The first issue of a short-lived pulp devoted to adventure fiction. It appears there were only four issues of SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE before it went down for the count with the rest of the Clayton magazine line. But the four stories in these pages were from top-notch authors of pulp adventure fare: F.V.W. Mason, Victor Rousseau, S.B.H. Hurst, and Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. The cover art is by Jerry Delano, who did the covers for all four issues.
A nice cover by H.W. Scott on this issue of WILD WEST WEEKLY, and a very nice line-up of authors inside: Paul S. Powers. Allan R. Bosworth, Stephen Payne, Samuel H. Nickels, J. Allan Dunn (a Whistlin' Kid yarn as by Emery Jackson), Lee Bond (writing as Philip F. Deere), and Norman W. Hay (a Circle J story as Cleve Endicott). I've never read an issue of WILD WEST WEEKLY that I didn't enjoy, and I'm sure if I had a copy of this one, I'd have a great time reading it, too.
THE TWISTED THING came out in 1966, Mickey Spillane's ninth Mike Hammer
novel, but I believe I've read that it's actually the second book Spillane
wrote, back around 1950. There are a few lines that make it sound as if that could
be the case, including what might be a reference to the famous ending of I, THE
JURY. The book doesn't have any topical references, either, other than a few
mentions of "the war". However, I didn't have any idea about that
when I first read the novel all those years ago, and the things I noticed now
went right past me then. All I knew was that while I liked the book, I didn't
think it was as good as the other Mike Hammer novels I'd read up to that point.
It's sort of an odd duck, to be honest. The setting is a small town somewhere
in New York, rather than Hammer's usual haunts in New York City. Most of the
action takes place on a country estate belonging to wealthy scientist Rudolph
York, who hires Hammer to find his kidnapped son Ruston. Ruston York is a
prodigy, raised by his father to be a genius, a little reminiscent of Doc
Savage only without the physical development. Also at the country house are an
assortment of relatives and employees, most of them with secrets and agendas.
More than once I thought, "Wait a minute, shouldn't this be a Hercule
But no, it's definitely a Mike Hammer yarn. Maybe not as much shooting and
punching as some in the series, but there's still plenty. The voice of Carroll
John Daly's Race Williams definitely echoes in some of Hammer's musings. He
actually solves the kidnapping and rescues the kid pretty early in the book,
but then there's a particularly grisly murder and the case becomes a lot more
complicated. Ruston York doesn't turn out to be quite the innocent victim
Hammer believed him to be at first. Eventually Hammer sorts everything out, and
there's a long scene at the end where it's all explained before the traditional
jarring Spillane ending.
After rereading this book fifty years later, I still wouldn't place THE TWISTED
THING in the top ranks of the Mike Hammer series. I wasn't sure I completely
bought the ending even back in '66, and I don't now, either. However, the
action scenes are great and I just love Spillane's voice and the sheer pace of
the storytelling. I suspect many of you read this book a long time ago, like I
did, but if you haven't, it's worthwhile, just probably not the best place to
start with Spillane's work.
For what it's worth, the first Spillane novel I read was the
non-series book THE DEEP. I started the Hammer series with KISS ME, DEADLY and
quickly read all the others that had come out by then, which I believe took the
series up through THE SNAKE. That's one I have fond memories of reading in the
old barracks building that served as our high school's study hall, so maybe I
ought to reread it one of these days. If I do, I'll be sure to let you know
what I think.
I have a facsimile reprint of the first issue of ACE MYSTERY
MAGAZINE from May 1936 and read it recently. (I don't own the original magazine.) It’s primarily a Weird Menace pulp
but it has strong overtones of the mystery and detective pulps as well, and
even some supernatural yarns.
It gets off to a strong start with the novella "The Singing Scourge"
by Frederick C. Davis. This one involves a beautiful young heiress (is there
any other kind?) who’s driven into a killing frenzy by a strange, high-pitched
song that comes out of nowhere and that only she can hear. Her fiancé takes on
the role of two-fisted detective to find out what’s going on. Most of the
action takes place in an isolated mansion and there are a number of sinister
characters lurking around, so you’d expect the goings-on to be suitably creepy,
and they are. Davis was an excellent writer no matter what the genre. He tells
a pretty standard story here but does it very well.
