Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Ozark Mountain Massacre - Ryan Fowler

Taney County, Missouri. 1883. Tensions are thick. The gun smoke is even thicker!

Jacob Langthorn just wants peace. Having roamed the West, he’s happy to be back home in the beautiful Ozark Country of Southwestern Missouri. With a cabin by the creek and kinfolk nearby, Jacob is ready for a quiet life.

But fate has other plans.

With criminals running rampant in Taney County and crooked officials turning a blind eye, someone has to step in and tame a lawless land. So, Jacob straps on his guns once more and confronts a violent band of outlaws.

But other folks want to take the purge a few steps further. What started as a one-time event has become a movement. A group of vigilantes in horned masks are terrorizing the mountains, burning out and taking down anyone they deem unfit for their community. With families split and friendships torn apart, Jacob will have to step in once more and fight a monster he helped create.

Not knowing who he can trust or if he’ll even survive, it’s going to take all the grit Jacob has to stop the vigilantes before full-scale war breaks out and the Ozarks run red with blood.

(I read this a while back in manuscript and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a fast-paced, very well-written traditional Western yarn with plenty of action, but what really comes through is Fowler's love of the setting, which he captures beautifully, and his empathy for his well-developed characters, especially Jacob Langthorn. This is Fowler's first Western novel, but it won't be his last. Jacob Langthorn's second adventure is already in the works, and I'm eager to read it. This one is highly recommended for Western fans!)

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Stripped and Branded - Peter Brandvold

Yakima Henry is probably my favorite character created by Peter Brandvold, and he returns in STRIPPED AND BRANDED, the latest novel from Brandvold. Yakima last appeared in the somewhat heart-warming REDEMPTION TRAIL. As you might guess from the title, STRIPPED AND BRANDED is a considerably harder-edged tale.

In this one, Yakima encounters three bank robbers on the run and desperate after killing three members of a posse and losing one of their horses. They want Yakima’s horse Wolf and are more than willing to kill to get him. Of course, this is a big mistake, and all three of the varmints wind up dead. Yakima takes the bodies back to the town where they robbed the bank, figuring he’ll collect the bounty on them (even though he’s not really a bounty hunter) and that money will finance the rest of his trip to Mexico, where he intends to spend the winter.

What he’s not counting on is the fact that one of the robbers was the black sheep son of the woman who owns the largest ranch in the area, and she wants vengeance. There are other things going on, too, but that’s best left to the reader to discover.

Nobody could ever accuse Brandvold of taking it easy on his characters. Yakima suffers a lot in this one, both physically and mentally. The action is almost non-stop, the characters come to vivid life, and Brandvold continues to be maybe the best in the business at setting a scene and making it real. His work always reminds me of some of the great hardboiled Western writers of the past, authors such as Harry Whittington, T.T. Flynn, William Heuman, Les Savage Jr., Marvin Albert, and Clifton Adams, although with a more modern, grittier tone. I give all of his work a very high recommendation, and STRIPPED AND BRANDED is one of his best.

Monday, December 06, 2021

New Issue of the Lowestoft Chronicle Now Available

What's in Season @ Lowestoft Chronicle?

Check out the latest issue of Lowestoft Chronicle, the free online magazine featuring fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and interviews.

Ascend with Lowestoft Chronicle this winter!

In Issue 48: A doctoral candidate lands a three-month study abroad opportunity in Barbados and swiftly becomes a newsworthy Caribbean personality. Romance blooms while a withering magic show descends into chaos at a retirement home in Pittsburgh. A drifter imprudently misses his scheduled ride off a small, isolated island and then overstays his welcome with the disobliging local deadbeats. And devious thieves test the mettle of a salesman with big plans during his 1941 business trip to the Big Apple.

We proudly present the work of Linda Ankrah-Dove, Rob Dinsmoor, Paul Gray, Spencer Harrington, Bruce Harris, Richard Holinger, Matthew Menary, Jon Moray, Dan Morey, Alfredo Quarto, Marc Simon, Steve Slavin, and Melissent Zumwalt.

Our thanks to all contributors, as well as everyone who submitted work to us. We are currently accepting submissions for Issue #49 (due on March 1st). Preference is given to humorous submissions with an emphasis on travel. See our submissions page for guidelines.

The Latest News...

