Friday, November 24, 2023

7 Questions With Robert Deis, Editor of the Men's Adventure Library Book Series


Robert Deis is the Editor of the Men’s Adventure Library book series, the Men's Adventure Quarterly  magazine and . In the magazine and in many books, Deis edits reprints of original stories and artwork from the Men's Adventure magazines popular  from the 1940s to the 1970s.  Catering to a male audience, these magazines commonly featured action/adventure, crime and war stories, exposés, exotic travel yarns, and animal attack stories, pinup photos, and eye-grabbing cover and interior artwork.   The most recently published collection is titled  Atomic Werewolves and Man-Eating Plants.  

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

I’ve been a history buff since the 1950s, when I was a kid growing up in Dayton, Ohio, I

loved TV shows and movies that were set in the past; everything from Westerns and

Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett series to sword-and-sandal movies set in ancient Greece

and Rome. After I learned to read, I started reading history books and historical novels

geared toward young readers. As a teen I was a huge fan of Civil War history, which

was big then because of the Civil War Centennial, which led me to read things like

Bruce Catton’s Civil War trilogy. I also loved American Heritage magazine and National

Geographic. In college at Ohio State University, I majored in anthropology and was

especially interested in American Indian history and culture. My interest in history has

continued since then.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

After college, I moved to Maine, where I spent the first part of my career as an adult

working for the Maine state government. On the side, I started writing articles about

Maine history, wildlife and environmental issues for magazines like DownEast and

Yankee. My writing skills later got me various types of jobs as a copywriter, leading to a

long a four-decade career writing print materials, TV ads, and other things for national

firm that manages ballot measure campaigns. About 20 years ago, I read a couple of

books about vintage men’s adventure magazines published in the 1950s, 1960s and

1970s. I started collecting those mags—called MAMS, for short—and fell in love with

the stories and artwork. Over time, I put together what is now one of the world’s largest

collections of MAMs, maybe the largest. Around 2012, I started writing a blog about

them ( That soon led me to start co-editing books and a magazine

that focus on reprinting MAM stories and art. Some of my books have a lot to do with

history, such as the book A Handful of Hell, which collects war and adventure stories

written by Robert F. Dorr, who started out writing for men’s adventure magazines, then

became one of America’s top military aviation historians.

3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

It didn’t play much of a role in my primary adult career as a campaign consultant and

writer. However, it did play a role in the freelance magazine articles I wrote. And,

nowadays it plays a role in the projects I developed with fellow MAM fans I met as a

result of my blog. One of them, Wyatt Doyle, heads up the New Texture indie publishing

company. Starting in 2013, he and I launched a series of books reprinting stories and

artwork from MAMs, called the Men’s Adventure Library series. In those books, we write

introductions about the writers, artists and historical events related to the stories and

artwork. Many of them involve historical events, so we often research and write about

how much fact or fiction there is in the stories. We also do research about MAM writers,

artists and publishing companies. A couple of years ago, I launched a magazine that

reprints MAM stories and artwork with Bill Cunningham, head of the Pulp 2.0 publishing

company. It’s called the Men’s Adventure Quarterly. Like the books I co-edit, I write

intros for the stories we reprint in the MAQ. Nowadays, though I still do some campaign

consulting, I primarily spend my time on my books and magazine publishing projects

and, as a result, have basically become what you might call a pop culture historian.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

On a personal level, I think it’s crucial to anyone who really wants to understand what’s

going on in our world today and have an informed perspective that’s based on more

than simplistic prejudices. I’m shocked at how little many people know about history and

how easily that leads to them have opinions that are based more on political

propaganda than facts.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

As a kid I was especially interested in American history from the 1600s to the early

1900s involving frontiersmen, cowboys and Indians. I still am, though now I read as

much or more about 20th century history, especially World War II, the Korean War, and

the Vietnam War, since they play a role in many of the stories I write introductions for.

6. How did men’s adventure magazines become a part of your life?

When I was a kid and a teenager in the ‘50s and ‘60s, my father read some of the most

popular MAMs, like True and Argosy, but I didn’t pay much attention to them back then

and the genre faded away entirely by 1980. I really got into them because of two books

about them published in mid-2000s, Men's Adventure Magazines: In Postwar America

and It’s A Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps. I was blown

away by the artwork, done by some of the greatest illustration artist of the 20th Century.

Artists like Mort Künstler, who later became an illustrator for National Geographic and,

starting in the 1980s, became known as America’s premier Civil War artist. As I

collected the magazines, I found them to be full of a fascinating cornucopia of both

fiction yarns and non-fiction articles that are fun to read both as entertainment and

interesting as windows into American culture in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

7. What do the men’s adventure magazines reveal to us about their era, and what

is their significance in history?