Laurence Hammond’s story concerns an heiress as well. "Death's
Heiress", in fact, as the title tells us. She’s a beautiful redhead from
Boston who inherits a fortune from her crazy old uncle in New Orleans. But when
she arrives she winds up being trapped in an old plantation house with her
uncle’s lawyer, Edmond LaRue. (And if you think a lawyer named Edmond LaRue is
going to turn out to be bad news...well, you’ve read a pulp story or two in
your time, haven’t you?) Despite having a pretty good idea what’s going to
happen, Hammond’s writing is atmospheric enough that I enjoyed this story. I
haven’t encountered Hammond’s work before, but I’d read more by him.
I don't know anything about Ben George, either, but his story
"Cat-Man" is more like something you'd find in WEIRD TALES, rather
than a Weird Menace pulp. It's about an artist who has become rich and famous
by painting portraits of cats that belong to wealthy members of high society.
But when he crosses a Crazy Old Cat Lady (to borrow a term from THE SIMPSONS),
he finds himself cursed and believes he's turning into a cat. This is an okay
story for the most part, but it's cursed, too—with a really lame ending.
Maitland Scott is better remembered as R.T.M. Scott, the author of the first
two novels about The Spider, which were packaged together and reprinted by
Berkley Books in the Sixties. I remember buying those and reading them nearly
fifty years ago. I recall that I liked them, but that’s about it.
Unfortunately, Scott’s novelette in this issue, “Priestess of Pain”, isn’t very
good. The protagonist is a would-be writer whose childhood sweetheart marries a
friend of his, then apparently dies in a car wreck, then comes back to life as
one of the minions of an evil occultist who practically twirls his mustache.
The writing is too florid even for a Weird Menace pulp (and that’s saying a
lot), and there are some continuity glitches that make me think this might have
been rewritten from an earlier, unsold manuscript.
Steve Fisher is the author of some well-regarded hardboiled crime novels, one
of which, NO HOUSE LIMIT, was reprinted by Hard Case Crime. His story "Satan's
Faceless Henchmen" in this issue is also a crime yarn, although a much
more lurid one. It's the tale of a resurrection racket in which a gang of evil
monks steals freshly dead corpses and brings them back to life in return for a
payment of a quarter of a million dollars. The explanation behind all this is
less than convincing, but the pace is fast and the action scenes are good.
"Wolf Vengeance" by Rex Grahame is a backwoods tale about the rivalry
between two half-brothers over the beautiful girl they both love. One of the
brothers was practically raised by wolves and has a strange affinity with them,
and when he disappears it sets a chain of violent events in motion. The twists
in this yarn are pretty obvious, but it's well-written, with a nice sense of its
John H. Knox was one of the leading authors of Weird Menace stories, but his
contribution to this issue, "The Corpse Queen's Lovers", is a
supernatural yarn more like what you'd find in WEIRD TALES. It concerns an
archeological expedition in search of artifacts from an ancient religion in the
New Mexico hills, and that Southwestern setting gives this story a nice
distinction. Naturally enough, what the expedition finds is dangerously evil,
and Knox tells the story in smooth, well-written prose.
Paul Ernst is best remembered as the author of the pulp novels featuring The
Avenger, but he also wrote a lot of weird fiction and straight mystery tales.
"Nightmare House" mixes the two genres effectively. It has some Weird
Menace trappings—an eccentric scientist and a gorilla—but it's basically a
detective yarn with a beat cop (who would have been played by Ward Bond if this
had ever been filmed) serving as the protagonist. A minor but entertaining
Hugh B. Cave was one of the pulps' best and most prolific writers, turning out
top-notch work in numerous genres for many different magazines. His novelette
in this issue, "The Horde of Silent Men", concerns a group of
businessmen who are meeting mysterious deaths one by one, until only the son
and daughter of two of the men (who had died earlier of natural causes) are
left and are threatened by the same doom that claimed the others. Though it's
plenty creepy in places, this is really more of a mystery yarn, and the
solution is fairly interesting. It's not in the top rank of Cave's work, but
it's certainly enjoyable.
