Fawcett Publications

Fawcett Publications

Fawcett Publications was an American publishing company founded in 1919 in Robbinsdale, Minnesota by Wilford Hamilton "Captain Billy" Fawcett (1885-1940). At the age of 16, Fawcett ran away from home to join the Army, and the Spanish-American War took him to the Philippines. Back in Minnesota, he became a police reporter for the "Minneapolis Journal". While a World War I Army captain, Fawcett's experience with the Army publication "Stars and Stripes" gave him the notion to get into publishing, and his bawdy cartoon and joke magazine, "Captain Billy's Whiz Bang", became the launch pad for a vast publishing empire. [Thomas, Roy. "Captain Billy's Whiz Gang," "The Best of Xero". Tachyon Publications, 2004. ISBN 1-892391-11-2]

The title "Captain Billy's Whiz Bang" combined Fawcett's military moniker with the nickname of a destructive WWI artillery shell. According to one account, the earliest issues were mimeographed pamphlets, typed on a borrowed typewriter and peddled around Minneapolis by Captain Billy and his four sons. However, in Captain Billy's version, he stated that when he began publishing in October, 1919, he ordered a print run of 5,000 copies because of the discount on a large order compared with rates for only several hundred copies. Distributing free copies of "Captain Billy's Whiz Bang" to wounded veterans and his Minnesota friends, he then circulated the remaining copies to newsstands in hotels. With gags like, "AWOL means After Women or Liquor," the joke book caught on, and in 1921, Captain Billy made the highly inflated claim that his sales were "soaring to the million mark." [ [http://www.captainmarvelculture.com/1capmaj.html Lequidre, Zorikh. "Captain Marvel Culture".] ]

The book "Humor Magazines and Comic Periodicals" notes::Few periodicals reflect the post-WW I cultural change in American life as well as "Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang". To some people [it] represented the decline of morality and the flaunting of sexual immodesty; to others it signified an increase in openness. For much of the 1920s, "Captain Billy’s" was the most prominent comic magazine in America with its mix of racy poetry and naughty jokes and puns, aimed at a small-town audience with pretensions of ‘sophistication’.

"Captain Billy's Whiz Bang" is immortalized in the lyrics to the song "Trouble" from Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" (1962): "Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger? A dime novel hidden in the corncrib? Is he starting to memorize jokes from "Captain Billy's Whiz Bang"?" Yet this is an anachronism, since "The Music Man" takes place in River City, Iowa, during 1912, seven years before the magazine's premiere issue.

Captain Billy

The magazine often featured a picture of Captain Billy in uniform along with the comment, "This magazine is edited by a Spanish-American and World War veteran and is dedicated to the Fighting Forces of the United States and Canada." With its 64-page, saddle-stitched, digest-size format, the humor publication soon saw a dramatic increase in sales. By 1923, the magazine had a circulation of 425,000 with $500,000 annual profits.

It is reputed that one of the humor pieces found in "Captain Billy's Whiz Bang", titled "Al-Bar the Bubul Emir," was the inspiration for the 1953 Tin Pan Alley song "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" by Jimmy Kennedy and Nat Simon. Such is the urban legend as spread on the Internet, but the original bawdy song, "Abdul the Bulbul Emir," as noted in Ed Cray's "The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs" (1999), has been traced back to "Abdulla Bulbul Ameer," composed in Dublin by Percy French in 1877. The non-bawdy version can be found in Carl Sandburg's "American Songbag" (1927). Numerous artists did covers of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," including Edmundo Ros (1953), Radio Revellers (1953), Frankie Vaughan (1954), Caterina Valente (1954), The Four Lads (1954), Santo & Johnny (1962), The Residents (1976) and They Might Be Giants (1990).


With the rising readership of "Captain Billy's Whiz Bang", Fawcett racked up more sales with "Whiz Bang" annuals, and in 1926, he launched a similar publication, "Smokehouse Monthly". The popularity of "Whiz Bang" peaked during the 1920s. It continued into the 1930s, but circulation slowed as readers graduated to the more sophisticated humor of "Esquire", founded in 1933. It had an influence on many other digest-size cartoon humor publications, including "Charlie Jones Laugh Book", which was still being published during the 1950s.

