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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Mike Shayne in men’s adventure magazines – Part 3: Shayne stories from 1962

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, but I haven’t been slacking.

During the past two months I’ve been working on several different book projects.

I worked with my partner in the Men’s Adventure Library books series, Wyatt Doyle, to finalize and publish the paperback edition of our book MORT KÜNSTLER: THE GODFATHER OF PULP FICTION ILLUSTRATORS, which showcases Mort’s original men’s adventure magazine cover and interior artwork.

The paperback and deluxe hardcover editions of our MORT KÜNSTLER art book are both now available from Amazon worldwide, as well as from other major online booksellers. You can also buy a copy signed by Mort himself via his website at this link.

Wyatt and I have also been putting the finishing touches on an illustrated anthology of men’s adventure mag stories written by Robert Silverberg.

Titled the EXOTIC ADVENTURES OF ROBERT SILVERBERG, it should be available in January.

We will also soon release our third art book featuring MAM artwork by Samson Pollen. (The first two are POLLEN’S WOMEN: THE ART OF SAMSON POLLEN and POLLEN’S ACTION.)

Meanwhile, I’ve been cooking up a whole new series featuring MAM stories and artwork with Bill Cunningham, the founder of Pulp 2.0 Press.

In January, Bill and I will be releasing the first issue of a large-format, magazine-style publication we’re calling the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY.

The first MAQ issue will showcase classic Western stories and artwork from MAMs. Every few months, we’ll release another issue built around another theme. The second issue will focus on espionage stories and artwork.

If you follow the Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook Group page, you’ll be among the first to know when new issues of the MAQ and new books in the Men’s Adventure Library become available. I post there almost every day.

In my previous three posts on this blog, I covered the earliest appearances of stories about Private Detective Michael “Mike” Shayne in men’s adventure magazines published between 1953 and 1961 and Dell’s Mike Shayne comic book series (which was recently reprinted by Pulp 2.0 Press).

This post reviews Mike Shayne stories published in MAMs from 1962.

Most were written by Davis Dresser, the creator of the Mike Shayne novels and MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, under his Brett Halliday pseudonym. Some were penned by other writers after Dresser turned Brett Halliday into a house name for Shayne stories.

As noted in my initial Shayne post, Dresser’s first Mike Shayne novel, DIVIDEND ON DEATH, was originally published in 1939, and the first Mike Shayne story to appear in a men’s adventure magazine was “The Naked Frame” in BLUEBOOK, February 1953.

Since 1939, the Mike Shayne character has appeared in more than 70 novels, over 300 short stories, a dozen Mike Shayne movies, a Mike Shayne television series, several different Mike Shayne radio series and the Dell comic book series.

My second post about Mike Shayne in MAMs covered “Payoff Girl” in STAG, December 1956, “Murder in Haste” in ARGOSY, March 1961 and “The Careless Corpse” in ARGOSY, August 1961.

Over the following ten years, Mike Shayne stories appeared in eleven more issues of ARGOSY and two issues of MAN’S MAGAZINE.

“Payoff in Blood” appeared in ARGOSY, January 1962. It’s illustrated with artwork by the great Robert McGinnis.

His cover paintings, typically featuring bold colors and tall, eye-poppingly gorgeous women, have become some of  the most iconic images associated with paperback editions of detective, crime, mystery and action novels published in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Among them are the covers for the classic Dell reprints of the Mike Shayne books in the ‘60s.

If you’re a McGinnis fan, put these books on your Christmas list if you don’t have them: THE ART OF ROBERT E. MCGINNIS, THE PAPERBACK COVERS OF ROBERT MCGINNIS and TAPESTRY: THE PAINTINGS OF ROBERT MCGINNIS.)

Robert A. Maguire is another top paperback cover artist whose work was used for Mike Shayne stories in MAMs. His popular paperback cover art is showcased in the book DAMES, DOLLS, AND GUN MOLLS: THE ART OF ROBERT A. MAGUIRE, edited by Jim Silke.

McGinnis and Maguire did more than 2,000 covers for paperbacks published by virtually every major publisher. Their artwork also appeared in top tier MAMs, like ARGOSY and MAN’S MAGAZINE. Sometimes their MAM art was done specifically for the magazine. Often, their paperback cover art was repurposed by MAMs published by Pyramid.

