Today is Rare Disease Day, and as some of you know, my daughter Joanna has battled Klippel-Feil Syndrome and a host of related syndromes and disorders her entire life. She also has an indomitable spirit, though, and has never let her medical problems stop her from going after what she wants in life. Have a look at the video she's made for Rare Disease Day:
Now that looks downright painful! But then, that's a pirate's life for you, I suppose. Inside this issue of FAWCETT'S TRIPLE-X MAGAZINE are stories by Victor Rousseau, Arthur Guy Empey, William M. Rouse, and some guys even less well-known these days.
Injury to a hat alert! At least, I assume that's a bullet hole in the brim of that cowboy's hat. Something caused it to fly off his head, anyway. And I'm not sure why he's shooting straight up into the air with one of his guns. Since we can't ask artist Robert Gibson Jones, I guess we'll never know. Inside this issue of MAMMOTH WESTERN is a novella by William Hopson, an inconsistent author but usually good to very good. The rest of the fiction is provided by Ziff-Davis regulars Chester S. Geier, H.B. Hickey, and Berkley Livingston. I don't know where S.M. Tenneshaw and Alexander Blade were that month, probably busy over in AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC ADVENTURES.
I like to read a couple of Lewis B. Patten’s Western novels every year. I’m not sure I could stand more than that, because Patten’s West is about as bleak and ugly and dour a place as you can find, although there are usually a few glimmers of hope in his endings. PURSUIT, originally published by Perma Books in 1957 and reprinted several times since by Signet and Thorndike, is solidly in that mold. As many of Patten’s books are, it’s at least in part a hardboiled crime novel. Four men show up in the small eastern Colorado settlement of Buffalo Wallow, take over the stage station, which is run by a man named Casey Day, and proceed from there to take the whole town hostage. Their plan is to rob a stage scheduled to arrive carrying a lot of cash bound for a bank in Denver. The first third of the book is a tense, almost minute-by-minute recounting of the lead-up to the robbery, much like something Harry Whittington, Lionel White, or one of the other Gold Medal authors might have done. It’s probably not too much of a spoiler to say that the outlaws get away with the money after killing several people, and Casey Day, who already has a black mark against his name because of a previous robbery that happened on his watch, sets out after them to kill them and recover the money. The rest of the novel becomes an epic “long chase” yarn that reminded me of some of the Louis L’Amour books I’ve read. Casey Day isn’t a L’Amour type of hero, though. He’s driven more by desperation and hate as he pursues (there’s your title) those outlaws over the next year or so. PURSUIT is a very readable novel. Patten handles gritty action well, and there’s plenty of it in this book. It’s not without its flaws. There are a couple of continuity glitches early on. Several character descriptions change with no explanation within a matter of a few pages. Somebody should have caught that. This is the sort of continuity problem that plagued Patten all through his career. Characters are blonde and then dark-haired three pages later, fat and then skinny in the next chapter, start riding west and then suddenly they’re riding east with no explanation. Usually the earlier in Patten’s career, the less of a problem it is (I’ve given up on some of his late novels because he couldn’t keep anything straight), but this is from 1957, fairly early on. Luckily, once you get past that, the book flows very nicely from then on and I wound up liking it quite a bit. Sure, none of the characters are very sympathetic and an air of doom and gloom lingers over the whole book, but I knew to expect that going in. Only a real masochist would want a steady diet of Patten’s work, but now and then they’re like a bucket of cold water in the face and will shake you out of any reading doldrums you might be in.
Kate and J.D. Blaze, the Old West's only husband-and-wife team of bounty hunters, head for Fort Worth on the trail of a pair of bank robbers and a fortune in stolen loot. Hell's Half Acre is the roughest part of that wild and woolly cowtown, filled with dangerous men and women no better than they have to be. Kate and J.D. plan to root out their quarry anyway, but what they don't know is that they have a deadly enemy following them! Acclaimed Western author Jackson Lowry returns to the Blaze! series with HELL'S HALF ACRE, another colorful, passionate, fast-action novel in today's leading Adult Western series.
