Sunday, March 27, 2016

Robert F. Dorr talks about his classic war and adventure stories in A HANDFUL OF HELL – PART 2…

Robert F. Dorr with A HANDFUL OF HELL
My previous post here featured excerpts from the introduction that author Robert F. Dorr wrote for A HANDFUL OF HELL, the fourth book in our Men’s Adventure Library series.

HANDFUL is a lushly-illustrated collection of classic men’s adventure magazine stories written by Bob Dorr in the 1960s and 1970s, before he became the renowned author of more than 70 military aviation history books and, during the past year, two novels.

This post picks up in Bob’s intro where the last post left off.

The illustrations below are pages from our book that show the full-color scans of magazine covers and interior artwork used for stories that he mentions…

– Excerpts from ROBERT F. DORR'S Introduction to A HANDFUL OF HELL –

Some of my men’s adventure magazine stories from the mid-1960s depict everyday Americans in uniform, facing dire situations and doing spectacular things in the midst of war.

Robert F. Dorr, Osan Air Base, Korea, April 6, 1960A fictional example is my story about Captain Sidney Curtiss, the hero of “Fish Him Out—Or Else” from MAN'S MAGAZINE, December 1966.

He is an imaginary composite of several real F-105 Thunderchief pilots who were shot down and rescued during the air campaign against North Vietnam.

The portrait photo used to represent him in the story is a photo of a friend of mine.

It was one of a number of tales of air warfare I wrote that involve flying into the enemy guns and surviving—usually.

A similar example is my is my tale of besieged helicopter crews and GIs in the June 1967 issue of MEN magazine, “5 Downed GIs Who Gutted Ambush Alley.”

Two of the stories I wrote about five years into my Foreign Service career, when I was stationed in Japan, featured Medal of Honor recipients.

One was about U.S. Army Sergeant Tom Baker.

He died in a point-blank firefight with Japanese troops on Saipan, in the Mariana Islands in 1944, when a small number of American soldiers were overrun by several thousand Japanese troops.

Of course, there was no Internet when I wrote my story about him, published as “The Day the Boondocks Ran with Yankee Blood” in BLUEBOOK FOR MEN in 1969.

Today, with a quick search online, you can easily find and read the official Medal of Honor citation for “Baker, Thomas A.” on the website of the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

If you do, you'll discover an account of Baker’s heroism that is less embellished than mine but awe-inspiring in its own laconic way.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p155 watermarkedHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p178 & 179 watermarked

*     *     *     *     *

Another Medal of Honor recipient I wrote a story about that year was Angelo James Liteky, who later changed his name to Charles James Liteky.

He’s a priest who served as a military chaplain during the Vietnam War. For his heroic efforts to save wounded American soldiers in 1967, he received the Medal of Honor.

After the war, he continued to be a man of indomitable courage and strong convictions.

He opposed the Catholic Church’s celibacy requirements for priests and left the church to marry. In 1986, he renounced and returned his Medal of Honor in protest over U.S. training of military personnel who served the interests of dictators in Central America, at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p209 WMHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p154, 176 & 190 3

My story about Liteky is limited to the combat action for which President Lyndon Johnson presented him with the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony.

He wasn’t controversial then. But for some reason it wasn’t an easy story to sell.

In April 1969, I submitted it to Editor Phil Hirsch at MAN'S MAGAZINE, using letterhead from the Hotel Akahane in Tokyo.

Phil decided not to use my Liteky story, but he sent me a nice rejection note.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p254 & 255 watermarkedHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p253

In May 1969, I sent the story to Editor Carl Sifakis at MALE magazine. Carl sent back a handwritten note: “Sorry, we've done Liteky.”

So, I submitted it to B. R. Ampolsk. He owned and edited the publishing companies Q.M.G., Reese and EmTee, which published many men’s adventure magazines of varying quality.

My Liteky story finally appeared in the October 1970 issue of his magazine MAN'S ILLUSTRATED, October 1970 under the title “The Incredible Glory Saga of the Boondock Padre.”

*     *     *     *     *

The collection of character-driven, narrative stories that editors Bob Deis and Wyatt Doyle chose for this book reflect a different era, the 1960s and early 1970s.

In that era, American men who were not anti-war protesters or egghead intellectuals saw war and action stories in strange-sounding, exotic foreign lands as interesting, entertaining and manly.

The readers of men’s adventure magazines certainly liked them. And the men’s adventure magazines gave their readers what they wanted. So did I.

Some of the adventurers in stories I wrote for them evoke Indiana Jones, who hadn't been invented yet but must have been inspired by the men’s pulp adventure mag genre.

Indy's kind of adventurer would have fought those dirty commies in Guatemala, like my character in “I Fought Castro’s Cutthroat Guerrilla Squad” from FOR MEN ONLY, April 1970.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p238 & 239 WMHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p136 watermarked

Indy could also have crossed paths with the evil sheik in the fictional Arab kingdom of Maraq, which I created for my story in a 1971 issue of FOR MEN ONLY about a Yank soldier of fortune who uses a cross-dressing ploy, wonderfully depicted by artist Earl Norem.

Indiana Jones could also have encountered nefarious commies in Burma, like those I depicted in a story in BLUEBOOK, March 1972.

Then there’s my character Bud Prather, in “Borneo Longshot” from MALE, March 1970.

Bud parachutes into Borneo on a perilous search mission in territory ruled by Nalao headhunters.

When I wrote it, literacy rates in the United States were higher than today, many men were veterans who’d done service and many could find Borneo on a map. But in civilian life, few had any realistic hope of ever traveling to such exotic places. [Editor’s note: The photo of the character Bud Prather in the “Borneo Longshot” story is actually a photo of author Robert F. Dorr.]

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p224 & 225 watermarkedRobert F. Dorr Parachuting in Madagascar 1965

*     *     *     *     *

For the men’s adventure magazines I wrote some articles about well-known American heroes, like Medal of Honor recipients. But generally they were war and adventure stories with a realistic-sounding factual type background.

Those were the most common thing I wrote for the men’s pulp magazines until the magazines started changing in the late 1960s.

As they evolved to compete with magazines like PLAYBOY and HUSTLER, they had covers with photos showing fully exposed female nipples instead of painted covers and the types of stories changed.

So then I also began writing sex stories. Most were sex exposé stories like the “Sex Life of Our GI’s in Germany” [included in the hardcover edition of A HANDFUL OF HELL] and “Behind the Scenes of Budapest’s Sex Revolt” and “The Erotic Stewardess Tapes.”

I think people often do too much over-analyzing of such stories. I wrote many for the men’s pulp magazines and it would involve too much analyzing for me to say a great deal about them. But I can tell you there was no first hand research involved.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p286HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p289 & 290

*     *     *     *     *

An update on Robert F. Dorr...

On November 17, 2015, Bob announced on his blog that he had a brain tumor; specifically a Glioblastoma Multiforme brain tumor, the most common but also the most aggressive kind.

Robert F. Dorr with CRIME SCENE & HTMIn December, he had successful surgery to remove it. Then he underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

As I write this, Bob is still with us and still in good spirits. Unfortunately, his prognosis is not good.

As he explained in an update he posted on his blog on March 12, 2016:

“This type of tumor is always fatal. As one of my doctors, a sports fan, puts it, ‘It's undefeated.’

Depending on what you read, and how you respond to the three forms of treatment, surgery, radiation and chemo, life expectancy runs from three months to fifteen.”

Bob resolved to use whatever time he has left doing the things he loves. In addition to spending time with his family and friends, he has continued to write every day.

Not long after his surgery he published CRIME SCENE: FAIRFAX COUNTY, a mystery novel that features characters from his popular alternate history novel HITLER’S TIME MACHINE.

Bob recently told me he is now working on another novel, despite the fact that the effects of his brain tumor and surgery have made typing a slow process for him.

He has also been posting on his Facebook page and various Facebook groups, including the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group — which Bob suggested that I create back in 2009, shortly after I first connected with him via email.

In addition, over the past two months, he has written a fascinating and poignant series of blog posts about friends, colleagues and writers who have influenced his life.

I can say this: Robert F. Dorr has definitely influenced mine. He is an inspiration, as a writer and as a human being.

I will be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know him. And, I am honored to have been able to work with him on our collection of his classic men’s adventure magazine stories, A HANDFUL OF HELL.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Related reading…

Monday, March 14, 2016

Robert F. Dorr talks about his classic war and adventure stories in A HANDFUL OF HELL – PART 1…

A HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr preview REV 
In November 2009, shortly after I launched this blog about vintage men’s pulp adventure magazines, I received a brief email from author Robert F. Dorr.

“I stumbled upon your blog more or less by accident,” he said. “I wrote hundreds of articles for the men's pulp adventure magazines. I still have a small collection of those mags in the basement. I didn't know anyone else was interested in them!”

I was thrilled.

I was aware, though not nearly as aware as I would become, that Bob Dorr is among the best and most prolific of the many great writers who once worked for the men’s adventure mags.

