Friday, May 17, 2013

Forgotten Books: SPICY DETECTIVE STORIES (1989)

Robert Leslie Bellem's Dan Turner, the undisputed King of Spicy Detectives, has been reprinted by so many different publishers - and in so many different formats - that I've lost track of them. And outfits like Girasol and Adventure House have produced facsimile editions of single issues the original magazine. But far as I know, this is 1989 book from Malibu Graphics is the only attempt at a true anthology of tales.

Predictably, this one leads off with a Dan Turner story, then dishes up a selection of six other stories that appeared in Spicy Detective between 1935 and 1937. No one is going to mistake this stuff for great literature, but the stories are all fun and exuberant and peppered with the sort of nudity and canoodling that must have had many a pulse pounding back in the '30s.

Appropriately, Bellem is represented by at least one other story, under his pen name of Jerome Severs Perry. And there's a tale (not listed on the back of the book) by James A. Lawson, author of the fine 2003 Black Dog Books chapbook Hard Guy.

Malibu Graphics (now defunct) was primarily a comic book publisher (Eternity and Aircel were Malibu imprints, and Image was initially connected as well), and this collection seems to have been intended to introduce comic book readers (18 and over) to Spicy Detective. Malibu co-founder Tom Mason also compiled and edited anthologies called Spicy Mystery Stories, Spicy Western Stories and Spicy Horror Stories (there was no pulp entitled Spicy Horror, of course, so those tales were culled from Uncanny Tales and other shudder pulps). Each of the four volumes featured the original interior illos, reset type and new covers.

In what was no doubt an overdose of optimism, each book was labelled "Volume One." I don't believe any of the titles made it to Volume Two, but they were a worthy experiment, and all are worth seeking out. And because demand is low, you can probably find them for considerably less than the original $7.95 cover price. Books that cost less now than when they were new - what a great concept!

More Forgotten Books at pattinase.


Shay said...

"A Shamus and a Sheba" -- with a title like that, how could you go wrong?

I've read some of Bellem's Dan Turner stories on They'

Tom Mason said...

How great to stumble across a review of an old project of mine! Thanks for posting. A couple of points - when we launched the collections, we weren't interested in introducing comic book fans to the pulps. We figured we could sell a few hundred copies in the direct market and that would be enough to pay for printing - our goal was to create a series of low-overhead squarebounds to try to get a piece of the bookstore market.

We labeled each of them Volume One not out of optimism, but because (1) for the comic book market having something called "#1" is never a bad idea and (2) if we were able to get enough traction for subsequent volumes we wouldn't have to come up with subheads to distinguish them on order forms or store shelves. And you're right, Spicy Horror was just a title we made up, to give all four books title consistency.

Bill Blackbeard at the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art supplied copies of the material for me to select. "Madman" (aka Rurik Tyler) did most of the covers - the original to Spicy Detective hangs in my office today.

I loved putting the books together and reading all the stories.