During the decades when they were published, men’s adventure magazines were read

by tens of millions of American men, especially veterans of WWII and the Korean War.

So, they are significant from both sociological and publishing history perspectives. They

are very significant in the realm of illustration art, since they were a primary market for

many illustration artists at a time when mainstream magazines were switching to

photographs rather than artwork for their covers and interior illustrations. They are also

significant in the realm of pulp fiction, since they are descendants of the pulp magazines

that were popular between the early 1900s and World War II and have many

connections to the writers, artists and publishers involved in the paperback industry that

emerged and exploded after WWII. They also have significance in terms of sociological

history. They provide insights into the kinds of stories read by men in the ‘50s, ‘60s and

‘70s and the worldview those men had. Because they are of their time, many aspects of

MAMs now seem sexist, racist, and ethnocentric. But that was true of most mid-20th

century American media and culture. To me, the best reasons to read old MAM stories

are that many of the fiction stories are just plain fun-to-read action/adventure yarns, the

cover and interior artwork is great, and many of the non-fiction articles involve historic

events seen through the prism of that era.

With Wyatt Doyle (left), co-editor

Friday, November 10, 2023

7 Questions With Lee Lancaster, Agricultural Historian and Author


Lee Lancaster was born and raised in Milan, Georgia and attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and the University of Georgia, earning a degree in Agriculture Education.  He started working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture in 2003.  In 2017, he began writing a regular column in the Georgia Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin called "Georgie's Drive Thru Agriculture" about agricultural and historical points of interest found in rural Georgia.  In July 2023, he published The Georgia Farmers' Strike:  The American Agricultural Movement vs Jimmy Carter.  In October of 2023, he published Vidalia Onions:  A History of Georgia's State Vegetable.  He and his family reside in Eastman, Georgia.  

(Personal connections:  My hometown is Vidalia, Georgia, and although my family didn't grow onions, we definitely ate hundreds of pounds a year, and my aunt was the first Vidalia Onion Queen, hand-picked by Mr. Moses Coleman, the first planter of Vidalia onions, about 1950.  If I remember correctly, a classmate of mine was the very first to portray Yumion, the official Vidalia Onion ambassador character. And we always subscribed to the Market Bulletin.)

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

      During the first Gulf War, I started really paying attention to the news and history. I learned a lot about the military and the Middle East at that time. I did not take any extra history courses in high school or college. When I began to write articles for the Georgia Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin, I began to dig into Georgia and agricultural history. I use the research I've done to finish my stories. Most of the research materials I've used were UGA research materials and minutes from historical society meetings. There's not much to choose from in agricultural history, so I have been able to expand the category a little bit.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

      Whenever we plan a trip, we always look for the historical points of interest along the way. When we went to Louisville, Kentucky this summer, we were able to visit Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, Shiloh Battlefield Military Park, Churchill Downs, and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. I hope to pass this interest on to my children, Nate and Caroline.

3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

      I participate in a lot of outreach programs for the Georgia Department of Agriculture. When I talk to people at events, I am disappointed at the amount of knowledge and interest in history and agriculture people have. I wrote these two books to educate the public about agricultural history. The Georgia Farmers' Strike took place in the late 1970's through the mid 1980's. No one my age, except for the descendants of the participants, knew about the events of the book until I had it published. The reason these events are not well known is simple: interest in agriculture was been left behind by the public when they left the farm for the bright lights in town. It's not flashy or sexy and doesn't hold their interest even though we need farmers for three meals a day. 

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

      Knowing history's importance is playing out in the national news right now. If you don't know the facts firsthand, you can be led down any road like the blind leading the blind. "Googling information" is a dangerous thing since anybody can put anything on the internet that's wrong, slanted or occasionally right, but one can tell the difference. Go to the library and find out for yourself. The libraries are drying up and dying because the internet has taken its place.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

      I love the Revolutionary and Civil War periods but also learning about the way things were before cell phones, electricity, tractors, etc. I like to read about how people survived before the cell phone was invented because I'd like to go back to those days...

6. How did Georgia’s agricultural history specifically become a part of your life?

      The books I wrote have become a huge part of my life. I enjoy educating people about the subjects I researched and reliving the events experienced in the books with some of the people I meet that were there.

7. You’ve written a new book about the history of Georgia’s famous official state vegetable, the Vidalia Onion.  What will readers find as they read your book?

      Readers will read about the struggle it took to establish the communities around Vidalia first and then the struggle to establish the crop itself. I also wrote about the legal and legislative process it took to establish the Vidalia onion. Everything that is written about in the news is contradictory to the facts about migrant workers so I took it upon myself to research and explain the legal process of obtaining workers from other countries, known as H2A.