Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: New Western, November 1951

I don't believe I'd ever read an issue of NEW WESTERN until now, but this is an issue I own and read recently. Most of the Western pulps from Popular Publications are pretty much interchangeable. Their two flagship titles, DIME WESTERN and STAR WESTERN, ran more novellas, especially STAR WESTERN, but other than that the same authors appeared in all the titles across the line and the magazines featured good, solid hardboiled Westerns, for the most part.

This issue gets off to a good start with "First Stage to Sundown", a novelette by George C. Appell, whose work appeared frequently in a variety of pulps during the late Forties through the Fifties. This story uses a fairly standard plot: a stagecoach has to make a long, dangerous run in a set period of time in order to secure a government mail contract. Along the way, the coach and another wagon that accompanies it are plagued by a gang of outlaws. Appell throws in a couple of decent twists and there are several tough action scenes, along with some nice descriptive writing in places. Appell was never in the top rank of Western writers, but he seems to have produced some pretty good work. I've enjoyed the few stories I've read by him.

Next up is "Cactus-Eatin' Lady" by Robert Trimnell, an author whose name I've seen, but I don't know anything else about him. This is a humorous tale about a couple of cowpokes and a camel. It read like it might be part of a series, but I don't know for sure about that. As I've said before, with a few major exceptions, comedy Westerns just don't work for me. This is not one of those exceptions. I didn't care much for this story.

James B. Hendryx's Halfaday Creek series, featuring the good-hearted outlaw Black John Smith and Corporal Downey of the RCMP, ran for many years, mostly in the iconic pulp SHORT STORIES. "Black John—Claim Jumper" is a late entry in the series. How it wound up in NEW WESTERN, I don't know, but it's a good yarn about Black John helping out a young couple who get caught up in a mining swindle. This story could have used a little more action, but it's very well-written. This is actually the first Halfaday Creek story I've read, but I'm going to have to try some more of them.

"The Drifter Stops Off" is by James Charles Lynch, an author I know nothing about except that I think I've read somewhere he ghosted some for Ed Earl Repp. This is a pretty good story about a hobo and former printer who runs afoul of the most powerful man in town and takes measures to settle the score with him in unusual ways.

"Gun-Fighter's Brand" by John C. Colohan is a reprint from the August 1934 issue of DIME WESTERN. I've probably read a few stories by Colohan—he was a prolific contributor to the Popular Publications Western pulps—but nothing that I recall. This yarn is about a wounded lawman who has to couple of people who have a grudge against him, one a killer and the other a beautiful young woman. It's fairly well-written and has a nice twist ending I didn't see coming.

Bill Colson was actually Verne Athanas, who was more well-known under his real name. As Colson, he wrote a series about stagecoach driver and teamster Seven-Foot Sanders and his sidekick Shorty Shamrock. This sounds like a comedy series, but the entry in this issue, "Seven-Foot Sanders' Private War", is a fairly straightforward tale about trying to get a stagecoach and then a freight wagon full of supplies through Apache country. The tone is a little light in places, but there are also some gritty action scenes. I enjoyed this one enough that I'd read more in the series.

"The Hoodoo Trail Drive" by Stone Cody is another reprint, originally appearing under the title "Signed On With Satan" in the May 1937 issue of STAR WESTERN. It features a thinly disguised version of real-life cattleman Shanghai Pierce, here called Shanghai Pearson, and is about a danger-filled, seemingly cursed trail drive from Texas to Kansas. It's an excellent yarn and achieves an almost epic feel, which is hard to do in a novelette. I enjoyed it a lot, more than any of the other stories in this issue, in fact. Stone Cody was really Thomas Mount, the first husband (if I recall correctly) of bestselling author Laura Z. Hobson. I'm sure I've read his work before, but I'll be keeping a better eye out for his stories in the future after reading this one.

There's one other thing of interest in this issue of NEW WESTERN: a little house ad for the then-current issue of Popular Publications stablemate DIME WESTERN that includes the line A Riproarious "Tensleep" Story by Harry F. Olmsted. Well, other than the word "Riproarious", which I like, the interesting thing about this is that all the Tensleep Maxon stories (and there were scores of them) were published under the name Bart Cassidy. Only in the last year or so has Harry Olmsted's name been linked with that pseudonym, but here's another indication of it. Cassidy may have been used as a house-name at times, but I'm starting to believe that Olmsted was responsible for most of the stories published under that name. (Something similar happened to me many years ago, when the November 1978 issue of MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE had a house ad in it listing the next issue's Mike Shayne story: "Death in Xanadu" by James M. Reasoner. When they were making up the issue, they obviously got my name off the manuscript and forgot to replace it with the usual Brett Halliday pseudonym. As far as I know that's the only time a prose Shayne story was credited to someone other than Halliday.)

Overall, a decent issue of NEW WESTERN, with several good stories, several readable ones, and only one that I didn't finish. The scan, as usual with this sort of post, is of the copy I read, and it's a pretty good cover.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Famously, one late DOC SAVAGE MAGAZINE issue credited the lead story to Lester Dent, rather than to "Kenneth Robeson." And there are other examples of stories with fake vs. real bylines on the cover vs. ToC or vice versa (though rarely involving long-running series characters)./ Denny Lien