THE MEASURE OF A MAN is the second of three movies Luke Perry made for the Hallmark Channel in which he played a character he created, frontier judge John William Goodnight. In this one, Goodnight arrives in a small Wyoming settlement to hear some cases, and while he's there he not only meets an old flame of his, he's also on hand when a gang of outlaws that's been plaguing the area shows up to rob the bank. A shootout occurs, leaving one of the outlaws dead in the street and another captured. The prisoner, a young man, insists that the gang leader will come back to rescue him. Instead, we get a not too surprising plot twist that finds Goodnight setting out to hunt down the desperadoes. This movie has many of the same drawbacks as the first one, GOODNIGHT FOR JUSTICE, such as the overall cheap look of it and that drab Canadian Western town that never looks authentic to me. However, I liked it better because the script is more tightly focused, rather than wandering around all over the place like the first one, and there are some decent lines here and there. Perry again gives a solid performance and seems to be enjoying himself, and there's some effective scenery chewing by an actor named Teach Grant as a despicable villain. One oddity is that the Goodnight character seems to have lost his touch when it comes to handling a gun. He was a crack shot in the first one but can't seem to hit much of anything this time around. These movies aren't going to make anybody a Western fan who isn't one already, but there are enough nice moments that I enjoy them. I thought the ending of this one worked well, and I'm sure it won't be long before we watch the third and final film in the series.
FANTASTIC NOVELS was another reprint pulp that brought back stories from the very early days of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. This issue features A. Merritt's novel THE CONQUEST OF THE MOON POOL, originally published in ALL-STORY WEEKLY in 1919 as a six-part serial. I don't know if this version is abridged, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was. THE CONQUEST OF THE MOON POOL is the sequel to Merritt's novella "The Moon Pool", and I believe both stories were combined to form the novel THE MOON POOL. I seem to recall reading that Merritt did a lot of revising to his original stories when they were combined and/or expanded in later versions, but I'm far from an expert on Merritt and his work. He's one of those authors I've enjoyed, but I haven't read much by him and always intend to read more. I own most of his work in one edition or another. What I do know is that I like this cover by an artist usually billed simply as Lawrence, real name Lawrence Sterne Stevens. I mean, a good-looking blonde with a raygun and a bunch of spear-toting humanoid frogs . . . what's not to like?
That's a nice cover by George Rozen on this issue of GIANT WESTERN, and some pretty good authors inside, too. Jim Mayo was Louis L'Amour, of course, and a few years later he expanded his novella "Showdown on the Hogback" into the novel SHOWDOWN AT YELLOW BUTTE. Then there's W.C. Tuttle, one of my favorites, with a story featuring his character Cultus Collins (I haven't read any of this series). Also on hand are Leslie Scott, another favorite, writing under his pseudonym A. Leslie, old-timer Charles Alden Seltzer, Arch Whitehouse, better known for his aviation stories, and house-name Charles Alan Gregory.
Most of the Perry Mason novels by Erle Stanley Gardner have
been reprinted numerous times, some by several different publishers, and there
are many, many cover variations. However, for me the most iconic editions are
the ones published by Pocket Books during the late Fifties and early Sixties in
the short paperback format, often with covers by Robert McGinnis. Those and the
cheap hardback reprints from the Forties published by Triangle Books were my
introduction to Perry Mason.
THE CASE OF THE GLAMOROUS GHOST, published in hardcover by William Morrow in
1955 and reprinted by Pocket as part of its Cardinal line in 1957, doesn’t have
a McGinnis cover, but the one on this edition by Charles Binger isn’t bad.
(That’s my copy in the scan.) It’s also, mostly, a very good novel.
