Storytelling in the Pulps, Comics, and Radio

How Technology Changed Popular Fiction in America

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About the Book

The first half of the twentieth century was a golden age of American storytelling. Mailboxes burgeoned with pulp magazines, conveying an endless variety of fiction. Comic strips, with their ongoing dramatic storylines, were a staple of the papers, eagerly followed by millions of readers. Families gathered around the radio, anxious to hear the exploits of their favorite heroes and villains. Before the emergence of television as a dominant—and stifling—cultural force, storytelling blossomed in America as audiences and artists alike embraced new mediums of expression.
This examination of storytelling in America during the first half of the twentieth century covers comics, radio, and pulp magazines. Each was bolstered by new or improved technologies and used unique attributes to tell dramatic stories. Sections of the book cover each medium. One appendix gives a timeline for developments relative to the subject, and another highlights particular episodes and story arcs that typify radio drama. Illustrations and a bibliography are included.

About the Author(s)

Tim DeForest lives in Sarasota, Florida, and is the circulation manager of the library at the Ringling School of Art and Design. His previously published articles cover a variety of subjects, from military history to the Wild West.

Bibliographic Details

Tim DeForest
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 235
Bibliographic Info: photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2004
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1902-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1
Introduction      3

PART I: THE PULPS      11
1. Story Papers      13
2. Dime      Novels      15
3. Birth of the Pulps      26
4. The Western and Max Brand      30
5. Adventure: Pirates, Gladiators and Sudden Death for the Discerning Reader      37
6. Weird Tales: Things That Bump into You in the Night      44
7. The Hard-Boiled Detective      56
8. Amazing, Astounding Science Fiction      64
9. Edgar Rice Burroughs: Ape Men, Dinosaurs and Martians      77
10. Unpleasant Interlude      89
11. Shadows, Spiders and Flying Aces: The Single-Character Pulps      92
12. The Death of the Pulps      108

PART II: ADVENTURE COMIC STRIPS      109
13. The Early Years      111
14. Wash Tubbs: An Unlikely Adventurer      115
15. Dick Tracy: Cops in the Comics      122
16. From the Jungle to the Round Table      128
17. Milt Caniff: Fighter Pilots, Pretty Girls and the Dragon Lady      140
18. Assigning Blame      146

PART III: RADIO DRAMA AND ADVENTURE      148
19. Thundering Hoofbeats and Silver Bullets      150
20. As Inevitable as a Guilty Conscience: The Shadow on Radio      157
21. Orson Welles: Master Storyteller      162
22. Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: Superman      168
23. Frights for Smart People: Horror on Radio      173
24. Tired of the Everyday Routine? Suspense, Escape, Carlton Morse and The Scarlet Queen      178
25. Dramatizing Reality: Dragnet      189
26. The Law in Dodge City: Gunsmoke      193
27. From the Far Horizons: Science Fiction on Radio      197
28. The End of Radio      201

Appendix I: Timeline      205
Appendix II: Radio Favorites      208
Notes      213
Bibliography      221
Index      225

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Most entertaining…very perceptive…There’s a lot here, and it’s organized very well…a fine study”—Classic Images
  • “Painstakingly, DeForest carries his readers down memory lane in a nostalgic tribute to a trio of abandoned story models after the inception of modern technology…his research appears authentic and sweeping and his writing style compelling…fascinating”—Radio Recall
  • “Methods used to perform the task of storytelling are examined in detail…an interesting and highly informative read…recommend it highly”—Illustrated Press
  • “Delightful…astounding compendium…impressive…captivating”—Science Fiction Studies
  • “interesting and rewarding…lively tone…an interesting and insightful endeavor…anyone who loves pulps, comics, and especially radio—and anyone who appreciates the intrinsic value, both aesthetically and morally, in each medium—will treasure this work”—SPERDVAC Radiogram
  • “An interesting study of the evolution of popular entertainment”—Critical Mass.