Crime & Detective Fiction in The American Magazine

Some Significant Contributors & Other Writers of Interest

The American Illustrated Magazine began publishing in September 1905 and in June 1906 shortened its name simply to The American Magazine, and ran under that name until 1956.

During its long run, it came to be regarded as one of the most popular and successful of the “slicks,” publishing everything from investigative reporting to human interest stories and articles on social issues, as well as all sorts of fiction, including crime fiction, which was great news for writers–they paid far better than the pulps, and certainly offered a little more “prestige” than their ragged cousins.

As such, it attracted several well-known mystery writers of the day, including Graham Greene, Agatha Chrisite, George Harmon Coxe, Hugh Pentecost, Kenneth Millar, Rex Stout, Charlotte Armstrong, Dorothy B. Hughes, Donald Hamilton, Kelley Roos, Erle Stanley Gardner, Leslie Charteris, Zenith Brown (writing as both Leslie Ford and David Frome) and Q. Patrick (aka “Patrick Quentin“).

Although early on the magazine published crime fiction of various lengths, from short stories to serialized novels, by 1934 most of the mysteries ran as “novelettes,” with many of them later appearing in book form as expanded, full-length novels. By then most writers wrote specifically to the magazine’s length requirements.

Among those writers who contributed to the magazine over the years who would be of particular interest to readers of this site are:

  • Jack Boyle
    The first four stories (hard-boiled before there was hard-boiled) featuring Boyle’s popular ex-con safecracker Boston Blackie originally appeared in The American Magazine, as well as “A Modern Opium Eater,” a non-fiction piece detailing Boyle’s own drug problems and subsequent incarceration.
  • Dana Chambers
    The 1940 novel She’ll Be Dead by Morning, featuring quasi-P.I. Jim Steele, was based on this novella.
  • Leslie Charteris
    The Saint made several appearances in the magazine.
  • Agatha Christie
    The Hercule Poirot novel 13 for Dinner was serialized in six parts in 1933.
  • Octavus Roy Cohen
    One of the precursors to the hard-boiled private eye was Cohen’s Jim Hanvey, a good ol’ boy grifter whose aw shucks! persona hid his shrewd skills as a detective. Several of his stories appeared in the twenties and thirties, while several of his stories featuring the always problematical Florian Slappey appeared in The American Magazine‘s rival, The Saturday Evening Post.
  • George Harmon Coxe
    Several novelette-length appearances featuring his crime-busting news shutterbug Kent Murdock, with the book-length version occasionally not appearing until several years later.
  • Frederick C. Davis
  • Kenneth Fearing (The Big Clock)
  • Erle Stanley Gardner
    A handful of early stories made it into The American Magazine, as well as a couple of Perry Mason short stories, although from the early fifties on, many of the Mason novels were serialized or excerpted in The American Magazine’s rival, The Saturday Evening Post, prior to book publication.
  • Donald Hamilton
  • Dashiell Hammett
    In the waning years of his writing years, Hammett dashed off three short stories featuring Sam Spade for The American Magazine
  • Dorothy B. Hughes
  • Baynard Kendrick
    Kendrick’s blind private eye, Duncan Maclain, appeared in two short stories in the mid-forties, one of which, “The Murderer Who Wanted More,” was later issued as a special 10-cent Dell paperback in 1951.
  • Kenneth Millar
    It was later revamped as a Lew Archer story to fill out a collection, but “The Bearded Lady” which appeared in the October 1948 issue, originally featured detective Sam Drake.
  • Stuart Palmer (Howie Rook)
  • H.W. Roden
  • Rex Stout
    The first Nero Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance (1934), was serialized in the magazine, and had appeared in abridged form, as “Point of Death,” only two days before book publication.
  • S.S. Van Dine
Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Much off the information for this page was gleaned from the introduction and appendix to American Murders: 11 Rediscovered Short Novels from The American Magazine, 1934-54 (1986), edited by Jon L. Breen & Rita A. Breen.

Leave a Reply