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Discovering grandpa’s pulp trail

Profile: Laurie Powers finds her muse in the dusty magazines of her grandfather’s life

Posted: July 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Saugus resident Laurie Powers sorts through pulp-fiction magazines of the 1930s and 1940s. The magazines contain stories written by her grandfather Paul Powers under the pen name of Ward M. Stevens. (

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Writing has always been in Laurie Powers’ blood. It just took a familial revelation to realize it.

Powers, a Saugus resident, was moved when she uncovered hundreds of Western, pulp-fiction magazine articles written by Paul S. Powers, her father’s father.

She knew her grandfather had been a novelist who ran a bookstore near Powers’ childhood home of Livermore before his death in 1971, but hadn’t a clue on how prolific he had been in the genre.

Grandpa’s talent
“He never wanted to talk about writing pulp stories. He didn’t want it on his resume,” Powers said. “What I found while reading them is that my grandpa, who was kind of a sad person in real life, had a great sense of humor, and his dialogue was quick. He knew what he was doing,”

Then the discovery of his unpublished autobiography really piqued her curiosity. With pulp fiction gaining a comeback in recent years, Powers seized the opportunity to become an author herself.

Her first effort, “Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street” (University of Nebraska Press, $19.95) was released in 2007. The book included a foreword and epilogue by Powers, with Paul Powers’ autobiography in between.
New book

Now Powers has released a follow-up, “Riding the Pulp Trail” (CreateSpace, $19.95), which includes stories by her grandfather originally published in such magazines as Exciting Western and Wild West Weekly. It’s available online at and at OutWest Western Boutique and Cultural Center in Newhall.

“I feel so connected to my grandpa. Now, I understand what he went through when he was writing all this,” Powers said. “I’ve been able to spread my wings as a writer and keep his legacy alive.”

Back to the future
Growing up, Powers had creative leanings that went ignored.

“I always felt I should be a writer, but I didn’t have the courage to do it,” she said.

Instead, Powers became an escrow officer, a career she stayed in for 13 years despite being “miserable” most of the time.
Uncertain of what to do with her life, Powers relocated to Hawaii in the 1990s and taught scuba diving for a year and a half.

When she moved to Los Angeles afterward, Powers enrolled at Santa Monica College to study English, eventually majoring in American studies.

She transferred to Smith College in Massachusetts and, once in class, was assigned to write about a particular era of American culture. She chose to write about her grandfather’s books. That assignment opened a Pandora’s box.

Ward M. Stevens
“I looked up his pen name, Ward M. Stevens, and five items showed up. I also found radio shows he had written for in the 1940s,“ Powers said. “I started looking up manuscripts, which led me to Syracuse University, which held an archive of the magazines my grandfather had written for. I called them, and they sent me 80 receipts for different articles he had done.”
Intrigued, Powers made the trip to Syracuse and spent three days in the college’s library, exploring Paul S. Powers’ various works.

“It was so overwhelming,” Powers said. “I felt like I’d found something life-changing, but at the same time, it was sad. Grandpa had done all this work, but no one knew about it.”

While researching for lost stories, Powers came across a genealogy site, which helped her locate a distant cousin.
She made contact and asked if the cousin knew Pat or Tom Powers, her aunt and uncle. The next day, she had their information.

“I hadn’t spoken to Pat in 35 years. My heart was in my throat,” Powers said. “But she was so pleased to hear from me.”
Not only did Aunt Pat give Powers two trunks of her grandfather’s magazines and personal documents, she was full of information about Paul Powers.

Paul Powers
Born in Kansas, Paul Powers was a wanderer from an early age, drifting to ghost towns and mines throughout the West.

He started writing and was published for the first time at age 20, going on to create memorable characters such as Freckles Malone, Sonny Tabor, Kid Wolf and Johnny Forty-Five.

“He had no formal training. My aunt said that kids used to pay him to write their essays in high school. He wrote about that in his memoir,” Powers said.

Finding Grandpa
In 15 years, Paul Powers lived in 15 different places, including Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and California. He wrote several novels, including “Doc Dillihay,” based on the life of his own father. He married, had children and continued to produce an estimated 10 million words over the span of his career.

Paul Powers did not make a strong impression on his daughter-in-law, Power’s mom.

“She said he was a jerk,” Laurie Powers recalled. “I remember him being a big book-lover and collector, of just being Grandpa. I think he cared about us a lot, but he had a drinking problem. In between binges, he was a nice person.”

A new passion
In addition to the books, Powers now works as a marketing copywriter and blogs about pulp fiction in her spare time.

Divorced, she shares her Saugus home with rescued dog Annie and cat Chloe, who often join her in the office where Powers writes.

A tall bookcase is lined with her grandfather’s magazines, as well as other pulp-fiction gems, such as “Black Mask,” which started the careers of crime writers such as Raymond Chandler.

She pulled out a copy of “Love Story,” which was at one time, the most popular pulp fiction magazine in print.
Powers’ next project is a biography on Daisy Bacon, the editor.

“Daisy was a brilliant woman, one of the few female editors of the time,” Powers said. “Pulp fiction gets a bad rap, but a lot of people don’t know these magazines had some really good stories.”

For more information on Laurie Powers and her books, visit, or at


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