RARA-AVIS: Re: Horace McCoy

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 27 Jan 2002

I have read two Horace McCoy novels and both were excellent. I would rank THEY SHOOT HORSES DON'T THEY very high. Even though I read it after the movie, it still blew me away. I read I SHOULD HAVE STAYED HOME much more recently and while it did not impact me as much as HORSES, it was quite a good novel about the Hollywood 1930s that interested so many writers. I recommend both novels.

Considering how much I liked those two. It is surprising that I have not read the others. And I have the other four. If anyone has reprinted in one volume his Black Mask and other short stories, I am not aware of it. If there has been one, let me know as I would love to read them.

His short stories were noticed beyond the pulp audience. As a short story lover, over the years I have accumulated various editions of the annual O'Henry and "Best Short Stories of the Year" collections. I have always been impressed how the editors in the 1920s, 30s and 40s paid attention to popular fiction, including the pulps. Beyond the stories reprinted, the "Best" series (edited for years by Edward J. O'Brien) included an honor roll that always included pulp stories and also ran brief bios of various writers. For example, the 1928 edition included a bio of H.P. Lovecraft. Here is the brief bio on Horace McCoy from THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1931 edited by Edward J. O'Brien (Dodd, Mead 1931):

"McCoy, Horace. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, April 14, 1897. High school education. Left home in 1914 to drift from town to town in the old South and landed in Dallas in 1917. Enlisted in the National Guard, Troop G, 112th Cavalry, built Camp Bowie, Texas for 26th Division and then transferred to the Air Service. Went to France in 1917. Engaged in Aisne-Marne, Lys-Somme, Toul Sector, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives. Was wounded at Barrancourt by machine gun fire. After the Armistice wandered over France and Italy. Learned a lot about life from amateur acting in the Dallas Little Theatre. Resigned newpaper work in 1929 to devote his time exclusively to fiction writing, and has contributed to a majority of the leading pulp-paper periodicals. Lives in Dallas in a tiny apartment alone with his war trophies, his typewriter, and his ambitions. Destests any sort of intrusion, has no friends in Texas, and wants none."

I have always felt that McCoy was one of those writers who had tremendous potential but ended up devoting most of his energy to Hollywood potboilers. His first credited screenplay was an insignificant Bela Lugosi movie "Post Inspector" in 1936, the year after HORSES saw print. He did many others over the next couple of decades, most long forgotten. There were a few "A" pictures like "Gentleman Jim" with Errol Flynn but most were forgotten programmers. I'm sure they paid well but I wonder if they matched up to the
"ambitions" he mentioned when he was living in that tiny Dallas apartment in 1931.

Richard Moore

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