Tepperman, Emile C. (pulp fiction writer)


Also wrote as: Curtis Steele, Grant Stockbridge

Tepperman was one of the high-output pulpsters of the 1930s, able to deliver readable, action-packed fiction, stories and topic length, with the regularity of a time-clocked factory worker making widgets on an assembly line. He wrote in a variety of genres, sold several tough mystery stories to Black Mask in the late 1930s and a typically lurid tale for the weird-menace pulp Terror Tales (“Mad Surgeon of the Everglades,” June 1939). But he is best known to pulp buffs for his work in the super hero/ single-character pulps that thrived in the 1930s. Tepperman wrote a number of the Spider novels and some later tales of the less-well-remembered Avenger, but it was his contribution to Operator#5 that secured his place in the pantheon of hero-pulp writers.

The magazine Operator #5 (Op 5) first appeared in April 1934, and centered on the adventures of intelligence operative Jimmy Christopher, America’s undercover ace, written by the talented workaholic Frederick C. Davis. When Davis gave up the series after 20 novel-length tales, the assignment was handed over to Tepperman. He carried on as before for his first five issues, but with the June 1936 story, titled Death’s Ragged Army, Tepperman took Operator #5 in a new direction and began one of the great wild rides in the history of the pulps. For 13 issues he chronicled the remarkable saga of the Purple Invasion, an epic, apocalyptic, blood-soaked war between the United States and a cruel foreign enemy led by Rudolph I, the Purple Emperor. As America valiantly defended itself against the vicious, rampaging invaders, secret agent Jimmy Christopher was formed into a fearless leader of the armed Resistance. With nearly two years to develop his bellicose epic (“The War and Peace of the pulps,” someone would label it), Tepperman did not let the United States off easy. As the seemingly invincible Purple armies attacked, the “woefully unprepared” America reeled. On every page readers found devastation, death, torture, or Purple encampments protected with living walls of American youths hung upon crosses. The extraordinary cover paintings by artist John Howitt set the stage—feverish, Goyaesque images of desperate, anguished Americans manning the barricades. The whole saga was violently xenophobic and paranoid on the one hand—and yet amazingly prescient of the very real World War that lay just a few years away.

Despite his considerable contributions to The Spider and certainly to Operator #5, Tepperman could not take credit for the origins of those fine pulps. The Suicide Squad, however, was his baby, a bullet-riddled action series that lasted for 22 episodes in the pages of Ace G-Man Stories. Several pulps had focused on the adventures of the FBI, beginning with G-Men magazine and followed by Public Enemy, later retitled Federal Agent, and The Feds. Some of the magazines had the loose approval of the bureau itself, and even published editorials and articles by J. Edgar Hoover in between the pages extolling the bravery and infallibility of the federal law enforcers. Ace G-Man Stories was one of the last of the FBI magazines and the least realistic, filled with fiendish supervillains and blazing gun battles. Even Ace’s developer Harry Steeger admitted, “I don’t think many real F.B.I. agents ever saw the kind of action we had in our stories.”

Tepperman’s series, begun in May 1939 and lasting until April 1943, detailed the exploits of Murdoch, Kerrigan, and Klaw, the fearless and—in the name of justice and freedom—ruthless federal crime fighters known as the Suicide Squad. Though pulp fiction that dabbled in peacetime politics endorsed antidemocratic solutions, Tepper-man’s trio was from the start opposed to homegrown fascist groups and fifth column fronts, as represented by the vile Skull and Swastika Corps in The Suicide Squad and the Murder Bund. The squad, after closing down the main branch of the corps in an exhilarating, blood-soaked firestorm, ponders the imminent future:

They were thinking of the heartbreak and the sorrow that would come to many American homes where a son or a daughter or a father had been led into disloyalty by the vile tenets of the S.S. Corps. But they were also thinking that the heartbreak and the sorrow would be a small price to pay to keep America free!

The Suicide Squad and the Murder Bund was published more than a year before America’s entry into World War II. The later stories, in the months and years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, naturally added the Japanese to the squad’s enemies list, as in The Suicide Squad Meets the Rising Sun and So Sorry, Mr. Hirohito!

Tepperman worked in radio as well and was one of the scriptwriters of the popular Gangbusters program. Whether Tepperman died at an early age or merely abandoned writing for another line of work, his later whereabouts and activities are not known.



  • “Married for Murder” (1935)


  • Blood, Sweat and Bullets (1943);
  • Bloody Forty Days, The (1936);
  • Coffin Barricade, The (1941);
  • Coffins for the Suicide Squad (1940);
  • Crime’s Reign of Terror (1936);
  • Devil’s Pawnbroker (1937);
  • Death for Sale (1939);
  • Death—to the Highest Bidder (1939);
  • For Tomorrow We Die (1942);
  • Liberty’s Suicide Legions (1937);
  • Mad Surgeon of the Everglades (1939);
  • More Over, Death (1942);
  • Mr. Zero and the Suicide Squad (1939);
  • Shells for the Suicide Squad (1940);
  • So Sorry, Mr. Hirohito! (1942);
  • Spider and the Pain Master (1940);
  • Stormy Nocturne (1937);
  • Suicide Squad and the Murder Bund, The (1940);
  • Suicide Squad and the Twins of Death, The (1943);
  • Suicide Squad—Dead or Alive (1940);
  • Suicide Squad Meets the Rising Sun, The (1942) Suicide Squad Pays Off (1939);
  • Suicide Squad Reports for Death (1939);
  • Suicide Squad’s Dawn Patrol, The (1942);
  • Suicide Squad’s Last Mile (1939);
  • Suicide Squad’s Murder Lottery, The (1940);
  • Suicide Squad’s Private War, The (1941);
  • Targets for the Flaming Arrows (1942);
  • Tunnel Death Built, The (1941);
  • Voyage of the Coffin Ship (1937);
  • Wanted—In Three Pine Coffins (1941);
  • Death to the Avenger (in Clues) (1942);
  • Vengeance on the Avenger (in Clues) (1943);
  • Calling Justice Inc. (in Clues) (1943)

As Grant Stockbridge (The Spider):

  • City of Dreadful Night (1936);
  • Dictator of the Damned (1937);
  • Dictator’s Death Merchants (1940);
  • Man from Hell, The (1940);
  • Master of the Night Demons (1940);
  • Milltown Massacre (1937);
  • Reign of the Snake Men (1936);
  • Satan’s Workshops (1937);
  • Scourge of Yellow Fangs (1937)
  • As Curtis Steele (Operator #5);
  • America’s Plague Battalions (1936);
  • Army Without a Country, The (1937);
  • Bloody Frontiers, The (1937);
  • Coming of the Mongol Hordes, The (1938);
  • Death’s Ragged Army (1936);
  • Drums of Destruction (1937);
  • Patriot’s Death Battalion (1936);
  • Patriot’s Death March (1937);
  • Raiders of the Red Death (1935);
  • Revolt of the Devil Men (1938);
  • Revolt of the Lost Legions (1937);
  • Rockets from Hell (1936);
  • Siege of 1,000 Patriots, The (1937);
  • Siege That Brought the Black Death,
  • The (1938);
  • War Dogs of the Green Destroyer (1936);
  • War Master from the Orient (1936)

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