Sunday, May 31, 2015

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Masked Rider Western, January 1942

I wrote about the Masked Rider novel from this issue yesterday, as part of the Forgotten Books series, since I read the paperback reprint of it. But here's the pulp cover, and it looks like the issue is a good one overall. In addition to Donald Bayne Hobart's entertaining lead novel, there are stories by Johnston McCulley, Allan K. Echols, Sam Brant (a house-name who could have been anybody) and my old friend, editor, and mentor Sam Merwin Jr. his own self. Sam wrote mostly science fiction and detective stories, along with some sports stories and even a few romance yarns. He seems to have been least prolific in Westerns, but I'll bet his story in this issue is a pretty good one.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Forgotten Books: Haunted Mesa - Donald Bayne Hobart

First some background: The Masked Rider was a pretty long-running character in the Western pulps. Novels featuring him, in magazines from two different publishers, appeared for almost twenty years. More than likely, the character was created to cash in on the success of the Lone Ranger on radio. He was also a masked rider of the plains (hence the name) and had a faithful Indian companion, in this case the Yaqui known as Blue Hawk. Because he wore a mask, folks often mistook him for an owlhoot, and he was sometimes known as the Robin Hood Outlaw. But of course the Masked Rider was a good guy, using that unsavory reputation at times to help him foil the schemes of the real villains. In the early issues of the pulp published by Ranger Publications (another nod to the Lone Ranger), he was more of a Shadow-like figure, a mysterious, black-caped personage prone to manipulating events behind the scenes. When the magazine became part of the Thrilling Group, the novels became more action-oriented and less mysterious, but the basic set-up remained the same, with the Masked Rider and Blue Hawk drifting from place to place, righting wrongs.

One thing that made the Masked Rider different from the Lone Ranger was that he had a secret identity of sorts. The Lone Ranger would sometimes masquerade as other characters, but the Masked Rider spent a considerable amount of time in each adventure posing as drifting cowpoke Wayne Morgan. Note that Wayne Morgan wasn't his real name; that's just a fictional identity the Masked Rider made use of. His real name and background is never revealed in the stories.

My introduction to the character came not from the pulps but rather from a series of paperback reprints published by Curtis Books in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Quite a few (but by no means all) of the novels from the Thrilling Group incarnation of the pulp were reprinted. I had a bunch of them and read quite a few of them, but it had been a long time since I'd tried one of the Masked Rider's adventures. I have a few of them on my shelves now, and the other day Donald Bayne Hobart's HAUNTED MESA seemed to need me to read it.

This one originally appeared in the January 1942 issue of MASKED RIDER WESTERN, and you can see that cover here on the blog tomorrow as part of the Saturday Morning Western Pulp series. I'm writing about the book today because I read the paperback edition. (I don't own a copy of the pulp.) This one has a nicely atmospheric opening as several cattlemen are about to lynch the man they believe to be the leader of the rustlers who have been plaguing the Haunted Mesa country. They're jumped by the rustlers and might be wiped out except for the timely arrival of the Masked Rider and Blue Hawk, who happen to be on top of the mesa itself. The "leader" of the rustlers gets away, but the reader knows all along he's not the actual villain. He's been framed for the crime by the mastermind who's really behind the gang, and the identity of that mastermind couldn't be much more obvious if the guy was wearing a neon sign proclaiming his evilness.

But you know what? I don't care. The real fun of a book like this is reading about how the Masked Rider foils the various schemes of the bad guys, racing around having gunfights and fistfights, getting captured, escaping, and generally being the stalwart pulp hero that he was for many years. This is pure entertainment as far as I'm concerned, comfort reading, if you will, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

A few words about Donald Bayne Hobart: Surely forgotten these days except by a few pulp aficionados, not much is known about Hobart. He was born in 1898 and started writing when he was around 20 years old, but he didn't become a prolific pulp author until the late 1920s, when he began writing for numerous pulps in various genres. By the late 1930s, he had settled into a niche as a productive author of Western and detective stories, nearly all of them appearing in pulps from the Thrilling Group published by Ned Pines and edited by Leo Margulies. Hobart kept turning out stories until the mid-Fifties, usually under his own name and sometimes under the rather transparent pseudonym Hobart Donbayne. He published a few late stories in the mystery digests and died in 1970.

