Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Health Knowledge Genre Magazines Part One: The Magazine of Horror

by Peter Enfantino

As a collector of pulps and paperbacks, I’m often asked that collector's question, “what is the best deal you’ve ever made?” My face peels back in a Joker-like grin when I remember.

In San Jose, California, where I lived the first 30+ years of my life, we had a drive-in theater called The Capitol (technically, it’s still open for business but the six screens are surrounded by an indoor multiplex). By the late-80s, drive-ins were pretty much on their last legs and someone was just waiting off to the side to take ‘em out and give them the mercy bullet. Home theaters were getting to be the size of drive-in screens and suddenly the sound of the film (with the advent of THX) meant a lot to the average moviegoer. The true filmgoer didn’t want the lights from the highway or a train whistle to invade their concentration. Customers there for “other activity” couldn’t care less. Drive-ins had taken to opening flea markets on weekends to offset their massive overhead and on an occasional Saturday, you might find some crumpled Famous Monsters or a coverless Weird Tales, seemingly always sold by someone who “knew what they had” and would charge outrageous prices for their merchandise. After all, it was old so it must be worth something.

But now and then, you’d find something else, tantamount to the needle in the haystack (I remember John and I leaving the flea market with his little sports car filled with over 100 of the Crime Club books I’d bought for twenty bucks). I was turning the corner of one aisle (this would probably be circa 1987) when my eagle eye spotted something that looked like a Magazine of Horror. I’d seen some of these in a catalog before but didn’t have any in my collection. It was just sitting on a stack of Good Housekeepings, all by its lonesome, crying out for someone to just know what it was, by God!

The rule of thumb, when you desperately want something but there’s no price tag, is to act disinterested (warning: this does not work at comic conventions as they’re ready for you). When the seller walked up to me and asked if there was anything in the stack I wanted, I shrugged, picked up The Magazine of Horror (Issue #17, for the record), and asked, “Oh, I don’t know what this is, but how much do you want for it?” with that “I don’t really want this shit” look on my face.

He looked it over, opened it up, shrugged back at me and said, with one of those scrunched-up looks, “A quarter?” I scratched my head, hemmed and hawed, and reached for a quarter. Then I got one of my bright ideas. “You don’t have any more of these things, do you?” He pointed at the box it had been sitting atop, the one ostensibly filled with Cosmopolitan, Sunset, AARP Bulletin, and other future cage-liners, and said “That box is full of them.”

“Hmmm,” I deadpanned, “I’ll have a look.” Sure enough, this guy wasn’t putting me on. There, under 3 or 4 copies of Drive-In Flea Market Merchandiser Weekly, was a full set of not only The Magazine of Horror, but also its sister digests, Startling Mystery Stories, Bizarre Fantasy, and Weird Terror. Now sit down, because here’s where I tell you these things were all in Very Good-Fine condition. Why would he keep these things? Why would he keep these things in such good shape?

After offering him a price for the whole box (yeah, I know, given the Golden Chalise, I still wanted it filled with Chateau Mouton Rothschild and it had to be a 1982 vintage—hey, I’m a collector), I downplayed my excitement and carted off my large box of booty. The excitement was not lost on my (then) wife and (still) children as they had to take the bus back home since I had forgotten to pick them up on the next aisle and instead headed home to lay out the goods on the library floor.

So what did I discover when going through these little zines and are they worth trolling eBay for? Well, that depends. Much like the legendary pulp, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, the Health Knowledge line reprinted classics and not-so-classics from the great pulps, along with a spattering of new stories. But what it’s remembered fondly for, nearly fifty years later, was the editorial presence of Robert A. W. Lowndes, who would not only pick each story, he’d also tell you all about the tale and its teller. The letters pages and book review columns were packed with opinionated information and informed opinions. Though I haven’t read much of the fiction, I’ve devoured the non-.

Lowndes was like a professor, lecturing to his students about Lovecraft, Bloch, Howard, and Quinn. He would gently nudge the reader towards a certain author and was not adverse to giving the newbie a spotlight (as he did with Stephen King and F. Paul Wilson). His fingerprints could be found on every page.

The history of Lowndes’ tenure at Health Knowledge is told in minute detail in the fanzine Outworlds #28/29 (October 1976) by the man himself but, in a nutshell, here’s how it went down:

In 1963, while editing Exploring the Unknown (one of the dozens of UFO/Bigfoot journals that popped up in the late 1950s) and Real Life Guide (which did for sex what Exploring did for UFOs), Health Knowledge publisher Louis C. Elson asked Lowndes what he thought about editing a new horror digest (Elson had been impressed by how well the British Pan Book of Horror series was doing). Lowndes wanted a magazine that would publish 50% classic reprints (avoiding, he says, “the old Terror Tales, Horror Stories type of story in which all the weirdness is phony and torture and mutilation are the core”) and 50% new material. Elson agreed and granted Lowndes the miniscule budget of $250 an issue (or a penny a word). There would be no art on the cover, just a “dignified cover that gave the appearance of an anthology.” Lowndes began scouring his vast collection of pulps for stories he felt would fall under his chosen title: The Magazine of Horror.

