Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pulp Writer -- Paul S. Powers

Paul Powers wrote this memoir around 1943, though it's just now being published. His granddaughter, Laurie Powers, found the manuscript among his papers as she was searching through her own past to discover something about her family and herself. She provides the introduction and conclusion of the volume.

The first part of the book is Laurie Powers' own detective story, and it's a pretty good one, though readers of this blog will probably be shocked at her lack of knowledge about the pulps. (If you're like me, you tend to think everybody knows about that kind of thing.) Her slightly condescending attitude toward them won't surprise anybody, though. The second part of her intro is a sort of history of the pulps. You know that stuff already.

The memoir is the reason for reading the book, of course. Powers started writing in high school, mainly two-line jokes that magazines and newspapers used for filler. He dropped out of high school to become a full-time writer, but it was several years until he became a regular in Wild West Weekly, writing under several names and creating a number of popular series characters for the magazine. Unlike a lot of pulpsters, Powers seems to have tied his career to that one magazine, which in retrospect seems like a mistake, though he did very well for many years.

There are no more pulps, but some of the things Powers talks about (writers' groups, vanity presses) might have been written yesterday. And to me, what he has to say about his writing about about his editors is quite interesting. He even reprints some of the letters his editor sent him, commenting on his stories.

Laurie Powers' chapter on "After the Pulps" lets us know a little of what happened to Powers after the pulp market collapsed. He wasn't able to make the transition to other markets, but he at least managed to stay around books.

7 comments:

Todd Mason said...

Bill, I hope you post this to FM, as well, at least. Rara-Avis wouldn't be out of line, either. Nor PulpMags nor WesternPulps, were you a member of these.

Bill Crider said...

Okay, Todd. I'm not on the latter two, but you can link it there if you would.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I read this last year and found it both absorbing and sad. It seems as the writer prospered the man diminished, and finally both came to a regrettable end. Still, it's worth anyone's time to read it.

Bill Crider said...

It is sad, especially when you realize that he left most of his personal problems out of the story.

Anonymous said...

A couple of weeks ago Laurie Powers gave a talk/slide show at the Livermore Library about pulps, her grandfather, and this book. I think the condescension has diminished as she's learned more about the pulp era and had a chance to talk with some serious collectors. Altogether quite interesting, and I'm looking forward to reading the book.

Art Scott

Bill Crider said...

So you probably have a signed copy.

Juri said...

I posted a review of a later novel by Powers on my blog some weeks back. It was written by Mike Ward and posted first on the FM list. From what I've heard about the memoirs, it's indeed sad.