Even though Hobart's name appeared frequently on the covers, I don't think anybody ever considered him to be more than a competent, third-tier pulp writer. I never did, although honestly I'd never read more than a few of his stories. Based on HAUNTED MESA, though, I may have underrated him a little. This is a nicely written yarn with good action scenes and the occasional atmospheric touch, as I mentioned above, including a final battle on top of the mesa during a thunderstorm. Sure, there's a lot of "yuh mangy polecat" dialogue, but you've got to expect that. Good solid work all around, certainly good enough to make me think I need to read more by Hobart. I have another of his Masked Rider paperbacks on hand, as well as stories by him in various Western pulps.

Finally, about Curtis Books: The company lasted only a few years, but during its run it published quite a bit of good fiction, including a lot of reprints from the Rio Kid Western pulp and a number of Mike Avallone's Ed Noon novels, both reprints and originals. (The first Curtis Book I ever bought, off the spinner rack at Trammell's Pak-a-Bag Grocery, was Avallone's SHOOT IT AGAIN, SAM.) They've come to be notorious for producing some of the cheapest, most shoddily made paperbacks of all time, however. The pages in my copy of HAUNTED MESA are as brown as if they had come from the original pulp itself. Luckily, they're not very brittle. And in even more of a surprise, the glue has actually held up in this copy, so the pages didn't separate from the spine. I've seen that happen time and time again with Curtis Books.

Copies of the Masked Rider paperback reprints can be found on-line, but they're fairly pricey, maybe because not all that many of them survived. If you can put yourself in that pulp mindset (I live in that pulp mindset, most of the time), they're a lot of fun. If you run across any of them that aren't too expensive, I think they're worth picking up and worth reading.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Commercials: No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)

I remember this one well, mainly because of the great music by The T-Bones. It became a radio hit after the commercial started airing on TV. I think The T-Bones had one other song on the charts, but that was it for them.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, July 25, 1931

A striking cover on an issue featuring W.C. Tuttle, F.V.W. Mason, George F. Worts, Fred MacIsaac, and Richard Howells Watkins. Further evidence of why ARGOSY was one of the top pulps in the business for many years.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: All Western Magazine, December 1934

This cover was painted by R. Farrington Elwell, but it seems to me to be influenced by the great Charles M. Russell. ALL WESTERN was one of the top Western pulps and had good covers and authors. In this issue, there are stories by Eugene Cunningham, George Cory Franklin, S. Omar Barker, and J.E. Grinstead. Nearly all forgotten today, but top writers in their time.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Forgotten Books: Pirates' Gold - H. Bedford-Jones

This novel by one of my favorite authors, H. Bedford-Jones, appeared complete in the December 20, 1922 issue of the iconic pulp magazine ADVENTURE, and it certainly is an adventure tale in the classic sense. Ever since TREASURE ISLAND, writers have been spinning yarns about desperate people going after buried gold, and that's what Bedford-Jones does here. The story opens in London in the early 1700s, where narrator George Roberts, a sailor from the colony of Virginia, is looking for a ship to sign on with. He winds up taking a position as first mate on the King Sagamore, under the command of an old friend, Captain Ned Low. There are some pretty shady rumors about Low's past, but Roberts doesn't put much stock in them. Turns out he probably should have.

Because the ship has barely left port before there's a murder, and a beautiful young woman shows up on board, and everybody in the crew seems to have some secret or another, usually sinister, and there's more going on than a simple search for buried treasure, including a years-long quest for bloody vengeance.