Meanwhile, Lowndes put out feelers to nearby writers he dealt with in his previous job as editor of the Columbia pulps and digests (Future, Double Action Detective, Blue Ribbon Western, etc.). Answering the call were Edward D. Hoch, Robert Silverberg, Donald A. Wollheim and Wallace West (the latter submitting a story rejected by Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales) despite the meager payment. This, more than anything, showed what respect the writers had for the editor.

Lowndes got right to work on establishing that important bond with readers. He knew that the low budget would preclude any major works of horror so he went for a different angle. Readers were asked to vote for their favorite stories each issue and the results would be run in a future issue. Lowndes also asked that the readers send in requests for stories and if he published that story, the name of the fan would be published in the intro to that story.

The first three issues were perfect bound but, due to slow sales, as of the fourth issue the magazine was saddle-stitched. All issues were 130 pages (except the 6th, which was 126). Cover illustrations did not become the norm until the 6th issue and most of those illustrations were pretty crude, several resembling pre-code horror comic panels.

Several times during the magazine’s eight-year (and 36 issue) history, the plug was almost pulled due to poor sales but Lowndes was always able to eke out another issue until the axe finally fell in early 1971.

The following analysis of the Health Knowledge genre digests is broken up into 6 parts. The first three installments cover The Magazine of Horror, parts 4 and 5, Startling Mystery, and part 6 Bizarre Mystery and Weird Terror.

Robert A. W. Lowndes’ The Magazine of Horror.

(* indicates a story original to TMOH)
(A note on word counts: all word counts are approximate to give the browser a good idea of the length of a story only. I performed the very scientific task of counting two different full-page columns in an issue. Both ran approximately 250 words per column. I’ve noted the original appearance of the reprint when known.

No. 1 August 1963
130 pages, 50 cents

The Man with a Thousand Legs - Frank Belknap Long
(10,250 words; from Weird Tales, Aug 1927)
*A Thing of Beauty - Wallace West (3000 words)
The Yellow Sign - Robert W. Chambers
(7500 words; from The King in Yellow)
*The Maze and the Monster - Edward D. Hoch (2500 words)
The Death of Halpin Frayser - Ambrose Bierce
(6500 words; from Can Such Things Be?)
*Babylon 70 M. - Donald A. Wollheim (3500 words)
The Inexperienced Ghost - H.G. Wells
(5500 words; from Twelve Stories and a Dream)
*The Unbeliever - Robert Silverberg (3000 words)
Fidel Bassin - W. J. Stamper
(3250 words; originally appeared in Weird Tales, July 1925)
The Last Dawn - Frank Lillie Pollock
(4750 words; originally appeared in The Argosy, June 1906)
The Undying Head - Mark Twain
(6000 words; from Life on the Mississippi)

Notes: Lowndes lays out his philosophy for what TMOH will be: “We want to give you variety...We want to present you with some of the great classics that you may not have seen before…We want to resurrect some memorable stories by authors who wrote this sort of material for the old “pulps”…We want to offer an opportunity to today’s writers, newcomer and old hand alike, to write the horror, strange, bizarre, etc. story they’d like to write – and never mind the so-called policy…This first issue is a sample – a more or less comprehensive, but by no means an exhaustive sample of what we have in mind for you.” Indeed, this issue is a template for future issues. There’s a bit of 19th Century fiction (the Wells, Twain, Bierce, and Chambers), a smattering from the pulps (Long and Stamper first appeared in 1920s era Weird Tales) and about a third original fiction.

Lowndes’ habit of copious story notes begins right from day one. Seemingly, he had something to say about everything, especially pulps. Interesting that West’s story was submitted to and rejected by Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales. Lowndes notes that, on occasion, despite the nature of the magazine, Wright would reject a story as “too horrible.” After reading the story however, I question whether Lowndes wasn’t misunderstanding Wright’s use of the word “horrible.” The story, about the hunchback in charge of a brine vat (used for the preservation of human corpses for medical dissection) at a university who falls in love with one of his…charges… probably would have been ideal for Terror Tales or, years later, Web Terror Tales, but not for Weird Tales.