In addition to being a major publisher of paperback books, Pyramid published three notable men’s adventure mags: MAN’S MAGAZINE, CHALLENGE FOR MEN and GUY.

The Art Directors for those MAMs regularly got double duty out of Pyramid paperback cover paintings by reusing them as cover and interior illustrations for the magazines.

The Mike Shayne story in MAN'S MAGAZINE, January 1962, titled “The Deadly Stripper,” is a case in point.

The left-hand page in the initial two-page spread for that story is a black-and-white reprint of Maguire’s cover painting for the 1959 Pyramid paperback FIRE IN MY BLOOD, the autobiography of a famous femme fatale who went by the name Denisa, Lady Newborough.

Born Denisa Braun in Romania in 1913, she got her “Lady” title thanks to a brief marriage to British Lord Thomas Newborough and went by Denisa, Lady Newborough, or sometimes as Lady Denisa de Newborough, until her death in 1992.

But her marriage to Lord Thomas is not what gave her legendary fame.

Maguire’s portrait of her dancing on the cover of FIRE IN MY BLOOD is hot, but Denisa may have been even hotter in real life.

As a young woman she gained a reputation and many admirers for being a nude dancer in nightclubs, a high wire walker, and a pioneering female pilot.

Later in life Denisa became a popular hat designer, perfumier and antique dealer.  

According to her obituary:

“Her admirers included the Kings of Spain and Bulgaria, Adolf Hitler (whose virility she doubted), Benito Mussolini (whom she described as a ‘gigolo’) and Sheikh ben Ghana. She only refused to be two things – a whore and a spy – ‘and there were attempts to make me both’, she once wrote.”

“The Deadly Stripper” in MAN'S MAGAZINE, January 1962 is a “Book Bonus” version of the Mike Shayne novel KILLERS FROM THE KEYS, first published in 1962.

The cover for the Dell paperback edition of KILLERS FROM THE KEYS is one of those done by Robert McGinnis.

According to the checklist in THE PAPERBACK COVERS OF ROBERT MCGINNIS, nearly 100 Mike Shayne paperbacks feature McGinnis cover art.

The “Book Bonus” version of the book in MAN'S MAGAZINE, January 1962 includes three black-and-white illustrations by an uncredited artist, in addition to the reuse of Robert Maguire’s cover art for FIRE IN MY BLOOD.

Maguire’s painting and two of the same B&W illos are also used for a reprint of the same “Book Bonus” version of KILLERS FROM THE KEYS in the 1962 Fall Annual issue of MAN'S MAGAZINE.

Two other Mike Shayne stories appeared in issues of ARGOSY in 1962: “Murder by Proxy” is in ARGOSY, June 1962, and “Never Kill a Client” is in ARGOSY, November 1962.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of ARGOSY, June 1962. If you have one and want to sell it or can give me a scan of the Mike Shayne story illustration in that issue, please email me.

I do have ARGOSY, November 1962. The story in that one, “Never Kill a Client,” features an illustration by another artist who is best known for his paperback cover art – Baryé Phillips. The story was expanded and published as a novel by the same name in 1963.

The cover art on the Dell edition is another masterpiece by Robert McGinnis. The original painting for it was sold by Heritage Auctions in 2010 for over $16,000. I wonder what it would sell for today?

Coming up, one more post about Mike Shayne stories in MAMs. Or, maybe two.

AN UPDATE: Action/adventure novelist Stephen Mertz told me in a comment on Facebook that “Never Kill a Client” was written by Dennis Lynds under what had become the Brett Halliday house name. Lynds wrote scores of popular mystery and crime novels under his own name and his well-known pseudonym Michael Collins, which he used for his Dan Fortune series. Mertz, who has himself written scores of novels under his own name and pseudonyms (including fan favorite Mack Bolan novels), is still writing and recently launched the excellent new CODY'S WAR series, which I highly recommend.

Comments? Corrections? You can email them to me, or
join the
Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook Group and post them there.

Related reading, viewing, and listening…

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Mike Shayne in men’s adventure magazines – Part 2: 1953 thru 1961….

When Davis Dresser’s novel, DIVIDEND ON DEATH, was published in 1939 under the pseudonym Brett Halliday, it launched what became a huge multi-decade multimedia empire.

It was the first appearance of his tough, red-headed, Miami-based Private Investigator Mike Shayne.

The Mike Shayne character went on to appear in more than 70 novels and 300 stories written by Dresser and other writers tapped to use Brett Halliday as a pen name.

