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The Palm Beach Post (17/Nov/1968) - They Brought Alfred Hitchcock To The Gold Coast



EDITOR - Ernest Hutter, editor of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, looks at an oil painting sent to him by one of his regular mystery story writers - a convict at Leavenworth Penitentiary

A Major Magazine in Florida? They Brought Alfred Hitchcock To The Gold Coast

A major national magazine published in Florida? It can't be done, they said.

"Why not?" mused Richard E. Decker, a publisher of several magazines In New York.

New York is where magazines are published. Anyone knows that. Oh, some rare ones may be done in Boston, Philadelphia, or Chicago, and some regional and religious ones may originate in other cities.

But Riviera Beach? REALLY!

However, Richard Decker had been coming to Florida every year, and he saw no reason he couldn’t move himself, his wife, and his pet magazine to the Gold Coast to set up shop.

And so, hidden away behind an attractive but non-committal facade in Palm Beach Shores is the very successful Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. And while other mystery magazines come and go, dying within months of their birth, the "Hitchcock" goes merrily on its way, year after year. It's now in its 13th year of publication, 8 of which have been spent in Florida.

In pleasant relaxed offices that belie the amount of work going on, Richard and Gladys Decker, along with editor Ernest Hutter, turn out the monthly magazine of suspense stories that not only is distributed to 300,000 persons in the United States, but also goes into 40 different countries and is reprinted in 6 languages.

'We have a Spanish edition for Spain, one for Mexico, and one for Argentina." smiles Decker. Apparently Mexican slang or Argentinian idioms are not interchangeable! The cover of the French edition is easy to spot — it features busty women rather than the portly Mr. Hitchcock!

"Ours is one of the best markets for mystery writers," explains Ernest Hutter, who has been editor of the magazine for the past 3 years. "We pay well and we respond promptly, so we usually get first choice."

Hutter started out as a crime writer himself – first in Cleveland and then in West Palm Beach as a court and crime reporter. He is a former city editor of The Palm Beach Post-Times. In 1963 he was the author of the highly successful paperback book "The Chillingworth Murder Case," published by Monarch.

Stories for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. however, are fictional, not based on actual crimes.

"Plot, presentation, and the quality of the writing determine acceptance or rejection of stories." explains Decker.

"We don't use stories that rely on bloody violence, racial prejudice, profanity, perversion, sex, drugs, or cheap sensationalism," puts in Mrs. Decker, who is as deeply involved in the magazine as her husband. "Good writers don't really need that sort of thing. It's usually a sign of incompetence."

Of the 15 or so stories used in each month's edition, all but one or two are bought from agents and regular contributors. To select the 15 stories, Hutter and the Deckers must read some 50 agented submissions and 450 unsolicited manuscripts — known in the trade as the "slush pile" – each month.

"Once an author has sold to us, of course, he moves out of the slush pile and into the select pile with his next submission." adds Decker.

"We look for interesting characters first, and then an intriguing, plausible plot," explains Hutter. That the stories selected are good is indicated by the fact that they frequently end up as TV dramas. "Unfortunately, many of our most reliable authors desert us to write exclusively for television," laments Hutter.

Who writes mystery stories? People from every walk of life.

"Doctors, housewives, teachers, people in the legal profession, a policeman's wife, full-time writers, ex-cons..." says Hutter.

"The ex-cons are great," laughs Decker. "They really know what they're writing about! We've even got one who seems to be an expert on the Mafia. Right now we have a writer who was a first class bank robber — till he got caught. He sends us a story a month, from Leavenworth. They're censored, of course, and he can only have one out at a time."

"We have quite a few Florida writers submitting lately," puts in Hutter. "There are a number in the Sarasota area, for example. And Ted Pratt writes some mysteries for us."

Although women make up a large percent of the magazine's readers, they don't contribute as many of the stories. "One or two a month, on the average," Hutter estimates, adding, "yet, some of the best stories are by women."

"There are always at least 6 magazines in various stages at any given time," smiles Gladys Decker. "Besides the one on the stands, there's one ready for distribution, one at the printer in New Hampshire, one in page proof, one in galley proof, one at the artist — that's Marguerite Blair Deacon, a Palm Beach County freelancer — and one being made up." She smiles serenely as if it were no problem at all to juggle these hundreds of stories.

"A story we buy today won't appear until a year from now," puts in Hutter.

And what about Alfred Hitchcock, the man out front on the magazine cover?

"He lives in Beverly Hills, and we consult with him several times a year," says Decker. "He's making a new movie in Europe, I believe."

"But we get 2 or 3 persons a month who track down our offices, and come to the door, hoping to meet Hitchcock and talk to him," laughs Hutter. "They're convinced he writes the whole magazine, and they're very disappointed not to see him here."

PUBLISHERS — Richard E. and Gladys Foster Decker, who felt a magazine could be published in Florida as easily as in New York, smile in satisfaction at the success of their venture.