A letter from the Peter Haining collection unsigned but certainly from Steve Holland, a fellow British pulp enthusiast who wrote a definitive book on the subject - The Mushroom Jungle and later a book on pulp writer Dail Ambler The Lady Holds a Gun! Both books can be bought at Amazon, the latter only as a Kindle download…Among many works written under pseudonyms Dail Ambler (a.k.a.Danny Spade) also wrote the screenplay for the cult film Beat Girl (1960) starring the amazing Gillian Hills.
Many thanks for your letter, and for the offer of some Janson's on loan...
THE MUSHROOM JUNGLE: well, you've certainly come to the right person to ask, as this is the working title of my book on the fifties publishers! I dreamed up the title years ago when I started, a sort of play on The Asphalt Jungle, with mushrooms chucked in because of how these publishers seemed to pop up overnight. The bulk of the bibliography (which runs to 250 pages} is written, but I'm adding to it all the time…
Dail Ambler: blonde and pretty says everyone I know who met her: Steve Frances and Tom Martin both remembered her, and Tom even sent me a picture from the back of one of her books, a copy of which should be enclosed. I dug out a few more bits which I've put together as a brief biography, which should also be enclosed. She died in 1974, sadly, having lost touch with many of the people who knew her. It's rather sad to have to let people know that their old friends have passed on, not my favourite job by far. Howard Baker knew her fairly close to the end as far as I can gather, and an old Press Editorial Syndicate brochure mentions a Sexton Blake story by her in manuscript. I'm sure she wrote a lot more stories than have been credited to her: certainly she did two for N.E.L. and Robert Hale put one out after her death. I never got a chance to see if these publishers had used her work under pen-names, although one rumour I heard was that she wrote for the light romance markets (whatever they might be)* I don't know if she ever married: her death was registered under Dail Ambler. I heard that she was heavily involved in the setting up of Milestone Publications in 1952 (Scion Ltd having just been fined for gangster obscenity and floundering, owing lots of money to lots of people). The company, so the rumour goes, was up so quickly because Dali's boyfriend was a printer and promised to supply the paper. I'm not one-hundred precent certain of the set-up at Milestone. There were a lot of ex-Scion people...Peter Dewhurst was director (he was ex-Scion writer, but I don't know what he wrote; probably gangster yarns under pen-names) as was M. Gosheron whom I've never heard of. Julian Franklyn was an editor for a while ("was dropped after they gained some measure of success" I'm told). Certainly Milestone had a top-roaster of authors from that time: Dail Ambler (and Danny Spade), Michael Barnes, Donald Cresswell, Bevis Winter, Victor Norwood, Gray Usher, Ted Tubb...all familiar Scion names, plus Frank Dubrez Fawcett doing Miss Otis novels as Ben Sarto; George H. Dawson sold them the rights to Nick Perrelli, tho' I don't know who was writing them at the time. And they had some mid-quality reprints too. I gather they paid better rates than Scion too, so they must have had a fairly sound financial background. They were later known as Merit Books, but seemed to disappear very suddenly in 1955, under circumstances which may have an interesting story behind them. All I know is that Peter Dewhurst may have "fled to Canada", which sounds interesting! I wonder if we'll ever know the truth about any of those old publishers! I'm still trying to track down "Quinn" or "Quinny", the man in the cellar at Scion who was locked-in until he finished his daily output of 10,000 words!
Hand-written: *I've just found a brief letter from Peter Noble from around 1981 in which he says she wrote romantic paperback fiction. Maybe he knows that.
Enough of that. Hope you can find something of interest in the enclosed lists, and I'll send on the Gaywood, etc list as soon as I've finished it. In fact I'll start it now!
Hand-written: P.S. You can see from the enclosed "Mushroom Jungle" pages the scope of the Index. I'm adding titles almost daily. It would be nice to get a version out to the public now to see how much stuff is missing as I'm sure names would still ring bells amongst even todays publishers. The trouble is funding someone to put out a 250 page book on a limited scale but at not too high a price! (or two 125 page books!!). I'm also working on the numbered series' listings at the moment and they only prove how many titles are missing, especially the little 4d and 4½d booklets.
Entry from: THE MUSHROOM JUNGLE by Steve Holland
Ambler, Dail 1919-1974
Born on January 11th, 1919, Dail Ambler became a prolific writer of gangster novels under her own name and pen-name Danny Spade (qv). She started as a journalist, covering such diverse subjects as the Sadler's Wells Ballet to why Chelsea Railway Station was derelict. She tried writing an American gangster story which sold immediately, and she was soon commissioned to write a further twelve. Six months later she was writing four books a month (not all of which have been identified). During this period she began writing for films and was asked to write additional dialogue for the Errol Flynn movie "Bloodline". She sold another script, "Find the Lady" and moved to Hollywood for nine months, during which time she did several television shows and worked with television star Herbert Marshall. On her return to England she collaborated on "The Glacier Trail" and wrote a successful play about the menace of drugs, "The Streeter Case" which toured the provinces for three months and was also produced in London. She then concentrated on her favourite character, that of Danny Spade, writing many novels for Scion Ltd. She helped to set up Milestone Publications in 1952 and wrote for them for several years, as well as contracting to write for Comyns (Publishers Ltd (although only one book appeared). She continued to write after the collapse of Milestone, using pseudonyms, and only appeared under her own name again during the seventies, with "Desert Guerrillas" (New English Library, 1971), "The Virgin Collector (New England Library, 1972) and the posthumously published "Three Men For the Job" (Robert Hale, 1975). She was described by one correspondent as "blonde and pretty", and a signed studio photograph of her was once offered as a prize in a Scion competition!
A Curtain of Glass Merit Books, rd 'Mar 1954), 176pp, h/c 7/6; (Feb 1955),
Danny Spade Sees Red Milestone, (Mar 1954), (128pp), 2/-
Duet For Two Guns Scion, (Apr) 1952, 112pp, 1/6
Hold That Tiger! Scion, (Dec) 1952, 112pp, 1/6, [R. Davis]
Johnny Gets His Scion, (Dec) 1952, 96pp, 1/6
The Lady Says When Scion No.36799, (Sep) 1952, 112pp, 1/6
Someone Falling Milestone, nd (Jan 1954), 128pp), 2/-
What's With You? Scion, (Oct 1952), (128pp), 1/6
Wildcat Comyns, nd (Sep 1952), 2/-, 127pp
Introducing the Author
Dail Ambler can't remember when she began writing, it just seems that she always has. There was an early journalistic period when she covered everything from the Sadler's Wells Ballet to why Chelsea Railway Station was derelict. After that experience there seemed no reason not to try an American-style thriller. The first was accepted and a further twelve commissioned. Six months later she found herself writing four books a month. During this time she was asked to write additional dialogue for the Errol Flynn movie, Bloodline. From this she sold a story entitled Find the Lady, and three weeks later she was in Hollywood. After nine months in California, during which she did several T.V. shows and worked with top-line T.V. star Herbert Marshall, she returned to England. Collaborated on The Glacier Trail. Wrote a play on the drug menace, which toured successfully. She is now concentrating on the Danny Spade series. Spade is her favourite character and has appeared in twenty-one of her books, of which Nothing to Hide and That's All I Need are the latest. Ambitions? To see the Spade series filmed, write another play, and own a cottage in Cornwall.