Friday, September 18, 2009

Forgotten Books: Scarlet Riders, Don Hutchison, ed.

I’m not a big fan of, nor well read in, the genre sometimes known as “Northerns”. These are stories set in Alaska or Canada, usually centered around the Gold Rush. When I say I’m not a big fan of Northerns, I don’t mean that I dislike them. I simply haven’t read enough of them to say one way or the other. I’ve definitely enjoyed most of the books I’ve read that fall into that category, though. This anthology, published by Mosaic Press in 1999, which features a dozen pulp yarns with Northwest Mounted Policemen as their heroes, is one of the best Northerns I’ve run across.

Of course, that might be expected considering the line-up of authors: Lester Dent, Ryerson Johnson, Hugh B. Cave, Murray Leinster, Frederick Nebel, and Talmage Powell, among others. These are all well-known and well-respected pulp wordsmiths, although with the exception of Johnson they’re more famous for their work in other genres. The lesser-known writers in the book also turn in good stories. Dent’s two stories about the otherwise-nameless Silver Corporal are especially interesting. Published at the same time as Dent was beginning his long run on the Doc Savage novels, the stories show some striking similarities to his work on Doc. Though the Silver Corporal is very different physically from the Man of Bronze, he has the same superhuman strength, and his enemies have the same tendency to come to a bad end in the traps they set themselves. The novella by Nebel, “The Valley of Wanted Men”, is full of the same sort of fast-paced, hardboiled action that can be found in his private eye stories for BLACK MASK and DIME DETECTIVE. “Spoilers of the Lost World” by Roger Daniels even adds a fantasy element to a typical Northern adventure. Here’s the complete table of contents, along with original publication info:

"Deadly Trek to Albertville" by Talmage Powell
Originally published in POSSE, March 1957
"The Frozen Phantom" by Lester Dent
Originally published in WESTERN TRAILS, April 1933
"Spoilers of the Lost World" by Roger Daniels
Originally published in NORTH-WEST ROMANCES, Fall 1938
"White Water Run" by Hugh B. Cave
Originally published in WESTERN STORY, 14 February 1942
"Red Snows" by Harold F. Cruickshank
Originally published in THRILLING ADVENTURES, February 1938
"The Driving Force" by Murray Leinster
Originally published in COMPLETE NORTHWEST MAGAZINE, July 1938
"Snow Ghost" by Lester Dent, featuring The Silver Corporal
Originally published in WESTERN TRAILS, May-June 1933
"Phantom Fangs" by John Starr
Originally published in NORTH-WEST ROMANCES, Spring 1942
"The Dangerous Dan McGrew" by Ryerson Johnson
Originally published in ACE-HIGH MAGAZINE, 2 March 1931
"Death Cache" by Lester Dent, featuring The Silver Corporal
Previously unpublished
"Doom Ice" by Dan O'Rourke
Originally published in NORTH-WEST ROMANCES, Summer 1942
"The Valley of Wanted Men" by Frederick Nebel
Originally published in NORTH-WEST ROMANCES, Spring 1940

There’s also an excellent introduction by Canadian pulp expert Don Hutchison about the genesis of such Northern-oriented pulp magazines as NORTH-WEST ROMANCES and COMPLETE NORTHWEST MAGAZINE. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a single Northern pulp, but I may have to remedy that one of these days. All in all, an excellent anthology, highly recommended to anybody who enjoys action-packed pulp yarns.


Matthew P. Mayo said...

Hi James,
So funny that you post about this book as I recently ordered a copy from Amazon. It came last week and I can't wait to dive into it. I'm a big fan of Northerns, so this looks to be just the ticket for a rainy day. Or sunny.


Richard Prosch said...

Any book with a story called "Phantom Fangs" has to be good!

Todd Mason said...

As an Alaska-born who was a young fan of Jack London, I've always been a fan of what northerns I've come across...thanks for the tip.

Chap O'Keefe said...

So many books that slip by unnoticed! I'll be after this one. The line-up of authors is indeed impressive. Great crossovers, particularly from the crime genre, where Johnson was also active later on, penning at least one of my favorites among the ghost-written Mike Shayne novels, Killers from the Keys.

Richard Robinson said...

This is a great one, all right. I read it and did a review about five years ago for my "The Perp" mystery fanzine, and my conclusions match yours: one of the best such collections I've come across. Glad to see it's getting a showing here on your blog.

bish8 said...

This sonuds great. Right up my pulp loving alley! I'll have to track down a copy. I always get my man, I mean, book!