True Crime Detective Magazines
Hanson, Dian (ED)
Godtland, Eric (author)
Published by Taschen Books
Hardcover, 23.2 x 27 cm (9.1 x 10.6 in.), 336 pages, $ 39.99
Multilingual Edition: English, French, German
Review by Drake
Thank you, god or goddess or blind chance, for Taschen Books and Dian Hanson, editor and visionary!
Gorgeous printing, a keen eye, and a stunning sense of design characterize the growing Taschen catalog of essential books on popular culture. One of the latest, the plainly titled, but beautiful True Crime Detective Magazines, by Eric Godtland, captures a stunningly iconic era of art and an evolving slice of the American psyche.
Well and succinctly written, the volume features brief essays on fetishes – bondage and smoking — and then launches into a decade by decade analysis of America’s fascination with bad guys, and especially with bad girls. The 30s were the decade of the celebrity gangster, the 40s of bondage and rescue, the 50s the decade of the femme fatale reinvented as gang deb, and the 60s, of course, the decade of excess, the beginning of the end of innocence.
Marc Gerald contributes a warm essay on the final years of True Detective, the most venerable of true crime mags, and the volume concludes with biographies of artists and writers and a list of publishers. The content is uniformly entertainingly and insightful.
But the fine text is only the package in which the present is wrapped. Like other Taschen volumes, this one is a visual feast, featuring gorgeous color cover reproductions of dozens of magazines from the 20s through the 60s and a few internal pages, selected with impeccable taste and an eye for innovation and beauty. The images are breathtaking, narrative, and enormously fun.
If a book like True Crime has a flaw, the flaw is that the best a book like this can be is a peek into the antechamber of a vast palace of wonders wholly out of reach without at least an eBay strategy. Taschen deserves huge credit for what it has done so far to preserve art and culture that would otherwise be lost, at least to popular perspective.
I certainly look forward to more amazing books in the future.