A short story by a British writer with some reputation in US crime-fiction circles has come to light after being lost for 50 years. It's deserving of publication and, more to the point, I believe BTAP might be a natural home for it in 2014.
Our man Tyrer went on in the 1940s to become a respected contributor to the detective novel series featuring Sexton Blake. His stories were notable for capturing the grimness of life in wartime and post-war Britain. His austere settings captured the mean streets, the pubs, the factories, the tawdry amusement arcades, and so on. His characters were often brilliantly drawn "little" men and women. Eventually, all this fell out of favor as the public sought stories that celebrated the coming glamor and glitter of the 1960s. Tyrer, I believe, turned to writing stories for the women's romance magazines, and novels for Robert Hale. He also wrote the novel Such Friends Are Dangerous (Harper & Row) which is still considered a minor crime classic (see Steve Lewis's Mystery File) and was optioned by 20th Century Fox.
In 1964, I persuaded Tyrer to contribute to the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, which I suggested, founded, and edited while working for Micron Publications, a small, rival concern to the mighty Fleetway Publications (formerly the Amalgamated Press) who were Tyrer's major long-term publishers. Tyrer worked for several of the Micron lines under the guise of "J. T. Lang."
Unfortunately, Micron was under-capitalized and went bankrupt. The Wallace family rightly reclaimed their rights to the EWMM title, and (wrongly in my biased opinion) appointed a new editor, veteran crime writer Nigel Morland, who took the magazine in a more "literary" direction, dumping the full-color illustrated covers, etc.
I think Edgar Wallace would have been appalled. As I've mentioned, many of his stories first appeared in the popular American pulp magazines of his time, whose methods of presentation tended to favour the colorful, if not the downright lurid. He wrote for what was regarded as the "sensational" end of the market, and this was not the derogatory term it might be thought today but indicative of content that enjoyed mass appeal.
The Micron writers were also appalled, especially when due payments from the company were not forthcoming. Tyrer wrote to me: "I wonder what Edgar Wallace's daughter would think of this treatment of writers by a firm who are presumably licensed to use his name. I knew Edgar well enough to guess what he would have said."
Being unemployed as a consequence of the complete dissolution of Micron's editorial department, I was in no position to fight for the magazine I had suggested and created, or for the various comic-book series I had also edited for the company. Tyrer wrote: "I believe you have a grievance much more serious than my own."
Fast forward to February this year... Our writing friend Gary Dobbs discovers a Walter Tyrer book in a secondhand bookshop in Cardiff, Wales, and blogs about it. In a nostalgic mood, I rummage through the old EWMM files in the basement of my home in New Zealand and unearth some of Tyrer's letters. And lo and behold, attached to one of them is the 12-page typescript of a short story!
The story is titled "A Professional Job," and it is exactly that in more ways than the author intended. It may subsequently have been submitted and published elsewhere, perhaps even by Morland and the Wallace family, although this seems unlikely and I can find no record.
I have contacted Nick Osmond, of Hoonaloon Books (who is a great fan of Tyrer's work), and through him one of Tyrer's daughters, Mrs Jennifer de Fries. She has emailed:
"As to my father's manuscript which has turned up, I suppose after such a long time any rights would belong to me or my sister and we would be very happy to waive such rights. I'm delighted of hear of anyone interested. I am too sentimental to throw away a large pile of Walter Tyrer stories in the Sexton Blake series, also several hard-backed novels under his own name as well as pseudonyms J. T. Lang and Oliver Seed ... Please give the go-ahead to your enquirer; I'd [be] interested to read this hidden gem if that's possible."
After 50 years, I find "A Professional Job" a small example of noir-ish, hardboiled UK crime fiction evocative of its period. More importantly perhaps, it is well- and long-deserving of publication. So far I've produced an OCR version of the typescript. Would you be interested in seeing it?
Needless to say, I immediately wrote back to Keith and said I'd be very honored in publishing Mr. Tyrer's story. Without further ado, here is Walter Tyrer at BEAT to a PULP with "A Professional Job."