In addition, there were a dozen Mike Shayne movies, a Mike Shayne television series, and several different Mike Shayne radio series.

There was also a short-lived Dell comic book series based on the Mike Shayne novels.

In September 1956, Dresser launched the MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE.

It became one of the most successful crime digest magazines ever published, running for 337 issues over a period of three decades.

Scores of stories by Dresser and hundreds by many other notable writers were published in that magazine until it finally folded in 1985, seven years after Dresser’s death.

One of those writers I admire a lot is James Reasoner. He wrote many Mike Shayne stories for the magazine under Dresser’s name and went on to become a prolific writer of Western, action/adventure and historical novels.

Another is my friend Paul Bishop. Paul is a former LAPD detective who became a popular novelist, an editor of action/adventure novels for his own imprints and, more recently, for Wolfpack Publishing. He’s also co-host of the excellent Six-Gun Justice Podcast with fellow writer and Western maven Richard Prosch.

Earlier this year, when I bought THE MIKE SHAYNE PRIVATE EYE COMIC COLLECTION, published by Bill Cunningham via his Pulp 2.0 Press imprint, I discovered that Paul had written the introduction.

In it, he notes that the first fiction story he had accepted and published was in MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE.

When I read Paul’s intro, it reminded me that “Book Bonus” versions of many Mike Shayne novels appeared in men’s adventure magazines (MAMs) published in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

However, when I Googled around, I discovered there was almost no information online about those MAM appearances other than a list on Philsp.com, the great “Galactic Central” site that provides info about thousands of different vintage magazines.

When I looked through the Galactic Central list, I realized it wasn’t complete. So, I decided to fill that gap by doing a series of posts on this blog.

I started with a post about the first Shayne story I know of in a MAM, “The Naked Frame” in BLUEBOOK, February 1953.

As I explain in that post, it’s touted in the magazine as Bluebook’s COMPLETE Book-Length Novel by BRETT HALLIDAY.” At that point, no novel version had been published.

The book was released a month later by Torquil Publishing Company, which Dresser created with wife Helen McCloy, a successful mystery writer in her own right. The title he used for the novel was ONE NIGHT WITH NORA.

It was an expanded version of the “The Naked Frame” story in BLUEBOOK.

Counting that one, I believe a total of 17 Mike Shayne stories appeared in men’s adventure magazines. Here’s the checklist (please email me if you know of any I missed):

     1.  “The Naked Frame” in BLUEBOOK, February 1953
     2.  “Payoff Girl” in STAG, December 1956
     3.  “Murder in Haste” in ARGOSY, March 1961
     4.  “The Careless Corpse” in ARGOSY, August 1961
     5.  “Payoff in Blood” in ARGOSY, January 1962
     6.  “The Deadly Stripper” in MAN'S MAGAZINE, January 1962
     7.  “Murder by Proxy” in ARGOSY, June 1962
     8.  “Never Kill a Client” in ARGOSY, November 1962  
     9.  “Strip for Death” in MAN'S MAGAZINE, 1962 Fall Annual (a reprint of “The Deadly Stripper”)      
     10.  “The Corpse That Never Was” in ARGOSY, May 1963        
     11.  “A Redhead for Mike Shayne” in ARGOSY, March 1964       
     12.  “Shoot to Kill” in ARGOSY, July 1964       
     13.  “Murder Spins the Wheel” in ARGOSY, January 1966        
     14.  “Armed, Dangerous” in ARGOSY, July 1966       
     15.  “Guilty as Hell” in ARGOSY, April 1967       
     16.  “So Lush, So Deadly” in ARGOSY, January 1968,       
     17.  “Count Downward to Zero” in ARGOSY, April 1971

As shown in my previous post, “The Naked Frame” in BLUEBOOK, February 1953 features 6 duotone illustrations by Al Tater. (A duotone is an illustration printed in black and shades of grey, plus one color.) The main 2-page spread, a red duotone, is shown above. You can see all 6 of the Tater illos in my Mike Shayne in MAMs Part 1 post.

The Next Mike Shayne story in a MAM is “Payoff Girl” in STAG, December 1956, a condensation of the 1948 novel BLOOD ON THE STARS. The STAG version features 8 black-and-white illustrations by artist Robert “Bob” Riger: a 2-page spread and 7 spot illustrations.

