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Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at fadingshadows40@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Edward P. Norris



Edward P. Norris

1)   The Death Gambler (Nibs Holloway) Rapid Fire Detective (May 1933)
2)   Crimson Night (Nibs Holloway) Rapid Fire Detective (June 1933): Story may have existed, and been paid for, but never published, as Rapid Fire Detective folded with the May 1933 issue
3)   Doctor Death (Nibs Holloway & DD) All Detective (July 1934)
4)   A Deal In Phonies (Nibs Holloway) All Detective (August 1934)
5)   Cargo of Death (Nibs Holloway & DD) All Detective (Sept 1934)
6)   Death’s I.O.U. (Nibs Holloway & DD) All Detective (Oct 1934)
7)   Thirteen Pearls (Nibs Holloway & DD) All Detective (Jan 1935)
8)   In Step With Death – Secret Agent X (July 1935)
9)   G-Man Ghost – Ten Detective Aces (Oct 1935)
10) High Seas Homicide – Ten Detective Aces (Dec 1935)
11) Red Devil – Clues Detective (Feb 1936)
12) Murder Rides The Tandem – Thrilling Detective (Jan 1938)
13) Farm Kid – Popular Detective (Apr 1940)

In 1934 a young author named Edward P. Norris began appearing in pulp magazines. An interesting character named Nibs Holloway became very popular with readers of ALL DETECTIVE, especially in the 2nd story when Nibs was faced with the evil Doctor Death. There were only six stories of Nibs Holloway that I know about, four of which featured his foe, Doctor Death. Norris then made numerous appearances in other magazines like Secret Agent X, Popular Detective, etc. And suddenly he disappeared in 1940. We never knew what happened with this interesting pulp scribe.
Until now.
There is a lot of Dime Novel Nick Carter in Nibs Holloway. I would guess that Edward P. Norris read a lot of the Dime Novel and pulp magazines in his younger days. I also had the feeling that Nibs was his favorite character, but the publisher (due to the readers’ response) wanted more of the evil doctor. Nibs actually appeared in a story prior to the first Doctor Death inclusion. Norris killed Doctor Death off in his first appearance, and the following story just featured Nibs Holloway again; then suddenly Doctor Death was back. The author’s writing style was also early teens and twenties, and reminded me a lot of Johnston McCulley’s early stories, which made me think of Nick Carter and the Dime Novels. Maybe that’s another reason why I liked Edward P. Norris and Nibs Holloway.
His stories were well written, with plenty of action and good characterization. I was always curious why Doctor Death was re-tooled and given to another writer when he was given his own magazine. Though he was a good writer, I was never a fan of Harold Ward’s writing, and his Doctor Death just didn’t have the same appeal to me as Norris’s short story series. For years I wanted to find evidence of Phantom Detective and Dan Fowler novels by him, as Nibs would have fit nicely in either series. A master of disguise, tough, fast on the draw, fearless, he was perfect for the single-character pulp magazines.
I knew his stories had appeared erratically from 1934 to 1940, and then his name disappeared from the pulp magazines. My original thoughts were the war in Europe. Many of the writers and artists suddenly dropped out of sight around 1942 when they were drafted. Some did not return. The oddity was that period in which he was writing. So few stories appeared under his byline, I thought of several reasons for this. My first was that he was writing novels under a house name, or using a pseudonym. If not one of those, then he had a job that took precedence over his writing.
Edward Norris was born in London’s East End, an area known as Silverton, in 1903. He went to sea in his teens, traveling around the world several times and acquiring a cultural sophistication that later served him well in his writing. His daughter, Sheila describes her father as “a renaissance man”, and said he would tackle anything.
His parents emigrated from Lithuania in the late 1880s. He was one of 13 children. “Of all those children, I believe he is the only one who settled in the US, probably due to the wanderlust developed by his years at sea.” (Shiela).
In the late 1920s his ship made Port in Manhattan. Norris, while ashore, met his future wife, Agnes in Long Beach, Long Island: a young girl who had immigrated to the US from Scotland. After a few years of corresponding, he jumped ship on another stop in New York, and they were married in 1930.
“I remember my father as an artist with words, music and photography. He was a little ahead of his time, and loved to write and play the piano. He was self-taught and very smart and talented. (Sheila)
"They raised four children, Peter, Sheila, James & William. Peter, the oldest, passed away about ten years ago." (Carolyn Stone, granddaughter). 
Having lost his paycheck, he now looked for a new source of income. This was when his writing began, as well as a job in a printing business.
“Times were hard back then, and there was little money, so he could not devote full time to writing. I believe his writing slowed down in the mid-‘30s because by 1934 he had two kids and, living only a few minutes from the water, his commute to Manhattan was an hour each way.” (Sheila)
He worked as a printer, as supporting a family took precedence over writing for the pulp magazines. He worked in Brooklyn, New York, but the family moved a lot. I’m curious about the printing business where Norris worked. Something his grandson said in response to my post on Altus Press may have been a clue:
“I remember going into his library which was no bigger than a 15 by 20 room with books as high as my 6 year old memory recalls now that I am 50.” (James Norris)
I wonder if he worked in a pulp factory, printing magazines? Money was in short supply back then so he would have spent his money in support of his family, not buy books. But if he worked in a pulp factory perhaps he was allowed to take samples home (?).
“He taught himself to play piano by buying sheet music and studying it while listening to the latest tunes on the radio. Eventually, he became interested in photography, developed, printed and enlarged his own film. He also bought a 16 mm projector and brought movies home on the weekend, sharing them with the neighborhood.” (Sheila)
One of the curious aspects that always bothered me was his name disappearing from the pulps after 1940, and for years I was afraid that the war in Europe had taken the life of another pulp writer. But I understand from Sheila and his granddaughter, Catherine, that there was another problem. The Social Security Act of August 14, 1935 caused him to lose his job as a printer. Norris was a citizen of England, not the US, so did not have a Social Security number. The threat of war between England and Germany, plus he had two minor children, kept the US from deporting him. After 1935 his writing became more sporadic, until it ceased completely after 1940.
“I have fond memories of him, and had him around until my early twenties. He had enormous self-confidence and felt he could learn to do anything just by going to the library. One winter he ordered a do-it-yourself kit from Sears and assembled it in our living room. It was a small rowboat.  There were always one or two boats in our yard, next to the large garden, which had every type of vegetable that would grow in Brooklyn. He loved to play pinochle nearly every Saturday night with neighbors. Also, he was a big Brooklyn Dodgers fan and taught me all about scoring.
“As far as I know he did not use pseudonyms. I always knew he was a writer, but could not find anything on the Internet until recently when we used the key search word "pulp". I would love to get copies of his short stories, but not sure where to find them.” (Catherine)
We still have much to learn about Edward P. Norris. I enjoyed his writing, and was a huge fan of Nibs Holloway. He passed away in the early 1980s. The PulpCon had been in existent for a decade already, and pulp fandom was already in full swing. Echoes had started in June 1982. I wish we had made contact before his passing. I think Edward Norris would have enjoyed knowing that there were still fans of his writing.
“We lived so close to the water there were rumors of German U-Boats in the channels near us.” (Sheila)
I want to thank Edward P. Norris’s daughter, Sheila, and his granddaughter, Catherine for the above information.
Tom Johnson 

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