Obituary: Hugh B. Cave ; Prolific Writer of Pulp (`Pure' Supernatural, `Spicy', SF, Romance, Westerns, Hard- and Soft-Boiled Detective Fiction, Weird-Menace and Shudder- Pulp) over Eight Decades
Adrian, Jack, The Independent (London, England)
HUGH B. CAVE was an immensely prolific, inventive and long-lived pulp writer whose professional working life lasted, almost literally, to the end of his days; he was still getting published (hard covers, softbacks, as well as on the internet) well into his nineties.
His astonishing career spanned all but the first couple of decades of the 20th century and into the 21st, his first published writing, as a 15-year old student at Brookline High School, Massachusetts, being a short story in The Boston Globe entitled "Retribution" (its title and theme, in retrospect a pretty good intimation of countless vengeance-crammed plots to come), which had gained an "Honourable Mention" in a competition run by high schools throughout the Boston area. He wasn't paid for it but, spurred on by the experience, he began selling stories to a large-circulation Sunday School paper, whose editor told him he could take as much as the young Cave could produce - but would he please get hold of a typewriter and double-space his submissions.
Cave went on to conquer most fields of popular fiction over the years, writing western yarns, horror and weird- menace tales, both hard- and soft-boiled detective stories, romance fiction, SF, mysteries, spy and sea stories, and a whole flock of other sub- genres. He wrote, from his first professional pulp-magazine sale in 1929 through to the mid-1940s, almost solely for the pulps - those gloriously OTT spellbinders of a bygone age printed, as the best- selling novelist Henry Morton Robinson (who, like many American writers in the mainstream, started his career in the pulps) once mused, "on paper made apparently from gray oatmeal [and] pressed between illustrated covers seven times too vivid to be called garish".
Unlike most pulpsters, who tended, over many years, to write themselves dry in a single genre - becoming (in the lingo) "plot- shot" - Cave was ambitious. He was always, even in his early twenties, when he was busy mastering the technicalities of his trade (a story's plot, structure, movement, background colour, characterisation), looking not merely for new markets and new magazines in the pulp field, but to crack the slick- paper, high- circulation weeklies and monthlies (Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Saturday Evening Post and so on) at the quality end of the market, where the rewards were mouth-wateringly higher, apart from any kudos gained in seeing your name on a glossy front cover.
Cave's early pulp payments were often as little as half a cent a word, although he very soon reached the acceptable target, for a pulp writer, of two cents. An 8,000-word short story would thus bring in around $160. That same story, however, re-worked for a slick-paper audience and pitched successfully at, say, Cosmopolitan, might well garner (at 40 cents per) a cheque from the magazine's "bought ledger" department for well over $3,000, a staggering amount of money in an America gripped by post-Wall Street crash "depression". A novella of 30,000 words accepted by the prestigious American Magazine, a holy grail to most writers of the time, could fetch, at its even higher rates, as much as $15,000.
Such fabulous payments had to be worked hard for, and at. Although Cave reached these giddy heights in time, throughout most of the Depression years and into the 1940s he was pounding away at his manual typewriter for gaudy monthlies such as Terror Tales, Horror Stories, Dime Mystery, Spicy Adventure, Thrilling Mystery and the celebrated Weird Tales, selling them even gaudier-titled tales: "Death Calls from the Madhouse", e.g., "The Flame Fiend", "Madmen Laugh by Moonlight", "Brides for the Dead", "Hell's Darkest Halls", "The Brotherhood of Blood", "Daughters of Dark Desire".
He became in the process a writer to be relied on by harassed editors not only to deliver the goods in style - plenty action, plenty colour, plenty …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Obituary: Hugh B. Cave ; Prolific Writer of Pulp (`Pure' Supernatural, `Spicy', SF, Romance, Westerns, Hard- and Soft-Boiled Detective Fiction, Weird-Menace and Shudder- Pulp) over Eight Decades. Contributors: Adrian, Jack - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: June 3, 2004. Page number: 32,33. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.