In fact, he’s right up there with the top luminaries who regularly wrote for the genre, like Mario Puzo, Bruce Jay Friedman, Lawrence Block, Walter Wager, Robert Silverberg, Martin Cruz Smith and Walter Kaylin.

Bob’s email to me led to many things.

It led to an ongoing series of correspondence and phone calls that turned into a long-distance friendship, spanning the 1,200 miles between his home in Oakton, Virginia and mine near Key West, Florida.

It led to a series of posts I wrote for this blog about Bob’s men’s adventure magazine stories and some of his later military aviation history books, such as HELL HAWKS!, MISSION TO BERLIN, MISSION TO TOKYO and FIGHTING HITLER’S JETS.

It led to the creation, at Bob’s suggestion, of the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group, which now has over 1,500 members from all over the world.

It led to the inclusion of two of Robert F. Dorr’s MAM stories in the first book in our Men’s Adventure Library series, WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH.

Robert F. Dorr with 4 of his books. CAPTIONED2More recently, it led to the publication of our fourth book in the series, A HANDFUL OF HELL, a collection of classic war and adventure stories Bob Dorr wrote for men’s pulp adventure mags in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

A HANDFUL OF HELL is now available as a paperback and in a special limited edition hardcover that includes additional stories and images.

Both editions are lushly illustrated with dozens of full color scans of the covers of the magazines the stories appeared in and the interior artwork and photos used for them inside.

Both include a fascinating autobiographical chapter Bob wrote especially for the book about the stories and his amazing life as an Air Force serviceman in Korea, a globe-hopping U.S. State Department diplomat who wrote men’s adventure magazine stories on the side, and his second career as a full-time professional author.

Wyatt Doyle, my co-editor, book designer and head honcho at New Texture Books, has created in-depth previews of HANDFUL for the “Look Inside” feature of its listing on Amazon.

He also posted another, even cooler, flip-page preview that you can see on the Issuu.com website.

In this post on MensPulpMags.com and another to come, I’ll provide a slightly different type of preview: excerpts from Bob Dorr’s comments about the stories in his introduction, along with scans of the book pages showing the covers and interiors for the issues and stories he mentions.

Here are some of the things Bob wrote in the introduction for A HANDFUL OF HELL...

*     *     *     *     *

Excerpts from ROBERT F. DORR'S Introduction to A HANDFUL OF HELL

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p10I was born on September 11, 1939. I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

From childhood, I’ve had two main interests: airplanes and writing.

I had my first paid magazine piece published in the November 1955 issue Air Force Magazine, the journal of the Air Force Association, when I was 16.

Even though I couldn’t become a pilot I was sufficiently interested in the Air Force that I enlisted the day after I graduated from high school, in June 1957.

The Korean War was over but it was still a very tense situation. It was like the Korean War without the shooting.

The nation of South Korea I was stationed in from 1958 to 1960 was a very crude, primitive country that bears no resemblance to what it looks like today. Today it is in many respects ahead of us in education and technology. But not then.

Part of what my squadron did was to fly reconnaissance missions in C-47s, In everyday jargon that would be a spy plane, although technically speaking a spy is a civilian. We were part of a massive communications intelligence operation that was going on around the world during the Cold War – and continues today.

I got out of the Air Force in August of 1960, just before my twenty-first birthday.

I then spent several years doing various things, mostly in California. I also went to Hong Kong. My goal was to become a writer.

The first example of my work in men’s pulp adventure magazines was published in REAL magazine, a story called “The Night Intruders” in REAL, April 1962. [Included in the special hardcover edition of A HANDFUL OF HELL.]

The editors paid me $100 for the story, about a B-26 crew in the Korean War. The Korean War was a popular subject then.

That was the first of what became several hundred stories and articles in those magazines. I’m using the word articles somewhat loosely because almost all of them contained a great deal of fiction, though I tried to make them all seem to be as realistic as I could.

I did the same thing with the first story in REAL that I did with almost all of the later men’s adventure magazine stories and articles.

I typed them up on 8½ by 11 typewriter paper on a manual typewriter, using Whiteout, booze and cigarettes.

01 - REAL, August 1962 cover01 - REAL, Aug 1962 - Robert F. Dorr story p1&2

I also tried to write literary short stories. During that era, Esquire magazine was the pinnacle for men’s magazines. It was publishing some of the great writers. I wrote a fiction story that came back from Esquire with a scribbled little note from the editor that said: “Almost made it.”

I never did succeed in publishing literary short stories. I wrote some but didn’t get them published.

But I began writing regularly for the men’s pulp magazines, in their heyday.

