Frank Gruber

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Frank Gruber (born February 2, 1904, Elmer, Minnesota, died December 9, 1969, Santa Monica, California) was an American writer. He was an author of stories for pulp fiction magazines. He also wrote dozens of novels, mostly Westerns and detective stories. Gruber wrote many scripts for Hollywood movies and television shows, and was the creator of three TV series. He sometimes wrote under the pen names Stephen Acre, Charles K. Boston and John K. Vedder.

Frank Gruber
Born(1904-02-02)February 2, 1904
Elmer, Minnesota, United States
DiedDecember 9, 1969(1969-12-09) (aged 65)
Santa Monica, California, United States
GenreWestern, detective fiction, pulp
Gruber's "The Book of the Dead" was the cover story in the November 1941 Weird Tales
Gruber's novella "The Honest Dealer" took the cover of the December 1946 issue of Mammoth Detective


Gruber said that as a nine-year-old newsboy, he read his first book, "Luke Walton, the Chicago Newsboy" by Horatio Alger. During the next seven years he read a hundred more Alger books and said they influenced him professionally more than anything else in his life. They told how poor boys became rich, but what they instilled in Gruber was an ambition, at age nine or ten, to be an author. He had written his first book before age 11, using a pencil on wrapping paper.

Age 13 or 14, his ambition died for a while but several years later it rose again and he started submitting stories to various magazines, like Smart Set and Atlantic Monthly. Getting rejected, he lowered his sights to The Saturday Evening Post and Colliers, with no more success. The pulps were getting noticed and Gruber tried those but with no success. As a story came back with a rejection slip, he would post it off again to someone else, so he could have as many as 40 stories going back and forth at different times, costing him about a third of his earnings in postage. Erle Stanley Gardner called him the fighter who licked his weight in rejection slips.

Gruber served in the US Army from 1920-1921.[1] Gruber said that, while in the Army, he learned how to manipulate the dice to throw 35 consecutive sevens, but that he had "lost this skill through lack of practice".[2]

February 1927, he finally sold a story. It was bought by The United Brethren Publishing House of Dayton. It was called "The Two Dollar Raise" and he got a cheque through for three dollars and fifty cents.

Answering an ad in the Chicago Tribune, he got a job editing a small farm paper. In September he got a better paid job in Iowa and soon found himself editing five farm papers. He had much money and even wrote some articles for the papers but found he had no time to write the stories he wanted to write.

In 1932 the Depression hit, and he lost his job. 1932 to 1934 were his bad years. He wrote and wrote, many stories typed out on an old "Remington" but of the Sunday School stories, the spicy sex stories, the detective stories, the sports stories, the love stories, very few sold, with some companies paying him as little as a quarter of a cent per word. He had a few successes and remained in Mt. Morris, Illinois for 14 months before deciding to head to New York on July 1, 1934.

There were numerous publishing houses in New York and he could save money on postage but this led to him walking miles to deliver manuscripts as he had so little money, not even enough for food most of the time. He stayed in a room in the Forty Fourth Street Hotel ($10.50 per week).

In his book, The Pulp Jungle (1967), Gruber details the struggles (for a long time, at least once a day he had tomato soup, which was free hot water in a bowl, with free crackers crumbled in and half a bottle of tomato sauce added) he had for a few years and numerous fellow authors he became friendly with, many of whom were famous or later became famous.

Early December 1934 and with endless rejection slips, he got a phone call from Rogers Terrill. Could he do a 5,500 word filler story for Operator #5 pulp magazine by next day? He did and got paid. Even better, they wanted another one next month, and another. He was then asked to do a filler for Ace Sports pulp, which sold. Gruber's income from writing in 1934 was under $400. In 1935, his stories were suddenly wanted and he earned $10,000 that year. His wife came to live with him (she had been living with relatives) and he lived the good life, moving into a big apartment and buying a Buick ($750).

January 1942, Gruber decided to try Hollywood, having heard about the huge sums some stories sold for and stayed there till 1946.

Gruber—who stated that only seven types of Westerns existed[3]—wrote more than 300 stories for over 40 pulp magazines, as well as more than 60 novels, which had sold more than 90 million copies in 24 countries, sixty five screenplays, and a hundred television scripts. 25 of his books have sold to motion pictures, and he created three TV series: Tales of Wells Fargo, The Texan and Shotgun Slade. His first novel, The Peace Marshall, which was rejected by every agent in New York at the time, became a film called "The Kansan", starting Richard Dix. The book has been reprinted many times with total sales of over one million copies.

He bragged that he could write a complete mystery novel in 16 days and then use the other 14 days of the month to knock out a historical serial for a magazine.[4] His mystery novels included The French Key (for which he sold the motion picture rights for $14,000 in 1945) and The Laughing Fox.

He was a social drinker in the thirties (regular parties for authors were alcohol only with no food provided), being too busy to become a hard drinker, but later just about gave up alcohol.



