Was Tennessee Williams’ First Published Work in the Pages of Weird Tales?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about theater and whether they are true or false.

THEATER URBAN LEGEND: Tennessee Williams’ first published standalone work was a story in the pulp magazine, Weird Tales!

Tennessee Williams is one of the most celebrated playwrights of the 20th Century (and one of the most celebrated American playwrights without qualification).

Between 1944 and 1960, he wrote some of the most famous plays in the history of American Theater…

And his first professional standalone work?

It appeared in the pages of Weird Tales magazine!
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Did England Once Try to Arrest the Creator of a Pseudonym for Stories He Didn’t Write?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about pulp fiction and whether they are true or false.

PULP FICTION URBAN LEGEND: The writer who created the character (and pen name) Hank Janson was prosecuted by the British government, who did not check to make sure that he was the Hank Janson that they wanted!

Stephen Frances was a writer who began his own small publishing company at the tail end of World War II. At one point in 1946, a distributor was looking for a novel and Frances had none ready to go, so he bluffed his way through it, claiming he’d have one the next week. He then proceeded to write the first Hank Janson novel, When Dames Get Tough…

The book was a success. Hank Janson was an American character, and Frances created the pen name of Hank Janson to use with the story, as well, so the books were sold to the British public as a sordid, true-to-America crime story.

Frances, though, was not involved in the writing of the novels after the first few. He sold off his rights to the character and the name.

Soon, Hank Janson books were selling in the millions.

And they were getting randier and randier…

And that became a problem in the 1950s, when the British government began to be more and more involved in cracking down on “obscene” material.

In 1954, perhaps driven by the sensational murder of a police officer by a teenager following an attempted break-in (which was, itself, followed by the execution of the mentally challenged accomplice of the murderer, for being considered to have “jointly” committed the homicide – a charge the dead man was years later posthumously pardoned for), there was even a bigger drive to get rid of “obscene” pulp fiction, which, just like comic books in the United States, were being blamed as contributors to delinquency.

And a major target was Hank Janson, by then a multi-million book-selling franchise.

Janson’s publisher and distributor were both criminally prosecuted under the obscenity laws for seven recent Hank Janson novels. They also issued a warrant for the arrest of the writer of Hank Janson, Hank Janson himself, Stephen Frances!
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How Did John D. MacDonald Become a Professional Writer Without Even Knowing It?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about pulp fiction and whether they are true or false.

PULP FICTION URBAN LEGEND: John D. MacDonald became a professional writer without knowing it.

John D. MacDonald, like many popular pulp writers, was also extremely underrated.

MacDonald’s most famous single work is most likely The Executioners…

which was later remade into the film classic, Cape Fear…

But he’s also well known for his series of novels starring the character, Travis McGee, beginning with Deep Blue Good-by…

What’s amazing, though, is that his long and storied career really began when he became a professional writer…without his knowledge!
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Did Edmond Hamilton Really Invent Captain Future?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about pulp fiction and whether they are true or false.

PULP FICTION URBAN LEGEND: Captain Future was created by Edmond Hamilton.

Let’s be clear, the great (and eternally underrated) Edmond Hamilton was clearly the driving force behind Captain Future, a very well-regarded pulp hero of the 1940s, who starred in his own pulp magazine (titled Captain Future) for 17 issues over four years. That series was so well-regarded that it was later reprinted in the popular Startling Stories pulp magazine, leading to a short return of new Captain Future stories as part of Startling Stories for a few years in the early 1950s.

When these stories were collected a few years back, Hamilton is the only name mentioned…

and unless you want to argue that his wife, Leigh, had some influence upon Hamilton’s writing, this is a fair assessment, as Captain Future was basically Hamilton’s character and Hamilton alone.

However (there’s almost always a “however,” isn’t there?), Hamilton did not create the character.
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