Writing for the men’s adventure magazines was a learning process in many ways. I think the guys that put out those magazines deserve a lot of credit for helping to teach a whole generation of writers how to write.

In terms of the readers of the men’s adventure magazines I wrote for in the first half of the ‘60s or so, when I did most of my writing for them, almost all of them were veterans. The situation was different then than it is today, when a veteran is perceived as sort of a separate category of human being that’s apart from everybody else.

These magazines were read by regular guys. The fact that they happened to be veterans had something to do with shaping the content. But the fact that they were veterans is sort of an added fact to whatever else is true about them, since so many men were veterans back then.

*     *     *     *     *

Between the Air Force and the time I entered the Foreign Service, there was a period of several years when I was going to college part time. I also worked some part-time jobs. But most of the time I was supporting myself with income from the men’s adventure magazines.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p39 watermarkedI wrote a lot for Magazine Management company, which published STAG, MALE, FOR MEN ONLY, MEN and others, and for Pyramid Publishing, which published MAN’S MAGAZINE and some other men’s adventure magazines.

They usually paid me $350 per article and $350 was pretty good. Not only was it pretty good then, it hasn’t gotten much better. There are plenty of fine, high quality magazines that pay less than that today.

For most of that period, I was moving around a lot, so I had a Post Office Box in San Francisco.

I had a couple of Air Force buddies there that I hung around with, guys I had been in the Air Force with. I remember when we’d get together they would say: “Let’s go down to the Post Office today and see if you got a check from Man’s Magazine.” And every once in a while there would be that wonderful moment when there would be a check for $350 in the Post Office Box and we’d be rich.

One of the stories I wrote in 1962 was “Handful of Hell at 20,000 Feet!”

It was published in the October issue of CLIMAX, a men’s adventure magazine published by Macfadden Publications.

It’s about Air Force Staff Sergeant Henry “Red” Erwin, who received the Medal of Honor in 1945.

I was fascinated by Erwin’s bravery. He was a radio operator aboard a B-29 Superfortress bomber.

During a mission over Japan, he suffered grave burns all over his body when he grabbed and disposed of a phosphorus bomb that had detonated prematurely inside his plane.

It would have destroyed the aircraft and crew if not for his action.

Erwin’s hands, face and body were severely burned. He was covered with bandages and expected to die when he became one of the very few American enlisted airmen to receive the Medal of Honor, our country’s highest award for valor.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p40 & 41 WMHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p43 watermarked

I didn’t do interviews for my men’s adventure stories like I later did for my history books.

I did get to know Red Erwin decades when I interviewed Air Force veterans for one of my aviation history books, titled B-29 Superfortress Units of World War II, which came out in 2002. I never told him about the CLIMAX story. He died in 2002.

Ten years later, and 50 years after my Climax story about Erwin was published, my more accurate and very real account of his bravery appeared in my book MISSION TO TOKYO.

*     *     *     *     *

Another story I wrote in 1962 that was ultimately titled “The Bloodiest Single Mission in Air Force History.” It was published in BLUEBOOK FOR MEN, December 1962.

I was familiar with North Korean geography, and I imagined an attack on the real industrial city of Sariwon, surrounded by anti-aircraft artillery. I gave my manuscript an Alistair MacLean-style name, “The Guns of Sariwon.”

Here’s a little aviation inside baseball about the name of that bomber. During World War II, the U. S. Army's standard medium bomber was the Martin B-26 Marauder. Late in the war, the Army introduced a new attack plane, the Douglas A-26 Invader. Both the B-26 and the A-26 had twin engines, tricycle landing gear, and guns protruding all over.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p51 watermarkedHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p52 watermarkedHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p61 watermarked

When I sent my story about Douglas B-26 Invader bombers to BLUEBOOK, an editor wrote back and asked if I had photos. I did.

I sent him valuable photos that were never returned. They weren’t used, either.

BLUEBOOK illustrated the story with photos of the wrong kind of B-26: Marauders, not Invaders.

More understandably, BLUEBOOK changed my title for the story to “The Bloodiest Single Mission in Air Force History.”

*     *     *     *     *

On January 1, 1963, equipped with a roundtrip ticket and little cash, I traveled to Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei and Hong Kong, lugging an Olivetti Lettera-22 typewriter.

During the trip I used it to write yet another tale about bomber crews in combat. This one was about a B-17 Flying Fortress bombing mission to Berlin.

I sent it to STAG magazine from Hong Kong. Stag editor Noah Sarlat, with whom I later worked regularly but never met, sent me a note saying he liked it be he questioned certain details in the story, such as did American crews really use the term “bomber stream”?