As is this entire issue. There are a couple of weak stories, but the ones by
Davis and Knox are excellent and the others are well-written. Plus it has a
good cover by Howard Sherman. For a hybrid of Weird Menace and mystery
pulp, ACE MYSTERY is pretty darned good, based on this issue, and I wouldn't
hesitate to read another.
In the mid-to-late Forties, the Western pulps from Trojan Publications had a number of minimalist but effective covers like the one on this issue of SIX-GUN WESTERN. There are some fine writers in these pages, too, including Dan Cushman, Cliff Farrell, Giff Cheshire, Wayne D. Overholster, and R.S. Lerch. That's a solid line-up.
As I've mentioned before, I've become an Ernest Haycox fan
over the past few years. I especially enjoy the novellas he published in the
pulps during the early years of his career. This 1990 paperback from Pinnacle
reprints two such novellas.
The protagonist of "The Gun Singer" is drifting gunfighter Bill
Keogh, who rides into a settlement and finds himself in the middle of a war.
He's hired by an embattled rancher to deliver a letter to the man's partner.
The rancher sacrifices his own life to help Keogh break free of a trap. As it
turns out, the rancher has a beautiful daughter, and her father's arch-enemy
wants to take the ranch away from her, so of course Keogh sticks around to give
her a hand, even though he's greatly outnumbered.
It would hard to find a more standard plot than this in a Western pulp, but
Haycox elevates it well above the more run-of-the-mill fare with his usual fine
writing and characterization. In the past I've complained about the lack of
action in his work, but that's certainly not the case here. "The Gun
Singer" features several brutal fistfights and shootouts, and the lengthy
action scene that forms the story's climax is top-notch.
According to Haycox's papers archived at the University of Oregon, "The
Gun Singer" was published in the June 5, 1931 issue of ACE-HIGH. However,
that doesn't agree with the listing in the Fictionmags Index for that issue. In
fact, there's not a listing for a Haycox story with this title in the FMI. So I
don't know who's wrong in this case or where the story originally appeared.
Luckily, that bibliographic mystery has no bearing whatsoever on how enjoyable
a yarn it is.
We know that "Night Raid" appeared in the April 1929 issue of FRONTIER STORIES.
It's on the cover and everything. This novella features Haycox's most prominent
series characters, drifting cowboys Joe Breedlove and Indigo Bowers. Many
Western authors have used a pair of drifting cowboys as protagonists, such as
W.C. Tuttle's Hashknife and Sleepy, Marshall Grover's Larry and Stretch, and
William W. Johnstone's Bo Creel and Scratch Morton. Haycox does a good job with
his version. Joe Breedlove is big, blond, slow to action and slow to anger, but
a lot smarter than he appears to be at first glance. Indigo Bowers is small,
cantankerous, and a deadly gunman. In "Night Raid", they find
themselves mistaken for new recruits in a gang of rustlers, so they play along
with it in order to foil the rustlers' plans and keep a rancher's herd from
being looted. It probably won't come as any surprise that this rancher has a
beautiful daughter, too.
The writing in this story isn't quite as good as in "The Gun Singer",
but "Night Raid" is a good, solid pulp yarn with very appealing
protagonists. The story races right along, with effective action scenes all
through it, and finally comes to a rather low-key but satisfying ending.
There's an Ace paperback edition from the Sixties called SIXGUN DUO, which
according to listings I've seen also features "The Gun Singer", but
instead of "Night Raid" it includes a story called "The
Killers". I don't know if that's actually the case because I don't have a
copy of that edition. I'd certainly pick it up if I came across it, though,
especially if one of the stories is different. I'm not going to pass up the
chance to read more of Haycox's pulp novellas, even if I never get around to
all of his novels.