Year Film Credit Notes
1939 Death of a Champion Story Adapted from his novel Peace Marshal
1943 The Kansan Story
Northern Pursuit Screenplay Co-screenwriter with Alvah Bessie
1944 The Mask of Dimitrios Screenplay Based on the novel of the same name by Eric Ambler
1945 Oregon Trail StorySt Adapted from his novel Gunsight
Johnny Angel Screenplay Based on the short story "Mr. Angel Comes Aboard" by Charles Gordon Booth; Co-screenwriter with Steve Fisher
1946 Terror by Night Screenplay
The French Key Writer Adapted from his novel The French Key
Dressed To Kill Screenplay Co-screenwriter with Leonard Lee
In Old Sacramento Screenplay Co-screenwriter with Frances Hyland
Accomplice Writer Adapted from his novel Simon Lash, Private Detective; Co-screenwriter with Irving Elman
1947 Bulldog Drummond at Bay Screenplay Based on the Novel of the same name by H. C. McNeile
1948 The Challenge Screenplay Based on a novel by H. C. McNeile
1949 Fighting Man of the Plains Writer Adapted from his novel Fighting Man
1950 Dakota Lil Story
The Cariboo Trail Screenplay Based on a story by John Rhodes Sturdy
1951 The Great Missouri Raid Writer Adapted from his novel Broken Lance
The Texas Rangers Story
Warpath Writer Adapted from his novel Broken Lance
Silver City Screenplay Based on a story by Luke Short
1952 Flaming Feather Screenplay Additional Dialogue
Denver and Rio Grande Writer
Hurricane Smith Screenplay Based on the novel Hurricane Williams by Gordon Ray Young
1953 Pony Express Story
1955 Rage at Dawn Story
1956 Backlash Story Adapted from his novel Fort Starvation
Tension at Table Rock Story Adapted from his novel Bitter Sage
Man in the Vault Story Adapted from his novel The Lock and the Key
1957 The Big Land Story Adapted from his novel Buffalo Grass
1961 Twenty Plus Two Writer & Producer Adapted from his novel Twenty Plus Two
1965 Town Tamer Writer, Actor Role: Hotel Clerk
Arizona Raiders Story Co-writer with Richard Schayer
1968 White Comanche Writer


Year TV Series Credit Notes
1950 Suspense Writer 1 Episode
1954 The Mask Writer 1 Episode
Rheingold Theatre Writer 1 Episode
1955 TV Reader's Digest Writer 2 Episodes
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle Writer 1 Episode
1955-60 The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp Writer 4 Episodes
1956 The Ford Television Theatre Writer 1 Episode
Climax! Writer 1 Episode
1956-59 Schlitz Playhouse Writer, Producer 3 Episodes
1957 General Electric Theater Writer 1 Episode
1957-62 Tales of Wells Fargo Writer, Creator, Story Consultant Multiple Episodes
1958 77 Sunset Strip Writer 1 Episode
Lawman Writer 1 Episode
The Texan Writer 1 Episode
1959 Zane Grey Theatre Writer 1 Episode
Colt .45 Writer 1 Episode
1959-61 Shotgun Slade Creator, Producer, Actor Multiple Episodes
1965 Death Valley Days Writer 1 Episode
A Man Called Shenandoah Writer 1 Episode


  • The French Key aka Once Over Deadly (1940)
  • The Laughing Fox (1940)
  • The Silver Jackass (1941)
  • Simon Lash, Private Detective (1941)
  • The Hungry Dog aka Die Like a Dog (1941)
  • The Navy Colt (1941)
  • The Last Doorbell aka Kiss the Boss Goodbye (1941)
  • The Talking Clock (1941)
  • The Gift Horse aka Heir to Homicide (1942)
  • The Buffalo Box aka The Murder Box (1942)
  • The Mighty Blockhead aka The Corpse Moved Upstairs (1942)
  • The Yellow Overcoat aka Fall Guy for a Killer (1942)
  • The Silver Tombstone aka The Silver Tombstone Mystery (1945)
  • Beagle Scented Murder aka Market for Murder (1946)
  • The Last Doorbell (1946)
  • The Honest Dealer aka Double Dealer (1947)
  • The Whispering Master (1947)
  • The Fourth Letter (1947)
  • The Scarlet Feather aka The Gamecock Murder (1948)
  • Murder '97 aka The Long Arm of Murder (1948)
  • The Lock and the Key aka Run, Thief, Run (1948)
  • Broken Lance (1949)
  • The Lone Gunhawk aka Smoky Road (1949)
  • The Leather Duke aka A Job of Murder (1949)
  • Death on Post No. 7 (1951)
  • Fort Starvation (1953)
  • Quantrell's Raiders (1953)
  • Rebel Road aka Outlaw (1953)
  • Bitter Sage (1954)
  • Johnny Vengeance (1954)
  • The Limping Goose (1954)
  • The Lonesome Badger aka Mood for Murder (1954)
  • Ride to Hell (1955)
  • Buffalo Grass aka The Big Land (1956)
  • The Man From Missouri (1956)
  • The Highway Man (1956)
  • Billy the Kid (1957)
  • Lonesome River (1957)
  • Peace Marshal (1957)
  • Town Tamer (1957)
  • The Marshal (1958)
  • The Bushwhackers (1959)
  • Bugles West (1961)
  • Twenty Plus Two (1961)
  • Brothers of Silence (1962)
  • Bridge of Sand (1963)
  • The Greek Affair (1964)
  • Swing Low Swing Dead (1964)
  • Little Hercules (1965)
  • The Pulp Jungle (1967)
  • This Gun Is Still (1967)
  • The Twilight Man (1967)
  • The Dawn Riders (1968)
  • The Gold Gap (1968)
  • The Curly Wolf (1969)
  • The Etruscan Bull (1969)
  • The Spanish Prisoner (1969)
  • Wanted (1971)
  • Bitter Sage and the Bushwhackers (1984)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ p.145 Powell, S. 100 American Crime Writers Springer, 7 Aug 2012
  2. ^ Current Biography 1941, p. 353
  3. ^ "No Soft Soap About New And Improved Computer Games". Computer Gaming World (editorial). October 1990. p. 80. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  4. ^ Current Biography 1941, pp. 352–353

External linksEdit