Friday, December 03, 2010

Newsgathering, yesterday and today

Having realized that online versions of the printed product will not save their industry, some newspapers now pin their hopes on short bulletins — breaking news delivered electronically in bite-size chunks to readers raised on text messages. (Whether this is one more technological chimera, or whether newspapers are leaping on one bandwagon just as the next one is getting ready to leave remains to be seen. I hope neither is the case.)

I thought of this when I read the following in Frederick Nebel's 1933 story "Doors in the Dark":
"`Thanks ... Hello, Abe,' he said into transmitter. `Kennedy. Dust out your ears and get a load of this. Daniel Cosgrove Rand, sportsman, fight promoter, owner of the Colosseum; dead by his own hand, at 9:50 tonight, on River Road, near the foot of Pokomoke Street, in an abandoned warehouse. Shot heard, body found, by Patrolman Henry Pflueger. No witnesses. Got that? ... Okey. More later."
Nebel's Kennedy is a reporter for the Richmond City Press, and it looks to me as if the latest hope is something newspapers were doing seventy-seven years ago.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010



Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Thats a different cover than on mine, although mine might be a different anthology.
But I loved the Nebel stories; my favourite after the established writers.

As for the section you quoted: that reminds me of the rat-a-tat dialogue from Howard Hawks' 'His Girl Friday', and perhaps also Wellman's 'Roxie Hart'.

It might also be the case that the newspaperman would be able to flesh out the story, either by his own invention, or further investigation, or perhaps this was just a 'Stop Press' bulletin, abbreviated to be a scoop just in ime for the deadline
Kennedy was a great character; that relationship was a major part of the stories' appeal for me

December 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, I didn't even know this book was published on your side of the ocean. The cover shown here is that of The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories.

I'm thinking of making a post on Nebel's prose rhythms, not just in dialogue.

The stop-the-presses bulletin would be more akin to what newspapers will try to do if they go the text-message route: Get the information out there as it the news happens, then flesh it out later, the way newspapers once did all the time when they had more editions than they do now and were the medium for breaking news.

I had previously read Nebel in The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, and I agree with you about Kennedy.

December 04, 2010  
Blogger Jerry House said...

Back in the day, of course, newspapers had rewrite men to put that information into a news story and could insert more information if the reporter called it in.

December 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Back in the day, of course, newspapers had ..."

Ah, yes. I think the new model will be that the reporter keeps filing ever-larger versions of the story. The night editor at my paper does something like what I think the old rewrite men used to, and I think we've got someone who does it during the day.

December 04, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"I'm thinking of making a post on Nebel's prose rhythms, not just in dialogue."

Looks like you're enjoying Nebel, Peter. I think he's a very good prose stylist. And probably my favorite Black Mask writer after Hammett and Chandler. The Tough Dick Donahue and Jack Cardigan stories are generally better than the MacBride and Kennedy ones (in my opinion).

I also loved his novel Sleepers East, 1933. Crime and romance on a locomotive speeding through the snow!

December 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've read references to Tough Dick Donahue and Jack Cardigan, but the MacBride/Kennedy stories seem to be more anthologized, at least recently.

What caught my eye about Nebel's prose was the same sort of thing that I mentioned in re Hammett: the suspension of action in favor of accretion of detail involving inanimate objects. The example on "Doors in the Dark" is not as purely inanimate as Hammett's, but I think he uses the technique to similar effect.

December 07, 2010  

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