Lowestoft Chronicle’s 2021 Pushcart Prize Nominations

This November, we made the following nominations for the Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976.

Pushcart Prize nominations:
“The Journey to Autumn” by (Essay) Sharon Frame Gay
“Espèce de Cowboy,” (Story) by Charles Holdefer
“My Happy Place” (Poem) by Jacqueline Jules
“Empathy” (Story) by Laurence Klavan
“Isle of Mull” (Poem) by George Moore
“Hsi-wei and the Little Straw Sandals” (Story) by Robert Wexelblatt

Full details can be found on the website here:
Nominations for the Best American Series 2022

We recently nominated the following pieces from 2021 for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s annual Best American anthology series. Pleasingly, The Best American Essays series editor, Robert Atwan, selected Scott Dominic Carpenter’s essay “Squirrel Pie and the Golden Derriere,” from issue 37 of Lowestoft Chronicle, for inclusion in his list of “Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2019” in The Best American Essays 2020 collection. Our best wishes go out to these other fine writers featured in past issues of Lowestoft Chronicle.

The Best American Short Stories:
“Espèce de Cowboy” by Charles Holdefer
“Empathy” by Laurence Klavan
“Una Terra del Miracoloso” by Robin Michel
“Hsi-wei and the Little Straw Sandals” by Robert Wexelblatt

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy:
“Empathy” by Laurence Klavan

The Best American Mystery and Suspense:
“Subway Swindle” by Bruce Harris

Full details can be found on the website here:

Sax Rohmer's Mystery Novels, Grey Face and Green Eyes of Bâst

High adventure and mystery can be found in this pair of haunting classics from the king of eerie occult fiction, Sax Rohmer. This collection includes a scholarly account of the conception and reception of these two books, penned by the editor of Lowestoft Chronicle.

You can purchase the book from Stark House PressAmazon, or other online booksellers.

Book News by Lowestoft Chronicle Friends and Contributors

The Thirteenth Studebaker by Robert Wexelblatt

The Money by David Shawn Klein

The Sailcloth Shroud / All the Way by Charles Williams (Introduction by Nicholas Litchfield)

A Particular Madness by Sheldon Russell

The Dressmaker's Daughter by Linda Boroff

Pieces of Bones and Rags by Michael C. Keith

Steal Big / The Big Caper by Lionel White (Introduction by Nicholas Litchfield)

Under an Outlaw Moon by Dietrich Kalteis

Rattler's Law, Volume One by James Reasoner

Ralph Compton the Too-Late Trail (The Trail Drive Series) by Matthew P Mayo

Road of Bones (A Billy Boyle WWII Mystery) by James R. Benn

Behind the Lines by Mary Donaldson-Evans

The Iron Horse: A Faraday Novel by James Reasoner

Ralph Compton Guns of the Greenhorn (The Gunfighter Series) by Matthew P Mayo

Kind regards,
Lowestoft Chronicle

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Spicy-Adventure Stories, January 1936

Another great Parkhurst cover on this issue of SPICY-ADVENTURE STORIES. Inside are yarns by the usual assortment of authors: Robert Leslie Bellem (as himself and Jerome Severs Perry), Victor Rousseau (as Lew Merrill and Hugh Speer), Wyatt Blassingame (as William B. Rainey), Arthur Wallace, W.W. McKenna, and two authors who have no credits in the Fictionmags Index except their stories in this issue, George Herreford and Lance LeCamp, so both of those names may well be pseudonyms.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Ranch Romances, Third April Number, 1950

RANCH ROMANCES was published every two weeks and referred to the issues as the First Number and the Second Number for each month. Not many months lined up just right to have three issues published in them, but clearly April 1950 did, because this is the Third April Number, 1950. With another very good cover by Kirk Wilson, who did some fine work for RANCH ROMANCES. The best-known authors inside this issue are L.P. Holmes, Wayne D. Overholser, and Robert Moore Williams. Also on hand are lesser-known authors Pat Johns, A. Kenneth Brent, and Ennen Reeves Hall, with a reprint from THRILLING RANCH STORIES.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Salvage in Space - Jack Williamson

This novelette first appeared in the March 1933 issue of ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCE, edited by Harry Bates. You can't really tell it's that old, however, as Jack Williamson's clean, almost spare style reads as if the story was written much more recently than that.

