RARA-AVIS: Robert Turner duo

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 27 Feb 2003

Reading an interesting book often sends me to abebooks.com where I buy a gaggle of books by that writer. Most recently this happened to me after reading SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE WRITERS, BUT I WOULDN'T WANT MY DAUTHER TO MARRY ONE (Sherbourne Press 1970) by Robert Turner, a guy who came up in the pulps and prospered in the digest era.

Turner admitted he had had bad luck with novels and spent far more time discussing his short stories. He was most proud of being a regular in
"Manhunt," the highly influencial digest that began in 1953, prospered through most of the 50s but retreated into reprints and poorly paid new material in the 1960s. In its heyday, "Manhunt" was a proving ground for young writers like Evan Hunter and hot writers like Mickey Spillane, Ross Macdonald, Richard Prather and "big names" like Erskine Caldwell, James Farrell, B. Traven, and James M. Cain.

"Manhunt" meant so much to Turner that he resented the fact that they never published his picture along with his bio while publishing more than one on Hal Ellson, trumpeted as the author of "Duke." It bugged him so much that he dashed off a parady of Ellson and sent it to his agent Scott Meredith as a joke. Meredith surprised Turner by not only liking the story by selling it to "Playboy."

There are lots of stories like that in Turners autobiography. But my enjoyment and appreciation increased immensely once I recieved via abebooks the collection SHROUD 9 (Powell Books 1970). Turner mentioned this collection in his autobio published the same year. As he noted, Powell was a publisher willing to take risks. I recall Powell as the first publisher of Karl Edward Wagner and the publisher of interesting collections by Charles Fritch and Donald Wolheim. I remember it more as a SF and fantasy publisher and always thought Forrest J. Ackerman must have been the editor or close to the editor because A.E. Van Vogt and other Ackerman clients were all published by Powell.

I decided to take a chance on Turner's SHROUD 9, even though every description by booksellers echoed the blurb that indicated it was a fantasy/horror story. "Eighteen stories of ghoulish terror..." it reads.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of the stories are from mystery digests including 11 from "Manhunt." Those that were published elsewhere were also crime or mystery stories.

So I heartily recommend SHROUD 9 to anyone who hungers for stories from
"Manhunt" but who doesn't want to pay the heavy price issues now bring. Turner was a mainstay of the magazine and I have to say several of his stories are as hardboiled as they come and others really explore new territory in plotting. Having read the stories behind the stories in SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS just makes the reading more delicious. Neither book is common but there are reasonable copies of Shroud 9 available and you can keep your eye out for copies of the autobio.

I've picked up a few of Turner's novels but have missed out on several mysteries. I want to find the one that Evan Hunter sold for him when Hunter was working for Scott Meredith. It was for a struggling paperback house that published novels under the Falcon imprint. The fee was $250 down and another
$250 on handing in an approved manuscript. The whole thing went smoothly and he collected the second fee but then Hunter called him and told him he had to add 5000 words to the end of the novel. The way Turner managed it was pretty slick and won Hunter's admiration. Hunter had personal experience with the publisher as they published his first mystery the legendary THE EVIL SLEEP!
(1952) as well as another the same year THE BIG FIX, later reprinted by Gold Medal as SO NUDE, SO DEAD as by Richard Marsten. The story of the upped word count had special meaning for me as I once had to add 5000 words to a novel manuscript after handing in a complete version at the original word length. It is tough as nails to do.

Anyway, get both if you can but most certainly the story collection. Good stuff!!

Richard Moore

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