“The Last Dawn” (originally titled “Finis” and appearing in The Argosy, June 1906) is one of the earliest “end of the world” stories and it doesn’t have a happy ending. Despite the appearance of a couple of stories that are decidedly not horror, this is a solid first issue

No. 2 November 1963
130 pages, 50 cents

(2) The Space-Eaters - Frank Belknap Long
(12,500 words; Weird Tales, July 1928)
(4) *The Faceless Thing - Edward D. Hoch (2000 words)
The Red Room - H.G. Wells (4500 words)
*Hungary’s Female Vampire - Dean Lipton (3750 words)
A Tough Tussle - Ambrose Bierce
(3500 words; from Can Such Things Be?)
*Doorslammer - Donald A. Wollheim (2200 words)
The Electric Chair - George Waight
(5500 words; originally appeared in Weird Tales, January 1925)
*The Other One - Jerryl L. Keane (1500 words)
(3) *The Charmer - Archie Binns (8000 words)
(1) Clarissa - Robert A. W. Lowndes
(1600 words; expanded version “Gourmet,” that appeared in Renascence, 1946)
(5) The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes - Rudyard Kipling
(9500 words; from Under the Deodars)

Notes: Lowndes’ introduction this issue is devoted to a discussion of H.P. Lovecraft, Frank Belknap Long, and the religious aspects of the Necronomicon. Beginning this issue, Lowndes runs “Reader’s Preference Coupons,” urging readers to pick their three favorite and three least-liked stories of the issue, cut the page out of the magazine and mail it to Lowndes (thankfully, the former owner of my copies didn’t take him up on the offer but I wonder how many mutilated copies of TMOH are circulating). I’ve indicated the rated stories in each issue’s index with a (#) before the title. Lowndes also begins running teasers for the major story in the following issue (this time, he runs a small excerpt from David H. Keller’s “The Seeds of Death”). “Hungary’s Female Vampire” is actually a non-fiction piece about Countess Bathory (later immortalized by Ingrid Pitt in Hammer’s Countess Dracula), an experiment that, Lowndes was relieved to learn, was not popular with the readers. The editor had given thought to a series of “real-life” articles but “wasn’t so fond of the idea” himself and quickly nixed the concept.

No. 3 February 1964
130 pages, 50 cents

(1) The Seeds of Death - David H. Keller
(11,000 words; originally appeared in Weird Tales, June/July 1931)
(4) *The Seeking Thing - Janet Hirsch (1600 words)
A Vision of Judgement - H.G. Wells
(2000 words; from The Time Machine and Others)
(3) The Place of the Pythons - Arthur J. Burks
(5500 words; originally appeared in Strange Tales, September 1931)
Jean Bouchon - S. Waring-Gould
(4750 words; from A Book of Ghosts)
*The Door - Rachel Cosgrove Payes (2250 words)
One Summer Night - Ambrose Bierce
(750 words; from Can Such Things Be?)
Luella Miller - Mary Wilkins-Freeman
(6250 words; from The Wind in the Rose-Bush)
(5) *They That Wait - H.S.W. Chibbett (7000 words)
(2) The Repairer of Reputations - Robert W. Chambers
(14,000 words; from The King in Yellow)

Notes: In his brief introduction, Lowndes ponders the difference between horror and terror. The letters column, It is Written, begins. The feature is also Lowndes-text heavy, which cuts his introduction in half (he explains this as a soother to those who do not want a letters column to cut into the fiction). Lowndes responds to readers’ comments on both previous issues. J. W. Daley of Jamaica Plains, Mass writes “I know you are going to hear from the usual Lovecraft-Merritt-Kuttner groups and if you start using that stuff you are also going to meet the inevitable fate of other magazines that published the works of these stereotyped mimics…” Well, coincidentally…

No. 4 May 1964
130 pages, 50 cents

(4) *Beyond the Breakers - Anna Hunger (5750 words)
(3) What Was It? - Fitz-James O’Brien (5750 words)
*Last Act: October – Tigrina (7250 words)
A Psychological Experiment - Richard Marsh
(5000 words; from The Seen and The Unseen)
(5) *A Dream of Falling - Attila Hatvany (3000 words)
The Truth About Pyecraft - H.G. Wells
(4250 words; from Twelve Stories and a Dream)
(2) The Mark of the Beast - Rudyard Kipling
(4500 words; from Life’s Handicap)
(1) The Dreams in the Witch-House - H.P. Lovecraft
(17,250 words; originally appeared in Weird Tales, July 1933)

Notes: In his introduction, Robert Lowndes discusses Victorian fiction. It’s noted that, not surprisingly, H. P. Lovecraft is “far and away the most-wanted author” and, curiously, one of the most-requested is Henry S. Whitehead, author of the next issue’s “Cassius.” “Tigrina” was a well-known Los Angeles science fiction, befriended by Forrest J. Ackerman during World War II. She would later create Vice Versa, a landmark gay underground magazine. Lowndes, perhaps trying to avoid controversy in his new magazine, coyly introduces her story thus: “Tigrina” is a name which many science fiction enthusiasts who encountered the strange (and sometimes wonderful) world of amateur “fan” publishing used to see in various publications emanating from the Los Angeles area. Beyond this we can tell you nothing except that we may have known at one time about “Tigrina” has escaped us.” The results of the first readers’ poll are published in this issue’s It Is Written.