Captain Billy's success as a publisher prompted him to create the Breezy Point Resort [ [http://www.breezypointresort.com/index.html Breezy Point Resort] ] on Pelican Lake in Breezy Point, Minnesota. Since celebrity visitors came to the resort, Captain Billy had the road from Breezy Point into Pequot Lakes blacktopped at his own expense. His building program at the Resort included the construction of a massive lodge, planned to accommodate 700 people, using native Norway pines, some convert|70|ft|m in length. Celebrities who stayed at Breezy Point included Carole Lombard, Tom Mix and Clark Gable. The Fawcett House, Captain Billy's personal log mansion, is made available for public rental today. Decorated with elk and deer skins, Fawcett House [ [http://www.breezypointresort.com/groups/lodging/unique_retreats/fawcett_house.html Fawcett House] ] has ten bedrooms and eight baths. The living room has a cathedral ceiling, a loft, a bar and a large field rock fireplace.

Harry Truman was another Breezy Point guest. Edward McKim, a friend of Truman's since World War I, told of visits to the Resort in 1932 and Truman's success at the Breezy Point slot machine::Captain Billy was quite a shot with a shotgun. He was on the American Olympic team at one time. He had some traps out there, so we did a little shooting with him. He had a couple of guests, one of whom was Dr. Joe Mayo, the son of Dr. Charlie Mayo. Dr. Joe was killed a few years later in an automobile accident. He was the brother of Dr. Chuck Mayo who just retired from the Mayo Foundation. We did a little trap shooting at that time, but we went up there almost every night for dinner. It was a 35 or convert|40|mi|km|sing=on drive. We stopped at a barber shop at Brainerd going up, and he hit the jackpot in a machine in the lower lobby of the hotel. Then he hit the jackpot up at Breezy Point the same night.

In some issues of "Whiz Bang", Captain Billy wrote about his vacations in Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Paris, along with items about his celebrity friends, including Jack Dempsey, Sinclair Lewis and Ring Lardner.

During the 1930s, Fawcett and his sons established a line of magazines which eventually reached a combined circulation of ten million a month in newsstand sales. "True Confessions" alone had a circulation of two million a month. However, during the World War II paper shortages Fawcett folded 49 magazines and kept only 14. Magazines published by Fawcett over the decades included "Battle Stories", "Cavalier", "Daring Detective", "Dynamic Detective", "Family Circle", "Motion Picture", "Movie Story", "Rudder" (later merged with "Sea"), "Screen Secrets", "Secrets", "Triple-X Western" and "True". "Woman's Day", added to the line-up in 1948, had a circulation of 6,500,000 by 1965.

The flagship of Fawcett magazines was "Mechanix Illustrated". It began in the 1920s as "Modern Mechanics and Inventions", was retitled "Modern Mechanix and Inventions", shortened to "Modern Mechanix" and then altered to "Mechanix Illustrated" before it became "Home Mechanix" in 1984. Acquired by Time Inc., it was retitled yet again to become "Today's Homeowner" in 1993. The illustrator Norman Saunders became a Fawcett staffer in 1927 after doing some spot illustrations for Fawcett editor Weston "Westy" Farmer, and Saunder's first cover illustration was for the August, 1929 issue of "Modern Mechanics and Inventions". He continued to do covers for Fawcett into the 1930s, and when Fawcett opened Manhattan offices in 1934, Saunders and other staffers relocated in New York.Larry Eisinger, the workshop and science editor of "Mechanix Illustrated", spearheaded the national "do-it-yourself" movement as the editor-in-chief of Fawcett's "How-To" book series and special interest magazines. He created Fawcett's "Mechanix Illustrated Do-It-Yourself Encyclopedia" and "The Practical Handyman's Encyclopedia", which had combined sales of almost 20 million copies. In 1959 "Electronics Illustrated" was created for the hobbyist. It was merged into "Mechanix Illustrated" at the end of 1972. [Hamerlinck, P.C., editor. "The Fawcett Companion". TwoMorrows Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-893905-10-1]

After the huge growth during the early 1930s, Fawcett Publications relocated its offices to both New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut in the mid-1930s. Corporate headquarters was in Greenwich, and the book publishing division, known as Fawcett World Library, operated out of New York City, at 67 West 44th Street. [John Wyndham, "The Day of the Triffids", paperback edition title page, Fawcett Crest Book #449-01322-075, 6th printing, April 1970]

Wilford Fawcett's sons continued the expansion of the company after their father's death on February 7, 1940. That same year, the company launched Fawcett Comics, as recalled by circulation director Roscoe Kent Fawcett: "I was responsible, I feel, for Captain Marvel. I got us into the comic book business. I said, 'Give me a Superman, only have his other identity be a 10 or 12-year-old boy rather than a man.' I put Al Allard in charge of coordinating the project with some assistance from editorial director Ralph Daigh."

