Thursday, January 7, 2010

Richard Sale on Words and Writing

More stories from the front line, courtesy of pulpster Richard Sale. It is anecdotes like these that make pulp veterans sound as much like action heroes as the characters they wrote about.

"Up in the morning and hit the typewriter. I wrote a story a day. Three thousand words, five thousand words. Sometimes it carried over into the next day if you were doing novelettes–that would be 12,000 words. You might spend more time for the top magazines–Argosy, Adventure, Blue Book–but for the others you really rattled them off. First draft was the last draft, straight out of the typewriter and send it off. You had to keep them coming all the time otherwise you'd starve."


-Richard Sale, in Danger Is My Business by Lee Server (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993).

10 comments:

  1. One day back in the eighties when I was editing Mystery Scene the phone rang and it was Richard Sale. I don't remember exactly how this came to pass--maybe I contacted his agent and said I'd like to interview him for the magazine. Anyway we talked for a long time about the pulps, his time in Hwood (he was very successful there) and some of the writers he'd known. He was a treat to listen to. And he wrote one hell of a memoir for the magazine.

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  2. Good, indeed. Gone are the days...

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  3. Great bit! A lot of guys apparently wrote this fast, but Sale always did it with style.

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  4. Amazing that so much good work got turned out that way. I couldn't do it. Of course, a fair amount of the stuff sucked pretty bad too.

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  5. There's certainly something to be said for both those observations, Charles. It seems like a dangerous way to write, and an easy way to burn out.

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  6. Good to see a mention of my friend Richard Sale, a great talent and a terrific guy. It was fifty years after the pulp era when we recorded those words, and Richard was still going strong. I remember he had just that morning finished a screenplay for Dino DiLaurentiis and had walked over to "Dino's" nearby office and delivered it by hand, which reminded him of the old days bringing stories in person to the pulp offices in New York. Why Sale didn't find greater personal fame or even cult standing is a mystery. His hardboiled novels are classic, as are some of the films he wrote and directed, such as Ticket to Tomahawk (with Marilyn Monroe no less) and the brilliant, harrowing Abandon Ship with Tyrone Power.
    Lee Server

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  7. Nothing has changed for the modern day versions of these pulp guys - tie-in writers are churning words out at the same rate to survive, quite often their identity a secret.

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  8. I've got Lee Server's OVER MY DEAD BODY. He's done hardboiled and noir fans a service by delving into this period.

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  9. I've got a copy of Lee Server's Danger is My Business and have read it several times. A gem of a book.

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