No. 5 September 1964
130 pages, 50 cents

(2) Cassius - Henry S. Whitehead
(15,750 words; from Strange Tales, November 1931)
*Love at First Sight - J.L. Miller (1750 words)
(4) *Five Year Contract - J. Vernon Shea (6250 words)
(1) The House of the Worm - Merle Prout
(8500 words; from Weird Tales, October 1933)
The Beautiful Suit - H.G. Wells
(2000 words; from The Time Machine and Other Stories)
*A Stranger Came to Reap - Stephen Dentinger (1750 words)
(5-tie) *The Morning the Birds Forgot to Sing – Walt Liebscher (2100 words)
(5-tie) Bones - Donald A. Wollheim
(2750 words; from Stirring Science Fiction, February 1941)
(3) The Ghostly Rental - Henry James
(14,750 words, from Scribner’s Monthly, September 1876)

Notes: Lowndes’ intro touches on three of the stories included in the issue. The reader who recommended “Bones” for reprinting is future superstar and then-unknown “Steve” King. J. Vernon Shea would later write several articles on H.P. Lovecraft, culminating in the book-length In Search of Lovecraft. His “Introduction to the Cthulhu Mythos” can be found in Fantasy Empire Presents H. P. Lovecraft (New Media Publishing, 1984). Stephen Dentinger was a pseudonym Edward D. Hoch used for his “Captain Leopold” series of stories that were running in The Saint Mystery Magazine. Incredibly, at the time of his death in January, 2008, Hoch had published nearly a thousand short stories, including a new story in every issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine from May 1973 through July 2008 (and several reprints following Hoch’s death). The June 2008 issue was a special tribute to Hoch.

No. 6 November 1964
126 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Fred Wolters

(1) Caverns of Horror - Laurence Manning
(11,750 words; from Wonder Stories, March 1934)
*Prodigy - Walt Liebscher (1400 words)
(2) The Mask - Robert W. Chambers
(7500 words; from The King in Yellow)
(4-tie) *The Life-After-Death of Mr. Thaddeus Warde - Robert Barbour Johnson
(7500 words)
*The Feminine Fraction - David Grinnell (2000 words)
Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment - Nathaniel Hawthorne
(4250 words; from Twice Told Tales)
(3) The Pacer - August Derleth
(4750 words; from Weird Tales, March 1930)
Lovecraft and “The Pacer” (excerpt) August Derleth
(an afterword explaining Lovecraft’s role in “The Pacer”)
(5) The Moth - H.G. Wells
(4500 words; from The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents)
(4-tie) The Door to Saturn - Clark Ashton Smith
(8750 words; from Strange Tales, January 1932)
Index to Volume One

Notes: TMOH gets its first illustrated cover (such as it is), a claw reaching from a puddle of blood (with more blood raining down upon it). Not sure what it’s supposed to represent. In addition, the word “Horror” in the title has been decorated with either blood or a cherry syrup topping. For the record, Lowndes hated the new logo, claiming it made the magazine “look like a comic book,” and it lasted only six issues before being replaced by Lowndes’ favored “jagged lightning type.” I like the blood-dripping, myself. Lowndes writes about the complaints of readers regarding the reprinting of “readily available stories.” The editor kindly takes umbrage.

“Caverns of Horror,” Lowndes explains in his intro to the story, was the second in a series of five tales of the “Stranger Club,” that appeared in the 1930s in Wonder Stories. The Robert Barbour Johnson story was actually bought and slated for Weird Tales but the magazine folded before it appeared. David Grinnell was Donald A. Wollheim. “Heidegger” had just been filmed the year before as one of the stories that made up Twice Told Tales (starring Vincent Price). August Derleth was only 18 years old when “The Pacer” appeared in Weird Tales but he was already a WT veteran of four years! In this issue’s It Is Written, it’s noted that over 150 stories have been requested in Lowndes’ plea for suggestions.

No. 7 January 1965
130 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Fred Wolters

(3) The Thing From – Outside - George Allan England
(8000 words; from Amazing, April 1926)
(4) *Black Thing at Midnight - Joseph Payne Brennan (2250 words)
(5) The Shadows on the Wall - Mary Wilkins-Freeman
(6500 words; from The Wind in the Rose-Bush)
(2) The Phantom Farmhouse - Seabury Quinn
(9250 words; from Weird Tales, October 1923)
The Oblong Box - Edgar Allan Poe
(5000 words; from Godey’s Lady Book, September 1844)
*A Way With Kids - Ed M. Clinton (4250 words)
The Devil of the Marsh - E.B. Marriott-Watson
(2000 words; unknown origin)
(1) The Shuttered Room - H.P. Lovecraft & August Derleth
(14,500 words; from The Shuttered Room & Other Pieces)
It Is Written Letters and editorial