In fact, I told him, my background details were accurate. I’d never actually been inside a B-17, but I didn’t tell him that.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p67 watermarkedHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p68 & 69 watermarked

The name for the plane in the story is based on a girl I’d hung out with in San Francisco, a Berkeley graduate student whose mother called her by the nickname “Lovie.”

My fictional B-17 needed a name so I dubbed the airplane Lovie. My title for the story was “Lovie’s Airborne Ordeal.”

I understood the writing style of the men's adventure magazines better than I grasped their method of determining titles. Noah changed it to “Rammed over Berlin.”

*     *     *     *     *

My story "The P.O.W. General Who Tried to Kill Himself" was published in MAN'S MAGAZINE, November 1965.

It’s about a real man, Major General William F. Dean. He fought in Europe in World War II before commanding the 24th Infantry Division at the outbreak of the Korean War.

It was his misfortune to be in charge during the mid-1950 defense of the Pusan Perimeter when North Korean armor and infantry hammered a poorly equipped, under-manned, outnumbered U.S. ground force.

Dean was awarded the Medal of Honor for his defense of Taejon, not for his subsequent brave conduct as a prisoner of war.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p117 watermarkedHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p118 & 119 watermarked

The Code of Conduct of the United States Fighting Force is a United States Department of Defense directive that took effect during the Eisenhower administration in 1955, two years after the end of the Korean War.

After the Code was adopted, members of the military were required to memorize it. The first of six articles read: “I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.”

The Code did not exist when Bill Dean was a P.O.W. But he lived up to it and performed heroically in North Korean captivity.

*     *     *     *     *

In 1951, when I was in the sixth grade, local newspapers carried stories about a T-33 Shooting Star trainer — the two seat version of the F-80 fighter then doing battle in Korea.

I don't remember the newspaper stories making much of the fact that the T-33 pilot who lost his life was a decorated World War II fighter ace, Major Don Gentile.

Fifteen years later I wrote about Gentile's wartime exploits for MAN'S MAGAZINE, in a story called “I'm Going to Ram That Nazi Plane!”

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p137 watermarkedHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p138 & 139 watermarked

It is a true story, but a true story with some manufactured dialogue and a little embellishment.

In 2003, I wrote a more straightforward article about Gentile for the magazine WWII HISTORY.  Same story, done in different style, 38 years apart.

Another story I told twice, years apart, was about the P-40 Warhawk fighter pilot, 2nd Lt. George Welch. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, he and his buddy 2nd Lt. Ken Taylor were among the few American pilots who managed to take off and fight the Japanese. [The story “Yank Ace Who Battled the Japs over Pearl Harbor.”]

Working together, they downed several three Aichi D3A Val dive bombers. Welch also downed a Mitsubishi Zero fighter.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p91 watermarkedHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p92 & 93 watermarked

Both men were awarded the highest U.S. Air Force medal for their bravery, the Distinguished Service Cross.

My story about Welch was the cover story in the December 1965 issue of Stag.

I retold his tale as the cover story in the November 2003 issue of WWII HISTORY magazine. Yes, history magazines are prospering nicely nowadays, thank you, and they owe a huge debt to the men's adventure genre.

*     *     *     *     *

I entered the Foreign Service in 1964. 

My first overseas assignment was in Madagascar from 1965 to 1967.

I spent quite a bit of my spare time ay my typewriter during those years. Among other things, that led to two stories I wrote about American bomber pilots on lone-wolf missions into enemy territory to destroy vital enemy targets: “The ‘Impossible’ Raid” for STAG and “Yank Ace Who Saved the Anzio Invasion” which appeared in MAN'S MAGAZINE.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p103 watermarkedHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p104 & 105 watermarked

The idea of one man, or a small force, attacking a vital target was the kind of thing men’s adventure magazine readers loved. It has also always been good stuff for novels and movies. I used it decades later in my novel HITLER'S TIME MACHINE.

The closest thing in air warfare in real life was the “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo on April 18, 1942—eighty men in sixteen bombers led by James “Jimmy” Doolittle, a Lieutenant Colonel in what was then called the U.S. Army Air Forces, before the Air Force became a separate branch.

In the real world, when American could send thousands of planes on missions, as I later wrote about in books like Mission to Berlin and Mission to Tokyo, lone-wolf air attacks just didn't happen.

The “Yank Ace Who Saved the Anzio Invasion” is a story about a guy who flew the “other” bomber. The B-24 Liberator has never received as much attention as the B-17 Flying Fortress, even though there were more of them and they served everywhere during World War II.

HANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p193 watermarkedHANDFUL OF HELL, Robert F. Dorr p194

The same is true of the P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter, which was the most numerous American fighter manufactured during that war. My book HELL HAWKS! covers the pilots, crew chiefs, armorers, repairmen and maintainers who worked on the P-47 Thunderbolts. And the book is a direct descendant of the work I did for the men’s adventure magazines.

When I look at “Yank Ace Who Saved the Anzio Invasion” now I see the beginnings of a career writing articles and books about the experiences of wartime veterans in the Air Force, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to continue to do it.

To read Part 2 of the excerpts from Robert F. Dorr’s introduction to A HANDFUL OF HELL click this link.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Related reading…

Friday, March 4, 2016

An interview with monster art master Basil Gogos about his men’s adventure magazine artwork…

Basil Gogos cover collage WM 
Artist Basil Gogos is the most widely-known and revered painter of movie monster paintings in the world.

His reputation as the King of Monster Art was first established in the 1960s and 1970s.

During those first two decades of his career as a professional illustration artist, Basil created dozens of wildly colorful and wicked cool cover paintings for the James Warren periodical FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and the Warren Publishing horror magazines EERIE and CREEPY.

In more recent decades, the popularity of Basil’s monster artwork has continued to grow.

He has created many new monster portrait paintings that are even more masterful than his FAMOUS MONSTERS covers.

He has done horror-themed album cover paintings for his fans in the heavy metal music world, Rob Zombie, The Misfits and Electric Frankenstein.

He also maintains a busy schedule of appearances at comic and horror conventions held throughout the country.

At the cons, and through his Facebook page, Basil sells and autographs prints and t-shirts featuring his monster paintings.

Many are portraits of classic horror and science fiction movie characters, such as Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s monster, Godzilla, King Kong and The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Others are portraits of famous actors who starred in those movies, like Lon Chaney, Peter Cushing, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi.

At the cons, Basil also brings along copies of the gorgeous, full-color book about his artwork published by Vanguard Productions, titled the FAMOUS MONSTER ART OF BASIL GOGOS.

That book is a must-have for fans of Basil, the Warren magazines, classic monster flicks and illustration art.

It was compiled and edited by artist Kerry Gammill and Vanguard’s founder, the incredibly prolific artist, author and publisher J. David Spurlock.

Naturally, the Gammill/Spurlock book focuses on Basil’s classic FAMOUS MONSTERS covers and his more recent movie monster portrait art.

Basil Gogos Famous Monsters of Filmland #9 & #50 WMBasil Gogos art, Bela Lugosi & Elsa Lanchester WM

But it also devotes a chapter to a lesser-known, but significant part of the career of Basil Gogos: the work he did for men’s pulp adventure magazines between 1959 until the mid-1970s.

I believe that facet of his career deserves much wider recognition and is worthy of a book or three in itself.

In fact, Basil actually did more artwork for men’s adventure magazines than he did for the Warren monster mags.

In addition, his MAM artwork includes a more diverse range of styles and a wider variety subjects, ranging from exotic adventure and battle scenes to “sweat magazine” style bondage and torture covers and “Good Girl Art” featuring alluring femme fatales.

Basil’s work for the men’s pulp adventure magazines started in 1959, with his “Arab Peril” cover painting for the premiere issue of WILDCAT ADVENTURES (an issue I featured in several recent posts here).

It blossomed in the 1960s, when he was a frequent contributor of cover and interior art to many of the top men’s adventure mags. He continued working for the genre into its waning years in the mid-1970s, when only a handful of titles still featured painted covers and high quality interior illustrations.

MAN'S ACTION, April 1960. Cover by Basil GogosMAN'S ILLUSTRATED, May 1964. Cover by Basil GogosMEN TODAY, Nov 1974. Basil Gogos cover

Recently, with a kind assist from Basil’s partner Linda Touby, who helps maintain the Basil Gogos Facebook page (and is an artist herself), I got the opportunity to ask Basil some questions about his work for the men’s adventure magazines.

His answers are below, along with examples of his MAM cover and interior artwork...

BOB DEIS: Thanks for talking with me, Basil. I’d like to start by asking about your early training as an artist and how you came to work for men’s adventure magazines. I know your family moved to the U.S. from Egypt when you were 16 and you began studying art seriously about ten years after that. Did you know you wanted to be an artist from childhood?

BASIL GOGOS: No, I was not an artist then, though I was interested in fine arts. My mind was not set on being an artist until later. By the age of twenty-seven I suddenly realized I had to be an artist and both of my parents were supportive of my art career from the beginning. My mother was a fashion designer. She studied in Paris and later had her own fashion business in New York City with my father. I had discovered I could draw well and illustration attracted me. Then I went to Frank J. Reilly's class at the Art Students League in New York, which was the very beginning of my career.