Everything clips along at a fast pace, in Bedford-Jones' terse prose (terse compared to a lot of pulp writers who got paid by the word, anyway), and there are several nifty twists along the way. PIRATES' GOLD is definitely a little old-fashioned in some respects, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it a great deal. It was reprinted a number of years ago by Wildside Press in a trade paperback edition that's still available, and there's an e-book edition as well. If you like traditional historical adventure tales, it's a mighty good one.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Club Havana

(This post originally appeared on December 16, 2009, in slightly different form.)

I heard about the movie DETOUR and its director, Edgar G. Ulmer, for years, and when I finally got around to watching it, I liked it a lot. Now I’ve watched another Ulmer film, the much more obscure CLUB HAVANA, and it’s . . . interesting.

CLUB HAVANA is basically a Grand Hotel sort of movie, introducing the viewer to a number of different characters who show up at the opulent Miami nightclub of the title. There’s the idealistic young doctor, the married couple on the verge of breaking up, the middle-aged society woman with three very creepy grown children, the gangster who’s suspected of murder, the piano player, assorted other musicians, the somewhat shady switchboard operator . . . You get the idea. Ulmer gives each of these characters a little time in the spotlight, so to speak, and then lets them interact and their storylines intertwine.

The biggest problem with this movie is that at 62 minutes, it’s just too short to do justice to all the plot that Ulmer tries to cram into it. Watching it you get the sense that if it had been thirty or forty minutes longer, it would have been a much better movie. As it is, it’s really rushed, and the fact that at least ten minutes get taken up by a couple of musical numbers doesn’t help matters. Still, there are some striking scenes and genuinely suspenseful moments. The big ending, which takes place in the club’s parking lot, is marred by photography that’s too dark and murky to tell what’s going on most of the time.

Tom Neal, one of the stars of DETOUR, plays the young doctor, and while Neal’s tragic personal life later on inevitably resonates for the modern viewer in these early roles, he’s not given much to do here. Marc Lawrence as the gangster turns in the best performance and the movie would have benefited if his role had been bigger.

Overall, CLUB HAVANA would have been better if it had been longer and had better production values . . . but if it had had those things, then it wouldn’t really be an Ulmer film, now would it? This one’s hard to find, but if you come across a copy it’s worth watching, as a curiosity if nothing else.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Now Available: Cross Examinations - John Hegenberger

A series of serious crimes: Kidnapping. Murder. Art Thief. Blackmail. Comic Books.

Private Investigator Eliot Cross faces heartache, headache, backache, and a royal pain in the neck in these rollicking noir stories from the heart of the Heartland.

Cross Examinations, Inc. established in 1988 
Crime in Columbus

Never before published, CROSS EXAMINATIONS sets the stage for an exciting new novel that will join pop-culture author John Hegenberger’s soon-to-be-published Tripleye trilogy and his upcoming Stan Wade, L.A.P.I. series.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Spicy-Adventure Stories, August 1935

Good old SPICY-ADVENTURE STORIES and Robert Leslie Bellem. He has three stories in this issue, one under his own name and one each by Jerome Severs Perry and Ellery Watson Calder. There's also a story by the great E. Hoffmann Price and stories by assorted little known authors, some of whom may be house names. And of course, that, ah, cover...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Now Available: Brothers by the Gun and Other Tales of Samaria, Kansas (The Complete Collection) - David Hardy

All four of David Hardy's Samaria, Kansas stories are now available in a collected edition, BROTHERS BY THE GUN AND OTHER TALES OF SAMARIA, KANSAS. These are fine action stories of the Toughest Trail Town in the Old West, and now you can get all of them in one handy trade paperback edition or as an e-book collection. All the stories are still available as individual e-books, too. These are excellent tales for readers of traditional Westerns.

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Action-Packed Western, September 1954

That's a decent cover on this issue of ACTION-PACKED WESTERN, and you know any story by Gordon D. Shirreffs is going to be worth reading. Seven Anderton is supposed to be pretty good, too (he's one of the authors I have to get around to reading), and there are short stories by veteran Western writer A.A. Baker and editor Robert A.W. Lowndes under his John Lackland pseudonym.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Forgotten Books: The Golden Age - James Robinson

For years I had a trade paperback edition of this acclaimed comic book mini-series that came out in 1993, but I never got around to reading it. Recently I came across another copy of the same edition and decided it was time. I love DC's second-string heroes from the Golden Age, and they're what this series is all about.

