In an age where it’s harder to get people to read for pleasure than to forego the french fries, it’s difficult to believe that fiction magazines were once not only in vogue, but enjoyed circulation numbers for which today’s periodicals would kill.
For those interested in hoarding, selling or acquiring such mags of yesteryear, Jeff Canja presents the indispensable “Popular Fiction Periodicals: A Collectors’ Guide to Vintage Pulps, Digests, and Magazines.” If this were just a price guide, one couldn’t recommend it beyond the pulp cult.
Luckily, it’s more. Canja gives a brief, but thorough history of these magazines, some 35 pages’ worth, from dime novels to pulp digests and the few titles that remain today.
And then there’s the cover art. Oh, the cover art! Arguably the best thing about these publications were the lurid, full-color teases that bound the pages, often featuring buxom women in peril at the hands of an evil scientist (or the claws of a monster). No one ever said they were politically correct, and some of their confessional headlines bear this out, i.e. “I Saw the Japs Rape Hong Kong!”
A cover art gallery throws the spotlight on 125 noted illustrators, with three examples provided for each, but even more covers await in the price guide section, as well as some choice ones in a glossy color insert. All in all, more than 1,800 illustrations are provided, from titles both well-known (Black Mask, Amazing Stories) and obscure (Nymphette, Capt. Billy’s Whiz Bang). Those alone make it worth the price, but a word of warning: It’ll make you want to track down some original magazines for framing. And that’s where things get really expensive.