This is another Western pulp that I own and read recently. Behind a good Sam Cherry cover, the contents are also pretty good.
I sometimes say that I don't care for comedy Westerns, but then I read one of those W.C. Tuttle yarns about the inept but incredibly lucky range detectives Tombstone Jones and Speedy Smith, and it never fails to crack me up and entertain me. In "Double Trouble at the Circle C", the intrepid duo is assigned to a simple rustling case but wind up getting involved with diamond smugglers and the Border Patrol instead. As usual, Tuttle packs quite a bit of plot into his story and keeps things racing right along. I had a great time with it.
The second novelette in this issue, Clifton Adams' "Justice Comes to Red Creek", finds a deputy
marshal trying to solve a murder in U.S. Indian Territory – after he's already arrested a suspect who was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to hang. The plot is really predictable, but Adams writes well and has a nice hardboiled touch with the action scenes.
The other two novelettes in this issue are reprints. "Killers Take All" by Ed Earl Repp originally appeared in the January 1938 issue of POPULAR WESTERN. Repp, of course, is known to have had at least two ghosts (Frank Bonham and Tom W. Blackburn) and probably more, so there's no way to be sure who actually wrote this story. Maybe it was Repp himself. It's a pretty good novelette about the lone survivor of a wagon train massacre searching for the outlaws who carried out the slaughter. Nothing wrong with a good revenge story, and this one ends nicely. By the way, I've probably said this before, but I disagree with the claim that Repp never wrote any of the work published under his name. I've read most of his novels, and they all strike me as the work of the same person, most likely Repp himself. His pulp work, on the other hand, varies quite a bit stylistically, and I suspect there is where most of the ghosted stories are to be found. (I've read the same claim about Harry F. Olmsted, and I find that even more unbelievable. Olmsted may have had ghosts, but there's a consistency to his work that makes me believe he wrote most of it.)
The other novelette is "Bandits of Silver Bend" originally published in the August 1938 issue of THRILLING WESTERN. This one is by-lined Jackson Cole, and there's no doubt that's a house-name, one used by many, many different writers. If I had to venture a guess, though, I'd say that this story is by Walker Tompkins. It reads like his work, and there's even a mention of a Tompkins Livery Stable. That doesn't have to mean anything, of course. That reference could simply be a nod to Tompkins from a friend and fellow author. It doesn't really matter. This story is a good one, too, about a gun-handy hombre hired as a bodyguard only to be framed for the murder of the man he was supposed to protect. To clear his name he has to dig out the truth of a fifteen-year-old crime, and this strong mystery element also makes me suspect that Walker Tompkins is the author of this story.
Moving on to the short stories, Sam Brant is supposedly a house-name, so there's no telling who wrote "Here's Your Rustler", a competent but unmemorable story about feuding partners in a ranch who are losing stock to rustlers. I'm not familiar with Ben R. Daly, but he does a good job with "Give Me That Nester Water!", a story that features a frontier surveyor as the protagonist. I enjoy the occasional Western yarn where the hero isn't a cowboy, lawman, gunfighter, soldier, etc. "The Roadside Inn" by Francis H. Ames, another author I'm not familiar with, takes the familiar plot of people stranded by a snowstorm and does decent things with it. Richard Brister wrote a lot of pulp stories, as well as paperbacks and a biography of Wild Bill Hickok, and his "A Nice Little Goldstrike" is a nice enough little story about an old prospector and a bank failure, again, not a standard Western plot.
Overall, this is a consistently entertaining issue of EXCITING WESTERN, no great stories in the bunch but not a bad one, either. It's not uncommon for me to find at least one story in every pulp that I don't care for and often don't finish. That's not the case here, though.