The FictionMags Index Family

This section pulls together a number of detailed notes about the way in which the indexes have been constructed. While originally written specifically for the Crime, Mystery & Gangster Fiction Magazine Index the majority of it applies equally to all members of the FictionMags Index Family. Specifically, it looks at:

What's in a Name? Part 1

One of the challenges in producing any index lies in deciding when two similar bylines correspond to the same author and when they are different. Is Henry P. Carbuncle who wrote the “Rusty Roger” stories in Challenging Detective Tales in the 1930s, the same as the Hank Carbuncle who wrote the hilarious “Twinkle Twins” series in Fascinating Mysteries in the 1940s, and is either the same as Captain H. Carbuncle who was briefly the editor of Unusual Detective Stories in the 1950s?

Similarly, while it is a fairly safe assumption that James Snooks, Sr. and James Snooks, Jr. are different people (particularly if publishing at the same time), it is much harder to decide which, if either, of them is just plain old James Snooks.

Obviously one approach would simply be to list all items under the exact byline used in the magazine, but we felt this would be unhelpful for most readers, so we have attempted to collect all variants of a name under a single entry in the Author Index while preserving the exact byline in the Issue-by-Issue Index. General guidelines we have used have included:

However, this is far from an exact science and it is almost inevitable that we have, in some cases, combined two completely different authors or have left separate two bylines for the same author–where there was reasonable doubt we always left such bylines separate rather than combining them.

As always, we would love to hear from anyone who can clarify any errors we have made in this area (and, indeed, who can provide any additional information on the authors listed).

What's in a Name? Part 2

Another interesting challenge has arisen in the area of pseudonyms, where we have tried to distinguish between three types of pseudonym:

Obviously the first problem is identifying when a particular name is a pseudonym, and no doubt we have missed several such. It is also difficult at times to identify which of the above types a particularly pseudonym is, not least because they sometimes change with time (Brett Halliday started as an exclusive pseudonym of Davis Dresser, used for a wide variety of stories, but subsequently became a house name solely used for “Mike Shayne” stories and novels).

The real challenge, though, lies in trying to identify the real author(s) behind the pseudonym, not least because the whole point of the pseudonym has been to mask that identity. Much research has been done over the years into the pseudonyms used for crime fiction and, inevitably, some of the top authorities attribute different authors to the same story from time to time. We have tried to steer a path through this minefield and to identify authors where there is a general consensus on authorship but, again, there are bound to be many we have missed (and probably some where you disagree with our attribution)–as ever, let us know!

What's in a Name? Part 3

Similar problems apply to identifying stories that do or do not belong to the same series. It's fairly clear that stories featuring “The Gray Wombat”, in a magazine called Gray Wombat Mysteries, form part of a common series, and that two stories featuring “John Smith” published decades apart, by different authors, in different magazines, probably don't but, as ever, there are gray areas. For example, All Detective Magazine introduced a secondary character called “Doctor Death” who proved to be so popular that, not only did he feature in three further stories in the same magazine, but the magazine itself was renamed Doctor Death, featuring him as the main character. However, the character changed considerably when the magazine name changed, so is this one series or two?

Conversely, just because the same character name is used by the same author in two separate stories (or even in two series of stories in two separate magazines) it doesn't mean that they are part of the same series. Authors in the pulps, in particular, never expected their stories to survive more than a few weeks and hence saw no harm in reusing character names they were particularly fond of.

A third complication occurs when two stories feature the same character(s) with names that rule out coincidence (it is unlikely that two different authors would independently come up with a character name like “‘Butch’ Laano”, for instance) but appear in completely different magazines under completely different bylines. Is this a series, a reprint, or plagiarism?

As ever, we have tried to steer a course between omitting many groups of stories that do form a series and including as series many groups that don't but, as ever, we would welcome comments and information in this area.

What's in a Name? Part 4

A final area of potential confusion lies in the story titles themselves. As mentioned above, pulp authors (in particular) didn't expect their work to survive and, if they found a story title they liked, were rarely adverse to using the title again on a completely different story. At the same time, particularly in the latter days of the pulps, many editors saw nothing wrong in filling their inventory by reprinting stories published many years earlier, often without any acknowledgement of prior publication–confident in the knowledge that nobody would have the original issues of the magazine lying around. Thus two stories with the same title, by the same author, published years apart (possibly in the same magazine) may be a reprint or a new story reusing an old title. Similarly, when a published novel is reprinted in a magazine (such as Two Complete Detective Books) it is not always obvious if the novel has been reprinted intact, or if it has been abridged to fit the confines of the magazine.

