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Sunday, March 3, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On True Detective Magazines

In 1946, as a 15-year-old, I discovered true detective magazines. I was hooked. This was the beginning of the end of the golden era for fact crime mags. Television came along and wiped out all but a few of these colorful periodicals with the pulp art covers. I particularly liked the stories written by Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, and Alan Hynd. Dashiell Hammett went on to become a famous crime novelist. (I didn't.) My favorite magazines were Master Detective, Official Detective, and True Detective Mysteries. I didn't realize it at the time that these "true" crime stories were more fiction than fact. But many of them were well-written, and they got me interested in criminality, criminals, and criminal investigation. Most of the featured crimes involved gruesome murders and brilliant police work. Depression era bank robbers such as John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson and Machine Gun Kelly also made appearances between the covers of these splashy, photograph rich publications. I purchased most of mine off the rack down at the local drug store. My mother worried that these mags had a bad influence on me. They did, I became a crime novelist.

Thornton P. Knowles


  1. Right on, Thornton P! Back in the not-good-but-mediocre-at-best days in junior high school, the boys read the "True Detective" magazines, while the girls pored over the "True Confessions" stuff! Only a few of us girls crossed over and started reading the detective stories when we got a bit bored with the so-called true confession rags and all the weepy soapy sobbing!

  2. Good for you for taking criminal confessions over true confessions.