The Man From Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey, by Fred Nadis, Tarcher, 289 pages, $28.95.
Jesse Walker writes: One winter day in 1943 an odd letter arrived at the offices of the sci-fi pulp magazine Amazing Stories. The author, a steelworker named Richard Shaver who had spent some time in mental institutions, claimed to have uncovered “an immensely important find”: the ancient alphabet of a “wiser race” that preceded humanity on Earth. An amused staffer read some entertainingly weird bits of the correspondence out loud, and dropped the document into the trash.
His boss immediately retrieved it. “You call yourself an editor?” he asked.
The man who salvaged and then published the papers was Ray Palmer, the Milwaukee-bred subject of Fred Nadis’s new biography The Man From Mars. Palmer’s editorial instincts turned out to be sound: Shaver’s letter may have been ludicrous, but it inspired a lot of reader interest. And it made Shaver a part of theAmazing Stories stable, an association that proved very profitable for Palmer’s magazine.