extent to which dialogue can be employed; for here, almost unassisted, dialogue not only makes characterization brutally clear, but it also exposes the motive of the story, expresses thought, outlines the action and carries on and develops the story. Such dialogue cannot well be broken down or substituted by another type. This dialogue is the story.

While not so definite in characterization, another excellent example of the employment of dialogue to forward the story is Octavus Roy Cohen’s popular Collier’s serial, “I Love You Again.” And perhaps of more immediate interest is the work of a writer who a few short years ago was a leader in rough-paper detective fiction and is now pointed to by the smooth-paper editors for his outstanding ability in story construction.

Now, if you analyze those older stories of Frederick Nebel, you will observe that they are very close to ninety percent dialogue. Years ago, as it has been suggested in the beginning of this paper, Nebel set himself definitely to study and acquire command of the various functions of dialogue, and he was one of the first of a particular group to use dialogue to develop his plot. That dialogue did not show the studied effect of smartness but in other respects it can be taken for a pretty safe model. For one thing, it was always in character. It was hardly necessary for the text to point out that MacBride said this, and Kennedy said that. Their respective speech was unmistakable and reflected clearly not only the character of each man but also his method of thought, mood and mannerism.

The talk between the two, and with the other characters, brought out the story, built it up and then introduced the action climax.

Kennedy in his quiet way has been snooping, found the trail of guilt leading to a man whom the blunt McBride has not suspected, and in place of telling it to McBride, lets the man implicate himself:

Kennedy said quietly: “… Torgensen was killed by a .38. That phone call I just had was from Headquarters. They’ve got the gun over there. I found it in a dump heap across the way from the station. Haims at Headquarters says it checks with slugs found in Torgensen. A dealer down in Beaumont Street told me how he sold it to Lewis Friel.”

Friel shouted: “That’s a lie!”

“You can’t prove it’s a lie.”

“Oh, can’t I,” snapped Friel. He pulled a gun from his pocket and said:

“There’s my gun and I’ll face that dealer and make him prove he sold me the gun you’re talking about.”

Kennedy said: “Steve, take a look at his gun.”

MacBride strode across toward Friel. Something snapped in Friel’s eyes and he jumped back. “Hold on there!” he said.

MacBride scowled. “Don’t point that gun at me.”

“I’m pointing it at you.”

Marcia said: “I’ve got them from this side, Lewis.”

Kennedy turned. Marcia Friel was holding a very small automatic.

Lewis Friel said to Kennedy: “You almost trapped me, smart boy.”

“What do you mean, almost?” Kennedy drawled.

And after the fireworks, MacBride, lying in a hospital bed, said:

“Talk to me, Kennedy… What about that gun you had Haims examine?”

“I did find it where I said I found it, down near the station. Some jumpy guy must have tossed it away. So when Haims told me over the wire that it didn’t check, I told Lewis that it did just as a gag. He pulled his gun and I meant to have you take that and check it.”

All of the foregoing are samples of good dialogue, and an examination of the fuller works, of which these are merely brief excerpts, will show clearly the important part they play in establishing the quality of the respective stories. If the dialogue was bad, in respect of being careless, out of character, faulty with regard to situation and emotion, without significant meaning, these books would not have achieved the success they did. And it should be borne in mind that the works of the writers quoted are all of outstanding merit and made so in largest measure because of the excellence of their dialogue.

A writer brought in a book-length script with the candid desire to learn why it had not been accepted by one of the very publishers to whom it had been offered. He believed his story was intrinsically a good one, and he was correct. The dialogue was thoughtful and meaningful and at times smart; but an analysis showed that the speech of his dozen or more characters had a notable sameness, expressing the thought, the method of thinking and the philosophy, not of the respective characters, but of the author himself.