BOB: It’s amazing how many famous illustration artists studied under Reilly. What was it about him that made him so good as a teacher?

BASIL: Reilly insisted that there were rules to follow if you want to become an illustrator. Light and shade, the color wheel and how color works.

MAN'S ACTION, April 1960. Basil Gogos interior WMMAN'S EPIC. April 1972. Cover by Basil Gogos

BOB: As you probably know, many other great artists who studied under Reilly did illustration work for men’s adventure magazines, like James Bama, Mel Crair, Ed Emshwiller, Robert Maguire, Frank McCarthy, Rudy Nappi, Sam Savitt, and Robert E. “Bob” Schulz.

BASIL: Yes, I knew some of them and remained friendly with them, like Jimmy Bama. I also knew other artists who worked for men’s adventure magazines. I knew Mort Kunstler, Tom Lovell and many others. I met them in different publishers’ offices. We would see each other and discuss our work and talk about the field of illustration.

BOB: Frank Reilly had an arrangement with the Permabooks arm of the Pocket Books company to hold cover painting contests for his students. In 1959, you won the contest for the painting to be used on the Western paperback PURSUIT by Lewis B. Patten, making it your first professional illustration sale. It looks that was also the first cover painting that features your father Steve Gogos as a model. Is that right?

BASIL: Yes, my father Steve was the model for that cover. I used him often as a model from the beginning and he turned out to be a good one.

PURSUIT (1959). Cover art by Basil GogosWILDCAT ADVENTURES, May 1961. Cover by Basil Gogos WMTRUE ADVENTURES, Aug 1965. Cover by Basil Gogos WM

BOB: In the Gammill/Spurlock book about you, you’re quoted as saying you got an agent around the time you were finishing your studies at the Art Students League. By any chance was that agent Ed Balcourt?

BASIL: Yes, Ed Balcourt was my agent and he gave me a lot of work. He had many contacts and so he was able to find me a lot of illustration work. He got me my first illustration jobs for men’s adventure magazines, as well as western magazine art, and some boy and girl stuff. That helped give me the experience I needed. After a while, I was established as an illustrator and stopped using him as a rep.

BOB: Interesting! Balcourt represented an amazing number of other illustration artists early their careers, including Charles Copeland, John Duillo, Bob Larkin, John Leone, Lou Marchetti, Robert Maguire, James Meese, Bruce Minney, Paul Rader, Tom Ryan and Bob Schulz. Another thing I noticed in the Gammill/Spurlock book are some of the photos you took as references for your artwork. Was taking reference photos one of the things you learned from Frank Reilly?

BASIL: Yes, Reilly did teach that and I took the photos I used for reference myself. I had props and costumes and brought models to my studio. I set up my own cameras to take the pictures.

MAN'S MAGAZINE, Nov 1960. Basil Gogos reference photos WMMAN'S MAGAZINE, Nov 1960. Basil Gogos REV

BOB: For a lot of your men’s adventure magazine illustrations you used Steve Holland, who was the favorite male model of many of the New York-based illustration artists back then. He was especially popular with artists who did a lot of work for men’s adventure magazines, like James Bama, Norman Baer, Mel Crair, Norm Eastman, Mort Kunstler, Bruce Minney, Al Rossi and many others. 

BASIL: Yes, Steve Holland was the backbone for most of the pictures I took for my men’s adventure magazine illustrations. His looks were terrific. Tall and handsome. Everyone liked him. He was very personable and easy to work with. We all used Steve because he was stunning and very professional. The perfect model. And he was not expensive. I would usually book him for sessions that would last about an hour, sometimes two hours. I used my father as often as I could. He was terrific. I used my brother and myself as well. I used myself very often as a model. I used a lot of different female models, both professional models and women I knew.

BOB: In the book about you, you mention that one of your favorite female models was Joan Stein. Is that her in the illustration on page 57 in the book, with Steve Holland turning into a werewolf in the foreground?

BASIL: Yes, Joan Stein was the model with Steve Holland in that one.

ADVENTURE April 1966. Basil Gogos, Joan Stein & Steve Holland WM - CopyTRUE ADVENTURES, Feb 1966. Cover by Basil Gogos WM

BOB: Another artist who used Steve Holland for many of his men’s adventure magazine art was Norm Eastman. For female models, Norm often used Lisa Karan and Eva Lynd. Did you use either of them? I think I recognize Lisa in some of your cover paintings, like the cover of MAN’S BOOK, August 1967. She seems to be the model for all three of the distressed damsels in that one.

