Sunday, May 15, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Adventure, March 1939

An abundance of work and some real-life issues have caused me to neglect the blog in recent days, but I hope to get that squared away soon. In the meantime, here's a great cover by Raphael DeSoto. The diving suit, the treasure chest, and the revolver all promise us adventure, and I'm sure this issue of, what else, ADVENTURE delivers on that promise. Inside are stories by Erle Stanley Gardner, Frank Gruber, William E. Barrett, Anthony Rud, Gordon MacCreagh, and Robert E. Pinkerton, top pulpsters, every one. The Gruber story is an installment of the serial "Peace Marshal", and I remember reading one of the paperback reprints of that novel when I was in junior high. Little did I dream I'd be writing about its pulp incarnation more than fifty years later. There's a certain appealing continuity that good fiction provides in a person's life . . .

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Mammoth Western, August 1950

That's a dramatic cover on this issue of MAMMOTH WESTERN, painted by Arnold Kohn, an artist I'm not familiar with. I'm very familiar with some of the authors inside this issue, though, which include Harry Whittington, Les Savage Jr., and (here's a name you don't normally associate with Westerns) Robert Bloch. Also on hand are Ziff-Davis regular Berkeley Livingston and house-name Mallory Storm. This issue doesn't seem to be on-line anywhere I can find.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Wolf Dog Range - Will Watson (Lee Floren)

First of all, there are no wolf dogs in this book. There’s a town called Wolf Dog, as well as a river and a mountain range, but no actual wolf dogs. The novel was published originally in hardback by lending library publisher Phoenix Press in 1946. Then it appeared in the October 1947 issue of COMPLETE COWBOY NOVELS MAGAZINE with a great cover that I posted here on the blog a while back. I liked that cover enough that it inspired me to seek out a copy of the book. What I wound up with is the 1951 Lion Books paperback edition. That's my copy in the scan above. But like the pulp version, this cover is misleading, too, as no fight between a hatchet-wielding hombre and a fella shooting at him ever takes place in the book’s pages.

Now that we’ve covered that, what’s WOLF DOG RANGE actually about? It’s a range war story, as tough cowboy Pete Manly travels from Texas to Montana to answer a summons for help from Jeff Ring, the old-timer who raised him. Ring has relocated his ranch to Montana, and now the owner of the neighboring spread is trying to force him out. Ring is in financial trouble, too, because the local banker absconded with the deposits and left the old rancher almost broke. Pete figures something shady is going on, especially when some badmen hold up the train he’s coming in on, for the express purpose of murdering him. He survives that attempt, of course, and also makes the acquaintance of a beautiful young woman who’s also traveling to the town of Wolf Dog. (Why is everything in the area called Wolf Dog? Unfortunately, the author never tells us.) When he arrives, Pete sets out to get to the bottom of several suspicious happenings and prevent his old friend’s ranch from being taken over.

You can tell from that brief description that WOLF DOG RANGE is a very traditional Western novel. That’s not surprising, because the author, “Will Watson”, was really Lee Floren, who made a living for several decades by writing very traditional Western yarns for the pulps and for a variety of paperback publishers. Floren is a maddeningly inconsister writer. I don’t know much about his background, but when he’s writing about cattle and ranch life, his work has a ring of authenticity that at times rivals Walt Coburn. The long sequence in this book about a roundup carried out during an unexpectedly early snowstorm is excellent, as is the aftermath of a chinook wind that melts the snow. Floren’s action scenes are generally good to very good, too. Where his writing gets clunky is in dialogue and in the scenes were the characters are interacting without any gunplay or fisticuffs. Some of that is so perfunctory that it reads like scenes he outlined but forgot to flesh out. There’s too much of that in WOLF DOG RANGE.

And yet . . . there are some great characters in this book, including the old rancher’s Apache sidekick and a Chinese range cook who reminded me of Connie from Milton Caniff’s classic TERRY AND THE PIRATES. There are also some poignant moments that work really well. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been a fan of Floren’s work and so I haven’t read that much by him, but without a doubt, WOLF DOG RANGE is the best of his novels that I’ve read so far, and I’m not saying that to damn with faint praise. It’s not without its flaws, but I found it to be a solidly entertaining traditional Western.

It could’ve used some wolf dogs, though.

Monday, May 02, 2022

The Deathly Island - H. Bedford-Jones

This action-packed novelette by H. Bedford-Jones, originally published in the October 20, 1934 issue of ARGOSY might just be the perfect mental palette-cleanser between novels. “The Deathly Island” refers to an island off the tip of Madagascar where a beautiful young woman is being held prisoner at her late father’s palatial estate. Sea captain Charles Stuart, our stalwart hero, discovers not only her plight but also the fact that his estranged brother is mixed up in the scheme that’s caught the girl in its snare. What’s a pulp hero to do but set out to put things right?