Comparisons are odious; and it would not be in good part to reproduce a passage of some published story and attempt to pick upon its dialogue weakness and fault. But if your story does not sell—granted that essentially it is a good story—or if it sells but does not hit, you might have a look at your dialogue and see if it has taken enough part in the telling of the story, if it is in real, true character—that is, if it reflects truthfully the character of the respective person and the emotion of the particular situation—if it has significance of meaning or is merely a wasteful jumble of words hastily thrown together; in short, see if it correctly exposes characterization and develops the plot of your story; see if it produces any of the varied emotions or falls flat.

Your writing of good, effective dialogue can be improved by study and practice. First, you must know your respective characters thoroughly, just what sort and type of men and women they are, how they will act and react in a given situation. Of course you know your plot and just in what manner you want to develop it. Then cast yourself into the character that is to speak and express the thought, the feeling and the meaning that particular character would naturally express under the circumstances and in his language and in his way of speaking.

Dialect in dialogue is not a short cut to characterization. It may denote personality, whether a person be black or white, foreign or domestic, ignorant or educated. It should never be difficult to read and understand unless, in rare cases, the purpose is to cause the reader to pause in his running, to read slowly and thereby to get the full gist of the passage. But as a rule it should not check for a moment the run of the story and should be given in small doses. It can get monotonous and annoying. Often a suggestion of dialect is wisest, especially if the particular speaker has much to say. Its chief forte is color and glamour, when skillfully handled. And again we take a bow to Octavus Roy Cohen:

“How come you ain’t usin’ yo’ muscle mo’ frequent, Frenzy?”

“Is you incineratin’ I ain’t doin’ my share?”

“Well, you suttinly ain’t doin’ no mo’ than.”

“Ise expendin’ my full stren’th.”

“Says which?”

“Says Ise puttin’ out my foremostest muscle. An’ don’t you like it, you can lump it.”

“Life sho’ is queer, ain’t it, Frenzy?”

“Did I say it wasn’t?”

“You ain’t said nothin’. I jist ast you wan’t it?”

Authored by Joseph T. Shaw; from Writer’s Digest (June 1939).

Do You Want To Become a Writer Or Do You Want To Make Money? by Joseph T. Shaw

Two decades ago, Robert Thomas Hardy and Arthur Sullivant Hoffman were famed and loved by writers for their energy and patience in training and discovering new writers.

Today, both these men are agents.

Their successor in the hearts of hundreds of writers is Joseph T. Shaw, editor of Black Mask, and prince among editors. At 578 Madison Ave., New York, Joe Shaw, about whom an enemy once said, “If he likes you, he’ll do so much for you, it’s pathetic,” is building up and developing scores of new writers.

Shortly we hope to have Mr. Shaw send us one of Black Mask’s published stories with running fire critical comment on the story by Mr. Shaw.


Writer's Digest (May 1934)

Writer’s Digest (May 1934)

Do you want to become a writer or do you want to make money?

You think the two are synonymous? Not with the frequency you might suppose.

If you want to make literature and a name for yourself as a really fine writer, you must face the fact that your market will be confined to a few quality magazines that pay low rates and to book publishers. If you believe you have it in you to be another O’Neill, Lewis, Hergesheimer, and are willing to endure the necessary years of struggle and apprenticeship, go to it; you’ll succeed eventually and make enough money to live a very full and happy life.

If, however, you want to write not for the sake of making literature, but of making a living, making money, in what seems to you to be an agreeable way of doing so, and if you want to accomplish this with the least possible delay, then forget literary ideals and concentrate all your efforts on creating what the great mass of the reading public want and are willing to pay for.

There are two main divisions in this field—the white paper magazines and the rough paper magazines. It is in regard to the latter that we are concerned in this article.

Rough paper magazines—wood-pulps, to use their facetious moniker—are very numerous, roughly they number more than a hundred, and their reader following goes well into the millions.