I’m always exited to find artwork by Riger in MAMs. There are only a handful of examples and they are from early in his career. He went on to become a top sports illustrator and photographer, an award‐winning television director, and a cinematographer. His artwork and photos for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED are especially legendary, earning him a place of honor in The American Sport Art Museum & Archives.

As noted in bios about him, illustration art became a springboard to Riger’s work as a photographer. He initially learned the craft by shooting reference photos for artwork he was doing for magazines and advertisements. From the mid-1950s until his death in 1995, he focused primarily on photography. He took tens of thousands of photos of athletes and sporting events of all kinds and became one of the most successful sports photographers of all time.

You can see some great examples of Riger’s sports art and photography on the official Robert Riger website and many more of his sports photos in the book THE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY OF ROBERT RIGER.

The sketch-like artwork Riger did for the Mike Shayne story “Payoff Girl” in STAG, December 1956, shown below, is similar in style to much of his sports artwork.

The next Mike Shayne story in a MAM I know of is “Murder in Haste” in ARGOSY, March 1961. It’s  a “Book Bonus” version of the novel of the same name that was first published in 1961, around the same time the magazine hit newsstands. The ARGOSY version features artwork by Harry Schaare.

Although he was a prolific creator of artwork for paperback covers and magazines, especially MAMs, there are amazingly few sources of information about Schaare online. One of the most notable is the page about him on American Art Archives, a terrific illustration art website maintained by my friends Thomas Clement and his wife Christiane. (Thomas and Christiane’s American Art Archives eBay store is also one of the best sources of vintage MAMs and other magazines around.)

As they note on their website, Harry Schaare was: “[A] prolific artist for hard and softcover books (Avon, Harper Paperbacks, Dell, Monarch, Popular Library, Pyramid, Bantam, Signet, Readers Digest, Random House). Magazine work for SATURDAY EVENING POST, BOY’S LIFE, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, and various men's adventure mags. Schaare was comfortable with just about any subject matter, from noir stories to westerns, romance to suspense. Also called upon for reprints buy famous authors (Rafael Sabatini, Philip K Dick, Richard Henry Dana, Zane Grey, James Fenimore Cooper, Max Brand, Erskine Caldwell). Other projects include box art for Aurora models and F X Schmid puzzles.”

Below is an example of a classic Schaare paperback cover, A GEM OF A MURDER (Dell, 1959) by Carlton Keith. Next to that are two of the many great MAM covers Schaare provided paintings for, ADVENTURE, December 1957, and MALE, April 1962.

The ARGOSY version of “Murder in Haste” features a full-page page duotone painting by Schaare and 3 black-and-white spot illustrations, all shown below.

Chronologically, the next Mike Shayne story in a men’s adventure mag is “The Careless Corpse” in ARGOSY, August 1961. It’s another abridged version of a Mike Shayne novel of the same name, published the same year. ARGOSY’s version features a full-page duotone by Jack Hearne (1921-1985).

Hearne had a varied career as an artist. As noted on the Lambiek Comiclopedia website, he started out doing covers, panel drawings and inking for comics in the 1940s. He went on to do did a lot of commercial advertising artwork and magazine artwork for MAMs and mainstream mags. He also did many book cover and interior illustrations. Most memorably for some Baby Boomers, he was among the artists who did covers and interiors for the popular “juvenile” (young adult) book series, THE THREE INVESTIGATORS. That series, created by mystery and science fiction author and screenwriter Robert Arthur, Jr., was published from 1964 to 1987 and included 43 books.

When Arthur and the initial publisher, Random House, launched the series, they capitalized on the popularity of movie and TV producer/director Alfred Hitchcock by using his name as part of the series’ title, making it the “Alfred Hitchcock and Three Investigators” series. In the first 30 novels, Hitchcock is actually a character who provides an introduction and closing to each book. Although Hitchcock had little involvement in the novels, he did reserve the right to approve the cover paintings. Jack Hearne got the nod to do cover art for books #20 through #27. He also did interior illustrations for #18 through #27. His cover for #27, MYSTERY OF THE MAGIC CIRCLE is shown below, next to a full-page ad Hearne did the illustration for and an example of his early comics work.

The two best sources of biographical info on Hearne I’ve found are the Three Investigators site and on Leif Peng’s great Today’s Inspiration blog, the forerunner of his Today’s Inspiration Facebook Group.

