Richard Deming – Detective/Mystery author

Read a story by Richard Deming in the  August, 1952 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The story is “For Value Received” and it’s an excellent revenge story. I wanted to learn something about the author and came across this article in the Dunkirk-Fredonia Evening Observer, July 9th, 1960. If you have any recommendations of stories by him that you’ve read, leave a note in the comments.

Full Name: Richard Franklin Deming
Born: Apr 25 1915 in Des Moines, Iowa
Died: Sep 05 1983 in Los Angeles, California

Richard Deming - Crime/Mystery/Detective Author c. 1960

Richard Deming – Crime/Mystery/Detective Author c. 1960

Richard Deming – Crime/Mystery/Detective Author c. 1960

Richard Deming has had 19 books and 300 short stories published in past 10 years By Clifford McIntyre “Look for another line of work” was the advice offered recently by Dunkirk’s best-known fiction writer to others who would like to follow in his path. Today, just 10 years after he began writing full – time, Richard Deming has 19 books — almost two a year — and 300 short stories and novelettes — better than two a month — to his credit. Yet, he says, “If I had known how long it was going to take me to be successful, I never would have written the first story, It’s a heart-breaking business.”

Started in 1950

Mr. Deming started full-time writing in Dunkirk in 1950. “It was four years before I could say I made a living from it,” he claims. He sold his first story “about 1940” to a pulp magazine for $15. His first successful sale was in 1948 when he authored a short story that sold for $200.

Most of Mr. Deming’s early work was published in “pulp magazines.” “Pulps” are magazines printed, on a cheaper grade of paper. Basically, the magazine writing field is broken down by many in the business into two categories — “pulps” and “slicks.” “Slicks” are magazines such as Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, McCalls etc. Their name is derived from the “slick” type paper on which they are printed. Mr. Deming’s later efforts, however have successfully included both pulps and slicks. In addition, he has done some television work.

Worked for TV

The latter category has included the Mickey Spillane television series. Two years ago Mr. Deming was under contract to Music Corporation of America to write four scripts for the Mickey Spillane show.

“It’s an experience I wouldn’t want again,” he comments wryly. Mr. Deming said he couldn’t get along with the director of the show. At one point the director said, “I could knock out one of these scripts in a day.” “If you can knock one out in a day,” answered the Dunkirk writer, “why did you drag me 3,000 miles to do them for you? I would just as soon go home,” he added.

Television series are low budget shows, according to Mr. Deming. “They shoot a half-hour show in three days,” he explained. “One day is spent for rehearsal and two days for shooting.” His contract with MCA was for four weeks. During that time, he adapted two of his own stories for TV.

“In television they buy a story, hand it to you and tell you to adapt it. Next,” according Mr. Deming, “they hold a story conference during which they pick the story apart and suggest changes. It’s pretty hard to listen to someone pick your story apart.”

Associated with “Dragnet”

Another notable journey to California for Mr. Deming came when he worked on the “Dragnet” books. Jack Webb sold his rights to Dragnet some years ago for $5,000,000, but he still supervises the show. Pocket Books Inc. commissioned Mr. Deming to write several books on the Dragnet theme and sent him to Los Angeles. When he arrived, he went to the Us Angeles police department, selected a case, and worked with them on it for two weeks. He then returned to Dunkirk and wrote a book Later, he went through the same procedure for another Dragnet book.

Born in Iowa

Mr. Deming was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He received a bachelor degree from Washington University and a master in English Literature from Iowa State university. “This is one of the few universities in the country,” he explained, “that will accept a fiction thesis.” He wrote a book for a thesis which he says was never published and never will get published.

During World War II he served with the army in Africa and Italy and was discharged a captain. In 1946 he came to Dunkirk to accept a position as executive secretary of the Northern Chautauqua chapter Red Cross which he held until going into full-time writing in 1950. His first book was sold in 1951. Although most of his 19 books have been mystery and crime, Deming has two juveniles to his credit. “Famous American Spies” will come out shortly. It is written for 14-16 year olds. His other juvenile book was a series of short stories based on the Dragnet theme.