From the few hundred thousand of the first years of rough paper magazine appearance, this market has broadened satisfactorily and has now attained proportions that are very worthwhile to reckon with. When you consider that in numbers, approximately one out of every twenty men, women and children in the United States each month read a wood-pulp, you have an idea of what a source of entertainment and enjoyment to the people of the country this type of periodical has become. It is too big a market to be taken lightly from any angle, too filled with possibilities to be looked upon disparagingly. Indeed, it is worthy and deserving of the most thoughtful consideration and serious effort not only to retain its present scope but also to increase its magnitude in possible and logical directions.

Granted a measure of natural gift and normal erudition, it should not be difficult to enter this broad field as a writer. To maintain it in an assured position of monetary success requires a measure of study, adaptability and whatever work may be necessary to attain facility and skill.

At the outset it might be helpful to the new writer to have a broad understanding of the field he is about to exploit.

In the first place, due to economic reasons, rough paper fiction attempts less to guide than it does to gauge and meet public taste.

Unlike the several contributing factors in the smooth paper magazines—format, illustrations, advertising, style, fad and what not—rough paper magazines are dependent for their circulation upon the popularity of their fiction alone. It must be popular, it must be what the majority of certain classes of the people want or they go out of business.

Under the circumstances you should not look for altruistic motives on the part of the editors and publishers of the pulps. No doubt many of them would like to see this distinctively virile field as a whole on a higher plane than its greatest volume typifies; but adventuring along such lines, commendable as it might be from certain points of view, is not warranted as a commercial experiment.

Popular taste—honest, in that it reads what it likes regardless of fads and the preferences and opinions of others—popular demand molds the character of rough paper fiction more than does editorial and writer inspiration. The editors act for the most part in an interpretive capacity; the writers deliver merchandise specified.

Get clear in your mind, then, at the outset that to be successful in the rough paper field you must write to popular taste.

In this connection I am reminded of one very successful writer in this field who has spent years patiently studying and analyzing public mental capacity and taste of various markets and framed his stories for the respective magazines accordingly. The interesting points about this are that he has made money and is versatile. He has hit his markets with rare shrewdness. He is accounted among the most popular writers in widely divergent fields, for his stories in one magazine, for example, are not read or liked by the audience of another.

The ability to gauge this taste accurately is the key to the success of the best paid writers in the field today, and if they are at all versatile they can employ this ability to advantage in as many markets as they are capable of supplying.

The earlier newsprint magazines covered a wide range of subjects. Shortly there followed the idea of specialization, that is, a larger number of magazines each devoting its contents to a specific subject or section of the field-adventure, romance, sex, war, aviation, westerns, crime, detective, mystery, the pseudo-scientific, fantasy, and the like.

The writer has a wide range here from which to choose and will no doubt make his first try in the particular subject in which he feels himself most familiar and to which he can give his most natural expression.

Generally speaking, the dominant demand in all sections of the field is in the matter of producing reader reaction or effects.

That these effects are exaggerated, often beyond the bounds of sane reason, must be put up to the tastes of this special reading public, many of whom seem not to quarrel with even absurdities so long as the particular story holds something of interest to them.

And now let us seek the elements which developed, will produce the most effective writing skill in this rough paper field, and particularly in its detective fiction.

Accepted a certain fluency and an adeptness in the choice of words to express the mental image simply, clearly and understandably, style has little to do with it and mannerisms far less if anything at all. Type and character of stories to be emphasized, likes and dislikes, the use or disuse of the familiar properties of the crime and detective story vary with the several magazines and can no doubt be ascertained by a study of the respective magazines or by inquiry of the editorial offices.

So far as Black Mask is concerned there is little we enjoy more in our editorial work than a chat with a serious writer of promise who wants to go somewhere.

With regard to our general requirements, we might say that Dashiell Hammett did his work very well. We are of course seeking another Hammett, but we distinctly do not want his imitation. And we expect it should be some time before we see another with his inflexible purpose and indomitable will that disregarded ill health, a measure of poverty, even the absence of an early scholarly environment and yet achieved their aim.

