Friday, November 9, 2018

Paul Ernst (1899-1985)-Part Two

Paul Ernst lived a long life and enjoyed a long career as an author of stories published in popular magazines. The FictionMags Index has his first story as "Lights Out," published in Breezy Stories in July 1926. (He was then twenty-six years old and presumably living in Chicago with his mother.) Wikipedia gives a very late credit, a short story called "Blackout" for Good Housekeeping, July 1971. (Then seventy-one years old, he was presumably living in the Tampa Bay area with his wife.) In the intervening forty-five years, Ernst penned hundreds of stories for Amazing Stories, Astounding Stories, Breezy Stories, Clues Detective Stories, Dime Mystery Magazine, Droll Stories, Ghost Stories, Horror Stories, Mystery Stories, Nick Carter Magazine, Popular Detective, Racketeer Stories (who knew there was such a thing?), The Shadow Magazine, Terror Tales, and dozens of other titles. Under the byline Kenneth Robeson, Ernst wrote two dozen tales for The Avenger magazine. He was the ninth most prolific author of stories appearing in Weird Tales. As pulp magazines faded, Ernst sold stories to The American Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, The Saturday Evening Post, and Woman's Home Companion. He wrote love stories, detective stories, crime fiction, weird fiction, science fiction, tales of terror and horror (also called weird menace), and the kind of mainstream fiction that appeared in women's magazines and slick magazines for decades after the war. In short, Paul Ernst wrote everything (everything but Westerns), and he kept it up for decades. And still, we know so little about him.

I found an interesting article that mentions Paul Ernst's name, though. It's from the Tampa Times for January 21, 1942, and it describes a winter writer's colony at Anna Maria Key, located ten miles west of Bradenton, Florida. (1) The other authors mentioned as wintering or living at Anna Maria Key included:
  • Joel Reeve, Pseudonym of William R. Cox (1901-1988)-A prolific author of Westerns, mystery stories, and sports stories, Cox was working on a Western on the day of his death at age eighty-seven.
  • Wyatt Blassingame (1909-1985)-Another prolific author of adventure stories, crime stories, and detective stories, as well as of tales of terror and horror.
  • Theodore Tinsley (1894-1979)-A third very prolific author of crime and detective stories. Tinsley also wrote a number of stories of The Shadow for that character's self-titled magazine.
  • Norvell Page (1904-1961)-A veteran newspaperman and pulp author, Page is most remembered for his many stories of the The Spider. He also wrote tales of heroic fantasy, one of which was adapted to Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian in 1973-1974.
  • Margaret Scott (1898-?)-According to the article, Margaret Scott was the sister of Mrs. Wyatt Blassingame, otherwise known as Gertrude (Olsen) Blassingame. I have found Margaret Scott in public records. Her name was actually Margurete or Margurite Olsen, but she wrote under the pseudonyms Margaret Scott, Rita Dever, and (with Will Oursler) Gale Gallagher. Her stories appeared in The Household Magazine, LibertyTriple Detective, and confession-type magazines.
  • Kreigh Collins (1908-1974)-Although he wrote adventure stories for boys, Kreigh Collins was and is most well known for his work as a comic strip artist, illustrator, and painter. He created a number of beautifully drawn comic strips, including Mitzi McCoy/Kevin the Bold (1948-1972).
  • Frances Mallory Wykes (1905-1990)-Born in Evanston, Illinois, Frances Mallory Wykes lived in Florida for many years. She was the author of novels, including Wings in the Sun (1941) and The Lady and the Looking Glass (1955). She was married to Frederic Kirtland Wykes (1905-1982), who illustrated Wings in the Sun.
  • Fanny Herron Wingate (dates unknown)-A poet whose work appeared in magazines and newspapers.
  • Dr. James M. Stifler (1875-1949)-An authority and author of books on Benjamin Franklin, Stifler was a Baptist minster and a secretary of the University of Chicago (1935-1940). He's not the kind of man I would expect to hang around with a bunch of lowly pulp writers, but who said they hung around together? Maybe they all just wintered in the same place.
  • Dr. Binford Throne (1873-1952)-Dr. Throne was an expert on skin diseases and served as a physician in New York City for many years. He wrote in his area of expertise for various medical journals.
  • Talbot Mundy (1879-1940)-Pulp writer and adventure story author Talbot Mundy also wintered at Anna Maria Key . . .
  • Walter Lippman (1889-1974)-As did journalist, author, and commentator Walter Lippman.
So Paul Ernst didn't labor away in isolation and obscurity, but the image of a group of writers wintering on the golden coast of Florida in the mid 1940s is so powerful that I want to go there and be among them. Golden days like that may be lost forever . . . 

Anyway, Paul Ernst wrote thirty-eight stories for Weird Tales, the first being "The Temple of the Serpents," from October 1928, and the last being "Outbound," from September 1945. Ernst wrote one of these stories, "The Way Home" (Nov. 1935), under a pseudonym, Paul Frederick Stern. (His real and fake surnames are obvious anagrams.) Among his other stories was the five-part serial "The Black Monarch," from February-June 1930. Ernst also contributed four stories to Oriental Stories and one to The Magic Carpet Magazine, plus one letter to "The Eyrie," the letters column of Weird Tales. Eight of his stories for "The Unique Magazine" were in the Doctor Satan series. As mentioned, he also penned twenty-four stories about the series character The Avenger for the magazine of the same name, from 1939 to 1942. All or most of these appeared as reprint paperback editions in the 1970s under the Warner Paperback Library imprint.

I wonder what happened to Paul Ernst's papers after his death in 1985. Could they have been destroyed? Or are they still out there somewhere? If nothing else, we have his hundreds of stories, all that remains of his life on this earth.

Paul Ernst's Stories and Letter in Weird Tales, Oriental Stories, and The Magic Carpet Magazine
See the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, here.

Further Reading
I'm afraid there's nothing much on the Internet on Paul Ernst except for lists of his stories on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database and The FictionMags Index. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has a brief article on him cautioning against confusing him with other authors of the same name. That makes me wonder if The FictionMags Index, and consequently I, have him confused with the other Paul Ernst. Anyway, there is also Robert Weinberg's long-ago collection, Dr. Satan (Pulp Classics #6), published in 1974.

(1) "Nationally Famed Authors Form Winter 'Colony' at Anna Maria Key," Tampa Times, January 21, 1942, page 19.

A gallery of covers illustrating stories by Paul Ernst. First, Astounding Stories, June 1932, with cover art by H.W. Wesso.

Startling Stories, May 1948, with cover art by Earle Bergey.

Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, March 1932, with cover art by Wesso again.

Terror Tales, March 1936, with cover art by John Howitt. Note the red-robed cultists.

The Avenger, September 1939, with cover art by H.W. Scott.

Finally, a Swedish edition, De mikroskopiska j├Ąttarna (The Microscopic Giants), published in 1973. I think A.E. van Vogt's byline is on the cover for his authorship of "The Sea Thing," which was originally published in 1940 and included in this edition.

Text copyright 2018, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

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