Saturday, March 04, 2017

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Double-Action Western, March 1953


This is a pulp that I own and read recently. I don't know who did the cover art, but it goes pretty well with "The Californy Kid", the lead novel by Seven Anderton. Anderton was a prolific pulpster who is almost completely forgotten today. My friend Richard Moore is a fan of his work, but he's the only one I know. As far as I recall, I hadn't read anything by Anderton until now, but I thought "The Californy Kid" was a very good yarn. It's set in 1849, during the Gold Rush, and the title protagonist is a young, falsely accused outlaw who finds himself involved in a would-be uprising by the Californios, Mexican settlers who lived in California for generations before it was taken over by the United States. There's plenty of action and Anderton's writing is smooth and very effective. I definitely need to read more by him.

R.S. Lerch is even more forgotten than Seven Anderton. Between the mid-Twenties and 1953, he wrote a couple of hundred stories for the Western and detective pulps under his own name and the pseudonym L.R. Sherman (his real name was Roger Sherman Lerch), but only one novel that I can find any mention of, a Western called THE GUN-DEVILS that appears to have been published only as an Australian paperback. Whether that means Lerch was actually Australian, I have no idea. But I've read several of his stories now and enjoyed all of them. His novelette in this issue of DOUBLE-ACTION WESTERN, "Return to Hell", is about a town-taming marshal who just wants to settle down, marry his sweetheart, and become a rancher. But the girl won't marry him while he's still wearing a badge, and a range hog is moving into the area with a bunch of cattle and some hired guns. To support the cattle, he's going to have to take over some of the smaller ranches, and he'll do it with fire and lead if he has to. There's nothing original about this plot, but Lerch spins his yarn with enough skill to make it enjoyable reading. He was a solid second-tier, or maybe third-tier, writer who might have moved on to a good career as a paperbacker during the Fifties had he not passed away in 1953.

Lauran Paine was a prolific writer for the Western pulps but even more prolific as a novelist, authoring more than a thousand novels, many of them for British publisher Robert Hale under a multitude of pen-names. But even though I have maybe a dozen of his books on my shelves and numerous pulps with his stories in them, I'd never read anything by him until now. His short story in this issue, "Thunder River", is a standard range war yarn, with the small ranchers clashing with the range hog from back east over water rights, and while it's fairly well-written, I kept waiting for a twist that never came and didn't find the characters particularly engaging. I still need to read one of Paine's novels—I have friends who are fans of his work—but this story didn't impress me.

Nor did "Cattleman's Courage" by J.J. Mathews, an author I'm unfamiliar with. This is a cattlemen vs. sheepherders yarn, and while I'm more tolerant of stereotypical plots than just about anybody, they need something to engage my attention. I didn't find that here and wound up skimming this one.

Then there's "Emancipation of Crow Dog" by Lon Williams, a stand-alone by the author better known for his long-running series of supernatural Westerns featuring Deputy Lee Winters. This one has the unusual setting (for a Western pulp) of a Sioux Indian reservation in more modern times, late 19th or early 20th Century, I'd say. The reaction of a lot of modern readers would be to find it appallingly politically incorrect, and most of the phony "redskin" dialect is sort of cringe-inducing. However, the protagonist Crow Dog, who's doing his best to assimilate to the reservation way of life, is a pretty interesting character, and Williams sets up an intriguing conflict between the old ways and the new. Then, unfortunately, he does almost nothing with it, as the story limps to a very undramatic ending. A shame, because this could have been an excellent story.

There are also some assorted features and Old West history articles, but to be honest, I just skimmed through them, too. I read pulps for the fiction, that's all.

So to sum up, this issue of DOUBLE-ACTION WESTERN is definitely a mixed bag. The Seven Anderton story is excellent, and the one by R.S. Lerch is well worth reading. The stories by Lauran Paine and Lon Williams are readable but could have been better. The rest of the issue is forgettable. (The image is a photo of the actual copy I read. I wasn't able to scan the cover this time.)

13 comments:

Todd Mason said...

And all Robert Lowndes's magazines were salvage markets, unless RL struck deals with at least one or two of the writers as he had with Asimov in his sf magazines, to pay a competitive wage for first look by squeezing the rate a bit lower on the nonfiction or most-routine or most-obscure-writer fiction. So, presumably, most of these were turned down by DIME WESTERN and RANCH ROMANCES (and BLUEBOOK and the ike, if even submitted there).

Walker Martin said...

I've heard that Lowndes' budget and word rates were so low that he seldom got first look at anything. The only exception as Todd points out being his SF friends. He would manage to pay some of them higher rates but then make it up by lowering others.

James Reasoner said...

The question of salvage markets is an interesting one. I know a lot of that went on, but I'll bet there were some authors who knew they could count on a sale to Lowndes and sent their stories to him first,just to save time and postage. I know I did that some with MSMM.

