I was not employed by Popular Publications for five or six months, during which time I didn’t look for another job. I decided to go for full-time writing instead, but when that period was over — when I got a telegram from Al Norton, asking me to come back as his assistant, at close to twice what I’d been earning as editor of my own two magazines — I said sure.
Everything I wrote in that period sold, some of it at a word rate twice as high as my highest before then, for a total income per week of work that was actually a tad higher than I had been getting from editorial salary plus my spare-time writing. Not everything sold immediately, though, and all in all that experience validated what I had long been saying for a long time: freelancing paid pretty well, but the checks came when they came, and not a minute before. It was nothing you could finance a marriage on.
And, as it happened, my girlfriend, Doris, was getting pretty tired of being a girlfriend around that time. She much preferred the honorific “wife.” But we’ll come to that a little later.
Although I had been out of the office only a few months, there had been some big changes already and more were coming. Frank A. Munsey’s magazine empire, consisting mostly of the weekly Argosy and a few other odds and ends, had been up for sale for some time, and when the price declined enough to be a bargain, Harry Steeger and Harold S. Goldsmith bought Munsey’s stable.
The one magazine that they continued pretty much unchanged was Famous Fantastic Mysteries, along with its editor, Mary Gnaedinger, a friendly and able woman a little older than I, who had settled in in what had once been my office. Steeger had big plans for Argosy. He was considering making it a men’s magazine, perhaps a little like Esquire, but he was taking his time making it happen.
My biggest surprise was that Jane Littel was gone, and a middle-aged man, salvaged from Munsey’s payroll, was editing the love pulps. I never met him but he created a minor annoyance for me. He found a poem of mine in the inventory, and not having been told that it was meant to be used under a pseudonym, went ahead and published it as by Frederik Pohl.
I do not claim that my published verse would make Frost or Eliot envious, but I didn’t want to be remembered for my sappier 25¢-a-line effusions. It turned out not to matter, since apparently none of the readers of the love pulps had ever heard of me anyway.
Rog Terrill’s monkey cage of male young editors had been depleted by the draft, and Al Norton’s helpers were gone as well, every one. I never knew any of Rog’s replacements well enough to remember their names.. Al, after losing all of his, had begun to replace them with two young women. One was named Olga Mae Quadland, friendly, able and good at the obligatory skills of spelling, grammar and punctuation. The other was a very pretty recent divorcee from San Diego, in New York for the first time of her life, and, actually, the one who turned out to be my second wife.
But that’s another story, and one that we haven’t come to yet.
To be continued. . . .