Notes: The cover illustration is the same as that on #6, except that the colors have changed. The dripping red blood has been replaced by oozing green slime (this illo is actually better than the previous, green slime and all). By this time, Joseph Payne Brennan was editing his own magazine of horrific fiction, Macabre, which is long overdue for a collection of some kind. Copies are scarce (a full set of 23 issues is currently for sale on abebooks.com for $850) of the zine published from 1957 to 1976). It wasn’t Robert Bloch, not Robert E. Howard, not even H. P. Lovecraft. Incredibly enough, Seabury Quinn was Weird Tales’ most popular author. “The Phantom Farmhouse” was Quinn’s first appearance in WT (with 153 to follow!) . Rod Serling’s Night Gallery dramatized “Farmhouse” starring David McCallum. Quinn’s supernatural sleuth Jules de Grandin appeared in a total of 93 adventures (including the full length novel “The Devil’s Bride). Ed M. Clinton’s “A Way with Kids” was originally bought during Lowndes’ tenure at Future Science Fiction, but had to be shelved when the digest was cancelled in 1959. “The Shuttered Room” is one of the infamous fragments Lovecraft left behind at his death, finished by August Derleth. There are two camps concerning the Lovecraft/Derleth “collaborations” – love ‘em or hate ‘em it seems. I don’t find them any better or worse than the stories Lovecraft finished before heading off to R’lyeh. In It Is Written, readers seem unanimous in their desire for more reprints from Weird Tales.

No. 8 April 1965
130 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Fred Wolters

(3) The Black Laugh - William J. Makin
(4250 words; from Strange Tales, January 1932)
The Hand of Glory (verse) - R.H.D. Barham
(5) *The Garrison - David Grinnell (2750 words)
Passeur - Robert W. Chambers
(2000 words; from Mystery of Choice)
*Orpheus’s Brother - John Brunner (3750 words)
Cassilda’s Song (verse) - Robert W. Chambers
(4) The Lady of the Velvet Collar - Washington Irving
(2500 words; from Tales of a Traveler)
(2) *Jack - Reynold Junker (4500 words)
*The Burglar-Proof Vault - Oliver Taylor (5250 words)
(1) The Dead Who Walk - Ray Cummings
(25,750 words; from Strange Tales, September 1931)

Notes: The cover illo is a very unfrightening drawing of a couple with whited out eyes. In his introduction, Lowndes bows to the readers who “have been asking for weird verse.” For the record, I wasn’t asking and skip any horror poetry that stands in my path. The readers’ poll gets its own department, titled “The Reckoning,” beginning this issue. “The Dead Who Walk” was the first story to appear in the first issue of the legendary Weird Tales rival, Strange Tales. It’s amazing that a magazine that published only seven numbers (from September 1931 through January 1933) has such a storied reputation, but that can be chalked up to the quality of fiction published in those issues. Among the 56 novels and short stories that ran in Strange Tales, you’ll find Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Return of the Sorcerer,” Robert E. Howard’s “People of the Dark,” and “Stragella” by pulp master Hugh B. Cave. It was Robert Lowndes’ goal to reprint every story that had originally appeared in Strange Tales. He came pretty close to seeing that goal accomplished as he ran 46 "Strange Tales" in TMOH and its’ three sister digests.

No. 9 June 1965
130 pages. 50 cents
Cover illo: Fred Wolters

(5) The Night Wire - H.F. Arnold
(3000 words; from Weird Tales, September 1926)
(3) *Sacrilege - Wallace West (7000 words)
*All the Stain of Long Delight - Jerome Clark (200 words)
(1) Skulls in the Stars - Robert E. Howard
(4500 words; from Weird Tales, January 1929)
The Photographs - Richard Marsh
(12,500 words; from The Seen and the Unseen)
(4) The Distortion Out of Space - Francis Flagg
(5000 words; from Weird Tales, August 1934)
*Guarantee Period - William M. Danner (2000 words)
The Door in the Wall - H.G. Wells
(7250 words; from The Time Machine and Others)
The Three Low Masses - Alphonse Daudet
(3250 words: from Weird Tales, July 1925)
(2) The Whistling Room - William Hope Hodgson
(7500 words; from The Idler, March 1910)

Notes: An awful cover. A blonde standing over a man, either rising from or being sucked into a grave. Well, it might be two men in the grave, as that hand is anatomically incorrectly placed. “Sacrilege” is another of the stories Farnsworth Wright bought for Weird Tales but was axed when Dorothy McIlwraith took over editorship from Wright. “All the Stain of Long Delight” sounds a lot better than the nonsensical fragment it is. “Skulls in the Stars” is the second of nine stories (7 of which appeared originally in Weird Tales) featuring one of Robert E. Howard’s swordsmen, Solomon Kane (why Lowndes didn’t begin the reprinting with the first, “Red Shadows,” I don’t know). According to Lowndes in his intro to “Guarantee Period,” William M. Danner was a long-standing fantasy enthusiast, amateur publisher, and collector of antique typewriters.” Lowndes prints a letter from T.G.L. Cockroft, author of Index to Weird Fiction Magazines, one of the earliest attempts to index Weird Tales and its rivals. Cockroft provides a bibliography of Lovecraft’s fiction. In It is Written, Lowndes addresses the issue of illustrated covers and the joys of letters pages.