In 1939, Daigh put the project in the hands of Fawcett writer William Parker and Fawcett staff artist Charles Clarence Beck. The character they devised, Captain Marvel, was introduced in "Whiz Comics" #2 (February, 1940) and quickly caught on, moving into his own title, "Captain Marvel Adventures", early in 1941. The success prompted spin-off characters, beginning with Captain Marvel, Jr. in 1941 and Mary Marvel in 1942. Fawcett's line of comics expanded with such colorful characters as Captain Midnight, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Nyoka the Jungle Girl and Spy Smasher (who became Crime Smasher after WWII). The circulation of "Captain Marvel Adventures" continued to soar until it outsold "Superman" during the mid-1940s. Captain Marvel Jr. had such an impact on Elvis Presley that he borrowed the character's poses, hairstyle and lightning flash chest insignia, as described in Elaine Dundy's biography, "Elvis and Gladys". [ [http://www.elainedundy.com Dundy, Elaine. "Elvis and Gladys". New York: Macmillan, 1985. ISBN 1-57806-634-4] ]

Gold Medal Books

Fawcett was also an independent newsstand distributor, and in 1949 the company negotiated a contract with New American Library to distribute their Mentor and Signet titles. This contract prohibited Fawcett from becoming a competitor by publishing their own paperback reprints. However, Roscoe Fawcett wanted to establish a line of Fawcett paperbacks, and he felt original paperbacks would not be a violation of the contract. In order to test a loophole in the contract, Fawcett published two anthologies -- "The Best of True Magazine" and "What Today's Woman Should Know About Marriage and Sex" -- reprinting material from Fawcett magazines not previously published in books. When these books successfully sailed through the contract loophole, Fawcett announced Gold Medal Books, their line of paperback originals. It was a revolutionary turning point in paperback publishing. Fawcett's editor-in-chief was Ralph Daigh, who had been hired by Captain Billy in 1928, and the art director for Gold Medal was Al Allard, who also had been with Fawcett since 1928.

Gold Medal's first editor was Jim Bishop, a former "Collier's" editor later known for his series of best-selling non-fiction titles -- "The Day Lincoln Was Shot", "The Day Christ Died" and "The Day Kennedy Was Shot". When Bishop left after a year, he was replaced by William Charles Lengel (1888-1965), a veteran magazine editor, agent, short story author and novelist ("Forever and Ever", "Candles in the Wind"). In February 1951, former Hollywood story editor Richard Carroll signed on as an editor with Gold Medal. Carroll was once described as "the Maxwell Perkins of Gold Medal."

Another early Gold Medal editor was former literary agent Knox Burger, who recalled, "Through its Gold Medal series, Fawcett was able to give many now well-known authors a chance at book publication early in their careers -- among them John D. MacDonald and Kurt Vonnegut. It also gave established writers like William Goldman and MacKinlay Kantor a chance to flex their creative muscles under pseudonyms."

Radcliffe graduate Rona Jaffe, who joined the company in the early 1950s as a file clerk, was promoted to an associate editor position. After four years at Fawcett, she left to pursue a writing career. Her best-selling 1958 novel, "The Best of Everything", obviously drawn from her experiences at Fawcett and Gold Medal, was adapted for a 1959 film and a 1970 TV series. At the time of Jaffe's departure from Fawcett in 1955, the new associate editor who stepped in was Leona Nevler, formerly with Little, Brown but best known in 1950s publishing circles as the person who saw the potential of Grace Metalious' best-selling "Peyton Place" after picking it from the slush pile at publisher Julian Messner. During her 26 years at Fawcett, Nevler became the editorial director in 1972.

Beginning their numbering system at 101, Gold Medal got underway with Alan Hynd's "We Are the Public Enemies", the anthology "Man Story" (102) and John Flagg's "The Persian Cat" (103). Writing about the demise of pulp magazines in "The Dime Detectives", Ron Goulart observed, "Fawcett dealt another blow to the pulps when, in 1950, it introduced its Gold Medal line. What Gold Medal specialized in was original novels. Some were merely sleazy, but others were in a tough, hard-boiled style that seemed somehow more knowing and more contemporary than that of the surviving pulps. Early Gold Medal authors included John D. MacDonald, Charles Williams and Richard S. Prather." Others were Benjamin Appel, Bruno Fischer, David Goodis, Day Keene, Dan J. Marlowe, Wade Miller, Jim Thompson, Lionel White and Harry Whittington.