(This post originally appeared on June 18, 2006. I seem to be stuck in rerun mode these days, just not much time to watch anything.) When the novel DERAILED by James Siegel came out, it caused a minor stir. Some readers loved it, some hated it. I came down sort of in the middle, thinking that the book had a couple of major flaws but also finding some things to like about it. So I was willing to give the movie a try, and somewhat to my surprise, I found that I liked it quite a bit. This is one of those cases where the screenwriter put his finger on the problems that plagued the novel and fixed them, straightening out the confusing structure of the book and completely eliminating the one over-the-top plot development that made a lot of readers, myself included, want to heave the book across the room. I thought before seeing the movie that Jennifer Aniston was miscast in her role, but actually she did a more than okay job. So what we have here is a nice little thriller with a very satisfying ending that probably deserved to be more successful than it was. UPDATE: Oddly enough for me, since it's been ten years, I remember the twist--actually a deus ex machina--in the book, which, as I recall, the movie left out. In my original post about the book, I said that I might read something else by James Siegel, or I might not. I haven't.
Here are a couple of comments that came in today on my Richard S. Shaver post from a few weeks ago. I thought I ought to bump them up here since some of you are interested in the subject. My name is Taunora. My father was Roy Abrahams and he and my grandfather,
Charles Marcoux were very into Richard Shaver. It is said my name comes from the
Mantong alphabet. I have tried to figure out the meaning, but as you know Mr.
Shaver was very difficult to understand. My father and grandfather are both gone
now and so I have come to you all to see if you can help me. I appreciate
your help. Thank you, Taunora Here is a blog about my grandfather
http://charlesamarcoux.blogspot.com/ Please leave comments here or e mail me
at email@example.com ****** I am no longer needing help with the above request. I googled my father's name and my grandfather and found this at writer's net: Shaver Glen.....I wasn't baiting you with that question about Shaver; just figured you knew of him. Here's some more info you might find interesting. I corresponded with both Shaver and Palmer on a regular basis during the 60s and still have the many handwritten letters from both. There is no similarity in the handwriting. Do you remember Richard's "Picture rocks?" They were slicings of agate, very thin, and, according to Richard, were pictographic recordings of the subterranean world of the Deros and Teros. I have two of them along with Richard's typed instructions for understanding them. He sent them to me not too long before he died. Charlie Marcoux, the second name I mentioned, personally knew Ray Palmer and Richard Shaver and stated to me they were two distinct individuals. Charlie was my father-in-law. For most of his life, he was heavily involved in the Shaver Mystery. He had two complete sets of AMAZING MAGAZINE which contained all the Shaver stories. No one knows what ever happened to those priceless relics. I used Shaver's MANTONG alphabet to compose my last daughter's name: Taunora. Translated, according to Shaver, it means "You are a creature with no negative aspects." Yes, I read all his stories. The pictures of the Deros are burned into my gray matter...those hideous nightmares with noses that cascaded halfway down over their monstrous bellies. Tractor rays that pulled airliners out of the sky, giving us those unexplained crashes. They also were used to "kidnap" Shaver and many others needed for slaves in those caverns so deep within the earth. What a wondrous time the 40's were.
Thank you for your comments, Taunora. I'm always happy when my blog posts reach someone who has a personal connection to what I'm writing about.
The Thrilling Group's Western pulps featured many covers with knives stuck into things, and here's that motif over on the company's general adventure pulp. And a reasonably thrilling cover it is, too. The lead novel, "Claws of the Red Dragon", was published under the house-name Jackson Cole, so there's no telling who wrote it, but I like the title quite a bit. Other authors with stories in this issue are Ray Nafziger (with a title like "Outlaws All", it's probably a Western, some of which made their way into THRILLING ADVENTURES), Arthur J. Burks, Allan K. Echols, Victor Rousseau, and Wayne Rogers. This looks like a really fun issue to me. I'd snatch it up and read it if I ever had the chance, I can tell you that.