About a dozen of Mr. Deming’s stories have appeared in anthologies. One is a western, another a science fiction, and the rest mystery stories. Just recently Mr. Deming was cited for having written one of the best detective stories in the past 15 years. The story, “For Value Received” was originally published in 1952 by Ellery Queen magazine. It has been reprinted in an anthology edited by David C. Cooke and published by E. P. Dutton company.

Published in 55 Magazines

His 900 stories have been published in 55 magazines and have appeared in England, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Holland, and Australia. His French publisher of the Dragnet series put Jack Webb’s picture on the back cover with Mr. Deming’s name under it. “I think we’ve got him straightened out now,” the author remarked!

Mr. Deming has written a book in as little time as two weeks, but has never taken longer than two months. He is capable of writing a 5,000 word story in “one day if I’m hot, two if I’m not.” He will spend some time visiting his mother near St. Louis this summer and when he returns he claims he will have to turn out “another two-week book.” Mr. Deming said he has two books due September 15, in addition to other commitments. One of these commitments is a “ghost writing” job. Mr. Deming has “ghost written” stories for several “name” writers. A ghost writer is one who writes a story for ‘someone else to have published under his name. He doesn’t like the work, but “it pays well.”

So far this year, Mr. Deming has written four books — two have been sold — a story to the Ed McBain mystery magazine and four others. The two books which have been “placed” this year are “Famous American Spies” and “Edge of the Law.” With all this behind him, Mr. Darning says he has “no more ideas than anyone else,” He explained that nearly everyone sees something every day, goes home and tells his wife about It. “A writer,” says he, “writes about it.”

Schedule Is Tough

Forcing himself to keep a schedule is one o! the toughest things he finds about full-time fiction writing, Mr. Deming said that skipping one day to go fishing is not bad. But, any more than that is. The best thing about a writer’s lot is “being your own boss, almost totally.” Two years ago, Mr. Deming taught an adult education class in creative writing at Cassadaga. One of his students, a housewife, submitted stories “that sparkled.” “All she needed,” says Mr. Deming, “was someone to teach her about plot and to help her get organized.” The student listened well and, under Mr. Deming’s direction, wrote a book concerning gypsies. Mr. Deming submitted it to his agent in New York— Scott Meredith — who managed to get it published. Soon, “Hard Hearts Are For Cabbages” by Vii Putnam was selling well and still is, according to Mr. Deming. Max Liebman plans to make a Broadway musical from it.

Labor of Love

“That class was a labor of love,” recalls Mr. Deming. The state paid $2.50 per hour for the job, but the class was only once a week and was two hours long. It took four hours of preparation for the class. “So,” says Mr. Deming, “I was spending one day to make $5. But I liked it.” Soon after returning from Louisiana, Mr. Deming will have to begin work on a book about a Polish-American vice cop named Matt Rudd. “His real name is Matt Rudowski,” says Mr. Deming “but he changes it to Rudd.” Mr. Deming will write two books a year on this character under a recently signed contract with a book publisher. “Matt Rudd is supposed to compete with Richard Prather’s ‘Shell Scott’.” claims Mr. Deming.

Latest Story

One of Mr. Deming’s recent efforts is a book, “Hit and Run,” about a man who gets involved, for a fee, in an attempt to cover up a hit and run accident. The locale of the story is Buffalo and Cleveland. Dunkirk was featured in one of Mr. Deming’s short stories. The story was published about 1958 in Blue Book. “I think,” says the author, “that was one of the last issues of Blue Book published. Maybe the story killed it.” He has written a story with a Dunkirk background. “That book has been shopping for five years,” says Mr. Deming, indicating the precariousness of full-time fiction writing.

Links to books in print (disable adblocker to see them):


  1. I recommend his series character Manville Moon. There were around 20 stories, mostly novelet length and the series started in 1948 in BLACK MASK. MANHUNT also published several. Moon was a tough private eye but the stories were written with some wit and style. I see that he received $200 from BLACK MASK for the first Manville Moon novelet. In 1948 $200 was around $2000 in today's money. You could almost earn a living…

  2. I see that Manville Moon stories were published from 1948 to 1960 in a variety of magazines: Popular Detective, Black Mask, F.B.I. Detective Stories, Manhunt, Dime Detective Magazine, Two Complete Detective Books, Suspect Detective Stories, Web Detective Stories. I don't believe all of them paid that well…

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