James Robinson's script establishes an alternate version of the DC Universe from that era, as most of the heroes hang up their capes and masks and retire from crime-fighting after World War II. Some get married, some are successful in business, others battle mental problems, alcoholism, and other demons of their own. Yes, this is deconstruction, as Howard Chaykin mentions in his introduction to the collection, and by and large that's a technique I'm not fond of.

Robinson ventures even further into areas that bother me with the tired plot of using HUAC and a McCarthy-esque politician as villains. Yes, even by '93, we got it, and it would have been all right to stop beating us over the head with it. However, he throws a twist into the plot in the second half that pretty much redeems the storyline (although it involves a gimmick that was an even hoarier chestnut, even then), and overall this tale winds up having a nice elegiac feel to it.

Mostly I was just glad to see characters like Starman, Hourman, Johnny Quick, and the original Manhunter back in action again. In the mid-Sixties, Gardner Fox revived many of DC's Golden Age heroes in the anthology title SHOWCASE, scripting stories that featured Dr. Fate, Black Canary, Starman, Hourman, Wildcat, and The Spectre, among others that I'm probably forgetting. This was the first time I'd encountered those characters, and those remain some of my favorite DC stories from that era.

But getting back to THE GOLDEN AGE, while I had some problems with Robinson's script, the art by Paul Smith is spectacular. The final full-page panel, which represents a passing of the torch to DC's Silver Age heroes, almost had me a little misty-eyed.

So in the view of this comics curmudgeon, while THE GOLDEN AGE isn't the classic that many fans believe it to be, it's still a good story with some great art and a considerable amount of nostalgia value. I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. (I wonder if those SHOWCASE issues from the mid-Sixties have been reprinted. I need to go check on that...) 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Now Available: Brothers By the Gun (Samaria, Kansas #4) - David Hardy

The Denning gang has just pulled off the biggest robbery of their careers. But Josh Denning, the leader of the bunch, faces a deadly challenge from within the ranks of his own followers, and his brother Ike has a bullet in him that may cost him his life. On top of that, two tough, dogged lawmen are on the gang's trail, determined to bring the outlaws to justice. It's a perilous race to safety for these fast-gun owlhoots! 

BROTHERS BY THE GUN is another exciting tale of Samaria, Kansas from talented author David Hardy. Fast-paced and full of gritty action, this is a story that fans of traditional Westerns won't want to miss!

(This is the fourth and final--for now--story in Dave Hardy's Samaria, Kansas series. These are great stories, gritty, hardboiled Western tales, and I recommend all of them. A print collection of all four stories is in the works, for those of you who prefer that format. Check 'em out!)

Dime Crimes #34

DIME CRIMES #34 is an excellent new short noir film from director Ed Hellman and writer John Michael Wagner (who is also one of the three stars). This is the plot summary from the film's website:

Doll, a homebody with a stash of pulp fiction, is thrown into the world of her favorite stories when she sees a gun hidden in the waistband of her charming new tenant.

Unbeknownst to her apathetic fiancé, Doll debates confronting the man and joining him in a life of adventure.

As the tenant’s mystery is exposed, Doll is forced to realize that she alone has the ability to turn her fantasies into a reality.

I was impressed with the acting and the production values in this movie, and I love the fact that several covers of men's adventure magazines are featured prominently in it (like the issue of STAG in the picture above). DIME CRIMES #34 is out on the film festival circuit now (the schedule is on the Facebook page), but you can see the trailer for it on the website and if you get a chance to catch the actual film at one of the festivals, I give it a high recommendation. These folks know what they're doing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The World's End

I'm usually a sucker for movies about old guys trying to recapture their youth. I'm the target audience, after all. For the first half, that's the sort of movie THE WORLD'S END is, with a group of middle-aged British guys including Simon Pegg (who co-wrote the script with director Edgar Wright, as usual), Nick Frost, and Martin Freeman, trying to recreate the legendary pub crawl they attempted when they graduated from school twenty years earlier but failed to complete. It's funny, poignant, and works really well.