Not content to leave it at that, Bedford-Jones also mixes into the plot a truly despicable villain, a fortune in rare pearls, and a looming hurricane. The result is five chapters of action, suspense, and excitement rendered in the author’s usual clean prose with a cool, tough, hardboiled tone. The novelette length of “The Deathly Island” keeps Bedford-Jones from bringing in too many complications or going into too much depth with his characters, but the whole thing races along with such zest that it’s pure fun to read. If you’ve never sampled HB-J’s work, it wouldn’t be a bad place to start. And if you’re already a fan, I can almost guarantee that you’ll enjoy it. You can find it on-line, and I give it a high recommendation.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, March 26, 1938

That's a nice circus cover by Emmett Watson on this issue of ARGOSY. The story it illustrates is a serial called "You're in the Circus Now" by Richard Wormser, a fine author who also wrote at least one serial for ARGOSY about a traveling carnival. The Tarzan story mentioned on the cover is a serial installment of "The Red Star of Tarzan", published in book form as TARZAN AND THE FORBIDDEN CITY. There's also an installment of a Horatio Hornblower novel by C.S. Forester, "Ship of the Line", and that didn't even make the cover. Plus stories by Frank Richardson Pierce and Bennett Foster. I know the serials make ARGOSY daunting for collectors, but man, there was a lot of great fiction published in its pages!

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Street & Smith's Western Story Magazine, March 26, 1932

Here's more proof, as if we needed it, of just how dangerous it was to sit down at a poker table in the Old West. I don't know the artist on this cover, but I think it's a good one. The fellow being choked reminds me a little of Randolph Scott. (I don't know about you, but whenever I see or hear his name, I have this urge to put my hand over my heart and say, "Randolph Scott!" I don't actually do that, but the thought does cross my mind.) This is one of those issues of WESTERN STORY that's dominated by Frederick Faust. He has a novella under his Max Brand name in it, plus serial installments as by David Manning and Peter Henry Morland. I've wondered how many of WESTERN STORY's readers ever figured out that all of Faust's pseudonyms were the same guy. Also on hand in this issue are prolific and well-regarded pulpsters Frank Richardson Pierce, Hugh Grinstead, and Austin Hall.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Seven Faces - Max Brand (Frederick Faust)

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on May 2, 2008.)

Most of you who are familiar with Max Brand’s work know him as a Western writer, but Brand, whose real name was Frederick Faust, was also a prolific mystery author. During the Thirties his work appeared regularly in the pulp magazine DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY, among others, and DFW was where SEVEN FACES originally appeared as a serial in October and November of 1936.

The protagonists of this novel are a couple of New York City cops, Angus Campbell and Patrick O’Rourke, who make a formidable team despite the fact that they can’t stand each other. When a wealthy man named John Cobb appeals to the police department because he’s been receiving threats on his life, Campbell and O’Rourke are assigned to the case. Cobb has to go to Chicago on business, and the two detectives also have to travel to Chicago to present some evidence in a court case, so their superior decides they should take the train with Cobb and guard him from whoever wants to kill him.

Unfortunately, Cobb disappears on the way to Chicago, and Campbell and O’Rourke have to split up in their attempts to track him down and find out what happened to him. From there the story is a fast-paced yarn featuring torture, murder, greed, and evil coming back from the past to haunt the present. Sure, the characters are a little stereotypical – Campbell is a dour Scotsman, O’Rourke a fat, cigar-smoking, heavy-drinking Irishman – but the plot has some clever twists and Faust keeps things perking so nicely that the reader is drawn along effortlessly by the story.

While this book is obscure, it’s not that hard to lay your hands on a copy. It’s been reprinted twice, first by the University of Nebraska Press in their series of Max Brand reissues, and then in large print by Chivers/G.K. Hall. Faust wrote at least one more novel featuring Campbell and O’Rourke, MURDER ME!, and I intend to track it down and read it, too.

(UPDATE: So, in the almost exactly 14 years since this post first appeared, do you think I've actually read Faust's other Campbell and O'Rourke novel, MURDER ME? That's right, I have not. I'm pretty sure I own a copy, but now I can't find it. There are ebook editions of it and SEVEN FACES that weren't available back in 2008, so maybe I'll go that route.)

Monday, April 25, 2022

James Bama, R.I.P.

There's been an abundance of social media posts marking the passing of artist James Bama. He was a great favorite of mine as well, first for his covers on Bantam's Doc Savage reprints and then later for his many excellent covers on Western paperbacks, including the Nevada Jim series by Marshall McCoy (actually the great Australian author Leonard F. Meares, but that's another post). I loved those books. Some of the Nevada Jim covers were reused on Louis L'Amour novels, too.

While there are dozens, maybe scores, of authors who have influenced me, I think there are only a handful of artists who made me who I am today. James Bama was certainly one of them. My discovery of the Doc Savage series really made me aware of the pulps for the first time and started my on-going love affair with them. I'm grateful to him for that and for all the other great work he did. Rest in peace, Mr. Bama.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Black Mask, August 1940

BLACK MASK was past its glory days by 1940 but still producing good issues like this one, with an eye-catching Rafael DeSoto cover and some excellent authors inside: George Harmon Coxe with a Flashgun Casey story, Roger Torrey, Stewart Sterling, Wyatt Blassingame, G.T. Fleming-Roberts, and the lesser-known Eaton K. Goldthwaite. If you want to read this issue, it's available on-line.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Ranch Romances, First May Number 1957

This cowgirl's got a good-sized problem in that big cat. I don't know the artist, but whoever it was provided a nice dramatic cover for this issue of RANCH ROMANCES. W.T. Ballard appears twice inside, with a serial installment under his Todhunter Ballard name and a novella as Parker Bonner, plus stories by J.L. Bouma and the almost forgotten Art Kercheval, Margery Bradshaw, and Ted Escott.