Americans are fascinated by crime, no doubt about it. Listen to the local newscast tease the audience with forthcoming detail of last night's murder, eyes all agleam. Today we've got America's Most Wanted, Cops, C.S.I., N.C.I.S., Law & Order, etc., etc. to feed the interest in crime, but for years true crime magazines suited this purpose and were a mainstay on magazine racks across the country. Most will point to The National Police Gazette (which I've posted about previously) as a predecessor for these magazines which began with Bernarr Macfadden's True Detective in 1924. Don't quote the amateur, but I recall reading that the mag had a readership around the 2 million mark in just a few years.
Dillinger loved to read these magazines (and appeared in the often in the heyday of crime), and when you look at the magazines of the day you see the names of all sorts of gangsters and criminals that have endured in infamy. True Detective spawned many competitors, and it really is staggering how many of these magazines there are out there. My personal attraction to these magazines is to the painted covers of the early years and into the 50s, but the. Certainly not all the stories are true, and they can range from the campy to the macabre. Getting into the 60s and 70s, these magazines start to push the envelope and can get downright creepy. Still, a lot of the "Bad Mag" sort of material is like a car crash you can't help but look at. Overall, I think these magazines have great layouts and cool magazine-craft. A scanned library would make an incredible resource for crime research not to mention a great medium in which to observe America's shifting relationship with crime.
There's so many of these mags, it's really hard to know where to start. I wish I had some scans of some material from the 20s or 30s and will probably be scanning some in the near future. For starters, though, over the next day or two I'll post four magazines from the 1940s. I'll start with the first one I ever bought.
DOPE, Japan's Demon Ally, irresistable. I'm a big fan of anti-drug propaganda - mix it with wartime phobia of the Japanese and you get a classic cover.
Get the scan here.
Contents page, this a a pretty common layout about this time, a montage of pictures around the edge of the page, cool graphics, a sort of entrance into a seedy and dangerous world.
You'd expect the dope article to be something about the Japanese pushing dope one the streets of California, but rather it's a splash of wartime propaganda on how the Japanese are supplying Chinese dealers to weaken the country. It doesn't look like the Chinese treated their addicts too nicely, the chap in the lower right corner is getting some rough treatment.
The staged photos in these mags can range from the bizarre to the hilarious to the frightening, some are pretty effective, others not so much. Ladies, watch out for the guys that like to point their fingers at you, they're no good! She looks like she ain't scared one bit.
this perp is just too funny, "stocky killer," my ass:
We'll continue our crime spree next post! Nobody move, nobody gets hurt.