Doctor Death, Black Mask writer Harold Ward

January 5

Harold Ward’s Doctor Death

Doctor Death writer Harold Ward was born on this date in 1879. He is one of the many writers featured in The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction Volume 2.

Ward wrote hundreds of stories for the pulps, but his most well-known creations today are the Doctor Death stories.

Ward was born in 1879 and worked as a journalist before getting his start in the pulps. His first pulp stories were in the late 1910s in outlets like Snappy Stories and Argosy. By the 1920s he was writing for Black Mask, under his own name and multiple pen names.

His story “The Skull” appeared in the first issue of Weird Tales (March 1923) and he continued to write for the magazine through the 1930s.

When Dell’s All Detective Magazine became Doctor Death with the February 1935 issue, Ward (writing under the pen name “Zorro”) wrote the adventures of Dr. Rance Mandarin, a former professor and master of the occult. The stories headlined that magazine for three issues before reverting back to its former name.

Ward’s pulp career appears to have been over by 1940. He died in 1950.

2020 Best Sellers

These were our top-selling items for the entire year of 2020. The year presented many challenges to our business and family, but we are also happy to report that 2020 was our best year since we started the business in 2014.

(As always, important to remember that we specialize in collectible items and niche categories, so it’s going to look a little different than your traditional best-seller list.)

  1. The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction Vol. 1
  2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  3. Minnesota’s 50 Greatest Baseball Players
  4. The Stand by Stephen King
  5. The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction Vol. 2
  6. Thrilling Detective Pulp Tales Vol. 1
  7. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  8. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  9. Thrilling Detective Pulp Tales Vol .2
  10. The Spider Returns movie serial

December Best Sellers

These were our top-selling items for December. Christmas seems to have brought out the readers (or at least the book-givers), as we had our best month in the history of the business.

(As always, important to remember that we specialize in collectible items and niche categories, so it’s going to look a little different than your traditional best-seller list.)

  1. Minnesota’s 50 Greatest Baseball Players by Jonathan W. Sweet
  2. Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  3. Deck the Pulps
  4. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  5. Chattering Rods and Private Hawkshaws: The Best of Robert Leslie Bellem, Vol. 1
  6. Thrilling Detective Pulp Tales Vol. 6
  7. The Gunslinger by Stephen King
  8. The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction Vol. 1 by Jonathan W. Sweet
  9. Pulp from the Pyramids
  10. Thrilling Detective Pulp Tales Vol .2

Adventure star Arthur D. Howden Smith

December 29
August 20, 1923, Adventure, featuring Arthur D. Howden Smith’s first Swain the Viking story, “Swain’s Stone.”

One of the top writers at Adventure, Arthur D. Howden Smith was born on this date in 1887 in New York. He is one of the many authors featured in The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction, Volume 2.

As a teenager, Smith became an apprentice at the New York Evening Post. His career as a reporter started when he headed to the Balkans in 1907 to cover Macedonia’s revolt against the Turkish Empire.

He returned to the United States to work for the newspaper in 1908. His first story for Adventure was published in 1911. While writing for the pulp, he continued to work as a journalist.

In 1923, Smith published his first story of Swain the Viking. His best-known series, The Grey Maiden, telling the story of a famous sword through the ages, was first published in 1929.

Smith wrote a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Porto Bello Gold, in 1924, and a sequel to Kidnapped, Alan Breck Again. He also wrote several biographies and books on American history.

Smith died at the age of 58 in 1945.

Fritz Leiber, Pulp Sword and Sorcery Star

December 24

Legendary sword and sorcery writer Fritz Leiber was born 110 years ago this Christmas Eve. He is one of the writers included in The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction, Volume 1.

One of the leaders of the “sword and sorcery” genre, Leiber did most of his pulp work as the magazines were fading away.

His first pulp sale was “Two Sought Adventure,” published in the August 1939 Unknown. It introduced his most famous characters, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The two were, according to Lieber, his effort to make more realistic heroes than the super-humans represented by characters like Tarzan and Conan.

Fafhrd is a tall, strong barbarian, while the Mouser is a small, mercurial thief, and a former wizard’s apprentice. The majority of the stories are set in the fictional world of Nehwon (“Nowhen” spelled backwards). Several additional Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories would appear in Unknown, then in other science fiction magazines after Unknown folded in 1943.

Lieber’s stories outside the series appeared in several other pulps, including Amazing Stories and Future Fiction. Lieber’s first two novels were also serialized in the pulps in 1943, Conjure Wife in Unknown and Gather Darkness! in Astounding.

The fantasy pioneer died in 1992.