Then the plot takes a bizarre, abrupt, science fictional turn, and that works pretty well, too, although I liked the first half better. It really does feel at times like you're watching two different movies. But if you enjoyed Pegg and Wright's earlier movies like HOT FUZZ, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and PAUL, you'll probably like THE WORLD'S END, too. I did.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Gold Seal Detective, June 1936

Let's see...bondage, cleavage, and a dagger,,,that's a pretty edgy cover for 1936. GOLD SEAL DETECTIVE is a pretty obscure pulp, too. The best known authors in this issue are Norman A. Daniels and Frederick C. Painton. Of course, Clark Aiken, one of the authors featured on the cover, was really Frederick C. Davis, the original author on the Operator #5 series and always a top-notch pulp writer. One of the other authors, David A. Norman, was actually Norman Daniels. And Ralph Powers was a house-name, so there's no telling who he was. All in all, probably an issue worth reading for detective fans.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Ace-High Western, September 1944

I really like this cover. I may have to write something inspired by it, if I can find the time. Lee Floren is probably the best-known author in this issue, but the best titles are on stories by Cliff M. Bisbee ("Slave-Master of Hell's Rancho") and Roy M. O'Mara ("When Dead Dog City Went Mad"). Other authors in this issue are John Colohan, Thomas Thompson, and R.S. Lerch.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Forgotten Books: The Best-Loved Poems of the American People - Selected by Hazel Felleman

This is another book from my childhood. As far back as I can remember, there was a copy on the bookshelves in my parents' house, although I think it actually may have belonged to my sister. Whoever it belonged to, I spent a lot of time reading it when I was a kid. The original edition was published in 1936; I believe the edition we had was newer than that. I know it had the same dust jacket as in the picture, because I remember it. It was just about that beat up, too.

THE BEST-LOVED POEMS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE had a lot of classic 19th Century poetry in it. The more recent poems tended toward the sentimental. To be honest, I remember very little of it, despite the hours I spent reading it. It didn't turn me into a poetry fan, either. To this day, I don't read much along those lines. But looking up images of this volume definitely made me feel nostalgic, although it's no SCUPPERS THE SAILOR DOG.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Introducing Black Gat Books From Stark House

Introducing Black Gat Books. A new series of 4" x 7" mass market paperbacks featuring some of the best vintage mystery writers, plus a few new ones as well. Each book is numbered and priced at $9.99. One new title every 3 months. The first three books are coming in late May:
Harry Whittington
Haven for the Damned
978-1-933586-75-5  $9.99
A group of eight people all converge on a small ghost town on the outskirts of the Mexican border, each with their own demons and dilemmas. They all want something they’ve lost: freedom, a lost wife, their youth. Not all of them will leave alive. Due May 2015 in a new Black Gat mass market edition--#1.
Charlie Stella
Eddie’s World
978-1-933586-76-2  $9.99
Charlie Stella’s first great crime novel, back in print and available in paperback for the first time! Eddie Senta is suffering a mid-life crisis and decides to get involved in a heist. Everything that can go wrong, does. Due May 2015 in a new Black Gat mass market edition--#2. 
Leigh Brackett writing as George Sanders
Stranger at Home
978-1-933586-78-6  $9.99
Originally published as by the actor George Sanders, this domestic mystery by science fiction author Leigh Brackett is the story of a rich heel who comes back to get even with those who thought they had left him for dead. Due May 2015 in a new Black Gat mass market edition--#3.

Now Available: Blaze! Ambushed - Michael Newton

It was one of the most brutal crimes Nevada had ever seen—a stagecoach and everyone in it chopped to pieces by a hail of bullets from a Gatling gun. Now husband-and-wife gunfighters J.D. and Kate Blaze are on the trail of the mass murderers, determined to bring them to justice and discover the motive for this savage slaughter. Before they find the truth, though, J.D. and Kate will have to pit six-shooter and Winchester against the terrible fury of a killing machine! 

