Thursday, May 1, 2014

Walker Martin's Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention Report 2014

Here is Walker Martin's report from the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention held last week. I've thrown in some pulp covers - they are samples only (courtesy of Galactic Central) and not the actual issues that Walker writes about. (I include a sample of the July 7, 1917 issue of ALL STORY just to tease Walker - you'll know why in a minute.)

Windy City Pulp Convention Report 2014


As many of you may know I love going to pulp conventions and I've been
attending them since 1972. I have a maniacal desire to read and
collect old books and pulps. I realize it may be an addiction and a
vice but it doesn't seem to hurt my health or finances like drinking,
drugs, gambling, or chasing women. Well at least it didn't hurt me
until this convention.

For the last few months my legs have developed a pain which bothers me
while sitting and sleeping. I'm often awakened at night by the pain and
I've yet to find a comfortable position to sleep. I've seen different
doctors and pain pills don't help that much. A nerve doctor said maybe
my back problems was the cause and I have scheduled further x-rays and
MRI's. But the main thing the medical profession agreed on was that I
would not be taking any 15 hour trip to Chicago(Airplanes are a problem
because of claustrophobia and limited bags to bring back pulps).

Needless to say, being the insane collector that I am, I ignored all
medical advice and on Thursday, April 24, I was in a car heading from
Trenton, NJ to Morristown, NJ, where I was one of five collectors who
had rented a big van. After an hour in the car, and even before
getting to the van, I was in distress and reminding myself that I was a
book collector and reader and nothing was going to stop me. I had to
keep saying this to myself several times during the trip, which I now
refer to as Death Trip 2014.

But somehow, 15 hours later, I limped into the Westin hotel near
Chicago and thought only about going to my room and having a stiff
drink, pain pills or no pain pills. But in my room, the usual desire
to meet other collectors and talk about books and pulps, kicked in and
I went to the hospitality room. Once there, I stationed myself against
the wall near the refrigerator where the beer was and I proceeded to
drink, thinking By God, I made it.

And I'm glad I did because I met a man who runs one of the very best
pulp blogs. Sai lives in India and administers a blog called
PULPFLAKES. A great name for a great website and it's all about pulps,
the authors, the editors, the artists, the magazines. This was Sai's
first pulp convention. Another interesting person was Mala
Mastroberte, the queen of the pulp pin-ups. Ed Hulse had the great
idea to have her at his BLOOD n THUNDER table and perhaps it was too
great an idea. I heard more than one collector refer to table not as
the BLOOD n THUNDER or Ed Hulse table, but as the Mala table. Mala was
a big hit and fortunately she had her boyfriend to watch over her
because some collectors are all about the books and they don't know how
to act around women. Nothing worse than a leering bookworm. I ought
to know.

But don't feel too sorry for Ed Hulse because he stumbled across the
find of the show. Shortly after the convention opened he bought
several long comic book boxes of ALL STORY. Most seemed to be priced
at $5.00 and included several Edgar Rice Burroughs issues. Most were
from 1917-1920 and there were over a hundred. I need one issue from
this period and since I only need a total of 4 to complete my set, I
was naturally very excited and figured the issue had to be there.
Since we were all busy the first few days of the convention, there was
no time to look through the magazines until Sunday afternoon. With
great anticipation I watched as the magazines were sorted into years
and then into months. The issue I need is dated July 7, 1917 and I
noticed there were 11 months well represented from 1917. But one month
was completely missing. You guessed it. No July issues at all.


There is nothing more embarrassing than seeing some old guy sobbing
because he needs a pulp. I managed to control myself and slunk off to
the bar to drown my sorrows. I can deal with leg pain but not with
missing out on my book wants.

A good friend of mine told me about his find. He bought over 50 WEIRD
TALES from the 1930's for only like $25 to $45 each. I couldn't
believe such good luck and almost had him convinced that something must
be wrong with the issues, perhaps pages excerpted or poor condition.
But no, the magazines were ok.

