Despite rumors to the contrary, I haven’t been writing since the Dark Ages. Close but at least a dozen years short of that. What I have been doing the past few months is immersing myself in fiction from the 1920s. I’m currently surrounded by a number of stories that appeared in the classic pulp magazines and sold millions of copies. Why are you doing this, you might ask. Hey, I’m delighted you did because hopefully you’ll indulge me for a few minutes.
To clarify, all the pulp fiction I’ve been reading was written by one man, Homer Eon Flint who died violently and mysteriously in 1924 at age 36. Why him? One reason. He was my grandfather. I believe whatever writing genes I have came from him.
Sentiment aside, every time I open one of his stories, I discover a writing style that might not pass muster with today’s editors. Today’s writing ‘rules’ call for no information dumps and for the most part shun omniscient point of view. Well, there was a lot of info dumping and the all-knowing author in Grandpa’s day and it paid well.
Example: The Money-Miler, his last story, was published a few months after his death. He received $400 for the novella—in 1924.
Starting in January, Grandpa’s body of work both published and in manuscript form will join the electronic age via a project http://www.musapublishing.com/ is running with. I can hardly wait to see how today’s readers respond to what he wrote nearly 100 years ago. Fortunately, thanks to Sue Grimshaw, I can jump the gun a bit with an example of what both brings Grandpa back to life for me and serves as a representation of his time.
At the start of The Money-Miler, the reader is introduced to truck driver Lawrence Stowe. The young protagonist doesn’t know it yet but his world will change today. However, before it does, he engages in—well, let the narrative tell the tale.
On the counter stood a slot machine, of a type outlawed in certain cities. The truck driver dove into his pocket and unearthed a handful of small change, which he regarded rather seriously. But he selected a quarter and silently placed it on the counter. As silently the proprietor passed over five brass slugs, on the order of round Chinese ‘cash’. The driver proceeded to test his luck. Immediately he began to win. Slug after slug drew forth returns two, four, eight, twelve, and even twentyfold. In five minutes he had a double handful.
“Hey—my lucky day,” he jubilated in a low, agreeable voice, for the benefit of a totally indifferent proprietor. “First time I’ve won in a week. If I had any sense now, I’d quit.”
He kept right on dropping slugs into the machine’s willing throat. Eight or ten disappeared without effect; it began to look hopeless for the double handful. At that psychological moment the telephone rang; and the proprietor, noticeably irritated, said:
“Office has been trying to get you, Stowe. Guess that’s them now.”
I couldn’t get away with presenting that to an editor today, but it paid off big time for Grandpa.
The roaring twenties seem like ages ago — is this a time period that interests you & if so what do you find so intriguing about those days — remember, 5 winners are chosen weekly for a giveaway – winners announced on Sunday – good luck!!