Award-winning Western writer Michael Newton joins the BLAZE! team with an action-packed novel rooted in the bloody history of the Old West. One of the most popular and acclaimed authors of Western, crime, and adventure novels for the past 30 years, Newton spins a compelling tale of violence and deadly secrets in AMBUSHED!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: A Face in the Crowd

(This post originally appeared in different form on September 28, 2010.)

When I was a kid I was a big fan of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW on TV, as most people were in the early Sixties. I also liked the movie NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS, where Griffith played an affable country boy in the Army. I’d also heard some of his comedy bits on the radio, such as “What It Was, Was Football”. But somehow I never got around to watching his film debut, which was much, much different from those other things. I’m talking, of course, about A FACE IN THE CROWD.

At first glance, Griffith plays a similar character in this one, a grinning, guitar-playing, yarn-spinning good ol’ boy from a small town in Arkansas. He’s discovered in the drunk tank by a local radio personality played by Patricia Neal, who does a man-in-the-street show called “A Face in the Crowd” on her uncle’s small-market radio station. In short order, Griffith’s character, Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, becomes a radio star, then a TV star on a station in Memphis, and then the networks come calling and he heads off to New York to become the biggest thing on nationwide television, eventually wielding such power over his fans that he may well be able to determine who’s going to be the next President. Neal’s character goes along with him, as does a writer from the Memphis TV station played by Walter Matthau.

There are hints early on, though, that Lonesome Rhodes isn’t the friendly sort that he pretends to be. In fact, Griffith turns in a great performance as a character who’s actually rotten to the core, as big a heel as any to be found in an Orrie Hitt novel. A FACE IN THE CROWD is a very dark film, a bleak, almost vicious attack on the advertising business, the TV business, and America’s obsession with celebrities. Despite the Fifties trappings, it plays very much like it could have been made in today’s increasingly bitter climate.

This film was directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg, and it reminds me in places of their earlier collaboration, ON THE WATERFRONT, especially the sense of despair that runs through it. Most of you have probably already seen A FACE IN THE CROWD, but if you haven’t, it’s well worth watching. It’s not what you’d call a likable film, but it is very well done.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Rough Edges Press Anthologies - Call for Submissions

A while back I announced that Rough Edges Press was going to be publishing an anthology of new Weird Menace stories inspired by the "Shudder Pulps" such as DIME MYSTERY, TERROR TALES, HORROR STORIES, and SPICY MYSTERY. This anthology is still open for submissions. I have some excellent stories on hand, creepy tales from some of today's finest authors, but I need more! If you're a fan of those pulps, you know what I'm talking about: Old dark houses. Sinister scientists. Grotesque henchmen. Death cults. Beautiful women who run screaming into the night. Stalwart heroes who are, at times, not the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they manage to emerge triumphant in the end anyway (sometimes due as much to luck as anything else). Supernatural-seeming threats should wind up having logical (if far-fetched at times) explanations, although a hint of the unexplained in the story's resolution is fine, too. Stories need to have plenty of action and a headlong pace to go with a strong sense of menace and dread. Stories should be between 7500 and 10,000 words, although if they go a little longer than that it won't be a problem. I'd like for them to be set during the 1930s or '40s, but don't go overboard with period detail, just enough to capture the feeling of the era. The boundaries on language, violence, and sex are a little looser than those of the pulp editors, but nothing too graphic. Obviously, yarns like this can be a little tongue-in-cheek and over the top—I'm sure most of the pulp authors felt that way about them—but play it straight for the most part. So if you've already started a story, or have a great idea for one, I want to see it!

