Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday Morning Western Pulp Revisited: Wild West Weekly, April 8, 1939



If the cover of this one looks familiar, it's because I featured it on the blog a few weeks ago. But Laurie Powers was kind enough to loan me the issue to read (thanks, Laurie!), so here are some more comments about it.

The cover by H.W. Scott is for the lead novelette, "Kid Wolf Blazes the Iron Trail" and actually illustrates an important point in the story. The Kid Wolf series, written by Paul S. Powers under the name Ward M. Stevens, is always fun. For those not familiar with him, Kid Wolf if a drifting Texan sometimes known as the Soldier of Misfortune, because he always sticks up for those who are down on their luck. In this case it's the settlers of Bonita City, who are victims of a land swindle. It's the old "where is the railroad going through?" plot, but Powers makes it fresh by coming up with a couple of new angles on it and also by featuring a truly despicable villain in gambler and swindler Dice Baldwin. Lots of gunplay in this one, and it's well-written and fast-paced. "Kid Wolf Blazes the Iron Trail" is a strong entry in the long-running series.

Ralph Yergen's "The Noose Swings Low" is billed as a short story, but it's long enough to be considered a novelette. It's also an excellent yarn about a range hog trying to squeeze out the nesters and the drifting cowboy who finds himself in the middle of the hostilities because his widowed sister is one of the nesters. Sure, it's an old plot, but Yergen, who was a prolific pulpster during the Thirties and Forties, handles it well and keeps things moving along at an entertaining pace from start to finish.

Ralph Thurman's novelette "Driftin' Busts a Feud" follows the same pattern by having a standard plot enlivened by good writing and a fast pace. Adventurous young cowboy Driftin' Shale returns to the brasada country in South Texas after several years away and finds that the two old cattlemen who were his mentors have declared war on each other. Naturally Driftin' has to wade in and sort things out. This story reads a little like it's part of a series, but it's not. Thurman, who sold a dozen or so Western stories to various pulps between 1935 and 1939, passed away before it could be published. His death is announced by WILD WEST WEEKLY's editor in the regular department "A Chat With the Range Boss". I read another of Thurman's stories not long ago and wasn't very impressed with it. I liked this one quite a bit, though.

C. William Harrison was a prolific, dependably entertaining pulp author. His story "Gun Plague in Purgatory" is another feud story and a series story as well, featuring Peaceful Perkins. I was never sure if Perkins is a deputy or just a cowpoke who helps out the sheriff on occasion, but he does a good job of untangling the plot in this one and Harrison spins an enjoyable yarn as well.

Despite the line "All Stories Complete" on the cover, that's not really true, because WILD WEST WEEKLY had a habit of running series of linked novelettes that could be cobbled together later into novels. Walker Tompkins was the master of this, and his "Firebrand Fights the Legion" falls into this category. It's at least the second installment about a young outlaw known as Firebrand who discovers that he was kidnapped from his real family and raised as the son of the criminal mastermind Red Hawk, who leads the outlaw band known as the Chihuahua Legion. It sort of works as a stand-alone story, but not really that well. However, Tompkins' smooth, action-packed prose is always worth reading as far as I'm concerned.

Overall this is an excellent issue of one of my favorite Western pulps, and I appreciate Laurie letting me read it. The scan accompanying this post is of the actual issue, including the brown paper pasted onto the spine by the previous owner, which extends to the back cover and the inside of both covers. Not a great thing to do for a pulp's collectible value, but it didn't stop me from being highly entertained by the contents.

7 comments:

Walker Martin said...

The current issue of BLOOD N THUNDER(#35) has a long article on WILD WEST WEEKLY dealing with the correspondence between author Paul Powers and editor Ron Oliphant. Copies are available from Murania Press website or amazon.com.

I used to have a couple hundred issues of WILD WEST WEEKLY but I sold them to concentrate on other pulp titles. I remember one issue had an announcement of one of the readers being killed in action during World War II. It seems this young soldier had a complete set of the dime novel and pulp issues. I've often wondered what his parents did with the collection.

Rick said...

Where do you find the time? Good review. Thank you for entertaining write-ups daily.

old guy rambling said...

I have ran across a few old pulps but never this one. Thanks for the review and info--think this one would be fun to read.

-N-

Oscar said...

The man on the cover looks like he's getting ready to throw that knife, but then again, he may be just scratching an itch. Enjoyed your review of the issue.

Laurie Powers said...

I'm glad you liked the issue, James. While Kid Wolf wasn't my favorite of my grandfather's characters, he was hugely popular with the readers of the day and the letters to the editor were constantly asking for more Kid Wolf and Sonny Tabor (my favorite) stories.

Walker, the boy you're talking about may have been a young man named Bob (I can't remember his last name right now.) He was a prolific writer of letters and my grandfather has a few that Bob wrote him and my father - I guess they kept up a pen pal correspondence for years. He was a very bright and very witty young man who really knew his pulps and especially the WWW heroes. It was very sad to learn that he had died during the war, but a fate all too common during those years.

Oscar, Kid Wolf's signature weapon was that Bowie Knife that was kept in a secret sheath in his fringe coat, between his shoulder blades. He only pulled it out as a last resort and he always managed to lodge it in his enemy's throat. There were even letters written to the editor complaining when Kid hadn't used his knife in a while.

Walker Martin said...

Laurie your post above just made me remember the soldier's name who was the greatest WILD WEST WEEKLY fan and sadly was killed in action during WW II. His name was Bob Statton and he had just about all the over 2,000 issues of WWW. It was a weekly dime novel starting in 1902 and switched to the pulp format in 1927.

Usually the so called letter hacks were SF fans but Stratton was a western fiction lover.

I see I made some notes about Stratton, for instance the May 17, 1941 has a funny letter by him. Plus in the October 3, 1942 issue Stratton talks about his visit with Walker Tompkins.

Beb said...

Speaking of novels that were serialized as a series of dtand-alone stories reminds me of Frank L. Packard's "The White Moll." It was a kind of mirror image of his popular Jimmie Dale series. The first two volumes of that series were plainly stand-alone shorts. The White Moll struck me as a tightly plotted continuous story. So imagine my surprise to find one of the chapters published in Blue Book as a stand-alone story. Now it was blurbed as another in the series of stories about the White Moll.. but the story was listed as a short story, and not a serial installment.