We are satisfied that Frederick Nebel, Raoul Whitfield, Erle Stanley Gardner, Carroll John Daly, George Harmon Coxe, Eugene Cunningham, W.T. Ballard, Theodore Tinsley, Roger Torrey, are all doing their work exceedingly well, and we do not need material along their respectively different lines. We do want stories unlike those of any one of them in type, character and treatment.

But, as suggested, the requirements of the different magazines are superficial in many respects so far as the fundamental principles of writing skill are concerned, since the respective requirements can be expressed at will when writing skill is attained.

And among these cardinal principles simplicity and clarity must rank high. Your object is to accomplish an emotional effect upon your reader. You have a chance to do this if he can follow your story clearly and understands what it is all about. You have little or no chance, outside the sensation of shock, if your story confuses him, if it is too complicated in expression, structure or plot, or too subtle, so that he is at a loss himself to know exactly where his sympathy should lie or why it should be aroused at all.

Buyers in the majority of rough paper magazines want to take their stories in their stride, to read them while they run or ride. They do not want to stop in the middle of a story and go back to untangle confused threads or re-identify characters. It is for this reason that similarity of characters, particularly with respect to names of similar appearance, should be avoided.

Swift movement and speed of action are other essentials in this age of fast tempo, but speed of action should not be confused with many rapid, meaningless notions.

Long descriptive openings are for the most part taboo. For that matter these too often tedious stretches have little place in any part of a rough paper story of today.

Start your story in action if you can do so quickly. Identify your characters so that the action will be understandable to the reader; and keep it moving all the way to the end. To accomplish this, it is not necessary to stage a gun battle from start to finish, with a murder or a killing in every other paragraph. You can keep it alive and moving, when sympathy is once aroused, by tension and suspense, through dialogue or other form of plot development, when action is absent. Action in one form or another is, however, pretty generally in demand.

Logic and plausibility are much abused terms. As a matter of fact, although they are at times mentioned editorially, in by far the greatest volume of crime and detective fiction they are completely disregarded, while rapidity of motion, exaggerated menace and exaggerated action are substituted in their stead, and, let it be said, with the apparent approval of many readers of the crime magazines today.

While it must be admitted that their use can produce the strongest possible emotional effects-since the happenings carry the illusion of reality-the danger lies in the fact that unless skillfully employed, their demands tend to clog the smooth, swift run of the story.

After all, their acceptability depends upon the treatment, upon the manner in which the material is presented to the reader. If it is done in such a way as to seem logical, the writer has little further worry in that regard and he may speed up his action as much as he sees fit. Where plausibility enters the question, the writer merely has to have his characters move and talk, act and react as real human beings would do in like situation, however imaginary, and his task in that respect is done.

In addition to these elements there is one general principle that is quite fundamental. Unless you have a clear mental picture yourself, you can scarcely expect your reader to get a clear, understandable impression of your thought. If your own ideas are undeveloped or confused, your purpose in your story unclear in your mind, its presentation will not be less so. Thus it would seem that word choice and arrangement, diction if you will, come secondary to clear thinking. If your mental image is clear, you will have no difficulty in expressing it in the simple language and simple technique of rough paper fiction.

I often wonder if this preliminary fumbling at the typewriter, of which writers so frequently speak, is not due less to meager facilities of expression than to a confused idea of what it is desired to express.

It is hardly to be expected that you will have a clear image of your whole picture before you begin to express a part of it; and often it requires a partial expression of the whole before you observe that it is not complete.

Of course, where speed of production is so important to the moneymaker in this field, such reworking is apt to be costly, but is nevertheless practiced by many successful rough paper writers whose hold upon the audiences they have built up seems to warrant a greater care in workmanship than is typical of the great majority of this fiction of the moment.

Thus, if a writer enters this field with the sole purpose of making money in it, particularly if he wishes to cash in on the wild surges that endeavor to capitalize the utmost of popular fancy, he should start with no illusions of literary ambition. If he will train himself in clear thinking he will have an asset that will contribute greatly to speed of production. If he will attain a writing skill combining the various elements suggested, and is possessed of ordinary creative imagination he should have all that will be required.

