So Ed hung up. And all went through smoothly.
Now its not illegal to use a pen name. But to play such a joke on an old friend like Leo was bad.
So I went over to Leos office to tell him for laughs.
Unfortunately, Leo met me with a manuscript in his hand.
He said, You old-time pros think you are all there is! Look at this. A story brand-new, fresh. New writer. Got it all over you.
And the manuscript he was holding was The Squad That Never Came Back by Kurt von Rachen.
I let it go.
I used the name amongst others for some years. But that isnt all there is to the story.
After the war, years later, I was riding down in an elevator in Leos building. A brand-new fresh writer had stepped in with me.
I just sold three stories, he said.
I was glad for him. Most pros are for new young ones that are trying.
Yeah, he said, and this sure is a wild town, meaning New York.
Last night I was at a party. Guy rented a whole floor of a hotel, got everybody drunk, smashed the place up...
I started, blinked. Could it be?
What was his name? I inquired breathlessly.
Kurt von Rachen, he said. And left me standing there forgetting to get out.
Oh, the old names, L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt, Robert Bloch, Edmond Hamilton, Frank Belknap Long, dear old Edd Cartier and his fantastic beautiful illustrations, names still going, names forgotten.
We were quite a crew.
I look back now and love them all.
The petty squabbles, the friendly enmities.
All for the By-line.