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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dating Services Meets True Crime Circa 1939

I guess dating services sucked in 1939, too. That is, if this feature from the December 1939 issue of Actual Detective can be believed.

Before we go into this, let's just say that even if this story is true, it's a tad overdone. Many fans of pulp  have a tendency to type cast the genres as having one set presentation. The True Crime genre, for example, is known for a near-news reporting style. It was something like AP Style third person with a few more adverbs and some bits of invented dialog thrown in for flavor. In 1939 that style had certainly emerged, but it wasn't in all of the magazines. Quite a few of the magazines were still running pieces in first person or third person omni.  

Actual Detective (stories of Women in Crime) was plying a number of tricks. First, it was a bed sheet magazine, which was a novelty. Only Life and College Humor were done in bed sheet at the time. Since it was photo offset as opposed to pulp, Actual carried photographs. As a final twist, they were going with the popular Confessions style, an "I was there" presentation. The writing credit goes to the 'reporter' who is helping our subject remember the incident. It's a somewhat more honest take on the Macfadden house style, which started with True Story back in the 1920s. 

Read between the lines: Shagged on the first date Below is what this woman supposedly looks like.
And now all of us Pulp History types know where Buffalo Bill's grave is. 

Answer: By joining a dating service and putting out in such an easy manner, that's how! This woman is very lucky that she is essentially boring. 

It's no problem, Miss Fiske. You now have an FBI file marked "Denver Area Sluts." Come on down to the station house so we can get a picture. 

As you can see here, the Confessions style falls down--especially when your confessor is no longer all that central to the plot. This bit of exposition is being couched as what our heroine read in the newspapers. 

If the dating clubs were for losers, weirdos and skanks, then why have 15 policemen joined? It's bad enough you've dated a killer. Joining a witch hunt isn't going to bring anyone back from the dead. 

Not that any part of this story is essential, but the above is clearly padding. The True Crime magazines justified their existences by placing a 'moral of the story' tack on to the endings. 

I don't really think there's a moral to this story. What we have here is a once somewhat promising criminal venture going down hill over the course of time. 

As I may have mentioned, I owe the inspiration for my blogging to the National Lampoon's "Scanner Bitch." I thought that scanning in old magazines and posting them would be sooo easy. Now I know better. The full issue of Actual Detective may yet appear on our web pages, but only after I get the format right. 

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