Hearne did some excellent artwork for men’s adventure magazines, primarily ARGOSY and SAGA. Below at left is a full color illustration by Hearne from ARGOSY, June 1960, for a story written by the prolific mystery and detective story writer Judson Pentecost Philips under his better-known pseudonym Hugh Pentecost.

Next to that is the initial 2-page spread for Michael Shayne story “The Careless Corpse” in ARGOSY, August 1961. It features a masterful duotone by Hearne.


Between 1961 and 1971, ARGOSY published 10 more Mike Shayne stories. The next one after “The Careless Corpse” is “Payoff in Blood” in ARGOSY, January 1962. That’s a “Book Bonus” version of the 1962 Shayne novel that has the name spelled with a hyphen, as PAY-OFF IN BLOOD.

ARGOSY’S version features an illustration by an artist who has an especially notable connection to the Mike Shayne novels and is one of the towering figures in the realm of illustration art — Robert McGinnis. More about him and the rest of Mike Shayne’s appearances in men’s adventure magazines in my next post.

By the way, in case you wondered, the full color portrait of Mike Shayne used in the graphic at the top of this post is by artist Uldis Klavins. It was used in his illustration for the Mike Shayne story “Count Downward to Zero” in ARGOSY, April 1971, which I’ll also write about in a future post.

Comments? Corrections? You can email them to me, or
join the
Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook Group and post them there.

Related reading, viewing, and listening…

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Catching up with Bill Cunningham and Pulp 2.0 Press

Lately, I’ve been on a Mike Shayne kick.

My reading and watching involving that famed Miami-based Private investigator has led to a series of posts on this blog, starting one about the first appearance of a Mike Shayne story in a men’s adventure magazine, “The Naked Frame” in BLUEBOOK, February 1953.

I blame my Shayne trip on my new friend Bill “Mad Pulp Bastard” Cunnigham and my old friend, novelist, editor and retromedia maven Paul Bishop.

Bill is the founder and creative force behind Pulp 2.0 Press, an imprint he initially launched to reprint classic pulp and paperback series he liked but were no longer in print. He has since turned Pulp 2.0 into a significant and ambitious publisher of a variety of old and new pulp-flavored books and media.

One of the latest Pulp 2.0 releases Bill ushered into existence is the MIKE SHAYNE: PRIVATE EYE, COMIC COLLECTION.

It reprints a series of rare, long-forgotten Mike Shayne comic books published by Dell in 1962. The introduction to that collection is an excellent overview of the Shayne character, who was created by author Davis Dresser.

Dresser wrote his first novel about the tough, red-headed PI in 1939, under the pseudonym Brett Halliday.

It launched what became a multi-decade multimedia empire that went on to include: over 70 novels and 300 stories written by Dresser and other writers using the Brett Halliday pen name; a dozen movies; a television series; a radio series; a short-lived comic book; and, the long-running MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE.

The latter provided a crucial early outlet for crime and mystery stories written by dozens of writers – including Paul Bishop. I didn’t know Paul wrote the introduction to the MIKE SHAYNE: PRIVATE EYE, COMIC COLLECTION until I bought the book, but I wasn’t surprised. Paul is a mover and shaker in the pulp culture community who I’ve known and been a fan of for some years.

I’ve done several posts about him on this blog, most recently about his contributions to HOT LEAD, the great new Westerns fanzine published by Justin Marriott.

Among other things, Paul is a veteran LA police detective, a popular crime and mystery novelist, editor of the boxing-related FIGHTCARD novel series and the PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR crime story anthology series. A few years ago, he graciously wrote an afterword for our book BARBARIANS ON BIKES: BIKERS AND MOTORCYCLE GANGS IN MEN'S PULP ADVENTURE MAGAZINES.

Lately, Paul has been co-hosting the very cool Six-Gun Justice Podcast, an outgrowth of his work as an editor for Wolfpack Publishing and his in-depth knowledge of Western novels, movies, and TV shows (also reflected in his 52 WEEKS * 52 WESTERNS book series).

I don’t know how Paul became a go-to expert on so many different genres, but he’s also has an encyclopedic knowledge of detective novels, movies, and TV shows. So, it made perfect sense for Bill Cunningham to tap Paul for the introduction to the MIKE SHAYNE: PRIVATE EYE, COMIC COLLECTION.

