Re: RARA-AVIS: howard browne

From: Maura McMillan (
Date: 11 Dec 2000

>I think you've already read the best of Browne, but you might like THIN
>AIR.  Browne spoke at the Monterey Bouchercon a few years ago, and he told
>some great stories about his writing life, including his years as editor of
>AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC.  Anyboy remember the one about how he came
>to write a story as "Mickey Spillane"?

Pray forgive the errors
and yes i know this is huge.

From Incredible Ink, Howard Browne, 1997, Dennis McMillan:

When they finally did get moved to New York in 1951, I went, too, and Davis gave me a raise and made me the boss of all their pulps, since Palmer had resigned. I had never been happy with the pulps we had-almost immediately I tried to get them to change the make-up of the magazines and go to the digest size. Amazing was to be a slick, but the Korean War intervened, and we ran into paper problems, as we had before in WWII, when we had to keep cutting the page count down. I do think that the first two issues of Fantastic were as good a magazine in that genre as has ever appeared (being modest, which I rarely am). We had writers in there, boy! Raymond Chandler, Roy Huggins (which was me, in this case! but more on that later), Truman Capote, Steven Vincent Benet, Evelyn Waugh, Ray Bradbury, John Wyndam, Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber, Cornell Woolrich, Samuel Hopkins Adams (!), William McGivern, and Frank M. Robinson (who was our office boy at the time and later co-wrote The Towering Inferno).
After we'd brought out the first issue of Fantastic in the summer of 1952, Bill Ziff called me down to his office and said, "Why don't you get a story by Mickey Spillane?" Well, Spillane was at the hottest point in his career at that time.
I said, "Mr. Ziff, Spillane is a detective story writer, and he gets the kind of money that pulp magazines don't dream about."
"Well, okay, it was just a suggestion." Now, when the boss makes a suggestion, you try to figure out a way to pull it off, if you can, to get in good with him. So I called up an agent I knew and asked him who Spillane's
agent was. He replied, "By a strange coincidence, I am-I just recently signed him."
"What would he charge to write a fantasy story for me?" He said, "Howard, you couldn't afford it-this man gets a tremendous price. However, Spillane wrote a fantasy story that's been turned down by everybody in the business-I have to tell you this."
I said, "Let me see it." "Look, it's not very good." "Let me see it."
So, he sent it to me. It was one of these stories where a guy is sitting in his study, and there's a picture on the wall with a draw-drape over it so you can't see it, and he tells his friend this story: a woman he met, and on and on for 6,000 words. At the end, he pulls the curtain and the woman has green skin-the title of the story was "The Woman with Green Skin." He gave away his story in the title! It was just awful-it didn't even read like Spillane, but he'd written it.
I went down to Ziff's office and told him I'd gotten a story by Spillane. 'Jesus, that's great!" he said.
"You're going to have to read it before we talk any further." By page four, he had gone as far as he could.
I went back upstairs and called the agent and asked him how much he wanted for the story. "Jesus, Howard, I couldn't let it go for under $ 1,000."
"I'll give you the $1,000-if you'll send me a letter to the effect that I can make any editorial changes I think necessary."
'Jesus, I don't know if Spillane'd like that ... you know, he's pretty funny . . . "
I said, "Well, I'll pay the thousand if you'll do it." Cupidity got the better of good judgement, and he said all right. He sent me a letter to that effect, I sent him a thousand bucks, and I threw the manuscript in the waste basket. I went home on Friday night, and Sunday morning I came in with a 15,000 word Mickey Spillane story, "The Veiled Woman." I think I killed fourteen people in it. And at the end he shot the woman in the belly for killing his wife. You got your 25 cents' worth!
The magazine hit the stands on a Tuesday, and on that Thursday, we started getting telephone calls and telegrams from the distributors-"We want more, send us more!"
I called Ziff, told him what was happening, and urged him to print up another 150,000-200,000 copies-we could clean up! We had a big meeting at which the circulation manager, Harry Strong, was pretty weak. He said, "Let's take the money and run-" (we'd sold 300,000 copies in three days) and that scotched that.
Then the agent called me at home, terribly upset-Spillane had called him up and just raised hell. He (Spillane) was going to release the information to all the news services-and they would've put it on the wire, too, it being Mickey Spillane. He had been insulted, etc. A girl once told me that she loved to take a Spillane to the beach because if the wind blew the book twenty pages one way or the other it didn't make a damn bit of difference. I said to the agent, "Look, let me see if I can smooth it over."
I called him up at his home in Newburgh, NY, and said, "Mr. Spillane, this is Howard Browne, and I understand you're upset with me," and put down the receiver. I'd never heard such a barrage of profanity in my life. It was full of fascinating cuss words that I'd never heard before! It went on and on and on-finally he began to repeat himself. I got back on the line and said, "I can understand how upset you are by all this-now let me tell you my side of the story. We bought the story in good faith, I loved the story (god forgive me!), we were going to run it, but I happened to pick up a copy of Life magazine shortly after we bought it, and it had a five or six page spread of you telling the story, 'The Woman with the Green Skin.' So, we no longer had first rights to the story- you'd already told it to a national publication." I had seen this magazine just before we published my version of the story, and I knew I had my ace-in-the-hole if it ever came to it, which it did!
I said, "We tried to reach you, but you were with some cops somewhere," (his agent had told me that he was a cop buff, always riding around with them, etc., and had been doing just that at the time in question) "so, in desperation, I sat down and wrote this thing myself, doing my best to match your inimitable style, and I did the best I could."
He said, "Well, it stunk! It was horrible . . . " I said, "Well, I've done some writing, and I figured-"
"What'd you ever write?"
"Well, I wrote under the name of John Evans-"
"You wrote the Halo books?" (My fame goes far!) "Yeah, as a matter of fact-"
"I've got a couple of 'em on the shelf here."
Now we were two pros talking, you see. It made a big difference. "Well, I'm sorry it happened this way," he said, "but I had no idea the story would sell when I did the piece for Life, it'd been around so long. Let's just forget it." Our lawyer was listening in on the other line and gave a silent whoop of joy.

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