Friday, October 5, 2018

It Was My Mother's Fault

When I was young, there were three magazines I could always count on finding around the house -- True Story, True Detective and Fate.

True Story, started in 1919, part of a genre called confession stories, tales usually written in the first person, telling of emotionally charged situations and romances. At the time, I thought the magazine lived up to its name and the the "confessions" were true. Happily, they were fiction. Of the three magazines, it was the only one I had to read on the sly. It wasn't so much that it actually contained naughty stories (compared to today's standards they were sparkling clean) but that they addressed subjects such as infidelity, alcoholism and all the other facets of life that gossiping neighbors only spoke of in whispers, and only after making sure no young ears were present...hey, I was good at not being noticed. My nose may have been stuck in a book, but my ears were quivering. So, even though my mother never told me I could not read them, I knew enough not to get caught. Admittedly, my sheltered upbringing meant that much of what went on in the stories was incomprehensible to me, but, even so, the stories were compelling. The magazine is still around, but I assume its fiction has kept pace with the times, unfortunately.

True Detective was probably the best of the true crime magazines that proliferated during the Forties and Fifties, and my mother always had plenty on hand. Even back then, I was an aficionado of crime, a budding criminologist. When I opened my first detective agency at age nine, it was inspired equally by Sherlock Holmes and True Detective. While I may have been confused about the veracity of confession stories, I harbored no such doubt about the reports of murder, robberies and sex crimes found in the pages of True Detective. I appeared in the magazine in the very early Sixties. One of the stories, a murder, I think, took place in National City and the newspaper reporter (the magazine provided a nice second income for crime journalists and literate police officers) submitted several photographs to illustrate the article. In one of the photos, there we are, Aunt Joyce and me, crossing Highland Avenue at 15th Street. Aunt Joyce attended National City Junior High her walk home took her past Highland (now Otis) Elementary, and sometimes we would end up walking grandparents lived down the street from us on E. 17th Street. My grandmother, also an avid reader of such magazines, discovered the photo and promptly called my mother. They were both appalled their children had appeared, even as innocent bystanders, in such a magazine, but Joyce and I were thrilled. Unfortunately, True Detective did not survive into the 21st Century, coming to an end in the mid-Nineties. The demise of the magazine was explained by former True Detective managing editor Marc Gerald: “...our readership of blue hairs, shut-ins, Greyhound bus riders, cops and ax murderers was old and dying fast.” 

Fate Magazine is another periodical that has survived into this strange new century, and of the three magazines probably had the most effect on me and my writing. Even today, I sometimes peruse my copies from the Fifties and Sixties for inspiration. The purpose of Fate remains unchanged after 60 years and four owners -- reveal the strange true mysteries of the world, such as UFOs, cryptozology, psychic phenomena, ghosts, lost civilizations and the like. As you can see, the covers have changed over the years, but the content remains uniform. I like the art covers, but by the time I came across my mother's stash, the magazine had switched to the type of cover depicted in the center. While I don't personally care for the modern photo cover it was in one of those issues that my story about the Hohokam Indians appeared, an article that led to a 2-hour interview on a Phoenix radio station.

Occasionally I am asked about influences upon my writing. Of course I mention my favorite writers, such as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Raymond Chandler and Joseph Conrad, and the many books such as Moby Dick, Atlas Shrugged and At the Mountains of Madness. I also mention the events of my own life such as serving in the military, riding trains around Europe, and experiencing tragic losses. But I also have to give a nod to these three magazines, publications that many might call "trashy." But I really don't feel responsible for these dubious influences -- it was my mother's fault.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ralph

    This brought back memories

    I did read a couple of True Confessions as a lad. A pile was turfed by the old couple next store. Mr Shaw was always seen in a suit and tie and his wife wife the image of someone's fairly well off great aunt. The only story I recall was The Whole City Watched Me Sin about necking in a late night news studio.

    I did not read True Detective but I can see a copy of Fate with Kenneth Arnold's The Truth About Flying Saucers (Spring 1948) from where I sit.

    All the best

    And of course