DANGER IS MY BUSINESS by Lee Server

DANGER IS MY BUSINESS

An Illustrated History of the Fabulous Pulp Magazines: 1896-1953
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 What do Sam Spade, Doc Savage, Tarzan, and the Shadow have in common? The same thing as Raymond Chandler, Isaac Asimov, Cornell Woolrich, and H.P. Lovecraft: They all cut their teeth on the pulps--which are accorded a magnificently illustrated, authoritative homage here by Brooklyn-based writer Server. To Server, ``pulp'' is no pejorative. Though he admits that many of the estimated one million stories that appeared in the pulps were mediocre (and he gleefully quotes from examples of the worst), he argues that the pulps created ``an innovative and lasting form of literature'' and that ``the pulp-created genres- -science fiction, private eye, Western, superhero--now dominate...every sort of mass entertainment.'' After tracing the birth of the pulps back to the 1882 launching of Golden Argosy magazine, printed on pulpwood pages, Server organizes his unwieldy subject into categories of pulps: adventure, romance and sex, horror and fantasy, private eye, weird menace, science fiction. Each receives a lively capsule history that covers trends, reader (and sometimes, as in the case of the ``Spicys,'' government) response, and writers' bios--which, though sketchy (Hammett's Hollywood experience gets one sentence), resurrect a number of relatively obscure but seminal and fascinating figures, like Conan- creator Robert E. Howard, who shot himself dead at age 30 on the day his mother died, and Frederick Faust (a.k.a. Max Brand), who sometimes wrote around the clock, piling up two or three million words a year. Server attributes the pulps' demise to, among other factors, the advent of TV, paperbacks, and comic books, and he winds up with a note on pulp-collecting. For all of the author's savvy, though, it's above all the eye- popping illustrations (100 color, 57 b&w) that will have readers beaming. Magazine covers (some lurid, some of eerie beauty), sample pages of text and ads (``Raise Giant Frogs'')--the pulps come alive once again here, in all their eccentric glory.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-8118-0112-8
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Chronicle
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993




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