The Golden Age of bad girls

Gun-toting femmes fatales caught in the action!

My buddies wanted to be firemen, farmers or policemen, something like that. Not me, I just wanted to steal people’s money!”
—John Dillinger

At the height of the Jazz Age, when Prohibition was turning ordinary citizens into criminals and ordinary criminals into celebrities, America’s true crime detective magazines were born. True Detective came first in 1924, and by 1934, when the Great Depression had produced colorful outlaws like Machine Gun Kelly, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, and John Dillinger, the magazines were so popular cops and robbers alike vied to see themselves on the pages. Even FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover wrote regularly for what came to be called the “Dickbooks,” referring to a popular slang term for a detective.

As the decades rolled on, the magazines went through a curious metamorphosis, however. When liquor was once more legal, the Depression over and all the flashy criminals dead or imprisoned, the “detectives” turned to sin to make sales. Sexy bad girls in tight sweaters, slit skirts, and stiletto heels adorned every cover. Cover lines shouted “I Was a Girl Burglar—For Kicks,” “Sex Habits of Women Killers,” “Bride of Sin!,” “She Played Me for a Sucker,” and most succinctly, “Bad Woman.”

True Crime Detective Magazines follows the evolution and devolution of this distinctly American genre from 1924 to 1969. Hundreds of covers and interior images from dozens of magazine titles tell the story, not just of the “detectives,” but also of America’s attitudes towards sex, sin, crime and punishment over five decades. With texts by magazine collector Eric Godtland, George Hagenauer and True Detective editor Marc Gerald, True Crime Detective Magazines is an informative and entertaining look at one of the strangest publishing niches of all time.
The author:
Eric Godtland is a self-confessed compulsive collector. Working from his bases in the Haight-Ashbury and Potrero Hill districts of San Francisco, Eric obsesses over all things girly, Hawaiian, musical and modernist. When not lusting after “cool stuff,” Eric manages musicians, bends technology to his will, writes, and begs for money.

The editor:
Dian Hanson produced a variety of men’s magazines from 1976 to 2001, including Juggs, Outlaw Biker and Leg Show, before becoming TASCHEN’s Sexy Book editor. Her 60+ books for TASCHEN include The Art of Pin-up and Psychedelic Sex. She lives in Los Angeles.
True Crime Detective Magazines

True Crime Detective Magazines

, Dian Hanson
Softcover, 9.1 x 10.6 in., 336 pages
New edition, only $ 19.99
Original edition $ 39.99
Multilingual Edition: English, French, German
Availability: In Stock
  • Reviews
“Our friends at TASCHEN continue to release beautiful books that span many a subject. There are interior design tomes, cityscape books and even film and comic tie-ins…and also those great The Big Butt Book or The Big Penis Book or beautiful art packages like their book and case Nobuyoshi Araki. Bondage. This publisher, with stores in NYC, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Belgium, London and Paris has published another of their history spanning collections, a sexy little soft cover that I just adore called True Crime Detective Magazines 1924-1969. With written contributions by Eric Godtland and TASCHEN editor Dian Hanson (and all the text pieces appearing in English, French and German in the book) we are given a succulent overview of ‘true’ crime writing in American magazine publications as it existed in most of the 20th century (with a good history from Godtland about where the genre began in broadsides back in 1751 and flourished in the penny press a century later.) As any TASCHEN book, True Crime Detective Magazines 1924-1969 presents some glorious pictures, reproductions of covers of magazines long forgotten with names like ‘True Detective Mysteries,’ ‘Smash Detective Cases,’ ‘Startling Detective,’ ‘True Gang Life,’ and ‘True Cases of Women in Crime.’ Nearly 100% of these covers and what is really the pull for pulp enthusiasts, art collectors and just good old pervs like yours truly, is the fantastically lurid pics of scantily clad women that grace these covers. Surely reading the first works of Ann Rule, Frederick Dannay & Manfred B. Lee (writing as ‘Ellery Queen’) and Erle Stanley Gardner, and many more was terrific fun as would have been pouring over the map of ‘The Crime Trail of The Kansas City Massacre’ must have been a thrill, as would be reading great articles with titles like ‘Crime, Vice and Hollywood’ but what stands out in this book, and any TASCHEN book really is the artwork, in this case from people like: pin-up artist Al Brule, Philip Lyford, the prolific Jules Erbit, later to become a comic book artist, and Michael McCann to name but a few. There’s also a great confessional hands-on from Marc Gerald entitled ‘I Was A True Detective Editor’ telling of his late 80’s foray into working at ‘True Detective’ magazine near the end of this genre’s run that is pretty stellar, summing up what the entire book really is about.”
—, New York, United States
  • See also
Hardcover, 8.9 x 11.8 in., 240 pages
$ 14.99