actually read any Western pulps for a while, so I decided I need to remedy
that, starting with this one. DIME WESTERN was one of the top Western pulps, of
course, and this is a fine issue from fairly late in its run.
Rumor has it that by the late Forties, Walt Coburn's drinking problem was bad
enough that the editors at Popular Publications had to rewrite his manuscripts
pretty heavily at times. They still bought his stories, though, because of
Coburn's reputation. I'm sure his name on a cover helped sell more copies of
that issue. This time around, either the editor did a good job or Coburn was
clicking on more cylinders than usual, because "Smoky River Deadline"
is a pretty good story and reads almost like vintage Coburn to me. The
protagonist, young Clay Kane, gets involved in a range war in Texas and has to
flee the law. After several years he winds up in Montana and soon finds himself
neck-deep in another range war, but this time he won't be running away. As
usual, there's plenty of complicated back-story and several pretty big
coincidences fuel the plot, but Coburn's narrative drive carries things along
at a breakneck pace. The villain of the piece is a good one, too, and a little
different from the usual Western pulp villains.
I've seen George C. Appell's name on various pulps many times, but I don't
recall reading anything by him until now. "High Wire Rider" is a good
story about the building of the transcontinental railroad and a former Union
telegrapher's attempt to foil a payroll robbery. This is a well-written yarn,
and I definitely want to read more by Appell.
John Jo Carpenter is another author I've probably read, but I don't know much
about him or his work. His story in this issue, "Cold Deck, Hot Lead"
is a pretty good one about a gambler with a great name (Tango Meegan) who kills
a man in a gunfight over a poker game and winds up facing down an outlaw gang
because of it.
It's not surprising that Tom W. Blackburn's "Ship Out with Captain
Satan!" isn't a traditional Western. While Blackburn wrote plenty of
traditional stories, he also liked to use a wide variety of historical settings
and themes. This novelette takes place almost entirely on a ship bound from
Panama to California during the Gold Rush, and it's a fine adventure yarn that
finds one of the gold-seekers battling the ship's brutal captain.
Oddly enough, the story that prompted me to pull out this issue and read it is
the only one I didn't really care for. A while back a friend of mine asked me
about Bart Cassidy, specifically Cassidy's long-running series of stories about
amiable outlaw Tensleep Maxon. I'd never read one, so I figured I ought to. The
one in this issue is "Fire, Brimstone—and Tensleep Maxon!" It's told
in a colorful, idiosyncratic first-person style, and it just didn't work for
me. But I have more of them on hand and maybe I'll try another.
T.T. Flynn's stories, on the other hand, have never disappointed me, and
"Death's Deputy" is no exception. Lon Hagerman is a gunfighting, town
taming lawman, but he returns to his home on the trail of the man who murdered
a friend of his, finds himself deputized by the ailing local sheriff, and has
to break up the outlaw gang plaguing the area. As usual, Flynn spins his yarn
in terse, swift-moving prose, and while the plot is nothing exceptional, it
still makes for an entertaining tale.
The final story in the issue is "Good Loggers Are Dead Loggers", by
the always dependable Frank Bonham. It's the old cattlemen vs. loggers plot,
with a nice twist that finds the cattleman hero getting into the timber
business. Bonham's stories always read well.
So, a good solid issue of DIME WESTERN, as most of them were. I hope to read