It opens with Della Street, Mason’s secretary, handing him a newspaper
containing a story about a beautiful young woman who caused havoc in the local
lover’s lane by appearing almost nude, in some sort of diaphonous get-up, and
distracting the couples parked there from their necking. I’m not sure how
ghostly that is, but we can allow Gardner that stretch for the sake of a good
title. Not surprisingly, Mason winds up representing the young woman, who
claims she has amnesia when she’s picked up by the cops for disturbing the
In no time at all, of course, the case becomes a lot more complicated,
involving a hurry-up marriage in Yuma, Arizona (or was there actually a
marriage?), jealous girlfriends, the international jewel trade, and a dead body
found in the vicinity of the same lover’s lane where the beautiful “ghost” was
cavorting. Mason’s memory-impaired client quickly goes from being charged with
disturbing the peace to being on trial for murder. In fact, the entire second
half of the book is taken up with the trial, in courtroom scene after courtroom
scene, which is a good thing because nobody ever did a better job of writing
those than Erle Stanley Gardner. They really kept me turning the pages.
My only real quibble is that while I’m used to complicated plots in a Gardner
novel, this one becomes ludicrously so with a lot of elements hauled in late
from left field. It all makes sense, but Mason seems to pull a lot of the
solution out of thin air.
However, I realized a long time ago that the actual appeal of the Perry Mason
novels doesn’t lie in the plots, although some of them are more interesting and
well-constructed than others. What I really enjoy about this series is the
friendship and banter between Perry, Della, and Paul Drake, and seeing Hamilton
Burger get his courtroom comeuppance yet again. Burger is in fine form in this
one. He accuses Mason of being on a fishing expedition, blusters about his
grandstanding, and at one point even says, “Your Honor, counsel is trying to
turn this court room into a carnival sideshow!” Classic stuff that puts a grin
on my face every time. Some readers might call it formulaic, but it’s exactly
what I want from a Perry Mason novel, and THE CASE OF THE GLAMOROUS GHOST does
a good job of delivering the goods. I’ve been reading Gardner for more than
fifty years now (I actually started with one of his Donald Lam/Bertha Cool
books) and don’t intend to stop any time soon.
FAMOUS FANTASTIC MYSTERIES was primarily a reprint pulp, bringing back science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories originally written and published before such genres truly existed as we know them now. I seem to recall reading that some of the reprinted novels were abridged, but I don't know that for a fact. FFM was also noted for its good covers, many of them by Virgil Finlay including this one. As you can see, the lead stories in this issue are "The Colour Out of Space" by H.P. Lovecraft and "Palos of the Dog Star Pack" by J.U. Giesy, neither of which I've ever read. There's also a short story by L. Patrick Greene, better known as the author of the African adventure series featuring a character called The Major, and a poem, apparently original in this issue, by Robert W. Lowndes. I really ought to read more of this stuff.
I think the expression on that girl's face may be more dangerous than the six-shooter in the cowboy's hand. This is another great cover from Norman Saunders. There are only three stories in this issue of BEST WESTERN NOVELS, two from top-notch authors Dean Owen and William Heuman and one from Lee Floren, a writer I've come to appreciate more in recent years even though I still wouldn't call him a favorite. I love novella-length Western yarns, so I'm sure I'd enjoy this issue.
Clifton Adams had a short but solid career in the Western
pulps, lasting about five years in the late Forties and early Fifties. I assume
the reason he stopped writing short fiction is that he became a successful
paperback novelist and eventually moved on to more success and Spur awards as a
regular author for Doubleday’s Double D Western hardcover line. He was also
well-regarded as a hardboiled crime novelist, although not nearly as prolific
in that genre.
GAMBLING MAN is one of his early novels, published by Gold Medal in 1955 and
never reprinted, as far as I know. Despite the title and the cover, this is
actually a coming-of-age novel, and a really superb one, at that.
Twelve-year-old Jefferson Blaine lives in the small Texas town of Plainsville,
which lives up to its name as far as Jeff is concerned. Once a cattle town, it’s
now mostly a supply center for farmers and a pretty boring place. Jeff lives with
his aunt and uncle because his mother died giving birth to him and his father
left right after he was born.