At this point I'd like to talk about the importance of attending these
conventions, not only Windy City, but Pulpfest and the few one day
shows that are held. I realize there are valid reasons for not
attending, such as poor health and lack of money. But I've always
forced myself to figure out someway to attend because I find so much
not only in the dealer's room but through friends and contacts. For
instance I managed to get the several lots I wanted in the auction. If
I had stayed home because of my leg problem, I never would have gotten
them. And the conventions revive your interest in collecting, which I
seriously believe is one of the joys of life. I actually feel sorry
for non-collectors and people who call collectors the dreaded "hoarder"
name(There is a big difference in meaning between "collector" and
"hoarder" but that's another subject that many non-collectors simply
do not understand at all). Collecting has helped increase my desire to
keep living, otherwise I might just pine away and eventually waste away
like many of my non-collecting friends. I would have to say collecting
books and pulps is the grandest game in the world and one that can give
your life meaning.

Now you might ask what did I get after all the trouble described above?
Well, one problem with living a fairly long life is the chance that
you might start to run out of things to collect. I guess at one time
or another, I've collected just about every major pulp, digest, and
literary title, including many slicks. I never bothered with the love,
sport, and aviation genres but I've been involved with most other
titles.

So my wants are getting kind of esoteric and bizarre. A few issues
here and there to complete sets. A few pulp artists or magazine cover
paintings. Many years ago I used to collect the hero pulps but I sold
them all. But the auction listed several lots of the SHADOW digests.
They had most of the issues from 1944-1948, a total of 40 in all. I
was interesting in these issues because the magazine became more of an
adult crime magazine during the post war years. Returning WW II vets
did not give a damn about the Shadow but the back up stories and
novelets were of interest. I managed to be the high bidder on all the
Shadow digest lots, a total of 10 lots. The average price came out to
only $21 per issue which was far lower than the $50 -$80 prices that I
saw in the dealer's room.


Another item I desperately wanted was a preliminary sketch by artist
Lee Brown Coye. The finished piece of art in FANTASTIC, February
1963, I think is stunning and I noticed the preliminary drawing was
very detailed and close to the finished art. Again, I was the winning
bidder at $650.

Speaking of the auctions, there were two that lasted several hours
during the evening. The Friday auction was mainly from the collections
of the Jerry Weist estate and the Robert Weinberg collection. The
Jerry Weist items were mainly very nice condition SF magazines and the
Weinberg collection included some stunning SF correspondence, cancelled
Munsey and Popular Publications checks and all sorts of interesting
items.

The original manuscript of C. L. Moore's " Black God's Kiss", which
appeared in WEIRD TALES, October, 1934, bought the highest amount of
money I've ever seen at a pulp convention auction: $4,500 plus the
$500 buyer's premium. That's $5,000 for an iconic, unique item. Some
other authors represented by checks and letters were L. Ron Hubbard,
Farnsworth Wright, Henry Whitehead, Abraham Merritt, Austin Hall,
Homer Eon Flint, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Murray Leinster, Isaac Asimov,
Fred Pohl, Otis Adelbert Kline, George Allan England, Algis Budrys,
Eric Frank Russell, and others too numerous to name.


The Saturday night auction was made up of over 100 lots listing most of
the issues of the SHADOW magazine. Most issues went for reasonable
prices. Following the SHADOW auction there were almost another 100
lots listing various pulp magazines but there also was a Frank R. Paul
illustration from FANTASTIC NOVELS which went for $800.

The Windy City show is not just the dealer's room and auction, though
that's what most collectors are interested in. There also was a very
large art show with quite a few pulp paintings and illustrations from
the collections of Doug Ellis and Deb Fulton, Robert and Phyllis
Weinberg, and others. Ed Hulse put on his usual fine film show which
lasted all day and even after the auction in the early morning hours.
The themes celebrated the 95th birthday of BLACK MASK and WESTERN
STORY.

