Memories of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine
Reminisces By Richard A. Moore

Although I never ghosted the Mike Shayne stories, I did have several stories published in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine beginning in 1978. And MSMM always had a special place in my heart. It was the first mystery magazine I purchased (October1959), as I could not resist a mag with both a Mike Shayne novelet and a Robert Bloch short story. There was also a picture and editorial by Brett Halliday, the creator of Mike Shayne. The picture revealed that Halliday wore a black eye patch and, boy, did that fit my teenage image of a detective writer.

MSMM later gave me a boost when I really needed one. In 1971 when I was recently back from Vietnam and my plans to write fulltime were being upset by family illnesses, I managed to write three short stories. All were rejected, but the third came back from Mike Shayne (the last possible market) with a brief but encouraging note from editor Cylvia Kleinman. Her note kept my hopes alive for several black years that maybe, perhaps, one day I might be a published writer.

I did not know that Cylvia was the wife of the founder and publisher Leo Margulies. I only knew that she had been the managing editor of one of his earlier science fiction magazines Satellite Science Fiction (1956-1959). Margulies (1900-1975) was a legendary pulp editor and publisher. Beginning with the Munsey chain in 1932, he was a major figure in the pulp world as Frank Gruber documented in his superb memoir The Pulp Jungle. In his heyday, Margulies ran the "Thrilling" chain of pulps including Thrilling Detective, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Thrilling Adventure. When the pulps gave way to digest size magazines, he turned out Fantastic Universe, The Saint Detective Magazine, MSMM, Shell Scott Mystery Magazine and others.

I sold stories to both Sam Merwin Jr. as well as Charles Fritch. Until James Reasoner's recent posting (on Rara-Avis) I did not realize that editor Larry Shaw had only been around for one issue. My one contact with him was a rejection but it was the sweetest rejection I ever received. Shaw was a great guy and much lamented.

Merwin was an interesting man. His father Samuel Merwin (1874-1936) was a very popular novelist of the Booth Tarkington type in the 1920s. Merwin worked for Margulies, off and on, throughout his life. Beginning on the Thrilling chain in the late 1930s, he is best remembered as a popular editor of the science fiction pulps Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories. He would leave editing for periods to write both mysteries and SF novels but would always return to Margulies magazines in some sort of editorial capacity. Mystery novels by Merwin include Murder in Miniature (Doubleday 1940), Knife In My Back (Mystery House 1945), and The Cfeeping Shadow (Gold Medal 1952).

Charles E. Fritch was also both an editor and a writer. He had previous editing stints in both mysteries (Chase) and science fiction (Gamma) and his often biting short stories had appeared for years in both genres. Along the way he turned out a mystery novel, Negative of a Nude (1959), in the very collectable Ace Double Book series, where two novels were printed back-to-back with a cover for each on the opposing sides.

The issues of the late 70s had some good stuff by Reasoner, Joe Lansdale, Ernest Savage, and a few others. About that time I met Landsdale in person and we corresponded for a bit. One of my favorite issues from that period was that for April 1979. It had a lead novelette by Landsdale ("One Blonde, Well Dead"), as well as short stories by Reasoner, Fritch, Ed Hoch, and Frank Sisk. I also had a story in the issue ("Sacrifice") for which I have a fondness.

About this time, I thought it would make marketing sense to do a Christmas story early enough in the year that an editor could buy it well before planning their December issue. So I wrote the story "An Unexpected Gift" and sent it around to various markets. It frankly wasn't much of a story all turned it down until I sent it to MSMM and they bought it. The surprise came when my May 1979 issue came in the mail. There was my Christmas story! All I can figure is that they had a hole of a certain length and my story was the only one that matched the hole.

MSMM was never a top market. The early years did have some good stories from William Campbell Gault and Richard Deming. I very much liked the Dennis Lynds' Slot Machine Kelly stories in the 60s. The mag also had some good ones by long-forgotten Fletcher Flora. Flora had a nice touch with a story. Now and then a Jack Ritchie would appear, no doubt after first being bounced by Alfred Hitchcock. And Pronzini was a regular for years.

I liked MSMM because it was more receptive to tougher stories but the pay was terrible. Once, however, Renown Publications sent me a second check for a story by mistake and I mailed it back. There was no thank you. They were probably too shocked.

No, MSMM was not a great magazine. But it was a lot of fun and I was a subscriber to the day it folded.

Portions of this piece originally appeared as a post on Rara-Avis. Thanks, Richard.

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