Then one day Nathan Blaine comes back to town to see his son, and Jeff is
surprised to discover his father is a gunman, a gambler, and quite possibly an
outlaw. His aunt and uncle don’t like Nate and don’t want Jeff to have
anything to do with him, but of course that’s not the way things play out. Then
the situation takes yet another turn, and a tragic one, when the local bank is
robbed and Nathan Blaine goes on the run again.
This takes up the first half of the book, and it’s absolutely compelling
reading, rich in characterization and very well written. Halfway through the
book there’s a time jump of five years, to the point when Jeff Blaine is nearly
grown and getting a bad reputation himself, just like his father. Then more
outlaws show up in town, which has gotten wild again since the railroad
arrived, and bring unwelcome news of Jeff’s father, news that threatens to make
him finally cross the line and become a real owlhoot himself.
The second half of GAMBLING MAN doesn’t quite live up to the first half, but it’s
still very, very good and builds to an exciting, emotional climax. Adams’
writing is hardboiled and top-notch all the way. This is a very solid
traditional Western and gets a high recommendation from me.
The arrival of a new novel by Peter Brandvold is always
cause for celebration among Western fans, and that’s certainly true where
STILLMAN’S GUN is concerned. Sheriff Ben Stillman was the first of many series
characters created by Brandvold, who has been chronicling the sheriff’s
adventures for twenty years now. In this one, Stillman is on a manhunt that
nets him not only a bank robber prisoner but also a small fortune in the loot
the robber was carrying. Complicating the situation is the fact that the outlaw
is an old acquaintance of Stillman’s.
Given these circumstances, a lesser man might be tempted to keep the money and
let the robber go, but Stillman is determined to bring both back to
civilization, despite the danger of transporting that much money through wild
country where plenty of hardcases will want to get their hands on it. Then
there’s another twist involving a beautiful woman and the vengeful cattle baron
who’s pursuing her. As usual, Stillman has his hands full with trouble from all
Nobody in the business writes better action scenes than Brandvold, and he’s a
master of setting and character as well. If you’re a Western fan and haven’t
read his work, you really need to. If you’re a long-time reader like me, you’ll
want to grab this one up. STILLMAN’S GUN gets a high recommendation from me.
It has to be this way every weekend, Laura said as we lay
side by side. How can it be? My father will be home. After he has gone to sleep
I can come to you. What if he should catch us? He won't catch us. We'll be
smart. He's a sound sleeper but if that doesn't work out we can always take a
ride into the country. I sighed and closed my eyes. This was my father's wife.
And my lover....
THE STRANGEST SIN
Sharon Doyle felt dirty when she woke up in Jimmy Slade's
bed, but that wasn't unusual. She always felt dirty after a night of passion in
Jimmy's cheap room... Sharon owns a bar and too often ends up blotto at the end
of the evening, letting Jimmy take her back to his place. Her neighbor Carl
Evans is a nicer guy, but he won't make a move. Between them is Bert Robinson,
the local racketeer who wants Sharon all to himself, no matter what it takes.
But Sharon is tired of them. She finds herself more attracted to her bartender,
Lucy, who keeps the local guys satisfied in a room upstairs. It's a lit-fuse
situation, and all it takes is a single act of violence to set it off.
I wrote the introduction to this double volume from Stark
House that will be out later this fall, and I'm proud to have done so. Both
novels are top-notch tales from a great storyteller, and I give this collection
a very high recommendation.
That's a pretty brutal cover on this issue of GOLD SEAL DETECTIVE, a short-lived pulp that appears to have featured mostly stories about G-Men. The lead novella is part of the Rough 'Em Up Radigan series by "Clark Aiken", who was really Frederick C. Davis, so you know it's got to be pretty good. With five of these novellas running in GOLD SEAL DETECTIVE, I wonder if the series would be a good candidate for reprinting. I don't know about you, but I'd buy THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF ROUGH 'EM UP RADIGAN. Norman A. Daniels is also on hand in this issue, twice, in fact, once as himself and once as David A. Norman. James Perley Hughes and Darrell Jordan are the best-known names among the other authors, and they're best remembered for their work in the aviation pulps. But I think this issue would be worth reading just for Davis and Daniels.