There were two panels after the dealer's room closed. The first one
was on a subject that was very much needed but had often been ignored
over the years at Pulpcon. The Western Pulps panel was comprised of Ed
Hulse, Walker Martin, and Tom Roberts. In about an hour we tried to
make up for lost time and discuss major elements of this important
topic. Which of course is impossible since there were scores of
western titles and it was the biggest selling genre by far except for
perhaps the love pulps.

I gave my opinion concerning the best western pulp magazines, all of
which I have collected over the years. The biggest of all was WESTERN
STORY, 1919-1949 with over 1250 issues. I need about 11 issues
including the first one and I'll never be able to complete the set but
I have hopes of getting it down to single digits. The second best and
some would say even better than WESTERN STORY, was definitely the
Doubleday issues of WEST during 1926-1934. During this 8 or 9 year
span the magazine was often published on a weekly and bi-weekly
schedule and had all the good authors. It was sold to another
publisher in 1935 and continued on for many years but not at the
Doubleday level. Third and fourth best would be DIME WESTERN and STAR
WESTERN and some feel they were the best westerns published by Popular
Publications.


We now live in a era that has no western short fiction magazine and
this is hard to believe when we look back to the 1930's and 1940's when
the newsstands groaned under the weight of these titles. There were
many interesting western writers and some of my favorites are Luke
Short, W.C. Tuttle, and Walt Coburn. Coburn had a drinking problem and
this showed in some of his work but when he was feeling good and sober,
he was one of the best because he grew up on a working cowboy's ranch
and knew how the men dressed, talked, and rode. Black Dog Books will
soon be publishing a collection of Coburn's fiction from WESTERN STORY.
Keep an eye out for BULLETS IN THE BLACK by Walt Coburn. Introduction
by the great James Reasoner.

My old friends of 20 or 30 years ago would have said that I have
committed sacrilege by not including Max Brand. Max Brand collectors
used to be all over the place at Pulpcon, collecting the pulps, binding
the stories into home made books, writing articles and talking about
him. In fact, if they were still alive I would not dare say anything
negative about Brand. Not if I wanted to keep their friendship. They
loved Max Brand and for over 50 years I've tried to love him also.
Some of his work I like and some I hate. I now would have to say that
Max Brand wrote too much and too fast and that's going to hurt him as
far as being remembered.

The Second panel was on Saturday night and discussed Hammett, BLACK
MASK, and the Detective Pulps. Moderated by John Wooley along with
such experts as Ed Hulse, Digges La Touche, and Bob Weinberg. I was so
jealous about not being on this panel that I tried to pick a fight with
Digges by yelling at him, "So You're the expert on Earle Stanley
Gardner!". But I didn't have enough to drink to be drunk enough, so
they ignored me.

Bob Weinberg did make one interesting statement about the cover art of
DIME DETECTIVE being better than the covers of BLACK MASK in the
1930's. Maybe the late thirties yes, but when Paul Herman, another
BLACK MASK art collector, and I heard this, we started muttering that
though we love and have covers from DIME DETECTIVE, the early 1930's
covers of BLACK MASK are amazing. Joe Shaw made sure the cover artist
captured the tough, hardboiled, atmosphere of the magazine.


The funny thing is that someone told Bob Weinberg about my disagreeing
with him. Later on, he approached me and told me I was wrong, and how
could I say such a thing, etc. But this just shows why Bob and Paul
and I, are pulp art collectors. To collect cover art you must be
opinionated and passionate about the subject. Otherwise you don't
collect original art at all.

The program book, which is compiled and edited by Tom Roberts, is
excellent. About 50 pages on the detective pulps, another 50 pages on
the western pulps, and 50 pages on art and film. I'm certain you can
get a copy from Black Dog Books.