Authored by Joseph T. Shaw; from Writers’s Digest (May 1934).

But Mister… You Don’t Look Like An Author by Theodore A. Tinsley

Ted Tinsley, and God have mercy on our soul, looks like an investment banker. Put him behind J.P. Morgan’s desk, and all the moneyed widows and orphans in the country would just naturally flock to him. Tinsley is that rare soul, a third generation native New Yorker. He is a charter member of the AFG and current treasurer.

The June issue of Black Mask carries his latest novelette. He is the creator of “Jerry Tracy” and about a million and a half words of published fiction.

Writer's Digest (May 1934)

Writer’s Digest (May 1934)

Let’s start with Article One in the popular American credo concerning authors and things auctorial.

Lights! Camera! It’s a miserable day, raining like the very devil, and you revolve moodily in your mind two mutually incompatible facts ­ A, the need for a social evening in the definitely near future; and B, the disgusting emptiness of your pockets.

So, anyhow, it’s raining; you sit down and drink two full quarts of a cheap, blended rye, you write a lot of words on paper and next morning you take the completed mess to your friend, Bill Mizzenmast, editor of Turgid Tales. You take the Ms. to Bill because Bill borrowed a couple of bucks from you the week before to pay for his share of the beer and the knockwurst and he’ll probably be in a chastened mood. As a matter of fact, it turns out that he is. He sneaks one look at your title, “The Kid from Singapore,” he sneaks another took at the cold, fishy and definitely reproachful gleam in your eye and he says hastily: “Not a bad yarn.” He doesn’t pay back your two bucks, the hound, but you get a check for the story.

So you’re an author.

In fact, you’re a very famous type of author. You’re the public’s preconceived opinion of all professional writers. Which is to say that you are a venal fellow with dank, unpleasant hair and blood-shot eyes, a creature of furtive midnight habits, an oaf utterly devoid of creative talent, who makes a fat living by the immoral use of a battered typewriter coupled with a low and primitive type of animal cunning. The public knows that your printed stuff is terrible because at this very moment in the public’s upper left-hand bureau drawer is a manuscript that has been pronounced a masterpiece by no less an authority than the local dentist and register of deeds. Only a vicious compact between you and your friend, Bill Mizzenmast of Turgid Tales, prevents this suppressed amateur masterpiece from seeing the light of day on a newsstand.

So, anyhow, you’re an author. You’re an eccentric wart on the neck of society, something to be avoided if possible.

You finally turn up at a social function. You are invited to a publisher’s afternoon tea, so called because it is usually held at the death-bed of the afternoon and tea is never served. You climb into your best bib and tucker and, against your better judgment, off you go. You sidle into a foggy and overheated room and smile glassily at a lot of other guys and gals. The place is filled with the sound of very jolly and very spurious—and very, very bogus—mirth.

You are immediately waylaid by a dazzlingly beautiful girl, a graduate of Bryn Mawr—oh, all right!—she’s a suety blonde, quite bosomy in black satin and she really works in Gimbel’s basement. You chat feebly with her. The fatal moment arrives. She asks you what you do for a living and you tell her.

She says: “Oh!” and gives you a peculiar cloudy look. You don’t like that look. You like the “Oh!” even less. Her startled little ejaculation seems to be quite definitely soiled with disappointment and unbelief. You ask her gruffly what the hell’s the matter with her, is she sick or something?

And she says:

“But, darling, are you serious! I’d never have known! You don’t look like an author!”

Aha, now we’re getting warm! What does an author look like? You decide to find out. You lead your blonde to a remote corner and she purrs gently, “Don’t! Folks’ll see us!” but she relaxes and you sit for your portrait. She speaks as follows:

“I-I dunno…. I always kinda thought…. Well, somehow, kinda flashy and handsome in a dissolute way. Grey at the temples, sorta. Puffy eyes, kinda deep an’ full of—uh—glamour. The kinda eyes that makes a goil feel like a frightened little boid watchin’ a soipent…. A tweed suit all rumpled an’ baggy and—uh—interestin’. And-oh yeah-smoking a pipe…. Kinda fatherly an’ awful sympathetic; but bold eyes like I said-make a goil breathe deep an’ feel that she might hafta—”

“Have to fight for her honor, perhaps?”

