Thursday, June 15, 2017

Geek Gab: On the Books and Stage Magic

Yesterday, I was privileged to join Brian Niemeier and Alfred from the Injustice Gamer on the Geek Gab On The Books livestream to talk about pulps, detective stories, and crime.

When the conversation turned to some of the more unique pulps, a connection was made between pulp writers and their hobby of stage magic, which both Brian and Jeffro Johnson of Castalia House found significant.

To support this connection, let me reprint the comments I left on the Castalia House article:

Will Murray pointed out the connection in his introduction to the reissues of the Diamondstone stories:
“FOR some unexplained reason, magic fascinated the pulp writers of the 1930s and ’40s.
“The king of them all was Walter B. Gibson, who created The Shadow out of a mesmerizing radio voice and his close association with Blackstone, Thurston, Houdini, Dunninger and other notable magicians. Gibson was as famous for his books on stage magic as he was for his prolific pulp output. He knew all the tricks, from Hypnotism to escape stunts, and employed them freely in spinning his Shadow stories.
“If being a denizen of the Pulp Jungle made a writer part of a special subculture, then there was a subset of that subculture where pulpsmithing and sleight of hand intersected. An amazing number of them were amateur or performing magicians.” 
Fleming-Roberts, G.T.. Diamondstone: Magician-Sleuth . Altus Press. Kindle Edition.
Here is a short list of stage magic-inspired pulpsters: Lester Dent, Walter Gibson, Norvell Page, Paul Ernst, “Curtis Steele”, Ken Crossen, Clayton Rawson, G. T. Fleming-Roberts, H. P. Lovecraft.
And the intersection between stage magic and mystery is natural, as Murray points out, “Misdirection is the stock-in-trade of the performing professional illusionist and escape artist. Mystery writers also employed it to keep their culprits before the eye of the reader, yet unsuspected until the climax.”
For the science fiction fans, add Issac Asimov to the list of magician-authors as well. He was part of a New York social circle known as the Witch Doctor’s Club, a collection of writers and magicians that included many of the names I previously mentioned as well as Orson Welles. Like a stage version of Fight Club, if it was your first night, you had to perform a stage magic routine…

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