This guy has quite a dilemma, but he seems to be handling it all right. And inside this issue of WEST you'll find a Zorro story by Johnston McCulley, a Whistling Waddy story by Donald Bayne Hobart (I've never read any of that series), and yarns by Harold Cruikshank, John A. Thompson, William O'Sullivan, and Jim Mayo, better known as Louis L'Amour.
"complete novel" (more like a 30,000 word novella, actually) tells
the story of Larry Luckin, a young rancher whose spread is stolen from him through
a series of tricky legal maneuvers by cattle baron Ezra Pickering and Pickering's
two sons Slim and Red. Following the auction in which Red Pickering buys
Larry's ranch for the back taxes supposedly owed on it, Larry plans to take up
his gun and go out fighting. But on his way to the Pickering ranch, he runs
across a young woman being kidnapped and rescues her instead of going on the
owlhoot. Larry is wounded, and he and the girl wind up having to hike across a
desert known as the Devil's Frying Pan to seek refuge in the Skeleton
Mountains. There they find an isolated shack that an old prospector told Larry
about, and he recuperates from his wound just in time to deal with a bunch of
outlaws who show up planning to use the cabin as their hideout. The young woman
is Ezra Pickering's niece, but she has no fondness for her uncle and agrees to
help Larry get his ranch back--legally instead of at the point of a gun.
The plot of this one is pure pulp, but what sets it apart is Bedford-Jones' terse,
realistic writing style. There's none of the overdone Western dialect that pops
up so often in other pulp stories, and he writes excellent action scenes. Also,
though the set-up in a Bedford-Jones Western story is usually the standard
stuff, he always finds a twist or two to throw at the reader. In this case,
there's a romantic triangle between the hero, a rancher's daughter, and a
spoiled girl from the East, but the resolution takes some turns that similar
situations don't in other stories. Like all the other Bedford-Jones Western I've
read, this one is excellent.
(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on June 14, 2006.) I enjoy the occasional biopic, and this movie about Cole Porter and his career is a pretty good one. I like Porter's music a lot, and there's plenty of it in this movie, done in period scenes by contemporary performers like Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Natalie Cole, and the great Diana Krall. Not only that, but the cinematography is excellent, meaning that this is a move that looks and sounds gorgeous. The storyline, although accurate in the details of Porter's life, comes across as pure Hollywood hokum most of the time, but as a long-time devotee of hokum, that didn't bother me at all. Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd and the rest of the cast do a fine job. The setups for some of the musical numbers occasionally verge on silliness, but again, that's okay with me as long as there aren't too many of them. All in all, I had a good time watching this movie. That's about all I ask of a film these days.
It’s hangrope vigilantes versus ruthless outlaws as bloody war erupts along the Texas border. With the authorities useless, the ranchers along the Rio Grande take the law into their own hands to hunt down rustlers and raiders from south of the border, but are their lynchings justice . . . or murder? HANGMAN’S BLACK PACT is another gritty, action-packed Western yarn from rising star David Hardy, whose authentic tales of the Old West have won widespread acclaim. If you haven’t read his exciting stories, this is a great place to start, and if you have, you won’t want to miss HANGMAN’S BLACK PACT!
I don't see how you could get much more action-packed than this cover. That's Emile Tepperman's Suicide Squad wreaking assorted havoc, and inside there are also stories by Wyatt Blassingame, William R. Cox, and Robert Turner. Great stuff. (Yeah, it's Valentine's Day, and I suppose I could have posted a cover from one of the love pulps, but . . . but machine guns and flaming arrows! Arrows . . . Cupid . . . Hey, close enough!)
Pretty good cover on this early issue of BEST WESTERN, and a nice line-up of authors, too, with stories by Rodney Blake (the great H. Bedford-Jones), James P. Olsen, Gunnison Steele (Bennie Gardner), Ken Jason (a house-name, could well be Gardner, since there's already a Gunnison Steeele story in this issue), James Hall (ditto), and "Glenn H. Wickman", which I assume is a typo for prolific pulpster Glenn H. Wichman.