If you haven't tried the Blaze! series yet, you'll never get a better chance than this special ebook boxed set edition of the first six novels.
J.D. and Kate Blaze are two of the deadliest
gunfighters the Old West has ever seen. They also happen to be husband and
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justice on the violent frontier!
BLAZE! is the first novel in a thrill-packed, all-new Adult Western series
created by bestselling action/adventure author Stephen Mertz. J.D. and Kate
find themselves facing a deadly ambush by Apaches, then they're hired to track
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Diablo. It's gun-swift excitement all the way in this gritty tale from Stephen
Legendary Western author Robert J. Randisi, creator of The Gunsmith, joins the
Blaze! team with this fast-action novel of treachery, revenge, passion, and
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Wayne D. Dundee, one of today's bestselling and most acclaimed Western authors,
spins a lightning-fast, action-packed yarn in BITTER VALLEY, the third book in
the all-new BLAZE! series. Trouble always seems to follow J.D. and Kate Blaze,
and they answer with hot lead!
The only thing J.D. and Kate Blaze planned to do in the settlement of
Wilderness, Wyoming, was attend the wedding of one of Kate's friends. Instead
outlaws launch a bloody raid on the church in the middle of the ceremony and
kidnap the groom. Acclaimed Western author Jackson Lowry (THE SONORA NOOSE and
WEST OF THE BIG RIVER: THE ARTIST) spins a colorful, action-packed yarn in
SIX-GUN WEDDING, the fourth book in the bestselling Adult Western series BLAZE!
It was one of the most brutal crimes Nevada had ever seen—a stagecoach and
everyone in it chopped to pieces by a hail of bullets from a Gatling gun.
Award-winning Western writer Michael Newton joins the BLAZE! team with an
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ZOMBIES OVER YONDER is the wildest BLAZE! adventure yet, as J.D. and Kate
investigate the mysterious death of a mine owner and find themselves facing a
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all—but the looming castle atop a ridge near the settlement of Yonder, Arizona,
holds something new and deadly. It's the Old West's only team of
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If you like gritty, fast-paced Western novels seasoned with sexy romps, don't
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I had the pleasure of publishing a number of David Hardy's
novels and stories. THE LAW COMES TO STUD HORSE is his first release from Tall
Grass Press, and it's another example of why he's one of today's best authors
of historical adventure fiction. Alex McBride is a constable in the British
Columbia Police, and along with a judge he's sent to the mining town of Stud
Horse to establish law and order. Two factions of gold-hungry prospectors,
mostly American on one side and Irish on the other, are at each other's
throats, and McBride has a murder warrant to serve on the leader of the
Americans. Needless to say, this turns out to be a tough, dangerous task.
Hardy's crisp prose moves the story along at a very nice pace, and he knows the
history of the era. THE LAW COMES TO STUD HORSE is also blessed with a
two-fisted cover from Bill Cavalier. This is the first in a new series of
action yarns from Hardy, and I'm looking forward to reading the others.
J.D. and Kate Blaze ride into the settlement of Small
Basin, Utah, on the trail of train robbers but soon discover that the town and
the surrounding area are ruled by the iron fist of a renegade Mormon
patriarch—and he has his eye on two beautiful young women he intends to make
unwilling brides. Hired killers, corrupt lawmen, and brutal kidnappers mean a
heap of trouble for the Old West's only husband-and-wife gunfighters. Forced to
split up, Kate and J.D. have to battle their way back to each other to survive!
The debut novel from acclaimed young author Ben Boulden is a fast-action gem,
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I've read quite a few stories that first appeared in UNKNOWN, including the lead novel in this issue, Norvell Page's "But Without Horns", but I've never owned an issue myself. This cover is by Edd Cartier, and I like it a lot. Other authors in this issue are Frank Belknap Long, Nat Schachner, and a couple of writers I haven't heard of, Frederick Engelhardt and Dorothy Quick. Maybe I ought to try to pick up an issue of UNKNOWN one of these days.