The protagonist is young asteroid miner Thad Allen, who leads a lonely existence wandering among the asteroids searching for valuable metals. But then he comes across what appears to be an abandoned space liner and immediately thinks that if he can get it back to Mars and claim it as salvage, he stands to make a lot of money from the discovery. Unfortunately for Thad (and I'm sure you saw this coming), something is still alive on the spaceship, as he discovers after coming across some ominous bloodstains while he's exploring the seemingly deserted corridors. Then there's the coffin-like apparatus containing the body of a beautiful young woman whose fate greatly intrigues Thad. But will he survive long enough to figure out what happened here?

"Salvage in Space" is basically a suspense yarn, and a very good one. The level of tension that Williamson creates in this story reminded me a little of John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?" "Salvage in Space" isn't quite on that level, but I had a really good time reading it. Williamson leaves one plot point unresolved, which I found a little annoying, but other than that I found it to be a very good story. There's a free e-book version of it available on Amazon, if you don't happen to have a copy of that 1933 pulp sitting around. It was also reprinted in the anthology THE EARLY WILLIAMSON and the Haffner Press volume WIZARD'S ISLE.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Complete Northwest, October 1939

"More pages!!! More Words on Each Page!!!" I think this is the first time I've seen that latter boast on a pulp cover, although the former claim is common. COMPLETE NORTHWEST published plenty of good authors, and this issue has a nice cover by A. Leslie Ross. The stories in this issue are by Harold Titus (a prolific pulpster, but one whose work I'm not familiar with), William Byron Mowery (a very well-known writer of the era; his story in this issue of a reprint from a 1926 issue of ADVENTURE), Vingie E. Roe (best remembered for her Westerns), and a collaboration between two little-known pulpsters, Robert J. Green and Charles Tenney Jackson (Jackson being the more prolific and better known of the two).

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Story Magazine, August 1953

Once again, an Old West poker game is about to end badly. This is from the usually forgotten Popular Publications incarnation of WESTERN STORY, after it was cancelled at Street & Smith four years earlier. The magazine lasted only about a year and a half at Popular, but its lack of success didn't have anything to do with its quality, in my opinion. It generally had good covers, such as this one by Charles Dye, and excellent authors. This issue contains stories by Will Cook (twice, as himself and as Frank Peace), George C. Appell, William Heuman (a reprint from FIFTEEN WESTERN TALES), Fred Grove, Leslie Ernenwein, Bruce Cassiday, lesser-known pulpster Frank Scott York, and Richard H. Nelson, who was really William L. Hamling, science fiction fan, editor, and publisher of the SF digests IMAGINATION AND IMAGINATIVE TALES, as well as the publisher of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of soft-core novels in the late Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies.

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Complete Cases of the Rambler, Volume One - Fred MacIsaac

I’ve seen Fred MacIsaac’s name on the cover of many, many pulps over the years. He was very prolific for two decades, the Twenties and Thirties, and sold to most of the top pulps, turning out mostly mystery and adventure yarns, with the occasional foray into science fiction. Despite my familiarity with his name, though, I’d never actually read any of his stories until recently, when I tackled a collection of his mystery stories from Altus Press, THE COMPLETE CASES OF THE RAMBLER, VOLUME ONE, which includes an excellent introduction by Ed Hulse.

The Rambler is itinerant reporter Addison Francis Murphy (although in his first appearance, his name is Addison Dexter Murphy), a lanky, redheaded young man who has a habit of getting fired from whatever newspaper job he’s working, but that doesn’t keep him from getting all kinds of scoops and breaking big stories, as well as tackling all kinds of crooks and winding up in danger most of the time. He’s brilliant but prefers being a tramp and drifting around to staying in one place and building a career.

Art by Paul Stahr 

His first appearance is in “The Affair at Camp Laurel”, which was published in the October 8, 1932 issue of ARGOSY, the only story in the series to appear in that venerable pulp. The other Rambler stories were all published in DIME DETECTIVE. This debut is more of an adventure yarn, without much detecting going on as Murphy infiltrates an isolated upstate New York hunting and fishing camp belonging to a rich man who has started behaving eccentrically after being missing for a while in Africa while on an expedition. Yeah, it’s kind of a complicated back-story, and not everything turns out exactly as you might expect. MacIsaac spins the yarn in a breezy, fast-moving style that’s pretty enjoyable.