(This post originally appeared on December 29, 2006. The "no reruns" policy of last year is biting the dust early this year. But this post is more than nine years old, so I hope some of you haven't seen it.) I’d read one or two Wade Hammond stories in the past and remembered liking them, so I picked up this recent collection. As noted in the introduction, Hammond is something of an odd amalgamation: he’s a world traveler and adventurer (and he’s obviously done some big game hunting, judging by the trophies mounted on the walls of his apartment), he’s been a newspaper correspondent, and he’s also an unofficial consultant for the police, who have a habit of calling him in whenever there’s some unusual murder. These stories from the pulps Detective-Dragnet and Ten Detective Aces do a good job of tracing the development of the series during its nearly five-year run. In the early stories, Hammond functions as a pretty standard hardboiled dick, taking on various gangsters and killers. But as the series goes on the murder methods become more bizarre, and soon enough Hammond is facing killer robots, giant tarantulas, ghosts, mysterious balls of deadly purple light that strike from the skies, and walking skeletons. This is a pretty entertaining blend of the hardboiled detective and weird menace genres, and true to the weird menace roots, most of the stories have the old Scooby-Doo resolution, where it turns out there’s a logical explanation for the seemingly supernatural events. Chadwick, probably best known as the originator of Secret Agent X and author about about a third of the novels featuring that character, was a good solid pulp writer who could handle gritty action scenes and moody, atmospheric horror with equal skill. The only drawback to these Wade Hammond stories is that despite his colorful background Hammond never really comes alive as a character for me. For some reason he remains rather flat. Still, I enjoyed this collection, especially the stories with the more bizarre angles, and I wouldn’t hesitate to read more Wade Hammond stories if I came across them. UPDATE: The copy of this book I read back in '06 was lost in the big fire, but I recently picked up a replacement copy of it, along with the other three volumes in the series which completes the reprinting of the Wade Hammond stories. I'm sure I'll be posting about them when I get around to them.
The latest edition of THE DIGEST ENTHUSIAST is out, and as always, it's a pure pleasure to read, especially for those of us who are long-time fans of magazine fiction in all its forms. Highlights this time around are two pieces by Peter Enfantino: "The Horror of the Creeping Monsters", an in-depth look at SUPER-SCIENCE FICTION, including a synopsis and discussion of every single story in the magazine's 18 issues; and a similar treat of the even more short-lived (two issues) Western digest GUNSMOKE. I also thoroughly enjoyed Steve Carper's look at the digest appearances of Dashiell Hammett's novels and stories. All the articles and reviews are interesting, and there's fiction by Ron Fortier, Joe Wehrle Jr., and Gary Lovisi. A great package all around, and highly recommended.
Well, that's a lurid cover. Behind it are stories by Arthur J. Burks, George A. McDonald (who wrote some good Phantom Detective novels as Robert Wallace), Don Cameron (likewise), Westmoreland Gray, and the house-name C.K.M Scanlon.
Since I wrote about Ray Nafziger yesterday, I wanted to post a pulp featuring his work today. At this point, ACE-HIGH MAGAZINE hadn't officially changed to ACE-HIGH WESTERN MAGAZINE, but all the stories are Westerns anyway. In addition to Nafziger's "The Gambler Hell Sent Back", there are stories by Harry F. Olmsted ("Gunsmoke Outcast"), Norman A. Fox ("Cattle King From Purgatory"), and John A. Saxon ("The Boothill Pardon"), among others. And a nice, action-packed cover, to boot.
Shaddrock and Cougar are the West's deadliest bounty hunters. A Yankee sharpshooter and a Rebel officer put the war behind them and team up to track down some of the most dangerous outlaws west of the Mississippi. A ruthless railroad baron and a crazed colonel bent on creating a Confederate empire in the Southwest are just two of the threats faced by this unlikely duo in legendary author W.L. Fieldhouse's wild Western adventure GUN LUST. Packed with gritty action, it's a colorful, fast-paced tale sure to entertain Western fans!