Interviewed by Ed Gorman in 1984, MacDonald recalled, "In late 1949, I wrote a long pulp novelette. My agent, Joe Shaw, asked me to expand it. I resisted, but complied. I hate puffing things. Cutting is fine. Everything can use cutting. But puffing creates fat. Gold Medal took it for their new line of originals. It was titled "The Brass Cupcake"." Numbered as Gold Medal 124, "The Brass Cupcake" was John D. MacDonald's first novel. [ [http://www.mysteryfile.com/ToC.html#Authors Gorman, Ed. "Mystery File: John D. MacDonald"] ]

Gold Medal 129 was an unusual graphic novel experiment, John Millard's "Mansion of Evil", an original color comic book story packaged as a paperback. Other 1950 Gold Medal originals included the Western "Stretch Dawson" by William R. Burnett and three mystery-adventure novels -- "Nude in Mink" by Sax Rohmer, "I'll Find You" by Richard Himmel. After Donald E. Keyhoe's article "Flying Saucers Are Real" in "True" (January 1950) created a sold-out sensation, with "True" going back to press for another print run, Keyhoe expanded the article into a top-selling paperback, "The Flying Saucers Are Real", published by Fawcett that same year.

Sales soared, prompting Ralph Daigh to comment, "In the past six months we have produced 9,020,645 books, and people seem to like them very well." However, hardcover publishers resented Roscoe Fawcett's innovation, as evidenced by Doubleday's LeBaron R. Barker, who claimed that paperback originals could "undermine the whole structure of publishing."

With an increase from 35 titles in 1950 to 66 titles in 1951, Gold Medal's obvious success in issuing paperback originals revolutionized the industry. While Fischer, MacKinlay Kantor, Louis L'Amour, John D. MacDonald, Richard Matheson and Richard Prather were joining Gold Medal's roster of writers, other paperback publishers were soon asking agents for original manuscripts. Literary agent Donald MacCampbell stated that one publisher "threatened to boycott my agency if it continued to negotiate contracts with original 25-cent firms."

Prather had a bank account of $100 when his wife handed him a telegram from literary agent Scott Meredith on July 7, 1950 indicating his first sale. Although Prather's first novel was unsold, Gold Medal liked his second novel and his Shell Scott character enough to offer a four-book contract, and Prather's "Case of the Vanishing Beauty" soon set sales records. [ [http://user.dtcc.edu/~dean/interview.html Davis, Dean. "The Ultimate Richard S. Prather Interview".] ]

In 1950, Bruno Fischer's "House of Flesh" sold 1,800,212 copies. In 1951, Charles Williams' "Hill Girl" sold 1,226,890 copies, Gil Brewer's "13 French Street" sold 1,200,365 and "Cassidy's Girl" by David Goodis sold 1,036,497. [ [http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Suite/3855/ "Noir Fiction" by George Tuttle] ] Authors were attracted to Gold Medal because royalties were based on print runs rather than actual sales, and they received the entire royalty instead of a 50-50 split with a hardback publisher. Gold Medal paid a $2000 advance on an initial print run was for 200,000 copies. When a print run increased to 300,000, the advance was $3000. [ [http://www.angelfire.com/mac2/laurentaug_jdmac/index.html "John D. MacDonald" by Laurent Auguste] ]

Mickey Spillane's "I, the Jury" paperback bestseller got a huge boost from Fawcett, as Spillane explained to interviewer Michael Carlson::Now at that time you had to go through hardback. So I wrote "I, the Jury" and turned it in to E. P. Dutton. It had been rejected by four different publishers, saying no, no, this is too violent, too dirty... and it was picked up by Roscoe Fawcett, Fawcett Publications. He was a distributor, doing comic books, but he saw the potential, and he went to New American Library, which was Signet Books, and he said 'If you print this book, I'll distribute it.' Now they can't get distribution, so it's a win-win thing for them, but they have to get it published in hardback, so they go to Dutton and say if you print this, we'll do the paperback. So now it's win-win-win, and they offer me $250, and I say no, I need a thousand dollars to build a house in Newburgh, so I get a $1,000 advance, which was unheard of. So Roscoe ordered a million copies, and "that" was unheard of! So somebody in his outfit says, oh, that wasn't what he meant, he must've meant a quarter million. So they bring out a quarter of a million at the wrong time, cause books sell great at Christmas time, but my book came out between Christmas and New Year, which is death, and it went straight to the top, because it was word of mouth, and it's sold out, and Fawcett says get the rest of them out, and the guy says there aren't any more and Roscoe says whaddaya mean, I ordered a million, and a guy got fired!