On Sunday, I talked with Doug Ellis about the attendance. He said they
broke 500 for the first time ever(the most the old Pulpcon ever had was
300) and had 150 dealer's tables. I spent the entire three days
limping around the room and the place was always busy. The old Pulpcon
used to have periods where it looked deserted but you don't see this at
Windy City or Pulpfest.

So, on Monday morning, in a steady rain, we just barely crammed in all
our treasures into the great white van. There were a couple times I
almost said to stop the van, so I could get out, but we made it back to
Morristown in about 14 hours. I was so exhausted that I wondered if I
could make it to the car for the ride back to Trenton. We transferred
all the boxes to Digge's car and were ready to go. I told myself, look
I just made 14 hours, I can make another hour or so. Then Digges told
me the car battery was dead and the car would not start.

At this point the details are a sort of blur for me. I remember
standing in the dark and thinking what now? If it was up to me, I'd
still be standing there. Fortunately Ed Hulse's sister let us come
into her house even though it was late and gave us coffee. She even
called her Triple A and had them jump start the car. So off we finally
went.

Now the big question is will I be able to make to Pulpfest, August 7,
2014? Collectors, you better believe it!


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9 comments:

Audrey Parente said...

Thank you, Thank you. What a spectacular article, Walker, especially since I couldn't attend this year. You put me in the middle and it was a wonderful read. Audrey Parente

Walker Martin said...

Glad you enjoyed it Audrey and Laurie that's the cover I need! July 7, 1917 ALL STORY! You would think I would be able to get at least one of my wants from all those ALL STORY pulps that Ed bought. But no...

Walker Martin said...

I was just studying the cover art that Laurie chose for this report. The ALL STORY is just a pretty girl cover but it is the one issue I lack in the 1915-1920 period. The SHADOW cover is one of the better ones. You can't go wrong with skeletons on the cover. A pulp artist once told me that circulation figures increased with skeletons.

The WEIRD TALES cover is a stunner by Margaret Brundage. Sexy, perverse, bizarre and eye catching. WEST was a great magazine doing the Doubleday period of 1926-1934, with excellent covers.

This BLACK MASK cover shows what I'm talking about when I disagree with Bob Weinberg about the cover art of DIME DETECTIVE and BLACK MASK. Yes, DIME DETECTIVE had excellent cover art but this BLACK MASK piece is representative of the great hardboiled, tough images that captured the essence of BLACK MASK. No background is needed for this portrait of a man you wouldn't want to cross.

I spent 4 decades hunting for a cover like this one before I found one from BLACK MASK and I only managed to buy it because the dealer didn't realize it was from BLACK MASK.

Tom Johnson said...

A great write up, Walker. Ginger and I haven't been to a convention since 1991 (and then only I attended PulpCon that year), and we sorely miss them. But health does not allow us the chance to travel - at least not without bringing along a pharmacy (sigh). We enjoy Con Reports and Panel Podcast, as it gives us a chance to feel like we were there. I collect very little any more, except digests, but visiting like-minded people and friends is something we truly miss. Thank you for a very nice report.eletodu shalt

Katie said...

What an adventure!!

Walker Martin said...

Tom, I remember when you and Ginger were at Pulpcon in 1991 and it's hard to believe that it has been over 20 years! So many old pals were still alive and collecting back then: Bob Sampson, Jack Deveny, Rusty Hevelin, Earl Kussman, Harry Noble, Darrell Richardson, and others.

I sure miss them and the correspondence that we all carried on.

Barry Traylor said...

Now that I have the internet back after six days of being cut off by an outage on the part of Verizon I can comment on Walker's report. As usual Walker has done an excellent job soldiering through pain and making it to Windy. Wish I could have been there also but life intruded. Even though I do not own any original Black Mask paintings I agree that the early 30's covers are superb.
I hope you are feeling better by PulpFest Walker. Getting old is a real drag.

Walker Martin said...

Barry is right. Getting old is a pain. I remember years ago some of my old collector friends telling me, "Walker don't bother getting old", but I ignored their advice and now I'm paying the price!

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