On February 5, 1916, my dad Marion Reasoner was born in the
community of Indian Creek, Texas. Like most rural Texans at the time, he and
his family had a pretty hardscrabble existence. As a young man, he helped on
the family farm, worked as a cowboy, and eventually became the manager of a
bowling alley in nearby Brownwood. He was one of the top amateur bowlers in the
country at the time. Later, after marrying my mother, he worked as an aircraft
mechanic, first as a civilian employee at Randolph Field in San Antonio during
World War II and then later at Convair/General Dynamics in Fort Worth. In
between those two stints, he served in the U.S. Army and was in the Signal
Corps, going overseas to Austria right after V-E Day. As he put it years later,
he strung telephone wire all over Austria and developed a lifelong affection
for the country. He always wanted to go back and visit, but he never did.
While working at Convair in Fort Worth in the early Fifties, he took a
correspondence course that taught him how to repair televisions and radios.
This was in the early days of TV, of course, so he was in almost on the ground
floor of the TV repair business. This became his second job for many years, and
he worked at it full-time after he retired from General Dynamics in the
mid-Seventies, opening a business that sold and serviced TVs and appliances.
(This is the shop where I worked for five years.) After closing that shop he
continued to work on TVs part-time for his old customers for several years,
before finally retiring to devote his time to gardening, his grandkids, and
volunteer work such as delivering Meals on Wheels. He decided to put in a
garden at my house, and I can still see him in my mind’s eye, 85 years old,
wearing khakis and a long-sleeved shirt and a battered old hat, wrestling with
a gas tiller out there in that garden in the middle of summer.
As a kid, my dad loved to read, but as an adult he devoted most of his time to
working, as many in his generation did, and didn’t read much for many years.
But when he got older and slowed down some, he began to read again and went
through hundreds of books, mostly Westerns and historical novels, but really,
he would read almost anything he could put his hands on. The fact that I was a
writer had something to do with his renewed interest in reading, I’m sure, and
he became a fan of my books and a great salesman for them. He would carry
around copies of them when he was making his TV service calls and sell them to
his customers. Often when he’d stop by our house, he would take a $20 bill out
of his pocket and give it to me, saying, “Sold some books.” Actually, I suspect
he gave away a lot of them and just used that as an excuse to feed me a little
extra cash, since he knew we were struggling financially a lot of that time and
had two kids. That’s exactly the sort of guy he was.
He loved telling stories and jokes, watching baseball on TV, and whistling
along with gospel music. He could whistle a version of “Amazing Grace” that
would make chills go up and down your spine, it was so beautiful. His favorite
TV shows were Westerns. Saturday night in our house meant HAVE GUN – WILL
TRAVEL and GUNSMOKE, and Sunday night was BONANZA, if we got home from church
in time. He could spend hours in his back yard pulling weeds and “dopin’ them
red ant beds”. He hated weeds and red ants with equal passion.
His health began to deteriorate as he entered his late 80s. Eventually he had
to move into a nursing home, which he hated worse than weeds and red ants. The
last time I visited, when I started to leave I commented that I had some pages
to get written. He said, “Better get your work done.” Those were his last words
to me. They summed up his life pretty well. He was a man who believed folks
better get their work done.
His passing wasn’t unexpected, but it still left a hole in the lives of
everyone who knew him. For several years after that, almost every day I had the
urge to ask him about something or other, before catching myself and realizing
I couldn’t. Even now, more than a decade later, that still happens every now
and then. The ones who’ve passed on are still supposed to be there, damn it, so
that when we think, “Oh, I’ll just ask him; he’ll know”, we’re not left with
that sudden feeling of loss.
A few years after he died, the phone rang at my house one day, and when I
answered, the caller said, “Is this the TV man?” I used to get those calls all
the time, people looking for him, while he was in the business and after he
retired, too. That was the first such call I’d gotten in a long time, though.
Even though I had to say, “No, I’m sorry, that was my dad and he passed away,”
I had a smile on my face, glad that people still remembered him. I have to
suspect I won’t get any more such calls. Too much time has passed, and anyway,
TVs are throwaway items now. If it doesn’t work, chunk it, go down to Wal-Mart,
and buy another one. But if the phone does happen to ring someday and somebody
says, “Is this the TV man?”, I won’t be totally surprised, either.