No. 10 August 1965
130 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Carl Kidwell

(5) *The Girl at Heddon’s - Pauline Kappel Prilucik (6250 words)
(4) The Torture of Hope - Villiers de L’Isle-Adam
(2000 words; from Contes Cruel)
(1) The Cloth of Madness - Seabury Quinn
(10,000 words; from Young’s Magazine, January 1920)
(7) *The Tree - Gerald W. Page (2000 words)
(8) In the Court of the Dragon - Robert W. Chambers
(3400 words; from The King in Yellow)
(3) Placide’s Wife - Kirk Mashburn
(8750 words; from Weird Tales, November 1931)
*Come Closer - Joanna Russ (2250 words)
(2) The Plague of the Living Dead - A. Hyatt Verrill
(17,250 words; from Amazing, April 1927)

Notes: The cover illo is not much better than the last but at least it’s anatomically correct. A new column, titled simply “Books” debuts. Lowndes reviews Nightmare Need by Joseph Payne Brennan, Tales of Science and Sorcery by Clark Ashton Smith, Portraits in Moonlight by Carl Jacobi, and Odd Science Fiction by Frank Belknap Long. In It is Written, Donald A. Wollheim writes in about the origin of the Robert Chambers story in #8. Joanna Russ went on to become a pioneer in feminism in science fiction. Beginning in the 12th issue, Lowndes listed the complete list of rankings for each story (so I will too).

No. 11 November 1965
130 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Carl Kidwell
(this was the first issue where credit was given to the cover artist)

(6) *The Empty Zoo - Edward D. Hoch (3000 words)
(5) A Psychological Shipwreck - Ambrose Bierce
(2000 words; from Can Such Things Be?)
(3) The Call of the Mech-Men - Laurence Manning
(15,000 words; from Wonder Stories, November 1933)
(4) Was It a Dream? - Guy de Maupassant
(2000 words; unknown origin)
(4) Under the Hau Tree - Katharine Yates
(4000 words; from Weird Tales, November 1925)
(2) Rattle of Bones - Robert E. Howard
(3000 words; from Weird Tales, June 1929)
(7) *The Head of Du Bois - Dorothy Newman Cooke (2250 words)
*The Dweller in Dark Valley (verse) - Robert E. Howard
(1) The Devil’s Pool - Greye La Spina
(22,750 words; from Weird Tales, June 1932)

Notes: And why the artist would want credit, I haven’t the foggiest. This “drawing” looks just like a panel from one of Myron Fass’ lurid Eerie Publications. In related matters, Lowndes discusses the suspension of disbelief in his intro. The Manning is another in his series of “The Stranger Club.” In the letters column, Lowndes reveals that he’s come to an agreement with Manning and all the “Stranger Club” stories will be reprinted. “Rattle of Bones” is another of the Solomon Kane tales. In his intro, Lowndes tries to calm the Conan-demanders by throwing them a bone or two in the promise of more Kane, King Kull, and Bran Mak Morn (the latter two of which were to come, Lowndes claimed), but this was the last Kane story to appear in a Health Knowledge zine. The now-famous Conan paperbacks published by Lancer (with the Frazetta covers) were just about to hit stands and, rather than publish something concurrently, it was Lowndes’ hope to present to the readers something a little bit harder to get hold of. Makes sense to me. So why did the editor continue to be bombarded by requests for the big lunk? While we’re on the subject of Robert E. Howard, Lowndes acquired a batch of unpublished REH verse that he was running “where space permits.” Future author, book dealer, and pulp historian Robert Weinberg contributes to It Is Written.

No. 12 Winter 1965-66
130 pages, 50 cents
Cover illo: Gray Morrow

(2) The Faceless God - Robert Bloch
(7500 words; from Weird Tales, May 1936)
(5) Master Nicholas - Seabury Quinn
(5500 words;from Mirage #6, 1964)
(8) *But Not the Herald - Roger Zelazny (1200 words)
(4) Dr. Muncing, Exorcist - Gordon MacCreagh
(11,000 words; from Strange Tales, September 1931)
(6) The Affair at 7 Rue de M- - John Steinbeck
(3500 words; from Harper’s Bazaar #2921, April 1955)
(7) *The Man in the Dark - Irwin Ross (1300 words)
(3) The Abyss - Robert A. W. Lowndes
(3500 words; from Stirring Science Fiction, February 1941)
*Destination (verse) - Robert E. Howard
*Memories of H.P.L. - Muriel E. Eddy (600 words)
(1) The Black Beast - Henry S. Whitehead
(16,250 words; from Adventure, July 15th, 1931)
Index to Volume Two

