The Pulp Jungle Book Review

Author: Frank Gruber
Book Link

Reading this book is enough to make today’s writer feel lazy.

I first heard about it through an off mention in a Dean Wesley Smith post and decided it was worth the effort to procure. Reading through confirmed it was worth every penny to get it to my doorstep.

While it can be looked at as a history book of where writing was in the thirties, as it follows the lives of those who wrote for the pulp magazines (”pulp fiction”), it’s really a story about what writers were doing and sacrificing to earn a living.

Gruber does a lot of name dropping, which would be neat if you knew who any of these authors were, but the gems were in-between (and a few times on) the lines.

While today’s bite-sized social media laden messages about rejection and never giving up are meant to be an inspiration, it was an accepted part of the job for these writers. Gruber speaks about the numerous times he kept submitting to magazines without any avail (for years, in a few cases) and how this was the norm.

You submitted work and it was either accepted or rejected. You hoped for acceptance, but if you didn’t get it, you kept going. Even after establishing yourself, there was still a chance you would be rejected (as was the case with Gruber trying to break into Hollywood).

Then there were the stories of the work ethic of these writers, including one who, in the middle of a party, realized he needed to submit a 12,000 word short story for publication in the morning. He sat in the corner, typed non-stop for four hours, then came back to enjoy the festivities.

There is also an entire chapter between the meeting of Gruber and Max Brand (the pen name of one of America’s most prolific literary giants). Between the consistent output and constant drinking, it’s stunning to hear his commitment to the written word.

Gruber does provide direct advice to writers near the end. What’s telling is the advice he gives here (written in the 1960s), is identical to what every working writer suggests today:

Put your butt in the seat, write a lot, read a lot and put it out there.

I’m glad to have read through this one.