McCoy, Horace Stanley (1897–1955)

By: Patrick Bennett

Type: Biography

Published: April 1, 1995

Updated: January 24, 2020

Horace Stanley McCoy, writer, was born on April 14, 1897, to James Harris and Nancye (Holt) McCoy at Pegram Station, Tennessee. His family moved to Dallas in 1915. McCoy was wounded while serving with the United States Army Air Corps in World War I and did public relations for an entertainment review in his last days in Europe. In 1919 he returned to Dallas to try newspaper work. He tried to pass himself off as a veteran reporter and lasted only two days at the Dallas Morning News. But he succeeded at the Dallas Dispatch and later at the Dallas Journal, where he was a sportswriter until 1929. For a time he edited the Dallasite magazine. In the 1920s he began selling stories to various magazines, but principally to Black Mask, founded by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan. Sixteen of his stories, most of which told about the flying exploits of a Texas Ranger (see TEXAS RANGERS) appeared along with those of Erle Stanley Gardner, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and other hard-boiled or tough-guy fiction writers.

McCoy also acted in ten plays at the Dallas Little Theater beginning in 1925; among his roles were Joe in Sidney Howard's They Knew What They Wanted and the title role in Ferenc Molnar's Liliom. In 1931 a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer talent scout lured McCoy to Hollywood, along with Dallas director Oliver Hinsdell. Partly because of his southern accent, McCoy failed as a screen actor, but he sold his screenplay The Luxury Girl to Columbia studios in 1933. He went on to have a hand in more than 100 produced screenplays over two decades and remained in Hollywood the rest of his life. In 1921 he married Loline Scherer, the first woman radio announcer in Texas, and they had one child. They were divorced in 1928, and McCoy married Helen Vinmont in 1933; they had two children. McCoy's first novel, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, was published in 1935 and produced as a movie in 1969. No Pockets in a Shroud, which contains autobiographical material about his Dallas years, was published in England in 1937 but not in the United States until 1948. I Should Have Stayed Home, his satire on Hollywood, was published in 1938, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, a best-seller, in 1948, and Scalpel, his biggest best-seller, in 1952. In his lifetime McCoy received more serious attention in Europe than in America, where he was a commercial success but a critical failure. He died of a heart attack on December 15, 1955.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 9. Mark Royden Winchell, Horace McCoy (Boise, Idaho: Boise State University, 1982).

  • Journalism
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Publications, Journals, and Magazines
  • Journals and Publications
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Fiction
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Patrick Bennett, “McCoy, Horace Stanley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995
January 24, 2020

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