Reading Paul’s introduction gave me a whole new appreciation for the popularity and evolution of the Shayne character and how the comics fit into that legacy. It made reading the comic book stories, which are beautifully restored in full color in Bill’s book, even more interesting.

Paul’s intro and the book also made me realize I needed to read more Mike Shayne novels, check out the Shayne movies, TV shows and radio series, and look into appearances of Mike Shayne stories in men’s adventure magazines.

That book also made me want find to out more about Bill Cunningham and what he’s up to with Pulp 2.0 Press.

When I browsed the Pulp 2.0 website, I was amazed by the unique and cool things Bill is putting out: everything from the first English versions of the hard-boiled Chilean comic book series KILLER, by artist Germàn Gabler, and reprints of old pulp stories about the character AGENT 13, to movie-related books, a new fanzine, LETHAL LADIES, which focuses on “fantastic femmes of pop culture – paperbacks, comics, movies, TV, and elsewhere,” and more.

I contacted Bill and asked if he’d do an interview with me for this blog. He said “yes.” The resulting conversation is below…

BOB: Let’s start with some background on you. I see from your bio on the Pulp 2-0 website and in Airship 27's new book WHO’S WHO IN NEW PULP that you have previously been a screenwriter, movie producer, and author. How did that experience lead to your creation of Pulp 2.0 and your vision for it?

BILL: Yes, I am one of the many people who have migrated to California to work in the movie business. I guess it all goes back to when I was in the US Air Force from 1986 to 1990. I was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada but spent most of my time on the test range up in Tonapah working with the F117A Stealth Fighter. We would come home to Vegas for the weekend and many of us would hop in the car and head down to Los Angeles to get away from the Vegas tourist traps.

After my tour in the Air Force, I decided I wanted to try something new so I went back to school in South Carolina and earned a second degree in what they called “media arts,” which is studies in film, video, audio, and photography. I worked on many commercials, independent films, industrials, and movies that came to South Carolina to shoot because it was cheap, like DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE. After doing that for several years, I realized I needed to move to SoCal to really “get into the business.” I was writing scripts by that time, and it seemed the right thing to do.

I went to work as an assistant for exploitation director-producer Nico Mastorakis, known for movies like ISLAND OF DEATH and THE ZERO BOYS, and eventually became a producer on one of his movies. I then became the Director of Marketing for York Entertainment and became proficient at making and marketing movies on a low budget. The good thing about indie companies like Nico’s Omega Entertainment and York is they let you get your hands dirty.

Eventually, I worked my way out of that job as well and was able to support myself by applying “Hollywood techniques” to videos and other media for clients in other industries. The pay was better — until 2008 when the bottom dropped out and I lost half of my clients to the housing collapse. I needed money, and I decided that since no one was financing indie movies or other media I needed to come up with something that I owned, and projects I could greenlight myself without any money. I chose book publishing and thought if I could apply all the things I’ve learned in moviemaking and selling to books, I would do okay.

How did you pick the name Pulp 2.0 and how do you define “pulp”? As you know, the use of the term “pulp” is somewhat controversial to afficionados of early pulp magazines, who think it should only be used to describe classic pulp magazines – a view I don’t share, by the way, as you can tell from my use of the term “men’s pulp mags” as an alternate name for men’s adventure magazines.

The term “Pulp 2.0” came about when I realized that the internet was the next (digital) iteration of the pulp model of business. That is, you had to make it fast, cheap, and distribute it as quickly and cheaply as possible. There was a constant need for entertainment, and it needed to be able to be accessed from anywhere. So that’s what I do - use the tools of the web to create new media and sell it directly to the consumer. As little overhead as possible, and limited distribution and operation costs. I’m applying those laws to books right now, but if you look at Netflix, Amazon Prime, Tubi, and Pluto, etc... you can see the Pulp 2.0 model applies to movies as well.

Can you give me and my readers an overview of the Pulp 2.0's publications to date?