In 1952, when their contract with NAL expired, Fawcett immediately began doing reprints through several imprints. Red Seal started April 1952 and published 22 titles before it folded a year later. Launched September 1955, Premier Books offered non-fiction titles, such as "The Art of Thinking" by Ernest Dimnet. Crest Books, which also started September 1955, spanned all genres with an emphasis on Westerns and humor, including "Best Cartoons from True" and Lester Grady's "Best from Captain Billy's Whiz Bang", and one successful Crest title was their movie tie-in edition of Robert Bloch's "Psycho". The managing editor of Crest and Premier was Leona Nevler.

Between 1960 and 1993, Gold Medal was the exclusive American publisher of Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm spy novel series. In the early 1960s, John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series got underway after Knox Burger contacted MacDonald: "At the request of Knox Burger, then at Fawcett, I attempted a series character. I took three shots at it to get one book with a character I could stay with. That was in 1964. Once I had the first McGee book, "The Deep Blue Good-by", they held it up until I had finished two more, "Nightmare in Pink" and "A Purple Place for Dying", then released one a month for three months. That launched the series."

After his retirement in 1972, Daigh recalled, "From our entrance into the paperback business, we paid authors at a more generous rate than had been the custom. In 1955, when we started the Crest line to reprint hardcover books, we extended this practice to what we offered for softcover rights. It caused quite a sensation in the trade when we paid $101,505 for James Gould Cozzens' "By Love Possessed" and later $700,000 for James A. Michener's "The Source". Giving the author a bigger share of the pie paid off handsomely. However, I gather that the practice has been overdone in recent years and has led to some of the book industry's current troubles."

The Fawcett family

Captain Billy and Claire Fawcett had four sons and a daughter -- Roger, Wilford, Marion Claire, Gordon Wesley and the youngest, Roscoe. As a boy, Roscoe Kent Fawcett (February 7, 1913-December 23, 1999) attended Minneapolis schools and was assigned tasks such as dusting furniture and beach cleaning at his father's Breezy Point Resort before he became a vice president and circulation manager for the family publishing company. After Captain Billy's death, his sons, including Roscoe Fawcett, managed the Breezy Point Resort for a short time before they sold it. However, Roscoe Fawcett also maintained his own private hunting retreat, the Tsawhawbitts Lodge (pronounced "Cha-ha-bich"), in Jarbidge, Nevada. This two acre (8,000 m²) riverfront bed and breakfast estate, now valued at $1 million, has 7,500 square feet (700 m²) of living area in three buildings -- the seven-bedroom log house, the guest house with garage and shop, and the party house with full kitchen, bar and barbecue patio.

Roscoe Fawcett was a veteran of World War II, serving in the anti-aircraft division of the U.S. Army, and later was in charge of entertainment for Camp Hahn in Riverside, California. He was married twice, had four sons and died at the age of 86 in Brainerd, Minnesota. One of his sons, Roscoe Fawcett Jr., became the publisher of "American Fitness" magazine.

Born in Minneapolis in 1912, Gordon Fawcett graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1934. He married Vivian Peterson in 1935 and moved to Los Angeles where he was Fawcett Publications' office manager. He held the title of secretary-treasurer when the company moved to Greenwich, Connecticut in 1940, and he was 81 when he died in West Palm Beach, Florida, on January 16, 1993. Gordon Fawcett had four children: Vivian Creigh of Springfield, Vermont, and his three sons, Dennis of Greenwich; David of Stuart, Florida; and Gordon Jr. of San Diego. Fawcett Publications was very much a family affair, as indicated by a list of the company's stockholders: Claire Sue Bagg, James Wesley Bagg, Marion Fawcett Bagg, William Bagg, Gordon W. Fawcett, Helen Aline Fawcett, John Fawcett, John Roger Fawcett, Mary Blair Fawcett, Blair Redding Fawcett, Michael Blair Fawcett, Roger K. Fawcett, Roscoe Kent Fawcett, Marie F. Fawcett, Thomas Knowlton Fawcett, Vivian D. Fawcett, W.H. Fawcett, Jr., W.H. Fawcett III, William Blair Fawcett, Mrs. Virginia Kerr, Mira King, Gloria Fawcett Leary and Mrs. Eva Roberts. Internet consultant Travis Fawcett, living in San Diego, is the son of John Roger Fawcett. Wilford Hamilton "Buzz" Fawcett IV is an attorney in Washington D.C. [ [http://www.buzzlaw.net W.H. Fawcett resume] ]

