Carl Richard Jacobi

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Carl Richard Jacobi
Carl Richard Jacobi.jpg
Born (1908-07-10)July 10, 1908
Minneapolis, Minnesota, US
Died August 25, 1997(1997-08-25) (aged 89)
St Louis Park, Minnesota, US
Nationality American
Occupation writer

Carl Richard Jacobi (July 10, 1908 – August 25, 1997) was an American journalist and author. He wrote short stories in the horror, fantasy, adventure and crime genres for the pulp magazine market. He also produced some science fiction, mainly space opera. He was one of the last surviving pulp-fictioneers to have contributed to the legendary American horror magazine Weird Tales during its "glory days" (the 1920s and 1930s).


Early life and education[edit]

Jacobi was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1904 and lived there throughout his life. He was a voracious reader, gulping down at an early age quantities of Jules Verne, Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells as well as the Frank Merriwell and Tom Swift boys' adventure yarns. He was always a writer; at his junior high school he earned good pocket-money concocting his own 'dime novels'(short story booklets) and selling them to fellow students as 10 cents-a-piece.[1]

He attended the University of Minnesota from 1927 to 1930, majoring in English Literature, where he began his writing career in campus magazines and was an undergraduate classmate of Donald Wandrei. His first stories were published while he was at the University. The last of these, "Moss Island", was a graduate's contribution to The Quest of Central High School, and "Mive" in the University of Minnesota's The Minnesota Quarterly. Both stories were later sold to Amazing Stories and Weird Tales respectively and marked his debut in professional magazines. "Mive" brought him payment of 25 dollars. Long before graduation he made his first professional sale, a short detective tale, "Rumbling Cannon", top Secret Service Stories. This ought to have paid around fifty dollars but Jacobi received not a cent since the pulp folded soon after the story was published.

Professional writing career[edit]

He joined the editorial staff of The Minnesota Quarterly, and after graduation in 1931, he became a news reporter, reviewer and sub-editor for the Minneapolis Star, as well as a frequent reviewer of books and plays. He also served on the staff of the Minnesota Ski-U-Mah, a scholastic publication. After a while regular hours palled, and he left the Star, renting an office in uptown Minneapolis in which were typewriter, paper, a few reference books, and a list of editorial addresses in New York.

Jacobi met August Derleth in January 1931 when Derleth was visiting Minneapolis to see Donald Wandrei. Jacobi had read Derleth's stories in Weird Tales and his Solar Pons stories in Dragnet and asked to be introduced; they met for an evening at the Rainbow Cafe. Though Derleth and Jacobi corresponded for 40 years thereafter, Jacobi saw him but a few times in St Paul and never visited Derleth's home of Sauk City, Wisconsin. Over the following summer, when Derleth worked briefly as an editor for Fawcett Publications, outside Minneapolis, the three men frequently got together for barnstorming sessions.

After years with the Minneapolis Star, he was the editor for two years of Midwest Media, an advertising and radio trade journal. Later, he devoted himself full-time to writing. He owned his own private retreat, a cabin at Minnewashta in the Carver country outlands of Minneapolis. His intimate familiarity with the terrain and environment there provided the setting for many of his most distinguished stories. Jacobi was a lifelong bachelor.

From 1932 until his death in 1997, pulp writer Hugh B. Cave corresponded with Jacobi. Scores of their letters are quoted in Cave's memoir Magazines I Remember (Chicago: Tattered Pages Press, 1994).

Jack Adrian writes:

In the depression years of the early 1930s, the pulp-writer needed as formidable a creative armoury as possible, along with a certain amount of luck, and cunning, to crack even the lowest paying markets. Jacobi had a useful knack for dreaming up memorable milieu against which to set his tales, and bizarre situations that stayed in the mind long after the magazine the story itself was in had been finished and tossed away. He may have been the only writer ever to have a story firmly rejected by the redoubtable Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, only to have Wright, weeks later, begging for the story back, because an incident in it had stuck in his mind. This was "Revelations in Black", a chilling, and much-reprinted, vampire tale set in an old stone farmhouse outside of Minneapolis Jacobi had driven past one night (the house's eerie statue-lined garden, as seen by brilliant moonlight, had caught his eye and his imagination.[1]

He wrote scores of tales for all the best known magazines of fantasy and science fiction and was represented in numerous anthologies of imaginative fiction published in the United States, England and New Zealand. His stories were translated into French, Swedish, Danish and Dutch. Many of his tales were published in anthologies edited by Derleth, and Arkham House published his first three short story collections. Stories also appeared in such magazines as Short Stories, Railroad Magazine, The Toronto Star, Wonder Stories, MacLean's magazine, Ghost Stories, Strange Stories, Thrilling Mystery, Startling Stories, Complete Stories, Top-Notch and others. Though best known for his macabre fiction, Jacobi also wrote science fiction, weird-menace yarns and adventure stories.[2]

Already by 1935, Jacobi was seeing a greater percentage of rejected stories. Pressed by financial problems and the need to help his parents survive the Depression, he took a $50 a week job as a continuity writer for the local radio station where he stayed until 1940. When the pulp markets collapsed, he took regular employment with one of the Honeywell Corp defense plants as an electronics inspector, a job he had through WWII and beyond, while writing part-time. He worked the night shift at Honeywell seven days a week, which had a severe impact on both his writing schedule and his health, leading to heart problems.[citation needed]

Jacobi was fascinated by adventure tales with a Southeast Asia setting, particularly in regard to Dutch central Borneo and the Maritime Southeast Asia. Jacobi wrote to officials working in Southeast Asia to obtain details for his stories,[2] and he had considerable knowledge of that background in his fiction. According to Jack Adrian, "He would write to those in charge of far-flung outposts deep in the heart of the Borneo jungle, say, demanding geographical detail, obscure ethnic lore, atmosphereic and forestall conditions; anything, in short, you couldn't get out of a book. This way he became an acknowledged expert in a field he had created himself, at the same time inventing whole new fiction subgenres, such as "Borneo terror tale", "New Guinea adventure" and so on. Later he turned the same trick with Baluchistan.[1]

At the time of the compilation of Revelations in Black (1947), Jacobi was at work on a novel, but it is unknown whether this was completed.[citation needed]

Later life and death[edit]

Debilitating illness crippled him during the final half-decade of his life, although his literary agent and biographer R. Dixon Smith did much to alleviate his various afflictions.[1]

Jacobi died at St Louis Park, Minnesota on August 25, 1997.[1]


(All of the following are short story collections)


  1. ^ a b c d e Jack Adrian. "Obituary: Carl Jacobi". The Independent (Fri 23 Jan 2015) [1]
  2. ^ a b "Jacobi,Carl" in Encyclopedia of pulp fiction writers by Lee Server. Facts on File, 2002 ISBN 978-0-8160-4578-5 ,(pp. 155-6)
  • Don Herron. "Carl Jacobi" in Jack Sullivan (ed). The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. New York: Viking Penguin, 1986, p. 229.
  • Pugmire, Wilum H.(ed). Carl Jacobi: An Appreciation. Pensacola, FL: Stellar Z Productions, 1977.
  • Ruber, Peter (ed). Arkham's Masters of Horror. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 2000.
  • Smith, R. Dixon. Lost in the Rentharpian Hills: Spanning the Decades with Carl Jacobi.. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Press, 1985.

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