Stephen Mertz said...

MSMM was a salvage market for the established pros of the day but that was good news because salvage markets are usually receptive to new writers due to the low rates. Newbies (like us in the 1970s) don't care about rates. We onl;y want to get published. I have a copy of Edward D. Hoch's first book. The dedication reads, "For Bob Lowndes, who first discovered the Simon Ark stories and their author." It's safe to say that Lowndes was a writer's friend. I've always been beholden to him for publishing the last dozen or so Race Williams stories by Carroll John Daly.

Walker Martin said...

Lowndes also published the first two stories by Stephen King in STARTLING MYSTERY. But aside from the fiction, Lowndes always impressed me with his policy of extensive editorial comment on the stories and writers. The MAGAZINE OF HORROR and STARTLING MYSTERY for instance were mainly reprint magazines with a new story every now and then but I bought them for Lowndes editorials and story comments. He may have edited low quality magazines but he was a great editor and managed to make do with very little money.

James Reasoner said...

How was Lowndes as a writer? I don't know that I've ever read any of his fiction.

Walker Martin said...

Lowndes did not write much fiction. He wrote a few mediocre short stories and a few novels but I guess he was too busy as an editor to write much fiction. I do remember reading and enjoying BELIEVER'S WORLD, a novel, first published in SPACE SCIENCE FICTION in 1952 as a novella under the title "A MATTER OF FAITH". He also wrote a novel with James Blish which I read decades ago.

Todd said...

"Leapers" and a few others are good. Did a fair amount of collaborating with other Futurians, as most of them did.

I would say that Lowndes's magazines were actually pretty solid, mixing usually pleasantly mediocre work with some brilliant, particularly at Columbia, where he essentially "discovered" Carol Emshwiller along with Ed Hoch, and the other young aspirant to be first published by STARTLING MYSTERY STORIES at Health Knowldege was F. Payl Wilson (rather as with Kate Wilhelm, they both sold stories to ASTOUNDING/ANALOG first, but Cele Goldsmith and Robert Lowndes got the first stories into print faster at FANTASTIC and SMS respectively). If anything, considering Lowndes was using mostly reprint st HK magazines, they averaged a bit better than the Columbia titles..most issues of MAGAZINE OF HORROR and SMS had some original stories, some, by Joanna Russ, Roger Zelazny, first pro sale to MOH Janet Fox, and Hoch, were very good. Anna Hunger and MOH discovery Stefan Aletti supposedly contributed good new stories as well, but I haven't gotten to those yet. Robert Silverberg and others placed new stories with the HK magazine FAMOUS SCIENCE FICTION, though sadly I think WORLD WIDE ADVENTURE and the HK western title were all reprints. "Controversial" stories such as "Liberation of Earth" by William Tenn and Blish's "Testament of Andros" found their way to the Columbia sf pulps, as did crime fiction to the Columbia CF pulps from the likes of Wilhelm and Judith Merril...

The name of the veteran western writer who apparently did better work before he started hitting up Lowndes at Columbia escapes me at the moment...but perhaps I've only read his worst Columbia contributions.

Todd said...

W. C. Tuttle.

James Reasoner said...

Tuttle began selling to Columbia about the same time his regular markets at Better Publications and Popular Publications began folding. Until I looked it up on the FMI, I didn't realize he sold two Tombstone and Speedy stories to Columbia. I'll bet these were written for EXCITING WESTERN, where the rest of the series ran. I haven't read any of his stories for Columbia, although I think I have a couple of them. By then he'd been in the business for 40 years, which seems like a long time . . . until I remember that I've been in the business for 40 years and it doesn't seem that long at all.

I have an e-book collection of Lowndes' SF and fantasy stories, nearly all of them collaborations with various other authors.

Samuel Wilson said...

This issue is part of the unz.org pulp trove. Probably because of Columbia's reputation, I haven't looked at much of it but I did read "Thunder River" and thought it was okay. For the curious, here's the link:

http://www.unz.org/Pub/DoubleActionWestern-1953mar

Unz also has the January 1952 issue with a lead "novel" by Roe Richmond:

http://www.unz.org/Pub/DoubleActionWestern-1952jan

Sean McLachlan said...

A thousand books??? I always find these hyperprolific authors both inspiring and vexing. I have a few dozen books under my belt under various names but a THOUSAND? I don't think I'll ever catch up. Maybe my problem is that I've only written one Western. It seems to be a genre that, like romance, attracts prolific writers.

James Reasoner said...

I'll never make it to a thousand, or even five hundred. I'd have to write at the same pace I have been for another ten or twelve years, and I don't see that happening. I should be able to make four hundred, though. Westerns and category romances are short, relatively speaking, and that encourages being prolific. Although the books I'm writing now are around 90,000 words, for the most part, so even Westerns are longer these days.