This is a sassy little read that features some of the most popular and sensational true crime stories published in the 1940s and 1950s in an Australian pulp magazine called Famous Detective Stories.
From National Library of Australia’s NLA Publishing, Famous Detective Stories: True Tales of Australian Crime is a tribute to a part of Aussie literary history. While nowhere near the Miles Franklin Award, the pulp mag Famous Detective Stories was wildly popular and publishing entrepreneur Frank Johnson had a pool of moonlighting journalists, crime enthusiasts and former detectives who wrote the lurid crime tales from newspaper clippings. Pulp magazines were thin volumes printed on cheap paper – hence the moniker.
Despite some blaming pulp mags for contributing to the moral and cultural decay of society at the time, the public lapped up the tales and the magazine was a monthly publication from 1946 to early 1954.
The book is illustrated by the newspaper clippings to accompany the stories, which is fascinating for readers and gives them a sense of the tone of crime reporting of the time.
The titles of the stories are intriguing and explicit – Murder in Secret, Cattle Stealers of the Black Country, See You in Church and hell on High Seas (among others).
A must-read for true crime buffs or anyone interested interested in Australian social history.
The book is released on July 1 from NLA Publishing.
Background information from ‘A world of fancy fiction and fact’: The Frank C. Johnson Archive at the State Library of New South Wales, by Rachel Franks, State Library of New South Wales. (Definitely worth a read.)