Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Hallowed Ground: Where the Pulps were made

Frank Munsey Co./Red Star

You may have noticed I've been posting pics from the recent trek my wife and I made to New York City. One of my goals was to see what's become of the editorial offices of my favorite pulp magazines. The results were underwhelming. The building above, at 280 Broadway, is the best of the bunch. Near as I can tell, construction on this one began back in 1845, with additions and such until 1917, when the New York Sun moved in. The Sun was a Munsey paper, and the offices for such Munsey mags as Argosy and Detective Fiction Weekly were housed here. Coincidently, this is only about a block from the current office of Dell Publications, the modern day heir to the pulp tradition. 

Popular Publications
205 East 42nd Street - little more than a block from Grand Central Station - was home to Popular Publications, purveyors of such fine magazines as Dime Detective and The Spider. This building went up in 1927, and tenants now include CUNY and the United Way of New York. I could almost imagine Frederick Nebel going in the front door to meet with Harry Steeger, if I could tell where the front door was.
Street & Smith
Street and Smith, from whence The Shadow and Doc Savage ventured forth, was at 79 7th Avenue. This building, at 77, has eclipsed that space, on the edge of toney Chelsea. That's the Westside Market at street level. Condos in this place now go for up to - and over - a million bucks. Heck, wouldn't you cough up a million to live in the Shadow's sanctum?

Trojan Publications
From this hallowed ground at 125 East 46th Street came such classy mags as Dan Turner - Hollywood Detective and the Spicy line. That address no longer exists, but its replacement houses a bakery on the corner, and one of the main tenants is a branch of the New York Public Library. Gotta wonder what those librarians would think of the building's spicy past.

Black Mask

During the Joe Shaw years, Black Mask was headquartered here at 575 Madison Avenue. I'm sure this 21-story monster bears no resemblance to the original building, but from a distance it does look black. More than a coincidence? It would be pretty to think so.


Cap'n Bob said...

Thanks for the tour. How did your meeting with EQ go?

Walker Martin said...

Concerning Fred Nebel meeting with Harry Steeger, the publisher of Popular Publications, I'm not sure it ever happened.

Steeger was at a couple Pulpcons back in the 1980's and it was obvious that he was not a hands on type of editor. He was the overall boss but editors like Rogers Terrell and others handled the day to day operations. Steeger only had vague recollections of the writers and many of his memories turned out to be incorrect.

One example concerned prolific cover artist, Norman Saunders. I once asked him about his meetings with Steeger. He said he never met with him but he saw him a couple times on the elevator.

Evan Lewis said...

Nebel kept a diary in 1933 and '34, and mentions Steeger often. During that period he and his wife moved from California to Fairfield, CT, and he spent quite a bit time in NYC. In Dec. '33 he notes going into to town to deliver a story to Steeger, but found Harry was not in. Steeger telephoned him a few days later to say that several authors had complained because he was paying Nebel more than them (four cents a word instead of two). The only ironclad account of a meeting is in the entry for Feb. 6, but it does not sound like their first:

"Tuesday last (Jan. 30) I took the 9:11 morning train at Westport, for New York. I walked over to Harry Steeger's office in E. 42nd, but he was not in. Goldsmith was in and we sat talking and in a few minutes Harry came in. He asked me to do a story and I demurred a bit and finally said I would and that I would send the title in as soon as possible. Harry took me to luncheon at the Commodore. I said we ought to get together in New York some night or perhaps some week-end and he agreed completely. He asked if I wished him to print something in any of his magazines about my forthcoming novel and I said no."

Walker Martin said...

Nebel mentions meeting with Steeger in 1933 and 1934, the early years of Popular Publications. Steeger must of had more to do with the writers and artists in the early years. By the late 1930's and 1940's he probably had less and less to do with the day by day operations.

Evan Lewis said...

Nebel makes it sound like all his correspondence with Dime - from story submissions to payments - was with Steeger himself. At the time, of course, he was one of the mag's biggest draws - the other being Daly.