In addition, I'm pleased to announce that Rough Edges Press will be also be publishing an anthology of Alternate History stories, and I'm looking for stories for it as well. There's no particular theme for this anthology other than Alternate History, so I'm expecting a wide variety of stories. Take an important event in history, historical characters who are famous, infamous, or obscure, and change that history. These are classic "What if?" tales, and I hope you'll let the possibilities spur your imagination. These stories should also range from 7500 to 10,000 words, approximately, and can take place anywhere, during any era.

Submissions for both anthologies should be emailed as attached Word documents to Thanks!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Blue Book, August 1939

I read this issue of BLUE BOOK about ten years ago, and it's a good one, as usual. Leading off with a cover by Herbert Morton Stoops, it has one of H. Bedford-Jones's "Trumpets From Oblivion" stories, a great series that tells the real story behind various myths and legends; a "Ships and Men" story by Bedford-Jones and Captain L.B. Williams (a fictional "collaborator" to give the stories more of an appearance of authenticity); a "Men in the Air" story by Michael Gallister, who was also really H. Bedford-Jones (there's a story about how HB-J had several typewriters in his office and would move from machine to machine to write four or five stories at once; I think I believe it); and stories by Robert Ormond Case, Frederick Bechdolt, Fulton T. Grant, Robert R. Mill, and Beatrice Grimshaw, none of whom were really H. Bedford-Jones, as far as I know.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Star Western, September 1940

When I'm going through the Fictionmags Index and other places on-line, looking for scans to use in these posts, I often see a cover and think, "I have to write a story with that scene in it!" So far I haven't gotten around to doing it, but I will, and I'm going to start with this familiar trio, although I'll have to decide whether to make the girl a blonde or a redhead. Lots of deep thought goes into being a writer, let me tell you.

But to the issue at hand . . . a good cover (I don't know who painted it) and the usual sterling line-up of authors from STAR WESTERN: Walt Coburn, Harry F. Olmsted, L.L. Foreman, Cliff Farrell, Arthur Lawson, Stone Cody, and Robert E. Mahaffey. That's a great bunch of pulpsters.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Forgotten Books: The Invisible Empire - Curtis Steele (Frederick C. Davis)

Jimmy Christopher, America's top Secret Service operative, returns in THE INVISIBLE EMPIRE, the second novel in this great pulp series from the Thirties. This breathless yarn appeared in the May 1934 issue of the pulp OPERATOR #5. It opens with the maiden voyage of the dirigible Valley Forge being disrupted by the sudden appearance of an invisible menace that knocks airplanes out of the sky or causes them to disappear. At the same time, politicians and military figures begin to vanish into thin air as well, only to be found later miles away, dead from suffocation with their bodies frozen. Leaflets rain from the skies, apparently from nowhere, calling on America to surrender to the might of the Yellow Empire or face annihilation. The only person who can get to the bottom of these mysteries and stop the apocalypse looming over the nation is Jimmy Christopher, Operator 5...that is, if he can stop doing magic tricks for his young pal Tim Donovan and get over his slightly creepy feelings for his twin sister Nan long enough to battle the bad guys.

Snark aside, Operator 5 is one of my all-time favorite pulp series. Sure, the stories have their over-the-top elements, and they're not any more politically correct than anything else published in 1934, but they gallop along at a wonderful pace and they're well-written, especially these early entries by Frederick C. Davis writing under the house-name Curtis Steele. A lot of people prefer the later novels by Emile C. Tepperman that center around the Purple Invasion, but I think the first two years' worth of stories from Davis are even better. They have the same crazed apocalyptic feel of Norvell Page's Spider novels, but they're much better plotted and usually have better endings. In reading this one, I thought for a while that I had caught Davis in a plot hole, but sure enough, by the end of the story he had tied everything together in a perfectly logical fashion. In many ways these remind me of modern-day thrillers by authors such as Vince Flynn and Brad Thor, but Jimmy Christopher can deal with worse menaces in a third as many words as those guys' heroes.

This particular novel has been reprinted a couple of times in paperback and in trade paperback as well, and there's an e-book version that's still available. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and if you can put yourself in that Thirties mind-set like I can, there's a good chance you will, too.