Similarly, in the early days of the pulps, it was not uncommon for a series of stories about a given character to use just the name of the character as the story title so we might, for example, have multiple stories called “Rusty Rogers” in adjacent issues of the same magazine.

The converse was also true. Editors were notorious for changing the titles on a story, not only when first publishing it but also when reprinting it later (sometimes, to be frank, to disguise the fact it was a reprint - the most notorious example being the Culture Publications magazines, such as Spicy Detective Stories, in the early 1940s).

Where possible, we have tried to identify which stories are, or are not, reprints of earlier stories but, again, there are bound to be errors both of commission and omission and corrections would be welcomed.

A New Paradigm

Traditional indexers like Mike Cook and Steve Miller had extensive personal collections of crime fiction magazines, and were personally acquainted with a number of the key collectors who were able to provide details of their collections. Furthermore, being based in the USA, they were able to examine the collections held in a number of the key libraries in the USA. By contrast, I probably have fewer than 100 crime fiction magazines and, while I have made the acquaintance of many collectors during the project, I didn't really know many before I started. Also, being based in the UK, my access to American libraries has been entirely second-hand and limited to the generosity of others.

Conversely, I have one huge advantage that Mike and Steve did not have–the Internet. By means of e-mail and discussion groups like Fictionmags, I have been able to contact a huge number of collectors and well over 100 have contributed to the project (see the Acknowledgements section in each index)–ranging from details of a single issue to providing details of the entire run of a given magazine. There have even been times when a seller on eBay has been the only source of information on a particular issue (or has been able to supplement information from elsewhere).

One challenge of such a wide range of contributors has, of course, been that no two have the same approach to indexing magazines and, inevitably, some are more reliable than others (some of the specific details of this are discussed below). One side-effect of this has been that the index entries for a number of issues are actually constructed from a number of sources where, for example:

Similarly computer technology has come a long way in recent years. Cook & Miller mention in Mystery, Detective and Espionage Fiction that the work would not have been possible without a computer, but realistically it was little more than a word processor. In particular it was notable that the index by issue (in Volume 1) and index by author (in Volume 2) had been created separately, by hand, and it was not unknown for them to disagree–something that was extremely frustrating to researchers. With the current index we have been able to work from a single set of data from which a suite of programs generates the various indexes, thus ensuring they are consistent. At the same time, other programs are able to trawl through the data looking for obvious errors and anomalies.

However, computers are, of course, a mixed blessing. The core of the Crime Fiction Index, for example, remains the contents of the two previous indexes, which were scanned into the computer and passed through a suite of OCR and data parsing programs. Inevitably this process introduced errors and, while quite a bit of the data has been replaced with more accurate/detailed data from elsewhere, much of the data in the current index is taken directly from that OCRed data (such issues can generally be identified as those for which no page numbers are listed and no other source is cited). As ever, we would love to hear of any errors that anybody spots.

One huge advantage of computers, of course, it that it becomes possible to illustrate an index of this kind without dramatically increasing the production costs and, wherever possible, the listing for each issue is accompanied by a picture of the cover for that issue. For reasons of formatting, only a small thumbnail is displayed on the page, but you can click on any thumbnail to display a larger version of the cover.

Identifying and Resolving Problems

In any project with well over 100 contributors, there are bound to be different opinions–particularly when the contributors are all volunteers doing things the way they see best. Some attempt has been made to standardise the various contributions, but some of the areas where there are potential issues include:

There are also a number of common areas where there are known problems with data taken from the existing indexes such as Len Robbins' Pulp Magazine Index or the index to Mystery, Detective and Espionage Fiction compiled by Mike Cook & Steve Miller:

One of the most frustrating aspects of this project has been when two different sources have indexed the same issue, but with significant differences. Where possible a special effort has been made to track down the issue in question to resolve such issues, but where that has not been possible:

In a small number of cases, however, it has proved impossible to decide which option is correct and in these cases a note has been appended to the item listing the possible alternative.

