It wasn’t too long ago that I was Link Hopping. Now I am not sure that is the official term when you use the hyperlinks in an online report to explore deeper into the subject matter, but that’s what I call it.
Anyway, as I was hopping around I came across a magazine called The Digest Enthusiast. Normally I am not sure I would have been attracted to the publication, but in the description, it mentioned an interview with Mike Shayne author, James Reasoner. As a Shayne fan, I was interested, so I checked with the local library for a copy. No luck there, but a Google search connected me with an online service and a low introductory price. (Confession: The image of The Creature from the Black Lagoon was the primary attraction to the magazine.)
Just the first few pages of this enthusiast publications brought back some wonderful memories and sent me in search of some long-forgotten reads.
On several occasions, I have mentioned my love of pulp magazines, and I have even reviewed a few stories from those bygone publications here on our blog. (Selfless plug: I’ve even written a book in the style of those pulse-pounding adventures.) Digests are in some ways the cousins of those old pulp magazines.
The most famous digest is, of course, Reader’s Digest. That publication gave birth to the digest style: smaller than a conventional magazine but larger than a standard paperback. Like the paperback, the goal was to create something that fits in the pocket or purse and can be transported with ease. Also, it had to be inexpensive, so if you lost it, you wouldn’t hesitate to purchase another. The second most famous digest was TV Guide which hung on to the format until 2005.
As the country transitioned out of the war years all types of publications grew and faded as the country wrestled through change. The early 1960s saw a boom in digest style magazines in grocery stores, drugstores, the flourishing convenience stores, airports, and more. I remember seeing them in gift shops along the boardwalk in Virginia Beach in racks next to the postcards and comic books.
The Digest Enthusiast jogged my memory about the wealth of materials that once flooded the market for the reader. On spinner racks and newsstand shelves were: Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, Science Fantasy, Astounding, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Magazine, The Saint Detective Magazine, IF, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. You may be surprised to learn that some of these publications are still available, and new ones have been created. Check out the links in Fiction Beyond the Pulps on The Thrilling Detective Web Site.
Another reading option is archive.org. There an army of amazing people have scanned the digests in their collections for you to read at NO charge. Sometimes it may take some searching on your part, and I will tell you not everything is there, but I’ve been reading Mike Shayne, Manhunt, and Galaxy. The internet archive even has a library-style loan feature, so you may have to get on a waitlist.