Saturday, August 02, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Dime Western, November 1948

I haven't actually read any Western pulps for a while, so I decided I need to remedy that, starting with this one. DIME WESTERN was one of the top Western pulps, of course, and this is a fine issue from fairly late in its run.

Rumor has it that by the late Forties, Walt Coburn's drinking problem was bad enough that the editors at Popular Publications had to rewrite his manuscripts pretty heavily at times. They still bought his stories, though, because of Coburn's reputation. I'm sure his name on a cover helped sell more copies of that issue. This time around, either the editor did a good job or Coburn was clicking on more cylinders than usual, because "Smoky River Deadline" is a pretty good story and reads almost like vintage Coburn to me. The protagonist, young Clay Kane, gets involved in a range war in Texas and has to flee the law. After several years he winds up in Montana and soon finds himself neck-deep in another range war, but this time he won't be running away. As usual, there's plenty of complicated back-story and several pretty big coincidences fuel the plot, but Coburn's narrative drive carries things along at a breakneck pace. The villain of the piece is a good one, too, and a little different from the usual Western pulp villains.

I've seen George C. Appell's name on various pulps many times, but I don't recall reading anything by him until now. "High Wire Rider" is a good story about the building of the transcontinental railroad and a former Union telegrapher's attempt to foil a payroll robbery. This is a well-written yarn, and I definitely want to read more by Appell.

John Jo Carpenter is another author I've probably read, but I don't know much about him or his work. His story in this issue, "Cold Deck, Hot Lead" is a pretty good one about a gambler with a great name (Tango Meegan) who kills a man in a gunfight over a poker game and winds up facing down an outlaw gang because of it.

It's not surprising that Tom W. Blackburn's "Ship Out with Captain Satan!" isn't a traditional Western. While Blackburn wrote plenty of traditional stories, he also liked to use a wide variety of historical settings and themes. This novelette takes place almost entirely on a ship bound from Panama to California during the Gold Rush, and it's a fine adventure yarn that finds one of the gold-seekers battling the ship's brutal captain.

Oddly enough, the story that prompted me to pull out this issue and read it is the only one I didn't really care for. A while back a friend of mine asked me about Bart Cassidy, specifically Cassidy's long-running series of stories about amiable outlaw Tensleep Maxon. I'd never read one, so I figured I ought to. The one in this issue is "Fire, Brimstone—and Tensleep Maxon!" It's told in a colorful, idiosyncratic first-person style, and it just didn't work for me. But I have more of them on hand and maybe I'll try another.

T.T. Flynn's stories, on the other hand, have never disappointed me, and "Death's Deputy" is no exception. Lon Hagerman is a gunfighting, town taming lawman, but he returns to his home on the trail of the man who murdered a friend of his, finds himself deputized by the ailing local sheriff, and has to break up the outlaw gang plaguing the area. As usual, Flynn spins his yarn in terse, swift-moving prose, and while the plot is nothing exceptional, it still makes for an entertaining tale.

The final story in the issue is "Good Loggers Are Dead Loggers", by the always dependable Frank Bonham. It's the old cattlemen vs. loggers plot, with a nice twist that finds the cattleman hero getting into the timber business. Bonham's stories always read well.

So, a good solid issue of DIME WESTERN, as most of them were. I hope to read another soon.


Walker Martin said...

To look at this issue and the many other western pulp titles of 1948, no one would have guessed that in a few years the market for western short stories would be almost non-existent. By 1955 they were almost all gone, probably the victim of the TV westerns and the cheaper to produce western paperback novels.

But these back issues are still easy to find on ebay and Pulpfest( will have plenty of them at cheap prices.

PONY said...

John Jo Carpenter was a pseudonym used by John Reese. So far as I know one paperback western was published under this byline: Signal Guns at Sundown(Pocket Books 834)

James Reasoner said...

Thanks for the info about John Jo Carpenter. I've read John Reese's work under his own name and enjoyed it. His novels about a frontier detective (Jefferson Hewitt is the character's name, I think) are pretty good. I'll be on the lookout for more stories under the Carpenter name.

Jonathan G. Jensen said...

James, The Captain Satan story by Blackburn sounds like a good one, don't have that issue, but do like that sort of story. Will be on the look out for more of his stories in my stash of Dime Westerns.

Ed Lynskey said...

Enjoyable blog post, James. Thanks.