Saturday, September 03, 2011

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Exciting Western, July 1950

This is a pulp that I own and happened to read recently.  Western pulp cover artists loved red shirts and yellow shirts, and this cover has both.  It doesn't hurt anything that it's a good-looking blonde who's wearing the red shirt, either.  And behind that cover is a pretty good mix of stories.

W.C. Tuttle is one of my favorite Western authors, as I've mentioned before.  For EXCITING WESTERN he did a series of novelettes about a pair of range detectives named Tombstone Jones and Speedy Smith.  Now, if you're thinking that they might be similar to Tuttle's other range detective characters Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens, you'd be right.  The difference is that while Hashknife is actually a brilliant detective and Sleepy is a very competent sidekick, Tombstone and Speedy are, shall we say, less bright and tend to solve their cases more through slapstick-tinged luck than actual detective work.  However, their adventures are consistently entertaining, and "Horse-Shoe Luck" is no exception.  In this one, Tombstone and Speedy are trying to sort out the murder of a rancher and the competing claims of a couple of would-be heirs, while at the same time tracking down a pair of bandits who have been plaguing the countryside.  For its length, Tuttle really packs a lot of plot into this story, and Tombstone and Speedy have to be a little smarter than usual to untangle everything.  This may well be the best of the yarns about them that I've read so far.

"The Legend of Early Bill" by Dan Kirby (an author I'm not familiar with) takes a legendary lawman much like Wild Bill Hickok and has him turn outlaw.  It's a nice twist, and while the rest of the story is pretty predictable, it's well-written and I enjoyed it.  "Busy Day For Rustlers" by Dane Zale (never heard of him) is a forgettable yarn about a lawman tracking down some wideloopers.  Chuck Martin is an author I've read before, and his story about a stagecoach holdup and its aftermath, "Dead Ringer", is also predictable but entertaining because Martin wrote in a very colorful, fast-paced style.  This one does have a pretty good-sized hole in the plot, though.  "The Go-Between" by William J. O'Sullivan is a range war story involving water rights and is the weakest story in the issue because the identity of the villain is too obvious right from the start.  I didn't really care for O'Sullivan's style, either.  The final short story is "Have a Harp, Ranger!", an entry in the long-running series featuring an Arizona Ranger known as Navajo Tom Raine.  The plot is fairly weak, but there's plenty of well-written action in this tale of Raine hunting down a gang of stagecoach robbers.  I don't know who wrote the Navajo Raine stories under the house-name Jackson Cole, but I enjoy them most of the time.

I've mentioned before that I don't care for Syl MacDowell's stories about a pair of cowboys named Swap and Whopper that ran in THRILLING WESTERN.  For this issue of EXCITING WESTERN, he contributes a non-series novelette called "Wheels Without Hoofs", about immigrants traveling west using handcarts instead of the more traditional covered wagons.  This is a much grittier yarn than the comedic Swap and Whopper stories, and I liked it quite a bit.

Overall, this is a good issue.  There are no real stand-out stories, but it's hard to go wrong with W.C. Tuttle as the lead author in a Western pulp, and all the backup stories with the exception of "The Go-Between" are competent and fairly entertaining.  I enjoyed it, and it's really got me in the mood to read more Western pulps.


Walker Martin said...

I definitely agree with you about W.C. Tuttle. He was one of the better western pulp writers and has been unjustly forgotten.

Red and yellow colors were popular because they looked so great on the newstands and caught the attention of passersby. Some publishers like Popular stressed very colorful action scenes while some titles like the digest WESTERN STORY covers in the 1940's were dark and gloomy.

George said...

I have some W.C. Tuttle that I'll have to find read.

Ron Scheer said...

Thanks, James, always enjoy these.

D.M. McGowan said...

Thank you, James.
I particularly like your mention of the push cart story.
They have both been gone now for several years, but I had the opportunity in the '60s to speak with two mean who pushed wheel-barrows from Winnipeg through to Ft. St. John, BC in the '20s. I plan on using that as a part of or perhaps a back-ground for a novel ... whenever I get the one finished that I'm supposed to be working on.

Richard Prosch said...

Really enjoying these each week. You've gotten me back in the mood to read some pulps too!