The origins of Real Detective are obscure, as is the case with many of the oldest pulp magazines. It’s believed that it started in 1922 as a magazine called Detective Tales and it was an all-fiction magazine. However, when the publisher ran into financial trouble two years later, Detective Tales was sold to a new publisher who started to mix true crime with the short fiction. The name of the magazine was changed to Real Detective Tales and Mystery Stories, which was certainly a mouthful.
Then, 1931, the name of the magazine was changed again, this time to just Real Detective. The magazine’s format was now exclusively true crime and salacious scandal. The new format proved popular enough that Real Detective ran until 1985. Below are a few covers from the early days of Real Detective. (Around 1954, Real Detective went from hiring illustrators to draw their covers to hiring photographers to take pictures of distressed-looking models.) Where known, the artist has been credited.