RE: RARA-AVIS: George Jean Nathan and the Mystery: Harker

From: Todd Mason (
Date: 09 Jan 2004

From: William Harker

In his "The Theatre" column for the _American Mercury_ (which he and Mencken also co-founded and co-edited) of November 1929, Nathan had some commentary regarding the mystery, particularly mystery plays dominating the New York season that year but also the mystery story.

He boiled his critique down to five "Analytical Meditations" that I shall summarize due to length:

And for all of Nathan's snobbery (fwiw, I'm not sure that the stage, with a few noble exceptions, fewer then, has ever been the place to find the better sort of mystery fiction), it's notable that through his and his colleagues' efforts to keep his ambitious magazines going, BLACK MASK and ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE (and such stablemates as MERCURY MYSTERY) were founded, and all the good things that have resulted from those magazines owe a small, and probably unwanted, debt to GJN. Perhaps it's also karmic that AMERICAN MERCURY languished for its last three decades as an all-but-Nazi magazine of little other distinction. TM

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