Pulp Cover Friday Presents ROBERT LESLIE BELLEM!
We interrupt our coverage of WEIRD TALES due to a special request from fellow Cheese Magneteer, Tanzi, to cover some gumshoe zines. I was thinking about doing a couple of authors, but, damn, there is just too much Robert Leslie Bellem (1902-1968) to peep.
If multiple interweb sites are to be believed (not always a good idea), Bellem must have been the most prolific pulp writer, ever. “It is claimed” (they claim) that he published over 3,000 stories in about 30 years (1930s-1950s). Not impossible (but I would like to see some documentation). When the pulps died in the late 1950s, Bellem was already ensconced in television, where he wrote numerous scripts for such shows as Long Ranger, Superman, Perry Mason, 77 Sunset Strip, etc, begging the question of why the hell he didn’t get out of the pulps earlier and into the much more lucrative screen writing profession. Who knows? Maybe he liked the pulps better. In my quick cruise around the intertubes I didn’t find out much about him, personally, except that he was said to be eccentric. His writing certainly was.
Though he wrote in many genres and for many titles, he was best known for his work for the inaptly named Culture Publications (SPICY DETECTIVE, ADVENTURE, WESTERN, and MYSTERY), but we’ll focus here on his detective work, and especially upon his most famous creation, Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective who “it is claimed” appeared in about 300 stories. He was so popular, in fact, that he appeared in every issue of SPICY (later SPEED) DETECTIVE from 6-34 through 1947. He even had his own magazine, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE from 1942-1950, with frequently more than one story per issue. (In fact, Turner often wrote entire issues under various pseudonyms.)
Bellem was the master of slang and the apropos (mostly) metaphor. Turner wasn’t an private investigator. He was a “private skulk” or an “orb for hire.” Women didn’t have breasts. They had “prettypretties” or “tiddlywinks,” which Turner naturally noticed because he was “as human as the next gazabo.” Guns were “roscoes” that “spat,” “coughed,” “sneezed,” and “belched.” and their targets were “de-lifed.” They were dead as “a fried oyster,” or “vaudeville.”
I see that, ultimately, this is going to cost me money. Damn you Tanzi!
So let us venture down those mean streets and into the dark night where “from an open window a roscoe coughed Ka-Chow!”
From the 2nd issue of SPICY DETECTIVE (6-34), though granted it’s hard to tell which story (if any) the cover represents.
ã€€The ever-popular menace-in-the-bathtub theme. (11-34)
With the name change to SPEED DETECTIVE the covers were somewhat toned down. 2-43
His very own magazine (7-42). The early issues, with this version of the title, were mostly reprints and all the stories were by RLB.
7-43. He’s taking her to the Ice Capades? Next thing you know they’ll be playing chess. Or Battleship.
We’ll end with some non-Turner covers. This is the 2nd issue of SPICY MYSTERY (6-35).