“Oh, my goodness! Not e-x-a-c-t-l-y.”

But your blonde is lying. She’s looked you over and she knows you’re no writer. She’ll sneak away in a minute and try to pump the host to find out what your racket really is.

Ah, welladay…. We authors….

Are authors human? I’m afraid they are. I know one guy whose jaw looks tougher than a manhole cover and probably is. We Digest readers are all aware what a real writer looks like by now, so we know that this particular bird will never, never make the grade with the girl from Gimbel’s. He’s a fascinating combination of a hard-bitten soldier and a sympathetic father-confessor. He’s probably given more help and more good advice to more people than the late Horace Greely. He can tell you real incidents about living people and living things that would permanently curl your eardrums-but you’d have to be a heck of a good friend of his and be very deft and tactful in your approach. Human? That bird is more human than the entire male population of a third class city.

I know another guy. He’s probably the friendliest, most enthusiastic, most likable writer that ever rose to his feet at a banquet to make a long, rambling three hour speech. The girl from Gimbel’s knows him only by hearsay. And also she knows (from reading Winchell) that he writes like this: The publisher, desperate for delayed material, transports him to a lonely shack out in the country, provides him with a pine table and a typewriter, four cases of liquor, canned groceries, two armed guards and a stenographer. The author, working himself up gradually to creative fervor, flings his clothes from him garment by garment, until he is full-length and nude on the pine table, screaming out a masterpiece of action material at the top of his inspired lungs, while the pencil of the stenographer flies dizzily and the two armed guards tilt back in their chairs and smoke placidly…. A year or two ago this lovely scenario was current hearsay. Actually, the author is a mild-mannered, inoffensive citizen who gets a haircut every two weeks, pays his taxes, is kind to his wife and relatives, is a sociable companion, a swell talker and an ace writer. Human? Weary much so.

Take any of these, professional word-mongers. There’s the guy with the jolliest laugh in New York; it sounds like what musical comedy producers used to refer to quaintly as a mirthquake. The only drawback to this particular writer is that two consecutive glasses of beer make him morose, downcast and viciously unhappy. Keep him away from German beergardens and he’s a grand human being in caps… Or the lanky lad with a famous mustache who knocks on your door at 4:00 A.M. and barges in with seventeen people all anxious to cheer your loneliness. If you’re a writer you don’t mind a visitation of this sort because it’s so obviously motivated by good intentions. You can’t punch a guy in the jaw who is so emotionally and sincerely friendly, so damned human that it hurts….

They’re a grand legion, these impecunious, flibbertigibberty hirelings of the typewriter and the dictaphone. I hope I don’t upset you but editors are, too, for that matter. Although, to be strictly truthful, editors are apt to be a wee bit persnicketty, apt to fall short of the full bloom of perfection in mind and body that is the heritage of all us noble authors.

For instance, the charming, urbane and cultivated editor of a nationally famous detective magazine is actually and sincerely of the belief that a dry Martini is a drink fit for a gentleman. Outside of that I find no fault in the man. Then there is another editor with a peculiar interest in ducks. Unlike Mr. Joe Penner of the radio, this little guy is not interested in the sale of the quacky web-footed creatures; his devotion to ducks is inspired by something more subtle, more—shall I say?—recondite. But ducks or no ducks, I can assure you most emphatically that he is a human begin you’d like to know.

And so, by easy stages, we meander back to our original text for today’s sermon. Are authors human? Come to think of it, I’m one of ’em myself. So I wouldn’t know. What do you think?

Authored by Theodore A. Tinsley; from Writer’s Digest (May 1934).