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|Died||December 9, 1969 (aged 65)|
Frank Gruber (born February 2, 1904,
Gruber said that as a 9-year-old newsboy, he read his first book, "Luke Walton, the Chicago Newsboy" by Horatio Alger. During the next seven years he read a hundred more Alger books and said they influenced him professionally more than anything else in his life. They told how poor boys became rich, but what they instilled in Gruber was an ambition at age nine or 10, to be an author. He had written his first book before age 11, using a pencil on wrapping paper.
Age 13 or 14, his ambition died for a while but several years later it rose again and he started submitting stories to various magazines, like Smart Set and Atlantic Monthly. Getting rejected, he lowered his sights to The Saturday Evening Post and Colliers, with no more success. The pulps were getting noticed and Gruber tried those but with no success. As a story came back with a rejection slip, he would post it off again to someone else, so he could have as many as forty stories going back and forth at different times, costing him about a third of his earnings in postage.
February 1927, he finally sold a story. It was bought by The United Brethren Publishing House of
Answering an ad in the Chicago Tribune, he got a job editing a small farm paper. In September he got a better paid job in Iowa and soon found himself editing five farm papers. He had lots of money and even wrote some articles for the papers but found he had no time to write the stories he wanted to write.
In 1932 the Depression hit, and he lost his job. 1932 to 1934 were his bad years. He wrote and wrote, many stories typed out on an old "Remington" but of the Sunday School stories, the spicy sex stories, the detective stories, the sports stories, the love stories, very few sold, with some companies paying him as little as a quarter of a cent per word. He had a few successes and remained in Mt. Morris, Illinois for 14 months before deciding to head to New York on July 1, 1934.
There were numerous publishing houses in New York and he could save money on postage but this led to him walking miles to deliver manuscripts as he had so little money, not even enough for food most of the time. He stayed in a room in the Forty Fourth Street Hotel ($10.50 per week).
In his book, The Pulp Jungle (1967), Gruber details the struggles (for a long time, at least once a day he had tomato soup, which was free hot water in a bowl, with free crackers crumbled in and half a bottle of tomato sauce added) he had for a few years and numerous fellow authors he became friendly with, many of whom were famous or later became famous.
Early December 1934 and with endless rejection slips, he got a phone call from Rogers Terrill. Could he do a 5,500 word filler story for
January 1942, Gruber decided to try Hollywood, having heard about the huge sums some stories sold for and stayed there till 1946.
Gruber—who stated that
He bragged that he could write a complete mystery novel in 16 days and then use the other 14 days of the month to knock out a historical serial for a magazine. His mystery novels included The French Key (for which he
Gruber said that, while in the Army, he learned how to