Newspaper reprints capture the time of the pulps

For writers of New Pulp, especially those that focus on the 1930s and 1940s, it can be kind of hard to recreate the feel of the era.

Most of the writers of New Pulp were born in the final decades of the 20th Century. The only way they’ve ever experienced the 1930s is by reading old pulps, watching old movies or simply just by guessing.

What is New Pulp? It’s the up-and-coming writing style that attempts to recapture the glory days of American fiction magazines, namely in the form of robust adventure stories. Its also called Adventure Fiction by some and those stories are usually set in the 1930s through the 1950s.

One great resource to add a bit of authenticity to writing era-based New Pulp (or any other project, such as a comic or role-playing game based in the era) is looking through old newspapers. Inside them, a writer can find all sorts of interesting tidbits from the time.

 They’ll know how much a tin pot costs, what’s in a dinner special or get an ear for dialogue and lingo.

These little tidbits — from the price of a candy bar to the names of gas stations — add a lot to the flavor of a story.

The problem is that old newspapers are hard to find. In their original form, a 60-year-old newspaper fall apart in your hands. A writer can also zip down to the library and throw a roll of microfiche on the spools and zip around. He or she might also find a flickr or photobucket site that offers scans of old newspapers too.

But there is an even better way to scan through some old newspapers — especially if the writer has a little extra shelfspace.

They come in the form of a series of publications that reduce and reprint newspaper pages in a large softcover book, often collected by decade. These books are technically authored by the creative staff of the newspaper featured inside, but in fact the pages were selected, scanned and printed by Historical Briefs Inc, a company in Verplanck, N.Y.

Each book is about 150 pages or so, and includes about that many full newspaper pages, all from the same newspaper. That means that  the reader gets a decade-long look at what the news was for a particular area over a wide span of time.
More importantly, the pages reprinted aren’t just front covers. Instead, the pages are selected to offer a wide look at the newspaper of the era. There are plenty of front pages, but the books also contain pages of comics, advertising, photo spreads, sports scores, obituaries, community celebrations, crime news and reports on run-of-the-mill events like city council meetings.
An astute reader (and writer) picks up trends, attitudes and key figures of the era, making these books an excellent resource to shape a story. While not a complete picture, it’s a good snapshot of what was going on. You get an idea of what sort of stories the original editors championed, what they downplayed and what people were talking about so long ago. As mentioned before, readers also get a glimpse at the business climate too — there’s advertising for theaters, department stores, tailors and everything in between. All that, in turn, can be reused and reprocessed into tantalizing tidbits for stories set in the era.
The problem with these books by Historical Briefs Inc is that they’re hard to uncover in used bookstores, Amazon and other book sellers. There’s no consistent name. There’s no guide available that documents which newspapers participated in the reprint program. There’s no official author listed and the ISBNs are hard to track down.
Some titles to look up are:
  • The Memorable 1940’s
  • The Memorable 1950’s
  • The Fabulous 1950’s
  • Extra! The Pages of (name of newspaper)
  • (The name of your newspaper)

Beyond that, the books, originally produced in the 1980s and 1990s, are hard to track down, but if available inexpensively, they’re probably worth the purchase for any writer interested in some authentic details about the setting of their next story.

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