British Magazines

In previous indexes, very little attention has been paid to magazines published in the United Kingdom. A handful of magazines (such as John Creasey Mystery Magazine and Suspense) were covered by Michael Cook's Monthly Murders, but most of the so-called British Reprint Editions were ignored completely–not a single one of the 324 issues of the British edition of Black Mask had been indexed prior to the publication of the Crime, Mystery & Gangster Fiction Magazine Index, for example, even though a number of stories appeared in those issues but not in the American edition–as were most of the less well-known magazines from publishers such as Gerald G. Swan. Where possible, these indexes attempt to redress the situation. When considering the British magazines, there are three characteristics worth bearing in mind:

Wartime paper rationing

While British crime magazines (and other "pulps") had been published regularly in the 1920s, the heyday of the genre was undoubtedly the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s–i.e. the period overlapping the Second World War–and a significant factor in this period was paper rationing, which came into effect in April 1940 and lasted until March 1950 (for magazines). The most noticeable effect of the rationing was that magazines became very thin–it was not uncommon for the British edition of an American pulp to be a mere 64 pages and hence, necessarily, an abridgement of the original contents.

A rather less expected side-effect, though, was that the government also imposed a ban on “new” periodicals. One result of this was that, while British reprint magazines usually started as direct copies (and later as abridged copies) of the American originals, there were cases where the British magazine lasted some years beyond the end of the American magazine and then started reprinting stories from a wide variety of American sources.

In addition, enterprising publishers managed to circumvent the ban by publishing a magazine thinly disguised as independent booklets–sometimes fairly transparently (as with Gerald Swan's Gang Shorts which were labelled “1st Selection”, “2nd Collection” and so on) and sometime slightly less so (as with Brown Watson's series of Fireside Detective Casebook, Bedside Detective Casebook and Keyhole Detective Casebook). This was why there were several British “one shot” magazines during this period.

Atlas Publishing & Distributing issue numbering

The most prolific publisher for British Reprint Editions was, without a doubt, Atlas Publishing & Distributing, and the numbering (and contents) of the issues generally followed a standard pattern:

What is most intriguing about the numbering scheme in the latter phase is that it did not start at v1#1, but instead appears to take into account all the issues published by Atlas under the previous two schemes. Thus, while it is still impossible to tell which issues are missing from the index, it is usually possible to tell how many issues are missing–always assuming, of course, that Atlas' count was accurate–which is possibly the most frustrating situation to be in. (One exception to this rule is the British Reprint Edition of Black Mask which had been published by Atlas since 1923 and had run for well over 200 issues before the issue labelled v4 #12 appeared. However, in this case, it is clear there were actually two separate series of the magazine–the former being direct reprints of the US issues, with additional material, and using the same covers, while the latter had UK-specific covers and internal layout. The general assumption is that the first series was printed in the US for distribution in the UK, while the second series were printed in the UK, although there is no direct evidence this was the case.)

Dating of issues

While it is relatively easy to date the magazines from some British publishers, such as Atlas Publishing discussed above, other publishers (like Thorpe & Porter) had a disconcerting tendency to publish magazines that contained only the date of the original issue from which the contents were taken (which could have been years earlier) or had only a sequential numbering system or, in some cases, had nothing visible at all to identify publication date or even order of publication. In a small number of cases some evidence can be derived from the dates that copies were received by the British Library, but in many others there appeared to be no way of dating these issues.

Until, that is, British researchers Terry Gibbons and Alistair Durie, studying British Reprint Editions of the period across a number of genres, discovered that a fairly accurate dating could be achieved by studying the advertisements in the magazines–in particular the advertisements for Charles Atlas and for the ICS (International Correspondence School). Each Charles Atlas advert contained a code, the final letter of which changed on a monthly basis, and by examining the codes in magazines whose dates were known, Terry and Alistair identified which letters corresponded to which dates. As the letters were repeated every two years, the code on its own could not identify the date of a magazine issue, but if the approximate date is known from other sources, then the codes could be used to pin down the date fairly precisely.

The ICS advertisements provided one of the means for establishing the approximate date for an issue as each contained a banner with “X years of service” wrapped around a globe, and the X changed each year depending on the date–thus allowing the date to be established to the nearest year.

Not all issues could be dated this way and, in some cases, we have had to guess the approximate date of an issue and the order in which they appeared, but these are comparatively few.