BILL: Sure. When I started, I didn’t know what I was doing so I just aimed as high as I possibly thought I could go. I licensed THE NEW ADVENTURES OF FRANKENSTEIN series from author Donald F. Glut. He wrote 11 novels in the series, and if I were to buy used copies on eBay it would have cost me around $300. I thought we could do better and reintroduce the Frankenstein monster to creature feature fans. I also licensed Don’s vampire novel BROTHER BLOOD which was written before BLACULA but wasn’t released here in the States. Before I knew it we were releasing Martin Powell’s Frankenstein graphic novel adaptation with Patrick Olliffe, the KNIGHT WATCHMAN and other BIG BANG COMICS by creators Chris Ecker, Gary Carlson, and Jeff Weigel, the complete AGENT 13 TRILOGY by Flint Dille, writer of TRANSFORMERS GEN ONE, and David Marconi, writer of the Will Smith movie ENEMY OF THE STATE.

Then I published THE AUSLAUNDER FILES, by Michael Patrick Sullivan, THE TWILIGHT AVENGER and MIRACLE SQUAD books by John Wooley and Terry Tidwell, and many others. Last year we released our first original graphic novel, TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN, based on Don Glut’s new, Rondo-award-winning movie of the same name. We were very excited to get a foreword by none other than Jim Steranko for that one.

Each one of these book projects was born from the notion that I want to see that book on my shelf. I didn’t have to go to some executive and beg for money, or get the go-ahead from my boss. We sat down, talked it out, signed an agreement, and then made something.

From those small beginnings, we’ve expanded and I’ve licensed the KILLER spy comics from Chile’s Germán Gabler, and published two volumes of those. I also licensed TERROR COMICS from Spain’s Joan Boix. I took his character The Raven and made THE RAVEN COLLECTION, a volume collecting all of his comics stories. Usually, it just takes a good conversation to find out what the creator would like to see.

I also launched a film book series, CINEXPLOITS!, and have released movie books on TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN and DEATH KISS, both of which I also wrote. There’s also the upcoming CELLULOID WARS: LESSONS LEARNED FROM BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS.

The MIKE SHAYNE anthology is your latest release. How did you get inspired to do a reprint of that old comics series?

BILL: I had recently “reclaimed” a comic series, STRONGMAN, from Magazine Enterprises, and put together a tribute book for this muscle-man detective-adventurer in the space of 72 hours. I did the Mike Shayne book, more as a lark than anything else. I had seen another company’s reprint of the book, and it was if they put no effort into it at all. I want people to see the effort I put into making sure you have a well-designed book that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg to buy.

You definitely did that. Your Mike Shayne book is beautifully designed. In fact, the layouts and printing quality of your books look top-notch. Where’d you learn the art of doing layouts and how do you approach the layouts of different types of projects?

BILL: Thank you for your kind words, and I’m glad you’re seeing the work I and my fellow creators put into the books. Each project is different and requires a focus on what I’m trying to deliver to the Pulp 2.0 audience. Most of all I’m trying to invoke a feeling of authenticity. You take a look at one of our books and you might mistake it for something from back in the 70’s or further, or you know that the people who put the book together love the material, which I do. For example, for our recent TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN graphic anthology, I took design cues from Warren and Skywald horror magazines.

I learned book publishing and layout from working with graphic designers my whole career. When I was the Director of Marketing at York I would ask for a certain something — an effect, a color change, an angle shift — and watch them do it. Eventually, I began doing it myself. Then I designed a client’s poster from the ground up, then a catalog, then a website, then I began learning how to do it with books.

The first comic book I lettered was TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN, and I learned how by watching YouTube videos and applying my sense of design to the project. It’s all about making choices and sticking with them. You start simply and then slowly begin to experiment. If you screw up, you call out for help.

I love working with older, scanned materials and repurposing them. It’s all part of my “reclaiming pulp culture” philosophy.

I see on your website announcements of plans for some very cool-looking new projects. Can you tell us more about them?

BILL: I am finishing the KILLER series and releasing that as a five-volume set. Our Cinexploits! book CELLULOID WARS: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS will have a companion volume by the director, Allan Holzman, called CELLULOID WARS: FORBIDDEN WORLDS. 

I’m also working of finalizing the first issue LETHAL LADIES: THE JOURNAL OF BADASS ADVENTURE HEROINES, is a magazine I am editing and writing that does a deep dive into novels like the DARK ANGEL series and its creators.

Other volumes of that will include explorations into female-led action heroines from comics, books, movies, and TV. Comix is a three-volume exploration of the world of comic book movies and TV prior to today’s mega-blockbusters. Terror Comics is Joan Boix’s wonderfully Hammer-esque, graphically penetrating horror comics from Spain.
There’s a bunch of other book projects I am exploring for both fiction and non-fiction. What can I say? I like to stay busy.