Fawcett Publications had offices at 67 West 44th Street in Manhattan where vice-president Roger Fawcett liked to show visitors around the publishers' penthouse and serve them drinks dispensed through the gold penis of a nude male statue. Roger Fawcett felt a family history was needed, and in 1970, he began writing "Notes on the Fawcett Family"::On April 27, 1885, Wilford Hamilton Fawcett was born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. His was to be a life of fantastic pleasure. Not that it didn’t have a moment here and there of interruption, but his flow of life was always to have a great time. Here today and gone tomorrow!

:His parents, Maria B. Neilson and Dr. John Fawcett gave birth to eight children – six boys and two girls of which Wilford was the third born. John W. Fawcett, the firstborn was a newspaper reporter for the "Chicago Tribune" when, at the age of 30, he was killed in an automobile crash. Gordon only lived two years. Roscoe the fourth born pretty much ran the publishing business from 1923 to 1936 for his older brother, who was off on an African safari, around the world by boat for months, etc.

:The fifth and sixth children were the two girls, Margaret and Eva. Margaret begot two girls and Eva two sons and one girl. Although both mothers are now gone, all the children are wise and healthy.

:Clarence Fawcett was the only child that didn’t match up. All the others were quite successful in life. He was a streetcar motorman in Portland, Oregon. Had two sons, Leland and Robert. One became a supermarket manager and the other opted for a career in the Army Air Force.

:Harvey, the youngest and really smart – too smart for his own good – became father’s business manager until my old man found him taking a dollar commission for each ton of paper purchased. Fired he was. Harvey then successfully published a magazine called "The Calgary Eye Opener".

:My younger son, Tom, asked me a year or so ago if his grandfather was a genius. I answered no, but he was brilliant. I also said that Tom’s great grandfather, Dr. John, was a near genius if not one. He not only was a doctor of medicine, incidentally, he brought me into this world, but he plied the first steamship on the Red River of the North bringing wheat from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Fargo, North Dakota from which the wheat was taken to Minneapolis by rail to be processed.

:Dr. John was also Superintendent of all schools in Winnipeg for several years. He had on the drawing board an airplane before the Wright Brothers, but a trip to England failed to secure the needed financing.

:Maybe his most memorable undertaking was organizing 150 men to travel over land to Alaska from Ontario during the Gold Rush. It was doomed to failure. About two-thirds of the way, the caravan encountered forty degree below weather, heavy snows and hurricane winds. Before the expedition retraced their steps, about 25 men were already lost; another 30 died before reaching their Ontario homes.

:In keeping with his flamboyant personality, Wilford ran away from home at the age of sixteen to enlist in the N.A. Army which was then involved in the Philippine insurrection. He had to lie about his age as the requirements were eighteen years. At this time the family lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

:In no time at all, the young soldier was on the way by ship to Mindanao, Philippines. The war lasted about two years, but father was discharged six months early due to a bad wound in his right leg that became infected, and the curing of same was beyond the ability of the army doctors. He was also uncomfortable due to a bad case of dysentery. The year was 1900.

:Wilford left the Philippines by ship to San Francisco determined to have a last fling before the infection proved fatal. He had $5,000 cash comfortably in his pocket. This as a result, when off duty, making moonshine up in the hills to be easily sold to his fellow soldiers and $5,000 in those days is equivalent to roughly $50,000 now.

:After landing in San Francisco, he journeyed around the South and finally landed in New Orleans, Louisiana. While shooting the bull in a bar one night, it was suggested he contact a country doctor a few miles out of the city. It was said that the man had great success with infections using mostly a variety of herbs. Of course he would try anything and sure enough in a few treatments over two weeks was fully cured. By this time though, most of his $5,000 had been used up. Wilford decided to hitchhike for home in North Dakota. Took about 5 days and he arrived home in darkness afraid to confront his father, who I understand was quite a stern taskmaster. The first night was spent in the haystack in the family barn.