Canadian Magazines

Sadly there has also been very little interest in Canadian pulp magazines so the information in these indexes is extremely skimpy, and mainly due to one dedicated collector–Rob Preston–but it has been possible to identify three broad "periods" for Canadian magazines:

The 1930s

Because of its closeness to the USA, Canada never developed many pulp magazines of its own, preferring to import the American magazines directly. Sometimes these were simply the US issues imported into Canada, but in many cases they were, literally, Canadian Reprint Editions that were identical to the original issues except for changing the advertisements to Canadian ones. From the cover these can sometimes be identified by having “Printed in Canada” printed on the cover; sometimes by having a different cover date; and sometimes by having a different cover price.

The early 1940s

As with the British example discussed above, the picture changed with the advent of the Second World War, in this case because of the introduction of the War Exchange Conservation Act, which was implemented in December 1940 and was designed to allocate the consumer dollars of Canadian citizens to Canadian resources and products by reducing the presence of American goods in the marketplace. The act also specifically targeted “goods associated with escapism and immorality” such as crime pulps.

While a number of American pulps continued to have Canadian editions they were now, as with the British example, fully produced in Canada, usually with new cover art and often with variant contents sometimes drawn, as again in the British case, from completely different pulp titles. This period also saw the birth of a small number of “native” Canadian pulp magazines (such as Daredevil Detective Stories) containing original stories by Canadian authors.

The late 1940s/early 1950s

The part of the War Exchange Conservation Act that affected pulps was repealed in late 1944. Pulp magazines whose US counterpart was still going strong (such as Thrilling Detective) immediately stopped producing local editions and instead started importing the US issues instead. There were typically identical to the US issues, with identical covers, although for a period the Canadian versions tended to have a colour band at the bottom of the cover, sometimes advertising Canadian Savings Bonds, and sometimes simply talking about the contents of the magazine.

In some cases the US counterpart had folded during the war, in which case the Canadian variant often continued for some years, reprinting from a variety of US pulps.

Pulp magazines of both kinds effectively came to an end in 1949, partly because of the introduction of the Fulton Bill which made it “an offence to make, print, publish, distribute, sell, or own any magazine, periodical or book which exclusively or substantially comprises matter depicting the commission of crimes, real or fictitious”, although imported US pulps continued to appear for another couple of years.

The above is a rough view only of Canadian magazines - few followed the pattern exactly as above and in many cases it is still not clear quite which issues were published (not least because of the eccentric numbering system used by many Canadian pulps) - hopefully more information will come to light in the years to come.

Other English-language magazines

After the USA, UK and Canada, the only other known prolific source of English-language crime (and similar) magazines was Australia, where they fell into three main groups:

As with Canadian magazines, there has again been very little interest in these magazines and there are many gaps, with the information we do have being due to the local collector Alastair Durie, to the AustLit database, and to librarians Chris Wood (at Monash University) and Tracey Caulfield (at the University of Melbourne).

Beyond these coverage is much thinner on the ground – we have, for example, located only a single crime magazine from each of New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland, and three from South Africa, although little is known about any of them and no collectors seem to own issues of any of them. It seems likely there are more out there we have missed and we would love to hear about them!

Magazine Sizes

Fiction magazines come in a bewildering arrangement of shapes and sizes and no attempt has been made to identify precisely what size and shape each magazine is. However, as a guide to collectors some broad classifications have been used, as follows:

A4 paper size, 297mm x 210mm
A5 paper size, 210mm x 148mm
digest roughly 5¼" x 7½", typically square-bound
large digest roughly 5¼" x 8½", typically square-bound
large pulp roughly 8½" x 11¾", pulp paper, square-bound
octavo roughly 5½" x 8½" saddle-stapled
pb paperback (roughly 4½" x 7")
ph pamphlet/chapbook
pulp roughly 7" x 10", pulp paper, square-bound
small digest roughly 4¾" x 7¼", typically square-bound
small pulp roughly 6½" x 9", pulp paper, square-bound
quarto roughly 8½" x 11" saddle-stapled
tabloid 11½" x 14" newsprint
tp trade paperback (roughly 5" x 7¾")

Where a magazine is a particularly unusual size, its dimensions may be specified explicitly (in inches).