Notes: The cover by Gray Morrow is a bit hard to comprehend (is that a little guy perched on the tormented man’s wrist or is the victim in the foreground and torturer in the back?). Despite the perception problems, this is the best cover yet (by default). Lowndes explains the new logo to readers (looks like HORROR spelled out in fuzzy tarantula legs to me but he claims it’s lightning) in his intro. After too long a’waitin’, Robert Bloch finally sees a reprinting in TMOH. In the intro RAWL recites the oft-told tale of Bloch’s first appearance in Weird Tales: a letter decrying Howard’s Conan stories as those of a “stereotyped hero.” Editor Farnsworth Wright then stokes the flames by alerting readers to “sharpen your axes” as WT was about to publish Bloch’s first story, in the January 1935 issue. Bloch very soon became a WT favorite despite his rocky beginning. The Quinn story originally appeared in Jack L. Chalker’s Mirage Magazine (Chalker would later adopt Mirage for the name of his small press publishing house), which saw 10 issues from 1960 to 1971. Memories of H.P.L. is exactly what it sounds like, a rare non-fiction piece by someone other than RAWL. There’s not much to it (“He liked cats, ice cream…His hair was as dark as a raven’s wing…”) but at least it only takes up a couple of pages. Muriel Eddy wrote several articles on HPL, ostensibly longer and with more depth than here. She was married to author C.M. Eddy, Jr. Both were good friends of Lovecraft. Books reviewed in this issue include Dagon by Lovecraft, Poems in Prose by Clark Ashton Smith, and Monsters Galore, edited by Bernhardt J. Hurwood. Seabury Quinn gives the background on the first Jules de Grandin story, "The Horror on the Links." Glenn Lord (literary agent for REH’s estate), writes in, chastising RAWL for his comments regarding REH’s lack of a sense of humor. Clearly, Lord had no sense of humor.

Part Two of The Magazine of Horror will appear Wednesday, December 8th.


Todd Mason said...

Quite nice, and quite a haul...someone who loved MOH must've passed or moved out or divorced or somesuch. Not having had as many of the early issues as you have, and not having scoured the TOCs (btw, it always bothered me that it Wasn't THE MAGAZINE OF HORROR, but simply MAGAZINE OF HORROR), I'd failed to realize how often Wollheim contributed to those issues particularly...Lowndes and Wollheim weren't just professional friends, but had been big wheels together in the NYC-based fan group the Futurians, and then went on to their repesctive, too often underfunded, editorial careers...DAW not getting a firm backing till he founded DAW Books at New American Library...while Lowndes's last salaried position, I believe, was at Gernsback Publications, which was still publishing SEXOLOGY (which the REAL LIFE GUIDE ripped off) and eventually gave up the ghost when RADIO-ELECTRONICS folded sometime in the '80s.

Joanna Russ was writing primarily horror fiction in those years, aside perhaps from her plays...what she published in F&SF tended to be good to fine horror, and I like "Come Closer" a lot. With such titles as SHOCK tending to gutter out quickly, as you know, MOH served as one of the few steady, if not exactly hardy, markets, particularly to salvage that good or offbeat story that Avram Davidson (at F&SF) or Cele Lalli (at FANTASTIC) or the folks at the cf magazines, or PLAYBOY and ROGUE and such, would turn down...unless, indeed, one sought out MACABRE, which I iamgine paid in copies.

So, no CHASE nor FAMOUS SF nor WORLDWIDE ADVENTURE in the box? Almost a pity.

Had Lowndes begun his assiduious searches for probably public-domain pulp stories in those issues? You know, he ran reader-preference polls in his Columbia pulps, as well...whether in imitation of ASTOUNDING's "Analytical Laboratory" poll-feature or in mutual imitation of earler magazines' encouragement of ranked polls, dunno. But they, like his fine editorials and lettercols and book reviews, did fill space that didn't necessarily need to be paid for...as with the p.d. fiction, assured and apparent.

Good start. I think at least the graveyard awful cover is meant to suggest ghosts, but that's a guess.

I'm under the impression he wanted to eventually keep Quinn stories out of MOH, hence the foundation of STARTLINE MYSTERY...which was also a home for not-quite-fantastic work from others, in eitehr sense or both, as the young King and FP Wilson were published there, as was a pleasant collaboration between Terry Carr and Ted White...while the Russ and R. A. Lafferty, Anna Hunger and Stefan Alletti stories were in MOH...

Todd Mason said...


cannon59 said...