:As morning arrived, he saw his brother Roscoe outside and motioned him to the barn. After interrogation, Roscoe convinced his older brother that their father had long forgiven Bill and was actually somewhat proud of one who would join the army at a tender age. So, the reunion was joyfully made.

:That fall, Wilford returned to finish high school and became the standout football player in Grand Forks. He was a convert|180|lb|abbr=on running halfback who led the team to the North Dakota State Championship. North and South Dakota were always fiercely competitive so a game with South Dakota’s champs was arranged to be played in Sioux Falls. At my father’s urging, his team bet all the money they had upon North Dakota. It was no contest. The score was 48-0 and the star was “Chinaman” Fawcett. His teammates hung the nickname on him.

:The team was not to return North until the next day. So, with their new found money, a night on the town was a sure thing. It wound up in the local whorehouse where a good time was had by all. But the coaches heard about the escapade and reported to the school principal, who notified the parents and banished the players for one week. Father also said it was well worth it. He believed the coaches were just jealous that they were not invited along.

:Father married Viva Claire Meyers, from the small town of Hawarden, Iowa in 1906 at the age of 21. Mother was the same age. The marriage produced five children – Marion and Wilford, Jr., twins, Roger, Gordan and Roscoe in that order. This union lasted about twelve years and father had two more marriages – Mother none. We children lived with Mother nine months of the year and Father the three months of school’s summer vacation.

:Wilford enlisted at Fort Snelling, St. Paul for World War I and spent the duration at Camp Georgia. He rose to the rank of Captain where his name, Captain Billy came from. As he had been a reporter on the "Minneapolis Tribune", he liked to write and it was in his blood. Incidentally, Floyd Gibbons, who wore a patch over one eye, was on the paper at the same time. He was fired and then landed a job on the "Chicago Tribune" who later sent him to Europe as a war correspondent where he became --

Because of his cancer, Roger Fawcett stopped writing his family history at that point, and he did not return to it. [ [http://www.calltravis.com Travis Fawcett] ] [ [http://pipl.com/directory/people/Travis/Fawcett PIPL: Travis Fawcett] ]

Acquisition and recent history

A declining comics market in the 1950s, along with a major lawsuit (National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications), resulted in Fawcett folding its line of comic books. "Lash Larue", "Nyoka", "Strange Suspense Stories" and other titles were sold to Charlton Comics. In 1972, after licensing Captain Marvel and featuring him in new stories, DC Comics purchased the Marvel Family and related characters in 1991.

In 1970, Fawcett acquired Popular Library and renamed it Fawcett Books. Fawcett Publications was bought by CBS in 1977 for $50 million. When Ballantine Books (a division of Random House) acquired Fawcett Books in 1982, it inherited a mass market paperback list with such authors as William Bernhardt, Amanda Cross, Stephen Frey, P. D. James, William X. Kienzle, Anne Perry, Daniel Silva, Peter Straub and Margaret Truman. Fawcett also became the official home of Ballantine's mass market mystery program.

In 1987, Fawcett senior executive Peter G. Diamandis and a management team negotiated a $650 million leverage buy out, then sold six titles to raise $250 million. Diamandis Communications, Inc. was then sold the next year to Hachette Publications for $712 million. [citeweb
title=Hachette's blueprints for growth...
publisher=Folio: The Magazine for Magazine Management

An annual four-day festival held in Robbinsdale, Minnesota is Whiz Bang Days. [ [http://www.whizbangdays.com/ Whiz Bang Days] ] Robbinsdale's city celebration, recalling the glory years of Fawcett Publications, began during World War II. The original Fawcett Publications building, which remained standing in Robbinsdale for decades, was torn down during the mid-1990s. It was located at what is now the terrace for Robbinsdale's "Thistles" Restaurant (4168 West Broadway Avenue).



*Walters, Ray. "Paperback Talk," "The New York Times" (April 11, 1982).

External links

* [http://www.pgw.com/catalog/catalog.asp?DBKey=118&CatalogKey=226862&Action=View&Index=Page&Book=229362&Order=233 Vin Packer and Gold Medal Books]
* [http://www.donpendleton.com/richard_prather_interview.htm Richard S. Prather Interview by Linda Pendleton]
* [http://www.donpendleton.com/prather_bibliography.htm Richard S. Prather Bibliography]

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