Sunday, March 06, 2016

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Adventure, March 1, 1935

The March 1, 1935 issue of ADVENTURE, which I own thanks to Scott Cupp, starts off with one of the magazine’s most iconic covers, the great sailor-and-monkey cover by Walter Baumhofer. The scan, as usual with pulps that own, is from the actual issue I read.

The lead story, which ADVENTURE bills as a novelette but is more like a 40,000 word short novel, is “The Loot of Santana”, a wonderful yarn by one of my favorites, W.C. Tuttle, featuring his best characters, range detectives Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens. They show up right away in this one (often Tuttle holds off on introducing them until later in the story), and no sooner do they ride onto the page than they discover the body of a murdered cowboy in a corral that’s supposed to hold a herd of horses. The horses are gone, of course, no doubt stolen by the same owlhoots who murdered the cowboy. Hashknife can’t pass up a mystery, so he and Sleepy soon find themselves mixed up in a complex plot involving a Romeo-and-Juliet-type of romance, the threat of a sheep empire moving in on a valley full of cattle ranches, a sinister roadhouse below the border, a bank robbery, and several more murders. Nobody can accuse Tuttle of not packing plenty of plot into his stories! When you read enough Hashknife stories they become a little formulaic, but it’s a great formula and nobody ever did it better than Tuttle. I had an absolutely great time reading this one.

Sadly, the quality of this issue takes a bit of a nosedive after that. The next two stories are pretty bland. Perry Adams’ “A Contract in Kabul” is about an American and a Scotsman trying to escape from Afghanistan when the Afghans are on the brink of going to war against the English. Maybe Robert E. Howard’s El Borak stories have spoiled me for stuff like this, but Adams’ story never generated much excitement for me. Edgar Piper’s “Down Hell’s Gullet” has a good title, but its plot about a ship’s captain trying to eliminate the use of snuff among his crew didn’t do much for me. There’s other man-against-the-elements stuff going on, but it didn’t hold my interest.

Next up is Part 2 of a 4-part serial by Hugh Pendexter, “The Woods-Runner”. It’s probably pretty good, but I generally don’t read serial installments unless I have the whole thing, so I skipped this one.

Things take a considerable turn for the better with Eugene Cunningham’s short story “The Red Mare”. Cunningham is best known for his Westerns, of course, but this story is set in 17th Century England and is about a notorious highwayman, an eloping noblewoman, some schemers, and the magnificent horse of the title. Actually, this one would have worked just as well as a Western, but the setting makes for a refreshing difference.

Rounding out the issue is “Tyrannical and Capricious Conduct” by Roy Churchill, another nautical story about a tough boatswain’s mate and an incompetent young sailor who turns out to have a secret. It’s not the sort of story that immediately grabs my attention, but the ending is okay.

So this issue of ADVENTURE is a bit of a mixed bag: a classic cover, an excellent short novel by Tuttle, a very good story by Cunningham, and the rest of the contents not very impressive (with the caveat that I didn’t read the Pendexter serial installment; it’s probably pretty good, too, given Pendexter’s reputation). It’s certainly an issue worth having for its good points.


Walker Martin said...

There were three of these sailor and monkey covers by Baumhofer and I believe the original paintings have all survived and are safely in collections. WC Tuttle's Hashknife and Sleepy series are excellent rangeland mysteries and I've noticed that the dialog and comedy are outstanding. There often is a hard boiled element also.

Sai S said...

Tough issue to find, wish i had it. Contents look interesting.