Ideas of Justice and Punishment in Frank Johnson’s “Famous Detective Stories”


In 1939, after many decades of debate around the value of different types of reading, Australia imposed import restrictions ' the main target of these restrictions being 'pulp' fiction ' that lasted twenty years. In response to this regulatory action a number of publishing houses emerged, almost overnight, to fill the void and supply Australian readers with pulp stories of every kind. One of these publishers was Frank C. Johnson. Johnson's success ran parallel to efforts to ban the importation of cheap storytelling: when restrictions were lifted in 1959, Johnson could not compete and his enterprise eventually collapsed. The State Library of New South Wales acquired Johnson's Archive in 1965. The materials within this extraordinary archive include correspondence, original artworks and examples of various pulp materials such as crime fiction, true crime, comics and westerns. This paper will argue one of the more significant elements within this collection is the true crime series Famous Detective Stories. This monthly publication, which was Johnson's longest-running and most successful title, ran from 1946 to 1954. Famous Detective Stories and featured the re-packaging of true crime cases from newspaper clippings libraries. Interestingly, the writers for this true crime magazine would superimpose contemporary views upon the stories being re-told. This paper offers a review of the themes of justice within this publication with particular attention paid to the punishment of wrongdoers. In this way this paper unpacks ideas of justice and punishment, particularly capital punishment, as presented in a pulp publication of the mid-twentieth century.

Author Information
Rachel Franks, State Library of NSW, Australia
Katherine Sessions, University of Sydney, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: LibrAsia2016
Stream: Literature - Anglo-American Literature

This paper is part of the LibrAsia2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon