Zorro creator Johnston McCulley 1883-1958

February 2

Zorro creator Johnston McCulley was born on today’s date in 1883 in Ottawa, Illinois. McCulley was the author of hundreds of stories for the pulps and the creator of numerous masked characters.

McCulley is one of the many writers featured in The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction.

McCulley introduced Zorro in The Curse of Capistrano, serialized beginning in the August 9, 1919, All-Story Weekly. McCulley would write dozens of stories, serials and novels about the hero through the 1940s. Zorro would inspire movies, television shows, radio dramas and more.  

One of his most long-lived characters was Thubway Tham, a pickpocket with a lisp (yes, really), who appeared in more than 100 stories from 1918 to 1960 in various publications. Mostly played for humorous effect, the stories find Tham stumbling into larger criminal enterprises as he tries to go about his lesser criminal business.

Another of McCulley’s series characters was “The Black Star,” a gentleman criminal who first appeared in “Rogue for a Day” in the March 5, 1916, Detective Story Magazine. He is always seen in a black cloak and a black hood. The Black Star appeared in 16 stories or serials over the next 15 years.

McCulley created numerous other characters as well. The Spider (not to be confused with the later hero of the same name) was a master criminal featured in a series of stories in Detective Story Magazine in 1918 and 1919. This Spider was a chair-bound cripple, running his criminal empire from his “Spider’s Den” in a large mansion.

The Crimson Clown was a modern-day Robin Hood in the 1920s and ‘30s that dressed in a red clown suit, appearing in Detective Story Magazine. He also created The Man in Purple, another short-lived Robin Hood-type character, this time dressed all in purple.

McCulley lived to see his most famous creation conquer multiple media, including the iconic 1957 Disney TV series. McCulley died in Los Angeles in 1958 at the age of 75.

January 1940: The Green Ghost Detective Debuts

The Green Ghost Detective made his debut with the January 1940 issue, of The Ghost Super-Detective 81 years ago.

The Green Ghost is one of the many hero pulps included in The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction, Volume 1.

The Green Ghost Detective magazine lasted just seven issues, but went through three name changes in its short life.

Better Publications (better known as Thrilling) launched the magazine in January 1940 as The Ghost Super-Detective. It held that name for just three issues before spending one issue as The Ghost Detective. The magazine was known as The Green Ghost Detective for its final three issues.

The Ghost/Green Ghost was George Chance, a magician who used his skills to fight crime. As The Ghost, he dons a mask with a pale white (or green) face, dead teeth and lifeless eyes. The early stories are recounted in first person, a rare choice for the hero pulps, and are credited to Chance as the author.

The Ghost was created by G.T. Fleming-Roberts, who wrote all of the novels and short stories. (There was also an unrelated “Green Ghost” written by Zorro creator Johnston McCulley in Thrilling Detective in 1934-35.)

After The Green Ghost Detective was cancelled in the summer of 1941, the character appeared in six additional stories in Thrilling Mystery.

Some of the stories have been reprinted by Altus Press and Adventure House, while Airship 27 has printed new adventures of George Chance.

The Red Jackal makes his debut

Enter the Jackal, the first book in a new pulp series by Jonathan W. Sweet, is now available at Amazon and other booksellers.

The Adventures of the Red Jackal tells the story of Blake Randolph, newspaper publisher and vigilante crimefighter, in the crime-ridden Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis in the 1930s. Enter the Jackal is the first of a planned series of adventures.

Find more and links to order here.

Submissions open for Minnesota Not-So-Nice 2

Brick Pickle Media has opened submissions for Minnesota Not-So-Nice 2: New Pulp Tales from the North Star State.

This is a follow up to our 2020 release, Minnesota Not-So-Nice. Proposals should feature stories set mostly or entirely in Minnesota. We are looking for varying lengths from short stories to novellas, including detective tales, adventures and suspense stories – tales with a twist! Stories can be new or reprints, as long as the author holds the ebook and print rights for the stories.

Proceeds from this book will benefit Second Harvest Heartland, so no royalties will be paid to authors. Every author will receive a copy of the book and will be able to purchase additional copies at cost. Authors will retain all rights to their stories.

Find more about our charity books here.

We anticipate publication in late 2021. To submit a proposal or for more information, contact Jonathan Sweet at jsweet@brickpickle.com.

Popular and Argosy writer George Bronson-Howard

January 7

George Bronson-Howard in Argosy

Pulp writer George Bronson-Howard was born on today’s date in 1884. He is one of the many writers featured in The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction Volume 2.

Bronson-Howard lived only 38 years, but packed quite a bit of life into his less than four decades.

Born in 1884 in Maryland as one of five children, he apparently displayed a precocious knack for learning. He left school at the age of 14, though, to go to work when both of his parents died within weeks of each other. He worked for the U.S. Weather Bureau, in the office of the Secretary of the Navy, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and in numerous other civil service posts.

He served as a correspondent and reporter for newspapers including the London Daily Chronicle and New York Herald.

During his time in government service, Bronson-Howard began writing for the pulps, selling stories to Argosy, The Popular Magazine, All-Story and others. His most famous creation was Norroy, a diplomatic agent (spy), who first appeared in Popular in 1905. Those stories would appear through the 1920s and the character would also make the jump to film.

Beyond his pulp writing, Bronson-Howard published 10 books and wrote numerous plays. He also wrote and directed several silent films. Bronson-Howard committed suicide in 1922 at the age of 38.