As an indie publisher myself, though on a smaller scale than you, I’m also curious about how you do your printing and distribution of your books and your take of the pros and cons of print books and ebooks?

BILL: Over the years I have learned that it’s always best to focus on your audience: What do they want? How do they want it? It’s important to know them, and then just try to feed that beast with as much “meat” as you can. My focus is always on the stuff I’m good at - book design, packaging, merchandising - and leave the other stuff up to my partners like Amazon. They can handle the operations and fulfillment better than I ever could.

I am only now getting back into ebooks after a long hiatus. I started out doing ebook editions and everyone kept asking me when I was coming out with the print books! Then I switched to focusing more on print and people then asked when they would see the ebooks. I decided to focus on what paid us the most money as quickly as possible. Don’t listen to the loudest voice, listen to the voice that is also waiving its money at you begging you to take it. I take the ebook route to use them as advertising and promotion for the more profitable print books.

I use both ebooks and print freely in my regular reading habits. I go back and forth quite often depending on what I want to read. Ebooks for me are a convenient tool for reading, and print books are “affordable fetish objects” that sit on my shelf.

Nowadays, there are thousands of reprints of books of every kind available on Amazon for 99 cents or even for free and bookstores are scarce. So independent publishing is not some easy, get rich quick scheme. However, there seems to be a growing number of independent publishers who are putting out new reprint editions of old novels and as well as new books in the action/adventure, retro pulp, and “new pulp” realms, and fanzines that focus those genres. Why do you think there’s a surge in that realm of indie publishing?

BILL: Amazon and other resources have made it possible for us to dream something and then make it. You don’t have to go into hock to get a book printed and shipped. You can write, design, and deliver a book without ever spending a dime - that is incredibly liberating!

The downside, of course, is that you get a bunch of books that are poorly written, poorly designed, and poorly printed. You need to have some talent (authenticity?) backing up your work. As you said, this is not a get rich quick scheme. You need a series of base hits to work your way around the bases. Sometimes you’re going to strikeout. Keep working. Adopt, adapt, re-think.

I was interested to find that your MIKE SHAYNE book has a cool introduction by my friend Paul Bishop, one of my favorite pulp mavens. And, you’re also working with another one of my favorite pulp mavens, fanzine publisher Justin Marriott. Tell us something about how you hooked up with those guys and what you’ve been cooking up with them.

BILL: I’ve known Paul for years as we connected online as writers. He introduced me to the zines Justin was putting out from the UK - though I didn’t pick them up back then. I loved his approach and became a fan. When he switched to using Amazon as his printer and distributor, I bought some of the issues he made available and my fanaticism was cemented. I wrote to Paul and told him to tell Justin that I was a fan of his work and if he wanted some more cover designs I could provide them. I included a quick design I put together as a calling card.

About a year later, Justin contacted me to see if I was interested. The rest is history. I contributed a cover to his MEN OF VIOLENCE ALL-REVIEW SPECIAL, then to his PULP HORROR zine, then his HOT LEAD ALL REVIEW SPECIAL and the debut issue of  MONSTER MANIACS. I just finished working on his new zine about post-apocalyptic novels and comics, PULP APOCALYPSE and I’m trying to convince Justin we need to deliver a “Space Adventure” zine.

The great thing about Justin is he’s insightful, and every comment he makes allows me to focus the design on everything needed to appeal to the reader. I try to get the first draft to him early so we can start the process and develop ideas we can do well. He’s also open to me experimenting. Our Pulp Horror tribute cover is a good example. That image from Stir of Echoes was so powerful I didn’t want to screw with it, so we let it be the hero. Justin is really brave that way. Someone else would have wanted me to muck it up with all sorts of design tomfoolery.

What are the next publications coming from Pulp 2.0 in 2020 and 2021?

BILL: I am wrapping up Killer for this year. Allan Holzman and I are enticing a certain “filmmaking celebrity” to write the foreword for Celluloid Wars: BBTS, and translation continues on Joan Boix’s Terror Comics. You’ll also be seeing more short fiction from me for Kindle. I have all of these notes and ideas scribbled in my notebooks that I must put to good use. Research continues on Comix and Lethal Ladies and I can always be convinced to jump into and add to a cool project here and there.

Thanks, Bill! I look forward to those — and to catching up on previous Pulp 2.0. books I haven’t read yet.

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