A nice rundown on a very underappreciated line – I’m looking forward to Part 2. I first found an issue of “Magazine of Horror” in my local second-hand bookshop way back in 1976 (when I was still at school!). Although it was almost ten years before I found another issue, I’ve since accumulated about two thirds of the runs of MOH and “Startling Mystery Stories” and a few odd issues of the other titles. They’re absolute treasure-troves.

One thing that’s long bugged me, though, is the impossibility getting the issue that contains Stephen King’s first story for anything less than a small fortune. I don’t particularly care about the King material – I want it for the Seabury Quinn “Jules de Grandin” story that’s also in it!

Walker Martin said...

Like you, I mainly bought MOH because of the extensive editorial comments by Lowndes. I picked up all the early issues right off the newstands until I was drafted in Oct 1966. After being discharged in 1968 I never saw any issues except on the second hand book market. Even back in the 1970's I used to pick up back issues and sell them at Pulpcon for a profit.

I know I must have read some of the fiction, but my memories seem to revolve around the long comments by the editor. It's really amazing that this magazine somehow lasted 36 issues. The circulation must have been very low, maybe 20,000 tops, and probably lower than that.

Of course now I see ANALOG reports 30,000 as an average and ASIMOV'S is around 23,000. F&SF must be even lower though the bi-monthly schedule probably hikes the figures. How low can circulation go before the digest era ends?

This is a fascinating series and I'm looking forward to the future installments.

Anonymous said...

What a great essay on a relatively unknown magazine. Very much looking forward to the next installment. ~ Ron C.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Walker...that's a good question. The bigger "little" magazines are selling around 10K an issue, and seem to be doing OK enough...these being the ones mostly without institutional support (unlike HARVARD REVIEW or CONJUNCTIONS). I imagine the closure of the big box bookstores, with their newsstands being good exposure for all the fiction magazines (though probably not the primary source of sales for any) might not help any...but Health Knowledge was the kind of outfit that was used to playing on the thinnest margin. FANTASTIC at its lowpoint as an Ultimate Publication was selling less than 20K, too...amounts which would seem not So very bad any more, at all (but, then, these days distributors wouldn't be putting out, however sloppily or half-assedly, 60K+ copies to get those sales, either).

Todd Mason said...


Walker Martin said...

Todd, I have an extensive collection of the literary quarterlies also, one of my favorites being THE HUDSON REVIEW. I recently received the latest issue and the circulation is listed as 2384 average during the year and around 2000 for the most recent issue. I've noticed the figures steadily dropping over the years for just about all the literary magazines.

I guess Peter is right about now screaming like Marlow in HEART OF DARKNESS, "The Horror!, The Horror!" Only on his blog would commentors go from MOH to THE HUDSON REVIEW...

Todd Mason said...

HUDSON doesn't push itself quite as well as the ones I cited...I'm not sure what their source of support is (haven't picked one up since the last issue I saw with Tom Disch poetry in it, nearly a decade back?)...these days, for exactly the reasons we're discussing, the false dichotomy between the "commercial" fiction magazines and "little" magazines is even more apparently false than it was when NEW AMERICAN REVIEW and EVERGREEN REVIEW and SHORT STORY INTERNATIONAL were around at one level of sales in the ballpark of the pro digests, as were WHISPERS and the periodical book form of NEW WORLDS at the sales level of ANTAEUS or TRIQUARTERLY, to suggest the differences were pretty slight except in content focus, rather than quality, sophistication or economics...

Peter Enfantino said...


You're right on the title, which of course I blundered on. I'll note that it's "Magazine of Horror" from installment two on. Thanks for nudging me.

As far as Chase, etc. I have to make that "behind-the curtains" admission few collectors like to make and admit that I don't have any of the Chases, few of the Worldwide Adventure, and only one issue of Thrilling Western, unfortunately.

I did, however, just dig out my set of Famous Science Fiction so I'll tack that on at the end of the Horror installments.

Todd Mason said...

Well, hell, I've never picked up any CHASEs yet, either...and I was very surprised when I learned it had actually been issued by HK rather than the GAMMA folks, who had meant to publish it before their house started to fall apart (as the house ads for it make very clear).

FAMOUS SF, unlike MOH and their horrorish siblings, had a fair amount of stiff competition for new fiction over its run, yet still managed to publish some decent new work, if less of it than MOH and STARTLING MS. I wonder how many people confused the HK magazines with the Ultimate reprint magazines back when...as much as such people might care.

Todd Mason said...

And, as Bloch noted in his intro to a collection of Howard horror stories, his fateful letter also noted that he wanted less Howard S&S because he wanted more Howard horror, "Pigeons from Hell" and such. But, then, Farnsworth Wright, like John W. Campbell in this as well as better ways, was often a doofus.

Peter Enfantino said...

Well, Walker, Todd, Cannon, and Ron-
As I've said before, this is the just the reason John and I decided to revive the bb blog. You guys add so much to the info that it seems as though we're collaborating on a piece together. I get all the residuals though :>