RARA-AVIS: Re: American Mercury

From: foxbrick (foxbrick@yahoo.com)
Date: 02 Jan 2009

  • Next message: foxbrick: "RARA-AVIS: Re: American Mercury"

    --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, Tim Wohlforth <timwohlforth@...> wrote:
    > Just a personal note on Mercury Books. These were published by
    > American Mercury, a literary magazine founded in 1924 by H.L.
    > They were by no means just crime novels. I possess a novel Divide
    > Two written by my mother under the name of Mildred Gilman. It was
    > originally published in hardcover by Harcourt Brace. The Mercury
    > version came out in 1940. All Mercury Books sold for 25 cents.
    > blurb on the back lists books by Sinclair Lewis, C.S. Forester ,
    > Steinbeck, and Daphne Du Maurier.

    Yes, THE AMERICAN MERCURY (always as much a political commentary magazine as a literary journal, somewhat comparable to HARPER'S or THE ATLANTIC today, or then, or THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR) was the progenitor of the Mercury Press, which also founded ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, (initially)Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas's THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, (initially) Robert P. Mills's VENTURE SCIENCE FICTION, the book series we've been discussing and their inarguable magazine continuations, a true- crime magazine, the fine shortlived nostalgia and pop-culture magazine P. S., and other projects...most of them after Lawrrence Spivak, ever more interested in hosting MEET THE PRESS at the time, sold THE AMERICAN MERCURY on the cusp of the 1950s to a group most interested in reprinting every remotely anti-Semitic quotation from Mencken they could find in the AM archives...remarkably, this near- Nazi version staggered into the 1980s before folding. (Not long after, Spivak sold his interest in Mercury Press to Joseph Ferman, who later bequeathed it to his son, Edward Ferman.)

    Also interesting to me that two of the best and certainly most important crime fiction magazines were founded to help the financial fortunes of two consecutive Mencken projects, BLACK MASK to aid the foundering THE SMART SET and EQMM to help shore up AMERICAN MERCURY...EQMM lay claim to the BLACK MASK title in the '70s as a result of this kinship of sorts, and of course has recently reintroduced the BLACK MASK title as a running department/story-per- issue umbrella. (EQMM editor Fred Dannay not only kept Hammett before the public eye in the lean years, but also enjoyed reprinting a story or two by James M. Cain from AMERICAN MERCURY.)

    Todd Mason

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