Art by William Reusswig

By the time Murphy shows up again in the April 1, 1933 issue of DIME DETECTIVE in the story “Alias Mr. Smith”, he’s acquired a new middle name (as mentioned above), he has black hair instead of being a redhead, and his nickname is now The Rambler (that name is never used in the first story). He’s in Boston, and he gets himself a job on one of the papers there by promising to turn up an explosive story. He does that by getting in the middle of what appears to be an open-and-shut murder case in which the victim named her killer before dying. Murphy insists that the alleged murderer is innocent, which brings him to the attention of corrupt politicians, gangsters, and hired killers. Sure enough, Murphy uses an unusual clue to break the case wide open. This story is a little more complicated than the previous one but races along in the same entertaining style.

Art by William Reusswig 

As the third story, “Ghost City Set-up”, opens in the September 1, 1933 issue of DIME DETECTIVE, Murphy actually has some money in his pocket, several hundred dollars, in fact, as he rides across country on a train bound for San Francisco. The reason Murphy is flush is a neat bit of meta-fiction before the concept even existed. It seems that a while back, Murphy met a guy who wrote stories for the pulp fiction magazine and told him about an adventure he had at an isolated hunting camp in upstate New York—“The Affair at Camp Laurel”, of course, which the pulpster (clearly MacIsaac himself) turned into a story and sold to a “major magazine” (ARGOSY). So this explains why some of the details are different in that first story. The writer didn’t remember them correctly when he wrote it.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why Murphy is a redhead again in this one, but hey, let’s not get fanatical about this. Especially when the stories are so gosh-darned entertaining. This time, Murphy spots a rich, beautiful society dame who’s in the process of getting a divorce. When she gets off the train at Reno, and so does a gangster Murphy also recognizes, our intrepid reporter’s nose for news scents a story. Instead of continuing on to San Francisco, he gets off the train in Reno, too, and soon finds himself up to his neck—and deep in an abandoned mine—in a wild, dangerous affair with millions at stake. As usual, it’s great, breakneck fun.

Art by John Howitt

Murphy makes his next appearance in the June 1, 1934 issue of DIME DETECTIVE, in a story called “Go-Between”. He’s made it to California, but not San Francisco. Rather, he’s in Malibu, where he wakes up with a hangover in the beachfront bungalow of a beautiful movie actress. Before you know it, the girl’s been kidnapped, and the gangsters who snatch her force Murphy to act as the go-between for the delivery of the ransom. More complications arise, of course, as the story races along at a breakneck pace in MacIsaac’s breezy, very entertaining style.

Art by John Howitt 

At the end of “Go-Between”, Murphy is sailing off to the South Seas. When “Murder Reel” (DIME DETECTIVE, August 15, 1934) opens, he’s returned from that voyage and landed in San Francisco at last, where he gets a job with one of the local papers and is assigned the story of a mysterious woman who registered in a hotel under a phony name, was murdered a few days later, and is still unidentified. The only clue in the case is a possible connection with a local politician. There’s plenty of colorful action in this yarn and Murphy is as appealing a protagonist as ever, but it’s the weakest Rambler story so far because the solution to the murder involves two really far-fetched coincidences that stretch credulity past the breaking point.

Art by Walter Baumhofer

“Heir-Cooled”, from the June 15, 1935 issue of DIME DETECTIVE, wraps up this first volume of the Rambler’s cases. It’s a considerable improvement on the previous tale. Murphy is back in New York, investigating a jewel robbery and the heart attack death of a financier that may not be natural causes at all. The case has threads that stretch all the way to Miami and the Bahamas, although Murphy doesn’t leave the Big Apple except for a short journey when he gets taken for a ride by gangsters. He survives, of course, but not without some fine action from MacIsaac. It’s another very enjoyable story.

I had enough fun reading all of these yarns that I was left wanting more. Fortunately, there’s a second volume of Rambler Murphy stories from Fred MacIsaac, and I already own a copy, so I suspect I’ll be moving on to it in the reasonably near future. Meanwhile, if you’re a fan of pulp detective stories, I give THE COMPLETE CASES OF THE RAMBLER, VOLUME 1 a high recommendation.