Friday, February 28, 2014

FFB: A Forgotten Magazine Issue -- Mystery Scene, Volume 1, Number 2

A few days ago I got an e-mail from someone who used to attend our writing workshops at Alvin Community College. She'd been going through some old magazines and had run across a copy of Mystery Scene Volume 1, Number 2, postmarked December, 1985.  She said she'd opened it up and seen my article on selling the first book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series and wondered if I'd like to have the magazine.  You're durn tootin' I would.

I hadn't seen the magazine in years nearly 30 years.  My copy is in deep storage somewhere in the depths of the Cushing Library at Texas A&M University if they haven't given it away.  So naturally I jumped at the chance to see it again.  As soon as it dropped through the mail slot here at Casa de Crider, I tore open the envelope and started turning the pages.  Holy galloping nostalgia, Batman!  It was overwhelming.

For one thing, there's Ellen Nehr's "Murder Ad Lib" column, which includes an interview with Barbara Michaels and Ellen's reviews.  Ellen was a fan right down to the soles of her white tennis shoes and a unique personality. I feel a little sorry for the generations of mystery readers and fans who've come along since her passing and never known her (and her eccentric spelling, sadly absent in the column, thanks to the editors).  She also has a letter in the issue, informing executive editor Ed Gorman that quiche was served at the PWA luncheon at the Bouchercon (which was in San Francisco that year).  "Bill Pronzini was so embarrassed that he grabbed his passport and left for two weeks in England.  Can you blame him?"

William Campball Gault has a report on the Bouchercon, and he writes about running into pulpster and western writer Tommy Thompson in the lobby of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.  Thompson had no idea that there was a convention in the hotel.  He was there with his wife to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary.  So, Gault says, he and Thompson "sat in the lobby and dreamed back, boats against the current. . . .  Someone has said recently that nostalgia ain't what it used to be; it is to old pulp writers."  To me, too, and I'm sorry I wasn't in on that conversation.  I was at the convention, and I did get to spend a good bit of time with Gault.  A great guy, and I'd have loved to meet Thompson.

There's a wonderful interview with Knox Burger conducted by Jon White (it first appeared in Paperback Forum, a publication that I also gave to Texas A&M).  Burger reminisces about his days as an editor at Gold Medal and Dell.  Great stuff, just great.  "There was another guy from that time, a wonderful guy, a madman, but very entertaining and a good writer, named William Campbell Gault.  He was a fiesty little guy."  Hmmm.  Where have I heard that name before?

Ed Gorman's article on Dean Koontz calls Koontz "America's most successful least-known-writer."  Geez, could 1985 have been that long ago?  It's hard even to imagine a time when Koontz could've been called a "least-known-writer."

Max Allan Collins has a movie column, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's read his blog.  He was already and established writer, as the ad in the issue indicates. Barry Gifford writes about discovering Jim Thompson.  And there's a lot more.  Reading this issue was like opening a time capsule, and I wallowed in nostagia for . . . well, I guess I still am.  Wow.  Where are the snows of yesteryear?

11 comments:

Jerry House said...

Those early issues of Mystery Scene were magical. Not to slight the polished and professional current version of the magazine (which is very good), but I really miss the earlier version.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A really nice story, Bill.

Tom Johnson said...

I'll have to look through my old fanzines and see what issues I still have of Mystery Scene. Gosh, I subscribed to just about everything back then. James Reasoner recently got a bunch of my stuff for old times sake. Plus, I've sold a lot of the pulp fanzines over the years. I knew Tommy Thompson well, and we corresponded for years. A great man, and he had lots of stories to tell about the pulp days.

Gerard Saylor said...

My copy is in deep storage somewhere in the depths of the Cushing Library at Texas A&M University if they haven't given it away.

I find it ironic that TAMU has a library since most of the students cannot read. The library started out with only one book but had to withdraw it after someone colored in in all the pictures.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a "unique personality" was certainly one way to describe Ellen.

I'm not sure I still have my copy of this or not. Face it, we're old.


Jeff

Richard said...

I wonder how Ellen thought other people would describe her, not that she'd likely give a damn.

Kelly Robinson said...

Neat to get a look at that again after all this time. I'd love to read that Barry Gifford article, myself.

Cap'n Bob said...

Funny you should mention Ellen. I'm in the midst of arranging my books and one of the many things I stumbled upon during this effort is the memorial booklet made up after Ellen's passing. The eighties may not have been much of a decade otherwise, but for mystery fandom it was magical.

Bill Crider said...

Durn tootin', Cap'n.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

It's nice seeing that photo of Barbara again. I have a photo of Ellen at the first Malice banquet, shaking an admonitory index finger (characteristically).

Stephen Mertz said...

Today's Mystery Scene is so vacuous and bland, mostly pictures, ads, not much text and no cutting edge. The old Mystery Scene was a brilliant gathering place for interesting people with something to say. I too miss the old days.