This is a bit disjointed and probably a little too maudlin, but right now I’d
give a lot to be able to stand out in my driveway with him, leaning on his car,
talking for hours about everything under the sun like we used to. I still have
a lot of questions I’d like to ask him. But there are pages to be written, and
like he said . . .
HELL-ROARIN’ TEXAS TRAIL is one of only two full-length
novels written by prolific Western pulp author Ray Nafziger. The other, GUN
SMOKE AT DAWN, also under the pseudonym Robert Denver, was published only in
England and is hard to find. I was able to get my hands on a copy of
HELL-ROARIN’ TEXAS TRAIL, though, and I’m glad I did because it’s a pretty
The protagonist is a young Texan named Brand Bonnell. Fast with a gun, good
with cards, Brand is something of a hell-raiser who has been drifting for
several years after leaving home because of a fight with his father. He’s
decided it’s time to return home, though, and no sooner does he get back in
Texas than he stumbles over a plot to steal his father’s herd and some cattle
belonging to a neighboring rancher, while the two herds are being driven to
Colorado. The outlaws behind the scheme are Silver Lago and Crow Hargers,
assisted by Hargers’ two equally evil brothers. Despite the friction between
Brand and his father, of course he resolves to stop the outlaws from carrying
out their plan, even if it means taking over the trail drive himself.
This set-up leads to a very episodic novel, as Brand and his friends, old
codger Gobbler Gillette and reformed train robber Dick Steen, foil the schemes
of Lago and Hargers. Along the way Brand rescues and falls in love with the
beautiful daughter of the other rancher. The meandering nature of the plot is
the biggest weakness of HELL-ROARIN’ TEXAS TRAIL. On the other hand, even
though it’s a little lacking in narrative drive, there are some great
individual scenes, such as one where Brand is almost lynched from a windmill
and a big gun-battle in the middle of a blizzard. Nafziger writes excellent
action scenes, and the conflict between Brand and his father gives the book a
little darker edge than most Westerns published in the early Thirties. There’s
too much “yuh mangy polecat” dialect, but you almost have to expect that given
As is the case with many of the pulp authors, Nafziger spent most of his time
writing novelettes and novellas, and as a result a longer book like this can
suffer pacing problems. But there’s a lot of top-notch writing in HELL-ROARIN’
TEXAS TRAIL, and overall I enjoyed it a great deal. That makes me even more
interested in reading some of his pulp work, and luckily there’s plenty of it,
although not much has been reprinted. He was prolific under his own name and
also the pseudonym Robert Dale Denver, and I’m going to be on the lookout for
both names from now on.
(This post first appeared in somewhat different form on November 17, 2004.)
I'm addicted to
the cheap DVDs at Dollar Tree and Wal-Mart. One that I picked up a while back
at Dollar Tree has three episodes of the old TV series SERGEANT PRESTON OF THE
YUKON on it. Since the book I'm writing has a Mountie in it, I thought it would
be appropriate to watch an episode of SERGEANT PRESTON. Call it research. Yeah,
that's it, research. Hard to believe that in 170 books this is the first one to
feature a Mountie, but as far as I can remember that's the case.
Anyway, I was surprised to find that the show was in color. Not very good
color, mind you, but still . . . The story was set in a ghost town, and as
anyone who has ever watched a B-movie or read a pulp story knows, the buildings
in ghost towns are always full of hidden passages and secret hideouts. This
episode was no disappointment. Sergeant Preston got to the bottom of the
mystery and caught the villains, with the help of his wonder dog, Yukon King. I
enjoyed every minute of it.
(UPDATE: The book with a Mountie in it that I mention above is LONGARM AND THE SCARLET RIDER, which came out in 2005. I know I've written at least one book since then with a Mountie in it, but I've certainly never done much with them and have never written a full-out Northern. I ought to remedy that. There are a bunch of episodes of SERGEANT PRESTON OF THE YUKON available on YouTube, and I ought to watch some more of them, too.)