How Spicy Can You Make It? The Bare Truth

as revealed by the editor of Spicy Detective in the Author and Journalist, 1935. This is a letter to a contributor who must have transgressed the Spicies unwritten code, outlining guidelines for the stories. The editor of the trade magazine chose to publish it for the benefit of would be authors.

Dear       :

On account of the attitude of certain groups of people in different parts of the country, it is necessary that we use great discretion in the amount of sex we have in the stories run in Spicy Detective. It is difficult to lay down hard and fast rules as opinions differ greatly in this matter. However, there are a few things I wish to call to your attention which should be considered when you are writing stories for the magazine.

There are several words which must never be used, such as “nipples,” “buttocks,” etc.

In describing breasts of a female character, avoid anatomical description of the points of the breast.

If it is necessary for the story to have the girl give herself to a man, do not go too carefully into the details. You can lead up to the actual consummation, but leave the rest up to the reader’s imagination. This subject should be handled delicately and a great deal can be done by implication and suggestion.

Whenever possible, avoid complete nudity of the female characters. You can have a girl strip to her underwear, or transparent negligee, or nightgown, or the thin torn shreds of her garments, but while the girl is alive and in contact with a man, we do not want complete nudity. A nude female corpse is allowable of course. Also, a girl undressing in the privacy of her own room. But when men are in the action, try and keep at least a shred of something on the girls. Do not have men in underwear in scenes with women, and no nude men at all.

The idea is to have a very strong sex element in these stories without anything that might be interpreted as being vulgar or obscene. Sometimes it is difficult to draw the line exactly, but if you are not carried away too far by your enthusiasm of the moment, it can be handled properly.

I am sure that you will get my point and without taking any of the “guts” out of the stories, you can make them more suitable for use in Spicy Detective.

Cordially yours,


    1. I suppose the idea was that even if the corpse was nude, sex was out of the question. What class! What grace!

      [The above was sarcastic, in case someone’s detector is broken.]

      The early spicies were trying to walk a thin line between being plausibly deniable as porn and still titillating enough to attract readership. A line that the weird menace pulps would also test later.

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