BASIL: I didn’t know Norm Eastman but I knew his work. I didn’t use Eva Lynd. I think I used Lisa Karan, but I’m afraid that I don't remember anything about her or Joan Stein or the other female models I used.

BOB: Some people view the Reese and EmTee “sweat mag” style bondage-and-torture covers like that MAN’S BOOK cover as politically incorrect and offensive. Other people, like me, view them as campy and far less extreme than the kinds of things that are common in today’s TV shows and movies, let alone online sites. How do you view those types of covers today?

BASIL: They are campy. And today, of course, they are politically incorrect. But it was art of that time.

MAN'S ILLUSTRATED, March 1962. Cover by Basil GogosTRUE ADVENTURES, August 1966. Cover by Basil GogosNEW MAN, April 1968. Cover by Basil Gogos

BOB: The earliest men’s adventure magazine illustration I think you did is the cover of WILDCAT ADVENTURES, June 1959. It’s not signed or credited. But looks like your work and has been IDed as yours by men’s adventure art collector Rich Oberg. For the record, can you confirm that you did that one?

BASIL: Yes, I think I did that cover.

BOB: By my count, from 1959 to the mid-1970s, you did well over a hundred cover and interior illustrations for nearly 20 different men’s adventure magazines.

BASIL: I am not sure of the exact number. But I believe I did in the hundreds. I did more for them than I did for the FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and the other Warren magazines. The men’s adventure magazines were my primary source of income in the ‘60s.

BOB: In the Gammill/Spurlock book, you explain how you had files of clippings from magazines and images from books that you used as references for scenes you painted, like most illustration artists did back then. I assume you depended those and also on your imagination to create some of the great exotic adventure and battle scene cover paintings you did for the men’s adventure magazines.

BASIL: Yes, many of the men’s adventure magazine covers were difficult to put together and to create. It would all take time. Lots of time. I couldn’t use reference photos for everything. A lot was based on imagination. I would do preliminary sketches first for them and then I would do the final illustration.

MAN'S ACTION, March 1961. Cover by Basil GogosMAN'S CONQUEST, October 1962. Cover by Basil GogosMAN'S ILLUSTRATED, Sept. 1964. Cover by Basil Gogos

BOB: I recently ran across an illustration in TRUE ADVENTURES, October 1966 that I know is yours, because the artwork is shown in the book about you. But in the magazine it’s credited to “Tom Sedita.” Do you recall using that pseudonym?

BASIL: I did that piece. But I didn't realize it was credited to Tom Sedita. I was not aware that any of my men’s adventure magazine illustrations were published under that name or any other pseudonym. I didn’t use any pseudonym. As far as I know, no other men’s adventure magazines used any pseudonyms for my work.

BOB: Well, that makes that one unique! Did you get back the paintings you did for men’s adventure magazines from the publishers and keep them?

BASIL: I lost many, many of my original men’s adventure magazine illustrations. But I do still have some finished paintings and I also have many sketches. I offer some for sale at the comic and pulp conventions I attend. People who are interested in them can message me through my Facebook page.

TRUE ADVENTURES, Oct 1966. Basil Gogos (as Tom Sedita)MAN'S BOOK, Oct 1972. Cover Basil Gogos

BOB: At last year’s Pulp AdventureCon in Fort Lauderdale, J. David Spurlock was showing preliminary watercolor sketch you did for the cover of TRUE ADVENTURES, February 1966. Did you often do preliminary paintings?

BASIL: Sometimes I did many sketches and more than one painting for the men’s magazines as well as for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND covers and other magazines. I didn’t do them to show the Art Directors. I did them for myself and the Art Directors almost never saw them.

BOB: In recent years, some of your men’s adventure magazine paintings have been sold on the Heritage Auctions site. Have you noticed that original men’s adventure magazine paintings seem to be increasingly popular with collectors?

BASIL: I don't really know. I think there are more collectors for everything now. Perhaps the illustration art done during those years fascinates new collectors, and for the people who are already familiar with the magazines of those years it is nostalgia.

BOB: Well, thanks again for talking with me, Basil. I look forward to seeing you at some future convention. I’ll be wearing the cool Basil Gogos Frankenstein t-shirt I bought from you.

Basil Gogos art for MAN'S ILLUSTRATED, Nov. 1963Basil Gogos art for MAN'S ILLUSTRATED, March 1965Bob Deis Editor of MensPulpMags.com

Coming soon on MensPulpMags.com: more Basil Gogos men’s adventure magazine artwork.

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