Tag Archives: Carter Brown

Damned to literary obscurity: June Wright and Murder In the Telephone Exchange

JUNE_WRIGHT-author-picAs a seasoned habitué of second hand bookshops, and what is known in some quarters as ‘an early career author’, I often ponder the reality of literary obscurity.

It takes stern stuff (or huge sales) to go into a large second hand bookshop and not feel humbled by the sight of shelf upon shelf of old books. All those hours, days, weeks, years of literary labour selling cheap, if they sell at all.

What makes a particular book or author famous, while the majority are forgotten – the vagaries of history or the market, luck or accident? Equally fascinating is the process by which some authors are plucked from historical obscurity and given a second chance.

I thought about this most recently while reading Murder in The Telephone Exchange, a murder mystery set in late forties Melbourne by June Wright, recently re-released by US-based publisher, Verse Chorus Press.

You can read the rest of this piece here on the Overland Magazine blog.

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Interview: Australian pulp fiction historian Toni Johnson Woods

Dr Toni Johnson Woods is someone I’ve been keen to interview on this blog for a while now.

A Research Fellow at University of Queensland, she is passionate about Australian books. Not just capital ‘L’ literature, but the local mass produced pulp fiction of the forties, fifties and early sixties, the existence of which has all but disappeared from our collective cultural memory.

Her commitment to the cause of local pulp includes having listened to hours of popular radio serials (Carter Brown Mystery Theatre and Larry Kent’s I Hate Crime), scanned thousands of pulp fiction covers and read every nearly all 300 Carter Brown novels.

She very generously agreed to answer the following questions about her work by e-mail.

What attracted you to researching pulp fiction in the first place? 

One very unremarkable day I was chatting with colleagues in the tearoom. As you can imagine our conversations are very lofty – not.  I asked the most basic question: who is Australia’s most popular author.

Well, we batted that around for several minutes arguing about what “popular” means, i.e. best selling, most widely read, most known author.  All of these things are not the same. The discussion then turned to what is an Australian author, i.e. someone who was born in Australia?… Read more

Australia’s other lost literary heritage

There’s been a bit of discussion in literary circles recently about whether enough is being done to maintain the public’s interest in the classics of Australian literature. To my surprise it’s a debate I’ve only been able to drum up half-hearted enthusiasm for.

The catalyst was an article by Text Publisher Michael Heyward in late January, in which he criticised journalists, cultural commentators and university academics for failing to create an enduring tradition for appreciating and teaching Australian literature. He singled out universities in particular for the lack of courses about Australian writing.

Perhaps in response, the latest program put out by the Wheeler Centre includes a series of talks called Literature 101, in which contemporary writers talk about classic Australian texts.

You won’t get an argument from me about the importance of Australian literature in building our individual and collective sense of historical self. I also agree universities are failing to teach Australian literature, although I think the problem lies less in any wilful neglect on the part of academics than in the gradual privatisation of our higher education system. Persistent federal government underfunding has squeezed course diversity in favour of subjects that generate income, particularly full fee income. Australian literature is not Robinson Crusoe in this regard. Try studying ancient history or the language of a country that is not one of our major trading partners, and you’ll get the picture.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Triple Shot of Carter Brown

“A cold corpse becomes a hot assignment to curvy blonde, Mavis Seidlitz.”  

Today’s Pulp Friday is a triple shot of covers from one of my late father’s favourite pulp authors, Carter Brown.

Carter Brown AKA Alan Geoffrey Yates was a Australian-British author who wrote a massive 317 novels in a career that spanned from 1958-1985. Tens of millions of these were sold all over the anglo world.

Most of his stories were crime, although at the beginning of his career he also wrote horror and Westerns under the alias Tex Conrad. His books were published in Australia by Horwitz and in the US by Signet.

Cops and private investigators were his staple characters, the stories a mixture of sex and action, leavened with a bit of tough guy humour. The writing’s not brilliant, but, hey, that’s no surprise given how fast he churned books out.

His first Horwitz contract stipulated two novellas and one full length novel a month. He could write as much as 40,000 words overnight, reputedly with the assistance of Dexedrine which he used to stay awake for periods of up to 48 hours.

As was common practice on the part of Australian pulp writers in the fifties and sixties, all of his books were set in the United States.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Playback by Raymond Chandler

This week’s Pulp Friday offering needs no introduction, Raymond Chandler’s Playback.

Playback was Chandler’s last book, published in 1958, a year before his death, and based on a screenplay he had written several years earlier. It features his iconic creation Philip Marlowe.

This is an Australian version of the book, published locally by Horwitz Publications in 1961.

Based in Sydney but with offices in Melbourne, Horwitz Publications was established in 1921. It started out doing trade publications and sporting magazines, but by the fifties had branched into popular and pulp fiction, including mystery, thrillers, romance and westerns.

The company published locally sourced stories, as well as Australians editions of overseas works. Well know authors included Carter Brown, Marshall Grover and Marc Brody. Some of its best known names were pseudonyms used by multiple writers.

Horwitz ceased producing fiction in the late nineties.

Although Playback is considered the weakest of Chandler’s seven novels, I’m sure you’ll agree with me the cover is a beauty.

The blurb on the back is also a vintage hard boiled prose.

“The Redhead didn’t look like a tramp, not did she look like a crook.

But when hard-boiled Philip Marlowe was paid to tail her he got plenty besides information.” 

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